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The Wild World of Wine (Bottle Holders)

Unless you’re a wine lover – like myself – you may not have given much thought to wine bottle holders. Not only do I love wine, I also love adding to my collection of wine-themed home decor. Wine bottle holders are a fun way to add character to any type of gathering, and they also happen to make festive gifts for hostesses and mother-in-laws, too.

I recently did a search for wine bottle holders and was thrilled to find all of these fabulous varieties.

Ceramic Wine Bottle Holders

Here at Emilia Ceramics, we have a wonderful ceramic collection that hails from Europe and Mexico. There are several to choose from, but here are my top four faves. You can see the entire ceramic wine bottle collection here.

Ceramic Wine Bottle Holders Collage

Above: Blue Striped Wine Bottle Holder, Black ZigZag Wine Bottle Holder, Rooster Wine Bottle Holder and Paloma Wine Bottle Holder

Upcycled Wine Bottle Holders

Upcycling is when you take something that would have been discarded and turn it into something even better than it was before. I love the creativeness of these upcycled wine bottle holders.

upcycled wine bottle holders collageAbove: Horseshoe Wine Bottle Holder, PVC Pipe Wine Bottle Holder, Reclaimed Wood Wine Bottle Holder

Vintage Wine Bottle Holders

The vintage spirit of these wine bottle holders is totally fun and completely throw-back.

Vintage Wine Bottle Holder CollageAbove: Happy Go-Lucky Golfer Wine Bottle Holder, Vintage Birdy Wine Bottle Holder, Silverplate Bacchus Wine Bottle Holder

DIY Wine Bottle Holders

I think the idea of reusing an old shirt, especially when gifting the guy in your life, is so cool. Also, love this easy-to-sew felt idea.

DIY Wine Bottle Holders CollageAbove: Wooden Wine Bar, Sewn Felt Wine Bottle Holder, DIY Men’s Shirt

Just Plain Weird Wine Bottle Holders

I’m not sure I would want my nice wine to sit in the mouth of a skull or stiletto, but I love the variety in options for the variety of personalities out there.

Weird Wine Bottle Holders CollageAbove: Zombie Wine Bottle Holder, Stiletto Wine Bottle Holder, Skull Wine Bottle Holder

Fun Wine Bottle Holders

These are the best kind to add personality, flair and fun to your table. I especially like the owl and the dog. So fun!

Fun Wine Bottle Collage

What kind of wine bottle holders are your favorites?

If you’re as into wine as I am, feel free to join along on our Drinking Wine Pinterest board.

 

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French Ceramics from Kiln to Table

Provence countryside France

Farm to table dining showcases the best tastes of the season, whether vine-ripe tomatoes or hearty greens. But in Provence, farm to table doesn’t just apply to food – just look at French ceramics! Rustic plates and dishware perfectly match local flavors, combining effortless French chic with a homegrown vibe.

Take Richard Esteban‘s tableware sets. His plates and bowls are a playful mix of motifs and patterns. Stripes, polka dots, animals, even race cars! I fell in love with these plates and bowls when dining with Richard and his family in France. Their outdoor table is typical; al fresco dining is de rigueur for the area when the weather is warm enough. I particularly loved the roaring outdoor fire and the sprawling tree that kept the table shady and cool on even the hottest days.

Outdoor dining at Aigues-Vives Provence

Richard Esteban plates and bowls

   Richard Esteban pottery

Like his farmer neighbors, Richard works with the land – though in his case, he harvests clay, not vegetables. This rich red clay body only shows on the bottom of his plates and bowls, though it’s the shining star of his new wine bottle holder. The vibrant mineral glazes also embody Richard and his team’s “kiln to table” philosophy, resulting in natural tones that are the perfect compliment to Provence’s rich, green countryside. The butter yellow base color for most of his plates makes these French ceramics easy to mix and match. Stack stripes with polka dots or mottos like vive le bon vin (long live good wine); the results are just as relaxed as Richard’s home and studio.

Richard Esteban pottery

Arnaud makes French ceramics

The rustic elegance of Richard Esteban’s French ceramics holds a certain je ne sais quoi that I think is uniquely French. Mix and match some decorative dinner plates, pour a bottle of wine in to a pitcher, slice up a baguette – see, you’re almost there yourself! Now enjoy a delicious meal, lingering to chat long after the food is finished for your very own Provence-inspired moment. Bon appétit!

French ceramic bowl

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Holiday Gift Ideas for Pasta Lovers and Culinary Connoisseurs

Counting down the days until Christmas and still need some gift ideas for pasta lovers on your list? What about your foodie friends? Hard to buy for friends and relations always pose a challenge this time of year, but here are some practical and delicious gifts that are sure to delight those who love to cook (and eat!) on your list.

Here some some Holiday Gift Ideas for Pasta Lovers

Pasta bowls: Ensure that the pasta lovers in your life have pasta bowls that are just as tasty as the sauce and noodle creations they consume. A good pasta bowl should be large enough for a hearty serving of everything from pesto gnocchi to spaghetti bolognaise. Gorky’s pasta bowls are colorful, large (but not overwhelming), and, with an array of bright colors, compliment pasta dishes from all over the world. Pair a set of pasta bowls with a hefty serving bowl for a family gift that’s sure to please. My favorite dish for mixing and serving a large bowl of pasta is Talavera Vazquez’s La Fiesta Bowl.

pasta bowlsPasta makings: Making fresh pasta is actually easier than you might think. Encourage pasta lovers to take their dishes to the next level with the durum and semolina flour that is the base for Italian-style pastas. Orecchiette requires no special equipment and is the base for tasty sauces like this carbonara. If shopping for more adventurous or advanced cooks, go for pasta making machines, specialized cookbooks, or hard-to-find ingredients sourced directly from Italy.

