Urban Gardening 101–New York, NY

It’s the end of May, and gardeners everywhere are flocking to local nurseries and farms to choose summer plantings and become one with the messy soil of their backyard. As a city dweller, I only have a teeny-tiny piece (about 5 ft x 2.5 ft) of private outdoor space in my life–not counting the many gorgeous parks and river paths that are just outside of our front door and our beautiful shared roof deck. Since I love flowers and gardening, this might seem less than ideal, but I wouldn’t trade the urban bustle–not yet at least–for a suburban yard. (Would I take a huge outdoor city terrace? Sure, but I’ll keep dreaming!) I absolutely love the convenience of city livin’- from running across the street to the bodega as I’m cooking dinner because I forgot to buy milk, to walking my daughter to school, and having my dry cleaning, food, and EVERYTHING delivered right to our door. But giving up gardening space is the trade off.

However, each May I set out to beautify my sliver of outdoor space with window boxes. Some might not even call it a space– it’s the top of a big bay window (thank you architecture!) and is only accessible through our center living room window. Getting the flowers planted each year is a bit of an ordeal, one that causes many eye-rolls from my husband, but here’s how it goes:

  • I purchase the plants in Connecticut for the best selection and price (shout out to Moscarillo’s), load up our already jammed car trunk, and then drive them back to our urban digs 4 stories up in the sky. Flower choice is also limiting, since our window is north facing and only receives early morning sunlight. I always choose jazzy colors, like orange, pink, and purple. Over the years, I’ve figured out what thrives best, but each year I’m tempted to get something new and different. And each year I learn my lesson–to stick to what works–three years ago, I tried rosemary, which I knew needed more sunlight, and two years ago I tried gerbera daisies. Both were an epic fail. This year I’m sticking to the classics: begonias, basil, a pretty creeping purple petunia (appropriately titled Callie Dark Blue after my daughter), and pink verbena. Ivy, mint, and impatiens have also worked well in the past.
  • In multiple trips, I schlep the flowers and bags of soil up to our 4th floor apartment (with help of eye-rolling hubby).  This year it took me three days to get to the planting, so the flowers ended up in our bathtub for a bit, where I could easily water them and not make a mess!
  • Once I’m ready to dirty up the living room, I place a clear painting tarp down on the floor, so I can make a mess on it while planting, and then roll it up for easy cleanup. I carefully maneuver my three planters inside through the narrow window. Regretfully, I’ve left them out all winter and they’re now filled with dead plants and rock hard soil. I empty them, aka, messily fill a garbage bag with last year’s summer color and happiness, which are now bone dry and sad.
  • I fill the boxes with good, fresh container soil, and then carefully arrange and re-arrange where each plant should go. The water reserves on each box have to face the front center window for watering access, while the plants that spread have to go on the outside so they can grow gracefully over the edge of the bay window. The basil must be in the exact middle where it’s easily accessible to cut from my center window, and where it will grow tall enough to block our view of the ugly 1960’s building across the street! It’s a lot of planning, but once it’s all figured out and color coordinated, I go ahead and dig in.
  • Watering. There’s no way around it, it’s a total PITA. I have no water source in the front of our long, narrow apartment, so I fill gallon milk containers and 2L soda bottles in our tub and then huff them out to the living room. This usually results in several trips each week and lots of dripping water on our shiny new hardwood floors. I dream of having a hose! Because of this, I use special window boxes that have a water reserve area in the bottom. These also come in handy as we vacation a lot during the hot summer months and I know the flowers can hold out for four-ish days without me having to harass a neighbor to water our plants.
  • Final step: enjoy! All summer I can reach out the window and snip basil for fresh pesto, lemon mint for homemade lemonade, or simply smile at my own personal splash of color that accentuates my view of bustling Amsterdam Avenue.

