Thursday, April 23, 2015

Barefoot in My Brain

I love every bit of this short interview with Ina Garten. She is a master - and she validates all my major party planning behaviors. Some favorite parts:

"I take a blank piece of paper," she explained, "and superimpose the recipes on the schedule. I work backwards, starting with the final recipe that has to be finished, then second, then third. Then I can look at the plan and see, 'there’s nothing for me to do before 5:00.'"

A game plan, Ina? Do tell. Of course, while I start with a handwritten list, I end with this:

But only because I already have it set up, which makes it easy to use. She says she sticks to menu items that can be prepared almost entirely in advance, though the best things will need something to happen just before serving.

For those, she recommends things that just need to be stuck in the oven. Smart. I learned, the hard way, that anything requiring too much last-minute assembly is a bad idea. Several close friends who were on hand for the great Thanksgiving Sandwich Debacle of 2013 will certainly agree. (Side note: the sandwiches were delicious. Just way more time consuming than anticipated.)

She says, too, that she loves a round table. Me too, Ina! We're twins!

And finally:
"Everyone always says, 'you look so relaxed!' But they don't see me in the last 15 minutes, when I say to Jeffrey: 'Don’t talk to me!'

This, I just love. I have often joked that I have to build time in, on party day, for Cooper and I to get in a fight - because he's not doing what I want him to do exactly when I want him to do it. The truth is, I've gotten better about this (and so has he - compromise!). But every party has a few touch and go moments. 

This past weekend, it was when I was trying to do something with tablecloths and the bar and I accidentally broke a vase (one I love that my sister gave us for Christmas). Glass everywhere. It was...not my finest fifteen minutes.

Cooper understood. As, I think, would Jeffrey.

Monday, April 20, 2015

This Weekend

No post last week! Eek! Sorry! The week just got away from me, as they sometimes do. Just work stuff...though some of it was fun. More on that later.

Then came this weekend, which was busy with food and fun. Elsewhere in Baltimore, people were having a blast at the Emporiyum. I'm sorry we had to miss that - but we had our own stuff.

First, Friday night: Mother/Son Extreme Game Night (aka the boy version of the Father/Daughter Dance). It was...warm at Stoneleigh, so Dixon and I mostly hung out outside. There were snowballs. DRP's order was egg custard. Obvs.

Before the party, we went to Bateman's for dinner with a whole bunch of people. It was kind of chaotic, with like 20 kids and 13 moms. Our team of waiters were both awesome and saintly. 

It also marked something that felt like a milestone to me: the first time Dixon sat at a restaurant table without Cooper and/or me. He was, I'm happy to report, very good. Maybe a little louder than I would normally like...but it was Bateman's, not the Prime Rib. 

I'm not sure when I first sat at a table without my parents but I do have a strong memory of eating dinner at The Narrows with my cousins, while my aunt and uncle and parents sat together at a separate table. Even though my parents were three feet away, it felt very grown up and independent. Dixon, unsurprisingly, loved the Bateman's experience.

On Saturday, we co-hosted a couple's baby shower for Patrick and Tiffany (Patrick is Cooper's friend from high school). It was gorgeous out and a lot of fun.


We kept the menu simple - tons of London broil, sliced thin for sandwiches, caprese bites, parmesan and celery-stuffed dates and antipasto platters. The cake and cupcakes came from La Cakerie in Towson (working with them was fantastic - the cake was delicious and the people couldn't have been nicer). We, of course, had about ten times too much food. Enough that friends were taking bags of meat home as party favors. Bags of meat. Classy.

Sunday morning I, like many, many other sorority girls, hustled over to Target to try to buy some Lilly. When I arrived around 7:30, the line was this long:


Fifteen minutes later, it was much, much longer. 

I'm not much of a competitive shopper - I don't have the patience for it - but it was kind of a fun thing to see in action. I walked away with a handful of things - whatever I could grab, really - and I'm taking at least one of them back today. (Jumpsuits are...not flattering.)

