“You should try to relax about having people over. I have friends who are nervous hostesses, and it just contaminates the entire mood of the evening. They are always rushing from the room to check things and have a wild look in their eyes when they return from the kitchen” ~ Nora Ephron
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In one sentence .. hosting a dinner party for 20+
“Where did the _ go?”
Three times this morning .. “Huh .. where did my grocery list go? It has to be around here somewhere”
“Where's the bottle of bubbly I just bought?”
“Where did the puppies leashes go? (In the washer) Why? (Didn't they look dirty to you too?)”
And most of all .. the given .. the one sure thing
“Where did the time go?”
Nearly every month we host Spaghetti Saturday.
When the weather warms up .. spaghetti and meatballs can seem a bit too heavy. So we debate .. should we switch it up? Maybe BLTs? Grilled pizza? Or even something a little bit fancy? A true summer celebration?
It's a sunny June day. I preheat the oven and start to prep the meatballs.
“Were you planning on going to the pool today?”
“I should .. but it seems like there's too much to do”
I wipe down wine glasses .. find the candles .. ready the silverware .. check the time. He flashes a we're-going-to-be-just-fine smile .. and shoos me out of the kitchen
“Yes .. yes. Now where did my swimming suit go?”
The water-walking ladies fill me in on the highlights from their week. Lunches with friends .. what they made for dinner .. summer trips being planned.
How they make me smile
Driving home I think of the garden .. “It's going to be 90+ degrees and I really should water. I wonder if the green beans have poked their heads out of the dirt yet. Hopefully the wildflowers will make it”
I know I should go. There's still plenty of time for dinner party prep. I picture my husband and the puppies settled in for a bit of an afternoon nap
“Where did my trusty red hoe go?”
I pull into the drive .. hot and dirty from battling the weeds. A neighbor waves from across the way. “I'm sitting down for a glass of bubbly in the garden. Care to join me?”
The afternoon is slipping away .. but there's still enough time for prep. Certainly our friends won't mind a slight delay. These moments .. these casual afternoon invites don't come around every day. I feel hints of anxiety coming on
“I'd love to .. but I need to get going on dinner”
The afternoon fades .. everyone will be here soon.
My husband switches the station to jazz .. I reach for lip gloss and pour a Prosecco. As I wipe the countertops and ready a cheese plate .. I glance out the window and see her sitting in and amongst her pretty daisies reading a book. How long has it been since I've had a daisy patch of my own?
Where did the time go?
I realize I'll ask myself this again and again and again. I'm learning that time passes far sooner than I realize. Sooner than I'd like it to. I know the minutes in-between will slip by unnoticed and unmarked
unless .. of course ..
I wash my hands .. dry them on a flour sack .. and head out the door
“Changed my mind” I say .. taking a seat in the chair next to hers. “How has your summer been going? Are you coming over for dinner tonight?”
At seven sharp .. guests begin to arrive with cheeks flushed from the heat. The unmade cheese plate is finished and graze on appetizers as everybody catches up. Dinner is served and gone before we know it. Conversations are interesting and fun .. dotted with frequent interruptions from puppies.
“Have you noticed my super cool bone. Would you like to share?”
We finish our sentences .. our dessert .. our wine. Before I know it .. our last guest is heading off into the night
Where did the time go?
I remember when the kids were little .. when they couldn't find something. I'd ask
“Where did you see it last?”
I help but wonder if that question isn't the answer.
To see .. to pay attention. To watch as time marches on .. with or without our involvement .. with our without our permission. To notice when the plants need water .. to remember the pool is open for only a short season.
To let the cheese plate go unmade .. to acknowledge a neighbor's afternoon glass of wine invitation. To say “Of course I'll be over. Can I bring you some fresh cookies?”
To be able to answer the simplest question .. Where did you see it last? With the simplest answer:
The Seven Layer Salad has made a couple of appearance at Spaghetti Saturday .. and rarely are there left-overs
If you’ve spent time in the midwest, particularly in rural farm country .. you may have thumbed through a church cookbook and wondered why there are no vegetables in the salads
Salads in this part of the world often contain Jell-O and mayo (Miracle Whip if you ask the water-walking ladies) .. and all sorts of sweets (whatever, yes, grapes). Unless you specify a salad with veggies .. there’s a very good chance that asking a true Midwesterner to bring a salad to a potluck will mean making
more room for dessert
The salad chapters in the church cookbooks on my desk are my some of my favorites. They’re where you’d expect a salad chapter to be .. right after the appetizers and before the mains .. although oddly enough ingredients like mini marshmallows, cool whip, and cream cheese make regular appearances.
The good news? The classic Seven Layer salad is tucked in and amongst and is truly a sight to behold.
Generally they're served in trifle dishes or glass bowls. Mostly so kids at the potluck can all say “There really are seven layers” .. as they count up from the bottom: lettuce, tomato, cucumber, bacon, cheese, onions, and boiled eggs (sometimes celery or frozen peas make it in there as well). It's then topped with a thick layer of mayo that seals everything in like sparkle over drywall
When you're ready to serve .. one will fold the heavy layer of mayo into the mix and scoop it all out
It's potluck food at it's finest .. offering a serious advantage to the harried home cook .. it's meant to be made ahead. The layer of mayo seals everything air tight
The good news with the Seven Layer Salad is you can use whatever you like and you really can't go wrong
Adapted from Betty Crocker
- 1 bag (10 ounces) ready-to-eat mixed salad greens (~ 6 cups)
- 8 medium radishes, sliced thin
- 5 or 6 green onions, thinly sliced
- 2 medium celery stalks, sliced thin
- 12 slices bacon, crisply cooked and crumbled
- 1 package (10 ounces) frozen green peas, thawed
- 1½ cups mayo, Miracle Whip, or salad dressing
- ½ cup shredded Cheddar cheese or grated Parmesan cheese (~ 2 ounces)
- In a large salad bowl, add the greens.
- Layer the radishes, onions, celery, bacon, and peas on the salad greens
- Spread mayonnaise over peas, covering top completely and sealing to edge of bowl.
- Sprinkle with cheese
- Store covered in refrigerator until ready to serve