squash for zucchini | another episode of pancake mondays

I still want to make this recipe from Girl Versus Dough for zucchini corn pancakes, but it didn’t happen last night because Patrick couldn’t find zucchini when he went on the Pancake Mondays grocery run.

I was gone from 7:01 am to 6:20 pm yesterday and Pancake Mondays technically starts at 7:30. I received the “zucchini not found” SOS text before I left work, so I picked up what I could find (butternut squash – same gourd family, right?) with a gift card from the wedding. Every recipe seems to go that way on Mondays – a little bit prepared, a little bit improvisation, and a lot of Amelia Bedelia when measuring, substituting, and smooshing a small crowd of helpers into our Brooklyn hallway/kitchen. It’s good to be in the new swing of things, hosting friends, neighbors and strangers as a full fledged duo.

Our good friend Joel arrived early and insisted on cutting peppers and doing dishes. Patrick handled the bacon (as per usual) and also all the apartment clean up (as per the new usual and my sanity). We met several new neighbors, who just graduated from FIT and who heard about Pancake Mondays from our other neighbor Elsa. She has been known to promote our little breakfast-for-dinner gathering to anyone who will listen. Elsa reminds me of my grandma, and not just because she brought over the most adorable wedding gift (a set of towels), but also because her kind smile makes me sure she loves well. Our friend Ben provided philosophical kitchen banter and our friends Aaron and Christina came over from Patrick’s old apartment building to complete the crowd.

This is the stuff of Mondays.

Zucchini corn pancakes morphed into butternut squash griddle cakes with roasted peppers, southwestern black beans, sour cream and salsa. We dreamed up the bacon fried brussel sprouts for our gluten-free friend. And then when people kept hanging around, I sent out green grapes, watermelon and homemade orange julius for dessert. I love it when the kitchen feels like a restaurant. Anyone who insists on helping will hear me ask from the kitchen, “How does it look out there?” and “What do people need?”

My fondness for a full house and abundant table probably comes from my Grandma Avonell. Her eight children remember well her grace in adding places to the large oval table that now sits in my parents’ dining room.

We don’t have a large oval table (it would never fit if we did) and I’m sure I don’t have her grace, but every place we live will definitely have an open front door for neighbors, strangers, and friends. The joy of hosting gatherings is really too much to keep it closed, anyway.

According to our marriage manifesto, item number 7: we will host Pancake Mondays at least once/month. According to marriage manifesto, item number 3: we will never get cable. I think the two are probably related – with such brilliant company, I don’t know how anything could be better entertainment.

 

because His love won’t run out

The last neighbors, strangers, and friends had just left Pancake Mondays at Patrick’s apartment when another neighbor knocked to say thank you for the invitation we left on his door. Ted had lived across the hall from Patrick for 6 months, but they had still never met.

For some unfortunate reasons, we have moved the Pancake Mondays operation to Patrick’s apartment for the month of March. And (are we surprised?) what appeared to be every bit evil, God has turned into every bit good. Patrick and I both have griddles now and the ingredients float between our apartments as we host neighbors, strangers, and friends for pancakes and waffles and bacon.

the sign on my door...
the sign on my door…

Last night, we all sat on armchairs and stools and leaned against the wall with criss-crossed legs on wood floors. Tam took drink orders and I flipped waffles in the kitchen and Patrick taste-tested until we got the recipe and timing just right (wafflemaker courtesy of my favorite neighbor-friend Yeun). 

Everything about Monday night was just the right amount. Laughter, conversation, neighbors, and friendly banter. Good, old-fashioned neighborhood love was happening around a coffee table stacked with waffles, coconut jam, peanut butter, raspberry jam, coconut, syrup, and chocolate chips. 

I think we tripled a cinnamon vanilla waffle batch and served 13 people in all. I saw several neighbors as I was taping up invites and those who had plans asked if there would be a repeat the following week. “Yes!” is fun to say when it means more pancakes and neighbors and crowded living rooms.

I kept wandering into the kitchen to let out excited squeals and Patrick kept following me to match my joy because community was happening in the other room. It’s like we uncovered a secret that God has already spoken so plainly: the love Christ has lavished on us is meant to be lavished on others.

So, we crack the door open, mix up some batter, and trust His love won’t run out.

photo by Patrick
photo by Patrick

the way we like to party

We arranged the tables lengthwise in the living room, similar to the Thanksgiving set up. Yeun brought all the supplies – the rocks and soil and sand and a beautiful spread of succulents. I reviewed several mental lists while we waited for the subway at Broadway Junction after work – chocolate chip cookie plans, decorations, and something for dinner. I was nervous about who would come and if they would bring food and if our preparations would flop.

I rushed in like a tornado to the apartment. It’s pretty standard, I guess. All the day’s bottled up energy gets shoved into 1.5 hours leading up to party show time… and this party was especially wonderful because we were throwing it with our neighbor Yeun. Somehow, she tracked down supplies for 20+ people to make terrariums and then she taught us all how to be terrarium making professionals.

My living room looked like a movie set for a miniature world, with inch-high boy scouts and bicyclists and tiny animals strewn about over the moss on the table. But it also looked like friends and strangers and neighbors bent over jars, vases, and fish bowls – getting dirt under their fingernails as they mastered the art of terrariums.

The apartment tours took 5 seconds and they always keep me humble. Yep, just the two rooms. Mmmhm, the walls are always this bare. Oh, this bench you are sitting on? That’s a shelf system we found for free and then converted for seating.

But no one cared because the laughter was the right volume. There was a miniature lady crawling up a cactus wall and a miniature boy scout troop walking on a forest path. There were fresh baked cookies and homemade Reese’s bars and the perfect new crowd of people huddled around tables making little worlds inside of glass.

I was tired and I won’t pretend otherwise. I am hosting a dear friend from Honduras and juggling the normal transit struggle, fighting the NYC frown face and trying to make this giant city a little smaller.

But, I just love hosting other people’s joy.

I love when people buzz my apartment and I love pushing the “door” button to let them inside. I love leaving my door open and I love when people walk through the entryway. I love when guests have to share a seat and I love when the joy pushes against the cold on the windows. I love when strangers are friends and when neighbors come over in slippers and I love when people can leave with something in their hands.

After we had tidied and rearranged when the last guest left, I sat down for the first time since 4:30 pm. It was probably after midnight and my feet were making me feel old. It was a tired satisfaction, but the whole night was kind of a blur.

I love hosting other people’s joy, but I don’t do it perfectly. I get stressed and snap and escape to the kitchen to wash dishes. Last night, before I settled into sleep, I read my evening devotional and this is what it said,

“See to it that sitting at the Savior’s feet is not neglected, even though it is under the specious pretext of doing Him service. The first thing for our soul’s health – the first thing for His glory – and the first thing for our own usefulness – is to keep ourselves in perpetual communion with the Lord Jesus, and to see that the vital spirituality of our piety, is maintained over and above everything else in the world.” – Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening Reflections

And my soul said, yes. Yes to parties and hosting and community and fellowship… but first yes to sitting at the Savior’s feet. The formers are much more beautiful in proper submission to the latter.

terrarium party terrarium terrarium3