willowbrook farm

historic yellow springs

A Visual Luncheon for Women


The beauty of an old book draws me in. The warn covers, be they leather or paper. The decorative elements, sometimes gilded, sometimes raised, often understated yet elegant. The feel of the pages that have been turned so may times before by various hands. Do you ever wonder upon flipping the pages of such a book, who brought the written words to life in their imagination as they read from this very same book over a hundred years back? What is the story line contained  within these pages?  Who are the characters that are portrayed? What impact did they have on each other?


The power of the written word to entertain, teach, impress, preach, impart and so on is irrefutable. The power of the actions of the characters within the pages to influence, affect, change, hold a place in, and intertwine with the lives of the other characters and parallel real life, is what inspired me to use books as the design element for a recent stylized luncheon we held here to submit for a magazine publication. We had this project on the calendar and I needed to come up with the theme or motif of the photo shot. As I looked around my house and the barn, both chock full of books, old and new, the idea of centering the luncheon around these time worn chapters came to mind. I knew the event would be involving women and since they have this uncanny ability to be important players in the chapters of other women’s daily lives, playing both main and supporting roles, what better way to mirror those relationships?

In order to bring this project to fruition we wanted to involve other talented women who are creating lives around their passions and vise versa. We asked our friend Silenia Rhoads of the Malvern Buttery, if she and her creative team would cook up a delicious lunch based upon the offerings of the tail end of winter. She agreed and we were over the moon! If you have not been to the Malvern Buttery yet, you need to get there! We met Silenia and her husband John one day when they came to an event we were holding in the barn and they told us of their vision of their “coffee shop” that was in progress. They had designed a European inspired coffee shop that is just that… and so much more. We were delighted that they found some pieces in our barn that fit their design aesthetic and could make them some items that would sit comfortably in the warm and welcoming environment they had created. John and Silenia excellently executed every detail of their vision.

The Malvern Buttery

Table we made from the top of an old piano moving box and porcelain legs paired with leather topped bean bag seats

The Malvern buttery

Shelves and chalkboards we made to Silenia’s specifications to hold and tell about their daily offerings

It is even more of a delight to enjoy the scrumptious offerings they whip up in the Buttery!

Brenda Carpenter

To document this afternoon luncheon, we asked photographer Brenda Carpenter to lend her amazingly creative eye to capture the images. That she did and more! Brenda has photographed for us before and does stunning work capturing families and faces as well as events in the area.  She has captured our family many times for our Christmas card and we hope to gather the troops here for her to do so again, early this year, since time alluded us last year to get it done. Check her out on her site www.brendacarpenter.com

Dining Room

The difficult part of this whole project was filling the twelve seats we had at the table for we would have LOVED to invite you all!!!! We filled those seats with women who have played an important part in the chapters of the story of Life’s Patina. We think that we would like to make this an annual event. To share an afternoon mixing up women of various backgrounds, passions, interests and lives makes for some fabulous and animated dialogue. When is a room ever quiet when you fill it with interesting women?


Since I had decided to use books as the main design element, I used rich muted colors to reflect the beauty of the time worn books without taking away from them. Adding pieces from my own collection, our vintage rentals and items we have for sale in the barn, I created a backdrop for the beautiful food that Silenia had prepared.


In laying out a table, I always try to start with the centerpiece. In lieu of flowers, I opted for objects that would work well with the old books and integrate the color scheme as well as the theme. I had some lengths of fabric left from the curtains in the Dining room that I used to create depth and warmth. I always like to use objects that one might not necessarily think of when designing a table scape, such as the miniature dress form. Various heights is a factor that I love to utilize in centerpieces as well staggering objects down the center at those various heights.



We invite you to come along for a visual ride that was our luncheon at Life’s Patina.

One always needs to start a gathering with a beverage.

mimosa bar

Here we started with a mimosa bar where we sugared the rims with crystal rock sugar and put out various juices in pretty glass bottles along with fruit garnish selections and champagne, of course. This is a nice option for brunches and lunches for if one does not want to partake in the champagne, they can just pour themselves the juice.

mimosa bar

I always think that when serving food, telling your guests in written form what they are about to enjoy is important. Creative ways to do so is something I love and for this, I chose torn out book pages with a handwritten card describing the item to be served. I utilized these awesome clips that we have for sale in the barn for some of the items.

menu cards

menu cards

I did not have enough of them so decided to bend back book pages to make an accordion type presentation to hold other menu item descriptions.

book menu cards

Notice the before and after of the scrumptious curried carrot quiche with caramelized onions!

simmering soup

After the simmering soup of tomato broth, pork meatballs, kale, white beans and mixed winter vegetables was ready…

table setting

we served it in vintage toile tea cups. Mixing china up, be it different patterns, types or ages, is a favorite of mine.

lunch buffet

Height again is important to me when laying out a buffet table and here I used rusty iron lamp shades and books to stagger the heights of the items served on a variety of pieces.

The Buttery salads

~Mixed whole grains with blue cheese, walnuts, capers, kubocha squash, and a house made garlic vinaigrette~

Scrumptious salad

~Baby arugula salad with brined cabbage, kohlrabi, toasted rye berries lightly dressed with olive oil and se salt~

handmade bread

The Buttery is known for it’s baked good items and their bread is to die for. They did not disappoint with their pumpkin seed bread and country loaf.

preparing dessert

Of course every luncheon meal needs to be topped off with sweet treats! The vanilla bean cream puffs were seriously the best I have ever had and the chocolate hazelnut tart was creamy yet not too sweet and paired with the crust…


I did not leave one bite on my plate!

silver tea service

I invested in these lovely silver plated tea samovars a couple of years back from a restaurant supply store and they were truly worth it. The contents of the samovars was served in a varied assemblage of vintage china tea cups and saucers.

vintage tea cups

A little take home treat is something that I try to do when entertaining,  for it gives the guest something to enjoy when they get home to carry on the feeling of the gathering. 

winter gathering

Silenia brought a dozen of the Buttery’s delightful Sea Salt Sable Cookies and we packaged each one up in a glassine bag topped with a torn piece of a book page, card stock, a printed quote on vellum and a tag that I stamped with the image of a key and old script. Hole punching through it all and tying with a string closed up the goodie bag and each guest took home a little treat that they hopefully enjoyed with a cup of coffee or tea later in the day.

packaged cookies

Quotes are another love of ours at Life’s Patina so we interspersed them into the design of the entire event printing some favorites out an mottled cream card stock and scattering them about.


Thank you for joining us on this visual journey~ It is my firm belief that people working together can move mountains.  Women working together and supporting each other with their hearts, soul, emotion, empathy and work ethic…


The women I approached on asking to join us in this project, did not hesitate. Chris and Maggie who worked behind the scenes and on the day of to help bring this event to fruition alongside me did not hesitate. Thank you ladies!!! To  all of the women who have changed mine and continue to do so on a daily basis ~ a heartfelt thank you! As the  inspiring women of the Brave Girls Club have coined…”Let’s be good to each other”


PS ~ no valuable books or old books were hurt in the construction of this design that were not already in dire need of being repurposed into something else due to the delicate and worn beyond repair nature they were in.

book page centerpiece

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  1. G Propst says:

    Your creativity never ceases to leave me beyond words.

    • Meg Veno says:

      Thank you Glenda! We are all such creative souls. I am blessed to be able to express it in my everyday!
      xoxo Meg