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Wines for the Weekend!

May 9, 2018

I know that it comes as no surprise that Will and I really enjoy drinking wine!   At one point last year when I was just starting to appear more regularly in front of the camera my mom (and dad) pointed out (separately) that I had a glass of wine in hand perhaps a bit too often 😉  — nerves I say !

Regardless, Will and I are totally casual and relaxed about our wine education; by no means are we wine snobs, and we’re happy hitting our box rosé during the week but, we really enjoy trying new delicious wines and expanding our knowledge and experience.   Lucky for us, a lovely little wine shop opened up around the corner this winter and, when I had mouth surgery over the holidays, the owner Justin helped me pick new delicious wines which suited by damaged and very limited palate (which has healed in full BTW — phew!).     Through this experience, we formed a friendship, and he gained two very loyal customers (four really because our friends were living with us at the time).    Justin is so passionate and knowledgeable without being at remotely pushy or judgmental.    You can say to him that you need to find an $11 bottle or that you’re looking for a splurge and have no idea where to begin…. he really doesn’t mind and is there to help.   He has introduced us to plenty of new delicious bottles.  I can honestly say that there isn’t a wine that he has sold us that I haven’t liked.   He remembers his customer’s tastes and preferences and makes helpful recommendations.  With that in mind, I have been wanting to share some of his knowledge here and so asked him to help me pick some wines for us, two under $20, two under $40 and a splurge….here we go:

Two Under Twenty:

Cahors Le Pur Fruit du Causse –  Justin recommended a Malbec, which is a crowd pleaser (good to know, we aren’t big red wine drinkers so it’s particularly mysterious to us ).   This wine references the limestone it takes its name from and is organic, crisp, earthy, and juicy.  Pair with good or drink alone!

La Louvetrie – For the white he picked a Muscadet, its the entry bottle from Domaine de La Louvetrie, home of some of the very best in the Loire Valley and a very well-respected wine maker — one of the best.    This is the wine maker’s “entry level” bottle and because he is so skilled, is particularly wonderful for the price point.    

Two Under Forty:

Taganan –   I love the story of the team behind this  Canary Island white.   They are four who studied together and then went their separate way to study under famous wine makers before coming back together.   They bring back parcels of lands and revive old vineyards which have fallen on harder times but still have lots of potential because they feature old vines with real pedigree.    Taganan is a wine from Tenerife where the vines sit on volcanic rock directly above the Atlantic.   

Barsotti Vineyard – Gamay – The upscale red selection is a Californian Gamay.   These vines are grown in granite soil and replicate many of the features of one of the most famous varieties of Beaujolais — Morgon Cote Du Py.    Fantastically light, this is a fresh and charming choice. 

Fizz:

Pow Blop Wizz – Monarch has a great selection of ‘pet nat’ sparkling wines.   These are made using ‘unfinished’ grapes, allowing fermentation to continue in the bottle.   It is lo-fi wine making, shunning some of the pretense of champagne.   The bottle has to be inverted to release all the “yummy” residue before pouring.   The process – described as Russian Roulette with wine making – when successful results can be deliciously lightweight and fizzy.   Like this one, with the amazing name, it is delicious, fun and feels just like summer – why not?

Splurge:  Justin has a selection of collector’s wines, and this Volnay Caillerets (2002, $250) his first choice for a “splurge” bottle — elegant, sophisticated, lifted, crisp and seductive.  The excitement with which he spoke about it had us dying to buy a bottle (there’s only one left).   What a fun date night experience to have at home — pair with food that isn’t too dominant, like a roast chicken or hearty fish.

 

Charleston Entertaining Flowers Home

Crash Course: Spring Flowers

May 2, 2018

The spring is one of my favorite seasons for flowers.   I remember when we were planning our October wedding many years ago, all the flowers that I loved the most were unavailable or too hard to get because they were for Spring.   Now of course it’s possible to get anything year round, but I really try to stick to what’s in season and to look forward to what is blooming next.   I can’t wait to get my hands on some lilac!

An early spring (late winter?) favorite are ranunculus — they are so soft and feathery and are such a treat.  I also just discovered these white tree peonies at a local shop and fell in love with them; I bought them “open” but they seem to be holding up ok!  Daisies are a favorite, as are sweet peas (I bought some “wild” sweet peas yesterday — something I had not seen before, either).   Tulips, daffodils, speedwell, queen anne’s lace and snapdragons are all so beautiful and delicate.  I also ADORE paper whites, clematis and hellebores.  The list goes on!

People often ask me how I select my flowers.  The truth is that I go totally by color and texture, and only by following this instinct has my knowledge and taste expanded.  I remember that I used to feel that I could only buy romantic antique roses and peonies and didn’t quite understand the rest and how to handle them once I brought them home and had to make an “arrangement”.    The more you practice the better but one thing that makes it super easy is just to keep your flowers in pretty monochromatic arrangements: all the ranunculus together, all the daisies, etc.  while you gather confidence in processing and handling flowers.

The same goes for color; if you’re feeling intimidated, just stick with a really simple color scheme, like white, and then select all the white flowers that you like from the store.   I’m known for laying out all of my flowers at the wholesale florist and then eliminating or adding from there — a habit which I am sure is very annoying (and well handled by them) but since I am a visual learner, this is the best way for me to educate myself on what works well.

Charleston Entertaining Family Food

Adventures in the Kitchen: Sweet Animal Cookies

May 1, 2018

Our little one, Baby R, loves activities in the kitchen.   Whether it’s tinkering with a can opener, or creating some wild smoothie (like arugula & milk for “mama” — yuck!), he absolutely adores to spend time creating his own concoctions and playing with all the tools.   I am not particularly gifted in the kitchen and am prone to burning/over-cooking and generally forgetting what’s in the oven (lost in the act of flower arranging/candle-lighting) but since having our child, I have been determined to learn more to ensure that we stick around the table for meals as our family grows.

I love the idea of having glass jars filled with (healthy) baked goods that the children can grab;  I know this is not the best example but it was definitely a fun place to start.   Baking is an art form and I loved mixing together the frosting with the natural coloring the most — felt a lot like painting which I always love to do…

We try to really take our weekends as a family, and to check out from work.   This is particularly important during wedding season when we have so few weekends totally “off”.    This past weekend we spent most of our time outside playing under the hose and scooting around the neighborhood but in the height of the afternoon, we came inside to do some baking.    Those of you who follow us on Instagram stories might know that right now we have nine pets — four cats & five turtles (long story, and we’re not hoarding we promise).   We thought it might be fun to make some (as healthy as can be) sugar cookies to enjoy with an iced tea in the late afternoon and naturally gravitated towards the animal molds … I particularly love the unicorn which I am icing below:

The lady who sold us the molds reminded us that we should freeze our cookie dough for 20 minutes or so to make sure that it’s extra cold when it’s going into the oven — this way the shapes won’t expand/spoil — good to know!   He really loved watching me smooth the frosting with my finger and found it to be the most amusing part of the process — we didn’t let him have too many cookies !! xx

Charleston Garden Home

Planting an Herb Garden

April 27, 2018

I should begin this post by explaining that Will, my husband, is the expert gardener but that I have been keen to learn.     Will built these flower boxes last spring with his father and they have been eagerly awaiting fresh plants since last season’s faded away.     We thought it might be nice to try an herb garden as we are cooking more and don’t always end up finishing our store bought basil, etc.   We planted:  thyme, dill, parsley, mint, lemon balm, basil, rosemary and oregano.   All were a joy to plant, and smell so good!  I have already made two tomato mozzarella salads because the basil is so delicious.

Will generously walked me through the planting process:  preparing the soil (which was quite damp), breaking up the roots, packing the plants and filling in the gaps with dirt, watering and then we added a layer of mulch on top to keep the moisture in and for aesthetics.   One thing that I thought was nice is that I felt it was a very small amount of plants but it filled the planter nicely and the mulch makes up for the gaps between.   In our limited experience, herbs grow really quickly and can expand so I wanted to leave space between.  A lovely reader let me know that mint apparently takes over so I have re-planted it in a separate pot.   Also, this bougainvillea is totally unrelated but was irresistible, so full!

We took the entire porch apart last weekend for a freshen up: sanding, a good scrub and a few coats of paint really made a huge difference — feels like new, just in time for the early summer weather!   See the video below for more step by steps.  And the all white went in the wash quite well 😉 xx !

Charleston Entertaining Family Food Personal

What I Learned From Alice Waters

April 24, 2018

When I left university, I was torn between pursuing my career in photography or my interest in the slow food movement, in particular, introducing gardens into the school system so that the next generation would grow up able to recognize foods, understand where they came from and how to prepare them.   I was well studied on and passionate about this topic  (I get very very focused when I am interested in something) and couldn’t believe my luck when I scored an internship in the office of Alice Waters — it was a dream come true, or at least the result of lots of persistence.

My father flew out to Berkeley with me to help find an apartment.   He jokes that the moment we rolled into town, I peeled off my preppy knit cashmere sweater to reveal my tie-die tee underneath — like I had finally come home!   In the end, I was only there for four months but, my father visited me three times in that short duration.   One of the trips, we took a two week drive around California to every national park, just the two of us.  Another trip, I accidentally ate my roommate’s medicinal pot cookies and had to get him to come rescue me, which he did, without question.  He’s a really good dad.

Back to Alice:  I imagined that I would be a fly on the wall, performing surface level tasks and hiding in the bathroom whenever possible, and was terrifyingly and pleasantly surprised to be thrown right in.   I loved every minute of it — Alice had built a team of incredibly talented people, some of whom are still good friends, and the day Michael Pollan walked in and tapped me on the shoulder to ask where Alice might be was one I will never forget.   You would have thought it was … Obama?  I practically fell out of my chair, he was and still is a huge hero of mine.

It was in Alice’s office that I first learned how to arrange and tend to flowers, a passion that continues to this day.   I was also fortunate to have a few non-work related dinners with her when we were able to drink lots of wine and have DMCs (deep and meaningful conversations) — most memorable was my 24th birthday when we spoke long into the night about love.   Little did I know that I would meet Will, my husband to be, just five weeks later.     Before heading off to Savannah for graduate school,  I returned to Berkeley for my first professional photography gig:  The 40th Anniversary of Chez Panisse.  When I was hugging Alice goodbye after a weekend of celebration she said, “you’ll be back…”.

Dinner, or any meal, with Alice is never simple.   It is infused with love, coziness, magic and a seasonal freshness that connects you with your environment.  She will introduce you to a fruit that you haven’t even heard of or hand you the most delicious strawberry that you have ever tasted.   She will talk to you with an unguarded and open heart, about anything.  She is not self-conscious or worried about what you might think of her; she is deeply and unapologetically herself.   So what does this teach us, really, besides the obvious tenants that she has fought for her entire life?

It teaches us to live with passion.  To fight for something that we can dedicate our lives to, in pursuit of the betterment of our families, communities and our planet.   And if that feels too daunting for now,  Alice teaches us to make time to celebrate others, and to make them feel so so special.    She teaches us to live for the pleasure of it all, for ourselves and the people around us, to listen and engage, understanding that learning something new might just set us on yet another glorious adventure.

 

Here is a link to an auction raising funds for the Edible Schoolyard!!

Charleston Photography Tutorial

5 Tips for Better Styling

April 6, 2018

I love styling.   It plays a huge role in both our wedding and lifestyle photography and I think the more you practice, the better you get.    I recommend finding some photographs you really love and then attempting to re-create them; it’s a great way to practice and you often end up with something original anyway.   Here are some other tips I live by:

Keep it simple.   Sometimes when a photograph isn’t looking exactly right, we tend to add more layers to it when the best practice is to keep unnecessary elements away.   The simplest things are often the most striking.

We read a photo from left to right, so try not to block the left side too much.   If I have a whimsical or larger element, I tend to place it in the lower right hand corner and find that it works well.  I do this a lot with flat lays or our wedding invitations — the ribbon or flower works best in the lower corner.

Keep your colors consistent or complimentary.   Nothing busies a photo more than a mess of colors.   While I love to break this rule from time to time, I try to do it very strategically and thoughtfully as it often ends up being messy rather than purposeful

Try it a few different ways.    I often find that the first photo I take is my favorite, even though I have tried a million variations after.  It’s much more about gut instinct than you think!

Make sure that the subject matter makes sense and is feasible, i.e.  make sure that the wine glass would be in that spot, or the cheese is realistically cut into.  Oftentimes, our most natural tendencies are the most translatable and read the best in camera. xxx

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