Attention to Detail

The Statue of Liberty, a gift from the people of France, was sculpted by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi to commemorate the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence.
On October 28, 1886 the Statue of Liberty was dedicated in New York Harbor. Completed in 1884, the 152-foot-high icon was erected almost 20 years prior to the Wright brother’s first flight. Many years later as aircraft hovered overhead the meticulous creation of hair and crown were evident. Bartholdi, in creating his masterpiece, cut no corners.
 Most people of that era never imagined that someday humans would fly. It was believed by some that the detail taken on the highest point of the statue was a waste of time and talent as no one would ever see it-so they thought. Attention to detail was in the artist’s very essence. He created a work of art that was perfect from all vantage points-one that would stand the test of time.
For our beloved military, the details are what set them apart. Attention to the details in uniform, speech, personal life and of course in successful execution of their jobs and duties.
I’d like to think that some of that has rubbed off on us as military families. When we are around our active duty, we stand a little taller and walk a little smarter, don’t we?
The longer you are “in” with your spouse, the more opportunities you will have for mentoring, assisting and leading military families. In fact you may be their lifeline of information and comfort at critical points during deployment or life crisis.
We as military spouses understand the vital role entertaining plays in the life and career of military families. Family days, spouse coffees, Hails and Farewells and of course your respective branch’s annual Military Ball. It is our opportunity to love on one another as well as thank the team for a job well done.
Attention to detail should become your mantra if you are in any type of volunteer, leadership, or chairperson position. Take nothing lightly and leave nothing to chance. Our social events are where we get to know one another, where we might meet the leadership and where we have the opportunity to thank the shop, company or unit by serving them with thoughtful food and drink.
From the menu you create to the scent in your home to the way you have parking set up for your guests – it all counts and it all matters in making your event memorable and successful.
Sometimes I take it a little too far. I was in the habit of chevroning my toilet paper in the restroom (I lovingly blame my Mother for that) and got laughed at like you cannot imagine. So unappreciative. I realize it was my tiny 1970s duplex on base but I treated it like the Ritz! Occasionally I will sit in different sections of my home to see if there are dust bunnies under the couch that my guest might notice. Total insanity or entertaining genius? I leave it to you to decide.
 Rather than striving for perfection, set a goal to achieve your personal best. The implication as military spouses is that your best will be better than the norm.
After all, it’s that way for our active duty husbands and wives isn’t it?
Entertainingly Yours,
Cassie

Under-Cooked Dough and Other Things You Should Know

This is about mistakes – entertaining mistakes.

We all experience them; some small, some epic.

But, we recover and we learn from the experience. However, there was a time when I neither recovered, nor learned.

When planning I would create in my mind the party to end all parties, but when the inevitable happened (burnt food, forgotten ingredients or children vomiting on me moments before a guest’s arrival) I became unglued.

I would often think, “Maybe I’m not cut out for this military lifestyle. Maybe I should focus my efforts on other ways to support the command.”

But that competitive, over-achieving military spouse inside of me would raise her fist like Scarlett O’Hara and shout back, “No! I will not be defeated!”

I have not yet lost the war, but there have been a few battles where I threw up the white flag.

Example #1: My Less-Than-Thankful Thanksgiving

After a few years of marriage and countless military functions, I agreed to host my first large Thanksgiving meal.

My husband Joe was attached to a Marine squadron that had a few squadron mates of the Royal Air Force on exchange from England. It was all very intriguing – the accent, their wives, the culture they offered.

One evening Joe came home and announced that we were hosting Thanksgiving dinner for three exchange pilots, their wives, and their children. They had expressed interest in a true American Thanksgiving feast and that’s what they were going to get. Who cares that I had never hosted one before? Or that I had three children under four and my appliance of choice was the equivalent of an Easy Bake oven (compliments of the U.S. government)?

“Yes,” I thought. “I’ve got this!”

I had cooked a turkey before (I think?), I had cooked rolls before (maybe?), and I had even prepared gravy, but for some reason I went into panic mode.

I went against my better judgement and started to take shortcuts. Between caring for my babies, preparing the house and trying to create an unforgettable feast, I panicked and started to change things up in my mind.

