Sunday, December 12, 2010

Fa la la la party!

Yesterday Jon and I threw a Christmas party for the group of classmates that he works most closely with.  The Coast Guard is much smaller than other military branches, and since our last two billets weren't even on Coast Guard bases, I don't have much experience with the CG Community.  I'm not involved in spouses clubs or other groups.  And because it takes over 45 minutes to get to Jon's base right now, I don't even bother visiting the commissary or Exchange.  All that to say, I was excited for a chance to meet and visit with Jon's classmates (from all branches) and their spouses and kids, especially since, other than the occasional trip back to the Academy, we rarely get that military experience.  And it was just plain fun too.

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We spent weeks planning and organizing this event.  But despite the multiple menu plans and grocery lists, we still ended up going on four "emergency" food runs.  Then there was the actual making of the food.  We kept adding "just one more dish" to our list until I found myself wondering just when it was all going to get done.  Thankfully my friend Jen offered to come spend the morning with me and lend a hand making meatballs, cookies and prepping other appetizers.  And she brought her cutie daugher Anna along to keep Jack occupied and out of the kitchen!

But one of our most special dishes of the evening was Jon's favorite Christmas cookie - Neapolitan's.  I've never heard of these nor tried them before ... much less attempted to make them.  I took one look at the recipe his mom emailed us and decided I definitely wasn't interested.  But that was okay because Jon was insistent on doing it himself.  So we went to the grocery store (again) and gathered up the ingredients.  Which took a little longer than necessary.  Almond paste?  Am I the only person who has never heard of this before, much less know where it is located in the grocery store?  It was in the baking section in case you need to know.  I only walked by it 5 times before finally figuring it out.

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But he did it.  He mixed it, and baked it, and layered it, and spread the chocolate.

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And naturally Jack helped. 

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And I must say, they turned out mighty well.

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Of course, food is just one part of the equation.  I was working off two lists for pre-party-prep: cooking and cleaning.  It's hard enough to clean the house with two little ones underfoot.  But KEEPING it clean is a completely different story.  So I saved as much as I could for the last minute, which conveniently happened to be naptime.  It's a good thing too, because how awesome would it have been if I had vacuumed the floor before Jack went outside, rolled around in a bunch of leaves, crunches them up in his pants, and then unknowingly dumped them all over his bedroom floor?  Yeah, not so much.

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The party went off without a hitch.  Everyone made it, despite some having to drive over an hour through and out of the city.  There were lots of amazing dishes to share.  And the kiddos had a blast together.  We decided to go with a kid-friendly shin-dig since most of the other couples are in the same boat we are ... living away from family and too new to the area to have a babysitter.  Plus we think kids are kinda fun!  I got to sit down with a Coastie mom and ask her all sorts of questions about military life with 5 kids.  And I got to chat with another mom of 3 kids all born less than 2 years apart.  I think that's what I like most about the military community - despite all its quirks and inconveniences, it's very family oriented.  And it's nice visiting with others in similar situations who share the same values.

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So it was a wonderful evening, topped off by a fun White Elephant Gift Exchange, the highlight of which was a delightful bedazzled Christmas sweater, and ending with loads and loads of leftovers.  I was nervous all day about whether we'd have enough food... now I'm left wondering what to do with all that remains.  I've had more Christmas cookies in the past 24 hours than I did all Christmas week last year.  I took one look at the half tray of cocktail shrimp and veggie tray and decided we'd be eating shrimp stir-fry this evening.  And I currently have a loaf of bread baking just so I can use up the last of the egg nog in some french toast tomorow morning.  Yes, we'll be reliving this party for the next few days, but really, that's not such a bad thing this time of year!

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