Monthly Archives: September 2011

Fall Back

I’ve always found dressing during this transitional time of year extremely frustrating. The weather is annoyingly unpredictable, and I have no idea what to put on in the morning.  Menu-planning for company during seasonal transitions is equally exasperating.

After Labor Day, I’m tired of grilling and ready for some warming braises, stews, and roasts. The trouble is that when you decide what to serve to guests and go out grocery shopping, you don’t know if the thermometer will hit 90 degrees or only 50 on the day of your party.

If you enjoy using seasonal ingredients, as I do, another irritation is that you can’t forecast whether the produce your recipe calls for will be available. Is late-September too late to make a watermelon and mint salad?  Will there be an abundance of foraged mushrooms on hand for your company stew?

I’ve come up with a few strategies to help me segue into new seasons. First, I consult my grocer to find out whether I can count on the items I’ll want being in stock when I need them. Then, I select ingredients that adapt easily to different cooking methods or plan dishes that can be served at room temperature.

Some excellent choices would be roasted chicken with ratatouille and orzo salad or couscous; whole fish, which can be grilled or baked as need dictates; and marinated, butterflied leg of lamb, which is great grilled but can be broiled.  Another trick is to serve soup that works hot or cold, perhaps a spicy tomato bisque or vichyssoise.

Unlike makeshift fall wardrobes, these meals have charms of their own.

Ever Ready

One of the advantages of inviting people to my home (and I know that I’m not alone in this belief) is that the house gets a good cleaning and that repair jobs and decorating projects that were endlessly delayed finally get accomplished. Nice results, but so stressful!

I admit it: I’m not the best housekeeper! So the thought that having folks for dinner does not just mean making a nice meal, but also devoting a day or two to serious scrubbing ,is enough to discourage me from having guests.

It’s not that I don’t dislike grime or disorder (in my own defense, the bed is always made and the floors are frequently swept). But my brain usually is so preoccupied with more cerebral issues that I don’t even see the cobwebs collecting or the growing piles of mail…that is, until company is about to arrive.

To eliminate this obstacle to entertaining, I decided to pretend that every day is company day and institute a daily house inspection. It simply involves walking around, noticing what needs attention, and doing the little things that need to be done.

“Daily inspection” does not preclude the need for heavier cleaning when company actually is coming. But it does result in a more presentable place, so I’m more inclined to extend an impromptu invitation and more relaxed if people suddenly show up.

Hysteria Stoppers

In preparation for launching this blog, I did a fair amount of research and gave the topic considerable thought for months.

During that time, I practiced the suggestions of experts in various pertinent areas: Among them, cooking, party planning, design, cleaning, and stress-reduction. Based on the techniques that worked best for me, I developed a list of guidelines. Some are practical techniques and others are psychological tools…mind over madness, you might say.

I think that these stress-squelchers can be so helpful that I turned them into a permanent page on the site: Fundamentals. Please give them a try and see what works for you. Incidentally, the title I chose for the page is no coincidence. It begins with the word “fun,” which is the ultimate goal of home entertaining.