Dinner Party in the Vines

A couple of summers ago I gathered my family, some home-cooked food, a photographer and a food writer together for a late lunch in the Virginia wine country. My family and I had recently moved to Virginia from NYC and in trying to shake off the Manhattan-centric blues, had discovered the riches of our newly local wine region.

I was approached by Anthology Magazine to host a dinner party for my dancing family, paired with local wines, smack dab in the middle of Virginia wine country, and I mean literally in the middle of it. We feasted, fancy picnic style, in between the lush Virginia vines of Paradise Springs Winery, just outside of DC. The stuff of dreams, a lot of cooking and prep went into this dinner, along with a lot of honest to God sweat as it was a 95 degree day, but there were definitely no tears. It was one for the books, er, magazines. As the story was only available in print, I’ve had a few requests to post it on the blog, so here it is dear readers- Enjoy and Cin Cin.

Anthology Family Issue Summer 2014

Dining Among the Vines
Text by Anna Watson Carl
Photography by Amy Dickerson
Styled by Kelly d’Amboise

anthology cov1

Antho title




















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Happy Valentines Day!

happy v day

Happy Valentines Day dear readers- I know I know, it’s a Hallmark holiday but I have to admit that I’ve always had a fondness for this lovey dove-ful day. I have such nostalgia (there’s that word again) for the warm and fuzzy memories of opening those little paper Valentines we used to get from classmates at school, and going home with Elmer’s glue-encrusted hands after cutting and gluing those silly doilies to the backs of red construction paper hearts.  This year we made crayon heart necklaces for our classmates and friends. I love paper Valentines but we opted to just melt some crayons, it took some time but we love how they came out.

Yep, St. Valentine’s Day- it’s a good excuse to share some love- true, we should just be sharing such love on a daily basis, but Valentine’s Day for me, is just another reminder. It’s a bright and shiny heart-shaped beacon of light in the doldrums of winter, so I’ll take it. What do you all do for Valentines Day? This year, I think C and I may just go to the movies. We try to do something slightly offbeat and different each year, but this year, we’re a bit overworked (read: tired) and a bit understudied for the Oscars, so we’ll probably just head to the local movie theater to catch Birdman or The Theory of Everything. Have you all seen either? Do tell.

My Valentine Mood

André Lanskoy is my new favorite artist. Why have I never seen his work before? If only I could afford to buy one of his prints. The one above is from 1959, I can’t get enough of it.

Chocolate Velvet Beet Cupcakes- seems about right for V day. I might need to make these.

Pink Fiats always make me smile.

Paul and Linda do too. Their expressions are kind of hilarious here.

Plum and Brandy Gelato- yeah, alright, twist my arm.

And Sangria Granita Snow Cones- yes please.

What I’m Drinking:

Rosé Sparkling- was there any doubt? It’s pink, it’s fizzy, enough said. I don’t know, I drink this stuff year round but this saccharine sweet holiday is yet another good reason to pop this pink bubbly’s cork, like we really need one. A few go to’s:

Domaine Jousset “rosé a lies” NV- the great Gamay grape that is way too underrated gets its juicy spritz on in this refined and racy (loads of food-friendly acid) bottle. Always a winner. $21

Domaine Regnier David Cremant de Loire NV- Cremant is a thin-in-the-wallet Champagne lover’s best friend. Made in the traditional method that Champagne uses to produce its wondrous bubbles, you get the same technique from a different part of the world, still imparting those brioche-y, creamy notes but at half (or less than half ) the price. This one’s quite beautiful and finessed with hints of toasted almond, brioche and ripe red fruit, made from the super food friendly and acidic grape, Cabernet Franc. Yum and yum. $23

Graham Beck Brut Rosé Sparkling- a happy little sparkler from South Africa with notes of red cherries, raspberries, wild lavender, and an earthy minerality to boot. $15

Billecart Salmon Brut Rosé NV- Billy Rose, if you want to be a baller. $75

What to Pair With your Pink Bubbly: Chocolate Velvet Beet Cupcakes, of course- duh. Or almost anything really, provided it’s not stick-to-your-ribs meat and potatoes.

In Other News: 

Have you seen this? A documentary about a lost documentary made by Alfred Hitchcock and Sidney Bernstein about German concentration camps in 1945. I stumbled upon it as it is currently playing on HBO, very good.

“The chalky anthropology of candy hearts.”- an interesting little bit of sweet tooth history.

The World’s Most Romantic Hotels- have you been to any of these? Fogo Island Inn- you just went on my list. You too, Hotel Les Roches Rouges.

Kiss-proof lipstick. Is there really such a thing- 9 long-lasting lipsticks put to the test.

