You know the adage "if anything can go wrong, it will'? Especially true on the day of a party, right?
Last Saturday I was expecting seven friends from the West Houston area to join me for a luncheon. I had sent the invitation in plenty of time with a clever little theme of "A Pause for Mrs. Claus". The thought was to take a deep breath and spend an afternoon in the country just enjoying one anothers company. I wanted to keep the menu simple so soup was to be the main course followed by a bread pudding and maybe a peppermint brownie treat.
Sounds easy enough, right? Well, let me tell you...it wasn't. First, I took the advice of all the experts and tried out the peppermint brownie recipe early in the week. ("Never serve untested recipes to guest." Quote from all the Experts) My boys were on the fence about it, so I took some to the office and had everyone there weigh in. The same results...not bad, but not anything to rave about either. Nix the peppermint brownies.
Thankfully, the brownie recipe was quickly replaced with one for Kimberly's Peanut Butter Blossoms.
A tried and true Bentley family favorite. I stopped by the grocery store on my way home Thursday night to pick up the needed ingredients.
On Friday, Danielle helped me wrap the "Applause For Mrs. Claus" books that I had been collecting as favors. We wrapped them in red paper, encircled them with black silk ribbon and glued on a fire sprinkler head washer. The result was a gift that looked like Santa's suit complete with belt buckle. Finally! Something had turned out even better than I had imagined!
I wanted to stop by the grocery store on my way home Friday afternoon to pick up the makings for soup...but we had some last minute things come up at work and by the time I got out of there I had to book it home in order to make to Santa's Wonderland on time. (We were still almost 30 minute late, but it wasn't because of me!!!) My sweet husband stopped by Lowe's on his way home (he left before me) and picked me up a Christmas tree so that I would at least have that up for the party.
So, Saturday morning, I got up early and headed into Old Magnolia for my soup makings. I should be able to have the soup steaming on the stove and the bread pudding ready to pop in the oven just before my guests arrived.
And then I turned onto 1774...and traffic stopped. I assumed it would be something easy to get around just ahead, I didn't think much of it...until I passed the parking lot full of horse trailers and began noticing all the horse poo on the road. Really?!?! I'm following a trail ride...today of all days?!?! (Out where we live you just NEVER know what you might encounter. One day I had a cow fall out of trailer right in front of my car. If you don't believe me, ask my cousin, Shelly. She was with me at the time!)
Just as I was contemplating turning around, the road suddenly cleared and off to Brookshire Brothers I went. I did my shopping, though it did take awhile since I am not overly familiar with their store. My time was quickly dwindling...maybe I would have to mix up the bread pudding as everyone was arriving...but this was still doable.
Then I approached the check out lanes. Not a one was open. Well, technically four were open -- the self check lanes. Really?!?! I have nothing against self check lanes and I use them quite often for quick trips to the store. But a cart full of 'scan...place in bag...wait for it to clear...scan...place in bag...wait for it to clear'? And of course, you always run out of room on the scales, so I am trying to stack things as delicately as possible. Finally! I am free! (By the way, I overheard one of the employees saying that several people had called in or not shown up that morning so they were really short staffed. Hence the self check only.)
I loaded the truck with my groceries, raced home and then quickly unloaded the groceries with help from Will and Jim. As soon as they finished unloading the truck they took off to help Josh and to get out of the way. I put away the groceries and was getting ready to begin the first of my preparations when I looked at the clock and realized that there was no way I was going to make it.
So, I called Brian into the house...gave him some money and sent him off to Waller to pick up Bar-b-que from Carl's and ice from the corner store. I knew that there was not enough time to make the cookie dough for the Peanut Butter Blossoms, but thankfully Meagan had just delivered three boxes of cookie dough that I had purchased from Davin's fundraiser this fall. I grabbed the mini muffin pans, dropped a preformed cookie into each one and popped them in the oven. There wasn't time for bread pudding, so I quickly mixed up a batch of Chocolate Cobbler for the crock pot and called Brian to ask him to pick up vanilla ice cream while he was out. (The link will lead you to the recipe found on Tiffany's blog Eat at Home.)
While I waited on him to get home with the Bar-b-que, I arranged the appetizer trays and prepped the serving area. For the centerpiece, I placed a small pine tree in a bowl filled with pine cones.
I even took the time to make the veggie platter look like a Christmas wreath.
This was originally going to be a cheese ball that was shaped like a snowman. Plan B was salami, cheese and crackers... with a margarita glass filled with olives in the center...topped by a sprig from my basil plant.
