When I lived in the Rockies I used to spend pretty much every weekend in April and May (and even some years in June) sipping my morning coffee by my front windows and gazing outside at the dead, gray landscape, wishing (oh so desperately wishing) for spring, as winter relentlessly lingered. All I could think about was busting outside to push the lawnmower around in my yard, dig out the rotting leaves that had blown in around my porch, plant and fertilize my spring bulbs, and tidy up my dormant yard. I could almost hear thunder and lightning in my mind, and with feverish delirium I built castles in the clouds for the return of the robins and squirrels games, and the mommy & daddy birds fluffing their feathers, gathering twigs, and chirping their springtime songs. I swooned over what to grow in my gardens, my mouth still salivating at the evaporating memory of last year’s harvest.
Being in south Texas, I now whence at how overwrought I was for the scent of fresh washed anything to be hanging on my clotheslines. I haven’t forgotten though how badly I wanted to crank those frozen windowsills open, throw back the curtains, air out the dust and cobwebs, and let a little sunshine in. If only by my shear will I could have held back winter and coaxed those leaves to bud out on the trees, or tantalized my daffodils to bloom, or tempted the grass to creep up out of the earth, lush and green.
Almost anything was better than shoveling snow AGAIN, or sloshing in slush, or looking out at barren trees, or being cooped up inside torturing myself with the fallen mercury on the outdoor thermometer. “Oh hurry up spring,” was my daily mantra.
And then finally it was here.
Well, my dear, north-country friends, I know you are suffering now, but come sit on my south Texas porch swing (I wish this was my porch and my porch swing) for a bit, kick your sandals off, and have a slushy lemonade with me? I’m just reminiscing over my garden parties of yesterday and would love your company!
It’s a funny thing, but as soon as the words “garden party” roll off my tongue I am humming the song by Ricky Nelson…“Come to a Garden Party; reminisce with my old friends….” Hee hee, I can see you do too! Shall we hold hands and sway and sing it together?
I went to a garden party to reminisce with my old friends A chance to share old memories and play our songs again When I got to the garden party, they all knew my name No one recognized me, I didn’t look the same
CHORUS: But it’s all right now, I learned my lesson well. You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself
People came from miles around, everyone was there Yoko brought her walrus, there was magic in the air ‘n’ over in the corner, much to my surprise
Mr. Hughes hid in Dylan’s shoes wearing his disguise
Played them all the old songs, thought that’s why they came No one heard the music, we didn’t look the same I said hello to “Mary Lou”, she belongs to me When I sang a song about a honky-tonk, it was time to leave
lot-dah-dah-dah (lot-dah-dah-dah) lot-in-dah-dah-dah
Someone opened up a closet door and out stepped Johnny B. Goode Playing guitar like a-ringin’ a bell and lookin’ like he should If you got’ta play at garden parties, I wish you a lot’ta luck But if memories were all I sang, I rather drive a truck
lot-dah-dah-dah (lot-dah-dah-dah) lot-in-dah-dah-dah
‘n’ it’s all right now, learned my lesson well You see, ya can’t please everyone, so you got to please yourself
Wow…I didn’t mean to sing the whole dang song…. Sorry. The lyrics are kind of odd, aren’t they? Hee hee! 🙂
I recently finished a Bible study of the book of Esther, written by Beth Moore and since it is so fresh in my mind I thought to share with you a garden party on steroids:
KING AHASHURAS’ GARDEN PARTY
“…The king made a feast lasting seven days for all the people who were present in Shushan…in the court of the garden of the king’s palace.” — Esther 1:5
A seven-day feast. Holy cow! (…Possible pun intended). My, oh my, he sure knows how to arrange things! This is how King Ahashuras decorated for his party: “There were white and blue linen curtains fastened with cords of fine linen and purple on silver rods and marble pillars; and the couches were of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of alabaster, turquoise, and white and black marble. And they served drinks in golden vessels, each vessel being different from the other, with royal wine in abundance, according to the generosity of the king.” (Esther 1:6-7). The drinking was not compulsory, but according to each man’s pleasure…soooooo, I’m guessing, since the booze was free, that it was each man’s pleasure TO DRINK!
