The Spirit of Arizona – Happy Veteran’s Day!

If you have read Welcome Company for a while, you may have picked up here or there that my husband is in the military; the Air Force to be exact. The Arizona Air National Guard to be exact – exact.

He is privileged and honored to serve with the 161st Air Refueling Wing. He has 28 years of dedicated service under his belt as a KC-135 pilot and now commander. He wouldn’t want me to tell you all of that, which is just one of the many reasons we love him and are so proud of him. He is very proud of the 161st though so if we keep the focus on them, it should be okay. It is Veteran’s Day after all.

But first, I just have to show you this picture from a few years back because I love it so much …

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Daddy & Nathan at the 2011 Veteran’s Day Parade

Did I mention, he is also a really great dad?

Okay, back to the 161st …

This past summer, my boy’s and I were privileged to attend a very special dedication. The dedication of “The Spirit of Arizona”. Sara was spending time with Grandma in Washington over Summer break so she missed it. I mean, it isn’t every day that you get to stand on the flight line so close to the runway!

SWA-Arizona

There the boys are with Mizz Courtie (as Nathan calls her – it’s really Courtney).

Nathan-&-Ms-Courtney

Nathan luuuuvs his Mizz Courtie!

Mizz Courtie is the wife of Colonel Joe Wilson. Joe is the maintenance group commander who led the team responsible for getting the job done and making the “Spirit of Arizona” happen.

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The “Spirit of Arizona” is the designation of the 161st tanker that now proudly displays the Arizona State Flag on it’s tail. From what I understand, accomplishing this was no easy task and a great deal of effort was put into getting the final go-ahead for painting the tail.

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Countless “man”-hours went into the job. Many of the men and women who worked on the tail, did so on their own “off-duty” time. Not because they had to; they did it because they wanted to and because they have pride in what they do, in their state and in their unit.

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The Copperhead team is pretty special. The maintainers who worked on the Spirit of Arizona did and amazing job. But they didn’t stop with the tail.

They also did this …

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They painted my husband’s name on the bird he loves so much.

I’m sitting here months later writing about it and I am still tearing up. He didn’t know they were going to do it and he was a little overwhelmed and deeply humbled by the gesture.

And on the other side …

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Colonel Wilson’s name. His name up there on that aircraft is a big deal. Why?

Okay, now I’m going to need a tissue.

Colonel Wilson is not a flyer, he is a Maintenance Officer and one of the very best! Behind his name is the name of every single maintainer who keeps these ancient birds in the air. Men and women who’s dedication to their field not only gets the mission done but keeps air crew safe. His name, a maintainer’s name, up there on that plane is a shout out to each and every one of them!

We are always happy when we get a chance to go out and visit with our 161st family. This day in particular was very exciting!

Tanker-Wheels

The only thing I can say about his picture is what my husband says just about every time a plane flies over – “planes are cool”.

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A daddy first. Always.

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Happy Veteran’s Day Copperheads! You are absolutely the best of the best!

And Happy Veteran’s Day to all who have answered the call.

We love you Sonny.

The Spirit of Arizona is but a symbol of the Spirit of the United States Military and all who serve. So, if you find yourself flying into Phoenix and you just happen to look out your window and see her sitting on the ramp, take a moment to reflect on what she represents.

Freedom isn’t free.

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Assemble the Minions! We’re Celebrating “Despicable Me” Style!

We recently celebrated my “baby’s” 6th Birthday.

Yes, my littlest love is now 6 and no, I have no idea where the time has gone.

He is one funny kid, this one – all three stooges in one little body as we like to say. He has an exuberance for life that takes my breath away. Usually because I am constantly running after him in 100 different directions at once. And such a sweet and fun loving spirit. Planning his parties is always a joy!

For the longest time he wanted this birthday party to have a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme and I had gone to sleep many nights with ideas and thoughts of turning giant crime stopping, smack talking martial artist turtles and their rodent sensei into a party.

And then we saw Despicable Me 2 this summer and, as it so often is with kids, everything changed. After that, I went to sleep with ideas and thoughts of turning a Ukrainian (I’m guessing) accented super villain, three sassy little girls and the most ridiculously adorable little yellow minions into a party.

