OK people, it’s 8 am! I don’t care where you go but you can’t stay here…

…..said a million moms on the first day of school.

Look, I adore my children, they are my beautiful gifts I never deserved!

HOWEVER

– after a long, hot summer of camps, classes, beach trips and swim lessons, or (don’t say it) a PCS,  I am exhausted.

I know, I know, I choose to do all of those things, I can’t help myself.

I miss the kids as they walk out the door that first day, I really do, but I know in my heart of hearts it’s “me time!”  So, as our summer winds to an end and those first back to school commercials hit the airwaves, I want to plant a little entertaining seed in your brain.

A few duty stations back, I met a Marine wife who is now one of my best friends. I loved everything she did to include a back-to-school, mommy-only-party.

No kids, no dudes, just the ladies and a whole lotta time.

9am – 3pm to be exact.

Her mother had hosted back to school lady’s brunches since the time she was a child and she continued the tradition. Brilliant! Here we have an opportunity for good food, good drink and if you’re new on base, the opportunity to meet your neighborhood and possibly some other spouses in the command. Let’s not forget though, our friends that might be sending their first or last student off to school. This can be a very emotional experience and it is comforting to be around other parents who have gone through the same thing.

Call it a back to school, base housing, Bellini, Black coffee brunch.  You’re welcome.

Call it whatever you want just start planning now. According to my calendar, we have a few paydays left to order, bake and freeze a few items before the first day of school.

Always remember – proper planning is the key to a successful event!

You don’t want to be baking quiche and packing backpacks the night before the first day of school. Preposterous!

Simple instructions: At this point, everyone should have an area Facebook page specific to your housing neighborhood. Post an event and get started. Make the decision as to whether your event is kid friendly or not. There are toddlers and siblings who are still home as well as our home-schooled friends. Perhaps you only want adults.  I have done both. No children is a lady’s brunch, children included is a playgroup brunch. Both are great and it is up to you as the hostess to decide.

Create a signature drink for the day whether alcoholic or not. Will it be potluck or hosted completely by you?  Will you do a light buffet of breakfast foods or transition to a brunch? Make a dozen quiche a week before and freeze them. I love this recipe from the Food Network- http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/quiche-lorraine-recipe  Order croissants and bagels from a local bakery and grab some of the bakery’s business cards for your new neighbors to take home with them.

I believe the punch behind this event is that it is held on the first day back to school. Everyone is on an emotional high for a myriad of reasons and it creates a real sense of energetic fun!

Get creative with your decorating to include school supplies, red apples, school buses, crayons and fun preschool style name-tags.

Before your event, consider running to your respective schools and grab some bell schedules, bus schedules and year-at-a-glance calendars. Your guests can leave with a little goody bag at no cost to you!

While my post is military specific, anyone anywhere can do this…so get planning!

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

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

Crepe Bar

In the insular world of military life, it can be very difficult to be creative, especially when entertaining. As ideas catch fire, a host or hostess must dig deeper in the area of creativity as not to be passé or overdone. As I was busy planning our battalion Christmas party, I racked my brain as to who in my life had a skill or talent that I could utilize at our big event. I immediately called my daughter Jackie and asked for her help. Being the savvy, young professional that she is, she calmly replied, “crepe bar mom, have a crepe bar for your guests, it’s really easy and everyone loves it.”

I was immediately hooked on the idea. Jackie happens to be a culinary genius and volunteered to work crepes all night on an as-needed basis. The night before our event she set up her station. We ran over the flow as guests would enter and determined that I would welcome individuals to enjoy a cocktail on the patio, or walk to the left and enjoy a freshly made crepe at the crepe bar (my kitchen counter).

Jackie then set up her station. We decided to keep the options simple. The dessert offerings for the evening would be a traditional sugar with butter or a Nutella filled crepe. I purchased extra-large piping bags located in the cake decorating section of my local craft store (you will not need to purchase tips), large jars of Nutella according to how many guests you expect and of course the necessary ingredients called for in the recipe.

Jackie knows the recipe by heart, but I chose this one for you. Remember: as the crepe is finished cooking you will fill the inside with Nutella and fold accordingly. We planned on crepes for one hundred having sent out one hundred and twenty-five invitations.

Jackie filled two large bags with Nutella and closed them off with a twist tie. She then laid out the two crepe pans I purchased (6.99 each at a local cooking supply store), a can of non-stick spray and a spatula. We also purchased one hundred clear plastic dessert dishes and forks, stacking them at the station. Approximately one hour before the event, she prepared one batch of the crepe batter (for freshest taste I recommend making the batter as close to party time as possible). She also clipped the end of one of the piping bags with a pair of kitchen scissors. She was ready to go!

I purchased red metallic frames (can also be used for Valentine’s Day, Independence Day events, Memorial Day, Homecomings and Birthdays) at IKEA and had them placed around the various food stations showing options and content. A few weeks prior to the event, I printed out menus for each food station to include the crepe bar choices.

