Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Rainbow Nerdy Thirty

Earlier this month, I threw a party for my 30th birthday. I had read about someone throwing a 'Nerdy 30' party on one of my favorite sites: Offbeat Home , and I thought it was a fantastic idea. The idea stuck with me even though I was only 27 at the time. (Perhaps I should have started planning a bit earlier, but I had other things on my plate then!)

I wanted it to be a fairly large affair, and also wanted it to be an interesting and engaging event. Since we live so far away from most of our friends, we don't get to see them very often. I felt that if I was going to ask them to drive many many hours to see us, I should at least be sure the party was awesome.

I wanted bright colors displayed in Erlenmeyer flasks, and I thought it might as well be alcohols. I could not decide on an overall color theme, and I ended up thinking I might as well use them all. This piggybacked on the flask display idea and evolved into a party themed around science, rainbows, candy, and booze! I bought a couple small things from ThinkGeek to give away as prizes for best costume as well: A caffeine mug, a Erlenmeyer flask shaped tea infuser, and a book of experiments to do with candy.

There were two wonderful friends who were especially helpful with my party decorating and idea development: Michael and Danielle. Michael was going to have to miss the party but was going to visit us a week beforehand on his way moving out of state. Lord C was able to convince him to stay with us for the intervening week. He was so helpful with the party decorating and idea development. We baked and iced all the cookies together, (there were over 80 flask/beaker/test tube/atom cookies!) and he helped sort all the candies with Lord C and I. He was also the one to bring up Ms. Frizzle when I was discussing costumes. It was like a lightbulb-once mentioned, there was no other option. I just had to go find a few props. I had wanted to make a Ms. Frizzle costume anyway, but I hadn't thought of it for this event--I think I may have dismissed it early on because I had worn my galaxy dress to Toddleworth's two year party and didn't want to wear it again. In the end, I'm glad I did, so I could put these two pictures up side by side:

Michael also helped with a lot of the decorating... namely the table covers and the streamers over the tables. I started with the tiered candy table, and we both thought the tiered look really brought the theme together. For the liquor table, he helped me write out densities of the liqour. While we were doing so, he thought of not only doing the tiered display for the liquor table, but placing the various boozes with the densest on the lowest step and the lightest on top. It was a small change that made everything go together so well!
Danielle helped with the final party prep and decorating. We got all the wall streamers put out, and she blew up about 60 balloons all on her own. She helped me get the candy display all sorted. I didn't have a concrete plan as to what needed to go in what containers, and I didn't want to go buy 20 more pounds of candy, so we just had to make things work with what we had. She came up with blowing up similarly colored balloons inside the Erlenmeyer flasks to take up most of the room, and I'll admit I got unreasonably excited when I had to use science to make it work (you can't blow up a balloon in a container without allowing an outlet for air, so I stuck a straw in beside it until we got it to the proper size). She also drew out molecule shapes on the table covers-a small touch I'd wanted but thought I wouldn't have time for.

I thought the overall effect of the room was wonderful!

 Here are a multitude of shots of the candy table:

These biohazard bags near the TARDIS were the party favor bags, to be filled with cookies and candy from the display. The phone box was there to encourage people to deposit their cell phones if they were being distracted by them. I don't think anyone actually used it, but the only time phones got taken out was when I asked what time it was to see how much longer the cake was going to be.

Here are some of my nieces holding up their experiments at the end of the evening.

I thought rock candy was a must as far a sciency candy goes.

The other selections were smarties, nerds, and sour goo candy (in layers!) as well as homemade fizzy sour candy. They were displayed for easy grabbing in pocket protectors.

Just before five, the start time of the party, I got a text from my friend Amanda who was the maker of the cake that the cake was going to be running late. Naturally, without cake people gravitated towards the experimentation table:

We had mentos and diet coke available to make mini geysers, and we had something I'd been looking forward to trying for quite some time: miracle berry tablets! I figured this party would be the best possible time to experiment with them.

