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Announcing 2020 Workshops and Retreats: run don’t walk to sign up!

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Run don’t walk to sign up for 2020 La Fortezza Workshops and Retreats. I feel like this year we have hit the sweet spot with our selections. Photography and styling are, as always, center stage, but we also have a great selection of workshops that highlight the unique part of Italy we call home. You’re going to love it.

Check the selection. I am sure there is something for you with us in Italy.

Click here to see the full descriptions. Keep in mind we have limited spaces, and private rooms are first-come, first-serve. I am so excited to head back to La Fortezza in May to prepare for these amazing experiences.

Please feel free to email me if you have any questions, in the meantime, have a look below and grab a spot! See you in Italy x

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Festive Halloween Charcuterie

SpookyCharcuterie4 I chose pickled okra instead of gherkins because they reminded me of a witches' fingers.

Hi Everyone! It’s Nicole, Annette’s web-manager and friend, and I am taking over the blog today to bring you a spooky charcuterie spread for Halloween. Annette and I both love Halloween, and we’re always looking for ways to celebrate. I pulled together this easy, cheesy, festive Halloween charcuterie a few years ago, and it’s still one of my favorite posts.

Over the years, Annette has done some pretty phenomenal charcuterie spreads, and she even has a step-by-step guide to creating one yourself. I used her post as a starting point for my grocery shopping. It was so nice to be able to make a shopping list directly from her post.

SpookyCharcuterie1 The "cauldrons" are actually tiny copper food prep bowls, and the "witches broom" breadsticks are held in a skeleton drinking glass.

One pro tip is to make sure that you get food-safe containers for your own spooky charcuterie spread. The “cauldrons” are actually tiny copper food prep bowls, and the “witches broom” breadsticks are held in a skeleton drinking glass.

SpookyCharcuterie3 The end result is a spooky charcuterie spread that is sure to be a hit at your next party!

As I shopped for remaining accouterments, I kept the Halloween theme in mind. I chose pickled okra instead of gherkins because they reminded me of a witches’ fingers. I added dried apricots (a tip from Annette’s post) because they are a lovely shade of orange. I decided on prosciutto because it’s so fatty and veiny.

The end result is a spooky charcuterie spread that is sure to be a hit at your next party! If you really want to carry the theme throughout, add some festive bottles of red wine. The Prisoner is one of my favorites and quite on-theme, too!

Thanks for having me, Annette, and Happy (almost) Halloween, everyone!

xo, Nicole

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Decadent Grilled Cheese

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Is there anything better on a fall day than sitting down to nosh on grilled cheese? Honestly, I’m not sure there is. Grilled cheese is one of those comfort foods that is always good, but it can be made even better if you gather top-notch ingredients. I like to use unexpected cheese and unique condiments. Oh, and bacon…because everything is better with bacon. Meet the decadent grilled cheese.

This sandwich would be perfect with a bowl of soup or chili on a crisp fall day. If you have guests over, set-up a station allowing them to create their own sandwiches mixing and matching ingredients while you man the grilling station. Interactive foods are always so much fun for a party.

You can also cut these into quarters and serve them as an appetizer or finger food. How fun is that?!

This recipe is from my first book, Picture Perfect Parties, and the photo on this post is from a fabulous party that Design Sponge threw a few years ago using Picture Perfect Parties as a guide.

Decadent Grilled Cheese with Brie, Crispy Bacon, and Apricot Jam
serves 6

You will need:
– 1 loaf challah bread
– 6 pieces bacon cooked and crumbled
– 1 12 oz. wheel brie cheese
– 6 tablespoons apricot jam, 1 tablespoon per sandwich
– 6 tablespoons butter softened 1 tablespoon per sandwich

To prepare:

Cook bacon until crisp in the oven at 400 degrees F, drain set aside.

Slice challah into 12 slices. Assemble the sandwiches. Place crumbled bacon , thin slice of brie, and apricot jam on the bread, place another slice of bread on top forming a sandwich. Butter the top and repeat until you have made 6 sandwiches.

In a heated sauté pan place sandwiches butter side down, butter the top half. Cook until golden brown, flip and cook the other side. Continue until all the sandwiches are done. Let set for 1 minute and cut sandwiches into quarters.

Serve at room temperature.

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Fabulous Fall Centerpiece: make it once but use it twice!

IMG_9427 I love fall, it’s such a beautiful season. I love the color palette. With autumn officially setting in, it’s time to place some fall decor around your home. One secret you may not know about me is that I don’t love loud Halloween decor. I love the combination of orange and black, but Halloween overkill makes me dizzy. As far as decor goes, I adore changing out the house for the season, and fall is one of the best.

As for an expert tip? I like to combine Halloween and Thanksgiving decor when I can. Here’s how I create a fabulous fall centerpiece:

The nice thing about decorating for both Halloween and Thanksgiving is that you simply remove the scary stuff early November and leave the rest. That is until you are ready for holiday/Christmas decor!

Centerpieces are my passion. Here’s the one I did a few years back for my own table. As you can see, it’s festive and fall-ish with a little Halloween flair.
IMG_9421 copy – a collection of ceramic tureens or vessels, I like white or cream
– a selection of fall flowers, I used hydrangeas and they will dry nicely
– 3 small pumpkins about 4 inches in diameter
– 1 bunch of bittersweet branches
– dried thistle
– 1 blackbird
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Have fun with it! Layer as you go and let the process take over.

xx Annette

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Our First Ever La Fortezza Antiques and Merchants of Italy Shopping Retreat

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Ciao Tutti! We had amazing whirlwind of a week with our first ever La Fortezza Antiques and Merchants of Italy Shopping Retreat. My co-leader Lisa Burnett of Inner Pieces Inc. could not have been a better partner in crime. We hosted 7 lovely ladies and toured them all over the Italian countryside, to shop and meet local artisans and vendors that I love. It was an insiders shopping tour that was both exciting and informative.

Every day there were new destinations and some surprises. We could not have asked for a more fun group of ladies. Even though they did not know each other before, I think some solid bonds were formed. We danced, drank, made pasta and enjoyed the beautiful fall weather on the terrace.

Of course, there was a pizza party where a few of our attendees tried their hand at making pizza in the pizza oven. We loved sharing information about how and why we choose certain props, discussed searching for antiques and loved shopping at my super secret locations. Lisa spent a couple of extra days, so we checked out some of her Italian vendors and hope to expand the shopping experience next year.

We will be conducting this retreat again in 2020 because it had such an overwhelming response when we posted it. Since we still have 50 people on the waitlist from last year, we have decided to do this retreat for 2 consecutive weeks in 2020. If you are interested in joining us and want first dibs sign up for the newsletter. We will be sending a private mailing to our list before the workshop goes public.

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grazie Lisa you’re simply the best! x

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We only have 6 spots available in each retreat, so this shopping retreat very limited. We have decided to vary the schedule in case some of you want to join us for both weeks. We have so much to show you. I cannot express how wonderful it is to meet like-minded shoppers, who share the love of beautiful things. As a prop stylist, I have to say sharing my resources with our groups gives me great joy. Thank you again to my most talented and lovely friend, Lisa. x Let’s shop ’til we drop in 2020.

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