As the evening got underway and I was able to catch my breath, I walked around to check on all the food and drink. Jackie, dressed in her white waist coat and chef’s hat, was busy creating at a rapid rate with no end in sight. The guest line for crepes wrapped around the kitchen bar and into the hallway. Success, I thought! Jackie took orders, prepared on request and I clocked her at five hours with very few breaks in between. It was brilliant and I feel comfortable saying that because I had nothing to do with it!

I highly recommend this idea for a few reasons. It is delicious, very inexpensive and it eliminates a dessert table for your party. It is different and your guests will love making their selection, watching it being created and of course the taste! You can do this for two or two hundred. Also, if you over purchase your ingredients, you simply have extra eggs, Nutella, sugar, flour and butter! I encourage you to find a friend or relative who enjoys cooking and can handle the task at hand so you, as the host or hostess, are not stuck at the stove all night. We actually had a dry run for the family a week prior (gorging ourselves on crepes with several different fillings) finally deciding on the sugar and Nutella. Remember, never, ever try anything for the first time the day of your event. It could prove disastrous!

Entertainingly yours,
Cassie

PME Breakfast

As entertainers, we are always trying to reinvent the party, to be trendier, more cutting edge yet still spend as little money as possible, successfully executing the event and having fun while doing it! Impossible? Absolutely not – you are a military spouse so let’s do this!

I have hosted countless events yet still was somewhat unprepared for how pricey entertaining within the realm of command started to become. I had a million amazing ideas I wanted to experiment with and found myself way out of budget within a short period of time after my husband took command. We all know every penny is spent by choice, so this is not a complaint. However, I know you all well enough to understand that we entertain out of a love for the people in our unit and the preservation of our customs and courtesies. Most importantly though is the bonding that comes with families who are always a moment’s notice away from sending our active-duty loved ones into harm’s way.

After a few months in command, I started to crunch the numbers somewhat disappointed that my extravagant meals and chic parties had gone by the wayside before ever getting off the ground. I tried to think of food items that were less expensive yet still a joy to cook with and something I would be proud to serve my guests. Breakfast is inexpensive but who would want to come to breakfast?

I approached my husband and he suggested we make it into a PME (Professional Military Education) breakfast. What is a PME you might ask? It is an opportunity to teach the active duty about all aspects of personal and professional development. I was on it!

We planned for a Friday and my husband sent out an invite via email. We set the limit to command and staff exclusively with an arrival time of 0630, yes that is 6:30am in the morning! We planned for and fed fourteen Marines a sit-down meal that day.
I created the menu with diet in mind. Our military is held to a strict standard of weight and I wanted to be respectful of that. Plus, it’s hard to eat a huge breakfast and then return to work and stay focused.

What I served:

  • Egg and Potato Strata – a layered casserole dish mainly used for brunches
  • Goldilox – scrambled egg with fresh salmon and cream cheese topped with fresh parsley
  • Fresh Fruit – mixed berries
  • Fresh buttermilk biscuits – made the night before and stored tightly in a Ziploc baggie
  • Homemade peach jam – from my sister’s West Virginia peach orchard
  • Butter – room temperature
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh coffee, tea and water – cream, sugar, artificial sweetener
  • Freshly squeezed orange juice – squeezed late the night before

Whenever I create a menu I always include everything down to the salt and pepper. Attention to detail is something to be emulated from our spouses. Leave nothing to chance!

The strata was very time-consuming in prep so I did it all the night before and actually created the dish the next morning. Remember to keep your sliced potatoes completely covered in water or they will turn brown within a short period of time.
The one thing I can always count on is that Marines are on time. Sure enough at 6:30am on the dot our guests were at the door! There is nothing more amazing to see uniformed men and women of all ranks walking up to your door to break bread.

The PME breakfast was a successful event in many ways. With a cost comparison between eggs (one dozen for 46 cents at a local chain or a prime filet of beef from the big box store averaging $80.00!) the breakfast is by far the less expensive choice. Also, this was an event where spouses were not invited thereby cutting the count in half. We incurred no cost for invitations with a professional email request being sent by the leadership and the event was done by 10am.




Unexpected:

I set up a coffee bar at all of my events. I sometimes use a 60 cup urn but for smaller gatherings that still require copious amounts of coffee I use my Keurig. My china cups and saucers were set up and ready to go. As the guests arrived and began getting their morning coffee, right away I sensed a commotion. I turned the corner only to see Marines holding 8 ounce china cups and selecting the 12 ounce coffee option. Coffee on the floor, bar and their shoes. I hadn’t thought the service all the way through. I immediately swapped all the china out for mugs. Disaster averted!

So when can I expect breakfast?

