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Finding Balance

Happy 2015 to all of you wonderful folks!

So happy to see you again! A new year. New beginnings, a fresh start, 365 days packed full of adventure, possibilities, and potential.

What a year 2014 has been, huh? So many new experiences, so many memories made. I sure hope you enjoyed your year, and if 2014 didn’t quite work out the way that you’d hoped, I hope that 2015 holds a more promising future.

We rang in the new year here in California… but it wasn’t our nighttime celebrations that made the most impact, rather an evening stroll along the harbor, the golden gate glowing before us.

It was here that we happened upon a man serenely focused on building seemingly impossible stone sculptures.

His gravity-defying works of art were so simple yet so fascinating. Thought-provoking in a most unexpected way.

The beauty of the stacked stone statues was so inspirational. No stone was perfect, but each stone was perfectly balanced. Every stone was carefully inspected, rotated, tilted, and nudged until it effortlessly floated atop the one beneath it. Simultaneously strong and fragile.

As the stone sculptures rose from the coastline and the sun’s last golden rays reflected against the cityscape before us, I was reminded of the important role balance plays in life. Like the stones, no single aspect of life is perfect… but it’s our job to find our own perfect balance.

So, as we dive into 2015, my New Year’s resolution is to find my own perfect balance… to nurture an inner harmony in the midst of a busy life.

I wish each and every one of you a wonderful and well-balanced 2015. May it bring us all much happiness and satisfaction!

Taking a Break…

Hello, flower friends!

You’ve probably noticed that things are looking a bit quiet over here… however, I can assure you that they are anything but! Thanks to the arrival of our lovely little flower fairy, Fleuropean will be on maternity leave for a little bit. From the blog that is. The garden is still in full swing, and flowers are still being sown and grown.

I’m looking forward to sharing more floral adventures with you in the near future… but, until then, enjoy the magic of spring and take some time to stop and smell the roses :)

xx Emily

Beautiful Breakfast: Violet Pancakes

Happy Friday, everyone!

What better way to ring in the weekend than treating ourselves to a lovely flower-filled breakfast? How do violet pancakes drizzled with violet-infused maple syrup sound to you? Hopefully the idea tickles your taste buds, because that’s just what I was in the mood for yesterday. I took some snapshots along the way and put together a little recipe for you guys, should you want to give it a go at home. There are lots of edible flowers out there, violets being one of them. The key to choosing healthy blossoms is to make sure that you chose flowers from an area void of pesticides, herbicides, heavy traffic, dog pee, or animal droppings. Piece of (pan)cake, right?

The wild violets (viola odorata) are at their peak right now, the sprawling mounds of attractive green leaves topped with a multitude of fragrant purple flowers. When the weather warms up, you can really enjoy their sweet scent… even more-so if you snip a few to bring inside where the warmth allows even a small bunch to perfume a whole room. When these little beauties are in full bloom, it’s hard to resist the urge to cook up a project or two centered around the delicious properties the wild violets naturally possess. Last year I cooked up a batch of violet syrup, but I felt that a new year calls for something fresh and different…

Pancakes! Yes! Who can say no to a plate full of pancakes?

I started off by bringing a small pot of maple syrup to a boil before tossing in a handful of violet flowers (trimmed as closely to the flower as possible and rinsed in water). I let the flowers and syrup simmer together for about 15 minutes before turning off the heat. One the syrup had cooled down, it was time to strain the liquid from the flowers and put it back in the fridge to sit. Even this short infusion time was enough to give the syrup a really pleasant violet aroma. Yum!

Then it was time to whip up a batch of pancakes!

My go-to recipe for American-style pancakes is: 1.5 cups flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, 3 teaspoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, 1.25 cups milk, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and 1 egg. Mix the ingredients all together in no particular order before spooning small scoops into a greased and heated pan.

After you’ve spooned your batter into the pan, gently press the individual flowers on top of the batter. Be careful not to press too hard, because if they get covered in batter, they will disappear once flipped. Cook the pancakes thoroughly on the non-flower side before flipping the pancakes for just a moment. The idea is to give them some slight color while not over-cooking the flowers. For me, about 30 seconds over a medium heat did the trick.

Put them on a plate, drizzle with your violet-infused syrup… and, voila! You’ve got yourself a beautiful springtime breakfast that’s just as much a treat for the eyes as it is for the taste buds.

Just in case you’re curious, the violets in the pancakes don’t pack much flavor. The majority of the characteristic violet taste comes from the violet-infused maple syrup. It’s a nice and easy way to add the sweeten foods with a violet flavor… a simple alternative to violet syrup.

I hope you enjoyed our little Friday feast! If you have some violets growing in your garden, this could very well be worth giving a try this weekend :)

Whether you indulge in violet pancakes or not, I wish you all a wonderful weekend!

All about the Anemone

Hello there, friends!

With the daffodils and tulips taking their sweet time to poke through the earth, this spring has, so far, been all about the anemone. I’ve never seen them spring to life with such a passion. Their vivid violets, soft whites, and glistening eyelashes surrounding the dramatically dark inner “eye” make for an striking show of early color in the cutting garden. Most of you guys will recognize these beautiful anemone coronaria, commonly grown as cut flowers, but there are lots of other cultivars that bring the spring garden to life.

You might have already caught sight of these fragile white flowers rising above the forest floor. The carpet of white created by colonies of anemone nemorosa may put on more of a subtle and subdued spring show than it’s colorful cousins, but what it lacks in intensity and size it most certainly compensates with in sheer mass. Once these guys get established, there’s no stopping them!

Another little cutie is the anemone blanda, a daisy-like rosette of thin and dainty petals. Like all of the others, these shy flowers curl closed as dusk falls or during dark and dreary weather. They also tend to close up once brought inside for arranging… oops.

Despite their differences, the various anemone growing in my garden combine nicely into a precious little posy of bright blues and whites. While the majority of the corms that I’ve planted in the garden have come up a solid color, I seem to have lucked out with this one beautiful variegated specimen. If only I could order a whole bag of those colors… *sigh*

Do you guys have any anemone growing in the garden? Are you already reaping the benefits of an early spring crop? In celebration of my birthday and the courageous crop of anemone, I think that I’ll cut all of the mature blooms tomorrow and spread a few of this season’s very first Lonely Bouquets from the garden! :)

Dreamcatcher Baby Mobile

Good evening, crafty companions!

Since our little one could technically be born any moment now, I figured that it might be a wise idea to share the last of my baby project posts with you guys. If I’m totally honest, I think I just might have saved the best for last… I dragged my feet on this one, since there were so many different ideas running around in my head and I changed my mind almost every day. The idea of a dreamcatcher appealed to me, since every baby should be guaranteed only the sweetest of dreams. I also liked the boho-chic look of hanging ribbons. Lastly, suspended shapes that twist and turn in the breeze would provide a bit of mesmerizing entertainment for whoever’s looking up from down below.

In the end, I was able to combine all of my ideas into one pretty nifty little baby mobile…  a dingly-dangly piece of nursery decor that features the three main components I was hoping to include!

To get started, I cut free-form cloud shapes out of three different layers of fabric (my all-time favorite Liberty floral fabric, a thin white linen, and some left-over scraps of Ikea curtain fabric). I pinned the three layers together in order to ensure that the different layers matched up correctly before starting to sew them together by hand.

Once all but the last bit of the outline was sewn together, I started stuffing the cloud with loose wool. I continued to stitch and stuff until the little clouds began to take on a lovely, plump three-dimensional shape.

Using (you guessed it!) an embroidery hoop, I started to put together the remaining key elements of the baby mobile: the dreamcatcher within the interior ring and the romantic row of ribbons along the exterior ring.

Once each element was complete, I tightened the rings together and proceeded to hang the clouds from various points around the dreamcatcher.

And here’s what the mobile looks like from a baby’s-eye view…

The mobile is already safely suspended above the baby’s crib, patiently awaiting her arrival. Hopefully this bit of overhead entertainment with keep her calm in moments of confusion and restore her balance during sleepless nights. Most of all, I hope it will whisk away all of her worries and soothe her into a sweet sleep.

Strictly Spring: A Bouquet of Blossoming Branches

Good evening, everyone, and a very happy Friday to you all!

This week seemed to totally fly by… no doubt thanks to the beautiful weather and the sweet spring vibes hanging heavy in the air. In honor of such a special seasonal shift in temperatures, I figured that it would be fun to put together a strictly spring handheld arrangement made almost exclusively from blossoming branches. The leading ladies of this springtime spectacle are pussy willows, wild cherry, forsythia, and beech. Quite an all-star ensemble, wouldn’t you say?

The forsythia and wild cherry were brought inside for about a week in order to coerce them into an unseasonably early show of color. The beech branches and pussy willows were picked on the fly. I was tempted to toss some beautiful sloe branches into the mix, but its treacherous thorns make it a bit hard to handle.

To fill in the gaps and add a bit of greenery, I used long sprigs of scented geranium leaves.

Tied off with a lengthy cascade of silk ribbon in shades of buttercup and cream, my little spring symphony was ready to go.

I would have loved to include scented daffodils or romantically droopy tulips… but they’ve decided that they aren’t quite ready for showtime. It will probably be a few weeks before I’ll be seeing the first of their faces gracing the cutting garden. So, instead, I relied on the backbone of our spring landscape, a few quintessential characters that most spring-lovers will quickly recognize.

