Friday, February 23, 2018

February garden delights. . . . . . .

Akebia budding on the potting shed. . .

Read more, and see photos, of my pretty tree shared on this day last year - it's
 taller and blooming right now in this warm late February weather.

The very first violets under the watchful eyes of the garden cherubs. . . . . . 

From my North Carolina garden. . . . . . . . . wishing you a good weekend.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Scribble Picnic - Fill In the Blank Rectangle -

I was on a mission to get this done yesterday, Tuesday, ready for today's picnic,
IF the fog clears (see HERE) we can throw down a blanket on the lawn under
 the fig tree and enjoy some sweet picnic snacks and a nice cuppa!

Yes, the tree is so tall now we can actually sit under it - a lot different from the little
 18" potted plant I dug the hole for (well Bob probably did that bit - I just point and
 ask nicely if he'll dig right there please!) some years ago. Just look at those hefty
 branches now - and later in the year the figs will hopefully arrive again and be ripe
 for picking and jam making.

I saw my rectangle when I noticed one of the little birdhouses hanging in the tree 
in the heavy fog blanketing the garden. Photographing the roof at this angle
 I thought would be different. I edited my photo back to a sketch, added a tiny bit
of colored pencil, and outlined the roof.

I will soon be off to Patagonia! Being on a ship much of the time, I may miss 
 several Scribble picnics due to lack of Internet availability, speed and cost! 
 I'll do my best, but don't be surprised if I can't join in or leave comments - sorry!

Pop over to Michael's today here at the SCRIBBLE PICNIC - starting off with
 a blank will definitely bring some fabulous creativity to all the fun posts.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Fog rolled in. . . . . . . .

We don't get fog here often. 
This morning it's quite thick, a white blanket veiling the
 garden and trees beyond. 
 Silence is heavy only interrupted by occasional birdsong.
It should lift by afternoon, get warm and possibly rain lightly.
Snow is not in the forecast here for the remainder of February,
I do believe springtime is on the way.

From the garden - a foggy morning via iPhone

Monday, February 19, 2018

It's all about HOME. . . . . . . .

I thought today I would chat a bit about home. 
This is a garden house for the birds, and probably my favorite with the tiny china bird 
on a nest perched on top. Birds have yet to nest in this home, maybe this will be the 
year, who knows.

It's a holiday for some, Presidents' Day, the day on the calendar now honoring
all American Presidents. It used to be a celebration of George Washington's birthday,
 things change! As this is not and never will be a political blog, I rest my case.

Staying home today is just like many other winter days. It's dreary, cool, raining off
 and on, but tomorrow and the rest of this week promises to be warm and sunny again. 
The weekend was fabulous and I did some required garden chores in hot sunshine
 under a cloudless deep blue sky.
Yesterday, early evening, we enjoyed a glass of wine of the front porch with a
 neighbor - sharing travel stories - until the coolness of dusk arrived and I had to
 reach for a sweater.

Yesterday I actually saw a pair of wrens flying around the gazebo with dried leaves
 in their bills - goodness it's much too early to be picking home sites and building nests! 
This winter I hung some of my bird houses in the fig tree out front - along with
 feeders and a few lanterns with battery operated candles which light up at
 dusk - and fortunately they've held up well through the drastic weather changes
 this season brought.

So, off to do some Monday kitchen chores - making leek and potato soup
 (a good day for soup of any kind), and trying a recipe I recently found for
 mushrooms and polenta. I'll share later if it turns out to be as tasty as promised.

Tonight is my Tai Chi class. It continues to be very interesting. . . . . and difficult!
 Practicing alone between classes is hard but I'm enjoying the class and will continue.
 I'll miss three March classes whilst in Patagonia so will have a lot to catch up with
 on my return!

Yes, going away again soon. Always fun, but thoughts of home will
accompany me on this exciting expedition adventure. . . . . . .as always.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Fair vernal flowers. . . . . . . .

