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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy Holidays

{ Our 2012 Holiday Card }

I can't believe Christmas is only a few days away. Miss Austen and I are looking forward to relaxing and spending time with friends and family. Next week we'll be on holiday but I'll see you in 2013 with all new posts. I hope you have a wonderful holiday, no matter what you're celebrating, filled with twinkle lights, mugs of hot chocolate, and flannel pajamas.

xoxo Kelly and Miss Austen

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Light In the Darkness

I think it goes without saying that last Friday was a very sad day. Others have written about the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary far more eloquently than I ever could so I wanted to focus on a neighborhood event that took on a far different meaning in light of what happened.

Every year my neighborhood hosts many wonderful events for Church Hill Holiday Weekend. On Friday night Vespers are held at St. John's Church and then bagpipers accompany us on a candlelight walk to Libby Hill Park. Saturday night is the Annual Holiday Ball and we end the weekend on Sunday with the Holiday House Tour. 

The pictures from today's post were taken during Friday night's candlelight walk, which given what had happened earlier in the day, seemed almost pre-destined. When the pipers played Amazing Grace I looked around and there was more than one parent holding their child a little tighter and quietly contemplating what if? I think that grace is what it takes to get through something like this. It might be the grace you find from a higher power you believe in or the grace needed to forgive and learn when all your heart feels is anger. Although I cannot possibly imagine what the families of the victims are feeling, I do know what it feels like to loose someone that I love and what was most helpful during that time. I {and I hope you as well} will be sending them grace and a little light in the darkness.

{ Find out more about St. John's Church here

{ Wonderful friends and neighbors }

{ The skyline of Richmond from Libby Hill Park }

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

South Carolina Dreaming

For the past few years I've had the good fortune to travel to South Carolina in December for my day-job. It's always revitalizing to have a completely different sensory experience by the sea amidst the blanket of winter. The weather was beautiful this year and I was able squeeze in one long walk on the beach. It will have to hold me until July when I will visit South Carolina's shores again. I hope you enjoy these photos as much as I enjoyed taking them. Thank you as well to the Myrtle Beach Marriott Resort and Spa at Grande Dunes for taking such good care of us. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Impromptu Munchies

{ Easy-but elegant- munchies }

There is nothing like the sheer terror you feel when you invite someone over and only then realize you have no food in the house. After this happened to me once {a few times} I started stocking up on easy, no-cook munchies that could be thrown together quickly but still look elegant. At the holidays this works wonderfully for unexpected guests or impromptu gatherings at a friend's house.

{ A mild bleu cheese works well }

{ I freeze Spinach and Artichoke Dip and then bake it when guests are on their way  }

{ Mixed nuts and dried fruit work great }

{ I love using herbs as garnishes because they look lovely and give off a wonderful scent }

Friday, December 14, 2012

It's Friday, Love

Via - Via

Happy Friday everyone! Sorry I haven't been posting much this week, but I've been on the road for work and living out of a suitcase for the past two {weeks}. I'm so happy to be home finally and be able to celebrate Holiday Weekend in Church Hill. Tonight we sing carols at St. John's Church and  Sunday is our Annual House Tour. I'm also looking forward to having some holiday cocktails with friends and bundling up in cozy sweaters to combat the recent chill in the air. I hope you have a wonderful weekend filled with a little holiday magic! 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Holiday Party Looks

One of the many things I love about the holidays is all of the fabulous parties! I had a great time putting together a few outfits for different occasions coming up to kick off holiday week on Austen Hill. What are our favorite party looks?

The Lantern

{ The perfect novel for a chilly evening at home }

Last week I hosted book club at my house for November's pick, The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson. Part romance - part gothic mystery, I chose the novel because any tale that incorporates renovating a house in the French countryside { a life-long dream } is an instant classic in my mind.

Eve falls quickly in love with Dom and before she knows it they're renovating a breathtaking property in Provence. But they are not alone. The house has a tragic history that haunts the present. Eve begins to realize that Dom may also be hiding something. The novel evokes Rebecca in the best sense and I thoroughly enjoyed it. A few nights I even had trouble falling asleep after reading a few chapters and listening to the creaks in my house.

I am mad at myself though because I worked so hard making Lavender and Honey Ice Cream only to forget to snap any photos. Oh well, I'll just have to make it again:). Stay tuned.

{ I love having people over during the holidays }

{ A fabulous Cabernet to both drink and cook with }

{  I could tell you that we didn't finish the pan of artichoke and spinach dip but that would be a lie  }

{ Dried lavender and fresh thyme make fragrant centerpieces }

{ Coq au Vin, a traditional French diner }

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Give Yourself A Gift Next Year

{ The fabulous Ms. Karen Chase at La Tour Eiffel }

If you're a regular reader of Austen Hill you will most definitely be familiar with the work of my wonderful friend and neighbor, Karen A. Chase. I'm thrilled that she offered to do a guest post so you can all become better acquainted and enjoy her work as well. Today, Karen reminds us that taking care of ourselves can be the best present of all. Be sure to check out her blog here and stay tuned for a fun announcement about her book Bonjour  40:  A Paris Travel Log (40 years. 40 days. 40 seconds! 

xo Kelly

Wise words from Karen, Author - Blogger - Designer - Traveller 

It's the holiday season. And while everyone is running around getting gifts and giving to others, I think we women need to remember to plan some time for ourselves. I don't mean a manicure before a holiday party. I mean a trip. A lovely trip in the new year that you take on your own. Last year I went to Paris for three and a half weeks on my own, and several people asked how I could do it. Some asked why, and my answer was why not? I'm generous with others, and so why not for me occasionally, too? 

