The Backyard Happy Hour

An interesting thing has happened during this time of physical distancing—my husband, Les, and I are enjoying more frequent visits with friends and loved ones who live too far away for regular visits. The world’s newfound fascination with Zoom and FaceTime calls has increased our own get-togethers with relatives two and three time zones away, and friends a couple hours up the road. Although it’s been great to catch up with everyone by way of technology, it still doesn’t quite satisfy the innate need most of us have for connection. Even if you connect online successfully without audio or screen freezing issues (by the way, who are you if this hasn’t happened to you?), there’s something missing in the virtual happy hour. Maybe you’re missing it, too.

Eye contact.

Sure, we are all looking directly at the people on our screens, just as they are looking back at us on theirs. But that is essentially the problem. If we are looking at the faces on our screens, we are not looking at the camera on our devices—and that means to the people viewing us on their screens, we are not looking them in the eye. Les and I go through this kind of conversation every single time we try to take a selfie, and at some point, I nearly always blurt out, “we have to look at the top of the phone, where the camera is!” Otherwise, we wear a vacant expression in our photos. There’s no eye contact.

Yes, we will continue to muddle through this awkward time, and with as much positivity as we can muster. But for a couple of social butterflies like us, it’s been a major adjustment. Honestly, I’m already a little concerned about how we will get through Thanksgiving if we cannot fill up all the seats at our table. Our shared love of entertaining and socializing is a key point of compatibility for us, and we miss it more than I can describe. So when some good friends of ours proposed a backyard physically distanced happy hour a couple of weeks ago, we pretty much did a collective happy dance. For Les, it was all about “what should we make to share with them?” And for me, the same, plus “I can finally wear those cute sandals I bought in March!” And the evening was delightful in every possible way—perfect weather, conversation and laughter, cocktails and appetizers (at opposite ends of a comfortable patio table), and just the sweetest couple of dogs.

A carefully calculated risk, appropriately distanced for safety’s sake—but finally present in person, and that meant real, honest-to-goodness eye contact. What a joy!

Our friends shared a lovely spread of cheeses and fresh fruit, plus cocktails and a surprise cordial to end our evening on a sweet note (I’ll be sharing more on that later). Les made his Homemade Pimiento Cheese, and I whipped up this Creamy Crab and Artichoke Dip.

Go get these recipes. Both are simple to make, and with only a tiny adjustment in plating, easy to share with friends in a properly distanced way.

All of us are seeking the right way to ease into a “new normal.” What does it look like for you, and how are you making it work?

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