My family just returned from a 3-week road trip exploring some of the Midwestern states. It was a lot of driving, but such a great family experience. We love road trips, and my 5, 8, and 10 year old do great with them. This year, we hit a total of 17 states! California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Kansas, tip of Oklahoma and Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. I love a travel theme, and since I got back two days before my dinner party, Hello to the Heartland seemed like a good theme.
Invite: I designed the invite on Photoshop and highlighted one landmark from some of the states we visited. Nothing too fancy for the invite, just straightforward info.
Decor: For my table decor, I chose to use tablecloths and napkins that matched the red, yellow, and blue of the invitation. For the centerpiece, I used some souvenir items from our trip as well as some things I found around the house.
Kansas is the Sunflower State, so I bought some beautiful sunflowers to place in a mason jar. Next to it I set my 5-year old daughter's duck boat souvenir from Wisconsin Dells.
I made a St. Louis arch with a pool noodle and some wood. My husband made the wood piece with pegs on each side. We spray-painted the base green and the noodle silver and slid it on the pegs to make it stay. I borrowed my son's Field of Dreams souvenir hat with a baseball and ear of corn to represent Iowa. My daughter's Nashville shirt and toy horse to represent Tennessee and the hundreds of horses we saw on farms.
When in Kentucky, we toured the Louisville Slugger factory. These are the mini bats they gave us at the end of the tour as well as a magnet I purchased.
My aunt and uncle gave my son this hat when we visited them in Indiana. Added another ear of corn to represent this state as well.
For place cards, I designed postcards from some of our favorite spots we visited. I thought it would be easy to find current postcards with Google images, but it was actually not as easy as I thought. I did have to design them. Instead of just "Greetings from Nashville" as a normal postcard might say, I needed to add the guest's name. I used Photoshop to change it to "Michelle sends Greetings from Nashville" or sayings similar to this.
I set up my drink and appetizer table with this metal United States. I bought it to use on my wall of travel photos. Just added a heart near some of the heartland states.
I printed out state shapes to use as both napkin decor and wine charms. Nothing fancy.
I had fun making the wine labels to match this trip. My family visited both Churchill Downs and Wrigley Field, so I used these as inspiration. "I'll have Another" won the Kentucky Derby in 2012, and it just seemed like a fun name to use for a word play.
My family also visited both the Miller Brewery in Milwaukee for a tour as well as the Budweiser brewery in St. Louis to see the Clydesdale horses. I don't usually serve beer at these dinners, but since it was part of my Heartland vacation, I decided to serve both.
Menu: For the menu, I wanted to try to serve the most popular food from each state we visited. We started with Wisconsin cheese. I found Wisconsin cheese sticks at the grocery and cut them into cubes.
I also served Toasted Ravioli - a favorite in Missouri. I bought frozen ravioli and then dipped them in egg wash and breadcrumbs before frying them and adding a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. So good.
Many states in the Midwest are known for barbecue, so it was easy to choose the main dish. To represent Kansas, we had BBQ chicken with Kansas City sauce.
Corn is a huge crop in the Heartland, and it goes great with BBQ, so I served small ears of corn to represent Iowa.
Chicago is well-known for deep dish pizza, but it didn't quite fit with the BBQ and corn. I stretched the most popular foods for this side dish and went with baked beans to symbolically represent the Bean at Cloud Gate in Chicago.
There are so many great desserts to choose from. I almost made Hoosier Pie, a favorite in Indiana, but decided to make moon pies from Tennessee. These looked so cute when I first made them right before the party. Unfortunately, by they time I served them the marshmallow had melted a bit. If you make these, keep them in the frig or pipe the marshmallow on right before for a better look. They were really good regardless. Here's the recipe I used.
Favor: You can't do a road trip in the Midwest without seeing cornfields, so I decided corn would be my favor. I popped some popcorn and put it in a Ziploc baggie. I taped the closure of the bag to hide it in the back and wrapped a piece of green tissue paper around the bag for the husk. Make sure you tape the baggie to the tissue paper a bit so it stays where you want it. I twisted the bottom and tied it with string; then made a silly tag to go with it.
We had a great time. Can't wait to hear what you thought of this party theme and it's details!