ChatterLog May 2011

Gardens

Taurus, the Bull

Greetings everyone and welcome to the May Chatterbulletin! Back in March we heralded in the Spring and then last month on April 22nd we celebrated “Earth Day.” And now that we have moved from our fiery sign of Aries, the Ram, to our slower-paced Taurus, the Bull, we are looking at our 1st Earth sign of the Zodiac. The “always-in-a-hurry” Aries typifies the “rolling-stone-gathers-no-moss” syndrome, whereas our Taurus would rather slow it right down and take their time as they plod on down the hill… they prefer to enjoy each and every moment along the way. Now, you may recall at this time last year, we talked about “Possessions” because Taurus loves beautiful things, and treats everyone as if they were a possession too! This time, we are going to look at another Taurus trait, and that is their connection to the Earth and their love of growing things! So this month’s theme “Gardens”is decidedly green and also happens to be the color associated with Taurus, and therefore connects us with the Earth and Mother Nature.

And speaking of mothers, my own mother loved her little garden more than anything. She was always quite modest about her gardening ability and enjoyed a more natural and “”wilder” approach to her little patch of land, but she had certainly inherited the family gardening gene. Both her mother and aunt were avid gardeners but I particularly remember our grandmother’s large garden filled with beautiful beds of roses, peonies, pansies and dahlias (one of my favorites!), with lupins, delphiniums, hollyhocks and sweetpeas to name but a few. And not only was our grandmother a fine gardener, she also taught classes in floral arrangement. Back in the early 60’s as a young child, I thought it was terribly “cool” to watch these women taking classes in Ikebana, the Japanese art of floral arrangement, hosted by my own grandmother in the dining room of her house in a suburb of greater London. More than simply putting flowers in a container, Ikebana is a disciplined art form in which nature and humanity are brought together with an emphasis on shape, line & form, as well as minimalism. Now here’s where it gets really interesting – the structure of an Ikebana arrangement is based on a scalene triangle delineated by 3 main points, considered in some schools to symbolize Heaven, Earth & Man, and in others the Sun, Moon & Earth.

Ikebana Arrangement with Exotic Irises

I was fascinated by this art form and would join in with the class and create my own arrangement along with the group of ladies, and one of the main rules I learned from back then and have always remembered is that when doing an arrangement, you must always have an odd number of flowers or stems, never even! The containers were as interesting as the arrangements themselves, and were often flat or shallow or unusual in shape, most unlike a regular old flower vase. When my sister and I were clearing out our mother’s house in 2009, we found a few of these shallow bowls and containers, no doubt once used back then in one of those classes, and I brought one of them, a beautiful shimmery orange bowl, back with me to New York. And my aunt, our mother’s sister, also learned the art of Ikebana, not only from my grandmother and great aunt, but also because she and her husband, my uncle, ended up living in Japan for 5 years, so she went right to the source, you might say!

Now gardening is to England what Baseball is to America really – everyone in the UK grows something and watering the plants both inside and outside the house is as natural for us as throwing a few catches in the backyard for you. Some people prefer to eat what they grow and lovingly labor over their vegetable plots, while others might enjoy the more aesthetic pleasures derived from simply growing beautiful flowers. Our own mother was not really one for growing her own food other than some fresh herbs for salads and mint for the roast lamb – instead she wanted a garden of trees, shrubs and flowers and took much pleasure, comfort and solace in the time she spent on her little patch of land. I can certainly grow the odd thing here and there and I miss being able to grow more than my New York apartment windowsill permits, but the one truly following in my mother’s footsteps when it comes to gardening is my sister, who is both a natural and talented in that area, and it was she who spent many hours with our mother pottering around in her greenhouse and flowerbeds. In fact, my sister and husband met when they were both working at one of the largest garden nurseries in Southern England!

