The Many Beautiful Colors of Spring Create Endless Inspiration

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of my favorite spring combinations is purple, lilac and light green and when the flowers are ready, it is time for entertaining. My love of this combo was inspired by a birthday cake my grandmother would make for me every year in May. The cake was  always decorated in violets, and sometimes narcissus with spring green leaves as the background. It was an angel food cake with fluffy meraingue frosting, and just thinking about it makes me smile. Once in a while she would take the same theme but ice the angle food cake with whipped cream and coconut. I loved both!

I transferred this theme for a special birthday party I threw for a friend. To me, having a theme for a party is essential in creating an impact, and it gives even amateur event planners a focus. This makes decisions around decorating so much easier. 

The tone of the lunch was set with hand delivered invitations that I managed to create on the computer. By attaching a sweet bouquet of vintage velvet violets it helped set the scene, and grabbed the special attention of the invitee, giving them a taste of what to expect on the lunch itself. Perhaps it’s just me, but I always feel my excitement rise with a good looking special  invitation.  As the old saying goes “God is in the details,” evidenced by the effort put into the invitation – it gives the invitee a harbinger of more beauty to come with the actual event. 

A three-tiered cake was the main feature of the table. Created by baking genius Sylvia Weinstock, the icing mimicked an eyelet wrapping paper (I used to sell  on my web site.) The cake was topped off with edible violets  and a beautiful picot ribbon made in Icing. It is this sort of detail that really enables a theme to be effective.

Individual, smaller, three-tiered cakes were included at each guests’ place sitting, and we boxed these to take home and enjoy. These were decorated with faux violets, so of course couldn’t be eaten, but you could replace them with candied or old fashioned sugared versions, that one can find online. This is one my all time favorite individual cakes, also  produced by the brilliant Sylvia to complement the big cake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Above is the paper that Sylvia copied to create the icing, it is magnificent!

All the gifts were color coordinated in various combinations of paper ribbon and flowers. I sent the various guests the wrapping elements so we would not have distracting wrappings if left up to everyone’s discretion. I know I am compulsive but I always disliked Christmas gifts that did not go together under the tree!

The flowers I used  for the bouquets were all in the purple palette – hyacinth, anemone and sweet peas – the violets tied into the bow of the gifts were all faux, and the tag for the present was produced by me on my computer, tying everything together.

The green glasses I purchased in Italy for the collection sold on my website were the perfect green. You all know how much I love colored glass. 

The menu stayed true to the green and violet theme, starting with a chilled asparagus soup, followed by seared bay scallops served on arugula. followed by the cake.

I also recycled  all the ideas (presented above) for a wedding shower luncheon  – substituting the individual cakes for more affordable favors as the numbers of guests was much greater.  Petit fours look particularly inviting with an individual violet on each. For lunch favors I arranged dragee in pale green and violet, and as another option I filled  adorable pyramids with silver heart shaped candy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now waiting for the peonies about to burst and then what promises to be an extraordinary season for the roses. Can’t wait!

Carolyne

 

Spring – a Time of Renewal and Learning

At this time every year, I marvel at new beginnings, and never cease to be amazed at how Mother Nature turns it out, right on cue when we most need inspiration and uplifting after a long winter (at least in my parts.) Spring to me is both about external renewal in my garden – that honestly I find difficult to put into words sometimes, instead these images do the job much better, and also internal renewal – in this instance learning new things, expanding one’s mind and having the energy to venture into fresh challenges.

 

        

Every blossom reignites my love of color and design. Each Spring the daffodils, snowdrops, hyacinth, tulips, fritillary followed by the lily of the valley and lilac blooms present us with their beauty, and once again awaken in all of us the magic of nature. Year after year these flowers bring pleasure and inspiration. Whether it is contemplative joy, making bouquets, taking photographs, or inspiring a new painting, the renewal comes when we see these beauties unfurl, and we once again gaze at them with astonishment.  

In Spring I feel as if all my senses are more acute, and my mind seems to percolate with new interests and ideas, and I feel I am more open to the new – which brings to mind two recent experiences :

IBU
Despite not modeling for at least 40 years, I couldn’t say no to my friend Susan Walker, the creator of Ibu. She and Ali MacGraw collaborated on a lovely collection, appropriately  called Ali. They sweetly asked me to represent the “middle aged” contingent in the Ibu show in Charleston earlier this month. In fact, I was more than honored to play even a small role with this incredible organization – not to mention experiencing the adrenalin rush as I stepped foot back on that cat walk!

Ibu has a store in Charleston and an online shopping site, selling items from 71 female artisan groups in 34 countries. Splendid, luxurious offerings that ultimately provide these women with a purposeful path to economic self-sufficiency. Read more here

       

What a fun day it was hanging out with these very young beauties with their freshness and enthusiasm.
Above right – Ali is spirited and enthuses all of us to have fun and let it shine. 

The New Old House 

I have had the privilege to work on my last three books: A Passion for Interiors, Flowers and At Home in the Garden with a gifted writer named Marc Kristal.  Marc is the man that takes my stories about subjects, which I am quite passionate about, and somehow distills all those thoughts and rambling ideas into an elegant and readable text. His writing specialties are really screen plays and architecture, but when I mentioned gardens and flowers he said, ‘Well let’s have a go at it.’ That we did, aided by a lot of laughs and a few glasses of red wine!

