Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Bushel of Sweetwater Gap Book Club Ideas



Tuesday night's book club meeting was bushels of fun, and several members said this was their favorite gathering yet. Our book selection, Sweetwater Gap by Denise Hunter, gave us so much to pull from to plan a memorable fall evening. The book is set in an orchard in Shelbyville, N.C., so we wanted readers to step into the Apple Picking Festival for the evening.






A free banner from VistaPrint set the tone for the evening.






And, of course, we had plenty of apples to go around. They topped tables, toppled out of baskets, and tumbled into the evening's recipes.






Over the weekend I made apple butter to serve with our meal and to send home with each guest. I thought it would be fun to attribute the apple butter to the book's main character, Josie's, sister. So I had VistaPrint labels printed for quilted half-pint jars to advertise the fictional orchard. Packaged and tied with burlap string, they looked ready to sell at the Apple Picking Festival. I was so tickled over them until in the middle of our book discussion, I noticed that Josie's sister was actually LAUREL! I was mortified, but we decided that Lauren was probably a lesser-known cousin who did not appear in the book because she was always in the kitchen making apple butter. Despite my goof, the apple butter itself was delicious. I will share the recipe in tomorrow's post.






My chalkboard platter provided good advertising for our Apple Picking Festival, and instrumental bluegrass music helped set a convivial mood.






Friends Missy Jones, Terri Phillips and I always coordinate the meeting decor and menu to fit the theme of  the book. For this meeting we provided apples and caramel dip, biscuits and  apple butter, and apple tea. Missy and Terri brought blue-ribbon-worthy apple desserts, so I played with wire-edged ribbon to make blue ribbons to display with their cake and pie. I will be rounding up apple recipes from the evening and hope to share those soon.





We asked guests to bring a favorite fall dish for our potluck meal. We had such a delicious balance of flavors, and I am eager to try all of the recipes I sampled during the meeting. I took a green salad with goat cheese, cherry-flavored dried cranberries, candied pecans and apple chips. I presented it in a bushel basket lined with a napkin, so served the dressing on the side. I hope to share more of the evening's delicious recipes in upcoming posts.






Quilts topped all of our tables for the evening. Not only is this an effortless way to decorate a table; it also adds instant warmth to the setting.






Burlap added great texture to our decorating. Above you see our next book club selection, ready to be revealed at the end of the meeting. I tied a strip of burlap around the book, then finished the gift with a rosette. To make the rosette, I simply rolled a strip of burlap, folding and twisting the strip to give the rose a little more complexity. After I rolled the rose, I left the edge of the strip loose and frayed the edge a bit to resemble a leaf. A few stitches secured the bloom, and hot glue adhered the rose to the burlap ribbon.







We topped all our quilts with burlap place mats. The dimensions were approximately 19 inches by 11 1/2 inches. Pulling a few threads out all around gave the place mats a charming frayed edge. Unfortunately, my photos from the evening did not turn out very well, but I wanted to show you a couple anyway to give you an impression of our tables.




Mums wrapped in burlap, apples, baskets of biscuits, apple butter, candles and a pitcher of tea topped each guest table.






Missy, Terri and I combined dishware, flatware and tea glasses for a collected look that kept us from having to purchase paper products. I wish you could have stepped into the meeting with us; my photos do not do the event justice!






One of my favorite little book club projects was making these sweet little chalkboard signs. I used a paper punch to cut out vinyl chalkboard adhesive squares, which I affixed to checked scrapbook paper from Michaels. Glued to each side of a popsicle stick, it makes a charming little sign. We used these to identify the variety of apples piled onto a wooden platter for an easy appetizer.




Still to come, recipes, devotional and our new book club selection!


9 comments:

once in a blue moon said...

that was fabulous, i spent a year cooking the books at food for thought, i know exactly how much fun you had!

L'Aussie said...

These are just fabulous photos. You made me drool.

Denise

Becky W said...

LOVE it!!!! One day I am going to show up at one!!! We are working on our next one for December!!!

Denise Hunter said...

Wow, you could give lessons on planning book club gatherings! What beautiful photos! I had such a wonderful time chatting with you all.

Kristen said...

I love this theme!!! Our book club might just need to read Sweetwater Gap next fall. =) Loved all of your ideas and decor!

Smocking with Gwen said...

Melissa,
I do sooo enjoy your postings. Without fail, there is always an uplifting message to take away. Your photography is always wonderful. One question..what camera do you use and do you have a portrait lens that you use for the photos of the children? They are always so beautifully sharp. Thanks...Gwen

Marji Laine - Unravel the Mystery said...

What an amazing event! I'm totally inspired!

Melissa Lester said...

Thank you, Gwen! I use a Sony 600 DSLR. I do not have a portrait lens, but would love to have one. I rely on the two leses that came with my camera: standard and zoom. I can get pretty good results in natural light, but have a lot to learn to adjust for poor lighting conditions.

Brian said...

Wow, you could give lessons on planning book club gatherings! What beautiful photos! I had such a wonderful time chatting with you all.

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