City Gardening Tips:

  • Choose plants wisely- they should be hardy ones that don’t need a lot of attention and sunlight- they’re hard to get and a pain to plant, so make it count!
  • Use good soil, specifically for containers, and fertilize every few weeks.
  • Buy window boxes that have a water reserve.
  • Make sure the boxes weigh enough or are anchored, to keep them safe for pedestrians below.
  • Plant fresh herbs for use in cooking and summer cocktail. Farm to table? Try windowsill to table!
  • Enjoy the process–those splashes of floral color are your own small piece of summer happiness.



Fine Art Friday–Escape–Freycinet National Park, Tasmania

I can almost feel the rush of cars, trains, and planes all heading out of the city as fast as they can today, as people embark on the weekend that ushers in SUMMER. I’m happy to say that we are staying put this weekend, which I actually think will be the most relaxing thing of all!

Here’s to finding your zen/quiet spot of relaxation on this long weekend…Happy Friday!

After the Rain, Freycinet National Park, Tasmania, Australia, 2013

M-O-M–New York, NY

M–O–M=Master of Mania? Mom of Minis? Major of Minions? Hah, if only I could come up with a definition of a Mom; but really, it’s all encompassing and can’t be described, though this awesome/hilarious You Tube video on the World’s Toughest Job certainly comes close! If you haven’t seen it yet, you’ve got to take a peek.

Last year, I wrote about how the big and the small moments matter. So do the “good” and the “bad”. The other night, my daughter lay face down on our hallway rug, shirtless and hysterically sobbing. She was in the midst of an epic meltdown–the world was ending because it was time for bed and I had the nerve to try to brush her teeth, change her sopping diaper, and put on her pajamas. Through my seething frustration, I took a deep breath and thought to myself “God Bless my Mother”…mostly because I see so much of myself in my daughter–her desire to be independent, to stay up late, to negotiate all details of her life, to not miss out on anything fun. And because my mom smiles knowingly at my recent frustrations and shares that I used to be the exact same way! Lucky her. I always knew that being a mom was tough; but until I became a mother three years ago, I really had NO idea the kind of selfless love and unending patience that my mom has given to my three siblings and me for over thirty years. I’m definitely in awe–so thank you, even though thank you is not enough.


To my Little C,

Frustrating evenings and exhausting days aside, this new chapter in my life is humbling and challenging but also rewarding. I’m sure I’ll miss these little battles when you get older and need me less–when you might go to your room and want your privacy, instead of asking me to read “just three more books” or to sleep “just two more minutes” snuggled next to you. I savor those quiet moments in the dark when you clutch my face with both hands and say “mommy, you are my besssst friend.” Or when you get off the elevator at school, spot me in the crowd, and run toward me with wild abandon repeatedly shouting “mommy! mommy!” before planting a huge hug on me. There may even be future moments where I miss you wanting to sit ON my lap as I try to edit photos and send work emails (very effective for work productivity). But I’m still touched by how much you just want to BE with me. Hopefully I’ve got a few more years to soak it all up before the days arrive when you are embarrassed to be seen with me! Your heart melting moments of sweetness do trump your infuriating moments of defiance. And seeing the world through your enthusiastic eyes is truly wonderful.


So on this Hallmark holiday, I want to say thanks to my mom for being the best ever, and to my daughter, for giving me the gift of being a mom.

Moms- what has been your biggest challenge as a mom?
Kids–Is there anything you’d like to say to your mom?
Share it here in the comments!! 

Bottom photos by Clare at Your Life Through A Lens Photography


Nell and Josh–CT Farm Wedding–Part III: The Details

I saved the best for last! It really is, as they say, ALL in the details, and any bride or event planner will be inspired by these creative ideas. The bride described the setting best as “elegant, artsy, simple, and natural.” This Connecticut farm wedding was a DIY labor of love that created a rustic chic elegance that a celebrity wedding planner would envy. From bride and groom to parents, siblings, and friends, everyone pitched in their collective creativity and talent to make this wedding magazine-worthy. The bride and groom noted that “having people help was a great way to celebrate them and to help them feel involved in the day.” I blogged earlier this month about Part I: the gorgeous farm setting and Part II: the big day, but it was truly the details that set this wedding apart.

