Monday, December 31, 2012

vendor love: lake mohawk flower company

Lake Mohawk Flower Company
4 West Shore Trail
Lake Mohawk, (Sparta) NJ 07871
(973) 729-6660

When planning our rustic, lakeside wedding, several guiding themes came through with the choice of flowers. Firstly, I wanted a cascade bouquet of white calla lilies. (I have always preferred callas to roses and found the cascade style, popular in the first half of the twentieth century, to be quite whimsical.) Secondly, I wanted the bridesmaids' and other complimentary ceremonial bouquets to be unfussy and capture the rustic quality of our summer wedding (which was held at a small country parish and the local country club). Thirdly, in keeping with the bird theme present throughout our wedding, I wanted to utilize decorative birdcages as centerpieces. (I had ordered a bunch from an online party wholesaler.)

With such a clear and specific vision, you'd think nothing would surprise me. But it did! Our florist Cathy Chute of Lake Mohawk Flower Company took these basic ideas and far surpassed my wildest imagination! The flowers she put together for each element of our wedding were nothing short of exceptional.

She was a doll to work with and kept within our budget. Her work was like a masterpiece and the flowers held up beautifully throughout the intense August heat. But let me allow her extraordinary work to speak for itself. In these lovely, candid photos taken by family and friends, it's easy to see her gifts:

Bride's Bouquet
The altar

Framing the pews
Bridesmaids' Bouquet
A birdcage on the sweetheart table

Sunday, December 30, 2012

coastal village star: mattebella vineyards

Mattebella Vineyards
46005 Route 25 (Main Road)
Southold, NY 11971
(631) 655-9554
We love wine, we do. In what has become a brimming agro-touristic industry on the
East End of Long Island, Mattebella Vineyards in particular stands out for making wines that are well, loveable. I extol the virtues of this particular winery not as a wine connoisseur but as someone who enjoys a truly solid, memorable wine that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
We discovered Mattebella by accident during one of our wine trips. It’s one of the
few places that doesn’t have a hulking building and landscaping that seems to be East End de riguer (frequently eclipsing the quality of the actual wine at these places.) Not the case here, as the crew at Mattebella have a simple little tasting cabin and instead focus their energy on the art of wine-making. After doing several tastings here over the past few years, those glowing Wine Spectator reviews and Jean Georges’ notice don’t surprise. Proprietors Mark and Christine Tobin are as lovely as their wines. While many of LI’s wineries aspire to create a product that has an “Old World” style, it’s Mattebella that can assert that claim. The whites are infinitely drinkable (even stand-alone) and tend more to a Chablis minerality (though curiously of the ones we’ve had here, the new '10 Chard is the most fruit-forward yet). The Reds are profound and earthy; the’07 Old World Blend is beautifully structured, and the Famiglia Red has more gravitas (and bang for your buck) than just about any red table wine, anywhere. We loved the wines so much that we bought a dozen cases of the ’09 Chard and the Famiglia Red for our wedding--- a “taste of Long Island” to represent New York (and keep guests very happy) during our out-of-state rustic, lakeside wedding.

Friday, December 28, 2012

coastal cheap and chic #3: all it takes is paint!

Location, location, location.

The outward modesty of one's home is irrelevant. (Yes, I raise my eyebrows on House Hunters when I see young newlyweds looking for a house in another part of the country bemoaning the "ugly" cream carpet in a brand-spankin'-new 2500+ sq. ft house selling for $110,000.) Living on Long Island (like much of the metro NYC area) ain't cheap--- even moreso if you're living in a quiet town with a solid school district.

When we moved into Pond House, we were surprised by the amount of cosmetic work it would need. We pick and choose our battles. In spite of the expenses involved, one high-impact room of the house, our "Study" (a sort of bonus living room) ended up being relatively inexpensive to update, as it mostly just called for paint.