Gifts for Wine Lovers

Wine holders & serving pitchers: Help the wine lover in your life show off the perfect bottle in style with a ceramic wine holder or spacious pitcher. Wine bottle holders make for decorative centerpieces and keep bottles neat; in the hot summers a ceramic wine holder will also keep chilled white wines cool. Ceramic pitchers are another way to casually serve wine and are especially good for reds since having more exposure to the air allows their flavors to deepen. This vino pitcher, a new arrival from Spain, clearly lets people know what’s inside. Pair with a set of vino cups for a wine-inspired gift that’s much more original than another bottle of Pinot Noir.

vino wine pitcher
Wine glass markers:
No one likes mixing up glasses at a party. If your wine lovers like to entertain, the multitude of wine charms, bands, and other glass markers make for fabulous stocking stuffers. Choose markers that somehow fasten to the glass, suction-only markers are more likely to fall off at inopportune moments.

Gifts for Bakers

A specialty class: Many communities have short-term (a couple hours or a weekend) courses on topics like chocolate making, laminated dough (the basis for croissants), French macarons, or breads. Pair the gift of lessons with an appropriate ingredient or tool (quality chocolate, vanilla beans, dough scraper, or a candy thermometer) for a gift that keeps on giving.

baking class
Storage canisters:
If the baker on your list regularly can be found in the kitchen, a stylish canister will brighten the counter and keep essential ingredients at hand. Large or small canisters are perfect for favorite pastas, baking materials like sugar and flour, or even coffee and tea.

canisters from Spain
Need more gift ideas for pasta lovers or others on your list? Check out our holiday gift ideas as well as specialized gift categories for inspiration.

Baking image courtesy star5112.

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Blue and White Gift Ideas

blue and white living room
This gorgeous New York apartment recently featured in House Crush got me thinking about the decorating power of blue and white. Rebecca de Ravenel’s home demonstrates how wonderfully you can add texture and depth to any space with this dynamic duo, mixing patterns and styles to create a unique living space that’s chic and stunning.

Searching for some gift inspiration this holiday season? Here are some winning ideas for anyone who loves blue and white décor (hint: although the colors of the recently ended Hanukkah, this combination fits any celebration. Trust me.):

blue and white plateBlue and white kitchen accessoriesblue and white lamp are perfect for the stylish cook on your list. Think utensil holders, spoon rests, or mixing bowls. Pair these blue and white dishes with wooden spoons or other useful gadget.

For the modern statement maker, a blue and white lamp is sure to update an office or living room. Or try a ginger jar with a graphic blue and white design. But blue and white also has a softer side. Think blue and white throws, pillows, and other home accessories made of fabric.

Who can resist their favorite beverage? Give a blue and white mug to the coffee or tea aficionado, or a blue and white wine bottle holder to the oenophile in your life. A blue and white pitcher is also versatile, serving beverages or acting as a rustic vase for wildflowers.

 

 

blue and white cup and saucer
Blue and white dishes are another crowd pleaser. A few blue and white bowls for your favorite ice-cream loving college student, a stunning blue and white platter for your aunt who likes to entertain, or blue and white plates for a favorite couple are just the beginning. The timeless quality of blue and white dishes make them ideal for traditional or contemporary tastes no matter the recipient’s age.

blue and white platter

When it doubt, say it with flowers. A blue and white vase full of delicate winter blooms makes for a beautiful host present or the perfect way to gift that hard-to-shop-for person on your list. They’ll have beautiful flowers for the holidays and a vase to use for the rest of the year. Our two favorites: The sophisticated Italian Blue Leaf Vase and the more playful, Mexican Large Paloma Vase. Both look great with or without flowers and make a striking, memorable holiday gift.

Have any other blue and white gift ideas? Share your favorites with us and check out our blue and white Pinterest board for even more inspiration.

Blue and white living room image courtesy Vogue.

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Favorite DIY Utensil Holder Ideas that Look Fabulous

Utensil holders are strangely versatile additions to a kitchen. Large ones keep kitchen utensils in order for baking and cooking, but also can double as vases or wine bottle holders (if the shape is right). Smaller utensil holders corral silverware for parties or in apartments with little drawer space. Style comes into the kitchen with chevron utensil holders and other contemporary designs. Inspired by the many ideas on Pinterest and crafty blogs, here are some great holders for your home DIY needs.

utensil holder

Holders for Cutlery

The easiest small utensil holder is a jar of appropriate size. Dress it up with ribbon or decals. This series of three mason jars attached to reclaimed barn wood is perfect for forks, knives, and spoons and more! I love this idea for a small herb garden that mounts on the wall.

DIY utensil holder

In the garden theme, small painted flower pots also are great DIY holders for an informal party setting. The tags on these add the perfect touch for a bbq or outdoor event.

flower pot utensil holders

Another variation on this theme is to use three tin cans covered in colorful paper. One Creative Momma’s colorful DIY holders are playful and stylish.

You also can make utensil holders for individual servings, showing off your craft genius at the table. This tutorial by House of Rose is fun for picnics or the beach, dressing up plastic utensils with pizzaz.

DIY utensil holder

Holders for Large Kitchen Utensils

Canisters that won’t tip over are essential for these kitchen accessories. You can simply upcycle a large tin, making sure the edges are crimped down for safety. I love the look of a decorated olive oil tin, though large European cookie tins are another possibility.

DIY olive oil tin utensil holder

Another large-format DIY holder is a paint can, decorated to match your other kitchen accessories. This version is painted with chalkboard paint, allowing for quick customization.

DIY holder

You can also avoid a utensil holder all together, going for a hanging bar over the counter or stovetop. This creative solution from Release Me Create uses a tension bar over the stove for quick installation.

