Non-Southerners may not understand the culinary obsession with grits. But for the true Southerner, grits are a staple – thanks, originally, to Native Americans. According to Culture Trip, the dish “was introduced to European explorers in 1584. During surveillance of the new lands in North Carolina, Sir Walter Raleigh and his men dined with the local Natives. One of the men, Arthur Barlowe, wrote about the ‘very white, faire, and well tasted’ boiled corn served by their hosts.”

Stone-ground corn, or hominy, is boiled and mixed with salt, butter, a little cream, and cheese, if desired, for savory palette partakers. Omit the cheese and salt and add a little sugar to satisfy a sweet tooth.

Anson Mills, established in Columbia to maintain true traditional grains, has its own recipe: Simple Buttered Antebellum Coarse Grits. The recipe is described on the Anson Mills website as “Big Daddy grits with big flavor and a mouth feel that really grabs your attention.” Read more about Anson Mills and their heirloom seed revival in the current Jan/Feb issue of CMM!

Coarse grits are different than the 5-minute variety available at most grocers. They take time to cook, at least an hour, but are home cooks and chefs’ choice when it comes to serving grits alone or as an accompaniment with shrimp, greens, eggs, and other dishes. Coarse grits also make the best grit cakes, maintains Anson Mills.

Culinary-minded Southerners will enjoy cooking up a pot of warm, steamy grits that taste like home.

Simple Buttered Antebellum Coarse Grits

6 ounces (1 cup) Anson Mills Antebellum Coarse White Grits or Antebellum Coarse Yellow Grits

Spring or filtered water

Fine sea salt

2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the grits in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan (preferably a Windsor saucepan) and cover them with 2 1/2 cups water. Stir once. Allow the grits to settle a full minute, tilt the pan, and skim off and discard the chaff and hulls with a fine tea strainer. Cover and let the grits soak overnight at room temperature. If you are not soaking the grits, proceed directly to the next step.

Set the saucepan over medium heat and bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the first starch takes hold, 5 to 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting and cover the pan. Meanwhile, heat 2 cups of water in a small saucepan and keep hot. Every 10 minutes or so, uncover the grits and stir them; each time you find them thick enough to hold the spoon upright, stir in a small amount of the hot water, adding about 1 1/2 cups water or more in four or five additions. Cook until the grits are creamy and tender throughout, but not mushy, and hold their shape on a spoon, about 50 minutes if the grits were soaked or about 90 minutes if they were not. Add 1 teaspoon of salt halfway through the cooking time. To finish, stir in the butter with vigorous strokes. Add more salt, if desired, and the pepper.



Hidden Gala at Columbia Museum of Art

“Seen & Unseen” and much more on April 21st!

By Deena C. Bouknight

“The Hidden Gala is a fantastic way to experience the museum,” share Julie Brenan and Steven Ford, co-chairs for the 2018 black-tie affair celebrating and supports arts. Whether a frequent visitor to the downtown museum or curious about what is offered, Julie and Steven explain in a joint statement that the Gala affords anyone “a night of excitement, glamour, and mystery. You get to have fun, dance, enjoy incredible food and drinks, experience amazing art, and hunt for sneak peaks into the CMA’s ongoing transformation.”

Believe it or not, the Columbia Museum of Art opened in Columbia in 1950 and moved into its current modern architecture building in 1998.  The museum currently has more than 20,000 square feet of gallery space, as well as a collection that numbers more than 7,000 objects. The building has work spaces, storage for collections, art studios, a 154-seat auditorium, a museum shop, and reception and event spaces.

The Gala is the CMA’s largest annual fundraiser; this year the focus is on its major spring exhibit, titled “Seen & Unseen: Photographs by Imogen Cunningham.” Curated by the CMA’s Chief Curator Will South, the exhibition spotlights the photographer’s deeply poetic work, taken in the early 1900s.

