Mabel and Oscar

My in-laws came up to visit for my husband’s birthday in March. While we were having dinner, my mother-in law, Mabel, casually mentioned that this May she and my father-in-law, Oscar Sr., would be celebrating 50 years of marriage. My husband, Oscar Jr., and I looked at each other across the table and gave each other “that look.” I think every couple in the world shares that look, it’s the “oh, let’s pretend we both knew that” look. Of course, we were aware that their 50th was coming — we just didn’t realize how soon.

When they left and headed back south a couple of days later, we decided a celebration was in order. After all, it’s not every day two people commemorate half a century of love. I went back to the days when my family and I hosted weddings on our farm. During the course of 12 years, I saw 75 couples get married at my family’s chapel.

I looked on the top shelf of the closet, found my party-planning hat, and put it back on.

We decided on having the party at the DeLand Eatery at the old DeLand Hotel. We just love their Southern fusion fare, and since we go regularly for dinner, we thought it would be the perfect location.

Ian and his fiancée, Kacie, could not have been more helpful. From the initial conversation to the planning and ultimately the day of, Ian was only a text or phone call away. We were able to create a custom menu and had the ceremony on the back terrace of the restaurant.

Did I mention that this entire event was a surprise for my in-laws? They had no clue what was going on. To lure them up here, we had to fabricate quite the story. We knew if we told them to come up on their anniversary weekend, they would figure out that something was going on. So, we told them that I was winning an award at work and we wanted them to attend the awards dinner. And, as with most lies, we kept adding on to that story, and how!

We wanted Mabel to wear a new dress for the party. So, we enlisted the help of Patty over at Lace and Accessories. A few weeks before the event, we went to the store and picked out a beautiful dress we thought would be appropriate for her. Patty was more than willing to be an accomplice and took the dress and saved it for her in the back of the store. The day before the party, we took Mabel to the store to try the dress on. You see, as part of my “award,” I was to receive several prizes from various merchants in town. One of the prizes I was receiving was a dress from Lace and Accessories. I explained that the businesses had donated these items months in advance, unsure of the recipient of the prize. And since I had no need for a dress, I thought Mabel could use it to wear to the awards ceremony.

When we walked into the store, Patty congratulated me on my award and took Mabel to the fitting room. Wouldn’t you know, the dress fit her perfectly. She then went on to select jewelry and a purse to match it. Those items were also part of the “award.”

We walked out without paying a dime, and I told Patty I’d be by later to settle up with her. I did so later that afternoon. If you ever thought small-town charm was on its way out, I assure you that it is alive and well here in DeLand.

And truly, apart from the celebration itself, that’s what this month’s column is about. A handful of merchants and businesses that came together to help me pull this off. They all went along with my plan, listened to my ideas, and each played their role flawlessly. After a visit to Ginny-Beth at The Create Space DeLand, we decided to go with a large white-and-gold balloon décor for the backdrop of the ceremony. She set it up early that afternoon, and as you can see in the pictures, it created the perfect look for my in-laws’ vow renewal.

My friend and co-worker, Bobe, was able to take the old pictures I gave her and made them into beautiful prints that we were able to frame and place on the tables. Buttercup Bakery, which we absolutely adore, created the most spectacular coconut cake with cream-cheese frosting.

My husband made all the arrangements, the bridal bouquet and the boutonniere. We told his parents he had been hired to create them for the awards dinner, of course.

We were able to host the cocktail hour for the party at the new Hemingway’s 442 bar inside the DeLand Hotel. If you’ve not been to the newly redesigned space, you certainly owe it to yourself to do so. The wood-paneled room, with its wall-to-wall bar, leather couches and chairs, is everything you want a bar to be. Dustin and his crew kicked off the party with delicious craft cocktails and an assortment of wines and champagne, while Ian and his team brought in tray after tray of scrumptious appetizers, including their smoked chicken wings and prosciutto-wrapped cheese sticks with tomato jam.

Of course, every party needs guests, and this is what made the event so special for our families. My husband’s sister flew in from California along with her son. My parents, most of my siblings, nieces and nephew all came up, too. Oscar’s aunts and uncles made the trip up here as well. Mabel’s brother, Gil, is a judge in Lee County; he performed the ceremony.

The big moment arrived, and we had to drive Oscar and Mabel to the hotel for the awards ceremony and dinner. As we were walking through the hotel, everyone was waiting on the terrace ready to yell, “Surprise!” I was so nervous as I walked my in-laws through the hotel that I didn’t know if I could do it! But, we had made it this far, and there were literally just a few more steps to go.

When I opened the door to the terrace and we stepped outside, Mabel and Oscar looked up and saw all the people there. Mabel instantly broke into tears, and Oscar Sr. just stood there in a state of shock. Then the hugs and embraces began; the emotions were palpable. Gil performed the most beautiful ceremony, and I read a poem I had written for the occasion. It was all so heartfelt, so genuine, so worthy of the two people we were celebrating.

As we sat around the table at the restaurant, eating the fantastic food we had picked out, I looked around the room and realized I did indeed receive a prize that day. I was awarded a memorable afternoon full of love, laughter and joy.

For this month’s recipes, I’m doing something a little bit different. And, I believe it’s quite a special treat! Instead of sharing my own recipes, I’ve asked the businesses that helped me put this all together to share some of theirs.

We’ll begin with the amazing street corn salad from the DeLand Eatery. This creamy, tangy side dish is one of our favorites and the perfect accompaniment to your summer barbecue, fried-chicken dinner, and well, just about anything.

