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The Age-Old Cure for a Rain-Induced Funk: Flowers

After enduring almost a week (a bit of it spent in the South Carolina Upcountry) with unprecedented rainfall and no sunshine, I, like so many others, had settled into a serious funk. Fortunately my cure was as simple as some sunshine and attending the Garden Club of Virginia’s annual Flower Arranging School. This fitting antidote starred former White House floral designer Laura Dowling.

Trained in the French floral tradition most notably by Christian Tortu, Ms. Dowling transformed seasonal flowers and greens into the most delicious arrangements as she shared fond stories of her White House days. Not only did Ms. Dowling create joyous inspiration for the Garden Club ladies, she provided solid tips for the sold-out crowd. Take a peek.

Laura Dowling baroque arrangement with integrated lamb's ear-covered container for the Garden Club of Virginia © The Gracious Posse This baroque design includes an integrated container, which is a key component of French floral design, covered in lambs ears held in place with a rubber band.

Laura Dowling white hydrangea and pale pink rose design for the Garden Club of Virginia © The Gracious Posse Container designs are built from the outside in. While the outer support foliage in French designs may be anchored in oasis, their stems support the flowers, so the flowers can sit above the oasis in the deep containers, giving more height to the arrangement.

Laura Dowling lush arrangement for the Garden Club of Virginia © The Gracious Posse Foliage and greenery are necessary to give French floral designs their volume.

Laura Dowling eucalyptus container design for the Garden Club of Virginia © The Gracious PosseAfter the container is covered with eucalyptus, Ms. Dowling uses salal leaves (a/k/a lemon leaves) as the outer structure. We watched her add roses for structure and hydrangeas for focal points, then ivy for movement.

Laura Dowling green bouquet for the Garden Club of Virginia © The Gracious Posse Ms. Dowling’s favorite green rose, Wimbledon, looks great in this green hand-tied bouquet with just a touch of pink. The hellebores spikes add movement.

Laura Dowling berry-covered container for the Garden Club of Virginia © The Gracious Posse Fall arrangements demand berries. Here they are attached to the integrated container.

Laura Dowling foam arrangement featuring balloonplant for the Garden Club of Virginia © The Gracious Posse As she spoke, Ms. Dowling created this tabletop design featuring balloonplant (Gomphocarpus physocarpus), along with snowberries, hellebores, hydrangeas and roses, swirled into an oasis block covered in plastic and hidden under an aspidistra leaf.

Laura Dowling hand-tied fall bouquet for the Garden Club of Virginia © The Gracious Posse The ruffley Freespirit rose has shades of pink, orange, yellow and peach, so this hand-tied bouquet can handle the fuchsia orchid.

Laura Dowling rococo design for the Garden Club of Virginia © The Gracious Posse The integrated container in this rococo design was created by hot glueing dried hydrangea florets to the vase.

Laura Dowling rococo hydrangea design for the Garden Club of Virginia © The Gracious Posse As a raffle winner, lucky cFl got to take home our favorite arrangement .

While these creations brought smiles to our faces and loads of inspiration, we still can’t stop thinking about our many friends in South Carolina still suffering from the 1000-year rainfall of this past weekend. Right now flower arrangements aren’t going to help the displaced with their clean-up. Fortunately beauty is arriving in the form of down and dirty assistance from unlikely quarters: a football team helping its arch-rival’s athletic director and the Kappa Alpha order at USC (where Ellen’s son is a brother) cleaning up over 15 houses on Tuesday. Blessings to the victims and their saviors. Once again the South Carolina folks are providing their own gracious inspiration for the nation.


October 8, 2015

Tickled Pink Over James Avery Charms

As it happened, I took a post-makeup counter detour last Thursday to my favorite department at Dillard’s: the purse collection. I noticed that the store had rearranged some of the displays, and as I was looking around, I did a double-take when I spied this new counter.

James Avery Counter at Dillards © The Gracious Posse

James Avery in Dillards? I couldn’t believe my eyes and immediately contacted Ellen who said jSl, a James Avery employee, gave her a head’s up on the retailer’s move into Dillards.

