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The finished product. (Credit: Randee Daddona)

If there were only one word to describe what best friends Lauren Zilnicki and Rebecca Hardman are all about, it would be fun.

The women, both 28 and graduates of Riverhead High School, share their love of cooking, design and hanging out together through their web series “Two Forks and Flowers.”

“The two of us enjoy going out, but we also enjoy staying in,” said Rebecca, who lives in Baiting Hollow with her husband, Dale, in explaining the inspiration for the show.

“Hopefully we can inspire other people to do things that are not expensive. It’s just fun and you’re with the people who matter most,” added Lauren, who now lives in Riverhead with boyfriend Mike Dunlop.

Rebecca, a construction manager by day, cooks the food, which is dictated by what’s in season or what kind of dish the pair is craving. Lauren, a florist at Bridgehampton Florist, then designs the space where the food will be enjoyed. A recent episode with a “movie night” theme featured a makeshift living room teepee adorned with backyard ivy and twinkle lights. Snacks included tomato basil hummus and gorgonzola pear balsamic flatbread.

They usually try to find settings that will complement the recipes.

“One night Becca wanted to make tacos, so I’m like, ‘Perfect. Let me find colors and flowers to go with tacos,’ ” Lauren said.

We sat down with them to get a tutorial on making a holiday wreath — and the process was much easier than you probably imagine. Rebecca ran down how to dehydrate fruit to add unusual color and texture. Lauren explained how to make a wreath that looks like it was professionally created using only foraged materials.

Dry the Fruit

Rebecca Hardman and Lauren Zilnicki of Two Forks and Flowers. (Credit: Randee Daddona)

Drying fruit does not require a dehydrator and can be done in the oven using the lowest temperature setting. For this wreath, Rebecca sliced up oranges and grapefruit at about a half-inch thickness. She also cut up pieces of clementine and carved out portions of an orange peel and dried the fruit whole. The carving, she said, is where you can get creative.

“We like them to have character and be a little different,” Rebecca said. “We don’t want everything to be the same.”

Once the fruit is carved, set it on a cooling rack on a baking sheet so it doesn’t sit in its own juices in the oven. Place the fruit in the oven at the lowest setting for eight hours. When you remove it, it’s ready to be used in décor.

Construct the Wreath

Rebecca Hardman demonstrates how to construct a wreath. (Credit: Randee Daddona)

You can make a gorgeous holiday wreath using materials snipped right in the back yard. But if you don’t have any blue spruce or holly bushes on your property, you can also ask a neighbor.

Lauren gathered up some juniper berry, evergreen branches and an array of other plants from the Aquebogue yard of her parents, Annmarie and Kenny.

The first thing you need is a wreath frame, which can be purchased at a craft store.

“It  gives you a base and an outline to keep it sturdy and to keep your circle pretty neat,” Lauren explained.

You’ll also need floral wire, garden shears, wire cutters and a bow (optional).

Begin by gathering up small sections of the plants and tying them at the base using the floral wire. Wrap that bunch in the middle of the wire piece, allowing for extra wire on both side of the bundle.

“It doesn’t matter what you grab because it’s all going to come together in the end,” Lauren said.

Use the wire on either side of the bundle to secure it to the wreath frame. Repeat with the next bunch. Be sure the top of the second bunch covers the base of the first bundle to hide the wire. Repeat this process along the entire wreath frame.

Lauren estimates it will take 20 to 30 minutes to complete.

“Once you are done with your greens, you can add whatever decorations you want,” she said.

Those decorations can include ornaments, tiny candy canes, pine cones and, in this case, the dried fruit. Wire can easily pierce the fruit and can be wrapped around a pine cone. Lauren added store bought pine cones, which are inexpensive and are usually scented. She also recommends enhancing the piece using manufactured items like holly to make it feel fuller.

“Don’t be afraid of artificial if you don’t have berries in the yard,” she said.

Perhaps you can plan to undertake this craft over the long Thanksgiving weekend. It will be a great stress-busting antidote to Black Friday pandemonium.

“It’s just fun,” said Lauren. “I think it makes you feel really good about what you can do right from home.”

“It brings people together. It allows you to try new things, create memories and connect,” Rebecca added.

The finished product. (Credit: Randee Daddona)

What you’ll need

For the dried fruit:

Fruit (oranges, grapefruit and clementines)
cooking sheet
cooling rack
paring knife
chef’s knife

For the wreath

Backyard greens
Wreath frame
floral wire
garden shears
wire cutters
bow, ornaments, pine cones (optional)

This story was originally published in the 2017 holiday edition of northforker magazine