Weekend Getaway in Thomasville, Georgia

Thomasville antique show
Entry to Thomasville Antiques Show by Steve McKenzie

Anyone else compiling a list of weekend getaway trips? We so enjoyed our recent weekend trip to Thomasville, Georgia, that we must share! It started off with Steve receiving a coveted invitation to design the entry way to the 31st Thomasville Antiques Show.

Much like a showhouse, he could think out of the box and keyed off this over-scale artwork from Wendover Art. Watch for a later recap of how he formulated his design plan.

Thomasville Georgia
Exploring downtown on our weekend trip to Thomasville

Delighted that Thomasville is only a four hour drive from Atlanta, this charming village has something for everyone. We booked a charming VRBO cottage, perfectly appointed for us with super helpful owners. While much of our time was spent at the antiques show shopping and listening to the speakers, we did get a special tour one of the venerable southern shooting plantations, Pebble Hill Plantation.

Pebble Hill Plantation
Stately architecture of this magnificent Georgia Belle

No photography is allowed inside. But it wouldn’t have done the rooms justice anyway. The interiors are intact, down to the seahorse tortoise shell comb in the powder room, with Gracie wallpaper, over 20 sets of china, discrete bell pulls for the staff, and a lively family history.

Jill and Steve McKenzie
Jill and Steve McKenzie outside Pebble Hill Plantation

After soaking up the history and timeless design at Pebble Hill Plantation, we enjoyed a fabulous lunch at Sweet Grass Dairy Cheese Shop in downtown Thomasville. Are you a blue cheese lover like me? I highly recommend their Asher Blue.

Then we strolled along the bustling downtown sidewalks. We had to explore this amazing taxidermy shop, of course.

taxidermy Thomasville
Who can resist the taxidermy store?

Be sure to allow lots of shopping time, and don’t miss Firefly. It’s a magical place full of gifts for all ages, things you won’t see everywhere. Nan Myers is the mastermind of the magic, a talented event planner too. And there’s a local book store, toy store, clothing boutiques, and top it off with a chili dog from Billiard Academy’s walk up window.

Steve McKenzie Thomasville
https://www.cowtan.comSteve adding the final floral touches with simple magnolia branches.

Don’t you love that skirted table? Cowtan & Tout fabrics are a perennial design favorite of Steve’s. Easy way to update a hallway or side table too.

What cities and towns are on your weekend getaway list?

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Why I’m Part of the Influencers of Midlife Conference

Steve and I recently reviewed our calendars, looking ahead to the balance of Q1 and the opportunities in Q2. My eyes lit up at the Influencers of Midlife Conference, marked with colorful stars and underlines. It’s happening March 26 – 29 at the Hotel at Avalon, headed up by my dear friend, interior designer, over 50 fashion maven, Robin LaMonte. Steve wondered aloud and asked me why all the happy symbols (literally, in my journal)?

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Grandparents, Steve and Jill enjoying the view at La Fortezza Italy

So I stopped to think, why am I excited about IOM? Here are my top reasons, and I think some of them may resonate with you too.

Renew, recharge and replenish!
  • Hanging out with like-minded women for a whole weekend! Women who are life-learners, hard workers, active, and eager to share, and know where I’m coming from. My kind of peeps…
  • Learning from these women, everything from wellness to fashion tips to business advice. Midlife is a pivotal transitional point in our lives, many of us experience a spiritual and emotional renaissance.
  • I see myself through a different lens with these ladies. So much potential!
  • Sharing in a spirit of growth, support and kindness to each other and ourselves.
Speakers from all over the US

Quick peek at some of the fabulous speakers ~ Mitzi Beach, Vicki Gladle Bolick, Rhoda Vickers, Janet Coon, Linda Holt, Tonya Parker, myself and more. I’m making a list of all the questions – You Tube, podcasts, blogs, influencers – being intentional about learning from this fabulous tribe.

Design Bloggers Conference
Jill McKenzie Robin Lamonte
Jill McKenzie with Influencer of Midlife Founder, Robin LaMonte at the Design Influencers Conference

We’re in charge of what we do the rest of our lives. Invest in yourself at the Influencers of Midlife Conference this March!

Click here for ticket information. Hope to see you there~

Friday | What We’re Loving

Delightful dahlias

On Fridays, we review the highs and lows of the week, pause to ponder, and then plan for the next few weeks.

This Friday, we are loving the buildup of excitement for the upcoming Fall Design Events at AmericasMart and ADAC, the Southeast’s most comprehensive dual-venue design resource, and Steve was tapped to highlight the collaboration between these two trade shopping destinations. Over the past month, he thoughtfully created luxurious curated vignettes at each location which will be open to the trade. AmericasMart is open from Sept. 23-25 and Discover ADAC is set for Sept. 24-26 – hope to see you there!

We love dahlias…that’s our September obsession, as you can tell from Steve’s instagram account. Thanks to the sustainably-grown flower and fruit farm, 3 Porch Farm, dahlias have graced our table for two weeks. Maybe we’ll see you at the Freedom Farmers Market on Saturday. While you’re there, pick up some fabulous heirloom tomatoes too, and then make Southern Living’s Tomato Pie recipe, a real showstopper.

Finally as we pause and look ahead, the holidays (can you say Hallmark movies) will be here before you know it. We have company coming this year and thankfully we are ready for guests anytime with our beautiful American Leather Sleeper Sofa. It really is superb because there are no bars, no springs, stylish and comfy. Find out more at Verde Home, and remember to #shoplocal.

American Leather
American Leather Comfort Sleeper Sofa at Verde Home

National Dog Day + Our Favorite Dog

Today is National Dog Day. Another made-up holiday? Perhaps, but let’s take minute to love on our furry friends, and our family favorite dogs is the English Springer Spaniel, a cheerful, intelligent, attentive dog. Read on about our three ESS loves…

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Oreo, guardian of the youngest or the oldest person in the room

When we moved from the Chicago area to Atlanta in 1990, we added our first Springer, Oreo to the family, and soon thereafter our son, Carter. That sweet dog let Carter and then baby sister, Mimi learn to walk by holding onto her fur and toddling along with them. When Oreo was done, she gave them a lick, making them squeal with giggles and let go, and then tucked herself into her kennel, her safe place. I can’t say enough about our Atlanta award-winning breeder, Karen Foster. She interviewed us, giving us the pup best suited for our lifestyle, and she was spot on with Oreo. Tip – Ask you breeder lots of questions about their processes as it could save you lots of time and heartache.

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Guard dogs? Not quite, but they sure were sweet shop dogs.

As Oreo aged, we got another puppy to bridge the gap, Biscotti or Bisi. And was she every busy! She could find a tennis ball in anyone’s yard. This cute girl was a star in our Traditional Home story too. See her peeking in the front door?

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Bisi looking for her kids Photo credit: Sarah Dorio

After Oreo’s passing, it was just Bisi and our three kids. So… 8th grade daughter, Mimi, sat Steve and I down for a powerpoint presentation on why we should adopt another English Springer Spaniel from Springer Rescue America. Guess what the answer was? You guessed it. Duke joined us one month later.

English Springer Rescue America has chapters all over the United States.
Bisi hanging out in Traditional Home spread. Photo credit: Sarah Dorio
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Bisi + Duke hanging out upstairs. Photo credit: Sarah Dorio
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Adventure Duke at Atlanta Memorial Park

Why do we love our dogs? They comfort us just by being there. We look forward to coming home to that wagging tail. My dog teaches me to be more patient. My dog teaches me to find joy in the little things. Dogs lift our spirits, they are natural mood elevators. They keep us socially connected at the dog park, running into a neighbor on a walk around the block. Whether you take your dog to a “yappy” hour at a local dog-friendly spot, or just give your pooch some extra love, celebrate time with your furry friend!

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.

Easy Sour Cream Cake

As promised, here is Steve’s family recipe for this easy sour cream cake. It’s a family recipe from his Aunt Judy, awarded with the coveted placement in several church cookbooks. Beloved for its versatility too, Steve added this drizzle Jackson Morgan Salted Caramel icing, or you can take advantage of fresh fruit like strawberries and peaches, finished off with a dollop of whipped cream on top.

Sour Cream Cake

3 cups cake flour (we really did sift the flour per the instructions)
3 cups sugar
1 c. sour cream
1 c. butter, softened
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
6 eggs, separated (You will beat the egg whites into stiff peaks)

Sift flour; add soda and sift again. Cream butter and sugar thoroughly, and add egg yolks, one at a time. Add flour and sour cream alternately. Add stiffly beaten egg whites. Bake in a greased and well-floured angel food cake pan or bundt pan. Bake at 300 degrees F for 1.5 hours.
Let cool 10 minutes, then flip on a cooling rack to finish cooling.
sour cream cake
Finished product!

