Tips For The Perfect Party

Yes, that’s a self-assuming (but SEO rich) title for this blog post, cause, when the McNultys do a shindig, it’s anything but perfect and a whole lot of fun. I should really do a blog on everything that goes wrong which you hope nobody sees, but that’s another day. Today, let’s talk about our annual Irish Christmas at Blackberry Hollow and oh how much fun it is planning for 365 days. Although it is summer in Tennessee, these tips can be used for any event! (Disclaimer: Business blogging is part of my real job so NanceSense gets a little neglected but never unloved!)

Party Music

When I approach a photo shoot for Forest Home Media, I love every pic to have the perfect setting with dashes of food, wine, art, fresh flowers, books and a hint of music. The planning for our party is much the same and the first thing I book is the music! We were thrilled to have Geno Hafner join us again on keyboard and loved daughter Maggie and friend Bo Turner joining him on a few songs. (As well as Keb’ Mo’ and super talented wife, Robbie Moore, singing a few tunes!) Among Geno’s many hats is a swing band The Dean Martinis which we love! Living in Music City, we’ve been blessed to have book violinists, guitar players and keyboardist….and this guy rocks!

Geno Hafner, Bo Turner, Maggie McNulty, Christmas at Blackberry Hollow

Geno Hafner was joined for a few songs by violinists Bo Turner and Maggie McNulty

Party Invites

Solutions on the most successful way to invite friends to a party are definitely being impacted by The Internet. We’ve used Facebook and email hoping to be more green but there’s something about the tactile wonderfulness of a printed invite that keeps calling me back to it. I revisited Simply To Impress for our Christmas card and party invite and was super satisfied again. I think the RSVP rate is higher. However, it is fun to have a private Facebook page for post-party pictures so next year, I’ll probably add it back into the mix. The guest list shifts slightly each year to accommodate folks we have spent more time with in the year. Basically, we include a hand full of favorites from neighbors and media friends/work to church and social. The mix always creates a cornucopia of fun!

Irish Christmas at Blackberry Hollow, NanceSense. Nashville, TN

 

Christmas at Blackberry Hollow, NanceSense, Nashville, TN

Charity In Lieu Of Hostess Gifts

Hosting this party for over two decades now, we are SO grateful for the kind hostess gifts but this year we again encouraged folks to just drop a little something in the bucket by the door instead. We don’t ask folks to bring food or wine as our gift to our guests. Hopefully, the donation bucket also simplifies the experience as well cause December can be flat out crazy for everybody. This year we chose Imagine No Malaria.

Imagine No Malaria, NanceSense, Nashville, TN

Party Favor

So, music, date and invite are first in the planning process, but I actually decided my party favor last summer! Although we call our home Blackberry Hollow for the abundance of blackberries, I LOVE blueberries and made jam for my guests during July. Several folks pitched in the 48 hours before the party including garden lifestyle expert Carmen Johnston but her hubs who actually adorned the favors with burlap and plaid. #TommyRocks

Tommy & Carmen Johnston, Desmond Child, Troy Marden, NanceSense, Nashville, TN

Tommy & Carmen Johnston, from Columbus, GA, with Desmond Child and Troy Marden. Tommy helped put the final touches on the party favors while Carmen “juzzed up” the place with her Southern Living magic!

Food

The menu is something I continue to tweak each year but there are standards which must happen or I guess somebody might stomp out the door. Here’s what we served this year. After heading up the PR team for the Nashville Holiday Parade of Homes at Kings’ Chapel, I was thrilled to have serving help from Cydney Osborne who made several of the yummo items this year too. #CydneyRocks

Menu: spiced nuts, corn beef ball, blue cheese crisps, stuffed mushrooms, Greer Dip, Chicken Fingers, Irish Venison Stew with noodles, shrimp ‘n grits, homemade rolls, fresh pineapple, Sundried Tomato Pesto Torta, shortbread cookies, chocolate cinnamon rum bread pudding, brownies, chocolate vanilla trifle, meringue cookies, caramel cake

Event Signature Drink

Love this party tradition! This year this was all the rage on Pinterest and Facebook and seriously adorable The Grinch! This recipe was 8x. We also served tons of water!

The Grinch

3 oz peach schnapps, 3 oz Bacardi® 151 rum, 12 oz orange juice, 4 oz Sprite® soda, 3 oz Blue Curacao liqueur

Grinch signature drink enjoyed by friends Jen Zawadzinski, from New York City, Dana Tucker, from Franklin, and Carmen Johnston, from Columbus, GA, NanceSense, Nashville, TNj

The Grinch signature drink enjoyed by friends Jen Zawadzinski, from New York City, Dana Tucker, from Franklin, and Carmen Johnston, from Columbua, GA, NanceSense, Nashville, TNj

 

Décor

Love having a Christmas party because it forces me to get my decorating act together. One of our favorite traditions is local florist Garden Delights festively dressing my mother’s swan. This year, found a monogrammed burlap runner at Grassland’s The Perfect Setting to add to the Irish plaid tablecloth. Another highlight for me each year is friend Lisha Pope decorating our mailbox with plaid & the Republic of Ireland flags!

Swan table decor, NanceSense, Nashville, TN

mailbox Irish flag

Next year, there will be an Irish toast by hubs and we are adding a variety of Irish cheeses to the mix. Really can’t figure out why we haven’t been doing it each year, but, many times, it’s just a crazy critical mass just getting the food on the table! Slainte dear friends!

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Driving In Ireland

Driving in countries on the left side of the road can be very intimidating especially when you are traveling with your husband and children. With a bit of experience in Bermuda and sheer determination, I took on this task June of 2014.

Nancy In Ireland Car

Look Left, Driving In Ireland, NanceSense, Nashville, TN

Cross walk in Dublin with Look Left!

