Apple Extravaganza

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Apple season is upon us and regardless of whether or not you are venturing out to pick your own, visiting a local farm store or getting them from the corner market, there is no doubt you cannot ignore these vitamin-packed fall fruits.  Apples are everywhere this time of year, and they are at their best fresh from the orchard.  Apples are delicious on their own, cool and crisp, dressed up or down, in savory meals, slaws, smoothies and the myriad ways of turning them in to show-stopping desserts.

As I am wont to do, and with my passion of inspiring others to gather ’round the table with others, I share some lush photos and recipe links to inspire you with apples from the savory to sweet, healthy to decadent, and mouthwatering and exquisite, like the beautiful Very Berry Apple Pie recipe above from the Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen.

Crisps are super easy and delicious and this recipe will not disappoint.  This version is gluten-free and vegan so that you can serve it to any crowd and not worry about allergies.

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Photo by Mike Garten - Lauren Conrad's Brie and Apple Tart Recipe

Brie and Apples are a delicious savory pairing from the Brie and Apple Tart recipe above to simply slicing up some of your favorite apples, like Granny Smith, for your cheese board.

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Water is one of my other passions, ensuring we are all drinking enough, thinking about the quality of our water, and our impact on the planet and our oceans.  One way to dress up your water intake is to load it up with fruits and herbs.  I love the idea of apple and mint – with a paper straw of course.

I saw this recipe for Bourbon Apple Pie Ice Cream on the Good housekeeping’s list of tastiest apple treats to try for fall.  I was like holy smokes!  Boozy Ice Cream?  I love bourbon, I love ice cream and I love apples and apple pie.  I will definitely be giving this a try.  Click the link above to learn how along with ice cream making tips by Broma Bakery.

Buttery pastry with sweet baked apples?  Yes please, click the link above for Ina Garten’s delicious recipe.

I want to highlight the versatility of the apple and I love slaw… so a Mustardy Cabbage and Apple Slaw sounds delicious and can complement so many things.

Those are apples folks!  Can you believe how beautiful the apple rosettes look on this pie?  Preppy Kitchen says it takes time to make this one, natch, so save this recipe for special occasions or for a weekend when you have extra time on your hands to roll those lovely apples.

I’ll close with an easy no bake recipe.  The Caramel Apple Trifles are loaded with cinnamon and layers of apples, cinnamon whipped cream, caramel and granola.  You can whip these up in no time!

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

Autumn Ballad

Undoubtedly Autumn is one of my favorite times of year.  The air is cooler and crisp, the lighting stirs something inside me and then there are the colors… the magical golden hues of the leaves everywhere you turn.  Pulling on more layers before heading out for a walk, the crunch of leaves underfoot, the smell of wood burning in the air as folks start their nightly fires to warm the body and soul, pumpkins, cider, apples – just a few things  I love about Autumn.  During the fall I also find that I tend to look inward and crave mental stimulation with books, poetry and learning.  I thought it would be fun to share a few poems about Autumn here for you too.  Enjoy!

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When I Am Among The Trees

Mary Oliver

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks, and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.

I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”

The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,”
they say, “and you, too, have come
into the world to do this, to go easy,
to be filled with light, and to shine.”

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Fall, Leaves, Fall

Emily Brontë

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.

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To Autumn

John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

 Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

Soulful Soups…

Fall is fast upon us in New England with its cool and crisp air, leaves starting to show their new tawny hues, shorter days and chilly nights, farm stands packed with pumpkins and apples, warm sweaters, wool blankets and cozy fireside chats.  During this transition from summer to fall my thoughts always turn to pots of soup bubbling on the stovetop.  Soups are nurturing to the soul, warm you up on a cold day, and are packed with goodness.

I like to experiment with different flavors and textures in my soups and if you make a big pot of soup it can feed the family for days.   I love all kinds – big pots of chili, winter squash soups, beans and rice infused soups, asian inspired soups, and especially good old fashioned tomato soup with a grilled cheese on the side.  I’ve shared some of my favorites here with links to recipes and the makers.  Enjoy!

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Peruvian Chicken Cauli Rice Soup from The Clean Plate
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Pumpkin Soup by @kraut_kopf

 

Getting back into the Groove…

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You may find that after the slow, lazy days of summer it’s hard to get back into the fall groove of schedules, routines, meal planning, earlier bedtimes, homework and more.  With all of the transition, stress can sometimes creep in and you may feel like there is no extra time, especially for a fun, healthy meal around the dinner table.

