Photobucket “Really, we’d love to have you for dinner,” I assured the two guys visiting our ward for a few weeks while working on a film project. “You should know my house is the party house, we always have people over. Don’t worry, there is always food and paintings—it’s kind of crazy…and, well, we try to be fun,” I joked. I am sure they wondered about this lady who accosts them with strange familiarity post sacrament meeting. I will admit it, I do love being the party house, the place where you can always come and hang out in an afternoon and catch some fresh baked warm cookies, or quickly get roped into some sort of project. I love being the home where you just happen to find yourself staying for dinner. I love to be the one to say, “Hey, let’s have a party. We can do it at my house.” We have been the destination for an endless run of baby showers, luncheons, farewells,  family hang outs, and artist studio nights.

This is because, to put it simply, I  really dig a party. Any excuse for punch and cookies—bring it on. In fact, it seems to be the one thing most days are missing, so my personal goal is to bring a little bit of party wherever I go. This has been a life long trait; I did, after all, sometimes bring Tupperware containers of cupcakes to pass out to my friends in the halls at high school. And once in college I sewed all these mini stockings and filled them with candy and just went about my December day on campus and then whoever I ran into that day that I knew—hey, FREE candy surprise, the perks of knowing Leslie Graff (well, it was Whyte then) that day. Because, hey, who wouldn’t love to have someone just walk up and give them a present? I am all for life involving a lot more presents. And in truth they generally don’t have to be elaborate (although I do like those too).

Three weeks ago as I left for a medical mission in Nepal, my suitcase was packed with five types of homemade cookies (I know, call me team mom) and scrub caps and art cards for the team—I take it upon myself to to be in charge of  third-world-medical-mission party favors. I have also been known to step into the role of Love Boat cruise director, knocking on people’s doors and rounding people up for fun activities. And please, by all means, let’s have a good story, or a great joke.

The other week I was asked to teach YW on homemaking. One of the points I made was that the really cool part of being a grown up is the way you get to run the show. Homemaking, while it may be perceived to be a laundry list of chores or domestic labors, is actually a lot more about creating a personal and family culture. You decide what you want and make it happen. If you want to bake cookies for the whole neighborhood, you get to. If you want to be the friendly ones who invite people over for dinner, you can. Your life is only going to be as much of a party as you want it to be. If there is one thing in life I remind myself constantly, it’s to be more deliberate. It’s easy to get rolling in all the responsibilities and general requirements of life and forget to really make it what we want. It requires thought to really engage our agency in bringing to pass many good things of our own free will.

To me there can always be a little more turn up the music, bring on the people, and break out the food in any situation. I know I should probably be scolded for leaning over on occasion and making a funny joke on the back row in RS, but I just can’t help it. I love to see people smile and I love to make them laugh. Really, ten minutes with me and we’ll probably already be buddies and have an inside joke. Twenty minutes and I have probably invited you to my house.

My personal brand of culture involves being personal, usually making something for people—my form of affection—lots of words, and usually a little randomness.

What is your personal or family culture? Are you all for bringin a little more party to life?


  1. LL

    March 6, 2012

    So so true! You do run a party house with a closet full of inside happy to be close enough to stop in often 🙂
    I have decided what I want and that’s HAPPINESS…I make it happen and then try my best to share it! (through dinner, jokes, listening, and laughing)
    It’s working for me!

  2. Jenny

    March 6, 2012

    hey–as homemaker, you can also bring your own fuzzy blanket to the party. Right?!?

    You lead the way in party love. Party is also the culture at our house, and I do love a good joke (even if it’s on me).

    I also believe strongly in breakfast dessert.


  3. Sharon

    March 6, 2012

    So, PLEASE share your skills on how you’re able to have your home presentable for people so much of the time? Are you blessed that taking care of your home is your full-time job or do you have another job outside the home?
    Nothing nurtures me more than having people in my home and feeding them (“at feasts you feed people twice – in body and in soul).
    But my stress is working outside the home which makes it a mountain to climb to have my home in order to open it up to one and all.

