Monday, May 21, 2018

Our Royal Wedding Celebration!

We put a Design Muse spin on our Royal Wedding celebration and unsurprisingly things got real over the top real quick.  Enjoy these highlights from our terribly fun day!

Instead of sending plain 'ol invitations we decided to up the ante and mail tiaras to each of our guests.  While we usually have a the-more-the-merrier take on party invites, we limited the guest list to family only for this particular occasion.  Granted, our family is huge so there were no shortage of invitations to send out, but the cap allowed us to include a lot of personalized touches for each guest.  Instead of just including local family, we sent invitations across the United States and I'm thrilled to say a handful of gals hopped on a plane and joined us!  

My favorite part of the event itself was the table decor.  We raided our event styling inventory for our favorite ornate pieces and put together a few beautiful flower arrangements using peonies, brightly colored poppies, a variety of roses and a few other beautiful blooms.  We couldn't fit all 16 guests at the dining table, so in an effort to avoid the feel of a "kids table", we got creative and came up with an inclusive T shaped layout.  We bought a beautiful gold fabric to create custom tablecloths and red velvet to fabricate the runners.  Each place setting included one of Hester and Cook's Gilded Frame Die Cut Paper Placemats and a personalized Table Accent Place Card...the perfect finishing touches!  

I used our Cricut (a purchase which- for the record- pretty much changed my life) to create a few embellished monogrammed seals that we placed on the runners.  I also used it to create some precision cuts on the Instrument of Consent we displayed that gave Harry and Meghan permission to marry.  

We rolled out the red carpet (quite literally, as you can see) and guests were greeted by a friendly member of the paparazzi (alias: Paul Wharton of Paul Wharton Photography).   When my Mom came up with the idea to order a red carpet I cracked up, but it was such a fabulous addition to the day and really added to the VIP experience we were trying to create. 

We kept the menu fairly simple, and decided against making it too British (because let's be honest...the Brits do a lot of things well, but food isn't one of them).  I ordered an assortment of Tea Forte blends, and a special Harney & Sons Royal Wedding Tea for the occasion.  We also set up a Mimosa bar and station for coffee.  Since our celebration was taking place mid-morning, the menu consisted of fresh fruit, macarons, tea sandwiches (peach/honey/ricotta and avocado/cucumber), shortbread cookies, charcuterie, quiche, yogurt parfaits, breakfast meats, a light salad and my Mom's famous homemade scones.  I also whipped up what turned out to be a delicious replica of Harry and Meghan's Lemon Elderflower cake and topped it with fresh flowers. 

One of the most memorable moments of the day was when my cousin, Natalie, made a quick costume change and re-entered the party wearing her mom's wedding dress.  It was hilarious and sweet all at the same time.  

Another special moment came when I received a few picture texts from my mother-in-law.  She and my beautiful niece Ava weren't able to make the trip from Virginia to join us, so they threw on their tiaras, invited over a few special guests of their own and had a lovely satellite party.  


We watched the guests arrive while we ate (with much commentary, as you can imagine) and then moved to the sofas to watch the wedding itself.  Royal Wedding fan or not, if you haven't watched the ceremony yet you should put it on your to do list!  It was beautiful from start to finish but, as many have said, Bishop Michael Curry stole the show with his impassioned message on the power of love.  

I teared up on a few occasions, but cried very real tears when The Kingdom Choir performed Stand By Me.  While many moments of the Royal Wedding made me think of my own marriage and how lucky I am to have such a wonderful husband in Davey, this particular song made me grateful for the community of women that surrounded me in that moment.  The last few years have been challenging for our family, but the women in that room and the ones who couldn't attend but celebrated with us from a distance have consistently poured so much life into me.  I looked around and saw strength, love and the main characters from most of the best stories I have.  The gift of a life crowned with family is unlike any other.  Makes me feel luckier than a princess. :)

Monday, April 9, 2018

Jessica Simpson x Dillard's

We had the great privilege of partnering with Dillard's for a few amazing projects last week, one of which allowed us to style an event for Jessica Simpson!  I thought it might be fun to share a few behind the scenes shots of our team in action.  I'm always grateful to work alongside such a talented group of creatives but truth be told, the Design Muse Styling team really blew me away last week.  I'm so proud of the beautiful work we accomplished!

One of the items Jessica's team specifically asked for was for her logo to be created out of spring florals.  We employed some old technology to pull this off and broke out our old overhead projector.  I had to create a transparency and was a real blast from the past!

Once we cut out Jessica's logo, we hot glued the living daylights out of it.  We used a lot of moss and florals to get full coverage.  Legibility was a very real concern, so we spent a good chunk of time outlining and trimming to get the best possible results.

Another thing Jessica's team requested was a bright, wildflower inspired floral palette.  As always, we made a quick trip to Metro Wholesale in downtown Nashville and picked up several bunches of beautiful blooms.  Alex did an incredible job creating whimsical arrangements, which we then stored in our commercial fridge until delivery.

The backdrops we created needed to be large, but we also wanted to cover them in fabric.  In order to avoid seams, we ordered a very wide fabric and assembled them on site (as 8' x 10' solid pieces don't travel terribly well).  Morgan and Jordan masterminded the design and construction of our backdrops and executed each one to perfection.

The first piece we created was a floral backdrop for the Nashville Smile Bar photo booth.  We strung length after length of artificial floral stems (or "permanent florals" as we call them in the biz), then tweaked each bloom to face forward.  The effect was gorgeous!

The next two pieces we assembled were the green room step and repeat and the custom logo table Jessica used to sign autographs.  Both came together exactly as I envisioned them (which is just the best feeling).  

Lastly, we assembled the backdrop that was used on the main stage and- after measuring what felt like 100 times- attached the floral logo.  Seeing the fruits of all our hard work was so gratifying!  

Sweet Jessica Simpson was gracious enough to let us snag a picture with her during the event...and seeing our work on her Instagram page was awesome (check it out for yourself here and here...or just enjoy the screen shots below)!  We got a ton of favorable feedback about all our designs which was thrilling.

A million thanks to Jessica's team and Dillard's for allowing us to contribute to such a sensational event...we had an absolute blast!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

10 Products That Actually Work

Yesterday I found myself perched in front of a low shelf at my local T.J.Maxx/Homegoods ...waist deep in one time use Korean beauty masks, Aloe vera sock treatments and a variety of items that boasted ingredients like "real volcanic ash!" "compressed diamond fibers!" "mineral sea salt extract!" when it occurred to me...I'm addicted to miracle products.  I mean, who doesn't love the idea of phenomenal, instentatious results?  In most cases I'd go gaga for somewhat noticeable, slowly developing results!  I can tell you with confidence, however- and if you have a similar addiction I'm sure you'll agree- that's not how things typically play out.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is...except for these gems.  Every so often a blind squirrel finds a nut, as they say, and over time I've developed a small arsenal of products that just plain work.  Here's a few of my favorites...

1. Bare Minerals Blemish Therapy: The trick to this is to use it the moment you start to feel a pimple developing...I'm always astounded at how well it works.  I can neither confirm nor deny that a few males in my family use it regularly as well.

2. Egyptian Magic: I first discovered Egyptian Magic at- of all places- Costco.  The price was a little steep for skin cream but you know how it goes when you're in the zone buying in the cart it went.  It is, by far, the most hydrating product I've ever purchased.  The consistency might throw you off at first (it's more of a balm than a cream) but the results are unparalleled.

3. Bite Beauty Agave Lip Mask: So, my lips get really dry in the winter.  Really, really, really dry (and cracked and peel-y and the whole enchilada).  They've been especially bad this winter and after trying everything I could think of (including, but not limited to, other items on this list), I finally found my solution in this lip mask.  Just before bed I exfoliate my lips with a sugar scrub, then use just a smidgen of product.  Come morning I'm a new woman.

4. Moroccan Oil: Nothing smells better, nothing works better.  Keeps my relatively thin hair shiny and smooth without looking greasy.  The best.

5. Wet Brush: This is the most fabulous detangling brush for wet or dry hair (though it's particularly amazing when hair is wet).  It's the only brush I've ever used that doesn't feel like it's doing damage to my hair...knots just glide right out.  

6. CeraVe: I've only been using this facial moisturizer for a few months but my skin loves it.  A little goes a long way, the rate I'm going I should finish my first jar circa 2025.

7. Sweater Saver: I love our living room couch, but after about a year of use I realized it was covered in messy little lint balls.  After purchasing several products that falsely claimed they would rid me of said lint balls, I was at my wits end.  Thankfully my Mom found the Sweater Saver at a little boutique and it worked like a dream.  Every time I use it my couch looks brand new!

8. Foot Rubz: When I purchased this foot massager as a small present to throw in my husband's Christmas stocking I had no idea how much use I'd get out of it.  Although I admittedly hate the fact that whoever named the product substituted a "s" for a "z" in their name (never a z people...never a z), I have to say the dang thing rubs the knots right out of your feet without any pain.

9. Epsom Salt Soaking Solution: There's nothing like an Epsom salt bath to cheaply soothe muscle aches and pains.  I always feel like a remarkably new person whenever I take one, and the smell of this particular product is divine.  

10. Totally Awesome: If you're looking for a 100% organic cleaner made of all natural ingredients...well...keep looking cause this isn't it.  Don't get me wrong, it's not hazardous, but it is strong so ventilation is key.  That being said, boy oh boy does it work!  This stuff gets out everything.  Seriously.  It hasn't let me down yet and I've put it to the task on more than one occasion.

1. Blemish Therapy, Bare Minerals $18  2. Egyptian Magic, Costco $39.99  3. Agave Lip Mask, Bite Beauty $26  4. Moroccan Oil Treatment, Moroccan Oil $44  5. The Wet Brush, Amazon $8.96  6. Moisturizing Cream, CeraVe $12.99  7. Hollywood Sweater Saver, Amazon $7.34  8. Hand and Foot Massager, Foot Rubz $6.26  9. Epsom Salt Soaking Solution with Eucalyptus Spearmint, Dr. Teals $4.87  10. Totally Awesome All Purpose Cleaner, Dollar General $1
Sunday, December 6, 2015
Friday, November 27, 2015

And the winning team is...

