We finally finished birthday month around here. Seventy-five percent of our four person family celebrates turning another year old in the weeks after Christmas, so we move from one type of celebration to another pretty quickly. This past weekend our extended family came over for Jackson's birthday celebration. He's eleven now, and if you can't tell from the photo above I'm thinking it's probably going to be a very silly year.
Let me pause here before getting into the cheesy details of making lasagna for 20, to use this as a segue way to introduce a fun new series my friend Julie and I have been scheming. Although there is no shortage of recipes or party ideas available at the click of our fingertips, what we love most about food is its ability to bring people together; not just families at mealtimes, but extended families - relatives and friends and neighbours and strangers connecting around food, for special celebrations, impromptu gatherings, and lots of memory making. Food is social, it's comforting, and it connects us. The concept of "entertaining", though, makes gathering friends around your dinner table seem daunting. The good news is, it doesn't have to be.
So. This year Julie and I are bringing back the casual gathering - which means taking the pressure off! - and having as many dinner parties and other gatherings as possible. On the last Wednesday of each month we'll post about one or more of them here, which will allow us to get a running start on a new blog - called Gatherings - where we'll share recipes, ideas, techniques and tools that we hope will inspire (and help!) anyone putting together a party, or just looking for new ways to bring friends together around the table. Gatherings will (hopefully!) launch on April 1, and we're even in talks about turning it into a book... although those details haven't been figured out yet. For now, we'll start here.
With Jackson's menu. He chose a quirky assortment of foods that nicely tallied up to an American-Italian feast. There was piggies in a blanket, veggies and dip, meat lasagna, garlickly garlic bread, Caesar salad, ice cream sodas, and a Kit Kat Candy cake. He was thrilled, the food quickly disappeared, and it was the perfect menu for feeding a crowd.
I always like to include a little festive décor at my gatherings, but nothing too over the top or costly. I found a red and white checked shower curtain on sale at Ikea for $8, and took some pinking shears to them to make a sqaure topper for my standard white linen. It was much cheaper than purchasing something cloth, and the material means it's washable and reusable - an essential for the kids. The centrepieces were made by carefully washing my tins of tomatoes, filling them with dried pasta and sticking in a few balloons I found in my basement storage.