Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Back to Africa........

Bob and I are preparing to pack again!
No heavy, bulky suitcases complete with 
formal evening wear this time. Instead, 
those soft-sided, no wheels, ever so 
lightweight duffel bags, a backpack each, 
and all our gear very casual, comfy, and 
colored khaki, olive or grey.
We've made our lists and we'll be on our way 
late next week.

You may have followed my first African safari trip in May 2010...........the expedition of a lifetime. The 'Four Old Broads Abroad' - Paula, Jen, Babs and yours truly - having an amazing time in southern Africa. Perhaps you even recall me saying how I would go back in a heartbeat if the planets were in alignment, the good Lord willing, and with my best friend of almost fifty years, Paula, leading the way!  

Never give up on your dreams, they sometimes come true.
Counting down the days..........southern Africa is almost on the horizon again, and this time my wonderful husband is coming too. I am so excited......Bob is slightly nervous, just as I was the first time. We'll be in the four beautiful countries shown on the map above.

I think I captured the essence of the grand safari trip with some good images last time. I used my digital point and shoot, the Olympus with the 26X zoom. It's a great camera and will be going with me again. This time I will also be using a Canon SLR, a fabulous gift from Paula. She wants me to have a fast shutter to catch those running cheetahs and high flying colorful African birds........just like she does.

It's doubtful I'll be able to blog much, if at all. Heck they don't even have hairdryers in most camps let alone Internet - those generators work overtime just to provide light, hot water, and a means of cooking all that delicious fresh food! In a way it's better because there are exciting times experience African countries without modern technology is the way to see the beauty of the magical landscape, experience the amazing animals, and engage the beautiful people. Handwriting a journal again will be my way of recording my daily thoughts......later I'll bring it all together and share with you the amazing continent of Africa.

Wildlife images from my 2010 African safari.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Jubilee Days........................

Yes, it's almost time!  
Time to be glued to the 'telly' if you're a Royal watcher, a royalist, and of course an ex-pat like me! If you're not able to cross the pond and grab a front row seat along the River Thames in London, or in a boat, to join in the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant, TV might be on your schedule next weekend.
Her Majesty The Queen, with members of the Royal Family, will be aboard the Royal Barge, accompanied by a flotilla of over one thousand boats from around the world.

Click here for the full story of an exciting and historic occasion next Sunday, June 3 - and check your local TV listings for coverage - looks like BBC-America and CNN will be broadcasting the London festivities over several days as there are many exciting parades and parties in celebration of Queen Elizabeth's 60th anniversary on the throne. I believe this will be even more fun than a royal wedding - and a great lead up to the upcoming Summer Olympic Games also in London in July.

Thanks Jackie of Jackie's Life in Surrey for the heads up on the happy occasion. 

Long Live Our Queen!

Monday, May 28, 2012


We absolutely loved this movie!  
Ladies and gentlemen, you will love it too. If you have a chance to see it in your neighborhood, run don't walk to the next show. Amazing cast of the best British actors......Judi Dench shines as always and everyone is perfectly cast. Colors, noise, and smells of India visually and audibly surround you.......believe me, having just returned from seeing a little of India firsthand, it's authentic! Poignant, with a few sad moments, but hilarious most of the time.......and it will change your thoughts on aging. We left the theatre feeling wonderful, holding hands, and grateful for two hours of genuine enjoyment from a movie.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Classes at SuzAnna's Antiques..........

 Last weekend I took a really fun class at 
SuzAnna's Antiques............about using power 
tools to refinish furniture, then painting and 
distressing it to get that look so many of us crave...............
old French country, antique Swedish, beautiful Belgian, and American farmhouse.......using chalk paint.

Each participant received a mini paint brush 
tied sweetly with fresh rosemary, 
such a delightful touch.....

