This weekend was our neighborhood's Holiday Progressive dinner. They've been doing this for many, many years but since this was our first year I jumped at the chance to serve the dinner course. Then, when there wasn't anyone to host dessert I said I'd do that too. Then, I said, "Why don't you all just move into my house for a week! I'll buy you Christmas presents and fill your stockings too!"
Because that's how happy we are to be living here.
I asked veteran neighbors what the downfall of hosting dinner and dessert would be and they said, "Well, if you're the last house, people usually stay for a longer time."
Which is funny to me because Logan is always the last one to leave a party, usually after the hosts go to bed and turn out all the lights. So this would be perfect for us.
I love having parties and since moving we don't entertain more than we used to, but the act of doing it is a lot more pleasant. There are lots of ways to make your party smoother and less stressful, some you can afford (using paper napkins instead of cloth) and others you can not (hiring a caterer, wait staff, bartender and a separate venue). But after thinking about this for a while I think the only way to have a really fun party is to enjoy the process of throwing a party.
Logan and I both happen to love throwing parties, I like parties because I grew up in a house where I was ashamed to have people over. It was often dirty and smelled of smoke. Also there was that man who was more than likely drunk in the living room. Embarrassing. Having people to my home and making it warm and welcoming and feeling at ease with the chaos and mess of it all is my way of appreciating all we have.
Logan likes parties because he loves wearing a lampshade on his head and mixing cocktails which put people into jolly comatose states.
Here's how we made this party work, complete with pictures.
At Ordering Disorder I asked for a recipe to serve around 20 people. Dawn came up with this stew from Cooks Illustrated. I ended up buying the meat at Costco (using a friend's membership, don't tell) to save money and the mortification of walking up to the meat counter and asking for 14 pounds of beef. I also had to purchase eight pounds of onions, which at Costco is entirely appropriate. In fact if you buy anything less than eight pounds of onions they point and laugh.
We made a trial batch of the stew on Friday night and as I filled a large dutch oven to the top with onions, Logan and I had a sudden thought, "What if that comment came from someone who actually hates me and wants me to serve a disgusting stew to our neighbors?"
We quickly did a scan of our cookbooks and found a nearly identical recipe called Belgian Beer Stew, and it turned out delicious, so Dawn was not attempting to sabotage my dinner. Thank you Dawn!
At our old house we hung our recipes on the magnetic hood over the range. In this house, we can't do that so we stuck it to the microwave with a little tape while we cooked. This is a surprisingly handy way to cook.
We also cooked the stew in batches so I pre-measured all the ingredients putting them in little dishes for Logan to throw into the pans. This worked pretty well and kept the mess and chaos to a minimum.
We served the stew over noodles and I made a gruyere baked macaroni and cheese for our vegetarian neighbors. Our whole meal, for just under 20 people, cost around $70 including bread and a huge pile of carrots we roasted in a little olive oil. I am not a good food blogger because I do not have pictures of the final product. If I could afford to have every party catered I would do it in a second, I excel at creating an atmosphere not cooking.
And here it is: The Atmosphere.
I moved our sofa, table and chair out of the living room and set up three borrowed tables in the room. I pulled together the chairs from my house and a couple neighbors. I borrowed white tablecloths from a friend, rented dishes and flatware from a party rental place. I used 18 votives we have left from our wedding. I bought the vases (low cylinders) from Michael's for $2.97 a piece and the hydrangea came from Costco for $9 a bunch. I used two bunches and had enough left over for a vase on the dessert table. I used some cranberries left in our fridge from Thanksgiving to give some color and hold the stems in place. I also added a long red ribbon as a runner down the middle of the table. Here's what it looked like at night.
And here is what it looked like full of happy people, including me....asleep.
We also had custom stir sticks made with S's on them. We like the S because it's the initial of our last name, but it also stands for lots of other great words. Like 'Sloshed'.
Logan also designed a logo for the party because nothing says 'Suburbs' like a logo for your holiday dinner party.
PS: We don't live on Blankwood Street.
After dinner we had dessert and ended up playing a game in the den. The game is called Hot Seat but a few of the neighbors and I screened the questions before playing. We removed a few cards with questions like, "Which person in the room would you like to see in sexy lingerie?" Also, "What's your preferred breast size?"
My hugs are awkward enough, I don't need to talk about anything
having to do with sexuality with my neighbors. I mean, I love those
guys but not in that way.
Although, judging by my face in this picture of me playing this game, we must have left in a really inappropriate question.
We spent the better part of yesterday cleaning up and making our dining room back into a dining room and our living room back into living room. By noon it looked like this.
Which means one thing, it's time for another party.
(You can see all the pictures in a set here. I think you should have a party.)