Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A 'new' French piece............

This collage gives you an idea as to how I decorate my modest cottage-style home. Nothing is really precious in dollar amounts. Nothing has come from a high-end furniture store in many, many years. The sofa is thirty plus years old but dressed in custom made slip covers - a bit of a splurge, but so worthwhile when giving even more life to well-made furniture which is hard to replace these days. Also, it fits the space, it's still solid.......and it's comfortable!

If, like me, your decorating tastes have changed over the years, you know what I mean when saying 'use what you love'. If you have the basics in place it's then quite easy to add the accouterments that give you the look and feel you love. You never have to throw everything out and start over. Accessories can be new, antique, hand-crafted or thrift shop finds.......just as long as you feel they are now yours to care for, that they bring good feelings as you cast your eyes around your home, you truly love living with them......and they didn't cost you an arm and a leg!

...and of course there's always paint!

So what do I have new to share?  How about the authentic French table you see here when it was in my booth at SuzAnna's Antiques last year. When I closed the booth I left the table on consignment but it never sold. A couple of weeks ago, Vanessa helped me get it out, took it to her 'White Barn', and with Annie Sloan's wonderful Chalk Paint and waxes, gave my table a brighter, cleaner, much nicer appearance. She also fixed the boo boo on the rear panel. We decided to add medium distressing after painting as the table is old and wouldn't look quite right without some visible wear showing.

Vanessa worked wonders on the table here.
We chose ASCP in French Linen, a great greyed-beige 
neutral to work with off-whites, creams etc.

Is it for sale still? No way, it's now in my living room and has become my 'new' favorite piece in front of the window looking out into the back garden. 

 Using both light and dark Annie Sloan waxes after distressing has given the table the perfect finish I was after. Vanessa, I'm thrilled.

I'm still playing with accessories. Needless to 
say they will be French inspired! I love the potboard 
on the bottom - this was probably a table 
used in some simple country French kitchen - and calls 
out for large items.

So this is what's new at the cottage. Next up, and awaiting authentic Chalk Paint love, is a pine armoire (don't worry Bob, you really will love it once it's done!), and a few small tables in need of refreshment. 

Any plans to pick up a paintbrush around your place soon?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Fly away................

........home, please!  
On a recent late afternoon this large red-tailed 
hawk arrived in an oak tree in the back garden. 
It was carrying a grey squirrel in its talons. 
My neighbor called us after it flew low over 
her deck and perched on the lowest 
large branch.

I'm going to confess............I stood out 
there for at least an hour, craning my neck, 
and taking numerous useless shots with 
two different cameras, 
in terrible light conditions - all of 
which I deleted later. Then thankfully 
the bird flew off.....and I headed in for 
much-needed cup of tea!

  Our neighbors have a sweet tiny chihuahua - we 
don't want her mistaken for a squirrel!

When I stepped out on my deck the next morning, 
lo and behold, the hawk was back enjoying 
breakfast in the sunshine, finishing up 
the same squirrel. Picture-taking was a bit 
easier with the brighter light.........but the 
darned mosquitoes made a meal of my elbows!

 Above, a small but feisty Catbird kept dive bombing 
the large hawk making quite a ruckus.

These beautiful hawks are prevalent across the 
country, you see them circling in the skies 
just about everywhere. If you would enjoy knowing 
more about them go here.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Vanessa at 'A White Barn'...........

One of my dearest friends in the whole wide world is Vanessa.  
Over the past five years we've spent a lot of time together after meeting via our blogs, then making a date for coffee and a visit to SuzAnna's Antiques. Later, despite our age difference - I could be her mom - and realizing we loved the same things, we had an entire year together full of creative fun, and a lot of shopping and treasure hunting, sharing a booth at SuzAnna's Antiques. We've moved on since then with me having to put shopkeeping on hold while traveling on some awesome trips around the world. Meanwhile, Vanessa has stayed busy being a mom, helping her DH during his busy MBA program while he also works full-time, visiting her home and family in Brazil, and now running a new and exciting home-based business named A White Barn.