Guests to the Gala will be treated not only to exhibits, but also a menu of food prepared by Southern Way, a specialty cocktail, and a Lexus bubbly bar. Plus, there will be entertainment: jazz by Station Seven Band, dance music by Snow DJ Kevin Snow, and contemporary ballet by USC Dance Company.

Main sponsors of the event, held to raise critical funds necessary to continue the CMA’s ongoing efforts, are: Jim Hudson Lexus, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, and Joyce and George Hill.

“We can’t wait to open the doors April 21st and welcome everyone to the best party in town,” say Julie and Steven.

Doors open at 7 p.m. There is complimentary valet parking. For tickets and information, visit

Cheers to Fall!

Leave Behind Cola Town’s Heat with Refreshing Cocktail Recipes 

By Helen Clay

Toast the change of seasons with creative cocktails that compliment the cooling temperatures of fall. The last summer heat still lingers, yet fall breezes begin circulating the city, bringing with them a fresh new batch of seasonal cocktails. Make sure to check out the CMM October article featuring martinis for fall as a counterpart to the drink selections below.

This cocktail selection combines intriguing and exciting flavors to creating refreshing drinks for fall festivities. Expand your beverage menu by experimenting with these enticing concoctions. After all, it is 5 o’clock somewhere…

The Forbidden Apple

3 dashes Angostura bitters

1/2 ounce Grand Marnier

1 ounce Calvados

4 ounces Champagne

Add the first three ingredients to a Champagne flute and top with the Champagne. Garnish with an orange twist.

Courtesy of

Marmalade Whisky Sour

2 1/2 ounces bourbon

1 ounce fresh lemon juice

3/4 ounce Simple Syrup

1 teaspoon orange marmalade

1 dash of orange bitters

1 orange twist


Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add all of the remaining ingredients except the orange twist and shake vigorously for 30 seconds to dissolve the marmalade. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the orange twist.

Courtesy of

Cider Sangria

6 cups green seedless grapes

4 kiwis, peed and thinly sliced into rounds

8 small apples, such as lady apples or crab apples, thinly sliced, stems and seeds removed

1 bottle (750 milliliters) dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc

1 quart apple cider

1 cup apple brandy, such as Calvados

Freeze half of the grapes on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place remaining grapes in a large pitcher with kiwis and apples. Stir in wine, cider, and brandy. Cover and refrigerate for at least four hours and up to 24 hours. Partially fill drinking glasses with frozen grapes and fill with sangria. Frozen grapes replace ice cubes, keeping the sangria cold without watering it down.

Courtesy of 

Rhubarb & Rosemary

1 1/2 ounce Gin

1/2 ounce Aperol

1 drop orange flower water

1 ounce Rhubarb Purée (recipe included)

1/2 ounce fresh lime juice

1/2 ounce Simple Syrup (1 part sugar, 1 part water)

1 sprig fresh rosemary


Add all ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake well and strain into a tall glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with two fresh raspberries and a sprig of rosemary.

Rhubarb Purée

6 rhubarb stalks, chopped into 1-inch pieces

3/4 cup sugar

6 strawberries, stems removed

Place the rhubarb and sugar in a small saucepan and add just enough water to cover. Cook over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes or until rhubarb starts to fall apart. Add the strawberries and purée in a blender until smooth. Pass through a strainer and store in a closed container in the refrigerator.

Courtesy of

Cranberry-Pomegranate Lime Cocktail

1/2 cup cranberry-pomegranate juice

2 shots of Vodka

1 lime juice and zest

8 mint sprigs


Fill two small cocktail glasses with ice, then pour in 1/4 cup (or more) of cranberry-pomegranate juice. In a cocktail shaker, mix 2 shots of Vodka with ice, 6 mint springs, lime zest, and lime juice. Shake to combine. Pour the mixture over the cranberry-pomegranate juice. You can choose to stir the cranberry-pomegranate juice with the mixture, or leave the drink as separate layers. Top with extra mint leaves.

