Life on the creative side

Archive for June, 2011

Succulent Wedding Bouquet

succulents for a wedding bouquet

Succulent wedding bouquet

I thought it might be fun to talk in some detail about a few of our recent wedding projects and activities that we particularly enjoyed and that perhaps others might also enjoy or find useful.   I will begin with one of my favorite and most asked about projects – the succulent bouquets. Having only worked with succulents in my garden, I must say I began the process a bit intimated.

I started collecting succulents  as soon as my daughter said she wanted to use them in her wedding. My first step was to take cuttings from the plants already growing in my garden.  After deciding which plants I thought would best match Cindy’s vision, I simply cut off a piece of stem or a branch near a joint, striped off the lower leaves and stuck it into a well draining potting mix; I used a cactus mix and potting soil at about a fifty fifty ratio. I kept them well watered for a couple of a weeks, the key is to make sure they are very well drained as soggy soil is death to a succulent. While most of the succulents that populate my garden live happily in the sun, I kept my cuttings in mostly shade during the rooting process.  After a few weeks I began testing to check if they were taking root by gently giving them a tug, if they resisted they were rooting. I have read suggestions about dipping  cuttings  in a root hormone, and I guess that could  be useful, but my Grandma Jane spent a lifetime rooting countless cuttings to share with family and friends and never used root hormone so neither did I.

While I was able to get quite a lot of plants through my cuttings, the wedding projects would definitely require more than I could start.  So I looked around and found a local nursery that specializes in succulents. I also returned to the small garden center near the beach where I had purchased my first succulents for my Florida garden.  I also discovered that the large home improvement stores  sometimes carry them, but I had more luck, and more fun,  searching the smaller, locally owned nurseries and garden centers of my area.   But I also knew that if all else failed, succulents like everything else, are readily available on line.

Finally the day before the wedding I gathered all my supplies;  a knife, scissors, wire cutters and pliers; floral wire,  floral tape, wired floral picks and floral foam; wooden dowels and flora pins with diamond heads; the plants ; some friends, my sisters and mama.

We started by shaping the floral foam, using a knife we carved them  into softball size spheres. We created a handle for the bouquet by inserting a wooden dowel, six or seven inches long, into the foam.  The dowel was attached to the foam by wrapping floral wire around the dowel, up and over the foam again and again  until  secure, then we repeated the process using floral tape. Next we carefully selected succulents for shape, color and size. By stripping away lower foliage we made a short stem, one half to one inch long. Next we mounted each succulent piece to floral picks by wrapping the wire, which comes attached to the pick, snugly around the plant stem but taking care not to dig into the stem.  Carefully we pushed the picks, with succulents attached, into the foam. We found needle nose pliers useful in this step. Also we learned the hard way that you need to be aware of the length of the pick in relation to the width of the foam. Take care not to push the pick or pin all the way through and out the other side into unsuspecting flesh – ooch! Beleive me I know. If a pick is too long it can simply be snapped into a shorter piece. When a plant didn’t have enough stem to wrap with wire or was too big and heavy, we carefully pushed the pick through the plant center, from the top down and directly into the foam. Starting with larger  plants we continued to insert plants around the foam taking care to keep the shape symmetrical. Next we used smaller plants to fill in until all the foam was concealed. For this we used the diamond headed pins inserted through the crown of the plant. Finally we finished by wrapping six inch wide ribbon of black towel around the dowels; attached with a dab of hot glue. They looked amazing!




Oil Painting Portrait of a Mama Mia Celebration

With all the excitement of the latest wedding, the first anniversary of Kate and Ben quietly came and went.  However it did not go uncelebrated.  My gift to them was a bottle of beautiful Shypoke wine and a portrait of the joyful celebration of their Mama Mia wedding in oil on canvas.

 During a paint-out gathering at Blue Antler Studio I decided to paint a portrait in oils for the first time in many many years.  I am pleased with the results and hope that my daughter and her husband are as well.

Even more generous was the gift of one of my precious bottles of Shypoke wine.  While on an Alaskan cruise to celebrate our twentieth anniversary, my husband and I met the proprietors of a family vineyard located in California wine country. We have since followed the growth of the small family run enterprise as it developed it’s own collection of truly wonderful wine.  I was fortunate enough to visit the family vineyard on a trip through wine country a few years back and they generously shared some of their wine with me – I became a fan and consumer at first taste!

“The best wine either of us has ever tasted.”  Kate and Ben on their first anniversary.

A Wedding Quilt

wedding quilt

wedding quilt block by kathyNow that the wedding has come and gone and all the surprises have been sprung, I can finally share with you the details of the beautiful wedding quilt the women of our family along with some special kindred spirits created for the new bride and her husband.the quilters of cindy and benny's wedding quilt

Upon hearing the news of my daughter’s engagement to her sweet Benny, the  planning began. Planning of course for the wedding itself but more immediately for the wedding quilt that has become a tradition among the women of my family.  So on a  clear day near the end of summer, 2010 a group of women gathered at Blue Antler Studio in celebration and support of one of their own.

I had already collected all the supplies we would need to express our joy for Cindy and Benny, and for the blessings of love itself, in the thworking on quilt blocksreads and stitches of a handcrafted quilt. The supplies  included, pins, needles, scissors and thimbles, thread in various colors, fusible webbing, iron on photo-transfergathering for piecing the wedding quilt sheets, fabric markers, quilt pattern books and of course a variety of fabric.

As is tradition we also sent material to the woman of our clan and any kindred spirits wishing to participate, young and old, who lived too far from the ridge to attend the gathering.  It was exciting each time the scraps of fabric would return as a completed block.  The diversity in creative styles were  uniquely expressed in both design and technique.  Some stitched their message in embroidery thread or applique, some seamed it in contemporary style while others in a traditional pattern and some, such as Lisa and lisa and karen quilt blockour friend Karen used imagery to express their vision. Using a photo of Cindy, taken in NYC on the day wecabin quilt block by kathy helped her find her wedding dress, (see previous blog – Wedding Update: The Dress, 2011/02/17 ) they imprinted the image onto a block as a photo transfer. Each creation was as lovely as the next and all unified by theme and fabric.

denice quilt blockangie  quilt blockedna block

Only a few months later, with crisp autumn sunlight streaming through the windows, we gathered again, this time for a quilting. With the blocks all pieced into a beautiful top and layered together grandpa and grandma working on the wedding qultwith batting and a backing, we took our seats working on the wedding qultaround the old frame. Under the watchful eye and gentle tutelage of my mom, a skilled quilter of over sixty years, the first of many stitches was made. Even my dad  stopped by to commit his support and his hands to the tradition by takiing a seat alongside the women; loving teasing his wife of nearly sixty five years with every clumsy stitch. But his visit was short as mom soon grew tired of his humor and shooed him away; which was surely his plan all along.

Laughter punctuated the scene as we reminisced about our children, now all grown up,  our own time as young siblings  and about the sweetness of young love, all the while stitching together the layers of fabric and of our family.  As hands, as wide ranging in skill and experience as in age toiled together, our expression of  love and tradition  became a lovely wedding  quilt.

wedding quilt for cindy and benny


Our Beach Wedding – lovely bride; handsome groom; great neighbors, friends and family; beautiful setting; perfect weather and – no love bugs!

father daughter dance

The week of the wedding was a whirlwind of activities.  Family and friends started arriving early in the week to clear skies clouded with black swarms of pesky love bugs. For those who are not familiar with the amorous little creatures, they’re an imported pest that swarms, in pairs, for a couple of weeks every year. Although harmless,  their presence, in unusually large numbers this year, made being outside challenging as they flew, fell and crawled about us, our drinks and our food.   With visions of  the lovely white coconut cake dotted with an orgy of nasty little bugs and our guests picking tiny sangria soaked carcasses from their glasses, I began to wonder if bugs, not weather, would force us to go to our backup plan.

But there was no time for worry, with only days until the wedding we still had another dress fitting; garden lights to be hung; succulent bouquets to be made; a cake to decorate; a Marilyn Monroe inspired dance to perfect and perform – more about that in another post – maybe ;)  and a picnic for nearly two hundred guests to prepare.

I’d been collecting succulents for months, making starts from cuttings of my own plants and buying more from local nurseries, and my sister  dug up and brought down with her a bunch of hen and chicks from her garden and from the gardens around Blue Antler Studio, we would have plenty for all our projects. The cake would be a combination of Publix bakery and homemade, the plan was for me to simply stack, frost, wrap with a blinging band, dust with coconut flakes and top with two fun flamingos.

In the early hours of the wedding day with love bugs still in the air,  Wayne and I headed to the farmer’s market where I had arranged to purchase greens, cucumbers, squash, and onions from some of our areas organic farmers.  The local citrus grower  turns to distributing fresh fruit and melons from around the state during the summer months while their fruit is out of season. I contracted them to purchase and cut up fruit for the fruit salad. By giving them the freedom to select whatever looked best at the moment, we ended up with an unbelievably delicious medley of melons, pineapple and kiwi. I added a hand full of strawberries and  blueberries from the supermarket for contrast – yummy and beautiful!

In the meantime my brother and an assortment of friends, young and old and from near and far, hung lights and set up chairs and  the tables we borrowed from my son- in-law’s church.  A couple of my best friends prepared, mac & cheese (with Gruyere cheese), baked beans (with home grown sorghum) and fresh potato salad (from scratch). My sister in-law led my sisters in a frenzied chopping and slicing marathon for the burger and salad fix’ns and then, like the wonder woman she is,  mixed up the sangria and some pina colada for toasting. My mom and a family friend helped me make the bouquets and my son-in- law’s mother came  early to help clean, make table decorations and set up the candy bar. To keep the bride calm and out of the fray, some friends hosted the girls in the wedding party at their home with pool side mimosas, lunch and massages!  Another dedicated friend bravely documented the entire week and all the goings-on with her camera.

When  the ceremony finally began the love bugs had gone and my husband and I walked our last daughter down the aisle in her perfectly fitted gown while our son played the wedding march on his ukulele and her sister stood as her witness. Then the entire crowd, that flowed out into  neighboring yards, sang “All You Need Is Love” to the surprise and delight of the bride and groom. The vows were led by a family friend, whose stories from  our  father-children camping group days had the crowd at once in tears and laughter. Then  dads from the old camping group tied on their aprons, fired up the old camping grill and cooked up one hundred and fifty four burgers (only six were left over), fifty six hot dogs (not quite enough) and twenty or so veggie burgers.  The DJ,  a friend, kept the air full of our favorite songs and another friend/bartender kept our glasses full.  It was a real homespun affair and the perfect expression of my daughter’s dreams.

As I watched my husband twirl his little Cindy Jean, now all grown up, around the dance floor to “Brown Eyed Girl” , I was filled with joy and thankfulness for my many many blessing;  from my three beautiful children and, now two, wonderful son- in- laws, to all the incredible  friends and family and neighbors gathered around us,  to the absence of  rain (and love bugs). Even now, as I write,  I am amazed by the enthusiastic participation of so many extraordinary people, their help and generosity made the ceremony wonderful but it was their love and friendship that  made the celebration joyful.

Thank you, to you all.