Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Entertaining 101

My husband and I love to entertain. We both like to cook. He's better and faster than I am. He's also a back-seat chef so he does most of the cooking, otherwise I'm liable to hit him with a frying pan. I like to bake and I'm damn good at it. They call me "Cupcake". Okay, they don't actually call me that but I wish someone would.

We very much enjoy having people in our home, plying them with delicious food and libations. We've been told we do it with flair. We have all the appropriate accouterments: bread bowls, olive dishes, appetizer plates, etc. I've even got fancy martini glasses with squiggly stems which are quite the challenge to hold after consuming 1 or 4.

My point is that, apparently, this doesn't come naturally to everyone. As a matter of fact, there are people out there who can't put together the simplest BBQ or Picnic lunch without horrifying their guests. I won't say how I know this. I just do.

Here's a quick list of what to do and what not to do when you invite people over. I know this sounds like common sense, but believe me, it is NOT.

1.) No surprise guests unless it's a big party. For an intimate gathering, people should know who, or what to expect when they get there. It's not nice to show up and find out your the only college friend among colleagues.

2.) If people don't know each other, make introductions, especially before leaving them alone together while you go tend to preparations. No joke. People skip this obvious and essential step all the time.

3.) Beverage should be cold (or warm if your serving coffee or something like it) and ready. They should not still in a box on the kitchen counter that you let people forage around for. It's a dinner party, not a treasure hunt.

4.) Don't ignore your guests. If you need to tend to things in the kitchen, invite them along or if you're a couple, divide and conquer.

5.) Have appropriate seating available. Believe it or not I've heard of rock-hard backless benches for 4-hour dinner parties, plastic lawn chairs in the living room and even adults being seated at child-sized tables.

6.) Have food to serve shortly after arrival. Appetizer, veggies, chips...anything. It's simply rude to keep your guests hungry. They came, expecting food and probably didn't eat McDonald's in the car on the way over.

7.) Have enough food. If you never have a single piece of food left over, you are doing something wrong. People shouldn't have to awkwardly drooling over the last cheese-laden Ritz.

8.) If you have children, mind them. Nobody is expecting little angels but they shouldn't be sticking the carrot sticks up their noses and then putting them back either.

9.) Clean your freakin' house first. 'Nuff said.

10.) Okay, maybe not enough. If you are cooking in front of people, whether on a grill or in your kitchen you should be cooking on equipment as if the health inspector is about the walk in. This is not a "Greasy Spoon".

11.) Know your strengths. For goodness sakes, if you can barley boil water, order in. If you're a basic cook, stick to the basics. Don't attempt Beef Stroganoff if your specialty is opening a can of Beefaroni.

12.) Don't kill your guests. You don't win friends with food poisoning.

13.) Hide your penny pinching. If you're going to buy all generic brand stuff, disguise it by taking it out of the packaging. Decant your stop and shop ketchup into a bowl with a serving spoon. Plate your A&P cookies on a pretty plate. Your guests don't need to know that they are only worth a $2.99 apple pie.

14.) Have everything your guests will need. Utensils, napkins, plates, soap in the bathroom, toilet paper. Make sure there's some extra toilet paper visible too so they don't have to go rummaging around under your sink.

15.) Don't be rude. Don't abandon your guests for the football game or go off and play with your dog for hours at a time.

Basically, if you don't like people, don't invite them over. If you've invited them over, then, theoretically, you'd want like them to come back again. You don't have to be Martha Stewart, in fact, I'd rather you not, but nobody wants to have dinner with The Clamppett Family either.

However, if your goal is to get these so-called friends to hate you and never, ever want you to invite them over again, then, by all means, do the exact opposite of what I've said here. Either way... you're welcome.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Will Work For Pants

Though we didn't get much of a summer this year, that undeniable nip in the air forced me to admit that fall is, in fact, upon us and my capris, sandals and tanks need to get packed away in favor of long pants and knits. I undertook the bittersweet task today. I say bittersweet because I love fall fashion but I hasten to say goodbye to sun and sundresses.

As I was was making the switch, I turned to my husband and said "I have NO PANTS." He instantly assumed the male anti-shopping stance. "I find it hard to believe you have NO PANTS! You've got a closet full of clothes for God Sakes!" I quickly put an end to his tirade by reminding him that I lost nearly thirty pounds between February and May of 2009 and all of my pants are about 2 sizes too big. His half-joking response, "Well, you'd better EAT UP." Nice.

