Monday, March 31, 2008

In Bloom

Don't forget to visit the cherry blossoms if you're in the District. It's peak showing week and the trees should be at their best!

**Photo courtesy of Gerald Brimacombe

Friday, March 28, 2008

Secret Garden

When I first saw this garden, I instantly fell in love. My mind began to create fanciful summer soirees and intimate Sunday dinners with family and friends. It could be just a lovely place to take my evening tea. Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Food For Thought Thursdays: Down Home With The Neelys

Down Home with The Neelys is a new show on the Food Network and is quickly becoming one of my favorites. I am usually working when the show airs but I was able to catch it last Sunday. First just let me say, Pat and Gina are such fun to watch, you can really tell they are in-love. They seem like the family next door who creates kick-ass food and always has a plate ready for their neighbors. The Neelys have several restaurants in Tennessee and are world famous for their BBQ.
Meet Pat and Gina Neely
It had been so long since I last made a home-cooked meal (and no, dressed up take-out does not count, lol), I thought I would give Pat's favorites a try. On the menu: BBQ Turkey Meatloaf, Mac and Cheese and Green Beans with garlic and lemon, comfort food at its best. So after a hard day's work, I came home on yesterday to work a little bit of my kitchen magic.

Now, it seems everyone has their own recipe for mac and cheese and I'm no different but I thought I'd give Gina's a whirl. Not a huge fan of mustard so I left that out as well as the bacon and potato chips, but I added bread crumbs to the top halfway thru the baking time. The result? Velvety and smooth.

The meatloaf remained moist and flavorful which is sometimes difficult to achieve with turkey meat, the sauce mixture was the ideal solution. The spice mixture really lifted the turkey which tends to be kind of dull.

I love my veggies, so the green bean recipe was a snap (pun, intended)!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tuesday's Travels

In my ever-expanding quest to stay informed, I went on a little day trip with Dennis and Randy of James Limousine and some of the leading event planners in the Richmond area. First stop, the beautifully charming Tides Inn which is located on Virginia's Northern Neck. We were treated to lunch at the Inn's Chesapeake Club ( be sure to order the crab cakes, delish!) and embarked on an extensive tour of the property's facilities. With several options available, including a private yacht, The Tides Inn would be ideal for a not-so-far-away destination wedding weekend. Or if you're in need of a little R&R, a night or two in one of the Vista suites (the bathrooms are heaven!) is just what the doctor ordered. As a member of the luxury group, The Leading Hotels of the World, the Inn's standards are very high and their focus on the needs of their guests is a top priority. Many thanks to Ally for showing our party all the Inn has to offer.
An aerial view of the property
small private beach area
Chesapeake Terrace is great for cocktails after the ceremony.
The Inn's private yacht, Miss Ann (be sure to ask about the Whiskey Run cruise)

Our next stop was the picturesque Kinloch Farm. A former plantation, the location now serves as a peaceful retreat for weddings, business meetings and other social events. Kinloch Farm has over 1400 acres dotted with gorgeous trees, some over 300 years old. Being late March, the trees and gardens were not in bloom, but I can imagine how stunning the grand oak and willow will appear during the spring and summer months. The owners, Hank and Laura Verinder, could not have been more hospitable, regaling the group with stories of the property's history and past events. It is located about an hour outside of Richmond and there is even an adjoining apartment for planners like myself who need to be on-hand first thing on event day. How thoughtful is that?! The property is also available as a B&B, which I may put to good use once the summer event season has concluded.
Tree lined driveway
The acreage would also be great for engagement photo sessions. Think romantic picnic...
One of the bridal rooms available
The expansive porch area (a must see in person as it overlooks the expansive lawn area)
Romantic bath for the wedding night

**All photos are courtesy of the respective properties**

Monday, March 24, 2008

Who Are You?

Happy Monday Everyone!! I wanted to start the week off by talking a bit about weddings. Surprised? Well, you shouldn't be, after all that's part of the reason we're here, lol. Let's focus on tradition and individualization of the big day. I am a huge fan of incorporating things which will speak to your personality (such as your reception tables named after milestones in your relationship; location of your first date, favorite vacation spots, etc.) but also honoring the traditions of your cultural heritage. It's a way of expressing who you truly are to your guests and trust me when I say, they'll love it.

Reporter Lisa Ling did just that with her celebration earlier this year, which reflected their Chinese background. From Lisa's red gown to the lanterns decorating the afterparty, cultural touches were evident throughout the day.

Both of Lisa's parents walked her down the aisle.
Lisa and her new husband, Paul Song after saying their "I do's".
The beautiful red and gold lanterns used at the reception.
The power of lighting! The red and gold lighting used really transformed this space. Instant magic and drama!

Two-time boxing champion Fernando Vargas and his beautiful bride Martha made a gorgeous couple in traditional Mexican attire at their Los Angeles wedding.

Your guests are sure to enjoy the Mexican wedding cookies you'll serve as a special treat! They would make perfect favors to take home or great with milk later in the evening.
Mariachi musicians are an excellent way to express pride in your heritage.
An African-American tradition of "jumping the broom" symbolizing the start of your lives together as a married couple is great fun to witness.
The Jewish tradition of the Hora.

I love Indian bride's henna, such intricately beautiful designs. If you're attending an Indian wedding, be sure to see if you can locate the groom's initials in the design. Tradition says the groom must be able to find them by the end of the night in order to consummate the marriage.
Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai and her new husband receive the priest's blessing at her ceremony last year.
Indian weddings are always very festive occasions, typically lasting 3-4 days. There are mehendi parties, where the bride's hands and feet are decorated as well as parties given by both sets of parents. What I love most is the use of color and abundant flowers! I love when folks are not afraid of color. Fabulous and lush!!

Friday, March 21, 2008

It's All About The Basket

I don't know about you, but waking up Easter Sunday held almost as much excitement as Christmas morning. Every year I eagerly anticipated my basket upon waking up and my mother never disappointed. Chocolate bunnies, eggs, marshmallow chicks and what would Easter be without jelly beans?! Ahh, those were great memories. I was visiting with Martha Stewart today and the baskets she and her team put together are absolutely beautiful and range in style. Enjoy!
Love the golds...metallics are very big this year!
These baskets are just gorgeous, perfect for an afternoon luncheon in the sun.
Simple and perfect
This design really signals the coming of spring. Those tulip colors are divine. I bet those jelly beans taste great!
Very elegant indeed
Love the paper and ribbon, very different from the traditional woven baskets.
For those of you with a green thumb.
Have a wonderful Easter!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Food For Thought

Since I love to cook (and to eat) I thought I would start a new weekly tradition of sorts here on my blog: Thursday's Food For Thought. Every Thursday I will feature a recipe, be it a family favorite, something I've experimented with or a great recipe from one of my favorite chefs. What better way to bring friends and family together than a good meal? Bon Appetite!

First up, the lovely Nigella Lawson. In honor of the coming Easter holiday, let's make Hot Crossed Buns.

(Makes 16)

For the Dough:
• 2/3 cup milk
• 1/2 stick butter
• zest of 1 orange
• 1 clove
• 2 cardamom pods
• 3 cups bread flour
• 1 package active dry yeast (1/4 oz)
• 3/4 cup mixed dried fruit
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
• 1 egg

For the Egg Wash:
• 1 egg, beaten with a little milk

For the Crosses on the Buns:
• 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• 1/2 tablespoon superfine sugar
• 2 tablespoons water

For the Sugar Glaze:
• 1 tablespoon superfine sugar
• 1 tablespoon boiling water

Heat the milk, butter, orange zest, clove and cardamom pods in a saucepan until the butter melts, then leave to infuse. I have gone rather cardamom-mad recently, but this short, aromatic infusion gives a heavenly scent to the little fruited buns later.

Measure the flour, yeast and dried fruit into a bowl and add the spices. When the infused milk has reached blood temperature take out the clove and cardamom pods, and beat in the egg. Pour this liquid into the bowl of dry ingredients.

