Monday, February 29, 2016

Leap Day and early Spring mornings. . . . .

I enjoy posting a seasonal something or other on the refrigerator. Usually it's a tear sheet from a magazine, and almost always it will be from UK Country Living. . . . . because I think it's one of the very best magazines out there!

Today I decided to display this page again because it's one of my favorites for Spring.

The mornings are looking brighter since last week's damaging storm front passed through, and over the weekend I cut the first few daffodils for the kitchen window. Healthy looking green leaves are shooting up everywhere since those heavy rains, even in the window box - though I can't recall just which bulbs I planted there . . . . . a senior moment, but a surprise to come! I did run outside before the rains came and sprinkled a lot of bulb fertilizer where I planted in Fall, looks like it's paying off. Hopefully I'll soon be cutting more blooms to enjoy in the cottage.

Don't have many spare/bare walls remaining to display
 art so the refrigerator door comes in handy
 and, as you can see, magnets are at the ready.

Happy Leap Day - happy week.

Edited: Thank you all SO MUCH for the outpouring of wonderful comments 
on my ninth blog anniversary post yesterday. I appreciate every kind word.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Blogging news and an anniversary. . . . .

Carolina wren on my front porch last week.

Sometimes I too feel like I need more balance in my life! I'm finding at this age I am not so good standing on one leg! I struggle to get into a pair of tights now, usually ending up sitting down! Trying any type of physical exercise which demands balancing sometimes makes me dizzy. Lately even getting up too fast from bed causes me to be off balance. Blood pressure is good with a little medical assistance. Guess it's 'an aging thing', like kneeling - why is that so difficult also?  Oh these golden years, so full of challenges!

Anyway, not to worry. Here I am, past seventy and still blogging! Yes, today is my anniversary. Nine years ago today I put up my first post on my first blog named Across The Pond (still available via the link on the top of my sidebar).

My guess is anyone starting a blog wonders, what the heck shall I write about that would be of interest to anyone who doesn't even know me? Who would even want to look at tiny photos, most of which were blurry and nondescript as I'd never used a good camera or had any formal instruction.
Perhaps my saving grace was that I had worked in art and advertising for several years. . . . all before computers became commonplace. This had given my untrained eye a path to creating lovely things to look at, whether through a lens or on paper. I learned about design and color, I tried basic airbrush retouching - the old way with a huge tank of compressed air standing next to my desk. I did line drawings and calligraphy. I learned about typography and choosing fonts. I wrote copy for page layouts, edited copy, and sometimes assisted art directors with ads designed for national companies. I was used as a hand model (my other bits apparently not marketable!) as I have long fingers and always kept my nails looking good! I used hundreds of rolls of Kodak film in cheap cameras. Don't laugh. . . . . I was actually the studio manager/admin. assistant but I so wanted to be an artist like all the talented people I worked with! All those things brought me to the understanding that I loved to be creative with pen, ink, paper, and a camera, that I could do things without being a real 'artist', and that I had found my niche in the world of art. I enjoyed those years more than any others in the workplace.

I realized how much I missed that creative part of my life when I retired. But then I found blogging! Here was a platform waiting for me to step up on, a place which might allow me to become creative again. This time I would be my own boss, working at my own pace and on my own terms, but with the help of an amazing computer and digital cameras. So here I am, nine years later, still blogging with no plans to cease quite yet. As far as what I write about - anyone who's followed me for a while knows that can be just about anything and everything - and that I take a lot of photographs both here around town and the world.

Last, but by no means least, you are out there and actually reading my posts, and seem to like them! Because of this blog I have a wonderful relationship with each of you. I love learning about you, your lives, your loves, your homes, your pets, what you cook, where you travel, everything that makes you tick! Sadly, some of you I may never meet in person. Others I have met, several more than once, and we have done fun things together. I do hope to meet more of you this year - who knows where or when - but it may happen, it's one of the big perks of having a blog.

So here I am, often feeling a bit like the squirrel, off balance, feeling my age a bit,
 but still ready to climb a tree in the sunshine, take a trip to a new place to share
 with you, or go on an expedition. 
Thanks to each of you taking time to stop here, read my words, or perhaps just
 take a look at my photographs. 
I always love reading your generous comments and understand how much time
 it takes to comment on the many blogs we each follow.
 I cannot thank you enough for stopping by as often as you do.

