am I a bad guest?

girlwithaspirinOctober 2, 2006

Hi all. Okay, so social graces and formalities aren't my strong suit. But I hate being rude, and I fear that I am.

Whenever I'm invited to dinner or a party, I ask what I can bring. Invariably, the response is, "Nothing! Just yourself." So I bring a bottle of wine. But lately, I seeing that almost everyone else has made something... an hors d'oeuvre, a fruit plate, a dessert.

It's clear these people haven't asked what to bring -- probably because they know the host will say "Nothing!" They've just made something. Is that actually what I should be doing?

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Personally, I hate it when people bring something to serve for that night. It may not go with, or it could be a repeat of something I'm serving. I would never just bring something to be enjoyed at the party. Even wine can be put away. Although, muffins or banana bread and such to be eaten the next day, is ok to bring, IMHO.

Now, what I really think may be happening is that the people keep asking and even offer a suggestion. Conversations may go:

What can I bring?
Nothing, Just yourself.
No, really, how about I bring something?
You really don't need to?
Oh, what about a cheeseball? I saw one on Oprah I really want to try.
Oh, you don't need to go through the work.
No, I really want to try it; what better place than for your party?
Well, ok, then, I'll put you down for that, Thanks.

I know what you mean though. Sometimes I feel like I'm not doing what I should be. It's best to know your host and if they're the kind of people that really want people to bring stuff or not. You're not doing anything wrong, IMHO.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2006 at 3:48PM
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When someone shows up with "something" I haven't planned on, I am not at all pleased!
YOU are the good guest....the others are not!
Ask.."Can I bring something?"...if they say "dessert" or "salad" or "an appetiser"...why than do that....but to show up with a surpries is beyond rude to me.
Linda C

    Bookmark   October 2, 2006 at 10:42PM
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Girlwithaspirin, you aren't doing anything wrong at all. I think that the other guests aren't, either, UNLESS they are insisting that the offering be served that night. If the hosts don't want to serve it, they should just look at it the same as a bottle of wine or a box of candy; a gift for them to enjoy whenever they wish, which may or not be that party.

I don't think it's so bad when someone asks what they can bring. It's very usual in my community. If it's a very casual get together among close friends, the invitee might say something like, "Want us to bring dessert?" Then the host might say either "Sure, that'd be great," or "You know what, I have a dessert; if you really want to bring something, how about salad or some bread from that good bakery near you?" or "Actually, I think I'm all set, so don't bother." That's just how close friends and family do. (The "offer" might even be as ungracious as "I have 3/4 of a cake left over that we are never going to eat, so I'm bringing it, and no arguments!" But we don't mind.)

So the people in girlwithaspirin's circle may just be used to the same type of entertaining. They may find it distancing to be told that people are offended by gifts from their kitchen, and may feel like they are just expected to be an audience, not a participant, as a real friend would be.

When I invite people for a more formal dinner party, the ones who are close friends usually still offer, but then I say something like, "No, thanks, not this time! It's a Real Grown Up Dinner Party, and I am having fun doing it all myself." It helps that we send written invitations when we want to get that message across.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2006 at 5:28PM
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I don't think you're a bad guest at all! When you ask what to bring, that is the host's chance to say, dessert or salad or whatever. If the host says "nothing" then nothing it is. I am another one who doesn't like people to bring things I didn't plan on. And I'm pretty up front when people ask what to bring. If I say nothing, I mean nothing. And if someone insists, I usually suggest they bring wine or flowers because that's something that won't interfere with my food plans.

So, the fact that you do bring wine is ideal. They can open it if it goes with the meal and they wish to serve it, or they can put it away and consider it to be a gift for consumption at a later date.

If the host was in fact hoping you'd bring something and was just being coy when you asked, hoping you'd insist, well, that's his/her problem. I don't insist and I'd rather my guests don't insist. Might as well say what you want right up front!

    Bookmark   October 4, 2006 at 9:32AM
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I even go so far as to NOT chill a white or specifically say that the red I have brought can be tucked away for another time. I'd never bring something expecting it to be served. Nor do I want someone doing that to me.

I also don't like to have to think about what to ask people to bring if they offer...often, my menu is not fully formed until the day of anyway! I can't even ask for help in the kitchen because I just don't work that way...don't delegate well when dinner is a serious affair.

GWA, it sounds like you are a good guest and furthermore you're welcome (with your bottle of wine) in my kitchen anytime!

    Bookmark   October 4, 2006 at 9:17PM
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You are NOT a bad guest.

I have a mother in law that will show up with flowers that I have to take from her and deal with. Or a box of items she found at a flea market or garage sale and has brought me. Now it's fine when only the four of us. But, when you have a house full of people it's not fun to deal with at all.

Taking only wine is great.

I have started taking a breakfast to them. I take a pound of coffee or less ground to them. Then I add in either a pancake mix and a bottle of syrup or I box of cinnamon rolls. I place all this in a bag and write a note that says for tomorrow. I make it clear they can leave it out on the bench in a front hall. I don't make a big to do over it at all.

I don't know why anyone would take a dish that is prepared to a dinner. It's rude.

OH and I should add at my husbands birthday last year I had a big party. Invited the inlaws. My mother in law showed up with a cake (when I made it clear that I had one already weeks in advance.) I had ordered the cake he wanted. I took the one from my mother in law and left it in the dining room. Everyone was outside and I never offered it. I hope she learned from that!

    Bookmark   October 11, 2006 at 6:14PM
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This is a problem? The inconvenience of someone bringing you flowers, presents, and cake? I wish people would "inconvenience" me like that more often! Besides, accepting a gift, even an undesired one, graciously is an important part of being a good host (and a polite person in general).

Sure, it takes a moment to deal with flowers, but you don't have to arrange them then and there -- just stick them in a glass or pitcher of water and do it later. Takes 20 seconds. Put the box of things she bought you out of the way, and say, "Thanks so much! Let's look at it later when we aren't so busy." -- 5 seconds.

The cake depends on a lot of circumstances. Maybe it was covered with writing and candles, and you felt like she was criticizing the cake you ordered. Or maybe it was something like a coffee cake you could treat like any other hostess gift and set aside for another time. But either way, would it have been so very terrible to serve both cakes and to let her feel like she was contributing to her son's birthday celebration? It seems like such a little gesture on your part, but one that would mean a lot to her, and let you be the bigger person at the same time -- not to mention giving your husband the very important birthday gift of getting along with his family.

I may be way off here, but it sounds like this has more to do with the family relationships than with entertaining issues. The mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship is always strange, even when it's great. Whenever I find myself feeling judgmental about or irritated by something my mother-in-law (she's great, really) says or does, I picture my favorite aunt having done it instead, and I have to admit that 90% of the time I realize I would have had an entirely different reaction.

Ask yourself honestly: how would you feel if it had been your best friend, or for that matter your own mother, who brought you flowers, gifts, or even that cake?

She seems to be trying hard to do something to please you; consider letting her succeed. That doesn't mean you fail, in entertaining, in the power balance, or any other way; just the opposite. Sorry to be butting in on such personal areas, but this little trick has been so very helpful to me, I thought I'd pass it on.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2006 at 2:05PM
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Excuse but to me bringing flowers that are not arranged can be a problem. I obviously did not come up with this on my own. I swear it's one of the first rules of etiquette you read about on how to be a good guest. Not my book but written by someone I highly respect Emily Post or Peggy Post.

Gifts are nice as a gift. Again when you have a house full of people and there is a box of what is the equivalant of junk handed to you the hostess to deal with it's not so easy all the time. When I say box it is the size of two crates.

When it's someones birthday and you ask if you can bring a cake and are told no. Then don't take a cake. Period. End of story. common sense or good manners tells you that.

As for not getting along with my in-laws oh please. I make sure I smile and get along at all times with them.

I think you must have some of your own issues and that was the reason for the tone of your post. I'm sorry if that is the case. I'm sure it must be very difficult for you then.

And to answer how do I feel when a friend brings any of the above. Well, I have friends show up with flowers at times and I cringe b/c I hate that they felt they had to bring something. Especially when it does mean just taking them and sticking them in a container of water. B/c how rude of me to do that. I never do that in fact b/c I think that shows ill manners on my behalf for not taking the time to show my excitement/appreciation over them.

My friends also never bring me a box or two of treasuresthey find at the Salvation Army.

Again sorry for your experience in life. I hope it all works out for you in the end.


    Bookmark   October 12, 2006 at 5:31PM
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Wow. I'm going to chime in on gellchom's side on this one. I think that no matter what gift someone brings you, the thing to do is accept it graciously. Believe me, I've gotten gifts similar to the "box of junk" in the past. I just said, Thank you! I'll look at this when everyone's gone and I have time to enjoy it. Then set it aside. Why is it hard to be polite? IMHO, when someone gives you a gift, you give them the benefit of the doubt regarding their intentions.

As for arranging flowers, well, I've never had a problem getting a vase out and, if the house is full of guests, asking the giver or another guest to arrange them. It's not insulting at all to do this, there are ALWAYS guests who are looking for a way to help, and this is an excellent activity for someone like that.

I have an annual party in the summer where I average around 20 people, and with that many people, there is no way I can do everything that has to be done during the party by myself. Asking for help is a given, and I've never ever had a friend act put out.

It seems to me that you see a gift as something "to deal with" as opposed to just seeing it as a nice gesture on the part of the giver. That's sad.

And as for the cake, as I stated above, when I'm asked by a guest what to bring, I'm honest and tell them if I need anything. I have said "nothing, thank you" in the past, and ended up with stuff anyway. And really, when that happens, it's far from being a catastrophe. I go ahead and set it out. What's the big deal? Yeah, it might interfere somewhat with my planned menu, but really, the point of a party is to have fun and entertain your guests, not to punish them for bringing an extra cake.

