7 Quick Takes about cool vintage books, a radio studio in my home, and the only five things that really matter when you host a party

September 19, 2014 | 30 comments

— 1 —

I did my first radio show from my new home studio today!


SiriusXM kindly set me up with a studio in my house, which I put in a corner of my bedroom. I was amazed at how little equipment there is. I just need a mic, headphones, and a little box that hooks up to my internet connection, and I’m all set.

There was a slightly tense moment (read: I almost passed out from anxiety) when we had nine minutes to go until air time and I couldn’t connect the box to the NYC studio, but we got it all worked out. The show was a ton of fun, and we didn’t have a single technical issue!

— 2 —

Attention home decorators and/or people who spend too much time looking at home decorating boards on Pinterest: I need ideas for organizing my home studio!



I have a very small space to work with — it’s about four feet wide and two feet deep — but I want to make the most of it. Hit me with any “creative offices in small spaces” pinboards, videos, or blogs you can find! And let me know if you have any ideas for how I can maximize my space.

— 3 —

You should have seen the look on the engineer’s face when he showed up to set up the studio.

Keep in mind, I have six kids under age 10. We live in a small, three-bedroom house.

When he walked in the door, three of my daughters were getting ready to go to ballet but had gotten in a shouting argument about who was going to wear which sparkly hair accessory. My dad was assembling a new desk for me to use for the studio, so all sorts of tiny, sharp parts were scattered across the living room. The crazy toddler was letting us know she needed a nap by screaming and throwing herself on the floor. The baby had a touch of the stomach flu, and was crying as I cleaned vomit off the couch.

Into this situation walked the engineer from SiriusXM.

It was as if a ballet troupe had gotten locked in the howler monkey cage at the zoo, a desk exploded, and then someone started vomiting.

I can’t decide whether it was confusion or fear that I saw on the engineer’s face when he said to my ballerina daughter who’d answered the door: “I’m here to set up the radio studio?”

— 4 —

I had to move a bookshelf to make space for the studio, and in the process I found this schoolbook from 1914 that belonged to one of my ancestors, named Edward George:


I flipped through it to discover that it’s a reading book for elementary-aged readers — and, amazingly, it’s exactly the kind of thing I’d been looking for for our homeschool reading lessons!

I’d spent hours searching Amazon and the big curricula sites and couldn’t find what I was looking for, but this one is a perfect fit. We’re actually going to use it for our lessons this year!

— 5 —

Speaking of living in a small, crowded house:

For the longest time, I’ve had it in my head that we can’t entertain in this house. It’s too cramped, our back yard is sloped and doesn’t have any shade, the kitchen is small, the living room has no decorations aside from the drawings the kids tape to the walls — you get the idea.

Then, this year, I started going to a lot of parties at people’s houses.

My friend Rachael started what she calls “the Dinner Club for Underachievers” where a bunch of us take turns hosting potluck parties at our homes. The events are meant to be as stress-free as possible for the hosts, the main intent simply being for local families to connect with one another.

Having been to a few of these events, as well as other gatherings at people’s homes, I’ve come to see that having elegant decorations or a large, spacious area don’t matter in terms of making people comfortable in your home.

The people whose houses I’ve been to do happen to have lovely homes, but I realized that that’s not what I notice as a guest.

I’ve come to think that the only five things that are required to have a successful event in your home are (in order of importance):

  1. The host seems happy to see each guest
  2. There are a few options for food and drink (none of them have to be fancy)
  3. The environment is basically orderly
  4. The host leads the crowd (e.g. indicates where to put food or gifts that are brought, offers people a place to sit, introduces guests to one another, etc.)
  5. There’s background music (or a football game!) to provide ambiance

I am now convinced that if you can do these few things — or, honestly, even just the first two — you will have a hugely successful event, no matter what your house looks like.

— 6 —

I’ll be in Washington, DC all next week! I’ll post my schedule of events soon.

One of the things I’m really looking forward to is doing my radio show live from DC. I’m excited to announce that Lisa-Jo Baker is going to be my guest!

When I went to the IF Gathering with her earlier this year, she and I had a fascinating conversation about the differences between Catholic and Protestant culture, as well as how Protestants see Catholics and vice versa. I definitely want to go into that on the show, because it was one of the most interesting discussions I’ve had in a long time.

If you’re in the DC area, look out for my schedule so that we can hang out!

— 7 —

Have a great weekend, everyone!



  1. Joy

    Okay, when I saw that pic on Instagram of you in your house, I just couldn’t imagine doing that in mine!! There would be SO much noise — and I have two less kids than you! And some are older! I do have a wiener dog who thinks he can sing, and often adds several decibels of nose to the mix, but seriously. You’re so brave.

    And I love # 5!! I’ve been thinking that I want to have moe dinner parties, but it’s so easy to fall back on excuses out of fear. Rachael’s name sounds perfect! I could do an underachievers’ dinner club! 🙂

    • Beth Anne

      I totally feel you on the dinner party thing. Our church does Dinners for 8 and all the people’s houses we’ve been to are retired or empty nesters and they have these HUGE decorated homes that look like they came from a magazine and I have a box of pictures I’ve yet to hang on the wall and often have dirty dishes and laundry all over the place LOL

  2. grace

    I’m just starting to notice how much i’m missing out by not having sirus! I went to the website for the first time right now, since I’m usually plowing through podcasts. I’ll probably get a sub . soon 🙂

  3. Micaela @ California to Korea

    Your description of the house when the engineer walked in is perfection. The other day I was sitting on the floor reading to the kids (still in my PJs, no bra, kids were in the middle of a wrestling match and/or breakfast) when the doorbell rang. Completely confused, a very nice college girl said, “Um, I’m here to shadow you?” HORRIFIED and bewildered, I finally figured out she was shadowing the caregiver for our elderly neighbor and got the addresses mixed up. Phew.

  4. Eva

    No, what you do is add to the list of reasons why you cannot possibly have people around. Because having people in your house is exhausting and icky and they touch things and talk to you.
    I guess that’s not helpful…

  5. Elisa | blissfulE

    Yay! I just posted about how an unexpected benefit for us becoming Catholic is that we now have some real-life friends (as opposed to people I keep up with via email) and need to know how to practice hospitality. Thank you so much for those five points! They give me hope that I can do this! 🙂

  6. NY Mom

    Jen, my only decorating suggestion for your studio space is to resist cluttering the wall in front of you with a lot of visual distraction. Find an inspiring painting you love -(i.e. “The Road to Emmaus”, Rembrandt’s “Prodigal Son”- or a special icon – and hang it there, enshrining it more as a place of protection and reflection. Change it out seasonally, but let it be something that can comfort and strengthen you in a single glance. I can imagine that radio work requires presence of mind, so make your space a place of peace.

  7. Jen G

    Jen! Are you sure you’re an introvert? Your schedule sounds exhausting, but I admire what you’re doing!

  8. Laura

    I think your studio is perfect. Maybe just wrap that box the mic is on with some pretty paper?

    I am not one to ask about decorating. I wish I were. But sadly, I am not.

    I had four kids in a two bedroom for a while, and there was always someone dressed for ballet and someone vomiting. ALWAYS. But I had no radio show. So you win.

    And the hosting a party thing? THANK YOU. I need to remind myself of these points because I truly hesitate to invite people over because I have ugly floors, a dirty carpet, no kitchen island, hideous counter tops, and craigslist furniture, and I have the habit of making friends with those people whose homes could be in a magazine spread. I seriously need to get over it.

    Maybe I will invite YOU over??? I can set up a card board box to rest our wine glasses on!!


    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      And the hosting a party thing? THANK YOU. I need to remind myself of these points because I truly hesitate to invite people over because I have ugly floors, a dirty carpet, no kitchen island, hideous counter tops, and craigslist furniture, and I have the habit of making friends with those people whose homes could be in a magazine spread. I seriously need to get over it.

      Oh my gosh, this is me to a “T”!

  9. Kathleen Basi

    I agree with you about entertaining! Personally I find the music distracting. There are times when it’s fine but conversation is meant to take center stage, as far as I’m concerned. Why make people talk over ambient noise?

  10. Heather

    LOL love #3 – the real life of it all! Have a great weekend!!

  11. LPatter

    SO wish I still lived in DC to catch this one – enjoy a beautiful city full of awesome Catholics! Be sure to visit the Franciscan monastery!

  12. Michelle@EndlessStrength

    I love your take about the small house and entertaining. I avoid entertaining for a multitude of reasons, but it’s good to know that if my husband and I ever have schedules that allow us to entertain, I can think back to what you’ve said here. I’m always feeling very inadequate re: our home.

  13. TheresaEH

    Mr radio set up guy is now armed with a great story for his next family get together 😉
    I found a PUBLIC school book in an antique store a few years ago. I bought it for the sole purpose to remind me and maybe show to others that schools in my country (Canada) once included God and prayer in the curriculum!!!

  14. Christine

    We don’t tend to do indoor entertaining much, but we always have a huge BBQ for our anniversary, which usually winds up with between 30 and 50 people attending. We prep all week, ask guest to bring a side, chairs, and BYOB, and then we provide burgers, dogs, and beer brats. It’s relaxed, everyone chats with each other, and I manage to not freak out about all those people. (Something about having it on my own turf – at my own Hobbit Hole – makes it all okay.)

    I used to worry a little about our home, since everyone winds up making at least one trip in for kitchen stuff or the bathroom. But even when it’s not totally cleaned up, no one seems to mind it. I’ve stopped worrying about what anyone will think, or if it’ll work out. We just relax, have a beer, and have a good time chatting with people.

