A Tale of Two Parties: Celebrating a Graduation in Style

Let me begin by stating how proud I am of my husband for completing his Ph.D. in Anthropology!!!  Done baby, done!

Here comes Dr. David Hopwood.

Here comes Dr. David Hopwood.

Many of us are familiar with celebrating high school and university graduations, but when you start getting to the advanced degrees the line that marks when you are done can be tricky to find.  Dave and I both earned our doctorates (how cool is that to say!) from Binghamton University, State University of New York.  At Binghamton University the completion date of your doctoral degree is when you have a public presentation to “defend” your dissertation.  This date can happen any time during the year, as long as you are done and your committee can attend.  So not only does your degree often finish at a random point on the calendar, it is also a singular accomplishment… meaning that you are not completing with anyone else and certainly not with a class of hundreds of fellow students.

I remember leaving my defense feeling elated about having passed that hurdle, stepping outside of the Science 1 building and looking around to seeing life continuing for everyone else as if nothing had happened.  The same students rushing to class already late, the same fervent clutching of coffee mugs, the same professors avoiding eye contact with students so no one asks them if the exams are graded yet…  My entire universe had just changed, but the rest of the university trucked on as if nothing had happened.  I wanted a parade.  I wanted acrobats flipping down the pathways, people blowing fire from the library fountain, fireworks from the clock tower, and sparklers for every single person on campus.  Alas, all I got was tepid coffee from an indifferent barista who was studying her note cards furiously behind the counter.

So when Dave was finishing his dissertation I started dreaming about how we’d celebrate his incredible accomplishment.  Needless to say that I was dreaming big, and when the actual date came around I had to seriously scale myself back based on budget (sorry, no acrobats) and my available time (aka how to I pull off a great party with the time available to a stay-at-home mom with a young child… aka not a lot of “free” time).  A number of my ideas had to fall by the wayside, but I think I was able to pull off my main goal of truly honoring all of Dave’s hard work.

Dave and three of The Ladies wearing the amazing construction paper grad caps.  From left to right: Loree, Sue and Ruth.

Dave and three of The Ladies wearing the amazing construction paper grad caps. From left to right: Loree, Sue and Ruth.

I was not the only one wanting to celebrate Dave’s graduation, and the lucky boy was also honored with a party at his family’s home.  The two parties were a week apart and were completely different from each other except for the fact that they were both filled with people who wanted to celebrate Dave.  He’s going to be impossible to live with after receiving weeks of unbridled praise!  😉  Just kidding.  He deserved every word and more… but I digress.

Hand poured chocolate graduation pops.  Ruth made dark chocolate, milk chocolate, mint chocolate and white chocolate.

Hand poured chocolate graduation pops. Ruth made dark chocolate, milk chocolate, mint chocolate and white chocolate.

While all you see is the "jewel" topping, this was the most amazingly rich and moist berry cake I've ever had.  The berries on top looked like a glittering tray of jewels. Stunning!

While all you see is the “jewel” topping, this was the most amazingly rich and moist berry cake I’ve ever had. The berries on top looked like a glittering tray of jewels. Stunning!

Special ordered celebratory pencils.

Special ordered celebratory pencils.

These diplomas were actually fun trivia questions about Dave and is degree.  Winner gets a prize!

These diplomas were actually fun trivia questions about Dave and is degree. Winner gets a prize!

We had such a great time at both parties.  Some of my favorite parts of Dave’s Family’s party were the special things they made by hand.  They made amazing construction paper graduation caps for everyone to wear, hand decorated graduation cap cookies, and had two young women to play with the kids and do crafts downstairs allowing the parents to be adults upstairs.  It was fantastic!

These cookies must have taken days!!! Each one was baked by Ruth and hand decorated by Erin.  I think they should go into business with these.

These cookies must have taken days!!! Each one was baked by Ruth and hand decorated by Erin. I think they should go into business with these.

The amazing spread at Dave's New Westminster party.  The wolves would fall on this table soon, so we had to take the picture fast.

The amazing spread at Dave’s New Westminster party. The wolves would fall on this table soon, so we had to take the picture fast.

We were also able to hold our own Hooding Ceremony.  In a traditional doctoral graduation ceremony the graduate is “hooded” with the special colors of your degree by a mentor or advisor of your choice.  This is a leveling of the playing field, and a very special moment of being brought into the professional field that you have worked so hard to attain.  Since we couldn’t get out to New York for Dave’s graduation, we held our own hooding ceremony at his party and it was my honor to be able to hood Dave.

Done, Baby... Done!

Done, Baby… Done!

A toast by Dave's proud dad, Joe.  This is where we all lost it.

A toast by Dave’s proud dad, Joe. This is where we all lost it.

