Tuesday, June 30, 2009

40th anniversary

The reason for our trip to France was to celebrate my parents' 40th anniversary. I'm posting a recap from my mother for your enjoyment.

June 6, 2009

I’d like to thank those who shared their photos with me or used my own camera for me during our anniversary party so that I can have a wonderful pictorial memory. Unfortunately, we only got photos of half the crew working; we don’t seem to have anything showing the hard work Diana and Chip ended up doing, which is too bad as the driveway looked really nice.

Although the day started out beautiful, thunderstorms were called for all day, which was distressing for trying to prepare and decorate. We did get just one small storm in the late afternoon, but the rest of the evening stayed completely dry.

One of the first things we did was move our tables around. Romea, the cat, has a habit of sleeping under a particular table, and she wasn’t perturbed in the slightest when her table got moved. She simply rode the whole way up. Here you can see 14-year old Alex moving the table with his Papy Craig, while his mother Sandi is trying to decorate the gazebo.

Our colors were ruby for the American 40th (apparently the French use emerald) and turquoise, as that’s been our main color since our actual wedding (my favorite color, of course). The girls brought over red tulle and some turquoise "40" items (napkins, plates, and metallic decorations. Sandi, Diana, and Alex got quite creative trying to fulfill their decorating ideas. Our previous neighbors from Paris came early to visit with the kids, but as the weather had put us behind, they very artistically helped us to decorate our food tent. They did a fantastic job!

We’d managed to make our party clothes match our 25th anniversary colors really nicely, so we tried to recreate that effect this time. What we came up with wasn’t exactly what I’d had in mind, but I couldn’t find what I had in mind, so we did the best we could. I designed my own outfit, and Craig got a new shirt out of the deal. He also got a new red item to wear for every red occasion (Christmas, for example) to replace the red socks he’s previously worn. It was time to replace them with something else to make the kids groan in future photos.

We started the party with a new cooler for cold water and a red punch for those who didn’t want wine. Several guests brought flowers.

We took a gastronomic tour of four Mediterranean countries. I set up a table with cookbooks and artifacts from each of those countries. For the centerpiece, I used the wine bottle we’d been given and then served at our 25th, which we’ve since turned into a lamp.

As our property is on multiple levels, with each level not being very large, it was often easier to take pictures from up above. The first picture really shows our party tent. To prevent it being too cramped for the 40 guests we were having, I made a canopy with the end flap, thus opening up the end without just exposing everything. I rigged up an umbrella to cover the beverage table and yet keep it out of the way. We set up a reception/gift table in the passageway behind the house from one side yard to the other, using an old drape for a table cover (just happened to be the right color!) and Diana hooked up old curtains for a backdrop. I think the ambiance was pretty classy for such an unclassy area!

Not only is the primary seating area not all that big, but there’s a 300 year old olive tree right smack in the middle of it. I’ve never been able to get grass to grow there, so last year I put down patio blocks. We managed to fit everybody in, just barely! You can see the effect of the Proven├žal tablecloths. We borrowed tables and chairs from the town hall, and a friend loaned us her party dishes and silverware, avoiding the need for plastic and paper products. You can see the main seating area from the upper level, which leads to the gazebo.

I could seat everybody below except our family, so we just created a special area for us. A bit strange, but you do what you have to do. As we’d run out of tablecloths and dishes used below, we ended up capitalizing on the red and turquoise theme here and used our own dishes. This was all actually set up by the kids, so I didn’t even see it until I sat down to eat. Didn’t they do a really classy job?

This the best I ended up with of my sister and me. She came all the way from CA, this is the first time she’s been able to visit me, so I hope she felt like the end result of our party was worth it. I know she had a great vacation trip otherwise, and the weather was ideal her whole visit.

Ambiance photos: These represent how blessed I am to have had so many friends able to come share our special event. The number I had was quite hectic enough, but there were probably double that number who weren’t able to come. Most of these new friends down here are French, as we haven’t gotten involved with expat groups like we did in Paris. I discovered is that somehow it’s a whole lot easier throwing a large party in a rented hall with lots of space than it is at your own home if said home only contains lots of little spaces. It doesn’t look like anybody minded that, though.

As the theme of the party was foods from multiple countries, I created a complete menu for each one, from soup to nuts (actually, from aperitifs to dessert). We decorated the serving area into four sections with the appropriate colors, and an artistic friend made me some beautiful menu boards. I’ve been to three of the countries represented, so I had some clue as to what was authentic. Many guests brought a dish, having been told exactly what I wanted. I asked for each dish to serve about ten. I think they felt they needed to feed an army single-handedly. We certainly had no fear of running out of anything to eat! A Moroccan friend offered to provide the entire menu for her country, which was the one I hadn’t ever been to personally. Whatever you see is just one course being served at that moment!

Despite not having been together for three years, this is going to be the best family photo we ended up with on this visit. It’s actually quite nice of everybody, just not what one would typically frame up for posterity. Oh, well, my family all prefers candid stuff anyway. This completely represents what we Fearings have created in 40 years. It’s been a good life.

Although I found the main seating area really pretty by day, I think it’s just beautiful by night. I’ve never seen it look like this before (all my dinner parties have been during the day, even in this area). This type of evening is what I envisioned having when we first bought this house seven years ago, but it’s taken this long to actually achieve the dream.

One of the things we did at our 25th anniversary party was to present a large gift bottle of wine and personally serve it with the cheese course. As we also had another large gift bottle (even already red-ribboned) this time around, we thought we’d continue the tradition.

I think the reception area looked really pretty at night. We had some family-through-the-years photos, plus our original wedding pictures and old anniversary photos from back when I used to pose in my wedding dress each year (for the first 30 years). The French seemed to have really gotten a kick out of looking through everything.

This is one of our largest olive trees lighted up for the first time. We definitely plan permanent uplights when we get the area more refined!

When one has a party for oneself, one has to pose. So I made a token cake for a centerpiece, then we did the wedding tradition of cutting the cake and serving it and the champagne toast to each other. It’s a romantic thing at a wedding, it’s a riot forty years later! But the whole idea was to have fun with all our friends, and I think we managed to pull that off. Both the flowers on the cake and the one in my hair came from my own garden, while the 40 topper is leftover scraps from our party clothes.

The next day, we finally had a moment to appreciate the various gifts we’d gotten. They included several flower bouquets, a couple potted plants, special wine and champagne, various miscellaneous items, money from my family for a tree for our property, and our first iPods each from our kids (mine is even turquoise). We were very touched to be so remembered.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little recap of a wonderful event. Perhaps you’ll be able to join us in ten years when we celebrate the big 5-0. Gold will abound!

Barbara & Craig