“I know!,” I thought, “I’ll use one of those cooking bags to insure done-ness. Oh! And I’ll use rolls in a tin so I have enough bread. And how about packaged gravy to supplement my own…” As you can see, I mentally spiraled out of control. To this day, I still do not know why I did the things I did that holiday weekend.

The big day arrived and no kidding, the kitchen sink backed up and there was no one from housing maintenance available to come out. My dear husband tried to clear it, but it just would not give. The water backed up to the top and the entire sink was unusable. I actually rinsed and peeled potatoes in my bathtub! Throughout the day of prepping and preparing, all of the dirty dishes went into the bathtub as well.  The best part though (ssshhhh don’t tell the British) I had to rinse the turkey under the spigot in the tub. It never touched anything, I promise. There is nothing like a Marine holding out a fresh white towel as if to say, “come to Daddy.”  I handed him the bird as a doctor might present a newborn son.  It was complete insanity.

I felt a bit of relief when the turkey was actually in the oven cooking. Remember I told you I used a cooking bag for the first time? Well, I did not mentally process that the cooking time is literally cut in half when using an oven bag but friends – I cooked it for the full five hours according to the turkey instructions.  – I can still taste it now, it was like tree bark.

On to prepping the stuffing. Dear old Mom’s sausage and nut stuffing. I had made it the week before and… oh my goodness had forgotten to thaw it! “No problem,” I confidently thought. I’ll just pop it in a pan and slowly heat it up. No sooner had I done so then I smelled the acrid scent of scorching food. Sausage stuffing, please report to the trashcan. What would my guests know? They are not even American so how would they know what is in a traditional American Thanksgiving?

Growing up, my mother taught my sisters and I the most amazing yeast roll recipe…why I did not make them, I have no idea. I used the Pillsbury brand in the tin and while tasty – they have directions that MUST be followed.

As dinner was underway, I noticed no one was taking a second helping of rolls. In a moment of true insanity, I grabbed one and ran across the street to my friend’s house (a lovely Navy wife who was unflappable).

I shoved a roll in her hand and said, “Taste this and tell me what’s wrong with it.” As she took a bite and pulled the roll away from her mouth, there appeared to be mozzarella cheese oozing out. She asked me, “did you make cheese stuffed croissants?”

“Uncooked dough!,”  I screamed and ran across the street back into my home. I immediately removed the rolls and watched in horror as no one tried a second helping of the turkey. Riddle me this: what is the actually cooking time of a twenty pound bird if you cook according to the directions PLUS toss it in an oven bag? Ten hours? I don’t know, but imagine my guests chewing with only their front teeth and downing copious amounts of water.

Course three – dessert. What could go wrong? I was a pro at pumpkin pie and had taken no shortcuts. I even prepared homemade whipped cream. I triumphantly paraded my pie to the table. No takers. “Oh we’re sorry love; we don’t eat veg in our dessert.” I could not believe my ears but then thought, “yeah, I guess that is pretty gross.”

 Suddenly, out came the lovely English trifle that was brought as a hostess gift. Have you ever seen rabid dogs fight over a bone? You get where I am going with this. The trifle dish was licked clean and I mean clean.

I guess I cannot blame them. It was a pretty terrible meal.

While so much went wrong that evening, I did do a few things right. I absolutely hid from my guests even the hint of a problem and kept the evening moving with good drink and good conversation. Never allow your guests to see or hear of a problem if you can at all help it. It makes everyone uncomfortable, which is the exact opposite of what a host or hostess desires.

My biggest failure that evening was trying new things. Never, ever try anything for the first time the night of your event. You are inviting disaster.  My husband and I still get a good laugh out of this experience, but I sure wish I could have a redo! And I promise, I have never rinsed meat in the bathtub since.

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

Hostess Gift

Presenting your host or hostess with a small gift is a lovely way to say thank you. It is a token of appreciation not only for the invitation, but for the effort that undoubtedly went into planning the event.

A gift should be simple in nature.

One example is a small bouquet of flowers. A lovely gesture, but people usually forget that a beautiful, unconstrained spring bouquet to the hostess or host creates an unexpected job. They now must find a vase, water and a location for your gift.  Try and present flowers in a small jar or decorative vessel.

