September 18, 2008

Cheese and a Fruit Ring (two bits)

We are experiencing…technical difficulties with the mailing list. By which I mean, we cannot find the pick-up sticks. Also, I couldn’t LOOK for the pick-up sticks because I had to go to Athens and eat cheese.

Yes, I DID TOO. That sounds like an excuse, but, se, Mir invited me to come to her house where she was hosting the THREE A DAY DAIRY PARTY and a herd of extremely darling young women with glowing skin and pearly-calcium rich teeth and degrees in nutrition tried to do cooking demos and explain to me and a buncha other folks that 3 servings of dairy a day will speed weight loss and also help our bones not snap-crackle-pop into shards when we are older, but I missed most of that because I basically face-planted in an enormous bowl of gouda-cheese-grits with flank steak and a man-sized slice of sharp cheddar and leek torte, and I didn’t come up for air until I had healthfully imbibed about 12 servings of dairy. I am UTTERLY convinced now that God made grits specifically so lonely goudas would have the perfect place to come home to.

Also, file under useful information: This tastes like real cheese. Pinky swear.

But I am home now and I WILL add the LAST FEW NAMES to the mailing list and ready it for its inaugural send out! (Here we understand that “I will” in this context means “SCOTT will.” Natch.) While he does that. I shall find the pick-up sticks or perhaps dig up a grill skewer, and I SHALL blindfold Maisy and have her point at the printed sheets of mailing list names so the prizes can be distributed, and all that will happen before MONDAY. *nodnodnod* I say this to give myself a deadline.

I have decided that without deadlines I would never do a dern thing, not even ONCE.

Here’s the thing about Mir’s house: It is INTIMIDATING. Mir has a house that looks like grown-ups live there. Not just ANY grown ups, but the kind of true adults who have organizational skills, and a sense of style, and non-representational wall art. I have none of these things. I have pets and drifts of their shed hair and furniture with the stuffing coming out and an office so PILED with CRAPULANT CRAP PILES that the flooring has become Schrodinger’s carpet: There is no way to prove or know that there is floor or not floor until someone PICKS UP and no one is ever going do THAT, so both floor and not floor exist simultaneously UNDER the crap. I suppose *I* could pick it up, but on several levels, this would break the laws of physics.

Normally this does not bother me, but I am hosting a baby shower at my crapulent house on Sunday, and after co-hostessing a different baby shower at my friend Misty’s SHOWPLACE of a glamorous home and then eating all the fine cheeses of the world at MIR’s museum level palace of gorgeousness, I am feeling distinctly sorry for my poor friend Vicky, whose shower will be at CHEZ DREADFUL.

The only thing I can bring to the table is the PERFECT FRUIT RING for the punch. I am a fruit ring MASTER---it is my one and only GIRL SKILL. You may not KNOW about The Fruit Ring – that holy grail of the southern girl’s shower – so let me tell you how to make one.

You take a simple punch recipe --- I usually use this one because it is crisp and refreshing and a pretty color and has only 4 ingredients and is lower cal as it does not contain ice cream or sherbet:

Large can pineapple juice
Same size jar of Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Cocktail
2 litre ginger ale
2 tsp Almond Extract (YES REALLY. It makes the punch smell faintly of far off magical meadows!)

ANYWAY, to make the fruit ring, you get your cast iron Bundt pan and pour a mix of the NON CARBONATED, non-sherbet-or-ice-cream punch ingredients into the bottom of it. (For the above punch, I use equal parts cran and pineapple with a little almond extract.) You pour just a couple of inches. Then you freeze it solid. Once it is frozen, you arrange cut fruit and whole strawberries into a pleasing pattern on the icy surafece. Then you pour JUST ENOUGH of the mixed juices to COVER the fruit pattern, and you freeze THAT. Make sure this level is frozen DEAD SOLID before you proceed, or your fruit will escaxpe and float to the bottom of the ring. Last, you fill the bundt pan the rest of the way, and freeze THAT.

At shower time, you run hot water around the outside of the frozen pan to LOOSEN the fruit ring, and then you take it out and float it in your punch bowl. It looks GORGEOUS, and it keeps the punch cold and brisk but does not dilute the punch as it MELTS.

I am making one for Vicky, and it is the best thing I have to offer.

I am just going to have to issue all the guests empty toilet paper tubes and cardboard paper towel tubes, and have them look through their tubes DIRECTLY and ONLY at the fruit ring the entire time they are here. I am going to tell them all it is A Shower Game called “FRUIT RING LOOKING.” Those who look only and always at the fruit ring will win fabulous door prizes, and those who glance away at my tufted, shreddy carpet or dinged up kitchen table get summarily blinded or stoned to death, depending on the length of the glance they perpetrate.

This seems reasonable and fair.

Posted by joshilyn at September 18, 2008 8:50 AM

Have the kids make some of the eclipse-viewing boxes. Tell the guests that you fear for their eyesight when they stand in the presence of your mighty fruit ring. Tell them that looking through a VERY small pinsized hole at the fruit ring -- and ONLY the fruit ring -- will allow them to behold its glory without it smiting them. That should take care of it.

Posted by: Aimee at September 18, 2008 10:52 AM

Maybe if you serve cheese at the shower the nice dairy people will loan you the magical cleaning fairies who cleaned Mir's house and who even clean cabinet doors before the shower.

I think the Fruit Looking Game sounds great. I have never been to a shower with stoning. That is just the kind of thing you need to liven up the party. An icebreaker, if you will...

Posted by: Jill W. at September 18, 2008 10:54 AM

if you float the fruit ring in a large bowl of vodka it is sure to be the very bestest shower none of your guests will ever remember.

Posted by: debra at September 18, 2008 11:59 AM

if you float the fruit ring in a large vat of vodka it is sure to be the very bestest shower none of your guests will remember.

Posted by: debra at September 18, 2008 12:01 PM

You will do just fine as long as you keep Bagel away from the Gerbers, cheese, and fruit ring.

Posted by: Cele at September 18, 2008 12:32 PM

I would like to see a pretty picture of the fruit ring if you have a chance.
I followed the link to the 3 a day place, but I could not find recipies for either dish you mentioned. Would there be any chance that you have copies? They both sound delicious.
Also, I think the vodka idea is great. Since it's a baby shower, champagne would work well too.... :)

Posted by: JulieB at September 18, 2008 1:02 PM

And all those guests and women with showhomes have also written three and nine-tenth's novels which are both well-written and wildly popular, have they? I say mess it up MORE, wear only black and bribe one of them to start the whisper "She's an artist!"

Oh, wait -- you wanted BOTH to be an artist AND a show-home show-off? Good thing you're Between Churches (unchurched?)or we'd have to suggest your pastor have a little chat with you about GREED.

Spike that punch.

Posted by: rams at September 18, 2008 1:11 PM

I would probably eat more dairy if it were easier to find local organic dairy. I can get goat cheese here, but that's about it. I used to be able to get milk and cheese when I lived in Syracuse, but not so much, here in SW Ohio. But the recipes do sound really good, so if you have them, or links to them, I would be pleased to see if I can find ingredients. Even if they can't be local.

The fruit ring sounds lovely - might the weather be nice, so everyone can go outside? We're in that carpe diem time of year when the season is about to turn and you can pretend that being outside is spontaneous, so that any yard imperfections are due to the impulsiveness and the transitional time of year.

Posted by: Diane (TT) at September 18, 2008 1:13 PM

I hope you all realize that Joss' gift of hyperbole is at work here. The only difference between her house and mine is that 1) I don't have pets and 2) I picked a different room to Make Pretty. SHE has a pretty, pretty bedroom while I happen to have a pretty family room/dining room area. And because the cleaning fairies had just come and I did not have a farting dog and a teenager cat sitting in the middle of it, she was confused and thought that meant my house was fancy.

I dropped my toast butter-side-down this morning on my (formerly) clean floor. Very fancy.

Posted by: Mir at September 18, 2008 2:24 PM

oh my goodness, lol. I love the toilet paper roll image.

Posted by: parrotzmom at September 18, 2008 3:02 PM

YES YES, SPIKE THE PUNCH! Also, can I steal your fruit ring idea thingy and use it for the rest of my life to make myself look COOLER at church potluck shower stuffs? Because I'm the pastor's wife, but Girl, I cannot cook to save my life. So a cool fruit ring might distract people? From that knowledge?

Posted by: Kate Setzer Kamphausen at September 18, 2008 3:52 PM

Wow Kate, a pastor's wife who can't cook? I can't imagine the pressure you must be under! ;-)

I think your house has to look better than mine. I'm in my 40's and it's never lost that eclectic college-dorm bargain furniture look. And now there's a bunch of 3-year-old's stuff mixed in. Loooovely.

Posted by: Brigitte at September 19, 2008 5:29 AM

Oh, Joshily, I am so, so, so, so empathizing with you. Because I just had my new book club group over to my house for our August meeting. I chose August because I thought it would still be warm enough to pretend I wanted to have a GARDEN meeting (not that my garden looks that great this year either), but the wind came up and so I was forced to clean off layers and layers of cat hair (not all the layers mind you, just as many as I could) and clean bathrooms and mop hardwood floors and hide piles and boxes and stuff in rooms with closed doors and so on and so forth. And when I had only enough time to shower my sweaty body and put together the food and drink portion of the evening, I was able to look around and think maybe, just maybe, with low lighting, I could pull this off. But I knew, in new and painful ways from all that close up looking for mess and clutter and dirt, how far from June Cleaver I had strayed. I don't think we are even on the same planet. But, I did shower, and I didn't smell. And my food and drink display ooohed and ahhhed everyone. And my dog didn't bite anyone. And my cats delighted everyone and even managed not to pee or yack on anything while they were all there. We just had another meeting last night and several people made a point of telling me how much they enjoyed the meeting and MY HOME last month. Be still my heart!!! I suspect your shower will be just as much fun. Plus, look at it this way. If half the people judge your house, you can always quote the whole "Good housekeepers lead boring lives" thing. And the other half, well, they're probably thrilled to find that other people have houses with just as many flaws as their own.

Posted by: Laume at September 19, 2008 5:55 AM

The trick is this: clean the one bathroom that anyone will be allowed to use. Then hang this darling little hand towel that says, "Please excuse the mess. The children are making happy memories." You get points for being whimsical and a devoted mother, all while people are looking around at a clean bathroom and thinking that you must be a neat freak if you think this is a mess!

And spike the punch.

Posted by: Jen at September 19, 2008 10:44 AM

sorry for double post yesterday. obviously fruit ring is not the only thing floating in vodka. ;-)

oh, and Bridgette -- if you took away the three year old's stuff and replaced it with stacks of books and dog and cat fur then we live in the same 40 year old dorm.

Posted by: debra at September 19, 2008 12:27 PM

Sweet pea, Martha Stewart does not live here, nor anywhere remotely here.

I have had three kids, two of which don't park their loads of crap here anymore. I have spent my life trying to keep up with their stuff and my stuff. When I was working full time, I would dedicate a weekend day to pickup, washup and put up! It took hours, and by Monday morning at 9 am, it looked as if nobody had done it.

The sooner I clean it up, the sooner they mess it up, and I include myself in that mix. Nature hates a vacuum, that's why crap piles up where it can.

When Sears invents a riding vacuum cleaner-I'm in. Otherwise, Martha Stewart can stay away from my front door!

Posted by: gin at September 19, 2008 2:06 PM

I'll bet if you made your fruit ring with WHITE cranberry or grape juice your fruit would show up even better.

I've been known to make an ice ring (not as fancy as a fruit ring) with the cranberry juice and let it melt into a more orange-y/ pineapple-y punch in a sort of sunrise/ sunset effect.

And for parties with physicians/ biologists, you can make a pineapple/ gingerale punch, then add some canned grapes and maraschino cherries to look like blood: plasma, white and red blood cells. Yes, we're an odd bunch, and not to be invited to parties with regular people who want pretty and not bizarre/ gross.

Posted by: Diane (TT) at September 19, 2008 4:15 PM

You could blindfold them all when they arrive and say it's ONE BIG GAME of pin the diaper on the baby... except make sure there are no real babies around to be poked.

Posted by: Heather Cook at September 20, 2008 1:22 PM