Let [us] eat cake…

Wow – where did March (and almost April) go?!? I knew that my spring calendar was full this year, but I didn’t quite realize how full. And yet, I am thankful that the fullness has been the result of so many good, challenging, and utterly growthful things. In the flower realm, part of my busy schedule can be attributed to some very exciting news – I’m thrilled to announce that not one, but two of my lovely friends are getting married this summer, and both have so graciously asked me to do the flowers for their weddings! I am so excited and honored! So while there isn’t anything to show for it yet, there has been tons of floral adventuring happening offline these past two months. It will be another couple months before I can show you the fruits of that labor, but I think this new post is going to make up for it in a very sweet way!

My roommate Esther and I had talked about doing another blog collaboration after our Thanksgiving brunch event, and Esther suggested it was time to give it another go in honor of her one year blog anniversary (AKA “blogiversary.”) So we celebrated in the best way we know how – with cake and flowers!9-Cake12Esther made a phenomenal lemon blackberry naked cake with coconut frosting, and we went to the Boston Flower Exchange to pick out the flower garnishes. It was my first trip to the Flower Exchange, and it was pure bliss. Flowers of every shape, size, color, and texture covered the floors and the tables. I could have stayed for hours just taking it all in.

After wandering back and forth through the blooms, we pulled a mixture of ranunculus and lisianthus in muted spring colors, I finally dipped into my “florist’s discretionary account” (a much appreciated birthday gift) for this special occasion, and we headed home to start working. Fair warning – this may have been one of my favorite projects I’ve done so far, so I had trouble narrowing down the pictures… Enjoy!

9-Cake19

The final result was pleasing to the eye and to the stomach! It was a fun way to celebrate a beautiful spring day, the arrival of spring’s first flowers, and Esther’s blogiversary all at once!

So congratulations Esther – everything you make keeps getting better and better, and it’s been a wonderful experience to live, eat, blog and collaborate with you this year!

P.S. I have to give a quick shout out to our other roommate, Sam, for helping us get the lighting right for our outdoor photos – girl can work a sunshade like nobody’s business! 😉

Valentine's Flowers

Roses are Red…Update!

Hi again! I wanted to add a little update to my last post after having a flower filled week that was too good not to share!

I am one of the many February birthday babies out there, and this past week I celebrated with some of my closest friends. In the weeks leading up to my birthday, though I had several friends who kindly offered to take up the majority of the planning, I was feeling the pressure to make birthday plans that I wasn’t very excited for. Dinner after a long day at work didn’t sound very fun, a big party sounded too overwhelming for my work-stressed introvert, and nothing about celebrating my creep up the age scale seemed appealing. Then I wrote my Valentine’s Day post and as I brushed my teeth before going to bed that night, an idea surfaced. I’ve often celebrated Valentine’s Day and my birthday together, and so why couldn’t I take up my own challenge of giving back on Valentine’s Day by using my birthday to help me? By the time I pulled up the sheets and set my alarm for work the next day, my excitement for my birthday had turned 180° and I couldn’t wait to get planning.

Within 24 hours, the invitations were sent, the phone calls were made, and the vases were counted. The invitations went out asking my friends to join me for my favorite meal (brunch in the form of french toast and scrambled eggs,) but in lieu of gifts, cards, and food to fill the table, I asked them to each bring a small bunch of flowers. You see, my light bulb moment earlier that week was to ask my friends to celebrate my birthday by joining me in spreading some floral joy in our community for Valentine’s Day; the flowers they would bring would be made into Valentines bouquets for the women at Rosie’s Place, one of the women’s shelters in Boston. And let me tell you – my friends jumped right on board and brought a huge spread of flowers that morning that made our apartment look and smell like a florist’s shop. I have never been so happy to celebrate my birthday, and I was so moved by my fantastic friends and their generosity!

Valentine's Flowers

8-ValentineFlowers2

8-ValentineFlowers3

8-ValentineFlowers58-ValentineFlowers6

After eating delicious food and spending a lovely morning with everyone, the afternoon and evening was spent crafting 20 mini bouquets for each of the 20 women who are staying at shelter. With such a large assortment of flowers, each bouquet was completely unique, and I spent several hours in pure floral bliss while arranging each one. The next day we packed up the vases, headed downtown to drop them off, and the staff at the shelter helped us unload the bouquets into a big basket for delivery.

