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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Presidential Themed Wedding

I thought I would start with the theme for the wedding.  Washington, D.C. is the bride's (my niece's) favorite city.  Her fiancĂ© took her there purposely to propose.
So, knowing we were on a $5,000 budget, we decided last September to have
a theme.  The bride wanted the wedding on Presidents' Day weekend, thinking
things would be discounted in the winter.  In addition her guests would have an extra day off of work to travel.  Plans changed.  Then we tried for March.  No go.  Finally, she secured a date with her church and a vendor for Friday, April 15.  We thought that since it was tax day, the theme would still fit in. 

I used bits and pieces of people graphics to create my protestors and the secret service man.  I make these posters starting with a 14 x 27" sheet in Photoshop.
I enlarge them to 36" x 72" at Staples or Office Depot.  I used to do it at my husband's architectural office, but they hired a lot more people, remodeled, and took the machine away. (Boo hoo).  If the posters are for a client party, the firm sends them out for me and pays for them. (Yippee!) Anyway, it costs about $40 for each panel.  I used these two above taped together for a photo op background. 

What I didn't know was that this guy above would be the source of so much fun.
I blew two of him up to 36" x 72" and my hubby and his brother spray mounted them on cardboard science boards from Hobby Lobby.  For each one, we duct taped two red ones together to get the height we needed.  We used measuring yard sticks to support the back.  We cut him out (taking away the white) and they glued him to the red front of the boards.  The side pieces of cardboard were bent backwards to use as the stand. 

Two of the groomsmen took turns standing at the doors, in their dark suits and sunglasses, "protecting" the reception.  They even invented a GAME called "The President's Down."  Someone in the group would yell, "The President's Down," as if he was attacked.  The last person to put a finger to their ear (like a walkie-talkie) was out and got "bopped."

My third favorite item was the map of Washington, D.C. that I created, piece by tiny piece for the menu board.  Since the wedding was in Austin, Texas, the bride arranged for two food trucks. The first was a Texas barbeque truck with sliders, the second one was a cupcake truck.  The food was absolutely delicious. But being an aunt, I worried constantly about rain.  So I created a salad bar with Panera bread bowls placed in an antique bread bowl, ordered pizza, and was prepared to buy a big patio umbrella. It was 81 degrees and sunny.


We also ordered pizza for the kids and grownups who didn't like barbeque. It was fun.  I have a photo somewhere of the bride eating a piece.

Oh, you are thirsty after just looking at this photo.  Well, have some vodka lemonade and blueberry punch.  I cheated, myself, and had a cupcake BEFORE
I had my sliders.


Having to order everything long distance for Virginia, I needed a portable punch bowl, that was fairly inexpensive. had these plastic acrylic ice buckets that I put to a new use.  I had another one filled with Kahlua, coffee, milk, and chocolate and vanilla ice creams.  These went fast.  We also had a bar set up with beer and wine and waters.  The venue had a kitchen, so we had apple juice in their fridge for the little ones.

The reception was in a dance studio, which was adorable.  But the low cost of renting it left many items to be ordered.  We called rental companies in the area, but they wanted surcharges on top of large fees because it was on a Friday.  Normally, rental companies will pick up the items the next day.  The venue wanted everything out by 11p.m.  So, we got silverware and napkins in bulk on Amazon.  We bought the red melamine plates (a mistake) on the Dollar Tree.  I should have bought their glass ones.  These worked well, but had to be tossed afterwards.  We bought the glasses at Target for $1 each.   My sister had to go to five Targets in Austin, but she found the 75 we needed. We also had large votive candles on wooden pedestals I bought on Etsy.
The bride folded the napkins into pockets and we placed the themed essay card you see above in the pockets with flashing rings onto each .  I will NEVER go to a wedding without bringing flashing rings.  I got those on Amazon in bulk for about 50 cents each.

Look carefully to guess which President is in this photo.

