Tag: party

Spring is Luncheon Season!

For more spring party inspiration read my column in this month’s issue of AY magazine. You can find it online here. Read the entire article here.

The equinox on March 20th is the official beginning of spring, which is cause for celebration don’t you think?

Hosting a get-together doesn’t need to be a lot of work, especially during this gentle season. You can make your fete memorable and keep it simple by following these helpful tips.


Use both indoor and outdoor spaces. To accommodate spring’s unpredictable weather set up the dining indoors and the pre-meal gathering outdoors. Your guests can enjoy some time in the garden, but you won’t have to scramble if the day turns out dreary.


Be old-fashioned and send a written invitation. This extra step makes even small gatherings more special.


Luncheons are tailor-made for fresh spring ingredients like salad greens, English peas and asparagus so stick to dishes that feature the flavors of the season.

Table Setting

Spring is the most ethereal season; set a special table to reflect this feeling. Use spring-centric colors or delicate tableware to set the tone. You can’t go wrong with a white table cloth, but bright hues are a fun way to create a lively mood.


Rustic Christmas


Every year I pick a Christmas decorating theme drawing inspiration from everyday items or materials from the garden. For instance, in 2010 I went all orange and chartreuse using tons of clementines and this year old fashioned tin ornaments will be my guide. One of my favorite muses was a magnolia leaf. The glossy green top and velvety brown underside sparked the idea to decorate in chocolate browns, white and silver.

Every year I insist on cutting my own fresh tree. The prerequisites are it has to be really large and evergreen. Sometimes getting it from the driveway to inside my back parlor gets a little tricky, but once it's up I can't wait to get started decorating it.

Brown is one of my favorite colors to start the palette when decorating my tree. It is a natural color that blends well with the colors of my cottage. This year I chose white, silver and gold to highlight my tree.

Huge brown velveteen ribbons, silver starburst and beads, glittery snowflakes, golden glass pinecones and homemade white salt dough ornaments lend a rustic feel.

Three silver glass trees highlight a collection of natural evergreens, pinecones and glass ornaments on my buffet. A wooden bowl with ivory candles and green apples intertwined with silver beads rests on my coffee table.

Magnolia leaves with their dual coloration are a beautiful display in a silver vase.

Brown pine cones, silver beads, and frosted ornaments in an antique dough trough add visual interest and carry the theme through to my dining table. It's a great conversation starter for my guests.

How do you decorate for the holidays? Do you stick with a time honored theme or do you change it up every year?

Happy Halloween!

Who doesn’t love a wacky Halloween party? Last Monday I blogged about how I was getting ready for the annual Halloween fest by making floating Jack-o-lanterns. Today I’ll show you pictures from this weekend’s celebration.

The party got off to a bang when the ghouls arrived. The ghosts of river people long dead.

I greeted them on my porch along with my guests.

What tasty fare filled the black caldron? Hot white chicken chili or lentils and ham. Yum!

A decoration often used at Halloween, the raven portrays darkness and trickery.

I think I scared this river spirit.

As darkness fell and the festivities wound to a close, the ghosts of the river people returned to whence they came.

Girls Night Out!

I’m out of town this week so I asked my digital manager Mary Ellen Pyle to write this guest blog about a Girls Night Out at the Garden Home Retreat.

When Allen goes out of town everyone in the office breathes a collective sigh. Not that we don’t love the guy, it’s just nice to have him out of the way sometimes so we can get things done. Brilliant as he is, he’s not one for detail work and there’s a lot of that around here. Last week we shipped Allen off to Merry Olde England where he is visiting a few estate gardens in Norfolk and Suffolk. He’s sure to return full of new ideas he wants to try out.

Before Allen left he set the ladies up with a Girls Night Out at the Garden Home Retreat. The theme was red wine and chocolate. He gave us some tips for dressing up the space without expending a lot of energy. After all, Girls Night Out is about having a good time without a whole lot of effort.

We set up our GNO in the west octagon building. Allen took his inspiration from Thomas Jefferson's Monticello when he designed these eight-sided pavilions.
We kept it simple inside with a red, brown and white color palette. The table cloth is made from fabric in the Tobi Fairley Home Collection. The pattern is 'Athens'. Allen made the chandelier with branches and Christmas lights.
Since it was HOT outside sangria seemed like a good way to enjoy red wine. We gave ours a lift with locally produced Mountain Valley Sparkling Water and Lombardi Limonata. The recipe is below.
Red roses and hypericum berries.
Red Gerber daisies with strawberries. Floral wire inserted into the strawberries keeps the fruit in place.
Allen suggested we use these La Rochere French Bee tumblers that he purchased at Sur la Table. Perfect for sipping sangria.
For a sugar buzz and a little sustenance we served chocolate raspberry mousse cake, pecan bars dipped in chocolate, fudge brownies and chocolate chip cookies. Yum!
Laughing it up in the kitchen before we headed out doors.
Luigi was the only boy at the party. He came with Mimi, Allen's COO. As you can see he was very excited to be one of the girls for the night.
Handsome Luigi.

Girl’s Night Out Sangria

  • 1 bottle red wine (Pinot Noir works well)
  • 1/4 cup Cointreau liqueur
  • 1/4 cup limonata
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 6 thin orange slices, cut in half
  • 1/2 peach or other seasonal fruit, cut in thin wedges
  • 1/2 bottle Mountain Valley Sparkling Water or to taste (1 liter bottle)

Combine all ingredients in a covered container and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours, or serve over ice.


Tobi Fairley

Sur La Table La Rochere Glassware

Mountain Valley Water