Mardi Gras 2006


it’s that time again!

Mardi Gras Masquerade 2006 is just under 2 weeks away!

Party progress has started at least! I used Evite this time, which ticked me off a bit, so I might be going back to using my own time-intensive RSVP system for my next party, but so far so good. Evite now has a feature where you can export the guest list into Excel, which is nice since it has their names, emails & even their reply comments in a spreadsheet, so I can just extract the emails column to send out follow-up emails later. I also finally got the Mardi Gras 2005 webpage online – finally! Yet another embarrassing & shameful delay, I know, but I was about halfway done with that webpage last year on the Friday after the party – almost a new speed record! – when our webserver crashed hard for several months – waah! By the time we had a new server set up, the momentum was gone since I had moved on to other things, including planning other parties like Year Six at Hogwarts and

Since I was attempting to get my cars finally parked in the garage this weekend (ugh!) I got out the Mardi Gras boxes to take inventory, so I figured I might as well decorate a bit. Beads are draped on everything in the living room, the giant mask is on the wall in front of the sparkly purple backdrop, and the big bowl of beads is set up on a column by my coatrack, which has been made festive as well. I haven’t found a logical place for the entryway draping yet, so I’m not sure I’ll use all that fabric. Once I get the screened patio settled, perhaps I can use the fabric out there…we’ll see…

My costume is the pirate outfit that was almost completed before I switched to Corpse Bride for Halloween, so at least there’s not much left to do for that! I could probably leave the frock coat as-is without the buttons attached and no one would notice, but I never found a hat I liked for sale, so I’m making one. I couldn’t find the fake leather that matched the scraps I used as accents on the coat, so I bought matte black vinyl instead, which should be okay. I cut out the hat pieces Sunday night including the stiff interfacing I already had enough of, so now I just need to sew it together. I have options, since it’s the same basic hat as the Marie Antoinette-style outfit I made, but I’m not sure yet if I’ll turn it into a full tri-corner hat or just leave the back brim down with the front two folded up. I’ve seen some cute pirate hats in that style, and the plumes make it piratey enough, but I’m not sure if my hat will look too much like a leather cowboy hat that way, even with the fancy feathers… ;)

My freezer at the new house is a challenge, since it’s a side-by-side fridge, so my big cookie sheets with the lids don’t fit in my freezer. My mom found some smaller cookie sheets that do fit, but have no lids, so this is more of a challenge to make all the party prep food like the crab puffs, spinach balls, etc. I did make the crab puffs Friday night, with the two sheets on top of each other using a couple plastic lids as tier supports. Since the spinach balls are more dense on the sheets, I’m not sure this same method will work…but I have to buy an onion & stuffing mix still before I can make the spinach balls anyway…doh!

Since I’m celebrating family birthdays this coming holiday weekend, I have to get cookies done this week so there is time for the icing and gold dust painting. I’ve tried to rush the gold before, but you really need the royal icing completely set at least overnight or the brush just digs into the slightly set icing. All the cookies & the spinach balls into the freezer must happen before I leave Friday night, plus getting my hat finished, too! Wish me luck!

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Mardi Gras progress…

Busy busy week! Except for the holiday Monday when I quickly got all the transplants I acquired from my parents’ house in the ground in my own yard (including defeating the nasty huge palm thingy!), my non-work hours have been crammed full of Mardi Gras party prep, so no computer leisure time, and work has been busy enough I haven’t been able to post either!

So, onto Mardi Gras progress…

2 weeks before (see last entry):

  • living room mostly decorated
  • double-batch crab puffs in freezer

    1 week before:

  • 12 dozen spinach balls in freezer
  • pirate hat mostly sewn, just hand-stitching of crown lining to brim left, plus tacking brim into shape to crown
  • webcam broadcast & upload tested – on wifi via AirPort Express – woohoo! Final placement still TBD, since I only have one cam at the moment, but I know people will be hanging out at the food table more than the living room, and I can’t find a spot that can show both on the same cam…we’ll see…
  • recipes transferred to an ancient iMac DV also now on wifi & in the kitchen corner as my new recipe computer! :D
  • ready-made cheese fondue purchased (yummy stuff I’ve had before so I’m not worried about any testing for the fountain)
  • (no chicken skewers or tricolor scrolls this year, since I think I have enough food with the fondue fountain being new)
  • various cracker assortments purchased
  • sliced cheese assortment purchased (in case some people don’t like the fondue flavor)
  • tier trays decorated with new ribbon (vs. wire twisty stuff from previous years)
  • (cookies did NOT get done before the weekend away, but the spinach balls did…best laid plans & all…)

    Week of party – down to the wire!

