Where to Shop for the Holidays this Year:: Hint: SHOP SMALL!

where to shop this holiday season

So many people do holiday gift guides this time of year, but I thought I’d bring you something a little different this year. Instead of what to shop, I’m giving you ideas of where to shop.

Shopping small business is a passion of mine. Many of my closest friends have their own businesses, and as a small business owner myself, I know how hard the grind is. This time of year, it’s especially important to remember our small business partners. These are our friends and neighbors. They are the parents at your kids’ schools. They are the people who walk 10 miles a day at America’s Mart to bring you the best items they can find. And I love each and everyone one of them.

Here are a few of my favorite places that I will be shopping this holiday season. I’d love to hear some of your favorite small businesses in the comments!

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Bernard Cohen Collection 
As you all might know, Bernard Cohen is one of my oldest and dearest friends. He recently launched a pearl jewelry collection that is absolutely stunning. Anyone would be thrilled to unwrap one of his pieces. All orders through December 6 will be 20% off with discount code AJSTYLE at checkout.

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etuHOME
Recently opened at Shops around Lenox in Atlanta, etuHOME is bound to be the next big thing in our area and beyond. I recently hosted a book signing there, and trust me, the space and selections are incredible. In fact, something tells me if you wander through etu, you might find something for yourself, too!

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Minted
If my love for Minted isn’t clear enough, allow me to tell you one more time: Minted is a wonderful place to shop any time of year. As I’ve mentioned, their art selections are unlike any other, and art is always a fantastic gift! It’s personal and thoughtful.

PHOTO BY HEIDI GELDHAUSER

PHOTO BY HEIDI GELDHAUSER

Hudson Grace
Ever since I produced this stunning party at Hudson Grace last year for Atlanta Magazine HOME, I’ve had a crush on this unique home store. They have so many awesome goodies, but I especially love their table linens and candles. Oh, and a little birdie told me they have RBG Christmas ornaments. Who doesn’t need one of those?!

By the way, I’d love to invite each of you to join me at America’s Mart in January. I’ll be discussing how small business owners can define their brand, merchandise, and more!

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William Abranowicz 2019 Photography Workshop recap

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There are some people that just impress you. Bill Abranowicz is one of those people. He and I worked on a Rolex photoshoot together, at Augusta National Golf Course. It was a bit stressful as the masters location is much like visiting the Whitehouse. Think credentials, and lots of checks and cross checks. It’s like performing a military operation. But Bill was cool as a cucumber and sailed through the assignment. I liked his vibe from the start: super chill, sort of funny and very professional without being intimidating.

I knew I had to have him join us at La Fortezza.

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Bill arrived at Pisa airport with his striking wife Andrea in tow. Andrea, a location scout by trade, is chic, funny and endearing. To say she and I hit it off would be an understatement. The group of attendees was small but completely delightful. It was all men, and they were happy with everything; easy and amusing. I worked styling for all the attendees as they worked on their still life assignments.

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Bill’s powerpoint presentation was amazing. I must say one of the best I have seen. Bill told us about his influences and his early days as a printer (he printed for Horst). When he revealed that, I almost fell off my chair. He’s a humble guy who is completely focused on the work. He has so much knowledge that 5 days with him did not seem like enough time. Luckily for us, he returns in 2020 to do it again.

I can hardly wait for his return. He is truly a prince of a guy, and his wife ain’t so bad herself. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from the master, at the ultimate masterclass at La Fortezza.

xx Annette

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Her Dark Materials Workshop, 2019 recap

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Sometimes, one just has a girl crush, and with Instagram out there, it’s more likely that these crushes occur. That sentiment pretty much sums up my feelings towards Ros Atkinson, the woman behind the gorgeous Carravaggio still life styled images “Her Dark Materials” on Instagram.

The Dutch masters had nothing on Ros; in my opinion, she is the master. Although her work is very much in these styles, she very much has her own take with her images. They are simply spectacular. Having said all of this I said to myself, “Why not ask Ros (whom I’d never met in person) to come to La Fortezza for a weekend? Maybe she would agree to conduct a workshop.”

