Saturday, March 24, 2012

Out-of-luck Potluck - Finale

Well, it's over.  Everyone had a good time.  Clean up is almost all done - just need to put everything away and figure out what to do with half empty bottles of soda that I don't drink.  I will drink the half empty bottles of wine.  The evening went down like this -

I had fixed a vegetable tray with hummus and dip as one appetizer and a Mediterranean vegetable tray (assortment of olives, artichoke hearts, marinated mushrooms, etc) as another.  I had prepared two trays of appetizers and had cheese and crackers in reserve.  I, however, was not the person responsible for appetizers at this party.  About 1/2 hour after the party started the person responsible for appetizers arrived bringing cut up oranges and some grapes (which she had to wash and cut and assemble in my kitchen.  See previous post on how much I hate this.).  Did she really think that was sufficient as an appetizer for 14 people?  Glad I had fixed something to supplement it but I didn't bother to pull out my reserve cheese because by this point I was too busy fixing nachos.  (Note:  all my vegetables and marinated stuff was eaten, the fruit was uneaten because by the time it arrived it was almost time for dinner, and who eats oranges as an appetizer?)

For dinner we had the famous "main dish salad" which was a green salad with lots of chopped green and wilted vegetables - wilted to the point of slime - and theoretically there was chicken included but neither Charlie nor I could find any.  Someone else brought a green salad which was suspiciously like the "main dish salad" except it explicitly did not have any chicken.  We had some delicious green beans.  In addition to the main dish salad someone brought a crockpot of chili, thank goodness.  Finally something my husband considers to be dinner!  I had also made some cornbread as a go-with for the chili and just figured my gluten-free person knew enough not to eat it.  Looking at the table and looking around the room at the men in attendance it was very clear that there was not enough food, especially "man food".  I had picked up a couple of bags of corn chips at the store and had a couple of cans of refried beans and some cheese and salsa, so I quickly put together two platters of nachos so there would something that could actually constitute a meal - chili, nachos, salad - for the men or main dish salad and green beans and fruit for the women.  Had I not made the nachos people would definitely have left hungry.

We had three people who were to have brought dessert.  One person did and it was a fabulous and very rich chocolate cake so with a couple of pots of coffee dessert was done.

Someone was supposedly responsible for bringing the wine - remember we have 14 people coming.  I found two empty bottles of wine that were not mine at the end of the party which means that the "wine people" brought two regular sized bottles of wine for 14 people.  Glad I had my giant value wine bottles on the drinks table.

This is what I  will insist on next year when we do this party. We will have a menu and we will give people choices of what from the menu they want to bring.  We will have multiple people bring appetizers -  2 - 3 people.  Main dish will be me - Chicken Marbella (my go-to dish for all large groups) with rice pilaf.  I will also provide one appetizer so there is food at the start of the party.  One person will need to bring a vegetable like green beans or peas with enough to feed entire group.  One person will bring a salad for the group.  Each couple will be asked to bring one bottle of wine (and if it is white to bring it chilled).   I will have all soft drinks and water (and a couple of bottles of wine for the early arrivals).  One good dessert is usually enough.  We can adjust numbers based on attendees - more side dishes or appetizers or desserts.  The goal here is that we actually have a dinner with sufficient food for the attendees.

Final result - will I do this again?  Probably yes since I've been doing it for years and years.  Will I finally seize control of organizing it from S?  I'll do my best. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Yes! Read this article!

Richard Hanna, GOP Congressman, Tells Women to Give their Money to Democrats

Representative Richard Hanna ( R - NY) understands that he has been sent to Congress to not to be a puppet of the party but to govern and do the right thing.  A pro-choice supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment, which is still languishing for lack of state support, he  tells women to vote with their monetary support to the party that is looking out for their interests. 

I'm certain he will be crucified by the Republican gangs but this is a man that I can support, regardless of political party.  We may not agree on everything, but he recognizes that on woman's issues  the Republican Party is not moving out of the dark ages.

Stand up for Trayvon Martin and all young men of color

A moving speech from the floor of the House of Representatives by Representative Fredericka Wilson (D- FL 17th District).  

Pot out-of-Luck update #1

OK - the countdown has started and already the plan is falling into chaos.  Since the dinner is at my house I always tell everyone I will have the appetizers prepared since we need them as the first guests arrive.  I also provide beverages as, again, I need them at the start of the party.  Some people do bring bottles of wine as contributions or hostess gifts, I've never figured out which.  But the fact remains I can't rely on those for the party.  So, we sent out the email letting everyone know what food was needed for the party - main dish(es), side dish(es), dessert, salad, etc.  It pointed out that appetizers were already taken care of by me.  Final update shows that a person that always shows up about an hour late is bringing appetizers, someone who is always an hour and a half late - often appearing after dinner when the party is just wrapping up - volunteered to bring wine, and we have three desserts for 14 people.  I found out strictly by accident that a person who had offered a side dish was bringing chili which counts as a main dish in my book and that changes my plan to fix Chicken Marbella since 1) it may be unnecessary and 2) it would be a disgusting combination with chili. 

