Sunflower Seats

For years our dining chairs have been a simple and cheap Ikea design that were handed down to me when a neighbor moved to Florida for a job singing with Cirque du Soleil. Ideal for twenty-somethings settling down in their first apartments, the chairs were cheap but were not made for longevity, and I decided recently that not only was I starting fear for our lives every time we sat down, but that we had probably outgrown them. So after a lunch of meatballs and lingonberry sauce, and much deliberation and seat testing, Mark and I decided on an Ikea upgrade: from “Stefan” to “Börge“.

Boring Borge

I liked the sleeker design of the Börge, but the stark white muslin seat cover was not very imaginative. Fortunately, it was removable, and could easily be replaced with a more interesting design.

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When I got home and assembled the chairs (these took a little more work to put together than the Stefan, which is a good sign for durability) I realized that I had the perfect design, my Sunflower Seeds! I pulled out my staple gun, and went to work – so that the cover would have a more tailored fit, I decided not to make the cover removable, I can always pry out the staples if/when I decide to change the fabric again.

Alexandra AugustineI love how the chairs turned out. The fabric complements the chair really well and the overall design works with the rest of the room. And, most important, I no longer fear broken bones when we sit down to a meal.

Want to re-cover your Ikea chairs, make a dress, wrap a gift or paper your bathroom with “Sunflower Seeds”? It’s now available for sale on Spoonflower in a variety of fabrics and as wrapping paper and wallpaper. Check it out here: Spoonflower.

 

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From Small Seeds

I’m still waiting for my sunflowers to bloom, but in anticipation – and as an inevitable follow up to my sunflower seeds design – I created a sunflower design for the home.

Sunflower Table Cloth

I was inspired by my sister’s garden where she has a carpet of zinnias blooming under a profusion of tall sunflowers growing behind them.

Sunflowers by Alexandra Augustine

I love the combination of the bold yellow sunflowers with the colorful scattering of zinnias among the green leaves.

My garden upstate usually blooms about a week or two after my sister’s on eastern Long Island, so I probably won’t have any zinnia or sunflowers blooming this weekend, but my dahlias are starting to pop open!

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Seeds! and Inspiration

Neither snow nor rain nor icy slush kept my hardy mailman from delivering a much anticipated package yesterday – my seeds! During the winteriest weeks of February, I’ve been happily planning out my garden for the spring. Although I had planned to keep things simple this year and concentrate on growing tried and true vegetables and flowers, I ended up getting a little carried away picking out flower seeds.

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I got most of my flower seeds from Botanical Interests and my vegetable seeds from Pinetree Garden Seeds. I also splurged a little and ordered some fabulous looking dahlia bulbs from Eden Brothers. I’ve been starting my dahlias from seed, but I can only find the more gaudy, showy flowers as bulbs and with a name like “Bora Bora”, how could I resist.

All this planning for Spring and warmth and flowers had me inspired. I went back to a photo I took of my seedlings a couple of years ago that I’ve always loved and have wanted to work into a design.

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This design has turned out to be one of my favorites. The touches of green and celadon hint at the promise of spring among the brown tones and blue highlights. It has a fun but sophisticated look.

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The groundhog has predicted six more weeks of winter and this would be the perfect print to liven up my tired winter wardrobe. A fresh print on anything but wool would be fabulous right now.

Grazing in the Grass… and on my dahlias, and my impatiens and my snapdragons…

If you noticed by the dates on my posts, I’ve been a little preoccupied this summer. The long stretches between my posts are to be blamed on my concentration on my career shift. This summer I’ve been busy with work during the day, and classes at FIT and the Art Students League at night. Despite all that, we’ve had another wonderful summer at the Little Blue Cottage. Although, I’m sad to say, the garden suffered because I paid more attention to my computer and sketch pad than to the weeds. The sad shape of the garden was partly my fault – planting seedlings before the last frost, not keeping up with weeding, and just plain ignoring it – but I can also put some of the blame on our neighborhood friends who view our yard and garden as an all-you-can-eat buffet.

