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Keep Calm and Graduate

Are you hungry? Thirsty? Need to use the loo? Take care of all of that now because this post is a long one and you will want to be comfortable – you’re going to be here a while.

Let me be completely honest and say right up front that I did not want to throw a graduation party for Hannah. I know, right? I just thought, well, we did a big one for high school. And we had that big party for Dale’s 60th. And I thought it might be greedy to expect people to show up again and give my kid a present.


Her two dads talked me into it. Yes indeed, Dale and Rick insisted that we do it. And I’m really really glad they did.

The first thing I always decide on, when planning a party, is the theme. It’s so important and – here’s the real reason I do it – it makes everything else so easy. Get yourself a theme and the rest – thanks in part to Pinterest – just falls into place.

I don’t think I’ve told you all this but Hannah is going to Oxford to take classes for the month of July. Yes. That Oxford. (insert moment of utter pride, complete amazement, and sheer terror from mom). So, what better theme for her college graduation party than that of a British Pub.

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I started by choosing a blue and white striped tent. We had brown table cloths (to look like wood) and we borrowed a bar. I bought garlands of Union Jack flags and we strung those across the tent.

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For centerpieces I got geraniums and put an American and British flag into each pot. Simple. And now they can be planted in my yard. (You can see the bar and the barrels in the background of this photo.)

Of course, what’s a British pub without a proper British pub menu? We had hors d’oeuvres of ploughman’s lunch on each table and we passed individual fish and chip cups, cucumber lollipops and my old standby for any party – pigs in a blanket. The main course was shepherd’s pie, pancetta mac ‘n cheese, cole slaw, rolls and butter.

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Props and details abounded in our yard.

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Props like these English party crackers. There are lots of photos (I didn’t share them all with you, don’t panic) of people wearing their paper crowns on their heads as they enjoyed the afternoon, playing games, talking, laughing, and eating.

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We made a mind the gap rug for in front of the port-a-john.

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And we decorated the inside of the port-a-john with a very appropriate poster. And some reading material, just in case.

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We had paper straws and little framed signs encouraging people to use Hannah’s hashtag for the day.

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Hannah’s friend Joe made this awesome Beer Garden sign to lead the way to the bathtub full of beer.


We pulled out our bikes and decorated them for the occasion.


And we had a beautiful cake made by my very talented friend, Caroline of Buttercup’s Bakery. 3 layers of white cake but each with a different filling – the top was chocolate ganache, the middle was raspberry and the bottom was lemon curd. It was as delicious as it was beautiful!


Jo-Ann helped me turn 70+ little red bags into red phone booths filled with candy.


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The pièce de résistance was the life size red telephone box that Dale built. It was fantastic and so much fun – just about everyone got their picture taken in it, I think.

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Hannah’s high school friends loved it.

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And Hannah’s Uncle Barry and Auntie Jen did, too. They joined with others and wrote “graffitti” on the wall and that back board is now in Hannah’s room as a rather large guest book.

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What’s a party without music, right? My friend Tom set up his speakers for a playlist but the real surprise of the day was that we hired a local band called Four in a Row to play a few sets. They do a lot of Beatles music so they went with our theme perfectly.

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They posed with the phone booth, too.

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And with Hannah.

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And around the back side under the Sgt Pepper album cover. Could they be any cuter?

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Hannah had a wonderful day. She must have thanked us a gazillion times. She got some very thoughtful gifts, a lot of cash, some English pounds, and enough well wishes and congratulations to last a life time.

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As for Dale and Rick and I? We are incredibly proud, understandably grateful, and truly humbled at the friends and family who came to this party to celebrate Hannah’s accomplishment. They say it takes a village and we are so amazed by the people in Hannah’s village.


This Post Has 28 Comments

  1. It was the perfect celebration to mark Hannah’s great accomplishment! Great job, Mom!

  2. Oh, Carole!!!! What a perfect, perfect party!!! (If you ever decide you’re finished at the library, you could start a stunning career as an event planner.) (Just sayin.) Every detail is just . . . perfect. (And Dale’s phone booth? So.Much.Awesome.) What a GRAND celebration for Hannah! XO

  3. My first thought was WOW! Hannah’s smile says it all! I love the phone booth idea and the family picture! Thanks for sharing.

  4. You are truly amazing at this stuff! Congrats to Hannah. Oxford is an amazingly beautiful little city. She’ll love it there.

  5. Oh, I say, well done! You should put aside some of the British gear for Hannah’s send-off and welcome home this summer.

    Our daughter had a forensic anthropology summer course in London, and it was a fab opportunity because the senior (medical) staff there don’t leave in July, but teach on until August. Hope Hannah’s course is equally great.

  6. You are a fantastic party planner and you had so much to celebrate. Your girlie is amazing and has so many accomplishments already! You’re a great mom and the party just shows the importance of community in ones life. Congratulations to Hannah and may her summer be fun and full of grand memories!

  7. What an amazing party! It’s evident that your planning must have taken quite a bit of time and effort to throw a party that wonderful, but more importantly, it’s evidence of your love and pride for Hannah and her accomplishments. Mutt’s nuts! (my British neighbor says this when she means “excellent”)

  8. Kym stole my comment–you could definitely have a career as a party/event planner! What a bash! The decor, the food, and the decorations–all spot on! And going to Oxford–way to roll, Hannah!

  9. What a wonderful, wonderful party! Congratulations to all of you and good luck to Hannah at Oxford. Are you going to go visit during the month she’s there?

  10. oh my goodness, what a FABULOUS party!! and geez, I teared up AGAIN reading about Hannah and her summer plans. Wowza! You and her two dads have so much to be proud of! (are you planning a little trip to England, too?)

  11. What an amazing party to celebrate Hannah. I started freaking out when you nonchalantly mentioned the tent and then just got more and more astounded at all the fantastic and creative things you did. Wow. I’m blown away.

  12. “Mind the gap.” LOL, literally. How could you not gather all those people who helped Hannah get this far to remind her they are still behind her as she starts a new phase of life? I have to say, glad you don’t live near me, your party giving skills would shame me. Well done!

  13. You DO go all out – thirding the other comments that you could be a party planner deluxe. And Oxford – wow!!!! It’s beautiful in the summer.

  14. Well add party planner to your list of skills. Wow – Dale did a great job on that phone booth! It looks like Hannah had a fun time.

  15. What a lovely party! Congratulations to you for pulling off another amazing shindig and to Hannah on her academic achievements!

  16. A job, studying at Oxford… Hannah sure is impressive!! She truly gives us all hope for the next generation. She has certainly graduated with a bang! Congratulations, Hannah!!

  17. FABULOUS!! I could certainly learn a thing or two from you when it comes to party planning! Congratulations to Hannah and the best to her during her time in London.

  18. You throw the greatest parties! Congrats to Hannah, I hope she has a great time at Oxford.

  19. So much fun! And that red phone booth is the hit of the party. Wouldn’t we all love to have one of those at our next get togethers

  20. Wow…you are the BEST party planner!! You should do that on the side. I just hired someone for my Dad’s 80th.

    Congratulations Hannah and I’m so excited that you are going to get a chance to visit the UK!!

  21. Well, that was just lovely! Being British, despite living in Australia it was fantastic. I loved the phone box, what a great idea and well done to Dale. It truly does take a village, of all shapes and sizes.
    You can rightly send Hannah off with a blast now on her travels. She will adore Oxford, the buildings are stunning.

  22. WOW, Carole – Hannah’s party has left me completely speechless (which rarely happens!)! You certainly do know how to throw a magnificent party – and you make it all look so easy! I see a new career in your future…someday, maybe??? Congratulations to your beautiful and brilliant daughter – she’ll be a wonderful teacher who will certainly make a difference in the lives of all she touches! You all have so much to be proud of…good luck to Hannah as she crosses the big pond for a fabulous summer – what a great opportunity!

  23. What a great party!! I have to have a theme for a party, too; it’s so much more fun that way!

    Good luck to Hannah! If she’s anything like my girls, July ’15 will not the last time she visits the UK.

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