Thursday, 10 August 2017

Party Preparations


We have a whole bunch of Significant Birthdays this year. On Saturday, a crowd of our Very Best Friends (apart from the far flung ones and those who are thoughtlessly away on holiday) are descending on the house to help us celebrate M's 50th. Are you having caterers? I hear you cry. No. Are you sensibly buying everything in from Cook or somewhere similar then? I hear you ask next. No. 

No. In my wisdom, I have decided to make everything from scratch. So that's copious numbers of tuna and tomato quiches with marjoram and balsamic vinegar, vast vats of potato salad with apple, celery and shallots in a mustard mayo dressing (thank you, Mary Berry), a selection of cold meats and pate (OK, I haven't made these from scratch but I've still had to agonise over them- which ones to get, when to get them, how much should I get of each type, will that be enough for a bunch of (mainly) people with enormous runner's appetites), four loaves of warmed french bread (ditto not making but time-consuming in the thinking and planning bit) and bowls of watercress and sliced cucumber (we have grown the cucumbers- does that count as putting in the extra effort?). Pudding-wise it's trifle (easy to make and can be done the day before and shoved in the frigde), white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake (Mrs Berry again), two treacle tarts (Nigel), a raspberry meringue cake (got the recipe ages ago on one of those waitrose foodie cards and it's very good, ever-so-simple to make but looks satisfyingly impressive so shh, we won't tell any of the guests that). My worry is though, is that too many raspberries? Should I change it to strawberry meringue cake instead- thoughts please?. I'm also doing a fluttering of meringues to use up the whites from the trifle custard (see, everything made from scratch), and two big tins of chocolate brownies.

I've bought the booze and the soft drinks and M is in charge of the beer, which will be his own homebrew (needless to say it's lethal) and some other stuff. Modestly, I am not currently drinking so I expect to be the only sober one present. The photographs will be good.

I've been planning all this for days (while M has been busy wafting about in the heat with J in Italy looking for digs for her for this September). On Monday, not being able to walk far thanks to post half-marathon-Quadruceps-From-Hell (which saw me walking backwards down the stairs on both Monday and Tuesday, much to the bemusement of the dogs - Poppy sat on the second-from-top stair watching me with her head on one side and a curious look on her face), I sat down at the kitchen table with paper and pen and worked all the logistics out. 

The whole of this week has been mapped with jobs to do on certain days. I'm halfway through the cooking. I went shopping after my run this morning and got most of the rest of the stuff that I didn't get on Monday because it was too early for things like cream to last. I also counted up the cutlery and annoyingly realised we were four knives short so I had to go and get those today too. How does that happen? How can a kitchen keep hold of its full compliment of forks while losing four knives mysteriously on the way? 

I'm making chocolate brownies this afternoon (resisting the temptation to eat any when they're all warm and gooey and squidgy and tempting) because they'll sit happily in a tin till Saturday, before driving to the train station to collect sun-burnt returning husband and thoroughly over-excited daughter, then tomorrow I've got to make the cheesecake and trifle (the fruit goes on on Sat to avoid pre-party bleeding - sounds awful!) and meringues. Saturday (after Parkrun, of course), I'll do the meringue cake, the potato salad, clean the house, sort the music playlist, move the furniture around because we're in the kitchen half of the house to keep the Gods Of New Carpets In The Sitting Room (mainly me) happy, dig out napkins, wash the cutlery and plates, collect the on-loan glasses from Waitrose, buy the fruit to decorate the various puddings, remember to defrost the quiches and bread, pick fresh raspberries from our canes to make a coulis (get me), wash the dogs (because you can guarantee both will have rolled in something unspeakable that morning. I always allow extra time for unseen-emergencies pre-parties. This has been learnt through bitter experience. When I was two my parents were hosting a dinner party and ten minutes before the guests arrived I did a poo under the table. Another time, my mother was busy making a chocolate chip cheesecake for a supper they were hosting for some important work colleagues when one of the cats jumped on the surface and spilt cat biscuits all over the place. They looked just like the chocolate chips and got mixed in with them.....you've guessed what happened (luckily, people commented on how lovely and crunchy the chocolate chips were. I had to leave the room), and a third time Poppy was sick on one of the chair cushions half an hour before M's boss, who'd come to supper, was due to sit on it - so you'll see why I always factor in an allowance for worst-case-scenarios), hoover the floor and try and make myself look vaguely presentable. I have no idea what I'm going to wear. Most unlike me. I've had no time to think about it. Of course, a large proportion of the guests are runners and it's Mo Farah's 5000m final slap bang in the middle of everything so I envisage a brief 15-minite recess to decamp into aforementioned freshly-carpetted sitting room to watch him race. Let's hope the carpet survives. With two dogs, three teenagers and a husband with a tendency to wander in with his gardening shoes on I'm fighting a losing battle with it, I know. It's only a matter of time before somebody drops something disgusting and permanent on it. Last time we had a new carpet fitted (after dithering about doing so for ten years so the kids could get older before we treated ourselves to one) Poppy weed on it within half an hour of the fitter leaving.

