With the start of the gardening season, I am looking forward to one of my favorite forms of gardening: container planting. I love to plant flowers in containers, and when the seasons change I will plant containers to reflect the time of the year.
Summer is by far my favorite time to plant because there are so many different flower varieties to choose from and all are so vibrant with color. It is an art to be able to create and design with plants, and the type of containers you choose to showcase your plants is almost as important as the flowers themselves.
First, you will need to decide if your pots will be placed in a sunny location, a shady spot, or where they’ll receive a mix of sun and shade. The type of plants you use will depend on the amount of sun in each location. There have been times that I have had to replace plants that did not last the season, either due to using incorrect plants, overcrowding, or, of course, the weather.
If you do not have any knowledge of plants, you will have to depend on your local garden shop. I have been fortunate to learn from a knowledgeable person for years who has taught me a great deal about plants and the planting of containers. There has to be symmetrical balance of the plants, and the size of the pot will determine the amount of plants used.
Annuals are plants most widely used for containers. I decide on a color palette and then choose the type of plants I will use. Some of my favorite annuals to use are geraniums, calibrachoas, verbena, angelonia and bacopa.
Rose Standard Topiary Trees and Bougainvillea Topiary Trees make a great focal point. I will under plant them with an annual such as verbena or bacopa. Another favorite option of mine is putting Dwarf Hydrangeas in containers. They need a shadier area or else they will wilt. After the season is over, you can transplant them in your garden.
I also like to do containers of mixed sedums, or a container of a creeping sedum. They are quite interesting. Boxwood Topiaries make a simple statement and, come winter, the Topiary looks great alone or under planted with greens.
My containers sit amongst my perennials and herbs as well as on ledges and walkways. They are a menagerie of all shapes and sizes. A lot of planning and work is involved in planning a container garden, but there is a satisfaction you get in knowing you have created something that is beautiful to behold all season!
I hope you enjoy some of the containers I have done. I am getting ready to start a new season and cannot wait!
One of the things I love about having my office in Greenwich is the great shopping. Greenwich has become something of a shopping mecca for designers with some fantastic storefronts. It’s so nice to have the option of shopping right here and supporting the community that supports my own business. Along the center of town and down a couple of side streets, you can find these places that aren’t always your typical, mainstream store. Here are some of my favorites:
Greenwich Tile: This is my go-to source for tile in any size. Vita, the owner, is creative and innovative. Greenwich Tile isn’t just a supply house; they love design and will mix materials to create an energizing, unique palette. You can visit them at 402 W Putnam Ave or call (203) 869-4773.
Mark Inc.: I’ve known Mark for a while now and he is such a great guy. He does custom mohair rugs in hundreds of designs. The level of capability that goes into his products in unbelievable! The classical thinking behind his rugs is evident. I love that you can even see progress photos of your rugs on the loom! Mark Inc. is located at 34 E Putnam Ave.
Exquisite Surfaces: Amazing source for flooring, including salvaged and reclaimed options. Visit them at 11 E Putnam Ave.
C. Parker Gallery: The gallery’s storefront opens at 17 E Putnam Ave with the holiday season, but this year has remained open. With an extensive collection of impressionist paintings, the gallery is a wonderful source of art close to home. I love the concept of C. Parker Gallery; they host events, are available for private consultations, and install purchased artwork.
Trovare Home: They have a great knack for mixing vintage items and reproductions with modern pieces. The accessories are great, and you can really tell the owner has a clever eye. Trovare Home, at 245 E Putnam Ave, also has good sized abstract art that’s well priced. The store consists of such charming vignettes that you want to scoop them up and install them just the way they are.
Room: With a showroom in NYC as well, Room is a great addition to Greenwich shopping. They feature custom crafted pieces by a variety of artisans and designers, but what I really like is their lighting. I was once working on a project here in Greenwich with a short lead time. Their bocce lamps were perfect — like jewelry for a room. Everything is customizable too, making their pieces suitable for almost any decor. You can find Room at 36 E. Putnam Ave.
What kind of local shopping do you like to do?
The arrival of spring and (hopefully!) warmer temperatures often inspires people to start thinking about gardening and landscaping. I believe the outside of a home always has to relate to the inside — ideally, the interior designer and landscape architect will speak to each other to ensure the interior and exterior layouts relate to each other. Even though they are the domains of two different artists, the interior and exterior should be respectful to each other. I’m always aware of exterior elements when designing someone’s interior.
Landscape architecture books are a great source of inspiration when planning your exterior, whether you prefer a serene escape or a gathering place for friends and family. I highly recommend these six books as inspiration!
