Monday, April 13, 2009

Garden Party on The Lawn

(Article by : Tina Wilson for "Small Town Living" April/May 2009)

It is that time of year again...A celebration of renewal!... when the birds build their nests, when the snow has faded from the ground, when the flowers start bursting forth with color, and when gardens are planned and seeds are planted.
The perfect time to host a garden party on the lawn with friends or family!
We've gathered some tips and ideas to help you to begin a lovely tradition of an annual garden party celebration in your own back yard.
First you'll need to decide just when you'd like to host this type of event..and you'll need a few invitations to send out.
You can hand craft lovely cards from scrapbooking paper, and other pretty specialty papers.
Plan to have the event 4 to 6 weeks after the invitations are sent.
Why?... because the fun activity I will be mentioning for your guests to be involved in takes about 4 weeks to develop.
When sending out your invitations try to limit the guest list to no more than 12 when first starting out, you don't want to get boggled down with preparations and miss out on the actual festivities yourself.Once you become a "pro" at hosting a garden party you can expand on your list of guests a bit..but for now..start out small.
In with your invitation let your guests know that they will need to bring 13 tiny seedling starts of only one type of plant variety to the garden party with them.(this number includes you the host in with the festivities/plant swap)
These can be started in pretty paper cups or other small containers.Tell your guests to clearly write on the container the name of the plant,or to include a tag of some kind with the name on it.
Remind them to start the seedlings as soon as they receive their invitations.This gives everyone about 1 month to have healthy plants to share with each other.
You can choose whether the plant swap will be all vegetables, all flowers, or an "anything goes" type of plant swap. You can also specify "heirloom varieties only". The choice is yours.
Set up a seperate table specifically for the plants.Have the first guest to arrive assist you with making sure that each plant variety is set on the table .
At the end of the garden party each guest will choose one plant from each variety brought, winding up with quite a variety to add to their gardens.
Have fun with the gathering table decorations.
Set out a few vases of fresh cut flowers.If you have a few pretty bird figurines or pretty Spring time animal figurines incorporate those in amongst the vases of flowers.Or purchase a few pots of pretty flowers at your local nursery, and using a pretty fabric create a cover for the pot base and tie with a ribbon bow.
Use your nice china and silverware.Make your guests feel very special.
You can set a pretty pair of garden gloves tied with jute and pretty name tags attached. Set them by each place setting for fun, or small gift bags filled with candies ,or herbal teas, or writing items such as note pads that they can keep a small garden journal in.You can even gift each guest with a small personalized notebook that you have decorated for them that say's "------------'s Garden Journal"
Keep your guests engaged in conversation.You can do this by having a few cards with fun garden related questions prepared before the party. Set a few of them at each place setting. Questions such as: "What was the weirdest thing you have ever seen while digging in your garden?
"What is your least favorite plant, and why?", "What is your most favorite gardening memory?", "If you could be named after a plant what would you be called?" get the idea now. Have fun with it.
You can also borrow a book from your library on tea parties,or other party themed books for even more ideas.
Have easy to prepare foods available.
You'll want items that are quick,but delicious. The host certainly doesn't want to be in the kitchen with food preparations while everyone else has fun.
Below is an easy menu we have gathered for you.

Mint Apple Juleps
2 cups fresh chopped mint leaves
8 cups apple juice
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
Fresh mint sprigs for garnish
Tie mint in a cheesecloth and put into a large saucepan.
Add the 8 cups of apple juice and bring to a boil.
Remove from the heat and discard the cheesecloth.
Stir in the fresh squeezed lime juice.
Serve over crushed ice.Garnish with fresh mint sprigs.
(8 servings/recipe can easily be doubled to accommodate the number of guests)
Fruit Tea (Makes 2 quarts)
3 cups boiling water
4 regular sized tea bags (Luzianne tea is great for this!)
3/4 cup sugar
4 cups cold water1 cup orange juice (pulp free)
1 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
Pour the boiling water over the tea bags,cover and let steep for 5 minutes.Remove tea bags.Stir in the sugar until dissolved.Stir in remaining ingredients.Serve over ice.
Layered BLT Delight Salad

1 container sour cream(8 oz.)
1 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1tsp.dried basil
1/2 tsp.salt
1/2 tsp.pepper
1/2 tsp.garlic powder
1 large head of iceberg lettuce ,chopped (about 4 cups)
1 package bacon, cooked and crumbled (32 ounce package)
6 plum tomatoes, sliced thinly
3 cups of croutons
Combine the first 7 ingredients and set aside.
In a 13 by 9 baking dish layer the lettuce, bacon and then top with the tomato slices.Spread the mayo mixture over the tomatoes, all the way to the edges of the dish.Cover and chill for 2 hours.Sprinkle evenly with the croutons and serve immediately.(makes 8 servings)
Cucumber Sandwiches-
Fresh cucumber sliced THIN
Cut fresh white bread into rounds with a cookie cutter about the size of your cucumber.
Spread a VERY thin coating of butter, and then a thin spread of mayonnaise Sprinkle the cucumber with FRESH ground black pepper ONLY - NO salt. Put the lid on! Viola!...nice cool and refreshing spring time sandwiches.
Strawberry Cream Cheese Sandwiches
Fresh strawberries sliced thin. Fresh bread - NO crusts. (White or wheat is good) Cut the bread into fourths. Spread each piece with butter, then cream cheese. Place a slice of strawberry on each piece and then top with another square.
NOTE: To store sandwiches before your gathering:Put them in a plastic container, cover with a piece of waxed paper, then dampen a paper towel and put on top of the waxed paper. Put the lid on and release any air (like tupperware) and refrigerate.
Cream Wafers
You will need:
2 cups flour
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 sticks butter at room temp (do not substitute)
sugar for coating cut outs
cookie cutter of your choice (the fluted ones like shown work BEAUTIFULLY)
flour for dusting your work area
Set your oven to 375
For Filling:
1 stick softened butter
4-5 cups confectioners sugar
flavoring of choice (I use 1 tsp vanilla extract, and a 1/2 tsp coconut & lemon)
Coloring if you like
I use parchment lined cookie sheets.
Cut the butter into the 2 cups of flour with a pastry cutter or fork until it is mealy…like cornmeal. Add cream all at once and mix until thoroughly incorporated.
Roll 1/3 the dough out adding just enough flour to keep it from sticking to the surface (I use a silicone mat). DO NOT over work your dough or your cookies will be tough. Cut what you can from this rolling and set the scraps to the side to use ONE more time. After the second rolling, discard the dough - too “used” to use. Place your cut outs into a plate of sugar to coat.Place the cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet and prick each one with a fork (3-4 times).Bake about 10-11 minutes until set…not browned. Remove to a wire rack till cooled.Mix your filling ingredients with a mixer until light. Spread one cookie and top with another. Makes a YUMMY sandwich cookie!
***Sandwich recipes and Cream Wafer Cookie recipe courtesy of Susan Dahlem at
~The Victory Gardener~

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