Thursday, December 25, 2008

pretending to be a mag writer at our weeklies

...With Boughs of Holly: LHS agri-science students host holiday decor workshop

The afternoon before Thanksgiving this year, a friend’s mother sent her on a hunt for seasonal accessories to spruce up the dinner table, leading to a frantic quest for miniature pumpkins. When area stores failed her, she made fall-colored candy bundles and resolved to plan further ahead come Christmas.

A brief afternoon at Ledyard High School last week would have solved her seasonal decorating angst. Horticulture teacher Shelly Roy and four students made Christmas decorating look simple, during a recent gift box centerpiece workshop.

This is the second year Roy has offered seasonal decoration lessons. Those in the know—mostly faculty and parents of agri-science program students—are repeat attendees who made floral cornucopias to adorn Thanksgiving tables last month. The workshops are so popular, Roy offers two sessions.

The featured Christmas centerpiece was a hollow red glass cube criss-crossed by festive ribbon to suggest a gift-wrapped parcel, with three types of white flowers and a bow arranged on top.

“It’s simple, it’s easy, very quick, and it goes together,” Roy said. She found the idea in an issue of Florists’ Review magazine but spruced up its institutional color palette when she interpreted it for the workshop.

Participants began by sticking greens around the base of the wet block of flower foam sitting in the empty cube. They cleaned all of the leaves off the bottom tip of each piece so it stuck cleanly into the foam. They added the large spider mums and then the smaller flowers.

Student helpers, thrilled at the opportunity to teach their teachers, ensured the different plants were spaced with aesthetic symmetry at slightly different heights, keeping the whole visually interesting but also pleasing to the eye.

“What do you think is wrong with it?” senior Jessica Senphansiry asked Susan Rhorer, gesturing to her
flowers. As the subsitute teacher watched, Senphansiry deftly thinned out one section of the arrangement and tightened another.

“What’s really neat is seeing how the kids can teach,” Roy said, echoing several of the teachers there.

Everyone finished the craft by fashioning a four-loop bow from the ribbon and attaching it to a small wooden pick with wire. The pick landed in the center of each arrangement with the loops and end of the bow folded among the flowers. Then, in a brief hour, 10 happy teachers paraded off with homemade decorations that, Roy assured them, would remain vibrant through the holidays if watered and kept in a cool location.

And if their houses were too steamy, she said, everything needed to make the centerpiece can be purchased at a craft store and filled with flowers from the supermarket.

Make Your Own
Gift Box Centerpiece


1 6-inch glass cube

2/3 brick of floral foam

Greens (like some fir or spruce)

Three stems of white spider mums

Two stems of white cushion mums

Four stems of white carnations

1 1/2 stems of yellow or green

2 to 3 yards of wired ribbon
(2 inches wide)

1 6-inch wooden pick with wire

The Kissing Ball

Junior Cheri White described it as “a misletoe times seven and put on steroids.” The kissing ball is a sphere of boxwood attached to a hanging hook and decorated with ribbon.

To make it, use one third of a block of flower foam covered with chicken wire or a kissing-ball-specific sphere of foam, and attach it to a wire with a hook. Then fill in the foam with sprigs of boxwood until all the interior is hidden. Make a bow out of ribbon, attach it to a wooden peg, and then plunge the peg into the foam near the top of the ball. If desired, attach a few hanging pieces of ribbon to the bottom of the bow to make it look like the bow went through the kissing ball. Then hang it up and go find someone to meet beneath it.

The Boxwood Tree

Make this miniature Christmas tree by starting with a piece of foam. Stick one sprig of boxwood in the top to create a vertical axis. Then, visualizing a triangle with the tip of that first sprig as its point, fill in the foam. Make sure there are longer pieces at the bottom and shorter pieces toward the top.

Choose tree accessories to stick, interspersed, into the foam that match with the rest of your Christmas decorations, senior Jessica Senphansiry advises. Then top it with a bow.

“You want to give it rhythm and harmony,” she said.