First of all, yes, my husband does the bulk of vacation driving in the U.S., but, with his touch of dyslexia, I knew my safety paranoia was going to be a good motivation for taking on this task abroad and ended up being quite manageable. Here are my quick tips:

  • Watch YouTube videos on this to get that virtual training. I also practiced driving in a remote areas outside of Nashville on the left side of the road to get a feel for it.
  • When planning your trip, rent your car early to secure an automatic. Yes, my husband and I both can drive manuals, but, remember, you will be shifting opposite as well. It would save you money, but, for our first time out, we really wanted one less confusing element and rented an automatic.
  • Check Google images for the car you chose to get a feel of the trunk room as well. With a family of four, we traveled with 4 carryon bags and one checked bag for our liquid toiletries like contact solutions. It worked perfectly.
  • A good GPS system is critical. We rented one from Dollar (a division of Hertz). We also found a better “car hire” rate with this company. The GPS system gave us the audio commands but it was also helpful having my son read the GPS. You’ll find boys who play a lot of video games are great as navigators!
  • Roundabouts can be intimidating at first but it also means you are on bigger roads which we found easier. The signage wasn’t uniform and finding road names – many in Irish – was a little difficult. Counting the turns by number instead of name was very helpful.
  • I printed a sign for the car “Hard Left. Wide Right. Right Bites.” Yes, now I’m admitting my serious nerd-ness but it actually helped in the beginning.
  • CDW – Super Damage Waiver Insurance. The ultimate peace of mind was securing CDW insurance through the “car hire” company in case of damage to mirror, hub cab, etc. We had no scrapes, but, on the super narrow roads, we were just lucky.

 

Final tips:

 

Although we began our trip in Dublin, when renting a car for the first time, you might want to choose Shannon airport or a more remote area to begin driving in less congestion. We arrived in the morning after rush hour so we did just fine in Dublin and chose to only drive 40 minutes on our first leg to begin the trip slowly.

 

Galway Road Sign, Driving in Ireland,  NanceSense, Nashville, TN

Before jumping out of the car to tour, take a picture of the road sign where you are leaving your car!

 

Irish Car License Plate, Driving In Ireland, NanceSense, Nashville, TN

With a nondescript rental car, I also snapped a pic of the license plate!

 

The family was surprised by a guided tour for our second day with Michael Fox. When you Google tours of Boyne Valley, you’ll find Michael’s name at the top. He arrived in a spacious Audi and gave us a full day tour. Utterly charming, letting him do the driving our first big tour day was brill-iant! And, when he found out our love of collecting art, we got a surprise visit to his wife’s home studio and picked up a beautiful fiber art piece.

 

Boyne Valley Irish tour guide Michael Fox, NanceSense, Nashville, TN

Michael Fox gives private tours of the Boyne Valley and we highly recommend him!

Bernadette Fox Studio, NanceSense, Nashville, TN

Our Boyne Valley tour guide, Michael Fox, took us by his wife, Bernadette Fox’s studio ,where we picked up a beautiful fiber art piece.

More info than you needed, here’s a quick YouTube video with some extra tips. Safe travels and slainte!

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Packing Tips For Ireland Travel

After taking our first steps in planning our Ireland trip, I was obsessed over smart packing for a European trip.

With our goal to celebrate son’s 21st birthday in The Ireland, we scheduled our trip for the end of May and the beginning of June. This turned out to be SO brilliant. It’s like we snuck into the country before the big season yet the weather was perfection. Try traveling the end of May if at all possible.

NanceSense, InstaCollage, Nashville, TN

What To Pack For An Ireland Trip?

So what to pack? I enjoyed reading this  Fodor’s forum on what to wear and found the “don’t wear jeans or shirts with names” silly. We didn’t bring a ton of logo wear but jeans were a must. I really appreciated this young couple’s blog on Ireland travel & prep too.

Waterproof Shoes & Coat Mandatory!

My foundation was to make sure we had waterproof shoes and good rain wear for sudden rain showers – layering is essential. Hubs, son and I all found comfortable, waterproof Merrells which turned out great for hiking and broke them in one week prior. Daughter Maggie refused on the grounds it insulted her fashion sense and stubbornly brought flipflops, flats & tennis shoes. We all survived especially me post double knee meniscus surgeries.

Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin, Ireland jail, NanceSense

At the Kilmainham Gaol jail in Dublin, we used our iPhone panoramic setting to capture this pic in our waterproof jackets (better than water resistant).

Ireland Packing Tips, NanceSense, Nashville, TN

Great rainwear was purchased for us all and found a tri-use North Face jacket for my son – on sale! Yes, when you look at our pics you’ll notice the color spectrum was on purpose for cuter pics!

Searching for the ultimate suitcase for years led me to Briggs & Riley – seen here on Amazon. I purchased four, 20” carry-on expandables. Guaranteed for life, yes, we took a 10-day trip with four carry-on bags! We checked a small fifth bag for contact solutions, shampoos, razors and items over TSA regs. The items would be inconvenient if lost but not a disaster.

Rolling clothes and packing in vacuum bags totally worked as well. Here was our list:

10-Day Ireland Trip Packing List

Wear on plane, jeans, shirt, jacket, biggest shoes & hat to save suitcase room.

Clothes for 10 days:

-2 jeans/1 other pant (boys brought khakis)

-8 underwear/8 socks/2 bras

-1 sleepwear

-2 pairs of shoes – 1 tennis – 1 hiking (I snuck cute flats too)

-Optional shorts (Son was glad he had his)

-6 shirts – 1 t-shirt

-belt

-hat/scarf

-1 waterproof jacket

Toiletries:

-toothbrush/toothpaste/floss

-wash cloth (not necessary)

-Shampoo/Conditioner

-soap (not necessary but I like to bring it)

-deodorant

-razor/shaving cream

-hair brush, ties

-make-up/lotion

-chapstick – essential!

-baby wipes – great idea – never used

-ear plugs – optional

-cotton balls – (for windy conditions) never used

-sunscreen – yes!

-ear phones

-chargers (don’t forget electric converters)

-small travel pillows (loved ours for plane, car & B&Bs)

-Tide white stick (used once)

-Woolite for sink wash

-Not necessary – hair dryer – in all locales

Travel pillows, NanceSense, Nashville, TN

The four of us had travel pillows which flipped & zipped into a cylinder as well for luggage outer pouch packing.

