Being told what to bring to a party

blackcat333January 5, 2004

How does everyone feel about when you are invited to a party and told, "And you can bring..."? A couple we know has done this a few times, and although I always ASK if I can bring something when we are invited anywhere I kind of resent being TOLD.

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Kinda' touchy subject, in that-if this host/hostess regularly gives parties, to which you are always invited..and it's the norm that guests bring a dish-then maybe he/she 'assumed' you'd expect to bring something & just phrased it wrong. However-no excuses for them not to "ask" if you'd mind bringing a specific dish. If on the other hand-this is the 1st time you've been invited by this person-maybe take her a book on etiquette? LOL

    Bookmark   January 6, 2004 at 8:11AM
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most of my friends don't cook- so rather than stress them, when we're potlucking (and all parties are potlucks with us) I assign this one a bread, and this one a drink, and tell this one to bring some fresh veggies- mostly based on this one living near Baker's Street, and the latter living near the produce markets...

which allows those who cook free rein, since the 'staples' are taken care of by people who like to contribute, but have nothing to show off...

you sound like you're looking for an excuse to either ditch the party, or be offended by the hostess...very likely for a good reason, but maybe through a simple misunderstanding- regional, cultural, or social differences that the two of you haven't ever really discussed...

but if you don't share THIS with her- how is she to know that she's offended you? if she doesn't mean it- she'll apologize... and if she doesn't, then blowing her off's the 'correct' response.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2004 at 1:51PM
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No, I'm not trying to blow her off since our husbands are the ones who are really friends and we see them maybe once a year, but they are the only couple we know who have done this in such a direct way. Usually, we are asked,"Would you mind bringing something" or if it is a pot luck we are told when we are invited. I never mind bringing something to someones house since planning a party can get hectic and expensive! LOL I was just wondering if anyone else had experienced this situation or if it is the norm now and if I am wrong to feel a bit miffed.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2004 at 11:00AM
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maybe she's just stressed...I know more than a few of 'the other wives' who really seem to lose their minds (and their manners) before having anything bigger than another couple over for movies...

do you know her well enough to know if she's jsut a stress-ball who can't help herself (feel miffed, but have pity) or if she's normally that *cough* imperious (feel miffed, and be grateful you only have to visit once a year....then be gracious, and make everyone wish the party was at your house)

    Bookmark   January 14, 2004 at 4:56PM
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I'm supposing she just doesn't know any better....I would bet large bucks she didn't do it to pi$$ you off. Ignore it and hope she learns some manners.
When giving a "party" where I expect people to bring something...I preface the invitation with "I'm having a pot luck". A lot of people I invite for dinner ask what they can bring....and I always say "nothing!"....but when someone says "can I bring dessert" I always say "sure"!
Linda C

    Bookmark   January 14, 2004 at 7:39PM
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To tell you the truth, she's always been nice to me when we've seen each other and I'm sure she's not doing it on purpose.

Now, Linda C, when you say "nothing" and they bring a big plate of "something" anyway do you send them home with a lot of leftovers? LOL I just said "nothing" for Christmas Eve, mentioning we would have tons of food. I did mention (when asked) they could bring a bottle of something but not necessary since we had plenty of spirits.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2004 at 9:12AM
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Yep.....and if the "nothing" you brought didn't get eaten....I'm not storing it!
Linda C

    Bookmark   January 15, 2004 at 8:22PM
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i rarely play hostess but i often am invited and i like it when someone tells me to bring something - i am going to bring something anyway and i would prefer that it be something that is needed... it also depends upon the type of party too - i guess - the "can you bring ... " something is usually for a casual lets get together kind of thing ... rather than a more invite and rsvp kind of thing....
also inviting people to bring something particular can makes guests feel part of the process and perhaps less likely to cancel too...
and of course the practical - lets not have 8 people bring 8 different kinds of wine or 8 loafs of the same crusty bread...

    Bookmark   September 15, 2004 at 10:20PM
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When we have a party I usually ask my close friends to bring specific items. They know me well enough to not be offended by the request, and also to say "no" with no issues if they're unable to do so. (I was just asked to make a birthday cake and pie for a friend's party for her husband - I said "sure" to the pie, and ended up buying a birthday cake since I was busy).