Entertainingly yours,

Cassie

Charcuterie Board 

Charcuterie is a French word literally meaning cold cooked meats collectively.

It references the prepared meats such as bacon, pates, hams, in other words, mainly pork products. It also is another name for delicatessens specializing in dressed meats.

A charcuterie board is a beautiful and easy way to serve guests appetizers before the main meal. While the French definition calls for specifics, I say let’s Americanize it and do what we want!

Entertaining is all about what you as a hostess are comfortable doing and this could not be any easier. Of course the first item required is some sort of board, pallet or rustic platter. If you use a serving dish or plate, then you are simply serving a meat and cheese plate – which can be delicious but not our goal here. The WOW factor is in the presentation and by selecting high quality meats and cheeses, the taste handles itself. I actually have two boards I use depending on the occasion and number invited.

My large board is 69 inches long and my smaller board is only 25 inches long. The larger I found at HomeGoods and the smaller at Pottery Barn (offers a military discount), both on sale. I NEVER buy anything full price, EVER.

I’ve also been known to lurk around housing on trash pick-up day. Don’t judge – you know you do it too. You can also purchase an actual pine or solid wood board from your home building stores (Home Depot and Lowes – both offer military discounts) and have them cut it down to a size you are most comfortable with. Check out the wood remnant box as well for a throwaway piece.

I have seen beautiful slices of wood from oak trees- a round instead of a plank. Use your imagination! A nice plank of pine is wonderful as well as an old shelf. You can stain, seal or distress and seal – it is all about what you like. Metal might be fun but potentially your food could take on a metallic taste so be selective! (Whatever you use, make sure it is sealed as you are serving food on it).

charcuterie board

This is a go-to of mine. I have my board down to a science and prepare and display some basics with only a few changes depending on season, availability and event. My basic board (using the 69 inch) consists of three to five assorted cheeses, three to five assorted cold meats, nuts, olives, artisan bread sticks, crostinis and dried fruits (apricots, dates and cranberries). You may even add a chutney or local honey to the list!

Every item mentioned can be found at your base commissary. Keep proportion in mind when displaying cheeses and meats. If you are using a six foot board then your selections must be large and abundant. Imagine serving a cookie on a dinner plate – it is proportionally not pleasing to the eye and looks hastily planned.

I purchase a blue cheese, a smoked Gouda, a sharp cheddar and some sort of out-of-the-box cheese to challenge my guest’s palate. Several hours before the event I place the cheese selections (wrapper left on) strategically spaced on my charcuterie board. Cheese must sit at room temperature for the true flavors to amplify.

Thirty minutes before the event, I display the meats which may consist of anything you find in your commissary deli. Salami, prosciutto, mortadella, roast beef, turkey and even a nice flavorful bologna.

I alternate the meat with the previously placed cheeses and then begin to fill in spaces by mounding the nuts, dried fruits and small breads and crackers. This is a finger experience so if you are serving a very large crowd, I recommend placing all the small items in accent bowls with small serving spoons that your guests can serve directly into the palm of their hands.

With smaller groups, I do not place items in bowls; I mound them as previously mentioned. This is a mix -and -mingle while grabbing your wine type service.

Remember the beauty behind this is no plates, no silverware and everything is store bought. Of course, you may add small, pretty appetizer plates and don’t forget cocktail napkins as well. This entertaining idea can be used for any sized event. The shop, your headquarters’ staff, a department, wardroom, your unit company, unit spouse’s coffee or the squadron.

It is as big or small as you would like it to be. Without fail, your charcuterie board will be the start to a truly memorable event!

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

How to Read an Invitation 

Realizing that all of us know how to read an invitation, (the who, the what, the when, the where and the attire), I would like to offer guidance on how to “read” an invitation.

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The Who: Invitations are never open for interpretation. Upon receipt of said invite, the invited guest’s name or names should be stated clearly. If the invite, Evite or e-mail states, “Mary” for example, then only Mary is invited. Not Mary’s spouse, not her child who had a day off and will quietly sit in the corner and read- she promises. Not Mary’s adorable baby who she also promises will sleep quietly in their car seat. When we force the situation by bringing an un-invited spouse, child or baby, the dynamic of the event is changed and potentially ruined. You may even create a resentment from the other guests who took the time and spent the money for a babysitter. Often, unit events might be the one time someone has been able to get out for a friend’s night or date night in a long time.

The What: Whatever the event is, it is most certainly articulated in the invite. To the best of your ability, fully engage in the theme of the event whether it be costume, potluck, charitable, family oriented (bringing children) and the like. Your host or hostess is making the effort and you will have more fun if you fully participate. Keep in mind, this is never an opportunity to pass out catalogs, hold impromptu meetings or go over business as you may disrupt the flow of the event. There is a time and place so please be respectful.

