simple holiday table

Is simple festive? I think so. Natural elements are always my favorite, I saved these sycamore leaves a few weeks ago for a halloween costume that never was. The hydrangea was dried on the stem on its side - I try not to cut them all summer because I think they are so much more beautiful when the depth of color comes out after they have aged. The leaves look really nice ruffled over and down a table too.

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Mendocino

A little ode to my favorite little town nestled on the edge of California.  I've been visiting this village my whole life and it still holds so much magic for me.  

Growing up, we used to visit in the summer, as a teenager I would always look for little peace sign earrings or turquoise studs in the jewelry shops. It was much more of a hippie town back then.  

Now, my husband and I try to visit once a year for a little relaxation. I love walking on the headlands and finding the largest nasturtium leaves you’ve ever seen. There used to be more expansive gardens (most of the houses are weekend houses now) notably filled with fuchsia - we would slip the stems through our pierced ears and let the flowers be our jewelry.

tomatoes

Full of harvest - enjoying the bounty of every delightful color under the sun. Tomatoes! Mix and match a simple caprese salad.

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As a child, we had a large garden (read 80 varieties of tomatoes).  I hated shucking corn, but one of my favorite things about that garden was taking the salt shaker out there with my sister. We would lie down in the rows, pick tomatoes, dust them off and shake a bit of salt on them.  The simplest way to enjoy and fully encapsulates the feeling of summer.

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plum picture cake

Stone fruit is still in abundance.  Here is a quick, delicous and beautiful cake I absolutely loved as a kid when my mom would bake it.  I relish the sweet and tart combination of plums.  They had beautiful Italian prunes at the local farm stand so I used those, but you can use any kind of medium plum or pluots too (never tried apricots but might be great as well).  You're looking for flavor over water content, you want then to get jammy when baked not watery.  

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A beautiful assortment of Italian prunes and pluots.  

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Plum Picture Cake - oldie from Sunset magazine

preheat oven to 375

1/2 cup butter (at room temperature)

1/2 cup sugar

3 large eggs (at room temperature)

1/2 rsp. vanilla

1 cup flour

2-3 tablespoons powdered sugar

6-8 plums (or other stone fruit - pitted & sliced in half)

Beat butter and sugar until smooth and creamy.  Add eggs, one at a time and mix well between each addition.  Stir in vanilla.  Stir in flour until well mixed. Spread in an 11 inch buttered and floured pan.  Gently push halved plums into cake batter, just enough to stay in place. Bake at 375 for 40 minutes.  Once cooled, place on serving dish and sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Serve with whipped cream.

fairy flowers

I absolutely delight in the idea that there is magic outside, unknown spaces of play and imagination.  When I was a child, I dreamed of seeing flower fairies, after my mother's suggestion that they were fluttering around the wild orchids on the drive up our wooded road.  If only I could be quick enough to see them for just one second!

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This spring, I started making bouquets of wisps of leaves, fruit and flowers small enough for a fairy and turned into an almost weekly ritual (#fairybouquetfriday).  

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Just a few minutes and just a few flowers, and of course a few photos!

All photos and flowers by Silvanie Farmar Bowers

Studio Visit - Maria Schoettler

I visited artist and illustrator Maria Schoettler in her sun-drenched West Oakland  shared studio.  The large, open space gives each studiomate working space with an oversized utility table in the center, made by her dad. You can tell the space is loved, with warm touches of home and a cozy pink couch and functional kitchen with fresh flowers.  Maria's work is a celebration of the seasons filled with produce and flowers (mostly California natives). 

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How did you get your start as an artist and illustrator? I've always been an artist in one way or another, since I was a little girl.  One of my favorite pastimes as a child was drawing and painting: creating images of my "ideal world", perfect neighborhoods of little houses, rolling hills, flowers, family, things of my imagination.  Growing up, I was also involved in performing arts: dancing, singing lessons and performing regularly at the local dinner theater.  I attended magnet programs for the arts in middle and high school. In college I majored in visual art and never really stopped painting from that point onward.  I was always fitting art into my life, even when I was working full time at a Montesssori pre-school in the Oakland hills.  As a young college graduate, I wanted to be an artist with a capital "A", but didn't really know what that would look like as an adult with bills to pay.  So I started doing what was fun and enjoyable, working on paper, doing little illustration projects for myself that that possibility started to take shape.  I made my first "seasonal produce calendar" in 2009 for my own kitchen and it wasn't until friends and family started wanting one for themselves that I put it together that people might actually want to buy! It all went from there and it's been a long road being able to make a living off of my artwork and I'm so grateful I've been able to find a way.

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How would you describe your style? My style is very vintage inspired and eclectic.  I love color and unexpected combinations.  I've always felt like I was born in the wrong era, because I love objects from the past so much - be it music, clothes, home decor and art.  The 1970's is one of my favorite era's to draw inspiration from as far as my home and wardrobe. Stylistically my artwork is very nature-focused, and I love how delicate natural objects can be and how they provide a way to explore and play with composition and color.

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What are some of the things you enjoy most about your studio? I love how much light comes in from the skylights and windows.  But most of all I love being around my fellow makers that also work in the space.  There's so much value in having other creative people to look at your work and give feedback and collaborate with.  I'm an extrovert by nature, so I get so much joy from having human interaction throughout my work day.  Some days, it makes work not feel like work!

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What are some of your favorite places in Oakland? I love Redwood Regional for hiking and getting a nature fix.  I love getting outside.  I regularly walk at the Mountain View Cemetery which has been a really meaningful place for me since I moved to Oakland eleven years ago.  It's such a special place - the grounds have beautifully kept gardens (tulips to die for in the spring!) and the views of the Bay Area are unparalleled as far as a place accessible to the public. Another fixture in my Oakland life is the Temescal Farmer's market on Sundays and the Tuesday Market on the Oakland/Berkelely border, it's where I get my food for the week and very often, a shopper's high.  From a glass of wine, I love Ordinaire on Grand.  Ramen Shop for really quality ramen incorporating seasonal veggies and a simple and fun dinner out.  A16 for authentic Neoploitan pizza.  The list goes on...

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What's on the horizon? I'm not a huge planner and I like seeing what comes my way.  I want to make more fun products and teach more classes and continue to collaborate with interesting people and businesses.

Thanks Maria!  Find her website & Instagram here.

Summer Solstice

Enjoying the start to summer and strawberry season.  When going to the strawberry stand on the edge of town I can't help buying three baskets at a time.  Field grown and so soft and ripe, they have to be eaten that day.  Danes love to ask everyone who isn't Danish to say "rød grød med fløde" because its the hardest thing to say.  It also happens to be a delicious dessert and a nice way to eat fruit at peak season.

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The recipe below is my interpretation of the way my own Danish mother makes it.  So delicious and a welcome to summer.

rødgrød med fløde (red fruit pudding with cream)

2 baskets berries (I used strawberries & raspberries) traditionally its red currants, raspberries, strawberries, cherries or plums (any combination)

3 tablespoons sugar (to taste)

2 tablespoons potato starch flour (or arrowroot powder or cornstarch)

1/4 cup cold water

splash of vanilla extract

lightly whipped cream (its nice barely whipped for this or soft peaks)

Rinse fruit and slice (you can also blend in blender). Place sliced or puréed fruit into stainless steel pan and stir in sugar.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Dissolve potato starch flour (or other) in 1/4 cup cold water and mix in, stirring constantly.  Once off burner, stir in a splash of vanilla extract.  Pour into large bowl or parfait glasses.  Chill thoroughly (3-4 hours).  Serve with cream.

What do we look for?  How do we see? What do we focus on?  A capture in time and fleeting moment, an embodiment of that moment. Sometimes you just need a blast of color.  Bursts of bright pink.  

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Long before I was married, I used to watch (a lot of) movies with my husband and we said if something was filmed well, you could press pause at any moment and the still would be great.  We used to do that so much and time and time again it proved to be right.  That maybe all of this hurry up and get on to the next big event or mile marker in life is missing so much. Lets press pause more often.

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Finding Creative Space

The idea of creativity during motherhood has been circling around.  

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Before having my son, I was always working on creative projects both for work and myself.  I've always taken photos as a hobby of sorts, since I was about sixteen.  After twenty years, I'm taking a break from "working" as a floral designer and I'm noticing that now that I'm not "working" as a floral designer, I'm taken a lot more photos of flowers than before.  Melding my work into something else of sorts.  Flowers have always been a tremendous part of my life and I don't think I will ever stop working with them - just in different ways.  Anyway, I got lost along the way of talking about motherhood and being creative and finding the times and the tug-of-war one can feel.

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As to finding space, I have to make it in a house with a five year old where every space needs to change during the day for the next project or meal - I tend to set up things to photograph on my kitchen table when I have time.  It's got the best light in the house and easy to have a little undisturbed time and a fast and easy clean up.  Life is messy and constantly moving with children.  You can't be too precious, you just have to find a way to push through.

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