Channeling Contessa By the Sea

I think we can all go ahead and be a tiny bit jealous of anyone who lives by the beach. That is, unless you’re somehow not a fan of endless ocean breezes, seafood that actually tastes like the sea, and a view that looks a little something like this. (I didn’t think so.)

In any case, whether you’re headed for the coast any time soon or not, a beach-inspired table setting can work for any summer get-together. The shades of blue, textures of coral and shell, and sandy, sun-bleached hues manage to be elegant and low-key at the same time. If you have any seashells lying around, they’ll add undeniable dimension to your centerpiece, while the menu can be kept as simple as you’d like.

| Menu | Lobster rolls (mini ones would be adorable – as an appetizer!), Fish Fillets with Tomatoes, Squash and Basil,  Balsamic Grilled Vegetables with Basil Quinoa, Homemade Ice Cream Cake

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Images: tablecrab cakescoralshellsjars

Picnic in the Park | Perpetually Chic

Come July, we’re lucky to have a pretty cool excuse to get in at least a few picnics: Every Wednesday, an outdoor concert series is held on the lawn of the state capitol. The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra plays and locals flock to the park, filling the grass with a patchwork of blankets. Thousands of people come out each week, so it becomes one giant city picnic—a perfect mid-week break to enjoy with friends. While it may not seem like traditional entertaining since it’s not hosted at home, the very same rules apply for picnicking—gather a group of friends, make some delicious food, and wear something perfectly appropriate for the occasion. So today I’m sharing a “picnic in the park” look you can recreate with ease!

Picnic in the Park | Perpetually Chic

Picnic in the Park | Perpetually Chic

My simple formula for picnic dressing: One breezy sundress plus a colorful pair of sneakers. I love the easygoing, girly-meets-sporty pairing of dresses with sneakers. The trick is to keep your hemline high to balance out what’s on your feet. I opted for a white floral babydoll dress and green sneakers for a pop of color. They wound up coordinating with my quilt, but you don’t have to be so matchy-matchy!

Picnic in the Park | Perpetually Chic

Sneakers can be kicked off as you lounge and relax. And keep jewelry to a bare minimum—this is not the time for fussy bangles, cocktail rings and large dangling earrings.

Picnic in the Park | Perpetually Chic

Like the outfit, I keep our picnic menus minimal too, since I’m usually preparing them ahead of time so we can grab and go after work. My favorite picnic dishes include Chickpea & Tuna Salad, Kale Market Salad, or my mom’s special Avocado Chicken Salad. Fresh fruit, cheese, and French bread or artisan crackers always make an appearance too. And for dessert, I usually make it easy on myself by grabbing a selection of specialty chocolate bars or picking up fine chocolates from one of the many great chocolatiers in town.

Picnic in the Park | Perpetually Chic

Do you get much picnicking in during the summer? What’s your favorite picnic spot or dish?

Get the Look: Urban Outfitters dress and sneakers, Ray-Ban Wayfarers

Backyard Barbecue | Perpetually Chic for Channeling Contessa

Ahhh, summer. That season of abundant sunshine, meals prepared on the grill, and weekend evenings sitting outdoors watching the sun set. It’s simply my favorite…isn’t it yours? Lauren here, and with summer barbecue season kicking into high gear, I thought I’d drop in to show you how to dress the part. A backyard barbecue is inherently a casual affair—invite friends over, grill up some delicious food, play a few lawn games while you wait, and hang around outside until the sun goes down. But casual doesn’t mean short on style!

Backyard Barbecue | Perpetually Chic for Channeling Contessa

Casual does mean comfortable, which is why I lean toward sundresses or shorts paired with cute tops. You can’t go wrong with a goes-with-anything pair of white shorts, and I love the floral pattern of this boxy Madewell tee. Gosh, the last time I had a pair of white sandals, I must’ve been in preschool. In fact, that pair had straps across the toes and around the ankles just like my grown-up version! I love that these have a little block heel for some height, yet still strike that casual summer feel (and won’t get stuck in the grass).

Backyard Barbecue | Perpetually Chic for Channeling Contessa

Backyard Barbecue | Perpetually Chic for Channeling Contessa

Burgers and BBQ are great for backyard get-togethers, but I honestly start to get a little bit sick of those old standbys. That’s where grilled pizzas come in! From this Peach & Gorgonzola Chicken Pizza to the Smoked Chicken Pizza with Poblano Pepper Sauce we made this past weekend, I love getting creative with the toppings. Another favorite: pesto with shrimp, feta and pine nuts. Serve up a few options on cutting boards, and let guests try different slices. Another approach is to make personal-sized pizzas, and let each guest choose from various toppings.

Backyard Barbecue | Perpetually Chic for Channeling Contessa Backyard Barbecue | Perpetually Chic for Channeling Contessa

This tee has a bonus—a peekaboo back to let in the breeze.

Backyard Barbecue | Perpetually Chic for Channeling Contessa

For dessert? Keep it simple and grill fresh peaches and plums, sprinkle with a little cinnamon and brown sugar, and top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The perfect ending to a stress-free night!

Get the Look: Madewell top and shorts, Loeffler Randall sandals (on sale here and here!), Ray-Ban sunglasses

Channeling Contessa garden 1

I’m a huge fan of Nicole Franzen’s photography, and her recent collaboration with Kinfolk and Amy Merrick is too good not to share. The theme was a flower potluck, where each guest contributed their favorite blooms. They were subsequently turned into bouquets for the table, and even ivy crowns, which guests wore in their hair. Brilliant, right? I love how untamed the arrangements turned out — and the whole setting looks magical.

Channeling Contessa garden 2

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This reminded me how amazing potlucks can be, although I think they’re too often forgotten in favor of more formal dinner parties. I would recommend picking your favorite course to cook – that’s dessert for me – and then asking your guests to bring the remaining courses. Putting out a quick appetizer will ensure that no one arrives to an empty table. It’s effortless entertaining at its best.

Recipes: spring crostini / almond buttermilk cake / homemade ice cream

CC Parisian Market

One of my favorite things is going to the farmer’s market in the spring, and buying whatever vegetables catch my eye. I love my farmers market, but I imagine the ones in Paris would be even more amazing. Isn’t everything more amazing in Paris?

The inspiration for this post was the striped tablecloth, below. I found myself near Philadelphia this weekend, and couldn’t resist stopping by the Terrain store — It’s been on my list for years! As I’m sure you can tell by their website, the store was just gorgeous, and I especially loved that tablecloth in person. I can just imagine it sitting on a table in a tiny French kitchen — the perfect backdrop for tartines and wine, don’t you think?

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Inspiration images: linens, outfit, baguette, stripes, bike, door