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Bal at Versailles

Let them eat cake! We danced the night away in the Orangerie in Versailles! our custom costumes were amazing.  The night ended with a Sofia Coppola meets Baz Lurhman style dance party in the secret gardens of Versailles.  More to come...

Bal de L'Ete

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is better than the Summer Bal hosted by Princess Catherine (okay, maybe except her Winter Bal).  Catherine Colonna De Stigliano always puts on the most elegant events.  This year's 20th Anniversary extravaganza in Paris was no exception.

My sister accompanied us this year.  Naturally, I designed our dresses. For myself, I designed a  champagne grecian two piece trumpet gown.  For my sister, Reina, I went with a peach silk with a chartreuse silk fille bow & belt.    We both accompanied the looks with RC jewelry and alligator clutches; and all the men adorned their shirts and sleeves with RC cufflinks. All in all, an elegant and fun sartorial putting on! 

The weekend's events all took place at the Cercle-de-lUnion-Interalliee. Perfect weekend with exceptional friends.  

Rome, Pt. 1: Neutral Magic, Luggage Woes, and Making it Work

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Checking in to our flight to Rome, I noticed we were traveling a little bit too light.  I did a quick bag survey and realized that my carryon containing my most important items (I always carry on anything that is sentimental, super valuable, or irreplaceable) was not among our belongings.  I was Italy bound with no hats, make-up, laptop, or my favorite jacket. upon, landing, we headed straight to my most favorite vintage shop in Rome and snagged this beautiful white coat & hat.  silver lining of leaving all your good SH*t at home?  finding even better sh*t.   Side note:  What in the world is better than the glossy, worn down cobble stones of an ancient city? not much. 

RC Gowns (aka my favorite hobby): Cannes Edition

Photo Credit: James Shaw Photography

Photo Credit: James Shaw Photography

  I've been repurposing clothing since I could wield a pair of shears and thread a needle, and while my early ambitions as a young girl were noble and heartfelt,  I have since graduated to a more... well, tailored aesthetic.  That isn't to say that I don't still chop up pieces I have around to throw something together (Last week, I cut the lining out of a vintage black skirt and wore it sheer over a leather peplum onesie for a black tie event.  No one knew I had thrown it together last minute).  building a look for a special occasion is my favorite thing, and designing custom pieces has become my favorite hobby.  I had an event this summer in cannes & I had been sketching floating bodice gowns for months, and I feel like summer is really a perfect time to go light and sheer. It just really matched the South France seaside vibes in my mind,  so I decided to pair the beaded bodices with an ivory gown and a tulle ballet skirt.  I used a gorgeous silk charmeuse paired with a snow white beaded french lace for the gown and my favorite blush tulle with a nude lace for the cocktail.  It's such a fun hobby to have on the side, and I love to create pieces that compliment my jewelry and handbags.  I'm working on 2 gowns right now for some upcoming events & I can't wait to share them!    Anyway, enjoy the photos.  I think I'll pour a glass of rosé and reminiscence. 

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The Bal des Etoiles, Pt. 1 : The Gowns

Jeff and I before the Bal des Etoiles in my first couture design

Jeff and I before the Bal des Etoiles in my first couture design

My husband, Jeff, and I recently traveled to Paris to attend the Bal des Etoiles, a gala benefitting Pain Without Borders.  The event is organized and orchestrated by the flawless Princess Catharine Colonna de Stigliano.  The weekend kicked off with a fabulous fete at the Institut du Monde Arabe. For the cocktail reception, I designed a cocktail dress in a rich emerald green silk and adorned with gold aleçon lace.  I paired it with my American Alligator Carousel Clutch and my Leone necklace with diamonds and rubies, as well as some pieces from an upcoming collection.  I topped the look off with my favorite pair of strass pumps by Christian Louboutin.   

Jeff, myself, and Dino at the cocktail reception at the Institut du Monde Arabe.

Jeff, myself, and Dino at the cocktail reception at the Institut du Monde Arabe.

