Monday, October 31, 2011

Ready for the Reception

30 July 2011: Sarah and cake artist Charla with the amazing Puppy Love Cake! 

When it comes to discussing the reception, we must begin, of course, with the wedding cake.  Our good friend Charla Crossman had offered long ago to make Sarah's wedding cake when that far future day came.  Sure enough, Charla was as good as her word and created the perfect wedding cake for my daughter!

A close-up of Sarah's wedding cake.

Sarah and I looked at many different styles of cakes for several weeks.  The formal, tiered wedding cakes were beautiful but didn't really suit Sarah's carefree style.  So we thought about being more creative, choosing a theme that really showed who Sarah is. 

Sarah's cute kissing puppies cake top. 
Charla created the veil and I made the top hat.

Naturally, anyone who knows my daughter knows what a huge animal lover she is.  Even as a baby in her stroller at the park, she went crazy with excitement over every passing animal.  As a toddler, she had to hug every stranger's dog.  She was fearless.  To this day, she wants to adopt every stray and love every unloved pet, and she still plans to become a veterinarian technician someday.   

Charla made the doghouse, the signs, the rocky streams, flowers,
grass, paw prints, and so on out of edible fondant.  I think it's gorgeous!

In the end, we chose an animal theme for Sarah's reception.  We started with her favorite animal, dogs, and we picked out the kissing huskies for her cake top.  We were very fortunate that Hallmark was selling retro-style "kissing" salt and pepper shakers at that time!

As we gathered ceramic figures of dogs to display on the guest tables, we decided to use both cats and dogs since our family has always had at least two or three cats and dogs as pets ever since Sarah was three years old.  Eventually we added rabbits to the mix, as well, because we've also had pet bunnies since Sarah joined 4-H Club and began showing rabbits at competition in 7th grade. 

The cake-and-punch table is all set up a few hours before the reception begins.
We'd planned to arrange more lavender and white flowers around the base of the cake,
but we ran out of both time and flowers!  We agreed it looked fine this way, though.
The table for the guest cakes and lemonade fountains
is also all set up before the reception begins.

We were fortunate to be able to cut costs on the guest cakes by re-using two of the large sheet cakes from our open house in May, when Ed and I were sealed in the temple.  My friend Crystal had made us three huge, gorgeous sheetcakes (white cake with raspberry filling, yum!), but we only used one of them.  So, after our open house, we'd immediately wrapped the remaining two cakes in 3 layers of wax paper, plastic wrap, and aluminum foil and placed them in our deep freezer.

Charla cut one of the sheet cakes in half and stacked them
to make this tall, personalized guest cake.

There they stayed, frozen solid, until the morning of Sarah's wedding.  Then we removed them from the freezer and delivered them to Charla, who scraped off the old frosting and redecorated them for Sarah's reception. They came out beautifully, and they were still quite scrumptious!  These were the cakes we served the guests until later in the evening, when Sarah and Chris cut their official wedding cake.
Charla cut the other sheet cake in half to make two separate cakes
decorated with puppy paw prints.
As guests entered, they signed the guest book at this table.

Of course, the rest of the cultural hall had to be decorated, as well.  We'd reserved the church for the entire day on Saturday, but after my sister Karla and her kids arrived from Mesa on Friday, we decided to decorate the building on Friday night.  Besides our family and Chris's family, we also had several friends from church show up to help out.
I was amazed how quickly the work went with so many willing hands. I distributed copies of the instructions and floor plan I'd sketched out and, before I knew it, everything was in place! It was incredible. In less than 2 hours, it was done. We returned early on Saturday morning to complete a handful of tasks that couldn't be done earlier, but that's it. Sarah's wedding day was simpler and more relaxing for having gotten so much work out of the way the night before.

Originally this was going to be the backdrop for the receiving line, but somehow
we ended up not having a line.  We were just too busy to get it organized, I guess. 
However, that left Chris and Sarah (and the rest of us) free to mingle with their guests. 
It was still a nice backdrop for other activities, such as dancing and tossing the bouquet.

What had begun as an overwhelming task soon fell into place, as these things always do, thanks to the efforts of so many.  One of my biggest worries had been finding a backdrop for the receiving line.  As it turned out, there was no receiving line (which worked out well), but we still ended up with a lovely backdrop.

