Thursday, February 28, 2013

Under the same Moon ~ Nature ~ Travel

A life well-lived requires looking up.

Sunset over the IE

Moon as seen from Alta Loma California. Image by Gene Sasse
Let me count the states: Arizona, Colorado,  Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming. Add in my home state of California- eight states in eight months- that is more travel than the last eight years combined. 

What all the people in all our states have in common is captured in this evocative photo by Gene Sasse. We all sleep and dream under the same moon.

What all the trips on my writer's journey have in common is the elemental pull to seek out the beauty of God's creation. Let nature fill me up before I am drained. 

Even in the big city of Portland, Oregon, coaching a young couple as they planned their first garden of their own, they knew what a favor it would be to take me a short ride out of the city, to Multnomah Falls for beauty and brunch.

Life is by definition, full of conflict. God doesn't make mistakes. Yet, from time to time, we all feel that events are uncontrollably falling as fast as water over the falls. It is human to wonder if He truly made us in His image considering the trouble we land in ):-

 The answer to the quandary is in the water soaked log lying at the edge of the pool where the water thundered boulders into pebbles. There is great beauty in letting go, in trusting Him.

Thus, the  grandeur of nature put this week's technical difficulties caused by system incompatibilities  in to the perspective they belong, which is pretty puny. It is true, what is written in Ecclesiastics

There is a time for everything.

 A time to feast. 

A time to shop. Or at least to look.  Note to self-  Sell 2 more stories and these beautiful glass salmon in the gift shop could migrate home to Diamond Bar...

 And lastly, for all our different climates, religions and politics, it is nice to know that we , the people of the United States, can be united in laughter. 


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

How to Throw a Baby Shower ~ The French Estate ~ Morris Girl's Style ~ Part IV

"There are souls in this world who have the gift of finding joy everywhere, and leaving it behind them when they go."
~Frederick William Faber

Shannon has such a soul. No wonder so many people put so much effort into their gifts to her.

When it comes to gifts- fun is in. Brie and her mom Leslie put together a special breakfast tray for Shannon. You simply can't look at it and not smile.

The Internet is a source of inspiration in gift-giving. A picture on Pinterest inspired Sarah Maxwell to put together this delightful diaper- wreath.

A big trend in gifts is matching presents to the parents interests.

The father- to- be, Kenny, is quite the fisherman. Reeled in his first Marlin when he was 6. Earned his his way through college working at the largest independent fishing store west of the Mississippi at  The  Longfin .  He is a principal  in the hottest new fishing clothing line- Bass Knuckles.  Items themed to "Daddy's little fishing buddy" inspired  giggles. 

Sandy Tran and Kelly Morris enjoying the shower gifts
Sarah Maxwell found the tackle box on a seller on Etsy.  The lady custom makes the boxes...

Inside were berets with water creatures crafted from ribbons... a red crab with googly eyes and goldfish.

Mother-to- be Shannon wasn't just born with movie-star looks. She works at it. Three days a week, even through the pregnancy, she hits the gym. Mommy's future exercise partner was given the proper attire to work out with mom.

Sarah Maxwell's expression says it all. The love that went into the gifts was simply jaw-dropping
A big trend is to make the presentation as important as the gift.

Baskets are hot replacements for traditional wrapping. Lee Trado put together something I've never seen before, but Kelly tells me is a regular hit at the baby showers she's been invited to... 

Clothes hung with pins on a clothes line... pull one item out, and another outfit follows... 

My sister Gina holding the center of the clothes line up

A line that stretched across an entire corner of the room, engaging guests to leap from their seats to help show off a wardrobe now more complete than many a guest's):-

So much more impressive than if the outfits had been stacked one on top of the other in a box. 

Alden enjoys the accolades for her creation.
Homemade gifts are always in fashion. The pink tutu a gift from a niece, Alden Plunk.  Maybe we have a future fashion designer in the family. 

Registry's aren't just for brides anymore. From the Internet registry, Gerry and I chose exactly the model baby monitor the couple decided met their needs. 

A special thanks to Shannon's sister, Tracy, for keeping tabs on who gave what for the thank you cards soon to be mailed. If I had been assigned this job- I can't read my own handwriting... 

The best trend of all is that more important than the gifts are the people who came.

What I love about Kenny and Shannon is the company they keep. G, Geena, Geninna- by every name she is called, the wife of Kenny's partner in the fishing business is a woman to be admired. Life's toughest critic is often the mother-in-law. Hers teaches parenting. These words were volunteered by her husbands mother, Glenda Bona.  

" I think she is one of the best mom's I have ever known. This little guy  is totally thriving and it is not an accident. She has worked with children since she was in high school. Then in college, she was a Kinesiology major. She taught disabled children movement. She is smart and has great instincts with children. I believe that is why Joseph is so quick to learn to walk and talk and interact like a champ. She is an amazing mom. I learn from watching her with Joseph."

