My family just completed a month long road trip visiting the Northeastern states - 21 to be exact! It was a great trip, and we created amazing memories visiting historical landmarks, hiking in national and state parks, visiting family, and just enjoying time together. We just got back at midnight Friday, so Monday came quickly for this monthly dinner! A bit stressful getting it all together, but a great time catching up with friends and sharing parts of our vacation.
Invite: Of course the invitation was red, white, and blue for this theme of traveling the US. I added some graphics of the more popular national landmarks that we saw on the trip to the invite as well.
Decor: I really only had one day to prepare for this dinner, so my decorations stayed simple. I decorated my dinner table with patriotic decorations I already had and souvenirs we bought on our vacation. My husband loves to buy pint glasses from various places, so I used those. I also added the 3 ornaments I purchased on our trip and a few of the magnets.
One of the places we visited on our trip was the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden were we saw the iconic cherry/spoon fountain. Had to have a little fun with a photo.
I also used some of the many magnets we purchased on our trip to place on the napkins.
Above my drink table, I used a silver United States map I already owned and cut each of the 21 states we visited out of cardstock to place on it. This took some time, but wasn't too difficult. I probably could have used my Cricut, but I was worried about matching up with how the states are drawn on the metal sign.
When we first started traveling with our kids, we started collecting pressed pennies. The kids love trying to find these machines in the places we travel, and they take turns "pressing" the penny. I love that this is a super inexpensive souvenir! We have the pennies from our vacations all in a jar on our travel mantle. I decided to use a few of the pressed pennies from our trip as wine charms. I glued them to cardstock and attached them.
When we visited George Washington's home at Mount Vernon in Virginia, we saw his vineyard and grounds. We purchased a bottle of Mount Vernon red wine when we were there, and since we didn't drink it on our trip, it made a perfect beverage for this dinner. We didn't purchase any white wine on our vacation in the northeast, so I just served a general white wine.
In addition to wine, I also had Sam Adams Boston Lager. We are all wine drinkers, so the 6-pack went untouched for the night, but a couple of the guests took one home.
Menu: My menu consisted of some of the most iconic foods from a few of the states we visited. We started with an appetizer of Wisconsin Cheese Curds. YUM! I made these in my air fryer and served them with ranch and ketchup. I used this recipe. These take time to bread, but once that is done, the air fryer makes cooking and clean up easy. I created a tag for each menu item, and incorporated a popular slang phrase from that state/city. For the Wisconsin Cheese Curds, I used the phrase "yous guys."
For the main dish, I served Philly Cheesesteak Hoagies. These were also easy to make and tasty. I cut up the green peppers and onions early in the day and marinated the meat more than the 20 minutes the recipe calls for just so I could have a few more things done ahead of time. In Philly, locals also use the word "youse," so I included that word on my menu tag for these hoagies.
Of course, french fries go great with Philly Cheesesteaks, and a popular food in Delaware is vinegar fries. I have been using my air fryer to make fries for my family lately, but since I was using that for the cheese curds and this was a large batch of fries, I decided to use the oven instead. These Salt and Vinegar fries worked out great. I sliced the potatoes earlier in the day and kept them in water. Then just prepped them quickly and stuck them in the oven to bake.
For dessert, I made a Boston Cream Pie. I haven't made this type of pie before, but the recipe was pretty straightforward. It is a bit more time consuming to make than some other desserts. I made it the night before the dinner and then assembled it the morning of the dinner. Representing Boston, I had to call it "wicked good" for my menu tag.
Favor: My kids LOVE to collect the sample bottles of shampoo and conditioner from the hotels on our trip. My son's suitcase was practically full of them by the end of this vacation. I decided to use these to create a fun and funny favor for our dinner. I gave each guest a shampoo and a conditioner from one of our stops. I created a tag that read, "Hotel Greetings from _____" and picked one of the cities we stayed overnight in on this trip to fill in the blank. I also added a "Thanks for Coming. Love you!" message to the tag, but replaced the word love with the iconic love statue that started in Philly.
While it was a bit crazy and a little stressful to pull off a monthly dinner only a couple days after returning from vacation, I haven't missed a month of these dinners in 14 years, so I didn't want to miss now! Plus I got to see my amazing friends. A win win to top off a fabulous vacation!