Sunday, March 25, 2012


In lieu of our typical weekly format, we've got something a little different, a little Southern, and a lot special for you.  Mandi turned 30 a few weeks ago, and this past Friday we celebrated with a party that was small in size but big in personality.  30th birthdays only come around once in a lifetime, so they are pretty worthy of a little extra hoopla (and worth casting aside typical blog schedules, dontcha think?)

Early on (months before her big day), Mandi made it clear that a surprise party was not to be part of this milestone birthday.  The girl's a free spirit and the more laid-back of these two sisters, but she likes to be "in the know."  So, she shared her preferences and then left the details in my (hopefully) capable hands.  I got a good jump-start on things, which is more than I can say for some of my past party-planning.  But, when you have a very active almost-2-year-old, working in advance goes from being a luxury to an absolute necessity. 

One suggestion that Mandi made for her party (before releasing all control to "yours truly") was the idea of a post-dinner party at a local "BBQ and Blues" joint.  The music and the atmosphere were her style, she assured me.  Now, I'm not one to turn down a good suggestion, so I used that as the inspiration for the dinner portion of the evening.  "Southern Charm" became the theme of the day,  And, I do declare, it was a right lovely idea.
As I began my planning, I decided that this was going to be an attention-to-details sort of shindig.  But, I also made up my mind that we wouldn't be going hog wild.  We've all got budgets these days, have we not?  So, the aim of the game became inexpensive, fabulous, and Southern.  Brown paper lunch bags were transformed into festive, hanging flowers.  Tree branches were cut into slices, embellished with charming Southern phrases, and made into magnets (every party needs favors!).  Black and white bandannas took on a less traditional role as cloth napkins, and twine served as simple napkin rings.
Of course, every fabulous party needs fabulous food.  And, wouldn't you expect a food-blogger to put extra emphasis on the dinner spread?  Of course, you would.  And, I won't disappoint.  There was emphasis indeed. Pulled pork, macaroni & cheese, bacon-topped baked beans, tossed salad, homemade sweet tea.  Even a few gems from this very blog, the corn muffins and last week's quinoa salad, made an appearance.  It was beautiful and, more importantly, delicious

Earlier this month, I promised you that our weeks of missed recipes would eventually be made up to you.  The time has come.  Four new recipes, my friends.  Four.  I'd say we're plenty even.  And you will too after you taste the macaroni and cheese.  In fact, now you may owe me!  (You'll find all 4 recipes stored neatly for you in the posts below.)
Just as a quick review of this quartet of recipes, let me give you a few brief thoughts.  The pulled pork is just about as easy as it gets.  I almost hesitated to post it here, because a seasoning packet mix doesn't really qualify as a recipe in my mind.  But, it's just so good.  And, every cook needs some "cheats" here and there.  As long as you pick the quality ones, you can still consider yourself legit.  If you feel really guilty, keep it as our little secret.  I won't tell, and your guests will be none the wiser.  The macaroni and cheese is phenomenal.  Perfection in a casserole dish, I assure you.  The baked beans are quite tasty, topped with thick-cut bacon, and perfect for a potluck, backyard BBQ, or (in our case) a Southern-themed birthday extravaganza.  And, the sweet tea is an authentic Southern recipe direct from our friends' Tennessee kitchen.   

Now that I've got your taste buds excited and your mind full of meal possibilities for the coming week, I'll leave you with some equally exciting visuals: a few extra photographs of our sweet, Southern-soiree.  Mandi gets this week off in honor of her birthday.  But, I reckon, there's enough Southern loveliness in this extra-long post to keep y'all perfectly content until next week's deliciousness rolls around. 
Photos above:
(top) mason drinking jars with handmade "happy" flags on festive yellow straws
(middle) a guest book to be filled with 30th birthday wishes for Mandi
(bottom) a bucket of locally-made sodas with flavors such as pineapple, kiwi, peach, and strawberry

1 comment:

  1. You are a wonder! What a beautiful, simple yet elegant birthday celebration. I love the paper bag stars (I'll have to get the directions). The wood elements were perfect (if we had our own yard, I would have been cutting up some wood for our recent party too!) And I have got to get a supply of mason jars for drinks. I absolutely love the way they look with super-cool straws in them. Thanks for sharing your birthday celebration with us Mandi! Can't wait to try the recipes!!!


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