Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Thoughts on resolutions.......

Personally, I advocate resolutions.

The promise of a new year makes all things possible. Objective inventory of one's attitudes, abilities, unused talents, desires for improvement and even forgiveness leads to personal growth.

This year, I am going to take more time for myself, time for regular exercise, time to serve others, time to write thank you notes, time to express and note gratitude. Time to praise other's accomplishments and seek for good in all things and all places. As my darling Mother ages, I want to take more time to learn from her, and honor her. And, as much as my dear husband, Fred, serves and helps me----I want to emulate him and serve him.

Noting these goals will help me keep tabs on my progress and make them measurable.

What are your resolutions? I'd love to hear them.

Here's to a great new year of style and personal growth. Welcome, 2009. Come right in.

Christmas Farewell

Having been away for the Holidays in the Rocky Mountains, I returned to find a rather bleak and baron sight at Black-eyed Susan. The trees are bare, some gone altogether. The lovely glitter from frosty glass ornaments is fading away, no more extra large sugar pine cones, and instead of reunions of Santas grouped about, several lonely ones can be found set in odd places by shoppers who have decided not to take them home. The glamour that we have lived with for the past three months is diminished to a hidden treasure, here and there, found by myself as I walk through the store taking an emotional inventory of the Season.

That being said, it's been a good season. Thanks to our darling customers who come in time and time again for "one more icicle" or "another three yards of green satin ribbon", we've come to another year end with success.

On the way home from Salt Lake City, I found this quote in the December Sky magazine . I like it.

December IS........
.....a month of feasting, a month of tenderness toward
family, a month of generosity toward friends and colleagues.
December is a month of harmony in holiday songs listened
to and even sung, a month of peace and prayers for it, a
month lit with both candles and inspiration.

So while the fabulous style of the Season is gone, the warm thoughts and lingering memories of glad tidings and joy are still here for the taking. Happy New Year, dear friends.

......and there's a lot more style coming in the next few weeks. Come see the magic.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Yes, I said "day off"!

A few days ago, I announced to my office staff that I intended to take a day off. "Don't book any appointments! I'm taking the day off."
I had the day planned. It didn't include a leisurely morning, up late. It didn't include a matinee. It didn't include any shopping. No lounging. No napping. I think I took a lunch break....
The day was the perfect day for lighting a fire, baking up a storm and listening to my favorite Christmas CDs. We had a beautiful snowstorm that created a Christmasy atmosphere and set the stage for a day with the oven to be well used, my Bosch mixer to be constantly in use, multiple cups of Candy Cane Lane herbal tea--pretty much pure joy! I love staying home. It's a rare pleasure and while I didn't sit down once all day (and well into the night!), I had a great, productive "day off" resulting in the following:

18 mini loaves of cinnamon bread
3 large loaves of raisin bread
a triple batch of my friend Shannon's homemade granola (fabulous!)
1 super good chocolate cheesecake with chocolate ganache glaze
16 "gifts of love" selected from my personal favorite belongings and wrapped

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed myself, didn't check email messages once all day and didn't speak with a single client!
I thought you might enjoy the photo documentation of the day.
Bright eyed and looking forward to a productive day!
My Mother's recipe for our family's favorite sweet roll dough--you can make cinnamon bread, sweet rolls, caramel pecan rolls or any number of other breads requiring a sweet dough. Yum!!
I started out the morning with the first batch of cinnamon bread. I opted to mix up two different batches because it can be stressful trying to roll out, fill and shape 18 loaves at one time! 9 at a time, definitely more manageable. As my mother would say, "it was a good dough". I love the look and smell of bread rising.

The first of three batches of Shannon's homemade granola--her Grandfather's recipe, seriously delicious, not to mention festive once the craisins are added. If you like mincing, chopping and dicing, this is for you! If you enjoy a great private breakfast or snack with your yogurt---yum!
Here it is going into the oven......

And here is the finished result, after cooling, in my favorite egg shaped robin egg blue bowl. And, the orange hounds tooth tea towel just makes the perfect visual!

