Moodboard Monday: Transient Cherry Blossoms

Spring has crept up on us and has surprised us with delicate new foliage and budding flower heads. Daisies are popping out (with reference to Disney’s Mushu, Mulan) of the ground while the cherry trees overhead gear up for a grand display of fleeting beauty. Excitement mounts as winter’s curtain rolls back and the sun comes out to dance, heralding the arrival of Hanami, the Japanese tradition of cherry blossom viewing. This tradition has been part of their culture for over a thousand years and it is not about to stop. It is said that cherry blossom petals float to the ground at five centimeters per second, so prepare for an idyllic time of games (another occasion for sake), picnic mats and do not forget to tell your friends you’ve reserved the best viewing spot in town for a private Hanami party!

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“The traditional Japanese values of purity and simplicity are thought to be reflected in the form and color of the blossoms.” (Osamu, 1983)

You, dear viewer, might have picked up by now that we love our tea and desserts. What we have in store for you today are colourful spring wagashi (sweet treats), dango (Japanese dumplings) and mochi (glutinous rice that comes with a variety of fillings)! Aside from food, there is so much to play around with the decor. Allow the blossoms to be the star of the backdrop and let it fill the room. Add softer Japanese touches such as origami cranes, paper lanterns, umbrellas or even fans for details. That said, the colour palette is pretty simple this round: two different shades of the palest and prettiest pinks, set against the subtle regal jade green and tied together with a light pink chiffon.

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Moodboard Monday: A Merry Ceylon-bration! (Sri Lankan)

Tea connoisseurs prepare your teapots! Treat your guests to a relaxing time of celebration this week: bring out those comfortable lounge chairs to and enjoy each others company over a fresh cup of tea surrounded by lush greenery… at a tea plantation! Surrounded by rolling hills bearing rows of cultivated tea bushes, sits a humble yet salient colonial home. Shaded from the midday heat, guests lounge while partaking tea made from the ready stock of aged tea leaves.

Begin with a tossed grilled chicken salad and some apple struddle for the ravenous. You can have a game of croquet on the lawn before  you begin tea-tasting accompanied with a plethora of biscuits (aka cookies, if you are American) tea cakes and sweets. For guests who do not enjoy tea, offer them coffee as they like it or treat them to a refreshing glass of basil lemonade to ward off the heat and humidity (recipe here: http://www.bhg.com/recipe/sparkling-basil-lemonade/)

Colour palette: Brighten up any party with hues of peony, rosehip and saffron against a sea of emerald green.

Party History: Aristocratically Russian

The 19th century Russian Court often threw lavish parties (at the behest of the general populace). Think strikingly rich ball gowns, impressive court paintings, lavish pieces of furniture, exceptional pieces of jewellery… The ballroom scene unfolds slowly.

Grand balls were considered to be one of the most important court occasions and great effort goes into the planning of every single detail.

As in any society there are certain etiquettes that one should always adhere to. In Russia it was (still is) taboo to arrive late for a social occasion. Even more so if the invitation came bearing His Imperial Highnesses’ seal. It would be a terrible slight to arrive after your host since it would be a flagrant show of disrespect. Balls typically began on the dot at 7.30pm. Another faux pas would be arriving at the wrong door as each rank in the hierarchy had a door assigned to it. No, we would not want to be associated with someone of a lower rank especially if their reputation does not precede them.

Once the host and his family and all the guests were in attendance, the master of ceremonies would open the ball with a grand polonaise. A polonaise is a stately march-like Polish dance processional promenade by couples. Just as planning extends into every little detail, there were also many rules to govern clothing and accessories worn during the balls. It was fashionable for the men of the court to have a different uniform not just for formal occasions but also a special uniform for balls, the higher the rank, the greater the amount of embroidery that adorned their coats. Ladies’ gowns were made of luxurious amounts of material that followed the current court styling which could have incorporate details from other European cultures. In the nineteenth century, the fan was a mandatory accessory for the ladies. The decoration and form of the fans, not withstanding the manner in which the fans were held, allowed the ladies their own game of gestures. There were certain gestures that could speak volumes to one fluent in the language.

Aside from dancing and clothing, the ball included smoking and card-playing (one would imagine this to be the gentlemen’s past-times), marvelous decorations, souper would be served and a breathtaking display of fireworks would end off the evening of revelry.

The reigning Tsar also regularly threw themed balls where guests were expected to dress according to the set theme which could range from ancient Greek robes to Chinese costume to sixteenth-century fashion. Tsar Nicholas I and his spouse Alexandra Feodorovna enjoyed throwing such balls that they hosted these dazzling historic-inclined costumed and masked balls twice a year. However it was Nicholas I’s successor, Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra, who threw the famous ball to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of the Founding of St Petersburg which was held in Russia’s seventeenth century style. It is also sadly the last ball the Romanov family ever organized.

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It has been noted in the annals of history that at souper, every guest was served each course piping hot and individually portioned instead of laying every dish at once on the table for guests to take a lunge at, oft times the fastest or longest-armed guest would get their choicest picks at the end of which everyone would end up with a full platter of cold food.

Moodboard Monday: Anna Karenina (Old Mother Russia)

The Russian Empire. The 19th century. The Romanovs. An age of decadence. Palaces full of gilded rooms graced by glamourous aristocrats. Shadows pregnant with secrets.  Curtains shiver with lover’s trysts while perfumed air whispers fresh conspiracy. The chandeliers dim, the gilt doors of the ballroom open. The spotlight illuminates the sequin-encrusted shoe of a noble lady…

We have borrowed Anna Karenina’s ballroom scene with decorative Russian finishings and this is just scratching the surface of a Faberge egg. To step into such a scene would be akin to stepping into a kaleidoscope of flashing colours, whirling dresses and bright voices. So get ready to be whisked away by perfect styled hair and beautiful gowns painted in deep romantic shades.

