Diner en Blanc 2021: The glamour of it all!

This year’s event was proof positive that a global pandemic can’t hold us back from the sparkle, fizz & clink of Diner en Blanc! In 2020 we were still blindsided and figuring things out, but this evening was a breathtaking ride, and a reunion of sorts.

The Chloe wine was flowing, the dance floor throbbed – I even witnessed a proposal! The good kind, where he gets down on one knee. This revelry could not be possible, were it not for hosts Enjoli Moon, Christine Wansleben, and Ayana Obika.

Each woman embodies a spirit of creativity and entrepreneurship in their own way. Moon is the founder of the Afrikana Film Festival, Wansleben is the owner and chef at Mise En Place and Obika is the chief visionary at Gratitude Rising Events. I’m just lightly grazing their accomplishments – they bring the world of art, film, food and and culture to Richmond, and we could feel the culmination of their efforts at Diner en Blanc.

This year tried the Chloe Prosecco, and it was so refreshing, I stuck with it the entire night. And what a night it was! The location of the event is not revealed until the day of, and it was held at the newly-revitalized Monroe Park, by the VCU campus.

When I was a student at VCU, the park was dimly lit, falling into disrepair, and plagued by violence. After being closed for a time, it reopened into a thing of grandeur. A giant two-tiered fountain is encircled by enameled bistro tables and chairs. Students study and couples hold hands – it felt like Paris. Which is only appropriate, since Diner en Blanc started in Paris over 30 years ago.

Celebrating with artist Ryan Azia

Most notably, the sun set and the sky turned cobalt blue. The minarets from the old Mosque (now the Altria theatre) lit up, and matched the cobalt of the sky. The moon rose above it and a cool breeze swept in, offering respite as we danced with sparklers in hand.

I enjoyed an incredible meal. Garnish Catering featured a vegetarian beef wellington, with asparagus, hummus, and flaky pastry. They made kale salad, a cheese plate and vegetables. Croaker’s Spot provided their famous fried chicken and cornbread. l topped it off with a decadent red velvet cupcake from Melissa’s Cupcakes.

It was an evening to remember. We triumphed over these troubled times. It’s easy to rise above amidst the glamorous, inclusive, and beautiful spirit of Diner en Blanc. See you next year!

Ashley Jefferson (center) of Virginia Style Magazine, flanked by partygoers.

The Big Easy in RVA

Being a meteorologist in New Orleans is like being a Pilates instructor in LA. You are at the epicenter of where it all happens. My dear friend Michelle got the opportunity of a lifetime when offered a job to be a meterologist at the CBS station in New Orleans: WWL-TV.

I had to throw her a going away party. I wish I could have whipped up some cajun-style finger foods, or a giant pot of crawfish etouffee served in elegant bowls. But it was a surprise party, thrown together rather quickly, so we kept it simple. A stocked bar, bundles of fresh flowers, a kicking playlist (with a few zydeco songs mixed in) and unfussy foods, such as watermelon slices, hummus and a pocorn station, where you could sprinkle on a variety of toppings.

Michelle Morgan and her husband Andy

I decked the place out with Mardi Gras beads, hanging them en masse, just like it’s done in New Orleans, where fences or trees are chosen at random to become positively dripping with necklaces. I created a photo wall with splashy Mardi Gras colors: green, purple and yellow. There were masks and feather boas as props.

The music was blasting, many shots were thrown back, and people were so determined to party, that no one touched the food. What should have been a somber occasion (saying goodbye to a friend) was a raucous night of laughter, dancing and a plethora of blackmail photos.

For while we are sad to see Michelle go, we gained another friend in New Orleans. When we saw her off, she had our full bayou blessing. As they say in New Orleans: Laissez les bon tems roulez!

Witchy women

Witchy women

I have a girlfriend with an affinity for “witchy” friends. She and the girls in her circle are a touch hippie. They tie dye clothes in their backyards, have a penchant for handmade soaps and scented candles and hell if they don’t have crystals on their windowsills.

Witches Altar tarot readings

As we are over nine months into a global pandemic, most of us have had to deal with a COVID birthday. My girlfriend is not one to let a birthday go by uncelebrated. There are two things she loves to do on this occasion: Eat at a hot new restaurant and meet with psychics. Or get her palm read. Something witchy. When COVID hit, a chic restaurant was out of the question, as girlfrinds who are semi-isolated would have to gather indoors, sans masks.

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Comfort food

However, she didn’t see why COVID should have to deprive her of a witchy good time. We gathered in her backyard, Adirondack chairs spaced six feet apart around a roaring fire. We ordered take-out from Laura Lee’s and tucked into a decadent chocolate cake.

