Party hearty

I am not a Party Person. I mean, I am perfectly happy to come to YOUR party, particularly if you have food. I am just not a party planner sort of person. Or a party-having sort of person. It was not something my family did, growing up, and something I’m still not entirely comfortable with.

[Digression: The easiest way to make people think you probably led an abused childhood, chained to a bare metal bedframe in the basement, is to tell them that you’ve never had a birthday party. I do not recommend this course of action while actually AT a party, because that many people staring at you with a mixture of disbelief and abject pity can make it difficult to enjoy your little plate of fine cheeses.]

Otto’s parents entertained all the time. Otto had birthday parties. Otto LOVES throwing parties, even if they occasionally involve inadvertently setting things on fire. Generally when we have a party, I tell Otto it’s “all him” and I do the bare minimum of participation in prep aside from cooking.

But tomorrow Otto is turning 40 and it seems like even I can’t quite bring myself to make him throw his own party. So I am Preparing To Party Hearty.

Of course, my problems started right with the invitation. I used an online one, because I love trees I’m on the computer all day anyway I’m lazy I thought it would be easiest for folks to respond to. Click here for yes, click here for no. I dutifully took the guest list Otto handed me (Me: Who are all these people? Otto: They’re my friends. I have a lot of them. Me: You’re so weird.) and typed in all the addresses and sent the invitations out. We invited about fifty people.

And received… three responses in the first week. Huh. It turns out that RSVPing is something of a lost art, even with an invitation that only requires a click. And that’s fine and all, but I am not a very good party planner under the best of circumstances, and while I’m sure it brought Otto scads of untold joy to listen to me ramble on about how COOKING FOR FIVE PEOPLE IS REALLY VERY DIFFERENT THAN COOKING FOR FIFTY, I found this… a wee bit stressful.

[Aside: Originally I thought I’d keep things simple and just have the party catered. I don’t normally spend that sort of money but my beloved husband only turns 40 once! I consulted some caterers and discovered that not only don’t I “normally spend that sort of money,” it was more like I don’t “normally spend that sort of money unless I’m buying a car.” Ahem.]

[Another aside: Did you know I’m a wee tiny bit of a control freak? I know, you are SHOCKED! Here, allow me to share a funny joke with you now that we are talking about that.
Me: Knock knock!
You: Who’s there?
Me: Control freak! NOW YOU SAY “Control freak who?”!

You’re welcome.]

The solution, of course, was twofold: First, to plan only on “1970s cocktail party food” to keep it relatively easy (not to mention, cloyingly thematic and meaningful, or something), and second, to try to shame people into responding. Well, at least the food part is kind of fun.

Basically, if you can make it in a crock pot and slap it on a cracker OR spear it with a frilly toothpick, we’ll be having it to eat. I have purchase ONE THOUSAND frilly toothpicks and borrowed several additional crock pots and even have a dear friend’s crystal punch bowl on hand, all the better to fill with 7-Up, Hawaiian Punch, and a bundt pan ring of sherbet, my dear. (Jello shots of insulin will be right next to the punch bowl, don’t worry!)

To be doing this on top of everything else that’s going on feels a little bit ridiculous, honestly, but it’s turning out to be a magnificent distraction. I mean, how often do you get to spend an evening debating the relative merits of the Velveeta-Rotel type dip vs. a traditional spinach artichoke? Or talking about meatballs and cocktail weenies until your resident vegetarian starts pretending to vomit onto her dinner plate? And do you have ANY IDEA how many different times and ways I can work I HAVE ONE THOUSAND FRILLY TOOTHPICKS AND I AM NOT AFRAID TO USE THEM into the conversation? (Answer: More than anyone else is finding even slightly amusing, at this point.) (But it cracks me up every time. ONE THOUSAND FRILLY TOOTHPICKS! I WIN AT CELLOPHANE!)

The truth is that lately, as I hang on by my fingernails, I don’t feel like much of a wife. Otto gets the last of my energy precisely because he is so awesome and willing to step aside for the kids, my work, and whatever else needs me. He made ONE specific food request—blondies; but more specifically, his grandmother’s blondies—and last night I had slated for baking and discovered we had no walnuts, so I made them with almonds, instead, and I realized that was kind of an apt metaphor for us, these days. He asks for very little, and half the time what I end up giving him is… well, maybe it’s close. An acceptable substitute, even, but not what he asked for. Not really what he deserves.

