Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Color Flavor: Lavender

"Lavender is for lovers true, Which evermore be faine; Desiring always for to have Some pleasure for their paine: And when that they obtained have The love that they require, Then have they all their perfect joie, And quenched is the fire."-Clement Robinson 1584 (Handefull of Pleasant Delites)
A member of the mint family, lavender doesn't disappoint when it comes to fragrance. This flower's essence is used in everything from perfumes to candles, medicines to foods. From it's earliest history as a component in oils in ancient Egypt and a ward against the Plague, to it's many applications today, lavender is more than a nice-smelling flower. Lavender is a color often overlooked in design because of its tendency toward the feminine. But this beautiful spectrum of pinks, blues, and dusky purples is rife with possibility.

Purple, the color most would associate with lavender, has a royal, rich connotation. Used in darker forms, purple of both blue and red tints can be stuffy and overwhelming. Lavender is a toned tint that combines the sophistication of purple with the livability and freshness of a near pastel. It can be utilized to give a tinge of 'royalty' without being overwhelming.

Used many times to hint at romance, lavender is perfect for romantic products or marketing. It goes without saying that lavender is great when used for products or web sites that target women. It's also excellent as a main or accent hue for organic businesses because the plant itself is used frequently in natural and organic products. See the logo pictured for the fictitious 'Secret Garden' organic tea cookies. When paired with shades of gray, brown, or even orange, lavender can add just the right gentle freshness to a modern, masculine design.

The first room here is treated in the usual romantic way. Butter-cream walls and a toasted marigold ceiling (Behr: Quiet Veranda 350F-4 and Honeysuckle Blast S-H-330) are accented with a medium-tone lavender. This is certainly a feminine dining area, but is also quite provincial. This scheme would work well in a colonial or Victorian home.

The second room, a kitchen, uses a putty gray and vibrant lily orange (Behr: Country Club 770B-5 and Orange Spice 250B-5) to wake the senses and keep the lavender from being too soft. A storm cloud blue (Myth 740F-5, also Behr) is used to chill the warm orange and wood counter tops. This room could be too modern and cold, but the addition of lavender can help almost anyone feel comfortable.

I love lavender, both the color and the plant. It has always been a favorite of the women in my family. I remember sitting with my mother and grandmother making lavender sprig sachets woven with ribbon. As a special treat, I would like to share with you a cookie recipe that I make from time to time. This refrigerator shortbread is great with tea or just as a refreshing sweet treat.

Lavender-lime Shortbread

1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar (¾ cup powdered sugar, ¼ cup coarse raw sugar)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for rolling)
1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers (you can use a bit more if you wish)
zest of one lime

To begin, comb the dried flowers for pieces of stems and leaves. Then crush the flowers using a mortar and pestle along with the ¼ cup of coarse raw sugar. Using this coarse sugar will ensure fine grinding of flowers. Combine in an air-tight container with ¾ cup powdered sugar and let sit overnight or as long as desired. The longer the sugar and flowers infuse, the more intense the aroma and flavor.

To make the cookies, first combine the sugar, butter, vanilla, salt, and lime zest. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Add flour slowly and mix just until the dough begins to form. Divide the dough into two equal halves. On wax or parchment paper, roll each half into a 1 ½ inch diameter log. You may want to flour your hands if the dough is sticky. Refrigerate the dough until firm, about 1-2 hours. If you refrigerate longer than 1-2 hours or wish to store the dough and you've used wax paper, make sure to wrap also in plastic wrap.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. With a serrated knife, make slices approximately 3/8 of an inch thick and place about an inch apart on a baking sheet. If your dough wants to crumble when slicing, let sit at room temperature for a few minutes. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden around the edges. Cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes then transfer to rack to cool fully.


original watercolor
© Rachael Sinclair 2011

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Idea Seeds: Warm

Winter always seems to go on too long. Gray days of ice and snow dominate the forecasts. Before we succumb to cabin fever, we must find a way to shake the blues. This Idea Seed is medicine for that fever. What comes to mind when you think of the word warm? Do you see colors? Perhaps you recall the pattern of a quilt or the steam off a cup of hot chocolate.

Think of being warm; draw on that feeling. The next time you pass the flower isle while shopping, buy a bouquet. Surround yourself with color and fill your imagination with warmer shores. Spring will be here in no time. Use this break in fire between autumn and spring to do a little daydreaming. You never know where your mind will take you!

My warm piece of creativity: a postcard with hula girl illustration, tiled pattern, and color palette. The palette was inspired by fabric from a vintage Hawaiian shirt, hence the muted tones.

Aloha from warmer shores!
vector illustration
© Rachael Sinclair 2011