I made these bouquets for hostess/thank you gifts Thursday night to take to my royal wedding watching parties on Friday.
That middle bouquet contains 100 stems, and its delicate scent was transcendent.
How tickled we all were to see Kate get out of the rolls carry a bouquet that seemed to be made all of LOV. According to the official royal wedding blog, the “bouquet is a shield-shaped wired bouquet of myrtle, lily-of-the-valley, sweet William and hyacinth.” Talk about sweet smelling.
It was as sophisticated, elegant and beautiful as Catherine, herself, and overall, we witnessed a wedding for the ages.
Once my own plans fell into place, I began to think about a chapeau. I thought that maybe I would try to concoct a lot of embellishments on a very simple hat form. Then I happened to be in, of all places, SteinMart, and look at this beauty I found.
She was just too fun to pass up in my favorite fuchsia. Can you see the little feathery embellishments popping out of the bow?
I thought that I would combine it with my new favorite dress from Kate Spade (looks like the website is out of it in pink). This dress was my big splurge for the spring and my daughter’s high school graduation. After drooling over it for sometime, I bit the bullet. With a few alterations up top (a common problem for me with dresses), the dress fits great. My hub even complimented it several times on Easter, going so far as to ask where I got it. Let me tell you: that never happens.
To complete my wedding preparations, I will be creating wedding bouquets for my two hostesses. I have been harvesting my lily of the valley patch all week and storing the stems in our garage refrigerator.
That’s over 200 stems of heavenly scent that wafts out every time the door is opened. I read somewhere on-line that the key to keeping these flowers fresh in the fridge is to have no fruits or vegetables in it.
Once the bouquets are finished, I will ready for the wedding. (No problem here getting up at 4 a.m. It’s our regular wake-up time for my son’s swim practice.) I will be avadly watching every detail, especially because I was unable to partake of Diana’s wedding festivities 30 years ago (another story, but I was working at a camp in up-state New York). The best part, though, will be sharing this unforgettable occasion with some of my closest girlfriends.
Cheers to the bride and groom . . . .
All photos by Avad Fan
I am finally going to experience the Picasso Exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts tomorrow. My friend, E, took the initiative to get a group together to experience this world-class exhibit in our fair city. The Exhibit features 176 pieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris. Picasso had retained these creations for himself, and they constitute a retrospective of his best work from each of his famous periods over his long career. The VMFA is the only East Coast stop for this world-wide tour, which will leave Richmond after May 15.
Why does it always seem that Richmond residents rarely experience the treasures in their own backyard? The VMFA is truly a treasure. Last May 1, it opened its doors to a complete transformation.
My daughter and I took advantage of the opening weekend, and we felt like we had entered a carnival in another city, maybe in another county. The main hall and galleries just throbbed with excitement. Surely, I thought, this amazing space would become the center of the Richmond universe.
Almost immediately, though, I forgot about this stimulating locale as I resumed my insular life of driving children, doing laundry, cooking and trying to find time to exercise. Only once since, have I returned and mainly to have lunch in the members’ dining room, the well-reviewed Amuse. As I recall, E also organized that get-together with a like group of friends.
So easily it seems I allow myself to take refuge in my day-to-day routines. Being so cocooned in my little world, though, has over the past few years really felt stifling, almost as if I am suffocating. I have taken some steps to catch my creative breathe, and I need to remember that fresh air is only a few miles away at the Museum. With my membership, I get free parking, admission and access to Amuse, plus discounts to the beautiful gift shop and classes. The sheer size of the Museum’s own collections is astounding, covering what must be every recognized art form throughout human history. The inspiration of the ages is just waiting to be discovered if only I can find the time.
Well tomorrow I will make the time for Picasso. I am avadly looking forward to opening my senses to how he perceived the world. When I view paintings, I love to focus on the individual brushstrokes as much as the piece as a whole. With 176 artworks to view (they aren’t all paintings), I may be there awhile, so I’m heading over before the rest of the group hoping to have the time to just absorb a tiny spark of Picasso’s creativity. I’ll let you know if it happens.
Hope that you have something to Avadly look forward to. . . .
Do you know Rungolee, http://rungolee.com/? It’s a gorgeous clothing line designed by my friend and former Richmond resident, Anjali Kamra. A world traveller originally from India, Anjali creates a limited number of beautifully detailed pieces that have a timeless yet modern feel.
