We've been up in the canyon as much as possible these days. The colors on the mountains are just incredible. Here are some of our (unedited) photos of late...
We found an apple orchard that will give us all the apples on the ground for free. Bruised apples are usually called "seconds" and they make for GREAT cider. So tonight we are heading up to the canyon again to pick up apples in the orchard. The picture directly above this is taken from the orchard. Not a bad place to spend an evening, eh?
I've done this giant dinner now for a number of years and I thought I would just quickly jot down a few tips for pulling off an event like this. So here are my ideas, for what it's worth:
1. White Christmas lights can make any event feel magical
2. Candles are cheap and have large visual effect so use a ton of them for evening events
3. If you use candles in jars and also use coffee beans, use tall candles. Coffee beans are visually pleasing and have a nice aroma but they hold heat really well. If you have short candles (like I did last year) it will melt the candle in about 3 seconds flat. Use tall candles and have the heat at the top of the lid and your lovely candle display will last much longer.
4. Glass with lights is also visually catching. Jam jars are your cheapest so if you want to use glass and also not worry about if it breaks in the hubbub of the evening, use different heights of jars with candles in them.
5. When feeding a huge group, really really plan the menu. Turkey, for example, is one giant piece of meat that you stick in the oven and virtually forget about. This will make life easier. Trust.
6. And about turkey - use a brine and a bag. It makes all the difference. Essentially you lock in a fabulous flavor with perfect moisture with a brine. By cooking the turkey in a bag you don't have to baste it every 30 min. You just put it in the bag and forget about it in the oven. The turkey turns out perfect and you free yourself up to do other stuff in the kitchen.
7. Chutney with meat is a great way to go. Gravy feels too Thanksgivingish and chutney sounds fancy. It can also be served at room temperature so you can make it in advance.
8. Try to plan something from each food group but also try to cook as little as possible. Autumn greens. Butter Rolls. These things I purchase. I get the rolls from a bakery because they are just as good as anything I can make by hand. And salad is salad. It doesn't taste any better if you buy it in a bag or if you chop all the lettuce by hand (in my opinion). Save yourself some time and just buy these low impact plate fillers.
9. The Power of Marketing. Describe your food with finesse if you're going to have a menu.
10. Visual impact with food is also key. Try to make it look as appealing as possible. Garnish? Sure. Lovely dishes? Yeah. Space a placement on the table? Yup. Sometimes the yummiest food doesn't look awesome and will never get eaten. If you're cooking for that many people, you want every last morsel to be devoured so take the time to make it look as good as it tastes.
11. If you're going to have people help you (and you should) give them the fun stuff to do but give them guidance. For example, I had my friend Kelsee do the honey butter favors. I had Doug do the lights and set up stuff (tables and chairs and lights - all perfect for the husband to work on). I drew up a little plan of what I wanted and Doug put it together perfectly. This allowed me to not have to think about what was going on outside so I could focus on food and other details.
12. Fabric. Fabric can have a big impact. Toole over the lights helps keep bugs out, has visual impact, and is cheap. It is about the consistency of gauze. Burlap on the table is also pretty cheap for fabric and makes for a lovely fall runner. White table cloths are classic and you can often find bulk table cloths for fairly inexpensive (and these get used ALL the time so its worth the investment if you host things often). These table cloths were actually round ones but when they are layered, it makes for a scalloped edge effect and still looks nice.
13. Music. Its important to have something in the background playing. No one notices it until there are those few awkward little pauses in conversations. Its nice to break up silence. I always go with something like the Frank Sinatra station on Pandora. Classic and pleasant.
14. BORROW EVERYTHING. For this event I borrowed silverware, white plates, chairs, tables and so on. If you belong to a church, they will often let you borrow things or rent for pennies. Loads of people have white plates and silverware so you can create a cohesive look without spending money. The pears were provided by my boss. He brought some pears in one day and I asked him if he had a tree. When he said he did I immediately jumped on the idea of free pears! The more free things you can get the better. But you have to think out things in advance so you can be keeping your eyes and ears open for opportunities when they come along.
15. Know when to hire someone. I have the desserts done by a friend of mine who does desserts professionally. Dessert is an important icing on the cake of the event. It's important to have something that leaves a lasting impression since its likely the last food impression you'll leave. Because of this, I hire someone who is better than me at desserts. Then I also get to enjoy them because it's a treat for me as well. I can do desserts but this lady can DO desserts, so I kick it up a notch and have her do them. (plus - trust me, you'll have enough to worry about without adding desserts to your list).
16. Have fun. You are the host and if you're stressed then it immediately changes the mood of stuff. I read years ago in a Martha Stewart magazine that she purposefully doesn't have everything in place when people arrive. She enlists people to help finish things like setting the table because it helps people not feel awkward, gives them something to do, and gets them invested in the meal right off the bat. I do the same thing (though not always intentionally- sometimes I'm just running a few minutes behind). Learning how to delegate will help you to be in a better mood and will help others enjoy the meal as well. Things I delegate are things like, 1. lighting candles 2. filling water pitchers 3. filling glasses with water and/or ice 4. setting the table 5. placing food/butter dish/salt and pepper/etc on the table 6. getting music set up and finding right volume 7. any dishes that could be quickly washed or placed in the dishwasher
and so on
(oh and another tip - IKEA. I get so much stuff from there for cheap. Goblets are cheaper to buy there then rent anywhere - though you should borrow if you can. And they have a fabulous napkin selection...)
