The Girl's Guide to DC
Issue 32: Hostess with the Mostest
I can’t believe it — we’re nearly to the end of 2021! I hope you enjoy this special interview with Clare Morell about hospitality and how you can practice it in your own life.
I want this newsletter to be about you, the ladies of DC, so send me your career tips and bad date stories by replying to this email. And don’t forget to subscribe to Girl’s Guide with the button below!
What They Don’t Tell You
What they don’t tell you about growing up is that, unlike in the movies, adults don’t have fancy dinner parties to go to all the time. Most of the time, if you want a dinner party, you’re going to have to host it yourself!
And here in DC, hosting can feel like a burden — our apartments are too small, and there are plenty of good restaurants to go to anyway. Why bother?
I asked you ladies to share your biggest obstacles to hosting on my Instagram, and here are the answers you gave:
“It’s frankly expensive to cook for a lot of people.”
“Finding the time!”
“Wanting everything to be perfect in your home!”
“Knowing I have to clean up after.”
“We live in a small apartment!”
I’ve definitely experienced each one of these. But there’s something really lovely about inviting friends into your home and sharing a meal (even if it’s just a bunch of ingredients you threw in the slow cooker and called chili). In my humble opinion, one of the best feelings in the world is looking around the room after all of your guests have arrived and seeing people form new connections and friendships.
That’s why I was thrilled when I was thrift shopping earlier this year and found a dusty old book called “All About Entertaining: Everything You Need to Know to Have a Fabulous Social Life” by sisters Kay Corinth and Mary Sargent. The book was published in 1966 and is out of print as far as I can tell.
Nick and I hosted a few friends for a potluck earlier this week and I definitely drew on some of what I’ve read — I just had to share some of the best nuggets here!
Evie’s Favorite Quotes from “All About Entertaining”
On party planning… Good parties don’t just happen. They are carefully plotted, maybe even in several acts.
On creating a guest list… You may be the greatest mixer of tasty recipes, or the most skillful mixer of frosty beverages, but unless you are knowledgeable about mixing the most important ingredient of a party — guests — you will never make it as a hostess.
This advice is perfect for DC… Invite only people you know will be harmonious at a party. For example, during an election period, don’t invite people who are too opinionated in one way or the other and would tend to become argumentative. If having an election-results party, be sure the guests are all on the same team, or that they are awfully good sports.
A recipe for a great party… In planning your mix of sparkling guests, these are the possible combinations:
You may mix people who don’t know each other, but who you believe will enjoy one another and make a pleasant party.
You may always mix people who know each other well, or family, but there is danger here that your guest lists will become ingrown, with no surprises.
You may develop a combination of old friends, who know you and each other well, with a group of new friends. This has the best potentiality for a really lively and interesting party.
This one’s just funny… Beautiful girls or women can always glamorize a party, especially for the men present! As one great hostess said, they are cheaper than flowers!
I may try this party idea… One of the most original guest mixtures was dreamed up by a couple we know. To widen their circle of friends and get out of a “same people” rut, they planned a party and asked each guest to bring someone he or she believed the host would like to meet. An ingenious idea because all of us love to bring good friends together.
On RSVP etiquette… It can throw off a hostess completely, and even spoil her party, when a guest asks to bring someone who is visiting him or her… it is better not to ask. Instead, say that you would love to come to the party, but that you can’t because your old college roommate will be visiting you at that time. This gives the hostess leeway to invite the roommate, too, or to say she is sorry and hopes that next time you can come.
Go ahead, buy that centerpiece at Home Goods… A dinner can be a feast in more ways than one, because a beautifully set table is a feast for the eyes. The beginner cook can cover up the sins of commission in the kitchen by camouflaging the dinner in a lovely-to-look at environment.
On seating guests… For guests seated at a dining table, chairs shouldn’t be so close that they touch. Have enough space to sit down gracefully without awkward maneuvering. Folding chairs are a help at large parties and, like card tables, they have come a long way from the old-fashioned functional but ugly ones.
On decorating with candles… Only a hundred years ago candles and open-flame lamps were utilitarian. No longer a necessity, they are a romantic route to soft light with sweet music. Any woman who has a desire for glamour — and who hasn’t? — will use candlelight at the slightest excuse.
My personal favorite quote… Whatever her way of entertaining, sincerity is the mark of the successful hostess. She offers hospitality from the heart with a sincere desire to do something generous, kind, and thoughtful for her guests. She proffers the comforts of her home and sets out her best in food and drink, whether modest and meager, or lavish and luxurious.
The French have a beautiful word for what counts most in entertaining successfully — ambiance. Though it doesn’t translate literally into English, it connotes a sympathetic and pleasant surrounding atmosphere that doesn’t cost money, and actually can’t be bought with money. It’s the gracious offering of heart and hearth to the guest in your home. It’s sincerity.
Now, go forth and host!
There were many more quotes I could have included, but I only have so much space! I’ll be posting some more funny quotes on my Instagram, so be sure to follow me there.
Interview with Clare Morell
Every week, I introduce you to a woman who knows the ins and outs of DC! Meet Clare Morell, who is a perfect interview for this special issue on being hospitable. Nick and I have been lucky enough to be invited to brunch at the Morell home, which involves lots of cheesy potatoes, eggs, and bottomless coffee! Clare is also known to host the occasional ladies spa night.
