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.

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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 Icing for Steve’s Cake

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Steve McKenzie topping off the Sour Cream Cake with this easy icing!

We’re tickled at all the requests for this easy recipe, and happy to share. It will become part of your baking repertoire for sure. If you missed the Sour Cream Cake recipe, jump back to this blog post.

Add a special flavor with Jackson Morgan Southern Cream Salted Caramel

Good old Food Network and Alton Brown came to the rescue for a simple royal icing and here’s the recipe. Always looking to change things up, Steve decided to incorporate the delicious Jackson Morgan Southern Cream in Salted Caramel.

icing Jackson Morgan
Add a special ingredient to this versatile icing
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A couple of bowls, your trusty hand mixer, and fresh mint
icing Steve McKenzie The Preppy Stitch
Perfect for sharing with friends

Just add a few colorful touches like the Creative Candles votives, pretty Mottahadeh plates, and these darling monogrammed napkins from The Preppy Stitch, and you have a dessert party.

Let us know if you make this cake and icing, and if you use a special ingredient in the icing. Tag and follow us on Instagram and/or Facebook. Happy baking!

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.

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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?

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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
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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!

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?

Pinewood Forest Idea House Perfection

New urbanism and exciting design are just two good reasons to visit the  Pinewood Forest Idea House.  This Fayetteville 34 acre development emphasizes walk ability, diversity, connectivity, sustainability, and exceptional architecture.  You can catch a glimpse of the nearby neighbor Pinewood Movie studios too.  Weekends offer outdoor markets and family activities.

Thanks to Atlanta magazine home, you can tour one of the beautiful single family homes beginning September 13 through October 7.

 

Built by Redwood Home Builders

Jennifer Balcos, SWOOX, Joe Adams
Hand-plastered fireplace anchor the living room. Designer Jennifer Balcos

Your eye will delight in the variety of design and artwork and sensibility from the 11 talented designers who have put their unique signature looks in their spaces.

Pinewood Forest Idea Home
Dining Room by Dana Lynch Design

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moody color and texture abound. J. Ansel Design

Pinewood Forest Idea Home
Spa bath retreat designed by Elle & Vreeland Design House

This uniquely walkable development will offer more than 15 miles of pads, housing at a variety of price points, and art center, and an innovative school.  Enjoy a few more shots of this amazing showhouse…

Pinewood Forest Idea Home
Carriage house getaway full of natural elements, designed by Sherry Hart

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Jill and Steve at Pinewood Forest Idea House Preview Party

Led by interior design firm Dana Lynch Design, the team of designers have “shown their tail “as Jason Mitchell would say, pulling out all the stops to make the space is extra special.  Kudos to all!

 

NYC + Friday Favorites

It’s been a busy few weeks in NYC, baby-duty for our precious granddaughter, as our daughter is back to work.  The days are full of kisses, bottles, diapers, cooking, walking, reading books aloud, singing songs, and all around family fun!

Here’s a peek into what we’ve done, seen, eaten or discussed this week on the Upper East side –

Art – The Met and Heavenly Bodies:  Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.  Granddaughter has seen the exhibit three times now : )

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Versace jacket in the Heavenly Bodies exhibit at The Met

 Food  – Hooray for neighborhood newcomer, Van Leeuwan Artisan Ice Cream – *bonus tip*  Get the sundae with three scoops and all the trimmings.  It costs less than getting three scoops on a cone.  Oh, and the strawberry tastes just like freshly picked strawberries!

NYC, Van Leeuwen
Artisan ice cream

New parents have got to keep up their energy, so we’ve been cooking lots – new favorites like no-cook Energy Balls and old favorites like Jamie Oliver’s Salmon Packets.

And can you guess what’s in this photo?

NYC, Amazon, NYTimes
Any guesses?

If you guessed homemade chicken stock, then you’re correct!  Our s.i.l. (son-in-law) has perfected Instapot chicken stock and found these fun blue silicone freezer molds so you can freeze the stock, then stack the frozen blocks in a zip lock baggie.  Pull out a delicious, homemade one cup serving at a time.  Check out the NYTimes recipe from Melissa Clark, Instapot cooking guru.

Baby girl clothes and bows – All the favorites like Gap, Carters, Little English, Baby Bling hair bows, Starry Knight shoes, onesies painted by artist Papa Steve!

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Precious sleeping baby

Best board books –  (Go straight to Saturn Booksellers and they’ll ship all the latest to you or a loved one).  My new favorite is The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli.  Chomp, chomp, chomp! What’s your favorite read-aloud child’s book?

Not only have we (hopefully) helped our adult kids ease into family-work-life balance, but we’ve gotten to dote on them and this precious baby girl.  For that, we are very thankful for the time, love and support from our friends and family.

 

 

5 Stress-free Gift Giving Solutions

I don’t know about you, but gift giving stresses me.  I agonize over what to give a loved one.  Will they like it?  Will it be in the way and not loved?  I’ve found 5 winning solutions – subscription boxes that take the headache out of gift giving and make you a hero all year long!

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Enjoy the occasion with these subscription box gift ideas – no stress!

It’s simple really, think about what your friend enjoys – coffee, beauty products, fishing – and I bet there’s a subscription box for just about every category.  These gift  boxes usually contain a curated selection of exclusive and/or unusual items.  Here’s a quick list of five proven winners

Suthinstyle Box– a quarterly subscription for women filled with fashion, food and finer things made in and inspired by the South.  Curated by the stylish Ashley Stamoulis, who calls her boxes “her love letters to the South”.  Membership plans range from seasonal to annual and your mom, sister, mil (mother-in-law), sil (sister-in-law) will be thrilled!

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Founder Ashley Stamoulis and her fabulous pink SuthinGirl box

 

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A sampling of all the goodies in the spring box

 

Darlings Fine Things– Known for their wide range of beauty products, fashion and shoes, Darlings Fine Things has hand-picked a selection of goodies for $35 per month.  Personally I can’t wait to try my Michael Marcus Eye Gel!  Again, perfectly geared to the women in your life…

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Darlings Fine Things Box Full of Wonderful

gift stress box

MistoBox Coffee Subscription – After polling my Facebook group of savvy Atlanta-Decatur women, this coffee company rose to the top of the crema.  For our NYC daughter and sil (son-in-law), space is at a premium.  So I’m very aware of not adding to their home.  The solution? A six-month subscription of craft coffees! They savored all the different coffees, from six different makers!  Once they received their MistoBox coffee subscription, they were matched with a coffee curator – a coffee expert who learned the kinds of coffee they liked and sent them coffee based on their preferences.

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A sampling of craft coffees

Next, one of my favorite gifts to give and receive, BOOKS!  My dear friend, talented businesswoman and writer, Jill Niehaus Miner, owns a thriving, independent bookstore, Saturn Booksellers.   Did I mention that she was awarded the Michigan Small Retailer of the Year award? Not a small feat these days.  I could go on and on bragging about Jill and her team but let’s talk about their Monthly Book subscriptions for adults, teens, young readers and the grandbaby board books.  It’s very simple.  Choose your recipient’s age and Saturn Booksellers takes care of the shipping.  Your loved one gets a book from you, every month.  It’s a win-win!  Also, do yourself a favor and sign up for their emails on book recommendations.  You’ll be in the know with new releases and more.

gift box book
It’s never too early for a family read aloud session as our son in law, Jim and daughter Molly, read to our sweet granddaughter, Amelia May.

Let me know what you think of these gift options, and I hope these suggestions will make your gift giving occasions less stressful and more enjoyable!  That’s what it’s all about, enjoying time together with friends and family.