Le Diner à San Diego: An Experience!

Posted by on May 28, 2012 | 6 comments

A few months ago I heard about this amazing evening event in San Diego:  Le Diner à San Diego.  It sounded surreal, to say the least.  The location was withheld until hours before it started- and I love a good mystery!  Everyone was to wear white, dress elegantly, and bring a delicious three-course meal to share with friends.  The only thing provided would be tables and a beautiful location (and they also had a bar). I was totally hooked!

My first step was to find someone to go with us.  This proved to be challenging.  I think a lot of friends didn’t like the idea of having to wear all white.  Bummer!  Soon our friends Jen & Brent were signed up, though.  Thank goodness for friends who like an adventure (and wine).

In the days and weeks leading up to the evening I planned texted with Jen and we figured out our menu, talked about what we were going to wear, etc.   Finally, the day arrived.  The location was to be revealed at 3:00.  Our biggest concern:  weather.  It had been chilly the night before, and rainy that morning.   I was determined, however, to make a go of it.

I had visions in my head- it would be elegant, it would be serene.  I would be well-dressed, in heels, even!  Everyone would be nice, we’d make new friends and have lovely chats with Jen & Brent.  It would be like My Fair Lady, only modern.  I would come home with beautiful photos of a wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime evening.  I would post on my blog about it, and it would look perfect.

In reality:  we froze our asses off.


The location?  The Embarcadero.  If you’re not familiar with San Diego, this is a beautiful, waterfront park in downtown San Diego.  Ships go by, seagulls fly overhead, and there’s a marina on one side full of luxurious yachts and such.  The San Diego Symphony plays there in the summer months.  It’s gorgeous….when it’s warm.

Jen texted me soon after the location was revealed and said, “Uh…We are gonna freeze our nuts off.”  I remained optomistic.  “I’m from Kansas!” I thought. “How cold could it be?”  It was too late to buy white pants- we were leaving in just a little while as soon as our sweet babysitter, Rosy, showed up.  So, I added some quilts to our pile of stuff and off we went.

As we got there, it was obvious that people were in the same mindset as us:  “We want this to be cool, but it’s DAMN COLD.”  We persevered, though, because this event was just such a neat idea.  Here are some photos.  I took a ton, and then just as we were sitting down to eat my camera crapped out.  Very odd.  Now it’s fine.  Maybe the camera was cold as hell, too.  Some photos of our evening…


The view of San Diego from the Embarcadero.  Sort of makes me want a boat.  Sort of,  but without the taxes and dock rental fees.

downtown san diego skyline Le Diner a San Diego

Jen & Brent.  [Jen, your hair looks fine.  It was windy.]  Brent runs a very cool company called Groovy Like a Movie.  He’s rad.

Brent took this with his iPhone.  He was asking Siri questions all night, like, “What’s the temperature right now?”  It was 61.  It felt like it was 45.  I can’t wait for an iPhone 4.  Maybe even an iPhone 5?

There was a competition for best table decor.  I didn’t go too crazy- lots of tables went all out, but I just brought a tea light thing from IKEA (I’ve had it for years, but you can put it in a line, a circle, anything.  12 total- love it.), sea shells, rocks, and a few small vases with freesia.  Simple but pretty.

This drink was lovely.  It had coconut milk and lime in it, and it tasted like a coconut-lime-mojito.  I can’t remember what it was called, but I was hoping a little liquor would warm me up.  It didn’t.  But I still drank the whole thing.

At 7:00 there was a napkin wave to start off the meal.  We were already eating, but it was fun to see everyone in white standing and waving their white napkins.  Very cool.

Jen made appetizers- crostini with tapenade, and shrimp cocktail.  Yum.

I brought a pasta salad for our entree.   This is an iPhone pic, since by this time my camera was done.  Note the portable trash bags in the background- classy, eh?  One of the tenants of the evening was to “leave no trace,” which included taking all of your trash with you.

Brent saw the sun getting lower and all of sudden grabbed my camera.  I thought he disappeared, but then realized he was right next to me.  Cool, huh?

My  man in his dapper hat, drinking Prosecco.  Have you had Prosecco?  We like it better than champagne.  It’s basically the same thing, but it just tastes better.  Props to my dad for introducing it to us.

