Upcoming Classes – Come Gather with Me!

I’ve got three upcoming classes from my School of Gracious Living you are not going to want to miss!  Remember they are virtual so you never have to leave home or your pajamas. I cook and create right along with you.

Flower Arranging 101:  This class is coming up this Saturday morning at 10 a.m. I walk you step-by-step on how to take a few bunches of flowers from the supermarket and make a lovely flower arrangement to keep or give. $25 (plus supplies). Register here .

Frieda’s Strawberry Cake – this is my sister’s recipe and it’s the only cake requested for all our February birthdays. Sister Bee will be in the class to share the history of this rich and yummy cake perfect for strawberry season.  I will walk you through the recipe from start to finish for you to enjoy this delicious cake with your family. It’s required that you lick the icing during class! $35. Register here.

 

Kind Gestures to Support a Grieving Friend: I am asked this question all the time, “What is something nice I can do to help my grieving friend?” Over the years, watching my mother’s gift of gracious giving, I’ve curated some special gestures to let my loved ones know I care. In this class, we will gather at my kitchen table with coffee, like friends do, and I will share tips, recipes, and prompts on what to say and do. Tuition includes a downloadable printable. $35. Register here.

To learn more about my School of Gracious Living visit here. I will be adding new classes for July. Check out my store here to see a pantry organizing class coming up on June 20.

Let’s gather, learn, and create.

Mother’s Poppy Seed Chicken

I loved it when Mother made Poppy Seed Chicken, so much so I asked her to make it for my birthday dinners (with, of course, her Elizabeth Doyle’s Chocolate Cake recipe).  It’s the perfect meal for a weeknight dinner or a weekend dinner party with friends. Add brown rice, a salad, and rolls and you’ve got comfort food at its best.  Poppy Seed Chicken can be made ahead, from freezer to oven, and is a great entree to take to a friend in need. We enjoyed it last Sunday and served it on a bed of brown rice, with sides of watermelon and a tomato and cucumber salad.

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups cooked chicken, sliced into bite-size chunks
  •  2 cans cream of chicken soup
  •  16 ounces sour cream
  •  3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  •  1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  •  1 tablespoon dried parsley
  •  3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  •  1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  •  2 cups crushed Ritz crackers (about 2 sleeves)
  •  1/2 cup butter, melted
  1. Preheat oven heat to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the cream of chicken soup, sour cream, Parmesan, poppy seeds, parsley, garlic powder, and black pepper. Stir, then add the cooked chicken and stir again until the meat is evenly coated in sauce. Transfer to a 9×13-inch baking dish.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the crushed Ritz crackers and melted butter with a fork. Sprinkle over the chicken mixture.
  4. Bake, uncovered, for 35-40 minutes until the cracker topping is golden brown and the filling is hot all the way through and bubbling around the edges.

Enjoy!

What Would Holley Wear: Staycation NYC Inspired

As much as I hate to admit it, it looks like staycations are looming in all of our galaxies.  Please don’t hate the messenger….because she has some really cute staycation outfits to share with you.  

Just so you know, the original plan for this article was going to be about what to wear Memorial Day weekend in NYC.  We were so looking forward to spending the weekend with our son, taking in the city, and strolling through Central Park!  

But back to reality….we actually spent this Memorial Day weekend at home.  That being said, I decided to make the most of it and wore some of the outfits I had planned to wear in the city.  Like Central Park, I have a feeling your backyard or courtyard is also a peaceful oasis….the perfect setting for a summer midi skirt and sandals.  FYI…you will definitely want to take a look at all the cute “city” skirts on our Pinterest board.  

We were looking forward to dining on a friend’s penthouse terrace in mid-town Manhattan.  But in real life….we picked up at What-A-Burger and had dinner on our balcony.  In keeping with a New York state of mind, I dressed up a bit and wore a yellow floral print skirt paired with a white blouse tied at the waist with J McLaughlin rattan slides.  An Alice & Olivia tiered floral maxi also makes for a stunning terrace/balcony party look.  WWHW, party of two….your table is ready!