Hope you are having a great day. I am - and I'm enjoying my 9th anniversary!
See you next time.

Friday, February 26, 2016

A Change at SuzAnna's Antiques. . . . . . . . .

Although I no longer have a booth, I always enjoy stopping by SuzAnna's Antiques in Raleigh's Vintage Village. I especially enjoy it when visiting and finding my granddaughter Jasmin busy at work there. Now, after five years, including her entire time in high school, working part time after school or on weekends for owners Susie and Jenny, Jasmin will be moving on to a new part time job. Needless to say, many of us are sad about this, however she needs new experiences in the workplace world. She hopes to work in a health related environment which, for someone planning a career in nursing, seems a path she needs to follow now, and part time employment needs to fit with her college schedule.

I can't begin to tell you how wonderful Jasmin's years at SuzAnna's have been, both for her, us, and hopefully for Susie and Jenny. She was treated kindly and taught so much by the loveliest mother and daughter team, experts in the world of antiques and vintage. From a somewhat shy 14 year old who was nervous making change - the old fashioned way by counting back rather than a computerized cash register - and being somewhat reticent in stepping forward to assist customers, Jasmin soon bloomed. She learned how to help customers choose treasures for their homes, designed lovely vignettes and displays within the shop, and being a kind and helpful person to work alongside, made great friendships with her co-workers. I think she'll be missed by many at the entire Vintage Village location,  but I know she'll be stopping by to keep in touch, perhaps even work a few hours if they need help on special occasions, and of course I'll often be with her doing my usual treasure hunting and sharing here what I find tucked away in that great place.

Jasmin at SuzAnna's Antiques

Past and present. . . . . 
 . . . . .  . life is always changing.
Thankfully many of us enjoy holding on to the past, and places such 
as SuzAnna's Antiques make the present so enjoyable 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Too many tornado warnings. . . . . . . . . .

It was eerie.
 It was unusual for February. 
It meant preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.
We had it all, torrential rain and gusty winds, even periods of sunshine
 and blue skies.
Then the schools closed and children were dismissed early.
Over twenty tornado warnings, and six tornadoes touched down across our state.
There has been damage but fortunately no deaths or serious injuries.
By 4 PM it was getting scary as the storm got closer. 
TV showed an array of hailstones falling in different areas, softball, golf ball
and ping pong ball sized - take your pick, all will damage your car.
We removed the vacuum cleaner and such from the small coat closet under the
stairs and tucked in a large flashlight, a warm throw, and a small bottle of
white wine with two glasses in case we were stuck in there and feeling thirsty come
aperitif time. If you're laughing, I'm serious!
Lovely friends called from as far away as Washington State (thank you Sandy),
to make sure we were safe. Texts flew back and forth from family members
around town. You, my dear blog friends, left comforting comments which meant
so much and I thank you for caring.

Around sunset the heavy rains ended, thunder in the distance faded
in the cooler evening air. We went outside to view the flooded area of the
back garden, picked up fallen twigs to add to the wood pile, and watched
 the amazing cloud formations as they scudded in an end of day
 race across the sky.

 Later we were out again to view the brilliant full white moon, the sky was as clear
 as a bell and the stars bright and amazing.
At midnight I was definitely not happy and had a hard time going to bed,
not turning in until close to 2 AM and then not able to sleep.
 The winds had picked up again and were gusting fiercely, the trees
 swaying dangerously and branches were falling on the roof.
Honestly, I was more scared than I had been all day.
I love our older neighborhood built on what was once farmland, by builders
 who left the beautiful, stately trees.
I love the majestic old oaks surrounding my home, some must be close to
 80 feet tall, and are homes to squirrels, woodpeckers and many other wild birds.
I am now terrified living here during storms when I know the ground has been
 saturated by heavy rain, and the strong winds arrive circling through the tree tops
 which are far too tall, and the roots much too shallow. I dread huge trees falling on 
the roof as they did during two hurricanes some years back.

I think the time has come perhaps to move on to a place where I feel
 safer and life will be easier.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Lifelines in a storm. . . . . .

