Winter’s coming: Download the winter issue of Celebrate Home Magazine free!

31 10 2017

The winter issue of Celebrate Home Magazine is still available for digital download in the links below. Click on either of the links below to download your FREE pdf copy of this issue. The first links is for single-page viewing (perfect for printing off your favorite recipe!); the second link is set up for “reader spreads,” so you can see the magazine in spread format (my favorite!).

Thank you for your support.

Single pages version: Celebrate Home Winter 2013

Reader spreads version (my favorite!): Celebrate Home Winter 2013 Spreads

You can order a print-on-demand copy of the magazine (at cost, plus shipping) here: http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/513977

Click here to view on issuu.com.

On the cover: Gladys Roldan-de-Moras, award-winning Impressionist painter from San Antonio, Texas

CHM Winter 2013 FInal Cover

In this issue:

FEATHER YOUR NEST
Winter-inspired lovelies for you and your home.

HOME
Delicious Pops of Color
Easy on the eyes, the Hedstrom house takes advantage of light-filled views with clean lines and engaging color.

FAMILY
Living the Fairy Tale: To Quit or Not to Quit?
Mothers share their struggles with jobs and families.

FOOD & ENTERTAINING
Bowls of Comfort
Take the chill out of winter with our filling soup recipes!

A Wintertime Dessert Party
Pair wine and desserts for elegant and easy entertaining.

Green Chicken: Creating a Family Heirloom Cookbook
Create a cookbook that cherishes family recipes.

The Many Seasons of Beer
Beer aficionado Jefferson Evans explores the world of seasonal brews.

THE ARTIST
Gladys Roldan-de-Moras, Impressionist Painter
Always proud of her Colombian and Mexican roots, this artist’s passion is reflected in her colorful work.

HOW-TO
Winter Photography Indoors
Stay indoors to photograph nature this winter.

PETS
How Much is That Doggie in the Window? Choosing the Family Pup

Think you’re ready to add a furry friend to your family? Here are some things to consider.

THE CREATIVE LIFE
Every Picture Tells a Story
Discover five tips for decorating your walls with original art.

THE COLLECTOR
Bejeweled: Camilla Houghton’s Unique Ring Collection
What started as a gift exchange between two sisters expanded into a beloved collection of rings.

CRAFT
Ring Bling Box
Give your rings a new home with our easy craft project.

PERSPECTIVES
What Home Means to Me

 





iPhoneography: Pixel

15 04 2016

Cheek-to-cheek, a Pixelgram from our DIY kitchen-renovation-in-progress (iPhone 6s / Snapseed app)

Sidebar: the lady head with the napkin hairdo was set up at our Le Diner en Blanc soirée a few years ago. (See recap of that party here: https://cindydyer.wordpress.com/2011/10/07/le-diner-en-blanc-virginia-style/)

I had the lady head at the end of a table with plates and utensils. I think maybe two out of my 30 guests took a napkin. The rest used some paper napkins from the crepe bar. I later learned that everyone thought it was just a display and didn’t want to disassemble it. It’s been on display ever since!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Pixel & Lady





A labor of love: Celebrate Home Magazine is born!

2 10 2012

The Fall 2012 Celebrate Home Magazine debuts today on the first day of October with the mantra of “making the ordinary extraordinary.”

Published quarterly, Celebrate Home Magazine focuses on family, food, entertaining, gardening, art, crafts, hobbies, personal expression, hospitality, pets, decorating, communities and neighborhoods.

The time has come for a magazine like this—highlighting ordinary people doing extraordinary things. No matter your budget, your skills or the size of your space, we’ll enthusiastically share experiences of those who nurture the space they call home. Let us inspire you!

I’ve teamed up with the talented and renowned Barbara Kelley, whose editorial expertise has graced Hearing Loss Magazine for more than 20 years. She brings her passion for hospitality and her publishing experience to this brand new publication! We are both passionate about all things home and welcome you to open the door and come on in. We also welcome you to be contributors. This magazine is for you and about you.

Click the link below to download a two-page spread pdf of the magazine:

CelebrateHomeMagFall2012 Spreads

Click the link below to download a pdf designed for single page printing:

CelebrateHomeMagFall2012 Pages

Want to order a print copy of Celebrate Home Magazine? Click here, then sign up for a free magcloud.com account. You can download the FREE pdf or purchase a print copy on this link.

 

 

Would you like to be a contributing author or photographer? Please e-mail writing and/or photography samples and links to websites with your work to bkelley@celebratehomemag.com.

Do you have an original recipe you’d like to share? Please e-mail your recipes to bkelley@celebratehomemag.com.

We can come to you! Are you having a party or special event at your home or an activity that relates to the subject of home? Contact us to discuss your idea. If it fits the editorial scope of Celebrate Home Magazine, we may photograph your event and write the story.

Do you have a product or service? If you would like to advertise your product, service, or your city/town/region, contact advertising@celebratehomemag.com.

Check it out and celebrate home with us!





More scenes from a reception for Garden Muse: A Botanical Portfolio

7 05 2012

These lovely photos were shot at my April 15 photography reception at Green Spring Gardens by my friend Karen B.’s eldest daughter, Margot. For the record, Margot and her sister, Hannah, are two of the sweetest, smartest and prettiest young ladies I’ve had the good fortune to watch grow from birth to 20 and 18 years old, respectively. Catering by the Sneeze Guard Heiress, Barbara Kelley of Kelley Hospitality; tablescaping by Karen B. and yours truly. Thanks for the shots, Margot!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Scenes from an exhibit reception, part 2

18 04 2012

A reception wouldn’t be complete without food, and with Kelley Hospitality in charge, mine was p-e-r-f-e-c-t! Visit Barbara’s hospitality blog here. Thanks to Ed Fagan of Columbia Photography for all the great photos!





