4th of July Firecracker Cookies for Kids

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Hi everyone! I’m Nicole, Annette’s web-manager and friend. I’m guest-posting today just in time for my second favorite holiday, the 4th of July!

For as long as I can remember, July 4th has been a special holiday for me. I love the patriotic attitude, the fireworks, and of course, the food! Since 2009, I’ve spent every 4th of July on the Florida Panhandle with my husband’s family. Over the years, the family has grown, and there are a lot more kids than there once were. Because of that, I’ve started to look for things that can both entertain the kiddos while pleasing their palates. After all, I’m not a regular aunt, I’m a COOL aunt!

While at Target recently, I stumbled upon the cutest 4th of July decor in their dollar spot. Namely, these adorable metallic paper straws. I knew I wanted to incorporate them into our beach trip in some way. Taking a tip from Annette, I started thinking about how these straws could be used differently than just with cocktails (although nothing wrong with that!).

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Then, BOOM! I had an idea: 4th of July firecracker cookies. What’s more fun than food on a stick?! These stuffed cookies dipped in white chocolate serve a few fun purposes:

  1. Kids can get involved by decorating them with sprinkles.
  2. They make a darling centerpiece – just fill a festive vessel with dry rice!
  3. They’re fun to eat!

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Let me know if you give these a try, or save them for your food arsenal later this year. Simply swapping out icing and sprinkle colors means these can be used for just about any holiday!

4th of July Firecracker Cookies

You will need:

– Double stuffed sandwich cookies
– White melting chocolate
– Sprinkles/candies for decorating
– Paper Straws

To prepare:

Begin by cutting your paper straws down. I snipped off about 3 inches. Set aside.

Place parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Set aside.

If you want to have multiple shades of icing, divide your chocolate into two (or more) microwave safe bowls, and melt it according to package directions. I melted mine in 30 second increments until smooth.

Add food coloring and mix well.

Dip your sandwich cookies into the icing, using a spoon to cover at least half of the cookie. Gently lay the cookie down on the cookie sheet and decorate!

Once your cookies are decorated, place the cookie sheet into your freezer for 15-20 minutes until icing is firm.

Remove from freezer.

Gently squeeze the top of your straw to make it flat at one tip. Insert this flat part slightly into the cookie (about 1/4 – 1/2 inch). Repeat with remaining cookies.

Place your firecracker cookies in a rice filled vessel until it’s time to chow down and enjoy!

I hope you all have a safe and happy 4th of July holiday!

xo, Nicole

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A Patriotic Tablescape for July 4th

While we won’t be celebrating the fourth of July in the traditional sense in Italy, I know many of you are gearing-up for a few days of festive fun at home. Whether you’re planning a cook-out at your house or headed to a friend’s home, I wanted to give you a bit of July 4th inspiration.

A few years ago, I created a patriotic tablescape for guests. I used red, white, and blue of course, but I also added a few pops of silver. The silver streamers add the cutest fourth of July flare and mimic sparklers.

The video above covers a few of my other favorite ideas for setting a great table as well as some tips for keeping drinks in order and some ideas for nibbles and treats too. Take a look and let me know what your 4th of July plans are in the comments!

xx Annette

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Italy Workshop excursions :: Custom Textile Studio in Florence – meet Margherita Pandolfini

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One of the many wonderful things about conducting creative retreats in Italy is all of the available talent around our area. Florence is about 2 hours from our doorstep; it’s a beautiful drive or train ride, so the time just speeds by.

I was contacted by the lovely and talented textile designer Margherita Pandolfini, and she invited me to bring my workshop to her gorgeous studio on the outskirts of Florence, located in the middle of the most beautiful courtyard I’ve ever seen. Sometimes opportunities appear that are just unreal here in Italy. Margherita, greeted us at the meticulously handpainted door which foreshadowed the magical storybook journey through the courtyard up some rickety stairs into her surreal world high a top a centuries old building. The loft studio had the most glorious view of the Villa courtyard and gardens. It was a courtyard that could inspire anyone to create beautiful, whimsical, playful patterns of her and her partner’s company MK Textiles and Atelier. Sometimes the wonky creative spaces are by far the most inspiring to me. This space was one of those places that spoke to me.

Margherita, set up painting stations for our attendees, and then gave a brief demo, so we had plenty of time to paint our own cloth bags. As the birds chirped and the sun shined on the incredible view, we happily painted away all morning long.

Please make sure to visit their site and if you have the chance schedule a time to visit.

I have invited Margherita and her partner to Atlanta to speak at Americasmart, too, so please stay tuned for those dates.

In the meantime, look for these beautiful textiles out and about in London and Florence.

xx Annette

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Greetings from Italy!

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Ciao everybody! Greetings from Italy! If you follow me on my instagram feeds, you know that I have been BUSY!!! Honestly, that’s an understatement. Busy getting everything in ship shape for our upcoming workshops and photoshoots.

It feels like I have been here for 3 months, but it’s only been 2 weeks with all that we have accomplished on getting everything from the new renovation ready for guests and attendees.

The guest quarters are ready to house everyone all comfy and cozy. It’s been a lot of fun pulling all the decor together with a little (a lot) of help from our friends. Steve and Jill McKenzie helped with styling touches and great advice. Look for their guest post coming up soon! Let’s just say we are excited to welcome them back in September for Steve’s abstract painting workshop in the Italian countryside. We had some great brainstorming sessions as we were busy fixing up the guest quarters.

The commercial kitchen is ready for some cooking action. Here’s where we will cook, offer cooking lessons to workshop attendees and of course have breakfast every morning.

Teri Mammini, our private chef, and I worked our tushes off to make sure the kitchen is perfection. We are really going to enjoy working in this beautiful place all season.

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To say that putting all of this together was daunting is an understatement, but it has been worth every bit of sweat every step along the way.

Our Strictly Styling Workshop is underway. Head to my instagram account to check out all the best bits. I will be back with a recap of every adventure and workshop experience soon on the blog.

xx Annette

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How to Style Your Outdoor Space

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As most of you know, I have been styling interiors for more than 20 years, however sometimes my jobs take me outdoors. I love styling outdoors, but there are a few hard and fast rules you might want to keep in mind when styling outside. Whether you’re planning to photograph your outdoor space, or you’re simply looking to spruce things up, today’s tips will certainly help you create a magazine worthy space.

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1.  Incorporate greenery. Use potted plants to anchor your space, but avoid using a lot of small colorful plants. Instead, think substantial, but not too large. When thinking of scale and proportion, remember it’s about the house and not the plants or accessories.

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2. Don’t over accessorize. Use accessories that make sense. Stay away from using too many throws or blankets, pillows, lanterns or candles, elk horns, wine glasses, you get the picture. These items are certainly ones that you’ll find day to day in your space, but they don’t need to live there permanently.

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3. Remember the Magic TriangleThis is especially important if you are styling your outdoor space for a photoshoot, but the rule also applies if you are simply setting-up your space for yourself. In the case of outdoor styling, this is a great trick to keep everything in balance. Your triangle will give you a starting point in an environment that can be overwhelming. In the above photo, you will see a thin triangle of red props. Can you spot them?

4. Choose smart materials. Think about items that can withstand the elements. That means choosing things like indoor/outdoor fabrics for pillows, rust-resistant furniture, and outdoor rugs. You’ll be surprised at the items available on the market these days. Ballard Designs and Ikea often have great selections!

Photo 1: Rob Brinson

Photo 2: Anthony Masterson

Photo 3: Reed Davis

Photo 4: Lauren Rubinstein

Styling By: Annette Joseph for Meredith publications

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