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. 

July 4, 2017

Fireworks, Cherry Bombs and Sangria!

Happy 4th of July! I am truly grateful this year to celebrate because this week started with literal fireworks of the worst kind. There was a fire at my in-laws' that consumed the garage and the cars inside. We all consider ourselves lucky because we know how much worse it all could have been and we are grateful to the Marblehead Fire and Police departments for their heroic acts and talents!

So in thinking of today's great holiday, America's Independence Day and the 4th of July, I decided that I had to fulfill three priorities:

1) Whatever I made had to be EASY!
2) I had to involve some form of comfort food
3) Alcohol was a must (therapeutically of course, ha ha!)

As a result of my very rigorous criteria, I have three super easy recipes that you can whip up today, or any day where comfort, ease and alcohol are needed. Isn't that every day?
I started with the easiest thing to make first, Pretzels with Hershey Chocolate Kisses with Patriotic M&Ms. The recipe includes only those three ingredients and they take no time to make.

Grab some Bachman Mini pretzels. I ALWAYS use Bachman pretzels when I can because the company belongs to a college friend's family. I remember her arriving on campus with the old family wood-paneled station wagon and the pièce de résistance was her hood ornament, a silver salted pretzel with the salt crystals raised and bumpy. It was sooo cool!

To make these little treats, preheat the oven to 275 degrees
Line a cookie tray with parchment paper or foil and place as many preztels as you can on it without touching.
Unwrap one Hershey Kiss for each pretzel and place it on the twist.
Cook in the oven for approximately 10 minutes until the kiss is shiny and partially melted. Leaving the pretzels on the cookie sheet, carefully press an M&M into the chocolate until it is secure.

Place these into the frig for 20 minutes to harden and then enjoy this sweet & salty combo!
Next up, CHERRY BOMBS! We need fireworks on this holiday after all, and these things are potento!
This is another simple recipe where all you need is:
1 cup of Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey
1 Cup of Whipped Cream Vodka
2 Jars of Maraschino Cherries with their stems on
1 small bag of white chocolate chips
Colorful sanding sugar for dipping the cherries

Drain the cherries from the jar liquid and then pour over them... 
1 Cup of Fireball and...
1 cup of Whipped Cream-flavored vodka and place the cherries in the frig for approximately an hour so the cherries can absorb all that boozy fabulosity!

When the time is up, drain the cherries from the booze and place them in a paper towel-lined bowl and keep another paper towel handy to dry the cherries even more if they are still wet.
In 20 second intervals, microwave the white chocolate chips, stirring after each time until the chocolate is melted and creamy. Line up the cherries, chocolate and sanding sugar and let the fun begin!
Take the cherry gently by the stem and wipe off any residual wetness with a paper towel. Then dip the cherry 2/3 of the way up into the white chocolate. 
Then dip the base of the cherry into the sugar.
Place them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and stick them in the frig for 20 minutes to set before eating them (or really drinking them because they are full of so much booze!)
The final recipe to this silly gathering is SANGRIA!
You can use any wine, but I like white sangria and I prefer chardonnay since it has more flavor to me than other wines. Don't worry about getting the most expensive bottle either because you are adding a lot of fruit to this concoction! You can also add any fruit you want, but there are basics to sangria that you should always have. Then you can go crazy adding whatever else you want. And if you are even more adventurous, you can add in shots of your other favorite liquor like gin or rum!

Here's the recipe:
1 750 ml bottle of wine
3 oranges cut into wedges
1 lemon cut into wedges
1 lime cut into wedges
2/3 cup of sugar
1 1/2 cups of gingerale

Pour the wine into a pitcher and squeeze all the wedges of fruit into the liquid and then throw in the squeezed wedges into the sangria. Remove any seeds if you need to. 
Add the sugar and stir. 
IF you have time (and really who does?) chill this mix overnight. But IF you're like me and always running late, you can mix it all up and serve it over a LOT of ice! But to be honest, as good as it is the rushed way, it would probably taste even better (if that's possible) if it had time to blend overnight.

