Buttonwood Flowering Blossoms

Buttonwood Cherry Blossoms

Flowering trees, such as the beautiful almond tree above, are one of the best examples of feng shui plant life.  Not only do most of these trees sprout delicious nuts or fruit, but their blossoms give off an alluring scent that carries on the air.   Flowering branches also have auspicious symbolism.  Because they usually bloom in winter or early spring, these floral tendrils represent longevity and  overcoming great burdens.  There are not many blossomy trees in my neighborhood, so I usually resort to the Japanese Cherry Blossom lotion from Bath and Body Works (the smell is to die for).  However, on a recent trip to Solvang, a generous collection of these beneficial plants reside at Buttonwood Farm.

Buttonwood Back View

Originally an equestrian ranch established by philanthropist Betty Williams, the property now boasts a vast vineyard, tasting room, and organic farm.  Pictured above is is the back entrance to the tasting room, which leads out to their intricate and beautiful gardens.

Buttonwood 02

The tasting room is stylish and very serviceable.  Two tasting bars reside on either side of the space, allowing for easy flow of patrons.   I love the living chandelier of leaves – a highly conducive and artistic example of the wood element.

Buttonwood Duck

Buttonwood also has many farm-fresh products for sale, including olive oils, preserves, salsas – and my personal favorite – the Raspberry Grenache-Syrah Chocolate sauce.  Decadent and loaded with antioxidants, this sauce is ideal for desserts or a chocolate martini.

Buttonwood 01

Wine barrels are used as support for an elegant table in the middle of the room.  I love barrel furniture, and it’s a green and economical way of reusing these vessels.  Powerful and striking images painted by Seyburn Zorthian grace the walls.  Much of Seyburn’s art is highly influenced by her study of Shoudo, the passionate brush stroke technique of Japanese and Chinese writing.  She also creates the artwork featured on Buttonwood’s wine labels.  For more information about her art, please visit her website here:  http://www.seyburnzorthian.com/artist.html

Buttonwood Fountain

I was captivated by this gorgeous fountain nestled in a private garden outside the tasting room.  Working fountains with clear, clean water add beneficial and peaceful chi (energy) to an environment.

Buttonwood Grounds 01

Daffodils were in full bloom when we visited.  Also known as narcissus or jonquils, these flowers have a myriad of symbolic meaning.  In feng shui folklore, the white ones represent the flowering of one’s talents and skills, and can be used in furthering one’s career. I also think they are great examples of spring; they remind me of hunting for Easter eggs as a kid.

Buttonwood Grounds 03

There were many different wines  l sampled.  My favorites were:

  • 2010 Devin – An irresistible  sauvignon blanc.  Influences of honey, lemon and apricot come through in a charismatic fashion.  Crisp and complex.
  • 2009 Marsanne – A decadent white.  Hints of honeycomb and marzipan contrast nicely with a crisp taste and rich body.  Flavorful and refreshing.  (Sold Out)
  • 2010 Cabernet Franc – Sage and raspberry take center stage with this enticing red.   Very easy to drink.  Silky and sophisticated.
  • 2009 Trevin – An intoxicating red blend composed mostly of Cab Franc.  Vanilla, rhubarb and dark berries were the notes highlighted on my palate.  Tasteful with a lingering finish.
  • 2010 POSH – One of the best ports I’ve had.  Dark cocoa and espresso make their presence known, with a holiday influence of cinnamon, orange and cherry.  (A bottle came home with me.)

Rhea and Victoria

I also got to meet fellow feng shui consultant, writer and interior designer Rhea Peake (pictured left here with my friend Victoria).  She has many years experience in creating sacred spaces and improving environments, as well as a plethora of other skills and talents.  In addition to her strong ties with Buttonwood, she is based in Santa Barbara, Hawaii  and Vancouver.  For more information, please visit her website here:  http://www.rheapeake.com

Buttonwood Grounds 02

Comfortable seating is placed purposefully around the gardens, encouraging guests to linger with some wine and a picnic lunch.  In addition to their tastings, Buttonwood also hosts many different events throughout the year, including a crawfish boil.  I also suggest checking their website for some  stellar recipes (I will be trying the olive oil cake recipe first) as well as their informative blog Buttonwords.  I am going to try to come up at least one more time before the seasons dramatically change, so I can sit under a flowering tree with a glass of Cab Franc and just immerse myself in the auspicious environment that is Buttonwood Farm.

Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard

1500 Alamo Pintado Road, Solvang, CA 93463

805-688-3032

Hours:  Open Daily 11:00 am – 5:00 pm

http://www.buttonwoodwinery.com

Buttonwood Front Entrance

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The Ducks at the Old Mill

Mill Bridge 01

In feng shui folklore, one of the most beautiful icons of romance is the Mandarin Duck.  Known as the “Love Birds” in China and Japan, a pair of these feathered creatures together is a historic symbol of love and devotion  because they mate for life.  In certain schools of feng shui, these are commonly used to attract a desirable mate and promote marriage.   I think ducks are cute.  Unless a client has a general fondness of ducks or birds, it wouldn’t be my first suggestion to use Mandarin Ducks in an environment as decor.  However, do I want some for my home?  Yes!!  I’ve been keeping on eye on this beautiful fabric on Etsy.com with Mandarin ducks on a red background.

Mandarin Duck Fabric

Provided by the Etsy store Simply Fabric Oakland, this colorful print would be ideal for a set of throw pillows.   More information can be found by contacting the seller here:   https://www.etsy.com/listing/112921502/97-width-chinese-double-happiness?ref=shop_home_active_1

Mill Ducks 02

In August, I was in Boston for the wedding of my friends Diane and Josh.  Thanks to my friend Amy, a bridesmaid, I was able to attend the rehearsal dinner as her date.  Due to their romantic symbolism,  I found it brilliantly coincidental that the happy couple would pick a location highly influenced by ducks – and I don’t mean on the menu.  The Old Mill, located in Westminster, Massachusetts, is housed inside a historic mill with water all around.

Mill Duck Solo

The ducks here are very happy creatures.  The restaurant provides bread that guests may feed to them.  (The duck pictured above practically ate out of my hand.)  Now, while these aren’t specifically Mandarin ducks, the romantic symbolism can still be applied.

Mill Modern Section

Originally a sawmill in the late eighteenth century, the mill was a thriving part of the community for five generations, before falling into neglect about a hundred years later.   In 1921, it was revived into a summer tea house, operating until 1942 when war rationing of staples forced it to shut down.  In 1946, the Foster family took it over, making it a year-round restaurant and bakery.  They have continued to run it ever since.

One of things I love about the architecture of the site is the blending of old and new.  Throughout the environment, homage is paid to the historical aspects of the structure, yet making it very livable and modern.  In the photo to the left, one can see the new addition to the wing, and how it melds into the vintage timber of the building.

Mill Waterfall and Pond

Flowing water, thriving trees, sunshine, smooth rocks, all of these are prime examples of how the elements can come together in completely harmony.

Mill Pond 02

Another scenic view of the pond from the restaurant’s terrace.

Mill Seating

The inside environment was nostalgic and quaint.  Tables seating four to six were neatly arranged in the dining areas.   Earth was the main element present in each room; brown being the dominant color and altered wood the primary material.  Because the wood used here is dead (no longer a living plant), it’s now an earth element.

Please Watch Your Hat

This amusing sign made me laugh because I was wearing a hat at the time.  All sorts of vintage memorabilia adorn the walls, conjuring feelings of warmth and comfort.

Mill Buffet

Due to the special nature of the event, our dinner was served buffet style.  Some of my favorite items were:

  • Corn Fritters with a Maple Syrup Glaze – Scrumptious.  I think I had seven…
  • Baked Haddock Casserole with Seafood Stuffing –  Rich and filling.  A seafood lovers dream.
  • Roast Prime Rib – Tender pieces of beef.  Tantalizing and tasty.
  • Caesar Salad – A classic done right.  It accompanied the prime rib perfectly.

Mill Chocolate Martini

Our Server, whose name I sadly cannot recall, was incredible.   In addition to making sure everyone’s needs were met, she was also our bartender.  She made me, without a doubt in my mind, the best chocolate martini I’ve ever had.  Just the right amount of sweetness, and the glass lined with chocolate syrup.  Flawless and sublime.  I was a happy man.

Mill Strawberry Shortcake

Each guest was given their own strawberry shortcake parfait, completely with whip cream on top.  Refreshing and ideal for the summer weather.

