“You throw the BEST parties,” she said to me, “Why aren’t you sharing them on your blog?”
It’s true. Even if I do say so myself. I throw great parties. Actually, I have to say WE. I am pretty much just the idea person, and it absolutely takes a village to make my great ideas happen.
WARNING: Lots of colorful photos and extensive party details ahead. Feel free to steal and make them your own.
We threw a wonderful birthday celebration for both me and Eric. We were coming upon milestone birthdays – he was turning 50 and I was turning 60. (I know. Shut up.)
Lucy designed the super fun invitations. We decided to call it our 50/60 Party – for obvious reasons.
The theme was inspired by the movie, “Chef.” Because Cubanos, of course. If you haven’t yet seen this gem, do yourself a favor and watch it immediately. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
I wrote about how my kids met Jon Favreau and fell in love with Cubanos and we were super inspired. And so the ‘Chef’ theme started to take life.
So the question remained: How could I replicate the ‘Chef’ El Jefe food truck in my own back yard?
If I had an unlimited budget and the means to, I would have TOTALLY recreated a life-size food truck, but space and money being limited, (and Eric’s eye-roll when I suggested the idea) I decided we could create a food truck facade right in front of our kitchen window.
The kids built a wooden “bar” with a cross beam on top from which we hung a blackboard with the menu. (This is where their nerdy theater set-building backgrounds came in so handy.)
We painted it in our bright party colors and added flags I had sewn for the occasion to match the sign.
To add to the festive atmosphere of the party space, instead of the flags we usually hang across the yard, we tied strips of colored fabric (in my party colors, of course) to twine and hung those along with my decorative lights. Cut the strips about 16 inches long. Full disclosure: I do some version of this every year, but that’s not important right now.
Lucy designed some artwork derived from the El Jefe food truck from the movie. We had it printed as a large format digital print in black and white and hand colored it before we attached it to our “food truck” facade. I was kind of in love with how it turned out. It looked homemade, but just “professional” enough.
I picked up these light up letters at Hobby Lobby. They’re from the Heidi Swapp collection. We colored the background to match our “truck.” I was super happy with the look they added to our design.
We ordered all the food service items from Papermart – more cost effective for us frequent-party-throwers than getting them from a party store, but you can probably get them there, too. We presented the silverware (plastic) in mason jars and clean tin cans with homemade tags with the appropriate clip art. Everything was disposable.
The menu was pretty simple, but in keeping within the ‘Chef’ movie theme, we served Cubanos and grilled cheese sandwiches. (Seriously, go watch it right now.)
The options were:
#1- The Cubano. Pork • Ham • Swiss Cheese • Pickles • Mustard – Served with – a ham croqueta • plantain chips.
#2 – Grilled Cheese. Served with – a cup of homemade tomato soup. (This was our delicious vegetarian option, because California, and when you see the movie you will be craving a grilled cheese sandwich. Seriously.)
Of course there was all kinds of overlap as people wanted to try the tomato soup and half-sandwiches and maybe just a croqueta, please. We managed to accommodate all the requests, thanks to my crack chefs in the kitchen.
Jon and his friend Nathan made the Cubanos and the grilled cheeses to order.
Ordering from the window was quite fun for everyone. We provided drinks and chips at our larger serving table.
Because it was our birthdays and we used that really fun photo of us on the invitation, we also had that printed as a large format digital print. The giant mounted photo was fun for us to have as a focal point for our party and it’s now hanging in our bedroom. (I hope that wasn’t an overshare.)
I pre-cooked the pork in the crockpot and shredded it for the sandwiches (instead of slicing). The tomato soup is one of my specialties and I also made it before and served it from the crockpot.
Porto’s Bakery made my life easier because they have real-old-school Cuban bread. Also, they provided the croquetas and the pastries for dessert. Cheating? More like, making my life easier, thankyouverymuch.
I tend to prefer natural centerpieces and I freely admit to knowing nothing at all about flower arranging, but I also know what I like. Because of our Cubano theme, I grabbed some baskets for each of the tables and grabbed some pineapples, lemons, limes, garlic and cilantro. My thought process was – I like these because they’re my party colors and also, they happen to be the ingredients that go into a killer mojo criollo. So there’s that.
Plus, pineapples are always friendly.
Because we were celebrating birthdays, there was a cake. Keeping it simple, it was a Costco special – chocolate on chocolate. Lucy made the fun 50/60 banner for the top. Candles would have necessitated that we alert the fire department, so that was completely out.
The other dessert option which was an absolute hit: Trays of pastelitos – Guava and cheese, guava, and straight-up cheese. Full disclosure – we have done this for other parties because it was such a hit. I found the 3 opening blackboard at Home Goods. Best purchase ever.
A gathering of Cubans always includes Cuban music and if there’s Cuban music, you know there’s going to be dancing. Mostly salsa sounds as well as old-school Cuban. It was hard to remain in your seat when the music got turned up.
There are a lot of things I’m not particularly good at – like Cuban Cleaning® for example. But (in all humility) I’m seriously good at throwing parties.
For those that hung in through the meal and dessert and dancing, we showed the film, ‘Chef’ in our Outdoor Movie Theater. Mostly everyone stayed and loved it, of course. (I told you!)
So we celebrated our 50th and 60th years with our excellent friends and family and everyone left with full bellies and happy hearts and a very good time was had by all.
“To me, growing old is great. It’s the very best thing – considering the alternative.” ~Michael Caine
(Note: All the photos in this post were taken by our good friend, photographer Dan Shalaby and my iPhone (those would be the blurrier, not as pretty ones, but that’s not important right now.)