Thursday, December 23, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Tell me that this little face isn't made for hat-wearing?
Could Dawn's gift-wrapping get any cuter? The cookie section of the newspaper and ridiculously sweet and creative letter tags. And, although I have had Dawn and Nick's Christmas present for months, I have yet to either wrap or mail it.
Monday, December 20, 2010
Each year we host a holiday party. This tradition started about 5 years ago. And we like to make it fancy, with glass plates, and real wineglasses, and printed and mailed invitations, and RSVP's (which, strangely, people never respond to, so every year it is like a total guess on how many people are attending), and lots and lots of champagne. The big highlight (at least in my mind) is the table of desserts I create (which means that this is pretty much the one time of year I actually put my fancy pastry school degree to good use).
We had our party on Saturday, the day after my hooding (not something I recommend, by-the-by. It is nice to be able to clean the house the night before).
It was a little more low-key this year for the sake of my sanity- fewer people invited, fewer desserts (I passed on things that only I appreciate, like the homemade marshmallows, the champagne ice bucket made out of actual ice, and the "torch-your-own" creme brulee) and kept it (fairly) simple in order to avoid being stressed out. Which I did (avoid being stressed out, I mean). I wore high heels and a fancy dress and drank champagne and had a wonderful evening.
A few of my (personal) thoughts on throwing a great holiday party:
1) Put the desserts in rows. This is a trick I learned in culinary school. It looks so much more professional for some reason. And put "risers" under your dessert platters. I love height, and think that having raised trays makes for a much more interesting tablescape. I use all manner of things under my tablecloth- boxes, cake pans, casserole pans, truly whatever I have lying around.
2) Put cranberries in the glasses. It adds color. And seems festive. And is a small detail that about a million people comment on.
3) Send guests home with a goodie. I always send mine home with an Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffin. I do it because I imagine that it must be magical to go out to a party, have a great time and a lot of champagne, perhaps drinking a tad too much, and wake up the next morning with a home-baked, fresh muffin for breakfast. Doesn't that sound wonderful? So each year guests leave with these muffins (which are kind of like an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie in muffin form, and get all gooey with just 10-seconds in the microwave). They have become a kind of tradition for party guests (and bonus- you don't even need a mixer, so the morning of the party I just line up 3 big bowls and make 3 big batches with just a whisk and a spoon). Then I put them in bags, tied with raffia, and voila...
4) Leave the baby at home. Or, in this case, send the baby to someone else's home. We had Tate spend the evening with a sitter, which was great. Although we missed him, and guests asked about him constantly, I liked not having to leave the party to deal with a hungry or fussy baby, and it just being Zach and I dressed up in formal clothes seemed so much fancier. (Also- it made the last hour before guests arrived so much easier).
5) Start early. I usually start about 3 weeks ahead of time with things that I know freeze well. In particular: french buttercream (just defrost on the counter overnight), cakes (chocolate, almond jaconde, coconut-bourbon, oh my) tart doughs (thaw in the fridge a day or two before rolling), cheesecakes (makes life so much easier to bake them in mini silicone muffin pans, freeze, and then just pop them out the morning of and let thaw in the fridge), brownies (I actually think these are better after having been frozen) and a few other items (like ice-cream if you are making ice-cream sandwiches, or other good, freezable treats). I typically make all my cookie doughs about 3-4 days in advance. And then the day before is my official bake day, where I bake all the cookies, tart shells, etc., and I make all the custards, mousses, creams, etc. The day of I get up early, make muffins, and assemble all the desserts. (Also, I try to have the whole house set up the night before, with the glasses out- covered with cling wrap, or they can get dusty- the champagne in the buckets, etc. This didn't happen this year due to graduation but it still worked out ok).
5) Have a ham. And warm, yeasty, yummy rolls. Although the invite always says "dessert and drinks", Zach and I feel that as party-throwers, it is our responsibility to provide some rib-sticking, alcohol-absorbing food. So we always order a ham from Honeybaked, and put it out with good mustard and soft rolls. Trust me. Do this. It is hugely popular, and so, so easy, and really festive. And Honeybaked hams are delicious. Especially the next morning when your husband makes you a ham-and-cheese omelette.
6) Have chocolate mousse in shot glasses. With tiny spoons. I can't really explain why people love this so much, but they do. And it is super easy because you can make the mousse ahead of time.
See the little chocolate mousses with the tiny spoons up there?
7) Don't sweat the small stuff. Because here is a list of a few of the things that happened (or didn't) the day of the party: I didn't clean the floors. I stuffed the mail that I couldn't find a place for under the bathroom sink. I didn't have candles lining the mantle like I wanted. A picture I had previously removed from our wall did not get put back up, so there was a blank hole where a picture used to be. We didn't get Christmas lights hung on the outside of the house. And a whole lot more things. But you know what? No one cared. Or even noticed.
And a festive time was had by all.
