Sunday, July 31, 2016

Asheville - Flowers and Antiques ~

When visiting Asheville, North Carolina, about 4 hours from Raleigh,
 our favorite hotel is right in town. We can leave the car in the parking lot and 
walk to many interesting places, only having to drive if visiting Biltmore Estate
 and Village, or up a hillside to the fabulous historic Grove Park Inn, where we
 can enjoy a drink on the terrace with breathtaking views across the city toward the
 Blue Ridge Mountains.

This week we looked down from our window and directly below us found 
the historic Thomas Wolfe House, home of the American novelist. I told you more
 about this home in my post in the Fall of 2014 HERE.

Along the hotel's parking lot was a really wonderful mixed border of Summer
 blooming flowers. The coneflowers, grasses, and especially the tall pink
 Joe-pye weed caught my eye. . . . . .so of course you get photos here!

Attractive to butterflies, Joe-pye weed is a great addition to a wildflower
 or natural garden. Perhaps I will be able to tuck a few plants into my own
 wildlife habitat (yes, it's overgrown and in need of a serious makeover,
 but birds, butterflies, foxes and more love it!), in the coming season. 
This is a beautiful perennial with clouds of dusky pinkish-purple blooms,
the common one growing 5-7 feet which may require staking. There are however 
shorter, named varieties which I'll be looking for. They apparently prefer moist,
 well-drained soil in sun or with a bit of shade. These at the hotel were in full sun,
and seemed to be very healthy in the 95+ temperatures we had in Asheville.
It should be cut back to the base in Winter when it gets untidy.

Anyone ever grown this eye-catching plant with the odd name?

Never leave Asheville without a visit to my favorite antiques, vintage, book shop,
 home and garden venue, the ScreenDoor. 
Didn't make a purchase this time but took a few photos of items which caught my eye.

Didn't realize that dried magnolia sprigs could look so attractive with their
 two-colored leaves. My backyard neighbor's tree drops leaves on to my
 garden - perhaps I can sneak a few sprigs before they fall - they ARE hanging
 over the fence into my space!
Such unusual and charming handmade bird houses - I really wish I had
 brought one of these home with me. . . . . . . . 

. . . . . . .and I loved these illustrations with just one word. Kicking myself that
 I didn't buy one - but couldn't decide between RETURN or RESPOND.
 With such hot weather I think RETURN had the most cooling effect, but I love
RESPOND with the laundry drying in the fresh air too! 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Back to the Blue Ridge. . . . . . .

We've just enjoyed a short but sweet visit to western North Carolina.
We met up with some old friends and made some new ones, always fun.
The Blue Ridge Mountains shimmered in the 95F summer heat -
and the sunsets were beautiful. 

These were views from our hotel window. 

Driving home yesterday, the sun was bright , temperatures soaring into
 the nineties yet again. Leaving the higher mountains, the rolling hills were
 many shades of green, and the 'Carolina Blue' sky filled with puffy clouds,  
making the drive so enjoyable. We stopped for ice cream at the half way mark.
Arriving back in Raleigh the heat index was 108F! I quickly ran from the car 
into the cottage which felt wonderfully cool.

As I always say, there's no place like home!  

Monday, July 25, 2016

Turn up the heat!

What do you do in the heat of a Summer's day?

Well I had to turn on my oven yesterday and bake a batch
of blueberry muffins!
108F and I'm baking! Crazy, right?

We'll be out of town for a few days. I had a huge box of blues just
 screaming out to be packed into a light, old-fashioned style, cake batter.
A little grated nutmeg and a few crushed almonds scattered on the top.
A quick bake, thankfully, and then a pan of fresh muffins
to share with neighbors, stash in the freezer, with two 
left out for breakfast this morning.

Yum, they are really good, believe me!

Go HERE for an older post with this easy Blueberry Muffin recipe. . . . . 
if you're up for baking in the Summer heat!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

A beautiful day viewing the Ring of Kerry. . . . . . . . . .

Did I tell you I LOVED Ireland?
Of course I did, and here are some of the beautiful spots we visited 
whilst enjoying a perfect sunny day in the South West. . . . . . . .  
. . . . . . . around the famous Ring of Kerry.

