By Lauren O’Shaughnessy and Carolina Cardoso
Photographs by ChiChi Ubiña
Spring is in the air, and what better way to celebrate than with a safe luncheon with some of your friends! Keep it easy with a couple of beautiful salads and a light pasta dish. When entertaining, it is always important to choose meals that are easy to prep or make ahead, so you can focus on your guests. These salads take no time at all, they are packed with flavor and look gorgeous on any table. That said, it certainly helps to have Carolina of Host to Perfection do the tablescape! Lauren and Carolina met at a Music Together class with their youngest kids and have had many family get togethers over the years. Carolina always sets the prettiest tables, and it was a great collaboration with Lauren’s food.
Lolli of the Day: Every night at the dinner table, our family goes around and says what their “Lolli” (short for lollipop) of the day was. It is the sweetest part. I started Lolli of the Day to help people realize their potential in the kitchen. Cooking can be a drag, but I try to provide recipes, weekly menus, and tips to inspire and help you realize that cooking can be fun and simple.
LOOK enjoyed the introduction by Lauren to Carolina. It was interesting to hear about how she and her sister founded their very successful Instagram account and blog of the same name, Host to Perfection.
Tell us about yourself and where you grew up and how you arrived in Greenwich. I am originally from Brasilia, Brazil. Twenty years ago, I moved to the United States to study and never went back. I attended FIT in New York and studied Advertising and Marketing. My husband and I decided to move to Greenwich about a year after we had our second child. Despite loving the city, we thought Greenwich was the perfect place for our 3-year boy and our newborn daughter to grow up with all this amazing town has to offer. Initially, I had mixed feelings – we did not know anyone here and had no ties to the town, so it was a bit scary to move, but we were excited about our new chapter. Today, as I look back and see how happy my family is, we are thrilled we decided to move to Greenwich! My children, now seven and five, have made wonderful friends at GCDS and are super happy.
Tell us about founding Host to Perfection. My sister, Barbara and I started Host to Perfection in 2017. She suggested that we open an Instagram account to share our tips and provide inspiration on the art of hosting. We share the passion for “hosting at home” and every time we have held a gathering, whether it was a bridal shower, a birthday party, a brunch or dinner, our guests have always left in admiration of our dedication and the effort we put toward the events. We believe that “Host to Perfection” is to enjoy your guests and the moments you spend with them. You do not need the perfectly set table, flower arrangements, or beautiful décor. It is all about the gathering of family and friends and having fun.We launched Host to Perfection on Instagram. We wanted to create a page that followers could relate to and easily replicate projects at home. From the get-go, we wanted to make this accessible to everyone, not another “dream the dream” site. In our feed, we focus on items with a range of different price points. There is something for every budget. For example, the flowers we use are from grocery stores. They are inexpensive and readily available. One of the most rewarding experiences is receiving feedback and photographs that followers send us, recipes, arrangements, or DIY that they reproduced at home.
When you were growing up, did your family entertain a lot? Brazilians often host at their homes, having family and friends gather on the weekends for lunch. Growing up, every weekend, our grandfather, cousins, uncles, and aunts would gather at our house. Brazilians love to celebrate. There is always a reason to throw a party or get together. Our mom always planned the most beautiful birthday parties for the three of us. She is incredibly creative and talented. Our dad loves to cook (we picked up our mom’s creativity and our dad’s cooking skills!). Our love for hosting comes from many wonderful memories.
Tell us about your business partner/sister. Barbara is only a year and four months older than me – a lot of people think we are twins! She lives in Ottawa, Canada, with her husband and charming 10-year-old son. She has a full-time job with the Canadian government. Living relatively nearby, we can collaborate easily. Before the pandemic, we were seeing each other every other month for photoshoots, and we would bring our kids along for the trip. It is a wonderful opportunity for us to be creative together and for the kids to get together as well.
Due to the pandemic, we have not seen one another in over a year. We have missed being and working together. Initially, we would turn down collaborations if we could not be together for a photoshoot. Times have changed and we have adapted. We have each been contributing to Host to Perfection remotely. We are constantly talking to each other and brainstorming ideas for our content and collaborations.
A little-known fact in IG world, Barbara and I have a younger sister who lives in NYC. We are all close to each other – the three girls!
Your arrangements are beautiful. Did you take flower arranging classes? I have not taken flower arranging courses, what I know has been self-taught with lots of practice! Arranging flowers is very relaxing, and I love having them flourish in my home.
How does the business side of Host to Perfection work? Currently, we link products through the Rewards Style and Shop Your Likes platforms. We are in the processing of setting up our own shop on our website. We are going to start with table linens and plan to expand. The goal is to have our line alongside brands we love. For this project, we have an awesome buyer on board who has been guiding us through the process. We are excited about this next chapter. We also work with paid collaborations with brands through product placement on our page. We look for products that are complementary to the ones we use.
Host to Perfection started as a hobby, a creative outlet for my sister and me, and it has grown so quickly!
Tell us about the tablescape for the LOOK shoot. When designing table décor, the first step is choosing a color scheme. I gave a little twist to the classic spring combination of pastel shades of green and pink by adding blue. I love blue and white ginger jars. They are all over my family room. For the flowers, I chose one shade of pink. It is easier to go with one hue for a flower arrangement. You can never go wrong. For this tablescape, I used roses, ranunculus, parrot tulips, tulips, hyacinth and alstroemerias.
Dessert boards are a favorite. They are easy to put together and look beautiful when arranged properly. With a few store-bought goodies, some fruits and decorations, you can have a lovely dessert for your guests. On this board, I put a white chocolate dip in the middle, plus an individual trifle. Using a shot glass, I added one layer of ground graham crackers, a layer of white chocolate dip, berries, and mint on top for decoration.
I was excited to create a Spring inspired tablescape for this shoot and to do it with the amazing Lauren was so much fun. She was one of my first friends in town and became one of my best friends. I love her dearly, she is wonderful! She is a fantastic cook, with mouthwatering and delicious recipes.
Lolli of the Day Recipes
Blood Orange and Red Onion Salad
• 3 blood oranges, peeled and sliced thin
• 1/2 red onion, sliced thin
• 2tbsp Maldon Sea Salt
• 2tbsp Olive Oil
• Arrange orange slices around a platter
• Spread onion slices on top of the oranges
• Drizzle olive oil over the top
• Sprinkle salt over all of it
Mixed Green, Ricotta, and Pine Nut Salad (adapted from NY Times)
• 5oz container Mixed Greens
• 2c Whole Milk Ricotta
• 1/4c Basil, julienned
• 1/2c Pine Nuts
• 1/4c Olive Oil
• 2bsp Red Wine Vinegar
• 2tsbp Paprika
• 1/4c Parmesan, shaved
• Place mixed greens in a large serving bowl
• In a small nonstick skillet, lightly toast pine nuts over medium heat until golden. Set aside when toasted.
• In a small bowl, mix together ricotta and basil
• Using a glass with a top (like a mason jar), shake olive oil, red wine, salt, and pepper until emulsified. Then pour over top of the greens and toss.
• Place dollops of ricotta throughout the salad
• Add pine nuts and shaved parmesan to salad
• Sprinkle paprika over each dollop of ricotta
• Season with salt and pepper