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Exotic Flowers in Boston

Flowers Adored by Famous Artists

Posted by Suzie Canale on Mon, Nov 02, 2015


For flower lovers like me, there’s no denying that my interest moves me further than simply putting a vase on the table.  I adore them everywhere from the bedding sheets, to the wallpaper, from the patterns on teacups to the roses stitched on my dishtowels.  


I love them everywhere!  

One of my favorite areas to study and appreciate horticulture is from an artist’s point of view, particularly within oil paintings.  Lucky for me, I live within a city that provides a multitude of opportunities to appreciate art!  The MFA, The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the Decordova  Sculpture Museum (who also cultivates their own live gardens on the property as an extra bonus) are only a few of the magnificent locations hosting beautiful floral artwork upon their walls.  And the best part is, no matter where your tastes lie, there’s something for everyone so the question remains, which type of creative style appeals to you?


When looking at my own preferences in selecting painting that are thematic after the world of flowers and gardens, it’s an easy choice.  Vincent Van Gogh captured my heart on his canvas several times over and the reasons are quite simple; his use of bold and bright color, the implementation of oils that made images almost lifelike and his coincidental subjects all being some of my favorite varieties.  The quirky yet brilliant artist had affection for wild flowers and scenery embodying fields of poppies, iris and most popularly, sunflowers.  Van Gogh chose to use flowers in his paintings so often that there very few void of a simple stem or full arrangement.  With the exception of “The Bedroom”, it’s hard to find an example of created by him that didn’t reflect his love for vibrant blooms.

But that’s me.  

So let’s discuss next…. who are you?  


Does Georgia O’Keeffe’s “Blue Morning Glories” sweep you off your feet or maybe Monet’s “Water Lilies” shake you up a bit?


Here a few of the highest regarded paintings, which reflect these infamous artists adoration for pretty petals.  Does one of these speak to you?

Renoir - Roses In A Pot

Matisse   - Pot of Geraniums       

Evening Flowers - Picasso

Tags: The Arts, Artist, #EXFL, Flowers

Jewel Tone Flowers - Fad or Timeless Classic ?

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, Sep 18, 2015


A diamond is said to be a girl’s best friend but so isn’t a stunning bouquet of brightly colored flowers!  Boston florists are well aware of this fact and have decided to take the “jewel tone” fad to another level.  By matching precious stones to varieties of plants and flowers, they are able to create majestic looking arrangements that are just as showy as their customer’s jewelry preference.  Bean Town’s designers are getting so good at it, they have even been able to make pieces to match a birthstone for birthday orders!  Now who wouldn’t love to receive a specifically tailored vase of blossoms that is uniquely thematic just for them?  Selecting product that is the same color of gems has also been extended to include wedding anniversaries as well as family heirlooms.  If you haven’t yet been introduced to the growing sensation of flower decorating, here is a list to find your perfect jewel tone bloom!  My birthstone is the diamond so I can’t wait to see if a giant bouquet of lily of the valley or white phalaenopsis arrives for me on my special day!

photo credit:

Amber (orange/brown)  - orange tulips, gerbera daisies, poppies

Sapphire (deep blue)      - delphinium, bachelor buttons, hydrangea, iris

Citrine (green/yellow) - cypripedium orchids, fritillaria, amaranthus, sedum  

Emerald (green) - bells of ireland, hellebore, cymbidium orchids

Garnet (deep red) - roses, amaryllis, ranunculus

Onyx (black) - calla lilies, chcoolate cosmos

Opal (iridescent) - antique hydrangea

Tanzanite (purple) - hydrangea, lilacs, roses,

Diamond (clear/white) - roses, phalaenopsis orchids, delphinium, larkspur, calla lilies






Tags: Floral Design, #EXFL, Flowers, Design

A Summer Book Recommendation for a Real Plant Lover

Posted by Suzie Canale on Tue, Aug 11, 2015

It’s summertime and this season tends to be the time when we put a little extra “oomph” into reading more.  Although our schedules slow down and we’re apt to take some vacation time, it’s the perfect opportunity to stimulate our minds with material that we can enjoy and learn from!  Mystery, suspense, thriller, romance, historical, sports and a thousand other genres pique the curiosity of avid book lovers which all offer the gift of both educating, entertaining and exciting whoever browses through their pages.  Ordinarily, I’m a James Patterson or Elin Hilderbrand fan but lately I’ve been experimenting with dramatic fiction including the titles, “Lost in the Sun”, “Fangirl”, “Eleanor and Park “ and my recent conquest, “Sure Signs of Crazy”.  This last one I really enjoyed (although the others are fantastic too), because for one thing, it was incredibly well written (author’s name is Karen Harrington) and second, the main character’s best friend just so happens to be a plant!  If you’re confused I’ll fill you in a bit…