Final packing tips. Be sure you know how much trunk room you have. I googled the type of car we were renting and checked out pictures. Plan to purchase a checkable bag while abroad for souvenirs or stuffing your dirty clothes to make room for fragile items. I also shipped back vases and pitchers.

IMG_0635

Four Briggs & Riley carry-on bags were used for a 10-day trip to Ireland. We picked up the brown extra bag and stuffed it with souvenirs. 

Ireland Travel Tips, NanceSense, Nashville, TN

Travel tip bonus – we purchased the No-Jet Lag homeopathic pill. It has tons of great Amazon reviews and we think it made a big difference traveling to Ireland.

Next up, digging into the mechanics of driving! See what I did there.

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Planning A Trip To Ireland

In January of 2014, the McNultys decided to tackle a May/June trip back to the “Motherland” to celebrate daughter Maggie’s college graduation and son, Miles, 21st birthday! Although Miles had suggested a trip to Vegas for he & his friends, after agreeing they had NO money, he bought into the family trip and so the planning began.

The Republic of Ireland, NanceSense, Nashville, TN

Our first trip to Ireland was a huge adventure for us in May 2014.

If you’ve ever traveled on super organized trips like daughter Maggs and I have done to Europe and Cuba, it is daunting!  After failing to secure any professional help,  the tour leader role defaulted to me.

Overwhelmed at captaining this family of four adventure, (like seriously overwhelmed because I also run a PR company), I attacked this project like a school term paper. First thing first, update the passports and book the airline tickets.

If you have a passport, don’t ever let it expire! Three had expired and the fourth was a minor now over 18 requiring an over 18 up-to-date version.  Make an appointment online and march yourself down to the main post office of your town within eight weeks of your trip at the least.  With all the shenanigans going on in DC, I didn’t want to press our luck and applied in March and easily received them back in 3 to 5 weeks.

NanceSense, Nashville, TN

Apparently, don’t smile in that passport photo!

Go ahead and make two copies of the old passports and the new passports.  Travel with one set and leave the second behind with your emergency contact person in the event a passport is lost.

There are SO many great websites for planning travel but none as amazing as TripAdvisor.  You’ll be spending many hours on it from “how to plan a 7 to 10 day trip to the Republic of Ireland” to checking out restaurants, hotels and B&Bs.  Don’t forget to support the system by doing your own reviews as well.

Early on, we also found another helpful site, Little Roads Europe, with great recommendations on the two B&Bs in which we stayed. We also purchased a Rick Steves Ireland guidebook. It had a great map for back up which we never needed thanks to a great GPS obtained from our “car hire” company, Dollar, a subsidiary of Hertz. Be sure you secure the car of your choice EARLY. Automatics cost more and go quickly because the stick shift is also on your opposite side. More details on renting and driving in a future blog.

Once we decided our basic route, the book helped us prioritize our touring and make the most of our time. Steves says you can use the book for discounts but you’ll have to figure out how this works.

So where to fly first? Price influenced our decision to fly into Dublin. Without much experience left-side driving, I wished we had chosen to fly into Shannon for less stress. But, in the end, we did great and found tickets on USAir via Travelocity for $1,040 per person and booked them in March. We flew into Dublin, quickly adapted to the driving and headed straight to County Meath and Highfield House just 40 minutes away. This got us out of the big city at 9 a.m. Dublin time moving us on to our next locale relatively quickly and our first tour, Trim Castle, one of the filming sites for “Braveheart.”

Highfield House, County Meath, Ireland, NanceSense

Located 40 minutes from Dublin Airport, Highfield House in County Meath makes a great stop when arriving or departing the Republic of Ireland.

Highfield House, County Meath, Ireland, NanceSense

Irish Political Signs, Trim, County Meath, Ireland, NanceSense

Obsessed with the template used for political signs in County Meath, Ireland.

To recap, when planning your trip, update your passport, secure your plane tickets for the best price and, if renting a car, do so early to get the best deal and the car of your choice. We also traveled at the end of May which we would highly recommend for awesome weather and it was less crowded. Here’s a sneak peek at our trip and next up, super packing!

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Great NYC Dining

New York City offers so many dining choices and never enough time. This is a universal traveler’s lament, and, if you are heading to New York City any time soon, here are some of my new favorite places to visit for your consideration from Greenwich Village to Jersey City.

Spending time with my uber foodie friend Jennifer Zawadzinski, PR rep extraordinaire, means covering lots of ground in a city with over 11,000 restaurants. My March 2014 trip did not disappoint.

Over the decade, there are two restaurants which remain at the top of my favorite dining list – Italian Sette Mezzo on the Upper East Side, and the ultimate Greek experience, Avra Estiatorio, in Midtown. (See if my favorite dreamy manager Socrates is still there.)

This year I’ve added visits to Light Horse Tavern in Jersey City, Le Parisien and Malatesta Trattoria as notable dining experiences while keep E&E Grill House in the theater district as a recommended spot. Here’s why:

You’ll have to venture off the Manhattan track to Jersey City, but once you do, you’ll fall in love with this charming city just beyond the Holland Tunnel.

Stepping into the Light Horse Tavern on a Wednesday evening, I immediately loved the ambiance. Seated in the cozy upstairs area, you might wonder how this might impact service but the wait staff didn’t disappoint. While I’m pretty sure our Jersey City waitress might have wanted me to speak a little Southern, when she brought on her full-Jersey girl, I was mesmerized by her charm, and, yes please, more worter!

I enjoyed the Agnolotti pasta, cousin of the ravioli, ($21) with butternut squash and pecans. For dessert, we had a trio of palette cleansing, delicious homemade gelatos. Jen Z. reports the food is very consistent and yummo.

Light Horse Tavern, NanceSense, Nashville, TN

The Light Horse Tavern is a charming Jersey City restaurant worth the trip!