Photo by Louisa J. Curtis

Bronx Botanical Gardens, 2005

When we were growing up, we had a pretty large one-acre garden with a generous-sized vegetable patch and fruit cages. Back then we also had a gardener who came and helped out, because it was too much for our parents to handle by themselves. My sister and I were each given a corner of the vegetable plot in which we could grow whatever we wanted. We grew the standard childhood classics of marigolds, stocks, clarkia and candytuft, but without question, my favorites were nasturtiums, and lots of them. The Leo in me was automatically drawn to all of those sunny yellow, orange and red flowers. Another of my success stories back then was when I meticulously saved some runner beans one year and dried them out over the winter, ready to be planted in the spring. What began as a few old beans grew into some quite impressive plants, which also produced a substantial crop, I might add. The only problem was that rather than using wooden stakes for them to “climb” and grow up, I planted them by some old roses, so they climbed up and around them instead!

Remember last month I showed you my friend’s wonderful “vegetable garden cake” with all the hand-made miniature vegetables? Well, truth be told, I myself have always loved miniatures, and when we were little, one of my sister’s and my favorite things was to create our own miniature model gardens with these plastic kits we bought from the toy store. We began with the basics, a starter pack, if you will, and then added to it as we went along, so by the time we had finished, we had flowers and trees and all sorts of garden goodies laid out on the big table in our playroom. And included in the kits were these brown rectangular plastic flowerbeds with rows of small holes in them. The plastic plants had to be pushed down into the holes using a small pointed garden tool so that the foliage & flower went from flat to upright and was literally planted in the flowerbed. We planted rows and rows of miniature plastic tulips, daffodils and roses, and would fight over who got which colors! We loved this stuff and even built miniature garden sheds and greenhouses. There were miniature tools, including a mini lawn mower for the strip of fake felt green lawn! We would play with these models for hours and hours and hours…

Photo by Louisa J. Curtis

Miniature Garden Prize Winner, Guernsey North Show, August 2008

Back in 2008 when I was visiting with my “Ikebana” aunt in Guernsey, my stay coincided with the North Show. This annual event included a parade of fabulous floats, decorated with hundreds and hundreds of flowers as well as the wonderful flower and produce displays in the tents. This brings me back nicely to the topic of miniatures yet again, because amongst all of the displays of giant dahlias and red tomatoes, were the children’s displays – and they were some of the most adorable and imaginative creations. These two images show one of the miniature gardens on display and a few of the fruit & vegetable sculptures – brilliant! And continuing on with my love of miniatures this month, be sure to check out my latest article for PhotoServe, and interview with the queen of miniatures herself – Lori Nix!

Photo by Louisa J. Curtis

Fruit & Vegetable Sculptures from Guernsey North Show, August 2008

And in closing this month, how could I not make mention of the Royal Wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton, now the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge, which took place last week on Friday, April 29th. Unless you really are living in a cave, you would have been hard-pressed to not have seen any or some of the coverage, but I confess, I watched the whole thing ‘live’ with one of my neighbors and we enjoyed the entire thing as we sipped on our mimosas and munched on our pastries (they’d run out of scones!) Whether you are a royalist or not, whether you agree with the monarchy or not, you have to admit, nobody does it like the Brits and this was a historical event. And a royal wedding always cheers the country up! Interesting to note that as I write this article the Moon is in Taurus, as well as the Sun, and the Queen of England, is herself a Taurus, born on April 21st, and if anyone could be accused of owning some pretty fabulous possessions, she would certainly qualify! But the reason I wanted to make mention of the wedding was to comment on the couple’s decision to “bring some nature” into Westminster Abbey. Instead of the usual flower arrangements they lined the knave with six beautiful English Field Maple trees, symbolizing humility and reserve, and which was used in medieval times to make loving cups, and two Hornbeams, which signify resilience. I thought the effect was both simple and stunning without being over the top. Also interesting was the unexpectedly small size of the bride’s bouquet, but although seemingly understated it was perfect and really beautiful and contained Hyacinths, Sweet Williams and Lily of the Valley. And instead of following the more common tradition of the bride throwing her bouquet to all the single girls later on at the palace “bash” (!) the bride placed her bouquet on top of the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey, a tradition started in 1923 by the Queen Mother apparently, in memory of her brother Fergus who had been killed in the great war.

And Happy Birthday to all of you Taurus out there!

