Monday, December 30, 2013

Eating Guacamole at Midnight

Despite my best efforts we ran out of food. I'm told that if all of the food is gone after a party that's a good thing which is a small consolation. As such, my guests were reduced to eating the packaged guacamole, albeit good packaged guacamole, at midnight which struck me as very funny indeed. More on that later as it's been so long since I blogged, and so much as happened, a little recap to follow:

Following last Sunday's market, Jonathan and Alissa arrived safe and sound around 11. During the next few days we did what most folks do before Christmas, including some gift wrapping by Alissa,
some lounging by Bruce, and some laughing by Jonathan. All very cozy. Mostly my shopping was complete, however, I still had one gift to buy for Lucy, our niece Elizabeth's youngest daughter. A trip to Hot Topic (gasp!) at Fashion Square Mall was in order. We were all very happy to see the shopping crowds as the last time I visited it was dead, dead, dead. The Christmas decorations were what some might call very weird. Jonathan adding some levity to our shopping trip:
Coincidentally he is wearing one of the t-shirts he purchased while on his honeymoon in Japan. Seriously, I could not get over the tree...

Then, it was Christmas morning with the small amount of gifts under the tree. I convinced Bruce not to get me much of anything as I do have new windows coming which will be a gift that keeps on giving.
All of the pretty bows were fashioned by the bow master in our home--Mr. Peck and I don't mean the young one! Eventually we were all up and decent in time to have a lovely chat with our extended family in England. Matt and Tom joined Ray and Jane this year in Melton Mowbray where they celebrated the holidays in relative calm, unlike us!
It was so very nice indeed to be having our chat on Bruce's new iPad! Coincidentally, I had been thinking that some nice old-fashioned paper chains would have looked cute on our tree,, and what to my wondering eyes should appear, but old-fashioned paper chains at Ray and Jane's lovely home??!!

We did our first gift exchange with Jonathan and Alissa who bought us many thoughtful gifts, including a signed copy of "The Book Thief," one of my favorites! There are other equally as lovely gifts, however, with the events of the last few days, I'm forgetting most everything. Next Bill, Fallon, Dave and Michelle came over for a bit. More wonderful gifts ensued, including a William Sonoma gift card from Bill, which I can't wait to spend, and a very generous gift card to one of the best restaurants in town from Dave and Michelle. "The Ravenous Pig" if you are wondering...

A trip to the Northside Pecks next...Katie and Joe's house, formerly her parents, in Altamonte Springs. What a super gathering it was with Katie, our hostess, cool as a cucumber, after spending literally all day in the kitchen. Oh to be young again! Here's Jon and Alissa with their Aunt Judy and cousin Jessica:
Of course Judy, above is a Mrs. Peck, and below are three more:
Not entirely true as Alissa has yet to change her name, but as far as I'm concerned, she's a Mrs. Peck to me.

Lisa lives in Longwood, a few miles away which was next on our agenda. Isn't it nice to have a big family? Of course I don't know it any other way...

Pretty much everyone has gathered at Lisa and Danny's house for years now, where Danny does some of the cooking. A retired fireman, he spent years perfecting cooking for a crowd in the firehouse.
That's Sam in the forefront, the boyfriend of our niece Emily, pouring the olive oil. Danny who has had some health challenges for the last few years was in very good spirits which made everyone happy. A cute photo of the twins with him:
Following his shoulder surgery David has lost quite a bit of weight bringing him closer to his brothers', although Bill just can't help himself, he loves having longer hair.

I can vaguely remember a time when there were a lot of children running around, including the two pictured above. There is a whole batch of cousins born in the same year, 1979, within months of one another. Rich, Maureen's son is about two months older than the twins. He has two darling boys including his oldest Spencer shown here opening one of our gifts, a set of charming little children's books illustrated by one of my friends, Leah.
I "Yuv" these books was his charming comment!

Exhausted, Bruce and I came home while J & A met some friends at a bar for drinks. By golly, it was nearing party time so a big Costco run was what Bruce and I did early the next morning. Now that I had the food I made a game plan which was helped enormously by having the house to myself on Friday. J & A met friends at Disney, and Mr. Bruce went to Miami for the day. Perfect, let the cooking begin.

