Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Debunking the Effortless-Entertaining Myth

            I subscribe to one magazine. Every month I look forward to its decorating tips, its travel suggestions, its recipes. But it seems as if at least every other month it features an article on how to entertain graciously with little or no effort. Not only do I not enjoy these, I find them downright irritating. Mainly because anyone who has ever so much as hosted a Tupperware or Mary Kay party knows that the claim of “effortless entertaining” is complete bul baloney.
            First, let me fill you in on my magazine’s idea of the perfect “lazy” lunch as described in the latest issue. If you’re hosting said lunch, it helps if you have a beach cottage with a front porch that will accommodate a table with seating for ten. With a few days planning, inspiration from the time you lived in the south of France, and a menu that requires an French-to-English dictionary just to pronounce the dishes, “easy” can be turned into “elegant” in no time. If you don’t have giant clamshells in which to ice down your wine selection, not to fret. Fake Faux versions can be found online at a mere $150 each. At that bargain price, you’ll want to snatch up a couple of them. And speaking of “clams,” let’s not forget a trip to the bank to finance this laid-back affair.
            If you don’t happen to have a beachside cottage at your disposal, how about offering a down-home, back-yard picnic? It helps if your back yard consists of ten acres with an 8,000 square-foot dairy barn (used to store your antiques), a stream, and a pond. With very little fuss, move your rustic farm table (which seats eight) outside under your towering red oak, add place-settings you’ve “plucked” from your barn, and fashion individual place-card holders with the wild flowers you’ve gathered from your very own meadow. Who knew a bucolic banquet could be both easy and economical?
            Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not criticizing those with the desire, means, and energy to entertain graciously. On the contrary, I admire their generosity and hospitality. But let’s call it what it is: a fete of biblical proportions that requires weeks (months?) of planning; a crew of cooks, cleaners, decorators, and furniture movers; and an income greater than that of most third-world countries. Even for those of us who don’t aspire to such grandiose galas, entertaining is never easy. I mean, we still have to plan, shop, clean, cook, serve, and clean again. That’s why I attempt it only about every five years. That is also why I never, ever call it "effortless."
            While magazine articles on entertaining can make great fantasy reading, the best lesson I ever learned about hassle-free entertaining was from a Laverne and Shirley episode. The girls had planned a festive affair at their apartment. About ten minutes before their guests arrived, they assembled their refreshments: Pepsi with milk and Oreo cookies with Redi-Whip sprayed on top. Now that, my friends, is about as effortless as it gets (and even then, they had to go to the store).          

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Celebracation in Sunriver, Oregon

     When family spans four generations and is scattered all over the country, it takes a special occasion to bring everyone together.  But gather we did last week for recreating and celebrating the special occasion of my mother’s 90th birthday. I must credit my sister Elaine for orchestrating this near-impossible feat. Being the oldest of three siblings (and having a natural tendency toward bossiness), she managed to schedule a time and place we could all meet. And what a place it was! Bittern Lodge—a vacation rental in Sunriver, Oregon—provided the perfect setting for both indoor and outdoor fun in the pleasant Oregon sun. I realize a narrative of someone else’s family reunion isn’t everyone’s idea of riveting reading, so I’ll keep this brief and hopefully more engaging by giving a quick photo tour of the week’s activities.

First things first. The birthday girl then
(1942) and now. (In the interest of full disclosure, her birthday isn't until Sept. 24., but this was the only time we could all work a group trip into our schedules. And, anyway, after 90 years, what's a couple of months?)


Sunriver, located on the Eastern slopes
of the Cascade Mountains, provided
miles of biking, hiking, and four-wheeling
trails that led to one scenic venue after another.


Thanks to nephew-in-law Justin, we didn't lack
for ways to get around on the trails. (No "minimalist"
vacationing for this group!)
Great-uncle Doug gave Bennett some operating tips. (Bennett didn't care that the four-wheeler was still on the trailer.) 
No back to the basics here, either. Plenty of room with 8 bedrooms--and (bonus!) 8 bathrooms.

A kitchen large enough to accommodate many cooks. (I did my part by staying out of their way.)
And food:
(Can't forget food!)
The good stuff...

the really good stuff...
and the REALLY, REALLY good stuff!
Most important--Family:
Mama and her sister, last two
surviving of 9 siblings.


Great grandkids
(I apologize I don't have a "kids" pic, as I
was in the picture and don't have a copy
of it yet.)

What's more fun than spending time with cousins? Spending time with FIVE of them!
Random moments:

Birthday dinner

Amy, our ad hoc historian

Doug, winner of our impromptu
One-handed Skillet-lifting
(The skillet weighted 12.5lbs plus
another pot and lid of about 5 lbs.)

and snores...

and a party-crasher!
To sum up the celebracation with a tried-and-true journalism phrase:
A good time was had by all!