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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Tabletop {Masterclass} at Summerill and Bishop New School in London

S&B School

When Summerhill and Bishop asked me to come teach their first ever Masterclass at their new school in London last week, I was honored and thrilled. Summerill and Bishop is located in the most gorgeous neighborhood at 100 Portland Road near Notting Hill. If you’re in London, make a point of stopping by and if time allows, take a class.

S&B School

Okay so here’s the scoop:

When I arrived the day before my class, the school was, well, quite frankly a construction site. A beautiful space with patina walls, large industrial lighting but not quite finished. Talk about down to the wire…

However, once I met the amazing staff at S&B School, I knew everything would be in place and ready to roll by Thursday night at 6:30pm…and I was right.

Eliza and Marcelo made sure everything would be in place; what an amazing team!

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After an early morning trip to the New Covent Garden Flower Market for my floral craft project, we were ready to go. Btw, the wholesale flower market was a highlight and not unlike any other flower wholesaler. It was filled with beauty and very funny snarky vendors, but here in London they have adorable English accents.

S&B School

Summerhill and Bishop, quite honestly, has one of the most comprehensive selections of handmade linens I have ever seen, and every other chic thing you would need for your table. And yes, as you can only imagine, I went nuts. Let’s say that there will be some very very pretty props for my next workshop in Italy. The selection of tabletop is beautiful, chic, and approachable. Fair to say if I lived in London, it would be my go-to prop shop. The good news is I can order online and ship everything. Don’t you just love that?

S&B School

Thursday night, the school was filled with nibbles, wine, lovely ladies, and lots of lively banter about setting your table for the upcoming holidays. I talked about how to be prepared, basics of organization, how to produce your party like a pro, and how to create a beautiful flower arrangement in an unlikely vessel, like a juice glass. With our juice glasses in hand, we crafted a votive and vase project using seed paper and raffia. We filled the vase with a beautiful floral arrangement, and even made a place card and take home gift for guests. These are just a few clever solutions for the table using a simple juice glass. You all know that’s the way I like to do it!

S&B School

Punch holes with a hole puncher in a belly band of seed paper that is wrapped around the juice glass tied with raffia. This craft project is the perfect votive holder and vase to parade down the middle of your holiday table. Easy to make and so impressive.

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Everyone was so enthusiastic about making a floral arrangement, plus they got to take it home at the end of class. We finished up the class by making my no bake dessert: a Raspberry Cannoli in a glass using the same small juice glass we made our votive vase project with. Unlikely vessels with brilliant results. My basic juice glass project 3 ways was a big hit.

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As you know, in my cookbook Picture Perfect Parties, I have tons of easy and brilliant craft ideas plus delicious recipes to make all your parties unique and special with that personal touch.

Thank you to everyone  at the S&B School; you all were so delightful, and I feel like we are a family. Thank you for making me feel so welcome in your home.  A special THANK YOU to Seb for coming-up with this brilliant way of connecting creatively. My prediction is that this school will be a HUGE success. Seb, Thanks for letting me be the first.  xx until next time…

S&B School

A bit about the School:

The S&B School:

The school is run by the charismatic chef, Marcelo de Campos.

Marcelo is West London’s best kept secret, and the man behind some of the most exclusive dinner parties and events in town, and he’s bringing his know-how exclusively to us here at School.  Having worked in some of the best kitchens in the world—from Gordon Ramsay’s, to Claus Meyer’s (of Noma fame), to the hallowed halls of Claridges, to some of the most exclusive private London residences—he’s not only a chef, but a trained expert in l’art de recevoir. And, with his Brazilian roots, he brings a sense of fun and warmth to everything he touches.

Sign up for the S&B School newsletter here:

All classes require booking, with a maximum of 12 people per class. We offer a range of class times, listed below:

Tuesdays
10:00 – 11:30 am
1:30 – 3:00 pm

Thursdays
10:00 – 11:30 am
1:30 – 3:00 pm
6:30 – 8:30 pm

Prices from £70 per class

Please contact school@summerillandbishop.com or call +44 (0) 20 0001 3415 for more information on classes.

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Easy Fall Centerpiece:: Menu Vase DIY

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Wednesday, September 23rd marks the first day of fall. Transitioning your home from summer vibrancy to fall hues can be a bit of a challenge, especially in a month like September. October and November lend themselves so easily to decor because of the holidays within them, but September is a totally different story. If you’re anything like me, you’re eager to make a few changes, but aren’t quite sure where to begin.

This fall centerpiece is definitely an easy fix to get your table in the autumn spirit.  One of the parties in my cookbook, Picture Perfect Parties Rizzoli NY, is all about Sunday Supper. Sunday Supper is a staple at the Josephs; people gathered on Sunday includes our family and our friends. The entire point of Sunday Supper is to hang out enjoy comfort foods and wrap-up the weekend. So give it a whirl! You’ll love this tradition as much as we do.

This DIY is perfect for Sunday supper, and it would be perfect for Thanksgiving. You will use this great addition to your table scape again and again.

The step-by-step instructions are simple, and the items needed you probably already have on hand, and if you don’t, are easy to find. I love the texture that chalk adds to the vase. Be sure to add vibrant flowers to really make everything pop.

Have fun creating the menu vase DIY, and don’t stress if it doesn’t turn out perfectly; that’s part of the fun! BTW this is a great craft project to do with the kids, get them involved because they will be so proud when you unveil your table scape to friends. Happy Sunday Supper everyone.

Menu Vase DIY

You will need:

– Painter’s tarp
– 1 (8-inch) terra-cotta pot
– 1 chan chalkboard spray paint
– chalk
– Glass vase, slightly shorter than the terra-cotta pot
– 3 dozen fresh mums, dahlias, or other festive flower

To make:

1. Spread the tarp on a work surface in a well-ventilated space.
2. Spray the terra-cotta pot with the chalkboard paint, using 2 coats to cover, and allowing it to dry between coats.
3. Let the paint dry completely.
4. Write your menu on the pot with chalk.
5. Place a glass vase half-filled with water inside the menu pot.
6. Arrange the flowers in the glass vase and use the menu pot as a centerpiece of your table.

For this and more fun crafts run out and buy my book Picture Perfect Parties Rizzoli NY

Photo Credit: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

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DIY Wedding flowers with victory blooms

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A few weeks ago Megan from Victory Blooms came over to my house to share her process in creating a bridal bouquet (you can see my bouquets here!). I thought a step-by-step tutorial would be helpful for brides-to-be on a budget or anyone that is curious about what goes into creating a gorgeous bouquet. Megan keeps things effortlessly gorgeous with this loose, hand tied bouquet.

For this arrangement you will need:

– japanese ranunculus
– garden roses
– micro spray rose
– hellebore
– peony buds
– queen ann’s lace
– rice flower
– passiflora

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Step one: prep your flowers. You will want to remove almost all of the leaves leaving only pretty ones at the top of a few of the stems. You will also want to remove any bruised, torn or wilted petals. And, if working with roses be sure to snap off any thorns by placing your thumb at the base of the thorn and pressing it to the side. The thorns should break right off. Once your flower is prepped cut the bottom of the stem at an angle and place it in water until you are ready to assemble your bouquet.

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Step two: build up the center of your bouquet with face or focal flowers. Here Megan began with japanese ranunculus and garden roses. It’s always a good idea to follow a rule of thirds with your arrangements. Clustering three face flowers together helps to create a soft, less structured look. Another way to achieve the just picked from the garden look is to play with scale and texture. Choose lots of different flowers, berries and greens to create a natural bouquet.

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Step three: start building out around your face flowers with your textural and scale elements. To this bouquet Megan added micro spray rose, hellebore, peony buds, queen ann’s lace, rice flower and passiflora.

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Step four: even out the stems by clipping them all to the same length.

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Step five: loop a rubber band around a sturdy stem, wrap the band around the bunch and loop again. This secures the bouquet without making it too tight and bunching your flowers together too closely.

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Lovely, no?

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Step six: select a pretty ribbon. We’re loving silk at the moment. No fancy bows are needed. To keep this soft, natural look, opt for a simple knot and lots of bare stems. For an afternoon wedding short to medium tails are perfect and go all out for evening with a couple of feet of flowing silk tails. This will create lots of drama and elegance.

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Victory Blooms is a Metro Atlanta event florist that creates organically structured, romantic arrangements which incorporate whimsical elements and vintage touches, drawing inspiration from the ethereal beauty of flora and floral still lifes. Come check out Victory Blooms in person at a Mother’s Day pop-up shop located outside Sun In My Belly opening at 9am Sunday May, 11th!

photos by Lesley W Graham for Annette Joseph

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