Floral Arranging 101: How to Care for Peonies

how to care for peonies

Peony season is just around the corner! Here are some shopping/harvesting tips for getting the most out of your peony stems.

  • If harvesting from your own garden, clip them early in the morning or late in the evening when they are the most hydrated.
  • Clip as the buds are still closed but just beginning to loosen up, you might start to see color from the petals.
  • If shopping, look for stems that are in bud, but beginning to open. The buds should be firm and the leaves should be firm and green.
  • Re-cut stems when you get them inside.
  • Put into a bucket of cool water and let them soak for a few hours.
  • Re-cut stems at a 45 degree angle. This allows the stems to absorb as much water as possible.
  • Arrange as you wish!
  • Keep out of bright sun light and away from heaters, vents, and air-conditioners.
  • Peonies dry beautifully! Hang upside down as soon as they’ve opened, if you wish to dry them.


Lightroom 101: RAW vs JPEG


Now that so many cameras offer the option to shoot both RAW and JPEG, I receive many questions about the two file types: what makes them different, why should one be used instead of the other, etc. I love a good analogy, so here goes…

Chef + Ingredients, or Microwave Dinner
For dinner, we could choose a microwave meal, or we could get all of the ingredients and cook a similar dinner. In my opinion, the home-cooked meal is superior for various reasons. The main reason being that it is customized to exactly how we like it. The microwave dinner is simple, you know what you are getting, but it is what it is, you can’t change it. The home cooked meal takes longer to cook than the microwave meal. If you don’t know how to cook, then the microwave dinner will probably turn out better. The microwave dinner is always the same; you take it out of the box, cut the plastic, press the button and close the door. For a home cooked meal, your skills will always be growing, you’ll find tricks that speed up the preparation, spices and cooking methods that make it taste better and exactly how you want, and after a year of cooking, your skill level will be far beyond where you started. After a year of microwave dinners your skill level for cooking hasn’t changed.


Sewing 101: Recovering a Lampshade

Recovering a Lampshade

My Jonathan Adler shade cracked a while ago, leaving an unsightly wrinkle in the shade’s fabric. So when Nicole’s Classes Instagram follower @kikatmb asked for a how-to on making a fabric shade, it was the perfect opportunity to fix mine.

I used a medium-weight cotton fabric and minimal sewing (with a no-sew option). If you’d like a more extensive sewing lesson, check out my Sewing 101 course. And if you try this how-to, please share photos with @nicolesclasses on Instagram!

• Kraft paper or leftover wrapping paper
• Pencil, ruler, scissor
• Fabric in yardage needed to cover shade (my 42″ dia. barrel shade required 1-1/3″ yds.)
• Sticky-back Velcro circles (about 3/4″ dia.)
• Thread, pins
• Sewing machine
• Iron
• Hem tape, optional


Lightroom 101 Review

I was thrilled when Mark Weinberg agreed to teach Lightroom 101 at Nicole’s Classes because I was so intrigued with learning the program myself. Up until I took his class, I was processing my photos primarily through Camera RAW (a program attached with Photoshop) and also Capture One when tethering on set.

Lightroom BLEW MY MIND.


Tips on Painting White in Watercolor from a Master

I am so excited to share these shots I took at the John Singer Sargent exhibit at the MFA in Boston. I was thrilled they let us use no-flash photography so I could use his work to help illustrate the answers to some questions I get from students.


Lightroom vs iPhoto

Lightroom and iPhoto
I have been asked variations on the question, “Should I use Lightroom or iPhoto for organizing and editing images?” numerous times. Comparing the two is a little like comparing a go-cart to a modern car. Both are a means of transportation and will ultimately get you there, but the car (Lightroom) has a lot more features and with the proper training can achieve superior results in less time.


DIY Clouds for a Nursery

Cloud Template

I recently made these clouds from foam core and paper for a magazine shoot. Nicole’s sister Nina ended up taking them home for her nursery (she’s due in April) and here is Cole, Nicole’s little guy, testing them out. They make a great addition to a nursery or playroom and they’re easy to make. Here’s how!


How to Take Self-Portraits

How to Take a Self-Portrait

Notice I didn’t title this post “How to Take a Selfie” because I’m generally not a fan of the selfie. But, I want my children to have a few photos with me and that’s almost impossible since I’m always behind the camera taking pictures of them. I was going to hire a photographer, but I still haven’t found the right person and having a “now or never” personality, I figured I might as well take a few of my own.

Self-portraits are not that difficult, but are certainly made easier with a few tools and tips:

Nicole Gerulat -How to Take a Self-Portrait



Watercolor 101: Experimenting with your Work


So you have learned how to be creative using the computer, your camera and paints at Nicole’s Classes… now what? Don’t hide your light under a bushel! Have some fun! There are so many print on demand websites out there that you can experiment quite inexpensively.

I recently played with a bit of experimenting myself! Santa brought me a new iPhone for Christmas and I needed a new case for it. I decided to create one with my own watercolors! How fun is that? So fun, that I got completely carried away and created quite a few of them. I went ahead and loaded up artwork according to the guidelines on Society6 and the next thing you know I was able to not only buy one, but sell them too!

Using a website like this is a terrific way to test and see if what you are producing would be commercial. I sized and resized, added backgrounds and took them off until I got a few that I liked. I even went ahead and ordered 2 of them. Viewing it on the screen and then having it in hand is a great way to see what I like and don’t like about my own work.

In Watercolor 101, I not only teach watercolor techniques but also some techniques for scanning and cleaning up artwork so it can work well online. Maybe for your own phone case, prints or pillows!

I have decided that a girl needs as many phone cases and she does shoes. (Although I sort of like the RING! RING! Telephone too!) You can see some of my cases below, and you can purchase one in my Society6 store. Happy experimenting!


Sewing 101: Easy Eyeshade

Sewing 101: Eyeshade

Before I became a Nicole’s Classes instructor, I coauthored the sewing book Dorm Decor: Remake Your Space with More Than 35 Projects (Chronicle Books, 2009). Today I’m sharing a video tutorial from the book on how to sew a quick and easy eyeshade that you can complete in under an hour!

Click here or on the image above to watch it!

UPDATE: We forgot to include the template in our initial post — oops! But you can now download the Easy Eyeshade template below and make one for yourself!