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

Advertisements

The Fertile Color of Orange

Bouquet of Flowers in Paper Cone 02At the end of summer, I ventured to a beautiful place I hadn’t been to in a very long time – Massachusetts.  My friend Diane, whom I’ve known since college, was getting married.  A group of us made the voyage across the states for the event.  After a smooth flight, my fellow travelers and I were ravenous, so our lovely hosts and friends, Jen and Keith, took us to an impressive restaurant in Cambridge called Abigail’s.

Abigails Street View

Situated on the first floor of a stylish apartment building in Kendall Square, Abigail’s stands out due to the dynamic orange umbrellas that adorn the dining patio.

Abigails Signage

The restaurant boasts a full bar with a choice beer and wine selection, gourmet food offerings including many BBQ specialties, and a raw bar.  Their brunch menu also looks tantalizing.

Abigails Outside View

As the night was beautiful and tranquil, we chose to sit outside.  This was the view across the street from where I was sitting.  Notice the healthy, thriving trees – a prime example of the wood element.

Diane in Magenta 02

The vision in fuchsia above is the lovely Diane, whose wedding I attended later on in the week.

Dark and Stormy

Dark and Stormy – This is one of my favorite beverages.  Dark rum and ginger beer served over ice, with a lime wedge as garnish.    A simple classic, but Abigail’s does it very well; I ordered two.  The Moscow Mule is similar, except that it uses vodka instead of dark rum.  Sweet and refreshing.

Abigails Seaweed Salad

Seaweed Salad – A selection off of their Raw Bar menu, I had to try it.  Unlike most seaweed salads, this rendition had pieces of edamame mixed throughout.  Light and invigorating.

Abigails Burger and Fries

Fresh Ground Burger and Gouda Fries – American cheese melted onto a ground beef burger, with grilled onions, pickles, and iceberg lettuce on a delicious potato bun.  Their special sauce  is served alongside, similar to a savory aoili.  Satisfying and filling.  For $3.00 more, one can swap standard fries for Gouda Fries.  Small pieces of bacon swim throughout a river of chicken gravy that cover thick-cut fries.   Decadent and addictive.

Abigails Bar

Another item on the menu that caught my eye was a side dish called Summer Chi.  In feng shui, we refer to positive energy as chi.  Summer chi = summer energy.  It turns out the chi dish is a medley of seasonal summer vegetables, which I found intriguing.  (No one at the table ordered it, hence there is no photograph of said chi.)  Industrial Light Fixture

Inside, a long bar extends nearly the whole length of the establishment.  Cool bucket lights hang over the bar, while very industrial sconces take residence in front of the windows.  I really like the metal energy the window fixtures encompass.  Somewhat like a cage housing a rare light source.  I’ve love to have two or three of these lining the balcony of my home in Los Angeles.

Abigails Art

I was fascinated by this enigmatic art piece, which hangs near the main entrance.  I love how the grays, blacks and yellows all mix together in a beneficial way.  Earth, metal, and water elements harmonize here in thought-provoking fashion – an ideal example of good feng shui art in a highly modern style.

Abigail Interior Seating

Shades of yellow and gray, with a little black here and there, are the main colors used throughout.

Frilly Victorian Parasol Orange

In feng shui, the color orange is a dynamic, cheerful shade symbolic of the west.  There is debate as to whether it is representative of the fire element or the earth element.  I would actually say it works for both.  The hue is representative of creativity, fertility, organization, and social interactions.  The color orange can be used in a variety of positive ways:

  • Add some orange pillows or an orange throw to a living room sofa.  This will foster a more social, creative energy in the space.
  • Use as a paint color for kitchens, dining rooms, and children’s play areas.   The color used in these rooms creates a warm, social atmosphere with good conversation.
  • If one is trying to have a baby, add more orange to the bedroom.  The walls can be a painted orange, but it should be an earthy or muted orange, or change some of the curtains or bedding to an orange shade.
  • When used in small doses, orange is excellent for offices as it increases productivity and helps to establish an organized environment.
  • To stimulate creativity, wear the color orange in any shade you desire.  It should be an item you like that is comfortable and stylish.  (I have a rust color cardigan that suits me perfectly.)
  • Eat oranges!  They stimulate one’s immune system with vitamin C and other healthy nutrients.

Personally, I consume a lot of oranges in the form of orange juice.  (I can’t seem to get enough of it.)  My next trip to the Boston area will  hopefully be sometime next spring or summer.  But one thing is definitely certain – I will be visiting Abigail’s again where I plan on eating some oysters underneath one of those vibrant orange umbrellas.

