Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry Christmas, Maternity Leave and Ellen DeGeneres

Have I told you how much I love maternity leave? If not... I do! I could definitely be a stay at home mom if I had the funds. First and foremost... I love my new baby! She is amazing and being her mom is super amazing! If I'd known how much fun this would be - how much it would expand my world - I would have become a parent much sooner than age 37. Forget that I didn't meet my husband until I was 34 and didn't get married till 36. Forget that I only dated crazy people before that and I probably would have had a crazy kid because of it...

On second thought - 37 was probably the perfect age to have a baby.

But back to maternity leave. It's definitely too short. I'm 9 weeks in and go back to work in 3 weeks. That's crazy talk! I just convinced baby Grey that sleep is her friend... this with the help of our good friend Bev and her suggestion to put whiskey on a pacifier. Nah... just kidding. But seriously - the baby is finally getting quality sleep and when she is awake she's really awake and so fun. So this starts and I have to go back to work? It makes my stomach hurt to think about it. I think I'm going to have to tell her caretakers to lie to me. Don't tell me if she says her first word. Don't tell me if she pushes herself all the way up. And please don't tell me if she crawls. Just let me think that all of those things will only happen for the first time between the hours of 6 and 8am and 5 and 8pm.

And! I've made such good friends during this time! Matt Lauer, Ann Curry and the Today Show gang and I have become good buddies. I always think Savannah Guthrie looks like somebody I'd want to be friends with. Anderson Cooper and I have learned a lot about one another during our occasional 3-4 o'clock afternoon get togethers. But let's be honest - none of them come close to touching the deep personal friendship Ellen DeGeneres and I have developed (it's one-sided of course - but that doesn't really matter does it). Contrary to what it might sound like - I don't watch much TV during the day while at home. Primarily because I read somewhere that it was bad for the baby's development but also because watching daytime tv seems so pathetic. I do set aside all baby development worries however to turn on the Ellen Show every afternoon at 4pm. I'll even make sure I'm home from running errands or meeting real friends to watch it. Why? Ellen is freakin' hilarious and so happy and just generally someone who exudes good vibes. And she dances! Which has reminded me how happy dancing makes you! I find myself laughing out loud ever afternoon and recounting the show to my husband when he gets home from work. While I'm sad to go back to work because leaving baby will be hard - second to that is foregoing my daily Ellen Show indulgence.

This aside... I have to be honest with myself and say that maternity leave might be so great because I know it is only three months. If I was not returning to work I may not appreciate this time as much as I do. And... I am looking forward to interacting with adults and working on projects (as frighteningly nerdy as that may sound). Having a baby does however make me reprioritize. Makes me challenge myself to do work that I'm proud of and that I love. If you are going to spend 8+ hours a day from the greatest thing you've ever done, you'd better be doing something else pretty worthy. So that's my personal charge... to keep a healthy balance of family and work. Keeping family priority number one - but finding work that is fulfilling, worthwhile and creatively and intellectually stimulating.

In the next three weeks however - I'm going to revel in every stay at home minute. Celebrating the holidays with my amazing family, friends and of course Ellen DeGeneres.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The world is not black and white... but shades of Grey

Wow! Life has changed. On October 19, 2011 Clara Grey Erstling was born.

The actual birth... after 10 long months of worrying about her health and my health... was the most amazing event of my life. I don't really know how to describe it. Being an active participant in the birth of a new person is such a profound experience. It is as close to god as I think we get in this world. I've said this to a few friends and a few family members, but birth and death, while so different, have for me - brought out the same emotions. Plain and simple awe and raw real all-consuming love.

Grey is perfect in every way. A beautiful, healthy and happy baby girl.

So what has becoming a mom done for me in the last three short weeks? It has made me refocus my priorities. It's made me take a hard look at the choices I have made and hopefully the choices that I will make related to how I spend my time going forward. It's made me fall in love with my husband even more every day as I watch just how much he loves Grey and how much he loves me.

It's humbled me and made me realize that I don't know quite as much as I thought.

It's made me so appreciative of my family... all of them... and so in love with having a new meaning to family.

I hope I can hold onto all this good stuff when life gets busy and the mundaneness of taking care of silly things sets back in. Here's to the adventures and beauty of being a parent. To a new chapter and to having a whole lot to learn.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Two Years Vacant in Florida = 1 billion Weeds!

It's been a long spring and summer - fighting the weeds at our new (old) home in Jacksonville, Florida. After being vacant for two years... Craziness! Being sustainable has seemed overwhelming.
Little by little we've been digging out - trying to start a compost pile - pulling out weeds and removing some not so healthy looking shubbery. We even had to take down a very old very sick Laurel Oak. (I cried... but the arborist pointed out that it was on its way down one way or the other).

We took down ivy that was tearing apart our mortar in between bricks. I cried about that too - but John pointed out - bricks were warmer than ivy in the winter - and so I continued pulling it all down... 