I have weathered storms. . . . . .some really big ones at sea, including the infamous Drake Passage, the roughest ocean in the world! You can read my account HERE where I tell about that wild crossing on my return to Ushuaia, South America from Antarctica in 2013. That body of water, which takes two days to cross, is the treacherous stretch of the great Southern Ocean between the tip of South America, Cape Horn, and the northernmost reaches of Antarctica. 

Severe weather warnings such as we are receiving here today, always set my nerves on edge here on land. Over the years I've lived in North Carolina I've experienced numerous hurricanes, tornadoes, tremendous ice storms, 24 inch snow falls, even a small earthquake. In two hurricanes I've been inside the cottage as huge oak trees fell on the roof and demolished my car in the driveway. In two completely unexpected tornadoes, I was close, very close, to where they touched down in nearby neighborhoods causing horrifying death and destruction.

Fingers are crossed for today as a severe storm system impacts the southeast US. So far we are on a watch for damaging winds, heavy rain/hail, and the possibility of tornadoes this afternoon. Praying everyone will remain safe, and that all have a secure place to wait out any severe weather conditions. 

Be back soon with happier things to share hopefully. Weather can be quite stressful, and weather reports such as we are getting today, unnerving to say the least!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Art Class -

Do you buy art? 
I'm always on the lookout for small original paintings of flowers, landscapes, coastal and country scenes. Both my budget and empty wall space are limited. Looking for these in flea markets and thrift shops, where prices are often affordable, I have to admit not many have 'spoken to me' over the years. 
Saturday I spent about an hour at SuzAnna's AntiquesWeather was pleasant and the shopping crowd impressive. Everyone wants to get out and about on a good day in February when Winter has become rather tiresome. Thoughts of treasure hunting and home projects takes over for those of us who love the hunt.

What do you think? A still life in acrylic on board measuring 24 X 20, and it definitely spoke to me! I went back several times to look and each time I loved it a little bit more. I was able to visualize it without the somewhat dismal frame which had been painted a tan shade and then glazed with something which didn't work with the flowers. I asked Susie if I could just purchase the painting and leave the frame behind and she agreed, so Jasmin (my granddaughter who works there) removed it for me and wrote up the ticket for the agreed price of $35 which I thought was a bargain.

Once released from the frame this painting was even more lovely. 
Something about way the poppies are arranged - well not arranged - which
 is the way I love to display real flowers.

For now I have placed the painting on the mantel which will eventually
 be rearranged for Spring. Note my flowers from Valentine's Day are
 still beautiful - thank you Bob and Trader Joe's.

Our weather has turned chilly and wet again. This painting is brightening
 up the north facing room and I'm really pleased I decided to purchase.

Monday, February 22, 2016

A few words about wall murals. . . . . . . . . .

Here's a follow up to my previous post about the new bold wallpapers
 used to make a feature wall in a room.
If you like wallpaper, or even if you don't, perhaps a mural
will get you excited. I found the first two at Anthropologie and love them.
The enlarged antique maps of Paris and London, each one used to cover
 a wall, are available at Restoration Maps and are really amazing.
Again, I have no walls here in the cottage where these large 
installations could fit - but I know some people who do!

fig. 1


fig. 3


I did find something new for a wall over the weekend - but it found
 a home some place else! I'll show you next time.
Have a wonderful week.

~ fig. 1 & 2 ~ Here at Anthropologie
~ fig. 3 & 4 ~ Here at  Restoration Maps


Saturday, February 20, 2016

It's back and it's beautiful. . . . . .

Remember the mess we used to get into hanging wallpaper? Was it one of those jobs you enjoyed? Recall being covered in smelly, sticky, thick paste, holding up your arms until you thought they were paralyzed, all while trying to match patterns so the joins didn't show, because if they did, you would always see them even if your visitors didn't! Or, did you really hate that part of interior decoration, and instead spent a lot of money to have someone come in and hang the darned stuff for you. We won't even discuss getting wallpaper off the walls - that's truly a horror story best left in the annals of interior decorating.

Or you just slapped paint everywhere!

