because it’s so much fun!
Our week began with one event planned, and concluded with friends for 6 straight days. I am not saying we are super popular, or that we have a booked social calendar because we are just so cool. What I am saying is that this week turned out to be jam-packed with visits from people we love and love to hang out with, which makes my heart sing. It also means lots of food planning, which I love! We are very blessed to live on a lake, so we are able to swim and boat and fish regardless of this world’s current craziness, and we love to have people over to enjoy the water with us.
Six days of hosting may sound overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Friends always ask what they can bring, so keep things simple and have them bring 1 or 2 things. Grab-and-go items are always winners around here. A light lunch or simple snacks will allow you and your guests to have fun without running yourself ragged. I also like to make a large amount of whatever I am making and serve it over 2 days so preparation is not a chore. I want to enjoy our time with friends, so I make it a point to keep things simple, which allows all of our guests to relax and enjoy as well.
So what did I make? Rice Krispie Treats, Oreo Balls, fruit tray, veggies & hummus, chicken salad, lunchmeat sliders, apple cider donuts, and crackers&cheese. We grilled out 2 days and ordered pizza once. Friends brought food as well. Did we have enough food? To feed an army, yes. Did I run out of paper plates because I forgot to put them on my list? Of course I did! But I have Melmac dishes (sturdy plastic) that I bought specifically for eating outside, so it was no big deal.
Lisa’s Chicken Salad
- 2 pounds chicken tenderloins (or chicken breasts)
- 1/2 pound red seedless grapes, cut in half
- 3 ribs of celery, diced small
- 1/2 Cup chopped walnuts or slivered almond
- 3/4 Cup mayonnaise
- 2Tablespoons brown sugar
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
Cook chicken in Instant Pot on Manual setting for 25 minutes. I spray pan with cooking spray, add chicken, put on a little salt and pepper and let it go. While chicken cooks, cut celery and grapes. I like small chunks of celery, so I cut each rib of celery into 3 sections lengthwise and cut about 1/4″ thick. Grapes get cut in half. Place grapes and celery into mixing bowl. Quick release pressure when InstantPot is done, move chicken to cutting board and shred or cube. Add chicken to mixing bowl with celery and grapes, set aside.
In small mixing bowl combine mayonnaise, brown sugar, salt & pepper, and onion powder, mix well. Add to chicken mixture and stir until incorporated. If you want to add nuts, do that now and mix. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours to let flavors meld and salad to chill. Serve on bread, crescents, Hawaiian rolls, crackers, or eat with a fork. I bet you’ll come back for seconds. ***I must apologize- I made this 2 times during the week and did not take a single picture of the process or the finished product. That is called a blog-fail, and I did it big time! Truth be told, I am still getting used to taking pictures as I cook, and I’m not always good at remembering. I have also forgotten to take pictures of parts of a cooking process, only to realize it and become frustrated with myself. I’m trying to get better, I promise.
Our first day of friends began with a delightful little nugget, T and her boys. She is a friend I used to work with, and her boys are the most respectful, well mannered gentlemen on the planet. They are a few years older than Little Guy, so there is a lot of hero worship going on there. T is this fun-sized, very fit, healthy eating but booze enjoying, full of laughter lady you can have a heart to heart with, or people watch and cackle. I just love her, and was so excited to see her because we hadn’t seen each other in 3 1/2 months. Little Guy was on Cloud 9 all day with 2 older boys to play and swim with. T requested I make a drink that I made for us last year when we had a swim day. It’s delicious! We both love our coffee, and booze never hurts, so…
Extra Special Coffee
- 2 oz. Patron Cafe
- 2 oz. Kahlua
- 1 oz. CoffeeMate Sugar-Free Sweet Cream liquid creamer
- 2 oz. Brewed Coffee- cold preferred but can use hot
- Splash Half and Half
Fill glass with ice. Add all ingredients, stir, and enjoy.
Wednesday is our normal swim day this summer for some of the moms and kids on the lake, so I invited over some friends from the lake and 2 of our favorite little people in the world who just so happen to be stair-steps in age with Little Guy, so they are all buddies. Turns out there were 2 boys, 2 girls, and 2 mommas. Such a fun day in the sun! Even with a decent age gap, the girls got along really well, and watching all 4 kiddos splashing and laughing together while the mommas chatted and relaxed was a fantastic way to spend the day. Our menu was less than formal- chicken salad, hummus and veggies, fruit, and pepperoni and crackers. No one complained about the casual menu, the kids were able to grab what they wanted and scarf it down in a hurry, then get back in the water where they really wanted to be. It was one of those times when I knew my audience and delivered what they wanted- easy foods that are quick to eat. Winner-Winner!
On Thursday one of my friends from childhood, Stephanie, came over with her hubby, kids, and a niece and nephew. We don’t get to see each other very often, but we are always able to pick up right where we left off, as if no time has passed. Her girls are like my own, and they know to make themselves at home, which I love. We spent the day catching up, laughing, talking, and having fun. Stephanie’s husband, B, tried to catch a fish for at least 90 minutes with no success, while the other kids caught several in that time. Let’s just say he was a little frustrated. Finally, he went over to where I suggested he try, and started catching fish like it was his job. That turned the tide on his day, and it seemed to me like he was better able to enjoy the day once he had conquered fishing. Stephanie and I remembered back to when they were in the Navy and stationed in California. Somehow, B always knew when we had talked on the phone that day, though he had no proof. He teased her that she sounded like me, and even half-way across the country, we were alike in so many ways. I have always preferred to take it as a compliment that my sparkling personality transfers across phone lines:) She and I just laugh about it. It was a wonderful day that could have gone on for many more hours, but they eventually had to get going. I love when Stephanie & Co. come to visit!