As a confirmed classicist, I still pride myself on being able to stop and have my eyes opened to all things modern, despite it not really being my cup of tea. Marc’s new book The New Old House did exactly this. The projects Marc has selected – including one, surprisingly, by the re-builder of Weatherstone, Allan Greenberg – demonstrate the beauty, and indeed unity that can be achieved by a mutually enriching interweaving of historic and contemporary architecture. Ranging from fancy to simple, castle to cottage, the book demonstrates that even things to which we’re not naturally attracted can have rich and powerful appeal. Additionally, as expected, his writing is so engaging, one effortlessly learns.


     
The integration of the old and the new is fascinating both to see and read. You can get more information about the book here.

For the rest of spring and through out the summer I plan to continue to feed my spirit with reading, painting and making the most of this beauty….. fingers crossed!
cr

A Labor of Love

FINALLY I can announce that my paintings as limited edition prints, are now available through my website. I know I’ve been promising this for sometime, but as you have also witnessed, my expected timeframes and reality are often skewed!  I always seem to be running behind.

I would like to start by thanking so many of you readers for encouraging me to do this, as this support and your questions about the availability of my paintings spurred me on to try this new venture.  As many of you know, my painting world first started as an evolution to my garden design, flower arranging planting, and most recently photography in my last two books. I first took watercolor lessons about five years ago and used flowers as my practice models for my first (amateur) paintings.  Like any aspiring artist I looked at the masters of this art form, specifically Maris Sybila Merian, and studied how they portrayed it. With this close observation of their work, I learned that really looking and studying the flower or insect to paint now enhances how I look at everything. I don’t just see a flower but every leaf, petal and butterfly wing with  amazement. The wonder of Mother Nature astounds ands thrills me more than ever! Unfortunately I have not had the time to take many more courses, so much of my learning has had to be self taught.  Life is so complicated – or as my mother would point out, I probably am the one who makes it that way. 

I have always loved traditional botanical drawings and paintings and admire the mastery of today’s artist who must have the patience of an angel to both draw and paint like that.  I gravitated to a more modern approach, creating oversized paintings with bold color, that are a fantasy out of my mind, and not as specifically scientific as traditional botanicals. 

People have also asked me if I would also offer framing or framing tips and while I cannot go into the framing business,  I am certainly open to questions and you can ask though this blog or the website. The need of different sizes for different spaces is why I decided to offer the paintings in four sizes. As I said I have painted the originals in three sizes but decided a smaller size, for easy grouping, was probably needed. You can see the different sizes listed here under each individual print https://www.carolyneroehmshop.com/prints/  I have tried to make this as simple as possible – really for people like me who have trouble navigating anything on the net!

For those of you who are considering a size I suggest you take a piece of paper such as kraft or newspaper, cut it to the size you want and try it on your wall to see if it works in your space. 

 Below are some photos of the paintings in different sizes, and in different types of frames at Weatherstone and Chisolm House. 
 

  

 

 

Below are example of traditional frames (gold and lacquer) in traditional settings,  the bamboo frame should work with anything, and the modern gallery frame in a simple setting. 

  

    

Another inspiration and interest is the painting of birds – the bird room at Chisolm House was inspired by a painting by Paul De Vos I bought in France. As my stoneware below is testament to, I have been fascinated by one of Mother Nature’s masterpieces of creation for a long time.

I thought it might be interesting  for you to see a close-up of  a couple of the paintings –  a close up of a Cockatoo with Giant Lemon and  Butterfly with Pomegranate.
 

Lastly (I know this is a long post) here are the paintings offered in note card format. I have always loved paper products such as stationery, note cards, menus, place cards and wrapping paper, so I could not resist the temptation to transpose the paintings into a small size. To me, nothing can replace a beautifully, hand written note, although I know so many of us revert to email and digital cards these days. I think these would make a nice Mother’s Day gift, and I also use them as gift tags. The note cards come in an assorted box of ten, with two cards of each print, in three different combinations and are available here https://www.carolyneroehmshop.com/notecards-1/

 
 

This really has been a labor of love, and I do hope you enjoy them.  Pretty please tell your friends and family about them, and again thank you all for your encouragement.
carolyne

Gosh , I forgot to say each print will be hand signed by me on the front in pencil, the traditional way to sign a water color. If  you would like me to personalize I have a label that will go on the back with the personalization. 

To answer a couple of questions from the early comments:

The prints are printed by art photography printers on the highest quality art paper from Germany. 

They are shipped in a crush proof tube in a cellophane envelope for each size. The small size 8×10 is shipped protected in a Fed Ex box.

 

Finally….the Bucket List Trip to Carnivale in Venice

As promised, a more detailed post on my visit to Venice for Carnivale. As I compile these photos, the memories of this once in a lifetime opportunity come flooding back, and I am so pleased to have finally checked it off the list.

Photo Chris Bickford

I think it is my love of costumes, fashion, and particularly the world of the courtesan, and the mystery and intrigue that surrounded them that inspired my visit. Many of the romantic images I have of this time come from a favorite film, Dangerous Beauty (starring Catherine McCormack and Rufus Sewell.)

