A Night at the Theater

Last weekend, Audley and I attended the traveling production of Broadway’s “Billy Elliot” in Greenville for a fun day after Valentine’s date.  
I love nothing better than taking in a live show with Audley whether it be a musical or ballet or the symphony! It’s such a relaxing, entertaining and fabulous way to spend an evening.  Nothing is more exciting and surprising than live theater performances!

Billy Elliot is set during the great coal miners strike in Great Britain during the 1980’s and tells the story of a young boy who trades his boxing gloves for dance shoes.  Such a great story with history woven throughout and a theme of never give up on your dreams.  I loved the dance numbers and most of the music, although I do wish musicals didn’t incorporate so much vulgar language.  Even from the mouths of the children in the play…. 
That bothers me.
But, unfortunately, in our society, foul language is too often accepted and is found even in novels and television shows geared towards my teenagers.
But enough of this soapbox….  I have another one to get on!
Attending a live performance is much different than loading up and catching a movie, but it is quite obvious that the class and etiquette that used to be affiliated with live productions is no longer respected in the eyes of many.  I was quite disappointed and distracted by people talking during the show, entering the performance late, and especially in the attire of most of the theater patrons.
I guess I am an old soul.  I love good old-fashioned manners and doing things the proper way.

So here are a few Do’s & Don’ts for attending a live theater production:

DO dress for the occasion.  You don’t have to go formal, although it is accepted for a night performance, but think church clothes.  A pretty dress for the ladies, a button down and tie for the gentleman.  Jeans are not acceptable for either sex.  For a matinee a little more casual is accepted, and of course a school play is definitely a casual event, but still dress nice.

And ladies, leave the jingly jewelry behind.

Even when I was at my heaviest, I didn’t leave the house without make-up on, hair fixed and wearing clothing that was appropriate for wherever I was going.
Even now, I see that my teenagers are dressed for their own occasions from school & church clothing to not ever leaving the house in their pajamas!  We dress to travel, we dress to go out to eat, and while we are often overdressed if we go to Walmart (I seriously avoid that place), we are dressed in clothing without holes, hair fixed and clean.
 I find nothing more offensive than to be dining out with the family in a nice restaurant and find ourselves seated by people who are dressed like they rolled out of bed and went into public.
It’s just plain respect for yourself to dress for the occasion and definitely respect for those around you!
Dress up when you go to the theater!

DO take a bath before going to the theater.  Yes, people have to be told this.  Theater seating is close and you will be there for 2-3 hours.  Make sure you smell good and don’t wear too much fragrance.  You don’t want to make people sick or risk allergies to products you might wear.

DO be on time.  It is so rude to have to climb over people once the who has begun.  Not only is it rude to climb over others, it is so distracting for the actors and actresses on stage.  They see the movements and it can be very bothersome!
Live theater does not include 20 minutes of previews that you can slip in during.  When the lights dim, the show goes on.
If something has happened that has made you late, please have the courtesy to wait in the back of the theater until the first act has ended.  It may not be the most comfortable for you, but I can assure you that it will be appreciated by others attending the show!

DO be prepared.  If your tickets are at will-call, be there early to pick them up.  Have your tickets handy at all times so that when as usher asks to see them, you have them.  If you know you seats are in the center of the aisle, try to seat yourself early so that you aren’t having to step over others to reach them.

DO applaud the musicians as they are introduced before the curtain arises.  The audience’s enthusiasm truly sets the tone for the performance.  Also applaud the performers after a well-sung number or dance scene.  At the end of the show, also show your approval for the performance, but after the stars have taken their final bow, it’s time to go.  Multiple encores are exhausting for everyone, especially the performers who are already tired after a long show!

FYI:  It is tradition to cheer for musical performers using an Italian cheer “bravo” which means “well done!”  Shout “bravo” for a male performer and “brava” for a female.  If it is a group of performers, use the term “bravi” and “brave” if the group is all females.
I learned this in a theater class that I took in college, although I can only think of once I have used the term “bravo“.

DON’T talk during the performance.  Once again not only is it distracting for the audience, it is distracting for the performers.

DON’T bring food or drink into live theater.  Most evening performances don’t begin until 8:00 which does leave plenty of time for you to eat prior to arrival.  Besides, the noises of candy wrappers rattling or drinks being turned up are distracting to everyone.  It is so easy to miss a line during a live performance, don’t be the cause of several people missing what was said.

DON’T play on your phones, iPads, etc….  You can go an hour and a half without social media, checking email or texting someone.  Most all live performances have an intermission, so surly you can wait until then to see who has messaged you.

