Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Festival of Trees

If you're at SouthPark mall during the next few days, be sure to check out the Symphony Guild of Charlotte's Festival of Trees, a display of the beautiful small holiday trees decorated by everyone from area designers to businesses and nonprofits. 

Here's one of my favorites, which designer Melissa Melvin calls Couture Christmas:

The trees are on display in SouthPark mall’s Circle Court (between Belk and Neiman Marcus) through Dec. 3. The trees move to the lobby of the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center Dec. 4-8 in conjunction with the symphony’s performance of the Magic of Christmas presented by SPX.

To view (and bid) on the trees, go to Proceeds benefit the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, Charlotte Symphony youth orchestras and youth music education. 

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Turducken? Oh yeah

While I was at Wells Fargo yesterday waiting in the lobby for a meeting, I struck up a conversation with the security guard. I asked him what he was doing for Thanksgiving and he told me he was going to be with his brother and sister-in-law at their house here in Charlotte.

He went on to say that they're from New Orleans and started naming off some of the dishes they'll eat, including a Turducken.


I had never heard of a Turducken before. He explained that it's a deboned chicken stuffed into a deboned duck which is stuffed into a deboned turkey. That sounds so over-the-top but something I think my guests might like to try. Especially if it's recommended by someone from New Orleans.  (His family orders their Turducken from a company in New Orleans.) 

It's too late to change course for tomorrow's feast, but I think I might try the Turducken next Thanksgiving. 

I went online to do some research and I found that you can also order Turducken dog food so every member of the family can enjoy a special treat.

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Monday, November 25, 2013

A tip for T-Day, and beyond

My family rotates Thanksgiving hosting duties every year. This time, all I have to do is show up with a broccoli casserole. Hooray! That's something that really makes me thankful.

But next year, it will be at my house so I’m already thinking of ideas to make it special.

I saw one tip mentioned in a magazine that I love: Have a beautifully framed bulletin board set out with some paper and pens so your guests can write down what they’re thankful for and it will be on display for everyone to see.

A holiday focused on giving thanks reminds me of one of the best pieces of advice I've ever received. I was in a very difficult time of my life and I was confiding to a woman who is a major role model for me. As I was telling her about this one part of my life that was not working out, and how I couldn't let it go, she told me to never worry about what I don't have. Instead, concentrate on all that I do have and be thankful.

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Relief sale for Philippines Nov. 20

Ten Thousand Villages started in 1946 from the trunk of its founders car. Now it has grown to become one of the leading Fair Trade organizations.

Its web site, and its more than 300 stores across the country, support skilled artisans in places of the world where they lack opportunities to make a living. 

On Nov. 20, its web site and participating stores will donate 10 percent of the day's sales to help typhoon relief efforts in the Philippines.

On the web site, you can search for items that are made in the Philippines. Although anything purchased on the site that day will help raise money for victims of Typhoon Haiyan, I think it would be a great gift idea to purchase something for a family member or friend that was specifically made in the Philippines. 

Here are a few of my favorites. For more ideas, go to

 Dove ornament, $10.
 Spirit blossom card, $5.
Newspaper necklace, $24.
 Hungry bunny coin purse, $10.
Teal earrings, $16. 

Bowls and tray, $28. 

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Friday, November 15, 2013

Showcase of Artisans Nov. 16

The Charity League's 66th annual Showcase of Artisans fundraiser is from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 16 at Saint Gabriel's Catholic Church, 3028 Providence Road.

It features holiday home decorations, pottery, jewelry design, glasswork, quilting, collage art, fashion accessories and more. Also for sale will be the Charity League Cookbook, which makes a great gift for your Charlotte friends living here or who have moved away since it's "The Official Cookbook of Charlotte." 

I'm wild for this jewelry created by vendor Stephanie Anne. She uses tassels, vintage medallions and geometric shapes. Isn't it gorgeous? And it's just a sampling of the beautiful items vendors will be offering:

Proceeds from the showcase go to the programs of the intergenerational nonprofit, which is celebrating 92 years of helping at-risk children in the Charlotte area.

Details: And be sure to "like" the Charity League of Charlotte on Facebook. "Like" is the new love, and love is what motivates this group of caring women, so they deserve a lot of "likes." 

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Behind the scenes with a legend

One of the fun things about my job is that I get a chance to interview and meet with a slew of celebrities who come through town. 

