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Athena Calderone Transcript

New Ways for the Holidays with Athena Calderone of Eyeswoon

Kerry Diamond: Hey, Bombesquad, welcome to Radio Cherry Bombe. I'm your host, Kerry Diamond. You might be wondering where is the usual theme music? Well, this is a special Radio Cherry Bombe miniseries called New Ways for the Holidays. Over the next few weeks, I'll be chatting with Cherry Bombe's favorite entertaining experts to get their tips and tricks on decorating, cooking, virtual celebrations and more.

We know the holidays are going to be very different this year and we want to help you make the season special no matter how you're celebrating. On today's premiere episode, we have none other than Cherry Bombe fave, Athena Calderone of EyeSwoon. She's an interior designer, cookbook author, entertaining pro, and podcaster. Athena has even branched into designing housewares and has collaborated with other creatives on beautiful luxurious pieces that you can find on her brand new website Stay tuned for my conversation with the lovely Athena.

If you're new to the world of Cherry Bombe, be sure to head over to to learn more. You can subscribe to Cherry Bombe magazine while you're over there or become a member of Cherry Bombe and join us for special events and monthly membership meetings.

Also, thank you to the Wines of Sicily for sponsoring today's episode and supporting our New Ways for the Holidays miniseries. Gosh, I would love to be in Sicily right now drinking some Sicilian wine and I'm sure most of you feel the same way so let's hear a word from winemaker Giovanna Caruso.

Giovanna Caruso: Ciao to all of you Cherry Bombe Radio listeners out there. My name is Giovanna Caruso, and I'm a winemaker from Sicily. My family story goes back to the 1800s when my grandfather Nino started our business. Today, my sister Rosanna and I are committed to both the proud wine making tradition of Sicily and the future of wine making. A piece of my heritage is in our wines and there's nothing I love more than when people discover the beautiful wines of Sicily.

Whether it's Sicily's signature Lucido, a full-body white wine with its aroma of ripe citrus, melon, and herbaceousness, which happens to pair beautifully with marinated antipasto dishes, or Frappato, the fresh, medium-body and beautiful balance of red, which pairs perfectly with everyone's favorite food, pizza, our Sicilian wines can be enjoyed all year round or on a special occasion like the upcoming holiday season. Ask for Sicilia DOC the next time you are at your local wine shop or look for it on the label. The Wines of Sicily family sends you our best. Cin cin! Visit to learn more.

Kerry Diamond: Now here's my conversation with Athena Calderone of EyeSwoon. Athena Calderone, what a pleasure.

Athena Calderone: I'm so honored to be chatting with you, Kerry.

Kerry Diamond: And you too. And you too. Even though people can't see this, it's very nice that we can actually see each other's faces from a distance.

Athena Calderone: From a distance.

Kerry Diamond: On the computer. Exactly. But you are joining us to talk all about entertaining and the holidays today. Of course, we will preface that by saying we expect everyone to do the holidays safely this year.

Athena Calderone: Absolutely.

Kerry Diamond: Whatever that means for you. Maybe you're alone with your cat, maybe it's just you and your roommate, and maybe you have a pod and you're celebrating with your pod but however you choose to celebrate this year just be mindful of course. We know the Bombesquad is a very bright bunch and we don't need to say that but we just want everyone to know that the conversation that follows is with that in mind.

Athena Calderone: Absolutely.

Kerry Diamond: Amen. Right, Athena?

Athena Calderone: Amen. Yeah. I will add to that but even if you are just with your roommate or your immediate family or ...

Kerry Diamond: Your cat.

Athena Calderone: Your cat. Yeah. There is still celebration in creating beauty and I think that even if you're having a holiday that looks very much differently this year, there can still be ceremony behind it and there can still be intention and beauty behind it and joy.

Kerry Diamond: And joy. Absolutely. Athena, that's why you're here. I'm just such a big fan. I mean, you know this. I am just such a big fan of what you do, of your books, of all the positivity and the beauty that you put out into the world. I've been lucky enough to come to your home, see your beautiful home in Brooklyn and see what you create, seemingly out of thin air, and it's remarkable. We're going to share some of that with the folks today.

Athena Calderone: Thank you. Yeah. I was thinking the other day how much I love to entertain. I was trying to distill and dissect what it is about why I love entertaining so much. When I really think about it it's like when I was really quite young and I hadn't quite figured out my path yet, entertaining gave me some sort of sense of purpose because I hadn't quite figured out career yet and I took ownership of creating something within my own home and within my own space. It made me feel really proud.

I always loved making my homes look beautiful and I always loved cooking and entertaining really became where those two things came together but the holidays in particular is also what became my early education in food and the culinary space because I would be like, "Okay, I'm having friends and family over. Let me dive in and really start to read reviews on recipes" and I would challenge myself to learn new techniques.

In a way, entertaining just offered me a path that I could never have imagined. It became a place for me to take risks and to learn and to grow and to challenge so yeah. It makes me feel really happy that we're here talking about it right now.

