Archive for the 'Parties' Category

14
Dec
07

IMA Holiday Open Greenhouse

Old Friends

A trip to the Indianapolis Museum of Art Greenhouse as a Christmas tradition? Yep. The Greenhouse is open for business year round whenever the museum is, but two Thursday evenings in December the Greenhouse folks, like my friend Lynne above, roll out a therapeutically warm and life-filled holiday welcome. You can pop into the final Open House of the season next Thursday, December 20 (free, open till 8:00 p.m.). It makes a great date night venue.

Warm Greeting

I love the subtle details. This year simple candles burning in the snow were at the gates. In the past, it was red fabric lanterns with tea lights inside.

If you think an emphasis on nature limits your color palette to sage and brown, the Greenhouse staff is ready to blow your mind. I’m thinking about buying this metal tree and all of its ornaments for our house so I can make it through the February and March blahs.

Aviary Tree

Ornaments

If you look closely you can see the guitar player through the window.

IMA Greenhouse

I’ll always need a plant and a smiling-person-pick-me-up to brighten my spirits when winter is bearing down on me. Sue, Lynne, and the Greenhouse crowd always hook me up with both.

Pretty

Oldfields, the IMA’s American Country Place era estate of which the Greenhouse is a part, is open for free that Thursday, too. The grounds are lit so that you can enjoy the gardens at night. Cold as it was outside, winding through the endless luminaria trails was a calming way to end a typically wild December day.

Oldfields Formal Garden

On the Grounds

On the Grounds

13
Dec
07

Booze and Cookies 2007

Linda (John’s mom) said she thought the cookies this year were the best ever, which is high praise. It wasn’t the largest number of cookies we’ve ever made at Booze and Cookies* (I think about 32 dozen came out of the oven), but having fun is probably a better measure of success. As long as we have enough to munch on during the party and a few left over to have with coffee for the next week, I think most people are happy.

It was fun walking around seeing the random acts associated with baking – like Jennie putting the boxes together.

Shellin' Snicker Bars

Lori, a first-timer brought a peanut butter dough to wrap around small pieces of Snicker bars (what Jennifer and Jennie are doing here. Jennie prides herself on making perfect spheres). The final result was a warm, soft, chewy wonder. To prep them, the candy bars had to be unwrapped and cut. We referred to the process as “shelling the Snickers.” It was a porch activity.

Team Kifle was full of brave, new folks this year, but Lora, Scott (can’t see him here), and Katie were naturals. Rob (aka Titanium) added his cool to the dough from a distance.

Team Kiefle 2007

BTW, we tried using a tortilla press to flatten the Kiefle dough, and it worked pretty well until we broke the press and had to go back to smashing by hand (more fun anyway, imo).

The Arkansas and Ohio contingency changed into Griswald-ish Christmas clothes mid-party and ducked outside for a surprise caroling at the door. When someone came to get me for the show I was so overwhelmed by kitsch my knees buckled and I nearly swallowed my tongue. Look at how ‘neck J.’s leather hat is, especially nice with his beard.

Ugly Sweater Carolers

Red Shoes

I have to say Felley’s festive bell choir vest (above) is a close style second though. Even funnier to me is that the vest actually belongs to Jennie. She has to wear it during bell choir performances at her church (You know some sweet woman made a whole set of them.)

Normally the party starts around 12:30 and winds down around 5:00. But this year Tommy snuck back into the kitchen around 5:30 and started Date Cookies and Kolaski, two cookies that haven’t worked out too well for us in the past. Clever Tommy figured out a key ingredient was missing from the recipe (butter), and this time they turned out great!

Beating Kolaski Dough

John and J. pitched in to help Tommy, along with Jennie and David in the kitchen. We ended up with two great bonus batches. In the picture above it looks like Tommy is gold-bricking, but I can testify that the man was baking up a storm, especially once he got his second wind. We may not have made the most cookies this year, but I think we can safely say that we baked as long as we ever have.

My favorite action shot of the day:Happy Baker

*B and C is actually its unofficial name. John’s mom refers to it as “The cookie bake.” It started with John’s mom as she baked cookies for her family. Her three sons were home from college one year. As they helped her in the kitchen, the boys mixed a few cocktails to liven things up a little and, voila! The cookies got even better.

06
Dec
07

Holiday Friends Arrive

Street Clothes

This year we had special guests come by car and by plane from Arkansas and Ohio to be a part of Booze and Cookies (actual event post coming soon). Some of the out-of-towners came in a few days early so we could get some visiting in.

And when these friends come, they never arrive empty handed – Lori and Felley brought mountains of food, including Miss Judy’s (Felley’s mom) cinnamon rolls (Jennifer called them Crack Rolls)  so I wouldn’t have to do all of the cooking.They brought fun paper dinnerware so I didn’t have to wash as many dishes, and even my favorite Caldrea dishwashing liquid and counter spray (Patchouli and Green Tea) and cutlery (Jennie read on my blog that I’d lost my paring knife). 

