Posts in Literary Event
Meeting Author Anne Bogel
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We first connected with Anne, of Modern Mrs Darcy, a few years ago through Bookstagram. She inspired so much of what we wanted to showcase in our literary lifestyles, and we slowly but surely developed an online friendship from that shared love of reading.

We were fortunate enough to be invited onto her podcast, What Should I Read Next, and threw a couple of dinner parties from her recommendations. We did Persuasion as a brunch, and My Kitchen Year as a dinner, both were excellent!

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You can only imagine our excitement when Anne tells us she added our personal favorite indie bookstore, Browsers, to her book tour in October. The owner, Andrea, was also on the podcast and has become a friend of ours as well. We’ve styled a few of her cookbook book clubs and have loved getting to know her. Book people are simply the best people.

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We had the best time chatting with Anne, and sadly, it had to end all too soon. Honestly, if you don’t already love her just from her online personality, you’re sure to love her in person. We really could have talked endlessly about all things books, parenting, and life in general. It was an excellent experience and I only hope we cross paths with her again!

Bad People Book Club | October 2018
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*We were sent this box in exchange for an honest review, and of course, all opinions are wholly our own. You can see our policy right here

We were able to buddy read Erotic Stories of Punjabi Widows for the Bad People podcast (available wherever you listen to podcasts), and had such a great time reading and discussing the book with Abbey! This book is really a treat and packed full of so much (you’ll have to listen to the podcast to hear all of our thoughts), definitely recommend.

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Having read the book before the box arrived, we were super excited to see how the cocktail would pair with the novel. It was a unique concoction, but a delightful one. It’s always so fun to bring the book to life through a dinner party, a cocktail pairing, book club… whatever suits you.

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We’ve really enjoyed being a part of the Bad People community, reading the books they select, listening to Abbey and AJ’s discussion on each book through the podcast, and getting to try their custom cocktails. We’ve said before how much we love that this subscription doesn’t come with extra things to clutter our homes, but all the good stuff we will appreciate and talk about time and again. It’s an experience, and that’s everything.

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If this sounds like something you need in your life (and of course it is) you can use our code ARDENT10 for 10% off your order. Cheers, friends!

Abrams Dinner Party Meets My Brilliant Friend
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A few months ago, we were accepted into the Abrams Dinner Party line up for fall and spring 2018-2019. We are pretty excited to get to extend our skills a bit further into something a little different from our usual dinner parties. With a variety of cookbooks sent to us from Abrams books, we get to explore an endless amount of new recipes and put them into action.

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*We were sent this book in exchange for an honest review, and of course, all opinions are wholly our own. You can see our policy right here

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Instead of our usual props and decor, we decided to keep this seasonal and simple, because we’ll be doing quite a few of these, and we want to ensure it is manageable and fun.

We got together when the first cookbook arrived to flip through and see what it was all about. Matty Matheson | A Cookbook shares an interesting mix of his personal history and it progresses from childhood to culinary art school. I always love a cookbook that gives you something a little extra. Matty definitely has some skills in the kitchen, and exceeds much of what we’re willing to make on a regular basis. But, if you’re looking for a unique dish to step up your game and wow your guests, this might be the cookbook for you.

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We marked a couple of recipes we were eager to try, as there are quite a few that took a traditional meal and made it into something a bit fancier. As fall is heavily upon us, when we saw the Italian Wedding Soup, we agreed it was the best choice for us. It did not disappoint.

We also thought of ways to tie in a literary element and immediately thought of Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend for this recipe. This is absolutely a recipe we’d make for a dinner for this book.

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Thanks so much Abrams for having us as members for the dinner parties, we’re having so much fun already and look forward to the next one!

Literary Dinner | Circe
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We honestly feel like we chose the perfect buddy read to take us into fall when we picked up Circe by Madeline Miller. This retelling of Greek myth takes us with our heroine Circe to an island full of wild herbs, carefully tended gardens and forests bursting with flora. To honor her island of Aiaia we set up a simple picnic table out in the sunshine underneath a pear tree, against a backdrop of woods, so we could have lunch and soak up the mild afternoon while we talked about the novel.

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But in a solitary life, there are rare moments when another soul dips near yours, as stars once a year brush the earth. Such a constellation was he to me.
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Layers of freshly cut rosemary were studded with the first of the fall berries, and a few fresh blooms were tucked into the fragrant, spiky riot. We love that the rosemary looks a little prickly, but smells so good, especially when it was all piled on the tabletop. Plus, it’s an herb used since ancient times by the Greeks, and seemed the perfect choice to represent the facets of Circe; a little prickly, a little sweet, and quietly powerful.