View of the Skellig Islands, UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Skellig Michael, the largest island 

Hopefully I'll have a chance to return again some day, there's so much
more to see!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Fig Heaven. . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . is the name of the wonderful cook book written by Marie Simmons you
 can see here.
  It was a gift to me a few years ago from dear blog friend Sara in
 Southern California, when she noticed I was growing two fig trees from
 tiny plants purchased in pots from the Home Depot.
Both of my little potted figs, a Brown Turkey and a Celeste, are now gigantic
 trees 12-14 feet tall - they will require a major pruning come Autumn.  
Sara I hope you are reading this.

The past couple of Summers I've had great fig harvests, especially from the Celeste,
 and this year the Brown Turkey is also doing well. 
Yesterday my official fig picker, dear Bob, rapped on the screen door with the news
 of "lots of figs are ready - hand me a bowl."

After half an hour he returned with a large bowl overflowing with ripe figs, these
 are just a few of them!  Tomorrow I will share them with a friend when we meet early
 for coffee and a chat before the oppressive heat sets in.

The last couple of years I made a lot of fig jam, usually in August when the
 harvest was at its peak, and much of it was bestowed on anyone who
arrived at the front door. This year I hope to make more later.

Meanwhile, because we'll be away for a few days next week, I'm using these early
 figs in my morning Greek yogurt with a drizzle of wildflower honey, in a fig clafoutis, 
and for Saturday night supper, my favorite savory using figs, salmon and
 potatoes roasted on fig leaves with fresh fig salad. . . . . . . . . and, if time,
 more delectable puff pastry fig tarts. If anyone wants recipes let me know.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Meadows and memories. . . . . . . .

I first shared the cover of this book with you last month, along with others I am reading this hot, humid and unusually wet Summer in the southeast.  Last Saturday evening, into the late night hours, we had a tremendous storm which dumped 4 inches of non-stop drenching rain on the city of Raleigh and surrounding areas. I can honestly say I don't remember getting that much rain in just a few hours ever. Fearful the cottage would float away, there was nothing we could do but watch much of the back garden relocate to the front, a moat form, and a river rush down the driveway turning the cul-de-sac into a lake. We are now way over the average rainfall for the year, with oppressive days close to 100F and extreme humidity. Where can I move to? A safe place with perfect weather doesn't appear to exist!

Anyway, back to the book which is helping to keep me sane these days. I seem to always have two or three books on the go at the same time - but this particular beauty I'm finding hard to put aside even with other exciting ones waiting in the wings. 

It's somewhat difficult for me to describe Meadowland. If you, unlike me, didn't grow up in England and spend much of your childhood playtime in the countryside, in all honesty this book may not be your cup of tea. Unless of course, you, like me, love rolling country fields, farmland, animals both domestic and wild, sweet birds and their songs, and everything growing underfoot, in hedgerows, woodlands, along river banks etc. John Lewis-Stempel's eye for detail and the poetic imagery of his sentences are brilliant as he charts a year in the life of a field on his farm located on the Herefordshire/Welsh border. Meadowland is somewhat folksy and funny at times, but books have been written about entire countries that contain less interesting facts about flora and fauna in just one English meadow. I learned so many interesting new facts about so many creatures. When it comes to grass, now knowing more about the amazing stuff going on beneath it, a whole new world, I decided perhaps we should stop mowing because, as Lewis-Stempel says, "a lawn is a meadow in captivity."

Are you enjoying a good book during these hot Summer days?  

Monday, July 18, 2016

Daisy, Daisy. . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . give me your answer do, 
I'm all crazy just for the love of you,
it won't be a stylish marriage, 
I can't afford a carriage,
but you'll look sweet, upon the seat, 
of a bicycle made for two.

I have a few clumps of sweet fresh daisies in the garden. I always recall this old Edwardian era English song when I see them. I recall happy times when my grandmother Olive sang this song to me.

Oh the simplicity of life years ago compared to today. Songs such as this one bring back lovely memories of days gone by. Of course there have always been problems worldwide, no need to go into details here. Eventually, over weeks and months, news surfaced in the many newspapers, from crackling radios, and on small black and white television screens. Nowadays, due to modern technology, we learn of them every single day. We are instantly informed as horrific happenings occur, all the details shown in full color and close up. 

Do you agree that this is making life much more stressful?
Do you have feelings of hopelessness?
What do you do to get through these sad days without falling apart?

via UK Country Living 

May the week ahead be a good one, for you and the world.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Taking a break. . . . . . . . . . .

Sometimes there are no words that can be said. . . . . perhaps better
 to stay quiet, reflect, and wonder why.
My heart is heavy, broken, knowing there's nothing I can do to help.
This world is a very sad place tonight.

Nice, France - July 14, 2016