1. The Private Oasis: The Landscape Architecture of Edmund Hollander Design by Phillip Langdon
2. In the Garden by Stacy Bass
3. The Vertical Garden: From Nature to the City by Patrick Blanc
4. Landprints: The Landscape Design of Bernard Trainor by Susan Heeger and Bernard Trainor
5. Private Paradise: Contemporary American Gardens by Charlotte M. Frieze
6. The Landscape Designs of Doyle Herman Design Associates by Kathryn Herman and James Doyle. This one hasn’t been released yet, but it’s on my much-anticipated summer reading list!
Do you have any favorite landscape design books?
I recently had dinner at Morello Italian Bistro on Greenwich Ave in Greenwich for a friend’s birthday and was reminded why it’s one of my favorite local restaurants!
I remember the firs time I visited the building now occupied by Morello. The dome ceiling has a big brick pattern that I loved looking at. The beautiful atmosphere is still the same. Morello has a really cool bar and the set up of the restaurant is great. It’s just the kind of place where you can relax, feel catered to, and know you are about to take in an outstanding meal!
One menu item I just love is the Butternut Squash Ravioli. It is so light and healthy tasting with the best flavors. Some of my other favorite menu items are Baked Mac & Cheese and Chicken Breast Piccata, but you really can’t go wrong. Morello’s food is always fresh and very well prepared. For dessert, you must try the Bomboloni. These fresh doughnuts with orange-vanilla cream and chocolate sauce are to die for!
Years ago I found an article on risotto, which described step by step how to prepare this delicious dish. Risotto is an Italian dish that developed in the regions between the Alps and Tuscany, and is now appreciated all over the world.
The type of rice best suited for cooking a good risotto is the Carnaroli, but Vialone Nano and Arborio are good choices as well. Depending on the ingredients used, risotto can be a first course, a complete meal, or a dessert. It can easily be prepared in about 30 minutes.
The base for a risotto is made using one of the three types of rice mentioned above, oil or butter, and a battulo, which is an ingredient used t0 flavor a recipe and can include chopped onion, garlic, celery and/or carrot. You also need a cooking liquid and one or more types of cheese.
With this base you can make many different risotto dishes depending on your choice of ingredients such as beef, chicken or pork, fish or seafood, vegetables, legumes, or truffles.
Making a risotto is as easy as following six simple steps. I like to make risotto with seafood. The following recipe also includes one of my favorite vegetables, asparagus.
1 1/2 cups of rice
1 lb of large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 onion, finely chopped
1 cup white wine
4 cups seafood stock
1 bunch of asparagus
1/2 cup finely chopped basil and parsley
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Prepare the shrimp by removing the shell and deveining, if necessary. Rinse under cold water, pat dry, and set aside.
Set a few asparagus stalks aside to use as a garnish. Cut the rest of the asparagus into 1-inch pieces on the diagonal, discarding the bottoms. Steam all of the asparagus for 5 minutes, then place under cold water to stop cooking. Pat dry and set aside.
Place the seafood stock in a saucepan and heat, keeping it warm while you begin the risotto.
In a deep skillet, warm the olive oil. Add the onion (which is the battulo in this recipe) and sauté till translucent.
Add the rice and toast for 3 minutes .
Deglaze the pan with the wine and cook until the liquid evaporates. Add the warmed stock in 1/2 cup increments, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding more. Continue to cook, stirring, until the rice is tender and creamy, about 20 minutes in total.
Add the shrimp and cook till pink. Add the cut asparagus.
Add finishing ingredients, including the butter, cheese, basil, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Stir well to combine. Place the few whole asparagus on top of the dish with some parsley sprigs for garnish.
Serve this dish with your favorite crusty bread and a salad. Enjoy!
With the start of Spring this week, the 11th annual Orchid Show at the New York Botanical Gardens is a must see. The beauty of the orchids, one more exotic than the next, is a fascinating experience to behold.
The show, which runs from March 2 to April 22, 2013, is a spectacular exhibit that displays thousands of orchids in the country’s largest curated show. The Enid A. Haupt Conservatory has been transformed into a lush rainforest where the orchids are displayed in an amazing array of colors, shapes, sizes and textures. Tens of thousands of blooms stand out amid stately palms and exotic tropical leaves.
This year they have incorporated into the show Hurricane Sandy storm damaged trees as a design element and an acknowledgement of how orchids grow in the wild. The New York Botanical Gardens has orchids from all over the world, there are more than 7,000 orchids representing 3,075 different varieties in their collection.
There also are special programs you can attend, including orchid care demonstrations, talks, and tours, to name a few. Located in the Bronx, New York, it is well worth a trip to experience the Orchid Show. Enjoy more photos of these mysterious flowers!