Think elegant brass gold, royal blue, blood red and ivory milk as the main palette of colours for your very own ballroom wedding. Remember to leave space for the dance floor and prepare a platform for the musicians. The platform comes in handy for making speeches as well. The walls can be draped with rich embroidered material and hung with big ornate mirrors reflecting the light off crystal chandeliers while gaily dressed couples grace the dance floor together with their gracious hosts.

Tickle your guests’ tastebuds with a delectable array of traditional Russian foods like Ossetrina pod Syrom (Sturgeon baked with cheese), Pelmeni (better known as Siberian dumplings), beef stroganoff and end off with Baba Romovaya (rum cake) or a fig-topped chocolate cake.

Magpies Crafts: Medieval Hair Garland

Inspired by our past moodboard, our hands got a little busy and voila, a handmade head garland – perfect for garden parties or rustic farm weddings. We used ivy leaves and bright orange daisies, like picking wild blooms from the fields. Twirl the leaves and flowers round bound wires and attach ribbons at the end of each wire.

Magpies Crafts: Easter Paper Woven Basket

Our last post was about Fabergé eegs, and although we are not making such delicate jeweled crafts, we are still joining in the Easter fun. Instead of decorative eggs, we made woven paper baskets to collect our hidden treasures come the weekend. Use colour or origami paper in strips, or if you’re being green, recycled paper or newspaper will do just find.

Happy Easter everyone!

Adventure of Lady Magpies: A Fabergé Easter

It’s Easter this Friday, and we love opening history books to learn how these festivals came about. A little tidbit for when you hide your decorated eggs in the garden!

Have you ever wondered what the Fabergé hype was all about? In the time of ruling monarchs, the 19th century Tsar of Russia, Tsar Alexander III commissioned Master Goldsmith Peter Carl Fabergé to create an Easter egg surprise for his wife, Empress Marie Federovna. The egg that was presented during the Easter celebrations was a truly elaborate piece that showcased the precise workmanship and elaborate designs of the House of Fabergé. The imperial Fabergé eggs are considered to this day to be of the finest jewelry craftsmanship hence it is regarded as the masterpiece of a jewelers art. Luxury epitomized.

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So why is Easter celebrated? Easter has been observed by Christians all over the world since medieval times to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The empty egg symbolizes the resurrection of Christ thus egg treats are given out during the celebration and painted eggshells are used as decorations.

Now, why Easter is termed as such? For that we have to travel back to the medieval England (yes, we are in love with the customs and culture of the old world). Easter is derived from the name of a Greek goddess called Eostre who was believed to be the bringer of spring. According to our current calendar is in April is the month in wich spring begins thus celebrations to welcome the goddess of spring were held then. As such the Christians borrowed Eostre from the pagan festival and applied it to their own bash.

There’s just one last question… What do hares and rabbits have to do with Easter?? It is (still is) believed that hares and rabbits were symbols of fertility. And some celebrate spring as the beginning of new life. Rumour has is that the Germans were the ones who introduced the Easter Hare into pop culture. They told their children tales of the Hare laying eggs during the spring festival and this culture was soon adopted by many in the world over.

So have yourself an egg pooped by a hare this weekend! HAPPY EASTER!

Moodboard Monday: Wizard of Oz

A different take of Wizard of Oz is currently showing on the big screens, starring James Franco, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz and Mila Kunis. Despite its many adaptations from the well-loved 1939 film or the inspired Broadway musical Wicked, within it lies wonder, magic and adventure, showing why people never stopped loving reading about a girl in her ruby red shoes.

When having Wizard of Oz as a party theme, one must have control. The story is filled with so many spectacular images from the Emerald City, Munchkin Lands or Dorothy’s farmhouse. Each gives a different tone and look. But this time, we want to focus on Dorothy and little elements from the book like the hot air balloons, poppies and yellow brick road.

Use checkered blue napkins, red ribbons and hay tufts to accentuate the farm story. Have balloons dressed as hot air balloons, and fill them up with helium, let them float to the ceiling to create depth. If this was a child’s birthday party, why not get the kids to dress up as their favourite Wizard of Oz character?

Moodboard Monday: Medieval (Game of Thrones)

Season three of Game of Thrones is just round the corner and we simply cannot wait for the beautiful costumes and sets to appear on our screens (and the lovely lovely boys). The thing about high fantasy is that it borrows a lot of culture and history from medieval ages, usually from the 10th – 11th century. Think knights in shiny armor, graceful ladies in detailed dresses, tapestries and banners, loads of candles and decorated glasses.

There are plenty of inspiration to achieve the medieval look. If the dark ages appeals to you, look to movies like Robin Hood, Kingdom in Heaven, King Arthur or of course, Game of Thrones. For a lighter palette, we love Richard II in The Hollow Crown series. It was such a pretty episode; my eyes were screaming with ecstasy. What we have suggested here are mostly influenced by Anglo-Saxon culture, you can also look at other parts of Europe, such as Ermessenda.

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Richard II (The Hollow Crown)

The colours have almost an autumnal lilt, with dark reds gilded with gold. The key about medieval weddings are in the details, choose classic cursive fonts in your invitations and up the ante with personal wax seals. Or a quill pen to sign off the guest book. Maybe even a celtic crown for a wedding veil. Just leave the visible codpieces alone.