Monthly Archives: August 2013

Easy Art Deco Tablescapes and Decor

Once I had settled on the Art Deco theme for the MVMT dinner, I set to work pulling everything together. As with any event, there were many things to consider and details to organize. I started searching the internet and creating an event binder which organized my inspiration pictures, color and fabric swatches and vendor contacts, pricing, scheduling, etc.

All the details. All together.

The first item of business was to find a good caterer. No, I did not cook dinner for 175 people, I do know my limits and sometimes I even pay attention to them. I thought about it though. But not this time. For this big of a crowd, I needed professionals and I needed them fast as I had only about three weeks to put the dinner together. I promise to tell you more about the food and the caterer in a later post but for now, we’re talking tablescapes and décor.

As far as creating the look, feeling and ambiance of the evening, I knew what I wanted and I knew the individual tablescapes would be key. I wanted bold rich color and for the room to glow with soft amber light. When the dinner guests arrived, I wanted them to walk into a setting they didn’t expect and to find an elegant atmosphere that was still very relaxed and welcoming. After all, this dinner was all about making them feel special and appreciated and setting the mood for celebrating the incredible things God has in store for our church.

So I had my plan and knew what I wanted to achieve. Now, the biggest challenge. Budget. If you know anything about a caterer, you know they had just gotten most of it. Which stands to reason as the food really is of primary importance at a dinner party. So, it was time to get creative with the remaining plans for the event.

Thankfully, I am not easily intimidated by budget. In fact, quite the opposite. Working on a tight budget is half the fun. Finding creative ways to stretch every dollar is a great challenge. And knowing that you are being a good steward of the money entrusted to you is very rewarding.

You can, without doubt, pull together an incredible event on a very small budget. It just takes a little planning and ingenuity and a complete and absolute unwillingness to pay anyone to do anything you can do yourself. Know your limits (and pay attention to them) but believe in yourself a little and roll up your sleeves and do it yourself!

If you’ll indulge me a bit, I’d love to show you what I did …

Tablescapes and Décor on a budget.

MVMT-Dinner-Centerpieces

There were really only three major elements to the tablescapes, but each was very important to the overall style and mood of the event; table runners, floral arrangements and lighting.

Table Runners

The table runners were my biggest opportunity to pull in a gorgeous Art Deco pattern. Fabric is so often “the answer” to the question “how do I make a statement?” My color palette of tomato red, tan/gold, black and lush green was determined in part by the room the dinner would be served in but also by the atmosphere/vibe I imagined and was looking to create.

The church already had black table cloths and using what you already have is rule number one in maximizing a budget. The reds and golds would come into play in the fabric for the runners and the flowers and the green element would be from the palms that I would use in both the centerpiece arrangements as well as in pots around the room.

MVMT Dinner Table Runner

I looked at a lot of table runners on line and this was one of my absolute favorites. The color is perfect and I love the pattern but at $33 each, the price is fair but just didn’t fit into my budget. After all, I needed 24. This gorgeous runner is from Eva Babika’s Bedazzle Design Esty shop.

After a whole lot of looking, I started thinking I really should just dust off my sewing machine and make my own. Did I have time? Did I really have a choice? I began looking for fabric first at Hobby Lobby and then online.

I found what I was looking for at FabricGuru for only $8.95/yard. The perfect colors and pattern. Yes, I would indeed be dusting off the sewing machine and turning my dining room table into a textile factory.

Making-Table-Runners

Thankfully, my mom was in town and able to lend a hand. I really don’t know what I would do without her. She has a knack for being in the right place at the right time! She might consider that a curse but in my case, I see it as quite the blessing.

In stead of paying $33 for each runner or settling on much lower quality runners that might squeeeeeeze into my budget, I ended up with exactly what I wanted, customized to the exact size I needed. If you are thinking, “great but I can’t sew”. I promise you, you can sew a straight line. Watch a tutorial on line or have a friend or family member give you a quick lesson and borrow a machine if you have to. You can do it!

Mom-Helping-Too

Or you can just call your mom. That always works for me.

The perfect Art Deco period flowers – Lilies and Palms

Asiatic-Lily-and-Palm-Arran

The floral centerpieces were another important part of the table and had to be both beautiful and budget friendly.

Carnations

This was my original inspiration photo. I found it online while searching “red carnation arrangements” and unfortunately cannot now find a proper source to credit. Whoever they are, they are very talented and I thank them for the inspiration!