 “Start spreading the news”….it’s wine time!  So Chris had planned to take us to the Yale Club for drinks on the terrace.  That didn’t happen….so we went with “Plan B”.  This basically meant we had a delicious glass of wine (or two) in our “wine room.”  So let’s discuss a few options that are ideal for an upscale city bar or an at-home “wine room”.  

I’m loving a black bubble skirt from Zara….just add a white puffy-sleeved top paired with Sam Edelman’s black strappy sandals.   Another classy look that’s great for travel and wine tasting is flowy pants.  I repurposed a pair I purchased several years ago and paired them with a white tee and a blazer…ideal for a mimosa in the wine room!   Cheers to a healthy NYC!

All that being said….this one’s on the house!  

Holley Williams is a personal stylist specializing in closet inventory, seasonal shopping, and wardrobe consultation.  Be sure to check her Holley Williams Style on Pinterest.  Contact Holley at [email protected]

Our Books of Summer 2020

Our Book Club is celebrating its third year!  We are 130 women-strong and I am thrilled with how we’ve pivoted to still meet through a virtual experience. I hope you will join us this summer as we read three fabulous new releases. You can find all three selections as well as how to join our book club here.

First, The Herd by Andrea Bartz.  We are working with Andrea to see if her summer travel schedule works with our book club virtual gathering on Thursday, June 25 at 7 p.m. CST.

NAMED ONE OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED THRILLERS OF 2020 BY Marie Claire · Newsweek · The Boston Globe · HelloGiggles · Book Riot · PopSugar · CrimeReads · Bustle · She Reads

The name of the elite, women-only coworking space stretches across the wall behind the check-in desk: THE HERD, the H-E-R always in purple. In-the-know New Yorkers crawl over one another to apply for membership to this community that prides itself on mentorship and empowerment. Among the hopefuls is Katie Bradley, who’s just returned from the Midwest after a stint of book research blew up in her face. Luckily, Katie has an in, thanks to her sister, Hana, an original Herder and the best friend of Eleanor Walsh, the Herd’s charismatic founder.      
 
Eleanor is a queen among the Herd’s sun-filled rooms, admired and quietly feared even as she strives to be warm and approachable. As head of PR, Hana is working around the clock to prepare for a huge announcement from Eleanor—one that will change the trajectory of the Herd forever. Though Katie loves her sister’s crew, she secretly hopes that she’s found her next book subject in Eleanor, who’s brilliant, trailblazing—and extremely private.
 
Then, on the night of the glitzy Herd news conference, Eleanor vanishes without a trace. Everybody has a theory about what made Eleanor run, but when the police suggest foul play, everyone is a suspect: Eleanor’s husband, other Herders, the men’s rights groups that have had it out for the Herd since its launch—even Eleanor’s closest friends. As Hana struggles to figure out what her friend was hiding and Katie chases the story of her life, the sisters must face the secrets they’ve been keeping from each other—and confront just how dangerous it can be when women’s perfect veneers start to crack, crumble, and then fall away altogether.

For July, we are reading a brand new release from Sue Monk Kidd titled The Book of Longings: A NovelWe will meet virtually on Thursday, July 30, 7 p.m. CST.

An extraordinary story set in the first century about a woman who finds her voice and her destiny, from the celebrated number-one New York Times bestselling author of The Secret Life of Bees and The Invention of Wings

In her mesmerizing fourth work of fiction, Sue Monk Kidd takes an audacious approach to history and brings her acclaimed narrative gifts to imagine the story of a young woman named Ana. Raised in a wealthy family with ties to the ruler of Galilee, she is rebellious and ambitious, with a brilliant mind and a daring spirit. She engages in furtive scholarly pursuits and writes narratives about neglected and silenced women. Ana is expected to marry an older widower, a prospect that horrifies her. An encounter with eighteen-year-old Jesus changes everything.

Their marriage evolves with love and conflict, humor and pathos in Nazareth, where Ana makes a home with Jesus, his brothers, and their mother, Mary. Ana’s pent-up longings intensify amid the turbulent resistance to Rome’s occupation of Israel, partially led by her brother, Judas. She is sustained by her fearless aunt Yaltha, who harbors a compelling secret. When Ana commits a brazen act that puts her in peril, she flees to Alexandria, where startling revelations and greater dangers unfold, and she finds refuge in unexpected surroundings. Ana determines her fate during a stunning convergence of events considered among the most impactful in human history.