DIY hanging utensil holder

Chevron remains a favorite pattern, so why not paint a large flower pot to create a chevron utensil holder? This Full Life transforms a yellow pot with painter’s tape and spray paint, creating a particularly spiky design. Don’t feel like painting? Then check out Talavera Vazquez’s handpainted chevron utensil holder in solid ceramic. Bonus: It also doubles a wine bottle holder.

chevron utensil holder

What are your favorite places to find DIY projects for the home? What other creative DIY utensil holder ideas have you used? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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Enjoying Wine to Its Fullest: A Photo Essay

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How do you enjoy your wine? From a glass with dinner to a bottle with friends, there are lots of wine accessories out there that help make a bottle taste a little better. One example that’s perfect for entertaining is wine bottle holders. Ceramic wine bottle holders in particular keep chilled bottles cool longer (without all the drips of ice) and add a decorative note to the table.

wine bottle holder

Of course, to fully enjoy wine you need to get it open. There are so many corkscrews out there to choose from, but I think the classic waiter style is the best in terms of ease and size.

corkscrew

Once you have the bottle open, cork wine stoppers with fanciful designs are another excellent wine accessory. Instead of trying to cram the original cork back in, these fit easily but still keep an open bottle tasting great for days after. A trick to keep wine longer is to store open bottles of both red and white in the refrigerator; just let the red come up to room temperature before serving.Wine Corks

Other must-haves for wine are the right glasses. Aficionados use a variety of glass shapes depending on the grape, but generally you’re ok with large wine glasses for reds, more tapered glasses for whites, and flutes for champagne and sparkling wine.

white wine glass

red wine glass

Love big bold red wines? A decanter is definitely wise. These let wine breathe and allow the flavors to really open up. An aerator performs a similar task while you pour the wine, but in a matter of minutes (perfect for causal dinners).

Wine is a great way to be prepared for impromptu parties or unexpected guests. I love this simple list from Kris Schoels of Young Married Chic as to what you should always have on hand to be prepared for a last-minute get-together:

1. A great bottle of champagne.
2. Bread, cheese, fresh fruit.
3. Chocolate and extra desserts.

So simple, yet so perfect. Are you prepared?

chocolate assortment

Wine certainly makes everything more festive. Check out our Pinterest board on everything wine for more ideas, then let us know you favorite wine accessories from wine bottle holders to glasses by leaving a comment below.

Corkscrew image courtesy of YannGarPhoto.wordpress.com.

White wine glass image courtesy of Robert S. Donovan.

Red wine glass image courtesy of yashima.

Bread image courtesy of designsponge.com via Emilia Ceramics on Pinterest.

Chocolates image courtesy of aalphotos.

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Our Gift Guide for the Person With Everything

Christmas wreath and handmade ceramicsDo you have someone on your holiday gift list this year that’s nearly impossible to buy for? The person who has everything might be your boss, mother-in-law, or a close friend, but no matter who it is, the frustration can be intense when trying to think of some suitable gift ideas. Trust me, I’ve been there.

Blue Striped Vase by Talavera VazquezI’ve talked with people in the Palo Alto pop-up shop these last few weeks about the folks that difficult to shop for and come up with some ideas about holiday gifts that are sure to please. From stripe painted vases to Tuscan utensil holders, here’s my gift guide for the 2012 holiday season.

Stripe Painted Vase. Large or small, the graphic charm of a stripe painted vase is hard to resist and is a great decoration for either the home or office. The blue and white stripes of this stripe painted vase by Talavera Vazquez go with any décor. Fill your gift vases with some festive branches or a winter bouquet and skip the need to wrap.

Unique Serving Platter. Ideal for the party planner in your life, a beautiful serving platter not only enlivens a party or dinner, but also can double as wall decoration when not in use. The simplicity and freshness of Tuscan lemons are always a winner, or choose Talavera Vazquez’s blue and white Mexican tray. Pair with a cheese knife or other serving utensil for a complete gift set.

Tuscan Utensil Holder. Guaranteed to please any stylish cook, a Tuscan utensil holder is a practical and cheerful way to hold kitchen counter essentials. Whether a blue rooster or luscious fruits, Tuscan utensil holders remain a classic go-to gift. Here too you can add useful kitchen tools, like wooden spoons or silicone spatulas, and bring a smile to anyone who loves working in the kitchen.

blue rooster utensil holder

Playful Pitcher. Pitchers are incredibly versatile, which makes them a great gift idea. A pitcher can decorate a shelf, brighten a kitchen, hold flowers, or serve a favorite beverage. The playful polka dots of this handmade pitcher by Richard Esteban are festive while the classic rooster pitcher by Ceramiche Bartoloni exudes Italian charm.

Drink Accessories. If your boss is a beast before that first cup of coffee, a mug and beans from their favorite roaster is a great gift. I think cup and saucer sets are a bit dressier than your average mug, whether they’re espresso cups or the giant cup and saucer by Gorky Gonzalez ready to fuel an entire morning. For wine lovers, a wine bottle holder and delicious bottle of red, white, or rosé gives them something they’ll enjoy now and for years to come.

What are you go-to gift ideas for holiday gifts? Leave a comment below and let us know.

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Ceramic Canisters: Practical Kitchen Decoration

Ceramic canisters have been used to organize everything from pasta and flour to medicines and special remedies for centuries. While I’m certainly glad we no longer need to rely on Renaissance-era medicine, I do like the idea of making storage beautiful as well as functional. Here are my top 5 ways to use ceramic canisters in your kitchen:

  1. Inject Style into Dry Good Storage. Flour, sugar, pasta, and other heavy-use items can be a pain to pull out of a cabinet or pantry every time you need them. Save yourself time by keeping these staple dry goods on the counter in ceramic canisters. The ever-popular spaghetti ceramic canister by Tuscia d’Arte is a great example (and doesn’t have to be limited to noodle storage). A variety of sizes keeps the counter interesting and can save you space.
  2. Add Floral Accents. A tall vase filled with dried or fresh flowers is a surefire way to cheer the cook throughout the day. In the fall, I love dried grasses or decorative branches in keeping with the season. Place your vase on top of the fridge or use it as a centerpiece on the kitchen table. This way the flowers don’t get in the way of cooking. I like how striking a blue vase can be even when empty, but take into consideration your kitchen’s color scheme when choosing the perfect option. Another idea for a hefty bouquet is to use a utensil holder as a vase.
  3. Keep the Wine Handy. A wine bottle holder is another kind of ceramic canister that has more than one use in the kitchen. Perfect for holding tonight’s bottle, it’s also ideal as a utensil holder for your favorite tools. The zig zag pattern on this ceramic wine bottle holder hits a modern note for a fresh looking kitchen.
  4. Don’t Forget Other Drink Options. Small ceramic canisters or even ginger jars are great ways to keep your coffee or tea on the counter with no one the wiser. I love the rooster on this ceramic canister; he’s definitely ready to help you face the day, no matter if you’re a morning person or not. The floral motifs on these ceramic canisters by Capelo also look great with a grouping of three (one each for coffee, tea, and sugar).
  5. Repurpose History. Ginger jars were a way to ship and store spices, herbs, and other trade goods (including ginger) in China for centuries, but today they’re valued mostly for their decorative properties. Still, a large blue and white ginger jar can add flair to your kitchen or dining room. Use it to store anything from dog treats to your shopping bags (depending on where it is in the room) or as a tall vase.

