Saturday, May 04, 2013

Happy Hour

It is Saturday morning and I am sitting in a clean kitchen, which is remarkable on any day but especially today considering the fact that at 6:30 last night, almost every surface of the kitchen and dining room was covered with dirty dishes. I didn't count, but I think we fed around 20 people dinner and drinks last night (Titus told me that there were six kids, and if you don't count three babies, I think he was right). The mess is part of our weekly rhythm, it's our Friday evening Happy Hour.

It started on a bit of a whim; I think I mentioned something like it to JR and before I knew it, he had issued an invitation on Facebook. A few people showed up for fresh chips, homemade salsa and margaritas. I had a pot of soup on the stove for us and one other family, and we fed it to all the stragglers. We did it again the next week, only I planned on soup for everybody. We have been doing it for several months now, with no plans to stop.

I really can't tell you how much I like that this has become a part of our lives. But I'm going to try, or at least tell you why.

First, I like that it plays perfectly to part of our vision for our family to be hospitable and to share from the abundance of what God has given us. I may not work outside the home, but I can consider it part of my job to buy chip and margarita supplies every week, to tidy up the house and make a pot of soup on Fridays. I love that it plays perfectly, too, into the complementarity that JR and I have in our marriage. He told somebody recently that Happy Hour wouldn't happen without him because he does most of the work, and he expected some backlash from me, but it's absolutely true. He is on his feet cooking chips, making drinks and generally hosting people sometimes for 4 or 5 hours. And when the dust settles, he is usually the one doing most of the cleanup. If it were just me, it would be a burden and it would have been a one-or-two-time event. He is gifted in this area of hosting and joyfully serving, and I love to see him shine (while pouring me a drink).

I like that Happy Hour fits well into ours and our friends' lifestyles. Once you have kids, you're not quite as free to meet friends for a drink after work; there's the issue of what to do with your kids if you're going somewhere not kid-friendly, and even if you can bring your kids, you can't really enjoy just hanging out because, um, public environments with two year olds? You're playing offense and defense; you never let your guard down; you're entertaining and doing damage control; you're training and disciplining and threatening and begging and bribing and wishing that you hadn't just spent $5 on that grilled cheese that your son said he wanted and now won't touch. At our house? Feed your kid chips for dinner and check on him every now and then to make sure he's getting along with the other kids and not totally destroying Tito's room. Period. Need a refill on that margarita? Is your husband out of town and you need a little adult interaction and a place to take a breath from the kids? Have another drink!

For our part, we talk to Tito about what a privilege it is to get to share his toys with his friends. We talk about how neat it is that he has so many friends (we're still working on the "plays well with others" bit) and that he gets to see them and have fun with them. He sees new ways to play with his toys (like shining his nightlight turtle into the toilet with all the lights turned off: yellow stars in the potty water!). He starts talking about daddy making chips and his friends coming over on Friday mornings, and yesterday he spent several hours watching for his friends out the front window.

I like that Happy Hour provides a place for people to connect, meeting new people and deepening existing relationships. There's no pressure, no agenda, no timeline. It's different every week. We keep saying that one of these weeks, nobody's going to show up, but it hasn't happened yet. Our house usually feels closer to the verge of overflowing.

I like that Happy Hour is counter-cultural in many ways. We discover this when we put out an open invitation and people still feel like they need a personal invite (we are happy to affirm the open invite to people personally). We discover this when people are uncertain about a format or agenda. We discover this when we invite people we don't know very well and they get weirded out by being invited to a relative stranger's home. We human beings have a deep, innate longing for connection and community, but we American humans have lost the art of finding community in homes that are protected by privacy fences and garage doors that close before we are even out of our cars. Hip kids are rediscovering community in bars and coffee shops, but that doesn't do much for those of us with kids (see above). Despite the strange looks, we will keep inviting people because we have neat friends and we want to share them with you.

I like that Happy Hour isn't OUR Happy Hour. It may be at our house, but it belongs to everybody who comes, who have made it part of their life's rhythm, too. To those whose kids start talking about chips and Tito's room at 10 am on Fridays. To those who stop by for one drink on their way home from work and to those who stay past my bedtime. To those who just walk in our front door and to those who help themselves to whatever they need in our house and to those who are brave enough to venture in on their own for the first time. To those who are our old friends, to those who are our new friends, to those who share our vision and to those who just want to have fun.

We put out a tip jar to help pay for the liquor, and so far, we haven't had to use our own money for the alcohol beyond the first bottle. This says that people want this to keep happening, and we are happy to oblige. It is a happy couple of hours indeed.

Homemade Salsa
(adapted from Pioneer Woman's Restaurant Style Salsa)

1 can diced tomatoes
1 can Rotel tomatoes with chiles (use "mild" for mild salsa; use "original" for medium heat and "hot" for spicy salsa)
juice of 1/2 lime (I buy limes at Costco and freeze the juice in ice cube trays; don't bother defrosting, just pop one cube into the food processor)
1/8 yellow or white onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic
1/8 c cilantro (can be fresh or freeze your leftover cilantro), or more to taste
pinch of sugar
pinch of cumin
pinch of salt

Blend in food processor or blender until desired consistency; I do it to be pretty smooth. Keeps in the fridge around 1 week, if you have any leftover.

JR & Molly's Margaritas

Combine in blender:
1 can frozen limeade concentrate
3/4 can (use the limeade can) tequila (more or less to taste)
1 shot triple sec

Fill blender the rest of the way with ice and blend until smooth. Makes about 6 servings.

JR's Homemade Tortilla Chips

Heat about 1 1/2 inches of oil in the bottom of a large pot (heat until a drop of water splatters, but be careful because hot oil hurts your skin and stains your clothes!).

Cut corn tortillas into wedges (8 wedges per tortilla; you can easily cut them in  3 or 4 inch stacks with a big knife). Sprinkle tortilla wedges evenly into the hot oil, in one layer. Cook until the wedges are light brown and crispy. Using large tongs, remove onto a paper-towel-lined bowl, to absorb some of the grease. Sprinkle with salt while still hot. For an eager crowd, you will need about a 6" stack of corn tortillas (and two batches of salsa); I buy the tortillas at Walmart for about $3/package.

For last night's Chipotle Chicken soup recipe, check out my soup blog.

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