Thursday, December 26, 2013

Sherlock Party: A Library Murder Mystery

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See this party featured HERE by the high priestess of all all things party herself, Amy Atlas! I am so honored to have been featured on Sweet Designs, I can't even say.

Sherlock Party dessert table. Photo: Stella Dolce Photography. 
When I'm not planning parties or chasing my kids around, I'm very lucky to work part-time for the amazing Nashville Public Library system. Once a year, my library job and my party-planning job collide, and I get to plan a big party for our incredible volunteers!

We've explored a few pun-ny themes for our parties (VOL-lywood, CarniVol), but a couple years ago, we decided to stick with book-based themes. We are a library, after all. This year's party was inspired by the great Sherlock Holmes.

Invitation made in MS Publisher with Picaboo free background and Sherlock font. 

You should know that I love Sherlock Holmes. I'm currently rereading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes on my Kindle (and listening to these fantastic audiobook recordings by Ruth Golding). I love most modern incarnations of Holmes, too. ABC's Elementary is part of our regular TV rotation at home, and my husband and I are on pins and needles for the return of the BBC's Sherlock. In the UK, Sherlock returns on January 1; while here in the states, we have to wait just a little bit longer--January 14th. Luckily, that's plenty of time for you to plan your own Sherlock Soiree. Any or all of the ideas from this party would be perfect for your at-home viewing party to celebrate the return of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman to 221B Baker Street.

The party was in a large conference room, and I wanted something to fill the vertical space. I planned to hang large decorations from the light fixtures, and magnifying glasses seemed like the obvious choice. I made these with embroidery and quilting hoops, wooden dowels, and a little spray paint (tutorial to come soon!). These were a little tricky to capture in photos, but they added visual interest in person.

Photo: Stella Dolce Photography
Photo: Stella Dolce Photography
For the guest tables, I wanted to bring the men's suiting vibe from our invitation into the decor. I bought 12 yards or so of inexpensive brown plaid cotton fabric and used pinking shears to cut lengths of it for table runners, simply ironing them under on the sides. The fabric was a whopping $3.50 per yard, and 12 yards netted me about 11 table runners. In my book, that is a great deal for a pretty big impact on the decor. I used a leftover scrap of the fabric  as the background for the silhouette on the dessert table. The library and I already had just enough black tablecloths between us.

One of many centerpieces: assorted Sherlock-related items on men's suiting fabric table runner. Photo: Stella Dolce Photography
Centerpieces and props. Photos: Stella Dolce Photography.
Photo: Dipti Vaidya.
Photo: Stella Dolce Photography.
For centerpieces, I gathered up Sherlock-ian things like labware, skulls, candlesticks, trunks, keys, and, of course, magnifying glasses and pipes, and grouped them together on gold chargers.

On to the dessert table, the centerpiece of any party!
Photos: Stella Dolce Photography.

I flanked the dessert table with two plastic street lamps that our library's amazing conference center coordinator just HAPPENED TO HAVE (!). I took a quote from A Study in Scarlet for the backdrop, and I grabbed a few other Holmes-y things like a typewriter and case, an old ammunition chest, and a violin for props. And now, I give you my favorite element of any party: the themey desserts. We had:
  • Mounds of the Baskervilles
  • Elementary, My Dear Waffles 
  • Licorice Pipes
  • Sherlock Cake Pops
  • Fingerprint Cookies
  • A Study in Scarlet red velvet cupcakes
Photo: Stella Dolce Photography

We also enjoyed Scotland Yard Shepherd's Pie, Mycroft's Meatless Lasagna, a green salad, and roasted vegetables for lunch.

 For entertainment, the staff (including yours truly) performed a very silly murder mystery, interspersed with our usual volunteer awards. I had to write the script myself, as I had a hard time finding anything pre-written that would fit our needs. I'm happy to share it, if you are in an oddly similar situation (volunteer coordinator, library worker) and it would help you. Just let me know!
The library's Associate Director for Branch Services is "murdered" and carted off by our our Teen Services Librarian. Photo: Dipti Vaidya. 
Two members of our panel of suspects present their defense/alibis. Photo: Dipti Vaidya.
My coworker Ryan and I award some of our amazing volunteers while wearing goofy hats.

Volunteers were given favors of detective notebooks with the inscription "It's no mystery . . . we've found the best!" on the front. The signage displays a quote from Sherlock Holmes.

We had a wonderful time, and I have no idea how we will top it next year. But for right now, I'll let myself be excited for the premiere of Sherlock: Series 3, in just a few days. Happy New Year, everyone!

Credits and thanks to our generous donors:
Photography: Stella Dolce Photography, except where Dipti Vaidya is credited. Thank you, ladies!
Cake pops and cupcakes: donated by Nashville Sweets. Thank you for supporting our volunteers!
Cookies and other assorted desserts: donated by Whole Foods Green Hills.
Waffle cookies: purchased at Trader Joe's
Licorice pipes:
Notebook favors:
Suiting fabric: Hobby Lobby
Coffee: donated by Provence Breads

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