Friday, December 30, 2011

What're You Doing New Year's Eve?

Tomorrow night when the clock strikes twelve, we’ll wave goodbye to 2011 and welcome in 2012.

On New Year’s, everyone gets caught in the notion that the right way to celebrate is at a fancy, expensive dinner or party. But even when we’re at a party, we often still end up feeling like we’re missing the party. The last night of the year doesn’t have to be complicated, or even all that expensive. In my book, New Year’s Eve is yet another opportunity to create a tradition, with friends or family. And doing that will feel more fulfilling than any swanky party ever could.

Plan a Simple yet Special Meal
A special meal doesn’t have to be elaborate; it just has to be out of the ordinary. I take advantage of the bounty of the Pacific Northwest and serve Dungeness crab with a big green salad. This meal is fresh, delicious, and requires barely any prep. Serve a dish that is unique to the place you live, but that you won’t break your back preparing. If you’re on one of the coasts, maybe that means oysters. If you live in the Midwest, maybe that means a really delicious cut of beef, simply grilled or cooked in the oven.

Whatever you decide to make, don’t forget the champagne! Popping a bottle or two of good quality champagne makes New Year’s Eve feel special. For a pre-dinner Pacific Coast treat, my family also enjoys fresh caviar.

Decorate with Silver and Gold…or Silver and Red, or Gold and Green…
Make your New Year’s table festive. Silver and gold are traditional New Year’s colors, but don’t be afraid to incorporate some other hues into your tablescape if you have special dinnerware of a different color that you love. Mirrored or metal platters or candleholders that reflect and refract light are another great way to add some glitter to a New Year’s tablescape. 

Find Silly Favors
Silly hats or crowns are a great way to get everyone feeling festive. Masks are also a fun option. Party favors that guests can wear to feel “dressed up” get groups in a celebratory mood.

Make a Plan for Midnight
When I was a little girl, my mother used to take us outside at midnight laden with pots and pans and wooden spoons. When the moment came, we all rang and banged in the New Year together. Other ways to make the first moments of 2012 feel special might include a dance party, a polar bear jump into a nearby body of water, or singing a song together (it doesn’t have to be Auld Lang Syne, but take a look at the lyrics; it’s not a bad choice!) accompanied by lit sparklers.  

Whatever you decide to do this New Year’s Eve, my best wishes for a sweet and satisfying evening spent with people you love.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Holiday Decorating Ideas

The winter holidays have arrived! One of my favorite parts of the season is transforming a space into something festive and new with holiday decor. Whether you’re decorating simply to capture the holiday spirit, or preparing for a special event, here are some holiday decorating techniques equally lovely for both:

Light the lights! Set a mood.
’Tis the season when candlelight shines brightest. Take advantage of the winter dark to play with light. Scatter candles of all sizes all throughout the house—pillars, votives, and tapers. Place a few big candles in glass hurricanes in your entryway, or line your mantel with a flickering row of tiny votives. You can even bring the candlelight outdoors. There’s a long tradition in Santa Fe of Christmastime farolitos (Spanish for “little lanterns”). These brown paper bags, weighed down with sand and each containing a small lit votive, line the streets and buildings. I love farolitos because of the special warmth they add to even large outdoor spaces. Set out some farolitos out this Christmas and add a new tradition to your holiday repertoire. 

Ornaments: Not Just for the Tree
As the years go by, many people end up with more ornaments than can fit on a Christmas tree. To display Christmas ornaments in beautiful and unexpected way, arrange a variety in a compote, large bowl, or glass jar. 

Holiday Décor Clusters
I’ve long loved collecting traditional Austrian snow globes. Rather than scattering them throughout the home, I like to arrange all of the globes on a large silver platter for a striking visual display. Another idea: intersperse the globes with candles and let the light play off the beautiful glass orbs. 

Good luck with your own holiday decorating. Be inventive. When displayed in a new way, even old decorations can take on new life.

Happy holidays,

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Holiday Gift-Giving Etiquette from Anna Post

Recently I was able to meet Anna Post. Naturally our conversation turned to the similar philosophies of etiquette, entertaining, and creating traditions. I am honored that she accepted my request to write a guest post for Table Talk about holiday etiquette. Her advice is both contemporary and timeless. Thank you Anna.  

Compliments of the
Emily Post Institute
It was my pleasure to recently visit Seattle for the first time while there to promote my new book, “Emily Post’s Etiquette, 18th Edition.” One of the highlights was a trip to Rosanna, Inc. and the wonderful opportunity to sit down with owner Rosanna Bowles. Rosanna was kind enough to show me her world—and I found our opinions on entertaining, traditions and kindness to be very much in tandem. Rosanna’s beautiful creations represent easy elegance, entertaining for the pleasure of bringing people together and the values of tradition. These are also the goals of etiquette.

Rosanna asked me to share with you, her readers, what interests people most at this time of year. Not surprisingly, I hear lots of questions about gift-giving etiquette, so compiled here are some of the most popular—which I hope will help you enjoy your holiday season.

Should I bring a hostess gift to a holiday cocktail party? What would be an appropriate gift?

Hostess gifts are totally optional for a cocktail party. A bottle of wine or a batch of blueberry muffins for the next morning are both appropriate. You might also get in the festive spirit of the event and select a holiday goodie or an ornament for your host. Always enclose a small signed gift card as your hostess will want to know who brought the gift and may not have time to receive it from you—much less open it—at the party.

Rosanna's French Perfume decoupage
make beautiful hostess gifts

Should I bring a hostess gift to a dinner party?

Yes. But keep it simple. Anything that distracts your hostess from the tasks at hand may be a nuisance. Food or flowers that need to be tended to are not the best options. A candle or soaps and a soap dish, a small potted plant or flowers already arranged in a vase, are better bets. Wines or chocolates are also nice, though don’t be surprised or offended if your host saves them to enjoy later, as he or she may already have their menu for the evening planned. Overall, keep it uncomplicated and under $20, and base your selection on your host’s taste.