I brought marshmallows for the fire and goodie bags to keep things festive. And a book about Salem to stay on theme. But the highlight of the night was the tarot card reading with Maria Badillo of The Witches Altar. She could not have been more acommodating to our safety practices. She wore a mask, and gave a tarot reading on the far side of a large table, for social distancing. To accommodate all anxiety levels at this time, The Witches Altar also does tarot readings via Zoom. We’re glad Maria came in person. She pulled candles out of her bag along with the cards, and took time to explain the spread to each of us.

tarot reading

As we sat around the fire sipping peanut butter whiskey and pretending not to eavesdrop on our friends’ readings, I marveled at how strange it all felt. The faces were familiar, but socializing in peron felt new. The rythm of life has changed quite a bit thanks to COVID, but it also helps you to better appreciate things, like witchy little gatherings under the stars. Nights when you and your friends carry on almost as if there weren’t a global pandemic. It’s the best way to be reminded that our circumstances are only temporary, and that better days are ahead.

Party, Interrupted

This Saturday my son turns six. Like many people achieving milestones during this time, things are unusual. While some adults are too cool for themed parties, one of the perks of having children are shameless, over-the-top themes. And I am here for it.

Hamilton had his heart set on a Batman-themed party, so that’s what he’s going to get. Only during the summer. To make up for the wait, we are going all out behind the scenes. During our home-schooling, our art lessons are focused on party planning and decor.

We made Gotham City out of large cardboard boxes. We created a Joker pinata that he gets to swing at first, on the big day. We stamped Bat Bags for the goodies and are creating a cavernous bat cave with old blankets. We’ll be using the (pictured) projector to shine the bat signal onto the inner walls, along with some playful disco lights. We’re building fort tents in the living room just to practice for the big cave.

Keeping him involved helps him appreciate the work that goes into entertaining. Getting him excited stops him from feeling sorry for himself. Because at the end of the day, this is not a tragedy. Our hearts are with those most affected by Covid-19; there are a lot of people grieving right now. I also feel pretty bad for high school seniors, who won’t get to experience how disappointing prom is. Many may have experienced shake-ups in the college admissions process too. And while I’m sure they won’t be broken up over having to skip a graduation ceremony, their parents sure will.

Stay healthy, be positive and remember that one of the key components of happiness is the ability to adapt. Regardless of the shake-ups affecting our own lives, we can either use this time as a gift, or as a curse. So make the best of it. Better days are ahead of us, so no harm in planning the party now.

 

 

Studio City 54

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Our most epic party was Studio City 54. I’m talking the cops showing up type of epic. It all started when we were watching the Richard Pryor movie Carwash, when Metro PR founder Tess Finkle and I became enamored with the idea of throwing an all-out disco.

Shamelessly glam, and romantically 70s!

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We cleared the furniture out of the house to make a giant dance floor, plus a rollerskates-only “Roller Room.” He hired a DJ who can really read and manipulate the crowd, and he brought in a mirror ball and lighting. The works. The dance floor was packed all night.

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Lava lamps were flicked on around the house, we had a pet rock decorating station (pet rocks were huge in the 70s) and hung Three’s Company-themed decorations. Keeping with the 70s theme, we served trashy food, like Twinkies and Sunny D with vodka. And of course, Jell-o shots!

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Even the bathroom featured a 70’s makeover guide, with guests encouraged to help themselves to all the blue eyeshadow they can pile on!

 

Party Gone Wild

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Girls Gone Wild!

No, we’re not talking about the regrettable exhibitionist franchise, but a party theme. Wild as in jungle wild, and it’s an adorable theme for a kid’s party. Mind you, showers and children’s birthday parties are a joy when the booze is flowing, and a kid’s birthday party is the perfect excuse to go shamelessly, passionately thematic!

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Lilliana Winston turned two, and host Carla Winston saved us all from yet another pink and purple extravaganza. The theme of the party? Two Wild! She repurposed brown shopping bags, twisting them into giant tree trunks for an indoor jungle. Kids and adults alike were encouraged to wear custom fuzzy headbands, all resembling different animals on the savannah; elephants, zebras, monkeys, etc.

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Below are photos to show how fun it was, and how hard she worked. To take your party from interesting to PINTERESTing, follow Winston’s example. Enjoy!

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This is extra.

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Devil in the detail: monstera leaves & homemade treats

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Host Gone Wild: Carla Winston

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Hapy birthday Lilliana!

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RVA Fall Fashion Weekend is Here!

FALLFASHIONWEEKEND_RVA_2017-2-1568x1045Attention Richmonders! Fall Fashion weekend has commenced, and tonight through the 13th, RVA will be serving lewks. We got a sneak peek tonight at Bar Solita, where the kick-off party featured models dressed to the nines, tropical greenery and slushy cocktails!

Events take place every day, including the Runway 2 Life fashion show. For a full list of details, visit www.rvafashionweek.com

Come support the arts in Richmond, and become woven into the fabric of this city’s ever-evolving culture. Did I do a textile metaphor for fashion week? Why yes, yes I did. See you there!