I will now have a cold appetizer platter prepared for the early guests (cheese, olives, artichoke hearts, salami, etc) and hope the appetizer people show up before dinner.  I'll  make corn bread to go with the chili and have corn chips, cheese, sour cream, green onions available to quickly put on the table in case Sheila doesn't bring anything as toppings.  I think I'll have a couple of giant cans of refried beans in the cupboard that I can quickly fix in case we have no appropriate side dishes to go with the chili.  I could turn them into giant platters of nachos which can also turn into a main dish in a pinch.

I feel like I'm in some food network game show where the menu keeps changing and the contestant, me, has to continuously replan in order to put together a meal before the final bell. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

I need a list

Monday - car #1 to inspection station;  make reservations for Easter dinner; go to Dat's and download pics, find passwords, get bills paid;  finish laundry;  call S to make arrangements to meet on Wednesday or Thursday
Tuesday - car #2 to inspection station;  clean upstairs;  if weather holds plant flowers in front; post office; call Sue
Wednesdaydinner with H
Thursdaygrocery shop, buy value size bottles of wine, and set up house for Friday potluck; and make Chicken Marbella
Friday - final food prep for potluck; research ground cover plantings for area around deck

Friday, March 16, 2012

 We continue to retrogress to the dark ages for women.  Each day brings a new horror.  My concern is less that these outrageous bills pass, but that people think that this is ok.  What has happened to people that we prefer to punish than to help?  and where our young women in this fight?  They seem so passive and disconnected.  Maybe the reason we old women are so concerned is that we remember the days when our lives were controlled by a government and culture controlled by men.   My daughter says "that couldn't possibly happen now."  I say it will happen unless we stop it.  They have no idea what they could lose.  Women are now more highly educated than men, women are making more money that their husbands and partners, but they are allowing men to tell them that they can't make good decisions about their personal life and family?  Where, as mothers, did we fail?

 From John Celock at the Huffington Post

A Wisconsin lawmaker is co-sponsoring a bill based on the idea that single parenthood causes child abuse.

The bill says a child being raised by a single mother could be considered living in an abusive situation and because of that, a woman should not jump into a divorce, but rather look at alternatives, state Rep. Donald Pridemore (R-Hartford) said in a television interview Friday.
Couples need to study their relationships first, he said. "If they can re-find those reasons and get back to why they got married in the first place, it might help," Pridemore said on local television show"Today's TMJ 4."

Pridemore, the chairman of the House Children and Families Committee, is sponsoring the child abuse bill with state Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend). It would mandate the state Child Abuse Prevention Board conduct public awareness campaigns emphasizing that single parenthood is a leading cause of child abuse. The Senate Public Health, Human Services and Revenue Committee held a public hearing on the bill Feb. 29, but has not voted, according to legislative records.

An aide in Pridemore's Madison office said he was not there Monday and was not available for comment. According to Pridemore's state website, he is a full-time legislator and former engineer.
Grothman told the Fox affiliate in Milwaukee over the weekend that he is pushing the bill because he believes that the traditional family is "in crisis." During the interview, Grothman referred to research he conducted, but did not cite specific sources.

"A child is 20 times more likely to be sexually abused if they are raised by say, a mother and a boyfriend, than their mother and father," Grothman said in an interview with Fox6Now.
The bill comes as state legislatures nationwide are tackling women's issues.

Virginia passed a law requiring women seeking an abortion to receive an ultrasound, similar to a bill pending before the Alabama Legislature.

Kansas lawmakers are currently debating a sweeping anti-abortion bill that would allow doctors to withhold medical information from patients to prevent abortions without facing a malpractice suit and charge a sales tax on abortion. In New Hampshire, the state House last week passed a bill to allow employers to stop providing insurance coverage for contraception.

A Democratic spokesman in Wisconsin declined immediate comment on the bill. Fox6Now reported that a Democratic legislator said they believed the bill could pass if heard in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Pot luck or no luck

I love a good party and I have a lot of parties at my house.  I also hate Potluck Parties.  If someone goes to the trouble of figuring out a good recipe, and buying the ingredients, and putting it all together, don't you want to eat it with foods that will complement one another?  Do you really want a pot of chili next to a pan of lasagna?  When I give a party I want to do the menu and if someone thinks they absolutely MUST "help" me by bringing something I ask them to bring an appetizer or dessert as those are the things that will be served separately from my carefully planned meal.  And by dessert no one cares anyway.

But, every year we have a group of people who gather at our house for the Wolf Trap Potluck where we select what performances we want to attend at Wolf Trap during the summer and get our tickets organized.  Most of these people aren't even my friends, they are friends of a friend who started organizing the tickets each year.  Then we morphed into the potluck idea so that we would have a winter social event and no one would have to do much work. (Note:  I have lots of winter social events and don't need this one.  These people apparently have no other friends.)  But it always turns into a nightmare for me.  We supply the house and all the prep and clean up that goes with that.  Since we need appetizers when the first guests arrive I supply the appetizers and beer/wine/sodas.  And generally once the bids are in on who is bringing what food I fill in all the gaps - which is usually a main course.  Suddenly I've put together an entire party and the food presentations are random and have no relationship to one another (think of the year we had no main dish except for the shrimp and grits I made at the last minute, but we did have GALLONS of fruit salad).  This year is apparently "dessert year" based on the offerings we are getting from the attendees. 

