Monday, May 31, 2010

Nick's Party Prep: Party Day is Here!

Submitted by Linda
Nick's party came to fruition yesterday and we had a great time. I think he did too!

Thanks for all the well wishes on the pergola project! Here are Craig and Nick at about 10 am on party day. They just finished laying the brick under the swing.
Here it is with hanging plants and white lanterns. (Those white lanterns are another story, one that involves a fun trip to Kohl's at about 10 pm on party-eve).
Meanwhile, Pam is dipping strawberries......
...Michelle is grilling vegetables.....(Folks have asked about Michelle's grilled veggies. I know she's planning to put up her 'how to' in a blog post sometime soon.)
Look at these colorful tomatoes!
...my parents are baking their famous baked beans at their house, and I'm putting the final touches on tables. It was a bit windy, so the chairs are holding the tablecloths on.
One of the final touches is the personalized M&Ms. I think these are worth every penny!
Tomorrow I'll post the actual party and share the menu!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Party Countdown and PERGOLA!!!!!!!

Submitted by Linda
1 p.m.: Val Pal decorating sugar cookies......
.....Michelle chopping celery....
....Pergola progress.....
....plants planted and on the wall....
3:00 p.m....hanging the swing....
5 p.m.....Ta Da!!!!! PERGOLA! Craig is still planning to lay the pavers under the swing area.
Yes, the swing can hold two big boys! Hank says it's not a swing..but a "gently moving chair". This means no kamikaze swinging into the pool!
Woo hoo! And done with 23 hours to spare!

Pergola Panic and Party Countdown #3!

Submitted by Linda (with Michelle in town!)
Here's just a few of the many bags of "beach pebble" rocks. Good thing I have strong boys to help Craig load them in and out of the truck. Now Craig is working his magic......
Toby isn't working too hard- she's doing her usual dog thing. You can see the flowers are not yet planted.
As for the pergola, we still need the equipment.....
Remember I mentioned those "other jobs" the get done before we have an event? Nick is cleaning out a bookshelf from the "man cave". We recently discovered that Nick is a great cleaner - the other day he was so sick of all the expired condiments in the fridge that he cleaned out the entire fridge. He's going to make some girl a great hubby some day.
At quitting time, here's the pergola. The beams up top are just laying up there so that we could visualize the finished pergola!
I still haven't mentioned much about the menu, but I will tell you that yesterday my parents and I made a truckload of yummy potato salad. Also, when chef Michelle came, we bought some beautiful veggies for grilling. Stay tuned.........

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pergola Panic and Party Countdown #2!

Submitted by Linda
So, party day is 3 days away! Here's our status........ Yesterday Craig started staining the wood. (He doesn't look too happy about it in the picture).
Here are some of the stained beams. On the bbq, you can see the flowers Craig is planning to plant in his "spare" time.
Craig's brother Mark came by today for a visit, as Craig was staining. You can see another of Craig's projects in the background. Maybe if I stop giving him "honey-do" jobs he can work on his truck!
Up go the beams....
Craig asked me to come home from school to approve this cut on the pieces for the top. I gave it 2 thumbs up!
At 5:10 p.m., here's where we're at! Craig is still cutting the pretty design on the 2x6s.
Meanwhile, I have been buying flowers for the centerpieces. Here's what I have so far: Mums and Alstroemeria. I like these because I can buy them well ahead of time.
Stay tuned....tomorrow I start cooking, and Craig will keep building!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Party Countdown and Pergola Panic!

Submitted by Linda
For several years, I have been dreaming of a pergola in the back corner of my yard, large enough to hold a wooden swing, to serve as a functional focal point for the back yard. I had always loved the palm trees, but the plants between them never seemed to do that corner justice.

Last summer, I even bought a swing on clearance, hoping that a large box in the garage would inspire the builders in my life to start building. I even mentioned it again after Christmas, that I was saving my Christmas cash for a pergola. Well, there seemed to be no intention to build a pergola until we got the dreaded note from Edison in February: The pretty queen palms that we had planted when they were just princess palms (haha), about 13 years ago were interfering with the power lines, and were to be removed at Edison's expense. Here you can see the team hired by Edison doing their thing:
One down, one to go.....At this point, Craig decided we needed a pergola! (These things always go much better when it's his idea!!!) Then, Craig set to work removing the trunks and root systems. What you see here is how it looked....until about a week ago.
After calling on our friend Hank, who is a building genius, and hiring a helper to dig 6 holes, we now have concrete poured and braces ready for the 6 x 6 beams. Am I concerned that this is where we're at, when "child #2's grad party" is 4 days away?
Actually, I'm not worried, because the Craig and Hank team have come through for me before. But I will keep you posted.

Another interesting thing about the way men's minds work (is this all men, or just mine?): When I plan a party or event at our home, all of a sudden things that weren't a problem suddenly are on the 'to do' list - I LOVE this! Things had piled up near the shed at the back end of our driveway, and in this picture, Nick is sawing up old pallets for firewood. He isn't always so helpful, but knowing that it's for his party, and the opportunity to use power tools got him on the helper bandwagon.
As for the pergola, Craig is taking some time off, and has some helpers lined up........I'll post an update tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Graduation Party Version 2.0: Photo Montage and Banner

Submitted by Linda
When I'm planning a party, I love to go into all the party stores to see the offerings for my particular event. Though in no way am I "dissing" any store bought banners or signs, and though I will happily enjoy this type of decor at other parties, I much prefer the personal touch of making my own. (Wow! No matter how I say that, I still sound like a snob!)

Nevertheless, here are my 2010 versions of Nick's banner and photo montage (to see last year's, and get more specific directions click HERE). For Nick's banner, I used black, silver, and Stampin' UP's riding hood red DSP, rather than the CHS maroon. Why? Nick is headed for APU where the colors are Brick and Black, and I'm hoping that I can recycle this banner in 4 years when he (hopefully) graduates from APU. Is this wishful thinking?
When I was doing my spring "craft fair blitz", I came across this cool berry garland in deep green and white. You all know I put a seasonal garland up on my sideboard throughout the year, and in the summer, I really needed something to add to the grapevine and white lights. It will be perfect when I add my vintage July 4th banner and my back-to-school banner in September.
When I started to work on his montage, I remembered that last year I had used Creative Memories Large Photo corners, so I was simply able to pop out Tommy's pics and slide Nick's in. I changed the Bravo Burgundy year tags, and was done, lickety split!
Now a side note regarding the beverages at the party. Nick's only wish regarding menu and drinks were that we served old school sodas in glass bottles. So, I started buying them, and I attached this little red sticky note which meant "Hands off till the party!" I don't think it worked.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

California Adventure: Senior Style

Submitted by Linda
I'm guessing that when you saw the title of this post, you were visualizing a trip with Nick and a bunch of other high school seniors. But this trip was reserved for some other seniors...senior citizens!

My parents had never been to Disney's California Adventure, so for their birthdays, which were earlier this year, I promised to take them to the California version of the Magic Kingdom. (You know you're an adult when you are taking your parents to Disney, instead of them taking you!)
Here they are in front of "N" for Norm!
It's interesting not going with kids...we took our time, enjoyed all the neato details that Disney is so famous for. We did manage to see Soarin' Over California 4 times!

We always enjoy looking at the fabulous landscaping. We had recently read an article in the L.A. Times about the scads of gardeners who work all night long to create the magical flower beds. Love these Zinnias!
We also liked this bed near the Bug's Life Attraction, and the faux orchards and fields behind it.
All in all, it was a great day, and my parents especially enjoyed having a tour guide and chauffeur!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Graduation Party Version 2.0: The Invite

Submitted by Linda
One of the great bonuses of having children close together is that while I do something for child #1, I end up work out the kinks for child #2. Last year at this time you may remember my blogging frenzy about Tommy's graduation party. Well, it's that time again, this time for Nick. Above is the hand-stamped invite to his party. I used the same CHS colors, but definitely changed it up from Tommy's invite.

This year, I got smart and made the 'thank yous' at the same time (because really, can you send store bought "thank yous" after you send hand-made invites?) I really love this square shape and the embossed dots!
Last year at this time, Michelle and I had made portions of our "Italian Feast" ahead of time. Well, this year, we are making it a bit easier on ourselves, in terms of the cooking ahead. I will admit that I've baked 3 types of cupcakes and a large batch of my sugar cookies. Are you curious about the menu? Stay tuned........

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Welcome Baby Olive!

Submitted by Linda
I'm starting to understand how 'old' people get stuck in the past. As I've been working on Nick's graduation video, I've come across old pictures that don't seem so old. Here is (Left to Right) Cousin Kari, Cousin Tiffany, Tommy (who graduated last year), Courtney, and Baby Nick (who will graduate in June). This picture was taken in '92.
How time flies! Fast forward to this past Sunday, when I got to meet my niece Tiffany's 2nd child, Olive Joy. Her name means 'peace' - and when I visited with her she was very peaceful. I'm sure Tiff and Jeff are hoping that she will continue to live up to her name!
She's a beautiful baby born to a wonderful mommy. I can't believe I'm a great-aunt! Here I am with Olive and big brother Zeke (whose name means "strength").
Such special times! My best advice to Tiffany and Jeff (and all the young parents out there) is to savor every moment. Even though those days with young children seem so long, time really does fly by!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Rustic Peach and Blueberry Crostata

Submitted by Michelle

Though I have countless things I should be trying to accomplish today, I've spent my entire morning doing what I love: cooking. I made a batch of black bean burritos to enjoy for dinner tonight. I baked up a double batch of lemon bars with lemons from my tree to share with my friends at work. And since I had a bag of peaches which I bought on sale for 98 cents at my neighborhood Fresh & Easy I decided to try out Tyler Florence's recipe for a Rustic Peach and Blueberry Crostata.

The recipe is very simple. It begins with your basic pastry crust ingredients with the addition of lemon zest.
Once the butter, flour, salt and zest are incorporated, an egg yolk is also added, along with cold water. The dough comes together very easily and has to be chilled for 30 minutes, at least.
Whilst the dough chilled I peeled and sliced the peaches and mixed them with frozen blueberries. I also added sugar and flour to make them syrupy and sweet.
After the dough was chilled I rolled it out and transferred it to a pizza paddle. A crostata is form of a tart that is meant to have a "rough" appearance rather than a uniform, circular shape hence the sloppy appearance of my dough.
I topped the dough with the fruit, brushed the edges with egg yolk and then folded them over, leaving some of the fruit filling exposed.
The outside of the crostata is brushed with an egg wash and sprinkled with sugar and the entire pastry is baked on a pizza stone or, in Tyler Florence's case, a wood burning oven.

The end result is this gorgeous dessert.
I have plans to top it with either whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. This will be a great dessert to make all summer long as fruit is in season and abundant.

To view Tyler's recipe click here.