CELEBRATION SPOTLIGHT – Gia Reynolds
Interviewing Gia Reynolds for the Celebration Spotlight is like interviewing a good friend or a beloved family member. Maybe that’s why her friends call her Mama Gia; we can always turn to her and count on a good meal in the process. Gia is the founder of The Houseshoe Hostess. She and I visited in February about food, family, friendship, and how she loves to keep things positive.
Learning to be a Hostess
Michele: Can you tell everybody the story of The Houseshoe Hostess?
Gia: I’d be more than happy to. I was raised to be a hostess. My grandmother was the best hostess, and she raised me. I helped her set up Yahtzee parties and Tupperware parties. I was young when I was helping her set those up, so I think that’s where I got the hostess bug. So, she would cook and invite everyone over on Friday and Saturdays and have a big girlfriends’ party every weekend.
Michele: What kind of things did your grandmother cook?
Gia: Comfort food. And that’s where my love for comfort food came from. Back then, it wasn’t as healthy, so I try to create comfort food so you can still indulge but a little bit on the healthier side.
Michele: You take away a little bit of the guilt.
Gia: Yes. But then you feel guilty because you want to eat more.
Soirees and House Shoes
Michele: So your story about the Houseshoe Hostess – how did that come about, and what is that story?
Gia: I have been in banking for 23 years, and I had a back injury. I headed to work one day, and I slipped and fell. I had disc issues. At that time, I was catering and doing banking. And when I fell and during my recovery, all I could think about…I wasn’t thinking about banking…all I could think about was, “I’m not going to be able to throw parties anymore. I’m not going to be able to stand and cook. It’s nothing like having a roast in the oven and perfuming the whole home.
And that’s all I kept thinking about. It was a three or four-month recovery period. I just wrote recipes and planned parties and all of that. A few years before that I started to do a blog. But I was working too many hours, and it never really took off. It was called Soirees and Slippers. Well, no one could pronounce “soiree,” and so it just didn’t stick.
Michele: I could pronounce it, but I’m not sure I could spell it.
“I just wrote recipes and planned parties and all of that.” ~Gia Reynolds
Gia: Yeah. So it didn’t stick with me. I always keep my house a little chillier than most, so when friends would come over they would say my house is cold. So I would always have house shoes and blankets and snuggies for friends that visited often. So that’s where the name Houseshoe Hostess came from. At first, they would come over and be dressed up for a party and I’m like, “This isn’t me. When you come over, wear some yoga pants or sweats.
Michele: Come as you are.
Gia: Yes. And we eat good food and watch TV and just talk and socialize. My friends say, “You’re the best hostess,” and the house shoe just came along with it.
Michele: It fits together, and there’s a story behind it. It makes people ask you, “Where did you get this idea?”
Gia: A lot of people are drawn to the name. And I’ve gotten a lot of followers just by people asking, “Where did this name come from?”
Michele: It makes people curious. I know it did me. I love hearing you tell the story both on your social media channels and in person, too.
Gia: I love it. It’s one of those things…you know how you start out, and you want something to connect you to other people? I think everybody can connect to good food and relaxing. Especially nowadays. Stress-free.
Michele: I’ve talked to a few people about how it’s their love language to cook good food for people and I think you fit that description quite well. What are some of your favorite things to make?
Gia: I love a good roast. Roast chicken, beef roast, pork roast, anything like that. Like I mentioned before, something you just put together, and when people come in, they’re like, “What is that you’re cooking?” Recently someone delivered something to me and he stuck his whole head in my apartment and said, “What is that you’re making?” You want people to start eating with their eyes and their nose first. I love that. You can’t get past a good steak and potato and stuff like that, too.
“You want people to start eating with their eyes and their nose first. I love that.” ~ Gia Reynolds
Michele: On Instagram, you make beautiful arrangements of your food and just an amazing colorful setting. So, yes, I’m sure people are eating with their eyes when they’re sitting down as well as their nose because you’ve made it beautiful.
Gia: Thank you. And you know, for a long time…I have a lot of friends who are bakers, and I’ve always said, “Bakers just create the most beautiful things.” I just put salt and pepper on stuff. It’s not like making a creation. Just recently, I’ve kind of accepted that people…you know how you get a compliment and like, “Do I deserve that?” So now, with a lot of people complimenting me like you did, I think, “Maybe it is more than salt and pepper.”