Grounded in meticulous research and written with a reverential approach to Jesus’s life that focuses on his humanity, The Book of Longings is an inspiring, unforgettable account of one woman’s bold struggle to realize the passion and potential inside her, while living in a time, place and culture devised to silence her. It is a triumph of storytelling both timely and timeless, from a masterful writer at the height of her powers.

And we will wrap up summer with reading American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins.  This virtual gathering will be on Thursday, August 27, 7 p.m. CST. 

También de este lado hay sueños. On this side, too, there are dreams.

Lydia Quixano Pérez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable.

Even though she knows they’ll never sell, Lydia stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. And then one day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with a few books he would like to buy—two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same.

Forced to flee, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia and Luca ride la bestia—trains that make their way north toward the United States, which is the only place Javier’s reach doesn’t extend. As they join the countless people trying to reach el norte, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to?

American Dirt will leave readers utterly changed. It is a literary achievement filled with poignancy, drama, and humanity on every page. It is one of the most important books for our times.

Already being hailed as “a Grapes of Wrath for our times” and “a new American classic,” Jeanine Cummins’s American Dirt is a rare exploration into the inner hearts of people willing to sacrifice everything for a glimmer of hope.

To stay well we will continue our successful virtual format gathering via Zoom through the summer.  Go ahead and download the free Zoom app on your personal computer or phone, create an account and join from your PC, Mac, iPhone or Android with this link:

https://tcu.zoom.us/j/4968825889

New to Zoom and not quite sure how to use it?  Here is a helpful printable walking you through the steps to create and use Zoom like a pro. Be sure to remember to practice Zoom “netiquette” during our meeting.

Even if you aren’t local to my area, you can join our book club, membership is free, through Bookmovement.  By signing up you will receive notifications on our upcoming meetings and the books we will be reading.  Plus, you can create your personal queue of books you want to read outside of our group and find out new releases and trends in all genres of books.  Friends are always welcome.  Be sure to visit our Bookmovement page to see the books we are reading for the summer.

No matter where you live, we’d love to have you join our community of women nationwide spending more time reading and less time using technology.  Join our movement! Stay well.

Fried Chicken 101

Mother taught me how to make fried chicken. It’s actually very easy to do; it just takes a little planning and patience. Of course, she never measured anything, and neither do I for this recipe, but it’s super easy to make it up.

First, buy a cut-up chicken – also called a “fryer” in the grocery store. It consists of two wings, two legs, two thighs, and two breasts. Alternatively, it’s cheaper to purchase a whole chicken and cut the chicken yourself, and you can save the bones to make chicken stock. Here a how-to video:

Wash your chicken to rinse off any extra salt used to preserve the chicken until the sell-by date. This next step requires planning because you are going to soak your chicken in buttermilk overnight, which helps to make the chicken tender and moist when it’s ready to eat. This process is very similar to brining a turkey. Pour a pint of buttermilk into a large mixing bowl, and add in about 2 TBL of dill pickle juice. The pickle juice adds in the salt and pulls the moisture into the chicken.  Stir the mixture, then place your chicken parts into the bowl. Turn over the chicken until it’s completely covered and submerged in buttermilk. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it inside the refrigerator until the next day.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment or waxed paper. The cookie sheet will be where you will place your dredged chicken pieces.

After you have brined your chicken overnight, you will now prepare your dredging station.  To make sure you have an extra crispy coating – because that’s why we all love fried chicken – we are going to double dredge each piece.  In a pie plate or shallow dish, pour in 2 cups of flour, 2 tsp of garlic powder, and 2 tsp of ground pepper. Stir until mixed.

Take the chicken pieces out of the buttermilk and lay them on a separate sheet of parchment or waxed paper on the counter (not on the cookie sheet). Do not rinse the parts. Reserve the buttermilk, do not throw it away.

