Here's who came to the party:
Uncle Graham and Carol drove up all the way from Madison. Carol brought Cokes and a veggie pizza (one of my favorite party treats) and a helpful attitude, although she did give me some grief for nearly pouring an entire dipper of punch on her hand and then tried to give me back her used Joyful Confirmation napkin to use next year at Aisling's party (see post below, final paragraph.) We bonded over melting a stubborn lump of orange juice concentrate in the microwave and later got sugar water in our hair when I accidentally splashed us by dropping the sherbet mold into the punch bowl with an excess of enthusiasm.
Pat, Angie and the kids came and all my friends finally got a chance to actually see the people I write about so frequently on this blog. Kieren was deeply admired by the several teen girls who were here, and for a quiet guy, I have to say he outdid himself in being both charming and entertaining, if the giggles I kept hearing were any indication. Dayden allowed Michelle and Al's boys to play with his bag full o' lizards that he keeps here. Kiersi peered between the balusters from her place on the stairs, looking like a little tiny convict and earnestly telling everyone who came through the front door that she was three.
Bob and Bridget came with Emily, clear from the west side of Indianapolis, which was so good of them. Emily is a good friend of the girls' and Bob and Bridget are the people Meelyn and Aisling would like to go live with, whether or not anything bad -- God forbid -- happens to me and my husband. "They have better food there," the girls tell us earnestly. "And they're very nice and never yell. And we get to play with the video camera and take lots of movies of us singing and no one tells us to turn it down." Bob and Bridget, if you're feeling lonely over there now that one little chickie has flown the nest and another one's in college and you've only got THREE LEFT AT HOME, please give us a call and we'll make arrangements for two teenagers to come for an extended stay chez vous.
Mark and Kayte came over from Carmel way on a Sunday jaunt. This was the first time that Kayte's ever been to my house, although we've been friends for a number of years. Isn't that odd? The explanation is, of course, that she is consumed by Matt's swimming schedule, which is no joke, considering that he is nationally ranked and swims year 'round. Mark, of course, is a busy lawyer who does some traveling in the course of his work, so it was a great pleasure to see their smiling faces. It meant so much that they took the time away from their busy schedules to drive so far.
Al, Michelle and the gang came too. As I said above, their boys were amazed by Dayden's generosity in the sharing of the bag full o' lizards (he is a very nice boy.) Kayte and I teased Michelle about her high-pitched refusal to eat another cold sandwich on our way home from Canada last fall. As Mee's sponsor, Michelle gave Meelyn a very beautiful and generous gift that makes me get kind of teary every time I think of it. Sweet, sweet friend!
The following people were invited but couldn't come and were missed:
Susie and Doug and Aunt Peg were invited, but Aunt Peg had a nasty fall and hurt herself rather badly a couple of weeks ago and is energetically undergoing convalescent rehabilitation, as is her wont. Doug had a business trip and Susie has been too involved with Aunt Peg to stray too far from home, so she sent a huge fruit bouquet from Edible Arrangements® which was sooo cute,
telling me that she wanted to send a fruit basket because she knew I'd think of her every time I looked at it, hahaha.
Katie, Gary and Beck were invited, but couldn't come because it would necessitate Beck's missing her final orchestra practice before the big spring concert -- it seems that conductors and fellow musicians get a bit tetchy when this happens. Since Katie is one of my dearest friends and Beck is one of the girls' dearest friends and we all like Gary (even though he wouldn't stop the van in Stratford to let me hug a swan), it seemed a little empty without them.
Nanny and Poppy were invited, but of course couldn't come because they just flew in last week for Meelyn's sixteenth birthday. But we wanted them to know that they were wanted. I can hardly wait until they come home. Less than a month now!
There were a few other invitees who couldn't come, and I seriously don't know where we'd have put them if they did. I might have had to set up a table and chairs in the attic. But I know I'll pretty much invite the same people next year for Aisling's party, and perhaps a few more, now that I know I can do it.
As I thought things over in the aftermath, contemplating the leftovers, I realized that we served some very weird food and I'm a tiny bit mortified. My whole concept was to have things that people wouldn't need utensils for (except the cake) because I wasn't totally sure that we'd have enough forks without having to do a sinkful of dishes somewhere along the line, which would have been inconvenient. We have eight silver dinner forks and eight silver salad forks, but only six stainless dinner forks and six stainless ditto. I could not see the sense in asking people to eat tiny meatballs with spoons, hence the finger food.
This is what we had to eat:
Little ham salad sandwich triangles -- These were very delicious, but I won't serve them at Aisling's reception next year because the ham salad was just too messy. We did take the precaution of "sealing" the bread with soft butter so that it didn't get nasty and wet, but the ham salad still oozed out the sides. Still, people liked them: out of that whole crowd, we were only left with sixteen triangles (we made forty), which we happily ate for dinner late that evening because? Is there anything more fun than eating leftover party food while curled up on the couch in your jammies after all the guests have gone home? Love!