Thank you all for partaking in this about to-be grandmother's unbridled joy. I hope you had as much fun following this series as I had producing it. 

The group photo was taken from Kelly's Facebook page. A huge shout out for helping me ID all these photos. There is no way I could have turned out this series in under a week without your help.

Today's quote was found on GoodReads.

Linking to My Romantic Homes

Monday, February 18, 2013

How to Throw a Baby Shower ~ The French Estate ~ Morris Girl's Style ~ Part III

Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide to forever have your heart go walking around outside your body. 
~Elizabeth Stone 


Arriving guests were encouraged to help ourselves to trays  laden with cheeses, crackers and sweetest grapes.  Thirst could be quenched by  a full assortment of beverages- champagne, white wine and juice chilled n an ice bucket of a side room. Coffee, tea and ice water rounded out the offerings. 

The luncheon line was served by table by Mary, one of the waitstaff. 

Our Luncheon  Menu
French Estate House Pasta
A hearty pasta tossed in a blush vodka sauce enriched with grilled chicken, sun-dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts. The finishing touch- a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts under a light snowfall of Parmesan cheese

A Premium Side Salad 

Artisan Breads on which to slather butter

Chocolate Cake 

The French Estate  is prepared to serve any guests with Celiac disease.  The gluten intolerant guests where cheerfully offered large bowls of fresh fruit in lieu of dishes made with wheat. 

Let The Games Begin

Ladies, I am not alone in my fear of making a fool of myself during shower games, am I? These games were fun and without any embarrassment attached. 

 "Wotcha talkin' about Momma" game is an invention of Shannon's sister, Kelly Morris. It's a family joke that memorizing proverbial phrases isn't my daughter-in-laws strongest asset. 

The game consists of phrases started- then we fill in the correct answer. Or whatever comes to mind. There were some answers more giddy than correct, such as 
" A nod is as good at a wink"  finished with a bar to get a date.

Then came Kelly's version of The Price is Right. "I've done it for baby and bridal showers." Always customizing the "prizes" to the guest of honor. Kelly spent weeks perusing the Internet for ideas  related to the interests of the parent's- to- be, Kenny and Shannon. Kenny's passion is fishing. Shannon's is fashion. 

Shannon is a Beverly Hills Stylist with the very upscale Jose Eber Salon, so some good natured fun was poked at  the world where she works.  We had to guess the prices of items such as a baby BMW and Swarovski- encrusted pacifiers and bathtubs 

like the bejeweled model  Beyonce's baby girl received from Kelly Rowland.

The official prize winners received nail paraphernalia and presented in a box that was - what else- an as cute as a button gift box. 

Today's quote is courtesy of the  The Quote Garden

Saturday, February 16, 2013

How to Throw a Baby Shower ~The French Estate~ Morris Girls Style ~ Part II

"Of all the joys that lighten suffering earth, What joy is welcomed like a new-born child?"
~ Annie Norton
The framed  "Cute as a Button" onesie was found on Etsy 

How did we get to this day when the Morris Girls decorated The French Estate with the theme "Cute as a Button"? With a love story.
Shannon Morris Plunk
Kenny and Shannon wore their high school uniforms for their engagement photos

It was love at first sight for Kenny. My son 16 and Shannon was 14 when he spotted this beautiful blond wearing the Diamond Bar High School baseball cap. Shannon wasn't allowed to date until she was 16: Kenny spent the next two years in her family's den watching football with her father. The season never ended: only the ball changed. Two years later, Shannon and Kenny were allowed to date.

Standing (L-R) Sarah Maxwell and  Maggie Stevens Brown
Seated (L-R) Sher Stevens and Billie Plunk
Maggie is in a race with Shannon - their babies are due a week apart):-
The Morris family decided to move closer to their business interests. Good thing their intent was not to separate Kenny and Shannon):-  The first house they looked at- you could see it from favorite Uncle Eric the- baseball- player's backyard. The home they finally picked - Eric's wife Billie - one of her best female friend's daughter went to Shannon's new high school. Hence the connection between our families never really severed. 

Frames were spray painted in Krylon " Ballerina Pink" and "Watermelon."
Shannon's sister, Kelly became the Frugal Decorator for the baby shower. Her hypothesis " Spray paint can redeem any beat up frame" which she owned lots of. The few extra she needed, she augmented with "some from the Dollar Store."   To add pizzazz, our Frugal Decorator reinforced the party theme with sewing related embellishments.  

Kelly continues " We had lots of Mason jars from the bridal shower Shannon gave to her BFF , so I decided to reduce, reuse and recycle them " into a fresh set of decorations.

Pre-shower refreshments were served in a fire-lit side-room.  Between the ice bucket filled with an assortment of  alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and the fireplace  was a bassinet filled with disposable diapers.

This little sign told us to take a diaper, grab some markers - and have fun decorating. Ages ago, a friend spelled out 'We are having a baby" on diapers to surprise her family.  Kelly played with the idea, deciding "Why not write messages on the booties of the diapers to make the mommy and daddy laugh." 

