Plan #19 – Host a dinner party

Blue Apron

I just realized I have not written a single thing about Blue Apron since I started doing it this summer.  For those of you who haven’t heard of it yet, Blue Apron is a company that sends you a refrigerated box filled with everything you need to cook two fabulous meals (including the farm-fresh, pre-portioned ingredients), as well as the recipes to go with them. Katie Bower had written a few sponsored blog posts about Blue Apron (how does one get sponsorships like that?! This is definitely not sponsored in any way…) but I hadn’t paid much attention because I DON’T KNOW HOW TO COOK. So there wasn’t much point, right?

Ah, but then she wrote a post about how Blue Apron’s recipes were so easy, even her husband could cook them.  That put a whole different spin on things. A non-cook could do this? Hmmm… Maybe I should give it a try. I signed up for the meals-for-four plan, where they send you two boxes a week, just to give it a try.

Oh. My. Gosh.

You guys, it was like going to cooking school. The recipe cards break down every single step so clearly (and you can go to their website or phone app to watch videos of the steps if you want more clarification). They even teach you how to time things so they come out together. Imagine that! Your main dish, side dish and salad course all ready at once?! For me, that would be a miracle. I mean, Lori + cooking = smoke alarm, most of the time, since the timing thing is soooooo hard for me.

But take away the stress of meal planning, the stress of shopping, the stress of not having skills, the stress of not knowing what to do when, and suddenly I am a whiz in the kitchen. You wouldn’t believe me now, with the chopping and the coordination and the making salad dressings from scratch. I am amazing.

Right this second I am on a Blue Apron hiatus as we actually got backed up on food because a) their portion sizes are generous, and b) we were getting the meals for four, and there are only three of us. (I planned one to be a next-day lunch for David.) Taking a break is no problem, either. I just go into the app and click “Skip This Delivery” and – bam! – it is skipped.

I was wishing I hadn’t skipped this week, though, when Q unexpectedly had three friends over (my little Hannah plus two newbies) and I invited them to stay for dinner. We didn’t have the ingredients for a proper meal in the house, but I knew we could make pasta, so I ran to get salad makings, some garlic bread, and something for dessert.

It wasn’t a fancy menu. What was cool, though, was that I made a separate vegetarian pasta sauce (complete with fresh sauteed veggies) from scratch.  Scratch, mind you. Because that’s how fancy I am. Pasta, two different sauces (meat and vegetarian), Caesar salad, and garlic bread, with pie and ice cream for dessert. We all ate our fill, everyone liked the food, and we hung out and swapped embarrassing childhood stories. I got tons of compliments from the kids about the food. It just made me happy to be able to serve a meal to strangers and friends and have it go well. The vast majority of my stories about entertaining end badly.

(To be completely honest, I did leave the garlic bread under the broiler a little too long, and I had to scrape off the burnt parts. But it was still good, and I was able to laugh at it. Just as I am laughing at myself now: I just fell asleep with my hands on the keyboard and typed “m” a thousand times. Apparently I need to get even more sleep! Good night!)

First #healthy #food delivery from Blue Apron. All locally grown. #learningtocook #chef #gettingmyeaton#supportsmallbusiness  by Jon Lee Clark / CC BY

Plan #5 – Play more games

Some of you might be aware that David likes to play board games.

Yeah, I know – that might be the understatement of the year. He loves games. For the past eight or nine years, he has been in regular weekly game groups (something that I support and encourage, in case anyone wonders). Since school started this year, though, he has hardly played games at all. His friend Kevin, who has been hosting on a weekly basis for ages, hasn’t started back up this fall, and David – who usually hosts a couple of times a month – hadn’t scheduled anything this school year either.

Games here

Tonight, though, we had games over here! And – miracle of miracles – I actually played TWO GAMES. They needed a fourth for the first game, High Society, and then our friend Rachel lured me in to the next one by pulling out a word game. (She knows my game preferences well.)

Codenames

It was cool. More of a word-association game than anything, really. I am in love and want it for my birthday or Christmas, but naturally it is out of print. (Of course, as our friend Ben commented, “out of print” has never kept David from getting a game.)

Codenames cards

Lessons learned tonight: Be open to playing games on game nights. Do fun things with David. Enjoy the friends who come over. Get Thai food. Make the effort. Don’t just hole up in the bedroom doing boring paperwork or cleaning or reading fan fiction. Be present.