How to make a heart-shaped pizza. Be careful with this one. In college, my friend Kristen received one as a Valentine from an admirer which pretty much sealed the deal, but not in the way you might think. Because of that heart-shaped pizza, she decided that that first date would never happen. Know your audience.

My pal Tracy Lynn Olivera is a badass and a fantastic talent. She has a CD. You should buy it because it’s awesome.

Inside the stylish homes of 11 comedians.

The top 5 places to cry in NYC. I’ve done my fair share of late night crying at the local Greek diner circa the late 90s. I might also add the Rose Planetarium and any corner on a rainy day where you might get a tidal wave-sized taxi splash- you’re good to just start crying right there on the spot and it’s perfectly acceptable, just as long as you don’t cry for too long- gotta get back on your game and hail your ass a cab.

Shirley Manson (where have you been Shirley!) steps in and pens an open letter to Kanye.

Speaking of Kanye (and who isn’t- I guess his inappropriate behavior really is working on his ego-boosting behalf), this is hilarious- the hidden texts between Kanye and Beck post-Grammys.

The best and worst first date spots in NYC.

My talented cousin just launched her jewelry collection and it is fabulous. Inspired by her time as an expat in Amsterdam, her pieces are beautiful- this Gwen necklace is calling my name. Use the code EClaunch10 through February 15th.

Staying in on Valentines? Make Duck a Deux if you dare (duck is hard, right!)- a lovely Valentines dinner for two.

If duck’s not your thing (or like me, you’ve just messed it up too many times), look to Julia for inspiration. I always think of Julia Child and her husband Paul on Valentines because they loved celebrating the holiday together and with friends. I had the big idea to throw and Julia and Paul dinner party this Valentines Day, but we just had a Top Chef Challenge birthday party for C and I thought that we were probably good for the month of February. Maybe next month. Anyway- here is a Julia-inspired Quick Coq au Vin Blanc c/o Martha.

I know I’m real late to this party, but I am finally reading Unbroken and wow- it is unbelievable what one human being is capable of enduring while holding strong to one’s will to live. “Inspiring” does not even begin to describe this story.

This should be entertaining- “Who wore it best” on the NYC private school playgrounds?

And can someone please explain to me why The Vermont Teddy Bear Company would put out a 50 Shades of Grey Teddy Bear? What is happening? This has got to be the creepiest teddy bear ever.

Cin Cin all and Happy Valentines Day!

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Let Them Eat (King) Cake!

Sucre King Cake
Sucré’s glittery gold King Cakes

Or rather, let US eat King Cake. Until last weekend, I had never had the pleasure of sampling a proper piece of Mardi Gras King Cake. Boy was I missing out. A few friends and I took to the Virginia countryside for a little retreating over the weekend, and my pal Lindsay Boudreaux brought along this perfect little creation from the New Orleans patisserie, Sucré. She assured us that Sucre’s King Cake is the most delicious thing going and as a New Orleans native, she would know. To hear her compare the sweet subtleties that define a New Orleans King Cake like a true Nola-gal, Lindsay says that Sucré’s cake is “not as dry as Haydel’s, and not as sticky sweet as Randazzo’s.” Cream cheese can be a major component of the Mardi Gras cake and for Lindsay, Sucré’s reigns supreme as, “the cream cheese is more subtle than any other filled cake I’ve had and I love the simplicity of only one available flavor.”

There you have it, straight from the mouth of a Nola babe. Lindsay’s also a designer and owner of the DC area design studio, Shotgun Double, so of course this King Cake is chic and stylish to boot, bedazzled in effervescent gold glitter. It really is so pretty, you almost don’t want to eat it, but then… you do. Basically a big, round, flat, refined cinnamon roll- a slice or two of Sucré’s King Cake is pure heaven with your morning coffee, and then again for dessert.

The King Cake came about as an offering in celebration of the Kings- those Three Kings who came to Bethlehem bearing gifts on “Epiphany” or “King’s Day”. Mardi Gras borrows heavily from European tradition, so this celebration of the Kings stuck with Louisiana natives around 1870 or so when the first official day of Mardi Gras was deemed “King’s Day”. Seems reason enough to bake a delicious, festive cake and hide a tiny plastic baby in it, right? Tradition states that whomever gets the baby in their bite, buys the next King Cake, so… Rashmi, you’re up!

Sucré is new school in the old school world of Nola bakeries, but the kids there are definitely doing something right. While most of the mainstay New Orleans bakeries charge a pretty penny (upwards of $60) for their King Cakes, you can score one of Sucre’s for just $20 plus shipping. And let me tell you- one bite of this pretty little thing and you will be ordering yourself up one of these beauties for years to come. I know I just joined the Sucre tribe- our little slice of heaven should be arriving just in time for Fat Tuesday.

The Sucre King Cake is only available until February 16th, so order up.
Sucre King Cake, $20 (plus shipping) and freshly baked to order.


Meet Our Contributor: Lindsay Boudreaux


And for the true King Cake afficionados:



{Images: King Cakes- Sucré, Lindsay Boudreaux headshot- Rashmi Pappu, graph}

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10 Groovy Gifts Under $55

Spoiler Alert: If you belong in my family, read no further as one or two of your gifts will undoubtedly be revealed. Scroll at your own risk- that means you, mom!

Nothing like waiting until the last minute to post this last minute gift guide, but that’s the way I roll, and I have a feeling some of you may roll that procrastinating way too. Well, this is it folks, we’ve got a few days left to finish off our lists. Here are a few of my favorite little things for under $55 (I know, $55 is weird but for some reason, retailers like that extra $5 bucks- go figure). I picked out a few fun things for Red Barn Mercantile’s Gift Guide this season which was a huge thrill as it is one of my favorite favorite little shops in all the land. Here are my picks, a few of which I have included below as well. All of these goodies hail from small, local retailers- both brick and mortar and online.  I finally got out and about again this year to do my Christmas shopping in the flesh and so loved getting back to the local shopping experience. I say “getting back” because for the past two years with my little ones, I guiltily admit that I pretty much used my laptop to shop and wasn’t patronizing local business as much as I’d have liked. Now that the kiddos are in preschool (albeit 2 days a week for a few hours), I ventured out into the world of small business shopping again and found some super fun things.

Here goes:

10 Groovy Gifts for Under $55

Linen Apron: for the stylish cook who’s more French country chic than Betty Crocker ruffled. Can’t lose with a linen apron.  $41

Fleur de Lis Tea Towels by Pehr: Pick up a couple of these for someone’s stocking and punch up their kitchen lickety split. Tea towels are such a great gift because they’re something I don’t think to buy myself but love having a stylish one in my home. I love everything these guys do. Pick up Pehr goods at Boston’s Hudson or Alexandria’s Red Barn Merc. I’m a big fan of their placemats, napkins, cotton bins- all of it- just good. $15

Groceries & Shit Tote: My favorite gift this year, I picked up at least 5 of these totes from Red Barn. They are currently sold out but get them here from designer Emily McDowell’s Etsy shop. $20

Driftwood Bracelet: a fringey tassle and some driftwood. Done and done. $14

Navajo Woven Textile: because who doesn’t one of these lying around. Use it as a throw, a picnic blanket or a tablecloth- I love this thing. $55

Circle Horn Servers: because they’re awesome. $55

Produce Candles: I’m partial to both the Kale and Rosemary scents and before you even think it- yeah yeah I know, we’ve all gone Kale crazy and enough is enough already, but the fresh, clean aroma from this clean burning Kale candle will rock your world, or your kitchen, or both. $28

I’m a Grown Ass Lady Print: because it’s true. $28

Dope Lucite Box: it’s dope and it’s lucite- how can you go wrong? Your bestie can stash her best baubles and feel cool all at once. Win. Win. $30

The Yellow Table Cookbook: I saved the best for last- my pal Anna Watson Carl’s self-published cookbook. We’ve been cooking from this book since we received it about a month ago and its recipes are both insanely good and delightfully foolproof. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- Anna is our next Ina- she rocks ya’ll. I love everything about her Yellow Table story- the food, the gatherings, it’s all so so good. Get it for the person in your life that loves to sit around the table, eat good fresh-cooked food and have a blast and honestly, who do you know that doesn’t like to do that? $30

Happy Shopping!

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Monday Musings

RDV the goods
(wine tasting at RdV)

Ahh- the holidays. A new week of merriment. A new week of Christmas cookies and peppermint mochas. A new week of firsts for my little ones. We watched the classic Rankin & Bass Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for the first time last night and I have to say, Santa is kind of an assh*$e in that version. I hadn’t remembered it that way but he’s pretty self-involved. It’s funny when you find yourself looking at all of your favorite holiday to-do’s through your little one’s eyes- much is revealed.

