I had the best time at our campfire tonight. The kids seemed to have a blast. The trampoline was constantly full, and the horseshoes (that Ward put in; thanks honey) and bolo toss got lots of use. The pulled pork was a hit, as usual, and so were the empenadas. But the 32 ears of corn, well, I'll be sure to scratch those off my list for next time.
Let me tell you what worked and what didn't, so that you can learn from my mistakes. Always make food that can keep heated easily. The slow cooker pulled pork did this effortlessly. The empanadas were easy enough to leave in the oven on low heat (200*) so they worked, too. For the kids, I made what I call Hogs in Sleeping Bags (Steve, I think you made that up, actually); giant pigs in a blanket. I wrapped pizza dough around the hot dogs, give them a quick brushing of egg wash, and then baked them on parchment paper, at 400* for about 20 minutes (or until brown). Once cooked, they stacked easily and were easy to handle. One warning, the hot dogs sometimes shoot out the bottom of the dough, and hit the floor (as my little friend Gavin found out tonight), so be sure to tell that to your guests before they indulge.
I made over 30 ears of corn, boiling them in batches of ten, but then I couldn't figure out how to keep them warm without drying them out. Mission: failed. Plus, they weren't a big hit anyway. I did use a knife to remove the corn from the uneaten cobs (about ten), and put the kernels in a freezer bag to eat at a later time. So the loss wasn't big, all in all.
Clean up wasn't bad, mostly because my neighbors Kim and Barry brought everything into the house with me, and Barry single-handedly did all the recycling. By the time Ward got back to the house, everything was done. This was a good thing, because he had done a bulk of the cleaning during the party (garbage, recycling, moving things to and fro the house) and had been helping me prepare all week, then had to leaf blow the lawn, start the fire, set up games, and keep the kids in order. He was fairly wiped out as it was.
When I clean, I throw out everything that can't be spared. Then I just move left to right until the house looks as it did before the party, you know, Like It Never Happened (my new favorite life motto). Of course, there were a few extra (gifted) bottles of wine, and some candles, which were sweet reminders of the party. And the leftovers, mmmm, the pulled pork is just waiting to be eaten again tomorrow.
Potato chips weren't a big hit, but the nacho chips with guacamole and salsa were.
And for drinks, I opted not to have soda for the kids and instead had apple cider, filtered water in glass bottles, and a table full of hot cocoa. For the cocoa, I had insulated pitchers that I filled first with hot water, to get them warm, then later dumped out before putting in the cocoa. I made the cocoa with milk and organic cocoa powder in my Bialetti. I overfilled it the first time (which is just more than half full before it gets moving). I went to check on it and, boop!, there was chocolate spilled all over my vintage sideboard. I sponged it off, no problem, but the lesson here is, Follow directions. Beside the insulated pitchers (two) of cocoa, I had a bowl of mini marshmallows, and a canister of whipped cream. The kids loved all this. Soda wasn't missed.
Dessert - s'mores - was wonderful, though I overbought marshmallows (about six bags more than needed). Two friends brought brownies, and the leftovers are now in my freezer, so I can defrost and enjoy at my leisure.
As I sat writing my thank you notes, I thought about the fact that most people have lost the desire to write and mail notes. They text, email, and social network messages, but no one writes anymore. That's just sad. I love writing, I love note cards, and stamps. The note cards I used tonight have little campfires on them, and I bought (Boy) Scouting stamps for postage. It makes a difference, I believe. Getting something in the mail, and with a stamp that makes sense, or is, at least, beautiful.
Next up is our kiddo Halloween party. Anyone have an ideas for an old-fashioned Halloween party?