I've mentioned it before, but I suppose I'll just keep on saying it over and over again until something changes: this summer has been nuts so far. Jeff's been so busy at work. We sold our house. We moved. Forrest is involved in too many activities. I'm busy with the million-odd things I do every day. Darcy has entered a stage in which she is as clingy as a leech yet stubbornly independent, which sounds contradictory and is just as exasperating as you might expect. And in wider family news, a brand-spanking-new niece has joined our ranks!
Life is so busy. And I really, really needed a relaxing and fun family get-together. It wasn't a want. It was a need.
So we did just that. I talked my mom into letting me use her house to throw an early 4th of July family dinner party. And it did worlds of good in relieving my summer stress. There's nothing like a laid back summer gathering spent laughing with your siblings to make everything seem right.
I can't even express how lucky we are to live close to my family. With the exception of one of my brothers, all of my family lives within about 40 minutes of us. And we spent a few years living a thousand miles away from them, so I know exactly how good I have it right now, with everyone close by. And we absolutely need to make family celebrations a more regular occurrence.
I had so much fun planning this little party, with help from my mom. We wanted it to be casual and fun for everyone, so we kept the meal low-key. For me, the most stressful part of any gathering is planning a main dish. I love preparing side dishes, appetizers, desserts . . . but for some reason, planning the entree frightens me to my core. It's too much pressure.
So we took the super easy route and picked up fried chicken from Walmart. We only had to worry about preparing dishes to coordinate with it, and it was a huge relief to just pick up the entree on the way to the party. No stress.
Even though the main dish was taken care of, I still wanted to spice it up just a tad and make it feel a bit more homemade. So I mixed up a really quick and simple cilantro-lime Ranch dipping sauce for the chicken. It came together so quickly and was an awesome complement to the chicken.
Cilantro-Lime Ranch Dip
inspired by Our Best Bites
1 envelope Ranch dressing mix
1 cup mayo
1/4 cup milk
juice from 1 lime
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup green salsa
Combine all ingredients in blender and blend to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
I loved the unexpected combination of the tangy, bright, citrus-y dip along with the traditional fried chicken. Unusual but totally delicious.
With the entree taken care of, we just pulled together a few simple side dishes: an easy pasta salad, corn on the cob, rolls, and chips. Such a breeze to pull together.
And of course, some adorably festive cupcakes for dessert.
It was perfect weather to eat outside, so we decorated my mom's back patio with red place settings, a festive bunting, and American flags.
After dinner, the kids had a blast playing in the beautiful yard, while the grown-ups oohed and aahed over our sweet new niece.
I don't consider myself a baby person, really. But this?
Heart-eye emojis forever.
And simply because this is too unbelievably perfect to leave out: I must share Darcy's reaction to seeing me hold a baby.
Girlfriend is jealous. With a capital J. Have you ever seen a more pathetic sight? Look at her poor, dejected little face. You can almost see her heart breaking.
And she stayed miffed at me for a good long while, too. That's what I get for daring to hold another child, I guess. Lesson learned.
What do you have planned for your 4th of July? Will Walmart's fried chicken be making an appearance at your gatherings this summer?