Yikes! I can't believe it's almost the middle of May and this is my first post of the month. It's been a busy month for us, highlighted by our oldest son's college graduation. Big broke the news last summer that he wouldn't be able to graduate in December as he'd originally planned unless he took a 22-hour course load this past fall. That didn't really seem feasible, especially considering most all of his classroom hours are matched by hours in labs.
So way back in February, I began to scheme on the best way to celebrate this milestone. I wanted our plan to celebrate Big while accommodating the comfort of older grandparents with mobility issues and friends and family members, including siblings, who just wanted to hang out and have fun. I thought renting a lake house might be just the ticket. Thankfully, the Mister agreed, Big liked the idea, and the grandparents were game, too.
I searched the VRBO website for lakefront rentals near Clemson University, sleeping 12, and came up with this beautiful house on Lake Keowee. Although this view shows lots of steps down to the lake, the selling point was that the house had two master suites only one step up from the driveway. Part of the Cliffs Keowee Vineyard neighborhood, the house sits on a small cove with a stunning lake view.
I spent a good amount of nonworking time planning our meals and a few fun surprises for the weekend. Everyone planned to arrive Thursday evening, the graduation itself was Friday, leaving all day Saturday to relax before heading to our respective homes on Sunday morning.
In case you're wondering, I needed eight meals for at least 12 adults. The closest grocery store is not close. I took a page from the Boy Scout Handbook and decided I'd best Be Prepared!
I wanted the weekend to be festive and celebratory in spirit. School spirit calls for Clemson orange, of course. It is amazing how much
I started with grocery store flowers from Publix and the Fresh Market. The selection was especially good, probably because of Mother's Day.
Middle, our younger son, and himself a rising sophomore at Clemson, went to the lake with me about two hours ahead of everyone else, giving me enough time (and muscle) to load in groceries, set up tables, start dinner, and even assemble gift bags. Thanks, Middle! Meanwhile, Big stayed at home to welcome grandparents and to pick up Little and bakery treats. Thanks, Big!
I should've waited until the table was completely set before taking photos, but the clock was ticking!
Middle helped me put together gift bags with sunscreen, playing cards, stadium cups, booster pins, Lindt orange chocolates and delicious Tiger Paw cookies.
My favorite neighborhood bakery made these delicious buttercream paws. I think sometimes it's money well spent to have that little extra something special.
Everyone arrived after a long day of travel, and I served a simple supper of baked spaghetti, green salad, and garlic bread. Easy peasy. After supper the Mister's sister and Big helped me assemble a couple of signature sandwiches for our pre-grad lunch.
For breakfast the next morning, I served these tasty little mini casseroles with a fruit platter.
Here we are ready to load into three vans and head to Clemson, about an hour's drive away. This is when my stress level was at its peak as we weren't sure where we were going to park annnnnd we needed to meet up with some more family members annnnnnnd we hoped to all have a picnic lunch together, which was packed in my van along with chairs borrowed from my kindest friends.
Although we didn't get to park in the section where I'd hoped (It was both paved and shaded), we did manage to park in an area that offered plenty of shade from 11 am until 1 pm, when we headed into the coliseum for the ceremony. Here Middle and Little along with their beautiful Cousin check out the tailgate picnic offerings.
Although, it not visible in this picture, the paper boats were in Clemson colors of orange and purple. We had turkey and ham sandwiches with Havarti cheese, basil mayonnaise, stone ground mustard, and lettuce and tomato or turkey, ham, and salami sandwiches with provolone and spicy mustard, lettuce and tomato. We also had wild rice salad and chopped Mediterranean salad (both Ina Garten recipes and both excellent). I added a colorful napkin, striped straw, fork, handwipe, and Clemson mint.
And, of course, we had more of those Tiger Paw cookies. The primary goal was for everyone to enjoy being together and enjoy their lunch. The secondary goal was to not carry a lot of dirty serving dishes and storage containers back to the lake house. Having a "boxed lunch" definitely made that possible, and we only had one small bag of trash.
Clemson holds three graduation ceremonies--one at 9:30 am; one at 2:30 pm; and another at 6:30 pm. Big's was at 2:30 for both the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Science and the College of Education. Big's major was Wildlife and Fisheries Biology, so he fell kind of in the middle of the ceremony. Sadly, the photo on the jumbotron turned out better than the photo of Big actually receiving his diploma and crossing the stage.
Afterward, it was kind of a mob scene, and I thought this was a funny picture of the Mister and me trying to herd all 17 in our party and get some decent photos.
Where the Blue Ridge yawns its greatness,
Where the Tigers play,
Here the sons of dear old Clemson
Reign supreme alway.
Afterward, we all returned to the lake. Our graduate had requested a "Southern supper," so we had ham, macaroni and cheese, green beans, spinach salad, biscuits, and, for dessert, sweet potato cake, a gift from my dear friend and walking buddy, BK.
Saturday, we spent the day visiting, swimming, fishing, talking, and playing a rambunctious game of Pictionary. We also had two dear families make the trek out to visit, one by boat. All the Florida family members were excited to get a boat tour of a mountain lake.
To close, I'll share a fun graduation gift from a family friend. Big was more than pleased with this handsome leather and monogrammed Dopp kit. He was delighted when he opened it to discover it was full of "diplomas!" So clever!
Mother's Day? I celebrated that with a nap.