Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Bridal Shower Luncheon


Lately, I've been wearing many "hats"-- that of a landscaper, a party consultant and an assistant caterer! So, it was fun to see it all come together last Saturday when my friend Maureen hosted a bridal shower luncheon in her new backyard.

Since the bride's colors are to be gray and pink, I ordered gray tablecloths with pink napkins. Silver chargers were a perfect addition to the theme.
The centerpieces were potted pink azaleas in sterling wine buckets.


Little pails with monogrammed pink and gray M & M's were the perfect touch too!

It all looked wonderful under the new pergola!

Upon entering Maureen's home, the guests were greeted by this gorgeous arrangement that she made in an alabaster urn belonging to her Mother-in-law.

Everyone was offered champagne cocktails with raspberries.

Maureen gave the bride a beautiful book that all the guests personalized with their messages of best wishes and marriage advise!

Meanwhile, my son Aaron was in the kitchen preparing the lunch.
Beginning with the first course, a cold corn chowder soup, garnished with corn, chives and tarragon relish.
My job: help plate the food and be the photographer!

The second course was a composed salad nicoise!
The Ahi tuna was first seared.....

...then added to the top of mixed greens with heirloom tomatoes, French green beans, egg and potatoes that Aaron prepared sous vide.


A lemon tart with blueberries for dessert!

Since Aaron is studying to be a pastry chef, this was his piece de resistance!

The party was absolutely lovely and a huge success!
It was really fun to see the fruits of everyone's labor all come together for this special day, hosted by a special friend, for a special bride!

I'm joining Susan at Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday.
On Friday, I'll join Designs by Gollum for Foodie Friday,
and also My Romantic Home for Show and Tell Friday.


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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tuesday Inspiration: Set Design from "The Help"


If y'all haven't seen The Help yet, you definitely need to get yourself to the theater!
I plan on seeing it again, just to concentrate on the costumes, hair styles and especially the set design.

Above, is Elizabeth's kitchen. Elizabeth lives in a mid-century ranch house with a kitchen very similar to what I grew up in.

I feel like I've actually been in this den! The set designer was spot on with this room, evoking feelings of nostalgia, especially for someone my age!
Fake brick linoleum, knotty pine paneling, braided rug, "colonial" style tables--and how about that metal sculpture!

Elizabeth's formal living room with wall to wall carpet and 50's sofa.
The designers based the decor for this home on Better Homes and Gardens decorating books from the 60's.

The exterior of Elizabeth's home looks very similar to the rancher I grew up in!

In stark contrast, Celia's plantation home has a kitchen stuck in the 30's.
I actually would be very happy with this house!

Isn't this wonderful with the fireplace and farm table as kitchen island?
Oh, and I love the hutch to the right, filled with treasures.

I got such a kick out of Celia! She inherited her plantation home from her husband's family and dreams of redecorating it "all in white!"
I'll admit, the stuffed bear is a little too much, but evoked the layering and history the designers were going for. They found it in a Wisconsin taxidermy shop.
Mark Ricker said this about Celia's home:

"Celia's house was a ton of work because we did EVERYTHING in it. All wallpaper, complete reconstruction of the kitchen, building all the curtains, and the sheer amount of layering in the house. We wanted it to have the most "history" so we just kept buying and buying..."

It's easy to hate on Hilly, the villain in the movie. Her house represents perfection of the day.
Not a plantation home, not a rancher, but a tastefully decorated colonial.

I found it interesting how classic the furniture, rug and accessories are in Hilly's living room.

And then, there's Hilly's Pepto Bismol pink bathroom!
Brings back memories of my husband's bathroom in the home he grew up in.
This bathroom is very important to the plot, initiating the little rebellion that takes place in the movie.

Last, but not least, is the heroine, Skeeter's parent's home.
Their living room looks comfortable and lived in.
Pretty, but a little disheveled, just like Skeeter herself!

The set designers Mark Ricker and Rena DeAngelo, who won an Emmy for the pilot of Mad Men, had 47 sets to dress.

They scoured flea markets and antique malls in the South, and even people's attics in Greenwood, Mississippi where The Help was filmed.
Audubon prints, silver sets and punch bowls, vintage wallpapers and lots of chairs and sofas.
The vintage appliances and even the books. They thought of everything!

There is a revived interest in the 60's, with The Help, the new television series Pan Am, as well as Mad Men.
Although I'm not ready to see the 60's influence interior design, I am ready to see fashion go in that direction. The costumes from the movie were amazing!


In case you haven't seen The Help, here is a trailer to pique your interest!
All photos via Better Homes and Gardens
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Monday, August 29, 2011

Murphy's New Yard: Behind the Scenes, Before and During Construction


The Plan.
Two months ago when we tackled this project, the first issue to address were the diseased Myoporum. They had a thrift and even after spraying, it was clear that they were dying. I suggested Pittosporum in their place. They're evergreen and grow fast.
So out they came, along with the plants underneath. The lawn was also removed.

We decided on an outdoor kitchen, wrapping around the existing brick patio where the portable one is sitting.