The bride, Nell, is one of my oldest friends and has always had a wonderful sense of style. I knew the details would be thoughtful, beautiful, and creative. Using a color palette of turquoise and coral, Nell incorporated rustic, earthy elements inspired by the surrounding fields and barns. Burlap tablecloths were paired with splashy patterned napkins while farm flowers in tall glass jugs sat next to wrought iron lanterns and tall hurricanes with candles. I literally couldn’t put my camera down! Without further ado, here are the deets on the deets (that is, details on the details)…


Gorgeous doesn’t begin to describe it! The stunning bouquets and boutonnieres were the artistic work of Flore, while the rest of the reception tent was decorated with blooms straight from the surrounding farm under the careful hand and artistic eye of a close family friend, Sadelle. Tall glass bottles filled with fresh cut lilacs were placed on top of stacked wooden fruit crates, while antique pots filled with tumbling green vines and peachy yellow blooms graced the reception tables.

The bride shared her inspiration behind the flowers:
“We have so many talented people in our lives, so when they offered to help, we said yes! We wanted to use a few cut flowers from around the farm since so many beautiful spring flowers were in bloom. Andromeda and lilacs were perfect, and Sadelle planted all of the pots that decorated the tables for us. We wanted to use plants that guests could take home and enjoy throughout the summer, rather than tons of cuttings that would just be discarded. The begonias that came home with us bloomed in our garden for five months!



Now this was a labor of love! The couple  chose a Sperry Tent (I had one at my wedding too!) which is elegant and natural looking on its own–regal white with natural bamboo poles. To personalize it, the bride used an old (and very creative) idea that she had, but knew the execution of her vision would be difficult.

From the bride–
“The hickory branches that hung from the tent were an idea that I had years ago, but I wasn’t sure how to take it from the idea phase to the completed phase, especially since it was a big DIY project. But everyone was so helpful in making the magic of what I envisioned actually come to be–I went out walking with my dad in the early spring before the trees budded. We scouted the property for the types of trees that would work well–strong enough to support themselves horizontally and full enough to look good with all the lights. It turns out hickory was perfect–and we had a few trees that needed pruning anyway!” 

Once the branches were chosen and cut, the hard part began! The groom and his brother-in-law joined their engineering and handyman skills to hang the branches perfectly flat. The branches had to be covered in lights, then safely lifted and suspended 20 feet above the dance floor–not an easy task! It took a lot of trial and error–and most of an entire day–to hang them securely. But the bride was so happy to see her vision realized. They “went up to the tent on Wednesday night to have a first look of them aglow at night, and knew that they were perfect!



The bride used an old barn door to make a simple display of each guest’s table assignment. Using rough edged paper, a gold pen, and her own lovely handwriting (a nice personal touch), she then hung each piece with an exposed nail. The papers were perfectly spaced out along the door without seeming overly designed. Guests then found their table numbers on a water jug at each table–paired with the same torn paper, gold writing, and a small burlap wrapping. So often I see complicated set-ups with multiple table names and individual place cards for each wedding guest–this was refreshing use of  a found object, paper, nails, and actual table numbers. It fit perfectly with the artsy but simple theme. Click here for more inspiration on creative seating charts.


Nell’s initial vision for her wedding design was “to celebrate all the natural beauty that the farm offered.” Farm/rustic barn weddings are popular and many people attempt to create rustic chic décor by renting farm accents, antiques, etc. and staging the scene. But this bride had full access to found objects all over their family farm–no faux rentals necessary!

The bride reveals that she “explored the family barns and dusted off old crates, barn doors, wagons, and even the cover to an old gas pump. Each one offered my dad the opportunity to fill us in on farm history and added interest to our wedding tent.From a hand-drawn welcome sign nailed to a sawhorse, to the barn door nailed with table assignments, and the antique truck parked just outside of the tent, real farm details were infused everywhere. There was even a little green John Deere tractor on the dance floor for the tiniest guests to ride on! With the focus on these small farm objects, the tent was gorgeous and organic without feeling too contrived.