Courtesy of

Fall for Apples

Where to find them, and how to make them last

By Deena C. Bouknight

October may be the time to think about picking pumpkins and enjoying everything under the sun dubbed pumpkin spice, but September is ripe for apples. Peaches are pretty much past and berries are long gone, but apple trees all over the Upstate and into North Carolina are heavy laden with fruit.

Apples, in fact, are one of the largest fruit industries in America. The U.S. Apple Association (USAA) reports 240 million bushels of apples grown annually result in a $4 billion crop. Apple festivals abound this month; plus, as weather cools, the tendency of cooks and bakers everywhere is to pull out favorite apple recipes and find new ones.

A huge benefit for apple lovers, besides nutritionally, is that the fruit has a long-shelf life. Unlike peaches that must be eaten quickly, apples can last weeks and even months if handled properly. There are ways to take care of apples to keep them fresh.

Before visiting an orchard, produce stand, or even the local grocer, consider:

– for utmost longevity, choose tarter, thicker-skin varieties;

– bruising happens when apples are bumped and dropped, so choose and handle carefully – a brownish soft spot can spread and affect the whole apple; and,

– the larger the apple the faster spoilage will happen.

USAA also shares some storage tips:

1) A refrigerator crisper drawer is the best bet – stored alone, they will not take on any smells from other fruits and veggies.

2) Check daily to make sure no apples in the bunch are rotting – “one bad apple spoils the whole bunch” is a real thing.

3) There are specially designed apple racks that help preserve large quantities of apples.

While apples are not as easy to freeze as some fruit, such as berries, it can be done. Sites such as USAA’s teach how to dry-pack freeze or syrup-pack freeze. Frozen apples can be used later in cooked recipes. With a dehydrator, apples can be dried and stored in air-tight containers to eat as snacks or to reconstitute and cook later.

This time of year, Saturday morning’s Soda City, the South Carolina State Farmer’s Market, and roadside stands all across the state burst with bins of apples. Popular South Carolina-grown varieties include:

– Honeycrisp, which are sweet, a little tart, and almost always crisp.

– Ginger Gold, which are a pale yellow-green in color and have a tangy crunch.

– Fuji, which are sweet and crisp and small- to medium-sized.

– Granny Smith, which are notoriously tart and great for apple pies and cakes.

– Rome, which are also used for baking because their flavor is enhanced when they are cooked.

– Golden Delicious, which are the sweet/tart apple many choose for snacks.

Plus, there are many more as well as a few other varieties grown in neighboring North Carolina’s foothills and mountains. According to Clemson Extension, there are about 30 apple producers in South Carolina, and about half of those are commercial growers. Most apples are grown in the Upstate. Some of the places in South Carolina to pick apples are:

Fisher’s Orchard in Greer

Bryson’s Apple Orchard in Mountain Rest

Chattooga  Belle Farms in Long Creek

Nivens Apple Farm in Moore

Windy Hill Orchard  in York

Many from Columbia make a day of it and visit the popular Sky Top Orchard in Flat Rock, North Carolina. This orchard is a sensory experience. Not only do the fragrant  ripening apples beckon, but so does warm apple cider and fresh-made apple cider doughnuts. There are at least a dozen varieties of apples on about 70 acres. A picking schedule is on Sky Top’s website.  Individual, families, and friends can grab a basket, head to the ripe orchards, and start picking. Or, the on-site store features bins of just-picked apples and opportunities to taste different varieties before selecting and/or picking. USA Today named Sky Top Orchard as a 10 Best Readers’ Choice 2017.

Among the recipes Sky Top Orchard offers customers are these two favorites:

Apple Streusel Muffins


1 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1cup sour cream

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted

2 cups diced unpeeled apples (preferable a tart apple)


1/2 cup chopped nuts

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons soft butter

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease muffin cups or use foil baking cups. Put streusel topping ingredients into a medium bowl and mix with a fork until very crumbly.  Set aside.

