Thursday, June 30, 2011

Goodbye June....................

It seems impossible that June is almost over.   

Each day hotter than the last. Many afternoons brought threatening dark clouds, distant thunder boomed, a lightning flash zigzagged across the sky, but hardly a raindrop fell on my garden. It has been such a struggle to keep plants from giving up and keeling over, let alone produce blooms that can survive these boiling hot days.  

But bloom they do, in all their glory, thanks perhaps to water from the garden hoses.  We drag them around, moaning and groaning in the heat while slapping at mosquitoes and other biting intruders...........early morning, afternoon, early evening, no matter the time, it's never cool. Yes, the lush green grass of May has turned to golden hay, but the flowers are opening and stunning us with their our efforts are worthwhile.

Sharing some of the flowers now putting on a show in my garden.....

Those Stargazer lilies again - with their pollen laden anthers!

Unexpected.............the angel trumpets blooming this early.  This plant usually doesn't get this tall or bloom until late Summer, even early Fall.  This one is already 5 feet high, loaded with buds which are now unfurling. I always cut this plant down to ground level and mulch heavily for winter survival.

The golden coneflower (Big Sky - Harvest Moon Coneflower), a change from the pink echinacea.  This one is new this year and is still in it's pot which is tucked into a sturdy concrete urn..........too hot to dig a healthy planting hole, but I will when a cool day arrives!

Roses, lovers of heat..........and their blooms keep coming.  Their lower leaves are not so happy, humidity brings black spot causing them to turn yellow and unsightly.  Above, new buds linked together by a delicate spider's thread......

....and when they open, the lovely rose, Peace.

I so enjoyed your comments on the Stargazer lilies.  They are eye catchers and, with several buds on each stem, you soon have enough to fill a vase.  Wish I could send each of you a bouquet from my garden.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Lilium "Stargazer".................................

A hybrid lily of the Oriental group, known for its fragrant perfume, blooming mid to late Summer............but unusually early this year, due I'm sure to our hot, dry weather.

Mine began opening their blooms this week.  I cut a few to bring indoors although I find their perfume far too heavy.  I always clip off the pollen laden anthers because they can stain fabrics and your skin, and these stains are hard to remove.

Stargazer lilies - Summer garden beauty.

Monday, June 27, 2011

How to keep cool.....................

Well it's becoming rather boring after day, night after night, searing temperatures, not a drop of rain.  When will it end?  No time soon if the weatherperson is accurate.

Living in the south.  Pleasant in the winter months...................hell in the summertime!

Things are not moving much over at the Vintage Village - local antiquing destination for treasure hunters. Even my booth at SuzAnna's Antiques is stuck in time it seems................not many shoppers want to even think about changing their decor when it's too hot to paint walls, furniture, or move stuff around.

I'm jealous of this cool looking French woman who has been baring her breasts on my dressing table! Draped in chunky silver and pewter, so audacious.  Casually chilling out in my air conditioned house, unencumbered by clothing as the temperature rises another degree each hour........and the humidity makes breathing hard labor.

So, I hung a tag around her cold neck, took her on a little ride wrapped in a wool blanket - just so she'd know how the rest of us feel as we wipe our moist and dripping brow when we step outside - and I put her up for sale!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

"Pack up your troubles........................... your old kit-bag and smile, smile, smile"

Old British World War I marching song that became a big music hall hit - published in London in 1915.

My version of a kit-bag is my neat canvas one displaying English gals participating in a tug o' war on some British beach - perhaps in the late forties from the style of the clothes. Sure looks like they're having fun though.

I packed up my bag and headed to Durham, NC last week to visit with my friend Vanessa for coffee, then a little retail therapy at an upscale mall near her home.  I really wanted to check out the new free standing Crate & Barrel shop, it carries a full line of furniture as well as all the usual merchandise.  The small C&B here in town closed when this larger store opened, it's about a twenty minute drive from Raleigh.

I was impressed.................but of course didn't order any beautiful, rather expensive furniture. I did buy these little gems though ready for Summer cool treats..........the bright white china berry strainer, small version latte/fruit bowls, and the adorable sorbet cups complete with spoons.......perfect size for a hot afternoon treat or after dinner dessert. I picked the turquoise, they also come in yellow, pink, green, all very pretty and inexpensive.

Next door is trendy Urban Outfitters.............this is part of the Anthropologie group and has been somewhat controversial over the years.  It caters to 18-30 year olds - affordable/adorable clothing, some home items.............and I love looking around to see what's 'in' and being worn to places my age group doesn't get to hang out in any longer!

While on the subject of furnishing rooms...........Vanessa's lovely cool living room, below, wow!  She has returned to her love of white and 'shabby chic' and it definitely felt perfect on another steaming hot day here in the south.  I could have just lolled about on her comfy couch the entire day!

Below, a corner of my own living room.  Loving a similar feel of coolness here especially on these close to 100 degree days.  Vanessa and I love the same things, no wonder we have so much fun shopping together. 

Summer in the south...............

  • White cotton twill custom made slip covers by my sweet Italian seamstress
  • French grain sack cushions purchased from gorgeous La Madone in Apt, Provence when visiting a few years ago - we stayed in Appartement Chanvre
  • Linen 'Royal Regatta' cushion from fun and talented Joy at SavvyCityFarmer
  • Sea grass woven balls, found somewhere, long ago
  • Cool mirrored table from Elegant Relic, Mebane, NC
  • On table, Australian stylist Sibella Court's amazing book ETCETERA etc'Creating beautiful interiors with the things you love'.  Gorgeous book design and photography.  Available at Anthropologie, and elsewhere I'm sure.
  • Galvanized vintage gym baskets from ScreenDoor, Asheville, NC, for storing all those decorating magazines I can't part with - and WILL flip the pages and read again on the porch, in the shade, with a cool raspberry lemonade. Perhaps later today when it's too hot to even think of doing much of anything!

Hope you are enjoying a perfect Summer weekend.  How about sharing what you are doing to stay cool!

Thursday, June 23, 2011


 Are you ready for a perfumed post?  Hope you love lavender, and don't pass out from spending an hour or so in 95 degrees, while I show you the beautiful items made from this favorite plant.

Weekend before last I was invited to attend the Lavender Harvest Celebration at Sunshine Lavender Farm in Orange County, North Carolina, just an hour's drive past brilliant green cornfields and pastures filled with gentle grass-chewing cows.

Lavender picked that week was already drying in the barn, and inside I watched how the dried flowers are removed by hand from the stems...........the perfume was intoxicating.

Out in the lavender field, many plants were still producing long stems with plenty of flowers.  Several types of lavender are grown here in the area including Provence, Grosso, and Hidcote.  Oyster shells are used as mulch and to reflect sunlight, interesting.

Plenty of lavender plants for sale.  I purchased three Hidcote (English) to add to other lavender plants I have on a small raised area in my garden.  They seem to do well there and within a couple of years perhaps I'll be filling sachets with my own lavender flowers.

Always nice to have growing advice given...............hopefully I'm meeting the criteria for raising healthy plants.

The delightful Annie who owns Sunshine Lavender Farm, and her staff, had been busy making great products.  She is off to visit lavender farms in Provence next month - I told her she'll love every minute.

All the above items were for sale during the was a lovely way to spend a Saturday in the country.

Later DH and I sat here in the shade for a little break from the sweltering sun.  Enjoyed a scoop of amazing lavender vanilla ice cream - from that same farm I told you about recently, Maple View Dairy, check it out if you're in the area.  I hear that sitting on their front porch in the rocking chairs, enjoying a cone or dish of freshly churned ice cream, while watching the sun set over the cornfields, is a delightful way to spend a Summer evening.  It's on my 'to do' list.

Do you like to leave town and take a country drive?  
Or are you one of the lucky ones who already live down on the farm?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The tie to brother

In the cool of the evening...............

................he flew across the Channel, from his home in France, and helped us wash down the delicious chevre from Normandy with a nice bottle of wine.  My dear brother, my only sibling, who almost lives in a vineyard.  

What a great evening.  The apartment buzzer rang as I tossed the salad.  The fish pie was baked, DH had opened the wine................and there we were, after far too long, toasting and eating in the company of real family.  

John, with his easy Summer haircut - apparently my SIL gave him the once over and tidied him up before leaving home!

Although I am eight years older than my brother, we were very close as children and, despite the many miles between us since I left home and came to the USA, thankfully still are.  He, and his family, left London to live in a small village in the south of France several years ago.

Sailing regatta in the bay.

For the next couple of days we explored our home town, visited with our cousins, their children, and friends, shopped a bit, had meals in our favorite fish 'n chip place, hung out in some favorite pubs, and enjoyed our lovely seaside.

An old-fashioned hardware shop full of things you can't find anywhere else - we love shopping there!

One of our special village pubs down at the end of a narrow lane winding precariously toward the sea - always nice for lunch and a drink.

All too soon it was time for him to return to his village where the wine is cheap (and good!), to his garden where the ripening tomatoes needed TLC, and his wife and daughter too of course.  What a great time we had at home together for a little while.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The French connection........lovely day on the bay

No, that's not the coast of France!  It's the fishing port of Brixham across Tor Bay.  This town was the birthplace of my father so has always been a must visit each time I go home. 

Brixham is a quaint, bustling port at the southern end of the bay with a proud and fascinating maritime heritage. Life takes place mostly along the harbor and waterfront, there's always something of interest happening.  Brixham is one of the UK's busiest fishing ports and the premier provider of fresh seafood to some of the country's leading chefs and restaurants.  

On the Sunday afternoon when we visited in May, the unexpected find was a French market set up under the old fish market canopy - seen on the left in the above pic. 

These artisan bakers, cheese makers, olive growers etc., take the ferry over to England on Thursday nights, set up their stalls in three venues, one each day, and sell their excellent foods before sailing back to Normandy on Sunday night.

Oh my goodness, did we hit it right in Brixham that Sunday!

In case you don't know, Bob and I are what one might call gregarious folk.  We love to meet people, talk (perhaps too much at times!) and learn about their lives.    

Food can always be an ice breaker, everyone is interested in eating!  These beautiful loaves caught my eye first - I'm such a sucker for good bread............  

..............and before we could say "merci beaucoup" our new friend Eric, had not only sold us two loaves, walnut and fig, he had gifted Bob and I with three of the most fabulous fresh goat cheeses ever!

The rest of the story - you just know there has to be more - is we now have an invitation to Eric's goat farm, Cheverie du Mesnil in Normandy, where not only will he and his wife Martine soon have a lovely B&B room ready in their farmhouse, I will also be offered lessons on making goat cheese and getting to meet, and frolic with, the 75 sweet goats in their herd!

Above, Eric on the left, and his assistant Fabien, weighing the wedge of nutty flavored Comte cheese I purchased.  How I love Frenchmen who know good food!

Eric's goat cheeses were definitely the best ever.  Will we get to visit his farm?  Hopefully yes, perhaps next year.  Eric speaks excellent English so we know he was serious.  He gave us his dog-eared Normandy map with directions to his village, his address and phone numbers.  We hugged as we said "au revoir". I love goats, cheese, French grey paint, France, Frenchmen................and have been waiting to visit the Normandy/Brittany area for a long time.  This was all so much fun.

Next stop along the harbor is always special also.  CLAWS, the tiny but fabulous home of Jenny's famous fresh crab sandwiches is where we stop for our lunch or an afternoon snack.  The tables are under the blue and white umbrellas, close to the waterside action.

Jenny left, with her helpers, Jo and Amy. Love their seaside 'uniforms' and, as always, the charming blue and white china - no flimsy paper plates for these fabulous, fresh from the bay, crab sandwiches, served with a good cuppa too!

More views from around Brixham's bustling harbor.............

...............where 'messing about in boats' continues from early morning until dusk.............

............whether paddling a tiny rowboat, or maneuvering a large fishing boat into port.

All this commotion is watched over by hundreds of seagulls.

The last ferry of the day arrived to take us back across the bay to Torquay.........

............home sweet home comes into full of fancy condos and pricey yachts.  Must admit I preferred it during my childhood days, still 'Victorian' and elegant.

Below are the spoils of our visit to the French market that afternoon.......thank you Eric.

Later I'll share who came to dinner to enjoy these delicious cheeses and bread, with of course a nice red wine...........the almost French man in my family!