{ Touring a museum }

But the practicality of how to take a trip like that is daunting to many, and especially to gals who rarely travel alone. So here you go. A few tips to plan, save and make a trip by yourself–regardless if it's to Paris, or the next town over.

1) Plan
I planned the trip for a full year. I took French lessons, studied maps, spoke with those who had gone before and I gave myself plenty of time to prepare clients and my own life for the time away.

2) Save
Every time I saw a new outfit or a pair of shoes I figured out how many nights that was in Paris. I did not invest in my IRA that year, and instead invested in my L-I-F-E. It added up quickly, and in a year, the money was there.

3) Risk
Traveling alone to a place like Paris or a foreign land isn't what I would recommend to someone who has never spent a night away on their own before. So start small. Stay in a B&B in a nearby town. Then take a flight to a city for a few days. Positive experiences build on your willingness to take risks. You can do it.

4) Relish
Traveling alone brings women a few things. Insight. Independence. Self-reliance. And the freedom to get up and answer to absolutely no one. If you want to spend all day on a beach, reading trashy novels, no one is going to judge you but you. So you can let go and soak in that ocean of erotica until your fingers get all pruny.

Allow yourself to try new things. New foods, new languages, and new customs. The advantage to you, is that you'll come home with a great big bag of knowledge about how others live. Tolerance will be your souvenir.

6) Read
Other women before you have traveled alone. And guess what? They’ve not only survived, they’ve thrived! Hit the travel essay isle at your local bookstore, and you’ll find inspiration and a whole lot of gumption.

{ Karen's adorable apartment in Paris }

 Karen A. Chase is the author of Bonjour 40: A Paris Travel Log (40years. 40 days. 40 seconds.). She is a writer, and owns, a design studio dedicated to creating bookcovers, trailers and materials for authors and publishers. She happily lives with Ted and their two cats in Richmond, VA.

Twitter: @KarenAChase


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Butterfinger Pie

I'm so excited to introduce you to Tiffany of Hydrangeas and Handbags as today's guest blogger! I've followed her adorable blog for a while now and I've been hoping we'd get an opportunity to work together. I look forward to her easy, fresh recipes and great sense of style every week. I know you'll love her blog as much as I do. 

xo K

I am so grateful that Kelly asked me to guest post on Austen Hill! When Kelly first asked me to do a guest swap, I immediately thought of swapping recipes. With the holiday’s right around the corner, we decided on “easy”, yet delicious recipes. I couldn’t think of an easier recipe than this Butterfinger pie. I whipped it up in no time for a family gathering, let if thaw for a few minutes, and voila; it was devoured in no time. I mean, come on, who doesn’t love Butterfinger, chocolate and peanut butter all in one scrumptious dessert?

Check out Kelly’s post today on my blog Hydrangeas and Handbags for some yummy Millionaire pie!

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Decorations Are Finished!

{ Finished decorating the living room! }

What a beautiful weekend we had here! The weather was beautiful so I was able to spend the afternoons outside or on my porch. I found some great presents at a few local antique stores and had great dinners with friends. My living room is officially decorated and I love being able to relax at home next to the tree. What did you do this weekend?

This week I'm welcoming some new guest bloggers on the site and I can't wait for you to meet them. Stay tuned!

Friday, November 30, 2012

It's Friday, Love

{ Homemade Whoopie Pies }

It's been such a fun week because Christmas is in the air! I love it! What are you doing to get into the holiday spirit?

Here are some of my favorite shots from the week. I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend. See you Monday!

xo K

{ Dried Lavender for Lavender and Honey Ice Cream }

{ Decorating my tree }

{ A gift: Charleston's Best Recipes and an adorable kitchen towel from Anthropologie }

{ Holiday Candles }

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Christmas Sneak Peek

It's officially beginning to look a lot like Christmas! The leaves have fallen and there is a new chill to the air. My ultimate Christmas playlist is on heavy rotation and I'm searching for the perfect holiday cocktail to serve. A couple weeks ago Miss Austen and I took photos for our annual holiday card. This one was one of my favorites but didn't make the final cut for the card. I thought I would share it with you today because frankly, Miss Austen looks adorable. I'll share more photos as we get closer to Christmas. 

Shopping is also on my mind {and I'm sure yours} so I wanted to share a wonderful resource put together by some of my fabulous fellow bloggers. The To & From Holiday Gift Guide has great ideas for every person in your life from The Girl Who Has Everything to The Little Ones. Created by Meg Biram and Katie of Modern Eve, this fabulous list of goodies will make shopping a breeze. I highly recommend you check it out.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

South of Broad

{ Pimento Cheese Sandwiches }

Last month's book club selection was South of Broad by Pat Conroy.  I had never read any of his novels but had seen the movie Prince of Tides, so I thought I had an idea of what I was in for. I must say that it was an experience I will not soon forget. Set in Charleston, SC, the book reads like molasses - slow - thick - sweet. It tells the tale of a group of friends who, through several decades, both nurture and destroy each other. Like most of Conroy's material, it is not always easy to read, but worth the tough portions to get to the good stuff. Much like life. Ms. Kathy {M's mom} treated us to a fabulous deep south dinner and here are some pics from the evening.

If you're looking for new book ideas I recommend checking out Goodreads and also a fun new site called Shelf Pleasure. Happy Reading.....

{ The evening's spirits }

{ Amazingly rich hot sauce }

{ Oyster Stew }

{ Our signature tea }

{ Virginia Peanut Pie }