My Life in Photos, April

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Can you believe that April is almost over? It’s been a busy month, but I’ve loved every second of it. April has been full of wrapping-up phase one of our Italian renovation, whipping-up spring recipes using veggies from my garden, and putting the finishing touches on book two.

I’m both exhausted and excited thinking about it all.

As most of you know, I adore Instagram. It’s truly a place where I can share all of my goings on with you. However, I know some of you like to visit the blog instead, so I thought I’d share a few of my favorite photos from April with you here. There’s so much color, beauty, and of course, memories in these photos. Enjoy!

xx Annette

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Our master bath door waiting to be installed at our renovation.

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Many people ask me how long it takes to put a book together. When I hand in the final manuscript plus all the photos, it will be 3 years.

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How cute was Vivi as a puppy? We brought her home 5 years ago.

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This torta pasqualina was featured on City Sage a few weeks ago.

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Props, props, and more props for Cocktail Italiano.

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That’s a wrap on photographing book 2! Love this mash-up of the wrap party for Picture Perfect Parties 5 years ago.

 

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A Day at the Races:: Kentucky Derby Party

Annette's tips for hosting a Kentucky Derby party cannot be beat, and a Kentucky Derby party wouldn't be complete without a classic cocktail, a Mint Julep. Annette's tips for hosting a Kentucky Derby party cannot be beat, and a Kentucky Derby party wouldn't be complete without a classic cocktail, a Mint Julep.

Hi Everyone! It’s Nicole, Annette’s web-manager here. I don’t know about you, but the Kentucky Derby is my unofficial start to summer. One of my very best college girlfriends is from Lexington, Kentucky, and she instilled a love for the race in us while we were in school.

Even though I’ve only gotten to have one trip to Churchill Downs for the run for the roses, there’s something about the Kentucky Derby that keeps me intrigued year after year. Maybe it’s the beautiful horses or the fabulous fashion…or maybe it’s the the Mint Juleps. Either way, it’s such a quintessential, classic event.

This year, I’m planning to watch the races with friends. Who knows? Maybe we’ll don fun hats and chic sundresses for the occasion, too. I’ve already started thinking about decor, food, and beverages for the day, and of course, I’ve turned to Annette for all of the details.

Annette's tips for hosting a Kentucky Derby party cannot be beat, and a Kentucky Derby party wouldn't be complete without a classic cocktail, a Mint Julep.

Annette’s tips for hosting a Kentucky Derby party cannot be beat. I love her ideas for decor like including vintage horse trophies and ribbons, sprinkling in plastic horses here and there, and making sure roses make an appearance. To plan a party of your own, you can find her full list of tips here.

And a Kentucky Derby party wouldn’t be complete without a classic cocktail, and what’s more appropriate than a Mint Julep? A splash of simple syrup and a whole lot of Bourbon makes for one sinfully sweet sip.

Classic Mint Julep by Becky Stayner
serves 1

You will need:
– Crushed ice
– 2 oz. good Bourbon
– 1 oz. simple syrup
– 6 leaves of fresh mint + fresh mint for garnish

To prepare:

Make the simple syrup by bringing one cup of water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and stir in one cup of sugar till it dissolves. Once it’s chilled, stir in mint leaves to steep overnight (a trick from Annette’s friend, Becky). Put crushed ice, bourbon, and mint leaf simple syrup in a julep cup. Garnish with fresh mint leaves. Don’t crush the leaves! Be gentle…after all, this is a Southern drink.

xo, Nicole

photos by Leslie Graham

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My Favorite Easter Tablescape Inspirations

Hi Everyone! I’m Nicole, Annette’s web manager, and I’m back today to share some of my favorite Easter tablescapes. As you all know, Annette is renovating The Fortress in Italy. What you might not know, is that I started my own stateside renovation (on a much smaller scale) just a week after her.

As a result, we’ve been sharing our growing pains with renovations together, and it’s been so nice to lean on Annette for advice since this renovation isn’t her first rodeo. It’s always good to have someone to talk to!

Once our renovation is complete, we will finally have a real dining room. Until now, our home has had an eat-in kitchen, and our dining room space functioned as our office but not anymore! I am thrilled to have a real dining room table along with a space where I can host dinner parties for friends and family, especially for different holidays.

While we’re not quite ready for entertaining, I’ve been spending the past few weeks dreaming-up what my Easter tablescape would look like if I was hosting Easter this year. Sign me up for all the flowers, eggs, and bunnies, please!

Using tulips is not only seasonally appropriate but also a beautiful way to incorporate garden-like florals into your centerpieces. I also love the use of the green bunnies. It’s a cute way to be festive.

These egg place settings are sweet yet chic. It’s a great way to repurpose your dyed eggs (but make sure you save some for deviling!).

I know Annette likes to send guests home with a little something, and I think these baskets of miniature chocolate eggs would be perfect for exactly that. I would place them by the door, so no one forgets their treat!

What are your plans for your Easter tablescape this year?

xo, Nicole

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Spring Recipes for a Crowd- Passover or Easter

Our family celebrates the holiday of Passover which is on Monday April 10th. Passover has a very specific menu. We are not allowed to eat leavened bread, we eat Matzoh. The story of Passover is an interesting one, and one that we recall at our dinner table on the night of Passover. Here’s a great dessert to make for your gathering this year… and it involves chocolate!

