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Live A Little

Prom Night

As the prom season arrives, I find myself both musing on my own memories of dances of my youth and reveling in the capacity to share the skill of sewing to hem and alter dresses that punctuate these memorable experiences for this new generation. Perhaps I'm old fashioned and a romantic at heart but there is something so sweet to me about young people having the courage to go through this ritual - asking for a date and the pleasure, and planning that takes place to bring a magical event together. It is a creative process unto itself as it involves choosing just the right dress in a color perfectly made for the wearer, selecting the boutonnière, corsage or nosegay, choosing a combination of dress up clothes that makes you feel special. Seeing your own reflection in the mirror in dress up clothes for the first time can be a wonderful and memorable moment and while ai am a believer that the clothes do not make the person, I was raised up to believe you costume appropriately for the occasion and took this a step further when I made the decision to study fashion design in college. Looking back now, I realize that a school dance can be the first time you are presented or have prepped for this type of event. A tremendous opportunity for learning some of the skills that allow for a well lived life. For some it is the first blush of planning a event on a small scale- perhaps a precursor to a wedding. Sometimes there is a dinner beforehand- a reservation that needs to be made and a restaurant selected, in our case there was a weekend event traveling to the sand dunes for weekend frolicking at the beach. Those travel plans needed to be coordinated by someone, transportation was needed and safety precautions were required. In the instant gratification society we now live in I think these special occasions that require some planning and thoughtful consideration serve the young in many ways that are useful throughout their lives and in building a marriage or commitment to another. Life requires preparation and commitment and anticipation is to be savored .

A gorgeous gown for a festive occasion- as a seamstress I am looking at the underpinnings of any garment to see what is required to make adjustments- in the case of this dress there were three layers- an exquisite patterned overlay with a horsehair hem, a slippery charmeuse lining and a soft tulle layer which means this dress requires three hems rather than just one.

A fabric with a slippery hand can easily get caught in a sewing machine or dance around as it's being sewn. A tissue paper lining below (and sometimes above) the fabric layer can assist the fabric in gliding over the feed dogs of the sewing machine.


The inspiration for a nosegay to accompany the wearer and the dress. In the last few years I have been seeing a trend toward the nosegay (a petite hand held bouquet) rather than a wrist or pin on corsage being selected for proms. Lavender roses with a hint of greenery was selected for the occasion. If you are tasked with bringing a bouquet boutonnière or nosegay and don't have the dress color to reference, here's a pro tip: White flowers can be used as white compliments any color, you can always ask your florist to add a ribbon that coordinates once a dress has been chosen.


The Orchid Show

For years Michael and I attended the Orchid Show at the Chicago Botanic Gardens. A spectacular event bursting with gorgeous orchid installations in colors we never knew existed. In addition to the marvelous tropical floral displays there were workshops where we had the ability to learn from tenured teachers of the art of raising orchids, now every Spring we delight in our very own orchid show with a collection that has been amassed mostly from gifted orchids given to us by friends requesting Michael to rescue them from their peril. Here are some of the buds we spot before the slow coming blooms- orchids are another of the garden's lessons in patience.


Bulb Garden

Years ago I learned that if you wanted the delight of fragrant blooms pushing up from the ground with bright green stems in the early Spring then a bulb garden was the best option. While they require much deeper digging (about 6") than flower seeds they are worth the effort as they return each year sometimes multiplied. Ever in search of the exquisite fragrance of flowers that have unfortunately been disappearing over the years as many growers breed for sturdiness.

Road-trips and Destinations

On the road again although this Spring Michael will ride off on a new breed of motorcycle and a long awaited dream of owning a KTM. He spotted KTM's Super Duke at a motorcycle show in Chicago many years ago and expressed his interest in owning one someday ever since. Michael has never been a diehard supporter of any one brand- he's too busy thinking about the overall mechanics for the terrain and actual use of the bikes. Over the years Michael has had a multitude of brands including retro and newer model Harley-Davisons, Norton, Triumph, BMW, Honda, Yamaha and Kawasaki, Something he refers to as "the dream and the reality of the thing". In other words think about what and how you'll actually be using the bike. Now that we live in the hills and mountains of Arkansas he decided to forgo the weight of the Harley Davidson Police Special for the agile KTM. He came by this decision honestly as the new bike is nearly 500 pounds lighter than his previous ride and die. Now he is spending oodles of time learning about this lighter weight machine and the complexity of digital instruments. At 65, Michael has no plans to give up his all time favorite hobby but he was willing to to adapt to fit his current and future needs. Here he polishes up for the next ride.

Boxwood Wreath

There is something about approaching a front door with a wreath, to me it's like meeting up with a warm welcome with a wide smile and friendly embrace. Our wreath changes throughout the seasons, currently going from celery green pine to a bright spring green resembling boxwood with some lavender sprigs of dainties found in the yard.


