how to test a hiding place {Lovey’s birthday}

I knew I was gambling, but I decided to bet that Lovey would not open this closet before his birthday.  Knowing I wouldn’t have time to blow up twenty balloons on The Day, I did it three days ahead of time and managed to keep my prep work a secret!

A little tip for those who, like me, become a slobbering, light-headed mess when attempting to inflate balloons with lung power: use a little air pump instead.  I used the foot-pump that came with my Pilates ball.  I had to wrap the balloon “stem” around the nozzle and hold it tightly closed to force air into the balloon, but once I figured out that part the inflation process was much less of an ordeal than it could have been!  Bonus: I talked on the phone with my sister the whole time.

closet full of balloons

When The Day arrived, I looped a piece of twine over each of the hooks that holds the daybed canopy in place.  I used clothespins to clip ten balloons to each piece of twine, which then looped over another hook on the opposite side of the room.

hanging the balloons

When I was finished I had two lines of randomly-spaced balloons stretching across the living room.  Lovey is tall and his friends are tall enough, so I made sure to leave the walkways and the standing-area in front of the couches reasonably balloon-free.  I didn’t want irritated men swatting down my handiwork.

balloon swags across the living room

Then I thought, “What about twinkle lights?”  So I ran to the Christmas decor box and grabbed a strand of lights to frame the dining room wall.  Yep, it was starting to look like a party.

balloons in living room, lights in dining room

And it only got better.  Acknowledging my limitations–nay, embracing them–I decided this party would be better catered.  I didn’t want to exhaust myself cooking for a crowd, or worrying about what could go wrong, or making people wait on me to get everything ready.  The perfect solution, Lovey and I agreed, was to order gyros.

gyros, baby!

We were not wrong.  (Just look at the expression on our friend Adam’s face!)  Everyone enjoyed the food, which, as I mentioned in this post, stands up well to its competition.  We also had a quinoa-and-pomegranate salad, which I just realized I never photographed.  Oh, well.  Here’s a link.  I used curly parsley and substituted quinoa for coucous.

balloons plus friends (to the power of gyros) equals party

Here are the girlies–no cute shots of the guys, because guys don’t do cute shots.  Besides, they were busy talking politics.  (Blech.)

N, J, & me with balloons

And while balloons and twinkle lights do pave the way to Party City, you haven’t arrived until you’ve crossed the candle bridge.  The way Lovey attacked the little flames led to lots of jokes about getting older and not being able to breathe, but he did get them all extinguished.  Then we ate carrot cake.  Lots and lots of carrot cake.  Lovey’s one (adorable) request was that his birthday dessert be “something with cream cheese frosting.”  He didn’t care what was under the frosting, as long as it wasn’t pumpkin.

candle-obliterationBy the end of the night we all had full tummies, drooping eyelids, and aching sides.  (“That’s like 26 miles an hour!”; “get yo’ ass inside!”; and “Oh, I’ve done that” were the big laughs of the evening, for those who were there and care to recall why those things seemed so funny in context.)

Here’s wishing Lovey a new year full of adventure and accomplishment.  I can’t wait to see where this year takes him!

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artisan bread goes skinnydipping

Remember the artisan bread I told you you should try?  If you haven’t yet, here’s another chance.  Go!  Last week I hosted a Brunch at Night, because I love brunch but I work on weekends.  When would I ever get a chance to enjoy the amazingly made-up meal unless I moved it to fit my timetable?  It actually wasn’t my idea.  Beth & Jessi thought of it when I lamented to them about my brunch-less plight.  I made an oven omelet–my breakfast-for-a-crowd reflex–but I wanted to do something else.  “Artisan bread,” I thought.  And then, “Sugar….”  And so it was.

Rolling these balls made a doughy mess of my hands.  It was kind of stickily disgusting.  I tried to shape them using only my fingertips, then quickly rolling the naked little doughballs in a pool of white and brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  I studded the top with raisins as an afterthought.  (It was a bad idea: they all burned.)

I did mention that visions of sugarplumstemporarily took over my head, right?  Well, in case you missed that, witness this sweet excess.  I melted a few tablespoons of butter, whisked in some Mexican vanilla, milk, and powdered sugar and ended up with this:

Drizzled over the warm rolls it looked a little something like this:

I won’t pretend that my self-restraint prevented my sampling one of these before the guests arrived.  My verdict is that they should not be marketed as sticky buns/cinnamon rolls/monkey bread or any of those pillowy, caramely concoctions we associate with breakfast bread.  I chose to call them Rustic Raisin Bread because, like their loaf-shaped cousins, they’re chewy.  If I’m being 100% honest, their chewiness is almost off-putting in this context.  You see bread dripping with glaze and expect a soft, pastry-like give.  Instead, these rolls make you(r teeth) work for it.  They’re good, but they’re not what you expect.

I wish I had photographed the whole spread of brunch food that filled the table when company arrived.  We had everything from bagels and cream cheese to fresh fruit and French toast casserole.  It was delicious.  The only other thing I do have photos of is the drinks.  My kitchen counter is weirdly bisected by the stove, so I made half into a cocoa station, with cinnamon-nutmeg to shake on top; and the other half into a tea station, with sugar and honey.  The clear plastic cups were there for anyone who wanted to grab milk from the fridge.

Much to my surprise, having offered chocolate to a gathering of women, the favorite drink of the night was green tea.  I experimented, brewing a whole pot of tea by steeping the loose leaves through a filter in my coffee maker.  I didn’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work, so I wasn’t surprised to see that it worked well.  What I didn’t expect was that just a handful of us would go through two pots of it.  My friends are healthier than I thought.

open house

~ Our (New!) Door is Open ~
Main Street #1; Washington, D.C.
Drop in on Saturday, October 1st
between 4 and 7 pm
for chit-chat, cookies, and cocoa. 

Can’t make it? Visit virtually: myfourwhitewalls.blogspot.com.
Clearly the invitation above underwent alterations to all the specifics…I’m posting this on the internet, so I figure I might as well not be stupid.  But there you go: you’re invited to the little shindig we hosted at the beginning of October.  Come, have a seat.

Even though a bit of over-optimism about my preparation schedule left me “arranging” flowers in about ten minutes, I felt like a million bucks having them in every room.  The coffee table vase held roses, seeded eucalyptus, and hypericum berries.

Another small green vase held strips of paper with typed conversation starters.  I wasn’t sure if they’d be necessary, but someone started reading them and they led to a few rounds of sharing on random topics.  (These prompts were actually the serious questions I wanted my Mr. to answer before we delved into a serious relationship, mixed with totally silly questions to lighten the mood.  These include, “Do unicorns really exist?”  More weighty questions are along the lines of, “What is one question you struggle to resolve? How long has it bothered you?”)

In the kitchen, sunflowers and spray roses played nice with more eucalyptus and berries. The apples were a legitimate part of the refreshments: alongside the cocoa promised on the invitation, we offered “apple spritzer.”  I have to admit it doesn’t have the kick its name suggests.  It was just apple juice, club soda, and apple rounds combined in a pitcher.  I got the idea from a spa we visited.  They had big chilled-water dispensers with rounds of apple and orange floating in them.  The water had just a faint, fresh fruity flavor.  (And then everyone died of abundant alliteration.)

Moving on.  Even the little water closet got some floral adornment.  It smelled seriously lovely.  The “designer” vase/Ford water bottle held salal tips, white stock, and pink larkspur.

Sorry I don’t have party action shots to share.  I’m sort of shy about asking people if I can take their picture, not to mention busy talking and filling cups and enjoying the transition from planning the party to enjoying it.  So just imagine yourself here and have fun!