Saturday, June 29, 2013

Tips for a Successful Rehearsal Dinner

Last October my son and his then fiancee' --now wife of one week!--chose this little gourmet cafe' in the heart of town as the place they wanted for their rehearsal dinner.   Tradition states that the groom's parents host the rehearsal dinner, so I was pretty much at the helm for planning this event. My husband's role was to KEEP CALM and PAY ON. While he is a planner in many areas of life, he defers to me when it comes to froo-froo or feed troughs. 

This rehearsal dinner was our second experience of its kind.  Having learned from the first,  this one went much better.  (Either way, I now have three daughters instead of one!)

Allow me to share  Tips for a Successful Rehearsal Dinner as well as a short list of What Not to Do. 

For success:

1.  Select your menu choices far in advance by taking a group to taste test.  Choose food that is not messy to eat, since your guests may be wearing nice clothes. 
2.  Talk on the phone--yes, talk--don't just text,  with the owner of the establishment. Touch base monthly with him or her to make sure your reservation is on their calendar. 
3.  Meet with the owner, chef, and head of wait staff if at all possible, together at a round table one week before your event to go over the menu, table arrangements, decor, and special items.  I watched the head waitress make a diagram of the table arrangement I wanted, complete with number of guests at each one.
4.  Make place cards. People need to know where to sit.  Be prepared for some to still want to rearrange your plan when they get there.

 Keep extra grace in your purse; you'll need it when people try to reason (on the spot) why just switching places with so-and-so is a better idea.
5.  Don't rely on people of a certain generation to RSVP.  
6. Save money on appetizers by preparing munchies and serving them at the rehearsal itself.  I provided a tray of cheese and crackers (gluten-free crackers, too), cut up pineapple, strawberries, and grapes. I also had almonds and cereal bars and a cooler full of bottled water (plus a Sharpie and a sign that said, "Please label your drink.")   People coming from work appreciated food and cold water. The kiddoes were satisfied. We didn't arrive to the restaurant starving.

7.  After dinner, but before dessert, open up the floor to have your guests say a few words about how they met the bride and/or groom, a special memory, or what they appreciate in the couple.  This was the most meaningful thing we shared as a group. In our case, people really spoke from their heart. It wasn't a bunch of roasting and toasting. A friend Steve had roomed with for a brief time concluded, "He showed me how to be a godly man, how to treat a woman, how to be mature, even though he was younger. I want to be like Steve when I grow up." 

As a mom, it doesn't get much better than to hear such heartfelt words about your own child. 

Anyhow, I promised a short list of ...

What Not to Do:

1.  Don't forget to pack the seating chart you spent two hours preparing. Just sayin'.   
2.  Don't be surprised when a table that's supposed to have 8 places set only has 6.  Apparently six is the new eight.
3.  Don't  get upset when the owner tells you 10 days ahead of time that he has to be out of town the night of your event.  He apologized profusely, knowing your previous experience in New Jersey . You know from having worked banquets yourself in the restaurant business that a 27:2 ratio of servers to patrons can be rough.  You pray for grace, and bite your tongue.

You admire the beauty of your offspring and their chosen mates. You wonder if your middle schooler will ever produce a real smile for the camera, and you look to the older ones for your answer.


Try not to have a meltdown afterwards about the five things that didn't go according to  your plan. 

People enjoyed themselves.
Photo: All the handsome guys!


Nerves are frayed, bodies are weary, hearts are full and ready to burst like a raincloud. Wallets have been stretched thin,  and the couple-- who have had just about all the wedding planning they can stand--have said a time or two they understand why some people just elope. You nod in agreement at the same time you want to stuff credit card receipts down their pretty little mouths. 

In the end, you will remember the laughter, the free-flowing conversation, the tears the moms shed

 (and the dads, too, I will not lie),

You'll remember

the love shared between friends and family,

and perhaps you'll receive a sweet little gift like I did from my precious new daughter.  It's a little silver pendant  necklace inscribed with the words "Thank you for raising the man of my dreams."