For years several of the posse have spoken in reverent tones about this Texas jeweler. I always felt a little left out when they would reminisce about their favorite items purchased or received from James Avery stores sprinkled throughout the Lone Star State. They could even buy James Avery charms, bracelets and rings in the camp stores at such famed Texas summer camps as Camp Longhorn.

For Texas girls, James Avery has always been a part of their lives. Turns out James Avery founded his business 60 years ago in Kerrville, Texas, Mima’s hometown where Ellen spent many a memorable summer. The company designs 120-150 different products a year in a simple and often spiritual style and to this day handcrafts them in Texas.

James Avery Plain Latin Cross

Plain Latin Cross, the first design by founder James Avery

James Avery Sea Turtle charm © The Gracious Posse - 1love this cutie

James Avery original peacock pin © The Gracious PosseEllen treasures this original James Avery Peacock pin that Mima passed on to her.

Peacock Pendant by James AveryJames Avery reissued its 1982 peacock design in celebration of its 60th anniversary.

No wonder Ellen has always had such an affinity for this simply elegant, family-owned brand, and now Dillards will not only sell but also solder on James Avery charms.

When I think of charm bracelets, Ellen’s always immediately pops into my mind. After she was diagnosed with breast cancer 8 years ago, KK immediately went into action organizing a Links of Love charm bracelet for Ellen. In those days before Facebook was ubiquitous, KK did some serious sleuthing and managed to contact friends and loved ones from throughout Ellen’s life. KK assigned each a different week in which to send to Ellen a charm that reminded the giver of her friendship with Ellen or a special time in their shared lives.

Ellen’s Links of Love bracelet © The Gracious Posse

Many of the treasured charms now hanging on Ellen’s wrist came from James Avery. She wears this voluptuous bracelet whenever she gathers with her posse. Just putting it on brings joy and rarely goes unnoticed when she is out and about.

A full charm bracelet transcends fashion. In uniquely reflecting its wearer, it never goes in or out of style.

James Avery Breast Cancer Awareness

In this month of Thinking Pink, we are Tickled Pink that, with its new partnership with Dillards, James Avery is making it easier than ever to honor breast cancer survivors and the other wonderful women and girls in our lives with meaningful charms and pendants that celebrate life and love.


October 6, 2015

Welcome, October 2015!

From the late Labor Day to the UCI Road Worlds’ cyclists racing through the streets of RVA, September 2015 has to be the fastest ever on record. Don’t count on things to slow down as we traverse the marathon that runs now through New Year’s Eve. October is chock full of fun events that you’ll want to check out. These are a few of our favorites:

Peter and the Starcatcher

Peter and the Starcatcher

October 2nd – 25th
Sara Belle and Neil November Theatre
a Virginia Repertory Theatre production
get tickets here


RVA MakerFest

RVA MakerFest

Science Museum of Virginia
Saturday, October 3rd
10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
an interactive celebration of creativity and ingenuity in RVA
free hands-on demonstrations in science, art, technology, engineering, sustainability, food, music, crafts, fashion, and more


ASK 40th Anniversary Celebration

ASK Gala Invitation

Saturday, October 3rd
7 p.m.
Historic John Marshall Ballrooms
purchase tickets here


4th Annual Fashion Night Out

Fashion Night Out

Thursday, October 8th
6 p.m.


Richmond Folk Festival

Richmond Folk Festival

Friday, October 9th – Sunday, October 11th
find the extensive schedule of all this free entertainment here

Ivy Market

2015 Fall Ivy Market

Tuesday, October 13th
12 – 9 p.m.
University of Richmond’s Jepson Alumni Center
start your holiday shopping at this biannual event benefitting The Tad DuPriest Foundation,
which supports the ASK Childhood Cancer Foundation and other children’s causes in our community


Starry Night Gala

Starry Night Gala 2015

Friday, October 16th
6:30 p.m.
The Commonwealth Club
get tickets or make a donation here


MARTIN’S Tour of Richmond

Tour of Richmond logo

Saturday, October 19th
7:30 a.m. until ?
a fully-timed Gran Fondo event for cyclists of all levels
visit for info and registration


High Point Fall 2015 Market Week

High Point Market Designer Preview

Saturday, October 17th – Thursday, October 22nd
two of our favorite Richmond creatives,
Dana Gibson and Susan Sprinkle of Reprotique, will be at High Point and
we can’t wait to hear all about the latest trends coming out of the Market


Peter Paul Development Center Rise & Shine Breakfast

PPDC Rise & Shine Breakfast

Monday, October 19th
7:30 – 9 a.m.
The Jefferson Hotel Ballroom
learn about the PPDC’s impact in the East End and expansion plans while supporting that community’s transformation


Art Transforming Lives

ChildSavers Art Show

Opening reception, Thursday, October 29th
5 – 8 p.m.
continuing Friday, October 30th 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Saturday, October 31st 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
benefiting ChildSavers


Grand Opening Libbie Mill Library

Libbie Mill Library

Thursday, October 29th
6 p.m.
2100 Libbie Lake East Street


Wow! So many events in only 31 days, and none of them have to do with ghosts and goblins. Did we miss anything?


October 1, 2015

Going Hog Wild for the State Fair of Virginia

The Virginia State Fair started Friday, predictably delivering us from the recent dry spell (it always rains during the State Fair). Despite the weather, Alison humored me by making a field trip to the Fair. Ever since I was a teenager,

1977 Minnesota State Fair map © The Gracious Posse

I’ve been a fan of state fairs. Every state has its thing. Minnesota’s fair is famous for the

Butter Sculptures at Minnesota State Fair via

butter sculpture contest to celebrate its dairy industry.

Alison and I have attended the fair several times when our families were younger. You know how that goes: eating fried food 

Funnel Cake vendor © The Gracious Posse

and stomaching endless rides 

The Midway at State Fair of Virginia © The Gracious Posse

on the Midway. This time we wanted to visit the new location of the fair at The Meadow Event Park and experience the event through the eyes of The Gracious Posse’s mission, celebrating inspired living with practical style.

Location, Location, Location

A few years back the State Fair of Virginia relocated from the Richmond International Raceway complex in Henrico County to Meadow Farm, best known as the birthplace of Secretariat, winner of the Triple Crown in 1973, in Caroline County north of RVA. At the time I thought the fair was going to a distant locale, and I’d never make the time to get to it again. How wrong I was. It’s a 25-minute ride up I-95 from my home in the city and has plenty of navigational signs to the entrance.

In addition, its rural farm setting provided ample, organized parking, and plenty of grassy areas and trees, a far cry from the asphalt jungle of RIR.

Landscape at State Fair © The Gracious Posse

Something for Everyone

The State Fair of Virginia’s mission

is to increase agricultural and natural resource awareness, interest and education in Virginia through programs, exhibitions and competitions integral to the operation of the State Fair of Virginia.

And all those years ago I thought the fair was about eating, riding the rides and boy-watching!

Arts and Crafts

Alison and I headed straight for the Arts and Crafts Exhibition to check out the baking and crafting winners.

A youth competition called Literary Table Setting, where a book is interpreted into a tablescape and the main character is invited to lunch, wowed us. The winner was Moby Dick with

Moby Dick Table Scape © The Gracious Posse

Moby Dick Menu © The Gracious Posse

Call Me Ishmael name card © The Gracious Posse

Call Me Ishmael as a place card! Truly an inventive and festive tablescape and an interesting thought for future book club meetings.

In the baking division a cold oven almond pound cake won the big prize. The winning baked goods are displayed a bit unceremoniously in a case, no doubt to protect them from the hungry masses! Now I’m trying to figure out if it’s possible to get our hands on the winning recipe.

Cold Oven Almond Pound Cake © The Gracious Posse


The Horticulture Pavilion provided ample eye candy vegetables. 

