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Saturday, November 15, 2014

North Pole Races Party

I haven't blogged in awhile because I have been busy planning and shopping for the Office's Holiday Party.  We are back to the North Pole for the Races because it was so popular last year.  I searched and searched online for a clipart of Santa's Toy Shop.  Nothing caught my eye until I saw a photo of a ceramic piece.  It took my awhile, but I outlined it carefully and filled it in with colors.  I added clipart of toys and bows.  I think I caught the essence of it.  It will be enlarged to a 30" x 60" for a photo op.

I combined two clipart for the Post Office 30" x60" photo op to give it more whimsy.  I added the canopy and candy canes.  I bought a wireless air printer that I can link to my ipad and iphones to print postcard size pictures.

One of the race car panels from last year, but with village houses added.

The office has asked me to keep the party themes the same for the future.  So, since last year's office party was the "North Pole Races,"  I am just tweaking the plans a little.  The wives and kids are invited for an evening party since hubby is off of chemo.  Last year I used foot-powered sit down scooters.  This year, there are two types of races.

I have four of these garden carts that hold 235 pounds each.  They will be used for side by side races.  They were tested by thirty-somethings for their FUN QUOTIENT and passed with "flying" colors.

Sharper Image sells this snowball thrower.  It is easy to use and really flings things.

These elves are sold by the dozen on  Since their hands velco together, I can curl them up into a ball and fling them with the snowball thrower.  They really fly.

I bought two adult trikes for the relay track race. These are timed with stop watches for big cash prizes.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Margaritaville Jimmy Buffet Style

Photography by Rachel Bruch, one of Architecture Inc.'s architects.  As are all the clear ones below.

 My husband's office asked if I could stick to the same theme each year for their margarita party.  So I chose Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville.  In a previous blog I showed how I made the large props.  I wanted you to see how they looked with the desserts in front of them.  I spent three days baking, and another day decorating.  I made Key Lime Sushi, S'more cheesecakes and s'more cookie bars, hamburger cupcakes, chocolate chip fudge brownie bites, and vanilla sushi cupcakes.  A friend baked the crab sugar cookies that went in the sand.  I will show those in another photo.  When I found the large blackboard on Etsy, I knew it was mine.

 This angle shows my Surf Shack off to better advantage.  And has a view of the high top table centerpieces.  I hand cut and colored each of the foods on the shack's board.  I love the foam sculptured sun on a dowel with directional beach signs.  I bought him on Etsy also.
In front of my surfer van, sat a tray full of s'more cheesecakes.  I combined 3 different Pinterest recipes for these.  I used Teddy Grahams in the recipe and for decoration.

If you noticed in the first photo, these hamburger cupcakes were served on a surfboard.  I got that idea on Pinterest also.  I actually baked vanilla cake mix in my mini cheesecake pans.  I filled them all the way to the top to get the mounding for the top of the bun. 

 For every three vanilla cupcakes, I baked one chocolate cupcake. 
 I cut those into three "patties."  The lettuce is just coconut with green food coloring shaken in a bag.  The ketchup and mustard are yellow and red food frosting.  Those are sesame seeds on top of each.

Here's another of my sculptures from Etsy.  I used him as a centerpiece for the bar.  The bar is two of the kitchen tables I put end to end on bed risers.

I doubled my sponge cake recipe to use my commercial sized baking pans (William Sonoma).  I rolled them along the long end, then cut them in half the long way to get two long cakes.  There is a Pinterest (of course) recipe for Key Lime Sushi.  I used their filling and re-rolled them.  They were wrapped in plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator to let the filling soak into them.  I ordered candy limes from  The chopstick were for effect, but some people used them.


 You can't have a Margaritaville without a beach.  I explained in the previous post how I made this.  Here it is.  I wanted it outside by the band, but it rained.  It hadn't rained a single day in Virginia that month...until this party.  You can see one of my Key West house graphics on the window in the back.

 I have used my boat cooler at six parties so far (pretty good investment).  This year it was a shrimp boat.  It worked like a charm.

 You are viewing the food bar from behind.  The newbie architect actually climbed behind it to take this picture.  You can see the tiki bar with candles which I built 4 years ago.  I used the plumbing pvc bases for tabletop palm trees.  There are mailing tubes under the burlap for the trunks.  Because the bases are filled with cement, no problem with them tipping over.  I didn't bring the tiki bar's skirting around to the back because I thought no one would see it.  Ha ha.  Little did I know.

Rachel Bruch photo

                                                I also baked vanilla and chocolate cakes in my mini muffin pans.  I frosted them with vanilla icing and white coconut. I bought these fish gummies on  They came four to a stick.  

The newest architects (eight of them) had to wear matching shirts.  Here are two of them in the parrot hats I found online to use as a photo op.
Here is a photo of my husband's brother and his wife in them.  They wanted their picture taken in front of one of the Key West houses.  Chip and Lois come over every year and help me prepare food.  Lois is a Navy wife and is a whirlwind at helping with the party.

Here it is if you want to take it to Staples to enlarge it for your own party.

Oh, you wanted the pink one also?

 This one wasn't at the party.  It took me hours and hours to convert it from a pencil sketch I found online.  Then I had to simplify many of the curlicues.

                               The following are just some shots of the guests.


       I am always telling you to have a LIVE band, no matter how small.  Here is "Justine Trawick and the Common Good," out of Northern Virginia.  Worth EVERY PENNY.
 Most of their songs are original.  They've asked if they can come back for the Chili Contest in March.  Of course I said yes.