Childhood nostalgia gone awry aside, I’ve been meaning to share a few tidbits with you all since we last met. After Anna Watson Carl and I hosted our Bubbly and Bites gathering at the darling Red Barn Mercantile, we ventured out into the Virginia vines to explore the juice making that is currently underway at Rutger de Vink’s famed RdV Vineyard. I have partaken of their 2 blends, the Lost Mountain and the Rendezvous and already counted myself in as a big fan (I included their Rendezvous in the lineup for our Anthology entertaining story), but had yet to visit the winery or vineyard. In a word- it’s stunning. The detail and thought that has gone into building the winery and planting the vines is truly commendable. RdV sports a cozy and rustic-meets-minimal tasting lounge. I say lounge because they have foregone the traditional tasting bar for a more relaxing den complete with cowhide, hand-crafted walnut stools and antlers over the roaring fireplace. The vibe at RdV feels exclusive without being so. Anyone is welcome, as long as you are cool with paying the $50 tour and tasting fee which I say is worth it as it includes a lengthy tour led by a Lucchessi boat-wearing, sassy tour guide/gal Friday at the winery, and a glass of Pol Roger bubbly upon arrival. Guests are welcome to stay as long as they please and while away a winter’s day in front of the fire with lovely views of the vineyards that were sure to be a tough grow. de Vink knew as much which is why he set his sights on the land. The rocky earth would indeed provide the perfect growing conditions for Bordeaux varietals that beg for impossible to farm anything but grapes soil. I’m sold. His stuff is great and he’s got top notch Bordeaux blender Eric Boissentot blending for RdV as well so they’re in good hands. If you live in or are visiting the DC area and appreciate good vino, make it a must-do on your list. Sign up for a tour/tasting here.


The other newsworthy tidbit I wanted to share was that the hubs and I were lucky enough to procure another invitation to the Kennedy Center Honors this year. There were no White House cocktails in the mix this year, but the show and gala were plenty. I mention this because the show itself was so exceptional that I highly recommend you all either set your DVR’s or watch it broadcast on CBS Dec. 30th. I’ve instructed all of my ballet students to tune in because Tiler Peck of the NYC Ballet gives perhaps the best performance of Balanchine’s Fascinatin’ Rhythm to date in honor of famed dancer and Kennedy Center Honoree, Patricia McBride. Not for nothing, my hubby agrees as does his dad- both of which have seen the variation danced dozens of times by different ballerinas including the magnificent Ms. McBride herself- that her performance is far and away the best they have ever seen. Tiler Peck KILLS it. Even if you are not a big dance fan- do yourself a big favor and watch her dance- she performs the solo with enthusiasm and technical prowess matched by unbelievable musicality and theatricality. I’m going out on a limb here and saying that I do believe Ms. Tiler Peck may be my favorite female dancer of all time (well her and Cyd Charisse). She has a way of not just executing difficult steps with effortless grace, but she’s got something much more important and elusive- she’s got moxie my friends- and that seals the deal for me. Oh, and Lady Gaga is pretty fierce tributing Sting- not to mention The Boss- say what! Just watch it, it’s pretty great.

Kennedy Center Honors
Donning our dapperest at the Honors.


And a few other things: 

-First things first: I’m all caught up with Serial- AHHHHH! Now what? I can’t believe how good this investigative journalism is- or maybe I’m just a sucker for Sarah Koenig. I dig that there are 5 million viewers trying to solve this crime all huddled around their SmartPhones or laptops, not exactly the picture of a Fireside Chat, but I love that people are listening to radio- a medium that still allows for our own brains to fill in the holes. The last episode airs this Thursday, if you have not fully succumbed to this phenomenon, do yourself a favor and Pod it up.

-We popped open a special bottle of Brunello brought back by my brother and sis-in-law from the Mother Country. This one’s special because the grapes are harvested to Mozart. That’s right, those lucky little vines are listening to Wolfgang day and night courtesy of several loud speakers set up in the vineyards- an on-going experiment in fellowship with the University of Florence and Pisa. Does it make a big difference? Only time will tell- this bottle was a bit young (and in truth, opened mistakenly by my husband as I was hoping to cellar it for a few years but c’est la vie) but I love the concept and it was complex and delicious. Next time I find myself in Montalcino, I’m hightailing it to Il Paradiso di Frassina.

-If you’re looking for a great sugar cookie recipe for those Christmas cookies- I’m loving this one from Food & Wine. We made it this morning. My only adaptation was putting in a full teaspoon of good salt- I like a bit more salt in my cookies.

-Homemade Peppermint Mochas via The Faux Martha- ’tis the season!

-We had the great pleasure of sipping some pink Krug this past weekend. We took my mom to Grape and Bean’s annual Champagne tasting where we were in for a treat. Not just one glass but two glasses of Krug were served- the Grand Cuvee and Rosé, not to mention the very tasty Janisson & Fils rosé brut and two grower champagnes of which I failed to jot down. That’s what happens when you get a bit of the bubbly in ya. One of the highlights of the evening beyond the bubbles, was Matt Carroll, a local Somm and current Master Somm candidate. If you’re shrugging your shoulders, just take a look at this doc to see what he’s putting himself through. He was fabulous, smart and most importanly, approachable.

