Artist in Residency Recap

A month in Italy to create art – a dreamy opportunity! How did this come about, you may ask. Here’s a quick art recap of how Steve’s Artist in Residence at La Fortezza came about and the fabulous results.

You may remember last fall, Steve taught a painting workshop at Annette Joseph’s 9th century villa, La Fortezza. It was full of creativity, laughs and exploration. That lead to this offer from Annette, be the first Artist in Residence, creating work inspired by the region. And he said YES! So, this past July, he did just that, creating a body of work that reflects the history, geography and beauty of the Lunigiana region. Truly a gift to focus on art for a full month.

If you haven’t been to this part of Italy, add it to your travel bucket list. Lunigiana is a historic region between Tuscany and Liguria, drenched in history, unique foods and breathtaking views.

Italy, art, Steve mckenzie's

Being familiar with the town and nearby art store, Steve knew what supplies he needed to take and what he could purchase there. So, with brushes and paint in hand, he spread out in the spacious studio, working on many canvases and paper pieces at once, as the inspiration moved him.

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Soldata Romano II

One of the benefits of being in one place for a longer period of time is you make friends with the locals. This was especially helpful as Steve wanted to make copies of historic rare books and ephemera at the local rare books archives, to incorporate into his paintings. With some patience and help with translating, he got more than he needed, including the Roman soldier seen above, an atlas of the region from 1785, and a lawyer’s goat skin bound book of contracts from 1635, all incorporated into various works of art.

It wasn’t all painting, there was cooking to be done, in Annette’s fabulous kitchen, plus visiting local museums, sites and an artists’ co-op. Check out Annette’s many workshops here.

Italy, food, Mutti tomatoes
A new favorite, Mutti tomatoes mixed with simple garden produce were the base for many suppers.

One of the artists shared some scrap chunks of Carrara marble with Steve. What an amazing new conduit for his art, another blessing from travels and learning from new friends.

Sculpture by Steve McKenzie – Carrara marble

How does one end such a wonderful month of painting? With a show of course! A downpour didn’t dampen our spirits either. The food truck brought the food inside the studio where our friends, local and from afar, ate, drank and danced into the night.

The next day, we packed up the art, said ciao to La Fortezza, and headed to the iconic beach town, Forte Dei Marmi, the perfect way to cap off a jubilant July.

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Easy Entertaining Tips

So you did it, you invited some friends or work pals over to your place for some nibbles, beverages, and relaxed conversation. Bravo! Now, read on for some easy entertaining tips from Steve and Jill McKenzie and the team at Mottahedeh China. Your goal? A memorable and care-free evening for all.

easy entertaining tips
Photo credit: Gustav Wilde

Let’s start with a gorgeous Atlanta sunset. Then add an array of colorful Mottahedeh china, and really use it for food, flowers, holding cutlery, and more. Let’s use the good stuff!

easy entertaining tips
Use your low dishes for nuts and olives
easy entertaining tips
Tobacco Leaf on the bar
easy entertaining tips
Pop a grocery store orchid in a cachepot for instant room refresh.

Add some height and soothing candlelight on the buffet table. Steve swears by a variety of candle heights for visual interest and light.

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Steve lighting candles just before the guests arrive

Keep the food simple – finger foods and here’s a tip, many larger groceries, like Whole Foods offer catering menus. Don’t forget another of our favorite’s, Aldi’s, for cheeses and charcuterie meats, nuts, and sweets.

Lauren Finney, Clary Bobsyshell
Add some dear friends like Lauren Finney of Modern Luxury magazine and designer, Clary Bosbyshell, and mix!
Steve McKenzie and Lance Jackson of Parker Kennedy Living

That’s it, easy and simple entertaining with friends, flowers, and simple food. Whether it’s celebrating the end of the week or something more like a baby shower, it’s about connecting with friends and loved ones.

Now, who will you invite over this weekend?

Sugar Sweet Baby Girl Shower

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Banner from Thimblepress

February was a fabulously  fun and busy month for us!  First, our son’s rehearsal dinner and beautiful wedding at The The Stave Room (stunning photo backdrop, thanks to ASW Distillery) and then we hosted a baby girl shower for our oldest daughter who is expecting their first child very soon.

So, please enjoy some moments of pink and gold happiness from the Atlanta and NYC Baby Girl celebrations, perhaps taking some notes on recipes and decor for your next celebration.

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Balloons by Thimblepress

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CamiCakes cupcakes, floral by Steve McKenzie

Topping off the light chicken salad luncheon, guests had their choice of delicious CamiCakes cupcakes or pretty pink sugary sweet iced butter cookies.  Some of us had to taste both!

 

 

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Sugar succulents by Nicolettsy and cupcake toppers by SmashCaked, both on Etsy

Aren’t those sugar succulent toppers the cutest?!  It’s amazing what you can find on Etsy.

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Pink and gold decor on the bar with cups and napkins by our fav, Sequins and Lipstick

In keeping with our baby girl pink and gold theme, our dear friend and tastemaker, Paige Minear of The Pink Clutch suggested the perfect rosemary, grapefruit cocktail recipe from Australian blogger, Tell Me Tuesday and you can get it here.  Pretty and pink!

Remember to look in your cabinet for serving pieces as shown by the mint julep cup holding the gold and white paper straws.

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Parents to be, Molly and Jim

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Do you know Atlanta-based Blablakids? The cutest, softest stuffed animals ever…here is Rivier the elephant, all ready to welcome Baby Girl!

We’ll keep you posted on upcoming developments as there’s nothing like a new baby to bring joy to our world.

 

 

Annie Mae’s Pantry: A Little Cafe with a Lot of Soul

Atlanta’s food scene has a new player, Annie Mae’s Pantry just off Northside Drive and Interstate 75 in Atlanta, and put it at the top of your list.  Guided by her own culinary philosophy, Andra Hall (she also owns CamiCakes, a well-known bakery with 5 Atlanta and 2 Jacksonville, FL locations) presents a menu based on “The Four S”es: “Simple. Soulful. Savory. Sweet.”  Here she pays homage to her late paternal grandmother, Annie Mae Norton and is reflective of Hall’s rural upbringing in Monticello, FL, a lazy town situated 30 miles northeast of Tallahassee.

Founder Andra Hall
Andra Hall

Think regional food, like fresh seafood, garden vegetables and “sweets”, as Andra’s family called dessert.

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At our table, it’s a toss up between the Yard Bird (chicken), Fishing Pole Finds (top contender here is Annie Mae’s signature Fried Fish and Grits), Brown Bag Sandwiches and Sweets.  These cakes and pies are definitely worth the splurge!

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Whether you carry out or enjoy the comfy bistro setting, linger longer as you enjoy these homemade meals with your friends and family.

Annie Mae’s Pantry is located at 1700 Northside Drive, Atlanta, GA, just north of our showroom.  See you soon!

 

 

Tie It with a Bow

Spring brings travel, special events and celebrations like spring break, Mother’s Day, bridal showers, and graduations to name a few. Being ever the thoughtful Southerner, you know not to show up empty-handed!

This past week at Americas Mart, Steve showed a group of dedicated retail buyers several new ways to put together “The Ultimate Hostess Gift”, including a Holiday Jingle cocktail!

Tito's, sugar
Holiday Jingle Crush Cocktail

As a bonus, our fellow Butler University classmate and Delta Gamma sorority sister, Jill Miner, joined us.  Be sure to check out her award-winning bookstore in picturesque Gaylord, Michigan, Saturn Booksellers.

Back to the hostess gift!  Let’s deconstruct it and learn some tips.

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Ingredients for a food lovers gift

Steve says to think about your host.  Do they have any hobbies?  This gracious host has discovered cooking and frequently entertains friends and family.

Next, let’s find an unusual container instead of the standard gift bag.  We love this vivid blue melamine (unbreakable!) salad bowl.  Then we filled it with delicious pesto, gourmet salt and a pizza kit from Atlanta-based Bella Cucina.  Tuck in a matching blue tea towel for some extra love.  Now, let’s look at it all put together.

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Food Lovers Basket

Twirl some cellophane around it and tie it with a bow.  Now you’re ready to say Thank You and enjoy your time together.  Shop the look here.

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Tie it with a bow!

We’re going to share these ideas throughout the spring, so stay tuned for more wonderful ideas to wow your host.  Of course, if you’re pressed for time, our team at steve mckenzie’s is ready to prepare your hostess gifts for you.

Missed this seminar?  Keep track of our whereabouts, classes and events by following our  Facebook page and Instagram.