October 15, 2017

New England Fall Fabulosity

Fall has arrived!! Pretty plaids, the mixing colors of the leaves, pumpkins of all shapes and sizes, chunky sweaters, the smell of wood fires, DAHLIAS and of course football (New England Patriots) and cider donuts! It's an overload of the senses, each element more perfect than the next!
 I was lucky enough to meet and help (in the tiniest of ways), Colin Cowie, the master event planner to the Stars, at our dear neighbor's wedding. He and I were talking at one point during the festivities and I commented on what a neat coincidence it was that our house's tower was lit so perfectly. Colin looked at me and said, "Nanny, we did that intentionally. It's called theatrical fabulosity!" 
I LOVE the phrase! And in my mind, fall is all about FABULOSITY! 
 Gone are the lazy days of summer, and there is the transition to fall with a BAM! Let's do this - kind of thing. Growing up next to Salem, MA, I could never escape the allure of fortune-telling, Ouija Boards, tarot cards and every witch store around (and there are A LOT of them!). If you've never been to Salem, I HIGHLY recommend visiting. Not just for the complicated Salem Witch Trials history, or Nathaniel Hawthorne and The House of Seven Gables, but also the seafaring history that you can learn about when exploring the world-renowned Peabody Essex Museum. This picture shows just some of my Tarot card collection. I've been surprising trick-or-treaters and party guests for years with tarot card readings to the point where even my Dad, many moons ago, gave me this awesome sign!
If you have a chance to visit this area, you also CAN'T miss visiting Russell Orchards in Ipswich near Crane's Beach and gobbling up some of their famous cider donuts! 

The cider donut recipe is so secret that they just smile when you inquire how they make their soft-on-the-inside, with just the right touch of crispiness on the outside, yummy apple-y creations! I tried making my own version using cider and dropping them in oil, basing it off other recipes, but I wasn't even close. 
I surrendered to perfection and just buy them here, but do yourself a favor and add eating their cider donuts to your bucket list. Russell Orchards makes small batches all day long ensuring that the donuts are always fresh. It's fun watching them go from batter to fryer right in front of your eyes. One day, they made over 12,000 donuts!
There are lots of other goodies to also pick up like their apple crisp and peach cobblers made using their own apples and peaches, along with their freshly pressed cider, pumpkins, local cheeses and fruit wine too!

 You can't miss seeing Darryl the pig! He's big!

 It's really cool watching them make cider right before your eyes!
 And for added bonus, they have the sweetest dog waiting to great you!

I returned home and gathered bunches of dahlias from my garden and some I had as part of a farm share I belong to, and set the table with pretty arrangements in copper Moscow mule mugs, a platter of cider donuts and my tarot cards. It was the perfect way to spend a fall day before Halloween!

If I could only transmit the aroma of these donuts when they are hot from the farm, you would thank me! They are SOOOO good!
I played around with a few more dahlias, using a favorite spooky hurricane candle holder...
 I snipped some of the remaining greens from my garden...
 ...and built the backdrop to add some gorgeous dahlias.
Who says Halloween can't be chic! Even my design assistant, Prim, agrees!
Dahlia Fabulosity too!
Happy Halloween!!

September 23, 2017

Flowers, Hurricanes and Knees

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Flowers!!
A couple of great friends, knowing the battles I've been having, surprised me one day with an army helmet adorned with flowers! Posing for pictures with them, also in matching helmets, cheered me up to no end! But I think the helmet looks far more distinguished on Caesar, my Roman bust, lol :)

This has been quite the few weeks for anyone living along the Atlantic Ocean feeling the wrath of a number of terrible hurricanes! My heart goes out to all who have suffered any loss of life and home. We all need to band together to help in any way we can. I'm still trying to figure out a way I can help, but I may have to do it with flowers, so stay tuned!
My husband and his family have property in the Florida Keys and luckily they suffered only tree devastation and about two feet of seaweed along with the ocean floor flooding their garage. We are truly blessed!
And thus, after 8 knee operations, a life filled with sports and whole lotta fun, it became necessary for me to say adiós to my left knee (the right one in this picture :)
I have no idea what the occasion was for this picture, and why I'm in it with my sister (the one holding the rose) and all her friends, but little did I know this was the beginning of a loooong knee road! One chronically filled with crutches!

So after the surgery as I was forced to stay still, which is very hard for me! I contemplated life, read a couple of books, The Captain's Daughter and Ordinary Grace, and thought about flowers growing in my yard and at the farm, aster b., where I am part of a farm share.
 My husband kindly put the bed on the first floor and surprise gifts came along my way! Thanks to all my friends and secret gifters. I even found this fabulous rock at my doorstep from Marblehead Rocks Kindness! This is the coolest movement spreading cheer to all!
When you find a rock, you're supposed to take a picture where you found it and share the happiness on facebook! Here's mine and it happened to be a very busy day on the water off my porch!

So as I got better, and with the summer days waning, I knew I had to harvest what flowers were left and make something pretty! Little did I know that we would be dealing with yet ANOTHER hurricane off my New England home when making the arrangement! Hurricane José decided to say a little Olé that left us all scrambling to get our boats in safe places!
After getting my last farm share and foraging in my own garden, I took inventory of what I had and just went for it!
In my crooked (sorry!) picture, you can see that I placed the droopiest eucalyptus in the water to add some texture and to hide the stems.
With the remaining stem of eucalyptus, I snipped it into thirds and started the arrangement, making a background with the green.
I know this looks a little wonky at this point, but I added in some grasses, yarrow and pink (!) Queen Anne's Lace.
I added in some statice , the purple flowers, and and globe amarinth, the red balls.
Finally, I added in zinnias, marigolds and lisianthus with one sprig of delphinium. Voila! A fall arrangement that looks ready for a Rueben painting, but cheery nonetheless!
And FINALLY José  left us with beauty of his own in this spectacular sunset!!