Our lawn in the front yard was comprised of one part grass to 25 parts strange weeds. We discussed options... trying to make the weeds green and full and just mowing it to make it look pretty, landscaping the whole thing and getting rid of the "lawn", putting in perennial peanut.... In the end - because of simplicity and cost - we ended up resodding. Maybe not the most sustainable decision - but definitely instant gratification. (if 2 months of prep work qualifies as instant gratification.

I'm super pscyhed about the end result when I pull in to the driveway now. Little by little we are making progress. I can't wait till all this manual labor is manageable and we can really start to be creative with a garden.  First thing on my list... to cover up the lovely squirrels lurking in our iron work by the front door. Whoever thought squirrels were in good taste... was wrong. 

But the best thing about Florida in the summer (at least with some plants) is that it is hot and humid and things are growing fast. I planted jasmine in June and it has started to cover the iron work. Can't wait till this is all green!

And then window boxes! Less is more - I love these textures in an all green window.

What are some things I really want to do? Well landscaping... and that's on the schedule for this Fall. Hopefully all native (or as many native as possible) plants. Ideas? I'd love to hear them. But really more fun is a living wall. We've got some big open brick wall spaces on our back patio... Perfect for a living wall. Check out the gallery at Bright Green.

Friday, January 15, 2010


Today feels like spring! 70 degrees in northeast Florida after two weeks of very cold weather. I started daydreaming about the garden (or future garden) in the backyard of our hopefully soon to be new home. This is a crazy project - but one I am super psyched about. The garden is overgrown in some places - dead in others... and a bit overwhelming to begin to envision what it might be.

I feel that it has the potential to become what I most loved about Charleston - an eclectic, warm and inviting always changing garden that surprises it's visitors at every twist and turn.

I am a bit scattered in my sense of style. I love modern lines, simple, uncluttered spaces, english gardens overflowing with perennials, vintage vases, old books, warehouse lofts, industrial design, window boxes, black and white and lots of color... how this will all come together in a cohesive garden is a bit unclear.

As we don't own the house yet... I'll continue to daydream. Here are a few sources of my garden, landscape and exterior design inspiration:

Flora Grubb Gardens
The owner of this San Fran garden center, Flora Grubb, is seriously my idol. Amazing garden center, amazing sense of style and design... and freakin' killer name.

Islandscape Landscaping
The owner of this landscape design firm in Charleston, Greg Watkins, is a friend and an idol of mine. He has taught me more about plants than I thought I'd ever know. Check out his amazing work.

Petersham Nurseries
This nursery in England is so what I wanted A New Leaf Studio to become I can't stand it. All of my favorite things in one place: flowers, plants, a cafe, etc.

Glenn Certain Studio
This floral design studio in my new neighborhood is amazing! Yea Jacksonville!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A New Year... A New Life... A New Leaf

2010 feels like a breath of fresh air and the beginning of a new era. Big stuff... I've closed my flower shop, moved to Florida and gotten married.

Closing the doors of A New Leaf Studio was hard to do. My dream. When I was 10 I told my mom that I wanted to own a flower shop. If you've known me since - you've probably heard me talk about it or you've seen one of my business plans.

I took a leap in 2007 and left a great job to give it a whirl... probably one of the best things I've ever done.

I loved working for myself... loved the creativity of it... working with people.... the marketing of my dream, the ego boost from doing a good job and the joy of making someone happy.

I did not so much love working every Saturday until midnight... cleaning flowers... trying to make a profit... and the anxiety I felt about other people's weddings.

When a mentor of mine asked - "would you still be doing this if money wasn't an issue"... I realized I would definitely keep the business but I'd stop doing weddings... and since weddings were 80% of my business things needed to evolve.

So for now - in the name of love and change - I've taken a hiatus from the flower biz and am rethinking the plan. I intend to focus on small personal projects - like our garden and my dear friend Jenny's wedding flowers in April.

So this blog evolves with A New Leaf... as spring emerges (which comes early in Florida I presume) - I'll use this as a place to post things I learn about gardening, floral design, and interesting tricks of the trade. Who knows - maybe A New Leaf Studio - phase II will unveil itself in the process.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Seductive Succulents

A square sedum and succulent wreath is a unique and sustainable addition to any front door. To create this you need:

Wreath frame - round or square
Heavy gauge and decorative wire
Sphaghnum moss
15-20 4" pots of varying sedums/succulents

To make the wreath - soak the moss in water for a few hours and then pack it into the wreath frame. Secure the moss by wrapping the frame with wire. Plant the sedums into the wreath by tucking them into the moss and securing by rewrapping with the decorative wire.

The wreath should be watered once a week and trimmed periodically so that it keeps its shape.

Monday, March 9, 2009

A Glorious Saturday on Kiawah!

On Saturday, we set up for a wedding at the Sandcastle on Kiawah Island. It was a perfect day... 70 degrees and not a cloud in the sky.

On top of that - I loved the flowers we worked with - ranunculus, sweet peas, anemones and garden roses - and adored working with the bride, Laura Booras.

Sarah Bradley of Social Event Design coordinated the day and Juliet Elizabeth Photography was on-site to capture it all.

Here are a few of our photos.: