The Bridal Olympics

Everybody’s talking about the Olympics, and for good reason. They are the pinnacle of athletic excellence and the gold (medal) standard for achievement in the world of sports. So, I guess I shouldn’t have been so surprised when my future sister-in-law’s maid of honor told me that the chosen theme for the impending Bridal Shower was

“The Bridal Olympics”


When I arrived home two days before my future relative’s bridal extravaganza, I discovered I was unexpectedly in charge of a few elements of the lovely (and impending) bridal shower.

The whirlwind preparations commenced with some flag-making!

Just call me a modern-day Betsy Ross.

Once I got over the fact that I had to make 10 flags out of paper, and that those flags were (tragically) not of the three-color variety, this was actually kind of fun. We made each table a different country that had some meaning or significance for the bride, and her maid of honor explained the significance as a way of tying the theme to our lovely bride-to-be…

Second Job? Thematic food.

With 54 RSVP-ed as coming, I realized we were going to need some more food at this shin-dig. My amazing mother whipped up some Spanakopita (Kind of reminiscent of greek lasagna, if you don’t know it! Think lots of filo dough, spinach and cheese. . . ), which was so good that I didn’t even get a picture of it before it was wolfed down! I will ask her to share her recipe someday, I’m sure. I also threw together a couscous salad with feta, onion, tomatoes, and a little olive oil, just to keep the filling-foods accounted for. My friend John put together this gorgeous salad while I was doing some dessert finishings. The Mostly-Greek food theme was freaking me out a little because a lot of people don’t love those strong flavors, SOOOO, we figured that Greek Salad is pretty tasty and straightforward, and we wound up using this great online recipe for greek dressing which was a nice touch.

I also bulk-bought Tortilla and Pita chips, and we put together some Olympic Ring Dips!

Here’s how we did it:

Blue: Sour Cream, Chives, a few drops of blue food coloring, and a pinch of onion or garlic powder (optional)

Black: (recipe found online) Black beans, red onion, tomato, cilantro, cumin, a little salt

Red: My Mom’s homemade salsa, which is just so good!

Yellow: Cheddar cheese and Beer . . . You just food process shredded cheddar and throw some beer (we just use whatever’s handy) in the mix until it’s at a good spreading consistency. . . It’s shocking how good this is, especially considering it’s so simple!

Green: Good old-fashioned guacamole (Avocado, tomato, onion, cilantro, etc.)

If I had to do it over again, I think I would triple the amount of Guacamole, because that was the first one gone, and so tasty! But I would still make all the same dips. People just raved, and they were really quite easy.

Friends brought 5 different kinds of homemade hummus (and some baba ghanoush, I think) , cut veggies and Greek Dolmades (Grape leaves stuffed with rice and herbs). The hummus was sensational, although I’m glad we had pita chips to go with it, and not just the veggies, they had some strong flavors, and the pita chips gave them a little balance, in addition to making the snacky-food a little heartier for our hungrier guests!

Our Olympic Torch Cupcakes were not too terribly tricky, although I wish I’d made the frosting a little more in advance! We made about 100 of these by cooking cake batter in store-bought ice cream cones. Once the chocolate cake was cooled, I set to work piping swirls of yellow frosting onto the top, which we then sprinkled with some red sprinkles to try to make them more “fire-like”. The piping took a little time, but these were very tasty, so worth the effort. I would probably do the piping on-site next time, since some of our icing got a little smushed in transit.

My Dad, being the wonderful, kind, giving, inventive genius that he is, drilled large holes into a box, which we then covered with tinfoil, so that these lovely cupcakes could stay upright as long as they did. (Although, I’m sure you notice the ones in front that were squished through a tragic punch-bowl maneuvering incident!)

The Gold-Medal Awards were actually quite simple, and probably more suited to the younger guests, but who can say no to blonde oreos (from Wegmans, no less) and fruit roll-ups? These were really tasty, and looked pretty cute, too!

Pool-Cake was fun to decorate! The idea is one that I saw on Pinterest, and did my best to copy from the creative blogger who made it, with the inadvertent variations that always happen when trying to emulate someone else’s creativity without their resources! You can put this decoration onto any cake that you bake in a square pan, but I used a 9″x13″ one. I used Cool whip, died blue, for the water, smarties (because we couldn’t find candy necklaces) for the lane-seperators, white chocolate for the diving boards, m&ms for the swimp caps, and little pretzel bits for arms and legs. The last touch was just adding the rescue buoys (using peach gummies with red frosting) and the flags, which you can’t see in this picture.  