FAVE: Ashley’s DIY slate cheeseboard

30 01 2012

How cute (and inexpensive) is this idea? Click here for directions on how to make it. Thanks for sharing, Ashley (of Sugar & Cloth)!





Wannabe kitchenista

9 12 2011

Let me begin this post by stating that I am not a cook. I can count on both hands and both feet the number of times I have actually cooked (not an exaggeration). It is one of those endeavors that I wish I had the patience and skill to do. My mother was a wonderful cook. Both of my sisters seem to enjoy the task as well and are good at it. I have cooked so little that I can actually remember almost every attempt in the kitchen. Yes, I have had some successes. I make a crazy-good basil pesto (and lots of it) every year. (Last year’s posting on making pesto, along with the recipe I use, is here.) My cooking repertoire now includes a wonderful pesto chicken dish and my go-to grilled chicken dish with mustard and tarragon (courtesy of Martha Stewart). I can add my friend Barbara’s Baked Cranberry Orange Sauce to that tiny list of culinary accomplishments. It shouldn’t surprise you that my idea of a great (solo) dinner is a well-made sandwich—wheat bread, light on the mayo, turkey and cheddar cheese, with potato chips shoved in for texture—although a bowl of Cap’n Crunch is a close second. If it weren’t for Michael’s kitchen skills and cooking patience (aside from that one incident where he inadvertently poisoned me one Thanksgiving with a partially cooked ham), I would still be eating 10 for a $1 chicken-flavored ramen noodles and burned biscuits. (Did I mention how much I love 90-second rice in a pouch and Bird’s Eye Steamers?) Below are my top five memorable moments in the heart of the home.

1) Steak & Au Gratin Potato Dinner
Picture this: I am a college student, still living at home. My mother, sister Debbie, and her husband Bill are visiting relatives in Georgia. Kelley and I are left to fend for ourselves. My dad is working the 4-midnight shift as a Customs Inspector at the port of Brownsville, Texas. I decide that dad needs a good home cooked meal and I’m just the chef to do it!

I decide he needs a manly dinner—steak and potatoes. I’m assuming we already had these ingredients in the pantry because shopping in a grocery store was a foreign concept to me (and it kinda still is). As a rookie in the kitchen, I do not know how long it takes to cook a steak. Al Gore hadn’t yet invented the internet, so I didn’t have a recipe site to double check. I can’t ask my mom or sister because they’re out of the state. I can’t call dad to ask him because that would spoil the surprise. Dad doesn’t get home until 1:00 a.m. I start cooking at 9:00 p.m. Yes, you read that right. Four hours before he will arrive home from work.

I start the steak at 9:00 p.m. and continue to warm it up, over and over and over (and over) until he comes home. Can’t have steak without potatoes, right? I raid the pantry and discover an au gratin potato mix. It calls for x amount of butter and I decide (as if I possess years of culinary know-how to deviate from a tried-and-true recipe) that x amount of butter doesn’t look to be nearly enough. I add double that (or maybe it was triple?). It officially becomes the worst au gratin potato dish the world has ever seen. To this day (honestly), I cannot look at nor eat au gratin potatoes. They were that bad. Paula Dean might have eaten them, though—the gal does love her butter.

I hear my father’s car in the driveway and run to greet him. “Dad, Dad, Dad! I made you dinner.” He looks at me suspiciously since he has only seen me in the kitchen when I’m passing through it. He sits down to the seven-times-warmed-up steak (think shoe leather) and the butter-overdosed au gratin potato side dish. After the first bite, he gingerly asks, “umm…when exactly did you start cooking the steak?” I’m sure after I went to bed, he probably ditched it and headed for the Raisin Bran.

2) Some Kind of Pie
After perusing some magazine of my mother’s, I decided I was going to make a pie. I don’t remember what kind of pie it was, but I do remember my attraction to it—it was garnished with beautiful fall leaves hand cut from pastry dough. I spent an interminable amount of time cutting out the leaves and fluting the edges of the pie crust top and bottom. I was exercising my creative muscles, but it was exhausting. Then I read how long it took to bake—45 minutes. 45 minutes? Are you kidding me? I don’t have the attention span to wait that long. I remember running to my mother and begging her to watch it for me. What a saint she was…come to think of it, I don’t remember cleaning up the mess I made, either. I do remember that it was quite a lovely pie visually. And isn’t that all that matters, really? A for effort!

3) Rice Krispy Treats
When the recipe for rice krispy treats calls for butter, use it. Do not try to use I-can’t-believe-its-not-butter because it is not butter. Trust me on this. If you do, your treats will be swimming in a sludge of yellow liquid when you take them out of the oven. No one will eat them. Your boyfriend will laugh at you. You will never make rice krispy treats again.

4) Roasted Vegetable Soup
A few years ago, I decided that I would surprise Michael by cooking dinner (it always surprises him when I cook, so it’s a predictable reaction). It was winter, so what would be a better dish than a hearty bowl of soup? I proceeded to pick out the most complicated recipe in one of the many cookbooks I collect. (Don’t you judge me; I’ll get around to them some day.) Roasted Vegetable Soup. This complex recipe (I’ll bet it was one of Martha’s) required a trip to the grocery store, where I discovered that red and yellow peppers are not cheap. I loaded up on red, green and yellow peppers, yellow squash and green zucchini, onions and tomatoes. I roasted all the vegetables and then made the soup. It took forever. Remember, I’m now in Virginia, so I couldn’t beg my mom to finish it for me this time. Michael came home and was drawn in by the wonderful scent wafting from the kitchen. He settled down to a heaping, hearty bowl of soup and proclaimed it a winner, gushing and complimenting me on the dish. Devoid of expression, I announce that he will never have this dish again. Ever. So he better enjoy the leftovers.

