Menu board

By Ray Ford

A simple way to count heads and share the menu

Menu board

Photo by Sharon Donaldson

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If you think air traffic control is a tough job, try managing the dinner traffic at the busy family cottage of Sharon Donaldson’s in-laws.

“Every time we’d set the table when a crowd was up—and that can be fifteen or twenty people for meals, not including guests—we’d be one or two places short,” she says of their Otter Lake getaway. “We tried keeping a finger count, but when dinnertime came, it was never right.”

So Donaldson unleashed her inner control freak, creating a combination attendance roll/menu board to ensure place settings match diners.

Scrounging an old chalkboard from the cottage shed, she used masking tape and white craft paint to mark out 21 name slots. By reserving enough space to describe the repast, she also whets appetites (thus encouraging attendance). Diners reserve a spot by hanging white paper key tags on cup hooks next to their names.

“It seems like a really over-engineered way to get the table set,” Donaldson allows. But by smoothing dinner preparation, the board makes mealtimes more fun. “And it looks like we’re really organized, even though we’re really not.”

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Ray Ford