My sister Karla loaned us Christmas lights and a picket fence (which was actually made long ago by my sister-in-law Lori and has adorned several family weddings); friends of friends loaned us a wrought iron arch; and the McNeils, Cochenours, and Westovers loaned us a wreath and plants, as well as greenery, flowers, and lavender cloth to drape over the arch and fence.  I'm so grateful to all those who made it happen for us!

Actually, setting up the backdrop was one of the best parts of that Friday night.  The men voluntarily took on that task, but we women saw the need to help them, shall we say, adjust their completed project to fit our vision of how it should look.  That led to a lot of good-natured challenges and teasing fun.

The men also set up the 12 guest tables for us (with 7 chairs at each table), and then we ladies followed along to drape the tables with white and lavender tablecloths.  Atop each table we placed a mirror tile with a glass vase set in the center, containing a single lavender rose.  Finally, on each mirror and surrounding each vase we arranged ceramic figures of little puppies, kittens, and bunnies.  The tables turned out to be so cute and so very Sarah!

There was much, much more to be done, of course, other tables to be set up and activities to be organized, but I'll share those photos when we get to the post about the reception itself.  Now, though, we have finally arrived at the main event.  Tomorrow's post:  Chris and Sarah's wedding!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Wedding Work

The flower girls' baskets for Chris's nieces, Morgan and Keri.

As of today, my daughter and son-in-law, Sarah and Chris, have been married exactly 3 months!  I guess it's finally time to begin sharing the Big Event, which I will do with a series of posts over the next several days.

The wedding planning begins, of course, months before the actual event takes place.  I had figured I'd have plenty of time, since school ends in May.  I would have all of June and July to prepare for my daughter's wedding.  So we began small, purchasing the cake topper and other various items we'd need.

Sarah's toss-away bouquet.

With only a very small budget to work with, we knew this was going to be a do-it-yourself affair as much as possible.  I'm pretty artsy-craftsy so I wasn't too concerned in the beginning.  Then I started making long, long things-to-do lists for myself, for Sarah, and for Chris.  It didn't take long before the sheer magnitude of this undertaking began to overwhelm me!

The hard-to-find roses for the bouquets.

What I didn't expect was that preparing the wedding flowers would be the task to consume most of my time.  First of all, I had no idea how difficult it would be to find lavender silk flowers to match Sarah's wedding colors of lavender and white.  We bought nearly all the purple flowers we could find here on the mountain, but there were nowhere near the number we would need for all the bouquets.

The large bridal bouquet surrounded by three bridesmaid bouquets.
Sarah's plastic-protected wedding dress is in the background.

We finally drove to Mesa just 9 days before the wedding and found exactly what we needed.  Unfortunately, once we got home we discovered we still didn't have nearly enough.  I texted my niece Genevieve, who lives in the Mesa area, and she somehow found more than 30 more of those lavender silk flowers to send us.  By now, we were cutting it close! 

Sarah's bouquet with sparkly lavender ribbon.

It all came together in the end.  I made Sarah's silk bridal bouquet, the toss-away bouquet, the flower girls' baskets, four corsages, and nine boutonnieres.  I also tied ribbons on about twenty vases for more flowers.  It all took about two weeks.  Due to the difficulty in obtaining the final lavender roses, I wasn't able to do much on the bridesmaids' bouquets until the night before the wedding.  By then I was rapidly losing steam.  Thank goodness my sister Karla arrived the day before the wedding.  She and her married daughter Elyssa worked on the bouquets late into the night, finishing them up for me.  Karla, Elyssa, and Genevieve are my heroes!

Four corsages, for me, Chris's mom Brenda, my step-mom Kathy, and Ed's mom Caryl.
To the right is Sarah's bridal veil, scattered with little white "pearls."

Furthermore, we almost waited too long to order Sarah's wedding gown.  We had spent months looking at different dresses online.  There were several Sarah liked, but we were nervous about getting a good fit without being able to try it on.  She finally chose one and ordered it six weeks before the wedding, only to learn that it would take seven weeks to arrive!  However, after Sarah paid quite a few extra fees, they finally guaranteed she would receive the gown a few days before the wedding.

Nine boutonnieres for the groomsmen, dads, step-dads, and grandfathers.
Neither Sarah's dad nor Chris's dad made it to the wedding, so we didn't use them all.

Thankfully, the wedding gown actually arrived 5 days before the wedding.  Other than the sleeves and skirt being too long, the fit was perfect!  Luckily for us, our friend and neighbor, Barbara Badger, is an accomplished seamstress, and she did a beautiful job of hemming the skirt and sleeves.  Barbara and another good friend/neighbor, Sarah Clark, made our three bridesmaids' skirts for us, as well.  We are so blessed by our friends!

