If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cooperative Efforts

When my favorite sister-in-law and I went out on a jaunt this past Saturday, she began to tell me about an upcoming event in which her youngest, college-aged daughter had involved her.  It seems that sweet Julie had taken on a great responsibility with her sorority and was coordinating a dinner in which the focus was on etiquette. 

JoAnn (my favorite and only sister-in-law) had a few concerns - first there would be about 24-28 young women who would be participating.  Secondly, having enough 'real' dishes, glasses, and flatware which could be coordinated in order to have attractive table settings.  Thirdly, transporting the food on the thirty minute journey.  Julie is one who truly has lots of confidence and faith in her mother.  (I do too!)  She was not so worried and had gone off on a girls' retreat for the weekend.

So, being the foolish, nosey-tail supportive, self-sacrificing woman I am, I asked the fav s-i-l how I could help.  She seemed grateful and began telling me what she and Julie had discussed and were considering using.  It seems that between the two daughter-in-laws of JoAnn's, they have thirty-plus place settings of the same dishes.  So, that became the backbone for the tables.  Tablecloths, clear votive cups, and cheap, replaceable inexpensive, easily attainable stemware were borrowed from our mother-in-law.  I have some of the same dollar store versatile, attractive glasses to complete our needs.  I got a call from JoAnn late on Sunday evening asking me if I had some sorbet dishes. Of course, I didn't but we did round up enough little glass dishes to make things work between the two of us. 

Julie borrowed lanterns to use as centerpieces from the local floral and gift shop which just opened up down the road, Twiggy and Gus and we worked from there to create a theme.  Julie mentioned that we could simply scatter some fallen leaves along with the lanterns and add a few votives and let that be it.  Since it has been raining for a couple of days, I doubted that we would be able to gather leaves which would be workable.  So, I offered her my fall silk leaf garlands that I had pulled out from using in my classroom last year as bulletin board enhancers.  As I walked around the house plucking leaf clusters and garlands from here and there, Julie began to protest about me undecorating my house.  I assured her that this is truly a time to pull out the stops and rise to the occasion.  Plus, the fall decor would come down this week anyway to make way for Christmas.  So, I was just getting a little of a jump-start.  We gathered and stacked tubs and totes into the back of Julie's little SUV and trekked off to our location.

The joint was really a blank slate when we arrived.  Raw canvas just begging for our ornamentation.

There were four of these nice round tables already set up with eight chairs clustered around each.  You can see some of the supplies we hauled in - a tote full of linens and glassware, dessert plates, a lantern, table cloths, and a cluster of leaves.  We quickly set to work to get things set up and decorated using our hodge-podge of pulled together carefully coordinated and gathered collection of supplies. 

I noticed that most of the lanterns had raffia tied to the handle when we were loading things into the vehicle to leave the house.  So, Julie backed around to our basement door and I snatched up a hank of raffia I had recently brought home.  As I was walking out of my craft room, I noticed a jar of silver beads garland and tucked it under my arm as well.  As it turned out, a couple of the lanterns not only were missing a raffia bow, they also did not have any moss sprinkled at the base.  So, Julie and her sweet sister-in-law decided to improvise with beads.  We sort of liked the little sparkle it provided to dress up the rustic and natural look of the raffia.  So we continued with this combination.

Being appalled at the thought of using the paper napkins that Julie had bought for such an elegant event, I had also offered her some of my cloth napkins to use.  Since I don't have nearly enough of any one fabric, we decided to go with an alternating look.  Julie selected a print one that she thought would go well with a fall theme and we grabbed a couple of other sets which would coordinate well. 

We draped a bit of leaf garland around the lantern and drizzled a bit of the beaded garland on top.  We added raffia bows to the lanterns which were bare.  Then, we decided that the lanterns needed to be elevated a wee bit.  So, we took a couple of the books there in the room and draped a damask napkin across them to use as a base to elevate the lantern.  We decided that there was just enough sparkle yet enough of a natural feel to make it seem comfortable.  So, we began to set the tables.

JoAnn suggested we pare down the seating to six places per table to provide ample room for each guest.  Then, the dishes were stacked in readiness at each place.  Rather than a fancy fold for the napkins, we tied a simple knot of raffia around them which brought a bit more continuity to each place setting.  Next, we added flatware. 

I think things look pretty good for thrown together in a hurry an impromptu decorating effort. 
Don't you?

When we had everything in place, JoAnn, our master-coordinator, stood at the front of the room where the etiquette coach will stand and determined that a couple of the tables needed to be shifted so that each guest could clearly see the demonstration and instruction provided.

Just a little shifting made things exactly right and practically perfect in every way.

Here is an overview of one of the tables.

A closer view of one of the place settings shows the napkin that Julie had selected and which sort of drove our entire color scheme shows the rich Merlot reds, greens with a touch of teal, and ivory base. 

Not too shabby for a couple of grandmas, an expectant mother, and a college girl, huh?  We left feeling the satisfaction of a cooperative effort done well.

Of course, we also have a list of things not to forget to take for the actual evening of etiquette today!  How lucky am I to have the opportunity to be with such wonderful women in my new family?