Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tena's Bridal Shower and Bachelorette Weekend in Chicago

Wow...that's really all I can say about this past!  I left early Thursday morning to drive to Fairfield to start getting things ready for my dear friend Tena's wedding shower.  Her friend Tracy, our mutual friend Suzanne, and I are bridesmaids for her wedding in October (or, in my case, bridesMAN!!).

Along with our other mutual friend Gay, we've all been communicating on a private Facebook page for the last five months to plan, organize, and share details and ideas.  We got a lot accomplished in that forum, but it was SO GREAT to finally be together, IN PERSON, to pull it all together.

What an amazing group of people to work with to throw a shower for an equally amazing friend...

I've "peripherally" known Tracy, through Tena, for years, and had even met her once, briefly, a long, long time ago.  I got to know her through our Facebook conversations, and, once we actually met face to face, were instant "fast friends".  She is delightful, and giving, and kind, and fun, and most of what we did, and planned, and carried out was because of her.

I've known Suzanne for years, but she and her family left Fairfield awhile back, so I haven't had the chance to see her for more than a few minutes, here and there, for years.  During this past weekend, we REALLY had a chance to reconnect, and she and I spent a GREAT DEAL of delightful time together.

Gay opened her house to the three of us for all of the food preparation, and storage of stuff for the shower.  She is a wonderful, giving person, and we couldn't have done all that we did without her help.

Rounding out our "band of conspirators" was Tom, Gay's neighbor, and again, someone I "sort of" knew, but, through all of the shenanigans of the weekend, got to know (and appreciate!) better.

I got to Fairfield around noon, checked into the B&B (Seven Roses Inn which I HIGHLY recommend), then headed to Doc's Inn Cafe to meet Tena and Tracy for lunch.  We had a GREAT time "catching up" (and, in Tracy's and my case, meeting face to face), then headed to Gay's to start putting stuff together.

Tena and her groom, Andrew, have a favorite cocktail from the UK called Pimm's's Pimm's liquor, with ginger ale, or Sprite, and is garnished with cucumber slices, strawberries, mint, and orange slices.  I had found a recipe for Pimm's cupcakes on a British website, and, after MUCH tedious conversion of ingredients from metric to US measurements, started putting them together.

It's always interesting cooking in someone else's kitchen, and, after much searching, experimentation, and having ingredients flying EVERYWHERE, got them put together.  I had made a practice batch here in the cities, which was a slight DISASTER, but, refined my technique (not necessarily in the "putting them together" part, as evidenced by this photo), and made a batch of SOMEWHAT appetizing looking cupcakes (never mind the fact that I had two trays of mini cupcakes scooped and ready for the oven before realizing that I'd forgotten to add the Pimm's to the batter...).

After the cupcakes were baked, we put together the butter cream.  The recipe calls for FOUR different flavors, piped together onto each cupcake.  We did a PRETTY GOOD JOB with them, although everyone looked at me rather questioningly as we were making the cucumber butter cream.

After the cupcakes, we started prepping fruit, and pork chops, and pound cake.  The theme for the food was "Iowa State Fair", so we served everything on skewers, sticks, forks, and toothpicks.  In addition to the cupcakes, we had cheesecake bites, pork on a fork, rainbow fruit skewers, strawberry shortcake bites, and mini corn dogs...PERFECT!!!

Later that evening, after we'd hidden all evidence of what we were putting together, Tena and Andrew came over for Gay's FAMOUS sangria, and a game of Cards Against Humanity, a HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE "not politically correct" card game.  We had a great time just "hanging out"!

Eventually, I headed back to the B&B, and collapsed into the bed in my charming, storybook inspired room.

Friday, I headed out for a REALLY early haircut at my friend Jeannie's salon.  It was GREAT to get in to see her, because she's REALLY the only one who knows how to cut my hair the way I like it cut.  She did an AWESOME job, and it was great to catch up.

After my haircut, I met "the gang" at the McIlhenny House, where we were hosting the shower.  The surprise theme for the shower was "The Sound of Music" (Tena is NUTS about "The Sound of Music", and Julie Andrews, and has played the role of Maria on stage).