Preparing many, many vases to adorn the tables at the reception.

Gradually, as we entered the final weeks before the wedding, everything began falling into place, as I'd hoped it would.  There was only one big task left to conquer, and that was the wedding invitations.  We planned to send them out about three weeks before the wedding.  In fact, we planned to hand-deliver all the local invitations in order to save on the cost of stamps.  However, we faced a huge obstacle when the time came to send them out.

Our bed became "Reception Planning Central" during July.

It wasn't because the invitations weren't ready.  Far from it.  I planned to make the wedding invitations myself, so I started working on them with plenty of time to spare.  In fact, I was very excited about this particular project.  Our amazing amateur photographer friend, Eugene Prestwich (aided by his lovely wife Wyndie), had taken pictures of Chris and Sarah at the Snowflake Temple back in May, so Sarah and I began by selecting one that would make the perfect backdrop for the invitation. 

After much trial and error, I was able to fit all the information into the open spaces on the picture, adjust the colors correctly, figure out the computer tricks to get the lettering to look right and print correctly onto the photo, and then print out more than 200 invitations on glossy photo paper.  I thought they came out well, if I do say so myself!  (To see the invitation, click here.)  Now all we needed to do was get them delivered.  Or so we thought.

The kitchen table was taken over by invitations for a few weeks.

There was just one thing holding us up.  Because Chris had been married in the temple to his first wife, from whom he has been divorced for almost eight years, he had to obtain written clearance from the First Presidency of our church in order to be married in the temple again.  We knew there would be no problem obtaining this clearance, but we also knew it could take some time as the paperwork moved through the proper church channels.  Chris started the wheels in motion back in March, just a few weeks after their February 17th engagement.

By July, we expected to receive the letter from the First Presidency at any time.  We watched the mail everyday, but it still hadn't arrived when it came time to send out the invitations.  Another week went by and we were becoming very nervous.  Eleven days before the wedding, Chris, Sarah, Ed, and I met to make a decision.  We'd been praying hard for guidance, and each one of us had felt impressed to go ahead and deliver the invitations, and trust in God for the rest.

It was an absolute leap of faith, but we did it.  All of the invitations were safely delivered one week before the wedding.  I was still an anxious mother-of-the-bride, but I should have trusted more.  The clearance letter arrived five full days before the wedding.  It was a huge relief!  Now we could relax (not!) and complete our final preparations as we headed into the final days before Chris and Sarah's Big Day.  

Next up: Setting up the wedding reception!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Three Summer Weddings

6 Aug 2011: Sarah Carter Kinsky, Emmi Gardner Hatch, and Tahna Beal Peterson
on Emmi's wedding day.

I'm gearing up to finally share Sarah's wedding photos.  However, I really cannot jump right into Sarah's wedding without first showing the whole summer wedding theme that seemed to dominate the Summer of 2011!

As I've mentioned before, Sarah has 4 best friends: Emmi, Tahna, Brandy, and Kristin.  By a happy but unexpected twist of fate, Sarah, Tahna, and Emmi each found their "Mr. Right" around the same time and then planned their weddings to all happen within a 5-week period!  Tahna went first, getting married in the Snowflake Temple on July 1st.  Sarah was next, getting married in the Snowflake Temple on July 30th.  Emmi finished up the trend with her marriage in the Snowflake Temple on August 6th.

9 July 2011: Spencer and Tahna Peterson at their wedding reception.

So let's begin with the reception of Tahna and her sweetheart Spencer.  Although they were married on Friday, July 1st, they opted to put off their reception until they returned from their honeymoon cruise to Mexico.  Which explains why the bride was wearing a sunburn under her wedding gown!  They held their reception on Saturday, July 9th.

I love the back of Tahna's dress!

It was so interesting to see how completely different each wedding reception was.  Despite their very close and long-standing friendships, each young lady has her own unique personality, and their receptions were quite reflective of their individuality.

Tahna and Spencer do the garter thing.

I think Tahna's reception was the most informal.  Originally Sarah and Emmi were going to be among her bridesmaids, but at the last minute Spencer and Tahna decided not to have bridesmaids or groomsmen at all.  They had no receiving line, but instead spent the evening circulating among the guests and visiting.  Spencer performed a cute, funny-romantic lip-sync for Tahna, and they took part in dancing to the Chicken Dance, the Macarena and other group dances with the more daring guests.  It was a fun, entertaining evening.

