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At The End of the Day – Christmas Open House 2006

Last year, Jim insisted that I blog everything about last year’s Christmas party so that this year, I had it to come up with a menu and a floor plan for this year’s party. It worked out pretty well, in that I had a whole list of things to follow – stuff I knew did not work, stuff I wanted to repeat, how I wanted everything laid out. So, this year, we’re doing it again. This is the run down – and the background – on this year’s holiday party.

To begin with, I have to talk about the now infamous invitation snafu. Don’t ask me what happened, I just know that SOMETHING happened. It started when I began writing my invitations out. I used my hand written address book so I could write the invitations while I was sitting in the living room with the kids. A few years ago, however, I started just keeping addresses in my computer, so the list of people I actually have in my address book is very small. Once I had all of those written, I turned to my computer to start doing the other invitations. I only did one or two when my computer crashed and burned. Literally. You could smell it burning from the inside, and it refuses to boot up. So now I am without a majority of my addresses, and we are leaving for FL in about a week. I mail out those that I have finished, and I phone my mom and get all of the addresses she has that I need. I finish those invitations, and just before the Thanksgiving weekend, I send those out at the Cherry Hill post office.

On our way home from FL, I start checking voice mail at home. We are now only two days from the RSVP deadline, and I have VERY few RSVPs. It is at this point that I am finding out that a lot of people have not received their invitations. It seems at first to be mostly the people who’s addresses I got from my mom, so I figure the problem is with the Cherry Hill post office, as the other invitations were mailed from Bellmawr. But then I find out that my step-brother and my step-mom’s sister have not gotten their invitations. Those addresses are in my address book. I find out that my grandmother has not gotten an invitation, but my Aunt Barbara has gotten one. I know they were mailed at the same time. My Aunt Duffy has gotten one – and she lives in the same house as my grandmother. I panic, because of course, we’ve ordered food for about 40 people, and with so few getting invitations, I am worried we will have no guests.

Now we complicate things a bit further. The day we leave FL is the day that the guys come and work on our hardwood floors. I know they are going to be done on Monday, so that gives me just about 5 days to clean up and put up the holiday decorations. Then we hire a painter. The painting crew starts on Wednesday, and they don’t finish until Saturday morning. Fortunately, on Thursday, I am able to put up and decorate a tree, and then with the help of my father-in-law and mother-in-law, we get some time on Friday to put the rest of the decorations up and get the house in some kind of order.

Saturday, the painters finish up in the morning, and I am cooking by noon. I don’t have a lot of stuff that I am cooking, but I want to get stuff prepared and laid out so I don’t have too much stress on Sunday. Yeah, right.

Sunday comes, and the worst of the day comes when Jim brings home the cookie tray I ordered from the Acme. I have gone in person to order the tray, and specifically requested NOT to get certain types of cookies. The entire tray that they bring back is those cookies. I spend a good 30 minutes on the phone with the Acme trying to get it rectified, and I end up having to run down there, pick out the cookies I want – not easy, since they still have Halloween cookies on display – and I come home with a tray of cookies I settled for and didn’t really want. They did give me a $10 gift card for my troubles 🙁 First important note to self – DO NOT ORDER COOKIES AT THE ACME.

Now to the good stuff. The food! We had 3 tables and the drink station this year. I put no tables downstairs, but on the end table, we did have chips and dip – onion dip with potato chips and salsa and chips. The onion dip – completely gone. The salsa and chips – more gone than last year, when I said I wasn’t doing it again, but I thought the people from the SJBSS might want it. I don’t know if this adds anything, so I don’t know if I would do it again or not, but I always seem to do it anyway.

Okay – here’s the run down:

TABLE ONE – Snacks and some hot food

Deviled Eggs – I made about 50, and I threw away about 7.  They are always popular, I always run out of them, and I was glad I made extras.

Spinach Dip – almost entirely gone. You can’t go wrong with this

Shrimp – 4 pounds – gone entirely – not one shrimp to be had anywhere. And I thought with 4 pounds, and not as many guests, it would have lasted a little longer. It was gone before some guests even arrived. I should always have extra ready, because what doesn’t get eaten at the party will surely get eaten by us after the party.

