I really like throwing parties. I know it's not a particularly noble pursuit, but I get a huge kick out of—to borrow a term they use frequently on House Hunters (at least when the wife isn't making jokes about the husband giving her all the closet space)—"entertaining." Even before Pinterest made two-bit Martha Stewarts out of all of us, I always liked throwing parties. There's something about that moment right before the first guest shows up, when the house is cleaner than it's been in weeks and you've had your preparatory glass of wine while shimmying out of your butter-spattered apron and into a clean pair of jeans, and you think yes. This has all come together just fine.
Of course, you forget it a few hours before the next party when you're shouting at your husband because his interpretation of "darling, would you mind vaccuuming the couch cushions to get rid of the cat hair?" was apparently construed as "darling, would you mind watching three more hours of ESPN while I make, frost, and adorn a batch of cupcakes with adorable little flags I've cut out of construction paper?" but it's nice to feel that brief sliver of zen for a moment anyway.
Here are the cupcake flags in question. I bought those silver pearls in England last month, because I cannot resist beautifully packaged foodstuffs, however nutritionally questionable.
This weekend, we held our Fourth Annual Birthday Bonfire, and if you have been reading this website for any amount of time, you may remember our Third Annual Birthday Beach Bonfire, our Second Annual Birthday Beach Bonfire, and—wow, you should really get a prize for this one—our First Annual Birthday Beach Bonfire, the one that started it all. You may also have noticed that the first three had "beach" in the title and the fourth annual did not, and that is because we decided to eschew the beach this year and instead hold the bonfire in our own backyard. There were many reasons for this and I shall not bore you with all of them, but they mainly involved the fact that our backyard, unlike the beach, possesses a) a lack of sand, b) a lack of cops, and c) a proximity to toilets that doesn't involve crossing a two-lane highway in the pitch dark.
Also I really wanted to hang some lanterns in trees.
Naturally, I attempt to best myself every year in the decoration department—it's like I'm competing in a party-themed reality show against past versions of myself (don't act like you wouldn't watch that show; I'd totally DVR it at least)—and this year, since I now have a three-hour roundtrip commute to work and everything, it seemed like a great idea to spend my already-truncated evenings making ridiculous little s'mores packages for no reason at all.
Oh, I know, they would have tasted the same if I'd just dumped everything out on the table. But this sort of thing is my therapy! Packaging things individually makes me calm!
For food, we kept it simple and grilled hot dogs and hamburgers to go with the white sangria (I used Helen Jane's recipe) and spiked hot chocolate (I used my own recipe and it went like this: make Swiss Miss from the packet. Add Baileys.) My friend Sherry made bacon-wrapped dates, which is what they eat in heaven, and I made deviled eggs and caprese skewers, both of which I totally winged because I'd never made them before but they sounded fun.
Let's be honest, though. it's not like the caprese skewers were rocket science.
I also made this sausage dip my friend Sarah used to make in Charleston—it has a slightly less PC name here, though I opted for the more polite one because I'm a lady—which is one of those things that you don't give people the recipe for until they have consumed at least a quarter of it, because by that point they're too happy to care about all the terrible things you had to put in it to make it taste that way. (You want to know? You really want to know? Four words, my friends. Sausage in a tube.)
For the bar, I borrowed a folding table from a friend at work, covered it with a cheap plastic tablecloth from Target, and bought a couple of yards of $3-a-yard burlap from Jo-Ann's Fabrics, which actually worked out to be $2.25 a yard because I found a 15% off coupon on my phone while standing in an interminable line. I made some food labels from a piece of scrapbook paper, a bunch of toothpicks, and a total lack of desire to do anything other than sit in front of the TV and half-heartedly cut some things up, and—when I'd finished that and still had another episode of Real Housewives of New York to watch—I found the banner I'd made for New Year's Eve, turned it over, and stuck a bunch of new letters on the back, which I cut out from printer paper. Also I threw some grocery store flowers into my large collection of differently-sized glass jars, giving me enough ammunition for the next few times Sean is unloading the dishwasher and asks me why we have so many differently-sized glass jars for god's sake. (For this, my love! For this!)
We had about thirty guests in all, which was just enough to feel cozy in our small backyard. Some of them were nine months pregnant, and some of them were only eighteen months old.
Most of them, however, were neither nine months pregnant nor eighteen months old.
"Are you wearing your green jacket to the party? Okay, me too."
Once the sun started setting, the fire really got going and we even managed not to burn any of our personal property down, which was kind of a relief, really, because I was not looking forward to that insurance paperwork, I'll tell you that for free. Having a fire in your backyard is a little different from having a fire on the beach—in that you sort of have to pay a bit more attention, lest your entire life suddenly go up in flames—but the upside is that you're not still finding sand three weeks later in crevices you didn't even know you had, so I think I'd probably take that option every time.
One of my favorite things about the birthday bonfires is that we have slowly cultivated several traditions within them, and every year is another chance to wheel those traditions out and do them all over again. You may remember, for instance, that the birthday boys always wear their matching sweaters.
You may also remember that Leah and I—for reasons I cannot even begin to remember anymore—like to spell out the word "ho" with our sparklers.
There was also a wee bit of overacheiving going on this year, because four of us—after a little rehearsing, some intense conversations about timing, and a few jokes about needing to get out more—managed to make this.
Looks like someone has a new Facebook cover photo!
Have you seen enough photos of fire, superfluous crafts, and people you don't know yet? There's a whole bunch more if you feel you haven't. In the meantime, however, I'm going wrap this up here because I have some important business to attend to. These leftover marshmallows aren't going to eat themselves, is what I'm saying.