PotsDeCreme

Salted Chocolate Pots de Crème
Serves 6-8

You will need:
1 ½ cup whole milk
– 1/2 cup whipping cream
– 5 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
– 1 teaspoon sea salt, or flake salt
– 6 large egg yolks
– 1/3 cup sugar
– 1 cup whipped cream for topping

To prepare:

Preheat oven to 325°F. Bring milk and cream just to simmer in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and salt; whisk until melted and smooth. Whisk yolks and sugar in large bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in hot chocolate mixture. Strain mixture into another bowl. Cool 10 minutes, skimming any foam from surface.

Divide custard mixture among six 3/4-cup custard cups or soufflé dishes. Cover each with foil. Place cups in large baking pan. Add enough hot water to pan to come halfway up sides of cups. Bake until custards are set but centers still move slightly when gently shaken, about 55 minutes. Remove from water. Remove foil. Chill custards until cold, about 3 hours. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled.) Top with whip cream, and serve.

Photo by Sarah Dorio

Styled by Moi

One of my favorite entertaining stories was for Atlanta Magazine’s Home. It was a Greek Easter party thrown by good friends every year, a party we always look forward to. Greek tradition calls for this sweet bread which makes a lovely and festive presentation. Imagine taking it somewhere for your Easter feast. Get all the recipes and the full feature here.

Passover begins on Monday and last through the following Monday (the day after Easter), and I have two great spring recipes for a crowd to share with you.

TSOUREKI (Easter Sweet Bread)
Serves 4 loaves

You will need:

– 7 cups Flour
– 3 quick rise yeast packets
– ½ cup warm water
– 1¾ cup sugar
– ½ teaspoon salt
– 1 Tablespoon mahlepi
– 1 teaspoon mastic
– 1 teaspoon vanilla
– 2 teaspoon lemon & orange zest (mixed)
– 5 eggs (room temperature)
– ½ cup hot milk
– 1 cup melted butter

Note : All ingredients should be warm or at the very least room temperature to help the dough rise faster.

Egg Wash for bread:
– 1 egg
– a few drops of vanilla
– 1 Tablespoon water
– ½ cup of sliced almonds

To Prepare:

  1. Mix warm water and yeast, set aside.
  2. In a large bowl put flour, make a whole with your hands in the center of the flour to put the sugar, zest, salt, spices and mix that your hands. Add hot milk and mix again with your hands. Once the dough is incorporated add eggs, one at a time, and mix well. Then add the yeast water mixture, your dough should be stringy when pulled apart.
  3. Next pour melted butter into the bowl one handful at a time and fold the dough (do not knead the dough). Pull and fold and pour in melted butter, repeat until you’ve used all the butter. Don’t worry if you see butter puddle around the edges, it will absorb as the dough rises.
  4. Wrap the dough with plastic wrap that it tucked down inside the bowl touching the dough. Then wrap the entire bowl in towels and place in a warm place for the dough to rise for about 2 hours. Once dough has risen, separate into 4 equal parts. Then separate each of the four parts into three pieces and roll the dough with your hands into approximately 14 inch long and about finger thickness.
  5. Braid the three long cylinder pieces just like you would braid hair. You will have 4 braids.
  6. Place each braid in a 12” round pan that has been lined with parchment paper and cover with towel, place in a warm spot for 30-45 minutes for dough to rise again.
  7. Once each of the braids have risen, prepare the egg wash. Beat the egg with water and vanilla then brush each of the braids, this will give the bread a beautiful shine.
  8. Place pans into a preheated 350° oven (2 at a time) and bake for 30 minutes. Keep an eye on the dough, if you see it getting too brown, cover with foil until baked through.
  9. Once bread has cooled, cut out the center and place a hard boiled egg that has been dyed red sprinkle with sliced almonds.

Photo by: PATRICK HEAGNEY

Styled by Moi

xx Annette

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It’s Coming Up Cocktails:: My Favorite Spring Sips

What better way to usher in a new season than to welcome it with cocktails?! Since I am still busy wrapping up my second book, Cocktail Italiano, I have cocktails on my mind all the time. These two spring sips are two of my favorites. They’re oldies but goodies.

The first, the Rare Fellow, is like taking a sip of spring harvest especially with its jalapeno garnish. The second, a Blood Orange Margarita, will be your go-to for the season I am sure of it. Who doesn’t love a great margarita? Enjoy and happy spring!

xx Annette

These two spring sips are two of my favorites. The first is like taking a sip of spring harvest, and the second will be your go-to for the season.

The Rare Fellow
serves 1

You will need:
– 2 slices of jalapeno pepper ( + 1 slice for garnish)
– 1/2 inch slice of ginger peeled and grated on a microplane
– 2 oz. of fresh orange juice
– 1/2 ounce Triple Sec
– 1 oz. Martin Millers Gin
– 2 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice ( or lemonade)

To prepare:
In a cocktail shaker, muddle the ginger, orange juice and jalapeno slices. Add Triple Sec, Gin and lemon juice, along with ice, and shake until combined. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass and garnish with a jalapeno slice. *Option – For a sweeter version, lemonade can be substituted for the lemon juice.

Photo: by Moi

These two spring sips are two of my favorites. The first is like taking a sip of spring harvest, and the second will be your go-to for the season.

Blood Orange Margaritas
serves 4
You will need:

– 1 cup (8 oz.) freshly squeezed blood orange juice (about 7-8 oranges)
– ½ cup (4 oz.) freshly squeezed lime juice
– ¾ cup (6 oz.) tequila
– ½ cup (4 oz.) orange liqueur
– ¼ cup (2 oz.) simple syrup
– Blood orange slices, for garnish

To prepare:

Combine all ingredients in a pitcher and stir well to combine.  Pour into chilled glasses over ice. Garnish with a slice of blood orange, if desired.  Serve.

Photo by:  Annie Eats

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