times like these

Saturday was our third annual Valentines dinner party. Delayed for good reason- we were in Cape Town!! I made and delivered invitations last week to a lucky handful, just before we left town. (More on our getaway soon!)

The seven course menu with links to recipes where possible:

  1. Sundried tomato pesto with homemade sesame flatbread
  2. Proscuitto stuffed mushroom caps
  3. salad greens with roasted pears, candied pecans and gorgonzola biscuits
  4. fennel, shrimp, fish soup
  5. grapefruit sorbet
  6. filet with bernaise, mashed potatoes, roasted asparagus
  7. Snakes’ famous 15 layer lemon crepe cake

Everything turned out really well. It helped that we had just returned from South Africa days before toting a suitcase bulging with beef tenderloins, cremini mushrooms, asparagus and ruby red grapefruit. Preparation kept me busy for two days and then clean up another. Three solid days filled! This may sound like senseless masochistic misery to some but distractions like this are my sanity in Luanda where watching the sunlight pass through the living room generally occupies most of my afternoons.

Each year I like to make a small take home goody for the guests. Last year it was a little bag of homemade marshmallows. The year before that was coffee toffee. (Wow, that seems like several lifetimes ago!) This time, perhaps a little too ambitiously, I tackled homemade poptarts. I made a double batch, filling half with raspberry jam and others with nutella. I wrapped one of each flavor into a neat little package. They weren’t much to look at but sweet mercy, if I may say so, those babies were perfect with coffee the next morning. Our table was decorated with vintage doilies made by Snakes’ grandmother (correct me if I’m wrong on that one, V.) It was wonderful to expand the table to its full capacity and squeeze friends in all around. Times like these I count my blessings and I am happy. Times like these remind me that despite the frustration or loneliness that trips us up, we can still fashion a little smiling, laughing, toasting slice of normal. Times like these justify dragging so many dishes across the ocean.

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17 thoughts on “times like these

  1. Your ‘slice of normal’ is my version of heaven. You have a true gift of hospitality. I know your guests felt spoiled and loved.

  2. doesn’t sound like senseless masochistic misery at all! Sounds like my ideal way to spend a few days! The table is beautiful and the menu sounds amazing! Hope you guys hear back on your bids soon!

  3. dani- of course YOU would say that! I am pretty sure you and I have a fair amount in common…speaking of which…. have you figured out how to roll out dough in a square shape? mine always goes round and I end up lopping so much off the edges.
    NBN-you have a standing invitation! maybe next year?
    Amy- Moscow wasn’t even on the list….
    Melissa- you’re as sweet as ever. Reading blogs during breaks in your studies?! thanks for the comment.

  4. Wow. Such a gorgeous table setting! Woman after my own heart. How I love dinner parties like these … I never tire of them either… despite how much prep and clean up there is!

  5. clever girl…What a beautiful and romantic table….my grandmother and her relatives, David’s great grandmother, made the doilies. It makes my heart sing to know both of you put them to good use….if only one day I could share one of your dinners! Love to all, V

  6. i have a new goal in life…to somehow, somewhere, someday get invited to one of your parties! Absolutely beautiful!

  7. Hi,
    I just found out my husband and I will be moving to Luanda this coming summer. While searching the internet I found you blog. First I want to thank you for even writing it and for all you whining. Because I think that is my gift so now I know what I will be whining about lol. Can you tell me please when you talk about ordering from Amazon is this Amazon UK you are ordering from? And I heard that when you ship food over there is quite a bit of pilfering by customs is that true? and if so do they also take things out of your amazon shipments?
    Thanks for helping me.

  8. kristin- the poptarts are SO worth the effort! They’re AMAZING. Imagine that “poptart crust”, all homogenous, tough and bland. Okay- now replace it with a flaky, buttery, proper pastry crust. Now delete the pasty fruit filling and replace it with a bright and tangy all fruit jam….enough said?

    thanks, Daniela, Jill and Emily! I had a great time putting it together.

    bfiles- I’d love to have you guys over. I love that about the FS blogging community, by the time any of us actually cross paths in real time, we’ll be old friends!

    Agreed, Meredith- I’ve never been a very sentimental person, but having a little one changes that quickly. wow, doilies from her great-great gram. that is pretty great.

    wife for life- eek! I hope I’m not whining that much! Trying to handle it with as much grace as possible but it’s not always easy. All of our shipments come through the embassy by a diplomatic pouch service (a massive blessing and huge life saver). Customs is not allowed to open the pouches. There is no regular mail service here that I am aware of, only DHL. It wouldn’t surprise me if things came up missing. I’ve heard it happens often with baby car seats through the airport. Feel free to email me directly if you have more questions. Good luck to you!

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