This year’s show includes a rare event — the Darwin’s Star Orchid in bloom. The Botanical Garden rarely gets to share this flower with visitors while it is in gorgeous full bloom. Visitors often look for this flower, not only because of its elegant beauty but because of its associate with Charles Darwin. Legend has it, Charles Darwin was sent one of these orchids. When he examined it, Darwin theorized there must be an insect with a long proboscis capable of reaching the nectar at the bottom of this long, narrow flower and, in the process, enabling the orchid to be pollinated. No such insect could be found, however, and many scientists ridiculed Darwin for his unsupported theory. It wasn’t until decades later that a hawk moth fitting Darwin’s exact description was found to be drinking from and pollinating these orchids late at night when their activity had been completely unobserved. Darwin’s Star Orchid turned out to be a perfect example of co-evolution.
Everyone who knows me knows I don’t cook. I wish I had the time for it! My mom and grandma are amazing home chefs though. They take risks and are willing to try new things. I appreciate the craft of cooking well and hope my children follow in their grandmother’s footsteps when it comes to preparing food rather than mine!
If my daughters were to pursue cooking as a career, they would certainly have some impressive role models to follow. The world of professional cooking is still a male-dominated place, but thanks to women like Julia Child who paved the way for others, many female chefs have become household names and even celebrities in their own right. Three I really enjoy are Lidia Bastianich, Giada de Laurentiis, and Ina Garten, better known as Barefoot Contessa.
Lidia Bastianich is so much more than a famous television chef. She is a woman who turned her passion for food into a thriving entertainment business. She is the author of several cookbooks and founder of Tavola Productions, an entertainment company that produces great broadcast productions. Along with her son Joe, also a well known chef, Mario Batali, and Oscar Farinetti, Lidia opened Eataly, one of my favorite NYC spots. She teaches culinary classes and has her own line of high quality kitchen products as well as Nonna’s Foods, a platform which allows her to distribute her own food products. As if all that must not keep her busy enough, Lidia also produces award-winning wines at Bastianich Vineyard in Friuli and La Mozza Vineyard in Maremma, Italy. The sheer amount of drive Lidia must have to accomplish so much from her love of good food is so inspiring!
I’m also a big fan of Giada de Laurentiis. My mom often uses Giada’s recipes and I think the appeal lies in her simple, easy-to-follow techniques for preparing amazing food. She really helps you feel like you can prepare something fantastic without a lot of complicated steps. Giada was born in Rome and grew up in a family that placed great importance on time in the kitchen. Her grandfather was a film producer as well as a restaurant owner, so perhaps Giada was destined to become a popular television chef. She was professionally trained at Cordon Bleu in Paris and eventually started her own catering company. She was “discovered” by a Food Network executive who read an article in Food and Wine Magazine about the de Laurentiis family in 2002. Her show “Everyday Italian” earned an Emmy and turned Giada into one of the most recognizable chefs in America today. She has also authored several cookbooks and has her own line of cookware. Giada’s enthusiasm for the food she prepares is infectious!
Ina Garten, better known as Barefoot Contessa, is another noteworthy woman of the culinary world. Unlike most well known cooks, Ina never trained to be a professional chef. In fact, she used to work in the White House Office of Management and Budget but felt the desire to do something more creative. One day, she read about a specialty food store for sale in the Hamptons, drove out to see it, and on a whim made the owners an offer she didn’t expect them to accept. They did accept, and Ina began the career that eventually led to her becoming a household name. After 18 successful years with her Barefoot Contessa food store, Ina sold the place to two employees and set about writing her first cookbook. It was a hit that she followed up with several more cookbooks before earning her own Food Network show. I think Ina Garten’s popularity with home cooks comes from her healthy approach to real food, using whole, fresh ingredients rather than anything artificial. She has a talent for making everything she prepares look delicious and simple. She also has a beautiful blog where she shares recipes and experiences. If you can’t travel the world to experience great food, Ina’s blog is the next best thing!
Whatever my girls decide to pursue in life, I hope they go after it with the same drive, passion, and creativity as these three talented chefs!
Not long ago, Jessica, my project manager, discovered a store in Montclair, New Jersey called Olive That and More. Specializing in olive oils, balsamic vinegars, and sea salts from around the world, Olive That and More is a foodie’s dream come true, but the store’s cleverly designed interior is the icing on the cake. With shelves and other components from the location’s previous tenant (a garden store) along with custom light fixtures created by the owner, Olive That exudes a rustic and welcoming atmosphere that encourages shoppers to taste, sample, and learn about all of the incredible products on display.
The staff at Olive That are very helpful and more than willing to answer any questions about their products or offer suggestions for cooking, serving, or buying gifts. In addition, the store hosts events such as tastings and sometimes partners with local chefs for special dinner events. Even their Facebook page is a great resource for recipes and ideas!
When you walk into Olive That, you immediately notice how many of the products are available for tasting. There are bowls of bread for sampling different oils and vinegars as well as salt shakers that allow you to taste different salts before purchasing. One of the more unique items available at Olive That is truffle salt. Jessica seems to have become addicted to the stuff, even keeping some on her desk at work to sprinkle over her lunch or add to a bowl a popcorn!
