The care she took

It wasn’t that the evening was perfect. It was the care she took in crafting it.

You know the feeling. You head somewhere—a social engagement or obligation—after a long week at work. It’s Friday night and you’re still in final conference call mode (or your equivalent). You rush through the end of the work day, make yourself presentable, feed the dog and head out.

And usually, you end up having a good time. But not the kind of time that changes you in any real way. You walk out and get back to your normal routine without much thought. It’s fine.

Recently, after what was supposed to be a routine book club night, I walked out feeling inspired by the experience rather than just “fine.” And when I puzzled out what made the difference—I realized it was the care our hostess took of us. That might sound weird—but in the space of a few hours—we all were recharged.

I knocked on the door, my mind focused on remembering to pay my life insurance premium before its due date. On replacing the garden hose before spring, on signing the field trip permission slip for my son. And then, the door opened, and the most wonderful smell wafted out.

I was welcomed, hugged effusively. As my hostess, Milanka, hung up my coat, she said to her husband, “Martin, take Kristine’s car keys and put this in her car.” Later that evening, I opened the bag to find homemade cinnamon rolls and the most delicious homemade granola. Both packaged with jaunty bows for the holidays.

I was immediately given a choice of specialty drinks—from Moscow mules to sangria—as I took in the beautifully set table. And before I knew it—before I had time to ruminate again on the nagging tasks I needed to remember—I was sharing fondue with some wonderful women. We were talking about the book and in the process, talking about our own lives. Our experiences with love and disappointment. Pain and joy. Marriage and more. The house, warmly lit, became even more inviting as conversation flowed.

As if that wasn’t enough, two homemade desserts were trotted out by our lovely hostess. A coconut cake and homemade ice-cream-filled whoopie pies that could grace the cover of Southern Living. She sent me home with toffee (Do you need to ask? Of course, homemade. Of course delicious).

If it sounds heavenly, caring, it was. As I exclaimed over the effort taken in providing a really wonderful, gracious evening, Milanka’s youngest daughter said, “Food is love.” She shared with me that is what her mother has taught her over the years.

Why did this evening make me feel so good? First, the love and care that went into it. Milanka must have been cooking all day. She tells me this is not unusual, that her Serbian family comes from a tradition of “real” meals. I could get used to this tradition.

If you’re like me, you may be pressed for time. I used to cook up a storm, back in the day, when I was staying home with my kids. Now, as a divorced mom, I’m usually working right up to dinnertime and then punting. Many nights, I work after dinner also. So, to be reminded of the care and love that can transform what could have been a typical cheese-and-crackers book club night into a really wonderful experience—well, that was beautiful. Because I think we’re starved for this kind of beauty and care in our lives.

Prepared foods are all the rage. Why? Because none of us feels we have the time to do something as simple as cooking anymore. We hire out walking the dog, cooking, even buying birthday presents for loved ones.

I’m not sure it’s worth the trade-off. I’ve tried to create a bit of love and magic again in my own home over the past two weeks—two weeks I took off from work to recharge. We’ve eaten healthier, felt more loved, slowed down.

And it’s been freakin’ wonderful.

Milanka inspired me. I was new to this book club, comprised of a few moms from my eldest’s former school. Yet, the care she took of me and her other guests that evening made me feel she treasured our relationship like an old friend would. It made me wonder when was the last time I took such good care of myself. And my sons. And my friends.

There’s a difference between a pre-made meal heated in the oven and the real thing whipped up in your own kitchen. A difference between soft music and candles accompanying good conversation, and a night in which everyone is on their phones.

I know you know this. But when is the last time you did something about it? Tuesday night dinner with candles? Sure. Why not?

I gave it a try. And I think it translated to love felt by my kids. Time spent together that felt more quality than usual.

I’m itching to do the same for my overworked, stressed-out friends. But I’m back to my own grind after the holiday break.

There’s hope, though. I invited a couple of neighbors over for a date later in the month. I’m not sure I can meet Milanka’s standard of care but I can certainly up my own. Imagine a world in which we all got to have evenings like I had more often. Where true thought and love goes into what we experience, eat and drink.

It’s micro-change at best, but it means so much more for the people it touches.

You in? I’m in. One thing this month, done with the utmost love and care, for at least one fellow human. Let me know how it goes.




49 Comments Add yours

  1. Wow. That sounds heavenly. I have a few friends whose houses always make me happy — from the scents to the food to the ambiance. We all need a Milanka in our lives.

    1. candidkay says:

      We do! She is hosting the next book club and I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to it. She is just an artist of all things comfort:).

