Well, that is not a photo you'd expect to see on my blog, is it?
Nope, not like me at all.
I travelled with my husband to Long Island to visit the Hamlet club, where the crew there had done an exceptional job and deserved a celebration. My husband's team was going to prepare and serve a special dinner and I offered to help.
When I was asked to pick up some items to decorate with, I was excited, that was right up my alley!
When I was told it was sushi night, I was flummoxed, that isn't exactly my style and I had no idea where to start.
Especially in a strange city, without my regular shopping targets. But, I went out exploring, set my Google Maps to Michaels and promptly got lost.
No cell service, no maps.
So, I turned into the first parking lot that I found, hoping to snag some free wireless from a business. I just so happened to be in front of an AC Moore, a store I'd not heard of, but the sign said "crafts" so I went in.
And found all the inspiration I needed for the table- some handmade, Japanese rice paper in firey dragon colors, and paper, clip on, crayon yellow, dragonflies. I bought enough rice paper to line up and use as a runner, scooped up some colorful bugs, and went from there.
Black "floating frames" were buy one get one free. I got 8, in different sizes (all they had) to use as zen garden style trays to fill with stones and moss, along with simple, cylinder candles and vases. In the larger frames, I centered a strip of coordinating rice paper for an extra layer.
To spice up the candles and vases (cheap ones from the wedding section), I bought some washi tape (that is Japanese, right??). If you are going to use washi tape to add a stripe to the top of a glass, I'd say make sure the vase or votive is as straight up and down as possible, and choose a tape that looks okay with a bit of a wrinkle in it. Because it is very hard to get it perfect. I thought about using an exacto blade to trim Vs out of the tape to make it fit better, then decided that working with the wrinkles, and burnishing them out as flat as I could was good enough.
I think it is fine.
Each frame "tray" was filled with handfuls of pebbles around the candles and flowers, with moss tucked in among the rocks. I also bought some big, black stones, and a gold paint marker. Then, I googled "Japanese lettering" and copied pictures I found.
On the backs, I wrote the English translation. I tried to chose words that went along with the event, and the people it was for, such as: pride, team, strength, friendship, self confidence, etc.
(Uhm, if you are fluent in Japanese, please don't try to read these, let's consider them arty, not accurate)
You can find anything online can't you? I thought that it would be a nice touch to have origami folded napkins too. So looked up youtube videos on folding swans.
I had a short period of time to pull this all off, from shopping to creating to setting the table. And the swans were not going well. So, I quickly switched to butterflies. Which went much, much faster. In all, I had about an hour into ironing and folding the napkins, and most of that was a learning curve. Once I figured out the steps, it went quickly.
The tall, clear vases were filled with more pebbles, and I split a package of curly twigs and bamboo between the 8 vases on the table and a larger one on the buffet.
On the way to the club, I got lost again and found the coolest grocery store I'd ever been in. I am a huge, Trader Joe's fan, and discovered the REAL deal type place that the chain is probably based on. It was an older market, full of imports and good prices too. I could've wandered around sampling cheeses and filling my cart with pasta from Italy, all day, but had to get to the club to set my table.
Before leaving, I picked up two bundles of freesias in yellow and orange for only $6 each, and they were the most perfect finishing touch for the vases. It wasn't something I'd set out to find. I thought that the vases looked pretty good with the washi tape, dragonflies, and curly twigs. But a few, small handful of bright flowers really improved the whole table.
There were even enough yellow freesias to add to the buffet table vase too.
There aren't any pictures of the buffet table because I was helping serve the appetisers by the time the main course was set out.
Yep, I was a waitress too.
When I was a single mom, that is how I supported my kids. And I met my Handsome Husband while waitressing at a Holiday Inn where he worked at the front desk. After I was married, I kept it up for years because the hours were great, I could work lunches while the kiddos were in school.
And I always loved doing the job and thought I was pretty good at it. So, I figured I still would be.
Not so much.
The first thing I noticed as people were starting to come in, was that the trays were much heavier than I remembered. Very heavy.
Now, I still carry 9 year old Sugarwings around a lot. I garden, I keep busy. I'm not a gym rat, but I do lift some free weights (well sometimes).
But it didn't take long to find out that I do not have a single waitress muscle left in my body. Instead of 8 to 12 plates on a big tray, I could barely heft an empty, large tray over my head. I stayed with small, drink trays and carried a couple plates at a time, making many more trips back and forth that way.
Let me brag a smidge that I still had the drive and the eye for waitressing. I can spot a half filled glass and top it off before the guest even knows they are running low on water. I can whisk away a plate within seconds of the diner deciding he is done eating, and will scoop up all extra items on the placemat, keeping the area tidy.
But, boy, was I achey after all of it. It was fun to be a part of the event, and I loved the challenge of decorating, but the exhaustion that came with serving the meal really threw me emotionally. I wasn't prepared to face the fact that my youth is far, far behind me and I just can't keep up with things I used to do.
I think I'll keep my day job. Or maybe practice carrying trays around and get ready ahead of time before I do it again? I was too cocky to think of that, I figured I'd be a star waitress, not a weak, little old lady.
I'd like to see more of Long Island, especially the Hamptons. There wasn't quite enough time to get that far. We did go to Times Square where we posed with one of a dozen or so Elmos walking around. They work for tips and before you know it, you are surrounded by all sorts of characters, each asking for money, even if some weren't in the picture and most weren't asked to be in it. They all crowd in, whether you want them to or not, and then try to get more cash from you. I was a bit taken back by it all, but it was pretty funny to be mobbed by cartoon characters.
I don't think Disneyworld would approve of Minnie Mouse's attitude.
We took a ride up to the top of Rockefeller Center. (Nice venetian plaster on the wall, isn't it?)
I was entranced by the chandelier.
Wouldn't you love to have just one strand from it?
And the lights built into the walls were chunks of crystal with colored lights behind them.
And what a view!
And what nice people we were with. Who knew I'd go all the way to NY just to meet a fellow junker and furniture painter? I enjoyed hanging out with my new friend, Beth.
We ate at Carmine's and I adored the mismatched chandies there too.
The selection of old photos on the wall made me feel right at home. This was my fave.
I've never been a city person, but I sure did love New York.