Monday, August 29, 2011

Vintage Ladies

This past Tuesday, I had the pleasure of attending a meeting and luncheon of the Vintage Ladies, a very knowledgeable group of women when it comes to antiquities and vintage wares--just like Antiques Road Show only I was there in person. The original Vintage Ladies Antiques interest group was formed about 30 years ago and today, this group has grown from one chapter in Northern Virginia to nine chapters with more than 400 members throughout Virginia and the United States. The chapter meeting I was invited to was at the lovely home of my friend, Linda, right here in Loudoun County and I brought along some lavender aperitifs to share. I think they were a hit with this group of antique aficionados.

The Vintage Ladies meet monthly in members' homes to study antiques. Experts on antiques are often invited speak at their meetings and often the members travel to museums and towns known for their antique shops. They also hold a joint meeting with all chapters biannually. Last Friday, I found out just how dedicated these women are when it comes to sharing a love of antiques and learning as much as they can about their found treasures. Not only that, I was also treated to a particularly lovely lunch in Linda's garden on a late summer afternoon.

After their normal business meeting, I was introduced by Linda as a guest and was invited to talk about my own garden business, here at Blooming Hill. Not exactly antique, however, they seemed genuinely interested to hear about my business before they carried on with talking antiques. The fun really got going when some of the ladies got up to show and tell about some of the items they had recently acquired and told a little bit about the origin of each item and why they were collectible. One woman brought historic, commemorative cups and canisters relating to the British Monarchy through the years while another brought flow blue china and Victorian perfume bottles made from cranberry glass.

One of the members, Janis, brought a nicely preserved Victorian lady's parasol. She talked about the difference between a parasol and an umbrella at that time. Parasols were a sign of a lady's wealth while working class women would carry regular umbrellas because they could not afford the fancier, frillier and more petite versions. Victorian men often bought their sweethearts parasols as displays for their affection.

The meeting ended with a wonderful array of culinary dishes brought by all of the members and guests. I brought a Lemon Loaf Lavandula dessert bread as well as lavender aperitifs for the ladies to sample. Of course, both items were made from Blooming Hill's lavender which I know made them especially tasteful, if I say so for myself.

Anyway, it was a wonderful afternoon spent with wonderful women who were genuinely interested in what I had to say as well. Thank you Vintage Ladies. I hope to see you all again soon.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Spa Treatment

I've been tucked away in my little corner of the house working on none other than...lavender crafts, of course!  Everything from more lavender wands, more lavender pomanders, lavender "kitty-kat" sachets and bundling lavender.  Last week, I decided I needed to give myself a break and come up for air by working on lavender in the kitchen rather than down in the basement.  At least the kitchen offers a window to look out upon the lavender beds for even more lavender inspiration beyond the several dozen or so sewing projects and floral arrangements I'm already working on down in my workroom.

Apparently, the fresh, clean scent of lavender has really gone to my head while also making countless batches of lavender soap.  While in the kitchen I've  taken it a few steps further and delved into the making of two new items to add to my lavender repertoire and they are Lavender Mineral Bath Salts and a truly, beautifully textured English Lavender Bath for the bath. 

The kitchen smelled of lavender fields on a warm spring day somewhere in the heart of the English Countryside...either that or, I was in a hallucinogenic state after a couple of long days spent mixing and blending various exotic salts, oat meal, lavender and essential oils together. Lavender owes it's name to the Latin word, "lavare" - to wash - a reference in it's use in scenting water for bathing so, for me, it seems only fitting to honor this ancient herb by making a few bath items with it and offering them here in the Blooming Hill Shop. 

However, I didn't stop there.  My creative juices were flowing at that point so, I got bolder still and blended sugar, whole vanilla beans and lavender to make Lavender Vanilla Sugar, to sprinkle on everything from berries and pancakes to cereal and a good strong cup of tea.  After a good long soak in the tub, anyone could use a little comfort food, right?  You could say I'm on a lavender high--or maybe even a lavender bender, and I'm loving it!  I am beginning to realize, however, that a little lavender can go a long way, so just a little sprinkled on my cereal and berries is quite enough to give them a full-bodied flavor. That, and I don't want to end up in some 12-step program for lavender over-use...although I think that might be a good thing.

And, to keep things simple, I thought I should also have just plain lavender on hand, down in the shop too.  So, now I have jars filled with just plain lavender, great for culinary use, and I even have it to sell loose, by the scoop, as well.    After all, lavender, in it's purest form is probably one of the prettiest things to behold.  At least I think so, anyway...

So, here I am...enveloped in almost all things lavender, once again. There is an old saying that says something about seeing "the world through rose-colored glasses" which I think refers to feeling happy and being positive all of the time.  I think to enhance that feeling, enveloping yourself in at least some lavender can probably make you feel pretty rosy--in a purple haze sort of way--too.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Tomato Testimony

Growing tomatoes has been a lesson in character building for me through the years. Some years everything goes right and the most beautiful, plump and luscious fruit seem to spring forth out of nowhere ripe for the picking in vivid shades of red. Other years, and, I'll admit for me, mainly most other years, the tomatoes turn into finicky, spoiled little princesses that seem to fret and almost cringe in their very roots over everything from insects, moisture, soil and even sunshine...go figure!

Beyond that, if it's not all of the aforementioned conditions, those darn devil deer eat the plants before the blossoms get a chance to even bloom. Aaarghhhh! Did you know that deer will go to any lengths, even facing a big fearsome guard dog lurking in their path, just to nip off a few tomato leaves, blossoms and stems during the summer even when food is plentiful?!  Okay, it is, after all, Tucker I am talking about here but every deer in the neighborhood simply can't know that Tucker is a big wuss...can they?!