After the king’s “garden party” came another feast. It was for his officials and servants – the powers of Persia and Media, the nobles, and the princes of the 127 provinces over which he now ruled. This feast lasted 180 days, (holy smokes – did you catch that? 180 DAYS!!!). I can’t even imagine how much food and wine he dished out for a 180-day party! My goodness, that’s almost six months. How does one entertain guests for that long? What do you suppose they talked about? How many bedrooms do you imagine he must have had in his house to make the princes and nobles of 127 provinces comfortable, not to mention the sheer volume of bath towels they must have gone through!
Being a hot-shot, he entertained by giving his guests the grand tour of his sprawling estate, showing off his riches, splendor, and majesty, as if the food, booze, and decorations weren’t enough of a brag.
It all reminds me a little of Oprah’s Garden Party, which you perhaps caught on television some years back? The Queen of daytime talk TV wanted to pay homage to some special ladies in her life whom she admired, but in the process couldn’t help showing off a little of her great wealth, lavishing them with an exquisite menu, costly gifts, and luxuriant preparations. You can read all about it at Oprah.com.
The term “garden party” does tend to stir up in my head notions of big Queen Mumm hats, lush flower gardens, and dainty little porcelain teacups brimming with exotic teas, accompanied with a myriad of condiments to add to them, like pure white, sparkling sugar cubes, dew covered mint leaves, juicy lemon slices, and fresh, succulent raspberries.
In my dreams my tables are covered with layers of lace and floral patterned tablecloths. Bouquets of flowers, topiaries and ivy centerpieces. The chairs all around are covered in cloth and ribbon. And there are twinkling lights and lanterns hanging from the trees.
Marlene Allan – Garden Party Online has some fun ideas too. I really liked the idea of spreading picnic blankets on the lawn and resting a large umbrella at each. The edges of the umbrellas are also decked out with flowers.
I found these garden party themes and ideas at Evite.com:
Garden of Eden—It doesn’t have to be clothing optional to evoke the spirit of Adam and Eve’s home. Serve a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and decorate with snakes and apples.
Plant Swap—Celebrate your garden by asking guests to bring a flower arrangement or potted plant to swap with another guest. Guests can either fight over the foliage or pick names out of a hat to see who gets what.
Flower Arranging—Ask guests to bring blooms and vases, and invite a floral expert or a friend with very green thumbs to show you different ways of putting them together.
“Seeds of Kindness” Garden Party – was another terrific discovery. Visit this website for all the details: http://www.juliabettencourt.com/themes/kindnesstheme.html.
This is a garden theme that revolves around our planting seeds of kindness. Her emphasis is on being kinder and more caring Christian women. I won’t spill the beans, but hope you will check out all her swell ideas.
Unlike the garden parties of the rich and famous, mine have all been either merriments of Mother’s Day, or low-budget baby/wedding showers, so don’t be intimidated. You can afford this!
Garden Party 2007
Decorations: I hung plastic/silk flower strands that I found at the dollar store in swags along the patio eves. I did the same along the edges of the patio umbrella and table. I set out a few flower arrangements in baskets. I spent a decent block of time mowing and trimming and grooming my back yard so it would resemble the ritzy landscapes in the rich parts of town. There is no way it could possibly compare, but it looked its personal best anyway. I pulled all the weeds and watered until the grass was green green green. I planted the flower boxes with colorful blooms and foliage and piled them up with mulch just like the gardeners on TV. I wished I’d had a pretty gazebo that I could have lavished with tulle and silk flowers, or a lovely little pond and waterfall that would have drawn our eyes and trickled in our ears. Even a heavy cast bird bath would have been great. But I had to be content with such things as I had.