Sure Signs of Crazy” is a story about a twelve-year-old girl named Sarah who struggles with the tragic truth of having a mentally insane mother.  Ten years ago, she was institutionalized for murdering Sarah’s twin brother at the age of just two by drowning him in the kitchen sink.  The main character survives the incident but is now left with an alcoholic father who is vacant at best and incapable of realizing his daughter’s need to come of age.  That all changes during the summer going into seventh grade when our heroine takes control and forces her family to cope with the past and move on.  Now this might seem a little depressing but here’s the interesting part…

Having incredible writing skills (Sarah pens letters to Atticus Finch from “To Kill A Mockingbird” for a school assignment which ends up being therapeutic to her deeper understanding), she lacks ease with verbal communication and naturally befriends a plant.  Now you’d think the plant would just sit there and wilt but the author brilliantly personifies it to have opinions, likes and dislikes.  Harrington introduces situations where the plant is exposed to alcohol and feared to become “sick” as well as neglected and “lonely”, all things we know a pe plant was a real person.  My favorite example of this is seen when Sarah attempts to run away but is fearful of the needs of her plant.  She decides to dig a hole in the ground for her friend and describes this procedure where she clearly identifies with the plant as having human physical features:

“I placed her into the hole and pressed the old dirt around her waist.  I kneel at her new spot and try not to cry.  Tell her all the cool things she will be able to see from this view.”  (page 225-226)

As the book continues, she begins to open up to more person to person connections including her neighbors, grandmother, father and even her mother.  We learn through unpeeling the layers surrounding the little girl’s life that she is not the meek character from the beginning and in fact is a strong young woman who the world eagerly awaits to read her own words.  The reader is probed into believing that her friendship with the plant is at least partly responsible for this breakthrough.

Try “Sure Signs of Cralant is incapable of feeling.   In several passages the plant disagrees with Sarah and at other times, requests its caretaker to turn it around for appropriate sun as” for a fun yet intriguing read this summer!

Tags: Books, #EXFL, Plants, Summer

Freezing Blueberries for Winter Enjoyment

Posted by Suzie Canale on Mon, Aug 03, 2015

Freezing Blueberries for Winter Enjoyment


Recently, I took my five-year-old blueberry picking to one of Boston’s superb farms.  He loved it because not only could he choose which berries he wanted to take home with him, he was able learn where food comes from.  We collected those gorgeous sapphire spheres for an hour until our arms were full of cartons spilling over.  On the way home, we happily popped dozens into our mouths for a delicious yet healthy afternoon snack.  I envisioned packing baggies of blueberries for camp lunches, tossing handfuls into their morning breakfast and even possibly baking a blueberry pie.  But as many of us have, my ideas were too big for what I was able to accomplish within the needed timeframe.  Sure, the kids grabbed plenty out of the refrigerator when they wanted them but in the end, I just had too many to handle all at once.  I couldn’t bare to witness our picking efforts wasted in the trash.  There must be a way to save these juicy morsels so that we can enjoy them before rotting!

Freezing berries is a technique that every New Englander should learn since our warm summer days and necessary growing temperatures are contained within only a few months.  It is imperative that we use freezing as a way to utilize the fruit throughout the year which will save us money, not to mention quality in taste.  If blueberries are not properly handled, there’s a high chance of disappointment when we go to thaw a freezer burned bag of tiny prunes.  Follow these steps and you’ll be able to munch on your own picked blueberries long after the snow begins to fall again in New England.

Blueberry Freezing Instructions

  1. When you bring your fresh berries home –resist the urge to immediately wash them.  Sogginess can result making them messy and squishy.

  1. Find adequate storing containers such as Tupperware that have strong lids that can defend against burning.  If you don’t want to use this type of storing vessel, grab some freezer ready Ziploc bags.  They work just as well and can be discarded after use.  

  1. Place DRY berries in their freezing containers making sure there is as little air as possible trapped inside.  Air will age the berries stealing their freshness and tart taste.  

  1. Store in the freezer and allow enough time for the berries to harden.

5.  When you are ready to eat them, either leave them out to naturally warm to room temperature or stick them into a colander and rinse with cool water.  


Tags: Gardening, #EXFL, Outdoor Living, August, Blueberries

Health Benefits of Tomatoes

Posted by Suzie Canale on Mon, Jul 13, 2015

New England gardeners should be pleased to know that their tomatoes will surely be making their summer debut within the next few weeks.  Particularly if you have invested in varieties such as “Beefsteak”, “Early Girl”, “Fireworks” or “Jet Star”, your crops will surely be bursting with an abundance of brightly colored red fruit.  Although we’ll have to wait a bit longer for further seasonal types such as “Ponderosa Pink”, “Hillbilly” and my favorite, “Mortgage Lifter” to ripen to perfection, we’ll still have plenty to pick from to get Boston’s veggie lovers started.


So now that we have tomatoes, what should we do with them?  Cook them of course!

Tomatoes are not only a delicious vegetable but they have several beneficial health attributes as well.  For one thing, they contain large amounts of Vitamin A and C, not to mention a good helping of folic acid.  They have also been know to preserve brain and nerve tissue plus provide the body with aiding functionality of low blood pressure rates, conversion of glucose into energy and also act as an antioxidant to fight against diseases such as diabetes, depression and cancer.  All in all, it’s a good thing to always have in our diet and lucky for us, there’s a ton of ways to include tomatoes in our meal schedule.  Here are three dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner where we can enjoy the taste and health benefits!


Toast and Tomato is a tradition in my family where it is most enjoyed during the lazy mornings of summer and there is no question that this fare tastes the best if they’ve come from your own garden.  All you have to do is toast two pieces of wheat bread and lightly spread a low fat butter or substitute across the surface.  Choose your variety of tomatoes and thinly slice the fruit making sure the pieces aren’t too bulky because if they are, you’ll have a doozy of a time eating it!


The BLT is a widely overlooked sandwich and is sometimes ignored for its overwhelming simplicity but as we all know, sometimes less is more.  All it takes to cook this mouth-watering treat is a warm roll, a fresh couple of iceberg lettuce leaves, 1 to 2 pieces of well sautéed bacon and the star ingredient- a juicy red slab of red tomato.  If you would like to lower the calorie intake, just swap the bacon for a turkey or soy option.


Ratatouille is probably one of the most decadent yet simple dishes that tomatoes are the most celebrated.  Since the concoction is traditional within a multitude of cultures, we are lucky to have a variety of recipes to choose from.  My favorite involves adding chopped green pepper, onion, garlic, zucchini, eggplant and mushrooms to a simmering pot and seasoning it with salt and pepper.  Once the ingredients condense, add a can of tomato paste and a bunch of your own tomatoes.  Allow to cook until resembling a sauce and serve as is or serve over rice or pasta.  

Tags: Chef, cooking, #EXFL, outdoors, Outdoor Living, Vegetable Garden

Flower Infused Summer Cocktails

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, Jul 10, 2015

Flowers have long upheld their reputation of making beautiful displays within vase centerpieces, boutonnieres, hair accents, nosegays and eye appealing raised garden beds.  Boston florists have used their ingenuity to design wonderful arrangements utilizing texture, shape and color but now they’re getting even more ambitious when inventing new floral creations…


If chefs have been incorporating blossoms within their culinary efforts for decades, why not infuse the drink menu as well?


Industry professionals are finding that they can now increase their product demand by adding specialty summer drinks to their inventory segments!  It’s a contemporary suggestion but targeted demographics are actually surpassing their projected expectations by 50%.  The reasoning behind this lies in the appeal of adding bright shades to drinks that would otherwise be clear in appearance. Another explanation is due to the positive association that the brain makes between health, color and warmer weather elements.  The psychological attraction to this concept has allowed designers to indulge in their frisky creativity therefore inventing some of Boston’s most popular new seasonal refreshers.  Here is a sampling of this trendy way to fend off the summer heat waves!




Nasturtiums have been held in high esteem for their added excellence within recipes craving a peppery taste.  The beautiful orange, yellow, pink and red heads are also terrific in kicking up the taste of vodka once it’s had a chance to assimilate within the alcohol for a few weeks.  Serve at a dinner party to amp up the summer feel or simply keep it for yourself to enjoy on a hot and steamy day!





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Although a name says a lot, don’t count on it before you’ve tasted this delicious drink that has the herb, lavender, to thank for its sweetness.  You can place stems with attached heads in a variety of liquids including soda water, ginger ale or ice water.  Any variety will do but I prefer French lavender for the fresh and crisp accent it gives to my tea.            




