So I last left you as a frazzled mess, ready to commit first degree, pre-meditated murder. The time until my wonderful 35th Anniversary Party, seemed to be hurtling toward me at an ever faster pace, and my preparations seemed to be slowing down in direct proportion. Would I ever be able to finish, and if I didn’t, what would actually be done? I came to a very important crossroads: would I shower, fix my hair and make-up, and dress for my own party in something besides my robe and pajamas – which I was still wearing at 3 in the afternoon – or would I just appear “as is” at the door when our first guests arrived? I opted for the first choice (wisely, according to Hubs), and decided to trim my preparations – somewhat. I was still determined to get it all done, but compromise with my plans was definitely in order.
At 3 p.m. I realized that I had not even begun to prepare the Anniversary Cake. I had my recipe ready – it would be similar to our Wedding cake, with a luscious almond filling. I could just taste it! It was one of the few things I planned to make that I knew I would taste, as Ashley and I planned to do a small re-creation of the cake ceremony, and slice and feed each other a bite. Ain’t that sweet? And très romantique! And, of course, corny! (Perhaps I should say “á maïs?”) Ashley had to go into town to do a bit of business, so I looked at him, frazzled and distraught, swallowed hard, and said, “Would you please get a cake for us at the bakery?” He smiled, said of course, and called the shop: “This is a cake emergency. Could you have a cake suitable to feed about 20-30 people ready by about 4 p.m.?” They said yes, and asked how we wanted it decorated. After consulting with me, he told them to keep is simple, and since the gems for the 35th anniversary are coral and jade, he said to simply write “35 Years” in coral, on a white icing, and add some coral-pink roses with jade green leaves. At a not outlandish price, they did a lovely job, so I crossed out “cake” from my list, and with a brief swallow of pride, moved on to the next item on the agenda.
Now, other than cook the ham-orange tarts, which were all but baked, I had two main things to do, and a couple of small things to accomplish as well – all hopefully by 5:30, which would give me time to get myself ready in time for the first guests to arrive at 6:30. Seconds were definitely ticking, so I cranked up the speed and drew upon any energy reserves that were possibly lurking beneath the exhaustion. Before I get to the next step, however, I will tell you that the conversation with AT&T ended with my having to make an appointment for a phone jack installation, which they were assured I would not shell out one extra penny for. The first appointment I could get was for Thursday, October 28, at any time between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. After saying, “Thank you for being so specific,” I abruptly hit the “end” button on my cell phone, and tried to push out of my mind that it would be more than two more days we would be without a land-line and internet service. There was apparently nothing I could do about it. I had the address of the complaint department for this “Number 1 in Customer Service,” and “Award Winning Customer Service” and planned to write a letter the next day. So be it.
I decided to wait until the last minute to cook the ham-orange tarts, as they taste better warm. Next – I had to make the h’ors d’oeuvre pies. These are lovely creations. They consist of a flattened out fluted pie crust, that I pre-baked and browned. After cooling, it is topped with a seasoned creamy filling, and on top of that, in concentric circles, an arrangement of vegetables including cherry tomatoes, sliced olives, chopped parsley, sliced mushrooms, plus a little chopped egg. It looks great and tastes quite as good as it looks. Other than taking time, the preparations for those two pies went very well, thank goodness! I then set about making the cheesecake tarts. These are very simple, and delicious. Into fluted papers in cupcake tins, I place a vanilla wafer (I did this recipe with no sugar added in deference to my hypoglycemic husband, and used NSA vanilla wafers). These are topped with a dollop of a NSA (I use Splenda) cream cheese, eggs, and vanilla mixture, and then pop them into the oven and bake til lightly browned and set. After they cool, I top each one with a little canned cherry or blueberry pie filling (again, NSA, and store-bought). Very pretty and very easy. At least one would think so. I certainly thought so. After all, I had made these about a gazillion times without a single hitch. For some reason or other – and I am still puzzled as to why – I added salt – a lot of it – to the cream cheese filling. Now, I will say that I am grateful that I did taste the filling before baking. After doing one of the greatest “spit-takes” in history, I started to cry. What else would go wrong? I didn’t know what to do, but I did know that I could not afford to throw it out and start all over again, so in a burst of imagination (not exactly inspired), I “cut” the filling, and tried to diminish the saltiness, by adding as much cream cheese/neufchatel/fat-free cream cheese as I could scrounge from the fridge, plus a few more eggs and a lot more vanilla and Splenda. It tasted somewhat better, and as I filled the cups with this new filling, I prayed that baking would remove some of the saltiness. It did, kind of, and adding the topping helped a bit too. They were only just edible in my estimation, but at least they were edible, and hey! Thanks to my error, I now had more than twice the number that I needed – a bonus surplus of just barely edible mini cheesecakes. Joy.
