Oh What Fun!!

We’re planning an Open House party on New Year’s Day.

I could have focused on sleigh bells.

I’d been working on an invitation and was stumped until I saw the phrase “oh what fun”.

I used “Publisher” to add text to this picture.

Those words led me to thinking about the the song “Jingle Bells”:

Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way!
Oh what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh.

Our contact invitation will be written in the trees.

I searched for a picture of a said one-horse open sleigh and was successful.

The Glade is perfectly suited to having large parties with great food.

I’ve printed a few of the invitations but my plan is to text and email most people.  Printed invitations only go to folks for whom I have no contact information.

Are you partying this holiday season?

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Making Plans for a New Year’s Day Open House

With 10 days until December I need to get started planning a party for the first day of the new year.

Popovers are an easy party food. We might serve them again.

Even before I create and send invitations I have to decide what kind of party it will be.  A few years ago we had an early morning party where we only served popovers and beverages.  We couldn’t believe how much fun it was for everyone.

Mini-quiche on the left, chicken salad in pâte à choux on the right.

I think this New Year we’ll have an Open House from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.  That means we can have brunchy foods as well as something more substantial.

The most important part of the invitation is the details, especially when inviting people who have never been to the house before.

My next task will be to create a fun invitation which I can both print and send by email and text because we’d like to invite a large guest list. I like to have them designed by the end of Thanksgiving weekend and printed by the first of December.

The plan this year is to put the tree between the living room and dining room.

On January 1st the house will still be decorated for Christmas so I will probably just edit some of the items and hang on to anything that is sparkly.

Pavlovas with lemon curd and berry coulis.

Finally I want to work on a varied menu that will certainly include the turkey and whole ham that I receive as a gift from my job.  I have already made 50 tiny meringue shells for my signature dessert: Pavlovas.

Kitchen in action

I really love planning parties.  What makes it especially fun is that I have a great team, Charlie and Sug, to help me pull it off.

Have you planned some entertaining this year?

List, 2018: November Plans

I’ve written out a calendar for the next two months so I can plan our holidays and get some projects completed.

I’ve been crossing off each day and trying to make time for important and fun things.

I’ve been working on Christmas gifts and party planning.

CharlieBox
Top Secret!!!!

Exertion

Sug and I are planning to make cookies.

This gingerbread batter was very sticky.

We’re going to re-make the polar bears that didn’t turn out too well last year.  I found a different recipe which I hope will be easier to manage.

Here’s the entire pit kit.

Charlie has received a fire pit kit which I’m hoping we will be able to use this month.

The hole from the old pit is filled in.

Thus far he has leveled the area where the makeshift pit was.

Entertainment

We have no entertainment planned for November. We’ll be busy at choir rehearsals and other services for which Charlie is playing the piano/organ.

Entertaining

If Charlie gets his fire pit built we’d like to have some friends over for a warm dinner of soup and toasted marshmallows around the fire.

I hope our fire pit is as neat as the photo.

I’m working on a guest list of hearty, outdoorsy friends.

Exterior Outsourcing

Our Thanksgiving destination is the shores of the Severn River.

We’re planning to go away for Thanksgiving.

We’ll be cutting all sorts of greens for advents wreaths, door swags, and indoor decorations.

On Black Friday Sug and I are headed to the farm where I work to cut greenery.

Using this wreath as a prototype.

The next day we’re going to work on Advent wreaths.  We had a good practice session last year.  Hopefully we learned a thing or two about what plants to use and how to decorate them.

Extreme Terminus

Hoping our carpenter starts the railing project on our master deck.

The roof of the conservatory is also the deck of the second floor porch. Exterior it is.

Are you having a traditional Thanksgiving?

List, 2018: October Progress

The question is: Did anything get done in October? I had very specific plans.

Exertion

Charlie brought down 5 boxes of books, mostly children’s books, from the attic. My goal to donate at least 50 to a rummage sale was not accomplished.

There are some very good books in this pile.

The only thing I did was to salvage my baby book from the pile.  How pathetic!  I must simply box them and deliver them.

I planned to stain the interior doors that have not yet been stained. This just never happened. Again — pathetic!!

I forgot about the door above the the mudroom doors. It will get stained, too.

Finally the door to the entrance of the laundry did not get hung.

The door will block this view.

Consequently I did not make any progress on my 101 in 1001 list.

Entertainment

Entertainment is the area where I did have a lot of success.

Charlie and I have went to see the newest remake of A Star is Born with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga.

Loved Gaga in this film.

I thought the film and the music were very good. Bradley Cooper played his part well and can actually sing also.

Charlie and I saw Les Mis in London.

Sug and I went to going to see a touring company production Les Miserables. This production was not as good as the other two I had seen.  The turntable on the stage had been omitted and I felt it hurt the performance.

