Idea No.


Fiesta Party -40yr- Chili Pepper Lights



May 2007


Tonia in Sacramento, CA, USA

Special Mention

40th Fortieth Party

For my husband's 40th birthday I planned a Mexican Fiesta because we love the food and I thought it would be fun to decorate for.  I started planning several months in advance by visiting thrift stores and garage sales collecting Mexican paraphernalia like sombrero's, decorations, and chili pepper dishes.  I hit pay dirt by finding a bunch of Chili Pepper dishes and so Chili Peppers became my theme. Next I went to the Joanne's, (a craft store), to find some great fabric to make table runners and placemats. I would use the placemats to set the centerpieces on at each table and then later my family and I would use them for our taco nights! I found some great yellow fabric with red, yellow and green chili peppers on it and this too fit my theme perfectly. 

Next it was time to plan the MENU, and Food Network is the place to get all sorts of good recipes. First I decided it would be great to serve Tyler Florence's Braised Pork Tacos and his Tortilla soup.  You can find both of these recipes at  But I must tell you that I used Michael Chiarello's recipe for chicken broth as the base for the Tortilla soup. (Look for his Capellini Soup with Rich Chicken Brodo and just do the first part of the recipe for the richest and most delicious chicken broth, it's great with dumplings too.  I made this two weeks in advance and froze it to make less work for the party). 

I also wanted to serve the Sweet Corn Tomalita that a lot of Mexican restaurants serve, but I'd never made it, so I found a recipe online at and it turned out great.  I also wanted to serve Mexican Rice and Ground Beef tacos, for those who don't like pork, and of course I served tomatillo salsa, (green) and pico de gallo salsa (red), black bean dip, chips and guacamole.  I also planned on serving Margaritas blended and on the rocks and a delicious virgin punch for the kids, (Punch recipe: 1 frozen limeade concentrate, 1 lemonade concentrate, lime sherbet, 1 litter of sprite).

Now that the menu was decided on I made the INVITATION.  I found a yellow background with chili pepper design on my clip art from my Microsoft Word program and used that as the background for each invitation that I printed on photo paper for a more professional look.  The invitation read Ole! Ole! It's Russell's 40th Birthday! Senore and Senorita Come join us for a fiesta! Spicy Tortilla Soup & Sizzling fajitas Wash them down with some frosty margaritas! When:  (Date) Time: (Time) Where:  Our Casa (our address) Muchas Gracias for your reply: (Phone #)

Next it was time to focus on the DECORATIONS:  I visited several local party stores and checked out Oriental Trading Company online.  I found I got the best deals by shopping at both.  So from OTC I ordered the red plastic divided plates, (I figured these were better for holding salsa and stuff), red silverware, chili pepper divided serving dishes, and plastic disposable margarita glasses, (I hand painted the margarita glasses with red, green and yellow chili peppers with acrylic paints.  They turned out great and it made them seem like more expensive glasses).  (Hint: If you get the OTC catalogs watch for the free shipping ones and you save a ton of money this way). I bought the Styrofoam soup bowls from Costco, because other bowls are not made for hot liquids.

From the local store I bought little Mexican bowls to use to put all the fixings in, a fiesta banner, chili pepper wind sock, tissue paper chili peppers and chili pepper bandanas,).  I hung the bandanas and my extra fabric cut into triangles on the blinds inside the house to look like curtains.  I also found a chili pepper flag to hang outside at Tuesday Morning and plastic red chili peppers at Wal-Mart.  Plus I found two cheap vases at the thrift store that looked Mexican, for fresh flowers, and I hand painted chili peppers on them to fit the theme.  I also special ordered chili pepper Christmas light covers online.  I found that these were a better quality than the ones at the party store and OTC, plus I could pick out the exact colors I wanted, red, green and yellow. 

For table decorations I covered each table with the green plastic roll of table cloth that I purchased at a local store, it is a little better quality than the one you can buy through OTC. I put one place mat, which I made, at each table and then used the Mexican Decorations I found: maracas, sombreros, painted gourd, and ceramic tomato & green peppers (I found these at Target on clearance).  I also hung the chili pepper lights on the back patio and around the house and around a tiki bar that I used for serving margaritas. 

The day before the party I made the salsas and black bean dip and I also started cooking the ground beef, I finished this the day of.  On the day of the party I put the Braised Pork tacos on very early to give them time to cook and get tender, I finished up the Tortilla soup, I got all the fixings chopped and ready, I made the rice and sweet corn tomalito, and I picked up fresh home made tortillas from a local Mexican Store.  For the first half hour of the party I was in the kitchen finishing up, but after that I was able to sit down and enjoy our friends and all the good food. 

My husband loved all the effort I went to and the food and company was great too.  My best advice is to start planning early and keep your eyes open for what ever your theme is.  You'll be amazed what you can find at all the stores you visit on a normal basis.

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