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In New Orleans we can enjoy our gardens through November and sometimes into December. Tom and Carol Reese have an incredible garden, so I decided to surprise Tom – my brother, who’s director of The Stone Center for Latin American Studies at Tulane University – with a party for his birthday! We used greenery from the garden: I brought sweet potato vine from my garden and cut aspidistra and fern from theirs. I gathered mosquito netting and leopard sheets from Anna’s Linens; turquoise stones, cake rounds, turquoise fabric, faux flowers and leaves from Michael’s; and my trusty glue gun and went to work. My sister, Linda Bjork, made the cupcakes and bought the decorating materials and small boxes from The Dollar Tree. After dinner, everyone decorated their cupcake with the design of their choice.

We set up tables throughout the garden and had a dessert area where we covered the table partially with decorated mosquito netting. The small boxes were take-home favors filled with pralines. In honor of Tom, we had Julio y Cesar play their great Latin American songs as well as “oldies but goodies.”

When Tom arrived home, our whole family sang “Happy Birthday” and the festivities began!