Yesterday I barely looked at a computer or a camera. Instead, I spent my day hitting the grocery store early and coming home and cooking for the menfolk. And the kidfolk, too.
Yesterday was a Brew Day at our house. My husband, in case you aren't aware, brews beer as a hobby, and he's pretty damn good. He and his friend John have been doing this for years. They hadn't been at it more than a year or so when I came into the picture, so I've observed and experienced many of the ups and downs as they have fine tuned their process.
Currently most of the brewing equipment is kept at our house, so this is where Brew Day takes place. Yesterday they made 25 gallons, which will be divided among the 5 guys in total who were here to help (and eat. and play darts. and drink beer).
Bill had asked me to make Buffalo Ball Sandwiches, so I picked up roughly a ton of ground beef and pork and veal at the store (okay, more like 6 lbs) and torpedo rolls and additional hot sauce. I made a ton of meatballs and put about 2/3 of them in the buffalo sauce and the other third in regular (and yes, canned!) spaghetti sauce for the kids.
Ah, yes, the kids. In addition to my husband's friends, we also had, at long last, a little playmate for Julia. One of the guys brought his 3-year-old daughter and Julia was beside herself with joy because she finally had a little GIRL to play with. Sure, she can hang with the boys, but it's nice to be with your own kind at times, too.
I have to back up for a minute about the whole girl thing. Initially there were going to be two girls coming over – the 3-year old and an 8-year-old daughter of one of the other guys. On Friday when I shared the news with Julia and Alex, I naturally got two responses. Julia gasped, her eyes got wide, and she was speechless with joy. Alex rolled his eyes and groaned, and said "Two ladies? Now I won't have anyone to play with!"
(Excuse me while I laugh again at that. "Ladies." hahahahaha)
So I said, "Alex, there have been a lot of times when your friends come over and Julia doesn't have any girls to play with."
And he said "Yeah, but ladies and boys can't play together!"
(where does he get this "ladies" thing???)
I said "Sure they can!"
"Not this boy!" my man's man boy-child replied.
So that was the plan. And since he has had a sore throat for a few days and hasn't felt all that great anyway, if he wanted to spend the day just lying on the couch, that's fine with me.
Anyway, back to the show.
The guys all arrived at different times. John first, and then Peter (who was going to bring his 8-year-old daughter, but she didn't come after all – probably to Alex's great relief), and eventually the others. David and his 3-year-0ld daughter arrived late morning, and she was adorable – dark hair, dark eyes, serious little 3-year-old face. She was eager to meet Julia, and headed on downstairs like she'd been here before.
Now, the reason David brought Jackie (or Jakey, as Julia called her) over was partly because he said Julia was a lot like Jackie. And we all thought it would be interesting to put two headstrong three-year-old girls together for a day just to see who survived it. Amazingly enough, they got along very well. I think at first, Julia was just SO happy to have a girl her own age to play with, she didn't care who decided what. Bill was downstairs when the two girls first started playing together, and Julia handed her beloved pink elephant to Jackie in an instant sign of friendship. She was pulling out toys for them to play with, dumping everything all over the floor – a vast smorgasbord of Playskool people and animals. Alex stayed on the couch and tried to ignore them.
There were little flare-ups here and there, but the girls managed to sort things out with no hair-pulling, biting, or hitting.
Jackie was definitely Julia's kindred spirit. She said what she thought with no hesitation. At one point she pointed at a napkin Alex had left on the table. It had a purple blueberry-applesauce stain on it. She said to me – and she speaks in a rush – "Could you take that nakkin away – it's freakin me out." I was too busy trying not to laugh to realize I was now being bossed around by two preschoolers instead of just one.
I fed them their lunch before I fed all the menfolk – mini meatball grinders and french fries. They all ate the fries first and just nibbled at the meatballs. And then they were done. And off and playing.
Toward the end of the visit, you could see little cracks starting. Jackie was pushing Julia's little princess baby stroller around the house (and around and around and around) and finally Julia wanted to play with the penguin (who had been strapped into the stroller the whole time). Julia reached for the penguin and Jackie immediately pulled the stroller back and said "No! I'm playing with it!" "But I want to!" "No!"
I intervened – "Maybe you can SHARE. You know, TAKE TURNS."
So that almost worked, until Jackie said "You can borrow it (the stroller) but you have to give it back because it's mine."
And Julia roared back "NO IT'S NOT, IT'S MINE! I GOT IT FOR CHRISTMAS!"
Hey! Do you girls want to play with Play-Doh?
And when it was time to go home, Jackie DID NOT want to go. I told her we'd love to have her come over again some time. But she was tragically heartbroken and inconsolable as only a 3-year-old can be as her father put her coat and hat and mittens on and led her dejected little form out the door.
They were really very cute together – those little girl voices…. And the little girl screaming. Bill played an impromptu game of hide and seek with them – he was a roaring monster of some kind and whenever he found them he'd ROAR and the two of them would SCREEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAMMM with terror and glee as they raced to another room to escape.
So that was the junior edition play date. Very successful.
Grown men version went well too. The beer was made without any major problems – which was nice because Bill's had a sinus headache since Thursday night and woke up in such horrible pain Saturday he didn't think he's be able to participate at all. I said I thought the cold outside would actually help matters, and so he went and sat with an icepack on his head to jump start the recovery process. And it worked. (yay, me!) Abrupt weather changes will bring about these headaches, I've noticed, and we've been going from wet and warm(ish) to cold and dry over the last couple of days.
Anyway, the beer-making went well, and lunch was a hit. And not just the sandwiches. I asked Bill the day before what he wanted along with the buffalo balls, and he came up with onion rings. So that's what I made.
And they were the hit of the party. Not a one left. Well, no, I take that back. There was one left – Julia had tried it and didn't like it and threw it back in the warming drawer while I was taking the rest of them out for lunch. But that doesn't count.
I also made a spicy sauce to dip them in – a mixture of mayo and sriracha and lemon juice.
For the onion rings, I bought some large, sweet onions – a perfect onion ring shape. And I'd read a recipe somewhere about soaking them in buttermilk, like some people do when they make fried chicken. So I sliced the onions into half-inch wide rings and soaked them in buttermilk while I was shaping the meatballs. Then all I did was dredge the wet onion rings in a mixture of flour and salt and pepper before frying them in 350-360 degree oil. Cooked them til they were crispy and golden brown, and kept them warm til I'd fried them all. Simple as anything.
I have another onion. I'm almost thinking of making them again today, just so I can take pictures. Well, that, and so I can eat them again, too.