Don't get me wrong, I love paint. I was always painting walls - and furniture - until the shoulders hurt, the knees got weak, and climbing a teetering ladder was best left to the young. . . . . .or professionals hopefully with insurance. Did you know that wallpaper is back? Apparently you don't even need to paper an entire room, the 'in' thing now is to just cover one wall in a room, and it's called a feature wallThis requires different patterns than those tiny rose sprigs, mini checks, or narrow stripes of years back, instead you have to choose a BOLD design - a statement wallpaper which stops you in your tracks with its WOW factor!

Here are some that caught my eye online at Graham & Brown, a wallpaper company established in 1946. Their inventory is impressive and there are many really beautiful designs. Am I considering a feature wall in a main room? Doubtful because the cottage rooms are really too small, but I may consider a wall in my entrance hallway where I already have very dark paint. . . . . . this first one I really like.

The following designs, a mix of classic, funky, contemporary, nature inspired, would each look gorgeous in the right room. 

So what are your thoughts on wallpaper? Is it a product you already use in your home, or are all your walls painted? I still have wallpaper in my master bath, and kitchen, but neither are stunning, more a light natural faux painted look which I must admit works for me in those areas. 

BTW - they say there is better paste now - you can roll it directly on the walls making it easier and less messy to hang the wallpaper - and it's easier to strip it off later. Do you know if that's correct? It would make doing that one feature wall a breeze - maybe a soon to be Spring project!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Le Château de Versailles and Red Marble. . . . . . . . . . .

Château de Versailles, on the UNESCO World Heritage List for over 30 years,
 is one of the most beautiful achievements of 18th century French art.

Started as a hunting lodge and gentleman's chateau, the young Sun King Louis XIV took over and transformed the palace into the most splendid building and court of its time, hosting many famous and infamous people including Madame Pompadour and Marie Antoinette.The opulent staterooms, the famous Hall of Mirrors where several treaties were signed, and the royal apartments are quite breathtaking. The château lost its standing as the official seat of power in 1789 but acquired a new role in the 19th century as The Museum of the History of France. 

I know many of you who have traveled to, even lived in France, have visited Versailles. For some reason, most likely time restraints during Paris visits, I didn't visit until last October, when we were on the river cruise with friends from California and England. Although it's always exciting to see these amazing historic buildings, oohing and aahing over the opulent furnishings all whilst shielding ones eyes from the brilliance of the crystal chandeliers and gold reliefs, I was really on another mission here - looking for less ostentatious red and pink marble!

Follow along as I take you on a quick visit and show you what is just a smidgen of the most famous French château ~~~~~~~~

The Hall of Mirrors

Personally, when tramping through these immense palaces, I really enjoy looking at the more simple things such as doors, also windows, with well worn handles, hardware, their lock boxes and keyholes. Have the keys survived? Who now has them, could modern locksmiths make new ones to fit if they're missing?  Look at the exquisite little royal crown carved into the brass above the keyhole on the left. I wonder what the knob underneath the box is - another way to lock the door perhaps. Who actually turned these handles and entered these magnificent room in years gone by?

Above and below - lovely somewhat distorted views through wavy glass windows.

Why my interest in particularly the red and pink marbles used at Versailles?
Quarrying of many of these marbles happened around the medieval village of Caunes-Minervois where my brother has lived for many years. Located in the Languedoc region, this was Cathar Country and is full of amazing history. It is known that quarrying there has been ongoing since the 17th century, and there is a possibility that small quarries were even exploited in Roman times as red marble capitals and other details are evident in Languedoc churches dating from the 8th century.
The marble quarry brought prosperity to Caunes especially as outcrops held workable volumes of marble, some over 15M (about 50') in height. The Carrière du Roy (King's Mine) is named for it's most prestigious client, Louis XIV, and he obviously had a lot of the marble brought to Versailles.
When I first visited the site of the quarry closest to Caunes some years back it had closed, however one close to the Carrière du Roy is now operational, as well as a second one a couple of miles away. The marble blocks are now taken to Italy for finishing and then shipped around the world.

Model of the Palace of Versailles. It stands approximately 10 miles southwest of Paris.

The day of our visit was cool and sunny - perfect for a walk through the gardens.
Photo of us (left) with our California friends Kim and Rob, taken by Paula.
I must say I was thrilled to visit Versailles at long last during our trip in October.