Perhaps you are uncertain as to the taste of your host or hostess. If so, consumables are a smart way to go. Unique candies or local wines are very fun, especially when arriving at a new location. It allows both guest and host to try the local specialties.

Often times, a guest will present their signature gift. A token of either food or artisan craft from their home state. It can be anything. Virginia salted peanuts from Virginia, a can of specialty clam chowder from New England (sold in certain Navy Exchanges) or a delicious box of salt water taffy from North Carolina.

Perhaps you are a crafter or own an embroidery machine.  It is always a motivating thrill to open a gift bag and see before you your branch’s logo. Rest assured it will be put to good use.

Occasionally, an invite will read:

“No hostess gifts please” or “in lieu of hostess gifts please bring a non-perishable item for the  base food pantry.”

Please adhere to such directives. The hostess or host has good reason for their request.

Or during the holidays you may see the following, “in lieu of a hostess gift please bring an unwrapped toy.”

A toy donation during the holidays is always a lovely gesture. Your donations are most likely going to identified families within the command or stationed on your base. Remember, this is simply a request according to your time and financial abilities.  No one will be checking for your donation at the door.

Oftentimes, a guest will arrive with a food specialty of their own making. This is a thoughtful idea however, do not bring a full platter or dish of anything unless requested to do so. Your host or hostess has painstakingly planned their menu to include dessert and beverage pairings. Never expect food or wine brought as a hostess gift to be used during the event you are attending.

Occasionally, I will come across a great deal on several of the same items. I buy them all and proceed to use them as my signature gift until they run out. Keep your eyes open for those great steals!

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

Buffet ANT-ics

Here in lies the woeful tale of two hostesses. The one I aspire to be and the one I really am.

A little melodramatic – but accurate.

I am so dedicated to the art of detail that more than once I have planned an event a year in advance. Attention to detail is the military mantra that we live by (and we like it that way). But, the truth is, when entertaining one can never truly prepare for everything.

Case in point – each duty station we move to is known for things. Those things can be good or bad. Things that are pretty and ugly. Things that frankly,  you don’t know about until you get there and experience it firsthand.

Enter stage right – sunny Southern California, an American paradise.

One finds the happy locals in their athleisure wear, strolling from Starbucks, yoga mat in hand. There is sea, surf, blue skies… and ants.

Wait, what?

Now, not all of my homes in SoCal had an ant problem, but one in particular did. And when I say problem – think full-scale ant invasion.

I noticed right away that a speck of cheese or a crumb of cookie would bring on the following morning an army of indescribable proportions. My dining room looked like an arthropod convention on the Discovery Channel. I addressed the problem immediately (borax, Raid, napalm) and thought nothing else of it.

Time to plan the next party, and plan I did.

Our Marines were on deployment. In true military spouse fashion; our squadron wives were hosting a Pity Party for the squadron wives whose Marines were replacing ours. Side note – a Pity Party is an opportunity to basically say, “ha ha we are done, and now you it is your turn to suffer. Enjoy”. We also eat our young in case you were wondering…

The invites were launched, the house was ready, and the spouses brought an amazing array of potluck items including the piece de resistance: a delicious ham. Spiral cut, studded with cloves and dripping with a sugary glaze. If it weren’t early May I would have guessed it to be December 25.

With the evening well under way, I poured a cocktail with an air of smug satisfaction. “Yes” I thought, “another successful event.”

In an unguarded moment, I felt a sharp tap on my shoulder. I turned around to see one of our go to spouses (you know the one – she can be counted on for anything and everything) with a look of fear on her face.  I immediately stood up. She leaned forward and quietly whispered, “We have a code red meat emergency.”

Like any good senior leader’s spouse I confidently said, “Take me to the meat.”

As a host or hostess, we should never allow our guests to see us ruffled. In the worst situations, we remain calm, polite and patient. As my husband says, “never let them see you sweat.” But, I must say, what I saw next almost put me over the edge.

My ever vigilant friend had her arm outstretched with a pointed finger much like the ghost of Christmas future as he eerily points to Scrooge’s tombstone. I followed the length of her arm and my eyes landed on the ham.

Is the glaze moving?

ANTS. ANTS EVERYWHERE.

Is that one carrying a clove on his back? Why ants? Does the Ritz get ants? Does Ina Garten invite ants to dinner with Jeffrey? This isn’t supposed to happen – I did not plan for ants!

 I like to think I am cool under pressure, but I am not. I immediately grabbed the ham and ran like a wide receiver crossing the goal line quickly spiking the ham into the kitchen trashcan.  In a flash, amazing spouses were scurrying for any remnant of insect. It was an ant-killing Seal Team 6.

The determination was made that the ants were meat eaters and had confined themselves only to the gammon. Thankfully, the food service had been going for a while and it appeared that we had simply removed a few things. The buffet was spotless and open for business.

I stood there for a moment and became rather frustrated. What made me think the ants were going to self-relegate? Why did I assume that they had come together prior to my event and agreed to not transgress the buffet table? The ants were truly an ongoing problem and I should have planned the placement of my food better.

Let’s put a bow on this sad tale with some entertaining tie-ins.

  1. Know the problem areas in your house whether it is in military quarters or a rental.
  2. Don’t fight the issues, just adjust accordingly.
  3. Always have your power team of spouses. The ones you can rely on to help. In turn make sure you are there for them as well when they host an event.
  4. Don’t become emotional or excited in front of your guests and if something is amiss with your food simply remove it.  Due to the fact that there were so many wonderful offerings on the buffet, the removal of the ham was not a huge issue.
  5. Be in the habit of having a few easily prepared items in your freezer just in case of a culinary emergency. It is always a wonderful thing when we can prepare a fresh, homemade menu but sometimes you need a little back up.

But always, always remember: you can fix any situation – even arthropod WWIII.

Entertainingly yours,

Cassie

Going Once, Going Twice… SOLD!

Have you ever attended an auction? Held that funny paddle in your hand? Fought it out with someone across the room for that fabulous antique dresser and won?

Well I am here to let you in on a little secret. Your closest base has an auction for you to attend, compliments of the U.S. government.

Just when you thought you had memorized all the acronyms out there, allow me to share one more: DRMO.

DRMO is the abbreviation for the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office. I have included the link for the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Services (DRMS), which is a broader scoping explanation of what surplus auctions are all about.

As far as I could find, there are twelve different versions of this description (some use redistribution rather than reutilization, etc.) but what it really comes down to is that bases all around the country must unload their old or unwanted surplus and you, my friend, are the beneficiary.

Simply search the abbreviation DRMO and then your installation name. Information should pop right up.

The auctions are held annually or bi-annually in warehouses, hangars, storage facilities and sometimes in parking lots both on base and off.

There are traditional auctions where one registers and purchases a paddle with a number. There are also first-come, first-served with lines wrapping around the event hours before the doors open!

All auctions have some sort of preview prior to the event. Whether it is a walk-thru the day before, a walk thru the morning of, or a glossary of items being auctioned in an online catalogue on the installation website, you will know what’s being sold so you can formulate your game-plan.

But whatever the case, show up early and have plenty of cash.

My experience with the DRMO auctions are somewhat extensive…my first was a live bid auction. I watched with anxious anticipation as a beautiful cherry desk came across the stage. The auctioneer began to call the cadence that only an auctioneer can and before I knew it I was the proud owner of a solid cherry desk purchased for $45.00!

You must have the ability to pick up your newly acquired goods immediately so I pulled my minivan around to the loading dock for pickup. As I turned the corner I saw six identical cherry desks. How fun I naively thought. I handed the gentleman my receipt and he politely let me know that I better move fast if I wanted to get all six desks out by the end of the day.

Mama say what?

You see friends, I had failed to do the walk-thru and missed that the desks were sold as a pallet of desks, meaning a group. I purchased six gorgeous desks for $45.00! A steal in its own right but what a nightmare getting them home and storing them. I subsequently sold all six and learned a valuable lesson of auction etiquette. Make every effort to research what you are purchasing and by all means do the walk thru.

Over the years I have seen camping equipment, old bowling alley pins, daycare supplies and furniture, old hotdog and cotton candy machines from the recreation checkout and more military equipment than one could imagine.

My favorite however, is when the base needs to unload their old glassware, serving pieces and pub furniture from the different social clubs on base. My biggest score ever was a pallet of 180 wine glasses for $22.00! This particular auction was at Offut Air Force Base in Nebraska and the auction was a walk thru style set up. A huge hangar was filled with old and surplus items that needed to be unloaded in order to make room for the new items. The wine glasses were in piles on the floor. I grabbed as many as I could and made an offer.