 How marvelous to have something "to do" during what is often that awkward time between guest arrival and formalities.

Pink, the signature color for a baby girl's shower took the lead in decorations. 

The pincushion party favors for the guests "from Shannon and Baby" were hand crafted from saved Mason jars filled with pink tape measures, safety pins and buttons. 

Shannon and her sisters inherited their artistic style from their mother, Jeannie. For vases, their mother ordered big Mason jars online from Ace Hardware. She wrapped them in twine and ribbon. The local florist provided clouds of baby breath to cuddle the roses from Sam's Club- so close to Valentine's Day this was decided to be the most reliable resource. A ribbon bow tie secured with florist wire   ~ voila! 

With lunch about to be served, the guests turned in our decorated diapers.  

How was the food? Were the games embarrassing? Any trends in gifts? Stay tuned... 

Thank you to for the top quote.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

How to Throw a Baby Shower ~ The French Estate ~ Morris Girl's Style ~ Part 1

Shannon greets guests, including my sister, Gina Chavez 
The "Morris Girls"- aka  mom (Jeannie Morris) and Shannon's sisters (Tracy Goetsch and Kelly Morris)  started planning the baby shower for  my daughter -in- love and law,  Shannon Morris Plunk-way back in October.  They checked out golf courses, banquet rooms for an appropriate venue to host the event at. 

Internet photo of front entrance
They discovered The French Estate on an Orange County wedding page.  When the Morris Girls checked it out, Kelly remembers "We loved the charm and the price was the best. "  

Photo from The French Estate Website.
Cozy. Elbow room. Auxiliary rooms to allow for traffic flow.  The official dining room was just the right size to host a bridal luncheon for the expected 3 dozen guests.   

Photo from The French Estate Website

Sarah Pearson, penned a personal note about her journey to becoming to becoming the proprietress of the establishment on her homepage.  She confesses that she  "spent years of my youth living, working and wandering in Europe, and yearned for as much of that lifestyle as possible after escaping a violent marriage and finding myself faced with the challenge of remaking my life. So I chose a really old home in the largest historic district in California, walking distance to the heart of Old Towne Orange. Living upstairs from my business in the Old World Way and sharing my home with pets, students occasional displaced women who need to get on their feet and travelers who enjoy the simple peach of old-school bed and breakfast isn't a typical SoCal lifestyle, but I love it.  
The French Estate has that cozy home ambiance because it has been an actual home for well over 116 year."  

You can read more about Sarah and the French Estate here. 

Her romantic nature is seen in vignettes throughout the property. 

Displayed on a table in the entrance hall, the invitations, yarn balls and pictures of the parents to be as toddlers set the theme
Kelly, a teacher at Maple Hill Elementary School (where when we first moved to this home, the father to- be- walked to this school for grades K-6)  explained the theme "Cute as a Button" came about when she stumbled across a homemade sewing kit.  

She knew she wanted to do the the yarn balls. "I took pics of the manor when we visited, so I knew where I could and couldn't decorate." 

 Tracy arranged for banners and was the go-to person on the day of event, responsible for keeping things like lists  organized.  The photographer is longtime friend Brie Johnson. Multi-talented, Brie's day job is as an English teacher at La Sierra High School in Fullerton.

Sarah Maxwell with Shannon 

 At any event, having a backup is must. She didn't, but if Brie had fallen that morning and couldn't take pictures, family friend Sarah Maxwell shared photographer duty. 

(L-R) Mom- Jeannie Morris with Shannon Morris Plunk
My son married into an extraordinary family.In an age of disposable relationships, Shannon's parent's love for each other is legendary.  I recall my fellow in-laws parent's were neighbors.  Shannon's mom met her future husband, now the father of  their grown children when as a little boy he leaned over her bassinet.   

(L-R) Kelly Morris with Shannon
The enthusiasm and attention to detail is very much part of the Morris family culture.  
The Morris Girls went to the effort to find outfits in shades pulled from the decorations. 

The look on Kelly's face- I want to go back to the third grade and be in her class! 

Shannon's attendants gather around Kenny and her in April, 2011
 As pictures from the event mark an important life event, just like at a wedding, the coordination of color sends a visual messages to the child growing up, You are loved, You are important. You are fortunate in your parents and their circle of family and friends. 

Professional model Abby Plunk with her grandmother, Melva Plunk
Now ,Shannon isn't the only one from a wonderful family.  In each lap around the calendar, as the years gallop away ever faster, I grow more in awe of my husband's family. Through thick and thin, the Plunks stick together.  It is a rare and special treat to see the generations gather under one roof in celebration. 

(l-r) Abby Plunk, Gwen Parlee, Billie Plunk and Maggie Stevens Brown enjoying girl-time.

Stay tuned. I have double deadlines to thread blogging between this blog series centered on the best baby shower I've ever been to. 

\Linking to My Romantic Home  Show and Tell Friday.