Vanessa has always had a great eye and her decorating and sewing skills are fabulous. She refinished many awesome furniture pieces for sale in our booth. Now, after attending an Annie Sloan Chalk Paint workshop last Spring, she is going full steam ahead refurbishing and painting some spectacular furniture finds for resale here in our area of North Carolina.
Here are some of Vanessa's latest projects, most of which sold before the paint had time to dry, but I know she's staying very busy working on some great new pieces........and she just completed one for me....more on that another time.

Just had to share Vanessa's new and thriving business with you - and once again tell you how important it is to have friends of all ages in one's life........especially young ones who inspire you do do more, stay busy, create often, and enjoy all life has to offer. Thank you dear Vanessa for all you do for me to make my life so much better.

All images with A White Barn watermark are Vanessa's - the remainder are mine.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Hot, but let's bake.............

Just had to show you these. I whipped them up 
Thursday when my dear friend Vanessa was coming 
over with her little daughter Luna..........
I love to bake something fresh and pretty 
when company is coming, don't you?

Scones are quick, easy and only require one bowl, 
always a huge plus.
These can also be made using strawberries 
(cut them up a bit), or blueberries.
If you have any scones left over - we didn't as Luna 
loved them and took some home 
to share with her daddy - they freeze well!  

Here's the recipe if you don't mind heating up the kitchen for a little while...............

Raspberry Scones - makes 8 good-sized scones
Preheat oven to 400F
1 cup fresh firm raspberries, halved
3 Tblsps granulated sugar
2 cups unbleached all-purp. flour
2 teasps. baking powder
1/4 teasp. salt
6 Tblsps. unsalted butter, just slightly 
softened, cut into pieces
3/4 cup heavy cream
Extra sugar for dusting tops

Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly butter a baking sheet.
Toss fruit with 1 Tblsp. of the sugar.
In a large mixing bowl combine remaining sugar with flour, baking powder and salt. Add butter and cut in with pastry blender, or use fingers, until mixture becomes fine crumbs.
Stir in fruit gently, add all the cream, and mix together carefully with a spatula. Turn out on a lightly floured board, knead a few times, do not overwork or scones will be tough. Pat the dough into a 3/4" thick round, adding a sprinkle of flour on top if really sticky. Cut with sharp knife into 8 wedges and transfer to the baking sheet - leaving a small space between each scone. 
Bake 15 minutes - remove and sprinkle lightly with sugar and return to oven for another 5 minutes, or until scones are just turning golden. Watch carefully, do not overbake or they will be dry.
Allow to cool a bit on a rack - serve with fresh butter or lemon curd.......enjoy!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The latest book..........

I often seem to find the best books in other countries........
at their airports mostly.
At Johannesburg's O.R Tambo airport I had time to 
browse a newsstand and this one caught my eye.
The German Boy by British author Patricia Wastvedt. 
I enjoy stories set in Britain in the years before, 
during and after World War II, this one didn't disappoint. 
An absorbing saga of two families entangled by love 
and friendship, divided by prejudice and war.

Do you ever wish a book will never end? 
Do you turn the pages slowly, perhaps limit 
yourself to just one chapter before you turn 
out the bedside lamp? 
This was that kind of story. 
I just wanted it to go on and on. 
The story was heart wrenching but mesmerizing.
The characters so interesting.
Visual descriptions of the landscapes fascinating.

A few nights ago I lingered over the last page then
closed the cover for the final time - 
or until I read it again. 
I was full of questions as to how the story 
could have been so different. 
Why didn't the characters have happier lives, 
find their lost loves, survive the war, share 
more with their families, come through unscathed?
That would have been another story, a different book, 
a happier time in history.
I loved the story just as it was. 
A great read. 
A wonderful book.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sharing memories in Zambia........

