Saturday, July 31, 2010

Pink fun

Have you ever met a kid who doesn't love macaroni and cheese?  Have you ever found a ready-made one that's so good the kids have to fight off the adults to even get a bite?
Last week before heading to camp, Jasmin suggested we have a kitchen day and bake up her favorite macaroni and cheese casserole.......and she wanted to help!

Despite the heat outside, cranking up the oven (and the a/c) seemed a way to give some kitchen tips to a budding chef.  Learning to grate three cheeses without adding fingers for instance!  Boiling penne pasta - more elegant than actual macaroni - until it still has a little bite.  Cooking a Bearnaise sauce from scratch without lumps!  Making the best breadcrumbs for a crispy top from whole grain rather than white bread.

Our lunch - we didn't drink the wine but it adds a touch of pink - and DH and I indulged later at dinner, a glass of chilled rose for a hot night!  I love to add sliced tomatoes to the top - you can see the ones we've picked from our garden on the counter and more ripening on the windowsill.

The best recipe............British cook Ruth Watson's Posh Three-Cheese Macaroni which she says, and I agree wholeheartedly, is fit for the Queen!  It takes much more time than opening a bland box......but is worth every minute in the kitchen with a favorite assistant!

Happy Pink Saturday......whether you're planning a kitchen day, or dipping your fingers and toes in a cool ocean, before heading to a nice seaside restaurant where someone else is slaving over the hot stove! Stop by to see Beverly of How Sweet The Sound, our hostess - lots of fun pink posts awaiting your visit.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Not too shabby, eh?

When one of your much-loved, very best friends, has better taste than you, sometimes you covet things she buys for a song.......or a beautiful Brazilian smile!!!  Vanessa finds amazing things on Craigslist, whereas I've yet to spy a single item calling to me online. She finds treasures with tiny price tags in some yucky shops that I would just drive by without stopping.............

.................and on one of my visits to Vanessa's home a few months back (she lives here now - Brazil's great loss!), this Craigslist find was in her living room and I wanted it big time!  I even looked her in the eye, fingers crossed behind my back, and said I would buy it if she ever decided to change out the room again.

Isn't this a great table?  Guess what?  Vanessa decided to sell it and yours truly is now the owner.  Here it's photographed in place at my house as Vanessa delivered it yesterday..............with a promise from me that she can come visit at it any time! She still loves it but has no place to put it. 

The beautiful French-looking bowl, perfectly crazed and stained, was a gift from Vanessa last year and looks perfect on her my table!

Vanessa likes to change her decor often.......we all need a friend like her.  She's been shopping around with me for months while I've searched for a table to replace the one in front of my window.  Everything we measured was just too deep and wouldn't work in that space.  I also wanted something more vintage in style, with pretty lines, preferably already painted off-white, chipped up a bit, with a useful drawer, and with space to push the ottoman under......just like Vanessa's former table!

I'm thrilled and now can move on with the other changes planned for this room.  As you know by now, I have eclectic taste when it comes to decorating my home....a little French from the brocantes of Provence.......of course some English touches as in china, lots of china........shabby farmhouse........and I'm actually searching for something 'industrial' now to throw into the mix.  Guess I'd better make a date to go shopping again with sweet friend Vanessa soon!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A New Baby...............

You expect them in the cool mornings of Springtime. New baby birds flitting back and forth, strengthening tiny wings, while parent birds watch from a nearby branch.  Last week, early on an already smoldering Summer morning, when windows were steamed over from the air conditioned chill inside, a tiny visitor sat on the wicker chair watching me.

Unexpected this late in the year, at first I wasn't certain of the breed because long tail feathers have yet to grow, but it's definitely a Gray Catbird.  It made tiny cheeps and before long it's mommy showed up, a lovely black crowned, slate-gray grownup Catbird checking on her youngster, and they both hopped over to the potting table. Luckily my camera was handy so I caught these images through the hazy dining room window.

A secretive bird that the Chippewa Indians named 'Bird That Cries With Grief' due to its raspy call.  The call sounds like a house cat mewing, hence its common name.

I'm hoping this baby makes it through these torrid Summer days - it looked healthy and has it's parent to lead it to the bird bath which is filled with fresh water each day.  I've read that Catbirds often become residents of a single garden for many years if the undergrowth is thick and brushy.  Hopefully this one will move into our heavily shrubbed area permanently.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Gift from across the pond................

Newsflash:  A lovely and unexpected handcrafted gift arrived from the UK just as I was leaving on a recent vacation trip - this is my first chance to share it with you.

The quilted cushion cover with the buttons was made by blog friend Anne at Silver Sewer.  She and her husband recently moved from the north of England to live in Scotland again.  Anne gets more done in a day than many of us do in a week!  I always enjoy reading her daily online journal complete with what's growing in her garden, cooking in her kitchen, and interesting places she visits in the northern British Isles.

Anne's cushion, hugged up to this toile one I made, makes a great pair, both in pale gold and French blue-gray....I just love them together.
Thanks for the really sweet surprise Anne.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Staying cool and heading to camp................

We didn't stray far from home last week.  The 'dog days of Summer' continue relentlessly.  No waiting for August, they've been here since June this year!  Better to share a cool spot inside away from the oppressive heat, the humidity, and biting bugs on their search for moisture on human skin.  The parched crisp grass is no place for barefoot wandering......its bright green blades now turned to ochre spikes.

The early morning garden shows a ray of hope.......will it be cooler today?  Soon the 'glories' fade as temperatures climb and the blooms fold inward, enclosing the cool blues and purples until tomorrow when fresh ones awake at dawn.

Taking the camera outside these mornings means instant veiled shots as heat and moisture cloud the filter required.

While the birds clamber aboard the feeders seeming more ravenous than ever, the gentle butterflies and moths alight on the moist flowers to drink........... 

..............and still the roses bloom between the now faded and baked hydrangeas, opening their petal layers for just a day or so before they too shrivel along their edges, turning old and withered before their time.

This week Jasmin is not here.  Recently we've been sharing the dining room table, using our laptops to look for 'cool things' and watching nature struggle in the heat outside the window. She's off on her annual Summer camp week with friends old and new.  Swimming in the lake and pool, singing and performing skits around the evening fire pit, trying archery this year, perhaps playing volleyball again.  No laptop, iPad, cell phone, television........just good old fashioned outdoor fun.........which all kids need.
"Have a fabulous time Jasmin, I'll be waiting to hear all about it next week".

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Forever is a long time......................

Paula and Mary ~ Lake Almanor, California ~ July 2009

Come December, we gals will celebrate 48 years of true friendship.  Although we lived in the same English town as children, we didn't meet until we both moved to Washington, D.C. in 1962.  It was as if fate brought us together on foreign soil. We became roommates for a while, sharing an exciting time in the big city until Paula moved to California.  Over the years we've often shared times together, most recently in sub-Saharan Africa on that awesome safari.  Soon I'll be heading to Northern California again for a week of fun at Paula's Summer home on beautiful Lake Almanor.

Toka Leya camp on the Zambezi River, Zambia ~ May 2010

Paula's world travels encompass countries and places many of us have never even heard of!  Her photos are awesome and she shares them on her great website.  You will see Africa, Antarctica, and everywhere in between. Be sure to visit her here on Paula's Planet to view all her stunning albums, including our African safari.

How fortunate I am to have shared this amazing friendship for so long.............and I know I'm in for another big hug very soon!

Washington, D.C. ~ 1963

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Pink Saturday............cherries are here.

Cherry ripe, cherry ripe,
Ripe I cry,
Full and fair ones
Come and buy.
~ English Folk Song ~ poet Robert Herrick 1591-1674 ~

Just had to pen the annual cherry post now they are offered up for sampling, buying, baking, bottling, jam making, and just plain eating.  Red, pink, ripe, and so juicy.

Granddaughter Jasmin arrives at our house around 8:45 AM during Summer vacation and has her healthy breakfast here - OJ, cereal, rosemary olive toast (Super Target's own Archer Farms brand is fabulous), fresh grapes and cherries.

Southwest France the Summer of 2006.....Jasmin sampled cherries from this awesome French outdoor market stall and pronounced them as "the best ever".  I had to agree, they were delicious "full and fair ones".

Time to bake a traditional French dessert, the Cherry Clafoutis.  As we've eaten them all I guess I need to run out and buy more very soon as the season is short.  Don't forget, OXO makes a good inexpensive cherry pitter - a necessity to keep tucked in that kitchen drawer full of more useless knick-knacks!

HAPPY PINK SATURDAY - be sure to visit hostess Beverly at How Sweet The Sound to see and share all shades of PINK.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Old crocks, marmalade and lavender.............. doesn't that headline make you think "English"?

I doubt there are many of you who don't love lavender.  Freshly blooming while growing it's beautiful, especially massed in rolling fields such as in Provence, also now in some areas of the US, Britain, and other countries.  Why it decides not to do well in my garden has always confounded me! But I keep on trying, planting some most years in hopes I'll eventually be drying enough for a few homemade sachets.

