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:
The Dread Pirate Roberts and Buttercup also put in an appearance:
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:
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.