Mushy Stuff

How to Plan an Anniversary Party

My parents celebrated their 30th anniversary this year. By any standard, that’s an accomplishment. My parents always had the kind of marriage that made me want to get married, too, so it was important to me to help them celebrate this milestone. I planned a party in my mom’s home state of Ohio for the whole family. Here are all the details of where and how we partied.

The Location

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Their anniversary was in June, but the soonest I could get everyone together was August (close enough, right?). The party was in my aunt’s backyard (my mom’s sister), which turned out to be more than perfect. Not only is her backyard beautiful with giant trees and a huge hydrangea tree that created the perfect backdrop for photos, she also has a huge deck where we could put the tables. And, obviously, it was more budget friendly than renting a room at a restaurant — and it gave us a lot more freedom to customize the space.

We started the night on the patio where we had arranged cocktail tables and a drink table. On the deck, we arranged two long tables for dinner and hung string lights for a bit more ambiance.

The Flowers

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To save money, I arranged my own flowers for the party. My friend Cynthia is an event planner, and from her I learned not only how to arrange flowers, but also about the company Global Rose, which will deliver fresh bulk flowers (for incredibly reasonable prices — free shipping!) almost anywhere. I ordered 50 peachy-pink roses, 10 white hydrangeas, and bulk greens to fill in the arrangements. That gave me enough flowers to create eight mason jar centerpieces and two smaller arrangements for the drink table. The flowers arrived in perfect condition and held up beautifully for days. I recommend having your flowers delivered at least a day in advance so the roses have time to open up a bit more. (Note: Hydrangeas aren’t as hardy, so don’t order them too far in advance and keep them in water constantly so they won’t wilt.)

The Stationery

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I designed the menus in Photoshop and printed them on Kraft paper. For the gold “menu” at the top, I printed the original text in a light brown and then traced over it with a gold marker. I used the same marker to hand-write the place cards on Kraft paper tags.

To display the place cards, I made holders out of wine corks (I always save them, but you can buy them here). To create the holders, you’ll want to steam the corks for 4-5 minutes before using an exacto knife (or a bread knife if you realize you don’t have an exacto knife…that happens to some people). To keep the corks from rolling, I super glued a metal washer to the bottom of each one.

To finish off the tables, I printed black and white photos of my parents over the years and displayed them in simple white frames along with glass lanterns with candles.

The Food

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The food came from a local caterer, BOSS Corporate Catering. And, you guys? My only regret is that this company is in Ohio and I can’t use them anytime I want to have a party in New York. The food was so good, and Crystal, the owner, went above and beyond, helping us move the food into our chafing dishes and arrange it for the party. She was also extremely responsive and accommodating during the planning process, which took a lot of stress off of me. We had Sicilian skewers and goat cheese bruschetta for appetizers, then dinner was chicken marsala, penne alfredo, zucchini and summer squash, strawberry arugula salad, and fresh dinner rolls with honey butter. Dessert was a lemon berry mascarpone cake and a chocolate espresso cake.

The Drink

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The signature cocktail of the evening was an Elderflower Blush.

Ingredients:
Fresh strawberries
Fresh basil
Gin
Elderflower Liqueur
Seltzer
Prosecco or champagne

To make by the glass, muddle strawberries and basil in a glass and add 1 oz gin and 1 oz elderflower. Top with equal parts of the bubbly stuff. (We made ours for a group, so Joey muddled the strawberries and basil in drink dispenser and added equal parts gin and elderflower and about two cups of seltzer. We filled the glasses half full with this concoction and then topped up each with Prosecco.) Garnish with a strawberry and basil leaf.

The night came together beautifully. It was so great to spend time with my family that I don’t see that often, and my sister took the loveliest photos of us all. Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad!

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Sources:
Photography by Figment Art Photo
Food by BOSS Corporate Catering
Flowers from GlobalRose.com
Glass lanterns from World Market
Paper and frames from Michaels
String lights from Target
Rentals from Sun Rental

“Justine and I grew up down the street from one another in Johnston (where the grass is always greener) and we were in choir and show choir together at school. After attending Drake University, she went on to wow Martha Stewart (among tons of others) with her writing, editing and all-around-awesome life skills. She lives in NYC and is someone you want to have on your side in any battle against a messy apartment, poor grammar, lacking money management skills, and unruly hair. Seriously, though. She has truly funny posts about everyday life events that you never knew you cared about until she wrote about them! She highlights little nuances in funny and endearing ways that can only be rivaled by Tina Fey. Maybe it’s just me, but I could not stop thinking about Justine when I read Bossypants. And her hair is famous. Take note! “

^^^Literally the nicest thing anyone has ever said about me, said by one of the nicest, funniest people I know. (And who I am sad will no longer be blogging her life. Thank goodness we’re real-life friends, right?)

You may have noticed it was all crickets and tumbleweeds on the blog last week. I never apologize for not posting anymore (hey, how am I supposed to have anything to write about if I never have a life, right?), but last week actually has a good explanation: I was horribly sick.

{my nurse)

{my nurse)

After what I thought was allergies evolved into what I thought was a cold into what I think was a flu into what was diagnosed as a throat and ear infection, I’m now on antibiotics for the next six days and feeling much better. But I literally didn’t go into my office once last week and spent most of the day drifting in and out of naps with Boges and the rest of the time feeling miserable.

Never one to ignore the opportunity to find a silver lining, I realized there are a few things that being really sick teaches you:

1. I have really good friends. My friends texted, called, brought soup, and came over to sit on my couch and watch TV with me. Good friends make being sick feel not so bad.

2. I have a really good job. Not only is my job flexible enough that I can get pretty much everything done from home, I also work for people who not only don’t make me feel bad for missing work but who also encourage me to stay home if I feel terrible. I mean, sure, they’re also total germophobes looking to avoid infection, but they also genuinely know how much it sucks to have to go to work when you don’t feel well and didn’t want that to happen to me. That’s pretty dang nice.

3. I have a really good husband. Joey knows that I rarely get sick, and I almost never get really sick. It’s also impossible for me to be home for an extended period of time without doing dishes, straightening the living room, reorganizing my closet, etc. So when I start lying around the house instead of dusting the book shelves, he knows things are serious. He would come home every night with cans of soup, vitamin C packets, and virtually anything else I said I wanted. He even came home a little earlier each night because he knew I was bored after a long day in quarantine. A kind, considerate husband makes just about anything easier to deal with.

So I felt miserable last week. But I’m feeling really good this week. (Minus a little mental fog from the antibiotics.)

I’ll take that trade-off.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe we’ve only had Bogey for less than two weeks. He’s already become such an integral part of our lives, I can’t really imagine going back to how things were before we adopted him.

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I think pretty much anyone who has ever gotten a puppy would agree that it’s a lot of work. I cracks me up how the things we’re experiencing parallel what my friends and family with children have told me about raising kids. I discuss sleep schedules, training methods, feeding routines, and bowel movements pretty much every single day — I don’t even bother to remark on what a weirdo I’ve become anymore. But while getting a dog has meant sacrificing a few notches on the “look how cool I am” pole, it has also meant just about everything about my life is a little bit better. (Besides, I was never that high on the cool pole anyway.)(Cool people do not use the term “cool pole.”)

We’re still learning about our little guy every day. He’s pretty much housetrained (6 days accident-free!), he’s getting better and better at walking on a leash, and he’s even starting to tackle “sit” and “stay” like a pro. We started using a dogwalker last week, and it has made such a wonderful difference in his energy level and general obedience.

I mean, it’s not all sunshine and roses. We’re still learning to sleep past 5:30. We’re still working through his teething/nipping stage. He still manages to find tissues in the trash and chew them to smithereens if we don’t catch him first.

But it’s nothing that I didn’t expect to experience when we finally adopted a dog. And the positive things Bogey brings to our lives (lower stress levels, more general contentment, an unlimited amount of snuggling) far outweigh any negatives.

Bogey and I spend mornings together. We’ll take a few walks, I might give him a bath if the weather has been especially grimy, I give him breakfast, and we snuggle before I have to leave for work. By the time I put him away (he hangs out in the bathroom until his dogwalker arrives), he’s calm and practically falling asleep anyway. Honestly, that’s the greatest way I can think of to start my day.

The more we get to know him, the more I feel like we ended up with the perfect dog for us. It’s like I’ve always said: Dogs just make life better. And that little dog makes me so happy.

I know, I know, I’m being a total mush ball. Sorry (I’m not sorry).

But, you guys. The weather is getting nice, and I have a puppy. Life is pretty good right now.

I’m pretty sure even my husband would have no problem admitting that, between the two of us, I’ve always been more of the chef.

“Chef” used loosely here. I mean, I can cook. But nine times out of ten I’m just throwing things in a pan, incorporating one of my tried-and-true cooking methods, and then just holding my breath and hoping for the best.

One meatloaf mishap aside, I think we could say with a fair amount of certainty that this system has been pretty successful. And in general, I like cooking. It’s a good way to unwind at the end of the day sometimes.

Then I got that pesky new job in the city. (Still accepting postcards, by the way!)

And while so far I love everything about the job, the commute does limit the time I spend at home in the evening. So we were faced with a choice: Either we don’t eat until after nine every night, or Joey learns to cook.

I should clarify that he can cook. The boy makes a mean omelette, and he once whipped up a gorgeous dinner of pork chops, sautéed asparagus, and mashed potatoes. He just doesn’t do it often, and it takes him a while. (The pork chops? I kid you not, took him about seven hours from start to finish.)(They were, however, the best pork chops I’ve ever had.)

I think the main thing holding Joey back was just an unfamiliarity with the kitchen and cooking. He knew the basics, but as soon as he encountered anything new, he got nervous and just had no idea what to do with it.

In the weeks leading up to my new job starting, I tried to incorporate Joey into cooking more. Even if he was just hovering over my shoulder watching how I do things (“This is how you roast broccoli…this is how you make sure the chicken is cooked through…”), the main goal was for him to have a general idea of how to cook just about anything.

