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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Star Wars Christmas Letter 2015

Our Family in 2015

If you remember, last year we projected ourselves into the future forty years and into living on a space station.  This year we are all in Jedi training.  With Star Wars currently getting ready for battle, we figured all the help they could get.  So with the speed of light, I will begin a review of our past year's antics.

Robbie is our biggest news maker.  Along with helping Han Solo, he has a full time job with an international (and soon to be inter- planet) hotel firm.  He seems to love it.  His home base is still in California, but he can grab a quick space shuttle to other planets if needed.

Annie's firm has been purchased by another firm, so instead of walking to work, she will be taking the metro. She is still in interior design.  The intergalactic council  did contact her for a re-do of their headquarters.  They wanted a new rug design with their logo on it.  She recently visited Iceland, but Darth Vader's soldiers were everywhere, so it ruined her vacation.  She did bring me back a lava necklace as a souvenir, though.

Maryanne is still braving the clubs singing acapella.  Buzz and I went to see her sing, but with aliens everywhere, it was very distracting.  She is a great help to me in my party planning.  She found the BEST band for Buzz's office party who had everyone dancing this year.  She is still an AVID fan of the Washington CAPS hockey team.  She is now friends with the goalie coach.  She tries to capture their funny antics during practices.  She caught Ovechkin blowing a bubble from gum during practice.

Buzz continues in good health, thank goodness.  He has not been called into service as a Storm Trooper, but has been busy designing office space for Inova Health Systems.
I joined him at the National Harbor for dinner with clients at the Design Symposium this fall.  I LOVE going through the exhibit halls and trying to get free "swag."  Our client Margarita party was a huge success this fall.  I re-used a lot of the pieces I had designed for my niece Valerie's wedding.  The girls joined us for a trip to Disneyland in California for my 65th birthday on Thanksgiving. 
Christmas light in Disney's It's a Small World ride
                                       

 The parks were just beautiful with all of the holiday lights.  Robbie joined us for the fun.  We went to his new apartment in Irvine and met up with his California friends for his birthday, which is two days after mine.

I substituted this fall in two first grades in September, but that was it so far for my school appearances.  Two of the teachers and their hubbies, along with Chip and Lois, are joining us  tomorrow night to go to the Udvar Hazy Imax Theater's presentation of .... can you guess?  Yep.  The new Star Wars movie.

Well, off we go towards another year.  I will miss my brother-in-law Nick, and my high school friend Sheila, who both passed away unexpectedly this fall.  It also seems really bare under the Christmas tree without my furry friends, but NO, I am not getting a new dog. . . . .yet.  I hope you all stay healthy and happy and have as many blessings as your hearts desire.

Merry Christmas,
--Jani






 


Monday, December 14, 2015

Christmas Office Party "Santa's Campground" 2015


Guests were met at the front door by Santa's Camp Counselor.  If you enlarge the photo by clicking on it, you will see his bulletin board with directions for the party.  Each person had a packet of six coupons with the name of each of the six games on it in different colors.  If they won the game, they placed the coupon in the acrylic tumbler for the raffle prizes later in the evening.

I chose this photo to show you how the window panels make the office cozier.  We made a pit of the eight lobby chairs with tables in the middle.  Look closely behind the councelor and you will see an elf riding a bicycle on the camp road.


                  The above photo gives you a better idea of the conversation pit.


 This photo doesn't do justice to the two big cabin panels, but it does highlight the boxwood tree I made in my flower arranging class.  The band, "Irresponsible" brought free sunglasses.
My centerpieces were from my collection of wooden boats.  I actually got this one on Amazon.  It is made for American Girl dolls.  I like the elf better.  Speaking of elves, there were four large lake panels.  Above are the first two with the elves playing in the lake.

 The second two panels of the lake were of the gazebo with our dancing elves.  We placed the band by these.

I have been saying for years that a live band is a must at a big party.  The office payed $1200 for "Irresponsible" out of Northern Virginia.  This band was so good that a LOT of people were dancing, which was unusual.  Maybe it was because the 15 month old baby that was captivated by them was dancing and oh, so adorable.









The games were in the middle and back of the office by our kitchen.  Every campground needs a camper.  I found this one on-line by Land of Nod.com.  I had a collection of dogs from my niece's cruise themed bridal shower last year.  If you know anything about me, you will know that I like to reuse my props in new ways each time.  So, the dogs came as Santa's dogs who had jumped in his sleigh as he traveled around the world.  The GAME:  Feed the Dogs.  I got the plastic bones on Amazon.  The just fit the double dog bowls in a stand I found at Home Goods.  I already had the beach chair and Santa.  He didn't leave home a lot because I didn't really like his original feet.  So, I bought him a new pair of boots at Target in the kids' section.  I wish I had take a picture of the two year old hugging him.  But I am constantly moving during the party.



This is the second "Land Canoe" I've built with my hubby.  I bought a full size inflatable canoe on Amazon.  I also bought two wooden dollies and some deck planks at Home Depot. We cut and screwed the deck planks (tapering them at each end) to the dollies, then used industrial wide hook-and-loop tape to the boards and canoe. 