The collection has been a wonderful addition to my entertaining cache. I have used them at weddings, Christmas parties, brunches, and large scale neighborhood events. Remember though, we are all on weight limits for our household goods so I encourage you to be very selective about what you bring on board. Check out my post, “So were you overweight when you got here?”  to better understand weight guidelines and consequences.

Do your research and go with a group, make it a unit outing. Be forewarned, auctions can be very addictive so pace yourself.

Have you attended a DRMO auction? Share with us your experiences, your finds and that big score!

Entertainingly yours,

Cassie

Sweet and Savory, Bad Behaviory

“Is there anything on this buffet that is gluten free, anything at all!?”

I paused for a moment as a chill ran down my spine.

I had forgotten to provide a gluten free alternative and now my militant guest was calling me out with shrill, Verruca Salt-like attitude. I scrambled for a box of gluten free crackers, uncontaminated fruit, rock candy (maybe a little past the expiration date, but rock candy doesn’t go bad right?!). I looked for anything, ANYTHING, that would suffice in this entertaining emergency. How did I miss this? I finally found something and quickly prepared a small plate for my guest.

But I’ll be honest, after catching my breath I became slightly irritated.

Allergies can be deadly, so as a host or hostess we want to be made aware of all dietary restrictions and my guest seemed to have forgotten to inform me of her condition. The goal of any good host or hostess is to provide and cater to their guest’s every need. However, sometimes people take their guest status a little too far. Instead of taking offense, take note – and learn from it!

I make sure I always take into stock comments I hear during the event. Then after all the guests leave, I do what the military calls a “hot wash,” or an ”after-action report.” I mentally go over the good and the bad, the successful and unsuccessful. You understand! It’s a great way to make sure at your next event you don’t find yourself in a hard place between a gluten-free guest and a gluten-full table.

“I hate meatloaf but this is actually good.”

“How long do we have to stay?”

“Does she actually drink wine out of this?”

Think I’m kidding? Even the most refined officer and polished lady of state can accidentally leave their mental filter at home.

“I hate this champagne, it is ca-ca.”

“Oh nothing for me, we leave for Hawaii in a week and I am dieting.”

“I don’t eat vegetables in my dessert.”

That last one? Foreign military – bet you never thought of that!

“Doesn’t she have any wine glasses that are bigger?”

“I know I said I couldn’t make it but surprise, I’m here!”

“I used the cream in your fridge.”

It was breast milk for the baby.

I brought the baby because I knew you would want to hold her.”

“You wouldn’t be able to mix up a few martinis would you?”

“Those directions were terrible, who wrote them?”

“I hate the colors red and green.”

At a Christmas party!

“I don’t eat off of buffets, I am afraid people have touched all the food.”

“I drank the last of the Jack…”

“I hate Mexican food.”

Guess what was being served?

“I think my boyfriend is drunk…”

“Can I turn the game on?”

“Oh, when are you due?”

Well the only thing due that night was the electrical bill, so unless you’re at her baby shower, do not ask a lady when she is due…

Too, too funny but all true.

I listen to the polite complaints, I watch for food left on plates. It all holds value as a visual after-action.

The truth is my wine glasses were too small and the champagne may very well have been cheap. Lesson learned.

I also take into consideration how people were raised.

My first generation, immigrant mother has often used the word “obbondanza” which is Italian for abundant. Everything must be abundant, mounded butter, mounded salad, mounded pasta, eat, eat, and eat! I once attended a dinner where the hostess prepared an absolutely delicious meal. She served each guest one portion then removed all of the food back to the kitchen. Waaaaiiittt I thought… I am a third-helping type of girl.

Rude perhaps, but as I got to know her it became evident she had been raised in a home where they were on a very tight budget and was now running her home the same way.

Another example is when (in an effort to be fancy) I started using cloth napkins. They are chic and classic, yet I failed to consider the fact that if my guest didn’t care for whatever they were eating it was going in the cloth napkin! Needless to say, I have thrown away a few good cloth napkins.