We hit it off immediately as she has a smart sense of humor, she’s cute, and we both wear Jo Malone perfume. A match made in heaven! I talked her into showing me how she constructs one of her very complicated layered still life sets. I was mesmerized.

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This October, she arrived a day early, and we immediately headed out to buy all the fruits, vegetables and things she would need to style with her students. We had a lovely meal with lots of wine and headed to bed. Wednesday, we prepped the studio and all the guest rooms for our group. Everyone arrived excited and elated to work with Ros for the next 4 days.

We had folks from all over the world including our first ever guest from India. Our days were spent with Ros in the lead. The weather even cooperated; we had several very dramatic days of fog and mist covering the fields around La Fortezza, and the vineyard was bright yellow against a gray sky. We tromped around the property all afternoon, and although it was damp and cool, we did not mind. We photographed food with Ros in the kitchen with Philip.

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We visited Parma and got lost in a maze near the city center. We toured Parma and dined the most amazing stuffed pasta, and fried dough with prosciutto and Parmesan cheese.

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It was a magical workshop, and Ros is the most divine inspiration and teacher. She shared all of her secrets, and everyone went away feeling creatively revived. The good news is that she will be back next year in September. Check the site and grab your spot we have limited spaces, and they usually go fast. Thank you Ros for a perfect workshop experience. My Instagram crush has turned into a beautiful real-life friendship with the most amazing and talented woman, love you Ros.

xx Annette

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Arrivederci Italia 2019

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It’s always hard to say arrivederci, but his year, in particular, was bittersweet because it was such a wonderful season. Our La Fortezza Workshops started off with a bang: 2 styling workshops in June kicked off the season. We had 3 talented instructors and 4 lovely attendees. Joanna and Maren and Sarah, had a lively group and did some really fun projects with their guests. The second styling session was with moi, the Strictly Styling Workshop. I had my BFF Barbara, a stylist from Modena, join me to teach styling. She brought all sorts of foodstuffs from Modena. It was epic.

This workshop also marked the yearly return of PR maven Liz Lapidus she brought her mega bloggerlious friend, Alexandra Darling in the City (although unfortunately she never wrote about her experience at La Fortezza on her blog? 🙁  But she did write about neighboring towns lol) NOTE* bloggers do not bother to contact me about a free workshop and that you’ll post about it. No comping anymore…live and learn…). I digress…

During that workshop I met one of my favorite guests (there’s always an upside to all negative experiences) of the season, the super talented photographer and stylist Alicia, The Chic Shot. You can see some of her amazing shots of La Fortezza on this post. Thank you, Alicia, for sharing your amazing talent. I LOVED working with you, and thank you for all the beautiful photos of your experience here. We hosted the fantastic podcast host Heidi Rew, her podcast featured me and Philip and Barbara, and the ladies from our first workshop in June. Listen to it here. It’s a great look into what we do.

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We also had our first ever intern in June and July from Wellesley College, Adri. She was a wonder and delight. She speaks perfect Italian and was energetic and eager to learn. We loved having her help us with guests and chores around the fortress. We loved her so much that we are bringing another intern from the same Wellesley Italian Studies program back next spring. Let’s just say whoever she is, she has big shoes to fill.  Plus Adri learned to drive a stick shift during her 8 week stay – pretty impressive!

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In July we hosted our first-ever Artist in Residence with abstract painter, Steven McKenzie for the month. It was a stroke of genius on my part, if I do say so myself. Steve was a delightful addition to the La Fortezza Workshop roster, and he brought the sunshine everyday in the studio. Because of Steve’s curiosity, I visited places and experienced things I never would have. Like visiting the antique book archives at our local library in Fivizzano and caving in Equi Terme. Some I loved more than others. (Caving not my thing, go figure) He made jam from our plum trees and filled the studio with his beautiful art inspired by the region. Even during his opening party when we had a torrential downpour, he never lost his bright smile and positive attitude. The Opening Party was amazing, sometimes when the best-laid plans are dashed, and the skies open up, it turns out to be just as great. At his opening, we had visitors from London, Paris, Greece, and the US and of course all of our friends from all over Italy. It was a great July. We had a fun visit with Rue Magazine Editor and Chief Kelli Lamb, and her lovely artist hubby Timmy, Kelli made an amazing video series about La Fortezza.

