Book Club Party: Where the Crawdads Sing

I joined a book club!

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It was a happy accident–one of those chain of events where one social engagement leads to another…

And here I am! I had attended one event so far, and I found myself agreeing to host the next one!

First off, let me just say that Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens was spectacular! As a work-from-home mom (with a toddler), it is nearly impossible to find time to read! But with a book club you have a (slight) sense of accountability, and between that and some poetically visual writing, I found a way to finish all 368 pages without skimming.

In this day and age, readers are desensitized and bombarded by literary cliches, but Delia Owens did find a way to surprise me with her craft and storyline! The way she weaves expressive words out of air, as if spinning straw into gold, makes my heart full. The lush, marsh/swamp setting out of North Carolina seemingly sprang to life!

Delia made hosting a Where the Crawdads Sing Book Club Party fun!

When it came to hosting my first ever book club event, I made a lot of mistakes, but the best thing my husband said to me (in the midst of a slight freak-out session the night before), was that it “doesn’t have to be perfect.” YOU ARE HUMAN, YOU ARE ALLOWED TO MAKE MISTAKES. Let out a deep breath.

Do you judge other people when everything isn’t perfect at their home? Oh wait, you do? you’re kind of a b****. Haha! Well me, personally, I don’t. I’m relieved when I see someone else who is imperfect, like a flicker of empathetic camaraderie. It reminds me that we’re all human and we can try our best, but that’s pretty much it.

If you are ever crazy enough to volunteer To host something–remember–try your best, but don’t expect perfection. Let minor mishaps go with a shrug. That being said, I learned a lot this time around. And although the worst case scenario happened to me at this party (my main course was ruined)… I came out alive & the whole shebang was still considered “a hit.”

THE MENU:

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I’m a graphic designer & I do this for a living, so don’t expect to be able to design this in fifteen minutes like I did! But I had fun and wanted to share my menu.

What Failed: (1) The Loveless Cafe Biscuits (I didn’t allow enough time to hand-roll biscuits), so I served on-hand Hawaiian rolls instead (2) The Broiled Shrimp (the glass casserole of shrimp exploded on Broil in my oven–do not broil food in a glass or stoneware container–I repeat–DO NOT BROIL FOOD IN A GLASS OR STONEWARE CONTAINER–METAL ONLY). When these two things went wrong, they felt like a disaster to me (the hostess), but no one genuinely cared. The End Game is that your guests have fun. There was alcohol, so we all survived and giggled along the way.

THE EXPERIENCE:

As a hostess, I believe in tantalizing the senses: SIGHT, SMELL, SOUND, TASTE & TOUCH.

I had Creole/Swamp music & swamp sounds playing in addition to a swampy YouTube Playlist, swamp decor & firefly lights twinkling, the aroma of delicious food cooking, and an entire swampy ambience complete with dangling leaves and flickering LED candles.

PREP PHOTOS:

I didn’t get photos of EVERYTHING (hostess mode distracted me), but here is the gist of the menu I used:

Roasted Olive Oil Asparagus

Broiled Cajun Shrimp (BROIL IN METAL, NOT A GLASS OR STONEWARE CASSEROLE DISH)

Slow Cooker Cheese Grits

Vodka Jell-O-Shots

White Peach Sangria

My Friends Brought Over DELICIOUS Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs, Vegan Fried-Green Tomatoes + Pimento Cheese, and Southern Pies + Ice Cream. Yum!

I must say, my new Book Club Friends are awesome, and living in the South is proving to be… not so bad!

 

Mommy Review: Lucky Ladd Farms, An “Overwhelming” Experience

After we all piled into the Jeep at the end of our first (and perhaps only) visit to Lucky Ladd Farms, my dad said bluntly, “Well… that was overwhelming.”

Let’s rewind.

I love autumn. It’s the best. My favorite. My birthday month. There are pumpkins, yummy food, pumpkin patches, sweets, and colorful leaves crunching under your feet in the chilled air. There is also Halloween, of course!

I absolutely adore this season, and as of September 2018, I have officially been in Tennessee for two whole years.

I have desperately been trying to create some traditions for my growing family, so that our new state can feel like home. It’s been a trying journey. It still doesn’t feel like home to me yet, especially after last weekend.

