Thursday, March 31, 2016

Shopping for Spring. . . . . . . .

Yes, my tulips are now blooming in the garden.
No, these are not from my garden!

A magnificent bunch of one dozen parrot tulips for just
$7.99 at Trader Joe's a couple of days ago.
I just couldn't resist.
I think they're stunning, don't you agree?

Monday, March 28, 2016

Branson - music and more!

A few photos from friendly Branson - we had such a fabulous visit.

Arriving at Springfield, Missouri airport at sunset.

Walking through the charming historic old part of Branson.

We went to these six shows whilst in Branson. 
Every one was really good with great singers and dancers, definitely a lot of fun.
 My favorite (Bob's too) was George Dyer - the most charming tenor with
an extraordinary voice who could sing anything, he blew us away!

Theatres, theatres everywhere!

Early on a sunny morning Paula, Bob and I took a trip to the National Tiger Sanctuary
 near Branson. 
This is a non-profit, rescue and training organization that provides a permanent
 home for exotic and domestic animals.
 The sanctuary is dedicated to preservation of the environment and exemplary
 animal care. IT IS NOT A  ZOO, and there are no breeding programs.

The white tigers were rescued from a magic show. They had only ever lived
 on concrete, causing them serious foot problems. Now they are healing and
 gradually becoming used to their spacious natural area complete with their
 own 'swimming pools'. 
They are magnificent animals.

This is Harry, one of two cubs rescued after being used in the 'Pay for Play' industry. 
Many exotics die early from stress and germs after being handled that way. 
Harry loves the water for swimming, even when it's ice cold.
A pride of lions were brought to the sanctuary in 2013. There are two are large males,
 with three females - they all seem to get along well together. These cats were owned
by a private collector. When he died, apparently his wife did not want to continue
caring for them. I wonder why?
This female was not too happy when I bent down to eye level to take her picture,
 and snarled at me. I still loved her!

This is Leo, an extremely large older lion who loved just lying in the sun, 
yawning and showing us his huge teeth when he roared!

As you may know, we no longer visit zoos since traveling to Africa and
viewing the big cats (no tigers there of course, but plenty of lions, leopards
 and cheetahs) in their natural habitats. This sanctuary appears to be in excellent
hands, with much love and devotion shown toward their animals, all of which
 have been rescued from dire conditions where their lives were at risk.

Yes, the Branson trip was a lot of fun - and of course seeing dear friends
was wonderful as always.

I'll be taking a short blog break this week - have a lot going on and need
to play catch up.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Sunday. . . . . . .

He is Risen  
Matthew 28:6

The Mystery of Faith fresco by Ben Long
St. Mary's Episcopal Church, West Jefferson, North Carolina

Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida L.)
State flower of North Carolina
This is my small tree now blooming for Easter.

There is a legend that the wood for Christ's cross
came from the dogwood tree.

Easter blessings to you all.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Homeward Bound . . . . . . .

One of my pair of Carolina wrens on the front porch.
These little chirpy birds are busy flitting around
 the garden, ready to nest I'm sure. . . . . . it's that
 time of year again.

Today we're flying too. . . . . leaving Branson - where
 we've had a really fun time - heading first to Dallas
 then onward to Raleigh this evening.
I'll catch up with you all soon!

Hope your Easter celebration will be beautiful and blessed.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

A visit from the Cedar Waxwings. . . . . . . . . . . . .

Recently, early morning, a flock of beautiful Cedar waxwings took a 
short break in our backyard trees. I first noticed about a dozen squabbling
 over whom would get a drink from the birdbath. 
I ran for the camera but by the time I returned to the window they
 were up on the branches with about 20 more birds, all preening before moving
 on to wherever they were headed, probably back up north. Such lovely birds.

I'm still visiting in Branson, Missouri.
Yes, enjoying the music and being with friends.
Weather has turned cold after the stormy night but will
 warm up again tomorrow. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Mountains and Music . . . . . . . .

Flying westward later today. 
A little trip to Branson, Missouri.
It will be my first time in the Ozarks. 
Although we may not have time to see a lot of the beautiful mountain scenery, 
I'm hoping flying in will bring some great aerial views before the sun sets this evening.
 We'll meet up with California friends to enjoy some time together . . . . . 
and plenty of music which Branson is known for.  
We'll attend several concerts which I'm sure will be fun.

Coming back home for Easter.
The rabbits will be waiting. . . . . . 
and a chocolate egg is tucked away for someone special.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Gone but still lovely. . . . . . . .

Do you know how to give tender loving care to your fading spring daffodils and narcissus?
Any blooms you didn't cut and bring into the house for color and enjoyment, may now be shriveled, wrinkled, and dried on their sturdy stems, though of course still surrounded by their healthy green leaves.

We know we should do no drastic pruning immediately after blooming - the daffodil bulbs require nutrition from the stems and leaves if they are to naturalize and keep returning year after year. You have to allow all the greenery to turn yellow before the final trimming - perhaps a couple of months from now. Never tie the dying leaves in bunches in hopes of hiding them - that's a huge no-no! This weekend I read in the local newspaper garden section that it's also best to cut off just the actual flower head, not all the way down to the base of the stem which is what I have often done in years past. This is also a good time to add a couple of inches of good compost around the plants, working it into the soil. You can leave your bulbs in the ground, or in pots if you grew them there, until next year - they only require digging up and keeping dry if you plan to move and want to take them with you - something I would consider if that day ever comes!

Of course you now get a few photos - because I think they are still lovely in a different way before popping them, along with some purple pansies that have seen better days, into the bin ready for their next garden effort. . . . . . . making lovely compost.