Take a piece of the chicken from the waxed paper, dip in the flour, and with your fingers turn the chicken piece over and coat it’s evenly with flour. Then dip the chicken piece in the buttermilk, coating it lightly with milk (be gentle because you don’t want to remove all the flour from the first dip), then dip the chicken piece back into the flour mixture, coating it a second time. Place the double-coated piece of chicken onto the waxed-paper lined cookie sheet. Repeat this step until all the parts have been double-coated.  You may need to add more flour, garlic powder, and pepper to the dish if you run out during this process.

Discard the buttermilk and flour mixture once you are finished. Let the chicken sit on the counter for 30 minutes so the coating can set and come to room temp, so you aren’t putting cold chicken into hot grease.

While you are waiting for the chicken to rest, prepare your frying pan. I like to use my Grandmother’s cast-iron skillet because it retains heat, but if you don’t have one, a large skillet with high sides works fine. Place a candy thermometer on the side of the pan, without letting the tip touch the bottom of the pan.

Pour in about 2-inches of canola oil and heat the oil on medium-high until it reaches about 350 degrees. Regulating the temperature is where patience comes in. You have to oversee the oil to regulate the temperature, adjusting the heat as needed. Don’t watch a movie or text friends. Always attend to a skillet of hot oil – you hear me!

Once the oil has reached 350 degrees, very carefully start with the legs and wings, adding them in one at a time to the skillet. Cover the skillet with a grease guard like this . It protects you from popping grease and mess on the backsplash. Set the timer for 10 minutes. Don’t touch or mess with the chicken. After 10 minutes, turn the chicken over. While you are cooking your first batch of chicken, put another cookie sheet lined with foil and topped with a cooling rack (like ones you use for cookies) and place in a warm oven.  Do not put cooked chicken on a paper towel – it will make it soggy and defeat the whole reason we are doing this! The excess grease will drip off the chicken onto the cookie sheet.

Check your temperature, which likely dropped when you put your first batch of chicken in the grease. That’s okay, just slightly raise the heat. If the heat doesn’t go all the way back up to 350 degrees that okay, the grease and pan are still hot. Just work with adjusting the temperature a little at a time, but don’t fret if it doesn’t go up to 350 on the next batch.

After the first four pieces are finished cooking, place on the cooling rack in the oven, and move to wings and breasts. The breasts will need to cook 12 minutes on each side because they are thicker. So start with 10 minutes on the wings, turning them over, giving the breasts two more minutes to cook. Wings 10 minutes on side two, twelve minutes for the breasts on side two.  Remove from oil and put it into the warm oven. Let the last four pieces of chicken rest in the oven for about 10 minutes; then you will be ready to serve all your yummy fried chicken!

Since it does require some time and patience, fried chicken won’t be an everyday kind of meal, but when you do make it, your family will be in for a real treat! And, leftover fried chicken is perfect chopped up for a cobb salad the next day.

What Would Holley Wear: Quarantini Style

When is it considered too early to start drinking?  Asking for a friend!  That being said, this article is all about matching your outfit with your favorite adult beverage.  And I highly suggest you buzz on over to Mrs. Twist’s “quarantini” bar for delicious mixology recipes!   

So let me start by quoting Garth Brooks:  “I’ve got friends in low places, where the whiskey drowns and the beer chases my blues away.”  It doesn’t get any better than a whiskey margarita…right?  So I’m thinking a fun flowy midi skirt is ideal for this drinking scenario.  Free People offers the ultimate in bohemian style with their embroidered midi dress….available in 10 colors!  But back to the margaritas….I’ll take mine on the rocks with salt!

“Blame it all on my roots, I showed up in boots, and ruined your black-tie affair.”  So here’s the good news…in Texas, you can show up at any event, even a black-tie affair wearing boots.  Plus, I’m pretty sure beer and boots are a match made in heaven!  Did you know Dillard’s has a great selection of cowboy boots, and they look absolutely darling with floral dresses and skirts? To find the coolest in cowgirl/boho fashion, take a look at the fabulous options from Spell and the Gypsy.  

“Beer on whiskey, mighty risky.  Whiskey on wine…mighty fine!”  So what pairs well with wine?  Everything….but I do have a few delicious ideas.  I did a little closet digging and discovered a pair of wide-legged pants from a few years back….perfect for wine tasting.  When I think of Napa and Sonoma, anything flowy gives that cool wine country vibe.  And FYI…a flowy maxi dress pairs well with a Paso Roble Pinot Noir! 

To quote my 90-year-old dad, “I do my best thinkin’ when I’ve been drinkin’, and lately, I’ve been thinkin’ bout you.”  True story…you can’t make this stuff up!  So let’s start “thinkin’” about what to wear poolside.  We think J Crew’s neon pink tunic would be the perfect complement to any umbrella embellished drink.  Don’t you agree?  And Anthropologie’s Cali lounge pants are ideal for hanging out at the pool bar….while sipping a vodka tonic!

By the way, I’m blaming this article “all on my roots”….just saying!

Banana Chocolate Espresso Swirl Muffins

Here is a twist on banana bread – Banana Chocolate Espresso Swirl muffins. I had very ripe bananas on-hand and wanted to do something different with them. Plus, one of my very favorite breakfasts, when I go on vacation, is fresh-baked breakfast bread with fruit and a hot cup of coffee. Since I can’t go on vacation, and I had ripe bananas, I looked through my cookbooks to find something special.

Cue Bake from Scratch – Artisan Recipes for the Home Baker by Brian Hart Hoffman. Three-hundred twenty-six pages of baking everything from cookies to pastries and everything in between. It will make the perfect gift for the novice to the pro baker. It’s from the writers of the magazine.

The recipe is a little more effort than making banana bread, but it made about a dozen delicious muffins perfect for breakfast. The next time you host a coffee with friends, the muffins would be an excellent addition to the table. Plus, the rich chocolate flavor of the espresso could easily make these a dessert if you wanted to bake it in a loaf pan.

Photo credit: Bake from Scratch

Go straight to the recipe here and save it to your Pinterest Board.

Mrs. Twists Tip:  Dust the tops with powdered sugar and make sure to record in your cookbook the date you made these and the outcome so you have a history of your recipes. I always love finding my mother’s notes in her cookbooks.

Let’s Gather for a Virtual Open House!

I hope you’ve read my big announcement this week that I am teaching virtual home and garden classes – Mrs. Twist’s School of Gracious Living. I have been thinking for a long time how I can share all the things my mother taught me with other women, somehow making a difference. I love to see a woman’s face light up when they learn something new. You can see a radiance of self-confidence.  That is what I am hoping to see with my passion project.  Here’s a brief video introduction, with a peek at my home office…

Join me for a virtual sneak peek of my Gracious Living project – all schools must have an Open House – on Thursday, May 21, at 7 p.m. CST.  We will gather in my kitchen and connect without limitations.  I will gladly welcome you into my home, while you stay safe in your space.  Mostly, I want to hear what YOU want to learn?  I will have my pen and notebook handy to write down all your ideas. You might see a cat or two, in the background, too.

Ready to register?  Visit my Gracious Living store here.  The Open House is the first class listed. While you are there, take a look at the class schedule to see what’s planned.  The Open House is complimentary.  I promise if you spend a little time with me, you will like me!

Quarantine Cocktails – the BUZZ on monthly cocktail subscription boxes

A few weeks ago, I shared a photo of our beverage center in our family room. I love built-in cabinets, probably because I am a kid of the 70s when built-in desks and bars were the rage.  During a renovation several years ago, I talked with our contractor about my idea for a beverage bar on an unused wall space in our family, and she thought it was a terrific idea. I sketched what I wanted, and off we went to make it happen. A nod to the retro cocktail parties is the smoky mirror backsplash. Mixing up a cocktail or an espresso on our bar makes me giddy.

Photo credit: Ralph Lauer and 817Magazine

Since we are still practicing social distancing, our parties are now for two. We like to curate new cocktails and have a library full of mixology books. But sometimes what you end up with isn’t quite what you hoped.  I thought it would be fun to try a monthly cocktail subscription box and make a “date night” of the experience. I just received my first box from Shaker and Spoon. The concept is simple – each month, Shaker and Spoon send you a kit full of ingredients to create a cocktail based on the month’s theme (check out my Instagram Stories to see me unbox the kit).

Shaker & Spoon was founded in 2015 in Brooklyn by two designers (Mike and Anna) with an overfilled liquor cabinet. Tired of buying apricot brandy and cream sherry and not using them again, of needing hard-to-find ingredients at 10 p.m., of trying that complicated cocktail recipe only to be disappointed once it didn’t turn out they embarked on their new business. Now, with their monthly cocktail club, you just pick up the bottle, and they take care of the rest.  With their help, you’ll mix that drink perfectly—and always be the tastemaker in your circle.

This month’s box is called the Girls Just Wanna Have Bourbon, which Mr. Bee will be super happy with because bourbon is his go-to.  Each box contains supplies to make three recipes – four drinks each, you provide the liquor. Shake, stir, muddle, and more: each box is built around one spirit, showcasing various styles of cocktail-making.  You can read more here about this month’s box – each with a unique story on the mixologists who create the recipes.

The recipe cards (and how-to videos) guide you through mixing and garnishing the cocktails, step by step, and the glossary explains any unfamiliar bartending terms. Just follow their instructions, and you’ll create bar-quality drinks for yourself and anyone you’d like to show off to! Here’s one of the recipes we will be mixing up this weekend “Baba, Let Me Tell You One Thing . . .” starts with an intensely flavored base of bourbon, lemon, tea, cardamom, and bitters and tops it off with the sharp and subtle spice of ginger beer. This is bourbon at its bubbliest, making for a perfect bridge over Dark and Stormy–reminiscent waters into brighter days ahead!

photo credit: Shaker and Spoon

Monthly subscriptions vary in price depending on your plan. I chose the $50 a month (you can cancel anytime), which if you divide it by twelve cocktails that run about $4 a cocktail, making it a happy hour worth celebrating, especially if you already have the liquor on-hand.  Here’s the link to subscribe and stir up some fun times!  Cheers!

What Would Holley Wear: Pajama Style

In all honesty, this article was supposed to be about what to wear to spring parties, showers, and graduations.  As you know, all of these events were canceled….including our grandson, Evan’s, graduation from pre-school.  #SadLolley.

So, when is it considered too late in the day to stay in your pajamas?  Asking for a friend!  On that happy note….show me a cute pajama set, and I’ll show you a reason to stay in them all day long.  I love/love/love Shop Bop’s selection of sleepwear.  And yes, they are on the pricey side, but if you’re staying in them all day or all week long, I’m pretty sure you’ll be getting your money’s worth.  

Like a weighted blanket, a robe is a cozy way to feel safe.  And feeling safe is essential these days.  Don’t you agree?  BedHead Pajamas offers the perfect spring/summer robe in a blue or pink stripe.  We think matching robe and pajama sets are the ultimate in sleepwear.  From Draper James’ blue gingham pajama/robe set to Saks Fifth Avenue’s cami/PJ/robe set….coziness never looked so fashionable!

Whoever invented sleep pants is my hero!  Besides being ultra-comfy, all you need to add is a tee or sweatshirt.  So here’s a little tip:  If you already have pajama sets, think about pairing the pants with a tee, repurposing at its best!  We are smitten with Anthropologie’s selection of sleep pants, and especially their harem pants are so adorable!  And if you love luxury, then you’re going to love their tiger blossom pants. 

Remember back in the day, (like in January 2020), when we thought loungewear was something the affluent wore?  Not anymore.  Since we’re quarantined at home, we too can take time to lounge!  Bahia’s kimono wrap with fringe is ideal for indoor and outdoor lounging.  Have you heard of the brand, Young Fabulous & Broke?  Their flowy tie-dyed caftan dress says one thing to me – lifestyles of the rich and famous!  

So the answer to my question is this, you can stay in your PJs as long as you like.  Just be sure to add a little glam, kinda like the rich and famous! 

Holley Williams is a personal stylist specializing in closet inventory, seasonal shopping, and wardrobe consultation.  Be sure to check her Holley Williams Style on Pinterest.  Contact Holley at [email protected]