Michele: And a little bit of love. You know, I know how you feel when you think you didn’t do much or you don’t think you did. Just say, “Thank you.” That’s what my momma always said. If you get a compliment, just say thank you. And then you know you’ve acknowledged their compliment.
I know, too, that you’re trying new things. What advice would you give someone who wants to try new things?
Gia: Actually. Life. Life happened. The pandemic happened. I have just seen so many changes and not all great changes. And I just thought, what better time to do it than now. I kind of hesitated a little because you think, “What if this doesn’t go right,” and “What if this…” But now I’m to the point where everyone started out new at some point. And everyone always tells me that I give the best advice, but I don’t take my own advice.
Michele: I do that.
Gia: And so this year, I decided I’m going to treat myself like I would treat a friend. I would encourage a friend and no limits! You need to do that for yourself, and that’s what started me getting out of my comfort zone.
Michele: You’ve been baking, too, right?
“And so this year, I decided I’m going to treat myself like I would treat a friend.” Gia Reynolds
Gia: I have.
Michele: Is that not your normal thing to do?
Gia: I bake easy stuff. I should say, easy to me. My grandmother liked pound cakes, zucchini bread, banana bread, and stuff like that. But I’m challenging myself to start baking more.
Michele: I’ve seen some posts on your social media where it seems like you’re not afraid to put your mistakes out there; let everyone see where you messed up and try again. And that’s one thing that I really take from your posts as inspiring and shows you’re not afraid. “Yep, this is where I went wrong. But here’s my success.”
Gia: I actually have a whole highlight reel on my Instagram. I don’t want people to look at this and think, “Ooh, she’s perfect.” Because it’s not that way at all, but I also don’t want someone new into cooking or baking to get discouraged if things don’t turn out right. So, I do show all of them.
Michele: She does, people. She really does. Your mouth will water, even the bad stuff she posts where she made a mistake.
Gia: When we were catering, one of my all-time favorite mistakes was…I remember one summer we had a person who wanted like 50 or 60 crème brûlées. And I’m like, “That’s a lot!” So, I tried to make crème brûlée bars. It’s easier to turn everything into a bar when you have to make large quantities. So, it didn’t turn out right. I went back and had to try something else, and my family had devoured it. And they wanted to know, “What is this?” We didn’t even have a name for it because it was a mistake.
“It’s easier to turn everything into a bar when you had to make large quantities.” ~ Gia Reynolds
That’s one recipe I kind of keep to myself. You won’t see that on my blog or Instagram or anything like that. However, if I talk to you and you and I are having a good day, I will definitely bring you some of those. I share them with love. I just don’t share that recipe online.
Michele: Gia’s little secret treat.
Gia: At first, I made them so much because everyone loved them that I was just, “Ok. I’m done.” I boycotted them for years. I was literally making them no stop. I always forget how delicious they are because I made them so often.
Michele: You’re a Celebration Nation Ambassador for National Day Calendar, and you’ve been at this for a year.
Gia: I have been even before I met you guys.
Michele: Right. A lot of ambassadors are before they become ambassadors. How did you find us? What do you enjoy about being an ambassador?
Gia: I love it! I think that it’s what everyone needs. It’s a selfless act, and it makes you feel good, and it makes other people feel good. Even if I’m not having a great day, I can look through the calendar of what’s coming up and instantly feel better.
Michele: That’s that ripple effect right there.
Gia: Exactly. I don’t know how I stumbled across your calendar, but I’ve been looking at it for quite some time. I always look on the calendar, and at work, people are always asking me, “What’s coming up?” And I give the calendars out as gifts. I call it the feel-good ambassador because you can’t be unhappy by looking at the days. And some of the days are not as fun as other ones. There are some serious days out there.
Michele: Awareness days and things like that that make you think.
Gia: You appreciate those even more.
Michele: Everyone can learn something from one of the days. There’s always something there to learn.
Awareness & Heroes
Gia: I had a girlfriend whose mom passed away several years ago from scleroderma. And at that time, we had no idea what it was. Even the doctors didn’t know. We’re talking 18 years ago or so. It’s on the calendar, and I told her about that. We had a moment. It’s good that it’s bringing awareness because, for months, the doctors didn’t know what it was.
Michele: There’s a lot of those rare conditions to bring awareness. What are some of your favorite holidays?
Gia: I am all about girlfriends. National Girlfriends Day is one of my favorites. Galentine’s Day is another. Ninety percent of the food holidays. All the superhero days.
Michele: Those are fun, too. Do your grandchildren like those days, too?
Gia: Yes. We’ve always celebrated those days. When new superhero movies come out and things like that. I was never into superhero movies until I had boys, and now when a new superhero movie comes out, I want to know if we’re going to see it.
And we’ll go out as a family to see if we can. Luckily we’re in the same area. My son was in the military, but now he’s back home.
Michele: My son was in the military, too, and he’s back home now, too. So I know the feeling about having him back.
Gia: Thank him for his service.
Michele: You do the same for your son.
Gia: My son, when he was in the 8th grade, four or five of his friends, they all decided – they were in ROTC – and they all decided they were going into the military. All of them went except one because he got a football scholarship.
Celebrate Every Day
Michele: What does Celebrate Every Day mean to do?
Gia: That no matter what you’re going through, you can find something to be happy about and celebrate. That was just recently brought to my attention. I was thinking about something in a negative way, and I was surprised because I will cut a negative thought off in a second. I recently just lost my mom.
I made mistake and played a voicemail she had left on my phone. I was very sad, and it took me back. So, I was telling a friend about it, and he said, “You know, I wish I had a message from my grandmother, that way, I could hear her voice because I don’t have anything.” And I realized I should be happy about that. So, you celebrate even when you don’t want to celebrate. Just by him mentioning that, it turned my whole thoughts around, and Celebrate Every Day is like that. A lot of people now are struggling to even put a smile on their face. Covid has touched everyone. And so, I think if you can think about a celebration, it might not replace it, but lighten it a little bit and put a smile on your face.
Michele: That’s a wonderful perspective. What are you celebrating this week?
Black History Month
Gia: For Black History Month…I was able to find a copy of Rosa Parks‘ Peanut Butter Pancakes. It was handwritten on an envelope. I became emotional making them. I just remember my grandma; when a recipe came to her, she wrote it down on whatever. So, the HuffPost posted it a few years ago. And I made it for Black History Month. Her birthday was February 4th. It was pretty important to me. I like my own recipes but honoring other people because I know how hard it is to formulate a recipe.
Michele: What a fun and unique way to honor her and also to connect with her through food.
Gia: So I asked other foodies to join in the collaboration, and we all made food that was special for Black History Month. It was very nice. And when you’re talking about good food…there was very good food there.
“I just remember my grandma, when a recipe came to her, she wrote it down on whatever.” ~ Gia Reynolds
Michele: What else was made?
Gia: A lot of smothered food. Smother chicken, smothered pork chops. Someone made some cheddar biscuits with a sausage gravy. It was just really good food. Sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes soufflés and sweet potato buttered biscuits. Pot roast. It was a little bit of everything. It was just nice that we could all come together and honor her on her birthday and Black History Month.
Michele: Have you done collaborations like this before?
Gia: All last year, it was one collab one after another.
You know, I’ve met so many people who’ve touched my heart that I’ve never met in person. I’ve made lifelong friends that I have never even given a hug to. I’ve also met foodie friends where we’ve connected, whether it be through National Day Calendar or through food or just anything, and we’ve traveled to meet each other. I went to Chicago this summer and met up with a foodie friend. And another foodie friend from Maryland who flew out for my birthday. So It’s good to just step outside the box and meet people you’ve never known through a platform like this.
“I’ve made lifelong friends that I have never even given a hug to.” ~ Gia Reynolds
Michele: It’s a common theme. You’re meeting people you wouldn’t normally meet and talking about subjects you might not normally talk about. Or things you both have an interest in. It’s a way to expand your horizons. What’s wrong with that?
Gia: That’s one thing we all have in common is food. We’re all connected that way.
Michele: When we gather, there’s always some food element to it.
Gia: No matter what the nationality is.
Michele: That’s right. Where ever you go, somebody is going to be putting food on the table when people come together. Even when we’re mourning someone we’ve lost. We bring food to the table; we feed our souls. It’s no surprise to me that there are more food days on the calendar than any other holidays.
I always enjoy our conversations, Gia. You always brighten my day when we talk and make me feel my day was worth it.
Gia: It’s not often that we have a connection with somebody right off, and I felt that with you.