Whenever the end of the year draws near, no matter how tired out I may feel from the long holiday season that began with Thanksgiving, I still get excited and want just one more party. One of my favorite New Year’s Eve memories is of an unplanned party that happened on the spur of the moment.
My husband and I had made plans to go out with my sister and her husband. The day before the party my brother-in-law became very sick so they cancelled. My husband and I decided we would forego the party we had planned to attend with them because, since it was my sister’s office party, we would feel inappropriately out of place without her. We opted to spend the evening at home, just the two of us and a bottle of champagne.
Later that afternoon one of our four children called. She had broken up with her boyfriend of three years, was packed and on her way home. It seems we would have one more joining us for New Year’s.
Soon after she called, an old school chum of mine, whom I hadn’t seen in years, messaged me on Facebook. She and her husband had been returning home after celebrating Christmas with his family. They had a layover at the airport in the city where we lived and had just received word their flight back to Minneapolis was cancelled because of the weather there. Our intimate party of two had now grown to five.
We returned home from the airport and got our guests settled in. It was, by then, early evening. I decided I should probably make a run to the store and get provisions. My bestie decided to go with me so we could catch up on all the years that had passed. Just as we arrived at the grocery store and started filling the cart, my husband called to let me know our youngest son, who was in college, had just arrived with his girlfriend and another couple. Now I would be shopping for nine!
A lot of the typical New Year’s fare and decorations had pretty much been wiped out so it was slim pickin’s at the store. It seemed I would have to go a less traditional route.
Nuts, chips and dips were still in plentiful supply so we loaded up on those. Since it was a party, we opted for some of the gourmet chip flavors. We also selected some of the chips that were brightly colored along with some blue corn chips. We thought the color mix would add to the festive spirit.
The pre-made veggie trays with Ranch dip were all wiped out. We grabbed a couple of bottles of dressing, some bags of celery, carrots and broccoli after deciding to make our own. Also gone were the snack trays of cheese and sausage. Into the basket went a couple of summer sausage rolls, assorted cheeses, whole olives and kabob skewers. We thought snack kabobs would be simple and fun.
I also began to think of breakfast and lunch the next morning. After a late night of festivities, I may not feel like preparing a traditional breakfast. We decided to do a breakfast twist on the old-school grilled cheese. We could cook plenty tonight and leave a platterful in the refrigerator. They would be easy to warm-up and serve the next day or eaten cold. We selected several different types of bread, salami, ham, turkey, sliced muenster, Swiss and cheddar, gourmet mustard, horseradish, and mayo. For some extras to serve on the side we chose pre-sliced, vacuum packed avocado (since avocado was out of season), oranges and bananas.
The cold weather and the roaring fire that my husband and I kept going in the fireplace inspired our choice for dessert. We purchased loads of chocolate bars, several boxes of graham crackers and about half a dozen bags of large marshmallows. I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. Yes, we were going to make S’mores in the fireplace. I had plenty of coat hangers at home to use as hand held roasting spits. For those in the party that didn’t want to mess with the effort of roasting marshmallows for dessert, we opted for whatever was left over in the bakery in the form of cookies and cupcakes.
With the food menu taken care of, we headed down the liquor aisle. There was no champagne to speak of left on the shelf. The single bottle I had back home would not be enough. We selected several bottles of a sweet, white wine and stocked up on several varieties of seasonal beers. To convert the wine into some semblance of champagne, we headed to the soft drinks and loaded the cart with ginger ale and some of those lemon-lime sodas.
We didn’t have any decorations to speak of but, my husband and I were so happy to be unexpectedly surrounded by so many loved ones, it didn’t matter. We only had eyes for them. It turned out that by keeping things so simple I enjoyed myself like never before. I wasn’t rushing around trying to do this or that. It was a complete game changer for me. Before, I would plan, plan, plan when it came to special occasions. Everything had to be “just right”. I never realized how much stress and pressure I was bringing upon myself. From that point on, I became the queen of simple parties.