Prize-winning Gourds © The Gracious Possefirst place gourds

First Place pumpkin © The Gracious Posseunusual pumpkin

Champion Zuchinni © The Gracious Possechampion zucchini

Giant Pumpkin winners © The Gracious Possebiggest pumpkin and watermelon contest winners (that blue-ribbon white pumpkin weighs over 1,300 pounds – a new state record!)

Roosters, Rabbits and Cows Oh My

My favorite attractions at the fair are the animals. Alison indulged me as I teared up at the newborn bull, Torque,

Newborn bull Torque © The Gracious Posse

a mere 8 hours old when I took his picture. We moved through the Livestock Pavilion, stopping to admire

Kunekune Pigs at the State Fair of Virginia © The Gracious Posse

these Kunekune pigs and Rosie, 

Rosie the Texas Longhorn © The Gracious Posse

a displaced-looking Texas Longhorn. Then it was on to the poultry and rabbits.

Rooster at the State Fair of Virginia © The Gracious Posse

Rabbit at the State Fair of Virginia © The Gracious Posse

As I said, the State Fair of Virginia has something for everyone, like Pig Racing for the swine-inclined. Rosaire’s Royal Racers is a must-see for all ages. Sit under the big tent for 30 minutes, rest your little piggies and watch three types of pigs round the track. Ok, maybe pig racing isn’t all that gracious, but it sure was entertaining!

Asian pigs racing at State Fair of Virginia © The Gracious Posse
Asian pigs “race” in the Orient Express 

Lush Landscapes

An unexpected surprise at the fair was the lush plantings of all sorts around the grounds. From gorgeous planters

Planter at State Fair of Virginia © The Gracious Posse

Composed planter at the State Fair of Virginia © The Gracious Posse

to arbors,

Arbor entrance © The Gracious Posse

Gourd arbor © The Gracious Posse

Raised bed arbor © The Gracious Posse

the rural setting and Meadow Farm homestead



provided a photo-op at every turn. As we left Alison and I raved at what a lovely location the new Meadow Park setting was for our 146-year-old fair.

Our visit inspired Alison to make a batch of lFy‘s 1994 State Fair Winning Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. 

Virginia State Fair Winning Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
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  1. 3 eggs, beaten
  2. 1¼ cup raisins
  3. 2 t vanilla
  4. 1 cup butter, softened
  5. 1 cup brown sugar
  6. 1 cup regular sugar
  7. 2½ cups flour
  8. 1 t salt
  9. 1 t cinnamon
  10. 2 t baking soda
  11. ½ t almond extract
  12. 2 cups uncooked oatmeal
  1. In a small bowl, combine eggs, raisins and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate for 1 at least one hour up to overnight.
  2. When you are ready to begin, preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease baking sheets. Sift together flour, salt, cinnamon and baking soda. Set aside.
  3. Cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Gradually add flour mixture until thoroughly combined.
  4. Remove raisin mixture from fridge and stir in almond extract. Add to flour/butter mixture until well-combined.
  5. Add oatmeal and mix thoroughly. Dough will be stiff.
  6. Drop by rounded double tablespoons (I used a 1/8 cup cookie scoop) onto cookie sheets leaving room for cookies to spread. Bake for 13-15 minutes until lightly browned. Cool baked cookies on wire racks. Cookies harden as they cool.
  7. Approximately 3 dozen.
  1. Winner of the 1994 Cookie Contest at the State Fair of Virginia.
Adapted from Mr. Georgi's Famous Oatmeal Raisin Cookies from a bakery in Lynchburg, Virginia
Adapted from Mr. Georgi's Famous Oatmeal Raisin Cookies from a bakery in Lynchburg, Virginia
The Gracious Posse

We are proud to share it with you, with lFy‘s blessing.

State Fair Winning Oatmeal Raisin Cookies © The Gracious Posse


September 29, 2015

Cycling and the Art of Merchandising

The UCI World Championships first hit our radar over a year ago, but hardly anyone in RVA understood what it would mean. With estimates of 450,000 visitors and significant road closures, businesses, schools and individuals have made a variety of preparations. Virginia Commonwealth University choose to cancel classes for the week, businesses provided flexible start hours for employees and some individuals have even tried renting their homes to out-of-town cycling enthusiasts.