We primarily used roses for our flowers, both in our tiny bud vases and in the centerpiece, because they were mentioned repeatedly, and because their orangey blush color really suited our early fall color palette. The centerpiece was a glass terrarium stuffed with a spray of cut greenery and roses all set atop a sunburst mirror to reflect (hah!) Circe’s father, Helios. Plates were cut crystal with dipped gold rims, and we finished our place settings with crystal goblets and gold napkins and cutlery. We wanted an opulent, mystical, ancient, natural feel all wrapped up together, and mixing our elements this way worked out really well. It ended up feeling understated, but gilded, just like Circe herself.

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Once the table was set, the laden boughs of the pear tree arched perfectly over our simple place settings, and all that was left was to bring out the food. Sticking to a mediterranean flavor profile, we designed a charcuterie board piled with hummus, marinated vegetables, dishes of olives, flatbreads, grapes, meats, hard cheeses, and creamy balls of fresh mozzarella. In the novel, Circe sets up long tables in her house and serves similar fare to visiting sailors, with plenty of wine, of course. Capturing that atmosphere with the food at our own long wooden table felt so right.

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Settling in with an array of snacks and goblets full of wine to discuss the book was the best part, of course (it always is!). We easily spend an hour trading insights, picking apart scenes, and weighing outside criticisms with our own opinions when we talk books. Part of how we prepare our discussions is to pay attention to other reviews to see what other people are generally saying about the novel, and then deciding what we agree and disagree with.

With Circe, one of the biggest criticisms we saw was that the novel lacked any “fireworks” from Circe herself, that she didn’t adequately own and display her powers to any real effect. We both disagree. Circe used her powers to defy the gods quietly, and to only please herself. Some elaborate action scene would feel untrue to the character Miller built for us, since Circe is very strong, but intentionally not flashy. What did you think?

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With the afternoon wearing on, it was eventually time to wrap it up and exit the dreamy space we had built and enjoyed for the past few hours. These little private book clubs are always worth the extra effort. Existing in such an atmospheric space while we hold our book discussions really lets us live the books in a way nothing else does. Until next time, friends!

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Bad People Book Club | September 2018
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*We were sent this box in exchange for an honest review, and of course, all opinions are wholly our own. You can see our policy right here

Pairing drinks with books is something we’ve been doing for awhile now. Sometimes, we just don’t have the time or ability to throw a dinner party, but want a fun experience with a book, and this is a really great way to do it.

If a book doesn’t have an obvious drink of choice, it can prove challenging to decide what might pair best. You have to think of the season, food mentions, and other details from the book that might fit. Since most of the time, you aren’t trying to come up with all of that yourself, we fully support a Bad People Book Club subscription.

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This subscription is a no-fuss type of goodie box that comes with a carefully selected book highlighting diverse, strong female authors and a custom cocktail to go with it. The box arrives with the book and cocktail ingredients (sans alcohol) along with a recipe card—and just like that, you’re ready for a good time! The card also has discussion points on it that pairs with their podcast on the book, which we really enjoy.

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This particular box was enjoyed with good company, and a drink we all loved and made all night long! Getting an excuse to sit down, sip on something delicious, and talk about books is always a really good time. We really appreciate the partnership we’ve gotten to have with Bad People Book Club, and we encourage you to give it a try!

“Bad People Book Club is a book box that transforms books into cocktail recipes.”

If this sounds like something you need in your life, you can use our code ARDENT10 for 10% off your order. Cheers!

"But What Else Will You Do With It?" A Story About How We Bargain Hunt for Our Literary Dinner Parties

Fun fact: we thrift almost everything for our literary dinner parties. Actually, a combination of thrifting and a bit of scouring the clearance sections at HomeGoods and Target is probably more accurate. We do this as a hobby, friends— so our budget for these things is basically non-existent. I think the most we've ever spent for one dinner (excluding food/flower costs) is about $30, but we generally stay under $10. We've always tried to emphasize that these dinners are doable for anyone, and since we've covered the basic how-to's, we decided to share a little more about how we source our decor. 

 Thrifted creamer jug, silver platter, egg basket, lace runner, and cans. Teacups are thrifted and clearance Anthropologie.

Thrifted creamer jug, silver platter, egg basket, lace runner, and cans. Teacups are thrifted and clearance Anthropologie.

 Thrifted platters and milk bottle vases. Crackled pot is clearance Anthropologie, napkins, rose gold bottle, and marble candleholder are from Target clearance.

Thrifted platters and milk bottle vases. Crackled pot is clearance Anthropologie, napkins, rose gold bottle, and marble candleholder are from Target clearance.

