Sunday, November 24, 2013

Water Fest

Today I was busy setting up a party again – not for myself, but as a send-off for a colleague who was celebrating her retirement. Since she is an inveterate and passionate swimmer, using her every spare moment to splash about in the pool at our local “Y”, the theme of the party presented itself: Water. Lots of it. The format was a buffet dinner, and here is what I did.

Since the theme was water, the color, not surprisingly, was aqua. Centerpieces, and recurring decorations, were glass bowls and vases of varying shapes and sizes, filled with aqua-tinted water and floating candles. Some of them also had added sea shells and pearls - the ocean connection, you see! This one also has a floating waterlily, which promptly caught fire and had to be discarded. I also sprinkled acrylic "sea glass" (obviously, I would have preferred real glass, but I couldn't find anything in my color scheme at the purveyors I favor, and I didn't have the time to run around further), some blue jelly fish, and silver chocolate coins for a sweet treat. 

These water lilies did not catch fire, however.

Here you can clearly see the pearls and sea shells...

I set up a long buffet table, with a small folding table stacked on top for added height and drama. I then used milk crates and smaller wooden wine boxes to elevate food platters.

Creating different heights and levels "for drama" is considered pretty much a necessity these days in party planning circles...

Is anyone surprised that IKEA served as florist? 

You may recognize these silk roses from my home (where I also dug up the other props); wrapped in gauzy, shimmery, aqua fabric, and stuck in Rektangel glass vases, they made a beautiful statement - and pink does go so well with aqua!

Below, you can see some more pearls mingling with the sea glass. Aqua-colored mercury glass votive holders are holding plastic cutlery.

The center piece of the buffet table was this delectable crystal prism candle holder, stuffed with aqua LED lights and topped with a silk rose ball. 

And, finally, the pièce de résistance - a water fall to really hammer home the water theme! This little darling was given to me by a friend who moved abroad and couldn't take it with her. It is almost one yard high, made of resin, weighs a ton, and is absolutely gorgeous! 

I put some more colored LED lights inside the four levels of the waterfall for more aqua effect. These lights are submersible in water, you get them from florist supplies stores, and they are the most fun I have had in several days! They come in many different colors - some can even change colors - and you can use them for so many wonderful, important purposes. 

They are not even terribly expensive, especially since the batteries can be replaced as needed - I paid $1.50 each, and thought it well-spent money.

I used more of the gauzy, shimmery fabric, suspending it from the ceiling to create a suitable backdrop for the waterfall, and the table it sits on has been draped with some dollar-store, turquoise curtains. 

Here is a close-up of the arrangement. I was rather pleased with the effect - particularly that gauzy, shimmery fabric behaved very well.

Please try to behave well, you too!
Regards from Rosebud!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

More from Your Latter-Day Victorian

Hello again, Viewers!

Strengthened by my smelling salts and a little rest on my chaiselongue, I now feel much better. Let us proceed with our investigations of the Victorian psyche...

Schedules & Timetables
The Victorians were sticklers for punctuality and the inventors of extensive, detailed schedules and timetables. Theirs was the notion of a butler banging the gong when it was time to dress for dinner. (I always wonder how much time the butler would allow for dressing…?) One of the most sacred duties of the master of the house was the daily, ritual winding of the clocks by which the entire household was run.
This Victorian mantel clock is truly a temple to time!
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Punctuality became a moral and almost religious virtue, which fed well into that other specialty “Designated Tools & Spaces” that we touched on previously – there now also had to be a program of suitably designated time slots for every activity, which must be rigorously adhered to. Indeed, household manuals admonished their readers to produce elaborate and detailed schedules for housekeeping, wherein the desired time frame and frequency of each task was carefully delineated. 

Timekeeping seems sometimes to have been performed almost for its own sake - time was seen as highly valuable, and wasting it was considered every bit as bad as wasting money. Of course, some of this fascination with timekeeping had to do with the explosive development during this era of train travel, which necessitated proper time tables, but it spilled over into many other spheres of life as well. Ms. Flanders shows us a world as rigidly scheduled as a NASA launch. 

Does it come as a surprise to anyone that my childhood fantasy games often revolved around lists and schedules? I remember vividly sitting there as a ten year-old with my notebook and pencil, outlining some new scheme in painstaking detail, with much pondering over the proper timetables for the imaginary participants in my mental scenarios. Many of my daydreams still do – sometimes I have to stop the whole thing, because of all the fanatic schedules that keep cropping up in what ought to be pleasant fantasies.

And if you want to really make me crazy - just don't show up on time! Incidentally, one of the many fine characteristics that distinguished the dear Prince Consort from other, lesser suitors, was his punctuality. This counted heavily in his favor, and remains a reliable source of satisfaction for his Queen...

Like our dear Queen Victoria I am “not amused” by vulgarity, but let us set something straight here: We make fun of how the Victorians used to put little skirts on their piano legs, but don’t most of us use bed skirts? I rest my case.

Bagpipes & Scots in Kilts
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The Monarch had an inexplicable fondness for bagpipes that I have shared for as long as I can remember. She made them part of her daily routine, with a bagpiper parading about the premises as a reveille every morning, rain or shine. 

The mournful, yet dramatic tones of this pre-medieval instrument have always captivated me in a way that entirely defies logic. 'Tis the Victorian blood in me, Ah tells ye!

Regarding the Scots in their kilts, let us not descend into vulgarity (see above!), only briefly establish that they do present a charming, yet manly, picture. 

Her Majesty with her Highlander
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(Once upon a time, I have been told, before the kilt was the constructed garment it is today, and part of it covered the upper body as a cloak as well, it used to be that men would spread out their kilts - a good eight or nine yards of wool fabric - directly on the ground, then lay down and roll themselves into it. I find the mental image absolutely irresistible!) 

In this context I cannot warmly enough recommend the touching, truth-based drama “Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown” with the wonderful Dame Judi Dench, wherein the widowed Queen develops a tender friendship with her Highland servant John Brown - who is looking awfully good in his tartan and sporran...

As I have mentioned before, My Home Is My Castle. This devise, which turns the home-dweller into the ruler of his personal kingdom, or - in my case - her queendom, was not invented by the Victorians, but they were the ones who brought it to the forefront of the national psyche. Yes, like myself, the Victorians were obsessed with privacy. The concept of the Designated Spaces that I touched on in a previous post, was very much concerned with correct space allotment, not for the sake of functionality, but for the sake of preserving privacy and guarding the eye from unseemly views. 

Personally, I have always had a horror of the "open layout" or the "loft style" apartment. Breaking down walls, opening up doorways, combining functions in favor of having to eat your dinner in full view of the kitchen sink - all these seem to me utterly absurd and offensive. Give me a door that closes well!

Perhaps it is a universal trait of children to enjoy the privacy of a secret little hide-out - but I have retained this fondness well into the mature years. My current dream is to have a very private and very secret garden shed to hide in, a play house of my own! The shed might look like this one, perhaps:
Why does this not belong to me? Whomever it does belong to is to be warmly congratulated!
(Image from
I could be perfectly happy in this one too...
(Image from
Additionally, we Victorians must obviously also take great care to have our tea every afternoon, and to sit up straight at all times. Do not let anybody trick you into believing that it is easy, in today's world, to have a Victorian mindset. 

But it can be kind of fun... So, if you are in the mood to remain further immersed in this delightful theme, it is my great pleasure to refer you to the charming film “The Young Victoria” with Ms. Emily Blunt.

Regards from your Victorian Rosebud!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Pumpkins & Pearls

Hello, Viewers!

Last week there was no new post in the Castle since I was too busy setting up a Fairy Party. So for now, let me abandon chronology, and show you instead what I was doing last Sunday.

My imagination had been set in motion long ago by some items from – IKEA (it is almost becoming embarrassing!) Large, white, lacey candle trays promised to make wonderful charger plates*, and other pieces in the same series – Skurar – seemed equally full of potential, so I knew I wanted to do something elaborate with them. The time of year obviously suggested something pumpkin-related – but how to combine these points of inspiration? Two words: spray paint.
I gave my pumpkins a bright white satin finish, and together with Skurar it was a match made in heaven. In fact, the whole table setting, when finished, had a bit of a bridal look to it. Considering that one of the mature Fairy Ladies was celebrating her 29th anniversary, and that one of the Fairy Girls had just gotten engaged, it was quite appropriate!

I started by covering the table with burlap, and added a hand-crocheted lace tablet. A Skurar bowl holds a rosemary plant, wrapped in burlap and accented with a few mini pumpkins.

One fairly - or fairily! - large pumpkin sitting in another type of Skurar bowl, again with a bit of burlap for contrast. I used two of these to flank the central bowl.

Center piece in progress - I have added more pumpkins, Skurar candle lanterns (with tea lights), and pillar candles. A couple of the pillar candles got pearl cuffs - actually elastic pearl bracelets from a florist's supply store,  made for holding flower corsages.

At the very last moment, I had the idea to elevate the plant - I added a flat-bottomed bowl, wrapped in burlap and covered with a small companion piece to the lace tablet. Also, more pearls have been added. Then, for the place settings:

Above: the Skurar candle tray that originally fueled the whole venture.

After finally deciding that going out and buying a whole set of white china (since I only possess floral china), would be a bit rich even for my party-seasoned blood, I went to the local discount place to take a look. 

Imagine my ecstasy when I found these plates: "Lace Collection" from a disposable goods company called Silver Spoons and More.

Below: the linen-look paper napkins have been rolled up with strips of burlap, then secured with pearl napkin rings.

The place settings came out looking like this! 
Below: The table in all its glory, with pearl garlands hanging from the chandelier.

...And the scene at night, with the candles lit...

One of the large candle lanterns, lined with burlap, became an excellent container for a wine bottle. I also used Skurar plant pots to hold mini baguettes and bread sticks.

The Faeries were offered extra pearls to wear, of course, and the craft of the day was tulle/pearl bracelets.

One of our Faeries loves blue...

Another is crazy about pink...

Finally, this just might be the forum for finally revealing to the world my Heirloom Recipe Collection Secret Brownies, which were served for dessert. One of the best things about these brownies is that it is a one-bowl - or rather one-pan - recipe! No messy chocolate-melting!

The SECRET is to use only first-rate cocoa. Personally, I like to use Droste (Dutch process), but if your taste runs to non-alkalized that is fine too. Just don't compromise on quality!

Secret Brownies
2 sticks margarine or butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup cocoa
1 Tbsp vanilla
3 eggs
1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
  1. Melt margarine/butter in large saucepan; remove from fire
  2. Stir in sugars, cocoa, vanilla
  3. Stir in eggs, one at a time; do not add next egg until previous one is fully incorporated
  4. Stir in flour with baking powder; mix well
  5. Heave into greased 9 x 13" pan; bake at 350° for 30 minutes
  6. If desired, add some walnuts or pecans - here I used honey-glazed pecans as a decoration
Makes 20-24, depending on levels of greediness, but these brownies are guaranteed to bring out the greediness even in the best of us!

Regards from Rosebud!

*It has come to my notice that the cover of the November issue of “RomanticHomes” shows a table setting where these trays are used as charger plates – but I promise on my word of honor that I have not stolen the idea; I used them as such already this past spring!