Working with a tight budget, I thought carnations might be the way to go. I know they have an “inexpensive” and therefore somewhat undesirable reputation but I think they get a bad wrap. They are beautiful and when done in a tight full arrangement like this with the two tones of red, they are stunning. And yes, cost effective.

I put my theory to the test when I posted the above photo on Facebook and posed the simple question tacky or gorgeous? The overwhelming response was gorgeous and tacky only when dipped in neon colors not found in nature. I would have to agree.

Unfortunately, my actual “test run” didn’t give me the results I was looking for and while beautiful, the carnation arrangement just didn’t say “Art Deco” to me. My instinct and my heart were with Asiatic Lilies so I hit the internet looking for the best deal I could find.

Burnt-Orange-Asiatic-Lily

That deal came from fiftyflowers.com – 50 stems for about $130.00. Each stem has 3 to five flowers on it so I crossed my fingers and whispered a little prayer that 50 would be enough. The really great part about fiftyflowers.com is not just the bargain but their customer service is fantastic! Shortly after I placed my order (as in within 15 minutes), a representative called to confirm it and give me helpful tips on unpacking the lilies and keeping them fresh. I truly appreciate good customer service and that was a nice touch.

Burnt-Orange-Asiatic-Lilies

One thing to keep in mind about Asiatic lilies is that you need to have them delivered about four days prior to your event so they have time to open. I really enjoyed the big pot of lilies on my kitchen table. Waiting for them to open was almost like Christmas.

One more thing about fiftyflowers.com, my first order of lilies had some shipping issues and fifty flowers called to let me know they would be arriving a day late. I expressed my concern as to whether or not they would be fresh with an extra day in transit and they assured me the lilies should be fine. Within a half an hour someone called back and said they had gone ahead and sent a second shipment of lilies just to ensure the quality and freshness and that if the first order should show up, to consider them a gift.

Consider them a gift.

Seriously, who does things like that anymore? Fiftyflowers.com does and now has my business for life. The first order did show up the day before the event and incredibly enough were still in pretty good shape. They were also just a bit darker than the second order and the variation in the two colors turned out beautifully. Fiftyflowers.com, I am impressed and very thankful to you.

So I had my lilies, now what to put them in? The arrangement needed to be low in order for dinner guests to see over them and converse easily but full and lush to give the dramatic effect I was looking for. I also really had it stuck in my head that they should be in some sort of bowl or urn like the inspiration picture above. Here’s what I ended up going with …

Floral Urn

While there is nothing I love more than a silver bowl, in this case with the red, black and tan color scheme, I really needed gold. But just the right gold, subtle and not garish. I found what I wanted online at Wholesale Flowers and Supplies. I loved the decorative points in the design which look somewhat Egyptian inspired to me and ancient Egyptian design was very influential in the Art Deco movement. Perfect.

When the urns arrived, I excitedly tore into the box, eager to see what they looked like; somewhat reminiscent of the dad in A Christmas Story when his “major award” arrived. With great anticipation, I pulled one out and it looked … well, garish. Yes, just like A Christmas Story. Very, very garish. But the size shape and design were perfect, and they weren’t actually tiny fishnet leg lamps (if you have never seen A Christmas Story, you REALLY must), so all was not lost.

Painting-Floral-UrnsAnd my love affair with spray paint continues. The bright gold, slightly tacky plastic urns were quickly transformed into the subtle elegant vessels I was envisioning with just a few sprays of “Champagne Mist”.

From now on when someone asks me what my favorite color is, the answer will always be and emphatic “Champagne Mist”.

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Okay, so it was more than just a few sprays. Twenty four urns = A LOT of sprays.

So the urns were beautiful and ready to go. I had the lilies but what about the palm fronds? I could have ordered them with the lilies but as it turns out, I didn’t need to. Thankfully, a refreshing swim a few days earlier led to a big money saving epiphany. You see, in Arizona, pools are pretty much always surrounded by palms.

My pool is surrounded by palms.

One afternoon, while floating peacefully surrounded by palms, the thought came to me … I don’t have to order palms, I have all the fronds I want right here, I can trim until my hearts content and save a ton of money. Oh, how I love a good budget stretching epiphany.

Pygmy Date Palms have the perfect fronds for flower arrangements. Rule #1, use what you have! So, the morning of the event I went out with my hand pruners and cut about 60 fronds. And then I sat on the back patio in the morning breeze and trimmed and shaped each of them, all the while basking in my own genius.