Don’t overestimate (notice I did not say underestimate) your guest’s desire to try new things. I once served liver pâté and ended up placing a small trash can next to the buffet because so many people spit it out (into my good cloth napkins)! Hysterical.

Whatever happens at your event, just remember your guests came because they like you and want to get to know you better.

Be patient and gracious and like they say in the movies, “smile and wave boys, smile and wave.”

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

The Help

For a military spouse, the luxury of hiring chefs, gardeners, florists and house-cleaners is just that- a luxury. As we progress alongside our active duty member, the opportunities to entertain become more plentiful. We all know the effort it takes to prepare for a BBQ, let alone a unit holiday party for six hundred (you know who you are…). Help is essential – without it the event cannot happen!

I don’t mean the volunteers within the unit either (that’s called servitude – google it, just don’t engage in it). I’m talking about your own personal events. The events we host in an effort to continue our valued traditions of fellowship and camaraderie. Once in a while one of my civilian friends will ask, “Is it really like what we see on TV?” No, not really, but it’s fun to dream…
Some of us love to entertain, while others cringe at the very thought, and that’s okay. If you fall in the latter, you simply must be more creative on how you approach the situation. The people in your unit expect socializing. They look forward to it and it is a letdown when gatherings don’t happen. While entertaining is never mandatory, if you are not up to the challenge then pass the torch to someone else in the unit. It’s how the younger generations learn as well!

While stationed in North Carolina, I saw an amazing thing – within our neighborhood on base, if a wife hosted an event, she would put out an ‘all call’ for side dishes or desserts according to her theme. The spouses that were available provided a dish and the hostess would hopefully return the favor at a later date. The same logic applies with cooking, prep and housecleaning. I had a friend not affiliated with our unit come over and bake off all my appetizers while I welcomed guests at my front door. I returned the kindness later by vacuuming and dusting for her event while she was in the shower. You know what I am talking about – you have probably done it many times over. Most entertaining in the military world is on-the-job training.

I have seen spouses host events and singularly preform all the duties that a full staff would normally be hired to do. This calls for self-sufficiency.  Seek out the local or base garden clubs for lessons, a nursery that offers wreath making classes; or better yet, sign up with some friends and take the Williams-Sonoma culinary demonstrations offered in the actual storefronts! Swap your skill of baking for another’s mad skills at setting up a small scale bar. I am constantly amazed at how many self-starters we have right in base housing! Fabulous bakers, designers and decorators are right at one’s finger-tips. Most of us had a profession before we married and would love to swap (or make a few extra dollars) while keeping our skills sharp.

Now for the transparency part of my post: I use my children whenever possible. They live the life, understand the needs, and get the mission. Draw googly eyes on a sock, place it on your three year old’s hand, and tell them the puppet wants to slide on the floor moldings. Dusting is done. I pay them well in Starbucks, shoes and In-N-Out burgers. It’s a great opportunity for bonding over a shared goal and really a lot of fun. Remember though, you get what you pay for and if a better offer comes along (day trip to the beach), I get ditched and I need to be prepared for that!

The bottom line is, we all have certain things we are willing to pay hard cash for. If catering or housecleaning is on your list, then go for it. Get references from friends and work it out.

I will warn you, sometimes wires get crossed and “the help” shows up late or not at all. If you don’t like them, don’t hire them a second time. If you do like them but they were late, provide them their own personal arrival time (two hours before your guest’s arrival time) and give them many courtesy reminder calls.

You know what you are capable of and what you need assistance with. Go for it!

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

 

 

 

I’m with the Band

Whether it is a change of command, retirement ceremony, post and relief or military ball, there is nothing more engaging than live entertainment. Unfortunately, there is nothing more expensive either. Not to worry! With a little thought and some prior planning, your fete will be memorable with the addition of musicians, vocalist or dancers.

The military ensembles that we see playing at almost all ceremonies are steeped in tradition and the customs of our respective branches. Who doesn’t love entering an event hearing the sound of a brass band playing an American tune? Music can be patriotic, moving, motivating and exciting. To sit and enjoy a band of active duty military in uniform can be quite an emotional experience for our civilian guests – just ask them.

If your spouse is in command, he or she may “rate the band” for a command function, meaning they can submit a formal request for music at the official command event. You, as the spouse, have nothing to do with this process. As my husband has been known to say to me, “Don’t make requests of the active duty – they don’t work for you.”