Friday, December 19, 2008


How come salads always taste so much better when other people make them?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

new london index

(all numbers applicable from April 2008)

Number of prominent local business men who found me an eligible young bachelor: 2
Number of close friends made who then moved away: 3
Number of (probably) unrequited crushes: 1
Number of yoga classes taken: 88
Number of yoga teachers who are my Facebook friends: 2
Amount paid per month to take unlimited classes: $85
(Price of an unlimited monthly NYC metrocard: about $85)
Number of layoff rounds at work: 2
Number of colleagues I knew who were among the axed: 3
Number of months until I'm sprung: unknown as of publication

vanity psa

My friend and I tried dying my hair with some brown henna stuff yesterday. It didn't do much, though whatever extra gunk was in it acted as a nice conditioner. Maybe I'll try again with the remaining chunk and, this time, go with reviewer suggestions and mix it with coffee...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I rarely dream while sleeping. That's OK with me, because I depend on sleep as a break from my roller-coaster waking brain. Last night I had three vivid dream snippets, and I'm not sure what to make of them, if anything...

*First, I dreamed I and several other (unidentified, though in the dream I knew them) people were solving a mystery, Scooby-Doo gang-style. We ended up walking through a compound surrounded by a chain-link fence that was strewn with the bodies and body parts of dead dogs, mostly pit bulls, in various stages of decay. I turned make a remark to a companion and nearly tripped over one.

Suddenly, a young, beautiful black lab bounded from the house to greet us. A voice from inside the house called out to the dog and she froze, shivering with fear, imploring us to protect her. The man in the house (he was young, and looked strung out, and wore an angled baseball cap) was clearly the narrative's villain. But it was clear to me that my job was to return the dog to its rightful owner. It was the only option, despite ghastly evidence of her future. I walked her gently to the door and handed the collar to the monster. As she strained with all her strength to avoid entering, I fled in tears, trying to avoid dead dogs on the way.

*Next, I dreamed I was in the passenger seat of my mom's car, and we were driving through what looked like Old Avon Village. We were hungry, so we stopped at the first sign we saw for a cafe, with outdoor seating, next to a salon. She wasn't open but served us anyway. We sat outside and ordered some coffee and then looked at the menu. It charged fancy New York dinner prices for petit bakery items that looked like the mini scones sold at Starbucks. I felt betrayed by the discrepancy between the cafe's appearance and its food prices.

*Finally, I dreamed I was walking in New York City at night (in the East 30s, like I did Monday evening), not paying much attention because my feet knew the path. Gradually, a familiar route became unfamiliar, and I noticed that it was daytime, and warm, and sunny, and I was walking on a narrow dirt path lined with vegetation with farms on one side and New York gleaming, far down a hill and across a river, on the other. It seemed impossible to retrace my steps to get back there, so I kept walking forward.

I came upon a young man wearing a dull blue plaid shirt and overalls who was using a pocket knife to cut ripe tomatoes off a tomato bush (yes, it was a bush, like a blueberry bush, not a vine). He was collecting them in a wooden bucket. The path was narrow enough that he had to press against the bush for me to pass, and then I asked where I was and how to return to New York. Instead of responding, he cut another tomato off with a magician's flourish, and sliced through its top. He lifted it off and the tomato bloomed inside out into a delicate, origami-style rose, all its petals made of tomato. As I stared he did it a couple more times, with deliberate, careful motions, each time making a new fantastical shape.

He picked up the bucket and motioned me to follow, and we continued down the path to a clearing, where his large, tanned family was having a raucous, lazy picnic in a circle of lawn chairs in the middle of a pasture. Their barns and farmhouse were visible across the expanse. I sat next to a man in his late 30s, with a slight paunch, a mustache and curly hair. He said he'd take me home after I joined them for lunch. I thanked him and began enjoying the good-natured company and fresh food. Then, he began hitting on me - shamelessly, physically, rather inappropriately - in front of his family, who didn't seem to notice, or else was unconcerned. I wasn't troubled in my dream either. But the lackadaisical attitude must have concerned the real me, because I awoke.

Thursday, December 04, 2008


I spent a couple hours on this fine December day lounging in summer clothes beside a pool. It's strange to hear Christmas jingles and see holiday-themed designs beneath palm trees but, other than that, I don't see why we all put up with living in the north where it's cold cold cold from November through March.

My friend, P, and I are spending four days at a resort in Kissimmee, about three miles from Disney World. So far, we spent a day outlet shopping, a day at the Magic Kingdom and a day recovering from Disney sensory overload. Tomorrow we're going on a river ride that will hopefully include manatee sighting - ! She cooks, I drive, we alternate paying and we both love to whisper snarky comments about stereotypical American tourists.

Wow, this post is even boring me, but I'm tired and have to drive more tomorrow. I'll write a brilliant take on our Disney adventure - my friend, who grew up in India, is an Indian people magnet, I swear; who nets a home-cooked Punjabi lunch on the hotel shuttle to, as "cast members" say, WDW? - soon, one hopes.