I didn't kill him (yet) because I understand where he's coming from. We don't have much disposable cash these days as I'm sure is the case for most people in our particular type of boat (mortgage, kids, economic strife causing no raises or bonuses in sight). That said, I can't walk around pants-less. I did happen to uncover a stash of jeans from the ear 2000 BK (that's "Before Kids") that fit me nicely but if I were to wear jeans every day, I'd have to consider a new career, possibly as a construction foreman.

I suppose I can afford a few belts just to keep my pants from falling down but the "baggy-ass" look doesn't really work for me.

I have lots of skirts that fit but, gosh, I hate wearing skirts in the winter. I'll have to invest in some heavy tights as well. Water-proof, fur-lined ones, preferably, if last winter was any indication.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. Okay, so, I AM complaining but I'm aware that I could have worse problems than my clothes being too big. "Oh, woe is me! I'm too thin for all my pants! Boo hoo!" Yeah. I could see how a lot of women might be rolling their eyes right now. But, hey, it's not like I'm a size 2 either. I'm far from skinny so I'll won't feel too guilty about my rant.

In any case, I need pants.

I'm planning on standing in the mall with a sign hastily scribbled on cardboard with a black sharpie marker that reads "WILL WORK FOR PANTS" I'm not picky. I'll hand out fliers. I'll spray people with perfume. I'll be that annoying person who asks people in the mall if they'd like to take a survey. Of course, I'll need a babysitter so my kids don't scare away potential customers. Babysitters are expensive. Damn, there goes my pants earnings. I need a new plan.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Harper's Bazaar Thinks We're All Idiots

I don't read a lot of girlie magazines. Ummmm... by that... I mean magazines FOR GIRLS, or women rather, not CONTAINING PICTURES of scantily clad women...although these magazines do, also, contain pictures of scantily clad women. Sheesh.

I'm referring to magazines marketed at the female population and containing articles with tempting titles such as "How to wear this season's hottest colors" and "Are you pleasing your man?"... because that's undoubtedly what we live to do.

Honestly, with these new-fangled Interwebs, I don't read many magazines at all, but when I used to thumb through such publications I was more a reader of Food and Wine, Bon Appetit and Maxim, believe it or not. Maxim is just plain FUNNY and it's interesting to see a male perspective, even if it is on how to make your own rocket car.

This past weekend, however, I found myself at Barnes & Noble with some time to kill. I picked up my usual reads. Everyday with Rachel Ray, Hairstyles (I'm always ready to do something different with my mop) and Better Homes & Garden's Halloween Issue. Seriously, how could I go on not knowing how to make a pumpkin man out of matchsticks and masking tape?!?

I thought I had all the reading material I could handle, considering I was with my family and would have one eyeball on each kid and no eyeballs left for the mags. I was about to walk away from the rack when one of those tempting titles caught my eye. The June/July issue of Harper's Bazaar beckoned me with the big, bold caption "Sexy at Every Age: How To Be A Style Icon From Your Twenties To Your Seventies"

Well THIS I've got to see.
I skipped right to the good stuff, thumbing quickly past the twenties to check out the thirties. I thought the model looked mighty good for being in her thirties but figured maybe she's only 30 or 31 and has a young face. I moved on. I'm in my thirties but I'm half-way to forty and I like to plan ahead.

This model looked just as young, if not younger than the last one. C'mon now! Do you really think we're THAT gullible?!?! There's NO WAY that chick is in her forties.

Moving on. They couldn't possibly use a young model for a woman in her fifties. You can only push the envelope so far, right? I turn the page to see another youngin'. They are not even TRYING!

I was relieved to flip to the sixties section to see a woman clearly in her sixties (and looking FABULOUS, by the way) and the same for the seventies.

The moral of this story must be that the editors of this magazine think that women under the age of 60 are very easily duped. Apparently, once we turn 60 we become shrewd enough to identify another woman our own age but before that we think we are all sprightly wrinkle-free twenty-somethings.

There's a reason I don't read these kinds of magazines. I'll stick to my trashy vampire novels and the occasional issue of Maxim. Maxim's July issue featured: America's Best Beaches, The Rise of Recession Sex and Hot Grill-on-Grill Action. Now THAT is smart writing.