Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Catered Dinner Party

I'm lucky enough to live down the street from a very talented chef. We've become friends with him and his family, and Meezy and I have dined numerous times at the restaurant where he serves as the Executive Chef.  Another neighbor/friend mentioned that she had him cater a private party at her house and that gave Meezy and I an idea. Our friend/former exchange student/honorary family member (Kim) from Germany came back to visit us for 3 weeks recently, and we wanted to have a special dinner for her and her boyfriend. We thought about making reservations at a restaurant and inviting a few more friends, but the thought of having a dinner party at our own house sounded really fun.  It's comfortable and laid back and we could have control over the food and drinks being served.

First order of business was deciding on the menu. We knew we wanted five courses and wanted it to be a good variety of foods. I'm a vegetarian and our guest of honor doesn't like fish, so the chef was nice enough to do custom items to accommodate the two of us, while still providing an amazing course for everyone else.

With this many plates and silverware needed, we decided the best option was to use a rental company to provide them. We also hired a waiter to help with the serving and act as a bartender. Next order of business was the guest list. We knew we wanted to invite friends that Kim had grown particularly fond of throughout her previous stays with us. The hard part was trying to keep it to a reasonable number! We had to make sure we could afford that many guests and also would have enough room for them. I wish we could've invited a few more people, but this was the best we could do. The final guest list included 12 diners. My dining table is fantastic and can handle that many people with the leaves extended, but I don't have 12 matching chairs! It was a little hodge-podge, but at least we all had room.

I failed massively by not taking pictures of the chef working his magic or of each course as they were being presented. I snapped one quick pic of the first course as it was being constructed, though.

I also managed to get a pic of the dessert before I devoured every last morsel.

The dinner was truly phenomenal and the fellowship was on par too. It was great to sit back and catch up with friends in the comfort of our own home, while not having to deal with any of the usual hosting responsibilities. If we could afford it, I would do this more often!

Friday, June 26, 2015

The New Normal

I miss my blog. I was going back through some old posts, cleaning up the ones that don't need to be published anymore, and it made me wish I had more free time for writing. I like discussing current events, sharing fun stories about my family, detailing my work endeavors, etc. Life has just been a non-stop, exhausting experience the past few months, though. Blogging keeps getting pushed down the priority list.

Jude is now 7 months old and barely has begun sleeping more than 3 hours in a row. We literally had 6 months (180+ DAYS!) of being woken up every 1-3 hours overnight. If someone told you that you'd be getting very interrupted sleep for 6 straight months, but would still be expected to function like a normal human being with a full-time job, you would question whether you were capable of doing that. I'm still not quite sure how we've managed to do it, but it's pretty much because you just have to. It is what it is. We have no other choice. Sleep problems aside, our little Judey Patootie is doing great. He's on the brink of crawling. He grabs for EVERYTHING. He's been eating pureed foods for a couple months now, and we're about to introduce some soft finger foods. He's happy, he's mellow, and he's very inquisitive. 

Dutch is 3 and a couple months. He's an awesome kiddo. He stays up late, but typically sleeps pretty well. When he wakes up in the morning, he comes into our room with a big smile on his face and announces, "The sun is out! I'm all done sleeping!" He's starting to pay more attention to his surroundings. When I leave daycare and turn out of the parking lot a different direction than normal, he asks, "Where are we going?" He's very loving and is constantly telling us things like "I love you" and "I want to give you a hug and a kiss" and "You're my friend." His smile is infectious and he has a great sense of humor. He does t-ball, karate, and takes swim lessons.

There's so much happening in my career, with my house, with our rental properties, with Meezy's career, etc, but there's just not enough time in my day to discuss it all! I think as Jude gets a little older and has a more consistent sleep schedule, I'll be able to get a little more time to myself. Until then, the blogging will be sporadic, and probably not as philosophical as it used to be! Bear with me.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Recreating Old Photos - Mother's Day Gift 2015

My mom always tells us not to get her gifts. We usually don't listen to her and buy her something anyway. This year we decided to take a different approach. Over the past few years, I've seen people online recreate a picture from their childhood where they try to mimic clothing, expressions, posture, etc.  I thought it would be funny if we did that this year, but with a few different pictures. There is no shortage of pictures from my childhood with my two sisters, many of which are embarrassing.  A couple months before Mother's Day, my sisters and I went through old photo albums and established the list of a few pictures that we would use for this project.