    This week though I am having a dinner guest one night; teachers and mia maids and their advisors over another night – but also this week involves cooking food and serving at a funeral; preparing a presentation for the singles branch relief society birthday dinner (no – I’m not single); supporting grandchildren at 2 events; working on a Relief Society humanitarian project; trying to finish taxes for our 2 businesses; cleaning our office – and on it goes.

    My heart’s wish is to be at home and take care of it – but not to be. So – I’m honestly not whining – but please share how you keep your home up to have it open to all. I really, really need the insight.

  4. Grandma Honey

    March 6, 2012

    I always wondered what goes on in the mind of a party person. So I found this very interesting.
    You certainly love life! Do you notice your children taking on similar traits?

  5. Strollerblader

    March 6, 2012

    I second Sharon’s question of how you keep your house presentable? (That was my 2nd thought as I read this post.)

    My first thought was, as much as I want to be the house where everyone hangs out, I don’t think it’s ever going to happen. It’s not happening so far. My kids really don’t have friends outside of school. My house isn’t tidy. My fridge and pantry are not well-stocked with crowd food and snacks.

    I still *want* to be that person and that house, though. I want to be that person whom everyone likes to hang out with for any reason or no reason at all. The person people want to stop in unannouced to visit and who they know will be so excited to see them.

  6. Janell

    March 6, 2012

    “Homemaking [is] about creating a personal and family culture.”

    The word “homemaking” and all of its connotations has always bothered me. I like the paradigm shift that occurs with this definition. Thank you.

    As for the question, it is an excellent question that I’ve never thought about from this angle. I’ll be giving the matter some thought 🙂

  7. Stephanie

    March 6, 2012

    Ditto to Strollerblader.

  8. Leslie

    March 6, 2012

    well my life is generally not calm, and luckily i have the personality that can roll with it — i do have 3 boys, and run a business (work from home as artist)– add 2 studios to the mix of things 9(international medical missions, work as child life specialist)teach early morning seminary, and a host of other crazt responsibilities. truth be told my house isn’t always perfect and i am okay with that and i think most people are too… like last week it was a snow day and i was 4 days home from nepal still unpacking, suitcases full of dirty toys waiting to be washed, painting stuff out all over and still let a friend come hang out- and just said sorry— this is what you get today…and honestly i have become more of a minimalist the older i get. i let myself have spaces that can be kind of chaotic (i.e. creative messes confined more in the studio & playrooms) but the people over spaces get more focus in terms of keeping them presentable. I have great food storage shelves and which includes a polybucket full of chocolate chips so fresh cookie dough is generally under 5 minutes away- there are always lemons for fresh frozen mint lemonade and generally stuff to whip up soups or salads for impromptu lunches… so alot is just in the having stock on hand idea. I established myself as party house by having bus treats–open your front door and stand there with a plate of fresh baked cookies– the neighborhood kids flock! start small until you get a groove, (keep stuff on hand for one treat– have one space presentable)-and different seasons allow for something more than others… like now the my husband has high council assignments that take him 2.5 hrs away and i am spending sundays madly prepping sem lessons sun dinners with other families have definitely dropped…for the last 4 yrs as this has been our life- so we pick it up in other areas.
    (and i think my kids embrace the party house– our motto is Make it fun! my 3rd is defintiely a social party boy)

  9. Steph

    March 6, 2012

    What a great post! This isn’t like me at all – I prefer to have a week of advance notice before someone stops by – but I would like to be more of a “party person.”

    I especially like how you wrote that homemaking is about determining a culture. I will be thinking about how the way I keep my house affects that. Thank you!

  10. brooke

    March 6, 2012

    this is so funny, leslie! i want to be invited over!!

    i’ve always considered our family culture to be “FUN”… and sometimes i worry there’s too much fun going on and not enough buckling down. you make me feel like it’s ok for me to be unorthodox with how i run things, even when most of the times i just feel embarrassed by the side effect of spontaneity and creativity and travel– which, for me, is feeling less pulled together/with it/neat.