The final sweet treat I added to the shower menu was chocolate covered pretzels! I love chocolate covered pretzels, and, to be honest, I think most people agree with me. So, since purchasing chocolate wafers of the right color was an option, it made sense to dip pretzels into them and create yet another Olympic Ring themed dessert. 

Job #3? Collecting Sage Council for the Bride-To-Be

The challenge? Make it look cute, and somehow connect to this Olympian theme.

The Solution? Making a cute little flag garland!

Guests each picked a triangle of colored paper and wrote their advice onto it. Then, while the games were afoot, an amazingly helpful friend attached the triangles to some grosgrain ribbon hanging from the windows for other guests (and the bride) to admire until the Bride took it home with her! I did my best to set it up in as user-friendly a way as possible:

Job #4: It was time for some Balloons!

We didn’t want anyone to miss the entrance, so these little floaters worked as eye-catchers, both on the road-side and the entrance to the building!

A Job for Somebody Else:

Favors!

My Mom bagged chocolate coins with a little note and some patriotic ribbon to send everyone home with a sweet little reminder of the wedding festivities to come!

A Job for Somebody Else:

Bridal Attire!

The Maid of Honor swathed her sister in a toga and an artsy sister-of-the-groom made the lovely grape-leaf wreath to go around the Bride’s head. My only contribution was the gauzy white ribbon hanging in streamers from the “laurel wreath”. . . because sometimes things just can’t be too bridal!

 

So, there you have it.

By no means perfection, but definitely a much feted, uniquely decorated, and immensely enjoyed Bridal Olympics!

Any other Olympic sized adventures out there? Unlikely theme-parties?

Prom(enade)

The very word PROM evokes a pretty broad variety of responses. Whether you flash-back with rosy nostalgia or a hefty dose of post-traumatic stress, most of you probably remember paying some ungodly amount for tickets,  spending more for whatever get-up you chose, and spending the evening feeling a little surprised that this once-in-a-lifetime pinnacle moment, however much fun you had (or didn’t have, as the case may be) was still just a high school dance.

I have the (perhaps dubious) privilege of corralling my students into the details of prom planning. Needless to say, even with the most wonderful of students, the process is EXACTLY like herding kittens; adorable, fun, chaotic, exciting, and exhausting.

 Planning a high school prom is so very different from attending it. . . but takes a much greater level of forethought. It’s a little like planning a wedding actually (I know, I’m not married, but after having 4 consecutive roommates get engaged and married while living with me, I think I have an idea of the process!). You have to think about venue, menu, music, lighting, decor, favors, seating, emotional turmoil . . . and a whole host of things I’ve probably forgotten about already.  Now, this isn’t my first rodeo, thankfully, but I am hoping toup the ante a little this time around. To set the best possible tone, our prom committee has selected the more-than-classic stereotypical theme as featured by Marty McFly himself.

ENCHANTMENT UNDER THE SEA 2012

Key Elements I am coordinating? 

1.) Music – Dinner and Dancing:

Check out this (largely student-made) playlist for the DJ, folks!  

Prom Playlist 2012

2.) Marketing:

Plaster the School With Posters!

3.) “Bathroom Baskets” :

Prom Disaster Relief 101

This year we started the trend of putting together a basket of much-needed items for those moments when life should have an Oh-sh*t handle! This dance’s model is a cheery colored basket, primed to fill with everything from safety pins to duct tape.

4.) Foot Protection and Sanitation :

Sock-it-to-’em!

Heels are fun. Heels are beautiful. Heels are CUTE! Heels are NOT comfortable for dancing. THUS, the perennial kicking-off-of-shoes-for-dancing tradition. . .

A handy remedy for promoting clean and comfy feet is to provide a bin of cute socks . . . this prom’s model might just involve whales!

5.) Table Settings:

Flowers Are So Last Season.

 

via

That’s right. This year, we’re going for FISH as centerpieces!

fishies

 

Beside or our lively (literally) little centerpieces, there will be candles nestled amid  floating in “bubbles” (hydrated water beads) . . . and a lovely assortment of shells and starfish!

Our Centerpieces!

6.) Favors:

Band-it. Steal the Show.

Nobody needs another wine glass that says “Prom 2012”. . . but these little bands seem to be relatively popular for an alternative!

7.) Mad-Libs:

Socially Helpful – like one of Santa’s Elves in your handbag

Lets face it, sometimes conversation needs a little starter. . . enter the madlibs.

Well, there is more, but those are the biggies.  (Yes, Venue and Food are taken care of!)

Did I miss anything?

What is your favorite prom memory/idea? If you feel like sharing, I could use all the creative energy I can get!

