Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint you can on it. - Danny Kaye

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Time to be THANKFUL

This year Thanksgiving meant a lot more to me and I felt a little more loved.  This is all due in part because this year I celebrated two Thanksgivings rather than one.  Yep, we have reached that adult, grown up time in married life where you split time with families.  This year was the first time I shared Thanksgiving with not just my family but also with my husband's family and you know what?  I thought it was pretty awesome.  We had a two-night visit with David's family in Aiken where we not only got to spend time with his mom and grandmother, but we also got to spend some good, quality time with his sister Erin and her boyfriend Josh...AND four other pups!  The household was slightly canine-overwhelmed, but I think that actually played a part in all the fun.  From a 3 lb Chihuahua to an approximate 100 lb Boxer-Pit Bull mix, these five pups attempted to share space with each other, share food and more importantly share human time. 
Thanksgiving Day was delicious and fun. David’s aunts, uncles & cousins came from around the state to his mom’s house to enjoy and share in lots of food. I stuffed myself relentlessly and then continued that endeavor well into the evening. The next two days were nothing different. We enjoyed a wonderful meal at Smoke on the Water Friday evening – an early celebratory dinner for my sister’s upcoming birthday. Then we did a sort-of “round 2” Thanksgiving at my folks’ Saturday night with family that I had missed seeing on the actual holiday.


This year I spent some time in my own kitchen in preparation for the ‘holiday of food and thanks’ and I made mini-pumpkin muffins (thanks to my good friend Erin), sweet potato casserole (an appreciation to my late great-aunt Kitty) and festive, holiday trail mix…something I fell in love with a year ago at a Halloween get-together (thanks, Ashley!).
So with all the cooking, drinking, over-eating and time spent together I came back to reality (work and a normal schedule) with a little more gratitude for those family members in my life…both the ones from the very beginning of time and the new ones with which I’m blessed to be a part of thru my marriage.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

101 Party "Do's & Don'ts...well, not THAT many!

As I stated in my intro, this is a place where from time to time I will write about anything and EVERYTHING.  Tonight I thought I'd take a moment to ponder on some of the gatherings (dinner parties, engagement parties, drop-ins, etc.) that I've hosted over the last three and a half years...since purchasing my home in early 2007.  I have enjoyed playing host on many occasions for small get-togethers that ended early in the evening and large parties that ended late into the night...some of which have actually been quite recently.

I was flipping through the magazine House Beautiful last night when I came across a two-page article entitled "101 Party Do's & Don'ts".  That's right, truly 101 ideas, suggestions, comments and even demands of what to do, have, say, plan, wear, serve & decorate when hosting...and so I read...(but don't worry, I'm only picking out my top 12 to discuss and highlight tonight).

And so it begins...
#8 - "Don't come to a party empty-handed." - Jayne Michaels, designer

This one is a good one to start with as I believe almost any time I've shown up for a dinner party in the last 4-5 years I have almost always prepped ahead (or on the drive over) to pick up a bottle of vino to have for myself or to share with/give to the host(s)/hostess(s).  I think this is a good rule of thumb no matter if you're getting together with two people for appetizers or for a dinner of eight. 

#14 - "The perfect number for a dinner party is six to eight.  You want festive conversation, but not so many people that the conversations are always split up." - Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan, The

Well funny that I just ended my last pick with the thought of 'dinner of eight'.  I have to agree with Sara Kate and say that when hosting a dinner party the slightly-lower the number, the better.  Having hosted 'supper clubs' at my house in the past, I came to the realization that the kitchen is the highlighted spot of the night.  It's where the cocktail glasses are located, where the wine is generally kept and where the remaining prep work takes place.  However, during those large dinner party gatherings, I would notice how not only the conversations were all over the room, but the room would always grow louder and louder and louder...making it somewhat difficult to follow along with any one conversation let alone hear one.

#17 - "Don't be late." - David Serrano, co-owner Downtown & Outside Downtown

Ok, so I'll be honest...I've been late to functions on more than one occasion in my life, however the older I've gotten the more I've come to respect the decency of being on time.  I grew up in a household where we were generally walking into church late almost every week but I've noticed even my parents have gotten better at that over time, too.  My husband on the other hand is the kind of guy that says he'll be somewhere at 7:00 and shows up at 6:55...not my style...I actually don’t mind being a few minutes "fashionably late".  But to a hosted event?  I say the closer to start time the better for never know how much time, energy and prep work will go into certain events...

