le convive (kon-veev)
Nos convives étaient sous le charme de la bouteille de lavande tressée par Marie-Françoise.
Our guests were charmed by the lavender bottle, woven by Marie-Françoise.
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A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse
Dégage, Marthe! (Move over, Martha!)
An opportunity quickly presented itself when Jean-Marc invited colleagues over for dinner last Sunday. Rather than panic, I looked around the house and realized that, with a few thoughtful touches, our guests could be both comfortable and delighted.
After warming up the foyer—using candles and books and extra cushions before the fireplace—I turned my attention to the dinner table... comment l'embellir? Table artistry is not my strong point, but did it truly take strength to arrange a pretty table? Bien sûr que non! It only took thoughtfulness....
I was thinking about flowers when it dawned on me that dozens of deep purple marguerites were blooming in our driveway!
The flowers automatically brought to mind a trio of ceramic "poire" vases that were, thank goodness, unpacked after our move!
I hurried to get the little pears, snipping une poignée of purple daisies, in passing....
"Never throw out your books!" Mom always says, "they're great for decorating!" Good idea, but could you use books as a dinner centerpiece?
Pourquoi pas! I sang, running back upstairs, this time for the extra books. The excitement of decorating carried me from room to room, searching for forgotten treasures; meantime those nagging doubts began to be buried beneath all the growing enthusiasm.
Voyons voir... I would need small books... don't want to take up too much space on the dinner table... A stack of missels came to mind. But wasn't that too personal? Too revealing? Too preachy?
Who cares! Transparency = Freedom! Hallelujah! Let it all hang out! I grabbed the prayer books before taking the stairs, two by two, hurrying back to the dining room.
While arranging the books and the flowers I remembered the lavender wand that Jean-Marc's aunt had woven for us, as a souvenir from our vineyard in Sainte Cécile (on moving day she and her daughter Audrey came by to help. Noticing that the lavender in the driveway had not completely faded, Marie-Françoise began harvesting several of the flowers....).
The centre de table was coming together naturally, nothing like the designing conundrum I had imagined it to be... and when the guests arrived the "little centerpiece that could" suddenly came to life!
"Do you know what this is?" our French convive asked our American convive as she held up Aunt Marie-Françoise's lavender wand. And so a conversation between strangers began....
Joining in the conversation with my convives, I tell them the story of the bouteille de lavande, how it was handmade by Aunt Marie-Françoise. Pointing to the colorful ruban that held the flowers together, I shared the amusing details of this particular lavender wand.
"You know those ribbon loops that are sewn inside women's sweaters... to help when hanging the garment?" I questioned my guests, whose faces began to light up in recognition.
"Well... one day it occurred to Marie-Françoise to cut out the satiny loops from inside each of her sweaters... She tied all the colorful ribbons together, to make one long variegated strand with which to weave the lavender wand!"
Just like the smooth fiber weaving in and out of those flowers, our dinner guests, former strangers, began to connect in time to enjoy a cozy dinner.
I realized that I need not panic ever again when it comes to creating a centerpiece. Create a story instead. Better yet, put out a few favorite items... and let the story write itself.
Post note: After the dinner party, that centerpiece (pictured below) continued to give off meaning: there was the winemaker's theme that revealed itself (for the little porcelain pears were a gift from a Sonoma Wine makers, Jann and Gerry); the bottle of Domaine Maubernard was a gift from one of our French guests (who made the wine), and our American guests are our friends Phyllis and Tim at French Country wines!
As for the hallelujah books, that theme hasn't yet revealed itself... such is the mystery of heavenly things!
To leave a comment, click here. What did you think of Marie-Françoise's creative use of the satin sweater loops? Have you thought of a second life for some item? Does decorating intimidate you? Ever had a small victory, like me? Thanks for your comments.
comment = how to
embellir = to make attractive, to embellish
la marguerite = daisy
la poire = pear
une poignée = handful
pourquoi pas? = why not?
voyons voir... = let's see...
le missel = book of prayers
le centre de table = centerpiece
le convive = guest
la bouteille de lavande = lavender bottle (synonym for lavender wand, a hand-woven collection of lavender flowers, connected by a ribbon (see a picture of Marie-Françoise making one here)
le ruban = ribbon
Hallelujah / lavender wand /wine centerpiece. Why not? Have another idea? Share it in the comments box! Also pictured in this photo, a second lavender wand--woven by Eileen in Charlottesville, VA. I love the French/American duo, between the French made wand and the American made wand. One more note: the little plate beneath the candle is a part of a plate set, left to us by Maggie and Michael. The plates come from a Swiss hotel that Maggie's father bought, once upon a time. Maggie and Michael left us several beautiful items when we bought their house, last fall.
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