GRILLED PORTOBELLO SANDWICHES
Ciabata bread, drizzled with olive oil and lightly toasted
Portobello Mushroom caps, grilled and placed on top of the bread
Red onion slices, grilled and placed on top of the portobello
Fontina cheese, melted on top of the onion in the broiler
Fresh Basil leaves, arranged on top of the cheese
Tomato slices, drizzled with a balsamic/garlic/olive oil/black pepper dressing
Red, Yellow, and Green Bell Peppers sliced into wedges
Cut fruit into wedges and skewer on wooden spears. Arrange kabobs on a pretty platter
SUGAR COOKIES cut and frosted to look like pansies, arranged on a pretty doily covered platter. OR…those flowerpot cakes that are made with Oreo crumbs and the gummy worms on top would also have made a clever dessert for this soirée. (Click here for a how-to video for Pansy Sugar Cookies)
MUSIC: I ended up being a little too pinched for time to give the music selection a proper scavenge. So we started with a peaceful classical guitar CD and ended up with golden oldies music on satellite radio. I’ve since had a little more time to look and here’s the thoughtful lineup I found:
At a Garden Party, Ed Bickert
Garden Party, Rick Nelson
The Last Dance, Music for a Vanishing Era
Radiance, Music for a Garden Party (Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Dvorak, etc.)
And Dan Gibson’s Solitudes Classical Garden, featuring the sounds of nature with music
Or… we could make a homemade CD or create an i-tunes playlist to play at the party. If the garden party is to celebrate Mother’s Day, you could give the music mix to Mom afterward. Buy MP3 singles from Amazon.com and burn them onto one CD. Here are a few suggestions:
Anita Renfroe, The Mom Song (Momisms)
Boyz II Men, a Song for Mama
Chris Young , Voices
Carry Underwood, Mama’s Song
Brad Paisley, She’s Everything
Carry Underwood, Don’t Forget to Remember Me
Dolly Pardon, Coat of Many Colors
Jamie O’Neal, Somebody’s Hero
LeAnn Womack, I Hope You Dance
Rascal Flats, My Wish
Martina McBride, In My Daughter’s Eyes
Merle Haggard, Mama Tried
Taylor Swift, The Best Day
Trace Adkins, One Hot Mama
Trace Adkins, You’re Gonna Miss This
Trace Adkins, She Thinks We’re Just Fishin’
Celine Dion, A New Day Has Come
Loudon Wainwright III, Daughter
Lonestar, Mr. Mom
Martina McBride, Blessed
Edwin McCain, I Could Not Ask for More Sara Evans, Always Be My Baby LeAnn Rimes, How Do I Live Carrie Underwood (feat. Randy Travis), I Told You So Guns n Roses, Sweet Child of Mine
Alicia Keys, Superwoman
Aerosmith, Don’t Want to Miss a Thing
CRAFT: After our luncheon I gathered the girls up and moved our party to the far side of the yard where I had a craft project set up – making garden stepping-stones. I laid out all the decorations (small stones, marbles, jewels, beads, mosaic tiles, sea shells, tools, etc.) and the cement forms, one for each person. I mixed up cement in a wheelbarrow with water and mixed in a little cement dye to give our stones a kind of adobe look.
After I poured the cement into each form (pizza boxes) we got busy decorating. We started with pressing our handprints (footprints) into the center, and then we started arranging little decorations around it and carving designs into the wet concrete.
We all pitched in to make a stone for my sister who died the April before. We also made one for my other sister who lives far far away. With hers I asked if she could send a paper tracing of her hand that we could use to press into the cement, and also if she could send some decorations for us to use in her stone, and if possible draw us a pattern of how she would like us to decorate it. The finished products needed to set-up and then dry without being moved for at least 24 hours, so my guests left their creations with me for delivery on another day. I later delivered all of them to my mom’s yard and we set them along a lazy path in her beautiful gardens.
GIFTS: I paired a devotional book with a little watering can and filled it with garden tools, gloves, and seeds, for a hip little gift set. I found my small inexpensive watering cans at Big Lots, along with the low-cost garden utensils, gloves, and packets of seeds. I put the tools down into the watering cans, squeezed in the pair of gloves, and tucked two seed packets in the top. I tied a THANK YOU card to the handles with macramé twine. Then I gave them to my mom and sister. I also placed one on my neighbor’s door step, and made another for a girlfriend. And while I was at it, I thought they would make nice end-of-the-year gifts for each of the teachers I worked with in an elementary school, so I made three more.
The devotional books I purchased several years ago were from Crossings and are unfortunately no longer in print, but they can be found used sometimes on eBay or Amazon.com, or other out-of-print, or used book stores. They paired really well with the watering cans to make a thoughtful gift.
Bible Seeds, A Simple Study-Devotional for Growing in God’s Word
From the Creators of the God’s Word for the Biblically-Inept ™ Series
Starburst Publishers, ISBN 0-7394-2142-5
Bible Seeds for Enriching Your Character,
A Simple Study-Devotional for Growing in God’s Word
From the Creators of the God’s Word for the Biblically-Inept ™ Series
Starburst Publishers, ISBN 0-7394-3048-3
Garden Party 2008
This Mother’s Day I invited my mom, sister, her daughter, my other three nieces, my grand-niece, my sister’s mother-in-law, and my nephew’s wife. It was a full house.
And for this year’s garden party I planned a “kiddie pool pedicure party” where all my guests would sit in lawn chairs in a circle outside around our kiddie pool filled with hot sudsy water and perfumed bath salts and floating flower pedals. The sun would be shining and the birds would be chirping. We’d be wearing our capris and peddle-pushers. We would take off our shoes and soak our footies in the warm water while we nibbled on a modest buffet of brunch items. I thought it would bring back memories of when my sisters and I were young. In the summers our Grandma Gen’s would fill tubs with water and we’d all sit around in her yard and dangle our feet in the tubs. It is one of my fondest childhood memories.
Once our feet had soaked we would give ourselves PEDICURES and paint our toenails with our choice of nail polish, all the while chit-chatting about this and that. Afterwards, since our feet would be so pretty we would need some way to show them off, so I planned a CRAFT of decorating flip-flops. Our local Hobby Lobby store had everything I needed from the glue to the flip-flops and all the cutsie adornments to decorate them.
Well, you know how plans go sometimes – right out the window! That Saturday morning we had cold drizzle, and I mean blue-lips, can’t-feel-my-fingers, it’s-raining-it’s-pouring-the-old-man-is-snoring, COLD drizzle. Ugh. So we had to move our little soirée indoors to my cramped man-cave.
I phoned last-minute and begged everyone to bring a foot tub. I had also asked in the invitations for everyone to bring their own pedicure kits, and a few bottles of nail polish to share.
We didn’t let the inclement weather, or all the other little mishaps dampen our spirits. My guests seemed to have a blast and thankfully found humor in my severe lack of hostess skills that day.
Karen was my first guest to arrive and helped me put together the mimosas. While she poured orange juice I finished assembling the breakfast pizzas and that’s when the smoke alarm went off. Oh dear, someone – I’m not mentioning any names, but her initials are Lindee (sorry Sis) – placed a stack of paper plates out-of-the-way and over on the stove… on a lit burner that she didn’t realize was lit (whoops)! Thanks to Karen’s keen sniffer and quick reflexes, she grabbed and tossed the stack in the sink and ran water to put the flames out. Woo hoo… disaster averted! It all just added to our zany fun that day.
I don’t know whether the weather put me off or what, but I just didn’t have my feet under me with this get-together. Have you ever had a party like that? I felt scattered and rushed, and just helter-skelter, all over the place with my mood and my time management – just everything. In spite of that though we spent a sweet morning together listening to silly music, eating, being crafty and otherwise enjoying each other’s company. I ended up with enough stuff for everyone to make two pairs of flip-flops each, and I had gathered enough decorations and idea sheets to give us all plenty of inspiration.
1 tube Pillsbury Pizza dough (refrigerated) (or you could use a Boboli ready-made crust)
2 Ripe Avacados, mashed (or a ready-made spicy guacamole)
6 strips of crispy fried bacon, crumbled
Grape tomatoes sliced in half
Handful of Arugula (or spinach) leaves
Dash of Tabasco
Pop the dough out of the tube and press out onto a large greased pizza pan. Bake until just turning golden, or use a Boboli crust. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Mix a few drops of Tabasco in with the mashed avocados and spread onto pizza crust. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon, arugula leaves, and grape tomato halves. Cut into wedges and serve. I tripled this recipe because of our number of guests and we had left-overs.
