What can I say … today’s featured writer is my very own Mom and I couldn’t be more excited to share her passion today! Those who know my mom will say one thing – she’s CREATIVE! She is the OG Pinterest. She handcrafted costumes when buying them was more popular.
She has an eye for taking things many might consider ordinary and reinventing it in a way you would never imagine. She’s know for her immense talent of throwing themed dinner parties … and her cooking … well, it’s out of this world.
Today she is sharing with all of us her process behind throwing a themed dinner party and why it is so important to her. I am so grateful to have eaten around her dinner table time and time again and experience what can only be known as a true party filled with laughter, conversation, and life!
There is nothing that gets me as excited as when I decide to throw a themed dinner party. All of my creative boxes get checked during the process of planning and creating one. Growing up, my parents always had a crowd of people around our table; neighbors stopping in for a cup of coffee, or dads work friends stopping by with their wife for a visit. There was always a reason for people to gather at my house growing up. Sunday nights we celebrated someone’s birthday with a cake, Saturday night was often card parties, weekend mornings were for the coffee drinkers who needed a place to be heard and shoot the breeze.
My dad was a natural at socializing with the best of them, he was a jokester, a listener, and he just loved people; the more the merrier was always his thinking. My mom, who was put in a position to be ready for any unexpected visitors, always did her best to keep up with being the hostess with the mostest. Mom understood, like all of us kids did, that dad loved people, and at any given time of the day our table could fill up. As I observed the people around the table with my young eyes, and listened to conversations from another room, I couldn’t help but hear the laughter that was shared, the troubles that were mentioned, and how each person had their platform to speak and be understood. I share this with you because it wasn’t something that I just experienced as a little girl; as I grew older, this table gathering continued, only I was now enjoying being part of the conversation. Coming from a large family meant that there was always a table to gather at, including mine.
When we made the move to Minnesota a few years ago, one of the things I found myself missing was the table gathering times that I had obviously taken for granted back home. I was new to the state and feeling a little lost; I had to find a way to bring people to my table even if at first it was just my husband, and I. So that’s how it all started out, just the two of us, sitting at a well dressed table, eating good food, and feeling like we were at some restaurant, on a date. It wasn’t very long before I got to include others at my table, and well almost 60 dinners later I have made some incredible memories; in fact I still laugh at some of the things we found funny then.
As I sit here writing these words my mind is going over all the people I still want to share a themed dinner with; you know who you are, and perhaps some don’t. These themed dinners have become more than just a dinner; they have become a way for me to write and share about my personal connections to the theme. They have allowed me to try some good recipes, take some great pictures, share some tablescape ideas, and even start a sort of time capsule that holds one or two items from every tablescape,giving future generations the chance to unwrap and connect with my story and dinners in a special way. Perhaps it will inspire others not to underestimate how just gathering around a table can change things. Great conversations get shared and closeness to one another builds in a way that chops down walls. What I feel incredibly grateful for with these dinners is the chance to celebrate people in a very unique way, letting them know they matter, and are loved; what could be better than that?
Of all the dinners I have done there are only a few that include game playing, dressing up, or some mystery to solve. The thing about theme dinners is you are the decider of what you want to include, and how detailed you want to get; be forewarned though, you will never control how much laughter takes place or where the conversation goes. These are the things your guests will decide, and that is what makes these dinners so much fun. Let me share with you, just in case you are interested in throwing a themed dinner of your own, how I go about putting them together. The one I am sharing with you today is a little more involved but not all are as detailed. This themed dinner stirred up some childhood memories just as I thought it would; the theme was MONOPOLY.
Before I get started with my tablescape I always first hit the local thrift shop. I look for anything that will add to the theme of my tablescape if I have one in mind or if not something that will inspire an idea. This particular trip I had an idea in place so I knew what I was looking for. I picked up several things, including a worn out Monopoly game; I can use the game pieces to highlight my theme. So as I get started on my tablescape, I always choose a tablecloth; it is the foundation that will help direct you on many more decisions. In some rare cases like this one, when I can’t find the exact color tablecloth I want, I head to the fabric store and purchase material. After prepping the material to work as a tablecloth, I place it on the table.
Once my table is covered I decide on place mats. For this table I made a place mat template using Monopoly money and then copied them; they looked great and added to my theme.
After my tablecloth and placemats are in place, I start to put together my place settings. Will I use a charger or won’t I? For this tablescape I chose to not only use chargers, but also to paint them. Each one represented a property color. I chose black plates and white bowls and my table started to pop with color. Thank goodness for craft paint.
Every table needs details to bring your theme to life; take a look at some of the ones I came up with. Wine glass charms that had a game piece token added to them, thanks to my husband and his drill. I glued Monopoly houses onto napkin rings, and found salt and pepper shakers that looked like dice. I also added a “community chest” to glass coasters that had a property card taped on the back side of them. I printed out Monopoly labels for my water bottles and topped each one with the iconic Monopoly hat. Lastly I printed out a copy of a smaller Monopoly board and made copies of it. I spray glued them on to thick pieces of cardboard and will use them for hot pads, and mini game boards.
