Workshops: Summer 2018 Updates

I cannot believe that we’re just a few months away from embarking on our second summer of workshops at La Fortezza. If you follow along on Instagram, you’ve probably noticed that we’re in the thick of renovating our guest quarters. They will hopefully be done soon, just in time for our guests.

If you’re considering coming to Italy this summer, we’d love to have you. There isn’t anything like summer in Italy. While I might be partial, I can assure you that you’ll agree with me. Our location is just a short drive from just about anything you could possibly want: beaches, historic towns, mountains, quaint spots – it’s all at your fingertips.

We have just a few spots left in several of our workshops. While some of our events have already sold out, we do have a few spaces left (and a few surprises, too!) in the following workshops:

Screen Shot 2018-02-07 at 2.49.48 PM

My June 6 – 11, 2018 Strictly Styling Workshop will be the traditional styling workshop we’ve offered over the years and will feature two AWESOME guest instructors and stylists that you are going to love: Joanna Hawley & Eliza Honey.

Joanna Hawley is a Seattle-based blogger, stylist, and digital influencer. After graduating from Carnegie Mellon with a degree in Industrial Design, she worked as a product designer and trend scout for Nordstrom and Anthropologie before turning her keen eye to the online space. Her talent for curation has earned her a Pinterest following that totals 3.8 million, and her frank, funny, and fashion-forward approach to content creation has made her site a go-to resource for modern yet casual lifestyle inspiration. When she’s not documenting her renovation misadventures, she’s mostly likely sailing the Puget Sound with her wiener dog companions.

An ex-editor at goop (yes, that goop!) and at Elle Decoration UK, Eliza Honey has made the fulfilling switch to floristry at the legendary Harper & Tom’s in London.  Her focus is on arrangements and installations with a wild, naturalistic and joyful feel.

Screen Shot 2018-02-07 at 2.49.31 PM


We also have a few spots left in our Figurative Photography workshop with renowned photographer, Harriet Leibowitz. We will provide the experience, the models, the location, the instruction and the motivation to make memorable and magnificent images.  With our experienced male and female figurative models, you will have the opportunity to create beautiful and unique work involving the human body.

We’ve been working to create the most amazing experiences imaginable. Our location at La Fortezza in Tuscany offers breathtaking vistas and intimate interiors. Every detail has been created with photo shoots in mind. There will be technical instruction to maximize our creative vision. We will dine on chef created organic food from the garden, drink wine from the vineyards and indulge in all that Italy offers.

Screen Shot 2018-02-07 at 2.50.01 PM

Finally, join me along with premiere Southern wedding and event professionals, Master Florist/Event Designer, Kim Cheney, and Luxury Fine Art Wedding Photographer, Donna Von Bruening at our Tuscan Wedding Workshop. Our exclusive instructors to share their knowledge and insight on storytelling, creating and documenting the perfect celebration or wedding.

This intimate workshop is for creative minds seeking inspiration, world travelers looking for a new experience abroad and wedding and event professionals looking to broaden their palette and build their portfolio. You will enjoy hands-on experience mixed with lively lectures and one-on-one instruction throughout the week. Expand your visual language and hone your artistic voice to tell stories that arouse emotion whether you are setting a table for your own special guests or seeking to enhance your professional portfolio.  For inspiration and fun, you will scour super-secret Italian flea markets for special props, enjoy Italian dinners al fresco while mingling with creative and industry professionals. It’s truly a creative retreat – a picturesque place to recharge and refresh.

We truly have a workshop for everyone this summer. Come along and experience Italy in a creative, life-changing way. We’d love to have you!

xx Annette

All behind the scenes Events how to be a stylist Instagram italy my picks Notes from Italy Personal photography photostyling photostyling like a pro renovation in italy style lessons stylist tips The Fortress tips from a stylist Travel Tuscany Uncategorized Workshops : Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Galentine’s Day Cocktail: Pink Mimosa


Parks and Recreation‘s Leslie Knope coined the term “Galentine’s Day” eight years ago, and ever since it’s become just as much a part of Valentine’s Day traditions as chocolates. A few years ago, I teamed-up with a few of my favorite gals for a Galentine’s Day brunch full of festive fun and of course, lots of pink.


One of my favorite results of that party was a new twist on a classic drink: the pink mimosa. Made with pomegranate juice, grapefruit juice, and bubbly, this pink mimosa is perfectly ladylike, but I’m sure guys will love it too.

Let me know if you give it a try for Galentine’s Day, or any other event coming up this spring.


xx, Annette

Grapefruit and Pomegranate Mimosas
Serves 6
You will need:

– ½ cup granulated sugar
– ½ cup water
– 2 cups grapefruit juice*
– 1 cup pomegranate juice – such as POM
– 1 bottle Rose Champagne, well chilled
– Pomegranate arils to garnish

To prepare:

Heat the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat – until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and cool completely. Refrigerate until cold – at least 2 hours. Combine the simple syrup, grapefruit juice, and pomegranate juice in a large pitcher and chill for at least 1 hour.

Combine 2 ounces of the grapefruit mixture with 4 ounces of the chilled rose in a champagne flute. Garnish with a few pomegranate arils.

*Fresh squeezed grapefruit juice is simply stunning in this festive take on a traditional mimosa, but for a time-saver look for fresh squeezed grapefruit juice in the produce section of your local market.

Photography by Lesley Graham
Recipes Meghan Splawn

All celebration Cocktail of the Week Cocktails cooking dinner party Entertaining Events Holiday Holiday Entertaining Recipes Uncategorized valentine's day valentines day : Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Big Game Recipe:: Sausage and Peppers

The Big Game is this weekend, and this recipe is perfect for those of you planning to watch. When hosting a party for the Big Game, easy recipes fit for a crowd is key. Keep it masculine, sporty, simple, and in season with my Sausage and Peppers recipe. It’s perfect for a crowd because you essentially toss everything together, pop it in the oven, and serve it right from the baking dish. No fuss required!

Here’s the recipe which is from Picture Perfect Parties, my cookbook. Give it a try and let me know what you think. May the best team win!

Layout 1

Sausage and Peppers for a Crowd
Serves 8
You will need:

– 6 Italian sausage
– 2 red peppers sliced
– 2 hot banana peppers sliced
– 1 jalapeno pepper minced
– 2 green peppers sliced
– 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
– 4 cloves of garlic minced
– ¼ cup olive oil
– 1 teaspoon salt

To prepare:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Slice the peppers and the sausage into bite size pieces. In a large bowl toss all the ingredients and mix well. Place mixture into a ceramic baking dish. Bake for 1 ½ hours and serve warm. Garnish with assorted herbs like rosemary, parsley, oregano, or chives.

All books celebration cookbook collection cooking dinner party Entertaining Events Fall Food fall menus great easy menus Parties party tips Picture Perfect Parties Recipes Uncategorized : Tags: , , , , , ,

2017 Holiday Gift Guide

'Tis the season for giving! I always have so much fun rounding up gifts for you, and this year my 2017 holiday gift guide is no different.

‘Tis the season for giving! I always have so much fun rounding up gifts for you, and this year my 2017 holiday gift guide is no different. Below, you’ll find some of my favorite prezzies for everyone on your list, no matter what your budget might be.

It should be no surprise that among my favorite gifts this year is an Italian workshop. It goes without saying that a trip to Italy for one of my workshops would make a fabulous gift, right? If you know of someone who’s itching to travel, nudge them in the right direction with an AJS Workshop gift card. I’d love to have them come along on next summer’s adventure!

Gift Guide 2017:

Get Happy Organic Body Wash: With scents like geranium and peppermint in this body wash, it would make any receiver happy!


Furla Bubble Keyring: Fluffy, feathery, and fabulous, this keyring is bound to put a smile on anyone’s face. It would make a fun stocking stuffer, too!

Dr. Jart Bright Lover Rubber Mask: These masks are not only fun to try, but they work well, too. As you know, I love a mask, and this one is one of my favorites.


All-Clad Gourmet Slow Cooker: Slow cookers are great to have on-hand in the winter for soups, stews, and other yummy recipes. Add this one to a friend’s repertoire to keep their kitchen chic.

Martha Stewart’s Slow Cooker Cookbook: Of course no slow cooker gift is complete without a slow cooker cookbook, and Martha’s is recipe gold.


Salt & Pepper Grinders: Any home chef will love a set of sleek, streamlined salt and pepper grinders. I love the idea of pairing these with your favorite specialty salt for a gift that wows.

Star-dusted Passport Holder: Every jet-setter needs a passport holder. Pair this one with a gift card to one of our workshops for an unforgettable gift.

If you need more ideas for great gifts, especially for the guys in your life, check out Men’s Health and Esquire. Their gift guides were so good, I couldn’t top them, so I wanted to share them with you.

Happy holidays!

xx Annette

All christmas gifts Crushing On Entertaining Events Holiday Holiday Entertaining holiday guide Holidays last minute gifts Personal shelter Uncategorized wishlist : Tags: , , , , , , , ,

All About Olives Workshop Recap


What can I say? Our All About Olives Workshop went off without a hitch. Perfect group, perfect weather, and perfect instructors, Emily Followill and Alisa Barry.


This is Emily’s second time teaching with us in Italy, and it will not be the last time. She’s an amazing teacher and mentor, and most of all, she’s a just a wonderful person to be around. She had many lessons for our attendees and was most importantly loads of fun.


We enjoyed hiking through the olive grove and seeing the olive harvest in full swing. Our picnic in the olive grove after a long morning trekking was picture perfect. It included the ever popular brown butter chocolate chip cookies, Teri’s super secret recipe. Let’s just say they are the best cookie I have every tasted, and our attendees agreed. A beautiful vegetable torta baked by Alisa was a special treat while we enjoyed the sunshine on our faces. We also stuffed ourselves with homemade focaccia sandwiches, so thanks to Teri, we could barely get up to go to our cooking lesson that afternoon with Alisa. I think we would have all loved a nice nap under the olive trees.

IMG_1224 IMG_1225

Saturday we all went to see the olives pressed. We had tastes of the fresh press and of course, stocked up on fresh olive oil to take home.



In a tiny village, we enjoyed a tour of a small family winery and then an amazing lunch in the family owned restaurant where 2 sisters run the show. We had crepes filled with nettles and pasta with sausage and greens, housemade wine, and delicate desserts with strong espresso to wash it down. It was the most incredible little lunch stop for our group.


The workshop was a smashing success. I made new friends and reconnected with old friends as we had several attendees who had returned. It really makes me happy that people want to join us again and again. I love welcoming everyone, and I love leisurely suppers where everyone shares stories and dreams and goals. My goal next season is to have everyone join us and experience our tiny piece of heaven here in the Italian countryside. Until then, ci vediamo spero a presto xx


All behind the scenes cooking dream home Entertaining Events Fall Food fall menus Food styling gardening how to be a stylist italian cooking italy Meet the Team Notes from Italy Personal photography photostyling photostyling like a pro secrets on how to become a stylist style lessons Styling stylist tips The Fortress tips from a stylist Travel Tuscany Uncategorized Workshops : Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,