Knead the dough either by hand or with a machine with a dough hook; if it is too dry add a little more warm milk or water. Keep kneading until you have silky elastic dough, but bear in mind that the dried fruit will stop this from being exactly satin-smooth. Form into a ball and place in a buttered bowl covered with plastic wrap, and leave to rise overnight in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Take the dough out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature.

Punch the dough down, and knead it again until it is smooth elastic. Divide into 16 balls and shape into smooth round buns. I wouldn’t start worrying unduly about their size: just halve the dough, and keep halving until it’s in eight pieces, and use that piece of dough to make two buns. Or just keep the dough as it is, and pinch off pieces slightly larger than a ping-pong ball and hope you end up with 16 or thereabouts. Not that it matters.

Sit the buns on a parchment paper of Silpat-lined baking sheet. Make sure they are quite snug together but not touching. Using the back of an ordinary eating knife, score the tops of the buns with the imprint of a cross. Cover with a kitchen towel, and leave to prove again for about 45 minutes – they should have risen and almost joined up.

Brush the buns with the egg wash, and then mix the flour, sugar and water into a smooth, thick, paste. Using a teaspoon, dribble two lines over the bins in the indent of the cross, and then bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
When the hot cross buns come out of the oven, mix the sugar and boiling water together for the glaze, and brush each hot bun to make them sweet and shiny.

Author's Note
You could ignore my instructions to leave the dough in the fridge to rise slowly overnight and instead leave the dough to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours in a warmish place in the kitchen, but I always find it easier to go the overnight route, plus I think it gives a better taste and texture.

**Photos courtesy of Basil and Ginger

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Birds Of A Feather

Hello again Dear Readers, last evening I attended my very first ISES meeting. I wasn't sure what to expect, after all most networking events aren't necessarily that interesting, but ISES was a huge surprise! I met a lot of great people last night including chapter president Kelley Gillespie and the membership director Dave Fritz as well as the very engaging Lori Hill and Jacinda Andrews. To say I felt welcomed would be an understatement. Of course I had my new handy-dandy camera to mark the occasion.
This was my table, lucky number 7.

A closer view of the centerpiece.
And yes I even photographed the menu, lol. What can I say, I didn't want to leave anything out of the experience.
This is the dessert course served to each guest. L to R: Hazelnut Napoleon w/caramel sauce, Omelets Nowegian w/Turkish Coffee sauce and "After 8" Mousse w/red currant jelly (inside). Can we say delish?

There was also a cake competition in which three beautifully decorated cakes were on display. I didn't sample any but they looked incredible, don't you agree?
Look at the detail on the shoe topper. And the pearls are a great touch.
I absolutely loved this ombre colored cake, the shading is wonderfully done. The picture doesn't do it justice.

These sugar flowers were wondrous! They were so life-like, I had to restrain myself from reaching out and touching them, lol.

Until next time, have a great day!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Sunday Bliss

Okay, is it just me or is the weather starting to play with my emotions? One minute it's warm and sunny and next it's 45 degrees. Since spring is alluding us (at least for the present moment) I thought I would do a little something to brighten my day.

First, I had a private makeup lesson with the truly fabulous Erika Nixon of Makeup On Demand. She is the makeup guru in the Richmond area and since my look hasn't changed in a while, I knew it was time for professional intervention. I heard great things about Erika and she did not disappoint. Now, we all know, it can be a little intimidating to have a perfect stranger go to work on your face but Erika was an absolute doll! She is so funny and warm, we totally lost track of time. I will definitely be profiling Erika for my Gold List in the near future.

Now on to my DIY project. I was doing a little shopping last evening and saw the prettiest white daisies. So fresh, so clean, so very spring! I had to get a couple of bouquets, a trim here, a snip there and we were on our way. Now, I'm no Janie, but not bad, not bad at all.
One of the smaller arrangements for my nightstand.
And the other.
The tall arrangement in a lovely purple vase whose color did not translate well here. Mental note: more light next time.
And yes, that is my desk with my piles of design books and magazines. What's sad is that's not all of them, lol!

Have a Happy Monday!!
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