In the end, it was really the minions who stole the show, as it is in the movies. Nathan LOVES the minions and belly laughed so hard at their antics that he had the entire theater laughing along with him. It is one of the things I love most about this kid, his exuberance.

You’re invited now to come on in and see how we celebrated this incredible little person … Despicable Me Style!

The Invitation

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In my last party post, A Duck Dynasty Birthday Bash, I told you that I love to design my own invitations. Images from the internet make it easy and fun to customize your own invite in whatever theme you’ve chosen.

If you would like to use my invitation, you will find the printable here … Minion Birthday Party Invitation Printable. You can easily go into the text boxes and customize the invitation for your party. I printed my invitations on plain white card stock.

Welcome to the party …

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The Party “Welcome Sign” on the front door, if you can call all of Gru’s rules welcoming, is a fun way to greet guests and let them know they are at the right place.

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I printed up the images on white cardstock, mounted them on poster board and then attached them together with paperclips that I had bent and twisted into submission.

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I also had a couple of friendly minions welcoming guests through the windows.

Printables …

Minion Door Hanger

Gru’s Rules

Waving Minion

Window Minions

The Favors

I kept the party favors pretty simple. Disposable cake decorating bags make great gift and favor bags (they are also great for hot chocolate treats – I’ll share that fun project with you as we get closer to the holidays).

I just filled the bags with a little candy and then topped each one off with a Minion and tied the tops with ribbon.

The Minion Figures were purchased through Amazon; Option 1Option 2.

Gru made a “Freeze Ray” for each child, just like his. Well, almost like his. The didn’t actually have the capability to freeze anyone, which was probably for the best. But they did squirt water, which is something.

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The “Freeze Ray” Printable can be found here – Despicable Me Party Signs.

The Food

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Despicable Me 2 Spoiler Alert! Eduardo Perez comes off as a friendly restaurant proprietor known for his famous but very secret salsa. BUT could he actually be the despicable villain El Macho; long thought dead? Hmmmmm …

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Whomever he truly is, he inspired the “Taste of Mexico” menu for our party!

  • Blue and Yellow Corn Chips
  • Salsa (of course), Sour Cream and Guacamole
  • Queso Cheese Dip (just Velveeta and Rotel Tomatoes melted in the crock pot).
  • Taquitos and Quesadillas (served on the white platters shown above).
  • And grapes and watermelon wedges – always a kid favorite!

An easy but festive, kid friendly menu!

El Macho and Salsa & Salsa Sign Printables.

Party-Beverage-Station

The drink station included water, lemonade and iced tea for the parents. I love to put orange slices in my iced tea and a few lemon slices always jazz up a pitcher or container of lemonade!

Now for the best part … cake!

The Minion Cupcakes

Floating all over Pinterest is this great idea for turning Twinkies into Minions. It couldn’t have been simpler. Make your favorite cupcakes (I made vanilla cupcakes and chocolate cupcakes) and frost them with blue butter cream. I put the frosting in a pastry bag, snip off the end and swirl it on. Cut the Twinkies in half and with ready made frosting tubes, put on the eyes (Wilton now makes candy eyes that you can find at the grocery store) add different funny expressions and hair and then place a Twinkie Minion atop each cupcake. I had a few more cupcakes than Twinkie Minions so I frosted those yellow and sprinkled them with blue sugar for a little variety.

Minion-Cupcakes-8For the cake topper, I added text to an image from the internet, printed it out on white cardstock and the mounted it on yellow cardstock. I taped two of the yellow striped drinking straws to the back and stuck it into the cupcakes.

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A few candles and the Minion Fireman (“be-doh, be-doh, be-doh”) to keep everything in line and the cupcake tower was complete.

Yes I had far to much fun coming up with Minion hairstyles. Do you see the comb-over in the back on the left? That is really my best work.

Minion Birthday Greeting Cake Topper Printable.

