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Spring Flower Arranging Tips

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Does all of this Spring warm weather have you wanting to brighten up your space by bringing the outdoors in? One of the quickest — and fragrant — ways to bring some Spring into your home or workspace is with flowers.  Some tips to make the most of your blooms:

Pick your flowers. We are just about to enter peak time in terms of choices of flowers, from tulips, daffodils and hyacinths to lilacs and dogwoods, the spring is a time of renewal for plants. Farmers markets are a great — and sustainable — place to pick up some in season blossoms. With these seasonal blooms, it’s some times nice to get a bunch and have a single flowers arrangement — think of a low vase overflowing with lilacs or a tall vase filled with colorful tulips.

Pick your containers. Will your flowers look best in a tall or short vase? And don’t just think of traditional vases when you are deciding how to arrange and display your flowers. A glass milk bottle is great for flowers, or even a beer or soda bottle for some tall arrangements, like a few Gerber daisies or some just picked wildflowers. A tin bucket is a rustic way to show off an abundant bouquet. And don’t forget your Annieglass — short blossoms floating in a bowl can be absolutely gorgeous, especially on the dinner table.

Think in odd numbers. Group flowers in groups of 3s, 5s, 7s, or 11s. Odd numbers in groupings are often more pleasing to the eye.

Select a variety of texture and heights. If you are not going to using a single type of flower for your arrangements,  have fun  with mixing and matching.  Think about when you decorate a room or your table or even get dressed, what colors and styles do you love together? Start by placing the more structural flowers first in the middle and then build your arrangement out from there. Then go back and add filler flowers and greens to the arrangement to add interest and fill any bald spots.

Take the odd ones out. If you are buying — or the recipient of — a predesigned bouquet, don’t be afraid to do some rearranging to suit your style. You can make a formal bouquet more casual, or a casual arrangement more formal. Also don’t be put off by any flowers you don’t like — if you see a great looking bouquet of roses in a florist or grocery store, but it has carnations, daisies, babies breath, insert the name of your floral pet peeve here, remember you can take those flowers out of the arrangement and repurpose them. You may not like the way carnations or daisies look in a formal arrangement, but if you pull them out you may like them in a small vase of their own, to brighten up your desk or powder room or some other unexpected place.

Florist’s secrets. Use rubber bands, floral tape — or even plain transparent tape from your desk— to nudge your flowers into your desired shape. If your vase is clear you can veil the stems by wrapping a large leaf around the interior of the vase.

What to do with a drooping orchid.

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My Other Home in Hawaii

I can never get to Kauai often enough. I have a vacation home there, called the Bird’s Nest, and try to go as often as we can. Now its beauty has been brought to everyone in the movie The Descendents.

I was there a year ago when they were filming in in my little home away from home, Hanalei. From my hula class, I could see a long caravan of rented trucks pulling up outside the green church. They took over the entire town for several days and filmed MY beach (Hanalei), MY town (same), MY neighbors (nearly everyone in the bar scene) in MY bar (Tahiti Nui, which is called Tiki’s in the movie).

I did get a fair amount of teasing, as I was straining to look for George Clooney at every opportunity. I heard he liked to play basketball at the green church outdoor court but I never saw him! Here is a great story about it and the other movies made on Kauai. http://photos.mercurynews.com/2012/02/travel-kauais-starring-role-in-the-descendants/5221/ You can see my home away from home here:
http://www.vrbo.com/307489

The outdoor shower at the Bird's Nest

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Snacks for the Critic’s Choice Awards — Sweet and Spicy Nut Recipe

Awards season has started, giving us lots of opportunities to hunker down on the couch and watch both the red carpet and the awards ceremonies. For me the best show and my biggest party is the Oscars, but tonight is the Critics Choice Awards, so some snacks are in order. As we are just easing into awards season, tonight it’s about just a few lovely things to nibble on while watching. Some fruit and some nice cheeses plated on gold-rimmed plates and platters from Annieglass Roman Gold and Platinum collection for a dash of elegance. And some of these nuts, which are a great fall/winter snack to have on hand.  They are so easy to make but always turn out great and are sort of addictive.

 

 

Sweet and Spicy Nut Mix Recipe

Simply spread 4 cups of either just plain pecans or mixed nuts on a baking sheet and toast in a 250 degree oven until they are fragrant. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Put the toasted nuts in a mixing bowl with 1/2 cup of maple syrup, 3 tablespoons of butter, 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, a pinch of sea salt and a generous grind of black pepper. Toss all of this with one egg white which will make them crispy. Spread the nut mixture on the prepared baking sheets and pop them in the oven for about 40 minutes. Let them cool and then break up any clumps and serve. If you have any leftovers, you can save them in an airtight container for about a week.

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Cooking at Home

I’ve been thinking about — and doing — a  lot of cooking lately. Part of it is the season, winter always means comfort foods and afternoons spent in the kitchen. I’ve also just read a great book about a cooking school — The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister. It’s a story about a chef, her student and the lessons that they learn both about food and life.  The class meets once a month and each of the students learn more than recipes as they find their lives are transformed by the aromas, flavors, and textures of what they create.

It’s got me thinking about taking time to do things. Last week I made pasta again, this time I used my mother’s vintage pasta machine — it looks like a piece of an airplane! I had some friends who are interior designers and while I cooked they helped me come up with ways to redesign my kitchen. I think I’m going to be spending more time there!

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Friday Night Movies at Home — and Some Popcorn Recipes

After all the craziness and parties of the holiday season, the start of the new year is a good chance to do some nesting and have a movie night at home. Whether it’s a family night with the kids, a chick flick with the girls, or a romantic comedy for two, a night in front of the screen is sometimes exactly what you need. Serve up some big bowls of popcorn. And while salt and butter is always an excellent topping, popcorn is incredibly versatile. Consider these toppings:

Pesto: Sprinkle dried basil and grated Parmesan cheese over buttered popcorn.

Chile Margarita: Add lime juice, a teaspoon of tequila and some finely minced jalapeno peppers to your butter before you toss.

Rosemary: Add 2 sprigs of roughly chopped rosemary to your oil before you begin  popping your corn for an herbal infusion.

Cheddar Cheese: Mix 1/4 cup cheddar cheese powder, a pinch of mustard powder, and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper with melted butter and popcorn.

Lemon: Add some lemon juice to your melted butter and toss the popcorn with zest of one lemon.

Pumpkin Spice: Mix 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin spice mix and 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat until all melted and mixed. Pour over popcorn.

Bacon Cheese: Pour 1/3 cup butter over popcorn and then toss with 1/3 cup crumbled bacon and 1/3 cup grated cheese.

Mediterranean: Skip the butter and toss popcorn with olive oil, grated Parmesan cheese and some Italian seasoning blend.

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