Here is a picture of my sister, the bride's mother, with her new son-in-law.  I especially wanted you to see the Prego jar with flowers.  The bride had collected over 100 jars and really wanted to use them to save money.  We used about 36 of them with salt and battery operated candles in them.  The next 36 looked like the one above.  I kept checking Pinterest for ideas and finally found one that looked like this.  But, I worried and worried about the cost and where I'd get the flowers.  I finally READ the pin and the author stated she bought the bouquets from Trader Joe's for $3.99.  So off I trouped to the store in Virginia, and sure enough, they had the bouquets.  I called the Trader Joe's in Austin.  Sure enough, they carried them also.

I am taking a flower arranging class at our local community college.  We learned how to make simple topiaries this session.  I made 6 of them for additional anchoring centerpieces at each table.  We had 12 tables pushed together to make six long ones.  We had 6 jars of flowers and 6 jars of candles on each long table.  I bought small checked cotton cloth from JoAnn's and ripped it into ribbons to tie around each of the jars.

Look at the enlarged table set-up above again.  Do you see the gold frames?
Each table had two of them.  They were pictures of past presidents and their wives on their wedding days.  I started collecting them on Pinterest, but ran out of them.  I searched and searched online for months.  Alas, there is a shortage of them.  But, through the magic of Photo Shop, I could create a few of my own.
Stop laughing when you see my favorites below.

Since there were no young Washingtons, I used computer generated heads I found on the internet.  What do you think? I did the same thing for the Lincolns.                                                             
Since it was a Catholic church ceremony, I wanted something special for the program.

 Above is the front and back of the program.  The back explains the significance of the birch tree.  The bride didn't want to spend money on church flowers, so we build a version of one I found on Pinterest.

My sister  ( really my sister-in-law) had a large wooden container, almost like a huge hat box.  We cut the four 8' logs I had ordered from Amazon into varying heights, the tallest being about 5'.  We secured them in the container with the cardboard box from which they had arrived.  It packed nicely.  We hid the cardboard (I am saying we because I had a lot of help), with silk ivy and azalea which I had found at a garden center in Virginia and had shipped there.  I had also ordered birch branches on Amazon (aren't they amazing?).  We wired these between the logs at the top and hid the wires with smaller ivy we got at Hobby Lobby in Austin.  I love it.  The violinist in the photo is the groom's sister.
By this time, you really want to see a picture of the bride, don't you?
Here she is eating donuts from her donut cake.  She LOVES donuts.  She doesn't like cake.  Thank you Pinterest for the idea.
 Here she is walking down the aisle.  She made all of the bouquets from book pages.  She made one for herself, one for each of the bridesmaids, and corsages for the rest of the wedding party.
She was upset that she couldn't find a hair dresser to do her wedding hair.
My daughter Annie did all of her friends' hair for years for events.  She is an interior designer who just knows these things. She set up a beauty parlor in my sister's bathroom.  The bride wanted a low bun style with a clip in net on it (which she made herself).  I think Annie did a pretty good job.

Here is a picture of the happy couple the night before at the rehearsal dinner.  It was actually a "breakfast for dinner" event at their favorite coffee cafĂ©, which they go to after mass on Sundays.  Their coffee is OUTSTANDING.  The owners, who know them well by now, erased the menu blackboard and wrote, "Congratulations Mary and Brandon."  By the way, I just love my new nephew. AND...his family.  They have been so welcoming to us.  His grandfather still flies airplanes.  His grandmother loves Chicos, just like me. I am now Facebook friends with his mother.
Groom's mom Cheryl is on right.  His grandmother is on the left.  See photo below for his grandfather.
Rehearsal Dinner


What do you do the day after a wedding?  You eat left over donuts; then you
head to downtown Austin, to a restaurant the groom has recommended, and you have delicious drinks and food; you take pictures of their capitol: and of, course, you shop for cowboy boots.