Mill Fireplace

A majestic brick fireplace demanded attention in the center of the room.  The candles atop were arranged by the groom’s mother and grandmother.  The candles add beneficial fire energy to the celebration.

Mill Ducks 01

After the rich and decadent meal, many of the guests made their way outside to feed the ducks.

Mill Bridge 02

In addition to the main restaurant, The Old Mill also offers The Cracker Barrel Lounge, complete with a full bar and its own menu (although the restaurant menu can be ordered here as well).  The beneficial energy of the Old Mill, due to the very happy ducks, the natural surroundings, and the historical beauty of the structure, provide an auspicious area for dining, be it for the whole family or a romantic occasion.  I will definitely be returning here on my next visit to Massachusetts, for the food, the drinks, and to feed the adorable ducks.

The 1761 Old Mill

69 State Road East, Westminster, MA 04173

978-874-0914

Hours:  Tuesday– Thursday 11:30 am – 9:15 pm,  Friday – Saturday 11:30 am – 9:45 pm,  Sunday 10:00 am – 8:00 pm,  Lounge Hours:  Tuesday – Thursday 4:00 pm – 9:00 pm, Friday 4:00 pm – 10:00 pm, Saturday 12:00 pm – 10:00 pm, Sunday 12:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Note:  Closed Mondays

http://www.1761oldmill.com/index.html

Mill Pond 01

The River Rock Lounge

The River Rock Lounge

In feng shui, river rocks are a wonderful and easy way to incorporate more earth into an environment.  The grounded energy provided by these smooth stones helps to bring peace, prosperity and abundance into an area.  Their close connection to water, which is associated with wealth, can bring about many positive changes when applied correctly.   They are an ideal example of what can happen when water meets land; two elements collaborating to creating something beautiful, natural and auspicious.  There is a swanky tavern in Sherman Oaks that has prime examples of elements in harmony known as The River Rock Lounge.

Located inside the historic Sportsmen’s Lodge along Ventura Boulevard, my friend Victoria and I decided to check out their Happy Hour.  From 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm, seven days a week, they offer $5.00 food options, as well as select beverages from $6.00 – $8.00.

RR Libations

In addition to select beer and wine options, The River Rock Lounge offers two cocktails on Happy Hour:  The Casting Couch and The Talent Scout (pictured on left.)  The Talent Scout is a seductive cucumber libation with pisco, lime juice, and a hint of basil.  I had two of these.  Delicious and refreshing.  As for wine, I opted to try their Liberty School Chardonnay (pictured on right).  I’ve been a fan of Liberty School’s Cabernet for years, so it was a safe bet I’d like their chardonnay – and I did!  Citrus and green apple are the dominant tastes in this luscious white wine.   Crisp and stimulating.

RR Artichoke Dip

Artichoke Dip – A tantalizing blend of cheeses, spinach and artichoke combined, with sun-dried tomatoes reposed on top.  The Happy Hour version comes with four sliced of pita, and a small phyllo cup filled with the dip.  (I only wish the portion was larger)  Luxurious and rich.

Mini Corn Dogs

Mini Corn Dogs – Corn dogs served gourmet style, and garnished with a piquant whole-grain mustard, onions and pickled veggies.  Four come to an order, and they’re piping hot.  Absolutely excellent.

RR Hot Wings

Hot Wings – My favorite food item here, hands down.  A myriad of spices and a tangy mango BBQ sauce cover these savory morsels of chicken.  Five come to an order, and a mild bleu cheese sauce is spread below.  It was so good, we ordered two of these.  Scrumptious and sophisticated.

The environment at River Rock is reminiscent of a vintage chalet of the Rock Hudson era, but with modern flair.  Faux Deer HeadUnlike most lodges, you won’t find any dead animals on the walls here.  Instead, they’ve opted for beautiful animal sculptures.  Most of them were elk heads (pictured), but there were also some sculpted fish over the fireplace, and a large plastered bison head over the bar.  These are inherently far more auspicious to have in an environment rather than their once living counterparts; they offer that lodge feel without the taxidermy.  Animal carcasses around the room = really bad energy.

Comfy leather seating in cream hues dominate the room, along with a few cafe tables and stools.  A more formal dining area is separated by a small wall of river rocks.

Wall Trees and Antler Chandelier

Cafe tables and stools gather in one area available for dancing.  I was most intrigued with the stylish tree wallpaper, which seemed to almost mimic the faux antlers in the chandelier.  Yet again providing that chalet-lodge feel, but without the negative connotations.