 .......and SuzAnna's owners, mom and daughter, Susie and Jenny, had a beautiful table set with flowers and vintage items, along with tasty snacks. Had to laugh when Jenny popped in just as we were starting the class, grabbed that bright yellow chair and ran out the door apologizing but somebody wanted to buy it!  Hey, never pass up a sale in this business.

 Sarah who gave the class was a bundle of energy, teaching us tricks, short cuts, ideas for getting the look we wanted onto our furniture finds. This table was the demo we worked on. The one I forgot to photograph was already finished and lovely, and who won it in the draw - along with two very nice painted ladder back chairs - but my friend Jeannette whom I talked into coming to the class with me!

 This is the first of the 'How To' classes 
planned at SuzAnna's - I just know 
they'll all be fun.

 While there I took a few shots of treasures around the yard and shop........including a fun new way to fashion odd glass pieces into yard art. I thought these really nifty and a great way to recycle.

Of course for me the biggest 'treasure' is stopping by SuzAnna's when my granddaughter Jasmin is working on the weekends - here she shows a French style sign which spells her name correctly, without an 'e'!
I think Jasmin has learned a lot about antiques and retail sales here........she's been visiting the shop from a very young age when Susie first opened, and she's been employed for over a year.....such a great part-time job for a high school student.

 Way to go Jasmin!

Sharing the bounty..........

Blog friends are awesome. Sharing their interesting lives, their thoughts, their dreams............and sometimes even the bounty from their gardens! My dear friend Sara in Southern California became an online friend several years ago and we've kept in touch through our blogs. Hoping to meet in person one of these fine days, we are often in touch online, and we've shared several special books we know each of us might enjoy reading.

Sara's image of her tree - edited by me with her permission

Imagine my joy last week when a large box arrived, not books this time, but a selection of Sara's perfect and delicious avocados freshly picked from this lovely old tree in her garden! Truly, the very best avocados I've ever eaten. Again Sara, thank you for sharing and sending them all those miles across the country. 
Our salads and sandwiches have been so tasty lately, yum!!!!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The perfect porch gift..........

At long last I met up with Jane of Blondie's Journals when she and her husband were visiting Asheville, and it was a lot of fun. At the luncheon we exchanged gifts as is customary in blogland, and a first real life hug after several years of blogging hugs!
Jane gave me the perfect candleholder especially for the front's so pretty and has beautiful trees etched on the side. I really love it and enjoyed hanging it out there today.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Mountains, blog friends, and treasures........

 Thankfully Bob didn't need much cajoling to take me to the mountains this week! He loves such trips and enjoys meeting my blog friends who live or visit there. It's about a 4-1/2 drive west to Asheville and I just knew it would be fun. The weather was not the greatest and getting good mountain shots through showers and mist was hard. Although we've met up with the two Pennys before, it was our first meeting with Jane and her husband who were visiting from Chicago.

Walking through Biltmore Village to meet the group for lunch, I enjoyed the landscaping along the streets..............above, the Verbena bonariensis mixed with white daises was 'cottagey' and lovely, making me realize I need to try growing it again.

Surprised to see such beautiful cacti in this area - the prickly pear was covered in blooms and as you can see, the slug had already staked out a lunch spot!

No, we didn't meet for lunch at the local Biltmore McDonald's! Although, due to the strict building codes here it is an extremely elegant building, complete with a player piano, decorative signage, and plantings not usually seen at fast food joints!!!

Instead, a fun, tasty lunch shared at Asheville's Corner Kitchen in the charming Biltmore Village complex. Bob, and Jane's charming hubby, were able to chat at one end of this long farm table while we all enjoyed the food, exchanged some beautiful gifts, and talked up a storm.......literally!

Immediately after we took this photo the Amazon jungle style rain started.......not a gentle shower or light drizzle, a storm of falling cats and dogs type rain! The torrents fell like sheets of cold Winter rain, bouncing off everything in sight, filling the streets and turning them into rivers..........Asheville was flooded in minutes and we couldn't get to our car to catch up with 'the Pennys' who were on their way to the ScreenDoor for treasure hunting! Jane and The Husband were off to do other things - hopefully in a drier place.