Is it necessary to write thank-you notes to family members?

If you’ve sincerely thanked someone in person for a gift, a thank-you note isn’t obligatory. But, it’s never wrong to write a thank-you note. If you receive gifts from friends or family that you won’t see to thank in person, write them a thank-you note—both to let them know their gift arrived and that you appreciated it. Keep thank-you notes or personalized stationery and stamps on hand to make it easy to check them off your list.

Since I'm single, my brother and his wife only give me one gift, but I buy one for each of them as well as gifts for their two children. It's a bit much for my budget. Would it be inappropriate if I gave them just one house or family gift?

Not at all. Tell your brother and sister-in-law that your affection for them remains the same, but you're planning to adjust your gift giving this year. A house or family gift is a great idea. Other suggestions: some families adopt a “kids only” present policy; or, they draw names out of a hat so that each person concentrates on buying only one gift for one person. Discuss your ideas in advance—they may even welcome the news. And there’s more to the holiday season than gifts. Spending time with your brother’s family instead of showering them with gifts may be just as enjoyable for all involved.

I have a friend who's unemployed. I don't expect or want her to spend money on a gift for me, but should I buy a gift for her? I don't want to make her feel guilty.

If this is someone that you usually exchange gifts with, she’ll probably welcome a gift hiatus this year. It may be uncomfortable for her to discuss her financial situation, so you may want to bring it up yourself. Suggest an afternoon or lunch outing—on you—instead of the traditional gift swap. Of course, there’s no rule that friends must exchange gifts of equal value, so your friend may opt to continue the tradition—with homemade or less expensive presents.

Every year I get at least one party invite that asks guests to dress “festive”. What does that mean? Would it be rude to call the hostess to ask?

"Festive dress" usually means dressy with a nod to whatever holiday you are celebrating: something a little more fun than what you’d wear to work, something not quite as fancy as what you’d wear to a black tie event. Bring in the holiday element with color or something shiny or sparkly. It’s certainly fine to call the hostess and ask her intentions, too. Who knows? Maybe she’s thinking Santa hats and elf shoes. . .

For more on party attire, visit the Emily Post web site.

If you've only been dating someone a short while, how do you decide how extravagant to be with your holiday gift?

The amount you spend on the gift should be based on your affection for the person and your budget, as well as the seriousness of your relationship. Anything too expensive or extravagant would probably be awkward at this point. Don’t let something like a holiday gift get in the way of a new relationship. There’s no downside to keeping things simple. Think little things for the kitchen or house, something to do together like games or outdoor equipment, or even tickets to an event or dinner out.

Should I give a seasonal gift to the mail carrier?

It’s a nice gesture. The U.S. Postal Service has rules about holiday gifts, though: No cash and the value of the gift can’t exceed $20. Also, be sure to enclose a thank-you note and say something like, “Thanks for all you do throughout the year.” It’s okay if you don’t know their name.

For more information on holiday gifts and tips for service providers visit the Emily Post web site.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

My Holiday Rituals

In the third of our Holiday Entertaining Series Collaborative posts between Rosanna's Table & Family Eats, we look at the Tradition of Christmas.  Be sure to gather ideas and delicious recipes from the Family Eats article, Celebrating the Art of Giving: Gifts from the Kitchen.

The winter months give us many opportunities to establish traditions that can last for generations.  The repetition of traditions and rituals helps us grow roots; it allows us to take part in the legacy spanning many generations.  When we practice a tradition, we are in fact linking ourselves to the chain of human history, providing a continuation of the kind of life that humans have lived since the beginning of civilization.

Our family traditions begin when we decorate the Christmas tree.  I make hot toddies (see recipe below) and my mother's Christmas sugar cookies.  I play a variety of Christmas music, including jazz renditions sung by Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald, and classical pieces by Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo.  For my family, this night represents the beginning of winter holiday festivities.  Together we transform the house, and when we're finished, we find ourselves surrounded by the magical beauty of the holidays.

Another special tradition is to prepare a special Italian dinner every Christmas Eve: risotto with osso bucco.  My family looks forward to the evening not just because it's a holiday, but because they know we'll be eating one of their favorite meals that comes around only once a year.  When I set my table, I always use the same Rosanna holiday dishes that I've used for years.  Sometimes I also mix in my mother's vintage silver and porcelain serving pieces, which in turn came from my grandmother's china cabinet.  I incorporate these family heirlooms to create a table that shows the layers of our family's history.

My daughters always look forward to gathering by the tree after dinner to open one Christmas gift.  The room is lit by tiny lights and candles, and perhaps a warming fire.  In these moments we share memories of past holidays and fond memories of the past year.

There are many ways to celebrate the holidays of the season as there are many nationalities and religions and cultures.  (Family Eats shares a recipe for Grandma's Bohemian-Czech Hoska Bread.)  With such a variety of ceremonies and rites that have been passed down through the ages, you can simply choose to continue with established cultural traditions or create brand-new traditions with special significances that are distinctly yours.  Tradition is the glue that binds us together and makes the holidays a time that everyone looks forward to celebrating.

Rosanna's Hot Toddies
They are very simple to prepare and warm the body as well as the heart when the festivities are taking place.  Make sure to use good-quality lemons and oranges; they make a difference in the flavor of the toddy.  The oranges should be sweet and juicy.  I prefer Cognac, but brandy, rum, or Irish Whiskey would be delicious, too.  For children's toddies, simply omit the liquor and add an extra slice of orange.

serves 1
3 strips lemon zest
1 slice of orange
1 sprinkle of cinnamon
1 sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg
1 jigger Cognac
Boiling water

Muddle all the ingredients except the water in an oversized porcelain Rosanna holiday mug. Fill with boiling water and let steep for a few minutes.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Thanksgiving Entertaining: Making A Healthy & Cherished Tradition

In the second of our Holiday Entertaining Series Collaborative posts between Rosanna’s Table & Family Eats, we look at the Tradition of Thanksgiving. Be sure to gather Thanksgiving ideas from Family Eats article, Planning for Success: Making the Thanksgiving Meal A Happy Tradition.

