What We Can Learn From Our Elders

This is not written by me, but it is an amazing example of someone who, at a young age, understands what life’s journey is truly about. Read this and re-blog if you like. A reminder for all of us, no matter our age.

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We look at the man at the grocery store with pity. We look at him as if he’s old and cant do anything. As if he is useless. But our elders are smart and have seen the world like we have not. Elders of this generation have gone thorough WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Great Depression and many more things. They have seen the country through times of despair, violence and have grown from it. They are not just old, look into their eyes. Once they were running through a field with their family. They were young, they went though all that you are.

From my volunteering at my local hospital, on the cancer unit, I have seen despair but seen love come from it. One time, a man with Alzheimer’s was sitting in the hall, and I didn’t know why. Most patients were in their rooms…

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Tip of the Season: You said what?!!

Stay cool under pressure

Staying cool under pressure

So I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving or at least a decent one. You know that was just ‘social dress rehearsal’ for the big one, so I am breaking my Sunday habit and posting about things we can do (and those we should avoid) to make these holidays the best ever. Who of us has not experienced the “dis” from someone we know, and perhaps even love? I know I have. Here’s what to do should someone just tick you off:

‘Tis the Season, Tip #1:

When your in-law, or brother, or partner says something that embarrasses you at this year’s holiday get-together, or just makes you mad, don’t react. Take a breath and say… nothing! Then either change the subject or walk away. I know, but you can do it! And you will look, oh so in control. And guess what? They won’t say it again. Why? Because people like that often dis someone to get a reaction. No reaction? They stop doing it.

Also, (and here’s the part I love) when you appear calm, cool, and collected in the face of nastiness it makes you look like a social rock star. Someone everyone will want to hang with. The added benefit is that it will make them look foolish or immature (I know we are supposed to be nice but he started it!! Oh, sorry.)

Of course if neither of these tactics work and the nastiness continues, feel free to smile and simply say, “______ stop acting like a jerk, thanks, and please pass the salad.”

Remember one thing it took me years to learn:  if you get upset, if someone’s rudeness makes you have a lousy time, or if another’s thoughtless remarks hurt you, it’s your loss. They most likely don’t care. I want you to win by putting that anger or pain right where it belongs:  in the trash folder of your brain. Enjoy the party, and enjoy the people who deserve you.

Love and joyful times,

Kathy

Tricky Travel This Week – Be Ready for Your Guests

The Art of the Visit in Anthropologie stores!

The Art of the Visit in Anthropologie stores!

There is some nasty weather this year in some parts of the country, so if you are entertaining guests this Thanksgiving expect them to be a bit cranky, or at least somewhat stressed, if their plane was delayed or if the weather was difficult while driving. If you’re like me, you’re traveling today or preparing to fly or drive this week. I’m writing from a hotel room right now.

This is on my Facebook page and is a great tip from the book:

“So glad I found this at Anthropologie. Read the part about bringing snacks when picking someone up from the airport and I thought “Oh yeah, I am always thirsty after getting off a plane.” Today I was prepared with noodle salad, bottled water and cookies when I fetched my brother from the airport. He thanked me for being so thoughtful and I said “Oh no, it’s not me. I read it in a book.”

Very cool. Some other handy tips:

  • Make sure you have your guests itinerary, and not just “we land in the afternoon so we’ll be at your house around 4.” You need more than that. Things like flight numbers, where they change planes, etc. Good visits all have one basic ingredient – guests.
  • Make sure you have their cell phone number and they have yours.
  • Set a place you are going to meet them at the airport and what you will do, or where you will be, if their plane is delayed.
  • If they are driving did you email them specific directions? Don’t let them rely on GPS. It has gone wrong more times than you want to know.
  • Have some goodies ready when they walk in the door; snacks, drinks, adult beverages (!)
  • Nothing says you care like setting up their guest room as if they were the most cherished people on earth. See the chapter in the book for how to do this, including having luggage racks out and waiting, a surge protector for their gadgets, and coasters on the bed side tables – yes, really!
  • If you’re the guest keep your host informed of where you are and what’s happening. Remember that they may be just as stressed as you are.

And, like this prepared person above, bring some treats and water with you to the airport. That in itself will set the entire tone for their visit, and you will be a host-star (think rock star in apron.)

Finally, take a deep breath and relax because when you do get there–and you will–the most important part of the trip is spending time with those you love, or want to get to know better, or are meeting for the first time. Next year the nasty travel part of the trip will be forgotten, but how you interact with your friends and family will not, so shake it off, smile, and be thankful you have people with whom to share love and friendship.

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone!

Love,

Kathy

What’s On Your Table? Something Really Different for the Holidays!

I know it’s only October but with fall in the air (kind of), I wanted to get a head start on “the Holidays”. Yikes! Another year come and gone — again!

So to get a head start I want to focus on the table – literally ON the table! Most days we run around and are happy to get place mats under the plates and the children using utensils, but other times we want to really feel good and make others feel good, so let’s look at what goes under your beautiful place settings.

I must admit that I have a glass dining room table. It is big and thick and I love it because I can put a few place mats on it for dinner and call it done. That works most times, but not always. Nothing beats the look and feel of a beautiful tablecloth. Not the coffee or tomato stained one, or the one that you are afraid to bring out because it will take you two days to iron, but one that speaks volumes without saying a word.

So I thought I would share a few gems to really set a beautiful holiday (or anytime) table. I absolutely love this one for Thanksgiving this year. All the traditional colors but with a touch of whimsy and style. It is French, imported directly from France, which in itself makes it stand out. I am crazy about the soft orange color for fall. It is what I call “French country” and just takes me to a simple, beautiful place. You know me: it’s all about affordable, easy elegance.

Occitan_9-13 22698

Occitan_9-13 22699

The colors of Christmas include red for many of us. I like this one below because it is a rich red and the wheat detail brings to mind the peace of country living. The company has many different color combinations, but this year I want to set a tranquil kind of mood. Also, the dark color will anchor your table. It really sets the stage for the wonderful food and drink that will be on it.

You can buy these from Occitan Imports the prices are reasonable, and you can get the tablecloths in different sizes. I also will be ordering a few pillows. They have a variety of high-quality, specialty French items. And don’t forget the matching napkins! So cheers, and here’s to setting a unique, beautiful holiday table this year.

Love and happy visiting!

Kathy

As always, I am never paid to endorse any product. Just enjoy bringing you some unusual delights.

Sunday, Family…And Some Amazingly Simple Pasta Sauce!

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Jerry Penacoli and me on the set of Daytime. Hard to cook and talk at the same time but it worked out!

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So what if the water spilled over? It’s all part of the fun!

In my family growing up, Sunday usually meant a big pasta dinner served family style and we kids could not wait. My first recollection of Sunday pasta, and a love for all things Italian, started with my Grandmother Bertone. I so well remember gathering in her small apartment for a feast of meat, pasta, and sauce. Great sauce. Sauce that would make you eat way more than you needed; sauce that she started in the morning and which would simmer for hours on the stove top, and be lovingly spooned over spaghetti or ravioli, shells, or some other delight. Just the smell of simmering garlic and fresh basil takes me right back!

So this Sunday, as I do on many, I am making my Grandmother’s sauce, but in 30 minutes and with just a few ingredients. I had the honor of making this sauce on DAYTIME this past Friday. (The show will air on Tuesday in about 140 cities across the country.)  The above photos are from the set.

For me it’s all about easing, elegant entertaining, and I don’t say that lightly. But I do have a secret: I combine store bought (in this case frozen ravioli) with something homemade. The reason is simple. These days we are busier than in years and decades past. The kids have all their stuff to do and we have ours. Also, I want to spend time with my family and friends and my guests – in the living room or watching the game, NOT in the kitchen. Follow these simple directions and you will have a great sauce that will take you back (or perhaps, for the first time) to Italy, or at least to my Grandmother’s tiny kitchen, where she served food that brought us closer. Not a bad legacy, Grandma. She is missed.

You can easily make this sauce ahead and refrigerate it for a day or two, or freeze it for use another time. It has great legs. I usually start it just before my guests arrive and let it simmer ever so slowly on the stove top until I am ready to serve.

This is dinner for 4 people. Adjust as necessary for more or less.

Buy (don’t worry – it’s a short list):

1, thirty-five ounce can of whole, peeled, tomatoes
Two garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ chopped yellow onion
Olive Oil, a few tablespoons
Fresh Basil Leaves (for the sauce and to garnish the plate)
Fresh Parmesan Cheese
Sea Salt or Kosher Salt, 1TBS
1/2 to 1 TBS Italian spice mix
One pinch of red pepper flakes, optional (adds a bit of heat)

Any kind of Pasta: 1 pound feeds 2 people if you are serving it as the main course, 2 pounds for 4 people, etc. (Yes, I know you may have some leftover but it is great the next day!)

Do try the frozen ravioli. Your guests will think you made them from scratch!

A plastic potato masher. Yes, really.

A wooden spoon. I know, but it’s just so much more Italian.

On medium heat, heat a heavy, large pot. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil and then the chopped onion. Stir the onion for 2 or 3 minutes, until it starts to get soft. Add the minced garlic and STIR CONSTANTLY for a few minutes until garlic browns.

(If your garlic burns at this stage you’re toast. That is why I don’t add the onion and garlic at the same time. The onion takes longer to wilt (get translucent) and the garlic much less.)

Turn down your heat and slowly pour in the can of whole tomatoes. Make sure you do this or your tomatoes may jump out at you, and FUN: use the potato masher to mash the tomatoes! Until you do this you have no idea how cool this is. Fast, simple. Completely smash the tomatoes. This will only take a few minutes.

Add the salt and a few turns of the black pepper mill
Add the pinch of red pepper flakes if you want some heat
Add the Italian seasoning mix
Tear a basil leaf or two and add it

Stir, cover and simmer (a very slow boil) on low for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

TASTE it every 15 minutes or so. Does it need more salt? Adjust your spices carefully. Remember – you can always add more but you can NEVER remove something once you have put it in.

Cook your pasta according to package instructions. Drain, plate, add the sauce, and a few basil leaves for color. Take the Parmesan cheese with a grater to the table and let your guests add their own.

I love this because of the time versatility of the sauce. Chatting or having another glass of wine? No worries, if you keep the heat under the sauce very low you are good for a few more minutes. You will most likely have left over sauce. That’s great! It will be ready for next weekend’s stuffed peppers!

Remember to stir and taste every 15 minutes or so, and adjust spice according to your taste. I hope you guys enjoy this. I loved making it for you!

Happy Sunday!

Love,

Kathy

What I Learned from a 13 Year-Old

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I have been so bad about posting regularly that I came up with “Social Sundays” where every Sunday I will write something to amuse, irritate, or enlighten you. I will be covering not just my usual ‘visiting and hosting’ topics, but other areas of social coolness, like etiquette you can actually use (don’t cringe) and even cooking now and then. And don’t worry, I won’t bore you. Promise!

So here is my introduction to Social Sunday.

This photo reminds me of a house guest I had last month. You guys know me, and therefore know I would not say this lightly: She was the best guest I have ever had — and she was all of 13.

She visited for a week – A WEEK! A high-powered girlfriend of mine from D.C. was horrified, “What are you going to do with a teenager for a week?!” she cried. Truth be told I was a tad concerned, so I did what I do best. I planned for the teenage invasion. I made a list. Yes, I followed tips from my own book and actually put a lot of thought into what we would do, when we would do it, what she would eat, what she might like to see, and the like. I am forever preaching that entertaining is about planning, and that’s true, but it takes both host and guest to have a great time and this one was special:

Here is what happened:

  • She came in and loved the house and her room;
  • she ate everything we fixed and really enjoyed it;
  • when I said, “You want to do X?” She said, “Yeah – that would be great!”
  • when I started to fix dinner she asked what she could do to help and she even smiled when I showed her how to set a great dinner table;
  • before we left for the days activities she made her bed and picked up her room (well, most days);
  • when she saw my eyes glazing over after a particularly long day, she would say, “You need some down time” and then go somewhere to read;
  • we made a terrible pie together and enjoyed every minute of it;
  • we laughed at stupid movies and she didn’t complain when I made her sit through “Gone with the Wind” and read Jonathan Livingston Seagull;
  • when I made a bet with a priest and had to go to church for several days in a row (don’t ask) she went with me, when I told her to sleep in

But most importantly, we showed mutual respect and concern for each others thoughts, space, and time.

So what did I learn from a 13 year-old? That manners and thoughtfulness are not dependent on age, and that social coolness is alive and well in the younger crowd. Did her parents have something to do with it? No doubt. So my hat goes off to them and to her for making our week together one we both can’t wait to repeat. So next time someone comes over and behaves badly don’t make excuses because of their age. Teach them what it takes to be socially gracious, or let me know about it…and I’ll turn them over to the 13 year old.

Love and happy visiting,

Kathy

Vacation and Holiday Times with Those We Love Most – Making it Work

Hi guys! I know summer is almost gone but the fall is coming and you know I like to plan it forward, especially when it comes to visiting. (Remember Uncle Ralph last Christmas? I say no more…) I wrote a chapter that did not make it into the book because of length restraints. I think you are going to like it. It’s 13 pages of good information on sharing bedrooms (or not!) how to divvy up chores, who pays for what, etc. when sharing a vacation home or holiday with those we love most (but who can cause us some anxiety as well) – our family and friends.

I published it on Amazon’s Kindle which was actually pretty cool and fun to do. Check it out here.

Book cover for summer two So get it and let me know what you think.

Here are the topics:

Cohabitation 101: What They Didn’t Teach You in School
• Pay per bedroom
• Events: Pay to Play
• Food Costs
• The Shopping Cart Rule
• Stocking Up
• The Bedroom Dilemma
• Getting Space
• Household Chores & Kitchen Duty
• Meals, In and Out
• Taking Our Pets
Buyer Beware: A Tale of Two Rentals
Resources

So go to Kindle now! (It’s also in their lending library to be “borrowed”.)

Love and Happy Visiting!

Kathy