2 (1-lb) bags frozen peaches
1 tsp. lemon juice
½ cup sugar
2 Tbsp Cornstarch
1 tsp. Mace (or nutmeg)
1 Tbsp Vanilla
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 stick of butter, melted
Cinnamon and sugar
Toss 1 bag of peaches with next 5 ingredients and then layer in bottom of a buttered casserole dish. If you want to be fancy you can split it among ramekins (one for each guest).
Place sugar, flour, and milk in a bowl and whisk until blended. Whisk in the melted butter. Pour the batter over the peaches. Sprinkle with Cinnamon and sugar. Bake for 1 hour, or until the peaches are bubbling and the crust is golden. Check a little earlier if doing ramekins.
½ gallon organic orange juice with pulp
2 small cans of peach nectar
1 small bottle of champagne (or sparkling cider, or ginger ale)
Mix all together in a large pitcher and pour into wine or champagne flutes. Decorate with orange slices dropped into the glass and a sprig of mint on top.
For this craft you need at least one pair of flip-flops per guest. Hobby Lobby had a whole section dedicated to this craft. I picked up all the supplies there. At home I had material scraps that could be torn into strips and tied onto the straps of the flip-flops. I also had double-sided tape to adhere bead strips and fur strips and other decorations to the top of the sandals. If you can’t find craft flip-flops, just have each of your guests bring a pair from home to bling out.
Other Craft Ideas from Parties Past (pictured below):
Broken dish mosaic picture frames. Mosaic pieces can be glued to picture frames or clay pots and finished with grout to make a very nice looking product. Look at yard sales and second-hand stores for pretty dishes that are inexpensive; or use one of the dishes from your own cupboard. If you have a child who has gotten engaged, this would make a neat “break the dish” (Jewish engagement custom) activity for a mother to do with the fiancé’s mother, and would make a neat wedding gift for the couple to place their wedding photo in. Wrap the dishes in several sheets of newspaper and whack them several times with a hammer until there are just quarter-sized pieces. Use a fast drying mosaic glue (available at hobby stores) to adhere the pieces to the picture frame or clay pot. Keep the pieces fairly close together. Let the glue dry.
Follow package directions and mix up a batch of grout. Purchase any color sanded grout powder (available from Home Depot) that will compliment your china. Smooth it in between the tiles being sure to fill all the gaps and air spaces. Let it dry for as long as is recommended on the package, and then use a damp sponge to gently wipe the grout off the tiles. Keep rinsing the sponge and squeezing the water out of it in between wipes.
Once all the tiles are clean, let the project sit and dry for a day or two.
Paint Clay pots with acrylic paint. My family and I have done this at Christmas time and then planted narcissus bulbs in the pots after they were decorated. We’ve also done them for Mother’s day with summertime themes. Dani did hers with sunflowers. I did mine with dragonflies and other bugs. Gracee painted hers with stripes, and our other guests did designs that unfortunately escape my memory. Buy whatever size terra-cotta pots suit your fancy and some containers of water-based acrylic paint. You’ll also need an assortment of different sized and shaped paintbrushes. Remember to get the little plates that go underneath the pots and paint them too.
Paint and decorate birdhouses. A few years back I found some little wooden birdhouses at the craft store. I drug them out on Mother’s Day and we painted and decorated them. I glued rocks and sticks to mine after painting the little roof. My mom and daughters just painted theirs with pretty designs.
Rock Bugs: Hunt for rocks that are all different shapes and sizes. Glue small round ones together to make caterpillars or ants. Use small round ones and paint to look like ladybugs, bees, spiders, or beetles. Use long skinny ones and paint them to look like grasshoppers or hornets, or lizards. Use your imagination and have fun. These look especially cute when placed in the soil of a potted plant or scattered around on a window ledge with potted plants.
Craft Party 2011
My first year in Texas I decided to celebrate mother’s day with all my girlfriends and their daughters/grand-daughters. They all came over for a craft party. I served food and had music playing, of course. JoAnn’s Fabrics and Crafts had little wooden birdhouses on sale for $1 each so I picked up about $30 worth. I also picked up some cheap wind chimes to attach to the bottoms of the birdhouses, and hardware to put some heavy string through to hang them on our porches. I asked my friends to bring paints, brushes, glue guns, and whatever other things they might want to use to decorate a bird house with. They all did and we had hours of fun with each other.
COWBOY CAVIAR (and tortilla chips)
1 can Black Eyed Peas, drained
1 can White Shoe peg Corn, drained
4 ripe tomatoes, diced
2 ripe Avocados. Diced
2 fresh Jalapeños, seeded and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch green onions, chopped
¼ cup Olive Oil
¼ cup Red Wine Vinegar
1 tsp. Cumin
¾ tsp each Salt & Pepper
¼ tsp Cayenne Pepper
Family Size Package of Tortilla Chips, Scoops
Mix all ingredients, except for chips, in a bowl. Toss well to distribute flavors. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator until party time. Serve with tortilla chips, like you would salsa and chips or guacamole and chips.
EGG SALAD SANDWICHES
1 dozen hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
1 small white onion minced
¼ cup sweet pickle relish
½ cup Mayo
1 Tablespoon Spicy Brown Mustard
Dash Cayenne powder
¼ tsp Salt & Pepper
5 leaves of Romaine Lettuce, shredded
2 Loaves of White Bread from the Bakery, sliced thin, crusts removed
Mix first 7 ingredients in a bowl, cover and chill overnight. The day of the party, lay out the bottom slices of white bread on a flat surface and spread egg salad over them in a thin layer. Layer several shreds of lettuce over, and then cover with the other slices of white bread. Cut each in half from corner to corner and then in quarters from the other corners. Arrange on a platter, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until party time.
SOUTH TEXAS SHRIMP COCKTAILS
2 lb frozen cooked shrimp, tail off, thawed, rinsed and patted dry
3 Large Ripe Avocados, cut into small chunks
6 Large Jalapeños, stems removed, chopped with seeds
1 Small White Onion, chopped
Half a bunch of Cilantro torn apart and chopped
2 12-oz bottles Louisiana brand Seafood Sauce, Spicy
3 Lemons cut into wedges
Clear plastic tumblers
In a large bowl combine shrimp, avocado, jalapenos, onion, cilantro, and sauce. Toss to combine. Spoon into clear plastic tumblers, top with a lemon wedge and sprig of parsley if desired, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
2 gallons drinking water, reserve 3 cups
10 Lemons, sliced
1 can frozen concentrate lemonade
4 cups sugar
2 gallon container with lid
Place 2 gallons of fresh cold drinking water in a 2 gallon glass container, reserving 3 cups to be used in a moment. Add lemons and frozen concentrate. Stir well. Place the 3 cups of reserved water in a bowl and microwave on high for 3 minutes until boiling. Add the 4 cups of sugar to the boiling water and stir until dissolved. Allow to cool, and then add to the lemonade. Stir well, chill until ready to serve.
Variation: Add a variety of chopped up chilled fruits (e.g. thin watermelon wedges with rind on, strawberries halved, green melon chunks, raspberries, blueberries, red grapes, orange slices, lime slices, and maraschino cherries) to the lemonade just before serving, or place fruits in large beverage glasses and fill each with lemonade. Serve with a straw.
RASPBERRY CREAM CHEESE DELIGHT
Graham Cracker Crust:
1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
In a small bowl, combine the crumbs and sugar; add butter and blend well. Press onto the bottom and up the sides of an ungreased 9-in. pie plate. Bake at 375 degrees *F for 8-10 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before filling.
1 pkg of cream cheese, warmed to room temp
1 small container of marshmallow cream
1 tsp lemon juice
1 small container cool whip
1 package fresh or frozen raspberries
Mint leaves and lemon slices for garnish
Mix cream cheese, marshmallow cream, lemon juice, and cool whip in a bowl. Carefully fold in half the raspberries. Spread over cooled graham cracker crust. Place the other half of the raspberries on top and garnish with mint leaves and lemon slices. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.
And here’s a menu I put together for a Baby Shower garden party for my daughter:
“And when these days were completed, the king made a feast…for all the people…great to small, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace.”