The Alchemy of Hospitality | Day Three

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Today I'm sharing the second to last set of photos from The Alchemy of Hospitality retreat! These images bring so much joy to me...they're the testament of true collaboration and friendship and community! A Daily Gathering retreats would be nothing without the tribe of friends and creative people that come together. On this third day of the retreat, along with shared meals and great conversation, we had a baking workshop, a brining workshop, a cocktails & bar cart essentials workshop, and then we surprised our students with a 4-course semi-formal dinner (which I already blogged about here).

Melinda taught our students how to make her perfect croissants at the baking workshop. Students gathered at the dining room table, after a warm continental breakfast (featuring Melinda's quiche), greeted by gorgeous, handcrafted wooden charcuterie boards made by Melinda's brother. They mixed, rolled, measured, rolled & measured some more, cut, filled, formed, and baked the croissants. Then, we all sat down for a hearty lunch of croissant sandwiches and Melinda's magic tomato soup. After lunch, the students sat down for a very interestingly scientific workshop on brining with our guest Chef Christopher Carey. He had them taste different salts, including salt from our sponsor, Salt & Sundry. I love Amanda's two shops in DC; they're so perfectly curated! After the tasting, they brined some fish for their Arctic Char Gravlax appetizer.

From brining, everyone moved outside (it was miraculously warm outside for October 31) for a workshop taught by Mark and Laicie Heeley of the JUST launched Holson House. This workshop explored the idea of hospitality as it relates to libations. The idea that an evening of hospitality should begin the moment your guests walk through the door and continue, leaving time for each course and its accompaniment to be enjoyed. They taught students the process of selecting the perfect pairing for each step, how to set the stage for a hospitable evening, and a few simple strategies for how to leave a lasting impression on your guests. Students learned how to make their own bitters and an easy simple syrup, which was later used in their port digestif, which was served with Chef Carey's dark chocolate truffles. During the cocktails workshop, students received & used Walnut Cocktail Muddlers from our partner, A Heirloom. These cocktail muddlers work so well, and I LOVE keeping it on display on my kitchen shelf. They've achieved the perfect balance of form & function!

I have one more set of photos to share from this wonderful retreat experience! It's so difficult for me to write words to give these workshops & retreats justice! So grateful for photos by Lauren & Rachel at Sweet Root Village that so beautifully tell most of the story for me! Creating these retreats are such a joy for me, and I love helping to teach our students both technical skills and helping them to recharge, build relationships, slow down, get inspired, create beauty, and just be! What a wonderful blessing to call this part of my work!

Photos by Sweet Root Village, with the exception of the unpackaged wooden cocktail muddler, which is by Holson House.

Florals | Spring Blooms for Anthropologie

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Sharing some gorgeous outtakes from a recent shoot Joy and I worked on for Anthropologie. The feature is live on their blog now...complete with more of these lovely photos by Joy and some thoughts on simple floral arranging! This shoot is one of my favorites, ever! The lighting and contrast and bright blooms. How awesome would it be to receive a bouquet with these blooms for Valentine's Day? (Joe, do you read my blog?) ;)

These cheerful photos are bringing me so much hope and joy today! We've had a rough & emotional past couple of days...and these photos are reminding me of the Lord's promises to be faithful and of beautiful things to come. They're reminding me to be thankful for what I have been blessed with, and to be content with my current situation. Thank you to everyone who's been praying for us, and sending texts and virtual hearts & hugs and all! We love you, and it means more than you know! <3

This song, Beautiful Things (by Gungor) just came on my pandora station, and it's SO speaking to my heart right now. I first learned this song in college when my friend Tia and I sang it at an open mic night. I wanted to share the lyrics with you, in hopes that you are encouraged today:

All this pain
I wonder if I'll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

The Alchemy of Hospitality | Day Two

Friday, February 5, 2016

On this second day of The Alchemy of Hospitality, we had two outdoor workshops: flower foraging and arranging, and natural dyeing. It was a chilly day, so we worked fast and hovered over the fire and consumed lots of hot chocolate, coffee and tea. I'm thankful for our wonderful students who put up with the cold for these workshops!

Melinda, my co-host, and I each love creating a moment in time where we bring people together around a shared table. We love opening our small (but cozy) homes, allowing our guests to see us when we're most vulnerable, in our kitchens, around our dining tables, lounging on the couch. In our personal space, families present, flaws, imperfections and shortcomings all out in the open. We love every element of preparing for sharing time with others: planning the meal, selecting linen napkins, experimenting with new dishes, laying the table, creating a mood with music and wine. Perhaps even dyeing a new batch of linens for the table, or taking a walk in the woods for fresh foliage.

For The Alchemy of Hospitality, Melinda and I wanted to explore various aspects of hospitality, from having a prepared pantry through canning and preserving, to bread-baking and cheese-making. From how to make the most delicious soups to how to dye kitchen fibers with natural materials. From foraging and arranging seasonal foliage, to planning for and setting the table for a crowd.

Along with our workshops, we had so many wonderful conversations and times of pure community with our students and helpers. It was simply lovely. Hospitality isn't about being perfect (although it is good to be prepared, which can sometimes just be an attitude of preparedness and readiness). It's about opening your home and welcoming friends and strangers alike. It's about being vulnerable, telling a story through your space, creating a welcoming safe-haven for your guests, and creating beauty in every area you are able, as an act of service!

I might have hosted a retreat on The Alchemy of Hospitality, but I have, by no means, mastered this art. Every day I struggle with feelings like my home isn't big enough and I come up with silly excuses like my guests will be uncomfortable. Taking it one day at a time and one gathering at a time and lots of prayers!

Photos by Sweet Root Village.

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