Hard to believe, but I have been hosting monthly dinners for 14 years! That is 168 themed dinners that my girlfriends and I have had over the 14 years. A lot has changed over those years of course -- many of us have gotten married, had children, bought homes, changed careers, and so much more. What hasn't changed is our joy in getting together, even if it is only once a month. Unfortunately, our celebration this year was on Zoom due to COVID-19, but we still had a good time.
For our "anniversary" dinner, I typically try to come up with a theme that reflects the number of years. I must say for 14, I was completely stumped. Sometimes a number will go with a movie (13 Going on 30 was last year or Seven Dwarfs was year seven), but 14 was a challenge. I brainstormed with a friend, and decided on Sonnets - they are 14 lines! It is a very "English-teachery" theme, but a few of us are English teachers, so what the heck; I went with it!
Invite: Being the over-achiever that I am, I decided to write my own sonnet to put on the invitation. For those of you that don't know, a Shakespearian sonnet has 14 lines, 10 syllables in each line, and a rhyme scheme of ABAB, CDCD, EFEF, GG. Piece of cake, right? Nope. It was bit of a challenge and I only had the weekend to pull this whole dinner together, so it's a good thing my friends aren't grading me! It was fun to create, and I added Shakespeare wearing a party hat to the invitation for added fun. I downloaded a free font called Shakespeare First Folio for the text. Just FYI if you use this font, the "u" looks like a "v" and the "j" looks like an "i" in this font. I had to switch to a different font just for certain letters.
With COVID, not being together at one table for these dinners to share a bottle (or two or three) of wine really bums me out, but we've adapted. For my mini wine bottle labels this month, I decided to alter a popular Shakespeare quote. Switching the "thine" or "wine," I made a label that read "This above all / To WINE own self be true."
Menu: I typically try to be creative and make each food item somehow match the theme for these dinners, but a sonnet theme made this more challenging than usual. I decided instead to make popular foods from England, as Shakespeare was a Londoner. I wrote another sonnet about the food itself instead of naming each menu item separately.
The main course was bangers and mash. I followed this recipe. I bought sausages from the grocery, not true bangers. The sauce and the onions were delicious (and I don't normally like onions). The guests really liked this recipe. Along with the bangers and mash, I served fresh carrots and peas.
For dessert, I made a caramel brownie chocolate trifle. I bought plastic mason jars from Michaels to put the trifle in, so it was easy to transport. The trifle was super easy to make. I baked brownies and crumbled them up to layer with the other yummy ingredients. Crumbled brownies, then a caramel drizzle, chocolate pudding, whipped cream, then cut up Heath bar. I repeated these layers until the mason jar was filled and Heath bar was on top. Helpful hint: Pipe the pudding and whipped cream in to avoid messing up the sides of your mason jar. It gets a cleaner look.
Although the menu sonnet included a stanza on dessert, the lid of the mason jar was so plain, I decided to add a tag. I used Shakespeare's line "Something wicked this way comes" and added in a word to read "something wicked(ly) chocolate this way comes."
Favor: I made Shakespeare "books" out of cardstock and a box of chocolates for a parting gift. I found a box of chocolates at the dollar store and designed the dimensions of the book to fit that box. On the spine I had the title of our evening "Sonnet XIV - Ode to 14 Years" and I used a famous line from Romeo and Juliet on the cover. "Good night, good night / Parting is such sweet sorrow/ That I shall say good night / til it be morrow."
So happy to have been able to host these dinners for the past 14 years and to have built such amazing friendships with these ladies over those years. A final rhyming couplet to end this post and dinner: "To dine or not to dine -- no question here. / We loved to celebrate our fourteenth year!"