Friday, February 29, 2008

Getting vested!

I've been doing a lot of knitting since getting my cast off on Tuesday. Truth be told, I was knitting even with it on but it was very slow going. I couldn't use my thumb so I was using my index and middle finger to hold the right needle and wrap the yarn! Crazy, I am... I know. The pictures aren't great (had to set the focus on the banister, and not myself...) but it at least shows that the vest fits. It'll be perfect post-block! I'm so glad. And boy is it warm - I'm sweating after running back and forth from the stairs to the tripod. That's a great thing but means I need to finish it soon - before Spring really hits and I no longer need it!

So overall, my attempt at knitting a piece of clothing seems to be going pretty well. I'm a little nervous about seaming but we'll see how it goes. I'm heading out to my auntie's tonight to help her make a copy of my black clutch. Since she's one of my "Master Knitting" aunties she'll be able to answer any questions I have with my vest too.

Hope you all have a great weekend! It's supposed to be very cool here tomorrow but warming up next week. Spring's coming - I can feel it.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

One of life's luxuries: both hands!

I realize this is not going to be a very visually appealing entry but I just thought I'd share. I got my cast/bandage off and stitch (yes only 1) out on Tuesday. I was just amazed at how small my right hand looked after being out of commission for just 2 weeks. (note: my right hand is actually on your left.) It's amazing and a bit scary how quickly muscular atrophy happens! I don't know what it's called but check out how much smaller the "thumb muscle" is on my right hand than on my left. Granted my left hand has been working overtime lately too...

Hallelujah that the bandage and splint/cast is off though! It means I can get my hand and arm wet and can finally move my thumb around a bit. Washing one's hair with 2 hands is such a LUXURY! And still no pain which is just excellent! I spent all of the last couple nights knitting!!! And hope to have something to show for it soon. Last night was filled with cleaning the kitchen, taking out garbage and recycling and whipping up a dinner of linguine with clams and white wine with sauteed spinach! It only took me about 1/2 an hour! I LOVE my right hand! :P

"Lucky" Friends with court-side seats!

Hopefully Paul, Vickie, Andrea and Judy don't mind my putting these videos up. Gia recorded these with his camera off his TV last night (Fox Sports Bay Area was airing the game).

While partaking in amazing court-side seats at the Warriors game - Vickie was completely mauled by Mickael Pietrus chasing an errant ball into the crowd! I even saw a replay of this on ESPN's Sports Center! I'll have to find a way to get that off my DVR though...perhaps the same way Gia did: with a camera, a steady hand and a [semi-]quiet room...

Vickie - DUCK!!!

Whew - she's okay!

And pulled the ESPN Sports Center clip off my TV too!

I can't believe I watched my friends on Sports Center last night! And thankfully Vickie's not hurt. That looked BAD! But most importantly - I wonder how Paul feels about his wife being attacked by a multi-millionaire, professional basketball player's.... well.... crotch!?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

I love rainy weekends!

Look at how beautiful the flowers outside my kitchen window are. They just started blooming in the last few weeks that we've actually had warmish weather - in the 60's. The rain has come again today and is supposed to get pretty wild before the day is through. Made for a great picture I think: brightly blooming flowers contrasting with the gray, rainy day.

But I LOVE this! I sometimes think there is something wrong with me how much I love the rain. People are in disbelief that the first warm/sunny day of Spring makes me (honestly) a little depressed. Maybe it's the UK in my genes? Who knows... I'm weird.

