Living Columns & Blogs

Potpourri of toasts and tastes at Hay House

The annual Toast and Taste at Hay House was held on Oct. 13.
The annual Toast and Taste at Hay House was held on Oct. 13.

Co-chairs for the annual Toast and Taste at Hay House on Oct. 13, Scott Mitchell and Judy Hodgens, added a new twist this year to the anticipated fall gala. Guests are accustomed to the food vendors under the tents on the front lawn, and welcome the many Georgia vintners and distillers that introduce the latest spirits to the avid crowd.

This year, private local chefs were invited to participate with their favorite recipes, and had no problem peddling fall’s favorite dish — chili — or an unusual dessert like Jaime Webb’s prize-winning bread pudding.

The more than 200 guests were given tickets to be used to vote on their favorite selections from the array of delicious hors d’oeuvres and desserts. The winners were honored with the inaugural William Butler Johnston award, a plaque displaying the seal of Hay House, a property of the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, and a silver spoon, a memento of the Johnston era. His elegant jewelry store, stocked with the finest in handcrafted silver and other custom items, was known as the largest of its kind between Charleston and New Orleans during the mid-19th century.

In the professional category, Fountain of Juice, owned by Natasha Phillips, was tapped for most savory dish, Swedish meatballs, and Teddi Wohlford’s Culinary Creations won for the best sweet dish. Winning in the community category was chef Webb, who won in the sweets category, and Robert Fisher, who won as volunteer for his savory brisket sliders.

Among the five private chefs participating, Rita Danese, who made her lasagna — including the noodles, from scratch — had a bustling business at her station in the dining room. Outside, Brooke and David Merrill were bragging on her father’s famous chili as they dished up bowls for guests.

Holding the winning raffle ticket for the Big Green Egg, the favorite of grill masters everywhere, was Jean Bragg, who has a walled downtown patio big enough to accommodate the cooker.

In addition to the raffle, a live auction was held on the steps of Hay House offering the well fed and jocular crowd the opportunity to snap up paintings, weekend getaways or a fur jacket. Congratulations to the co-chairs for keeping the seasonal favorite event fresh and relevant.


Last weekend, the handsome, contemporary Charles H. Jones center, with its expansive glass walls overlooking the lake on the campus of Middle Georgia State University, was the ideal setting for the minimalist art of Ikebana, the ancient Japanese discipline of arranging flowers and other natural material to reflect the vital connection of humanity with nature.

The Middle Georgia chapter of Ikebana International, under the leadership of president Roberta Smith, sponsored workshops on arrangements and their appropriate containers and held a luncheon on Oct. 14, followed by a closing ceremony and dinner Oct. 15 to celebrate their 50th year.

Favors for the tables at the Friday luncheon were made by Dee Boren, who created delicate origami containers, which complemented the single blossom contained in each one. The table centerpieces were wrapped silk obis, donated by Ikebana Atlanta Chapter 265, to honor the anniversary. Tomoko Ohyama, a representative from the Japanese consulate in Atlanta, congratulated the chapter on its anniversary and accomplishments.

The local Ikebana chapter has partnered with Cherry Blossom Festival events at the Museum of Arts and Sciences and to decorate the Woodruff House on Coleman Hill for tours during the festival. The local chapter meets on the third Thursday of each month from September through May at the Flint Electric offices in Warner Robins and is open to anyone regardless of skill level.


Through Oct. 28, “Best of the Best,” an exhibit of photographs taken by members of the Middle Georgia Camera Club will be in The 567 Center for Renewal’s gallery at 456 First St. The eclectic collection has a distinctly organic theme, from the subdued images of an old oak tree canopy and of shaded brick buildings on the campus of Central State Hospital, taken by Jennifer Bronner, to the luscious, dew-kissed “Iris at Midnight” by Ann Lear.

Bronner, who is on staff at the local chamber of commerce, is pursuing her avocation with dedication and passion — she does not leave home without her camera. For many collectors, the familiarity of photographs is more comfortable in their personal environments — they can document places and events that conjure pleasant responses.

Photography, which has earned its place as an art form, is enduring and has become increasingly popular as a design accessory for the home.

Katherine Walden is a freelance writer and interior designer in Macon. Contact her at 478-742-2224 or