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With Easter right around the corner, this week we will #southernchat about Easter Traditions, a topic suggested in one of our earlier chats.  Everyone has their own special traditions for Easter – from family to eggs to baskets. Some of my favorite Easter style pieces are oh-so-Southern-inpsired, keeping it classic but still spring fresh. Seersucker, straw, pastels, stripes and floral scents help set the stage for an Easter gathering you’ll never forget.

Easter Style

My own traditions growing up were family events that brought us closer together. My grandmother always put together special Easter egg hunts at her house, leaving little clues in each egg that led to the next.  After the last egg, the next clue helped us to find our Easter baskets which were filled to the brim with treats.  The wooden baskets we found were handcrafted by my parents and painted in soft spring colors, mine with a bunny and my sisters with a chick on it.  They went perfectly with the Easter dresses my sister and I would wear as we made our way to Easter brunch at my grandmother’s country club.

Liza Graves Style BlueprintThis week, we have a special guest, Liza Graves, co-founder of styleblueprint.com.  I very much related to the Easter memories that Liza had to share.

I grew up honoring Lent, with a grandmother and all of her sisters who gave up liquor each spring for 40 days and then got quite tipsy at the annual Easter party, held at my grandmother’s on a 3-acre lot on the river in the second oldest house in town. It was THE party to be invited to. Ham biscuits, coconut cake and sparkling punch, spiked and served out of a punch bowl, were always mainstays on the buffet table. Sometimes my grandmother & her sisters would get a little tipsy, get into arguments and storm off to their respective homes, all within one block of one another – just in time for the caterer to leave and everyone to proclaim that it was the best party yet.

I do think that everyone has funny Easter traditions, but the big Easter Egg Hunt at a friend or neighbor’s house, lent, smocked dresses, ham biscuits, coconut cake and family spats that end in hugs are something that most southern families have in common!

I love Liza’s spin on Easter, and I can’t wait to hear all about your Easter traditions, too! I hope you can join in the fun.

 #southernchat

#southernchat: Easter Traditions (Monday 3/25/13 9:00PM est)

Q1: What Easter Traditions do you & your family have?

Q2: When you think of Easter, what elements come to mind?

Q3: What are some of your favorite southern foods on the Easter table?

Q4: What are the perfect pieces for a classic Easter outfit?

Q5: What southern goodies will you be filling the Easter baskets with this year?

Kayce Hughes LogoGiveaway!

Special thanks to Liza for coordinating this week’s giveaway – a $50 gift certificate from our friends at Kayce Hughes! With stores in Nashville, Chattanooga, and now, Atlanta, what better place to outfit your whole family for the Easter holiday than here. Just join in the chat by using the #southernchat hashtag sometime from 9:00-10:00pm est on 3/25/13 and you’ll be automatically entered to win.

Easter Style: Rachel Zoe Straw Hat, ASOS Cork Clutch, NARS blush, Happ & Stahns Eau de Parfum, J.Crew Seersucker Dress, Gucci Necklace, Butter London Polish, Sperry Wedges.

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my new year resolution

Are you in? What are your new year’s resolutions?

Einstein has a great quote that says “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.”

With the holidays approaching, the idea of constant moving can be stressful. However that movement is also at the center of how we grow. I want to dedicate today’s Throwback Thursday post to one of my favorite bicycle enthusiasts, my dad. He’s a big cyclist so I always keep my eyes peeled for good gift ideas for the bike lover. The nostalgia of the bike will forever be a childlike memory for us all.

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1) Rope Bike Lock / Dalman Supply Company
2) Bike Snob book / Restoration Hardware
3) Skutt Wooden Children’s Bike / IKEA
4) Bike Basket / L.L. Bean

I’ve been hard at work on a new collection and waiting with bated breath to share it with you! As October has come, cooler temperatures on their way, and the holidays are so close you can nearly taste it. The months to come are the ones that true memories are made of. Family and friends will gather; good things are to come.

And, so I’m thrilled to share a sneak peek with you at last of my newest collection …. heirloomed.

The heirloomed collection is comprised of items that only get better with time. Each comes within a kraft package, inspired by the quaint setting of a rustic bakery, and is tied with a red, waxed thread. The collection launches with our 100% linen napkins, table runner and waist apron.

I believe the mantra says it all …

The most cherished and beloved things one can own cannot be purchased. They must first be used and loved and enjoyed. Memories must be created, laughter had and good times spent. Then, and only then, these things become treasures, passed down for generations. And so they become … heirloomed.

Would love to hear your feedback!

As the holidays grow near, I am excited to continue the wonderful Heirloom Recipe Series that has become everything I could have ever imagined it would be. I just can’t get enough of hearing the back stories behind these special recipes, from some very special people – and this week is no exception!

Joining us today is Cynthia Wong, pastry chef at one of Atlanta’s own southern-staple restaurants, Empire State South. I fell in love with ESS even before I ever set foot into the fine establishment, simply because of my past experience with their sister restaurant Five & Ten in Athens, Georgia where I attended college. The atmosphere & ambiance is perfectly southern, with a fabulous bar and bocce ball on hand too – and the food is certainly top-notch.

With Thanksgiving week upon us, I am thankful today that Cynthia has shared a heartfelt and honest post below, sharing a special shrimp dish recipe with us all and reminding us that there are so many things to be thankful for. Many thanks Cynthia for taking the time to join the Heirloom Recipe Series!

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This recipe for shrimp dip belonged to my late father-in-law, Bob Harmon. Like my husband, who is his spitting image, Bob was a strapping man, a master of banter, talented cook, and lover of good wine and late nights. I’ve spent most of the last 13 holiday seasons with the large, loud, warm, accepting, incredibly funny Harmons, who now seem more like adopted family than in-laws. I have always been a bit shy, and was initially uneasy during Christmas visits to the Harmon family homestead. I had a hard time keeping up with the all-night, wine-soaked story telling and joke cracking that left me with hangover headache that would blister the paint off a car.

Their 10-foot long family dinner table is always set for Christmas supper with a succulent, mahogany-skinned behemoth of pork known as The Harmon Family Ham, yeast rolls and biscuits, a large jar of mustard, a heaping dish of Hellman’s mayonnaise, cranberry jelly, cornbread dressing, roast oysters, smoked beef tenderloin and horseradish sauce, sausage balls, green salad, collards, black eyed peas, and Bob’s shrimp dip. The food is left on the table after dinner, until every last bite is eaten– a practice that initially appalled me, but one that I have grown to love. Why put away the leftovers and go to bed? Would it not be better to put your feet up by the fire in the den, make another plate and tell another tale of family legend? Sleep is for later, when you are back at home and need to go to work.

I am estranged from my own family, who are as different from the Harmons as to almost seem alien. Two of the most terrible things I’ve come to learn as an adult are that some differences are truly irreconcilable, and that time does not really heal. But the best thing I’ve grown to understand is that contrary to the old saying, you can choose your family.

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Bob’s Shrimp Spread

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Be sure to connect with Cynthia by following Empire State South on Twitter and Facebook too!

Part of our Heirloom Recipe Series, featuring foodies, chefs, artisans, Southerners & fabulous folks willing to share their stories, recipes and photos in an effort to help preserve and share these family recipes for generations to come.

In today’s Heirloom Recipe Series, I am so fortunate to have Amanda Hesser, one half of the dynamic duo behind fabulous foodie site, food52. {note: Merrill joined us yesterday – click to read!}  Amanda has an amazing connection with food having grown up in a family surrounded by those who cook, she was recently named one of the “top 50 women game-changers in food” by Gourmet and was awarded a James Beard award for The Essential New York Times Cookbook.

As you must know, I am just thrilled to have Amanda with us today to share a family recipe of her very own, as our Heirloom Recipe Series continues!

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My mother has many specialties, but her Chocolate Dump-It Cake is most beloved in my family. My mother used to do all of her baking late at night, after we were in bed. Around 1 in the morning, the aroma of this cake would begin wafting up to our bedrooms. Then we’d watch her frost it while we ate breakfast. My mother kept this cake in the fridge, and it is sublime even when cold.

Chocolate Dump-It Cake
Serves 10

2 cups sugar
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/4 pound unsalted butter (1 stick), plus more for greasing the pan
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup Nestle’s semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and place a baking sheet on the lowest rack, to catch any drips when the cake bakes. Put the sugar, unsweetened chocolate, butter and 1 cup of water in a saucepan. Place over medium heat and stir occasionally until all of the ingredients are melted and blended. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

2. Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, stir together the milk and vinegar. Grease and flour a 9-inch tube pan. (If you prefer, you can grease it, line it with parchment and then grease and flour it. This is not necessary, but parchment does make getting the cake out easier.)

3. When the chocolate in the pan has cooled a bit, whisk in the milk mixture and eggs. In several additions and without overmixing, whisk in the dry ingredients. When the mixture is smooth, add the vanilla and whisk once or twice, to blend. Pour the batter into the tube pan and bake on the middle rack until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 to 35 minutes. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool on a rack. (This can be tricky – if someone is around, enlist them to help. Place a ring of wax paper on top of the cake so you have something to grab onto when turning it out.) Let cool completely.

4. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler, then let cool to room temperature. It is very important that the chocolate and sour cream be the same temperature, otherwise the icing will be lumpy or grainy. (Test it by stirring a little of the sour cream and chocolate together in a bowl; if it mixes smoothly, it’s ready.) Stir in the sour cream, 1/4 cup at a time, until the mixture is smooth. Taste some! It’s good.

5. When the cake is cool, you may frost it as is or cut it in half so that you have two layers (when I do this, I use 2 cups chocolate chips and 2 cups sour cream). My mother uses any leftover icing to make flowers on top. She dabs small rosettes, or buttons, on top, then uses toasted almond slices as the petals, pushing them in around the base of the rosette.

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Be sure to connect with Amanda on Twitter, and with food52 on Twitter and Facebook too!

Part of our Heirloom Recipe Series, featuring foodies, chefs, artisans, Southerners & fabulous folks willing to share their stories, recipes and photos in an effort to help preserve and share these family recipes for generations to come.

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