Saturday, May 31, 2014

Birding in the backyard………………

I took a break from all the indoor busyness, such as packing, this lovely morning, and sat in my wicker garden chair looking UP!  I looked up for so long I thought my chin would never come down again.  My neck was quite painful for a while. I even sent Bob for a can of OFF to spray for the mosquitoes making a meal of my bare ankles and elbows.
What we do to get photos of our garden birds, it's almost ridiculous.

Several blue jays were making such a commotion in the neighbor's oak tree I just knew something was up. Looking in that direction it wasn't difficult to spot this beautiful red-tailed hawk, probably a juvenile as it had a speckled chest. These birds grow to 25" and can have a wingspan up to 4 feet.

Click to enlarge

The jays dive-bombed at the hawk over and over, bumping its head and shoulders. 
Jays, highly intelligent birds, are known as the alarm of the forest screaming at any 
woodland intruders 
The hawk wouldn't fly off, just moved to another nearby branch………

………and was then also cawed at several times by two crows swooping down.

We then noticed a dead squirrel on the neighbor's chimney - brought by the hawk 
and dropped there most likely.

This hawk stayed in the tree about an hour……then it flew away, picking up his takeaway lunch from the chimney, all just a few minutes after I gave up waiting for that shot and went back in the house - of course!
Always happens when photographing wildlife, doesn't it?

Blue jay and red-tailed hawk on a beautiful May morning.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Packing for the journey………..

Be forewarned - this is a long post. If you make it to the end, bless you. If you are bored stiff after the first paragraph, forgive me. You know I love to travel, each journey is a new adventure, and this is how I go about it.

With the summer travel season looming, several friends, including some bloggers, have asked me for packing tips. Me, the one who has traveled to all seven continents, and required clothing for several modes of transport including camels in Australia, elephants in Africa and Asia, Zodiac boats in Antarctica etc. Me who loves clothes and fashion. Me who needs a giant cosmetics bag for anti-aging products for everything, not just my face! Me who feels sorry for men who require just two pairs of boring shoes for travel, whereas we gals need a separate suitcase (we rarely get it though!) just for our gorgeous footwear!
For me, choosing the right clothing for whatever the vacation location will be, is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. I still spend weeks before leaving on that jet plane trying to choose the perfect wardrobe. Some of you will think I'm too obsessive about putting outfits together, perhaps ridiculous spending so much time in and out of the closet, or just plain nuts trying to travel in today's world arena where security, baggage weight/size restrictions, and little plastic baggies have become the main thrust of actually being able to leave home on public transportation………and lightweight clothes are definitely a must.

Click pics to enlarge for details

OK, got that frustrating part off my chest, now I'll share with you a few basic tips on how and what I pack, using my upcoming visit/cruise to the UK, the Baltic states and Russia as a guide of sorts.

Neutrals don't have to be boring. I'm basically a neutral color dresser, my neutrals being - grey (in its myriad of shades from smoke to hematite), navy, dull olive, black, white, cream, tan. Then I add one color that works with all the neutrals - mine is hard to explain but think a blend of amethyst grey/hazy lilac/mulberry wine/dusky lavender. I starting gathering pieces in these shades some years back. Don't ask me why, they just seemed to work for me as I don't wear primary colors, or anything with bold patterns such as florals.
So, with your colors planned it's easier when you look in your closet, scream, and then calm down and take out all the neutrals that just may work. Of course all is dependent on the climate. Are you you traveling to tropical islands or the Antipodes Islands? For me tropical is not exciting as I don't like heat…….whereas the chilly Antipodes way out in the Southern Ocean off New Zealand, were heaven on earth when I visited!

This trip means being prepared for mixed weather conditions. Scandinavian countries are much cooler than where I'm coming from, showers are possible in June. A light raincoat and a collapsible umbrella, always a plus. I recently found a fabulous light, unlined, Eileen Fisher raincoat (above) on sale. This will be my travel coat and by the looks of the long term weather forecast, I may need it in several countries, including of course England! I love that it's already a crinkled fabric, greige, and has a snap-off hood.

Today I did my final (hopefully) run through the portable rack above - love this for organizing out in the bright light - closets are usually dark. Because I will spend fourteen nights on the elegant Queen Victoria, and five nights are classified Formal, like most women, my initial thought was "NO, no, no, evening gowns". I cannot go on vacation with one suitcase and be expected to pack ball gowns - besides, I don't even own one! Cunard is one of few cruise lines trying to continue that "Golden Age of Ocean Travel" I told you about in my last post. All well and good IF you're on a world cruise, can have additional shipped luggage awaiting you at several ports, and have millions to pay for it all! How do I get around this? Once again I'll be winging it in hopes the maître d' allows me to pass through into his hallowed dining room wearing…………… tuxedo jacket, skinny black pants or long silver skirt, a bit of bling, and carrying my cute little evening bag!  No sideways/down their nose looks at me on the Queen Elizabeth or the Crystal Serenity in this outfit, hopefully this ship will be as kind………….and there's always the Lido as an alternative dining experience where the fun t-shirt bunch hangs out because they didn't pack evening gowns or tuxedo jackets!
The rest of my clothes are basic - a few casual jackets, cropped pants, a pair of long shorts in case there's a warm day, plenty of lightweight tops with different sleeve lengths, one heavier striped jersey, a zip nylon jacket and pants for promenade deck walking/exercise, a ball cap, my lovely Aussie brimmed rain hat.……..and the usual underpinnings.

Accessories are important when outfits are limited due to luggage restrictions. I love scarves and have many, they can change your look in an instant making even a plain t-shirt look dressy. Can't take them all but have picked out lightweight favorites that work with my clothes. Same goes for jewelry - don't take precious things, instead lots of pretty costume pieces. I love bold silver necklaces, wide bangles, big rings, small stud earrings for daytime sightseeing, then some dangling glittery ones for evening.

OK - what we all have too many of, shoes of course! Above, on my silvery evening skirt - note another pre-wrinkled fabric so great for travel - is my recent purchase from the Walking Company store. I am so in love with these Taos sandals for several reasons.They are so comfortable and lightweight even though all leather, plus a cork footbed, and beautifully made in Portugal. The Velcro fastening on both straps under the silvery discs makes them very easy to do up/adjust. The heel height is perfect for me - I just cannot wear really high ones any longer, leaving them to the younger set. The gorgeous grey color is perfect for my wardrobe - BUT they also come in many other colors so I think I will have to get another pair later - cobalt blue or vintage red perhaps.

The socks came as a free gift with the Walking Company purchase - it was a new store opening in my local mall. These are the best walking socks ever with padded sole and heel, but not bulky at all. I will be wearing them with my always comfy, but far from elegant, Keene sandals come rain or shine as I toddle around the bumpy cobblestones of old cities. I also need my loafers, ballerinas, and those marvelous pewter cut out sandals - made in South Africa but purchased in Australia.

I've not a clue as to how I will fit all these shoes into my one bag. Bob's bag is larger, he's only taking two pairs of shoes - if I'm good perhaps he'll tuck a couple pairs of mine in with his. As for those anti-aging potions and lotions, and all the other paraphernalia required, who knows where I will stash them.  

You may have been one who asked for packing tips. If so I hope you gleaned something helpful here…..or are you thinking that staying at home and being an armchair traveler might just be fine after all?  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Packing for a voyage………………

Early next week Bob and I will be flying east across the pond. 
In Southampton, England we'll board Cunard's 
Queen Victoria and sail away to the Baltic states and Russia.
New territory for me will be Estonia, Sweden, Denmark, Norway,
and Germany, and a return visit to Russia with a two day visit to
  St. Petersburg. 
This means I will have sailed on three Cunard Line 'Queens' during 
the past fifty years.
The original Queen Mary (Transatlantic - New York to Southampton - 1964)
Queen Elizabeth (Singapore to Dubai - 2012)  
Queen Victoria (Southampton to Baltic States and Russia - 2014)

I wish I could have traversed the world during the Golden Age of ocean travel. 
The accoutrements of journeying included pretty suitcases and hatboxes, 
steamer trunks, sturdy leather Gladstone bags, butter-soft leather handbags. 
Fitted coats, silk blouses, high heeled 'court' shoes, seamed lisle stockings, 
a choker of real pearls, waved hair tucked under a soft mohair cloche hat, 
and delicate buttoned kidskin gloves, all were de rigueur.

In those days elegance was paramount as ladies boarded 
ocean liners to cross the pond or sail around the world.

Looking forward to a fabulous voyage and then a few days in England 
visiting Bath with friends, then catching up with family in London.

My packing? You would think it was second nature by now but still
I'm making lists, choices, and a huge mess in the guest room where 
clothing, footwear, accessories and toiletries cover every surface!

In the Golden Age of ocean travel maids and valets did all the packing,
didn't they? 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The art of design ~~~

If you're there too late to enter, window shopping at an Anthropologie store is akin
to visiting an art gallery. If you appreciate creativity, the window displays are always
Leaving an adjacent restaurant Sunday evening after celebrating a family birthday, 
the shop had already closed - granddaughter Jasmin sighed in disappointment, me 
silently thankful I would not be shuffling through my bag for a credit card!  
Any serious shopping was impossible. 