Anyway, this was a long wordy post and probably doesn't even apply to many people but I wish I would've known some of these things a few years ago when I began. I did individual chicken breasts and had to use 3 different ovens. Ugh! Or last year I had candles on candle sticks and the wax dripped all over the burlap. Getting wax out of burlap took FOREVER! Putting candles in jars was much cleaner and still looked just as fabulous.
Hopefully these are helpful things to know for any of you who might put on a big event like this in the future.
Every six months or so I toy with the idea of painting my piano. It currently looks like this -
but wouldn't it look cool if it looked like this -
or this -
Also I'm really into music by Moby this week, like this song -
You can read a fabulous article by one of the heads of the company I work for (an author on our last two books) about behavioral change and about tips on how to get promoted more specifically. Check it out here
Ok. I think that's all the random stuff for today.
Have any fun weekend plans? We are going to a football game today and then I have the big dinner tomorrow. WOOT! I'm so excited for it. I promise to take pictures (actually I promise that my husband will take pictures because he is becoming quite the photographer and I'll be busy cooking and setting stuff up...)
Have a great weekend!
p.s. Thank you for your comments this week on being a working mother (or a SAHM) and finding balance and trying to plan. I really appreciate the wisdom I gain from those of you who know have been down these roads before me.
I plan to go back to work after the boys are born. I have a few months of prep when I come back before I can move into a full time trainer role. Once in that role my schedule should be fabulous. I will train full days about 8-10 days a month and the rest of the time I will work from home or in the office as my schedule suits me. I'll actually make more money than I currently do while working far less hours. SHWEET! Meanwhile, my husband will likely be working for the same company as me and will work as a contractor who can set his own hours. This means we can both make our schedules fairly flexible. How this will all work, I have no idea.
Literally, I have no idea how to juggle two babies and two careers. I have this really fuzzy idea that maybe Doug will be home in the mornings and then we will hire someone in the late morning till early afternoon and then I'll come home by 2pm or 3pm. But I have no idea and I don't have any people to look to as examples. All the twin moms I know (uh, that being 2 people) are stay-at-home moms. And I'd go surfing the web for someone to learn from but I know in the end it would just be different. It seems like every situation is different.
I've thought about this many many many times. As my maternity leave veers closer I've tried to come up with an exact plan to give my employer so I can ease their nerves about my short departure. However, this is hard to do with my limited knowledge of what its like to, you know, have two babies living in my house.
What's worse is that I get a lot of grief from people about returning to work with TWO babies at home. Like, maybe it would be okay if I just had one but TWO is just an outrage.
For example, this morning I was at the dentist office (perfect bill of health btw - super proud of that because I haven't been in 2.5 years and I work hard to take good care of my teeth... but I digress). The dental assistant was asking me about if I'll go back to work and I said that yes I would. She asked if I would be moving to part time and I said that no, I wouldn't. She looked confused, as if this was a math equation and I was telling her that 1+1= 3 (which in my case it does... get it? cause twins... ok lame. sorry) Anyway, she asked if my husband was going to stay at home and I said that he would also be working full time. I told her that we have fairly flexible schedules and we will also likely hire someone for a few hours each day. She sorta looked at me incredulously.
Now this may very well be because I live in Provo of all places, where working mothers is a complete anomaly (see this article here) but I find it frustrating that women aren't saying, "More power to you - you are the wave of the future of American families," instead of, "Satanist heathen woman who sacrifices her children for her own priorities."
Ok. Maybe they don't say that exactly. They probably don't even think that at all actually but it makes for a better story this way.
AND THEN A HUMMING BIRD FLEW IN THE DENTAL OFFICE
ha. Now that'd be a great story.
I'm really getting off-track here. Aaaaanyway
the lady tried to schedule my next cleaning for 6 months. She asked if the same time was going to work for me. I had absolutely no idea. She asked what day of the week would work best.
I don't know.
And that's when I realized that I truly have no idea what my life will look like in 6 months from now. I don't think that has really ever happened to me. I'm such a planner. Like, I make plans even when I am fairly certain that they will never happen. Plans help me feel secure and in control and I have 100 different plans for all the different variables at any given time.
I can't really do that anymore. In fact, this whole thing (pregnant with twins) has completely screwed up all my plans. And then planning for the next 6 months? I wouldn't even know where to begin. I figure I need to sorta feel it out for a bit after they are born in order to come up with a plan that seems like it would work. And then even after that I'll have to adjust it again once I move into the training role.
I know it will all work out. I know it's all in God's plans even if it's not in mine.