Asiatic-Lily-&-Palm-Arrange

On the day of the event, my friend and right hand woman Linda and I stood in the church kitchen with a big pot of lilies and a big pot of palm fronds and made a whole bunch of flower arrangements and a big mess. I put a small plastic solo cup inside each urn so the flowers were kept tighter in a smaller container. It worked great and I was absolutely thrilled with the end result. And yes, I did clean up my mess.

Asiatic-Lily-&-Palm-Art-Dec

While I would have like to have a peacock feather or two in the arrangements, that was just not in the budget. And, unfortunately I don’t have any peacocks roaming around the hacienda supplying me with free feathers. Okay, that really isn’t so unfortunate. Actually, I’m pretty ok with it.

Asiati-Lily-Arrangement

My bonus lily score meant that I was able to make a few larger arrangements for the gelato bar and the literature table and happily I was able to incorporate a few feathers into those.

Asiatic-Lily-Arrangement-2

I found these tan peacock feathers at Hobby Lobby, along with the gorgeous black vase.

Potted-Palms

The only thing left in the “foliage/floral” category were the potted palms. Potted palms are found everywhere in Art Deco design and were an absolute must for this event. Besides, I LOVE palms! The church already had the iron candle holders and lots of LED candles and they were perfect arranged with the potted palms.

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I found these gorgeous Cats Paw Palms (indoor palms) at Home Depot for only about $13.00 each which was a lot less than we could have even rented them for. After the event was over we gave them out to any staff member that wanted one and I have a few strays at home now too. The plastic pots also came from Home Depot and had the perfect geometric circle pattern in a gold washed bronze finish. They were also a huge bargain and looked fantastic.

The only down side? I had to visit four different Home Depots to find enough and turn my van into a jungle which my boys thought was awesome! So really, it wasn’t actually even a down side.

Candles and Printed Menus

Open flame was a no-no so I found some fantastic silver LED votive candles with a very amber colored flickering flame. They were 50% off at Michaels along with glass votive holders so after visiting three Michael’s to find enough, I was able to put six candles on each table which gave the room the gorgeous warm “glow” I was looking for.

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I know it is hard to tell from the picture so you are just going to have to trust me on this.

Last, a printed Menu on each side of the table runner.

Remember the inspiration photo?

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And here is my much simpler version …

Art-Deco-Styled-Printed-Men

I did the layout on Microsoft Word (because it is what I know) and printed them out on cardstock at home. Easy and I.N.E.X.P.E.N.S.I.V.E.

I really could not be happier with how everything turned out and want to encourage you not to be afraid to “do it yourself” too for your next party or even a major event.

Do you have a wedding, company dinner, birthday party coming up?

Do some leg work, search the internet and Pinterest for ideas, come up with a theme, hunt for bargains, get organized and get going! The satisfaction of “creating” is truly it’s own reward. And stretching your budget aint so bad either!

In the next couple of posts I will share dessert with you and how the whole event turned out. Please be sure to visit again soon. If you have any entertaining tips or tricks to share, leave a comment for me as I would love to hear about them!

Oh, and don’t forget to watch A Christmas Story.

And call your mom and thank her for all she does for you.

 

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Dinner for 175 – Art Deco Style

I guess you could say I love history. But while I love it, I think it is fair to say that I am not a history buff in the true sense of the word. Admittedly, it is not actual historical events that fascinate me as much as it is “lifestyle” through out history. How did people live? What influenced them? What did they value, create, do?

So maybe, I am really a Social Anthropology buff. I know I am an “Anthropologie” buff so that would just make sense.

Breaking it down even further, what truly peaks my interest the most is the style and design that so prominently and uniquely defines each period in history.

Okay, so right now you might be rolling your eyes and thinking something like “wow, that’s deep”. Or maybe you are just thinking “oh, my gosh, I LOVE Anthropologie too!” – in which case I would say “I know, right! Did you see those gorgeous vintage ’40’s red shoes?”

The style of an era tells a story about that period of time. It truly does. Music, art, architecture, décor, clothing; every element of design has evolved from the experiences and lessons of the preceding times. Style is not random nor is it frivolous, it is a reflection of mankind’s desire to keep moving forward and even to break free of what came before. To set a new standard, to be innovative, to leave a unique and lasting impression on history.

What is really interesting is that eventually, all that is old becomes new again which is most often due to the historical events and experiences that create in us a nostalgia and desire for the past. You can see it in a simple Art History timeline. Take a look. Do you see how each movement almost does a 180 back to what had come before? Baroque to Neoclassical, Neoclassical to Romanticism, Romanticism to Realism, Realism to Impressionism; each “opposite” movement taking bits and pieces of the past forward with it.

Steps toward the future often bring back the “best” of what has past. Well, mostly. Bell bottoms and orange shag carpet not included. I’m sorry, the ’70’s was not humanity’s best effort and I have a master bathroom to prove it.

I think what fascinates me so much about style and design throughout history is the ingenuity and talent God has placed within humanity. It is evidence to the fact that we have a God of great imagination who values beauty and creativity and wants us to enjoy the majesty of His creation, to be inspired by it and to in turn create for His glory and pleasure. And yes, He has forgiven us for the 1970’s.

So what does all of this have to do with dinner?

In my world, a lot.

In July, I was asked to plan and pull together a staff dinner for our church. This dinner’s purpose was two-fold. It was to be an informative celebration of sorts as we kick off the planning and direction of our church’s future, the “movement” forward or MVMT as it has been creatively tagged.  But this dinner was also to be a thank you for all of the hard work and dedication of our staff and board members who have sacrificed greatly during the incredible growth our church has experienced. With spouses, the final dinner count came to 175. Not a small event but an amazing opportunity to serve and give back to those who do so much for so many and ask so little in return.

Throughout the coming week, I will share this event with you from planning and preparation all the way through dessert; a gelato bar you won’t want to miss. To start with though, I wanted to talk about the inspiration for the dinner’s “theme”.

When I do an event, big or small, I really like to have a theme to work from and to inspire each aspect of the occasion. No, I don’t want that theme to take over (unless it is a kid’s party then I let the theme run wild) but I want it to influence every detail in such a way that it creates a cohesive and well thought out end result

There are several things to consider when coming up with a theme.  What is the purpose of the event? The mood? The desired effect? What is the venue/setting like? Who will be coming? Who is throwing the event and how can their “style” be represented and reflected?

In the case of the MVMT dinner, it needed to be elegant and special but not stuffy and formal. We are definitely not a stuffy and formal group. In fact, the vibe at our church is quite the opposite.  It is a pretty cool place and by cool, I mean cooool with kind of a “hipster” vibe and that is what I wanted to capture.

So, how did I do it?

MVMT Dinner Inspiration 5

I went Gatsby.

Okay, so I know what you are thinking. A church event doesn’t exactly scream “Gatsby Party”, allow me to explain. While the “lifestyle” of Jay Gatsby isn’t something I’m advocating, romanticizing or looking to replicate, his “style” or more accurately, the style of the era is another story.

Art Deco design is a particular favorite of mine. While the Art Deco movement isn’t reflected in my personal design choices, I am absolutely captivated by it. From the Chrysler Building (the most beautiful building ever constructed)  to the “modern” and industrial geometric shapes that inspired the beautiful patterns so indicative of the period; it fascinates me and inspires me.

chrysler2_skyscraper_1

The Chrysler Building, courtesy of a Google image search.

The Art Deco movement was born out of the end of the first world war as the desire to leave the tragedy and hardship of the recent past behind led to an almost over the top opulence and high style. There’s that 180 again. The movement originated in France around 1925 and was in it’s heyday throughout the 1930’s.

“With its symmetrical angles, black and gilt ornamentation and Eastern influences, a new design style, Art Deco, spread from France to Britain and America and provided the perfect backdrop for Bloomsbury poetry readings, impromptu jazz concerts and speakeasy rendezvous. Although Art Deco would dominate the design scene until the 1950’s, the party it bolstered wouldn’t last forever.” – Elaine Phillips from Well Styled Home

I love these classic Art Deco Patterns.

The Art Deco Movement may not have lasted forever but it’s influence certainly has and while the Great Depression knocked the era down, it did not knock it out. The Art Deco influence carried into the 40’s and 50’s and shaped what we would now call “old Hollywood glamour”. Love that too.

While I didn’t turn our church’s family center into a Speakeasy or ask our pastors and elders to dress up as flappers and gangsters – restraint and good judgment can be helpful tools in the use of a theme – I was most definitely inspired by the style of the era.

Let me show you some of that inspiration (all images were found on the internet and are not my original photos)

MVMT Dinner Inspiration 6

This table just about says it all. If it is possible to be in love with a table cloth, I am in love with this one.

Art Deco Restaurant 1

I love the lighting here, this is the exact ambiance I wanted to create not dark but intimate with a warm amber glow. I also love the screens in the background and was inspired by this to create a stage vignette where Pastor Mark would sit and share the MVMT vision.

