Cherry Preserves & Goat Cheese Puff Pastry Appetizer

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Happy Wine Wednesday!  With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, I wanted to share a little something I put together for work – Valentine’s Day food and wine pairings.  Jake and I are true foodies and we love exploring new restaurants in our area, but some of my happiest memories with him are when we’ve cooked together and enjoyed a great bottle of wine at home.  The goal was to create 3 easy-moderate recipes that paired deliciously with three of our wines and could be simply replicated by a couple or whichever partner has decided to treat the other on Valentines Day.  I did some research and after bouncing ideas around with our Sommelier, we decided on a few that would be perfect.  We gave them a try and they were SO GOOD!  I will definitely, 100% be making each of these again… and maybe this weekend :-)

The first one is a sweet and savory pastry that will melt in your mouth. Paired with ONEHOPE California Chardonnay, the goat cheese, cherry and buttery pastry highlight the crisp apple and pear notes in the wine. Enjoy the hint of caramel on the finish to perfectly meld with the savory goat cheese and pastry. YUM!  Find the recipe below and stay tuned for two more yummy treats tomorrow and Friday. xoxo

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Yield: 4 large pastries

Ingredients

2 sheets puff pastry
8 oz. cherry preserves
8 oz. chevre
Egg wash (1 egg + 2 tablespoons of water lightly beaten)
2 tbs melted butter
Powdered sugar (optional)

…and the perfect Chardonnay :-)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. If using frozen puff pastry, allow it to thaw for 30 minutes.  You want your pastry to be workable, but not sticky.
3. Lightly flour work surface and rolling pin. Roll dough to just under 1/4″
4. Cut out your dough using a large cookie cutter. We were able to cut out 8 large hearts (enough for 4 pastries) and 4 small hearts (enough for 2 pastries).
5. Place half of the cut out dough on your work surface and layer shapes with chevre and preserves. Be careful not to use too much of the either cheese or preserves. For a 4″ heart cookie cutter, we used about 2 tablespoons chevre and 2 tablespoons preserves per pastry. Be sure to leave a 1/2″ border of dough around the filling.
6. Place the remaining dough shapes on your work surface. Using a knife, score the dough in whatever design desired. This will allow your pastry to vent while baking.
7. Give the scored dough shapes a little stretch and place over the shapes with the chevre and cherry preserves. Make sure the edges line up.
8. Using a fork, press the top and bottom layers of dough together around the edge of your pastry to seal it shut.
9. Using a brush, lightly coat each pastry with egg wash and melted butter. Place on greased cookie sheet and bake for about 8 minutes (or until edges are golden and pastry begins to flake).
10. Remove from oven and allow pastries to set for 2-3 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.

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Chardonnay + Cheese

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When I first started working for a wine company, I knew absolutely nothing about wine beyond the fact that I liked to drink it.  I had no formal education in wine and the extent of my experience with it was picking up the cheapest or prettiest + cheapest combination bottle in my local market.  Like a lot of early wine drinkers, I couldn’t differentiate between varietals, wasn’t quite sure which wines pair with what foods and couldn’t appreciate any of the complexities that I now seek in my fermented grapes.  While most of the people that work in our company don’t fall in the “wine snob” category, we still experience know-it-alls (or think they know-it-all) wine snobs at events and in meetings with buyers which makes the industry intimidating and honestly, annoying at times.  My personal opinion is that wine is a subjective experience that is supposed to be fun and it’s supposed to be an experience.  Certain wines will enhance certain flavors in certain foods, but learning it through experience rather than studying wine notes from a book is really what this industry should be all about.  No two palates are the same and everyone is going to taste wine differently which is exactly what makes it so fun and personal.