Next notable stop was Le Parisien Bistrot in the Midtown East area of Manhattan. Considered the Murray Hill area, it was a great lunch choice which oozed Frenchy-French-ness. My friend Charles Sanchez smartly made the reservations via Open Table and it was packed for a Friday lunch. I thoroughly enjoyed the Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese with an apple walnut vinaigrette ($9) and the Grilled Portabello Sandwich with goat cheese and basil pesto ($11). Charles loved the mussels in a garlic and wine sauce ($17) served with French fries.

Mussels, Le Parsien, NanceSense

The mussels at Le Parisien are a great lunch choice.

Le Parisien, NanceSense

The beet salad with goat cheese was yummo.

Lunch was a PR brainstorming meeting for friend Lisa Kirchner’s soon-to-be released memoir, Hello American Lady Creature: What I Learned as a Woman in Qatar. Here’s her book trailer and she will be coming to Nashville so stay tuned.

NY Psychic, NanceSense

With “My Friend Charles,” striking a pose at the psychic’s, conveniently located next door to Le Parisien.

Before a big night on the town singing show tunes at Marie Crisis in the Village and then rock karaoke at Karaoke One 7, we grabbed dinner at Malatesta Trattoria in the West Village.

A very unpretentious Italian restaurant, the first thing you need to know is just like Sette Mezzo, bring cash. “Distinguished Member of Technical Staff” of a national telecommunications company, Scott Morelock, joined JZ, me, and the fabulous Chris Vystrcil, an integrated sales director for Martha Stewart Living. (Please forgive me Scott for never getting over the wonderfulness of your job title.)

NanceSense, Nashville, TN

Cash Only is what you need to notice on this charming hand-written menu.

NanceSense, Nashville, TN

Three important elements in this pic – adorable Chris Vystrcil, cute waiter guy & the neat presentation of their menu.

An all-male operation from what I observed, Malatesta is now on my must-dine list. From the unique menu presentation and the cute, attentive waiters to the authentic ambiance, none of these elements would matter if the food wasn’t scrumptious, and, it was! I opted for the tortellini and my companions various pastas. All so flavorful, yummy, homemade and mid-range in pricing.

Malatesta Trattoria, NanceSense

 

Malatesta Trattoria in NYC, NanceSense, Nashville, TN Malatesta Trattoria in NYC, NanceSense, Nashville, TN

After a large evening karaoke-ing, the next morning friend Scott and I had a delicious breakfast with friends at Jersey City’s Brownstone Diner & Pancake Factory, featured on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins & Dives.”

Brownstone Diner & Pancake Factory, NanceSense

I enjoyed the Florentine Omelet (7.95) with “grits” at Brownstone Diner & Pancake Factory in Jersey City.

Brownstone Diner & Pancake Factory

Pastry Chef at The Standard, Fredrick Aquino tackled the delicious Silver Dollar Pancakes (5.75).

Last year, I wrote about the E&E Grill House located across from Eugene O’Neill Theatre where “Book Of Mormon” is still playing in the theater district. I popped in to see how things had progressed in the year and am pleased to report it remains a consistently great dining option. Same bartender “Tom” prepared an artistic Irish coffee for me.  And, before seeing “A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder,” I dropped in again with a friend to enjoy a crab cake ($15) before the show. Not quite as obnoxious as how Seinfeld’s Elaine Bensen ordered, I do always inquire “are your crab cakes crabby or cakey?” E&E’s are crabby (the preferred choice) and just as delicious as a year prior. Be sure you have a reservation, if you are trying to catch it before a show. And, be on the lookout for any cast members of “Chicago.”

E&E Grill House, NanceSense

Check out E&E Grill House before a show in the NYC Theater District.

I was pleased to venture back to Harlem for dinner at friend Anne-Marie McGonnigal’s dreamy apartment. Previously, daughter Maggie & I had eaten at Melba’s which you should definitely try. This year, being able to enjoy dinner at a friend’s home was such a treat! JZ and I enjoyed a fantastic roasted chicken prepared by Ms. McGonnigal. And, she sent us home with party favors – homemade peach jam!! I’ll give an update as soon as her website is live so you can get your own.

NanceSense

I’m hoping to get a chance to write about the sites I enjoyed but I blog for eight other companies, including the soon-to-be revealed HGTV Smart House 2014 project for builder, Carbine & Associates. So, in case my spring is too crazy, this year I saw the Beautiful The Carole King Musical – don’t miss it – and took an architectural walking tour of Greenwich Village with Big Onion – recommend this as well. Be sure and check out my flipagram trip overview below and happy travels!

NanceSense, Nashville, TN

I love NYC!

Here’s my flipagram trip wrap-up!

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The Foreigner Opens To Huge Laffs In Franklin, TN

Opening night for “The Foreigner” in Franklin, Tennessee was an evening of huge laffs for the community theater production at Bethlehem UMC running through March 8 and this just in – FREE PANCAKES – shut up! – on Fat Tuesday before the March 4 show.

The Foreigner, Bethlehem Players, Franklin, TN

Written by Larry Shue, the well-rounded cast includes area favorites Johnny Peppers in the lead role of “Charlie” with his real-life bride, Kandace Peppers, as the B&B owner, “Betty,” with the menacing “Owen Musser “portrayed spot-on by the production’s director, Dietz Osborne, a trifecta of talent and popular area playwright taboot.

The Foreigner BUMC, Franklin, TN

Running through March 8, The Foreigner is a farcical comedy presented by Bethlehem UMC, in Franklin, TN.

“The Foreigner” is the Bethlehem Players 20th production for the community theater outreach program and this year, they have chosen as their benefiting charity, Love On Wheels. The ministry was recently begun by Bethlehem UMC member local vet Dr. Kathy Kunkel to help children taken into Department of Children’s Services custody with more than the typical garbage bag for their possessions. The ministry works to provide suitcases and needed toiletry items. Donations are accepted throughout the play’s run through March 8 as well as monetary donations.

Back to the play, the BPAC, as the performance space is cleverly called, now has risers and professional lighting which plays a cool role with lightning effects and a period of play lights out. Seth Robinson, a professional lighting designer, has lent his talents in helping the program, begun in 1997, perfect this huge capital investment.  The Bethlehem Players hit black in 2007 with their production of Fiddler On The Roof and have earmarked a portion of their net each year for this investment which has really paid off for the audience members.