Mom and Dad are here for the day/night again. It cracks me up how they come down here to hang out and relax. But technically I invited them to come - Mom specifically; to help me with some cleaning before I finally get my cast off on Tuesday. Dad had such a relaxing time last week, he decided to tag along. And of course I love having them both! Dad brought his tax prep docs and Mom is (as I type) making lasagna for dinner and baked custard with caramelized sugar sauce for dessert. How nice it is to have someone here doing my dishes and making me a great meal. Mom's of course the best at this since she's the ultimate in bringing comfort.
Yep - that is I! Fresh and new and even still peely. Ha!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

One [and a half] handed cookies

Just can't keep me down I guess! I got determined and made dinner tonight. Shrimp sautéed with onions and wine over rice with stir-fried zucchini. Actually the hardest part is chopping the vegetables since (because of my surgery last week) I don't have use of my right hand other than using my index & middle finger to help me hold things. It's really interesting to watch me cut things. Especially at our nice Valentine's Day dinner on Thursday. I was worried my knife would slip and toss something off my plate! But so far not too bad... Dinner tasted great, and I felt good about managing to feed us some home-cookin' as well.

While I was ahead... I decided to try making my Chocolate Chip Cookies! If I can manage to bake anything while partially crippled, it should be my famous cookies, right? If you who are reading this now know me well, you will know ALL about these cookies - and hopefully love them?! It's a recipe my mom discovered many, many years ago. However she and I have subtly tweaked it over the years into its current form. Up until a few years ago Mom had an "Application Process" for anyone who wanted the recipe. Only two of my friends got their hands on it -- both of whom have now lost it! And Mom has since vaulted it. "Let's just keep it in our family..." I think she hopes I'll hand it down to my children and so on. Let's just hope any off-spring I may someday produce actually enjoy baking! I've had people ask me if I'd make these cookies as wedding favors and also if I'd provide them to a caterer as a dessert option; neither opportunity came through but it certainly showed me the greatness of the cookies!

This is the first time I had to use a mixer since part of my enjoyment of making cookies is hand-stirring. But I knew that wouldn't be happening so I used a hand mixer instead. I'm not so happy with the [visual] result, but they taste completely normal so I'm calling it success. You're all gonna think I'm crazy but I'm not in love with these cookies. I happen to love the cookie dough *grin* but the cookies are just alright.  I blame my overall ambivalence about cookies in general...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

I'm Bored... Let's Travel!

Since I'm not creating anything very interesting except messes I can't clean up very quickly (being 1.5-handed right now) I thought I'd blog about some of my travels. I suppose I'm aware that I travel a lot, but when I ran into an old friend recently who kept going on about all the traveling I do (she gets my Christmas cards) I realized that I really do visit more countries than the average person. So perhaps you'd care to read about it? I'm gonna pick a city at a time and incorporate entries here. If you're like me - you don't want to read a 9 page long novel about all the 17 countries I've visited in one sitting...

So what's my favorite city been so far? I think Prague, Czech Republic - specifically at Christmastime. The experience would not have been the same any other time of year. I traveled throughout Europe in December of 2005. When talking about this specific trip I always remark that, given a choice, I would not have been traveling during the Christmas season. But since I had to be in Amsterdam for work... I made Prague my 4th stop. The best part of this time of year is the Christmas Markets in just about every city center. They're like our Farmer's Markets only they occur every night during the season and are not selling much fresh produce. Mostly small gifts and trinkets, hot food and warm drinks.

The night I arrived in Prague, I took this picture (stitched together poorly which is why St. Nicholas Church is sort of all over the place in the background there) and wrote the following in my travel journal:

I slowly walked the 15-20 minute walk to the city center in a bit of light snow. WHAT A SITE! My first vision of Prague’s Old Town Square was of the Old Town Hall tower and the Tyn Church spires in addition to many other beautiful, large buildings surrounding a center square filled with little booths selling toys and hot food and pastries and hot drinks. White lights and Christmas trees were mixed in, on and between every booth. Christmas music was playing on a sound system and snow was lightly falling on the entire scene. It was just beautiful. THIS is what I’d been waiting the entire trip to see!

Of all the cities I've been to in Europe, Prague was the most untouched. What I mean is, not damaged by wars or industrialization. I imagine that it looks very much the same as it did 300 years ago (with the exception of businesses like the Sephora and H&M in Wencenslas Square...). It's quaint and very charming with practically ALL the original architecture, yet still feels very modern. Plus - there was more English spoken here than in Germany! The tourists have unfortunately, discovered Prague's unbelievable charm too. I don't think I'd ever visit in the summer and even Christmastime was busier than I expected.

