This past weekend, my friend Emily and I co-hosted a book release party for our friend Rachel Haas. And somehow I thought my role as co-host meant I would show up early to help out and bring a platter of bacon-wrapped dates. And Emily thought it meant she would host and handle drinks and I would bring all the food. We laughed about it all weekend because for two professional writers, we absolutely failed on the communication front!
I figured out what was going on Thursday afternoon, the day before the party. I was on a conference call and I saw a text message pop up saying something like: We have 20 people coming tomorrow night and I’ve got all the drinks covered — can’t wait to eat your delicious food! (This is a paraphrase. It actually took me a few messages to catch on because (a) sometimes I’m kind of dense and (b) my brain was focused on some awesome spreadsheets.)
If I’d realized what was going on a little earlier, I would have spent a lot of time planning an awesome menu for Rachel’s party — because she wrote an entire book and we are totally psyched for her huge accomplishment — but since I only had from 6 p.m. Thursday to when I went to sleep and from 5:30 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. Friday when I had to leave for the party, we had to focus on easy, fast, tried-and-true favorites to get the party started. Emily created the most beautiful party environment, and I think the food turned out pretty great too.
Here’s what I did:
- Alton Brown’s Baked Macaroni and Cheese. I doubled the version and when it was going into the oven it looked too soupy, but when it came out of the oven it was golden and delicious. Macaroni and Cheese is vegetarian-friendly, super filling, and not too expensive on your party budget, so it’s a go-to for me when I need to feed a crowd. I made and baked this Thursday night, and then reheated in the oven at Emily’s on Friday night.
- Bacon-wrapped Goat Cheese Dates. You just put the tiniest bit of goat cheese inside the dates, wrap them up with raw bacon, skewer with a toothpick and bake at 375 until the bacon is crispy. Super easy. We prepped these on Thursday night and then baked them at Emily’s house while the party was getting started. Bacon smells great while cooking, so it’s a win-win for everyone there.
- Barbecue Meatballs. Grab freezer meatballs and throw them into the your crock pot with barbecue sauce. I used a combination of Sweet Baby Ray’s, peach jam, apple cider vinegar, maybe a little Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and water. I kept adding stuff until it tasted good to me. Follow your heart here.
- Hummus Platter with Vegetables. I used Sabra hummus but transferred it into a fancy container and topped it with a drizzle of olive oil and freshly cracked black pepper. I hate how raw broccoli feels dry and scratchy in your throat at parties, so I skipped it and went with baby carrots and sliced red and green bell peppers instead. Since the mac-and-cheese and meatballs were a bit heavy, the lighter hummus and vegetables offered a healthier option.
- Peanut Butter Fudge and Chocolate Fudge. Cupcakes, cookies, cakes — I would usually bake something lovely for such a huge moment in a friend’s life, but since time was limited (and honestly, so was our fridge space!) I went with an easy, quick dessert: fudge. I’m sure there are really delicious ways to make fudge that are not easy, but for both of my efforts, it involved pouring things into a bowl, microwaving that bowl, stirring the contents of the bowl, pouring the melted contents into another container, chilling, and chopping. So easy! The small bites are party-friendly. But, since some have peanut allergies I’m really careful to keep the peanut butter fudge separate so if needed, it can be swept away and the party can be allergy-free.
And the reason for the party: Rachel’s New Book!
If you’re interested in fairy-tales, new fiction writers, or just making someone feel awesome, click through here to purchase Rachel L. Haas’s new book, Portals of Water and Wine. I’m so impressed with Rachel’s tenacity to get this book written and out into the world — I think we could all learn a lot from her commitment to her art. Here she is on Friday night, talking about her writing process and reading a selection from her new release!
Nearly every time I’ve made cookies or baked a cake or pie or otherwise created something delicious to share since leaving home ten years ago (wow, I’m so old!), I’ve wished for Tupperware. I’ve used gallon-sized Ziploc bags, discounted IKEA cake holders, and a lot of creativity to store and carry the goodies I’ve made, but each time I’ve thought: oh, if only I had Tupperware for this. Because Tupperware is L-E-G-I-T the best brand of storage containers ever.