Bitten by the Quilting Bug Again

I am a novice quilter. I've made only three small quilts--one for a baby, one for charity for a child, and one as a graduation gift for my mom.  (She was 57 when she finished nursing school and became an RN.)

I am now working on a crib size quilt for my niece who is to arrive by mid-August, but since our family has a knack for getting the firstborn  baby out three weeks early, my goal is to finish my quilt by July 20th.  

Of  this year.

While kicking back today, I found this technique on youtube. I'm thinking that, when the baby quilt is finished, I would like to practice various blocks and make table runners.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Hodgepodge and Peeks at Wedding Pics

Why am I doing this? It's 10:47 a.m.  Family are gathering here at 1 pm and we are going out to lunch at a local Chinese restaurant, I think. We just had our son's wedding  on Saturday, my baby sister's baby shower on Sunday,  one day of sittin' around with house guests (family from out of town), one day all to ourselves yesterday at the pool  (so I'm nursing a sunburn), and tonight the guys are going to an Orioles game. 

Nevertheless, I love Joyce's  Wednesday Hodgepodge    questions From This Side of the Pond,  and the chance to touch base with my fellow HPers. 

1. Summertime is a season of reunions, weddings, and other family celebrations and gatherings...are any of the above on your calendar in the next two months?

All of the above!  

Let me show snippets from just  the past week!  Our second son, Steve, married the lovely and beuutiful Ambrey.  

Wedding rehearsal Friday...  


Followed by the rehearsal dinner... featuring teary-eyed moms trying to hold it together.  My pearls were obviously as emotional as I was.  You can see where Ambrey gets her beauty.  

A quick peek from before the wedding. You gotta come back here for more. I'm still recovering    editing. 

The day after the wedding I attended a shower for my baby shower for my baby sister, seated here in her new glider.  This picture ---my mom, me, younger sister Andrea, older sister Rachel, my  daughter Sarah,my  daughter-in-law Deirdra, (other DIL was on her honeymoon the day after the wedding), and sister Jill.  And niece in the womb whose name is being kept secret. We only know her initials: JBB. 

2. June is National Iced Tea Month...are you an iced tea drinker? If so, how do you like yours (sweet, flavored, etc)? 
Southern "Swate Tay" with lemon. 

3. When were you last nervous?  Looking back, was the 'event' actually nerve-worthy?

I was nervous but happy walking down the aisle with my youngest son escorting me.  All those eyes...
Yes, I'd say it was nerve worthy. Years of raising a boy to a man, months of planning for the big day, 
putting him into the arms of his next woman for life. Yes, nerve worthy!

4. The bristle toothbrush was invented in China on June 26, 1498...not sure how that date was pinned down so precisely but, on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being sick to your stomach and 1 being not at all, how nervous do you feel when you're headed to the dentist?  Do you see your dentist twice a year?

I don't mind the dentist, just dental surgery.  I go faithfully twice a year. I need an implant and that's on my to-d0 list for summer  (which is more nerve-wracking than a wedding). 

5. What's making news in your town this week?

The Orioles. 

6. Curtains, drapes, blinds...your window treatment of choice? Are there any bare windows in your house? Is that by choice or because you haven't gotten around to covering them? 

I have a combo of toppers and blinds, shades and sheers, bare windows (in two back bedrooms that face the thick woods), and when cooler weather comes, drapes on the sliding glass doors. In summer I like them covered with sheers for privacy by night and lotsa light by day. 

7. Summertime is officially here (in the Northern hemisphere anyway)...what one song is a must-have on your summer playlist?

Anything by the Beach Boys will do. 

8.  Insert your own random thought here.  

I thought my knee had healed from my fall in late April.  But I am really thinking I need it x-rayed now because it's been a chronic bother (except on wedding day--hallelujah) . I think I fractured the top of the patella. I have about half the range of motion I should have and need the peace of mind that comes from having a doctor advise me. Rest, ice and ibuprofen are only temporary and it's not helping that much. Especially since "rest" and weddings don't go together. 

