For as long as we've been getting settled in the new house, I've been planning our housewarming party. I was highly motivated by the knowledge that on the horizon was an event where people would come over to our house, wander through its rooms and offer praise.
With the date of the party set for this past Saturday, I spent much of the last 2 weeks scrambling to finish the remaining projects in the house, namely trying to turn the second bathroom into something I would stop calling "the ugly bathroom." I succeeded in doing so, by the way, but I've neglected to take pictures of it.
In fact, a lack of pictures will be the theme of this post. I did have my camera out and about for the duration of the party, but it spent most of that time sitting on the table. I can't even say I had a good excuse like "I was busy cooking" because I wasn't and, in fact, through most of the day the kitchen was filled with men, frying bacon and slathering bbq sauce on various meats that were then sent outside to the grill. I'd gotten my share of the food prep completed before the guests arrived. I baked chocolate chips cookies, jalapeno cheddar corn bread, and made my first ever attempt at macaroni and cheese.
Oh, and the night before the party I made some jugs of white sangria. And I managed to take plenty of pictures of that process, so allow me to present you with a sangria (trial and error) tutorial.
I've made traditional (red) sangria a number of times; the most notable and sizable batch was the one I prepared for my wedding and it was a big hit at the reception. Not wanting to be the woman who makes sangria for every single party (replace "sangria" with "margaritas" and you have me 2 summers ago), I decided to try making something new.
Oh, hey, what about the same thing but with different wine and slightly different fruits? Sure!
I printed out Rachael Ray's white sangria recipe, decided to quadruple it, and went to the grocery store to buy ingredients during my lunch break on Friday.
• 3 tablespoons sugar
• 3 shots Calvados or other apple liquor
• 1 lime, sliced
• 1 lemon, sliced
• 2 ripe peaches, cut into wedges
• 3 ripe green apples seeded and cut into wedges
• 1 bottle white Rioja Spanish wine or other dry white wine
• 1 pint raspberries
• Sparkling soda water, for topping off glasses of sangria at table
At the store, I paced up and down the wine aisles, unable to find Rioja Spanish wine. So I was forced to make my first of many substitutions. I bought two 1.5 liter bottles of Chardonnay and hoped for the best.
Moving onto the liquor section, I didn't find Calvados. I hadn't actually ever seen a bottle of this stuff before, so I examined the labels closely. But no, no dice. Again, I'd have to make a substitution. This one bothered me even more because instead of purchasing Calvados French apple brandy, I'd be forced to use... DeKuyper's Apple Pucker, a product with a cartoon drawing of green lips on its label.
And I wasn't going to fair much better in the produce section. After pushing my cart in circles for a few minutes, no peaches in sight, I flagged down a store employee who was restocking some vegetables. I asked him where I could find the peaches and he pointed out that they were not yet in season. SO not in season, in fact, that they didn't even have some over priced imported ones from South America or something. No, no peaches whatsoever. I gathered up my lemons, limes and green apples. Then decided to make up for the lack of peaches with grapes instead. Sure, why not?
Then, since I was clearly just inventing an all new recipe at this point, I decided to buy canned peaches and use some of the syrup to flavor the drink. And to forgo the fresh raspberries, and opt for frozen ones. I pictured them working as yummy little ice cubes.
With my motley crew of ingredients assembled, I set to work preparing the pitchers that evening. Fortunately I had the help and encouragement from Devin's mom, Kathy, who was certain everything was going to turn out just fine. I had two pitchers so my plan was to double the recipe for each.
I began by mixing the wine with the sugar and the (sigh) apple pucker. Alarmingly, the whole thing turned Ecto-Cooler green. Classy.
Next we threw in the fruit. The recipe called for 3 apples, which meant I'd need to add 6, but that seemed like entirely too many apples. I think I wound up only using 2. Then I dumped in half the large can of peaches and about half of the available syrup. 2 lemons, 2 limes, a large bunch of grapes, sliced in halves.
I stirred it all together then poured some into a glass to sample. It tasted...well.. wrong. Kathy tasted it and, trying to stay positive, paused for thought then said, "Oh, um, it's nice. Well, it's tart. Maybe it's supposed to be." Devin wandered in at just that moment. I pushed the glass in his direction and, for some reason, he recoiled in horror. "Why won't you taste it!?"
After an unnecessary protest, he tried it, made a face and said something like "Well if that's your kinda thing."
Okay, great. So then I dumped in some more sugar and even more apple pucker. For those of you keeping score at home, I think we're up to about 9 tablespoons of sugar and 8 or 9 shots of apple pucker. The whole thing still tasted too tart but I gave up, and put it in the fridge, hoping the fruit would sweeten it over night. Then I set to work on the next disastrous batch.
When it came time for the party, I set out one of the pitchers along with cups, club soda, and the raspberry garnishes. The frozen raspberries didn't really work as I'd planned, since they come out of their package congealed into a frozen brick, and not as individual, delightful little berries like I'd hoped.
As for the sangria, unfortunately it wasn't that much sweeter than the night before so I tossed in even more apple pucker.
Even though I'm not totally sold on the outcome of this concoction, I will say that we made our way through both pitchers in a matter of hours. So clearly it was more refreshing than I'd thought. I don't know if I'll attempt this again, but now you have the how-to, in case you're ever in the mood to give it a shot.
Now to wrap things up with 2 more pictures. First, my flea market mirror in its new home in the living room, dressed up with flowers for the party.
Then, a picture of the party at night. Since this is blurry, and the only picture I have, allow me to explain what you're looking at.
- The last few guests. Most people left at about 5:30 or 6. Oddly enough their departure coincided with the first few rounds of karaoke. Weird, right? (Remind me to tell you more about my karaoke machine some time.)
- Devin's father and Ryan are playing guitar and singing.
- New fabulous lanterns illuminating the backyard. They were hung with love and care that very morning by Devin and his mother.
That was just the first of the summer barbecue series. In the months to come perhaps there will be more drink experiments, more karaoke, and (if I get my act together) more pictures.