At the top of my list this year was meeting one of my personal media heroes, former Town & Country editor Pamela Fiori. I'm an avid Town & Country reader, especially during her 17-year reign there. I've admired her from afar for so long that it never occurred to me that I might actually have the opportunity to meet her in person one day. I also love her books on Capri, St. Barths and Palm Beach.  The photo collage above are pictures from two of Pamela's books.  

Pamela was the speaker at the Mint Museum Auxiliary's Fall EnrichMINT fundraiser at the Mint Museum uptown on Nov. 7. If you go to you'll see my Scene & Heard column, video and a slideshow from her talk. There were a lot of interesting parts of her speech, and my interview with her afterward, that I didn't have space to mention in my article. Here is more of her wit and wisdom:

  • Pamela stayed at the Duke Mansion while she was here. She absolutely loved Charlotte, thanks in part to the warm welcome she received from the amazing ladies of the Mint Museum Auxiliary. "Charlotte is beautiful. To me, it represents the best of America," Pamela said. 

  • I always thought Pamela was from a pedigreed background, but she grew up in a solid middle class family in Union, New Jersey. Her best friend since 5th Grade, Vicki Goldenberg, traveled to Charlotte to be with her. Vicki was as delightful as Pamela. "We don't get to see each other as often as we would like, but we have always made an effort to stay in touch. You have to reach out because it's so easy to let old friends slip out of your life," Vicki said. (In the photo at the top of this blog, Pamela is in the center and Vicki is on the right.)
  • Of all the people Pamela has met in her career, the person who is one of her favorites is Robert Redford. (Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Paul Newman were also tops on her list. So was Audrey Hepburn, although they never met. Hepburn inspired Pamela's interest in UNICEF, and Pamela went on to receive its Audrey Hepburn Humanitarian Award.) What she admires about Robert Redford is how he has never compromised his standards, he only does work that he thinks is important and philanthropy is part of his life. She also got a kick out of  how he never wanted to be recognized for his good looks. "He hates it when people tell him he's handsome.
  • When I asked her what really bothers her about today's world, she said that people ask questions but then they don't listen to the answers. She's also disturbed by how electronic devices have made us detach from the world around us. The main message she wanted to get across is that we all need to pay attention to what's going on around us - in our lives, our community, or country and our world. 

Pamela, I'm paying attention to everything you say and I truly respect your observations and opinions. Let's talk more over a cocktail in Capri. Until then, ciao bella. 

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Monday, November 11, 2013

Wedding gown discounts for military brides

In honor of Veterans Day, David's Bridal is offering a nationwide 20 percent military discount on the purchase of any bridal gown in stores only from Veterans Day through Nov. 15.

It's open to members of the military - past or present. Shoppers must present a valid military ID of themselves or their future spouse at any David's Bridal in the U.S. only. 

It applies to service members as well as those who are marrying a service member.

"Many of our brides have connections to the military, so giving back to those who serve our country is very important to us," said David's Bridal Executive Vice President Cynthia Harriss in a statement. "In celebration of Veterans Day, we want to show our support and appreciation for all of these brave men and women and their families."

The discount applies to every bridal gown in store – from David’s Bridal’s core collections to designer gowns including White by Vera Wang, Melissa Sweet, Oleg Cassini and more.

For details, go to For details about the USO's "Every Moment Counts" Campaign, go to

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Southern Christmas Show Preview Night

Be the first to see the Southern Christmas Show during its Benefit Preview Night on Nov. 13 at The Park Expo and Conference Center, 2500 E. Independence Blvd.

From 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. guests will get to peruse the show while raising money for the programs of the Junior Woman’s Club of Charlotte and the Charlotte Observer’s Empty Stocking Fund.

Tickets are $17 at the door. Details:

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Friday, November 8, 2013

Vintage with a modern twist

As I write this, many members of the Young Affiliates of the Mint Museum (YAM) are getting ready to put on their 1920's inspired cocktail dresses and suits for its first Fall Ball.

The Mint Museum Uptown will be turned into a jazz-era club for the inaugural event on Nov. 8. Guest are encouraged to wear “speak-easy” attire to the party that includes 1920s-inspired food and cocktails, music from the band Cookie, a silent auction and an after-party at Bubble. 

Proceeds go to "Bearing Witness: The New York Photo League and Sonia Handelman Meyer," a YAM-sponsored exhibit that will be featured at the Mint Museum Randolph beginning Nov. 24. 

If you miss the Fall Ball, the next fun thing on the YAM calendar is its Holiday Party from 6 to 9 p.m. Dec. 10 at Brio Tuscan Grille, 4720 Piedmont Row. Non-members are welcome. Details:

In honor of the Fall Ball, the Young Affiliates of the Mint worked with Tatyana M Photography and stylist Caroline Hamlin Byrnes using clothes from Belk to show how to wear a vintage look with a modern twist - a look that's increasingly popular now among young men and women. 

Here are some of my favorite photos from the beautiful shoot:  

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Open Call Nov. 9 for female talent

The Benoit Agency, a female-focused talent and personal development firm, is holding a free, open call for females of all ages interested in modeling, acting and pageantry. It's from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 9 at   Piedmont School of Music and Dance in the University area at 3220 Prosperity Church Road #103. 

I met agency founder Mia Heaston Benoit recently at "The Art of Fashion" a fundraiser for the Mint Museum held at Neiman Marcus. She definitely stands out in the crowd for her beauty and poise. 

The evening was ending and guests were leaving when I spotted her and her husband Dexter, the founding attorney of Benoit Law Firm. I grabbed my photographer Daniel Coston, turned on my video camera and we descended on them. They could not have been more gracious. When I asked her to twirl so we could get a picture of the back of her dress, which had a ladylike cutout, she and Dexter broke into an impromptu dance that became one of my favorite parts of the video of the evening.

Here are the photos of Dexter and Mia from The Art of Fashion:

At The Art of Fashion, Mia gave me her card and I wasn't surprised to find out that she was Miss Illinois USA 2007 since she radiates beauty, intelligence and charisma.

When I talked to her on the phone recently, she told me that she decided to start the agency - the only one in the Southeast founded by a woman for women - to fill the demand of the growing film and entertainment industry in Charlotte, and to help those interested in pageantry.

"We're looking for girls and women of all ages, races, backgrounds and sizes so we can find fresh, new faces interested in the modeling, acting and pageant world," she said. "We want to get as many to come out as possible so we can start working with clients."

She started out as a model at 12 and was recruited into pageantry. Her winning title helped her pay for her MBA, so she knows first-hand the positive side of pageantry.

Attendees should bring a non-returnable head shot and be prepared to demonstrate skills such as walking the runway or performing a monologue that the agency provides. All ages are welcome, from infants to adults. 

"We're not concerned  with what typically books work," she said. "We're looking for people who are unique and have great personalities, positive energy, good attitudes and who want to work really hard."

Because she's been to open calls where she's been there all day, she is planning for her  event to move quickly. After it's over and she and her team have evaluated everyone, they'll call back anyone they're interested in working with.

The agency also offers workshops for professional development that are designed to help empower women and build up their self-esteem.

Details:; 704-900-3475.

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson

Friday, November 1, 2013

The perfect princess costume

I have always loved to dress up for Halloween.

One of my best childhood costumes was Princess Leia from "Star Wars." I coiled my long red hair into big buns on either side of my head, made a tunic out of a white bed sheet and slathered on some of my mother's silver eye shadow.

This year, another princess has usurped Princess Leia as my all-time favorite.

I have a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who unfortunately does not share my love of dressing up in costumes. A month ago, one of my sweet co-workers gave my dog a little pink cowboy hat. My mind jumped ahead to Halloween and I thought maybe I could dress as a cowgirl, too, and we could have matching costumes. Then I put the hat on her and her eyes became dull and she looked as if I had stolen her soul.

Because she's such a sweet girl, she let me take her photo, then she literally hung her head in shame and I could not get her to move until I had taken the cowboy hat off.

It just wasn't her style, and I have to respect that.

A few weeks later, I was at Party City and came across the perfect costume for her - a tiny crown! After all, as a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, she is royalty. As you can see, it suits her.

I put together a Queen costume and together we were quite the royal pair for Halloween. The King hastily took this photo on our patio before our trick-or-treaters arrived:

The Princess and I hope everyone had a Happy Halloween filled with lots of treats and no tricks!

Follow Olivia on Twitter @oliviafortson