After the dough was kneaded and beginning to rise, I went about retrieving my mini loaf pans, tucked above the cupboards where pans not used on a daily or weekly basis are stored. I wondered if they felt like tiny toy soldiers who come to life once a year! Their time had come. Out of the cupboard and ready for the ceremonial Holiday baking.

This designer silicone rolling pin (aqua, no less!) makes the job easy and bright. I highly recommend this type. Pie making and dough rolling--a breeze!

With the dough separated into equal portions , a prep bowl of softened butter and rolling pin in hand, I am ready to fill the pans for the final rising.

I used the very last of my finest fabulous spices (a gift from my sister Denise) in order to complete the project. These are the best ever!

Here is the first batch rising in the pans. Another 45 minutes and into the oven. Then the heavenly smells begin!
Right out of the oven the butter is brushed over each loaf.

The fruits of my labors.
Lastly, take a look at these "Designer" cups! Yes, designer as noted on the label. In the lateness of the hour, this is what I could find for our staff party.............I guess "Designer" is all up to personal interpretation. Don't expect this to be in my notation of style!

So there you have it, my day off as documented!

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night. Me included.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My holiday is filled with joy!

This is a post from my daughter Michelle's blog last week:

I'm feeling the holiday joy!

Something is just different about this Christmastime for me -- less stress, no 3:00 a.m. bedtimes... but more than that.

Despite the fact that 3 members of my family have sinus infections, and we lost our hard drive and all its data; despite the fact that I am not done shopping and haven't started wrapping and would like to send off my gifts this weekend; despite the fact that our Christmas cards are not even a glimmer in my mind yet... I'm happy.

In recent years, December has been a blur of busyness and stress for me, but not this year. I'm working on a few projects, but I'm not killing myself over them. I'm listening to music that fills my heart. I'm happy and I'm feeling the Christmas spirit, and for that I am grateful.

p.s. a little glass glitter never hurts.

While my schedule is certainly hectic and I don't ever get as much sleep or downtime as I would like, I too am trying to focus on the joy of the season. I don't want the chaos to overwhelm the spirit of Christmas.

Care to join me?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Looking back

A full week with the best help imaginable, my darling baby sister Denise. While I am most grateful to look forward to a few more hours of sleep, I'm so sad to be the cheese standing alone once again.

Take a look at some of the snapshots of work completed

12 foot Christmas tree nearly completed......

Grand foyer---at least (12) 9 foot garlands and yards, I mean yards of ribbon.

It happens......

Ah, the beauty of shatterproof beautiful ornaments!

Fresh magnolia branches foraged from a client's fabulous garden! Cry your heart out South Carolina gals!

Soothing color pallet, so pretty.

A whimsical embellishment to client's whippet! Oh, the wonders of ribbon.

Refreshment in a crystal goblet during a creative setup.

Lush, beautiful window boxes filled with fresh greens and sugarcones. A personal favorite!

Another window box! Call me for your fresh greens----incense cedar, wow!
We took a minute to visit one of our favorite client/friend's home to see her own Holiday design! Check out this great idea with candle columns on a crystal cake plate, surrounded by our fresh incense cedar sprays. Great idea Lisa!
Susan demonstrating chandelier embellishments during her Thursday night events. We have had a great time and a great crowd each evening. One more this Thursday night! Come join the fun---wrapping ideas, embellishments and bow tying. And that does just about wrap up the events for Holiday 2008.Last weeks crowd. Come join the fun!Glass glitter strikes again. Take a close look at our artificial cedar garland--soft to the touch and drapes so fabulously

Self portrait of Denise and Susan at sad.I guess this means you're really going, then? And what, exactly, is that horrid tarp thing in the background.....only at the Philadelphia International Airport.

So there you have it, high notes from the week of weeks. I guess I'd better start wrapping.....

Thursday, December 4, 2008

fresh take

Day two of my week with Denise began with a set-up at an upscale brownstone-style town home in Newtown. Denise dubbed this bit of mantle decor a Glitter Sputnik (a cute color, to-boot!).

This being the third year for this client's set-up, we had the routine down, and other than having to light the tree ourselves (we're spoiled, and are used to pre-lit trees) things went smoothly. The most interesting projects are the ones in which we are given creative license to work our magic, putting a new twist on even our repeat customers' traditions.

