beautiful impermanence

There is a tower vase of forsythia sitting in my living room right now. Its electric yellow blossoms are my current obsession.   Although they were never my favorite of the blooming branch family, this bunch is exceptionally beautiful.

Since we closed our studio, I haven’t enjoyed fresh flowers in my home as often.  Its a seemingly small change that has a big impact on my day to day life.  And certainly a luxury that I appreciate and miss.

It blows my mind that a seemingly barren branch can spring forth such impressive flowers.  From nothing, a tiny bud explodes into big color.  A small process that leaves big impact.

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Peaceful Home ~ Soap Nuts

I received a pouch of Soap Nuts as a parting gift at a wedding last year and, like most wedding favors, they became lost, this time in the chaos of my bathroom closet.  The question of “to give or not to give” favors was one that was often presented to us by brides when we were involved with Thallo full time. Our answer was usually no, since both of us had, at one point, tossed favors that deserved more attention into our messy closets, never to be found or used.  The fate of wedding favors all too often involved the floor of a car or the very same position the favor was placed by a frantic mother of the bride (or florist) long after the party ended.  When one takes into account the expense involved, it is one place we would suggest the budget-conscious bride trim.

I am happy though that as I reorganized my bathroom this month, the soap nuts reappeared.  They are an all natural laundry soap, used for thousands of years by native Asians and Native Americans and an especially popular ingredient in Ayurvedic recipes.  Four small pods, similar in size and color to a chestnut, inside a muslin drawstring bag can be thrown into your washer as an alternative to conventional detergent.

My least favorite chore is laundry and I usually put it off until my undergarmet selection is ridiculously low (or tight).   As I embarked on an epic laundry endeavor this morning, I ran out of detergent.  Well, of course I did. Convinced finishing the laundry today would provide me with a real sense of accomplishment and relief, I persevered and tossed the soap nuts in with my next load.  They can be used repeatedly and cost between 9-12 cents per load.

Soap Nuts Tutorial

I didn’t expect to be as pleased with the results as I actually was!  I love to use natural products in the home, but sometimes the old Sara has a hard time getting used to new habits. I crave the scent of Fabuloso!  And Tide with Febreze.  The truth is, however, those products do contain harsh chemicals.

The soap nuts left my clothing soft and lightly scented.  I don’t use fabric softener or dryer sheets, but the clothes felt as though I did.  I was surprised how much residual detergent scent remained after the soap nut wash and couldn’t help but think what this might mean for my skin?  What about the waste water from the washer that contains these chemicals? Straight into the aquifer? No bueno.

So soap nuts might become my next clean living habit.  If I can reduce my carbon footprint and avoid exposure to chemicals, maybe laundry will become a bit more enjoyable? Doubt it!

Buy them here.

Please share any experiences you might have with eco-friendly cleaning agents so I can learn!

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My Backyard: Jungle Trail + Pelican Island

Discovering landmarks of significant importance and beauty in my own backyard makes me feel a) lucky and b) negligent.  As a native to the area and self-proclaimed nature lovah, how could I not know the story behind Pelican Island National Wildlife Sanctuary? Was I ill the day of that elementary school field trip?

Pelican Island became America’s first wildlife refuge by the hand of pioneer naturalist, Paul Kroegel and, ultimately, the country’s premier conservationist, Theodore Roosevelt.  A detailed history can be found here, including information about the refuge’s inaccessibility (one could only reach it by boat) the first 100 years it existed! Cue native-Floridian-guilt-relief.  In 2003, a wonderful network of trails and didactics were built on the refuge to allow visitors an easier trek.  I explored those trails on a crisp January afternoon and they were rich in flora, fauna and Orchid Island charm.

The refuge lies just west of Jungle Trail, an old, unpaved citrus trail that we used to ride along in my dad’s old, yellow VW Thing.  I grew up on the ocean a handful of miles north, so these were my stomping grounds.  The nostalgia was palpable as I turned off A1A, although the road is notably less wild and unruly as it was when I was little. So, for the record, when I was little, it stormed every single afternoon, like clockwork, during summer and Jungle Trail was fructiferous and dense!