In completely unrelated news, I got to go to the incredibly fun Blazer game last night, where we crushed the Memphis Grizzlies and were just plain awesome in almost every way. I say “almost” because I don’t like the sleeved jerseys. (Except perhaps on Meyers Leonard.) One million thanks to our friend Jon for taking me along!

PORvsMEM

The team that was predicted to be the worst in the NBA after losing four starters is now on top of the Northwest Division. Ha! RIP CITY, BABY! Go Blazers!

fun in the sun

It was Spring Break last week, and though I worked a regular schedule, I didn’t mind. I’d already had my vacation the week before – I flew down to visit Dad and Ann in Palm Desert for a long weekend!

Palm Springs view

In years past, I’d somehow been so consumed with life that I kept putting off going down to see them in the winter… and by “years,” I mean that the last time I was there, my 20-year-old nephew was celebrating his second birthday. This was very negligent childing on my part. (I made that word up – what is the child equivalent of parenting?) Luckily, a long-awaited raise and my new three-days-a-week schedule gave me the perfect opportunity.

I flew down after work on a Thursday night (which is another story – and another blog post – in itself), spent Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in the desert, and flew home on Monday. I solemnly pledged that I would do whatever they liked, and that we could do as much or as little as they chose.

We set the tone for the weekend by stopping at a thrift store called Revivals on the way to their condo. It is a fundraising shop for the Desert AIDS Project and has clothing for insanely cheap prices. (It might have cheap books, too, but I didn’t even look! I’m still hewing pretty closely to my no-books-in-2015 plan.) I got a lovely purse in a color besides black, which I have yet to be brave enough to actually use.

We managed to get in a few more shopping runs as well. Ann took me to get a fantastic pair of sandals which are like walking on air; I indulged myself in browsing kitchen gadgets at The Alley; we hit another one of the Revivals stores; and we even braved the 92-degree heat to go to the College of the Desert Street Fair, which is kind of like a cross between a flea market and Portland’s Saturday Market. I got a gorgeous ring of silver and larimar (blue pectolite), a stone that comes from the Dominican Republic. I wish I were a better photographer so you could see how gorgeous it is!

silver larimar ring

(An interesting note about hand photos: I originally took this photo while wearing the ring, but in order to get close enough to see the ring clearly, the skin on my hand was so magnified, it looked bizarre. No wonder they use hand models… or identical hand twins!)

We got to go to Mass at their parish every day, although I only got to hear their renowned pastor, Father Howard Lincoln, preach one homily. It was a good one, though! He was raised Protestant and was an ordained minister (educated at Fuller Seminary), and his sermon was about the Catholic “mission statement” versus the Protestant “mission statement” as respects faith, works, and salvation. I found him fascinating. I kept thinking I’d like to go to his office hours just to chat and get his opinion on things.

On Sunday after Mass, we took a crazy-curvy drive up to the first viewpoint on the Palms to Pines Scenic Byway (Hwy 74):

Palms to Pines curves

The view was gorgeous (see photo at the top of the post), but was marred by an incredible amount of garbage.

Palms to Pines garbage

Imagine that amount of garbage everywhere you looked. It was as though people just walked up to the barrier wall and chucked it over, suddenly rendering it invisible to their eyes, but nobody else’s. Ugh! I can’t stand littering.

My Girl Scout-leader self could not leave it alone (“Leave a place better than you found it!”), so I climbed over the wall and started picking up anything that didn’t look too sketchy. Imagine my surprise when – after accumulating a bag full of trash – I discovered that there was no garbage can of any kind up there at all! I decided they must not have regular trash service up there, which is a serious shame, but it does not matter. People should always pack out their trash if there is nowhere to throw it out!

And I know, I know, barriers are there to keep us safe and should not be climbed over, especially by those who are not perhaps the most stable on their feet. But, believe me, you’d have done the same thing in my place; it was truly an outrage. Besides, it wasn’t a big wall, and I was very careful to stay clear of the edge of the cliff. I promise. No one would have assumed I was suicidal or anything, especially with all my muttering about garbage.

I did get a great shot of Dad and me up there – his first selfie!

IMG_0658

Of course, the best times of all that weekend were those that I could not take pictures of: time spent sitting around talking. My dad can talk as steadily and enthusiastically as I can: at restaurants, in the car, at home (while Ann made me a gorgeous necklace!), about the past, about the future, about our health, about our lives. Those are the very best memories.  And, Dad, I promise it won’t be 18 years until I go down again!