This division of our company puts on wine tastings in the customer’s preferred setting of choice and while some of our reps have a ton of wine experience, many of them don’t and are eager to learn what to serve at their tastings and what favors are going to pair the best with each wine.  Last month our focus was Chardonnay so I had some serious fun putting together a cheese plate and easy apps that would be delicious with Chard.  I thought I’d pass it along just in case anyone is interested in learning more about what to pair with Chardonnay.  Check it out below :-)

CREATING THE PERFECT CHARDONNAY CHEESE PLATE

When you think of a wine party, the most obvious food pairing is cheese.  However, with Chardonnay, cheese isn’t always the easiest to pair with a varietal that has such incredible stylistic range.  While some chardonnays are extremely fruity and citrusy, others are oaky and buttery which can compete with the creamy cheeses you might initially think to pair with a white wine.  I explored a few different cheeses to find the best combination with our Chardonnay that offers a perfectly balanced profile of fruit and oak.  As told by our Sommelier:

With most Chardonnays, you get some green apple, a little citrus, and depending on the producer either no or tons of oak and malolactic fermentation to give it that buttered popcorn style. Our Chardonnay undergoes an extremely cold, slow fermentation that extracts tons of tropical fruit character out of this wine. Scents of pineapple, banana, white peach and pear jump out of the glass at me when I pour it. It spends about six months in American oak, but only 20% new oak. The rest of the barrels are all 2-3 years old so it is more for a textural component rather than making the wine overly oaky. You get some notes of vanilla and toasted coconut, but it is definitely in balance with the fruit character of the wine.

CHEESE: I sought to find the best cheese to pair with our style Chardonnay and found a few favorites: Mt. Tam, a brie-style triple cream crafted by Cowgirl Creamery in California.  Another favorite was Cabot’s Clothbound Cheddar which is nutty in flavor and has a similar consistency to parmesan while being much more mild to taste – perfect for our style Chardonnay.  The two can be purchased in a set from Cowgirl Creamery that also includes and absolutely unbelievable Echo Mountain Blue Cheese (still delicious with our Chardonnay when drizzled in a little honey and perfect for the reds at your wine tasting tasting), or can be ordered individually as well.  If you’re looking for less expensive options, both Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s offer a wide variety of double-triple cream, brie and mild-medium cheddar cheeses that will be perfect for pairing with Chardonnay.

OTHER BITES TO INCLUDE: In my opinion, creating the perfect cheese plate is all about striking a balance between cheeses and other small bites that enhance the flavors of your wine.  Some crackers and perhaps a loaf of fresh French Bread are key.  The fig spread and honey found in both our Wine & Cheese Party and Cheese Party Packages are essential for getting that sweeter balance and will make cheeses like a tangy blue cheese more approachable for those who might not love an extra sharp cheese on its own.  Figs are also particularly delicious with our Chardonnay and can be served with any cheese imaginable all the way from a creamy brie to an aged, extra sharp cheddar or parmesan.  An artichoke spread (also found in both our Wine & Cheese Party and Cheese Party Packages) offers a savory yet citrusy touch while olive oil is a natural pairing and will give your guests something light to dip their bread in when they’ve indulged in enough cheese ;-)

PS: From a gorgeous marble cheese board to honey, olive oil, salami, cheese knives, and more, our Wine & Cheese Party and Cheese Party Packages offer a one stop shop for all of the goodies you will need to create the perfect wine and cheese party.  Cheers!

Wine Wednesday | Pear + Goat Cheese Crostini

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Happy Wine Wednesday!  We’re halfway through the week, y’all!  The past 7 days have been exceptionally exciting and I’m thrilled to be feeling the most inspired that I have in a very long time.  Jake and I spent last weekend in Napa and we’re heading back tomorrow for a big project that we’re working on together for our company (more details on that later), but there have been a lot of exciting changes in the works :-)  In the meantime, for Wine Wednesday, I wanted to share one of my absolute FAVORITE appetizer recipes that we whipped up for our Pink Party.

Inspired by one of my favorite salads, this Pear + Goat Cheese Crostini is basically an easier-to-eat/one-hand-required version that is perfect for a party or wine tasting.  The creaminess of the goat cheese combined with the slightly sweet balsamic vinaigrette and pears are LEGIT with a well balanced Chardonnay (light on the oak, but not overly sweet). Get in my bellyyyy!  Check out the recipe below and bookmark it for your next party so you can wow your friends and thank me later ;-)

Prep: 20 minutes
Serves: 10-15

Ingredients

1 loaf French bread
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic (minced)
5 oz. arugula
3 oz. Goat Cheese
1 Pear (diced)
1/2 cup Glazed Walnut Pieces (I used Fresh Gourmet brand – available in the salad or crouton aisle)

Ingredients for Dressing

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic (minced)
1/2 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
3/4 cup olive oil
Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper

Directions

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  While oven is preheating, slice bread into ~1/4″ slices.

2.  Combine olive oil and minced garlic.  Brush mixture onto bread slices.  Place bread on baking sheet and bake for 7-10 minutes on lower rack or until bread has started to toast.

3.  While the bread is in the oven, combine all ingredients for dressing until thoroughly mixed. I like to put everything in a mason jar and shake it up to get an even consistency. This also makes it easy to save leftovers

4.  Remove toasts from oven.  When they have cooled enough to handle, spread each toast with goat cheese.  Return to oven for 2-3 minutes or until goat cheese has softened.

5.  Remove toasts and transfer to serving platter.  Garnish each toast with a few sprigs of arugula, diced pear and walnuts. Drizzle dressing over top and serve with a glass of Chardonnay.  This one is awesome :-)

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Brie + Fig + Walnut Cups

Brie-Fig-FeatureIf there is anything in the world that I absolutely love, it’s great food and wine.  Some of my fondest memories are with friends and family sharing a great bottle of wine and a simple cheese platter or dishes to pass.  The art of food and wine pairings is one that I’m slowly trying to master since so much of my life revolves around wine.  It can be really intimidating, but a quick google search and reading the tasting notes on the bottle get you halfway there already.  The rest is acquired over time with drinking more wine and experimenting – not a bad deal ;-)

For our Pink Party, I was on the hunt for some great simple recipes that would pair well with Chardonnay and this was was such a winner.  The combination of brie, candied walnuts and figs all wrapped up in buttery, flaky phyllo dough was so delicious with a well balanced Chardonnay (lightly oaked with a slightly sweet/caramel finish).  I’m dying for an excuse to make these again.  Enjoy!

Prep: 20 minutes
Serves: 12

Ingredients

1 package phyllo dough sheets (available in the dessert freezer aisle)
4 tablespoons butter (melted)
1 – 10-14 oz. wheel of brie cheese (cut into 12 wedges)
Fig spread (available in this set)
Walnuts (I use Fresh Gourmet Glazed Walnuts)

Instructions

1.  Allow phyllo dough to thaw for time designated on the package and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Place 1 sheet of phyllo dough on wax paper and brush with melted butter.  Layer another piece of phyllo dough on top and repeat until you have 6 layers.

3.  Cut the phyllo dough into 12 sections.

4.  Butter the bottoms and sides of each well of a cupcake pan and place each section of 6 layers of phyllo dough into individual wells.  You need to have enough phyllo to wrap around the contents and close on the top so it’s sometimes easier to save one of the 6 layers for covering the top.

5.  Place one wedge of brie into the bottom of each cup and layer 3 tablespoons of fig spread and 1 tablespoon of walnuts into each cup.  You should use all of your fig spread so if you have extra, add it to your pastries.  If you prefer to remove the rind from the brie, do that at this time.

6. Close each cup and brush the tops with melted butter.

7. Place on bottom rack of oven and bake for 10-15 minutes or until phyllo is slightly browned and crispy.

8. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes.  Gently scoop each cup out being careful not to tear the layers and place on serving dish.  Serve while warm with ONEHOPE Chardonnay – DELICIOUS!

Recipe inspired by this.

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Pink Party for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

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Call me #basic, but by the time September rolls around, I’m ready to embrace all things fall.  From autumn inspired recipes, to warm mulled wines, to pumpkins and candles that remind me of fall scents back home in Michigan – I just can’t get enough of my favorite season.  October, however, is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and it marks the beginning of the most important time of the year for us at work.  Since half the profits from our Chardonnay give back to Gateway for Cancer Research (providing clinical trials to women with breast cancer), just when we’re ready to dive head first into fall, everything turns PINK.

We have a division of our company called Hope at Home which offers at-home wine parties that benefit the cause of your choice with 15% going back to the non-profit of your choice.  As our Art Director, I’m always on the hunt for creative and fun ways for our team to stay inspired and get motivated to throw their own parties – especially during our cause months.  A big challenge for me this year at work was figuring out how to throw a pink party, when everyone wants to curl up with a blanket, drink warm mulled wine and pull out their orange pumpkins and decor.  I poked around the internet for some inspiration and ultimately ended up coming back again and again to a flower arrangement that embraced pink and orange equally.  It was inherently pink but also perfectly fall so I decided to run with it.

Since everything we put together had to be easily replicated by our team members who might not be full fledged floral designers or regular party hosts, I broke it down into three simple DIYS and four food/appetizer ideas that both embrace the fall season and pair wonderfully with our Chardonnay.  The best part of this project (beside seeing it all come together) was definitely trying the recipes.  They were SO good and everyone in the office chowed down while we popped open a few bottles of Chardonnay.  Check out everything below from the DIY and recipes to shots from our own little Pink Party ;-)

PS: If you’re interested in hosting your own PINK party for Breast Cancer Awareness Month or if you’d like to raise money for another cause that you’re passionate about OR if you’d like to make an income while giving back to various causes, please consider Hope at Home :-)

DIY YARN FRINGE BACKDROP

DIY PINK FALL FLORALS

DIY FLORAL ICE CUBES

PINK MARSHMALLOW DIP

PEAR + GOAT CHEESE CROSTINI

BRIE + FIG PASTRY BITES

CHARDONNAY CHEESE PLATE

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CHEERS!

 

 

Fall Entertaining

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Hip hip hooray!  It’s October 1st and I’m so excited to finally get to share the shoot I styled for ONEHOPE’s 2014 Fall Entertaining Guide perfectly captured by Brian Tropiano Photography. At work, I feel like we’re always flying by the seat of our pants and putting together content like this ahead of time has been a struggle.  This year, however, we managed to stay ahead of the game and shot everything in July to use for the remainder of the year.  Trying to determine what is going to be “in” before anything holiday related is even advertised or released in store is tough so instead I just decided to stick with my gut and curate items and elements that I really, truly love.  I wanted the room to feel like a forest so I incorporated a lot of wood textures, ferns, (faux) antlers, geodes and quartz tea lights down the center of the table.  On the wood backdrop behind the wine, was a wreath with an antler to tie the look together with an additional leather fern garland with bistro lights strung above the table.  We brainstormed for days on what to do instead of traditional place cards before we finally decided on stones – gold calligraphy on stones – to keep with the forest theme while adding a touch of elegance to each setting.  The overall messaging behind the day was “Hope, Thanks and Dreams” so Beth hand crafted an amazing dream catcher where guests’ thanks, hopes for the future and dreams were shared and attached with tiny clothes pins.  Menus were printed on archival matte paper with hope, dream or thanks hand inscribed on the top and florals were kept to a minimum with wooden vessels and a casual/handpicked mixture of dahlias, garden roses, viburnum berries, artichokes and greens.

Since the entire purpose of the shoot was to show how to integrate wine into your fall, Thanksgiving or holiday gathering, the day wouldn’t have been complete without some absolutely delicious and gorgeous fare crafted by 24 Carrots Catering.  24 Carrots is one of the biggest catering companies in the business and their food has never, ever disappointed at any event I’ve ever attended.  I was so impressed that they took our direction (a classic Thanksgiving meal) and creatively modernized it a bit while still staying in theme.  For example, I loved the juxtaposition of a modern beet dish served on a raw wood platter that you’ll see below.  Lastly, each of their dishes paired perfectly with one or more of our wines so find pairing suggestions and a few wonderful recipes below!  CHEERS!