 We had quite an adventure for our week in Austin.  Now I want to go back and actually SEE Texas and float down one of their fabulous rivers.  But I can't leave without showing you my partners in crime.  Below is my hubby's brother Chip and his wife Lois.  They ran errands with us all week, help build things, glue, arrange flowers, get food, and were just
AMAZING.  But, isn't that what families are all about?  Isn't it the real reason we have weddings?



Thursday, December 17, 2015

Star Wars Christmas Letter 2015

Our Family in 2015

If you remember, last year we projected ourselves into the future forty years and into living on a space station.  This year we are all in Jedi training.  With Star Wars currently getting ready for battle, we figured all the help they could get.  So with the speed of light, I will begin a review of our past year's antics.

Robbie is our biggest news maker.  Along with helping Han Solo, he has a full time job with an international (and soon to be inter- planet) hotel firm.  He seems to love it.  His home base is still in California, but he can grab a quick space shuttle to other planets if needed.

Annie's firm has been purchased by another firm, so instead of walking to work, she will be taking the metro. She is still in interior design.  The intergalactic council  did contact her for a re-do of their headquarters.  They wanted a new rug design with their logo on it.  She recently visited Iceland, but Darth Vader's soldiers were everywhere, so it ruined her vacation.  She did bring me back a lava necklace as a souvenir, though.

Maryanne is still braving the clubs singing acapella.  Buzz and I went to see her sing, but with aliens everywhere, it was very distracting.  She is a great help to me in my party planning.  She found the BEST band for Buzz's office party who had everyone dancing this year.  She is still an AVID fan of the Washington CAPS hockey team.  She is now friends with the goalie coach.  She tries to capture their funny antics during practices.  She caught Ovechkin blowing a bubble from gum during practice.

Buzz continues in good health, thank goodness.  He has not been called into service as a Storm Trooper, but has been busy designing office space for Inova Health Systems.
I joined him at the National Harbor for dinner with clients at the Design Symposium this fall.  I LOVE going through the exhibit halls and trying to get free "swag."  Our client Margarita party was a huge success this fall.  I re-used a lot of the pieces I had designed for my niece Valerie's wedding.  The girls joined us for a trip to Disneyland in California for my 65th birthday on Thanksgiving. 
Christmas light in Disney's It's a Small World ride

 The parks were just beautiful with all of the holiday lights.  Robbie joined us for the fun.  We went to his new apartment in Irvine and met up with his California friends for his birthday, which is two days after mine.

I substituted this fall in two first grades in September, but that was it so far for my school appearances.  Two of the teachers and their hubbies, along with Chip and Lois, are joining us  tomorrow night to go to the Udvar Hazy Imax Theater's presentation of .... can you guess?  Yep.  The new Star Wars movie.

Well, off we go towards another year.  I will miss my brother-in-law Nick, and my high school friend Sheila, who both passed away unexpectedly this fall.  It also seems really bare under the Christmas tree without my furry friends, but NO, I am not getting a new dog. . . . .yet.  I hope you all stay healthy and happy and have as many blessings as your hearts desire.

Merry Christmas,


Monday, December 14, 2015

Christmas Office Party "Santa's Campground" 2015

Guests were met at the front door by Santa's Camp Counselor.  If you enlarge the photo by clicking on it, you will see his bulletin board with directions for the party.  Each person had a packet of six coupons with the name of each of the six games on it in different colors.  If they won the game, they placed the coupon in the acrylic tumbler for the raffle prizes later in the evening.

I chose this photo to show you how the window panels make the office cozier.  We made a pit of the eight lobby chairs with tables in the middle.  Look closely behind the councelor and you will see an elf riding a bicycle on the camp road.

                  The above photo gives you a better idea of the conversation pit.

 This photo doesn't do justice to the two big cabin panels, but it does highlight the boxwood tree I made in my flower arranging class.  The band, "Irresponsible" brought free sunglasses.
My centerpieces were from my collection of wooden boats.  I actually got this one on Amazon.  It is made for American Girl dolls.  I like the elf better.  Speaking of elves, there were four large lake panels.  Above are the first two with the elves playing in the lake.

 The second two panels of the lake were of the gazebo with our dancing elves.  We placed the band by these.

I have been saying for years that a live band is a must at a big party.  The office payed $1200 for "Irresponsible" out of Northern Virginia.  This band was so good that a LOT of people were dancing, which was unusual.  Maybe it was because the 15 month old baby that was captivated by them was dancing and oh, so adorable.

The games were in the middle and back of the office by our kitchen.  Every campground needs a camper.  I found this one on-line by Land of  I had a collection of dogs from my niece's cruise themed bridal shower last year.  If you know anything about me, you will know that I like to reuse my props in new ways each time.  So, the dogs came as Santa's dogs who had jumped in his sleigh as he traveled around the world.  The GAME:  Feed the Dogs.  I got the plastic bones on Amazon.  The just fit the double dog bowls in a stand I found at Home Goods.  I already had the beach chair and Santa.  He didn't leave home a lot because I didn't really like his original feet.  So, I bought him a new pair of boots at Target in the kids' section.  I wish I had take a picture of the two year old hugging him.  But I am constantly moving during the party.

This is the second "Land Canoe" I've built with my hubby.  I bought a full size inflatable canoe on Amazon.  I also bought two wooden dollies and some deck planks at Home Depot. We cut and screwed the deck planks (tapering them at each end) to the dollies, then used industrial wide hook-and-loop tape to the boards and canoe. 

 Once the kitchen was emptied of all the tables (they were used for dining at the front of the office), the room is quite wide.  Two people in the boat, two people PUSHING the boat, made it a moving target game. I used four golf chipping nets because they stand on their own.  Each contestant had a bucketful of soft balls and "guns" that they flung balls into the nets as they rolled on by them.

The Skunk Shuffleboard game was a HUGE success.  Momma skunk was in her tent (American Girl tent on  Each of her babies was hot glued onto a square block of wood.  Each wood piece had only the soft side of Velcro glued on it.  See the tile floors.  They make wonderful sliding surfaces.  I used just an empty mop handle as the pushing stick.  The object was to get at least three of mom's babies returned to her under her platform tent.

Oh my goodness, baby bear is stuck at the top of the target tree.  We must ring his bell to let mom know so that she can help him. (For the kids).  The adults used big PVC bows and wooden arrows with rubber tips as Target Practice.  When I found these round foam circles on Amazon, I actually didn't know how I was going to use them.  I thought and thought and thought, until I finally decided to use my step ladder.  Then I wondered if the opening were too small, but I saw lots of people getting arrows through the holes, so this game was a success.

We used the building's lobby this year for the Trike Races.  We had two tents out there to keep the campground theme going.  This was a timed race and a lot of fun.

I reused the snowball shooters from two years ago.  But I found tiny squirrels and birds, which were just the right size for flinging.  I used my large wooden backboard again, but this time with a nest (really a plant liner).  I made a cardboard tree and placed it inside the backboard.  The object of this game of Squirrels in Trees was to get the squirrels or birds back in their nest.  Easy??  No.
Fun?? Yes.

 Finally, we had a Fishing Pond.  I bought an American Girl dock on
 It was BIG and just the right scale.  I found this wonderful paper that looks like water 
and rolled it out in one of the back halls.  I put my Pottery Bar wooden sail boat you've seen at my other parties by the dock with an elf in it.  I found easy fishing sets for the kids, and a much more wooden set on for the adults.  A lot of people went fishing, so this game was a success.

I will post more photos as people send them to me.  Yes, I know it was dangerous to have architects take the land canoe outside on the parking lot hill, but it was highly entertaining and no one got hurt.  

I hope your next party is as fun as this one was.