River Rock Carpet

Ornate carpet in an almost Klimt version of river rocks adorns many of the interior hallways.

RR Roses   I found the grounds of the lodge to be elegant calming.  A pond is spread throughout a large portion of the property, with small creeks and fountains creating an ethereal feel to the environment.  Rose bushes line many of the manmade creeks.

I was also particularly taken with these beautiful led trees (pictured below).  During the daytime hours when turned off, they make for intriguing arboreal statues.  But at night, when aglow, they make for an enchanting light source.  Scattered throughout the grounds, these are classy light fixtures with a distinct wood element influence.

Led Tree 03

There are many ways to incorporate river rocks into an environment.  One way I suggest to clients is to place them in the bathroom.  Find a flat bowl, or a plate with some kind of protective lip, and place river rocks inside it.  Place the vessel with the rocks on the toilet.  Ideally, this should be directly on the lid of the toilet tank, or on a shelf above.  Wash the rocks once a month with water and soap.  Having more earth in a bathroom environment will aid in keeping wealth and abundance from being flushed down the toilet, “grounding” ones finances and prosperity.

Bathroom Stones

One current decorating trend (which many interior designers have embraced)  is putting stones at the bottom of the bathroom sink.  This is another highly beneficial way to add the earth element to a bathroom or restroom.  However, some people may not like the idea of having to clean these sink stones on a regular basis.  If choosing to have rocks in the sink,  I suggest choosing a few wide, flat stones.  A good example of sink stones is the communal basin outside the restrooms of Take a Bao in Studio City.

Stone Hot Pad

This is a great hot pad, made from smooth stones glued to felt.

River Rock Door Mat

Here we have a wonderful door mat made from river rocks glued to thick shelf paper.  I would probably use something a little more substantial than shelf paper for the base, however.  Maybe something plastic, or a carpet remnant.  There are many places to get river rocks, such as Dollar Tree, Michael’s, or Hobby Lobby, as well as countless online options.  Or, one could go exploring along a beach or riverbank and select your own that way.  (Mine happen to be a mixture of found and purchased stones.)

In addition to the delicious food and grounded ambiance, the service at the River Rock Lounge is excellent.  The staff are dressed in vintage, cabaret-esque attire.  Our server, Kellie, was attentive and delightful.  Her suggestions were spot-on and we wanted for nothing.  I can’t wait to come back here for their Sunday Brunch, which features $12.00 bottomless mimosas.  Or I may come back for Sunday night dinner.  In addition to live entertainment, Sunday is local’s night, and the corkage fee is waived.  Until then, I’m going to add some more river rocks to my environment.  I better get started on that door mat…

Sportsmans Lodge

River Rock Lounge, Sportsmen’s Lodge

12833 Ventura Boulevard, Sherman Oaks CA

818 432-7500

Hours:  Lunch:  Thursday – Friday 11:30 am – 3:00 pm, Brunch:  Saturday – Sunday 10:00 am – 3:00 pm, Dinner:  Monday – Thursday 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm, Friday – Saturday 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm, Sunday 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm,  Happy Hour:  Tuesday – Sunday 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm, Late Night Happy Hour:  Monday – Thursday 10:00 pm – Midnight (beverage only), Friday – Saturday 10:00 pm – Midnight (food and beverage)

http://www.riverloungela.com/home.html

Mochas Among the Greenery

Wendy and Colorful Trees

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”  Now, while I agree wholeheartedly with Cicero here, I feel he may have omitted a few other necessities in life – such as one’s morning cup of coffee.  I function much better after I’ve had two cups of that delicious brew.  It awakens my senses as part of my daily ritual for facing the world.   Coffee can be highly useful and beneficial in a variety of manners.  One of the many ways I use coffee is to reuse it’s byproduct – coffee grounds.  I have a small garden on my balcony at home, and I have found used coffee grounds are excellent as plant food, due to its high levels of potassium, nitrogen, and other trace minerals – all of which are important for healthy plant growth.  But is there such a place where coffee and plants come together in a beautiful, harmonious environment?  Yes, there is.

