Back on the block and ready to rock, let's catch up!

Good afternoon!  Hopefully you can forgive my lengthy absence, it was brought on by that crazy thing that happens to all of us - life!  I have received so many emails full of sweet complements and pleas for more frequent posting, and believe me I've wanted to.  Alas, one thing spirals into another and months fly by, I'm sure you know how it is, but I'll do my best to make up for lost time!  Quite a bit has happened since I last wrote, allow me to take you on a little tour of what I've been up to these past few months....

First off, I had another birthday!  Age is just a number so I'll spare you the specifics, but I did play around with the table decor while my mother made me a delicious birthday dinner...


I have a new collection growing, a collection of these woven ceramic baskets from Marshalls and TJMaxx.  I'll have to show you the rest one day, they come in different shapes, colors and patterns.  We used this one for bread rolls, though these photos were taken before dinner was served...

I shopped around the house (and in my accumulating storage containers) for coordinating decor, glasses, placemats and fabric for the runner:


As we often do, my aunt and I put together the flower arrangement using cuttings from the yard! My mother's garden has plenty of nature to choose from, especially when you look beyond the flowers and see there are so many other plants that can be used to create a colorful and interesting table arrangement:

And then there was my birthday cake.  It doesn't look like much, but sometimes simple is better!  I made it myself, and it's basically just a lemon cake mix with lots of added lemon zest and extract, baked in a bundt cake mold, poked with holes and drenched with a simple syrup made from sugar and fresh squeezed lemon juice:

After I popped it out of the mold I realized that I should have used two cake mixes, it looked a bit skimpy.  However, after staging it on a cake platter with a little garnishment, it looked pretty prettty prettty good!  (If you're wondering, yes that is a nod to mah man Larry David!)

In this family, birthdays occur in clusters.  The first cluster is in January, the next cluster begins with my birthday in March, and then two more in April, and then the rest in June and July.  Soooo, a few weeks after my birthday we had more birthday celebrations.  

I'd like to show you the beautiful table that my aunt put together the day of my grandmother's birthday, along with the beautiful flowers she received and another homemade bundt cake (this one was made by my mother and was much prettier than mine!):

My aunt bought my grandmother that enormous white orchid and staged it with some Spanish Moss in a large carved wood basket (from TJMaxx).  In this family, there are never enough orchids, in fact people often give us their orchids (from gift arrangements) when the flowers fall off and they no longer have the desire or know-how to take care of the remaining (bare) plant.  My mother and grandmother tie them to trees with stockings, once the roots take hold around the trunk of the tree they cut off the stocking - orchids live wonderfully on trees.  My point is, orchids never get old as gifts, especially because if you know how to care for them they can last a very long time!  Anyway, moving on...

I'm really in love with the beautiful background created by the warm glow and sparkle of the antique chandelier...

My cousin in New Jersey always sends stunning flower arrangements:


Another orchid, this one is so teeny tiny...


My mother baked my grandmother her favorite cake, a simple Pound Cake topped with powdered sugar.  She used a bundt cake mold that I bought her years ago, as you can see it creates an intricate swirl design that is further highlighted by the powdered sugar.  My aunt decided to top it with a ceramic tealight holder (instead of a candle) and some flowers:

Forgive my novice photography, I'm still getting used to my new camera, a Nikon D3200 DSLR.  It was a Christmas gift, but I don't think I've told you about it yet.  I've taken tons of photos with it so far, especially on my road trip to the Northeast this past January.  Which reminds me, I must finalize the posts on the various states and cities we visited because I have stunning images to share with you, especially from Niagara Falls.  Anyway, I felt it was time to upgrade my camera, and I'm so glad I did because even though I'm no pro, the photos it takes are incredible!  And even though I believe practice is the best teacher, I'd eventually like to take a photography class so I can master all of the features on this bad boy:

Ok, last but certainly not least, a big life moment occurred at the end of April....  I finally graduated!!!

I won't lie, I took my sweet time, mainly because I didn't know what I wanted to study when I first started out.  I've always been artistic, but I knew after two days of a college art class that I didn't want to pursue art professionally.  I pursued several majors (informally - without declaring), at first Art, then English, then Journalism...  But it was Sociology and Anthropology that won my heart.  One semester I took Introduction to Sociology to fulfill a core requirement, and I fell in love.  After that, I was hooked and took oodles of classes on Sexuality and Gender studies, Culture, Religion and Geography, all within the Sociology/Anthropology curriculum.  After a few years of indecision (in the beginning), a few years of being setback by the time constraints of working full time and the demands of living on my own (in the middle), and a few years of galloping towards the finish line....

I am proud to say I now have not one, but two Bachelor's degrees from Florida International University, one in Sociology, the other in Women's Studies (though, please note I'd prefer it be called Gender Studies, since that is more accurate).  I only had two classes left to complete two Minors, one in Art History and the other in Religion, but to be honest, I wanted to graduate already!  I plan to continue my education with a Masters Degree, and eventually a Doctorate, but I'm still articulating the particular field of study within Sociology that I'd like to focus my graduate studies on.  Anyway, that's all in the future, so what will I do now?  Being the free bird I am, I don't have a clear answer to that yet.  I have lots of plans for sure, but for now I'm just soaking up life after college.  