Spencer and Tahna's wedding cake.

Tahna's colors were deep red and dark silvery-gray.  Her square gift-box wedding cake and funky bouquet (with feathers, buttons, and beads among the red roses) were very much in keeping with Tahna's carefree and unconventional style.

6 Aug 2011: Hal and Emmi Hatch at their wedding reception.

Emmi's wedding reception, on the other hand, was the most formal of the three receptions.  This may be because Emmi is her parents' only daughter, whereas Tahna is daughter number seven (and still one more to go).  I think the actual reason is that Emmi is a real girly-girl who has been planning her wedding since she was about nine years old!  (I am not kidding.)

Emmi and Hal enjoy their first dance as a married couple.

Hal and Emmi had a full contingent of groomsmen and bridesmaids, including Sarah and Tahna.  They also had a reception line that was very long and lasted most of the evening.  Both Hal and Emmi come from large extended families whose origins are here in the White Mountains.

Emmi tosses her bouquet.

Even though Hal and Emmi weren't free to circulate the way Spencer and Tahna were, they still injected fun and good humor into the evening.  For instance, Hal read aloud his recollection of the day he and Emmi met.  Each time he mentioned her name, he pronounced it in slow, deep tones: "Emmi Mikelle Gardner."  It got a good laugh each time!

Hal and Emmi's wedding cake.

Emmi is the first person I've known to have four colors for her wedding.  I believe the colors were cream, pink, gray, and black.  The bridesmaids did not have matching dresses, but were instructed to wear something with one or more of those colors.  Sarah wore a pink shirt with a black skirt, and she wore a gray corsage.

I thought this dessert table was very classy.
Ed and I particularly enjoyed the Good 'n' Plenties and black licorice!

Another table laden with four flavors of specialty cupcakes.

6 Aug 2011: Dylan Carter (age 14) and his sister Sarah (age 21).
Newlywed Sarah was one of Emmi's bridesmaids.  She'd been married just 7 days!

6 Aug 2011: Mary and Ed at Emmi's reception.
We'd only been married for 14 months ourselves!

Next up: preparing for the wedding of our only daughter!

Friday, October 28, 2011


My baby girl turned twenty-two yesterday.  I just don't know where the time is going.  Everything is whizzing by so fast. 

Just one year ago I was boggled that she had turned twenty-one, but she was still living at home.  She wasn't dating anyone.  Both her brothers were living at home.  For me, it was bliss. 

Jacob had recently received his mission call, and we were talking about Sarah moving to Mesa in a year or so to attend college, but it was just talk then.  I really couldn't wrap my brain around the fact that one day all three of my children would no longer be safely gathered under my roof each night 

Ed baked Sarah's cake and I decorated it.  Twenty-two candles!

It's reality now.  Sarah met the man of her dreams and is happily married.  Jacob is living the missionary life in northern California.  Poor Dylan now gets way more parental attention than he cares for.

Dylan and Chris wait for Sarah to blow out her candles.

Nonetheless, I am very blessed.  Jacob is growing so much on his mission, and he writes every week without fail.  Dylan is a 5'11" tall 14-year-old who still loves to give me rib-cracking bear hugs and cuddle with me when we watch TV together. 

And Sarah still likes to spend time with her mom.  In fact, she and her friend Brandy invited me to see a movie at the theater with them tonight.  (We're both husband-less tonight, since Ed and Chris decided to spend the night at Chris's remote mountain cabin, to winterize the cabin and check out the elk and wild-turkey hunting prospects in the area.)

So I'm a lucky mom.  My kids may be moving on in their lives, but they haven't entirely left me behind!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The First Easter Egg

23 Oct 2011: A pretty, speckled Easter Egger egg between two brown eggs.

No, I don't mean the first Easter egg in the world!  But this morning when I went out to feed and water the chickens, I found this blue-green egg lying just inside the door of the hen house.  It's the first egg that one of our six Easter Egger hens has laid!

This one is actually our fourth egg since the first brown egg arrived on Monday.  Unfortunately, when Ed showed me the second egg on Tuesday, we accidentally dropped it as it went from Ed's hand to mine.  Then it was nothing more than a scrambled egg on the driveway gravel.