Grubb Nursery 01

Located in the Bayview area of San Francisco, there lies a hidden garden of wondrous delights known as Flora Grubb Gardens.  Established by landscape designer Flora Grubb (yes, that is her real name) and French chef Saul Nadler in 2003, this charming array of plants and plant accoutrement is a feast for the senses.   There is also a fountain within the garden, in the form of Ritual Coffee Roasters,  a coffee distributor that has one of its stores inside. Established in 2005 and launching a coffee revolution, Ritual’s main goal is “to craft the very best cup of coffee available anywhere.  Period.”   One may get tea or coffee, and wander about the luscious grounds, admiring the elegant plants and handiwork of clever artisans.  I ordered a mocha from the friendly and attentive barista.  It was that flawless cup of perfection true coffee connoisseurs seek.  I sipped my beverage and began my journey among the greenery.

Vertical Garden on Metal Wall

One of my current obsessions is vertical gardens.  They provide a beautiful, living wall of art, and introduce the wood element to an environment in a chic and unexpected way.  Pictured above is a grouping of six vertical panels of rich succulents.   Each panel measures 20″ by 20″ and is available for purchase at Flora Grubb, or at their online store (plants not included).  I’d love to try my hand at creating a vertical herb garden perhaps using one of these boxes.  More information about the D.I.Y. vertical garden panel is available here:  http://shop.floragrubb.com/vertical-succulent-garden-d-i-y-panel/  Flora Grubb also offers a great tutorial on making you own vertical garden:  http://floragrubb.com/florasblog/?p=894

Grubb Furniture 03

Since Christmas, I’ve been debating what to do with my leftover string  lights.  I’m thinking of draping them along some kind of metalwork, like the beautiful filigree pieces above,  Using reclaimed scraps from a variety of sources, they make great conversation pieces, and work well indoors or out.  Although more intended for vines and foliage, I think string lights would adorn them quite nicely.  Classy and colorful Fermob garden furniture can be seen throughout.  The neon green-yellow chair on the right is part of their Luxembourg Collection, while the other pieces are all part of their Bistro Collection, which is based on the original French design patented in 1889.   I’ve been thinking about acquiring some of those folding chairs, too.  I really like the blue one in the bottom left.   More information about their Bistro furniture can be found here:  http://floragrubb.com/florasblog/?p=2450

Buick Planter

Broken items or things in disrepair often attract sha, negative energy, into an environment.  Is it always important to either fix the damaged item, or re-purpose it in a new and fashionable way.  This classic car, a functional beauty in its heyday, has been reincarnated as a planter.  It’s almost apocalyptic in how the plants, a wood element, have taken over this very metal automobile.  It works brilliantly in this space because you have the other three elements working together in harmony alongside the wood and metal (the sunlight and red wall representing fire, the earth below, and the water sustaining the plants).  I like how they use every available area in the car to house a plant.  There are even trees growing through it!  A miraculous and thought-provoking piece of living art.

Comfy Concrete Chaises.  Photo courtesy of Flora Grubb Gardens.

Comfy Concrete Chaises.  Photo courtesy of Flora Grubb Gardens.

These concrete chaises were deceptively comfortable.  I sat here for a while with my mocha and didn’t want to get up.   Many people have mixed opinions about this pair of cement seating, but I like it.  However, I imagine they would be difficult to move around the property.

Justina, Plant and Coffee

Pictured above is my friend Justina with her coffee and a new addition to her plant family.  It’s a crassula of some kind, but I cannot tell you which one.  It’s cute, though.

Grubb Nursery O2

Gardening is one of those activities that is life-affirming and nourishing at the same time.  From a feng shui perspective, it is one of the few actions that incorporates the physical touch of all five of the elements:

  • Wood – The plants themselves
  • Fire – The sunlight for the plants to grow
  • Earth – The soil in which it grows
  • Metal – Gardening tools and implements
  • Water – Also needed for plants to grow

Yin and yang theory also plays a part here.  Many people use gardening as a stress reducer from their hectic, technological yang-filled lives.  Gardening can be a relaxing yin activity, which helps to replenish and balance out stress levels, bringing one back to nature and away from a highly mechanical world.  In addition to being a creative outlet, gardening is also good exercise for people of every age, from young children to retirees.  Not to mention one can grow their own fruits, vegetables and herbs.  Most home-grown veggies taste far better than the store bought varieties.   There is also aromatherapy of sorts working outdoors provides – the various scents of the soil, plants, flowers and air can literally invigorate the soul through olfactory means.  (The smell of fresh-cut grass is a proven aphrodisiac.)

Grubb Plants

The scenery and items at Flora Grubb Gardens are constantly changing and evolving, with new wares coming in almost every day.   I plan on returning here on my next business trip to San Francisco, to see what is currently being offered.  And to have more Ritual Coffee.  (Used coffee grounds also act as a bug repellent, for insects that meander through the soil, such as ants and slugs.  It’s not toxic to them, but will definitely keep them away.)  Come of think of it, I may not be able to wait that long for Ritual’s fine roasts – thankfully, one can order all of their coffee right here:    http://www.ritualroasters.com/store/  I believe is was Thomas Jefferson who said, “Coffee – the favorite drink of the civilized world.”

Flora Grubb Gardens

1634 Jerrold Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94124

415 626-7259

Hours:  Monday – Saturday  9:00 am – 5:00 pm,  Sunday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

http://www.floragrubb.com/idx/index.php

Ritual Coffee Roasters (located inside Flora Grubb)

415 694-6448

Hours:  Monday – Thursday 9:00 am – 4:00 pm, Friday – Saturday  9:00 am – 4:30 pm,  Sunday 10:00 am – 4:30 pm

http://www.ritualroasters.com/

The Feng Shui of a Wedding

Recently, a friend of mine forwarded me the most ridiculous story about a restaurant in New York.  One location of a high-end Japanese/sushi chain cancelled a  previously scheduled rehearsal dinner because of the couple’s sexual orientation; the happy couple was two men.  Now there may have been some prejudicial viewpoints here, but what really astounded me was that the manager who cancelled the event claimed that it would be bad feng shui to host a celebration promoting same-sex marriage.  This is completely ludicrous!  Weddings, receptions, and rehearsal dinners held at any venue generally enhance the chi of an area, especially if the couple is truly in love.  The positive energy from the wedding party and guests seeps into a place, promoting more prosperity and abundance for all.   And this type of beneficial event is not affected by orientation, race, age discrepancy, or religious beliefs.  There are a couple of very rare exceptions when a wedding can provide negative energy, but that usually is directly connected to the health of the celebrated couple’s relationship.  For example, one part of the couple decides to abandon the other at the altar.  This is not usually good, and not a cause for celebration.   Another example would be if the couple is being coerced into matrimony under some kind of duress.   Rare events like this can attract  sha (negative chi) into the environment.   According to The Huffington Post, this specific location of the sushi chain has closed down, and a law suit is in place.  To read more about it, take a look at the article here:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/18/new-york-sushi-restaurant-gay-feng-shui_n_1893747.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003.

In October, I attended an amazing wedding celebration of my dear friends Tracy Clifton and Michael Pierce.   I was really impressed by the feng shui elements they brought to the ceremony and following reception.  They chose to have their wedding at The Vineyards, an event location in the foothills of Simi Valley.  Currently it is being used primary for weddings, and will be in operation as a winery  in a couple of years when their grape harvests reach full maturity.  The nuptials were  held in the Vineyards’ lavish garden, where the five elements were in full harmonious play.   A beautiful waterfall brought in flowing water energy, while healthy, nurturing trees and plants were the perfect backdrop of thriving wood.  An ornate gazebo of scrolled flourishes acted as a metal canopy over the wedding party.  The earth was present in the form of garden soil and the lovely walkway (pictured below).  As for fire, that was evident in the sun’s rays gently landing on everyone.   The ceremony was one of the best I’ve ever attended, being extremely honest and heartfelt.  As well as writing their own vows, poetry was also read by various members of the wedding party.  When one’s own writing, or writing they deeply connect to, is introduced into a ceremony, it adds a beneficial wood element to the ritual.  Wood is the creative element that feeds fire, thus these personal words are feeding the fire here of love and passion.  The union was officiated by Tracy’s cousin, Tom McElroy, a Christian Science Practitioner.  The wedding party and a couple of guest can be seen in the photo above (that’s me in the brown hat).

After the ceremony, everyone made their way to the Sunset Room, where the reception was to be held.  The main building of The Vineyards has many elaborate touches I really liked, including the grand wooden staircase.  Elegantly carved, it added an auspicious sense of luxury to the entry hall.  I also liked the carpet throughout.  Golden leaves on a background of chocolate brown.  Earthy in color, this is a great example of bringing outside energy to the indoors.