ChatterQuote May 2011

The Charging or Wall Street Bull, New York City

Besides “green” gardens, Taurus is also the sign associated with money, so it is no coincidence that the term “greenback” – another name for the dollar, refers back to the 1st paper currency that was issued in the United States during the American Civil War – and to this day, our currency remains green in color, does it not? And should you stroll around lower Manhattan in the financial district, you may well come across the famous bronze statue known as the Charging Bull or Wall Street Bull, with the bull being the symbol of aggressive financial optimism and prosperity – in other words – banking & money! It’s not a statue of a rabbit, or a pigeon, or an elephant – it’s a bull, because the sign of Taurus, the bull, is the sign associated with not just possessions, but with the ultimate of physical possessions – money! So our quote this month comes from a famous actress, singer, film director, and a Taurus, Barbara Streisand, who was born on April 24th and has a lot of it!

“I can’t stand to see red in my profit-or-loss column. I’m Taurus the bull, so I react to red. If I see it, I sell my stocks quickly.”

Barbra Streisand, singer/actress

ChatterArtists May 2011

With this month’s theme being “Gardens” and connected with the Earth and all things that grow in it, I thought it would be pertinent to show you photographers who specialize in garden photography. It is a small niche of specialists, but a very pleasing one to explore. And because I only know a handful of them, I did a little searching online and found a lot more of them, especially in the U.K. – surprise, surprise – so we also have a couple of photographers from over there as well, representing the ultimate gardening nation! And be sure to check out each of their websites, so you can enjoy and soak in the rich beauty of all the work.

Eric Roth
Based in Massachusetts, photographer Eric Roth has 30 years of experience under his belt and photographs everything to do with homes, gardens, and in particular high-end interiors. His work is bold and beautiful and I loved his portfolio of garden images so much, I was thrilled to include him in this month’s line-up. Eric and his full-service digital studio also offer lifestyle, portrait and advertising photography, so be sure to check out all of his work. We chose this particular image to lead us “up the garden path” (so to speak) and into our world of garden photography this month!


© Eric Roth
http://www.ericrothphoto.com/

Rich Pomerantz
Rich Pomerantz and I met a while back and I then worked with him on the Monthly Photo Salon for a good couple of years. On his website Rich says, “My visual mission is based in all things farm and garden related” and one of the reasons clients like to specifically hire Rich, he told me, is because he is also a serious gardener himself, so he brings that passion and knowledge to the work. He also lectures on various horticultural and agricultural subjects, as well as sustainable farming. He teaches photography at the New York Botanical Gardens, and will be offering a course at the Maine Media Workshops this coming Fall, September 18th – 24th, 2011 on horticultural & agricultural photography.


© Rich Pomerantz
http://www.richpomerantz.com/
http://conted.nybg.org:8080/WebModule/jsp/ed2df.jsp?df1=slayout&df3=&df4=LNB&df5=114GWP925&df7=calendar__upcoming
http://www.mainemedia.edu/workshops/photography/horticultural-photography

Rob Cardillo
I met Rob Cardillo through the Philadelphia Chapter of ASMP and some of you may recall we recently featured his exhibition on the Chanticleer Gardens in a previous bulletin. So I knew he would be a perfect fit for this month’s theme! Former Director of Organic Gardening magazine, Rob has been photographing gardens, plants and the people who tend them for nearly 20 years. And, you’ll understand why we chose this particular image if you scroll down and read the ChatterTips, in particular the paragraph on color! Rob’s work is so beautiful and vibrant, it makes me want to jump right into wherever it is that he photographed!


© Rob Cardillo
http://www.robcardillo.com/

Saxon Holt
Continuing on we have Northern California-based photographer Saxon Holt, a life-long gardener himself, Saxon spent his time as a commercial shooter until 1985 when he discovered the gardening market and could no longer stay indoors! He quickly developed a reputation as a photographer with a distinct vision and understanding of plants and landscapes. His work has been featured in a wide range of diverse publications and his work and own books increasingly focus on the relationship between gardens and the land. He is currently working on a book with herbalist Tammi Hartung, 100 Herbs That Heal. Be sure to visit his website to see more of his beautiful work.