PS I have not proofread.  I am taking a pass on that today. :) 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Tears from Heaven on Father's Day

I was going to make this a post about a host of feelings since our son is getting married tomorrow.  I thought about hearkening back almost 22 years to when Stephen was born, and recounting a plethora of memories, but I won't. For one thing, I don't have time. It's 7:20 a.m. and I have a few things to take care of before the rehearsal this afternoon.  For another, I really don't want to start bawling. I need to focus.

But I do want to put down here, in writing,the most special memory of this past week.

Father's Day.  While we were not able to all be together for church, we convened at our house afterwards for a crab feast. (My hands were already covered in Old Bay before I could get  my camera out.)  All four kids plus our daughter-in-law sat around the table, picking juicy meat out of good ole Chesapeake Bay crabs.  We sure love those times. Relaxed. (Except Steve this year; the poor groom is a bit on overload.)

After eating our tasty crustaceans, I wanted to practice the mother-son dance with Steve, but he was far too stressed to break away.  He said we don't need to practice. "You winged it at Ben's wedding,  you can wing it at mine,"  he said with a vote of confidence. Through the disappointment of not getting to practice, I let it go. Well, I did whine a little, I won't lie.  I wanted that moment with him. He was my baby for more than 10 years; a momma wants to hold her babies close, even when they're six feet tall.  But begging for dance practice? It was not worth stressing him even more.    He wants to just be married to his beautiful lady.

After the crab mess was cleaned up, the kids gave their cards and gifts to their dad. Then we were going to head right out to the driving range. It's been a semi-tradition, I guess.

But this Father's Day was different.

Paul asked them all to sit down again. He had something to share with them.  The kids joked with an "Uh-oh. What's going on?" and the youngest made wise cracks in typical middle-school boy fashion.  I reminded him what Pastor Joe said just this morning, "Kids, listen. If your dad is trying to have a moment with you, let him. Even if you've heard it five times or a hundred times, listen again. Make it easy on your dad."

The kids quieted down and took seats around the kitchen table again.

Paul then opened his laptop and said he had wanted to write to each of them an individual letter, but instead he addressed them individually in one letter. He began to read. From his heart to theirs.

But he couldn't get past the first line about the house being too quiet and the food lasting so much longer.  He got choked up, wiped salty tears on his sleeve, and said, "I can't do this."

And he passed the letter to me. Me! Miss Waterworks! Again, the kids joked. "Dad! If YOU can't read it without crying, why in the world are you handing it to MOM??"

But by God's grace, I read through. Lump in my throast.

In his letter, Paul blessed each one of our four children--Ben, Sarah, Stephen, and Joel--with reassuring words of his love for them, telling them the gifts from God that he sees in them, and projecting a positive future on them.

I can't tell you how much that meant. My husband is a man of few words.  He seldom expresses deep emotion verbally, and it takes a lot to bring tears to his eyes.  All this time I have been thinking how hard it is for me, the mom, to let go of her kids one after another in rapid succession. My husband hasn't said much.
He keeps a lot to himself.  But when he decides to let it out, he writes letters.  He touches hearts, he makes us laugh, he captures his thoughts and shares them eloquently.

And then we cry and tell him how special that was.

We linger over the words.
We hug his neck.
We kiss him. (Some of us do.)

And the one with too much wedding stuff going on with his fiancee' must bid farewell at the curb.

The rest of us?

We go to the driving range to hit golf balls.

Even when the skies start to darken...

the father shelters his children and they keep swinging...

and we ask that father if he's waving a long shot buh-bye...

and we have to watch our funny boy get goofy with his stance, and we 
wish he would wear shoes when swinging metal near his feet...

and we smile to see our girl play golf, uninhibited  in her church clothes, as she gloats in her own cute way,  clucking her cheek:  "My golf teacher said I have a natural swing," ...

while her older brother, who has always been a natural at every sport, stands still and pensive over the ball

while his wife takes aim at the rain.

Because sometimes the rain on the outside is a perfect match for the rain on the inside.

Happy rain from a full heart.

God the Father blessing us with his loving tears that fill us up and remind us how much He loves us.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Pre-Wedding Testimony of Answered Prayer

Whoever said "Don't sweat the small stuff" has never planned a wedding. Sure, sure, "at the end of the day the bride and groom will be married, no matter what happens or doesn't happen," but there are probably thousands of small decisions (and a few big decisions) that have to be made in order for the "I do's" to be said in a lovely, coordinated context.

However, I suppose "sweating the small stuff" could be construed as "stressing out over details" rather than trusting God. So, in that regard, when the Apostle Paul said "Be anxious for nothing," he was saying the same thing.

One not-so-small-at-all, but rather among the top three most important decisions, has been about photography.   I just have to pass along this answer to prayer over something that really stressed out my precious future daughter (-in-law).

Beautiful trees and an old stone building were at the bride's list of must-haves.
The "first look" wedding pictures were originally supposed to be taken at a local historic mill.  and Plan A was perfect, in her eyes, and only 1/4 mile from the ceremony.  However, a week ago the photographer discovered there is a going to be a Civil War re-enactment there and if we wanted to be on the premises, we would EACH have to pay $7 admission. Plus deal with the traffic.  I also was not thrilled since the terrain is uneven and pebbly, neither of which I handle well, particularly in heels and a floor-length dress.  But I didn't say anything.  It's not about me, but I certainly didn't want to twist my ankle and fall down on wedding day.  I can think of other memories I'd rather make.

Regardless, that location had to be scratched.

Scramble, scramble, scramble for Plan B.   Pray, pray, pray. The bride called six different nearby locations with similar scenery that wouldn't involve getting shoes or clothes messy in the great outdoors.  Finally my daughter suggested a place and this is beyond an amazing "God thing."  The place has big, old stately trees and an old stone building.  And sidewalks.  I can handle sidewalks. But wait, there's more!

Ambrey called to see if it was available and could they have permission to use it.

The owner and his wife said, "Yes! We've been praying about starting a wedding business on this property. We would love for you to be our first couple and help promote our business!"   Is that a win-win or what? My son and his bride will be the premiere models in the wedding venue photographs.

I am giggling inside thinking about it.   The Lord knows better than we do.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Burlap and Lace Ringbearer Pillow with Commentary from the Groom's Mom

Now that I've delivered this little pillow to my soon-to-be daughter-in-law, I can post it.

She honored me a couple months ago by asking if I'd make a ringbearer pillow for their wedding.  How could I  say no? I love her and I love to make pillows!

She asked me to make it of burlap and lace, with a simple white satin bow, one with a finished size of 7x7 inches or slightly larger because the little ringbearer is only three years old.  I can't wait to meet him. He can't wait to put on his special suit and do a special job carrying a special pillow for his special nanny.

It started with gathering materials. See the darling miniature blue sewing machine? I found it an antiques store and paid $20 for it as my inspiration piece for my new craft room. Little did I realize it is not only decorative, it is heavy enough to serve as a weight for holding down slippery fabrics on the table.

Finished size: almost 8" square

If you are thinking of making one this size, you need:

-2pcs @ 10 inches square (to account for the loft of the stuffing plus 1" seam allowances)

-a coordinating lining fabric (so your stuffing won't come out--and believe me, if you're involved  in your child's wedding, your stuffing will come out in more ways than one)

- sewing scissors, pinking shears (because burlap will fray terribly and shed, and you will want to change your shirt afterwards), pins, hand needle (thick), and matching threads and tape measure. (I like my petite, locking one from Home Depot. Great for one-handed measuring.) Extra sewing machine needles.

(Breaking your last needle might be one of those aforementioned cases when your personal stuffing tries to come out.) Iron, spray starch (if you choose lace that has petals needed to be pressed open).

-18" of lace (I chose one to complement the bride's gown.  Come to think of it, this measurement about equals her waist.)

-narrow satin ribbon for a bow
-preferably a small weight  to keep the fabrics in place

Cut your lining 1/4" smaller than the burlap all the way around. Then pin it to the burlap. (There is no right or wrong side to the burlap.) Leave a space for your hand to put the stuffing through. You'll have to really push and shove that stuffing in.

Because my memory is shorter than the perimeter of an 8" inch pillow, I put TWO pairs of pins beside the opening. This tells me to STOP SEWING HERE.  It's too easy to zone out and zoom right on past a single pin and then too hard to rip out stitches.

I learned that:
1. Burlap sheds a lot
2. It makes me itch when it gets into my clothes.
3. It sheds a lot.
4. It makes me itch when it gets into my clothes.

  After the 3.5 sides are sewn, turn the whole thing inside out, and push the corners out good and smooth . Then stuff the pillow till it's as puffy as you want it.  Then hand sew it closed.

(For the record, this was the practice pillow before I realized how much the burlap frays and how the stuffing comes out of an unlined burlap pillow. Having learned my lesson, I made a second pillow.)

If you have lace that needs pressing, do it before sewing it on to the pillow.

I had to press open some of these petals gingerly so as not to disturb the pearls. One of them was so stubborn I had to stitch it open. (When the other petals see that you mean business, they will cooperate. Kind of like raising more than one child. This son of mine getting married is the third-born, and most compliant.)                                

Tie a ribbon and tack it securely in place.  (We may or may not attach fake wedding rings. The best man will have the real ones.)  Also tack a few places along the back. I left space between "tacks" for the ringbearer to slip his little hands through, but forgot to take a picture.)

Voila! A burlap and lace ringbearer pillow.  My precious almost-daughter absolutely loves it! That's all that matters, right? Her smiles and hugs make it worth it all.  She is so grateful for the least little thing you do for her.  That's one of the first things we noticed about her: grateful, grateful, grateful.

No wonder my son doesn't mind sacrificing for her.
No wonder he wants to promise to be hers forever with the exchange of rings from a little pillow.

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Tisket, A Tasket, A Pantry of Red and Yellow Baskets

Today my friend Rachel over at Home Sanctuary posted the Small Thing for today: Empty a basket. 
Organize some sort of basket or bin that has become a catch-all.

Well, it just happened that, on my to-do list today, was to clean out my pantry and fridge, which are both full of bins and baskets. The foodstuffs therein were sending out an SOS.   Stale chips. Molasses puddles. Slivered almonds gone wild.  I feel a poem about popcorn and taco shells coming on, but I 
will squelch the urge. 

A few months ago I was inspired by pantry pictures at Delightful Order, particularly the ones showing her stored in uniform, labeled baskets.

I put my 11-year-old son to work. (He was surprisingly not grouchy to be working on his first Monday of summer vacation, but he mentioned it.)   He likes to organize and add his unique touch to things. This job was a case in point.  He said my labels were "kind of plain" and so he cut a few of them in what he calls a "schnazzy" way.  It's his favorite word: schnazzy.

COLD BREAKFAST: cereals, bars, peanut butter...

Decided maybe if I put my onions and potatoes at eye level instead of closer to my knees, they might not rot so fast. We shall see.  Thanks to a faulty gut, I need the GLUTEN FREE FLOURS and such.
HOT BREAKFAST: Pancake mix, grits, steel cut oats, syrup, molasses....

Okay, so not EVERYTHING gets a red or yellow basket. These were already labeled from a long time ago.

and a coffee grinder that just fit perfectly. 

There you have it.  
A tisket, a tasket, 
will the song leave your head
if you ask it? 

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Moving Day

Two weeks ago today our third child left the nest. I predicted I'd have a major meltdown, but I didn't.   Maybe that's because I'd had two prior meltdowns when he left once for the summer and another time for half the summer. I know, I have the strength of yesterday's oatmeal when it comes to goodbyes.

This time I was feeling the grace of God in much greater measure. Sure, I had weepy moments, but they were just that--moments.

Like when I realized I had missed my chances to snap a candid photo of him glued to his computer screen during finals. I would peek in there and think, Get a picture. Remember this. His neatly made bed topped with a sleeping bag, pillow, cell phone, and a programming textbook.  His desk clear except for another textbook, wallet, pencil and paper.  His black bookcase filled with books. The dozen framed photos of his beloved. His work clothes hanging in a tidy row in the closet. His hamper full.

No sooner did Steve have keys to the new place than his little brother took over his room. These rites of passage happen in a flash, don't they? The brothers have different housekeeping standards, for sure.

And  perhaps when his best friend Eric and his girlfriend showed up to help, along with Ambrey and one of her guy friends from church, I felt like crying with gratitude. (Our oldest, tallest, strongest son was away Memorial Day weekend with his wife's family, so wasn't here.  Our Sarah was able to help on the receiving end.)

And  perhaps I had another weepy moment when I saw the U-Haul pull up into the driveway,   and their sofa being lifted toward the ramp.  It's really happening. This is it, Zo.  He's moving, and moving on.

You know how some people will offer to help  you move two weeks in advance but then when the day actually comes, suddenly they develop a debilitating hangnail. Not this crew.

I had asked God to please supply help because I'm not good with heavy lifting,  Paul isn't supposed to,
and Ambrey's dad has a bad back and a weak wrist.  But being a physical therapist, he strapped on the back support and wrist supports and got to work.

I felt all the more grateful knowing they would suffer for their service.

That's just the way good dads roll. 

They bought their kitchen table on Craigslist for $30 
and Steve rehabbed it 
with sandpaper and spray paint.  He was not fully proud of it, 
but she was proud of him. "Good job, baby!" she always says.

In one hour, they had his stuff loaded.  

I may ultimately regret including this picture for numerous reasons, but it's all I've got.
Steve was more than ready to get the "show on the road." He humored with one pose.
  (I almost never wear a T-shirt. Why did I that day?) 

From our place we went to hers. I loved watching 
these girls watch the men figure out  how to cram everything in. 
Eric is an engineer. The other fellow seemed equally 
keen on making the best use of space. 

I asked, "Are you 
an engineering major, too?" To which he replied very dead-pan, 
"No, I just like to use my brain." 

Best line of the whole day!

Eric's girlfriend Brit is on the left. Ambrey is on the right. 
I saw them as future young wives and moms doing life together.
Brit was almost more excited than Ambrey and kept saying so!

Then we took the five-cent tour of their new place. 
The guys took turns commenting on how low the chandelier is. 
Ambrey's mom and I set up lunch for the help. 

And then we stood in a circle while Steve gave God thanks for the friends, his family, the new place and the blessing of a forthcoming marriage with the love of his life. He also prayed that this apartment would be one where they would extend hospitality to many people , a place where people would feel God's love. 

And we did. I can only imagine this picture will be more heartwarming over the years. Humble beginnings, happy times. 

The girls loved, loved, loved Ambrey's pillows. Check out the lampshade above and the matching white pillow below. Steve said, "Yup, I'm gonna have the most chicked-out bachelor pad for a month."

All that to say ,I felt strengthened deep within knowing that Steve had transitioned well from stage of life to another.

From womb to crib, from crib to big-boy bed.
From big-boy bed to top bunk. From top bunk to his own room.
From his own room to his own apartment.
From being taken care of to being the one taking care of another. He does our hearts good.

The joy in their faces say "Loving you, loving this new place. loving life!"