Mighty Life List
Dec 22 2010

100 Parties Project: No. 1, Fall Dinner Party

I’ve been cocooning for a while, so I thought this would be a good time to get started on the 100 Parties Project, to kick start the new year. We threw this little dinner party back in November.

Ten bucks of grocery store mums and daisies, some leftover kumquats, and bam! Centerpieces in 15 minutes. I like to put objects next to my arrangements to make tiny tableaus. This dinosaur fit right in with the color scheme. He is so ferocious. Grr.

I put the kumquats on long toothpicks for the nosegays, and skewers for the larger arrangement, then wrapped with a bit of floral tape so they’d stay put in the vases. Masking tape also works fine in a pinch if your vase is opaque.

The vases are thrifted. These little ones are Hawaiian pottery goblets I picked up in Portland. I’d never seen them before, but for some reason they’re everywhere up there.

The menu:

Pear Sidecars
Melissa and I had these in Portland, and they’ve become a favorite in the Summers and Mason households alike.

Antipasto Tray
We wing it, but there’s a basic outline on the other side of that link.

Red Wine
We weren’t particular about this, but if you have a pairing suggestion that you think fits this menu, leave it in comments and I’ll update.

Winter Veggie Soup with Goat Cheese Crostini
This is one of my favorite soups. It has a granny apple, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper for a little kick. Unexpected and delicious, plus you can make it ahead and pull it out of the freezer.

Honey Tangerines and Kumquats with Walnuts and Shaved Celery
This is crisp and palate-cleansy. It’s also how we ended up with extra kumquats for the centerpieces.

Pork Tenderloin and Potatoes
Bryan usually just does some sort of rub based on a random Epicurious recipe. If you wanted to really wow, you could also do the potatoes separately with some wilted Spinach and bacon.

Bill Granger’s Chocolate Pudding Cakes with Bourbon Whipped Cream
This will end you, it’s my go-to guest dessert. I measure everything out beforehand, then excuse myself for ten minutes to melt the chocolate and mix everything up. It takes about 15 minutes to bake while you finish your wine, and then you have simple, warm flourless chocolate cakes. Plus it makes the house smell beautiful.

Coffee and Tea
It was a Monday night, so we didn’t do port. In retrospect, this was a mistake. Be ye not so stupid.

Oct 14 2010

Wedding Advice

Getting married is like having a child, suddenly everyone wants to tell you what to do. I’m no exception. In fact, if you’re newly engaged, you may want to sit next to someone else at dinner, because I will not shut up about your wedding. It’s insufferable, I know, but I’m powerless to stop myself.

Anyway, here’s a little dose of unsolicited advice for those of you fortunate enough to live out of earshot:

Take a group photo. Nearly all the people you love are here, in one place. This isn’t likely to happen again until your funeral.

Be prepared. I had a kit on hand for minor emergencies. Having all my little fixes in one place made it easy for anyone to grab me a pair of scissors, some clear nail polish, a flask of bourbon. Here’s a bridal emergency kit list, but you’ll find a zillion of them online. Bridesmaids, if you’re extra helpful, telling the bride you’ll assemble this kit is a thoughtful gesture.

Let go of traditions that bug you. I’m a tall girl with an unfair advantage in the bouquet catching game. It often felt like an obligation to catch the bride’s bouquet before it fell on the floor when everyone else stepped out of the way. Of course then, you must grapple with the look of mild terror on the face of Boyfriend du Jour. So at our wedding, we called everyone onto the floor and announced that catching the bouquet meant prosperity beyond your wildest dreams.

The 6’8 Dutch guy caught it, and he’s currently my husband’s business partner. Fingers crossed, but I have heard a glowing crotch is auspicious.

Do something fun with your guest book. We had a friend take polaroids of guests, and it was such instant gratification to flip through it the next morning. Plus, we still look at it every once in a while.

Plan with a sense of humor. Sure weddings are solemn and import laden, but receptions can be fun — whatever that means to you. Worry a little less about whether something is appropriate and consider whether it will add to the celebration. Crazy straws at the bar? Candy cigarettes as wedding favors? Yes.

Consider consumables as attendant gifts. I got cool necklaces for my bridesmaids and the female attendants on Bryan’s side, but the groomsmen and ushers got port. Looking back on the now-outdated necklaces, I think the guys did better.

Choose your financial battles. Decide what’s important to you, spend your money there, and aim for festive with everything else.

For us, the bar was key, so we did it up. But Bryan used to work in catering, and both of us agreed that once the crowd gets over 100, you really have to pay through the nose for wedding food to be memorable. We decided to make the food fun and celebratory instead. In lieu of passed appetizers, we had a popcorn machine and a cotton candy machine out front. We brought in a BBQ truck for dinner so folks would have some solid food to offset the cocktails.

We were among the first couples to order cupcakes from Citizen Cake — before they upped the prices to reflect the trend — which also meant we didn’t need to rent cake plates and forks. Later in the evening, we had passed Krispy Kreme donuts as a snack. The food was casual for sure, but there was plenty of it, and the bar was a masterpiece.

So those were my big lessons from our wedding, but what are yours? I’m curious to hear pet peeves you have as a wedding guest, what you’ve loved about weddings you’ve been to, what you took away from your own wedding? Spill. I have an anniversary party to plan.

Oct 13 2010

Wedding Guest Comfort

Whenever Bryan or I started freaking out about wedding planning, we would remind each other that it was just a big party. Our main thing was that we wanted everyone to have fun. Real fun, not “wedding fun.”

Here are a few of the things we did to make things a little more comfortable for guests:

-Instead of inviting all the out of town guests to the rehearsal dinner, we had cocktails with everyone the night before at our hotel. Everyone had an extra night to get to know one another, which made for more spectacular hookups the following night.

-In the church waiting area, we had two cork boards. One was pinned with rosemary boutonnieres(rosemary symbolizes friendship), and one pinned with hankies.

-We served cake (technically cupcakes) right before our first dance, and had sparklers on hand, so guests would have something to do while we took to the dance floor.

-We had a box of cheapo spa flipflops for when the heels got to be too much. I wore these half the night, and they facilitated much kid chasing.

-I can’t say enough about having comfort boxes in the bathroom. Seven years later, I’m still getting comments on ours, which had spray deodorant (so several people could use the same bottle), band aids for blisters, dental floss, toothpaste and single use tooth brushes, moisturizer, fashion tape, pads and tampons, safety pins, hair bands, bobby pins and barrettes, and combs (…and condoms).

-We let the crasher crash. He pretended he was French, we pretended we believed him. Be our guest, not-French-Guy!

-We situated our kids’ table between two adult tables, and seated parents at the surrounding tables with their backs to the kids. This made for easy intervention in the instance of fits, but some adult interaction when the kids were behaving. Excellent.

-We set up a web site with tips on how to enjoy the city.

-Two months after the wedding, we went through our photos and printed up the best one of each guest to send it as a holiday card. They were so much fun to put together, like a personalized wedding favor, and we still see our wedding photos pinned to friends’ fridges.

-We had a birthday cupcake waiting for my bridesmaid Trisha, who had put aside her own special day for ours. Trisha is awesome like that.

Sep 10 2010

Happy Vientetresañera, Natalie!

The night before we left for Dublin, we celebrated Natalie’s twenty-third birthday. She went all out with a quinceañera theme.

It was so genius I could only shake my head in wonder, and wish I’d thought of it myself. Plus, there are advantages to having your fifteenth birthday when you’re twenty-three.

Happy birthday, Natalie.

You’re a woman now.

(More photos over here.)

Jul 20 2010

Sparklers, and S’Mores, and Big Wieners

Did I mention that Holly hosted an incredible birthday bonfire before I left on my trip? If you’re planning your own beach party, her post with tips for throwing a party with a friend is here, and all my photos are here. Happy birthday Sean and Nathan!