I have a few tips here to help you move past stress and allow space for you and your loved ones.

First, it really helps to write everything down on your calendar or planner for weekly events, practices, appointments, meals and more. My friend Mia created a gorgeous planner called FLOW planner and I love it. (You should check it out!)  The Flow planner has sections for you to map out your daily events, work, weekly meals as well as special quiet time for you and fun times with the family.

With all the busyness it’s really important that you take care of yourself.  If you do not care for yourself, you cannot care for others or be fully present and live the life of your dreams. I often speak of mindfulness – I’m constantly striving to be more mindful in each moment myself.  Remember to pause and respond with intention when you are in a given moment – often our minds react to something in the present which raises our stress levels.  If you pause and take a deep breath and picture something you love, it will raise your vibration and push the stress away.

To help you get back into your routine and ward off stress you should schedule time for yourself each week to unplug, exercise, drink loads of water, meditate and make good choices around snack time.  And of course, connect with loved ones as much as you can.

Sending you love and light during this fall transition.

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Labor Day Weekend Picnic Inspiration

Labor Day weekend is this weekend and signals the end of the summer for me.  Over the long weekend we try to get outside as much as possible.  I always love a picnic from the lavish and elegant to the simple and rustic.  I thought I’d share a few photos I found on pinterest to spark your imaginations.  Have a great weekend and get outside if you can.

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

Banana Blueberry Muffins

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I love muffins!  I’ve been making them for years and am always adapting and tweaking my recipes – the variations are endless. They are super easy to make, you can pack them with fruit and feel great about serving them for breakfast or snacks at any time.  Lately, I start with a basic banana bread recipe and have adapted it to add even more fruit, or sometimes chocolate chips, depending on what I have on hand.  You can go even further and add a lemon icing – delish! I’ll share my basic banana blueberry muffin recipe here.  Enjoy!

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Sometimes I use paper mini loaf pans instead of muffin tins!

Banana Blueberry Muffin Recipe

  • Muffin/Cupcake paper liners
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 – ½ cups blueberries
  • 1-2 teaspoons granulated sugar, if desired
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line your muffin tin with paper liners
  2. Beat together the butter, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a standing mixer until well blended. Add the bananas and mix until combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in the mixer.
  4. Place 3-4 blueberries in the bottom of each paper liner. Add most of the rest of the blueberries to the batter, mixing with a wooden spoon. Divide the batter between the 12 muffin cups and place remaining blueberries on top.  Sprinkle with a spoonful of granulated sugar on top if desired.
  5. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes, watching closely towards the end. Make sure a toothpick comes out clean.
  6. Cool and serve.

For variations, add chocolate chips instead of blueberries or add a mix of fruit – raspberries, cherries, blackberries.

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Banana Blueberry Muffins with Blackberries

 

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

 

Anisa Sabet – The Truffle Farm

Black truffles have an earthy, slightly woody, intense flavor.  They are hard to find and usually require a dog or animal with a good sense of smell to sniff out the delicacies, which grow under a certain type of tree in the roots, then the truffle hunter must dig them up.  I love truffle oil and the hint of fresh truffles in savory foods.  Anisa Sabet shared photos from The Truffle Farm in Canaberra on her blog in her Shoot Diary and I will share some of them here.  They are lush and gorgeous.  Truly works of art.

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All photos by Anisa Sabet

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

Slow Roasted Tomato Ketchup

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It’s grilling season and when planning what to grill for your next gathering, it’s fun to also think about special condiments for your table.  In keeping with last week’s post about summer fresh tomatoes, I thought it would be fun to share Anisa Sabet’s Slow Roasted Tomato Ketchup recipe.

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Anisa Sabet is one of my favorite bloggers and instagram accounts to follow.  She is a photographer and stylist and her photos and settings are just gorgeous.  She also creates recipes, which are amazing.   I have made my own tomato jam in the past and nothing beats homemade ketchup, which can be used at your next cookout or as a special sauce paired with cheeses on bruschetta.

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Recipe for Slow Roasted Tomato Ketchup by Anisa Sabet.

Ingredients (makes 500ml):

  • 1kg ripe tomatoes (anything goes), halved
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • Sea salt & pepper
  • Handful fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 1 cup vermouth or white wine
  • Dash Worcestershire
  • To season: sea salt, pepper, bit more brown sugar

    Method:

1. Preheat oven to 160°C. Toss tomatoes in olive oil, with the sugar, tomato paste, garlic, sea salt, pepper & basil, then spread over prepared baking tray. Bake for approximately 90 minutes until slightly charred.