So here’s my disclosure, and really it’s my blog, so there ya go. I’m SO proud Mark McNulty, known in the cyber world as “hubs” “weather boy” and “cabana boy,” is taking to the stage to portray “Froggy,” the Brit who drops the foreigner off at the Georgia fishing lodge. I have a thing for Brits like most good Southern girls and was deeply concerned over this development in our lives. Pleased to report, he has not ruined my affection for the accent or him! He does a great job and I love that he has taken on a serious challenge with his most dialogue to date and comes off utterly charming.

Mark McNulty, Nashville, TN

Not a real Brit!, Mark McNulty is back on stage at Bethlehem UMC as the cockney friend “Froggy” for Must See Theater til March 8 in Franklin, TN.

 

So now, onto the free pancakes offer. On Tuesday, March 4 at 5:30 p.m., Bethlehem UMC is flinging open the doors of their kitchen and providing a scrumptious Fat Tuesday Pancake Dinner with music by a six-piece jazz band. Immediately following will be a brief communion and then a Dixieland Band escort into the BPAC.  Be sure you have your reservation for the Tuesday night play or any other night cause this is an evening of “Must See Entertainment” in your own backyard!

Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students, high school and younger. Go to TicketsNashville.com or 615-669-BPAC (2722). See what they did there? Pretty darn cute.

 

 

 

 

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Farcical “The Foreigner” Opens Feb. 28 at Franklin BPAC

Nashville may have its TPAC (Tennessee Performing Arts Center) but in the heart of the Grassland community in Franklin, Tennessee is a gem of a local theater company, the Bethlehem Players, a community theater outreach group of Bethlehem United Methodist Church.The acting troupe has staged productions for over 17 years in their BPAC (Bethlehem Performing Arts Center) ranging from “The Sound of Music” to launching premiere works like the hilarious “Southern Fried Funeral” franchise of award-winning playwrights, Osborne & Eppler.

The hilarious farcical comedy “The Foreigner,” set in a rural fishing lodge in Georgia, shows the funny side of being an outsider when the Bethlehem Players present this crowd-pleasing production select days February 28 through March 8 at Bethlehem United Methodist Church,  2419 Bethlehem Loop Road, Franklin, TN (37069).

The Foreigner BUMC, Franklin, TN

Opening February 28, The Foreigner is a farcical comedy presented by the Bethlehem Players.

Written by Larry Shue, the play had an initial two-year Off Broadway run and Bethlehem Players Director Dietz Osborne says it is a well-crafted and very funny play.

“Staged in the intimate performing arts space of Bethlehem UMC with new state-of-the-art lighting, this talented cast gives a comedic look at being an ‘outsider,’ tolerance and how difficult it is to communicate with other people, even when you share a common language,” Osborne said. “It’s the perfect way to break up the winter blues with an evening of excellent entertainment.”

“The Foreigner” is about the profoundly introverted Charlie who thinks he’s shatteringly and profoundly boring, played by theater veteran Johnny Peppers. Seeking peace and stuck at a rustic retreat, Charlie pretends to not speak or understand English in hopes of avoiding personal interactions and the opposite happens when various community characters confide and confess to Charlie in ways they never would if he could understand him resulting in hilarious antics.

The Foreigner, Bethlehem UMC, Franklin, TN

A hilarious look at being an outsider, “The Foreigner,” with Johnny Peppers, Kandace Peppers and Brett Myers, opens Feb. 28 – March 8, with tickets available via ticketsnashville.com and includes a special Fat Tuesday Pancake Dinner. (Photo by Christopher Bosen)

Featuring both church members and area community actors, the cast includes Johnny Peppers (Charlie Baker), Kandace Peppers (Betty Meeks), Mark McNulty (Froggy LeSueur), Brett Myers (Ellard Simms), Eleanor Aiken (Catherine Simms), Flynt Foster (David Lee) and Dietz Osborne (Owen Musser).

The Bethlehem Players present “The Foreigner” at 7:00 p.m. on Feb. 28, March 6, 7 and 8 as well as a 2:00 p.m. on March 2. The Tuesday, March 4 show is presented at 7:30 p.m. with a special Fat Tuesday Pancake Dinner served at 6:00 p.m. followed by an optional communion service and Dixieland Band escort to the BUMC theater.

Tickets for show-only are $15 for adults and $12 for high school students and younger and are available for all shows.  Dinner show tickets are $22 for adults and $18 for high school students and younger.  This year’s benefiting charity is Love on Wheels begun by BUMC to provide children taken into custody by the Department of Children’s Services a suitcase, instead of the standard trash bag, filled with appropriate hygiene and toiletry items as a reminder that they are loved and have value. Financial as well as suitcase and toiletry items can be received at all play performances.

Shows take place at the Bethlehem UMC Performing Arts Center, 2419 Bethlehem Loop Road, Franklin, TN (37069). For reservations or more information, (615) 669-BPAC (2722), www.ticketsnashville.com.Group discount for parties of 10 or more with one check.

The community theatre outreach program of Bethlehem United Methodist Church was founded in 1997. Since its inception, the Bethlehem Players have successfully staged for packed audiences a spectrum of shows from “Annie” to “Steel Magnolias” as well as two world premiere productions, “Southern Fried Funeral” and “Southern Fried Nuptials.” For more information, www.bethlehemumc.com or their visit them on Facebook at Bethlehem Players.

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Holiday Party Tips

Early in our marriage, we started hosting various versions of a holiday party. Beginning with an Open House for neighbors. Today, it’s evolved into an Irish Christmas at Blackberry Hollow. Learning many a lesson along the way, here are a few of the tips from invites to party favors which might inspire you.

