Have you heard? The countdown is officially on for our annual Barn Sale, which starts online only in just five days. And, yes, that’s worth celebrating, so let’s do it in MacKenzie-Childs style.

To set the stage for a Barn Sale blast, we turned to our first MC Maestros, Drs. Thomas McCue and Sean Bresnahan, also known on Instagram as @thecourtlycheckbears. They recently hosted an epic pre-Barn Sale party at their Upstate New York home for several MacKenzie-Childs super fans (and we were there, too).

As expected, the party was decked in Courtly Checks. Guests were transported to the party site in a horse-drawn carriage pulled by Jake and Ike, a team of Percheron draft horses that had Courtly Checks decoupaged on their hooves. Upon arrival, partygoers were given the red-carpet treatment and had their pictures taken in front of Courtly Check backdrop. Inside the McCue house, the buffet table was piled high with a variety of sweet and savory foods served on Courtly Check sweet stands and ceramic serving dishes. The finishing touch was a magnificent centerpiece, created by Tommy, that had a rainbow of flowers cascading from a Courtly Check Tea Kettle that seemed magically suspended in mid-air.

The guests, who were previous Skip the Line winners, came from near and far, and a few more who couldn’t make the trip joined via Zoom. For most, it was the first time in nearly two years that they had seen each other in person, so there were lots of hugs, laughter, and smiles. Laura Lowery, of Scottsdale, Arizona, traveled the farthest and says she wouldn’t have missed it.

Tommy and Sean were thrilled to host because, they say, MacKenzie-Childs is “family” to them. Raising a glass of champagne, Tommy toasted his guests and how the love of “a very simple pattern of black and white” had brought them together, concluding his heartfelt speech with a simple request: “Alexa, play my party playlist.”

So, with that, let’s get your party started with this guide to throwing your own Barn Sale party. Over the next five days, we’ll share more of the excitement of Tommy and Sean’s event, plus lots of tips on how to get your MC party groove going. So, gather your friends—whether they’re across town or across the country (Hello, Zoom chat)—to shop online, and make this an event to remember.

Here’s what you can expect:

  • Saturday, July 24: Food, fabulous food. Sean shares the party menu and two signature drinks. The recipes are quick and easy, so you can spend more time shopping and less time cooking.
  • Sunday, July 25: Dress for shopping success, in checks, of course. Plus, how to decorate your party setting.
  • Monday, July 26: Let’s look at those wish lists. Find out what our MC super fans are hoping to snag. To get a start on yours, print our official wish list. You’ll find two versions: Barnwood and Piggie.
  • Tuesday, July 27: You’re invited to our Instagram Live event with CEO John Ling; Chief Brand Officer and Creative Director Rebecca Proctor, and Customer Service Manager Carol Ryerson. Find out what’s on their wish lists, see how they’re donning their checks, and get their tips for Barn Sale shopping.

 

 

For most of us, celebrating our nation’s birthday on July 4th is among the highlights of summer. This year, this event—and all of summer, for that matter—has taken on new meaning. After more than a year of COVID-19 restrictions, we can gather once again. We’re on the move once more and renewing ties with loved ones with more backyard barbecues, cross-country family reunions, and so much more.

We asked some of our employees to share how they’ll be celebrating this July 4th and their thoughts on a summer like no other.

John Ling, chief executive officer
July 4th has now become my favorite holiday. In addition to celebrating the birth of our nation, it is the one week each year that my wife and I welcome every one of our children, and now their children and dogs, to our lake house in Michigan. For a week, we actively celebrate the love of our family, our home, the outdoors, togetherness, and share the experiences and stories of our lives. We strengthen bonds, our love for one another, and weave the memories that are the fabric of our lifetimes.

Tish Gibson, lead ceramic painter
I’m looking forward to spending time with my husband, kids, and grandkids on July 4th. We didn’t get together last year because of COVID, so it will be special this year. We’ll gather at camp, join the July 4th golf cart parade, enjoy the fantastic fireworks that the campground puts on, swim in the pool, play, eat, and just have fun!

Rebecca Proctor, chief brand officer and creative director
Growing up, the 4th always meant big celebrations, lots of homemade cake, and the sweetest strawberries picked from my grandmother’s sunny strawberry patch. My larger-than-life grandfather Sam was born on the 4th of July, so our family always gathered for a sparkler-lit, paper-party-hat kind of backyard picnic bash. Some of those traditions we still carry on today. And somewhere along the way on the 4th, my southern Auntie Ann nicknamed me “my little firecracker,” which some of my dearest friends still kid me about today. This year is a special one for us, as our son has just graduated from college and will be forging out into the wider world. It’s exciting, joyous, and bittersweet all at the same time. We’re feeling it especially keenly because we’ve been together at home this past year, so we will savor every single moment.

