The failed toffee apple sauce that didn't really

I went to my parents on Friday to help prepare for the joint party for my dad and my brother, the first turned 60 and the second turned 18 last week.

I didn’t get the best of starts; I decided I wasn’t prepared to take a bus to town that would take 45 minutes while I could walk to town in about an hour, so I did, and I froze! I forgot just how cold the wind was going to be, and leather jacket, jeans and gloves notwithstanding, I got really really cold!

That said, I got the council tax paid and my books back to the library before buying the final gift (brother’s) and heading for the bus station – to miss the bus by five minutes. These busses go once an hour, so I had 55 minutes to kill, and the greengorcers I wanted to go to has closed down and become a nail bar, so that wasn’t much help either. I went into Iceland for a bit and got a cheesecake for the cooks to share (yes, cooks plural!) before we plunged into preparing for the party on Saturday. It didn’t use up much time though, and I was still shivering in the bus station waiting for the bus to come for a good twenty minutes.

Anyway. The bus came in on time, I climbed on, bag and baggage, paid for my ticket, kicked my overnight case up the bus since it had fallen over and the proceeded to donate the entire contents of my wallet to the bus floor. Being impatient I’d forgotten to rezip my wallet and so when I reached down to put my bags and case tidy by the seat, the wallet tipped over and everything went everywhere! Collected the change, huffed and puffed to myself – at myself, and settled down to listen to some music while admiring the countryside and the stormclouds whilst relatively protected from all of it. The rest of the journey wasn’t too bad, no missed connections, no scarey people climbing on (occupational hazard of using public transport, “the public” are perfectly entitled to use it no matter what they look or smell like).

Got off the bus in Daventry and marched into the nicely located Tesco to get the various bits and bobs needed for my contribution to the food. Interesting list, brown sugar, butter, lemons, lemon juice, basil, rosemary, mint, mangoes, chocolate topping. I have long learned never to assume people carry the same things in their pantry as you, so if something can’t be faked, buy it, or take it from your own pantry! Halfway round the fruit and veg in tesco, Mum rang to find out where I was and met me in there to sort out what I needed to get and what she needed to get. Paid for the stuff (nice store, customer service not bad either!) and climbed in the car for the final leg to the house.

Mum and I sat down for coffee with MG and K and shared out a sticky toffee cheesecake that blew all of our diets out of the window for the day, even as I promised that my mango dessert for tomorrow would repair all of that! We tidied away all our shopping and got dinner sorted, and then I plunged up to my elbows in making mango sorbet, which was ridiculously simple to do for such a nice tasting pudding, and it was fat free, gluten free and dairy free to boot, which meant it ticked all the diet boxes needed for the people we were feeding. Having got that in the freezer I started homemade lemonade (courtesy of Molly of Orangette while MG helped me get chocolate chip cookies going; again, courtesy of another one of Molly’s recipes. I have to say I was surprised how chocolatey they were when we got the dough finally mixed – and I now sport two plasters on my left thumb because of them!

On Saturday morning, sisters B and K arrived bearing good things in boxes and on trays and every female in sight joined the fray in the kitchen. K’s fiance C showed his face, kissed his girl, said hello, and departed to give male assistance outside in the cold with barbecues and chairs. Not all the men rushed to join that fray though, KS and NS stayed in to do things like make marinade for chicken and chop onions for burgers – as I understand it, since it’s for barbecuing; a manly form of cooking, this kind of prep is OK! We girls stuck to thinks like arranging salad on platters, baking off cookies, icing a monster birthday cake, straining and making up homemade lemonade, finishing various desserts and assembling virgin punch (lots of children, so no alcoholic drinks in the punch)

Brother S has massive amounts of imagination when it comes to gifts, and we were rolling around laughing as the birthday boys opened their many and wonderful gifts. He also has a cracking sense of humour, which probably helped with the gift buying a lot. Things like Dad’s favourite bottle of pop, cheese, a pineappple, ground coffee, number candles for D. To be honest I can’t remember all of them, but the whole experience was just great – “I had £X to spend and I finished up with 4p change at the end, how cool is that?” he said at the end. I got insense for the younger and ground coffee and a framed picture of a photo of my own for the older, less imaginative, and less bulky for all the journeys I’d made to get them to the right location!

Just after 1pm the grills got fired up, and not long after that everyone else arrived. It’s just as well that the house my parents live in is so big, KS and NS were grilling away and food had been announced so folks were going outside to get there burgers and chicken and stuff, when the heavens opened and everyone got drenched! Needless to say a group of people grabbed the food and ran for the kitchen, and the barbecue was continued from the top of the six ring stove! From that first sharp rain shower we got more rain and hail, so sixty-odd people continued the party within the ground floor of the house and we left the garden to freeze by itself. K’s salads got demolished, closely followed by B’s trifle, sticky toffee tart and my cookies and mango sorbet. Even the “failed” toffee apple sauce made by B was a hit, on cookies, sorbet and pretty much anything really!

When the eating slowed, we decided it was time for “The Cake”, and after various speeches and much laughter and posing like it was a wedding cake, the cake was cut twice. Dad cut vertical, D cut horizontal, and again there was a great deal of laughter.

For a “do” where no alcohol was served – Dad’s choice – it was very full of laughter, and I think I’ll remember this for a very long time, even without all the photos and this post.

There was a general air of mates meeting up and catching up and having a good laugh, right down to the dead-leg competition between the lads near the end – crazy amounts of laughter going on, and all in total good fun.

Going home was a little easier than coming, connections worked with me the whole time, although I had a grumpy passenger right in front of me on the bus who turned and stared at me every time I moved. I mean, those seats are not really designed for comfort and there’s no legroom if you’re more than 5’4″, and I’m considerably more than that, with a good proportion of it being leg! That aside, it was OK though, with just a chilly twenty minute wait for the final bus – no way was I going to walk it home – part of it taken up by telling a partly drunk homeless person that I wasn’t about to give him money, that if he wanted to eat I’d rather buy him food than give him money to use in possibly other ways.

All in all, it’s been a good weekend. There were down moments, but when it’s public like this I try not to share tham. I’d rather give people something a little more positive to read and not drag them down even farther than thay might already be.

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