Cheeseball and crackers -- This is Meelyn's favorite, the one with the cream cheese, garlic powder, finely chopped green onions and chipped beef. This was considered an elegant party food back in the early 1950s, but we are still workin' it here in the midwest. The crackers, of which I had a fabulous assortment, all came from the Dollar Tree. I know! I didn't think they'd be fresh either! But they were! From now on, Dollar Tree is my one-stop source for party plates, cups, gift bags, greeting cards, thank you notes and crackers for the cheeseball.
Veggie pizza -- Carol brought this, as I mentioned, and I was so glad, since the veggies did away with the need for a veggie tray, which always looks so lovely and healthy, but NO ONE EVER EATS ANY OF IT. We get left with baby carrots and celery sticks and cucumber slices and radish roses for DAYS, and since we don't want them either, they always seem to get thrown out, which makes me feel wretchedly, hideously guilty. Carol's veggie pizza had a crust made of Pillsbury croissant rolls, plus cream cheese with some kind of seasoning (a packet of ranch dressing mix?), plus the vegetables and it was so good. There were only about eight squares of that left over and the girls and I ate them for breakfast yesterday morning. They were still very fresh and the croissant crust wasn't soggy at all, so the cream cheese must provide the same kind of moisture barrier that the butter did in the ham salad sandwiches.
Fruit -- This came in the form of Susie's Edible Arrangement and it was so pretty, people didn't want to dig into it at first. It was constructed from canteloupe, honeydew, strawberries, grapes and pineapple, and once everyone decided that it was a food object and not a museum piece, it went very quickly. Delicious! I managed to grab a pineapple daisy before they were all gone.
Cheese, summer sausage and olive spears -- I could not resist the urge to cut up summer sausage and cheese into teeny chunks and spear them on those fancy toothpicks with ripe and green olives, mostly because I snort-laugh whenever I read about Una Alconbury's Turkey Curry Buffet in Helen Fielding's spectacularly hilarious take on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Bridget Jones' Diary. I am always enthralled by the thought of bourgeois cheese dice and pineapple chunks on toothpicks, with Bridget haranguing Mark Darcy to choose a tidbit off the tray. I just love it too much. Here's a little snippet from Bridget:
The worst of it was that Una Alconbury and Mum wouldn't leave it at that. They kept making me walk around with trays of gherkins and glasses of cream sherry in a desperate bid to throw me into Mark Darcy's path yet again. In the end, they were so crazed with frustration that the second I got within four feet of him with the gherkins, Una threw herself the room like Will Carling and said, "Mark, you must take Bridget's telephone number before you go so that you can get in touch when you're in London."
"Can I tempt you with a gherkin?" I said, to show I had a genuine reason for coming over, which was quite definitely gherkin-based rather than phone-number-related.
"Thank you, no," he said, looking at me with some alarm.
"Sure? Stuffed olive?" I pressed on.
"Silverskin onion?" I encouraged. "Beetroot cube?"
"Thank you," he said desperately, taking an olive.
"Hope you enjoy it," I said triumphantly.*
There was one thing I didn't consider, though, and that was the uncanny and unfortunate resemblance that cubes of all-beef summer sausage have to horse meat. As the girls and I sat at the kitchen table threading little chunks of this and that on our frilly toothpicks that matched my serving dishes, I had some moments of misgiving, fighting hard to resist the urge to throw back my head and whinny. I also did not allow myself to gallop into the dining room to set the platter with our be-toothpick'ed treats on the table. We didn't have very many left over, though, so maybe not as many of our friends and family went to the cinema to see Seabiscuit as I thought. If I serve these again, I'll make sure to just cut each round of summer sausage into quarters and leave the edge (minus the rind, of course).
Keeping these things in mind -- the oozy sandwiches, the Secretariat-on-a-stick -- I think I may go in another direction for Aisling's reception next year.
Yesterday evening at Moms' Night Out, my friend Julie was telling us about this creamy chicken and rice casserole that she has made for every baptism and First Communion party she's ever held. She told us that it was easy to prepare and a real people-pleaser, at which time everyone started clamoring for the recipe. Julie emailed it to all of us this morning, and I have to say, it does sound good. I was thinking that maybe I could serve the casserole with little hot biscuits, or maybe even little homemade puff pastry croissants, some fruit salad and a relish tray -- perhaps with gherkins, silverskin onions and beetroot cubes -- plus cake.
I'll just need to buy some new forks.
*Bridget Jones' Diary, Copyright (c) 1996 Helen Fielding, All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Penguin Books, Penguin Putnam Incorporated, 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014.