Kerry Diamond: You beat me to my first question. When did you realize you loved to entertain?

Athena Calderone: I can remember as a child, Thanksgiving was always the holiday that we hosted in our home, in my mom's home, my childhood home. Obviously, things were definitely a little bit more fussier back then. Not fussy because I didn't grow up fancy at all. My family didn't come from an affluent background but the holidays was the time that we took out my mom's china, which was black and white, which I always thought was so chic. I feel like most moms or grandma's china is floral and pink.

Kerry Diamond: Exactly. That's what my mom had.

Athena Calderone: Yeah. My mom had this black and white paisley pattern.

Kerry Diamond: Wow.

Athena Calderone: Yeah. China. I always thought, "God, that's so elegant. It's so chic." We would take out her china and we would press the linens and starch the linens, which, of course, is so different than now.

Kerry Diamond: Oh gosh. Starch the linens? Who does that now except maybe some hotels.

Athena Calderone: I know. I mean, I actually try to make my linens a little more wrinkly because I like the look of that. I just remember there being this ritual and excitement around this moment that I shared together with my mom and that she would also wake up at 6 A.M. to put the turkey in the oven, which I never quite understood why she woke up that early but I guess a turkey for a large group does take time.

I just remember there being all this excitement and ceremony and granular attention to detail. It was something that excited me then and it's definitely something I looked forward to those traditions. Then I got married quite young and I had a baby quite young and my husband and I bought our first home in my twenties and that's when I started hosting. I guess when I had my son is when I started hosting the holidays at my house.

It just took me right back to those moments of having that memory with my mom where I would just revel in this idea of creating something sensorial and beautiful and, like I said, before, exploring new things in the culinary world, which I didn't call it culinary world at the time. It was just like, "What am I going to cook?"

My first holiday, I remember reading all these reviews on Epicurious and cross-referencing and reading what was a better pastry for my Crostata and I just loved the process of ... Even before the actual day of entertaining, I loved the lead-up. I loved the lists and creating the lists and food shopping and looking at my menu and changing things out. It just became a place for me to dive into and express myself, both creatively, visually, with balancing flavors. It was something that I naturally gravitated towards, unknowing that it would ever turn into a career.

Kerry Diamond: Right. Right. Now let me ask a question because I know back then when you were a young mom, you were really searching for what your professional path was going to be but you're also kind of shy, which a lot of people might not realize. Were you hiding behind the food and hiding behind the process a little?

Athena Calderone: That's so funny that you said that because I used to say that when I went out socially I would stand behind a glass wall because I just never wanted to open up and share anything because there was shame attached to not having a "career". I didn't have a defined title.

I was just figuring it out. I always felt a little shy about that. I do think that the kitchen was also a way for me to hide. It was a way for me to be so busy with prepping and chopping that I didn't always have to carry a conversation.

Kerry Diamond: I'm sure a lot of people can relate.

Athena Calderone: Yeah. For sure.

Kerry Diamond: Athena, tell us about this year. How will you and the family be celebrating? Let's talk about Thanksgiving because this will air a little bit before then.

Athena Calderone: Yeah. This year for Thanksgiving, it's going to be myself and my husband and my son and likely just the three of us. I was just talking with my mom yesterday about discussing if she was going to come or not and how to make sure if she did come if we were safe but it'll be just us. That might change our menu a little bit. I'm pretty sure we're not going to make a turkey.

Kerry Diamond: No turkey? That's the big question this year.

Athena Calderone: No. I mean, to be frank, we're not big turkey lovers anyway.

Kerry Diamond: I don't know many people who eat turkey throughout the year.

Athena Calderone: It's so interesting, isn't it? I mean, I have tried every turkey recipe, every brine, every ... On the grill.

Kerry Diamond: Have you deep fried a turkey?

Athena Calderone: I have not done the deep fry.

Kerry Diamond: That's the best turkey. I'm going to go out there and say that.

Athena Calderone: Yeah. I mean, how do you get a pot large enough to deep fry?

Kerry Diamond: You have to live somewhere not where we live, you have to live somewhere with lots of space, you have to have your fire extinguisher very close to you.

Athena Calderone: Oh my goodness.

Kerry Diamond: You get a big fryer. A special fryer made for a turkey and it cooks so fast and it is the best turkey you will ever have.

Athena Calderone: I believe you but I'm not going to try it. You know why? Because I really like whole roasted chicken. They are always moist and it's just perfect for our small family. I mean, I'm sure you can get a small turkey.

Kerry Diamond: You can pretend it's a tiny turkey.

Athena Calderone: Exactly. Exactly. Look, I feel as though I feel very fortunate to have really enjoyed this time with my family throughout the pandemic and it's kind of funny because my husband is a DJ and a music producer and he is constantly --

Kerry Diamond: And a world traveler.