Jennie and J. talked two other friends, David and Jennifer, whom I only knew through David’s blog, which I love to read, into coming with them. They are so fun! And I’ve heard of host gifts before, but I teared up a little when they pulled THIS out of their bag.

Claire Painting

They took a downloaded picture of Claire from my blog and gave it to an artist from Box Turtle Imports and Gifts on Kavanaugh in Little Rock to turn into a painting. I told Jennie later that Jennifer and David were a joy to be around, but even if they’d turned out to be complete turds, that gift would have kept the welcome mat out for them (I know, love for sale, but try to tell me you would feel any differently).Visiting

Once we got everyone settled in, we had time to make a trip out to Duane and Todd’s and to stop into Country Friends (Julie had never been and wanted to go). I feel sure that the people who work at CF must whisper under their breath, “him, again?” whenever I walk in the door these days. Here’s that holly I talked about but didn’t photograph last weekend (not much left).

Good Holly

And I loved these vintage “Maggie’s Memories” collectables.  I bought the little Santa Clause.

Sweet Stuff

If I didn’t already have a front door wreath I would run to CF to buy this one. It is simple but inspired and would look great at either a traditional or a rustic entrance, and the price point was awesome – $59.00 I think (don’t quote me).

Christmas Wreath

Julie made the big retail score of the day with this 19th century crazy quilt that she’s going to back with velvet and make into a wrap.

Sold

Julie, send me pics when you get it finished. Our house isn’t big, so every bed and sofa was filled. We even had a pallet on the floor (after some discussion we realized that either northern folks don’t sleep on the floor or they have another word for it. Can anyone from Indiana confirm or correct me on this?). And our neighbors opened up their garage apartment for us, too. It must have seemed a little like camp, but with the exception of Jennifer and David, all the rest of us had slept in close quarters together before on church youth retreats, choir trips or even at actual camp.

I was wishing I’d hung out a little with Practical Pat when she was cooking huge breakfasts for Lori, Julie, and Jennie and the rest of their clan because I was slow! But never bored. One morning while I was cooking I could hear David, whose roots and accent are pretty heavily Ozark, sporadically yelling “PAAY-pur!” in the living room. Jennie brought a voice activated Brain Age game with her, which was keeping him entertained as he tried to predict as quickly as possible what would counter rock in a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. But he couldn’t get the game to work so he kept yelling “PAAY-pur” louder and louder (turns out it was in instruction mode).

Chocolate Gravy and Cinnamon Rolls

David (aka PAAY-pur!) using one of Duane’s Chocolate Gravy Pitchers.

From then on, any quiet moment would be filled with someone randomly yelling “PAAY-pur!,” which is just the kind of joke that this group is happy to take way too far. Fortunately, David understands the value of a good laugh whatever it costs.

02
Nov
07

Lobster Lovin’ Lara Party

Lobster Ladies

My friend Lara (on the right above) recently left her job at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, so we had a little “growing away” party at our house with part of our old museum crew.  Lara is a creative writer, education technology designer and a great mom, so she deserved a special party. 

I made pizza, but didn’t have tons of time to do anything creative. Thankfully my friend Wendy swooped in toting a humongous basket of Lobster Party: two live lobsters, patterened aprons (that in the right room would make for some wicked fun wallpaper), matching chef hats, and her own giant pot for boiling the red ones.  Lora brought two bottles of wine that she and Scott made(!) and an awesome salad that her high school son threw together (isn’t there a lucky spouse in his future?). Jane brought the perfect almond shortbread cookies, just the right mixture of chewy and crispy. 

Celebrating the Kill

The Buddh-ish ones among us went to the other room when the live lobsters were plopped into the pot of boiling water (The squeamish did not included John, obviously, since he enjoyed playing with the deceased).  Not only did Wendy bring the lobsters, but she brought the know-how that goes into mining every bit of meat out of them. She’s no novice. Wendy actually does lobster prep demonstrations in schools all over Indianapolis. Kids in town see her at the grocery store and scream, “Lobster Lady!” (in a good way, not as an insult)
Lobster Queen
  Being a true Mainer, Wendy was so focused on prying out every piece of meat possible that she could not be bothered to look up for a photo.  I was a little worried that she would be so busy she’d forget to eat, but I do think she finally sqeezed some chow time in, too. 

Lara is much beloved. Not too many people can say they had fresh lobster prepared tableside at their goodbye party.

29
Oct
07

Lemon Drops

Inspired by one of Jennie’s From Scratch entries, I made a lemon cake with a fluffy white frosting (recipes below) for the October birthdays in John’s family (I know, lemon isn’t very autumnal, but until this weekend autumn wasn’t either).

Jennie posted an easy microwave lemon curd recipe, which I want to try sometime, but I was already using a new cake recipe so for the filling I stuck with Paula Deen’s version, which I’ve made before.

Sorry, I don’t have play-by-play photos. I was flying solo, and I barely got the cake frosted before family arrived. That the frosting got made at all was something of a miracle. I forgot to lower the whirling whisk attachment into the bowl so when I poured the boiling sugar water into the mixer hundreds of droplets flew everywhere glazing me and everything else within a four foot radius with sparkling crystals. Suddenly, capturing the moment in a photo took a back seat to scrubbing down the kitchen and changing my shirt.

Lemon Cake

In fact, I didn’t think to photograph the cake until the next morning when half of it was gone. Maybe I shouldn’t have bothered with the photos, but at least in this picture you can see the layers.

For the cake layers I used a recipe from Cooks Illustrated. It was tender and moist, and unlike a lot of their recipes, fairly simple. Cooks also had a frosting and filling recipe, but they were both more complicated than I had time for. Besides, I already had a good frosting recipe from Cooking Light and, of course, Paula’s lemon curd.

Lemon Curd on Toast

Paula’s recipe makes a little extra so we had it on toast this morning. John made scrambled eggs with lobster left over from another party on Friday night (post still to come).

Lemon Coffee Cup

A little coffee in one of my favorite lemon colored coffee cups that my friend Rosie gave me and we had the near perfect breakfast.

Lemon Cake

A piece of leftover cake finally managed to hit breakfast right out of the park. Why should the first meal of the day be the only one without dessert?

——
Recipes:

Paula Deen’s Lemon Curd

3 large lemons
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted

Grate the zest from the lemons. Then juice the lemons.

Place the zest and the sugar in a food processor and process until combined.

Add the lemon juice and the eggs and process until smooth.

Slowly add the butter to this mixture, pulsing as you go.

Place the mixture in the top of a double boiler and cook over simmering water for about five minutes until thick. The mixture should coat a spoon. And when you move a spoon along the bottom of the pan a trail should form but fill in behind it. When it reaches this stage remove from heat or it will get clumpy.

To use as a cake filling the lemon curd will need to chill for about four hours. You can keep lemon curd in the frig for about 3 weeks in a jar with plastic wrap on it.

Fluffy Lemon Frosting (Adapted from Cooking Light)

4 large egg whites
½ tsp cream of tarter
Dash of salt
1 cup sugar
¼ cup water
½ tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp lemon juice

Place egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt in a large bowl.

Beat with a mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form.

Combine sugar and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cook without stirring, until candy thermometer registers 238 degrees.

Pour hot sugar syrup in a thin stream over egg whites, beating at high speed. Stir in vanilla and lemon juice.

I decided the cake recipe is way too long for this post, but if anyone wants it I’ll post it separately.

27
Aug
07

A Very Fun Saturday Night

Went to one of our favorite homes Saturday night for dinner.  Favorite for a lot of reasons. 

1.  We love who lives there—Duane and Todd and their kids Daniel and Mari.

Mari and Todd

Mari and Daniel

(Mari’s Minnie Mouse dress and Daniel’s Mickey hat and Disney shirt were their birthday outfits from a few weeks back.  Oh, I probably don’t have to tell you, but Mari is drinking grape juice.) 

2.  The food is always awesome. 

This time we had Thai Eggplant and Chicken curry

Duane's Thai Eggplant and Chicken Curry

with a Thai cucumber salad, which Duane has blogged about before.  He gave the recipe on his blog, and I can say I’m a big fan. 

Thai Cucumber Salad

3.  I’m crazy about their house.  I took pictures while we were there, but I forgot to shoot their house.  But don’t worry, we’ll invite ourselves back over so I can do that.   Because their place is like a country bed and breakfast, John and I talk about a having a family retreat out there one weekend where we spend the night, eat pop popcorn and watch movies.  Duane and Todd haven’t said no yet, so hopefully we can insinuate ourselves out there again as soon as possible.   

21
Apr
07

You Can Be Ready for ANY Party

Shirt Plate
Lori at work told me about a luau she’s planning. She showed me these plates which I instantly fell in love with. I would put my poi on the right sleeve, fruit kabobs on the left, and roasted pig on the belly part.

She got the plates and other luau stash at Celebrate Express. I hopped on board myself and I must say, there isn’t an occasion these people aren’t ready for.

John Deere

How about a John Deer Party? Dave should have thrown one of these the Halloween he dressed as the 21st century FFA-er.

Rejoice
There’s always the Rejoice Classic Buffet Pack. If you’re happy and you know it, say amen! And pass the Praise Cake!

Or how about a costume for the little girl in your life who idolizes French women with questionable morals?

Young Marie Antoinette

Marie
(I do love black and white together.)

Or a Can Can Dancer

Can Can
(Black Fish Net Hose sold separately-$4.50)

Finally, Karen found these bobble-head monkey kits that I think define fun. Scalp or no scalp? You decide.

Bobble Head Monkey Kit

Part of me thinks it would be a kick to go to a party with all of the above, except maybe the creepy costumes, but definitely with the bobble-head monkeys.