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Jul 26, 2017 11:05am

Julia Usher baking in her home kitchen
Blog Recipes and Tips From Julia Usher

Bring in Spring

Around about mid-March last year, I caught a serious case of spring fever. No surprise really, considering the season’s painfully long St. Louis winter. Plus, there was only so much swaddling in sweaters, socks, and blankets that I could take. After a while, all the extra padding, detachable or not, weighed heavily on both body and spirit.

I needed to improve my mood - and fast - so I did what I’m known to do best: I used the excuse of the moment (this time, winter doldrums) to throw a special party. Then I promptly filled it with suggestions of spring. While I butted heads with Mother Nature every so often (temps dropped into the 30s the week before the event), party planning, as always, put me back on the happy track.

Need to lift your spirits? Then bring in spring as I did. It’s easy if you just let your mind run free a bit - and follow one simple party planning tip. I began by conjuring up every harbinger of spring possible - freshly laid eggs, downy pussy willows, sprightly wheat grass, sunshine-y bouquets of daffodils…you catch my drift. Once these messengers of the season were firmly in mind, I then set about the task of sneaking each one into my party décor, following the guiding principle that repeated reminders are what make a party theme sing.

To help you remember this oh-so-important tip, here’s how I wove the seasonal story throughout this dinner party:

1 | Sought (and bought) greener pastures.

I desperately needed to add some happy hues to my otherwise monochromatic tabletop, so I purchased flats of wheat grass and potted daffodils from my local florist. (Best to order these items well in advance, as they’re seldom stocked.) For garden beds, I emptied out a few old wooden cabinet drawers and lined them with garbage bags to keep my new yellow runner from getting wet and dingy. A cast cement bunny rabbit and vintage papier-mâché Easter eggs added even more color to my centerpiece (top photo).

2 | Transformed precious keepsakes.

By now you should know that I’m a huge fan of re-purposing. So in typical form, I turned antique Easter postcards into place cards and menus (second and third photos from top). All you need for these projects is access to a digital scanner and Photoshop or other photo editing software. Oh, and a few pussy willows to which to string spring onto the place cards! For more detailed project instructions, see the links below. The menu shown here follows directions similar to those for my French Bistro Menu.

3 | Made a statement with the menu.

I was careful to plant the party theme in the menu as well. Look closely at the third photo from top, and you’ll see that the meal was specially planned so that the first letter of each course, taken together, would spell out “spring”. A little contrived? Only if the ingredients hadn’t been so evocative of the season. Every edible from the spring lamb to the morels in the risotto to the quail eggs “nested” in wheat grass (the appetizer, second photo from bottom) sang the same cheery tune. For the quail egg recipe, see the link below.

4 | Developed the details.

Details, remember, are the little surprises that keep guests on their toes, and that elevate a party from average to magical. This said, they should never be overlooked. Here (bottom photo), an antique floral frog, flash card, and papier-mâché eggs formed one of the party’s many simple, but striking tabletop vignettes.

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Great decorations! Happy Easter!
Bryan Meyers

By Bryan Meyers on April 03, 2010

so lovely! where did u get your papier-mache eggs? Just the cover of your Cookie Swap book is already so inspiring!

By minibaker on April 05, 2010

Hi, minibaker, Thanks for the kind words about Cookie Swap. I got these particular eggs in the photos (German, 50s era) at my local antiques mall, but blumchen.com carries some (vintage ones too). They also carry plain brown eggs in a few sizes that you can cover with paper yourself.

- Julia

By Julia Usher on April 05, 2010

What a lovely idea for menu and seating place cards!! I am not the most creative person and find your site so helpful Thanks so much!!

By Dede on April 07, 2010

Thanks, Dede! You should give these ideas a whirl. Super easy, really!

By Julia Usher on April 07, 2010