Dear Alma: Men Who Don’t Help Clean Up, Diners Who Pick Their Teeth

BY  |  Monday, Mar 06, 2017 10:15am  |  COMMENTS (0)

Dear Alma,

I make a few dishes really well. How bad is it if I always serve these 3 or 4 dishes when I entertain? I know I can always count on them coming out good. It bums me out to no end when I work all day on a meal and it just isn’t “great.”  Maybe my ego is in the way. I’m not cooking to simply impress although I must admit I love to hear compliments. I’m interested in being with my friends first and foremost, and feeding them well. I know that I love it when they make certain dishes. What’s the etiquette?

Boring But Delicious

Dear Boring But Delicious,

You have answered the question yourself. You are really cooking to be with friends, to enjoy their company and to feed them well. Since your dishes are delicious, I would say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

A word of caution, however. To paraphrase the famous Peg Bracken who wrote The I hate To Cook Cookbook decades ago, “change your guests, not your dishes”. That is, make an effort to mix it up a bit so that you don’t always serve those same guests the same meals. Unless of course they request it.

Enjoy those compliments!

Dear Alma,

I hate when my male guests don’t get up to help me clean. I think it’s chauvinistic. Am I right?

Pissed at lazy asses

Dear Pissed at Lazy Asses,

I understand your feeling annoyed, especially if you want and need the help but
as I always say, entertaining is more about making your guests feel comfortable and having fun than it is about anything else. You did not invite the men to work your party.

If you are overwhelmed when you entertain it would be a good idea to hire someone to help. I’m not just talking about a catering company that will charge you a fortune; hire your kids or their friends or bribe them to help. When I was in high school I was a hired hand at a party and I saved the family’s apartment from burning down by catching a candle setting a curtain on fire in a bedroom. Just saying that the host/ess can’t always be on top of everything.

That being said, it’s always polite for a guest to offer to help, whatever their gender. Sometimes there are guests who offer to help to be polite and really would prefer not to, but there are also those who feel more comfortable pitching in. There’s also nothing wrong with a friendly, “would you mind helping me clear these?”

If you really need the help, accept it but try not to judge too much if your guests are having such a great time that they forget their manners. That means your party is a success!

Dear Alma,

What do you do when a dinner guest picks her teeth at your table with one of of those individual plastic dental floss tooth pickers?

Grossed Out

Dear Grossed Out,

Excuse me while I dry heave before I answer your query.

This is an atrocious thing to do in public and also unsanitary. Unless your guest is your beloved 98 year old grandmother who has advanced gum disease, necessitating flossing after meals and can’t make it to the privacy of your bathroom because of her unstable knees, I would question how important this person is in your life and consider whether or not to invite them again. Ever.

Dear Alma: Politics at a Dinner Party, Potluck Etiquette and More

BY  |  Wednesday, Feb 08, 2017 10:30am

Dear Alma,

Most of my friends hold the same or similar political views as I do but, some do not. A friend recently told me about a dinner party she attended during which there were some very awkward exchanges between my friend and another guest who held very different political views. The exchange made everyone at the dinner uncomfortable. I am planning a dinner party and don’t want the same thing to happen to my guests! What should I do??

P.C. (Politically Concerned)
Continue Reading

Dear Alma: Hiding The Guest List, Dealing With Inedible Dinners and More

BY  |  Monday, Jan 23, 2017 1:15pm

Dear Alma

Dear Alma,

My wonderful boyfriend surprised me by making dinner last week. It was very thoughtful as I’ve just started a new job and haven’t had much time to decompress. However, it was nearly inedible. He told me he was making a meat sauce so I had an expectation of what it would be like, but it was not quite the bolognese I had in mind. My question for you is what do you do when someone you care for goes out of their way to make you something nice, and you’re very thankful, but just can’t eat it?! I didn’t handle the situation well. I appreciate what he did but don’t understand how he could have messed it up so badly!

