Party Lessons for Life

dog-toasting-the-new-yearIf you’ve been reading my articles for any length of time at all, it’s no surprise to you that I see life lessons and metaphors everywhere. And my annual New Year’s Eve dinner party is no exception.

We started the tradition in 2001 when we (okay, me :-)) wanted to get dressed up but didn’t really want to go out. So we brought the party to us!

The first few years were an experiment. We didn’t have a lot of experience hosting a fancy sit-down dinner, including all the cooking, for 24ish people. Turned out we really enjoy it, and we’ve been throwing the party ever since.

During last year’s party (sounds odd since that was just a few days ago), my friend Tracey commented that we make it all look so easy.

Here’s the abbreviated conversation:

Tracey: You and Warren make this party look so easy.
Me: (Fluffing couscous and thinking: Hah! You should have seen the behind-the-scenes craziness the first few years!!!)
Me: (out loud) Thanks! We’ve been doing it for so many years now we have it down to a science.
Tracey: Yeah, everything flows so smoothly.
Me: What’s really great is that we’ve learned a lot about how to make the evening easier, and everything we’ve learned is applicable to every other part of life.
Tracey: Like what?

Like ….

The first few years I changed the menu each year, made elaborate centerpieces, and spent hours cleaning every nook and cranny.

Then I wised up.

People are happy to eat the same Thanksgiving meal every year. They’re just as happy to do so on New Year’s Eve :-).

Now we have the exact same menu every year and my entrée – Chicken Marbella from The Silver Palate cookbook – is delicious and super easy. It marinates overnight, so all the prep is done the day before, and it’s almost impossible to mess it up.

The centerpieces have become glass bowls filled with white flowers and a floating candle (15 minutes from start to finish for three tables!).

And I decided my guests would probably not be down on their hands and knees in their fancy party clothes, inspecting the baseboards and searching the corners for dust particles I overlooked.

Now I use New Year’s Eve as my reminder that there are always opportunities to simplify – and my code word when I need to remind myself is Chicken Marbella.

What can you simplify in your life?

Help helps.
Oh, let me count the ways that help makes a difference!

At our first party I said, “No thanks!” to every offer of help. My husband and I were determined to be fabulous hosts, and we were sure that meant doing everything ourselves.

Ummm, who made up that crazy rule?!! (That would be me.)

The next year I gladly said YES when one of my fantabulous-salad-making friends offered to bring salad. (Talk about simplifying … having someone else in charge of salad is a lot easier!)

Now everyone gets a small task during the evening: pouring water, lighting candles, clearing salad plates, and so forth. I’ve become comfortable asking for help on New Year’s Eve, and I’ve noticed how that’s made it a thousand times easier to ask for help in every other part of my life.

Where can you make your life easier by asking for help?

Planning and/or having a process saves time, energy, and stress.
After our first few years we decided to put all the details for the evening into a spreadsheet. Yes, I know it sounds geeky, but it makes everything easier.

My favorite process improvement was putting a guest in charge of managing me :-). They monitor the cooking schedule on the wall and make sure I’m on task. Now I relax and socialize between tasks without constantly checking the clock. Ahhhh.

Where can you save time, energy, or stress by implementing a plan or a process?

Don’t sweat the small stuff…
… and it’s almost always small stuff.

We’ve yet to have a year where we didn’t find an ingredient abandoned on the kitchen counter post-dinner. This year it was pine nuts. Oh well, the couscous still tasted fine!

There’s always something that doesn’t go exactly as planned, at every New Year’s Eve party and on every other day of the year. And you know what? In the scheme of things it usually doesn’t matter.

Where can you stop sweating the small stuff so you can use that energy for what really matters?

Enjoy the experience.
It’s a choice.

And since one way or the other you’re going to have an experience, you might as well enjoy it :-).

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” ~ Confucius


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