I mean, people do this all the time. People juggle kids and careers and marriages and life and they make it work.
And I'm a person. And I'm married to a person. Well actually I'm married to a saint. So one person + one saint = doable work/babies life.
p.s. The picture up top is a translator for the European Parliament. Isn't that just inspiring?
Friday I was coordinating a giant fundraiser for the girl's youth group I oversee at church. I'd try and explain the scope of it to you but it'd probably just sound like bragging. Lets just say it was a large event with lots of different moving parts and it magically came together and we raised a handsome chunk of change.
Also on a completely unrelated note (random much?) these babies are trying to KILL ME!!! Today I had the pleasure of a quick emergency trip to the hospital because I hadn't felt one of them move in close to 24 hrs. I was doing my best not to freak out but when I called my clinic and they told me to go the hospital, I was stressin.
Turns out that Baby A has turned onto his side and is now kicking and punching his brother rather than kicking me so much. So all is fine. But seriously? Ugh. Its amazing how much I worry about these guys considering I'm not even sure if I like them yet. :)
ok maybe I like them. or love them. maaaaaybe
but not if they pull this crap again. Turning on his side. Who does he think he is?
This Saturday I have the annual Young Women's Leadership Appreciation Dinner. Say that 3x fast. I'm SO excited for it. I've been looking at fall table settings and such and I can tell you this dinner is going to look AND taste amazing. I'll be sure to post some pictures next week.
check out this online magazine (where I got some of my ideas for this dinner from)
A few years ago my father hung up a humming bird feeder outside my kitchen window. It's been a real source of delight. We love to see humming birds! This morning my father was drinking coffee and looking out the window when I walked into the kitchen. He proclaimed, "Well, I think Hummy is gone for the season." I could sense a little sadness in his voice. "Yeah?" I said. "Yeah, I haven't seen him for a few days."
(Hummy is the name all humming birds have been christened with by my father.)
Doug walked into the kitchen and said, "You know, I had a dream about a humming bird last night. It was blue and orange..." I interjected, "I don't think humming birds come in blue and orange varieties."
"uh well it was a DREAM" said Doug.
"...right" I said sheepishly.
"Yeah, it was blue and orange and it flew into our house," explained Doug.
I told dad and Doug about how I once had to shew a bird out of my house but that I wasn't sure how you'd go about doing that with a humming bird.
fast forward to this afternoon
Me, Doug and dad were all sitting on the porch eating lunch and enjoying the fabulous fall weather. All of a sudden we saw HUMMY!
"Hey I guess Hummy isn't gone quite yet!" I said, pointing out Hummy to my father.
Doug piped up, "Hey come here Hummy so we can see if you're blue and orange!"
We laughed but then wouldn't you know it? Hummy flew right over to Doug and I and hovered about 1 foot above our heads! I whispered to Doug that he looked gray to me and Doug whispered back that he agreed.
HUMMY FLEW IN OUR HOUSE!!! no kidding! It was incredible. All three of us jumped up in excitement and started laughing. Hummy flew around in the living room for a bit and then flew out.
I quickly asked Doug what else was in his dream.
Apparently we bought a tv antenna so we could watch college football. That was the rest of the dream...
Well we have now officially bought ONE WHOLE THING for the nursery.
It's a dresser.
It's this dresser: But instead of it having those boring little knobs, I bought some super awesome hardware called Library pulls.
They look akin to this:
Our labels won't look quite like that though. They'll likely not be written in cursive and in French but rather crude printed English with labels like -
"Ice Cream" or maybe "Cereal"
but instead the drawers will actually contain diapers... :)
This is my idea of how to get Doug to open the drawer... and then proceed to change the poopy diapers.
Yeah. That should work.
Anyway, we had an appointment last week and an ultrasound and all looks well and good and alien. They are growing just as they should and are healthy and squirmy. They are measuring right at 23 weeks each, which means I'm measuring at like 28 weeks or so. I've gained 20lbs (which is exactly what I was suppose to gain by this point) and I have 20 more to go. Yikes! That means I need to gain about 20lbs in 12-13 weeks.
Luckily I'm really hungry. All the time. Like - I might try and eat this keyboard.
I have a lot of freak out moments but then I get over it pretty quickly.
Sorry about all that yesterday.
I did what I always do when I'm getting to that point - I went to the mountains. We walked around on a beautiful tree covered path and sat at the bottom of a waterfall. It was lovely and just what I needed.
What I should tell myself on days like yesterday is stuff like -
You're doing great. You're growing two healthy baby boys and your body is amazing. You're pushing yourself everyday and everyone, including your sweet husband, is proud of you and is just trying to help you.
Your friend just had a baby and it slept in a basket for the first 3 weeks of its life. Don't worry about the crib... rrr cribs. Don't worry about stuff. You'll figure it out. All you really need are car seats to get them home and then some working boobs to feed them. You'll be fine.
Your babies are doing great. They kick you thousands of times a day just to tell you so.
and so on.
On my better days I can tell myself those types of things and I can even mostly believe them.