  15. Ann

    Great story. My high school boyfriend’s dad had a small house and threw famous parties. They were fantastic, but the best part was that everyone was crowded into the house and so there was an automatic party atmosphere. You had to talk to people and get to know people and it was really great. Sometimes parties in McMansions can be difficult and alienating (despite the beautiful, perfectly well-appointed atmosphere) because there is simply too much space.

  16. mariel

    your radio studio needs some color and artwork!

    and the scene with the Sirius guy had me cracking up. i bet he thought the ballerinas were pretty cute though.

  17. Casey@MyLoveIsTooLittle

    I agree with the commenters who said you need a little artwork, or maybe some short, inspiring quotes on the wall. Oh, and an easy to read calendar listing upcoming events/show topics/guests so you can remember to promote them.

    Also, since some of your bookshelves creep into your office space, dedicate the easily reachable shelves to books/magazines/resources that you might use on the show.

    Oh yeah, maybe replace the cardboard box holding up the mic to a storage box with easy glide drawers that will open quietly so you can store show notes, etc right there and not have that be “wasted space.” And maybe a laptop (or tablet if you want to save on space) for quick and easy internet access.

    Ok, I’m done now. 🙂

  18. dweej

    Whatever you do, cover them walls in pegboard. Buy the white variety and just leave it white or paint it some trendy or dirt disguising color, but whatever you do, git you some. That stuff has been the absolute best addition to our utility room EVER. So handy. So convenient. So CHEAP.

  19. Amanda

    Give DC my love! It’s where I went to grad school and fell in love with all the pockets of goodness and fun! And, I love y’alls new dinner fun! We have a similar set up but for our family bible study. We also get a baby sitter every time we meet to watch all our kiddos. It’s wonderful and such a gift to be able to host and share food with friends! Prayers for your awesome radio gig!!

  20. Peggy

    Our kids are grown but I remember having people for dinner once and had our kids as “servers” (they were about 8 and 10 at the time). Our son had his Halloween magician’s costume on and looked “quite formal”. They helped me clear the dishes and serve the next course. It was really cute and helpful. But….I only had 2, not 6!

    The Beacon Readers are a big cut above “Dick and Jane” and way better than “Heather Has Two Mommies”. Here is a link to The Beacon Third Reader.


    I sat in my car and listened to your first show. Please — can it be podcasted? Sitting in my car for an hour with the motor running is not feasible for me. But uploading it to my iPod would give me something to listen to as I sweat on the elliptical at the gym!


  21. Jane M

    Please hurry with the schedule. I have tickets for the RiskJesus although it is really far away. I’m bringing your book to get your autograph. I’ll try not to squeal. Of course I teach all week but I’m sure you need to come to Potomac Falls Virginia just for some relaxation on my lunch hour… ; )

    Jane M

  22. Fairness

    Are you going to start respecting the constitution and supporting equality for all? People deserve equality whether they fit in with your religion or not. That is the American way to do it. It is not fair to friends to say they can’t have legal equality because of your religion, and it is not fair to say they ultimately shouldn’t be with whom they love because of your religion. They are human lives too- please respect human life by respecting their love. Thank you and have a good one!

  23. Lauren

    While doing an internship in Idaho six years ago, a bunch of friends used to do something called “Fantasy Breakfast.” I’m not sure where it got the name, but the idea was a great one. Each Sunday morning, someone would offer to host brunch for the group. The host decided what the menu would include, purchased, and prepared the food for everyone who attended. I think one of the coolest parts about Fantasy Breakfast was that you never knew who would show up, and you ALWAYS left with a handful of new friends. Invitations were all via word of mouth, anyone could come, and friends-of-friends were always welcome. Being new to the area (and only staying temporarily), I really enjoyed that opportunity to meet new people and connect with others outside of my small group of friends. I have always said I wanted to establish a similar gathering whenever I find myself settled in an area that becomes “home.”

  24. Here

    The mixer stand is produced inside such a way which allows the bowl to be lifted up to the beaters thus which the beaters reach all means down to the bottom of the bowl as well as the elements are mixed greater. After everything is mixed, you release the bowl plus it is very removed conveniently from the mixer stand. It is a ideal invention!

  25. Erika Marie

    What a fun new endeavor for the radio show! Maybe I missed it on a previous post, but I’m curious about how that idea came about and how the following conversation with your husband about it went?

    “Joe, I think I’d like to start my own radio show!”
    “Ok, you have lots of free time and plenty of quiet time around here for that.”
    “Ok, go for it. Just don’t talk about me in the banana suit.”

    Speaking of the banana suit, that’s what you need for that blank wall in front of your mic – a full sized picture of Joe in the banana suit…maybe with a scorpion and rosary photoshopped in for good measure.

    That’s about ask the decorating advice I can offer!

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