Good Ideas For Thanksgiving: Part Two

Every year in the school where I work, all the students and faculty crowd into our small cafeteria and everyone has an opportunity to say what they are thankful for. It might sound hokey or clichéd, but at a school where every individual student has struggled with a multitude of unique challenges, there is a beautiful depth to the tradition. In fact, the day before Thanksgiving has become my favorite annual work day.

It is a beautiful reminder of how precious life is; how much we have been given and how valuable the people in our lives are . . . all obvious realities that tend to get lost in the day-to-day shuffle!

Every year it leaves me dwelling on how much I have to be thankful for . . .  so this year I thought I might get a little more specific. I should always take time to count my blessings, so that I can remember them on days I’m not feeling particularly blessed! Its amazing how much I notice when I stop to actually look for things to be Thankful for! Now, combining this with the timeless tell-what-you’re-thankful-for Tradition,  I found two different artsy people who shared their thankfuls in crafty ways and I am on the hunt for a fun way to share my own!

Exhibit A: Illustrations

Exhibit B: A Pinboard!

When people do this, it gives a cool visual to a sometimes-trite tradition and reminds us of how much we have!

So I am brainstorming concepts, but also starting my THANKFULNESS LIST with you all! Now, I’m not going to list all the obvious ones . . . it should go without saying, but, Faith, Family, Friends, and safety are always at the top of my list. Beyond the essential life needs, I am thankful for the following blessings:

1.)    Laughing so hard it almost hurts when something funny happens (usually this occurs on a daily basis!)

2.)    Calculators – because I’m allergic to math, but still pay bills.

We Hate Math

3.)    The ability to recognize (although, true, it is sometimes somewhat delayed) when I am being ridiculous.

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4.)    Re-reading good books: Everything from Trixie Belden to the Bourne Identity!

5.)    Costume Parties. I just enjoy them, okay?

6.)    My cat. (Judge me. I would if I were you.)

7.)    Puns. Because they are HYSTERICAL.

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8.)    Being able to touch-type. Talk about practical! Mrs. Green, I forgive you for the half-year hell of high-school typing class.

9.)    Dr. Rhodes, the dentist who reconstructed my front teeth when I was five, so now I can eat corn on the cob, which is MAGNIFICENT!

10.)  Other Peoples’ Babies.

And there you have the beginnings of my Thankful-list!

What are you thankful for this year?

Party like a BOSS(ton Terrier)

Growing up, my family was never much for birthday parties. Celebrations tended to require extensive house-cleaning, rendering parties less attractive by the relative unpleasantness of the preparation.

Now, I am not a rebel. Ask anyone. I’m a traditional, rule-following kind of girl. I am not one of those kids who left home and did everything their parents forbade during their youth. But, as far as birthday parties (or any parties, really) and family practices, I am a rebel. With any celebratory cause I can get my hands on.  No joke. Fact: I may be the last single almost-twenty-five-year-old who is also a die-hard Valentine’s Day fan.

So, it was with only momentary pause (because let’s face it, the concept is still a little . . . lovably ridiculous) that I threw myself into planning my roommate’s dog’s first birthday party. That’s right.

For you visual learners, that’s:

For such uncharted territory, I needed some definite (P)inspiration to get me started.

Once sufficiently inspired, next came some organisation and a little of the detail-oriented work I enjoy! I set about baking, detailing decor and hanging streamers like it was inter-office feuding and I was Dwight Schrute on the warpath.

Apparently, through the decades, some wonderful people have said wonderful things about dogs. I figured I would post a few of their thoughts for general appreciation, since most puppy-party invitees are confirmed dog-lovers!

My mom makes the most incredible cut-out cookies. In all honesty, I’m not a very inherently patient person, so making cut-out cookies is not the best job for me. I do love to decorate them, though! These are not my most intricate of creations . . . but I think I was maxed out after the  cake pops. . .

 With all of the sweets and treats abounding, we needed some refreshing drinks and savory snacks too!

DRINKLE = Lemonade (If you are thinking “oh-my-dear-sweet-Lord-in-Heaven . . . then I think you get the concept!)

Side note: We had to have these little fire hydrant cookies to go with the “Drinkle”. . . which was officially the nastiest, but most hysterical idea (birthed from a conversation with my darling,gourmet sea-salt-loving friend Katelyn!).

Puppy chow (chocolate peanut-butter chex mix) has to be one of the most-loved party treats of all time. . . and it just happens to look just like dog food while still tasting like MANNA! 

“Devil Dogs” are the perfect treat to help celebrate Winnie; They’re sweet, black and white, much-appreciated and 100% appropriately named – devilish!

