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Archive for September, 2007

A Full Serving of Fruit…and Nuts.

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

Feel that nip in the air? Not yet? Well, wait a week or two and you’ll be reaching for your favorite sweater and raking piles of leaves from the lawn. Now that summer’s blooms have had their day and the abundance of autumn weighs in, why not steal a bit from the groaning board to mark the season? A laden branch is a beautiful thing. Consider these delicious options…Pomegranates: Stuff of myth, the pomegranate so tempted Persephone that she ate a bit of one and caused her annual banishment to Hades’ dark underworld for six months each year. It’s easy to see why – this ruby fruit is beautiful inside and out. Whether in a decorative spray or individually worked into an arrangement, this ancient fertility symbol is fall personified.Pears: Not just for partridges to perch on, a branch of blushing miniature pears brings a mouthwatering note to any grouping of seasonal flora. Fill a large glass cylinder with fat green Bartletts and tuck in tall sticks of cinnamon – it will be hard not to reach for one to eat. When you’re tired of the arrangement – simply add red wine, sugar, and poach till tender!Persimmons: Whether heaped in a rough stoneware bowl or still on the stem, it’s easy to see why these glossy orange fruit are such a popular subject in Asian art. They glow as if lit from within, and their curious calyxes look carved from jade. Pair them with bright branchesleaves and gnarled branches for a sculptural combo. Later, the slow-ripening fruit will make delicious muffins…Quince: Looking like a cross between a pear and an apple, this hard, gnarly specimen is thought to be the true fruit that lead to the Original Sin. Whether biblical fact or fiction, its sweet, heady scent alone is enough to lead one astray. Pile them in a Limoges tureen with walnuts in the shell or place a branch with leaves and fruit on the mantel. Now, take a deep breath; it’s autumn in Paradise.Other fruits on the vine that look great in the vase are figs – like the photo here from House Beautiful’s September 2007 issue – bittersweet, snow in summer, lady apples and baby pumpkins. We love pretty.

The Art of Giving

Monday, September 10th, 2007

Dear Reader, I Repeat: Pay AttentionIn my first post about the art of giving gifts, I told a tale on myself. I wrote about a simple gift – given to me by a near stranger – a gift subtle and powerful enough to spin me into full blown infatuation. I explained that the gift in question – a little bouquet of peach-toned roses – mimicked a flower I wore when I met the man who eventually gave me the present. The fact that he remembered the rose behind my ear a year later, and when we met again handed me a dozen identical blossoms, knocked me for total loop.Commenting on my post, a reader responded: “So the secret is peach-colored roses. Thanks for the inside information!” On reading the comment, my immediate response was, “D’oh! Men!!!” Okay, so my knee-jerk sexist response did nothing to further the cause of better gift-giving, but I had to wonder how he had managed to miss everything I wrote besides “peach-colored” and “roses”.So I say to him, “Yes Leonard, the secret to giving me a gift 20 years ago was peach colored roses.” But that said, one woman’s blindingly romantic rose may be another woman’s prosaic poison ivy. There is no one-size-fits-all present. Everyone’s taste is distinct. If anyone, male or female wants to give a gift that truly hits the mark, they need to pay attention to the target of their gifting.In the case of Carlo, my observant Italian friend, we spoke only briefly when we first met, but he was interested enough to remember the color of the flower in my hair, and rekindled the feeling of our first meeting with the bouquet he later gave me. The next time you have a floral gift to give, a bit of reflection and observation will set you in the right direction. Does this person dress in sharp, chic clothes? Here is a candidate for a simple, sophisticated arrangement. Have you seen her reading romance novels? Does she adore Jane Austen? A bouquet of old-fashioned roses or lilacs will do the trick.Is his home or office done in stark mid-century Modern or antique Asian? Orchids, my friend, send orchids.Without the clue of a flower behind my ear, Carlo would have had to conjecture carefully from other signals to give a gift as moving as the one he presented to me. But those signals come through loud and clear for all those interested enough to listen and pay close attention.