With all their varied uses, it’s no wonder that ceramic canisters make a functional and stylish gift no matter the occasion. How do you use ceramic canisters in your kitchen? Leave a comment below and let us know.

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7 Top Tips: Buying Ceramics Online for the Holidays

It’s almost Halloween and once that’s over, the holiday shopping season seems to officially begin. I’ll be opening the Emilia Ceramics pop-up shop soon (stay tuned to the blog and Facebook for more details) and am always amazed at how early people start to buy ceramics for their holiday gifting. Whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, or another special celebration for family and friends, this is definitely the season of giving.

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Looking to buy ceramics & pottery as gifts this year? Here are my top tips to ensure the best experience possible.

  1. Avoid the possibility of duplicates. No one likes to give or get a repeat gift. One easy solution is to buy ceramics online that are handmade or one of a kind. Because no two pieces are exactly the same (unlike mass-produced ceramics), you guarantee originality.
  2. Check out sizes. Photos are great, but double check the dimensions when you buy ceramics online. That vase might be 6 inches or 18 inches tall, making for a very different type of gift! When in doubt, pull out a ruler and double check that the ceramics & pottery you’re buying are actually the size you think they are.
  3. Remember that good things come in small packages. Unsure about what to get someone? Stick to practical pieces that can be used often. Coffee mugs, salt and pepper shakers, spoon rests, and multipurpose wine bottle holders are all popular ceramics to buy as gifts for this reason. I have many customers that buy these ceramics for neighbors, coworkers, and relatives on their lists. With the wide range of colors and designs, you’re sure to find appealing ceramics for any personality.
  4. Investigate shipping before you buy. When you buy ceramics online, make sure to look at the shipping policy as you shop around. What’s the policy on breakage? Is there a cut off time date for guaranteed holiday delivery? If you buy ceramics early enough you should be able to save on shipping costs and avoid express fees.
  5. Know the gift policy. Many places will gift wrap and send your gifts directly when you buy ceramics online, which can be a big time saver come the shopping crunch of November. Find out too about how returns are handled (refund, store credit, or exchange?) before placing your order to avoid unpleasant surprises.
  6. Find out how durable the piece is. Fine china teacups looks gorgeous, but seem like they will chip if you breathe too hard on them. Thicker, more sturdy ceramics & pottery are better for everyday use, especially if children or pets are anywhere in the picture. When you buy ceramics, think about who will use them and let that help your decision-making process.
  7. Think about collections. If you are figuring out the ceramics to buy for a collector, find out the focus of their collection. Do they collect by type (plates, pitchers), motif (roosters, polka dots), or color (blue and white, yellow)? Knowing where to start will ensure you select the best ceramics & pottery possible.

I hope these tips for buying ceramics online have been helpful! Please share your favorites on our Facebook page.

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Just Opened: New Exhibition on French Ceramics in LA

Love French ceramics from the seventeenth- and eighteenth-centuries? Then you need to check out the exhibition that opened last Saturday, October 6, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Entitled “Daily Pleasures: French Ceramics from the MaryLou Boone Collection,” it features over 130 examples of faïance, soft-paste porcelain, and hard-paste porcelain used in French daily life.

I found out about this exhibition months ago and wrote about it when comparing French ceramics past and present. For example, the curves of French country pottery pitchers mirror those of antique ewers which traditionally held water for washing in the morning. Other French ceramics in the exhibition include tablewares, tea accouterments, toiletry items, and even pieces used in times of sickness. The sugar bowl and spoon featured on LACMA’s blog is charming, with soft pink accents and a curiously slotted spoon.

Covered Sugar Bowl, 1780, Lunéville, France; and Sugar Spoon, 1775, Lunéville Petit Feu Faïence Manufactory, Lunéville, France; gifts of MaryLou Boone, photos © Susan Einstein

“This exhibition reveals and celebrates both the artistry that exists in the service of the utilitarian and the ability of this discriminating collector to bring together remarkable examples of that artistry,” said Elizabeth Williams, assistant curator of decorative arts and design at LACMA, in a recent press release.

Wine Bottle Cooler (Seau à demi-bouteille). Chantilly Porcelain Manufactory, Chantilly, France, c. 1730-1735. Soft-paste porcelain with glaze and enamel, The MaryLou Boone Collection. photos © Susan Einstein

I couldn’t agree more, especially looking at examples of handmade French pottery today, from French platters to the elegant curves of a French ceramic serving bowl. I was amused to see a French ceramic wine bottle holder circa 1730-1735 as a featured piece on the LACMA website. The Asian influence is obvious, as is the practicality of having something to keep wine cool. Unlike the porcelain jars for pomade, a wine bottle holder is a practical ceramic piece people still use today.

Many of these pieces look like they came from Asia because they were imitations of pieces from Japan and China that only the very rich could afford. Today’s French ceramics embrace colors, shapes, and textures of a timeless (yet contemporary) French aesthetic. French country pottery is a pleasure not only to see, but also to use, though the delicate artistic touches on Sylvie Durez‘s birds or the edging of Poterie Ravel’s French platters invoke the early examples of this tradition the LACMA exhibition highlights.

“Daily Pleasures” runs until March 31, 2013, so if I make it down to L.A. before it’s over, I’ll definitely check it out. Have you seen this exhibition or know of others that focus on French ceramics in your area? Leave a comment below and let us know!

“Daily Pleasures” images courtesy of LACMA.

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How to Throw the Perfect Wine and Cheese Party

There are few things that are more delicious than the pairing of cheese and wine, so it’s no wonder that this duo is the star of so many parties. You don’t need to be an expert to love the idea of wine and cheese, or to throw a fabulous wine and cheese party. Some plates, bowls, glasses, and bottles and you’re already well on your way.

