Well, another year and another Fall Ball success. It's funny, the husband and I had a post-mortum after the fact on how it went, was it good, what is left over, what went well. Here is what he said: I DREAD it. Which shocked me a bit but then he explained. It's the stress of it that doesn't really dissipate until it's underway. Weeks in advance, you have to pick a date (which really you DON'T pick this date, the date picks you) and hope that people will come. It's a crazy time because lots of people we know have birthdays around now, or their kids do, or anniversaries (ours). Then there's the theme. Will people be too constrained? Will they think outside (or in the case of Tom Scott, inside) the box? Then you have to decide on your own costume and make it come together, which adds its own stress. Then there is the food, the drink, the space.
Over the years I've gotten better at handling the stress. Mostly because each year I try to adapt. This year I dialed food WAY back and we still didn't even open one appetizer and the pan of pumpkin bars went untouched. So I have some work to do there, but what dialing back I've done, has helped tremendously with my stress level.And I've quit thinking my house has to be completely disinfected before the party. It's AFTER the party you want to disinfect.
I really do understand the dread though. You never know if "something better" might come up. We had that happen one year where half the party didn't show up until really late. We were left explaining to those there that no, we had no idea why they were late. The stress knot never really dissipated that year, but luckily there hasn't been a repeat so WOOT!
This year's theme was books. And think about it, almost every movie is based from a book so there was TONS to choose from. I went back and forth and finally decided (because it came together so easily which was an indication that it was meant to be) to be my husband's counterpart. So here we are, from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Quasimoto and Esmeralda:
I love it when I get the opportunity to repurpose dance costumes that I paid an arm and a leg for. Most of Quasi's was also recycled but I will tell you, the eye was challenging.
So, the party starts as it always does with a pre-party cocktail with the friends who were in on the Fall Ball from day one, the man in the yellow hat and Laura #1:
(Just a word of warning, you gotta just KNOW that George WILL be a naughty monkey. It's in his stuffing.) And as always, they come not just to help us settle our nerves, but always bearing gifts. This year was our anniversary gift.
What's hilarious about it is it plays Send in the Clowns. Ah, but one would need to know WHERE are the clowns. If you are following our clown saga, which can be found here and here you'll get the hilarity of that. Oddly enough, said clown seems to be "missing". Well, I'm positive it will turn up somewhere, where one least expects it. But the little music box can be a reminder until it does.
Our pre-party party cocktail this year was an Apple Cider Margerita. Makes you want one doesn't it? It was delicious!
So, like last year's party, and the plethora of Charlie Brown's we had, this year's party ALSO included a favorite. Anyone want to take a guess as to what it would be? Why Where's Waldo? of course. The first to arrive was Waldo with Scarecrow (yes The Wizard of Oz was a book first):
Followed by Waldo and Laura:
And then a pair of Waldos:
Then the Indian in the Cupboard arrived:
With his lovely wife Walter the Farting Dog (she brought the book as proof):
The Dread Pirate Roberts and Buttercup also put in an appearance:
And apparently someone passed George the VSOP. NOT a good idea:
Where the Sidewalk Ends was cleverly done:
One party goer took things into his own hand. Literally:
Of course, a book themed costume party wouldn't be complete with out SOME contemporary literature...enter...Grey, Christian Grey:
BUT, the winners of this year's best costume, were Willy Wonka (circa Johnny Depp) and his Golden Ticket(also know as 101 uses for gold duct tape):
And additional pics of most of the women:
And of course, George took a turn for the naughty (yes, we ARE 12):
And then I think someone slipped George some kind of growth hormone in his brandy because next thing we knew:
The Cuban Black Bean soup was a repeat from last year and apparently it was a good choice as it was almost completely GONE with about a half pot of the white chili having been eaten. And I will say that this WAS a good batch of the black bean. So, because I'm a giver (OBVIOUSLY) I'm gonna sharin' the love (and the recipe) with y'all.
Cuban Black Bean Soup (From Star Tribune late 1990s) 20 oz dry black beans, rinsed 3 quarts plus 3 cups beef broth, divided 4 Tbs olive oil 3 cups chopped oion 2 cups chopped green pepper 1 large carrot chopped 2 Tbs garlic powder 2 large bay leaves 1 1.4 tsp dried oregano 1/2 tsp dried thyme 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes 1/2 tsp black pepper 4 smoked ham shanks (I've tried hocks which the recipe called for and I think it's too fatty so I started using shanks) 1/2 cup dry Sherry 2 Tbs balsamic or red vinegar In a large pot over medium heat combine beans with 3 cups of beef broth (for this part I usually use Tones beef base. I also don't worry about it being exact but make sure there is enough that the beans don't become dry). Boil beans covered for 30 minutes. Turn off heat, and let stand in pot for one hour. In ANOTHER large pot (this one needs to be big) saute onions and peppers in oil over medium high heat until onion is translucent and pepper is soft. Stir in carrot garlic powder, bay leaves, oregano, thyme, red pepper and black pepper. Combine ingredients evenly and let saute for 2-3 min. Add remaining 3 quarts of broth (I HIGHLY recommend NOT using the beef base for this, but buying beef stock or broth and using low sodium variety. The ham shanks will be salty and if you use the beef base or regular broth, the soup may end up salty), the beans and whatever liquid is still in the pot and ham shanks. Bring to a simmer and cover and cook until ham begins to fall from bones (about 2 hours). Remove ham from pot, let cool and remove ham and return to the pot and continue to simmer for a total of 3 hours, and at least one hour uncovered. Just before serving, stir in sherry and vinegar. My preference is to serve it over yellow rice (use about 1-2 tsp of turmeric to turn rice a beautiful yellow color).