The table was coming together just as I hoped but I still had glasses to decide on and napkins. After those decisions were done I just had a couple more things I still wanted to include before I was finished. One of them was a MONOPOLY sign that would hang on the wall right above the table; so iconic and familiar it just had to be part of this dinner somehow.
The last thing I was lucky enough to find when thrift store shopping, was game board tokens only bigger. The items got spray painted silver and looked pretty close to the originals; as close as I was going to get. I placed one token at each place setting matching it up to the wine glass charm. Thank goodness for thrift stores and silver spray paint because I loved how these turned out.
When the table was completed I was happy with how it turned out. I think it will be a fun table to sit at, eat at, laugh at, play at, and even win at. I can’t wait to hear all the memories everyone has connected to this game. Let’s face it, most of us have memories of who we played with, what our favorite token was and stories of wins and losses.
Each place setting was unique and represented a property.
After the tablescape is finished, I get cooking. Now I realize not everyone cooks, so at this point, why not consider take out! Don’t think you couldn’t throw a themed dinner just because you don’t cook. On an occasion or two I have felt perfectly comfortable grabbing a Jimmy Johns Italian Sub to cut up and add to my menu. Now I want to do a themed dinner with only takeout food, and see what I come up with ….. Hmmm. Whatever works for you; you are in the driver seat.
Don’t miss out though on a fun evening of getting to make some great memories, and enjoy some laughs, just because cooking isn’t your thing. Life is so good around the table! Since the Monopoly game properties are all located in Atlantic City, a resort city on New Jersey’s Atlantic coast, I wanted my food to represent the casinos, wide beaches, and iconic Boardwalk it’s known for. I decided instead of a 5 or 6 course dinner, that I would serve 9 food tasters that included desserts; one for every property, including the railroad. Every dish was made with New Jersey in mind.
When the company arrived it was important we got a little bit more into the Monopoly spirit ….. So everyone was given a Monopoly T shirt that I had ordered and asked them to put on. We all took a seat and just like every other dinner first said a prayer, and then toasted to a great time together.
And then it was time for the food; every couple each got their own appetizer to enjoy; and any leftovers were theirs to take home. For round one I served: Mussels with Garlic Bread, this was something I never cooked at home before, but cooking new things is one of the things I love about these dinners. Next was Disco Fries, yes that’s the name of them, you cover the Steak Fries with brown gravy and cheese sauce; I can’t even tell you what a surprise this was, so, so good. Then I served Tomato Pie, it’s just incredible and so full of flavor.
For Round Two I served: Scallops with lemons and melted butter, an Italian Wedding Soup, a plate of sandwiches which included Italian Beef and Sausage Combos and Hoagies. My Cheese filled Crepes topped with my Creamy Alfredo Sauce completed the savory dishes I served.
This is the part at the dinner where people start to get a little slap happy, start experiencing hot flashes, and start realizing they might of over ate. When they see Round 3 my dessert course heading to the table, they all proclaim they are too full to taste any of it; but when they see the New Jersey Crumb Cake, The Waffle Ice Cream Sandwiches, and the Salt Water Taffy, there seemed to be a change of heart.
We played a short version of Monopoly that I made up, and enjoyed our desserts throughout the game playing. I was thankful for the fun night we shared; it always seems that as the night goes on the craziness starts to creep out of everyone. I wouldn’t have it any other way though because that’s when some great memories are made. So gather those you want to share a themed dinner with and make the most of it; you will be so glad you did.
“LIVING LIFE AROUND THE TABLE”
Kim has been happily married for 35+ years and currently lives in the Twin Cities area. She is originally from Chicago and continues to cheer on Chicago sports teams (Go Cubs! Go Blackhawks!). She finds so much joy being with her grandchildren, and being creative through themed dinners, decorating and cooking. She loves the Lord with all her heart and believes with God all things are possible.
PPS – If you’re ever looking for a devotional on living life while in a waiting season, check out the devotional I co-authored called ‘In the Wait’!
PPPS – Check out the other contributions from this series, including What It’s Like: to experience multiple IVF cycles, raise a child with special needs, use an egg donor, be a DIY-er and home style blogger , be a NICU nurse, Live fully in singleness while still hoping for marriage, suffer with endometriosis. experience depression, start a company, have a micro preemie, lose a parent, be childless not by choice, have a spouse with a chronic illness, fund raise for fertility treatments, have a traumatic birthing experience, take a natural route with infertility, be on a reality show, go through the adoption process, have male factor infertility,be a stay at home mom, be an entertainer, be given a Down syndrome diagnosis for your child , experience multiple miscarriages, have a surrogate, experience a late pregnancy stillbirth, be a police officers wife, be a working mom , be a breastfeeding mother, have weight loss surgery, donate and adopt an embryo, be on a reality show, and go through the fostering process. Stay tuned for many other amazing topics to come every Tuesday and Friday here!