Here was the inspiration for it...
On one of our Hawaii trips back in January 2011, I received a set of dishes that once belonged to my (birth) grandmother, Nanny. My mom and auntie carefully packed part of the set for me to carry home on the plane, and then brought the remaining pieces with them when they came to Dallas the following August. I LOVE glass. I LOVE dishes. I LOVE heirloom pieces that have been handed down from parents and grandparents. So these were a treasure to receive.
For two years I didn't do anything with them. I just put them on a shelf in my kitchen and felt a little bit of happiness every time I looked up there and remembered them. And then at the end of January, when all the Christmas stuff had finally been taken down and my dining room table looked heartbreakingly bare, I decided to set the table with Nanny's china.
I hand washed all of these gorgeous pieces. There are serving pieces, spoons, a creamer and sugar bowl, and salt and pepper shakers that were also included in this set, so it took a good chunk of the morning to wash and dry all of them by hand. BUT...it gave me such a great opportunity to lovingly give each of those beautiful pieces a little bit of overdue attention. And I fell in love with them all over again.
OK...here's where this story strays a little and I start to sound like I'm very easily distracted and scatter brained...
I set the dining room table for 8 and happily admired it for about three days.
And then I thought, "It's such a shame no one will get to see this table except us." Except I must have said that out loud because Flowering Buttercup chimed in with, "We should invite the Rodriguez's over for a Chinese party!" (Yes, I know my dishes are from Japan and not China, but in the minds of the people who live in my house, there is very little distinction between those two countries.)
A few days later, the girls and I were having lunch at Panda Express and my neighbor came in to buy Orange Chicken sauce. Of course that led to a conversation about what she was going to do with it, and she ended up giving me a recipe for homemade orange chicken.
Wheels were turning in both my mind and Flowering Buttercup's...and one of us Googled Chinese New Year...I'm not sure who. And guess what! We were happily delighted to find out that it was coming up...on February 10th.
I came home and mentioned our great idea to the Scout Master who said, "Um...why don't we just invite them over without calling it a Chinese New Year celebration. Cuz we''re not Chinese and that's a little weird." Well, I am actually a teeny bit Chinese, so it didn't sound that weird to me. So I sent out this group text to every one of my contacts whose last name was Rodriguez.
(yep, Flowering Buttercup pointed out the date discrepancy, so I had to send another text to change it to the 10th.) Within a few hours I got responses back from all 6 that they were available and would love to come for dinner. HOORAY!
So, I started planning a menu...
Orange Chicken (with Panda Orange Sauce from my neighbor Jill)
3-4 chicken breasts, cubed
1 cup cornstarch
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Rinse chicken in water and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat oil in large skillet. Dip in cornstarch, then in egg.
Cook chicken until browned but not cooked through. Place chicken in 9x13 greased baking dish. Cover with orange chicken sauce (I use almost the whole bottle). Bake for 45 minutes at 325 stirring the chicken every 15 minutes to coat evenly.
Beef and Snow Peas (from the Pioneer Woman)
|Beef with Snow Peas via TPW|
Fried Rice (my mom's recipe)
Baked Wontons (from my Pampered Chef years)
Homemade Fortune Cookies
Flowering Buttercup helped me think of some cute fortunes to put in the cookies...
I planned and cooked and put stickies all over the fridge, and had a tiny little meltdown on Saturday afternoon because my head was filled with Chinese parties, Valentine's Day, photography homework, a Book of Mormon pageant rehearsal (more to come on that), a play at the HS, a multi stake dance that I had volunteered to chaperone, and not enough hours left in the weekend. But I pulled myself together and did one thing at a time, and as always, when the Rodriguez's are involved, everything comes together better than I even imagined it.
So, even though I forgot to take my camera out of the bag, and didn't even think about pictures until after the food was long gone, we still had a really great time. (It's just not documented quite the way I had hoped.)
And guess what else? Those inspiring dishes that started this whole thing?? I didn't even use them because I only have 8 and there are 9 Rodriguez's and 6 of us...there was no way to make that work. Instead we went with red plastic plates and cups...brilliantly Chinese, huh? I did use two of the serving bowls, though, so the dishes were there in spirit.
After dinner, we played games and then passed the guitar around and sang songs. Those Rods are so dang talented! I don't know why I'm always so shocked that they can play yet another instrument every time we're with them.
We LOVE this family so much and are SO happy that they are always willing to come over and hang out with us. We had such a great time and Chinese New Year was the best excuse EVER to have a little get together. We might have to make this a tradition!
Happy Year of the Snake!!