This is Anjali in one of her unique creations. Beautiful herself and talented, Anjali graduated from the New York Fashion Institute of Technology. In 2007 she started this clothing line, named after the colorful medallion pattern that rural Indian women create with chalk, flower petals or colored rice on the ground as a sign of welcome and joy. Anjali finds inspiration for her creations wherever she travels and has her designs manufactured ethically in India with help from people whom she has known her whole life.
Anjali’s designs are truly joyful and make me happy whenever I put one of them on. They never fail to bring me compliments, and I always love to tell people about my Rungolee pieces that I have purchased over the last few years at her Richmond trunk shows.
I have this silky confection as well:
I can’t wait to see Anjali and her new collection for Rungolee at
https://www.st.catherines.org/daisydays?rc=1. Marketplace shopping where Rungolee will have a booth takes place the end of this week:
Thursday, April 28 7-9 p.m. (Girls’ Night Out)
Friday, April 29 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Saturday, April 30 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Stop by and see the collection, and, like me, you will become an Avad Fan of Rungolee and Anjali.
(If you can’t get to Daisy Days, go to the http://rungolee.com/ website to find out about her trunk shows throughout the country and to get on her email list.)
Having only looked at one other issue of the magazine, I did not know whether it would be a quick look or a cover to cover read. Well, I was curled up with it for quite a while. The articles are all about gracious Southern entertaining, and they made me think of my old friends’ mothers when I lived in the deep South.
According to its About page on-line, Southern Lady . . . celebrates, delights, and inspires women who live in the South—and those who are simply Southern at heart. We focus on the joys of heart and home and the art of gracious living. We strive to bring a bit of Southern hospitality into the lives of each and every reader.
As I was enjoying the magazine, I really felt connected to its southernness, and so I decided that I had to make its featured Classic Carrot Cake for our Easter lunch at my friend A’s home. I made a couple of modifications to the frosting recipe (theirs called for cinnamon, and I changed up the proportions of cream cheese and butter because I wanted a whiter color to which I thought I might add some coloring.)
My cake in front of A’s woodland tulip arrangement:
- Easter Cake 2011
The recipe adapted from Southern Lady:
Classic Carrot Cake
1½ cups butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 large eggs, separated
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup whole buttermilk
2 cups shredded carrot
1½ cups finely chopped pecans
1 (8 ½ ounce) can crushed pineapple, well drained
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 3 (9”) cake pans.
2. In a large bowl, combine butter, sugar, and vanilla. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
3. In a small bowl, combine flour baking soda, and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
4. In a large bowl, beat egg whites at high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold beaten egg whites into butter mixture until well combined. Gently stir in carrot, pecans, and pineapple. Spoon batter into prepared pans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely on wire racks.
5. Spread Cream Cheese Frosting evenly between layers and on top and sides of cake.
Cream Cheese Frosting
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
½ cup butter, softened
1½ teaspoons vanilla
8 cups confectioners’ sugar
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and cinnamon at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Makes about 6 cups
Makes 1 (9-inch) cake
all photos by Avad Fan
Topiary bunny from The Greenhouse II, 5615 Patterson Avenue, Richmond, VA 23226, with colored eggs. Can you guess which ones are natural?
Four dozen charming tulips from, of all places, BJ’s.
Finally, a lily of the valley bouquet hand-picked and hand-tied by me. Hope you enjoy their fragrance, A. Thanks so much for another perfect Easter lunch.
Hope your Easter has been just as beautiful!
all photos by avad fan
Many of my 40-something friends are not blog junkies, or even followers, like I am, so I thought that I would use my Saturday posts to introduce you to some of the creative talents out there in a blogland who regularly put a smile on my face.
I am sure that many bloggers would agree that one of the best voices blogging is Maria Killiam of Colour Me Happy (http://colourmehappyblog.blogspot.com/). Just the name of her blog makes me happy. If you wonder about the spelling of Colour, she’s Canadian from Vancouver.