I quickly checked out the ingredients I had for the citrus punch I was making, and Ashley started the coffee. He, being the coffee drinker in the family, was better suited to that anyway. I heated the water to make tea, again swallowing my pride and used tea bags, but at least it was “Constant Comment,” which tastes almost as good as home brewed. I put out the cake on its special table, set out the dishes for the different foods. Got the meatballs de-fatted and warming, filled the nut and candy bowls that were scattered about, and at about 5:45, went upstairs to get myself as ready as possible. I wanted to be presentable.
I had decided to wear a dress that had belonged to my mother-in-love. (A picture of me in the dress is in Part 1… Click here to see it again!) She had designed and made the beautiful dress out of a bolt of silk that my father-in-love had brought to her from China after his trip there in 1980. It was an unusual shimmery gray and brown design, and really quite lovely, in a Chinese, mandarin-collar style, fastened at the neck, and diagonally down to the waste with “frog” knot-clasps. I had inherited the dress, but never been able to wear it before because Mom “C” was a much smaller woman that I used to be. I have gotten smaller over the last couple of years, so now it fits (with a bit of room to spare, I might add!). At about 6:10 (record “get-ready” time for me, I descended the stairs dressed – well almost. With my lousy right hand, I could not close the clasps on the dress. As my brother-in-love had arrived a bit early, to help with parking directions, I asked him to do it for me, just as our first guests rang the bell – about 15 minutes early. No matter. I was ready – or as ready as I was going to get! Just one more thing to go awry and we were set! Ashley took our car across the street to park it there so as to leave as much space in our driveway as possible. After going down that driveway and turning around, to be faced forward at the time he wanted to retrieve the car, the considerable rainfall of the day had turned the drive to a muddy mess. The car was stuck. Royally. So, he just left it there, walked back across the street to our house, and decided he would call a tow truck in the morning to pull him out so he could get to work on time the next day. We started laughing. I mean, it really was the perfect cap to the last two days!
Our guests arrived. And really, here’s the thing. . . we had a blast! Everybody had a good time. Good conversation, good fellowship, and considering everything, surprisingly good food, and there was enough of it! We ended up with a comfortable crowd of about 23 people. Truly, we had a very good time. I won’t say we didn’t work for it, but it was worth all the sweat and tears, and believe it or not – after this 5-part tirade – I would do it again. But probably won’t.
The slide show was played, Ashley and I sang our songs (singing very badly – worse than we ever have!), and we repeated our vows, with the able help of Alan Mears, our Associate Pastor. Our Senior Pastor, the much beloved Dr. Chuck Wilson, was as sick as a dog, suffering at his home (and really suffering – he had never been really sick before!). Alan was wonderful, and Ashley and I feel very blessed to have each other and so many wonderful friends to share our special day with us. One quick little incident occurred (of course – what would it be without one more hitch?): Just as Alan asked Ashley to “Repeat after me,” Ashley’s cell phone rang. He had not turned it off, as we did not have another phone where we could be reached – did I tell you all about that? The person who called was my brother, to give us an idea of when they would be arriving the next day. Ashley tried to tell him that he had caught us in the middle of something important, but John apparently didn’t grasp exactly what we meant by “important!” After a bit more conversation, Ashley was able to get off the phone, and finish the vows. That was of course, another occasion for laughter – something we did a lot of that night – along with our parrot, Pepper. It really was a wonderful night. We had fun! And leftovers! And blessings!
More than anything, we had enough. . .
P.S. With the help of our neighbor, Ashley got unstuck the next morning. He got to work on time. I slept in. . .