Athena Calderone: Exactly. He's constantly traveling. My son is also 17 and a senior in high school and about to go off to college next year. I'm really leaning in and embracing this time in our home without socialization and just enjoying these precious moments together. I will still light candles and I will still pull out linens. I don't think that I will take out china but I'll still make sure that it feels like a celebration in our home.

What I'll probably do is walk around ... We're in Amagansett. I'm just looking outside right now and the leaves are changing so beautifully. I might just walk outside with my clippers and clip a changing leaf branch and lie it directly on my tablecloth on my table. I might go to the farm stand and get a couple of squash and gourds and just put those out on the table. I might clip some sage because sage is such a fall herb to me and tie it in a little bundle and put it ... Or even just tuck it into my napkin. I'll still find ways to celebrate the season and to create something that feels relevant to this time of year and that speaks to my menu. I like to try to be holistic for whatever décor I put on the table for it to relate back to my meal, hence the sage.

Kerry Diamond: Yeah. Let's do a little deeper dive into the décor. Our producer Kat had reminded me about this, that you also taught a class at Cherry Bombe University, which was I think like two years ago yesterday or something.

Athena Calderone: It was. You know what's crazy is that that was really the first time I gave a "seminar" about how I set the table. It was not so dissimilar. I think it was around fall time as well, but I feel like I had gone that morning just to the farmer's market and I just collected some pear and ... I will say. If you're going to go to the farm stand and you're going to use edible elements for your décor, when you pick your pears try to find a more petite one or maybe one where the leaves are still clinging to it. I'm that crazy person that I'm like, "Can you pull out that bottom little box? I see a couple leaves ..."

I really love to think 360 degrees about what I'm using as décor and make sure that it is always seasonal but also, like I said before, that it speaks to whatever I'm cooking with. You could pick up a bundle of sage, you could pick up a bundle of radishes. Things that are going to bring color to your table but also are not going to be wasteful, especially right now. We don't want to be wasteful. If I buy a cute little acorn squash or a Delicata squash, they can be used for my meal or for the week's meal but they could also be a beautiful element on the table.

I realize that these are going to be intimate times and it's just going to be yourself and your family but there's still a moment to have an expression of appreciation and beauty. Why not just put on some music and play with your food a little bit?

Kerry Diamond: Absolutely. I mean, one of the things, Athena, that I love about you is you create something that is so beautiful and almost looks slightly unattainable but when you break it down a lot of the things you talked about are things that you can buy in a grocery store.

Athena Calderone: They 100% are.

Kerry Diamond: I'm always so struck by the beauty that you are able to create with these natural elements and I've seen you do it with twine, I saw you walk into Cherry Bombe University with that box, and you had crumpled linens and you had fruits and vegetables and twine and herbs and next thing I knew ... And some candles. You do love a candle.

Athena Calderone: I do.

Kerry Diamond: Next thing I knew it was just really beautiful. I think it's rather than look at, "Look at these gorgeous table scapes" maybe you're seeing all over Instagram right now and being intimidated by them and breaking them down and thinking how did this person build this? That I think is where your gift really comes through. You know how to layer and setup these little vignettes and, obviously, color is a big way to do that. Can you talk about color?

Athena Calderone: Yes. I tend to really love a neutral palette but I do think that strategic pops of color are really important and I think that when you are creating any table scape to really think about the palette, think about the color of linens you want to use, the candles you want to use because there are some great websites now where you can get a beautiful ochre yellow candle or a burnt brick color candle and those both speak to what's happening out in the natural world with the color of our leaves right now. I usually like to keep things rather neutral and then pick a couple of areas that I want to inject bits of color.

Beyond color, another thing that I feel is really important when I am starting to put a table scape together is varying heights. I like to make sure the candlestick holders are different heights or maybe I burn down some of the candles a little bit so the candles, overall, are different heights. I also love to take a cake stand, for instance, and ... Recently I broke down, very similar to when I did for Cherry Bombe University, I took a cake stand and I just took a small little mason jar, nothing fancy, and I just stuck a bunch of sage in it where it came cascading out and then I took these little mini eggplants mixed with larger eggplants and I nestled that around on this very small cake stand and all of a sudden it was like this purple and green cascading moment that was inexpensive, very simple, but if everything was flat on my table or even in a bowl it would be all at one level.

I'm always trying to think of how to build something up so that it can begin high and cascade lower. I also love to just clip a branch, like I said before, and place it directly on the table because it has this really pretty sculptural movement and element.

Yeah. I mean, if there's one thing that I always say is simple ideas thoughtfully executed. None of this needs to be expensive but it can be really beautiful. I don't know. I know I said it before but, look, we all need something to fill our time right now. Put some music on, take all of these elements, take some twine and wrap it around your napkins and just play, just make it ... Even if it's not necessarily in your wheelhouse and even if it comes out not as beautiful as you want it to be, it's a fun exercise. You get to walk around it and look at it from different points of view. I mean, this is what I get excited about and I don't know if it'll speak to everyone but I find it really fun and I like to take photos of it as well. Yeah. That's my jam.