Hoagie Dip – moved from downstairs last year to upstairs this year, this was a huge hit. My mother loved it, quite a few of the other guests loved it, a couple took some home with them. The recipe I have makes a lot of it, so there was still some left in the bread bowl, and I have a little in the fridge, but this was definitely popular with our crowd.

Mixed Nuts – still have a ton left over

Pretzels – almost the whole bag was left over

Assorted Cheeses, Pepperoni, and Crackers – I had more of this left than I thought I would. The crackers got eaten, because people used them with the dips, but I threw away more cheese than I would have expected. Only a few slices of pepperoni were left, although I had more in the fridge. I’m not sure why some times cheese is popular, other times it is not. Definitely will not buy port wine cheese again. It’s a beautiful Christmas color, but no one ate it at all. I bought a cheese ball this year, which I have never done, and about 1/3 of it was eaten. The cheese did get eaten, but I was surprised I had any left at all.

Potato Salad and Macaroni Salad – I had half trays of each – bought from Misci Caterers. I threw away most of what was on the table and still have half of each tray in my fridge. I really have to plan to make my own potato salad next year and the macaroni salad was totally not necessary. I think with so much other food, people would rather eat the good stuff and leave the salads.

Antipasto Platter – ordered through Harry – I had SOOOOO much of this left over, it was a terrible sin. It was loaded with great stuff – pepper shooters, salami and provolone cheese, marinated mushrooms and artichokes, roasted peppers, olives – but the tray was hardly touched, and I had two more full trays in the FL room. This was so sad to see wasted – I know I would have been picking at it if I could have been. I won’t order it next year, though.

Pickle and Olive Tray – some of the stuff on here was duplicated on Harry’s antipasto platter. I also had pepper shooters and olives. The black olives got eaten, some of the pickles were eaten, a couple of the peppers were eaten. But last year, I had more of it eaten. This is one of those things that only costs a few dollars to put together, and maybe it doesn’t all get eaten, but it’s nice to have for people to pick on.

Bruschetta – Harry brought that, and it looked great. I wish I could have tried it – and I was so tempted to. Harry brought a huge tray, and about 1/2 got eaten. I think this was popular, and a very nice surprise.

Hot roast beef and gravy – I only had the gravy, and it was really good. It was a little thicker than an au jus type gravy, and not the thick stuff you get in a jar or can. The beef was sliced a little thicker than you usually see it for roast beef sandwiches, but I saw quite a few people with it on their plates. I think the way it was done it made a nice meal without having to put it on bread. This was also catered through Harry.

Final comments on Table One – I’m glad I moved the snacks upstairs, where most of the people seemed to congregate, although with the Eagles on, I had more people downstairs this year than last, so I probably could have put more food downstairs – like the pretzels and nuts. I might do that next year, but having most of the snacks upstairs helped move them.

TABLE TWO – Hot entrees and side dishes

We had so much stuff here, that I think people had more than enough to choose from. Here’s the run down:

Rolls from DelBuonos – had about a dozen left over – always fresh, always hot, always a must.

Kielbasa and Sauerkraut – I actually forgot all about this until the very last minute, and thank goodness I remembered. It was gone. I have one small container left over, which we’ll have for lunch today. We bought 5 pounds of kielbasa and two bags of sauerkraut. We got the smoked garlic kielbasa from the Polish deli in Runnemede – delicious.

Meatballs and Sausage – about half of a crock pot got eaten – nearly all of the sausage was gone. I knew putting the sausage in would help it. We won’t have as many hot veggies next year, so I think we’ll keep doing the meatballs and sausage. The hot veggies on this table probably also distracted from the potato and macaroni salad on the other table.

Chicken Marsala – I tasted this, and it was really good. It had a great sauce and chunks of mushrooms, and smelled great. Harry catered this, and my mom wants some for her house. We had a ton of it though – Harry brought a lot of food, and I have a huge tray still in the freezer.

Herbed Chicken – catered by Pat at Misci caterers – we went through about half of a tray of this. I ordered this in addition to the chicken marsala in case people wanted something without the sauce. I think I would have to choose one or the other next year.