Every agrarian (or formerly agrarian) culture has some version of the celebration of the harvest, an important seasonal marker throughout the world.  American Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the beginnings of the nation, but it’s also a time to be thankful for the bounty nature brings forth for our sustenance and enjoyment, to pay homage to the gradual passage from fall to winter.  It is also, perhaps most importantly, a time to share, to open our hearts, to be generous as well as thankful for the generosity of others.

For most Americans, Thanksgiving dinner is a tradition that lingers easily in the mind throughout the rest of the year.  Below are a few tips to help you make you meal memorable and delicious.

Treat The Turkey
Choose an organic local bird, preferably free-range.  The flavor will be more interesting than the usual frozen grocery-store varieties.  Make a paste of fresh herbs, olive oil, and garlic and rub it under the turkey’s skin the day before Thanksgiving, allowing it to marinate overnight in the refrigerator; this will make the meat succulent and juicy.

Select Your Sides
Take your cue from the delicious variety of fall vegetables available in your local market and roast them in the oven as the turkey cooks; with extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt, and fresh rosemary and sage. 

No Thanksgiving meal is complete without the old favorite of mashed potatoes and homemade gravy.  But consider adding in something new.  Cook local squash instead of sweet potatoes, if you’d like a change of pace.  (See my recipe below).  Or add a dish to your Thanksgiving table that is distinctly yours; it could even be a food from another culture. Family Eats has some wonderful recipes for other side dishes that you’ll want to check out.

Keep It Fresh  
At Thanksgiving especially, I strive to make sure everything on the table is homemade and make a point of using only natural ingredients. No margarine, no cranberry sauce in a can, and no instant gravy. This meal is as much about the time, effort, and love it takes to prepare as it is about the actual eating of it.

Growing up, I remember my grandmother made every single Thanksgiving dish from scratch. If you don’t know where to start with from-scratch cooking, you don’t have to look much farther than two generations back. Refer to old family recipes from your grandparents’ generation, before ready-made, instant food became widely available. During that era, there was nothing but homemade.

A Thanksgiving made with fresh ingredients from nature instead of from a can make for a meal that has something special. The extra effort and mindful attention to detail set this dinner apart from the everyday meals. The long hours in the kitchen are something to take pride in and to cherish. Cooking, after all, is one of the most basic and intuitive expressions of love.

Invite Your Guests
Bringing together family is an important part of Thanksgiving.  Being around loved-ones is heart-warming and comforting.  Consider inviting someone to share your Thanksgiving who is alone and far from family.  Sharing the bounty of the season is the spirit in which the first Thanksgiving originated.

Set The Table
Decorate the table with something that comes from nature.  I like to use grapes and vines from our grape arbor.  The gorgeous green leaves that have changed colors are beautiful accents for a fall table.  I like to personalize the table with homemade place cards fashioned from heavy paper.  It not only adds warmth and texture to the table arrangement, but also make each guest feel important.  If you have a set of dishes you use as part of your family traditions, make sure to include them.  If you haven’t started a tradition, now is the time.  A few years back I created the Floriography Collection as a set I wanted to adorn my own Thanksgiving table, and it has become part of our family tradition.   

Finally, don’t forget to enjoy the holiday.  It’s very easy to get sidetracked and focused on what needs to be finished than the people you get to spend time with.  Let some of your focus be on connecting with others.  After all, these are the moments you will want to remember.

Rosanna’s Thanksgiving Squash
One of my favorite dishes from childhood was my mother’s roasted acorn squash.  The preparation was simple, but the flavors were complex and delicious.  The squash’s bare hint of sweetness and spice makes it a sophisticated but crowd-pleasing substitute for the traditional yams.

4 acorn squashes, halved, seeds removed
8 teaspoons unsalted butter
8 tablespoons brown sugar
Ground cinnamon

Preheat the over to 350 degrees.

Arrange the squash halves cut side up on baking sheets.  In each squash half place 1 teaspoon of the butter, 1 tablespoon of the brown sugar, and a dash of cinnamon.  Bake for about 1 hour, until the flesh of the squash is soft when pierced with a fork and the sides look slightly caved in.  Let the squash rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Caramel Cake

By Rosanna's eldest daughter, Alessandra Wollner

For my 13th birthday, my mother made an extraordinary cake. I can’t recall why she decided to make this particular cake for that particular birthday, but after she did, there was no going back. Since the advent of my thirteenth birthday, I’ve had a decade to explore the vast realm of birthday cake prospects. Despite the staggering array of options, I’ve stayed faithful to one cake. Without fail, I have demanded and enjoyed the same extraordinary cake on every birthday since my 13th.

What makes this cake special is the pitch perfect way in which the flavors harmonize with each other. The salty, sweet, buttery notes of the caramel frosting melt into the slightly savory, nutty essence of the cake crumb. My mother has awarded this cake with the highest accolade she bestows on food, calling it “Ambrosia of the Gods.” My great grandmother just called it Caramel Cake.

The cake itself is dense from the addition of ground walnuts. It tastes like fall; never mind that my birthday comes at the end of May. The frosting is what my friend Emilie calls “not allowed.” What she means to say is that this frosting is the most delicious and decadent frosting she has ever tasted. When people ask me what the frosting is made of, I tell them broccoli and flax seed. I tell them it’s definitely not made with butter, brown sugar, confectioner’s sugar, and heavy cream.

The recipe for Caramel Cake came from my great grandmother, Grandma Edwards. She died soon after my mother made Caramel Cake for the first time, and I never did ask Grandma Edwards where she got the recipe. All I know is that she grew up in Kansas, though her family had immigrated to Virginia a few generations before. We think the cake must have its origins in the South. When my mother went on a trip to Charlotte, NC, last summer she excitedly called me to report Caramel Cake sightings on restaurant menus and in bakery windows the city over.

Obviously, I’m not the only admirer Caramel Cake has seduced into its thrall. After my mother made it that first birthday, Grandma Edward’s Caramel Cake became legend among my friends. Throughout the year, my mother would be repeatedly begged to make the cake, though there was no birthday to celebrate. My friends never did get my mother to make the cake just for kicks. But, since moving away from home, whenever an important birthday arrives, I seize the opportunity to treat my friends to Grandma Edward’s Caramel Cake.

Each time I make the cake, I consult my mother’s book Coming Home for the recipe. Whenever I do this, I feel proud.

I feel proud because eating Caramel Cake creates what I call a Transcendent Food Moment. This is a cake so delicious that, after the first bite, it forces you stop talking. The deep and pervasive satisfaction that arises from eating Caramel Cake mirrors the deep satisfaction and pleasure I take from my relationship with the birthday celebrant, making Caramel Cake an ideal birthday gift.

I feel proud to make Caramel Cake because when I make it I know I’m following a recipe with a long and storied history. I am keeping alive a recipe alive that has, over the course of four generations, migrated from the American South to the Pacific Northwest, across the country to New England, and made its way back again to its current residence in Northern California. I carry Caramel Cake with me, and by doing so I carry on my family’s heritage as well.

When I make my great grandmother’s Caramel Cake, I proudly share a treasured family tradition. I’m proud because I know that to do so makes mother very, very happy.

Recipe for Caramel Cake
For the yellow cake layers
2 2/3 cups cake flour, plus more for pans
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup finely ground walnuts
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups sifted sugar
4 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup milk

For the brown-sugar frosting
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream, plus more if necessary
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners' sugar

Make the cake layers: Preheat the over to 350 degrees.  Butter 2 (8-inch) round cake pans and dust them with flour.  Grind 2 cups of walnuts in a food processor, or chop as finely as possible.

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and ground walnuts together into a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft.  Continuing to beat, add the sugar slowly, then beat until the mixture is very light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition, then stir in the vanilla.  Add the flour mixture and stir to combine, then stir in the milk.

In a separate bowl, using a whisk or clean beaters, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold them into the batter.  Divide between the prepared pans and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center come out clean.  Let cool in the pans on wire racks for 5 minutes, then invert the pans and remove the cakes.  Let cool completely.

Make the brown-sugar frosting: Combine the brown sugar, 1/2 cup cream, the butter, and the salt in a large saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture just comes to a boil.  Remove from the heat, transfer to a mixing bowl, and add the vanilla and confectioner's sugar.  Using an electric mixer, beat on high speed until smooth and creamy.  If the frosting is too dry, add a bit more cream.  It should be thick and easy to spread.

Assemble the cake: Put one cake layer on a cake stand and frost the top.  Add the second layer and frost the top and sides.  Serves 6 to 8.

For more delicious recipes like this one, check out my mother's book, Coming Home: A Seasonal Guide to Creating Family Traditions, where she has over 50 recipes divided by the four seasons, but perfect all year-round.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Women In Business

A few days ago I did some simple math, and I made a shocking discovery. I have spent just about half my life as an entrepreneur. When I look back at the trail I’ve blazed since starting Rosanna Inc., I see the hundreds of experiences, lessons, and people who have helped me pave my way. In reflecting, I also think about what the world looked like nearly thirty years ago when I began my business.  Back then, it was no small feat for women to find a job. And a woman becoming an entrepreneur? Nearly unheard of!
Photo compliments of
Shelly Oberman Photography

All of this musing wasn’t simply for the sake of taking stock. I was revisiting my memories for a reason. A few months ago, I became a finalist for a business award specifically for Northwest women entrepreneurs. The nomination presented me with a privilege and a challenge: to craft an inspirational speech addressed to my fellow women entrepreneurs.  

And so I was left to tackle the big question: What did I want to say?

I started by looking to my roots. I singled out the women in my family who inspire me, and identified exactly what it is about their characters and stories that I find so motivational. 

Once I answered those questions, my speech wasn’t difficult to compose. As the strength and clarity of the piece grew, so did my sense of urgency regarding my message.

I want to empower women. It is as important today as it was when I began my career. My goal was to remind the women I was addressing what we are made of. Whether we are frontierswomen, CEOs, or steel magnolias, all women have a special kind of strength that allows us to weather the storms of life.

What follows is an excerpted version of my speech. If you are a woman, I hope it prompts you to reflect on the unique strengths you possess.

. . . . . . 

My favorite word these days is GRIT. I keep the word as my touchstone for whenever life’s challenges come knocking at my door.

I started Rosanna Inc. shortly after I finished graduate school.  I couldn’t find my dream job, so I created it.  With a $15,000 home equity loan, I began my business in the small bungalow where I lived.  I have done everything in my business from washing my first shipment of 10,000 dishes by hand to hand-delivering orders to sitting in factories and painting prototype designs myself.  I have sold, shipped, packed, designed, promoted, acted as foreign agent, and managed the finances during the early years of the company.

The years since then have presented me with many different kinds of challenges. Every time a new one occurs, I remind myself of the resilience of women and of our amazing capacity for getting through crisis.  I say this because I know all of you women here understand what it means to have your back against the wall. 

In times of crisis, I call upon the legacy of the women I most admire, the tough and tenacious women of my family—my mother and grandmother. 

Their stories are timeless and enduring.  They survived the Great Depression, World War II, and the oppression of women in the 1950’s. Both went on to become successful career women in the 1970’s.

I envisioned them during each period of history and what they did to survive.  My grandmother plucked chickens for five cents a chicken during the Depression, and worked as a Rosie the Riveter for Boeing building airplanes for combat. 

In 1954, my grandmother was working at Fred Meyer when she lost her son in the Korean War.  She suffered greatly and returned to work only after when Fred Meyer himself came to her home pleading for her to return after a period of grieving.  

