I took a lot of pictures this holiday season. These and the blogs to follow highlight some of my favorites!
CHRISTMAS AT HOME - This actually was 12/18, the day before we left to spend the holidays in Florida – plus one bonus photo of lazy Granuaile being met at the car by her dad with a wagon so she didn’t have to walk up the driveway!
Let’s move on to the main event, shall we?
This is where things get fuzzy. This table WAS just for the main parts of the meal – entrees and side dishes. As my dining room table has grown in size over the years (hmmmm, so has my waist size – coincidence?), it seems I add more stuff to this table that maybe should be elsewhere?
Anyway, what ended up on this table was the spinach dip – which was gone entirely. The vegetable crudite, made only with veggies I and my girls will/can eat, so when I have leftovers, it’s not leftovers of stuff I end up throwing away. We went through nearly the whole tray. Then we had a pickle (dill spears and sweet gherkins) and olive (black and green) tray – with marinated mushrooms, mostly because I had an extra space in my dish. I had nearly the whole tray left. Apparently, this was not an olive year.
We had at the other end of the table my baked ham, served cold. I had a bunch of that left, but ham doesn’t do well in the chafing dish for the length of time the party was. I might have to work on that. In the front right is the grape pizza – which was almost entirely gone. In the crock pot was my roast turkey, which was a big hit – and that was a surprise. Aren’t people still eating turkey soup, turkey sandwiches, and turkey croquettes from Thanksgiving? I put the cranberry sauce next to it in case people wanted to make a whole Thanksgiving meal/sandwich kind of thing. I had half of the cranberry sauce left. Next year – awesomesauce (this is an homage to my “brother” on the Moms Panel, Jonas, and I have no idea what one would even make awesomesauce out of – perhaps Damn Good Dip?).
The gorgeous looking “wreath” is a broccoli/ham/cheese ring, made with a recipe from my friend Amy. Amy has elevated herself to Best Friend For Life with this recipe! Almost as soon as I put the ring on the table, it was entirely gone. I’m sorry I didn’t make the whole table just these rings – it got RAVE reviews. No awesomesauce or damn good name necessary.
Meatballs, Sausage, Bruschetta – oh my! The bruschetta is nestled safely back in my fridge, as it was the lone “not touched” item on the table. The second crock pot has meatballs and sausage in it, and I had only a container left. Even the Italians commented on how good they were (thank you, Ragu, which may very well be the original awesomesauce). The chafing dishes contained stuffing – my stepmom’s recipe- which also won critical acclaim; and kielbasa. One pan of kielbasa was entirely eaten, but the second pan was too dry and untouched. I also think we got better kielbasa at the Polish deli, but to save time, I bought it at Wegman’s deli. Next year, we’re back at the Polish deli (yeah, I keep saying next year after I swore never again).
Then we had desserts. I inevitably forget SOMETHING on the table. This year, it was the dip for the fruit salad. I had a mini-meltdown over desserts. I ordered a case of cranberry bliss bars from Starbucks, along with peppermint brownies, and my bliss bars were accidentally dispensed to Starbucks patrons with obviously discriminating palates. I was pissed. Almost pissed enough to never set foot in Starbucks again. I ended up replacing it with a red velvet roll (no one touched it, as pretty as I thought it was), cupcakes, panettone, petit fours, and blueberry cake (they were hard to replace). I had desserts of all kinds left, especially since people brought more desserts in. I don’t have a photo of the beautiful carrot cake my Aunt Barbara made, but I heard it was delicious!
What kind of desserts do people like at these things? Clue me in.
Starting with the cheese course. I’m not a fan of strong cheese – I prefer mild and softer cheese. The tray included Havarti (my favorite), Stilton with cranberries (which looked pretty but must have tasted terrible, because I ended up tossing nearly the whole thing), Swiss, for Jim, who loves it (blech), and a sharp cheddar (blech again, but my family loves it). The only thing I tossed off of this plate was the crackers and the Stilton. That would have made a nice lunch! Next year – well, it’s easy to do cheese, and it varies from year to year whether it’s a hit or miss. Maybe I’ll change it up with some Fabulous Beekman Boys goat cheese!
Downstairs snack foods are always tricky. It’s usually mostly kids playing down there, but this year, it was mostly grown ups. For the first time EVER, in the 20 plus years we’ve had a holiday party, I threw away potato chips and onion dip. I almost always have to refill the chips and dip. The buffalo chicken cheese dip – FLOP. Thank goodness I can’t take credit for creating this hot mess. Even the grown ups deemed it too spicy and unpleasant. Chips and salsa – no one ever eats chips and salsa. Jim makes me put it there every year, because he prefers it to sour cream based dips. Next year, he’ll have to sit and eat the whole thing. If there was going to be a next year. 17,003.
We also had girl scout nuts (they were spicy), and a snack tray from Target with my favorite ever trail mix – the pumpkin one. Fortunately, no one ate it, so it quickly became all mine.
The thing that looks like a pizza is the seafood surprise dip. I love how this dip tastes, I really do, but no one ever eats this thing. I make it for Jim, because he loves it, but even he didn’t find time to get downstairs to eat any of it. I think, and rightfully so, food with the word “SURPRISE” in the name probably frightens people off. A heart attack is a surprise – not good. A car accident is a surprise – not good. A tax audit from the IRS is a surprise – not good. Next year, I’m still making this, but instead of calling it seafood surprise, I’m calling it Damn Good Dip.