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These are so good I can barely stand it!  Traditional margaritas can be made playful by adding the blossoms of brightly colored hibiscus plants.  Not only do they electrify a dark pink color but they also radiate the summer spirit of fun in the sun!



Tags: Gardening, Chef, #EXFL, herbs, Outdoor Living

Summer Dishes For Your Newly Grown Vegetables and Fruits

Posted by Suzie Canale on Wed, Jul 08, 2015

Now that our gardens have begun to fill with sensational fruits and vegetables, its time to start planning a fun summer menu to best utilize our efforts!  There’s a pretty high probability that if you’re a gardener in New England, you’ll see the snap peas, cucumbers, green beans, strawberries and lettuce as some of the first arrivals.  Later on in the season, eggplant, squash and my favorite, tomatoes will appear with gorgeous color signally that their time has come to impress upon your culinary skills.   As the summer comes to an end, potatoes, corn, garlic and onions are ready to be added to the sauté pans to kick up the spice and zest of your favorite dishes!   It all sound fantastic, but lets focus on the produce that we’ll be able to cook with now that will be great options for your warmer weather dining room tables.  Here are my must-haves that have always pleased my entire family-including the kids!



Cucumber and Couscous

Couscous is a wonderful grain to get your little ones accustomed to as early as possible because the taste is mild with a low fat content and can be mixed with a variety of vegetables for a healthy dinner side.  One of the first things I throw in the pot are chopped cucumbers seasoned slightly with Italian salad dressing.  Stir the contents of a Near East pre-packaged couscous box and add chunks of the water- based succulent.  You might even want to toss in a few cherry tomatoes to add more color and watch your family devour a healthy and fresh summer salad!


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Snap Peas and Sweet Potato

You would be surprised by the reaction of guests when you add a well-cooked sweet potato with a handful of raw snap peas to the dinner table.  All you need to know is butter the spud lightly and add your desired seasoning such as thyme, white pepper, salt or rosemary once its been cooked to taste.  Mash up the contents and generously shower with a bunch of fresh green snap peas.  The texture is pleasant and allows an unusual but sensational blend of flavors.  I highly suggest this as a featured menu item since the presentation is impressive when served with a grilled helping of swordfish or salmon. 




There is no telling the possibilities when you can grow your own varieties of lettuce.  You can use the roughage as either a plate garnish or create wonderful salads that will leave your mouth watering.  If you’ve never eaten lettuce picked straight from the garden, you’re in for a treat.  The crisp yet buttery consistency of the leaves allow a fun combination when paired with berries such as blueberries or strawberries and works well with breads for easy lunch options of pita or club sandwiches.  One tip for the eager picker: make sure you wash the leaves thoroughly to evade dirt and soil smudges. 

Tags: Gardening, Chef, cooking, #EXFL, Vegetable Garden

Backyard Fun and Games for Summer

Posted by Suzie Canale on Mon, Jul 06, 2015

The kids are finally out of school for summer vacation and families are busy making their seasonal plans for entertainment!  The next few months can be tricky for some parents and anxiety may sit in due to the frustration of coming up with new activities.  I think we’ve all heard those agonizing words of “I’m bored” and “What are we going to do now?” at some point or another and there’s no doubting that summer scheduling can become a bit challenging.  How can we keep our children occupied for the next two months without emptying our wallets completely? 


This year I’ve swapped some of those expensive ticket fees for parks and movie passes for some quality games that I can set up right in my own backyard!  Over the past recent years, adults have been faced with the technology age of iphones and ipads that have swapped their kid’s time in the outdoors for time on a screen.  So what if we lure them with some play that they can enjoy within a healthy environment underneath the sun?  The benefits of this strategy are endless including physical fitness, fresh air and face time with their loved ones.  These are my top picks for my family’s backyard fun!


                                        photo credit:


If you’re going to put up any net, make it a badminton set!  Components of this game are very simple which include a net, racquets and a birdie.  The object of the game is similar to tennis accept that the birdie is lightly tapped from one side to the other.  Since the equipment is light in weight and the net sits a little lower than others, kids from all ages can join in!



This traditional and colorful challenge was first invented in 1856 in England where it became known as the game of civility.  The goal is to knock your chosen ball through small arcs called “wickets” and be the first one to make it to the finish pole line.  I love this one because it involves heavy hand eye coordination and is also a great tool for teaching other similar sports such as miniature golf.



