Monday, March 31, 2008

For M. & T.

A few shots of phaleonopsis orchids...beautiful as sculptural centerpieces or down an aisle on pedestals.

Photos by MindCastle Studios.


I've been learning to knit this winter, and it might just be as relaxing as yoga. Crazy, huh? But I love the repetitive motion, the instant gratification of seeing progress as my project grows, and the tactile experience of working with soft and cozy wool.

Now that I've been knitting (mind you, I've only been making scarves) for a few months, I am obsessed with unusual objects that have been hand-knit. Remember the perfect, creamy wool deer? I keep finding more beautiful, creative and unusual things, and just had to share them.

Diana at Please Sir shared these photos of a tree-grafitti project she did back in her college days. Wouldn't this be a wonderful surprise to happen upon while strolling through campus?

And some beautiful large-scale knit furniture by designer Christien Meindertsma of Rotterdam of Flocks, found via housemartin.

Yes, that's a big rug with a pair of boots on it! These huge "sweaters" are made on GIANT needles!

And I'm so glad that someone has finally solved a problem that has been weighing heavily on me for quite some time...cold apples. What a relief! These little apple jackets make me feel that everything is alright in the world.

And as a true Seattle girl that loves her coffee, I might just have to get one of these coffee sleeves.

Update! I had the post typed up last week to post this morning, but at the wedding I did on Saturday (more of that to come later this week), the bride had a little dish of these tiny knit hearts-on-a-stick. Heart shish kabobs? I honestly don't know what their purpose was, but they were so cute that I don't even care!

Update II! I just heard from Stacey, the coordinator for the wedding last weekend. The hearts were a play on a traditional Japanese sweet that is served during the cherry blossom festival, which was the theme of the wedding. The treats are called hanami-dango and are rice dumplings filled with bean paste. Oishi!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Lights out!

I'm always a big fan of anything that is good for the earth and fun too. Not that I'm so self-centered that there has to be something in it for me, but it's just a little added bonus.

So, grab someone you love, and join people around the world tomorrow night in powering down for 60 minutes. The someone you love is the fun part...I'm sure you can find something to do in the dark!

Packyderms for the planet

The Peach Paisley elephant

Continuing on the baby theme from yesterday, here is a great gift idea for a new baby, elephant lover, or someone that appreciates beautiful vintage fabrics and handcrafted treasures. Etsy seller maidenlove makes these darling elephants from vintage fabrics and stuffs them with wool. Nothing is greener than re-purposing materials into a new, very lovable object! And check out her quote below; I love that she gives some of the money right back to her muses!

The Tropical Elephant, with a dupioni silk saddle

Vintage blue barkcloth elephant

Maidenlove's shop announcement says:

Wool is Simply Amazing.
It's naturally hypo-allergenic, anti-microbial, flame and mold resistant, and chemical-free! Plus, wool is calming and lowers your heart rate, is sustainably harvested and a renewable resource!
I'm pleased to support small farmers and use this natural product in my soft toys and pillows.

Elephants on a Mission.
Not only to bring comfort + joy to young and old alike, partial proceeds of each elephant sold will be donated to The Circuses Fund.

Elephant of teal silk and handwoven fabric from Michoacan, Mexico.

A mother and baby set, of tangerine gingham.


This site is my new addiction, and I'm sure will eat up a good chunk of your precious time. It's fascinating and valuable though.
Skin Deep will let you put enter the item name or company from any of your cosmetics, hair products, lotions or fragrance, and it will bring up safety information about all of the ingredients. It also has baby products in the database! In just a few minutes, I found out that the expensive Mustela baby shampoo I always splurge on for the boys (since I thought it was safer), is actually a level 6 (out of 10) hazard! I'm not even going to finish the bottle, since the site also gave me some great alternatives. I also found out that the hand lotion that I can't live without, is in the harmless zone. Go Neutrogena fragrance-free Norwegian formula!

Week 3

Peonies, getting taller every day.

My star magnolia is just about to burst. This little bloom opened before all the others, so deserves a picture.

And a shot of my white flowering currant with a birdhouse in the background that my friend John built. He builds the most beautiful great big birdhouses out of reclaimed barn wood.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Spring shower

A few pictures from a special shower for my friend Milo last weekend. It was so fun to celebrate the upcoming arrival of the beautiful baby girl she is expecting in July.

Three centerpiece arrangements I did in tropical shades. Flowers included protea, "Ravel" roses, green cymbidium orchids, orange ruffly gerberas, several shades of tulips, ranunculus, berzilla berries, and spiky hot pink nerine lilies. It was fun to work with so much color!

My very talented friend Sarah made the AMAZING strawberry cake, in honor of Milo's favorite craving. Sarah is a pastry chef here in Seattle, and the cake was her own creation: a white chocolate sponge cake with white chocolate mousse and sliced strawberries between the layers. It was all topped off with strawberry buttercream and crushed green pistachios. The word incredible doesn't do it justice.