Then came the hard part of trying to recreate them.  We needed to find outfits that would mimic what we wore in the original pictures. Considering the pictures were taken 30+ years ago, and we were small children at the time, this wasn't an easy task.  I spent many hours scouring different stores and shopping online, trying to find pieces that would work. After working on the outfits, I also wanted the backgrounds to be as similar as possible. I bought some props and planned the locations. Once we had all that lined up, my sisters and I met up on a Sunday afternoon, about one month before Mother's Day. My hubby served as the photographer, with original photos in hand, making sure we had the right posture, facial expression, and arrangement. We went through many wardrobe changes and spent a lot of time getting the backgrounds right. The results were awesome. Hilarious, embarrassing, and awesome.

We tried to really pay attention to detail with this one. My oldest sister wore a plaid shirt, purple shorts, and socks with sandals. My middle sister found an outfit that was a pretty darn good replica of what she wore originally, and then had the socks with sandals. I couldn't find a white shift dress with a picture on it, so I bought a white swimsuit cover-up, added a sticker, and pinned on some white ribbon for the straps. I then added socks and pink sandals, and mimicked the hairstyle, facial expression, and posture. I bought some fake tulips and stuck those in the ground behind us.

This picture featured just my middle sister and me, in outfits that weren't too complicated. I bought some pink footed adult pajamas and my sister wore a simple white shirt and shorts. We spent a little time on the background, trying to mimic the striped couch, random toys strewn about, and brown carpeting. The hardest part was trying to position myself on top of her in the same way I had done 30 years ago!

I feel I need to apologize for making you see this picture, but it was too funny not to share. I wasn't thrilled about recreating a picture where I was originally wearing a diaper, but I wanted to be a good sport and give my mom a laugh. My oldest sister had an easy outfit to recreate, just a purple shirt and shorts. My middle sister's outfit took a little more work. We had a hard time finding a spaghetti strap tank top with bright diagonal stripes, but finally came across a full length sleeveless dress with bright horizontal stripes. That would have to do!  She actually tucked the dress into the back of the shorts, to make it look like a top. We were able to find pink shorts with a white trim on the bottom, but needed to add white duct tape to the top to make them look like they had a white band. The final touch was the binoculars around the neck! For me, I came across the red and blue striped shirt while perusing the boys' section at Target. It's not an exact match, but came pretty darn close!  I used white shorts, tucked up to look like a diaper, to complete my outfit. We made sure to pay attention to hand placement and facial expressions on this one. I think we nailed it!

This picture featured my oldest sister and my middle sister, when she was a small baby. We thought it would be pretty comical to have them recreate laying together on a tiny baby blanket, now that they're both full grown and my middle sister is actually 4 inches taller that my oldest! My oldest sister got a white sundress and added butterfly stickers to make it look like the design in the original. We then used ribbon to add straps to my middle sister's tube top to mimic the outfit she wore as a baby. We found a baby blanket similar in style to the original and then had some random toys and flip flops strewn about. It's funny seeing how much space they took up on the blanket when they were little as compared to now!

Last but not least, this pic was fun for us to recreate. I donned the adult footed pajamas from the earlier pic, and my oldest sister wore a white shirt with red sleeves, with a sticker pinned on to mimic the design on the original shirt. She "held" me between her legs, while I grasped a blue block. My middle sister just needed to sit in the corner with her mouth open. Ha!

We didn't give my mom any warning as to what the true nature of her gift was, but simply told her we wanted to compile some pictures of the three of us, some old, some new, as a walk down memory lane. When she opened the photo album and saw the first (original) picture of us three young girls in front of the tulips, she said, "Awwww" and got nostalgic. Then she realized the pic next to it was us at our current ages, and she couldn't control her laughter. We got it on video. It's a pretty great reaction!

Needless to say, the laughter continued for each subsequent page. She got a big kick out of the end result, and my sisters and I had a really fun time putting it all together.  Happy Mother's Day, Mom!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Derby Day 2015

I don't usually care about the Kentucky Derby, but this year we went to a party at our neighbor's house with a few other families in the neighborhood.  I invited my sister's family along, and we got in the spirit by having our husbands and kids join us in some festive attire.

The party was only a couple doors down, so we walked over to it. It was pretty funny how bright our outfits were!

There was catered food, a bar serving mint juleps and champagne w/strawberries, betting on the races, and tons of kid activities set up.