I’m not sure why I didn’t put Tupperware storage containers on our wedding registry, or order some after we were married, or after I started working, or at any other point over the last ten years. I’ve definitely purchased a lot of other unnecessary kitchen gadgets that I didn’t want or need as much as I wanted Tupperware. I’m looking at you, giant muffin tin, martini glasses, rhinoceros-shaped cookie cutter . . .
Earlier this year, my cousin had a Tupperware party online and I got very (very!!) excited and ordered a cake taker and a pie taker.
The pans are white with turquoise lids and they are perfect and wonderful and I couldn’t be happier. H did not understand why I would be so excited or spend so much money on plastic containers, and he’s been making fun of my purchase for a while. But this weekend, our new cake and pie takers earned their place in our home.
On Saturday, I made a two-layer banana cake (this recipe) and frosted it with peanut butter-butter cream frosting for H’s birthday. I packed that cake into our Cake Taker and slid it onto a shelf in the refrigerator. On Monday, I made this zucchini-potato casserole in my fluted tart pan, which I packed into the pie taker. We grabbed both containers and a six-pack of beer as we headed out to my friend’s Memorial Day barbecue, and I didn’t worry one minute about the tart pan leaking or the cake getting knocked around in the car. Everything was in perfect condition when we arrived, and it was so easy to carry items to and from the car. Nothing spilled, nothing leaked, nothing was dropped. Because Tupperware is the best ever.
Today, I tested the cake taker on the bus during my commute to work. I made it safely onto and off of the bus with my purse, tote, and cake taker without getting yelled at by strangers and without the cake flipping over or spilling. IT WAS AWESOME. My 1/3 cake looked pretty cute (you know, as good as 1/3 of a cake can look) in its blue and white container, and I particularly appreciated the handle while navigating the bus ride, crowded sidewalks, and full elevator.
And so, I have arrived. I am now officially a grown-up lady who has her own cake AND pie/cookie holders and is prepared for any potlucks or parties you’d like to invite me to attend.
Are there any weird tools or gadgets that you’ve always wanted but never made the effort to purchase? Share in the comments or link up on twitter!
This is just me loving my new cake and pie takers, and not a sponsored post. I don’t actually know how to make sponsored posts because what are sponsors? Don’t worry if you hate Tupperware and want to hate on it in the comments. That’s totally fine.
Wow, April. I can’t believe it’s over and I can’t believe we survived. After nearly seven months of winter isolation, I got out and about A LOT in April. It was incredibly fun.
What I’ve been up to:
We spent a weekend in Washington, DC, with our very best friends. It was so lovely to see them all and to celebrate birthdays and first-zoo-trips and drink coffee at my favorite coffee place ever.
The following weekend I rented a car and drove to Grand Rapids, Michigan, for the Festival of Faith and Writing. It was weird and awkward and wonderful. I met some really lovely new friends!
I loved so many of the sessions, but I really started feeling my writerliness in a session with Peter Orner (a non-practicing lawyer who is an MFA professor in San Fran and is from my city!). His novel Love and Shame and Love is set in Chicago and is waiting for me to finish up a few other things I’m reading. I’m so excited to read it.
Sometime that week we also made it to our first Cubs game at Wrigley Field. The next weekend was Easter Sunday, and we spent the holiday with my friend Brenna and her lovely family. One of her three daughters sat in my lap all day (except for the parts where she was throwing up everywhere) and H and I both felt like we belonged. Brenna set a lovely table as well:
Because we spent so much time out of town this month, it’s been hard to do all of the things I really love to do — such as staying at home in my jammies and watching lots of television. I’ve seen the season finale of Scandal but I’m still a little behind on all of my shows (which is probably good since the season finales leave me with nothing left to watch all summer! I should probably try to spread them out a bit, but I’m pretty sure I won’t.)
Instead of a subject-by-subject breakdown of the month, here are a few random things I’ve loved this month:
- Dark Chocolate Chili Almond KIND bars. Holy cow they are delicious and only 200 calories.
Eating healthy(ish). It’s a work in progress.
Kappa Delta. The Illinois-Wisconsin State Day was last weekend and it was so fun to attend! I’d never been to a state day before and I didn’t know how adorable it would be to see my Kappa Delta sisters celebrate 50+ years of sorority membership. They are a d o r a b l e. And also, smart and kind and funny and stylish. And even more – seriously, there’s more – they had Midwestern accents. I nearly died of happiness.
Body shop bath products. On a related note, I won a raffle for coconut-scented Bodyshop products and they. are. awesome. I’ve never been one to spend a lot of money on fancy shower/bath stuff, but my showers have been quite lovely this past week!
Pitch Perfect. I mean, I think that movie is on TV every single day, but the thing is: it is hilarious every single time.
6. FUMC at the Chicago Temple. I have so many notes in my journal and things to write about how lovely it has been, but without getting into all of that, it’s just basically the greatest church I’ve ever gone to. I can really focus on the sermons and enjoy the services because I’m not counting grammatical or historical or factual errors or constantly crossing and uncrossing my legs to distract myself from completely inappropriate comments about poverty, race, or gender.** It’s really what I’ve been needing and I’m so glad we found it.
- Edward Gorey. Do you guys know about Edward Gorey? I totally didn’t, and then I went to this Goreyesque event and I fell totally and completely in love! Apparently Goreyesque is a celebration of funny morbid creative things, like a short story written from the perspective of a recently deceased seventeen year old who makes fun of his sister’s vapid friend while watching his sister wrestle with the details of his suicide. Which was sad and hilarious.
8. Me. Is that weird to say? This month I’m totally into me. I’m into goal setting, I’m into believing in myself, I’m into my writing and my blogging and my spiritual development. I’m also into my brain: I went to a lawyer training event one afternoon and for a few hours remembered how fun it is to think about the law and how much I love doing that. So that’s cool, right? I’m kind of into me right now, and working hard to take care of my whole self (brain/heart/body).
Okay, that’s all I’ve got for you this month! How are things in your world, and what have you been loving this month? Leave me a note here or join the link-up over at Leigh Kramer’s blog.
** I’m not blaming other churches for my inability to fit in, but I am excited to have found a congregation where I can be myself. If you’d like to let me know that feeling these feelings or thinking these thoughts in church is my fault and not the church’s fault I’m happy to receive that feedback below. Thanks in advance. ;)
This Forbes Magazine article introducing a report by the coalition Americans For Tax Fairness that estimates the amount of government assistance awarded indirectly to Walmart. Their theory is that Walmart is able to make high profits by keeping its employees’ incomes low, and that those employees are able to survive and continue working due to public benefits like food and housing assistance payments. What makes this theory even weirder is that a huge portion of those food stamps benefits are then spent AT WALMART, thus forming somewhat of a double subsidy to the corporation. Note: the math/methodology of this report isn’t a perfect science, but it is a quite interesting assessment. Either way, definitely take a look.
This Festival of Faith and Writing wrap-up piece by my NEW FRIEND(!!!!!) Anne Bogel. There were some other goods ones too! Check out the hashtag #ffwGR to learn more about the festival. I may post my own reflections here, but it’ll be next week which is a little un-timely so if you are interested now, the twitter hashtag is your friend.
This Inc. assessment of whether or not you genuinely love what you do. I scored 13 out of 15, which means I am “deeply, madly in love with [my] work!” That’s pretty cool, right? What is your score?
Last week I read this article at the Harvard Business Review blog and I was like WHAT THE WHAT, if this ever happened to me I would probably quit my job. Basically, one of the CEOs of PepsiCo apparently calls the parents of her Millennial employees to tell those parents just how special and lovely their children are. This week, my absolute favorite management blog was like WHAT THE HELL. Thank goodness there are still reasonable people out there on the internet. And please read the comments here, they are hilarious. FYI: Your Millennial employees do not want you to call their parents to tell said parents that their children are special snowflakes. Seriously, don’t.
And finally, for you guys who, like me, aren’t exactly sure what to do when everyone else starts clapping and/or crying in church this week, here’s a little something for you from Kristen Howerton at Rage Against the Minivan.
Okay, that’s five! What awesome things did you read this week?
I had a lot planned for this past weekend and this work week. A serious cough and another polar vortex shut all of that down. I haven’t been outside my apartment since this past Friday, and I’ve been drinking orange juice, ginger ale, and water like nobody’s business.