8-ValentineFlowers12

The Finished Bouquets

While I didn’t get to stay for the moment when the women would see the basket of colorful blooms that would adorn their rooms, I was thrilled that they would be enjoying the flowers as much as I did in the 24 hours beforehand. And as we drove back, I knew that this birthday/Valentine’s Day would be one to remember because it was filled with love and joy not just for me, but for many others. So I hope that even if you missed the opportunity to extend a hand of love and joy this holiday, you would consider taking some time in the next week, month, or year to do so – I promise you won’t regret it!

8-ValentineFlowers13

Roses are red… and yellow, white, pink and peach!

Happy February everyone!

I know February is a polarizing month – most people either love it or hate it. I’ve always fallen into the love-it camp. Sure, I might be a bit biased (between my family and friends, there are about 10 birthdays to celebrate in February, and who doesn’t love birthday cake?), but even putting birthdays aside, I still enjoy the month with all of its Valentines accessories. You know what I’m referring to. The chocolates, the balloons, the red roses… so many classic symbols of the holiday designated for the celebration of love. You see it spilling over in the aisles of grocery stores everywhere you go, and come February 14th, the world will be covered in red and pink hearts, toting white teddy bears, and popping bottles of champagne.

However, as the holiday rolls around this year, I want to challenge you to considering doing something a little different. What if, instead of giving your sweetheart the classic bouquet of a dozen red roses, you two picked out flowers to take to a senior at the nursing home who is grieving for their late spouse? What if instead of buying an expensive box of chocolates, you treated that single mom in your office to a nice dinner with her kids to get to know more about her life? What if instead of hunting for the perfectly scripted Valentine’s Day card, you wrote a letter to express how you actually care for and appreciate the person to whom you are writing? What if we treated Valentine’s Day as a day to show our love to others, not just to our spouse or significant other? I think I’m stating the obvious when I say that Valentine’s Day has become so polarized because it’s a holiday that’s easy to celebrate when we have someone to celebrate it with, and it’s easy to hate when we find ourselves alone. But perhaps if we didn’t confine the holiday to the celebration of romantic love – if it could be a time to celebrate the love between friends, family, and humanity as a whole – maybe we could find a little more joy in the holiday regardless of our relationship status. So this week when you pass by the flowers at the supermarket, I hope that you will not only see the red roses of love and passion, but also the yellow roses of friendship, the white roses of sympathy, and the pink roses of gratitude and remember that love comes in many forms.7-ValentineRoses6

Blooms and Brushes

Happy 2016 everyone!

I hope you all have recovered from the holiday craziness and are enjoying the return of normal routines like I am. I’m still wishing for more snow here in Boston, (New York – feel free to send some our way!) but we have settled in for the winter nevertheless. Heavy sweaters, wool socks, and sleeping bag jackets stand at the ready, and there have been more than enough excuses to indulge in the warm comfort foods that I’m always craving when it gets cold. I was chatting with a friend over frozen yogurt last week (I know it’s winter, but fro-yo is always in season in my book,) and we were discussing how much more of a challenge it can be to find things to do in the winter. Boston is lovely in the warmer seasons with an overwhelming number of farmers’ markets, outdoor activities, and free events to attend, but the winter calendar isn’t quite as full. I do love cozy nights in as I mentioned in my last post, but it is fun to brave the elements for an evening to do something fun. So I was quite excited when an event popped up on my Instagram feed that felt like it was made for me – a collaboration night between Central Square Florist and The Paint Bar! If you’ve read my bio, you know that I’m an architect by day/florist by night, and part of my architecture schooling involved learning the art of watercolor painting. Therefore, making bouquets that would serve as inspiration for watercolor paintings sounded like the perfect blend of my favorite artistic mediums. I immediately enlisted two of my coworkers to sign up for the event with me, and we trekked down to Newbury Street on a freezing Tuesday evening for girls’ night.

Jackie from Central Square Florist kicked off the event by teaching the basics of floral arranging. Everyone had a bunch of tulips, roses, irises, hyacinth, and solidago to make their mason jar arrangements, and every table had a heap of Silver Dollar Eucalyptus to add for filler. It was fun to see how different everyone’s arrangements came out despite having the same materials to work with!

Next came Jackie from The Paint Bar’s turn to lead us through the watercolor techniques for our still life paintings. Being someone who loves color, I practically drooled over the enormous watercolor palate, and painting made me wish for the days of school again when I would paint every week for my graphics class. Just like the bouquets, all of our paintings turned out so differently, but we were all equally as proud to take them home and display them to keep the bright pops of color in our wintery homes even after the bouquets died.