Just MHO.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2006 at 2:05PM
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I had a birthday party for a family member. No one except my mother asked to help or to bring anything. Which was totally fine with me. I prepared the meal, etc, by myself. I stayed up until 1:30am preparing a second dessert because I knew some guests didn't like 'chocolate' and the cake I was making for the b-day girl was chocolate. The party day came and one guest brought a store bought a coconut cream pie. Guess which dessert most people ate? Only one person even tried the dessert I stayed up so late making. It was not easily transportable, so I ended up throwing most of it out. I was mad. Not only was the food wasted but so was my time. If that guest had told me in advance they were bringing a pie, I would have at least planned for it, and not stayed up so late making the second dessert. I even tried not to serve pie and save it for ourselves (hoping it was maybe just a gift), but the person who brought it asked where it was at dessert time.

I think often when people bring things like that they are just not thinking things through and are being very inconsiderate. I think they want to get credit for bringing something, but don't want to have to commit to having to bring anything until/unless they can fit it in their schedule. Maybe this wouldn't bother you but when I made 2 desserts from scratch, and then someone brings in a store bought pie that many choose to eat, it's frustrating. The pie was very good, but should not have been brought. How would you like it if you were serving a new casserole dish and some guest showed up with steaks that everyone flocked too?

Hosts often go through much planning to account for serving sizes, balanced meals, wine that match foods, etc. Sorry, but if you're not going to offer to bring something in advance, you shouldn't show up with food that you expect to be served.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2006 at 3:41PM
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What bothers me is when family ask me if they can bring something and I say yes and then they proceed to put together what they brought in my kitchen. For instance, I ask my sister to bring raw veggies and dip and she stops at the store on her way to my house to pick up veggies and then hogs my kitchen washing and cutting vegetables and making the dip. My daughter in law brings appetizers and puts it together at my house when she could have done it at home. I accept their offer to help to save me time but they are in my way in the kitchen while I'm finishing up the last minute dinner preparations. If they want to use my kitchen then I prefer to do it myself where I can have it prepared before the other guest arrive. Do I sound ungrateful?

    Bookmark   October 17, 2006 at 10:08PM
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I know what you mean, mst. Many years ago we would have a 4th of July party every year. It had grown to be very large, and we certainly appreciated all of the food people would bring to help out. But, the clincher was when a friend brought fresh corn on the cob. I mean unhusked corn. She had a few glasses of wine, relaxed, and I was husking corn, bringing a large corn pot of water to a boil, and cooking corn. If you bring a dish to a party, make sure it is ready to serve and does not require much help. A crock pot or other warming dish is okay. The exception is the holidays, when we all bring side dishes that need to be warmed in the oven. For one thing, this is family, and the other is that the oven is turned on to reheat and keep warm all of the dishes that people have brought.

As to the original post, when a host indicates that they do not want you to bring a food item, then wine is always a great gift as long as the hosts enjoy drink. It is never expected that the wine be served that evening, but if the hosts choose to open it, that is nice also. As to flowers, we all have a bunch of the inexpensive vases that flowers have been delivered to us in. So, even if you are doing a supermarket flower arrangement, or something from your garden, it is really no problem to have it arranged in a vase. A little water added to the vase and it can be placed anywhere that the party is going on and be enjoyed. I once brought an arranged vase of flowers to a friends party. It was a bit hectic when we arrived, and the hosts were very busy with greeting guests and fixing drinks, etc.. I added water to the vase (do not like to carry a vase full of water in the car) and set the arrangement at the end of the kitchen counter top. It fit in fine and some time later when the hosetess had a few minutes to look aroune, she was really impressed that someone had brought flowers.


    Bookmark   October 18, 2006 at 1:15AM
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carla35, I really feel for you. I would have felt terrible in your position. I think your guests were wrong not so much in bringing a pie, but in insisting you serve it that night. Good for you that you handled it graciously.

This reminds me of when one family invites us for dinner, I and ask if I can bring anything (we're talking about really close friends here; we often all pitch in on a meal), and they say to bring a dessert, so I do, and then I find out that another guest (at their request? I don't know) also brought a dessert, and the hosts' daughter also made a pan of brownies, which adds up to 3 desserts for 7-12 people --AND NO ONE EATS ANY (well, almost), because everyone is watching their weight! Then on top of that, the hosts tell me to take my dessert home, because they won't eat it.

Three deep breaths!

I just laugh to myself that I stepped into it yet again. I can't be mad; I offered, and what do I care if anyone eats it? I have learned just to buy a box of doughnuts or something when these particular friends tell me to bring a dessert!

mst, I know what you mean. It's even inconvenient if the guests forget to bring serving pieces. Maybe next time they offer, say, "Thanks! Just please be sure it's something all ready before you get here, because my kitchen will be really busy." Would that work with your guests?

