Very early in my pregnancy (not even 12 weeks), Mom, Sharon and I started talking about my baby shower. Though it felt late, we agreed that it would be around Christmas, during Advent, a time of year that has always been special for our family. We love the quiet joy of the Advent season with its themes of expectation, waiting and preparation for the One who is to come. And this year those themes are very personal, as we wait and prepare for our baby.
(My wonderful group of girlfriends from New York City)
Of course, the first thing we considered was—What are we eating? We wanted piping hot plates of satisfying food: spiral-cut ham and scalloped potatoes, roasted carrots, parsnips, Brussels sprouts and thick slabs of herby bread slathered with butter. We wanted pie for dessert, lots of pie (more on that later this week!). We wanted to serve sparkly champagne cocktails, rich, seasonal beers, and dark, ruby red wines.
December 6 arrived, the weather was cold, overcast and dark. But inside, the house was aglow with Christmas lights and candles and warmed by a lively fire. As I surveyed the house before guests arrived I had a quiet moment with Dad in the living room as he was carrying in the heavy cheese boards. “It’s exactly what I wanted” I said, eyes misting over. “I couldn’t have imagined it better.” (I blame the pregnancy hormones for my overpowering emotions). I was also overwhelmed by how much everyone had done to make this day happen, how much Mom had prepped and cooked, how much Dad had done to prepare the house. I was grateful that Sharon had come from Atlanta, that my godmother had come from Alabama, that my mother-in-law had come from California, and that Andy’s aunt had come from England!
(Sharon, Andy, me, Mom, Dad)
As we planned the shower, the other glaringly obvious fact was that this would have to be a co-ed shower. There are far too many wonderful men in our lives. We invited Andy’s friends and our male family friends. We invited spouses, partners, and boyfriends. We threw the doors wide open and when all had arrived, we had a house filled with well-wishes and baby advice from more than sixty people in our wide circle of loved ones.
(Andy and me)
For me, the shower was about so much more than the beautiful gifts, the food, drink, and decor. In the weeks leading up to the party I went from feeling excited about having a baby to feeling scared and nervous. I worried about how we’d adjust and what our new life would be like. As I heard more and more stories about the first three months with a newborn, I wondered if we would manage. But after our shower, after I surveyed a house full of people who will love and support the three of us through come-what-may, I was ready. Or ready as I’ll ever be.
(Andy’s Aunt Sandra, me, Andy’s mum, Andy)
Along with some truly interesting deviled eggs (recipe to come) and a bountiful cheese board, Mom developed this recipe for Simple Sausage Rolls to serve as an appetizer. The server could not keep the tray filled—they would vanish before she set foot out of the kitchen. Our guests were demanding more, and if there were no more, they demanded the recipe! So, here’s the recipe for Simple Sausage Rolls, sure to be the most popular appetizer at your holiday party or gathering.
- 2 pounds chicken Italian sausage, meat removed from casing
- ¾ cup dry breadcrumbs
- 2 minced garlic clove
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 large egg, plus an extra beaten egg for brushing
- 1 box (about 1 pound) puff pastry, thawed
- Sesame seeds and/or nigella (black onion) seeds for sprinkling
- Mustards, your choice
- Mix sausage, breadcrumbs, garlic, Parmesan, and eggs in a medium bowl. Divide sausage mixture into 8 equal portions; set aside.
- Quarter pastry and working one piece at a time, roll quartered dough into a 14- by 7-inch rectangle, then cut the rolled pastry in half to form two 3½- by 14-inch rectangles. Roll a portion of the sausage mixture into a 14-inch length and set on one of the pastry rectangles. Brush one of the long edges with egg wash and roll pastry over the sausage and onto the egg-washed edge to seal.
- Repeat with remaining sausages and pastry to form 8 sausage logs. (Can be covered and refrigerated overnight or frozen for a couple of months.
- Heat oven to 400 degrees; arrange sausage logs on 2 parchment or silpat-lined rimmed baking sheets. Brush each log with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame and/or nigella seeds Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and when cool enough to handle, transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 1-inch lengths and serve immediately with mustard of your choice.