© Saxon Holt
http://www.saxonholt.com/

Andrea Jones
As a child, Andrea Jones loved to illustrate natural history subjects and looking at plants in close-up. She started her photographic career in advertising but soon realized that was not her niche. After a brief spell in wildlife photography when she had the pleasure to work with Dr. Jane Goodall, she realized that it was not just the animals (in this case, chimpanzees) but it was the landscape and the details of the plants and fruits that fascinated her. Now living in South West Scotland, she has been specializing in garden and plant photography since the early nineties, so be sure to visit her website to read about and see more of her work. For the bulletin, Andrea sent us some lovely images of “fritillaries” from a recent series she created which was featured in the Independent Review on Easter Sunday. The delicate softness of her images makes a nice contrast to some of our other photographers’ more vibrant photos.


© Andrea Jones
http://www.andreajones.co.uk/
http://www.andreajones.co.uk/gardenexposures/

Stacy Bass
For the last number of years Stacy Bass has been photographing architecture, interiors and gardens for a variety of both editorial and advertising clients. In 2007 her 1st solo show of garden and botanical images aptly titled “First Light” sold out at the Je Reviens gallery in Westport, CT and also served as a fund-raiser for the Discovery Museum in Bridgeport. Always with an eye and interest in all things visual, Stacy has not only worked in various positions at a number of publications, but is also a graduate of NYU School of Law where she concentrated on copyright, trademark as well as art & entertainment law, enhancing her career with an additional area of expertise.


© Stacy Bass
http://www.stacybassphotography.com/

Liz Eddison
While I was searching for garden photographers, I came across a website in the UK called the Garden Collection, which is a collective of some of the world’s leading horticultural photographers. One of the co-founders is photographer Liz Eddison who, after leaving Harrow School of Art, began her career in the photographic department of Sotheby Auctioneers, and after working as an assistant for advertising photographer, Bob Wallis, she then became an agent. Frustrated with being on the business side instead of behind the lens, she then combined her love for gardening with photography and freelance picture research, and has been published internationally in numerous books and magazines ever since. One of her favorite projects is to photograph the big flower shows, such as Chelsea, because of all its diversity of gardening styles, and this year she is honored to be one of the judges in the upcoming annual garden competition in Whichford Village, Warwickshire.


© Liz Eddison
http://www.garden-collection.com/

ChatterCorner May 2011

Lori Nix

As I mentioned in my ChatterLog, I love miniatures, so be sure to check out this month’s article for the Features section on PhotoServe with fine art photographer Lori Nix. She literally lives, eats and breathes miniatures! This is one of my favorite images of a vacuum cleaner showroom, somewhere in Miami, Florida… Read the interview here:
http://www.pdnonline.com/pdn/photoserve/Louisa-JCurtis-of-C-2402.shtml


Vacuum Showroom, 2006
© Lori Nix
http://www.lorinix.net/

ChatterNews May 2011

Tim Hetherington & Chris Hondros

As you may recall, last month our theme was “War” and we featured some photo journalists. And, I talked briefly about the four photographers who had been held captive in Libya. Then, on April 20th the terribly tragic news spread through the photographic community that we had lost not 1, but 2 wonderful photographers in the line of duty – Tim Hetherington and Chris HondrosGuy Martin and Michael Christopher Brown were also injured in the same blast, but survived. As I write this, the memorial service for Chris Hondros is being broadcast live from Brooklyn on UStream, the tears are flowing and it is heartbreaking to hear the brave words of his fiance and all of the tributes to him and his life. I did not know either Tim or Chris personally, but who could not feel terribly saddened by the loss of two such incredible human beings, even though they died doing what they were passionate about. Mikko Takkunen is a photographer based in London who has compiled an extensive list of links, videos and interviews so we can read, remember and honor all of the contributions they gave us.

http://photojournalismlinks.com/2011/04/21/in-memoriam-tim-hetherington-1970-2011-chris-hondros-1970-2011/

And here is a link to the article in Vanity Fair by Tim Hetherington’s friend and fellow journalist, Sebastian Junger.

http://www.vanityfair.com/magazine/2011/04/sebastian-junger-remembers-tim-hetherington-201104