  • prizes organized by winner and arranged prettily on top of TV
  • 7 dozen mask cookies, iced, decorated & painted with gold
  • 5 dozen fleur-de-lis cookies, iced, decorated & painted with gold
  • shrimp mold setting in fridge
  • purchased Party Swirls thawing in fridge
  • fruit & veggies purchased
  • brie & pastry purchased
  • my costume finally completed (pirate tri-corner hat just finished last night, coat pressed, no buttons, sword scabbard & hilt aged to look infinitely better than the $1.99 play sword it really is!…except that now it looks so much better that I really want to complete it by painting the blade silver…I did buy silver spray paint today, so we’ll see if that gets done!)

    Still to do tonight!

  • make King Cake (trying a bread machine this year for the initial mixing & kneading steps)
  • cut veggies & refrigerate
  • cut sliced cheese into cracker-size slices & refrigerate
  • cut oranges, lemons, limes & kiwi & refrigerate (cut peaches & pears immediately before party time)
  • cut some orange slices for garnish for hurricanes
  • arrange marachino cherries for garnish for hurricanes
  • make up brie in puff pastry
  • ice King Cake
  • if fridge space, set out Party Swirls on leaf lettuce garnish & refrigerate
  • print & cut more ballots

    Day of party!

  • vacuum!
  • get makeup on (glitter!)
  • clean both bathrooms
  • switch webcam index page to live broadcast
  • ~2pm buy ice
  • arrange party swirls on green leaf lettuce garnish
  • arrange cookies
  • get out celery last – arrange veggie tray
  • cut fruit (kiwi, green pears, bosc pears, peaches)
  • arrange fruit tray
  • arrange cheese & crackers
  • arrange buffet/decorate
  • clean up kitchen
  • 2:45 bake brie in pastry 15 minutes @ 425F
  • 3:30 put on costume (wear apron!)

  • cook spinach balls 20-25 minutes @ 325
  • cook 1 set crab puffs 5-10 minutes under broil
  • heat up cheese fondue in microwave, thin if necessary
  • start fondue fountain
  • set out lemonade in spigot jar
  • mix up punch in punch bowl with ice ring
  • set out shrimp mold with crackers

    …then have fun! :)

    Unfortunately my place is still a disaster of disorganization, since I got both cars into the garage the weekend before I went to visit my parents, but the last several boxes hadn’t found a real home yet, so the patios are unusable as I type. Instead of actual final unpacking & organization as I’d like to have done by now, those boxes will be stashed back into the garage, moving a car back into the driveway if necessary, then the patios arranged for party use. This is the largest project for tonight, and might be the reason I have to not sleep at all, especially since on the way home from work today is both a goodbye pint at a pub for a longtime co-worker, then onto a radio station Mardi Gras party in SF for a few hours…I’m a glutton for punishment, I know, but I’m willing to sacrifice sleep for the sake of just about any party…just look at what I do for my own parties! ;)

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    Mardi Gras 2006!

    Overall, another successful party…whew! Almost twice as many people as the smallest-ever 17-guest party last year, since there were 29 of us tonight, which, even though not everyone was there the entire time, was a very comfortable number in this space, which is good to know. People even actually went to sit out on the screened patio for awhile in the early evening – Hooray! I’m still not sure where the best costume photo backdrop will be long-term in this house, but this time the fireplace seemed the easiest backdrop for the costume gallery photos, so we’ll see if I come up with a better idea for Halloween. I surprised even myself that I got the patios not only presentable but usable from their sorry chaotic state last night…AND both cars are still in the garage! Granted, boxes just got shoved in the garage to be out of the way, still waiting to be unpacked properly, but I still have an easy path to the washing machine & even to get to both cars, so that is an accomplishment in itself! ;) I didn’t get to bed until 5:30 Saturday morning, when I had reached the breaking point of diminishing returns so absolutely had to sleep, telemarketers kept calling me throughout the morning (argh!) so I didn’t get solid sleep, then got up at 10:15, not even sitting down again until probably 10 at night! I am looking forward to some rest, but there are still dishes to do tonight, food to put away…and miles to go before I sleep… ;)

    The longest-distance guests arrived about 4:20 as Melanie & I were finishing getting our costumes on. Most of the food had been prepped by 3:30 at least, but it still needed arranging, plus anything that needed the oven was going to wait until people arrived. The fondue was to be heated in the microwave as instructed before loading into the fountain. I had microwaved that ready-made fondue before with no problem, so since the only supposed issues are to have the mixture thinned & smooth enough for the fountain, and I already knew what the consistency should be, I didn’t forsee any more issues than the expensive waste of good fondue would be from doing a test run.

