My Last Holiday Party

Well it wouldn’t be December without my holiday party, although this was my last one for reasons I’ll explain.  My Pinterest board shows the menu.  You can see it by clicking here.

I had to make those amazing meatballs again, the ones I served at the baby shower.  They disappeared, again.  I also did some old favorites—goat cheese-stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates.  The Columbia restaurant’s 1905 salad.  And an international cheese board. 

The new dishes I tried.  One was mini stuffed twice-baked potatoes.  Very easy and holiday-bakedtatersvery inexpensive to make.  You buy those little creamer potatoes at the warehouse club in a big bag, bake them in the oven, then scoop out the insides with a small spoon.  The rest of the story is just like full-sized twice-baked potatoes.

holiday-cheeseballAnother new dish was the jalapeno popper cheese ball.  I did not make it look like the football that’s shown on Pinterest, I just did it like a non-sports-related cheese concoction.  It was pretty well-consumed.

I also tried my hand at Cuban sliders.  Basically you take a package of King’s Hawaiian Rolls and you use them to make a pan of ham and swiss cheese and pickle sandwiches.  Then you melt some butter, stir in some mustard and drizzle it holiday-slidersover the sandwiches, then bake and serve warm.  They are equally good when they cool off.

For dessert this year I made a fruit galette.  I made it with apples, holiday-galettepears and blackberries and it was also a big hit.  It was easy as pie (no pun intended… well, maybe a little).  I took a packaged pie crust, I put in sliced apples and pears, with a few blackberries, a little sugar and some lemon zest.  Baked it.  Sliced it.  Served it.  Watched most of it disappear.

I also served a Christmas sangria that was a big hit.  It’s basically white wine with some holiday-sangriasparkling cider, granny smith apples, halved fresh cranberries and sprigs of rosemary.  It was also a big hit.

My best friend came in from out of state for the weekend and helped me with food and clean up.  We had a great time together.

But, I was disappointed in the turnout.  I set the date months in advance and tell people when it is for them to put it on their calendars.  And, without fail this year, lots of my regulars made other plans and then said, “Oh, we have a conflict.”  I wanted to say, “No, you don’t have a conflict.  You don’t want to come to my party so you made other plans.  There’s a big fucking difference.”

And that, my dear readers, is why I’m done hosting a holiday party.  I had the worst turnout in 8 consecutive years.  The people who were there were a lot of fun, and I was honored by their presence, but I just don’t think I want to spend $300 on food and décor next year to have people find “conflicts.”  Either my party isn’t as fun as I thought it was, or the food isn’t as good as I thought it was, or maybe both?  Either way…there’s a certain amount of freedom that comes from knowing I’ve let myself off the hook for next year.

I am, however, a social creature.  So that doesn’t mean I won’t want to do something.  I’ve already decided that IF people request a party or event, I will possibly organize a community dinner, in which everyone brings something and makes a commitment to attending.  I’m not doing days of food prep only to have half the food I make go in the trash.  But we’ll see if there are any requests.

Anyway, I want to wish all my readers a happy everything.  Happy Christmas!  Happy Hanukkah! Happy Kwanzaa!  And of course, Happy New Year!  May the turnout for all your holiday functions exceed your wildest dreams!  Thanks for reading BWAV!

 

 

Orlando for Christmas: My Review

As I mentioned a couple of months back, we decided to spend Christmas in Orlando.  It mickey-mouse-iconwas a place to go, we got a great deal on the hotel if I agreed to go to a Hilton Vacation Club time share presentation, and, well, like I said, it was a place to go!  Here is my review of Orlando for Christmas.

First and foremost, it was GREAT family time.  I got some time with my son and his girlfriend, and that was what counted the most.  To that end, it was a wonderful trip.  We had lots of nice meals together, and enjoyed time just relaxing in the hotel room together, too.  Good conversations were had in the car while traveling.

On the way to Florida we stopped off to see my parents and that was also good.  Mom’s dementia is getting progressively worse so I spend every moment I can with her, and I treasure our time together.  Had lunch with a friend from middle school even, and that was also a wonderful experience.

Now, the family time was the best, most important part of the trip.  But I’ll confess that I was underwhelmed with Orlando.  Let me start by saying I’m deathly afraid to even look at my bank balance.  Holy crap that place was expensive!  If  you are planning a trip to Orlando, here’s what you do to budget.  First, figure up what you can afford to spend.  Triple that amount.  Then add $250.  You’ll still come up short.  (Hahah?  I’m not joking!)

Day 1, December 23:   We arrived at the hotel.  Valet parking was $25 a day (self-parking was $18!).  Internet service was $20 a day.  So much for the “great deal” on the hotel room!

