Last week I shared photos of my girls prepping for a last-minute birthday party for a friend. The joy we all found in scurrying around to prepare was increased when our friends arrived. It was a perfect evening.
And yet, very little about it was technically perfect. I didn’t have any paper cups or plastic forks. I went through several recipes before I found one I had all the ingredients for. The house was barely tidy. What was perfect about the evening was our willingness to do our best before the party and when the party started, we all wholeheartedly gave ourselves to enjoying it.
I remembered this post and realized that I’ve learned a lot in the past 18 months. Many lessons have been imposed upon me by the realities of caring for eight children, but I’m so thankful I’ve learned to relax and enjoy my guests, refrain from apologizing, smile and visit and focus on making people feel good about themselves.
Gratefully, my lavender shortbread cookies and this citrus lemon cake with lavender frosting carried the day in addition to the chocolate cupcakes and cake our guests brought with them. Everything looked and tasted delicious.
The very best part of it was our family’s common goal of making my friend’s birthday special. It wouldn’t have been a common goal if I’d been more worried about how things looked than I was about involving my family in preparation. Because I let them do the decorating, they were able to serve and to anticipate joy as much as I was. Sharing the creative process without specific expectations or judgment allowed my children to claim my goal as theirs. This goal was a blessing to her children as well, who felt good about being part of something special for their mom’s birthday. We had two families who were content to relax, laugh, talk, give praise, and enjoy being together. Ten minutes before our friends arrived I had a list of 15 things in my mind that I wished I could still pull off, but when we said good-bye I couldn’t remember any of them. I felt so full and happy I wouldn’t have changed a thing. We had done enough to let them know they’re important to us, and then we spent time enjoying their friendship.
I don’t mean to go on and on about it. It really was a very simple gathering. I guess I think that too often we get big grand pictures in our heads about what a party looks like. The parties we see in magazines and on pinterest aren’t the kind of party that usually happen at my house. Those pictures are inspiring in their beauty and it’s fun to glean ideas from them, but they can distract us from the real purpose of a party. I always try to do at least one special thing to make it look nice (like the mini cake on a piece of china sitting atop a cake stand in the first picture), but I never manage to get everything perfect. I don’t think we have to. I think we need to be open, real, relaxed and more concerned about enjoying our guests than we are about what they think of our event.
If you’ve got someone you’ve been meaning to invite over but haven’t yet because you can’t seem to get everything to work out for a Perfect Party, try a Good Enough Party. Be yourself, make your signature dessert, work as hard as you can for a little while and then take a deep breath and smile. Your Good Enough Party just might become a Perfect Party. Ours did.
Our evening ended with the girls getting wagon rides from my husband while the older children spread streamers all over each other and my yard. While they played my friend and I talked about real life as we took down streamers together.
And then the birthday girl got a little surprise from her son.
Like I said, a Good Enough, Perfect Party.
I’m here to do some free advertising today, advertising based entirely upon the response I got at Saturday’s baby shower when I put a little bowl of cute pink speckled something on my kitchen counter.
What are they? Everyone wanted to know. Candy cane almonds. The package says, “Roasted Almonds in Dark & White Chocolate with Real Crushed Peppermint.”
I found them at Walmart on their big seasonal candy aisle. I was walking down that aisle recently to purchase some Gatorade for my Gatorade-guzzling husband and these caught my eye. They were expensive enough ($10 for 36 ounces, or just under $5/pound) that I passed them up, but when I was doing some last minute scrambling to pull together the shower I remembered them and splurged.
I know they say you’re only supposed to serve tried and true food to guests, but sometimes it’s nice to try something new when you have a lot of opinions to consult. Plus, sharing with a large group guarantees that all you’ll do is taste them, which is what we’re all trying to do at this time of year, right?
Here’s what happened. A few people tasted them, then told the person they were next to. A couple of the ladies came back for second helpings of soup or vegetables, but I think all of them came back for more candy cane almonds. When several of them came to get a hand full to stuff in their pocket before leaving I had to hide my smile. The more it happened, the funnier it was. People really liked them!
So I’m doing you a favor and telling you about these delicious little treats so that you can grab a container to have on hand for the holidays. Maybe you’ll need it at an event you’re hosting. Maybe you’ll have an unexpected group of hungry teenagers crash at your house for an evening. Maybe you’re supposed to bring something to share to a Christmas party but you’re running ragged already and have no time to cook or bake. Maybe you’d like to add something new to your Christmas goodie bags. Whatever the reason, do yourself a favor and buy one.
This is what the container looks like. They had eggnog flavor, too, but eggnog happens to kind of gross me out. So I’ll let you try them if that’s one of your favorite flavors and let me know if they’re good, too.
After the shower was over my sister and I went to the store and we each bought some to use during the holidays. I’m having company for a week and I’m sure there will be a perfect night to get them out.
Honestly, it was a miracle that this baby shower happened at all. With the stomach flu making its way through our family all week I was amazed that no one was sick on the day of the shower. Somehow I got a few Christmas decorations up and the main floor was clean and sanitized.
Most of the things on my list for the shower were crossed off, undone. The bare essentials were all I could offer. While I’d envisioned much better, it all worked out fine. Everyone had a nice time, a lot of people came, the mother-to-be was happy, and because the Christmas decorations were out it still felt festive. I suppose this should be a good reminder to me that even without all the extras I have swirling around in my head, a party can still be a party.
Kristen and I decided to serve a light lunch. We each made a pot of soup. Along with that we had rolls, a veggie tray and mini-cupcakes. Simple but nourishing. Kristen made a delicious chicken noodle soup. I made a vegetable chowder. It’s a recipe I’d forgotten about but now that I’ve re-discovered it I’m sure it will make it’s way to my my table a lot this winter. I’ll share soon.
I had planned on making homemade rolls. It seemed like the least I could do with such a simple menu. But when the big day arrived I realized it wasn’t the best idea so instead I purchased a few dozen different kinds of rolls and offered a variety. This, too, was a good reminder to me that it’s ok to just buy something and call it good. They tasted great and people seemed to like choosing their own.
We served oyster crackers with the soup. They were pretty in my urn vase.
The veggie tray helped to round things out and Kristen saved the day by baking some miniature Orange Creamsicle Cupcakes . They looked so cute with a little kiss of frosting on the top (thanks to my daughter. She’s getting pretty handy with a bag of frosting!).
It was a light but nourishing meal, which many women seem to like. I’m so glad we did it, and I particularly enjoyed hosting it with my sister. She’s really amazing.
Now, on to the rest of December!