Christian Tortu - Design Inspiration

Christian Tortu is one of the leading floral designers in France. His creative approach to decorating his house in Noves outside Avignon, is always an inspiration to me. He takes the Christmas tree to a new level by inserting fir boughs into a bay topiary and surrounding the base with oranges.
Olive branches and hand blown ornaments grace the table.
Presents are wrapped in beautiful paper and gorgeous ribbons in his library.

Doesn't this look like a lovely place to spend Christmas?
Images: House Beautiful


One day turns into two.....................

A week melts into the next.........suddenly a month, then two have gone by. Summer brings friends and family - outdoor fun. The bathroom renovation has taken up more time than I could have imagined ..........and I'm not done yet! Right after I started the renovation, our shallow limestone well pump gave up the ghost. No big surprise as it had been giving us trouble for some time, usually turning off when a guest was in the shower. A nearby lightning strike and power surge finally did it in, along with the refrigerator and a few other things not plugged into a surge protectors. A friend of Jim's convinced him that we could replace the well pump ourselves, so we pulled the pump up 80 feet out of the ground and replaced it with a new one and new pipe. Back in the bathroom, I was able to resume the plastering and finished building the vanity base, mirror and stone countertop.
Here is a peek....................I built the vanity base and mirror out of odd bits of moulding and trim that I have been collecting. The moulding came from my Mom and the more ornate piece came from a shop on State Street in Santa Barbara.
A crystal chandelier and sconces were found in two different antique shops.
All of the plumbing had to be either redone or moved along with new electrical wiring, walls and Sheetrock. It is starting to take shape and actually look like a bathroom (it had been gutted for five years). Next on to the shower. Visiting friends haven't seemed to mind using the outdoor shower. They even seemed to delight in it. So do I, but summer will be over before I know it and even though this house is a weekend house - the shower needs to be finished!
All the rest of my spare time is spent in the vineyard coaxing the vines along.

The lavender was ready to be harvested last week. Now if I could just find a little time to catch up on all my favorite blog sites, answer all those emails and maybe even spend a little time at the beach.....................................................For all those fellow Foodies out there who have wondered if I've giving up cooking ...... Check out the new online magazine The Zenchilada (the first issue debuted yesterday) and you will see what I've been up to in the kitchen.

Photography By: Ryannan Bryer de Hickman
Sotto Il Monte Vineyards



Happy Mother's Day! A couple of months ago I had the pleasure to photograph my beautiful friend Anna just weeks before she gave birth to Gunner Jude. When Gunner was two weeks old, I followed up with some newborn shots.
Seems like only yesterday that I photographed Rob & Anna getting married in the Cayman Islands. Now they have gone full circle with the addition of their sweet little one.
Happy First Mother's Day Anna!

Photography By: Ryannan Bryer de Hickman
Sotto Il Monte Vineyards



Too much work and not enough play. I gave myself the day off and I went to check on the progress at the Japanese Tea Gardens in Brackenridge Park. The Tea Garden was developed in 1917 in an abandoned limestone quarry. Donicio Rodriquez, recognized as one of America's foremost Faux Bois sculptors, was commissioned to replicate a Japanese Torii gate. His work is featured throughout the park.
In 1926, the city of San Antonio invited Kimi Eizo Jingu, a Japanese-American artist, to help design and maintain the gardens. He and his wife Miyoshi opened the Bamboo Room, where light lunches and tea were served. Jingu was a representative of the Shizuoka Tea Association and was considered an expert in the tea business. He died in 1938. His wife and eight children continued to maintain the gardens and operate the Tea Room. In 1942, the family was evicted amid the rise of anti-Japanese sentiment of World War II. The name of the sunken garden was changed to the Chinese Tea Garden.

In 1984 it was returned to the original name of The Japanese Tea Garden in a ceremony attended by Jingu's children. I wonder if they will change the name back on the Torii gate?
Koi ponds lie at the bottom of the quarry.Over the years, the Tea Gardens were neglected and became a target for graffiti and vandalism. In 2005, the City began the restoration process that is underway.

A waterfall cascades sixty feet to the Koi ponds below.Scaffolding and metal fencing surround the original stone buildings. Perhaps by summer's end I'll be able to enjoy a Japanese Tea Ceremony and lunch at the gardens.

In the meantime, it's back to the pied-รก-terre for a light lunch of European Smoked Salmon, cilantro and cream cheese finger sandwiches........................................................
Diane's Sugar Cookies (the only recipe I've found that works with my pineapple cookie stamp)

And tea - kept in a tea canister that my Mother gave me when I was 14....................
Served on a tray that my daughter made for me. Not a bad way to spend the day.

Photography By: Ryannan Bryer de Hickman
Sotto Il Monte Vineyards
Top Image: Unknown Artist - If anyone knows who this artist is - please let me know. I've had this image in my files for years .



I feel as if I've been holding my breath for the last couple of months.
Our youngest daughter, her sweetheart and his two adorable children decided to relocate from Honolulu, Hawaii to Austin, Texas. We are thrilled to have her back on the mainland after almost 10 years away, but we were a little anxious about a major move in this economic climate. Both Jason and Jessie Jasmine gave up great jobs in Hawaii to relocate. Great jobs and health insurance! Jasmine has a childhood illness that requires regular EKG's and numerous other tests to monitor her heart. She also has to take antibiotic and B-12 injections every 30 days. My worries have been for naught. Both are talented in their respective fields. They hit the ground running and landed jobs right away. Jasmine is working as a therapist in a clinic for children with autism and will also be pursuing her Masters and then her PhD. Jason, a Musician, IT and Sound Engineer has fit right in with the Austin music scene. An added bonus is that we now have grandchildren! Thirteen year old Talon and nine year old Savanah have stolen our hearts.
Last weekend was Savanah's 9th birthday. We packed a picnic lunch and spent the afternoon at Barton Springs.
I baked a three layer vanilla cake, with and apricot glaze and cream cheese frosting.
The kids spent all afternoon swimming in the natural spring pool. The adults relaxed in the warm sun and sipped wine. Savanah said it was her best birthday ever.The other day she looked up at me, smiled and said "You are my new Grandmother". I replied "Yes, I am". She seemed to think about that for a moment and then said "But you don't look like a Grandmother". Have I mentioned how smitten I am with this child?!

Photography By: Ryannan Bryer de Hickman
Sotto Il Monte Vineyards



Recent rains and temps reaching into the 80's have jump started spring here at the house in the hills. Flowering trees and bushes are exploding with blossoms. Time to prune the vines and revisit some of my photos from last year to determine what to add to the garden this time around.
One of the standouts from last season was the "Exotic Love Vine" that I planted from seed.
Mina Lobata "Exotic Love Vine" Renee's Garden
"A rare and vigorous vine with distinctive fleur-de-is shaped leaves and graceful sprays of entrancing blossoms bi-colored in warm coral to creamy yellow." I've had great success with seeds from Renee's Garden, and with names like "Exotic Love and Kiss Me Over The Garden Gate" - who could resist?Tree Ferns - give a softness to the garden - but are not soft to the touch!Mexican Heather provides color all season long as does bougainvillea...................
Always trying to attract the beneficial bees.............................................................

Photography By: Ryannan Bryer de Hickman
Sotto Il Monte Vineyards