*Record scratch*

Your birthday, baby shower, anniversary and going away are absolutely not events that rate a band request. Surprised? Don’t be.

The installation musicians support many different commands, and your spouse must make the request months in advance. String ensembles, brass quartets, full marching bands and vocalists are some of the possibilities offered.

The beauty of these active duty warrior-musicians is that they show up, ready to perform. No dressing rooms, no glass of green M&Ms – no absurd special requests. They are always excellent and after the ceremony *poof* they are gone! Keep in mind, most (if not all) active duty musicians are not only trained professional military, but also hold undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees in their respective fields of music. They should be treated as the consummate professionals they are. Always offer the band members a full brunch, lunch, or dinner (add them to your RSVP count) as well as water bottles (especially if the event is held outdoors).

Always remember that located just outside the walls of every duty station is the culture that surrounds it. For example, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton sits on what was once a thriving Ranchero. The Rancho Santa Margarita y Las Flores (the original ranch house) is a stunning venue for ceremonies of all types. Why not invite the local Ballet Folklorico to preform? There is nothing more beautiful than the men, women and children of the troop, in full regalia dancing with the Ranchero as their backdrop. You offer them a private monetary donation for their school of dance, agreed upon prior to your event and invite them to stay for lunch or dinner (add them to your RSVP count). You should also give them a professional introduction to your guests. This is an absolute win-win for all involved. As military families, we must be continuously reaching out to our surrounding cities in what is essentially good public relations. Our civilian families in turn, have the opportunity to get to know their local military which they love!

I have seen everything from Miss USO singing the National Anthem at a birthday ball to hearing the haunting sounds of bagpipes magnified in the spaces of a Marine F-18 hangar.

Remember, anything you and your spouse choose to do, is financially your responsibility. If in doubt, always consult the command legal team.

Upon arriving to your new duty station, dig deeply into the surrounding areas. What is it famous for? And what are its specialties? Keep your ear to the ground for any spouses who have musical talents. We have concert pianist, vocalists and professional harpists living right in housing. By hiring “in house” you are supporting fellow military families.

Remember, if we all had unlimited funds, my post would be unnecessary. This is about being financially creative yet still hosting the event of your dreams! Now go get your band!
Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

So, Were You Overweight When You Got Here?

After a few weeks of unpacking and figuring out our new duty station, my wonderful neighbor invited me over for coffee. I was ecstatic at the chance to actually get dressed, put on makeup, and enjoy some much needed conversation with a fellow Marine wife.

The coffee was delicious, the food delectable, and the conversation great. We talked about our children, the schools, the new job and as the conversation flowed the topic of the move came up. I took a sip of coffee, looked at my new friend and politely asked, “So, were you overweight when you got here?”

Now some of you know where I am going with this and some of you must think my question is off the charts hideous. In military life (I’m talking to you newbies here), we are bound by what I like to call the ‘rules of engagement;’ to include a language all our own that only a military spouse understands. As many of you know, the PCS (Permanent Change of Station) experience is a series of endless rules and regulations that, if not adhered to, can cause you much unneeded stress. As my husband often says, “life is hard and it’s harder if you’re stupid.” Harsh – maybe. True – absolutely.

Back to my friend…

I wish there was a way to blog facial expressions. I sat there waiting for her answer – nothing. “You know,” I emphatically exclaimed, “Were your household goods overweight?” “Oooh,” she replied, “I thought you were talking about me being overweight.” Nice. I was horrified and glad this sweet lady was as nice as she was. Back to the rules of engagement…..

It seemed from the time I walked down the aisle with my man in uniform, we were on an endless quest to accumulate what I simply call stuff. Furniture, dishes, electronics, clothes, books, professional manuals, baby furniture, workout gear and the list goes on. It never occurred to me to be considerate of our weight as a family and a household.

Each active duty member is allotted a certain amount of weight according to his or her personal rank. Exceed the allotted weight amount and you pay the government back. It gets better. An automatic withdrawal from your active duty spouse’s paycheck must be set up and the payments begin until the debt is reconciled. It goes without saying that exceeding your authorized weight can create a financial burden with potential disastrous effects on your livelihood, finances, ability to save and quality of life in general. I have included the move.mil link for weight guidelines.