The first three eggs were all brown.  A couple of people have expressed doubt that we'd really get blue and green eggs from the Easter Egger hens, and I was beginning to wonder myself.  Until this morning!  Now we know we can look forward to a colorful supply of fresh eggs!

Successful chicken farmer, Ed, with Crysta or Sally
(still can't tell those two Black Australorps apart)!

UPDATE:  This evening (just a few minutes ago) Ed and I went out to take care of the chickens.  When Ed checked the nesting box, he found two more eggs, one brown and one blue-green!  That's three eggs in one day.  Our little chicken farm is on a roll!

The two eggs on the right are the newest ones.
If we hadn't broken one earlier in the week, we'd have exactly half a dozen!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Not Lost in Translation

Chinese character for "Student"

As a teacher in Arizona, I've had plenty of opportunity to work with students whose first language is Spanish.  While I'm by no means fluent in Spanish, I know enough of the language and culture to communicate with these students fairly easily.

Then, in August 2010, a new freshman joined my class.  Shumin had lived his whole life in a rural area of China, but when his mother married an American he came to live in the United States.  I think he had been here about a week before school started.  "Good morning" was his entire grasp of the English language.

He gradually learned more useful phrases, like "See you later" and "I don't know," but most of his freshman year was spent watching me with a benign smile and a blank look on his face.  He was always cooperative and pleasant.  He just had no clue what was going on around him.  He used his little handheld translator and I used online translators, but changing English letters (which represent sounds) to Chinese characters (which represent ideas) was rather less than helpful to either of us!

Kong meets actress Ann Darrow on his island.

Shumin returned to my English class this August as a sophomore, and I was immediately impressed at the progress he'd made over the summer.  There are still many gaps in his knowledge of our language, of course, but he is now able to have meaningful conversations and, for the most part, follow directions and comprehend what I'm teaching.

It's when we do written assignments that I really see the vast differences between our two languages.  Unlike Spanish, in which the sentence structure is so similar to ours, the phraseology of Chinese is quite different from that of English. 

This week my class watched the most recent version of the film King Kong.  When we finished, I discussed how the tale takes place during the Great Depression and introduces us to starving young actress Ann Darrow.  I pointed out how a series of events set her on a path that completely changes her circumstances by the end of the movie.  For instance, when her seedy comedy theater closes unexpectedly without paying her the wages she is owed, she meets a shady director who only hires her because she fits the size 4 dress he'd acquired for his movie's main character. 

Chinese character for "Gorilla"

Following our discussion, I gave the students this writing prompt: "Describe the events that changed Ann Darrow's life."

I always look forward to reading Shumin's essays.  Not only is it fun to see how he translates his Chinese thoughts into English, but I also enjoy getting a glimpse of how he experiences the world around him without completely understanding everything he hears.  Here is the rough draft of Shumin's paper:

Chinese character for "Love" 

"The story start is the very difficult to live time.  People no money to use and they not have food to eat.  So they want to go something to make money.  So they decide to the island.  In the etc. they to go through and came at the island.  The island have very dangerous thing and animal because the island is very old island that it is have too much things.  Like strange animal they eat people.  So the people came in, you will be death.

"In the island Ann Darrow’s met King Kong and the story was afoot.  They came to the island and they meet the King Kong.  The people for famous and then they pick it to our work.  The King Kong want to find the girl named Darrow’s, and the people think it is a dangerous animal so they kill his.  So the girl can stop it. So King Kong is death.  That’s is very moving movie.  So that movie is tell us you need to like animal.  Animal is our friend."

Chinese character for "Girl"

I'm pretty sure he used his translator to find words like "etc." and "afoot."  And because the writing prompt has the "-'s" (apostrophe plus "s") at the end of "Darrow," Shumin obviously thought it was part of her actual name rather than a possessive form.  Also, I don't know how clearly he understood the prompt because he didn't stay on topic very well.

Nonetheless, I was touched by the theme he found in the movie and I gave him very high marks for his sincere effort.  It's true, sometimes we learn more from our students than anything we teach them. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

At Last, Cole Slaw!

Only 4 cabbage plants survived to adulthood.  All 4 of them began the process of curling their leaves into a tight little ball.  Unfortunately, only one of the plants successfully produced a nice little head of cabbage.  

Yesterday Ed chopped off the little cabbage head, washed it thoroughly, and presented it to me right before dinner time.  So I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.

It was delicious!  Not only that, but since I'm the only one in our house who likes cabbage, I get to enjoy a dish of cole slaw every day of the coming week!