Awake, thou wintry earth -
Fling off thy sadness!
Fair vernal flowers, laugh forth
Your ancient gladness!
~ Thomas Blackburn ~

~ Leucojum aestivum : called Summer snowflake but blooms in Spring ~

A morning of sunshine and an early walk through the garden 
brought new surprises.
The first flowers to open. . . . . . . . . always bring a smile.
I send these tiny beauties to those of you in colder climes who have
 yet to see your own push through the earth.
Along with the daffodils already in bloom, and with very warm days 
this coming week, we are well on our way to welcoming Spring.

My favorite deep cobalt blue hyacinth.
Have a pleasant Sunday.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

To remind me. . . . . . .

. . . . . . of how precious life is and how quickly
 it can be taken away.

I worked in the garden yesterday morning for a few hours. 
It was incredibly hot for mid-February and broke the record for the date
 reaching 81F. I enjoyed a mini breakfast out on the front porch, the air felt so good. 
Came in damp and tired, feeling pleased with myself for accomplishing some small
 chores which needed attention.
Today will be much cooler with rain later, the garden will only be viewed
 from the windows.

I pruned the Japanese maple, also took a few more lower twigs off the Celeste fig tree.
I fertilized all the Spring bulbs scattered throughout both front and back garden beds,
 natural areas, and in large pots. I left the potting shed door open for a burst of
 fresh air and, when I returned to put away my gloves and tools, in with the air
 had flown one of the always inquisitive Carolina wrens.
 I chatted with her as she hopped around inside, not scared, just checking things 
out before flying off. How can one chat with a tiny bird? Quite easily!

I cut just 17 daffodils and jonquils for the dining room, some in full bloom, 
others still in bud.They are my way of remembering those 17 precious people
 taken from their families and friends in the Florida school shooting this week.

Friday, February 16, 2018

There is still beauty. . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . out there somewhere.
There is kindness and love, honesty and caring. 
There are good people doing brave things.
At times such as this we question much.
We pray and hope for a safer future,
for the children, for us all.

Gary Bunt - Daffodils: Art and Poetry

I wandered slowly with my dog
We likes to roam o'er vales and hills
When all at once we came across
Loads of bloomin daffodils

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Scribble Picnic - Mushy!

I used a color photo of a tin of mushy peas, reverted it to a b/w sketch, 
then added color back with water color pencils.

The history of mushy peas can be found HERE
They are the traditional accompaniment to British fish 'n chips.

Growing up in England I recall eating them often, fish 'n chips being on the
 menu almost weekly. For the full meal cooked at home and served at the table,
 the mushy peas were always alongside the fish and chips -
French fries here in the US - on a proper china plate.

When very young I recall the 'Fish 'n Chip' van parking at the end of our
 road on Fridays - I guess it was an original food truck - serving battered
 deep fried fish, probably local fresh cod, and little tubs of mushy peas.
 The thick cut golden chips would be handed to us in a greaseproof baggie
 tucked inside a newspaper cone. Sprinkled with malt vinegar and a little salt,
 we started nibbling those delicacies before getting back to the house. . . . . . and
 without concerns for fat, sodium and calories. Those were the days!

Hope you enjoy stopping by Michael's Scribble Picnic today -
'mushy" is the theme so there may be some surprises!
Go HERE soon - mushy food, even mushy love - it is 
Valentine's Day after all!  
Who knows what you
might discover.

St. Valentine's Day. . . . .

Monday, February 12, 2018

A Common grackle visits alone. . . . . . . . . .

When Common grackles appear they are often in huge numbers - I've seen
several hundred appear at one time!  They can be a noisy nuisance in a small
 garden, also quite ominous, like a scene from the classic 1964 horror/suspense
 movie, "The Birds" directed by Sir Alfred Hitchcock.

A large black bird, 11-13", it sports an iridescent blue black head, 
purple brown body, long black tail, long thin bill, and very bright golden eyes.
Usually flying with other black birds in large flocks, it's known to feed in
 farmers' fields, dining on fruits, seeds and insects.
When a flock comes to the garden, thankfully not often, we shoo them
away and they fly up into the trees making their loud raspy calls.

This wet weekend, a single grackle arrived in the fig tree, looking lonely
 and apparently feeling hungry, it hopped onto the feeder and nibbled away
 for several minutes.
Probably a first for me, actually getting a photo of a grackle this close
 up, and through the window, so that the beautiful coloring is visible.