August 2, 2017

A Love Story, Told Through Flowers

Losing my Mum not quite a year and a half ago, I am keenly empathetic to anyone who has lost a parent. And seeing my Dad valiantly battle Parkinson's, I marvel at his strength and determination to constantly strive to improve his quality of life. But recently, when my sister-in-law lost BOTH of her parents in a span of four months apart, I knew their love for each other didn't allow one to live without the other. And when she asked me to help with the flowers for their respective services, I was deeply touched and honored. (And REALLY hoping I could do them both justice!) 
If you could have known Tommy and Daph, you would smile. She, an award-winning sailor and golf nut and he, an Olympic skier and masterful story-teller. Tommy and Daph laughed endlessly and enjoyed life in a way that very few get to experience. They created a world of fun at a NH ski resort and through their travels, skied many mountains with all sorts of luminaries. When they hung up their skis, they then sailed around the world and visited over 200 harbors! Just sitting on a mooring in our boat near them in a Maine cove one summer, we'd try to snag an invitation to "come aboard" because we knew the welcome would be genuine and extreme fun would surely ensue!

Tommy also happened to be in the same class at Dartmouth (the Great Class of '54) as my Dad, and together, they played on the lacrosse team. When I was lucky enough to follow my Dad to Dartmouth and also play on the lacrosse team, I also got to know Tommy's daughter, who it so happened, skied for Dartmouth, just like her dad did in addition to playing lax. So life has a funny way of synchronicity, which made creating these flowers for both Tommy and Daph all the more meaningful.
Daph's Celebration of Life came first with the most perfectly apt directive on the invitation to "Please Wear Daphne's Favorite Colors of Pink and Yellow!" How uplifting!! And it really did set the tone! Replete with a separate martini bar and over-sized multi-colored golf tees skewering olives, this was a party Daph would approve of! 

Being held in the Waterville Valley ski lodge also was a fitting location with the the trails ending at our feet, SNOW still on the hill, even on a sunny and hot June day! 
So we loaded up the Mighty Torpedo (our ancient and beloved 1978 GMC motor home that we paid for by selling the torpedo tube from our Navy ship for scrap and using that money - wow that sentence sounds crazy, but amazingly its all true!) and headed to NH. Torpedo needs a new tire cover, but we're always looking to "find our beach"!
 Supplies were important - Glorious beer from Lord Hobo - the awesome craft brewery where my son works, fruit, magazines and DVDs. Pretty impressive spread - lol.

The flower arrangements were filled with 'Carpe Diem' roses (we picked the roses because the tropicana colors matched Daphne's spirit so perfectly and when we read the name of the variety, we knew she sent us to them!), frothy pink astilbe to match her cozy pink cashmere sweaters, creamy fragrant stock, seasonally light pink peonies and Queen Ann's Lace, because obviously Daph was the Queen of the Day!
I was lucky enough to pose with Tommy and Peter Bullis, another fellow Dartmouth grad and member of  the Class of '54 and leader of the New Black Eagle Jazz Band. The band regaled the celebratory crowd with happy jazz, perfect for this colorful occasion! So, it came as a devastating shock, less than two weeks after this Celebration, that we heard the sad news that Tommy couldn't live without his beloved Daph and he was now enjoying a rum drink on the other side, with her. And when my sister-in-law heard the news, she looked outside and snapped this photo - a DOUBLE rainbow!! :)
So now comes the planning for Tommy's service. And because of the Waterville Valley logo colors being blue and green and Tommy's affinity for Dartmouth, we decided on a blue and green theme. Knowing that this was a bigger affair, we decided on smaller table centerpieces and then two big arrangements flanking the podium where the master of ceremonies would direct the event.
For the big arrangements, I got a couple of galvanized steel (galvanized steel was also part of this masculine and outdoorsy theme) buckets from Terrain and when they arrived, I saw how HUGE they were. I decided I better make a sample so I knew what I was getting into...
So in the bucket, I inserted a smaller bucket that I often use to fill with water and condition flowers. 

I filled the smaller bucket with oasis soaked with water and then went about adding all sorts of goodies!
 My design assistant, my crazy Bengal kitten Prim (aka Primrose), always wants to eat EVERY FLOWER/PLANT! We should've picked a different name for her!
 Because I didn't have all the things I needed since I was just practicing, I made a mixed greens base with some cuttings from our Wintercreeper Euonymus bush along with euphorbia that we got at the flower market.
I was trying to set the dimensions of the arrangement, knowing that it will be plopped in the BIG bucket.
Adding 'Shocking Blue' hydrangeas along with caspia (it looks like feathery heather) and a few white snapdragons, I could tell that I was going to have to put in some hydrangeas higher up. Prim agreed.

So I cut a water bottle in half, added some oasis and taped it to a stick and inserted it into the arrangement. Prim is looking very intense here!
I continued to fill the arrangement with some white Monte Casino asters (little tiny daisies), some baby green hydrangeas and more blue hydrangeas.
And with a nod to Tommy's skiing legacy, I embellished it with a set of mini skis and poles that we'll also use for the smaller arrangements.
 Here is my sample for the smaller centerpieces in the containers as they will appear. I didn't have the skis when I took the picture so I replicated the arrangement to play around with them and I think the final product combining the skis and the galvanized cup will look really cool! 
So as we wait for the day to celebrate Tommy, and Daph, knowing that they are together again, I think of my Mum too. They are probably all sharing glass or three of something - Glenlivet for my Mum, a martini with blue cheese stuffed olives for Daph and good rum drink for Tommy. And together, they are leading the band to yet another good time with friends, family and loads of laughs. I only wish there was one more time we could all celebrate together.