Monday, April 25, 2011

012: Easter Eggs

Happy Easter!!!  This week's WFT is something that I haven't done yet; Making my own vase.  It's not that I made a pottery or glassware.  I just used some usual object to make a temporary vase for the arrangement.  Because it was Easter weekend, I made some brownies and reused egg shells for the vase.  It was fairly easy to make.  You just need to know what to cook with the inside because you don't want to throw all of the edible stuff away. 

Here's how you make it.  Prepare half a dozen raw eggs.  Hammer the top gently with a spoon to crack just enough to take egg white and yolk out of the shell.  Wash and dry them thoroughly.  Put them together with a hot glue gun however you like, but the tip is to have three points hitting on the table so that it will balance by itself.  Now you can poor water into each egg and put some flowers in them. 
Since this "vase" is pretty small, I didn't need too many flowers.  I found a flower called Scabiosa (aka Pincushion Flower) at the florist.  It's a light purple flower with a lot of petals that are placed radially.  It is native in Europe and Asia.  I purchased two stems of it and a stem of green Hypericum berries.  Even though the vase is very small, I needed a few more materials, so I decided to add some leftover Ivy from last week and some Pansies from my "garden" that are blooming right now.  Having some flowers or greens in your yard is very handy when you make a small arrangement like this.  Since the main flower this time looks very wild, the supporting flowers don't need to be very "commercial" like store bought flowers.  So I put Scabiosas in the middle to make a highest point and Pansies on both sides that were lower than the center.  Then I added greens pretty much in each egg to create smooth transition between these two types of flowers.   I made this arrangement on a long ceramic saucer with some Spanish moss under the eggs to give them extra sturdiness. 

I started to like this type of "wild" garden type arrangement.  It's very challenging to make it look real and effortless but I now respect the natural forms that living objects take on much more than I did before.

Monday, April 18, 2011

011: Baby Shower

I need to apologize that this week's WFT is waaaaay over budget...  That's because I had the privilege to be a co-host of my dear friend's baby shower.  There were four of us hosting this shower and I got to take the decoration part of it:)  My idea was to bring spring elements with an earthy feel into the decor for the new arrival.  I made three major pieces; Crane Chandelier, Ivy Wreath and Landscape Centerpiece.

The Crane Chandelier idea was created with a series accidents.  I knew that I wanted to use Cherry branches that I saw at Cristine Noelle Design when I went in for the first time.  One of the co-hosts mentioned that her mom made a garland of baby t-shirts and socks for her baby shower and I was going to incorporate that into my branch chandelier.  When I went to the florist to pick up some of the branches, I realized that they weren't structurally sound enough to hang clothes, so that idea went down the drain.  Then my husband came up with an idea of hanging some origami cranes, which are super light.  That was brilliant!  That's something that I can create with my eyes closed (literally) and super airy looking as I was envisioning.  So here are some pics of the final product and additional branches with one crane that I put in a vase at the entry.  The straw-looking ribbon that I purchased for the last week's WFT came in handy to hang the entire chandelier from the ceiling to accentuate the natural look that I was going for.
The wreath and the centerpiece were sort of twins.  They needed to be cohesive to tie the entire decor together.  I don't know why I wanted ivy so much for the wreath from the beginning but I wanted them to look like a scene from Hansel and Gretel, so that was my inspiration for both of these pieces.  Since the baby is going to be a boy, I thought Muscari is appropriate for the main flower for the centerpiece.  I had been looking all over the city for potted Muscari for the past week but couldn't find one anywhere.  So while I was at the florist to pick up the branches, I asked if they could get me two pots of Muscari along with a pot of white Ranunculus, freshly cut Ivy vines for the wreath and some "sheet moss".  I was so happy that I could order everything at one place and didn't need to worry about running all over the city.  But things don't usually go as you planned, right?  They couldn't get the white Rananculus but got me Muscari, Ivy and "sheet moss".  When I went to pick them up the day before the party, I found out that the Muscari that they got me was way too young and I couldn't see its blue color at all.  I felt really bad but I needed to ask them to take them back as well and grabbed the rest of the items.  My mind went blank when I realized that I pretty much didn't have anything at this point.  So I basically ran around the city trying to find something I could use and luckily I found a white Rananculus and a blue Hyacinth for a substitute to Muscari at a hardware store.  I went back home and was going to start making the centerpiece.  Then I realized that the "sheet moss" was literally moss that was adhered to a sheet.  What I thought "sheet moss" was natural moss that I got for my "Moss Ball" project that comes "like" a sheet, not literally on a sheet...  Great.  Now I had to bring that back as well.  I felt really sorry for the florist, who tried their hardest to satisfy my request but I only kept the Ivy from the whole bunch.  Trust me, if it was for myself, I would have worked around with what I got but it's totally different when you make something for someone else.  Anyhow, long story short, I got all the materials I need including live moss from the florist when I returned the "sheet moss".  And this was about 4 hours until the party.  Then I put everything together super fast.  For both of the pieces, I added natural moss with some edible mushrooms from a grocery store.  They made them very earthy!  The good thing was that I had a vision of what these two pieces should look like, so it went very smoothly except that my son picked up some dirt off the floor and ate it!!  I had to shove a  wet paper towel into his mouth and clean it.  It was a very memorable moment to realize that I am truly the mother of a boy. 

The party went very well.  I'm happy that the mother-to-be seemed to like everything.  Other hosts did an awesome job cooking yummy food and baking a delicious desert.  It was a great learning experience for how to decorate a party with flowers.  I was exhausted afterwords but it's so worth seeing my friend enjoying it:) 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

010: Naturalism

Since I went to see cherry blossoms this past weekend, I planned to do something with branches for this week's WFT.  It was quite interesting how this idea popped up because the TV show that I started watching last week, "Super Flower Lesson", was about a bouquet with branches this week.  I didn't know about it at all and I even was going to do WFT before the show, but I decided to watch it just in case I might be able to learn more technical tips or to get other ideas from it.  But what an odd coincidence!!  It just happened to show how to arrange a garden style bouquet and the main thing about it was to add some branches in the bouquet to make it look more natural.  Apparently, naturalism is now a popular thing in the Paris flower scene.  Adding branches and other natural elements like berries are the key.  Also keeping the stems long and tying them with natural materials like vines or straw is very hip.  So I decided to give this a shot.

When I went to the flower shop, the person recommended me to try some large Tulips that are a very gentle pinkish orange color.  So I was all for them.  Then there was a gorgeous red Garden Rose in the cooler and I was going to get it but the color was a bit too bold next to the Tulips.  So I took that back and instead, I got two Calla Leaves that had an orange tint in the middle. And of course, I got a couple of Willow branches.  I was quite happy with what I got so far but after I left the florist, I thought that more "natural" elements could be added.  So while I was at the grocery store, I looked for some more natural looking greens.  Man, their flowers are so pricey...  Well, that's because they don't sell them individually.  Anyhow, I quickly gave up on getting additional items at their flower section.  In stead, I found a bunch of Dills and some orange Habanero Peppers in the produce section and decided to use them.  Dills look pretty much like Cosmos leaves and I knew they'd fit in the "garden" bouquet theme.  Peppers might have been a little bit of a stretch, but I needed some more pop in the bouquet.  So I took a risk and got them. 
 It was a bit harder to arrange because Dills are not flowers and are very flimsy.  But I managed to put them together after 5 attempts!  From the TV show I learned what's called the "Spiral Technique" that you put flowers diagonally and making them a spiral.  If you are right handed, you hold the flowers on your left hand and put flower closer to you and stem away from you.  This was much harder than I thought.  In the middle of doing it, I was confused if I was right handed or left handed...  Because I realized that I always used to changed hands when I made a bouquet.  Also, I sometimes do things left handed like snow boarding or backwards skating.  So I tried both and still don't know which one I'm good at!  Finally I became satisfied with how it looked and was able to tie the stems with straw ribbons I got from Paper Source, another great store down the street from my home.  To make it a Parisian bouquet is to wrap the ribbon wide and cut it very short to minimize distraction to keep the main attraction still be the flowers, not the ribbon.

When my husband came home and saw the new bouquet on the dining table, he LOVED it!  He totally got the theme right away, and that means this was a huge success!!!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

WFT Extra 007: Cherry Blossoms

For people in Japan, April is one of the most important months of the year.  It's the celebration of a new period.  Our fiscal year, school year and even employment start in April with the addition of mother nature: Cherry blossoms.