Kerry Diamond: Let's talk about your menu. You mentioned there will not be a turkey on the Calderone table this year.

Athena Calderone: There will not.

Kerry Diamond: But you'll probably roast a chicken.

Athena Calderone: I will roast chicken and I will probably put some carrots and maybe some squash and shallots, I love a roasted shallot, and I love to roast halved lemons because they just get so soft and delicious and they almost start to taste when you roast them at a high heat like a preserved lemon sometimes.

Kerry Diamond: I'll often put lemons at the base of a chicken when I roast it. They're so good.

Athena Calderone: So good.

Kerry Diamond: Yeah. What kind of squash? I feel like you do every kind of squash but what kind of squash and how will you make it?

Athena Calderone: I'm probably just ... Well, I love to make Delicata squash Agrodolce and use that sweet and sour and spicy combination. If I put them in my chicken I won't do that. I think Delicata squash is nicer roasted on it's own. I think I would do a heartier squash around my chicken like an acorn or a Kabocha ... I always get confused if it's kombucha or Kabocha.

Kerry Diamond: Or Kabocha.

Athena Calderone: Or Kabocha.

Kerry Diamond: Right. I think we have the same farmer's market.

Athena Calderone: Yes.

Kerry Diamond: I'm sure a lot of people walk up and ask for the kombucha squash. I'm sure I've done that a few times too. Yeah.

Athena Calderone: I have too. I have to think before I say it.

Kerry Diamond: Exactly. Tell us how you roast your chicken because I know that is very personal to everyone.

Athena Calderone: Yes. Well, I actually have a little bit of a funny story ... Let me back up for a minute. I never used to make a whole roasted chicken. I developed a recipe for my cookbook because everyone was like, "You need a whole roasted chicken." I was like, "But I don't eat whole roasted chicken."

Kerry Diamond: God forbid you don't have a whole roasted chicken in your cookbook.

Athena Calderone: Oh my goodness.

Kerry Diamond: That's a cookbook writer joke.

Athena Calderone: It's a thing. It's a thing. Anyway, it is now my hands down favorite meal to make for my family and my favorite recipe in my cookbook and I only ... I put butter under the skin. I stuff the inside with a half lemon and a half head of garlic but when I first was doing the promotion around Cook Beautiful I ended up going to LA and cooking at Chef Ludo's house. I went into his house and we decided to make my whole roasted chicken together. We're going through the process of making the chicken and he just looks at me in his chic French accent and says, "You're cheap with your butter."

Kerry Diamond: That's so funny.

Athena Calderone: "What is this? Two tablespoons of butter? You need a whole stick of butter."

Kerry Diamond: That's funny that you say that because I've only eaten at one of his restaurants and it was that little one in the strip mall across the street from Nancy Silverton's restaurant. It was the richest damn meal I ever had in my life.

Athena Calderone: Interesting. Lots of butter.

Kerry Diamond: Now we know. Lots of butter.

Athena Calderone: Yeah. Lots of butter.

Kerry Diamond: All right. Now you use a whole stick?

Athena Calderone: Not all underneath the skin. I probably use like four to six tablespoons under my skin and then the rest I put around the vegetables. I will truss my chicken, which is a little different.

Kerry Diamond: Oh my God. That's so funny. I'm so tired. I was up so late working on the new issue last night. I thought you said I trust my chicken and I'm like I never heard of that concept, trusting your chicken, like your chicken will tell you what to do. No, you truss your chicken. Oh my God. So funny.

Athena Calderone: It's hilarious. I like to trust my chicken as I truss my chicken. What I don't trust is my ability to truss. It's funny. Well, I dress my chicken and it comes out a little bit different every time. Then I just slice my carrots vertically in half and I do either half or whole shallots and I do half heads of garlic and lemons and then I'll do the squash as well and scatter that all around making sure that I don't overcrowd the pan so it gets nice and caramelized.

Then I roast at a high heat. I think I do either 425 or 450 for about an hour. I also put sumac on my chicken, which I really love sumac. It has that really beautiful, bright, acidity to it. I usually serve it with either Labneh or Greek yogurt.

Kerry Diamond: Oh, sounds so good.

Athena Calderone: Yeah. It's really good.

Kerry Diamond: Does the skin get crispy?

Athena Calderone: The skin gets crispy and you have to be a little careful with the sumac because sometimes it can burn. It doesn't always look as pretty because the sumac gets brown but I like a crispy skin chicken for sure.

Kerry Diamond: I do love to Spatchcock chicken. The downside to that is it's really hard to get the skin crispy because it cooks so fast.

Athena Calderone: Oh, interesting. I've never done that. It's so funny. As we're talking about this conversation, I'm like did we also talk about this on the first time we recorded for Cherry Bombe Radio?

