The One Time A Year My Blog Name Makes Sense

I'm a sucker for creating traditions. Doesn't matter how big or small they are; I just like the ritual of doing something, again and again, because I did it that way last year. I could probably pay some psychoanalyst two hundred bucks an hour to tell me that I'm trying repeatedly to access some long-lost cadre of childhood memories through my stubborn adherence to annual ritual, but I'm pretty sure it's just that I like an excuse to make things look cute.

We held our Third Annual Beach Birthday Bonfire this past weekend and the s'mores set-up you see above—"is this a s'mores stand?" asked a guest; "no, it's a s'mores station," I told her, only half-jokingly—looks pretty much exactly the way it did for our Second Annual Beach Birthday Bonfire last year. In fact, I didn't even have to rewrite the chalkboard message; the whole thing had sat in our garage for a year with the writing untouched. I just dragged it out again, sat it on the beach, and called it a day. Consistency!

San Francisco is pretty much always cold in the evenings in July, and never more so than on the beach. This year, the fog was as thick as soup and we had a hard time making out the ocean for the first couple of hours; we could hear it, but we couldn't actually see it. You think I am exaggerating, I know it, but look:

You could be forgiven for thinking we were bonfiring in the desert.

We have quite a few traditions for this party, actually, that have slowly crept in over the last few years. Nathan, for example, always wears his Sierra Nevada hoodie (seen here in 2008 and here in 2010). Sean has long admired it, so this year, for his birthday, I bought him the very same one.

What? Thirty-something-year-old men can be twinsies too.

I myself have my own uniform for the beach bonfire: it involves wearing pretty much all of my clothes all at once.

Come on, which are you more horrified by? That I own Costco-brand Uggs or that I'm wearing them on a beach in July?

For the past couple of years, we've found that the bowls of chips we put out for snacking always get soggy really quickly because of the damp sea air. This year, I found a genius solution: we bought individual bags of chips so everyone could have their own bag and eat them quickly enough that they wouldn't go stale. Sean was worried it was going to look tacky, but I assured him that you can class anything up if you just arrange it artfully in an aluminium bin.

See? It's like science.

We always have sausages at our bonfire, obviously, and we always cook them on sticks. Then we always make the requisite wiener/sausage party jokes. (What, like you wouldn't? Well, aren't you fancy!)

That's what she said. Wait, what?

The thing about the bonfire is that for an entire week afterwards, you end up smelling like a campfire. Things you didn't even realize had a smell start to smell like a campfire; my camera, for instance, smells like a campfire right now. Because of this, you have to make sure that the party is extra-specially fun for everyone you've invited. People can deal with a little campfire smell if they've had an otherwise good time.

I recommend spiked punch. Heavy on the spike.

I also recommend sparklers, particularly if you still have a whole bunch left over from your wedding two years ago. Everyone likes sparklers. Even babies!

Okay, he's not a baby, he's a toddler. And his sparkler-holding was both short-lived and highly supervised—he did not make that crazy swirly pattern to the left, for example. That was me and his mother.

We also spelled out "ho" with our sparklers, which is a tradition we started last year, although neither of us has the faintest idea why. As you can see, however, we are way better at it this year than last. Stronger arms, maybe? Finally applying ourselves? It's good to have a goal.

There are lots more pictures of the Third Annual Beach Bonfire here, which I shall deem a success by dint of the fact that I'm already looking forward to the Fourth Annual Beach Bonfire next year. I am also under the impression that by then my hair will no longer smell like charcoal. We can but hope.

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Pretzel Thief
Jul 19, 2011

That is one bitchin' bonfire party, Holly!

Love the s'mores station, the decorations, EVERYTHING.

This might be a good time to admit that, well, I've never had s'mores.


Yuuuuup, you heard me. Nor have I had the pleasure of hosting or starting a bonfire. (Does one require a permit?) I feel decidedly empty because of both these things...I shall have to rectify this post-haste!

Kate in Ohio
Jul 19, 2011

Why am I surprised every year that you have to wear all your clothing on the beach in July? My uncle moved to San Francisco about 6 years ago to get away from the Ohio cold. I am not really sure he accomplished his goal.

That looks like so much fun, but I don't really like s'mores. I like all the ingredients individually, but not together. I think they are too sweet. I do love the chips presentation though! Can I come next year?

Jul 19, 2011

This looks awesome! And I have to admit that campfire smell is one of my top favorite smells ever, so I would consider it a party favor if I left your bonfire smelling awesome for a week!

Jul 19, 2011

This is the third I have been rendered unspeakably jealous of your bonfire parties. In Boston, we aren't permitted to have bonfires on the beach, for some reason that I am almost positive dates back to the Puritans and their intense dislike of anything fun.