For more casual friends, I'll say just bring yourselves, and if they press, I'll say bring beer or soda. Maybe dessert, if I know they'll bring something appropriate for the meal. I don't want anyone to fuss for something I'm hosting and I don't want any food that doesn't work with what I'm serving. I had a nice dinner party a few years ago and friends had offered to bring dessert and showed up with a bag of jelly beans! I also have a friend who's fruit salad was apples, oranges and bananas. Blech.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2004 at 8:35AM
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Does anyone have ideas on what to take to a super-bowl party? I was asked to bring a veggie tray. Any way to make something to do with football? Thanks for any thoughts.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2005 at 7:43PM
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blackcat, I am with you on this. I absolutely think that people who tell you what to bring are just plain cheap!

It was fine when I was 17 and going to dorm parties.

After 30, I dont think parties should be potlucks.

I also dont like to ask people to help clean up at our home and dont expect to help out at others'!

    Bookmark   September 26, 2005 at 6:04PM
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I truthfully don't even like people bringing something...I am not going to offend anyone by telling them NO but I usually say...No Please...I have it taken care of and if it is someone I am close to, I say...I'd really prefer to do it myself...For one thing I agree with a lot of what pharaoh said..

If I am going to have a's because I can afford to feed the group and I am not big on pot lucks...I want to plan what is going to be served etc...

Well crap here is the freaking truth...

When I do a party...I want it to me my party...I like doing it, I like planning the food and cooking the food and the decorations..etc all of it...the whole thing.. and I want the praise when it is being passed around...My party my accolades....I want people to think...Dam she did it again...great party...great hostess...

    Bookmark   December 14, 2005 at 12:50PM
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I agree with ArabellaMiller. It depends on the relationship you have with the people hosting the party. For instance, for close family and friends, I expect them to ask me to help out with something. Not only can having a party be a lot of work but it can also be a lot of money. My step-aunt (stepfather's sister, my mom and step father have been married for almost 30 years), recently hosted my step-grandmother's B-Day. She told/asked me to bring an appetizer or dessert. It was completely fine. I brought both because I knew it was for my family.

My best friend from college/former roomate and I do the same thing (I have known her for about 10 years). She will ask/tell me to bring a specific item to a party. I do the same. She is Vietnamese and I Mexican. Usually, when we ask each other to bring something it's from the other's culture, (ie, she ask be to bring fresh Salsa, or ask her to bring Vietnamese spring rolls). Our requests of each other are always for sides, or hor d'ouevres never a main staple.

With casual relationship people (even distant relatives or parents friends), if they ask, I request that they bring wine or beer. My husband and I don't drink beer so we don't know what to buy for other people.

I never ask people to bring desserts. I am very picky about the taste of frosting, pie fillings, etc. I also detest the taste of cheap ice cream. Worst case scenario if I am in a hurry for dessert, I'll bake an apple crisp and by Breyer's Vanilla Bean Ice cream.

I don't know if it is a cultural thing, but with my friends and family, if we say that "We are having a bbq," it is assumed that everyone is bring something. These bbqs normally happen when an out of state relative visits or it's someone's important b-day (grandpa). Usually, there are tons of friends and relatives (20-30+). All the locals, cook up a storm (sides, veggies, desserts) and take it to the place where the bbq is being held. Usually, my mom or one of the semi-elders (50+, NOT the elders 70+) is already bbqing meat on prem.

It doesn't seem like blackcat333 has a very close relationship with the wife. I do think that the wife should ask a little nicer because the relationship isn't close. Perhaps, you should suggest going to a nice restaurant. Who know's maybe she is under a lot of stress and her husband pushes her to host a dinner. Just out of curiosity, when you are at their house, do you see him helping her? I love my husband but he is absolutely useless when it comes to helping out in the kitchen. Especially for a "formal dinner. Granted, DH is the one cleaning the house (vaccuming, cleaning the bathrooms, etc) it still would be nice to have help in the kitchen. Maybe she has the same dilenma.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2005 at 11:51PM
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I agree that it depends on the relationship. Among our very close group of four families, we eat at each others' homes so often, and for so many years, that we all just take it for granted and tell each other what to bring or what we will bring or "Don't bring anything, I've got a ton of stuff already" or "I'm not bringing anything because I'll be coming straight from the airport" or whatever. This is probably the case for most close friends and family members, I would bet. But then, so are taking off our shoes, falling asleep on the couch, splitting the leftovers, and other things we wouldn't consider "company manners" that we do at each others' homes!

Now that I think of it, though, if someone I didn't know so well asked me to bring something, I think that rather than offended, I would be flattered, because to me it would feel like these people consider me like family. I suppose it would depend upon whether they asked me to bring "that fabulous dip you make" as opposed to "three big bottles of Coke"!