Here are six ideas to make your cheese and wine party a success:

1. Leave out the snobbery. Experts can clearly articulate what makes up a wine’s “nose,” but many of us casual wine drinkers prefer to just enjoy the wine, regardless of its subtle nuances of aroma and taste. The look, swirl, smell, taste method is classic, but encourage people to share what they think using their own vocabulary. One trick I’ve seen is to cover all the bottle labels with a wine bottle holder or paper and only mark the grape (or just a number) so that people can form their own opinions without being swayed as to the wine’s region or brand.
2. Share the work. My favorite cheese and wine parties involve the guests bringing a bottle and a cheese based on a theme. It could be as simple as “red” or “Sauvignon Blanc” or get more complicated with a night dedicated to Spanish reds, New Zealand whites, Californian Wines, or bottles from 2008 only. This ad hoc approach can create some interesting (and delicious) cheese plates as well.wine tasting party idea
3. Arrange your plates in threes. Construct an appealing cheese plate with this simple rule. Have at least three things on your plate (more if it’s big) – two cheeses and one fruit, three cheeses, one cheese with some nuts and honey, you get the idea. Make sure to have a separate knife for each cheese on the plate to prevent mixing.4. Bring on the extras. Fill plates and bowls around the room with fruits, nuts, crackers, bread, and other accompaniments for your cheese and wine. Sliced apples, grapes, and dried fruits are a good starting point and can lead to some complex pairings. Some chèvre and grapes on a plate and a large bowl of fresh sliced baguette always appeals.

5. Let guests know what things are. Clearly label everything from your cheese plate to your non-alcoholic options to help people find their favorites (and know the real name of that amazingly stinky cheese). If you’re providing the wine and cheese yourself, use chalkboard contact paper as a runner to construct a clearly marked table before guests arrive. This tip from Rock UR Party also lets you draw arrows to what foods pair best with which bottles – it’s smart and fun.
6. Label your glasses. From wine charms to ribbons, even using a sharpie (it should wash off) or chalkboard paint to label the glass, there are plenty of ways to help everyone keep track of their own glasses. Pick your favorite (and make sure you have a few extra glasses in case a few end up lost regardless).

Do you have any wine and cheese party tips? Favorite plates you use? Leave a comment and let us know (and enjoy that glass of vino)!

Wine bottles and glasses image courtesy of .craig.

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White Dishes and Kitchen Décor to Fit Your Style

Black and white is perhaps the most versatile color combination out there. From modern design to rustic country décor, these basic colors create spaces that are full of personality and depth. After our zigzag black and white ceramic wine bottle holder was featured on the cover of the September issue of HGTV magazine I’ve been thinking more about how to use black and white effectively in kitchen décor. It’s the perfect counterpoint for color and so much more!

Here are some ideas to help you find the best ways to use black and white in your kitchen:

Let colors rule. Black and white looks the most striking when paired with vibrant colors. Cheerful cabinets, walls, and countertops create a backdrop for your black and white kitchen décor that prevents things from looking flat and lifeless. Lighter shades are equally effective (powder blue and pale yellow are some personal favorites), but make sure there’s enough richness in the base tone of your paint to avoid a washed-out, blah effect.

Find white dishes with character. Plain white plates are boring, so choose white dishes that have something unique about them. Textured glazes and unusual shapes are great ways to pack some punch with your white serving platters.

This white plate with cut-out handles is the perfect example with black clay that shows just around the edges, giving an unexpected softness to the piece. Similarly, a white bowl becomes playful with decorative fluting around the edges.

 

Who said white dishes had to be basic?

 

Embrace touches of modern design. Not everyone wants a kitchen that feels like a futuristic spaceship. But that doesn’t mean that you should reject contemporary décor accents like curtains, countertop accessories, or vases. Mixing in a little of the modern gives any kitchen décor a definite edge. Take Gogo’s white espresso cup and saucer or Richard Esteban’s carved black vase; these pieces have timeless appeal with a distinctly modern feel.

Or try a graphic black and white ceramic wine bottle holder that becomes an appealing utensil holder and plays up your other colorful accents.

What ways do you incorporate black and white into your kitchen décor or dishware? Leave a comment and let us know!

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Lemons + Ceramiche Bartoloni = Cheerful Italian Ceramics

The history behind Italian ceramics plays a big part in their allure. Patterns and techniques that have been handed down for generations make for handmade ceramics that really stand out, whether they were made last year or 100 years ago. But writing about Italian country décor recently has got me thinking about lemons in particular, a fruit that’s a hallmark of Italian ceramics.

The Limoni pattern by Ceramiche Bartoloni is a wonderful example of this Italian ceramic motif in action. There are two versions – one on a white background, the other on a deep blue – and both are cheerful and bright, no matter the size or shape of the piece. I’ve watched the Bartoloni brothers paint these Italian ceramics themselves, Patrizio with his flamboyant swirls and curves, Stefano a bit more focused on intricate detailing. The finished product has the power to brighten any room.

So how can you get some of the lemon Italian ceramics in your life? The mugs are a great way to start the day, managing to be decorative even when they’re drying in the dish rack. Another favorite is the Limoni pitcher. It looks fabulous with a bouquet of fresh flowers or holds 1 liter of water, juice, or wine. Rounding out the table décor for your kitchen or dining room are the salt and pepper shakers complete with a small tray for easy passing.

The Bartolonis don’t stop there, however. Kitchen counters and stovetops benefit from an Italian ceramic spoon rest, keeping everything clean when you make your signature spaghetti sauce. The Limoni wine bottle holders are also versatile Italian ceramics; use them as a utensil holder, a vase, or keep tonight’s wine chilled on the table.

Soap dishes add cheer to any sink, and serving trays and bowls complete the collection. These Italian ceramics are equally at home on the wall as decoration or on the table, serving a delicious meal.

Popular as gifts or just as a way to bring some sunshine into your home, these lemon patterned Italian ceramics are the perfect mix of beauty and utility. How do you use these or other Italian ceramics from Emilia Ceramics in your home décor? Send us a photo and you can get 15% off your next order!

