Monthly Archives: October 2022

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!


Photography by Kaitlyn Marie Photography

(Pumpkin Spice Martini)

  • 2 ounces Bailey’s Irish Cream
  • 2 ounces vanilla vodka
  • 1 ounce Pumpkin Spice Syrup (recipe below)
  • Garnish: Whipped cream, nutmeg, cinnamon stick

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds, then strain into a coupe or martini glass. Top with whipped cream, a sprinkle of nutmeg and a cinnamon stick.

Pumpkin Spice Syrup:
Combine 1 cup of water with 1 cup of brown sugar in a saucepan. Whisk in 1 tablespoon of pumpkin spice blend (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves) and 1/3 cup canned pumpkin. Stir continuously over medium heat until sugar has dissolved completely. Allow to cool before using.

Recipes by Hailey Etzel

Tea Time

Tea Time

Photos courtesy of Nicole Presby

With an extensive collection of tea services, an Evans resident pours on the hospitality for her friends.
Girls never outgrow tea parties, and for Nicole Presby of Evans, almost any occasion calls for tea with friends.

Nicole, who grew up in Europe as the daughter of an American serviceman and a German mother, has had a longtime fascination with the British royal family, and the milestones in their lives are always cause for celebration.

After all, her affinity for the House of Windsor is matched only by her love of tea services, and she rarely misses an opportunity to add to her collection – or to put it to use.

“I like china and dishes,” says Nicole. “A silver teapot, a single cup, an heirloom piece – It always finds a home in my house.”

Fit for a Queen

In honor of Queen Elizabeth II, Nicole invited five friends to a tea in September to watch the televised state funeral for the monarch following her death at age 96.

In June, Queen Elizabeth had celebrated her unprecedented 70th year on the throne with a four-day Platinum Jubilee, and Nicole had planned to mark the affair with a tea in October. She even bought commemorative tea cups for the occasion.

“I ordered the first teacup in May, and it arrived on the day the queen died,” Nicole says.

After Queen Elizabeth passed away, however, Nicole simply rescheduled the get-together to honor the queen and her legacy.

The ladies also celebrated Queen Elizabeth’s long life and steadfast service to the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth with a special gesture.

“At three o’clock we toasted the queen with a glass of sherry because she had sherry at three o’clock every day,” says Nicole.

The menu featured various teas such as black assam, blackberry and Southern peach, and finger foods like cucumber butter sandwiches, chicken salad sandwiches and egg salad sandwiches. Desserts included cherry pie jubilee, shortbread and lemon curd poundcake.

“I always have black assam tea, and I always have multiple kinds of tea so everyone can try different ones,” says Nicole, a military wife and honorary Southerner who is living in the area for the fourth time. “Peach is my ‘house tea.’ It’s my personal favorite. I always do a nod to the South like pecan shortbread cookies or Southern peach tea.”

Her friend, Cynthia Stein, is a frequent guest at Nicole’s teas, including the one during Queen Elizabeth’s funeral and a Tiaras, Pearls and Pajamas party to celebrate the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in 2018.

“Prior to the pandemic, Nicole hosted tea parties in her home. We always looked forward to them. Depending on the time of the season or event, she creates an awesome theme,” says Cynthia. “Your jaw drops as she describes artifacts she has collected to support her teacup collections, all revolving around the royal family.”

Nicole used to have monthly teas – which she recently has resumed – for various occasions. She’ll have a harvest tea or Octoberfest tea in the fall, a spring-themed tea in March for her birthday and a lemon-themed tea in the summer.

In December, Nicole hosts a Secret Santa-style cookbook exchange – a favorite among her friends – or a German-themed tea, and in January she leaves out her crystal and white holiday decorations for a Crystal in the Winter Forest tea.

Quite the Collection

Nicole started collecting tea services in 1982 when she got her first Hutschenreuter Racine Fountainbleu teapot.

“This is the teapot that got my obsession started,” she says. “My mom and grandmother started me on this service for my 18th birthday and bought pieces for every gift-giving occasion. I now have a complete service for 12 in this pattern.”

In fact, she has several full services for 12, but Nicole likes to have more intimate gatherings for her friends. She prefers to keep the guest list to six to eight people to create a cozy atmosphere.

She got some of her tea services from her grandparents and great-grandparents, and she has received many pieces as gifts from her mother-in-law and other friends through the years. “I’m always on the hunt for more,” she adds. “I like to go antiquing for them.”

Some pieces in her collection are too precious to use, however. “I don’t use the royal family services,” Nicole says. “Those are purely souvenir collectible ones.”