We’ve been curious to see just how our creative retail community would welcome the cycling world to our fair city. Some businesses opted to participate in Style Weekly’s Windows to the World contest as a way to give a shout-out to the visitors.

Style Weekly contest windows © The Gracious Posse

Many more are using the cycling theme as a way to entice purchasers of all things bike-related. Take a look of some of the displays and merchandise we’ve found.

Grove & Libbie Avenues

Peggy Larmore at Fraiche © The Gracious Posse

Roanoke artist Peggy Larmore at Fraiche 

bicycle parts art at Palette © The Gracious Posseram head created from bicycle parts at Palette

bow-tied cycling sculpture at Peter Blair © The Gracious PossePeter Blair window

Peter Blair cycling tie © The Gracious Posse and their bike tie (also available in a bow tie)


Urban Artifacts bike sign filled window © The Gracious PosseUrban Interiors window

Franklin Goose © The Gracious PosseFranklin Goose window

Crème de la Crème Carycourt window © The Gracious PosseCarytown’s new outpost of Crème de la Crème with all sorts

Crème de la Crème bicycling goodies © The Gracious Posseof biking goodies

Janet Brown welcome sign © The Gracious PosseJanet Brown Interiors
Janet Brown lighted bicycle wheels window © The Gracious Possebiking the worldJanet Brown bicycle tray © The Gracious Posseand keeping us in balancebiking sculpture at Ruth & Ollie's © The Gracious PosseRuth & Ollie’s windowbiking handtowels at Merrymaker's © The Gracious PosseMerrymaker’sbiking goods at Mongrel © The Gracious PosseMongrel’s bike-related windowSheppard Street Antiques' bike © The Gracious Possean appropriate call to shop at Sheppard Street Antiqueswindow at Orange © The Gracious Posselocal purveyor Orange shares its biking and RVA goods


Viva la Local window © The Gracious Possefilled with loads of local finds, Viva La Local greets visitors along the race course in the 300 block of West Broad Street


What would a world-class event be without the souvenir t-shirt? Here are a few clever ones that caught our eye.

at Agee’s © The Gracious PosseAgee’s Bicycles in Carytown

at the Virginia Diner Shoppe © The Gracious PosseVirginia Diner Shoppe in Carytown

at the T-Shirt Studio in Carytown © The Gracious Posselots of choices at

also at the T-Shirt Studio in Carytown © The Gracious Possethe T-Shirt Studio in CarytownRainbow t-shirt at FanFest © The Gracious Possethe cycling world’s rainbow at FanFest

Black t-shirt at FanFest © The Gracious PosseUSA’s I love racing t-shirt at FanFest

Clever Cycling Souvenirs

FanFest at the Richmond Convention Center (ground zero for the races) is chocked full of clever cycling souvenirs. What will the marketers think of next?

Dip a di do dah bowls © The Gracious Posselocal Dip a Di Do Dah bowls

Cycling Santa Stocking © The Gracious Posse

Lamplighter necklace © The Gracious Posse

Funny Welcome Sign at FanFest © The Gracious Posse

coffee mugs at FanFest © The Gracious Posse

Cycling Bookends © The Gracious Posse

The Journey is the Destination sign © The Gracious Posse

Bicycle with wreath doormat

Our favorite souvenirs of the World Championships, though, have to be the watercolors being created at FanFest by old friend, Greig Leach, as he watches the races live on computer.

Greig Leach creating UCI cycling art at FanFest

Blistering the Course by Greig Leach

Escorted Home by Greig Leach

He’s combined his long-time love of cycling with his artistic talent and now ranks as the premier cycling artist in the world. Wouldn’t one or more of these prints (he’s got loads more) make a great remembrance of this singular time in RVA?

Between watching the races and shopping, looks like we’ll be busy through the weekend. Go Team USA and #Richmond2015!


September 24, 2015