communal dinner

Into two


Communal dinner is always the best for entertainment. Take tonight's adventure: how to cut a Tyler in two. Shove him through a guillotine and drop the blade, er, doggie door.

Lost and Found


Lost and found at communal dinner:

Couldn't quite get a good shot of Thomas' friend:

Dinner success


Ah, another successful communal dinner tonight.

It had been a while since I'd been to a communal dinner. There hadn't been very many recently, and the few there were, I wasn't able to go to because I was either out of town or had other plans already. Having not seen the big group for a while, I missed the dinner crowd, and sent out an invite. On the menu: salmon fajitas!

Usually, when we make salmon fajitas, I also make homemade tortilla's from Ariel's mother's recipe, but tonight I just couldn't bring myself to the extra effort of making forty tortillas, in addition to all the other fixings. I just couldn't.

So, I didn't.

Ah, did it feel good.

The plan was to start cooking at 6, eat at 7. Usually when we I say that, I'm off by 30 - 45 minutes on the start time. So, to balance this, I bought chips and salsa to sooth the hungry guests. With Katie's help, however, we actually had everything cooked, out on the table, and ready to eat by 6:56 PM.

Take that, non-believers!

Oh, and let me tell you, not eating chocolate, so that brownies for dessert are okay? So way worth it.



I found a recipe I wanted to try in one of the many magazines I receive every month. I wanted to try it mainly to see if it would work well for communal dinner, where you have about an hour to prepare food, and you're feeding the masses, but they don't all come at once. Food requirements are: can make lots easily, can be made in parallel, can be eaten over the course of an hour or two. Sometimes we make it right, sometimes we don't.

The recipe, for lamb meatball gyros, would work for everyone but Martha, so it's not a complete meal for everyone. If it could be made easily, however, we could work around Martha's requirements.

Okay, so, to start, I needed the ingredients, and a broiler.

Who would think a broiler would be an issue? Ours has been our for a couple years now, just waiting for the kitchen remodel to force the replacement of the oven and, hey, broiler. Email to Kris and Andy, will you be my taste testers, and, oh, by the way, can we use your oven, Andy?

Andy's response was along the lines of, "Free food? Sure! But, uh, how do you cook anything in your house? No microwave? No broiler?"

Um, stovetop?

At least until that goes out, too.

So, yay, broiler taken care of, off to purchase fixings. Since we were going to be at Andy's house, and the dogs were going stir crazy from no walks because of Annie's back, I decided to take the dogs along with me to store and then to Andy's. The girls and I have come to an understanding of where in the car they are allowed to be, and that would be in the far back, away from the back seats and definitely away from the front seats.

Because arbitrary boundaries are easy for beagles to follow, right?

So, into the car I lifted both of them, and off we went to Whole Foods. I tragically took the freeway, which, at 5:00 PM is a crappy decision. We sloughed through the traffic, arrived at Whole Foods, and, aw crap. I looked at the seat next to me. I looked in my bookbag. I looked in my central console. I looked in under my stuff. I looked in the bag of games I brought with me. I looked in my bookbag again.

I left my wallet at home.


Back home I drove and, because this whole adventure had taken too long, I decided to head to Nob Hill for groceries instead. Why did I decide to go to Nob Hill for groceries? That place is nothing but disappointments. I went in, could barely find the ground lamb, and the pita bread? I spent 40 minutes looking for pita bread. You'd think pita bread would be in the bread section, right? Nope. Maybe the pita bread would be in the gourmet food section, eh? Nope. The bakery section? Nope. The deli section? Maybe. If you ask, they'll pull them out of the freezer for you.

Or you can luck into the last two package of pita breads in the store.

The dogs barely survived being left alone in car.

So, we dashed off to Andy's house to make dinner. We arrived barely before six, just barely enough time to plant what would be the worst gag gift ever. Too bad it matched his calendar, which we had picked out last week when looking for a calendar to replace last year's Bond James Bond calendar. It also matched his walls, so, as far as gag gifts go, I picked a loser.

As far as switch plates go, I picked a winner!

The lamb gyros were quite easy to make. Cutting up the veggies took the longest time, but that could easily be parallelized by giving two or three people the task of chopping. Making the gyro balls was quick: 5 minutes to cut and mix, maybe 5 minutes to shape the balls and 8 minutes to cook.

Waiting for Kris to arrive took the longest at 15 minutes.

Taste testing was the important issue, though. After assembling the gyros and trying one out, Andy gave them a "delectable" rating: his highest food rating.

We have a winner for next week's communal dinner. Yay!

The Orange meal


In Florida, I asked Andy if he wanted to host communal dinner this week. He enthusiastically said yes, so I volunteered his house and his hot tub for the group. In honor of the Orange Box and the new console games Andy had received when we were all gone, I proposed the meal to be The Orange Meal™. I offered salmon and sweet potatoes, and asked everyone else to bring something orange to the meal. Suggestions were pumpkin pie, butternut squash soup, pumpkin ice cream (mmmmmmmm.....), and the like.

Last time Andy hosted, he had an elaborate (but incredibly tasty) meal that kept him in the kitchen the whole evening cooking. What fun is that (read: none)? This time, we agreed to keep each portion someone cooks small, and encourage everyone to bring something tasty.

