Sunday, December 8, 2013

Serenity Now...Insanity Later

If the title of this blog confused you, then watch this before reading:
Today I hosted a Hanukkah party for my family. And by my family I mean that in addition to my regular household consisting of a boy, a girl, a husband, and a dog, we also welcomed 2.5 sets of grandparents, 3 sisters, 3 brothers, 2 sister-in-laws, 2 brother-in-laws, 3 nephews, 8 nieces, and my niece's friend Rachel. In case you haven't been keeping track, that's a total of 31 people.
It's not the first time I've hosted a Hanukkah party and thus, I thought I had the whole thing nailed down pretty tight. I thought with my immaculate planning and leadership, this party would be a piece of cake. Send out an Evite, make it a potluck, and boom! we're good to go.
And then all hell broke loose. It all started with an innocent Evite comment from one sister:
What are we doing about gifts?
I thought about it for a bit and decided that perhaps we shouldn't do gifts. My rationale? There were so many kids from three different families that it seemed unfair to either (a) buy gifts for a whole bunch of kids that weren't in your family or (b) spend a whole lot of time and a whole lot of money trying to buy gifts for kids that weren't in your family. I thought that instead of getting a whole bunch of gifts, the parents/grandparents/aunts/uncles could distribute gifts on one of the other 7 nights of Hanukkah and for this one party, we'd just lay low and I'd give each kid a little lootbag.
I have to take some responsibility for the chaos that erupted after my response. I didn't explain myself clearly from the get-go and as you all know, once that giant snowball of misunderstanding starts to roll, things get huge and out of control very quickly.
In the midst of what can only be described as a hailstorm of "reply all" emails, my sister, Mara (the one who posted the original gift question comment) wanted to know why, if the party was next Sunday, did I keep referring to it as this Sunday?
"Umm...because it is this Sunday" I responded.
"Well, your Evite invitation says next Sunday" she responded.
I checked the Evite. She was right.
Oh crap!
So then I sent yet another group email stating that my original Evite was wrong and the party was this Sunday, not next Sunday. Immediately, two families replied that if that was the case, they'd have to change the status of their RSVP from yay to nay. So then another sister suggested that maybe we should just keep the original, mistaken date of next Sunday (which if you're confused at this point, is now today-or this Sunday). So then I hit "reply all" yet again and told everyone to ignore the last 1/2 dozen emails re: changing the date of the party; that the "wrong" date was in fact, the "right" date.
In hindsight, I'm glad that I made that mistake. For one thing, it took my almost a week to get back on full speaking terms with my sister (its none of your business which one). And second, yesterday was the 3 year anniversary of my Dad's passing so I think it's really nice that we're all together this weekend. He would've liked that. And because I believe that he's always around watching us, I think he may have even played a part in making me make that mistake...but let's leave the explanation behind those beliefs for anther day.
So now here we are, the day of the party and I'm up at crack of dawn-ish planning my morning. I had cleaned up and sort-of set the table the day before and my family was bringing most of the food so it didn't appear that I had too much left to do. The pop was chilling in my Canadian fridge (back porch) and the cupcakes were keeping cool in my other Canadian fridge (trunk of my car). In my head, it seemed so simple:
9:00-10:00 Make latkes
10:00-10:30 Take out assorted serving platters, bowls, and utensils and set up buffet table.
10:30-11:30 Shower and wash hair to get rid of the latke smell* 
11:30-12:15 Put the finishing touches on everything, reheat the latkes, and await the arrival of my guests. The party was called for noon; historically this would mean that I could expect the first guest at least 15 minutes later than that.
And everything would've gone perfectly if (a) I didn't second-guess the number of latkes I made and made a whole second batch, thus delaying my shower for 45 minutes and (b) for the first time in history, my entire family arrived earlier that on-time. In the case of one grandfather, a full hour before go-time. This meant that by the time my house was chock-full-o-guests (12:01), the buffet table wasn't set up yet, my hair-washing had been reduced to a ponytail, my husband was still getting dressed, and my latkes didn't have time to properly crisp up in the oven. The kids were starving, the house was boiling, and the dog was barking.
I wasn't quite ready yet but out of fear the littlest girls would revolt and go all Lord of the Flies on our asses, I had no choice but to declare the buffet open.
My post-apocalyptic buffet table. Can you spot the 1/2 eaten bagel, abandoned cup of coffee, discarded plate, and overflowing bowl of latke-style hash browns?
It was a rocky start with a few missing forks and a couple of ill-timed double-dips in the applesauce but overall, everything was delicious. My sister Mara's lasagna was the hit of the party. But my latkes were the most giant miss of the party. I don't know what happened. They tasted ok but something went wrong and in the serving dish, they completely fell apart and morphed into one giant greasy bowl of hashbrowns. Everyone was polite about it, but I pretty much dumped 25 former latkes in the garbage.
Despite the rocky beginning (and middle), the party turned out to be pretty good. The kids liked their little lootbags and they loved the mountain of jelly-filled Timbits my family eats instead of the traditional Hanukkah jelly doughnuts. Props to my sister, Sari for cleaning out three separate Tim Horton's.
My tummy is full of everything, my fridge is full of leftovers, and my heart is filled with love.
And just like I truly believe that my dad had a hand in make me mess up the date on the Evite, I think he also had a hand in choosing this mug when I made a cup of coffee during the clean-up:

This is normally when in my blog post I would give you a recipe from the post, but since my latkes were such an epic fail, you're not getting it. Instead, I'm giving you this recipe for Matbucha, a Moroccan salad that my Auntie Shula used to make and the only thing I made today that tasted any good.
This salad is great on a warm baguette, on baked potatoes, on brie, or simply as a side dish.

4 large tomatoes, roughly diced
1 green pepper
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp. olive oil
a couple dashes of hot sauce, or more or less depending what you like
1. Grill the pepper and remove the skin. If you don't know how to do this, click here.
2. Chop it up pretty good and put it into the bowl with the tomatoes.
3. Heat the oil over medium in a pan and sauté the garlic for about 30 seconds
4. Add in the tomatoes, peppers, and a pretty good whack of salt & pepper.
5. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and (while stirring once in a while) wait for the tomatoes to break down and most of the liquid to disappear.
6. Taste, adjust seasonings, and add in the hot sauce.
7. Serve at room temperature with bread for dipping.
*the smell of latkes is much like the smell of onions. They both smell so amazing when they're cooking so bad on the person cooking them.

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