Her oldest piece is a teacup that dates to the June 1902 coronation of Queen Elizabeth’s great-grandparents – King Edward VII, who reigned from 1901 to 1910, and Queen Alexandra.

She also has a 12-month floral teacup set that features the flowers associated with each month of the year. When she entertains with this set, she puts the cup from the month of her friends’ birthdays on the table to mark their place setting.

If several friends have birthdays in the same month, then the first person to the cup’s spot on the table gets to use it.

Always the perfect hostess, Nicole never lets her friends leave empty-handed. At the tea party for Harry and Meghan’s wedding, for instance, everyone received a gift bag and a commemorative crown brooch, which she used on the tulle silverware holders.

“My enjoyment comes from seeing my friends happy,” she says. “I want them to have a couple of nice hours and create memories. It’s not a typical party that they would go to.”

However, she gets as just as much pleasure from the parties.

“I love pulling out all of my china,” Nicole says. “I love doing the research on the place settings to use and the menu items I serve, and I love matching the tea with the food.”

By Leigh Howard

Untraditional Tradition


Photography by Sally Kolar

Celebrating Friendsgiving, laid back and Lowcountry-style.
For most people, Friendsgiving is a chance for people who can’t spend Thanksgiving with their families to share the holiday with another clan that matters to them – their closest pals.

However, a group of lifelong friends who graduated from Lakeside High School together – Courtney Johnson, Caitlin Gilham, Emily Azar, Meghan Eller, Merritt Grumman Hawkinberry, Anna Leigh Smith and Jessica Wilson – celebrated Friendsgiving with a twist this year.

Instead of feasting on turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, they sat down to a casual chic Lowcountry boil catered by French Market Grille West.

“We had always talked about it, but we had never actually done it,” says Courtney, the party planner of the group of 10 friends. “We have so many Thanksgiving meals, and a Lowcountry boil is so easy and laid back. We wanted to do something different for Friendsgiving.”

She not only plans the parties, however. Her friends count on Courtney, the “enhancer,” to take things up a notch with an extra touch for any festivities

Case in point: She arranged for the group to have their hair and makeup done for the Friendsgiving party, which was held at the home of Anna Leigh’s parents.

And, although their other three besties – Kim Newman Cuningham, Michelle Crauthers and Taylor Bentler – couldn’t join them for dinner, their friends knew they were there in spirit. After all, some of the friendships date back to their Stevens Creek Elementary School days.

Words of Friendship

Since they didn’t have to cook, the catered meal – along with a glass of wine or two – allowed the women to relax and enjoy each other’s company while they ate on the covered porch, aka “The Nest.” Their husbands got to tag along as well, but they had their own table in the kitchen.

Even though they didn’t have a traditional Thanksgiving meal, the tables were set with the holiday theme in mind. Anna Leigh’s mother, Leah Smith, and Caitlin’s mother, Debra Shockley, took care of the decorations for the party.

“They’re like my bonus daughters,” says Debra. “This group is a well-oiled machine.”

On the trestle farmhouse table on the porch, round rattan placemats were the canvas for white plates, square white bowls and beige napkins.

A wooden bowl filled with decorative pumpkins and fall leaves served as the centerpiece. A pillar candlestick on either side of the bowl held an ivory candle, and a glass vase filled with feathers anchored each end of the table. A blazing fire in the wood-burning fireplace added to the cozy fall ambiance.

“We built ‘The Nest’ during covid, and we love it. We weren’t going anywhere, so it has been a great place for us to spend time,” Leah says.

In the kitchen, brown and white salad plates sat atop white dinner plates. Buffalo check moss green and beige napkins were tied with tasseled rope, and a white pumpkin rested on a bed of fall leaves and berries in the center of the table.

Debra added the crowning touch to both tables by putting a tag with a quote about friendship at each place setting:

“Find your tribe. Love them hard.” “A friend is someone who knows everything about your life and still loves you.” “Best friends make the good times better and the hard times easier.” “Friends don’t let friends do silly things alone.”

The fall décor and festive food set the mood for the gathering, where Diann Banks (Courtney’s mother), Tina Harn (Emily’s mother) and Deena Wall (Meghan’s mother) joined Leah, Debra and their daughters for the fun as well.

Strengthening Bonds

While they attended several different colleges, all of girls returned home to settle down with their own families. And now many of their children are close in age as well.

The lifelong friends also complement each other’s personalities, and each one has a defining role within their circle. Meghan is the realist, and Anna Leigh is the advocate. While Merritt is the organizer, Caitlin is the class clown/counselor.

They also value a good girls’ getaway as much as they appreciate each other.

“We get together at least one time a month, and we do a girls’ trip to the beach or mountains once a year,” says Emily, the friend who likes to plan ahead.

While Friendsgiving was another chance to get together, they’re grateful for their friendship year-round. They have always been there to support each other, grieving with each other and leaning on each other through hard times as well.

Jessica, the nurturer of the group, sums up their unbreakable, lifelong bond.

“As we have gotten older and gone through more things together,” she says, “our friendship has grown even stronger.”

By Sarah James

Sausage and Sage Stuffing

Side Dishes
  • 1 loaf day-old bread, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 pound sage pork sausage, casings removed
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh chopped sage
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place bread cubes in a single layer on a sheet pan and bake 7-10 minutes, or until dried and toasted. Transfer to a large bowl. In a large sauté pan, heat oil over medium heat. Cook sausage over medium heat about 10 minutes, until browned and cooked through, breaking up with a fork while cooking. Add to bread cubes. In the same pan, melt butter and add onions, celery, garlic, parsley, sage, rosemary, salt and pepper. Sauté over medium heat 10 minutes or until softened. Remove from heat and mix in stock. Add beaten egg and pour into bread, mixing well with a wooden spoon until all liquid is absorbed. Pour into 9-inch-by-12-inch baking dish and bake 30 minutes or until browned on top and hot in the middle. Serve warm. Makes 8 servings.

Tails of Happiness


Photos courtesy of Caroline Weaver

It’s a dog’s world. The rest of us just live in it.

Consequently, when dog – or let’s face it, any type of pet – owners are being honest with themselves, they know who runs the show in their households.

Yep, it’s their four-legged family members, and pet parents love to shower them with love and attention. Yet treats and belly rubs or walks and car rides are not the only ways to pamper these fur babies. Just ask Augusta artist Caroline Weaver.

Personality Plus

Three years ago, Caroline painted portraits of her two rescue dogs – a German Shepherd named Boo Radley and a Lab mix named Dakota – and then a couple of friends asked her to paint pictures of their dogs as well.

“I have never taken any classes. I’ve always been in love with art. It has always been my passion,” she says.

Her talent has grown into a side business (ccthornton_art on Instagram), where she can combine her passions of art and animals.

“My rescue dogs inspired me,” Caroline says. “They were my little guinea pigs.”

From the tilt of a dog’s head to the happy expression on its face, she loves to use acrylics on canvas or watercolors to capture the special qualities of people’s pets.

After all, Caroline named Boo Radley, who was living in a sewer in south Augusta when she found him, after the character in To Kill a Mockingbird for a reason.

“Boo Radley was very skittish. I named him that because he refused to go outside,” she says.

Clearly, Caroline, who got Dakota after she saw a Facebook picture of her tied to a telephone pole, has a knack for zeroing in on a pet’s personality.

“I am a huge animal lover. I get so excited when people allow me to paint their precious little keepsake,” she says.

When she does a commission, she asks her clients to give her as many photos as possible of their pet so she can capture its personality.

“I love to get an assortment of different pictures to get their character,” Caroline says. “I try to make my paintings as realistic as possible.”

Because she paints primarily on weekends in a dining-room-turned-art-studio in her home, it generally takes Caroline three to four weeks to finish a piece. Although she prefers painting with acrylics, clients can choose watercolor or acrylic for their portraits.

“With watercolor you’re more limited because it’s such a delicate process to balance out shades and colors. Watercolor requires a lot of layering to catch a pigment,” she says.

“With acrylics you have more freedom. I like the opaque finish of acrylics, and the pigment is more vibrant, especially on canvas. But I love both mediums.”

Caroline not only paints dogs, however. Some of her other works have included a painting of eight cats, a couple of pig portraits and a painting of a dog with two donkeys.

Bridal Party Pets

Art and painting have been an outlet for Caroline since she drew cartoons as a child. She picked up the hobby again as a stress reliever in 2019 when she started planning her wedding.

Once people saw the monogrammed crest she did for her own wedding invitations — featuring Boo and Dakota at the venue — she began to get requests.

Custom signs for specialty drinks named after a couple’s pets are another popular item for wedding receptions. For her wedding, she painted a “Boo’s Bar” and “Dakota Sour” sign in honor of her dogs.

For another bride who served margaritas at her reception, she painted a “Grangerita” sign that showcased her dog with a margarita.

In addition, Caroline paints 24-inch-by-18-inch alternative guest books on canvas that feature the bride and groom and their dogs.

“People who are huge animal lovers want their pets to be a part of their wedding day,” she says.

She also paints house portraits, venues, monogram canvas tiles and family portraits – with or without pets.

“This is such a fun outlet for me,” Caroline says. “I like to paint people and families, and I love to be creative.”

By Betsy Gilliland