Clare has lots of practical advice on working hospitality into your life. Connect with her on Twitter here!
Why do you love your neighborhood?
We live on Capitol Hill in DC, and I love it because we are just blocks away from the US Capitol, the Supreme Court, and the Library of Congress. I also love all the historic homes, brick sidewalks, and how beautiful it is to walk around. And best of all, we live next door to our church, Capitol Hill Baptist Church.
What does your life look like right now?
My life looks like being the wife of a husband in full-time pastoral ministry and mom to an intensely energetic and extroverted 18-month-old boy, Theodore. I spend my days chasing him around, correcting, disciplining, and delighting in him! I also work part-time as a Policy Analyst for the Ethics and Public Policy Center writing and researching on Big Tech issues, mainly from home during Theodore's naps. And our life is full of hosting people in our home for meals, fellowship, and conversation.
What's your favorite spot in DC and why?
The Capitol building. I love walking or running around it. I love the beautiful white dome. And I love seeing it all lit up at night. It's also where Caleb, my husband, proposed to me 5 years ago. After getting married at our church down the street, we took our wedding pictures in front of it. And now living blocks away, it's where we take our son to run around or go on walks. So I love both its historical significance and importance to our government and country, as well as its personal significance in our family.
I also love Georgetown, both the university campus and neighborhood. It's where Caleb and I went to college and met, so it'll always hold a special place in our hearts.
What are your tips for hosting and generally being hospitable in DC?
Just do it! Start small and simple and let it grow from there. Don't let living in a small space or living on a small budget keep you from having people over. Just invite people into your life. It doesn't need to be formal or fancy. Gather friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. together and you'll see what a blessing it is to create an environment for deep and thoughtful conversations, laughter and fun, connections and friendships. It all comes from spending time with others, but to do that someone needs to host it, so why not you? Take the initiative, and you'll see how it enriches your life.
On a practical note, having food and drinks available helps extend the time and increase the enjoyment of the experience. But it doesn't need to be a fancy meal. Buy some snacks and make a little charcuterie board from Trader Joe's. Put on some hot water for tea or hot cocoa and bake some cookies. Or just pick up some pizza. Just buy whatever food your budget will allow and you can always have guests bring items to share as well, to pool resources.
What is your philosophy of hospitality, and why is it important to you and your family?
Hospitality is one of the biggest ways we can practically love and serve others in our lives. As Christians, our family believes in following and living according to God's Word. One of the most important themes of the Bible is loving others as Christ has loved us. We are commanded to love God and to love others. And so in following Jesus's command to love others, to love our neighbors as ourselves, we show hospitality. Hospitality is welcoming friends and strangers alike into our homes in a warm and welcoming way. In hospitality you share your food, you share your home and comfort, and you share your very life with others. And that blesses others and shows them a picture of what the love of Christ is like, generous and sacrificial. So that is our philosophy of hospitality, that we welcome others into our home to love them as Christ has loved us so richly and generously.
Julia Child’s Mansion For Sale in Georgetown
You could live in Julia Child’s former Georgetown mansion… if you’ve got $3.5 million to spare, that is. I really enjoyed this story from The Washington Post about the house famed cook Julia Child lived in during the 1950s. It’s heartwarming to read about how current owner Rory Veevers-Carter revived the house from disrepair (even if I kind of hate the sleek, modern kitchen redesign). Anyone down for a quick house tour?
‘And Just Like That’ Is Almost Here
I’m loath to admit it, but I’ve been counting down the days to Sex and the City reboot “And Just Like That.” Whether the show turns out to be mere fan service or not, there’s already a clear winner: Candace Bushnell, the author of the book that inspired HBO’s original “Sex and the City” series, who’s been getting gobs of attention from the press. If you want to know what the 63-year-old Bushnell is up to, check out this article from The Cut about her new one-woman show.
Keep your eyes peeled for my upcoming review of “And Just Like That” in Evie Magazine… and be sure to read my most recent story for examining the 90s sitcom renaissance that includes SATC!
Congrats & More
Congrats to CASEY DICKINSON and ALEC SEARS, who got engaged this past weekend! Watch the video on Twitter (and congratulate them, too).
KRISTA MITCHELL celebrates her birthday on Dec. 15 — make sure to wish her a happy birthday on Twitter!
Girl’s Guide is at 32 issues and counting! I started The Girl’s Guide to DC in March not knowing if anyone would read it (or if I’d run out of ladies to interview). I want to thank all of you ladies (and gents) for reading every week and sharing feedback and encouragement. I must also thank my husband/proofreader Nick for making sure I fix all my typos each week!
I will be taking a break from writing until the New Year, but please reach out via email@example.com to share what topics you’d like me to cover in the future!
Got a New Year’s Resolution?
Got a New Year’s resolution for yourself? That’s nice, but what I really wanna know is what your New Year’s resolution would be for the single men of DC, if you could choose for them! Send me your most savage New Year’s resolutions at firstname.lastname@example.org — names can be changed to protect the innocent.