(Photos by Karen Kristian Dickey)

I'll be honest: I have some pretty talented friends. And they're always doing these really creative, amazing things. Whether it's recording an album, shooting a fashion campaign, designing an app, writing a film, or sketching designs for a new bag, I am in awe. I love seeing people doing what they were made to do. Life is full of obligations, which makes creative endeavors that much more inspiring. My favorite projects are collaborative ones. I love it when a friend calls up and says, "Hey we're throwing a party for [insert reason]...wanna come cook for it?" Which is exactly how I got involved in this fantastic evening, celebrating the launch of Ernest Alexander's new women's line.

Hosted by Blog Brunch (a collaborative blogging network founded by the lovely Amy Anderson of Parker Etc. and Megan Gilger of The Fresh Exchange), the party took place at the Ernest Alexander design studio in NYC's Garment District. My friend Becky Shim Paguia (E.A. accessories designer and PR guru) created a gorgeous bohemian setting, with whimsical wildflower arrangements from the Chelsea flower market, mood boards, and beautiful displays of the new E.A. women's bag line. It felt like we were in a Parisian artist's atelier (which I of course loved!) with the skylights, high ceilings, and wood floors. A steady stream of fashion bloggers, writers, and friends filed through the studio, admiring the bags, sipping libations courtesy of Brooklyn Gin and Brooklyn Brewery, and nibbling on small bites prepared by moi.

For the menu, I wanted something to create hors d'oeuvres that were fresh and summery, with a pretty palate of colors. I made Goat Cheese Crostini with Black Olive Tapenade, Homemade Hummus with Crudites (recipe below), Watermelon, Feta, & Mint Skewers (recipe below), Yellow Tomato Gazpacho with Cumin-Rubbed Shrimp, and for dessert, my personal favorite: Nutella Shortbread Brownies. I made most everything in advance and just had to do some last-minute assembly on site (with the help of the fabulous E.A. interns and my friend Kristen Mongrain, who graciously offered her assistance that night - thanks!!!). Scroll down for recipes, and on your way, enjoy the beautiful photographs by Karen Kristian Dickey – she captured the evening so well!

Watermelon, Feta & Mint Skewers (left) and Yellow Tomato Gazpacho with Cumin-Rubbed Shrimp (right)

Nutella Hazelnut Brownies with Salted Shortbread. Oh. Yeah.

Ernest Alexander's atelier (left); the gorgeous new women's bag line (right).

Becky Shim Paguia, artiste extraordinaire, fashion guru, and one of the co-host(esses) of the event.

Megan Gilger (left, in vest) and Amy Anderson (right, in polka dots), hostesses with the mostesses - and the founders of Blog Brunch!

Me (left), bubbly in hand, and our good friend Nate Poekert (right) – both making rather weird expressions.

One of Becky's whimsical wildflower displays.

Ernest Sabine, brainchild and founder of Ernest Alexander.

Becky's thank you note to me - yes she DREW this!!!