That evening we had reservations at the Orlando Melting Pot.  It was delicious!  A really fun experience cooking fondue at the table. I would love to eat there again and try some different combinations of food.  The kids really enjoyed it and got to try some things like duck that they had never had before.

Day 2, Christmas Eve:  I sent the kids to Magic Kingdom while I did the time share presentation.  They really enjoyed the park, although it was super crowded.  They closed the park because it was at capacity!

The time share presentation was P-A-I-N-F-U-L.  My gosh that guy tried hard to establish a rapport with me but I just didn’t feel it and I really didn’t like him.  He was too busy telling me stories about his family and his parents’ “old fashioned” time share and he kept reassuring me this was not going to be high pressure.  So much that I was starting to feel pressure.  I walked away without buying anything, as I knew I would.  With a child in college and a deadbeat ex-husband who won’t contribute to the cost, there’s no way I was going in debt for a time share!

That night we met in Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) and had a nice dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s Cafe, which was absolutely amazing.  And, amazingly expensive.  I ordered the scallops and there were two on the plate.  Two.  The service was outstanding and we do love ourselves some of that there fine dining.  So, it was money well-spent I suppose.

Day 3, Christmas Day:  We decided to go to Epcot.  So did everybody else. Especially people who didn’t believe in making their children mind.  I was also appalled at how adults acted in some of the exhibits.  Cutting in line, and, some of them justified it by looking at my son, who had waited patiently in line for an activity, and saying, “Come on, let my kid go first.”  It was obnoxious and I’m glad I wasn’t standing right there or I’d have said something that would reach “Showing My Ass” proportions.

The food in the World Showcase was really good, but again, very pricey.  We went to “France” and I had my first glass of “real” champagne.  It was $13.  We had a package of six French macarons–$10.  A small cheese plate–$10.  Lobster bisque–$8.  A ham and cheese sandwich–$10.  A croissant–$3.  It ended up being a $50+ “snack” (but it was really good).

We poorly planned the trip because we didn’t know any better.  The lines were long and there were no Fast Passes available for the rides. If we had bought tickets early we could have gotten a Fast Pass and avoided long lines.  Some of the best rides had 2 hour waits, and I don’t stand in line 2 hours for a 3 minute ride (unless the ride involves George Clooney’s lap).  Oh, and every one of the nice restaurants was booked solid, no reservations available.  I had no idea we needed to make dining reservations at an amusement park until it was too late.   I have since created a Disney travel planning Pinterest board in case we ever go again.  Click here to see it.

I think I mentioned there were a lot of unruly unsupervised children?  It was also 90 degrees and about 90% humidity.  My son caught people cutting in line and he got royally pissed.  We finally had enough of the place by around 4:00 p.m.  We went back to the hotel.

I suggested that we go to the nice steak house in the hotel for one last nice dinner, until I checked out the menu.   Entrees were $70-$85.  And it was the kind of place where everything was a la carte, so a salad would have been another $15-$25, a baked potato would have been $10-$15, etc.  We instead ordered room service (dinner for three, including a burger, a club sandwich, and a huge homemade cheese pizza, was $55–what a bargain!) and crashed.

Day 4:  December 26:   We met some people on a cruise eight years ago, and they live in Florida.  We arranged to meet them for brunch on our way out of town and that was a real treat!  Then, we got to fight traffic of unbelievable proportions. Apparently everybody else had the same idea we did–to get the hell outta’ Dodge!

So, here is my overall evaluation of the trip:

THUMBS DOWN TO:

  • Orlando’s ridiculous food and beverage prices.
  • Children with no self-control and no manners.
  • Parents who allow aforementioned children to go without proper discipline.
  • Time share presentations (seriously, did I agree to do this again???)
  • Disney on Christmas–it’s just too damned crowded!
  • Whatever I spent (which I still haven’t officially added up yet, but for three days in Orlando I know it was at least $1,500!)

THUMBS UP TO:

  • Good quality time with my son and his very sweet, charming girlfriend–this was the best!
  • Being away from home on Christmas and doing something different.
  • Seeing old friends.
  • Delicious food and drink.
  • Time with my Mommy.
  • Being home again!

Holiday Spirit

xmasHoliday spirit for me has waned as I’ve gotten older.  I’m not sure why, although I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that my son outgrew the concept of Santa Claus years ago and that took a lot of the magic out of it for me.

I used to really enjoy planning his Santa surprises, hiding them, wrapping them in special paper, and then putting them out for him on Christmas Eve.  I always bought a bag of fake glitter snow and I would sprinkle it from the fireplace all the way to the tree and back to show him the “trail” that Santa left.  I’d eat the cookies and carrots and leave a few crumbs of them on the plate, with a thank you note from Santa and the reindeer.  It was such fun!