Be sure to click this photo below- Brent took it with his iPhone 4, and it’s a very cool panoramic shot of our end of the event.  You can really see how neat everything looked.

I’m glad we went to this event- I just wish it had been warmer.  By the time we finished our entrees we couldn’t feel our hands, so we opted to head to Jen & Brent’s for wine and dessert.  I made pots de crème- more about them soon.  Yum.

Thanks to Jen & Brent for being so adventurous.  I love the concept of this event, so I was pleased to receive an email from them the next morning that said they’d see us next year… in the summer.  Right.  Lesson learned.

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Jack’s Party: Food, Treats & a Wrap Up

Posted by on Mar 30, 2012 | 1 comment

For our final installment of Jack’s party, we’ll talk food, treats and I’ll give my thoughts on throwing a “real” party. :)

So let’s start by saying that I am not a party-food creator.  I have serious personal issues making a bunch of pretty food that is only going to be chewed up and digested.  Yes, it must taste good, but that’s sort of where my sense of obligation ends.  Presentation of food is not my strong suit.

Given the number of people we had attending, we ordred giant pizzas.  That was our “main course.”  They came shortly after the scavenger hunt ended.  We also had some snack packs of goldfish crackers and snack mix available for empty tummies.

I also made fruit kabobs.  I went to Costco, bought a bunch of fruit, and skewered it up the day before.  One tray was all the same, with a little bit of everything.   When I got tired of making those I made another tray that had a bit more variety so people could pick and choose.  What I love about these is that you don’t need utensils. I’m all about the finger food.   Also, Costco had 12-packs of old-school soda- I couldn’t resist.  Everyone seemed to like them, too!  The kids had juice boxes, and we also had water available, and some Izze drinks, too- love those.

 For cake, Jack was sooo easy.  I didn’t really give him a choice on the cake vs. cupcake front.  We were having cupcakes.  But when I asked him what kind of cake, he said (in his adorably funny voice), “Ummmm, I fink… I waaaaant.. chalk-a-LOT!”  Done.  “What kind of frosting?”  “Ummm, I fink…..  white.” Done and done.

 I followed most of what I described in my mini-cupcake post.  This time I tried Trader Joe’s cake mix and I have to say I will not be using it again.  They didn’t taste bad… they just didn’t taste that great. I saw lots of cupcakes with the frosting licked off and just a bite or two of cake.  Bummer.  Back to Duncan Hines I go!

 I made candy-pops just because.  Yup.  Just because.  They were SO. EASY. TO. MAKE.  For reals.  Check it out:

  • Buy a mold (or two to make it faster), candy melts, and sticks (mine were 6″).  Sprinkles worked very well for these, too.  I got it all at Michael’s.
  • Melt candy melts and put in a pastry bag or a ziploc bag will do just fine- cut off the tip.  You may need to let it cool a bit as (duh) you did just melt it over the stove.
  • While it cools, put sprinkles in the bottom of each mold.  Make sure the bottom is covered well- not too much, not too little.
  • Fill the molds with the melted candy, smooth them over with the back of a spoon.  Doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth.
  • Place the sticks and put them in the fridge or freezer until solid.
  • *Important:  check the sticks a few minutes after you put them in the fridge or freezer- sometimes they come up a bit, and once the candy starts to solidify (ooo- I just said solidify) you can push them back in and they’ll stick better.
  • Pop them out and store.  Put on a cute tray to serve, or wrap them up in little bags for take-home treats.


Lastly, each kid got to take a little treat bag of M&M’s home.  I got the ribbon at Dollar Tree, and the bags are from Shop Sweet Lulu.  I LOVE these little bags.  They are so stinkin’ happy.  :)

 I got all of my trays at WalMart for ONE DOLLAR EACH.  Go now!  They are cheap but they are colorful and perfect for whatever.  And I don’t care about what happens to them because they were only…. a DOLLAR.

And now… the wrap up. Will I do this again?  Maybe.  I think if I do another party like this it will be next year for a different child, that way everyone gets a super-special party once every three years or so.  March is a huge birthday month for us- 10 people in my family/extended family have birthdays, so we have a lot going on.  But it was so fun to have happy, cheery decor and everyone seemed to like it a lot.

I have the utmost respect for anyone who can do this for every child’s birthday, especially if they have more than one child.  I’m also thankful that Anna doesn’t seem to expect the exact same party for her birthday, and we will keep it much more simple (I hope).

