Updated: Dec 2, 2022
I'm doing something a bit radical this year, and so far, so good. It's called 'only do things you really, really like with people you really, really like'. I don't know why I didn't think of it before.
Sometimes it means I have to look a bit more deeply at whoever I'm with, to find out what's wonderful about them. Sometimes it means I have to put more effort into things, so wonderful people let me hang out with them. But the thing about love, even micro-love, is that it makes the effort worth it.
Let's make the most of the huge amounts of freedom we do have, and not waste a scrap of it thinking we 'have to' do things. In this post-lonely era, one audacious act I recommend you try is inviting yourself over to someone's house for dinner. If you offer to bring the food yourself, they will almost always say 'yes', and the connections that make life wonderful have a chance.
Last week's Easy Dinner Party, at My Hero's House
These days I'm living in the Dalesford area, close to my heroes Su and David Holmgren. I called them up and asked 'Can I have a dinner party at your house? I'll bring the food'. Their home, Melliodora, is one of the most inspirational Permaculture sites in the world. It's no wonder because David is the co-originator of Permaculture. They thrive on making beautiful designs and relationships their daily reality. They said 'Yes'!
Then I called the owner of the celebrated Japanese Guesthouse, Shizuka Ryokan, also in Hepburn Springs. I asked 'Want to come to a dinner party at David Holmgren's?' Catherine is a go-getter woman who makes things happen. She said 'Yes'!
I turned up with a very simple dish, soba noodle salad. If the ingredients are fresh and organic, and I don't do too much to them, the food will be delicious, and the focus can be on each other.
I needed my own plus1, so I invited my friend Emma, a super-likeable local who does good design work and playful Permaculture. I was still preparing when the guests arrived, which was fine as they had a wonderland garden to explore. Meanwhile, I busied myself finding some candles, flowers from the garden, and reaching for the Holmgren family heirloom plates. Being familiar with our friend's kitchens creates ease and flow.
Catherine and Phil admire David's Tower of Power: the garden tool holder. Every tool goes home here each night, never to be lost or forgotten.
Phill is a carpenter and watercolourist, and Emma is a puppet maker and engineer. They both have lush edible gardens, and here they are, plotting to borrow Melliodora's clever designs for their own patch.
'Bring your Japanese herbs or something to add.' I asked Catherine. Soba salad accepts pretty much anything. Shizuka is an award-winning establishment, with a permaculture garden. She brought a stash of unusual Japanese condiments such as yuzu pepper paste, and Phil brought a Yuzu wine from Gippsland, his neck of the woods. The aroma of yuzu citrus is unlike anything else, evocative and compelling. Although it's often found in Japanese cuisine it's only grown commercially in Australia on that one farm, so lucky us.
I brought along some children's books written by my Mr Wonderful, Dr Marc. Su loved them and offered to sell them at her next community gathering. Catherine told me about an upmarket children's bookstore in Dalesford that could be just right, so I took them into the Donkey's Tale the very next day. It's these serendipitous exchanges that make an evening with friends feel enriching for everyone.
The bloke's mutual love of timber was a joy to behold. They got out the reference books and expanded each other's world. Photo by Cecilia
It was a fun, easy night, with a feeling that we are all gifts to each other. As we are.
Cecilia's top dinner party tips
- Keep a balance by inviting one or two new people you wish to get to know and fill the rest of the table with friends you are comfortable and familiar with. The new people will be your wild cards, bring surprise to the night, and maybe become your new regulars. I can get overwhelmed if there are more than one or two new people. I even forget to enjoy my own food!
- Don't fry anything. It's too stressful, gets your adrenaline up, and the smell of frying dominates.
- If cooking and talking at the same time stress you, plan something for the guests to do when they arrive. Then you can focus on the final delicate moments when everything comes together.
- If the people you invite all have a dream they are striving to make real, they will be interesting and interested in each other.
And the most important tip of all, especially if you live in the Macedon Ranges or Melbourne area: Invite Cecilia! I love dinner parties and hold so many, yet get so few invites. Thrill me.
Zen Your Space: Create a Loveable, Effortless Home
Catherine and I are both in love with Japanese culture. When we met, something went 'click' and we put together my home design workshops at her traditional Japanese guesthouse. We are thrilled to be offering a training series over the next year. It's for house-holders, culture-creators, messy, big-picture thinkers, and the people who love them. It's called Zen Your Space: Create a Loveable, Effortless Home. You can find out more about it here.