Meanwhile, I buy my dried lavender, so of course had to try a little bag full of freshly dried blooms from this lovely shop in New Hampshire.  Loved how it was displayed in a vintage glass jar with a china cup to scoop.

I was thrilled to find this very old and well-crazed marmalade crock at this same shop.  Like all proper Brits, I grew up getting my oranges spread on something crisp and buttery!  I have always preferred a good chunky marmalade on my morning toast over any other jam or jelly.
My collection of English crockery containers is still small, but I'm always on the lookout for more.

bowerbird and friends ~ a cute shop across from my favorite Red Chair Antiques in Peterborough, NH

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Gifts for the journey..............

Some people are such savvy shoppers and gift givers, always knowing what the perfect something will be for a friend. 
You may remember my post before leaving for Africa sharing some fabulous gifts I received to take on my adventure.  Thought you might enjoy seeing them again being used on safari.

Longtime, very special and dear friend Elinor, right here in North Carolina, gave me the perfect JOURNAL, seen here as I enjoyed my Bush Tea one afternoon by the plunge pool at Vumbura Plains camp in Botswana.  Without my daily entries I would never have been able to regale you with my safari stories.......the adventure was so exciting only a journal could keep everything in order, especially when it came to editing the 2000 plus photos I took!

The walkway at Toka Leya, Zambia
Artist, poet, musician, jeweler, designer and needlewoman, dear friend Patti in the Pacific Northwest, created the perfect 'jewel' for travel.......a gossamer flower pin weighing no more than a fairy's wing.  Here you see it on my cardigan ready to go to dinner at Toka Leya on the bank of the mighty Zambezi River.  As my wardrobe was limited to the contents of a duffel bag, Patti's flower gave a touch of elegance to many a plain t-shirt! 

Be sure to visit Patti's Etsy shop Patrician Crafts to view her beautiful creations....and shipping is free.

If you follow my visits to wonderful SuzAnna's Antiques here in Raleigh, you know by now that lovely Jenny, co-owner with her sweet mom Susie, is one always-smiling, laughing, funny gal.  Her gift above, though practical, was a must-have and came in very useful behind many a bush or rock!  How I laughed when I opened you see it displayed at Duma Tau camp, our second stop in Botswana.

Also shown at Duma Tau, and swinging above the Zambezi at Toka Leya in Zambia, my Baggallini travel bag from wonderful blog friend Sarah at Hyacinths for the Soul in the great state of Texas.  I was speechless when this gift arrived in the mail.....this little bag is really HUGE!  It has so many pockets and places to stash your stuff, yet always closes and stays flat against your body either over or under your clothing.  The hardware is even my favorite brushed silver.  It came with two different width straps, this shows the narrow one, both wonderfully long and adjustable - being tall I can never find a bag with a long enough strap to wear across the body....this one is perfect!

And........look at the print!  Couldn't have been more perfect for Africa, but is also a conversation starter here at home and looks great with my always neutral colored clothing.

Each travel gift was used over and over on my adventure.  You can bet those wonderful friends who gave them were often on my mind........guess in a way I took them to Africa with me!  Thanks again ladies, you were all so thoughtful and very generous.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Garden gift brings tears..............

We are growing tomatoes and cucumbers again this Summer.  Fortunately, our daughter and her boyfriend came by and watered the garden on those stifling days while we were up north.  This means we now have a harvest and are gathering our vegetables almost daily.  A few days ago the boyfriend sent us a gift....a large, perfect green pepper from their patio garden.  Sun-ripened, crisp and slightly hot - it made me cry when I cut it open.  This must be an onion in disguise I thought for a moment as a tear rolled down my cheek onto the cutting board!

We've enjoyed this pepper in our salads............the Summer savoring moments of freshness.  Nothing beats just picked from the garden.

Speaking of gardens ~ be sure to stop by my granddaughter Jasmin's blog Live Love Laugh where you can see her beautiful garden images taken with her first SLR camera!

Who's growing vegetables this Summer?
What are you growing? 
Is your harvest keeping you busy in the kitchen? 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Hot Summer Nights...............

Yesterday I stripped this guest room bed of it's puffy and much too warm duvet, brought out the Rachel Ashwell cool white, ruffled cotton sheets, and smoothed a white cotton blanket beneath what seems to be a constantly running air conditioning system.

Dog days of Summer?  You bet they are.

Company coming?  No way..........this cool room is for me!
Sleeping dog husband can lie, tossing and groaning under his duvet.................downstairs in the master. I'm spending the remainder of my hot Summer nights in the French bedroom, cool, calm and collected, stretched out on my silky Shabby Chic sheets.

