rose heart

August 31, 2007

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Here’s a heart of roses, waratah, berries and pieris I recently delivered as a sympathy arrangement. Got caught off guard, as I’ve never done this before, and only had a few hours to complete it. Didn’t have the heart form, so had to beg one off another local florist. I’m not a huge fan of cello, but it kept the arrangement fresh for delivery.

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And a color test- just roses held together with some other elements of the wedding, emailed to the bride. She’s going for an antiquey feel, not quite sure if I’ve gotten it right yet- there will be chocolate colored berries and a little dusty green in the bouquet as well. The incredible white Eskimo roses were plucked by me from our organic grower’s glasshouse. They were left on the bush until this stage, and I just love a rose this open. The other roses pictured are Sahara (soft as sand), Brownie (small caramel beauty) and Queen of Color (deep cognac interior, khaki exterior). The fresh, pliable birch twigs will be wound inside huge glass bubble bowls into a nest for white hydrangea.

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Gosh, it’s starting to sink in that I can’t just pop into my favorite retail environments anymore. Sure, there are new and exciting shops on this side of the drink, but I long for my old fav’s. Gardens is a nursery and all-around cool shop that I used to visit just for the charm (and handmande salt caramels), despite rabid mosquitos that could drain you dry in seconds.

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Whenever I needed inspiration I would pop into their nursery, or piffle through their exotic home decor mags, or run my hand over a $3000 chair made of teak… mostly I drooled over the kitchen forged of cold-rolled steel by local metalsmith Hawkeye Glenn. Oh, and the extension designed by architect Mel Lawrence. If only I could transform our barn into the meticulous merging of cinderblock, iron and glass that you see above, my existence might be complete (for a while…).

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The ends of the earth were scoured for the best tableware, gifts and plants. Ahhhh, the refinement of it all.

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I’ll have to post the local equivalent, when I find it. I’ve tried to stop by Verde 3 times, and either the traffic is too bad to stop or they aren’t open. Anyone know of a shop like this around Auckland?

I walked along misty Orewa beach this morning watching Kyle surf.

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Then I saw this tangle of kelp, seaweed and fishing line.

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I couldn’t tell what was real and what was synthetic. Suddenly my mind started categorizing everything on the sand as either nature-made or man-made.

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a nice day

August 18, 2007

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I whipped up some yummy crepes the other morning, thanks to a box of mix from the pantry. But we did have all organic toppings- blueberries, yogurt, honey, coconut.

Then we slid into Grey Lynn, a neighborhood we’ve been wanting to explore. We spent a few moments at the precious Dear Reader bookstore, where I spied a couple of incredible cookbooks (by Tessa Kiros). Run, don’t walk, to check out her multidimensional, personal diary of food.

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been a bit dark, lately

August 16, 2007

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I think most creative folks get a bit blue sometimes, myself included. I’ve been struggling to figure out why I’ve felt so negative and yucky lately. Moving to a country with damp and dreary winters is a big factor, and being so far away from my family and friends is downright depressing.

But having an identity crisis added to the above mix is just plain devastating. I’m feeling much more grounded and ‘myself’ today, thanks to yoga class, but it’s dawning on me that I’m a lot more sensitive to my immediate environment (and people that inhabit it) than I would like. My biz partner has quite a strong personality, plus three rambunctious boys, and I end up feeling swallowed inside that world. I used to be the main character in my life, but now I feel like an unnamed Girl In Back. Ack. I’m not acting like the ‘me’ I used to know- strident, defensive and irritable would be the words to describe my being lately. I feel the need to curl up inside my little quonset hut home, cook some delish dishes, and ignore everything that happens outside. I’m not sure if taking a week off work to do this would improve the situation (am I just suffering from burn-out?), or if that would fuel the fire. It’s been incredibly wonderful to read the postings on other blogs about creative ladies overcoming emotionally tough times.

Some past floral work

August 16, 2007

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Yep, it’s true, the lighting and background in a lot of these shots is just plain awful. I haven’t been doing a whole heap of ground-breaking floral work lately, so I thought I’d post some work from the past.

I did do quite a nice Harvest Hamper sample for a client today, complete with tasties like bread, salami, red pepper jam, fresh organic herbs and lemons, etc. She loved it. I’ll post pics of our range of Farmer’s Market inspired gift baskets soon!

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I’ve been noticing some pretty amazing specimens around lately- this agave spike is so sensuous and lusciously colored.

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I get magnolia branches in bud from one of my growers, and one of the branches busted out with 3 stunning dark magenta blooms as big as my hand with fingers outspread.

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By the Buddhist Temple, a very quaint stall was selling these heavily perfumed narcissus. $1.50 a bunch, what a deal. I put my coins in the slot and loaded up my car boot.

The bouquet I created for my own wedding, then forgot to carry down the aisle.

Crosspollination, as a concept, actually started many years ago around the kitchen tables of myself, and my bestest friends Lauren and Nicole in Austin, Texas. We were in the core of our twenties, working as architects and designers, but I think we all wished to be our own bosses. We sensed that if we investigated all the possibilities, we’d come up with creative businesses that would support us financially and give us the creative satisfaction we all craved. This investigation grew into a monthly meeting of more than 15 or so artsy ladies with the same goal. I asked a few already-successful business owners to share how they started their ventures- you can check out what they do at Mixer, BlackMail and Punch Press.

The goal was to learn from and support each other, and I count some of the crosspollination members as my closest friends. We have all blossomed in one way or another. I ended up finding floral design and started Pollen Floral Art (the bouquet above is from my wedding). Nicole runs a very busy architecture firm called Studio 512 (openhouseinvite.pdf) out of a house that was one of the studio’s early renovations. Lauren is now a graphic designer/art director for Body+Soul magazine, but is the most prolific generator of ideas and ready-made items that I know. Sewing, photography, product design, she does it all. I’ll post images of her work soon.

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Shannon, another member, has also created a successful company- Round Robin Press. You can see her awesome blog here. Shannon is truly an inspiration; she’s the mum to two beautiful boys, and still finds time to create ‘cakes’ of wood, paper and wax (‘Flight’ shown above), as well as a line of cards and custom paper goods. I am soooo sad that we don’t live in the same city- she was just finishing her backyard studio as I was moving to Auckland. I was lucky enough to attend a few Church of Craft Art Nights organized by Shannon and her friends, which I’d love to do here…

I’ve met a handful of crafty ladies here, and hope to invite them all ’round for a cuppa very soon. Crosspollination could be on it’s way to a new chapter.

If only I had the time

August 11, 2007

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There are soooo many tasty things I’d like to try baking. At least I have a functioning oven now. Passionfruit is a recurring theme in my diet these days. Never really understood it before, but put it in yogurt, cheesecake or a savory sauce for meat, and it’s amazing. Someone please make the following recipe and let me know how good it is!

Coconut Passion Cake

From Issue 14 of NZ Life&Leisure Magazine
Words & recipe: Annabel Langbein Photograph: Aaron McLean

(Anabela) often makes this mixture into small cakes using extra- large (425g) recycled tuna cans (washed well and dried out in the oven). The cakes freeze well and make nice gifts, iced or un-iced.

1¾ cups sugar
180g softened butter
4 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups desiccated coconut
2½ cups self-raising flour
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon passionfruit pulp or syrup
Preheat the oven to 160°C. Line a 25cm cake tin with baking paper to cover base and sides. Alternatively, prepare 4 x 10cm tins or 12-16 muffin tins (use ?-½ cup batter per muffin tin). Beat sugar and softened butter until creamy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in vanilla. Combine coconut and flour and fold into mixture alternately with combined milk and passionfruit.

Pour mixture into prepared tin and smooth top. Bake until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. One large cake will take about 60 minutes; for 4 small cakes allow about 50 minutes; and for muffin-sized cakes allow about 20-25 minutes. Cool in tin.

Prepare icing while cake cooks. Spread over cooled cake. Store in a cool place.

Makes 1 x 25cm cake, 4 x 10cm small cakes or 12-16 muffin-sized cakes

PASSIONFRUIT CREAM CHEESE ICING

Whizz or beat together until smooth: 2 tablespoons softened butter, 125g cream cheese, juice and finely grated rind of ½ lemon, 2 tablespoons passionfruit pulp or syrup and 2 cups icing sugar.

From market to table

August 9, 2007

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Kyle and I got to shop at the outstanding Matakana Farmer’s Market Saturday morning. European-style open market concept created by a big-time Auckland developer out in the sweet little no-stoplight town of Matakana. Solid posts separate each booth, covered in canvas. Vendors selling handmade chocolates, fresh feijoa wine, cheese, veges, and cannoli line the circumference, a ruddy lady hawking orchid plants staking out the middle.

Jane and I have a dream of creating the same kind of scene in little Waimauku, where our studio is situated. Big things are about to happen in our hamlet- a huge new shopping complex is due to be completed in about 8 months, and the Council is putting in a train station, complete with a train that will take central Aucklanders out past us to Helensville. Jane’s been involved with the planning of the shopping complex (through Vision Waimauku), to insure that it turns out pleasing to the eye and is integrated into the community. The developer has included a nice flat green area, and we hope to develop an architectural structure akin to Matakana’s. We would, of course, have a stall selling flowers and plants.

It’s imperative to create an experience that people would return to every week- buying specialty gourmet items along with staples like eggs, lettuce and bread. I’ve been trying to visit all the Farmer’s Markets in the area lately; some are sad and scraggly, some are bustling with energy. The Victoria Park Market in the central city seemed like a good bet, set in a lovely 19th century brick compound. Unfortunately, the arcade is lined with cheap souvenir shops (overpriced sheepskins anyone?), a few quality stores thrown in, with the vendors down the center. I was really impressed with the paela dude, a 3 foot wide hot plate of fresh mussels and prawns quickly getting scooped up, and the smoked fish lady. Also available was pate and terrine, moist date scones and organic veges. I was disappointed in the atmosphere, though, and wouldn’t make the drive in again. It seemed sparsely attended and lacked a cohesive feel and community spirit.