Last year, during our first autumn in Tennessee with a baby (who was four months old at the time), we went to Walden Pumpkin Farm in Smyrna, Tennessee. It was the peaceful type of pumpkin patch experience you strive for with a little one. The scenery was beautifully autumnal, and it felt like an authentic farm. I really, really wish we had gone back there this year.

But nooooo, we took the advice of the locals. We knew so many people with kids raved about “Lucky Ladds” and how amazing it was.

So we decided to try something new this year, and lived to regret it.

When we first arrived, I was stunned by how crowded the entrance was. I immediately felt like I had walked into Chuck E. Cheese. After waiting in line a bit (which surprisingly wasn’t too bad), the place was put on “lockdown” just as we were getting our tickets. No one was allowed to leave or enter the premises.

An announcement came on the overhead speakers, “We have a lost girl, six years old. Her name is Cari.”

The place was so crowded, children were getting lost?

Luckily, they found her after fifteen minutes (probably the scariest fifteen minutes of her mother’s life), but it was a foreshadowing of what was to come.

We proceeded to the corn maze, which was the only part of the trip I thoroughly enjoyed. My son perched on my husband’s shoulders while we wandered through the corn fields with grandpa. The deeper we got into the maze, the more peaceful it became. You could hear bugs and crickets in the abandoned areas, and I genuinely felt I was at a farm in the country. That part was nice.

Then my dad went to go get a soda (which took a half hour, because they don’t take bulk orders and then process them at the food stands — they take each individual order and complete it before moving on to the next one — super inefficient and slow — cultural things like this make me miss California). It was at this point that we lost grandpa in the crowd, and none of us had cell service out there so we couldn’t find him until way later after we saw all the animals.

When we did find grandpa, we went to the corn pit, which is exactly how it sounds — a giant bin of dried corn kernels for kids to play in, which I shall endearingly call a “hillbilly ball pit.” It is a genius invention, and all the young kids seemed to love rolling around in corn as if it were snow. There were trucks and toys for the kids to shovel corn around, and my one-year-old seemed to enjoy playing in the corn.

After a while, I noticed an unsupervised toddler in the corner shoveling kernels into his mouth and spitting them out, which seemed like a choking hazard. Then a very rambunctious and large girl (who looked a little old to be in the pit) nearly trampled over my son while she stomped around. It was at this point I removed my son from the pit, as it was starting to get a little rowdy.

My husband went to grab food (another brutally slow experience) while my dad and I took my son to Toddler Town. He did enjoy the baby swings for a bit, and we were able to hide and eat our food on a batch of benches tucked away by the trees. Of course, as soon as we discovered the hiding spot, more people started flocking to the benches.

By the time we made it to the giant Connect 4 games (my son was also intrigued by this — he found some entertainment in moving the giant plastic game pieces from one peg to another)… we were getting pretty fried. The crowds and chaos had taken their toll on our mental (and physical energy).

My husband decided to take our son on the giant slide that involves sitting on a burlap bag and sliding down to the ground. I was excited to perch at the bottom of the hill and film them going down. I found the perfect little spot and set my phone to record. My husband waved and I was excited to capture them on film.

Just as I was filming, a rude girl with an excessive amount of makeup for a pumpkin patch trip and an SLR camera shoved her way in front of me and took a bunch of photos of her own stupid family members. In my cell phone video, you can actually hear me groan as she obstructed my view.

It was by that point I was done.

I didn’t move out of Orange County, CA, so that I could feel like I was at Disneyland without the cool rides.

I tried to get a last photo of our son by a pumpkin, but he wasn’t having it. He was tired, cranky, and exhausted. We all shared the sentiment so we headed for the car.

Maybe it wasn’t always this way. Maybe the same thing is happening to Nashville that was happening to all of California: it became too popular too quickly… like your favorite little corner bar you used to love that got overrun by hordes of hipsters… Great for business, bad peace and quiet.

I’m not sure, all I know is… I need more than a year before I will be ready for an experience like that again. Maybe when my son is older, it won’t be so draining. Maybe I give it another shot down the road.

But not next year. Next year I’m going back to Walden Pumpkin Farm.