Okay, more particularly, there were light and short flurries, but, still. Snow.
It was a great day, even with the flurries and the chill. The sun peeked out a few times. And I'd warned everyone to dress warmly. We also kept the fire pit burning (over its new bed of protective gravel and bricks. Yay, Mama and kids!)
And, of course, if you give kids a campfire, there must be s'mores. I think every child--and there were 23 kids (and 25 adults)--had at least one, if not more than one. And more than a couple of the adults ate the extras.
Almost all of the rest of the food contained apples: apple pies, apple crisp a la Paula Deen, apple cranberry walnut pie, apple walnut bread, two apple upside-down cakes, baked apple rings, caramel apple dip, salted caramel apple oat bars, apple doughnuts, my apple bourbon bundt cake from the NYTimes, even an apple/leek/cheddar quiche that disappeared so fast Mama never got any. So many delicious, tasty, yummy (just add more adjectives here) foods! Mama spent most of the party tending fire and making apple foil packets with caramel or granola to put in the coals. The apples practically melted along with the caramel. There were some non-apple items: pumpkin bars, ghost sugar cookies, and carrots and garlic dip, which Bud loved. Plus mulled cider and hot chocolate, of which the kids drank something like 15 cups!
It was a wonderful group of people, some new to our parties but mostly veterans. We were missing a few of our usual friends (we missed you, Mama Teacher! And Miss S!) because there is just a plethora of fall activities--sports, scouts, birthday parties. In fact, I was shocked that we still had almost 50 people. There were neighbors, bus friends, church friends, playgroup friends, historic house friends, and a coworker of Mama's. I tried to talk to everyone, but it's hard, especially as I spent extra time with two newcomers--the friend from Mama's office and my friend/ASL teacher and her family. At one point I realized that we had people from China (not just Mama), Switzerland, Vietnam, (and people with ethnic backgrounds from Thailand, Italy, Ireland, Russia, etc) and, in the US, Texas (not just me!), NYC, and, of course, Connecticut. Several UUs (obviously), culturally Jewish family (but not religiously observant), Catholics, Baptists (not Southern Baptist Convention), Methodists, Russian Orthodox, and who knows what other religions (I'll guess Buddhism), plus those who aren't. Lots of bi-racial kids, a few children on the Autism spectrum, and two people who are Deaf. And of course, lesbians (though, really, only Mama and me.) There were even a few Republicans and a few men; sometimes the husbands--and the Republicans!--shy away. I like that we have a variety of interesting friends who mingle so well together; it's always fun when they hit it off and enjoy chatting together.
The kids played on the swingset, climbed on top of (and jumped off of) the little plastic playhouse, played soccer, played chase, colored the driveway with chalk, and climbed trees when they weren't eating. The tree climbing scared me because they got so high, but, since it wasn't my kids, and the parents were watching pretty diligently, I didn't worry too much. It was a new sensation for me not to hover, but Sis and Bud fed and entertained themselves without begging or clinging to us. I think they had a great time (and they had been amazing helpers in the days and hours of cleaning and cooking and setting up beforehand.)
I love these kinds of casual, comfortable family parties (I'm much less enamored of hosting more formal dinner or cocktail parties or luncheons, though I've put together numerous less formal gatherings for my friends.) There were lots of impromptu parties in the neighborhood in which I grew up: hurricane parties, crab boils, same big birthday parties. They always seemed to be in our backyard. I remember lots of adults, lots of food, and no supervision for hours at a time. I loved them. We kids would make up performances, play in the yard, eavesdrop on the adults (whose tongues were always loosened), wander the neighborhood (usually riding bikes in the cul-de-sac or walking to Target.) There were lots of sleepovers with friends after these parties, too. Later, the parties at the bay house were very similar, but with relatives not neighbors (we had moved from that neighborhood when I was 14 or so; no parties in the new neighborhood; we spent more time at the bay.)
My Aunt Sis had her own bay parties--big, weekend-long events with cultural or historical themes like the Renaissance or Pirates or King Arthur or France--which were attended by people from all over. I only got to BayFest once, I think, for Camelot. I spent most of the weekend with my cousin who has Down Syndrome; we made flower wreaths and baked shortbread from a medieval cookbook my aunt had. Later, we stayed up late with other cousins, looking at the constellations with my uncle.
As for our own parties, they started in Chicago with our annual Christmas ornament swap and open house. These were pretty much all-lesbian affairs (no one in our group had kids; partner pairings changed each year!), drawn from the coffeehouse and chorus. Everyone brought an ornament and hung it on the tree and would then take a different ornament of their choosing home with them. Once we moved to Connecticut, we had parties starting when the kids were little. We settled into a cycle: an indoor brunch for Groundhog's Day and then an outdoor celebration aka Applepalooza. (We also host a small cookie-decorating party for a few of the kids' friends around Christmas; for a few years, we had a big cookie swap for my adult friends.) At most of these parties, our dear friend Miss S would arrive first and early, staying until the very end. But not today . . . .
Today, we dedicated Applepalooza to Aunt Sis and Miss S, both of whom died this year. They both really loved a good party and so, with a small sign to that effect, we threw one today in memory of them both.
Apple Cheddar Leek Quiche
Single Pie Crust (prebake as per directions on box if purchased, or prebake weighted for 15 minutes at 350)
Leeks (I used 3) chopped
Apples (I used 2 Macouns - but would try granny smiths, mutsus, golden delish) peeled and chopped
Butter or Olive Oil (About a TBSP)
Pepper (we don't use salt)
Ground Nutmeg (I grate it myself)
1 c cream/half n half or your choice (I used light cream)
1 cup shredded cheddar (I used New York sharp shredded by Cabot - my favorite dairy company).
Bake your pie crust. While doing that, saute leeks and apples with butter in frying pan. While sauteing that, beat eggs and cream, add pepper and nutmeg. When apples are soft, and leaks are browned, they are done. Pie crust is done too by now. Add apples and leaks and cheddar to egg mix, pour into pie crust, bake at 350 for about 40 minutes. Quiche will be puffy when you take it out of the oven, then settle a bit. I used a toothpick to make sure it was done in middle.
Peel apples. Slice and remove seed circle. Put in ziploc/bowl and squeeze lime juice all over slices. Oven at 350 (I had it at 325 and I think that was too low). Cover baking sheet with foil (spray or grease cause they will stick). Prep a bowl of cinnamon sugar to your taste. Take slices and dip one side in sugar mix. Place sugar side up on sheet and back to your liking. 40 minutes would make the thin slices crispy. Experiment with how your family likes them. I prefer thicker and still a little juicy, but original recipe called for crispy (and no lime juice-I added that for more of a tart taste). Also, next time I'll add some grated nutmeg to the sugar mix, and use big apples to make it easier to cut out the middle and make true circles.
Relax this week, my friend. Seems like you've been quite a busy camper! Thanks again for your hospitality yesterday - the mulled cider was banging!