The Matakana Market, in contrast, is positively bursting with… uh, honestly, rich yuppies slurping up the atmosphere with their organic milk flat whites (lattes). But that’s the kind of customer you need to consume all that premium, handmade chutney and jam. It doesn’t hurt that Matakana also has a slick row of brasseries, ice creameries and an architect designed boutique movie theater. It may be a while before Waimauku has that.

I was inspired by the tasty produce to have a wonderful cooking Sunday. I crawled out of bed with rain beating on the windows to make waffles topped with luscious little cherries and pecans and maple syrup, scarfed fresh out of the wafflemaker before they could cool off and go limp. We dug out around our fledgling ponga and planted a few wilting cineraria (dusty miller) given to me by a neighbor, then went for a tramp through our own little piece of bush to work off the butter. We hiked over to our neighbor Elise’s fenceline, slipped through the sheep gate, and half walked, half slipped down the wet clay slope (frisky Snowflake as our Patrol Cat). It was difficult to avoid the copious amounts of little round pellets that scream, “I am sheep, watch me poop.”

I hadn’t been down to the far limit of our property, and was completely blown away by what we now own. Getting to the bottom of the slope we swung around to the right into a flat meadow studded with mature cabbage trees and pongas (tree ferns). Two babbling brooks meet amid swathes of feathery and leathery ferns, Green Goddess and white Arum lilies, and moss of all kinds. It’s a mystical spot, you get a comforting sense of being far away from the rest of world, nestled in remote and sunny sereneness.

We hopped over the brooks and saw a huge fern that had been damaged in the storm. A black and green koru lay at its base that was bigger than my fist. I lugged it home and stuck it in a vase; the everlasting iconic symbol of New Zealand gracing my kitchen windowsill.

For lunch I scorched some curry paste in a pan, added coconut milk, fish sauce and rice vermicelli. Served simply with sesame sauteed onions and bok choy, and juicy garlic smoked salmon it was yum. After lunch, and before a stroll down Robert’s Road a few blocks away, I had Kyle make some strong coffee while I beat sugar and egg yolks with milk. Combined, heated, then poured into my ice cream maker, it turned out cool, a little grainy, and delicious with a sprinkle of crispy coconut.

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I also made the following recipe out of the Donna Hay Jun/Jul 07 magazine (Photo – Con Poulos), but mine turned out just slightly different than what’s shown here. The food stylist for the article obviously thought it looked better with the pasta and cheese untainted by the magenta beets. Au contraire! The luscious color that our pasta turned upon contact with them was priceless- too bad I forgot to take a picture. I have to say that the addition of spinach to the recipe helped it become a more well-balanced meal (still heavy on cheese, though), and pinenuts wouldn’t be out of the question. Surprisingly Kyle ate it, and asked for seconds!
three-cheese and caramelised beetroot pasta

2 x 400g (14 oz) bunches baby beetroot, trimmed and halved
5 cloves garlic
½ cup sage leaves
1 tablespoon brown sugar
¼ cup (2 fl oz) olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper
400g (14 oz) farfalle (bow) pasta
1 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
1 cup mascarpone cheese
120g (4¼ oz) goat’s cheese, crumbled
sea salt and cracked black pepper, extra

Preheat the oven to 180°C (355°F). Place the beetroot, garlic, sage, sugar, oil, salt and pepper in a baking dish and toss to coat. Roast for 30−35 minutes or until the beetroot is tender and caramelised. Peel the garlic and mash using the back of a spoon to form a smooth paste. Set aside and keep warm.
Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of salted boiling water for 10−12 minutes or until al dente. Drain and return to the pan. Add the parmesan, mascarpone, goat’s cheese, beetroot mixture, garlic paste, extra salt and pepper and toss to combine. Serves 4.

I’ve been reading housemartin’s and uniform studio’s blogs, and they’ve lit a fire under my booty to explore my relationship with color. I’ve gravitated toward pleasing colors and textures for as long as I can remember, so ending up as a floral designer is no surprise (ok, maybe a wee bit surprising to me). You can see my website here.

billynose

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When finishing out my last two living spaces I’ve been completely inspired by the muddled tones in my cat’s fluff. Dove gray, soft brown, caramel, cream. In our current house these colors have translated into couch, paint, Chilewich rug and boxes, and lamp shades, punctuated with silvery steel and stainless accents. Not that I don’t also love intense colors, I just reserve those for easily changeable items. I’m fickle like that, ya know?

Likewise, I draw inspiration from other natural places. I spend a fair amount of time on the beach, watching my honey surf, and it’s pretty darn amazing what you can find in the sand. This butterfly was from a trip to the Texas coast, which I wrote about in my other blog.

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This lady slipper orchid is currently loitering around my studio, looking for a good home. How cool are the eggplant dots on the chartreuse and white hood? Some flowers I buy just because I have to have them around me, not because they would sell like hotcakes.

To all the crafty ladies out there who create luminous and enchanting blogs, I want to say thank you…