Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, April 21, 2018

All's Well that Ends Well



My Alice in Wonderland theme birthday party came and went and everyone seemed to have a great time. It started with the invitations up above, and on the day of the party as the guests came up the sidewalk to my door they were greeted by the White Rabbit playing in our rare April snow. 
  



After opening the door (above) guests found me wearing this silly headband, which I hope distracted from the fact that I hadn't been able to wash my hair for three days because I lost my hot water heater during the ice storm. It was so comfortable I forgot I was wearing it when later I took my dog outside for a potty break. God only knows what the neighbors thought!



One of the first things the ladies saw coming in the door was this floral arrangement that my niece sent me for my birthday. And after everyone got here we did a little Q & A involving the scrolls below.


In an email before party day I had sent the guests---my Gathering Girls group---a list of three questions with the instructions that they’d have to know the answer to one of them to get in the door. The questions were: 1) who made the tarts in the ‘Alice’ book; or 2) what was the key used for; or 3) what did the flamingos and hedgehogs do in the book? I had a method to my madness---no pun intended. Mad Hatter, get it? One lady found answers for all three questions and she didn't have to take a scroll. One forgot to look, another had an answer but it was wrong. Both had to take a scroll. The scrolls were just a fun way to assign tasks to do at the party: 1) to help carry the food from the refrigerator to the dining room; 2) to pour the drinks to toast 'friendship'; 3) to help plate the cake and ice cream; and 4) to help make and serve the tea with dessert.

Can you believe it, I totally forgot to take pictures of the food---well, of anything on party day! I had planned to do it when all the food was sitting on my Hoosier cabinet before it was passed around. My camera was sitting only two feet away, how could I forget! I served two kinds of tea sandwiches (tuna and a cream cheese with cucumber and spinach), potato salad, a cucumber salad and a marinated four bean salad plus trays of cheeses, olives, pickles, red tarts and one of my friends brought dill pickles rolled up with cream cheese and ham. The tray of olives was a joke for one of the ladies who says when she goes out with her family she steals all the black olives off their salads. I had tiny flags marking the black olives "Sue's" and the green ones "Everyone Else's." She got a kick out of it and wanted to take the flags home to show her family. There were a few other flags here and there proclaiming, "Eat Me!" as per the story-line in the 'Alice' book.

The photos below were taken the day before the party and in some cases they don't show the finished version. The first one is a place setting, for example, that is minus a key at the top of the plate. The dessert cups on the left were filled with the four bean salad, the ones on the right were for the water and champagne. I've loved my moss green thumbprint Fenton luncheon set since the '60s when I first started buying the pieces. But it's been so long since I've used them that they all had to be washed before the party as well as afterward. So worth the effort for sentimental me!


My centerpiece is not impressive in photos but in person where you could absorb the details and symbolism from Alice in Wonderland I think it worked nicely. (My friends seems to enjoy it.) It only cost me the price of a deck of cards, some glass bottles (both from Amazon, both cheap), tags from Hobby Lobby and the flamingos are from the dollar store. The rest I had around the house. 
 


I love these tiny bottles. In the book Alice drank a potion from bottles like these to make her grow smaller so she could fit through the small door the key unlocked to the garden. Mine just held pink lemonade.



I broke the minute hand on this pocket watch from my husband's collection trying to set it to rabbit time---2:30. (The rabbit's watch stopped but at different times in the Disney movie and the original book.) The rabbit is three inches tall, handmade and I bought him years ago at a teddy bear convention. Before my husband's stroke I was teaching myself how to make designer teddy bears. The smallest one I ever accomplished making was a six inch, jointed bear with a silly looking neck.

 

The little scrolls (in an upside down candle holder) contained seven life lessons that the 'Alice' book teaches. (I wrote about the lessons in any earlier blog.) I think/hope everyone enjoyed their positive messages and the bit of conversation they triggered. I was kind of shocked that some of the ladies had such expressive voices for reading out loud, no doubt honed over years of reading to grandchildren. I messed up my reading and I'd read all the lessons more than once while I was making them.


The one inch cake and the chair are from my dollhouse (and represent the time when Alice was big and the cake was too tiny to share). The Cheshire Cat card was not in my centerpiece but the branches with the ribbon you saw in the photo five up above represents the tree in Oxford where the cat was known to sit, a real cat and tree that Lewis Carroll wrote into the book. The Dodo in the story was based on the author himself who was a stutterer like Dodo. Another interesting fact: Alice in Wonderland has never gone out of print since it was written in 1865 and it's been translated into 176 languages.


