28 July, 2014  |   7 Comments

Nora Lea’s Lego Birthday Party

Our shining enigma turned six this summer.
To celebrate, we threw a Lego themed birthday party.

Nora Lea's Lego Party

Two days before the party, Nora complained of a tummy ache.
No problem! We agreed she would be fine by her party!

When she was still sleeping 30 minutes after the first guests arrived, we realized she was definitely not fine yet.

But the party is strong with that one, so she pulled it together and sat quietly while her friends bopped around and played hard.

We played “Guess how many Legos are in the jar!”
(There were 88. We realized Nora had the right answer because of an eavesdropping sister.)

Nora Lea's Lego Party

We made a Lego bean bag toss board — I’ll show you how we made it later this week. It was super easy and it occupied the children for at least 15 minutes.

Nora Lea's Lego Party

More than one child was disappointed in the contents of our goodie bags. (Lego eraser, a small notebook and a pack of Lego man shaped crayons.)

I crossed my arms and said smugly, “When I was a child we did not have goodie bags.

Nora Lea's Lego Party

Our friend Melissa made this amazing cake. Before serving, we covered the cake in industrious Lego people that we then removed before serving and are humans weird or what?

Nora Lea's Lego Party

James crafted the utensil holder from Legos. He is my favorite.

Nora Lea's Lego Party

Little girls picnicked on macaroni and cheese and hot dogs. They spent most of the party sitting on a blanket and talking about presents.

Nora Lea's Lego Party

We had lots of Legos laying about for grownups and kids to build together.

Nora Lea's Lego Party

Let’s all build together.

Happy birthday my Nora Lea.

25 February, 2013  |   Comment

Joanie Loves Bocce Cocktail Book

Every year, my bocce team, Joanie Loves Bocce, descends upon the local pizza joint for an awards ceremony. We did it last year, and everyone got a song for their award, shared on a shiny compact disc.

Appetite for Destruction Award

Jessica's RhubarberellaThis year, everyone got their own specialty cocktail wrapped up in a little cocktail book.
The coolest part? You can check it out too.

Check out the Joanie Loves Bocce awards ceremony cocktail book here — or click on the sample page below this sentence.

(You could use a little Harvey Wallbanger in your life, I can tell)

11 December, 2012  |   6 Comments

Dottie’s cupcake decorating third birthday party.

Dottie turned three!

My children, they are different.
One child, started planning her next birthday party last month. Her birthday is in July.
The other, just wanted the exact same party she had last year.

Dottie turned three!

Dottie has a more intimate soul.
She loves the routine.
And we love her for it.

Dottie turned three!

Here’s the catch, the next night, we would be hosting our annual Hearn Holiday Cocktail Party.
It’s a doozy of a grown-up party.
And it’s our holiday kick-off.

Dottie turned three!

Plus, both James and I had various business trips that week, resulting in neither one of us being there full-time.
We did a little every day and were ready with time to spare.

Dottie turned three!

Music plan, order balloons, grocery store, food plan, scheduling.
Grocery list: Dough, cheese, sauce, drink fixins.
(I froze the dough.)

Dottie turned three!

Make frosting.

Dottie turned three!

Make cupcakes. Set aside.

Dottie turned three!,

Put cheese, sauce, pepperoni, sausage, in plastic wrap covered bowls.
Defrost the dough.

Party day! Pick up ballons, give the house a once-over, make the salad,
Buy last minute toppings like mushrooms and basil. Also, ice.

Dottie turned three!

When we picked up the girls from preschool on Thursday, we walked home carrying all the balloons. Dottie wore her birthday crown proudly and told everyone, “It’s my BIRFDAY today!” And if you couldn’t smile at that, you must have some very hard things going on in your life.

Birthday girling.

We put the frosting in plastic bags for squirting, and then we put the sprinkles and such out on the trays.
(Just like last year.)

Everyone could take a few home in these cupcake boxes — but truthfully, nearly everyone I know isn’t eating cupcakes right now. I’m okay with that.

Dottie turned three!

Happy Birthday Dottie, you make us laugh every single day.

12 November, 2012  |   1 Comment

Slow Cooker Posole Recipe – Party on the Porch.

A few months ago we hosted a big old Cheers! St. Helena shindig on the porch.


For the most part, I followed the timeline in my How to Throw a Porch Party (when you’re dang busy) post, but some things caused good-time changes.

I ran out of time to make a playlist, so we ended up using an 8tracks.com playlist. Those playlists are made by people much more musically savvy than I am. A Pandora station made of music from Celso Pina would also have set the mood fiestively.

Closing Time
We ran out of booze on purpose. The party got happy – meaning, it ran late and was in danger of waking the children. (Won’t anyone think of the children?)

We live near several firefighters, police officers and general upstanding people of the community, and I’d love to stay in their good graces. Running out of booze is an easily forgivable way to gently get your guests on their way home. Good night!

I didn’t take photos of the table, of the foods and the guests.
I was having too much fun.
And I know, I know, in this modern age, if you’re not ignoring your guests while you document ALL THE FUN you’re having (ahem), the party never happened.

