Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Frankincense and Myrrh is back again, I wrapped up a batch of it two days ago. Here you see it amidst our ravaging Purple Queen plants. [Otherwise known as Tradescantia Pallida, Purple Heart or Wandering Jew.] This is but a small sampling of the Queen at 392 Van Brunt - all propagated from a single plant, obviously one with very good genes. We give it out for good luck; even brown thumbs can take a clipping, root it in some water for a few weeks then pot it up in a sunny window with success.

Here I used some as a backdrop to a dinner-plate dahlia nosegay:

And you can eat it...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Lately I have been trying to identify the small things that make me happy. More on that someday.

Needless to say flowers make me happy always, now and forever... Fall flowers especially, and hydrangea most of all...And late-season hydrangea even more that that!

As the season progresses hydrangea turn from light colors to darker, muddled color combinations like green with red frosted petals, deep rose with brown speckles, and robins egg blue with purple blush.

When these hydrangea come around at the wholesale market I'm in trouble, like the don't-even ask-how-much-they-cost trouble. Needless to say, I had a slew of different varieties this week which we tied up in take-away bunches with some bronze amaranthus, tuberose and the seasons's first nice looking anemones.

This rusty and blue ditty is going home with me tonight.

Friday, October 26, 2007

To my most devoted reader: Happy Birthday Gale!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Our friends Stu and Alice got hitched last weekend in Durham, NC. It was a proper country wedding complete with a barn, locally grown food and Soulja Boi. They have a farm called Bluebird on which they grow all sorts of vegetables like these Fairy Tale Eggplants.

Alice's passion is growing flowers, and I was in awe of the variety and luck she has with a slew of different types: dahlias, zinnias, cockscomb, tuberose, cosmos, amaranthus, etc. Naturally she arranged all the flowers for her own wedding - these here are buckets of yellow and orange cosmos -- gorgeous -- we rarely see colored cosmos in the NYC markets, usually only chocolate colored.

Eric and I wandered around their plot for a while googly-eyeing the giant okra which, despite their beautiful tropical blooms, I found to be a bit intimidating.

The Durham area is loaded with small farms, making for epic farmers markets which almost seem like idyllic tourist attractions for a new era. Unfortunately Durham (along with many south eastern states) is currently bearing the brunt of a major drought which many farmers say is the worst they've ever seen. The governor of North Carolina has now declared disaster areas in 85 of North Carolina's 100 counties. It is disturbing to consider the extreme weather patterns that have emerged in the past few years - and even more frustrating to watch Washington's lack of response to climate change - BUT here is something that really caught by eye. The Breakthrough is a think tank committed to changing the way we consider climate change. Their essay The Death of Environmentalism created a firestorm in 2004 by calling for policy makers and activists to curb their doom and gloom rhetoric. In essence, the authors argue that we need to shift our perspective on the global environmental crisis - stop thinking about the environment as an external it, but rather as a human dilemma that has to do with how we structure our societies.

Speaking of societies, we drove 4 hours out of our way to stop in Blacksburg to visit the old stomping grounds at the corner of College Avenue and Draper Rd. We paid a visit to Gillies and Bollos, chatted it up with Ranae and ate tofu reubens outside while watching the all-too-familiar local flavor go by.


For more information on how to do the Soulja Boi dance click here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Hudson Valley is one of the most beautiful places. Despite excessive development and big-box stores which seem to be mushrooming up with alarming speed, the valley retains small pockets of quiet earth which inspire many of our projects. We went up last week to pick up soap from the boss and acquire some grapevine and bittersweet for wreath-making.

Since I discovered bittersweet (or at least was able to properly identify it) two years ago I have searched for it obsessively every time I'm out in the sticks. Last weekend I came across an especially vibrant patch on a trip to a Sylvan Glen Park, an unreal place where you can hike through the ruins of a granite quarry which operated from 1890 - 1940.

Bittersweet is actually an invasive weed also known as staff vine or Celastrus orbiculatus. It is poisonous to humans but not to frugivorous birds who eat the tri-valve red berries once the yellow shell falls off late in the fall. I cut a slew of the stuff and hauled it back to Red Hook to make some wreaths.

Unfortunately I ruined my favorite wool shirt in the process (and almost lost a good chunk of hair) to some of the worst burrs I've ever encountered.

But whilst on the topic of bittersweet, I'll share this photo from the archives:

This was our window display in October '06 - its full of hanging branches of cut bittersweet. In the bottom right corner is a birds nest filled with Chai tea soaps. The telescope is pointed to the Chai soap that flew the nest if you will...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

This is a tarot card from the Tarot de Marseille (the standard from which many contemporary tarot card designs originated.) Marseille was, in the 19th century, an international center of playing card manufactures. The thirteenth trump in the deck is often referred to as the unnamed card, or La Mort (death).

This has very little to do with why I am here tonight, which is to share some things about this wedding business we have found ourselves enjoying recently. It does have something to do with the halloween plans we have for the redhook Saipua!!