Before serving, grab your glass and add in any other fun fruits or veggies (some people add in cucumbers). For the 4th, I thought strawberries, blueberries and raspberries would be a nice touch! Pour the gingerale into the pitcher, stir and serve in your ice-filled glasses. Voila!
Happy Fourth!

May 2, 2017

London Calling!

Being May 2nd, and Princess Charlotte's 2nd Birthday, I spent some time today having fun reminiscing about last May when three of my besties and I traveled to London! We went to see the Chelsea Flower show and you can read all about it in my blog post, A Must See-The Chelsea Flower Show. We also rented a van with the coolest Bond-girl driver to venture to the Cotswalds and Highclere Castle - more about that in a future post. But of course, we couldn't pass up doing our best Princess Di impression of trying to be a proper and posh group of gals tooling around Londontown (some of us are just a bit more posh than others, and I'm not one of them) - ha ha!
 After checking into The Sloane Club in Chelsea, (I HIGHLY recommend this elegant and fun little club, and if you have friends who belong to a University club or another club with reciprocal privileges, chances are you'll be able to stay here), we were greeted by this beautiful portrait of the Lady in Black.

And on the side table in the entryway, next to the club stationery, was a reminder of the Grande Dame herself, Queen Elizabeth!
 Once settled in our lovely rooms, we headed off for a drink at the Dukes Hotel.
 Even their car entry  was elegant with the black lattice and a small pergola.
 I apologize for the blurry picture - guess I was too excited to enter this fabulous place!
Even the bikes reeked of POSHNESS!
Somehow, my friend Libby persuaded the Dukes Bar manager to let us in because we didn't have any kind of reservation and it was a distinctly pre-game location for the black-tie set. The Dukes Bar is FAMOUS for their martini cart and they wheel it to every table who orders a martini. The theatrics in creating the drink, watching them peel the lemon twist, crush the ice and pour it just so were impressive.
And since I'm not a martini kind of gal, I opted for their yummy prosecco drink. It was so good and the cheese wafers, nuts and olives were the perfect accompaniment. Even the tux-clad gentleman whose regular table we were apparently seated at, didn't mind!
Then it was on to dinner where we were each responsible for a night. So many bars, so little time! Libby's pick was the fabulous The Wolseley that was once a car dealership for Wolseley Motors. The building was commissioned by architect William Curtis Green in 1921 and elegance abounds. Just look at the tile in the bar! The other nights we ate at The Delaunay in London's theater district, and Colbert in Sloane Square. All three restaurants are owned by the same company, which was purely by accident since we made our picks based on recommendations from home. Great minds think alike! We went to one more restaurant which I'll get to later. But first, we had to do some shopping!
 And who doesn't see a Swarovski-crystal encrusted Mercedes on the street everyday? 
But I understand. Anything associated with Laduree and Harrods is glam and sophistication. Look at all those colors!! You can hear the angels singing once you enter!
And on the ground floor of the FAMOUS Harrods food hall, which is a total must-see if visiting London. It's kind of like the British pre-cursor to Eataly if any of you live in Boston or NYC. Food vendors are everywhere ready to elegantly wrap your wares. Don't you love the girls' straw boaters?
 And IF ONLY we had bouquets-to-go here in the USA like these! WOW!
I just loved the artfulness of the beer caps and it looks like really good beer! After Harrods, we meandered up the street to Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge on the fabulous suggestion of my friend, Traci, where I bought my tea-loving daughter special heart and bow-shaped sugar cubes. So sweet!
 We hopped in a cab to get to many destinations during or fast-paced jaunt and flags and banners were everywhere in celebration of the Queen's 90th birthday.
 And around the grounds of Buckingham Palace, the displays were even more impressive as they were practicing the Trooping the Colour, which is an annual display and parade of the Queen's troops and horsemen in honor of her birthday.
 We had just missed the practice but caught these glimpses of the pageantry and beautiful horses...
 ...and I think these two gentlemen were the stand-ins for Prince William and Prince Harry! 
Hello boys!!!
Such pretty fencing and gates around the palace grounds before we headed to the Buckingham Palace Shop!
 More cabs and we were in the West End of the city where there are a lot of shops and specifically on Regent Street, where there is my absolute favorite store...
 LIBERTY OF LONDON! It is my favorite London store because of the building's architecture, their love of flowers and their crazy use of color throughout all their products.
Built in 1924, the store was constructed from the timbers of two ships, the HMS Impregnable and HMS Hindustan. The words on the clock at the Kingly Street entrance reads, "No minute gone comes back again, take heed and see ye do nothing in vain." What a perfect motto for a dash across the pond!

Libby was ready for business heading into the store. What delights await!

 Because almost all, if not all, of their prints revolve around flowers, of course Liberty has a flower shop to greet customers at the entrance!
 Clever, CLEVER artisans create the most amazing displays using fabric, paper and flowers. So incredible!

 A view from the top shows more elements from the ships decks and the open galleries.
 Look at the detail of the ceiling lightshow!

And even the men's department gets the fancy treatment! That tie display reminds me of my friends' tie company Trumbull Rhodes that features Liberty fabrics. Check them out! :)
 We also visited the COOLEST open air market, the Borough Market which has been in its spot at the end of London Bridge since 1014! Check out the website and try some of the purveyors' recipe. You've got to go there!
They have shops of all sizes and selling all kinds of things, including this one with the most gorgeous display!! 
And there was this huge wall painted with blackboard paint and these inspirational ideas for a bucket list!
 Cheese, glorious cheese!
 I'd probably eat a heck of a lot more salad if it came in box kits! What a neat idea!
 White wine sangria? YES, please!! And it was goooood!
 Quite the pan of confit!
 I loved the logo of this liquor company with the four letter monogram.
 This is killing me looking at these yummy cookies...
...and meringues, knowing that I just committed to a BORING diet!
 After we left the market, we headed to our next destination. But first we saw these party boys peddling and drinking while listening to fun tunes. 
Looked like a blast!
 And here was our next stop, The Shard, and the bar Oblix.
 Fair warning though, that your dress will be scrutinized by the doorman because they only want the coolest people inside and he will try to shift you to a different bar. Stand firm that you want to go to Oblix because the views of the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge are spectacular! Don't you love the bespoke cabinets for the liquor bottles?
 And each cocktail gets its own thematic container. I love the lady staring back at me. This was a yummy rum concoction...
...and this was a different drink, replete with a sugar crown. Awesome!
 Such a fun view!
 And because my family is in the plumbing and heating business, I was fascinated by this toilet that took me a while to figure out! There was no flusher or button to press. You had to swipe your hand across the glowing lines above the toilet to make it work. Yikes!
 They had this back-lit colorful map of London in lobby.
But the map detail was even cooler. I want to live on "Ha Ha Road" near "Pineapple Place"!
Since it was my night to choose a restaurant, I chose The Swan Restaurant at Shakespeare's Globe Theater. Each floor has a different vibe so check out the website to pick the one that suits you most! The upper floors at night have the best views of St. Paul's Cathedral!
 SO pretty!
 Even the bill at the end of the night is presented in an old classic.
 This little sign greets you at the entrance of the Swan and I think it makes a lot of sense!
 The gate at the property was really special full of Shakespearean and theatrical motifs.
 Walking along the Millennium Bridge and experiencing the mix of old and new whilst (a bit of British there) walking across the Thames River was a treat.
 And looking back at the Shard all lit up wasn't half bad either!
 You can just imagine Princess Diana's nerves as she approached the enormous cathedral about to marry Prince Charles.

And we end this chapter with yet another nightcap at the fab-o Sloane Club. I just could never tell if they were truly happy to see us return, or if they were counting the days until we left.