MVMT Dinner Inspiration 4

Text book art deco and the inspiration for the menus.

MVMT Dinner Inspiration 3

When I think of Art Deco décor, I see a room filled with gorgeous leafy green palms.

MVMT Dinner Inspiration 2

Did I tell you how much I love the geometric shapes and how the Art Deco movement uses them so artistically and beautifully.

speakeasy decor 1

Feathers are definitely a nice Art Deco touch but unless you are throwing a true theme party, they are best used subtly.

Art Deco Tablescape 1

This Art Deco tablescape is from Ruffled Blog.

Art Deco Style

I can say nothing except … be still my heart; and where can I get that dress? Probably Anthropologie. These photos are from Easton Events.

I am looking forward to sharing with you my interpretation of the Art Deco theme this coming week. I hope you will find some inspiration.

The Great Gatsby is not one of my favorite stories – yes I know it is a literary classic but I was forced to read it in high school (which almost automatically makes a book dead to me) and a story has to have more than one redeemable character to make my “favorites” list. Even so, I will be watching the movie when it is released on Blue-Ray next week as I did not go to see it in the theater. And I promise you, I will be looking right past “Leo” to the wallpaper in the background.

Hey, he was in Titanic too. Another one I suffered through just so I could take into my being the period clothing and set design. We do what we must for the sake of art.

Thank the Lord for Downton Abbey.

I would love to know some of your favorite design periods and influences. Be sure to leave a comment and share them with me.

Herbed Goat Cheese Spread

A post or two ago, I shared with you a recent event I did for our Women’s Ministry in which I brought a little bit of the beach to the desert.

Seaside-Beach-Themed-Buffet

In planning the food for the event, I kept imagining a picnic on the beach. Blanket spread out on the sand, a shady umbrella and a gentle salty breeze.

But what would I want to eat?

Something delicious and satisfying but not too heavy and easy to pack and transport.

Something perfect for a picnic. In this case, I also needed something that would easily feed a crowd with little effort.

As I thumbed through my Barefoot Contessa cookbooks (which is one of my favorite event/party planning rituals) I came across a recipe for “Herbed Goat Cheese Sandwiches” from Ina Garten, Parties!

Hmmmmm.

At first read they seemed more like a tea sandwich, with cucumbers and the crusts cut off, but as it is with so many things, it is all in how you see it. And I saw these little sandwiches in a picnic basket nestled next to chilled grapes, freshly baked cookies and iced tea; all ready for a day at the beach. Or an evening as it were.

Herbed-Goat-Cheese-Tea-Sand

For the Know Event, I doubled the recipe and made the sandwiches on a whole grain bread and a soft potato bread. While I couldn’t enjoy the sandwiches (no bread for me), the herbed goat cheese spread was another story! I made a batch for home and couldn’t get enough of it. I ate it on everything I could think of. Daddy and the big kids loved it too but Mr. Picky wouldn’t go near it; which is in fact a good sign that it is absolutely delicious – unless of course you too currently only eat  grilled cheese sandwiches and chocolate pudding.

Mr.-Picky

“Ewww! I CAN’T like that! It is eesgusging!”

Herbed Goat Cheese Spread

Herbed-Goat-Cheese-1

The recipe is not “eesgusging” and is very simple to throw together and holds up well in the fridge for at least a week; if it lasts that long. Click the link above (the one under the picture of the picky 5 year old) and it will take you right to it.

Herbed-Goat-Cheese-2

It whips up easily in a stand mixer but be sure to finely mince or even smash the garlic into a paste as it is pretty potent and no one wants to bite into a big chunk of raw garlic. My husband thought the spread was a little heavy on the garlic so you may want to start with just one clove and see how it tastes to you.

The recipe calls for parsley and thyme, which is fantastic, but I am going to get a little creative with the herb combinations next time. Basil, tarragon, chives, maybe even olives or tapenade and sundried tomatoes; endless possibilities! I also think a bit of lemon zest would be delicious.

Barefoot-Contessa's-Herbed-

Recently, I made this spread as an appetizer for dinner with friends and served it with baguette slices that I drizzled with a little olive oil and toasted in a 425 degree oven for about 5 minutes. They didn’t last long and the tantalizing crunch of those baguettes slathered in that rich goat cheese spread was almost more than this girl could take.

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So I toasted up some low-carb Joseph’s pita wedges and shared in the joy. Admittedly, it was not the same as a crunchy French baguette but it was still pretty darn good.

