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Filtering by Tag: entertaining

Porch Love

Suzanne Pollak

(Photos courtesy of  G. P. Schafer )

(Photos courtesy of G. P. Schafer)

Charleston’s single and double porches have long been synonymous with hospitality. We entertain on our piazzas all year long because temperate climate offers a type of living not available in many urban environments.  These are special spaces to watch clouds move across the sky, birds fly in formation or snap to attention on a telephone wire...all while protecting us from a sudden rainstorm or blazing sun.

On a windy Winter afternoon, there is no better place to sit with a loved one, wrapped in a blanket while sipping smokey Hu-kwa tea sweetened with honey from the bees in the backyard. In Summer, the porch ceiling fan must whirl full speed and ice buckets stay filled with large cubes for the five o'clock cocktail hour, when bourbon and drops of bitters aid in watching the sun set and moon rise.

Communication is different on porches, upstairs and down. Why? Spaces effect people's behavior. On a ground floor porch, one converses with street walkers and neighbors across the garden, or possibly meets a passing stranger who might transform her life. Elevated porches are a different environment altogether: exotic, hidden, perfect for private uninterrupted conversations -- honest, vulnerable, and open -- a place to forge a deep connection. 

Outdoor rooms and fresh air make people looser and more able to talk freely, telling truths comfortably. People behave and think a certain way in an interior room and often say what they’ve said before. Four interior walls may hem one in physiologically. Outside, it’s easier to say things you have never said, perhaps even startling yourself.  

Spending a good portion of the day on a porch can make you feel differently too. Porch life is less chaotic, fresh air calms. And though you might sit on the porch all day, you won’t feel cooped up. The porch becomes your own little cocoon. A porch is a cozy room, an outside room, a safe sanctuary. Long Live the Piazzas!

Cheetahs, Usain Bolt, and You

Suzanne Pollak

Bolt hits his top speed of about 27 miles per hour at the 70 meter mark. A cheetah reaches their top speed of 60 miles per hour in 3 seconds. You, my dear, have all night to reach your peak, and win your gold medal. Cheetahs, Usain Bolt and other incredible fast runners have to slow down quickly, after a few seconds. Hosts slow down too, the moment the first guest comes through the front door. That’s when we get our groove, relax into our rhythm and timing, pace and energy to set the mood. Our purpose is to lull guests into relaxed, comfortable feeling, or sometimes an anticipatory excited state…depending on our goals.

Usain and cheetahs have more in common than fast running -- they are both beautiful and graceful, as you will be too when you greet your guests, scented and dressed, everything ready to go. Going for gold means thinking through that first drink, the timing of dinner, music for mood, lighting to create a mystery (relying on the full moon outdoors.) Notice that food is not the most important part of entertaining at home. The end goal is to make guests feel good inside: connected, seen, heard, entertained. Imagine all this taking place in your own four walls! It’s amazing what a house can do if you just set it up correctly. Your impact can be lasting, solid gold in the Academy’s world. Filling others with delight, even for a couple of hours, makes your own life more enjoyable and can spark surprising results. Watch what happens!


A. K. Lister

James Bond may not have preferred ice in his cocktail, but at the Academy, it's paramount.  The old adage is true: "You can never have enough glasses, nor enough ice."  But why not serve your drinks over ice worth remembering?  With just a few 7" water balloons (and tin foil to stabilize them in your freezer), you can impress your guests with idiosyncratic spheres that will keep cocktails colder, longer.  Nobody wants a watered-down drink, ever.

Here's why our freezer is filled with balloons:

May we suggest serving Party Ice with a tipple of Old Weller, or better yet, an Old-Fashioned made with it.  Cheers!