A Time to Celebrate!

I am so proud of my friend James Farmer! Not only is he one of my BFFFFFFs, but he's cray-talented and a fantastic author! His latest book, A Time to Cook hit shelves a few months ago - it's a follow-up to his first book A Time to Plant

James has been on a 'round the world book tour, and happened to be coming to Gainesville. He had a super successful book signing at The Crystal Plate, a fabulous boutique here, and the evening called for a celebratory dinner party at Casa Griffin! 

James can do it all! He's a beautiful landscape and interior designer, speaker, friend, entertainer, author, and cook. It's natural to celebrate him and his many talents!

I had a ball planning the menu, painting the menu card and invite, cooking, and designing my tables for the dinner. James had already met many of my Gainesville friends, but I wanted to make sure he was introduced to a few more of them, and that he had a chance to relax and chat! 

I used pomegranates on the invite and menu in honor of James' family's maternal side - the Grenades, from pomegranate. James loves the pomegranate, and uses them often in his arrangements and table scapes.

In planning the menu, I kept in mind that I didn't want anyone to have to sit and eat, but casually dine and chat too - so everything we made could be eaten standing, but one could certainly sit too! :) 

James has a fabulous recipe in ATTC for asparagus with tarragon butter, as well as the Sea Island corn muffins. I was lucky enough that chef JTF made them himself for the party! 

James arrived in Gainesville a day early and made this girl very happy! We had a ball arranging flowers, fluffing, cooking, and gossiping. James, David and I have too much fun laughing, catching up and reminiscing about people from our childhood! 

We spent the day getting the house party-ready!

James grabbed the most gorgeous branches in shades of gold and red to fill my containers.

I found these gorgeous salmon roses that looked lovely with Dusty Miller from the yard.

The tropical loveliness in my bedroom came from my flower of the month club - one of my favorite gifts from my hubs. Ever.

Pumpkins and lanterns on our front steps greeted guests as they arrived.

James' favorite color is "plaid" so I used the purple and green Scottish wool blanket on my dining room table. A mix of mercury candle sticks, vases and votive holders were placed among white pumpkins under green hydrangea and branches pulled from the yard.

In the kitchen, I used dried blue hydrangea with cat tails and cotton. James deftly tucked in the gorgeous gold leaves! 

We were so excited to wait on our guests to arrive! And we had a ball - it was a fun night with great friends, toasting to James! 


Thanksgiving Inspiration - it's only 2 weeks away!!!

I had the pleasure of hosting a local creative arts study group one gorgeous Thursday morning. The group asked me to do a program for them, so I had 22 of the loveliest ladies in my home for a morning of mingling, making new friends, and getting inspired for the holidays. 

Setting a beautiful table is a natural extension of interior design for me. I decided to set my tables with examples of casual, dressy, traditional, and modern place settings as part of my program. Using what I had, there were 6 places set at my casual breakfast table, and 6 places set at my dressier dining table. A combination of linens, china, flat ware, and glass ware made for the most fun in prepping for the ladies group. 

I found adorable printables on Pinterest for the place cards that sat at a few of my place settings. 
I also hand painted menu cards for a few of the place settings too. 
This one depicted a pretty spray of fall vegetables centered around a pretty orange pumpkin.

Another menu card was topped with a lovely fall tree, complete with red, orange, and gold leaves.

This menu card showed a traditional Thanksgiving turkey.

And another had a cornucopia painted at the top.

Many of my place settings were decorated with real fruit - bright yellow lemons, gorgeous red pears and pretty green ones.

Burlap runners from JoAnn's fabrics decorated the dining table.

I also hand painted a few "thankful" cards....a neat idea and tradition to start with your family. This one had a plump orange pumpkin. 

This fun paper suite from Caspari, its Imari pattern, looks great with crisp white linens and sterling silver flatware - and makes for easy cleanup!

In addition to setting the tables, I designed floral arrangements using many things found around the house and in my yard. 

For my dining table, I found a long brass container from an antique mall. Using the green hydrangea from my yard, I assembled an arrangement that also included cat tails, palmetto fronds, and white cotton from my family's farm. 

Branches filled my grandmother's butter churn at the entry.

In the kitchen, a wood box was filled with green hydrangea, palmetto fronds, white orchid, orange chrysanthemum, and more cat tails.

Another wood basket held more of the same fall foliage.

A few pumpkins graced the front porch.

I prepared several hors d'oeuvres for my guests to enjoy. Mini turkey sandwiches with apple and cheddar, spicy pimento cheese dip, melted brie with caramel sauce, and rosemary roasted pecans. I had raspberry lemonade with champagne to offer as well as coffee and water.
**I've got recipes at the end of this post**

Cranberry champagne lemonade:
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest
2 59 oz. bottles cranberry juice cocktail
1 2-liter bottle of ginger ale
1 cup fresh lemon juice
Desired champagne amount
1.      In medium saucepan, combine water and sugar over medium heat; stir until sugar dissolves. Add lemon zest and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium, and cook for 10 minutes. Strain syrup through mesh strainer and let cool completely.
2.      In a large pitcher, combine syrup, cranberry juice cocktail, ginger ale, lemon juice, and champagne – stirring gently to combine. Serve chilled over ice. Garnish with cranberries or lemon slices if desired.
Roasted Pecans with Rosemary
¼ cup butter
4 cups pecan halves
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1.      Preheat oven to 350. Cook butter until brown over medium heat about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and add pecans. Arrange pecans in single layer on baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and sugar.
2.      Bake for 10-12 minutes, stirring halfway through. Sprinkle with rosemary and bake 2 more minutes. Cool completely on baking sheet (about 30 minutes.)
Spicy White Pimento Cheese and Bacon Dip
2 cups grated Monterey Jack
1 cup grated white cheddar
1 cup grated gruyere
½ cup mayo
¼ cup sour cream
8 pieces of crumbled, cooked bacon
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
1 7 oz. jar of pimentos, drained
1 teaspoon Worcestershire
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon red pepper
**serve with pita chips or crackers
1.      Preheat oven to 350
2.      Combine cheeses, mayo, and sour cream. Add bacon, jalapenos, pimentos, Worcestershire, black pepper, red pepper. Spoon mixture into baking dish, and bake for 20 minutes.
Mini Smoked turkey, apple, and cheese sandwiches
1 cup mayo
2 tablespoons apricot preserves
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 12-oz. packages dinner rolls
1 lb. sliced turkey
1 Granny Smith apple, chopped
12 slices provolone
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Sesame seeds
Diced minced onion
1.      Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
2.      Combine mayo, preserves, and Dijon.
3.      Cut dinner rolls in half with serrated knife. Spread mayo mixture on inside of roll, layering turkey, apple and cheese. Cover with tops of rolls, and place rolls closely together on baking sheet.
4.      Brush tops of rolls with butter, sprinkle with sesame seeds and onion. Bake for 10 minutes and serve.
Caramel Pecan Brie:
One 7-ounce wheel Brie cheese
Caramel sauce
2/3 cup chopped pecans, or any nuts you prefer
Assorted fruit (grapes, sliced apples or pears) and crackers 
Remove rind from Brie, if desired. Cut into wedges and arrange on a plate.
To make caramel sauce:  in a small saucepan add nuts to caramel sauce and bring to a boil.  Boil for 30 seconds and allow to cool slightly.  Microwave the Brie 30-45 seconds – just until it starts to melt.  Spoon over warmed Brie and serve.  (If making the sauce at the same time, measure out 2/3 cup to a small saucepan and add the nuts.  Bring to a boil and boil 30 seconds.  Cool slightly.  Pour sauce over warm Brie and serve.)

Hope you and yours have a Happy Thanksgiving!!!