I will be back later today to create a “Jack’s Party” page and get everything properly linked up so you can go between posts easily.  Thanks for reading!

Here’s one last shot of the birthday boy…

And again, many thanks to Tonya for sending me so many photos, including this one of my  husband and my daughter, Em.   These posts would not have been the same without her photos.  You’re wonderful, Tonya!

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Jack’s Party: Decorations

Posted by on Mar 28, 2012 | 10 comments

Jack doesn’t really like any one particular character enough for me to be able to say, “Oh, we’ll have a _______ party.”  He is just now getting into Toy Story, he loves helicopters and motorcycles, but he’s not totally obsessed with any one thing just yet.  Well, except one thing. Balloons.

About six months ago Jack got a balloon.  We went to the dentist.  He screamed the whole time because of a chipped tooth trauma from a while back.  He hates the dentist.  But when he got that balloon his whole demeanor changed.  And when we got home, all he wanted to do was play. with. his. balloooooon.  And so, the love affair began.

The balloon obsession, combined with the fact that about 90% of the time Jack is one happy boy, I decided to just throw a party with some fun balloon decorations and keep it happy.  That is, after all, my theme this year.

Just a reminder that I’m saying thank you to my friend, Tonya, for all of the pictures she took.  You’ll be able to pick her work out because I thank her in all of the pictures that she took. :)

First, I made this balloon wreath.  If you search “balloon wreath” on Pinterest you will see lots of examples, but I was particularly drawn to this one at Landee See, Landee Do (say that three times fast).  I decided that I want this wreath to be a family tradition.  We are going to hang it on our door for each child’s birthday, and I’ll make a new center circle for it for each child on each birthday.  Now that the main work of making it is over, I think it will be easy to keep up with.

I didn’t use ribbons the way Landee did and like the simplicity of it.  I may go back and throw in more purple- we’ll see. I ended up with very few purple in my bags for some reason.  I bought the balloons for this wreath at Dollar Tree; I think I bought 8 bags but only used about 7.  These balloons are cheap for a reason- if you blow them up they are super tiny.  Doesn’t matter for the wreath, though. :)

In her post Landee says her thumb was sore for days- I must have tough thumbs.  However, I did make this over a few nights, not all at once.

For the center circle I just made a graphic in Photoshop Elements and cut it out with a circle cutter.  The font, if you’re interested (I love it) is Ribbon from Lost Type.  I used the coordinating ribbon and attached it with more floral pins to the top.  I also hung the wreath with wire and covered it up with ribbon- it is rather heavy and I wasn’t sure if the ribbon could hold it alone.  Just looking at this wreath makes me smile, and Jack loved it.

The other decor that I just loved were the balloons themselves.  I’ve seen these big balloons so many places and just loved how different they looked.  They are HUGE.  I got them at Shop Sweet Lulu.  They ship very quickly- both orders I placed for this party were shipped the same day I ordered them, and each order came with a piece of taffy.  Yum!  I’m sold.

One thing I will say: these balloons took all the helium I had.  How much did I have?  I had two Balloon Time tanks*; one was used from a previous party and one was brand new.  By the time I filled up all three of these balloons, the helium was g-o-n-e GONE.  I think next time I will call Party City and see how much they’d charge to fill them up.

The balloon banner was made the night before and slept in our playroom.  I woke up before the kids and hung it outside on our newly-paved patio (my husband is awesome) and was elated with how bright and cheery it was.  I was inspired by Design Mom, and you can find her tutorial here.

While I didn’t get a raw thumb from the balloon wreath, I did get raw fingers from tying off all of these balloons!!!  My husband would have helped but he came home with back spasms the night before Jack’s party so I let him rest so he could be my work mule the day of the party.   It was really easy to make.

In Design Mom’s post she uses an upholstery needle.  My moment of desperation was laying out all of my balloons, getting my string (she used waxed twine but my plain ol’ string worked great, too), and realizing I wasn’t sure I had a needle that would work.  Then I went through my knitting supplies and found my plastic yarn needle and it worked perfectly.  What’s even better- I didn’t have to worry about popping the balloons because there was no sharp metal tip to wield.  Hooray!  Time-wise, start to finish, I think this took me about an hour and a half to make.   Totally worth it- when Jack saw it he said, “Mommy, my balloons! My balloons!”  He loved it.