Next are the tulips, some are just coming into bloom, and the bluebells are just showing buds. As for shrubs, all of my azaleas are now opening their buds. Easter should be very colorful around here, as long as this cold spell, which started today and will continue for a couple of days, isn't too severe. After the recent spell of warm, balmy weather, the first day of Spring has been quite chilly here in the southeast.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

I'm really having quite a terrible fun time downsizing!  
Yes, trying to remain positive whilst saying au revoir to half my clothes and such.
This week several bags were transported to Retails, the local thrift shop I 
support - they use their profits for animal welfare and spay/neuter programs in the area.  
Also, the clean out of the potting shed last week ended up being a
positive experience. A neighbor's caregiver, when driving by, asked to take
 several items we had piled at the curb for city pickup, for her son to repair and
 paint. We happily loaded them into her car!

Remember, after grabbing the lovely Marie Kondo's newest book Spark Joy
 while buying wine at Costco HERE - in January - I made myself a promise that
this is the year I would start sorting through, re-organizing, and finally letting go
 of stuff which didn't 'spark joy' in my life.

It will be a slow process, perhaps because we actually are tidy, and are not
 true hoarders, so if you came to visit you would not be shocked, or tripping
 over things, well I hope not!  But, in a small home with limited space,
we do need to cut back on storing more than we can use, be it paper 
towels, black socks, or bottles of wine!

We do not live in the countryside isolated from modern life.
We have so many malls, shopping centers, grocery stores, big box stores,
garden centers within a short drive, some within a 10 minute walk, that anything
 we might suddenly need is almost on the doorstep.
Raleigh is close to the top of every 'best place to live' list - you can see the list
HERE and yes, we'll welcome you if you decide to move here along with the 
thousands of new residents arriving annually . . . . .be prepared for great
living and true southern hospitality.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Musical Mornings. . . . . . . . . .

Being safe at home is such a comforting feeling. Despite my busy travel schedule to many amazing places in the world over the past several years, I do love being here in the cottage. There really is no place like home.

Do you play music in your home? I realized recently that I've not been playing music CDs like I used to. I have numerous CDs I've purchased over many years. Bob has his collection too as we have different musical tastes. Between us we have a cabinet chock-a-block with a big mix of musical offerings. Sometimes I play one on my computer if I'm alone - I love Loreena McKennitt, Enya, Eva Cassidy, movie soundtracks, Turkish melodies (memories) from Istanbul, soothing New Age piano solos etc. We have a stereo system for playing CDs and tapes tucked into the cabinet near the fireplace, but often it's not used for months. I always load up music nonstop over the holidays, nice background music for raising a glass and nibbling snacks when family and friends stop by, but then it sits dormant. I do play CDs in my car, rarely listening to the radio unless it's a classical music station.

During the week, whilst cleaning the guest room, I found a forgotten portable AM/FM radio in the nightstand. I dusted it off and brought it into the kitchen where I tuned it to our local classical station and enjoyed some lovely music whilst cooking etc. I think I'll keep it there and turn it on often. With so much insanity in the world music truly can soothe our souls, especially in times of stress. The music I embrace is classical and beautiful. . . . . thought provoking during quiet sections, exhilarating and spine tingling as crescendos rise drowning out the ugly bits of modern life. 

So of course I must ask you, being the inquisitive blogger I am. . . . . 
. . . . . do you listen to music in your home?


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Happy St. Patrick's Day. . . . . . . . . .

Top 'o the morning to you all.
Whether Irish or not, perhaps you still celebrate 
today with a traditional pint of green beer, corned beef
and cabbage, colcannon. . . . . 

 . . . . . or my favorite, a nice loaf of traditional Irish Soda Bread.
Eat it all today slathered in good Irish butter, because tomorrow
 it won't be half as good! 

Bob, whose grandfather hailed from County Kerry, will be 'wearing 
the green' today!  Meanwhile, we are busy planning our upcoming trip
to beautiful Ireland this Spring - I'm excited as I've never been there.
We'll be roughing it through the glorious Irish countryside, searching for
 family among all those thousands of Sullivans who didn't get on a 
boat to America back when.
Guess starting at the pubs will be a good idea, after we kiss the 
Blarney Stone!!!

Enjoy your day - you must have a wee bit of Irish in you.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

After the rain comes Spring. . . . . .

The rain came down in buckets last night, thunder crashed directly
 overhead, nonstop lightning illuminated the trees off and on for
several hours.

Earlier in the afternoon the sun was shining and it reached 81F.
Looking through the window upstairs (sorry, there's a screen so photos
 are a bit grainy) I noticed how the trees were extending their beautiful
 buds toward the sunlight.

I was also able to catch this male White-Breasted Nuthatch on a branch.
This is the bird we usually see hopping headfirst down tree trunks which is
apparently a way to see insects that birds climbing up the trunk might miss!
Incredible agility comes from the extra long hind toe claw, nearly twice the
size of the front toe claws - if you look closely you can see it wrapped around
the little twig.  Mated pairs remain together all year defending small territories.
 The female is similar in color but has a grey cap and neck. Together they build
 the nest and have one brood of 5-7 eggs per year. Both parents feed the young.

The sun is brilliant this morning and the garden is radiant with the buds
bursting and fresh leaves unfurling.
Sadly many of the daffodils were flattened in the storm - the ones that
refuse to stand up again I'll be cutting later for a vase. 

"Is the spring coming?" he said. "What is it like?"
    "It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling
 on the sunshine". . . . . . 

                                    Frances Hodgson Burnett ~ The Secret Garden