We also came up with the size and dimension for the pergola.
All the stepping stones were removed and a portion of the left porch would come out.

The plan included a spa, tucked behind the barbeque.
I was also pushing for a fireplace.
A lot of brainstorming, head scratching and trial and error went into the first days of construction.

Construction Phase.
After the initial demo, construction began on the pergola and kitchen.



About 3 feet of the porch was moved, making way for the kitchen.
Ward built an arbor over, mimicking the pergola.
Maureen and I went shopping for granite!

It was now time to address the cottage. We talked about making it a chicken coop with a sitting room.
I suggested replacing the door with new double French doors and creating a cottage retreat.

So, out came all the paint cans, tools and motorcycles!


The new bead board will be painted white, the cement floor will be gray.

A trellis was added to the top of the fence for privacy.
Meanwhile, the design for the fireplace proved to be challenging.
Originally, it would be a half moon brick area, large enough for two chairs.

I came up with the idea of a gravel path that would wrap around the grass, connecting the fireplace to the cottage, the main patio and also behind where the spa is, ending at the gate.
Laying out the border was a huge challenge. I think we tried three times and eventually got it right.

Laying out the border was a huge challenge. I think we tried three times and eventually got it right.

After the gravel went in, Maureen, Martin and I went shopping for plants at Pacific Nursery, a wholesale nursery in South San Francisco.
We bought three birch trees, four Japanese maples, lots of hydrangeas and azaleas, ferns, Mexican sage, and I don't know how many little boxwoods! Roses were previously ordered.

Ahhh, the homestretch!
When the grass gets installed, it is such a good feeling!

We were all very excited!
The only thing left to do now is finish up the painting, furnish the cottage and prepare for the party!

I enjoy designing gardens almost more than interiors! I have no formal education, just trial and error, and experience.
Here are a few tips, along with tried and true plants that grow in my zone:
*Favorite hardscape materials are brick, gravel and decomposed granite.
*Favorite shade loving plants are hydrangeas, azaleas, camelias, impatients and ferns.
*Favorite sun lovers are roses, Mexican sage, lavender, rosemary, geraniums and other bedding plants.
*Trees that do well in my zone are birch, maple, redwoods, locust and olive trees.
*Boxwoods always dresses up a garden.
*Bark or mulch added to the planting beds finish off the garden!

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Murphy's New Yard-- The Final Reveal!


Murphy is very happy with his new yard!
So are his parents, Maureen and Ward!
Let's take a look at the final result:

The cottage has a new life now! It was cleaned out and gutted, then new bead board paneling was added. Double French doors really open up the room, connecting it to the back yard.

I furnished it with "leftovers" from my garage, Maureen's attic and whatever else we could find.

The mirror belonged to Ward's Mom. She would be so happy knowing it found a new home!

The wingback is a flea market find. The table and burlap skirt is from Ballard.

A gravel path connects the cottage to the fireplace. Tiny boxwood borders the new lawn.
Ten white "Iceberg" standard roses border the back fence with Mexican Sage in between.
Pittosporum sits behind the roses and will eventually provide the privacy they lost when the old, diseased Myoporum were removed.

Another "room" to sit on a cool evening and enjoy a glass of wine!

The fireplace surround was faux painted to mimic stone, which was a huge improvement from the way it came out of the box!

New low-voltage lighting was installed front and back.
We're not talking solar here. These lights will last forever!
They are all on a timer to go on at dusk and turn off at a set time later.

The outdoor kitchen sits just outside the back door, making it easily accessible.

Ward built it from scratch!
It has a state of the art barbeque, a real sink and a refrigerator stocked with Diet Dr. Pepper!
The countertop is black granite with a leather-like texture.
Eventually, pink jasmine will cover the arbor.

Behind the outdoor kitchen is a shady, private area where the new spa lives.

The coat rack is ever ready to hold white robes!

New pink hydrangeas, white azaleas and ferns will thrive in this shady area with dappled sunlight.

Sitting in the spa, the trickle of the fountain can be heard.
Mexican Sage surrounds it, since this gets full sun.

An arbor leads you through a "room" which was created to be a potting area, hiding garden tools, etc.
The front yard is beyond the gate.

The pergola was the perfect place for the bridal shower yesterday.
More on that later. . .
Let's take a peek at the front yard shall we!

The house didn't need much embellishing as it has wonderful curb appeal already!

The chimney is magnificent, so my goal was to uplight it at night and plant Japanese maples on either side of it that would grow and soften the façade.

New foundation plants, grass, more tiny boxwoods and low-voltage lights went in.

Flagstone stepping stones are set in the grass, connecting the side yard to the back yard gate, where the gravel begins. We decided on gravel for the back because Maureen loves the sound when you walk on it. It also solves some drainage issues.

More Pittosporum was planted next to the two fences that border the home, eventually growing tall enough to create more separation and privacy. When the new bark went in, dressing all the flower beds, we called it a day and said "done!"

Murphy loves to sit out front, keeping track of the neighborhood!
He loves his new yard!

Stay tuned for more photos of before and during construction, a tablescape and the bridal shower that was held yesterday, catered by my son!

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