Skip to content

Fine Arts & Flowers 2016 Wows Richmond

Did you partake of Fine Arts & Flowers last week at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts? Its gala opening, dubbed Fabergé in Bloom, wowed patrons with spectacular decor and exquisite floral interpretations. It proved again that Richmond is indeed a hotbed of creativity and sophistication.

Faberge Egg Floral Centerpiece in Marble Hall © The Gracious Posse

The gala kicked off a four-day series of speakers, classes, fashion show and brunch, all benefitting and celebrating the re-installation of the Museum’s world-renowned Fabergé Collection.

Faberge decor © The Gracious Posse

The jeweled eggs, which have travelled the world since 2012, returned to great fanfare. The Russian-flavored gala welcomed home the exquisite collection, RVA’s glitziest ambassadors, to newly-remodeled galleries worthy of their star-power.

To complement these oval masterpieces and their hidden treasures, Fine Arts & Flowers presented 87 floral interpretations of other works currently on display from the museum’s permanent collection. Members of approximately 50 garden clubs from around Virginia contributed the floral designs with donated flowers from Strange’s Florists. Take a look at some of our favorites.

1 2 3 4 5 6 © The Gracious Posse

1 2 3 4 5 6 by Sol Le Witt
interpreted by Susanne Hillier, Chesterfield Garden Club, South Chesterfield

Flowers in her Hair © The Gracious Posse

Flowers in Her Hair by Julius LeBlanc Stewart
interpreted by Betty Ann Galway of Five Hills Garden Club, Arlington and Susan Porter, Thoroughgood Garden Club, Virginia Beach

The Younger Brother (Le Jeune Frere) © The Gracious Posse

The Younger Brother (Le Jeune Frere) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau
interpreted by Laraine Smith and Jayne Feminella, The Petersburg Garden Club, South Prince George 

Gabon Carolina © The Gracious Posse

Gabon Carolina by Michael Lucero
interpreted by Vivian Shackelford and Sarah Finney, Garden Club of Gloucester, Hudgins

Suspension Vase © The Gracious Posse

Suspension Vase, artist unknown
interpreted by Dawn Lerch, Salisbury Garden Club, Midlothian

Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus © The Gracious Posse

Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, artist unknown
interpreted by Marguerite Slaughter, Garden Club of the Northern Neck, Reedville

Ibala leSindebele Ndebele Design © The Gracious Posse

ibala leSindebele (Ndebele Design) by Esther Mahlangu
interpreted by Mary Owen, Fluvanna Garden Club, Fork Union

Triptych Icon with Virgin and Child © The Gracious Posse

Triptych Icon with Virgin and Child, Ethiopian
interpreted by Andrea Vasquez, Begonia Garden Club, Glen Allen

House at Dusk © The Gracious Posse

House at Dusk by Edward Hopper
interpreted by Roberta Douma and Carrie Dorsey, Boxwood Garden Club, Richmond and James River Garden Club

Painted Side Chair © The Gracious Posse

Painted Side Chair, attributed to John Seymour Jr.
interpreted by Noeline Baruch and Liz Hickey, James River Garden Club, Richmond

Hornbill Statue/Headdress © The Gracious Posse

Hornbill Statue/Headdress, artist unknown
Ann Tenser, Minh Chau Truong, West Hanover Garden Club, Rockville

Food Vessel © The Gracious Posse

Food Vesselartist unknown
interpreted by Eileen Bates, West Hanover Garden Club, Manakin Sabot

Burger Chef Interior © The Gracious Posse

Burger Chef Interior by Ralph Goings
interpreted by Genny Chase, Kilmarnock Garden Club, Weems

Platter from the Service of Anne, Duke of Montmorency © The Gracious Posse

Platter from the Service of Anne, Duke of Montmorency by Guido Durantino
interpreted by Barbara Jones and Liz Carden, Windsor Farms Garden Club

Xilempasto 6 © The Gracious Posse

Xilempasto 6 by Henrique Oliveira
interpreted by Karen Abramson and Tegwin Smith, Hunting Creek Garden Club, Alexandria

Crown © The Gracious Posse

Crown by Yoruba
interpreted by Nancy Lehew-Krogsund and Jenny Murphy, Garden Club of Warren County, Front Royal

Box #89 © The Gracious Posse

Box #89 by Lucas Samaras
interpreted by Roanoke Valley Garden Club, Roanoke

Still Life © The Gracious Posse

Still Life by Jan Davidsz de Heem
interpreted by Whitney Melton and Sarah Porter, Three Chopt Garden Club, Richmond

Goose-shaped Censer © The Gracious Posse

Goose-Shaped Censer, artist unknown
interpreted by Bridgette Swepston, Powhatan Garden Club, Powhatan

As with all extraordinary floral designs, the secret is in the mechanics. The arrangement above caught my eye with its most unusual vessel; you won’t find that in your local floral shop! As it turned out, the designer stood nearby, admitting that she likes to listen to the patrons’ comments. She not only designed the arrangement but welded the vessel to pull off the interpretation, as well.  

With such a variety of works and designs, it was hard for me to choose a favorite. Do you have one?


October 27, 2016

Boots and Bedlam, the Latest in the Sweeney Sisters Series, Launches Today

Our favorite local author, Ashley Farley, is back with a holiday story in her Sweeney Sisters series. Available today,

Boots and Bedlam by Ashley Farley

Boots and Bedlam will have you longing for a quiet holiday season curled up in front of the fire or walking on a deserted beach. While that fantasy is unlikely for most of us, Boots and Bedlam will also remind you that when life gets too crazy you can count on family.

Having had the pleasure of already reading this novella twice, I find Ashley’s tantalizing synopsis summarizes the story perfectly,

Wedding bells will soon be ringing in the Lowcountry. All Sam Sweeney wants is to marry her man on Christmas Eve surrounded by family and friends. But emerging complications, some humorous and some not so humorous, threaten to converge and derail the best-laid plans during the busy stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Amidst the chaos—dealing with real estate, planning a wedding, running a seafood market, honoring traditions, and contending with teenagers—even the weather rears its head when the weatherman forecasts a white Christmas. Never has family support been more needed, but will it be enough to restore order and save the day?

If video is your thing, take a look at the book trailer this clever author put together herself.

Ashley was kind enough to answer some questions we had about the book, the series and herself:

Ashley Farley

I know that I am not the only one of your fans who is delighted that you are returning to Prospect in this book. Why did you decide to go back?

Prospect feels like home to me now after writing three novels set in the small inlet town of South Carolina. Four novels when you include the final installment in the Sweeney Sisters Series that I have just turned over to my editor, Tangle of Strings, which I plan to release mid-January. My characters’ homes, the waterfront, Captain Sweeney’s Seafood Market. I can picture them vividly in my mind as those they are real places. For me, writing about the Lowcountry is like living in the two places I love the most. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere but Richmond, but I can escape every day to the place in my mind where my fondest dreams of South Carolina reside.

Both this book and your Merry Mary novella last year are set during the holidays? Is it your favorite time of the year?

Honestly, no. After the hectic holidays, I prefer the quiet days of January. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the time spent with family over the holidays. And I like decorating my house, and cooking my family’s favorite foods. If we could take commercialism out of the holiday, I would enjoy it more. I think a lot of people feel this way. Miracles happen at Christmas. Romance is in the air. Families come together creating a lot of drama. For an author, this translates into lots of intriguing plots to choose from.

Can you share with our readers one of your favorite family holiday traditions?

Christmas Eve dinner is my primary focus during the holidays. We invite the whole family over for a sit-down affair complete with table linens and silver serving dishes. We have the same menu every year. My family won’t allow me to deviate from the traditional dishes of beef tenderloin, twice baked potato casserole, scallop tomatoes, and green beans. Dessert, however, is always a surprise.

Boots and Bedlam

Just like her Christmas Eve dessert, Ashley’s books are filled with surprises. In fact this novella would make a great Christmas surprise for your book club posse or a stocking stuffer for any of the ladies in your family. With only 67 days til Christmas, it’s time to start making your gift-giving lists before your own bedlam kicks in. And if you find yourself with some free time while traveling or getting your hair done, Ashley’s latest will leave you believing that if Sam Sweeney can survive her holiday chaos, then so can you.


October 18, 2018

*contains affiliate links that help support this site

Souvenirs from the Backroads of the San Juan Islands

A year ago I experienced my first Backroads Cycling Trip in Vermont. Deciding one trip was not enough, the Biking Belles chose another trip for 2016: the San Juan Islands in Washington state.

regional map of the San Juan Islands via

San Juan Islands map via

Backroads‘ formula for a fabulous biking adventure in cycling-friendly destinations held true for our trip:

welcoming bicycle on Lopez Island © The Gracious Posse

lovely accommodations and

The Outlook Inn on Orcas Island © The Gracious Posse

challenging at-your-own-pace cycling daily

Bennetts on tandem at San Juan Islands National Historical Park

in beautiful locales

top of Mt. Constitution on Orcas Island © The Gracious Posse

with engaging guides. Backroads carefully selects experiences to acquaint you with the local culture, each one with a takeaway of useful and interesting tidbits of knowledge. I couldn’t wait to share the following morsels with you.


The highlight of our two-day stay on Orcas Island was a farm-to-table dinner

Red Rabbit Farm table setting © The Gracious Posse

 at Red Rabbit Farm.