Abigails Umbrellas

Abigail’s Restaurant

291 3rd Street, Cambridge, MA 02140

617-945-9086

Hours:  Monday – Friday 11:30 am – 1:00 am,  Saturday 5:00 pm – 1:00 am,  Sunday 11:00 am – 1:00 am

Note:  Closed for lunch on Saturdays.

http://abigailsrestaurant.net/

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

Street of Dreams: Susan Feniger’s Culinary Delights

Street Restaurant Sign

Years ago when I first visited New York, my friend Petra insisted that I try all of the classic street food Manhattan had to offer.  This included the bagel, the pizza slice, the hot dog, the pretzel, and the ever famed knish (and a few others).  As I ventured around the city,  I would occasionally spot a food stand or truck, and would try one of the items on the list.  It was shortly after this trip that I started really paying attention to street food and food trucks for unique culinary experiences.  Coincidentally, shortly after I returned to Los Angeles, the food truck craze was just coming into vogue.  Since then, I have had some amazing meals and memories created around sidewalk food.  So when my friend Kristy suggested we dine at Susan Feniger’s Street, I was thrilled and ecstatic.  I’d been wanting to try Street for ages, and the tantalizing cuisine far exceeded my expectations.

Indian Iced Soda

While waiting for our table, we sat inside at the bar and ordered some drinks.  I went with the Indian Lime Soda.  I found this to be quite similar to a Gimlet.  A generous amount of fresh lime juice and gin, served over ice.  Celery salt and cumin rim the glass.  The libation provides the ideal balance of yin and yang with the flavors, from sweet to savory, and from mellow to tart.  Absolutely excellent.

Crisps and Jelly

We were seated outside on their elegant patio. Unobtrusive umbrellas create a protective awning under which we sat.   These crisps, pictured above, came complimentary with the meal.  I found them highly addictive.  I didn’t sample the jelly that accompanied them, because I found they were tasty enough on their own.

Biig Fred's Red

We brought a bottle of wine with us from one of my favorite wineries, Robert Renzoni out of Temecula.  This is a fine table wine called Big Fred’s Red.  Hints of cherry and blueberry come across gallantly, with a slight oaken tinge.  Sensational and divine.  We then ordered a bottle from Street’s impressive wine list.  We went with their Barbera.  Unfortunately, I cannot recall the winery it is from, but it is the only Barbera they have, and only available by the whole bottle.  It was a rich, smooth red that accompanied the food perfectly.  I loved it.

Potato Samosas

Potato Samosas – Golden pyramids of delectable potato served deep-fried with a trio of sauces:  minty yogurt, cucumber chilli and a tamarind chutney.  Each Indian based sauce was savory and impeccable, and good alone or mixed with the others.  The samosas come four to an order, and are purely sublime.  I could eat them all day.

Chicken and Waffles

Chicken, Bacon, and Waffle Croquettes – Two chicken and bacon “meatballs”, reposed on a lounge of comfy waffle.   Enshrouded in a mildly spicy maple syrup, this was a scrumptious delight.  Here, too, is another prime example of the yin and yang of taste, where savory meets sweet.  I also like how the waffle is cut on the diagonal, adding the triangle shape of the fire element to the dish.

Angry Eggs

Angry Eggs – These, too, have the fire element present, but more in the form of heat – as in the use of green and red sriracha.  A nouveau take on the classic deviled variety, these eggs have a burst of spice.  Two pieces come to an order.  Zesty and unforgettable.

Kaya Eggs

Kaya Toast – This is my friend Lori’s favorite item at Street, and it may be their best-selling dish.  A generous amount of thick coconut jam is sandwiched between toast, and then cut into fours mini sandwiches.  Served alongside is a runny fried egg covered in soy sauce.  The correct way to eat this is to dip the coconut  sandwich into the yolk and soy and eat it with a little of the egg.  Delicious and decadent.

Pizza of the Day

The Daily Pizza – Street offers five different items that change every day, which include a Pizza, a Rice Bowl, a Salad, an Asian Inspired Noodle, and a Market Vegetable.  Pictured above was that day’s Daily Pizza.  Caramelized onions and bacon gave a highly tasteful performance here.  I also really liked the crust.  I generally prefer thin to thick crust, but even then I leave the end piece on the plate.  Not here.   The crust, end piece, and all the toppings were quickly devoured.

Fish and Chips

Fish and Chips – Thick cuts of yucca fries act as the sidekick to strips of  fluffy striped bass.  An enticing Peruvian panca sauce is drizzled on top.  Succulent and well-seasoned.

