Thanksgiving Conversation or Let the Games Begin

Thanksgiving conversation: That delicate annual dance between cheerful fodder and high blood pressure. There are rules to be embraced at times like these–lest you and your (insert your scandalous statement here) be the topic of conversation at the next family prayer meeting. So here are a few ideas on avoiding missteps during this annual foray into family front.

Topics to Avoid:

While it will be painfully obvious as guests eat their meal in peace and quiet that you have not blessed your parents with grandchildren yet, I would suggest that this is not the right moment to bring up that you also vote democrat.

No one cares about Scandal as much as you do. No one. And no, I don’t want to binge watch it so we can talk about it. No. Really.

Aunt Ivy may not have invited Clara Sue to that reunion, but who knew her address changed after the divorce? (Everyone but Aunt Ivy apparently.) All families have tiffs. If you are neither Aunt Ivy or Clara Sue, this issue is not yours. Sit there quietly and daydream about the Nora Ephron movie of your choice. (For me, it’s always the street fair scene in You’ve Got Mail when Rockin’ Robin is playing and Tom Hanks is in the turkey.)

Topics to Embrace:

Projects that involve just enough skill to be impressive to Uncle Bill. For example: An outdoor project involving a drill or shovel. Warning: Avoid projects involving saws as these stories always lead to unappetizing anecdotes.

Topics that entice a humble brag from your guests. People love to talk about themselves, y’all. Know your guests before they arrive, and encourage them to talk about something fab they’ve done lately.

Taylor Swift. She’s everywhere right now and your niece, grandmother, and even your brother Steve (after reading this Esquire article) can now openly admit they love her.

Your vinyl collection. Universal truth: 99% of people like music of one sort or another. People over the age of 49 have memories of spinning vinyl as they discovered rock-n-roll and made out in their parent’s living room. Those under the age of 49 relish the hunt for their favorite old records in pristine condition. Bonus: Every family has an audiophile at the table who will be more than happy to share the science of why records are superior to whatever you just downloaded from iTunes.

The Playlist

Finally, when in doubt, sit back and enjoy that you get time with this crazy special group of family and friends. Perhaps sit back and enjoy it quietly while listening to whatever music is playing in the background. Here is our Thanksgiving playlist…

Countdown to Thanksgiving

Only a couple days left in the countdown to Thanksgiving so I wanted to share a few recipes that have been a hit in the past and a some that will be on our menu this year.

The countdown is a little more real for the turkeys. #thanksgiving

The countdown is a little more real for some than for others.

The Turkey

In the past, I was always a fan of roasting with beer and fresh herbs. But last year, we broke with tradition and used Alton Brown’s brining method. I’ll never look back. Here’s the full recipe. 

The Sides

I made this spicy roasted squash with feta and herbs two weeks ago and have made it at least twice since. I knew sriracha held magic powers, but wow! Bonus for those that are a little scared of spice: the brown sugar and feta even things out perfectly.

Sautéed brussels sprouts with bacon and golden raisins. My mother-in-law, known when we first met for her general disdain of all things green, loved these so much after our first Thanksgiving that she humbly requested “those green things with the bacon” the next year.

The Lee Brothers are masters of Southern fare, and while I have yet to actually make this pimento cheese potato gratin, I’m sure it will be a perfect addition to our menu.

Cranberry Orange Relish: My recipe is here. 

Emma Chapman’s recipes can make anyone look like a baker–including myself. These Rosemary Parker House rolls are a delicious twist on the classic that also make for the perfect post-turkey-day sandwiches.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Snack | Hannah & Husband

The Treats

If you’re going to have a house full of company, you should also have a house full of snacks. Our two favorites this time of year are…

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Snack

Momma’s Fantasy Fudge

Spiced Bourbon Apple Pie | Hannah & Husband

The Pies

When I was 9, I won a pie contest with my Woo-Woo’s recipe for Pumpkin Pie. It is always my go-to.

Hands down, the best apple pie ever: Emma’s (again, she can make anyone look like a baker) Spiced Bourbon Apple Pie. I always make ours in an iron skillet and, while you have to watch the bake time, that really sends it over the moon!

Looking for a little more inspiration?
Check out my pinterest board:

The Belle’s Thanksgiving Game Plan

What are your go-to recipes? Anything we *must* try?

New Year’s Eve Plans

What are you doing New Year’s Eve?


We’re thinking a simple night in with a home-cooked meal. What are your plans?

HGTV Home for the Holidays: Behind the Scenes

HGTV, holiday party

That’s me, Blondie, instagramming away!

If you’ve been watching my Instagram this week, you know that our Made + Remade crew over at DIY Network teamed up with HGTV’s Design Happens to throw a holiday party of epic proportions. In the coming weeks each of the blogs will be posting about how we pulled together everything from the mantel to the bar with our characteristic sparkle & charm. The fabulous team put together some really unique projects inspired by Liz’s vision of a modern, rustic holiday party. (See her mood board post here.) We shot in a stone room at the Knoxville Botanical Gardens, and while I can’t give away the finished shots, I just had to share some behind-the-scenes peeks!

HGTV, holiday party

Despite the fact that it made my face itchy (I’m allergic to Christmas.), that big, leafy thing on the left was one of my very favorites. My friend Virginia made it–she’s the one wrapped in fur below.

HGTV, holiday party

Kayla, Virginia, & Farima getting cozy with Grant hiding in the back. That fabulous bow with the mad iPhone skills? That would be my girl Deanne!

HGTV, holiday party

Keri rocked out a beautiful hanging sculpture. Finished pics will be on one of the blogs in a couple weeks.

HGTV, holiday party

Liz has a serious gift for baked goods. Wait until you see the rest of the food–it was gorgeous!

My first contribution are some invites you can download and then dress up. Click here to read the post!

My Holiday Mantel on DIY’s Made + Remade


This week on DIY’s Made + Remade, we debuted our latest Blogger Challenge. Inspired by the upcoming holiday season, five bloggers partnered with JoAnn to create a holiday mantel. The one I created is a wintry white with a vintage vibe that I have to admit is a lot more more neutral (read: elegant) than my normal red & green kitschy ornaments we’ll bust out in December. Take a look at all 3 of my posts:

(Tips for Achieving my) Wintry Mantel with Vintage Style

Make Yarn Trees for Modern Winter Decor

Repurpose Old Jars into Holiday Decor


Then, check out the other mantels! There are some serious Pinterest-worthy projects.

Ellen’s Whimsical Mantel With Natural and Coastal Touches
(Love her Birch Log Fireplace Screen!)

Emily’s Natural and Sophisticated Mantel

Kim’s Rustic Winter Wonderland Christmas Mantel
(Love her DIY Cabin Snow Globe!)

Amy’s Luxe and Rustic Christmas Mantel

Which one is your favorite?

Happy Easter!

Ezra Jack Keats Jennie's Hat

This illustration from Jennie’s Hat by Ezra Jack Keats always reminds me of an Easter bonnet. Enjoy this special day with friends & family! *Happy Easter!*

Style File: Holiday Inn

Holiday Inn, 1942  |  Secrets of a Belle

In honor of Presidents’ Day, I just couldn’t resist sharing a little Style File from a favorite of ours: 1942’s Holiday Inn. It’s the classic story of boy meets girl set to the tunes of Irving Berlin.

Boy falls in love with girl. Boy’s friend steals girl. Boy moves to farm and finds new girl. Rinse and repeat.

Some would call it a Christmas movie, but I think it’s best enjoyed during the month of February: such a short month yet so many holidays! Regardless of when, here are a few things to be taken…

Holiday Inn, 1942 | Secrets of a Belle

Old movie sets remind us that cliché can sometimes be fantastic.

The house used in Holiday Inn was the *perfect* New England home. So perfect, in fact, that it was later reused in 1954’s White Christmas. (Personally, my dream house will have those big windows!) However, a few nuances I’d really like to point out are the contrasts between the “girl’s room” and the “boy’s room.” Please note: the lace curtains, hand-painted glass lamps, and chaise lounge, versus the printed drapes and model ship. I’m not gonna lie, I have to go with the gender stereotypes on this one; I’d love to put on my make-up in front of that vanity. (My regular, non-controversial makeup that brings me closer to looking like Joan Rivers than Jennifer Hudson, but keep reading.)

Holiday Inn, 1942 | Secrets of a Belle

Find a room that has it all.

Working in the industry that I do, I often hear people go on and on about open-concept floor plans. Personally, I’ll just take this one living room if you don’t mind.

Holiday Inn, 1942 | Secrets of a Belle

Holiday Inn, 1942 | Secrets of a Belle

When it comes to holidays, overdo it!

Holiday Inn is just that: an inn that is open *just* for holidays. And each holiday comes with some seriously fantastic decor. Take a look…

Holiday Inn, 1942 | Secrets of a Belle Holiday Inn, 1942 | Secrets of a Belle

Holiday Inn, 1942 | Secrets of a Belle

Maybe I Should Clarify…

Overdo it… tastefully. Which brings us to the first February holiday: February 12th, Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. The performance of “Abraham” (obviously not Irving Berlin’s best work) has become so controversial that most channels airing the movie cut it entirely.

Black Face controversy from Holiday Inn, 1942 | Secrets of a Belle

While the black face makes my stomach ache, it’s interesting to think of it in the context of when this movie was made: 1942. That’s nearly 80 years after the Civil War’s conclusion but just a decade before the Civil Rights Movement really got ramped up.

Also worth noting in this song (and throughout the film) is the fabulous Louise Beavers. You may recognize her because around this time she was in everything! (For instance, she absolutely stole the show in this movie with Cary Grant.)

Louise Beavers in Holiday Inn, 1942 | Secrets of a Belle

Anyway, after Lincoln’s birthday is Valentine’s Day which, of course, is best celebrated surrounded by an overabundance of hearts, lace, crepe paper, and plenty of creepy cupids! As a side note, how glorious is that dress?

We really should work together to bring back “Black Tie.”

Holiday Inn, 1942 | Secrets of a Belle Holiday Inn, 1942 | Secrets of a Belle

Finally, in the words of Paula Deen,

“The closer to Jesus, the better we like it!”

Maybe it’s the Southern Belle in me, but don’t you just *adore* the hair and dress for George Washington’s birthday? It’s as if Linda Mason could be Scarlett O’Hara’s 18th century cousin with that hoop skirt & big hair!

Holiday Inn, 1942 | Secrets of a Belle

So Happy Presidents’ Day! Will you be watching Holiday Inn? If so, please remember to celebrate in style!

Sunday Snapshot

Husband and I spent a blissful Valentine’s weekend deep in the mountains beside a potbelly stove with lots of food, wine, and books. I hope your weekend was equally as lovely!

Valentine 2013  |  Secrets of a Belle

A Little Mood Music

I am a Spotify zealot and iTunes devotee so mood music for the season is a must. With that said, I’ve had several requests for Christmas music lately so I thought I would just do a little post about some of my favorite albums to keep on in the background while baking cookies, opening presents, and drinking champagne. Enjoy!


Pops Christmas Party  |  Arthur Fiedler

Joy to the World  |  Pink Martini

The Nutcracker Suite  |  Duke Ellington

Christmas  |  Michael Bublé

Crescent City Christmas Card  |  Wynton Marsalis

CeeLo’s Magic Moment  |  CeeLo Green

A Charlie Brown Christmas  |  Vince Guaraldi Trio

Miracle on 34th Street Soundtrack

Silver & Gold  |  Sufjan Stevens

A Merry Christmas  |  Stan Kenton

The Stan Kenton Christmas Carols  |  Boston Brass & the Brass All-Stars Big Band