Have I mentioned how much I love my neighborhood and the people in it? We had a great time catching up with neighbors we already knew, meeting new ones, and cheering on the horses. I'll leave you with my sweet boys wearing their derby hats.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Powershares Series VIP Experience

For Christmas, Meezy bought me a pretty amazing present. He knows how much of a tennis fan I am (we've been to Wimbledon and the US Open), and how Roddick used to be one of my favorite players.  He found out that Roddick was joining the Powershares Series this year. We've been to one of those events in the past, when we got to see Agassi play in Vegas a couple years ago. This time around, Meezy offered to take me on a trip to watch Roddick play in another city. I looked over the schedule and determined that there really wasn't any place I was THAT interested in traveling to, especially since Jude would only be about 4 months old at the time. I told him I'd be fine with just going to the event in Dallas. He started to buy the match tickets and discovered they offered VIP experiences. Since we weren't going to be spending any money on travel, he figured he could upgrade my experience instead. When he told me about it, I was pretty shocked. The VIP package consisted of an hour-long group hitting session with Andy Roddick and Mark Philippoussis, a catered dinner and Q&A session with Roddick, Philippoussis, John McEnroe, and Jim Courier, and then courtside seats for the matches later that night.  The thought of being in the same room with Roddick, let alone exchanging shots with him on the tennis court, gave me butterflies. 

When we arrived for the event, I joined the other attendees on the tennis court, while Meezy watched and took pictures from the stands. Sure enough, out came Andy and Mark, and the fun began!  We all partnered up with another attendee and went through an hour of different hitting drills with the pros. There were only about ten people in the session, so we got a lot of playing time and interaction with the guys. I was nervous as hell, and admittedly too tentative in my hitting, but I got to participate in a lot of fun rallies. To say that I have had Andy Roddick and Mark Philippoussis serve to me is pretty crazy (I whiffed on one of Andy's!).  I exchanged groundstrokes and volleys with them, and snuck in a dropshot that caused a slight rift between them. It was awesome!

Checking myself out on the big screen

My opponents

Is this real life?

Can't believe I played tennis with these guys

After the hitting session, we got to introduce ourselves to the players and take some pictures. The session after mine was with Courier and McEnroe, so we got some interaction with them too. I got Courier's autograph on a tennis ball and the event provided us with a picture frame signed by all 4 of the pros.  

Pinch me

I like to pretend Andy and I were both playing it coy here

Posing with a tennis legend

We got a chance to get cleaned up and change after the hitting session, and then the dinner and Q&A began. There was a great buffet spread and an open bar. Each pro came in for an interview and then the floor was opened up for questions. It was so cool to have it in an intimate setting like this, because the guys were all relaxed, the questions were casual, and you really felt like they could connect with the audience. 

Shortly after the Q&A ended, the matches began! First up was McEnroe vs. Courier, then Roddick vs. Philippoussis, and then the final between McEnroe and Roddick. Our seats were courtside, even with the back baseline. It was crazy to be that close to the action. The guys were within a few feet of us, literally within arms length at times. The matches are so fun because the players interact with the fans, heckle each other, and sometimes randomly come over to the crowd during play. It's not unusual for a player to stop and sign an autograph for a fan between points. Roddick broke his racket during play and handed it to a spectator as a souvenir. McEnroe even ate some popcorn from a fan nearby us. It's just so laidback and entertaining.

Hello, eye contact

This experience was truly spectacular and definitely the best gift I have ever received! My hubby is amazing for always seeking out activities that he knows I'll enjoy and for making them happen. I'm still pinching myself for having had this opportunity and am so grateful for all the pictures and videos I have from that day. It's probably a once in a lifetime experience, but that isn't going to stop me from checking out the schedule next year to see who the players will be!! 

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Buzz Bike

For Meezy's birthday this year, he decided he wanted to book The Buzz Bike. He's done it one time previously, but I never had before. It's a 16-person trolley-like vehicle that operates by the riders pedaling, with a driver doing the steering and braking. There are six seats on each side, with five of them being pedaling seats. There's a bench on the back that seats three (who don't have to pedal), and then one person stands in the middle and acts as the bartender.  It's a mobile party, with a little bit of a workout!

Here's the driver going over the policies and talking about the route we'd be taking.

Since The Buzz Bike has its origins in The Netherlands, you know us Dutch girls had to represent!

Here we are, about to depart for the fun:

The Buzz Bike is BYOB, so we brought a large cooler full of refreshments and then pizza and snacks. You can also provide your own playlist, so we had a great soundtrack for our ride. I gave everyone a whistle, so they could whistle for my attention when they wanted something to eat or drink!  It also worked well to go along with the cheering when people we would pass would wave and gawk at us.

Ryan thought the pedaling was tough during this part!

What can I get you??

Sisters on the bench

Partway through, my friend Kristen switched with me and took over the bartending job:

After you pedal for a while, you park for about 20-30 minutes so that you can go into a bar for additional refreshments or for a bathroom break. You then get back on for a while before making another short stop.  That's where we posed for our classy picture and our silly picture!

The whole thing lasts for about two hours. I really thought it was a blast, and I think everyone else did too. My only complaint is that you can only fit 16 people on there!  I wish it had seats for many more, so that we could've invited lots more friends. I highly recommend it for a fun time out with a group!