So does this little number, which I just found on ebay:

So we've had a busy fall wedding season. We've worked with five really amazing couples - all of whom have been really laid back and enthusiastic about their wedding flowers. With a few minor exceptions we've been able to keep all of our flowers local to the north east which means we have been working with a lot of dahlias, scabiosa (pincushion flowers), nigella, and lots and lots of hydrangea - here are three bouquets that where hydrangea were the focus:
We've learned so much! I can now confidently spell boutonniere (derived from the french bouton, meaning button.), and Eric has reached new heights in packing filled vases for transport utilizing the shredded paper/newspaper combination box method.

We also learned how to build lots of different wedding flower props like this trellis:

...and these driftwood "sculptures" for a wedding down at the Waterfront Museum in Red Hook:

We've learned that like anything else, wedding flowers follow trends - the wrist corsage seems to conjure unnecessary memories of the 80's prom night. This was a pin-on we made last month with lisianthus, jasmine and seeded eucalyptus:

More pics from this fall here.
Heading upstate now to thrift and hopefully collect some bittersweet and grapevines for wreaths...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Today marked the end of our fall wedding season at Saipua. The (now) newlyweds lucked out with the perfect fall weather, and one of the best venues for a small wedding in Brooklyn - Frankies 457, the one consistently delicious Italian restaurant on Court Street.

The groom requested St. Peters Porter bottles for the table arrangements - last night a few of us worked at emptying 10 bottles of it over several rounds of rummy. (I will admit I lost. Six months ago my card karma went out the window along with my knickname triple ace.)

Here are some photos from today. We mainly used dinner-plate dahlias because they are still stunning (and will be till there is a frost in the North East). Also black queen annes lace - one of my favorite flowers - seeded eucalyptus, and nigella pods. We also found some french anemones (a rarity this early in the fall).

Tomorrow I will do a season wrap up with more details of the late summer/fall events. I'm beat now, and its 7:12 so I'm locking up. Good nite.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Working late tonight to avoid the shop during the heat of the day. The weather round here has been disorienting. Not only has it confused my sense of time (october?) its unleashed a last round of especially vicious mosquitoes. (I'm out of citronella spray Mom.) Each of the past few nights I have woken up at an ungodly hour to that familiarly disturbing buzz - the faint hum of the worst bedroom intruder. In a panic the lights go up and I sit still in bed like a child on a ghost watch.

Perhaps I'll hang a mosquito net and live out my childhood far-eastern princess dreams. FYI: Only female mosquitoes are hematophages.

Tonight I make the labels for saltwater soap, bay rum soap, and, back by popular demand: red currant with lemongrass. We'll call it the scurvy trilogy.

Darla is also on the clock, but not so happy about it. She's come into her own this summer, and like most teenagers wants to spend all her time out and about. Tonight I keep her captive - tonight she will be a lap cat.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Last weekend the boss and I took a few days to go backroading through the sticks of Vermont and New Hampshire. Although this was technically a buying trip for the shop we managed to set aside some time for good eating and sightseeing; not to mention the necessary catching up mom and I accomplished in between destinations.

48 hours went like this:

Kingston; Evening Auction

1. A Mortar & Pestle to grind anything ever grind-able.

2. Set of four depression green juice glasses.

3. An old watering can with the number 10 on it.
(Note: Pansies still on fritz. Transported to Plant Hospital outback for more shade. Possible transplant shock, or the unseasonably hot weather?)


1. Antique quilt with playing card motif on reverse.

Flea market along the way somewhere in CT:
Picked up more glass bottles for the shop and another crocheted potholder for the collection.

Spencer Finch; What Time is it on the Sun We both really enjoyed the site-specific installation CIE 529/418 (candlelight) in which Finch replaced the windows of the gallery with different color panes of glass in order to replicate the exact color of candlelight. People look good in candlelight.

Stopped at
Wookcock Farm to visit with cheese maker Mark Fisher. We sampled his cheeses, most of which are made with milk garnered from his herd of sheep, which I was lucky enough to encounter in the field with the help of a few adorable and unruly sheepdogs. Their Weston Wheel is terrific, but overall the fresh ricotta we brought home was my favorite, best eaten with a spoon right out of the container.

Leaving Woodcock farm in a cloud of dust we boogied down RT. 30 to Dummerston to visit Scott Apple Farm where Zeke Goodband has masted the art of heirloom apples (over 70 varieties). Probably the highlight of the trip for me was meeting Zeke and having him select the best heirlooms for my half-peck goodie bag. At one point he noticed a flawed Orange Cox's Pippin (due to a hailstorm earlier summer) and ran to replace it with a different apple. He's hosting an heirloom sampling this Sunday, October 7th at which you might be able to sample the illustrious Winesap, a deep reddish purple apple which had not been harvested yet when I was there.

Lastly we pillaged a dealers auction on our way home through CT; gaining necessary items such as an old harpsichord, a box of old mason jars,
a set of 6 ceramic 3D fruit and fish plates, and a pair of eerily quiet Scandinavian dioramas. Butter churning is going to be big this fall.

More pictures from our trip here.