Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

The Ritz-Carlton, a company known for the repetitive and never tired “my pleasure” as an answer to any request, is a place where making things pretty comes quite easily.  Two 12″ trees flank the entrance to the Ritz Residences on Market Street here in our fair town.  I decided on tall structural Silver Tips (my fave), carefully decorated with bronze ornaments.

Initially I had thought about going all au naturel, using nothing but glittered cones and pods and seeds, and then covering the trees with hundreds of Papillio Ulysees butterflies.  Then, as the days progressed, I realized that people really do like a bit of bling on their trees.  So I visited my favorite Long Island madame at the Kurt Adler showroom and purchased some really beautiful gold and bronze ornaments to compliment the cones and nuts I did use.

So I want to introduce you to this very simple and SUPER CHIC little ornament, one that can be made quite easily.  All you need are:

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Chestnuts (fresh)

Brass eye hooks from the hardware store (preferably mixed sizes in a cozy plastic box)

Elmer’s Glue (with a touch of water)

A ramekin

GOOD glitter (see www.chicoparty.com) and a spoon

A paper plate to catch the additional glitter that does not stick to the nut or cone

A blotter, paint brush or a lightly wetted clean sponge

INSTRUCTIONS:

Prepare a hanging area which could be something as simple as a shish kabob skewer that is weighted down at one end.  You will thread the skewer with the chestnuts after you apply the glitter.  

First you take the eye hook and gently screw it into the top of the FRESH chestnut (or at the bottom of a pine cone)

Then you carefully pinch the eye hood as you dip the nut into about 3/4″ of glue that you have in the ramekin, slightly watered down.  You can use your fingers or a pair of rabbit ears. Lift out of the glue and let the extra glue drip away and blot the “tip” of the nut with a wet sponge but do not wipe away the glue.

Spoon a fine glitter (fine as in texture and quality) over the nut as you gently turn it for full coverage.

Thread the skewer with the nut and let it hang dry.

The next day you will be free to gently brush away any additional glitter and thread with a thin ribbon.  Voilá, you have a beautifully scaled and very elegant ornament for your tree, or frankly with a cute cap sleeve T-shirt, good jeans and good shoes, you have a very elegant necklace.  (Too big for earrings)

I made 40 of these in 2 hours.  Wrap in soft tissue paper (not paper towels) and store for the following year.  They will last forevz.

HINT:  Should some of the glitter fall away over the years, use an even more diluted glue “solution” and gently, and with a small fine brush, apply a thin layer of glue over the affected area. Gently apply a fine and gentle stream of glitter.  (You do not want the ornament to appear chunky or sloppy-heavens no!)

 

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Last photo courtesy of the magnificent and delightful Antonette Streeter.

Have fun!!! and Happy Happy Holidays from John James Designs.  May abundance and peace and gratitude be comfortably yours for now and always.  YES!!!!!

Sherlock Holmes and the Place Card

I cannot take credit for this SUPER CUTE!!!! idea.  It is good for the kids, (especially) and for the kid at heart.

Okay, so these are photos from a birthday party for an older gentleman.  The stunning environment of BOND estate needed little to no amending.  However, the beautiful antique dining table just screams for flowers, food, friends, and fun so off to work I went with rich brown, orange and caramel colors.  Sounds simple enough right?

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Well, in comes the one and only Kathryn Fowler with a party favor of magnifying glasses.  At each setting was an old fashioned paper ball in which lies a trifle, good fun, and the addition of the glasses was truly delightful.  Each magnifying glass had a different handle, good weight in the hand and so we set about placing them as well as the place cards.  I always wait, as I am sure others do, to put the place cards down last.

EEK!  The place cards were nowhere to be found.  We all looked at each other, knowing that no one’s handwriting was “good” enough to mimic the pros and suddenly Carissa asserts, “We should right the letters super small and have the guests use the magnifying glasses to find their place at the table”!!!  How cute is that?  (Granted this was a group of good friends totaling only 14.  I would not suggest this for a group larger than 30).

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I wrote the smallest letters I could possibly write without making it impossible to see and though it does not show up well in the photos, when one scans the place card with the glass, POP!, the name becomes crystal clear.  Without the glass, one was, as my father would say, shit out of luck.

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Any manner of magnifying glass will do.  I suspect one could order a less expensive version on Amazon.  So much fun!

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Get inspired!!!

Have fun and don’t forget that the old wived tales are in fact not true.  Fresh cuts and fresh water, no additives, are all that flowers need.  (Just don’t forget to change the water every other day)

 

Glitter, glitter and more glitter!

I am not stranger to glitter. Friends and family alike are familiar with the precious little twinkles coming from my neck, hair, cheeks, jeans, shoes, floor, closet, bed, laundry room, patio and fireplace-all as a result of indulging in the late November early December tradition of glittering the sh*& out of anything that wasn’t glued down.

Actually that last part is not too terribly true. I am discerning about what to glitter as you should be too. So, for a quick lesson on how to make a bow, any old bow look super duper great, I have created this cozy post for you. This project is something that can be done with the kids, is easy to store and re-use and if you are using metal or glass glitter, is completely non-toxic.

Here is what you will need to make ribbons and bows look super glittertastic. (Glittertastic? Yeah, I am gonna stay with it for a bit though I am not sure it has the weight of say “fanfu*^$ingtastic”)

Step one! Get your goodies. I have a gigantic collection of ribbon from Ribbons Unlimited in Pasadena. When I first walked in this store I gasped. Perfectly aligned shelves house zillions of ribbons, a whole section of satin solids of gorgeous colors and in about 14 sizes!!! So love this place.

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INGREDIENTS

Several plates (paper for throw away if you wish) for excess glitter
Good German Glass or metal flake glitter (don’t be shy to try Car Paint Companies)
Disposable paint brush
SUPER GOOD SCISSORS!
Bowl of lightly watered down Elmer’s glue
Ribbon
Cut your ribbon into a dove tail and with either painter’s tape or with your own hand, create the starting point of your glue about two or three inches above the center cut of the dove tail. Lightly glue but be sure to cover.

Then sprinkle the glitter onto the ribbon, completely covering the glued area. DO NOT PRESS DOWN. If you have to go over the glitter with the brush because of poor coverage, do not be shy. Though you may need another brush should you change glitter color.

Gently pull the ribbon off of the paper and hang from the side of your craft table (ha! like we all have craft tables, I use the dining room table or the mantle and weigh the ribbons down with a candle. Once I even used a potato. Hey, I was out of candles and had to make a ton of these things-later I had glorious mashed potatoes but that is for another post-I make very good mashed potatoes.)

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There are a million and one ways to use theses ribbons. Often I will tie an old-fashioned bow and then glue these behind the knot in the center of the ribbon for a lot of added drama. These are also very nice to tuck into holiday trees with the glittery wonderfulness illuminated by the sting lights. If you use these as an elegant touch to your tree, you will need a good amount of yardage.

For the Ritz-Carlton Residences here in San Francisco, I used these sparingly on the mantle. The look is super chic in the space and a perfect match to the topiary I made. You can see how I used the ribbons at the top and bottom of the topiary for a super dramatic effect.

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Remember, there are no rules other than to use non-toxic materials and to have a great time. What is so good about this ribbon is that the texture and body of the ribbon make it super easy to work with. Simply puddling them down the side of your tree will create a gorgeous shape. The ribbon is very forgiving.

Now here is the topiary I made. I will talk more about the topiary in another post. SUPER EASY! But look at the ribbons. They are connected to the topiary body by ends being poked into sections between the ornaments and cones with a bamboo shish kabob skewer.

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Because the glue makes the ends of the ribbons stiff, you can really tweak and bend the tips for high drama!

Hope you have fun and should you have any specific questions, please feel free to write.

Limonata at Costco and an explosion of citrusy goodness

Ok, so I am a bit of a Diet Coke kind of guy.  Not always, but certainly with Chinese food from Mama Ji’s.   LOVE IT!  Though ever since I rediscovered San Pellegrino Italian soda products, namely Limonata, I have ditched what I know is a terribly bad liquid for the body and am comfortably enjoying these effervescent lovelies.