    Bookmark   January 19, 2006 at 10:41PM
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I live on the beach so I usally throw most of the family party's....but for Christmas we go to my husbands family home. I asked if I could bring something 2 years ago and my SIL said yes...make a leg of lamb!!! I was speechless...#1.I dont eat meat and they know it and #2 she was serious! I made it and I never ask if they want me to bring something anymore.I just bring a dessert & wine... Live & Learn.....
To Foggy....... why not make this platter w/ the spinach dip in a hollowed out "long football shaped" bread.......??? Good Luck..NJ

Here is a link that might be useful: veggy bowl

    Bookmark   January 25, 2006 at 5:41AM
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We just went to a party that took this to an extreme, I thought.

It wasn't a small dinner party, or a pot luck for a group of close friends -- it was a large goodbye party for some friends who are moving. There was a printed invitation from two couples who were the "hosts," and the party was at one of their homes.

I put that in quotes because the invitation said, "Please bring an appetizer or dessert and a bottle of wine." I thought that was a little odd -- this is not a group of starving students; we're mostly in our 50s or so -- but okay, fine. Maybe the hosts were providing a main course, although that would be an awful lot of food, if every single/couple brought a whole dish.

But they didn't. The only offerings were the appetizers, desserts and wine the guests brought -- the "hosts" provided NOTHING. Well, let me modify that: there were paper plates, cups, and napkins and a couple of bottles of soda, and some ice -- maybe they provided that. At the end of the evening, they passed around champagne for a toast -- in the tiniest plastic "champagne glasses" you can imagine (maybe 1/2 oz.); I am guessing they were from a craft shop, intended for something like holding one or two Jordan almonds.

Now, I don't think there is anything wrong with a potluck, or even a party where you ask some of the guests to bring a dessert or something. (And I'm not even talking about small gatherings of close friends, in which I feel like anything goes.) But this was a big party, with printed invitations, asking the guests to provide not only the food, but the wine, too (and then some; I'm sure every couple didn't drink a whole bottle). On top of that, this was an occasion for which we brought a gift for the guests of honor.

The food was delicious, as it always is when people make their specialties, and of course there was plenty of it, although not enough of any item for more than a small proportion of the 60 some guests to try. But I felt it wasn't so nice for the hosts to "entertain" in a way that made their guests do ALL the work. Demanding that we provide a dish AND a bottle of wine was probably what put it over the top for me!

Thanks for listening.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 10:39AM
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I suppose that she wanted to make sure that they did not end up with 10 salads and no side dishes, (which may have happened to her at a previous party) and so she thought instead she would "assign" people a dish so it did not happen again, and there would be a variety of foods. It has been awhile since I have been to a potluck at someones home, but I guess if I was going to bring something anyway, it would be nice to bring what she actually needed. Would it bother me? Probably not, unless it was a day I was really stretched for time. I guess a pot luck in my mind is usually very, very casual, not an actual dinner party.
Actually, on family holidays someone will bring the sweet potato casserole, and someone else will bring a pie, etc., so I take that back. We do contribute something needed for the dinner. But that is with family.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 12:47PM
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Bringing this old string back up again ...

The other day, we went to a little at-home reception for a couple that had been married out of town a few months ago. I think we had been invited to the wedding, but we didn't go. There was something about this invitation that just put me off, like it was a way to generate a bunch more presents for their daughter, but to do it as cheaply as possible for the guests, and I was having trouble figuring out why.

The party was for desserts in the middle of a Sunday afternoon. Now, I truly don't think there is anything wrong or cheap at all about such a party, and I have been invited to and attended many such events, and none ever gave me this feeling. I would give one myself. So what was it?

Finally I realized why: it was one of the two couples who had "hosted" that goodbye party last year.

I just couldn't shake the subconscious feeling that these people, who are very nice in other ways, just don't have any sense of entertaining with any generosity or thought for doing something nice for their guests at all. Once they had behaved inhospitably, it stuck, even if it isn't fair.

It's a pity, too, because this party was perfectly nice. The desserts were very good (if a little sparse), and they had hired a pianist, which was lovely. I had a nice time meeting their new son-in-law. But I found myself thinking maybe they could have served all the wine they had scored when they gave that party last year!

So what I learned yet again is that if you are going to entertain, do it with an open hand. That doesn't mean a non-meal reception at home isn't just fine! Nor does it mean to break the bank, or that every party has to be lavish or large, by any means, even if you can afford it. But there is a big difference between "low cost" and "cheap." Whatever you do, do it with an eye to your guests' pleasure and comfort. Everyone has a budget, but stick to it by either scaling down the size of the guest list OR the expenses of the arrangements. DON'T try to have it both ways by planning a big party with a full meal, and then asking your "guests" to shoulder pretty much all the work and all the expense, perhaps especially at an event where they will also be bringing a gift.