Once at the ScreenDoor, where I squelched about in sopping sandals after running through the parking lot in torrents of rain, crashes of thunder and flashes of lightning, I still was able to fall in love with this French linen monogrammed sheet.....of course!  A bit beyond my budget sadly, but am still thinking of it.  The two Pennys loved it also.

 Interesting old wirework chair - would be lovely in the garden with a huge pot containing something with cobalt blue blooms

Another garden or porch chair with wonderful rusted paint shades.......and the painting is displayed perfectly here.

I coveted these paper roses fashioned into a simple wreath.................and even the unusual cracked mirror.  I did purchase a few similar roses and will show them in another post. Note also the simple but charming vintage book pages used for a bunting hanging above, now that would be easy to replicate. Crafting evening anyone?

More beautiful French style bottles.  One is nice but a collection of shapes and shades would be awesome in a sunny window.

Always a plethora of unusual chairs at the ScreenDoor, such as these which caught my eye. They'd need a brush with chalk paint and burlap or fine linen seats for my house, but are stunning. 

I even purchased my French bergère chair there a couple of years ago, stuffing it into the back seat of the Camry and oohing and aahing over it all the way home............even though it was dark wood and really hideous ugly green upholstery..........

.......but now looks like this after my painting effort and a local guy handy with linen and a sewing machine!

OK, I think you get the picture.........I had a wonderful road trip to Asheville to meet the great blogging gals and look forward already to doing it again perhaps over the Summer.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Creative friends and French finds...........

I love spending time with creative friends.................and Penny of 
The Comforts of Home is one of the best. 

Above are some of the beautiful pieces she has painted using Annie Sloan's Chalk Paint. They are for sale in her booth at Needful Things Antiques Mall in Hendersonville, NC.
You can also see some of her signature mosaic pieces on the chest....the birdhouse is magnificent.

Now this French settee, recently restored - like in stripped naked - and graciously re-painted and upholstered in linen, is Penny's fait is perfect and would be coming home with me if only I had space to place it in the cottage. Whereas............that lovely nesting set of tables will not only find a spot to nestle comfortably at home, I'm even able to get them in the car to take them back to Raleigh!

Another treasure I decided needed to come home with me was this unique lazy Susan for my farm table. Penny refinished it and added the writing - I'll find plenty of use for this piece and it will go perfectly with my French dough bowl.

We'll be heading home later today, but first I need to get to bed for a few hours sleep.......then later I'll have time to tell you more about meeting for lunch with this Penny, the other Penny, and a certain 'Blondie'
 whom many of you know!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Friendship flowers.................

I was out in the early morning sun and cool air before leaving town for Asheville yesterday. Clad in pajamas again, slippers on my feet, with scissors in hand, I cut a bouquet of hydrangeas to take to dear friend Penny who blogs here at The Comforts of Home. Penny sold her beautiful house recently and is renting another home in the North Carolina mountains for a, until she builds a new home with a flower garden, I thought she might enjoy some blooms from my garden.

I tucked them into a vase of water, propped 
securely in a wine box, and they 
traveled well during the 4-1/2 hour ride westward.

I met up with Penny at her booth at the antiques mall 'Needful Things' in Hendersonville. When I get home I'll show you the lovely purchases I made there....while DH was reading the newspaper, and perhaps taking a little nap among the antiques, after the long drive!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Heading to the mountains..........

My favorite Asheville antiques mall- ScreenDoor
Image from my previous visit

I'm leaving on a road trip with DH for a few days. 
We'll be enjoying Springtime and mountain gazing in 
North Carolina's stunning western 
Blue Ridge Mountains.
 Image via Wikipedia

While there I'll be meeting three wonderful blog friends.........we'll be 
lunching, chatting, and treasure hunting around 
Asheville's great shops.
I'll tell you all about it when I get back!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Gazebos are glorious............