I grilled whisky marinade salmon. Humorously enough, I bought six pounds of Salmon since we expected around 14 people, one of who was Tyler, so six pounds didn't seem too unreasonable. It was my first time grilling salmon on a grill outside. Kris kept having to answer questions like, "What happens if the skin sticks to the grill?" and "Is the salmon suppose to catch on fire?"

Warren brought some amazing pumpkin soup with onions and corn. Steffi brought some also amazing dessert from Sugar Butter Flour. mmmmmmm.... pumpkin cheesecake. Goodness, how I love fall. Andy made squash and a green (!!!) salad with hints of orange. Crystal's orange salad had some token green in it. The potatoes I was making were late in coming, but still managed to be eaten.

As soon as the first guests arrived, we were off and playing Guitar Hero again. Portal is a single player game, but well, Guitar Hero is good for both players and fans, provided the players actually act out what's being performed on screen. Kris kept dressing as a scantily-clad bass player with big hair. I wonder if he's trying to tell me something.

The goal of this whole endeavour has to be to see if we can get everybody's poop orange tomorrow. Because that would be entertainingly funny.

Update: Gah! Almost forgot one of the most entertaining parts of the evening. As Crystal and Nick were getting ready for the hot tub, Nick spied Andy's yearbooks in the guest room closet. As I entered the bathroom to change into my "swimsuit," I heard Nick ask, "Should we look?" When I exited, the two of them were furiously flipping through the two yearbooks, my year and Andy's year, trying to find our pictures. I found them, and managed to show them to Crystal and Nick before Andy surprised us from behind, none of us had noticed his arrival. "Uh, I don't think Kris wants those out."

Yeah, neither Kris nor my mom.

Chookie and Martha are back!


Chookie and Martha are back from their six month tour around the world. Chookie's car has been parked in front of our house for the duration of their trip, except when Doyle was using it, much to Kris' chagrin. My thought was, heck, we have four cars, what's one more? Ah, so difficult to take the Midwest hick out of the Midwest girl.

At least none of the vehicles is up on blocks.


Keith and Katie hosted a welcome home dinner for them, so communal dinner is reignited with homemade WhiteCastle burgers of varying meats, cheeses, and breads. Tasty burgers, and more desserts than you can eat in one night. I may have overdosed on sugar tonight.

At least the sugar crash will put me to sleep tonight.

Seeing Chookie and Martha was absolutely wonderful tonight. It's funny how good friends can be gone for six months and, when they return, can slip right back into life, into conversations, as if they were always here. I guess in some way they always were, just more difficult to have the spontaneous conversation with them is all.

BLJ in town!


Megan organized communal dinner as Ben and Lisa came into town for a near-week visit. Ben and Lisa are planning on staying with us for most of their trip, and we are waaaaay excited about their stay.

Lisa once made a comment when we visited them a while ago, about how, even after the long absense, we were able to just slide back into the comfort zone of our friendships when we were together again.

Lisa said it far more eloquently and succinctly than I just did.

This evening, I was totally overwhelmed with the same feeling Lisa expressed as we arranged for dinner with Megan and Lisa. Lisa and I talked about topics that are so personal for me, ones that I hold so close to my chest. Yet, talking to her about them made them less worrisome, less shameful in some cases, more bearable in others.

I miss greatly having someone I could talk to this way, knowing there isn't any judgement, only a desire to listen and help.



Doyle was heading off with Paul on Wednesday, so suggested we have communal dinner tonight instead. Short notice, but lots of fun, nonetheless. Keith and Katie hosted, so all of us went to Assguard for dinner.

Before dinner started, we had the choice of ultimate (the open college CSTV broadcast) or Madagascar. Tragically Andy and I were unable to overcome the collective, and Madagascar won.

One of the characters in Madagascar was a hippo, which prompted a conversation something like

"Hippos are the number one killers of people in Africa."

Someone not listening fully answered, "Who are?"


"Hippos with AIDS, maybe."

Boggles the seahag mind


Keith: "I tell you, I'm no good at this game," after scoring 15 to everyone else's 2 in the first round.

Me: "I want to be ..." gesture quotes with my hands "not good at this game, too."

Last night, Kris was off playing poker with the boys. He does this so rarely that I'm perfectly content to let

However, with him gone, I jumped at the suggestion Megan made to have in impromptu dinner at someone's house, maybe a pie and cookies thrown in there somewhere. I offered Krikitt Downs, but, well, when Katie offered Assguard, I couldn't help but think, "Evening. No dogs. Friends. No dogs. Cute babies. No dogs. Hmmmmmmm.... no dogs," and rescinded my house offer.

Tortilla press, in action.


Megan bought me a tortilla press, so we used it tonight at communal dinner (mmmmmmmm, tortillas - made the low-fat version instead of the full fat version, and they tasted surprisingly good).

With the press, instead of spending about 30 - 60 seconds per testales, we spent less than 15 seconds per (more like 5 seconds per), making dinner much more enjoyable for the cooks.

Downside? The hinge bolt is already about to give way.

How is it that the pictures look so crappy on the sidekick's screen, but turn out pretty well on the computer screen? Oh, yeah, crappy resolution on the LCD screen.