Tag Archives: Behind the Scenes

Yoga for 30 Days

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Adriene and her dog Benji

As I told you in my first post of 2021, I have been practicing yoga for a year. I have always loved yoga, but I never practiced regularly. I did a lot of Bikram Hot Yoga in the 2000s. I mainly did yoga to counter balance my rigorous workouts. I was a long-distance runner for 30 years. I also did triathlons and biathlons for 10 years. I rowed for 15 years. Yep, I was a crazy person. But with 2020 being more challenging than training for a triathlon ever was, I looked to something calming, and meditative. I turned my attention to yoga.

My son who lives in Austin, Texas, introduced me to an Austin Yogi. Yoga with Adriene. I think it was one of the best gifts in 2020. I practice at least 5 times a week. Yesterday, I started a 30-Day practice, called Breathe. I find Adriene very approachable; I can do almost all of her videos, and there are so many choices. Her yoga sessions are not intimidating; they are of various lengths and focuses, so I do them regularly. I think picking a practice that you can do makes you want to do them. It’s as simple as that. Her practice is also available on Amazon

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I highly suggest that you start a daily ritual of some sort since staying home is so important in the next months. We will get through this, but January and February will be very challenging months. Daily meditation and self-care will be key to mental and physical well being. Won’t you practice with me? Let me know how it goes and how you like Adriene in the comments. Love you guys x

Note* this is not a sponsored post, all opinions are my own.

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2020 What can I say…

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When we welcomed 2020, we had no idea what the year had in store, nor could we have imagined it. As always, we celebrated with our family at a restaurant, but little did we know it would probably be the last restaurant visit all together of the entire year.

Frank and I went to our home in Italy as we always do in February, although the Corona Virus had already taken hold in Italy, we were blissfully unaware of how devastating it would be—how deadly how frightening 2020 would be. Frank left early, and I was 2 days behind leaving behind any notion of working on La Fortezza Cookbook winter chapter photoshoot.

As I write this blog post, help is on the way. The FDA has just authorized the use of a vaccine and is distributing it. I watched as the Vice President, his wife and the Surgeon General took the vaccine on live television. I am hoping that people will take it as well and this nightmare will be behind us. In the meantime we still have to pay close attention and alter our behavior until we are all vaccinated. I have always worn a mask, and distanced. I am a germophobe, so I wash my hands constantly. Of course, I am lucky to work at home, so I have very little contact with people in general. The only thing that’s changed is no restaurants, no dinner parties, and sadly, no workshops.

I am looking forward to heading back to Italy in February to continue photographing my latest book, La Fortezza Cookbook with David Loftus and our tiny EU, British crew. Since the US is still not allowed into Italy, for now, we will stick to a local group of pros. We have Rosie Scott a food-stylist from London, along with our Italian chef Leo. They will make up the food prep and styling team. Barbara Pederzini will continue as prop mistress, and production advisor once again.

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I am excited to finally get the winter chapter under my belt. I will stay to shoot the spring chapter in June, and IIwill be staying Italy until late fall. Frank will come back and forth since he’s a medical worker, a doctor, he will be vaccinated early. I am relieved that he will be safe.

I am pretty sure things will be looking up in the fall and all of our scheduled Workshops and Retreats will go on. It is going to be an amazing workshop roster. Bill Abranowicz will be back along with Ros Atkinson Her Dark Materials, and Our Slow Food Experience, if you’re interested in joining us, hurry because it’s almost sold out. An Olive Eccentric Experience will be once again on the schedule. I can’t wait to welcome our groups.

From my family to yours and from the La Fortezza team.

Happy Healthy 2021, see you at La Fortezza, see you in Italia! Speriamo. XO

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Homemade Salted Caramel Candies

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Hi Everyone! It’s Nicole, Annette’s web-manager and friend, and like many of you, I am counting down the hours until Christmas vacation. This year, thanks to the pandemic, I was hoping to lean into a relaxing holiday season. Ironically, while parties and gatherings have been canceled, I have still found myself wrapped-up in the usual holiday bustle. I’m truly hoping that by next week, I can take a welcome break from my computer, settle in with some holiday movies, and relax.

One of the things that I’m hoping to do during my holiday nesting is bake something…anything. As a cookbook author and entertaining expert, Annette has a ton of recipes in her repertoire. I asked her for a suggestion, and she sent over Martha Stewart’s homemade salted caramel candies, a recipe she has successfully made before.

I love this suggestion for two reasons: caramels will last well beyond the expiration date of a cookie, cake or pie, and I can also package them up for friends and neighbors. Who doesn’t love a sweet porch surprise?! I’m hoping to try these homemade salted caramel candies next week. Let me know if you do too!

xo Nicole

Homemade Salted Caramel Candies

You will need:
– Vegetable oil, for baking sheet
– 2 cups heavy cream
– 2 1/4 cups sugar
– 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
– 1 1/4 cups light corn syrup
– 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
– 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

To prepare:
Lightly brush bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheet with oil. Line with parchment, leaving a 2-inch overhang on long sides; lightly brush parchment with oil.

Bring cream, sugar, butter, and corn syrup to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium-high; cook, stirring occasionally, until caramel reaches 248 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 15 minutes.

Immediately remove caramel from heat, and stir in salt and vanilla. Pour caramel onto baking sheet, and let stand, uncovered, at room temperature at least 8 hours and up to 1 day.

Lifting by parchment overhang, transfer caramel to a large cutting board. Cut into 3/4-by-1 1/4-inch pieces; wrap each piece in waxed paper or cellophane.

Recipe by Martha Stewart.

Photo by Heidi Geldhauser

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It’s the Little Things

This year more than any other, I think that the holidays will be about the little things. We will all be staying home, and cooking for a small crowd. What better time to try new things, like new recipes, and new ways to make your table setting really special? Below, I’m sharing a few ways to really make the holiday season special.

Flower Arranging:
How about honing your flower arranging skills. I personally love combining grocery store flowers and pumpkins and gourds, with branches and herbs I forage from the garden every year. It’s a great time to use an unexpected vessel, like an old pitcher or a soup tureen.

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Here are some easy tips on flower arranging:

While it might seem like a daunting task, arranging your own flowers can be simple yet stunning, and honestly, nothing gives me more pleasure than to arrange flowers for my own home or parties. If you follow a few easy steps, you’ll be arranging your own flowers in no time!

When beginning the design process, I start with what’s available at my local market (and even Trader Joe’s!), and I try to select a strong color theme. Selecting just one color flower, but choosing several varieties in that same color, is an easy way to pack a punch without a lot of thought. It honestly cuts way down on the stress, especially if you’re not quite ready for combining colors.

Step one: clean the bottom of the stems, and make a fresh cut.

Step two: place all the fillers in your container. For this arrangement, I’ve chosen a pitcher for my container, and Queen Anne’s Lace and Baby’s Breath as fillers.

Step three: add in your larger blooms. Be sure to work your way around the vase or pitcher. Either move around the table as you work, or spin your container to make sure your stems are even.

Step four: step back and fluff your arrangement as needed. Try to change the water every 2-3 days, and cut the stems on a diagonal every few days, too. This will keep your arrangement fresh and pretty! You can add the gourds and pumpkins around the table, maybe add a few smaller vases as well strewn around the table. More is more and more is better.

Making a Charcuterie Board:

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Create a special Charcuterie Board for your family. I usually prepare this as lunch. It’s super fun to design and even more, fun to eat. You can nibble while your main course cooks. Great if you’re watching games or working on a puzzle.

Setting the Table:

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This is R. Woods Tablescape small but lovely

I think that setting the table with a glass of wine in hand the night before is always fun. I like to put on some festive music and take my time.

Some of my go-to affordable table sources are Zara Home, Ikea, and Pottery Barn. Every year I try to buy some little addition to my table. This year I bought more candlesticks just to make the table even more glowy and happy. I also ordered some new colorful table wares from my friend potter Rebecca Wood, she also offers Ikebana Floral Lessons if you’re interested.

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This a table from the Zara Home Collection

My takeaway message is to make it special even if this year is so much different than every other year. Count your blessings and stay safe. Next year will be a big year to celebrate all the sacrifices we made. Keep the faith and keep your distance. And use this extra time to learn a craft and next year you’ll be a decorating pro. Happy Holidays.

xx Annette

 

 

 

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DIY Hanging Wreath

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I love the idea of doing a holiday table under our patio arbor, especially this year. As I discussed, I’m discouraging holiday gatherings, but I’m absolutely encouraging sprucing up your home for the season. It will bring you so much joy. Plus, if the weather allows, you can take your family dinner outdoors.

I got my inspiration for this set-up from Swedish Christmas design. It’s always so simple; paired down and classic.

This DIY for a hanging wreath is easy and really pretty. It looks so much more complicated than it is. Happy Holidays!

To Create:

1. Form the garland into a circle.

2. Secure the wreath in 3 places with floral wire.

3. Attach the ornaments with twine.

4. Using 4 pieces of ribbon about 3 feet long, tie the wreath to your light fixture or chandelier. Note: this can be suspended from the ceiling with longer pieces of ribbon or with hooks.

xx

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