Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Reluctant Entertainer

9780764207501 The Reluctant Entertainer – every woman’s guide to simple and gracious hospitality.
Written by  Sandy Coughlin
Published at Bethany House

About the book

Real Entertaining for Real People

True hospitality is not about being perfect, cooking a fancy meal, or spending a lot of money. Rather, it's about an open door and an open heart. Popular blogger Sandy Coughlin offers a simple but savvy approach to help women break free of the anxieties that keep them from opening their homes. Emphasizing the forgotten goal of entertaining--connecting deeply with others--she shows how women can use the gifts and talents God gave them to reach out in love.

Who is Sandy Coughlin?

Sandy Coughlin loves hospitality, cooking, and opening her home to others with her husband and three growing teenagers. She's the author of The Reluctant Entertainer and co-author (with her husband Paul) of Married...But Not Engaged. She's been featured on numerous media outlets including Moody's Midday Connection, Focus on the Family, The 700 Club, and Library Journal. You can find Sandy's blog about simple but savvy entertaining, as well as the benefits to imperfect living, at

My Thoughts

I am not and 100% reluctant entertainer but when events like birthday parties arrive well I sometimes wonder why I do all this.   So when I got the opportunity to review The Reluctant Entertainer I knew I could learn a thing of two from it.   Well I got more than I expected.

I admit that I have a case of double personality when it comes to entertainment.    At times, I will be like Mary and relax.   People can take me as I am…   However, other times (and probably more frequently that I would like to admit…) I will be like Martha trying to impress my guests and be exhausted at the end.    I need a constant reminder that whoever is coming want to see us/me not to inspect the house.    They want to spend time with the person, plain and simple.

Well since a few years – actually since I started homeschooling – my mentality has shifted a bit.   I am no super-woman and I can’t do everything.   So if the carpet is not perfect so be it.    But now that the older kids are more able to help, I get them involve in various task from setting the table to vacuuming the floors.

This book possess a wealth of information and many interesting ideas.  The photos throughout the book are mouth watering and the recipes look delicious.    There are plenty of tips and tricks that are simple and do not cost a lot of money in this wonderful book.     

I think the book should be in every woman’s kitchen – easy access and daily reminder not to stress out when having people over.   Consequently, I thought you might enjoy the interview with Sandy.  Please read on…


1. Why did you write The Reluctant Entertainer? How did you come up with the title?
I came up with the title Reluctant Entertainer when I noticed in my conversations with other
women how few people knew how to entertain and how many people feared it. That’s when I
started my blog I started writing about the lost art of hospitality,
practical ways to entertain and save money, how to buy things at the Dollar Store or yard sales,
how to come up with easy menus.

The questions and posts on my blog that have gotten the most comments are about
perfectionism and the struggles that women have!

2. You write about “Joy Busters” in hospitality. What are they?
Joy Busters are negative thoughts or misconceptions that hinder us or stop us from moving
forward with hospitality and what people want most today: connection. Many women never get
beyond the “thought” of entertaining because of their anxieties and fears. They think to
themselves, “I’m a horrible cook,” “My husband doesn’t like to entertain,” “It’s too hard with
kids,” “My house is a wreck,” or “I don’t have any particular style.”

Learning more about fear really helped me get to the soul of hospitality. Years ago we taught our
kids an acronym for fear: False Evidence Appearing Real. We all have fear of rejection in some
way. Maybe we’re worried about our food turning out, worried about what to say to our guests,
or worried about just generally being rejected. Our imaginations go wild, and we’re held back by
a fear of something that never becomes real.

3. Tell us about your list of Ten Commandments of Hospitality. How can they free women out
of reluctance?
I created a list of ten hospitality helpers that peps you up and encourages you to think, “I can
do this.” I know people who’ve printed the list and hung it on the front of their refrigerators,
reminding them daily that hospitality is within their reach!

My first commandment is the core: “Hospitality is not about you. It’s about making others feel
warm and welcome.” Once we get the concept of hospitality down, we realize that our guests are
NOT coming to see our home, or expecting a perfect gourmet meal. They are coming to see us.
To enjoy our company. This is essential to connection and fellowship. My commandments also
include tips like planning ahead, being organized, being creative and thrifty, never apologizing,
and avoiding perfectionism.

4. What is it about perfectionism that makes women NOT want to enter the entertaining
A good question to ask ourselves is “Am I having people in to my home to impress them or to
bless them?” One of the main reasons we remain reluctant and isolated is that we have bought
into the thinking that “perfect” is required in order to be hospitable! We’re saturated with media,
TV, magazines, and blogs where everything looks just too perfect! Women feel defeated before
they even begin. Some may even have had painful experiences while growing up, where their
mothers tried to be the perfect hostess, a June Cleaver or a Mary Tyler Moore style of
entertaining, which really does not exist.

Perfectionists also have a hard time making and keeping friends! They are not very happy because they know they will never
be able to live up to their own unrealistic expectations. They can’t measure up! What a horrible way to live.

