Thursday, November 26, 2009

We Have Rules for a Reason

Happy Thanksgiving all my bloggy friends. I hope your day is filled with deliciousness and family harmony. I pray mine is too.

You know how I can take a short story and make it a whole lot longer - you might want to grab a cup of tea and maybe a sandwich.

I really shouldn't be here bloggin' right now, but it's my Blog-a-versary, can you believe it? Three Thanksgivings ago this madness began. And so the madness continues. I've got 40 plates spinning in the air, but I'm stopping to talk to you people - who are likely licking pie filling spoons, pointlessly basting birds (they say you don't really make it more moist by doing that...) or watching football. (They still play a football game on Thanksgiving Day, don't they? This country is changing so much I just wonder... Let me just step down from that soapbox mighty quick.)

Back to my long short story. We've had a bit of a change from our original plans and I just wanted to make you feel better about your day - so I'll share how things are going here.

Let's review by looking at the future. The first week of December (which begins next week) is pretty full for me. First I have a Women's Ministry Christmas social on the 3rd, (but nobody has let me know if they're coming or not yet - and I'm not twisting any arms or sending out any RSVP reminders this time...) then on the 5th we're having a Christmas open house for who-knows how many people - again - no RSVP's... Someday I'll address that in a post - I'm sure you're on the edge of your seats now...) Next we'll head to a local town for a big all day long Pearl Harbor grand re-opening of the WWII museum complete with an address by President Pappy Bush 41 and then on the 8th we have our big Homeschool Mom's Christmas Extravaganza (which I'm co-planning with my very dear friends on our homeschool association's board of directors) Oh - and my only sister's birthday is that week too.

Tired yet? I am.

File all that away and let's flash back to last Sunday. My babies' daddy was off flying somewhere... I don't know where he's flying so much any more, I made no less than four trips to the airport an hour away in the Big City last week, but I know he was flying since I'd driven him to the airport again for the first leg of his trip that morning. Well anyway, he's trying to be a romantic guy and shoots me a text message from somewhere in the Midwest and wants to know if I could work in a romantic getaway for the long Thanksgiving weekend to southern California, just the two of us. How does a girl turn down something like that???

She looks at her bulging calendar, that's how.

But I came to my senses, called my momma who assured me that getting away was the right thing to do and even promised that she would take care of everything on the home-front and I could even come back to a clean house - and children that were still alive - Bonus!

A little later that same afternoon I was driving my mother and father-in-law to a Thanksgiving service and potluck dinner at our sister church (the other church our Pastor serves) about 25 miles from us. I mentioned the potential romantic get-away and my mother-in-law offered to host Thanksgiving dinner at her house to help lighten my load. (She didn't find out until two days later that her babies' daddy of 50+ years was a walking petri dish of the shingles virus...)

This is where the rule breaking commences.

I've had a hard and fast rule ever since I can remember to NOT put up any Christmas decorations until Thanksgiving was over. And by "over" I mean, you put down your napkin and roll away from the table. It's not unusual at all for us to put up the tree while there are still dishes with dried bits of stuffing on them stacked in the sink.

But I'm looking at my schedule and wondering how in the world I'm going to take down Thanksgiving and put up Christmas by December 5, plan and execute all of those other events, while at the same time subtracting a full three days from my already sleepless schedule??

Just this once, only this one emergent time, I'll pack up the Thanksgiving and fall decor (except for the bales of hay, pumpkins, leaves and gourds on the front porch) and get Christmas up early. And it was decided.

I got my strapping farm-boy husband to hoist in the many crates, boxes and the forest of amazingly lifelike trees from our shed. My house was now a maze of Christmas craziness. The cats were in heaven and the kids got a whole new dimension to hide-n-seek games.

Let's jump a day or two forward to Thanksgiving Eve. (You see how these stories get so long... I could have said "yesterday" a perfectly acceptable description of the time period, but I went with 9 extra words instead - not counting this explanation...) Yesterday, it all began unraveling.

Father-in-law was in a considerable amount of pain with his shingles, and even though he isn't considered contagious (unless you actually come in contact with the blisters) he's not up for company. His primary care doc isn't calling him back, but waiting for the four day weekend to pass before he addresses the issue. We don't have time, but we're swinging that bat now, instructing him in being aggressive in demanding care. I'm sure that whole health care situation will be improving any minute now...

I should have seen it coming a day or two ago, but when my mother-in-law called and canceled turkey dinner at her house it kind of broadsided me. I fully expected my mom would say we could just eat dinner at her place, no problem, but she said there was no way she could get it on the table before my man and I were to be already in the air on our way to L.A. for some relaxing Black Friday traffic dodging.

So at about 5 in the afternoon it was decided that I would be hosting Thanksgiving in my half Christmas / full mess house.

Poor Babies' Daddy made the mistake of calling from the "road" again - on his way back from Alabama - wondering how my day was going. I let him know that the fecal material had hit the rotating oscillator and he needed to flap faster. He was expected in about midnight.

At 1:30 a.m. he sent me the text message saying he was back and would be home soon.

At about 2:45 a.m. I called him to see if he was dead in a ditch.
He was changing his second flat tire - which doesn't go well when you only have one spare.

By 3:30 a.m. I had picked him up, and he was home from our last minute dinner prep trip to Wal-Mart and tucked in his nice warm sheets. Don't tell CPS or my mother that I left my three kids snug in their beds while I went out and grabbed him from the side of the road. We had established earlier in the week that the 12 year-old knows where the fire extinguishers are kept... that's another short story for another day.

And so today begins. I've decided to re-pack a few of the Christmas decorations and unpack a few of the fall decorations and eventually I'll pack my bags for my relaxing holiday which consists of three points of interest, a trip to In-N-Out Burger, and a minor singing gig in 2 1/2 days. Don't worry for me... Tonight I'm sure there will be plenty of restful sleep on my sis-in-law's pull out sofa! WhoamI kidding... I don't sleep when she and I get together! There's too much fun to be had.

I'll see you in a few days with a "short" report - assuming I survive.

May your turkey be moist, your pie crust be flaky, your cider sparkling, and your family blessed!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Without a Hitch (except the hitch part)

They're hitched. It's all done and I (we) survived. I'm just sleeping. Yes... right now, I'm asleep right now. My talent is far beyond the scope you expected, isn't it... to be able to in fact do things in my sleep. That's really the key to it all.

I'll give you all the crazy details later (when I'm actually awake) and share all the photos from my fabulous photographer friend, but now I must walk away from here and get my family out the door for church services today.

I just wanted to say a big THANKS to all of my wonderfully talented friends that helped pull my vision together at the last minute before the ceremony. April, Diane, Donna (AKA Mom...), Heather M, Heather S, Lisa, and Sharra. Beautiful, selfless service, ladies. There's no way I would have been able to finish in time without your sweet help. It was a joy to work along side of you. You were a blessing to me and to the wedding couple and their friends.

More later - now I must re-focus on my own family so they're ready for my next crazy scheme - see you soon with lot's more photos and details...some of them quite interesting...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Wedding Execution Installment #3

If you're just arriving - I'm in the middle of a series, as it were. This is day three in the step by step execution of a wedding planned in 2 weeks, for 20 guests for $200. Post number one is here, and you'll find number two (not that kind...) here.

I'm wiped out.

I got home less than an hour ago from the church where I stayed up all night setting up for my Women's Ministry dinner and card-making class tonight, and doing what wedding prep I could.

I actually got quite a bit done. I'll share photos of most of it below.

(ETA: It's now several more hours since I got home - with a couple of cat naps here and there and my daughter's voice fading in and out... I think I may have changed my will, but I can't be sure...)
Four inch purple pillar candle surrounded by roasted white pumpkin seeds from the display at the health food store (since they were out they sold me the display for decorative purposes only.)

Yesterday when I went to pick up the cake at Costco it was totally wrong... That's what happens when you send a wall flower to do a party planner's job. Last week Friday I was playing "beat the clock" as sundown and the Sabbath approached. To save some time, I sent my oldest son and oldest husband to order the cake while I ran through Hobby Lobby for the second time. I thought it would be OK since I'd written down everything that needed to be written on the order form, including "this is a wedding cake, use FALL COLORS - deep purple, golden yellow and dark red for the flowers."

The bakery lady said the form didn't specify fall colors, but my babies' daddy insists that he put it on there. I was never shown the form... And he's a "quality assurance" guy... so I'm guessing it WAS on there.

Instead of using the "fall" colored icing for the roses on top, they used those traditional clown colors. It was hideous! If I hadn't been in such shock and panic I might have taken a photo for your viewing horror. My hands were actually gripping my hair as I stood there and the selective reader bakery girl told me that the "icing girl" was gone for the day. Are you kidding me??? This wedding is in less than 48 hours! I can't think of another place I can get a descent tasting / looking wedding cake for $17.

But God always has a better plan - and I couldn't see the wisdom of it the Friday before, but when backed into a corner my eyes were opened. I left the clown colored cake and and pulled a plain white cake "off the rack" that had a mound of white roses on the top in the middle. (I'll photograph it for you tomorrow when I actually open the seal on the cake.)

My plan is to carefully remove the mound of roses, not eat the icing, and replace the sugary goodness with this:

The Bride and Groom topper I found at Hobby Lobby yesterday. It hasn't been there the last 40 times I've looked on their wedding aisle, and this was the only one. I think this even actually LOOKS like the bride. (Except she tells me her dress is red and strapless...)

I had to punt a bit here. The cake topper is JUST the bride and groom figurine. The piece they're standing on is separate - and $ .99. Incidentally, the bride and groom was $12, and I was able to use a 40% off coupon on it - so roughly $8 for the cake topper - which is awesome, if you haven't priced them out.

But that's not all... I needed to have something to stick the fresh flowers in. So I took a small clear plastic plate (dessert plate) and put two pieces of Oasis foam on it and after I carved the sides to curve it, I taped it in place with waterproof floral tape. Then I just started filling it up. I'm sure it will look much better on the cake. The size is pretty big - it takes up an entire small cookie sheet. But the wedding cake itself is a half-sheet cake - pretty big for 20 people... If we run out of yummy pastry appetizers we'll have cake to fall back on :)

This is SO MUCH better than my original idea for the white cake with the colored flowers. I'm glad the the order got messed up with the bakery. Thanks, Lord! This makes the plain old white sheet cake a little more "wedding" grand.

There is one other minor detail... My son picked up the happy couple by the bride's head (who knows what goes through the head of a 12 year-old boy...?) and they parted company (some might say BROKE!) So now, I have the task of super gluing them back together and I'd appreciate your prayers... I don't have the best track record with super glue... Remember?

Side note: The photography is making the flowers look quite garish... They really aren't this obnoxious and neon looking in person.

Well, my little panic attack in the Costco bakery ate up much of my errand running time. So I raced through cold foods, grabbed some fruit for a fruit tray, a four variety box of 48 filled puff pastry vegetarian appetizers for $12 (and they look yummy - so I got an extra box for some holiday something that I'm sure I"ll need to take some tidbit thing to...) and a cart full of flowers. And I caved for a purple fancy dress, size 6. The price was right, and if the daughter of the bride and groom doesn't have something extra special to wear in her mom and daddy's wedding, she can wear this! Then I ran to the checkout. Which had a quarter-mile line.

I finally got through that (three separate receipts later - people behind me in line just LOVE me!) and loaded up the van. As I was loading my fruit into the cooler I saw a white grape. Literally - white. Ick! When I went to dig it out I discovered that half the pack of red grapes was white! GrOSs! These had to go back... I'm not paying $8 for molding grapes.

I kid you not - the "refund" line was 30 minutes. I was getting pretty impatient, my boys were thirsty (and again, didn't bring any water along for the journey...) and I was losing time. I sent up a quick prayer telling the Lord that I hoped he was saving us from some horrible accident and not just training me in patience.

I got my money back - and now it's 4:30 in the afternoon in one of our nation's largest cities - and I have to pick up the rest of my flowers on the other side of town before the wholesaler closes at 5. Right.

Centerpieces - there are three - set in a tablescape that will do double duty - Women's ministry Thursday night and wedding Friday afternoon. Tea-lights are in hollowed out mini white pumpkins. For a "how-to" on these centerpieces, see my post here.

I made it - just barely - and was pleasantly surprised that they had my flower order I'd placed online ready. (I was surprised, since I didn't get the confirmation email they said I'd get.)

And then it came to me. The "accident" the Lord had saved me from was having an abundance of time to shop at this florist wholesaler... I could drop a bag full of money in that place... in fact... I may be just a teensy bit over the $200 budget now... but I have a lot of silks to return so I'll recoup some of my money. Yeah... that's it.

This has gone on far too long - and I've got to prepare for my card class tonight - so here's the rest of what I accomplished last night / this morning.

The bridesmaid's bouquet. (Thanks, Zachary, for being my hand model.)
I have the Bride's bouquet done too - it's a bit larger, and also hand-tied. This was a lot easier than I thought. You just gather the bouquet in your hand, wrapping it occasionally with floral wire and tape to keep it all in place. Then REALLY wrap it with floral tape and then wrap with ribbon to cover the tape. You can't see it here, but the ribbon is twisted decoratively. It will show more on the bride's when I photograph that tomorrow.

And finally, the Groom's boutonniere. Again - the colors look funky. (But oh so vibrant!)

I think I'm actually going to make it... Most of my "to-do" is check-marked and there are just a few more details to attend to (like finishing the programs and prepping the foods.) The church is already set up just waiting for the happy couple to arrive and be blessed.

Join me again tomorrow for the final touches before the big little day.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Wedding Execution Enstallment #2

I've never done a series before - so pardon my less than enticing titles. If you're just joining me, you can catch up here.

I will attempt to dispense with the usual fluff and just give you the facts for this one... No need to try to fill the page up with humorous anecdotes and clever lines. There's just too much to do around here to spend a lot of time writing a bunch of "stuff". I mean, who wants to read a bunch of "stuff" anyway. I know I wouldn't want to. And you're busy people too... you've got lives and families and places to go and people to see... you don't want to spend endless hours sorting through my blog for tidbits of interesting information. Am I right? Of course I am. So on with the show.

Today I met the bride and groom for the first time. They are a very sweet couple and I'm genuinely happy that we can do this for them. I know they'll appreciate it and be blessed.

They met with the officiating pastor (from another church) and ironed out most of the details. We're just a few tiny details away from being able to do the final print of the program. But the outside is done and looks like this:

It may be slightly familiar to you... I used the same design for the wedding of a very special friend in the fall of 2007 and again for the 50th anniversary of my in-laws this summer.

It's a very easy design that comes out looking a lot harder than it is. I once calculated the cost of the materials and the time involved and decided that I'd charge $2-3 each if someone wanted me to make them for their wedding! But... I've streamlined the design and assembly process a bit and they would probably fall closer to $2 each :0)
  • Set up your word processor for an 11 x 5 1/2 page (landscape) set up in two columns.
  • I use text boxes to hold the information and format them to have no line (unless you really want one) and no fill.
  • The cover is simply a 6 x 12 piece of cardstock (texture on the outside) with a piece of organza ribbon adhered under the matted monogram on the front.
  • The ribbon is about an inch wide and 32 inches long. These use up a lot of ribbon... buy it on sale and in large quantities. I got mine 50% off at Hobby Lobby. I prefer the organza because it's very thin and ties easily for something this frail.
  • Simply fold the ribbon in half and secure in the middle of the middle of the front. When you put the monogram on it will hold it just fine. You can add a tiny bit to the back if you want, but it's not necessary.
  • The monogram is also a text box - fade the color of the initial and keep the line for more depth and definition.
  • Overlay a second text box with the first names of the couple and the wedding date over the initial.
  • I matted the monogram on a coordinating textured cardstock with a margin of about 1/4 inch on all sides.
  • Next mat on a square of burlap with carefully frayed edges and mount the entire thing over the top of the ribbon.
  • For a nice bow, put the fold of the program away from you rather than to the left when you're tying.
Here are the rest of the things I've got done so far: (without so much detail...)

The "guest book" and official pen (which is scrapbook quality and writes purple :0) I modified the monogram from the front of the program to go in the "photo" slot until they have a wedding photo.

The favor boxes and bubbles. Easy peasy. I picked Dove and Bliss chocolates to go inside with wrappers that matched the wedding colors.

The flower on the bubbles is really much deeper than it appears here.

The pew bows. There are two.

The flower girl slash 5 year old daughter's bouquet. The bride agreed that silk would be best for staying power for the kid's flowers. Usually, I'd tie this to a basket, but the bride didn't think her daughter would be up for petal dropping. So it's just a small nosegay.

And a boutonniere for their son / ringbearer. Also silk.

And I almost forgot... the .99 cent toasting glasses and the (unnamed price) cake knife and server. (I needed a fall-ish looking set anyway... so this doesn't count toward the overall budget...)
Tomorrow is fresh flower and cake pick-up day. We're down to just one more full prep day after that... and I'm going to throw a card class for 20 ladies into the middle of that... Wish me luck - and a bit of sleep!

Monday, November 2, 2009


Happy November!

I've been looking forward to this month all year... There's just something about it. The crisp temperatures and early darkness, the wearing of tights and clogs, the fragrance of fallen leaves and burning bonfires or fireplaces. Ahhh.

This is going to be a really busy month for me, but I'm up for the challenge and approaching my "to do" lists with gusto!

One event this month has me particularly excited, and I've decided to let you come along for the stressful, yet educational, blessing.

I'm executing (probably not the best word...) a 2 week, 20 guest, $200 wedding.

"Impossible", you say? "No!" says I! Well... not if you're a party-planning-pack-rat of sorts, like I am.

This is a first time wedding for a couple that can't really afford it, but I've long felt in my heart of hearts that everyone deserves to feel special on her/his wedding day. And this couple is making a new commitment of themselves to Christ and they want to be married in "the church".

