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Waterside Party Inspiration

mFn's inflatable cooler bar2

Summertime has arrived, and it’s time to let the livin’ be easy ~ especially if you are livin’ by the water. Guess what? All of your posse are dying for an invitation to bask in the sunshine at your water’s edge. You know you want to share the largesse, but who needs the work typically associated with having company?

mFn's inflatable cooler bar filled with appetizers

No sweat! Intrepid posse trend-spotter mFn has it all figured out for you. With a lovely new beach house off the North Carolina coast, she is excited to have people visit, but she wants to have a good time, too. Enter the inflatable buffet cooler.

mFn's inflatable cooler bar with drain plug

mFn and her gracious husband can fill up the coolers with ice, salads, meats and cold drinks just before company arrives. Then the guests can simply help themselves. It’s even better if the company fills the coolers with the food and beverages. Either way, everything stays cold without guests traipsing in and out of the house (and that means you don’t need to slave away getting everything cleaned up inside if the guests remain waterside).

mFn's inflatable cooler bar decorated with summer fun

All the host needs is plenty of ice. mFn recommends buying the inflatable serving bars with a drain plug, so you can really keep the offerings on ice. Purchase a plain white one and have fun decorating for the occasion. As you can see from the photos, that’s just what mFn did for Memorial Day weekend.

mFn's inflatable cooler bar filled with fun and yum

I know that at least a couple of the posse are hosting reunions at their rivah places this summer. Wouldn’t these cooler bars be perfect to ease the load a bit? Put out two or three and maybe your guests will take the hint to help fill them up.

mFn's inflatable cooler bar ready for the party

If hosting an outdoor party is part of your summertime plans, why not follow mFn’s lead. You really don’t even need to be on the water. mFn may not realize it, but she is a posse trend-setter.


May 29, 2015

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Resurrected Peonies Shine in the Hands of Fleur de Vie Houston

peonies in silver dish

My last peony bloomed on Monday, so I promise expect that this will be the last time that I wax poetic (or at least attempt to) this peony season.

bucket full of peonies © The Gracious PosseAfter soaking overnight with a fresh stem cut and leaves removed, a bucket full of six dozen peonies stand ready to be transformed. 

We just couldn’t let the opportunity pass to show you some stunning arrangements featuring my formerly shriveled peonies.

refrigerator filled with shriveled peonies © The Gracious PosseOnly a few small and seriously shriveled peonies did not bloom after languishing in my garage fridge, many for over two weeks.

Usually The Gracious Posse includes pictures of our favorite blossom plopped unceremoniously into a vase, but these featured arrangements were created by a master.

dining room peony floral design by Madeleine Elmer of Fleur de Vie Houston © The Gracious Possepeonies accompanied by ligustrum, oakleaf hydrangea, nandina, acuba, hellebores, lavender and Bells of Ireland

When Madeleine Elmer of Fleur de Vie Houston comes to town, I get giddy with anticipation. Not only is she a hoot, but she has talent and generosity oozing out of her pores.

other side of dining room peony floral design by Madeleine Elmer of Fleur de Vie Houston © The Gracious Posseonly the Bells of Ireland were purchased ~ they sure add movement to this design

Often this time of year, she co-hosts a Flower Camp for floral design wanna-bees.  The busy high school graduation season crimped this year’s camp schedule, but I got a mini-boot camp of my own. Since I provided the featured flower, I had the pleasure of witnessing Madeleine’s creations whipped together in no time.

foyer peony floral design by Madeleine Elmer of Fleur de Vie Houston © The Gracious PosseA simple pottery pitcher that Ellen had forgotten that she owned comes to life with this peony, oakleaf hydrangea, hellebores  and Bells of Ireland design.

That’s how professional flower designers do it. Madeleine began Fleur de Vie Houston several years ago as a part-time gig. Her designs have taken Houston by storm, and her creations now embellish weddings and tony social events all over the town. She has affiliated with the Chapel Designers network and travels with the group throughout the country to stay on the cutting edge of the latest in floral design trends.

crowning peony floral design by Madeleine Elmer of Fleur de Vie Houston © The Gracious Possethe crowning touch

As Madeleine created the arrangements featured here for a Saturday night soiree, I was honored to be her assistant, soaking oasis, recutting stems and fetching floral tape. I soaked up every morsel of information that she shared about those design trends, and I couldn’t have been more pleased that the results of her work featured six dozen of my peonies. Resurrected from their shriveled forms and accompanied by some garden cuttings and two purchased bunches of Bells of Ireland, they shined in glory at the hands of a master.


May 27, 2015

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Memorial Day Matters


Memorial Day is this Monday, May 25 and seems quite early relative to our inner calendars. Can summer really be just around the corner? End-of-school activities, exams, graduations, moving children in-and-out of dorms and apartments, and sporting events often distract us from the gravitas of this holiday’s observance. In addition, few of us have any family serving in the United States armed forces. Since service is volunteer only, we aren’t surrounded and touched by the impact of having numerous family and friends drafted and deployed.

Memorial Day flag in Windmill Point, Virginia  © The Gracious Posse

Although my father and uncle served in Korea and Vietnam, respectively, it was my grandfather’s service in the Army as a Chaplain in World War II that has most resonated with me. I learned much about his experiences in the book, Padre Down Under, that he wrote about his experience serving in the South Pacific.

At age 36, pastor George Chappell Hardy felt the call. 

The blood of my ancestors, who had fought in every war in United States history, had begun to stir in me a year and more before Pearl Harbor.

…the Church should go with the men wherever they had to go; that in war they needed religion as never before in their lives.

from Padre Down Under

He served four years in the South Pacific theatre with infantry units, ministering to the survivors, injured and dying. No doubt many of you have similar tales of your ancestors. In the midst of grilling burgers, taking study breaks, unloading cars or relaxing at the beach, take a moment to give thanks for them and the other men and women who have carried the load for us.

If you want a meaningful and inspiring way to remember those who have served, come to St. James’s Memorial Concert on Sunday evening, May 24 at 7 p.m. The Festival Choir and Orchestra will perform Mozart’s Requiem in D minor, arguably one of the most beloved and renowned piece of sacred music ever composed. Many of the posse, including myself, will sing. The concert is free and will be followed by a champagne reception.

Memorial Concert invitation framed

Thanks to the sacrifices of our military members, may the blessings of life in our United States of America shine upon you this weekend.


Friday, May 22, 2015