Originally the Doge’s Ball was an opportunity for the common Venetians to mix with the aristocracy, with the hope, of course, of romance and a fairytale ending. My fairytale started with my dress designs and two wonderful costume makers. I provided sketches and materials to New York based Maria Marzilli and Verona based Domenico Mendiola. Both Italians, with that spirit of theatricality in their DNA.  I sent them basically the same sketch but different fabrics and trims that I purchased had in NYC. Their different interpretations, and individual style,  and the love of their metier resulted in two very  romantic 18th century style gowns ( I have included their respective contact information for those of you interested in costume. Maria also does couture bridal gowns and Domenico  does event design as well. )

My  fitting with Maria Marzilli  in NYC : find her on Twitter @marzklassiks   Tel. +1 732 978 0669 

The fitting of the gown in Verona with Domenico Mendiola :  www.domenikomendiola.it  

Our very generous hosts were the Marchese and Marchesa Fumanelli – of the famous, wine family, based in Verona since 1470. As always when it comes to my travel, the schedule was relentless:

    

Thursday Night
Our hosts held a pre-ball dinner at their splendid villa in Verona.
I wore the not so demure, red dress, made by Domenico. I called Simon the Blue Boy 60 years later…he just rolled his eyes.

Friday Night
The  Hotel Metropole in Venice was the venue for a Grand Budapest Hotel film themed extravaganza. As the movie was set in 1932, I opted for a 30s inspired navy blue dress (purchased in Charleston) and accessorized with long gloves, and a blonde wig – the men wore white tie and tails. Thought that looked better then being the bell boy – SP agreed!

Trying on and putting together my look for The Grand Budapest Hotel

At dinner with our divine host Armando Fumanelli

Saturday Day
When in Venice, once must promenade, and in this case we became the star attraction for the many tourists in St Mark’s Square. Nervous of rain, I decided to forego another ball gown and instead dressed in male, military style. We lunched at a famous restaurant on the square, and I think spent more time having photos taken than we did eating! 

  

Photo Chris Bickford

Photo Chris Bickford

 

Saturday Night
Finally it was show time! I wore the the bronze and gold dress made by Maria. The Doge’s Ball did not disappoint – unbelievable costumes, a stage show to rival Circ du Soleil, and a feast for the eyes wherever you looked. Although it is rare that I stay up to 4:00 AM, Italy just runs on a different schedule ( a euphemism for always running late ) than this American woman!

Our group having dinner before leaving for the Doge’s Ball.

  

The “castrato” who was a tenor singing in a falsetto

  

The extravaganza of the Ballo dei Doges

 

 

We were joined at all these events by a marvelous selection of international guests – Spanish, Canadian, American, and of course local Italians, who gave us a wonderful insight into the local ways and culture.

 

Simon and Me at 3:00 AM !!!!

Our marvelous Italian impresario Domenico who designed the event, played a part in the event, and made my red costume. Does he not fit the part???

Not for the faint hearted, this was 3 days of serious revelry, but sometimes (to quote my favorite Tim McGraw) you just have to “live like you were dying!”

Arrivederci, and hope you like the short video!
cr

A Celebration of the Multitalented Julian Fellowes in Historic Charleston

 

The magnificent Low Country home of beautiful and historic Charleston, S.C. where we welcomed the multitalented Julian Fellowes and his wife Lady Emma Fellowes for The Library Society

With one of the oldest library collections in the US, The Charleston Library Society works tirelessly in preserving and maintaining this gem of a collection and the building that houses it. A few years ago Anne Cleveland stepped in to reinvigorate the organization by bringing talented people from the world of arts and letters to create excitement and awareness of this marvelous place.  With my love of history, art, architecture, decor, and because of the ebullient Anne, I wanted to have an involvement with this fascinating institution. 

One of the oldest libraries in America and a beautiful space for events, as well as reading.          Photo : Leigh Webber

Who better to celebrate the history of a place than Lord Julian Fellowes, writer and producer, of Downton Abbey and Gosford Park?  With his appreciation of history, and subsequent role of highlighting beautiful architecture to a worldwide audience through his television series, not to mention his award winning literature, it was a match made in heaven.

The principle characters in the extraordinary Downton Abbey written (screen play) and directed by Julian Fellowes

The fundraising event consisted of 3 segments – a very well attended speaking engagement by Lord Fellowes at the Dock Theatre, a cocktail party held by serial restorer and host extraordinaire Dick Jenrette at his exquisite Charleston home, followed by a dinner for 24 at yours truly’s.

The magnificent Roper House owned by a lovely friend Dick Jenrette. Dick was the host of the Fellowes for cocktails before they came to Chisolm House for dinner.

I of course went with a Charlestonian theme, in honor of this splendid city – the home of Porgy and Bess, the birthplace of The Charleston, a proud example of religious freedom in its colonial  days, and the most historically preserved city in the US.

             

Lord and Lady Fellowes and the head of the Charleston Library Society Anne Cleveland who brought them to Charleston                                                                            Photo : Leigh Webber

Two tables were set, and I reversed my color scheme of white and brown at each. The linen napkins are monogrammed with a C for Chisolm House, and in classic CR style, I purchased the (plastic) busts from a local store for a grand total of $14……as I always say, you can find style at any price point if you just look! The flowers and fruit, as ever, were also from local grocery stores.

Traditional Southern food was served, ending with a fantastic Meyer lemon tart. After supper people were asking where my dogs were, and I brought in my beloved Baby Monkey, who of course stole the show! 

Chisolm House

The staircase at Chisolm and one of my beloved camellias

Doing the flowers for the table c’est moi

The table for the dinner in the library                                                                  Photo:  LeighWebber

The candles are lit and we are ready for dinner

Emma Fellowes cuddling with Baby Monkey                                                    Photo : Leigh Webber       

Toasting the guest of honor Julian Fellowes                                                   Photo : Leigh Webber

I needed two tables, and this is the second one                                                   Photo : Leigh Webber

Me with the Fellowes explaining the origin of the bird room at Chisolm – not quite Downton Abbey,  but home to me                                                                                         Photo : Leigh Webb 

One of my favorite things in Charleston – the magnificent Angle Oak 

A big thank you to Leigh Webber who assisted with some of these photos, and of course my congratulations to Anne Cleveland for such an inspired occasion – a celebration of a wonderful place, institution and man!

cr

The video below is comprised of scenes that represent the spirt of the Charleston I love, and more photos from our celebration of the talented Julian Fellowes. OH DEAR AFTER A MULTITUDE OF SPELL CHECKS —one nice reader pointed out the misspelling of Fellowes in the first clip and I some how managed to get it wrong- for me tcro fix this in this blog is impossible and it would take hours to export and reimport the corrected so forgive me!  I think all the others Fellowes have their E  

 

Fruit Forever

 

I am so fortunate to own two mid 18th century flower and fruit paintings from the Dutch Master Jan van Os. These reside in my apartment in NYC. 

My still life of fruit piled in a brass wine cooler echoing the painting behind.

When I look back over the endless amount of photos taken of the tables and floral decoration for my various homes, fruit or fruit mixed with flowers is a constant theme in decoration.  As I perused the photos (of just the last few years – I could easily go back 35 years and find more examples) I started thinking about the source of my inspiration and loyalty for this classic duo, and know it came from my love of the 17th and 18th century Dutch Masters who created the glorious still life paintings that I have always loved. 

Fruit was used by the Dutch as a sign of the shortness of life (vanitas.) It was also the perfect subject to display their extraordinary talent with the lifelike quality of the fruit and flowers, through their mastery of color, textures, light and shadow.  Total realism when one looks at each object, but with the completed composition the painting becomes a tableau of fantasy that has always captivated me. The beautifully executed bunch of grapes where a butterfly sits, or the crazy insect that wanders across a luscious flower. My eyes wander through this magical world and get totally captivated as they travel through the painting.

     

        

I often use a fusion of fruit with flowers for a classic piece, but when certain varieties are not in bloom, you cannot beat an individual fruit arrangement. The ingredients are so accessible, even more so than flowers, and I usually just use my local grocery store – cherries, pineapple, oranges, apples, pears, grapes, berries all work well. To avoid any waste, we freeze the fruit once taken off display, and use later in smoothies.

I lightly sugar coated the grapes to give them a frosted look on a table in Charleston.

I have used this type of fruit arrangement for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. For the autumn table I added lemon leaves, although colorful autumn leaves would also be lovely. To change this table for Christmas, I mixed boughs of evergreens and boxwood.

                 

Tips for fruit arrangement :

  • If using a basket or bowl, stack crumpled tissue or craft paper underneath the fruit to build up the base, enabling you to need less fruit
  • If using a platter, lay lemon leaves (or other greenery) underneath the fruit as it frames  the fruit
  • If you need the display to stay in place for a while, you could use floral clay, or attach the fruit with a glue gun (I do this at Christmas to crate topiaries, garlands, mantle decorations or wreaths of fruit)

     

I also use fruit on packages, gift wrapping, cookies, table settings…..and of course it as been a muse for my watercolor paintings – a far cry from my Dutch heroes, but I can only try!

        

Regardless of your style and mood: light and playful, or elegant and formal, the use of fruit alone or coupled with flowers works in every environment, modern, rustic traditional and in my classical world.

              

Just remember the new is built upon the shoulders of the old. 

Stay tuned for Venice and Julian Fellows dinner – should have already posted them but have spent the last week digging up 3,500 dead boxwood and many other deceased plants who were victims of Hurricane Matthew – bah humbug or stronger words…..
cr 

Crazy Yet Glorious Preparation For My First Venice Carnivale

Fitting, preparing and realizing a dream…….

I know I go on about age and time passing by, but more recently I am trying to fulfill lifelong dreams – or as some would say, ticking items off the “bucket list.” One of these is attending Venice Carnivale. This all started last summer with a kind invitation from friends in Verona to join them at the famed Il Ballo Del Doge (Doge Ball.)

“Il Ballo del Doge is not a simple masquerade party: it is the “ball” par excellence, the most luxurious among the Venice Carnival events and one of the most prestigious parties in the world.” You can read more about it here.  ( Their quote, not mine – let’s see, remembering I’m from the ‘show me’ state after all! )

Of course, from a design perspective, Venice, costumes, 17th and 18th century architecture and decor – I needed no encouragement, and it is all there for the picking. 

I had originally planned on four dresses (2 more than what I needed, but….typical designer)  and set out to find suitable fabrics. Boy was I surprised to see the price tag on all those I selected – around $400 a yard! I knew I could do better, so revisited my old haunts on Seventh Ave, and secured some marvelous finds at closer to $6 a yard. These have been combined with gold lace from my previous fashion days (discovered down in my basement), and between a dressmaker in Manhattan, and a costume maker in Verona (I will spare you the exhausting logistical details of these gowns), I now have costumes, ready for the events I’ll be attending. 

The designing of costumes is a lot of fun, the amazing sources of inspiration from the 18th century is fantastic. Originally I was going the purist route for the dresses but carnivale is more than exaggerated, so I took liberties. I need to mention though that the design is only a thought, it is the craft of draping and sewing that is the real magic. I found a fabulous lady to bring my design to life, Maria Marizilli, and shall do a post when I return on this amazing perfectionist and artist – what a talent! I have yet to see my Italian costumer – the first fitting is this week in Verona.

A close up of the beading and details still in fitting stage

A detail of the sleeve

A close up of the detailed work of the lacing in the back

Me with the the masterful Maria looking at?? something

My mask for this gown – made in Italy,  and I added the beading and the ornate jeweled butterfly

 

The second fitting of the gown – still with pins

These are just a part of the accessories for the 18th c. ballgown. All handmade by Maria!

 

The divine Casanova mask from Venice that I gave to Simon for Valentine’s Day – just what every guy wants…..

Above : my little quickie video giving the spirit to my upcoming adventure.

I promise to provide you with a full update, and many photos upon my return, and will be posting on Instagram throughout!

Arrivederci, 
cr

P.S. Just two days before my departure I went to a ceremony honoring my mentor, Oscar de la Renta. For all that he represented – his talent, sense of beauty, his humanity and elegance…and as  an immigrant that realized the American Dream, USPS has created 11 beautiful stamps – one with a wonderful image of the man and 10 more featuring elements of his design. The event was emceed by Anderson Cooper and three of his very close friends spoke : former  New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, Vogue Editor Anna Wintour  and Secretary Hillary Clinton. It was quite a gathering and I was happy to be present for his honor.

Secretary Hillary Clinton speaking with great fondness of the man who dressed her throughout her Washington political career

Celebrating St Valentine’s Day in Many Ways and from Seasons Past

For years I celebrated Valentine’s Day with a flamboyant display of my culinary skills, attempting to impress the beau of the moment. Inevitably, I got carried away. One year in particular, with all my fussing in the kitchen, dinner was still not ready an hour before midnight, with the obligatory bottle of champagne getting in the way of my plans! As the candle wax melted and my feet ached from teetering on Manolo Blahnik heels all night, any pretensions to a romantic dinner for two died. My starving date had given up trying to keep me company in the kitchen, settling instead in front of ESPN. With some tact, my friend said he was always pleased when someone cooked an elaborate meal for him, but all he really wanted was a cheeseburger.  I thought, “You want it, you’ve got it, baby…. next year!” No more overcooked pasta and sunken soufflés as I attempted to rekindle the fire, change the CD, or ooh and ahh over a love token. Even though I decided to take him at his word, that doesn’t mean I couldn’t stick to the theme of the heart. So, 12 months later, armed with a set of cookie cutters, I created heart shaped crudités, heart shaped cheeseburgers, heart shaped cottage fries, heart shaped brownies with ice cream and hot fudge. Hardly a gourmet meal, but my date was charmed, and I was spared the exhaustion of trying to do a romantic multicourse dinner for two.

A fun and light hearted approach to a Valentine decoration for the table – good any time of the day and for all genders and ages

A simple, American approach to Valentine’s Day. A 3 inch cookie cutter was used for the hamburger, and  the English muffin bun, a 1.5 inch for the cottage fries and 2 inch for the brownie.

       

Given that the hearts-and-flowers frills of Valentine’s Day delight most women, why not celebrate with some girlfriends? Particularly if some of us might not have a current  beau – or if the one you have is forgetful or uncreative.  Design a lunch decorated with all the lacy bits that would be lost on their partners – as each place setting, I pose a carnation and rose heart, constructed on a base of floral foam that they can take home just for themselves or for their own Valentines (it’s a gentle nudge to let the men know how much they are missing or forgot!)

Ladies Valentine’s lunch

A small, heart wreath for each guest

This was something I learnt at a wonderful florist in Paris

On another Valentine’s Day, I decided to include the men, but I knew that I needed to tone down the romantic theme. A drum table with shelves of Moroccan leather-bound books set a more masculine tone when moved beside the Weatherstone center-hall door. The atmospheric background now settled, I decided pastel pinks had best be omitted; with neutral white flowers safer. Crimson glassware, sterling solver flatware and service plates, crisp linens, and black candles suited the setting. But I refused to hide my feminine side completely – arching, whimsical branches of forced Prunus added a dainty touch. As long as I remembered to chill a few extra bottles of champagne, I was sure the men wouldn’t mind. 

A more masculine approach to Valentine’s Day

Neutral, white flowers

Floral foam is a life saver when you need to make quick, theme-based arrangements for all manner of holidays or celebrations. The foam can be purchased from florists, craft stores and craft sections of superstores, in preshaped balls, bricks, topiary cones and hearts, and can be adapted to countless creations; limited only by the sturdiness of the flowers’ stems. Once it has been soaked, floral foam can easily be shaped with a sharp kitchen knife, but keep in mind the foam can crumble if roughly treated. If you are going to hang your creation, consider that the foam absorbs a large quantity of water and can be heavy – you can disguise hanging wire behind a silk ribbon. For better stem stability on larger forms, wrap the foam with chicken wire before placing your flowers. Remember you must let the heart (or any floral foam) drain for a while so as not to ruin a table or wall.

A combination of pink and red carnations on heart shaped floral foam make a beautiful Valentine’s decoration

I am sure some of you will recognize some of these pictures of past Valentine’s Day decorations from my books of long ago. As you might remember, I reintroduced the lowly carnation first as Christmas wreathes, them topiaries and finally the Valentine’s shapes over 20 years ago – where does the time go?!  I still use many of these same elements today – they work, so why not?  

This is from my book, Presentations. I always remember decorating a Valentine’s box with paper doilies, and this is an ode to that memory.

A far more recent discovery of heart shaped pasta inspired the final pictures.  This is what I plan on doing next Tuesday – and I did a trial run yesterday to ensure that the pasta held the heart shape when cooked. Of course many sauces work, but as I want the pasta to be the star, I did a simple sauce of butter, olive oil, garlic, chopped sage and sprinkled Parmesan on top. A fast and simple first course, or even a main, if you are really going for easy!

         

So girls, and my handful of sweet guys, happy Valentine’s Day to one and all,
cr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Quest for Quiet

 

Happy New Year!!! 2017

Hi I’m Back

There are times in my life when I feel overwhelmed by too much activity, too many commitments and too much noise. At these moments I know it is time for me to disappear  down the rabbit hole. I have done it before (as many of you have been witness to), when I shut down my website, saying “I have gone fishing,” or when I set up my email reply to read “I am currently on sabbatical”. Or in this last month and a half where the blog pots and the Instagrams evaporated. I just needed some time off. This eternal connection to the world which bombards us with too much information in my opinion , most of which at the end of the day is pretty irrelevant, is what I call the incessant noise of the 21st century. News repeating over and over until you want to yell “Okay I got it!” The screaming voices of the media, the every 5 minute breaking news.  Remember when that meant something really important had just happened? Today it is often as breaking as “my aunt broke her finger nail.” The  pundits pontificating over campaigns and the elections, everyone has an outlet for their voice and an opinion and they are  constantly bellowing at me. The year 21016 reached a cacophony that made me scream : stop!  But wait, it is time for me to stop, as I am shouting and ranting just like them. In my opinion this has become a national, perhaps worldwide, malady. So I have taken a breather to also stop and take a deep breath.

Of course this should have been a new year post but  as seems to be the story of my life, it is a month or more late.– but in my new mind set and as I am not doing surgery or something life threatening who cares?  So yes  I am attempting to slow down, breath, and be quiet. Right now I would grade my success at a C+ \ B- (though those who live around me might raise an eyebrow at that.) But I am trying, with the knowledge that, like the ground hog that emerges next week, perhaps it is time to peak out from my hole and say “hi world.”

It seems I am actually on trend with ‘digital detox’ although I had never heard about this concept until a couple of days ago. I couldn’t endorse it more. For me, it is necessary to slow down, reflect and garner inspiration for the year ahead. And that’s not to say it’s easy – I can completely understand the seduction of social media, our reliance on 24/7 news, and the need to constantly check emails and text messages, but it is so refreshing to remember, and prove, we can live without them!

This quiet time has inspired me to do all those things you never quite get around to. Once one slows down, it is so much easier to find moments of pretty, along with newfound delights in the simplest of things .Which brings me to my February 2017 resolution, and that is to make a concerted effort in keeping calm, in finding time to think about things that bring joy, comfort, laughter and beauty, and some much needed quiet into my life, such as:

Reading books for entertainment and for learning

I decided to read Susan Cain’s Quiet : The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking this last month – for those of you unfamiliar with it, it focuses on a time when quiet and reflection was admired, comparing this with the 20th and 21st centuries, and the more recent rise in the extrovert as the ideal.

A new book that I have loved is Belgravia by Julian Fellowes (of Downton Abbey fame.) To me there is nothing better than a tome that you just cannot put down. Do the younger generations still experience such a wonderful addiction? I do hope so.

        

Focusing more on those you love (everyone says that but I am trying to be more mindful than I have been)

Spending more time with my Mom – talking and discussing things with her with her. At a friend’s long ago suggestion, I have just started interviewing her on video her face and her voice documented.

Being with my beloved puppies, who have featured significantly in this quiet January .

Trying to be more  observent and patient with special friends. Even when I don’t agree with them – everyone has a right to their opinion as long as they do not try and force it upon you.

     

Making files for items that make me laugh, inspire or think

A big fan of interesting quotes, I finally compiled some of my favorites, for easy access when I most need them. I always marvel at how writers with their beautiful prose or cleaver humor come up with these things. A couple of lines to capture the essence of something – quite foreign to someone like yours truly who should get the prize for rambling run on sentences.  I have dozens of them but here are just a few.

Inspiration:  “Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom,”  Marcel Proust

Wit: “Don’t be so humble – you are not that great,” Golda Meir

“Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile,” Billy Sunday

Humor: “If you’re too open minded, your brains will fall out,” Lawrence Ferlinghetti

“You know the world is going crazy when the best rapper in the world is a white guy, the best golfer is a black guy, the tallest guy in the NBA is Chinese, the Swiss hold the America’s Cup, France is accusing the U.S. of arrogance, Germany doesn’t want to go to war and the three most power men in America are named “Bush”, “Dick”, and “Colin,” Need I say more?”  Chris Rock

A modest start at getting organized

When I did allow myself online, it was to clear out my emails, and unsubscribe from as much as I possibly could. All those newsletters – that of course would be interesting should I have the time to read them, but instead hover in my Inbox, making me feel inefficient and overwhelmed and laden with just more stuff. I still love the Happiness Project from Gretchen Rubin…

Paying attention to places that provide a peaceful atmosphere

Usually my time in Manhattan is a hectic jumble of appointments but recently I’ve been trying to not to over book things (something that I am so guilty of throughout my life.) By accident I was early for an appointment – a rare thing indeed – and in this spare moment, discovered a lovely little shop that only sells coffee and petit fours.  It is like stepping back in time, when true, quality ingredients mattered, and providores took pride in the smallest of details. The young owners, also the pastry chef and barista, are both immigrants, fulfilling the American dream, and bringing a touch of magic to the East Side. Bon Vivant feels like a safe, slow, haven, while the world still races by outside.

 

Bon Vivant, 238 E 58th St, New York – just near the D&D Building, so perfect for design types in the area needing a break.

Stop talking about doing something, and to quote Nancy Regan, “Just Do It!”

One of the worst forms of noise is head noise, I am an expert at that unfortunate trait. The constant yakking in the, head “you should do this, you must do that,” those endless voices driving you nuts.. and the image of that wagging finger in your face . So as my mother says “If you really WANT to do it, you will or… let it go.”

For months I have been saying I needed to start my next book which will finally be about my designing career (something i really have not written about) and finally I started this work on the weekend, and strangely the voices stopped yelling at me!

Above: Just the beginning stage of the book process, starting to play with covers. It probably will  not be this, but one starts with an idea, and then the endless project of research and editing begins….

Well dear readers enough of my meandering thoughts. There is just one more thing I would like to say ( I know you are probably rolling your eyes and saying “finally”) – the reason for this very long and personal post is both an explanation and a BIG THANK YOU to the lovely people who sent messages showing concern about my disappearance from social media, and asking if I was okay. Thank you from my heart!–cr

PS Next posts : Valentine’s Day and my dinner with Julian Fellowes.

 

Timeless Techniques for Christmas

While down in my basement trying to prepare for Christmas (but of course getting sidetracked in that rabbit warren of memories), I came across an old article, circa 2002, where I was suggesting table designs incorporating geographical influences. These seem as relevant now, as they were then….so I’ve decided to share with you.

Because we don’t all enjoy a holiday-card-worthy backdrop of glistening snow and evergreens, these four different tables, are based on the real, wonderful regions of this country. Despite our world getting smaller and smaller, we can still delight in our regional differences, and even more so, in borrowing from other’s traditions, and changing things up a little for the holidays!

I’m preparing for a Charleston Christmas, but will be going mainly with a mix of the Eastern and Southern themes (as defined below), interspersed with some CT and the Midwest, because you know I’m faithful to my roots! I will of course share some pictures after the big day.

Wishing you all peace and love in the lead up to the 25th,
cr

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Above: a close up of the Eastern fruit and flowers

An Eastern Christmas to me can be a more formal occasion, with cities such as Boston, Philadelphia and New York having their history of entertaining more closely tied to Europe, rather than the rugged frontier further west.  My table for the buffet in Charleston will be red, gold and silver with carnations, roses and red fruits (from Trader Joe’s of course!) I have used fruit forever in my table-scapes, first inspired from 17th c. Dutch flower paintings and an old book from Colonial Williamsburg.

Carnations have also been a Christmas staple for me since I featured  them in my first book A Passion for Flowers, published in 1997.  As an aside: the beautiful carnation had been much maligned in America as a cheap flower. After living in France I learned to love this beautiful, clove scented bloom.  When I returned to the States I decided to campaign on behalf of this flower, starting with my first book. Happy to see that 20 years later it no longer has the stigma it did have.

Elements : red grapes, Red Delicious apples, red plums, floral clay, red roses and mini carnations, string.

How To : Pile fruit, in containers of your choice, and hold together with floral clay – draping the grapes over the sides of the container is a nice touch.  Make small nosegays out of red spray roses and mini carnations (I tie the nosegays with string to hold together.)

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Above: a photo from my first book 20 years ago celebrating carnations. As I have always said, “There are no bad flowers, only people who make bad arrangements.”

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Above: a photo of  a detail of the table

Inspired by snow and pine forests, this northern setting is affordable and east to make. I love the scent of pine in the house at Christmas!

Elements : Seckel pears, grapes, apples, crabapples, limes, pinecones, wooden or metal picks for pinecones, evergreen boughs, Oasis, floral clay, floral tape, white spray snow.

How To : Spray the fruit with a heavy coat of white snow.  Spray a lighter coating of snow, on the  evergreen boughs and pinecones. Put a chunk of Oasis into a compote and affix with floral tape and clay as necessary to secure to bowl. Arrange sprayed greens around perimeter of compote and pile fruits in center, using floral clay to anchor them. Put metal or wooden picks in pinecones and affix them to Oasis core, interspersing them throughout centerpiece.

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Above : a close up of the table – the menu cards and place cards carry on the pineapple motif

The pineapple, sourced in the west, (think Hawaii, California and the islands) is a symbolic sign of hospitality all over the States and takes one away from the traditional red and green.

Elements : Boxwood, Oasis, large and miniature pineapples, dried sheet moss, dowels or pencils, decorative baskets, plastic liners for baskets, scissors.

How To : Line baskets with moss and put a plastic liner inside each one. Fill liner with a piece of Oasis that has been soaked in water. Cut sprigs of Boxwood and stick them into Oasis, creating a topiary form. Clip to shape. Insert a wooden dowel or skewer into bottom of each pineapple and then push them into Oasis.

I have made these boxwood topiaries for years and years, and now you can buy the fake ones everywhere. As they are time consuming to make you could buy the fake ones and glue gun a pineapple to the top.

Below: one of my water colors was inspired by both the pineapple and oranges  shaped into a bowl combing the Southern and Western table-scapes. Constant themes and reinterpretations are fun see how things repeat them selves over and over in one’s work.

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Above: a detail of table with a topiary motif in a Versailles box on the menu card

A warmer, Southern climate is reflected in topiaries of kumquats, lemons and limes. A fresh setting that works equally well in or outdoors.

Elements : Kumquats, lemons and lemon leaves, limes, dried sheet moss, spray adhesive, glue, styrofoam balls, floral wire, straight branches.

How To : Spray styrofoam balls with adhesive and cover with moss (the reason I do this is so you won’t see the white or green styrofoam between the kumquats.) Poke a hole in each ball, push in a branch that resembles the trunk of the topiary and glue gun to stabilize (the branch is about 1 inch in diameter and straight). Insert wire into kumquats to hold  them while the glue drys. Affix kumquats to ball and add in lemon leaves for an accent. Anchor topiaries in smaller moss-covered styrofoam ball and place in cachepots. Follow similar procedure for a centerpiece of stacked limes and lemons.

 

 

A Long, Artistic Journey

Tomorrow sees me check something off my dream list – I am actually having a small exhibition and sale of prints of my original watercolor illustrations! You, my readers inspired me when so many asked if i would consider doing prints of my watercolors.

The invitation to Mecox Gardens

The invitation to Mecox Gardens

So, it seems appropriate to reflect on the artistic journey that got me to this point, and the message that you never really know where things might lead. As most of you regulars are aware, my love of flowers and gardening started as a child, continued into my adult life, was sidelined by the fashion world for a time, but re-emerged as the motivation for my enlightening apprenticeship in a Parisian flower shop. This of course inspired my book A Passion for Flowers, and nearly everything that’s gone on since. Twenty years later my devotion to flowers continued, and the question arose, where to next?

My wise Mom frequently commented that I never actually stop to smell these roses that so inspire me, and with that I took up painting watercolors. In At Home in the Garden, I attempted to follow the journey of selecting, planting, growing, picking, and finally (after taking a couple of watercolor classes) trying to paint some of the beauty of Mother Nature. As I have mentioned in a previous post, I have always admired the true botanical artists  but discovered in the learning process that as an art form, it is also a scientific approach, and that was not where my heart was. I wanted to use my flowers as the inspiration but I wanted  to show them in vivid color; make my butterflies and insects big and out of scale to play with my painting!  Many, many (sometimes very frustrating) hours later, it turns out that I now use painting as a form of meditation and, like my flowers, can’t ever imagine my life without it – I think proof that you can, indeed, teach an old dog new tricks!

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In my studio

If you happen to be in the Manhattan area, I’d love to see you at Mecox, it would mean a lot to see the friendly faces of some of my readers – as this is a rather nervous moment for me,
cr

PS Maybe in the new year I shall have them for sale online – if I do, you will be the first to know.

From my book At Home in the Garden - explaining the journey from planting, growing, displaying and painting this Fritillaria

From my book At Home in the Garden – explaining the journey from planting, growing, displaying and painting this Fritillaria

Another Frittilaria

Another Fritillaria

Stopping to smell the oranges!

Stopping to smell the oranges!

 

Nature as a Tonic in Difficult Times

 

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The passage of time is  fleeting and volatile, I find it going so fast, and this last week’s events, and the rapid change have only reinforced this. Time moves so quickly, what was a current post or theme, in 2 seconds is old news – or actually perhaps it isn’t…..let me explain.

This post first started out as an ode to the spectacular beauty of autumn. Travel, Halloween and various other distractions took over that world, but nothing like the diversion that the national election in America was this past week. As you know, usually I ignore all subjects except design and my concept of beauty, because there are experts in their own fields such as politics, but for all of us living through this election, it has been a disconcerting time, and to not say something about this monumental time would have you believe I’d been living under a rock, and I haven’t.

This was a difficult time in the US, with a level of vitriol and discourse, not witnessed before, at least certainly not in my time. These unchartered waters since November 9 have left many in a state of surprise, and as we are now witnessing, through protests and despair; many in our country are terribly unhappy. A shadow has been left over the nation, and I only hope that some of the remarkable grace shown by Barrack Obama, Hillary Clinton and President Elect Donald Trump since the outcome was announced could be mirrored, enabling us to say we are all together as Americans, and we will try and make this work.

As architect Frank Lloyd Wright said, “Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” When in doubt, or sadness, I still think the beauty of nature is always inspiring and restorative – whether it encourages you to go on and fight for your beliefs, or promote the intention that we will go through a hopefully peaceful transition.

I’m providing these autumnal images as something to ponder, and prepare us for a favorite American holiday, Thanksgiving, as we still do have a lot to be thankful for.

In contemplation and peace,
cr

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