Tatsutage Fried Chicken

Tatsutage Fried Chicken-Japanese style fried chicken.  The breading on the chicken is astounding and rich.  Shredded carrots and an alluring white sauce garland the morsels.  Tofu can also be substituted for the chicken.  Almost rapturous in its taste, this was one of my favorites.  A must-have.

We also had three items that are not pictured:

  • Pumpkin Cauliflower Cannelloni – Gentle cannelloni filled predominantly with pumpkin.  I love anything with pumpkin, and this vegan pasta dish was intoxicating and filling.
  • Street Cheeseburger – My friend Zach got this, and I’m so glad he did.  A mouthwatering burger with all the usual accoutrement.  I really liked the brioche bun it was served on.  This is quite a large burger, good either as a whole meal, or shared with friends.  Phenomenal.
  • The Daily Rice Bowl – As I said earlier, their daily options change.   When we went, our server Chris highly recommended the rice bowl, and he was right to do so.  Saffron and curry were the main influences of the rice, with luscious pieces of eggplant throughout.  Refreshingly different and complex in flavor.   So good!

Street Patio Interior

I really love the use of color Street encompasses.  The dominating hues on the patio are black and orange.  In feng shui, orange  represents creativity, legacy and fertility.  It also offers a lot of yang energy to the environment, being very warm and lively.  Whereas black, a more yin, cool color, helps to balance out the orange.  I also found all five of the elements harmonizing beautifully here:

  • Fire – The red-orange walls, candles and subdued lighting, as well as the fire pit residing in the middle.
  • Earth – The wood parts of the dining tables and chairs.  When wood is cut down, it effectively “dies” as a wood element.  Therefore, it returns to the earth, becoming an earth element.
  • Metal – The metal parts of the dining tables and chairs.
  • Water – The color black encompassing the furniture and woodwork.
  • Wood – ???

But where was the wood element?  I couldn’t see any living wood at first.  And then I saw them – two large palm trees rising from the ground.  The restaurant environment coexists peacefully around the two living plants.  This is one of the best examples of the wood element I’ve seen in a restaurant.  A photograph of one of these monolithic trees is at the end of the post.

Street Bar

The architect for Street was Neil M. Denari.  Internationally known for his modern, almost futuristic residential and commercial creations, this was Denari’s first restaurant design.  Working closely with Feniger, they wanted to create a space that was welcoming and provocative.  Energy flows very well within the environment, and I love the unique shapes presented in the architecture.  Pictured above is the area right over the entryway and bar.  I love how the curvature of the walls and the wood paneling, further enhanced by the lighting, reminds me of a subway tunnel or an underground walkway.  Thus carrying out the Street theme on varying levels.

Street Interior

The restaurant’s interior offers a more subdued swankiness.  Wood and fire are represented quite differently here than on the patio.  The colors red for fire, and green for wood, are expressed in the hues of the spirited illustrations on the walls.  The murals and wall decor throughout are the products of Studio Huntley-Muir.  Su Huntley and Donna Muir are London-based artists whose innovative line drawings create an ambiance of a lively city populace.  I love how the drawings of people walking about lend to the space an animated yang energy, which is highly beneficial for a dining environment.

Our Server, Chris, was quite knowledgeable about the menu.  His suggestions were spot on, and we were taken care of very well.  Susan Feniger herself also comes around to greet tables personally, which I found wonderful!  She genuinely cares that her guests have an outstanding dining experience on each visit.

Street also has a new Happy Hour, which features a few choice food selections, $5.00 beer and wine options, as well as a $5.00 valet, from 5:00pm – 7:00pm on weekdays.  They also have many vegetarian and vegan options every day, and Meatless Mondays, where even more non-carnivorous items are available.   They also serve lunch on Fridays, with select $5.00 cocktails at the bar from 12:00 – 7:00.  I will be returning to Street very soon for said Happy Hour, and also for their Weekend Brunch (The Hawaiian French Toast sounds incredible).   This auspicious restaurant provides its guests with a trip around the world all under one roof, with various avenues to satisfy even the most discriminating of tastes.  I wonder if, on my next visit, I may find a cheesy knish on the menu…

Street Only Tree

Susan Feniger’s Street

742 North Highland Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90038

323 203-0500

Hours:  Dinner:  Sunday – Thursday  5:00 pm – 10:00 pm,  Friday – Saturday 5:00 pm  – 11:00 pm,  Brunch:  Saturday – Sunday 11:00 am – 3:00 pm,  Lunch:  Friday 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm,  Happy Hour – Monday – Friday 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm

http://www.eatatstreet.com/

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/