Bruce Byers – Smile Bangladesh

Unfortunately I didn’t receive the information for this in time to make the last bulletin, so I wanted to give it a mention this month. One of the many things photographer Bruce Byers is involved with is “Smile Bangladesh” – a New Jersey-based non-profit medical organization dedicated to caring for children and adults afflicted with facial cleft deformities in Bangladesh and around the world. One of the doctors Bruce has traveled with, Dr. Shahid Aziz, rang the Nasdaq closing bell on Wednesday, April 6th, 2011, and Bruce was there to film that as well. So even though this event has already happened, we can now share the link with you – and the Nasdaq reference fits in nicely with this month’s financially oriented Taurus!


http://www.brucebyers.com/imagesthathealny-480.mov

http://imagesthathealny.com/
http://www.smilebangladesh.org/

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution

We have mentioned Jamie Oliver‘s Food Revolution in a previous bulletin, but I thought we’d give him another shout-out especially as the new TV series has just aired and he is already causing quite a stir in the Los Angeles school system! Plus, this month is Taurus, which is all about the “Fruits of the Earth” and good food! http://www.jamieoliver.com/ For more information and to join your local food revolution community please visit: http://www.jamieoliver.com/newsletter/jfr_feb2011.html

Barry Steven Greff

Some of you may recall Barry Steven Greff from a previous bulletin. Barry recently launched a wonderful new blog and to celebrate Earth Day this year he created this gorgeous 3-minute multi-media piece featuring many of his iconic sea and landscapes along with the beautiful music track, Willow and the Light by Kevin MacLeod. So even though Earth Day was last month on April 22nd, Taurus is the 1st Earth sign of the Zodiac and is totally connected to Mother Earth, so I thought it fit nicely into this month’s theme. To view the presentation please visit Barry’s blog at: http://adventuresfrombehindtheglass.com/

© Barry Steven Greff

http://www.barrystevengreff.com

APA NY 2011 Photography Contest

Don’t forget to enter this year’s APA NY annual photo contest! Yours truly is one of the judges 🙂

For more information and to register please visit: http://apany.com/photo-contest-2009/tell-us-a-story-2009.html

ChatterTip of the Month May 2011

Spring Gardening Tips

So this month, I thought we’d feature some “gardening tips” because Taurus says, “I have, I have the fruits of the earth in my hands.” Not only is Taurus an Earth sign, they love to grow things and make marvelous gardeners. Growing up in England, I come from a family with a long line of gardening enthusiasts, especially on my mother’s side. And so, I invited my sister, who has certainly inherited this gardening ability, to write the tips for us! So hot off the presses here we have some gardening tips all the way from the UK for you, and the photo is one that I took of her garden a couple of summers ago.

Giant Peonies and a “Niobe” Clematis

Photo by Louisa J. Curtis, 2009

Weeds

One of the most important quotes I ever read in an old gardening book was, “A plant can only ever be called a weed if it is in the wrong place”.  In other words, what we term as weeds and therefore a perfect nuisance (here the main culprits include dandelions, ground elder, and bindweed) are all plants in their own right.  The bindweed is actually a wild form of convolvulus or “Morning Glory” and has a gorgeous flower either way.  Make friends with your weeds!

Grow Your Own

In these economically challenging times it is well worth considering growing your own fruit, vegetables, and herbs.  Anyone can grow something to eat, even in the tiniest pot or smallest window box.  All you need is good compost, plenty of sunshine, and regular watering for a crop that will be guaranteed to be more nutritious than anything you buy from a grocery store.  There is such pleasure to be had in nurturing your own crop, however limited, and ultimately tasting the delicious fruits of your labor.

Fewer Chemicals

We are all aware of global warming and the need to preserve our planet’s decreasing flora and fauna.  Those of you who are lucky enough to have a garden can contribute to this sentiment by minimizing the use of chemicals to control pests and diseases.  There is always a delicate eco-system in every green space where the natural hierarchy involved in the food chain ensures a constant balance. Try not to advocate a “scorched earth” policy when eradicating those pesky slugs and snails.