Make muffin batter by combining dry ingredients in a bowl. In another bowl, combine eggs, sour cream, and melted butter and whisk until well blended. Stir in diced apples, then add dry ingredients and mix until just moistened. Scoop batter into muffin cups, filling about 3/4 cup full. Top each muffin with about 2 teaspoons of the streusel topping. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until browned.  A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean. Remove from pans and let cool at least one hour before serving.

Makes about 18 muffins.


Apple Cheese Spread

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 cup grated cheddar cheese, at room temperature

2 tablespoons brandy or sherry

1 medium tart apple

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine the cream cheese, cheddar, and brandy in a bowl.  Beat until smooth. Peel, core, grate the apple, and add it to the bowl. Add the basil, oregano, thyme, and pepper, and stir until thoroughly combined. Spoon the mixture into a crock;  cover and chill for about 1 hour.  Serve on toast points or crackers.

Yield:  2 1/2 cups


Do not despair if fresh apples begin to soften or one part of an apple has a bad bruise. Chutneys, baked apples, applesauce, apple pancakes, pies, breads, muffins, and more are easy to make with apples past their prime. Plus, most apple recipes do not have to include a single variety. Mix it up!

Diana Stevenson, owner of Grace Outdoor Advertising in Columbia, is part German. Her father, Otto Wemmer, who passed away earlier this year, was a native of Germany who was a young boy still living in the country during World War II and Nazism. Diana grew up eating many different German apple dishes. Her mother, Elvira Wemmer, a native of Bogota, Colombia, who resides in Columbia, had to learn to make her husband’s favorite apple dishes – a skill she passed on to Diana. A favorite she feeds her family annually during their private at-home fall festival is Apfelkuchen (Apple Cake). Here is her family recipe:

1 1/4 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 stick salted butter
1 egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
4-5 medium tart apples, peeled and sliced thin
8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup half and half
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
To make the pastry, mix flour and sugar and cut in butter until it is crumbly. In a separate bowl, beat egg yolk and vanilla and add to flour mixture; combine well. Press dough into a 9-inch springform pan and press halfway up sides. Layer apple slices on the crust. In another bowl, beat softened cream cheese with a mixer. Add sugar and then eggs, one at a time. Add the 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Pour over apples and bake for 50-60 minutes or until lightly browned on top. Let cool and then carefully unhinge the spring on the springform pan and remove. Keep the cake on the bottom of the pan. Cut and serve. Can be eaten warm or cold – for dessert with a big glass of milk, with afternoon tea or coffee as a snack, or for breakfast. 

Patriotic Parties: How to throw the perfect July 4th bash

By Deena C. Bouknight

Independence Day has a myriad of party planning opportunities.

By the time July 4th hits, summer is in full swing. School is out, graduates have walked, pools are crowded, and gardens grow. People are ready for a good bash. And Independence Day does not disappoint with its myriad of party planning opportunities: a red, white, and blue color scheme, a festive patriotic theme, plenty of fresh produce, and outdoor cooking options.

First think about the venue: backyard, lake, beach, mountains? Where the party takes place helps determine food planning. Many Columbia families congregate in a home or condos at the beach. Designating who will bring what enables members to make dishes ahead of time so the July 4th holiday can be enjoyed instead of spent wilting in a kitchen.

And those planning for a lake celebration might consider the logistics of food hauled into a boat. It is a good idea to cut, marinade, cook, prepare, portion out, etc. as much food as possible into zip-lock baggies or some sort of plastic containers. Keep raw foods separate – if possible in a different cooler – from other foods and drinks. Store food in an adequate cooler that will hold its temperature to ensure nothing spoils. Plus, fill a bag will all kinds of serving and cutting utensils that might be needed.

Bring together friends and family for a festive 4th of July bash!

For a no-fuss, wallet-happy party at home consider these really simple tips from Real Simple:

– Do an email invite (or download a free printable one from various sites) that alerts guests to what will be served by you – and then ask them to bring something specific: drinks, paper products, a side dish, their choice of meat for the grills. If you do not have enough chairs, state on the invitation BYOC – Bring Your Own Chair.