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Scavenger Hunt

You don’t have to necessary buy expensive games to have a good time!  Why not make your own entertainment by rigging up a backyard scavenger hunt?  Make a list of five to ten items that your kids can search for such as pinecones, buttercups or a clover and watch them run wild with excitement!  One suggestion before you begin is to be absolutely sure that your objects in the hunt are available in your area and make sure they wont be trampling through dangerous areas with poison ivy or oak. 

Tags: Kids, #EXFL, outdoors, Outdoor Living, Games

Plan Your Father's Day Cookout Menu

Posted by Suzie Canale on Wed, Jun 17, 2015

Father’s Day Barbecue


It’s time to fire up the barbecue- Father’s Day is here!  The big guy will be celebrated on Sunday, June 21st and let’s face it, all you have to do is light some coals on the grill and he’s pretty much satisfied.  Make sure you skip the lean diet food such as salad, greens and fresh fruit.  You can pretty much count on the fact that all he’s really interested in is a smoldering, juicy slab of beef cooked perfectly to his satisfaction.  Favorite cuts likely to be most popular this holiday are baby back ribs, three inch thick pork chops and teriyaki wings that can be seasoned and sauced just about any way dad likes them.  You’re going to want to buy in bulk, too since Father’s Day is meant to be a buffet of indulgence.  Things could get kind of complicated if you haven’t made a decision on your barbecue grocery list or destination so here are a few choice ingredients and locations that always tops my list each June!


What You’ll Need

It’s time to grab your beef so dig in and buy his favorites!

Select three options:

Baby Back Ribs                            Sausages                       Pork Tenderloins

Three-Inch Thick Pork Chops         Teriyaki Wings                Marinated Chicken

Lemon Infused Salmon                 Strip Sirloin Steak           Cowboy Steak

Split Roast Chicken                     Chicken Legs                  Fillet Minion

Swordfish Kabobs                       Steak Tip Kabobs             Jumbo Shrimp


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It’s time to get rubbing with marinades, seasonings and sauces!

Select four options:

            Lemons                                         Garlic Rub                     Memphis Rub

            Smoked Salmon Brine                    Pork Brine                     All Purpose Meat Rub

            Chicken Marinade                          Balsamic Vinaigrette       Barbecue Sauce

            Hot Wing Sauce                             Asian Marinade Sauce    Mango Sauce

            Relish                                           Applewood Sauce           Sweet Maple Marinade   


Since he’ll need to eat something with his barbecue to balance things off, try grabbing a

couple of his more preferred vegetables.  Now remember, you don’t want to

take away any attention from the grill, just compliment it with some color and freshness.

Select two options:

            Tomatoes                                      Asparagus                       Broccoli

            Cucumber                                     Onions                            Carrots

            Spinach                                        Green Beans                   Mushrooms


Now that you’ve mapped out your list, here are a few places that serve the best choice cuts in Massachusetts!

Select 1 option-that’s all you’ll need!


                        Butcher Boy                                     Butcher Shop Market       

                        1077 Osgood Street                                  782 Adams Street

                  North Andover, MA 01845                      Dorchester Center, MA 02124


          Bucciarelli's Butcher Shop & Deli

                         147 Bridge Road

                  Salisbury, MA 01952

Tags: Father's Day, Steak, Chef, cooking, #EXFL

How to Make a Salad Garden

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, Jun 12, 2015

Make Your Own Salad Garden


I love salad.  No really, I do.  In fact, it’s one of my favorite foods and my family’s too!  There are many ways to serve a crisp, healthy salad including my preference of making sandwiches with fresh pita bread.  My kid’s even love the crunchy and zesty taste of dressing mixed with lettuce, cucumber, tomato, cauliflower and broccoli.  Besides, can you think of a better way to get children to eat their veggies? 


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Since the ingredients of salad are so important to my household, they’re one of the first crops I plant in my vegetable garden once the summer rolls around.  Over the years, I’ve developed quite a system for these beloved greens and even constructed an actual “salad bed” at one time or another. 


So what’s a “salad bed”?


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A “salad bed” is a raised garden that has only the foods found in a salad of your choice.  In some versions, the plants are separated where others prefer to mix them all up which is the way you eat the dish anyways.  What makes this so much fun is that your whole family can participate in this backyard effort to produce your very own food that not only is entertaining to watch grow but also delicious compared to store bought items. 


Visually, you can be as creative as you like but here are a few ideas to get your juices flowing.  Oh, and if you don’t have the space for an in ground garden, pots on the deck or doorstep work just as well!


Tags: Gardening, Gardening in Boston, #EXFL, Vegetable Garden

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