Stress-Free Entertaining Tips from Simple Mom and a Giveaway!

This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to our winners, Terrie S, Sam and Rachel! You have been notified via email. A big thank you to all who entered.
If you ever want to read an inspiring story of an everyday mom who went from pregnant to published, then you should definitely catch up with Tsh Oxenreider.  To many of us she’s affectionately known as Art of Simple and is the creative mind behind Simple Living Media, of which Simple Bites was a part.

In addition to being a blogger extraordinaire, mother to three children under five and a continent hopper, Tsh can now add “published author” to her ever-growing list of accomplishments. Her book, Organized Simplicity, is now out and it couldn’t come at a better time for all of us, especially me (eep!). November is that month in between the rush of harvest and holidays when you have to face the neglected home and admit you need help. I know I do!

Organized Simplicity clearly redefines what simple living is in 2010 (and what is it not), inspires us to lead simpler, more intentional lives, and challenges us to create a haven within our home. Fortunately, Tsh doesn’t leave us hanging, wondering how to practically apply all that has inspired us, but like a kind older sister, she takes us by the hand, and we work together, room by room, until peace and serenity reign.

Tsh’s book truly embodies its tagline, ‘The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living’, and it well-worth the real estate on your nightstand.

I caught up with Tsh recently to chat about entertaining, a passion we both embrace. Don’t miss her honest and poignant answers below, plus an opportunity to win one of three copies of Organized Simplicity!

Tsh on Simple Entertaining

This is the time of year when entertaining is first and foremost on everyone’s minds. In a recent study I read, however, 83% of hosts said their least favorite part of entertaining was getting the house presentable. Here’s what Tsh had to say about that.

Simple Bites: How do you entertain with your busy schedule and three kids? Do you try to do it all?

Tsh: I agree with those 83% — getting the house presentable is my least favorite part of entertaining as well.  But honestly, that’s a great way to get your house clean — invite company, and watch your motivation (but hopefully not your stress) soar.

First off, our current house is easy to clean because it’s only 1,200 square feet.  We severely limit what we have in our home, which means clutter is minimal.  Yes, it “feels” messier faster because there are no places to hide things — but devote an hour to clean, and our place is almost done.

My kids also love to have company over, so I get them involved in the cleaning process.  My 5-year-old actually helps by dusting, cleaning the bathroom mirror, emptying the dishwasher, and setting the table.  She also often creates a centerpiece for the table, which is usually humorous.  My 2-year-old pretends to help because he wants to do everything big sister does.  I give him a spray bottle of water and a rag, and let him go to town on doors, the bathtub, and lower cabinets.  This keeps him a bit more out of my way.

We play loud music while we get the house ready, and this speeds up our work flow.  The kids share our taste in music, so we blare anything from Jack Johnson to Arcade Fire to Andrew Bird to Tony Bennett to get us going.

When the weather is nice, we serve company on the back deck because we have more room there. Right now is one of the best times of year in Austin to be outside, so our family currently eats outside at least once per day.

And finally — I embrace imperfection.  If I waited until our home was magazine-worthy to serve guests, we’d never do it. We often invite friends who also have small children, so they “get” the chaos and the pile of blocks in the living room floor.  I don’t apologize for this, which could make a guest feel awkward.  I just make some sort of joke about the craziness and move on.  The kids run around and scream while the adults finish getting everything ready.

Simple Bites: What is so important to you about connecting with friends in you home? Is it worth the potential stress?

Tsh: Nine times out of ten, I feel a little sense of dread before our friends come over.  I wonder if it’s worth it — cleaning the house, prepping the food, making sure kids are wearing more than a diaper…  But as soon as they pull in to the driveway, that dread goes away.  I love welcoming them from our back door (where everyone enters our home).  And suddenly, those few hours when they’re over become the highlight of my week.

There’s something sacred about breaking bread with people.  It’s sharing the most ritual of tasks — eating — but in such a way that slows us down and enlightens our senses.  We savor the food more over good conversation.  We’re telling these people at the table across from us that we value them, that they’re welcome in our family space.  Friendships are deepened over a home-cooked meal in a family dining room, more than in a restaurant, I think.

As a mama to little ones, it’s easy to get tunnel vision, when the only people you see throughout the day are three feet tall or less and in constant need of you.  Inviting others into your home brings you a sense of community and gives you a chance to think about something else other than your family and how much they need you.  I relish the break from day-to-day life that entertaining brings.

Simple Bites: I love that in your book, cooking from scratch is listed as a reward of simple living. What might you serve us if we dropped by for dinner in December?

Tsh: I like buying slabs of meat and whole poultry when I find them on sale.  At least weekly I roast a whole chicken in a dutch oven with simple salt, pepper, and garlic — so I might do two of those, with a simple side of glazed carrots, roasted potatoes, and salad.  Pot roast is also unbelievably easy, and everybody likes it — plus, you cook the carrots and potatoes in the same pot, making this nearly a one-pot meal.

