Memories with Food: Fancy Wine and Cheese Party

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I’m nervous, because I haven’t “thrown a party” in the States ever, because I’ve never had my new graduate school friends over to my apartment… I’ve never even had an apartment to myself before! So many firsts happened, when I got fancy cheese (I see manchego in the picture – a hold-over from Spain, where I had lived until 3 months before this party… I think I remember always worrying that people thought I was boring when I talked about it, because I was always thinking about it in those months). People had fun at the party though – my good friend E first really hung out with the boy who would become her long time love (they’re still together, nearly 4 years after that party!), I met people I still like and respect now, and we enjoyed sitting in the hammock on my tiny, rickety balcony. I cannot say I miss that time, with all the vulnerability and new-ness of life in the States again, but I can say I’m proud of my past, brave self!

 

Blueberry Cream Cheese Muffins

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I remember this one coffee shop in my college town had the best pastries – they never had a wide variety, but of the 2 or 3 things they had, everything was always delicious. My favorite was the muffin with cream cheese in the middle – it was so decadent and added a rich tinge to anything I was eating that day. Not to mention, muffins are so light and airy – it’s a wonderful juxtaposition.

In my attempt to not be a burden on the family Thanksgiving celebration, I was determined to make some breakfast treats, as I mentioned in Adult Children and Family Holidays; one of those things was a batch of these blueberry cream cheese muffins! Crazy For Crust has this wonderful recipe, which worked up exactly as she said. I didn’t do the streusel – lazy – but I am confident they would have been even better with that added!

My favorite step was definitely putting a dollop of batter, a gem of cream cheese, and then another dollop of batter on top – it was a fun construction inside some cute parchment paper muffin tins, and after they cooked all brown and caramel-y, they stored really well in a big gallon plastic bag for the trip to see the in-laws! I cannot recommend these enough as an alternative to grabbing grocery store or coffee shop pastries – fast and simple!

 

Beautiful Food: Sweating Veggies

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The key first step to a great soup or pot pie is this: a pat of butter, a pile of onions and carrots and celery, and the exquisite heat that brings their flavors together. Veggies are beautiful in many forms, but I’m especially grateful for this combination when holidays are coming around – so comforting and fresh smelling and savory!

Beautiful Food: Chicken Pot Pie

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In a post-church hunger, Husband and I made this amazing pot pie, inspired by Seeded at the Table – we used whatever cream soups we had and some sweated veggies and shredded chicken, and made the cheddar biscuits for the top… enough said. It’s getting me through my long day of errands-running before the holiday!

More Pretty Face Scrubbies

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With my new varieties of yarn, I made some delicate white face scrubbies and some more fun blue and green print scrubbies – it takes a little while to make them, but a large pile are for my aunts, cousins, in-laws, and sister – soft scrubbies for their pampering Christmas gifts! I might throw in some kind of fun face wash and make it a full present. 🙂 For the pattern, refer back to Pretty little face scrubbies and my inspiration, The Stitchin’ Mommy. 

The Return of Fiesta Chicken!

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Whipped up in a hunger-induced tizzy on Thursday night, this mix of leftover veggies, chicken, and rice was covered (not with salsa this time!) with the pepper jack cream sauce I devised in 28. M’s Fiesta Chicken/Arroz con Pollo – so tasty! I’ve been quite happy with the way we tore through the leftover enchiladas, leftover chicken, and now, most of the leftover rice and salad… Parties may feel like they cost a lot, but you’ve got to factor in the delightful leftovers for a week to come!

Adult Children and Family Holidays

I’ve never “hosted” Thanksgiving – it seems like quite the undertaking, from the outside. There’s food to prepare, spaces to clean, and all the many little things to account for about the guests you have – these are family members, and you know their quirks, and you want them to feel comfortable and at ease. I would probably be preparing for ages before hosting Thanksgiving, and who knows? Someday I might. The closest I’ve come was hosting a pretty family-filled New Years Eve party, and even that comes with very few expectations, food-wise. For Thanksgiving, there are so many iconic foods that folks expect to see!

My husband’s family… so, you know, my family too… is in an interesting spot. All the children are grown, with the youngest in their 20s and married, with parents in their 50s and the grandparents “generation” in their 70s; it’s an entirely adult family. Sure, most of us 20-somethings have friends with babies, but the family itself doesn’t have any yet, and it makes the role of being the “youngest” generation a bit surreal: I’m old enough to be hosting but instead, I’m being hosted by the older generations again.

I want to contribute, though, in a way that I haven’t before: last year, I was in such a tizzy about the wedding (which was the Saturday after Thanksgiving) that I was extremely grateful to leave everything about Thanksgiving to them. However, this year, I’m thankful that I have the space, time, and ability to be (at least a little) helpful. To that end, here are my ways of trying to be a useful daughter/granddaughter-in-law in the yearly Thanksgiving celebrations.

  1. Bring some desserts/breakfast stuff: People don’t love having other people hone in when they are making a dinner masterpiece, but it never hurts for there to be more dessert/breakfast food for the many additional people in the house. It’s also nice for hosts not to have to get up early and figure out some kind of breakfast plan; instead, guests can fend for themselves and everything is more restful for us all.
  2. Bring a game or a fun new activity: This is Husband’s realm; when he and I find out about a cool game or a fun activity to share with family, we try to save it for the next time a ton of us are in the same house. We’ve spent hours in tournaments of backgammon (not a new game, but one that had a heyday with us), downloaded the same trivia app on our phones just to play against people in the same room, and written up our own versions of charades. It keeps everyone who isn’t thrilled about football busy and happy and making memories together.
  3. Bring what you’ll need and make time for yourselves: I try to pack well in general, but I tend to forget things and need to borrow or buy them – I try harder to make sure I’m well-packed when I’m staying as a guest in someone’s home, because it’s one way to make my stay with them less of a burden. I also like to plan, if I’m going to stay for a while, for Husband and I to take a little time for ourselves somewhere in there, just to get out of the hosts’ hair. In this case, our anniversary will always fall around Thanksgiving from here out, and so we’ve got reservations for a nice dinner Saturday night; by then, we’ll have had lots of family time but still have time to reconvene on Sunday morning.

Most of all, noticing when there are opportunities to spend time with someone while helping them out – doing dishes, carrying chairs, setting out silverware. These aren’t fancy and it doesn’t make the work of hosting much easier, but it does give you a time to connect while spending time together.

The Future of Hosting: Crappy Dinner Parties

A friend recently sent me this brilliant article. Feel free to read or at least skim before reading my thoughts, because it’s truly lovely.

I think that one of the things that keeps people from having others over is the demands of seeming to “have it all together.” Whatever we do, we think that our lives must magically look like a Better Housekeeping magazine when guests visit. What Crappy Dinner Parties prove is that, not only do we not have to do that, but we actually create greater intimacy with others when we let them see our normal life, our piles of laundry, frozen lasagna, our stained-carpet lives.

I was listening to a bit of radio the other day where people were calling in and talking about their biggest thanksgiving memories, and they were all bad: ruined meals, stolen turkeys, whole-family-wide illnesses. These things aren’t fun in the moment, and they seem like they are the end of the world if you expect your life to look like a catalog, but what they actually do is create memories. They make us closer to each other. I am still going to try to clean my house and have enough of every dish ready when my friends and family come over, but Crappy Dinner Parties have inspired me: for the people who I’m closest to, whatever I have is completely good enough.

What do you do to curb the tendency toward perfectionism? Do you have a story about a hilarious mishap that turned into a dinner party memory? Do share. 🙂