Lastly, I made these streamers:

I saw these on Made, and Dana’s tutorial was great.  I could spend hours on her tutorials alone.  I wasn’t even planning on making them and then when I was at Walmart getting a few things I saw them and thought, “Oh, what the hey, I’ll give it a try.”  It was a bit cumbersome at first and then I found my magic tool:  a wooden spoon.  Dana had a dowel, I think, in her tutorial, and she used it to keep her streamers from getting tangled up.  I didn’t have a dowel, so I went with my longest wooden spoon and it was perfect.  You hit a rhythm after a while, and then just as you think, “Hey!  I’ve got a rhythm going here…. ”  …your bobbin runs out of thread.  I rolled these up and will use them for other parties.  They are so cheery and fun!

 In case you’re wondering how long the big balloons lasted in terms of float-i-ness…  the green one popped in the wind the next day, but orange and red lasted from Saturday to Monday night.  We brought them inside and the kids were in heaven playing with them.  This is them on my birthday on Sunday:

Up tomorrow: the scavenger hunt!

*I did NOT pay the price you see in that link to Walmart for my tank. If you get them in-store they are much cheaper!



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A Birthday Party for My Sweet Boy

Posted by on Mar 27, 2012 | 7 comments

My son, Jack, is 3.

Pardon me while I pause and soak that in…

What is it about 3?  I was just saying to my mom that it seems like 3 is a big birthday.  With both my oldest, and now Jack, they seem to flip a switch and all of a sudden they are their own person with their own quirks.  Jack is blooming into his own little self, and it’s fascinating to watch.  He is a super sweet little boy, and is also becoming more OF a boy each day.

So let me start this series by just saying (and perhaps emphasizing) this:

I am usually not a party person.

When I say that, I mean that I do not usually get into the perfection aspect of parties that you can easily get swept into.  I think it’s totally fine for people to throw a Pinterest-worthy party, as evidenced by the fact that this one *might* (or might not) qualify as semi-Pinterest worthy.  Up until now, though, I never thought I’d even want to venture forth and try one.  Now that I am not getting paid to do the work I love (being home with my kids), I thought it would be fun to put some effort into a party and see if it feels “worth it” in the end.  Today I’m just going to give you some highlights, and then in upcoming posts I’m going to give you all the deets on where I got my ideas (hellllo- Pinterest {okay maybe some were just my own}), what I liked/didn’t like in the end, etc.

I need to send a big thank you to my friend and fellow blogger, Tonya of Create-Celebrate-Explore.   Tonya is an amazing woman, and she takes amazing pictures.  She so nicely sent me many of the photos she took at the party.  If you see a picture that says, “Thank you, Tonya” on it, she took it and I cannot take credit.  I did just get a new camera, but at this party I had not received it yet, so PicMonkey (something I also found through Tonya) is helping me out, too.

Onto the photos.  These are just highlights- more to come!

Invitations were from Shutterfly.

Birthday Balloon Wreath

(this will be a family tradition for us now)

Streamers- these were really fun to make!  More on them soon…

We had a Scavenger Hunt for the kids- it was super cute.

Cupcakes are always easiest, and…

Candy pops, to boot!

Lastly, balloons.  Ah, how my little boy loves balloons!

See you tomorrow when I’ll start spilling sources, how-tos, and more!


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My Weekend

Posted by on Jan 9, 2012 | 1 comment

Have you ever had a weekend you just didn’t want to forget?  Everything seems to work right, things get done but you’re not feeling rushed…. that was my weekend.  It was awesome.  It started Friday night- a date with my husband- a much-needed date. We didn’t do anything but go to dinner, but that was sufficient because our meal was awesome, and so was our waiter (I have such an appreciation for a good waiter since I was a horrible waitress).  San Diego friends, if you haven’t been to Whisk n Ladle, get there soon.  Yum!