Shrunken Moon Bites (donut holes dipped in white chocolate – if you are really ambitious you could do these as cake pops), Coco-Nutties (Vector’s favorite cookie – conveniently purchased at the grocery store), an Ice Cream Cone station and a dog “food” bowl (just like in the movie) filled with candy finished out the treat table.

Despicable Me Party Food Printable.

Despicable Me Lunch Plates, Cake PlatesCups, Lunch Napkins, Beverage Napkins and Yellow Striped Paper Straws.

Despicable Me Figures of Gru and the girls, Kyle the Dog and four minions used to decorate the cake table were purchased on Amazon.

The Fun

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There’s that precious birthday boy!

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We all wore Minion T-Shirts, which was very fun but of course, I didn’t take a minute to have someone photograph our family together in our shirts. I’ll have to make everyone put them back on and fix that! Sara did have a minion shirt but must have changed into something more fashionable after swimming. Oh to be a tween and still have someone else doing your laundry.

I have learned over several years and A LOT of birthday parties that planning a ton of games and activities really isn’t necessary. What the kids really want to do, especially when they are little is run around and play together. At our house, there is a lot of room to run and many imaginative adventures to be had. And with the boys having birthdays in June and September, they also want to swim (Sara’s is in December so even in Arizona, swimming is out).

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So, while I had a lot of different games in mind, (freeze tag, boogie robot freeze dancing or musical chairs, etc.) I ended up only putting one together – The Space Killer Carnival game from the first movie. Space-Killer-Despicable-Me-

I printed up images of the space aliens from the game in the movie in varying sizes and then glued them to a foam presentation board. The kids used Nerf guns to shoot at the stacked cups.

“KNOCKED OVER!” Of course I had to include an image of Gru after he blew the whole thing up.

If you have not seen the movie, you really must. And then get the second one when it comes out on Blue Ray soon. They are so clever and very funny!

Of course we sang happy birthday, blew out candles, had cake and ice cream …

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and opened presents – my friend Eileen had a captive audience as she read birthday cards.

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And then after a lot of fun and a little too much sugar, some down time racked out with your buds watching your favorite movie is a must. You can get away with this when you’re six.

Speaking of buds …

Nathan-&-Hayden

Hayden is one of Nathan’s favorite buds of all time. Hayden and his wonderful family were our neighbors for many years. When Nathan was a baby and Hayden was about eight, he would pop over all the time to play with Nathan. As they both grew, Hayden never got too big to hang out with Nathan. I have a picture of them together at each of Nathan’s Birthdays. It is great to have a friend who has loved you your whole life! We just wish he was still right over the fence.

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We love you Hayden (and Michael, April and Hope)!

So that’s it. One more birthday party down for the record books.

Whaaaaaaaat? The Party’s Over?

Yes, the party’s over. But around here, it won’t be long until there’s another one!

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Thanks for coming!

Thank you note printable.

All of the party printables shared in this post are made with images found on the internet and are for personal use only and not for sale or distribution in anyway. Please play fair and have a fantastic party!

Grandma Ibby’s Chocolate Oaties

If you have read my blog for a while, you may have heard of Grandma Ibby. I have been cooking and baking my way through her treasure box of recipes over the past year and have shared many of these special recipes with you along the way.

I’m thinking we are a bit overdue for a Grandma Ibby post so today I am going to share her fantastic Chocolate Oaties with you.

Translation: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies.

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What makes these oatmeal chocolate chip cookies special is that they are both thin and crispy and chewy and tender all at the same time.

They feel very old fashioned and I love that. I also remember eating them a lot as a kid and of course, I love that too!

Grandma Ibby’s Chocolate Oaties

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 Cups flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 Cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 Cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 Cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 Cups Oatmeal – I’ve used instant and it works fine
  • 1/2 Cup nutmeats, optional – I don’t add the nuts – picky no-nut people around here.
  • 12 oz. chocolate chips – I use semi-sweet but milk chocolate or butterscotch would be great.

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift the flour, salt and baking soda together and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugars together with a mixer until light and well combined; about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, incorporating each well. Add the vanilla.

Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Gently mix in by hand the oatmeal, nutmeats and chocolate chips until just combined.

Use a cookie scoop or teaspoons to drop dough on a cookie sheet that is greased or lined with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.