Bill Mekeel, pottery production manager
I’ll spend time with family and friends, as I do on most holidays. With consideration to the past year, time spent with family and friends is of course much more appreciated and less taken for granted. Recent history has caused me to be more thoughtful and reflective regarding the freedoms that we have in the United States.

Carol Ryerson, customer service manager
I plan to spend July 4th relaxing on Cayuga Lake on our boat. I love watching fireworks from the water, especially if we get a clear sky evening. The weekend of July 4th is always a time for us to gather with family and friends, and this year will be no exception. We’ll be able to enjoy lots of family BBQs, cornhole games, and drinks by the fire pit. I’m so grateful that our families and friends can host gatherings where we can all be together.

 

We love the versatility of our June dessert and cocktail—strawberry shortcake and summer sangria. They can be made so many ways, but the result is always a fresh taste of summer.

Sangria is a wine-based fruity punch that’s perfect for gatherings large and small. And strawberry shortcake? It’s a classic, with fresh strawberries and whipped cream atop a sponge cake or biscuit.

Ready to dig in?

Summer Sangria
Bottle of white wine
½ cup brandy
Sliced fresh fruit (we used pears and melon; you could use blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries)
Lemon-lime soda or ginger ale

Mix wine, brandy, and fresh fruit in a large pitcher. To serve, pour into a glass and, if you like, top with a little soda or ginger ale to add some fizz.

Strawberry Shortcake
Fresh strawberries, sliced or cut in half
Biscuits or sponge cake
Fresh whipped cream

Start with a biscuit base or sponge cake and top that with fresh strawberries. (Strawberries can marinate with some sugar sprinkled on top if they are a little tart.)

Top with fresh whipped cream.

 

 

Summer is the perfect season and reason to build a beautiful, bountiful charcuterie to share at your next gathering.

Let’s start with a definition first. Charcuterie (pronounced shar-ku-tuh-ree) is a French term for a branch of cooking devoted to prepared meat products, including bacon, ham, and sausage. So, a traditional charcuterie is mostly meats and cheeses.

But who says you need to be traditional? Not us, of course. We like our charcuteries to be fresh, fun, and certainly colorful. And remember, you really do eat with your eyes first. Your display should be more than a bit over the top, so, go ahead, and add another handful of whatever suits your fancy.

Start with a sturdy surface (we used our Checked Carving Board). Then add your ingredients of choice, keeping in mind to contrast the types of items and their colors and textures. Our board has fresh fruit (grapes, strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries); sliced prepared meats (salami, capicola, and pepperoni); a mixture of hard and soft cheeses; and crackers. Serving pieces like our Big Blue Canape Knives add fun and function.

To take your charcuteries to the next level, be inspired by the occasion and your imagination. Here are 10 ideas to get you started:

  • S’mores Charcuterie: Graham crackers, marshmallows, chocolate, sliced fresh fruit, sprinkles, nuts, and spreads like peanut butter or Nutella.
  • Ice Cream Sundae Charcuterie: Ice cream sauces, sliced fresh fruit, sprinkles, nuts, and whipped cream.
  • Brunch Charcuterie: Bagels with assorted cream cheeses, lox, sliced cumbers, and fresh fruit.
  • Fruit & Veggie Charcuterie: Everything you would find on a relish or fruit tray, plus dips for veggies and fruit slices.
  • Autumn Theme Charcuterie: Meats, cheeses, dried fruits, and nuts, plus apple slices for dipping into caramel and chocolate sauces.
  • Hot Chocolate Charcuterie: Whipped cream, sliced fresh fruit, sprinkles, nuts, and lots of colorful Christmas cookies.
  • Taco Tuesday Charcuterie: Hard taco shells, plus meat fillings, shredded cheese, and other toppings, including chopped lettuce, onions, tomatoes, cilantro, avocado slices, plus fresh guacamole and sour cream in bowls.
  • Make Your own Sandwich Charcuterie: Sliced buns, assorted sliced prepared meats and cheeses, toppings like lettuce and sliced tomatoes and onions, plus condiments and pickles.
  • Halloween Charcuterie: A mixture of sweet and salty that focuses on orange and black candies, pretzels, popcorn, and other snacks.
  • Vegan Charcuterie: Fresh veggies and fruits, dried fruit, nuts, olives, vegan cheese, whole grain crackers or breads, and hummus. (Read the labels of any prepared products to be sure they are vegan).