So there you have it- the treasures of my forage in the forest, a bright pop of color to start your weekend off with a bang!

I wish you all a wonderful weekend. May it be as colorful and vibrant as the forsythia flowers, as soft and sweet as the pussy willows, and as romantic as the cherry blossoms :)

Buds and Blossoms

Holy smokes, what a beautiful day today turned out to be! Nothing but sunshine, blue skies, amazingly mild temperatures, no wind, and the sounds of birds and bees getting off to an early spring start. I know that yesterday’s post carried a promise of outdoor fun, but I had no clue that today would turn out to be this much fun.

Since the spring blossoms (wild cherry and forsythia) that had been snipped and brought inside for forcing have finally opened up, I wanted to capture some of the natural beauty that’s springing to life in the great outdoors. After working in the veggie garden for several enjoyable hours, off I waddled with my camera around my neck.

Past the handsome horse curiously peeking over the hedges… past iron gates beckoning me to venture further…

I followed a shallow creek that runs along the valley of my favorite forest path until I reached my ultimate destination… the very first blossoming trees! I’m torn between presenting these trees as a member of the sloe family or a “cherry plum”. Hmmm… they definitely have the thorns characteristic of sloe, but they are quite tall and are flowering earlier than any of the bushes in our field.

Whatever it may be, it sure is beautiful! The only clouds in the sky were the dense clusters of bright white blossoms hanging high above my head.

I plucked a few tiny buds to bring back home and place beneath the blossom branches I have already coerced into bloom.

I don’t know about you guys, but it feels pretty wonderful to enjoy the beauty of spring both inside and out. Do you like to bring any special branches or bulbs inside to get the sights and smells of springtime off to an early start?

Hopefully tomorrow will be just as beautiful today, and hopefully you’ll join me tomorrow evening for a strictly spring handheld arrangement! :)

DIY Crib Canopy

Good evening, everyone!

Today’s post doesn’t necessarily have to do with flowers, per say…  but that doesn’t meant there aren’t flowers involved! The last few weeks, I’ve been working on finishing up a few projects for the nursery. As I was taking pictures to show my family back in California, I figured that maybe, just maybe, you guys might like to be involved as well. After all, you’re all an important part of my extended internet family :)

A crib canopy (or “hemeltje” here in Holland) is an idea that I’ve been toying with for a while. The nursery ceiling has some old paint made from who-knows-what, and, while it’s a beautiful baby blue color, I don’t want tiny paint chips flaking off and falling into the baby’s bed. Plus, I quite like the romantic look the lacy curtains add to the nursery. The ready-to-buy canopies available around here were either ridiculously expensive or “meh”-looking… so I took matters into my own hands and put one together myself.

All you need for this project is an 8-inch (20 cm) embroidery hoop (borduurring), some string and/or ribbon, and a pair of curtains. I used a combination of panel curtains available at Ikea- a pair of Alvine Spets curtains and one panel from a Lill set.

The production process isn’t actually all that complicated. All you have to do is feed your curtains through the outer circle of the embroidery hoop. I fed one Alvine Spets panel through first, followed by a Lill panel, followed by the second Alvine Spets panel. This combination of curtains is wide enough to fully enclose a standard 60 cm x 120 cm crib.

Once your curtain panels are evenly distributed around the embroidery hoop, tie three equal lengths of ribbon/string/fishing wire at equal intervals around the inner circle of the embroidery hoop. To finish things up, place the outer circle fitted with the curtains around the inner circle and tighten until secure.

Tada! Now you’re ready to hang the canopy over your baby’s crib!

Since the curtains I used were a good two meters long, I trimmed them to just above floor length and bunched the bottoms together at various points around the crib using ribbon. I’m happy to have “splurged” on the Alvine Spets curtains, because I think the floral “lace” adds that extra oomph I was looking for. See, I told you there were flowers involved! ;)

All that’s left for me to do is put together a dream-catcher-type topping for the canopy and hang a handmade mobile that I’m in the midst of sewing. *Gasp* Yes! I’m sewing. By hand, though, this time… no sewing machines involved.

I hope you enjoy the how-to tutorials of these little nursery projects of mine… and, if you don’t, never fear, there won’t be many more to come. In fact, this one shouldn’t even be limited to a nursery- any adult can enjoy a floral canopy as well, right? :)

Have a lovely evening, and I’ll see you tomorrow for a little outdoor fun!

Hellebores: The Final Cut

Hello again, friends!