    Bookmark   October 18, 2006 at 11:47AM
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I have to weigh in on this myself. I agree with lowspark and gellchom's opinions on this matter. WHO cares if you have to take a couple extra minutes with the in laws, believe me it won't kill you. And what is wrong with "treasures" from thrift or garage sales. I myself love antiques and many time will give antique and collectables for Christmas presents, most of which came from TS and GS.

I don't think that they have issues at all. It is obvious that ilikepink is the one with problems with the inlaws.

"As for not getting along with my in-laws oh please. I make sure I smile and get along at all times with them."

Yes and how good do you make them feel by ignoring their gifts and offers of help. Yeah that sure shows you getting along with them.

Sorry for being upset, my inlaws and other family members may not be the best, and this may have been in my post but like gellchom's comment about a favorite aunt, I finally realized that my mil is trying the best she can and is only trying to help. It was me that needed to reevaluate my thinking.


    Bookmark   October 18, 2006 at 12:37PM
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Sorry lowspark on the quote, I should have said ilikepink....


    Bookmark   October 18, 2006 at 3:33PM
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I must chime in.

I had a mother in-law that would bring me white elephant gifts each visit to my home! For thirteen years I had to deal with thanking her for these horrors that she would bring in.

Then she would look for me to display them in my home.

By year fifteen of my marriage I finally had to have my husband talk to her. Was I being a rude daughter in law? Well, probably to a few of you. But, enough was enough.

I find it very rude when people bring something to my home to eat when they have been told only to bring themselves. As a constant hostess of over forty years now I will be the first to admit that it is very difficult to be a good hostess who wants to greet her guests at the door only to be pulled away to have to find a last minute vase for flowers or a hot pad for a dish or a serving dish.

I work very hard to be a hostess to our friends and family. I plan meals and dishes that can be prepared ahead of time.

I still am gracious but those of you that have had a guest bring a dessert after working on a dessert of your own I back you up. This old bird may still be gracious in taking the dessert but I feel your frustration.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2006 at 7:03PM
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I'm 100% with gellchom & company!

ANY gift is appreciated here, and if it's edible or drinkable, it is offered with the meal. If my guests preferred a "brought" dish, over one I made, I'd probably make a different recipe next time. In fact, I'd be glad everyone had something they really liked!

Having a dinner party, for me, is to get people together for a good time, period. I'm not trying to prove anything, and my food's not competing with anyone's. If I got upset over something as trivial as this, I'd probably have a stroke when dealing with REAL problems in life.

I'm happy to be "insulted" with flowers, food, and gifts ANY TIME.

Cheers, from

    Bookmark   October 18, 2006 at 8:58PM
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I just realized something that made me laugh -- Sunday night, *I* brought a pie -- to a dessert reception, no less!

But it's not like it sounds. I knew that the host's birthday was the next day, and he loves apple pie, so that is ALWAYS what I give him (I can't think of anything else to get him anyway). It was a birthday present, not even a hostess gift, let alone an offering for that evening. The pie even had a birthday cake design on the crust. But just to make sure there wouldn't be any misunderstanding even for a moment, I didn't even have my jacket off before I said, "This is for breakfast tomorrow. Happy birthday!" And I plunked it down out of the way in the kitchen.

Swampwitch, you are a saint. I feel more frustrated than you do in some of these situations, although I hope it doesn't show to my guests. I try to remember that these are my friends, not an audience for my perfect party-giving. But for so many of these things, I really don't see the problem. Before I had enough experience to have confidence I probably would have gotten thrown; I was still young enough to feel like these situations were about me proving myself or something, not about my guests. Now, though, if I have to stand holding a bunch of flowers for a minute or two, or interrupt my flow of things, or thank someone for something I secretly dislike, I really don't mind it. My being able to do every little thing just the way I wanted, no matter how hard I worked, isn't as important as the guests' feelings -- after all, isn't that the whole point of being a host?

I'm sure we all have someone in our lives who always gives us gifts that are just plain wrong for us. It can indeed be difficult to deal with them tactfully (the easiest is clothes; you can always say that unfortunately they just didn't fit -- you don't have to say you mean your taste, not your size!). Millielee, I don't think you really meant that the problem was that you "had to deal with thanking her for these horrors that she would bring in" -- surely the problem wasn't thanking her, but her apparently insisting that you display them. I can readily sympathize with that. It is a really tough situation.

What do you all think? What are some good approaches? There probably isn't a one-size-fits all; sometimes I guess you display the doodad, at least temporarily, but sometimes you just can't. So what do you do if your/your SO's parent gives you a moss-covered, three-handled, family gredunza, and you don't want it? I think we could all learn from people's suggestions, or perhaps stories of how they have handled it or seen others handle it.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2006 at 11:35PM
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That was a really low blow about trying other recipes. By the way, I had made Ginger's "Slices of Sin" recipe for the b-day party. It may not be the best looking dessert, but it is one of the best desserts I have had and I was really hoping more people would try it. I also made a trifle with homemade cake and real cream -- you can't really mess them up if you've never made one. They just seem a little messy and hard to dig into. The fact that they went for the store bought pie was in no way a reflection on my other desserts being bad recipes.

But since we're sharing our lame comments...Maybe you're just not putting a lot of effort and time and into your dinner parties. Of course, if I was just serving beer, pizza and brownies, I probably wouldn't care if someone brought something to eat. But, if you're spending days shopping and cooking and preparing, it should get to you, at least a little. If you're more likely to make a last minute run to pick up some premade burgers and brats to grill when the guests get there, then it probably won't.

Of course, I have friends over and we'll call for a pizza delivery or pick up a sandwich, but when I have a dinner party, a lot of it is about the food. For many people eating out or eating a good meal, is a good time. The company is the same company no matter what you are serving. What are you doing...focusing on which fraternity games to play instead of the food? Find a bar if you want fun! Sorry, but a lot of Supper Clubs and Dinner Parties are more about food than you may think.

And, I have this sneaking suspicion that you are one of those people that bring unexpected dishes/food to be served to parties. Am I right?

By the way, I have no problem with flowers or hostess gifts and think they are a very thoughtful gesture. Regarding gellchom's question: If people give me a b-day or X-mas present I don't like and know I will not use, I graciously say "thank you" and either re-gift it, sell it, give it, or throw it away. If they are looking for it, it "must have been broken" or "I put it away so it wouldn't get broken". And, you could hint at something you want for the next time if you think that would help for future gifts.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2006 at 12:30AM
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So what do you do if your/your SO's parent gives you a moss-covered, three-handled, family gredunza, and you don't want it?

Well, I have gotten a few of those. And generally I put them in the donations box. Most of the time they're not regiftable, but if they are I would probably regift instead.

I have to say that I've never had anyone say to me, where is that moss-covered, three-handled, family gredunza I gave you last year? I'm not sure WHAT I would say if they did! That has to be the ultimate nerviness.

I'm in a quandry about the reply for that because I firmly believe in honesty and frankness, but not to the point of hurting someone else's feelings. I wouldn't want to lie about it, and the fact that this person had the nerve to ask would make me want to be just as brutally nervy as they are. Come to think of it, I'd probably say something like Oh, isn't it there on the shelf? I'll have to think about where I've put it! and leave it at that. I guess if the person insisted on asking again, I'd have to go ahead and tell the truth.

On the topic of the storebought cake winning over the lovingly-labored over cake, that situation wouldn't exactly make me jump for joy either, so I can certainly understand that frustration. I'm nervy enough though that I would have probably announced to all that I'd stayed up till 1:30 making my dessert so everyone had better at least give it a taste!

Carla said, I think often when people bring things like that they are just not thinking things through and are being very inconsiderate. I think they want to get credit for bringing something,

I guess I just don't think that way about my friends. I just can't see bringing food to my house as being inconsiderate, whether it was requested or not. HOWEVER, we all see things differently, so if I did feel that someone was being inconsiderate, for whatever reason, I probably would just not invite that person again. I have had what I considered to be ingracious guests in my house, and I made sure to never invite them back.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2006 at 10:56AM
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I have to tell you guys this.

Four or five weeks ago my mother in law gave me flowers in a container that had a major gash in it and cut have cut someone. I didn't want to keep it.

I did however leave it in my cabinet until I thought I was safe from any other flowers coming from her garden this year. She said they all had bit the dust due to frost.

I decided to toss it on Saturday two weeks ago.

My mother in law called on Wednesday and said she had more flowers for my vase and would be over. I paniced. I didn't have the heart to say I didn't have it any longer.

I ran out to the dumpster to see if by chance it was still there. Not only was it still there but it was in a rather full dumpster.

I had to dumpster dive. My neighbor caught me and helped. We were hysterical laughing.

I cleaned it up and my mother in law never knew. I did end up tossing it for good this time though.

On the way out that day she actually mentioned another gift she had given me and I didn't dare say that it recently sold on ebay for a few dollars. She always is asking where some of her treasures to us are. :) It's become a dance between my husband and myself and her. :)

    Bookmark   October 19, 2006 at 11:06AM
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ilovepink, your story just reminded me of another story. I'll preface it by saying that I think a gift is a gift, and once it's given, it's up to the receiver what they do with it, and never appropriate IMHO for the giver to ask what happened to it.

Does anyone listen to the car guys on NPR? I borrowed their "best of" cd from the library recently and there was a caller who had gotten, as a gift, a car from her mother (her mother's old car I think). Subsequently she came across a great deal on a car which suited her much better, and by trading in the gift car, she was able to get a great deal on this other car.

But then she was afraid to tell the mom what she had done, and she called the car guys for advice. Not really in their realm of helping people with mechanical problems, but they thought it was a great story and called the mom while they were on the air.

After hearing the story, the mom replied, a gift is a gift. She was clearly happy the daughter was able to get what she wanted and never gave a second thought to the fact that the original car had been traded in. Now THAT'S what I call a gracious gift giver.

I guess I think that if a gift is given with the intent of making sure the receiver keeps it in plain view so the giver can admire their own taste every time they visit, that's not really a gift. It's a loan! And if they like it that much, they should just take back their loan and admire it in their own home. Hmmm.. that may have sounded a bit harsh, but that's just how I see it.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2006 at 11:18AM
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I'm with gellchom and lowspark. Does everything need to be so perfect that we can't accept someone's well-intentioned generosity? I think the thing to say when asked "what can I bring?" is "nothing, thank you.... the menu is already planned and we will have plenty of food". Sometimes, "nothing, thank you" can be interpreted as being polite but not really sincere. But saying the menu is already planned sends a different message. You could add that if they'd like to bring their favorite wine, that would be fine, but nothing else.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2006 at 11:36AM
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carla35, please don't be upset at swampwitch. I think she wasn't criticizing you, just sharing how she tries to look at the situation when she is the host. I'm sure we would all agree that there is a big difference between having the gang over for chips and soda and preparing a formal dinner party, and that we can understand your feelings. I sure do. I mean, on some level, it is kind of inconsiderate for someone to usurp a menu they know you labored over. But it's also true that if the people don't feel comfortable and valued, what difference does it make how good the food and arrangements are?

Usually, it's not a case of maliciousness; the person just wasn't thinking, or just isn't tuned into your plans or tastes, or comes from a family or a group of friends who simply do things differently. It's easier sometimes than others to give people the benefit of the doubt, but it's always worth it to try.

We're all just saying that no matter how we FEEL, and no matter how justified we are in feeling that way because someone was rude or inconsiderate, we still have to BEHAVE as gracious hosts, guests, gift-givers, and gift-receivers.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2006 at 3:30PM
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In speaking of low blows it seems that you are trying to make swamp witch feel bad by implying that she is a bad host and the only dinner parties that she is capable of hosting involve six packs and pizza boxes. There is no need to make comments like that, no need to purposely hurt others feelings.


I am with you, I would probably say the same about how hard I worked and that I wouldn't let anyone leave til they tasted my treats:) Wait I have done that:) saying that last Thanksgiving when everyone was so full from dinner they didn't want to try my homemade pies. I made from scratch even the filling ( apple, strawberry, raspberry rhubarb, peach, pumpkin, cherry, and cherry rhubarb:)


    Bookmark   October 20, 2006 at 11:24PM
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ilovepink, dumpster diving for a broken vase; dangerous.....
why not tell her point blank that the vase is broken and you tossed it ?

    Bookmark   October 24, 2006 at 7:05AM
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Confess to taking food when asked to bring nothing!. Each year my MIL hosts a christmas party for family and friends. She has the party food catered. For years I had trouble finding something for my little one to eat. There were huge shrimp, very good but most kids don't like them along with all "adult-type" foods (one year she was into serving "wild" boar, ostrich, etc.) I didn't even want to eat that. BTW I was the first one with a small child. As time went on and my SIL had kids we would feed our kids before the party. Finally, one year I just starting bringing a large cookie tray. I figured for those who hadn't caught on to feed the kids first, at least the kids could have a cookie while enduring a 5 hour cocktail party. Actually, IMHO the invitation should have been adults only if you are not considering the kids. I really don't care if MIL was insulted or put out, she should have been grateful that I considered her "little guests". I would put the tray of cookies in the kitchen and ask the servers to put it out with the rest of the Neiman Marcus cakes that no kid would be interested in. They knew exactly what I meant. A lot of eye rolling and such when I would ask in the kitchen what's for dinner this year??? It is kind of a running joke.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2006 at 2:59PM
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I see the problem you were solving, iluvcats, but I think I would do something a little different. I would bring along a peanut butter sandwich and some little carrots (or whatever the child likes to eat) and keep it in the car or my purse or the diaper bag, so if the child didn't like the party food, s/he wouldn't go hungry. If you anticipate more kids, bring a little more. That would solve the problem without insulting your hosts or interfering with their plans.

A platter of cookies is a little hard to pass off as a meal so your child won't go hungry; it looks like you are trying to supplement or improve upon the menu. I hope you do care if your MIL was insulted or put out; wouldn't you want her to care about your feelings if you were the host? I would feel very bad if my DIL, or any other guest, came into the kitchen and ridiculed my menu to the servers.

Sometimes you need to be very careful, whatever your intentions, in bringing food when told not to. In addition to the questions of consideration we've been discussing, what if you innocently brought something containing an ingredient to which someone was seriously allergic? There are other issues, too. We keep a kosher home, and one time some guests brought some crab dip. (Crab is absolutely not kosher, and if it got on our dishes or silverware, they would be rendered unkosher, too -- it is a real hassle). But I knew she (my colleague's wife) had worked hard on it and meant it for a real treat. What to do? Fortunately, we were all out on the patio, and we were using paper plates -- it was a very casual gathering. My husband and I thanked her and put the plate she'd brought out on the table. Then we discreetly as possible (I mean, we weren't invisible, but we didn't say what we were doing or why) removed EVERYTHING that wasn't disposable and replaced it with disposables. And we were VERY careful that that dip never came indoors. It was all we could think of without embarrassing our guests.
If someone brought a big platter of cookies to my home, I would have to ask whether they had animal shortening or, if I were serving meat, any dairy ingredients (either of which would be a nightmare in terms of kashrut) before putting them out. Then the poor guest would feel bad if there were a problem.

So I guess when people say "please don't bring anything" -- DON'T -- at least not food (or wine or flowers), unless you KNOW it will be appreciated. Bring a little gift instead or send a donation to charity or something. The last few dinner guests I had brought, respectively, a box of notecards, some pretty soaps, some homemade cookies (for later, she said, but I served some anyway), and some bakery cookies (the guests asked if she could bring those -- this was just a hey-come-over-for-dinner night), and nothing. All were fine with me! I liked the stationery best.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2006 at 4:29PM
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Okay, deep breaths everyone!

I think in many of these cases, people have been venting about guests because we have to hold it together and behave graciously while they are over.

To steal Miss Manners' line, bad behavior on the part of another doesn't excuse bad behavior in retaliation.

So, if we're going to a party - I think we're all in agreement about hostess gifts for the hostess rather than contributions to the menu that were not previously sanctioned by the hostess.

But when we host and the less than ideal gifts arrive, we all have to accept them graciously. If it is possible to incorporate it into the evening, great. If not, too bad. (Oh this looks delicious, I can't wait to try it tomorrow for breakfast - rarely will someone have the cheek to demand it be served)

And as for the family gredunzas - a gift is a gift. Thank you very much,I really enjoyed it - no one needs to know I enjoyed it by laughing at it every time I saw it until I finally tossed it. If they ask to see it displayed - there is nothing wrong with a little fib - it's being cleaned, it was broken, my neighbor borrowed it or the truth - it wasn't really my style so I exchanged it for X, which always makes me think of you. If that doesn't solve it - at which point they really are being rude - definitely call in the spouse for the in-laws or just demur as graciously as you can and vent tomorrow on the forums.

I find it incredibly frustrating when someone's good intentions really do screw up your plans. You know they meant well and you want to be pleased, but sometimes it is tough.

I think I am fortunate in that most of my friends are wine-bringers or else bring nothing. Most of their dishes come with advanced warning and I could decline if it was duplicative or didn't work with my menu.

Doesn't mean that things haven't blown up in my face before though. If you play the "what can I bring, no really what can I bring, you must let me bring something" game and I cave, please follow through.

Met a friend at Panera once for lunch when I was having several people over for dinner. My response to "what can I bring" was bread. We were at a bakery - seemed simple enough. Imagine my surprise when I had to serve a loaf of wonder bread with the dinner I had planned all week and cooked all afternoon.

Another evening, a friend offered to bring a key ingredient for a specialty cocktail. Imagine my surprise when she showed up empty handed (particularly after I had scaled back my wine and beer purchases accordingly).

I've learned the hard way that I need to have a back up plan for everything.

(and by the way gellchom, huge gold star for grace under pressure with the crab dip. yikes!)

    Bookmark   October 25, 2006 at 5:14PM
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While under "normal" circumstances I would always take a hostess gift and never bring food I wasn't asked. I like to take a manicure g/c, massage g/c or something for the hostess to use for herself or a nice bottle of wine to put in cellar for enjoyment at a later time.

That said, MIL invites several families (cousins) with children and does nothing menu-wise to accomodate for same. It would not work to bring a peanut butter sandwich or a couple, in that matter when there are 20 children.

We first thought that maybe she would see the light if a cookie tray were presented so it was in no way trying to upset her. BTW it is a holiday party. I brought a very nicely decorated tray and put it in the kitchen. I didn't just sit it out where I wanted it.

If any of you are grandmothers or have children, wouldn't you think if you held an afternoon family holiday party including a large number of children in attendance, you would offer something kid-friendly to eat? This is supposed to be a family thing???

I would worry about offending my blood MIL. That said, my MIL (blood) would certainly know better than to invite children and then provide nothing suitable for them to eat.

Unfortuantely, not attending these annual things she does, is not an option for me. That's why I posted that we feed our kids ahead of the party. I took the tray as a gift - one that could be put out with the other desserts and no one would have had any idea where it came from. Maybe they would have thought the hostess finally tried to accommodate the children somewhat.

Yes, I agree I would be hurt if my DIL was ridiculing the menu with the staff, but I would not offer the things she does. She doesn't give a thought to the fact that one family that attends is kosher, despite the fact that they were generous enough to include her in a Passover Seder one year.

As is probably evident, there is more here than meets the eye and perhaps you are right, I should just go and take her a bottle of wine. I have done that, and she re-gifted it -TO ME. So perhaps a massage would be better.

Also, who carries a diaper bag for a child of 4 or 5 years old. People with the diaper bags had it made. They were carrying bottles or baby food so they could feed their kids when it was time to eat.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2006 at 2:37PM
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Not all kidz refuse "grown-up" food. Sometimes I wished mine would! When my kidz were little, they always picked all the olives, artichokes, mushrooms, etc. off my salad. I didn't have anything but plain lettuce for years! I know many children are picky eaters, though. But still, I never heard of any starving because one meal didn't include anything to which they were already accustomed. You are smart to feed yours first if you know they will balk at absolutely everything and ruin your evening by complaining, as many kidz, even the best brought-up, will.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2006 at 6:17PM
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This is definitely a cultural issue. In Mexico, it is considered rude to bring a gift or food to a dinner party - it suggests that the host is unable to provide for his guests. We may not be in Mexico, but there are cultural rules that may vary from one region to another. I am fortunate that my guests do not bring gifts (as a rule), and if they ask if they can bring something, I tell them to bring wine or something to drink, or just themselves. In the past, I have had potlucks, but those don't go over well here (Los Angeles). I've gone to many parties that were lavishly catered with large numbers of servants offering trays of goodies, and it appears that people here are more used to that type of party. The Mexican rule may be in place in L.A., but perhaps not in other places. I would never take wine to a dinner party in Mexico, just as I would not take wine to a party here, unless it is extremely informal and it has been agreed upon before.

The kind of party I hate the most is one that is held at a restaurant and each guest is expected to pay a certain percentage of the tab, regardless of what they order. I almost always decline those invitations.


    Bookmark   October 28, 2006 at 6:22PM
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Perhaps I should have not replied. My issue is probably better served on the parent or grandparent forum since we are talking about a supposed child friendly holiday party.

Also, my DD never would say yuk or make it known that she didn't want to eat what was offered. We have a rule that you have to try each thing at least once before you say no. However, I have seen children do the opposite, in fact, last evening at a birthday party I gave for my DD. Darling neice told me my meatballs were not as good as Aunt Stephs. I just thought it was hillarious. Out of the mouths of babes...

I entertain and would never have a guest bring anything other than themselves. If they show up with something I would be happy that they thought of me. Not offended that I didn't think I would have enough food. My friends know me, I have enough food for twice the amount of guests I am serving.

I guess its all a matter of taste..

    Bookmark   October 29, 2006 at 9:04AM
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girlwithaspirin - I'm with you. I ask what I can bring and if the host says "nothing" I bring a default bottle of wine that can be enjoyed another time. I hate showing up empty handed, but at the same time I don't want to skew the host's menu for the evening cuz I know that bugs me. My MIL is notorius for this. We will invite her and my FIL over for dinner and she shows up with a #&*$(# cooler. I am not kidding. This has happened on every occasion from a casual cookout to Thanksgiving dinner. It ticks me off because it sends the message that I'm completely incapable of entertaining.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2006 at 9:38PM
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I think labmomma is right about the last few posts being on a family/grandparent issue more than an entertaining one. I can definitely identify with lisad71 -- I, too, would feel like the daughter-in-law on "Everybody Loves Raymond," assumed to be incapable of competently entertaining, and I'd resent it.

But I also see the other side. People, especially family and close friends, like to feel included, to be insiders, not treated like strangers. I can certainly understand how the hosts' parents especially feel that way. And for many people, FOOD is a big way in which that is expressed. If a MIL (or mom, or dad) was always the host/ess for many years, it has got to be hard to suddenly have that jerked away from her; it may have been her main moment in the spotlight each year, and it may even have been a big part of her identity. The younger generation doesn't want a message that it is incompetent, and the older doesn't want a message that it is obsolete. And I am sure the converse is true, too: if the older generation has been doing something the same way for many years, they won't like hearing from a SIL or DIL that they are wrong and don't understand children (despite their having raised their spouses) and ought to change the way they do things. Once a guy married into our family and, the first time he met us cousins, declared, "You all talk at once! That's terrible! You have to stop that!" The fact that he was right -- we do all talk at once -- didn't stop everyone from deciding that he was a real jerk (an impression that, unfortunately for our cousin, who later divorced him, turned out to be accurate).

Not every family faces this problem (I am blessed with a mother-in-law who does not cook). For the many that do, I don't think there is a one-size-fits-all solution to this. One family may take turns, another may share the cooking, etc. But it can't hurt to try to understand other people's perspectives and be sensitive to them.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2006 at 11:14AM
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