When Paige Minear suggested this delicious collaboration, Steve knew exactly what cake he wanted to pair with the Jackson Morgan Southern Cream Salted Caramel deliciousness. So he called Aunt Judy in Kentucky, she texted the recipe, and now we get to share it with you. We baked it in a bundt pan like this one. Individual bundt cakes would be a fun at everyone’s place setting for a special celebration, or just because it’s Monday. Then you could set out separate toppings (think sprinkles, fruit, chocolate chips) and let everyone dress their own cake.

With a little planning, you can whip up this simple cake first thing in the morning, before the kitchen gets too hot, and then you’re done. Voilà you have dessert and you’re a hero!

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Yes, please!

How do you showcase your desserts? I love to bring out one of our cake stands, either my grandmother’s pressed glass cake stand or a colorful Deruta Italian cake stand, a souvenir from our travels. As they say in show business, it’s all about the presentation.

cake Steve McKenzie
Summer Dessert table

If you do bake this Sour Cream Cake, please share a photo of your cake with us on Facebook or Instagram, using the hashtag #InspiredTailoredAuthentic #stevemckenzies. Happy baking!


Did Someone Say Dessert?

cake party dessert candles
Dessert Soiree with Paige Minear

Happy Summer! What better way to kick off summer entertaining than a simple dessert soiree? Paige Minear of The Pink Clutch Blog joined us for a homemade Sour Cream Cake, complemented with some of her favorite things, including her gorgeous collection from Creative Candles, Mottahadeh china and classic monogrammed cocktail napkins from The Preppy Stitch.

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Whipping up a simple icing with Jackson Morgan Southern Cream

Everyone enjoys a little dessert. For a simple icing, Steve whipped up confectioners sugar, vanilla, fresh mint and added Jackson Morgan Southern Cream in Salted Caramel for a little something special. Perfect!

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Steve adding the final touch to his cake
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Paige making ice cream with Jackson Morgan Whipped Orange Cream
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Refreshing dessert
dessert ice cream
Ice cream all dressed up
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Easy entertaining with a twist, and aren’t those candles perfect with the flowers?

Wait until you try Creative candles! Honestly, we’ve used their Paris Gray candles for every occasion for years. After seeing these in person, we may change to Paige’s summer collection as it’s so cool, soothing yet vibrant.

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Paige lighting the candles, such a lovely touch~
dessert china Steve McKenzie
Sour Cream Cake with Jackson Morgan Salted Caramel icing, served on Mottahadeh plates
dessert Steve McKenzie
Summer Dessert table

Keep cool in the kitchen and enjoy a summer dessert with your family and friends. We’re happy to share our recipes and tips with you. Just send us a message!

Southeastern Showhouse – Explore Design

If you haven’t visited the Southeastern Showhouse yet, make plans to do so right now! Your senses will be delighted with design, inside and out. I had the privilege to tour the Southeastern Showhouse, thanks to Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles, and will share some highlights. There is so much to take in, you need to take the time and visit for yourself, relish in these design details.

Built by Southern Gentry Homes, this 6 bedroom, 7 bath, 12,000 square foot home flows effortlessly on this scenic property.

The kitchen and keeping area took my breath away. Yvonne McFadden is a master of natural materials, yet balances the mood with a sophisticated tone. Definitely a fan of the open shelving design!

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Yvonne McFadden is a master with natural materials.

Then you move outside to this cool, sexy space by Tish Mills Kirk –

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Tish Mills Kirk creates an outdoor oasis.
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Robert Brown Interior Design masterfully mixes patterns, textures and art.

The design community gives us such richly layered rooms, so many details to absorb and enjoy. As a designer, it’s a privilege and responsibility to bring out the best of a space and experiment a bit, like Steve did in the Macon Showhouse in 2017.

Here are some glimpses into the masterful bedrooms, beginning with the master bedroom designed by Huff-Dewberry.

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Huff-Dewberry updates the classic wall of blue and white china.
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Off the master bedroom, Huff Harrington creates a restful outdoor retreat.

Now we’ll move upstairs for sunsets, canopies, and more…

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Holly Phillips and her ode to a Moroccan sunset.
Honey Collins Interiors came home to Atlanta to design this special bedroom.
Ashley Gilbreath showed up with all the textures, metal details and more.

There’s no better way to ignite your creative spirit than by visiting special hubs of design, like this one. Where does your eye go first? What does your eye linger upon? Whether you incorporate these details now or later, remember how they make you feel.

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?

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!