  

Thanks to the Professor’s brand-new pickup truck, fresh off the lot, I was able to explore the habitat via bicycle, which made the 4-5 mile ride comfortable and pleasant, despite some patchy areas of challenging terrain (mostly high grass and sand, which my beachcruiser handled well).  There are nice parking areas to access all of the trails: Centennial, Pete’s Impoundment and the Bird Impoundment.  Bikes “are not allowed” on the foot trails and boardwalks, so do as I say, not as I do!
The Centennial Boardwalk and Tower will be added to my list of to-do’s for out of town guests, considering it offers rewarding views for little sweat equity.  I didn’t take photos from the stilted observation deck, simply because I didn’t want to interrupt the experience.  Sometimes I worry I sacrifice presence of mind as I look through the lens, ready for the best shot.
Pete’s Trail offers a bit more of a challenge, and I can only imagine how buggy and hot the experience might be on a summer day, but it is worth the investment.  The 3.5 mile loop along the salt marsh shoreline includes another observation “dock” that overlooks a pure, Floridian landscape. Fishermen: you’d love this trail. Birdwatchers: you’ll die for this trail.
Spotted through the lens of a telescope, through the lens of an I-phone, an osprey wearing a bald eagle’s costume.
 
    
A butterfly garden and benches near the trail head inspires a rest-stop following the hike; watch as they dance around you and enjoy a bite to eat, like I did. Binoculars are helpful and recommended…
I didn’t have a chance to explore all of the trails, so I will repeat this trip again before the temperatures rise too much.  I was interested in programs, events or educational offerings for the year, but the website was last updated 3 years ago in regard to those happenings.  But, Pelican Island Preservation Society‘s website offers current information, tastefully presented,  which is to be expected from a refuge that shares its island with Windsor Polo Club and the town of Orchid.  I’ll be adding the annual Wildlife Festival to my social calender, along with another pang of Floridian-guilt. Live music, kayak tours, food and a raffle to win a custom, wooden, hand-carved kayak? Yes, please. How did I not know about this?
I can’t help but imagine how stunning the refuge might be on a full moon night or for sunset.  I guess you could say I am smitten.

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Celebrity Trend: Plants and Colors as Baby Names

I think more celebrities should jump on the bandwagon.  Here are some examples of perfectly fitting names, straight from the florist’s cooler!

Green Aspiditra

Chocolate Geranium

Red Vine Maple

And my personal favorite:

Dusty Miller

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2012

Transition isn’t something I’ve ever been comfortable with.  I am a classic Taurian in that I prefer my life remain constant, so the New Year in general makes me completely neurotic.  The foundation of my life is my family and home and the reiteration of the idea that it’s the perfect time to CHANGE my life is not something I welcome. I am fine where I am, thank you.  My classic Taurian stubbornness could be a factor here too.

That said, this year, as an alternative to developing “resolutions”, I’ve come up with the idea of trying to establish new rituals in my daily life.  What is the difference between “ritual” vs. “resolution”, you ask?  A lack of pressure.  Resolutions, to me, are so binding.  They force one to CHANGE, and we all know how I feel about that.  Rituals, on the other hand, to me, are small ways to appreciate and enjoy the life one already lives and create meaning in everyday motions.  Taking extra time to inject sanctity into one’s natural rhythms is a very powerful exercise.  At least for me it is.

One of the new rituals I’ve adopted this year is to cherish what I find right outside my door. Luckily for me, my backyard is the beach. I’ve been an oceangoer since birth. No matter how much I might wish for elevation, mountains or snow, in my bones, I am a beach baby.  I figure I need to refrain from thinking about what my reality doesn’t offer, and concentrate on what my reality actually IS.  For every point of interest I might feel this town lacks, it makes up for in its natural beauty, waterways and ecology.  My mom always said that she had the most beautiful commute in the world. Her 2 mile drive from home to studio crossed an expanse of causeways, passing by species of birds and aquatic life completely specific to this locale.  There is so much beauty in that, and I agree.

So, on New Years weekend, I spent more time on the beach than I did from August-December 2011 and I really enjoyed it. The salt was so good for my soul and uplifted my mood.  I snapped the photo above on the walk through the dunes to beach access.  This is a ritual I can get used to.

What are your thoughts on “ritual” vs. “resolution”?

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Blonde Ambition

Kate Bosworth in Paris

Blonde fur - purrrrr

My hair idol and favorite magazine cover ever.

Caramel Antike garden rose... these beautiful flowers will be arriving at our studio this week.

Violet and Vanilla Bean Macarons... violet + blonde = best friends. Thank you, Tartelette.

give me crochet, give me feathers, give me fur, give me blonde

I’ve always fantasized about switching to the dark side, but everyone tells me I’d be sad as a brunette. After discovering these blonde inspirations, I concur.

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And while we’re on the subject of princesses….

There is something wrong with the “princess” mentality that has infiltrated our society.  Little girls want to be them, grown women think its fun to act like them.  Why do we encourage women to embrace the less respectable attributes that come along with the notion of “royalty”… rank, supremacy and greed?

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