#30 - "Turn off cell phones!" - Joan Michaels, designer

One of my top picks of the night!!  I know we are in the age and era of iphones, ipads, Droids and more, but this is one of the most annoying and rude things you can do to someone who has invited you over when the purpose was to spend quality time with YOU.  Way too often I find myself wanting to glance at my cell phone for either the time or to check that last e-mail that came in after work hours, but I have tried to make a conscious effort in recent months to respect others and wait until I leave an invited situation before checking my technology updates.  Seriously, one way to show a host/hostess that you really aren't having a good time, that you'd really prefer to be anywhere else than where you are, or that you just simply are tired, is to pull out your cell phone and text, e-mail or even make a call.  Really, think before you text…at least through dinner.

#43 - "Make a home-cooked meal, even if it's just a bowl of chili and a salad with garlic bread.  There's nothing better than simple and delicious." - Lisa Fine, textile designer

Agreed.  And actually, I did just that...three weeks ago!  I have recently hosted a few dinner parties in which I incorporated my new wedding china (thanks to family & friends), but my most recent dinner party get-together involved two huge pots of home-cooked chili, cheesy cornbread, a fun spider-web appetizer themed by the time of year (Halloween; thanks to my friend Ellen), and a simple dessert (cupcakes).  The funny part is that I think everyone enjoyed this meal just as much if not more than other meals I've served in the past which involved more time and energy.  So, with that being said, feel free to throw together a simple yet warm & inviting get-together that doesn't cause much stress or prep work!

#48 - "Ask people ahead of time for their food preferences: Do they eat meat? Do they drink? Do they have any food allergies? It sounds stupid but believe me, nowadays these can ruin a dinner party." - Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz, designer

Well, he's right!  This has absolutely happened to me before...and to a very dear friend!  I had forgotten that a friend who was coming from out of town to stay for the weekend didn't eat meat (red meat).  Way to go, Meredith!  The night before she came, David asked me specifically if our friends both ate steak (she and her husband) and I replied with slightly less than 100% confidence "yes".  Sure enough, cooking time came around the next night and LUCKILY we had some chicken in the freezer!  I felt terrible that not only had I not remembered her food preferences, but I wasn't really prepared since I took a guess!  Next time I throw a dinner party, I will be sure to know how all of my guests 'take their steak'.

#66 - "Separate couples when seating a dinner." - Monique Lhuillier, fashion designer

Alright, I'm doing my very first "reader poll question".  What do you think?  I have never heard this suggestion before but it's now gotten me intrigued.  I guess it depends on the type of party, the number of guests and who the guests are that may attend.  If everyone knows everyone really well, I say go for it, but if it's a first time for most, keep it trouble-free...what are your thoughts?

#72 - Don't cancel a dinner invitation the day of the dinner unless you are on an IV drip in the hospital." - Harry Slatkin, fragrance guru

Well I wouldn't maybe go as far as to say the only excuse is being in the hospital like Harry states, but I would agree that canceling either on the day-of or on the hour-of a dinner party can come across rude and disrespectful.  And I can actually attest to that because I've had a friend cancel on me when I planned a dinner party via a text that was sent to me 15 minutes after the suggested time to arrive...go figure.  It wasn't the end of the world by any means, but just be honest if something comes up and maybe follow up with an e-mail the next day.

#74 - "Handwritten thank-you notes after being entertained are a must." - Grant K. Gibson, designer

As I just finished my last pick with "follow up with an e-mail the next day" I might agree that this suggestion is going above and beyond (in a good way).  Generally I don't feel that it's necessary to write thank-you notes for every invite you receive to be entertained, but again, a simple e-mail that follows up the event is a very nice gesture.  I've had friends do that before just for dinners I've hosted and it was a very classy touch.  It made me feel that they really enjoyed themselves. 

#78 - "As a host, don't sit at the head of the table - presumptuous and archaic." - Darryl Carter, designer

So maybe I have a second question for my reader(s)...what do you think?  I have generally sat at the head of the table when I've hosted dinner parties (or the seat closest to the kitchen), but that's what I thought was the "right thing to do"  I guess I could switch things up a bit on the next go-round.

#89 - "Never underestimate the power of a great powder room.  It is your gift to your guests.  Every detail will be noticed, and it will reveal much about you, so DON'T skimp." - Windsor Smith, designer 

Well, I don't actually have a powder room although I hope to some day...but I have a hall bathroom that is always used by guests.  I think I surprised myself by picking this one as one of my favorites but then again, my husband and I try to make a diligent effort of having clean, fresh towels in our hall bath before any guests arrive to visit or stay the night.  It's one way to make your guests think your entire house is clean and spotless if you showcase that one room (and it may be the only privacy a guest has in the course of an evening).  I recently hosted an engagement party at my house and my friend who was in charge of the decor (flowers) decided to put a bud vase on the sink in the hall bath to make it more attractive...and we added a candle votive, too.  I think those tiny touches go a long way with guests!

And lastly...

#90 - "Ever notice how guests love to gather in the kitchen?  To disperse the crowd, place a bar somewhere in the corner of your living room and rearrange furniture to create a few different conversation spots." - Cassandra Lavalle, interior/event designer

Although we touched on the subject of the kitchen earlier, I think I could go both ways on this one.  I agree that the kitchen is the place people feel most comfortable to gather but sometimes you want to change things up for your guests so they don't feel as though they need to step in to help cook or clean up, right?  If you have the perfect kitchen, this may never be an issue, but sometimes I like to have the evening flow into the rest of my house and so by serving dessert or appetizers in a room away from the kitchen and/or dinner location, you're sure to have people notice the other paint colors around the the very least.

So that was my first attempt at writing about some interests I have with hosting, cooking, decorating and entertaining.  Be on the lookout for my invite next week…we’re having “dinner and a movie” and YOU’RE INVITED!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Race, Culture and the Big City

I’m returning to normalcy finally and coming down off of my ‘dancing high’ after a weekend getaway to Atlanta where my friends and I were celebrating another dear friend’s upcoming nuptials.  This was her last big “single” girls’ weekend before tying the knot on December 4th.  It was another fun weekend with my college friends where we dressed up, ate fancy meals, tried to be more chic than normal, chatted a lot, gossiped even more and just plain out had a good time. 

One thing that stood out to me during our trip to the big city this past weekend was how different it is than my current hometown.  I feel at times that where I live and work is a place that has little to no culture in it.  I feel that it’s a city somewhat ‘behind the times’ when it comes to diversity, the arts, shopping, music and visitor hospitality.  But I don’t want to harp on this subject or where I live, heck I’ve lived in the same place for 10+ years, so there’s something to say for that, but you know what I mean…

So back to the big city and the differences I saw…to be honest and frank I just felt like a minority almost the entire time.  It was something that I so rarely experience it was almost an eye-opener to an extent.  I never felt out-of-place being what felt like the minority, nor did I even really pinpoint it to anyone…I just sort-of took it all in stride and went with it.  Every place we went (from the chic bar at the top of our hotel, to the hotel staff, to the dance club ‘Opera’) I realized one thing…no one there judged, no one treated me differently and no one didn’t want to talk…is that bad to have multiple negatives in one sentence?  But seriously, I felt as if everyone was out this weekend with the best intentions…to meet other people, chat and see or be seen…and that’s pretty much why I was there, too…and of course to celebrate the future bride-to-be!

As I took in my weekend on the ride back home I had to relish on one major thing.  Although there were so many people from different races around me and different cultures among us, not once did I feel uncomfortable.  Coming from a smaller city and going to the big city, I think there is a lot to be said for experiencing differences.  I think it makes you appreciate people more, to judge less, to be patient, to be kind, to be compassionate and understanding, and to enjoy yourself no matter the surroundings.  I hope that maybe I will carry these lessons with me each day as I go forward, but I know that in the end I am also returning to my life of less diversity, less race, a little less culture and the smaller city.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

my little love (one of them)

I took my dog Zoe to get her hair cut the other day (her mama got a cut on the very same mother like daughter, I guess).  Well since then I have been obsessed with her...maybe it's the cute new "do" or maybe her short trim fits her personality perfect, I'm not sure what.  Either way, she's seemed to have an unbelievably sweet demeanor and loving manner about her since last Thursday and when you start petting her or scratching her belly, neck, head, ears...don't even think about stopping.

When reading my friend's blog post today about the death of her sister's three year old pup, I couldn't help but think of my baby at home.  Dogs are special creatures.  We all get a little teary-eyed sometimes or get chill bumps when reading a sweet e-mail forward about dogs and what they mean to humans, but do you ever just come in the door, stop what you're doing and love on your dog the way they love on you?  I had been thinking about this over the weekend some and discussed this with my friend Ellen today...someone who also shares a love for Maltese.  Anyway, we had to agree that all too often we get busy with our lives and forget about the little life that waited all day to see you and is so excited to kiss you, love you, play with you and lay with you...our little furry friends. 