Kerry Diamond: Maybe. The last time we talked it was about I think wellness so I doubt we were talking about Spatchcocking chickens. Why do you truss your chicken? Like I said, I Spatchcock or I just roast it whole. I don't truss it but now I'm wondering do I need to be trussing my chicken?

Athena Calderone: I think just because if the legs span out and the wings span out they get too crispy so it just keeps it a little bit tighter together. I don't really know why but when I went to my quasi-culinary school I learned how to truss a chicken and maybe I'm flexing or want to celebrate something I learned in culinary school. It's probably not necessary but I do it.

Kerry Diamond: It's picturesque. I will say that much. What else is on your menu? Are there any Thanksgiving sides that you love?

Athena Calderone: Okay. What is always on my menu is ... My nonna used to make these whipped ... I won't even say mashed potatoes. She made these whipped sweet potatoes that were just the one staple that was always on our Thanksgiving table no matter what. When she passed away it was the same year that I got married so I was 24 years old. For two or three years after she passed everyone in my family tried to replicate the sweet potatoes and nobody could do it.

Finally, I was like, "All right. I'm taking this on." I had her recipe and I was like, "Good God. This is a heart attack waiting to happen." It was like maple syrup and brown sugar and heavy cream and cream cheese.

Kerry Diamond: Nonna served you dessert.

Athena Calderone: Nonna basically served dessert in a sweet potato form. Anyway, I have since tweaked her recipe to make it a little less heart attack-y but equally as good and now I use ... My nonna certainly did not have a Vitamix. She just used a hand mixer, which I think is why nobody was able to get them as creamy as her because she might have done it for hours at a time. Anyway, I use my Vitamix now and they are the silkiest and creamiest sweet potatoes so that is always on our menu.

Kerry Diamond: Have you put that recipe out into the universe yet?

Athena Calderone: You know, when I first launched EyeSwoon I put it out there.

Kerry Diamond: It's on there? Okay.

Athena Calderone: It's on there but I should probably redo it because when I first launched the site my images were blurry and oversaturated and my writing was grammatically horrific.

Kerry Diamond: You are a good writer. I doubt it.

Athena Calderone: Oh goodness. I mean, not back then but thank you. What's also super sweet is it's become a family tradition that since my son was born, we every single year together make the sweet potatoes. It's become ... I never necessarily made them with my nonna or with my mom but it just has become the tried and true staple in our family for Thanksgiving. I always think I make enough and it's never enough but now that it's only going to be the three of us this year we'll certainly have enough.

Kerry Diamond: Tell us a few other sides.

Athena Calderone: I always like to make a cranberry chutney. That was also something growing up that my mom used to make that I never would touch but I love playing with flavors. Right? I love playing with flavors and textures and that is across my cooking but also even how I design a space. It's all about different textures. I love the tartness of cranberry with the sweet and creaminess of the sweet potatoes. I always think about texture and flavor so I'll definitely make a preserved lemon cranberry chutney. I'll probably make something green like a kale salad, although my son doesn't love kale so maybe I'll make a crunchy romaine salad, which he loves.

Well, I guess I've learned over the years but I used to make too much and I used to be too ambitious with my menu. I just think less is more. I love stuffing so I'll make a stuffing.

Kerry Diamond: How do you do your stuffing?

Athena Calderone: I love my mom's stuffing and she makes a sausage stuffing. Over the years, I've tried to get fancy and look on Bon Appetit and New York Times and find some new fancy stuffing that has different things in it but my mom's stuffing is just the way I go and it's a sausage, celery, mushroom sautee with onion and then crumbled up sausage.

You know, one thing, my mom always stuffed the bird with the stuffing and that's become quite a controversial thing if that is appropriate or not.

Kerry Diamond: My mother would do the same and we lived to tell the tale, amazingly, but apparently it's because of bacteria and the stuffing not cooking to a high enough temperature. Yes. I think they recommend leaving the stuffing out now.

Athena Calderone: Yeah. Well, I will not stuff my chicken with stuffing so I'll just make it separately.

Kerry Diamond: Then how about dessert? We didn't talk about dessert yet.

Athena Calderone: I love a fruit tart/pie moment but my husband loves chocolate. I don't know if I'm going to make two desserts this year but I make a maple bourbon pumpkin pie that I really love that is a riff on something from Bon Appetit that I really love. I will likely make that because, I don't know, pumpkin pie is the thing you make at this time of year.

I don't know. I might make a chocolate bread pudding this year, which just feels really decadent and it's not something you make often.

Kerry Diamond: What we used to do at my coffee shop, when we would have leftover croissants, we would make chocolate bread pudding with the croissants.

Athena Calderone: Yeah. I like to make it with brioche but that sounds amazing with croissant as well.

Kerry Diamond: Yeah. Well, that sounds amazing.

Athena Calderone: Yeah. I'm looking forward to it. To be honest, I haven't put a ton of thought into it. I mean, it's really coming up soon but I think it'll come together in the last moments.

Kerry Diamond: I wanted to talk to you about virtual celebrations. I know you are a master of the IRL celebration, in real life, but we're all doing more Zooms, more digital things. Do you have any tips for how to make a virtual Thanksgiving more festive?

Athena Calderone: Interesting. Well, I mean, this maybe doesn't answer your question exactly but I will say that I haven't been able to see my dad since February so I do think that it's so important to find a way to create virtual celebrations. Not only for friends because in the past couple of years I have had more friends at my Thanksgiving. In earlier years, it was just family. I'm going to miss that this year.

I think rather than doing everything like a big party ... What is that site called that you can do multiple people?

Kerry Diamond: Oh, I don't know.

Athena Calderone: House Party.

Kerry Diamond: House Party? Okay.

Athena Calderone: House Party. You could do a bunch of people at once but I tend to find that a little bit overwhelming. I think that I will schedule ... Maybe my dad we'll do appetizers with and we always love to play a game together on the holidays. Maybe we'll try to find a way to play a game virtually. I think that just having that one on one time, maybe our pod as a family, and then my mom and my dad and my brother lives in Florida so, in a way, I kind of feel as though ... In years past, I was never able to celebrate Thanksgiving with my brother because he was in Florida but, in a way, this has encouraged us all to make sure we stay connected. I think we're going to plan some sort of game to play as a family like maybe before dinner as an appetizer moment.

Kerry Diamond: When you think game, what kind of game do you think?

Athena Calderone: Well, growing up we always used to play Rummy 500 or Rummikub. I might do that but I don't know. Cards Against Humanity is also fun but a little raunchy so that might be better after we've all had a little bit of booze at the end of the night.

Then I think we'll just as a family have our actual meal together and really use that moment to connect deeply together. I recently bought a book of quotes. I just bought it at the card store. What's that card store on Smith Street?

Kerry Diamond: Oh, Paper Source. Yup.

Athena Calderone: Yeah. I recently bought a book there that is just very simple brown paper with black lettering and every page, the whole book, is just quotes. It's perforated edges so you can rip the quote out. I am going to put a quote whether on each of our family member's dinner plate or maybe roll up some of the quotes with some twine and have everyone choose one and read it out loud.

You know, as I'm talking to you right now, maybe I'll go and I'll rip out different quotes and mail them to some of my friends ... Either mail them or email them but it could be really nice since we're not together to all be on a virtual Zoom or that House Party and read our quotes out loud and spark a conversation surrounding gratitude. Just finding ways to connect more I think is really important right now and find something to find gratitude in.

Kerry Diamond: I think an activity is key. I know a lot of us have been stuck on Zooms where we're all just staring at each other and asking, "Okay, what do we do next?" Then I love that idea, Athena, of sending something to the folks you'll be celebrating with, even if it's a simple note through the mail.

Athena Calderone: Definitely. Yeah. I mean, I hadn't really thought of that until now but it could really be nice. It's also exciting to get a piece of mail. Maybe everybody opens them together.

Kerry Diamond: Oh, that's a cute idea, everybody opens it at the same time.

Athena Calderone: Totally. The past two Christmases we actually took my kitchen island and I always have this centerpiece with these big branches but we took it off the past two holidays and we just had this big square island and we used it almost as a ... We turned it into a quasi-casino. We played left, right, center with a big pile of money in the center and that was really fun. I don't know. Maybe there's a way that you can find a way to play some interesting board game or card game. Yeah. That's what I'm thinking.

I think that perhaps you schedule certain things with certain friends. Maybe you have a group of friends that get together for dessert and then another group that get together to play a game and something to look forward to, especially for people that are going to be alone.

Kerry Diamond: Athena, you have so many projects going on right now. Well, first, let me say thank you so much for the food and the entertaining chat. I love hearing what you're doing and I just love watching what you put together all throughout the year but especially at the holidays.

You, my friend, have a lot of projects that you do and a lot going on. You are also a podcaster. You have a beautiful podcast More Than One Thing. For those that haven't checked it out, you definitely should. Tell people the concept behind More Than One Thing.

Athena Calderone: Sure. I have, as I said earlier, never really been able to define what it is that I do and I have a lot of creative interests and there was a lot of uncertainty and shame surrounding that for a very long time because I always thought that you needed to succeed at one thing or you needed to excel at one thing in order to define yourself as successful.

It really was only once I began to embrace the multi-facets of my interests that I found success and found my voice, that is what made me unique, and, look, I still sometimes struggle with it. Like, "Oh, would I have more success or opportunities if I was only in food? Would I be doing more product furniture collaborations if I only did design?" I still feel as though people often don't know what to make of me.

More Than One Thing was a way for me to talk with other creatives who also have a lot of varied interests and facets to their personality, to their careers, and really wanting to share creative stories of how people found their path. I do believe that the twists and the turns and the getting lost and the uncertainties and the complexities that we need to overcome or heal that make us interesting as creatives.

I love to learn. I'm so curious. I love to learn about different people's stories and I always ask a lot of questions. What their greatest hurdle was and how they overcome roadblocks to what was the catalyst or the series of moments that allowed them to finally embrace themselves or feel embraced by the outside or a combination of both.

It's just very much candid conversations about creativity, of people that are multi-hyphenates, that have a lot of hyphens to what they do. It's gotten such a great response. I opened the first season with my own story because I had my best friend interview me because a lot of people just see me as somebody that lives a certain way and shares a very curated life but I didn't have an obvious linear career path and it took me a while to figure it out and I just think that a lot of people are similar to me and it's important for other people to hear those stories so that they can feel a little bit safer on their unknown journey.

Kerry Diamond: I'm sure you've found this but I've found this in doing Radio Cherry Bombe that after you've done a few dozen interviews, themes start to emerge. I was curious not what themes have emerged but what sort of one piece of advice have you been able to glean from interviewing all of these very interesting people? What has bubbled up to the surface?

Athena Calderone: I have really found it fascinating that the majority of creatives are often riddled with self-doubt but they have found a way to champion that or not let that stop them in their path, that it has actually propelled them to explore more or ... I don't know if it's perfectionism, if it's self-doubt. I can't quite put my finger on exactly what it is but I do think that there is this common thread of curiosity and self-reflection that causes you to dive just a little bit deeper and not to be complacent.

I think that the thing that I've learned from everyone that I talk to is that they have found a way to not let their fears debilitate them. Everyone that I've talked to from Jenna Lyons to Nate Berkus to Naomi Watts, everybody has that bit of themselves that has a lot of uncertainty on how they're going to move forward or has conflict that makes them interesting.

I think that there is beauty to be found in having a complex mind and how we can celebrate that rather than let that stop us from exploring ourselves.

Kerry Diamond: Yeah. You've also launched a brand new website. Fans of yours know the EyeSwoon website very well but you recently launched Tell us what that's about and how is it different from EyeSwoon?

Athena Calderone: Well, EyeSwoon started in I think it was 2012 and it was really about both the culinary and entertaining sides of myself and it started about design but it really became about entertaining for the most part and cooking and sharing recipes.

As I was working on my second book, which came out in March, Live Beautiful, I realized that people really want design from me. Even what performs the best on my Pinterest and even on my social channels is interior design. I felt like it was an interesting platform for me to explore that really celebrated just my design work. was really about just interior design and I knew that I wanted to launch product after my second book came out and I felt as though launching an e-comm site for a product collaborations on Athena Calderone dot com was smarter than putting it on EyeSwoon. As I was saying, my More Than One Thing-ness and my constantly kind of questioning, it's like should I just stick to EyeSwoon? Should I develop my own name? I constantly go back and forth and I probably always will but it just felt as though my design work wanted its own identity. That's what I decided.

Kerry Diamond: You mentioned some of your design collaborations. Can you tell us about a few of those?

Athena Calderone: Yes. I really love vintage curation and I really love ceramics. It's one thing that people ask me about all the time is where I got certain pieces within my home. I usually start every day setting an intention, lighting either incense or burning Palo Santo and I had this beautiful little vintage bowl that everyone would ask me about.

You know, I wouldn't say wrestled but I've thought for a really long time like, "Okay, if I want to develop product, what do I want it to be?" I really started to look to what people wanted from me and I kept coming up against ... Every time I would show my morning ritual, everyone would always ask about this precious little vessel that I got.

If there's one thing that has been a through line throughout my career it's been my community and collaboration and leaning on one another. I just started to think I have so many friends that are ceramicists and I've reached out to my friend Cameron Bishop, who I've known for years, who has a ceramic line called Beau Rush and I said, "What do you think about creating a series of vessels or bowls that are inspired by this vintage one?"

It's been a constant conversation but I love texture. I love patina. I love ceremony. I love terra cotta. We developed these bowls, one very petite one and one larger one that can go from your kitchen to hold fruits and vegetables onto your tabletop. I just recently, this week actually, launched that collaboration.

Kerry Diamond: Congratulations. I know that means a lot to you.

Athena Calderone: It really does. I'm excited to spread my wings into a new arena. This journey has continued to unfold in ways I could have never imagined but having something tangible is something I really wanted and I really set an intention to do that and it's exciting. I mean, we, legitimately, just launched two days ago and I think within two days we almost have 120 orders. Yeah. It's exciting.

I also love a design moment. I love a surface. I love to style any surface in any area and I had also this beautiful wooden board that was a leftover piece of wood that I've had for 10 years that I rest on my bath tub and every time I post an image of my bathroom everyone was like, "Where did you get that bath caddy? Where did you get that piece of wood?" I always would just respond, "Oh, I made it. Oh, it was a leftover piece of wood."

Again, I looked to my community of what people wanted from me and I was like, "Okay, this is something that, clearly, people are interested in." Again, I reached out to a woman Aileen, who I developed a beautiful friendship with over the years over Instagram. Her company is called The Wooden Palate.

I reached out to her and I said, "Do you want to do this together? I think that it could be really interesting to make these beautiful wooden boards that rest upon your bath tub to place a book or wine or a candle. Just another surface to create something beautiful when you're not using your bath but also when you are using it."

She was so excited because she had taken down and milled Eucalyptus wood from this property in Los Angeles and she didn't know exactly what she was going to use it for. She was just like, "This is so perfect because Eucalyptus can really hold moisture well" so it just seemed so perfect. She was waiting for the right moment to use this wood that she had been drying out for five plus years.

I just love this idea of collaborating with these artisans who have so much pride in what they do and that I have an opportunity to bring my sense of design and style to somebody that is already creating something and that we get to build something together. That also just launched. There's a series of three different colors. All of them look completely different because they have a different shape from the natural edge of the wood. We're doing them in a darker ebony, a natural, and a white wash color.

Kerry Diamond: They sound like such beautiful, thoughtful collaborations, Athena. Congratulations.

Athena Calderone: Thank you. I'm very proud of them and I'm excited to explore this next chapter.

Kerry Diamond: Oh, good. Well, we're excited to follow along. 100%.

Athena Calderone: Thanks.

Kerry Diamond: We're going to wind things down, Athena. This is a big question but a simple one. What are you thankful for this year?

Athena Calderone: I am really thankful for my family, for having these very tender moments. I started cooking with my son this year, which I used to do when he was a baby but he became a teenager and stepped away from that. It's been really fun to have him choose a recipe and for us to develop it together and to really see him follow somewhat in my footsteps and feel that pride of sharing something that I'm so passionate about with him.

I'm really so grateful for getting a puppy and the joy of ... I almost feel like I have another child. The three of us are so in love with him. It's just been this really tender moment where we've all appreciated our home more and nature more because we get to experience it with our puppy. That's been really great.

You know, I just feel like we've slowed down so much that you just start to really put things into perspective of what's most important. I've really had to carve out more time to have deep meaningful conversations even with my mom. Sometimes life just gets so busy that everything is so rapid and fast and even our conversations are. Life has slowed down so much in this past year that I've just been much more cognizant and mindful to have and to share more with the people that mean so much to me.

Kerry Diamond: All right. We're going to do a quick speed round.

Athena Calderone: Yes.

Kerry Diamond: Holiday speed round. Ready?

Athena Calderone: Yes. Ready.

Kerry Diamond: Pumpkin spice, yay or nay?

Athena Calderone: No. Nay.

Kerry Diamond: If you could invite one guest, past or present to your holiday dinner, who would it be and why?

Athena Calderone: I feel that Diana Vreeland would be a very fun and colorful person to bring to my table.

Kerry Diamond: Oh, I would love to eavesdrop on a conversation between the two of you.

Athena Calderone: Right?

Kerry Diamond: I think she likes the color red a lot more than you do and animal print. What's a holiday song that makes you smile?

Athena Calderone: Well, this isn't Thanksgiving but the holiday song that makes me smile is Feliz Navidad because my son as a child used to say Feliz La-vee-la and so whenever it comes on that's how we sing it and it always brings a smile to my face.

Kerry Diamond: Pie of choice?

Athena Calderone: I love a pumpkin pie so much, especially at this time of year.

Kerry Diamond: If you could get one gift this year, Athena, what would it be?

Athena Calderone: If I could get one gift this year it would be to be able to be around people more. Safely.

Kerry Diamond: Safely. Yes. Same. Same here, Athena. Well, Athena, it's always a pleasure spending time with you. I'm sad it's not in person but hopefully soon enough we'll be able to see each other. You are so wonderful and creative and warm and I can't thank you enough for sharing what you and your family will be doing this holiday season.

Athena Calderone: Thank you so much, Kerry. I really appreciate it. I didn't get to ask you what you were doing for your holidays.

Kerry Diamond: You know what? I don't know. I have a huge family and I think that nobody wants to deal with the thought of not being together so I'm one of five kids and we all live not super close but close enough. The answer right now is we haven't even talked about it.

Athena Calderone: Well, if you want to join me on a Zoom you are more than welcome.

Kerry Diamond: That's it for today's episode. Thank you so much to Athena for speaking with me and sharing some tips with all of us. Check out to learn about Athena's books, projects, and more.

Thank you to the Wines of Sicily for supporting new ways for the holidays. Thanks to Giovanna Caruso for sharing her wine making story. I'm looking forward to meeting you one day and seeing your winery. Be sure to ask for Sicilia DOC or D-O-C, however you like to say it, at your favorite local wine shop and visit Wines of Sicily dot com for more.

Radio Cherry Bombe is edited by Kat Garelli and produced by Cherry Bombe Media. You're The Bombe and I hope your holidays are too.