BUT the windows, as always, were a treat. If you look closely, 
you will see that the butterfly wings are made of hundreds of individual butterflies cut
from paper, really sensational.
Jasmin fell for the dress and I know she would look great in it!
We both loved the wingsand more art in other windows.
This is our just opened neighborhood Anthropologie, I know we'll be spending
a lot of time here.

Many very creative people decorate this company's stores, and those who have moved on
to open their own business in the world of design and art are doing very well.
Australian designer, author, and Sydney shopkeeper Sibella Courtand American 
Leslie Oshmann of SWARM, now residing in Amsterdam come to mind. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Blogging with Blondie!

Jane, known to all as 'Blondie' from Blondie's Journals, and I have blogged and followed each other for many years. When she told me that she and 'The Husband' would be visiting Asheville again this Spring I was thrilled to think we could meet again for a second time. Then, the sad news came that they would be there when we were off on a trip overseas. There was no way we could drive west to the North Carolina mountains and be back in time to fly east to catch our boat! 
The good news followed later…they were driving to Asheville from Washington D.C. and would stop in several beautiful Virginia spots along the way, and then spend an overnight in Raleigh so that we could get together for dinner.

We are in disarray while preparing to venture forth on another Cunard 'Queen' very soon - more on that later! However, some quick cleaning, Jane you've no idea what got stuffed behind closet doors, fresh flowers from Trader Joe's, early Saturday morning baking and cream whipping, and we were prepared for a fun evening yesterday. 

Following dinner out - pic via the wait person - we came back to the cottage. Although dark, it was a perfect evening, warm and apparently mosquito free as we toured the garden a bit, then sat inside and chatted about all and sundry while enjoying dessert and coffee.
The time flew by much too quickly. We exchanged 'blog gifts'. The four of us get along famously. The husbands have much in common, and of course Jane and I found more than enough to chat about - bloggers were your ears burning? Don't worry we were nice!

Pic via Bob

My really beautiful gift from Jane - a wonderful 'teatime recipe book' with fabulous recipes from the world's best tearooms, with a classical music CD to play at teatime. I really love this - it has many of my favorite pieces of relaxing music - in fact I'm playing it now and it's breakfast time, and I may just play again at lunch time, and I've added it to my iTunes on the MacBook so I can travel with it too! Jane is great at choosing perfect gifts - thank you dear friend.

Enjoy the remainder of your trip Jane and A. Hug those Asheville gals for me please, and tell them I hope to catch up with them this Summer!


Tomorrow, being a busy day of celebration, I will not be posting here. 
Wishing each of you a great holiday, and please, in between the eating, drinking, 
fun with family and friends, remember the meaning of this very special day.

Friday, May 23, 2014

If I could save time in a bottle……

Yesterday flew by in a fog, as are all the days lately.
I have a lot on my plate at present as we are preparing for a big trip.
The weather has turned hot again, temperatures in the 90's requiring 
dragging the hoses through the garden as the nights are staying very warm also. 
Leaving home always requires attention to so many things, indoors and out. 

I'll be taking a break from here for a couple of days. Tomorrow a very special blog 
friend will be visiting and then Memorial Day will probably be one of those bustling 
holidays where anything can happen, even when plans haven't been firmed up.

Old bottles - Durack Homestead, Kununurra, Western Australia - September 2012

The beautiful lyrics of the late Jim Croce's song
came to mind this morning. 

Time In A Bottle

If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I'd like to do
Is to save every day till eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you

If I could make days last forever
If words could make wishes come true
I'd save every day like a treasure and then
Again, I would spend them with you

But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do, once you find them
I've looked around enough to know
That you're the one I want to go through time with

If I had a box just for wishes
And dreams that had never come true
The box would be empty, except for the memory of how
They were answered by you

But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do, once you find them
I've looked around enough to know
That you're the one I want to go through time with

Jim Croce 1943-1973

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

May Note Card Party ~~~~~

Good gracious, another month has flown and 
it's time to join Vee's Note Card party for the 
beautiful month of May.
I dried a new batch of roses, some purchased from that favorite grocery 
store (if you're in the US you know which one!), some from my garden. 
I used one photo for my Mother's Day post and decided the extras would 
make a good selection for this month's box of all-purpose cards.

I'm displaying the roses under one of the old glass domes I've started 
collecting - seems a perfect place to keep them dust-free.  
I have more roses drying in the potting shed so don't be surprised if 
this small bunch gets larger.

Joining the party HERE at Vee's - hurry on over to see more cards and perhaps add some of your own - we'd love to see them.

Monday, May 19, 2014

……just window shopping on Sunday.

Late yesterday afternoon I picked Granddaughter Jasmin up from her wonderful weekend job at SuzAnna's Antiques.  
Again Susie and Jenny, thank you so much for teaching Jasmin about antiques and vintage beauty, 
and keeping her employed through her high school years - it means so much to us, and she loves working for you.

I had no real time to shop for myself yesterday, but did manage a quick whip around 
with the camera to bring you a few pics of the great items waiting for a home! 
Now, after an hour of gardening this morning, I'm off for a much-needed mani/pedi -
playing in the dirt much of the weekend is showing!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Small homes, bad weather……………

Thanks to many of you who agreed the aging bird houses should stay. I'm glad several of you noticed that this Spring the birds had made their nest in the box with the cat ~~~ that is so funny. I recall buying these boxes at Tuesday Morning many years ago - at least eight - so I suppose they have stood the test of time in the elements quite well.

Speaking of the elements, yesterday was a terrible day here. During the daylight hours and then continuing through the night into the early hours of this morning, we received almost 6 inches of rain. The heavens seemed to open, heralded by thunderclaps and emergency vehicle sirens as waters rose causing much flooding. Above is the water cascading down our driveway, filling our cul-de-sac so that it quickly resembled a pond…and below, the Confederate jasmine whipped about the front porch tossing its heady perfume through the soaking wet air.

Many flowers, especially the roses, petunias, geraniums, and clematis took a beating ~ my precious foxglove, still in a pot, was grabbed at the start of the storm and sheltered on the porch to save its pretty bells from being turned to a wet mush.

We had quite a lot of water in the crawlspace of the cottage due to heavy water run off from the neighbor's garden behind the fence, plus the start of a pool in the back garden, all of which needs to be addressed before another storm such as this comes calling.

Mother Nature is so fickle - hanging about for far too long and dumping so much heavy rain. Today the sun appeared and cleanup began. This evening we dined in the gazebo, enjoying the sunset and much cooler air, and compared it to last evening when we felt we were already floating away on our cruise!!!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A new, beautiful space in the shopping center ~~~

Do I feel spoiled? You bet I do.
We now have an Anthropologie store just across the street.
It opened last week and I had a few minutes to stop by on Tuesday.
I didn't have a camera so took a few not so great pics with my iPhone.

Anthropologie has had a store in Durham, a twenty minute drive, 
for a few years and I loved visiting with my sweet friend Vanessa who
lived near there.  
Vanessa is now living in Charlotte, NC - "girlfriend, I 
miss you so much".
Having one just two minutes from the cottage is going to be dangerous!
When I walked in I was amazed at how they'd taken several previous small 
stores, wrapping around a corner, and turned it into a super bright open space. 
Their corporate designers are awesome, and the local individuals who decorate 
the stores are always full of wonderful surprises.
As you can see, again there are my much-loved wood plank floors, the 
ones that inspired my new - old looking - cottage floors here. 

I didn't even get around to taking pics of all the colorful Spring/Summer 
clothing hanging, folded and such - but I assure you it was all there along with 
such pretty items for the house and garden.

I did peek in the fitting rooms and loved the hand-painted stools.
The summer-weight cobalt sweater was gorgeous!

The selection of books was fabulous, including several decorating and cook books 
which I've had on my wish list for some time. So, with no time to try on clothes, 
I picked a beautiful book - I'll post on that another time.

Do you shop at Anthropologie? 
Do you live close to a store and enjoy just wandering about admiring the layout
and artistic features?  I know the merchandise is somewhat expensive - is it a store
where you shop for yourself, or perhaps purchase gifts? 
I have to admit I've done both.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A new day, a 'New Dawn' ~~~~~

Just a quickie post to celebrate the opening of the New Dawn climbers - they are so pretty 
and really light up the back fence.

The three old birdhouses look somewhat dilapidated now but I haven't the heart to take 
them down and throw them out ~ there's a nest in the yellow one, a tiny bird who isn't fussy
about needing a new roof or paint job, probably a wren or chickadee, haven't been able to catch 
a glimpse of who visits yet.

  My neighbor behind the fence has a Southern magnolia tree ~ it was tiny and quite tidy 
for several years after he planted it but has now grown into a monster. The leaves drop over 
the fence onto our garden causing quite a mess. As they say, "a garden is a job forever", so true.