Everyone loves dessert. So you can’t go wrong with serving several treats at your wedding, rather than the usual (and often expensive but tasteless) wedding cake. I’ve heard of brides and grooms choosing alternatives to wedding cake–cupcakes, warm donuts, cookies and milk, or an ice cream sundae bar, but I’ve never seen a dessert table entirely created by the guests. It was pretty awesome. Nell shared that “the wedding was all about celebrating our family and friends and the love and support they’ve given us over the years.” As it turns out, the bride and groom have lots of talented bakers in their lives who offered to help. Taking them up on their offer, Nell bestowed the honor of baking their beautiful wedding cake to her uncle, and asked a group of friends to create their favorite desserts, which included profiteroles, cookies, brownies, and carrot cake. The homemade desserts were perfectly placed on the table with labels handwritten by the bride to add another personal touch. The dessert variety for guests was unique and delicious!


The wedding weather was less than ideal, but the rain stopped soon after the sun went down, and guests emerged from the tent for a fun and gorgeous group activity–lighting and sending up paper sky lanterns. It was visually stunning as guests stood in the open field and sent glowing lanterns up into the sky. Each lantern took two or three people to light and send up, so it was also an exercise in teamwork! In lieu of fireworks, the groom’s brother purchased these the week of the wedding, and they ended up being a memorable (and much quieter) highlight!



Lily Bulbs for each guest to take home and plant.

Left: Burlap ring pillow, tied with natural string. Right: Burlap wrapped bridal bouquet.

Left: Coral and turquoise infusions throughout the tent, along with elegant stemware. Right: bright, casual floral groupings.

The food presentation was also natural, elegant, and full of bright color.

Designed by his friend’s company, Collared Greens, it fit perfectly with the color scheme and the groom’s love of fishing.

BRIDE’S SASH/BARN ARCHITECTURE-Both simple but stunning.


What to say about all of these amazing wedding details? Well done! The bride shared that “throughout the weekend, we were surrounded by overwhelming love, magic and beauty,” and part of that magic was the result of creating this gorgeous atmosphere to celebrate in with family and friends. I hope it provides inspiration to brides and grooms everywhere!



Wedding Dress–Monique Lhullier from The Plumed Serpent//Bridal Boots–Old Gringo//Bridal Hair–Erin at B-Hive Salon, Washington Depot, CT//Men’s+Ringbearer’s Ties–Collared Greens//Rehearsal Dinner Caterer–Pizza to the People by Cassandra Purdy//Wedding Caterer–Beth Blackletter, Executive Cuisine//Flowers:Bouquets and Boutonierres–Flore, Woodbury, CT//Flowers: Tables and Tent–Sidelle Nazzaro//Tent: Sperry//Rehearsal Dinner Band–Roosevelt Dime//Wedding Band: Joe D’Elia and the All Star Band//All Things Farm–Steve Solley//Hickory Branch Engineers–Andrew Stevenson and Joshua Feil


Riverside Park in Bloom–New York, NY

We’re lucky to live equidistant between Central and Riverside Parks. Each has its own merits, but when we head out for a walk, I usually get to the bottom of our stoop and make a last minute decision to turn left (to Riverside) or right (to Central). As far as watching the change of seasons, I prefer Central Park in the fall (meandering walkways and huge granite boulders surrounded by blazing autumn colors) and Riverside Park in the spring (sweeping cherry blossoms, boats on the Hudson river, rainbows of tulips, daffodils, and hyacinth). Last night, my daughter and I ventured left toward the Hudson River as the light turned golden, and I snapped a few photos of spring in its beginning glory. It won’t be long before these blooms are gone, so check them out soon. For ideas of great spots to visit, check out the 10 Best Places to see NYC in Full Bloom. And smile, I think the snow is FINALLY gone. Enjoy the weekend!