Day three found us at a darling cottage owned by the vice-president of the company that manufactures one of our well-used pain killers--something we've needed a fair bit of this week. We transformed their comfortable home, arranging an extensive collection of Santa's (many purchased over the years at Black-Eyed Susan). With a dinner party planned for this weekend, the house stands ready to welcome friends.

This project proved particularly rewarding because of the client's directive to make changes and/or additions at our discretion, even encouraging us to do so. Not wanting to disappoint, we took a quick trip back to the store, where I hand-picked a few personal favorites to add just the right finishing touch.
Stay tuned for Thursday's wrap-up--day four, where we found a treasure trove of cuttings in the client's own back yard--ready for the picking, and just the thing to create holiday style.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

after-hours design

My sister Denise arrived from Denver late Sunday night to spend the week helping with client Christmas set-ups. Each year we do approximately 20 such gigs for those fortunate enough to book early.

After a grueling airport experience, we started bright and early Monday morning at Lani's house(having had a refreshing 2 1/2 hours of sleep). We couldn't have asked for a more pleasant start to our week! We hadn't been working more than a couple of hours before Lani announced that it was lunchtime--and we're not talking Taco Bell. Our sweet hostess/client had a beautiful sit-down lunch catered for us! We ate in her elegantly set dining room, using Holiday Lenox china and sparkling lead crystal goblets. Talk about graciousness and style!

Lani's tree is a beautiful flocked one, done in shades of aqua and brown. We transformed the music room into a serene holiday retreat, as well as decked her banisters with garland, and gave her holiday mantle a new look using my new favorite holiday color scheme--sparkling graphite and persimmon.

The finished mantle is definitely a sophisticated touch to a lovely living room.

After wrapping up at Lani's, we went home for a two-hour power nap in preparation for the all-night set-up at the historic Yardley Inn. Armed with chenille wraps, the leftover lunch Lani sent home with us (including delicious chocolate-dipped strawberries--Denise wondered if all my clients are so generous and thoughtful), and a crew of six, we went to work decking the restaurant in its yearly holiday splendor.

The inside entry, downstairs and upstairs dining rooms, exterior--heck, even the restrooms--get a touch of holiday glam and sparkle.

We finished up around 4 a.m., just in time to sleep for a few hours before our next appointment, which I will have to share in another post, as it is already almost 1 a.m. and we've got another early day tomorrow--I mean today.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Penthouse upcoming news!

In response to several requests for the completed Penthouse Holiday's coming!

I attempted to upload all the photo docs and proceeded to write my descriptions and copy, only to discover that nothing was saved in the auto save mode! Drat!!

All of my photos went back to their original position and the copy was was quite an extensive documentation!! Should tomorrow prove to be a bit earlier than tonight......count on it!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Penthouse part II

Oh my! The long overdue report with photo documentation of the Penthouse Christmas decor! What a few days it was......the beginning of our cold weather with drizzly rain at times and torrential rain at others. (Overall, not good hair weather!)

Enter into the foyer of the 20th floor. Did I tell you before that the elevator only goes to the 17th floor and one walks the remaining floors to "the top"! My lighting wasn't the best here, but I papered the foyer in chocolate and bronze metallic wallpaper. It's rich and dramatic. This 6 ft eglimoise mirror speaks for drama and beauty. We draped beautiful greens over the top and added this cypress wreath to adorn the bust. Enter Christmas!!

Note the fabulous architecture in the living room looking into the dining room. These french doors are engaging and beckon one in to sit in a room with a view. This mixed garland graces the doors on each side. This is my favorite garland this year and we have plenty on hand in the retail store, cost about $65.00 each.
Another view of the fab wallpaper...with an original oil painting in the colors of the foyer. This city street scene was a favorite that was hand selected and framed on a buying trip to High Point. I love adorning art and mirrors with realistic greens and boughs. I tied a gold ornament to embellish the greens on this one. Use several types of greens for interest. Come in to the store and I'll give you my tricks and tips on securing the greens!