So today I’m headed to the grocery store to buy Party Food, and my shopping list contains such atrocities as grape jelly and onion soup mix and more bricks of cream cheese than I feel comfortable admitting, and I am also going to buy the biggest damn bag of walnuts they have.

Tomorrow, Otto, I promise to stand on my own two feet and smile and make you the right blondies and let you know just how glad I am that you’ve been around for forty years (and around in my life for over half of those). I don’t know what I would do without you.

I mean, I sure as hell wouldn’t be having a party. But besides that, I mean.

Kidding! I love you!! I hope it’s your happiest birthday ever. You’re my favorite.


  1. Otto

    If you’re there, it will be the best birthday party ever.

    But why is your suitcase in our bedroom?


  2. Casdok

    Happy birthday and hope the party goes realy well :)

  3. Headless Mom

    Happy Birthday, Otto. 40 is kinda cool. I’ve been here for a couple of years and it’s actually ok.

    Oh, and there is no ‘or’ when deciding on velveeta/rotel vs. spinach artichoke. It’s ‘AND’ all the way, baby.

  4. dad

    Too compelling to even comment on.

    Happy birthday Otto and thank you for being who you are.


  5. Leandra

    Happy early birthday Otto! I know the party will be a success and the food sounds amazing, but I vote for the Rotel dip — it has much more of a 70s vibe.

    And don’t even get me started on the RSVP thing! Nothing like calling the DAY OF the party to say hey, is it okay if my son comes? And what about his twin? And their older sister? Sure! No problem! Right after I finish this bottle of wine I’ll start scrounging up stuff I have laying around the house to make three more goodie bags.

  6. diane

    You guys are so cute. Happy birthday Otto!

  7. Nelson's Mama

    Happy Birthday Otto!

    Wish I were close by, I’d come help you get ready for the party – we’d cook and have a few glasses of wine or maybe a martini. Love friends and food in the kitchen, guess it’s a Southern thing.

  8. Mandee

    Happy birthday, Otto!

  9. Karen P

    Happy Birthday Otto. Yeah the RSVP thing. I did an Easter dinner one time and invited my husband’s large family. DIdn’t hear from most of them. Hard to make Easter dinner when you don’t know who is showing up. This is why we had Thanksgiving with friends instead of a large gathering with my husband’s 5 brothers..
    (Two kids live out of state and the one here was off somewhere else with the girlfriend)

  10. Emma

    Happy birthday Otto!

    I hear you on the catering thing. I had exactly the same reaction to the price last year so, figuring I’m a good cook, decided to cater for myself. For my own 40th birthday party. Also with around 50 people. No, that was not stressful at all. What I should have realised though is that people came for the birthday, not the food. So don’t be too hard on yourself!!!

  11. Beachgal

    Happy Birthday Otto!!! Hope you have a great party!

  12. Mary

    Happy Birthday, Otto!

    When I get one of those last minute RSVPs, I usually respond with “Yeah, well, sure – you can still come. Just don’t eat too much!” Its usually perceived as a joke, but there is really some half truth in my answer! LOL!

  13. Midj

    Frilly toothpicks! I want frilly toothpicks! And I’m not even having a party… :-) Happy Birthday Otto!

  14. Melissa

    Happy Birthday Otto! And I’m sure the party will be AWESOME.

  15. Billie

    Happy Birthday Otto!

  16. RuthWells

    Happy, happy day, Otto!

    And yeah, do NOT get me started on non-RSVPers…. Huge pet peeve of mine.

  17. Scottsdale Girl

    Happy Berfday to OTTO! FONDUE WOMAN, FON. DUE.

  18. navhelowife

    Happy birthday Otto!
    And Mir, sometimes the best you can do is good enough. So keep hanging on. All will be well and very well.

  19. Mom24@4evermom

    Happy Birthday Otto!

    I don’t know you IRL, but I’ve been hanging around for years and I have no doubt there’s a lot Otto gets out of your relationship. Hope you both have a lot of fun tomorrow.

  20. Another Dawn

    Happy Birthday, Otto!

    I share your “love” of entertaining, Mir. I had birthday parties, but my parents weren’t big on the grown-up parties. The last time I tried entertaining it was for a Friday afternoon TGIF happy hour. I invited about 15 people – co-workers and the staff at the office next door to ours, plus their SOs, so about 30 total. Everyone except 2 said they were coming, so I stocked up on the appropriate booze and nibblies. Around 2 that day, they started dropping out, two-by-two. The ones polite enough to actually let me know they’d changed their minds, that is. It ended up being me and one co-worker. I’ve never bothered since. Sad, eh?

    But Otto will have a party with frilly toothpicks! It don’t get no more festive than that!

  21. Karate Mom

    OK, wait a minute here…when did Ro-Tel dip become just a 70’s food? And cocktail weenies in grape jelly/mustard? Because, I SWEAR, I’m having a Christmas party this Sunday and THOSE TWO THINGS are on my menu! And I’m only 35, so I wasn’t even ALIVE for half of the 70’s! And the other half, I was busy learning to walk and talk and use the toilet! I wasn’t GOING to parties!
    Am I too far behind the times?

  22. heather

    Happy birthday Otto!

    I’ve been trying to explain to my stepdaughter that people didn’t have birthday parties when I was a kid. They especially didn’t have parties at Build A Bear. She doesn’t believe me and has decided that I must have just been horribly shunned and not invited to all the parties. Now she actively pities me. For my birthday last week she was super enthusiastic because it was so sad that I never got a party. That wasn’t my point but she just can’t imagine a partyless world.

  23. Anna

    My Thanksgiving hosting was a whole lot of “Jon? Can you…” “Jon! What am I going to do about…?” And even a few “But Jon, the thermometer said that it was 180*, it has to be done!”

    So, yeah. I rely on my husband a lot, too.

  24. Kristi

    Happy day to you both. But especially Otto!

  25. Karen R.

    Happy birthday Otto!

    Ack! People who don’t RSVP don’t get a second invitation from me. Especially people who show up without an RSVP. *Especially* people who show up with extra guests without an RSVP.

    Chanukka party tonight — and everyone has sent an RSVP. My latka making prowess keeps them coming back. :-)

  26. Tara

    Happy Birthday to Otto. As an aside, I hate non-RSVPers. Drives me insane.

  27. Tracy B

    ♫♪♫Happy Birthday, Otto!!!♪♫♪

  28. Heather

    Happy birthday, Otto.

  29. Jill W.

    Happy Birthday, Otto!

    I am sure it will be a great party!

  30. Lucinda

    Happy Birthday Otto. If you are even half the man she describes, you are a wonderful human being and I hope your birthday is the very best 40th ever!

  31. Em

    Happy Birthday, Otto!!

    Know that I did not even finish reading the rest of the post before I had to repeat that knock knock joke.

    I am also not a party person, not of any breed. I don’t like to go to them (I would if I could be a fly on the wall. I would because flies never ever put their foot in their mouth and I always do), don’t like to have them, don’t like to plan them but I do because I have children who like to be showered with gifts from their aunts, uncles and grandparents on an annual basis. I am aware I am being judged from minute one so I don’t cook because the pressure is on. I can’t afford Catering but I have found the the supermarket (a few different ones around here) offer some catering options, more than just deli platters. It won’t help you this time, but maybe next time! Meanwhile, your party sounds groovy! Look in the corner at the person hoarding the teeny weenies and think of your old commenting pal, Em, for that person is residing in my comfort zone.

  32. Karen

    Happy Birthday, Otto. I have admired your family for two years now, especially your crazy neurotic wife who is a heck of a gal, even though she has never had a birthday party. Ohmagah!?!?…..

    Mir, I say us blog people all get together and throw you a SURPRIZE party, just to drive you over the edge. :-)

    Have a wonderful 70’s day, you too. You’re awesome together – precisely because of your differenced, and togetherness.

  33. Karen

    um, that would be differences. No, I didn’t take xanax today, I swear.

  34. Sheila

    I love it that you two have known each other over half your lives.

    Have a GREAT birthday, Otto!

  35. elz

    You know what’s almost better than your posts? You dad and Otto’s comments.

    Do you know that a part of me died when you said you didn’t really have parties growing up? Like I just want to jump on a plane and throw you the bestest birthday ever-it would help of course if your version of the best birthday ever included a princess, fairy, or mermaid theme since that is really my forte…but, I digress…

    The party is going to be a huge hit. Otto is worth it and you are worth so much for stepping outside your comfort zone and doing this for him. And, wear a dress please ;)

    People who don’t RSVP piss me the heck off. that is all.

  36. bob

    I am assuming the grape jelly is for the cocktail weenies? A southern staple that I’d never heard of until moving to this particular part of the south. I’m sure it will be a fantastic party and Otto will be a happy man (or as happy as 40 can be). Wishing him many happy returns of the day. (Although I’m thinking you need them more!)

  37. Alison

    Happy Birthday, Otto!

  38. MomCat

    Just remember to have fun, Mir. I always forget to do that at my parties. Happy Birthday to Otto Hava Pseudonym!