I decided before leaving town today (had a night away for work) to take some photos of my Zoe.  She poses pretty darn well, I have to say, and so I hope you enjoy these cute shots of her new "do" too!
on alert

just being cute

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Yoga & Beauty

I can't believe I'm doing two posts in two days, but this is maybe one of those things that I will look forward to every day...almost like a kid looks forward to recess at school.  Either way, I woke up this morning with the excitement that it was not only Saturday morning but that I was going to have the time to wake up with my husband and pup and have a cup of coffee before heading to yoga.  I began working out more intently back in January in order to get in shape for my upcoming wedding in July.  During that time I decided to try yoga...something very foreign to me but also very intriguing.  I slacked off with my workouts right after my wedding (almost to become a "statistic" in gaining a little 'love weight')...or so I'd like to think.  But luckily my husband and I decided to get back into the grind and put exercise and the gym at the top of our lists of things to do.  So this morning was nothing different and we both headed to the gym to do our thing...

I have come to appreciate yoga more and more as I continue to attend.  I appreciate the instructors and the knowledge they know and share with us during class and I also appreciate all the people around me who continue to come to yoga for either the physical benefit and/or the spiritual benefit.  I think I practice yoga for both reasons.  This morning was nothing special, but as we neared the end of the class (which can tend to be a difficult part of yoga for me) I tried to slow my mind and get into Savasana ('corpse pose').  This is the part of yoga that instructors always say is the hardest pose (although it hardly feels like a pose)...and what they mean is that it's hard to get your mind away from the 'every day' and to let go of the stress and tension you carry with you in every day life. 

My Savasana experiences (if I am able to get out of my normal thoughts) usually carry me to a place that is outdoors, beautiful and very spacious.  I have been to the Blue Ridge Mountains before, to the tips of the Alaskan peeks and today I was in a rain forest.  I know you may be asking yourself if I am on something during Savasana, but I think what I've come to realize is that if ever I were to come back to Earth (in an 'After Life'), I believe I would return as an eagle of some sort.  I have never seen what I look like in Savasana, but I know that I can fly or possibly walk and that I feel absolutely free, at peace and that I can take in all the beauty that is Earth.

Towards the end of Savasana you are supposed to wake your body back up and bring your mind back to.  The instructor usually ends class with a reading (whether it be a poem or something profound that someone once said).  Today for some reason I clung onto every word that our instructor read and I feel this is a message that society is trying to put back out to people (women and young girls more specifically) and all I could think of was my dear friend who I respect so much and look to for guidance (and who also shares this love and devotion to blogging):

"One comes, finally, to believe whatever one repeats to one's self, whether the statement is true or false." - Napoleon Hill

"Our inner dialogue can have awesome power.  It often determines the behavior that defines who we are.  We do, of course, have some choice as to the direction this inner dialogue will take.  It's as easy to affirm our self-worth with positive messages as it is to tear ourselves down with negative ones.  And yet, many of us fall so easily into negative patterns of thought. 

As with so many aspects of our life, we become proficient at what we regularly practice.  The regular, preferably daily, use of positive affirmations can make such a profound contribution to our well-being and willingness to grow and learn, that it can change the course of our life.  All we have to do is develop the discipline to make these postive messages habitual.  In so doing, we bring our vision of ourselves in line with God's, Who accepts us completely as we are."

"The messages I give myself today will remind me that I am a capable and lovable human being."

Friday, November 5, 2010

My Very First Post! (unoriginal title)

My Very First Post! original.  OK, but I'm excited about starting my first blog and getting out there in the blogging world.  I have a very dear friend (Kate Morris) who has an amazing, inspirational blog Thighs & Offerings, my older sister (Liz Bridges) has a a fabulous food & family blog Confessions of a Former Couch Potato and now I'm following another blog that I thoroughly enjoy Gretchen Opgenorth Designs someone with whom my company has done marketing I guess in a way, "my very first post" is more of a 'shout-out' or pat on the back to my fellow bloggers out there and to say to them, "THANKS".  Thanks for the amazing writing you do, for the interest and struggles you have in so many areas (food, more food, friendships, family, reading, design, antiques, etc.)...your blogging gives me inspiration to follow and delve into the things I also enjoy each and every day...and it gives me something insightful to appreciate as I begin my journey into this new place of self-discovery.  I hope to post things that are not only beneficial to other readers or "followers" (in the blogging world), but also to that is the main reason for this blog.  Thank you in advance to those out there who may read from time-to-time...although it may not always be 'moving', I hope that my posts can be a fresh take on 'the everyday' in the life of "MY FAMILIA"!!