Whew! What a weekend. On Friday night, I had my official hooding ceremony and was awarded my MBA degree! Exciting, right? There were two other things that made it particularly adrenalin-filled. 1) I was selected as the speaker by my classmates! Such a nice honor. So you can imagine that my presence was somewhat important at the ceremony. 2) In order to understand this, you need to first understand that the university I attended, George Fox, has multiple campuses. The campus I attended is about 35-40 minutes from the main campus. Now, keep in mind that, for the last 3 months, the information about my hooding was hanging on the fridge. I have read it dozens of times. Dozens. In addition, it was emailed to us. And a reminder email was sent the day before. And the day of the ceremony, Zach asked me which campus the ceremony was located out. You would think that all that would combine so that I would show up at the correct campus. Wrong. Which tells you where my head is lately. I feel just... scattered. You know that feeling? (Maybe this is why I still have not actually mailed a single Christmas present. Sigh. I am accepting my own limitations this year). So anyway, at 6:15 PM, I promptly showed up at the wrong campus, about 40 minutes from where I was supposed to be, with the ceremony scheduled to start at 7:00. I had some moments of freaking out- because who wouldn't, right?- but in the end, it was Zach, looking me straight in the eye, and saying in a completely calm and assuring voice "I will get you there" that saw me through.* And he did. At 6:58, just in time to walk out in the processional. So the day was saved. The speech was made. And I am an MBA (with a hood and everything). I love this picture because you can tell that Tate officially never stops moving long enough to get a non-blurry pic... *Zach told me later that he did not feel confident in any way that he could actually deliver on this promise. Which just shows you how great he is. Because he knew what I needed. And he did it. Oh how I love him.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Last week, I was flying across the country with Tate. He is 8 months old. And including our layovers, we had over 11 hours of travel time one way. Needless to say, I had a ton of anxiety about this. Not because Tate is not a good traveler. In fact, he is fantastic. But rather because I do think it is unrealistic for a mother, however bias she is, and however perfect her child may be, to delude herself into thinking that an 8 month old is going to successfully sit still on her lap on a plane without wailing, writhing, or otherwise disturbing fellow travelers. This was also the first time I was flying alone with Tate, so I was going to have to endure all the glares on my own. My anxiety about this kept me up at nights. Would Tate behave? What would I do if I got a middle seat? Where does one even change a diaper on a plane? And what if he just completely lost it? I considered many options. Unnecessary cold medicine. A little rum in his bottle. Chickening out and not taking him at all. Obviously, all of these seemed ridiculous. So ultimately, I decided on the Wailing Baby Survival Kit. And I have to tell you: it was a huge hit.
Here's what I did. I created a note that said the following:
"Sigh. Just your luck. Of course you would be sitting next to the 8 month old on the plane. Don't worry, we understand. We remember the feeling of dread well. Only now it has been replaced with a gripping fear that our baby will be that baby- the one making you absolutely miserable no matter how we try to placate him. Which brings us to this: the Wailing Baby Survival Kit. Although our fingers (and toes) are crossed in hopes that our baby won't be the wailing baby, we figure it can't hurt to provide you with all the necessities (and non-necessities) you could need just in case. Necessities include earplugs, Tylenol, and chocolate. Non-necessities include snacks for sustenance, crossword puzzles, and (should the situation become really dire), the alcoholic beverage of your choice, on us. In a nutshell- thanks for your patience. We hope we won't need it. The Holmboe Family"
And then I attached it to a glassine bag filled with earplugs, Tylenol, dark chocolate, a Clif bar, crossword puzzle, some hand lotion, mints, and other general goodies.
I placed each Wailing Baby Survival Kit on the seats of the two people sitting next to and/or closest to me on the plane. Of course, Tate did not act up, but the goodwill that the kits created were such that, had he been crying his little lungs out, I think the people next to me would have nodded in understanding while eating Dove chocolate and generally feeling good about the world. Truly, people, the fellow passengers loved them. I think I will do it from now on.
With a few small changes. First, I think I would transition to a small box. The bags got crumpled through the check-in process, and didn't look quite as cute. And then the note could be flat, preventing it from getting wrinkled. But even with these small kinks, this has to be one of the best ideas I have ever had.
We embarked on Tate's first Christmas tree hunt a week or so ago. I was so excited about this. Excited enough that I deemed it appropriate for Tate to wear his new holiday hat. Adorable, right? So we went out to a cozy lunch... and then headed to the tree farm. I had planned on taking about a million pictures of Tate. It was going to be his first Christmas photo shoot. Sadly, Tate had other ideas: I ask you friends, what kind of mother would I be if I woke him up just because it was the perfect opportunity for holiday pictures (although don't get me wrong, I did consider it)? So we let him sleep. And Zach and I proceeded to pick out the tree.
We ended up with the perfect one:
P.S. Love the hat? We got it from Janie and Jack