The Hooligans all came over on Friday. It’s what I have named our group of 5 couples. We always have the best time harassing each other and laughing our butts off. It started as one couple coming over because their son loves to jetski, and we decided at the last minute to turn it into a big ole Hooligans gathering, and I’m so glad we did. The girls decided that we would get the boys to grill, and we would each do a side or dessert. That meant very little work for me, which is great sometimes. My favorite thing I ate that night was a cucumber-tomato salad. It tastes exactly like summer, and I’m pretty sure I had 3 helpings of it. I still didn’t remember to get paper plates when I went to the store, but my outside summer dishes worked great. It was such a fun day, and I loved taking the boys for jetski rides that make them shriek with a fear/excitement mix. One of the Hooligans had gotten a freeze drier, and brought over some fun treats to share. So interesting how the texture changes so much, but the flavors stay. We all loved sampling the saltwater taffy, fruit, marshmallows, and ice cream sandwiches, which are now Little Guy’s favorite thing. It ended up storming a lot that night, and one couple stayed on after everyone else left to sit on the porch, have a cigar, and talk while the storm rolled in. It was so relaxing and peaceful out there. It was the perfect way to finish off the evening.
Millie’s Cucumber-Tomato Salad
- 3 Cucumbers, peeled and sliced 1/4″ thick
- 1 Onion, sliced, halved, and separated into rings
- 3 Tomatoes, cored and cut into wedges
- 1/2 C White Vinegar
- 1/4 C Sugar
- 1 Cup Water
- 2 tsp. Salt
- 1 tsp. Black Pepper, ground
- 1/4 C Oil
Combine ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. ** When I made this a few days later, I made a small change in an effort to lower the sugar/carb content for my T1D self. I used a cup-for-cup sugar substitute and it was wonderful.**
Are you tired yet? By the time our alarm went off on Saturday morning, I was beginning to feel a little tired, but still excited about our last 2 days of friends. Our morning was completely geared toward our kids. Superman and Mike work together, and our families just clicked, so we love when they come over. We went to the training simulator, where Superman goes for training and Mike now works, to let the kids have some fun pressing buttons and turning switches. The kiddos don’t really understand what it means when they say their dads make electricity, so this was a great way for them to experience some of the scope of what the dads do. Let’s just say they had a blast! It’s very overwhelming for me to see the complexity of their job, and when the dads showed us how and what they do when they train (and at work), we were all blown away at their efficiency and how much they have to know- ’cause its a TON of stuff!! It’s no wonder they are exhausted after a 12-hour day at work! After the kids pushed enough buttons, we came back to the house and grilled burgers. They even brought us 2 amazing cucumbers from their garden, which I immediately knew would be used to make Millie’s salad. Thank you, friends with gardens who are willing to share! Such a fun day of pushing buttons, swimming and visiting and boating. Let’s do that again very soon please.
Sunday Funday! We were invited to some friend’s house for brunch made on a new grill that was needing to be broken in. Pancakes and bacon on the grill, fruit, bagels and lox, apple cider donuts, zucchini bread, and Bloody Mary’s- YUM! I was gifted some sourdough starter from one of our friends at brunch, I’ll post about that soon. After a few hours of fun and food, we had to run because our final batch of friends were on their way to our house.
Uncle V and Annie are newly-engaged, and it was the first time we had seen them together since he popped the question. Superman and V work together and have been friends for many years. Though we are not related, Little Guy has always called him Uncle V, and I call him Bro because he’s always treated me like his little sister, the good and the bad. I love having family that is not actually related- the more the merrier, right? We had made no plans for food and were just going to figure it out when they got here. Well, they came over with enough food to feed a small army! V had recently been given a large amount of fresh salmon and had spent hours smoking it on Saturday. He made this incredible dip that basically requires bagels and some sliced tomato to become bagels and lox. It was AMAZING! I am very picky about salmon because I hate the “fishy” taste it has a lot of the time, but this was Heaven. I only eat salmon if it is prepared by my chef-friend Sarah, our friend Uncle Chris, and now Uncle V. I ate a lot of that dip on a whole grain baguette. So. Stinking. Delicious. We talked and ate and talked some more. Then we went down to the lake and floated and swam, and I took Annie for her first jetski ride, and went easy on her so she wouldn’t hate me. Then I took Bro for a ride, where he kept leaning far to the side to try to tip us over like an annoying big brother. What a dork! We had a great time, and finally ordered pizza delivery when we got hungry from our snacking.
Uncle V’s Bagels and Lox Dip
- 16 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
- 2 oz Capers and Brine
- 2 Cloves Minced Garlic (1 tsp minced)
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
- 1/4-1/3 C Red Onion, diced
- 1/4 C Fresh Dill
- 8 oz. Smoked Salmon
Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to let flavors meld. Serve on sliced baguette (plain or toasted) or mild crackers. Excellent topped with thin-sliced tomatoes.
It was a wonderful, action-packed week of friends, and I don’t regret squeezing it all into one week. Though it took me about 2 days to recoup, it is a week of friends that I will remember forever. I learned several new recipes that I will be making soon, and laughed so much I should have lost 20 lbs, but didn’t of course! 2020 has been really difficult and just plain terrible in so many ways that we all need to search out the good things in life that make us happy. For our family, it is having friends and family out to the house to enjoy the water and each other’s company. In this time of fear and isolation, these wonderful people nourish my heart.