  2. It’s a very big priority for my husband and I.

    I have a lot of time flexibility working at home (losing no time to commuting) and he really appreciates it when I set a lovely table) linen cloth and napkins, candles always — and make a great meal, which we call “restaurant food.” It’s not every night but it’s as often as we can. It makes a real difference.

    1. candidkay says:

      “Real” being the key word. It’s palpable, right? You can feel almost a different energy in what you eat and in you, when it’s prepared with love and in a beautiful setting.

  3. That would be right Kay, I go away for a few moments and you are taking over and converting the world 😀 ❤
    Something jiggled in the system over Christmas and I seem to be getting an odd comment or post from old contacts back again. Maybe I've been set free 😀
    But more importantly is the love your discovering and sharing kind lady, it is a love like no other…your love ❤
    Great post to come back to, hopefully there will be many more ❤

    1. candidkay says:

      Wow. Did I never mention that world domination and conversion was a goal? Shucks:). Welcome back! And I hope you’ll be in the ether again regularly. We’ve missed you . . .

      1. Thank you kind lady, it is good to make contact again. Hopefully my little chore with spirit has run its course 😀 ❤

  4. SLOW Anything is a lost art in the flurry that is our snazzy “civilized” life. But it is more than understandable that you haven’t been able to adjust your speedometer as a single mom. I trust the generous invitation to your home will pan out well. Cleaning and prepping can be stressful(!) so make sure you keep the gathering a gift for yourself as much as it is for friends.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, those are wise words. I am torn between wanting to give them what I just received and reality:). Thanks for the reminder.

      1. YOU and that heart of yours are more than enough.

  5. mydangblog says:

    It’s so nice to be pampered like that! A great way to start off the new year!

    1. candidkay says:

      It was a little slice of heaven. Now if I can just keep the juju going👍🏻

  6. It does sound like a wonderful evening of caring and it would be so lovely if we could all treat each other like this regularly.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, it really would be. She inspired me to do the same for others. Maybe it will be a chain reaction.

  7. Dale says:

    Oh yeah…I am IN! Then again, I do love to do this and try to do it regularly. Actually, working seasonally, forget about entertaining in the summer, almost impossible. However, now? I just got back from a three-day getaway with a friend and was cooked for! I did bring some goodies I had made as a thank you… And one does not leave my house empty-handed either. Now, if I can just find me a group of women to share in a book club…

    1. candidkay says:

      I knew it! I actually thought of you during that evening because it was the type of evening I pictured you providing. Especially with your amazing cooking. In terms of a book club, I just love being in them. I guess that makes sense, given I am such a book nerd. But I really do feel they feed your soul. If you can get with a group of women who are straight shooters, you get to have real conversations :-). Not enough of those going around these days.

      1. Dale says:

        Sa-weet! Love that you thought of me… can’t lie!
        Yeah… most of my English speaking friends live on the other side of Montreal and I can’t seem to get anyone interested in a book club. Sigh.
        Straight shooters are the best and I agree, there are not enough!

  8. Sounds like a great challenge! I am not the best cook, however I think I will try this later in the month. Thanks for a great read! Hugs!

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh good! And I don’t think this has to be cooking-related. I think care can translate to many things. I can’t wait to hear what you do:).

  9. I miss my mums home cooked dinners…….. 😦 definitely the worst thing about leaving home.

    1. candidkay says:

      Something about a dinner made by someone who loves you that much . . . hard to replicate!

  10. srbottch says:

    First, when workday ends, it’s so hard to get the work out of your head, isn’t it? I used to feel that way. Secondly, are parties with such a gracious hard working hostess a thing of the past. What a wonderful evening!

    1. candidkay says:

      Amen. And yet, if we can shut down our work brain and get into relaxation mode, we do so much better when we return to work. I am hoping parties like Milanka’s make a comeback. I think a lot of us are starved for real connection and tangible comfort.

  11. How wonderful to be nurtured by MIlanka and reminded of how much we thrive with a little (or lot!) of TLC. And I’m glad it inspired you to give your family and friends a little extra care too. I have the time, but don’t make the effort as much in the last few years. Maybe it’s time to revise the TLC skills. Thanks Kristine!

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, that gift of time. You’re so lucky. I envy you that. And I have a feeling, from seeing your blog, that you’ll be very good at TLC:). Happy New Year!

