Creating An Indoor Picnic for Book Group

Once a year, I pick a book and host a Book Group party at my house. Our Book Group is a bit unusual as far as Book Groups go...or so I have heard. Pretty much the same group has been together for about eight years now. We have only had two friends leave and two friends join in all that time.

Last Friday was my night to host. The book I chose was The Help by Kathryn Stockett:

Set in Mississippi in 1962 during the civil rights movement, the story chronicles the lives of three women, one white and two black, and how they came together to write a book about how "the help" coexisted with their well-to-do white employers.

Truthful and thoughtful, funny and heartbreaking, the story is one that I, and the rest of my group thought was one of our favorites in our eight years together.(If you would like more information and editorial reviews click here.)

I decided that since the weather was on the hot side, that I would create in indoor picnic for our get together. I started with a burlap table cloth I had made a few years back. Burlap is very inexpensive (about 3 or 4 dollars per yard) and holds up for a very long time! I placed grass place mats on top and added a row of potted plants down the center. The plants I chose were a citron green "Lamium Golden" and an eggplant hued "Sweet Potato Vine". I loved the color contrast! I got them at Target along with some brown terracotta pots. The pot color went so well with the burlap. And after the party I am putting the plants in my garden! I love a dual purpose purchase.

I experimented with some of my mercury glass candlestick holders: very pretty, but a bit too formal for a "picnic":

So I decided to go with these simple votive holders, again, very inexpensive from Michael's. I think they were 50 cents apiece.

A couple in between each pot. Simple and clean.

I added my "Great White Plates" from Pottery Barn. ( Now you can have them monogrammed!)I think a white plate shows off food so well. And for the meal I had planned, they were the perfect size: big!

I wanted something that looked like a picnic tablecloth for the napkins and found the perfect thing at IKEA. These rolls have four cloths, each one a different white and blue pattern for $2.49 per roll! That is 62 cents per napkin. I like that. And again, dual purpose!

Placed in the middle of each plate, the "napkins" are a nice big size for my picnic.

I added simple wine glasses, again from IKEA, and a bottle of Pellegrino at each place instead of a water glass to finish it off. Now on to the food!

For a little snacking before dinner, I laid out cheeses, fig jam, some Kalamata olives and olive tapenade, a bit of Hummus and a few French Plums. I iced the wine, beer and waters in a galvanized bucket.

When we were ready we sat down to an evening picnic:

I had prepared a buffet of salads: Heirloom tomatoes from the garden with basil and mozzarella, Ina Garner's potato salad with lots of fresh dill, my version of the Bottega snap pea and white corn salad with a citrus dressing, my green salad with pine nuts and avocado, and a fruit salad. A bit of French bread with Gruyere and olives, and we were very happy.( Oh yes, the platters I had just found at the last Sacramento Antique Faire . LOVE them!!)