 Thrifted brass candlestick, votive holder, and jar. Drink glasses, and rose gold bottle are clearance Target. Napkins are from clearance HomeGoods.

Thrifted brass candlestick, votive holder, and jar. Drink glasses, and rose gold bottle are clearance Target. Napkins are from clearance HomeGoods.

The first step, honestly, is to have a vision, or at least some kind of aesthetic feel that you want to create. We generally use Pinterest to do this! Next, round up everything you already have that fits your vision, and identify where the gaps are. Maybe you need a serving tray, or candle holders, or napkins. Whatever it is, keep those items in mind when you go to the store. 

 Thrifted vintage china and books. Candle holder with flowers is clearance Anthropologie, marble candle holder is clearance Target.

Thrifted vintage china and books. Candle holder with flowers is clearance Anthropologie, marble candle holder is clearance Target.

 Thrifted vases, sheet music, red table runner. Plates, napkins, clear candlesticks are clearance HomeGoods, tall gold candlesticks are clearance Anthropologie, and the napkin rings and cloche are Halloween clearance from Target.

Thrifted vases, sheet music, red table runner. Plates, napkins, clear candlesticks are clearance HomeGoods, tall gold candlesticks are clearance Anthropologie, and the napkin rings and cloche are Halloween clearance from Target.

 Thrifted sheet music, red table runner, vases, and goblets.

Thrifted sheet music, red table runner, vases, and goblets.

Now here's the tricky part: try not to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff in the store. When I walk in, I try to really focus on finding those couple things I need first and foremost. Sometimes it's glassware, or a table runner I need to complete the scene in my head, but I also have my eyes open for items that fit the aesthetic I want, and if I come across something, then I think about how I want to incorporate it.

Also, whenever I find an item I'm interested in, I ask myself "but what else will I do with this?" If it's just too specific to one dinner, and costs more than a dollar or two, I have a hard time purchasing it...because then what? I store it indefinitely? I toss or donate it? It feels like a waste. I make a point to prioritize items: if I think it's going to completely make the set up, I go for it, but if it's just an accent and it's really too specific, I pass.

 Heirloom lace table runner and thrifted silver candelabra, goblets. Napkins and rings from Target clearance.

Heirloom lace table runner and thrifted silver candelabra, goblets. Napkins and rings from Target clearance.

 Thrifted candlestick, silver platter, pillar candle holder, lace doily, and vase

Thrifted candlestick, silver platter, pillar candle holder, lace doily, and vase

 Thrifted candle holders galore.

Thrifted candle holders galore.

Some trips are more successful than others, and that's okay. I prefer to think of the whole process as a treasure hunt instead of something stressful, and it's okay if I don't strike gold every time. One thing that does increase my success rate is looking at creative uses for things. Can that jar be a vase? Can that cool piece of lace be cut into a table runner? Can I put a pillar candle on that little plate? You have to think a little outside the box sometimes!

It’s also worth noting that we plan for our next buddy read and dinner well in advance. As we're reading, we each take our own notes and develop a vision that we'll talk about and combine. If we had only a few days of planning and gathering materials, we would like be more stressed and would have a harder time including so many details. And really, the details are our favorite elements of a dinner party: the menu, drinks, and decor, we've found that they add a richness to the experience and aesthetic quality. Lastly, we really do compliment each other in setting up these dinners. From styling to small adjustments, photos, and food, we couldn't create what we do alone, at least not as wonderfully. Of course, that isn't to say you need a best friend to throw your own dinner party with, but it certainly helps!

If you have any thoughts or questions, we’d love to hear!

Literary Dinner | A Midsummer Night's Dream
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*some links are affiliate, and we deeply appreciate your support

When you think of Shakespeare, generally it's his tragedies and darker plays that come to mind, but his lighter rom-coms have always been my favorite, especially A Midsummer Night's Dream. Honestly, part of it is because it was the first live play I ever saw, on a beach in Lake Tahoe during their annual Shakespeare Festival. I was probably only eight or nine, but it made such an impact on me; the magic and the fairies and the laugher, and I've just loved it ever since.

We've been wanting to pull this dinner off for years, but the stars didn't align until just recently. Why didn't do we this at actual Midsummer, you ask? Frankly, because it doesn't get dark until 10pm in June and we have young kids with bedtimes, so because this play takes place mostly at night, we had to wait for the sun to set earlier.

Guys, it was so, so worth the wait. Labor day marked the unofficial end of summer, so consider this our personal farewell to the season.

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Setting up this dinner was all about adding magic and color. We started with a couple of bundles of bright, summery flowers from our beloved Trader Joe's and made several arrangements in various sizes. Then we strung up little bud vases filled with flowers and candles in tiny jars, dangling them from the arbor with fishing line so they would look like they were floating.

The table it's self was a riot of candles, color, and food. We started with a woven table runner, topped it with some gauzy cheesecloth for romance, added candles, rose petals, and fresh figs, then finished it with plates, chargers, napkins in rings, and utensils. We also gathered up a collection of lanterns filled with fairy lights and mixed them with more vases spilling over with summer color, before scattering more rose petals for good measure. 

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Food stayed true to the text, for the most part, and we piled fruits, cheese, chocolates, meats, and bread onto an antique silver platter. We wanted to include food mentioned in the play, but also just go with the sort of decadent, wild setting. A jar of honey with the comb still in it, scattered fresh green figs, and tender phyllo dough pastries completed our spread.

We served grilled salmon with charred lemon slices for our main course, because it felt summery, light and tender, and was true to the spirit of natural things that is so prominent in the setting of this play. Basically, fresh, colorful, and light was the theme. 

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Our table truly looked magical when it was all lit up and laden with food and wine; we kinda couldn't get over it. Also, having the dinner in the middle of Rikki's huge, blossoming garden was the perfect spot for this, and added so much to the overall ambiance. It was such an inviting space for us to tuck ourselves into for the evening.

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We snacked on appetizers and chatted about the play, his other works, and about a Shakespeare class Rikki had taken while the warm afternoon cooled off into a beautiful twilight. Suddenly we realized the sky was streaked with color and our lanterns and candles were much more dramatic than they had been a little while ago. The change in light was our cue to start dinner for real, and we gathered at the table to enjoy the meal and the company. 

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The "floating" flowers and candles hanging from the arbor really did look like they were suspended in mid air by magic once the sun started to set. The entire scene really came to life once dusk set in and the candlelight took over. Watching the light turn over the course of the dinner was so perfect for how the play goes from day to night over the course of the story.

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"I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight"

-Oberon (Act II, Scene I)

After dinner, we really wanted to honor one of the most famous quotes in the play, so we walked through the garden over to Rikki's stone steps where we spent some time relaxing before dessert. The steps are cut into the slope of the hill, and gently part the sea of colorful wildflowers that carpet the entire area. So we sat chatting amongst the flowers, our wine and books in hand, and the shadows of the woods dark behind us. How perfect, right?

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By the time we were ready for dessert, it was fully dark, and our table was awash in golden light; it could not have been prettier. We stuck to a simple berry tart, which is our favorite summer treat, and a perfect ending to the evening. Slices were passed around, wine was finished off, and as always, we said our goodbyes.

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Bad People Book Club | August 2018
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*We were sent this box in exchange for an honest review, and of course, all opinions are wholly our own. You can see our policy right here

The day our Bad People Book Club box arrives cues a flurry of texts between us trying to figure out the soonest possible date that we can get together to open it. Books + cocktails? What's not to love. You guys know how much we love to pair drinks with books we love! This month we received Homefire and all the ingredients to mix up a very tasty drink.

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We always have such a good time unboxing, reading about the book, and discovering the drink of choice and how it connects to the chosen novel. We thoroughly enjoy the taste testing part, too! We've said it before, and we'll say it again, our favorite part of literary dinner parties, or subscription boxes, or any of it, is the way they allow us to sit down together and connect over bookish conversation. Bonus points if we have a tasty food or drinks!

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This box is especially great because it's simple; we aren't left with anything we won't use, and their book choices are completely on point with what we've been loving lately: diverse books with strong ladies! Even with the best of intentions, many boxes are filled with goodies that have little utilitarian purpose. While it's fun, it adds up if you do multiple months of a subscription. Enter, The Bad People Book Club, because we are fully on board for a fun cocktail every month as we crack open a great new book!

If this sounds like something you need in your life, you can use our code ARDENT10 for 10% off your order. Cheers!

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Literary Dinner | This One Summer
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*some links are affiliate, and we deeply appreciate your support.

This One Summer remains, hands down, one of my favorite graphic novels, and I finally convinced Rikki to read it! The story focuses on the friendship of two girls at their annual summer vacation spot as they come of age. The story mixes in family drama, the awkwardness of being on the cusp of the teenage years, friendship, growing pains, and the complexity of inner life. Some panels are heart-stopping in their elegant blending of text and art to create something meaningful. I especially love how the concept of memory was handled, but it captured so many hard to define emotions so, so beautifully. It embodies my favorite moods of bittersweet and nostalgia, and I haven't ever seen this level of layering in a graphic novel, which makes it extra special. Okay, enough gushing. On to the dinner!

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The novel is set at a vaguely rural lake house, and most of the outside scenes are of beaches, family BBQ's, swimming, and the girls walking through the forest. Because the setting is so natural and un-fussy, we simply cut some of Rikki's dappled willow in her yard, stuck the branches in mason jars, and lined them up along the length of the table. We love how they look floral, but aren't.

Also, the collection of pebbles play a big role visually and thematically in the book, so rocks on the table were a must. Candlelight was another must, as many scenes include candles, or outside fires, so we wanted to represent that on the table. Place settings were kept intentionally neutral, highlighted with striped paper napkins to match the aesthetic of the novel. 

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Junk food is central to the novel. The girls visit a convenience store, where a lot of the plot is set in motion, to buy snacks for their horror-movie binging. We played with our usual format of charcuterie boards, but instead of fancy ingredients, used junk food and our favorite camping foods. We honestly love the juxtaposition of the elegant and the fun, and this appetizer board was a hit with our kids. 

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Of course there was wine! All the adults in the novel are pretty much constantly imbibing wine or beer, and we loved the label on this one for our dinner with it's plants and bugs; so fitting. We think a chilled rosé is the perfect summer wine, don't you agree?

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As we discussed the novel, we brought out more fun food. Honoring the recurring BBQ's in the novel and the fact that pizza is a perennial favorite of teens everywhere, we broke out the pizza stone and baked ourselves some deliciousness. Rikki made the pizza dough from scratch, nailed simple sophisticated toppings, and got the perfect amount of bubble and char on the crust. It was just absolutely delicious and fitting. 

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S'mores were specifically focused on in one of my favorite scenes, and so while we were finishing dinner, we got a fire started, then broke out the supplies (and Twizzlers, which are repeatedly mentioned) and toasted some marshmallows. It was my 4.5 year old's first time making them and he was completely delighted. Everyone was relaxed and happy, finishing off drinks, casually chatting, and helping the kids assemble their s'mores. It was truly a perfect reflection of the book's overarching theme of family. 

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It gets dark pretty late around here, but when the sky began to deepen, it also deepened the beauty of our tablescape. It was a fitting end to the night; the dramatic backdrop enhancing the effects of the warmth of good conversation with friends and nostalgic food.

Another beautiful summer night talking books and enjoying good company. These are the days. 

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Browsers Cookbook Book Club | Spring 2018 Edition
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*some links are affiliate, and we deeply appreciate your support

For the first time in nearly a year we were able to attend this together (you can see that one right over here) and it was just as amazing as ever. 

If you aren't familiar, our favorite local bookstore, Browsers, in Olympia, WA, hosts a quarterly cookbook book club, and we were welcomed in to attend and style the event. The concept is simple: once a season they pick a cookbook, and members make a dish and bring it to share. A dinner party ensues as everyone sits down to enjoy a meal and conversation together in the loft space above the bookstore. It's such a great idea, and proves books don't have to be high literature to be a connecting force. This was their spring event, and members were to cook from either Delancey or A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg. 

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For this event we wanted to keep the vibe springy and cozy, while still maintaining a modern aesthetic to match the feel of Wizenberg's books, and to reflect the season. We cut up some bunches of eucalptus from Trader Joe's and wove them around various candles in a color palette of sage, rose gold, and white. We also evenly spaced flower arrangements from Fleurae along the length of the table for a good dose riotous springtime color. The table was set, the wine was opened, and all that was left was to wait for guests to arrive. 

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We have to admire the complete transformation this space has undergone since the last time we were here. The bookstore did some major renovations and reimagined the entire loft space as well as the retail space directly below it to update their safety standards and to modernize the look. Those months of construction were well worth the time, because it is absolutely stunning now; we can hardly believe it's the same space!

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With the arrival of all sixteen guests bearing various bowls and platters of delicious things, the evening really got started. Everyone was invited to load up their plates and sit down for good food and even better conversation. Every time we've attended, we've noticed there is always this warm, buzzing energy as people connect and laugh together. It always feels like a whole table full of friends even though most people were meeting each other for the first time. We were especially excited to get to meet our instagram friend Krysta in real life!

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It took hours for the conversation to wind down and the food to disappear from the tables. Half empty bottles of wine and guttering candles were strewn along the table as everyone filtered out and another wonderful event came to a close. Thank you, Browser's for hosting this event and allowing us to take part in it!

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VENDORS

Styling | The Ardent Biblio

Venue | Browsers 

Flowers | Fleurae

Pottery | Mariella Luz