DON’T use flash photography during a live performance.  This really should be self explanatory, but you never know.  Besides, with most Broadway based musicals, photography is forbidden period as it is illegal.

DON’T go to sleep.  Seriously, how rude is that?  If you find a performance boring or not your “cup of tea” leave at intermission.  If you are tired, plan ahead to get a nap before attending the show.

If you have never attended a live performance, you are not too old to see one and become hooked!  From high school plays (which are a little less formal) to the symphony there are so many options.  

Do you like live productions?

Easy Buffet Party Planning

Last weekend I had the privilege of catering a wedding for a sweet friend of mine.  While I am not a pro, occasionally catering has become a fun hobby for me.  For this particular wedding I made the cake, and set a buffet with heavy hors d’oeuvres.  It was simple yet fairly elegant which is something most of us strive for when doing any type of entertaining.

We all like to have friends and family over in our homes, but often it can be stressful, especially when everyone is coming over to your house for dinner and you want it to be “just so perfect.”  Nothing is perfect, so the easiest thing to do is let that notion leave your head.  Your goal as a hostess is to create a memorable evening without stressing yourself out through the budget, decorating and menu!

And it really can be done!

Entertaining has nothing to do with using a lot of money to impress people, it’s about making memories for all (including yourself) to cherish and creating moments that build close and lasting relationships.  After all, the main reason we have friends and family over is to spend time with them, and they accept your invitation because they want to spend time with you!
If you are a stressed out host/hostess, you will have stressed out guests!  If you set the mood, relax, and have fun, your guests will as well.

 With Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays right around the corner (which means many of us will be opening our homes), I thought it might be a good time to share a few of my basics for hosting a little soiree in our homes. The easiest way I have found to entertain is through a buffet. Set up correctly, buffets are a classy and practical way to serve large numbers (and work well for small groups as well) at one time as well as remove any pressure from setting that perfect table!

Here are just a few ways I plan out my buffet before entertaining:

**Choose your theme.  Your imagination is your greatest gift, use it!  Host a tea, an open house, a bowl party, an Oscar night dinner, a caroling party, costume party, murder mystery dinner, or a dessert buffet.

**Determine your menu.  If you are having friends over to watch football on New Years Day, you probably don’t want a menu filled with “high maintenance” foods such as a crown roast or salmon.  A hamburger or BBQ buffet would be perfect as would heavy appetizers such as chicken wings, chips and dips.  How are you going to enjoy the games if you are constantly in the kitchen cooking food, so keep that menu simple!

A few other easy appetizer ideas are stuffed mushroom caps, lamb meatballs w/ a dip,  shrimp ceviche, Buffalo wings w/ blue cheese dip, or chicken salad.

BBQ Chicken buffet for a Roarin’ 20’s party

**Your guests really don’t care if you made all of the food, or if some (or all) of it is take-out!  If you know that you can purchase a dish that tastes better than you can make it, then do so.  Just remember to throw out the take-out containers and serve it as you are serving everything else.  And don’t forget to delegate dishes as well!  A themed “pot-luck” is really easy and a lot of fun!

**Plan your serving pieces ahead of time.  Set out and label the platters you will use a couple of days a head of time so that you aren’t racing last minute trying to find that certain platter!

**Your buffet should look full!  If your table is large, group your food together instead of spreading it out.  At the end set a cold drink or coffee bar.  Everything in one place!  Serve your food on matching or at least coordinating dishes and let it play a role in your decorating.  Mixed with candles and a few accessories, you have a decorated table.

**Keep your buffet balanced.  Don’t serve just a bevy of proteins; throw in some fruit, a vegetable (a crudite is perfect for this) and even dessert.

**Set your plates at the beginning of the buffet, leaving silverware and napkins at the end.  It keeps everyone from performing a juggling act while trying to fix their plate.  Also decide if you want a line down both sides of your buffet, or does it work better in your space to have guest make a loop.  No matter which way you set it up, make it easy to access all of the food.

Here are a few ideas for arranging your buffet:

For this last buffet I set up, I did a line down both sides. For hors d’oeuvres  I prefer to have my dishes set in a specific order:  cold items, followed by any hot entrees, salad, and then setting dessert up on a separate table.  I used my cheese platter as the centerpiece of the table.

For a dinner buffet I would set it up a little differently:

*Appetizer or soup
*Fish or soup
*Main Course(s)
*Side dishes
*Salad
*Cheese and/or fruit
*Dessert (which I still to prefer in a separate location if the space is available

**If you are hosting a “come and go” event, set up different “stations” for serving foods as people mingle.  Set out appetizers in the living room, cocktails in the dining room, dessert by the fireplace …. this allows your guests to mix it up and not feel confined by the space.