Here are some of my favorite pictures which all happen to be taken from the top of the Old Town Hall tower:

The Christmas Market in the Old Town Square

St. Nicholas Church on the front right but can see Prague Castle across
the river and up the hill in the back left

The Church of Our Lady Before Tyn (Tyn Church) and some of the town square shops

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Family, Friends and Flowers

I'm such a busy-body... I've only been "one handed" for 2 full days and am already going crazy! So here I am 1-handed typing since I have to keep my right hand elevated for another few days - plus it's a little stiff anyway. However, I have to say - this surgery recovery isn't SO awful. I've had friends and family come out of the woodwork! And some come bearing gifts and FLOWERS! What a perfect time to be recovering... right when everyone is selling beautiful flowers at every store. The red tulips were an early Valentine's gift! And Deb (who "babysat" me on Tuesday) came bearing the Gerbera daisies. Angela and her roomies, Landra and Lynn came by with a beautiful outdoor entertaining photo book to "inspire" me to get better faster! I've gotten calls and IMs and emails (many of which I don't have the patience to reply to with this ridiculously slow typing...) It's just so nice to be cared about. Even with this really pretty minor surgery. So THANK YOU to everyone who has contacted me!! I'm doing fine... except have maybe managed to come down with some kind of a bug that I previously was worried was side affects from anesthesia or even an infection. But I'm pretty sure it's just a bug since it's still hanging on a couple days later - and my wrist/arm don't show any signs of infection. Also I've had absolutely no pain!! How great is that?!

I'll be in this stupid splint/bandage for another week and a half. It's bulky and stiff but I'm at least managing to keep it clean and dry (thank goodness for plastic bags). I can't even type like I'm pretending to in the picture since I have to keep it elevated. *sigh* Patience...

Happy Valentine's Day to all!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Hapas can cook Chinese Food too!

Ok so my Chinese meal turned out so well I wanted to share! After repeatedly kicking Mom out of my kitchen I finally let her finish off my shrimp dish, but otherwise I somehow managed to get this churned out in 1.5 hours. I still think Chinese food is really fast to cook... the hardest part is the chopping! So even though I mentioned it in my previous post - it wasn't EXACTLY 5 dishes... more like 4 and 2 halves:

-Steamed sea bass with soy sauce, ginger, garlic and scallions
-Silken tofu with ground pork and scallions
-Steamed egg with minced clams
-Jumbo shrimp stir fried with green onions, garlic and white wine
-Sliced lop cheurng (Chinese sausage)
-Fun-see with chicken broth and soy sauce (thin rice noodles)

I just really wanted to COOK (and clean) today since it'll be a few weeks until I can again do it with ease. Time to dig into that pie now!!

Got lemons? Make... pie

It's been a busy weekend getting to all the things I need my right hand for. Oh wait - that's everything... Early tomorrow morning I'm having out-patient surgery on my right wrist and it means I'll be brushing my teeth (and other things) with my left hand for the next few weeks at least! Ack! I won't be able to blog about anything! However, I'll probably be typing 1 word a minute too so maybe it's just as well...

One last baking project and one last knitting project:

Mom and Dad are on their way over tonight to take me to the hospital tomorrow. In the interest of "one last hurrah" I'm making a 5 course Chinese (belated New Years) dinner for them plus (I know, it's not very Chinese-y, but I had lemons!) a lemon meringue pie. Funny enough lemon meringue pie was one of the first things I baked as a kid. Looking back, it seems like it'd be a pretty complicated "learn to bake" choice. But that's where I started! That means I've been making pie crust from quite a young age too. A lot of people are scared to death of pie crust, but I was too young to remember learning - which I suppose is a good thing. Kids aren't scared of anything! My trick is to keep it as wet as possible so that it doesn't crack/break as you try to get it into the plate and fluted. Another interesting tidbit - most people wouldn't realize that it's not lemon juice or even food coloring which makes the lemon part of the pie yellow; it's actually egg yolks!