...Adam, Sam and Blake with the Birthday S'more Sunday!  Great job, Team Blakester.  Were shenanigans potentially involved?  Perhaps.  But you get the W regardless.

The remaining teams were:
Sandi and Nikki with the Peanut Butter and Jelly S'more
Natalie and Denise with the 10 Layer-Better-Than-Sex-Sweet-And-Salty-S'more
Danielle and Davey with Nashville Delight: The Southern Savory and Sweet
Mark and Joey with Trait Du Jour
Papa Joe and Eric with the Philly Cheesesteak S'more
Nadine and Gabby with the Mediterranean S'more
and Lillian and Nick with the Savory Spanish S'more

If you're ever in need of a delicious and unique S'more and Popcorn idea, I hope you'll refer back here.  Honestly, every single one was delicious!

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Great Family Challenge: Creative S'more & Popcorn Recipes

Thanks so much to everyone who participated in last month's Great Family Challenge!  We had such an awesome time putting together our pumpkin decorating entries and were thrilled to get such wonderful feedback.  

This month's challenge was a little more outside the box but I'm so pumped to walk you through it.  I wanted to play around with the idea of re-inventing a classic fall snack...adding to or replacing ingredients, toying with savory/sweet and so on.  After some brainstorming we landed on s'mores and popcorn and decided to make this month a creative s'more and popcorn recipe challenge. 

To make things interesting, I cast a really wide net in regards to what we'd consider a "s'more"...the only criteria being 1) you must be able to make them over a bonfire and 2) there must be an element of sandwiching.  As you can imagine, my family took this and really ran with it.  There were no limits whatsoever in regards to the popcorn, except that it should theoretically pair well with the s'more.  

I've gotta say, I was extremely impressed with what everyone came up with!  I tried a little bit of each entry and there wasn't a single dud in the bunch.  I know it's tricky since you can't actually taste the contenders, but I'd recommend voting based on creativity of flavor combinations, plated presentation and the overall deliciousness factor.  Better yet- just vote for what you wish you could try most.  

Just a reminder, you can vote once per day from now until 11:59 next Thursday (11/26...Thanksgiving!) and we'll announce the winner on Friday.  Happy voting!  And the candidates are...

Birthday S'More Sundae
Traditional s'more topped with chocolate ice-cream and rainbow sprinkles 
-paired with-
Popcorn Rice Krispy Treats made of marshmallow, chocolate chips and rainbow sprinkles.

Peanut Butter & Jelly S'more
Whipped cream cheese, fire roasted marshmallow and fresh strawberries sandwiched between two grilled Belgian waffles.  Topped with confectionary sugar and drizzled with strawberry jam.
-paired with-
A sweet and salty popcorn treat made with popcorn, peanut butter pretzels cover with dark chocolate and melted peanut butter.

10 Layer-Better Than Sex-Sweet & Salty S'more
Toffee graham cracker sandwiched with layers of roasted marshmallows, french fries, and homemade gooey brownie.  Topped with salty kettle chips and hot fudge, sprinkled with powdered sugar.
-paired with-
Popcorn with brownie balls and fudge
-served with-
Ice cold milk rimmed with fudge and brown sugar

Nashville Delight
The Southern Savory & Sweet
Hattie B's hot chicken, roasted marshmallow on a glazed Krispy Kreme doughnut
-paired with-
A duo of popcorns...Ranch flavored with melted butter and Ranch dressing and Dill flavored with fresh dill, garlic powder and melted butter

Trait Du Jour
Bacon, Maple Bacon frosting and roasted marshmallow sandwiched between S'more Poptarts
-paired with-
Deconstructed popcorn...a choose your own adventure popcorn bar that included artisanal salts, chili powder, cinnamon, black pepper, moonshine, whiskey and Meyer lemon juice

Philly Cheesesteak S'more
Steak, onions, Shishito peppers, roasted tomatoes and melted provolone cheese on a ciabatta roll.
-paired with-
Tiramisu Popcorn with Godiva chocolate liquor, espresso and Mascarpone cheese sauce.

Mediterranean S'more
Homemade baklava spread, date honey, roasted marshmallow, and white chocolate sandwiched between white chocolate drizzled graham crackers topped with crushed pistachios.
-paired with-
Popcorn tossed with lemon oil, crispy pancetta, Mediterranean spiced roasted chickpeas and cilantro.

The Savory Spanish S'more
Puff pastry with five cheese, mushroom and onion filling.
-paired with-
Salted caramel spice popcorn seasoned with chili powder, orange zest and tossed with pecans, walnuts, and cranberries in a salt rimmed chocolate bowl.  Drizzled with salted caramel.

My favorite S'more and Popcorn recipe is:

Birthday S'More Sundae
Peanut Butter and Jelly S'more
10 Layer-Better Than Sex-Sweet and Salty S'more
Nashville Delight: The Southern Savory and Sweet
Trait Du Jour
Philly Cheesesteak S'more
Mediterranean S'more
The Savory Spanish S'more
Poll Maker