These are made from the miracle berry fruit, and when you let them dissolve in contact with your tastebuds, it transforms sour tastes into sweet. We had a plethora of fruits and veggies to try, everything from strawberries, lemon, lime, to rutabaga, pickled onions, and tabasco sauce. It was a really neat experience to have a straight lemon taste like overly sweetened lemonade. My favorite results were that it made straight citric acid taste like citric acid candy, but it did not make warheads sour candies ANY less sour. It also did NOT make already sweet things sickeningly sweet. This was good news since we were still anxiously awaiting the arrival of the cake.

After having some fun with the miracle berry table, I demonstrated for everyone what was up with the drink table. I explained how we had labeled all of the liquors with their densities, and if you poured gently, you could make a rainbow colored layered drink by starting with the heaviest and working your way up to the lightest liquors. When some of them tried to protest they didn't know which liquors were lighter, we showed how we had taken all of the guesswork out of it by labeling the (approximate) densities/specific gravites and putting them in rough order with the tiered display.
Here is a beauty shot of the table before the booze was put out.
This is the best shot of the table with liquor on it.

One side of the tags had the specific gravity and was labelled with what was in the bottle (I wasn't sure if I was going to try to pour the alcohols out into beakers or leave it in the bottles. ) The other side had suggestions for what they might try to layer the alcohol with. Ideally we listed something it was heavier than and something it was lighter than, that we thought it might taste good with. Michael and I had more fun than we were expecting coming up with drink suggestions!
Here are a couple sample drinks-they all have layers, but some of them are much clearer than others.

And here are a few of the beautiful drinks my beautiful friends made:

 People really seemed to have fun making drinks, and even a few people who don't drink were happy to make a shot for me. (And I had fun making suggestions! Coffee and whipped cream! Something fruity with at least three layers!)

Here are a couple of my nieces enjoying their virgin sunrises. They exclaimed throughout the party how science is awesome. It made me pretty happy!

 I started out by taking pictures of the pretty drinks, then people holding the pretty drinks they had made, and eventually I even realized I should get their FACES in the pictures with the drinks they made. This was actually pretty phenomenal direction of thinking, since I was downing all the intervening shots

It turns out, most layered shots rely heavily on sweet fruit flavored things, which I like! I also like whipped cream flavored vodka, and it made me unreasonably happy that it was very light so floated over most things. The cherry vodka was even lighter, so it would actually be possible to make something with whip cream over it and 'a cherry on top.' The only alcohol I actively disliked was the iris flavored gin we got, because it was light and a light blue color. There aren't many options for blue in light densities, and one of the other ones was $50 a bottle... maybe I'll try that one someday.

The cake was supposed to be there around 6 or 6:30 with the delay.  Around 7 the cake was still not there and I was starting to worry. I'll admit I was feeling pretty great otherwise; having people there I love, who were having fun with my party designs, enjoying my layered drinks idea, and the drinking itself was not hurting my mood. I finally got a call from Amanda and the first words she said were "I swear I'll make this up to you!"
Oh dear.
She went on to explain that the cake had been dropped. The good news was she had the smaller, gluten free and vegan cake I had had her make for Lord C. and was on her way with it. During this conversation it came up that due to some miss-communication, the larger cake was not vegan, so it may all be for the best that it was dropped. I was really looking forward to lots of cake, and to seeing the final product. Since there weren't any pictures, here is what it was supposed to look like:

We managed to give everyone a couple bites of the smaller cake, which was quite delicious, and Amanda stopped long enough to make me a shot before heading back to her hectic schedule that day.
Here is the tiny yet delicious cake.

I felt so great the entire evening. It was wonderful having my friends visit, and even though it ended up being a much smaller party than I had originally intended, I can't imagine any way I could have had a more enjoyable time.
I didn't get any shots of my little bus, but I had a duplo-style school bus covered in space themed stickers attached to my belt for most of the night.