**Keep your decor seasonal or simple. Top your table with a pretty tablecloth add, your food, and a few accessories.  You can’t go wrong with candles.  Scatter votives down your table, or create a display of pillar candles (both unscented of course) on a mirror.  I used my autumn pumpkins for decorating last weekend, but I have even let a cake serve as a centerpiece in the past (since it was the only dessert). 


Elevate a few platters on concealed boxes to create height and drama to your table.


See how easy it is?  Just let your imagination go and enjoy hosting a party in your home!


 Will you host friends or family in your home this holiday season?  It’s not too late to plan something, and definitely not to early to plan details of your event.  


Pay It Forward

When we moved to South Carolina several months back, we had several interesting experiences with people as we settled in.

 On one hand we had a neighbor who spray painted the property lines so my roses would not even hang over, and on the other we had a stay-at-home mom of three little boys who made homemade bread and brought it to welcome us to the neighborhood.

The latter was such a wonderful feeling that truly eased my mind over this big decision we had made in our lives!  Knowing how I felt (five and half hours away from all family, trying to figure out where I belonged), when one of Audley’s co-workers moved his family down from Philly, I knew I needed to pay forward the kindness extended to us.

What does every family need when moving into a new home?

Supper!

I decided to fix a lasagna with salad (including dressing) and bread to carry over fully prepared so all they had to do was take a break from unpacking and enjoy supper together.

I love this lasagna recipe that I inherited from my mother.  She made it when I was growing up and it has always been a hit with my own children.

Savory Lasagna

1 pound extra-lean ground beef
1 pound mild Italian sausage, ground
1 Tablespoon garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
4 6 oz. cans tomato paste
2 cups diced tomatoes
1 16 oz. cup of skim cottage cheese
1 cup Grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons parsley
1 Tablespoon basil
1 Tablespoon oregano
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 box lasagna noodles
16 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese

Prepare your lasagna noodles according to package directions and drain.  At the same time, combine the ground beef and Italian sausage in a skillet with the garlic and salt.  Brown the meat, drain it, and pour in a mixing bowl.  Add the tomato paste, diced tomatoes and oregano to the cooked meats and set aside.

In another mixing bowl, mix together the cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, parsley, basil and eggs.

Using a 9×13 pan, spread about 3/4 cups of the meat and tomato mixture across the bottom of the pan (this will help keep the noodles from sticking to the pan).  It doesn’t have to cover the whole pan, just give a base.

Add a layer of noodles on top of the meat, another layer of the meat mixture and a layer of the cottage cheese mixture.  Repeat the process a second time.  After you have put the last of your cottage cheese on, add one more layer of noodles (you will have three divisions of noodles total, two of the filling), then top with the shredded mozzarella cheese.

Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees about 15 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake another 10-15 minutes until bubbly and heated through.

This is a great recipe for preparing in advance and freezing, or just cooking later in the day.  If you do either of these, (thawing out the lasagna first in the refrigerator works best) cook about 45 minutes (possibly longer) in order for it to heat through.  I have never cooked it frozen, but I would say close to an hour and a half (covered with foil).
Just check on it as it is cooking!!


TIPS FOR PREPARING SUPPER FOR A NEW NEIGHBOR:

**Make it easy.  Chose a filling one pan meal like lasagna, spaghetti pie or a casserole.

**Pick something that is popular with most everyone in the general public.  Deciding to experiment on the neighbors is probably not a good idea!

**Carry everything over in pans/bowls that can be trashed.  Someone who has just moved in has enough to organize without having to wash dishes as well.

**Unless you are helping unpack or clean your new neighbor’s house, don’t hang around expecting an invite to supper.  Seriously, if you fixed your favorite dish to carry over, fix extras to share with your own family and let your neighbors enjoy a peaceful supper.  Being a mooch the first time you meet them will make a bigger impression than the food you carried over.  There will be plenty of time to get to know them in the upcoming weeks!

** Carry a little welcome gift.  Leave them your phone numbers so that they have at least one person to contact for questions and help.

When I carried supper over, I also carried a little welcome basket.  Since they have moved to the South from the Philly area, I decided to give them a Southern welcome by gifting Mason jars and sweet tea.

I also included chocolate chip cookies (with the South Carolina Palmetto) for their children.

It brought quite a laugh which is a great way to break the ice!

Linking up with Foodie Friday this week;  drop in at Designs By Gollum for more savory treats!

{Meet} The Neighbors

Sometimes I think common courtesies have totally disappeared from our society.  More often than not, I feel like we live in the most selfish culture in the world.  For example, last week, I had a flat tire on the interstate about 10:00 at night with my son with me.  Stranded on the side of the road, not one single person even stopped to help, much less even move over to keep from blowing us off the road as people sped by in their cars!  Fortunately, Audley was behind me, and though I knew he was taking care of things,  he was gone 45 minutes!  If you have never been stranded on the interstate late at night, it can be quite  scary!  
As if that little instance didn’t bother me enough, we pulled into our driveway over the weekend to find our neighbor spray painting the property line.  It seems my pretty little pussy willow tree Audley planted had crossed over the boundary (part of it was on our side!) and he didn’t like it. 
{Talk about petty!}
I guess my point is that it often seems so many people are scared or even don’t care anymore about feelings or emotions of others around them.  No one communicates, they just react, or even ignore those around them.  It is quite discouraging, especially when you are trying to teach your own children to put others first.
There is a ray of sunshine amid the clouds.  Between these two events, one of our new neighbors walked over with her little boy to bring a loaf of fresh banana-nut bread to welcome us to the neighborhood and introduce herself.
It truly made my whole day and warmed my heart!
But it also got me to thinking; would I do the same for someone else?  I would like to think so!  
In Alabama my nearest neighbors were my in-laws and a pasture of cattle.  I always noticed when new cows were added to the pasture, so surely I would become acquainted with our neighborhood well enough to know when someone new moves in.  Kind of like “Wisteria Lane” without the drama!
In a era of self gratitude, what is acceptable when meeting new neighbors?  
*This is the one time it is perfectly acceptable to venture out of your comfort zone and take a stroll next door to meet your newest neighbor without calling first.  The whole idea is just to say hello and welcome them to the neighborhood.  
*Perhaps you have noticed your neighbor likes to walk their dog the same time every day, or work in the yard.  Maybe you have seen that they leave to pick their children from school the same time everyday.  Use that time for a quick hello.  
*Don’t wait until the dinner hour approaches to pop in, and certainly don’t make it a long visit!  
Meeting new people can be awkward sometimes.  There is not really a specific time frame for meeting a new neighbor, but if you have acknowledged them with a nod or slight wave on several occasions, you really ought to take five minutes to introduce yourself.  Sharing a written list of area highlights or great places to shop would be a most welcoming gesture.  While an offer to babysit may not be as acceptable since you are obviously unknown, offering to help move furniture or haul off empty boxes would be a huge help to those just moving in.  If you would like to welcome a neighbor with a gift, a loaf of homemade bread, a candle, wreath for the door, even a six-pack of pansies go a long way to making someone feel at ease. 
 What ever you do,  don’t spend your visit badmouthing other neighbors or putting down the neighborhood.  Moving is stressful enough without creating the feeling that someone may have made a huge mistake in your choice!

Besides, gossiping does not make anyone look good.
Whether you have lived in your neighborhood for a while or are new, there are common courtesies that will make us all good neighbors.
*Say hello or wave to your neighbors whenever you see them.  A smile and wave can go a long way to brightening a dreary day.
*When you have time, stop and talk.  There is no better way to get to know someone than to stop and talk! It doesn’t have to be a long chat.  If you want to visit longer, plan a lunch.
*Call ahead before visiting.  Make sure it’s a good time to stop by.  Once friendships are established, this may change to a more casual drop-in, but as you are first getting to know people, always call first.
*Don’t make your visit an all-day affair or sit around and wait on an invite to dinner.  We all have things to do, even if it is just folding clothes.  There is a time to linger and a time to be brief.  Know those times wisely.
*Don’t take advantage of a neighbor’s generosity.  If they offer to help with something, it is fine to accept, but don’t abuse the offer.  
*Honor your neighbor’s privacy and property.  Clean up after you dog if he visits their yard and don’t cut through yards to get somewhere else.  
*Keep your yard looking nice.  In an area with manicured yards, an unkept one will stick out like a black-eye.
*Most of all, say thank you.  No one likes to feel unappreciated, ever.  And if a neighbor is willing to do something for you, be sure to return the favor.
{Several of these ideas have been adapted from Emily Post’s Etiquette, 2011}

 Who knows, maybe if we all try to be good neighbors, stopping to help someone will seem more the norm and less the trouble.
I am working on a post this week to help you with stocking your pantry in Kitchen Matters this week and I have a fabulous recipe for a a refreshing strawberry pie I can’t wait to share!  I hope you will stop back by to check it all out!