~ Common grackle : Quiscalis quiscula ~

A very colorful black bird, which isn't really black but a mix of beautiful colors.
Nature is very adept with her paintbrushes!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Wet Sunday in the garden. . . . . . . . . .

There are no trumpets welcoming the imminent arrival of a new
season, just a quiet pushing through the ground of bright green tips, the
 silent opening of buds, then pops of unexpected color as one looks out
 at the early morning.

Doesn't seem possible that well over a week of February has already
 disappeared into history! 
The days fleet fast for me at this time of life, how about you? 
Some people complain of days such as this one when the weather
is not to their liking. . . . . . whereas I gather each day around me thankful
it came and that I'm here to enjoy it.

February can be dreary, but this morning in my garden, I spy little things
 Nature is sharing to brighten my spirit, to be thankful for, to smile at, and
to know there is another Spring on the way.

 ~ Raindrops on daffodil leaves ~

~ Tufts of bluebell leaves pushing through garden mulch ~

~ First daffodil bloom of the year ~

~ Buds are opening ~

Today was already 60F at dawn, rain fell in the night, pansies are happy. . . . . . 

. . . . . . and the robins are back searching for worms - here's just a few of perhaps
 thirty who gathered on the front lawn!

Later today it will reach the mid-70's with perhaps some thunder.
The rain is light and intermittent - typical of February here in the 

My thoughts this morning:

A Sunday in the cottage makes sense - there is much to do with our 
leaving home drawing closer.

I should bake something - or perhaps make a trifle! 

I need to clean the front porch as the beastly cute squirrels pulled the 
birdseed bell down, gobbled it up and left a mess!

Speaking of plants - we so enjoyed Raleigh Little Theatre's rendition of 
Little Shop of Horrors last evening!
Great cast as always, and special guests seated at the end of our row were 
North Carolina's Governor and First Lady, laughing along with the 
rest of us. I was happy to see them supporting this always fabulous local 
amateur theatre group.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

A wet February Saturday. . . . . . . . .

A really dreary February morning, fog early and now rain falling and a 
miserable wet weather forecast for the coming several days.
I have never been a great fan of the month of February with fluctuating 
temperatures breeding germs and bringing colds, 'flu etc.
The garden looks at its worst this month - the dust in the house seems to 
never go due to the fireplace - thoughts of welcoming Spring are starting.

Taken this morning from the dining room window.

By now I'm sure you know this tiny wren is my favorite garden bird.  
Here in North Carolina this extremely chatty, boisterous songster, is not
 an annual migrant, tending to remain resident in its own territory. 
Here, it is in my garden, and on the front porch where a family has raised young
 for many a year in springtime. They spend cold nights tucked into my
 dying hanging Boston ferns which, although not pretty, remain up all winter to
 provide shelter, and sometimes they just tuck themselves into the high corners
 of the porch to shelter from the wind. 
They come to the feeders for seeds and suet when their natural source of food, 
spiders and insects, quickly vanish as the weather turns cold. . . . . . . 

. . . . .and here you can see my 'breakfast offerings' along the porch rail today, 
awaiting any and all birds who need food and a little shelter from the rain.

Our street is covered with now soggy, packed leaves, the city is way 
behind with pick up.
The tiny bird with the big voice.
Did I tell you I love my birds? 

"Amid the leafless thorn the merry Wren,
When icicles hang dripping from the rock,
Pipes her perennial lay; 
Even when the flakes
Broad on her pinions fall,
She lightly flies
Athwart the shower
   and sings upon the wing."
. . . . . . . . James Graham

P.S.  Many, many thanks for all your good wishes regarding my Wednesday hospital visit due to a kidney stone! 
 I'm doing OK, no pain now, but haven't caught the stone yet!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Unexpected hospital visit!