The theme for the wedding was Old Children’s Books.  Not only did I think this a very novel approach (pun intended), It was yet another example of the creative wood element of books and writing.  This permeated the event in highly favorable ways.  Each table was named after a different literary work.   My table (which, I have to say, was the most lively of the gathering-not that I’m biased) was Where the Sidewalk Ends.  As party favors, each guest received a small matchbox filled with magnetic poetry, which brought out creative wood energy in everyone.  I also liked the thought that was taken as to where each guest would sit.  Everyone at each table seemed to get along famously, adding to the prosperous energy of the day.

Each table had a lovely centerpiece made from old books, vintage book paper, and flowers.  My friends Kristy and Zach graciously posed behind it.  As an avid reader, I love books.  One common misconception about books in feng shui is that they should never be stored in the bedroom.  Many consultants feel that the creative energy put into process of writing books can damage the occupant’s ability to rest.  I disagree with this.  If space is limited, or one is sharing a home with roommates, books can indeed be stored in the bedroom.  It is just a matter of how.  A proper bookcase should be used and placed away from headboard and bed.  No one wants books falling on them while they slumber (those headboards with bookcases in them should be removed promptly; they’re no good).  If possible, one should get a bookcase or cabinet with doors, to “conceal” the books.  And never put books under the bed.  This can negatively affect the health and romance of those who sleep there.  I have two bookcases in my bedroom, but they are not close to the bed, kept free of dust, and artfully arranged by author.

Rather than use real flowers for the bridal party bouquets, Tracy went with a more literary alternative:  paper bouquets made from vintage book paper.  I believe she had them specially made from a craftsman on Etsy.com  I will have to find out and update this information at a later date.

The view from the Sunset Room was absolutely sublime.  Lazy clouds lingered casually over a residential area of Simi Valley.  It had rained earlier in the day, long before the ceremony.  According to many different traditions including Hinduism, rain on one’s wedding day is a sign of prosperity and fertility.  Others feel it is the tears of God blessing the marriage.  From a feng shui perspective, rain on the day of the event is very auspicious!  Not a lot, mind you, but enough to add a little water influence to the festivities.  Water is the source of all life on Earth, and rain on the happy day adds a prosperous, stable element to the life of the marriage.   Rain also alters the physical environment of the sky, which can enhance photography for the event  (such as the clouds pictured above).  And, an umbrella can make for an endearing photo prop.

And then there was the tantalizing meal!  Rather than having servers maneuver plates of food around guests, Benni and Tracy chose to have a buffet  (We call Michael by his nickname, Benni, because of his love for the comedian Benny Hill).   The food, deserts, and appetizers were provided by Dave’s Catering and Event Planning.  Every morsel was a taste in heavenly perfection.  The filet mignon was tender and succulent.  The butternut squash lasagna captivated everyone.  The chicken cordon bleu melted in one’s mouth.  All of the appetizers were also sinfully good.  My favorites were the sliders (I think made of turkey?), Caprese skewers, and this little item to the left.  Mouthwatering ahi nestled into a little won ton shell and topped with wasabi mayo.  I could have eaten them all day (I consumed at least a dozen).   Rather than go with the traditional wedding cake, the couple opted to go with cake pops of varying flavors.  They also had chocolate covered strawberries, and these amazing mini cheesecake bites (pictured below).  For more information on Dave’s Catering, and some purely intoxicating recipes, one can visit their website and blog here:    http://davescatering.wordpress.com/

Another important aspect to any wedding that I have yet to mention is the dancing.  I feel dancing at weddings is extremely vital.  It speaks to a more tribal element of loved ones coming together in celebration, and adds a wonderful yang energy to the gathering.  The dance floor was situated underneath an elaborate chandelier (pictured at top).  I was quite impressed by some of the humorous and talented dance moves exhibited by my friends and other guests.  I, too, shook my tail feather a bit.  As for the chi of this specific wedding and reception, I would have to say they were both highly auspicious.  These were the perfect inaugural events to further Tracy and Benni on a lifetime of prosperity, love, and abundance.  I wish them all the best in the world, and may their lives be continually auspicious.

*Chandelier photo courtesy of  E. Osbaldeston.  Ceremony photo courtesy of J. Sosta.