I know that I’ve been teasing people with promising to post recipes from our Vancouver Island party on this blog, but I had to share the New West party first.  Stay tuned and the next post will start the recipes, I promise.  But first…  Sometimes we get so wrapped up with our own ideas of what our graduations mean to us personally that we forget about all that our families and loved ones have invested in the graduation as well.  This graduation for Dave coincided with his return to Canada as a university professor,  a husband and a dad.  A lot has changed since Dave first left for graduate school in New York.  The party in New West was an amazing time to also honor Dave’s family and their own achievement in getting their son/brother graduated.  Cheers to all you Hopwoods!

Decorations

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16 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Parties: Celebrating a Graduation in Style

  1. Jen

    Damn it! I was smiling and happy reading through this post, a little sad I couldn’t be there for the partying but overall upbeat. Until I see the picture of Joe. Then I tear up. Darn you Hopwoods, you got me again! I can’t imagine how proud of Dave everyone must be. And something about the picture of Joe took me back to your wedding and the waterfall began. But happy tears. Love you all! And tell Erin and Ruth I will invest in their cookie business!

    Reply
    1. TheSheepAreOut Post author

      I know! Those Hopwoods aren’t happy until they’ve gotten everyone crying along with them! I even started to crack up a bit when I was reading my little bit for Dave’s hooding. I’ll definitely let them know about your business offer. Maybe we can go into a group cookie and piggy bowl enterprise… 🙂

      Reply
  2. Mr. Bright Wings

    Gooooo, Dave!
    When I saw the picture of Joe, it took me a moment to realize it wasn’t Dave. “Surely his defense didn’t gray him *that* much?” 😉
    Does Ruth know how to temper chocolate? I’ve read directions on how to do it, but, as of yet, I’ve been reticent to try it myself.
    And I hope your recipes include that berry cake. That’s the one I’m most curious about. 🙂

    Reply
    1. TheSheepAreOut Post author

      It was such a cool experience to be able to celebrate Dave’s graduation like that! It’s funny how sometimes it still doesn’t feel real for him to be done. I suppose it will sink in this Fall semester when he no longer has to go back in to work at nights. That will be nice…
      As for Ruth and tempering chocolate I don’t know what she did, but one of the easiest methods I’ve done is one I learned on the Foodnetwork that involves the microwave. Super easy, and so far fool proof for me. Here’s the link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/how-to-temper-chocolate-recipe.html
      And unfortunately, no, it won’t include that recipe. It was a cake from an amazing bakery. It is one that I’d love to replicate, and have written down my own notes about taste, texture, etc. But,alas, I don’t have anything to post about it right now. Oh was it good…

      Reply
    1. TheSheepAreOut Post author

      I still can’t believe how gorgeous that cake looked! Like a tray of sparkling jewels, and not too sweet. It definitely ranks as one of my favorites! 🙂

      Reply
      1. Mr. Bright Wings

        The only picture on their website like what you photographed is a cheesecake? Is that correct?

    2. Mr. Bright Wings

      Ruth, did you temper the chocolate for those lollipops? If so, what technique did you use, please?

      Reply
  3. Brian Grills

    I was happy to hear the defense and raise a couple glasses of whiskey with old friends and classmates! Congrats again Dave!!

    Reply
  4. Ruth

    Hey Adam, You can find the cake in the list of products and it’s under the uncut sheets. No I didn’t temper the chocolate, I bought it at Michaels and heated it in the microwave for about 5 minutes, then poured into moulds.

    Reply
    1. Mr. Bright Wings

      Thank you Ruth, that helped me find it.

      Marie, no wonder it was the moistest berry cake you’ve ever had. It has a thick slathering of pastry cream in the middle. Yum! 🙂

      It describes the berries as resting on top of a raspberry mirror. I assume that’s a layer of raspberry glaze or puree or something. And the jewel-effect for the berries seems to be achieved with a thin, clear glaze over the top of the berries.

      I could probably throw something like that together. HMMMmmmmm…. 😉

      Reply
    1. TheSheepAreOut Post author

      If you can believe it, the ONLY pictures we have of the party beyond the ones that I took of food while I was making it are from Dad’s camera. That’s it. Finito. Nothing else. Complete and total oopps! I think we were so excited to just enjoy the party that the minute guests started arriving we let all else slide. Ah well… It’s not like that was a once in a lifetime experience, right? Oy! I guess on the bright side now we can play the party up in our minds even more and remember it in even more fantastical images than it was, and there’s no photographic evidence to prove otherwise. So, weren’t those fire dancers amazing? And when you jumped out of the cake…

      Reply
  5. Marcia Fraser

    It was a blast!   😉  Congratulations to David….and you too Marie. Love to you all with BIG kisses and hugs for Little Man. Tia xoxo

    Reply
    1. TheSheepAreOut Post author

      Gracias, Tia! We had such a great time. I’m both relieved that the two parties are over, and also somehow bereft that I don’t get to think about all the fun things I wanted to do. 🙂 It was amazing that we were able to be there with you and the rest of the family. I know we’re not as close geographically as some would hope, but I am still amazed at how close we actually get to be. Besos!

      Reply

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