The rabbit population, not surprisingly, seems to have increased since last year, and our paltry electric fence around the flower garden was a laughable attempt at protecting our seedlings from their feeding frenzy. (After much research and trips to the garden center, Mark has since juiced up and fortified the fence).  As much as they are a bane on the garden,  they are really charming when they are sitting on the lawn nibbling away at grass.  They are so at home in our yard, that they are completely unperturbed as I cautiously creep closer and closer with my camera clicking away madly, until they’ve had enough and then go bounding off into the woods. They have been great subjects for my sketches.

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Rabbit and Ferns

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Now, if I could only get them to just eat the weeds in the garden…

And now back to you, Leeks…

My leek seedlings are coming along nicely, I’ve transplanted them into their own little paper pots to give them more room to grow.
IMG_5658Between the expense of buying new seedling pots each year and the appeal of just not consuming so much, I’ve been making my own seedling pots with the very handy PotMaker. It does require that you have newspapers on hand, and since our household has gone almost completely digital with our news, I pick up a handful of the free Manhattan News from the corner. I have to cut down the paper into strips, but as I assemble each one, I catch up on local news, brush up on my little Spanish and then have the satisfaction of creating neat little pots for each seedling. The newspaper pots can go directly into the ground and breaks down into the soil, so waste is minimal.

IMG_5660I love repotting seedlings, it’s so satisfying to give each seedling its own space to grow.

We do have other seedlings starting in our little apartment nursery. Last year I had great luck with dahlias, but terrible luck in storing their tubers over the winter. So, I’ve started a new round of dahlia plants.

IMG_5662I’ve also started various other flower seedlings and this week I’m planning on starting my tomatoes. In addition, my garlic bulbs and potato tubers should be arriving soon.

Happy Spring!

All Hail the Humble Leek

Behold the beginnings of greatness:

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This is my second year of growing leeks from seeds. Last year’s attempt resulted in rather puny specimens, but I’m determined that by the end of this summer I will have nice big fat leeks. In researching how to grow them successfully, I came across some interesting information, the humble leek has a rather distinguished history.

The leek  appears on the Royal Badge of Wales and is worn proudly on the cap of  The Welsh Guards

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And, as a symbol of one of the countries of the British Commonwealth, leeks also appeared in embroidered and beaded form on the coronation gown of Elizabeth II, along with the thistle, shamrock and maple leaf – the thistle represented Scotland, I don’t think I need to explain the shamrock or maple leaf.

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According to the gospel of Wikipedia, Norman Hartnell, the queen’s dress designer, asked if he could replace the leek with another symbol of Wales, the daffodil. He was denied. Maybe that’s why he placed the leeks right where it would be hidden in most pictures, behind the queen’s folded hands. He clearly never had the pleasure of a delicious and comforting bowl of vichyssoise.

It’s now been about two and half weeks since I sowed the seeds and my little leek seedlings are coming along beautifully. They are flourishing under flourescent lights that Mark and I set up on a shelving unit in the corner of our apartment’s living room. We had put up the removable shelves and lights last spring after the previous year’s debacle of attempting to start seeds on the very uncertain climate of my windowsill.

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This year’s seeds are growing in my own seed mix combination of compost tea, vermiculite, perlite and coir – coconut husk fiber. (Note to self: Next time you order coir, do not order a giant brick of it. A coir brick has the consistency of a cement block and all attempts at “chipping” away at it with a knife or saw are nearly impossible and will only result in coir dust all over the kitchen and some very undignified swearing and sweating.)

By August, we should be sitting down to a nice leek tart, or potato and leek galette or a simple bowl of vichyssoise.

Take that Norman Hartnell.

California Dreamin’

With Winter Storm Nemo practically chasing us down the runway of JFK, Mark and I flew off to Los Angeles just in time to miss the worst of the snow and cold. Although the weather in L.A. was hardly tropical, the sun was shining, trees were green and flowers were blooming. It was wonderful.

Despite the incident involving a rambunctious cat and Mark’s wedding ring, we had a lot of fun exploring the city and seeing old friends.   The highlights of our trip were the Getty Museum and its amazing gardens, the Descanso Gardens and the Watts Towers. We also had a fun day at Universal Studios, thanks to Hannes Phinney, but I was screaming too much at the 3-D King Kong vs Dinosaur battle to take any pictures.

Our week long trip was exactly what I needed. I returned to New York refreshed and inspired to start new projects.