The weekend of July 17-18, my wonderful husband, Paul, and I celebrated our 25th anniversary with about 200 family and friends. (His family accounts for almost half of that!)

When we started planning it several months ago, we knew we wanted to serve healthy, locally grown foods as much as possible, so we decided to do the food ourselves rather than having it catered. Note: This absolutely would not have been possible without the aid of the most wonderful sisters-in-law (and several of their husbands) in the world, plus one of my best friends who never hesitates to pitch in when there's work to be done!

So, what did we serve? With thanks to our young friend, Alonzo, who works at Harrison's Produce near Moscow, we had a salad of fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, and purple onions (thanks to Becky, Maureen and Brad for chopping!) dressed with oil and balsamic vinegar and topped with crumbled feta cheese (recipe from Kosovo). We also had fresh cabbage and green peppers for coleslaw (thanks to Anne for chopping!) with a dressing of half real mayo (I don't like light dressings) and half plain fat-free yogurt, with a little honey for sweetness, plus some celery seed because that's how my mom always made it. I intended to include chopped carrots as well, but forgot.

We wanted to serve cold sandwiches just in case it was hot (it was), but not cold cuts on white hamburger buns as you so often see at events like this, so we sort of copied those sold at Elly's Tea. (Sorry, Elly, budgetary concerns.) I made egg salad (using eggs from local free-range, grass-fed chickens) for those of us who don't eat meat - OK, so that was probably me and one or two others - and I put in chopped celery, black olives, and sunflower seeds, plus curry powder. I made chicken salad (thanks to Becky for cleaning the meat off of 3 roast chickens!) with chopped celery, onion, walnuts, and dried cranberries. (Remembered the next morning that I'd forgotten to put the rosemary in - darn!) Both of those were again dressed with half mayo, half plain yogurt. (You can't tell the difference, there's a little tanginess from the yogurt, and it's healthier than all mayo.) These sandwiches were on whole-wheat (yes, the first ingredient listed is whole-wheat flour) nine-grain bread that I had ordered and picked up from the TPC cash-and-carry store in Bettendorf.

The other offering for carnivores was sliced roast beef and baby Swiss cheese (the meats and cheese from Fareway) on marble rye - again, from TPC - with Dijon mustard, so there would be something without mayo. We put red leaf lettuce on all three kinds of sandwiches then cut them in quarters. I was very happy with the results, and so were all the guests I talked to.

And for dessert? No cake for us ... we served fresh cantaloupe and watermelon from Harrison's, and it was absolutely delicious!

Paul and I really feel like we achieved our goals food-wise. The majority of the food was grown or purchased locally, except for the bread. (Boy, do I wish we had a good bakery here that sold healthy, interesting fresh breads.) More important than the food, though, was that we got to celebrate such an important event with most of the people we love, in the city in which we've spent our entire married life, on the riverfront that has been so well-developed. The "frosting on the cake," however, was the cruise on Tom and Ann Meeker's wonderful Pearl Button riverboat, with our friends The Saints Dixieland band entertaining all.

Life does not get any better. Happy anniversary, Darlin' - I love you!

Lori Carroll has been a music teacher for 30-plus years, and teaches at Louisa-Muscatine Schools. She may be contacted at lorising2me@yahoo.com.

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