-16 French locales that belong on every wine lover’s bucket list.

-If you’re looking for a new Insta feed to follow, look no further than my pal Vina’s feed. She’s the local foodie and head honcho of all things social media over at the Eat Good Food Group- the mecca of good eats in Old Town, so she knows her stuff and takes pretty pictures.

-22 times Jennifer Lawrence didn’t give a ___. And the love affair continues.

-And speaking of starlets, it’s always the right time for an Audrey Hepburn movie. If you’re queue is short on Audrey, here are a few more to add to it.

Happy Monday and Cin Cin!


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Happy Halloween

There's a Mermaid in my Kitchen

There’s a mermaid in my kitchen. I love this wacky holiday. Happy Halloween all. What are you all up to this fall weekend? We’re hightailing it out of dodge, straight to a cabin in the woods with some pals. Should be fun and maybe a bit spooky too.

Lots of fun things swirling in the air. My favorite shop in town is hosting their annual Holiday unveiling next week and I am one of their Gift Guiders, picking out a few choice things for the Host in your life. If you live in the DMV, pop by Red Barn Mercantile on November 6th from 6-9pm for the party and get a load of Amy Rutherford’s beautiful shop- one of the best edited little shops around, I always want everything in there.

And lastly, we are slowly but surely making our way through Ken Burns’ The Roosevelts. Are you all watching this? It is endlessly fascinating, particularly the FDR chapters. And looking forward to HBO’s Olive Kitteridge this weekend starring the one and only Ms. McDormand. Loved the book, curious to see how it translates to a miniseries.

A Few Things:

This just makes me feel old. Trying to play that down and be #casual about it, but truthfully it’s not really Normcore. What the what? And “Quiche”?, I’m not really buying that one, reminds me of “Fetch” from Mean Girls.

Make candles out of your mini pumpkins and get some delicious seeds for roasting while you’re at it. This one is suitable for the craft-challenged Martha wannabees out there, like me.

Have you seen the Matthew McConaughey car ads? These Jim Carrey parody ads from SNL are pretty hilarious.

Follow my talented friend Rashmi as she documents her family meals and recipes. She’s cataloging to make a recipe book for her girls and I’m loving her beautiful and stark photos. Find her recipe photos at #rashmicooks. All this AND she makes a mean Lionel Richie Jack-o-lantern. My kind of girl.

An entire ghost town goes up for auction today.

Awesome idioms from around the world via Cup of Jo.

Succotash Gazpacho Shots? Ok, I’ll bite.

She’s hilarious.

What You Learn in Your 40′s. I’m not there yet but it’s getting awfully close.

I love this - made from the fruits of an autumn stroll- a good little craft for the kiddos.

This skirt. I wish they made it in my size, had to get it for the girl.

If I were throwing a Halloween bash tonight, I would definitely be serving up this cocktail.

Halloween just wouldn’t be Halloween without the nostalgic annual viewing of this 1980s PBS filmstrip to “Danse Macabre”. We used to watch this every year in elementary school music class. I was always (and still am) completely fixated by this filmstrip as dated as it is, that’s part of its charm.

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Happy Weekend!

Stella Maria Baer

Happy Weekend dear readers. I love this shot of Stella Maria Baer’s work in progress above. The paint and colors are so chomp-worthy, I seriously just want to eat that entire composition. She’s a Southwest artist living in the Northeast and her work is genius (and P.S., her instagram feed is moody and dreamily delicious, I look forward to her gorgeous posts every day). But back to that work in progress thing- it’s sort of what life’s all about isn’t it. Some food (or paint) for thought.

Well folks, it’s been a hectic week over here in good ole VA., the apex being a full-on attack by the residents of an underground Yellow Jacket nest in our background. After my son stepped on said nest, my husband sprung into survival mode as the wasps swarmed and chased them all around the backyard. He managed to get the kiddos into the house with only a few stings, but those few stings were some humdingers. I was not here when the nest was rattled but saw the aftermath- clothes strewn everywhere and my poor daughter’s eyes nearly swollen shut. But all is well and on we go. Just another day in the Virginia suburbs. Who knew suburbia could be so action-packed?

In any case, we are gearing up for a restful (well, as restful as we can get here with toddlers) weekend. My niece is blowing into the ‘burbs later this afternoon, straight from her high powered internship with a New Mexican senator on Capitol Hill. I can’t wait to hear what she thinks of Washington. What must such an adulterated town to do such a mildly adulterated young adult? She went to high school in NYC so she can’t be too scandalized, we’ll see.

