Jill is one of my most favorite people you guys. We originally met through one of our very best friends (hey Hil!) probably about 6 years ago and just a couple of years back started hanging out more and we totally hit it off. Jill and I both share such a strong heart for hospitality, cooking for others, sharing our homes, and just so many other things. Jill is wife to her hubs AJ, a daughter, sister, believer in Jesus, and is the right hand lady to the owner/designer of Chalkfulloflove. This girl is a native Austinite and absolutely loves the city we live in (one of the many things we have bonded over) as well as delicious meals and drinking a cocktail poolside - my kinda girl. Jill has helped me with Feast & Dwell a ton. We have had countless brainstorming sessions, she helped me with a giant baking class I did last November and a workshop I just cooked for this past July. She is one of the most servant-hearted people I know, and I really cannot tell y'all how grateful I am for this woman.
I love this interview with Jill because we talk about dinner clubs, the battle of hosting in a small space, and just great ways to care for others in your home. It also really challenged me to get back to the basics and the real meaning of hospitality. Read on for so many great thoughts (and yes, these photos are ones I took of her and her hubby - they are the cutest ever)!
- How do you define hospitality?
I would define hospitality as loving others as family & serving them as honored guests.
- What has shaped your view of hospitality?
I feel like my view is constantly evolving and changing with every person who hosts me in their home, but I can pinpoint a time in college when I really started being challenged by the idea of hospitality. My college mentor & her husband (and 2 kids) would host me and a few others in their home for a weekly dinner & discussion. She cooked some of the best meals I had ever had, served me endlessly, and never expected anything in return from me. She even made chocolate chip cookies and served them with cold milk for dessert during our discussion time. Looking back on that time it was not the food or the cookies that meant something to me, It was her selflessness and willingness to serve me in her home that challenged me and began to shape what hospitality was in my mind. I would be remiss if I did not say that my faith also plays a role my view of hospitality. College was a time where I really began to own my faith and Jesus became so real to me. His life challenged me in the way I love and serve others. My mentor, among others, was a tangible display of Jesus’ selflessness and humility and I believe that their hospitality was simply an outward outpouring of a heart that had been changed by Jesus.
- Who has been the best example of hospitality in your life?
I think my college mentor mentioned above is still one of the best examples of hospitality to me. There is this feeling I can remember when I walked into their home that made me feel like family. I could get my own glass of water because I knew where the glasses were and I could open the pantry if I wanted a snack. She was so laid back and made me feel like everything that was hers was also mine. Growing up I had been around more formal environments where everything was put together and had to be clean, neat and proper. Amber was real. Things could be a mess, or dinner could be running late, and it was not a big fuss. I think that example of being real with people was so refreshing to me and is something I continue to strive for in the way I host others in my home.
- What are specific ways you like to serve others that come into your home?
I love having a nice bottle of wine or a cocktail ready for them when they arrive. I also always try to pay attention to when they need a drink refill, so I can serve them without them having to ask.
- I know you and AJ are in a dinner club which I think is so fun! How did this dinner club get started?
It started when my husband’s mentor asked us to be apart of a group that would be going through a Faith & Work study called Reframe. We met every other week and would switch off who made the main entree and who would make sides and dessert. After the study ended, we decided we still wanted to keep meeting once a month and now we just switch off who hosts in their home each month!
- What does a typical dinner club night look like?
Usually the host sends out an email a few days before and we all sign up to bring a side, salad, dessert or wine. It usually starts with opening a bottle of champagne and is followed by many bottles of wine! We all enjoy wine and one of the couples is super knowledgeable about it, so we are usually tasting something new and learning about it. We usually hang out and talk on while the meal is finishing up, then we all sit down and eat together. Everyone is so intentional and caring that usually we all end up talking about what has been going on in our lives, or things that have been challenging. One tradition that we have is that the host family poses a question to the group and then we all take turns answering. This has been one of the coolest things I’ve experienced and has allowed me to get to know these people on such a deep level. We typically end the night with dessert and coffee ( or more wine!)
- Is there anything you have learned or taken away from being in others' homes and also hosting in your own home?
Yes! I have learned so many things from being in other’s homes and I think something I have seen over and over is this mix of presenting your guests with the best of everything you have, honoring them in your space, making things special but also not having to appear like you have all of your stuff together. I love it when someone is still cooking when I arrive, or they have to step out to put their kids to bed, or they let me help them in the kitchen. There is a realness to it that is so appealing. Something that I have learned about hosting in my own home is to just own the limitations of your space. We have a pretty small apartment and frequently host 10-12 people gatherings, so we have just learned what works and what doesn’t. As much as we would love to host a seated dinner for 10 we just cant, so we own the limitation of the space and I cook things you can eat out of bowls while sitting around our coffee table. That’s just where we are at.
- I know we have chatted about the difficulties of hosting in a small space. What are ways you combat the idea that you need a large area to have people in your home?
Well, my go-to is that people in NYC do this all the time, so why can’t we! And like I said before, We have just learned to own the limitations of our space. We can’t necessarily do fancy, but we can make tacos and eat sitting on the floor if we have to. I have also tried to apply what I’ve learned from others and be real. My small space is my reality, so there is no need to feel inferior or like I can’t host because of it. I also love cozy gatherings so when you get all those people in a smaller space it is just fun to me and feels like family.
- You and I are always chatting about recipes and food. Do you have a go-to recipe you like to make when people come over? If so, what is it?
My recent go-to has been grilled flank steak tacos with chimmichuri sauce & margaritas. I also typically bake chocolate chip cookies for dessert
- What are a couple of simple things you do to prepare for people coming over?
Since our space is so small I always pick up all the stuff that is laying out & clean the bathroom. If I have time I will vacuum and I love lighting a candle in the living room and bathroom.
- What's one thing you can't live without in your home?
My 12inch non-stick skillet. I cook breakfast and dinner in it almost every day.
- What is your go-to playlist when you are hosting?
The Indie Chillout playlist on Spotify. We get compliments on it every time.
As I have gone back over this interview with Jill I have felt so challenged by her words. I find myself desiring so deeply for our house to feel like a home to my family and to others and this interview really challenged me to put this into practice. I love how she mentions that it's not necessarily about the food or other "things" we can try and make perfect for others, it's about the feeling people get when they walk in the door. The feeling of being accepted, welcomed and part of a family.
I hope you guys loved this interview just as much as I did and were challenged to really think about what hospitality really means. Happy Monday!