So last night I had 10 people come over for dinner to celebrate my birthday, Christmas and our new back deck.

Preparations began in earnest on Thursday when I started to clean up the cesspit our house had become.

Friday was the kicker with bathrooms scrubbed and piles of paper and crappe (how the hell does it accumulate so much in such little time?) binned or sorted.

Then I made the sweet shortcrust pastry for the two desserts, the vanilla creme for one of them, the bechamel and bolognaise for the kids menu as well as taking all the boys to Oscar’s end-of-year school disco.

Then there was yesterday. This was the list I wrote for myself on Friday night:

Bake tart cases
Make caramel
Finish cleaning dining room table and polish
Shopping on way home
Make choc sauce
Make mousse
Cook potatoes
Make dressing and chop nuts
Cook pasta
Set outdoor table
Meat in oven at _____
Prepare kids dinner

And you know what?
I followed that list to a t.
Methodically and calmly I worked through each component with Mum being a saint hanging out the 8 loads of washing I put on in between (we’ve had a few days of wet weather) AND bringing it all in AND putting most of it away.
Granted I was sweating for the country (thanks Jac for that turn of phrase) because it was a not-breezy-at-all 34C and eleventy gagillion per cent humidity (and yes, the Lady Speed Stick did hold out for much of the distance but I was pretty wiffy and sweaty by shower time at 5.40) but I was calm, the kids were all helpful and happy and everything got done.
Friends started arriving at 6.30 and all were gone by around 11.
There were 11 adults and 12 children aged from 17 months to 10 who all played beautifully for the entire night.
You know those dark days when you think you have no friends and your life is shit? The next time one of them rolls around I will make a concerted effort to remember last night and just what wonderful, fun and thoughtful friends (I got some lovely, totally unexpected pressies) I have.

The menu
Cheese plate (including a French blue that was a blend of sheep, goat and cows milk; a hard goats cheese and a brie)

Whole strip surloin – roasted served with truffle butter (Chef’s contribution to the evening as he had to work)
Potato and pecan salad
Rocket and English spinach salad in a simple lime vinegarette

Choc caramel tart
Vanilla creme and berries tart

The desserts were my pride and joy, even though the meat was absolutely sensational and will probably be my dinner-party main course of choice for oh, the next decade.

The choc caramel tart featured a beautiful sweet shortcrust pastry, a layer of caramel (which I made and had the perfect unciousness, if that’s a word) followed by a layer chocolate mousse and topped with a coating of dark chocolate. It was SUBLIME. (recipe came from a Aust Gourmet Traveller earlier this year – June or July I think)

The berry tart had the same pastry case then my first ever creme patissiere (which I would gladly bathe in) topped with fresh blueberries, raspberries and strawberries.

Sublime evening.