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DECOR TIP:  Chairs can make or break a look.  This shoot took place in our conference room and it’s usually filled with white task chairs that are functional for work, but we opted to replace them for this shoot and I’m so happy we did.  Using these metal industrial chairs from Found Rentals kept the look casual, but also uniform, which I loved.

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DECOR TIP:  When designing a table on a budget, not only are garlands beautiful and always on trend, but they’re also the best bang for your buck. Seeded eucalyptus, lemon leaf, leather fern and bay leaf are all great options to consider.  Contact a flower mart or district in your area for bids, but depending on the greens you go with, garlands can run as little as $2.50-$7.00 per foot!

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DECOR TIP:  Menus aren’t always necessary, but they really add to a place setting and are so simple to create.  We whipped this one up Illustrator (but can easily be replicated in MS Word), printed it on nice paper and applied it to a piece of recycled kraft/corrugate paper that we picked up at Michael’s to tie in with the rest of the theme.  Menus are not only great for making pairing suggestions, but they are also the perfect place to tie in your theme or messaging of the evening.  Beth hand wrote thanks, hope or dream at the top of each menu to reiterate why we were all gathered that day.

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DELICIOUS Sauvignon Blanc can be found here.

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Fall-Entertaining-Turkey-2PAIRING NOTES:  Pinot Noir and Turkey are a natural pairing.  The savory herbs and spices on the roasted turkey are complimented by the spice-infused influences of the French oak in our Pinot Noir.

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DECOR TIP:  Since turkey is usually the main food element during Thanksgiving meals, I love that 24 Carrots used this legged platter to give it some height.  Pieces like this are readily available at Cost Plus, Pottery Barn or can be rented for the day from Found Rentals.Fall-Entertaining-Dream-Catcher

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PAIRING NOTES:  The creamy texture and toasted oak notes of our Santa Barbara Reserve Chardonnay pair perfectly with the rich butter and cheddar cheese of this twice baked potato.

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PAIRING NOTES:  Eggs and Pinot Noir are a guilty pleasure not to be missed and Pinot is the perfect partner in crime for ham.

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PAIRING NOTES (recipe below): The rich fruit and lively spice of our Pinot Noir adds some brightness to the earthy quality of these savory vegetables.

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Thyme Infused Roasted Root Vegetables by 24 Carrots Catering

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

2 lbs mixed root vegetables (we use baby carrots, the smallest parsnips you can find and a mix of yellow and red beets)
Olive oil, to taste
Salt + pepper, to taste

Balsamic Thyme Vinaigrette Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons thyme minced
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1 teaspoon cumin, toasted and ground
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons miso paste

Directions

Gently peel the carrots and parsnips. Leave them whole if they are all the same size – if not, chop the larger veggies to equal the size of the smaller ones. Peel and chop the beets into rough cubes, about 1-inch all around.

Place all the vegetables onto a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Place in a 400°F degree oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes, shaking them periodically for even cooking. Remove from oven when soft, slightly brown and caramelized.

Meanwhile, prepare the balsamic thyme vinaigrette. Place all the ingredients aside from the oil in a mixing bowl. Drizzle in the oil while whisking to combine. Season to taste.

Drizzle dressing all over the vegetables to coat, return to the oven and caramelize for five more minutes.

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PAIRING NOTES: The savory, meaty essence of the sausage pairs perfectly with spicy and herbal characteristics of our Zinfandel.

Apple Sage Cornbread Stuffing by 24 Carrots Catering

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

Cornbread, recipe follows
10 slices oven-dried country white bread
8 tablespoons butter
2 cups celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 granny smith apples ¼ inch, diced
1 lb apple sausage
7 cups chicken stock
1 cup Heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons sage
1 tablespoon thyme
5 eggs, beaten

Cornbread Ingredients

1 cup self-rising cornmeal
1/2 cup self-rising flour
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

In a large bowl, combine crumbled cornbread, dried white bread slices and set aside.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage and brown, then add the celery, onions and apples and cook until transparent, approximately 5 to 10 minutes.