Let’s salute the season with a menu that sparkles on July Fourth, as well as all summer long. Our suggestions complement all the traditional cookout fare, including hotdogs, hamburgers, potato salad, and classic s’mores.

Red, White, and Blue Fruit Salad

Watermelon
Blueberries
Feta cheese
Mint Leaves

Cut watermelon into 1-inch slices. Then, using star cookie cutters, cut watermelon into star shapes.

Put watermelon stars into serving bowl. Sprinkle blueberries and feta cheese on top. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.

Italian Skewers

Cherry tomatoes
Tortellini, cooked and cooled
Salami, sliced thin
Mozzarella cheese, cut into chunks
Olives
Spinach leaves or basil leaves

Thread ingredients onto bamboo skewers in random order. Drizzle with a little olive oil or Italian salad dressing, if desired.

Party Pop

Chilled white wine or Prosecco or clear fruit juice (grape or apple)
Red, white, and blue frozen treat (Bomb Pop)

This versatile drink is fun for all ages. An alcohol-free version can be made with grape juice, apple juice or seltzer water. The alcohol version could use Prosecco or any white wine. To make, add the chilled drink to a glass. Put a red, white, and blue frozen treat (better known as the Bomb Pop) upside down into the glass and serve.

 

Buying high-quality outdoor furniture is an investment. You want to be sure you are making good choices, so, naturally, you have questions. We’re here to answer the most common questions that our customers ask in our outdoor furniture FAQ.

How is your outdoor furniture made?

Our Courtyard Outdoor Furniture collections (Bathing Hut, Boathouse, and Breezy Poppy) are made of “plicker,” durable woven resin wicker, that is attached to sturdy frames that are either iron (loveseats and wing chairs) or structured PVC (cafe and end tables, ottomans, and accent and cafe chairs). Unlike natural wicker, which will deteriorate over time, resin wicker retains its suppleness and color. It can be displayed in full sun but should be covered when not in use to extend its life.

All Indigo Villa, Spindle Cabana, Zanzibar, and Outdoor Fish Bar and Counter Stool pieces are also highly durable because of their construction: tubular steel frames inside injected polyurethane. Also, the frame’s finish is UV-proof, but like our plicker pieces, these should be covered when not in use to extend the life of the piece.

What is the content of your outdoor furniture cushions?

These cushions have a high-density foam core with an outer layer of antimicrobial foam. The cover is high-quality outdoor fabric that is resistant to fading and mold. Some fabric is Sunbrella, which is a 100 percent solution-dyed outdoor fabric that is well known for its superior quality and durability.

Which pieces feature Sunbrella?

 

Does the fabric cover remove for cleaning?

Generally, loose cushions have zippered covers, and the covers can be removed for cleaning. For liquid spills, blot with a clean, dry cloth. Spray with a mild solution of soap and water, rinse to remove residue, and air dry. Professional cleaning is recommended for serious stains.

Machine washing is also an option if done with care. Close all zippers and wash with cold water a mild laundry detergent, using the machine’s delicate cycle only. Allow fabric to air dry.

You can learn more about the care and cleaning of Sunbrella here.

 

What about your outdoor pillows? Do any of those feature Sunbrella?

Yes, these pillows feature Sunbrella:

We also have a group of outdoor pillows called Weather or Not. They are made of quality stain-resistant olefin fabric with robust performance characteristics that show resistance to fading and degradation from sunlight.

These include:

One of the best ways to keep this type of outdoor pillow looking good is to place it in a shady area during the hottest hours. Store the pillow in a dry, covered area during periods of non-use, limiting exposure to direct sunlight.

Spot clean with a damp, white cloth. Blot to remove excess water and air dry. Saturated cushions should be placed seam side down to allow them to drain. If the covers have zippers, unzip them to let the water drain. Allow the insert inside to thoroughly dry before using.

How can outdoor furniture frames be cleaned?

Most pieces can be washed with a mild detergent and gently hosed clean. Allow to dry in the sun. During the winter, store outdoor furniture away from the elements, covered, to ensure its longevity.

Can I leave my furniture out all year if I live in a warmer climate like Florida?

Yes, but to guarantee longevity, cover when not in use.

Will the cushions and/or the furniture fade over time if exposed to direct sunlight?

There is no way to completely eliminate fading. However, the performance textiles that we use and covering the furniture when not in use will help guarantee longevity.

Can I purchase outdoor furniture covers from MacKenzie-Childs?

We do not sell these items separately, but they are included with our Zanzibar, Indigo Villa, and Spindle Cabana Outdoor Furniture collections.

It’s summertime, and the living is easy. Celebrate the sun in your outdoor space—be it a big patio or a small terrace. Create a “room” that extends the style of your indoor space, then relax and soak up the sunshine.

Ideally, your space is large enough for zones: spots for lounging and dining, with decorative accents tying everything together. If you’re tight on space, opt for dining and install one of our hammocks, so you can literally hang out.

Begin decorating with a rug that creates a physical parameter for the space, as well as offering some cushy comfort for your feet. Our outdoor rugs come in a variety of sizes and styles to complement our outdoor seating collections.

Add seating with comfortable and colorful pieces. Whatever your style, we have a look for you. Enjoying an Old Fashioned on an old-fashioned veranda? Check out our Breezy Poppy or Boathouse collections, which take inspiration from timeless wicker furniture but are more durable and much easier to care for.

Nautically inspired deck furniture? For that, there’s Spindle Cabana in black or Indigo Villa in white, which have spindle frames and are accented with Courtly Check or Royal Check cushions, respectively.

Trending to the tropics? You’ve met your match with the Zanzibar collection, which mixes lemony chartreuse frames with cushions featuring a print of tropical leaves, mixed with Courtly Check.

When it’s time to dine, you can’t go wrong with one of our classic hand-painted ceramic pedestals, made by our artisans in Aurora, New York, topped with a round piece of glass. Pair them with our Outdoor Fish Chairs, which are durable enough for outdoors but can be used indoors as well. They’re available with a Courtly Check or Royal Check upholstered seat.

To bring it all together, add pillows, pots, and planters, and try decorative lighting. Our punch up a seating area and with the right care are resistant to fading. Decorative candles and lanterns are both practical and pretty and extend the festivities well after the sun goes down. And you can never have too many plants to green up any space, especially if they’re in our pots and planters.

The grand finale for any outdoor occasion is our Zanzibar Fire Pit. It creates a warm ambience, perfect for roasting marshmallows and setting the mood for savoring a long summer evening.

Set the scene for summer!

 

Most everyone can agree that a garden full of color can be quite charming. But not every location is hospitable to these colorful blooms.

What to do? Try adding a variety of greens and other ornamental plants like we have done on our 65-acre campus in Aurora, New York.

Our biggest patches of blooming green are just south of our Farmhouse, where tall trees tower overhead, making the area semi-shady. Hostas are perfectly suited for these spots, providing lush foliage and being extremely low maintenance. Plus, because they’re perennials, hostas come back year after year.

The hosta family includes more than 2,500 cultivars, so chances are you’ll find one or two you love. Colors range from a soft, creamy white to a green so deep it’s almost blue. Leaves, especially on mini hostas like “Pandora’s Box,” can be small and delicate or quite large like those on “Sum and Substance,” which can grow up to two feet across.

To retain leaf color, plant the darker-colored hostas in moderate shade and the lighter-colored ones where there’s some sun. Variegated hostas also need shady spots that have a little more sun.

Plant hostas in rich, organic soil with a slightly acidic pH. Dig the hole for the plant about a foot deep and wide enough to accommodate the spread of a full-sized plant so the roots have room to grow.

You can also add green annuals to container plants, which is something that we frequently do in our Courtyard fountain garden. Corinne Bowman, our estate manager, has several annuals that she likes to use in our containers every year that don’t flower but still add a pop of color.

This year, she’s planting:

  • Alternanthera “Purple Prince”
  • Alternanthera “Red Threads”
  • Dusty Miller “Silver Dust”
  • Sweet Potato Vine “Blackie”
  • Coleus “Stained Glassworks Royalty”
  • Perilla “Tricolor”

Finally, we also plant ornamental grasses that are dependable backdrops in our floral borders and serve as windbreaks in our often-harsh Upstate New York winters. These plants are extremely tough, making them perfect for spots that get a little more wear and tear like the areas near our Barn Sale tents. As with most plants, these love rich, well-drained soil.

Ornamental grasses are known for being low maintenance, but they might need occasional dividing in the spring to control large clumps or reinvigorate growth. Most varieties are cut back in the spring, so that the foliage is four to six inches tall. But some grasses are deciduous, so the new growth will come in quickly while the old growth dies back.

 

If you want your garden to be at its best, invite the three Bs: birds, butterflies, and bees. Each plays a crucial role in the process of pollination, so having all three in your garden ensures that both flowers and vegetables are in abundance all season long.

How do you attract them and keep them coming back? Create an inviting environment that includes colorful nectar-source plants that continuously bloom from spring to fall, as well as become sources of water and shelter.

Include colorful perennials like bee balm, echinacea (coneflower), black-eyed Susans, and asters, as well as annuals like zinnias, marigolds, and sunflowers. Don’t forget about native plants, which will vary based on your location.

Color is important, too, and will help attract all three Bs. Bees tend to prefer white, yellow, and blue. Birds like red, orange, and white. Bright vivid colors, including red, yellow, and purple, draw butterflies. Butterflies and bees favor flat, open blooms with big petals for easy landing and short nectar tubes.

Nectar-source plants should receive full sun from midmorning to mid-afternoon. Also consider planting for continuous bloom, meaning when one plant stops blooming, another begins, ensuring a constant source of food. Finally, make the garden more attractive to pollinators by clustering species of plants into clumps in groups of three to five rather than scattering individual plants throughout a garden. That way, pollinators can feed more efficiently.

As for shelter, vary the heights of plants to create layers in the garden and include flowering trees and shrubs. Consider adding a birdhouse, too. Ours are quite unique and are sure to attract birds with their bright, flower-like colors. You can add one to supplement the food your flowers provide, or you can make a simple birdfeeder with our teacups and saucers. Attach the saucer to the edge of the cup with a silicone-based glue.

Place your birdhouse in a somewhat sheltered location that’s close to food and water. You might want to watch the birds from indoors, but birds need to feel secure about the location to use the birdhouse. With that in mind, be sure the birdhouse is in a sheltered spot that is concealed from external elements and predators.

 

 

We’re big believers in the window box, a versatile crowd pleaser with definite curb appeal. In fact, some might say we’re identified with the three iconic window boxes that hang above the archway of our studio in Upstate New York.

“They’re like the welcoming committee,” says our estate manager, Corinne Bowman, noting that these boxes accent probably one of the most photographed spots on our farm. Besides holding colorful annuals in the summer, they’re updated with mums in the fall and evergreen boughs for the holidays.

We asked Corinne, who oversees the planting of these boxes, as well as thousands of additional annuals and perennials on our 65-acre estate in Aurora, for some planting pointers:

  • For ease of planting and the longevity of the window box, it’s best to plant in a plastic liner rather than directly in the box. Both the liner and the box should have drainage holes. If the location is accessible, insert the liner into the box and plant right there. Here on the farm, we plant the liners first and then insert them into the window boxes, which are located on the second floor of the studio.
  • Pick plants suited to the location of the window box, taking into account if it is in full sun or a semi-shady spot.
  • If you’re planting flowers, think about color combinations that pop and contrast with each other. Corinne tries to vary our window boxes every year but finds that she usually includes some of her more dependable favorites, like geraniums, coleus, Calibrachoa “Million Bells,” and Dichondra “Silver Falls.”
  • Think about nonflowering plants, too. A window box can be a mini garden, hosting a few tomato plants or herbs, making it perfect for locations short on outdoor space like an apartment terrace.
  • Do a dry run first and put the potted plants in the empty liner to get an idea of what comfortably fits with a little room to grow. It’s like arranging a class photo. Taller plants in the back, contrasting medium-size fillers next, and finishing with a plant that has trailing leaves or blossoms that will spill over the edge in the front.

  • Remove the potted plants and fill the box halfway with nutrient-rich potting mix. Don’t use topsoil or soil from your yard, which will be too heavy and won’t drain well. Potting mix is lighter, has more nutrients, and will allow water to permeate better than the dirt you might find in your back yard.
  • Add the plants from tallest to shortest, loosening the roots a little if they have become rootbound. Fill in with more potting mix around the plants.

  • Finally, give the completed window box a drink. You want to water gently, so Corinne recommends using a watering can because it’s easier to control than a hose. Ongoing watering depends on the location of the window box. If it’s in full sun, it will dry out more quickly, especially if it doesn’t receive rainwater. But don’t overwater. Unlike hanging baskets, which tend to dry out quickly because they’re more exposed to sunlight and air, window boxes usually don’t need daily watering. In fact, it’s better to underwater than overwater.
  • When you water, check if the plants need a little maintenance, including removing spent blooms and leaves.
  • Finally, keep in mind that plants grow quickly. What might look a little sparse in early May will fill in quite nicely by mid-June, and with the right watering and a little love from Mother Nature, will look good all summer long.
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