Girls Night In at Candlefish

One of the things I truly love about being back in the Atlanta area is reconnecting with old friends!  Recently one of those fabulous friends and lifestyle blogger Tammie Reed of Talking With Tami invited me to join her and other girlfriends for a Sunday afternoon of candle making at Candlefish Atlanta.

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Tammie, our lovely Girls Night In hostess

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The Girls

Don’t you just love a girlfriends day?

What makes one even more enjoyable is making new friends while participating!

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Candlefish (originally established in Charleston) is a new shop located in Atlanta’s Ponce City Market and was the site of this relaxing and educational afternoon with the ladies.  I don’t know about you, but I am a candle junky and keep at least one lit any time I’m home!  When we moved in a month ago candles were some of the first items I purchased for our new home, so choosing a fragrance and making my own candle sounded so exciting!

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Tammie always arranges a lovely event!

With donuts and champagne awaiting her guests, we spent time listening to Hannah from Candlefish explain the technique for making candles.  While you think of melted wax and fragrance going into candle making, I’ve never stopped to consider there are temperature points and specific measurements at which to work and make the perfect candle.

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Candlefish Fragrance Library

We had the opportunity to check out the 100 different Candlefish fragrances, but thankfully if you know your specific taste in fragrances, they can steer you in the right direction!  I’m more of a musky almost men’s cologne type of girl, so after checking out several scents in that category, I settled on #31.  This was actually the first fragrance I smelled and immediately was drawn back to it!

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The tools we used for our candle making class

While making the candles was fun and educational, I truly enjoyed the afternoon making friends and socializing.

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Fabulous treat bags from Tammie for each of her guests

                The candle making class is a perfect opportunity for socializing with the girls.  While there are any number of occasions for a night out, I’m looking at the possibility of a candle making class as the perfect bridesmaid’s outing before MacKenzie’s wedding in June!

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Thank you Tammie for the afternoon and the use of Genae Bank’s photos as well!

How do you like to spend a Girls Night In or Out?

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Tabletops & Shops: {Steve McKenzie’s}

Just before Christmas, I had the opportunity to visit with Steve and Jill McKenzie in their brand new (and absolutely fabulous) store while traveling home for Samantha’s wedding.    “Steve McKenzie’s, ” is a furniture and general lifestyle shop located in the growing westside district of Atlanta.
via Steve McKenzie
via Steve McKenzie

Steve, a former CEO of Larson-Juhl framing company in Atlanta (you can read a little about some time I have enjoyed with Larson-Juhl here), and his sweet wife Jill opened their place back in October.  I first met Steve about three years ago at a blogger’s dinner and framing workshop hosted by Larson-Juhl in Atlanta.  Steve and Jill’s fabulous store combines Southern living and hospitality for a fun shopping experience.  Most all of their brands are local/regional from soaps, candles and leather goods to jewelry, pottery and furniture! Steve McKenzie’s also features some the beautiful artwork of Steve’s in the form of paintings and fabrics inspired by his artwork!  This great little shop is also the Southeast representative for Grange Furniture, an absolutely stunning furniture line anchored in France with a history dating back to 1904.  Boy do they ever have some beautiful pieces!! This fun shop is just the perfect place for everyone from interior designers to me!

I could’ve stayed all day!

Decorated for Christmas (via Steve McKenzie)
via Steve McKenzie
I loved the red silverware which I purchased for our own Christmas table setting!
Gorgeous fabrics inspired by Steve McKenzie’s artwork (via Steve McKenzie)
Pillows made from the fun and unique fabrics of Steve McKenzie (via Steve McKenzie)
Steve and Jill are so welcoming and excited about their new shop, which makes shopping such a joy!  
I had seen and heard about the opening of Steve McKenzie’s through several friends on Facebook and was really hoping for the chance to check it all out.  That opportunity came through a table setting demo with Kerry Howard (a former Top Design contestant and Atlanta-based Interior Designer) and Blake Weeks that just happened to be scheduled for the Saturday I was traveling through.

How perfectly convenient!

Like I really needed another reason to shop!?!
While these great settings on display were to inspire us for Christmas, I discovered that when you mix the everyday in with a few seasonal touches that these were perfect for all winter long!
Here are just a few inspirational table settings and tips from Kerry Howard!

 

*Mix time periods and textures.  I absolutely LOVED this table setting that mixed pieces of everyday china from the 1950’s with modern elements from Crate and Barrel and pieces of coral.  So much fun and very classy!If I could find plates like this, I would be one happy girl!!

 

*Mix colors.  Be brave and step outside your comfort zone when decorating.  It’s perfectly fine to break away from tradition!

*Layer colors, accessories, styles, and dishes.