The faux-wood panelling received a coat of warm, cream-coloured paint, and the ceiling was painted a deep gold. The fireplace, which I tackled first, was a bit more complicated. It featured a very dated style of brick work and a stove insert, which ---while practical for heating the home--- was not attractive and prevented us from really enjoying the sight of a fire in the fireplace. Unfortunately, the insert was also more than 3 times my weight, so taking it out wasn't an option, and paying someone to take it away and junk it would have been exorbinant and wasteful. (Enter Craigslist.) We managed to find a happy home for the stove and that person had the manpower to transport it. Finally, I went to work coating the brick work with a masonry primer. Masonry primer was a challenge--- if I wanted to properly conceal the dark grout, I had to really push the primer in forcefully with a brush. Applying it well would later indicate the success of the paint adhering to the entire face of the fireplace.

Disclaimer: the below pictures were taken with my camera phone, which is trapped in 2005.

The scary fireplace insert. It still gives me the heebie-jeebies
like a villain from a 1970's claymation cartoon.

The three layers visisble at once: the semi-gloss, the primer, and the original brick.
As you can see, the wall colour was being debated yet... LOL!

Afterward the masonry primer, several coats of semi-gloss in Martha Stewart Picket Fence were added. Picked up a cool sunburst mirror at Target to the tune of twelve bucks, and with a minor investment in furniture and accessories, here we are!

Sorry, this pic is very poorly lit. (But you can get the idea.)
Happy holiday mantel. :)
Fireplace screen & accessories, The Home Depot; bottle, Home Goods; bronze-finish candle holders, Target;
cream candles, Ikea; gold curtains, Home Goods; curtain rods, The Home Depot; Lack table in high-gloss white, Ikea; bookcases, Home Decorators Collection; bronze Morrocan print lampshade, Lowe's; 
spray-painted lamp table base, family hand-me-down, property o' DH; framed printed, blogger's own.
(Not visible: natural fiber area rug, Home Goods; brown leather storage footstools, TJMaxx.)

There are some beautiful brick fireplaces out there, however if yours is like ours, a little paint can go a long way without breaking the bank! To find some great inspiration, simply click here.

two restaurant reviews ...and a dollop of jones beach.

Three Saturdays ago found us at Maze NYC among Jay Cardinal's dear friends. (Maze is the less formal of Gordon Ramsey's two restaurants located in the London, a mid-town hotel.)

The commute over the East River from Long Island (which enables one to behold three boroughs at once) is possibly one of the most breathtaking sights in the world.  (The part that involves driving through the middle of the island via 34th street is not. Never again, as I will override the car's GPS and tweak the route next time.)

Suffice to say, after we located parking in the fifties and made our way to the London, we were delighted with the best of company and a real culinary treat.  Maze had a slightly dated, seventies glow to it, but it also had a warmth. Though the place was very busy, we didn't find it noisy or overcrowded. The service would have made Chef Ramsey himself blush, so we'll be charitable and skip right to the food, which was excellent. We all went with the five-course tasting menu. The cauliflower soup was excellent, and the little parmesan crisp acompanying it was absolutely delightful. The ovenbaked beetroots with celeriac and lemon confit were heavenly. The sea scallops were perfectly done; the black cod was fair. The Valrhona chocolate fondant had a depth without being overwhelmingly sweet, and the ice-cream that accompanied it presented a lot of unexpected flavours.

Maze (at the London) on Urbanspoon

Yesterday, Jay Cardinal and I took a little road trip. Since the summer craziness has ended, I've had a strong desire to go for a drive on the Ocean Parkway. After Sandy, that became impossible; two months after the storm, the road has been partially reopened, and we were able to do just that. We traveled as far as the western most barrier islands to Lido Beach and Long Beach. It is amazing the amount of cleanup that has transpired in such a short time, but there is still a long ways to go. Signs of the storm's devastation were visible everywhere, in the dumpsters and filth that lined the streets as well as the boarded up garages and lower floors of townhomes. How these people manage is beyond me. At the same time, the businesses along the main drag have reopened, and it was so good to see the parking lots and streets full.

Views of Jones Beach from Field 6

On the way home, we travelled a stretch of 27a and found ourselves in Islip at Port Royal (which was featured in an episode of Man vs. Food). Our ambitions weren't as lofty as Adam Richman's; we just wanted a decent pint and a tie-one-over-to-dinner snack. The bartender couldn't have been lovelier, and she let us try a few beers. Palm was a polite, Belgian ale with a curious nose ---pickle--- (I'm not kidding), and Jim went with a wonderful, floral Peak Organic (don't laugh) seasonal beer. We split the Seven Seas Sampler. For pub food, it hit the spot, and the service was excellent. If we're in the neighborhood again, I'm sure we'll stop in.