5) The Ole Meat-and-Cheese-on-a-Toothpick-in-a-Grapefruit Appetizer
Some of you are old enough (go ahead, admit it) to remember the 70s and the meat-and-cheese-cube-on-a-toothpick-stuck-in-a-grapefruit appetizer. I realize this doesn’t entail any cooking, but I clearly remember making this kitschy appetizer. I remembered one time my younger sister and I asked if we could have a party. At the time, she was in junior high and I was in high school. We got permission and one of the appetizers we made was the skewered grapefruit sculpture. The property we lived on had a grove of grapefruit, orange and tangelo trees, so obtaining the base for this delectable was as easy as stepping out the back patio and plucking one! Tiny half inch cheese cubes stacked with ham slices (or was it dad’s bologna we raided?), then skewered on a toothpick and stuck into a large grapefruit—how retro! (As I’m reliving this memory, I’m half tempted to host a “back to the 70s” appetizer potluck just to see what my guests bring.)

AN ADMITTED BIBLIOHOLIC
In my career as a graphic designer, I have designed the covers and interiors of more than 50 books, both hard and softcover, on a wide variety of topics. I am also an admitted and unashamed biblioholic. I love books. I love well-designed and well-written books. Coffee table books, fiction, non-fiction, reference, graphic design, photography, art, craft, gardening, travel, poetry. All have their own sections in my library. On more than one occasion I have bought a book simply because of its beautiful design and compelling photography (one such book is a photo essay about octogenerians).

So despite my clumsiness in the kitchen, I adore a beautifully designed cookbook. And for some reason, cookbooks always end up on the extreme bargain tables, therefore I have amassed quite a collection of them. I love the more contemporary look of food photographs today and love perusing blogs by cooks who are both great in the kitchen and at photographing their dishes. I think it’s partly due to the styling and texture in the photographs that I am drawn to food photography as of late. I love the idea of being a great cook—they make it seem so effortless and so rewarding. It is a creative endeavor that also melds all of the senses.

POTS AND PANS AND GADGETS GALORE
I love the gadgets, pots and pans and the multitude of serves-only-one-purpose items that cooks covet. I drool over the Williams-Sonoma catalog. Last year, my friends Gina, Karen and Rob gave me a beautiful white KitchenAid mixer for my birthday because I had once said to Gina, “if I had one of those, I know I would be baking. I just know it.” I’m happy to report that it has been used several times. The first time it was used, Gina and I baked (way too many) Christmas cookies for her friend who is serving in Afghanistan. I recently used it to make pumpkin bread (yes, it was edible). For my birthday this year, Michael bought me a mini-pie maker. It has since produced four chicken and pesto pot pies, as well as cherry and apple pies. We’ll make a (mini) baker out of me yet.

IF-IT-DOESN’T-HAVE-FREEZER-BURN-THROW-IT-IN-SOUP
On Monday night, I decided to clean out the freezer and anything that didn’t have freezer burn (boy, were there a lot of bags that fit in that category!), went into my no-recipe-soup, which I like to call “If it doesn’t have freezer burn, throw it in soup.” Via telephone, my sister Debbie was my sous chef, advising me to throw in rice, a can of diced tomatoes and various spices. It was quite tasty and Michael consumed two bowls of it when he got home from work.

I am a Restaurant Impossible junkie (even if I think the two-day, $10,000 budget, and Chef Irvine’s overly dramatic demeanor is a bit much at times). I love watching Chopped, Cupcake Wars, Giada at Home and The Next Food Network Star. Watching those shows makes me want to learn how to really cook. I would love to immediately know what to do when I’m handed a basket containing boxed mac & cheese, gummi bears, canned cream of mushroom soup and string cheese.

But most of all, as a lover and maker of images, I love looking at simple, contemporary photographs of food. So, when I helped my friend Barbara decorate her Thanksgiving table this year, I offered to bring some backgrounds and set up shots of some side dishes that she had prepared in advance. Check out her Holiday Pumpkin Cookies recipe here. Her husband, Bill, is in charge of making the annual ever-changing pecan pie. This year’s concoction is Pecan-Bourbon Pie with a Touch of White Chocolate. Since this dessert is created sans recipe, he can’t really share his formula with you, but you can read all about it here.

FYI, for those of you who don’t already know it, Barbara’s father, Johnny Garneau, invented the salad bar “sneeze guard.” Yes, it’s true, and you can read all about it on Barbara’s blog here.

I always approach my photography with a graphic designer’s eye. I believe that is evident in my photographs—whether I’m photographing people, flowers, landscapes or something edible. Composition remains my main priority, no matter the subject. If you can hone just that one skill in photography, the rest—lighting and post-production—will follow. I don’t know where learning food photography could possibly take me, but it’s a lot of fun when I have a chance to do it. Who knows? It just might inspire me to spend a bit more time in the kitchen, camera nearby. Michael might just get that roasted vegetable soup one more time.

Photos © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Sour cream ghost busting a move…

1 12 2011

I take credit for this (unintentionally humorous) garnishing on Michael’s latest soup creation. Don’t you think the dollop of sour cream looks like a ghost doing the Saturday Night Fever dance? Trust me, it wasn’t planned—I envisioned swirls of the white stuff but my garnishing skills obviously leave a bit to be desired.

Michael made this butternut and acorn squash soup as a starter for our Thanksgiving dinner with our friend Karen down at her  lakehouse. He found the recipe on allrecipes.com. Because the butternut squash he used was so large, he opted to add nearly a teaspoon of cinnamon (the recipe isn’t specific about how much) as well as a little extra onion. The recipe reviews had a common thread; many who tried it said it was way too sweet, which is why Michael opted to not add the brown sugar to his version. It was enough soup to completely fill a crock pot—and it was delicious!