The stress? Gone by the first hour. I counted 28 people, biggest yet. It is always so gratifying to hear people ask if we're already planning NEXT year's theme. Why yes, we are. And if you're lucky, you'll be on next year's invitation list.
Our annual Fall Ball is only a short 4 days away. And since last year's went so well, I'm probably way more laid back than I should be, thinking it will all fall into place, which is NEVER a good plan.
Oh the same questions loom...what is the theme? Do you have your costume done? What will you be? Is your food all planned? And DID you in fact run out of beer last year?
Books. Our theme this year is books. And if you stop and think about it, that means you can be pretty much anything. Well except some obscure character like a nurse from Dr Zhivago. Luckily I don't have to worry because pretty much everyone who comes really uses their imagination and makes an effort and the end result is SO worth it. It's always fun to see where people's minds take them.
No. I don't have my costume completed yet and NO, I'm not telling what I think I'm going to be. Mostly because I have something like 3 ideas that I'm working on and I might end up being whichever of them come together first. One would even be opposite my husband. I should probably quit being a slacker and start the narrowing down process.
I had planned on a different menu from last year but too many people wanted a repeat of the Cuban Black Bean soup and who am I to refuse? But when I look back on all the OTHER stuff I made, I'm thinking...HOLY Martha Stewart Batman, you need to figure this out. PRONTO. I'm thinking the chicken soup will be White Chili. I have a recipe that I pulled out of the San Jose Mercury News back in (deep breath) 1990 that I absolutely LOVE and haven't had a bad review of. EVER. Everything else I'm gonna wing.
As for beer...silly wabbit. Of COURSE we didn't run out of beer. That is Cardinal Rule of hosting parties. NEVER RUN OUT OF BEER. So of course we overbuy, which just means we have extra left over. Which for us means WINNING. I may serve Apple Cider Margaritaswhich I found on Pinterest earlier this month and have already tried out and are AWESOME.And I think I heard a someone whisper something about jello shots, but, I could be mistaken. We'll have to see what Saturday brings.
Now, having put everything out there and in perspective, I have my game face on. Party on Wayne!
Holy Crap. July 4th? Really? See what happens when EMPLOYMENT gets in the way of one's leisure activities? Since we're going on 3+ months since last post, I'm going to attempt to sum up.
Dog? She's still nuts. But summer storms have passed so she's 'better'. No, no Thundershirt. Yet.
The boy? We sent him off to college. Only to hear 2 weeks after dropping him off that his college was evacuated due to bomb scares. GRRREEEAAATTT. That warm fuzzy every parent wants. I offer only this small piece of advice to make the leaving (especially if it is your first) go more smooth: TALK to your spouse and make sure you are on the same page as to expectations on how things will go. Will save you LOTS of tears. Oh, tears will be a reality, but maybe not so many.
The oldest daughter? No longer employed by choice (and I believe she has learned the hazards to her spandex of working in a donut shop). She's been working pretty hard at dance with the season starting next week. Oh, she also made National Honor Society. WOOT!
The middle daughter? Celebrated her 14th birthday. Is contemplating if basketball is what she wants to do (and she needs to make a decision quickly). Has picked up quite a bit of babysitting so I will probably be going to her if I need money.
The youngest daughter? Changed dance studios and is taking both hip-hop and dance line prep classes. Monday's are now very busy. Moved schools this year to a 6th grade center with ALL the 6th graders in our city. Not sure if I'm going to like this, but as of 6 weeks in, she's doing fine.
We finished off the summer by boating, taking a long weekend trip to Indiana, boating, taking the whole family to Hells Kitchen for brunch and doing a tour or Minnehaha Falls, boating, dropping the boy at college and boating. The boat? It was just taken into get winterized and put away. The husband spent his last night in the garage rubbing it down with a diaper and I swear, I heard Taps playing in the garage that night.
I'm not sure what to do with myself now. I stopped working two weeks ago, after I planted our last mum bed and pulled the last annual bed. I may have some holiday pot work but for now I'm done. I can now actually PLAN dinners instead of flying by the seat of my dirt encrusted jeans.And get the house in order. It's not too bad, because we did most of what I wanted to do before the boy graduated, but I have several bins of clothes that need going through to determine what to consign and what to Salvation Army. Our closet needs that too. So, I suspect there's enough to keep me busy. IF I want to be busy.