I know some people are angry at the way the whole thing was handled but I can't work up a lather about it. It all went about how I expected - from the website crashing to the quickly emptied racks to the overpriced stuff now on eBay. The eBay stuff is regrettable but in the end, I'm sure those resellers will get burned. People just aren't going to pay that much for clothes that, when it comes down to it, are from Target.

Finally, we closed out the weekend watching our niece, Mimi, perform in Three Ring Theater's adorable version of Charlotte's Web and with dinner at Cooper's cousin's house. 

So yes, I am exhausted. In a good way.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Mixology Engineering

This cocktail guide, published by the US Forest Service in 1974, is absolutely the best. Cool vintage drawings, way more precision than necessary, detailed keys.

According to Esquire, it's the work of Red Ketchum, a Forest Service engineer who passed away in 2005. Apparently, he drew them as sort of a joke but they ended up in the for-real archives anyway. Possibly by mistake...but what a glorious mistake that is.

At any rate, I love every part of it. The pictures are cute...and full of solid information. I like a little precision in my cocktails.

When someone else is making them, that is. I certainly don't have the kind of patience required to measure that carefully. But I'm glad that some people do.


Fiddle heads and Fries

This week is Spring Break which, without fail, means I have non-stop work.

But we have had time for a couple treats, including a last minute dinner at Food Market on Monday, where I ate a lot of good things - most notably, an intensely savory and awesome dish of chicken with fiddleheads
And today, Dixon and I went to DC to go to the Spy Museum, which was super cool but very crowded.

After the museum, we grabbed Shake Shack burgers and fries for the train ride home. I haven't been to the Baltimore Shake Shack yet...but we loved what we are (also, we were starving).


And now? We're still on the train. Blogging from my phone...so efficient!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Pretty!

It's been a while since I posted pictures of random, pretty, outdoor tables. This morning, 
this table is doing it for me:


It's a garden party that was hosted by LaurĂ©n LaRocca and Marlan Willardson of 
Twink + Sis, then posted on Domaine Home and, where I found it, on the FWx blog.

And it is pretty, pretty, pretty. Ghost chairs + rustic table + thick marbled placemats? 
I am allll over that.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Muddling Through - and a Spring Cocktail

Embarrassing confession time: Last December, Arctic Chill sent me a cocktail muddler...and I left it in the box until last Friday. It sat on my kitchen counter, a daily reminder of what a slacker I am. ("Muddling" is not the only thing on my to-do list that's lingering.)

Last Friday, on the first day of Spring, the weather sucked but it seemed like as good a time as any to get muddling.

Last week, in honor of Spring, I packed up a bunch of booze from our house, along with some fruit and mint, and carted it over to Kyle and Mary's house - with the muddler, of course. I didn't have a recipe -  just some thoughts. As soon as we arrived, I spread everything out and got creative. It looked something like this:

And that turned into this:


And it was delicious. So delicious that I made three or four more rounds, until I ran out of prosecco and had to use sparkling water instead. Oh, and the muddler? It's solid. Stainless steel, easy to clean, great weight. I like it!

If you're in the mood for celebrating this week, you could do worse. Here's the recipe:

Welcome to Spring Cocktail
Makes 4 drinks

Ingredients:
4 ounces Vodka
2 ounces Limoncello
2 ounces Blackberry cassis
1/4 bottle Prosecco
2 sprigs mint, plus more to garnish
4 raspberries
1/8 cup blueberries
4 blackberries
2 key limes, halved
2 ounces simple syrup
2 ounces lime juice

Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and muddle until the fruit has liquified. Strain the fruit and booze mixture into a new shaker and shake to combine. Taste - if it's too tart, add a little more simple syrup.

Fill four rocks glasses with ice. Divide the fruit mixture between the four glasses, filling each about 3/4 of the way. Top with prosecco and stir to mix. Garnish with mint and enjoy!


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Going Green

As ever, the month of March is all about the Irish around here.