2. Pour roasted tomatoes into saucepan with wine / vermouth and cook until reduced (about an hour).  Add the Worcestershire, and more sea salt, pepper & brown sugar to taste. Pour into a sterilized jar.

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All photos by Anisa Sabet.

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

 

 

 

Ode to the tomato and easy recipe ideas

Photos above by @Tartinegourmande

If you’ve ever tasted a fresh picked, ripe tomato right off the vine, with it’s delicate scent and sweet juices, then you have tasted happiness.  During the summer, when local tomatoes are prolific, you can be creative as the tomato is very versatile and easy to use.   I’ll highlight a few favorite recipes…

Krister’s Aunt Liz reached out to me over the weekend, saying she enjoyed reading the post about Cantaloupes,  and wanted to share that one of her favorite sources for finding recipes is Southern Living.   Since it’s tomato season they had recently posted 47 Ways with Fresh Tomatoes.  Liz’s current favorite from the list is Tomato, Watermelon, and Feta Skewers with Mint and Lime.  I can’t wait to try it!

Also from Southern Living’s list of 47, these Open-faced Tomato Sandwiches with Creamy Cucumber Spread look simple and delicious!  According to the Southern Living Test Kitchen, cut your tomatoes with a serrated knife so that you do not damage the flesh when cutting the skin and lose the juices.

These remind me how easy it is to make variations on this for summer cocktail parties.  You will never go wrong with the super combo of fresh tomatoes and basil on toast, bruschetta or crackers.  Drizzle a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top with a sprinkling of sea salt and oh my.

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Photo by @brookelark

I have always loved making a tomato pie and this recipe on the Southern Living list looks gorgeous – Tomato, Cheddar and Bacon Pie.  You can always leave out the bacon if you wish.

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Photo by Hector Sanchez Tomato, Cheddar and Bacon Pie Recipe

One of my favorite recipes to make year round is Cherry Tomato Tartlets Tatin by @tartinegourmande and her cookbook La Tartine Gourmande.  You slow roast the cherry tomatoes before assembling the Tatin to bake.

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Cherry Tomato Tartin made for my love on Valentine’s Day!

With this recipe I often have leftover roasted cherry tomatoes and they are delicious on their own or added to other recipes.

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Slow Roasted Cherry Tomatoes by Plan Simple Meals

Thomas Jefferson was one of the first Virginians to grow and eat tomatoes.  Since tomatoes are in the nightshade family most Americans were afraid they were poisonous and did not eat them. Legend has it that Thomas Jefferson first ate them in front of a crowd near Lynchburg, VA at his retreat Poplar Forest and later in 1806 served them to guests at the President’s house which led to their popularity as an edible fruit in addition to a decorative planting.

“Home grown tomatoes, home grown tomatoes
What would life be like without homegrown tomatoes
Only two things that money can’t buy
That’s true love and home grown tomatoes.”

John Denver, ‘Home Grown Tomatoes’
(from a song written by Guy Clark)

 

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

A love letter to Kyoto

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Kinkaku-ji Temple (The Golden Pavilion)

Kyoto, a place like no other, holds a special place in my heart with its many Buddhist temples, traditional wooden houses, imperial palaces, gardens and delightful food, but most of all for it’s beauty, history and peaceful quietness that allows space for reflection.

I first wrote about Kyoto on this blog three years ago after a visit where I stayed at a Buddhist temple for a weekend in order take a meditation class, and over the course of the few days found many unexpected surprises, met new friends, walked through a bamboo forest and hiked to the top of a mountain to see the monkeys.

This week I was fortunate to visit Kyoto again with some of my colleagues for a day of fun and exploration before we kicked off our work in Osaka with a corporate partner.

Yet today my heart is heavy that just a few days after our visit Kyoto saw an atrocious act of arson with a fire that caused so much harm and lost so many lives.  I share photos from our visit on Monday with reverence and respect to Kyoto and my heart goes out to the families of those lost.

Monday, July 15th, a day of exploration…

We were staying in Osaka so we got up early and took the train to Kyoto and immediately made our way to the bike rental company.   Once on our bikes, Kris and Kristin navigated us through the city to the bike path along the river so we could make our way north to the Philosopher’s Path.

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As we rode through the streets, crooked and small, and along the path, I felt exuberant and so free.  We were lucky in that it was not too hot; the day was cloudy, which kept us out of the sun, yet it did not rain.   The wind was on my face and rushed through my hair.  As we made our way the scents of the city filled my nostrils: wafts of fragrant flowers, bursts of incense seeping from the shrines and temples, and delicious smells of delicacies flowing out of the myriad of restaurants.

The Philosopher’s Path is a stone path lined with cherry trees that follows a little canal where one of Japan’s famous philosophers was said to have meditated during his daily walk to Kyoto University.

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After walking our bikes along the path, we stopped at Omen for lunch to have some of their famous udon noodles and experience local fare.

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After lunch we mounted our bikes again and made our way back to the banks of the Kamo River.

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We stopped for a minute so that we could walk across the stone path…

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The Kamo River stepping stones include large turtles crossing the river.

Our final destination was across the city again to The Golden Pavilion, dazzling architectural beauty surrounded by water and zen gardens.

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The Golden Pavilion

Before heading back to the train station we made sure to enjoy the refreshing green tea ice cream.

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

 

 

Cantaloupe – How to pick the perfect one

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Summertime for me means warm, sunny days, flip flops, digging bare feet into the sand or walking across the freshly mowed lawn, picnics, ice cream and of course an abundance of fresh fruit and veggies.   One of my favorite summer fruits is fresh cantaloupe, but you need to know what to look for for ripeness or you’ll be disappointed as they do not ripen further once off the vine.

I have distinct memories growing up of time spent every summer with my grandparents at their place on the Chesapeake Bay.   They had a huge vegetable garden and always grew cantaloupes.  Many mornings when we were called to the breakfast table there would be cold slices of sweet cantaloupe sprinkled with salt waiting for us.

Last week when I was at the market I was holding a cantaloupe and smelling it, trying to pick the perfect one.  A woman approached me and asked how do you know which one will be good?  I figure perhaps there are others of you who also could use a few tips.

The best way to pick a cantaloupe is by smell. The fruit should have a sweet, slightly musky scent. If the smell is too strong, it will be be overripe.  A good cantaloupe feels heavy for its size, should feel firm but not hard, and should never feel mushy.  Next look at the color.  Cantaloupes have a rind that resemble raised netting and the ripe ones have a golden hue.  Finally the stem end should yield slightly when pressed with your thumb.

You can eat cantaloupe on it’s own or sprinkled with salt, put it in smoothies, salads and even grill it.  Here are a few ideas…

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

Gather – Flowers for your table

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Wildflowers collected from our fields in White Stone, VA

I firmly believe that when you gather friends and family at the table you should always have fresh flowers there too.  They elevate the experience and can be done simply and inexpensively from gathering wildflowers in various shapes and sizes to pulling together one flower, in one color, to make a statement.

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Wildflower arrangement by Jamie Campbell for Decoratop

You can pick one vase to fill for a center arrangement or find various jars, cups and vases in varying sizes to place organically around the table and house.

When I have a special event, dinner or meal and want that extra help I love collaborating with a florist in order to get more unique flowers than are readily available in the yard or at the local market.

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Photo by Will Hawkins / Flowers by The Wild Bunch

It’s also fun to add in fruit and vegetables as part of the table decor.

Think about what season you are in and pull from what is growing at that time.  Lilacs are my favorite flowers and I love to fill vases of them in the spring all over the house for their soft color and lush scent.

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Mason Jar Vase and Lilacs by Country Living 

If you have a large group, it’s fun to have flowers run down the entire table so that everyone gets to enjoy them like I did last summer for a large family gathering in the photo below.  I worked with Cindy at The Wild Bunch in Kilmarnock, VA.  She does amazing work.

If you do not have a garden or yard to pull from, visit your local market or grocery store.  When in Boston, I love what Trader Joe’s keeps in store year round and look for groupings of one type of flower to mix and match colors as opposed to the prearranged bouquets.  Another favorite – peonies…

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Peonies / Photo by Amber Lilyestrom

When creating your own arrangements, you must strip the stems of all leaves for the part that will be below the water line.  This slows up any bacteria growth and keeps the water clean longer.  I like the flowers to be cut shorter in the vase, so that the flowers are poised just above the top of the vase and often tie the vase or jar with twine or a ribbon.  Cut each flower individually to fit your vase in order to have various heights and place them loosely for the look you want.

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Flowers by The Wild Bunch

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here.