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Today I am mostly drifting around the house in a fragile daze, force-feeding the washing machine and drier, folding laundry very slowly and drinking a lot of tea. I am not working, nor am I doing many of the things I probably should be doing. It has been a weekend of mighty proportions, I haven’t had enough sleep and I have quite possibly drunk rather too much champagne.

As I mentioned last week, David turned 50 and I couldn’t let his half-century go by without marking it, so I plotted a secret celebration: A Party. Not an enormous one but a gathering of a few friends and family from near and far. His brother and sister-in-law travelled from Norfolk; his sister and brother-in-law from the north-west. The three siblings rarely get together these days (busy lives, geographically distant), so I was near to bursting with excitement at the thought of this reunion. How we kept all the preparations and plans quiet, I do not know. My eldest almost let the cat out of the bag on the phone to his dad last week but managed to recover the situation with characteristic aplomb.

I won’t bore you with all the details but the planning paid off. David and the boys went out for some father/son bonding in the afternoon and my daughter and I rushed about preparing the house. He came home, walked through the kitchen without clocking the fairy lights, streamers and piles of food and drink (really!), and into the lounge where his brother and sister were waiting. He was totally surprised and delighted to see them and was further surprised and delighted when our friends started to arrive. The evening passed in a happy haze of laughter, champagne, good food* and sparkling conversation. After dinner, after the candles on the cake had been blown out, when everyone was merrily chatting and drinking, I settled back with my glass and surveyed the scene – you could feel the love in the room and it was brilliant.

We spent yesterday with the family – a late breakfast, a soggy dog-walk in the driving rain, a hearty Sunday lunch – then it was time for them all to head home. It is so easy to let months, even years, drift by without getting together with the people you care about. This weekend has reminded us to make the effort to do it more often.

* If you are interested, I made the following food (for 20 people):
1. Two types of canape – mini tartlets filled with a basil leaf, half a teaspoon of goat’s cheese, topped with half a cherry tomato and blinis topped with creme fraiche and smoked salmon
2. A Vegetarian Chilli (which I’ve mentioned before here), served with rice and Bay and saffron-roasted Cauliflower (from Anna Jones’s  A Modern Way to Eat)
3. A Bitter Orange Tart (from Nigella Lawson’s Simply Nigella), which was delicious, and a Chocolate Cheesecake (from Lucy Cufflin’s Lucy’s Food)
4. Mary Berry’s Fast Christmas Cake (because David’s favourite type of cake is fruit cake).



26 thoughts on “Shenanigans

  1. Sounds lovely! and clever all of you to have kept it a surprise. The food sounds gorgeous. No wonder you’re not up to much today.
    I did the same for Malcolm’s 50th, he has the advantage of a summer birthday and we were able to have lunch out in the garden – I sent him on a long run with a trusted friend, who managed to slow him down for just about long enough for me to get everything set up.


    1. It helps that he’s away most of the week. If he was home every evening it would have been much harder. Do try the tart – very straightforward and delicious but ideally you need to make it a day ahead for all the chilling.


  2. That must have been a wonderful surprise and extra birthday present for David. How did he not suspect anything as he walked through the kitchen! Your menu sounds easy and delicious. Sarah x


    1. I know! He is one of the most unobservant people I’ve ever met. Good when it comes to subterfuge, bad when it comes to things you want to be noticed.


  3. That sounds like a wonderful party, I hope he had a good time. And the food sounds divine. Glad it all went so well and that you enjoyed it too. CJ xx


  4. This sounds truly wonderful Sam. We all become so busy and sometimes tend to drift don’t we? If you don’t make the effort to get people together the time just disappears. It sounds like a really fun gathering with a delicious menu. My husband turns 40 very soon so I am looking for (easy!) party inspiration and you have given me some great ideas and encouragement to make the effort. x


    1. I don’t attempt complicated food when it comes to parties – far too stressful – so all of it was simple, if time-consuming. You seem extremely adept at feeding a crowd and I’m sure whatever you decide to do will be a wonderful celebration.


  5. The food sounds lovely Sam!! You did such an awesome job by throwing this party! Loved seeing the photos and your tiredness just shows what a success it was! Wishing you all many more beautiful celebrations like this!!! Happy week buddy! Nicole xo

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