Monday, October 27, 2014

Spider Sagas...

We've had SO many spiders in the PNW this year, big spiders, with lots of webs, we are all trying to figure out why? Could it be due to a Trophic Cascade

Oh, you don't know what a trophic cascade is? 

Well, neither did I, but my daughter, the budding biologist, schooled me the other day: it's when an animal in a level (or trophic) of the food chain disappears, or reappears and then affects the population of the levels above and below it. So, it seems as if something has happened to one of the species that usually consumes the arachnids around here. Maybe they have decided to eat my favorite Halloween confection "Chocolate  covered Tarantulas" instead (and who could blame them, recipe below)? 

 The irony always amuses me, that as I make the effort to hang these hairy creatures on the front of my house, outside, I'm doing everything I can to get rid of them {kindly} inside.

While the weather allows, I love to keep my doors and windows open to enjoy the fresh, crisp autumn air, but of course, doing so also allows all the creepy crawlies in. Last year I sprayed THIS orange oil based, all natural insect repellent on my window sills and door jams and I think it did stop the pests in their tracks. In addition to repelling, they say it will actually kill a number of these critters (if you spray it on them directly), but it is safe to use around pets, humans and food {and it smells good!}

As I was searching for the product on Amazon this year, I saw something near and dear to my heart, Osage Oranges for sale on touted as an organic, natural repellent to spiders and other insects. You can also buy them directly from Thunder Acres, the 5th generation farm located in south Central Kansas that harvests them for you when they receive your order. 

Every fall, I look forward to the time when these oddly appealing orbs drop from a nearby tree so I can display them indoors. I love their bright green color and their refreshing aroma. 

Hedge Apples {aka Osage Oranges} en mass
Little did I know, that the scent I love, and consider to be a great natural room freshener, is most unappealing to many insects, what a bonus! They recommend putting them in basements and attics even, the fruits hold up for weeks indoors. 

So, how do you like them apples, big guy?

Are you ready for halloween? I just need to find a few more branches on which to drape the rest of this Spanish Moss, my favorite new decoration this year. The tendrils I've already hung have made it through some wild wind and rain, becoming even more eerie and elegant with every drop and gust. I love the soft gray color of this organic decor 
{and I love the lazy~lady notion that it really doesn't need to be taken down come November :)}.

I also need to make a batch of what are absolutely the very best Halloween confection EVER, Chocolate Covered Tarantulas . These crunchy, salty, tangy, sweet and chewy mounds are easy to make and impossible to resist. There's no baking required, just mix up the ingredients, smother them in your favorite melted chocolate and create the spiders of your dreams {the good spider dreams}. 

How to make these addicting confections

A little more greenery before I go!

I hope you are enjoying spider season!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Quince in vanilla syrup, brandy and beautiful bowls around the home...

If you've been with me for a few years {thank you} you probably already know about my passion for Quince and other green orbs this time of year.

My dear friend's quince tree was quite prolific this year, so I had plenty of fruit to place in bowls around the house. Their unique astringent, slightly sweet fragrance makes the most wonderful natural room scent. I love the look of their irregular shapes and their waxy and sometimes furry, yellow~green skin. These hard fruits will last for weeks indoors and even longer outdoors or in the refrigerator.

I also had an ample supply to put up the traditional annual quince slices in a thick, creamy, luscious syrup, which will become more and more flavorful each day thanks to the sections of vanilla bean they are floating around with them in a cool, dark space.

Most of these jars will be dressed up and presented as hostess gifts in a couple of months.

It was such a good crop, I was able to pull together the beginnings of a cozy Quince Brandy as well, some of which will be decanted for holiday gifts in a month or so.

Though this vat went to a very splendid skipper I know, on his special day, where he memorably invited all of his guest to come and sail away with him, 

sort of like the Owl and the Pussycat....

{click on the link to enjoy this marvelous poem again}.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Spooky with an edge of natural elegance...

 I'm enjoying the opportunity to do spooky in a little more artful, elegant & natural fashion this Halloween... as the kids get older and their tastes have developed

Look at these gorgeous hydrangeas my friend brought me from her garden, the colors are so rich and complex with a lovely powdery patina. 

They look great in this old silver wine bucket and make the perfect background for my black birds I've wired to these thick, gnarled branches of curly willow on the table in my courtyard.

You may remember my trip down to the bayou, to The Madewood Plantation, in The Bayou La Fourche to be exact.  Where I was so impressed with the sleepy, creepy quality of all of the Spanish Moss hanging in that thick air, dripping from the trees and trellises,  I vowed I was going to try to import some for Halloween this year.

So, here it is, and these trees in the graveyard are getting some notice. 

The other day when I walked out of the house I found a cute couple taking a selfie under this canopy that hangs over the sidewalk, a popular route for local walkers...  #flattered.

My neighbor mentioned that a walker had asked her "what type of trees are those", and I've had a few couples say to me "you must be from the south", someone even told my daughter to tell me he was from New Orleans, and that "I'd done a good job". I hope I don't sound too pathetic repeating these compliments, but I really appreciate the appreciation, 

because I gleefully work hard on my Halloween decor each year, even though I know that very few trick~or~treaters will bother to venture down our dark, non~contiguous street come All Hallows Eve,  not that I blame them, even though I do give out full sized candy bars and mini~bottles of brandy and other after dinner drinks {for the grown~ups}, last year I even set up a Vampire Bar for the adults with bottles of cranberry juice marked as blood types and cute little minis of Crystal Head Vodka, I'm planning on recreating that scene this year {am I tempting you to come by??}. 

The Vampire Bar
So where does one get fresh Spanish Moss? Amazon, of course I ordered a 28 pound box, which is a large box, absolutely stuffed with these cleaned, healthy tendrils, and, let me tell you, 28 pounds is A LOT of moss {smaller quantities are available}.

As I was draping these soft gray~green strands over the branches of my trees my Lazy~lady side was feeling quite pleased when considering that this decoration would not require any clean-up, unlike those wretched packaged "spiderwebs" I've spun around in years past. I imagined that the moss would drop to the ground with the leaves to become organic matter, or to be raked up in the Spring.

But, then I read how to grow Spanish Moss, where I learned that this moss is actually an "air plant" that "does not leach from the trees" but simply uses them "as a means of gaining height for sunlight",  they thrive on moisture and can tolerate frost... so perhaps these soft, sultry strands will stay around for awhile...

and I think that would be just splendid.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Beautiful vignettes for fall...

We're having an extremely balmy fall here in the PNW, far warmer than usual. While I'm basking in the silky, warm air with just a hint of of crispness, the lasting flowers and a few more days to enjoy open toed shoes, I was finding it hard to be inspired to decorate for the season.

But after a quick stop into the extraordinary gift shop we fortunate to have in our neighborhood, Martha Harris, I was filled with inspiration overload. If you live in Seattle, I highly recommend you make it down here to see their fall finery on display. If you can't make it, here are some of the highlights.

 Of course, I was immediately enthralled by the combination or orange leaves surrounding beautiful blue and white ceramics. 

This is something simple one could do in minutes, you may even have branches of berries, leaves, crabapples or other fruits in your backyard you could bring inside to display. 

Branches of leaves and fruits can be placed into vases with or without water (water in older porcelain can be damaging) most leaves will continue to change colors and you can switch them out if they become too dry or brittle looking.

Their vignette themes ran from subtle fall through more serious harvest and onto full~on Halloween, and beyond. I love these sweet little hand painted nightstand dishes, Martha Harris is filled with so many unique gift items of every shape and size.

This lively display built around cream colored pottery with black lettering moves us into harvest mode with the plush velvet pumpkins and more colorful leaves and berries.

Why not drape a few leaves on the chandelier?

The front of the store screams Halloween with these fun jack~o~lanterns, many are hollowed out and dried gourds which you could reuse for years to come. The window is framed with rich layers of green hops.

Shiny black cats and sparkling spiders are a superb contrast to the refined lines of these elegant vessels.

A close~up of some of the gourds, I love that they threw leopard print cocktail napkins into the mix.

A consistent factor in these vignettes is a touch of something natural and organic~looking {some silk and other artificial pieces are used because they will last through the season, but you could go easily go all natural at home}. 

After I finish this post I'm going down to my garden to cut the artichokes that are dying/ drying on the stalk! These spiky globes add such great substance and texture to this collection.

I've always loved how they painted the backs of the store cabinets in colors that set off the china so nicely. These polished white plates look alive displayed with branches of felt leaves {you could achieve this look with fresh green leaves too}. The deep olive colored grosgrain ribbon thread through the cake plates add warmth, texture and a sense of celebration. The burnt orange colored candles and the orange ribbon flowers and table cloth provide a perfect pop of contrasting color.

Here's another lovely cabinet of green and orange vignettes, a few pieces of fruit, flowers, branches and leaves really make the scene.

I especially love this wash of green on the edge, with the topiary, the willow painting and the celery green background, contrasted with pomanders, oranges studded with cloves, a wonderful, natural room freshener.

This ornately carved armoire is crowned with a fabulous wreath of cotton pods. These next vignettes will last through the holidays.

I love this pewter bark piece, the frost of the pewter is warmed with scenes of birds and stalks of cotton.

Here, feathered birds, orange pine cone candles and brown paper wrapped candles help to convey the feeling of an upper woodland scene.

Another vignette where shades of orange and green bring warmth and a spirit of fall, this time to exotically shaped porcelain pieces, the horn frames and deep orange printed paper base enhance the sense of an exotic land.

Okay, not decor, but I think these Claude Dozorme steak knives are the most handsome set I've ever seen.

Here's a rich mix of textures in green with pops of orange persimmons {I am so excited that a friend has invited me to cut branches from her persimmon tree when the fruit begins to turn color... hoping to be sharing shots of that in a few weeks}. The humble verdant squash looks absolutely elegant in this setting.

Simply filling a bowl with interesting looking squashes, gourds & pods, adding a candle and maybe a vase of bare branches can make your desk look like a still life painting {if you take away all of the papers and clutter :)}

I loved this little Out of Africa vignette with Moroccan-looking coaster tiles, carved wooden walking sticks, exotic plants including a gardenia and sedums, horn desk accessories and elephant imagery. 

Believe it or not, I have barely scratched the surface of what they offer at Martha Harris. They also have beautiful table linens, dreamy nightwear, a wide array of candles, Antica Farmacista diffusers, ribbons, cards, travel accessories, jewelry and so many more unique gifts and items for the home.

They are also known for being one of the best florists in town. The florists work in the back of the shop, so even if you see "silk" flowers in the displays, the smell of fresh flowers abounds. The day I was there they were working on a big party, so the crew was busy stripping branches of roses, hydrangeas and other blooms. 

They don't have a website, but if you are interested in anything you have seen feel free to call the shop at 206-568-0347, they will be happy to help you in any way. 

Alright, enough talk, time to bring on the beauty of fall!