December 17, 2005
9:19 am — This is an experiment. The idea of the “blog,” as opposed to the “online journal,” was that a blog was updated several times during a single day, each time with some short note and maybe a link to something the blogger had come across in his or her web surfing. An online journal, on the other hand, was a set of structured essays, the subjects of which may or may not have had anything to do with what was happening in the world outside the author’s personal concerns.
It’s the morning of the day before my party. I want everything done by 7:00 tonight (everything being all the food prepared, the kitchen cleaned, and the lasagna and ham balls thawing so that all that needs to be done tomorrow is heat them up, put them and the cold foods out, and welcome my guests). It helps me to work for no more than an hour at a specific task, take a break to check e-mail and breathe, and then turn to another task.
For the moment, then, I’m going downstairs to bake the pie shell for the pear tart and make up a batch of the Saint Lucia rolls. See you in a bit.
10:40 am — The batch of dough for the St. Lucia buns is set for the first rising. I baked the Pillsbury All-Ready Pie Shell for the pear tart in the special flan pan I bought several years ago just for this dish. (A flan pan is a pie pan with a removable bottom. After the shell is baked, you push up on the bottom, and the shell comes away from the pan, ready to stand on its own on a display plate rather than rest in the pie pan.)
The crust was not big enough to climb up the sides of the flan pan all the way, and it shrank during the baking so that popping it out of the pan would have resulted in sort of a pastry tray rather than a pretty shell. It just doesn’t look right. So I sprinkled the crust with sugar and cinnamon and set it to bake a few minutes longer, resulting in something like the crostata Ron’s grandmother used to make. He and I can nibble on it. Later I’ll make my own pie crust dough big enough to do the job.
11:45 am — I’m getting ready to go out to pick up the sand tarts I subcontract to Schenk’s bakery and to stop at the supermarket for this and that: eggs, tortilla chips because I’ve made a new kind of dip (a concoction of Zatarain’s red beans and rice plus some salsa and jalapeño peppers that I’m calling my Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans? Dip) that will go best with those, another brick of cream cheese for the vegetable dip I thought I wouldn’t make this year but seems to be the right thing for just plain crudités.
Lynn just called. She finished her last exam, packed everything up for the month she’ll be here between semesters, and is on her way home. The kitchen floor will be full of her stuff for a few hours. And soon the house will be full of her laughter.
1:00 pm — The last run to the supermarket before tomorrow (when I’ll pick up the veggie, fruit, and fajita wrap trays) has been completed, and the sand tarts (gorgeous examples, well-shaped and evenly-browned) have been picked up. I still need to go out later for Sterno, a few more paper goods, wine, and flowers.
Yes, I know that Sterno, napkins, and wine don’t spoil and I could have gotten them weeks ago. I didn’t.
2:45 pm — My focus has been diffused some since Lynn arrived. The St. Lucia buns are almost done and the shell for the fruit tart is ready. Still to come: Philadelphia sticky buns, the red velvet cake, and final setting of the tables and sweeping of the floors.
5:15 pm — First Rule of Party Preparation (and almost everything else in life): Everything takes longer than you think it will. I set out at almost 3:00. I went to a florist and got white orchids and deep red carnations for my St. Lucia table. I never got to Party City and Bed, Bath & Beyond because the traffic was so dense I couldn’t get to that side of Route 22. I parked in the middle of a different shopping center and went to Linens ‘n’ Things for the Sterno, the festive napkins, and a thick mat for the front porch. Then I stopped at Williams-Sonoma (different shopping strip) and got Turkish Delight (for a tribute to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe), because the stuff I ordered and paid rush shipping for hasn’t come yet. W-S had only pistachio-flavored candy (I would have preferred walnut), but it will have to do. Finally I went to the liquor store (yet another shopping center) and got wine for the mulled punch.
I’m taking a short nap and geting my second wind.
7:45 pm — The Phildelphia sticky buns are set for their first rising, and the red velvet cake has 10 more minutes to bake. The kitchen is a mess.
9:00 pm — The kitchen is less of a mess. I decided against the salsa dip I’ve always made (longed for at 11:45 this morning but now no longer that important). The vegetable tray from the supermarket deli comes with a carton of onion dip, and I always just throw that away. This year I’ll put it out. I’ll bet it will be more popular than my salsa dip. The Philadelphia sticky buns are in the second rising. The red velvet cake is cooled and wrapped. I’ll frost it tomorrow.
Next — washing the punch bowls and laying the tables.
10:45 pm — The Philadelphia sticky buns are a disaster. I miscalulated when I went to final preparation. The recipe I was using called for a fourth portion of the basic dough mass used to make them, and I had a half. I prepared one round cake tin with the syrupy bottom (which becomes the sticky top of the roll.) Then I rolled out the dough, laid in the filling (a brown sugar/cinnamon/currant/orange rind mixture), and then rolled up and cut the individual buns. I wondered why they seemed so big. Ten minutes into the baking, it hit me. I should have made two pans.
I peeked into the oven. The buns were rising out of the pans and taking on the appearance of gnarled tree limbs rather than sweet rolls. I let them finish baking (had to give them an extra 10 minutes). They are sitting on the cooling rack now. They are not presentable enough for the party. My pitiful Toll House and Cherry Drop cookies at least have some charm, but I pride myself on my breads and pastries. Lynn and Ron might eat them, but I’m so disgusted with them (and myself) that I don’t really want to see them again.
For reasons I can’t quite fathom, Ron was annoyed with me when he went to bed. It has something to do with the laundry baskets that I’ve been stepping around for two days. That’s not party prep — I haven’t asked anybody to do anything for me for this party, except Jamar down the street, and I paid him to clear the walkway and reduce the rubble of snow at the end of the driveway that the snowplow always leaves.
I’m posting this as my Holidailies number for the day. I’m taking a shower. Maybe I’ll get my third wind and do some more laying of tables tonight.