We started the month with our annual Fake St. Patrick's Day celebration. This year, the party was held at Ryleigh's Oyster Hunt Valley, where two amazing bartenders took care of a crowd that was dozens strong for four straight hours.

After years of just meeting for drinks, last year, FSP became a benefit (thanks to Rasim's smart suggestion). This year, we raised over $2,500 for the MLD Foundation. Not bad for some afternoon drinks! The money was raised by selling koozies, raffling off baskets including donations from local businesses, and a 50/50 cash raffle.

It was a great time - both during the afternoon and back at our house that night. Lots of oysters, lots of beer, lots of generosity.
Clockwise from top left: Irish Cooper; Erin wearing my grandmother's pins; the scene at Ryleigh's; the front of Mike's shirt; some of the raffle prizes; the after party; the back of Mike's shirt; the koozies and (center) a big basket full of Irish gear.

Last weekend, we continued the celebration with a families-and-friends brunch at our house. I made corned beef hash and my mom cooked a zillion eggs to order, Cooper smoked a gorgeous piece of salmon, and so many people brought dessert. We've been swimming in sweets for days.

It was, of course, a great time. And it lasted, as brunches do, from noon until almost 9 p.m. Needless to say, we were all exhausted on Monday. Including the kids. But it's worth it, of course, to celebrate our Irish heritage. Especially since we are gearing up for a 2016 trip to the motherland itself!
Clockwise from top left: the dessert table, including a sour cream coffee cake (my mom), chocolate chip cookies (Chad's mom), grasshopper brownies and car bomb cupcakes (Mike's mom) and a Bailey's bundt cake (Alicia); Cooper with Maggie and Biz; the salmon; "potato" candies from Eddie's; Jen and Mark's reuben dip; radishes with Irish brown bread from Atwaters.
Funnily enough, we didn't do anything Irish-y at all - other than wear green - on St. Patrick's Day itself. In fact, we ate Indian food that night.

But we're not quite finished. Hardcore Irish-Americans that we are, we have one more party to go to this coming weekend. And it's sure to be a good one. Slainte!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Valentine's Day and the Magic of the Kids' Table

Adults on left (check out those woven ribbons!) and kids on right (plastic silverware, yes, but also gift bags!)
As I'm sure you all remember, Valentine's Day fell on a Saturday this year, guaranteeing that restaurants would be even more hectic than usual. We're not big V-Day celebrators under any circumstances...and you couldn't pay me to go to a restaurant on the most lovey-dovey night of the year. I feel for people in the industry.

When we do celebrate Valentine's Day, it's usually with our friends. Alicia and Mike have hosted a couple Valentine's Day wine tasting parties that are so well-attended - we're obviously not the only ones not really into the holiday.

This year, we had dinner at our house. Nothing unusual or crazy - steak, potatoes, asparagus, hollandaise. Shrimp to start and cupcakes for dessert. Standard dinner-with-friends fare.

I did spend a little time on the table, though - and on the kids' table. As I know I've mentioned before, setting the table is one of my favorite things in the world. It combines so much of what I love about party-throwing - the anticipation, the pretty stuff, the orderly pre-party organization. I just love it.

Now that some of the kids in our friend group are older, I've started spending more time on the kids' table. I set up a couple short IKEA Lack tables in our dining room, next to the adult table, and we use stools (also from IKEA) as seating.

Everything's paper and plastic (they are kids - and some of them are little!) but I try to make things extra fun, with decorations and gifts attached the name cards. For Valentine's Day, it was bags with candy all around, plus extra candy for the girls and little Nerf guns for the boys. Which did violate my "no guns at the table" rule. But it was a special occasion.

Unsurprisingly, the boys, who are all older, are really only into it for the loot. Some of the girls, though, totally get it. They come in and head right to the table to look for their seats - and they genuinely appreciate how the table looks. I love it.

I mean, my grown up friends care how the table looks, too. But they're not nearly as cute as the little one.

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