Table for Ten : A Christmastime Birthday Dinner

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Nick was born at Christmastime (during a massive storm, under lights that were powered by the hospital’s emergency generator), so he’s never really had much of a dedicated celebration since the big holiday tends to get all the attention. He reports that, as a kid, his birthday cake was usually Christmas pudding, but that he didn’t mind because he loves it.

Growing up there were never any birthday parties with friends, because everyone was busy. Then, during the years that he worked in an office, while he regularly found himself in the boardroom with a slice of cake and a glass of wine to toast the birthday-person, he never once received a card that had been passed around the office to be signed by all his colleagues because everyone was always off on holiday.

Of course, this is all he’s ever known and he doesn’t complain about it (very loudly).

(I should point out that his parents and mine send him a birthday card every year, separate from their Christmas cards, and I always hang the Happy Birthday Banner and make sure to wrap his gifts in birthday wrapping rather than Christmas paper! And I always offer to take him out for dinner but he usually declines because there’s usually so much going on and the good restaurants are either all booked up or closed for the holidays. He does get an IOU though, and we go out sometime in the new year.)

Back when we first got together and I’d heard about this no-birthday birthday situation, I suggested that we have a house party in his honour.

The first year we did, the party got a little wild and a couple of things got broken, but it was relatively manageable and a good time.

However, word got out — apparently we held good parties — and the second year there were some problems, such as a very drunk guy I barely knew suddenly picking me up. That alone was really weird and uncomfortable but the fact that this happened right at the top of the stairs made it scary. (He was quickly shown the door). Then, the next morning, we were greeted by an elderly neighbour, declaring that our high-fi (her word) had been MUCH.TOO.LOUD.

At the third of these annual parties we were faced with a bunch of uninvited friends-of-friends we’d never met before nor particularly cared for and a visit from the police responding to a noise complaint.

After that we realized that the annual wing-ding had gotten out of hand and that we weren’t enjoying ourselves at our own parties.

So, we stopped having them all together and stuck to small get-togethers of two to four guests. This went on for some time, and over the years we began to miss having larger groups over. We both enjoy entertaining and missed the buzz that comes with introducing long-time friends to new ones and participating in the great conversations that result. So, last year we decided to begin hosting larger dinner parties — our dining table has room for ten when we insert all the leaves — and so began our plans to regularly host dinner parties for eight guests plus ourselves. Our first one was at Easter (written about here), and our second was the Sunday before Christmas. (We took the summer off, reverting to small groups because our outdoor dining table only seats four, and who wants to eat inside when it’s beautiful outside?)

Since Nick is the better cook and truly enjoys doing it, he had to be in on the plans thus making a surprise birthday party out of the question, but he chose the guest list, which included his best buddies and old friends, and a couple we’ve recently met but who he would like to get to know better. I sent out the invitations and everyone accepted.

I secretly told them all that the dinner was in Nick’s honour, so there were many well wishes for a happy birthday, gifts of treats and bottles, and a beautiful birthday cake containing his favourite flavour, caramel, made by Andrea.

It was a great time and the man was happy.

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We planned for an early dinner, inviting guests to arrive at around 2 pm. This was partially due to it being a Sunday and people had to work the next day, and partially because we have no overhead lights in our living room, where the big table would be set up, so we wanted a bit of daylight available. That second reason was nullified by the fact that the sun went down too early to be of any use for lighting, but we had lots of candles so it was ok.

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I made the tartan runner for the table from some beautiful pure cotton flannel I found at Affordable Fabrics. I also made some pillow covers but they didn’t make it into any of the pictures.

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We used the 10 place card holders that I made after we decided to begin having this type of dinner party. The tutorial is here if you’d like to see.

Our friend Isabel brought a cute jar of old-school candy for everyone, which she snuck onto the table when we weren’t looking!

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↑ Leslie took this shot of me on her phone ready and kindly sent it over. ↑

Nick served us a delicious Indian feast, which included a Chick-Pea and Potato dish with a Curry Coconut Sauce, a (very) spicy Beef Vindaloo, and Spinach and Indian Cheese in a Tamarind Sauce (aka Saag Paneer). Side dishes included Basmati Rice with Saffron, Yogurt and Cucumber Salad with fresh mint from our garden (aka Raita), Naan bread (that we bought), slice hard boiled eggs (a habit he picked up from his father. I thought that having boiled eggs with Indian food was a British thing but I’ve discovered that it’s a Nick’s-Family thing. Anyway, we always have egg with curry ), and a couple of chutneys.

He prepared all the main dishes the day before, so all he had to do was make the sides and reheat things on the day of the party.

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↑ Beautiful and delicious Almond, Chocolate and Caramel cake by Andrea. ↑

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Thanks for checking out what we’ve been up to. I hope you had a great Christmas if you celebrate. We had a good time — this was the first of two large dinners we hosted last week, as my family all came over on Christmas day. We served turkey with all the trimmings.

It’s new year’s eve, so happy new year to you. Here’s to an excellent 2016!
xo loulou

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