I haven't organised the parking yet. Our drive, while reasonably roomy, won't fit everyone in, so we've signs to make to direct guests elsewhere. Living on a country lane means there's no lighting and that puddles/ mud/ ditches/ crumbly edges of tarmac are more or less permanent hazards that exist specifically to catch out rural virgins, these are of course in addition to the badger latrine on the verge just down from the house which I noticed the other day is back in use, one might go so far as to say comprehensively so, as well as the occasional toad waddling underfoot trying to get from the ditch on one side to the lake on the other, and owls who like to sit in the trees above our gate and hoot loudly and without warning. Even I jump at them sometimes and I know this is a favourite game of theirs. There is also a very good chance that our local Vixen will be out too, screaming like a murder victim being strangled in the background. I think most of the guests are familiar enough with the way we live by now to know to bring shoes to change in to and torches to dispel any nightmarish nighttime myths and apparitions, but some of them haven't been here before..... 

The last time we threw a big bash here it was fancy dress (you may remember we had everything from a haggis to several fairies and an elf turn up). A group of our chums shared a taxi from Romsey. The driver collected them, drove them here, dropped them off, picked them up at 1am and drove them back home without saying a single word about what they were all wearing, but when we had another do (not fancy dress this time) a few months later a different driver from the same firm remarked on the tameness of the dress code. Lord knows what they have written down next to our address :o)

By Sunday I shall either be a) exhausted or b) champing to get out for a nice, long, cleansing run.

Hope all are well?

CT :o)

41 comments:

  1. Plans are going well, we often decide to make our own food, much nicer and most people will notice the difference. Save some every to enjoy the party.

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  2. Good luck with it all I am sure the hard work will be much appreciated xx

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  3. Your mentioning your husband's home brew reminds me of the time I made home brew for a party. In addition I bought one of those Watneys Party Cans that contained 7 pints of beer. When the guests had polished off the Watneys Red Barrel I took the empty can into the kitchen and stuck a tube into the top and replenished it with my home brew. I did this several times (it was a long evening) and nobody was any the wiser. In fact they thought the beer was improving as the night wore on. They thought it was a fresh can of Watneys every time.

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  4. That all seems a bit frantically busy. Thank god I'll never have to cook for anyone!

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  5. Personally I would be spending the next day in bed, either from exhaustion or from overeating or both.
    It all sounds delicious.

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  6. You have me chortling as usual. Rural virgins indeed! Wished I could have seen the dogs as you did your backwards stair walk, what a sight! Not surprised J is excited. Digs in Italy, what an amazing experience she's going to have. By the way I've an excess of knives, it's my forks that go missing. We should put our cutlery together. I blame bbq's on the beach and things get left behind. I'm sure your party will go brilliantly. Wish the 50 year old, happy birthday from me and have a great time. B x

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    1. Next time I'll send you my knives and vice versa ;o). Let's hope the rural virgins aren't put off the countryside for life!! Xx

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  7. Hope you have a lovely party and M a super birthday. All the food sounds delicious. And as you grow your own raspberries you can never have too many raspberry puds. I'm betting that you and M will both be going on a cleansing run on Sunday, with Poppy and Ted of course.

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    1. Lovely to hear from you, Sarah. Hope all is well? Here's hoping all the cooking goes to plan! X

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  8. You have been so busy this week, hope you are back to normal walking now! I'm sure M will have a brilliant party with all of that fabulous food and company. I love the way dogs look at you as if you are mad if you do something out of the ordinary, J and I fell over in the mud today, Tavi was very confused! Sarah x

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    1. Yup walking normally again thanks! I can just imagine Tavi's face xx

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  9. Have a fantastic celebration, it all sounds wonderful, my tummy's rumbling at the sound of all those goodies! x

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    1. I'll send you some leftovers- I'm sure I've over catered! X

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  10. Loved the tales of your last minute emergencies! Your food all sounds yummy - I especially like the sound of that potato salad. Re: all the raspberries - I only have 1 word of warning learnt from experience. A couple of years ago our elderly neighbour came to lunch on her birthday. The girls and I had made a trip to our local PYO fruit farm, picked a load of raspberries and then lovingly made a pavlova for dessert. Our neighbour then couldn't eat it because raspberry pips apparently played havoc with her dentures! Assuming that your guests aren't dentally challenged, you should be fine! Hope the quads have recovered and good luck with all the cooking. Also, happy birthday to M. xx

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    1. I'm thinking strawberries and blueberries just in case. Thanks for the tip! Xx

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  11. Hey CT,
    I want to have a lie down by proxy after reading that! I quite enjoy all the lists, prep and cooking for any kind of 'do' And I'm usually the only sober one at the end of the night. Apart from one time, where I got accidentally sloshed on slow gun and was asleep by 7.30!
    Have a great party. Happy birthday M!
    Leanne xx

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    1. Sloe gin is lethal stuff. I've had to give up it. Far too medicinal! Xx

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  12. Raspberries every time for pud. Wow, you have worked hard. You will need to go and lie down in a darkened room for a week at least. Have a wonderful party.

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    1. Hi Catherine. Thanks for the comment. I expect I'll be out running on Sunday... :o).

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  13. It sounds as if you have everything organised. You remind me of the days when I would cater several large parties a year at home, like you making it all myself, right down to the crackers for the cheese log! Have a wonderful party!

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    1. I do love making feasts to share with friends. Am impressed with the homemade crackers! X

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  14. Great preparations. Lovely to read it all. Have a wonderful party and happy Birthday to your husband. Best wishes :)

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  15. Oh wow my mouth is watering from the food! It will be a fab day for him! Happy birthday Mr M!
    Well done CT for all your hard work! An easy pudding is a freezer full of mini magnums handed round on a plate of ice and small pots of raspberry coulis! Easy! X
    Enjoy it all xxxxx

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  16. Whoops! It seems as though my invitation got lost in the post. Hope you all have a lovely time. Peace and Blessings

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  17. This sounds like a fabulous party already! I love a good party with home made food and the spread you are planning and preparing sounds mouthwatering. Have a great time! I am keeping my fingers crossed for you so no unexpected unpleasant surprises make an appearance. The cat biscuit disaster and also your poo under the table make me laugh, so funny! x

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    1. My poor mother on both occasions.! There was another time she'd made trifle and the chap who was coming to supper was late because he'd cut his finger off mowing his grass. All we could think was that the trifle sponges looked like amputated fingers. I had to leave the room because I was giggling so much. x

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  18. The taxi driver made me laugh. This is indeed a party of epic proportions, and the food will be fabulous, much better than anything a caterer would do. And home grown things too! I don't think you can ever have too many raspberries, so stick to your guns on the desserts. Great tip about adding in the extra time for emergencies, there's always one or two. I hope M has had a wonderful time in Italy and that he has a brilliant birthday. And I hope Mo doesn't let you down. I would like to see photos of all the puddings please. CJ xx

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    1. I will take pictures, I promise. I am heartily sick of the sight of Waitrose though- I've been there 6 times this week! Xx

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  19. Hi CT.. I've return to blog land :o) My you have been busy.. the food sounds great. Hope M has a lovely birthday and everyone enjoys the party. xx

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  20. It all look and sounds wonderful, I wish you well and it all goes to plan... Happy Birthday to M, my OH is 50 tomorrow to.. we had a big party a few weeks back as the rest of the family was either born in August or September!
    Have a lovely day ...
    Amanda xx

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  21. Happy Birthday to M!!! Hope that the party goes really well and that you are not too exhausted from the preparations CT!

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  22. I was licking my lips reading your menu! Happy 50th M!

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  23. I hope you had a wonderful evening and it was 'worst-case-scenario' free. The food sounds delicious, you've triumphed there. X

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x