I know that last week we got all haute couture and fancy-shmancy with a lace hellebores headdress, but today I wanted to personally introduce you to the few varieties of winter-blooming beauties that made the final cut and found their way into my garden. The decision was difficult, involving a fair amount of pulling plants from the shelf only to put them back and trade them for a more colorful (or frilly, or larger, or upward-facing, or…) contender. In the end, I decided on: Picotee seedling, Dark Purple Double, Picotee Double, Purple, Green Double, Pink Double, Green Picotee Double, and, thanks to the generosity of Linda and Roger Bastin, the incredibly fabulous Tutu.

I’m secretly hoping that this interesting variety of colors, shapes, and textures will cross-pollinate, leaving me with a somewhat-shady garden full of exciting seedlings. Maybe I could even try to influence the pollination procedure myself? How amazing would the anemone-flowering Tutu look cross-bred with the dark purple double? Drool.

The Picotee seedling (pictured above) has unexpectedly stolen my heart. The darker edges (hence “picotee”) and dramatic purple-veined coloration make for quite a fetching combination. The Green Double and Pink Double (pictured below) are equally stunning in very different ways.

For those of you who fell in love with Tutu after I posted her picture on facebook, you might be interested to know that she drops her inner “skirt” of petals along with the pollen-coated stamens as she ages. Thus, by the time she’s ripe for the pickin’, she’s lost her characteristic and frilly tutu. Speaking of picking… who has trouble with hellebores getting sad and droopy a mere day after being cut? *raises hand*

To combat this widespread and quite frustrating issue, you can choose to float your flowers instead of leaving them on the stem. I’ve found that they last much longer this way. In fact, the buds I cut on Thursday are still going strong today. They do, of course, shed their stamens, but the “petals”… which are actually sepals and not really petals at all, stay nice and perky and full of color.

Whether you choose to float them as a grouping in a large, shallow vessel or as individual specimens in separate vases, a bath full of water is definitely the easiest trick to making your hellebores buddies stick around for a while.

After wearing my hellebores headdress around for a significant part of the morning and early afternoon, a few of the flowers were, as expected, looking a little sad. Worried that I’d cut their life short, I hurriedly plopped them into their watery refuge. Happy to be back within the realm of relative safety, they immediately perked up and looked as good as new. Yippee!

If you’re determined to have long and lengthy stems of hellebores, it’s best to know the “right” stage for picking. If you look at the left image above or the right image below, you’ll see a selection of hellebores buds at various stages of maturity. You might notice that the Double Green Picotee (the furthest to the bottom of each image) has shed its stamens and has seedpods just beginning to form. This is actually the best stage for picking. Unfortunate that we have to forgo the showy stamens, the flower’s flirting eyelashes… but, alas, we can’t make miracles happen.

I’m so excited to introduce my new flower friends to the rest of the existing members of the garden. Luckily I’ll be able to admire their pretty buds for a bit longer… and then it will be a waiting game, anxiously anticipating the first flowers to pop out of the ground next winter!

Floral Fashion: Hellebores in Your Hair

Good evening, flower friends, and a very happy Friday to you all!

In honor of Carnaval, which is taking place around these parts this weekend, I thought that it would be fun to play a little dress up. Just because we won’t be celebrating this year doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy playing around with costumes and putting on a little show! The influx of newly purchased hellebores plants in combination with some trimmings left over from another project I’ve been working on made the perfect mix of ingredients for putting together a fashionable, haute-couture headpiece beautiful enough to rival the front pages of Vogue… well, alright, maybe not quite that hip and fancy, but a girl’s gotta dream, right? :)

For this project, any old fabric will do really, although antique lace would make for the most elegant look. Totally lacking in the antique trimmings department, I actually used a scrap of Alvine Spets curtain fabric from Ikea. The only other key ingredients for this project are some short-stemmed flowers (hellebores is a wonderful option during the late months of winter), a decent length of ribbon, and a needle and thread.

Start by giving your flowers a nice soak. Since they’ll be out of water and in your hair, it’s important for them to get a good drink. Just so you know, if you do choose to use hellebores, try to choose buds that have begun to develop seed pods… and even then, they will probably just barely last throughout the day. Small roses, scabiosa, anemone, and tulips are more hardy alternatives.

Use the needle and thread to attach an equal length of ribbon to both ends of your piece of lace.

Place the flower heads across the lace in a manner which pleases you most before beginning to sew them in place, one by one. I found that just a few stitches were sufficient to secure each flower to the fabric.

By the time you’ve attached all of the flowers, you should have a dense mat of petals making up one heck of a hellebores headpiece.

The fun thing about this project is that it can be worn in multiple ways! Tie it around your neck like a choker, wear it as a headband, use it as a floral sash… the decision is all yours.

I’m partial to wearing flowers in my hair, so I bet you can guess what my personal preference is… but all ways of wearing flowers are fun!  If any of you are getting married anytime soon or if you just want an easy excuse to be a floral fashionista, maybe you’ll consider giving this project a try.

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend!