Anatomy of a Dinner Party: a day in the life of a hospitalityaholic

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Dinner Party 101 – Setting The Table

Monday, November 16th, 2015

Good Morning Darlings!

The holidays are sneaking up quickly and the dinner parties are afoot. Are you hosting Thanksgiving this year? Is it your first time? Let’s visit.

No reason to be scared. We are going to do this together. The first thing your guests will notice when they enter will be your table. Is it set correctly? Instead of guessing which side the fork goes on, here’s an easy to use chart.

Simple Table Setting

This keeps things simple. Why put the napkin on top of the plate instead of under the forks? This way your guests don’t have to jostle the setting to place the napkin in their laps.

If you are going to be a guest at someone’s home for Thanksgiving dinner and can’t remember which fork to use, always use the outside utensil first. If you get there and the table is not set like the diagram above, always take your cues from the hostess. Do what she does.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about the menu.

xoxo, Patti

Meet Annette Joseph

Monday, November 9th, 2015

Good Morning Darlings!

Who is Annette Joseph you ask? Why she’s only an expert on entertaining, cooking, and styling. She regularly appears on The Today Show and Martha Stewart Sirius Radio. Her recipes and party ideas have been featured in Better Homes and Gardens, Epicurious, DesignSponge, MSN, The Huffington Post, Southern Living, and Woman’s World among others.

Her first cookbook, Picture Perfect Parties published by Rizzoli NY, is an engaging how-to guide that provides blueprints for a year’s worth of get-togethers, covering every holiday and occasion.  Her focus is always on making use of items that are already at hand in the house, ingeniously transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary—a style of entertaining that doesn’t require spending a lot of money.

In other words, an Icon. I had the supreme pleasure of meeting Annette at the Ferrari Trento luncheon a few weeks ago and inquired to see if I could interview her so you could get to know her, too. She said yes! Here is the interview. Enjoy darlings! All photos courtesy of Sarah Dorio.

Meet Annette Joseph. She is going to make you a party maven, too!

Meet Annette Joseph. She is going to make you a party maven, too!

Who inspired you as you were starting your career?


There are so many people that inspired me coming up. I think that one of the first people was my boss at my very first job. He taught me about looking at everything and seeing how cohesive a composition was.


Then later I met my very first Art Director, and she was a huge help and influence in making my eyes see like a camera. 


I was very inspired by stylists I assisted while learning my craft, each and everyone of them contributed in a different way to what my style has become to date.


Photographers always inspire me and help me see things in different ways. Even clients have inspired me. In the world of styling the goal is to give the clients what they envision while staying true to your own style.


This is a lesson that I feel is most valuable when starting a career in styling. It will keep you working and it will make more work come your way.
What can you share with other working women on making it all work and not feeling guilty about taking time for themselves?


I think taking time to recharge your creative battery is the most important aspect of the keeping it fresh. This idea of working and not taking anytime off is one that will kill your career.


If you have a family, children you should make time for them and make time for yourself. I take the summers off ( most summers are my slowest time) and live in Italy. The inspiration is astounding and makes me a better stylist.


What are the newest trends in party giving, both in food and decor?


Not sure there is a trend, good parties are good parties. I tend to do parties that are very me.

I think a new trend of outdoor parties with hanging globe lights and long tables is on point, but all the parties  tend to look alike and it’s most important to do you, you’re unique and your parties should reflect that.


The most important thing in my mind is to just entertain in your home.


Find your style and do you. I am not a trend person I am a style person.
You can give fab parties, too! Exactly like Annette.

You can give fab parties, too! Exactly like Annette.

Where do you feel your most comfortable?

Definitely in the Kitchen, I am lucky to have one here in the States and one in Italy. I enjoy them both equally.

Cooking to me is relaxing, creative and my happy place.

How would you like to see your future unfold? Any future plans you can share?

About 2 years ago I started my Style + Photo Workshops

The next one is in February in Marrakech, and then in June in Italy, in my hometown. There is great satisfaction in teaching people how to make the best images they can, plus pass on the 20 plus years of experience I have in the business.


In big future news : We are in the process of buying a farmhouse in Tuscany that will be the location for my Style + Photo Workshops it should be finished in about 1 year. In the meantime I am still styling for clients, styling cookbooks and working on my second book, which will be about my food experiences in Italy. The school is probably my future, I hope to bring all the amazing creatives I know to the school to teach, we will have cooking, art, writing , styling and photography, yoga lessons. I am really excited about this. All my years styling are now turning into the best possible scenario, passing on knowledge, inspiring creative thinking and working with people I love.


Thanks, Annette! Picture Perfect Parties would make the perfect holiday gift for everyone on your list. I’ll be buying one for myself, too! Treat yourself!


xoxo, Patti

Company In An Hour? Don’t Panic!

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

Hello Darlings!

It’s November. The season of parties is upon us.

Bestie Melanie and I were discussing getting ready for company as I was getting the house ready for Bestie Holly’s visit for the weekend. And seriously, after giving Karen the border collie a bath in one bathroom and the other looking like a crime scene, I was in a bit of a tailspin. Let’s not sugar coat this stuff. You’ve been there, right? (please agree so I don’t feel like an epic fail!)

