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Friday, May 8, 2015

Lunch For Two: An Early Mother's Day Celebration

My mother is a practical woman who is also creative. When entertaining others she dips into her endless supply of imagination and energy, but when it comes to pleasing herself she truly relishes the ordinary. For instance, one of her favorite ways to unwind is a drive. The destination depends on her mood. If she's stressed, she claims the car transports her to Dunkin Donuts. She orders a small coffee with a glazed donut from the drive through. She picks it up, parks the car and with closed eyes, slowly takes a bite ... savoring each morsel. You can literally see her tune out the world. It's simple, it's easy and it's her.

Over the years, she has taught me that when it comes to entertaining, it's all about the experience of your guests. When she entertains, she truly considers whom she is serving ... right down to her guest's sensibilities, interests and tastes. This inspired me to turn the tables this Mother's Day and give her an experience that took HER sensibilities, interests and tastes into consideration. I came up with an early celebratory lunch for two that combined her passions: entertaining and the enjoyment of simple pleasures.

In this case, I assumed the role of hostess and the simple pleasure was sharing her two favorite American comfort foods: Fried Chicken and Donuts.

I wanted to keep things as simple as possible, so I decided to travel the convenient route of "take away" dining. Remarkably, there happens to be a place here in Philadelphia that offers BOTH of my mother's favorites ... the "counter-serve" restaurant, Federal Donuts. A staple in the blend of comfort food and innovation, Federal Donuts freshly and exclusively prepares creative flavors of fried chicken and donuts under one roof. When I swung open the blue door to enter into what smelled like gastro heaven, I stood at the counter and was amazed. There were so many delicious options that I couldn't decide among any of them and so I ordered one of each donut and a sampling of the various flavors of fried chicken. My mother could not believe how much food I brought home.

Purchasing and carrying home the meal was easy. It was when I got home that my real work as a hostess began.

With "store bought" or take away food, I like to make sure the plating and presentation are special. I believe that a personal touch to anything, whether homemade or not brings a feeling of warmth and thought when you're sharing a meal. The mache greens that served as a bed for the chicken, not only looked lovely, but the soft, fresh taste of the leaves were a perfect accompaniment to the different flavors of chicken without competing with the spices. Raw radishes provided a crisp, watery bite and a pop of color to the platter presentation. I admit that this particular meal was not the healthiest of options, but I believe that occasional indulgences are an important part of living life!

It was a gorgeous day and I knew we could both use some fresh air and sunshine, which prompted me to prepare our tiny city deck for its first dining alfresco inhabitants since the early fall.

I may have a passion for fine china, but my mother has a passion for quality table linen and so I made sure that the table was set with Francois Jacquard linens topped with floral, Haviland & Parlon china and Faberge silver. For fun, I pulled two glasses from my collection of vintage peanut butter jars to serve rosemary and orange infused water. A muted and personally styled floral arrangement, made up of ranunculus, gerber daisies and roses, served as a natural accent to our setting.

Overall the tablescape was simple, but the various colors and textures of the linen, silver and china mixed with the fresh air and the complex flavors of the food brought a bright and cheery feeling of sophistication and well-appointed style (something my mother absolutely loves).

Our lunch was a delectable treat for our palates, aesthetic tastes and most importantly our souls. My mother savored her fried chicken and declared the Buttermilk - Ranch her favorite. We both took slivers of the donuts, sampling them all. For an hour, we talked, laughed and delighted in each other's uninterrupted company (something we rarely come by these days). As I watched her smile and take in the joy of our time together, I thought about how there are never enough ways to thank my mother for all that she does. There are no words to describe her unending support, her love, her dedication and her guidance. I reflected on how thankful I am that she never gives up on me. She never stops showing me how much she cares or how much she respects me as her daughter, a woman and a mother. Because of her, the title of "Mom" holds a special meaning. To me, it means selfless love, self-respect, honesty, humanity and tenderness. She is the ultimate example of what it is to be a mother and she will forever be my inspiration.

I hope you will share in the love of my photos below as much as we loved our early Mother's Day together!

With love,



Buttermilk-Ranch & Honey-Ginger Fried Chicken
served over mache with raw radishes

A delectable assortment of donuts:
Strawberry-Lavender, Grapefruit Brule and Blueberry Mascarpone. Chocolate-Peanut Butter     Vanilla Spice, Cinnamon Brown Sugar and Chocolate Glaze


Rosemary and Orange Infused Water


Ed Sheeran - X

Our delicious selection of Federal Donuts

Plated and ready to go!

A highlight of the winning flavor: Buttermilk - Ranch

A few elements of our tablesetting 

My mother ... in all her glory!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

An Early Evening Escape

My friend, photographer and fellow blogger, Allison Tatios of OliverPippet, took an evening to capture a few photographs of the children and me in our new favorite retreat from the city, Valley Forge National Historical Park. Thinking about the suffering that occurred here, the lives lost and the perseverance of many make these grounds a marvel to behold and the serenity found here unbelievable.

I remember my first time in the park with Allison and her sister Julie, taking in the natural beauty and wonder this historic site offers its' visitors. As we drove and walked to different locations in the park, I took in the light that played on the vast fields. The pillowy tufts of cotton,  the crispness of the grass and the coolness of the air breathed a sense of fresh life into me.  It was as if I was literally taking in a new world. Touching my surroundings and feeling the soft glare of the fading light shine in my eyes, I knew in my heart that I was starting a new chapter.

As Allison captured me in the moments that make up the photographers' "magic hour", I began to unwind, and process the first step in telling my story with you. My breath became deeper and I reflected on where I was in my journey and how far I had come after life as I knew it ended.

I am inspired by the peace and tranquility that is slowly entering my life after a tumultuous and gut wrenching year.  I never thought that I would laugh from my belly, smile with my soul, chase my children with exhilaration or revel in the open air again. The fact that I can do this all is a gift that I will never again take for granted. I asked Allison to document the joy so that we could always look back on this day and this time in gratitude for the highs of life.

Please share in my joy with our children. Here are some moments captured by Allison, who is not only a talented photographer, but a woman who possesses heart of gold and an eye to the soul.

With love,

Thursday, November 13, 2014

2nd Annual Witches Dinner

We're now into the month of November and it's hard to believe that the time of trick or treat has passed us. It was my personal treat this year to host my 2nd Annual Witches Dinner for an intimate group of girlfriends here in Philadelphia.

My mother and I once again joined forces to create a satiating meal with killer cocktails for a group of wickedly brilliant and supportive women.  These special ladies have been one of my many anchors in the storm over these past few months. They've sat and talked with me for hours, they've offered playdates and dinner dates for the children. They've held us and comforted us as well as laughed and celebrated with us.

 Gathering these women together was an exciting pleasure. It was my goal to create an enchanted forest setting, replete with curly willow branches arranged with moss, stones and white and green pumpkins. We added a haunted twist with black bat wall decals, skull candles from Williams Sonoma and "poisoned" apples.  I wanted my girlfriends to get lost in the ambiance and the joy of friendship and fun. The hand calligraphy signs were the beautiful creation of Ashley Wrenn-Peterson of Hello, Bird. I have been a fan of her work for a while and it was a pleasure to work with her.  Not only was she enthusiastic about our project at hand, she was accommodating and gracious throughout the entire creative process.

This year was a little less formal compared to last year. For example, everything was served buffet style, save the Champagne, which I personally poured throughout the night for my guests. While we were only a group of twelve, it was more than our tiny city home was used to.  Creekside Stables was kind enough to give us a few hay-bales that I was able to use for extra seating. For comfort, I draped them with sheepskin so that no ones backside got pricked!

Over all the evening was spectacular. My friend and fellow blogger, Lauren Morton was speechless and another dear friend, Stephanie, exclaimed, "I just want to live here in this mix of rustic lux." This of course, made my heart swell with pride. Giving my girls a magical escape to forget the time and the every day stress of life and delight in each other is something that  inspires me as a stylist. The love and warmth that filled our home was spellbinding. I wish I could have bottled the feeling up and saved it, but fortunately we all have the memory (and the photographs, thanks to Allison Tatios) of another night shared together in good cheer!

Below are some snap shots of our brew-- Enjoy!

With love,


Cod & Potato Tufts
Miniature Peppers Stuffed with Spiced Rice
Baked Zucchini Squares
Braised Chayote
Cucumber topped with Tapenade
Asian Rib-lets on a bed of Legumes and Greens
Quinoa Chili

Plum Cherry French Macaroons
Mini Chocolate Cakes with Mango Filling
Assorted Candies

Veuve Clicquot Brut and Demi Sec
Mulled Wine
St. Germaine
Assorted Spirits

Sam Smith - In The Lonely Hour
Broods - Evergreen
Allen Stone - Allen Stone & Last To Speak

Guest Prep - Lighting all the candles before the witches arrive

The Entrance

These pesky bat wall decals just about did me in. I'm not sure what was wrong with the batch that I purchased this year, but they did not want to stay up on the walls. I put them up a week early to save myself some time, but from the moment I put them up, they started falling down. I was still fixing them moments before my guest arrived. After all the aggravation they caused, I probably will not be using them again next year. 

My mother and I created vignettes like this throughout the house. The branches, moss, gourds and pumpkins added to the feel of an enchanted forest.

Quinoa Chili - Almost ready to be dished out!

The Asian Riblets

Cod and Potato Tufts

These tiny bowls and spoons were perfect for serving the quinoa chili

Stuffed Peppers

Setting up the buffet

Ashley's signs fit in perfectly with our decor

The Bar - We used my favorite punch bowl from last year and I set up my collection of new and vintage wine glasses and champagne coupes

The bourbon drinkers delighted in these ice skulls made from molds that I purchased from Williams Sonoma

The #TrickorTreat / Dessert Station

Mini Plum Cherry French Macaroons - Homemade by my Mother

More homemade treats - Mini chocolate cakes filled with mango
Tiny bottles of St. Germain were parting gifts for all of the witches!

The full station effect

Leah and Lauren - I loved their spin on the traditional witch's hat!

Mother and Daughter

I had to end with my iPhone snap shot of most of the witches. I'm so thankful to all of them for being a part of another memorable night. We're all looking forward to next year!