(The following post is about our New Year’s Eve sit-down-dinner party in correlation with my Commandments #1 through 5.)

Hospitality is not a word to fear! I used to think of hospitality as a “potluck dish,” but I now know it is far more than that. It is a gift I have – and a gift I am to use (C #1)! Most recently, my passion for hospitality led to this fun New Year’s Party that my husband and I hosted a week ago. Let’s just call it: Change it Around!

Our “Change it Around” party was a success! But much of that success was because I was organized, having planned ahead and delegated (C #2). I put a lot of thought into who would come, what the menu would be, I organized the idea of “changing the seating around for every course,” and considered just how we would do this (in a rather small, cramped setting.) I made a lot of lists that kept me on track, planned out the seating and delegated the appetizers, soup, salad, and pizza, snacks & dessert for the kids.

The table setting was a blast (C #3). Using everything that I already had (I’m not big into having to purchase “new” for every party, only to impress others and put a big dent in my budget!), we put two tables together with matching tablecloths, keeping the dishes and centerpieces with a fun NYE theme and pretty candles. We played lively music all night long, a notch higher in volume than normal (which we learned to do for larger group parties.)

I gave up perfectionism a long time ago (C #4). I have to remind myself that parties may not flow perfectly, and one might find it easy to critique or criticize it afterward. Although I do evaluate and think of things that I could do differently, I stick with this belief: If everyone has a good time – It’s a Success!

There’s been so much curiosity from readers regarding what questions we asked our guests that night! I think people so much want to create a fun, lively atmosphere – and I’m telling you, that is important, but conversation is where it is at! (C #5) You can have delicious food and horrible company – and what you walk away with is remembering the not-so-great company – and not even the yummy meal!

So for my readers, who keep checking back because they so want to know what we talked about – here is what you’ve been waiting for! The big conversation questions!!

We started our evening off with appetizers and drinks, where everyone mingled freely and enjoyed catching up. For our first course (Italian soup – brought by one of the guests), we seated our guests sitting by their spouses (immersing single people in between). No conversation starter was used for this course.

All the ladies were so helpful and they each had their own job. The person who brought the course would serve, and then help bus the dishes. A couple other gals took on the job of taking my seating chart and moving place cards to the “new spot,” as the guests hung onto to their cloth napkins and glasses. (Did you know that you can take a Sharpie marker and put names on the bases of the glasses? It wipes off easily after washing.)

The next course started off with yummy salad (which I also delegated to another wonderful cook!), as all the men sat at one end, and the women at the other. Our first conversation starter took place: What is your middle name, and how did you get it? Mmm, many of us thought we knew “everything” about each other (some of our friendships going back 25 years!) Nope – this conversation starter caused a lot of laughter as unique stories were shared.

Changing it aroundagain – we then moved to the main course, where I served yummy homemade linguicia lasagna, and scrumptious dill bread. Our conversation starter was a little more serious this time as my husband asked the group: Who in your growing up years (through age 12) was the most influential in your life? Way more serious, this was a joyous time, but also very contemplative, as every person came from such different backgrounds. In the end we realized that the most influential individuals in our lives were evenly split between the sexes (female and male).

My husband and I both realized that the questions we asked went deep into that person’s history implying, “What made you – you?” and even deeper, “Where did you come from?”

Last summer I had a dinner party for ladies, and recently one of the ladies commented to me about how special that part of the evening was for her, because even the “quietest person” got to share, not overshadowed by the more dominant personalities. The wonderful thing about conversation starters is that everyone gets to respond. My husband and I learned early on in our marriage (through a book, though we can’t remember the name!) to use this technique with our guests.

Changing it aroundone last time – we moved again (again, sitting by someone new) and indulged in apple cake with hot custard on top.

For hours we connected – kept it real, opened up – all by sharing in a safe, fun atmosphere with each other. As I mentioned before, Paul and I thought this was our most unique party ever.

We don’t think we could ever re-create it – so we won’t even try.

(Please stay tuned for my upcoming post, Change it Around – Part II using Commandments #6 through 10)

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