5. Tell us about how you can keep entertaining savvy, yet simple.
Simplicity in entertaining is like learning to swim. The best way to make it to the deeper waters is by starting in the shallow
end! Choose two people to invite over who you have similar interests with. Surround yourself with imperfect people. And
show them your imperfections because people will feel more at ease with your company.

Don’t overwhelm yourself with a huge dinner party at first. Come up with a simple menu (find three recipes/menus and
serve them over and over again until you’ve mastered them), and keep the setting as simple as can be (I use flowers from my
yard and maybe a few candles). Simple can still be classy.

The best way to impress others in your home is through genuine care and authenticity—something that no killer centerpiece
or gourmet meal will ever do!

6. How do you become a better conversationalist, especially when the skill is hard for you?
Food and conversation just seem to go together. Eating comes naturally to all, but sometimes it’s the conversational aspect
that is difficult for us. We need to remember that everyone has a story, and people like to be heard.

Earlier in my marriage I’d sometimes be disappointed in the outcome of our dinner parties. I went to my husband to help
me figure it out, and we realized that one person had been allowed to dominate the conversation. It was distracting and often
ruined it for me, as the hostess.

That’s when we came up with conversation starters to ask in the first few minutes of the meal. This is important for the
person who has a hard time with conversation, because you can plan in advance two or three questions that you want to ask
around your table. Here’s a question you can ask all ages: Who is a person who builds you up?

7. What advice do you give to women who feel they have nothing to offer, women who get caught in the “comparison
Once you become sure of who God made you to be, reaching out to others becomes much easier. Figure out what makes you
tick, what inspires you, what your style is—and stick with it. It’s okay to copy from a magazine or from someone else, just
don’t get obsessed with it having to be perfect!

Move forward with your ideas with confidence and clarity. In other words, quit worrying about what others think. My book
shows women how by suggesting the easiest style to adopt, such as buying all white dishes, sometimes at yard sales.
My advice is to keep it easy and light and to make your home warm, cozy, and inviting. Hospitality is not about being the
perfect family or entertainer. It can be as simple as offering a glass of water to a friend who has just stopped by, or sitting on
the front porch with your best friend.

8. You write about “deeper connections” and how they can benefit you for life. Please explain.
Hospitality is the spark of friendships, of soul-satisfying experiences with others, eventually resulting in deeper connections
as we take the time and make the effort to reach beyond surface appearances.

My husband and I really enjoy older couples. They’re easy to talk to, they’re interested in our lives, and they just know how
to relax. They are good role models for us. They seem to have nothing to prove and sometimes seem more authentic than
couples our age. We have two couples we annually share meals with, and we enjoy their company so much.

I also love to take meals to others. I have the simple guidelines listed in my book, but my goal is to see a need, fill it, and not
get bogged down by the details. So what if you take enchiladas to a family for the second night in a row? Hospitality, like life,
can be messy and imperfect. What I’ve learned is that most families are grateful for whatever food is brought to them!

9. How does a person go from reluctant to gracious?
It actually starts with grace. Grace takes so much stress away and paves the way for what many of us long for today: a path
from isolation to connection and deep friendships. We remember that God has been gracious to us, so we make effort to be
gracious to one another.

My children are older now, yet I still try to remember what it was like when life was more hectic and I had less experience as
a hostess. When I am invited to another home, I tend to practice grace. When others come to my home, I try to keep a
gracious attitude when the meal doesn’t turn out the way I thought, or a guest tries to dominate the conversation.

Grace is a gift that I both give and receive. We had friends that stopped by from out of town. I had not planned on serving
them dinner but invited them to stay. I’ve learned over the years to become more spontaneous and relaxed. To me the last
minute welcome into our home was a gift that I gave our guests that night, more than the delicious meal. I said, “I will drop
everything for you—open doors, mess and all—you are welcome to stay!”

10. What do you hope to accomplish with women who read The Reluctant Entertainer? How do you think it can change
their lives?
Hospitality starts with a desire, a hunger that needs to be respected and honored, otherwise there won’t be follow-through,
or action. I think most of us have the desire to reach out to others for connection and support. My goal for this book is that
women catch the “spark,” that they gain inspiration and some simple ideas for how to keep it real, that they see the benefits
of moving forward and not looking back as I guide them through the steps of easy entertaining.

It’s a beautiful gift without a price tag. Hospitality is free for all! I offer some advice for young hostesses starting out:

  • Hospitality is not about you.
  • KISS (Keep it Simple, Sister)
  • Find a good role model
  • Learn to combat perfectionism and the need to impress others
  • Come up with three easy menus (I have included many recipes in The Reluctant Entertainer)
  • Never apologize for your mistakes
  • Practice grace


Want to check it out yourself?  No problem.  You can access the first chapter of the book here.

The book, The Reluctant Entertainer, has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. .

The Reluctant Entertainer is available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, including


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