The circle of playing cards grounds the other stuff and are copies of the vintage art work in the book. In the center of the cards is a cake plate to give height to the second tier of things.




The photo above shows the table without the water glasses and bean cups or the keys at each place setting. I wish I had remembered to take a photo of the table with all my Fenton on it. You'll have to take my word for it that the table sparkled in the sun coming through the windows. And I didn't get a single picture of my oak table in the kitchen where I had a red velvet cake, my mother's lily-of-valley tea cups and a small tray of cookies set up. (The cookies were just the king and queen cookies sorted out of two bags of Pepperidge Farm Chessman---lots of leftovers for me to eat.) The cups and saucers are in the dishwasher now but the photo below will give you an idea of the colors and dishes on the cake table. The dishes were supermarket premiums back when I was growing up and when I downsized my everyday dishes---heavy restaurant ware from the 40's---I went on e-Bay and China Replacement to fill out what was missing from Mom's lily-of-the-valley set to build a service for six. Seemed only right since my brother and I broke most of Mom's prized set. She had a thing for lily-of-the-valleys---wore the perfume, had the flowers in the yard and picked them in the spring. My brother, nieces and I have all transplanted some of Mom's lilies to where we currently live.


The party started at 12:00 and ended around 4:00. Toasting to friendship and my birthday, those us who could have alcohol with our medications polished off a bottle of champagne and those who couldn't, polished off a bottle of sparkling white grape juice. Hey, it just dawned on me that we didn't sing Happy Birthday! But we all laughed and shared a lot and no one person monopolized the conversation. The thing I looked forward to the most was letting the ladies wander through my house and see my collectables and art work and they seemed to enjoy that. I think it helps friends to bond and understand one another if we see each other in our natural habitat, so to speak---what we treasure and surround ourselves with. (And I often feel misunderstood.) I had a great time planning the party and it sure kept my mind focused on the here and now and not the six sadiversaries April usually brings.

And to my best friend since kindergarten who lives far away and answered my endless email questions about food and menus, these balloons are for you. You kept telling me I couldn't have a birthday party without balloons and one of my Gathering Girls pals must have heard you because she was the first to arrive and she was carrying these.....

"All's well that ends well" is a phrase that's been around since 1604 when Shakespeare wrote a play by that name. My party is a perfect example of how that sentiment is still as true today as it was when he gave those words to the world. ©
 

40 comments:

  1. Your centerpiece was a knockout! WOW! I think the whole table looked absolutely perfect. Just the right mix of sophisticated and fun.

    So glad your party went off with a bang. Now April has a Happy Memory to keep you smiling.

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    1. That's exactly the look I was going for with the table! I'm so glad you picked up on that. Alice in Wonderland parties evidently are popular overseas. You can literally spend hundreds on table decor alone. And there are adult sized costumes for the characters and wall decor, too. The napkins I used were my one big splurge and even that was a hard choice because there are 4-5 patterns. They came from England.

      Boy, and you're right about next April! I'll have a fun memory to focus on.

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  2. How wonderful! What amazing planning in all the details. I hope no one in your group now feels I can’t invite the group over because I can’t top Jean!
    And this morning I woke up to a clear blue sky. We have waited a long time for this. I hope your day is sunny too.
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. We do have a sunny day ahead but it's in the high 20s now with just hints of snow in shady spots and where piles are still hanging on. Should be gone by Monday. Knock on wood, spring is here.

      The woman who hosted our Christmas party was equally as thoughtful in her decor and someone at my party did mention that we both had set the bar high. Another in the group hosted a movie afternoon where we each brought our own fast food to eat. All three of our parties were equally as fun, so I hope none of the others feel they have to top anyone. I enjoyed having my mind occupied in the planning/research stage and the woman with the December party wanted to show off her massive collection of ornaments from all over the world before she divided them up for her family. Parties with a purpose beyond simply entertaining.

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  3. Oh my goodness, how WONDERFUL! Everything is stunning with each detail more intricate than the previous one. I'm amazed at all the playfulness and planning you put into this gathering.

