Monday, February 28, 2011

Napa Valley vineyards......


Driving on toward St. Helena in the Napa Valley, signs of Spring were everywhere.  Blossoms of the softest pink on the almond trees, brilliant yellow flowers carpeting the rapeseed fields, and lots of sweet flowers filling the rows between the wizened root stocks of the old vines as they awaken from dormancy. Ready to start putting out new growth as the warmer weather arrives, the vineyards were beautiful, spreading out from the roadsides and climbing steadily up the gentle California hillsides.





Along the way were many beautiful vineyards. Elegant homes, outbuildings, olive and cypress trees scattered on the hillsides were reminiscent of Tuscany and the South of France.






Wouldn't you just love to have a back yard like this?  My friend Paula's friends live here in a beautiful house.  Beyond their garden is acreage which encompasses a fine vineyard in the Oak Knoll appellation.
Next time, the wine tasting......of course!!!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Gateway to the valleys................



Napa and Sonoma..................the two valleys so well known for creating elegant California wines. Visiting there on Monday meant driving North through San Francisco and across the Golden Gate Bridge.



The day was cloudy but who cared....................San Francisco is beautiful in any weather.


Stopping on the Sausalito side of the Golden Gate, we took time for a short hike on the Marin Headlands giving us an opportunity to get great images of the bridge, bay, and city, everything looking silver and grey under the heavy cloud cover........my favorite colors anyway!


OK......here it is, a pic of me taking a pic (taken by Paula) on the chilly, windy Marin Headlands.

.................then we continued North under a few patches of blue sky - no rain fortunately.



........see you next time in California's beautiful valleys.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

California dreamin'



Don't believe everything you hear about 'sunny California'.....................sometimes it rains.  A lot. 
This past February weekend it was chilly and very wet on my Friday arrival, and all day Saturday. Thick, heavy clouds hung low over the mountains and Pacific Ocean.  With views obliterated somewhat, photos are not the best, but it doesn't matter one bit when you're enveloped in the warmth of dear friends.  Grab a rain jacket, pull on your boots, open your brollie and just enjoy life on the West coast!!!!



The beautiful 17-Mile Drive at Pebble Beach on the way to Carmel and Monterey was still awesome - I enjoyed seeing it in a different light having only been in Summer before.



Waves were crashing on the rocks, and smoke curled up from chimneys of the mansions along the shoreline.



The world famous 200 year old Lone Cypress, symbol of Pebble Beach, still clings to the rock. 


After enjoying the drive, Paula and I found a tiny restaurant in Carmel where a fire crackled on the hearth, and the fish and chips were as good as what we would have been served back home at a local 'chippy' in dear old England!


More on my California weekend next time.  One big disappointment, but more great times during a busy four days including a day in the wine country.  

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Off to the city by the bay.......


Waving goodbye  as I'll be gone for a few days.  I'm leaving for San Francisco tomorrow to visit my best friend (of 48 years!) Paula.

Paula takes me to awesome places........the African safari last year being the most amazing trip of my life.  I'm so blessed to have these opportunities to travel.  Later this year we've a trip planned to a place I never even knew existed! Perhaps we'll have a little fun guessing game about that one. I'll tell you more about it later.

While on the West coast I will be visiting some lovely towns, and, if the weather cooperates, doing something awesome in the air!
Cameras are ready, extra batteries packed, hope to capture some great pictures to share on my return.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Elegant antiques.............



Next to French grey and creamy white, I must share with you my new love of black painted furniture.  I don't actually have any of my very own.........................however, after seeing pieces brought in to SuzAnna's Antiques by dealer Sam, my heart started fluttering.  


Recently, while watching Sam, an expert in the antiques business for many years, rearrange his large space, I was privy to a great lesson in design.  Armed with a drill, hammer and nails, who would have thought to first hang a rug on the wall, layer an ornate mirror...............


.................and frame with several graceful yards of soft, expensive, pure wool fabric.  This sideboard is beautiful - the curved doors and drawers at each end really unusual.


Sam's accessories are stunning international treasures, and he shares exotic stories about their former lives around the world!


I love the silver and crystal cruet, the huge painted tray inlaid with mother-of-pearl flowers, and the metal rams head decorative pieces from an antique chair.  


Sam has taught me a lot about the origins of many beautiful antiques..........and I have purchased some lovely things from him over the past few years. Now if only I had space for a piece of his gorgeous black furniture.....on which, of course, I would display lots of white and cream china, and old unpolished silver!

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Valentine for you.......


Who doesn't love roses on St. Valentine's Day?




Edited:  OK, so as not to confuse you dear readers........these are fabric roses made into napkin rings!   They are beautiful though..........and I did get some real red ones from my DH for VALENTINE'S DAY!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Playing house.......



This week, while dusting - the fireplace makes so much of it when you burn wood - I moved some things around a bit.  Of course real 'Spring cleaning' (such as moving heavy furniture) will be necessary after daily use of said fireplace. Being a bit of a lazy Winter house cleaner, other than the basics as in bathrooms, kitchen, quick run-throughs now and then with the vac, means that big clean is looming closer, ugh! These current lovely sunny days seem to show up the dust as the harsh Winter light streams through the now grimy windows. Of course spiffy clean exteriors on windows are definitely not a Winter must, are they? It may still snow again! 


How about those cobwebs suddenly visible in cottage corners - where the heck did they come from?  I haven't seen a spider since the unusual southern cold arrived some months back.


Anyway, dusting means moving objects.  Sometimes just putting them back in different places makes one see them with a new eye. 


Moving the angel from my dresser to the nightstand was perfect - she's still wearing the papyrus bracelet made for me by our boat captain while drifting through the Okavango Delta in Botswana last May - awesome memories to ponder at bedtime.

The shade I made years ago. Love it except it does need the feather duster often because of all those chiffon pleats!


The mantel - always a fun place to 're-decorate'.  At last I took away the mercury glass candlesticks reminiscent of Christmas Past.  Instead the patina of the vintage metal candleholder is making me smile as I dream of flowers, real ones, appearing in the garden in a couple of months.

Do you enjoy moving objects around your home?  Are you always 'dust free'?  Do you climb on ladders to wash your second floor windows, or lean out precariously as I do on a warm day?
Come on, please own up, at least where dusting is concerned, so I don't feel so guilty!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Chandelier magic...............




No, I'm NOT showing you images of snow even though it fell silently in the night, painting the porch rails, turning the gazebo roof white(see it through the window), and bringing the hungry birds to the feeders.....thankfully I thought to fill them yesterday afternoon. It's warm and bright indoors on yet another snowy morning. Just a dusting outside, enough to cover the still dreary garden shades of grey and brown.  Everything will look clean for a few hours before melting occurs as it will warm up and we're promised lovely sunny days ahead.  



Oh yes, point of this post, the chandelier...............it's up and hanging beautifully over the kitchen island!  Hard to capture in photos with so much reflected light from the windows and glass cabinet doors, but hopefully you get the picture!
  

Late last evening when I brought DH home from the airport, I was a bit nervous wondering how he'd take to a surprise chandelier hanging here.................however he really likes it. Being the dear he is, he'll usually go along with most things I do around the cottage......don't forget 'love is blind'. Especially great is the better light it gives off compared to the previous modern ceiling hugging fixture. Because we changed the switch to a high quality dimmer (purchased from the electrical supply house), we are able to safely use 40 watt bulbs rather than 25 watt.  This means a maximum 400 watts of bright light for kitchen prep, which can then be lowered any amount for ambiance.



I'm loving it.  A big thank you to great friends who encouraged me to hang this beauty in my simple cottage kitchen.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Technical wizards............


They surround us.............they are everywhere.
Our children, grandchildren, even our friends' children and grandchildren........


......the generation of technical wizards who seem to know everything about computers.....but not much about baking from scratch.



While I'm busy doing something old fashioned, like mixing up a little French gateau with ground almonds and fresh raspberries.......granddaughter is busy photographing herself on the new iMAC, and then editing to get different effects.


Kitchen chores v. technological challenges.
As long as it means time together, I love it all! 

P.S  Oh yes, the chandelier is now dangling delightfully in that space behind Jasmin's head - show you soon.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Shed a little light.....................


........on my kitchen.

This beauty is coming home with me!


My search for a chandelier for the kitchen, yes the KITCHEN, is over. I fell for this one as it was being hung in Laurie's booth at SuzAnna's Antiques last week. I yelled, "stop, get off that ladder, don't bother to hang it, I want it".  Well, in all honesty, it wasn't quite like that because I didn't want sweet Laurie to fall off her ladder, and I had to be sure it really was the right one, the one I've dreamed about.  What really caught my eye were the double lights on each of the five arms, meaning plenty of crystal brightness for meal prep.  I'll also put a dimmer switch on it - may as well wash dishes in a romantic atmosphere! My chandelier had to meet the following wish list requirements:

  • Must give off enough light (this one has ten bulbs/250 watts)
  • Has to be short because we don't have high ceilings in the cottage (perfect size)
  • The wiring has to be safe (it's newly re-wired)
  • Clean and bright is a nice extra (chandeliers are pesky to clean up)
  • All the crystals in place if possible (they are, and they match)
  • It can't cost and arm and a leg................it kinda did until lovely Laurie gave me a most generous discount (so was just an arm and 1/2 a leg)
  • It must be antique or vintage European (a tiny metal tag attached says Made in Spain)


Laurie's lovely space at SuzAnna's Antiques

So, I left my treasure hanging with a SOLD sign dangling all week, dreaming about it coming home to my kitchen. Yesterday, after dropping DH at the airport, I hurried to the shop to pick it up.  

After my electrician arrives to hang this lovely fixture over the island, I'll have more pictures to share.  Meanwhile, I'm so excited knowing that soon my little cottage kitchen will be lighter and brighter.......I think I'll definitely be loving it and the long hunt will have been worthwhile.

Oh, almost forgot............it's a Valentine surprise for DH who doesn't like change!  Hope he'll enjoy more light - recently he's been moaning about the current fixture not being bright enough so I think this will make him happy when he returns from Los Angeles........where lots of decorating divas hang chandeliers in their kitchens, don't they?

Anyway, you know me by now, Shabby Farmhouse, Euro Trash, Nordic/French, call it what you will, it's my eclectic view of decor......and I'm really pushing now to get this look all through the cottage, using found/recycled treasures.  

Have you/would you hang a crystal chandelier in your kitchen?  Or am I a little bit crazy here?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Treasure blogging.........



Isn't it amazing the lovely things people want to get rid of? I could rock on my front porch quite happily on this swinging bench.


Some of you....dear readers all....often say you don't have shops like this within proximity to your home. This of course makes me think, oh lucky lady, she lives way out in the countryside, enjoying Nature right on her doorstep. She tramps through snow covered fields, across frozen streams, along river banks, even perhaps through muddy farmyards where she keeps her own chickens, milks her cows, and canters elegantly on the back of a chestnut mare!


 All around the globe, every day, bloggers connect.......somehow.  A new friend pops up from nowhere and, after a couple of clicks, another interesting life draws one in.  You read back over older posts and, wham bam, you're hooked.  Sometimes they even 'go shopping' with you via your blog pics, loving the shops you can visit in person.  After a while, when you are shopping, you start picking out things you know they would love.......then you know you've really got it bad!


Spring is peeping out around SuzAnna's Antiques........I see and feel it slowly unfurling in pale greens, daffodil yellows, touches of lilac and violet hues.


Just my thoughts for today as I watch the cold rain fall.


Sign at SuzAnna's....

....whoever said
MONEY CAN'T BUY HAPPINESS
....didn't know where to shop!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Winter Break........


Saturday.........the sun was out, the day was warm...............


For a few sunny and warm hours Winter was almost forgotten......


...............we headed to the duck pond, Jasmin and Grandma, just doing what we've done for fourteen years!

The gaggle of honking Canada geese, ever increasing, as the number of beautiful ducks dwindle each year.


Mr. and Mrs. still together...........please have lots of ducklings come Spring.


A perfect day reminding us that yes, Spring will come again.  

Here's wishing all my dear blog friends living where the snow is deep and the ice dangerous, warmth and safety as they weather yet another vicious storm.
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