In the end, all of the food, tasty treats and decorations were a mere backdrop for your average kids – ahem: puppy’s party. . . complete with presents, singing “happy birthday”,  and one exhausted post-party pup!

Even Winky-the-cat enjoyed herself!

Breaking Dawn: Party Like A Cullen

Mock me. Judge me. It won’t change a thing.

About three things I am absolutely positive. First, perhaps the Twilight Saga Series should not be taken too seriously as they are about teenagers and Vampires. Second, there is a part of me, and I don’t know how dominate that part might be, that is capable of seeing the ridiculousness inherent in obsession with a Young Adult Vampire Series. And third (perhaps most importantly), I am unconditionally and irrevocably in love with Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Series.

Some might submit, “If you’re smart, you’ll stay away from this series.”

Well, Okay, let’s say (for argument’s sake) that I’m not smart.

So, since I have an abiding love for this series, it logically follows that my affinity for theme parties might take a little turn for the immortal, no?

Enter my sister’s thirtieth birthday, which from this point forward we will call the THIRSTY THIRTY party. While this might not have been the first Twilight-themed party I’ve ever thrown, it took things to a whole new level. As we near the Breaking Dawn (part 1) arrival to cinemas, I am also approaching the next installment of fantastical theme parties, which I plan with Alice-like enthusiasm and borderline-nauseating glee whenever the occasion presents itself. Now, it’s been a while since the last few parties, so this week I’m delving into my past parties to excavate recyclable ideas before innovating new ones. (It’s my version of going green.)  I believe I’ve boiled my Twilight party-planning-process down to some basic procedure steps.

Now, I must clarify. Even though I loved the books exponentially more than the movies and, I have to admit I have a lingering dislike of Kristin Stewart’s emotionless expressions, my parties are based on a melange of movie and book.

Step 1: Scatter relevant quotes, pictures and words strategically about the venue. 


Step 2: Use what you have lying around the house.

Part of the reason why so many people love the Twilight series is because of the character development. We love that which we can (even marginally) identify with. A positive side effect of this identification-factor is that those of us who have done some book obsessing tend to see references in everyday life. THUS, party decor becomes simpler the more creative (cough, obsessed, cough) you are! Case in point:  

Forks is both a town and an object. Anytime you can take something commonplace and transform it into a subtle or punny book reference, you’ve done your job correctly!

Since the Volturi have a tendency to show up at every party in the books, why not bring them strategically into our theme party. Check out this re-purposed graduation gown and a cardboard Marilyn Monroe cutout from college!

In lieu of a grand piano . . . we used the baby grand!

The bathroom door, with just a few words, can be surprisingly festive!

Simple book references = anything with apples.

Step 3: Make as many ridiculous references to the book as possible. 

Example #1 = The kitchen Island takes on a whole new dimension as ESME’s Island, popular vampire-human honeymoon destination. Rife with Feathers and an abundance of eggs, it’s put together to help you reminisce about the unique romantic getaway from book number 4!

Example #2: Re-creating that memorable moment from Eclipse when Jacob was dumb and Edward made a somewhat humorous veiled-hatred comment!

Example #3: Jasper Whitlock was in the army, a confederate soldier to be exact. So what better way to use that gigantic portrait of Abe Lincoln that hangs in the living-room?

Step #4: Plan a KILLER menu!

The nostalgia-food: Edward and Bella’s First Date

For some reason, there’s always one of these at the big parties. Might as well take a page from Rosalie’s book and be prepared!

People, for those unprincipled bloodsucking monstrous vampires to eat.

Animal Crackers, for those ethical Cullens.

Serving up “The Cold Ones” is never a bad call.

I use as much red and black as possible, using the book illustrations as a springboard for decor!

Brie Cheese gets CHANGED, developing a new temperature and a much harder skin. . . but lives a VERY short second life, because this is DELECTABLE! (Thus, re-enacting the short second life of Brie/Bree Tanner)

Film references enable us to eat Twizzlers. Which are always a good choice!

There you have it.

I am going to need to amp it up for this next party, so I’m hoping for an outpouring of ideas online. . . It’s time for some research and innovation! There will likely be a Wedding Entryway and a birthing room. With blood bags. And an obstetrics nurse. Who knows what else might happen? Pinned ImageI mean, vampire-human hybrids are the limit, right?

Belated Independence

Where did July go? I know, I know, it’s not over just yet, but I am shockingly behind myself on practically every front, which would be woefully embarrassing if I lacked a reason, but (thankfully?) my excuse is as timeless as a tacky 80s flick. Yessiree, I got mono.

Before you ask, NO, I have not been kissing anyone suspicious OR interesting. Unless you count the highly slobbery kisses I got from my one-year-old niece at a family reunion in early June.