Bulbs

By now your spring bulbs will have flowered and are in the gradual process of dying back.  Resist the temptation to remove any foliage before it is so dry and withered that you can easily pull it out of the soil.  Whilst still green, the leaves will be providing vital nutrients for successful growth of next year’s bulbs so bear with the unsightliness for a little longer.  Concentrate instead on choosing and planting this year’s summer bulbs and looking forward to their wonderful blooms.

Color

Consider the use of color in your garden – you can have such fun with this!  Every year I have a great time color coordinating my new bedding and hanging basket plants.  For a cool serene effect use green and white, just as Kate and William did quite exquisitely in Westminster Abbey for their wonderful wedding.  Be adventurous if you feel like it – orange and purple look fabulous together, as do yellow and blue.  Use hot colors – crimson, red, orange, and yellow – to maximize the sensations of high summer in your garden.

Handle With Care

When you are in the process of growing any plant in your garden, treat it with respect and nurture it as best you can.  You may want a particular flower in a certain position but will it be happy there?  Please the plant and not yourself.  When handling your new young plants, handle them with care – they are fragile and delicate until they have established themselves.  Garden with love and respect in your heart; I talk to my plants all the time and don’t care who knows it!

Contributing writer – Charlotte I. Murphy

ChatterRecipe of the Month May 2011

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

© Adriana Mullen

http://www.adrianamullenphotography.com

Last month I teased you all by talking about Easter and chocolate, and then gave you a savory “egg” recipe! Fear not, this month we are going sweet, because Taurus is ruled by the Planet Venus, and Venus is connected to sugar and sweets. Taurus not only loves sweet things, but also things of beauty, so after considering what makes a “beautiful” desert, we settled on this Italian classic. I mean, who doesn’t love a good Tiramisu, eh? But did you know what the name means? The word Tiramisu literally translates as “pick me up” and with the espresso, alcohol and sugar in there, who wouldn’t feel somewhat “elevated” after a good taste of this sumptuous desert! Now although there may be more than a few variations of Tiramisu recipes out there, with some preferring Marsala wine or brandy over rum, and some cholesterol addicts like to add in heavy cream as well – but I have it on good authority that as long as it contains mascarpone cheese, ladyfinger biscuits, and strong espresso coffee, you’re in the ball park. And most recipes insist that for the best results go authentic and use high-quality ingredients found in an Italian specialty grocery store or a good supermarket, otherwise you will be disappointed!

Ingredients

Egg Yolks (extra-large & preferably farm-fresh or organic)

¼ cup Sugar (granulated is fine, castor sugar is even better)

½ cup Dark Rum (good quality) or Brandy or Marsala Wine

1 ½ cups Espresso Coffee (strong & fresh-brewed)

16-17 oz Mascarpone Cheese

30 Savoiardi or Italian Ladyfinger Biscuits

Bittersweet Chocolate (shaved) or Cocoa Powder (good quality)

Recipe

Whisk the Egg Yolks and Sugar in a bowl until the Sugar is no longer grainy and the mixture is very thick and light yellow in color (approx. 5-8 minutes). If you have an electric mixer, use the whisk attachment on high speed for about 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium (or continue to whisk the mixture by hand) and add in ¼ cup Dark Rum, ¼ cup of the Espresso Coffee and the Mascarpone Cheese, and whisk until the mixture is smooth. In a shallow bowl combine the remaining ¼ cup Dark Rum and the 1 ¼ cups Espresso Coffee. Quickly dip one side of about half of the Ladyfinger Biscuits into the Coffee/Rum mixture one at a time and then line the bottom (dipped side down) of a 9x12x2 dish with them. You can adjust the number of Ladyfingers if you have a round or a different size dish. Once the bottom of the dish is covered with a layer of the dipped Ladyfingers, then pour about half of the creamy Mascarpone mixture on top and spread evenly. Repeat this process with the remaining LadyfingersCoffee/Rum, and Mascarpone cream, and if you do use a slightly smaller or a different shape dish, then you might end up with 3 layers, instead of the 2. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Before serving, sprinkle the top with a generous layer of shaved Bittersweet Chocolate or a layer of Cocoa Powder. You could always put a layer of shaved Chocolate in between your 2 layers of Ladyfingers and Mascarpone and then have the Cocoa on top – feel free to express yourself and indulge!