I also got some wonderful presents: Both my mother and one of my staff members gave me some art supplies-canvases and new paints. Even though I had talked with Lord C a couple days prior and told him I did not expect any presents from him, that I knew we'd ended up spending far more than I had originally thought it might cost to design the party I wanted, he still manged to get me this amazing morning glory horn turned pendant light:
 And there is a picture of me illustrating its only downside--our ceiling isn't high enough to hang it properly, so I bang my head on it about every other day.   He also got me a couple nice hats; I love hats!

After I opened my presents, my mom asked me if I felt old. I told her and my other assembled loved ones the truth: I don't feel old at all!  Though it is not without challenges, I'm extremely happy in my life currently. I told them how, just a few days before the party I glanced in the mirror and saw something I had never seen in my face before--new wrinkles that weren't just confined to my furrowed brow. I moved my face around in terror, wondering if I was truly already showing wrinkles, and what they were from. When I discovered the proper expression to create the lines, I couldn't help but deepen them even further--they were smile lines! I truthfully lived most of my life not imagining those would be the first 'signs of aging' I would notice in myself. I made sure to tell my guests that their cause was in great part to having such wonderful friends.

Now the only issue is what to do with all the extra party goods...  Nerdy New Years anyone?

Sunday, May 4, 2014


By Lady Covington

I remember not too long ago, we were so proud that Toddles had strung five words together... "I pour the water out." Now he tells whole paragraphs of stories: "Tha's a wadderhose, an' the water comes out, and aahhh *fakes being knocked over by the water* I falling and the wadder's coming out!"   This week he has suddenly started singing the entire alphabet song, and he has been able to pick out several letters for quite some time. (He also sings most of a couple other songs. A toddler saying "cause 'uo wanna go antiquing" or "Well tech-ic-ey I am, I guess I am" is pretty adorable.) He can count solidly to 12, then he often skips to 14, then 16. He likes to count going up and down steps. He is not too great at counting images on a page, he will point randomly and count way above the proper number.

Socially, he interacts very well with adults and not quite as well with children, which is a shame sometimes. He will walk up to a small child, point to himself, and say "My name is (Toddles!)" I'm working with him on following that up with "What's your name?," because toddler introductions are super cute. He is really great with greeting everyone at work, with a hello or a good morning, and knows all our staff by name. He asks where did (so and so) go? If they have left for the day. If he is there when they are leaving, he says "Goodbye! See ya soon!" or "See you 'morrow!"

He has been good for quite some time about saying please and thank you, but sometimes still needs to be reminded to ask nicely instead of saying 'I want!" We have always been sure to ask him politely for things, and we naturally respond enthusiastically when he asks for something we want to give him. "Can I have more mushrooms?" "OF COURSE you can have more mushrooms!"  This leads to him responding the same way to us, which is just wonderful. "Toddles, can you please pick up that piece of trash?" "OF COURSE I can!"

Friday, May 2, 2014

In Absentia Pt 3: Health

By Lady Covington

As a flipside to our sickness post, I'd like to talk about how this latest separation issue has affected our recent lifestyle changes. I'll start by linking this post which we *should* have posted back in February, but actually only got posted since our return. It is interesting how fast my feelings about things have changed.

I think I have been doing pretty well. My consumption of bread products/gluteny things has definitely increased slightly, but I have still been keeping my calories more or less in check. During the first few weeks, I got an extremely early start and had incredably full days. I was uncertain about how I'd do when the management role fell first to me, so I spent a lot of time making sure everything was perfectly in order and I knew where things were. This led to me not taking any real breaks until my day was basically over,  so my day would be not eating breakfast, eating lunch around four or 5 pm, when I finally called it 'quits'-ish, then snacking on high calorie foods I wouldn't normally be able to fit in with all my extra calorie allotment. 500 calories of Gardein orange chicken, then two slices of cake? Why yes, yes I will.

Oh, the deliciousness!