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Filtering by Category: DESIGN

No One Can Enjoy Delicious Food through Gritted Teeth

Suzanne Pollak

Unless your oven conks out, your Thanksgiving meal will get cooked. Everyone puts so much thought and effort into the food that we just know that the flavor of your meal will be wonderful, wherever you eat it. 

What causes our annual breakout of holiday hives is that Thanksgiving food is endlessly thought about but the entirety of the day can be overlooked. Children need to be entertained, elderly people need to be comfortable, lonely neighbors and acquaintances need to be invited, not to mention you yourself must be taken care of! If you are in charge of the day and you break down, well then, everyone is in trouble. No one will mind if there is no creamed cauliflower, but they will mind if no one is getting along and the children are screaming and the sister-in-laws are bickering and the table is rushed to and and then abandoned in a total of fifteen minutes. No one can enjoy delicious food through gritted teeth. 

  • Start grocery shopping days before and be sure to get to the store first thing in the morning. Do not try to accomplish all your shopping in one fell swoop.

  • Make sure everyone has a task to do. This is no time to be a hero. People like to help. Let them.

  • Set the table the day before if you can. If not, be sure to delegate it to people not actively involved in cooking.

  • Assign the turkey carving to a person of competence as early as possible.

  • When someone asks what they can bring assign bottles of wine, or to bakers, a homemade pie.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are the two days you have people over who may be difficult whether you want them to or not. Although sometimes easier to bite your tongue when someone says something truly offensive, it’s not always best to remain silent. Remember your example to the younger generations, and that some things we should not simply let go. It is possible to respectfully present an opposing view, and then pivot to another subject so the tense moment dissipates. Or better yet, save your discourse for a private moment. Thanksgiving dinner is no place for politics after all, but a time to be thankful for friends, family, and good food!

Talking Top Sheets with Town & Country

Suzanne Pollak

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Town & Country contributor Liz Krieger knew who to call with her burning questions on whether or not a top sheet is an absolutely necessary addition to the make of a bed. Although Krieger cops to her own 'millenial' disregard for a top sheet, Suzanne remains steadfast in her admittedly old-fashioned devotion to the extra layer. Read the article, including all the pros and cons of having a flat linen to keep you cool (or warm, depending on the season), HERE via T&C! 

"The Romance of Outdoor Rooms" for VIE

Suzanne Pollak

 Photo courtesy of G. P. Schafer

Photo courtesy of G. P. Schafer

Summertime is finally here again! In Charleston, this means lots of lounging in the shade of our (or our friends') porches and piazzas, iced beverage in hand, fresh off a dip in the sea. For the June issue of VIE magazine, Suzanne reflects on a life lived in outdoor rooms, from Tripoli to Ghana to the Carolinas, and the magic of bells, birds, and blue skies experienced in these inspiring spaces.

Read the full article HERE on VIE's site... 

Q&A with Dierdre Zahl, Owner of Candy Shop Vintage

Suzanne Pollak

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Q: What is your personal style? At home, for parties, in the store?

A: My personal style is feminine with an edge. I like girly details, like peplum or bishop sleeves. I love wearing heels, skirts and stockings, but I always like at least one bold print or accessory -- usually in the form of statement jewelry!

Has your (personal and house) style changed since you were single versus now as a mom?

I would say that in my early twenties, living in NYC with musicians on the Lower East Side, my style was definitely edgier, more rock and roll. Lot's of cut T-shirts and ripped denim. In my late twenties, after I got married and moved to Charleston, I softened my look a lot with more feminine cuts like peplum sleeves and flared skirts but always with a bit of an edge, usually in the form of statement jewelry! Since becoming a Mom, my style has remained pretty consistent. I like to dress up and since I own a shop, I definitely have to put some thought into my outfits as I can't just roll out of bed and sell jewelry. My daughter has really picked up her own strong sense of stye too; she likes to pic out all her own clothes and is very opinionated!

How do you accessorize for parties? A dinner party at your house? Going to a restaurant? 

Cocktail party: a fun party dress, big earrings and heels. A dinner party at home: leggings, heels and a silk blouse with some Charleston Rice Beads and red lipstick. Dinner out: a skirt with maybe a bodysuit and cute blazer or fitted jacket and stacks of bangles plus a fun purse.

Any go-to necklaces, earrings, shoes, your mother's or grandmother's pieces? 

I usually wear a piece of Candy Shop Vintage, often a Charleston Rice Bead bracelet wrapped multiple times around my wrist. I have some very cool vintage earrings in a few styles by MAM', a designer from Texas who used to make fun, colorful statement earrings out of resin-coated paper. They are very lightweight, but big and whimsical. I also have these great woven palm tree earrings by Mercedes Salzar, a Columbian jewelry designer who is just incredible.

Favorite source of inspiration? A person? A place? In Charleston? 

Daphne Guinness is definitely my ultimate style icon. She is so elegant, so edgy, so high fashion but still soft and feminine and very unique. I love following Beyoncé's Instagram account. Her outfits are so on point and of course I look to a lot of vintage clothing, jewelry and home accessories for design inspiration.

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Do spouses come to the store for Valentine gifts/ideas? What do you recommend? 

We get a lot of spouses very close to the holidays. Usually they are last-minute buyers. I usually recommend the Charleston Rice Beads because they are always a crowd pleaser. We have them in a wonderful Kelly Green and light pink this spring -- perfect for Valentine's Day! We actually did the light pink a number of years ago and brought it back.

Favorite hostess gifts? For parties, or as a house guest? What do you like to receive? 

I always love candles as a hostess gift, or a bottle of wine. We have some great embroidered cocktail napkins in the shop and of course, your Handbook is always a wonderful gift for a hostess. We can hardly keep them in stock!

On Collections

Suzanne Pollak

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The Dean is preparing a heartfelt goodbye to a beloved porcelain collection in the New Year, as her Quianlong period 'tea cultivation' dishes go up for auction at Christie's on Thursday. She writes:

Chinese export porcelain, doorstops, clocks, highboys, bed linens, copper pots, cookbooks, antique dining tables – round, oval, rectangle and square – I collected them all. One of the most bizarre diplomatic transactions of the 18th century occurred when Augustus of Saxony choose 127 pieces of Chinese porcelain from the Palace of Charlottenburg, in Berlin, and gave in return 600 giants of the ‘required height’ collected from his provinces...as if the ancestors of today’s NBA players were traded for porcelain! Augustus of Saxony had what was then called ‘porcelain sickness’. He emptied his country’s treasures to the dealers in Paris and Amsterdam.
I admit I too had the ‘porcelain sickness’. When I was just 20 years old, I went on a tour of Bassett Hall in Williamsburg, Virginia. I walked into Mr. Rockefeller’s butler’s pantry and saw his stacks of china (a different set for every day of the year.) My younger self thought, "What a great idea." Mr Rockefeller and I could have been cousins. But now I know that the only thing better than acquiring the collection is getting rid of it so new collectors can enjoy it. I loved assembling the collection but I do not mourn for what I have sold. 

There are so many benefits of collections, aside from the pure sporting pleasure of acquisition as you hunt down pieces at auctions and in catalogues. It may seem that you need to be an expert to get started, but that is not the case. Don't be intimidated -- start by researching what you are interested in. Any budding interest takes courage to step out of your comfort zone and explore. 

Of course, as with any other hobby, there are pitfalls of collecting too. It may be easy to go overboard, or you may fall under the illusion that you are an instant expert. (You're not!) It's wise to get your purchases vetted by more than one person. Otherwise you are like a sitting duck to predatory dealers. 

But a decades long collecting habit leads to self-confidence and untold pleasures once you awaken a new intellectual pursuit. You will learn an object's place in history when you discover its provenance and assess its condition. Beyond your initial attraction, you will develop a keen instinct for precious objects and come to a deeper understanding of color, proportion, patina, constuction, and the difference in quality when something is handmade rather than mass-produced. You will likely find yourself in corners of museums you've never explored before, and meeting new people with similar interests. The passion of collecting quickly becomes an everyday thought.

 

Pick from Your Neighborhood

Suzanne Pollak

 When he walks down the steps and sees the fronds, the person living here thinks,  This is my kind of house!

When he walks down the steps and sees the fronds, the person living here thinks, This is my kind of house!

Even if you must sneak out before dawn so as not to get caught, do it! Clipping fronds and ferns is not really stealing. Leaves grow back. The trick to the chicest arrangements is choosing different textures, colors and heights. Stuff your pickings into a long vase filled with water, bottom leaves stripped so as not to contaminate the water.

Think of this as an architecture project. Take a look at your space and then use your imagination. Leaving air between leaves allows imaginary butterflies to fly through. The goal is to for the width and height to fill the space on a hall table so every time you walk by, or go up and down the stairs, wherever your interior path may lead -- a jolt of jolly green pleasure hits you.