The kitchen wasn’t dirty, well, because we’ve been eating Lean Cuisines and going out. I’ll be cooking plenty this month. Don’t judge.

Okay. How do you get the house company-ready when you have an hour or less? Let’s get to it.

I present to you, The Holy Trinity of Cleaning:

Help is on the way.

Help is on the way.

But, Patti, I only have bleach in the house! Then you are good to go. Pour it in the toilet bowls and the sinks. Let it sit 15 minutes. Wipe the sink with a rag or sponge and the toilet bowl with a brush. You are ready! Trust me. Seeing a pink ring at the bottom of a toilet bowl makes me a little judgey. Just a bit. Ick.

Have 30 minutes? Febreze will make your house smell less like the Bulls of Pamplona have just made their yearly run and Clorox Wipes – good gracious – what did we ever do before those things? Wipe down sticky counters and nose prints from the dogs. Bestie Melanie swears by Oxyclean. Mix a scoop in a sinkful of warm water and slather it all over everything. Countertops, stove, the floor.

Oh, and be safe and wear rubber gloves if you have them.

Okay – you have a bit more time than 30 minutes? Swiffer wet mop the house. It smells so good! And it dries pretty quickly, too. I could use the Swiffer duster, but to save time I usually just put the wet mop out and drag the mop toward me – anything on the floor will move toward you and when you take the pad off, just grab up the residual dust.  Don’t cook – order out. Light candles. Lots of candles and turn the lights out or use those dimmers (I would DIE without dimmers!) Put out your largest wine glasses and make everyone drink a big drink as soon as they arrive (they’re all taking Uber, right? Of course they are!) Now everyone is feeling dreaming and tipsy. Great job!

Get out there and start entertaining! I love and support you!

xoxo, Patti

ps – Holly doesn’t care if my house smells like wet dog. That’s what besties are for. But I still want to make her feel pampered. :)

pps – I wasn’t compensated by any cleaning product for this post. This is just what I use. If they want to send me free stuff – I would love that!

ppps – While writing this I had to get up twice to chase Karen and her dog-self off the couch. That I just sprayed with Febreze. For the second time. #ItsGettingReal

Night of Ten Thousand Gods

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

Good Morning Darlings!

This weekend was a whirlwind. Whew. Tons of parties.

I have to admit, the book release party for my friend, Jim Hodgson, was really special. His darling, Meghann and he hosted the loveliest evening and made us all feel like, well, Ten Thousand Gods (that’s the name of his newest book. Click the link to read Episode 1).

Besties Melanie and Mike rode with Eric and me up to their house in Suwanee. When we arrived, we were in for the biggest treat. Take a look at their backyard. Swoony.


How pretty is this? And there were 3 stations of nibbles. Eric met some new buddies while Mike, Melanie and I grazed and drank for a bit. Here’s one of the lovely appetizer set ups.



Take a close look at the purple. I thought it was silk – it’s CABBAGE! How gorg is that?

Our host and hostess were just the mostest. Love them to pieces.



Aren’t they beautiful? Inside and out.

We met the most wonderful new friends, including Jim’s dads, Jim Sr. and Steve. They are the best! They live in Montgomery and love to entertain as much as me. We were like peas in a pod.



That’s Steve in the middle with Meghann and their friend Bear, from Asheville, who I swear had the best southern accent I have ever heard. It was like music. Golly, I love the south.

The food and wine was divine. No one took their cell phones out (except me, to take photos, only) and everyone talked about books and art. It was the kind of dinner party you wish you could create, but only happens organically. And when you invite the best people. These were the best people.



My handsome husband and new friends Seth, Mary Beth and Emily.

There might have been some illegal moonshine proffered later in the evening after coffee and dessert, but I will not confirm or deny. It might have come from a toothless bootlegger in North Carolina, but again, I just cannot say. I would like to be invited back.

Each place setting had a gift for every guest – a piece of art created by Bear of the book cover. Take a look.



The centerpiece was filled with tiny pumpkins, lemons and pomegranates. Fabulous.

We laughed, ate and drank until it was time to gather up the posse and head back to Atlanta. Thank you so much for the absolutely perfect evening, Jim and Meghann. And thank you for allowing us to toast your success with your newest book – we are all so proud of you!!

xoxo, Patti

TV Stars and Healthy Eating

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Good Morning Darlings,

I know Memorial Day has come and gone, but you know what? We still have an entire summer of cookouts ahead of us.

What does this have to do with anything?

The Food Does Not Matter

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Good Morning Darlings!

This article was sent to me by a sweet friend.

I seriously could not say it better myself.

Click here to read.

And don’t slave over the food…


Raising A Glass With Nobilo Icon

Friday, December 6th, 2013

Good Morning Darlings!

How wonderful to see you all – I have been very busy.

What’s new? Click to continue »

Season’s Musings

Friday, December 21st, 2012

Good Morning Darlings!

Can you believe it’s almost Christmas? Holy cow!

We are hosting a tiny dessert and cocktail party late Christmas night. Seems like a good time. Everyone will be done with family celebrations and be ready to unwind.

What do the holidays hold for you?

Whynatte & Jailhouse

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Good Morning Darlings!

Is your tree up? Ours is. SO excited.  See, we usually give these massive parties that leave no room for a tree.

This year is different. No massive Black Tie party. Small Christmas dinner party.

But anyhoo, this is about putting up the tree. Well, not exactly, but a drink to put your tree up by.

It’s this lovely little concoction that takes Jailhouse Brewing’s Jailhouse Stout and mixes it with Whynatte.

Have you not heard of these treats? They both started in Atlanta, but I’m pretty sure you can get them anywhere. Jailhouse Brewing is creating awesome crafted beers and Whynatte is the yummiest coffee/latte/caffeine drink on the planet. Serious.

So here’s the complicated recipe:


Pour some Whynatte in a glass.

Top with Jailhouse Stout.


Beer floats for Adults! Yum!


And you know, drink responsibly and all that. A designated driver is a beloved driver. Buy him/her a big present for getting you home safe.

xoxo, Patti

Guest Post! Electronic vs Paper When is it Okay to Send an Online Invitation?

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Electronic vs. Paper: When is it Okay to Send an Online Invitation?

An invitation serves one primary purpose: to lure the recipient to an event. These might include a business lunch, birthday party, board meeting, friendly brunch, or other sort of bash.

Inviting guests is achieved through a variety of factors, including a snappy design, catchy message and appropriate details. But before your well-produced invitation can deliver invitees to your doorstep, you’ve got to deliver the message. How you send your call for guests may just determine your event’s success.

In today’s technological world, the email invitation has become an inexpensive, easy-to-deliver, design-friendly, go-to greeting for both businesses and individuals. If used incorrectly, electronic invites can get lost in the inbox, mistaken for spam, deleted, or simply go unseen and, ultimately, lose their value (There’s nothing more frustrating than spending time and energy on party preparations only to have no one show up).

So when should you hit send and when should you hit the post office? Here are a few guidelines to help you choose the best method for sending your summons:

What type of event are you hosting?

If no other factors (i.e., budget, timeframe, and design requirements) play into your decision to print or press send, the formality of your event should dictate your direction. For formal and ceremonial affairs, such as weddings, showers, and awards dinners, stick with the traditional printed pieces. Offering guests personal, by-mail invitations not only makes them feel special, but it gives weight to the occasion. If your gathering is a frequent and regular occurrence, such as a monthly board meeting or a more easygoing affair — like a Saturday afternoon barbecue — then opt for the casual email invitation, which sets a comfortable, casual tone.

Who’s coming?

Your guest list can also be key in the decision to go digital. When invitees are young, modern-minded individuals who understand the ins and outs of online communication, then by all means — speak their language. Targeting seniors, retirees, children, or another group that probably isn’t on email regularly? Go postal. If you have a mixed audience, consider sending both; with a little bit of design skill, you can develop an invitation to be printed for the older crowd and packaged into an email for the younger set.

How much time before the big day?

Sometimes the decision simply comes down to timing. If you’ve put off sending invitations because you couldn’t make up your mind or you’re pulling together a last-minute fete, then an email invitation can be created and delivered in mere minutes. Given the growing prevalence of smart phones with email applications, you might begin receiving RSVPs just as quickly. Snail mail invitations obviously take a bit more time to reach their destinations.

The typical rule of thumb here is to notify recipients of an event three weeks to a month in advance. This allows for any return-to-senders to filter back through the mail stream and gives guests sufficient time to confirm their attendance. Remember, no matter which route you select, if you need a firm head count, then be sure to budget time to track down non-responders. That means sending a reminder email (if you go digital, many online programs will do this for you automatically) or making phone calls.

Do you have the money?

As postage costs continue to rise, so do the potential savings associated with sending an online invite. But stamps aside, the cost to send a paper invite doesn’t have to break the bank. While the Internet certainly provides a free vehicle for carrying your message, it also widens your resources for inexpensive printing. If your budget has some wiggle room, then weigh the remaining factors on this list and go with your top option. If, however, you are pinching every penny to cover the cost of the actual event, then a no-cost email is warranted. There are many free e-invitation tools available; try,, or

Do you have a specific vision for the design?

In the end, deciding between dropping an invitation in a person’s mailbox versus their inbox may come down to design. How do you picture your invitation? Is it something tangible, with various textures and a bit of heft? Will you opt to send an offbeat object that hints at a theme? Do you need to provide lots of important information (directions, menus, hotel options, business background, etc.)? An actual envelope might be the best way to package your presentation. (Send critical extras as part of an email invitation and you risk recipients not opening the attachments.) If your message can be delivered with some perfectly placed pixels and a bit of on-screen color, then save time and money with a well-designed email invite.

No matter which method you choose, remember that the best way to send a successful invitation is to think outside the box for something unique that will stand out inside the box — whether it’s an inbox or a mailbox!

Senior executive Anita Brady is the President of, a leading provider of a high variety of quality items like wedding invitations, fancy letterhead and other materials for small businesses and solo practitioners.