                            
 
 Once the kitchen was emptied of all the tables (they were used for dining at the front of the office), the room is quite wide.  Two people in the boat, two people PUSHING the boat, made it a moving target game. I used four golf chipping nets because they stand on their own.  Each contestant had a bucketful of soft balls and "guns" that they flung balls into the nets as they rolled on by them.
                                  



The Skunk Shuffleboard game was a HUGE success.  Momma skunk was in her tent (American Girl tent on Amazon.com).  Each of her babies was hot glued onto a square block of wood.  Each wood piece had only the soft side of Velcro glued on it.  See the tile floors.  They make wonderful sliding surfaces.  I used just an empty mop handle as the pushing stick.  The object was to get at least three of mom's babies returned to her under her platform tent.


Oh my goodness, baby bear is stuck at the top of the target tree.  We must ring his bell to let mom know so that she can help him. (For the kids).  The adults used big PVC bows and wooden arrows with rubber tips as Target Practice.  When I found these round foam circles on Amazon, I actually didn't know how I was going to use them.  I thought and thought and thought, until I finally decided to use my step ladder.  Then I wondered if the opening were too small, but I saw lots of people getting arrows through the holes, so this game was a success.



We used the building's lobby this year for the Trike Races.  We had two tents out there to keep the campground theme going.  This was a timed race and a lot of fun.

I reused the snowball shooters from two years ago.  But I found tiny squirrels and birds, which were just the right size for flinging.  I used my large wooden backboard again, but this time with a nest (really a plant liner).  I made a cardboard tree and placed it inside the backboard.  The object of this game of Squirrels in Trees was to get the squirrels or birds back in their nest.  Easy??  No.
Fun?? Yes.

 Finally, we had a Fishing Pond.  I bought an American Girl dock on Amazon.com.
 It was BIG and just the right scale.  I found this wonderful paper that looks like water 
and rolled it out in one of the back halls.  I put my Pottery Bar wooden sail boat you've seen at my other parties by the dock with an elf in it.  I found easy fishing sets for the kids, and a much more wooden set on Etsy.com for the adults.  A lot of people went fishing, so this game was a success.

I will post more photos as people send them to me.  Yes, I know it was dangerous to have architects take the land canoe outside on the parking lot hill, but it was highly entertaining and no one got hurt.  

I hope your next party is as fun as this one was.

--Jani












Sunday, November 8, 2015

Christmas Office Camping Party Games


I started planning the Office Christmas Party months ago.  I wanted to use a lot of the past party props, but needed a theme to tie them together.  If you are following me, then you know that we went to the North Pole Races for the past few years.  We used scooters and now own adult tricycles.  But, the staff banged up the walls pretty badly.  A few years back I had planned and made murals for a Santa's Campground theme.  Then I found the cool scooters and put that theme on hold. 

 So this year's theme is Santa's Summer Campground. Below is the Camp's dining hall/check-in building.  It will be printed on two 36" x 72" panels.  



 Game One is Target Practice.  Below is one of my elves getting ready.  I ordered new pvc bow and arrow sets from Etsy.com.  I am going to make a foam circle with three colors and a hole in the middle.  The foam tipped dart will go through the middle.


                              
 Game Two is Bike Riding. I needed Mrs. Claus and an elf to help me set the stage for using the trikes again.  But, one person will drive the trike, while his/her buddy will be riding on the back with a Nerf gun trying to shoot  balls into net targets while "flying" by.  I bought the nets (used for golf chipping) on Amazon.com.
                                                         


Game Three is Air Lift the Squirrels into Their Nest. Here are two elves enjoying coffee by the stream in front of their camper. 




 I went online to the Land of Nod website (part of Crate and Barrel) and ordered a kid's tent that looks like a camper.  With the un-decorated office Christmas tree and another tree, this will be the backdrop for the main lobby.  I will bring back the snowball shooters from last year, but we will be trying to get squirrels and birds into their nest. I found the perfect large nest at Jo Ann's Fabrics for the bridal shower game, and now it's being used again. (It's actually the lining for a flower basket.)
 
 Game Four is Fishing. I got awesome fishing sets on Etsy.com.  They have special wooden lures for picking up the fish which make it HARD to do.  Just the challenge for these adults.  I also got easier ones for the kids.



 Game Five is Water Fun and Rowing.

 The panel above is one of three LAKE panels.  I am going to have gutters with water and small sailboats.  Campers will use water guns to shoot at the boats to race them.  We will also have a LAND CANOE on wheels (inflatable) to race down the wide halls of the office.  The rubber should protect the walls.  My helper from the office suggested buying crutch rubber pieces to put on dowels for the oars. So, I have ordered those from Amazon.com.

If you would like to see photos from the party, go here.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Margaritaville 2015

I decided to kill two birds with one stone by having the office's annual Margaritaville party as a nautical theme and my niece's wedding the same theme.   I found this adorable fishing boat and docks on Etsy.  I already had the large wooden tray, So I added crab shaped cookies.  Neither party had left-overs.  They are just a sugar cookie recipe.