The knit bangles come together so quickly that I made another a couple nights ago. I decided to try the moss stitch which is 4 rows of repeating the following pattern:

row 1: K1, P1 repeated across an even number of stitches
row 2: knit the knits and purl the purls
row 3: P1, K1 repeated across
row 4: knit the knits and purl the purls

I actually didn't like this one as much but it could be that my yarn was really too thick. The bangle I used was bright aqua so I didn't want to stretch the (worsted) swatch over it too tight or the aqua would show through. So it looks a little bulky... but still cute I think! Unfortunately my [large hand] won't fit through it with the swatch covering it. But I'm sure it'll work for someone! ;)

So goodbye for now! I'm hoping my typing won't be too awfully slow and I'll be able to fill my boring next few days somehow (won't be driving and therefore won't be going to the office). Maybe knitting slowly won't be out of the question? *fingers [on my left hand] crossed*

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Year of the Mouse and Dinner in a House

Happy Chinese New Year! Year of the Rat... Gawd that sounds awful doesn't it? I think I prefer saying Mouse...

To celebrate Chinese New Years Eve last night (ok, not really) I FINALLY went to Chez TJ! Chez TJ is a highly regarded, award winning, Michelin 2-star restaurant in downtown Mountain View. It's very quaint in that the restaurant is in an old Victorian house and the diners are seated in different rooms inside the home. Maybe not an entirely polished feel - but still comfortable. I have been wanting to mark Chez TJ off my "Michelin Star List" for literally years and finally made it in JUST before chef, Christopher Kostow's departure to Meadowood in St. Helena. Actually, Chef Kostow has already left ~ as of 2/4 ~ but his menu is still being served for the next week. Chef Bruno Chemel is already on staff but is apparently not serving up his own Chef's Tasting Menu until Kostow's menu finishes running its course. THEREFORE: we were not offered a [12 small course] Chef's Tasting Menu last night ($112) and instead were forced to choose the [4 course] Menu Gastronomique ($80). Forced is a strong word. I've actually come to the realization that when I "super fine dine" I seem to enjoy the food more when I chose my own courses yet enjoy the experience more when I do the Chef's tasting menu. But not like it was a bad experience in the least! Actually it was AMAZING. The service needs some polishing and the amuse bouche was unimpressive but the main courses made up for it! Foie gras and scallops and prawns and beef tenderloin - all prepared exquisitely! It was likely the best piece of beef I've ever eaten...Delish!!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Blogging, Baking and Bangles

I've been getting so many compliments on my blog which is surprising and really fun! I had no idea people would actually ENJOY reading it. I thought it'd just be a nice way to share with folks what I'm up to. Again - a fast way to catch people up when we don't always have time to chat or see one another. And I really think I need an outlet for writing (one of the reasons I love yelp!) But I'm getting email after IM with people excited about it. Woohoo!! And yes, I suppose I do channel Martha Stewart! LOL! "Eat my dust Martha!"

While at the grocery store last Friday and knowing I wanted to make the cream wafers, I was trying to remember what that "not usually in cookies" ingredient was and bought some sour cream. Fortunately I had some heavy cream at home (the ingredient the recipe really needed) but here I was with a cup of sour cream - something I don't use often unless cooking Mexican food or baked potatoes. So when Sunday morning dawned it seemed only appropriate to make Mom's sour cream coffee cake or as Amy calls it "crack cake"! Thankfully my hunt for a 1/2 sized angel food pan FINALLY proved fruitful last year and I'm now able to make a 1/2 recipe - much more appropriate for 2 people. This coffee cake is another one of Mom's comfort foods. All those weekends we spent in Tahoe when we were young - she almost always served this as part of our "hearty" breakfast (with eggs and juice), before we'd all hit the slopes. It's absolutely delicious - moist and sweet and cakey and cinnamony. I'm certain the sour cream is what makes it so soft and moist.