Saturday started with working on our chairs– I’m done (post coming soon)!  My husband took the kids on a walk so I could enjoy a long shower (I also cleaned it) and get ready for an evening of fun with my friend Dana.   Just after Christmas, Dana asked me if I wanted to go to a launch party for a book called Creative Pilgrimage.  The party was taking place in Santa Ana, which is a nice little drive from San Diego.  Yay!  We drove up and got there just as it was getting busy.  Studio Crescendoh is a lovely little nook of artistic wonder, and there were so many beautiful things to be inspired by.   Some of my favorite parts….We met Jenny Doh, brainchild of Crescendoh.  She’s exactly how she seems on her blog- friendly, warm, sincere.  We got to make our own bracelets:

There was some simple garland strung up in the window.  It was so neat.  Here’s a shot of them in the window:

Here’s my attempt at a close-up:

Dana is so good for me- she doesn’t know a stranger, so she introduced us around as if we were supposed to be there and people should want to meet us.  I did have Emily with me, so that got lots of smiles, too.  Today I checked the blog, and Dana and I are in their slideshow (so is Em, too).  15 seconds?  Ha!

As we were leaving to have some dinner, Dana couldn’t help herself.  She had to take a picture of this guy in the window of a studio next door.   In case you can’t tell, he’s painting a picture while wearing a spikey helmet.  

Dana and I got a bite to eat before our drive back to San Diego.  We told stories of dogs flying out of cars and remarked several times that we are so happy we are married and don’t have to wear 4-inch heels and hussy dresses.  If we weren’t driving a good distance I have a feeling the evening would have involved a few glasses of wine or some drinky-drinks.  We’ll have to work on that next time.

Today we went to church and then had Emily’s Godparents and their kids over for lunch.  Then our little ones napped, and we ended the evening with our first viewing of Toy Story 3.

Perfect weekend.

Can’t wait to show off my chairs tomorrow.  They are awesome!

What did you do this weekend?  Have you ever had a completely pleasant one like this?

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Invitations, Paper Punches and Planning, Oh My!

Posted by on Jun 8, 2011 | Comments Off on Invitations, Paper Punches and Planning, Oh My!

I love a good party.  What’s not to love about getting together with people you like and celebrating something… or just eating and drinking yummy things?  Last year we put on a Thank You Party for the teachers at Anna and Jack’s preschool, and it was a big success.  I didn’t get very many pictures last year- I’m hoping this year will be different.  Hindsight 20/20, Michael and I did way too much complicated food, so we were running around the whole time trying to balance entertaining with cooking.  This year I hope to choose much easier food that we can prepare ahead of time and then we can enjoy the company of our guests a lot more.  I will also have a new baby on my hands, so that’s another reason to keep it simple.

Every party starts with an invitation, and I wanted to try something different for these.  I’ve been oooohing and ahhhhing over Martha Stewart’s “Punch Around the Page” sets, and came across a coupon in one of her magazines for 40% off any item, so off I went to Michael’s.  I ended up buying this set:

I’ll admit I was a bit intimidated by these- I mean, really.  Can you really make them look as nice as they do in the photos of things that Martha’s people make?  The answer is: yes!  There is a bit of a learning curve, though, so I thought I’d share with you some of the things I ended up doing to help them look (close to) perfect.

Firstly, it’s important to know that you have to size your paper to a certain measurement in order for them to work correctly.  This makes sense, but it forced me to adjust my invitations a bit at the onset.  Also, do some practice punching on paper that doesn’t matter at all- scraps you’ve saved or something- just to get used to how they feel and work.  I do think they are very nice tools- they will last a long time.

I printed my invitations 8.5 x 5 inches.  I made about 4 extra so that if I messed up I didn’t have to print more- which ended up being wise because I did make a few bloopers.

Step 1 is to do your corners with the corner punch.  Turn it upside down so you can get it just right.

After your corners are done, you can do the edges.  This is where I made the most mistakes, but here’s what ended up working best.

The edge punch has a graphic guide that you line the corner up with.  I found that after punching those first segments just off the corners that I did better when I turned the whole thing upside down so I could see exactly where I was punching.

And here are some final product shots for you:

I just love all those little holes lined up.  I’m such a nerd.

Now that the invitations are out it’s time to plan, plan, plan.  I’m using two of my favorite magazines to lift ideas from.  I have some in my head, but nothing on paper yet.

How do you plan parties?   Any favorite sites or tools you use?  I’m a list person at the core.  I could use an app on my phone or something, I’m sure, but there’s something about writing a list out that helps my brain figure everything out.  More to come!

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