Celebrating Books and Friendship

Lots of my friends are in book clubs. So far, I have resisted the offer to jump into one because I think I would be the worst member ever. Most likely, I would only make it to half the meetings, never finish the book, and just want to drink wine and visit instead of getting into a meaty discussion about plot points and character evolution.

But if there was ever a book club I would want to crash, it would be my sister-in-law Deanna’s. From what I can tell, the books are only the excuse for this fun and creative group of close friends to get together and explore, create and grow.

First, a quick aside about Deanna. I knew from the moment I saw her that she would be a great fit for my rascal of a big brother. Like all sisters, I was determined to serve as Yenta the Matchmaker and find Tim the perfect wife. So when Deanna walked into Nell Hill’s one day, I had an inkling that she was the one. Call it sister’s intuition. A few weeks ago, they celebrated their 12th wedding anniversary. You’re welcome, Tim!

I want to make sure Deanna is always happy, not only because she is my dear friend, but also because I am so grateful that she is married to my brother. Let’s be honest: She is way too good for him! So when I found out that Deanna was hosting her book club in February, I offered to come help her decorate her table.

This was going to be fun, because this book club is like no other I’ve ever heard about. The original crew met in 2001 when they were all new members of the Junior League. Through the years, the group has changed a bit, but the fast friendships have not. A member who has since moved to Florida flies back for book club. And, when Deanna had a milestone birthday, they all went to Paris together to celebrate.

I really like the format for their club. Every month, they alternate between meeting at a member’s home for a dinner and book discussion, and doing some sort of fun activity together. One month they may take a cooking class, learn how to arrange flowers, or participate in a wine and cheese tasting. The next month, they are digging into a book. This time, it was The Windfall by Diksha Basu.

It was fun for the Nell Hill’s team to brainstorm ways to dress up Deanna’s table for this special group. Years ago at Nell Hill’s, we did an inspiration table using old law books as chargers. We decided to do a spin on this trick, pulling lots of books onto the table and into the centerpiece. Our visual designer LuAnn had it pulled together in minutes. Sometimes, the best centerpieces are not overthought.

I also gathered a few props from my home to help create Deanna’s table. My friend Marsee gave me this lovely figure of a woman holding a book when one of my books was published. Perfect! I also grabbed my collection of tiny antique books, another inspiration from Marsee. I knew we would be able to use them all somehow in the centerpiece.

When my mom passed away, my sister Judy and I knew that the right person to have Mom’s Haviland china and gold-rimmed stemware was Deanna. Deanna is a very girly-girl, and the sweet floral motif in these dishes was perfect for her. We topped each place setting with a petite bird vase filled with roses.

Since the book club’s meetings always start with a special drink, we set up a drinks table in the foyer of their home. It had to be Champagne, in honor of the book club’s tour of the Champagne house of Diebolt-Vallois in the French village of Cramant on Deanna’s birthday. (Our family name is Diebolt.)

To the ladies of Deanna’s book club, I raise a glass. Keep it up, girls!

Next Week … We’ll visit a few cottages to see how you can add charm to your bathrooms.