DeLand Eatery’s Street Corn Salad
– Ian Carrey

Love roasted corn, but prefer to have it off the cob? We have you covered for this soon-to-be summer barbecue hit.


Ingredients: (Makes 2 Qt.)
• 2 cups 12 ears of fresh corn (Do not use canned corn, or don’t tell people you got the recipe from us.)
• 1 cup cotija cheese, finely crumbled
• 1 lemon fresh-squeezed
• 2 oz. Tajin seasoning (available at Fancy Fruit and other Latin markets)
• 1/2 cup sour cream
• 1/2 cup cream cheese (Make sure to soften cream cheese well ahead of time.)
• 1/2 cup heavy mayo
• 2 roasted jalapeños, diced
• 1-2 red peppers, diced
• 1 red onion, diced
• Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Over an open flame, roast corn and jalapeños. Don’t be shy, give it a good char. Allow to cool, and shave and dice accordingly. After that, the rest is pretty much just combining the ingredients until they’re homogenous. We like to sprinkle with a bit more Tajin as a garnish and a little extra punch.
This dish works great as a side, atop center-plate dishes for a little contrast, or in a taco.
Because of the lemon juice and dairy in this dish, it is best served fresh. You will notice a decline in consistency at around 48 hours. It is still safe to eat, but not nearly as good.
If you care to try the more authentic version, char your corn as normal, pick up a bottle of Mexican Crema, apply liberally, and sprinkle with Tajin and a squeeze of fresh lime.

Hemingway’s 442’s classic Old-Fashioned
– Dustin at Hemingway’s 442


• 2 oz. Buffalo Trace Bourbon
•1/4 oz.Demerara sugar syrup
• Dash of angostura bitters
• Dash of orange bitters
• Orange peel
• Italian black cherry

Directions: Mix sugar syrup and bitters in a chilled rocks glass. Fill the glass with ice, and add bourbon. Garnish with orange peel and cherry.

Ginny-Beth’s Grazing Board
– Ginny-Beth at The Create Space DeLand

From Ginny-Beth, what we call charcuterie in the USA is actually part of a little broader category called grazing boards. In traditional charcuterie, meats are the stars of the show and cheeses the supporting cast in a complete work of art. We love to add fruits, vegetables, breads and even sweets, making it a much more diverse offering to our guests. I have become the charcuterie and grazing board person in my family. So much so that I have been teaching classes for the past two years!


What you’ll need: A cutting board, tray or covered area of a table; a choice of proteins, cheeses and garnishes; and an ever-growing eye for design and attitude of adventure!

Proteins to ponder:
Italian salami, pepperoni, summer sausage, prosciutto, hummus, rotisserie chicken, and smoked salmon

Cheeses to choose from:
aged Gouda, manchego, cranberry white cheddar, aged white cheddar, scorpion pepper Gouda, tomato basil semisoft applewood smoked Gruyere, havarti dill, and goat-cheese Camembert or brie

Garnished to gather: fruits, nuts, jams, jellies, flowers, veggies, olives, pickles, crackers, honeycomb, whole-grain mustard, and dark chocolates

Things to consider to elevate your grazing boards:


• Think about who is going to be enjoying your board. It’s OK to stretch people’s palates, but don’t waste your time or money on things that you know people can’t or won’t eat.
• Choose cheeses that have diverse flavors, colors and textures. Think mild to sharp, hard to soft, savory, sweet, spicy and sharp.
• Cut, crumble and lay out cheeses in different ways to add texture.
• Make sure your layout is balanced, spacing out areas of similar colors and textures.
• Add seasonal flavors to your choices of cheeses and fruits. This keeps the cost down and flavors up!
• Use nuts and berries as filler between larger areas.
• Always remember to build up if you are running out of room. Make wider stacks and piles taller instead!
• Pro tip! Start with the salami rose! To make a salami rose that stands on its own, choose sliced salami that are roughly 3 inches in diameter and a container that is 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter. Fold the first slice in half, and then put it over the lip of the container so that it straddles it. Working clockwise, overlap a second folded piece in the same way so that about half of the first slice is still showing. Continue in the same direction until there is no visible space in the middle of the container. If you’re using a smaller container like a mouthwash cup, it will probably take 20-25 slices. If you use something like a wine glass, you might need triple that amount! Once you are finished adding your slices, flip the container over and place it where you’d like it on your board. Then twist the cup until it comes out. Et voilà!

Coconut Cake with Cream-Cheese Frosting
-Audrey at Buttercup Bakery

Mabel and Oscar with their coconut cake with cream-cheese frosting

• 2 1/2 cups flour
• 2 tsp. baking powder
• 1/2 tsp. baking soda
• 1 tsp. salt

Directions: Whisk the above items together in a bowl and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, beat together 3/4 cup of softened unsalted butter and 1 2/3 cup sugar for 2 minutes. Add five egg whites, and beat until combined. Then add 1/2 cup of sour cream, 1 tsp. coconut extract, and 1 tsp. vanilla extract.
Then, on low, add 1 cup of coconut milk until combined. Then, by hand, add 1 cup of shredded coconut.
Line two round 9-inch greased cake pans with parchment paper, and pour in the cake batter. Level. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the cake.
For the frosting: Mix 8 ounces of cream cheese and 1 cup softened butter, 1 tsp. coconut extract, and 1 tbs. of coconut milk. Beat for 3 minutes, and you’re ready to frost the cake.


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