Regular blog posts will resume shortly, but the schedule may be a little off for the rest of this week. I’m planning to go into the office for at least half a day tomorrow, and I may be too wiped out to keep up with the editorial calendar.
But then again, maybe tomorrow will be awesome. Let’s plan for that, and trust that it will come.
This afternoon I felt well enough to take down the Christmas tree. I wanted to leave it up until Epiphany, and then got busy and never took it down. I know, I know: it’s almost February. But, it’s not February yet.
Leo was very disappointed that the holiday jungle gym went back into the closet.
The lights on our balcony railings are still up, but we haven’t turned them on in weeks. It’s way too cold for me to take them down! They may just stay out there until Spring. No one can really see them, right?
So, tell me this and don’t sugar coat it: what’s the longest you’ve ever left up the holiday decorations?
Today I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I’ve been loving this month (and last month too because oops, I forgot).
- The Good Wife. Best show ever.
- Nashville (of course).
- White House Down. My favorite types of movies involve one unexpected hero conquering a room-full of terrorists with his bare hands and good looks.
- Sarah Bessey’s Jesus Feminist. Sometimes I get so annoyed with Americans that I forget that Christianity can be kind of wonderful. This book reminded me about redemption.
- Shauna Niequist’s Bread and Wine. Seriously, this book was weirdly beautiful and I could see myself writing something like it one day if I ever wrote something like a book. It’s about eating and loving and feelings and shame and pride and family and risotto. You should totally read it too. Highly recommended.
- To be honest, some blogs have been getting on my nerves lately. Clichés annoy me; I’d much rather find something funny and original online. When the whole internet starts talking about the same thing and repeating the same three opinions, I start thinking about running away. There’s been a little bit of that here lately.
- We had extended periods with family and friends in late November and again in late December, and it was lovely. Seriously, the best.
- I got a head start on my plan to be a better friend in 2014, spending some quality time with two of my bridesmaids these past two months and reaching out to several friends to try to reconnect. AND, I sent Christmas cards with handwritten notes to a lot of people I miss.
- Garrett Popcorn. It is so delicious I could eat it until I exploded. Luckily I have not exploded yet.
- Block cheese and Wheat Thins. Best combo ever. I’ve been snacking on this all month.
- La Croix sparkling water. At first taste it is terrible. And then something happens, and it is wonderful. My favorite flavor is grapefruit but I’m still trying new flavors so that could change.
- The largest coat ever. And it is so warm. Thank goodness, since the weatherman said it was a windchill of -30* last night. I honestly just can’t tell the difference between 0* and -30*, or else it wasn’t actually that cold this morning.
- Double leggings, wool socks, and knee-high boots. The idea combination for warm legs and rear. I’ve decided that cuddl’ duds are my favorite, but mostly because they are easy to find and their name is so darn awkward.
- Planning and goal-setting for 2014. (Knit my own sweater vest? Bike 1000 miles? Eat 1000 cupcakes?)
- What I want to do next in my career. (Hardest question ever!)
- Wes Welker. I mean, isn’t he lovely?
Two great things I want to share with you
- Gravy cubes. It’s my “genius” idea about how to store leftover gravy. Freeze the leftover gravy into an old plastic ice tray, and then pop the cubes into a freezer bag. Then, when you feel like having gravy you just pop a cube or two into the microwave. It’s Thanksgiving every day.
- Story Sessions. I joined in July and at first, I was like “what in the world is going on here?” and kind of hid in the back and watched things happen. And then suddenly in November I realized that I had fallen in love with this community of women writers who love Jesus in their own way and talk about their business and their writing online. It’s still kind of weird but now it’s the good kind of weird, and I love it.
How to Write: A Year in Advice from Franzen, King, Hosseini, and More, by Joe Fassler in The Atlantic.
Modern Mrs. Darcy’s favorite books of 2013.
A 9-Step Guide on How to Dress for Winter, written by a Djibouti resident helping her kids adjust to Christmas weather in Minnesota.
A wrap-up of the year’s writing prompts over at Ploughshares (a new literary-focused online magazine I’ve recently begun following): For Those About to Write (We Salute You) #16: Bring on the New Years.
David Marshall’s short essay on Christmas wishes: All I Want at Signals to Attend.