After spending much of Wednesday night in the hospital ER,
 I needed the calm of the upstairs bedroom for sleeping most of yesterday.
This was a my second kidney stone experience, the former being many years ago.
If you've ever had one you'll know exactly what I mean when I say "the most 
excruciating pain ever" and something I'd never wish on anyone.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Scribble Picnic. . . . . . . . Let's Dance

Most little girls, and some boys, go into ballet with dreams of 
becoming true dancers.  All, well most, decide for themselves to take 
up this form of dance known for its atheticism as well as its beauty.
I tried, didn't you?  
The thought of some day tying up those pink satin toe shoes once
 I'd graduated from just regular black or pink soft leather ballet slippers, 
kept me going for some time, however I never made it to going 'en pointe'
 for some reason. 
My love for the ballet continued though, even to this day, it's still 
the dance I would love to be able to perform, and definitely
 enjoy watching.

The theme this week for Michael's SCRIBBLE PICNIC - click to join in - is
Stop over HERE to see what our dancing artists have
come up with - I just know they are probably dancing for joy with
 this challenge!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Changes being made. . . . . . . . . . .

Monday again and before practicing my Tai Chi (oooh! it's really 
hard to remember all the moves) for tonight's class, I feel like writing
 a 'fashion post' of sorts.

I'm making what hopefully will be some easier to manage wardrobe changes.
This winter I decided to start on minimizing my overloaded closet.
This doesn't mean I've yet completed this project by any stretch of
the imagination. . . . . . . .but I have made some changes and am
definitely working on more. When I pack away my cold weather clothes
come Spring I plan to donate everything I didn't wear.
At my age I don't require so many clothes hanging in closets, folded on
 shelves, and stacked in drawers.
I have some favorites I will never part with. I have many items of the past few
 years working perfectly for my lifestyle, but I also have a load of lesser loved
clothes which have run their course for one reason or another. 
This doesn't mean I'll never not shop for anymore clothes, shoes, bags etc.
Let's face it, I'm only human and admit to being a woman who loves fashion.
Also, between you and me, just today I ordered footwear. . . . . more on that
in another post!

What I'm wanting for my lifestyle when it comes to dressing at this time of my life, 
is a cut and dried plan where less is more. It's going to be hard but the outcome 
looks promising.  Sailing on ships where I've been limited to keeping my 
clothing at a minimum due to space, I've discovered life is a lot easier 
when you have less to choose from, and even more exciting when your
 creative side is tapped into.
I plan to follow the mantra of companies such as Cuyana
'Fewer, better things.' 
This embodies essential pieces for the modern woman
made from premium materials and well constructed.

Eileen Fisher also comes to mind and I often look for sales as regular
 prices are high, but I can vouch that her clothes wear very well, the
 fabrics are wonderful, my type of elegant fashion - styles are edgy and
 never look dated.
I'm also a great J.Jill fan (see below) of many years and have several
now 'almost vintage' pieces of their clothing still wearable and enjoyed.

I think back to my younger days when my wardrobe was similar, much more
 sparse (and what I'm aiming for again) mainly because my mother made
 many of my clothes, textiles were important to us, and I didn't find what I 
wanted to wear in affordable shops. These days, with so many options for
 purchasing trendy clothing at cut rate prices, it seems we are lured into
 buying far too much. This way of dressing is great for the young, however
 perhaps we mature women need less as we downsize not only our wardrobes,
 but also many other facets of our lives. 

All that said, as I go through my clothes choosing what to pack for my upcoming
somewhat 'wild trip', I decided I will take one dress after all!
Several years ago I purchased a really nice black textured knit dress from J.Jill -
in fact I liked it so much I bought another when it went on sale. 
For me it's actually a perfect length worn as an above the knee tunic over leggings
 so will be ideal on board the ship as we don't need to take formal clothes.
 This little dress can easily be 'dressed up' with scarves or jewelry for evening. 

That's something I plan to address also in another post.
Costume jewelry to be exact - not our keepsake pieces marking those
very special dates in our lives - all the other cheapo 'stuff' which gets crammed
 into jewelry boxes, little cloth drawstring bags, discarded chocolate boxes!!!
You know where I'm coming from don't you?

Hope this will be a great week wherever you are.
Any plans to reorganize your own wardrobe?
Tips will be appreciated.

The lovely Japanese decluttering guru Marie Kondo can help with
 organizing and more. I'm pulling my copy of Spark Joy out of the
 bookcase right now!
Please note, I'm not involved in any advertising on my blog - any companies' products I name are only because I use/wear the items myself. 
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