Port Royal Grille on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 7, 2012

short beach, revisited.

The beach is not a one-season stopping point for us. These are some photos taken in late November when DH & I got back to Short Beach for the first time since June. It was amazing seeing how things changed with the Fall. There was still considerable sand in the parking lot, blown in from Sandy, if but any other damage might have occurred it was mostly cleaned up.

Beautiful Nissequoque River.

I love how rocky the North Shore is.

maureen's kitchen review.

Jay Cardinal & I have passed Maureen's Kitchen numerous times with a healthy amount of curiosity, but since it's always been hopping we've waited for the perfect time to avail ourselves of their highly sought-after breakfasts. We were fortunate enough to happen upon a half-full parking lot after 7:30am Mass at St. Pat's last Sunday and took advantage of the occasion.

We were seated on the heated patio, which was very quiet compared to the dining room. Our waitress was prompt and responsive, and breakfast was nothing short of amazing! The white chocolate/pistachio/blueberry pancakes I had were incredible. DH's sausage was divine, and his croissant french toast was also quite good. The coffee met our exacting caffeinated beverage standards. Everything was very reasonably priced.

If you can get in before things get too busy, this is a real treat of a place! We will definitely make it a part of our Sundays as much as we can.

Maureen's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

coastal cheap & chic #2: gearing up for christmas.

December already?! Where has the time gone? Pond House has transformed into a very Christmas-y place, inside and out. One of my favourite seasonal changes, brought on by nature, is the sighting of many beautiful native birds. It's a regular feeding frenzy in our yard now that the Juncos and White-throated Sparrows have returned to the yard. This morning I counted close to two dozen Mourning Doves under the feeder! Our usual suspects (the Black-Capped Chickadees, House Wren, White-Breasted Nuthatches and Northern Cardinal) are with us throughout the year. On the lake, we're blessed with a Swan couple again.

There are numerous options for finding a fresh Christmas tree on Long Island. You can go the old school route and get a pre-cut tree at any number of roadside stands, or you can head out east to the agriculturally plentiful part of Suffolk County and chop one down yourself. There are tons of Christmas tree farms from Manorville through Southold. We went to a place in Mattituck called Shamrock Christmas Tree Farm. They couldn't have been nicer, and after we picked our tree, they did all the dirty work, cutting and balling the tree and mounting it on the roof of our car. This place, as well as numerous others, offer very family friendly activities in addition to cutting down a tree. There are cheaper places; there are more expensive ones, too. We're really happy with this place and expect to return next year.

Here's the big guy, complete with silver, gold and moss-toned ornaments. If you time it right, follow the circulars and clip coupons, you can get glass-blown and other nicer-quality ornaments for a song. All the ornaments were between 60-80% off.

Walt Whitman Lord & Taylor: Glass-blown feathers, abstract shapes, hearts and glitter/mercury glass birds, tree topper and glitter rosette picks
Stony Brook Michaels: Gold eucalyptus picks, glitter-glass ferns, solid moss glass ornaments, glass blown candles and glitter etched ornaments
Kohl's: Glass-blown pinecones, glitter birds in circles
Macy's: Glass-blown glitter fruits

One of the biggest nightmares price-wise is finding a Christmas tree skirt. I saw some pretty crummy ones for about $30-40, and nicer ones in the department stores even after sales and coupons were between $50-80. Fortunately, Home Goods, TJMaxx and the like have really nice quality tree skirts. I picked up one for $20.

My other penny-pinching strategy is I reserve solid-ornaments for the back parts of the tree, and those sections that are not exposed I actually don't decorate. Tinsel is also an attractive filler that can be found just about anywhere for $1.50 a pack!

If you want the amazing smell and branches sturdy for ornaments, go for the spruce (my childhood tree of choice), but the fir (which we selected) has a remarkable longevity and fullness. Do you have a tree preference? What do you and your family use?