Originally I'd planned on borrowing some crock pots, however, after asking me how much a new one cost, Bruce made the executive decision to buy three at Target, telling me I could donate them to charity after the event. I did not argue. Otherwise I'd borrowed a cool tool from Dana; basically a hot plate with three pots on top which also worked beautifully. I spent the day from 7:30AM to 8PM working in the kitchen. I told you above about my best efforts! It's too long and involved, but one thing that was a must for the menu was vegetarian chili for Alissa, which is where I began.
I thought you said you had new crock pots Gail when what you are showing is a version from the 90's? Good observation folks--this is the one I've had ever since Bill gave it to me for Christmas way back when. I still remember crying when I opened it, why I did so I can't tell you, however I think it must have been because I thought it was so sweet of him. All these years later he's still giving me kitchen gifts.

Although Christmas day was lovely and sunny, after that the weather turned gloomy with Saturday being no exception. Bruce got the back yard all ready with the tables, chairs, setting up the ice and the like. He even set up a tent for the dj to have a little cozy spot on the pool deck. Then it rained which made none of us too happy.
Actually I took this prior to the rain mostly to show off little Mr. Baxter. I covered the fire pit with a plastic garbage bag and he set up my market tent off camera to keep the chairs dry as we didn't know how long it would last. Fortunately, not too long.
The basket on the left is filled with cowboy boot bubble containers, which if you need some, I have plenty left...

I picked up Nancy from the airport around 2, and am I ever glad I did. She was an enormous help, keeping me cognizant of the clock! Earlier in the day I'd even made a list of what was left to do,
in a new notebook Bruce gave me for Christmas. I know folks love their phones for this, but if you didn't know it before, you do now--I'm old fashioned--I like crossing things off a list.
It's always interesting to figure out how to serve a crowd, but somehow it has always worked. Opening all the packages of paper goods I was very happy how things coordinated.
Aside from the real glasses, most all of this stuff went on the counters adjacent to the chilis, of which there were three types, chicken, veggie, and beef.

With Nancy here I even had time to get myself together, which is pretty rare as I'm usually running around like a crazy woman, never getting the time to think about what I'm wearing or fix my hair. Sisters are good like that. And then it was 6:00, and guest began arriving, and what a time we had!
Out of focus in the background that beautiful girl is our niece Katie. :)

Ha arrived bringing with her the most beautiful French macroons and red velvet cupcakes. Yours truly is in the mirror..
The truth is I took very few photographs, instead I just had fun dancing, chatting, and enjoying the moment. You may have noticed in the photo of Christmas morning, the cowboy boot stockings which I have to thank Angela for. Everyone was crazy for them! Here she's chatting with Bill about his upcoming house purchase:
By golly, there they are again.

Our dj, Scott Thompson was wonderful! It is no secret I like to dance and am never shy about getting other folks to do so as well. In this instance it didn't take much convincing. Lest you think Dave goes around at parties with his shirt open, I'm quick to point out that it was very warm!
Both Michelle in the hat, and Jenn, Rich's wife, are wearing my shirts, having ditched their adorable plaid shirts and boots due to the heat! Ever the clever one, Rich picked up a Texas Longhorn jacket at a thrift store, leaving it in Jon's suitcase when he left for the night. He's an accomplished dj himself, and if I were to guess, he's talking shop with Scott.
It seemed to me like everyone had a super time,
whether they were just talking or dancing. Most all of the cousins were there, including Laura and her boyfriend Jerry from St. Pete. As well, Alissa's Mom and her husband Laz, came up from South Florida,
Apparently, while students at FSU, these three guys were called the Three Amigos,
now either joined by their wives, or fiances. Baxter was having no part of the festivities, demanding to be held by Bruce as I ignored him completely!

Which leads me the guacamole episode. Scrounging for food after hours of dancing seemed like just the way to end a night of fun. Except for Ryan, Stacy, Danny, Jonathan and Alissa, the rest of us were all partied out.

While planning the party, more than anything, I wanted it to be a night to remember, and so I hope it was. I accepted thanks from folks, but the truth is my role was only a part of it--without Sue, Kathy, Bruce, Angela, Ha, Nancy and more, it would have been so, so much less. Thank you my amigos!

And now, tomorrow, I turn 60.......

Monday, December 23, 2013

Losing Touch with Touch

So, that's a snappy title isn't it? It must have been Friday or so that it occurred to me. Well, we're going nowhere with it today because, frankly, I don't have much time to spend blogging what with Christmas only two days away, not to mention a big party soon thereafter.

Instead, a few pictures, more so for me to remember what was happening in the run up to Christmas, 2013!