So, you guessed it.  This year, again, seems to be for me, another year of disappointment when it comes to tomato production although I did try to prepared myself this past spring and only planted four tomato plants in anticipation of another season of slim tomato pickings. While two plants, Mr. Stripey and Lemon Boy, went directly into the ground, two plants, Green Zebra (which seems to be a devil deer favorite around here) and Celebrity, went into big pots, cleaned thoroughly and placed at corners of the greenhouse where water, sunshine and even a little shade in the late afternoon to help cool their roots during the hottest of high summer days didn't do much to encourage them to produce healthy, lovely, colorful fruit beyond the stage of pale green.

Yes.  It it's true that I don't go for the tried and true tomato plants like Beefsteak or Big Boy.  I pick out tomato plants like I pick out lavender plants--by their pretty or unusual names--very scientific, I know.  But, it does seem to work where growing lavender is concerned.  Besides, I think Green Zebra and Celebrity sound way better as far as tomato names go than your typical Early Girl or Better Boy.  Apparently, those devil deer think so, too.

At least the Lemon Boy tomato, planted in the ground, has produced a moderate amount of small fruit which has provided a couple of delicious meals of BLT's but I have had to resort to the supermarket for my fair share of tomatoes this summer...sigh. How is it that a tomato plant, one of the easiest and most popular of summer vegetables to grow, has decided to forsake me, once again this year,  I do not know!  But, my hat goes off to you tomato growing wizards out there who somehow have managed to stave off deer and other pestilence. Whether you have just a few plants or an entire farm full of tomatoes, for those like me, who are completely discombobulated when growing these, you are successful and we appreciate you all the more for you tomato growing prowess.

So, I have come to this, making tomatoes to display and enjoy.   My new motto is, "If you can't grow 'em, sew 'em!"  Not bad...not bad indeed! I think they look pretty good, mixed and matched.  Thank goodness lavender is not this hard to grow or I'd be up a creek without a paddle as I wouldn't have a clue as to how to fashion a lavender stem out of fabric!

I keep assuring myself that I am not the only one who has problems with tomatoes, embarrassing as it is. I just seem to have this contentious relationship with one of the great American summer garden icons. But, it won't stop me from trying again next year. Until then, velveteen tomatoes, for me, is the way to go. Do you hear me, devil deer and unpredictable weather conditions?  I will keep on trying and Tucker will be there at my side, doing his part to ward off at least the deer, all of the way.  Heaven help me!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Wedding Blues/Yellows/Greens is Wedding Bliss

Jennifer and Carl surrounded by the wedding party at the rehearsal the night before the wedding.
Azure-tinged hydrangeas, chartreuse-bright chrysanthemums and papery blushed-white and pale yellow roses laced with sapphire delphinium and lemon-colored snap dragons all intricately gathered together were the colors of a summer's wedding day in Chicago this past weekend.  My niece, Jennifer, was married and oh, what a lovely, modern bride she was in her long, white satin gown trimmed in pearls and bugle beads with a sheer yet modest veil to compliment her up-swept blond tresses, clear blue eyes and beautiful smile.

My brother, Bob, and sister-in-law, Joanne, the happy parents of the bride.
Jennifer's bridesmaids, garbed in sapphire satin certainly added to the dazzle of the day and everyone agreed that Jennifer and her mother, Joanne, created a fairytale wedding fit for a modern bride.  Here, the girls stand waiting, at the house, for the limousine to pick them up and take them to the church. Beautiful, bright dresses on a warm summer's day for beautiful, bright young women sparkling in sunshine.  Blue is a powerful color, in its calming nature, so inspirational and sincere.

Then, it was time.  Everyone was ready and it was off to the wedding.  Peter, Kevin and I followed them to the hotel where the nuptials took place.  Although black tuxedos adorned with white or yellow rose boutonnieres were worn by the groom and groomsmen, blue blazers and bow ties were the attire of choice by the Rinek men.

The flowers were elegant yet simple, elaborate yet not overdone in any way imaginable, revealing once again the simple abundance of what mother nature is capable of in the way of wedding bouquets and arrangements, with a little help from a tasteful and talented florist. The traditional bridal flower used especially during Victorian times, blue hydrangeas, be-decked each guests' table offering devotion, understanding and friendship. What lovely sentiments to tie the wedding guests together with the bride and groom as well as their loving parents.

The bride's bouquet was a combination of white and blush-pink roses with tiny sprigs of royal blue delphinium and light green hydrangea peaking out amidst waxy green nandina berries. Their stems were swathed in soft satin. The bouquet represented the pure love and simple happiness that enveloped not only the couple of the hour, but also everyone there who helped celebrate their special day. The bridesmaids' bouquets were just as lovely and complimented Jennifer's perfectly in delicate yellows, soft greens and pearly whites peaking out.

The flower sprays that adorned the bridal platform and bridal tables were just lovely.  In the language of flowers we all know that perfect white roses represent innocent and pure love while blushed-pink roses embellished this meaning with their unconscious beauty. Huge, freckled white Madonna lilies along with blue delphinium conveyed open hearts and ardent attachment for each other.

The entire affair was all about a celebration of family, togetherness and, for me, the beautiful flowers that adorned the entire happy occasion.  From the moment, my sister started pinning boutonnieres onto the groomsmens' lapels to after the reception when my cousin, Bonnie, and I were admiring the hydrangeas and even bringing a few home for momentos, it was a grand affair.  Congratulations to Jennifer and her new husband Carl.