And the thing I learned new is that if you create the impression that you were thinking, "How cheaply can we get away with this?" instead of "How can we give our guests a good time," that feeling is going to carry over to your next party, too!

[Oh -- and don't worry -- I didn't say anything to anyone but YOU about this. I just told the hosts that the party was lovely and I had a nice time -- which was true.]

    Bookmark   February 22, 2008 at 11:25AM
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Interesting thread! I don't mind being told what to bring but in my group of friends, it's pretty much understood that we'll bring something when invited. I'm also one who means it when I say Don't bring anything, so when someone tells me not to bring anything, I don't.

But when someone tells me what to bring, I prefer it to be a category, such as appetizer or dessert. Then I can decide what I want to make. Unless they are specifically requesting a particular dish I've made before and want me to make again, which is fine too.

But recently I was invited to a party and asked, what can I bring? and they told me a specific thing. Now the reason I didn't like that is because it was something that didn't require cooking, and I'm known in my circles as someone who cooks and I usually get compliments on whatever I make. This was a party where there would be several of my regular circle of friends in addition to a lot of people I don't know (or know very well).

I did bring what they wanted, thinking that they probably had a set menu in mind, and this was the exact thing they needed to fill the bill. Well it turned out that it was a huge party, lots and lots o' food, no matter what I brought it would have been fine so the specific thing they requested was not specifically needed and I would have been happier bringing something I'd figured out on my own.

No biggie really but I wondered if they weren't used to people asking WHAT to bring, and didn't really get that the best answer would have been a category instead of being so specific. I do believe most everyone just brought whatever they wanted because there was a pretty big overabundance of desserts, which, IME, is what you get when people decide what to bring without at least some guidance.

Anyway, this party is an annual event, we went again this year and when I RSVP'd I just said, I'll bring an appetizer & wine, and left it at that. Easiest all around. It's a fun party and the savory food gets eaten as if locusts have descended and desserts are overflowing.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2008 at 3:37PM
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I think it depends on what kind of party it is. If it's a party where you're also expected to bring a gift, then you shouldn't ask people to bring food as well. If they offer and you want to take them up on it, fine.

When we lived in Calif, I rarely asked anyone to bring anything and was rarely asked to bring anything. If people offered to bring something, it was usually just said bring dessert if you want, or sometimes a salad. But normally it wasn't asked.

Then we moved to Washington and it's expected at any party that people will chip in and help bring all the food and drink. Some people will let you bring whatever and some will ask for specific things. I usually am doing a real specific menu so I will ask for specific things, like bring a dessert or bring an appetizer. Or if I know that someone makes something I really like, I'll ask them if they'll bring that. But we are all real good friends and no one seems to mind. It was wierd to move here and find things socially so different. Now that I've adapted, I love not having to make the whole meal!

And I've learned over the years, even back when I lived in Calif, instead of offering to bring something and getting stuck being told to bring something you don't want to, I'd say, would you like me to bring _____? That way I got to bring what I wanted. I love cooking, so I've never minded.

Also, I'll add, when we lived in Calif and the custom was not to ask people to bring things, you never showed up without a bottle of wine and/or hostess gift. Here, where the custom is to bring stuff, I almost never get a hostess gift.


    Bookmark   March 2, 2008 at 8:34PM
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I think Gwen's comments are pretty true. In California they don't often bring food unless its a neighborhood potluck but they do come up with hostess gifts, which can be spiced nuts or a bottle of wine. I suspect that it has more to do with the neighborhood and the age of the people.
Actually I find as people get older they tend to entertain less than when they had smaller children. Maybe its because so often that with the grandchildren, family and close friends, you already have a houseful, and its not as though other people are that appreciative of all the money, time and effort it takes. They don't often entertain in return. We have started spending our money traveling and its way more fun.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2008 at 6:02PM
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Interesting...I find that as the kids get out of the house, my friends tend to entertain more....then after retirement, people seem to entertain less....or perhaps just more family and fewer friends as guests as the family is growing.
Linda C

    Bookmark   March 21, 2008 at 7:35PM
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LOL --

Friday, I got a thank you note from that couple for whom I attended that party in January. That isn't as long a delay as others have reported here, for sure -- but it isn't going to set any promptness records, either (no huge guest list, picture, or other special thing, either; just 3 conventional sentences).

Not a big deal at all. But in the same day's mail, I also received a thank-you note for a gift we gave about 2 weeks ago, and the contrast made the first couple seem all that much lazier. So if you are planning on taking your sweet time thanking people, keep in mind that this could happen to you, too.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2008 at 3:21PM
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Your talk of entertaining as lavishly as your pocketbook allows reminds me of a party I threw a lot of years ago for my husband's birthday. We had just bought a new house and a were "poor" as well as wanting to show off the house. His birthday was on a Sunday and I knew he had a task at church that would keep him there about 20 minutes afterward.
I had a brunch party, bloody marys ( vodka and tomato juice is cheap, and I mixed my own spices) a breakfast casserole with eggs cheese and sausage (w e had our own hog butchered and I had a freezer full of sausage...and my husband was in the cheese business so cheese was also cheap to us)..I made lots of rolls and sticky buns ahead and froze them, coffee and a bowl of fruit and I had a great party for about $1.00 per person ( but that was lots of years ago !)....but I worked my tail off!!
The point being if you are doing a party cheaply, you best be doing a lot of work, if you don't want to spend the time, then be prepared to buy ready made or hire stuff done, but don't depend on your guests to "give the party". That's not giving a party, that's arranging a potluck.
Linda c

    Bookmark   April 22, 2008 at 10:44AM
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As mentioned by several others..."it depends"

At the cottage it is a given that everyone pitches in with food and drink, towels and linens appreciated too! Mind you I never have to ask anyone , they always ask what they can bring.

For a family party/celebration here at home I always set the menu and tell everyone what to bring. I host all the events and to do anything else would be ridiculously expensive. I 'll do the work, clean the house after etc but I expect them to contribute to the meal.

For a party, that I am throwing either here or at the cottage, I would never ask anyone to bring a thing and if asked, I say, "just yourself". It gives me great pleasure to entertain others and I like to be in control of the menu.

To answer the OP's question. I think it is inappropriate to ask casual acquaintances to bring a dish to a party you are hosting . I wouldn't be offended or resent it, I would just think they didn't know any better.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2008 at 12:25PM
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I wasn't going to add this to my post but it's such a good story I feel I have to share it. This is an example of asking folk to bring something in the extreme. I promise you it is a true story!!!!

The lady that has the cottage next to us is a sweetheart but she could never be described as deep. You scratch the surface, you scratch the bottom! Sweet but simple.

Her cottage "rule" is that all guests must bring one main meal , one appetizer, refreshments and all their own linens.

Two years ago she had guests staying for 4 days who had traveled all the way from Newfoundland. That would be a 3 1/2 hour flight and then a three hour drive.

It just so happens that the year before we had all gone to Newfoundland and met these folk, business associates of my cottage neighbour. I can't tell you how well we were treated and the absolute generosity of these folk. Then again Newfoundlanders are well know for their hospitality. Just ask the thousands of Americans stranded there when their planes were forced to land 911.

Anyhow, she said a cottage rule, is a cottage rule, and these poor folk packed all their own linens and stopped on the drive from the airport to buy all the food for a down home Newfoundland boil...they were so gracious. Kicker is she said it was 4 days and she really should have told them to bring two meals. Swear I am not telling a tale, this happened!

I don't think I would have been so gracious but it taught me a gracious, take the high road and so what if it's a bit galling.

PS : I did throw them a huge Haliburton style cottage BBQ and nobody had to bring anything! LOL

    Bookmark   April 22, 2008 at 12:47PM
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I am hosting 50 plus people tomorrow and I don't want anyone to bring a thing! (Why am I sitting here reading Gardenweb when there is so much to do??) I did wonder if it is rude to keep telling people "nothing" to the question, "What can I bring?"

The reality is, people will bring something if they feel they have to, but I don't want to be one of those people that makes everyone. Also, I am planning the table and serving pieces. I don't always like shoe-horning in someones Tupperware bowl in the middle of my serving pieces. (Although I do it graciously.)

I say if I invite you, I want to make you feel like a GUEST, not like you packed your own lunch.

Thanks. Hey, I had better get back to work.

Julia in Woodinville, WA

    Bookmark   July 25, 2008 at 1:20PM
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Hope you had fun! No it is not rude. When I am asked not to bring anything than I do not bring food but may bring a hostess gift that and I try to make sure is not something the hostess will feel she has to put out like wine or dessert. I usually bring a gift bag with lotions or cooking oils or soaps or chocolates and say "this is something for you to enjoy later." BIL is notorious for showing up with "his favorite" (read better) wine and opening and grandstanding...oh well...sometimes I do now ask him to bring the wine...

    Bookmark   July 28, 2008 at 9:35PM
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