Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday. It has begun.

For those of you brave enough to wake up early and join the Holiday Shopping Frenzy, I salute you. For me, I get a bit claustraphobic in large crowds, so I'll mostly likely be stealth shopping online. I think this year, I'm going to opt for sensible gifts for family and friends. I am one of those people who prefers the giving to receiving-I give a lot of thought to gift giving. If you are like me, and you're a part of a family with all adults, and virtually no small children,trying to find a gift for loved ones who don't really have any wants or needs can be a bit daunting. Sure, I have newborn twin nephews, but they don't seem to really care that it's Christmas, they are just discovering where their noses are, so we have a year before spoiling them rotten with toys at Christmas!

I'm terrified to even venture out on Black Friday, so i'll probably work some, and maybe sneak off to the local park for a run. But I avoid the malls and shopping on this most Crowded of Days. The traffic, the crowds, the cold, the overall mayhem make me a tad dizzy, and often leave me nauseated and chugging the kaopectate. I tend to shop online mostly, and my heart goes out to all those frenzied warehouse workers trying to fulfill the overnight holiday packaging-so this year, I'm not going to go that route either. So what am I left with?

Solution oriented gifts. I know, I know, it sounds really exciting, mysterious and festive. I like the idea of getting my family non-retail related services and things they actually need throughout the year, and in life in general. Arranging for landscaping for the spring, or a home security system, or putting all the old home Movies on a DVD. Organizing an Heirloom photo book from all the old family pictures and getting it custom bound from a place like Good Stock. Gift Certificates for a Spa Day for New Parents who are only thinking about their children, or planning a weekend getaway and arranging to babysit. Things I know they would appreciate and use, but would never think to do for themselves, or ask of others. And it will be a complete surprise.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I'm thankful for friends, family, my health, my fortune to enjoy my work, my pets (especially Gracie) and for all of you who read all things lovely! Have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Harvest Centerpieces

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and many of us are making travel arrangements, planning menus, cleaning and getting ready for the biggest travel day of the year! If you have time, or room at your table for that matter, to decorate for Thanksgiving, why not do it up simple with some bundled wheat? You can pick it up at most craft stores or farmers markets, and ribbon is simple to find online or at your favorite store, and if you want to be really rustic, why not try twine? Feathers make a cool decoration, especially when you choose pheasant or peacock and put them in a pretty vase. You can also scatter some small pumpkins and gourds around on a bed of fall leaves-cheap and easy! And candles are always a table favorite, setting a soft scene with the warm ambiance of flickering candlelight, especially when those candles are harvest colors (and scents). Naturally, these simple table centerpieces would also work well with a harvest theme wedding or party. I love the idea of using real fall leaves as place cards-you can use a metallic craft pen to carefully calligraphy the names of guests and put then with the napkin, like the setting above.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Simple, Healthy Thanksgiving Ideas

Thanksgiving. The day of family, celebration, thanks and gorging yourself on as much food as humanly possible and spending the next six months wondering how you'll lose those holiday pounds. You hear it all the time, "You can eat whatever you want in moderation," but "moderation" isn't what Thanksgiving is all about. Thanksgiving is about stuffing yourself fuller than the bird, drifting off in a tryptophan induced catatonic state, and then devouring leftovers by the fistfuls for days afterwards. And I say hell yeah, eat yourself silly. I'm no nutritionist or a doctor, but I do cook a mean Thanksgiving meal and have a few tricks to making healthy substitutes to some of your favorite dishes without skimping on flavor.

First Tip, how to make a turkey moist and juicy and flavorful, SANS BUTTER.

I'm not gonna tell you how to roast a turkey. You can or you can't, and if you CAN'T, don't start on Thanksgiving!

My mother always put pats of butter under the turkey skin, but I prefer broth and herbs. I also inject the turkey periodically with syringes of the broth/herb mix, and have also used apple juice to add some moisture and flavor.
Second Tip-Sweet Potatoes.
My S'Meat Potato Recipe (don't worry, it's Vegetarian friendly!)

3-5 Large, Peeled Sweet Potatoes, Chopped, Boiled and Ready to Whip
Fat Free Condensed or Evaporated Milk, use to moisten, eyeball and taste measure
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup or so of Unsweetened Applesauce
1/4 stick of Light Butter OR you can use Spray Butter Sparingly. Don't use fat free butter substitute. it's gross, you'll ruin the dish and be really pissed.

Yams are sweet as is, and i eat them year round, baked, whipped, candied...however. I love me some yams! An easy way to cut the fat with Sweet Potatoes (aka "S'Meat Potatoes, since Gracie my kitten, alias "Meat" likes to help.) I use fat free condensed milk in place of cream, and mix it with fat free milk. It's less fatty, but condensed milk is heavier and tastes richer without added fat, and fewer calories. I also use unsweetened applesauce as a natural sweetener. I use applesauce in a lot of things for added sweetness when I'd rather not use white sugar. Experiment and see what you prefer to taste, but don't overdo applesauce or condensed milk, or your sweet potatoes will be watery!

Third Tip-My Moist and Flavorful Stuffing Recipe
Love Stuffin'

1-2 Loaves of Bread, Chopped into cubes
1-2 Cans Swanson Low Sodium Chicken Broth (if you can find turkey, God Bless you!)
2-3 peeled & chopped Granny Smith Apples
1 cup diced onions, frozen are fine
1-2 Cans of Chestnuts
Celery Seed (if you want....)

Stuffing, or Dressing, is quintessentially Thanksgiving to me. And being a carb hound, I can't get enough stuffing. I like to make homemade stuffing from toasted bread chunks. I go to a bakery, pick up whatever bread suits my fancy (whole wheat, white, foccaccia, something not too heavy-avoid pumpernickel or rye, unless you want that strong flavor coming thru). I use the herbs i used for the turkey, which I get from William Sonoma. You can blend your own, but they do it for you, so why mess with easy perfection! Cut the bread into chunky squares, and let them get a bit stale. Once they are stale-but not moldy-toast them in the oven for a few minutes so they get warm and a little more firm. I saute up onions, chestnuts and granny smith apples in a teflon pan, using a little extra virgin olive oil, some generous pinches of salt and pepper, and a few liberal dashes of celery seed-i don't like celery, so i avoid it. It's the texture. Crisp and stringy...ick. Once everything is soft and the onions are translucent, I put in 1 can of Chicken Broth. I use a lot of chicken broth, simple Swanson low sodium chicken broth. Let this simmer for a bit, until the broth cooks down considerably, then I add my toasted bread chunks. They start to absorb the mixture, and the flavors start to meld gloriously. I keep an extra can of broth around, to keep it moist, and keep stirring occasionally until ready to serve. You can add dried cranberries, pears, squash-whatever you like, to make your stuffing unique. This is my recipe, and for the last 6 years, I've had it as a standing request at both Thanksgiving and Christmas, and it's sooo yummy, and actually not that unhealthy considering it's a Turkey Day Staple!

Hopefully this tips and recipes will help you feel a little less guilty about the Thanksgiving Feeding Frenzy! Happy Cooking and Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Guest Blogger: Nancy Liu Chin

I'm thrilled to announce our guest blogger for this Friday before BLACK FRIDAY! It's the one and only Nancy Liu Chin, the wonderfully multi-talented floral designer from San Fran! We've emailed back and forth, and I was blown away by the beauty of her work. Even though I'm East Coast, and she's West Coast, that hasn't stopped us from forming a blogging bond. Here she is on ATL for her debut post featuring a wedding she did not too long ago, and all you lucky ATL readers get to view this wedding here first! I can't wait to share more of Nancy's dreamy work and deliciously beautiful inspiration boards, so keep checking back!

Not long ago, I had the good fortune to help shape and create a wedding for a fetching young couple, Robert and Stella of San Francisco. Our down to earth bride and groom came to my San Francisco design studio. With our heads together, we all enthusiastically concluded that a wedding should be momentous, personable, and a bit out of the ordinary. Having produced hundreds of events, I understood the need to create something from the heart. Side by side, we brainstormed several concepts and ideas and frequently revisited the ideas just to make sure that we were still delighted with them. The result is the pleasingly adorable and touchingly sweet soulful wedding which blended artistic details with classic garden elements(and a few birds!). Enjoy this summer wedding that took place at the architectural gardens of Cornerstone in Napa, California. Photographs courtesy of Robert and Stella Weinberg. Wedding Coordination and Planning by Grace Lee Events.

Nancy Liu Chin is the owner of Nancy Liu Chin Designs a floral and event design studio based in San Francisco, California. Insiders and clients often call her a "floral mindreader". Her modern classic floral and event style has been featured in Martha Stewart Weddings, Elegant Bride, Sunset, Grace Ormonde magazines. Nancy is much sought after for her trendsetting style and often contributes her witty and candid wedding tips to on line wedding blogs. You can read more about Nancy's ideas, insights and inspirations at the Brown Bag (

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Family Portraits, Part 3

And the grand finale of this weeks family portrait series. ThesEveryone was so nice and wonderful to work with, and I hope they enjoy the photographs as much as I enjoyed taking them!

Family Portraits, Part 2

Here is part 2, and the second part of the 3 part family! They were such a joy to work with, and such fantastic sports despite the rather humid and drippy weather! And aren't the girls just adorable?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Family Portraits, Part 1

I had the amazing pleasure of photographing a wonderful and rather large extended family a few Saturdays ago. It had been pouring all day, and the forecast didn't look good, but we lucked out and found an hour in the clear! Here are some of my favorites from that day! Look for more pictures and more family members tomorrow!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Barry & Laura 11-7-08

A few weeks back, just as the leaves were starting to change, I found myself at the wedding of Barry and Laura in my backyard of Wilmington again, with camera in hand. Weddings are so wonderful. Everyone is nice and happy, and it's such an honor to be invited into the lives of so many people on such an important day. Here are some fun little details from Laura and Barry's Delaware Wedding Bash!

A few little details.....

The Ceremony Begins!

Aren't Barry's Grandparents too cute?