Chirped by Tina and Cass
Easter and Passover are nearly upon us! Cass was out of town last week, and I was charged with publishing my London post in her absence. But, as you may recall from the week before, I’m expecting an updated count of 27 people (plus one extra dog!) for Easter dinner on Saturday… I was way too busy prepping to have time to sort through all my England photos and notes. So instead, I thought I’d throw together a chirp about our preparations so far. Cass is back now, too, so she can help keep me on schedule. (-: On the off chance that you also have a large hoard of relatives descending on your house this coming weekend, perhaps some of my prep work will help you get a handle on your own party – there’s still some time left!
First Step….Make a List!! (or Three!)
Write down an ever-evolving accounting of all the menu items, activities, groceries and household chores that will be required, as well as a tentative schedule of when to get everything done. Add to (or subtract from) your lists as you think of more things (or decide some of your previous ideas were overly ambitious!)
Second Order of Business: Plan the Food! For a big crowd, being able to make stuff ahead is crucial. (That, and having people bring stuff!) With most of the prep done in advance, you can be free to relax and spend time with your guests instead of being stuck in the kitchen.
We chose two recipes that the usual hosts for this gathering have made for us before: Baked Ham and Cheese Party Sandwiches from AllRecipes.com (also a favorite go-to recipe of Cass’s) and Roasted Potato Leek Soup from the Barefoot Contessa. Together they make a filling entrée, but the soup can also stand alone for any vegetarians in the group. (Not vegans, though – it’s got cream, sour cream and cheese in it.) You may remember a similar combo from our Scrapbooking Weekend post…
Our recipe tweaks? On the sandwiches we plan to use the slightly larger slider potato rolls (they look a little more substantial) instead of the small party rolls, and make a turkey and cheese option for anyone who doesn’t like ham. We’re planning one to two sandwiches per person – 48 for our party of 27, plus maybe a few without the sauce for the little ones. For the soup, we substituted sour cream for the crème fraîche, which we couldn’t find at the grocery store, and it still came out delicious! We’re also skipping the crispy shallots to top the soup, because we don’t have time for that crap! Lol. Maybe we’ll garnish with a sprig of arugula?
How did we decide on these helpful tweaks? Because we did a trial run this past weekend to practice. Luckily the Game of Thrones season premier made for a great excuse to invite a few willing guinea pigs over to experiment on… We can definitely roast and purée the potatoes and leeks for the soup the day before the big party, and then stir in the sour cream and Parmesan at the last minute on the day of. And since the sandwiches get finished off in the oven, assembling them in the morning and then refrigerating, without pouring on the sauce, will speed up the process at dinner time.
We’ve assigned several of our thoughtful guests to bring their “usual” side dishes and appetizers, as well as a few desserts. I can’t resist the call from my Easter Pinterest Board however, so if I have time (it’s all mapped out by the day on a master list!) I’m hoping to make sugar cookies that the kids can help me decorate Saturday morning, and a Watermelon Rabbit full of fruit salad – which I’ve never made before, but have been dying to try! Worst case scenario, I’ll serve the fruit salad in a bowl, if the bunny doesn’t work out like this lovely photo…
Typically the extended family meets for Easter at my mother-in-law’s cousin’s house, but a recent major surgery made that less than optimal this year. So… our house it is! Our headcount is now up to 27, so we spent last week and this past weekend gathering and setting up all the tables, chairs, tablecloths, napkins, silverware, glassware, etc. What we didn’t already own, we borrowed from friends and neighbors.
The tables and chairs span the length of both our dining and living rooms. (We had to move the coffee table to the garage and a stuffed chair to the office.) I couldn’t use the colorful placemats I’d planned on, since three of the four tables are folding, paint-spattered, plastic ones from my craft room. (And my hubbie could not be persuaded that layering placemats on top of tablecloths would be an acceptable look!?) Happily, with most of the table settings in place, including blue and green cloth napkins folded into bunnies and antique blue water glasses for the kids, the setup is starting to look pretty good! Each table will have a small vase of fresh flowers, salt & pepper shakers, a water pitcher, butter dish, wine coaster, and decorative egg basket. (I have an extensive collection of colorful eggs!) All the younger nieces, nephews and cousins will have a hand-painted Easter egg at their place setting so they know where to sit.
The Fun Stuff
My favorite part of hosting a party is making the crafty accoutrements. As you may recall from our last post, I’ve been working on painted keepsake Easter eggs for all the kids. Each egg has a name and something personal on it, be it a favorite color, animal or flower. The eggs will serve as colorful place cards for the kids’ end of the table, and make for a special gift that they can take home.
Since I’m not the only one that likes to have fun, I’ve also planned some activities for the younger set. (-; (The more “seasoned” guests just like to drink wine and chat!) My hubbie’s cousins are bringing four dozen pre-dyed hard-boiled eggs, and we’ll have a table set up for egg decorating and crafts. I’ve got stickers, pipe cleaners, pompoms, googly eyes, markers, glue, and other doodads for customizing all sorts of eggcellent holiday creations.
Of course there will be an egg hunt if the weather is nice outside. If not, we may turn to an indoor scavenger hunt for baskets of goodies. While my childhood egg hunts were always indoors (New England still has a lot of snow on the ground, in case you were wondering…), those hunts were for candy eggs. With hard-boiled eggs, I don’t really want to risk missing a couple and having them start to rot as the weather gets warmer! Other activities will include chalk art in the driveway (we might outline some egg shapes to decorate?), fun with fresh tubs of Play-Doh, and decorating the Easter cookies I’ll make on Friday.
For the adults, we have a collection of my hand-made Easter wine charms that we pull out every year. With this many people drinking wine, it’s nice to be able to keep track of which glass is yours! And this way the adults get some fun Easter bling at their place setting as well. (-:
Sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference in everyone’s experience… like cleaning up any dog poop left in the yard after a cold winter… No one will realize that you did it, but they might notice, in the worst way, that you didn’t… c(-;
I also like to put framed pictures from our shared vacations in the bedrooms of our overnight guests. It’s a fun surprise if you have time to do it, but again, unlikely for them to miss it if you don’t! (Although at this point a lot of our guests probably do expect to see them!) For a holiday weekend like this, adding a little basket of eggs or other Easter decor in their bedrooms and guest bath is a nice touch, too!
One of several projects on today’s to-do list was planting some spring flowers in the planter by the front door. I’m still searching for an Easter-themed wreath to hang on the door itself. Both will make a nice pop of color to welcome guests (and reassure them that they’re at the right house, if they haven’t been here in a while!). Speaking of which… the house number stickers on our mailbox were in bad shape. I scraped them off, washed off the residue, and applied the metal numbers that have been sitting in the junk drawer since two Christmases ago! Oh, how I love a good deadline to make me finally get stuff like that done!
How it All Turns Out?
Well that remains to be seen! I’ll report back on the highlights in a future post – maybe in April’s Cheep Trills? In the meantime, wish us luck!
Whether you’re hosting a raucous Easter eggstravanganza like ours, or a quiet dinner for two like Cass’s, we hope these ideas inspire you to inject a little extra color and fun into your upcoming weekend. We wish you all a Happy Passover, Easter, and Spring!
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