Chow Chow & Soul’s Charla Draper talks entertaining

One of the redeeming graces of the weather getting colder is entertaining moves inside where it’s warm! Whether you’re gearing up for a round of dinner and cocktail parties, hosting a girl’s night in or an Iron Bowl extravaganza, it never hurts to plan ahead to ensure things run smoothly. With that in mind, I caught up with Charla Draper, whose blog Chow Chow & Soul (CC&S) is “culinary dish for those who relish food, recipes, entertaining and more.” Ms. Draper has a wealth of experience: her first job was working in the Kraft Kitchens, and she also worked as food editor at Ebony and Southern Living (which brought her to Alabama!). Having grown up on Ebony’s Date with a Dish feature, I was really excited to speak with her.

The inspiration for CC&S: “I enjoy cooking and sharing food information. There are so many things people enjoy eating or remember eating as they grew up. If people don’t continue to cook those things, they’ll be lost recipes. It’s great to eat out, but it’s always good to know how to make something yourself.”

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Charla Draper

Her specialty: “I really have always enjoyed baking. My mother is a great pie baker; I’m trying to fine-tune my pie baking skills. One of the things I always do for my family is make the yeast rolls. It’s kind of therapeutic to knead that dough. When I first started, my grandmother was the yeast roll baker, and I was able to make them with her maybe twice.”

Draper had her grandmother’s recipe but it was missing a key element her grandmother hadn’t written down. Once while she was baking them, her uncle came by and just happened to say that Draper’s grandmother would “score the dough across the top and then fold it in half” which helped the final product turn out successfully.

Draper uses tested recipes that she’s developed herself or that come from reliable sources. She advises cooks to use a timeline when preparing meals (you can find a great one on her blog by clicking HERE).

Here’s how you can successfully execute your next event.

Prepare

“Try to select things that you’re familiar with,” Draper says. “If you see a new recipe you’d like to try when you’re going to entertain, make sure you have enough time to run through it. Don’t do it the first time when your guests are coming.”

Draper recommends going about your preparations in an organized manner. Read your recipes completely, make your grocery list and when you get home from shopping, get all your ingredients out and measured at the same time. Then you can begin preparing your dishes.

Picture it

When it comes to serving your meal, surely your guests won’t be served directly out of pots or aluminum pans, so consider the presentation. Invest in some nicer serving dishes, which can be found at your local Target or Wal-Mart, or even stores like TJ Maxx. Draper recommends picturing how you’d like your appetizers and the entrée and side dishes to look on the plate, and even labels her serving pieces with Post-it notes beforehand as reminders.

“Will you have food out when people arrive, or will it need to be put out after your guests come? Think through it,” Draper says. “I try to set up the table 24-48 hours before company arrives. For sit-down dinners, you can set the table and pick up a plastic drop cloth and just cover the table, so all you have to do is take the drop cloth off before your event.”

She recommends being ready for your guests 30-45 minutes before they are due to arrive. She says one of the best investments she’s ever made has been to hire help for her parties.

“It could be a formal service that supports restaurants and caterers, or simply reach out to a culinary school to see if they might have students available to execute while you’re entertaining,” Draper says.

“Sometimes these services will do everything for you. Don’t be afraid to reach out to see if you can get some help in terms of serving and opening the door so you have a chance to interact with your guests,” she advises.

Party perfect

If you’ve given yourself plenty of time to prepare your meal, you should also have plenty of time to set the mood. Create a welcoming atmosphere in your home by lighting candles, using floral arrangements and playing well-chosen music. Prepare and chill your beverages – have one yourself, you deserve it! – and give yourself time to relax and dress before your guests arrive. But what if they ring the doorbell early?

“It can be a challenge when people arrive too early,” Draper says. “If they arrive before things are out, get them involved. Ask them if they can put this or that on the table. You might not have them involved in the cooking. But always be a gracious host.”

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You can read and view more of Charla’s excellent tips via Chow Chow & Soul. She is also a Butterball Turkey Talk-Line® spokesperson, sharing her expertise along with other culinary professionals at 1-800-BUTTERBALL. The line is open all day, every day this week through 3:00 p.m. December 25.

Worst-dressed at the AMAs

Ugh. Where to begin? (Click on each photo for a closer look!)

Zendaya: Gold lame is chic, but this look loses something in the execution. Who wears a bikini top a with a trench coat? And that’s far too much hair on any one person’s head. This fabric is gorgeous; I would’ve loved to have seen it worked into a sheath or cropped top and skirt that fit the star’s sporty style.

Uzo Aduba: That hair and that dress (with cheap-looking fabric and styling that do her silhouette no favors) are both “NO ma’ams.” Sleeker hair and a more refined fit would’ve been better options. If you’re going to choose something that’s a bit inexpensive, steer clear of anything that makes it look gaudy, like sparkly accents.

Neyo: No comment. #opencasketsharp

Star Jones: Sigh. She is entirely too fabulous for these shorts worn with pantyhose. I think she looks amazing in artfully draped, or ruched sheaths with some structure to them. I could’ve even seen Ms. Jones in a voluminous, high-low ball skirt with a crisp white blouse or even a cropped blouse showing just a hint of skin at her waist. That shape would’ve still drawn attention to her legs, but in a more sophisticated manner.

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And Diana accessorized with turkey feathers. The End.

Your thoughts?

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ICYMI: This is how you #BreaktheInternet

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It involves keeping your clothes on (ahem, Mrs. Kanye West) and Solange Knwoles did it in immaculate white ensembles this past weekend. The occasion? Her chic, modern wedding to love Alan Ferguson. The interweb collectively swooned.

The couple celebrated Saturday night with a showing of Mahogany (a classic film the couple watched on their first date…and we spy Solange carrying that adorable Kate Spade bag we posted!) at Indywood Cinemas, and were married at The lovely Marigny Opera house on Sunday. The pair pedaled to the ceremony on matching white vintage bikes, for which Ms. Knowles wore a Stéphane Rolland caped pantsuit. She changed into an Humberto Leon for Kenzo caped gown for the ceremony, and the theme seems to have been white haute for all, including her mother, Tina, and sister, Beyonce.

Photos were released via Vogue.com Sunday evening.

Fab. (And yes, I’m all about the drama of capes. See HERE and HERE.) This is such a refreshing personal statement that seems authentic to Solange’s overall style and aesthetic. Nothing about this wedding (from the pictures, at least) seems forced or hung up on traditional wedding style, which I think is great.  I’m especially loving Mama Tina’s ensemble; I hate it when mothers of the bride and groom get stuck in frumpy, matronly outfits. And I’m predicting a lot of “white haute” nuptials and caped brides come spring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hanna Antiques to hold fur sale

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I know, I know. Some of you feel wearing fur is passé. This post is not for you.

For those of you who enjoy the comfort of a mink or fox, and love the vintage charm of a gently-loved piece, strut on down to Hanna Antiques for their fur sale November 12-15! Hanna Antiques Mall is one of My favorite places to get lost on a Saturday afternoon, and owner Bonny Hanna Picard is lovely. On several occasions I’ve found absolute jewels, including a perfectly-kept wool coat with silk lining and mink collar from local department store legend Loveman’s and a pair of exquisite rhinestone clip-on earrings. The quality and prices are tough to beat, and Hanna Antiques also offers layaway (conditions apply).

If you are in search of a fur piece at an affordable price, don’t miss this opportunity! But be aware: Hanna Antiques doesn’t accept American Express!

Hanna Antiques is located at 2424 7th Avenue South, Birmingham, AL 35233.

Happy shopping!

ICYMI: Get ready to ‘fall back’!

 

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Click HERE to find out how you can ease the transition to daylight savings time! Don’t forget to set your clocks back this weekend!

Xo,
Alexis

Tune in to ‘Alabama Live’ this Friday!

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Guess who’ll be back on tomorrow?!

Toss some sequins and tune in to WSFA’s Alabama Live! this FRIDAY between 10:45-11:45 AM to see what we’ll be chatting about. I guarantee it’s news you can use!

Not in the local viewing area?

You can find WSFA’s “Right this Minute Video Coverage” by clicking HERE, and a link to Alabama Live! by clicking HERE. I’m not 100% sure this appearance will be streamed live, so if it isn’t I’ll definitely share a link later.

As always, thanks so much for your support!

Xo, Alexis

#WIW: Magic City Classic Soiree 2014

 

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What a weekend! I needed a night out, and had a blast at one of the Magic City Classic’s premier events, the Classic Soirée! This party with a purpose (raising scholarship funds for students at ASU and Alabama A&M) calls for a special outfit. Rather than my usual sequins, I wanted something a bit more subdued. I wore this blush pink tailored jumpsuit by TopShop (a UK retailer partnering with none other than Beyonce on an clothing line!), paired with my Grande Crystal Drops necklace from J. Crew. Simple, effortlessly chic, and a definite standout in a sea of LBDs.

I love pink; I don’t actually wear it often, but it’s my signature color. And while the fall color palette is decidedly darker, I like to wear “blush and bashful” as a counterpoint. The talented Kimberly Black-Crawford of Saks Fifth Avenue applied my makeup; go see her! I love a bronze eye with a nude lip; for a bit of color I mixed in a little of Trish McEvoy’s luxe Essential Lip Balm available at Saks.

And I took an amazing “usie” with the host of the Soirée; check out our Instagram page to find out more @samechicdifferentday!

Xo, Alexis

GIF via Musings of a Curvy Lady; images via TopShop, J. Crew and Google

Aveda Institute to host benefit fashion show

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Join the Aveda Institute of Birmingham for an elegant evening of fashion and an auction at Gabrella Manor on Wednesday, October 29! Pink, white, purple or black cocktail attire is encouraged.

First person fabulous: Malia Marbury

Malia Marbury, 20, is a junior at Alabama State University. The Birmingham native, who graduated from Minor High School, is majoring in Business Marketing. After graduation, she aspires to be a marketing executive with Gap Inc. This is one busy girl; in addition to her studies, Malia is a third-year cheerleader for the Hornets and is also active in the SGA Event Committee, Student Government Association and the American Marketing Association. We caught up in the midst of Magic City Classic festivities to talk style.

How would you describe your sense of style? I’m not too flashy; I like things that are simple but cute.

Do you dress up or dress down for class? I dress up. [A typical outfit] is business attire: a black skirt and button-down, with baby heels. We can’t wear four-inch or higher heels in the business department, so maybe a 3-inch heel. In between classes I wear flats.

What are some of the major fall trends you’re wearing? Brown boots, and I like colored pants and jeans – green or orange – with a button down and a scarf.

What’s your go-to outfit? If I’m going out, a go-to outfit would be some cute leggings and a cute blouse. [Malia emphasized that choosing leggings that fit properly and are well-made is key.]

What are your favorite places to shop? Lotus Boutique, Francesca’s, Old Navy and Target

How do you balance school with all your other activities and still maintain a social life? It’s hard – I’m taking 18 hours and we travel almost every other weekend. But it’s all a matter of time management and being mature. If there’s a party coming up but I have homework, my homework comes first. When I receive an assignment I try do it right away.

Who has been a major influence on your sense of style? Dayira Jones (@dayybella on Instagram); she’s really big in Atlanta for doing promotions and marketing seminars. She’s classy but professional; she wears up-to-date styles but she doesn’t make them look cheap.

What I love about Malia’s sense of style is it’s modest without being dowdy, and she has such a ladylike demeanor! We wish her every success at ASU and beyond.

Images via Malia Marbury

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Know someone who has an amazing sense of style? Nominate him or her for our next First Person Fabulous by emailing Alexis (alexis@samechicdifferentday.com)!

 

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