Outside Decor: As an English teacher who has taught The Great Gatsby numerous times, I wanted to pull in some of the symbols of the novel. I created the billboard for Dr. T.J. Eckleburg in the front yard like drivers in the novel would see as they traveled through the Valley of Ashes. I changed the light bulb at my front door to be green to symbolize the green light at the end of Daisy's dock in the novel. The sign on the door welcomed guests to Gatsby's mansion.
Inside Decor: I wanted the inside to be elegant and lavish like Gatsby's parties (but on a Carole budget...meaning work with what you have!). I stuck with a white and gold color scheme to bring out this idea. I spray painted wine bottles gold and added black feathers. I used a vase of white roses to add elegance. I also spread pearls and various 1920s style clutch purses on the white tablecloth. I used my wedding china and added a piece of gold scrapbook paper under each place setting.
I purchased mini plastic martini glasses to use as place cards. I sliced the sides of each glass using a hot knife and placed a card with the guest's name in the slits. I downloaded (free) a font called "Party at Gatsby's" and used a chandelier image I found on Google to make the cards.
To add even more pizazz to the table, I borrowed 1920s-style broaches from my mom and mother-in-law to pin onto each black napkin. I had to use some earrings for this as well since they did not have enough broaches, but they worked out perfectly. Because I was using paper napkins to save money, it was easy to attach these.
I covered up my photos behind my dinner table and added photos from the 1920s for some added decor.
Menu: When I think of Gatsby's parties, I think of appetizers, so I wanted to include some in my party as well.
2 dozen mushrooms 1/3 C. finely chopped walnuts
1 Tbsp. butter or margarine 1/3 C. shredded Cheddar cheese
¼ C. finely chopped onion 1/3 C. shredded Swiss cheese
¾ C. steamed chopped spinach, well drained Salt, pepper, Seasoned fine bread crumbs
Clean mushrooms, removing stems. Melt butter in skillet. Add onion and sauté until tender. Remove from heat and add spinach, walnuts, Cheddar and Swiss cheeses. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir just until blended and spoon into mushroom caps. Sprinkle with seasoned fine bread crumbs. Place in buttered baking dish and bake at 350 F. for 20 minutes. Makes 2 dozen stuffed mushrooms with about 2 cups filling.
Shrimply Delicious Appetizer Cups
8-10 wonton skins 2 Tbsp. finely minced dill
1 C. diced cooked shrimp 3 Tbsp. safflower oil (or other oil)
1 clove garlic, pressed ½ tsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. chopped water chestnuts ½ tsp. Dijon mustard
¼ C. finely chopped peeled and seeded cucumber 1 tsp. drained capers
1 green onion, finely minced Dill sprigs
Lightly oil muffin cups. Shape wonton skins to fit cups. Bake at 375 F. 5 to 7 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool. Mix shrimpt, garlic, water chestnuts, cucumber, green onion, minced dill, oil, lemon juice, mustard, and capers. Season to taste with salt, if necessary. Chill, covered, until ready to serve. Just before serving, fill each wonton cup with mixture. Arrange on serving platter, garnished with a few dill springs. Makes 8 to 10 appetizers.
Because I knew my time was going to be short, my third appetizer I purchased from Trader Joes. These were ham and cheese puff pastries. They were super yummy and only needed to be placed in the oven for 20 minutes.
For the main dish, I served Caesar Salad and a pasta. To make the salad more interesting, we made fresh Parmesan cheese bowls to hold the salad.
To make these, you place 1/3 cup of fresh Parmesan cheese spread out in a thin circle on a piece of wax paper sprayed with Pam. Place in a 400 degree oven for about 5 minutes. Peel off the wax paper and place over an upside down bowl to cool. This way it gets the bowl shape.
The pasta was a mixture of asparagus, mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes with a sauce. It was served over linguini. For the sauce, we used one container of plain Greek yogurt, zest and juice of 2 lemons, garlic, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Start with 2 ladles of pasta water to thin out yogurt. Add more as needed to get the sauce consistency you want.
For dessert, I decided on two mini desserts. The first was a chocolate mousse with whipped cream and dark chocolate pieces on top. I made this with boxed pudding mix and whipped cream. There are recipes out there that do it all yourself, but I've never been able to taste that much of a difference, so I did it this way. I served the mousse in small decorative glasses I found at Party City.
The second dessert was cheesecake served in a martini glass with sliced strawberries. Both desserts were delicious and very easy to make.
Favor: I was having trouble thinking of a favor to give guests that would go with the novel. Tickets to the upcoming movie were too expensive for me! I decided instead to go with a favor that represented the 1920s. Charleston Chew candies were created in 1922 and got their name from the popular dance of the decade. I found these boxes of mini Charleston Chews at the Dollar Tree which really helped my budget! I created a card to attach to each box.
To be completely honest, I did all the work for this party in one day with the help of one of my friends, so it is definitely doable for anyone. Up until the day before the party I only knew the theme and that I had invited guests with this theme in mind...I didn't have any of the details figured out! Luckily, it all came together and we had a great time dressing up and enjoying the evening!