I’ve realized over the years that I start a lot of sentences with the phrase “you’re probably going to think I’m crazy, but…”. ⬅️If you find this sentence offensive, please read to the end.
My darling husband has this face that he makes when I start telling him with great excitement about my newest idea. Frequently his response will be, “I’ll think about it.”
It took several years of marriage before I finally realized that when Mr. Bodenbach says “I’ll think about it”, what he really means is that he probably isn’t going to think about it…or remember it, and he definitely doesn’t want to think about it right now.
Truly though, his hesitation, which keeps me from rushing into implementing my crazy ideas has probably saved us a ton of grief over the years. Thankfully, he does sometimes let me convince him to put on his “Big Boots” and come on a wild adventure with me.
He really is a good sport! He also balances me out pretty well.
Such was the case this past Christmas season when I had a great idea! Seriously, it was great. You can trust me on this.
I had watched this video called Pancakes on the Porch. After watching it and sharing it with a few friends, I knew that I really, really wanted to host a pancakes on the porch gathering for our neighbors.
When presented with this fabulous idea Mr. Bodenbach was actually all in. He has been saying for a while now that we really need to get to know our neighbors. But really, we’ve only lived in this neighborhood for 15 years, so what’s the hurry, right??
There were a few small issues with this brilliant idea of mine.
1. We don’t have a porch.
2. It was December…in Illinois.
3. We didn’t know most of our neighbors, and even the ones we did know we didn’t know very well.
4. We probably have 200-300 neighbors in our small neighborhood, and our house is not that big.
But hey, what’s an adventure without a few dragons to slay?
The good news was that our dear friend and neighbor Dave had started a neighborhood Facebook page. And I have to say, I thought he was pretty brave to do it. He made a flyer and then went door to door inviting everyone to join the page. The really brave part of that was he did it during the last presidential election season—and no one wanted to open the door for a stranger because they might just be there to talk about politics. 😳
We made the decision around about December 18th that we would invite the whole neighborhood over for breakfast the Saturday after Christmas, December 28th. That gave us a mere 10 days to get a plan. After we had a plan it actually took us a couple of days to get up enough courage to post the invitation on the neighborhood Facebook page…because the more we thought about it the scarier and crazier the idea seemed. What in the world were we thinking?
Finally, we just decided to go for it. We posted our first invite on December 20th. (Ideally, we would have also made a paper invitation to be delivered to everyone’s house as well but we just hadn’t given ourselves enough time for that.)
With the invitation posted, that’s when the panic really set in. What were we thinking? We could have 5 people or 500 show up…how do we plan for that? What if it’s awkward? What if they don’t like us? What if we don’t like them? What if they all come at once? What if we run out of food? What if we burn the pancakes? What if…well too late! The invitation was out and we were committed.
We had invited them to come between 8:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. We figured that would spread everyone out a bit and it would hopefully work for both the early risers and those who like to sleep in a bit. Of course, my early bird husband will tell you 8:00 a.m. isn’t early. 🙄
The menu planning came next. We went through a few options before we just decided to keep it pretty simple and to make things that didn’t require a lot of prep work. That way we could pretty easily make a fresh batch of something when it ran low.
Here’s the menu we came up with:
Scrambled eggs with lots of add-ins: Sausage and bacon—cooked and crumbled the night before, plus diced ham; all rewarmed that morning in the microwave. Shredded cheese. Diced tomatoes. Onions. Ketchup. And probably some other things I’m forgetting. We cooked the eggs in an electric skillet and then just left it on warm.
Pancakes. We made a big batch on an electric griddle and put them in a crockpot on low, plus we made up some extra batter in case we needed to make more.
A big bowl of fruit. Strawberries, blueberries and grapes. I’ve found that when you add grapes with the other fruit and cut them in half, you don’t need to add any sugar.
Biscuits and sausage gravy. The biscuits were frozen ones from WalMart and they were really fantastic. That’s the first time we had tried them and they were a big hit. We got several compliments. They are so easy! Pull them out of the bag, put them on a cookie sheet and bake 20 minutes.
We also had a crock pot full of homemade apple butter. This was another instance of Mr. Bodenbach finding a recipe and just wanting to try his hand at making it. It was so warm and yummy on the biscuits. Another win for that darling man.
Now, the sausage gravy wasn’t quite as easy because my darling husband insisted on making it from scratch. That man is all about a recipe. He enjoys the thrill of the hunt and the challenge of trying something new. That, of course, makes me a little nervous (and maybe a little snarky) when we are going to feed a crowd something we have never made before. I just wanted to get some gravy mix but noooo. He had to do it the hard way. And as usual, he was right. (Don’t tell him I said that!) It turned out great. We put both the gravy and the biscuits in crockpots to keep them warm.
We had orange juice, milk, bottled water and coffee. We have 2 cheap $10 coffee pots so we can keep the coffee rolling when we have guests.
One small challenge…you might have already guessed…we had a lot of small appliances to plug in! We had to get a little creative after we blew a fuse shortly before our guests began to arrive.
All told, we bought 18 dozen eggs, 12 containers of frozen orange juice, 10 boxes of pancake mix and 10 bottles of syrup. I think we bought 6 pounds each of bacon and sausage. We already had ham from a Honey Baked ham that was a Christmas gift. We also bought coffee, coffee creamer, the cheese and veggies for the eggs, and the fruit.
AND….we had way too much food! But that’s kind of a quirk of mine. I’m always afraid we won’t have enough or we won’t have something everyone can eat. I’ve learned the hard way, that it’s always a good idea to have at least one vegetarian option and one low-carb option.
None of the abundance of food went to waste though. We gave some of the extra eggs to friends and neighbors. Mostly everything else we were able to use ourselves or it was something that would keep for future use.
The day or so before our breakfast I got to thinking about how some people might be nervous about coming to a gathering where they might not know anyone at all. I decided to post another reminder on our neighborhood Facebook page and I said:
“Let’s face it, there are lots of us that don’t know each other so it will be awkward for a minute but after we eat together we will all be old friends. Please join us!”
And you know what? I was right. It was awkward…for a minute. But then we were laughing and learning about each other…and it was lots of fun! There is just something about giving someone a a plate of food or a cup/glass to hold in their hands. It gives them something to do or hold onto during the initial awkward moments and it makes meeting strangers much less intimidating.
I think we ended up with a total of 39 people around our table at various times that morning. Over half of them were people we had never met. It has led to lots more conversations with our neighbors when we are out for a walk. It has also made us braver. Now, when we see a neighbor that we’ve never met before out in their yard, we just walk right over and introduce ourselves. We have some really amazing people around here…I’ll bet you have some amazing people in your neighborhood too.
I hope you will consider taking the risk to invite some neighbors over as well. You don’t have to invite your whole neighborhood…because only weird people do stuff like that. You don’t even have to feed them a bunch of food. Coffee. A donut. A piece of pie or a delivery pizza will do. I’ve learned that most people are thrilled just to be invited and they don’t really care that much about the food you are offering or the home you live in.
After this went so well we had planned to make it a semi-regular event. However, COVID-19 hit so we haven’t been able to initiate round 2 yet. But we will! It was totally worth the effort. Also, it has resulted in some of our neighbors delivering treats to our door during this period of social distancing—-cookies, warm homemade bread, pumpkin bread and rice crispy treats! 🤗 That was an unexpected perk!
Put on your Big Boots. It doesn’t matter whether they are work boots, snow boots, cowboy boots or just cute boots. Be brave. Take a chance. Go on an adventure! Slay some dragons. I’m pretty sure you won’t regret it.
And then come back here and let me know how it went…drop me a comment below. I’d also be thrilled if you shared my blog on your social media.
**Please note: If you found my use of the term “crazy” offensive, I get it (now). After writing this blog and then going back to proofread it again I realized that my frequent use of the term crazy has probably been hurtful and insensitive to many people in my life. I have also begun to recognize how often I use the terms “crazy”, “insane” and “nuts” in my everyday life. I have realized that I need to change that and to do better. I pondered changing my post but then I thought I’d actually be changing it just to make myself look better in your eyes, so I decided to leave it and to just fess up. Words matter. Mental health issues are a real thing. Many people I know, including me, struggle with mental health issues including the often overlooked depression. In the future, if you hear me using this kind of terminology please correct me (be gentle!) because I really do want to do better. Now I need a new word for my often used sentence so help me fill in the blank with some suggestions:
“You’re probably going to think I’m ________, but….”
Help a girl out. Drop your suggestions in the comments below!