The Mean Girlfriend Who Refused to Eat Her Boyfriend’s Meal

Dear The Mean Girlfriend Who Refused to Eat Her Boyfriend’s Meal,
Continue Reading

Dear Alma: Navigating Friend Relationships With Married Men, Cooking For Guests

BY  |  Monday, Jan 09, 2017 12:15pm

Dear Alma: Navigating Friend Relationships With Married Men, Cooking For GuestsDear Alma,

At work I’ve met some really interesting, funny men. I see them infrequently but would love to see them more often, outside of the work setting, maybe have them over for dinner. By the way I am happily married. I don’t know their wives but would love to invite both husband and wife over for a meal. Is it inappropriate? Would the wife feel threatened that her husband has a female friend? I’m concerned too, that my husband will feel threatened that I have a male friend- even though he will see that this friend is happily married. I want to clarify that there is no funny business involved! I just enjoy the companionship of both men and women. How would you proceed? Is this something a married person should avoid doing?

Feeling Short Changed On Who I Can Socialize With

Dear Feeling Short Changed On Who I Can Socialize With,

Pardon my frankness, but as long as you are honest with yourself about not wanting to lure the guest(s) into your bed with your delicious cooking, I see no reason why you shouldn’t invite them over. New friends are the spice of life whether they are men, women, Syrian refugees, whomever. I would suggest discussing it with your partner and if he has an issue with it, there may be other issues at play in your marriage that need to be addressed. As for the wives of the men, they’ll have to figure that one out themselves, not you.

Enjoy the dinner party! Continue Reading

Letter to the Editor: Create A Buddy System on School Buses

BY  |  Monday, Dec 26, 2016 9:47am

rp_school-bus-e1382715064279.jpgI’m asking that the town of Montclair consider creating a Mentoring/Buddy System on school buses to foster a safe, fun environment.

Older students and peers can be trained to engage peers and younger students, especially vulnerable students, to create a friendly atmosphere on the buses where there are currently and historically complaints about teasing, bullying, unsafe and anxiety inducing behaviors. Continue Reading

“Dear Alma” Tackles Holiday Entertaining and Food Issues

BY  |  Thursday, Dec 22, 2016 12:15pm

Dear AlmaHappy holidays, everyone!

As we wind down this year, we have a few questions about entertaining during the holiday season and beyond but also about the never ending food issues with teens. Take a look and remember to send in your questions.

Dear Alma,

We love to entertain.  But this time of year, with food so much a part of the celebrations, it can get difficult with food allergies, food sensitivities and dietary restrictions so common among our friends and their children.  In particular, we have several friends on gluten free diets, a number of vegetarians and we feel like we need to be always wary of nut allergies.  Do we have to eliminate all of those ingredients from the menu for the night or is it enough to just have a few options that cover those circumstances?  What is the appropriate etiquette?  And can you suggest some good recipes that will be safe and delicious for our guests.?  We usually serve more on the casual, buffet style side of things. Continue Reading

The Passing of a Montclair South End Legend: Mr. Celess Young

BY  |  Friday, Dec 16, 2016 10:16am

Celess Young


It was a bitterly cold day in the South End of Montclair but you’d never know it from the warm and intimate atmosphere inside Young’s World of Beauty Barbershop on Orange Road. Mr. Celess Young, the barber who dedicated his life to cutting countless Montclairians’ hair over the course of four decades, passed away on November 27th in South Carolina at the age of 86. He left behind a community of mourning co-workers, clients and above all, friends and family who sought out not only his haircutting expertise but more importantly, his kindness and wisdom.

“You’d wait all day for a haircut in a long line of chairs,” said Reverend Craig Dunn who will be providing the eulogy for Mr. Young at his memorial service Saturday, December 17, at St. Paul’s Baptist Church on the corner of Elm Street. The service will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.


Continue Reading

Need Help? Ask “Dear Alma”

BY  |  Tuesday, Dec 13, 2016 10:30am  |  COMMENTS (1)

take-backI love food. I love cooking. I love entertaining. Because I love these three things I have immersed myself in the world of cooking, eating, attending dinner parties and social gatherings where there is food as well as hosting others my entire adult life.

I am also a licensed clinical social worker. Why does this matter? Well, I have spent my countless cooking, eating and entertaining life with my ears and my eyes open, listening and watching as many people, myself included, make cooking mistakes, some disasters, as well as social faux pas as guests or hosts.