I'll tell you up front that I'll be pulling from my stash and pre-buys or leftovers, so that will cut the cost some, but what I'm using wouldn't cost you that much extra if you decided to do the same and add what I've got in my stash. Really - the things I'm using are dishes, candle holders, and candles, leftover party supplies like plastic table skirts, tablecloths, plastic cups and plates. Not overly expensive items.

I've been planning and coordinating weddings for, well... 20 plus years, if you include my own. (Which was right at $2000 for about 125 guests - including my gown and the fabric for all the bridesmaids dresses and tuxedo rental.) But since my wedding I've been the wedding planner / consultant / decorator / floral designer / invitation maker / coordinator for more than a dozen weddings that I can think of off the top of my head. That's not a bad record for a non-professional that just does this kind of thing on the side. And all of the weddings I've been involved with since my own have been much more beautiful - to the point that I'm seriously considering a renewal ceremony for our 20th anniversary next summer. (Don't mention this to my husband - though, I do plan to invite him...)

I think one of the contributing factors to doing an inexpensive wedding is the time of year you choose to have it. In my opinion, the most cost effective time of year for a "do it yourself" wedding is Christmas. You can take advantage of the decorations already up in the church you may choose to use - white lights, candles and ribbon all over the place - simply romantic. White lights have long been a favorite of mine for quickly adding a celebration atmosphere and they're very inexpensive and go a long way.

The second season I'd choose is Autumn. Because of the rustic and natural feel of the season, you can easily decorate a wedding in a rustic and natural way. And this is almost always cheaper! Take for example the burlap table runners and pumpkin centerpieces I wrote about in this post.

This is the direction I'm going with the wedding taking place in a mere four more days. Rustic Romantic.

The bride's favorite color is purple, which is easily incorporated into a fall color scheme. This arrangement I put together for my mother-in-laws birthday last week is kind of the direction I'm going, only with a little red added in and a couple of other kinds of flowers.

Don't you just love the bright yellow sunflowers and the purple together? This is really going to be fun!

Truly, one thing that is keeping the cost down for this particular wedding is the amount of volunteers I'm recruiting to help (like sound tech, soloists and photographer) and no cost for the venue. The time of day - 3 in the afternoon - too late for lunch, too early for dinner, just right for cake, punch and hors d'oeuvres. Also, the number of expected guests. Less than 15 are anticipated, but I'm preparing for 24 with favors, programs, cake and food. So if the event you're planning is larger, add about $200 for every 20 guests. That's not entirely accurate unless you're adding a lot more flowers (one of the biggest expenses) but if you add a meal and more tables with centerpieces and tablecloths to your reception it would be closer. $10 per head is about right for a "low-frills" do-it-yourself reception with a meal.

Over the next few days I'll share my plans and tips for pulling the "extras" together for a lovely wedding in a very short amount of time. (The "extras" are everything but the preacher and the groom - both of which are free in this case :0)

Here's my to-make list: (hopefully I'll get it all done...I sense some long nights ahead, as it's a very busy week...)
  • 2 pew bows (pew clips on hand in my stash, but very inexpensive)
  • Decorate champagne flutes (purchased years ago for $.99 each, "just in case")
  • Fill/Decorate Favor Boxes (exactly 25 left over from in-laws anniversary this summer)
  • Decorate Cake Knife/Server (mine, I will loan)
  • Decorate front of Guest Book/Photo Scrapbook (last one at Target - gave it to me for $2)
  • Decorate Bubble Bottles (box of 24 bubbles less than $3)
  • Guest-book Pen (Pen was $1.49 - will top with sunflowers and wrap in ribbon)
  • Guest-book/Scrapbook pages (using paper and embellishments from my stash)
  • Programs (Paper from my stash and some purchased just for this)
  • Bride's Bouquet (will be hand-wrapped and fresh flowers)
  • Bridesmaids Bouquet (just a little smaller than the bride's)
  • Daughter/Flower-girl's Bouquet (just a little smaller than the bridesmaid's, possibly silk)
  • Groom's Boutonniere (also fresh flowers)
  • Best Man's Boutonniere (same as groom only different :0)
  • Father of Groom's Boutonniere (see above)
  • Pastor's Boutonniere (see above the above)
  • Son/Ring Bearer's Boutonniere (smaller than dad's - possibly silk for staying power)
  • Church Floral arrangements (silk - to go around the bottom of existing purple hurricane's I have)
  • White Pumpkin Floral Arrangement(s) (fresh flowers)
  • Mini White Pumpkins hollowed out for Tea-lights
Hold on - it's going to be a fun ride. And if you live locally... feel free to come over for free lessons in any of the above. Warning: some classes will be starting after 10 p.m. at night.

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