The dream I had for our back deck/porch/yard has always been to gather together with our family and friends and talk about God's word and our lives, laugh, break bread together, and play games! We have been working on our backyard for over a year now. Here we painted our deck (which sadly did NOT hold up in the Colorado weather elements). Here we laid sod, which sadly ended up frying towards the end of the summer (#renoprobz). We also decided to renovate our kitchen starting in May and much to my dismay our deck became the outdoor storage unit for our appliances and our contractor's tools and supplies. We had a dishwasher and stove among other renovation debris and tools on our deck for about 8 weeks. FINALLY, when our kitchen was nearing completion we were able to finish decorating our back deck and get some use out of it before the winter rolls in. I was afraid I would miss the precious summer time but as I am always reminded, God is faithful and I still had plenty of time to enjoy the backyard.

The day after our contractor finished up with the kitchen, I texted a group of girlfriends to see if they wanted to join me for an evening on the deck complete with yummy food and wine! I got a resounding "I am in!". During this party, my sweet friend (and also current ROOMIE! - more on that later) mentioned that she wanted me to teach her all my hosting ways for when she gets married soon. I had another friend comment to me about how it is hard to know how to host. This got me thinking. I love to host and it comes somewhat naturally to me but it isn't that hard and really everyone can do it! We all grew up with our parents showing us different skills and gifts. My mom, as well as, my dad and step-mom are all amazing hosts. My entire life, I have watched as they have thrown party after party and gathering after gathering. It is easily one of my favorite memories of growing up. Somewhere along the way, I picked up my own hosting style. A few tips I have learned through experience can go a long way for throwing an affordable gathering with a specific theme or style.

I am going to share with you how you can put together a girls evening at your house for less than $50 and not stress out in the process! I want to encourage you to invite others in to share in the hosting and use all the fun stuff you already have in your home that was a wedding present or a special purchase that we just don't use enough!

First - pick the night of the week that works for you invite girls over. I know that about 8 girls fit perfectly on my back deck. For me, I work a 9/80 schedule which means I have every other Friday off so I usually pick a Friday evening that I am already off to host my gathering! This automatically makes it less stressful for me.

Next, decide on the menu for the evening. I usually make the main meal and at least one side or appetizer. I will text the girls letting them know what I need help with. Do not hesitate to tell your girls specifically what to bring or just give them suggestions. Most of my friends love direction when it comes to contributing to one of these gatherings!  Sometimes I am as specific to say that I want someone to bring a cheese and cracker platter and sometimes I say "a side that goes with chicken". This allows people to make something they like but also lets them know what would be helpful! I love my girls, everyone is usually fighting over who gets to bring what and we always end up with SO MUCH FOOD! I love it.

My go to recipe for the meat is crock pot pork. I literally make this so much. It is affordable, easy, and Whole 30 approved!

I shop at my local Sprouts and pick up a 3.5-5.0 lbs of pork loin or pork shoulder (whichever they have that's on sale). I usually spend about $5-9 on the pork! That's it!!

The morning of the party, I put the pork in the crock pot. Then I add about two spoonfuls of garlic that is already chopped in the jar. Add some fresh oregano or other herbs from the garden (pick what you love but some suggestions are: Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, & Basil). Then I add some salt and pepper to taste and put about 1/2 cup of water (or wine if you prefer. P.S. cooking with wine is not Whole 30 approved.) for the juice. That is IT! Just put on low for 8 hours and it is completely ready for your evening! Crockpot recipes make it really easy when you get home from work. You can just focus on prepping the table or the space you are going to hang out in.

For this party, I also made some basmati rice with garlic and some cilantro. I then just rummaged through my pantry and fridge and threw in a bowl of fresh cherries, some pistachios, and a bowl of green olives. All things I already had that were going to go bad if they weren't eaten soon!

When I am the hostess, I usually provide a few bottles of wine for the evening. Nothing fancy, I literally go to Trader Joe's and get 3 buck Chuck or maybe one "special wine" that is $4. I know big spender. To cutesy things up - I just poor the red wine in a decanter (a wedding gift) and put cute wine stoppers in the white and pink wines! I let the girls know they can feel free to bring their beverage of choice, so again there is no stress! I always provide some lemon and rosemary infused water in a cute pitcher (another wedding present).

To make the dinner special and set the ambiance for the evening, I usually pick up one of the $3.99 bouquets at Trader Joe's the week of the party. I keep a stock pile of my wedding decor for various church events and events at my home, so I will usually pull out a few lanterns and candles to set the table. Here is where it gets really fun... You know all that china, fancy cups, platters, and other STUFF you got for your wedding? Yeah, get all that stuff out! It is time to use it. I have been using Ben's grandmother's beautiful blue glasses, my grandmother's weeping willow dishes, and all the platters, pitchers, etc. that I have for these parties! It is so fun. At first all the girls were like, "wow! Where is all this from?" and I was able to tell them that it was basically all gifts and hand me downs and it was time to just use all the fancy stuff! This makes them feel very special and just makes the evening so much fun! You totally don't have to do this but for me, it is just really special to actually get to use all my serving ware. Finally, I pulled out the real napkins that my mom gifted me for Easter. Yep, that's right, real napkins. Don't be scared of the clean up, just throw them in the washer at the end of the night! These are from Target and are really cute!

If you can't tell already, I LOVE blue. Everything matches because, well, I buy everything in shades of blue and grey. Haha

This time together with friends was so sweet. I cherish these nights. I love encouraging the other women that they too can throw a dinner, that isn't overly expensive, isn't over the top but fosters an environment where others feel special and cherished! As you can see above, we had everything from pork to pizza rolls, to a cheese and fruit tray, to fresh cherries & veggies. We didn't have fancy Hors d'oeuvres. These nights are about being present in the moment. As a hostess, you can't lose sight of the point of the evening and you need to enjoy the friends you have over. Once I get the table set, I usually just sit down and focus on being present, I don't run around the whole time or let myself get stressed out. I just know that I don't have to control everything and it doesn't have to be perfect. I usually have at least one friend who brings their dog over to play with Trigger. We listen to country music or our favorite worship songs, sit under the market cafe lights, enjoy the amazing weather that Denver offers in the summer, and talk about life, marriage, our jobs, our ministries, and what we are learning about who Christ is. One of my favorite parts is towards the middle of the evening I usually prompt the girls to share what they are learning in God's word, what this season of life is teaching them, or how they are being stretched. I am always so encouraged during this time. I am beyond thankful for a community of women that are on mission in this city and are loving others with their time, their words, and their hearts. 

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We had such a wonderful time that I planned another evening just two weeks later. We changed up the menu but again it turned out to be such a precious time with these girls. As I swept the leaves on our deck last week, I was reminded of the changing season and I am so thankful I had these special evenings under the stars with my precious friends!

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Trigger and Abe were totally infatuated with all the food droppings they got! They were not happy to be temporarily locked inside.

Happy gathering -

 

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