  12. George says:

    Above all that you mentioned about the night, I think the thing that struck me most is when she asked her husband to take your keys and he placed a decorative, homemade touch in your car for when you left.
    Food is love, but she went so far beyond the homemade treats. It’s about making people feel special and welcomed in their home. That’s a very special evening you shared. It’s an inspiration for everyone.

    1. candidkay says:

      George, you hit it on the head. I felt the same way. Divorced moms tend to just take things on because there’s no one else around to do it. To have something done for me–even that small–felt really good. I didn’t have to worry about anything but being welcomed.

  13. Sure wish I was in your book club, Kristine. Sounds heavenly indeed!

    1. candidkay says:

      Right?! It was heavenly. That may just be Milanka, rather than the book club as a whole:). But I’ll take it!

  14. Sharon Byrnes says:

    Love this! My 2018- yes 2018 – resolution was to cook dinner for guests once a month. I had 2 parties with 2 different groups of 4 girlfriends in January, 2018 (timing just worked out they were both in Jan) and each was a wonderful evening. I cooked new recipes for each dinner and loved spending quality time around my dining room table with close friends. Then the year moved on and here I am a year later having had a great 2018 yet only having had those 2 dinners. I’m inspired by this post to pull that resolution forward into 2019 and shoot for hosting 6 dinners this year. We’ll see how I do!!!!

    I love your writing style- so honest and genuine – I related to everything you said – I’m divorced (no kids) and how you described your thought process of to dos popping in your head was spot on for me! Lol. Thankfully, Like you, i also pay attention and I recognize and am touched and often altered by most of the bigger and more important moments in life. I’m grateful things are still registering for me in this crazy fast paced world of ours. Anyway- keep writing and sharing- you have a gift.

    Hope you’re well! Happy new year!!

    Sharon Byrnes – Mags ‘84

    1. candidkay says:

      Sharon—so good to hear from you! Thank you for the kind words on my blog—they mean a lot. I love that this is a place of connection for people from all over the world. And your dinners sound like wonderful places of connection! I am betting that your guests left feeling really special. And probably inspired to take a little more care in their own lives. I simply love that! I think so many of us have things running through her head at all time, but I have a special place in my heart regarding that for divorced women. We usually carry enough tasks for two :-).

  15. Su Leslie says:

    Ah! The post you alluded to a few days ago. Your friend sounds like my sort of woman. “Food is love” is my mantra too. Glad you got to experience it, and that’s inspired you.

    1. candidkay says:

      Your care comes through in your blog! Your photos and the treats you make always inspire me❤️.

      1. Su Leslie says:

        Thank you 🙏

  16. Shruthi says:

    What a great read! I’m so glad I made your acquaintance at that Brian Weiss conference in 2016 because your blog has been inspiring and taught me many things about life.
    My husband is much better at entertaining that I am. He once made cocktails, sandwiches, fired up a frozen pizza and made hot wraps for our friends who came home after a night out just to use the loo! I would have just offered them drinks and help them book a taxi since it was 2am and I was getting cranky.
    So, of course I’m in and accept the challenge! 🙂

    1. candidkay says:

      Shruthi! So good to hear from you again😀. I’m very glad our paths crossed also. Can’t believe that was three years ago. Your husband sounds lovely, but I probably would have leaned toward what you wanted to do :-). Especially at that time of the morning. Are you still in London?

      1. Shruthi says:

        Yes, still in London and loving the busy life here! Stay warm and happy new year 🙂

  17. I’m accepting your challenge. Even excited, now, to pore over recipes. Gotta find just the right mix. Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, good! Do share those recipes:). And your experience. Ready to be inspired all over again!

  18. Masha says:

    I love this, I felt the heart warming feeling through your words. You’ve given me clarity and inspiration, And yes I’m in! Thank you for this wonderful piece.

    1. candidkay says:

      So glad you’re in! You’ll have to let me know what you do this month and how it makes you feel!

      1. Masha says:

        I have already decided what I will have my guests leave with. I have lots of crystals and stones that carry healing and other energies within them. This will be my gift, a little crystal especially picked for them and placed in a beautiful little sparkly bag. Just the thought of this warms my heart.m I love this, thank you

      2. candidkay says:

        Ooh, I love that idea! I’m sure they will too❤️

  19. messagemaggie says:

    Sounds amazing! My new thing is to send guests home with Barefoot Contessa’s Rosemary Cashews — does that work for you?

    1. candidkay says:

      I haven’t even heard of these cashews! You make them? I think that’s a good start:). And I think that means I need to visit.

      1. messagemaggie says:

        I tried to get Ina to come to my house to make them, but she flat out refused. So, yes, I make them myself 🙂

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