Tuesday, August 17, 2010

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

What's a trip to Paris without seeing the major sites? Eiffle Tower, check. Louvre, check. Versailles, double check! But our intrepid travelers went off the beaten path to perhaps a lesser known, but no less famous (at least to us!) site: 100 rue de l'Universite, or as its former tenant referred to it: Roo de Loo!

I am speaking of the Paris home of Julia Child, the woman who taught (and still teaches through her tapes and books) Americans how to cook. The building still stands, as it has for hundreds of years, oblivious to the many pilgrims who come to pay their respect, and we were no exception. Food is an integral element in the entertaining ritual, and while you don't always have to truss a capon or beat egg whites till your wrists ache for a chocolate mousse, it can be fun to expand your repertoire of "company dishes".

Back in the States, I had an opportunity to spend four amazing days at the Flower School New York refining my skills and adding to my own repertoire of flower arranging know-how. Food and flowers by themselves are nice, but when combined, they can be the spark that ignites a magical evening spent with family and friends. I found out about the school on Michael George's website. He is a New York floral powerhouse who, inspired by George Balanchine, sought to share his art through teaching. Classes now are taught by many of the leading florists in the business and the school is ever expanding its offerings that include one day workshops, weekend intensives,  and the multi-day courses similar to the one that I participated in. They are available to students of all skill levels, from the hobbiest to the professional.

Having worked for Los Angeles florist, David Jones, I knew I knew a lot. But still, it was refreshing to  put myself in the student's seat and allow myself to be taught something new. The first assignment was to arrange 25 roses in a short cylinder, a la Michael George. My instructor for the week was Felipe Sastre, who worked with Michael for several years before starting out on his own. He had a twist on Michael's technique, but the end result was equally effective: 25 well- conditioned (so important), arranged rose heads and their perfectly spiraled stems, visible through the clear glass. Simple and stunning, just what a centerpiece should be! There were seven other assignments that week ranging from hand-tied European bouquets, to working with tall branches and flowers (crab apple, eremurus, and pee gee hydrangea for my class) for a fairly monumental arrangement. Working with flowers of the highest quality and being guided by a great teacher and artist for four days in New York was a wonderful cap to a wonderful summer!

There are many ways to arrange flowers for a tabletop centerpiece, but finding one that pleases you and that you can recreate with success can give you peace of mind when planning a special meal.

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