Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Tis the season

I know it's the Christmas season now because I burnt my fingers today with the hot glue gun making ornaments. It's sort of a tradition at our house, but was extended today to a group of garden club friends while we prepared for our annual Christmas Luncheon.

It is the tradition of our garden club for the officers to host the Christmas get together. This includes decorating the tables and making a small gift for each member. This year's gift is an angel ornament. The two six-foot long tables were covered with feathers, beads, trim, glue, scissors, wire cutters, ribbons, angel "hair". The resulting angels covered the creative spectrum from angelic to wild haired, and culturally included Irish, Chinese, Indian and angels of color.

Our creative fires were stoked with a plate of Christmas cookies.

As this year's president, I will have the privilege of making the centerpieces, but I still have a few days to marinate my thoughts on what they will be.

Instead of exchanging gifts, our club has decided to participate in the Figleaf Project of the Garden Clubs of Georgia. We will each bring packages of handkerchiefs, underwear or socks to send to one of the state hospitals for those patients who do not receive these necessities from their families. We earlier decorated small felt Christmas stockings for these same patients to wear during the holidays. Each stocking includes a dollar for the patient to spend at the hospital commissary.

In this year when we have experienced so many disasters here and throughout the world, these small kindnesses seem not nearly enough.

Friday, November 25, 2005

The New Georgia Aquarium

We were fortunate today to be among the first 60,000 visitors to the new Georgia Aquarium in downtown Atlanta. What a fabulous attraction. You could easily spend the afternoon just gazing at the main tank, which is enormous. and watching the variety of fish that it houses, including the two whale sharks, Ralph and Norton.

The smaller exhibits were also amazing -the five beluga whales, the jellyfish, the penguins. We will certainly return - probably when the hectic crowds of the opening have passed. It would be wonderful to sit quietly, alone, and just watch.

After walking about two miles inside the aquarium, we headed for home. Here I found that the Christmas arrangement on the mantle had finally died. Yes, Christmas. Because I take photographs for the website well ahead of the holiday, our house is usually decorated by unseasonal designs and often by left over flowers and foliage in vases.

So in keeping with this new habit, I suppose I should start on the New Year's Day design, or perhaps even Valentine's day, just to stay ahead. Would it be too early to start on Easter? Yes, I think so.

Tomorrow, just for us, I think I will build a mantlepiece design. I can take advantage of the newly reddened holly berries, and the white pine sprays I cut from the neighbor's trees so that we can see to safely leave our driveway. I set aside some particularly attractive pine cones and some lower branches of the magnolia are now large enough to trim. These simple ingredients may be enough, along with a few white candles on brass candlesticks, to dress the mantle for the real holiday to come.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

A Traditional Thanksgiving

We have embarked on our traditional Thanksgiving - four hours cooking, 15 minutes eating, and an hour or so of cleaning up. All so that we can have turkey sandwiches and leftover pie tomorrow.

The house already smells like fresh-baked bread and soon the scents of the pumpkin pie will start to float around. I am committing a sort of heresy today. I am trying someone else's pie recipe - one other than my mother's recipe, which is THE primary tradition in my family.

We have included some others in our feast. We topped up the thistle seed feeder for the goldfinches that refuse to fly further south. The bird feeder is freshly filled and the meal worms, set out for the bluebirds, are being devoured by the Carolina wrens. The hickory nuts that were damaged when I was trying to drill holes in them (for arrangements of course) were set out in a flat for the squirrels, who devoured them instantly, or possibly planted them throughout the garden and in wintered outside pots.

As I opened the can of condensed milk for the pie, the cats gathered at my feet. They are convinced that only good things for cats come in cans. I resisted. They will have turkey giblets from a can while we eat our dinner.

Last night we roasted chestnuts for the first time - not over an open fire - but in the oven. The split shells were still difficult to remove and I took a vow never to try this again. This morning we found a worm climbing on the outside of the compost container - probably from the shells I put there last night. Now I must examine the nut meats carefully, looking for worms, before chopping them for the dressing. My husband suggested putting the meats in the microwave and cooking the worms. "Once they're cooked," he said,"you'll never know the difference."

There is much to be grateful for. I just read this morning, "If the only prayer you ever say is 'Thank you', that is enough."

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A Fresh Perspective on Your Garden

Arranging gives you a fresh perspective on your garden and what you plant in it. You will begin to plant for the varied foliage and colors that make your arrangements interesting and, in turn, your garden will become more interesting as well. You don't have to buy flowers to make beautiful arrangements. You can even use fruits and vegetables and then eat your creation!

Particularly at this Thanksgiving holiday, the use of vegetables and nuts seems appropriate. The holiday just conjures images of a bounty of vegetables spilling from a cornucopia. I made one for myself, of found foliage in the garden, dried material I had sitting around, hickory nuts that I found in the parking lot at the YMCA and pheasant feathers that I had saved from a previous arrangement. I'm pleased with it.

Several Christmas holidays ago, we visited with our family in the San Francisco area. We were laughing at the Saturday Night Live skit where actors spoofed Martha Stewart by building an arrangement from "found items". The arrangement included crushed beer cans and old dog bones. Later, when the family went for a hike on Mount Diablo, everyone spontaneously began to put "found things" in their pockets. Even the kids came home with sticks, cones, rocks - all contributions to what became our Christmas table centerpiece. No cans or dog toys, but when our "found stuff" was supplemented with foliage from the garden, we had a very respectable looking arrangement.

Enjoy your holidays. There is lots to be grateful for.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Did you ever just want to talk?

I think there are people out there who want to talk with someone about their hobby. People with questions. People with answers. I would like to add a message board to the site for that purpose, but let's start slowly. How about a blog? You can respond and people can respond to your response.

I had a call yesterday from a woman who was looking for monkey puzzle vine for her arrangements. I was able to find a designer in Florida who advised that it has been declared an endangered plant and so is no longer sold. It used to come from Costa Rica. Being endangered means it also can't be sold by people who already own it. Like ivory, this creates a trade in the material which may encourage others to poach it. Yep - plants get poached too.

Flower arrangers are usually gardeners in my experience. We started digging in the dirt and then wanted to bring our gardens inside. I wanted to enjoy my garden no matter what the temperature or the weather, so arranging seemed like the perfect answer.

My only frustration was with the limited access I had to all the toys available. The local "big box" had floral foam and some styrofoam and that's it. I wanted more. I live in a major metro area and have lots of places to shop and still couldn't find everything I wanted. So it occured to me that there must be arrangers all over the country - many of whom do not live next to dozens of stores - who would also want these things. So I built a website: