When Pumpkins Lead to Social Angst

I love these pumpkins I spied on a morning walk around the neighborhood today. I mean, somebody just took  ribbon and paint or markers and created something different and eye-catching. Actually, these look like they were originally party decorations — maybe for a dance or a dinner or something involving a school with black and gold colors (Vanderbilt?) — and got re-purposed. And now I’m wondering what sort of party it was and where it was and what I would have worn IF I had been invited and would my husband have been able to come and who was was there and why was I NOT invited? No matter that I have no idea who lives here or if they’re the sort of folks who throw good parties and so maybe I wouldn’t even have WANTED to go to their silly little party anyway, so there. But they do know their way around pumpkins. And I obviously have way too much time on my hands.

A Blue-and-Orange Graduation

You know this is a completely objective and un-biased blog — except when it comes to the Smartest and Most Adorable Grandbabies Ever in the Whole World, of course — and just because I recently went to an Auburn-themed graduation party and had a wonderful time does NOT mean I lean that way. Although it’s a proven fact that Alabama fans are THE MOST obnoxious crowds and Nick Saban is THE MOST inscrutable coach. Because here in the Heart of Dixie, you have to choose. There is no middle ground between THE MOST annoying folks in the conference and Auburn. See? In my state, even a graduation party brings out the football in us. I mainly wanted you all to see these fun and creative decorations, such as the crepe-paper streamers that honor the ailing Toomer’s Corner trees and the cute and delicious graduation mortarboards with blue and orange accents, but now I’ve worked myself into such a state that I need another cup of coffee. Anyway, congratulations to Older Daughter’s nephew-in-law on his graduation from not-Alabama. He’s a smart and talented young man who will do great things. War Eagle!

When Life Gives You Parties, Make Mimosas

We aren’t bragging or anything — well, I obviously am, although the rest of this group is much better behaved —  but a group of friends and I have pretty much perfected party-hostessing. Seems as if every year one of our children is getting married or getting engaged or graduating or having a baby, and naturally each of these occasions calls for a celebration. We can plan a party at the drop of a (wide-brimmed, ribbon-decorated white straw) hat and check off half of our to-do lists before the men in our lives — who, even after all these years, still do not understand the difference between “tea” and “brunch” — can ask “Tell me again why you pay so much for flowers when the side of the road is full of them?” Take, for example, the bridal shower a few weeks ago that we hosted in an old bank in the once-thriving and now-quiet Sweetwater business district of Florence, Ala. Recently the space had been a restaurant and the owner now rents it for events. We originally thought “rustic,” “vintage” and “weathered” were appropriate decor themes to coordinate with the exposed brick walls, tin ceilings and original woodwork. However, a professional we consulted — we’re always up for a second opinion — suggested we go sleek, sophisticated and girly instead for a visually intriguing contrast. And she was correct. The light and airy silver “bamboo” chairs paired with snowy white linens and stunningly tall tropical-flower centerpieces were the perfect touches. Add a steady supply of mimosas, good times and good friends and you’ve got a party. I told you we are good!

How Many Women Does It Take To Host a Bridal Shower?

Answer: Five — one to be the decorator, one to be the chef, one to lose her car keys, one to obsess about the eggs getting cold and one to be the calm and peaceful center of it all — and she was the one whose house we had invaded. Five of us gathered together this weekend to host a brunch/shower for the bride-to-be daughter of another dear friend, and it was a great success. There were a few chaotic moments, naturally. Such as when we first were faced with an empty table and no real traffic-flow plan. Or when each of us at different times couldn’t find our A) phones, B) car keys or C) shoes. Or when one of our daughters — who shall remain nameless — asked the hostessing moms in honest curiosity, “Uh … what was y’all’s color scheme, again?” (This was the event for which we exuberantly made lots of tissue-paper flowers. Lots of them. In whatever colors of tissue paper we could score on sale find to match the lovely Gail Pittman dishes one of us bravely offered up.) But it all came together and our enthusiastic abundance of various colors saved us tons of money simply underscored the joyous celebration. And the idea from our chief chef to serve scrambled eggs in martini glasses and let guests add toppings was genius. Genius! So much fun, and of course the scrambled eggs stayed toasty warm in the chafing dish as promised. Add to that fresh fruit, cheese, and a variety of breads along with the local must-have of delicate almond-flavored petit fours and we had a delicious and pretty menu. It was as much fun for us, the hostesses, as it was for everybody else — and that’s the best kind of party to have.  The mimosas helped, too.