We decorated the tables with items from the song "My Favorite Things" (raindrops on roses, and kittens, and warm woolen mittens...), practiced a version of "Tena's Favorite Things" for which I rewrote the lyrics to be HER favorite things, then headed back to Gay's to finish preparing the food.

We then went back to the McIlhenny House to prepare and plate the food, and then hosted the shower.  Never one to turn down an opportunity to "dress up", I wore lederhosen in honor of the theme. 

Earlier, I had downloaded the "Sound of Music" soundtrack.  When Tena arrived, I blasted "The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music" for her grand entrance.  She was TOTALLY surprised by the theme, but, being the fabulous theatrical delight that she is, did a lovely spin for the crowd...AWESOME!!!

We ate, drank, sang for her, talked, and then spent the last half of the shower having Tena open her many, many gifts (brown paper packages tied up with string, of course!).  Everyone had a great time, and it was WONDERFUL to be able to honor our dear friend!!!!!!!!

After the shower, several people pitched in to help clean up, and we all went back to our respective "places to stay" and COLLAPSED!!  I don't think I've EVER been so tired in my life!!!

Although the shower was now over, the weekend DEFINITELY wasn't!  The next morning, I had a lovely breakfast at the B&B, then met a group of twelve people at Andrew's to embark on "Tena's Bachelorette Weekend in Chicago"!!!

We carpooled to Galesburg, Illinois, caught an Amtrak Train, and rode in style to the Windy City.  Tena, always the thoughtful one, had presents for all of us, at the train station, and when we got to the hotel.

After checking in, we went to Tena's room and played the "Tena Trivia" game (categories that highlighted various aspects of Tena's and Andrew's lives, including "The Brit", "On Stage", and "Skeletons"...the latter of which most of us chose when given the opportunity!!!).  We sipped beverages in mason jar glasses that Tena gave to each of us, then got ready, and headed to "Howl at the Moon".

"Howl at the Moon" is a dueling piano bar, with a small dance floor.  We arrived at 6:00, and the place was EMPTY...which was GREAT, because, by the time we left at 9:30, the place was packed with "twenty somethings", and we had a difficult time just getting out the door to leave.

What can I say about "Howl at the Moon" was REALLY, REALLY fun (especially earlier in the evening), and the dueling pianists were REALLY, REALLY good!  Tena was the MOST BEAUTIFUL "bride to be" out of ANY of the bridal parties that were there to celebrate, and, not surprisingly, our group was the most animated, and most fun!!!  I actually got out and danced a few times with Tracy...

...and, except for the random woman running her fingers through my hair, we made it through the evening without harm...LOL!!!!

We got back to the hotel around 10:00, and Tracy, Tom, Suzanne, and I (who were sharing a room we dubbed "the calm oasis") spent a little time decompressing before heading to the lobby to meet everyone for another game of Cards Against Humanity.  Playing this game in a crowded lobby was probably NOT the smartest decision, but people were MOSTLY quiet with their answers, and HOPEFULLY we did not attract too much attention (yeah right...!).

I finally went upstairs to bed around midnight, and, after a "not so restful night", woke up early the next morning. Several of us headed to the lobby for coffee...and eventually EVERYONE regrouped for a walk to "The Bear and Boar" for brunch.

None of us was operating at "a hundred percent", but we had a nice, mellow brunch (I had a savory and a sweet house made pop sausage, egg, and cheese, and one pear, merlot, and Swiss cheese...YUM!).

After brunch, we headed to Millenium Park to take a "group photo" (and a hundred OTHER photos) at "the bean"...

...then went to the train station, and journeyed back to Fairfield.

Most people left at that point to continue their journeys home, but Tena, Andrew, Tracy, and I had takeout Italian from Ila, then christened the new fire pit they had built in the back yard.  After the craziness of the past few days, a glass of wine and a quiet fire were the PERFECT way to end the weekend.

It was a REALLY crazy, hectic weekend, but so INCREDIBLY fun, and Tena was at the center of it all, which was as it should be!!!

Here's hoping YOU were able to reconnect with friends recently too, and that YOU were also part of something REALLY, REALLY special!!!!!