Monday, June 1, 2009

An Evening in Tuscany

My hubby is turning forty, so I threw him a big party in our backyard Friday night.  We both love Italy, and since we have done our backyard in the Tuscan style, I decided to have a Tuscan themed party.
For the invitation, I used a picture of my honey "holding up" the leaning tower of Pisa that we took a few years back on our trip to Italy.  I added the caption, "Look whose beginning to LEAN a little?"  On the inside was the invitation to help us celebrate before he becomes an ancient ruin.  People got a kick out of the invitation.

About a year ago I found all these pretty blue paper goods at Target on 75% off clearance.  I snatched it up, and have been looking for a reason to use them ever since.  I thought it looked like beautiful Italian pottery.  The colors in it - blue, yellow, and red - I used for inspiration for the decorations.  I also found a pretty bouquet of sunflowers and such in just the right colors at Trader Joe's.
I wanted to do something bright and bold, and inexpensive, without going the crepe paper and balloons route.  It was an adult party, and I wanted it to be a bit more sophisticated.  I found these great paper lanterns online at Luna Bazaar, and later I found the big yellow ones at our local Cost Plus on clearance for only $1.99 each!  The lanterns weren't Italian but they were bold and bright, and perfect for what I wanted to do. 

 I just love the way they look all lit up at night, bobbing around in the breeze!  But they didn't really fit the string of lights I had.   They kept falling off and I was getting frustrated.  Then I used some packing tape to stick them on really good.  It did the trick.  Not one fell of during the whole party.

I also used some of the faux tomato plants I found at TaiPan.  You can't do Italian without tomatoes, and I love the colors!

 My happy find was the tall grape plants, on stakes, already bearing fruit, at Home Depot of only $19.95 each.  Nothing says Tuscany like grape vines.   We will plant them in the yard now that the party is over.  Can't wait for those to get ripe!  Behind the bar, our raised vegetable garden was all planted with tomatoes, basil, peppers and eggplant, and it made a lovely back drop. 

I HAD to make one of my famous fabric banners for the party.  I couldn't help myself!  I just love putting the different fabric patterns together to get just the right look.  This time it was blue, yellow and red.  It said "Ciao!"  which is a greeting of hello and good-bye in Italian.  You know, "good-bye thirties, hello forties, good-bye eyesight, hello reading glasses, good-bye hair..."  You get the idea.  Actually, I was only thinking "Hello guests, good-by guests" when I made it.

For food I had a panini bar.  I love, love, love panini, and I piled the table with all my favorite breads, cheeses, meats, and other favorite panini fillings.  We had three panini grills going and it blew a fuse!  Ooops!  Luckily one of our guests was an electrician, so we weren't in the dark too long.
There was a ton of food.  Pretty spears of roasted asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, my favorite Caprese salad with tomatoes, basil leaves and fresh mozzarella.  My mom brought some yummy gnocchi.  If you haven't ever tried gnocchi, do.  You are in for a treat!

I also served crab salad in endive spears, fresh melon and grapes, and tiny polenta bites and tomato pie, and lots more besides.  For all the food, I found recipes that were really, really easy, but also really tasty.  And I had a lot of help in the kitchen as guests arrived and offered to assist.  They are all so good!

While the guests feasted,  I had to sneak into the house to finish preparing dessert.

Yes, I said dessert.  Haven't you ever had spaghetti and meatballs for dessert?

Well, when the spaghetti is on top of cupcakes you would try it, especially if the noodles are made of frosting, the marinara sauce is made of strawberry jam, Parmesan cheese is white chocolate, and the meatballs are made of Ferrero Rocher chocolates.  They looked exactly like meatballs!  I found the idea in Hello, Cupcake!, a totally fun cupcake book I just discovered.  I think the cupcakes were my favorite part of the whole party - and no cake decorating skills required! 

It was a terrific Tuscan party for my terrific man.   He was worth every bit of effort!

Boy, do I love to entertain!  (But now I am ready to take a long break!  Maybe for his 50th.  Maybe sooner.)



  1. You did a great job! Everything looks so beautiful! I bet he loved it! The strawberry cake looks delicious!

  2. Your party looks like a great success! Everything fit into your theme, even the dessert! I'll bet that surprised everyone. Thanks for sharing your ideas. I may steal a few of them if you don't mind : O )


  3. It sounds like a wonderful evening with good food, good friends, lovely decorations and good weather. For Foodie Friday before April Fools day, I posted a trick I pulled on my grandson. It looked like I was serving him a grilled cheese sandwich and a cupcake. However, the grilled cheese was pound cake and orange icing. The cupcake was a meatball with colored mashed potatoe icing.

  4. hi i know you dont know me, but im alyssa's neice. i just wanted to say that your party looked fabulous and i just wanted to give you props on the awesome decor and the food looked GREAT.

  5. Great job! Everything looks delicious and oh, so inviting. The food looked amazing! I am sure your husband was thrilled. I loved the last picture the best-since you can really see how nice everything came together.

  6. You are amazing! It looked like a great night. Sorry we couldn't be there. You are definitely a great entertainer.

  7. Rachelle,
    You did such an incredible job on your husband's 40th party. Oh, I will be calling you for inspiration, when I have a future need!! I had so much fun seeing you in May. You are one amazing Gal! We really need to think about putting together another "rejuvenation retreat" next May (although I feel bad that you two have to do all the driving).