 The When: The invitation will state a specific time, an open house or a staggered time slot perhaps according to your last name. If there is a specific start and ending then by all means arrive at the stated start time and always leave at the stated ending time. For example, an event that begins at 5pm and ends at 7pm requires you to arrive at 5pm and depart at 7pm. An open house is an event with a beginning time and an ending time. As a guest, you may arrive at any time and depart at any time during the open house. This is especially helpful when you have more than one event on the same evening. Lastly, a staggered event is usually for larger commands where, for example, lasts names with A-M arrive the first two hours and N-Z arrives the final two hours. It allows the host or hostess to manage their guests in a more organized manner. Unless previously discussed with the host or hostess, please do not show up early. It really is as rude as being late. If they require help, and sometimes they do- you will know far in advance. Try not to be late. It is disrespectful of the host or hostess as well as their time and you might disrupt a series of time sensitive events. Children become ill, cars breakdown and rush hour can be a beast. Simply plan ahead and if you happen to be late, enter quietly and join in.

Your hosts will be thrilled you made it!

The Where: Make sure you read the invite carefully as to the location. I once showed up to the wrong Chuckie E. Cheese a week early. True story.

The What: There are so many fabulously themed events…White Party, Harlem Renaissance, Martinis and Mistletoe, Little Black Dress, Flight Suit Formal, Potluck, Salad by Proxy and the lists goes on. Whatever it is, as stated before fully engage! If the event is a potluck (this is an opportunity  for you to really shine) make an attempt to see if there is a theme to the meal. If you bring your favorite Indian dish and the theme is Mexican Fiesta, you run the risk of disrupting the flow of the meal and the beverage pairings.

Also, refrain from bringing food unless the host or hostess has requested it. I have seen beautiful dishes and desserts brought by guests with the best of intentions only to be quickly placed in the refrigerator or pantry! Again, unless discussed previously, an additional food item is not necessary. Take the night off and enjoy yourself.

Host/Hostess Gifts: A hostess gift is a small opportunity to thank the party giver for having you as a guest at their event. It can be as simple as a plant or chocolates, a nice bottle of wine or a lovely pastry. A really wonderful idea is that of a signature gift. Perhaps your favorite artist makes a beautiful Christmas ball or your hometown is famous for a nut or jam. Flowers are always lovely but keep in mind as you hand a hostess a garden stand bouquet, she must now find a vase, fill it with water and arrange it all while trying to welcome guests. A small potted flower or plant is best in those situations. Keep in mind this is not in place of a thank you note! Occasionally you may see a request to NOT bring a hostess gift. Please abide by the request as there is a reason important enough for your hostess to place it on the invite. You may also see the words “in lieu of a hostess gift…” and a request for a toy during the holidays or a donation of food for the local food bank may be requested. Please feel free to regard or disregard at your discretion and financial ability. No one will be checking at the door!

Children Welcomed: This is very simple, if nothing is stated about children then they are most likely not included. Sometimes an invite will read Adults Only. Please take this seriously as the host/hostess may have candles lit, a fireplace, alcohol or perhaps pets that are threatening to little ones. If the children are welcome to the event, the invite will most definitely state “children welcomed.”

Commands make very concerted efforts to have both kid friendly and non-kid friendly events throughout the year. It never hurts to call ahead of time and receive clarity on the situation.

RSVP: Repondez S’il Vous Plait which, according to Merriam Webster, is a simple French phrase meaning “please reply”. How ridiculously easy is that? It is impossible for a host or hostess to properly plan a party when the number of attendees is unknown! It is not about being fancy or ostentatious. It can be as simple as how much beer should I buy and how much chili should I make? Perhaps the hostess is creating a party favor and you did not respond. It is embarrassing for both the hostess and guest when something like that occurs. When in doubt, always put yourself in the shoes of the hostess and proceed accordingly.

The Attire: Almost every invitation sent within the realm of the military will have guidance as to what you should and should not wear. Your active duty member will always have a clear and proper dress code and uniform requirement for every event he or she attends. This, however is for you. There was a time when dress codes were simple- formal, semi-formal, cocktail and casual. The Marines called jeans “the forbidden fabric” and it was rare to see active duty of any rank out in public donning Levis!
Things change and dress codes do too. Depending on where you are stationed, you may see suggestions such as California casual, Hawaiian casual, open collar no tie, no jeans or just plain casual. While everyone in SoCal may be in fancy flip flops, your East Coast counterparts may be wearing heels with the same outfits. Observe your current duty station and adjust accordingly. Make the decision to honor the dress code to the best of your ability. Whether formal or casual, the event you are attending is not the time for you to make a personal statement or personal stand. Have fun with the attire request and perhaps you will learn something new while in the process. I have included a link to a wonderful attire guide.
http://emilypost.com/advice/attire-guide-dress-codes-from-casual-to-white-tie
Dress code tradition is yet another piece of the military puzzle that makes our culture unique!

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie