FUN! Brainwashing by Mom: Brunch, bowls & booze.

Make it pretty. Simple philosophy for having a party, no? Make it pretty. This goes waaaaaay back. I remember being about twelve, in our family kitchen stringing cheese onto a round crystal platter for our annual Christmas-Eve-slash-my-sister’s-birthday-party (at our house) and my mom telling me to “make it pretty.” The most surprising thing was that, as a sixth-grader, I knew what she meant (even before she garnished that platter with parsley). I got that it IS indeed possible to make cheese look “pretty.” And I got that it was important. Maybe just as important as the cheese itself.

That’s my very first memory of the brainwashing. There’s also another thing she still says before parties: “If everything looks good, it won’t matter what things taste like.” (Don’t get me wrong, my mom does know how to cook a good meal…) But ‘Give ’em the old razzle-dazzle’ has been the cornerstone of my home-entertaining education since… forever. “What bowls are you going to use?” is a totally-rational question that makes complete sense to me before executing any kind of gathering. Again, brainwashing.

Thanks Trader Joe's.

HOW TO: Buy flowers (Trader Joe’s), cut stems short, place in bubble vase. 5 minutes.

So when I recently decided to throw a brunch for my girlfriends at my house to get OUT of the rut of “Why don’t any of my old friends ever get to see each other and eat a nice meal, dressed up, without our kids interrupting us anymore?” my main goal was to “make it pretty” and figure out my bowls. It’s no secret I love party-planning, but this time was different. There were NO children involved in this celebration. (Weeeeeeeee!)

Hubby had a hell of a time teasing me the whole week. “Is the President coming over?” YEAH HE IS. (Butt-out.) Every night, I went back and forth to our second fridge in the garage, transporting my nightly creations for this fab little brunch that I’d been fantasizing about… real grown-up lady stuff: Champagne flutes filled with chocolate pots de creme (that I made! EASY RECIPE HERE) and pre-scooped lemon sorbets…

TIP: Splash chilled champagne on lemon sorbet. Yummm.

TIP: Splash chilled champagne on lemon sorbet. Yummm.

…a mondo-coconut cake that I was craving and compelled to make (fabulously easy RECIPE HERE), carafes of pinky-orangey juice that matched my pinky-orangey Trader Joe’s peonies and a humongous smile on my face the whole time (I know, I need to get out more).

TIP: Mimosas don't need to be orange. Try different juices to match your decor.

TIP: Mimosas don’t need to be orange. Try different juices to match your decor.

I wanted everything to be pretty for my dearest friends…. and for me too. We were creating a memory, afterall.

TIP: Tie your napkins in knots to look like a girly bow.

TIP: Tie your napkins in knots to look like a girly bow.

As I prepped, I realized: Wow. My mom’s “Make it pretty!” brainwashing has stayed with me and has maybe gotten a little bit out of control. But why?

Related:  Adventures in babysitting.

I’ve finally figured out the deep-seated reason (the reason that goes beyond enjoying good company and the creative process): When I make things pretty, I feel closer to my childhood memories. I also end up feeling more connected to my mom and family (we live about 250 miles apart). In the actual process of prepping for a party, I not only find myself calling my mom (and my sister too) to ask a random question about some recipe or reveal what I’m planning (during which someone will ask me about my bowls or place settings), but I also now catch myself reminiscing about family parties that we had when I was kid (usually when I’m standing at my mixer to stir cake batter or something)… and those memories make me happy. Those crystal platters of string cheese paired with the instructional “Make it pretty” always resulted in FUN, and continuing that tradition for myself, my family and my friends is growing more and more important to me as I progress further and further into motherhood. Life is filled with challenges and not-so-good things, but between all those yucky things that we all must deal with at one point or another, life should be FUN. And SPECIAL. And, dare I say, PRETTY. Would memories of my childhood gatherings be any less fun and special if food hadn’t been served out of fancy bowls and carefully displayed on fancy platters? Maybe not. But MAYBE. Who knows? I consider “making things pretty” a part of my formula for happiness that has been so ingrained in me (or, brainwashed!) and I’m not willing to test the alternative now. My memories – and my family’s future memories – depend on it. The FUN and SPECIAL and PRETTY parts are now up to me… THE mom. In my life, this falls under the “Fun After Baby” portion of the program, and this ridiculous Fab-Mom alter ego of mine is up for the challenge. (And, I genuinely do have FUN setting up my frilly toys – also known as wedding gifts – that my husband was so skeptical about me actually using when we got married. See? I’m still using them, Hubby. Told you I would.)

PRETTY = FUN = HAPPINESS. And that’s FABULOUS. (Because we all know a happy wife makes for a happy life.)

And why shouldn’t my friends and myself – and ALL of us – feel fabulous for no good reason? (SIDE NOTE: As much as Hubby nabs and jabs at me, he does admit to feeling more important when he drinks out of crystal.)

So thanks for the brainwashing, Mom. Did you know what you were doing at the time?




  1. […] that far is half the battle). What lights me up? Time near a pool. Working on this website. Doing a big fabulous brunch for my friends. Pursuing and brainstorming new projects in media/entertainment (and then trying to […]