Friday, October 17, 2008

Diner en Blanc

Why have I not been blogging? This is why. Focus, focus, and focus.

This was my 10th year volunteering for a table setting luncheon fund raiser and is something I absolutely love doing. We had 55 tables, all done by various ladies and gentlemen, with total creative freedom in our themes.

This year my theme of choice was 'Diner en Blanc', based on the event in Paris that happens every June by anonymous invitation and at an unknown location. The actual dinner party is illegal because it is done on public grounds. If invited you are to dress entirely in white, bring a card table and two folding chairs, linens, china, silver, crystal, candle, dinner and wine. A charter bus picks up large groups of guests and takes them to the chosen destination. Tables are set up in long rows in approximately 15 minutes with gentlemen on one side and ladies on the other. This year on June 12th, 4,000 people celebrated at the Arc de Triumph. I would love to be in Paris and be witness to this. There are some online photos of the Paris event if you do a little searching.

What do you consider inappropriate at a luncheon? An extremely large centerpiece? An enormous camel? Old corks laying on the table? How about the requirement that you wear all white? All of these were part of the luncheon. It is not about practical, it is about drama and fun. And this luncheon sells out every year.

Many of the volunteers have lovely sets of heirloom china and crystal and sliver. Or they have a large budget to work with. I on the other hand use creativity and Target and Walmart a lot. It is surprising how you can create a gorgeous table that does not look cheap if you push your mental and shopping limits. These dishes were at Pier 1 and were marked down to $3.48 and $2.48 per piece. Not a bad price for something so pretty.

The flatware showed up at Target in the nick of time. It was exactly what I was looking for but the nice stuff was quite pricey and these were only $1.29 a piece.

My friend Pennie has wonderful antique pieces and let's me borrow what ever I need. This is from a collection of hers and I used it for Australian Pink Flake salt and fresh ground pepper which is so much nicer and makes your guests feel special. There is no law that says you must use salt and pepper shakers and this was far prettier. I also used a creamer and sugar bowl from the same collection and had organic sugar and heavy cream for the coffee.

Having a French theme, I used a rubber stamp and small cards to make place cards. The small letter is from the section in craft stores for card making and are clear round stickers and the typewriter print was perfect. I used only the first letter of each person's name for a clean and simple look.

I also made the napkins. Well not the napkins themselves, those I bought and ironed very stiffly then using the same rubber stamp tried to create a napkin with an old hotel/restaurant look.
I found the iron candle-abra at Good Will for $3, painted it white, but could not find candles that would fit the large holes, nor could I find glass inserts. Finally I saw little terracotta pots for 59 cents each and painted them white. We have an old flea market here where I found a small box of broken old pearl necklaces for $6. I cleaned them and ended up throwing half away but I glued many of the rest around the rim of the pots and under to cover the hole which brought some class to the pots. The silver beaded garlands are for Christmas but they added the final glitz I needed. I had to use candle putty to hold the candles in place but I think this ended up very beautiful. Also, go back to the first photo and notice how straight my candles are. Do you know how difficult that is? Yay me. This candleabra reminds me of a vintage cardigan.

I am not trying to talk about what things cost so much as to how you can do this much cheaper than you may think, by being creative and keeping your eyes out for bargains and things you can alter. I don't believe anyone would look at my table and guess that it did not come out of a boutique.

I have a small collection of mercury glass which I used and I also found two antique cake platters that were beautiful. I always have a few snacks on my table and keeping with the French theme I used one platter for a very nice triple cream brie, grapes and crackers. And I made Madeleines for the other.

One of the best tips I have is to purchase a set of clear glass plates but do not make them your daily dinner plates. Instead, use their versatility to your advantage.
*Purchase beautiful better quality paper plates for holidays. Place them under your clear plates and the color just pops. They look like chargers or decorated plates. One set of clear plates can cover every single holiday. Voila! Festive on the cheap.
*There are large sheets of vinyl window clings. Sometimes you see them on bakery or ice cream display cases. When I was little, a long long time ago, my teachers would use them on windows. They also work great underneath clear plates. Just make sure that the decoration is on both side of the vinyl. Slightly dampen them and place underneath your plates. One of my table themes a few years ago and was actually my favorite table that I have done was 'Egor's Table'. I found bone window clings (ribs, arm, feet, leg, hand, etc.) at Halloween and I had the coolest plates imaginable and everyone asked where I bought them. These are available at party stores, teachers supply stores, Target, Walmart, Kmart, and are cheap, just a couple bucks and 2 sheets should do 8 place settings.
*Terracotta saucers. Add moss, pebbles, flowers, herbs, bark, whatever, and place your clear plate on top.
*Get creative and decopage the backs of the plates, or paint with glass paint. But these you must carefully hand wash.
*Calendars. Remove the pages with a blade and cover with clear contact paper and you have great place mats that come through the clear plates. In the coming days

I will post photos of other tables starting on 10-20-08. My favorite table this year was 'Rodeo Queen". The calendar idea is from their table.

If you have any questions, drop me a comment with your email and I will get back to you.

This year, everyone at my table was family or close friend. I could not have asked for anything more. Each of them are loved dearly by me and made my day perfect. They drove long distances, paid for tickets and shopped for white in October.
One of my moms is missing in the photos, remember the part about extremely large centerpieces?


noble pig said...

You are fabulous! This is so great and what an event. You have such great ideas. And yes, if you plan early you can find great bargains! I loved this post and the pink flake salt.

Leslie said...

YOur table is stunning! To be honest, these is nothing more classy and beautiful than white on white! So pure and beautiful! What wonderful attntion to detail you have Amber..way to go! I bet you table was the best one there!!!
And yes..litle old me is going to be on TV! I am going to see if I can record it somehow and get it up on my blog!

Anonymous said...

Wow ! This is absolutely fabulous! Loved the lesson on the Paris event. So cool!

Leslie said...

Thanks for you comment on my TV segment. I am going to try my hardest to get it on my site

Vera said...

Beautiful! You've done a fabulous job, Amber!

mimi said...

thanks for visiting my blog! i LOVE that flatware! what a deal, but it looks so gorgeous!

Olga said...

Thanks for visiting my blog.

I really like the Eiffel tower decorations: very simple and elegant.

And of course I love that you have "mango" in the name of your blog!