This was also downstairs, and there is only one snackable item on the table – the dark chocolate covered, metallic almonds that Jim bought. I don’t think people realized this was not just a decoration. These were delicious, but I had to go downstairs, open up the candy jar, and pass them out. The metallic thing also freaked people out. Next year? These will be called Damn Good Nuts.
Stay tuned for Damn Good Stuffing.
Well, for those of you who have been dedicated blog readers – back in the day when I posted once a year – you know that I always post a Christmas party wrap up. I do this for two reasons. The first reason is to remind me next November when I start thinking about hosting the Christmas party that I said 17,000 times the year before “I am NEVER doing this again!” The second reason is because I have Mommy brain, which, as you know, not only causes you to forget your own name sometimes, but also causes you to forget painful things like childbirth and planning a Christmas party.
Next year, when I’ve forgotten how grueling putting this party together has been, I’d like to be reminded what I did that worked and what I did that flopped. So here is part one of my party recap.
Invitations – I sent almost all electronic invitations this year, and I loved them. The feedback I got was almost entirely positive, so it’s not something I’d scratch off the list next year. I did find out there were a few people who had trouble opening the invitations, so I apologize for that. I may just post the invitation here on my blog. You’re all invited next year. Oh wait, I am NEVER doing this again 17,001.
Clean Up and Preparation – Bless my lazy arsed husband. When I told him that between the kids, my classes, scouts, cheer leading, drama, dance, and him, there was no way I’d be able to clean the house to get ready for the party without his help. His answer to that was to bring in a housekeeper the day before the party to help me get things ready. She was a lifesaver. While she was scrubbing toilets and wiping down windows, I was roasting a turkey and making deviled eggs. Everything ran a bit more smoothly without the worry of a last minute, Flight of the Bumble Bee style clean up looming over my head.
Layout – The Florida room, which, ironically, is the coldest room in our house during the winter, is the “bar”. We set up a table, put out beer, wine, sodas, and pitchers of iced tea, occasionally do a punch or an egg nog (not this year), and sometimes some stuff to mix drinks. This year, it was brutally cold outside, but because of all the cooking, it was comfortable in the Florida room. The drinks stayed cold, the ice didn’t melt as quickly, but I did notice not too many people gravitated out there this year. Maybe because we had a smaller party (50 guests)? I don’t know, but I’d probably leave the drinks out there next year. If I was doing this again next year, which, as you know, I am not (17,002).
Downstairs was the table of snack type foods. There were chips and dips and cheese and things. I am truly surprised at how much of this I ended up getting rid of at the end of the night. Not sure this is a good spot for this or not.
We always set up a table in the kitchen with desserts, and it seems to be a good – but not great – spot. There’s always a gang of people in the kitchen – maybe people who don’t want a plate of dessert, but will stand and nibble on cookies. I can’t think where else this table might go, but I’m not sure having it in the kitchen is the best place.
The dining room table is always real food, but over the years, it has become a mix of real foods, snacks, side dishes. I think this needs to be reworked, also
Stay tuned for part 2, where I tell you how people criticized my cooking in the most polite way – by not eating it!
As I get to the end of this year’s holiday decorating, with the promise to my husband that I will begin to weed through ornaments and decorations we no longer use and get rid of them, I am reminded of why we have so many holiday decorations. Everything I have means something – whether it was a gift that someone gave to me, or an ornament purchased because it reminded me of one of my children. I have things that were used in my Grandmother’s house when I was a little girl, and things my mom used in her house when I was young as well. There are things that were my dad’s before he died, and things my grandmother handmade.
So here is what the house looks like with the bulk of the decorating done:
Each of these stockings, although never used to actually contain gifts, mean something. The first one at the top of the stairs, my Grandmom Fee made. The last one was a dollar store purchase when we were making stockings to be sent to the soldiers in Iraq. It was leftover, but reminds me each year of how lucky we are to be together each Christmas.
These happy faces used to belong on my Mom’s stereo
The tree is mine – bought one year when we weren’t going to be home for the holidays, but I wanted a Christmas tree up anyway. I ended up buying two of them – one for each bay window in the front of the house. The kissing Angels and the angel musicians were Grandmom Fee’s. I’m not sure where the Nativity came from, but this is a huge promotion for this Nativity – last year, and for the previous 8, they have been on a shelf in the downstairs bathroom.
The “kids” tree – filled with all the ornaments collected over the years for the kids – with their names, the year, and their favorite characters. There are also baby’s first ornaments on the tree, and ornaments they’ve made in school through the years.
The top of the china cabinet is home to many of the holiday stuffies we’ve collected through the years – we try to add a new one each year. That means we should only have about 22, but somewhere along the way, we must have added a few spares!
Our first Christmas together, Jim and I wanted to do a more elegant tree than the ones we grew up with, so we settled on one color ornament – gold. Well, over the years, we came to realize how the trees we grew up with ended up with the mismatched ornaments – we came along! Our family tree ended up having a bit of everything on it as the girls came along. A couple of years ago, though, Jim bought the pre-lit tree with colored lights to appease the girls who hated the white lights on my tree. I promptly moved all the “colorful” ornaments to the colorful tree, and reclaimed the gold one. I love it all gold because it reminds me every year of my first Christmas with Jim – and the promise of many more to come.
Merry Christmas, everyone!