Michelle, my daughter-in-law, has a birthday on December 19. Because I never know what to get her, we had lunch on Park Avenue at Prato. Suggesting Fallon come along, which was such a sweet gesture, she did. I had to ask nicely to get a photo of the two of them following our lunch:
The big ring on Michelle's finger is David's gift to her this year. They brought me a dozen roses, because you know who also has a birthday coming up. Getting a jump on things, they brought cards as well, however, I'm saving them for the real date.
Riding my bike the other morning, I saw this:
Yup, only in Florida. Speaking of which, this too might only be found in Florida, although maybe someone in other Southern states might think of making a "snowman" out of Spaghnum moss.
I only just noticed in the left top corner of the photograph there is more moss hanging, perhaps for next years display. (found in Winter Garden)

While I was at the WG market on Saturday, I took this photo of a little boy being cajoled to sit on Santa's lap.
"No Daddy, you've spent all year telling me not to talk to strangers!!" Obviously, the snow effect is Google's idea because it was anything but cold. I wore a sleeveless blouse and shorts! Sunday was even warmer, hitting a high of 87 degrees! Lots of vendors hoped to cash in on last minute sales, however if they were anything like me, that was not so much the case.
Driving home from "Italian House" after the market, this display was pretty insane, causing Bruce to call himself a slacker for only putting up about 2,000 lights.
Before going to the market we had a lovely "facetime" visit with Tom and Matt who were opening their gifts after more than a month looking at the box. Dare I say they were pleased?

The moment has arrived for the big reveal because Jonathan and Alissa arrived around 10 last night. Alissa claimed she was overwhelmed with what we had done, however, I was quick to praise my friends as they had a big hand in things. Here now is the awesome tablescape in the main room:
Here's a little closeup:
I made two runners, one for each table, however, in my hands it would have never looked so amazing. If you are ever giving a party, look at Oriental Trading Company's website and I'm sure you'll find what you need. I ordered the stars from there as well as some other things.

In the kitchen I continued the Texas flag colors:
Which brings me to my close, as I need to get moving...
Baxter looking for Daddy or Santa?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Making Magic

I consider myself a very lucky woman to be surrounded by folks more talented than me. Every now and again I may have a pretty good idea, it's the implementation of ideas where I fall woefully short. Thankfully, that's where good friends and family step in. Yesterday morning it was Sue and Kathy who worked their magic decorating my home in ways I could have never imagined. Aside from the few pieces they brought with them, they pretty much used what I already either had around the house or purchased thinking it could work somewhere if only I knew how. Well, they did. Kathy making magic on the buffet.
Because I want it all to be a surprise for Jon and Alissa, that's all I'm showing for now, but trust me on this, they are an amazing team!

For those who haven't seen my fb page, here's a close up of one of the Santas I bought at the Russell Home Thrift store after buying my tree outside. Generally I don't buy many new Christmas decorations, but these little guys were impossible to resist. The price was right as well, maybe 50 cents each?
Because my Mom and Bruce's dad were born in 1925, it was a given---I had to have them.

Well, houses are popping up for sale in our neighborhood somewhat like mushrooms. Four, yes that's correct, four houses within eyesight, including the latest, our next door neighbor, Elie and his wife. Know anyone looking to live next door to the Pecks?
The front yard oak tree is a work of art. The landscaping, not so much!

It isn't often that I head North of the city, but after commiserating with Trish on the paint color, I took some back roads to Lisa's house in Longwood, followed by a stop at our niece Katie's house, formerly her parents, to drop off gifts. The idea is to be done with everything before Jon and Alissa arrive on Sunday night. Will that happen? Probably not! Lisa and Danny have done an amazing transformation of their bedroom--oh my! Lovely, and very sophisticated. They are both worn out, and happy.

I got a little lost taking back roads, but eventually I made it, taking what I think is Lake Road. By now the sun was beginning it's descent, making for beautiful reflections on this lake-- the name I can't tell you. Somewhere in Altamonte Springs...
On my way home, driving down 17-92, I was puzzled when I saw this old bar, minus the VW bug, which sat atop the roof for as long as I can remember.
Now I know.  Although I'd never been in there, some people obviously have since it was in business for 67 years! Apparently a new development with a terrible name, Ravaudage will take it's place. So weird that I took this photo just the other night, and the story appears this morning in the Sentinel.

As well, I shot this photo out the car window--naturally while waiting on a stop light.
Really? $59? It seems to me that while the price of weddings keeps skyrocketing, the price of divorce does just the opposite.

While waiting on my angels yesterday morning, I got out my macro lens for a little practice around the house. I'm pretty sure this ornament was a gift from Matt, although I can't be sure.
I bought this darling petunia basket at the WG market a few weeks ago:
Matches the candy canes on our tree!