Still tired of the stockinette after stockinette on the vest - I tried my hand at another small project and this one was even BETTER than the Hello Kitty washcloth 'cuz it was SO fast! It only took maybe a couple hours! I made See Mi Knit's Knit Bangle bracelet. When dropping off BAGS upon BAGS of clothing at Goodwill on Sunday I stopped inside to find some cheap bangle bracelets - to use for this project. I was shocked that the UGLY bangles were still $6 each! I suppose, still cheaper than at Target full price so I bought a couple. I didn't have any yarn thinner than a worsted so I used some leftover gray and just made up this simple cable pattern. [Size 3 needles with my worsted yarn resulted in a gauge of 12 sts=2 inches] The bangle was about 2 1/4" around but I knew I wanted to stretch the fabric instead of have it fit just right. It turned out SO cute! I really like it! It's maybe not quite my style but I know a few friends who'd likely love one! ;) Better consult my calendar of birthdays...

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Handbags are a girl's second best friend

By popular demand - I'm going to post some pictures of the handbags/purses I've been making over the last few months. However, let me first explain (since I know you're on the seat of your office chair dying to know) how it is that I've been knitting so much lately:

Why in the World is Lisa Knitting?

When I was around 8 years old my mom's sisters (3 of whom are MASTER knitters) taught me to knit. My dad's mother was also a super talented knitter and "tutored" me during this short time during which I was pretending to be a child-knitting-prodigy. They all said I was a fast learner and were impressed when I was able to master a cable. However, my interest was short lived (mostly because I wasn't taught how to bind off and my projects would go on forever!) and the knitting stint only lasted a year at most. Fast forward to September 2007 when, on a whim while browsing the aisles at Michael's, I decided to buy "Learn to Knit in Just One Day", some needles and a few balls of yarn and re-teach myself by making (what else do you learn to knit on?) a scarf. I decided with grandma already gone and aunties getting quite a bit older it’d be a good time to take up knitting again while they’re still around, in case I have questions… The scarf project worked out fine but actually bored me; especially around the 60th inch...

In October my cousin, Robin showed me an adorable cable knit bag she made and I decided I was going to make one! It was Princess Philo's Cabled Tote and I have to thank Miss Philo for making me really EXCITED about knitting. My first bag was her Kelly pattern. I used the same yarn - Wool Ease Thick & Quick in wheat - and the same handle from JoAnn's Fabrics. This bag turned out SO well! I used a lot of my sewing skills (I took sewing lessons from ~age 7-10) for the lining and was so so pleased with the results! It knit up really fast too - especially for a brand spanking new beginner. The lining probably took the most work just because of the tediousness of it.

By this time I was cruisin' the knitting blogs online scopin' my next project. And found it! I didn't do exactly Ruth's Cabled Clutch but used her instructions as inspiration to create my own. I used the same Thick & Quick yarn in black. Just created my own cable/stripe pattern and made sure it would look the same up and down so that I could just fold it and only seam up the sides. Then painted the dowels black before whip-stitching them to the purse. I had leftover fabric from the other bag so I made another lining and this time used invisible thread to sew it in. I had used regular thread to sew the lining in the first bag and didn't like how you could see it - so the invisible worked MUCH nicer. I was so happy with how "professional" this bag turned out that it became a belated birthday gift for Ang!

And finally - the bag I'm most proud of! I created this pattern all myself. Though I cannot take credit for the Saxon Cable running down the center. Basically I looked through a cable book and chose some cables and created a pattern for this bag. The Saxon Cable took FOREVER. You literally have to read every other line of the 16 rows of pattern or you WILL mess the cable up. (Unless you have a knack for memorizing 16 rows of "twist 3 back, cable 4 front, twist 4 front, twist 4 back, cable 4 back" etc.) I wanted to kill myself about 3/4 of the way through this large piece of knitting though. With all the cables and twists, the bulky Thick & Quick (in charcoal) got very stiff and heavy and I was SO tired of reading that pattern every row. I would have liked to make the bag taller but that would have meant knitting longer and I was just DONE after my 2nd skein finished. I seamed up the sides and put on these handles I got at JoAnn's, but I don't like them. They're too wimpy for the bag. So I ordered these nice leather ones from Tall Poppy. I still haven't sewn them on - and therefore have not finished a lining either - and therefore am not done with the bag. But I will do all of that soon!! I love the look of the bag though. I'll need to iron some interfacing onto the lining - maybe even 2 layers to stiffen it up a bit. But it's still adorable! (if I do say so myself!)

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Fattening Cookies = Comfort Food

One of my absolute favorite things to do is "test" recipes. Test is in quotes there because often times it's a recipe I've made before - but there's no reason I can't practice! Especially when it's a cookie recipe! These Cream Wafer Cookies have got the be the most fattening cookie in existence. Tons of butter, a lot of sugar, a little flour, a little cream - and that's IT! Oh but they melt in your mouth (as they should). I remember Mom making these when I was a little girl. There's something about cookies Mom made when we were young to really cement a cookie in the category of Comfort Food. And there's no such thing as low-fat comfort food, right? So it's all good! (..."she rationalizes, as she pops a sweet pat of butter into her mouth.") Boy they're labor intensive though. I had to cut out ~90 of those round wafers you see there, then press sugar onto both sides. Whew! After they baked, I was so tired I just let them wait overnight before making the "creamy filling" this morning. The last time I had the patience for these was coincidentally enough, about exactly a year ago - therefore not too far from Valentine's Day. So it seems I always make the filling pink. Decided to do a second color too: lavender! They have to go straight into the fridge since (as I may have mentioned before) they are almost all butter. It doesn't seem so appropriate but I'll probably take these to a Super Bowl party I'm thinking of stopping at tomorrow. Men watching football will eat little pink cookies....right?

Friday, February 1, 2008

Losing my "knitting apparel" virginity

Please re-read the title of my blog. This is my second entry in one day. Yes... I truly must have a lot of time and not enough to do. (hey - it's a super slow Friday at work)

I started knitting my first piece of clothing maybe a couple weeks ago. Having only started back up knitting about 4 months ago (after learning when I was 8) I've been pretty scared to try knitting a sweater. But I've decided it's time. And hey - this isn't a sweater, it's a vest! I found the Leftovers Vest through ravelry (oh how I love ravelry!) Except - forget the stripes. I'm still a beginner! I'm just doing black in Lion-Brand Wool-Ease worsted. Black, as we all know, goes with everything AND it'll show the least errors as I attempt to knit it up.

So far so good after I thoroughly confused myself on the transition between the ribbing and the first increase. Reading patterns has got to be the hardest part of knitting - I swear! It's not much, but here's where I'm at so far... at least it LOOKS like a sweater so I must be doing something right! However I keep stretching the ribbing over my waist and it seems a bit small. Here's to hoping that blocking really can work the miracles I think it can. If not - it's a good thing Deb wears a size 2! She might get a second birthday gift. ;)

The row upon row of stockinette is driving me batty (as I suspected it would) so I took a 5 hour break {twice} and knitted up this cutie, cute, cute Hello Kitty washcloth.
The pattern calls it a dishcloth but like I could scrub fat, oil or meat bits off the bottom of a pot with this sweet little thing!? I think not! So it's a washcloth in my book... I did this one in "cream" color Lily Sugar 'n Cream 100% cotton (it looks a little yellow in my photo) and pounded out another one in purple last night. I actually like the purple more 'cuz it shows the detail better. I just LOVE the name of this yarn: "Sugar 'n Cream".