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Why Buy Ceramics for Valentine’s Day?

My Love Comes Bearing GiftsI’ve been thinking about Valentine’s Day recently (as those of you who get the newsletter already know). If you have a special someone to celebrate it with, it’s time to come up with a plan. It’s probably one of the worst times to try and go out to eat (reservations fill up fast and set menus don’t usually showcase a restaurant’s best dishes). Roses are cliché, the same goes for chocolates. But what about buying ceramics online for your sweetheart?

Think about it. Ceramics are durable (just like your love). They’re timeless (just like your love). They look good for years and can be used as a daily reminder of your love, whether simple coffee mugs or an elaborately-decorated vase. Of course, when you buy ceramics online, you’ll have many options – here are some ideas to help you decide what’s right for your Valentine’s Day gift:

Seeing Red: Valentine’s day is full of red and pink. If your sweetie loves those colors, bonus! Red ceramic platters, mugs, and bowls are just some ceramics to buy that fit personal tastes and the holiday. I think red’s cheerful year-round, but if it’s not a favorite, think about classic blue and white, warm yellows, or even rich greens. A gift that reflects personal taste is always best, no matter the occasion. From clean, graphic ceramics to rich Tuscan and French country pieces, there’s something for everyone.

Shipping: When you buy ceramics online, check out the shipping policy before shopping around. Is there an express option to get your gift delivered before February 14? What’s the policy on breakage? With a week to go, most places should be able to deliver your gift with a day to spare.

Special Touches: Traditional gifts are sweet, don’t get me wrong. But why not add something a little extra? A vase with a note saying “For all the flower bouquets to come” sets up a year-long romantic gesture that’s sure to be appreciated. For wine lovers, this black and white striped wine bottle holder would work well with a bottle of Lucky Night wine by Swanson Vineyards. Love someone who loves coffee or tea? Find the perfect ceramic mug for their daily cup along with some of their preferred brew. The Gran Taza ensures they have enough for the morning at home or the office.

      

When Size Matters: Good things come in both big and small packages. When choosing ceramics to buy, think about your sweetheart’s space and preferences. A statement vase might be beautiful, but take up too much space on a small shelf. If space isn’t an issue, try a bold planter for the window or patio. Even better, complete this gift with a flowering plant, so your Valentine can enjoy flowers long after February 14th.

Pink package image courtesy of Vincent van der Pas.

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Easy Black and White Kitchen Décor

black and white kitchenWhat’s your kitchen décor theme? While Italian countryside, French chic, American rustic, and others inspired by favorite cuisine or region are always popular choices, the appeal of sleek, modern design is also hard to resist. And what says contemporary décor better than black and white? The hallmark of modernity, black and white has rightly remained a classic color pairing that looks superb in the kitchen.

One of the advantages of black and white is that you can bring in another color for a bold accent that really stands out. Bright red pops with black and white, invoking the great look of a 50’s retro dinner or contemporary minimalism, depending on the style of accents. Cobalt blue remains a popular addition to black and white, but I’ve seen fabulous things done with everything from grey to bright green for truly unique kitchen décor.

Want some easy ways to bring black and white into your kitchen? Black and white floor tiles, cabinets, and countertops are all great places to create this stark simplicity. However, you can also channel the modern design feel with neutral colored furnishings as a back-drop for a few well-placed black and white accents, from butter dishes to vases. Here are some of my favorite accents for kitchen décor that’s both dramatic and dynamic in its design.

Black and white butter dishes. Keep butter at room temperature for easy spreading and add a decorative note to the table or counter with a black and white butter dish. Instead of having this practical piece fade into the background, a black and white butter dish adds personality and a touch of contemporary décor, like our festive Hidalgo pattern by Talavera Vazquez.

Black and white spoon rests. There’s nothing worse than getting tomato sauce all over your stove. But spoon rests keep those ladles, wooden spoons, whisks, and spatulas under control. Use a black and white spoon rest on the counter or stove top for easy cleaning with style.

Black and white trivets. Hot plates or trivets are another way to inject flair into black and white kitchen décor. Who has time for plain ceramic tiles or cork mats? Mix it up with a black and white trivet that looks great as a centerpiece when it isn’t mealtime and matches other black and white pieces by Talavera Vazquez.

Black and white wine bottle holders. A favorite host gift, wine bottle holders are practical additions to any kitchen, keeping bottles cool and your table free from drips. A black and white wine bottle holder can also hold utensils or even flowers on the countertop, making it a super versatile piece.

Black and white vases. Add fresh flowers to your kitchen table, window, or counter with sweet black and white vases. I love this black and white vase for the kitchen (in the photo with little yellow flowers) — the stripes are fun and it’s small enough not to get in the way of the chef. A great fusion of beauty and style into modern design.

Kitchen image courtesy of Thekitchendesigner.org.

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Top 5 Gifts for Pasta Lovers

spaghetti al sugo
Spaghetti with a hearty tomato sauce, fettuccini alfredo, delicate handmade raviolis, gnocchi in sage butter… how can you resist the temptation of pasta? Ubiquitous in Italy, pasta comes in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors which makes it possible to never have the same meal twice.

With pasta so popular, it’s no surprise that Tuscia d’Arte’s spaghetti canister is a consistent top seller. Functional and decorative, keeping this stylish spaghetti canister fully stocked means you have a quick and simple dinner always on hand (ideal for those days you don’t want to think about cooking). This spaghetti canister also holds its own as a decorative element on a kitchen counter, or pairs beautifully with other canisters holding your essential dry goods.

As the holiday season approaches I’ve started thinking about creative gifts for my “hard to buy for” friends. Since so many people love pasta, it’s the perfect starting point for a useful and delicious gift, no matter the reason.

Here are my top five gifts for pasta lovers:

1. Pasta. While the boxed stuff is good for everyday, why not indulge your favorite pasta lover with handmade, fresh noodles? I love the pasta from Lucca Ravioli here in San Francisco. Their ravioli has incredible seasonal flavors like pumpkin or turkey and is always tasty. You can also find dried artisanal pastas at specialty markets if fresh isn’t easily available in your area.

2. Spaghetti canister. Fill it with quality spaghetti or fettuccini for a practical gift. The Tuscan Fruit spaghetti canister is perfect for anyone who loves Italian ceramics, Tuscan style, or just appreciates the fusion of art and food in their kitchen.

3. Pasta machine. Since fresh pasta is so delicious, why not make your own? From the manual to state of the art electric versions, pasta machines roll out dough to the perfect noodle thickness. Use cutters to make noodles or take the sheets to create ravioli and tortellini with your favorite flavor combinations.

4. Pasta bowls. The best part about pasta is eating it. A pasta serving bowl (I love the yellow and turquoise one pictured above) makes for the perfect presentation. Or try a set of individual pasta bowls that are large enough for a hearty portion of noodles and sauce. I like mixing and matching for more personality at the table.

5. Kitchen accessories. Pasta needs the right accouterments from a solid colander to spoon rest for your sauce spoon and pasta claw. A large pepper or cheese grinder, salt and pepper shakers, or a spice rack ensures perfect pasta seasoning. A wine bottle holder keeps a favorite bottle handy to compliment any pasta feast.

Now I’m hungry for some pasta myself. What’s your favorite pasta dish? Post a comment to let us know!

 

Spaghetti image courtesy of Dèsirèe Tonus.

Pasta maker image courtesy of Jeff Kubina.

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Simple Accents for an Italian Table

Writing about tabletop trends last week, I got to thinking about pieces that have transformative powers. While some Italian ceramic lovers fill their table with entire sets of dinnerware, I have found that a few smart accents can make a striking effect. For instance, a small, but colorful Italian pitcher, used to serve wine or display a floral arrangement, gives the table instant Italian style.

If subtlety is your goal, it’s smart to chose Italian ceramic pieces that are both beautiful and useful. Some of my favorites are the Venetian Fruit Butter Dish and the Limoni Salt and Pepper Shakers. These are two Italian pieces that never get old and always make me happy. They may be small, but they definitely have the power to transform your table and your mood.

An Italian butter dish is the perfect mix of function and charm. Keeping butter at room temperature makes it ready to spread — perfect for breakfast toast or dinner breads. I also like using an Italian butter dish as a way to bring soft cheeses to the perfect consistency before a party. The cover means I’m not tempted to taste before my guests arrive!

Of course, no Tuscan villa is complete without the right spices — And no Italian meal is complete without salt and pepper, which brings the best out of meat, pasta dishes, and vegetables. Italian salt and pepper shakers keep the essentials handy at the table or in the kitchen. I love the dish that the Limoni salt and pepper shakers come with too – it’s an easy way to keep the pair together when it comes time to pass them. These Italian salt and pepper shakers are so cheerful and bright that they can make any table feel like it’s in the Tuscan hills.

There are many other Italian accents with the power to introduce a subtle Tuscan feel to your kitchen or dining room: spoon rests, wine bottle holders, and cream and sugar sets. Practical decorations such as spaghetti canisters add charm to your countertop while keeping ingredients in easy reach. And I love the solidity of an Italian utensil holder, large enough to hold an ever-increasing collection of spoons, whisks, and ladles.

Another great thing about small Italian ceramic accents? They make great gifts! Italian butter dishes, salt and pepper shakers, and other kitchen accessories are a perfect house warming, birthday, engagement or anniversary gift. Whether for an Italian ceramic lover, a chef extraordinaire, or a general collector of beauty, these pieces add the perfect touch of Italy to any table.

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Gifts We Love for Wine-Loving Friends

Know any oenophiles? An oenophile is a lover of wine, oenophilia the love of wine, and oenology the study of wine and wine making. Others prefer the term wine connoisseur, aficionado, or the more general, wine lover.

So what do you get an oenophile? It sounds like an easy question – wine. But what kind? From where? If you’re like me and don’t know a lot about wine yourself, picking out wine for an expert can be daunting.

However, help is on the way. Here are a few great wine gift ideas to fit any budget and occasion. I hope they help you fill your oenophile gift needs!

  • A tasting trip: When you want to celebrate something truly special, like an engagement or important wedding anniversary, why not treat your wine aficionado to a tasting in a region they love? A trip to taste Bordeaux in France or Malbec in Argentina would definitely be memorable. If that’s a stretch, investigate regional possibilities; there are more and more wineries throughout the US that produce delicious bottles (not just Napa Valley either). You can make this gift extra lux with overnight stays, dinners, and guided tours along with tasting opportunities.
  • A home tasting package: Brix26 has saved me on more than one occasion with a great selection of California wines. I love their wine gifts: you can buy 2, 4, 6, or 12 bottles and they’ll ship their latest discoveries direct to your wine loving friend. It’s a great way to try new bottles that have been recommended by an expert.
  • Useful wine accessories: Here you have a range of choices. A ceramic wine bottle holder is stylish and practical, keeping whites cool on the table with ease. I also like how ceramic wine bottle holders complete a table’s look when it comes time for a dinner party. Also consider decorative wine corks, an aerator (it helps wine breathe quickly), or charms/tags for wine glasses.

black striped wine holder  paloma wine holder

Of course the easiest way to learn more about wine for yourself is to taste. Why not organize a home tasting with some friends? Everyone can bring a different bottle (perhaps based on a theme or region) and talk about what they have in their glass. Ceramic wine bottle holders easily mask labels for blind tasting possibilities, letting you discover what you truly enjoy… and have fun while you do it.

Wine bottles image (top) courtesy of Procsilas Moscas.

Wine gift image courtesy of Brix26.

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5 Tips to Help You Buy Ceramics

There are many reasons to buy ceramics. Perhaps you need some coffee mugs or a stunning vase as a special present. Or maybe it’s not about needing anything at all, but more about falling in love with a certain ceramic design or shape. With the wide variety of ceramics available though, how do you decide what to buy? Here are my tips of what to consider when you’re shopping for ceramics:

  1. How will it be used? Are you looking to buy ceramics for decoration or daily use? Some pieces are versatile when it comes to usage (like ceramic bowls) while others are just as beautiful, but slightly less functional (like ginger jars). When buying a gift, think about how the recipient will use a piece – a wine lover would find a wine bottle holder useful while platters can be used to serve food or hang on a wall to brighten a room.
  2. Handmade ceramics or mass-produced? Mass produced ceramics are ubiquitous and impersonal. Occasionally ceramics that are mass-produced end up becoming collectors’ items, but they still lack originality. As for me, I’ll pick handmade any day of the week. I love knowing that my ceramics come from human hands and it’s important to me to support talented artists themselves instead of big manufacturing plants. That way, you know your ceramic piece is totally unique – a one-of-a-kind work of art that can never be reproduced.
  3. How durable is the piece? My grandmother had teacups that she only used on special occasions – the china was so fine I was afraid that if I breathed too hard I’d chip them. Thicker, more sturdy ceramics are better for everyday use (hence my grandmother’s solid mugs that she used everyday). When you buy ceramics, think about who will use them and let that help your decision-making process. Thin, delicate pieces are better for decoration than function, especially if children or pets are anywhere in the picture.
  4. Are you adding to a collection? Some people buy ceramics as collectibles, which makes discovering a unique piece all the more fun. For instance, I have an ever-growing collection of ceramic mugs, all of which I use! My mix of Portuguese, Italian, Mexican, and French ceramic coffee mugs is a testament to years of experiences, making my morning coffee like a trip down memory lane. If you’re buying for someone else, find out first if there’s a particular focus to their collection; they may have a thing for pitchers or anything decorated with roosters or glazed in blue and white.
  5. Where does it come from? When it comes to craftsmanship and quality, the source is hugely important. I love being able to see the brushstrokes and feel the irregularities in the glaze that make handmade ceramics truly special; forming personal connections with artists simply deepens my appreciation for the pieces. Choosing ceramics from artists with a strong dedication to their craft makes it easy to buy with confidence, knowing your pieces will stand the test of time.

What do you look for when you buy ceramics? Leave a comment and let us know!

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We’re Loving Ceramic Wine Bottle Holders

Summer brings with it many things: long sun-filled days, picnics, trips to the beach, and barbeques. It also seems to bring out the white wine drinker in all of us – on a hot day there’s nothing like a cool glass of crisp pinot grigio or chardonnay before and during a leisurely dinner.

But with the heat comes another age-old problem: how to keep things cool? Icy champagne buckets are heavy and messy. Not only does the bottle drip all over the place, the ice becomes just a pool of water by evening’s end. But keeping the bottle in the fridge means multiple trips back and forth to replenish glasses, which is inconvenient whether you’re sitting outside or in. However, I’ve come across another solution for this quandary: try a ceramic wine bottle holder. It keeps a chilled bottle cold on the table, there’s no mess, and it looks great the whole time!

I wrote about giving a ceramic wine bottle holder as a gift, along with a special bottle of wine back in May. They make a great gift because bottle holders fall in that category of items that you may not think to buy, but use constantly once you have.

What makes a ceramic wine bottle holder so handy? It gives instant charm to any table setting, whether a romantic dinner for two or a full-scale dinner party. Even plain table wine seems a little more special when presented thoughtfully. The ceramic wine bottle holders above from Ceramiche Bartoloni give a delicious touch to your place setting, with hand-painted grapes, lemons and olives. Choose whichever fits your (or your friend’s) décor best.

Of course, a ceramic wine bottle holder can do more than just hold wine. Use it for cooking utensils like spoons and spatulas near the stove. Or add flowers to this ceramic wine bottle holder by Talavera Vazquez with its bold black and white chevron pattern.

Whether it’s a gift for your wine-enthusiast friend or for yourself, a ceramic wine bottle holder is a practical way to add elegance to the table throughout the year. Care for another glass?

Wine glass image courtesy of Robert S. Donovan.

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The Wedding (and Engagement and Shower) Gift

Another May weekend, another bridal shower. This time of year it seems every weekend involves a shower, bachelorette party, or wedding celebration. Which means (for those of us not getting married), it’s the season of gift giving.

I’m not complaining — I love parties and I actually love giving gifts too. And I know someday it will be my turn and I’ll be able to register for all the juicers and waffle makers I’ve lusted over for years. But what I enjoy about giving gifts is the thought and creativity involved and more often these days, I feel uninspired when I look at a couple’s wedding registry. A metal cookie sheet or plastic cutting board does nothing to get my creative juices flowing. But that’s because I want my gift to be memorable. I want the couple to think of me when they use and enjoy it. Is that selfish? Maybe. But I’m the one giving the gift after all.

So what options do those of us creative (and yes, maybe selfish) gift givers have? For one thing, you can take an otherwise basic (read: boring) gift and make it personal.  The couple wants a fancy omelet pan? Compliment that with a fun breakfast cookbook and write a personal inscription inside the front cover.

Of course, since I started my company and now have hand-painted Italian, French, and Mexican ceramics at my disposal, most of my gifts are ceramic gifts. If the recipient isn’t registered with Emilia Ceramics, I spend some time looking at their registry lists at other stores. Once I have an idea of their color palette, I can assess what they might be missing or which of my pieces would accent the ones’ they’ve requested. Often I end up with one of the pieces shown below: A classic Italian pitcher for serving drinks or displaying flowers, an oval dish with matching dip bowls for appetizers, or a cake plate that makes a stunning statement even without a cake on top.

For cooks, I often give a spaghetti canister, utensil holder, or spoon rest. And wine lovers get a wine bottle holder with a special bottle from my favorite wine store, Brix26.

In my mind, these ceramic gifts accomplish all things a wedding (or shower, or engagement) present should. They are: (1) Special – which is fitting as a gift for friends that you presumably consider to be special too. (2) Creative/Original – there’s zero chance the couple will receive two identical gifts and be forced to return or re-gift your thoughtful present. (3) Memorable – when cooking spaghetti or serving appetizers from your gift there’s a good chance they will think of you and remember your thoughtfulness. (4) Meaningful – there’s an even better chance they will keep your gift forever as a reminder of their wedding and their happiness as a newly married couple. Which, all selfishness aside, is really the most important thing.