Here you see the other side of the french doors (note the doors themselves are black, a signature of my work when the client permits!). This view shows the mirrored 10' trees. One with hot pink and champagne, the other chocolate and gold. Check out the oh so glamorous pink and creme silk draperies in the dining room! Personally, I favored the living room chocolate and gold, but Liz (Penthouse owner) favors the pink tree! (We thought she would!)

An assortment of the pink ornaments! Nick named the pink metallic spray a "wizard stick"! I tried to wave it around to see its power, but alas, no response! They made a darn cute impact on the tree however!

By the way, many of the ornaments we used were shatterproof! I mean really, they look like the finest hand blown Polish glass ornaments. We can get high gloss, matt, glittered, jumbo, ex large, large, medium, small.....well, you get the picture! I rotate the color pallets for the retail store each year and try to buy a small amount of the colors I had the previous year in order to have something for you to "add to what you did the year before". We find we are usually about 3 years ahead of the color! Email me to learn the colors for this year! Use these fabulous ornaments outside for many years! They're perfectly fabulous!!

This closeup shows a really good and true picture of the real color! Just check out those drapes!! It is soooooooo fun to design glamorous draperies! Sorry you can't enjoy the glorious satin ball fringe!

Color, wizard stick, and striped silk. What a combo!

A closeup of the chocolate and gold tree selections----so rich! Always add a little sparkle, assorted sizes and finishes. Voila!!

We really try to customize each tree for our clients! While I am not a huge poinsettia fan, we found these! Hot pink and an encrusted glittery center--WOW! We knew they were perfect for this Penthouse Lady Liz! Sure enough, they made her heart sing! Susan holding a selection. (I guess I didn't dress for the color pallet! Now if Linda were on the team, a different story altogether!!
Well, there you have it! My long overdue report on the Penthouse 2008 Holiday! Word on the street has it that you can, indeed, see the trees from "the Square"! Thanks, Liz! You make our work so rewarding!

Perhaps we can do the same for you!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Penthouse Holiday!

It all started Monday! It's official, the Holiday set-ups have begun!

Monday, we set up Marilyn and Rocco's pad!! Marilyn entertained us all with her screams of delight and approval and her " can't get enough!" attitude! Two trees, a large foyer banister, dining room and family room mantle later......voila! Perfection!

I didn't get a photo of the Holiday perfection, but check out the perfection team!

Sharman (ever faithful picker, finder, recorder and runner), Marilyn in the middle. (I guess you can tell she's a bit of a fun gal) and Lisa, Black-eyed Susan fan and groupie! Great team effort!

One of two vans as we pulled up to the "servant's" entrance to riff-raff allowed (even if it is 18K worth of Christmas!!)

Van #2, containing one 8 foot ladder for the short staff (who, me?) and a 6 foot ladder for the normal crew.....Box after box of handblown glass ornaments in hot pink, champaign, chocolate, and ivory----breathtaking!

Our goal for the first day was to assemble, light, straighten, and design 2 10' trees----yes, I said TWO! Note the tag we pulled out of the first box, and Nick with a look of disbelief, as we read, "NO SHAPING REQUIRED". Right! Let's just see about that! (Sounds like a total scam to me!) But, after 20 years of setting up and primping artificial Christmas trees, I was completely shocked!! Very little shaping required!!! And that's a good thing!

Susan shaping the top section of the first 10' tree. Whew! One down, 7 to go.......we set up three additional trees on each outdoor balcony! (More to come later.......)

These fabulously glamourous silk drapery panels were the inspiration for this tree! (Note the hot pink silk with silk ball fringe!) This tree was designed with hot pink shiny, matte and frosty ornaments punctuated by all shades of creamy accents. A vision of delight!

The second 10' tree was designed with chocolate matte, shiny, frosty, caramel, and champaign colored ornaments in all sizes and shapes. Glittery gold nests complete the look.

With one of my main designers suffering from an unexected bout of flu, we were in a bit of a frenzy the first day. But, my team really stepped up to the plate! 9 hours into the project, we packed up our toys and went home for the night. More of the show tomorrow.............