October, 2013

all about INA

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i am sure i’m not alone in this but…i have been long obsessed with ina garten, the barefoot contessa.  i don’t really know when it started, but i venture to guess it coincided with the span of time in my 20s when i was throwing wedding showers and bachelorette weekends round the clock and needed to figure out how to feed these people, and somewhat well.  i really think my girlfriends and i all taught ourselves to cook based on her instruction.  back in the mid-2000s, the food network was just gaining mainstream popularity and the barefoot contessa show was always, in my opinion, leagues above the rest.  everything about it is perfection – a beautiful estate in the hamptons, a host who is equal parts relaxed and sophisticated, scrumptious food that is not too intimidating for any person to make, sensible hostess tips and have you SEEN her gardens where she cuts herbs and flowers??


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i mean, amazing.  and how could i forget her sweet jeffrey, who always says the dish he’s currently eating is “the best he’s ever had.”  what’s not to love!  my adoration with ina runs so deep that my girlfriends cooked only ina recipes at my baby shower, just because they knew i would love that (i have the sweetest gal pals).

so when i was trolling her website to see when her next book tour was (must’ve been a slow day), i saw that she had an atlanta date on the calendar and freaked.  she has never come to atlanta!!  i immediately emailed my friend betsey (fellow ina worshipper) with the subject line of  “OOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”  and that’s the shorthand version.  sometimes you just have to find ways to get your excitement across.  in the body of the email was approximately one thousand more exclamation points and capital letters and general heartbeat racing.  betsey notes that she is coming to the cobb energy arts centre, where her boss has connections.  she tells me thus and goes to see what she can do.  well…a day or two later, i get an email forwarded back to me WITH MY SAME SUBJECT LINE.  only it’s my email to betsey, forwarded to her boss (a 60-something year old man), forwarded to the general manager of the cobb energy arts centre, some 3-4 responses between him and her boss, and then forwarded back to betsey.  i am sure both of those men have never in their lives had an email subject line like that pop up in their inbox.  i was only slightly mortified… it was, after all, in the name of INA!  betsey was able to secure a block of tickets in the 2nd row (!!!!).  fabulous, as ina would say.

betsey planned the cutest preparty on her patio around the fire pit with wine, prosecco and ina dishes galore.  i made her jalapeno cheddar crackers and they are always a crowd pleaser!  my favorite part about them is that you can make the dough and either freeze or refrigerate it and then just bake it when you need to.  and they are SO good!

Menu_Article1i am kicking myself because i took nary a photograph at the preparty…i was just so excited!!  so many fun girlfriends, nibbles, aperitifs and stories to hear.  we departed for the theater, got a cocktail (we felt like that’s what ina would have wanted), slipped into our seats and listened with rapt attention to ina herself.  it was FANTASTIC.

ina garten atlanta

she started out by telling the story how she came to own the barefoot contessa specialty food store in the hamptons.  she didn’t know quite what she wanted to do after her gig in washington, and was cruising the business classifieds in the times when she came across the listing for the barefoot contessa store.  she and jeffrey went to visit it the next day, and submitted an offer.  she expected to negotiate back and forth a bit, but the woman called her the next day and said, “i accept your offer.”  ina said she went, “oh sh*t!”  there was about a month overlap of the former owner showing her how things run in the store, and then she was on her own, the thursday before memorial day weekend.  jeffrey counted up how much money she had made and then calculated it times the number of days they’re open minus their costs and said hmm…i don’t know if this is going to work?  the next day, friday before the long weekend, she said that when the store closed at 10 p.m., they did not have an ounce of anything left in the store at all.   absolutely everything had been wiped out and sold.  and they didn’t know what to do for the rest of the weekend!  the next morning, jeffrey heard about a good bakery in a nearby neighborhood – so he went there 1st thing in the morning and bought EVERYTHING THEY HAD.  and then did the same thing sunday and monday :)  she said the owners of that bakery probably had a great weekend at the beach!

i think she was exactly the way she is on her tv show – which she talked about a good bit.  she said that when the food network first called her to say that they were interested in having her do a tv show, she said “lose my number!”  she said she didn’t think she could do it.  her friend martha (you know…stewart) was doing it at the time, and she thought there was just no way that she was capable of doing that.  they kept coming back to her with higher offers and she said “no, no – this is not a negotiation – i just flat out am not interested!”  but then they sent her a tape of nigella lawson’s show which was filmed in her house in london, very casual, in a narrative style…and she liked it.  what she didn’t know is that the food network had already hired all of the producers from nigella’s show to come and film ina’s show.  then they basically told her they were going to do 13 episodes, they would start filming in a month and after that they could talk more.  i mean, what would we have done if they had not persevered????  i shudder to think.

some interested tidbits she shared:

– all of the food that she makes on the tv show is eaten by the crew after they’re done shooting.  she said she’s a little bit insulted if they don’t all dive in with silverware immediately!  oh, and they have professional dishwashers in the show crew.  but she says she is the dishwasher in her own house!

– before the show was filmed in her barn, it was literally in her kitchen.  jeffrey would move upstairs for 6-8 weeks at a time while they filmed a season (she said he’s a saint!) – but then they bought an adjacent property and built the barn.

– when she was thinking about what to do with her life after her government job (before she got into the food business), jeffrey told her to think about what she really loves to do….and do that.  don’t worry about the money, but just do what you really enjoy doing.  and be the best you can at that thing.  she thought about something with food because she loved cooking for her friends over the years.

– she used to cook really complicated 6-page julia child recipes, until she and jeffrey went to dinner at a single man’s house (she joked that they originally planned to eat beforehand because they thought it was going to be terrible) and he served freshly baked bread and a roasted filet of beef tenderloin, and it was all so simple…but so elegant.  she said that man had no idea what an impact he had on her, but it changed the way she thought about cooking forever.

– when asked about encountering celebrities in east hampton and through business, she said that they were always very nice (she specifically mentioned steven spielberg) and did not want any special favors, like not having to wait in line.  she heard someone say something once that it’s not how you treat the celebrity…it’s how you treat the person at the table next to them.

– she used to have a vegetable garden, but all of the veggies were getting eaten by animals!  so she transitioned it to a flower cutting garden.

– she knew she needed to do something different when someone asked her for a pound of chicken salad and she wanted to cry.  she took a year off (i presume this was when she sold the food store) and she said she was dreadfully bored.  she would make herself go to her office every morning at 9 a.m. and organize her checkbook or make a grocery list, and one of those would hopefully take all morning.  one time when jeffrey was leaving (he works at yale monday-friday every week), she was lamenting how she had nothing to do that week…nothing at all!  jeffrey said, “well surely you have something…?” she said “well, i have a manicure on wednesday but that’s it!”  i love her.  it was then that she decided to write her 1st cookbook.

– she has another cookbook coming out next year, and the general vision is still being worked on.  there will be a vanilla and maple cream of wheat recipe though!

– her favorite hostess gift to give is a box of fran’s caramels covered in chocolate.  totes ordering some of those stat.

– she uses all white dishes – she thinks they look the best.  (i actually registered for all white serving dishes based on this nugget i picked up from ina over the years – they really do look good and are so easy to match)

ok, so she took q&as from the audience and all i have to say is WOW, some people really have a broad range of what they think a good, legitimate question is.  but you know – even though we snickered through a couple, if she thought the question was bizarre, you couldn’t tell one bit.  my friend margaret and i actually stood in line to ask questions, but they closed the q&a session three people before us.  bummer!  i was going to say something about how we’re fixing to (how southern – might as well lay it on thick, right) renovate our kitchen* and i’m having a hard time convincing my husband that we NEED a viking range.**  we’ve been at odds over it, so i said that i would come here and let you settle it – so tell me ina, is it worth the splurge?

* did i tell you that we are gutting our kitchen?  yeah.  look for posts on that coming up!

** let me just clarify that unless it cost $1, rbb would never approve a viking range.  i have a hard time convincing him that a lamp should cost more than a 20 spot.

all in all, she is exactly what you would expect.  warm, funny, smart, and you pretty much want to be her bff.  or at least her niece or something.  at the end of the show, she signed a few cookbooks and then waved goodbye.  it was a wonderful evening!  after so many years of adoring ina, it was such a thrill to be there with my girls.

ina friends1st row: betsey, amy, cassie, shannon, me – 2nd row: laura, anne, ann (betsey’s stepmom), jane (betsey’s mother-in-law) – 3rd row: jeff and betsey’s family friend

also there, but not pictured: merrell, meredith, sally, margaret, annie, amanda (aka dixie delights) and anna.

SUCH a fun crowd!!  i want to do the whole night over again.  you know what was most inspirational to me – ina is in her mid 60s and at the top of her game.  life is long (if you’re lucky) and it’s never too late to follow a new dream or change courses.  just find out what you enjoy, do that, and do the very best you can.   fabulous advice, ina.




welcome to banks’ farm

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my friend shannon is a lot of things…she is my beautiful, always fashionable friend (you may recall when we both were the same amount overdressed at an indigo girls concert; her in gold lame pants and i in my fur coat), a tireless charity volunteer, the perfect hostess (ask her to make you a vodka tonic if you’re feeling brave), and the brains behind charmed jewelry.  last october, she got to add a title none of us can anticipate: a NICU mom.  her little boy banks was born with intestinal issues which required surgery after surgery and a 4 month stay in the NICU.  thankfully, banks came out on top and is now a healthy and happy ONE year old!  yea!!  clearly a big celebration was in order after a challenging but blessed year for their family.

starting with a farm theme, i whipped up an invite

farm invite

farm top

…and shannon took it from there.  let’s not forget this is the same girl who just makes pom pom fringe awnings APPEAR in her house.  behold.





IMG_9130this party was one of the best 1st birthday parties i have ever attended – so many things for the older kids to do!  between the bouncehouse, petting zoo, pony rides, arts & craft tables and snack food, my two were in heaven.  although rush took a liking to a ride-on jeep and promptly put it in turbo speed (who knew those things have a speed faster than “crawl?”) and nearly took out a cochin chicken, but that’s neither here nor there…


rinne loved the bunny.




i think he enjoyed his first taste of sugar!



IMG_9309happy 1st birthday sweet banks!  we love you and are so proud of you!!


p.s. some photos courtesy of the talented kerie cleveland photography!

a musical birthday party

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it’s friday y’all!  that is cause for some celebration…how about some a little music party action?!

my friend amy found a darling dress for her daughter in the colors of navy, red, turquoise and white…so we kicked things off with an invitation in those colors.

music birthday party invitationthe party was in her backyard, and was so darling!  she had a local music man come and lead the kids in a sweet chorus of dance and song.

IMG_5183 smallerthe party was held on a beautiful summer day.  the adults helped themselves to some cold treats during and after the music…

IMG_5167 smallerafterwards, we all enjoyed a delicious bbq meal and cupcakes, which were courtesy of sweet peeps.

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IMG_5242 smallerwe loved celebrating this precious birthday girl!

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IMG_5166 smallerhappy birthday ella perry!

and, i am so remiss in blogging, this party was over a year ago…so stay tuned for the same sweet girl’s 3rd birthday party which was just as cute! :)

have a great weekend!!!


tuesday tidbits

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greetings!  i feel like it’s been awhile…lots to catch up on!  i suppose the biggest news in this house if you ask the littlest member, is that rinne is two.  (“I TWO!”  never get tired of hearing that.)  we commemorated the occasion with cupcakes, just the four of us.  we had never done that and it was really nice to do such a simple celebration.

rinne is twoi also had to whip up some big girl notecards for her to write some thank yous to sweet friends…in love with the hearts!

little girl stationery

they are here in the etsy shop if you love the hearts too.

ok, so we are about to paint our house.  the current state is sort of a warm grey with black shutters and door, which is all fine and good.  but not me.  if you know anything about me, you know i ADORE color. bold colors.  it needs to be punched up.  not in the way of a purple door or lime green shutters, but just a little more pizzazz.  (btw, this was a real estate photo taken circa 2007 when the prior owners bought the house – not present day.  I WISH we had grass like that.)

hr1514423-1i don’t know if you can tell from the photo, but we have shingles…and painting shingles are tough.  white looks kind of odd on shingles, and grey is the next best light color to do.  but the right grey – that’s tough. and then you still need trim, shutters and door colors!  i had started looking for other shingled houses with paint colors i liked and was coming up empty, until i got out of my car at an estate sale one saturday morning (fave thing to do any day of the week!).  i glanced at the house i parked in front of and just fell in love.  such perfect paint colors, and what an adorable home!  i snapped a pic and showed it to rbb – he liked it too.  so then i threw up this photo on instagram

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…and asked on a scale of 1-10, what is the creeper level of leaving a note in a mailbox complimenting the home and asking for paint colors?  i got responses all across the board ranging from “slightly creeper…” to “oh i’ve done that and they were super nice and helpful, do it!”  so i was planning to drop a nice note in the mailbox the next morning, when one of my friends commented that she knows the wife of the couple who lives in the home, do i want her to put us in touch?  um, SO much better and eons lower on the creeper level than a note from a stranger!  within 30 minutes we were facebook messaging and she had already emailed the prior owner of the house for the paint colors.  she is a DOLL, and i had all of the paint colors in my inbox in the matter of a couple of days.  it was amazing.  isn’t life so funny?  even in this great big city we live in, we’re all connected somehow.  i love that.

oh, and NBD, but the house has been in southern living not once, but THREE TIMES.  (of course i used this as leverage with rbb saying that i clearly have excellent, extraordinary even, taste and should win any future design-oriented arguments.)


by the way, i am breaking up with pinterest.  i have come to grips with the fact that i am just not a DIYer  – i really love paying people to do things that they know how to do.  and since i can’t make anything with food dye in it (rinne = allergic), that cancels out like 95% of the cute food items i see there.  and honestly – i just do not have a desire to keep up with all types of social media.  i’m keeping the blog, facebook, and instagram.  that’s it!  no twitter, pinterest, vine, foursquare, whatever the next thing is.  who’s got the time?

but – my blog sometimes has traffic coming in from pinterest, so if a few people have clicked on a photograph, i’ll go and see what it was out of curiosity.  99 times out of 100, it’s this pin:

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ok, look past the spelling error – but there was absolutely nothing DIY about that balloon arch at rinne and billie’s 1st birthday party, and i can’t think of how disappointed people must be when they come to the blog expecting to see a DIY for an ENORMOUS balloon arch!  no, no, there are balloon professionals for that.  call them.

i will leave you with rush’s new “al pacino snoozing” impression…he’s getting pretty good.