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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

BEACH.FASHION.FRIENDS

I’ve been grounded for the last couple of months, and while I can’t complain (living in an amazing city like Nashville), my need to get away is approaching overdrive. Missing NYFW festivities was a limitation - I (privately) pouted a bit when seeing friends’ posts about the week.

Luckily, just as I’m strong enough to get out of the house and on the road, another annual fashion/beauty event is about to commence. The plus that it’s in a familiar place that I’ve been desperately longing to visit… my home-away-from-home in South Walton.

The view from the balcony at Sterling Shores... a glorious way to start every day of SWFW
This is only the second year for the area to host a fashion week, but based on last year’s experience…. and the incredible list of talent for 2014, it’s certain to be fantastic. Inventive designers like Mychael Knight and Jin Seo are joining 30A retailers like Willow, Alys Shoppe...and a slew of others for a schedule filled with fabulous fun. The official South Walton Fashion Week also includes red carpet glam and samples galore from Patchouli's and other beauty brand faves.

One of Jin Seo's simple, stylish designs

Getting there’s a cinch; hop on a direct flight from major Southern cities and arrive at the glorious white sand beach headquarters in an hour or less. The other option is to toss some tunes into the car (along with a couple of fun-loving girlfriends) and hit the road. Driving to the beach from anywhere in the Southeast is a fairly quick jaunt without the summer tourist traffic.

I’m most anxious to actually see our place on the beach. It’s a Sterling Resort, and the company is providing accommodations for SWFW visitors if you need a place to stay. I can personally vouch for this one. I’ll also pop over and enjoy a night or two with friends at one of the lovely Cottage Rentals of Rosemary Beach, (another lodging partner). If you’re a fan of Rosemary’s ambiance, this is the reservation to make.

Willow Boutique in Rosemary Beach
Packing for this destination isn’t usually an issue (toiletries, shorts, swimwear and sundresses and sandals live there year round). For SWFW, I'll need a couple of things. I’ve made a list of packing essentials that vary a bit from my usual beach look.

HAIR
My typical ‘do’ is an elastic band. That’s not going to cut it for a stylish soiree and runway show viewing. Ocean breezes and humidity change everything, so casually chic hair isn’t totally effortless. Thank goodness for the new collection of ‘mini’ essentials from Drybar. The line smells incredible… and the components are little powerhouses for taming the most unruly mane (aka, mine). This collection is now available online. I also suggest the Drybar's new Triple Sec 3-in-one spray (dry shampoo/volume/texture). While I’m there, I can pick up some fun hair pins/headbands to change it up a bit from day to night, but having these miracle-workers will make that an option...not a requirement. 

I love everything on the Drybar menu.. and my top picks are now in mini versions, while they last...

SHOES
This is always a tough one at the beach. My worn flip-flops won’t do. I’m opting for a couple of wooden wedge designs for the higher heel height I want, but more sturdy support for my just-recovered status. They’re also the best for avoiding slipping on those pesky pebbles that teeter heels at every location near the water.

CLOTHES
I’m packing a couple of good foundation items/layering tanks and a jacket. Otherwise, I have no intention of packing a single outfit. That’s what this trip is all about. Navigating the shops is much easier than trying to create an ensemble in a big city fashion week, which is more about pre-orders. The boutiques peppered along 30A and my go-to’s in Sandestin carry incredibly stylish, quality goods from trusted designers… and at a fair price. I can’t wait to find items to get me not only through a few days of festivities, but to add to my fall wardrobe (which definitely needs a boost).

Looking forward to a little porch time between shows at this Rosemary Beach cottage (rent the one next door!)

In addition to runway events and parties, design savvy retailers are hosting trunk shows. Most include bubbly (thank you) with fab pieces for purchase you can’t find elsewhere.