What I’m Drinking:

I’m digging Loire reds for this time of year. The Loire Valley is such a steal and some of my all-time favorites come from its flinty terroir. This is my new favorite. We carry a more recent vintage at Waterfront and it’s killer- lots of zippy acid and nice fruit on the palate. Lean and mean and perfect for a hot summer night. Drink it with seared salmon, mushroom and goat cheese pizza or turkey burgers- it’s not picky and goes great with almost anything provided your dish is not too terribly heavy or too dainty and light.

A Few Things:

I cannot wait for this. Meryl Streep as The Witch in the movie version of Sondheim’s Into the Woods? Musicals into movies are tricky but with Rob Marshall at the helm, my hopes are high.

I left my car lights on all night and had to figure out how to jump start the car the next morning. This came in pretty handy- gotta love the interweb.

In this day in Instagram age, I can’t believe it’s so hard to find simple 4×4 frames. If anyone has an answer, do tell. I’m at a loss.

My friend Amy just turned me on to the legendary Betty Fussell and I just ordered her memoir, Kitchen Wars. I cannot wait to dig in.

And ok, I finally gave in to this Magic Bullet contraption that’s sweeping our smoothie-crazed nation and you know what? I love it. It’s so easy and I don’t have to fret about my kids getting their greens, they love these smoothies. Especially when I freeze them and make Green Pops. They love a popsicle (who doesn’t) even if it is laden with kale and baby spinach. My concoctions actually look kind of like these- they are so pretty and taste so nice. It’s not cheap but you literally just throw stuff in a cup, blend it up and go. I’m kind of in love. This is the one I have- totally worth the dough.

I love these portraits. Luis Conejo’s work is sort of like John Currin meets Disney animator. Awesome.

A cute (and easy!) idea for a photo backdrop at my next dinner party from the designlovefest team.

10 Cute Kids’ Rooms. It helps if you live in a loft space with 20 foot walls and giant windows but still…

And these Hockney-inspired children’s portraits are pretty great too.

5 Easy No-Bake Meals- ok, I’ll bite.

And how cute is this- a great way to wrap small gifts.

Nice words to live by.

Cin Cin good people and Enjoy.

Photo: designsponge

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Happy Weekend!

10 For The Host with the most

This time of year brings lots of travel (yay!) and sometimes a night or two or three at a pal’s place. I like to come bearing gifts for my Host with the Most, especially those I wouldn’t buy for myself- tiny cake stands anyone?


10 For The Host With The Most

A Perfect Picnic Basket- come on, who wouldn’t want one of these? Especially one this cute- from tastemaker and blogger extraordinaire Sarah Sherman Samuel, comes her new line of artisanal entertaining goodness. Everything is deliciously lovely and I am always partial to a picnic basket.

Some Coastal Coasters- bold and graphic, these hand-painted, non-toxic ceramic babies are the recent collaboration of BottleStock Shop’s Whitney Adams and Rissa Sandman. Evocative of a summer day at bay or just a cool addition to your host’s bar cart. P.S.: She’s having a 30% off sale today on everything but these Coastal Coasters and there are some fancy things to be had. I for one love her corkscrews. Code: HUMPDAY

A Classic Candle- the tried and true hostess gift. Can’t. Go. Wrong. And this one boasts a stylish exterior with an on-sale price tag to boot.

An Awesome Apron- for the stylish cook who’s more French linen chic than Betty Crocker ruffled. I can’t stand how awesome this apron is.

A Tie-Dyed Towel- this Turkish towel is styled up a notch with its tie-dyed detail. The perfect gift as it’s small enough to wear as a scarf but still big enough to use as a beach towel, sarong or wrap. From my favorite shop in Alexandria at Red Barn Mercantile.

A Stylish Soap Dish- Not your Grandma’s soap dish (or maybe it is if she’s into Mid-Century bric a brac), this brass wire beauty will thrill its new owner with its clean lines each time he/she scrubs up.

A Cheeky Print- because who doesn’t want a pretty watercolor of a strutting leopard in their home? If your host is fabulous, he/she will love illustrator to the fashion Gods (Hermés anyone?), Caitlin McGauley’s print. If you’re concerned that it may not “go” with your host’s decor, worry not as Jenna Lyons famously put it, “as far as I’m concerned, leopard’s a neutral.”

A Tiny Cake Stand- if your host is truly the most when it comes to baked goods, he/she will love this mini jadeite cake stand. And even if they suck at baking, you’ll never tell and they’ll still love it.

Some Swanky Stirrers- a great host is a master of the cocktail party and what better tool to help one further master that fête-ing art than this set of glass stirrers. They’ll feel like Sinatra, and what’s a better gift than that!

A Punchy Throw- again, something I wouldn’t buy for myself but would love to receive. This one’s sunny, soft and boldly graphic- sure to punch up any room.

And if all else fails, my tried and true gift for my Host with the Most- a great bottle of bubbly or rosé or even better- bubbly rosé. I recently had this one at my birthday dinner at DC’s Proof which boasts a beyond-killer wine list, including $18,000 bottles of DRC- sigh (who is actually ordering that- talk about a baller move). But honestly, this Legret NV pink bubbly was one of the very best I have ever imbibed and that’s saying something. Get it here, your Host will be psyched and while you’re at it, get a bottle for yourself too. Traveling can be hard work- pop it open when you arrive home. Cin Cin!

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A Happy Weekend and a Happy Birthday

Kelly d'Amboise

Happiness is: Another birthday and a glass in the hand. Throw in some loved ones and call is perfetto.

Three Cheers for the weekend and… it’s my birthday ya’ll, so I’m raising a glass to another year. We’re keeping it low key this year. Actually, I’ve kept my birthday pretty low key since I turned 30, I guess it’s just one of those decades. I’m thinking that next year I might want to blow it out a bit more, but for now, I’m pretty psyched just to go out to dinner in DC with the hubs (which is a big outing these days for this newly suburban gal) and assemble some toddler toys (very exciting, right.) I’ll be eating some delicious cake though. I just got a freshly made Daisy Cake in the mail that I can’t wait to sink my teeth into, I’ve heard these things are amazing. Have you tried them? What a fun gift- a delicious cake in the mail, is that not a great gift? And I don’t usually go in for buying myself stuff on my birthday but I caved this year and bought a new bed. I decided that it is officially time to upgrade to a King now that the kiddos are 2 and regularly jumping into bed with us. That beloved Queen-sized bed can quietly retreat into retirement, my daughter likes to sleep horizontal so, we kind of didn’t have a choice. I splurged on this white wooden beauty. I saw it in my friend Kristen’s Connecticut-come-Scandinavian abode and loved it so much that I had to copy.

In other news, I am so flattered to be featured on Alexandria Stylebook. I’m a little late to the party in posting this as it was published a few weeks back but this summer has been a bit crazy town so I’m just now getting around to actually processing the events of the last month. Thank you Stylebook for the fun feature and thanks to the talented Rashmi Pappu for the super fun photos. I’m not sure what she thought of me when my inner showgirl busted out in the middle of our photo session, I try to keep her at bay but it’s like they say “Once a Showgirl, Always a…”- or does anyone really say that? Maybe it’s just me.

And the icing on this birthday day’s cake was the copy of the latest Anthology magazine that I received in the mail this morning. What a perfect present. Inside features a story written by Anna Watson Carl that she and I styled together, set right here in VA. The story centers around a dinner party that I threw in the Virginia vines at a local (and gorgeous) vineyard for my dancing d’Amboise family. They trekked it down here from the big City and joined us for an unforgettable lunch amidst the ripening Cab Franc grapes at Paradise Springs. Amy Dickerson shot the story and I am still swooning over its dreaminess- I am so beyond flattered by all of it and what fun we had. A wonderful memory indeed. I am looking forward to posting more about the story when it hits newsstands (or your local Anthropologie store).

Much to be thankful for. Another year older… sigh. Sure, I harken back to the idealistic memories of my younger days but honestly I’ve always felt that I’ll take every birthday I can get, so you know what- bring it on.

What are your plans for the weekend?

What I’m Drinking: It’s my birthday so it has to be rosé. I’m not sure what, we’ll see what the wine list has to offer in the way of the pink stuff but I am loving the YesWayRosé girls. Have you seen them around the interwebs? A fun and festive celebration of the good stuff and I want that tote to the right.

A Few Things that rose my brow:

Kristen Bell as Mary Poppins- this is pretty great, if you’re in favor of raising the minimum wage that is. If you’re not, it might piss you off.

Hold onto your hats kids, the official looming kale shortage has been announced. It was only a matter of time right? I’ve never seen such enthusiasm over a leafy green. I’m totally guilty for contributing to the consuming that will result in the shortage.

Deconstructing Goodnight Moon.

Pizza dough on the grill?- everything does taste better grilled so why not!

This made me feel better about the ridiculous lack of sleep I’ve had since being pregnant. I’m sure a counter study will come out tomorrow that says the opposite but for now, I’m sticking with this one.

Talk about travel porn- well big budget luxury hotel travel porn anyway. These photos make me want to pack my bags pronto.

And while we’re talking travel, a few travel instagrammers that Emma Banks over at Camille Styles thinks we should follow. What say you all? Any favorite travel insta accounts? Do tell.

And while we’re on the insta topic, this is interesting. What it LOOKS like we’re doing vs. what we’re probably ACTUALLY doing.

And Panzanella- it’s everywhere these days and I’m always in the mood for it. Here’s a yummy sweet pepper version from Love and Lemons and a rustic and summery recipe from Melina Hammer over on the Anthology blog.

Ok that’s all. Enjoy the weekend.

Cin Cin and Enjoy!


Photo: Rashmi Pappu

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Summertime To-Do’s


Summertime To-Do's

We are in it kids- deep in the thick of hot fun in the summertime. A few of my favorite things to do during these dog days:

1. Toast: Everyday. Because why not? Every day is a gift especially these lazy and fun summer days. I’m currently digging my pink Txakolina direct from Spain’s Basque Country. A sip of this stuff is like a run through the summertime sprinklers- just fun, zippy, fruit-filled, and effervescent goodness. It’s hard to find and may be worth ordering online. I think it’s fun to serve this as a cocktail or an aperitif at your dinner party or just as a glass on your back porch whenever. We sell a killer white Txakolina at Waterfront and I just had this one at Asheville’s Cúrate- holy deliciousness.

2. Surf: Or at least something like it. I’m no surfer girl, but I sure wish I was. I probably need to tackle my early 80s too-many-viewings-of-Jaws-induced shark phobia first, but this Costa Rica Surf Camp is calling my name- doesn’t it seem awesome (read the tripadvisor reviews and you will soon be socking away $ for this trip just like me- I smell a girl’s trip). I’d like to tackle a wave or two sooner than later in any case but for now, I’m pretty happy boogie boarding in the shallow end of the Atlantic and channeling my inner 12 year-old. There’s nothing like catching a wave to make you feel like a tween again. Wheeeeee!

3. Travel: As much as humanly possible. Hitting the road during the summertime is not as easy as it once was what with the Pack ‘n Plays, booster seats, bibs and things and other assorted toddler accouterments, it’s more like a moon launch than a quick pop in the car, but it’s still worth it. We’ve been on the road now for 3 weeks and are loving every minute of it. We’re working some, relaxing some and trying to soak all of it in.

4. Throw: Al Fresco Dinner Parties- lots of them. What better excuse to have your pals over, pop a bottle of bubbly and nosh on over-ripe juicilicious produce and grilled everythings. I’ve taken lots of cues from my girl Anna Watson Carl- the queen of the simple and stylish dinner party. She just trucked it cross-country hosting swoon-worthy dinner parties with the tastiest of the bloggy blog tastemakers. Check out her adventures here, steal some of her simple styling tricks (not to mention recipes) and pre-order her sure-to-be fab self-published The Yellow Table cookbook here (I just did). Kudos Anna- you are killing it.

5. Read: A novel, a great cookbook and a killer autobiography. I don’t read nearly as much as I’d like to, but oh that lost art of the lazy read- I’m hoping to one day figure out life so that it leaves more time for this great joy. Reading is so good for you, like a shot of wheat grass in the morning- it cleans you out, refuels and energizes in one shot. I recently read a great article about how reading fiction makes one more empathetic, our society could use a bit more of that stuff. Reading is so crucial to our psyche I think, and there’s nothing like the joy of being sucked in to a riveting page-turner, romanced by great language and epic characters- the good stuff indeed. I’m currently reading The Yonahlosse Riding Camp for Girls (how nice to read a good novel), perusing Vefa’s Kitchen (if I can’t spend the summer on a Greek Isle, I can at least cook like it) and Ava Gardner’s biography (which I wish lasted my entire lifetime)- I can never get enough of that diva- what a wild one.

6. Grill: Peaches and put them in everything. I’m seriously nuts about grilled peaches. It’s like I can’t believe what I’ve been missing my whole life. Summertime in a bite- I throw them in salads (lovely with arugula and gorgonzola) and great as a sub for tomatoes in your fresh Caprese salads. Stick ‘em on kabobs, serve them for dessert with a dollop of gelato- they’re pretty much great with everything and make for a happy Riesling partner- it is The Summer of Riesling afterall, if you’re a Paul Grieco follower that is, and who in their right wino-mind isn’t?

7. Make: Pinot Noir Popsicles and Espresso Granita. Pinot Pops for the grown ups and Blackberry Lemonade Pops for the kiddos- so simple and perfectly summer. A freshly made Espresso Granita puts me right in that Piazza in front of the Parthenon- a little Roman Holiday on my Virginia deck. I love this recipe.

What are some of your Summertime To-Dos?

Photos: Dinner Party and Peaches: Jack Mathews and Jeanine Donofrio of Love and LemonsPinot Pop: Bon Appétit,  Granita: Sisboomblog, VW Van Road Trip: Smitten Studio

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