Sunday, April 21, 2013

Part-time Party Planner

By day, I'm a freelance writer and editor. In my off hours, I have several part-time gigs that feed my creative side. There's my booth at Tennessee Antique Mall and the free decorating advice I offer to friends (usually solicited). Then there's my role decorating for various events at my church, The Village Chapel here in Nasvhille.

From potlucks and women's retreats to chili cook-offs and Christmas, I've spray-painted cardboard letters, set branches in buckets of Quikrete, fluffed fake Christmas trees until my hands bled and used more burlap than a Brazilian coffee farm. I love it!

Most recently was our TVC Church-wide Game Night and Finger Food Potluck. (I tried to get them to add a few more adjectives to that title, but they wouldn't.) We don't spend a lot on decorating, so it's a bit of a challenge, but there's always enough of a budget for some fresh grocery store flowers, table runners, ribbon and signs. 

I immediately imagined a picnic theme, so I hit up Hobby Lobby and bought a roll of red checked plastic tablecloth material and some ribbon. I usually supplement with pieces I borrow from my own house. Chalkboards, crates, jars, metal locker baskets. fabric and other stuff is loaded in my SUV and lugged to the St. Bernard building, the old convent where we meet. This time around, though, I was given the "OK" to purchase a few decorative pieces and a bunch of various sizes of mason jars that we can store and use again, so my house was left pretty much intact.

The bistro-style chalkboard was my favorite find, and it was the first thing people saw as they walked in the door.

Here's the main table, waiting for all the fun finger foods to arrive. I found the white crate (used here as a napkin caddy) at Hobby Lobby, and the utensil carrier came from Target. The signs were simple letters printed in typewriter font onto pages I cut out of a discarded book and attached with black clothespins to some jute twine tied to two water-filled mason jars (if I had more time, I would have filled them with rocks or marbles to add some color or texture). Finally, I bought some red plastic baskets food baskets to corral any loose chips, crackers or cookies): 

For the "games" table, I found an old Monopoly board to get things started:

I also took a small piece of sheet metal from Home Depot and bent the bottom four inches back to make a stand-up sign/magnet board (use a table edge to get it to bend in a straight line). Then I attached a rectangular piece of chalkboard from an easy-to-apply adhesive roll. I wrote on it with one of my favorite recent  finds, a chalkboard marker. They come in a variety of colors and wash off with water. Best of all, there's no dusty mess like with chalk.

Some of the best ideas are born out of necessity. I had meant to hit up Home Depot one more time for some galvanized metal tubs to hold the bottled water, but I ran out of time. That's why I was frantically looking around my house on Friday afternoon, 30 minutes before I needed to be at church. I managed to dig up one smaller white drink tub filled with small frames and art pieces waiting to be used. Unfortunately, I knew that wouldn't be enough to hold the 100-200 bottles of water we needed to put out. Then it hit me - almost literally. I've started hoarding collecting drawers, and my studio and guest room are currently stacked almost to the ceilings with drawers pulled from two different discarded desks. It's hard to even get around in those rooms thanks to all the free salvage I've scored lately, including a really cool dresser a friend rescued from the trash for me (I REALLY need a garage). So, I grabbed two black desk drawers with some cool hardware on them and tossed them in the car. Here's a (blurry) close-up:

I fought my natural tendency to do too much and it paid off. The room was ready nearly 30 minutes before people were due to arrive and I was actually able to sit down and enjoy the night. I even found time to grab a board game and join in the fun. My friends and I gave the Sweet Valley High game a "D-" but the night overall earned an "A."

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