Natural, fresh, sometimes with a delicious aroma, this easy-to-DIY project breathes life into your space. The arrangement can actually make you feel different, like you are in the house that you deserve to be in. 

A Few Indispensable Tips on Cocktail Party Attire

Suzanne Pollak

It’s chic to wear a fantastic ‘something’ over and over to make it your signature. Just as smart hosts cook their favorite recipe again and again, no matter who comes to dinner, because they know their guests look forward to their culinary specialty; the chicest women throughout history know the style repetition secret. 

 Even a simple ensemble can become your signature with the right attitude and accessories...

Even a simple ensemble can become your signature with the right attitude and accessories...

That 'thing’ can be an accessory, a dress, a shoe. The Dean learned from native and expatriate ladies swanning into her parents 1960's cocktail parties all over Africa. Women wore cigarette pants for casual affairs and jewel-toned satin mini cocktail dresses at fancier parties. Along with real hair dos (coifs, up-dos), eye liner flaring out just like Cleopatra, brilliant lips inhaling pearl or golden cigarette holders, perhaps even a huge cocktail ring or elaborate earrings...none of these beauties boasted a colossal wardrobe with unlimited choices but they had a cocktail uniform that took them anywhere. Once vital decisions are decided, brains are free to tackle life’s thornier problems: whom to invite to the party, which stranger to talk to first at someone else’s, how to grab attention, connect, ignite a fire, or tactfully end a conversation that's headed nowhere.

 One  Taffin  ring...

One Taffin ring...

 and another.

and another.

The teenage Dean appropriated the tip immediately and forever. Deciding and simplifying what to wear wherever is cheaper and quicker once you you know what suits you. Dressing becomes a snap, so be loyal and stick with your style. Adding that something extra, or taking it off, makes the outfit appropriate for the particular party and place. 

Because, of course, it makes a difference where the cocktail party is: Hollywood, California, Hollywood SC, Beirut, Tripoli or Paris; the Ambassador’s residence or your neighbor’s garden? "When in Rome," so the saying goes. You don’t want to be dramatically different than everyone else unless you can handle it. For example, a man does not wear a motorcycle jacket when he attends a soirée at Charleston’s  Yacht Club. Men there wear the proper uniform of khaki pants and a blue blazer. The Dean once knew two young American beauties visiting the south of France who were assured that everyone, absolutely everyone, went topless to parties at a certain place. Perhaps a little naïve, they showed up appropriately undressed to a party filled with elegant older couture-covered guests. Still embarrassed decades later! 

Dressing comes down to the first impression. What can a first impression tell us about someone whom we only met for a moment at a party? Of course we all know human beings are complex and contradictory, but you don’t have to live with someone to sense immediately if you want more of them or less. The package of you starts with eye contact, the smile and what is draping your body. Identify what you want out of the engagement. Something, or nothing? There to sip one bourbon, or to possibly meet your next business associate or romantic partner? You don’t want your clothes to get in the way. A woman does not want to be so flashy others are distracted from substance, but neither does she want to seem too dowdy. 

Figure out your primary assets -- cleavage, neck, arms, hair -- and choose cocktail attire accordingly. For your own engagement, you will need to move, sit and stand. As a guest you can swan around or sprawl on a sofa as you wish.

For reference, here is the Dean's summer cocktail uniform: Hart tassels, J. McLaughlin white blouse and cigarette pants, with extra pointy shoes to make legs look longer. This pair of Balenciaga mules harkens back to the time of Robin Hood! Because they are extravagant, they will be worn with jeans all fall and winter, for hosting ladies luncheons and gumbo dinner parties, with a Halloween costume, for a Thanksgiving feast and Christmas dinner, even just for hanging out at home.

MORE on How to Host a Bridal Shower (for Martha Stewart Weddings)

Suzanne Pollak

The Dean, Etiquette Expert Extraordinaire, returned to Martha Stewart Weddings with some additional tips on how to host a Summer Bridal Shower. For everything from menu suggestions (spoiler alert: no messy finger foods) to theme ideas, as well as how to hone your guest list, check out the full piece HERE...

The Academy in Charleston Magazine

Suzanne Pollak

The fine folks at Charleston Magazine recently paid the Dean a visit in order to taste a slice of life at the Academy. As always, she was happy to oblige with a tour of her Rainbow Row home, designed by James de Givenchy, as well as the garden, overflowing with citrus and honey.

Read the article and view the slideshow HERE at www.charlestonmag.com.

Blow Open Your Tabletops

Suzanne Pollak

Now to address a few burning Bridal FAQs re: table settings, centerpieces, and personal style. A wedding registry is no time for strict guidelines, but rather a chance to begin building your collection for decades of dinner parties to come. No matter what stress should ever consume your day, you can ease out of it by cooking dinner, sipping a glass of wine, and setting the table (and mood) for the night ahead.

No need to register for two china patterns, one fancy and one for everyday. Way too old school! Far better to delve deep into your inner being and suss out all the aspects of your person. Think color, moods, passions, place...

For example, maybe you appreciate hand-carved wood -- consider a collection of handmade bowls. There's no end to what you can do with these. Use smaller ones for olives and nuts at cocktail hour, or for individual starter salads at dinner. Fill larger bowls with BIG salads, or perhaps something else interesting (citrus, hankies, pens and paper for a parlor game) to set as a centerpiece. Or, choose wooden chargers. And you know what looks good with wood? Gold, of course!

Just look at this extravagant, marvelous, opulent Royal Crown Derby. Who can afford to collect a whole set? And besides that, who wants to? It is so too much, simply over the top. All that gold cancels out to equal a big let down, where a one-size plate sizzles and shines on the table. Perfection! A gold salad plate looks amazing filled with greens for a salad course, chocolate tart for dessert... Actually, everything looks good with gold.

Okay, how to satisfy your love of birds? Consider Ginori. There is nothing as wonderful as a set of 8 or 12 or 24 dinner plates featuring birds. These beauties yearn for a Thanksgiving dinner to be placed on them, but dazzle even under an everyday roast chicken. These plates say something about you; your passion for nature, individual style, love of design. What could be more boring than a whole set of one china pattern covering the table? The older the Dean gets, the more she thinks, YUCK. This person has let someone else tell her what to do, and ignored that inner voice of what she likes.

What appeals most to us? Anything but flipping through ad-filled magazines, shopping at bridal superstores, or listening to friends and family who have never identified true style. Plates and objects on a table are a way to express yourself. So are centerpieces: flowers mixed with fruit, bunches of veggies and greens that will become tomorrows main course, a handmade pie that will become tonight's dessert.

Have fun with the rest! Modern flatware choices might include horn (so chic) or bronze (gleams on the table and unique to boot) but there is still something to be said for a classic silver pattern. The most popular through the ages? Francis the First has that swirly Baroque feel which pairs so well with plain, stark, straight. Don't be afraid to mix high and low. As for napkins, it's all about juxtaposing different colors, textures, and aspects of your personality. Sometimes you feel flirty and fun, other times more composed and traditional. Sometimes girly, sometimes a huntress.

Let it all out on the table, loves. These kind of style decisions will get you well on your way to bolstering your confidence. No one needs to tell you they approve. If you like it, then go for it. That’s exactly what the Dean does, and it has always worked for her. 

The Comfort of Collecting Pots, Pans and Plates

Suzanne Pollak

My very first collection was a set of Georg Jenson copper pots lined with silver. My grandfather hinted that he would give me a car when I turned nineteen, but since I was newly arrived from Africa, I did not have a license and couldn't care less about a car. My interests then are the same as now: Domestic Pursuits. So I found an antique set of china in a Savannah, Georgia shop, and a gorgeous set of copper pots in New York City that I longed for. My grandfather kindly gifted me those instead.

This decision was wise. The china and pots are like old friends, making my kitchen and dining table beautiful, and lasting as long as my marriage has, almost 1,000 years. Recently I bequeathed the china to my daughter-in-love and eldest son, and my silver-lined copper pots to my second son whose interest in cooking has skyrocketed, enough that he shoud be the He Dean of the Charleston Academy. No doubt copper is expensive and needs to be relined, but these pots will be passed on to my great-grandchildren, of that I am sure. And that car that might have been? Scrap metal by now. 

Since I decided to pass on my pots and plates, I have replaced the copper pots with my new love, cast iron skillets from Lodge Valley. These pans have a manly appeal; jet black, with a rough surface and require strength to pick up. The way cast iron sears steaks, sautes fish, cooks vegetables is, in a word, perfect. My affair has begun.

Now for the answers to a few FAQs about care. Cast Iron? Hey, relax. It's okay to wash with dish soap. Then place on low heat to dry, and while hot melt a little coconut oil in pan and then wipe with a paper towel. Done. Two minutes. Copper? Bar Keepers Friend is your friend. Shiny brilliant copper pots takes five seconds if you wash and dry immediately after using. A salt paste, rubbing lemon halves on copper...these tricks may work, but Bar Keepers is quicker, and lasts longer.

Take it from the Dean, who has kept her collection in pristine condition for decades. You are welcome Charles Pollak!

The Blues

Suzanne Pollak

Recently, the supremely original Madame Magar stopped by for an Academy lunch, bringing along her sumptuous Indigo-dyed silks, linens and baskets. The artist AKA Leigh Magar remains widely known for her handmade hats sold at Barney's and beyond. But her current "life's work" harvesting and hand-dying with Indigo speaks to the legacy of Eliza Lucas Pinckney, who championed the crop on 18th-century Carolina soil.

 A quilt, featuring Eliza Pinckney's profile, hand-dyed and stitched by Mme. Magar.

A quilt, featuring Eliza Pinckney's profile, hand-dyed and stitched by Mme. Magar.

Two years ago, Magar moved from her Charleston home to a Clark & Menefee-designed house on 400 acres in rural John's Island. She planted her own heirloom seeds there and eventually discovered Indigo plants growing wild in the backyard! Instead of making Indigo powder like Eliza Pickney did, Madame adheres to the ancient methods of the Greeks and Romans, soaking Indigo leaves to prepare the dye, and then dipping the softest silks into her dye to fashion napkins, tea towels, aprons, handkerchiefs and scarves. 

 The Madame at work...

The Madame at work...

 On stacks of indigo-dyed napkins.

On stacks of indigo-dyed napkins.

So, in honor of the Madame of Indigo, we threw an Indigo-themed luncheon. Naturally, front and center stood the Academy Salad, this time gloriously embellished with crispy slices of blue potatoes plus roasted Mepkin Abbey shitake mushrooms. To really guild the lily, the croutons were smeared with whole milk ricotta and drizzled with olive oil. Local heirloom tomatoes added red and yellows to our blue salad. Dessert was more blues in the form of blueberry pie! Who knew the blues could be so delightful?

Easter Magic

Suzanne Pollak

Scrambling to add a last-minute centerpiece to your Easter feast? There are a million ways to make your table uniquely you. Remember, there's help all around, right under your nose. Consider these everyday resources:

1. Your KIDS

Children are little creators by nature. Don't let these Spring Breakers off the hook. Engage your child’s genius & insist they carry their weight this holiday. Kids will appreciate the Easter feast and feel proud of their contribution. Your tip? Do Not Be Bossy. Small children can draw place cards or placemats. Middle-schoolers can really go crazy -- nothing is off the table. They might choose to feature their ant farm, their gold fish swimming in a bowl, a butterfly collection, little league trophies. Who cares? In the long run, it’s not about the elegance of your table. It’s about the value of your child’s contribution.

2. Harris Teeter

...or your local grocery store, a place laden with sui generis centerpieces, many perfect for Easter. Walk in the store with your eyes open for pastel colors. E.g., look for pink breakfast radishes or many-colored round radishes; all delightfully spunky orbs when stuffed in silver cups or crystal goblets. Fill small tureens with spikes of asparagus, for structure, and green onions, for looseness. Give your guests eyes something different than the usual pink tulip centerpiece.

3. Public Parks

Someone has to do the trimming. Why not you? Go under cover before dawn, clippers hidden in your pocket and help yourself to the back branches of azalea bushes (those up against the fence), lurking ferns, stems of palms. Tip: cut long branches.  Fill a tall glass container halfway with water, and arrange the stems loosely. It’s like nature coming to the table, and yields an arrangement perfect for a sideboard, buffet table or at the end of a dining table if no one is sitting there.

4. Objet d'Art

Are you a collector? March your collection down the center of the table. Handmade wooden bowls, antique brass candlesticks, tiny chairs sculpted from the wire surrounding champagne corks -- the Dean doesn’t know what you collect, but if you are a collector then you are a proud owner with a passion. Your passion needs to be displayed! Herend bunnies, Steuben crystal hand holders, painted eggs...you get the picture. It’s not about cost of the objects or the organization on the table, it’s about showcasing your personality.

5. Pastry Shops!

Great pastry shops are actually like jewelry shops with edible gems. You have enough to do this weekend. It’s too late to make a 3-day Coconut Cake, but not too late to pick up a French pear tart, or cherry pistachio tart, or cupcakes, or a lemon layer cake. The point is showstopping beauty that can sit upon a pedestal being the center of attraction. All eyes are awed, reminding guests to save room after the main course.

P.S. Don’t forget chocolate bunnies on top of each place setting as a party favor for your Easter company!

How to Hibernate: Needlepoint with Janet Gregg

A. K. Lister

Looking for a way to while away the Winter? A new hobby or habit to help you relax, turn off, pass the time? Or, as Resident Needlepoint Professor Janet Gregg admits, to keep you from feeling completely unproductive when you binge-watch Bloodline in the span of a weekend? (Guilty.)

Needlepoint doesn't have to mean predictable patterns and colorways, nowhere more evident than in the lush, layered interiors of Gregg's Smith Street apartment in downtown Charleston. She has mastered the art of incorporating her uniquely modern sense of pattern with her mother's well-earned skill. They have been collaborating since Janet's childhood in Virginia; needlepoint the answer to the family's natural tendency towards constant activity, and elaborate projects that fostered social connection.

Gregg moved through several creative careers between Charleston and NYC -- floral design, fine jewelry-making, painting, and working with Charlotte Moss. Her needlepoint work reflects her multi-media experience, ranging from bright, flowing Pucci-style prints to graphic geometric designs. In her spaces, she effortlessly combines her own pillows (often her initial design or lettering, filled in by her mother) with a host of other prints, and sleek modern furniture with antiques from her parents' estate. The eclectic sense of collection on display in her previous home, an 1800s carriage house on Stoll's Alley, featured in House Beautiful last Summer.

Comfortable as she is in her new space, where she entertains on a regular basis despite her aversion to cooking, Gregg admits that she still feels like "a starving craftsman" most of the time. And while she misses her mentors (like Moss) close by, she adores her peers, and counts among her muses and proteges the likes of Sally King Benedict.

Gregg believes the true antidote to feeling unproductive is to "seize every single solitary moment so it doesn't slip away." She adamantly suggests a first-timer visit Cabbage Rose, on Broad Street in Charleston, where you can find a large piece of canvas to practice on and plenty of needlepoint wool -- the best of which is Pattern Ann.

Once you have the hang of it, start with either a pillow or a needlepoint belt, like the one she made for her nephew upon his recent graduation from Woodberry, including his school colors, mascot, nickname, jersey number, initials and graduation date. Above all, be patient! Take your time, which usually means about a month to complete a project. Gregg herself finds inspiration in knowing that anything is possible, if you set your mind to it...and there's something worth watching on TV.

For more information on needlepoint commissions or private lessons, contact us!

 

 

 

MT. VERNON XMAS PUNCH (& other Homemade Gifts)

A. K. Lister

There is no good reason not to have an arsenal of homemade gifts on hand this time of year, whether to give to hosts of the many Christmas (and Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, etc.) parties you are sure to attend, or to reciprocate when a neighbor shows up with a little surcee for you and yours.  

Homemade gifts, like the Washington family's famed punch, can be simultaneously simple to prepare and yet still spectacular to behold, not to mention imbibe.  For as velvet-y as this punch may seem, it is a nonetheless quite potent mixture of bourbon, rum, Chartreuse, sherry, vermouth, and tea, cured for a week in tightly-sealed mason jars.  

Who knew George was such a party animal?!  You can find the recipe for Washington's Punch in our Archive.  Each jar may be individually labeled and tied up in a cheery ribbon, with serving instructions alongside for the recipient to enjoy at another occasion.

Now, there are a few ways to serve a jar of Mt. Vernon Christmas Punch.  For a small gathering of 5 or less, stick with cocktails.  Simply pour a couple ounces of the base over ice, top with either champagne or soda, and garnish with a cherry.  Why not present a plate of Cheese Coins alongside?

For 6 or more, get out the punch bowl -- we're having a party!  But first, you'll need an Ice Ring.  Simply fill a bundt pan halfway with cranberries, cherries, or any other festive fruit to garnish your punch.  Then run hot water over the pan to loosen the ice, flip it into the bowl, and top with 2-3 bottles of champagne to put it to action.  Like so:

There you have it, Mt. Vernon Christmas Punch, the gift that keeps on giving.  There are plenty of other goodies you can whip up and portion for casual gifting, whether alongside the punch or no.  Try biscotti, bourbon cake, or Raisin Scones.

But, if your kitchen is already sanctioned for other grandiose projects -- we're making Prime Rib for Christmas Eve dinner (more on that a little later this week) -- build your Holiday credit with promises for the New Year: offer to make a series of meals, complete with menu suggestions, for someone extra special, or plan to throw a dinner party in their honor.  Or, simply take all your girlfriends out for a nice lunch and hand out a few fabulous party favors.

Regardless, 'tis the season to let the people you love know exactly how you feel...and to drink lots of punch!

XO, the Academy

 

Party Face: Q&A with Tim Quinn

A. K. Lister

 Ava Gardner & the very chic-est of compacts.  [Photograph by Ida Von Dee.]

Ava Gardner & the very chic-est of compacts.  [Photograph by Ida Von Dee.]

Have we mentioned it's party season? And somehow it always seems that while that may be true of the whole Western world, it's at a real fever pitch here in Charleston. We always manage to find an excuse to gussy up, go out, share a cocktail, and make merry with our neighbors. 

In all the commotion, we can hardly see straight, let alone focus on the mirror long enough to put on our faces. So we turned to our friend Tim Quinn, Celebrity Face Designer at Giorgio Armani, with all of our burning "party-ready" queries. He was so gracious to oblige.

Q. How should I prepare my face for a party?

For a party, I usually recommend a hydrating mask first and foremost.  I love the Luminessence Mask, which totally infuses your skin with hydration and brightness.  If you haven't had enough rest, you need lots of moisturizer, then a lightweight light-reflecting foundation.

Q. How does it differ from daily makeup?

Typically for daily makeup, start with a tinted moisturizer to make sure that your skin is even...

Q. If you don’t wear much makeup, what do you simply have to do before going out? 

Perhaps just terrific eyeliner, a flush of color on the cheeks and pop up the lip.  You don't need to go overboard if you're not used to a lot of make up.

Q. Eyes and lips? Or just one?

Try a smokey eye.  Play up the lip a little bit if you're just doing a classic holiday look.

Q. Is there a way to avoid lipstick on the wine glass?

Use a straw with your champagne!

Q. Is it okay to apply lipstick at the table?

It's OK to apply lipstick at the table if you have a chic compact.  I think there's actually quite at an art of seduction to a woman using her lipstick and applying at the table with a a beautiful compact and perhaps even a lip brush.

Q. What do you think about glitter on the face? Should it stay on the tree?

Glitter should stay away from your face.  Shimmer is fine, glitter is not.

Q. What are your views on getting work done in your 20s? In your 50s? (Asking for a friend. : )

I've seen this new trend in Hollywood: people getting worked on at younger ages.  While I'm starting to think that the face God gave us was just a suggestion, we should keep it to a minimum.  Little tweaks at a maturing age, I'm all for...but starting too young leads to disaster.

Many Thanks to Tim Quinn!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Florals Workshop: Basics

A. K. Lister

Five ladies -- including us Deans -- took Florals Workshop: Basics with Lily Peterson of Flowershop [top left] and all we got were these UNBELIEVABLY GORGEOUS ARRANGEMENTS to take home!  Not to mention a dose of the beautiful outdoors in the Academy Garden, along with tea, coffee, and Charleston's finest croissants by Cristophe.  Some of the flowers used in our arrangements were Pepper Berry, Spray Rose, Garden Rose Caramel Antique, Ranunculus, Kangaroo Paws, Smoke Bush, and painted leaves...all in warm Autumnal hues perfect for Halloween weekend.

 Q & A

We asked, Where can I find flowers locally? Lily answered: Horst in Charleston, or Whole Foods, which has their own farms so offer great prices and great specials (Mothers Day peonies, etc.)

What kind of vase should I use? A trapeze shape, which is very forgiving.  A smaller opening will give your arrangement more support, and heavy base will make it easy to transport.

How much greenery do I need?  How many flowers?  At least one green element (lots of it) and three different kinds of flowers, to start.

Is it OK to see the back of the leaves?  Yes!  When you are looking for that natural feel, it helps to have the contrast of matte and smooth leaves.

How do I water my arrangement?  Put the entire arrangement in the sink, directly under the faucet, and (without removing any flowers) let the flow of water for a minute or two refresh your vase.

Lily's Lessons

Don't let the shape of the flowers control you.  Remember, you are in charge!  Create a tight grid on the mouth of the (still dry) vase using floral tape to help format your flowers.

Start with greenery.  Clean the stems, cutting off any loose leaves, and don't be afraid to edit, removing branches, starting at the bottom.  Lily suggests working with a diagonal line for a loose, airy feel, which results in a grander arrangement.  Avoid the dense, compact, "soccer ball" effect which was so popular in the 90s.

Add three of your largest blooms.  Trim stems at an angle, which makes it easier for the plant to hydrate.  Cut to different heights and aim for a triangular arrangement.  Always, when you find that something isn't working, STOP.  Take a breath, remembering there is no such thing as perfection.  Regroup and come back to it.  Life Lesson #1.

Fill in with interesting pieces, adding color, texture, and filling in spaces.  Have faith!  It will all come together in the end.  Life Lesson #2.

Needless to say, everyone passed with flying colors.  Lily returns for Florals Workshop continued: Centerpieces on Wednesday 11/18 at 10AM, and Wreaths and Wine on Wednesday 12/9 @ 5:30PM.  Spaces will go quickly, so reserve yours HERE!

Xx the Academy

 

This Thursday: Double Up on Design Classes!

Suzanne Pollak

Lest anyone think the Academy is all about learning how to cook dinner and set the table...on Thursday we bring in Flowershop to teach the art of arranging flowers in the morning, and Charleston Interior Stylist to show us the ins & outs of home design in the evening.

                          Portrait of Lily Peterson by  Olivia Rae James .

                         Portrait of Lily Peterson by Olivia Rae James.

FLORALS WORKSHOP: The Basics with Lily Peterson, Flowershop

It’s easy to lose confidence when shoving flowers and greens into a centerpiece. These stems don’t do what you want them to, if you even know what you want. This is one of those jobs that looks easy, but with anything that looks easy, it’s not. However, with just a little handholding from expert Lily Peterson, your own flower expertise will emerge and stay embedded within your brain, giving you a life long skill, with you leaving class owning a new cool container to be expertly filled at a moments notice by a new expert -- YOU!

STYLE + ORDER with Charleston Interior Stylist

Nathalie Naylor is our favorite kind of Interior Designer. Her approach is completely different than most designers, more financially friendly and instructional. Natalie curates your stuff, items you bought and collected and liked, or thought you liked (you must have attached value at one time to these objects.) Nathalie reworks what you already own to make your interiors more beautiful, organized and livable, without you having to buy any anything new -- furniture, curtains, rugs, art. Nathalie is not imposing her taste on yours; she is gently guiding yours. What a democratic and practical way to improve interiors!

Bring one or many photos of your space to class (at Nathalie's house on Sullivan's Island), enjoy Sancerre and snacks, and let Nathalie give recommendations…just look at Nathalie’s her magazine covers!

There are still a couple of tickets available over on our SHOP -- purchase one for yourself or gift to a friend.  Pick one or make a day of it.  Either way, don't miss out!

 

 

 

Ironing is about Attitude

Suzanne Pollak

One day, a very long ago, a famous magazine editor, and his family, happened to be staying with us. He wanted to know where we kept our iron and ironing board, telling me unashamedly that he enjoyed ironing his shirts (or at least he did then.) He shared his ironing tricks; explaining that there was nothing to it…just pay attention to the collar, cuffs and strip with the buttons. This man -- a haughty, brilliant, intellectual with his finger on the pulse of everything everywhere -- did not turn his nose up at ironing. Who knew?

So why did I? I am ashamed to confess that I believed ironing was beneath me, a waste of time plus a pain in the neck. For years I collected antique linens and got others to iron. Now, I iron myself, and I enjoy it. My ironing sessions are for afternoons when I am doing heavy brain lifting, very difficult for me. My brain and I need frequent breaks. I am a believer in multi-tasking by pairing something that does not engage the mind with something that does. I plug in the iron; remove a few linens from my refrigerator (more on that trick in the video below) and find the back and forth of ironing soothing, contemplative, and surprisingly rewarding. In no time at all, my mind disengages enough to solve whatever weighty problem is stressing me out, plus I have a pile of lovely linen napkins ready and waiting. Like a Battalion Commander planning an exercise, I feel that one detail is completed for future dinner parties.

There is something so satisfying seeing the pieces of cloth go from wrinkly to smooth. Now if I could just figure out what handy machine gets that result on my face.