December is second only to May in being the busiest time of year for our family, so this year, our party invite counted for many as the Christmas card too. And, in case you didn’t get this, I included a little note to tell you! We also host our holiday party as a gift to our friends so no one brings a thing which is a great for busy girlfriends or the family cook.  Now, we are encouraging invitees to stop worrying about a last minute hostess gift & drop a buck in our bucket for an area worthy cause. Here’s the note:

NanceSense, Nashville, TN

Guests can jot a quick note in the guest book & drop a small donation to a worthy local charity in lieu of a hostess gift!

Generous friends dropped a small donation to a worthy local charity in lieu of a hostess gift. This year a $300 donation & two cute stuffed animals were given to Miriam’s Promise!

Guests are invited to sign the holiday guest book! We've captured over 2 decade of memories.

Guests are invited to sign the holiday guest book. We’ve captured over two decades of memories.

I found a new website for invites via an ad on The Facebook – Simply To Impress. A cute plaid was selected, staying with the McNulty Irish inspired theme. Style selected, I then uploaded a pic and was able to print the invite and envelope for $1.28 each with free shipping. Here’s a screen shot.

Simply To Impress invitation for annual holiday party.

Simply To Impress invitation for annual holiday party.

The guest list comprised of a few friends from each area of our lives – work, church, neighbor, volunteering, tennis, media, social, etc. It makes for an interesting mix and folks know you just dig in and work the crowd to discover new interesting friends! Oh but I wish I could invite the whole world but it makes hubbs grumpy! In addition to email & printed invites, we also did the Facebook closed invite which just doesn’t get viewed these days and too bad cause it’s a nice green way of doing things.

Decorating the mailbox is a fun Southern tradition. Friend Lisha Pope does this as an extraordinary gift each year & adds the Irish flags for a little panache.

Decorating the mailbox is a fun tradition. Friend Lisha Pope does this as an extraordinary gift each year & adds the Irish flags for a little party panache.

This year's favorite party pics include new fav friend Robbie Brooks Moore, Forest Home Media partner Dana Tucker and me. (Oh, and that's Grammy-winning artist Keb' Mo' photo bombing. Love a photo bomb!)

This year’s favorite party pics include friend Kind of Blue Music CEO Robbie Brooks Moore, Forest Home Media partner Dana Tucker and me. (Oh, and that’s Robbie’s Grammy-winning artist/hub Keb’ Mo‘ photo bombing. Love a good photo bomb!)

Guests w/ kilts are encouraged to wear them - ha! The best of the best each year is friend David McQuiddy who matched my favorite nutcracker!

Guests with kilts are encouraged to wear them. The best of the best each year is friend of Scottish descent, David McQuiddy, who matched my favorite nutcracker!

The late Thanksgiving date and a quick trip to NYC made every second prior to the party essential. A daily list was made from polishing silver and laying out the tablecloth to the three-day cooking count down.

The tablecloth is dry cleaned so each year I toss in the dryer & place on the table. My mother's heirloom swan was festively dressed by Garden Delights.

The tablecloth is dry cleaned so each year I toss it into the dryer & place immediately on the table. My mother’s heirloom swan was festively dressed by Garden Delights.

Inspired by designer Jerome Farris, love mixing fresh fruit & flowers. Merry Christmas y'all!

Inspired by designer Jerome Farris, love mixing fresh fruit & flowers. Merry Christmas y’all!

My mother handed down her cooking and entertaining genes and I prepare just about everything on the buffet except chicken tenders from an area restaurant. We offer a Christmas buffet and it’s important to have certain odes to Irish motherland including a Celtic Venison Stew, Bread Pudding, Pecan Shortbread and a good Irish whiskey served by a roaring outdoor fire! Here’s a Must-Make favorite recipe of my mother’s:

Meringue Cookies

Pick a sunny day because it does impact how the meringue behaves:

¼ tsp salt

3 egg whites

1 ¾ cp sifted conf. sugar

1 tsp enriched flour

2 cp broken pecans

1 cp chopped dates

1 tsp vanilla

Add salt to egg whites that are room temperatures. Beat until stiff. Sift together sugar & flour. Add egg whites 1 T at a time. Continue beating until stiff. Add vanilla. Add nuts, dates. Put on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Cook at 300 degrees for 30 minutes. Turn off oven and leave for additional 30 minutes. Cool & then peel off paper. These freeze ahead perfectly. Be sure they are sealed tightly.

So wondering what was served? Here’s the menu: Martha Stewart Spiced Nuts, Ham & Cheese Rolls, Celtic Venison Stew/Noodles, Chicken strips with dipping sauce, Shrimp ‘n Grits, fresh pineapple, stuffed mushrooms, sundried tomato/pesto/pinenut torta, homemade blue cheese crackers w/ cheese, steamed/chilled asparagus w/ sundried tomato dip, Greer Dip, hand-rolled potato rolls, meringue cookies, Barefoot Contessa brownies, pecan shortbread, chocolate trifle and hot outta the oven chocolate cinnamon-rum bread pudding!

Small chalkboard place cards are clever addition to the table decor from Kelly Spalding's Franklin, TN store.

Small chalkboard place cards are a clever addition to the table decor from Kelly Spalding’s Franklin, TN store.

We also had a signature drink the Southern Living Blackberry Mojito!

Friends Troy Marden, NPT Volunteer Gardener, and interior designer Jerome Farris tried the evening's signature drink, the Southern Living Blackberry Mojito, a nod also to our homestead's name, Blackberry Hollow.

Guests Troy Marden, NPT Volunteer Gardener, and interior designer Jerome Farris tried the evening’s signature drink, the Southern Living Blackberry Mojito, a nod also to our homestead’s name, Blackberry Hollow.

We love having live music and this year Geno Haffner of the Dean Martinis, a Tennessee Swing Band, entertained. When he went on break, talented friend Harry Robinson brought out his dobro and played with Maggie McNulty singing some Alison Krauss favorites with help from a few of the guys from the Bethlehem Bluegrass Band. I. Love. Living. in the shadow of Music City!

Music this year by cutie pie Geno Hafner of the Dean Martinis.

Music this year by the talented Geno Haffner of the Dean Martinis. (Photo by Erin Daunic, party photog extraordinnaire!)