I poured Red Diamond tea into my tea decanter that the kids gave me for Mother's Day and put the baby bottles of water in the freezer to cool. When Brian got home I moved them into a galvanized tub and topped them with ice.
As the last of the ladies arrived, I moved the food from the Styrofoam containers to serving platters and bowls. And then we all sat down and ate. And just as we were wrapping up a delicious home-style served lunch, the chocolate cobbler was ready.
As we sat around the living room enjoying our desserts, discussing things like my undecorated Christmas tree and someone elses house in moving boxes...the true meaning of a Perfect Party became quite apparent. It is all about the relationships, not perfection. Time spent together, not Pinterest worthy pictures.
And here I am...a few days later...when it finally turned really cold...sporting my beautiful new scarf that one of those dear friends brought for each of us. The ones she picked up at the last minute at Walgreen's of all places!!!
I aways knew these were my kind of ladies!!!
Thanks to each one of you who accepts me at face value...whether you were in attendance at this particular party or not! I dream of big and grand and beautiful...but spending the evening with my family trumped staying home up to my elbows in flour Friday night. And I had told all of my guests that this was going to be a simple, laid back affair. They just didn't know how laid back. LOL!
If you have few minutes you should check out Jen's story of 'The Christmas Party that Almost Wasn't" at her blog Balancing Beauty and Bedlam. Thankfully I had read this earlier in the week, so when panic began to set in on Saturday morning I was able to relax knowing that I was not alone in my party fears and that true friends aren't looking for perfection anyway.
Last Friday night our WHOLE family met up at Santa's Wonderland for our third annual outing. It was the first time that we were ALL in attendance. I know it sounds like I am repeating myself, but it really is a big deal for us to all be together. We are often missing at least one person...whether it is Josh or Matt (or both) working; Will or Brian out with friends (which almost happened this particular night); or Jim at home tending to animals...we are often missing at least one of us. We have learned to just make the memories when we can, but when we all get together it is even more special.
Since I have posted so many pictures from this outing in the past, I didn't even take my camera this time. I just kicked back and enjoyed the time with my family. (I did snap a few with my phone, as you can see.)
Even though pictures were not high on the priority list for me, there were some traditions that could not be broken. Like buying a HUGE bag of kettle corn to pass around while we waited to see Santa. (That picture will be on your Christmas card so I don't want to spoil the surprise too soon.)
And of course we saw Santa, as I mentioned...and we had a nice fajita dinner sitting around the campfire while watching "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" (probably my favorite Jim Carrey movie of all time).
Then we set off on the hayride. These were my favorite lights of the night (though the airplane was a close second).
After the hayride through the lights we wandered through the little shops (our favorite is the candy store with its homemade fudge and hot apple cider) and even picked up a few Christmas gifts while the grandchildren enjoyed the train ride.
Oh, yeah, I almost forgot. After Santa, most of the guys rode the mechanical bull! Hilarious!!! I think Brian has the video evidence...maybe we can post it to Facebook or something.
We arrived at Santa's place just a few minutes after 6...we didn't leave until after 10. The grandchildren really wanted to visit the petting zoo, but the adults were worn out. It was a quiet ride home!
(Full Disclosure: If you read my friend Robin's blog post about her family's mis-adventures at Santa's Wonderland, I feel the need to explain that on this particular night (though it did become crowded) we had 11 adults to 5 children. That seems to be the minimum amount required for a pleasant evening and no one lost!)
As I mentioned during the last post, we put up the office Christmas trees Friday. Wanna see them?
This is the main tree in our reception area. Most of these ornaments came from Mimosa Rose (Robin's boutique). I love this rustic tree.
This little tabletop tree is in our back office atop the flat files. Since it is beside Danielle's desk we decorated it in green (her favorite color) and silver. Since it has multicolor lights we added a bit of red too.
And finally, my long awaited Travel Tree. I am so excited about this one. Since we couldn't find an ornament in South Africa I chose a leopard trimmed angel to adorn the top. I also took the left over bottle openers and wired them with an ornament hook.
I think next year I will use this tree with the rustic ornaments in the reception area and use the slightly smaller one in my office.
I have been married to my high school sweetheart for 35 years and counting. We have FIVE amazing children and EIGHT precious grandchildren. Though Texas has been home for 26 years now, I am still an Arkansas Razorback at heart. Woo Pig, Soiee!