Penne pasta with ricotta and mozzarella cheeses – won’t do it again. Catered by Misci, and I’m sure it tasted great, but it just doesn’t do well on the buffet table. I kept putting sauce, but it just got dried out looking and the pasta got too soft. Maybe better for a much shorter party – where you only keep the food out for an hour or so.

Carrots, Corn, Broccoli Rabe – all were trays left over and frozen from Thanksgiving. The broccoli rabe was almost entirely gone – I didn’t eat it, but heard people say it was really good. I had nearly as many carrots left as I started with, and I had way too much corn left over. I forgot to melt the stick of butter in the corn, and the complaint from Thanksgiving was that it was a little too bland. The carrots were giant “horse” carrots, and they were cut pretty big, so one piece would have been plenty. I didn’t see many people with them though. Next year, I might order a tray of the broccoli rabe, and not worry about the other veggies.

Green Beans Almondine – Ordered through Harry. They were pretty popular – I didn’t have many left on the buffet, but there was another HUGE tray in the FL room that is now in my freezer. I would do those again.

Final comments on Table Two – I did not buy provolone this year for the meatballs sandwiches, and once again, I forgot to put out the cheese I did buy – shredded parmesan. I guess we’ll be eating that on stuff for a few days. Parmesan encrusted french toast, anyone?

We had more hots than we would normally due to the abundance from Thanksgiving. I think the veggies were nice, but again, people stuck with the good stuff – meats and chicken. We will probably continue with the meatballs, sausage, and kielbasa, and I’ll see whatever whim strikes me as for other hot dishes.

TABLE THREE – Desserts

Cream Cake Platter – Acme – only about half got eaten this year – and they were wildly popular last year. I might still do them, or I might try to find something else.

Brownie Bites – Acme – These were our cutesie thing this year, and they were so cute. Frosted with cream cheese, sprinkled with green and red sprinkles, topped with either a Hershey kiss or a little holiday pick. We had a few left over, but the kids loved them.

Cookies – NEVER ORDER COOKIES FROM THE ACME – I still have most of the cookies left over

Mini pastries (cannoli, eclairs, cream puffs) – only a few cannoli left, but I might order from a bakery instead of the Acme next year.

Fresh Fruit Tray – nearly all gone, ordered from Misci, and cannot do without this. I still have a whole container of dip left.

Cheese Cake – from Aunt Barbara – this was so yummy, people were taking two pieces. They loved it!

Chocolate Fountain – very messy – it splashed when the kids were eating stuff – but it seemed very popular. I served cubed pound cake, marshmallows, pretzel sticks and strawberries. People were also taking fruit from the fruit tray and sticking that under.

Pistachios – about half got eaten, but my gang will finish them up.

Trail Mix – some got eaten, some didn’t

Hershey Kissables – I think Granuaile ate most of them, but they looked cute, so no reason not to have them.

Candy from Carano’s Cucina – Kathy made the most amazing candy – ALL of the nut clusters were gone, devoured in short order, and there are just a few small pretzel pieces left, after I think people broke pretzels to just get a little taste of them. The pretzels with the caramel were amazing, from what I hear. There isn’t a taste of those left. Now if she would just do sugar free, dark chocolate, vanilla butter creams, she would be my best friend for life 🙂

Fudge – homemade by Aunt Duffy and Uncle Tony – Delicious! Everyone raved about it, and it was nearly gone.

Final Comments on Table 3 – I was so glad to have that Chocolate Fountain – and so grateful to my mom in law and dad in law for cleaning it up after the party!! I didn’t buy as many desserts as I have in the past, but the table was still full and I still had left overs.

Drink Station – I had 2 pitchers of iced tea, which were replenished several times over. There was quite a bit of soda, but I worried not enough – I had more than enough. We had more wine this year, and more was drunk than in other years. I had a case of Heineken, about half was gone. We had liquor, but had to send Jim to get mixers – tonic and orange juice. We borrowed my mom’s ice bucket – much nicer than the small one I have.

I don’t think anything was missing – I didn’t do a punch or egg nog, but I don’t know that they would have added anything.

Final Comments on the Drink Station – next year, get mixers ahead of time!

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