The GAZEBO........  
  • A pavilion structure, sometimes octagonal, that may be built in gardens, parks, and spacious public areas.
  • Roofed and open on all sides; they provide shade, shelter, ornamental features in a landscape, and a place to rest.
  • Some gazebos in public parks are large enough to serve as bandstands or rain shelters

You know how I delight in my screened gazebo pictured above ~ a comfy retreat from the 'buggy' backyard world, especially now when the warm weather mosquitoes are arriving and already biting with a vengeance. The foxes are still passing through the garden often but I've yet to see any kits this Spring.  
I found these really beautiful Indian candle holders at TJMaxx recently. Reasonably priced at just $8 on sale, I bought two to hang in the gazebo. They have a removable insert holding a tea light which is easy to lift out and replenish. Just realized my reflection is in the glass.................and of course I'll be spending time out there as often as possible now the weather is so lovely.

Where do you sit in your garden?
Are you bothered by biting/stinging insects?

Friday, May 18, 2012

A slice of life................

Today will be busy around the cottage.  In fact the entire weekend is filled with things to get done.  Life is hectic but wonderful.

Here's my Saturday 'to do' list.

  • Early today, deadhead the rose bushes and trim the periwinkle and ivy bed
  • Water the flower pots and large shrubs before the heat sets in
  • Do laundry and ironing of travel clothes
  • Start packing for the trip to the North Carolina mountains next week
  • Shop for salad greens 
  • Make the delicate orange flavored Gâteau Piège for tea, pictured above from when I made it last time, yum! Thanks to the delightful Clotilde Desoulier's recipe from her sweet cookbook, Chocolate & Zucchini ~ Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen
  • Catch up on e-mails
  • Learn more about my fabulous new SLR camera 
  • Learn more about the fabulous lens I purchased to use with the camera
  • Complete the rebate paperwork to make the lens a little less costly!
  • Practice, practice, practice taking photos 
  • Gift a special first grader with a digital point and shoot to get her interested in photography
  • Check paperwork/packing list for the next big adventure coming soon!
  • Have afternoon tea in the gazebo with a slice of above cake
  • Make a healthy salad for supper
  • Sip an aperitif on the front porch while gazing through the blue hydrangeas
  • Listen to the evening songbirds as dusk falls over dinner in the gazebo
  • Watch the movie Cairo Time 

Are you resting and relaxing this weekend ~ or working on your own 'to do' list?

There is no such thing.................

Those of us with a patch of earth available be it acreage, a good sized lot, a raised bed, or a row of pretty terracotta pots, have all done a little landscaping.
It's not until we become avid gardeners, sometimes even garden snobs, that we suddenly realize this.........................

Yes most definitely!  A job forever.......or at least for as long as you have that patch of dirt requiring attention, and your knees still fold, and your back still bends without too much pain.

I'm growing lots of old fashioned cottage garden flowers for Spring and Summer. Here's a few blooming already during these rainy days before the real heat sets in here in the south. 

Nicotiana - flowering tobacco. I'm growing them in a large pot with petunias, creeping thyme, and morning glories, the latter hopefully will clamber up the fence in the background. Nicotiana attracts hummingbirds and has a sweet evening fragrance.

Foxgloves.......the ultimate cottage border flower and loved by big bumble bees.

 Bright and always beautiful, verbena spreads color through the garden beds. This is one of three shades of purple I'm growing..........they are perennial so flourish for many years if the weather is not too severe in Winter.

These petunias are in the kitchen window box. It just wouldn't be Summer without this simple but delightful flower. Old fashioned white and 'The Wave Petunia' in a deep purple which hopefully will tumble over the edge in a few more weeks. I was about to say in my header today, there really is no such thing as a low maintenance garden. It is a lot of work and to have blooms one must just get down and play in the dirt. It is worth the effort and you will love having flowers you have grown yourself.

So do tell me about the flowers you are growing this season.  
What is your favorite Summer garden flower?