Friday, July 26, 2013

the biggest birthday bash i ever threw AND the longest post this blog has ever seen.

in the bleak winter months i had the party gods give me a vision of a lovely party i would throw for my grandma helen to mark her 95 years. my party voices started and i couldn't stop them. it happened and it was one of the highlights of my life.

my mother had told me no for years about hosting grandma's adult birthday party. mostly because she is the youngest of 7 kids and i guess you let the older ones take charge or something. so i had to usurp her and go to my auntie annette who is the event planner extraordinaire. she said yes and i was beside myself with excitement! this is all a real and true story about my excitement.  there is nothing i love more than to host or be a part of culinary events for people i love. pulling a meal together comes easily to me, especially for large groups, and being that i'm a mormon and we are supposed to share our talents, i have to listen to the party demons sometimes, and that's on account of i dropped out of piano lessons as a teenager and i can't enrich the mormon's on sundee with my music abilities.

i filled up an entire notebook with ideas and such. and the menu changed 976 times but that was the funnest part, thinking of what to feed all these good people. i started on emails to my cousins and aunts and uncles and i think you might like an excerpt of one i sent out to guilt them into coming (because they couldn't see the scenes the party demons were playing for me, i had to lay on the heat real thick like):

This email is to address any concerns, excuses, problems with your attendance to grandma's friday night celebration.

1. you have a babe in arms, they are invited! if they happen to talk back, spit, hit, or wrestle - those offspring are not invited. kyle and ben have promised to behave.
2. you can't find a babysitter for the aforementioned children. call me, i will arrange responsible gals to watch them at my in-laws who live a few houses away.
3. you have to work and can't get to the party by 5:30 or 6:00. Dinner is a spread of food that can be eaten at 6:13, 6:42, 7:23 and so on. JUST COME!
4. you have a medical condition. my husband has a medical license and a killer first aid kit but he does not treat hemorrhoids. we also have two horses on standby should you need assistance once you get here. grandma has agreed to be pulled in by sled, what's your excuse?
5. north ogden is far away. so is the great beyond where grandma will be sooner than any of us. it will be worth it.
6. you don't know what present to get her. her words to me friday were something along the lines of - please tell everyone no gifts! i know they stew about what in the sam hill to get a 95 year old and the truth is, i don't need anything i'm ever given. my tip to you is that she is a sucker for m and m's and also the dark chocolate covered pomegranate seeds at costco, also pero is always a hit.
7. the entertainment should please a bunch of christensen's. i worked for six weeks to secure it. it is top secret but i know you will laugh.
8. food. it will be good. 
9. grandma's hoping it's her last party, you might be sad you missed out.

you would come if you got this coercion, right? the beginning of the email was wikipedia's definition of coercion.

i am pleased as punch to tell you that it worked and our final count was around 75 people! there were cousins i had not seen in years that attended and my glory, it was something i will never ever forget. my sister in law who was eight months pregnant at the time captured perfectly the evening. i am so over the moon grateful for her and her photo skills. i always invite her to my events and she always, always comes thru. she has a gift with natural light and i think the following photos show it.

the woman of honor, helen.
when my alaskan brother, cameron, saw this picture, he asked what bad thing vaughn (my brother shown here) ever did to me to get grilling duty on the hottest day of the summer. he was willing was all!
that martinelli's lemonade is found at costco and it will tickle your fancy. it's amazing
the appetizers were laid out and i ended up realizing that we did an ode to corn. every dip contained corn but no one complained. it was divine! my mom and i fussing over the set up and function.

 and the guest of honor! grandma on the far right and her sister allison in the middle (this is not a great shot of her crunching corn, sorry auntie allison!) and then her sister eulinid in the bright pink with my aunt ruth in the light pink. behind them was the baby station. i gathered up every baby apparatus ever known for all thebabies that came, it was awesome!

my good neighbor grows these fantastic flowers in abundance and let me have a go at them for decor. it was purely therapeutic.

 you will notice the name tags that my brother and dad are wearing. little did everyone know that this was a clue about the entertainment (it was a top secret surprise). and they are also probably conversing about how i made them do ridiculous things to get ready for this party. one of them being mowing a lawn in 200 degree weather and the other painting my mudroom the entire week so that my house looked somewhat pulled together.
 mingling and laughing. grandma pulling scott in congratulating him on staying married thru this whole deal. he is such a good sport!

 i sat with my cousin jill and her husband nick and enjoyed the ode to corn. it was possibly the first time i had sat down in a month. this is real. i wish i had realized that i needed to take my apron off. i wore that thing until i went to bed. ah well.
 my aunt ruth and aunt susan in a deep conversation about how i pulled this off for only $7 a plate. (i kid, but that dollar amount is real folks)
 these two shots are poor reward for my slave labor, but i had an epiphany that i would not enjoy one moment if i did not have help there that wasn't related. i called in some big favors to some good women i love, they obliged and i am forever indebted. at the end of the night, my entire house was put together, food put away, and not one dish left to do or thing to clean. their name tags read, the help. we had to make sure no one mistook them for a cousin. in this picture below, kellie is giving me strict instructions that she will take care of the cake station.

i had a food skeleton inside the house of how the salads should be laid out. they had the ingredients for each salad in separate coolers with a food label on what went into each grouping. i went with salad bar extraordinaire for dinner.

 the next shots demonstrate that these folks came for the party, not my speaking abilities. oh how i struggle with public attention. it makes things not work out smooth for my mouth and head. and apparently, my hands over compensate. a lot of hand action was apparently necessary for the welcome to the party and what we were having for dinner.

 this shot of my mom is a beauty. i love that happy look on her face. it does not at all reveal how she had been my sous chef for three days straight chopping, slicing, and following orders. she's a gem.

if seeing extra large pictures of a salad spread doesn't make you excited, i am real sorry for you. this is my happy place.
 my mom and i made 120 dilly rolls. store bought is not good if you have lived 95 years on this earth and your only complaint is you vomit when your intake of m and m's exceeds two handfuls.

 after dinner was over, i introduced the entertainment. it's okay if you don't know who it is. these folks all did and the pictures of the reveal are priceless.

 this man below made a video (after many, many performances around the state) of a family reunion typical of mormon families. its a one man show where he acts out every character who might attend a family reunion. we were all rolling and the laughter was heard two streets over. it was our entertainment as kids and it extended to most of my cousins. i had a whim and googled him. turns out he was delighted to come and i was giddy for months about this surprise. it made the evening. and, apparently, some of my cousins did not have a VCR growing up. they enjoyed it anyway and in that particular family, most of the spouses that married in to the family had seen it growing up. it was great! 
the reactions upon his arrival were awesome. i had one cousin who wanted to yell and shout she was so star struck. my uncle and cousin were in fits of disbelief and giggles, they couldn't believe it. 

i think this is the winner of the night. the three remaining sisters. it makes me tear up every time. they were watching our baby parade. we had so many new great grand babies there, we paraded them to the front. 

the birthday cake was quite a feat. i was at a baptism where my friend amity brought these two amazing rainbow cakes. they were not only beautiful, but some of the best cake i have ever eaten. i asked to hire her out for the evening only to find she would be out of town.  she came over one day and gave me a lesson. it was gold. i ended up making 20 layers which turned out to be 4 cakes. it was the highlight of my culinary life. they are so beautiful and my goodness, they grab your attention!


 i will be honest, they were slicing up the cake and i had a watchful eye. six layers gets tricky but this was my cool, spy, sneaky face. the help did a fantastic job slicing!

 grandma took the mic right before we ate cake and imparted some gratitude and wisdom. she's my idol.

 this face is one i have seen many times thru my life of loving her, but i feel so over the moon that ashely captured it. it's her overwhelmed, amazed, purely grateful face. priceless. happy 95th grandma helen.


kate said...

i know i just commented on your last post but i had to pat you on the back. what a wonderful celebration! it looked so beautiful and what a treasure that memory will be to your family. well done heidi! that picture with the three sisters should be made into a painting. lovely.

Tammy said...

I looooove this post! so many beautiful pictures of such a lovely day for your family. I need to make that colorful cake! I MUST! How do you do the perfect flowers on the outside? I vote for a whole colorful cake tutorial blog post from you. Or maybe, sometime when I visit Utah, I should find you and make you give me a personal tutorial. I love it.
Also. I want your apron. Adorable.

Ashley J. McFarlane said...

Oh I'm so glad you got the photo cd to finally work! This was so much fun, a memorable event for sure :) you did amazing at pulling everything off, way to go.

Ashley J. McFarlane said...

Oh I'm so glad the photo cd finally worked for ya! This was such a memorable event, you did amazing at putting everything together. Every last detail was perfect :)