Introduction Ever since I was a little girl, I've found such satisfaction in setting the table for every meal. In addition to putting out the dishes, I would make sure there were fresh flowers on the table, light a candle, and put on music. Growing up in a Polish family, these little touches weren't only important to us, they were essential. Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, birthdays, and life milestones were never missed. They were always elevated in the most beautiful ways, and they are the childhood moments that I remember the most. My mom taught me that I should always have something on the table when welcoming someone into my home--even if it was just a simple salad or pierogies pulled from the freezer. She delighted in welcoming her guests. She would always offer them a drink, even if only an ice-cold glass of water. From watching her, I learned that simple gestures make guests feel important and noticed. Her thoughtfulness and attention to detail amazed me as a young girl, and the vibrant memories that came out of each gathering are still with me today. Childhood memories as simple as Sunday morning breakfasts tug on my heartstrings. When I became a mom, I knew I wanted to pass on these fond memories from my childhood to my family. My husband, Troy, and I believe in fostering a strong sense of love, connection, and belonging in our home. What better way to build those elements than by gathering regularly around a table with our three children, Liam, Lillya, and Blake? Whether the five of us come together for an everyday gathering or we invite guests over for a special occasion; whether the table is round or square, short or long, creating a sense of unity is what our hearts long for. This means there's rarely a moment when I'm not thinking about or planning the next gathering or celebration. I'm always the one to bring my closest family and friends together to mark major holidays and milestones, but often you'll find me planning something much simpler: a party to kick off the weekend or an effortless afternoon lunch after church. It doesn't matter if I'm having family over to celebrate a holiday or hosting a few friends for appetizers and drinks, I always want my guests to feel welcomed, comfortable, and excited the minute they walk through the door. I want each occasion to feel exceptional, and I accomplish that by putting thought into every detail--though the preparations don't always have to be extravagant and time consuming to have a lasting effect. If I can create even a few feel-good, meaningful memories that my loved ones will look back on with a sense of longing, then I have done my job. One of my favourite celebrations to date is the special long-table meal we hosted in our backyard after the church dedication of our little Lillya Grace. I dreamt up the day when we started building our home. I imagined the laughter, smiles, and good company. When the day finally came, I cannot tell you how many times my eyes welled up with tears when I looked around the table to take in our rich heritage of family and friends. At one point I walked to the back of the yard to take a photo and paused, realizing that gathering together the people you love to savour all of life's moments is actually part of what life is all about. The sun was warm and bright, the music carried on the wind, accompanied by laughter and bright conversation, and all of it was set against a beautiful landscape of carefully curated food and decorations. This moment. The culmination of arranging all these pieces to create another evocative memory is my ultimate love language, I thought to myself. If you welcome people into your home, you create space for all to feel loved and foster a sense of belonging. Our garden parties, last-minute weekend gatherings, birthday parties, pizza nights, and backyard bonfires--no matter what we plan--are meant to bring people together and build a loving community. With this book, I want to share my favourite ways to make your everyday moments and seasonal celebrations meaningful through a collection of simple and delicious recipes, fun do-it-yourself (DIY) tutorials, and helpful tips to inspire you to add the extra-special touches that will show your family and friends how much you care. Don't feel intimidated by the idea of hosting a dinner, throwing a party for a friend, preparing a brunch for your family, or hosting a last-minute girls night. Open up your home with a big smile and a generous heart for the ones you welcome inside. Hosting and serving others is so fulfilling. Once you start, you won't want to stop! Excerpted from Gather at Home: Over 100 Simple Recipes, DIYs, and Inspiration for a Year of Occasions by Monika Hibbs All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.