Breaking out the tunes in the kitchen are daughter Maggie singing with Harry Robinson on dobro and neighbor Brooks Tucker!

Breaking out the tunes in the kitchen are daughter Maggie singing with Harry Robinson on dobro and talented singer/neighbor/faux artisan Brooks Tucker!

A party favor is a highlight for me each year. Usually I make blueberry jam or pickles in the summer or perhaps biscotti or peppermint bark. At a November holiday party at an adorable downtown Franklin store, Kelly Spalding, Designing Events and Interiors, I found these cute farmstand milk bottles. I was also able to order 3 dozen more on Sweet Lulu. Half were filled with jelly beans and the other cashew nuts then tied with a festive plaid bow. A reminder of the evening, the mini milk bottles also make a cute bud vase! Another reason I like a party favor is it makes me walk my guests to the door to give them a gracious send off!

Farmstand milk bottles filled with jelly beans or cashews was the party favor.

Farmstand milk bottles filled with jelly beans or cashews was the party favor.

Yes, Christmas gifts were discouraged but two standouts have to be mentioned. World’s greatest biz partner, Dana Tucker gave me vintage tennis glassware and new friends/neighbors Bill & Anne Prickett gave us a plaid Christmas breakfast -in-a-basket filled with bacon, eggs, coffee and home grown fresh eggs! Both clever ideas.

Vintage tennis themed glassware was a favorite gift from biz partner Dana Tucker!

Vintage tennis themed glassware was a favorite gift from biz partner Dana Tucker!

Breakfast in a basket is an adorable holiday gift.

Breakfast in a basket is an adorable holiday gift.

Finally, I was blessed to have great help prior to and during the party!  This year I had the honor of working on the Southern Living Idea House PR team.  When I do a premier home tour, I usually add a new decorating idea or home decor accessory to my house. This year, I came away with the ULTIMATE event souvenir, a new friend forevah, Southern Living PR Director Jennifer Zawadzinski. Let me tell you, this Jersey girl/foodie/home interior expert is the perfect PR rep for the south’s bible. Early in December, I helped her with her magical New York soiree. She returned the favor helping me fearlessly prep and cook.

Jersey girl Jen Z, on left, tackles for the first time "Grits Ya Ya" a fabulous shrimp and grits recipe she impressively mastered. She's pictured her with my niece, Lizzie, and helper Kristin, the keys to my survival this year!

Jersey girl Jen Z, on left, tackles for the first time “Grits Ya Ya” a fabulous shrimp and grits recipe she impressively mastered. She’s pictured here with my niece, Lizzie, and helper Kristin, the keys to my survival this year!

Holiday parties seem to be on the decline these day but I want to encourage you. From a few friends enjoying a dirty Santa exchange or a holiday game night to everybody bringing a treat to share, it’s important to slow down and enjoy your friends and family.  I always say “I break for friends” cause at the end of the day those moments make this journey all so much sweeter.

From our home to yours, Happy Christmakwanzakah – The McNultys

NanceSense, Nashville, TN

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Maysville On Must Dine NYC List

There are over 11,000 restaurants in New York City, and the uber charming Maysville, in Flatiron, is a huge standout in my book of travels.

Maysville, New York City

Named after the birthplace of Kentucky bourbon, and incidentally Rosemary Clooney!, Maysville is an American whiskey bar and restaurant. Not a connoisseur of the dark liquor, the insistence of my PR colleague, Time Inc. Lifestyle Group PR Director Jennifer Zawadzinski made my trip mandatory, and, lucky for me, I brought along a lover of bourbon, my friend Thomas, to help me out with that part.

Seen most recently in the national tour of "Spamalot,"  Thomas" DeMarcus is also known for his impeccable dining taste.

Seen most recently in the national tour of “Spamalot,” Thomas DeMarcus is also known for his impeccable dining taste.

Called a “confident restatement of the American Tavern” by the New York Times, the shotgun style restaurant has one wall of chocolate colored upholstered banquettes across from an impressive wall of over 100 types of bourbon behind a pretty bar with dreamy lighting above.  Ambiance aplenty and an attentive wait staff, now let’s talk about food.

Beautiful ambiance wraps the American whisky bar and restaurant.

Beautiful ambiance wraps the American whiskey bar and restaurant. (Photo by NanceSense)

Birmingham native, Chef Kyle Knall has been touted as unpretentious and that’s a good descriptor. After dropping the name of one of his biggest fans and foodie Ms. Z., he was kind enough on a busy day to sit and chat about our lunch choices for a moment. My dining companion and I were intrigued by the bourbon slat used to serve a slightly roasted radish atop a dollop of goat cheese. The amuse-bouche was delightful and Chef Kyle was kind enough to give us a quick peek to see the firing of a bourbon barrel.

Fired bourbon barrel, NanceSense, Maysville, NYC

NanceSense, Maysville, NYC Roasted radish atop a bourbon barrel slat, NanceSense, Maysville, NYC

Our starters also included Chilled Pemaquid Oysters (3.25 ea) on the half shell which were fresh and amazing as well as Crispy Grits ($9) with country ham and bourbon aioli. Chef Kyle’s menu is dictated by what he can procure fresh and local and it is evident.

A charming presentation  of fresh oysters on a bed of straw and mostly importantly delish!

A charming presentation of fresh oysters on a bed of straw and mostly importantly delish!

 

As a lover of grits but not ham, I slid the ham over to Thomas & loved them!

As a lover of grits but not ham, I slid the pork over to Thomas & loved them!

Brussels Sprouts are not something you would demand from a restaurant but you should from Maysville. Listed as an appetizer ($16), prepared grilled with apples, sheep’s milk cheese & buttermilk dressing, we loved them and wouldn’t our moms be proud?

Demand your brussels sprouts at Maysville and you won't be disappointed!

Demand your brussels sprouts at Maysville and you won’t be disappointed!

For the entrees, dining companion Thomas, a talented New York actor and celebrated recent University of Tennessee grad, enjoyed Beef Short Rib ($32) with sunchokes, winter greens and cauliflower crumble. No knife necessary, succulent was the best description for the delicious dish. Also called a Jersusalem artichoke, when roasting a sunchocke the skin becomes flaky and the flesh becomes tender. It was an interesting side and we loved it.

I was thrilled to try Artic Char ($29). Game for anything in the salmon family, the fish is considered by chefs in the know as a better environmental choice but apparently the exotic is harder to come by. For the diner, it was succulent and exquisite in taste. I was glad for the introduction which was served with carmelized onions and roasted shallots.

IMG_7945

Oh, and did we try some bourbon? Well, of course Thomas did and gave it a glowing report from the very first sip. Chef Kyle was kind enough to send us a palette cleanser of Apple Granita ($9). Described as an apple icee, honey crisp apples are juiced, mashed and frozen then shaved and served with hints of tarragon and sheep’s milk yogurt added. It was…crazy, amazing.

Reservations are suggested. It’s open from lunch to dinner with extended Friday and Saturday hours. Put Maysville on your must dine list and you won’t be sorry.

Follow NanceSense on Instagram for more dining & travel tips.

Follow NanceSense on Instagram for more dining & travel tips.

Happy dining!

 

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Charming “It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” in Franklin, TN

A charming twist on the Christmas classic, “It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” opens this Thursday and is presented by the Bethlehem Players, Bethlehem United Methodist Church community theatre troupe, in the Grassland area of Franklin just south of Nashville (2419 Bethlehem Loop Road, Franklin, TN 37069), December 5-8 as well as being re-aired Christmas Eve on Franklin’s hometown radio station, WAKM AM 950 – WAKMWorldWide – for web listening.

Bethlehem Players, Franklin, TN

Written by Joe Landry and directed locally by Johnny Peppers, the iconic production is sponsored by award winning Nashville-based playwrights, Osborne & Eppler. The stage production is inspired by the classic American film,”It’s a Wonderful Lifeand is performed as a 1940s live radio broadcast in front of a studio audience complete with catchy jingles written by the production’s musical director Kandance Peppers with accompaniment by BP’ers favorite “Piano Man” Bryan Ward.

Director Johnny Peppers said the delightful production is a great way to kick off the holiday season and will help underwrite the spring production of “Hello, Dolly!”

“The movie you know and love is recreated as a live old time radio broadcast. Through the magic of theater, we transport you back into the 1940s with the audience becoming the extra cast member,” Peppers said.

“It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” is presented by the Bethlehem Players, December 5-8, at Bethlehem United Methodist Church in the Grassland area of Franklin and includes cast members left to right Bailey kids, Jessica Undis and Natalie Watson of Franklin with radio veteran Pat Reilly, Maggie Pit and Joe Shephard as Uncle Billy, Mary and George Bailey. (Photo by Geinger Hill)

“It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” is December 5-8, at Bethlehem United Methodist Church and includes cast members left to right Bailey kids, Jessica Undis and Natalie Watson of Franklin with radio veteran Pat Reilly, Maggie Pit and Joe Shephard as Uncle Billy, Mary and George Bailey. (Photo by Geinger Hill)

Peppers said tickets are now on sale for “It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” at TicketsNashville.com. The large cast for the talented production includes four area radio veterans: Joe Shepherd as George Bailey, Pat Reilly as Billy Bailey, Joseph, Old Man Collins, Martini and Nick, Mark McNulty as Ernie, Freddie Filmore, and Harry Robinson as Henry Potter and Mr. Gower. The other cast members include: Maggie Pitt (Mary Hatch Bailey), Jim Maden (Clarence), Amanda Wright (Matilda), Beth Henderson (Violet Bick, Tommy Bailey), Debbie Robinson (Stage Manager, Foley), Ginny Welles (Rose Bailey, Commercial Trio), Jessica Undis (Young Violet, Janie Bailey), Jim Allen (Harry Bailey, Sam Wainwright, Dr. Campbell, Mr. Welch), Natalie Watson (Young Mary), Preston Crook (Shultz, Horace, Bridgekeeper, Binky, Cop), Stephanie Jackson (Zuzu, Ruth Bailey, Mrs. Hatch, Commercial Trio), Steve Brugman (Peter Bailey, Bert, Ed), Susan Davis (Mrs. Thompson, Sadie Vance) and production musical director Kandace Peppers.

Peppers also pointed out that auditions for the “Hello, Dolly!” are being held Saturday, December 14 1:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. in the Bethlehem UMC Performing Arts Center. Those auditioning are asked to prepare a one minute comic monologue and 16 bars of a Broadway-style song.  Please bring a head shot and resume and sheet music in the correct key—an accompanist will be provided. To sign up for a five minute appointment, please contact director Dietz Osborne at heydietz@yahoo.com.  Auditionees should be aware that the roles of Dolly Levi and Horace Vandergelder have been cast.  Rehearsals will begin Monday, January 6, 2014.  The show will February 28 – March 8, select days and times. Group sales reservations are now being accepted at drama@bethlehemumc.com with a 10% discount of for groups of 10 or more.

“It’s A Wonderful Life: A Radio Play” is presented December 5, 6, 7 at 7:00 p.m. and December 8 at 2:00 p.m. With limited seating, $10 per person general admission tickets are available via TicketsNashville.com. The production will be re-aired at 9 a.m. on Christmas Eve on WAKM 950 AM and presented by Speedway Motors.

In addition to presenting the play, Bethlehem United Methodist Church also has these seasonal activities taking place at the church and open to the community:

  • Dec. 5-8         It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play
  • Dec. 13           A Night in Bethlehem – interactive, family experience taking                                 participants to the place where Jesus was born
  • Dec. 24          Christmas Eve Services 4:30 p.m., 6:00 p.m., 8:00 p.m. & 11:00 p.m.

Founded in 1997, the Bethlehem Players have staged for packed audiences two world premiere productions, Southern Fried Funeral and Southern Fried Nuptials, as well as hits like Steel Magnolias, A Bad Year for Tomatoes, Rumors, Fiddler On The Roof, Annie and most recently, Barefoot In The Park. More info, BethlehemUMC.

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