You see, in the 1950’s, there was no medicine for depression.  There was only one way that women got through tragedy—that was with their grit and guts and old-fashioned values of self-fortitude, ideals that have never been more relevant than today.

Both my mother and grandmother fought cancer.  One survived, the other did not.  Tenacity is the common character trait that both possessed.  I know this trait is in all of you too.  It is why you are here tonight.  It is why you have accomplished what you have.  Don’t forget who you are and what you are made of.

The resources we hold as women are limitless.  We can effect changes in the world. 

We are capable of moving, shifting, and creating new models for old ideas because we put our egos aside, roll up our sleeves, and get to work.

I call upon all of you to take what is innate in your character and reinvent yourself.  I did it and so can you.

I went outside my comfort zone and decided to write a lifestyle book, Coming Home: A Seasonal Guide to Creating Family Traditions.  The book represents the heart and soul of who I am and who we are as a company. Our products are designed to be simple pleasures. They also serve as prescriptives to help people get back to the traditions they crave.  Authoring the book put this philosophy in writing. 

The book further defined the lifestyle associated with our products. No longer were our products just products; they became a way of life.

I went out on a limb as an author. If you want to reinvent yourself, go to a place you have never been before. Try on a new hat.  Don’t be afraid to fail.  If you do nothing, nothing will happen.

So, treat your life like a start-up business. Dig deep. Look to old-fashioned values and role models who give you the strength to move mountains.  Reinvent yourselves daily and try a new way of doing things. 

Effect change. The result will amaze you. You have it in you. 

You are women!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Diner En Blanc

As the last traces of summertime disappeared into the fast approaching autumn, a group gathered in historic Gasworks Park for a magical evening of food and friendship. The ingredients were unusual enough catch the attention of a few hundred Seattleites:  secrecy, creativity, synchronization, camaraderie, delicacies, and champagne. We were also instructed to dress a certain way: all in white.

I’m talking about Seattle’s very own, and very first, Dîner en Blanc (French for Dinner in White). The original Dîners began in France in 1988. Since then, Dîners have been happening all throughout Paris. Recently, food and performance art enthusiasts have orchestrated their own Dîners, far from the Seine and the clanging bells of Notre Dame Cathedral. The New York Times even ran an article about the event, “How 10,000 People Keep a Secret,” which came to Seattle, WA this summer.

Though the Dîners appear spontaneous to the uninitiated onlooker, this gastronomic flash mob in fact requires quite a bit of planning. In past blog posts and in my book, I’ve sung the praises of spontaneous dinner parties. However, a Dîner en Blanc is essentially the opposite of a spontaneous gathering. Unlike a spur-of-the-moment get together, a Dîner can’t happen without foresight and coordination. But all the planning gives the event a Byzantine, theatrical charm all its own.

The New York organizer Danile Laporte said it well: “Part of the event is the journey there.  To think ahead, to get ready, to get the table, to prepare your picnic, to choose your outfit.  Not making it easy is part of the allure.” 

These dinners, with their secret locations and semi-costumed festivity, unfurl much like a piece of theater. They create the same magical, exuberant, unexpected, co-created spectacle, both for the participants and the observers. The magic is the result of the preparation, born of the desire to set apart a space and time to create something extraordinary.

The scale of this Dîner was quite large. But that doesn’t mean you can’t arrange a similar type of “happening” in (or near) your home. All it takes is a little initiative and creativity, which becomes a reality with the collaboration of a group. A group, by the way, could be as tiny as three people. So, I encourage you to gather your friends to create your own Dîner en Blanc…or rouge (red,) vert (green), or bleu (blue)!

A little something out of the ordinary goes a long way. A special night like this creates not just a memorable evening, but a sense of wonder and a childlike delight that lasts long past the last guest vanishes into the night. 

Read about Seattle’s Dîner en Blanc in The Puget Sound Business Journal: “Elegant Flash Mob Dîner en Blanc a Success.”

Monday, October 10, 2011

Halloween Entertaining For Kids & Adults Alike

Many of you have already been introduced to our friends at Family Eats.  Today we’ve partnered with them to create blog entries about Halloween Entertaining.  Please make sure to read the Halloween Entertaining: Slow Sundays Goes Halloween post on their blog.  It has great tips for planning party food, setting the mood,  and getting your kids involved in the preparation.  There are some great food tips & recipes.  Look for us to partner together again in the near future.

Halloween Décor
There are so many ways to decorate for Halloween beyond putting a jack-o-lantern on the stoop.  The natural beauty of the fall season is plentiful and easy to infuse into your décor.  Select beautiful gourds, squash, and fall leaves to adorn your home.  Haystacks, kindly scarecrows, and lush fall wreaths can also be added into the warm earth tones of the season.

Calacas, from Mexico
Around my house we have a somewhat non-conventional Halloween tradition.  Years ago I started bringing back Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) decorations as presents for my daughters when returning from business trips to Mexico.  I have always enjoyed teaching them about different cultures and traditions.  On one visit I picked up a few small calacas (skeleton figurines).  They really liked the cute and decorated skeletons, and each time I have returned to Mexico I have brought home a few more. Over time our collection of calacas has grown, and each year we mingle them with our other Halloween décor.

Consider adding in a multi-cultural theme into your own Halloween celebration.  Whether it’s the Celtic All Hallows Eve, Christian All Saints’ Day, Mexican Day of the Dead, or any other, all humanity shares similar fascinations with the beyond.

Tricks & Treats For Snacking
After the fun-filled Pumpkin Carving Party you partook in following the tips by Family Eats, save some of the pumpkin seeds for roasting.  They make great snacks for children and adults alike and are easy to make.

I like to use extra-virgin olive oil and fine sea salt.  Here’s my recipe:

Preheat the over to 250° F.

Put the pumpkin seeds in a colander and rinse and use your hands to remove all the orange pulp from the seeds.  The seeds will be very slippery.

Lightly coat a baking sheet with oil.  Spread the pumpkin seeds out on the baking sheet and toss to coat them with oil.  The seeds should not be floating in oil, just covered lightly.

Season the seeds generously with sea salt.

Bake for 2 to 3 hours, until golden brown, turning them occasionally so that they brown evenly.  The seeds should roast very slowly.  Remove from the oven and taste for salt.  If needed, add another sprinkling of sea salt.  Let cool completely, then store in an airtight container.

Owl Cookies from "Coming Home"
Another recipe that your children can help you with in the kitchen is Owl Cookies.  Growing up, my mother made these owl cookies every Halloween.  Charming and delicious, they were always a hit with my friends.  The dough is a basic refrigerator-cookie dough that is made ahead of time and can also be frozen.  Children love to assemble and decorate these cookies, which feature chocolate chips for eyes and a giant salted cashew for a nose to make up the perfect owl face.  The Owl Cookies are perfect for Halloween school parties or can be done at home with the childrens’ help as part of their festivities.  (The complete recipe is published in my book Coming Home: A Seasonal Guide to Creating Family Traditions.)

Halloween Isn’t Just For Kids
Whether you have children at home or not, consider staging an adult dinner party around Halloween that sets the produce and bounty of the autumn season as the centerpiece of the celebration.  Serve baked squash, hearty roast chicken with porcini mushrooms, wild rice, and a delicious red wine.

For a less formal get-together, invite your friends over on Halloween to watch a classic scary movie and enjoy great finger food while you greet the trick-or-treaters.  My favorites are the 1979 version of Dracula and the 1963 version of The Haunting.  Choose some classical music to play when you’re not viewing the movie.  The “Dies Irae” of Mozart’s Requiem is appropriately spooky, as is “O Fortuna” from the Carmina Burana by Carl Orff or Bach’s Toccata and Fugue.  Serve a variety of foods that can be easily enjoyed during the movie.  Set out a selection of cheeses on a rustic cutting board.  Fill bowls with salted nuts, flatbreads, and olives.  (Family Eats also has some great snack food ideas including HomemadePretzels and Pumpkin Bread).  Drink a really great blood-red wine.  There is no better way to celebrate Halloween as an adult.

Whatever it is you decide to do, Halloween is a time of nostalgia.  Whether you’re continuing traditions of Trick-or-Treating started generations before, throwing an adult get-together or starting new traditions of your own, the magic and mystic of  Halloween has potential for spooktacular connections with loved ones.

For more tips on Halloween Entertaining for children's parties, as well as adult get-togethers, see Episode 3 of Rosanna TV, or listen to my recent Halloween radio interview with Amy Tobin, available on my YouTube Channel.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pasta Bowls & Healthy Foods Make Easy Entertaining

With fall comes cooler temperatures and a desire to prepare our nest for the cold winter months.  We have a natural tendency to want to stay inside more as the days get shorter. Being inside doesn't mean we need to feel isolated or away from the world.  In fact, now is the perfect time to have friends and family over for an informal gathering.

Rosanna Canvas Totes
As the summer growing season comes to an end, we must take advantage of our last opportunities to find local fresh fruits and vegetables.   Fall is a great time to head to the farmers market.  Recently I made a trip to my local farmers' market and filled my Rosanna Canvas Tote with delicious fresh tomatoes.  I like to prepare fresh tomato sauce for my pasta when local tomatoes are at their peak, then freeze it in individual containers for use during the winter months.  It makes a quick go-to meal for my family, and gives me the assurance that it is healthy too.

Pasta sauce is easy to make.  (In a previous blog entry I shared my basic tomato sauce recipe.)  Italians make their pasta sauce with whatever they have in the kitchen.  My basic tomato sauce allows me to add in meats, vegetables, or turn it into a vodka sauce, depending on what I currently have in my kitchen.  It makes an easy start to the tradition of a Family Pasta Night.   If you don't have a Family Pasta Night yet, starting one will give your family a ritual to look forward to, a way to create memories, and a chance to sit together around the table and connect.

Pasta Italiana Collection
You might decide to have friends over for Pasta Night.  This is one of the easiest ways to entertain.  You can make dinner at the last minute, allowing you to spend less time in the kitchen and more time with your guests.  It was this idea that inspired my Pasta Italiana Collection.  Each of the 4 pasta bowls features one of my pasta recipes you can use for an upcoming Pasta Night.  The Pasta Italiana serving bowl makes it easy to serve family style meals and allows guests to serve themselves a second helping of the delicious pasta.

Farmer's Market Collection

Pasta bowls are fun, unique, and great for casual entertaining.  They can bring a splash of color to  your table.  I've also made my pasta bowls instructional. The Farmer's Market Collection is a set of 4 pasta bowls that are also ideal for soups, salads, and vegetables.  Each of the four bowls features one of the four seasons--spring, summer, fall, and winter--and is adorned with colorful seasonal vegetables that can be found at their peak in the specific season, making them not only beautiful and utilitarian, but also instructional.  I use the large serving bowl nearly every day in my house.

An important part of living healthy is knowing what to eat.  Studies show that the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest diets to follow.  (See previous post for details.)  Fill your table with healthy whole grain pastas, fresh salads, ripe tomato sauce, and don't forget the olive oil.  The Farmers' Market dipping dishes are perfect for dipping your bread in healthy olive oil.

Start a weekly tradition of Family Pasta Night or invite friends over this week for a Pasta Night.  The warmth you feel from the food will be matched only by the warmth you feel from connecting with others.

For more tips on Pasta Night, the collections in this post, and my tomato sauce recipe, watch Episode 2 of Rosanna TV, available on my YouTube Channel.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Life Mirrors Art Mirrors Life

Earlier this week I was contacted by a creative food artist who calls herself "Fairly Odd Mother".  She had an ambitious idea that really sparked my imagination, to replicate my Tea For Me, Too teaset using food.  I'm always one to foster creativity, and I was very interested in how my colorful stoneware mini tea set would translate into an edible food medium.