Sometimes you just meet the best people when you least expect it!
Donald was our boatman in Zambia on the visit in 2010. We gals (there were four of us on that trip), enjoyed our afternoon Zambezi River trip with Donald so much that we requested he take us out again the following morning.

Donald knows the mighty Zambezi like the back of his hand. He took us down river to view the vapor thrown high into the sky by Victoria Falls, an awesome sight. He is familiar with the wildlife in the area, and knew just where along the river's banks to find us amazing birds..........

........such as this colony of beautiful White-fronted Bee-eaters who nest in shallow holes in the sandy banks.

Donald's boat docked at the camp.

Boats on the Zimbabwe side of the Zambezi.

 Kim, Paula, me, Donald, Bob and Mark

On this recent visit, Donald was awaiting our arrival at Toka Leya where he continues to work, not only as a boatman, but also growing indigenous trees for planting in the Livingstone area. Donald was thrilled that Paula and I were returning. His family is large and extended and he supports many people. Paula has generously assisted Donald's eldest daughter with her school fees these past two years so that she can continue her education (the Zambian government only provides free schooling through the 7th grade). All Paula asks in return are copies of school report cards and photos. This daughter attends a boarding school in another town to continue her education. The best news of all was that this young lady has been awarded 'Best Student in Zambia' this year! Donald had notified his family we were visiting again and they kindly invited us to visit their home in Livingstone, a great honor.

We were overwhelmed by the welcome we received in Donald's neighborhood.  Children came home (and some stayed home we were told!) from school when they knew we were due to arrive........and ran after our vehicle through the streets, laughing and cheering us along.
 Above - Donald's beautiful wife and the children............
............the neighborhood children were so welcoming and sharing a little time with Donald and his family was really wonderful.  
These are the beautiful occasions which make very special travel memories.

Toka Leya Camp, with the intriguing islands of the Zambezi River right on its doorstep, is a very special place.......it will always have fond memories for me.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Toka Leya, Zambia.......

Flying into Livingstone, Zambia I got that same feeling as on my previous visit two years ago.....that of being dropped from the sky into a time warp of sorts. It's an old fashioned type of town. People were milling about wearing either brightly colored clothes or dark suits. There were busy shops, advertising painted on most flat surfaces, things to buy, eat, drink.........and one traffic light which has been installed on the main thoroughfare since that last visit! Very different from the remote safari camps. Definitely a town in comparison.

Shoes or bananas...decisions, decisions!

Umbrellas become sunshades.

Hopefully serving fried chicken, not lion!
 School children, thankfully, BUT only through the 7th grade unless parents can afford fees for higher grades. 
I love 'wraps' but would have to pass on this one! Just give me a slice of carrot cake please.

Leaving town we were driven to our camp for the next three nights, Toka Leya, 7 miles up the Zambezi River from Victoria Falls. Paula and I stayed there two years ago and were very excited to see several staff members still working there......they remembered us and were happy to see us back again.

The outdoor dining deck on the river bank.

The first evening we were transported by boat - with our old friend Donald at the helm - to a place on the river bank to enjoy 'sundowners' with other Toka Leya guests.

Donald, our boatman, second from left, was really 
thrilled to see us again.

We returned to camp and organized our stuff..........

......in one of 12 spacious, very comfortable, under canvas safari-style tents, all connected by raised wooden walkways limiting our footprint on this pristine area.
Nice deck area looking out to the river - sounds of hippos, elephants and birds under the canopy of jackalberry, knobthorn and water berry trees.
Love the bathroom here.........good lighting, a/c, and a hairdryer........separate shower room below.

Early morning outside No. 10 - quite a walk from the main camp area but by then we were in need of some exercise! Armed guards protected us from the large, potentially dangerous, animals roaming in the area. Really love this camp.........the caring people who run it, the delicious food served by the jovial wait staff, proximity to the river for cruising and viewing Vic Falls, and the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park on the doorstep where game drives allow for wildlife viewing - a bit of everything here.

Next time - a special invitation to meet Donald's family!