August 31, 2014

Flower Farm to Table

I looove cut flower arrangements more than any other type. I love the simplicity that in someone's field, garden or roadside, these beautiful blooms decided to put their faces to the sun and say hi! And I love even more to plan a party for my friends where we can catch up, have a drink, or five, and marvel at mother nature.

I have a dream of creating my own cut flower garden and am trying to figure out how and where to do it at my house. 

But you see, my problems are many...

Despite loving to arrange flowers, I am not the best gardener (adequate maybe)

I live on the ocean on a very windy and salty piece of land (I can often be found snooping over others' fences drooling at what I'll never be able to grow)

My house is for sale and I may not move to a place where I have the land to plant a cut flower garden (although my house has been on the market for more than 3 years, so I might as well just plant the silly thing and test my luck, or lackthereof :)

My family has a house on a small lake in the little town of New London, New Hampshire and it's one of my favorite places in the world. In New London, is the greatest farm and garden store with the most amazing cut flower garden. It's also where for $12.75 per pound, you can cut your own flowers to make arrangements. Spring Ledge Farm is definitely one of my happy places!

So, armed with their clippers (which are terribly dull and I always forget to bring my own), I set out amongst the rows of flowers, some in their prime, some past and some still to bloom. I had fun thinking of combinations based on color, texture and shape. I dodged the buzzing bees that really aren't happy to see me at all. But the end result was a bucket, or three, of these beautiful flowers.

My options are endless as I set out in the garden, letting my mind race with possibilities

There were a lot of bees in this one and if you look closely, you might get stung!
Here is one of my buckets and I'm headed out for more. I used my Dunkin' Donuts tray (who knew there were so many uses for these things?) to help transport my goodies home, ready to arrange to my heart's delight. 

Once home along the ocean, I worked at my trusty table and separated each flower so I could see the shapes, colors, textures and decide what I wanted to do.

I had found these great glasses in a country store that had the old-fashioned look of a mason jar, but a little more elegant. I thought they would be perfect for my arrangements.

Always recutting the stems at a an angle to help the flowers drink up, I started my arrangement. I filled the base with Indigo (or baptisia) leaves long after the flowers had bloomed but I thought the leaves were pretty and they would make a good backdrop to the burst of colors.

Then I kept going, filling it with sunflowers, cleome (watch out, these are spiky little buggers), zinnias, coral bells, phlox, onion flowers or allium (the white ones in this picture), ageratum (the purple ones here), bachelor buttons, daisies and cosmos. I kept rotating the glass as I went, varying flower heights and looking for holes, or odd spaces that made the natural arrangement look a little off. 

How could anyone not smile seeing this combo?

Finally, I made two other arrangements, set the table using some fun plates and oversized dish towels as napkins, put a few phlox blossoms on each napkin, got my husband's grandmother's beautiful hand-painted floral wine glasses and a yummy bottle (well, bottles really) of Veuve Clicquot Rose.

Happiness is...:)

August 26, 2014

Dorm Flowers

Dorms, by their very nature of construction materials, are cold and depressing with all those cinderblocks and gray paint. Who wants to "study" in that environment? That is, until you decorate them!

Since my youngest was headed off to her senior year in college, which is quite amazing since I'm only 29 myself - ha ha, I decided to cheer up her new room and at the same time, cheer myself up too. I wanted to make some flower arrangements that fit the following criteria for any college student:

easy to take care of
hard to kill
doesn't take up too much space
hard to kill (I guess I can't stress that enough)

For this project, I thought about bookends and how I could combine them with flowers so they'd be useful AND pretty!

I bought a couple of white wooden magazine organizers at West Elm (they were having a back-to-school sale) and then this awesome cubist sculpture also happened to plop in my cart. Amazing how those things happen...

On my way home, I stopped at Trader Joe's since they have great deals on orchids and they also just happened to have some succulents.

Then I stopped at the flower market and found these uber-cool air plants. If you don't have access to a wholesale flower market, you can also find air plants for sale at a number of sites so just google it and you'll see tons of options.

First I set out to construct my magazine holder gardens.

I used two plant container liners per organizer. They can be found at any garden and most craft stores. I squished them so they'd fit, making sure to overlap the edges in the middle so that when they got watered, the water didn't spill all over.

Then I arranged my orchids and succulents based on height. All these were bought for less than $20 total at Trader Joe's.

I cleaned the leaves as I went along and squeezed water through the roots so they weren't a dried up gray, but a green color before I put them in the container. All you do is to literally take hold of the root while running it under water and pull gently down the root. This basically forces water back into the orchid roots and rehydrates it.

The arrangements are so easy, it's almost embarrassing but the effect looks amazing in and amongst the books. I tried it at home, and then the final product is even better

For the windows and the table in the common room, I used air plants (sorry I didn't ask their botanical name at the flower market) to add a splash of color and chicness. 

I grabbed these round vases (you can find vases like these at garden stores or through places like West Elm and Terrain), and attached some wired twine. Because it's a dorm, I got some 3M hangers that work upside down. They're meant for lights but they worked perfectly for what I was trying to do.

It made the small prison-like window seem less ugly and added a little sumthin' sumthin'  to the room.

Now the year can begin, the bar is set up (they are all seniors and 21) and I can live vicariously through their tales - that is until I visit and get to play with them too!

August 20, 2014

Yes, I am addicted - to BOOKS

Hello, my name is Nanny and I have a problem...

Isn't that how those meetings begin?

Well not to diminish those with real addiction problems, I do have a problem. With books.

I literally have 1000's of them in my house. I guess you could call me a book hoarder, if there were such a term. There are stacks everywhere and overflowing bookcases galore!

I have loved books since as long as I can remember. I loved reading A.A. Milne poems with my grandmother. I loved Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and anything by Roald Dahl. Charlotte the spider and I have a personal relationship because of the number of times I've read Charlotte's Web. (come to think of it, I even have a daughter named Charlotte, hmmmmm....) I could go on and on and on, but then you'd all go on and do something else with your time :)

Then I got older and my choices changed. When I was in college, I procrastinated often (it's probably why my grades were okay, but not amazing - sorry Mum and Dad). We had the best bookstore in our little town where I would spend hours reading every kind of book you could imagine.

I kept finding myself not in the literary sections, (a true shocker to all my friends) but in the children's, coffee table and art book sections. Guess my feeble brain was telling me something!

I remember waiting and waiting for Martha Stewart's first book, Entertaining,  to be published. I had read so many reviews of this upcoming new book from this lady who no one knew about. This was in the early 80's and I was working in a French restaurant in town on the side (maybe another reason my grades were so-so? I can rationalize anything!). I was (and still am) such a geek that I was literally panting with excitement when I placed my hands on the cover. 
It was true bliss.

If a book tells a person's history, then this one tells mine.
I used Entertaining in college to wow my fellow restaurant chefs with the recipes for goodies like Snow Peas with St. Andre and Phyllo Triangles with Feta and Spinach and I used those same recipes and others to wow my friends at our oh-so-glamorous parties in our senior apartment (keg and blender drinks aside). And it was Entertaining that I used as my bible when I started out in my catering and event business on our charter boats. It was my go-to along with her Martha Stewart Weddings that helped me plan the most amazing wedding (more on that in another post).

Entertaining was simply my companion when I wanted either one of Alexis' chocolate chip cookies, or some yummy garlic shrimp. 
It was my friend and mentor, and it showed...

I have had the great fortune to meet Martha Stewart a few times, but a couple of years ago, I got to have lunch with her in her offices! So, armed with my Velveteen Rabbit-like version of Entertaining, I meekly asked her if she would sign my bedraggled copy. She did, and my bucket list lost one more item on it.
It's a moment I will never forget - sigh...

p.s. look at her EMMY's over my shoulder - omg!

August 18, 2014

Terrariums are NOW!

The 1970's are calling and they want their terrariums back! Actually, they're the coolest and EASIEST way to add some greenery to your home - and make you feel like a master gardener all at the same time!

The amazing, Tovah Martin, whom I had the great good fortune to meet, wrote this great book, entitled (wait for it) Terrarium!

She has a wealth of info inside the pages and shows some fun examples of terrariums to try at home; some as simple as an air plant plopped elegantly in a martini glass.

For a dinner I was hosting, I decided that it would be fun to have terrariums at each table and then the lucky guests could leave with one. So, off I set to gather all my materials:

apothecary jars: I found some cheap ones at Michael's great craft store and if you wait long enough, you can use a coupon since they have them all the time)



potting soil

moss: in this case I used sheet moss, but you can also use reindeer moss which is rounder and a brighter, chartreusey green

plants: (I wish I could have found some miniature ones, but instead I just grabbed what I could find, like herbs and African violets, begonias, small-leafed coleus, and baby ferns

clippers: the one's here are Joyce Chen, which you can find in garden or cooking stores since the tips work well for snipping. Watch out though, because I've sliced many a finger tip with these buggers! 


tip: Stonewall Kitchen and Terrain sell many tools, accessories and even plants for terrariums so knock yourself out! (I didn't here due to budget and time - story of my life...sigh)

Start with a clean apothecary jar. Don't forget your "Goo Gone" if you don't want to see the price label stuck on the glass. Because once your terrarium is filled, it'll be hard to scrape it off.

Charcoal is used to help filter the water and keep mold and other goodies from forming

Pebbles are great for drainage and when combined with charcoal, the mixture provides the perfect base for the potting soil

Mix one part charcoal with one part pebbles in a good amount to cover the bottom of your container (I'm so scientific, aren't I)

Then put at least a couple of inches of good potting soil over the base, and at least enough to cover the roots of the plants you're using

I LOVE Martha Stewart (note: topic of a future post :)), but as you can see, I'm not her. I'm messy and proud of it. It doesn't matter what things look like while you're making it. All that matters is the end product.

Take your plants out of their pots and break up the roots a little so they'll be more likely to root in their new home - your lovely terrarium. Snip off parts that are too tall and won't fit once your lid is on. You can even break up the main plant into many smaller ones for multiple terrariums

Here, I started with a pretty begonia that I was able to break up into a few separate plants

Then I planted the begonia along with some rosemary and oregano - a very fragrant combo!

Drink up little terrarium :) 

Tada! Here are a bunch of terrariums ready for my dinner

And the final installation at my club. Try to vary the heights of the jars on the tables to make it look more interesting. Then figure out some fun contest for your guests so they can win one and bring it home. Let's start a terrarium revolution!

(I hate those brown chairs btw - I wish my club got pretty much anything else!)