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The Wit and Wisdom of a Cocktail Napkin

Eat Drink

Cocktail napkins are a staple of the gracious pantry. With today’s printing technology we no longer have make do with single color 3-plys if we don’t want to. The technology unleashed the creativity, wit and wisdom of the napkins’ manufacturers, leaving us to cackle and smile wryly at their messages. It’s a bit of a pastime for me to check out a shop’s selection for a quick injection of humor, cleverness or affirmation of Southern charm.


French Army Knife cocktail napkin © The Gracious PosseA personal favorite; I rue the day I run out of these.

Napkin at Janet Brown Interiors © The Gracious PosseIndeed.

Personal Assistant napkin from 5807 © The Gracious PosseStaff: a secret goal of mine.

Paris...found at Mongrel © The Gracious PosseUttered by our Patron Saint of Graciousness, Audrey Hepburn.

Over Scheduled napkin © The Gracious PosseAmen. Still working on that over-scheduled part.


napkin at Janet Brown Interiors © The Gracious PosseI once had a client put this wise quote on a moving announcement. So true!

In this House..found at Mongrel © The Gracious PosseWish I’d had this when my chilluns were under roof!

napkin at Creme de la Creme © The Gracious PosseThat’s comforting, especially when the soufflé falls.

All you need napkin © The Gracious PosseAgreed!

Tabletopics napkin © The Gracious PosseMy favorite family game brought to the cocktail napkin. Brilliant.

Hello napkin © The Gracious PosseReminding us to introduce ourselves to unfamiliar faces. 

Southern Charm

Cheers Y'all from 5807 © The Gracious PosseLOVE the fonts and layout of this cheerful napkin.

A Southerner napkin © The Gracious PosseI fall into the wise enough category. You?

I'm Fixing To napkin © The Gracious PosseMy new fave.

Of course there are times when I love to use my monogrammed cocktail napkins, but it’s fun to bring out the witty and wise ones to add sparkle to the conviviality of the event. I just found these awesome napkins. I’ll order them to have on hand for next year’s Independence Day celebration. 

“MAY THE 4th BE WITH YOU” napkins


July 2, 2015

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In Celebration of the Surprisingly Sturdy Annabelle Hydrangea

Her Sister's Shoes book launch flowers © The Gracious Posse3

Last week found me up to my eyeballs in blossoms. Between a launch party for Ashley Farley’s new book, Her Sister’s Shoes, and helping Madeleine Elmer of Fleur de Vie Houston with a local rehearsal dinner and out-of-towners’ brunch, I was in one heck of a happy place. My only concern ~ would all of the local hydrangeas that we had harvested for these two events survive through them?

Her Sister's Shoes book launch flowers © The Gracious Posse

Since Ashley’s new novel culminates around the 4th of July, she wanted a red, white and blue scheme. Blue and white hydrangeas took the starring role in the flower arrangements. Generous friends offered up bushes of blue and white, and we thoroughly conditioned these big blossoms overnight after removing their leaves and recutting the stems.

hydrangea hedge © The Gracious Posse

Ellen’s bountiful hedge of Annabelle hydrangeas yielded plenty of white blooms, but I worried that their long narrow stems wouldn’t keep the flowers hydrated for long. As I alternated the Annabelles with blue mophead hydrangeas, Solomon’s seal and lavender for hand-tied bouquets, a few of their stems bent and had to be discarded. Needless to say, I was more than a little anxious to see how they were holding up eight hours later when the party was set to begin.

mostly mophead arrangement © The Gracious Posse

Fortunately the bouquets sat in these marvelous pitchers and had plenty of water. By the time I said goodnight to Ashley, the hydrangeas were still going strong, and they looked just as good the following day. We were fortunate that by the end of June, Annabelle hydrangeas are reaching maturity and are longer-lived than if we had harvested them earlier in the month.

Fleur de Vie bar top arrangement © The Gracious Posse

Bright and early Thursday morning, Madeleine gave Ellen and me our gathering orders for additional flowers that she needed to give her nuptial arrangements that Virginia touch. Hydrangeas don’t grow in far southern climes like Houston, so Madeleine was thrilled to use our local ones. Ellen again offered her voluptuous crop of Annabelles (this time the greener blooms), and I again got to fretting. We wouldn’t have the luxury of giving them the overnight soak that I was certain they required. With so many other arrangements to prepare, the hydrangeas were being arranged that afternoon and some of them in oasis no less.

Fleur de Vie rehearsal dinner arrangement © The Gracious Posse

To my surprise and delight, after a dip in alum the hydrangeas survived the night and looked fabulous for the following evening’s rehearsal dinner. The Annabelles are definitely made of sturdier stuff than their lean stems would suggest. I am doubtful that the local mopheads are quite to that point in their maturity yet, so I am glad that Madeleine’s designs did not require the blues that are often requested in wedding arrangements.

St. Stephen’s altar hydrangeas © The Gracious Possemophead hydrangeas starting to shrivel in this Sunday’s altar arrangement while the Annabelles are holding their own

So cheers to the surprisingly sturdy Annabelle hydrangea!

Her Sister's Shoes book launch flowers and blueberry mojito © The Gracious Posse(try a blueberry mojito this 4th of July)

If these hydrangeas survive the beat down of a summer rainstorm, they should bring you long-lasting pleasure in your cut arrangements. Now more than ever, I want my own hedge of them – deer be *$%&ed. Fortunately for the posse, Ellen is a gracious sharer.


June 30, 2015

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Ready, Set, Launch ~ Her Sister’s Shoes Is Available Tomorrow for Your Summer Reading Pleasure

Her Sisters Shoes

Local RVA author and posse member Ashley Farley releases her new book tomorrow, and you’ve got to add it to your summer reading list. Set in the imaginary coastal South Carolina town of Prospect, you will meet a cast of relatable characters who will immediately draw you into their familial story.

pelican in Murrell's Inlet

For the lucky few of us who received an advance copy, we all agree with the trade description:

For fans of Dorothea Benton Frank, Her Sister’s Shoes is a contemporary women’s novel that explores and proves the healing power of family. 

Set in the South Carolina Lowcountry and packed with Southern charm and memorable characters, Her Sister’s Shoes is the story of three sisters—Samantha, Jackie, and Faith—who struggle to balance the demands of career and family while remaining true to themselves. 

Samantha Sweeney has always been the glue that holds her family together, their go-to girl for love and support. When an ATV accident leaves her teenage son in a wheelchair, she loses her carefully constructed self-control. 

In the after-gloom of her dreaded fiftieth birthday and the discovery of her husband’s infidelity, Jackie realizes she must reconnect with her former self to find the happiness she needs to move forward. 

Faith lacks the courage to stand up to her abusive husband. She turns to her sisters for help, placing all their lives at risk. 

In the midst of their individual challenges, the Sweeney sisters must cope with their mother’s mental decline. Is Lovie in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, or is her odd behavior normal for a woman her age? No one, including Lovie, understands her obsession with a rusty key she wears around her neck.

This novel is Ashley’s second. Her first book, Saving Ben, spun a chilling tale from Charlottesville to Irvington, Virginia. In Her Sister’s Shoes, Ashley again winds intrigue and suspense into her plot and lovely setting, but as a more seasoned author, the new story flows effortlessly.

Once I started reading the book, I could not put it down. I devoured it like a piece of key lime pie from the Yellow Umbrella, our local seafood store that sells a delicious sweet and tangy version of the southern specialty. The Yellow Umbrella served as the physical model for the Sweeney’s family business, which plays a critical role in Ashley’s tale.

yellow umbrella fish counter

One of the first things I told Ashley after finishing the book was that I want her to revisit the town of Prospect in another story since I can’t visit it in real life. She painted such a vivid picture of this imaginary locale in one of my favorite areas of the world.

Murrell’s Inlet dock

My fingers are crossed that she will continue to use it as the basis for her tales like Elin Hilderbrand uses Nantucket.

yellow umbrella new-01

Speaking of the Yellow Umbrella, Ashley’s first book signing will be held there this Saturday, June 27th from 1-3 p.m. In celebration, the Yellow Umbrella will also host a wine tasting. If you can’t wait for your book to be delivered, plan to stop by to get a copy and toast the author (and maybe pick up dinner).

Yellow Umbrella takeout cooler

I admire anyone who can imagine a story and turn it into a novel, and having had the privilege of being an occasional listening post for Ashley as she persisted through the inevitable struggles that accompanied the writing and subsequent publication of this book, I stand in awe of her latest accomplishment. When I asked her awhile back, she confided her initial inspiration for Her Sister’s Shoes:

I got to thinking after we talked . . . about why I decided to write Shoes. The Sweeney Sisters have become such a part of me, I stopped questioning how they were conceived a long time ago.

Two summers ago, when I was visiting my mother, my brother took the kids and me deep-sea fishing. I hadn’t been in years. We had so much fun. His good friend and mate, Robert, went with us. The kids caught a bunch of fish of a variety I’d never eaten before. Can’t even remember what they called them. But Miles sold most of them to the seafood market where Robert works, which is of course customary. Being out on the water and in the inlet reminded me of how much I love the Lowcountry, hence the setting and seafood market. 
I also wanted to write a novel about women our age and all the issues we struggle with including aging parents. I needed each sister to have her own crisis . . . . [Once] I had a vision of the ending . . . everything else fell into place after that.
From inspiration to perspiration and now, finally, to publication! Here’s your chance to take a trip to Prospect and meet the Sweeney sisters. Her Sister’s Shoes provides a great summer escape that you can carry in your beach bag.

June 23, 2015

p.s. If you can’t make it to the Yellow Umbrella on Saturday, Ashley will also be signing books on July 18th at the Barnes & Noble at Libbie Place from 1-3 p.m.