The following day was spent in anticipation of the black tie gala held at the Cercle De L'Union Interalliée.  For this event, I took my first ever departure from accessories and designed my very first sartorial piece.  For this gown, I used the same gold aleçon lace that was used for the cocktail dress and blush and champagne tulle.    It was the most gratifying experience to see my vision come to life, what started as a sketch on the back of my checkbook at a dinner table turned into the most elegant and beautiful confection I have ever worn.  View some of my favorite images of the gown in the gallery below:

The last day of the Bal des Etoiles began with a brunch also held at the Cercle De L'Union Interallièe. For this I wore a dress that is very special to me.  In the 1970s, my grandmother wore a yellow raw silk dress with an ornate collar to a Mardi Gras Ball in New Orleans.  This dress was passed onto me as a teenager.  I had always planned on recutting the gown and turning it into a cocktail dress, but it sat in my closet for over a decade in its original form.  I stumbled upon the dress a few weeks before the Bal des Etoiles, and knowing I needed a dress for the brunch (and wanting something no one else would have), I knew the time had come! It has a very Elizabeth Taylor, vintage-elegant feel, and I love, loved wearing a piece that my beautiful grandmother had worn so many decades ago. 

On the Left, my grandmother in the 1970s on her way to a Mardi Gras Ball.  On the right, the same dress given new life at the Bal des Etoiles brunch, and me a little sleepy-eyed after a long, very fun weekend.

Stay tuned for more on the Bal des Etoiles and our French getaway!

Bringing France Home

Pot-au-Feu  

Pot-au-Feu  

What to do after being home not even a full 24 hours after a two week tour of France?  Make a traditional dish and fill your home with the fantastic smells of the classic french cuisine, of course! I have to admit, I am quickly becoming a bit of a Francophile.  I had traveled to Paris a few times over the years, but hadn't left my "tourist bubble," so to speak.  I did all of the typical tourist things:  museums, shopping, sipping champagne and eating pomme frites at a sidewalk cafe, eating out for each and every meal.  It is not to say that these things aren't absolutely fantastic in themselves, but after doing a more intensive tour in Italy this past January, my husband and I wanted to see France from a different point of view.  So we rented a car and set out after a week in Paris and headed South.  We don't like to have too many plans set in stone and prefer to travel on a whim just in case we hear of something from someone local or in the know during the journey that changes our course; so naturally we were delighted when our friend Caroline whom we had met in Paris in 2010, invited us to her country home in La Bastides Pradines, a tiny village of 100 residents in the Midi-Pyrenees region. 

La Bastide Pradines

La Bastide Pradines

We knew we were in for a treat as we drove up into the isolated French mountainside.  This year was particularly special to visit, as the warmer fall meant that the leaves were changing colors more slowly and the grass hadn't turned brown yet.  Typically, you don't get such a wonderful variation of colors this late in the season, if at all. The village itself has been there for centuries, and Caroline's house has been in her family for over 100 years. Nestled among the golden, rust, and kelly green colored foliage, it made for truly a picturesque setting.

      After unpacking a bit, we headed down the other side of the mountain into town to go to the farmer's market and "make groceries."  I am from New Orleans, and in Louisiana we say "make groceries" as opposed to "grocery shopping."  I loved to learn that the French translation of "grocery shopping" in English is "make groceries."  It delighted me to hear Caroline say it in her pretty French accent, and made me realize how life in Louisiana is so influenced by its cultural roots and historical heritage.

 In the town, we found all sorts of culinary whimsies.  Fresh cheeses, including Roquefort which is made in a cave just outside of the town we were in.  It is the only cave in the world where it can be made and officially classified as Roquefort.  We found locally cured meats, fresh produce, and gorgeous pastries.  After making a huge haul at the market, we headed back up the mountain to Caroline's house, opened a bottle of wine and prepped for our meal.  Caroline had chosen to make Pot-au-Feu, a classic French beef stew.  After cooking on the stove for 3-4 hours, the meat and vegetables are separated from the broth and served in two courses.  The strained broth is served first, and is followed by the beef and vegetables which are almost always accompanied by strong dijon mustard, gherkins, and fresh bread and butter. The traditional recipe calls for potatoes, but since I am trying to trim up after filling out after two weeks of pastries, treats, and French wine, we skipped out on the potatoes and bread.  Following is my tweaked low-carb recipe for the classic and amazing Pot-au-Feu.  I look forward to sharing more of our stories from the Bal des Etoiles in Paris and our cross-country road trip.  A very special thank you to Caroline for teaching me how to make this dish and sending me home with some wonderful memories!! If I feel very, VERY generous, I may share her grandmother's recipe for Tarte aux Pommes, the French version of the classic apple pie.

Bon Appetit!   

Reagan 

Pot-au-Feu

  • 3 onions, 2 studded with cloves to perfume the meat, and one cut into large pieces
  • Enough cloves to stud two of the onions ("clous de girofle")
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • "bouquet garni": bay leaf, fresh sprigs of thyme and fresh italian (flat-leaf) parsley, and a table spoon or two of peppercorns, wrapped in cheese cloth and tied with kitchen string (or the cheese cloth corners, it's up to you. Mine stayed just fine without kitchen string)
  • 2-3 tbsp coarse sea salt, seasoned as the stew cools to your liking (I prefer mine heavily salted and peppered)
  • 1lb carrots 
  • 3 turnips ("navets")
  • 1lb parsnips ("panais") (I used more carrots and parsnips to accomodate for the omitted potatoes)
  • 3 leeks
  • 4-6 branches of celery
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic peeled, 5-6 cloves of garlic with first skin left on (a trick Caroline taught me that is amazing!!  The first skin creates what is like a little oven and leaves you with the most divine little pouch of buttery garlic in the world)
  • 1.5 pounds beef shank with marrow bones
  • 1.5 pounds of beef flank (or short ribs)
  • olive oil
  • butter

I began by setting two cast iron dishes on the stove; I filled my round dutch oven a little over half way with water and my large sautee pan (both le creuset enameled cast iron, I couldn't live without them!) with a tablespoon or so of olive oil poured in the pan.  While the water was coming to a boil, I caramelized the un-studded and chopped onion in the olive oil with about 3 tablespoons of salted butter.  I then browned the meat excluding the marrow bones, which are trimmed and added to the pot during the last twenty minutes of cooking time. I then added the browned meat to the pot of boiling water with the clove-studded onions and the bouquet-garni. I set aside the pan of butter and caramelized onions (you will place the meat back in and coat in the delicious mixture after you separate the broth, meat, and vegetables).  Allow the pot  to bring back to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook the meat, bouquet-garni, and cloved onions for 1 hour.  After 1 hour, add your peeled and cubed vegetables (including the garlic) to the pot, and continue to cook for an additional hour to two hours.  I brought mine to a boil for the first 15-20 minutes after adding the vegetables, then reduced to a simmer.  Add the marrow bones the last 20-30 minutes to cook. When cooking is finished, I salted and peppered the stew to taste, then removed the meat and placed in the sautee pan and coated in the caramelized onions and butter.  I also removed the vegetables and set aside in another serving dish.  You can then strain your broth, or leave it with the tiny pieces of vegetable debris.  I left the vegetable debris in the broth, which was mostly leek, and it was delicious!! The broth is served first, followed by the meat and vegetables with the dijon and gherkins as condiments.  Pair with a good French red (we like anything from the Bourgogne region) and enjoy!!! 

Next On The Blog:  The Bal des Etoiles 

K9s for Warriors Event

On Friday, my husband and I attended a wonderful event for a very special cause.  The event was sponsored by Ellen Degeneres' Halo Purely Pets brand and Loewes Hotels and hosted by animal activist and best selling author, Wendy Diamond, to benefit K9 for Warriors.  K9s for Warriors is a charitable organization out of Jacksonville, Florida that provides rehabilitation for war veterans through the pairing of rescued animals trained as service animals. We heard from two veterans who are part of the program and their testimonial was so incredibly touching.  Both the veterans and the rescued dogs are given a second chance at life.  It is truly astounding to recognize the power that animals have and how much love and light they can bring into one's life.  Sean Payton, coach of the New Orleans Saints (my husband played under him for 4 years including their Superbowl Winning Season!!), stopped by and made a generous donation from himself and his Play It Forward charity.  My husband was especially happy to visit with Coach and catch up!!  All in all, it was a wonderful and warming afternoon.  I encourage you to check out both charities on their webpages:  http://paytonsplayitforward.com/ and http://www.k9sforwarriors.org/

 (From Left) Wendy Diamond, myself, Jeff Charleston, Coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints

 (From Left) Wendy Diamond, myself, Jeff Charleston, Coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints

Diamonds, Rubies, and Emeralds! Oh my!

I spent this past week in Arizona sourcing precious gems to incorporate into my existing and coming Reagan Charleston collections.  I've been to gem shows before and spent a considerable amount of time sourcing pearls, metals, and non-precious gems, and I thought I knew enough to jump right in and source precious stones.  I was wrong. I am a VERY impulsive person.  Shopping for my line is no different than shopping for myself.  If I find something and REALLY like it, I feel compelled to buy it on the spot.  A little voice inside my head just screams, "It won't still be here after you think it over! Buy now! Buy Now!" So, when I found some rubies, sapphires, and emeralds that looked just so  sparkly and shiny under those oh-so flattering show lights, I snapped them up.  Normally, I would have torn into them like a wild beast as soon as we left, but I waited like a responsible, sane person as neither Jeff nor myself wanted to spend the rest of our evening plucking precious stones out of the nooks and crannies of our little rental crossover. As soon as we got back to our hotel room, I smoothed out the already smooth white down comforter and began to pour out my gemstones onto the bed.  Rubies first. I found, quite to my surprise, they weren't as shiny as they had been at the show. I was convinced it must be the ambient hotel lighting.  I tore open the curtains.  The sunlight did little more than confirm my much undesired suspicions. Certainly, I thought, my blue sapphires would be more brilliant.  They were not.  Next up for inspection were my emeralds.  Another disappointment. I saved my orange sapphires for last, the stones that even in comparison to the diamonds, had glittered and shone with such fire that SURELY they would be, at the very least, half as pretty as I had imagined. While they did indeed sparkle, the brilliance was not what I had expected.  Had I, the girl who has seen every gem under the sun, the girl whose family has been involved with jewelry for eons, the girl who knows one when she sees one... had THIS girl been fooled by the brilliant, electric show lights?  I had.  The next morning, with my bag of precious polished rocks, I sulked back to the gem show, lesson learned.  Instead of beating myself up about it, I carried them around as an example, what not  to look for.  I think karma was on my side, because no sooner as I walked through the doors, I found a lovely gentleman dealing in rare precious stones.  I spent the better half of my day there with him sorting through his menagerie of rare and hard to come by precious gemstones.  I found the most amazing and extraordinarily rare emeralds, rubies, and sapphires.  They are beautiful and brilliant, and they are as incredible inside as they are outside.  No lighting is needed to display the quality of these gems.  I completely geeked out and spent nearly two hours meticulously sorting through and selecting each and every stone that I would use. After a long morning of colorful beauty, I moved on to the diamonds.  OOOh diamonds.  The are highly regarded for a reason. The mere thought of a diamond makes me giddy.  White diamonds, yellow diamonds, pink diamonds, black diamonds... they all make me weak at the knees.  I was literally a kid in a candy store.  The depth and beauty of other stones are incredible as well, but I just loooooove the way a diamond shimmers and glimmers.  I am like a fish,  I am easily distracted by anything shiny.  I chose the prettiest diamonds to include in my collection.  No inclusions, discolorations, or fogginess; just pristine, perfect diamonds.  I truly can't wait to share all of the beautiful stones that I brought back with me.  I have some fantastic things in store, and I hope that you all will cherish them and love them as much as I do! 

Rome

  I always have a fantastic time in Rome, but this was a particularly special stay, as we were there for New Years Eve.  Prosecco bottles literally covered every street corner, ledge, bench... practically anywhere one could be balanced on New Years Eve.  The fireworks over the coliseum were beautiful, and the city, which is always full of such lively spirit, was even more boisterous and joyful than usual.  I found myself so inspired by the architecture, the energy, and the all-encompassing beauty of the city.  My line is very inspired by Rome, both ancient & contemporary. 

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