And, are you sitting down? I did some cooking, too. I made my friend Barbara Kelley’s Baked Cranberry–Orange Sauce (check out her posting, the recipe, and my photography on her blog here). I do not profess to be an expert in the kitchen (by a country mile), but when I mixed the cranberries with 2 cups of sugar (really? no liquid to add?), I thought, “hmm…I’m no expert, but that just doesn’t look right without any liquid.” I cut out some of the sugar but followed the other directions that Barbara gave me. It’s obvious (to anyone but me) that the cranberries supply the liquid during the baking process. Clearly, I missed that Good Eats episode with Alton Brown. (Note to self: do not think you will ever be a contender for Chopped). I cut the sugar in half in my version because I knew I would be adding orange marmalade (which is already sickly sweet). It’s still a sweet dish and my dinner companions actually ate a good helping of it (out of pity, perhaps?) My other contribution to the day was crafting the tablescape (truly my favorite thing to do in the kitchen!).

Butternut and Acorn Squash Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash, halved and seeded
  • 1 acorn squash, halved and seeded
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar (Michael opted out on this ingredient due to the reviews)
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ground cinnamon to taste (optional)
  • fresh parsley, for garnish
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Place the squash halves cut side down in a baking dish. Bake 45 minutes, or until tender. Remove from heat, and cool slightly. Scoop the pulp from the skins. Discard skins.
  2. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat, and saute the onion until tender.
  3. In a blender or food processor, blend the squash pulp, onion, broth, brown sugar, cream cheese, pepper, and cinnamon until smooth. This may be done in several batches.
  4. Transfer the soup to a pot over medium heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through. Garnish with parsley (we had home-grown chives in lieu of parsley), and serve warm.




Le Diner en Blanc, Virginia style

7 10 2011

We held our first-ever Le Diner en Blanc on Saturday, September 24. The week before the event was a series of very rainy days and the forecast for that day was off and on thunderstorms. I had to make a decision: cancel it or move it indoors. I didn’t want to cancel it because we had four people coming from out of state (Alabama and South Carolina) just for this event! I didn’t want to go to the trouble and expense of picking up the chairs and tables I had reserved, then get started setting up and then get chased indoors by a thunderstorm. Murphy’s Law—it didn’t rain after all, but I had to commit to the indoor scenario and then there was no turning back. And actually, it was pretty humid, so indoors was more comfortable anyway!

What is Le Diner en Blanc?
Le Diner en Blanc originated in Paris more than 20 years ago. Thousands of people all dressed in white arrive at the same time to have a posh picnic in a prestigious Parisian location. This is an invitation-only event (you have to be invited by someone who knows someone) and the location remains a secret until the last minute (although you do know the time and date). You’re told the location once you are on the scheduled coaches to the venue. This year’s event included 6,000 people in the Cour Carrée du Louvre and another 6,000 in front of Notre Dame. The Paris version requires you to bring your own plates, food and drinks—in our version, the plates, main course, dessert crepes and drinks were provided (and potluck contributions were requested).

Le Creperie Central
Sue, Barbara and Wanda set up “Le Creperie Central” the night before the party. Sue had crepe flipping duty while Barbara prepared various mixes Gina had brought back from Paris. Yes, imported from Paris…with instructions in French (hence the look on Barbara’s face in the top right photo). Gina did do a test run and wrote the instructions in English, but there was still some translating to do with the boxes that showed other ingredients were needed (thank goodness for the web!). Sue and Barbara made 90 crepes and Wanda assisted with wax-paper-tearing duty. I was busy trying to create the original outdoor ambiance in three townhouse rooms—not an easy task. All three ladies are wearing t-shirts I ordered with the “Le Diner en Blanc 2011” logo (a chandelier with the Eiffel Tower as the center column) that graphic designer friend Karen B. (who is French-born, by the way) created this summer just for the event.

Rethinking the Ambiance of Paris Indoors
Moving it indoors meant scaling back considerably—no white hanging cardboard chandeliers (beautifully crafted by my friend Karen B.) hanging from the trees, no shabby chic candle-filled bird cages hanging from shepherd’s hooks throughout the garden, no full-scale “Le Creperie” station with an LED-lit floral chandelier over the warming station. No tables set with crisp white linens and the French script and floral linen table runners I had sewn two weeks before, topped off with vintage milk bottles and silver pails filled with white flowers or chocolate-colored glittery 24″ Eiffel Tower replicas created with 3-d puzzles from Michael’s. No LED-lighted floral vines swirling the length of each table. No white satin shrugs around each chair back, fastened with a chocolate-colored Eiffel Tower silhouette.

I did find some inspiration indoors, however. My favorite one was my impromptu napkin “dispenser”—using my woman head planter I crafted a sort of ancient Greek Carmen Miranda of sorts. It was so sculptural that many guests thought it was a decoration and barely made a dent in the napkin inventory! The full-scale outdoor French crepe vendor stand was modified for the kitchen island and it worked well despite the lack of outdoor ambiance. A huge thank you to Margot for photographing the tablescapes and decorations before the party started—I was distracted and didn’t get many shots. I think she did a splendid job! These are all her photos in the collage below.

Copying the French
We did move the party outdoors briefly to capture a group shot of the revelers in their “yes-we-will-wear-white-after-Labor-Day” finery—are my friends the best sports or what? Gotta love them—I certainly do! My friend Michael, who lives just across the courtyard, said that when he walked over he got strange looks from a neighbor passing by (it was after Labor Day, remember). Michael came clad in white jeans, a white oxford shirt, cream tie, and to break up his “ice cream man ensemble,” a black and white leopard belt! Sue finally had an opportunity to wear a bridal headpiece and veil she had bought recently at an antique store. Carmen wore a feather fascinator and Paula wore a beautiful headpiece that belonged to her mother. Paula brought in her potluck contribution and every time someone asked what it was, she replied in her best Julia Child lilt, “Beef Bourguignon!”

Thanks to everyone who participated, wore their best white ensembles, and contributed all those delicious appetizers, cheeses, breads, dips, side dishes, fruit salad, deviled eggs (thanks, Katie!), desserts (don’t you just love Norma’s Eiffel-Tower-sugar-topped brownies above?), and ample bottles of le vin blanc and le vin rosé. And in particular, special thanks to Rob for helping maneuver clutter from one room to another the night before (a huge help); Gina for her delicious French-inspired main chicken dish with potatoes, importing the crepe mixes and French sugar (and doing the crepe pre-testing), loaning her lighted Eiffel Tower sculpture and some other French-related items for decorations, and describing her perfect day in Paris (her favorite city); Karen B. for her huge pot of accompanying ratatouille, designing the party logo, putting together two CDs with French music, laboriously cutting out cardboard chandelier silhouettes, and delivering the party commencement “speech” in French (she was born in Paris); Zinna for her large soda contribution (we still have some set aside for us!); Paula for her well-received Beef Bourguignon main entree contribution (Michael enjoyed the leftovers the next day); Karen W. for punching out a gazillion little pieces of balsa wood parts the night I assembled the four Eiffel tower puzzles (and for bringing munchies to aid the process); Sue, Barbara and Wanda for their wine contribution, crepe fillings and crepe making efforts (and for trekking 10.5 hours from Huntsville, AL to our humble home); my decorating partner, Carmen, for helping me bring some of the outdoor ambiance indoors, her ever-present and much needed organizing and clean-up skills, and for flying in from South Carolina just for the party; our neighbor Eric for setting up his outdoor pavilion for us; Michael P. for assisting me yet again with the indoor party portraits (that posting to come) and for translating Karen’s French speech to English (he’s fluent in several languages!); Martha B. in San Antonio for sending me a lovely serving platter with a sketch of the Eiffel Tower since she couldn’t attend (you were there in spirit…and porcelain, Martha!); and finally, thanks to F.T. for helping with the outdoor shots.

Here’s to Le Diner en Blanc next year…but this time in June (so wearing white is more acceptable!) and crossing fingers—outdoors as originally planned. We’ll do Le Diner en Blanc in June, Pesto Fest in September, and get back on track next year. Next up—the Chocoholic Party in February, as always.





Chocoholic Party 2011 (our sixth!) recap

25 02 2011

February 12, 2011—First off, a huge thank you to the gals who helped in the pre-party preparation—Gina with shopping all afternoon the day before (Giant, Trader Joe’s, Michael’s, World Market, etc.), for coming up with fabulous decorating ideas (and wrapping vases in fabric, gluing glitter to anything and everything, and punching out heart shaped confetti until her fingers gave out—we crafted until 1:30 a.m.!), for making her yummy cornbread, for creating her “Sweet Dreams” candy party favors, and for bringing real chocolate (Leonidas) straight from her recent work jaunt to Belgium (and also for those fun birthday boy eyeglasses); for Carmen for all her help decorating (especially our annual-joint-effort over-the-top chandelier creation), for Michael‘s chocolate covered strawberry birthday box and giant pinata in the shape of the big 5-0, filled with chocolate candies for his birthday, and for all her help (as well as Karen W.‘s) cleaning up afterward. Carmen came the farthest to join us (from South Carolina), but we also had a guest from Lexington, Kentucky (hello, Bob!).

Thanks also to Michael P., who proved to be an extraordinary photo assistant when I was down in my studio doing the sweetheart portraits. I’m keeping him in mind the next time I need help! As you can see, this year’s collage of portraits is quite colorful—I let each guest choose which background they wanted—the pink and red swirly roses from Chocoholic Party #4, brown & blue fabric that echoed this year’s color palette, or a bright yellow abstract painting I began working on a few weeks ago.

Thanks to everyone who joined us to celebrate our first party of 2011, for all of your culinary contributions (from desserts to appetizers to side dishes to wine and beer), and for the special gifts you gave to Michael for his birthday. Special thanks to Judy for bringing a birthday cake and for having the baker write Happy Birthday to our Feb. 12 birthday boy (Michael), the lovely Hannah (Feb. 11) and Paul (Feb. 14). It was nice to celebrate the birthdays of all three of these V.I.P’s! Earlier in the day Michael said, “doesn’t seem fair that I have to make my own birthday dinner.” He made two huge pots of chili and as in years past, it was consumed quickly. He makes one pot of “two alarm” chili and one we label “mild stuff.” It seems our guests dole out a little of both and mix it together. I never got one taste of the stuff (I never eat anything at our parties—I’m too busy greeting, mingling and photographing to do so). And Rob, lest you think your rice offering didn’t get consumed, it did. Michael has used it in three different meals this past week, using up the last bit in a tasty stuffed pepper concoction.

I hope everyone enjoyed the musical stylings of our acoustic guitarist, Jim Canfield. We met Jim a few weeks before when he was playing for tips at IKEA (of all places). Jim performs at various restaurants around the Woodbridge area and we hired him to play for us—it was a real treat, doncha think? Thanks for celebrating with us—Nanda, Bob, Carmen, Gina, Karen W., Karen B., Hannah, Margot, Dana, Gordon, Eric, Rob, Leda, Norma, Paula, Ken, Judy, Paul, CJ, Regina, Tom, Holly, Jim, Sudha, Lynn, Jeff E., Amy, Jeff M., Jonathan, Rob, Pat, and Michael P.

Our next party is slated for late May in the great outdoors! This will be a new event for us. I’ll be co-hosting with Gina, a fervently fanatic Francophile, with consultation from my French-born friend Karen B. This affair will be based on the annual “Le Diner en Blanc” in Paris. Anyone know any French musicians, torch singers or mimes who will work for food?

http://www.google.com/images?hl=en&sugexp=ldymls&xhr=t&q=diner+en+blanc&cp=7&bav=on.1,or.&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=univ&sa=X&ei=6mtkTbbvIojAtgf0ip2wDA&sqi=2&ved=0CD8QsAQ&biw=1407&bih=1172

http://www.demotix.com/news/85439/diner-en-blanc-white-dinner

This annual White Dinner is kept secret from authorities and participants are only told where they are going 15 minutes before the event via text and twitter. Too fun! We’ll give you more advance notice than 15 minutes and although our venue won’t be quite as exotic as the Eiffel Tower, Arche de Triomphe or Place de la Concorde, we promise you a memorable evening. We intentionally kept the guest list smaller for the Chocoholic Party this year (since it’s held indoors in a townhouse), but we’ll be able to expand the roster for this big outdoor soiree.

Our guests won’t have to bring their own tables, linens or chairs, but they will be asked to wear white (white + khaki permitted) and it will be our usual semi-potluck. Yes, there will be photos (in front of a lighted Eiffel Tower) and lots of white stuff (no, the food will not be all white, although really—what beats mashed potatoes, whipped cream, bread and a slab of brie?).

Thank you to Norma and Nanda for supplying some of the photos in the collage above.





Tapas Potluck ’09 with live entertainment!

19 11 2009

This past Saturday Michael and I hosted our first Tapas Party ever—and our first party with live entertainment as well! Charles Mokotoff, an IT specialist by day and gifted classical guitarist by night, played for our guests after the buffet-style potluck dinner. It was a “playing for portraits” arrangement. Charles will be our cover feature for the January/February 2010 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published bimonthly by the Hearing Loss Association of America.

After the intimate concert, my friend Ken asked me, “how in the world are you going to top this event?” I must say, having live entertainment sure kicked things up a notch! We managed to squeeze 37 guests (including Michael and me) into our townhouse—and no one seemed too uncomfortable. I think that’s our maximum capacity, though.

Thanks to everyone for bringing delicious appetizers and desserts (and those wonderful wedding gifts, too—thank you notes to come shortly!) and for helping us to continue to celebrate our October 24 wedding! Special thanks to our out-of-town guests, too: Carmen from Greer, South Carolina; Martha from Roanoke, Texas; and Cammie from Sarasota, Florida—it was such a treat to have you three join us. I hope we didn’t disappoint!

Remember—the Annual Chocoholic Party is in February (this will be our 5th)! Hmmm…near Valentine’s Day…what kind of live entertainment will we have for that soiree? Maybe Rod Stewart singing love songs live? Or Harry Connick, Jr. (oops, need a piano for that one). My first choice would be James Taylor. Surely he needs new head shots?

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Chocoholic Party 2009

10 03 2009

Fellow Chocoholics, I apologize for my delinquency in posting a recap of the party in a timely manner. I recently finished preparing the “party favor portraits” I take at each event. The night before the party, Sue and I collaborated on a new backdrop—a lively summer-sky-blue background with bouncing chocolate balls. I still had my original pink and red rose background available as an alternative, though. I think Michael and Norma appear to be the only ones who escaped having their sweetheart portraits done this year. How did that happen?

Thank you to everyone who helped in the pre-party preparation—Carmen and Sue (for organizing, cleanup and decorating help), Regina (with her big batch of delicious vegetarian chili), and Michael (who made sure we didn’t run out of chili this year by preparing two giant pots of turkey chili). Carmen (up from Greenville, SC) and Sue (up from Huntsville, AL) arrived earlier in the week just to join us for the event! Carmen was my co-creator of this year’s “bordello chandelier” in the kitchen (photos of the chandelier to come soon), as well as an all-around hard working assistant—even baking cookies as she flitted from task to task earlier in the day.

Sue was my co-painter for the new bouncing chocolates background and also helped design the buffet table centerpiece (photos of that to come soon, too). Special thanks to our bodacious bartender, Brenda, and her ever-handy-kitchen-cleaner-upper-and-mingler extraordinaire husband, Tom. Brenda created a lively and fun-to-read drink menu (which I’ll share in a later posting) for the Chocoholics in attendance. Tom and Brenda came all the way from Pennsylvania to join us again this year, and have developed quite a fan base among our local friends. I’m sure their contribution of a drink bar made them even more memorable this year.

Much appreciation goes to Karen W. for her brilliant suggestion to move the main buffet table to the library area so guests wouldn’t bottleneck in the kitchen (the kitchen is the heart of the home and our guests seem to agree). That arrangement worked out so well that I’m surprised none of us thought of that for the three parties prior to this one. Then we added Bodacious Bartender Brenda with her full and lively bar to the mix—which kept the “libation curious” in the kitchen anyway! Plus, the highlights of the party—the chocolate fountain and decadent desserts—were also in the kitchen. We just need a bigger kitchen, I’m thinking.

Thank you to everyone who brought wonderful side dishes, appetizers, and desserts, too (special thanks to Norma, who brought the it-wouldn’t-be-a-party-without-’em deviled eggs as well as additional chili). Karen B. brought her infamous cheese straws to the party again this year (with her two lovely teenage daughters in tow). Click here to see last year’s party recap and the Whole Foods cheese straws recipe she shared with us. Nanda and Sudha briefly took over the stove and heated up flatbread on-the-spot for their traditional Indian rice and potato side dishes. Karen W. and husband Joe were assigned cornbread-making duty earlier in the week (and sent home with a plethora of very heavy cornbread pans from our extensive collection) and they didn’t disappoint in their delivery.

Insert shameless plug for friend here:
Half of the cornbread-making duo was my dear friend Karen W., a skin care specialist with her own salon, Karen Wyatt Skin Care, in Burke, VA. If you live in the Northern Virginia area (or are just visiting) and would love to be pampered by a knowledgeable and sweet-as-the-day-is-long skin care expert, Karen is your gal. Click here to learn more about her salon and to make an appointment. I had never had a facial until I met “Magic Hands” Karen four years ago. Now I know what the fuss is all about. Last summer I treated my sister Debbie to a facial with Karen (it was her first experience, too) and she loved it!

A great big thanks to F.T. for taking the initiative to record the festivities with his digital camera and dropping off the CD for me. That gesture was much appreciated and I’ll be preparing a collage of both our candid photos for a later posting.

I must say—having so much help is wonderful! This was the first party where I was actually able to shower and change more than 10 minutes before the first guest arrived. This year I had an entire hour to get party-fied. Imagine that! I’m usually still buttoning my shirt, slipping on whatever shoes are handy (whether they match or not), trying to apply the rest of my makeup, and running to the door with wet hair when the doorbell rings. I’m almost certain this isn’t how Martha does it.

Regarding the very last photo—I have no idea what Carmen said to Karen, Regina and Sue in this photo, but I imagine she delivered it as only Carmen can—I love this shot!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

chocoholicheads






Have a cuppa tea, y’all

11 01 2009

At long last…photos from Sue and Barbara’s December 14 Christmas Tea at Sue’s house in Huntsville, Alabama. Sue and Barbara are pictured in the bright green and red polka-dotted aprons that Barbara commissioned just for the event. And before we get started, thank you, Sue, for including me in this special event (and for flying me to Huntsville, too!). It was a pleasure “breaking scones” and getting to know Barbara and your new friends and neighbors in Huntsville. Now stop dawdling and start planning the spring tea!

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Top photo: Sue created the beautiful wreath that graces their front porch entrance. Kitchen duty photos: I attempted to help her make sandwiches but she was so picky with her exacting crust trimming procedures that I happily went back to decorating duty. I may be good at some things, but apparently trimming neat edges on tea sandwiches is not one of them!

Her first decorating assignment for me—I got to decorate her Christmas tree in the living room without any restrictions; she even let me pick out new decorative elements (faux feathers, gold pinecones, glittery sprays, silk poinsettias) from the Trees N Trends store earlier in the morning—I must say, there is nothing more fun than decorating on someone else’s dime!)

Sue knows I prefer decorating to playing in the kitchen. (She’s the one who bought me a handpainted wooden sign to go over the stove. It reads, “I kiss better than I cook.”) Admittedly, I’ll never dethrone Martha Stewart or Paula Deen, but check out some of my past creations at a small dinner party in June, Chocoholic Party 2007, Chocoholic Party 2008 (with more photos and my friend Karen’s yummy cheese straw recipe), and our favorite event, the annual Pesto Fest. The Fall 2008 Pesto Fest was sadly canceled due to incessant rain in our area. This Italian-themed event must be outdoors for the proper ambience. Fiddle-dee-dee, 2009 is another year!

Before decorating commenced, Sue presented several plastic bins of ornaments, tassels, fabric, candles, candleholders, and roll after roll of ribbon for me to play with (an artist must have her supplies, you know!). After I finished glamourizing the chandeliers over the tables, I checked in on Sue’s sandwich-making process later and felt compelled to point out that not all of her sandwiches were visually appealing—she’s pointing to the not-so-perfect ones in the fourth photo. What would Martha think?

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Decorations throughout the house, including the mantel where Sue and Steve displayed their new painting, a gift from me…and a southern holiday greeting on the napkins

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Top photo, left: Barbara makes the rounds, visiting with friends. Top photo, right: Sue in the laundry room, cranking out endless pots of hot water for tea. Bottom photo: Guests mingle at the main table.

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The dessert table was a big draw…especially with Barbara’s original peanut butter and chocolate cake topped with peanut butter cups (as if it needed more sugar!)—I told Barbara she could make a fortune selling that cake! Also on hand…pecan divinity, various cookies, and a chocolate fondue for strawberry dipping. Bottom photo: Sue and Biddy

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Top photo: Billie June and Shirley. Bottom photo: Sue and Barbara present the tea-inspired gift basket to Anita, the winning ticket holder.

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Top photo: Each guest received a beautiful homemade teapot-shaped sugar cookie as a parting gift. Bottom photo, left: Barbara showcases her culinary creations. Bottom photo, right: Lisa and Sue

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Top photo: Rebecca (Cathy’s sister-in-law), Lois (Cathy’s mom), Cathy, and Diana. Middle photo: Barbara, Biddy, Julia and Sue. Bottom photo: Biddy and Julia

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Top photo: Debbie (Sue’s neighbor), Sue and Kari (Sue’s hairdresser). Middle photo: Jenny and Sue (Jenny moved to Huntsville from Virginia about five years ago. Sue actually met her at New Hope Church in Alexandria years ago.) Bottom photo: Sue’s sister Gaye entertains guests.

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Top photo: Diana, Lois, Barbara and Fran. Middle: Gaye and Lisa. Bottom photo: Billie June and Barbara

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Top photo: Laura and Sue’s mom, Wanda. Bottom photo, left: Sue displays one of Barbara’s handmade cookies. Bottom photo, right: I was going to make some small ornament earrings for Wanda and Sue said they needed to be much, much larger since her mother likes wearing flashy jewelry. So Wanda, being ever the willing participant, actually wore these at the end of the party (they’re lighter than they look).

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Top photo: Sue with her lovely neighbor, Sandy. Middle: Cathy, Lois, and Rebecca. Bottom photo: a partial group photo

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Top photo: Wanda, Barbara, Sue and Gaye. Middle: A gathering of tea-cozy-covered teapots. Bottom photo: Quick! What else can you do with a tea cozy? Allow me to introduce you to Laura and Mary Ingalls and their uppity friend Nellie Oleson.

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When Michael and I were vacationing with Sue and Wanda in the Pacific Northwest last fall (see multiple postings about our funfilled trip here and here), Wanda mentioned that she had always wanted a “smooth cake.” (I knew she meant a fondant-covered cake.) Sue told Barbara about Wanda’s desire and the day after the tea party, Sue drove over to Barbara’s house to pick up a “smooth cake” she had made especially for Wanda. (Now that’s pure southern hospitality in action, y’all!) In the photo above, Wanda shows off her “smooth cake.” Take notice that she’s wearing a fun engraved bracelet that reads, “Does this bracelet make me look fat?—a gift from a friend. (You can buy that cute bracelet here. Warning—it’s not costume-jewelry priced…and $25 for shipping a resin bracelet? Hmmmmm…)

And finally, just in case anyone is interested—I was born in Selma, Alabama. The city is best known for the Selma-to-Montgomery civil rights marches that began in 1965.

Something that Sue’s guests and new friends might not know about her—when I first met Sue in 2003, she was working on a tea-inspired page-a-day calendar and was having a not-so-good experience getting it designed. (Sue was my neighbor, just a few houses away—I met her when I called about the community’s garden-open-house event). The calendar was a project produced by her company, Tea Memories. Since I’m a graphic designer, I volunteered to help her with the project. It was fun to design and produce and we became the best of friends during the process. I found mention of the 2003 and 2004 calendars on www.teaandcoffee.com (scroll down to the 4th entry and read about the project).

Sue has returned the creative favor numerous times by serving as a most professional model for photographs for publications and magazines I design. Below are shots I did this past spring for Hearing Loss Magazine, a publication of the Hearing Loss Association of America.

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© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Afternoon tea on a rainy day

6 09 2008

This afternoon I attended a baby shower and tea party for Elizabeth—a friend, neighbor, and “Weedette” in my Garden Club. Her first child, Baby “Snapdragon,” is due October 6. Elizabeth’s favorite colors are pink and green, so her friends decorated the party in that color scheme. Her friend hosting the party has worked as a caterer, so the food was delicious and beautifully presented, too. Elizabeth’s friend, Susan, a graphic designer, made the invitations, name tags, party favor hang tags, and a beautiful handmade guest book. Party favors included a white teapot-shaped teabag holder, a teabag, a baby carriage-shaped cookie, and a little tin of mints—all carrying the pink and green theme throughout. While I took a fair amount of people shots, I especially enjoyed photographing the flowers, decorations, and appetizers. Thanks for including me in your celebration, Elizabeth!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Party of six…

22 06 2008

Yet another favorite thing to do—set the table for a small dinner party. I should throw more of these smaller, more intimate gatherings (rather than the large “let’s invite everyone we know—and then some” parties). I picked up the gorgeously graphic tablecloth from a Crate & Barrel outlet (I think), and the table runner was just three cheap twig placemats (bought on clearance, of course) strung together with wire. The small salad plates, a recent acquisition, are from Home Goods, have free-form edges, and are embossed to look like rings on a tree trunk (way, way cool). Tableware was a forged “fiddlehead” pattern from a Pottery Barn outlet (really, really cheap; couldn’t pass them up)—very organic and earthy, even if the three-prong design on the fork requires an attitude adjustment. The etched “grass glasses” were on sale for $1 each at a Pier 1 clearance store…couldn’t pass those up, either. Yes, I have a thing for leaves, grasses, and trees. Oh, and don’t get me started on bird- and feather-related things!

This was a very last-minute gathering (although it was called a “Mexi-fest, we joked about it being “The Last Supper” since my sister Debbie was flying home the next day). Debbie made her signature enchiladas and the rice and beans were from Baja Fresh (we cheated on the sides, which made it so much easier on us!). The salad was gathered from our garden (lettuce only). Regina made her “Nana’s Sweet Pie” for dessert and Tom brought Corona and Sangrias (very appropriate for a Mexi-fest!).

The centerpieces were made with flowers from the garden, too—white lilies, yellow yarrow, “unknown” greenery, and past-their-bloom Purple sensation alliums (very architectural in their current state)—all tucked into two sand- and water-filled square glass vases (cheap, from IKEA).

And those two narrow hutches in the background? They’re unfinished pine cabinets from IKEA. I painted them with leftover Home Depot’s Behr Swiss Coffee (a slightly warmish white color) eggshell paint, slathered on a walnut stain, then rubbed burnt umber acrylic paint onto embossed wallpaper (a leaf pattern from Home Depot) that was cut to fit and glued into the recessed squares on the cabinet fronts. The cabinets were used in my painting studio until I relegated them to service as both a drink buffet and dish storage unit in the kitchen. I’m going to submit the project to the website IKEAHacker. If you’re fortunate to live close to an IKEA store, check that site out. You’ll be amazed at the things you can do with all the inexpensive products from that store!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Pesto Fest Guests (and other delights)

29 11 2007

Okay…so I’m two months late posting a recap on the 3rd Annual Pesto Fest (it took that long to clean up!—okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration). If I must say so (and I must), this was undoubtedly the best Pesto Fest yet! Thanks to Tom for rigging up an almost-authentic Italian restaurant lighting setup (I write almost because it was a mishmash of twinkly Xmas lights, restaurant-style globe lights, and other mutts)…thanks to Cam for helping decorate and fashion our lovely table floral arrangements out of store-bought flowers and fodder from my garden (not to mention all the table set up help, creative advice, and antipasta offering—oh, and the Sambuca—which Michael grew a little too fond of by evening’s end)….thanks to Regina for her annual contribution of her wonderful gorgonzola sauce (is it not otherwordly in taste?) and veggie pasta sauce…..and thanks to everyone who came, contributed, and celebrated! We had a really great crowd: Dana & Gordon, Keith, Gina, Elsa and her family from Colombia, Sudha, Vicki, Karen, Nanda, Judy/Paul/Matt, Barbara, Cam, Elizabeth, Kathy (and her 4-legged guest, Casey), Natasha, Regina & Jeff, Amy & Jeff, Norma, Dick & Michael…I do hope I haven’t left anyone out! The weather was heavenly, too…and I do believe the only way we can top this year’s event is if we hold next year’s in Italy! Any takers?

Pesto Fest Guests….. 

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…and other delights! 

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