A detail shot of a little blue bird that was nestled into a large arrangement of blooming plum branches.

I just got several of these blown glass bowls for floating flowers. They are great on bistro tables for cocktail hour! This one has a green cymbidium orchid with a blown glass bubble.

And finally, I can't resist introducing you to one of the Fiore Blossoms staff members. You can see Noah hard at work here making sure that each bloom is in place. He has a real eye for design.

Congratulations to my dear friends. I can't wait to watch your family grow and get to know this new amazing person that will be such a gift.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


A great new idea for dressing up Chiavari chairs from Michelle Rago. More streamlined than the ubiquitous chair cover, and a great way to add a touch of personality!

Evolution of a blogger

I have to admit...I haven't been hanging out in this weird blogosphere world for long (though obviously long enough to pick up some geeky lingo). So I'm still learning...and you are all bearing with me (which I really appreciate!). And just yesterday...I learned about something really great that you might already know about, but I thought I'd share just in case!

But first, a short time-line, so that I can give credit where it is due:

Mid-early 2002?: Hear the word blog, can't figure out why people would want to put their diary on -line for the world to read. What a bunch of emotional exhibitionists!

February 2004: Friend Sarah tells me about Orangette, and I'm so taken with Molly's writing and superb recipes that it is my homepage for the next year. Find the best banana bread recipe on earth*, never go back to the classic.

2005-early 2008: Occasionally look at a few cooking blogs now and then.

January 2008: Noticing more wedding and decorating blogs, getting hooked. Friend Robin mentions that her husband has named her "Bloggy" because her relaxing every night is looking at blogs for design help for new house. Friends in the biz say that its a great way to let clients know a little more about you.

February 2008: Spend a few frustrating days messing around with various blogging programs, and start Fiore fresco.

March 2008: Worry obsessively that no one at all is reading the blog, get some very sweet comments by friends and clients that they enjoy it and are passing it on. Still worry obsessively that no one is reading blog.

March 23, 2008: Read on Elizabeth Anne Designs that she loves her Google Reader. Her WHAT? You mean, I can get updates sent to me, in one place, so that I know as soon as people have posted? So that I'll remember each day to check my favorites? You're kidding!

March 25, 2008: Figure out how Google Reader works (five minutes), load some of my favorite blogs (another five minutes), and have a relaxing and inspirational afternoon catching up with news in the blogosphere!

March 26, 2008: Can't sleep in the middle of the night, check my Google Reader, and realize that I haven't made it possible for any of you to add Fiore fresco into your reader. Promptly resolve issue!

Daytime, March 26, 2008: You, dear reader, check out Google Reader and hopefully give it a try! Load up Fiore fresco and a few others, and you'll soon be wasting (I mean saving) as much time as me!

Note: Adding subscriptions was the only tricky part to the Reader (because there are a couple of ways to do it, and some seem to work better than others). I found that clicking the orange feed button in your toolbar put things in the wrong spot. The best way was to go into Reader, type the name of the blog in the green "add subscription box", and it will work like a search engine. Click "Subscribe" under the blog, and you're all set!

*Banana-Coconut Bread
Recipe and picture from Orangette: (with a minor change, shown in green)

Adapted from HomeBaking: The Artful Mix of Flour and Tradition around the World, by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid.

I have one word for you: demerara. This bread is lovely in its own right, but it owes a good deal of its charm to this very special sugar. Demerara has large, golden grains that sparkle in the light, and sprinkled on top of this banana-moistened batter, it yields a crisp, sweetly craggy crust that steals the show - and that stays crunchy on the second day, even! You can buy demerara sugar online from any number of sources, or look for it in your local gourmet store. I found mine at an upscale market nearby, and I think Whole Foods also carries it. Either way, buy it. If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to sprinkle it all over the place.

About 3 large, overripe bananas
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/8 tsp distilled white vinegar
1 ½ Tbsp. dark rum
½ cup dried shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup demerara or dark brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a standard-size loaf pan, and sprinkle with 1/4 cup raw/Demerara sugar (the same way that you would usually use flour). In a blender or food processor, purée the bananas. Measure out 1 ½ cups of purée. Set the purée aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vinegar and rum, and beat to mix well. Add the banana purée and the flour mixture alternately, about 1 cup at a time, beginning with the banana and beating to just incorporate. Use a spatula to fold in any flour that has not been absorbed, and stir in the coconut. Do not overmix.

Scrape the batter – it will be thick – into the prepared pan. Smooth the top, and sprinkle evenly with the remaining demerara sugar.

Bake for 50-65 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes; then turn the loaf out of the pan and allow it to cool completely. This loaf will keep, sealed airtight, for three to four days, although it is best, I think, on the second day.

Yield: 1 loaf

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Real Weddings: Erica & Ward

Flowers from this past weekend. Erica and Ward planned their day in shades of bright yellow, black and white, with accents of slate blue.

The yellow bride's bouquet featured a gorgeous black and white toile wrap that was fabric from her dress. Even a two-inch wide strip of fabric left over from hemming the bride's dress makes a beautiful wrap!

A shot that shows Erica's dress. One of my favorite trends in weddings right now: dresses that are a little nontraditional! Erica's bouquet had miniature narcissus, ranunculus, yellow calla lilies, freesia, and yellow cymbidium orchids.

The bridesmaid's white arrangement of peonies and calla lilies with a collar of freesia.

A few of the centerpieces...white hydrangea with tulips, daffodils, gerbera daisies, miniature narcissus, berzilla berries, and freesia.

Monday, March 24, 2008

TEN things I love about Spring

This post is probably a little over due, but it just didn't really feel like spring to me last week. I mentioned taking care of three boys with the flu (and let me tell you, the 32 year old one can be just as cranky as the 10 month old one!), and it was pretty rainy and gray around here to top it off. But this weekend, the sun came out! The boys are healthy! I got my hair cut! (see #2 below). And it finally feels like spring has really arrived...

10 things I love about Spring:

1. Fresh rhubarb (another underappreciated but amazing product of the natural world!) Try it in a sauce over really good vanilla ice cream. Cut rhubarb into small pieces (bigger than a green pea, smaller than a cherry) and put 2 cups of rhubarb in saucepan with ¼ cup water. Add ¼ to ½ cu p of sugar, depending on taste. (I like it tart). Let it bubble and stew on the stove for 10 minutes or so (longer if you don’t want any full pieces left), and then serve over ice cream. Springtime loveliness in a bowl.

2. Getting a haircut. Nothing says rebirth and renewal like a new ‘do! I just got 6” cut off last weekend, and I feel like a new woman!

3. Opening the doors and windows to let the warm afternoon breeze in.

4. Blooming branches

5. Green shoots coming up in the garden

6. Reading a good book on the patio in an Adirondack chair. I just started “Suite Francaise” and its really extraordinary!

And...6b. The first light sunburn on my cheeks (from sitting on the patio with a book…). I know—sunscreen 365 days—whatever.

7. Driving by a fresh green field and seeing baby horses/cows/goats/sheep learning to walk on wobbly legs (hey—you can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country…)

8. Crisp, fresh, THIN local asparagus (have you tried it grilled?)

9. Flip flops, Capri pants, skirts…getting the stuff I love to wear out of winter storage.

10. And speaking of fashion…I love it when the spring catalogs arrive. Spotted in some recent ones:
A great white jacket from J.Crew
A gorgeous dress from Anthropolgie
And a really bright bag with beautiful details... (ok, this one is a little beyond my budget, but this way I'll recognize it when the Target version shows up in a few weeks!)
We have sun here in Seattle this afternoon...I'm going to go enjoy it now!

SEVEN winner

Thanks so much everyone for your great comments--all of your thoughts on spring really made my dreary Seattle week a little brighter, and I loved finding out about so many inspirational sites! And your hair...let's just hope some of those trends never come back full circle!

Congratulations to Katy--winner of the great products from SEVEN! She was the eighth response, and I thought that the six products from SEVEN should go do the eighth comment. Hope you enjoy them!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Food and Drink

After all, it's easier to help end hunger when you've got a full stomach of your own. And all that money you're going to save on dinner thanks to this little tip? Use it to help distribute clean water to the 1 billion people that don't have it!

Food: Dine around Seattle is a group of 30 restaurants offering a three-course dinner for $30. When you see the list of restaurants, you'll realize what a steal this is! Campagne, Veil, Oceanaire Seafood Room...and 27 others. Sunday through Thursday running through March (excluding Easter Sunday).

Drink: A lot of us take clean water for granted. Just like electricity, plumbing, and heat, its one of those things that you don't really think about when you have them. But 90% (!) of the world doesn't have access to clean drinking water, and 6000 children a day of thirst or a water related disease. UNICEF's TAP Project is working to change that.

Through this Saturday, a long list of restaurants around the U.S. is offering you the chance to pay $1 for the water that is usually free. For every dollar raised, a child will have 40 days of clean water. Thats a huge return on your investment.

For local readers, the list of Seattle restaurants is here.
There are 15 other cities participating, find yours here.

If you're not going out this weekend, why not do a little TAP project of your own wherever you will be? I won't be going out this weekend, but will be eating in with some friends. I'm thinking that I'll put a jar by the sink and a note on the faucet/refrigerator/water bottle to remind people to donate. UNICEF makes it super easy to turn in your contributions--just fill out this very short on-line form and pay with your card. You can also print the form and mail it in.

Have a great weekend! I hope it's filled with delicious food and refreshing ways to make a difference. --Alexa