• Sarah Celentano

Pandemic Parties and BBQ Dry Rubbed Ribs

A quick birth story, how to host a laid back gathering amidst a pandemic, and a recipe for dry rub (which you'll want to put on everything).

The birth of Ezra was an adventure, to say the least. And it changed me in the best possible ways. It helped me to go with the flow better than I’ve ever been able to, which, along with a proclivity for being an absolute homebody, was prime preparation for a global pandemic and subsequent quarantine.

When Ezra was born, his calm energy and resolute spirit was instantly recognizable. I didn’t get to hold him long. He was whisked away, looked over by specialists and taken to NICU mere minutes after his birth. But Oh Holy Night, a five pound baby is SO easy to push out. That is, compared to the 9lb 6oz Nugget Number One I pushed out 3 1/4 years earlier. They took him away and I gleefully said “That was AMAZING! I could totally do that again.” I had instantly forgotten the several hours of intense labor pain and begging for an epidural. Motherhood is beyond weird.

A year has come and gone, and SO much has happened. I wanted to celebrate a year of Ezra, and although it’s still summer, I’m giving you a jump on your fall plans! Ezra’s due date was October 10th and I was so excited to have a Fall baby. I myself am a Fall baby (shout out to my September 30th birthday twins) and Fall is pretty much my favorite season. I love everything about it. The crisp weather, freshly sharpened pencils, Halloween, THANKSGIVING. Oh, MAMA, it is the BEST. And the changing of seasons, stormy weather, all the windy, gray days just give me such a rush. I'm basically Catherine Earnshaw. Or maybe I'm a witch? More on that later.

So, despite his August birthday, I wanted this party to have an autumnal feel. Luckily, for me, all I had to do was put on a plaid shirt, overalls, make a caramel apple ice cream cake and the weather did the rest! It is my opinion that Fall cookouts are even more fun than their Summer counterparts. It's cool enough for a fire to make s'mores and you don't keel over from heat exhaustion standing by the grill.

Typically, my Party Planning Committee and I throw some pretty extravagant affairs. I cannot wait to unleash our plans for my sister's bridal shower in the Spring. We leave no stone unturned, no detail overlooked. We are a Force. However, when it comes to first birthday parties, I just want to enjoy the day and the little human I created. It also might have something to do with my sweet eldest niece's First Safari Birthday Turned Stomach Bug Extravaganza. We won't go into detail, but I guess I'm scarred for all future first birthday parties. It was otherwise a beautiful soiree, complete with palm fronds in clear vases on each table, a hummus tray with vegetables arranged in the shape of a lion, it was Pinterest Perfection. My SIL and our PPC nailed it yet again. I truly cannot wait to share our Hostesses with the Most talent with you in the future.

But for today, I'm going to share how to keep it simple. How to not go crazy with the details, give yourself all the permission to let the little things go and just enjoy the fact that in our little corner of the state of NY, we are able to enjoy each other's company once again. At least for now.

Here are the logistics of how we kept everyone safe and comfortable:

- We only invited our immediate families as we have been spending time with them since restrictions have been lifted (in non-pandemic times we typically include our closest friends in all of our celebrations). As cases are extremely low in our area we felt it was okay to bring both sides of our family together for the first time this year. You do what you and your family feels comfortable with.

- We had hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes readily within reach.

- We had a silly safe word to prevent conversations meandering into uncomfortable political territory.

- We used disposable everything and kept trash receptacles easy to access.

- Everyone mainly stayed outside, except for bathroom and brief kitchen use.

The Menu (my favorite thing to plan):

Dry Rubbed Beef Back Ribs

Marinated Chicken Kebabs

Mom's Crockpot Mac and Cheese

Mom's Tortellini Salad

Bacon Ranch Salad

Herby Potato Salad

Caramel Apple Ice Cream Cake for dessert!

And our aunt brought some AMAZING salsa from Ithaca, NY to serve with tortilla chips as a snack. You can get it at Green Star Market!

Aside from the ice cream cake, the other components of the menu were very easy to make and aside from grilling, pretty much everything was prepped or made ahead. The day before the party, I marinated skinless, boneless chicken thighs in Chiavetta's, an upstate NY cookout staple for decades. It is so tangy, so puckery, so salty good. It tastes like childhood. I made a dry rub for beef back ribs, recipe below. I peeled, cut and boiled butter potatoes for my frickin' easy, addictive, AMAZING potato salad (to the cooked potatoes add a few glugs olive oil, a couple spoonfuls mayo, splash ACV, whatever fresh herbs you have on hand, salt and pepper. I used basil, parsley and chives. SO GOOD). I assembled the ice cream cake. We CLEANED. We finished yard work. We set up my husband's late Papa's aluminum folding banquette table in the garage. It all felt so good. Cathartic.

The day OF the party, I kissed my smiley, so-close-to-walking One Year Old, skewered the chicken, tossed together the salads and we grilled the meats when our family arrived. It was all so gloriously simple and I was so full of joy over everything. We chatted, the kids played with each other, we played corn hole and drank Corona (obv). The food was incredible, everyone was giddy over human interaction and Ezra? He was the best part of the whole day.

So hug each other quick, share a meal, and love on one another because we just don't quite know what the future holds.

Lots of love and finger lickin' ribs,

From this homebody to you,


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