Mason jars, Mint Julep cups, and wine glasses?  Who would’ve thought that mixing such odd pieces would be so pretty …. and super Southern!

*Choose surprising elements.

Isn’t this just the cutest idea for a place card … a votive cup filled with natural elements you can find in your own backyard!
I love the mixture of the Asian figurine with shells, rock and assorted glassware.  It just all pulled together to make a gorgeous table!
Kerry demonstrating how to make decorations for the table using a mason jar, fresh evergreen and cotton.  

*Have the centerpiece mimic the shape of your table.

The roses in this centerpiece are from Publix and the greenery is from the backyard; set in a round silver bowl it’s just too pretty!

*Use the unexpected in your centerpieces …. twigs from the yard, pine needles, magnolia and even grocery store flowers (Costco, my favorite place to buy flowers, generally has a huge and affordable selection)

 

*Be creative with your vases.  Use wooden bowls, pottery, vintage pieces, silver, etc… to create a great centerpiece.

*And be sure to add candles.  Candlelight, besides being beautiful is just flattering to any space!

Kerry and Blake talking tables

The ideas these two designers shared were so simple that anyone can pull off a beautiful table!  I sure am looking forward to Valentines Day and seeing if I can pull of a fun table!

If you are ever passing through Atlanta, be sure to stop by Steve McKenzie’s and check them out!

996 Huff Rd NW, Suite E
Atlanta, GA 30318

Picnics & Baseball

It seems summer is fading fast.  This weekend we celebrated the last holiday of the season grilling out, watching football, doing a few things around the house (everyone strips wallpaper at 2 AM, right?), and capped off the weekend with a tailgate and Atlanta Braves baseball.
I grew up on Atlanta Braves baseball in the 1980’s.  You know, that was the years that they weren’t very good, but we didn’t care.  So often during the summer months you could find us at Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium watching great players like Glenn Hubbard, Phil Neikro, Bob Horner, Pasqual Perez, Bruce Benedict and my all-time favorite, Dale Murphy.  
{I wore number three when I played softball for years because of Dale Murphy.} 
 Those were the days when Cobb County schools gave you two free tickets every time you made straight A’s, so every 6-weeks when report cards came out, my younger sister and I would each receive our vouchers for tickets, Dad would order extra for the rest of the family and off we would go to watch baseball.  Those were really great times!  
My baby sister (she was too young to remember those days) and her husband love baseball and received an email special that included a throwback Dale Murphy jersey for the game on Labor Day if you bought a package deal.  We thought it would be a great way to spend the holiday and had them order tickets for us as well.
While the day was quite muggy and overcast, and I really miss the old Fulton County stadium, we had a wonderful time making memories with a new generation of the family.
The throwback jerseys were a real hit with my kids, but the big win by the Braves over he Rockies was quite a show!
Prior to game-time we enjoyed a tailgate lunch at the truck. I love a good picnic, and know with cooler weather soon to be approaching, picnics will once again become enjoyable and more commonplace.
  Picnics are great because they can be as formal or as casual as you would like.  I have colorful plastic plates that we always use for our picnics with matching cups.  I always add silverware and cloth napkins.  Not only is this a “green” option, it is a great way to dress up a picnic with the kids.  Make sure you also pack a trash bag.  You don’t want to leave a mess.
Since we have been careful about how we eat, I wanted to carry this over to our picnic.  I planned a heathy menu that was quite filling, and believe it or not, really delicious.
Here are a few suggestions for a healthy picnic…..
1.  Hummus …. served with fresh veggies or unsalted pita chips offers up a filling serving of protein and carbs.
2. Salsa …. make it fresh, season it with lime juice instead of salt for a better option.  You can enjoy this with unsalted  tortilla or pita chips.
3.  Pita chips …. don’t buy them in a bag, but make your own.  Cut up fresh pita bread and toast about 10 minutes in the oven set at 350 degrees. 
4.  Fresh fruit ….. make kebobs of seasonal fruit.  Strawberries, grapes and pineapple make a great combination. 
5.  An old fashioned sandwich on whole wheat bread …. choose peanut butter or a lower sodium meat for your sandwich.  Leave off the cheese and opt for lettuce and tomato instead.
6.  Cut fresh vegetables ….. celery, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower.  Choose your favorites!  If you want a dip for these use Greek yogurt with a few fresh herbs and forgo the premade dips at the grocery store.
7.   Baked chicken …. if you have time and can keep it warm (or even like cold chicken).   Lightly bread in Panko (Japanese bread crumbs), season with Garlic & Herb Mrs. Dash and bake at 400 degrees until done.  Use tenders and make you a delicious chicken sandwich using Pepperidge Farm whole wheat sandwich rounds.
8.  Salad …. yes, I know, another salad.  But, the fresh greens, tomatoes & cucumbers are really good for you.  Don’t want another tossed salad?  Make a pasta salad (not out of a box).  Fill it with fresh veggies and a homemade vinaigrette.
9.  If you need a dessert, opt for an angel food cake tope with fresh berries.  Just resist to sugar those berries before eating them!
10. Keep your beverages light as well …. unsweetened tea or water with lemon, or pink lemonade Crystal Light makes a great option. 
How did you spend the last holiday of the summer?  What does your picnic menu consist of?