The best part about this trip is making the decision to go last minute. Not planning too far ahead is completely freeing. Throw some things together and take off…. work and laundry will be waiting when you get home. Seriously,  it's the best weather of the year and possibly the most enjoyable fall week (or long weekend-- Oct 9-11 are key dates) experience in the South. Pick up your phone, text your fashion-loving friends, get your tickets and join me at the beach. Hope to see you on the red carpet at Grand Boulevard!
















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Monday, September 15, 2014

Tipping Point


Each day we deal with issues far less severe than many experience on a daily basis. It’s our nature to be curious, worried or to comment about health related items afflicting others in our midst. I’m writing today so that I don’t fall into that practice. Sharing personal things isn’t typical for me, and not something I want to dwell on. This post really is about my hitting a wall, taking care of myself and moving on. Hopefully, that's without questions and speculation about my condition, appearance… or recent failure to return messages, attend meetings or follow through with RSVP’s. This post is for those who’ve been surprised or insulted by my ‘MIA’, as well as for those going above and beyond to help me feel less guilty about it.

Being free from this is a whole new reason to celebrate. 

Over the last few months I’ve been dealing with (and attempting to manage) a fight between my nervous system breakage and my fast-paced approach to life. It hasn’t been easy, but not completely impossible either. I’ve kept up as much as physically possible and only in the last couple of weeks actually shut down.

Damaged nerves and a ‘jacked up’ spinal cord are nothing new. In the course of my adult life, I’ve been through 4 corrective surgeries. Breakdowns in my system are inevitable, happen for no apparent reason and are an ongoing challenge. I prefer to choose the bright side and to take things as they come. But, this particular experience has sidetracked me more than in the past.

Sunny and Butch sent sunshine for my first day at home... via Oshi. Brightens every step.

Sadly, it’s partly due to getting older. Bouncing back isn’t as easy in this fourth decade I find myself in. It’s a fact and one I’ve almost accepted. All of the workouts, core strength and attempts to heal myself naturally through diet won't cure hereditary disease, but the efforts certainly haven’t been wasted. Facing any medical trauma with a strong body and spirit is a plus, which is why I'll continue my quest for being healthy and strong.

Posting this to avoid shock on first sight. The upside, my neck really isn't this wrinkled.
 Bandage tape causes crinkling-- yep, that's how I'm playing it
The emotional factor hasn’t been an issue with previous operations. I’ve hated missing events and being housebound but otherwise never struggled. This time, it’s a little different with some not-so-easy-to-hide incisions. 

Vanity and ego are something none of us really want to claim as a trait or major part of who we are. I envy those that truly don’t care, but am now more than certain that what’s on the surface impacts how I feel in general.  It’s the hardest part of this battle. Not swallowing well is no problem with Juice Nashville's glowing packages, but wearing a terrible looking collar and sporting a lurking slash.... not so much.

Every day...even to sleep in. Like a ring of hockey masks-- shocking at first.
Doing nothing isn’t an option, with dozens of projects in the works that I won’t drop and a few more in the pipeline I’m particularly pumped about starting. I have an amazing husband (aka nurse Nichols), with more social commitments and shows than most pageant winners… so being housebound doesn’t really work for long in this life we’ve created.

A really sweet arrangement from This Music Publishing, such great people and friends.



Thinking I might be able to keep this orchid
alive.. from my MStreet peeps.
My current status is officially ‘on the mend’, and despite fashion challenges that seem obtrusive at the moment…. I’m looking up and moving forward. I’ve never been one to wear scarves, but guessing that’s going to change. The other shortcomings I can deal with and continue to fight. My internal system may now be filled with a little titanium, but my movement is fluid and showing great improvement. It’s a blessing I wish others could enjoy. So many in my situation are far less fortunate. I believe my ability to heal is due to my faith, incredible talent from my neurosurgeon, Dr. Vaughn Allen (and his team, especially Brianna) combined with  the love of those who make me smile every single day.

From my mentor..the woman who always takes things head on.. and makes the best of every situation. 
If I owe you an email, I promise to get back to you as soon as possible.. it's a mountain to climb. And, if I missed your opening, celebration or release… please know I was there in spirit. Expect me next time – most likely in a scarf, possibly wrapped around a brace. I’m ok with it, and hoping you are as well. What I'm looking most forward to is seeing familiar faces I've missed and doing my part to contribute to causes and cases I've neglected (and not having to talk about any of this for another second). Can't wait for all of you to fill me in on what's next.... and to make up for lost time by contributing in the best way that I can.











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Monday, June 30, 2014

Step Up Summer Cocktails


The opportunity to chop, cook, infuse, mix and savor produce grown close to home is one of summer’s greatest pleasures. Cooking is an enjoyable chore and hobby elevated by seasonal crops. But, creating and sipping a perfectly mixed cocktail is an escape, experiment and method of relaxation that soaks up the essence of summer living for me.

I use my Iron Gate platter as a cocktail tray/mixing station for intimate patio gatherings.
Unexpected and inexpensive, since there's no party serving piece to buy. Use what you have...

I don’t get too serious or strict about recipes, but treat every glass, pitcher or jar like an art project from summer camp. There’s direction but no rules or expectations – just creative fun. My bar is open to treat friends at least a couple of times a week. Sometimes it's 3 and others it's 30. I've streamlined the process for more fun, less work.

Whether you’re using plastic cups at a lake cabin or expensive crystal on a veranda is irrelevant. Focus on bringing smiles and flavors to yourself and your favorite people.

Let your hosts choose their flavor or twist. Keep herbs in glasses with water along with mini scissors
and sliced fruit. A side cutting board and knife nearby to encourage cutting into your display.

Display what you have on hand so guests can get creative. There's nothing prettier to add color to a table.
A centerpiece of edible goodies (see above, cut into some to start) is a summer party favorite.

SUMMER HOSTING ESSENTIALS

Keep fruit and herbs on hand. Buy fresh from local farmers or grow what you can. Less chemicals = more flavor and joy for all. 

Give your guests a choice instead of sticking them with a signature cocktail. Unfussy is the best hot- weather vibe. If someone dislikes berries, they shouldn't have to sip your 'famous strawberry lemonade'-- no matter how good it is. Bonus - flavor options serve as your decor/centerpiece.

Skip sugary mixes, juices and sodas all together. Ugh! They cause sluggish feelings, not to mention the wrench thrown at your swimsuit profile.

Sparkling water reigns. Today's mini machines eliminate excess plastic, but bigger bottles of Pellegrino go a long way when using lots of ice. We all crave a little fizz. It’s also nice to have on hand for abstainers, for creating their own flavored 'mocktail'.
PS: Sub sparkling water for tonic and save 125 calories per 12 oz.  At the end of the party, this really adds up. Glass bottles are so easy to clean and reuse, another plus.

Like white jeans, clear liquors are summer essentials.  Fruit hues shine and melting ice doesn’t cause a watered-down look. Infuse with herbs or fruit for a few days for a much more subtle and genuine taste than pre-flavored varieties. And, they won't stain those white jeans, either.

 I’m addicted to slower melting ‘ice balls'. I throw in basil, mint, berries or citrus for flavor. My favorites are the amply-sized Tovolo Ice Sphere Molds found at Absolution in Nashville

Summer’s about taking a break, including one from your usual cocktail or spirit brand. Instead of the ‘usual’, try new tequila or an artisan gin. A great example is US made boutique brand, Sugar Wash Moonshine as an alternative to white rum. It’s sweeter, lighter and such fun to invite friends over for ‘moonshine’ mojitos. 

Don’t go overboard and try to coordinate everything. No one cares about that except for little girls at birthday parties. If it’s an adult gathering, the environment shouldn’t be ‘matchy’. Curated themes are tasteful, but all of that party store nonsense is never good idea, especially for a casually elegant cocktail hour.

Infusing is commonplace at our bar. Gin with the flavor of fresh cucumbers and mint from my
 herb garden is great solo, but surprisingly complimentary to sweeter fruits like mango and berries. 

More tips, shortcuts and mixing fun will be posted here all week. Don’t miss seeing THE LIST of my go-to sites for shopping, recipes and presentations. Keep following... lots of libations yet to come.



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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Summer Cocktails: Source List


Whether you want to muddle produce and herbs for specialty cocktails, or feel more comfortable picking up a crowd-pleasing wine or craft beer, there’s no reason to put too much time into trying to create a summer party plan as a holiday weekend approaches. Don’t stress or search aimlessly through random Pinterest boards trying to find the ideal presentation . It’s easy to get buried with too many choices, and it's the season to chill—not obsess.


Just one of the many colorful concoctions found on Sous Style. This Rainier Cherry Muddler was the from another of my favorite recipe-sharing sites, Sprouted Kitchen

Just like stopping at a small market is faster (and less headache) than navigating a superstore, limiting your options to 2-3 trusted sources where ideas/guides are at the ready reduces stress. Copy links to your phone for picking up essentials when at the farm stand or market, and you’re good to go.

A libations list consistently elevates your host/hostess status and boosts your cocktail confidence without wasting precious time. When it’s time to celebrate, you don’t want to be searching for help online or trying to find an ingredient. Shop and stock up in advance—and focus on soaking up the sun with friends, cocktail in hand.


Impress and refresh your guests while using up herbs from the garden with Food & Wine's Basil Slushie

SITE SALVATION:

My teachers and trusted advisers for ingredients, serving advice,  mistakes to avoid, saving time/money, and evolving recipe options. I've also outlined my HOSTING TIPS guide of all I’ve collected from others, my own experience and observations from memorable parties.You'll also see a variation of motivational menus to get you on track on Southern Sophisticate, so I'm hoping you'll put it on the list along with these:


Take advantage of unique base ingredients like rhubarb to really impress, just follow simple
mixing tips for drinks like this on Maureen's 10 minute happy hour


A reliable source of recipes by a fun, realistic guru (ps: she’s also founding editor of foodrepublic.com and author of  Cocktail Club). The10 minute happy hour tab is genius. The Maker Style tab includes appetizer tips, the skinny on buying gin, shopping shortcuts and Maureen’s take on how to set a table… fast! Best choice for novice entertainers.

The raspberry-lemonade smash on Sous Style' happy hour was created by another good go-to,
 A Beautiful Mess. It's also great in big batches for backyard sipping.

If you’re idea of a great read is the latest issue of an upscale food mag, you'll lose hours perusing the site. It’s young, fresh and on trend without being trendy. Think 'grapefruit cucumber cocktails meets fashion shoot'. Keep the Happy Hour tab bookmarked. It's actually my top choice for inspiration.. and guilty pleasure reading. 


On Mouth, they do the shopping for you. I am crazy about their Summer Spirit Gift Set. One click, and done! 

Yes, it’s a shopping site for groceries and gift baskets, but in my opinion, they make sites like Williams Sonoma passé. The blog includes trusted advice on purchases. It’s a great starting point if you are seeking what bitters to buy at your local store and invaluable for online gift ordering for your entertaining friends.


Camille Styles totally hooks me with the regular profiles on top entertainers (and their secrets).

Just love this site. It’s current and full of insight on many things. The cocktails are imaginative without being complicated. Select Bottom's Up-- under the food tab... you won't be sorry. 
PS: It's ideal for the calorie-conscious, lots of lighter choices here.


Several fun watermelon and tequila cocktail blends on F&W

The chef inspired, summer drink pick is on-point, and so easy to follow... and delicious. Throwback- meets-modern recipes like the 'new' daiquiri or their Fourth of July cocktail guide are all smart but simple. It's foodie focused, but the blog often includes cocktail recipes with 3 ingredients, max.


Keep your guests (and yourself) hydrated and happy with these tips
What's your go to site for finding helpful, quick information on cocktail parties. Do dish...as hosting help is always something worth toasting! 



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