It is a difficult task to maintain a level of discipline when it comes to accumulating stuff. Especially for you lucky ones that receive orders to Europe or Asia. Who can pass up that fabulous German wardrobe or the beautiful Japanese Tansu? I feel your pain… However, it is the financial kiss of death to convince yourself that you deserve something because, “he/she dragged me here and I deserve it.” As a dear aviator’s wife once asked me, “was he not in uniform when you married him?” Meaning, you probably had an idea of what you were in for.

Older wife lecture over- I digress.

The bottom line is, be in agreement with your spouse as to what you are willing and not willing to take a financial hit on. If you accumulate two households, that is on you just be ready to pay for it because the bill will be paid one way or another.

As PCS season approaches, I start going through the house. Room by room, closet by closet, drawer by drawer. Not. Lying. It is time consuming but well worth it. We have needlessly moved sparkly flip flops from San Diego to sub-zero Omaha. Snow boots from Rhode Island to Pensacola. Be mindful of what is easily replaced and what you can live without. Create three piles: keep, throw away and donate. Your local donation point on base is ready and waiting to accept your donations that will in turn directly benefit our active duty families in need. I am partial and most familiar with the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society.

Possibly one of the best ideas I have ever seen was at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. A group of wives got together and scheduled a neighborhood swap in the park located inside housing. Families came with everything one might imagine. People left behind unwanted items, left with needed items and whatever was left at the end of the day was donated to the relief society on base. Utilize your neighborhood Facebook page to organize a “PCS Season Swap.”

What does this have to do with entertaining you might ask? I have found that dishes, stemware, serving dishes and the like are some of my heaviest items in the pack out. They require more packing, more space and are terribly heavy. Be careful as it adds up! Whatever you decide, have fun with your military experience and don’t overthink it. Just be smart about what you do and keep things simple!
Entertainingly Yours,
Cassie

Let Them Eat Cake

In my heart of hearts, I want to bake. I want to create magical masterpieces that light upon the taste buds. I have watched friends who seemingly create fantastical desserts merely by saying it is so. I grew up with a mother who would make croquembouche for Christmas dessert. I bought Bundt and spring form pans, thinking that by osmosis the ability to use them will come screaming to my frontal lobes. I have taken all the Wilton cake decorating courses. I have studied you tube videos only to produce wilting macaroons and chocolate chip cookies that only the dog would love. Sadly, nothing has taken! I have a few go-to desserts and have actually been known to bring out Haagen-Dazs ice cream bars on a footed silver platter passing them around as if they were Turkish Delight.

Perhaps I am slightly exaggerating my lack of ability when it comes to baking, but I do know my limitations, and that is very important when entertaining. You must constantly self-assess, embracing what you can do and finding alternatives for what you cannot. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you must create every item on your menu personally. A famous chef once said, “your guests won’t like you more because you made all the food.”

But back to me not baking…

When I am planning an event that requires a large amount of cake (staff birthdays, small scale ball, wedding shower, combined unit baby shower, etc.) I head over to my big box store and place an order for a plain white sheet cake. I ask that the standard piping be done but nothing else. Upon receiving the cake, I decorate it with the colors or themes of the event. I often purchase a fresh bouquet of flowers cutting the stems down to a three inch length and simply recreate the bouquet on the cake. Place the stems in the cake the exact way you would arrange flowers in a vase. You can be symmetrical or asymmetrical either centering your bouquet or cornering it. Both will be beautiful. I have placed nonpareils (a decorative confectionery of tiny balls made with sugar and starch that come in many colors) at each peak on the piping, sprinkled the cake with coordinating colored sugars or for children added items that they desire like toys or figures. The fun is in as much or as little as you desire.

A traditional cake ordered form a professional baker is a wonderful thing but can run you upwards of fifty dollars for a nine-inch round layered. That could easily deplete your party budget and if you are in a two-year command, this is yet another item that will begin to add up. The big box store’s cake has excellent flavor, is always fresh and has a standard that is consistent. This is a full sheet cake, double layered, for $18.99! If you are staggering your purchases between pay periods, this cake and cupcakes as well will freeze nicely up to six months! Ready to give it a shot?

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie