Category Archives: Entertaining 101

Break Out The Cloth Napkins

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In my second post of my spring series, Entertaining 101: Stoking Up For Guests, I’d like toss out the idea of using cloth napkins… Here’s the first post on Water Goblets, in case you missed it!

I love cloth napkins. To me, they are like a special accessory you add to a party dress. Something pretty and colorful to set off the ensemble, making it unique and noteworthy. They come in prints, fancy colors, weaves, Jacquards… they even have beads and tasselled edges. They brighten up the table like flowers do. They are so cheerful!

Do I use cloth napkins every day? No. I’m not crazy! We eat tacos, spaghetti and sauce, BBQ … MESSY STUFF. And, I have a CHILD who likes to spill, smear and wipe stuff. No, we use regular, “Bounty brand” paper napkins every day. I even toss in some paper towels when we eat ribs and buttery corn on the cob. I do not like to be a slave to laundry and ironing. I know our environment could use a deep breath and deserves the dedicated people who do use cloth napkins every day, and I applaud them loudly — but honestly, I just don’t have it in me.  (The following are from Target — Set of four under $10.00)

But on special occasions, when we have company over, or when we eat in the dining room, I break out my favorite table cloths and pretty cloth napkins. I love how they make the occasion a little bit more fancy, and I get to play with colors and pattern.  Even if I don’t break out my fancy china, and we are just eating in the kitchen with my plain white dishes, I can still use my cloth napkins and place mats or chargers for  special guests like the pastor, my in-laws, close friends, or for a special birthday. I actually even have some of the napkins I’ve pictured in this post, love them, and use them not only frequently but over and over again — even if it’s just to line a chip basket or a bread basket.

Cloth napkins aren’t as intimidating as they sound, if you purchase the right kind of fabric. Polyester is NOT the right fabric. It is very difficult to keep clean. Oils and grease stain easily and when you wipe your mouth with them, they really don’t absorb well. Liquids don’t absorb into the fabric, and just bead up and roll right off. It’s annoying and I just want to ball them up and throw them across the room whenever I use them at restaurants. They are not a nice napkin to use.

On the other hand, 100% cotton is a wonderful fabric to use for napkins. They absorb beautifully, and they come in beautiful prints and colors. And, while not my favorite, Cotton/Poly blend works well, too. They actually wash up nicely and easily with all the modern cleaning products we have. More on that later. (The following are from Wal-Mart — Set of eight under $10.00, set of 4 under $5.00)

In general, cloth napkins make your invited guests feel special, like you actually went out of your way to make the dinner table fancy for them… even though you didn’t. They fold nicely under the fork, or you can fold them into a fancy shape and place them on the dish or fan them out in a water goblet. Either way, they just say: You are special enough to bring out the best, and you will get “oohs,” “ahhhs,” and “oh you shouldn’t have,” and “everything is so beautiful” whenever you put them out, and THAT ALONE should make you feel good about yourself (even if you burn dinner)!

Cloth napkins aren’t only pretty and functional, they save money. You’re not constantly running out to buy colored paper napkins for special occasions. Sure, there is a place and time for colored paper napkins… say, a large graduation or other large celebration party, where you need 100 napkins. Yes, paper napkins always have their place (you can see I’m trying hard to convince myself). Actually, I do love to get pretty cocktail napkins, and I pass them out with the water goblets or with dessert. I also get colorful paper napkins for my little boy’s birthday parties. See? They do have their place. Keep in mind he was born in 2005. He’s a child that has child-sized friends that make child-sized messes. I however, am an adult, and I like to adult with other adults in the dining room on occasion. So when you have small, intimate parties, don’t be afraid to bring out the cloth napkins. Challenge yourself. I double-dawg-dare-you-to. As an adult, that is. Ehem. Spit shake on that? (The following are from Pier 1 — from $3.68 to $4.95 each)

Purchasing tips for cloth napkins: Always look for heavy cotton and woven cotton napkins. They wear better, and wash and dry better. They will come out of a hot dryer less wrinkled, and will only need a quick press of an iron. Lighter cotton and linen will need heavier ironing and possibly some light starching. Remember… just because it’s more expensive doesn’t mean it’s better!!

Washing tips: As soon as your guests leave, pick up your napkins and table cloths, shake the crumbs off of them, and squirt them with my special Stain Removing spray recipe: in a spray bottle, combine 1 cup of blue Dawn dishwashing detergent, and one cup of hydrogen peroxide. Shake well until combined. Spray any stains you see on the napkins and table cloths. Let them sit while you put leftovers away in the refrigerator and load the dishwasher (or at least 30 minutes). Load your washing machine with your detergent and a capful of OxyClean. Allow your washing machine to fill with water. Toss in your table-cloth and napkins and allow them to soak over night in the water with the lid open (if you can). Close the lid to your washing machine the next morning and let the machine run. Dry them in the dryer, and take them out as soon as the dry cycle ends. Run the iron over them immediately and fold them neatly and put them neatly away so they are ready to use the next time you need them.

And really, that’s all … According to Giselle!

Water Goblets For Entertaining

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Here is post number one on my series of Entertaining 101: Stocking Up for Guests. I hope you take notes on how to fill your cabinets with versatile and useful items that you will be able to reach for when ever you have a planned party or a surprise guest pop in. Whether you are a seasoned hostess, a newly wed, a bride to be, or a person that wants to step out of their comfort zone and start entertaining… I hope this series helps you discover A Mind Set For Entertaining!

One of the best investments you can make is in a set of sturdy glass water goblets. Yes! Glass! Don’t be afraid to put out glass goblets when your guests come over. Why put out plastic? Plastic is wasteful, and can get costly. Glass is beautiful, sturdy, and a good, heavy glass goblet with a cold, delicious drink in it feels good in the hand!’

Besides, you can use them over and over and over again, and not just for water.  I serve lemonade, tea, soft drinks, or any other drink you can imagine in them. They are lovely for sangria, beer, and generous margaritas. I’ve even served a generous portion of dessert in them. I use them for buffets, casual meals, Superbowl celebrations, cookouts, Bible studies, or any gathering where I have a crowd coming over.

They can be dressed up in the dining room, or dressed down on the picnic table with a beverage dispenser and a cooler of ice next to them. If you purchase a sturdy set, they can be tossed in the dish washer, and placed back in the box for storage until your next party. Trust me. I DO NOT hand wash them. No delicate crystal here! I highly recommend you purchase all clear goblets, because they will go with any color dishes, napkins and table cloths you decide to use — you won’t be limited.

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My mom always drilled in my head to have a place for everything, and put everything in its place. When you take care of your things, they last longer, and she is right!  As you can see … my boxes look yellowed, but I have kept my glasses in their original boxes because they are packaged in sturdy cardboard, and they are divided nicely and well protected.

I purchased my two sets of 8 all clear goblets from Wal-Mart about 15 years ago, and I’ve only broken one in all that time. I paid $12.99 for one set of 8, and I got two boxes of them. Of course, the same set has gone up to $37.99 now, but that’s still under $5.00 per goblet.

Amazon.com has a beautiful set of water goblets by Libbey, 12 16-1/4 ounce goblets for51r5crqhaAL._SL1170_ $30.40 Prime (as of the date of this post – see or click on single glass to right) and they look sturdy and lovely. I might even bump my set up by another 12… you see … they don’t all need to match perfectly! That’s the beauty of clear goblets.

If you are great at scouring the dollar stores, you can find beautiful water goblets for $1.00 each. I recommend you purchase at least 12 goblets, and if you’re getting them at the dollar store, get them at the same time, because sometimes, they come and go quickly. You can even find restaurant and hotel buyouts on eBay for great prices!! My only suggestion with eBay is that you get all clear glasses, and make sure you’re getting sturdy stems (as opposed to very thin stems, which break easily).

Brides to be… Put them on your registry! Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want, because you just might get it! Tip: chosing more expensive brands for your registry don’t always mean better quality or durability. Remember: if you want your friends and family to purchase your items, be sure to make a diverse selection of items and prices on your registry! Make the selections do-able.

This recipe of Sparkling Pineapple Punch reminds me of a drink they have in Peru which I think you will enjoy. It looks very pretty served over ice in the glass water goblets. And, wherever you decide to purchase your goblets, you won’t regret it. You will find yourself using them over and over again as they are so versatile and neutral, and will save you money time and time again. They truly are an investment worth making! And that’s… According To Giselle!

Sparkling Pineapple Punch

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 4 cinnamon sticks, about 3″ long
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 1 can (46 ounces) pineapple juice
  • 1-1/2 cups orange juice
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 12-ounce can ginger ale, chilled (more if desired)
  • Ice cubes

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan, bring the water, sugar, cinnamon sticks and cloves to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain and cool to room temperature.
  2. Pour into a large pitcher; stir in juices. Refrigerate until chilled. Just before serving, stir in ginger ale. Serve over ice.

A Mind Set For Entertaining

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en·ter·tain·ing — en(t)ərˈtāniNG/

adjective: provide (someone) with amusement or enjoyment.

For some, the thought of entertaining can be intimidating. For others, their ready to throw open their doors and have people over, but might hesitate because “entertaining” might sound expensive. Some might worry about what they will cook, because they never learned how to cook or their skills aren’t strong in the kitchen, while others might worry about starting conversation. Others might worry about the planning and execution of a pary. Shyness and the fear of doing or saying the wrong thing might hold you back. Maybe you’re worried about whether people will come, or maybe you’re worried about whether you’ll “do it right.”

…Being in the moment with the ones you love is far more important than stressing out over the details of food or entertainment.               — Giselle

The fact is… you shouldn’t worry about anything.  You should look forward to having fun, communicating with your guests in a way you feel comfortable, enjoying time with each other, and making memories that will last a life time. These moments are for creating everlasting friendships, strengthening family ties, meeting new neighbors, learning about each other. Food is just icing on the cake… you can enjoy the moment whether you cooked, had a pot luck, ordered pizza, or carry out. Being in the moment with the ones you love is far more important than stressing out over the details of food or entertainment.

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I want to start a series that will teach you how to stock your cabinets and pantry with appropriate and inexpensive items that will enable you to entertain at any given moment. Whether you open your home for a casual meal, a football game, a cookout, a formal dinner, a Superbowl celebration, a bridal or baby shower, or a holiday family meal, the cost of purchasing disposable plates, cups, forks, spoons and knives should not be something you worry about for your special celebration. Neither should be what you serve, how you plan for the event, or even how you break the ice in a room full of guests.

I want you to learn the easy way to plan, execute and finally, focus on the fun part of entertaining, so that when you’re ready to start inviting your friends and family over for memorable luncheons and dinners, you’ll have the confidence in your self and in your abilities. Whatever the occasion is, your doors will always be open. You’ll be able to welcome someone into your home and “provide amusement or enjoyment” without stress or worry, and everyone will appreciate the time spent together! And that’s… According to Giselle!

 

 

 

The Art of “Passing It Down” Was Broken

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When I got married back in 1990, I didn’t know the first thing about registry lists, bridal showers, and wedding gifts. Yes, I grew up watching my mother flawlessly entertain, but I never threw my own party, never purchased my own dishes, and never even gave stocking my own kitchen a second thought.

I feel so fortunate that I had a mother that had a passion to plan, cook and entertain, and passed it down to her girls, and most times, she had to do it on a very tight budget. She learned it from her mother and her grandmothers. It was passed down from generations past, but at some point … something was broken in our world.

Everyone has their own tastes, and I am truly happy to see so many people cooking, entertaining, and finding their “voice” in their kitchen and home.

My theory is that my generation is the last  generation of children to have moms that stayed home either full time or part time and taught their daughters how to cook, take care of their home, and practice true hospitality. I feel that for whatever reason, women either chose to, or had to go into the work force. Whether to begin their path in a desired career, or to bring in a second income (as is basically required in this day and age), moms have had to wear so many hats: race to work, put their kids in day care, run a race of carpools, school drop offs, after school sports and commitments, homework helpers, cupcake bakers, laundry, cleaning, yard work… cooking and entertaining are by far the last things a mom has time to think of, let alone teach her kids.

In my twenty six years (this June) of marriage, I can soundly say that I’ve seen two and a half decades of women that for the most part, don’t know how to cook. Of course, there are exceptions — there always are, but this tells me one thing. At some point… the art of “Passing it Down” was broken. But then… Cooking boomed in Magazines! Then on TV! Then on the Internet! Then on Pinterest!  And now? Women, men, teens, children, EVERYONE is cooking! It’s so exciting!

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Everyone has their own tastes, and I am truly happy to see so many people cooking, entertaining, and finding their “voice” in their kitchen and home. But still, there are those that have never learned the basics of cooking, have never given a thought on how to stock their kitchen and pantry, and are intimidated by the thought of what to put on their own registry once they are engaged. Don’t be intimidated! We’re going to work through this together! And it’s going to be fun!!!

Just remember… Entertaining might be intimidating your first time, but its not always going to be like that. You soon will find that it’s fun, exciting… and its where friendships are bonded, family is strengthened, laughter is loud, games are played,  secrets are shared, and tons of fun is had by all. And that’s all… According to Giselle!

 

Simple, Easy, but Elegant Table Setting

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If you’re a newlywed, or living on your own and are afraid to entertain in a semi-formal setting because you aren’t sure how to set a table… this post is for you. I’ll show you how to set an easy, elegant grown-up table without a lot of fuss. But first… a background story. Feel free to skip over it.

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We just celebrated Easter, and usually, we have dinner with a large crowd, but this Easter, my parents came to visit, and my husband and I decided we wanted to keep things easy, elegant, and simple. My parent’s drive is about 6 hours, and my father just turned 80, so it can be a pretty tiring drive, and we don’t know if this might be their last visit, or if they still still have many visits ahead, so I wanted to take advantage of this holiday and just enjoy their company, and the meal as a family meal.

My mom, sister and I all enjoy pretty, elegant, fancy-pants things. The difference between us is, my mom and sister are really fancy-pants (they love sterling silver place settings and candle sticks, fancy chandeliers, fine, fine china, crystal, antique linens, etc.), and I’m more practical. I hate polishing silver, starching linens, and fine china tends to break in my hands. But still, I love “pretty,” and “fancy,” and “elegant.” I just do it in a more practical way.

This dinner, I decided to do “simple pretty.” In fact, I totally forgot to get a centerpiece for the dining room table, and since Easter was so early, my neighbors lilacs, peonies, tulips or any other flowers, hadn’t bloomed yet, so there were no flowers that I could steal for the table. I was actually going to use the adorable Easter cake my mother-in-law made for my son as a center piece, when it dawned on me… I can use a mason jar full of fake flowers from one of my guest bedrooms. I added some branches with green leaves budding from the yard to freshen it up. I figured that no one would care, because my guests are my mom (who gave me the flowers) and my dad, husband, and son… who are men, and could care less what’s on the table other than food.

First, I want to start with the “bones.” It doesn’t matter if you have a hand-me down table, a garage-sale table, or a piece of wood balanced on two saw horses… the first thing you need is a table cloth. You can find inexpensive ones at WalMart, Target, TJMaxx, Ross, or HomeGoods, but the best place is … your mom or grandma’s closet. My tablecloth was my Abuelita’s. My mom gave it to me when we bought our first home, and I cherish it. If you can’t get your hands on a table cloth, use a scrap of fabric or even a white sheet! Anything is possible. I also love to use cloth napkins for special occasions. It just brings a special feeling to even the simplest of tables. I love the quality of the napkins from Target (they are thick and only need a light press) and love the colors and prints that Pier 1 sells.

Remember when I said I hated to polish silver? It’s true, but silver looks so pretty on a table, so what can you do??? Use the next best thing… Mercury glass candle sticks. They only require dusting… gotta love it. Just be careful, because they ARE fragile. You can find them at TJMaxx, HomeGoods, Tuesday Mornings, and even at Joann’s Fabrics during the holidays. Notice a trend? Yes — discount stores!!

And, talking about practical — see those cute little birds??? They are salt and pepper shakers… they add whimsy to the table, and I love that they are different than the normal salt and pepper shakers! Everyone loves them. I got them at Pier 1 Imports.

Finally, the plates and flatware. Long ago, my sister gave me a great set of stainless flatware for Christmas. If you have to invest in anything, invest in a heavy, high-quality set of 18-10 stainless flatware. They wash well, don’t rust, and will last you a life time. You can use them in a casual setting or in a fancy setting. I have twelve of each piece, and use them for cookouts, superbowl, parties, everyday dinner, etc. It has saved me so much money on the constant cost of the purchase of plastic flatware!

These particular dishes were given to me by my mom as a Christmas gift several years ago. They are made by Lenox and are called Butterfly Meadows. They are the china I like to use in the spring and summer for obvious reasons, and they are tough! And practical! Most fine china can’t be washed in the dishwasher… THIS CAN! Thank you Lenox, I love you!!!  I love that all the plates have different prints on them, and they are even oven and microwave safe. My aunt has this set also and uses it every day.

Most china manufacturers make a line called “casual china” and can be found either on line or in stores like Bed Bath and Beyond. This china can be washed in the washing machine, but is finer than everyday dishes. The bread plates are made by Crate and Barrel. It’s a little appetizer plate, and I really like to mix and match. An easy way to remember what side the bread plate goes on is if you make a lower case “b” and “d” with your hands (pointer fingers up and other fingers curled to your thumbs like you’re directing choir), you’ll see that the “b” is on the left for bread plate and the “d” is on the right for the drink. Easy peasy!

So here are some pictures of the table put together. Fork on the left, knife on the right. Napkin usually goes on the left either to the left of the napkin or under the napkin (I put it on the plate as bunny ears). Bread plate on the left, drink on the right. Instead of using a stick of butter, I just used an ice cream scoop of soft butter in a small white dish and a scoop of apricot jam in another one. It turned out elegant, but it was super simple and easy. If you’ve never had a “formal” dinner, you should try it. Begin with just one couple, make it simple, and give yourself grace. I know you can do it! And that’s… According to Giselle!

A Little Bit About Giselle

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IMG_0702Where I Come From

I am a first generation Latin-American woman. But honestly? I have a lot more in me than just that. I’m probably more Italian-Irish-Peruvian-American. It’s confusing, I know. My mother was born in Peru. Her father was Italian and her mother was Italian-Peruvian. My mother came to America in her early twenties to work for an international organization. She met my father, and American-Irish-mix of a man, and married him in her late twenties. See what I mean? Confusing. So — This makes me a really crazy mixture of Italian-Irish-Peruvian-American.

My Childhood

When I was a small girl, I vividly remember my parents entertaining frequently. My mother loved to cook, bake and entertain, and honestly, she became an accomplished cook in her own right by reading numerous cookbooks — Julia Child, Bon Appetite magazines, The Joy of Cooking and her Peruvian cookbooks (I still have one!) were some favorites. She often made formal meals for our small family — my mother and father, me, my sister, and our nanny, as well as numerous of our beloved cousins that lived with us — because she wanted to teach us manners, and the importance of eating together in an informal AND in a formal manner. We spent all our meals around the table, together, talking, laughing, stealing food off each other’s plates, and enjoying family time together. That was our family time.

Alternately, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Easter, birthdays… they were all celebrated in the dining room, with a formal three or four course meal, all served on my mother’s vast collection of beautiful china, sterling silver flatware, delicate linens, beautiful crystal goblets and glasses, and her girls dressed in their pretty dresses. It was mandatory, expected, and we loved it. When she invited guests or had parties, my younger sister and I helped in the kitchen and served the guests in the formal dinning room. I must confess, I didn’t like that too much, but it taught me how to set a formal table, which side to serve and clear from (which has changed now), and planted a love in my heart to cook, entertain, collect cookbooks, china and serving pieces, and discover new foods and recipes.

So much laughter, chatter, clanking of china and flatware, mmmmm’s and aaahhhs, ooooh’s, and more laughter. Clusters of friends and beloved family chatting, singing, guitars strumming, piano clanking, dancing, the smells of food, music, more laughter, tears of joy… some tears of sorrow… friends and family comforting each other, bolstering each other, eating with each other, and holding each other. Thats what I remember growing up. They are beautiful memories of an enormous, beautiful extended Peruvian family that came to America one by one, and they ALL love each other  through food, drink, music, gathering together, loving each other, laughing, singing and eating together. And it all started in my moms kitchen.

Today

What is entertaining to me today? It’s not just food, or cleaning the house, or the financial cost of purchasing everything. It’s those special memories that just blur into each other with sounds, smells, feelings and emotions. Its the joy of having a house full of people that we love, or that we’re just meeting; its the sounds of laughter, or even tears, music, clanging flatware, clinging glasses; it’s the smells of food, garlic, bubbling tomato sauce, a sweet smell of chocolate, or strawberries, the tart tang of lemon in the room; it’s the sounds of children running through the rooms. Serving my friends and family, cooking for them, being there for them… that’s my love language, and it makes me very happy, with a huge smile on my face. That’s who I am, and that’s … According to Giselle.