Can just anyone have a beach bonfire? We're visiting San Francisco in a couple of months and I'm tempted to do it. Cold be damned.

Jul 19, 2011

Now you just have to get a photo of someone sparkling the letters "L L Y" and put them together!

P.S. Where are the graham crackers? (Smores are graham crackers with chocolate bars and toasted marshmallows.)

Jul 19, 2011

I love that the bonfire smell lingers for days. Makes it a bit hard to claim at work the next week that you didn't do anything over the weekend, that sick day really was you sick in bed and not camping and making s'mores. Not that I'd know anything about that.

Jul 19, 2011

I love the sparkler photos!

Jul 19, 2011

Angela, I hadn't put the graham crackers out yet because, much like the chips, the sea air makes them very soggy very fast.

Jul 19, 2011

Looks like a great time was had by all! I went camping this weekend over here on the East Coast, and now, 4 showers later, my hair STILL smells like campfire smoke.

Jul 19, 2011

We could use a big of fog here in Oklahoma. It's W-A-Y too dry and hot (29th day of 100+ degree temps) to even think about a bonfire. Hoping that before football season starts we get a break in weather so we can enjoy s'mores too...only in my backyard and not the beach. ;.( Your party looks lovely as always...great tradion that your whole bunch will no doubt treasure for years to come.

BTW, did you ever find out the mystery behind your dirt piles and beheaded flowers (and ding/dasher?)?

Jul 19, 2011

"bit of fog" is what I meant to type! Any moisture really would be appreciated...

Jul 19, 2011

I don't know if it was intentional or not but reading this made me feel like you used the word "always" a lot, but that was probably just you emphasizing your 'stubborn adherence to annual ritual.'
Also I am intrigued by the fact that Sean considered bags of chips tacky. Pretty sure that would almost never cross my husband's mind, especially when it comes to a display of food. :)

Melissa Oklahoma
Jul 19, 2011

Fun! I would totally engage in those sausage jokes, it's just the kind of girl I am.

Jul 19, 2011

I miss those cold beach times in California. Now it's just constant cold beach times but in Washington. I'm impressed with your sparkler prowess!

Jul 19, 2011

It probably says somewhere on your site... but I've wondered about the blog title. I heard the phrase at the theater when I recently saw A Winter's Tale and I had an ah-ha moment which was cool. It's probably a phrase more broadly used than in one Shakespeare play? Enlighten us.

Nothing But Bonfires
Jul 19, 2011

Edith-Nicole, that's exactly where it's from: it's just a line I loved from A Winter's Tale, which I read in college when I was 21. It's at a point in the play when all sorts of crazy things have just been revealed and everything's going on all at once, and one guard asks another guard what's going on and the first guard says "Nothing but bonfires!" and then tells him all the things that are happening. I just really liked it.

Jul 19, 2011

I want to come to your bonfires!!!!! Mine are never anywhere near as cute and classy (s'mores station=genius) Sean is lucky to have such an expert bonfire planner to arrange his b-day celebration! I've been trying to keep up my own beach birthday bonfire tradition (in March--I know, I'm insane) but this year my plans were unfortunately foiled by rain. Turns out beach fog and cold I can be properly combatted with bonfire warmth (and massive amounts of spiked beverages)--rain not so much!! Also, along with the bonfire smell that never goes away (but I kind of love it!) there are the curious amounts of beach you manage to somehow tote back with you even after shaking everything out. I think I still have sand in my jacket pocket from a bonfire a year and a half ago...

Pretzel Theif and Kendra - No permit required for parties under 25 people, you just have to snag one of the "official" firepits on Ocean beach (I think there are only 6 or so??) which are first-come, first serve, so often requires getting to the beach early and camping out (especially if the weather is nice!) Lots of people who miss out on the pits set up "guerilla" fires in the sand, but you risk the wrath of the police who patrol the beach pretty frequently on weekend nights (I had a guerilla fire shut DOWN last year--although also probably had something to do with the fact that every one of the dozens of people I impulsively invited at the last minute miraculously showed up and not everyone got the memo about discreet(!) alcohol containers... whoopsie). Also if you don't get a pit people are sometimes friendly and kindly enough to let you crash their bonfire (especially if you come bearing gifts of booze or food to share) :) Glass bottles and booze are (technically) not allowed on the beach, I believe, but as long as you're discreet about it you should be just fine. And have SO MUCH FUN. :)

Tami A.
Jul 19, 2011

Have you seen these new marshmallows at grocery stores? They're flat and square, perfect for s'mores! And that looks like an awesome beach party.


I love this! It's fun to see less traditional parties, even though it's a tradition for you. This makes me wish I lived a little closer to the beach. How did you keep your graham crackers from getting soggy??

I recently threw my friend a "baby shower," complete with spiked punch (next to non-alcoholic punch for any mommies-to-be), a relay race involving giant baby dolls and drinking White Russians from baby bottles, and... wait for it... boys. So it wasn't really a "baby shower" at all -- more like a baby celebration. And everyone had a blast!

Jul 19, 2011

looks like summer in SF! Which is why I choose to live in San Jose, where we are roasting here when its foggy and cold 42 miles up the road.
I "always" have to make my own smores. There is never anyone who will make it for you, is there? I would love to be at a party where they passes them around all made up for you. If you ever go anywhere like that, let me know!

Jul 19, 2011

Hopefully your annual tradition (which is awesome by the way) can stand a little shaking up--- my friends and I discovered the best addition/swap for s'mores... Swap out the chocolate for a large peanut butter cup (preferably the dark chocolate ones). They are so awesome, we call them S'mawesomes. Try it-- you won't be disappointed!

Tony J.
Jul 19, 2011

I'm sorry that I missed it. Next year for sure!

Camels & Chocolate
Jul 19, 2011

Still bummed I missed this year's event! Next year, I shall plan to be in town for Scott's, I mean Sean's, I mean Nathan's--oh wait, ALL OF THEM--kinda birthday.

Amy --- Just A Titch
Jul 19, 2011

This looks like so much fun! Every year, I get the jealousies! It's been far too long since I've been to a beach bonfire.

Jul 20, 2011


as you were...

Jul 20, 2011

Wow I am so jealous. Looks like a wonderful bonfire.

Jul 20, 2011

Two things that will change your s'mores life forever:
Coconut marshmallows (its real toasted coconut on the outside) and cinnamon graham crackers. Best ever!

Jul 20, 2011

Thanks Aimee!

Jul 20, 2011

It is a brazillion degrees here and I want to crawl inside those pictures of you all bundled up on a beach just to remember what "COLD" feels like!

Nothing But Bonfires
Jul 20, 2011

Pretzel Thief & Kendra -- Aimee is bang on! You have to get there super early to snag a firepit -- our party started around 6pm and we got there around 3pm (well, Nathan got there around 3pm. Thanks, Nathan!) You also have to stand your ground pretty aggressively as people will try and swipe it from you. Booze isn't technically allowed, but as long as you make a decent effort to hide it -- we poured our punch into big 2-liter soda bottles -- you're fine. The glass is where they get really strict: the first year, someone brought a six-pack of beer to the party and put it in our cooler -- the cops came around and asked to look inside, then slapped the perpetrator with a $100 fine. Didn't care about our (obviously) spiked punch, just the glass.

Pretzel Thief
Jul 20, 2011

Aimee and Holly, thank you both for the info!

Only "problem" is, I'm not in San Francisco but aaaaaaaaall the way down in MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA!!Waaaaaaahhhh...heh heh.

We do, however, have gorgeous beaches an hour (or two) outside of Melbourne along the Mornington and Bellarine Peninsulas, as well as the famous (and gorgeous!) Great Ocean Road.

Might have to look into their bonfire policies!


You should make Christmas cards with pictures from each year
'10 "Ho"
'11 "HO"
'12 "HO!"

Nothing But Bonfires
Jul 21, 2011

Nathalie, that was my idea last year! I may actually do it this year.

Jul 21, 2011

I guess we took the good weather with us. Love Sean and Nathan's sweatshirts, but the hats are the best!!!!

Jul 24, 2011

Your blog name also makes sense for us Brits, on November 5th, Bonfire Night. I might go round saying 'Nothing But Bonfires' this year!

Sensibly Sassy
Jul 29, 2011

You sure do know how to throw a party. i smell a side business. I don't actually because I am not sure what that would smell like, maybe a bonfire? anyway well done

Aug 19, 2011

Walking in the presence of gniats here. Cool thinking all around!

Aug 25, 2011

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Aug 26, 2011
Anne MArtin
Oct 08, 2011

I'm a sucker for creating traditions. Doesn't matter how big or small they are; I just like the ritual of doing something, again and again, because I did it that way last year. -- You are not alone... Anne from baby high chairs.

Andrew Ross
Oct 08, 2011

This looks awesome! And I have to admit that campfire smell is one of my top favorite smells ever, so I would consider it a party favor if I left your bonfire smelling awesome for a week! Andrew from strapless dresses.

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