    Don’t believe the instruction booklet that comes with your fondue fountain! I am also not the only one who learned this the hard way. Some friends had also bought one recently and had the same problem with cheese, even though their instruction booklet said the same as mine: chocolate, cheese, BBQ sauce, etc, as long as they have been thinned enough, will work fine. What really happens is no matter how thin it is, since mine was super thin to start, within about 10 minutes it’s chunky & stuck to the fountain because the heating pan isn’t hot enough to keep the cheese melted. Thank goodness I had bought reserve chocolate chips, since one friend kept nagging to use chocolate instead, so when I told her as a “leave me alone” comment that if she wanted chocolate, she would have to do the nightmare of cleaning the cheese off herself, she cleaned it. Now this person is not known for her cleanliness as far as food prep is concerned, so I was a bit worried, plus I was already troubleshooting the webcam, since I had decided to check on it and found it neither saving images nor seeming to broadcast. *sigh* Then when the chocolate was finally melted & she was proclaiming herself the “hero” of the party (*roll eyes*), the fruit was gone in a flash, leaving me cutting more just as I thought I was finally going to be able to sit down myself. I never did sit until chatting with some new arrivals about 10pm, when I finally had a glass of wine and a couple glasses of punch. At least there’s amazingly some brie left this time around so I can enjoy that as leftovers.

    Due to my house payment being much larger than my rent used to be, I was trying to cut back on my food budget, also because the RSVPs seemed to be just barely 20 people, which isn’t as large as my recent parties usually have been. Starting so early in the afternoon & knowing I’d have a second wave in the evening made me very nervous that I’d be running out of food later, so I reserved about half of everything to put out later. When by 6pm, only 2 hours into the official party time, food was already almost gone, I was getting very worried! It was very nice of Galt & Lyle to bring a King Cake of their own! Lyle made his from a boxed mix, and it was not only festive with its colored sugar decor, but also very tasty with praline filling. Mine is an online recipe I found listed as “traditional” but with no special filling. They were both quite tasty in their own right. :) Nice to know the bread machine version was a success. The texture was much smoother from the machine kneading, and even thought I got a little worried it might not have been cooked long enough, it was fine and very tasty & moist without being doughy. 7ish was when the cheese vs. chocolate battle and webcam troubleshooting started, with ended by me being mystified that even after a powercycle the webcam didn’t seem to be broadcasting on my main URL, but the webcam was uploading images okay. I decided to give up & get back to the party since at least it was saving images, but about 11:15pm as the last guests were leaving, a text message came in from Italy to Melanie “go back! I was watching you on the webcam!” so I guess the broadcast must have started working again at some point! Just a quick audit of the saved images while I was shutting down the broadcast looks like I’m only missing webcam captures from 6:20-7:30, so that’s not too bad considering the party was 4pm-11pm or so.

    As for the prizes:
    Who Got Da Baby? Ben (Tracia got the baby from Galt & Lyle’s cake)
    Best Mask: Angie, with her Cirque du Soleil mask that matched her dress AND her hair! ;)
    Most Creative Mask: All-White Ben (All Black Ben was his 2005 costume) (Angie got most votes but was the landslide winner for Best Mask already)
    Best Costume: Tracia & Doug, Flamenco Couple (Buccaneer Britta got most votes but is always disqualified as hostess)
    Most Creative Costume: The Recyclables = Christopher, Lisa & little Xander who came with bubble-wrap & duct tape chain-mail helmets, cheesecloth veil with styrofoam-pellet-strung “flower” headband, and even silver mylar bodice! Absolutely hilarious!
    voting side note: Most Amusing Write-Ins: Ben as Colonel Sanders, and Binty as God…hahah! Ben came in all white clothing, including tie, and even sprayed his hair white, then found a white tall winged feather mask.

    Photos to come tomorrow I hope, but at this point, the dishes are calling me first, especially that chocolate in the fountain…the joys of post-party aftermath… ;)

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    Mardi Gras 2006 gallery

    The gallery photos are now up if you’d like to see…we’ll see when the official Britta Blvd webpage gets finished, seeing that I only got MG2005 online a full year late! ;)

    Hope everyone had a good weekend!

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    Mardi Gras 2006 online at Britta Blvd!

    Not a record, but amazingly a decently-timed update to my official website! ;) I got the Mardi Gras 2006 webpage completed on Wednesday, including the webcam stop-motion movie! I also got the webcam stop-motion done finally for Mardi Gras 2005 last night…whew!

    Of course, there’s still Halloween 2005 to do, let alone both Year Six at Hogwarts AND sadly even Year Five at Hogwarts that are missing from my website…let alone all my travels since about 1998, and a TON of costumes… :P Ah well…

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