I’ve learned, though, that you can’t let a little mono get you down. . . I mean, HEY, what’s a little four-week fever? Glands are just glands, even when they’re huge. You’ve got to keep living your life, right? At least, that was my reasoning for making the 7 hour ride to New York and hosting an impromptu Fourth of July Party for my parents and co. SO, without further ado, it is with belated excitement that I share my Independence Day Undertakings!

First up on the docket? Some DIY decor! 

These tea lights and bouquets were a cinch to make and looked so sweet scattered about the picnic! I just put some star-shaped stickers on old jam jars and rustled up an old can of white paint. With a few hours to dry in the sunshine and a couple of citronella tea-lights, theses star candle-holders were a perfect accent to the red polka-dot ribbon I found for 50 cents in a discount ribbon box. . . right alongside the navy ric-rac I used on the flowers! With a handful of small flags, a bouquet of baby’s breath and a few more jam jars, we were in business!!!

Done Decorating? No way! As cute as the candles and nosegays might be, we needed a little more clear communication of what exactly was being celebrated. . . armed with cardboard, a paintbrush, a stencil and a few colors of acrylic paint, my mom and I took inspiration from Etsy and did our part to let our Freedom Flag FLY!

Next up? Food Preparation!

Cold Fruit Stars and Stripes made with a star cookie cutter, watermelon, blueberries, frozen grapes and bamboo skewers!

Nothing makes for tastier summer desserts than no-bake treats! Piping cheesecake into these strawberries was quite a bit easier than pie (or at least easier than cheesecake) and then all there was to do was top it all off with fresh blueberries! This dessert presented beautifully . . . with Strawberries and Cheesecake for all!

The next dessert might be my favorite yet! I am an unabashed rice crispie treat addict, but the trick to this stacked Snap Crackle Layer Cake is making them with extra marshmallows, which you should probably do anyway, because it makes them so gooey and delicious! The reason why it is ESPECIALLY important with the cake is due to the servability . . . nobody wants to try to hack apart a brick of rice crispy treat! Extra marshmallows keeps the whole thing gooey and highly cuttable.

Our only baked treat was this luscious vanilla cake, made from scratch and chilled before it was covered with whipped cream and berries for a token representation of Old Glory. . . which is highly fitting considering how glorious it ended up tasting!

Not Shown: Heavenly Chicken Speedies, Enormous Hot Dogs, Deviled Eggs, Red White and Blue Coleslaw and Blue Chips with Salsa! Guests all contributed to the spread and we enjoyed some incredible potato salad, Tasty Quinoa and Flavorful Greens!

The only other true prep remaining was a chilly beverage to cool our guests down in aperitif! In keeping with our colors of the day, I whipped up a blender full of Strawberry Daiquiri, stuck marshmallow halves to the inside of serving cups and handed these lovely drinks out with blue straws to top them off!

Since our Independence Shin-Dig lasted the better part of the day, I kept our final crucial piece on standby for when the gigantic bonfire we had planned died into a manageable blaze for s’mores!

All in all, it was a pretty hot party if I do say so myself, although maybe it was just my steady temp of 101.4!

To tell the truth, the best part was just enjoying the fruit of all preparation with friends and remembering that we were not just celebrating an opportunity for good food and friends, but something of much greater significance. Although the freedom we celebrate is nothing to be made light of, it seems fitting that we make a true celebration of the fourth of July as a tribute to our Great Country and the gift it is to be a citizen living with the degree of Freedom we enjoy. But I digress. Leaving my patriotic soap box behind, I hope you all enjoyed the fourth as much as I did! Any fun traditions out there? What did you do to celebrate?

My Baby BUNDT-ing. . .

“Bye, baby Bunting,

Father’s gone a-hunting,

Mother’s gone a-milking,

Sister’s gone a-silking,

Brother’s gone to buy a skin

To wrap the baby Bunting in!”

A few weeks ago (already!?!) I co-hostessed a wonderful little baby shower for my wonderfully pregnant friend Natalie! I love food and fun presentation, but I also love Puns to an unreasonable extent. SO, when I saw a mini-bundt pan, I knew that this would be on the shower menu!

Apparently, back in the 1800’s when the Baby Bunting rhyme was popular, Bunting was another way of saying “Plump” or chubby, as I believe all good babies ought to be if they possibly can*. Glazed with a sweet drippy vanilla-bean sheen, I think my Bundt-ing may have done more than it should have in fostering a circle of friends bunting, but they were deliciously, miniaturely, worth it!!!

* Case in Point: My sister’s darling baby bundting at a children’s Faery Festival in Essex last year!