So now as the snow falls and the temperatures drop with the arrival of the big blizzard, there are bright, pleasant flowers on my kitchen table, and I’m a little more content to cozy in for the weekend after my little adventure into the city.

6-Paint&Flowers8

 

P.S. I’ve updated my website, and I’ve finally fixed the subscribe link! Please subscribe to my blog to receive email updates from Two Stems of Joy. (If you are reading this on your phone, scroll all the way to the bottom of the page to find the link.) Don’t worry – I hate spam as much as you do, so you’ll only get emails alerting you to my new posts. Also, if you’re on Instagram, please follow @twostemsofjoy to see the pictures from my posts, as well as few extras that don’t make it onto the website! Thank you!

The Season of Peace

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!

I’m sure many of you will be able to relate when I say that the past few weeks since Thanksgiving have been FULL. There is always so much to do in this season – end of year deadlines and holiday parties at work, festive activities that fill every square inch on the calendar, and of course, the nostalgic evenings spent baking Christmas sweets and decorating the house in all things red and green.

5_Wreaths2

Roommate Christmas 2015

My roommates and I spend the first weekend in December in full Christmas mode; we decorated our little tree, hung our stockings, made gingerbread cookies, took Christmas pictures, and cozied up on the couch to watch our favorite Christmas movies.

 

I’ve been looking forward to this season for so many reasons. Growing up in Montana winters taught me to love those quiet, cozy evenings spent with my favorite people, and as I’ve gotten older, I appreciate those moments even more as they provide an opportunity to slow down, catch my breath, relax, and truly enjoy the company of those around me.

5_Wreaths1However, I let the stress of the work sprint-to-the-finish-line mentality get to me again this year, and by the time I stepped on the plane to head out to a fun-filled vacation week, I was exhausted. I had forgotten that this is the season of peace despite being surrounded by its symbols and reminders all month long.

 

Psalm 46:10 reminds us to “Be still, and know that I am God.” Be still. Be still. I am always prone to filling every nook and cranny in my life with things to keep me occupied: A full calendar of events, a list of books to read, a to-do list a mile and a half long. I am never still. It is one of the habits I hope to cultivate this year – taking a daily moment of stillness to breathe and recheck my priorities. But God is not calling us to just embrace stillness. “Be still and KNOW that I am God.” The peace of this joyous season was ushered in by He who was born in Bethlehem, and that perfect peace can only be found in knowing Him. But the knowing isn’t like how you know your phone number or know your best friend’s favorite song. This is the deep kind of knowing that settles in your soul, solid and comforting no matter what is happening in life around you. The kind of knowing that produces raw and honest faith to say, “God, I’m struggling to understand you, but I will keep choosing to trust in who you say you are despite the struggle.” Be still and know that I am God. That is how I want to know God, both now and in the years ahead. I hope you’ve been able to sense God’s peace in this season, and I hope that 2016 will be a year filled with moments of stillness and opportunities to know God for who he really is. Merry Christmas everyone, and wishing you a very joyful and peace-filled New Year!

 

5_Wreaths11

Winter Wreath

The Season of Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

4_Brunch5

I know it’s a few days past the holiday, but I don’t think the sentiment has expired. In my mind, this whole season should be one of thanksgiving. Heck, not just this season – why not the whole year? Shortly after moving to Boston, my perspective on life changed quite significantly after a friend of mine recommended that I read one of her favorite books: One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Ann describes her journey of counting “gifts” (blessings from God, both big and small) as an exercise in cultivating genuine gratitude. She finds that, over time, thankfulness becomes a habit and joy overflows into every part of her life. In my season of transition, I took her advice and started looking for the blessings in my own life to overturn the pessimistic and worried attitude that I often found myself wearing. I didn’t end up recording the full one thousand gifts but just like Ann, my attitude slowly shifted to one of grace, optimism, and joy that has sustained me though a whole sea of experiences these past couple years. I still have plenty of refining to do in that arena, but it certainly has changed my perspective on life from what it was before. So for me, Thanksgiving is not just a single day to pause and reflect on what I’m thankful for, but rather a moment in a whole year of reflection where I can celebrate with friends and family and hear about the blessings in their lives as well.

This year was a rich celebration with friends both old and new. My boyfriend and I shared Thanksgiving dinner with a sweet family from our church, but the feasting began long before we arrived for our 3 pm dinner invitation. Thanksgiving morning started as every day should – with amazing brunch food and close friends.

4_Brunch1

Thanksgiving Brunch with Teaspoon of Ink

My roommate Esther and I had talked about hosting brunch this year as a way to celebrate our two passions: food and flowers. The collaboration process was a blast, and it was a wonderful morning to catch up with my roommates and guests before we parted ways to our dinner parties. Esther made pumpkin bread french toast with coconut whipped cream and pomegranate seeds, scrambled eggs, and a delicious potato hash (check out her blog, Teaspoon of Ink, for the recipes!) and I went in search of bright, festive flowers for the table and place settings.

Mixing the classic fall colors of red and orange with some white accents put a fresh spin on the classic Thanksgiving floral theme, and a little bit of bakers twine added a homemade touch to the place settings. I did have to laugh when I was picking up the Ilex berries a couple days before the event. My boyfriend had come with me to the store when I picked them up, and as I carried them on the subway ride home, he wondered out loud if people were questioning his ability to pick out flowers for his girlfriend since it appeared that I had been gifted a bunch of berries. Hahaha!

It was a lovely morning with fantastic food and amazing friends. I was keenly aware of how lucky I am to have found such a great community of people here in the transient city of Boston. It was another moment counted in my internal gift list, and as we move into this holiday season that flourishes on family, friends, and faith, I hope you can start your own list of gifts to be continually reminded of the blessings in your life. So Happy Thanksgiving, now and in the days ahead!

4_Brunch8

Fresh Floral Bouquet for Thanksgiving Dinner

Welcome to Two Stems of Joy!

Hello!

Welcome to Two Stems of Joy! My name is Britni, and this blog is my creative outlet in the form of flowers and floral design. You can read more about me in my profile, but to give a quick summary, I’m a Montana native, Boston-based architectural designer who loves flowers. While working in the architectural realm is full of creative opportunity, I have realized in my first few post-grad years that this creativity is mainly expressed in digital forms. I build 3D models of the houses we design in BIM (Building Information Modeling) software, which then produces the 2D drawings we use for construction documents. Very efficient. Very accurate. And yet, I find it frustrating being tied to a computer all day, rarely picking up a pencil to sketch. I wish I could have entered the workforce 40 years ago when drawings were drafted by hand with thick stalks of graphite, a few plastic triangles, and rulers. I love working with my hands to express my creativity – whether it be sketching, painting, molding, carving, or any other art form. I am a perfectionist, I love paying attention to details, and all of my favorite art forms fall within the tactile vein. So this blog is my way of reconnecting to my creativity in a more tactile, personal way than my job has afforded me thus far.

The arrangement for my office

It all started on July 17, 2015. My coworkers had brought back the leftover flowers used to stage a professional photo shoot for one of our completed projects, and the general rule is first-come, first-serve from the buckets of blooms and greens. That Friday, there was a lovely mix of hydrangeas, chrysanthemums, and veronicas along with a few swamp lilies, various greenery and even a branch from a fig tree (figs included.) I arranged the bouquet for the coffee table at the front of our office then riffled through the remaining stems to assemble my own arrangement. As I carried the jar of flowers home for the weekend, I couldn’t help but think how much nicer it had been to sit at my desk that day with an extra burst of color to look at when my eyes need a break from the screen. I put the flowers on our kitchen table when I arrived home and started chatting with my roommate Esther as we usually do when we get home from work. For the previous few months, Esther and I had often discussed how our passions weren’t always fully satisfied by our day jobs – almost hitting the mark, but not quite. Earlier in the year, Esther (a registered dietitian) decided to start a food blog as a way of marrying her love of delicious food with her skills and knowledge of dietetics (seriously, you should check her blog out – as the official guinea pig and taste tester of all of her creations, I can honestly tell you this girl knows what’s up!). She had often encouraged me to start a blog, but I never knew what I would write about. Architectural Styles in American history? Watercolor paintings? My love of unique cupcake recipes? None of them seemed to stick.

The bouquet that started it all!

The bouquet that started it all!

But that day as we sat at our kitchen table talking over the top of the purple blooms, it hit me. Flowers. I love flowers. And there it was – the idea was born, and it took all of five minutes to start dreaming of abandoning my other pursuits to study the art of floral design and opening my own florist shop. But let’s be real – I already spent five years in architecture school, live in the notoriously expensive city of Boston, and have no idea how to run a business. So blogging seems like a pretty good way to start working with flowers while not pulling a 180 on a career path that I’ve already worked hard to achieve. So join me in raising a glass (or vase, rather,) and here’s to pursuing a newly realized passion!