Red Rabbit Farm © The Gracious PossePrior to dinner Chef Christina Orchid gave a short cooking demonstration

Cooking demo at Red Rabbit Farm © The Gracious Posse

on making Chevre in Phyllo Cups, our appetizer (the simple recipe follows at the end of the post).

Brush phyllo with melted butter © The Gracious Posse

Take two sheets of phyllo and brush with melted butter. I was glad to learn that although the phyllo sheets might look crumbly and unusable when pulled from an existing package in the freezer, they’ll be perfectly serviceable with coats of butter. (If only melted butter fixed all of life’s other crumbly situations.) Next cut the phyllo sheets into 3″ squares and place them in a mini-muffin tin.

cut phyllo into squares & place in muffin tin © The Gracious Posse

Drop a dollop of chèvre in each cup then top with a half-teaspoon of red pepper sauce.

spoon chèvre into phyllo © The Gracious Posse

As I gobbled up the tasty two-bite morsel, I resolved to make this easy and attractive appetizer post haste.

chèvre in phyllo appetizers © The Gracious Posse


A whale-watching cruise from Orcas Island to San Juan Island checked another item off my bucket list. Billed as a wildlife watching excursion so as to set proper expectations  – we weren’t watching a Sea World show after all – we crossed our fingers and brandished our cameras in hopes we’d get a glimpse.

The Humpback

The tell-tale spout signals the resurfacing of the humpback.  As the whale exhales its breath, which is under tremendous pressure from being underwater for up to 30 minutes, the resulting spout extends up to 13 feet in the air. 

Humpback spouting © The Gracious Posse

Next the hump appears,

Humpback swimming © The Gracious Posse

and finally the grand finale, the unmistakable tail. 

Humpback tail © The Gracious PosseThe humpback rewarded us several times, and it never got old. Did you know humpbacks prefer to travel solo? My unscientific hunch tells me they don’t want to share the spotlight.


orcas breaching via wikipedia and Robert Pittman

(image from Wikipedia – whale-watching etiquette prohibits the boats from coming any closer than 200 yards to the whales)

Orcas (a/k/a killer whales), on the other hand, travel in pods, akin to an extended family. 

orca © The Gracious Posse

orca © The Gracious Posse

Not named for Orcas Island, orcas are members of the dolphin family. The unique white mark on the dorsal fin identifies each named whale in the pod (three pods reside in the region: J, K and L). Orcas can live for a long time. Scientists believe Granny of the J pod was born in 1911, making her 105 years old.

Orca identification chart © The Gracious Posse

We spotted Cookie, Double Stuff and Oreo with the help of the naturalist on board our excursion. Blessed with sightings of numerous orcas, seals, bald eagles and exotic wildlife on the smaller islands, the wildlife excursion exceeded our wildest expectations. 

Kayaks and Kelp

Another exploration into local culture involved kayaks. Paddling out of picturesque Roche Harbor on San Juan Island,

Roche Harbor restaurant © The Gracious Posse

we enjoyed a gorgeous day getting to know our vessels and adding new skills to our repertoire. None of us had used foot pedals to steer a kayak’s rudder, so those of us in the back had to engage our brains, feet and arms to steer and paddle, while those in front exercised great patience with the rookie skippers.

tSt and bJm kayaking © The Gracious Posse

Moving farther into the harbor, our guides directed us into a bed of bullwhip kelp, a rather disgusting sight because the kelp resembled a bed of snakes.

tSt, eBf and sCc kayaking in the kelp © The Gracious Posse

When our guide directed us to reach into the water, pick up the kelp by the stalk, pull a frond out from the bulb and — TAKE A BITE — we looked at him like he had a Medusa head of kelp. 

bJm eating kelp© The Gracious Posse

Shockingly the blades tasted like a salty green vegetable. Turns out, locals like to harvest, dry and pickle kelp for its nutritional properties. It makes a tasty snack, too!

Chevre in Phyllo Cups
A quick, easy, delicious and visually interesting appetizer.
Recipe type: Appetizer
  • 2 sheets phyllo, defrosted
  • 1 cup good quality chévre (goat cheese)
  • ½ cup butter
  • mini muffin tin
  • Topping: ¾ cup red pepper jelly
  • water
  1. Beginning with two sheets of phyllo placed on top of each other, brush thoroughly with melted butter.
  2. Cut the phyllo sheets into 3" squares and placed them in the mini muffin tin.
  3. Place approximately one heaping teaspoon of chévre in each cup.
  4. Heat pepper jelly on stove, thinning with 1 tablespoon of water.
  5. Place approximately ½ teaspoon of diluted pepper jelly on top of each chévre pocket.
  6. Cook at 350 for 2 to 5 minutes. Watch closely as each oven is different.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 1272 Fat: 118g Saturated fat: 75g Unsaturated fat: 34g Trans fat: 4g Carbohydrates: 32g Sugar: 9g Sodium: 626mg Fiber: 1g Protein: 25g Cholesterol: 296mg

Perhaps the best and most surprising souvenir of all from the trip was a timely reminder of America’s glorious natural resources and its diverse melting-pot culture. Given today’s political turmoil I think our citizenry could benefit from a walk in a park, a breezy bike ride or a hike through the woods to refocus on what’s right about our grand country!