Creative Entertaining with Eddie Ross

A couple of weeks ago my daughter, MacKenzie, and I enjoyed a girls night out while attending a fabulous spring entertaining demo hosted by Travadavi in Atlanta.  Travadavi is a wonderful gift boutique located near the Buckhead community, owned by Ann Davis.
While books and magazines offer much inspiration for your home, live demonstrations really spark my creative mind!  The evening proved to be quite informative; even MacKenzie was fascinated by all of the color and drama of a beautiful table, and the cheese platters.

Eddie Ross is one of my favorite sources of inspiration when it comes to entertaining.  Using what you have with the addition of color and unique accessories, he can set one beautiful table!
The whole evening was quite informative with so many wonderful ideas that will be easy to incorporate into any home.  I thought I’d share some of Eddie’s ideas to inspire you as well.
First, anyone can set a table.  It’s not an art, but about having fun.  Know the rules for setting a table, but know when to break those rules as well!  A good example of this would be in the use of silverware; if you don’t need a spoon, don’t set one out!  Set out what you need.  Besides who wants to wash extra silverware that wasn’t even used?
Secondly, your table shouldn’t look like a bridal registry.  Be fun, be creative.  Your table can be “formal” and have a personality!
So how can we achieve this with our own table?
**Start with a focal point; something you love.  It may be your grandmother’s china or the pink and brown dessert plates that you love.  Once you have your inspiration, build from there.
Sharing another creative idea … combining modern & vintage with a combo of salt cellars and salt shakers containing white & black pepper and kosher salt.
**Mix antique dishes with modern wares for a fresh look.  A modern dinner plate mixed with grandmother’s salad plate or vice versa could make for a lovely setting.
**Let your salad plate be a focal point that is framed by the dinner plate on a colorful tablecloth.
**Update your china through the use of table linens.  Tablecloths, placemats, table runners all make great backgrounds for your dishes.  Use color consistently throughout a setting.
**Mix your silverware up.  It doesn’t have to be match-matchy.  Patterns can be different as can metals;  mix vintage with modern for a unique look.
A mixture of glassware creates interest and the butterfly placard adds whimsy to this tabletop.
**Get creative with your place cards.  Copy an image from the internet onto card stock and go from there.
**Add little touches of flavor and color through the use of candy in your decorating or use sugar-rimmed glasses for serving cocktails.
{Such simple ideas that make a big impact!}
 Eddie mentions using color a lot for creating beautiful tables.  I am slowly learning not to be afraid of color, but it’s a slow process as I feel so safe with white.
Eddie’s suggestions for adding color?
**Use colorful tapers and candles on the table.  Pick a color from your dishes and use it as an accent for your candles.
**No white napkins!  Use colored napkins.  Try dyeing some of your white ones if you discover you have too many.  Easy and inexpensive fix!
**Keeping in mind that centerpieces should be kept low to allow for easy conversation, go with something colorful and fun to brighten your table.  I never call a florist to make arrangements for our table, instead I check out the flowers available at my local grocery.  Fresh Market, Publix, and Costco (just to name a few) all have seasonal and gorgeous choices available year around!
Eddie purchased all of the flowers for this arrangement at Fresh Market!
While I am on the subject of setting tables, Eddie threw out a startling fact during his presentation; only 4% of children know how to properly set a table!
 
Four percent!
 
MacKenzie looked over at me and said, “I’m one of those!”  Definitely a proud mom moment.
I really enjoyed the evening out with my daughter and so surprised at how MacKenzie enjoyed herself.  She was taking pictures with her iPod to save for her own albums of inspiration.
MacKenzie and me with Eddie & Jaithan
It was also a great evening for catching up with a few other people I have met through social media over the last couple of years: Miss Rhoda of Southern Hospitality dropped by with her sister, my friend Tammi Reed of Talking with TamiKerry Howard ( a fabulous interior designer from Atlanta) fresh off of his premiere on HGTV’s Design Wars, and Arlynn Wilbanks who works with Larson-Juhl framers.   It’s fun to meet up with people you have met through social media!
Right to Left …. Jen (Me) with Kerry, Tammi and friends
As spring is well underway I am looking forward to having some of our new friends over for dinner and cards.  After this little entertaining demo, I am so excited to let my creative side take control!