Bake for about 10 minutes.

These are thin and delicate cookies so let them cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheet to allow them to set up a bit. Then finish cooling on a wire rack.

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The thin, chewy nature and crisp texture of these cookies also make them perfect for ice cream sandwiches.

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A scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream and a few chocolate sprinkles and you have a very special, very old fashioned treat!

Yes, you can have an ice cream sandwich in October. Especially in Arizona!

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I hope you’ll give them a try and as always, Enjoy!

 

One year ago today …

One year ago today, I started a blog.

I set up my first photo shoot, wrote my first post and clicked “Publish” for the very first time.

Then I had a moment of panic when I thought “what have I done?!” But just a moment. And then I just kept moving forward and haven’t looked back since.

And here we are, 365 days later; 500+ readers and 100+ published posts.

Milestones are often a time of reflection. And this one is no different. I’ve been thinking a lot about all that has changed since I put “me” out there and became a blogger.

Before blogging …

I slept more.

I sat down to hot meals that didn’t require a photo session prior to consumption.

No body asked who was going to get the “pretty plate”.

I never got a strange look from the cashier as she rang up one patterned plate, one white soup bowl, one blue placemat, one green placemat and a mismatched assortment of napkins.

I didn’t look at “everything” as a potential background, table setting or prop.

I made fewer trips to the antique store, thrift store or neighborhood garage sales.

And I didn’t have this …

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which has affectionately become know as my “prop hoard”.

There have also been a few “blogging truths” I’ve discovered along the way …

You can consider someone a friend even though you have never met.

You don’t have to write the great American novel in each post. Simple and short is just fine.

Don’t just write. Read too. And comment. The blogging Community is amazing. Engage.

Laundry, dishes and toilets don’t just do themselves simply because you want to write.

Kids aren’t quiet and well behaved simply because you want to write.

Because laundry, dishes and toilets don’t do themselves and kids aren’t quiet and well behaved because you want to write, you will find yourself  writing at 4 am.

And sleeping less. Did I mention that already?

Food blogging is fattening. Sighhhh.

You can make a beautiful office for yourself, tucked away in a peaceful corner of the house and you will still write at the dining room table.

You will end up turning that beautiful, peaceful office into storage for your prop hoard and cookbook/magazine problem.

You have to throw out the plan or schedule and write what inspires you in the moment or it will never leave you alone.

Don’t be perfect. Be real. People don’t connect with perfect.

Sometimes you will post five times in a week. Sometimes two weeks will go by and you won’t have written a thing. It’s okay.

Blogging is supposed to be fun. Don’t let it become anything else.

The magazine and cookbook problem you have is only going to get worse.

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And you’ll start to feel like you could open your own library. You may even find yourself on a first name basis with the UPS guy who is bringing yet another Amazon box to your front door.

That Amazon box, there will most assuredly be a “For Dummies” book of some sort in there.

Food photography is so much fun! Even when you have no idea what you’re doing. Don’t worry! There’s a “For Dummies” book for it.

Don’t compare. You have your own voice and your own style. Be inspired but be you!

Don’t worry about the numbers, the stats, the hits, etc. Write because you want to preserve and share. Write because you want to encourage and inspire. Write for whatever reason you first thought “maybe I should start a blog.”

Blog because you love it and others will love it too.

Since I started blogging, I notice the little things more. The details. I love  that I am reconnecting with my grandmothers and the family that came before me as I share their recipes and stories. I am preserving memories and history for my children.  And I making new friends and hopefully offering a little inspiration and encouragement along the way.

I remember one Saturday morning, around 4am, my husband walked bleary eyed into the dining room as I typed away. He took one look at me and said “you’re crazy! I love you but, you’re crazy.”

Sometimes at 4am, the thought does occur to me “I must be crazy” – but I just keep typing away. Nope, not crazy just fulfilled and happy and loving every minute of this wonderful adventure that is blogging.

Okay, well the prop hoard is a little crazy …

Thanks to everyone who reads and visits me here at Welcome Company or on Facebook. You have made this first year so much fun and I am incredibly blessed by each “like” and comment and every bit of encouragement you give.