Trust me, it was good.
There was a leopard, fireworks and leg wrestling.
(Just kidding about the leg wrestling.)

But on to the food.

Pork Posole

Posole is a near perfect party food.
It’s cheap to make, is slow cooker friendly, and infinitely customizable.
Gluten-free! Dairy-free! Cheers!

Helen Jane’s Green Posole Recipe

(adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)

3 pounds pork shoulder — could be bone-in at 4-5lbs, or boneless at 3 pounds, cut into 1-2 inch chunks
Vegetable oil for browning
2 large onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound tomatillos, peeled, washed and cut into quarters
3 medium jalapeños, stemmed, scraped and chopped
1/2 small onion, choped
1/2 cup water
2 bunches (5 cups?) fresh cilantro leaves and stems
3 (15 ounce) cans white hominy, drained and rinsed

Posole fixins
Lime wedges
Corn tortillas
Hot sauce

Salt and pepper the pork pieces thoroughly. If you’re cooking in the oven, preheat oven to 300°F. If you’re using a slow cooker, well, I’m not sure you’re supposed to do this, but I preheat my slow cooker. I’m planning to cook it here for 8 hours on low — so it’s preheated on low.

Heat vegetable oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat until shimmery. Add onions. Add a dash of salt. Sauté for a good 4 minutes. Add garlic. Stir through for another 30 seconds. Add pork and brown for about 8 minutes while stirring every 2-3 minutes.

Add the oregano, chicken stock and 1/2 teaspoon salt, scrape and stir until all is heated through and bubbly. Put this mixture into a slow cooker or put a lid on the pan and stick into a preheated 300° oven.

In a blender or food processor or blender, drop in the tomatillos, jalapeños and onions along with a 1/2 cup of water. Let it go until smooth. Enter the cilantro leaves, pulse until well chopped.

If you’re using the oven, take the pork out in 2 hours.
If you’re using a slow cooker, check in 30 minutes before you’re serving.

Stir the hominy through the pork mixture. Shred the pork with two forks until its bite-sized, tender, stringiness is the right size for your mouth. Stir the green mixture through the pork and hominy mixture. In the pot? Serve about 15 minutes later. In the slow cooker? Do the same.

Serve with a ladle into big individual bowls.
Set out all the fixins, so guests can customize your bowl.

(We serve this with guacamole, chips and corn salad.)

27 August, 2012  |   5 Comments

Harvest Stomp!

We hired a babysitter, secured transportation, and, thanks to the generosity of Trinchero Family Estates, James and I attended the 2012 Harvest Stomp party at Trefethen Vineyards.


Although, lately, I’ve been writing all my moony internet-thinks here, I really do love parties. Even better, I like to squeeze what I can from professional events for entertaining people at my house (win! no babysitter fees!).

Party homework.

It started at the drop-off when horse-pulled wagons delivered us from our vehicle to the front gate. Ratcheting up the anticipation, the wagons helped us mingle with other partygoers.

Learning: Make the welcome memorable. Put your guests at ease.

On the ride in

Cleared out under a giant walnut tree in the vineyard, it was so refreshing to see all of the tables adorably mismatched. Of course it was on purpose, styled and laid out by professionals, but it helped add to a homey feel.

Learning: I don’t need to freak out about everything matching. If I like it, it probably goes together.


Liz poured her family’s tasty Marston Family Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc.

Learning: The most enjoyable wines come with a good story (preferably from good people). Maximize that investment by learning something interesting about your wine.

Laughing Liz

The biggest Paella pan I ever did see served up some tasty Paella.

Learning: I’ve never made Paella. I need to get on that. Maybe we’ll try it for next week’s porch party?

Big old Paella


Learning: Oysters are almost always a good idea (really, does there need to be another learning?). Also, Hog Island’s shuckers were devoted indeed. Injured shuckers!

Devoted Shucker

I ate an Octopus Taco and it was delicious.

Learning: Pickled veggies can take my taco to a new place. Unusual proteins also improve the taco bar significantly. Ground beef who? I’m tackling seafoods and beans next.

Octopus taco

Amazing shirts and western wear were everywhere at this party, giving people easy conversational starters.

Learning: Dress themes can help your guests mingle. Bonus points if it’s general enough for interpretation.

Fave shirt

Oh hey! It’s my favorite birthday wine, Arrow and Branch poured by their lovely proprietress Seanne Contursi.

Learning: I should probably moisturize more thoroughly.

Arrow and Branch

Tony was our host for the evening, he took care of our transportation, a special wine for the table and all practical decisions.

Learning: When it comes to friends, I can always increase my level of generosity. Really.

North end

Food trucks rallied to make all the food for the event — all was distributed on several buffet tables. Lamb, chicken, greens, it all came together for some hearty belly-filling food for the auction ahead.

Learning: Buying pre-made foods isn’t cheating. It’s efficiency.


Thanks Tony for an amazing evening — we’re lucky to have a friend like you.