She posted her creation on her blog yesterday, and the result is certainly something that I had to write about.  Using everything from ice cream cones to chocolate, and fondant to gum paste, her interpretation of Tea For Me, Too is spot on.

Read about the creation of the Fairly Odd Mother's Tea For Me Too set at her Once Upon A Pedestal blog.

Creativity is something that sometimes lacks in this automated world that we live in.  With computers performing complex algorhythms, programs that auto-correct, and a barrage of mindless entertainment being thrown at us, we move along in this fast-paced world sometimes jumping from one thing to the next.  When we slow down, connect with the present, and live mindfully, our minds open and our creative spirit is allowed to grow.

The Fairly Odd Mother is a great example of this.  Take a look at her enthusiastic description of the process on her blog at Once Upon A Pedestal.  I'm confident that it will put a smile on your face, just as it did mine.

Friday, September 16, 2011

5th Annual Tablescape Contest Honorable Mentions

The Tablescape Contest produced so many wonderfully inspiring stories and photos this year that I couldn't let an opportunity pass to share many more of them with you.

Adelle Belnap's Treehouse Teatime is imaginative and provides a touching story.  In her words:
"I spend every day with my children.  We rarely have time apart.  Yet there are days when I find myself watching them but not really seeing them.  I work around my little ones on the tasks I have on my "to do" list and forget that the most important people on my list are being overlooked.

"Over the past few months, my daughter has been asking to use the tea set her Great-Grandma painted for her as a gift when she was born.  My response was always, 'No, not today' or 'Maybe later'.

"After reading the theme for the Tablesetting Competition, something inside me clicked.  I realized that the most important guests that will ever sit at my table can barely see over it right now.  They might not appreciate the beauty of the platters or the symmetry of the centerpiece, but they will feel the love that spending special time together around the table brings.

"So, this time when my daughter asked about the tea set, I dropped everything else and said, "Yes."

One Night With the Queen: a midsummer night's tea by Lisa

When the Queen comes to town, naturally we want to have her over for tea!

Here in our backyard in Hawaii, we have a flowering cactus plant which blooms with a very large white blossom called a Night Queen.  So-called because it opens only in the middle of the night, and by morning, she's gone.

Late last night, we found the one such blossom had just opened, and it was time to celebrate the arrival of the Queen, with a tea party held in her honor.

Kristina Kellett's breakfast in bed reminds us that it's the little moments that count.  There's nothing sweeter than a quiet weekend breakfast in bed; whether it's shared over good conversation with a loved one, or relaxing and unwinding with a beloved book.

Kate Snapp loves a royal wedding.  She invited 7 of her girlfriends to come by for a Royal Wedding Breakfast.  They brought 4 of their little ones to the early morning event., who arrived in tiaras to a thoughtfully decorated "kids table."

Seeing their delightful faces is enough to bring a smile to mine.

Nazra Knutsen's story is another one that reminds us of the impact Spontaneous Gatherings can have on our lives.  In her words:

"My husband's immediate family lives on a small island named, Karmoy, in Norway. It is truly a beautiful place - with rolling hills of snow surrounded by the rolling waves of the ocean.  There are no coffee shops to sit and chat with friends at.  It is also pretty expensive to eat out.  So when we were there visiting, we had MANY spontaneous gatherings at home with friends & family.  It is normal to just "pop" on by for a cup of coffee without notice...and if you do give notice, it's not more than a few hours in advance!  It's very common for people to have cakes or pastries in their freezer or cookies on hand...with the expectation of people dropping by! One (of the many) times that we stopped by for a visit with my husband's grand-mother, she pulled out her finest china, lace tablecloths, the prettiest carafe, and her special silver dessert forks and enjoyed talking over coffee or tea & special dessert cakes. We always felt like the "guests of honor" - as each person we visited always made us feel so special & appreciated that we took the time to visit with them!  What a different mentality we have here in the US!  I'm always making plans a week or two in advance (at least!) and if we have people over to our house, I always give myself plenty of time to make sure my house looks totally put together and that I'm prepared to have guests (are my toilets clean & the floor vacuumed!?) I'd love to always be prepared for someone to drop by for a coffee & some cookies! I'm definitely going to have to work on this." 

Nazra is right!  We've somehow turned a spontaneous visit into an inconvenience in this country, and it's time for all of us to work on bringing back the joy and simplicity of connecting.

Speaking of that, I really liked the American feel of the Tablescape and story submitted by Dawn Grisham.  She mentioned how the oppressive summer heat caused her and her family (including their golden retriever) to wait until dusk to have an evening picnic.  She made a delicious pineapple pie from her late father-in-law's legendary recipe and had a memorable family evening with dinner and games at the park.

When I came across this entry from Vanessa Vanhille, I was moved by how impacted she has been in such a short time.  In her words:

"I first discovered Rosanna last month and have embraced her philosophy and creativity.  I have purchased and read her book, Coming Home, which has helped me establish and plan family traditions with love and wholesome food at its core.  My family now has three evenings a week that are our family "events."  We come together around a beautiful table, eat home-cooked wholesome food and dine (no rushing allowed).  It has been transformative for me.  So, understanding that I am an amateur and new to the Rosanna philosophy, here is my submission:

"I recently returned from a trip to Nice, in southern France.  My next door neighbor wanted to hear all about it.  I invited her to come over to to my front porch to share some hot chocolate.  The tray and its decor are souvenirs I brought home with me that typify that region of France.  I have sprayed some perfume (also a souvenir from the Riviera) on the skewers that are in the vase.  Even the candy has France ties.  I wanted everything about our spontaneous gathering to speak of my recent trip.

Another European-inspired idea came in from Ginger Mokher.  She shares, "An Italian-themed menu and tablescape is one of the easiest to pull together when hosting a sponteanous meal.  Rosanna's Pasta Italiana Collection features recipes for different Italian meals, and was my inspiration to acquire a repertoire of Italian recipes that are easy to prepare in advance with larger quantities.  I usually prepare enough so that at the end of the evening, my guests have not only the fresh memory of rich, relational connections, but also a full take-home container of this soulful meal."

I was thrilled to see more men entering the contest this year as well.  Bryan Harber prepared a beautiful tablescape for entertaining with elegant dishware and the Kings Road Collection.

Again, thank you to everyone who entered this year's Tablescape Contest.  As you can see, choosing the winners announced earlier this week was a very difficult task.

As a result of this contest I hope you've found inspiration in the stories and photos shared, and that you can find your own ways to continue to make family traditions and connect with others through spontaneous gatherings.

Those entries that have been featured on this blog entry will be notified by email by a member our customer service team with details on how to claim a small token of our appreciation.  If you have any questions in the meantime, please email

Monday, September 12, 2011

5th Annual Tablescape Winners

When we decided on the theme of the "Spontaneous Gathering" for this year's Tablescape Contest, our hope was that it would inspire people to invite loved-ones by for an improptu dinner, snack, or visit.  We wanted to remind people that it wasn't too long ago that having someone drop in was a celebrated event, and that gatherings didn't need to be planned out weeks in advance.  At Rosanna, we have truly been moved by your stories and elevated by your decor ideas.  As always, it was very difficult to choose winners among the dozens and dozens of entries received.  We are thrilled to share with you our picks and their stories.

Our First Prize winner is Kendall Weldon, age 11.  There was something about many of the entries this year by young people.  They were so fresh!  Kendall's design design, theme, and story truly moves me to be inspired by the rising generation.

Kendall chose Rosanna's Red Dots and Jolly Holiday
pieces as part of her tablescape.
Kendall's Story
My name is Kendall Weldon and I am 11 years old and have been part of your table setting contest for 3 years. I get together with my mom, aunt, and grandma and your table setting contest has now become a family tradition. I have such a fun time coming up with a table setting and love hanging with my family too!

My Spontaneous table setting comes from watching How The Grinch Stole Christmas and thinking it would be fun to have a "WHO" inspired party. I would invite my 3 best friends for tea, dessert, and lots of giggles!
Kendall's tablescape is adorable, and I especially love how the tablescape contest has become a family tradition.  This Oregon family--comprised of matriarch Tresa Nichols, daughters Brooke Weldon and Ashley Nichols Lee, and now granddaughter, Kendall Weldon--truly embody the "Spirit of Rosanna" by making this an annual family ritual.  Husbands and brothers prepare the yard beforehand for the pictures, carry the chosen dishes outside, and do the photography.  As Tresa states, "We laugh, we fuss, we run in and out bringing the dishes outside and have a blast!"  Truly connecting with each other as part of this family tradition earns them this entire family the "Spirit of Rosanna" award.  Other family entries can be seen below.  (Click on the photo to enlarge).

Rosanna's Artist's Loft & Victoriana Noir products are featured.

I loved the originality of the Spontaneous Gathering of our Second Prize winner, Andrea Spencer.  The youthfulness and joie de vivre of these young adults sitting down to a table together, without electronic devices, to enjoy each other's company is uplifting.

Andrea's Story
When we heard about the contest we decided to throw an UN-expected UN-birthday party.  Everyone had only days to get their costumes together and then we jumped down the rabbit hole to our own Wonderland.  The tablescape was a fun collaboration; with everyone contributing their tea pots and candlesticks.  The party was a big hit with mini iced-cupcakes with the words "eat me" on them, and a recitation of "The Jabberwocky."

Andrea's party will certainly not be soon forgotten by her guests, or by us here at Rosanna!

Lisa Moore's entry reminds us to enjoy life and all that surrounds us.  Her spontaneous picnic brunch in the mountains had, in her words, "all the pleasures of the stunning surroundings, quality food, and good hearts.  Picnics are a top passion of mine.  It's a way to escape the rush of our circular lives and step away to appreciate the beauty that is always there, but often forgotten."  You're right Lisa!  Thank you for sharing this reminder, and beautiful tablescape with us!
Lisa showcases Rosanna's La Vie Boho & Parisian Glass Collections

With the end of our contest coinciding with the unofficial end of summer, I felt a longing for wanting more time outside near the beach.  Pia Vanhanen's entry really connected with me.  She said, "I have created a natural coastal theme for our table, using rocks from our local beaches as napkin weights in case of light evening winds.  I have collected shells and use them also as personal butter/oil dishes for each guest.  Driftwood and Japanese fishing floats add to the relaxed coastal charm."  Pia's tablescape reminds us all that spontaneous gatherings, like this table, should develop organically.
Pia's tablescape includes Rosanna's original Boho collection.

This year we also featured a Table of the Week on our Facebook and Twitter pages.  We looked through the entries that came in each week and chose one to showcase.  Last week we placed each of those entries in a drawing for a Rosanna Gift Certificate, and Bryn Howell, won the drawing.  
Bryn threw a Bridal Shower recently for her best friend and mixed in some vintage pink depression glasses in with items from the Rococo Noir Collection.  It's evident that the "love" and thought Bryn put into her tablescape made for an enjoyable shower.

Among the entries, there are quite a few honorable mentions that we know would inspire our readers---possibly in their design, their story, or their beauty.  We will be sharing those in a future blog post later this week.  Congratulations to all our winners, and a special thank you to everyone who entered our contest this year.  I hope that you will continue the tradition of having "Spontaneous Gatherings" with friends and neighbors and continue to truly connect with those around you.

Those entries that have been chosen will be notified by email by a member of our customer service team within the next week with details on how to claim their Rosanna Gift Certificate prize.  Please be patient, our website at will be relaunched during this timeframe with an all new look, new shopping experience, and new products as part of our Fall/Winter Collection.  We want to make sure that your Gift Certificate is compatible with our new website.  If you have any questions in the meantime, please email