Friday, September 9, 2011

A Garden-Themed Dinner Party—Ideas, Recipes and Gratitude…



This was my inspiration photo. When I saw this photo in April, I was inspired to have a gorgeous garden party, but it never happened. Instead, I found time for a dinner party with a garden theme in the dog days of summer. Here are some ideas you might use.

Background story (because everything has a story)

Well. If you’ve been following my brand new blog, you might have noticed that it was launched at a fairly turbulent time in my life. There was the BIG milestone; one that included the thrill of watching my first-born child graduate from high school and concluded with the inevitable good-byes, as we moved Patrick away to college. And there were the heartbreaking losses of Sierra and Buddy, our beloved family pets, adding even more ripples of emotion into our lives. Yes, it’s been an extraordinary summer of change.

And amid all this, I began writing this blog. Whew. It’s been an interesting experience to figure out how to keep a balance to this blog when there were so things happening in my personal life. Joy. Sadness. Losses. I wanted to be current and truthful in my posts, yet I didn’t want this blog to lose it’s perspective. But I guess this is the struggle we all deal with; the struggle to find a comfortable, emotional balance amid our ever-changing lives.

And what did this summer remind me? It seems anti-climatic, almost an odd reminder to have at my age, but here it is in big bold letters: I was reminded that Time with our loved ones is a gift. And all those moments when when our kids are running through the house leaving predictable messes, and our dogs are shedding on our furniture and needing to be walked, and our husbands are talking with us in the kitchen over a noisy T.V.? All those moments are big, fat blessings.

Oh, and I was also reminded that dear, old, dependable friendships can help you cope with anything.

So for Jim’s birthday dinner with friends, I was inspired to have a garden-themed dinner party that incorporated these ideas:


The Table

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With a garden theme, you can use creative, inexpensive table coverings. I’ve seen beautiful wedding tables covered in burlap and paint drop cloths used at parties. But I wanted to use my old Ralph Lauren tablecloth with the faded vintage-looking floral. The only problem was, it didn’t fit my dining room table, and that’s where I wanted my guests to eat.

Simple solution. I covered my table in a white tablecloth, and folded my RL tablecloth into a square and laid it diagonally down the middle of my table. Since it was already a large size, I only folded it once and it wasn’t too thick. Then, I filled a vase with common garden flowers, freesias, baby daisies and yellow dahlias and placed it in the middle of the table.

I poured some river rocks down the center of the table and placed small white candles throughout. I had found these tiny bird candles at our local Home Goods Store awhile ago. Aren’t they a sweet touch?


Little garden touches

And guess what I found at Home Depot?  Packets of Thyme seeds, the perfect addition to my garden table.  What a great way to incorporate my theme about Time being a gift. I printed out a simple message on Avery labels and stuck it on the front of each seed packet. Then I placed it the middle of each plate. The message reads, so happy to share Thyme with you.”  What do you think?

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The place cards were also simple. I used my thrift store terra cotta pots (25 cents each and already nice and stained) filled each pot with baby’s tears and used plant labels for the guest names.


Then, to incorporate my Time element, I used a stamp of a clock.


I typed out the message “Take time to smell the flowers” on cardstock. And I printed the sheets out.


Using sepia ink for a vintage look, I simply dipped the stamp in the ink and applied it over each message. I didn’t want these to look too perfect. Then I cut out the clocks and stuck them on the plant label with double stick tape.


This is the final place card with a personal message for every guest.


Here’s another simple way to personalize your place settings. I picked up a packet of these little charms in the jewelry aisle at Michael’s Crafts Store. They were on sale (six for $2.99). Simple dark brown raffia is used to tie the napkins.

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In case you’re wondering where my water goblets are, I chose to have small chilled water bottles in a silver tub. Very casual. So this is the table in the bright afternoon light.


And this was the atmosphere in the evening. You’ll have to excuse this photo, I snapped it when I had my yummy raspberry mojito in my hand and I couldn’t smooth out the tablecloth, but you get the idea.


Before dinner, I read this prayer for our friends. It was the first time we had gotten together after sending our sons off to their prospective colleges, and I think we were all so happy to be together.

Prayer for Friendship

You have blessed us, O God,
with the gift of friendship,
the bonding of persons
in a circle of love.
We thank you for such a blessing:
for friends who love us,
who share our sorrows,
who laugh with us in celebration,
who bear our pain,
who need us as we need them,
who weep as we weep,
who hold us when words fail,
and who give us the freedom
to be ourselves.
Bless our friends with health,
wholeness, life, and love.


These words really say it all.


Now, in case you’re interested, here’s the menu. You can click on the highlighted items for the actual recipes.

The Menu


Fresh raspberry mojito (Andy’s special recipe)

Red wine

Port (after dinner)


Cheese and grape platter with crackers (Williams Sonoma artisanal platter)

Stuffed dates (Williams Sonoma recipe)

Smoked salmon slices served with capers, egg, sour cream and crackers

Mary’s famous artichoke puff

Red Bell Pepper & Ancho Chili Jam over cream cheese with crackers (found at Trader Joes)


Chicken breast with herbed goat cheese ( Barefoot Contessa recipe)

Risotto with shitake mushrooms, leeks and truffles (Bon Appetit recipe)

Green salad with fresh strawberries

Bread courtesy of Il Forno Classico Restaurant


Homemade vanilla ice cream with apple crisp

Here’s a couple of food notes: The Risotto recipe was a definite hit!

Also, for the chicken breast recipe, I added sundried tomatoes to the goat cheese and it was delicious. Next time I’ll skip the boned breasts, and will try stuffing boneless breasts instead.

I hope these ideas help you plan your next special dinner with your friends or family. Bon appetit my friends!




1 comment:

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