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In August our son visited with 3 friends; we cooked and toured and ate plenty. Then I visited Pulglia, a place the had been on my list for a while. I experienced the Messors Workshop, which was interesting. read about it here.

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September was filled with great cooking by Chef Philip. There were cooking lessons and artisan food visits with our Slow Food Experience group. We had the lovely photographer Kate Blohm visit again, she was part of a workshop with Angie Mosier in 2018. This year she was our BTS photographer; she’s amazing and will be joining us every year in the fall to document the Slow Food Workshops, something that is close to my heart.

September is the time of year we do our grape harvest, although this year the harvest was a month late, we still had an amazing time with our incredible group. One of our guests were a married couple, PR team Valerie and Garrett, a powerhouse PR team in Atlanta specializing in Chefs and Food, from Via Failla PR and Events  They will be part of the La Fortezza PR team helping to promote La Fortezza Workshops in 2020. I can’t wait to see what they have in store. We also hosted a shopping workshop with Lisa Burnett a whirlwind tour with shop til you drop attendees that left me breathless.

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October was the month of photography with 2 of my favorite photographers joining us. Bill Abranowicz and Ros Atkinson of Her Dark Materials on Instagram. I am honored to call them friends and I am excited to announce they will be back with us in fall 2020. The workshops were not only informative but really fun. We got so many beautiful shots!

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These incredible workshops have proved to be even more wonderful than I had imagined. People gathered around the table, like-minded with so much passion to add to the discussion. Being surrounded by creativity from all creators, from what Philip creates and places on the table, to the interesting creatives from all over the world, (this year we had our first attendee from India) they have so much to offer. It is my idea of heaven.

Although our surroundings are gorgeous, I must say without the people that come to visit, it would be much less beautiful. Thank you to all the support people in our village that take great care of me, and to Chef Philip who is gracious and talented and helpful always with a smile on his face he goes above and beyond. Thanks Philip for all the amazing Pizza Parties!

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To the guests that grace our doors, grazie mille. I look forward to welcoming new faces in 2020. Please check the website November 9th for our new workshops to post. We have limited spots, first come first serve with private rooms. So grab your spot in 2020 La Fortezza Workshops and Retreats.

x

Photo Credit: The Chic Shot, Kate Blohm, Nandi Shaw, Ros Atkinson, William Abranowicz

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Two Halloween Inspired Cocktails

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Since Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, I thought we’d carry-on the festive fun around here. Today, I’m giving you not one but two Halloween inspired cocktails. One is made with pumpkin and the other with blood orange, so as you can imagine, the color of each is perfect.

Let me know if you give them a try!

The Bloody Monday Cocktail is a sweet spooky Halloween cocktail that would be a huge hit at any Halloween parties you have coming up.

Bloody Monday Cocktail
Serves 1

You will need:
– 1 oz Campari
– 1 oz Blood Orange Maraschino Cherry Syrup
– 1 oz Cinzano Rosso
– splash of club soda
– slice of blood orange for garnish

To prepare simple syrup & cocktail:

Combine the juice of one blood orange, 1/3 cup maraschino cherry juice, and 1/2 cup of water. In a small pot, bring the ingredients to a boil about 10 minutes, set aside to cool.

In a shaker filled with ice, place all ingredients and shake vigorously until completely chilled and mixed. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a slice of blood orange.

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The Pumpkin Monk

You will need:

– 1 oz. Frangelico
– 1 oz. Appleton Reserve Rum
– ¾ oz. lemon juice
– ½ oz. pumpkin spice syrup

To prepare:
Shake all ingredients and either pour over ice in a rocks glass or serve up in a coupe. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

*Optional Note: run it through a strainer before adding the cinnamon stick and serving.

For the Pumpkin Spice Syrup
*
this makes 1 cup which is 16 servings

You will need:
– 4 teaspoons cinnamon
– 2 teaspoons ginger
– 1 teaspoon nutmeg
– 1 teaspoon allspice
– 1 cup water
– 1 cup sugar

To prepare:
Place in a pot, then bring to a boil and reduce about 10 minutes, set aside to cool.

Photo Credit: me &  Dane Sponberg

xx Annette

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