Hosting friends at our place ticks a lot of boxes for us. We enjoy preparing food for others to enjoy, it’s a nice break from eating out (the Hong Kong norm), and selfishly…when we host at our place we can still hang out with friends with a contented sleeping baby in the next room. It does take a bit of planning to make it work in a 590 sq ft apartment with a tiny kitchen and balcony / BBQ access through Campbell’s bedroom, though.
It’s not a complaint, but hosting for us isn’t simple. We have a small fridge and tiny freezer, a tabletop oven, only 2 burners on the stove and no dishwasher. What works for us is limiting our number of guests to 4 (after all we only have 6 plates and sets of silverware!) and any more than that would be too crowded.
We typically time our invitation to ensure Campbell’s 7:00 bedtime routine isn’t interrupted; there’s usually a knock on our door around 7:30. I deem us successfully prepared when guests arrive if:
the house is clean and tidy
the Bose speaker is on playing a mix of background music
a candle is lit in the living room
all food (dinner and dessert) is prepared and in the fridge
appetizers are set out on the kitchen island
there are no dishes in the sink
I’m sitting on the sofa with a drink in my hand
In order to make this happen a decent amount of prep work happens throughout the day. Our preference when hosting it to have as little cooking to do as possible, so we design our menu to accommodate that. We prep everything in advance and cook as much as possible on the BBQ.
Here is bit of a formula for what we serve:
Appetizer: cheeseboard, red pepper jelly and sliced baguette
Main: grilled salmon or steak, tin foil veggies + potatoes (similar to this recipe here, but we add sliced new potatoes) & green salad.
During Campbell’s morning nap while I stay home Braden walks to pick up groceries (usually meat or fish), comes home and prepares a marinade and gets it into the fridge. During Campbell’s afternoon nap I typically head out to purchase any other groceries we need (and anything Braden forgot, haha!) then come home to prep. After Campbell finishes eating his dinner Braden usually takes him out for a walk while I finish preparing food, making dessert and tidying up. They return around 6:30 just in time to get organized for bedtime so Campbell’s settled in enough time before guests arrive. Basically it’s a full day ordeal to buy a few things and prepare them when you factor in a two year old!
The big complication with hosting and grilling food is the only access to the balcony is through Campbell’s room. Now that he’s two years old, he wakes a bit easier, so it’s more difficult to sneak in and out of his room to get to the balcony and BBQ (here’s a refresher of our floor plan if you missed it). To solve this, we set up Campbell’s travel cot (the awesome Baby Bjorn Travel Crib Light) in our bedroom, move his video monitor in too (we love our Arlo camera) and he’s down for the night. Fortunately for us, Campbell can fall and stay asleep with plenty of back ground noise (though having some consistent music in the living room helps drown out voices too). After guest leave, we do a quick transfer back into his own room and he’s quickly back asleep for the rest of the night.
While it may sound like a rigmarole, we genuinely love hosting friends at our place…it’s just been a matter of figuring out the formula that works for us (and sleep arrangements for Campbell) and sticking to that. Cheers!