  11. FoxyJ

    March 6, 2012

    I am a bit uptight and definitely the sort of person who likes a schedule, but I also love to entertain and I love to cook for people. I have friends that I know are comfortable coming over to a slightly cluttered house and eating off paper plates. Sometimes I do fancy get-togethers, but most of the time it’s just something thrown together for fun. I’m generally pretty comfortable with last-minute invitations and less-than perfect houses, but I did once have a new friend invite me over to a house that had dirt smeared on the walls, pet hair on the couch, a bad odor, etc. The company was great, but I really didn’t feel comfortable in her house. Since then I do at least try to sweep the floor and wipe down the bathroom with a sanitizing wipe, but I figure most people understand I have 3 kids and I work so my house is never that fabulous. Hopefully my cooking and the pleasure of my company is what make it a nice place to be.

  12. Michelle

    March 7, 2012

    I’ve never been the party person type when it comes to adults, but we are pretty good about trying to have an open door and pantry with snacks for the kiddos. But I don’t mind spontaneity, so if you were to stop by unexpectedly, as long as you are ok with whatever state my self and house are in (chronic health issues means on some days, that is pjs and chaos), then come on in and come hang out.

  13. she-bop

    March 7, 2012

    My husband and I decided a long time ago that we wanted to be the place where people can hang out and be comfortable. I will say that that has been easier the older my children get. When they were younger I wanted to meet in the park, or somewhere neutral. My basement playroom was always a mess when the kids were younger. Now I have teens and young adults.
    Here is how I do it:
    -I always have lots of different dry cereal on hand. I have yet to meet a teen that doesn’t love to eat it.
    -I have a snack drawer. Granola bars, fruit leather, nuts, pop tarts. (I do limit it to one per day, I once had a teen here that ate 5 granola bars in a row, just standing by the drawer – they quickly learned that was not appropriate!)
    -I always have string cheese.
    -I have a candy drawer. Adults and kids love it.
    -I have a chip bowl. All kinds of chips.
    -I usually have soda and juice in the fridge.
    -I have paper cups by the sink at all times and paper plates in the cupboard.
    -I have sharpies, colored pencils, sketchbooks and coloring books on my large coffee table. You’d be surprised how much everyone talks, and for how long, when they’re coloring.

    I don’t sweat it. I make sure my living room is always picked up, but we just shut the doors on everything else if we need to. I am busy, too busy sometimes, but I’ve learned that most people just want a place to be, and people to talk to. I don’t like to cook, and I make no apologies for my lack of culinary skills. Just come and talk, listen to some music, watch a movie, color, or eat. Don’t expect a meal, but do expect to be welcome.

    I will admit there have been a few times I have hidden in my room while the chaos of teens have been over, but I love it. I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. There are too many youth today that have nowhere they feel welcome, and no one to talk to. It makes me sad. My door will always be open.

    An interesting thing that I have found, at least in my family, is that with all the junk food we have around, my kids don’t touch it very often. I don’t know if it’s because it’s always available, or what, but they eat pretty healthy and really don’t touch the junk food – but boy, oh boy, does it make their friends happy!

    As far as the financial cost, it really isn’t much. We budget it in because we think it’s really important.

    Anyway, thanks for the post, it made me think! I’d love to hear how others do it too.

  14. KDA

    March 7, 2012

    Thanks for the window into your home culture. I’m more uptight, and I like to set up an agenda for social gatherings and keep things from getting too chaotic. I tried to host teens and tweens over Christmas break, and it was a disaster; people cried. I was one of them. Small dinner parties, modest-sized potluck dinners and book club meetings work better for my hosting style. The culture of my home is more about books, books, books. People come over here to talk to my husband about ideas. (He’s been writing a book a year.) And in all-female parties, people talk with me about my reading habits. (71 books under my belt last year.) In mixed-gender gatherings, I’m slinging food.