*sigh* but after this fun break it is back to the vest and the row upon row of boring black stockinette. I can't even take a purl break since I'm knitting in the round!

Ok, ok and at the request of a friend I will put up a picture of what I think is still my favorite little knitting project. The knit cupcake!! This is the one I made for Deb for her birthday (uhm I also threw her a party so it's not like I JUST gave her a cupcake.) I changed the pattern a little so that the top is "poofier" like a real cupcake would be. Then topped it with little bugle beads so that it didn't look quite so.... uhmm.... mammary.

I {heart} home-thrown parties!

I have to say - I'm SO pleased with how my dinner party for Deb's birthday turned out last Saturday night. I still have the flowers (slowly dying around the house) to remind me of the incredibly fun night, so I therefore still have the event on my mind.
I can't believe my food estimates were accurate (had enough and no leftovers!) for 12 people and I really can't believe we all fit around my table!! Some of my favorite details were the flowers - from which I analy matched the word "Menu". I just bought a couple dozen at Costco and went to work playing with them at home. Here are the descriptions I had on my menu and some pictures of the meal I prepared:

Pear and Gorgonzola Salad
~ Sliced pears, homemade candied pecans and crumbled gorgonzola cheese over baby spinach with a shallot vinaigrette dressing

Mushroom & Wine Pot Roast
~ Tender slow cooked beef in a mushroom, onion and red wine sauce served over creamy mashed potatoes with seasoned haricot verts

Aki’s Guava Delight ~ Guava chiffon cake filled and iced with guava whipped cream. Topped with guava puree. *From Aki’s Bakery, San Jose

...and of course the Birthday Girl!!

It's these kinds of details that (to me) make something so perfect and I just loved that the cake even matched the flowers! Haha - that's so girly!! Can you see the knit cupcake I made and gave to Deb as a little birthday gift?

Like I said to my friends... if I was rich - I'd throw a party like this for friends and loved ones once a week! I truly love to entertain and more than anything else, love to control all aspects of an event! Ha!

This was my first ever sit-down dinner party but I definitely cut my teeth on the 50+ person birthday party I threw for Mom and Dad at our home in Danville - some pictures of that event (from May 2007) here:

I asked 3 good friends: Connie, Tracey and Debbie to come help with serving and cleaning at the party. They were LIFE-savers. Especially Connie who I believe washed almost every dish we used that night!!

Here's Connie working our "bar". The funniest thing I heard that night was Tracey (as bartender) asking my dad for ID before pouring him a glass of wine. Ha!!

Most of the food we served was homemade (what else?!) But I kept it simple with primarily things I could "cut and serve" as opposed to really cooking - especially for appetizers. I also splurged and ordered a couple beautiful platters of sushi from Oh Sushi in downtown Danville. I was pretty impressed with their quality of fish being that they're a little sushi restaurant in whitey-ville Danville... The nicest part: I took my own platters in and they made them look great!

We served the Caesar salad, lasagna and garlic bread buffet style on the deck, then set everyone out on the sport-court for dinner. The umbrellas would have been very nice if only it'd been a hot May day! It was very cool! But I actually think they provided a bit of protection from the cool/wind as we watched a slideshow of photos of Mom & Dad projected onto the side of the house later that night. See the pile of blankets we put out? They did indeed get used. And it's hard to make out, but I made centerpieces for every table using various bouquets of flowers I got at Costco! I LOVE flowers!

And finally - one of the highlights of the night (for everyone else but moi since I had to stand there and work the thing!) the Chocolate Fountain! My cousin, Stacey - of California Chocolate Fountains - lent me her small fountain for the party.

I had a little trouble getting it going. It was bubbling and gurgling and the chocolate was NOT running well. Called another CCF cousin (Nicole) who told me to basically "reboot": turn it off and turn it back on. And there we go! It started running beautifully! Apparently there was an air bubble in there... What a hit - everyone loved it. And we had birthday cake later too! Oh and those pink peonies in back - Mom grew those in her garden! They were amazing!