Our party went very well yesterday. We didn't do much planning aside from hiring the Mongolian Grill to cater and buying enough drinks to water an army.
We'd invited about 100 people to celebrate the departure of three JFSOs from post in the next 3 weeks. We extended the party to include Katherine's 9th birthday and it also (for us) was for the departure of Ryan and Laura on the 19th for a trip home and for Amy who's being medvac'd home to deliver her baby too. We were glad to see so many friendly faces gathered together and were especially pleased that the Ambassador came and stayed for several hours, along with the DCM.
Our home was the venue for several reasons. We wanted it here, our home is spacious and as we opened the party to entire families (of course!) the playground next door was perfect for 20+ kids to run around. The caterer was wonderful. They arrived at 1 p.m. to set up and provided everything we'd need. Originally eight 10-seat tables complete with tableclothes, goblets, silverware and slipcovered chairs with candles and beautiful floral arrangements in the center... we cut it down to seven tables because the eighth really crowded our indoor space. We ended with 2 tables indoors and five on the patio and along the covered driveway. Folks arrived in tshirts, jeans and sandals and felt out of place. They shouldn't have! The whole point was a relaxed get-together with friends just to enjoy an evening. Just because there were tablecloths shouldn't have worried anyone, they came with the package. But next time we know to ask what sort of decorative set-up is standard and perhaps we can request something more fitting.
People poured in, the grills (actually giant woks) roared to life, food was eaten, kids ran everywhere without becoming a nuisance, and if what our guests said was true, everyone had a wonderful time. Many asked us about the bar we'd purchased in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We knew we wanted to clear our the alcohol we've been holding on to for a long while so we'd put it all out only to discover at the end that, much like the loaves and fishes, we had more alcohol at the end than we'd started with. Our guests were very generous. We talked a lot about New Zealand, about Togo (one guest did his second tour in Togo back in its heyday) and about our time in Manila. Since we'll be in NoVA for so long we'll see many people over the summer. And if not this summer, then at another post or another time in DC. Again, a wonderful thing about this sort of life is that even though we leave so many people behind, and so often, it is never "goodbye" but only "until next time".
We had ordered our own desserts to complement the flan and tapioca in the standard menu, a couple cakes from the Pastelleria at San Antonio Plaza and a birthday cake from Goldilocks for Katherine. The round chocolate layer cake was a huge hit with the adults and the birthday cake disappeared with all the kids around. On the Pastelleria cakes we'd asked them to print Bon Voyage, Hasta la Vista and well, I don't have Arabic script, but what translated to Goodbye in Arabic. All the cakes were eaten before the writing was even noticed! That's OK, I didn't mind. We did call everyone together and sing a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday to an extremely blushed Katherine. She wasn't expecting that and it made her happy.
The party started at 4, most people had arrived by 5 and several tables worth stayed until 9. From my perspective it was a huge success as we were both relaxed, the kids were busy, the house was loud and full and neither of us had a headache at the end of it. I did have to bully Ian into eating something while the woks were hot but aside from that, it was perfect. Even better, I did no cleaning up after, the caterers and housekeeper did it all.
Have I even explained what a Mongolian barbeque is? Fresh and raw foods are layed out and each person gets a bowl and fills it with a variety of foodstuffs. A sauce menu at the end lets you choose the kind of flavor you'd like and one of the staff spoons in a scoop of this and that (you know, soy sauce, brown sugar, mongolian sauce, chopped garlic, etc). Then it's off to the wok where the chef tosses everything onto the sizzling pan, cooks it up and puts it into a clean bowl. Grab some chopsticks and you're off and eating. It's a perfect menu for those who want something extremely flavorful or for what most kids wanted, a bowl of plain rice.
We bid farewell to the last of our guests and then dealt with the sleepover girls which I already wrote about. It was our first foray into a party larger than a small dinner party and we enjoyed ourselves immensely. Not to say all large parties are like that and I know that when we throw representational affairs it will be drastically different, but we took the safe road of surrounding ourselves with friends and we're so glad we did.
We felt like quite the adults.