Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Baby Shower for Shannon

I'm no Martha Stewart, but I love to entertain. I come from a family of women who also love to entertain and put their own unique stamp on the parties they host. Grandma and her friends hosted theme parties and prepared multiple dishes involving jello and pretzels. In her later years, she was known to make vegetable soup a week or two in advance of her party and then freeze it to be ready for her guests. My mom loves a good party and incorporates flowers from her garden on the tables. Her meatballs in grape jelly and chili sauce are legendary. My Aunt Tina is a master hostess who could probably teach Martha a thing or two about throwing a party. Her food is spectacular and well-presented and she always makes you feel that she's glad you attended, even if you are one of 45 guests.

Anyway, hosting a party makes me feel closer to these women in my family who I love, so I jumped at the chance to host a baby shower for my friend Shannon. Shannon and her husband Mike are expecting a baby boy any week now and I felt that we needed to make her celebration extra special because she's spending most of her pregnancy away from her family.

I enlisted Jennie for help with decorations and pretty much everything else. Her hand-cut, blue and chocolate brown teddy bear banner provided the perfect backdrop for our afternoon high tea. I insisted on cheesy games, but provided prizes to keep the girls interested. In my search for good baby shower games, everyone mentioned the disgusting 'what kind of candy bar is mooshed in the diaper game,' but I refused and opted for the more tasteful nursery rhyme and baby item memory games. It was sophisticated, but still lots of fun.

My favorite part was watching Shannon open the baby gifts. I would have been content to ooh and ah over the sweet baby clothes, books and shoes all afternoon. Little baby James may not have his extended family in Australia, but he'll still feel welcomed and loved by his parents.

Like Shannon and Mike, we are living far away from our families. However, hosting parties inspired by the women in my family makes the distance more bearable. There's something wonderful about maintaining traditions yet creating new ones at the same time.

Australian Open in Melbourne

The way I feel about visiting Melbourne, Australia's art and culture capital, is the same way I feel about visiting New York. I feel like it will always be there, just a short flight away, and thus never feel compelled to see everything in one go. I focus on the food and just enjoy myself.

Our most recent trip to Melbourne (though January is now not so recent) was no exception. We booked a trip months before as soon as we secured tickets to this year's Australian Open. We spent only one day at the tennis last year and enjoyed it enough to seek out two days of tickets in the Rod Laver arena. Mickey scored extraordinarily good seats that kept us out of the sun most of the day. Though the weather was gorgeous over Australia Day weekend, spectators in direct sunlight were baking in their seats.

We had really hoped to see our Swiss hero, Roger Federer, but booking tickets on non-consecutive days (Sunday and then Tuesday) made that impossible. We tried to get tickets to see him play Aussie favorite Lleyton Hewitt in the quarter finals, but those sold out immediately. Still, we were thrilled that we were able to see Nadal, Henin and Murray. Mickey got some great shots of the action, especially when he borrowed Chris' lens.

The tennis wasn't our only cause for celebration while visiting Melbourne. We also celebrated Jess' dirty thirty (thirtieth birthday) in true Melbourne style. She made a booking for 11 of us at Coda, a small plates/tapas style modern Australian restaurant. After being seated in a cozy corner table, we placed ourselves in the capable hands of waitstaff who took us on a "journey" through a remarkable food and wine menu. Their ability to impress us with dish after mouth-watering dish while seamlessly accommodating our annoying dietary allergies earned them a tip. (Further evidence that service in Melbourne is superior to that in Sydney on the whole).

Of course such a glamorous evening could never live up (or should I say down?) to the title of 'dirty thirty' so we capped the night off with an inelegant group singing session at a nearby karaoke bar. While belting out bad pop songs with my friends, I remained blissfully unaware of poor Mickey's raging headache. Perhaps it's a good thing that we don't have blow-out celebrations on our calendar every weekend.

Our trip south also afforded us a great opportunity to visit our friends Kate and Michael. The Wrigleys hosted us for a real Aussie barbecue on our first night in town and it was such a treat. It's a good thing that Melbourne is just a one hour cheap flight away. I'm always keen to return.