– For backyard party fun for kids, a sprinkler, slip and slide, beach balls, a squirt gun station, and some bubbles do the trick. (All can be purchased at a dollar store.)

– Since our city is “famously hot”, supply home-made accordion-style fans made with red, white, and blue construction paper. Plug in some oscillating fans on the patio or deck, and throw some inexpensive washcloths in a bucket of ice.

July 4th parties are when even the least likely cooks can pull together clever, creative edibles that convey a patriotic theme. Pinterest offers endless ideas. Here are some:

Pull together clever, creative edibles that convey a patriotic theme.

– skewers with strawberries, bananas (or marshmallows), and blueberries

– red, white, and blue frosting dipped pretzels

– thick slices of watermelon from which stars can be cut with a cookie cutter and arranged on a plate

– a flag decorated sheet cake

– a watermelon salad with feta and blueberries

Set up an ice cream bar with red, white, and blue sprinkles and candy stars for a colorful, festive treat that will delight young and older alike.

Light up the grill for tasty 4th of July meals.

Concerning grilling, it is a matter of preference whether a gas or a charcoal grill provides the best flavor. Clean before guests come, and soak a paper towel in vegetable oil and rub on the grill Pre-heat the grill up for about 15-20 minutes. The temperature of the grill depends on what is being cooked, but the goal is to sear meats and keep the inside moist and juicy. Invest in an instant-read fork thermometer to learn when meat is cooked. Grill baskets are great for vegetables, shrimp, fish, etc. Prevent flames by trimming fats on meats; keep a spray bottle handy if flare-ups occur.

When it comes to decorating for Independence Day, choices span from easy DIY to elaborate and novel. Specialty party retailers as well as discount stores have the party planning in the bag with banners, buntings, and even hats coordinating with tableware and party favors. Or, go all-out with red, white, and blue paper lanterns, candles, flower arrangements with mini flags, pillows, and/or decorative signware. For a bold statement, make a large stencil of a star out of poster board or a flattened box and spray paint red white and blue stars on a freshly mowed lawn.

Drinks are an easy way to present the day’s theme and can serve as decoration for the table. Simply fill a tub or large bowl with red, white, and blue sodas, juices, or sports drinks. Filling bowls with red, white, and blue fruit also decorates a table covered in a simple white table cloth.

For smaller get-togethers, consider offering baskets of party favors; inexpensive patriotic-themed t-shirts, beach towels, handkerchiefs, glow sticks, koozies, and water bottles can be purchased at discount stores.

End your 4th of July celebration with a fireworks finale!

Seriously Though…

No party is enjoyable if there are swarms of mosquitoes and pesky gnats or flies. Prior to an outdoor party at home, have the yard sprayed or make sure to empty any standing water and keep all areas dry for at least a week before the event. Have bug guard towelettes or bug spray available, or go the natural route and mix up some insect-repelling lavender and olive oil for guests to rub on. Rosemary on the barbie – in sprigs or on meat that has marinated in it – mixes with the smoke from the grill and is also considered offensive to mosquitoes.

Avoid glassware; it and parties do not mix well. Instead, use paper, plastic, and Styrofoam. Environmentally conscious-minded hosts can set up both a recyclable trash can and a regular trash can in a prominent area.

With more than 8,000 grill-associated fires annually, according to the National Fire Prevention Association, it is imperative that there be a fire extinguisher nearby while grill is in use. Double check gas grills to make sure gas is turned off when grilling ends. Keep little ones away. Ahead of time, make sure gas lines from tank to grill are secure and that there are no cracks or leaks. Do not spray non-stick spray onto a grill rack.

Finally, always have a first-aid kit handy. Learn prior to parties if any guests are allergic to peanuts, shell-fish, and bees, for examples. If so, make sure they have their EpiPen handy just in case. And, if sparklers are one of the scheduled activities, have a metal tray or bucket handy where extinguished ones can be placed so no bear feet are scorched.

July 4th is a true day of celebration in honor of tremendous fervor for this great country. Enjoy  – no matter where you find yourself this holiday.








Tasting Notes

Wines from around the world
By Kirstie Boone

Calling all oenophiles and foodies! You don’t want to miss this opportunity to sip wines TastingNotesBottlefrom around the world and taste delicious dishes from numerous local Columbia restaurants. On Monday, March 27, 2017 guests will gather at the South Carolina State Museum for the South Carolina Philharmonic’s Tasting Notes to sip wine and sample local delicacies while enjoying a silent auction featuring art, wine, trips and more. Music will be provided by the Reggie Sullivan Quartet and the Dreher High steel drum ensemble. Some the auction items include:

  • A weekend rental of a 2017 Aston Martin DB11, compliments of Foreign Cars Italia Charlotte
  • Dinner for eight at Jack Brantley’s elegant home, Aberdeen, in Camden
  • A one week stay in a charming three-bedroom country home in Nyons, France
  • A weekend stay in a two-bedroom apartment at the historic Fort Sumter House in Charleston.
  • A two-night stay at the Ledson Hotel in Sonoma, Calif., including private wine tasting for two at the Ledson Winery
  • A three-course dinner for six at the Capital City Club with wine and with music by SC Philharmonic musicians

More than 50 wines will be available for tasting at the event, and cigars from Tinder Box will be available for sampling outside.

Event chair, Brenda Wheeler, says “On behalf of our hard-working committee, I invite the community to come savor the flavors of the Midlands. Tasting Notes continues to grow and increase its impact for the South Carolina Philharmonic. With diverse restaurant partners, local beer and entertainment and 50 wines from around the world, Tasting Notes is established as a can’t-miss event each year. Hope to see you there!”

Columbia Metropolitan Magazine is a proud sponsor this year’s event. To purchase tickets, visit or call (803) 254-7445. Tickets are $100, and you can even sponsor a musician for $80. Attire for this event is business casual.

New Year, New Us

By Kirstie Boone

The large meals and long naps have finally come to an end, and it’s time to get back on track. We’re sharing our top five New Year’s Resolutions with you. Even more, we’re sharing how to keep those resolutions. Join us in making healthful and smart choices this New Year!

Workout: One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is to begin working out or workout more frequently. Although many people make this resolution on January 1st, most of us lose focus of this goal rather quickly as the weeks and months go by. This occurs for multiple reasons, one of which is the motivation factor that must accompany any workout routine. It’s often difficult to find the motivation to go to the gym, but finding a gym that you enjoy visiting can be one way to maintain motivation. There are a plethora of gyms to choose from throughout the Midlands area. Anytime Fitness, for example, is located on Devine Street and open 24 hours a day. If you are a night owl or an extremely early riser, this could be a great choice. Doctor’s Wellness on Beltline offers group workout and yoga classes, as well as “Healthy in 12®”– a 12 week medically based lifestyle program targeting overall nutrition and physical fitness. Another option is 9 Round Fitness on Forest Drive. This gym offers a 30-minute workout consisting of nine rounds of intense stations that work each muscle in your body. Personal trainers are on site to encourage and push you to reach your goals.


Where and when you choose to workout depends greatly on your goals, personality and schedule. The most important tip is to have a steady workout routine. Your routine may be waking up before the sunrise and heading out for a quick morning run, an intense 30-minute gym visit, or relieving your stress from a long work day at the gym in the late evening hours. No matter what your new workout routine is, take it slow and enjoy keeping the healthful resolution all year long.

saladEat Healthful Foods: Another popular New Year’s resolution is to eat better, more nutritious foods. To live a healthier lifestyle, working out goes hand in hand with eating healthy. Although this resolution is made every year with good intentions, it’s often difficult to stick to when it’s been a stressful day and you’re ready to go home, order takeout and catch up on your favorite television shows. The positive effects of working out on a regular basis will quickly diminish if you don’t follow a healthy diet. The good news is that following a healthy diet is easier than it ever has been. With websites such as Pinterest full of healthy recipes as well as restaurants like Good Life Café with many organic, healthful choices, the options for healthful eating are endless. Find recipes you enjoy cooking and eating. Prepare food in advance and treat yourself occasionally after a week of good decisions. Read our article from last January on how to follow a natural detox to get your healthy eating started.

Lower Stress: Stress levels seem higher today than ever before. We stress about work, family, friends, the economy, politics … the list goes on and on. Believe it or not, there is a healthy level of stress. Healthy stress makes us work harder, perform better and often accomplish things we never thought possible. However, when stress gets in the way of our goals, causing us to begin to break down, it becomes a negative factor. Often, the holiday season is a negative stress inducer. In our Happy Holidays article, Thomas Barbian, Ph.D. explains that the holiday season can often add stress to an already stressful life, taking away the joy and gratitude that should be associated with this special time. To manage stress during this time and throughout the year, Dr. Barbian suggests exercising regularly, eating healthily, getting enough sleep, refraining from the use of alcohol, drugs or food to ease stress, and breathing well. From a lifestyle perspective, Dr. Barbian suggests managing time wisely, making time for hobbies, learning to say “no,” and spending time with people you enjoy and love. Follow these tips to prevent stress in 2017.

Volunteer: Investing your time into an organization that is making a difference is one way to give back to your community. Finding something that you are passionate about and feel you have a lot to contribute toward is the key to sticking to this New Year’s resolution. If you are devoting your time to a cause you truly care about, it will be easy to devote time to the cause as the days, weeks and months go by in 2017. Volunteering at a local organization not only helps the organization and the community, but it also can be extremely beneficial to your own well-being. Helping others is one of the best ways to better yourself, and volunteering is a wonderful resolution to make and keep in 2017.


Save Money: After the gift giving that goes along with the holiday season is over, the resolution to save money in the New Year is always a top priority. One way to keep this resolution throughout the entire year is to make and stick to a set budget. Accounting for every dollar you spend will help you see where you are wasting money and what areas you can cut back on to save money. If you have credit cards, make sure they offer rewards that suit your lifestyle. For example, if you are constantly on the road, open a credit card that gives you cash back for money that you spend on gas. If you frequent the grocery store for your family, a credit card that offers points or cash back for groceries is a great option. If you enjoy traveling via airplane, research credit cards that will give you points toward plane tickets. Talk to local banks and credit unions such as AllSouth Federal Credit Union and First Citizens Bank about what the best options are for your finances. Also, talking to a financial advisor about the best way to invest and save may be a great way to start your 2017.

Happy New Year from all of us at Columbia Metropolitan. We wish you a wonderful 2017!



A Thoughtful Touch

By Kirstie Boone

With the holiday season quickly approaching and the atmosphere becoming more festive by the minute, it’s time to begin planning for your fabulous holiday parties. Between the cooking, cleaning, planning and decorating, it’s easy to overlook the small details involved in party planning. Decisions such as which color tablecloth to use, how many seats to plan for each table and what the menu should be often overshadow smaller, more personal aspects of party planning. However, the small decisions are just as important as the big details. Little things such as creative, personalized place cards can easily take your party from ordinary to amazing, and we’ve gathered our favorite place card ideas for holiday inspiration!

Add a pine cone to your place setting to display your place cards. Wrap wire in a circular shape then attach the wire to the top of the pine cone to hold the place card. For a creative twist, paint the pine cones a festive color like gold or red.

Visit for more information.

These gorgeous pumpkins are the perfect place setting for Thanksgiving dinner! Use twine or ribbon to tie the place card to the stem of a pumpkin. Bonus points if you use a fall-themed shape for your place card.

Your guests won’t “be-leaf” their eyes when they see this stunning place setting. Start by gathering large leaves or buying decorative leaves from your local craft store. Use gold spray paint to coat the leaves. Let dry, then write each guest’s name on the leaf and place at each setting.

Visit for more information. 

Use a small, potted succulent for each place setting. Attach each guest’s name to a short skewer to stick in the soil of the succulent. This place card holder doubles as a unique party favor that guests will be able to take home with them!

Ruffled - photo by -
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For a more rustic place setting, use a cross cut of a branch or tree for your place setting. Use a marker to write your guests’ names on the wood. If you don’t have access to tools to cut up a branch, these cross cuts can usually be found at craft stores.

Visit for more information.

Use rosemary or pine sprigs to add a natural, simple touch to your table. These place settings not only look gorgeous, but also smell amazing! One option is to place the sprigs through the card, or wrap the springs into a wreath shape to place on top of a napkin or dish.


Jingle bells! Use bells to hold your place cards. This simple yet creative place card holder is sure to spread good cheer (and maybe a few jingles) around the dinner table.

Visit for more information. 

Remembering the small details during the busy holiday season will make any party complete. With these adorable place settings, guests are sure to remember your holiday party as being the best of the season. Happy Holidays from all of us at Columbia Metropolitan!

While I breathe, I hope.

By Kassy Alia

Dum Spiro Spero. While I breathe, I hope.

I am ashamed to say that before last year, I did not know the South Carolina state motto. However, I felt those words long before I ever heard them spoken as I grew, lived and loved in the community I made my home. And last fall, those words became the heart of what got me through the most difficult time in my life as an entire community wrapped their arms around me and my family following the loss of my husband, Officer Gregory Alia.

Nearly immediately after we laid my husband to rest, the Great Flood ravaged Columbia. We saw heartbreak abound. Yet, against that landscape of sadness emerged some of the most beautiful displays of love and humanity that we could imagine. We witnessed courageous first responders serve without rest, saving lives and caring for the well-being of others. We watched as neighbors helped neighbors and people dedicated their efforts to caring for one another.

We have seen our share of tragedy, and yet we show time and time again how we rise above the pain to meet it with love, strength and resilience.

The Gervais Street Bridge Dinner is a symbol of that unity. It is a symbol of South Carolinians, of our community, of us.

Just days after the horrible events of last October, I received a call from Emile DeFelice, curator of the Bridge Dinner and Soda City innovator. He told me he wanted to honor not only my husband but the many, many other brave first responders who served us so valiantly in the flood. As a sign of that gratitude, he asked me to invite 200 first responders to the first ever Gervais Street Bridge Dinner.

That night was truly magical. Set against the beautiful architecture of the bridge and a cool October evening, we celebrated with 200 first responders and 800 other guests. There was music, there was laughter, delicious food and joy. For a moment in time, we were able to put aside the sadness to celebrate the tremendous spirit of our home.

This year, we have the chance to celebrate once more. While trying times continue to grow, South Carolina remains a beacon of hope. There is much work to be done, and we cannot stop pushing for change. At the same time, it is important to take a moment. Breathe. Celebrate our efforts toward a brighter future.

Join us in this celebration on October 23, 2016. Tickets can be purchased at Proceeds raised will support four local charities: Congaree Riverkeeper, Canoeing for Kids, Harvest Hope Food Bank and my own organization, Heroes In Blue.

I am a proud supporter of this spectacular event. I stand with Emile and our Soda City friends as an agent for healing and celebration. Please join us in this mission and dine with us on the bridge.

Dr. Richard Alia, Alexis Alia, Rebecca Alia Mesnil (father, mother, sister in law), me, Leah Shumard (wife of Russ) and Russ Shumard (Lt at FAPD)
Dr. Richard Alia (Greg’s father), Alexis Alia (Greg’s mother), Rebecca Alia Mesnil (sister), Kassy Alia, Leah Shumard (wife of Russ), and Russ Shumard, Lieutenant at Forest Acres Police Department.