I’ve decided to put my years of experience to good use for the community and help others. Think of me as a younger, curly haired Dear Abby, a Suburban Jersey-ish Rachael Ray and a less-mustachioed and less judgmental Dr. Phil all rolled into one.

With a healthy combination of what I hope will be fun and educational, perhaps, dare I say, socially life-saving tips that will result in a minimum of mortifying social situations, I offer you my services.

Here’s my first column:

Dear Alma,

Do you have any tips for timing food and house preparation in anticipation of an event like a dinner party? I would love to be an effortless hostess, but I end up overplanning, stressing out, and STILL somehow scrambling to get things done, and not succeeding, by the time my guests arrive. They’re always kind, understanding people, but I’d love to be that kind of cool, relaxed hostess who has time to put on makeup and stuff before the guests arrive.

Please help!
Hostess with the most stress

Dear Hostess with the most stress, Continue Reading

Blog: Stephen Colbert and The Syrians

BY  |  Wednesday, Nov 30, 2016 8:00am  |  COMMENTS (2)


We attended a fundraiser for the Montclair Film Festival a few weeks ago where Stephen Colbert and Jon Oliver spoke about the state of our country after the election. Many people are afraid for their futures, of not being treated fairly or with kindness and humanity. Mr. Colbert, acknowledging that we cannot control for everything to come, said a few words that I can’t seem to forget.

“Get to know your neighbors.”

We took heed and invited a family of Syrian refugees to our house for Thanksgiving through a local program. We were able to host this family who has been through hell and back; they’ve lost their home, their city destroyed, they’ve had to resettle in a new country amidst a political climate that is increasingly unwelcoming to them.

We wanted our invite to be meaningful. We wanted them to know that there are people who care, people who want to get to know them, people who would be honored to have the opportunity to host them in the most intimate of spaces, their home.

We also wanted to nurture them. To make them feel comfortable, relaxed, cozy on a cold day. And because I am a lover of cooking, I wanted them to be nurtured through the food that I prepared for them. I wanted them to not just receive nourishment without having to worry about the cost of the food, the time it would take to make it or the clean up afterward, but I wanted them to be well fed, to enjoy every bite and to learn about us through the dishes that we chose and planned for them to enjoy.

Continue Reading

Saying Yes To Walking in the Disability Pride Parade

BY  |  Tuesday, Jul 19, 2016 2:49pm

If someone had asked me to walk in a Disability Pride Parade 12 years ago when my son was born with special needs, I would have immediately felt like I was going to be sick. I might have started crying and then would have given a resounding, “not in a million years.”


Coming to terms with accepting that my child had special needs, let alone blasting it out to the world in a very public way, literally parading him around NYC, was something that seemed unfathomable to me. It basically meant we were different from everyone else, and not in a good way. It meant putting him at risk of being ridiculed. It meant exposing our private lives to strangers who had no business knowing about all of our pain and hardships. It meant feeling alone and isolated. It meant fear and sadness.


Time does not heal all wounds but I can honestly say that, as cliche as it sounds, the pain becomes less intense. Fortunately, time also allows for many incredible experiences to occur, some organically and some forced, but they happen nonetheless.

For example, you learn to get to know your child as a person and not just as their disability. You get to see how fortunate you are that there are really cool things about your child, like bravery, compassion, empathy, kindness and strength. You also get to see those features in other families whom you are given the opportunity to socialize and depend on for your mental health. You get to realize how phenomenal these families and caretakers are and you eventually get to a point where you can’t even imagine not having the life you have, as hard as it sometimes is.


So this is why, 12 years later, not only did I say “YES!” when asked if I was going to participate in the Disability Pride Parade, but I truly looked forward to going and was proud to be there. Hanging out with all the people who get their act together every day with all their challenges and still love life and smile? Continue Reading

Featured Comment

These houses look like McMansions that were in the dryer too long and now have shrunk to 3/4 size. The flaccid one at the top of the thread looks like the elastic is all stretched out, too.

Tip, Follow, Friend, Subscribe

Links & Information

Baristanet on Flickr