There are a lot of ideas and plans swirling around in my head for the direction I’d like to take this little blog. And there are also dishes that need washed, toilets that need cleaning, laundry that needs folding and a family that always needs their mama. There is event planning, Cub Scouts, PTO, yearbook committee, classroom mom duties, cake requests, etc., etc. that need my attention – which is why I have recently placed this …

Volunteering-Mug

on the windowsill in front of the sink, where I am sure to see it often (food blogging also makes a lot of dirty dishes) and in need of a reminder that I am a little crazy when it comes to over committing.

Thankfully, no matter how busy I get, my blog is always here waiting for me and I am always eager to get that next post put together. Someday, I may catch up and all of those ideas may come to fruition. It could happen. Until that day, thanks for hanging in there with me and for reading when I post 5x in a week or being patient when two weeks go by.

I promise you, there will always be a next post.

One day at a time. One inspiration at a time.

Now, I am going to go bake a cake. It is my blog’s birthday after all. There must be cake.

S’Mores Cupcakes

With the start of the school year, we are back in full swing with Cub Scouts. I love to blog about Cub Scouts because it is such a big part of our lives and has been an incredible experience for our whole family. The Scouting program is awesome and I love sharing all of the fun and important stuff we do with all of you.

This past weekend, our Pack got together for a lesson on the Scouting principle of Leave No Trace. Leave No Trace means just that. It focuses primarily on camping and outdoor activities but the underlying principle applies to all areas of our lives. Take care of your environment; whether it is the outdoors, your school, your home, your room, the park, the movie theater; you get the idea. Wherever you go, whatever you do, be mindful of the environment and how you have an impact upon it.

And ALWAYS leave a place better than you found it. Which means sometimes we have to pick up after others too.

Rather than just talk about it with our Scouts, we wanted them to experience the lesson first hand. The best lessons are often learned by seeing and doing. So this past Saturday, our boys and their families spent a few hours cleaning up along the banks of the Salt River.

The lower Salt River is a major recreation site in our area and unfortunately, not everyone respects the privilege of enjoying such a beautiful place. A LOT of trash gets left behind. It was important for our Scouts to see first hand how even a little waste has a big impact when the effects of so many visitors is combined.

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They worked hard and cleaned up a lot of trash.

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We are very proud of our “Bear” and his understanding and respect for nature and the need to care for and protect the environment. He is passionate about it. Now, if we could just get that same passion to carry over to his room.

After all of that hard work and a lot of hand sanitizer, it was time for a treat. It was way too hot to roast marshmallows (and open fire isn’t allowed right now) so I decided to improvise and turn Scouting’s signature dish into a cup cake.

S’Mores Cupcakes

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I love to bake from scratch and have some wonderful chocolate cake recipes from my grandmother. But there are times when practicality wins out and you just have to break out the cake mix. I adapted a recipe from the cookbook “The Cake Mix Doctor” by Anne Byrn and came up with a yummy chocolate cupcake, perfect to feed a lot of hungry Cub Scouts. Three batches yielded 60 cupcakes. If you don’t “overfill” as I tend to do, you might just get 24 cup cakes in a batch.

Cup Cake Ingredients

  • 1 package Milk Chocolate cake mix
  • 3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 1/3 Cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Cup Cake S’More Toppings

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  • Graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 Bag of jumbo marshmallows, each marshmallow cut in half
  • Graham cracker pieces or mini graham crackers for garnish
  • Chocolate pieces for garnish

Cup Cake Directions

In pure cake mix fashion, put all of the ingredients together in your stand mixer and blend it all on medium to medium-high for a minute. Scrape down the sides and blend for another minute or until well combined and smooth. Line your muffin/cup cake tin with paper wrappers and fill each 3/4 of the way full.

S'mores-Cupcake-Prep

Then sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs (about a teaspoon each). I made the first batch with the graham cracker crumbs placed in the bottom of the wrapper and the batter poured on top. It didn’t adhere to the cake like I wanted so I opted to sprinkle the crumbs on top.

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Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.

