Well, the mister turned 30 this weekend.
And even after dad’s stay in the hospital last week, I felt we needed to stick to the plan of a surprise birthday dinner.
(Dad is home, by the way, and on his way to recovering.  Thank you all for your prayers, sweet comments,  tweets, and emails!!)
Originally, we were going pretty formal, but in the end, my lack of energy and who I am, in general, overruled. I had basically one day to pull together a casually elegant evening for our friends.
Did I mention the entire house was a total wreck and I cleaned literally all day on Friday??  It gave me a reason to redeem our disastrous messes, that’s for sure.


Once the house was mostly clean, I played around with tablescapes.  I envisioned simple, natural, and one conducive to lots of laughter and conversation.
No towering flower arrangements here.


I also wanted it to feel classic, elegant, casual, and a little masculine all at once.  Plus, I didn’t want to buy a single thing.


My favorite element was honestly placing my tarnished silver in this rusty tin caddy.  Oh, and the fact that I stacked it on books.


I even broke out the place card/napkin ring holders.  You only turn 30 once, right?  Refined because of the place cards, and a little rustic from the twine-tied linen napkins.
I’m so very happy I took a picture of it in the candlelight, because I totally forgot to light them once our guests were here.
Nice, right?


I really wanted everything to feel earthy and natural, but I still needed some space on the table for our guests and also wanted to encourage conversation.
That meant there was no room for lots of greenery and branches, so I simply used my Ballard topiaries in the center, and brought more nature in by using split peas in teacups and crystal…and in the rusty tin.


I LOVE seeing the silver, wooden candlesticks, crystal, old books and rumply linen all side-by-side.


Our dining table seats eight, so I had a smaller table set up for a few of the guests (including myself).  To keep with the casual-ness of the party, I used a tray filled with our necessities rather than creating more place settings.


I’m telling you, you’ve got to jump on the split-pea bandwagon.
Their color is perfection and by storing them in an airtight container or Ziploc bag, you can use them again and again.


While Matt and I agreed that he looks sort of jeepers-creepers in this shot, we’re both thrilled to have a current picture of us together.   Honey, you know it’s true.  Still love ya, though.


I had Matt’s best friends from Florida (and here) come surprise him…and that was the best part!
If you follow on Twitter, you know I decided to channel my inner Pioneer Woman and use only her recipes.  And I almost went broke in the Fresh Market on Thursday.
Therefore, my gift to him was the meal.
Something tells me PW doesn’t look this frazzled (and goofy and almost mad) in the kitchen.


But luckily I had help.
(Thanks Crystal and Anna Lauson-who is also one of the world’s best babysitters!)
The Menu:
Cheese Plate with Olives and Honey
Herb and Simple Yeast Rolls
Strawberry Chantilly Cake
(which was totally purchased 🙂


Here’s the tenderloin after searing in the skillet with butter and olive oil.  I know you know that PW knows how to serve up some delicious, totally butter-free dishes, right??
And because I was a total spaz and completely worn out from the week at the hospital, I had no energy to snap pictures of each step of the cooking.  I thought I’d show you how it turned out straight from the source.
photo courtesy of The Pioneer Woman
And it really did turn out that lovely.  And pink.  And tender.
I may have completely scared the more timid beef-eaters, but it really was delish.  If you guys haven’t checked out The Pioneer Woman’s site (and recipes), you should jump over there asap.
It really was an incredible night.  I’m affirmed by time spent with friends and family, and put simply, I was filled.


I think Ava had fun, too.
(you can get a sneak peek of new things in the master if you look really hard…past the mess, that is)


I hate that Lance had to drive down for such a situation with dad, but I was so thankful my brother was there to spend time with us.  And…who would have been in charge of the cheese plate if he hadn’t been here?


Lauren and Rick were here.  We took a break on the book for one night, at least.
And that tablescape?
It served its purpose.




And the night was filled with conversation and laughter.


I hate the baby girl was already in bed, but it was fun to snap some pictures with my boys.
Happy 30th, Matt.  I hope you know how much you are treasured and loved by this crazy woman, and what a blessing you are to me and everyone who knows you best.
And because I couldn’t take lots of pictures, I wanted you to get a glimpse of that glorious meat in person and a feel for the goofiness of the evening.  Take a look at this butter-filled snippet…
Don’t forget to enter the Willow House Giveaway.  Closes Wednesday at Noon!