Jana & Claire: Do Not Read This Post. Look Away! Thank You.

My house was blooming the other night when friends who are co-hosting a bridal shower for the daughter of another BFF came over to make tissue-paper flowers for the decor. These colorful blossoms have been popping up everywhere recently — I see them in store windows and displays. They’re even Martha-Stewart-approved, and she has a video tutorial on how to make them. But we tapped in to our many-decades-ago high-school memories of decorating homecoming floats and transforming gyms into dance floors and didn’t even need Martha’s help. You just layer sheets of tissue paper, pleat as if you’re making a fan, fold in half and scrunch up the center and secure with a pipe cleaner. Then, it’s on the fun part of separating the layers and shaking them out into a flower. We got better with each attempt and soon were experimenting with different colors and sizes. We’re not exactly sure what we’re going to do with them now, but they sure are impressive! This is easy enough for even awkward, uncoordinated and clumsy non-crafty folks like me to attempt and yet creative enough for talented crafters, like my friend on the left in the photo above, to be inspired. You see, after our flower-making marathon, she went home and stayed up until 2 a.m. making corsages out of fabric and netting, using the same tissue-paper principle. I, on the other hand,  drank more wine and went to bed.

P.S. I warned Jana & Claire, the mother of the bride-to-be and the bride-to-be herself, not to look at this post, but they probably did and now are hoping that my flowers somehow don’t make it to the shower in favor of the gorgeous ones everybody else created.  But I’m redeeming myself by bringing coffee and herb-cheese biscuits, so maybe that will help.

Baby Showers

When our friend couldn’t wait to tell us that she was going to be a grandma for the first time, the three of us couldn’t wait to start planning a surprise shower for her. We sneakily scheduled the party for our regular book-club night and pulled off the surprise with style — she truly never saw it coming. Other than her face when she realized what was happening — priceless! — the best thing about our shower was the decor. My friend who volunteered her home for the book-club meeting/surprise baby shower created a baby-boy-blue wonderland that we all oohed and ahhed over and didn’t want to leave. (And now I really should drop the pretense that we talked about the book that night, although we did spend a couple of minutes on it, I think.) She’s a master at using things she already has — mixing vintage with contemporary — to set the mood and then adding her own special touches. Her blue-frosted cupcakes were don’t-let-a-single-crumb-go-to-waste good. And when she kicked off the evening with a pitcher full of yummy icy-blue goodness to sip before we sat down to a cool and refreshing chicken-salad supper, we knew we were in good hands as we welcomed our friend into the Sisterhood of Really Cool Grandmas. And you can join, too, as long as you have Really Cute Grandchildren. And don’t we all? Plus, we’ll even waive the iniation rite of having to sing all verses of the “Thomas the Tank Engine” song.

Cajun Week

Cajun wedding decorCajun wedding When friends and I stepped into The Brick House in Lake Charles, Louisiana, for a Cajun wedding reception, we immediately fell in love with the Mardi Gras-themed decorations. I mean, does this say “Louisiana” or what? Every table was different, and it all added to the festive family-party vibe that made us not want to leave.  This building is a former warehouse now put to use as a catering center — a perfect solution to old downtown spaces I wish more property owners would consider instead of letting their buildings just sit there. But there was hardly any sitting at this wedding reception, as the zydeco music got folks up Cajun wedding and dancing and the buffet line beckoned with andouille-stuffed Cajun wedding mushrooms, fried eggplant, crawfish pasta salad and other yummy Cajun dishes.  And this wedding king cake! Oh my goodness! Have you ever seen such a fun wedding cake? And it tasted delicious, too. The top tier was deep chocolate. Then the middle layer was a rich cream-cheese pastry and the bottom layer was raspberry — and we had samples (Oh, OK, actual real pieces. Big pieces, in fact. Actually, I think that was just me.) of each one. Even though we had driven 12 hours and hardly knew anybody but a handful of people, we had a blast — Cajun folks are wonderfully friendly and hospitable and we instantly felt like we were family. And, by the way, don’t my friends and I look stunning? We spent a lot of time and effort trying to look good so we wouldn’t embarrass our friend, the mother of the bride — the one who’s  smiling so big in the center. After this experience, I can highly recommend Cajun weddings. In fact, if you ever get an invitation to one, do not hesitate: RSVP immediately! You won’t be sorry. And come back here tomorrow for more Cajun Week.