Without exception, an email post from Colour Me Happy is a welcome addition to my Inbox. Maria’s blog is a visual beauty. She combs the web looking for gorgeous pictures to illustrate her subject matter. As an interior designer, Maria is considered a design blogger, and the majority of her posts focus on design and color. She has spent many years turning herself into a color consultant, a profession that I daresay she helped create or at least legitimize. She now holds workshops around the continent teaching the color lessons that she has learned. One of the on-going lessons that she tries to teach her readers and students is the difference between clean and muddy colors. With her guidance, it seems so obvious, but you rarely hear anyone discuss colors in those terms. I can now better express my color preferences thanks to this blog.
While Maria writes a design blog, she provides so much more than design advise. She shares stories of her successes and failures, both professional and personal, with honesty and tact. She opens up about her creative process and what helped her find her voice. Through Maria’s links, I found The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, www.theartistsway.com and began writing my own morning pages and taking an occasional art class. These creative outlets, along with Maria’s blogging advice, eventually led to my creating this blog.
I am such an admirer of Maria, who is as beautiful as her blog, and I am not the only one. She has been listed on my best blog lists and had her blog featured in many publications, including the Washington Post. Take a look at http://colourmehappyblog.blogspot.com/ You too will become an avad fan.
One of the best things about coming home from a spring trip is discovering what has sprung up in the garden in my absence. In a mere three days away, look at the delights that blossomed.
Guess what is in full bloom?
My lily of the valley patch! It may be hard to tell that the pips have popped, but trust me, these little babies pack a punch. Even in a small bouquet, their scent is intoxicating.
I was reading just last night in fine Gardening magazine, http://www.finegardening.com/pages/, that some people in some parts of the country consider lily of the valley to be invasive. Are they crazy? One stem of this magnificent miniature can go for $10/stem wholesale ( e.g. www.fiftyflowers.com/product/Lily-of-the-Valley-Flower_8.htm.) Nothing that costs so much nor smells so good should ever be called “invasive”. I hope to show more of these diminuitive beauties tomorrow.
Finally, my pink azaleas have burst open. Being a pink girl, I love having these pretties among my many white blossoms. It is always a relief to see azaleas flowering in my yard because the herds of neighboring deer spend much of the winter and early spring feasting on them.
all pictures taken by Avad Fan
Rivah (‘riv-â), n. [der. river]: 1. the lands and waters of the Northern Neck & Middle Peninsula of Virginia, particularly favored by urban dwellers for spring, summer & fall escapes. 2. a region in these peninsulas bound by the Chesapeake Bay.
For many residents of Central and Eastern Virginia, going to the “Rivah” is just what you do on the weekends, but not everyone can go. Unless your budget allows for regular stays at the beautiful Tides Inn, you can only go to the Rivah by property deed or by invitation.
Though a property deed to the Rivah will not happen in my lifetime, I am fortunate to have a few friends with such deeds who kindly extend invitations from time to time. As I am an Avad Fan of the Rivah lifestyle, I joyously accept these kind invitations. My daughter and I are the recipients of such a lovely invitation from one of our closest friends and are currently enjoying a very relaxing couple of days looking at the broad waters of the Rappahannock River out toward the magnificent Chesapeake Bay.
We can’t live on views alone, and it’s still a little too brisk to be out on the water, so yesterday we had to go in search of food. Because the Rivah is dotted with small towns breaking up great stretches of farms and large residential tracts, finding good food can be an adventure in itself. We had two such culinary adventures yesterday.
While our hostess was waiting for the landscape guy, I took the kids on the first one. One of the benefits of life at the Rivah is that the fast-food conglomerates have by and large left this landscape untouched, so the best way to find good and affordable lunch spots is to follow the local workers. Fortunately we had gotten a tip and beat most of the lunch crowd to Rocket Billy’s (851 Rappahannock Drive, White Stone, VA 22578).
Rarely do I have the opportunity to eat trailer food, but this place was memorable. From our order-taker to the car-side delivery, the experience was as classy as anyone will ever find in the parking lot of a lumberyard. The food was made to order while you wait, and I was thrilled to find that it is soft-shell crab season. While I generally prefer my soft-shells sauteed, this baby was lightly fried in a batter that did not hide the acquired taste of the crab.
My daughter’s crabcake sandwich was actually made of crab and not a bunch of filler. You never know what you are going to get in a crabcake, so this was a pleasant surprise. Her fries were seasoned with Old Bay (perfect!), and our friend’s onion rings were as lightly fried as the soft-shell. All in all, lunch from Rocket Billy’s was a culinary delight.