I also like serving fajitas because they’re a year-round staple here in Texas.  Friends enjoy a buffet of toppings, Kyle’s homemade guacamole (he’s a great cook), and a side of Spanish rice and beans. We also cook a pot of pinto beans weekly, so we often have these on hand anyway.  I pick up some delicious homemade flour tortillas, which you can find everywhere here in Austin, but perhaps when my kids are older, I’ll go back to making my own in advance.  No time for that in my current season, though.

A few weeks ago, we had a make-your-own-pizza night with some friends who also have three kiddos.  I simply divided up our usual pizza dough to make individual-sized pizzas, and set up our dining table with bowls of mozzarella cheese, peppers, olives, sausage, pineapple, and pepperoni from the deli.  The kids have a ball making their own dinner, and this means they’ll eat it all up, too!

Of course, this being the South, we always have freshly-made iced tea for company, along with a seasonal brew — Shiner Bock is our favorite around here, but we also like the variety of beer from Fat Tire.

Ultimately, I don’t try a new recipe on guests — I let my own family be the guinea pigs.  I rely on tried-and-true recipes, ones I can do in my sleep and that most everybody loves.

Simple Bites: On cold winter evenings, I like to warm the dinner plates in the oven before serving supper. Is there a simple gesture that you include in your evening to make your guests feel special?

Tsh: Honestly, we mostly think about what each guest needs, and do our best to accommodate them. If they have babies or small children, we bring out extra seating for little kids.  If there are going to be lots of kids, we provide a “kids’ table” (who doesn’t have memories of sitting there?) and serve the food a bit earlier for them so that they can run off and play.

Which actually speaks to something important to me — we don’t shy away from serving friends in the season of life with little kids.  We’re right there with them!  I think people often think these families are too challenging to serve, or that they might not want to make the time to get out of the house with their brood, but to me, this is all the more reason to serve them.  They don’t get to eat out often, especially in an environment where the kids can be their loud selves.  I like to make things a smidge more special than a normal, everyday dinner with little ones — we light the candles and play dinner music.  Our back porch has Christmas lights woven through the wood slats in the ceiling, and this adds to the festive feeling, even when it’s just an everyday weekday dinner.

I believe in making the everyday special, guests or not.  So when company comes, they simply get to be a part of our daily life.

Simple Bites: Tsh, thank you so much for taking time to chat with us! Honestly, readers, it’s been so amazing to be a small part of the behind-the-scenes book story. Throughout the process, Tsh shared many of her struggles and triumphs with the other SLM editors and me, and when a photo of her holding the first copy of her book popped up on Facebook, I got a little misty eyed!

Don’t miss this personal post on Art of Simple that shares the journey that Tsh took to write Organized Simplicity. It’s inspiring, exciting and ends with a touching ‘thank you’ to readers.

Organized Simplicity Giveaway

Tsh has generously offer to giveaway three copies of Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living to Simple Bites readers!

Here’s how to enter:

Everyone has three chances to win. Choose one or all three.

1. Leave a comment and ‘fess up about an area of your home that could use a little ‘organized simplicity’.

2. To get a second entry, follow @simplebites on Twitter and tweet this giveaway. Be sure to come back and leave a separate comment letting me know you’ve tweeted.

3. Subscribe to Simple Bites by email or in your feed reader. Leave a separate comment letting me know you’re subscribed.

Giveaway ends Sunday, November 21, at 11:59 EST. Winner will be announced on this post. Good luck to all!

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. Paperwork! I have a never ending stack of paper and my “desk” is in my kitchen so I see it all the time.

    I remember as a kid telling my baby dolls that we were having company over as a motivator for me to clean my room so I can definitely identify with Tsh!

  2. my kitchen could use some organized simplicity

  3. And I subscribe via Google Reader – thanks!!

  4. Oh where to begin…I’m finally getting over (fingers crossed) the ‘morning’ sickness portion of this (3rd) pregnancy so, yeah, the entire house is…..yikes. My MIL is coming to watch the kids tomorrow while I go to my appointment, so that certainly is some motivation to at least pick up a little!

  5. the master bedroom! (it’s not so ‘master’ as we gave the biggest room to the kids to share!) so it’s small, and right off the living room/dining area so it becomes the place to stash everything when we quickly clean up for guests.

  6. i subscribe via google reader!

  7. Right now, the area most in need of organizational help is our storage room…it’s overflowing since I tend to hide Christmas presents in there and am currently trying to get Thanksgiving decor and serveware and such out of the same room. 😉

  8. My bedroom closet could definitely use some “organized simplicity.” This is where I hide all my clutter when I have overnight company. Instead of just taking the time to go through it all and either trash or donate it, I heft it into reusable shopping bags that stack up inside my walk-in. One of these days!!

  9. I subscribed by email =)

  10. My pantry is scary. I can’t find anything and I am quite sure that some items have been in there since last year. Perhaps if we haven’t needed a canned good in a year, I should donate it. 🙂

  11. I subscribe in Google Reader.

  12. I think that my bedroom and closet could really use some organized simplicity!

  13. There is not a single room in my house that could NOT benefit from simplicity. And in most rooms, so much. I dream of a smaller house for our family of 5 so the stuff isn’t so overwhelming, but getting there is the hard part.

  14. Tweeted!

  15. I have been trying to organize our house lately, and the living room is still in need of some “organized simplicity.”

  16. I subscribed through Google reader!

  17. I cannot keep up with the housecleaning. The clutter and mess just seems to take over.

  18. My pantry could definitely use some organized simplicity. I am constantly sorting through it and organizing it, but it just doesn’t ever stay that way. I think I need a new system!

  19. Our whole place: we have too much stuff, to tell the truth. I have tried to declutter our home as fast as I could in the last two weeks, hopefully I can finish it till Christmas. Next on the list: bedroom closet.

  20. I would love this book.

  21. I follow via google reader.

  22. The area of our home that could use the most work right now is the basement. I haven’t yet hit on the magic bullet. Lighting? Bins? Labels? All of the above? Maybe.

  23. Jenny Runyan says

    Wow, where to start! It seems my apartment is in constant need of organizing! Which is why I would be thrilled to win this book! Oh my heavens, it can be a bit embarrassing, so right now I will fess up to the top of my fridge. I put things there that are somewhat important meaning to put them away, but it never happens. I need a serious organziational makeover!

  24. Jenny Runyan says

    I just signed up to subscribe through email and am excited!

  25. My linen closet needs help.

  26. What we call “The Lego Room” which is a combination playroom/homeschool bookroom/computer room/my office

  27. I could really use this book! Seriously!

    I have trouble organizing my papers and books and my desk!

  28. I need organized simplicity in every room in my house!! 🙂

  29. Oh, do I need this book!!! It is hard to pick one area that needs organizing. We just moved to a new home and even though we sold or gave away a ton of things, we still have too much stuff. I think this book would help me to prioritize our items as I unpack and decide what we REALLY need. Thanks for the giveaway.

  30. Oh, dear. Lots of places, but I would start with my laundry/mud room/ entry from the garage/ place to dump stuff that we don’t know where to put or don’t want to deal with right now!

  31. My house is small so there is always clutter.

  32. The hutch in my dining room is a disaster all the time. Ideally, I keep my cookbooks there, but it is also the most convenient spot to drop the mail, put coupons for sorting, leave the unread sections of newspaper, place things out of my 22 month-old’s reach…the list goes on and on. It seems like weeks since I saw the surface! Sigh…

  33. Organized simplicity, mostly needed in our basement that is the catchall. It could b a great space, but it is just sooooooo……full!

  34. A lot of areas in my home can use a little ‘organized simplicity’. Kids room is probably the first one on the list

  35. Lucy Archer says

    My garage could use some love, for sure 🙂

  36. Lucy Archer says

    i susbscribed by email, thank you!

  37. I desperately need organization in every room in my house! After 11 years without kids, our entire house is undergoing constant transition and shuffling of “stuff” as our toddlers take over more and more of the house. We seriously struggle with organizing our house in a functional way. Now that my husband and I will have to share an office as our kids are move into separate rooms, which we are both dreading, that will probably be disaster central (and the ONE room off limits to the kids!) We need some serious “organized simplicity” in our life and home! Thanks!!

  38. I follow @simplebites and @simplemom & tweeted the giveaway!

  39. My front hall coat closet needs some organized simplicity. It’s not organized and currently holds WAY more than just coats.

  40. I subscribe vis RSS!

  41. Danielle Krouch says

    Our cabinets are in great need of organization! It’s tough because I can just throw things in without cleaning it up–dangerous!

  42. Danielle Krouch says

    I subscribed via email!

  43. linen closet, garage, pantry!

  44. My bedroom closet!! It doubles as my husbands office and it is a cluttered mess!

  45. My basement is in need of this book! Loved the interview!!

  46. I subscribe

  47. My whole apartment could use some clutter therapy. We moved from a small apartment into an even tinier space and we love it here so much we want to stay and start a family, but I have a hard time picturing where we are going to fit it all!

  48. I subscribed!

  49. Kelly Siler says

    Well, just today, I de-cluttered my basement – but honestly, it could still use some more work! I’d love to win a copy of this book!

  50. My bedroom needs all the help it can get.