There’s no one like my mother. No one who knows me more, whom could ever love me the way that she loves me. No one has sacrificed more for me. Her example is one of the main reasons why I am who I am. It took me a while and a lot of growing up, to truly understand her life and the love that she has given.
This is a woman who deserves to be celebrated! She always puts everyone first and never-ever wants to burden anyone with her personal needs or for any extra attention. She’s just amazing. She feels so loved and well-cared for as it is, so every day is a blessing . . . no need to make a fuss.
My brother and I were about to change all of that. For her 70th, we wanted to make a fuss and threw her a beautiful birthday party. A whole year has passed, and she is still thanking us and cannot believe that it was all for her!
I invited mostly family and a few of her friends to lunch at Gaetano’s Restaurant in Lakeside. Owner, Maria DiGiovanni, has been friends with my family for so many years, and her food is so delicious – just like the food that we loved at big family gatherings when I was a child. I wanted the food to be authentic and something that my family could really enjoy.
Of course, I would take care of dessert. However, the floral arrangements were the first thing on my mind. I wanted to honor my mother with beautiful flowers everywhere. “Abudanza” came to mind. I set an appointment with my dear friend Karen at Franco’s Flowers and with my own vases, she made my dreams come true.
I had more gorgeous blossoms in Double-Star Lilies, Dahlia, Peonies, Carnations and Roses in pale pinks and ivory, placed in individual water tubes to decorate the bottom of her elevated birthday cake.
“Pineapple-Coconut Paradise” is her favorite cake that I make. It’s a vanilla custard cake, (that I named “Vanilla Italia”) with fresh pineapple sauce soaked in. It’s filled with a layer of Italian custard and vanilla butter cream. It’s covered with whipped cream and lots of toasted coconut. She is diabetic but once a year, she is “bad” and has a slice of this dessert.
Besides the cake, the centerpiece of the dessert table was a mural I made with special photos from her life. There was also a small white bird at the center. The invitation and decor was all about a little vintage bird, so I added lace and used birdcages and mason jars throughout the party setting.
It takes a special maturity (a true gift if you can receive it in-time) to understand that your loved ones are really not all about you. At the beginning of this post, “me” was mentioned several times. That’s really how I felt through childhood – that my mom was all mine. God made her just for me. It wasn’t until I was about 18, when my mom was diagnosed with cancer, that I even began to realize how significant, rich and special her life was before I ever arrived and continued to be every day thereafter. I wanted to learn all about her life and the best fact was, that it really wasn’t about me at all. I am just some seasoning in her beautiful life.
I had a lot of vintage, handmade table linens and used them throughout the party as well. This was a special table I set for guests, toward the entry. I wanted them to arrive, drop off their gift, and write her a well-wish or love note. I placed additional old photographs to view and the framed tribute that I wrote for her:
70 Years of Maria Rosaria
Inside the five-foot frame that holds this beautiful woman,
is God-given strength and courage to move mountains.
On July 12, 1943, she was pronounced dead at birth,
as the seventh child of her family. Her mother saved her life.
At the age of 13, she followed her father’s dream of coming to America.
She entered the 6th grade, not speaking a word of English.
As a high school student, she had to become the woman of the house.
She takes pride in her impeccable work ethic.
She gives all that she has, and all of her personal time to
her faith, her family and to the poor.
She was a single-mother and raised two children.
While in hardship, she worked odd jobs to be sure
her children attended Catholic school.
She overcame poverty.
She always maintained her generosity.
She has worked for Mercy/Scripps Hospital a total of 34 years.
She survived cancer.
She collects rosaries.
She misses her mother every day.
Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II are her heroes.
She lives for the kisses she receives from her grandchildren.
We adore you, Maria Rosaria!
This was the pretty birdcage arrangement placed at the gift/tribute table.
I made very simple party favors. I packaged clear rock candies on a stick, with a Shabby-Chic-labeled thank you note. It was super simple and I had enough so that every guest (including children) could take one home.
Everyone loved the dessert table! Every single sweet vanished and guests took the time to come up and look at the mural. I made cupcakes in Double Dutch, Lemonade, Orange Dream and Tiramisu, chocolate chip cookies and I provided fresh apricots and cherries for the diabetics in our group.
The very best part of the entire day was when my mom blew out her candles. I wish I had a better camera on-hand that day, but despite the low-quality, you have to see the joy from the children and the look on my mom’s face – this moment was priceless!
The children helped to place all 70 candles on the cake. As soon as they were lit, I had to move fast to present it to her! Thank goodness my hair was back because that was a serious flame! The children and their joy really helped to make this moment so incredibly special.
This was a day my family and especially my mom, will never forget. She’ll be 71 next weekend and I can’t wait to celebrate her sweetness and her heart of gold, all over again.