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Diner en Blanc 2019 – A Great Time & Hopeful Dose of Symbolism

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Richmond truly is the mid-sized city that could. While this global event takes place in major cities around the world; Paris, Bangkok, Monreal – Richmond got in the game years ago, and glides along like any major player.

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This year did not disappoint, as Diner en Blanc’s secret location, revealed the day of, felt very symbolic. It’s more than the fact that the event took place on the James River, offering a cool breeze and views of the water. It’s the fact that the event took place at the historic Tredgar Iron Works and American Civil War Museum. Diner en Blanc, while open to all people, has become a landmark event for the African-American community. Tredgar Iron Works created most of the artillery for the Confederate Army during the Civil War, hence the perfect site for the American Civil War Museum. One couldn’t help but reflect. Fast forward to 2019, and the black community, empowered, educated and dressed to the nines, was dancing all over this platform.  The symbolism was powerful.

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And the glamour of it all! Chloe wine was flowing, sparklers lit up the night sky, electric butterflies on stilts danced amongst partygoers, and music pumped through the air. Crowds of onlookers, mostly locals coming back from Belle Isle, stood on the outskirts, admiring the elegant, if not outlandish, white outfits the revelers wore. Guests were happy after a delicious meal, happy to see one another, happy it was summer, and happy to feel connected to a truly memorable Richmond event: Diner en Blanc.

For details, or to attend or volunteer next year, visit: https://richmond.dinerenblanc.com/

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RVA Fashion Week welcomes you to the funhouse

Richmond’s Fashion Week has just begun, and it’s already next level. Last night at Vagabond, they kicked off the week with a Funhouse-themed party, trippy and circus-like, but 100% glam. I was surrounded by models who towered over me, their bodies studded with gems and glittering under dramatic lights.

This week is not to be missed. Local designers, exclusive boutique opportunities and endless inspiration abound. Check their website HERE for a list of events, and enjoy a week less ordinary.

With the beauties of BOMBSHELL

Bonfire of the Bon Vivants

When I hosted a casual bonfire (for 55!) in my back yard, I didn’t account for it to be the coldest day of the year. But to live well, one must worry less. Les bon vivants know that all too often happy anticipation rolls into anxiety. Just look at what’s expected of brides-to-be; tears, tantrums, mood stabilizers. When in reality, brides should be planning one of the biggest bashes they’ll ever have. But I digress.

The point is, things happen, like rain, or in our case, freakish subzero temperatures that came out of nowhere. We had to concede that yes, this would be an indoor/outdoor party. I cleaned the house, lit candles and played Chet Baker. 

the blonde mafia, defrosting

How to keep the crowd circulating indoors and outdoors? That’s easy – put the bar outside! It was perfect, really. When our cooler and fridge were overstuffed with beers, the outside temps were just as cold! In addition to beer, we made a signature cocktail. It stayed hot in the crock pot, to battle the elements. It was apple cider with salted caramel whiskey, topped with whipped cream and Ghiradelli caramel sauce. 

salted caramel whiskey-spiked cider

We also borrowed a second fire pit to spread the warmth. Guests grilled their hot dogs and marshmallows over the fire, but I kicked the experience up a notch. I had a S’mores Station, where ingredients were encased in elegant glass, preventing guests from having to fumble with packaging.

We created a hot dog toppings bar, with ingredients that ranged from the expected (grilled onions, Sri Racha, homemade chili), to the adventurous (cranberry chutney, pineapple, homemade habanero sauce).

endless toppings for the hot dogs

And I can’t resist adding an activity or station, so I created a “Happy Fall, Y’all! photo wall, complete with furniture, pumpkins, colored leaves and stringed lights. 

Ryan scores the epic photo of the night

Though the kids enjoyed the outdoor ball pit, hammock, tree swing and toys, the night marched on and the air got chilly. I called to the kids out back that we would play a Christmas movie in the living room. They tore across the yard and fell stone silent in front of Stick Man, curling up on the furniture. 

a nod to Anchorman’s Ron Burgundy, guests cozied up in fresh blankets

As the crowds dwindled, so did the fire. The last few friends wandered into the living room, and the conversations went deeper. Bonfires are great because they can be woven in between major holidays, like Halloween or Christmas. Plus. people have to cook their own dinner (hot dogs) and dessert (s’mores). But then you reward them with an elaborate topping bar because the late and great Nora Ephron is still in your head reminding you that people love to play with their food. Almost as much as you love to serve it to them. 

Happy holidays.

Without the 3 on the right: Xenia, Sylvester & Nabeela, I’d have been in the kitchen all night
no matter the party, the kitchen gets cowded
devil is in the detail (or tangled in our grape vines)