New Ground

Last Spring I added an extra 20 foot curbed strip of soil to the front garden (slowly whittling away Mike's mowing time) and about 50 feet of sunflowers and zinnias along our bricked wall in the backyard. I've often read that sometimes a garden tells you what it needs and I've found this to be true. For example a well work path in your lawn is likely the perfect place for a stepping stone path. The latest whisper from the garden came from sprinkling extra seeds along the side of our house which does not get great sunlight but is sandwiched between two brick walls one that runs along one side of our property and the brick wall of our home. Because the brick "throws off" so much heat, this makes for an ideal microclimate space that allowed the flowers to grow in abundance last year. So...this year I decided that extra 85 feet of space would be an ideal spot for a cutting garden. Remarkably last year's flowers grew straight out of the gravel which had nothing but weed barrier and clay beneath it so this year I decided to give it a helping hand. At Michael's suggestion I moved gravel away from both walls into the center creating a walking path between both walls of flower beds which are about 10-14" deep on both sides. We removed the weed barrier and added a mix of cow manure and mushroom compost. Since it was February when I began this process I experimented with seeds to see if they would sprout from direct sowing with clear plastic containers acting as mini greenhouses on top. Success! At least initially and since our Spring has been a bit like a warm hug (for the most part) I'm encouraged to keep planting in hopes of having a hearty flower cutting garden this first season. Pro Tip: to keep weeds to a minimum I am very heavy handed with seed allowing the flowers to grow close together and in abundance.

Doing the Work of 10 Aprons

Recently on FaceTime with my father he chuckled at the fact that I was donning an apron during the day at home. His reaction made me reflect on the fact that he's probably never seen me with an apron on but it likely reminded him of his own mother and sisters who did so often. The truth is I love an apron for so many reasons- most of them practical. An apron protects my clothes whether I'm cleaning or cooking and allows me to prep right up until the time that guests arrive when we are entertaining. It saves me time from searching for kitchen towels to dry my hands in the kitchen - something I find myself doing endlessly since Michael and I are often in the kitchen together. I also believe I get more accomplished when I have an apron on because it allows me to move seamlessly from cleaning to kitchen to gardens. Tying on an apron is intentional too, it sets me in the right mindset that it's time to get to work when I'm in home keeping mode. Right now I am enjoying making one of a kind custom aprons for our local farm market, The Front Porch Market. Putting those glorious fabrics and delightful trims I've collected over the years to good use. Most of the fabric is upcycled from other fabric projects . If you are just getting started with sewing it's a fun project to get you started.


In the Garage

Yes, he's at it again! Modifying to his heart's content on his new set of wheels. Calm heads prevail, Michael successfully removes crank case recirculating pump and installs computer dongles on the KTM Superduke 1290R.


The Fruits of Our Labor

Sharing with you a video of the first indoor and outdoor blossoms of the season.



West Coast BLT - with smoked Gouda and Guacamole on Michael's homemade focaccia. Walnut Creek bacon and Smoked Gouda from the Front Porch Market. It sold out so fast poor Mary the owner did not even get to try it!



Here Comes The Bride

Coming from the North, it's been a welcome adjustment to find that wedding season starts a bit earlier and extends a bit longer in the South. Outdoor weddings can be lovely in October and early Spring. Experimentation with new structures for flower arrangements using frogs, antique containers and wild crafting has been a focus for me this Spring. Looking forward to bringing our homegrowns to market this year!


Domesticity, Simplicity, Necessity

When I was in my 20's I stood up for or attended 26 weddings in about a 2-and-a-half-year period- while I enjoyed the occasions immensely and was delighted to partake, I can be honest now and say it nearly caused me to go broke. As they say you get older and wiser so this year in between alterations and prom gowns and floral arrangements I'm making a special occasion dress just to have on hand. This lace skirt is made from a permanently soiled tablecloth that I hold dear since it belonged to my Mother In Law and is made of a beautiful cotton lace that is perfect for our Southern Summers.

This dress was the inspiration for the lace skirt and top that is in the works. Although I love a fantastic dress, I thought the separates would be most practical. If you are looking for sewing patterns and for something fresh and modern; you may want to check out SilverSaga. Not interested in sewing; they'll gladly sell you a gorgeous frock for your next big occasion. Definitely worth a look.

Flowers add such beauty to a wedding- this arrangement was inspired by its Italian made ceramic and porcelain container artfully sculpted with flowers. Originally intended as a soup tureen it makes a gorgeous Spring/Summer centerpiece because of it's low height that allows conversation to flow across the table with ease. Here I am using a mix of techniques as well as dried and fresh florals. The hydrangeas were dried from a neighbor's garden from a few years back and the roses have been reflexed to appear fuller.

Hand-painted cards are lovely for any sentiment but especially during the wedding season. As we embark on a Spring trip, I've been hand painting stationery for Spring and while researching the area and discovered My Lady Dye.

Creator, Diane Holdsambeck is a fantastically talented Stationer & Artist with a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture and you can find her in the touched by an angel town of Fairhope Alabama.


The Big Day Destination - Fairhope Alabama

Looking for a lovely place to wed in the Southern region? Look no further than Fairhope Alabama which combines small town charm with an elegant yet casual waterside resort destination. For a more complete look at this destination please check out @fairhopers or fairhopers.com

A lovely place to stay is @Lucia Bleu where you will find cottages on the bluff.




If you happen to be looking for a Patisserie or Chocolatier for a special occasion, give the divine artists a try at LADUREE. Most everything they make comes wrapped in a fanciful pastel dream box with all the trimmings. Added bonus you'll find specialty gifts as well!



Cooking Per Tutti

Local Finds - The Savory Pantry & Squizito Tasting Room

Founder and CEO Keeley Ardman DeSalvo's penchant and passion for quality ingredients and design began at her family's restaurant The Pancake Shop and now at her gourmet shop The Savory Pantry in Hot Springs Arkansas. She now has a second location in Saratoga Springs, New York. There is an on-line store too!

If you want to take your cooking and baking to the next level, may I suggest Squizito Tasting Room for specialty olive oils and cooking classes. If you fancy yourself a gourmet in the making you can be on their show. Now located in Cabot and Conway Arkansas.



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