    We had a great time.  I hope you picked up some tips for your very own Margaritaville.
If you want the graphics for the Surf Shack or Surfer Van, just ask. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Disney's Alaskan Cruise

When everyone else was running all over the ship on the first day, we unpacked our bathing suits from our carry-on luggage and went to the pool.  We had boarded the ship as early as possible to take advantage of the sunshine.  Disney has an adult's only pool and they bring you drinks right to your chair.  

The second day was sunny, but very windy.  We used the afternoon to go to a 3-D movie on board, and a welcome to the cruise play, and drinks in one of the bars, followed by our first dinner.  When we told the waiter the cruise was our 40th anniversary present to ourselves, he brought a special dessert that lit up and the waiters all sang to us.

Above is a photo out of the coffee shop on board that overlooks the pool and is forward on the ship.  We claimed an area for ourselves for the third day that took us into Tracy Arms Fiord and ended at the South Sawyer glacier.  Even though it rained all day, it was very exciting.  Disney had free hot drinks and split pea bread bowls they were passing out.

Here is my middle daughter with her ipad taking pictures.  You can see how close to the mountains the ship came.

Maryanne nice and dry in coffee bar before reaching glacier.

Here is my husband and I still waiting for the glacier.

                                       The rain let up just as we got to the glacier.

South Sawyer Glacier

In the evenings, we went to Disney stage productions, followed by drinks in one of their bars, then off to dinner in one of their three dining rooms.  Each one has a different theme.  Your wait staff stays with you the whole week and follows you to the different dining rooms.  We were table 46 wherever we went.  This night, the crew had put on a Toy Story musical.  Three-D glasses awaited us at the table to see the menu covers.
We had room service breakfasts several days in our room (free) and had coffee on our balcony, as the Alaskan waters sped by.  Because we were in the Southern passage below
Juneau, there were usually mountains on both sides of the ship.  There was a buffet restaurant on the back (aft) of the ship that had outdoor seating.  Of course we had to breakfast here several times.  The dining rooms also hosted breakfast buffets.



After breakfast, we reached Skagway. It was the gateway to the Yukon Gold Rush.  The miners had to climb this huge long tortuous treck with a year's worth of groceries and supplies.  We just rode the train that was built after the rush was over.  The views were spectacular. 
This was called the Ghost Bridge.  It is no longer used (thank goodness).  But the tracks were carved into the side of the mountain with very little room to spare.  You could look out the window and see the ground miles below.  There was a long dark tunnel just as you reached the summit by the Canadian Border.  We didn't cross over.  The train reversed, we flipped our seat backs over, and down we went.

Turnaround at Summit

Family selfie on the Skagway train
River View from Skagway train

Beautiful Sunset at Sea


 The next morning we pulled into Juneau.  We had an 8:30 am cruise excursion to go on a photographic hike to a glacier followed by a whale watching boat trip.  It was pouring, as they will tell you it does most days in Juneau.  The photographer was also a biologist and he gave us so much information about wildlife in Alaska that day.  We had a wonderful time with the other people on the excursion and were AMAZED at seeing salmon jumping up rivers, the glacier, the whales, the sea lions, and much more.
 Here is my family in front of the Mendenhall glacierWe all had rain pants and jackets and ponchos on.  We were not cold or wet because of our layering.  I will update this part of the trip later.  We spotted owls in the trees behind us, down by the lake.  This is a fresh water glacier.  The South Sawyer glacier the day before was a salt water glacier.  Most of the area around Juneau is an ICE FIELD that feeds many glaciers.  We would have had to take a helicopter to land on top of one.  We enjoyed the view from where we were.
Sea Lion Fight Over Bouie


Our third stop was Ketchikan.  It is an island.  It is known for its rainforest, salmon, totem poles, and crab fests.  We saw our first live bear here.  Our son Robbie noticed the den on the first part of the excursion, which was another short hike.  The bear was close by on the other side of the path.

Live bear less than 10' away

This park was a sanctuary and salmon hatchery.  The group right in front of us saw a bear munching in what the park rangers refer to as the "salad bowl."  A group the day before had a mother bear and her two cubs come out of the woods and sniff everyone's shoes and then run away.

Next we went through an area with reindeer, a sawmill, a native totem pole carver, and we got to meet a live bald eagle.

Ketchikan Saw Mill

American Bald Eagle

 We ate a LOT of Dungenous Crab Legs.  We were given the correct Alaskan way to get to the crab meat.  As you can see from our pile, we did a pretty good job.  The lodge was on a beautiful lake.  I especially liked the carved bears on the dock.

The weather had grown warmer.  We went back to the boat and unloaded everything, then walked off the ship right into downtown Ketchikan.  I had read in the guide books about the famous Creek Street where the ladies of the evening in the olden days had houses.

 Each of the houses is now a unique gift shop.  There were seals/otters in the creek below.  The red house in the background was called "Annie's House."  My daughter, Annie, of course, found this amusing.

Most of the bears we saw were stuffed and in stores.  I took a special liking to the one below.

The last day was a day at sea.  We enjoyed lots of sunshine while relaxing on deck chairs.

We enjoyed the view as we left Alaska and headed back into Canadian waters.  Many of the islands had red roofed houses on them.  They looked a lot alike.

  I told Buzz that we were lost and kept going in circles seeing the same little island.  He "almost" believed me.

             Not a bad way to celebrate a 40th wedding anniversary.  Not bad at all.  

Oh...and I saved all of the towel animals they made for our room each night.  The last night I lined them all up in the hall outside our room for a "parade."  I heard lots of laughter as people went by and saw this.
I hope you enjoyed reading about the cruise.  There was lots more, but these were the highlights.  Once we've exchanged photos from our five cameras, I will have another post.