  39. Jean

    Happy Birthday, Otto!

  40. Katie in MA

    Happy (early) Birthday, Otto!!

    Mir, don’t worry about a thing. I mean, you will because he’s your Otto and because you’re you. But you don’t need to. The love you two have for each other is inspiring. It’s the real deal. And so he absolutely means it when he says *you* are what will make it a great party. The rest is frosting on the proverbial cake. Relax. Enjoy. PARTY!

  41. SillyMe

    Wow. It wasn’t until the comments ection that I found out the grape jelly was for the cocktail weenies (I actually had to pause and scroll up to make sure that was right.) What a crazy world.
    Happy Birthday to Otto.

  42. Sharon

    Is it bad that the couple of posts where you mention “kitschy 70’s foods” are “for special” staples around here? In fact, I always get a hankering for velveeta-rotel dip this time of year and was planning on making some this weekend. lol

  43. TC

    You’re ONLY 40, OTTO????

    Excuse me while I step aside to weep old-lady tears.

    OK, I’m back.

    Happy 40th to you!

  44. J from Ireland

    Happy Birthday Otto. Not a bother on you girl, you will be grand. I bet it will be a great party. My husband turned 40 this Septembe and I went through that whole thing myself…it ended up grand but I was sure was glad when it was over!!

  45. Jean

    You two are just a couple of babes in the woods! Just turning 40. Crossed that bridge a dozen or so ago.

    The party will be great because the two of you are great. Food will not be a bother and I am certain that there will be some party hosting type people in attendance who will actually WANT to jump in and help you replenish food and supply ice and so on and so on. Because that is what I often do at parties when it’s clear that the host is overwhelmed or just busy.

    If I were there, I would be your behind the scenes organizer. You should have put a post out for recipe suggestions – – that would have fostered some great responses. Do you have a chipped beef dip in a rye bread round?? Or is that from the 80’s???

    Have a great time and don’t be afraid to ask guests for some help. It makes them feel like they’re part of the family. Happy 40th to Otto!!

  46. addy

    Happy Birthday Otto! Good Job Mir!

  47. Melanie

    Happy Birthday, Otto!!

    I love Velvetta and Rotel dip. My mom used to make it all time when I was a kid. It is one of my favorite comfort foods.

  48. mamaspeak

    FYI– I never had velvetta of any flavor until I was an adult. Now I make Velvetta & CHILI (that’s right, not Rotel, but so much BETTER!) for every damn party we have. It’s actually become a joke, but I get in trouble if I bring something else.

    My guess on the the lack of RSVP is that they are not frequent party goers, and thus have forgotten etiquette. This should reassure you in your party giving skills as you are obviously far and above their party attending skills. In other words, it’ll be fine. I’m thinking as long as you got a fire permit for the cake, (sorry Otto, I’m a couple years ahead of you, to the date in fact, explains so much now,) it’ll all be good. Just make sure you have a fire extinguisher on hand. Those old guys have trouble blowing out that many candles. ;-)

    Happy Birthday Otto!

  49. Wendy

    Happy Birthday Otto, I hope you have a great party.

    I am not a fan of throwing parties either, buy my husband turned 40 this year also. I attempted to throw him a surprise party. I say attempted to because although he was surprised, there was a pretty poor showing. We had a great time despite that though.

  50. Lisa R.

    Happy birthday, Otto!

    If you are looking for a way to dispose of the Blondies of Wrongfulness, you could send them to me. I’d eat blondies with twigs and pebbles in them.

  51. Carolyn


  52. Lily

    Happy birthday, Otto.

    Mir, I think that the best part of being at a party is enjoying the company and I suspect that you all are a fun bunch. So, try not to worry about the food.

  53. Lori in MN

    Ditto the birthday wishes! And in my neighborhood, the grape jelly is mixed with a bottle of chili sauce and poured over meatballs (in the crockpot, of course!).

  54. 12tequilas

    A thought for the future: for my 40th, we ordered food from a local restaurant and picked it up (actually, when we got it home, it turned out it wasn’t all there, and called them, and they delivered the rest and apologized a lot). My point is, not catered per se, not super-fancy looking (aluminum foil pans mostly), but not made by me either, and not horribly expensive. And there was food leftover, which was nice.

  55. Aimee

    Happy birthday, Otto! Sorry I’m a little late with the wishes, but I’ve been in Seattle surprising my sister for HER 40th!

  56. Alison C

    Happy Belated 40th Otto!!

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