    Glad the weather semi-cooperated so everyone could enjoy. I'm gonna be staring at these pictures all day.

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

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    1. Thank you. It doesn't seem all that great to me compared to all the stuff I looked at online and eventually dismissed for being too costly for such a small party. Theme parties are always the easiest to do.

      The weather was cooperative. No snow or ice on the roads by the rescheduled party day and it was sunny. I couldn't have been happier about that.

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  4. I would wish that you had a Happy Birthday but it is obvious that you did. I can't believe all the incredible detail you managed. Have never been to a theme party before but realize I am missing something. Think I'd rather attend than plan though. You did a marvelous job. Be proud.

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    1. Choosing between planing and attending would be a HARD choice for me. Attending lasts just an afternoon while the planing can last for weeks or months. When I was growing up my mom and dad used to have theme parties. The one I remember the most was a Hawaiian Lula. I was a kid and the party was for adults but my brother and I got to watch from a pup tent in the yard. They had a Paris party, an Italian party and a fondue party.

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  5. Wonderful! How cool and fun this party was! I'd Happy birthday to you but neither of us would enjoy it;-) so I'll just wish you the sentiment again. So glad your guests were able to show up and a good time was had by all obviously. Hope you have hot water by now!

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    1. I do! The day after the party two guys came and spent a time taking out the old one, while a 3rd guy picked up a new one and by noon the new one was installed and the old gone. As soon as I could I ran two loads of dishes and took a shower in that order. Boy, did it feel good. We take hot water---any water for that matter---SO for granted.

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  6. I'd also rather attend a theme party than plan one. Great pix!!

    I also had a dead electric water heater (it was only after it tripped the third time that I figured out it was time to call and electrician). And it was WONDERFUL to get hot water back, especially during mid-winter cold weather.
    ~Libby

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    1. Wish you could have come to my party.

      My water heater was is gas. A relative of mine loses their hot water (electric) every time we have a power outage. Not fun, is it. Next up is the furnace to get replaced. Hopefully this summer.

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  7. Happy Birthday, Jean. Your party looks like a huge success. Your table was beautiful.

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    1. I sure had fun trying different things. Hope to see you blogging again.

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  8. Wow Jean, you are so creative! I love your table decor. That's interesting that you used to make designer teddy bears - when my kids were small I made many fully-jointed old-fashioned teddy bears, from scratch! I think I still have some teddy bear fur, patterns and glass eyes kicking around in my craft cupboard. Happy birthday, Jean! Your party looks like it was a real winner, that people will talk about for years.

    Deb

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    1. I had fun, that's for sure but it sure tired me out.

      I was just getting started with the bears. Made a dozen or so with speciality furs. I wish I still had the finger dexterity to try it again. They take on little personalities as you sew, don't they.

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  9. It was a great party Jean! I know everyone enjoyed all of the time and energy you put into it. Love the pictures! I hadn't been to a theme party before either and think it's really fun. I think we may have broken a record in regard to the length of time spent together. So fun!

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  10. Wasn't it fun to have everyone there together after such a long winter of hits and misses! As much as I'd love to hold that record I think the time we went to the Christmas gift show at they sculpture gardens tops my party. I got to looking at the Zendoodle book you gave me---what great messages inside! Thanks again.

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  11. This sounds fabulous! SO, so creative and every detail in place. I love that attention to detail (I'm not always so good at it myself but I really appreciate it.) They must have been agog at all the specifics. I can see why you were concerned with your water situation last time but wow -- you pulled it off without a hitch. Love your centerpiece, those cards are great and I'll bet your Fenton was indeed shimmering! I'm inspired!

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    1. I did have a hitch or two. Before the tea sandwiches were served someone bumped the plate and a couple fell to the floor and a cup of coffee also christened my clean carpeting. But we all lived to tell about it so that's all that counts. LOL If it wasn't so much work I'd have a theme party every month.

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  12. What a wonderful arrangement Jean. It must have taken you a great deal of time to set up everything.Like I said before, you are a brilliant woman. I'm glad that everyone enjoyed themselves and since they forgot to sing Happy Birthday, I will.
    " Happy Birthday to you
    Happy Birthday to you
    Happy Birthday to Jean,
    Happy Birthday to you."

    Sorry with the voice, I'm feeling sick just listening to my own voice.