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For all of you Trim Healthy Mamas out there, this spread is fantastic rolled up in a Joseph’s lavash for a snack or just  add a little turkey and veggies for a satisfying lunch wrap.

One word … omelet.

My husband is the resident omelet maker around here and he’s pretty darn good at it. He makes one for me just about every weekend and I was most delighted to find rich and creamy herbed goat cheese pooling from every nook and cranny of this perfect Saturday morning treat (another good THM/low-carb breakfast).

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He also brought me a good strong cup of black coffee. I am a blessed woman indeed.

There are so many ways to enjoy this versatile spread, I’m thinking about piping it into cherry tomatoes or on top of cucumber slices the next time I need an appetizer.

I hope you will give it a try and play around with your own herb and ingredient combinations. Be sure to let me know what you come up with and as always …

Enjoy!

When Did He Get So Big?

Guess what has happened around here in the last week?

Any guesses? Give up? Okay, I’ll tell you.

School started.

My kids went back to school.

MY KIDS WENT BACK TO SCHOOL!

I love my kids. You know that.

I love the first 3 1/2 weeks of summer.

And then, I LOVE it when my kids go back to school. Well, I mostly love it.

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But this year was a little different and I will admit, mommy had some added back to school anxiety. I always have a little back to school anxiety (especially with some of our unique challenges) but this year, my  youngest, my baby, started Kindergarten.

And it was hard.

For me.

Thankfully, not for him.

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When did he get so big?

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When did he become so independent?

He did not want to walk with me. He wanted to do it ALL. BY. HIMSELF.

I want him to be independent and I want him to hold my hand too.

Yes, that big expanse of grass between us in just one big metaphor. Incidentally, you’re not supposed to walk on the grass so we started Kindergarten by breaking the rules. See, he should have held my hand.

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But this boy was too big for that and he was all business! All of the friends and teachers we ran into welcomed him and I would say Nathan, tell them what grade you are in. After about the fourth time, he turned and looked at me and said …

“MOMMY, I tell you already … K – I – N -D – E – R – G – A – R – T – E – N ! !” If only I could express to you his far too grown up exasperation at my apparent inability to remember what grade he was in. It won’t be the last time I exasperate him, you can be sure of that.

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Eventually, we made it to the classroom, Nathan ten feet ahead of me, where he lined up and waited patiently to go in.

A big kid.

Yes, my child is 4x larger than every other Kindergartener on the planet but that isn’t really what I meant.

Mama doesn’t have a baby anymore, which he so often reminds me when I try to tell him he will always be my baby. “Mommy, I not a baby. I’m a big boy!”

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And so he is.

And then my big boy gave me a hug and marched independently into his classroom and got right down to business.

I have to tell you,  technically I should not have this picture. We parents should have stayed out of the classroom and given our children their space. Bless my son’s perceptive and gracious teacher who sensing our neediness, allowed us into the classroom for a few quick last goodbyes and hugs and a Kindergarten paparazzi of flashing cameras. Yes, we kindergarten parents are a sad lot – at least on the first day.

Thankfully, we are now through the first few days of school and all of my kids have settled in well.

And so have I.

I miss them but I know they are in good hands and are happily busy and learning and are no longer bored or fighting with each other or making me hide in my bathroom just to make a phone call.

My house is cleaner. And quieter.

And I can write again. Oh blog and blogging friends, how I have missed you!

And I am peaceful and happy to see them at the end of their day and hear all about everything they did.

Nathan LOVES Kindergarten and it has already been really good for him. Instead of his usual Three Stooges burp, he made a quiet burp the other day with his little fist to his mouth and said “mommy, my teacher show me how to burp quietly.” I have shown him how to burp quietly too, but sometimes you just need a little back up.

And they need a little independence.

 

 

Bringing the Beach to Arizona and the Women of Mission

I know that this is a long post but we have some catching up to do. You may have noticed that there has been little more than the chirping of crickets happening here at Welcome Company lately.

If you did notice, thank you!

I appreciate you stopping by and visiting and I’m sorry the hospitality has been a bit lacking. I promise to make it up to you and that I do have a good reason, actually a couple of good reasons, that I am so excited to share with you.

I told you a while back that I was asked to step into the role of Event Coordinator for the Women’s Ministry of our church. I shared with you one of the first events I did for our Summer Spiritual Growth Speaking series; A Very Vintage Event – there were actually four evenings in the series but I didn’t bring my camera to the first two (I know, lesson learned) and had to leave town unexpectedly just before the last when my sweet Uncle passed away. A shout out to my friend Shally who covered for me and got everything set up beautifully; no one even knew I was gone.