It has been quite hard missing this season for almost 10 years by being in the US.  My husband and I used to go to Brooklyn Botanic Garden every year for their cherry festival when we lived in NY.  It was very fun and the blossoms were beautiful there.  But their cherry trees are mostly "Yae-zakura", which blooms a bit later than "Yoshino" (spicy); the most common one in Japan.  "Yae-zakura" actually looks a lot bigger with more layers of petals than "Yoshino".  So for me, the blossoms in Brooklyn weren't quite the same as what I used to enjoy seeing in Japan.  But this year, we were lucky enough to enjoy them here in the States!  This weekend, we went visit Washington DC, the most famous cherry blossom site outside of Japan. 

We got a piece of last minute information from my husband's uncle who lives in Virginia as to where to see the blossoms.  The place is a subdivision called Kenwood in Bethesda, MD by Kenwood Country Club.  It's not so big of a subdivision but it's very historical.  The developer focused on landscaping of the area and planted trees way before the first house was built (click here for the detail story about the area). 

The weather was not as nice as the day before but at lease it wasn't raining yet.  When we got there, I couldn't believe what I was seeing.  Each street was like a tunnel made of beautiful cherry blossoms and this was EXACTLY how I remembered one street by my grammar school.  And the timing was so perfect that the blossoms were almost toward the end and when the wind blew, there was a phenomenon similar to a snow of petals coming down from all of the trees.  It reminded me of my favorite line from the beginning of The Tales of Heike, "The proud do not endure, they are like a dream on a spring night; the mighty fall at last, they are as dust before the wind."  This scenery was literally dream-like, as my husband said, and we enjoyed every second of it.  We both  envy people who are able to live in this area.  The important thing to remember, though, is that it doesn't last forever.  This short period of time of the year makes it so special.  If you have a chance, I highly recommend everybody go see it next year (but please remember to be respectful to the residences)! 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

009: Mini Bouquet Haute Couture

I was watching the Japanese TV channel at home on Monday afternoon playing with my son not knowing there was a new show starting.  It was called "Super Flower Lesson".  I could not believe what I was watching.  It's a show about flower arrangement taught by a famous French floral designer, Catherine Muller!!!  I kind of ignored my son and was staring at the TV for 25 minutes... This was exactly what I was looking for.  Anyhow, it showed who she was, her short bio, how she showcased her design in the grand lobby of The Paris Opera House for a charity event, etc.  It was so inspiring. Then, the program showed a lesson of how to create her signature piece "Bouquet Haute Couture".  It's a bouquet that she presented 10 years ago that made her famous.  It is a spherical bouquet of Calla Lilies, Christmas Roses and Anemone that keeps a long stem with some green Orchid cascading down even onto the bottom of the stem.  It was so nice to see an real floral designer showing how to do certain techniques, which I never knew.

So this week, I decided to make my own take of "Bouquet Haute Couture" with my $10 budget.  That was a real challenge.  I went to Fleur de Lis to see what they had this week.  They showed me hot pink Carnations first.  They were quite beautiful but I wanted to stick with materials that Catherine used in the show, so I asked how much the Callas were, which turned out to be a mistake...   They were $9 a stem!  I'm used to the grocery store price and didn't know how drastically the price can change.  So the whole Calla based bouquet idea was gone.  They showed me other interesting flowers that I was interested in but it was getting farther and farther away from what I was originally intending on doing.  So I started over again and decided to get the Carnations they recommended.  They were $1 a stem.  I got seven of those, a Tea Leaf and some Lily Grass.  I got a Tea Leaf so that I could wrap it on the stem to thicken it and Lily Leaves were the substitute of Ivy vines that Catherine used to tie the stems.

Luckily (;p) when I came back from the shop, my son was sleeping like a champ in the stroller, so I left him in it and started working on the bouquet.  I think with the small amount of flowers, I did pretty well on making them round and puffy.  The problems came after that.  Obviously, the Tea Leaf was way too big compared to the size of my bouquet, so I needed to split into two pieces to be able to wrap it around the stem.  Then I added the last flower at the bottom of the stem.  Then, the last thing was the Lily Grass...  I tried and tried to fasten the stem with them like the original one was with Ivy.  But I failed so badly.  Well, sometimes it just won't work.  I felt difficulties of working with live objects so much.  But I managed to put the grass in a glass vase and made them look like ballet shoes ribbons like she mentioned in the show.

It's probably better to have a bit higher budget to make a bouquet, but I really enjoyed it.  And most importantly, I learned a lot!!!