Pour the mixture over cornbread mixture. Add the stock and cream, mix well, taste, and add salt, pepper to taste, sage, and thyme.

Add beaten eggs and mix well. Pour mixture into a greased pan and bake until dressing is cooked through, about 45 minutes. Serve with turkey as a side dish.

Cornbread Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Pour batter into a greased shallow baking dish. Bake for approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

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Cranberry Lemon Herb Butter by 24 Carrots Catering

Ingredients

1/4 cup mixed herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley, chervil, tarragon, and chives, chopped
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup cranberries, dried
1 teaspoon cranberry sauce
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Directions

Chop cranberries then add herbs on a work surface. Add butter cranberry sauce and lemon zest. Finely chop together until well combined. Season with salt.

Transfer to a sheet of parchment paper, placing on edge closest to you. Fold paper over and roll into a cylinder, twisting the ends; wrap airtight in foil. Chill until solid.

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DECOR TIP:  Use as many potted plants as possible to achieve your look.  Mixing in small potted ferns, rosemary plants or succulents to your tablescape will keep the look interesting and will also make great favors to your guests.  While fresh cut flowers are always beautiful, they’ll also perish a few days later while a potted plant will flourish and will serve as a happy reminder of your gathering with loved ones.  While not for everyone, trees also make a huge statement.  The cedar tree pictured behind me in the photo below was purchased from a local nursery for $20!  Fall-Entertaining-Beets-3

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PAIRING NOTES: The earthy tones of the beets and the tartness of the goat cheese are complemented by the lush, dark berry fruit of our Cabernet Sauvignon.

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PAIRING NOTES: The candied red fruit characteristics and the bright acidity of our Merlot help cut through some of the richness of this luxurious pie.  The bright acidity and zesty citrus notes of our Sparkling Brut would be a fantastic match for the rich, sweet character of the pie.

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DECOR TIP:  To keep your look interesting and “collected” opt for pieces that still fit your aesthetic, but aren’t too “matchy matchy”.  I love this vintage galvanized pie/cake stand 24 Carrots used for their Pecan Pie.  That tiny hint of metal tied in perfectly with the iron chairs we selected from Found Rentals.

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Photography: Brian Tropiano Photography
Calligraphy & Dream Catcher: Beth Phillips
Rentals: Found Rentals
Linen: La Tavola
Styling, Florals & Decor: Yours truly :-)

Ohhhh Leo…

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So this happened over the weekend…..

Yes.  That is real life.  I’m still having a hard time processing it. I, like every girl in the entire world have been obsessed with Leonardo DiCaprio for as long as I can remember.  And on Saturday, all of my wildest fantasies dreams came true.  Well, almost.

Huge thanks to BAFTA for always choosing ONEHOPE Wine for their BAFTA LA Pre Golden Globes Tea Party (Leo was drinking our Chardonnay).  I was able to chat with him for a brief 10 seconds where instead of chumming it up about something original and memorable (my amazing former boss, Bonnie is credited for discovering him), I was so starstruck and overwhelmed that I could only formulate a measly, “Congratulations!  Your performance in Wolf of Wall Street was absolutely unbelievable…. I loved every minute.  I’m Megan, by the way, from ONEHOPE Wine… you’re drinking our Chardonnay… thank you so much for the support.  Do you mind if we take a picture together?  I would love that so much.”   Like EVERYONE. Else. There.  FAIL.  He was so kind, so gorgeous, smiled during our entire 10 second exchange (please, just make me melt even more), but immediately after taking the picture, I was pushed and shoved away by the rest of the women swarming him… and that was it.

Did I mention that I love him?  <3 <3 <3

Happy Monday!