Stories of this Canadian girl's adventures exploring Europe...join me!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

a great reason to party...friends, fantasy, a finite life

This weekend I was again reminded how short life can be...how heartbreakingly sad. I feel a combination of incredible despair for friends of mine, but at the same time a heart full of warmth because my home was filled with wonderful lovely people on Friday night. It was a good reason to party...


advent, the anniversary of my time living in Germany, and the acknowledgement of older and new souls who have enriched, enveloped and energized my time in this new place.


My dad opened the world of travel up for me, but it was my mother who showed me the bliss of a packed kitchen full of friends, a table full of simple, tasty food, and memories made on a cozy (often wine-fueled), laughter-rich evening of just being together.


I love throwing a party...and in the weeks before Christmas is my all-time favourite time for one! The first thing I make sure to have is a pot of mulled wine on the stove. The scent of cloves, cinnamon, oranges blending with red wine and a hint of sugar, wafting through the hallways to greet guests just makes me happy (and them too hopefully).


Now, I am not a great cook, that's for sure. Honestly, I'm quite lazy, but I do love planning what kind of simple, good food I can make, which drinks to have on offer, and how I will decorate so that people feel welcome and cozy. I mean, is there anything more cozy than a basket full of baguette and platters of Italian cheese and salamis?


It doesn't always work out, but I try to make sure that there is more than enough, which is something I also have from my mom. My brother and I loved her parties because there would always be days of leftovers afterwards.


For this year's advent party, I had chosen an Italian theme because....well, why not? There is a wonderful little Italian supermarket close to where I work. On one evening last week I went in to pick up Italian sausages, Salsiccia, along with great big slabs of Pecorino and Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto and Truffle Salami. A bonus of party-throwing in Germany is that food and drink is much less expensive than in Canada.


This is an easy, very tasty fingerfood recipe for the slow cooker...a great contraption for serving warm food over a few hours:

Italian Sausage with Peppers & Onions

Cut sausages in half, brown in oil on all sides, remove from saucepan
Add sliced bell peppers, garlic and onions and cook for a few minutes
Transfer everything to the slow cooker, add a can of diced tomatoes, salt and pepper
Cook on low for 5 hours
Keep in the slow cooker and let guests help themselves

Serve with mini ciabatta buns toasted in the oven, and napkins


Then I basically filled every available surface with dips, crackers, tartellettes, mini quiche, olives, Grissini, and other such simple good things, so that guests can continuously nibble and munch to their hearts content.


One thing I just learned is that drink options are very much appreciated...two types of beer, two kinds of red wine, and of course, non-alcoholic beverages are important. Going with the Italian theme, I bought Italian sodas when I saw them on sale...but mostly I just found them pretty.


There is a great German word, which is wished upon others a lot during the advent weeks...that Christmastime be 'besinnlich'. The best translation is a mashup of 'tranquil' and 'comtemplative'.


I won't be home for Christmas this year, but I incorporated some items from my mother (who passed away 11 years ago) into my decorating plans, to bring the feeling of 'home' home. Pine branches filled her handpainted milkcans, large and small, stuffed into pails and spread out on windowsills. Simple, smelly, sublime.


Sometimes there are special treats that arrive hand delivered, such as homemade desserts made by a friend, or a yummy gin from a special place picked out just for yours truly. 


When the last guests have left, I love to quietly clean up, even in the wee hours. It's peaceful work...having time to reflect on the conversations, the catching up, the stories...and being thankful.

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