October 13, 2016

p.s. Many thanks to the Biking Belles for sharing their pictures with me to use on this post. 


Welcome, October 2016!

Or should we say Artober as is it National Arts & Humanities Month? Locally CultureWorks is presenting its inaugural artoberVA to engage the entire community in arts and culture. Take a look at their Facebook page and calendar to see all the opportunities available in October.

artoberva logo

Maybe it’s coincidence, but many of the events we are looking forward to this month do indeed involve art and culture. Here’s what we’ve got on our list:

Party on the Avenues

Party on the Avenues 2016

Sunday, October 2nd
Noon – 6 p.m.
Libbie Avenue between Patterson and Guthrie
kick off the month with live music and local food and drink

The Ivy Market


Monday, October 3rd
4-9 pm
(cash bar opens at 4 pm sharp!)
Tuesday, October 4th 10 am-4 pm
Jepson Alumni Center at
The University of Richmond
the perfect place to get started on your holiday shopping with unique and creative vendors

When Art Meets Fashion

When Art Meets Fashion 2016

Thursday, October 6, 2016
6:00 – 9:30 pm
Saks Fifth Avenue at Stony Point
get tickets here
proceeds benefit the Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU

23rd Annual Starry Night Gala

Starry Night Gala 2016 invitation

Friday, October 14th
6:30 pm
The Commonwealth Club
features local art in its silent auction
benefits the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
information and tickets here

Launch of Boots and Bedlam

Boots and Bedlam by Ashley Farley

Ashley Farley’s latest
Tuesday, October 18th
a holiday novella about our favorite Sweeney sisters again set in the charming town of Prospect
order your advance copy here

ChildSavers Art Show

ChildSavers Art Show invitation

Thursday, October 20th
6 – 9 pm
glavekocen gallery
art sale and auction to support RVA’s children through life’s critical moments
get tickets here

Fine Arts & Flowers 2016

Fine Arts & Flowers 2016 invitation

Gala Preview
Wednesday, October 19th
7-10 pm<
Thursday, October 20th – Sunday, October 23rd
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
features works from the permanent collection interpreted through spectacular floral designs by talent garden club members from throughout the Commonwealth (see highlights from the last Fine Arts & Flowers here)
information and tickets here


Pumpkin stack in Brushstroke © The Gracious Posse
Monday, October 31st

See what we mean? October really is Artober. Even Halloween gets in on the creativity act. Will you?


September 29, 2016

From Inspiration to Transformation: How I Updated this Old Tray With Gold and Mirror

Versatility and style make trays one of our favorite workhorses for the gracious home. Meandering through Fraiche one day, I spied this elegant tray at the center of a lovely vignette. 

Gold tray with mirror at Fraiche © The Gracious Posse

Thinking of a long dormant project sitting in my basement, I realized my old tray (below) made a fine candidate to be gold-leafed and mirrored.

wooden tray before image © The Gracious Posse

After refreshing my memory of Alison’s experience with gold-leafing a side table, I purchased my gold-leafing supplies, red acrylic paint and brushes. As Alison mentioned, it’s key to set up a workspace that you can leave up for several days until you complete the project.

Pictured below is the tray awaiting its mirrored inlay, cut by Binswanger Glass in Richmond. Use 1/8″ thickness of mirror so that the tray isn’t too heavy when finished. Since I was going to install a mirror at the bottom of the tray, I didn’t need to paint or leaf that part. 

gold leafing on tray © The Gracious Posse

After light sanding, I covered all but the bottom with a base coat of red acrylic paint before applying the gold leaf (you can see a spot of red peeking out from the lower left corner). The red paint will show when your leafing inevitably misses some small spots, leaving an authentic look.

After I picked up the mirror, I applied a little Rub n Buff to reduce the shininess of the gold leafing (even after applying the sealer). I wasn’t wild about its dull finish, so I applied a small amount of Martha Stewart’s Gold Liquid Gilding

Martha Stewart's Gold Liquid Gilding

and am 100% satisfied with the combined result.

Gold Leafed Tray © The Gracious Posse

For a $25 mirror and less than $20 in other supplies, I gave an existing piece a fresh new look. Now when I sit down with a cup of coffee to relax with my favorite magazines, I feel peaceful not having to stare at the drab old tray anymore. Isn’t it always the small things that seem to bring us the most joy?


September 21, 2016

*contains affiliate links