Wednesday was his first night in the kitchen since I started the job.

He made baked chicken Parmesan and roasted broccoli.

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Success! it really was delicious, and he will probably be eating the leftovers tonight.

Then Thursday, he took a play from my book and threw a bunch of veggies and some sliced chicken sausage in a pan to sautée. Then he even created his own creamy cheese sauce to put over some whole wheat pasta. I didn’t even teach him that one!

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He even threw together a little spinach salad for a starter.

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So our little experiment has been successful so far. But more important than the actual food, it has made me so grateful to be married to someone who has no problem stepping up when his family needs something. At the risk of getting mush all over this blog, it makes me love him even more every night.

And, you know, not just because he’s handing me a warm plate of delicious food.

My 25th birthday is five days away.

I don’t celebrate birthdays (so this isn’t me fishing for cards and gifts), but I wanted to talk about this particular milestone because, well, it is a milestone.

When I was a wee little Justine, I used to have this mental plan that went something like this: I’m going to get married at 20 and have kids at 25.

Okay, so…we’ve learned that wee little Justine was kind of a psycho. Or at least vastly overestimating how quickly she would get her life together. I mean, seriously, you’re still very much in college at 20. This is why we don’t take life advice from 6-year-olds.

But the point is, from the start, 25 has always signified something big for me. Twenty-five is the age (in my brain) that I was supposed to be completely and utterly grown up. Settled. Life was supposed to be figured out.

Needless to say, that isn’t exactly what happened.

I mean, to my own credit, I have some things figured out. The marriage thing? I’ve figured the crap out of that one. The job thing? The where we want to live thing? The money thing? Eh…that’s what the second-half of your twenties is for, right?

But for this commemorative post (available for two easy payments of $39.95!!)(I’m the only one that thinks of infomercials when I hear the word “commemorative”? Okay, moving on.), I wanted to focus on the stuff I can check off. More than that, I wanted to get input from some people who I really trust and admire on what they think is important to check off before you hit 25. So I sent out a Facebook message to a few people who fit that description and compiled their thoughts with my own. Some of these are silly things. Some of them a bit weightier. But they’re all 100 percent true.

And just in case you’re already overwhelmed at the thought of reading all 25 in one sitting, I’m splitting this post into five parts. Check back over the next five days for the rest!

So without further ado, here is the first half of our list of the 25 things you should know by the time you turn 25:

1. “You should know how to host a dinner party without completely freaking out.” – Madison Mayberry Hofmeyer

This is probably kind of a weird thing to say about someone who I’ve only met once before, but Madison is kind of one of my favorite people in the world. (Yup, I’m putting it all out there, Madison.) Not only is she insanely nice and smart and funny, she’s also a pretty fabulous cook. (You might recognize her from when she won Rachel Ray’s “Hey, Can You Cook?!” competition in 2008.)

And while you might think, “Sure, a girl like that could easily throw a dinner party,” I think Madison’s thought is incredibly valid. Because a dinner party doesn’t have to be a fancy sit-down event for 20. I think what she means is that you should be able to entertain guests for dinner without losing your mind, and I can completely get behind that.

2. You should know how to use a public restroom.

Okay, this one is from me. And what I mean is, you should know to check if there’s toilet paper before you’ve disrobed and sat down. And you should know to make sure you flush the toilet properly. And you should know to put some paper towels in the stall if you’ve used the last of the toilet paper. And you should know how to wash your hands without leaving soggy paper towels clogging the drain in sink. And for the ladies, it should go without saying, but for the love of all that is holy, you should know not to leave used tampons in the toilet. It’s disturbing to discover.

It never fails to shock me how many grown-ups still have not learned how to do this properly.

3. “You should know how to write a grammatically correct cover letter. That’s inspired by a resume I just read that included, among other hilarious things, ‘An understanding of chivalry’ listed under ‘Honors and Awards’. –Joe Thuente

Joe and I have been friends since the seventh grade when we rode the bus together twice a day every day. I don’t tell him this enough, but he’s someone I’m insanely proud of in terms of what he has accomplished in the time I’ve known him. He has checked off making a major move, getting a graduate degree, and getting his dream job from his life’s to-do list, and I consider it an honor that he’s kept me as a friend this long.

But enough mushy stuff. The dude also knows a thing or two about applying for and getting a job. (Plus, his anecdote is hilarious.) The fact is, it’s never going to be cool to sound uneducated. Learn yourself some basic grammar, folks. And, seriously, have a trusted adult friend read over your cover letter before you turn it in. We don’t need any more of these guys.

4. How to survive away from your family.

5. “You should know how to give a good handshake. And, for God’s sake, if you are male, you should know how to tie a God damn tie by this point.” -Joe T., again.

There’s nothing to really add to that, except I would say that ladies of the world should know how to tie a GD tie at this point too. You never know when you’ll be called on to save a male friend/boyfriend/husband from embarrassment.

Thank you to Madison and Joe from your contributions! See everyone tomorrow for the second installment!