In which the author tells you how to run your life -- or at least how to make the most of the fun parts of it.

For instance, inside these pages you will learn how to weather a mortar attack in good spirits; how to avoid booking yourself on the Internet into a bed and breakfast full of twee quilts and dusty tchotkes; and how to plan a dinner party that will stun your guests with deliciousness and style and not destroy your will to live with the amount of work you have to do to pull it off.

These are things I know firsthand, and things people who know me often ask me about (though I usually just book them into bed and breakfasts myself -- identifying ruffled death traps is an acquired skill). I am almost always right about everything (food, style and travel-related, anyway, and often many other things) and if everyone would just do as I say, dinner would taste better, cupcakes would not be dry, your parties would be more fun (for you), and mortar attacks... well, they always suck. I can't do anything about them.

*except laundry. I can't manage my own laundry, much less yours.

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

How to Throw a Party for 50-year-olds

(a winter wonderland of beer... in my backyard)
1. Buy a lot less beer than you would if you were throwing a party for your 20-something officemates.

Seriously, it was like the loaves and fishes up in here. I threw a giant party for my boyfriend's 50th birthday -- incredibly, the first birthday party he has ever had (he lived in the woods with bears as a boy, truly) -- and I swear we finished the night with more alcohol than we started. (and we started with a lot).

2. But take advantage of nature's bounty. Winter parties are great. The drinks ice themselves.

(this is the backyard in question, all oriented toward a Malm steel fireplace - circa 1967, the Year of My Birth, that I got off Craigslist for $75. Not really pictured, but you can see the 8-foot stack in the lower left corner if you tilt your head like a quizzical dog. I built that day-bed structure myself. I love it.)

They also don't eat much, those AARP novitiates. I hauled in 35 lbs of pulled pork, made 20 lbs of awesome mac & cheese (trick! accidentally burn the sauce. imparts a mysterious and wonderful smoky flavor!), 10 lbs of coleslaw, 8 lbs of pickled shrimp (pictured below) and 8 lbs of sweet potato fries with a wonderful Dijon mustard-smoked paprika sauce of my own devising. Anyway, these people ate almost nothing.

3. Don't panic buy an extra 4 lbs of shrimp.

(Pickled Shrimp. I followed a recipe on Martha's site, but found it to be a little lacking in complexity, so I soused it up with some vermouth and fresh orange juice, and that did the trick. Let's see it close up, yes?)

Here's an action shot of coleslaw being tossed. It is a requirement with pulled pork sandwiches.

sweet potato fries, ready for reheating...

the blood-orange Manhattan's were a hit. But I still have about a gallon in the fridge.

5. Rely on your best friends for help. Meg, Eileen and Truly made sure all the food was hot and the wine replenished, while I wandered around giving the stink eye to anyone who looked like they might be about to spill on my gray velvet Chesterfield.

why yes, that is an attractive bowl catching drips from the rusted outdoor sink. Would you like to see it closer and more dramatically lit?

these were the only birthday candles, lining the walk to the front door. It was a great night.

Thanks to everyone who came and to my boyfriend who is smoking hot at 50. He made me take down his picture from one of my first posts, but you might be able to google cache it.


  1. ...And are those candles from the bodega?
    Looks like it was a smashing good party.

  2. - oh, and, I'd be happy to come by for some leftovers.

  3. Come on down! I would be happy to have you and there is plenty... And yes on the bodega candles, though they came from a dollar store owned by some shifty characters the next block over. I guess that's a bodega, DC style. Still. $1 per candle!