All that kind of magical stuff is gone I suppose, and won’t return until Ixmas1 have grandchildren.  I look forward to that someday, but no time soon since my son is only 18 and I don’t feel like being a “grandma” just yet.

I would try decorating, but since we are going to Orlando for the holiday, I don’t want to decorate.  That’ll just be work for me to come home to–taking down all the decorations!  Ain’t nobody got time for that!

So, without the joy of a small child in the house, and without the joy of decorating, I’m trying to find some holiday spirit this year.  I’ve been browsing my Christmas Pinterest board to look for inspiration.  Maybe it will help you find your’s?

Baby It’s Cold Outside… but Maybe Not?

Yesterday I booked a trip to Orlando for Christmas.  My son and I wanted to go somewhere tropical formickey-mouse-snowman-christmas-510x640 the holiday but all the resorts were outrageously expensive and I didn’t have $5 thousand lying around to burn.   So, I booked one of those time share deals–pay $250 for three nights, and in return I have to go through a time share presentation.  Ugh.

That was really our only option for the budget, because the resorts charge outrageous prices that time of year.  I guess it’s because they can–apparently we ain’t the only cats who avoid family at Christmas.

That sounds awful to say, but it’s true.  And I’ll tell you the history.

When I was 18 years old I leased apartments to work my way through school.  I would volunteer for the Christmas Eve shift every year just so I had a reason not to go to my parents’ house any earlier than I had to.  It wasn’t because of my parents, though.  It was because of a certain other person in our family who had to make a scene.  Every.  Single.  Year.  It was like Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were on their calendar marked, “Show My Ass in the Biggest Way Possible.”  The holiday was so miserable that I fantasized about growing up, moving away, and spending Christmas alone.   If it wasn’t arguing about something it was a crying fit about a dead dog.  It was always always always something.  Oh, and it happened at Thanksgiving, too.

I loved Christmas.  It was my favorite holiday of the year.  I lived for it, decorated, shopped, wrapped, baked….but then that person would have to make their scene each year and so it was often anticlimactic and disappointing.

I grew up, finished school, and moved away.  I came back for Christmas, and it still happened.  Once I had a child, though, I stopped traveling at Christmas.  As I told everyone, “Santa will come down our chimney for our son–you can be here with us if you like, but he’s not going to travel at Christmas.”  With that came a wonderful thing–peace at Christmas.  My son was the focus, and I did not go to see my parents and engage in the drama.  They would come and visit us, leaving the drama starter at home.

I got to decorate, shop, wrap, bake, etc.,. to my heart’s content, and I got to see Christmas through the wonder of a child’s eyes.  It was magical.  In 2009 we moved to North Carolina.  And we were close enough to my family that we were able to visit for Christmas.  We didn’t have much of a reason not to.

The first year, we went for Thanksgiving.  While we were there had an early small Christmas celebration.  I’ll give you three guesses what happened, and the first two don’t count.  Yep–the Scene Maker started with their antics.  But, there was one critical difference between this time and all the times before…

…I had to see the impact of it in my son’s eyes.  I had tolerated it all those years and was used to it, but he had never had a miserable or unpleasant or drama-filled holiday in his life. He was 12 at the time and caught in that odd space between being a child and a teenager, and the confusion and tension I saw on his face was just heartbreaking for me.

The next year, we visited the family for a short time just before Christmas.  And yes, it happened again.  The drama was something that my father was so used to he simply said, “You know ____ always has to show their ass.”  And that look on my son’s face?  There it was again.  I can’t begin to describe it accurately, but it was one of disturbance, pain, anxiety, confusion, and sheer fright.

It killed me to see that.  And at that moment I made up my mind:  there would never be another holiday with my family.  It was one thing when I had to take the abuse but it was a whole other can of worms when I had to see my son get hurt.

One of the most frustrating things about this whole situation is that my parents–my father in particular–is an enabler.  Come one, come all, even if you do act like an asshole.  Ruin our holiday and we’ll accept it as a normal occurrence.  If it were me I’d un-invite the offender until s/he could learn to behave.  But, that’s not how it works at Dysfunction Junction.

I see my parents several times a year.  I love them with all my heart.  But, I just cannot spend a holiday with them anymore.  This year we’ll travel through there on our way to Orlando and spend a night or two, and deliver a few gifts, but there will be no Christmas festivities with “the whole family.”  I just can’t do it.  On this Christmas Day I will be in the company of someone I love more than anything–my son.  I’ll be dancing with Mickey Mouse to the tune of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and avoiding drama at all costs.