French hemp grain sack pillows purchased in Provence.

How are you managing the heatwave, if you're having one in your area?

Isn't it the best feeling to have a room of your own? 
Somewhere cool and pretty where you can sneak away from everything on a stifling, muggy, sticky Summer's eve.  I love having guests but quite honestly I'm glad there aren't any on their way here this month!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Boma dining.......African food

Our introduction to dining in an outdoor room called a boma happened at Vumbura Plains in Botswana.  A circular space within walls of tightly bundled reeds or wood stakes, with a central blazing fire, the boma is a traditional African natural space originally used as a stockade or livestock enclosure giving protection from the elements.  At Vumbura, following dinner, we were entertained by the staff with dancing and songs of love, praise and thanks.

The cereal choice at breakfast - Rattray's on MalaMala

Every meal in the countries of Botswana, Zambia and South Africa (didn't stay or dine in Zimbabwe - just crossed into the country to view Victoria Falls) was a delicious experience.  Freshly picked, cooked, baked, served...........beautiful not only to the taste buds, but to look at also.  I seriously doubt a can was opened or a frozen box defrosted to add to any meal, and certainly no microwave ovens were lurking in the kitchens. So, diets (as in "let's lose weight") were thrown to the wind without any caution whatsoever.  I devoured everything in wild abandon (except meat which I don't ever eat), in sensible portions as there were so many interesting items to try, and at dinner drank a glass, sometimes two, of excellent South African wine....................and came home five pounds lighter!  This tells me the American diet needs serious attention!

'Our' four chairs in the bar!

Alan, Rattray's extremely attentive bartender, always addressed us as 'Madam' and served us each evening with an aperitif and freshly baked delicious appetizers at the bar.

The bar and lounge area - a very elegant and comfy colonial style gathering place prior to dinner. Of interest was it being home to several small bats who sleep behind the large framed wildlife photos during the day!  First evening I was surprised when they flew out into the bar and through the open French windows on their evening hunt for food.  As you probably know, bats will always return to the same place unless screened they just allow them to share the delights of such a nice place, feast on any mosquitoes, and hopefully they've never bitten anyone while enjoying an evening drink!

Gordon, a charming South African from Durban, was the perfect ranger/guide/host and took care of we four sometimes wild and chatty Brits!  Each evening at the bar he would read the dinner menu to us and take orders for our drinks. We all fell in love with Gordon and wanted to be his grandma! He's 24, single, very smart, and has a great sense of humor - a necessity when driving we four around for 6 days straight!  Paula invited him to California next Summer so hopefully we'll meet up again......or perhaps in Africa again some day!!

Edited Sunday:
Just received a super e-mail from Gordon above - he enjoyed us - "his adoptive grandmas" - so much he will come to visit us in the USA next year.  What a delight that will be! Now, if we can just find him a lovely girlfriend to share his next adventure!

My yummy vegetable crepe at Toka Leya camp in Zambia.

Lunch at Toka Leya with Babs and Jen's amazing salad!

Boma dining (Paula lower left)at MalaMala, SA - chairs with blankets and hot water bottles for the evening chill.  Staff singing beautiful African songs at the end of the meal.
The boma at Rattray's on MalaMala was inviting and the food fantastic.
My choice one night -
Freshly Baked Garlic Bread (amazingly good and served nightly)
Wild Mushroom Risotto
Asparagus and Goat Cheese Tart
Selection of Vegetables
Creme Caramel
South African Rose wine

I found no fault whatsoever with the food served in these delightful camps - another reason I would love to return.
Bon Appetit!!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Pink Saturday in Quebec........historic and fun city

Wandering through the pretty streets of Quebec City you'll not lack for eye candy.......and along the way there's always a hint of PINK popping up.

Architecture, flowers............lovely places to wander and breath in the 'Frenchness' of the city.....and look at those authentic French outdoor cafe chairs!

Interesting restaurant and shop signs.

French grocery with delicious foods and pretty things.

Place Royale ~ we enjoyed a tasty pizza and salad lunch at the restaurant tucked in the corner. Behind the flower boxes and under a sunbrella we found respite from the blazing sun for an hour!

Paris kiosk?  No, Quebec City!

Hotel Chateau Frontenac.

Funicular down to Vieux-Port de Quebec (the original old town and port on the St-Lawrence River).

Shopping in Vieux Quebec.

Best wishes for your PINK SATURDAY and weekend.
Hey, join in and beat the heat - stay in your a/c cooled space and and visit Beverly at How Sweet The Sound for lots more pink!