Then Charlie and I went headed to the Baltimore Symphony to see hear Tony DeSare playing the piano and singing.

Tony Desare

He was loads of fun and could really, really play the piano. So much fun.

Entertaining

We did host a costume party in October.

Part of the travel-themed mantel.

The invitation suggested guests come in an international costume.

Charlie wore his Chinese shirt made famous on my Chinese Charlie Chest

There were lots of ladies in kimonos.

Exterior Outsourcing

The three of us have joined a choir for Christmas comprised of members from a number of churches in our area.

We’ll sing our hearts out.

We have been rehearsing and listening to our audio files so we’ll be ready for our performance early in December.

Extreme Terminus

Finally the most successful task was Sug’s trip to Guatemala where she painted classrooms and built a swingset.

The construction of the swingset was finished in the rain.

Sug is planning to spend more and more time in Guatemala working to improve the mission school near Antigua.

While we didn’t actually get a lot of projects completed last month we did have loads of fun.  So much fun in fact that I’m making a master calendar so we can plan some more get-togethers.

Do you prefer intimate gatherings or large ones?

Getting Ready for the End of the Year

I’ve been reading the lovely blog Stone Gable and read a list of ten items to do now for Christmas. Number one on the list is to pick a color scheme. I don’t think mine will differ much from last year but I’ll think about it.

I enjoy both formal and casual get-togethers.

My idea was to plan the entertaining we’re going to do in the next 2 months.

The advent wreath we created last year.

Last year we had an advent-wreath-making party.  I didn’t think it was really successful so we’ll still have advent wreaths here but not invite others to join in.

Good food is nice but the important part of parties is the fellowship.

I also can’t decide whether to invite a lot of people all at once or have smaller, more intimate get-togethers all season long.

We’ll start baking earlier this year.

I’d like to have a baking weekend.  I want to try baking polar bear cookies again but this time with a different recipe.

Advent calendars are already for sale at Trader Joe’s for 99 cents each.

I’ll start by filling in our calendar with the commitments we’ve already made.

What’s your favorite type of gathering?

Creating Flower Arrangements

I’m not very skilled at flower arranging.

Orange, red, and white roses and red apples.

For our fall party I bought 3 dozen roses at Trader Joe’s for under $25.

Red seeds pop out of fuzzy magnolia pods.

And I collected some shiny dark green magnolia leaves and fuzzy blush-colored pods from our trees at work.  I also spent $3 on small bright red apples to make into votive candle holders.

I scattered candles around the house and the porch.

I scoured the house for red candles, red candle holders, and red napkins.

The international mantel featured a small bouquet in an Asian vase.

All these items together created a cohesive theme of red and white with accents of warm tones of brass and orange.

Charlie was our human scarecrow.

At night the pumpkins on the porch were replaced with red candles.

The red and white flowers have outlasted the orange ones so I pulled out the orange roses and the bouquets are just red and white.

Now I’m trying to decide what the next theme scheme will be. Warm or cool?

Do you have winter decorating planned?

Baklava for the First Time

I made a baklava and I can heartily say it would be difficult to ruin it.

I have used filo in the past for savory tidbits.

I started out badly by thawing puff pastry instead of filo dough so I had to wait a number of hours before I could actually get started.

Trader Joe’s pistachios

The recipe called for a pound of nuts so I used a half pound of roasted and salted pistachios plus another half pound of roasted and unsalted nuts.  These I ground in a small electric chopper then mixed with 1/3 cup of sugar and a teaspoon of cinnamon.

Cinnamon and cardamom.

Instead of cloves I used cardamom.

It takes almost a full cup of butter to layer the filo.

Following directions I layered filo and melted butter.

The nut layers need not be too thick.

I sprinkled the nut mixture over the filo and repeated until I had almost run out of nuts (about 4 layers). I saved a bit of the nut mixture to sprinkle over the baklava after it had been baked.

Diamonds are formed by a straight cut end -to-end and a diagonal cut side-to-side.

Baklava is cut into squares, diamonds, or triangles before it is baked.

Sugar/honey syrup with cinnamon stick and vanilla bean.

While the baklava baked I made the sugar/honey syrup substituting a vanilla bean for lemon juice.

Ready to serve baklava.

I sprinkled the baklava with extra nuts and poured all of the syrup over and let it set until cool.

An advantage of cutting diamonds is that the odd-shaped corners are fair game.

This is incredibly sweet but very delicious and would taste wonderful by itself or with ice cream.

Diamond shaped baklava on an oval platter.

Sug placed the individuals pieces in small cupcake papers and arranged them on a platter for the buffet.  She’s our food stylist.

Pistachio Baklava

Try it.  It’s foolproof.

Do you have a use for extra filo sheets?