I found this shelf at an antiques shop and the ferry boat on Etsy.  I painted them with white chalk paint.  I wanted small life preservers and could not find any.  I came up with idea of using wooden curtain rings, which I spray painted.  Then I used red duck tape for the stripes.  I printed out different cliparts of cars and glued them onto toothpicks.  The dessert for this was brownie bowls filled with Oreo stuffing.  I found the recipe on Pinterest.  I added some Cool Whip so that the filling wasn't too sweet.  I sprinkled chocolate chips on top.  These were decadent.

 I really wanted lighthouses in my display, but they are REALLY expensive.  So I made mine with white 4" pvc pipe pieces and connector pieces I had sprayed red.  Rustoleum has a new paint that covers plastic.  It is fantastic for projects like this.  My hubby helped me fill the bottom plumbing fixture with cement to hold it up.  I found the top tiny lantern on Amazon.com.  But it wasn't big enough to add to the piece, so I glued it to the bottom of a clear acrylic tumbler.  This piece fit snugly over another plumbing piece, so that I could put a battery operated candle inside.  When I found the bendable fencing at Michael's, I was elated.  I made two lighthouses, so that I could stretch the signal flags between the two.  People love strawberry shortcakes.  I am always looking for portable ways to share them.  I found the cooler boat and the turquoise buckets at Home Goods ON SALE.  The two containers from the Container Store were filled with strawberries and whipped cream respectively.  I made sheet cakes of a mixture of pound cake and vanilla cake mixes, using only butter.  I put chunks of it into 8oz wide mouthed canning jars.  The boats from Etsy came just in time for the party.  I built the dock from my son's building blocks.

The fourth dessert was mini apple pies.  In the past I have baked the mini pie shells and filled them with cheesecakes.  But, I used a diced apple pie recipe and baked the filling in the shells.  No left-overs here either.  People were using the whipped cream on these also.

 Here is my large cooler boat, which has now gone to many parties.  It held water bottles, out on the patio.  Yes, I said OUTSIDE.  Tradition holds that it will rain on the day of this party.  This is only the second time in 25 years that it didn't rain.  The little chalkboard tells everyone the name of the live band.
 I raised the tables again using bed risers and ordered bar stools. The band was in the back by last year's surfer dude.


In the foreground is the Margaritaville sign I had made up 4 years ago.  Behind it is my captain and his first mate. At the wedding, they were props in the photo booth area. They are welcoming everyone aboard.  I used this same cruise ship graphic that I had created for my niece's bridal shower.  After MANY years, people are just beginning to ask me about where all the graphic posters are created.  When I tell them that I make them myself, they are starting to admire them.  I guess I should be grateful that everyone is having such a good time at the parties.

I made the pole from another pvc plumbing piece filled with cement.  Using a connector and 2" pipe sprayed black, I bought the chalkboard arrows at JoAnn Fabrics.  I attached them with black velcro.  (For the wedding they pointed out directions for photographer, games, etc.)

 With leis, lets of people (around 200) and electric palm trees, Chipolte Restaurant food, and FOUR margarita machines running, the party was a success.

 Here is yours truly with a client and two of my husband's partners.


For those of you following me, you will recognize the mailing tube and burlap palm tree with the umbrella leaves in the background.  Behind the lady in pink, is my new addition of the hula dancer.  
Here is a shot of the office pation with the tent.  On the far left are two of the margarita machines.  There are high tops in the tend and in the kitchen area.  The dessert table was in the tent.


 You have seen my tiki bar in the past, but I bought this 5' long wooden fish at Bethany Beach this summer.  I saw him and just had to have him.  The parrots were centerpieces last year.  I love rearranging all my props for the different themes.  The food is ready to go.
This lovely couple is my hubby's brother and his wife.  Lois went to high school with me.  We met her later at a reunion party and fell in love with her.  We knew she HAD to marry Buzz's brother.  He DID!!  Great decision.  But, she is a WHIZ in the kitchen.  She watches over the food platters, washes dishes, refills, and is just the best helper ever.

If we are using the garden, the fire pit is going.  We have supplies for s'mores ready to go.

Above are two of the high top tables with their sailboats floating in water fabric over plastic water fabric I found on Amazon.

I believe the staff has as much fun as the clients.
Practically Einstein Band

Selfie with a best friend


FAVORS






 My Hula Girl is in the kitchen by the food table.  I got this wooden fish at the same shop as the big fish on Tiki Bar.

The above photos were all taken by Rachel Bruch, on of Architecture Inc.'s architects.

It isn't even crowded yet, but getting to use the beautiful weather outdoors will help with crowd dispersal.   click here to see last year's party

Below are a few photos I took with my iphone.
 
 As you can see the beach rug we painted last year, with fun foam accessorites, made it outside this year.  The wind blew the waves, but we straightened them before band arrived.  They played in front of the waves.


Tortilla Shell molds on Amazon.com

The brownie bowls empty.  I bought the pie shell pans at Sur la Table.