But I did get to share one with you and I am thankful for that as it was such an incredible evening.

I have been very occupied with events this past month as Women’s Ministry just had one of our biggest this past Thursday evening. We call it the KNOW Event.  Our church is experiencing a phenomenal amount of growth and the KNOW event is geared toward welcoming new women into our ministry and getting them in the “KNOW” and plugged in where they can best serve and be served. We have a KNOW event twice a year and also love to welcome back women who have been with us previously and are interested in finding out what will be going on in Women’s Ministry, details about the Fall Retreat and what bible studies will be offered.

When I began thinking and praying about the KNOW event, I felt God leading me to consider in particular the new women we would be welcoming; whether brand new to our church or new to women’s ministry. We are a big church. And while we are a welcoming big church that truly feels like a small one, there are a lot of people and that can be intimidating for many.

And the honest truth is, women are often intimidating to other women.

Each of us comes with our own story, our own set of hurts, past experiences, uncertainties and hopes and it is hard to walk into a room full of other women for the very first time with all of that dragging behind us. Maybe even walking in knowing not another soul, setting aside our apprehension to find where we belong. Hoping we will be welcomed. Hoping we will fit in.

My job description as I see it is simple; make each woman feel welcomed and at home. That idea is paramount to menus, design and activities but I am thankful to have a God who can work through such things to create a welcoming atmosphere for all.

God is in the details. He cares about every detail and desires for us to seek Him even in what we might consider trivial.

I felt that, I felt Him very close to me, in the planning of this event; in the mindful desire to create a welcoming, relaxed and peaceful gathering for every woman who would walk through our doors; whether for the first time or the five-hundredth.

Welcoming. Relaxed. Peaceful.

The beach. He keeps bringing me back to the beach.

Of course. After all, what is more relaxing and peaceful than the beach?

Seaside-Tablescape-2

When I think of the beach, I go east coast. I don’t know why. Maybe it is the idyllic setting in my mind as I have never been east of Tennessee (and I have only been that far east once). But when I think of the beach, I think of cozy cottages on Cape Cod, the charm of Nantucket and strolling the quaint streets of East Hampton (well, that one I’m sure is because my girl Ina lives there).

These might be romanticized notions but regardless they are what come to mind when I think of the beach and I just want to dig my toes in the warm sand and listen to the gentle waves lapping the shore line with a big glass of iced tea, a flavorful picnic basket and a few girlfriends to share it all with.

Welcoming. Relaxed. Peaceful.

So last Thursday, the beach came to Arizona and to the 250  women who came to spend the evening with us. I would love to share with you how it all came together.

The Mission Women’s Ministry KNOW Event, Fall 2013

Mission-Women-KNOWYes, it is only August but here in Arizona, some of our kids have already started back to school and the rest begin in the next few days (Hallelujah Chorus) so we call it Fall. Part of the inspiration for the beach theme was to pay one last little homage to summer.

The first thing about pulling a big event together is to be mindful of the budget. Believe it or not, I love the challenge of this. Half the fun of pulling it all together is to see just how far God can take a shoestring. I also firmly believe that if He has given me the ability and the means to do something, I absolutely cannot pay someone else to do it – this gets me into trouble sometimes, in the form of sleep deprivation, but generally works out for me.

He has given me the ability to sew a pretty good straight line (just don’t ask me to make an item of clothing) so I made my own table cloths and runners, which add so much but are just not in the budget for each new event. The standard tablecloths provided by the church are black which is a good basic look but not very beachy.

I am now about to let you in on a little budget friendly decorating secret, perhaps one of my all-time favorite … painters canvas.

Painters canvas. You know the drop cloths you find at Home Depot? Well, they make GREAT tablecloths – especially for rectangular folding tables.

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I cut a “big” one into thirds, hemmed the unfinished edges and it covered three 6’x2′ rectangular tables perfectly. The “hallway runners” work GREAT as well.

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I found this gorgeous light blue and cream chevron fabric (I am all about the chevrons right now) at Hobby Lobby and made a 12 foot runner for the buffet table.

With budget ever in mind, I made my way up the steep ladder (I’m not exaggerating, I feel like GI Joe every time I climb up there) into the overhead storage room to see what Women’s Ministry already had in storage. Twenty-three hurricanes, six glass bowls and a whole lot of LED candles came in handy for the centerpieces.

I bought the sand, shells and seaside potpourri at Michaels and the blue table runners from Target. They are a heavy but soft paper that comes in a roll and can be cut to whatever size you need. Blue mason jars (be still my heart) and an assortment of pretty white flowers from the grocery store completed our beach themed centerpieces. The potpourri had a lovely light scent that added a nice touch.

Remember that budget I talked about? Well, I usually end up happily contributing a little on my own. It is a blessing to do so and what girl doesn’t need 36 fabulous blue mason jars? Oh, I will find something to do with them.

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The buffet table centerpieces came from Costco and I added in blue hydrangea that I just couldn’t pass up.

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I don’t always use flower bouquets as a centerpiece. This time I put two arrangements offset from my centerpiece which was an aged blue lantern, white vase with beach grasses, sea glass bottles, shells and white starfish.

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Flowers are a must but don’t always need to be used as a focal point. It is fun to create a scene or vignette that fits your theme.

Beach-Boquet

These flowers played a secondary role but were still show stoppers! I love mixed bouquets and I particularly love all white flowers with just a touch of green and in this case pale blue. You can’t go wrong with a monochromatic bouquet.

With the table centerpieces in place, a zillion LED candles turned on and the buffet table ready to go (thanks to LOTS of helping hands) all that was left was to welcome in the women we are so privileged to serve.

Shally-at-KNOW

Sweet Shally greeting women as they came through the doors. She is also a girl who can work wonders with a sewing machine. She doesn’t know it yet but I’m going to have to do a post one of these days on the incredible things she can do with a plain old t-shirt. Be watching for that one!

But wait, I nearly forgot to tell you about the food. That is so unlike me. Here’s the spread …

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Picnic sandwiches, fruit – green grapes, strawberries and blueberries, cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese cubes, brownies, toffee hazelnut cookies, Pirouettes, chocolate wafer cookies, chocolate chip mini-cupcakes and lemonade.

Beach-Themed-Buffet

Strawberry-&-Blueberry-Bask

I love to serve berries in “picking” baskets with a simple white napkin (I line the inside with waxed or parchment paper). They are casual but still beautiful presented and it saves a little room on the table.

Chocolate-Chip-Mini-Muffins

My 11-year-old daughter frosted the cupcakes for me and meticulously placed every single chocolate chip by hand. No kidding. I could have corrected her and told her just to sprinkle them on but she was happy and didn’t seem to mind so I let her do it her way. I love how they turned out because I know that while they aren’t perfect they were made with a lot of love and care. You can’t ask for more. I’ll share the recipe with you later this week.

Barefoot-Contessa's-Herbed-

Even for an event that is later in the evening, centered more around dessert, I think it is important to offer something savory. Many women came straight from work and I wanted there to be just a little something hearty. These Herbed Goat Cheese Tea Sandwiches did the trick. I’ll share these with you soon too – let me just tell you that I could eat the filling by the spoonful but try to be a lady and slather it all over a low carb pita instead.

So that was our day at the beach, or evening anyway. It was an absolute pleasure to pull this event together and to be blessed by a room filled with women who have a heart for Jesus and a desire for fellowship. It was a relaxed, peaceful and happy evening and I hope all felt welcome.

Jodi-&-Erin-at-KNOW

Erin and Jodi; two incredibly special women I am so thankful to serve with and would gladly spend a day at the beach with. Maybe Ina will join us and bring cookies.

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Thanks to everyone who helped me so much (you know who you are) and especially to my friend and events team helper Linda and her daughter Kimberly (I need to get a picture of those girls) who I would be completely lost without.

Thanks for visiting. I pray you have a special group of gals (maybe even 250 of them) that you could spend a day at the beach with – remember the beach is where you find it, it’s the company that truly matters!

We who had sweet fellowship together, Walked in the house of God in the throng. Psalm 55:14

If you are nervous about reaching out or joining a women’s ministry group, pray and ask God for his guidance and peace and know that there are women who are genuinely waiting to welcome you.

If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Philippians 2:1-2

If you are in the Mesa/Gilbert area of Arizona, come and visit us at Mission Community Church or e-mail me at welcomecompany@cox.net for more information about our Women’s Ministry.

So, I told you there were two reasons for the crickets. Here’s the second …

MVMT-Dinner-3A staff/board dinner for 175. Two evenings before the KNOW event. Another beautiful evening I can’t wait to tell you all about. But for now, I’m going to find a beach somewhere and take a nap.

Blessings!