I love how they look with the graham cracker crumbs on top.

Next … the fun part.

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Set your oven rack, two spaces down from the broiler and then turn the oven to the broil setting.

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Put your cupcakes on a sheet tray and place a marshmallow half on top of each one. Place the marshmallow topped cupcakes under the broiler for 1 minute and 45 seconds. That is the exact amount of time my oven took to perfectly toast the marshmallows. The time needed in your oven may be different so keep an eye on them.

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Finish the cup cakes off in true S’Mores fashion with wedges of graham cracker and chocolate. The crackers can go on right away but let the marshmallow cool a bit before you add the chocolate or you’ll have a melty mess.

The boys and families of our Pack spent and afternoon doing our part to clean up a bit and leave things better than we found them. But our day wasn’t all hard work. Yes, there were yummy cup cakes but did I mention there was a also helicopter?

No? Ohhhh, there was a helicopter!

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Our Wolf Den Leader is a Sheriff’s Deputy and he arranged quite the surprise for our boys. For all of us, actually. When he told me he was setting up something cool, I was just thinking a few sirens and lights. Nope. There was a helicopter.

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Of course the boys LOVED it. And they deserved it. Hard work always has its reward!

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I know one little boy in particular who was in heaven!

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Really, does it get much cooler than that?

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We also had a visit from these deputies who patrol the river on ATVs. Very cool too! In fact, I’m pretty sure they have their own action figures. Well, if they don’t they should.

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The perfect spot to watch a helicopter take off!

A special thanks to Rob and our friends from the Sheriff’s Department for the work you do to keep our community safe and for so graciously giving a little of your time to make a kid’s day.

You guys rock!

The MVMT Dinner – It’s a Wrap

Today I am wrapping up my series of posts on the MVMT Dinner, an Art Deco themed event I coordinated in July.

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But before I write another word, I must thank my hardworking and dedicated staff …

Good-Helpers

David filled about 150 votive candle holders with decorative black sand. Nathan was quality control and tested every votive candle, passing it down the assembly line to his brother only when he was certain it was in perfect working order.

Helping-with-Candles

Two scoops each x 150. No more. No less.

Mom-Helping-Too

My mom ironed and ironed and ironed.

Two-Helpers

David and Sara came along to help me set up. I don’t think they even snuck many of the gelato bar toppings. Well maybe just a few.

They are small but they aren’t unionized and you can pay them in gummy bears. They helped a lot and I couldn’t have pulled it off without them; especially my mom who does not accept payment in gummy bears.

The pre-dinner reception was held in the foyer of the church’s worship center. It was a great place to mingle and chat and share in some wonderful hors d’oeuvres.

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The crudité tower was beautiful and had a nice assortment of fresh vegetables and cheeses along with olives, marinated mushrooms and crunchy chilled grapes. Served alongside was a delicious hummus with crackers and pita wedges.

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I love the presentation.

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We also included one passed hors d’oeuvre.

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A unique savory cone filled with a Thai basil goat cheese, topped with a wasabi pea.

The filling was delicious!

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We were off to a good start.

I love all of the behind the scenes action …

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The pre-dinner reception was great. Unfortunately, the dinner itself was not what I had hoped.

The caterer we used is very good and came highly recommended. They had fantastic customer service and accepted our job short notice. They accommodated several changes and adapted to a last minute final head count. I also have to say that on the night of the event, the wait staff was fantastic!

That being said, there were a few lessons learned and things I would do differently. Hopefully I can pass along my missteps and save a reader or two any catering regrets …

Think everything through and don’t assume the details will be covered.

The crudité tower had marinated mushrooms on it that were awkward to select with your fingers. The tower should have had small serving tongs. Alas, I had to go and find a few plastic spoons. Luckily, I had purchased disposable plates and napkins for the hors d’oeuvre table, just in case, or there would have been none.

Be certain of what you are getting and don’t assume anything.

I did not have enough time to arrange a pre-menu selection tasting. Knowing that, I should have asked more questions and assumed less as the dinner itself turned out not to be at all what I was expecting.

The picture in my head of beautiful Tuscan roasted vegetables alongside a savory citrus roasted chicken breast artfully placed on a bed of orzo was not what was set before me. The vegetables were finely diced and mixed in with the orzo making them virtually undetectable. The chicken was a baked chicken breast and while it was tender and the flavor was good, I was very disappointed at the missing beautifully browned crispy skin that the term “roasted” led me to assume. In fact, there was no color on the plate at all. The veggies disappeared into the pale orzo along side an equally pale chicken breast.

When I shared my disappointment with a friend, she said “oh, the vegetables were in the orzo, I thought they just forgot them” – can you hear my breath drawing in? Not the reaction to dinner I was hoping for.

Follow your instinct and don’t be talked into something that doesn’t feel right. Oh how that applies to soooo many things in life.

The missing spoons. The missing spoons that haunt my dreams. I let the catering representative I worked with talk me out of spoons. She said they really aren’t really necessary. She said they are often left off. She said they cost more. It is amazing how much each piece of tableware adds to the overall cost (I think I need to go into the party rental business). I nixed the spoons. I didn’t want to but I did and in the end, the tables just didn’t look complete. They looked like somebody forgot the spoons.

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I know it sounds picky and no, it was not an epic world crisis but I was raised knowing how to properly set a table. Ask anyone who knows me, it is kind of “my thing”.  For all of the planning and effort it takes to pull an event together, you don’t want a small detail to negatively impact the finished product.

Bottom line, don’t omit the spoons.

Set a complete table and negotiate a better price for it. Also, the salad forks were so small I felt like I was eating from an oyster fork but we have spent enough time on flatware and negativity.

The Lesson … Ask. Ask. Ask. Verify. Verify. Verify. Until you are satisfied with every detail and know that you are getting what you expect.

I really hate not being able to give the caterer a glowing review. They were lovely to work with and really did go above and beyond for us in many ways. But in the end, the devil is in the details as they say.

On a far more positive note, I have to share with you one of the highlights of the evening.

Perry the Coffee Guy.

Mobile-Espresso-Bar

Okay, he’s not really the “coffee guy” – he owns The Coffee Chop. I found him through an online search for a mobile coffee barista and read some really great articles about him.

As this was not an event suitable for the standard “cocktail hour”, we decided instead to have a  coffee bar. It was a great decision. Perry did a fantastic job, coming fully stocked with Italian sodas and a complete espresso bar. Let me tell you, he was a big hit. He was busy all evening and was very sweet and personable. He even sent me an e-mail a few days later complimenting me on the event and letting me know how welcome he felt and how much fun he had. Classy guy and a skilled Barista. I highly, highly recommend him if you are planning an event in the Phoenix area. His website is http://thecoffeechop.com but I have had trouble linking to it and am hoping it will work in the future.

So that is it for the MVMT Dinner. But the MVMT at Mission Community Church has only just begun and was launched this past Sunday to the congregation.

I was so blessed to work on this event and truly loved every minute of it. Thanks for indulging me and letting me share it with you. In the end, the MVMT Dinner wasn’t about the food or missing spoons or fancy hors d’oeuvres. It was about coming together in fellowship to celebrate all that God has blessed us with as we trust Him and take the next step He has for us as a church.

I would love for you to see what the MVMT is all about and why it is such a blessing to be part of a community of Christ followers who truly seek to be His “Hands and Feet” in every way.

Do Justice. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly. Mica 6:8

MVMT.org

 

Remembering

At 5:46 a.m., twelve years ago this morning, I was sleeping peacefully. I had the bed all to myself as my husband had already left for the National Guard base and a routine KC-135 refueling mission.

Just before 6 a.m., the phone rang.

It was my husband.

“Turn on the news. Then call Mark. I love you. I’ll call you when I can.”

Click. Nothing more.

I wasn’t bleary eyed, groggy or fuzzy from being abruptly awakened. I knew the tone. I felt the seriousness. Instantly, I was alert and focused. Something big had happened.

Something terrible.

I turned on the news.

I turned on the news and watched the world as I knew it change before my eyes as United Airlines Flight 175 tore into Tower Two of the World Trade Center in a horrific explosion of fire and black smoke. Tower One already burning next to it. 

6:03 a.m. 

Dear Lord, how many people were in those buildings? On those planes? 

Tears in my eyes, lump in my throat, I called Mark. Mark was the best man in our wedding and is one of my husband’s closest buddies. He is also a fellow tanker pilot and at the time, lived only a few miles from us.

He is also not a morning person. “What?!”

“Mark, turn on the news. Something is happening.”

I can’t share with you the first words out of his mouth when he turned on the TV but I promise you, I will never forget them. He knew what was happening. He knew it wasn’t an accident.

And then he simply said “Okay, I’m going in”. Calm. All Business.

Click. Nothing more.

And then, the wave of phone calls.

My husband had been an active duty KC-135 pilot for ten years when he left active duty in 2000  to finish out his service flying part time for the National Guard and work full time flying for American Airlines.

My phone was inundated by friends and family desperate for me to tell them that he was not on American Flight 11.

“Please tell me Gary was not on that plane.”

“I know you’re probably getting a lot of calls but please just tell me he’s okay.”

“Where is Gary? He’s not flying is he?”

Phone calls all morning and sporadically throughout the day. Those phone calls are what have stayed with me the most all these years. I am so thankful for that outpouring of love and concern but I have to be honest, that is not what still resonates. It is how I was able to answer that never leaves me.

“No, he wasn’t on that plane” – “Yes, he is okay” – “No, he wasn’t flying”.

The other wives, the husbands, the mothers, the fathers, the sisters, the brothers who were getting the same phone calls but could not give the same answers, they have stayed with me. I carry them with me because I can’t imagine having to answer as they did. For me, it was all okay. For them it was not and I will never forget. For them and for the loved ones they lost.

After 9-11-2001, I did not see my husband again for a week, other than that night when I met him at the guard shack to drop off an overnight bag and several dozen pizzas.

But I did see him again.

He spent the next week on high alert and when his unit got the call to launch and refuel fighters flying homeland defense, he and Mark piloted one of the first planes back in the air after everything had been grounded. He shared with me how surreal it was to be practically “alone” in the skies.

He flew with American again for only a short time before he was called back to full time National Guard duty where he has remained ever since, taking a military leave of absence from the airline. In the short amount of time he flew commercially after 9-11, his route was Dallas to Newark where for weeks he could see the smoldering remains of the twin towers on approach.

A constant and terrible reminder of all that was lost and how life had changed. How our country had been changed.

This morning, twelve years later, at my children’s school there was a Patriot’s Day ceremony around the flagpole in the inner courtyard. 

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The 6th grade students sang Lee Greenwoods “Proud to be an American” and several of their classmates shared beautiful sentiments they had written. One of the girls who read is a friend of Sara’s and as she spoke the words “I was born just after the events of 9-11”,  the realization struck me that every child at that ceremony today was born after 9-11. They have never lived in an America untouched by terror.  Those sixth graders are the first generation of a profoundly changed America. And they are a beautiful reminder of our resilience and strength; of what we have overcome. That life does go on.

The little girl who shared those words, her name is Hope.

There are so many things I reflect on and remember on this day each year.

I remember the pain and disbelief and being glued to the news.

I remember the sacrifice and the heroes. “Okay, I’m going in”. Firefighters. Police officers. Military. Ordinary citizens. Airline passengers. They stepped up, they went in.

And many didn’t come out. But others did because of them.

We came out of 9-11 because of them.

And we must never forget them.

The reminders are around us everyday. See them. Remember them.

Patriots-Day-2

Heavenly Father, today we remember what was lost in our country. Thank you for this day. Thank you for the freedom we are so blessed to know. May we never take it for granted. Thank you for the men and women who continue to sacrifice that we might gather in remembrance around a flagpole in an elementary school courtyard; safe and without fear. Be with them. Protect them. Let us not forget that there are those who live in fear and terror and horror everyday. We pray for them and for peace. We lift up to you the families of all who did not come home twelve years ago as their pain becomes new again on this day. Comfort them as only you can. 

Let us never forget.

Amen.