I feel wonderful, like I don't have a care in the world...  I should really thank my mother for that, because I'm currently living back home with my family, and if it weren't for that luxury I don't know how I would have finished my degrees without going insane!  So thank you mom, and to the rest of my family, for always supporting me in everything that I choose to do.  I wish my father had lived to see the day I graduated, but I know he was there with us in spirit, and always will be.  Everything I am I owe to my wonderful parents, especially my passion for knowledge and truth.  I thank them again for socializing me in a way that allowed me to grow into the person I am meant to be, and for shaping my broad understanding of life and what it means to live.

So, without further sappy ado, I will say that it was an amazing day and everyone was very happy....


The movie moment when everyone throws their caps in the air was....well, awesome!  

After the graduation ceremony it was pure chaos to make my way out of the stadium and wade through the throngs of graduates and families looking for my people.... It was hot and humid and everyone was sweating/screaming/laughing/hugging/kissing/taking photos, basically it was crazy town! To make matters worse, once I found my family we only had about ten minutes to take photos before it began to POUR!  It rained cats and dogs, and everyone was trapped for over thirty minutes waiting for it to stop!  Oh well, at least we managed to get a bunch of great family photos, and I didn't have to wait long to squeeze up next to the statue of our mascot, the Golden Panther, for a quick shot...

Suffice it to say, we were all very proud, happy, and relieved that day!

And then, shortly after graduation we threw a big party - of course!  Like the master party planners we are, we planned it for a few weeks - putting together a menu, a guest list, and shopping around for the right party accessories. Big Lots is the place where the magic first happened, it's where I found the gorgeous pink, orange, and red Ikat tablecloths for $3.25! Though I would have preferred a tablecloth with turquoise (duh, I'm a turquoise junkie), I was still quite smitten! Ikat still hasn't gone out of style in my mind, I suppose that is because I loved it before it became popular (and then waaay overused). Anywho, the tablecloth sealed the color scheme deal and made the rest of the party supplies fall into place easily.

My aunt put together these flower arrangements using a combination of store bought flowers and cuttings from the yard (the palm fronds and the purple orchids).  Oh, as you can see, my obsession with photographing flower arrangements against her chandelier continues... ;)


Too darn sexy I tell you...

The food and dessert tables were prepped early in the day...


...and here is what the food table looked like once we put out all the food:

My aunt hosted the party at her beautiful home, which has been in our family for several generations.  She really went above and beyond - strategically decorating the table, picking the perfect platters for each dish from all of our collections, putting together the floral arrangements, and of course (her specialty), cooking up a storm of heavenly treats!  

More dishes across the way, spread out on the buffet...


Between my aunt, my mother and I, we were able to make an incredible homemade spread of dips, pasta salads, chicken salads, Swedish Meatballs, and platters of meat, cheese and fruit. My aunt also made several desserts that had everyone talking, or shall I say furiously munching? :D

Actually, there were two desserts in particular that she made that had everyone going nuts:  Rum Balls (I didn't get a photo of those) and these scrumptious Mexican Wedding Cookies. Both are very easy to make, I'll have to get the recipes and do a post on'em one day:


It was a real labor of love, a.k.a. - a huge mission... Mainly because we don't half-ass our parties, we go all the way! However, after all of the run around and intense preparation, it all turned out amazing in the end! There was a huge turnout of family and friends, some that I had not seen in quite some time. We partied until four in the morning!! Suffice it to say it was a wonderful night, so wonderful that I was distracted and forgot to take more photos... Oh well, if that's not a sign of a good time, I don't know what is!

I'd like to thank my aunt Katherine for hosting the party at her home, but especially for all her hard work. She really is an amazing party planner and orchestrater! Not only did she make the party possible, but she did a lot of cooking for it as well. I'd also like to thank her for being such a big source of inspiration in my life, her style has influenced me in so many ways. I credit my aunt for my good taste in fashion and decor, she has impeccable taste!

I'd also like to thank my mother and grandmother for all of their help putting together (and cleaning up) this party! My mother contributed a great deal of time and effort, both with the preparations and the food. And of course, I'd like to thank my aunt's neighbor Marilyn for her outstanding creativity with the party decorations! She offered to create those beautiful pom-pom clusters (pictured above at the foot of the stairs and flanking the graduation sign in the dining room), inspired by a project she saw on Pinterest, using tissue paper! They looked really beautiful, as did everything...

Outside, I strung simple white Christmas lights across the backyard, using the endless palm trees to tie and loop them back and forth.  It made for some great ambiance!  If it was my yard I would have left them up!  My aunt bought an outdoor party tent, that's where I staged my bar and bar table (a wine barrel) with bar stools, plus two lounge chairs with a table - it ended up being a great hangout once more people starting showing up later in the night.  At first it rained, which means things got super humid, but as the night went on the weather cleared up and the air chilled a bit....  Everything turned out amazing! Here is a shot of my aunt's fountain planter, filled with succulents and cacti...


I've got so much to blog about and share with you beyond this, I'll be back with another post very very soon.  For now, I'll leave you with some pretty photos of the beautiful roses I received from an old friend the night of my graduation party...


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  1. WOW you have been busy and CONGRATULATIONS on your graduation. Your family sure knows how to have a party, the table decor is amazing. I really enjoyed this post and am looking forward to the next one.
    Anne xx


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