Monday, July 12, 2021

The Inviting Life - Book Club Update

This post contains affiliate links - using affiliate links from Homeschool Coffee Break helps fuel this blog. 

Back in May, when the Online Book Club theme was Spring, one of my searches at my library turned up the title: The Inviting Life: An Inspirational Guide to Homemaking, Hosting and Opening the Door to Happiness by Laura Calder. The book promised help with "getting yourself motivated for spring cleaning" which I thought would be very useful, and would go along with the theme. For whatever reason, the book didn't get into my hands until pretty near the end of May, so it wasn't a high priority for me once I had it. At some point in June, I figured I should at least give it a look and skim through it so I wasn't taking it back to the library unread. I did read it in bits and pieces over a few weeks, but I'm so glad I did! Because it turned out to be an unexpected gem, here's my review and recommendation.

The Inviting Life by Laura Calder - This book ordered in early May didn't arrive until nearly June, so it almost got returned unread. I wound up reading (rather than browsing or skimming) a lot more of this book club pick than I'd expected, which says something for how interesting I found it. Although it's a bit of a how-to book, sharing advice and encouragement for would-be hostesses, there are a lot of personal anecdotes and observations, and the author's delightfully self-deprecating sense of humor and welcoming, friendly personality come through.

 The book is broken into four sections, aimed at advising and encouraging readers to open their homes and invite others in - no excuses! The first section is about making a welcome home and discusses decorating and arranging whatever living space you occupy so that it's comfortable and functional for those that live there, and the guests that come in. Although how a room looks and how it reflects the personality of the owner is a big part of this discussion, it's also completely practical and down-to-earth, with acknowledgement that some of us live in very small spaces, in temporary spaces, or in spaces we rent or borrow. These are limitations, but should not be excuses for ungracious living! 

More practicality awaits in the second section which is all about cleaning and maintaining your home. It's titled "Hug Your House" and that gives a good overview of the inspirational aspect of housekeeping highlighted. Most people don't find scrubbing bathrooms or doing household chores exciting or amusing, but most of us will admit to at least feeling more at peace and harmony when our living spaces are clean and orderly. Calder argues that cleaning our home should remind us that we are blessed to have one, and that housekeeping can be empowering, cathartic, satisfying, and can even help us be more productive. 

Section three gets into the specifics of keeping a sensibly stocked and functional kitchen, because let's face it - if you want to invite people over, you should feel equal to the task of feeding them. There are practical lists and recommendations of what should be in your pantry and what gadgets are worthwhile, an inspirational list of positive outcomes of hosting dinner parties, a few recipes, and advice on how to set a table. 
We can have money by the truckload and still make horrible hosts. What we can never buy, and therefore never offer to others, are imagination, a generous spirit, a genuine interest in other people, a willingness to be vulnerable, and an ability to put people at ease. . . something that more or less anyone with the will to do so can adopt. ~Laura Calder
And in section four, Calder discusses the finer points of being an exceptional host and being comfortable in the role. Your ability to make your guests feel at ease and welcomed is much more important than your wealth or your ability to cook or decorate. Calder gently instructs on gracious inviting, planning, serving, and managing of gatherings from casual lunches to formal dinners. Etiquette is important and there's a brief primer on some table manners and other social graces, along with pointers on delegating to co-hosts, serving food and drinks, and making conversation. 

Partway through the book, I began to think this would have been a good book to include in a Home Ec type course during high school, and by the time I arrived at the etiquette pointers on things like gracious invitations and responses, setting a tone as host, and the importance of thank you notes (I believe they are essential for gifts received at weddings, showers, and graduations), I was convinced that it would be a helpful read for high schoolers or young adults to get them primed on being good hosts and guests early on. The Table Manners section is another valuable collection of info. 
My unsolicited opinion is that everyone should consider it part of their basic education to learn good table manners and use them. It's called being civilized. When we sit around a table with people to share food, we're not there to watch one another masticate and swallow . . . Conforming to standards is not about being fancy, then; it's about not offending, not grossing other people out . . . ~Laura Calder
Honestly, knowing which fork to use when there are three or four of them at the place setting is not a huge deal, but being able to wield a knife and fork competently will help you feel more confident when at a banquet or when invited to meet your significant other's family. And using basic table manners and knowing some polite pleasantries about how to greet or introduce people will come in very handy in all kinds of social and work environment situations. Even learning how to carve and serve a roast is useful! I loved how the author described this somewhat traditional skill!
Carving seems to be where caveman meets knight in shining armour, at once primal and genteel. It really separates the men from the boys, too, because anybody can stick a roast in the oven, but not everyone can slice it expertly once it's out and present it with honour.
I thought this book was charming and practical. The author's cooking style is much more adventurous and entertaining style more cosmopolitan than mine, but it struck me that the "inviting life" her book encourages is another name for the "hygge life" (not to be confused with "thug life"!) that was my Online Book Club theme in January! Creating an atmosphere that is welcoming and homey for all.

The original version of this review appeared on Just A Second.

 Don't miss a coffee break! Updated subscription by email info coming soon! 

 ©2006-2021 Homeschool Coffee Break. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author. 

 We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.



Lori - At Home: where life happens said...

This looks like it was really good. I have added it to my "want to read" list.

Linda Stoll said...

mmm ... if we wait til our homes look like something out of a magazine we'll never open our doors.

Post a Comment

I love comments! It's like visiting over a virtual cup of coffee.