    My favorite party is my traditional (well, 3 in a row so far) General Conference social. I host a potluck for ward members on Saturday late afternoon of GC weekend. Families stop in between the afternoon session and priesthood. I keep the party platters full from 5 pm to 7 pm. (We’re on Central time.) Then when the YM and priesthood leave right before 7, I sit down and socialize with the women while the YW chat and/or text and the primary-aged boys and girls run around and play.

    I agree about just focusing on one room and a bathroom and shutting the door on the rest. And I agree about food. I used to be sparse with food in both quantity and quality, but I’ve learned to err on the side of abundance.

    Fun post. I appreciate that women have different personal aesthetics and they throw off different kinds of energy. I’m a little more school-marmy, but I do love tapping into the different energies that other women generate. You’ve got some great energy there, Leslie!

  15. m2theh

    March 7, 2012

    when kids are young it doesn’t matter if the playroom is a mess. ours is so bad I don’t even want to go down there,

    for me personally I discovered that I was much better about wanting to entertain and host parties when I was taking my antidepressent meds. Now that I am off of them due to side effects, I find I really don’t want to have people over.

    I don’t think your house needs to be spotless, but its helpful if people can find a spot to sit down and the house doesn’t smell.

  16. Liz

    March 7, 2012

    Love your post Les, and really gel with the idea of homemaking being the creation of a family culture. Beautiful idea! So do you turn other people’s houses into party houses when you step in the door? I think my kids are going to love you forever when you come to visit next week. 🙂

  17. Sage

    March 7, 2012

    You are a great party person!!! I feel so fortunate to have received your generous hospitality for Studio Night…mint lemonade included (and 2 dinners and breakfast!!)

    I taught that same lesson to our YW. I loved that idea about creating the culture of our lives and of our husband and children. I feel like we have special powers as women to create an environment!

    I try to have parties as much as possible. I have just accepted that my house won’t be perfect…and neither will I!

    Thanks for being such a great example! I love how you lift others by sharing your great sense of fun!

  18. Michelle L.

    March 7, 2012

    Ah, I love a party too. My home definitely has a party atmosphere but it’s often just for my little family.

    I’ve been through seasons and locations where parties don’t work as well as others. In one area, my neighbors had so much family they really didn’t have time or inclination for new friends. But in others– it’s desperately needed.

    I’ll never forget the year I decided to cancel my annual white elephant party because I was extremely ill, eight months into my sixth pregnancy and had a cast on my right leg. One of my neighbors called and said, “We’ve all been waiting for your invitation; I’m hosting a cocktail hour right before your party.” Of course I printed up invites the next day and the party went on. 🙂

  19. Sarita

    March 8, 2012

    Loved, loved, loved this post! I’m easing into a social life after spending so much time doing homework for night classes and working full time. There’s something wonderfully comforting about spontaneity and an open door. I love your ideas about building family and home culture. Thanks for sharing!

  20. Sandra

    March 9, 2012

    Leslie- I want to be your friend.

    I love to throw a good party. I usually don’t feel settled in a new house until we start entertaining there. But for me, having a home that I feel comfortable having others over to is what makes it mine. Thankfully, my husband and I feel the same about that.

  21. Apron Appeal

    March 20, 2012

    It’s been a while since I’ve been to this site, I used to read it daily and dream about guest posting. But little bit by little bit I found myself unable to identify much with what was being written here. Eventually, my time was too precious to be spent reading so many blogs, so Segullah got chopped from my Google Reader.

    I looked Segullah up again because I decided I needed some balance to my life. Of all the posts I’ve filtered through since being back, this is the one I’ve stopped at. Why? Because I see so much of who I used to be in the picture and the words written. I miss that person sometimes but I’m not willing to trade what I’ve learned to be her again.

    I’m trying to sculpt a new me that combines the best of who I’ve been and who I am and trying to find out where this new me will fit in and be accepted in mormon culture. Am I on outcast that gets an invitation to the party but everyone secretly hopes won’t attend? will I be crashing the party because I’ve come without invitation? Will the friends I used to know recognize me? Will I recognize them?

    Excited to find out. Nervous to see what parts of the old me, my interaction here will awaken.

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