    See ya my friend.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. Your 'singing' made me smile from ear to ear. I loved it.

      The arrangement kept changing right up to the day before the party including the color scheme. I even bought stuff at Hobby Lobby that I ended up taking back. That was part of the fun for me and it helped take my mind off sad memories.

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    2. I told my wife that when I hit 70, in about a year and a half, I want a party. A cruise party. We'll see. Happy Birthday again Jean.

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    3. I'll keep my fingers crossed that you get your cruise party.

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  13. Yay! No need to say 'I hope your birthday was wonderful', because it clearly was. Perhaps some of the other girls will do another themed party.
    It's great fun to see what a person has come up with for these occasions, and makes everyone feel special.

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    1. That would be fun if others had us over for anything...a party or to just hang out on the deck or a video. An afternoon of poker has been mentioned but for now we're trying to line up some summer time activities.

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  14. HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY!!! This party looked Beautiful and sounded like such fun. Want to be my party planner Jean? I think you have a gift.I wasn't even there and I enjoyed this. :-)

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    1. Thanks! If you ever move to Michigan I promise I'll help you plan a party. The planning is the fun party because it lasts longer than the party itself. The party was pretty cool too.

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  15. Hey! I commented from my phone app, but maybe it didn't come through -- or you "Spammed" me. LOL Anyway, congrats on a GREAT PARTY! You are so creative and it sounds like so much fun. I loved the details and loved "being there". I would have been oohing and aahing over every detail. You really could market yourself for party planning! Come to Washington! And let me join in the singing of Happy Birthday to you!

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    1. Nope, I didn't "spam you." Any party planning I do in the future would have to include a caterer to worry about the food. There were so many really neat ideas I could have had if I knew my way around a kitchen.

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  16. Happy belated birthday!!! I love all the detail in your party decorations, and the thought that went into making this party for your friends and yourself. I bet you had a lot of fun preparing it. I'm glad everyone had a good time, but I knew they would. And I did not know that "All's well that ends well" was a Shakespeare quote. Also, your centerpiece is clever and pretty. :)

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    1. Thank you. People tend to forget that centerpieces don't always have to be flowers. The whole table decor went through several reincarnations and color schemes which was part of the fun for me. I KNOW you understand how that works and this summer now that I know I'm not going to move to a condo I'm going to shop for my very own porch puppy like yours. LOL

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    2. Oh, you will love having a porch pup.

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  17. Oh Jean! This is fantastic! I love Fenton glassware! The centerpiece is adorable and the Lily of the Valley? My Mother's favorite--she always smelled so nice. When they bloomed, she would fill her tiny colored glass pitchers with little bouquets and put them in every room. Your friends will be remembering and talking about your party for years to come. Happy Birthday!!!

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    1. Fenton glassware back in our day had such great colors. I was able to buy it wholesale so I got some pieces not found commonly in stores. It was really fun to use it again. I wish it would make a comeback because now people are using it in garden art and that hurts my heart.

      I love the smell of lily-of-the-valleys in the house! This year it's taking its sweet time coming up. They were hard to work with in bridal bouquets but they probably have better base products now than I had back in the 60s and 70s.

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  18. I am late to the party and what a party it was! Your creativity is inspiring. Happy Belated Birthday!

    Ruth

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    1. Being late fits right into the theme and in good company with the White Rabbit. LOL

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  19. I laughed and laughed at your comment about the planning being better than the party because it lasted longer. That is so true -- the party obviously was wonderful, but all of the anticipation, creativity, and obstacle-overcoming (including that weather!) surely was worth it, and enjoyable.

    I must say, theme parties never have been my "thing" -- to plan or to attend -- but yours was one I would have enjoyed. For one thing, who doesn't love that theme? It pushed all kinds of buttons, from early childhood on. And your attention to detail really made things snap.

    The old saying about "a hard act to follow" certainly applies here. But I hope it encourages some of your friends to give it a try, to. If I ever were forced into a "you have to give a theme party" corner, you're the first person I'd call!

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    1. Thank you. When someone made that common I reminded everyone that we did a movie afternoon at one of the lady's condo where everyone brought their own fast food lunch and we had just as much fun. I went all out fort his party because I was pretty sure it would be the last party I'll ever have. Maybe again in 10 years but I'll make my nieces plan it. LOL

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