Just as improbable as our tasty lunchtime find was our satisfying dinner at the local bowling alley. Our friends had been telling us about this local favorite for quite sometime, so I had been looking forward to this culinary adventure. The Fusion Coastal Grill at the Kilmarnock Entertainment Center (16 Town Centre Drive Post Office Box 2100 Kilmarnock, Virginia 22482 804-435PLAY (7529) ) did not disappoint. Nicer than your typical bowling alley, this was a perfect spot for dinner. The wine selection was limited, but the house Merlot hit the spot. My hostess and I both had to try the most unique sounding item on the menu: the Kilmarock Quesadilla. Made with backfin crab, shrimp, Old Bay and cheddar, this unusual combination was delish, especially dipped in the salsa and sour cream.
I’m an Avad Fan of adventure, especially when it’s yummy. It’s at least half the fun of getting away. These two culinary adventures at the Rivah just go to prove that fine dining can be found at the most unlikely places. Hope you have an adventure today!
I am writing this as I am watching the sun come up over the Chesapeake Bay. It’s going to be a glorious day here at the “Rivah”. Hard to believe that only a few days ago Mother Nature unleashed her fury near here as part of that terrible system that devastated North Carolina and other parts of the country.
My host lost a tree either to the tip of a tornado or lightning. Somehow the tree ended up wedged tightly between 6 trees and nowhere near in line with its stump. I find it very hard to comprehend the strength it takes to wreck such havoc.
As we were going to be arriving late afternoon yesterday, I wanted to have dinner ready to go for our hosts. That turned out to be a good idea, too, as we spent a lot of time after I arrived surveying the damage. Yesterday morning, I made one of my very favorite warm weather meals, Chicken Tortellini Salad, to bring along.
Chicken Tortellini Salad
• 1/2 lb. green beans, trimmed, cut into 2″ pieces (I prefer haricots vert)
• 9 oz. pkg. refrigerated cheese tortellini
• 2 cups cooked chopped chicken
• 1/2 cup minced red onion
• 1 cup grape tomatoes
• 1 cup balsamic vinaigrette (I use Kraft’s Zesty Italian packet made up with balsamic vinegar)
• 1 cup Havarti cheese cubes
• 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Bring water to a boil in a heavy stockpot. Add tortellini and cook for recommended time to al dente, adding beans for approximately the last 5 minutes of pasta cooking time. Drain well. Combine in a large bowl with remaining ingredients and toss gently to coat.
Now how easy is that? It does take some chopping time, but some of it can be done in advance. I have finally discovered how much better life can be in the kitchen with a truly sharp knife: chopping is faster and accidents happen less frequently. My prep time for this recipe is faster than ever. Hope you can tell why I am such an Avad Fan of this recipe.
My son, the serious athlete, specifically requests this cake that I have tried to make as healthy as possible. I did several trial runs of it before I first used it for a surprise purple birthday party for my friend K, and he was the beneficiary of the attempts. I had never cooked with coconut milk, and I was also trying to find a frosting that wasn’t too sweet. My friends went nuts over this:
I made it again for my book club, changing up the colors a bit.
(Sorry about the bad lighting. I am no food stylist, but I’m working on it.)
Yesterday I made it sans frosting for my son who will claim that I am abandoning him when I take off with my daughter for her spring break adventure. I am such a soft touch when it comes to him. He will be fine with his father, but they are not too handy in the kitchen. I’ve been working hard to leave them sustenance. I spent a small fortune at the grocery store the other day just to be sure they wouldn’t run out of anything.
Here’s the latest cake and the recipe that I’ve adapted from epicurious.com and allrecipes.com.
Coconut Pecan Bundt Cake with Double Cream Frosting
3 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/2 cups sugar
6 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
2 cups (packed) sweetened flaked coconut (about 7 ounces)
1 cup finely chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Butter and flour (I use Baker’s Joy) 12-cup Bundt pan. Stir 3 cups cake flour and salt in medium bowl to blend. Beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually add 2 1/2 cups sugar, beating until well blended. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, then both extracts. Beat in flour mixture in 4 additions alternating with coconut milk in 3 additions. Fold in flaked coconut and pecans. Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top.
Bake cake until top is golden brown and tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 1 hour 20 minutes. Cool cake in pan 5 minutes. Turn cake out onto rack; cool completely, then frost.
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
2 cups heavy cream
Combine the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla extract and coconut extract in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on medium speed until smooth. While the mixture is still whipping, slowly pour in the heavy cream. Add in food coloring to desired color. (I like the Wilton Icing Color jars.) Stop and scrape the bottom of the bowl a couple of times and continue whipping until the cream can hold a stiff peak (it takes a while to thicken up; a stand mixer really helps.)
For my Avad Fans, I will probably make it for Easter Brunch as well with a pink icing and mixed pastel flowers.
What a fabulous week for touring gardens in Central Virginia! Spring flowers seemed to arrive so early this year that I thought the azalea and dogwood blooms might have been spent before this annual rite began. Always in control, Mother Nature will be putting on another glorious show.
The host families for this week have been hard at work for the past year to have their homes in tip-top shape for the touring public. Buses arrive from all over the region with mature women in their walking shoes ready to be wowed by what these homeowners and their designers, as well as the local garden clubs, have created for their delight. Knowing some of these hosts, the visitors will not be disappointed. For more information about Garden Week, visit http://www.vagardenweek.org/.
Touring gardens this week is not in the cards for me. My daughter is on spring break, and we have our own fun waiting. That doesn’t mean I’m not thinking spring gardens, though. I made my annual spring tour of the local nurseries last week planning my pots for this year. Those places can be so overwhelming with all the beautiful blossoms. I have to exert all of my willpower not to buy one of everything. While I am slowly gathering what I need for my 16 pots, I took the time yesterday to create this hostess gift that I will jazz up with some Easter decorations.
After creating this pretty, I toured my yard enjoying Mother Nature’s bounty and the remnants of the previous owner’s handiwork. My very favorite gift from her is the shady patch of lilies of the valley. Here are the first blossoms of the season.
Even just a couple of stalks can make the house smell divine. My floral designer friend, A, goes nuts over my patch. She tells me they run $10 a stem wholesale. I don’t sell them, though. I love to make little arrangements to give as gifts with little vases that I find just for that purpose.
While daydreaming about my very favorite peonies soon blooming, I heard a rustle and had to investigate. Talk about a gift from Mother Nature. Better not use these for an Easter Egg hunt;-)
Can you tell that I’m an AVad Fan of Spring? Happy Garden Week this Holy Week!
all pictures from my garden
David Blaine ( http://davidblaine.com/) entertained a full house last night at the Richmond Forum (www.richmondforum.org/). He is fantastic! A true endurance artist, he shared his passion for pushing the boundaries of what skeptics and doctors believe is possible for a human to accomplish. Humble and honest, he had me on the edge of my seat the entire evening.
(photo by avadf)
At the pre-Forum dinner, Blaine visited many of the tables performing card tricks, which were his first tools of performance. He absolutely astonished our table with these feats of prestidigitation (as Hub likes to call it). Here our friend C is writing her name on a card that Blaine proceeded to make the star of our private show. We literally saw it move to the top of the deck at one point. Absolutely fascinating and mind-boggling.
He opened the Forum underwater in a 4′ square box where he stayed for over 8 minutes. He smoked a cigar, drank some wine and played with 2 goldfish while he was submerged. This feat is apparently bound for a stage show that he is in the process of creating.
During the question and answer second half of the evening, he proceeded to eat a glass after being persuaded by the audience to show us what he had done before 7 former Soviet republic presidents. This was the bloody portion of the show as he cut his lip with the stunt, but the audience loved it. He’s a calculated risk-taker who is also working on a way to cross the Atlantic in a bottle. So many obstacles to it, but I’ve no doubt he will accomplish this. Blaine truly inspires not only with how his mind creates these ideas that he then trains his body to accomplish but also by how he lives doing what he loves.
I am now an AVad Fan of David Blaine.
My first blog post on this rainy April Saturday that was made for a fresh start. I am inspired by my friend K’s photo of these irises taken from her garden yesterday. Aren’t they fabulous! The rhizomes originally came from her paternal grandmother’s yard. To me, they just sing of spring and the hope that fills the air this time of year (along with the pollen;-)).
I plan to use this blog to highlight the things and ideas that I find to be fine, fabulous or otherwise fantastic! I love my family, friends, flowers, design, good food. books and exploring the world beyond my home. I hope that we will have fun together as I navigate through this blogging world. Thanks for visiting this AVad Fan!