Normally I display the Christmas cards on the buffet, however, because it will be put to party use, I thought about some sort of wall display. Remember the first paragraph about ideas? How to make it happen was the question. Much to my delight, Julie Allen, one of Matt's childhood friends, put a photo on facebook, then patiently described to me how she did it. I couldn't be happier, and now think this is how I'll do it every year!
Wrapping the ribbon all the way around the door on the left side, Bruce pointed out that I could probably just staple it to the back of the door which is what I did on the right. Julie used paper clips to attach hers, however, using my stapler worked just fine. Super cute, right? Hurray for clever people!

Calling from Miami, Bruce tells me there are big changes afoot at Darden. At this point we have no idea what it means to our family, but I'll let you know when I do.

Believe it or not, I've still got a little business to manage, so in the interest of Out & About Photography, perhaps I should quit writing and get to signing the stack of prints on my work table? Make that a yes I should if I want to sell any last minute Christmas gifts this weekend!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Marching Towards a New Decade of Life

Isn't hard to imagine that 2014 is merely 15 days away? Which means my 50's are in the past tense 14 days from now? All I can say is that it feels weird to me this time around; normally my birthday comes and goes with little fanfare, and that is my preference. This year will be pretty much the same, or so I hope, but entering a new decade is meeting with a little resistance on my part! I'm glad I have Christmas and the party to focus on.

And, of course, my little business.

It rained Saturday evening, not long before Angela's party. I knew she'd gone to considerable trouble to have a nice outdoor space set up, and I hoped it wouldn't last long. My hopes were realized thankfully. Michael, Angela's son is getting to be a big boy, surpassing his Mom in height now, and that's saying a lot as Angela is 6'1".
I still remember when they moved in across the street when he was just a wee lad. Here's a Christmas picture I took of the family in 2009. The party was successful, however, she's told me she's not anxious to hold another anytime soon. Lots of work and stress involved, as we well know. That said, I'm so looking forward to December 28. :)

Waking up Sunday morning to rain, we questioned whether or not we should set up. Bruce decided to brave the weather, setting up the tent with sides, which is no easy task when there are sprinkles involved. Here's how the sky looked while I was driving down Orange Avenue.
Not so good, right? The reflection on the building windows shows that the sun was really, really trying to make an appearance, but except for an hour here and there, it was pretty much a no-show. And so it was with shoppers. Hoping that two weeks before Christmas might be a good sales day, that was not immediately the case as most folks come to my booth for entertainment. This family is a good case in point, using my photos to test their children's knowledge. They went through every single one, letting the boys call out what they saw.
Normally there are loads of folks listening to Joseph sing;
rarely are there this many empty tables. Except, all of a sudden, after about four hours, there were folks, still not too many, but those who came were buyers. Somehow, by days end, I sold 24 prints and one small canvas. Do not ask me how! If there's one thing I've learned after nearly seven years selling at this market it is that "you never know how the day will end!"

Throwing this in here because I want to:
Must be the orange, right?

On my way home I saw this wedding party in a nearby park.
I would NOT have wanted to be in the wedding party, wearing a sleeveless gown on this cold and dreary day!

You may have assumed that all the Christmas decorations I photograph are ones I find amusing, and this is mostly what I do, however, I love a classically pretty scene as much as the next person. Simple and beautiful.
Symmetry can be a wonderful thing. Of course our house looks nothing like this, however, it is nearly fully lit. Then too Bruce did a project for me yesterday afternoon after going to his office to pass out gifts, mostly the desk calendars, which some folks seem to like. Speaking of calendars, last week a fellow at Darden emailed Bruce telling him that my cover photograph for the City calendar is of one of his employee's homes! I sent him the digital file so he could make a large print and frame it for her Christmas gift which hopefully will be a nice surprise. If you live in Orlando long enough, you'll find that there are connections everywhere you go.

After Sunday's market I suggested to Bruce we go for dinner at a little local place, except it was closed. So, we went to another little local place, an Italian restaurant directly across from Montclair Street. Parking the car we couldn't help but notice the empty lot. The restaurant? Two diners. Hmmm.....
Normally this would be a sign that we pass on a place, except not this time. As we were getting our salads, who should come up to the table but Rich, our nephew, carrying his youngest son Cam! Because they live within walking distance, they make regular pizza runs there. After a nice chat, he picked up his ready pizza, placing it and Cameron in the little red wagon, and off they went. :)

I'm going to be doing my own deliveries today, followed by helping Trish pick out a paint color for the new office bathroom. I'm anxious to see the new digs!

And so the days march on...

You Just Never Know