Friday, December 19, 2014

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It really is the most wonderful time of the year, with parties and out of town visitors and (around here, at least) tons of birthdays. It's festive and fun and definitely hectic.

This year, starting a bit before Thanksgiving, Cooper's parents' added another exciting activity into the mix - they bought a new house and sold the house they'd lived in for over 35 years. Just this week, they had to make the final push, clearing out the last few things they'd left in the hold house. And in 35 years, it's possible to accumulate...a lot.

Some of that stuff was destined for the dumpster. But other things made their way to our house - including the cool old Chanel bottle in the picture above. It's gigantic - that's a regular-sized candy cane - and filled with colored liquid, not actual perfume.

The bottle was part of a display from Hutzler's; my mother-in-law, Patsy, nabbed it back when she worked there in the seventies. (Another cool story from those days: she met Diane von Furstenburg, who gifted all the ladies working in her department with a wrap the very early days of those dresses).

Earlier this week, Patsy was ready to toss the bottle but Cooper saved it for me, knowing I'd love it. I don't wear a lot of perfume and when I do, it's Chanel. It's what my mom and grandmother wear for special to me, it smells like grown-ups going out for something fun (and babysitters for the kids). Is there anything better? More glamorous?

Even the bottle, with its classic lines and font, is gorgeous. This one might be a little worn down...but that's just the years of experience, right?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Tabling It

Sotheby's Paris is hosting an auction that I can surely get behind. The auction is built around a series of table settings, designed by people who really know how to do that sort of thing, and include wine pairings that would match each setting.

Table setting is, truly, one of my favorite things. I'm sure I've mentioned it here before. Not necessarily the creation of elaborate tabletops - though that's fun, it's not something I can do all that often. No, what I really enjoy is just setting the table for dinner on a random Tuesday night. Especially when I'm busy with work and have been feeling stressed and overwhelmed.

Some people relax by running, or by baking bread. Me, I set the table. Folding napkins and carefully placing forks takes only a minute or two, but it's always a good reminder that even on the most hectic days, there is some order and beauty in the world.

Plus, anything that takes me away from my computer a good thing.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Recap: Mock Thanksgiving 2014

It's been nearly two weeks, so I've mostly recovered. This year, the weekend before Thanksgiving, we hosted our 12th annual Mock Thanksgiving party. It's come a long way from its humble beginnings, in the kitchen at Cooper's old house, back when we first started dating and Cooper's roommates still lived there (or in Maryland, for that matter).

The first year was filled with laughter...and a burned turkey and also a lot of Beaujolais Nouveau. So much Beaujolais.

This year, the laughter carried on but - for the first time ever - there was no turkey. The party has evolved quite a bit, from a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with just a few people, through several experimental years as the crew got larger and the food got better, to now, when it's less a dinner and more a cocktail party with some food.

These days, the planning starts at least six weeks ahead of time - and I definitely think a lot more about aesthetics and theme than I did in the early years.

This year's theme was something along the lines of "Rednecks and Boozehounds." Not in so many words - but from the deer-and-wine-themed invitations to the massive amount of apple pie moonshine we drank, the tone of the party was somewhere several notches below classy.

Plus we had tiny sweet potato ham biscuits, London broil with rolls and, as ever, oysters, oysters, oysters.

I thought the best dish of the night was the squash toasts - but hardly any got eaten! Admittedly, they were not pretty. But I'll definitely make them again for dinner. As for losers...well, I wasn't in love with the roasted cauliflower dip. But it was fine.

The big lesson I learned this year was that people will always pick up a onesie hors d'oeuvres before they eat a dip. The stuff you could pick up and eat in one bite went like hotcakes (the proscuitto and pear cups and the bagel chips). The dips...well, let's just say I made a lot of all of them and even the hearts of palm dip, which is a consistent winner, didn't disappear.

Also, the punch was really very good - and so was the moonshine. I'd make either one again in a second.

This party was also a great reminder that sometimes, it really does take a village. Not only was the moonshine originally Alicia's idea, and not only did she come over on Friday to help prep, she and Mike, plus Kyle and Bill, spent a big chunk of Saturday helping me set up. Plus, all of the people who brought things were amazing (that includes my friend Melissa bringing a cheddar and apple chutney app and several people bringing awesome desserts).

Even the kids got in on the action. Dixon, Maddy and Maggie each made a sign that hung on the window during the party. Maddy's and Maggie's were adorable and sweet. Dixon's, on the other hand...his sign included such gems as "Crank Up the Beats!" and "It's Farty Time." Kid's a copywriting genius.

The party, if I do say so myself, was a blast. Funny and fun and a little bit crazy. A perfect way to kick off the holiday season.

The kids' decorations are still up - who would have the heart to take them down so soon? - but the rest of the party remnants have been tucked back in their spots, ready to be pulled out again next year.

And I, of course, already can't wait.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

On the "Nice" List

No posts for two weeks?!? Not intended, I can assure you. I've had a crazy couple of weeks and posting kept slipping farther down the list.

(I realize that's a common excuse around here - so common that I decided to make an early New Year's resolution to stop complaining about my schedule/stress, since a) no one cares and b) everyone is busy. It is...challenging. I'm way better at complaining than at not complaining.)

Anyway, I'm working on a large-ish post but in the meantime, here are a couple things I've been into lately:

1. Becket Hitch. 

Visiting this Greenspring Station shop, originally conceived as a pop-up, is like touring the inside of my brain. it's full of things I desperately want - or already have, from books to hostess gifts. I'm in love.

2. Frederick.

Sarah G's hometown is adorable - I've known that for a while. But after interviewing over a dozen shop-owners for this Sun article, I really feel like I need to spend more time there. Every person I interviewed was so passionate and interesting and friendly. Even Bryan Voltaggio, who might have a few other things to do besides talk to me on the phone.

3. Chefs and Holidays.

You know what else is fun? Talking to chefs about holiday recipes. Writing this Sun magazine article was an absolute blast. I got to talk to some of the city's most creative and talented food people about the holidays and what they love to cook and eat.

When I see an article like this one, or the one about Frederick, in print (or, more realistically, online), I remember that my actual job involves talking to people about pretty, cool and delicious things that they love to make and sell. Could I be any luckier?

4. Alexa Pulitzer.

A few weeks ago, I came across New Orleans-based Alexa Pulitzer and I could not get enough. She makes stationery, cups, coasters and all kinds of adorable things - including the plastic "hunting crest" cup pictured above. I now own about 50 of those. I couldn't resist! It's so Pollard.

It's a good problem to have, finding so many things interesting and cool. Even if it does make me busier and busier!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Want: Bulls Bay OYRO

Garden and Gun just announced the winners of their 5th annual Made in the South Awards and, as usual, I am drooling. Especially over this:

It's the Bulls Bay OYRO, a wood-fired oyster cooker designed and built by a man named Oliver Thames who lives in McClellanville, South Carolina. And it is amazing.

As soon as I saw it, I emailed my family. Oysters are, after all, the food that connects us most.

From the time we were little kids, stealing my dad's smoked oysters wrapped in bacon, my brother and sister and I have thought of oysters as the best kind of family treat.

We have them at nearly every family event (during the "R" months, even though, yes, we know that's no longer an issue). We eat them raw, grilled, roasted, plain, or topped with our special family recipe.

For my dad's 50th birthday, my mom threw him an oyster roast at their neighborhood beach. The beach has a bunch of big stone grills - they used those to cook the oysters, while we all stood around slightly shivering (it was March) and loving it.

Basically, oysters are the Waskoms favorite food. I mean, we love crabs, too, but oysters? They belong to us.

Which is why, as my sister mentioned, it is absolutely crazy that Cooper and I don't already have an oyster cooker in our backyard. It doesn't have to be the Bulls Bay cooker...though I wouldn't say no to that kind of gift. But even something more haphazard, something homemade.

I think it's the right thing for us to do.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

The Parties of Yesteryear

Adorable illustration of glasses for different bevvies. 
I'm working on something - a short article - that has me pulling out all the vintage cookbooks I've collected over the past few years.

I keep them stacked upstairs in my office. They're out of my usual line of sight, so sometimes I even forget they're there. Until I need some historical perspective on something...then I go digging. And that's when I remember, all over again, how totally entertaining and awesome old cookbooks can be.

For this project, I'm looking at recipes for winter cocktails (I know - some days it's hard to be me). In the search, I pulled out a big binder of a book called the Look and Cook Cook Book. It was written by Lillian Langseth-Christensen and Tatiana McKenna and was published by Brown and Bigelow in 1956. I picked it up a few years ago from Etsy, on the recommendation of my old friend Tracy.

The book is pretty comprehensive, including a wide variety of recipes plus several sections dedicated to menu planning, party-throwing and general fabulousness. I love this bit about menu planning:

We live in an era of scant clothing and great diet consciousness. [Ed note: You ladies hadn't seen anything yet!] There are no vast skirts or flared coats under which the results of too much roast goose can be hidden. Our entire eating habits and thus the making of Menus, must be adapted to giving nourishment, health an all the pleasures of eating, without the penalty of a roll about the waist.

And this, about planning a cocktail party:

The frequent answer to this question is...ask everyone you know, make some spreads and dunks, and have something in the refrigerator for the people (they are no longer friends at this point) who will not go home. Then fall exhausted into bed; and never, never give another Cocktail party - for at least a week.

Pure hilarity.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

This is a cocktail menu:

It's the menu at the Beaufort Bar, which is in the Savoy hotel in London.
The menu was, apparently, conceived by the bar's head bartender, Chris Moore.
Each drink is described both in words and via illustrated pop-up.
How amazing and gorgeous is that?


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