You may be thinking, “What is truffle salt?” The description from Olive That sums it up perfectly: All-natural Fusion Black Truffle Salt combines the distinct taste of black truffles with pure sea salt crystals to create an uncommonly delicious flavoring. A creative chef’s dream, black truffle salt adds a hint of earthy, mushroomy flavor to beef, eggs, potatoes and pasta.
Truffle salt is used as a finishing touch or garnish for cooked food, not an ingredient to add while cooking. It has an intense, strong flavor that truffle lovers are sure to appreciate! It’s lovely when sprinkled on vegetable soup or seafood; just keep in mind that a little goes a long way! Olive That offers two “strengths” of truffle salt: their original version as well as a stronger truffle salt. These salts are stored in large containers, and when the staff refills the smaller bottles of salt, the aroma fills the entire store!
I hope you have the opportunity to visit Olive That soon to experience their amazing products and learn from their knowledgeable staff!
February is American Heart Month. Keeping this in mind, I went to the Web MD website with a list of the 25 Top Heart Healthy Foods. These foods are loaded with heart healthy nutrients that help protect your cardiovascular system. By eating a variety of foods, including fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, fish, nuts and more, you are getting the different nutrients which are needed to protect your heart and
blood vessels. I am very conscious of the meals I prepare and the ingredients I use in those meals. I buy fresh herbs, produce, and vegetables and use olive oil when I cook. We eat fish more than once a week and eat plenty of fresh fruit, so I am definitely into eating healthy.
I decided to highlight a few of the foods they recommended in the Web MD article. It would be well worth your time to read the entire article. You might be surprised to see that many of the foods are ones you probably already eat regularly!
I have a great recipe featuring a popular heart-healthy food. This tuna dish is a favorite in our house, especially when my husband returns from an offshore fishing trip with fresh tuna. The original recipe is from a Williams Sonoma cookbook titled “Essentials of Grilling,” a great book to have! I have changed it some to suit our tastes, of course, and I hope you enjoy it!
Soy sauce, less sodium preferred
½ cup White Sesame seeds
½ cup Black Sesame seeds
4 Ahi Tuna Steaks, 6oz each, 1 inch thick
1 cup crème fraiche
2 tsp. wasabi powder, or to taste
Chopped chives for garnish
In a shallow dish, add the soy sauce. On a piece of wax paper, mix the white and black sesame seeds. Dredge each piece of tuna in the mixture, then place in soy sauce, turning to coat. Add any left over sesame seeds to tuna, cover, and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hrs.
To make wasabi crème, in a small bowl stir together the crème fraiche and wasabi powder. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Add chives just before serving.
Grill your fish, turning once, until it is seared on the outside and rare on the inside, 3-5 minutes per side. If you prefer your tuna cooked through, leave it on the grill for 1 – 2 minutes longer per side. You can also cook the fish in a heavy skillet on high heat.
Transfer the tuna steaks to warm individual plates. Garnish the wasabi crème with the chives, and pass at the table.
Serve with grilled or lightly steamed asparagus, dressed with an olive oil and herb mixture of chopped basil, parsley, and black pepper. Enjoy!
A neighbor recently introduced me to Flywheel, which currently seems to be the hottest fitness option. Flywheel Sports has a studio in Stamford’s Chelsea Piers sports complex and this was where I first experienced Flywheel.
For those of you not familiar with it, Flywheel is an intense indoor cycling experience. Each session lasts from 45 to 60 minutes and includes climbs and descents all while working your arms with weighted bars. During the class, momentum and enthusiasm are encouraged by unique playlists created by the instructors. An in-house DJ compiles the music which the instructors use to choreograph a different experience for each class. With the use of technology, Flywheel users can track their personal cycling stats to measure progress over time. It’s an intense, energizing way to work out, taking the stationary bike to an entirely new level.
The idea of Flywheel really appealed to me as something different. I wanted to try something new, especially because I hate running in cold weather. I’ve never cycled, but thought Flywheel would be a great new workout to add to my routine.
It was insanely hard and super intense. I had no idea what I was getting into and have never sweated so much in my life. I couldn’t wait for the class to be over — but I want to do it again! I was definitely out of my element but I don’t want to quit. I am determined to master Flywheel!
Another class offered by Flywheel Sports is FlyBarre. I haven’t tried this class yet and am a little nervous to take it on. FlyBarre is a body sculpting class that includes weight training, dance, and core strengthening exercises, all choreographed to energetic, fast-paced music.
What I like about Flywheel is the opportunity to test my endurance and push myself to new limits. I look forward to the challenge!
Are you trying out any new fitness routines this year?