And this year, just to make things more complicated, everyone is chiming in with their latest food allergy.  So far we are working around gluten free, no milk products that have been cooked on top of stove, and no spinach.  Can't these people just pick and choose what they eat to satisfy their own needs?  Do we all need to assure that every single thing on the table meets their specific requirements?

So my current plan - subject to much change - is
  • cream cheese and jalapeno jelly with crackers  (my gluten-free friend knows enough not to eat the crackers)
  • Salmon spread with cucumber slices
  • Italian skewers - artichoke hearts cheese cubes salami, etc

and for the main dish I'll do Chicken Marbella since it can be eaten at room temperature and leftovers freeze well.  That is another one of my potluck pet peeves - the people who bring their half baked or unprepared food and expect to use my kitchen to complete cooking or preparing.  I'm not talking about sticking something in the oven to keep it warm.  I'm talking they bring the separate ingredients and proceed to need knives, bowls, dishes, pots, cutting boards, baking pans, etc.  They COOK in my kitchen in the middle of the party. 

Usually when I throw a party I don't drink alcohol until dinner is on the table and everything is well underway.  This year I may start drinking the day before.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Progressive Dinner

About 10 years ago our neighborhood changed.  No, we did not experience some flight to the suburbs as we already live in a near-in suburb, and it was not racially motivated as we are already one of the most diverse communities you can imagine (see posting on where to buy a goat to cook for dinner).  We experienced the downsizing and dying off of the original owners of the homes in the neighborhood.

For the first 20 years we lived here we were the "new" people.  Most people in the neighborhood were much older than us and their kids had long since left home.  We were raising babies and toddlers amongst the grandparents.  Then these older folks started selling their homes, or dying and having their kids sell their homes and we had an influx of young families.  By now, we were the old people as our kids were high school and college aged.  It was coming full circle.  With these new families came an energy that had never been present in the neighborhood before.   We now have an annual Easter egg hunt, a Halloween parade - complete with firetruck leading the way - and the progressive dinner (adults only).

For the progressive dinner we all gather a one home for appetizers and drinks.  It's quite a crush as we've had as many as 80 people participate.  Then we split into pre-assigned groups of 8-10 and move to separate homes for the main course, gathering later at a single home for desserts.  Everyone brings wine, beer, appetizers, desserts according to plan and we have a wonderful event.  One year I was the appetizer house, other years I've  done a main course, some years I just been a guest.  This year I volunteered for a main course and since it is going to be on St Patrick's Day I'm doing an Irish theme. 

I did a big St. P's party a few years ago so I have my menu all planned and know that it is easy to
do ahead.  We'll have corned beef (make ahead and slice when cold, heat in juices in oven until warm), colcannon (a mashed potato and cabbage or kale mix that can be made ahead and heated in oven) and roasted carrots (another oven dish).  I'll make some soda bread and buy some good rye bread and we'll be all set.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Today while shopping I stopped by the Nordstrom's ladies room. Nordstrom has two separate sides to the ladies room, one is the lounge and the other is the rest room.  The lounge is often used by new mothers resting or nursing their babies.  Today from the restroom I heard a baby crying which is not unusual.  As I left the restroom I glanced into the lounge and I saw a young father walking and bouncing the baby trying to comfort it.  Our eyes met, he smiled, I smiled, and the baby got quiet.  I guess they don't have a men's lounge for young fathers.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

My daughter had breast cancer 5 years ago.  It was horrible, awful, scary, and all together overwhelming.  I had no idea what to do, how to help, or what to say.  Everything I did, or didn't do, was the wrong decision.  I will never forgive myself for being unable to figure out what she needed from me and to be able to give it to her.  I still am not certain what the right decisions would have been.

Now a friend has been diagnosed with breast cancer and I am trying again to figure out what I am supposed to do, or not do.  I'm a bit better this time because 1) she isn't my daughter and consequently I am less terrified, and 2) she's my age, and 3) we live in the same geographic area.  So the only thing I can think of to do is keep her busy and doing things  during the interminable waits between diagnosis, surgery, doctor's appointments, treatments.  So we go to movies, we stop for a glass of wine, we wander through lovely shops.  I still haven't figured out the whole talking thing, however.  What and how many questions cross the line from being interested and giving her an opportunity to talk to being nosey and prying?    I want to give her a safe place to talk but I'm not certain that I know how to do that.  So, tomorrow we are off to lunch and a great sale a trendy boutique and I'll try to read her cues and do my best, and I'll still probably feel that I have no idea what is the right thing to do.