I was strolling through Costco, dodging busy little bees who are as good with a cart as they are with a car, and there they were, a 24 case of Limonata and Aranciata sodas.  They are delicious, great with roasted chicken, salads, or solo after a rough go with the clay soil in the garden, preparing beds for tons of forthcoming daffodil and tulip bulbs.  YES!!!

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When I went to the flower mart, I noticed these delightful but slightly garish Anthuriums.  They reminded me of the taste of Limonata so for kicks I decided to go with it.  I took a single Anthurium and walked around the flower mart, looking for perfect companions for my weekly installation at the Ritz-Carlton.  After some time scanning the many offerings about the market, suddenly, at Vicky’s – my favorite forager/cartographer/philosopher/curmudgeon I spotted the most beautiful Pittosporum berries.  Because Anthuriums are large and imposing, I knew the companions had to be respectful and I did not want many.  Perhaps one more elements and so I went strolling to Torchio Growers.  And there they were, some beautiful high petal count Ecuadorian roses.  The match was perfect.

 

So I filled my cozy cart with these carbonated blooms and headed to the Ritz.

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Smokin’ Black Flowers for your Halloween Table!

I did think for a minute about starting this post by saying “OMG, these flowers are totally black and super duper perfect for Halloween”.  Well, I want you to know that everything I write to you is truthful so I will start this post with that standard intact.

OMG!!! These flowers are (almost) totally black!  You can head to the nursery or to the local florist or if you are lucky enough to live in SF, you can head to the SF Flower Mart to get your hands on black flowers.  So sexy, so sinister, so stupendous!

Here is an arrangement that is in real life a very dark purple but has come out a bit bloody (I have already sent a shout out to Tim Cook about the color of close-up photos on the iPhone)-still appropriate for our much loved celebration of the macabre.

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Puttin’ on the Ritz!

Okay, so not really puttin’ on the Ritz as in that fabulous number with Gene Wilder in “Young Frankenstein”, but rather creating something super duper for the VP of Global Marketing for the Ritz.  Pressure on, time to get creative with 3 hours notice!  (No problem.)

There is something SO FANTASTIC about being asked to go above and beyond (which is what I try to do with each and every client ttytt) and being able to find just the right elements for a very special arrangements in your garden.  I am telling you my friends, getting your hands dirty to plant flowering plants and then prettying up your life and the life of those you love with the flowers they produce is one of the most satisfying things in the world.  I think the only thing that compares, while playing in the dirt that is, is growing food that you eat with your friends.  (I am planning on growing root veggies!-  More later.)

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Chocolate in the garden!

Chocolate Cosmos!!!

These are fast becoming some of my favorite flowers.  Chocolate Cosoms! are the wildflower choice of many, ranging in color from Picote pink and white to these dark sexy chocolate numbers you see here.  I was one my way to see a friend, who graciously agreed to help with my computer.  (Ugh!  I love me a trip to the Apple store but when I have to sit and wait for help with a computer “bug”, suddenly the cuties behind the counter become a bit campus-ish if you know what I mean)

However, I left grateful for the help and promptly went to the garden to pick some of these lovelies for the adorable Grant and his super duper boyfriend Alex who installed some additional software on my computer as well as a delightful new screen saver.  I tied it with a delicate ribbon from my favorite store in the world and hit the road to meet with my adorbs friends, in their equally adorbs apartment.

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Apple Pride

Apple, on whose product I write, requested something simple and cute for a cozy little LGBT celebration at the super lovely Hotel Vitale here in San Francisco.  Well, what to do after the unbelievably bad rainbow fiasco on the streets of The Castro, and all the while not too terribly fond of lots of bright mixed colors in anything else but a fruit salad.  (The client requested color in a very LGBT kind of way – often a chubby RED FLAG for me, but whatevz, I am always up for a challenge and it is truly the goal of John James Designs to Redefine Enchantment and to dazzle clients every step of the way.DSC_0246

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