Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Someone else's cat. . . . . . . .

This is Nala my neighbor's cat. She's all mine for a couple of weeks while
 he's up north on vacation in Massachusetts. I hop the garden fence 
twice a day to feed, water and scoop, share a treat, and chat for a while.
Nala is a big, shy, quiet girl. I love that she meows when I enter the
 house, then proceeds to the door of the sunroom telling me she wants to
 spend a lazy day in there, obviously bird and squirrel watching. 
I took this photo and sent it to her 'Dad', telling him, in her words, how well
I was doing my cat-sitting job, and that she missed him!
He seemed pleased to get the text. He loves this cat despite the fact he
was only keeping her supposedly for a short while - she belonged to his 
daughter's college roommate who perhaps didn't love her quite as much.

 Ms. Nala has now been a guest for well over two years. . . . . .

. . . . . . . and meanwhile lucky me gets to pick my neighbor's tomatoes 
whilst he's gone. Life is good. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Ginger Jars. . . . . . . . . . . . .

Centuries of Chinese culture and history surround the ginger jar. 
The popular covered ginger jars originated in Imperial China in the Qin Dynasty
during which the Great Wall was built.

Shaped with a wide mouth, a domed lid, and the bulbous painted body, 
it comes in many styles and sizes, and is often painted in different colors.
  A true Chinese ginger jar is usually made of porcelain and hand painted.
These beautiful jars were originally used to store food supplies such as salt,
 herbs, oil and ginger which were exported to the West.
In the 19th century ginger jars became a fashionable item and were mass 
produced for export to the West where they were used as decorative elements
 rather than functional items.

The white ginger jar, such as these I found in a New Hampshire shop some
 years ago - no longer with their domed lids, but wish I had purchased -
 is the traditional Chinese wedding gift.  

I think they are are really beautiful.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

A cool look. . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . and a simple, minimalist lover's idea of a magazine rack!

Just browsing through photos looking for a 'cool' one when this popped up.
  Who would have thought such a simple metal hanger would look this neat on
 the wall - I love it!

Speaking of walls, It seems the current wallpaper trend continues - go 
HERE to view a great selection of classic William Morris designs.

I love this look which proves wallpaper is not old-fashioned and can
look fabulous, even contemporary, in the right setting.
I could even consider giving up my French/farmhouse/vintage Euro look
for this! 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Don't complain about the heat. . . . . . . .

Hotel garden in Broome, Australia - 2012

The temperature/heat index here yesterday when I checked around 2 PM, 
was again 100F. The entire week ahead will remain
in the high 90's with little if any rain.
 It's complicated, the way the weather guys give temperature readings these
 days!  But of course nothing stays the same anymore - there's always a new
 way to do everything. Even my long gone parents used to say that, so I guess it's 
just something that occurs with each decade.

Oh yes, about the heat. Thinking back, I felt the most uncomfortable and overheated
 in two particular places in the world - Singapore and Western Australia. 

Singapore, amazing in many ways, but probably the most hot and humid place 
I've ever experienced - go HERE for a glimpse of my all too brief visit.

Flying across Australia - Sydney to Broome - 2012 

Western Australia? Talk about hot, hotter than hot, the driest
 hot ever. . . . . . . I thought I was going to die in the Northern Territory, especially
 on the days spent adventuring in Kakadu National Park and Arnhem Land. 
But, wouldn't have missed visiting such an interesting place and
learning so much about the landscape and the Aborigines, Australia's 
indigenous people who have lived there over 30,000 years.

Edited:  I see it's 107F in Death Valley, California today, but will reach 114F on Monday.
The hottest place in the USA. Yes, I was also very hot there on a visit some years back.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Evenings in Africa. . . . . . . .

Needless to say, dining in a safari lodge does not require evening dress.
No dinner jackets and ties, and definitely no gossamer  
gowns and dainty high heeled shoes.
This makes packing even simpler than loading up for a cruise ship.

After returning from game drives in the bush, often more than 
one in a day, dressing for dinner is low on the priority list.
Dusty and windblown, a quick freshen up, perhaps a dash
 of lipstick and a pair of earrings for bling, is about it before a relaxing
 aperitif by the fire pit, then a delicious dinner. You are really hungry by then,
after the fresh air and often strenuous animal viewing, take my word!
Evenings are full of chatter from guests and staff exchanging stories of 
their exciting day. Overhead the huge open sky is glittering with stars.
 Off in the distance lions are roaring, close by there's always some animal
 shuffling about making it imperative to have armed guards in the shadows,
just in case!

Night time can be quite loud in Africa.
I recall my very first night in Africa here in Botswana in 2010. 
Talk about a cacophony of unusual grunts, snorts, roars, munching
 (elephants seem to eat 24 hours a day), and assorted bird calls and screeches,
 all of which sound like they are right on the other side of the tent canvas.
More on safari 'tents' coming in a future post.

~ In the sitting room before dinner at Downton Abbey ~

~ The sitting room area at Mara Plains Camp ~

Not much difference between the two, except perhaps the wallpaper, artwork, 
 and dress code - and of course Downton Abbey had nothing wilder than those dear
 yellow labrador retrievers close by, perhaps giving a friendly bark now and then. 

I wonder who will be coming to dinner in Kenya.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Clouded views from the neighborhood. . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . but we are not complaining at all!

This Summer's clouds have been especially beautiful, often
piled up like whipped cream in the Carolina blue sky.

I whipped my iPhone out to get these photos as we drove past this building just
 minutes from our home. Yes, the latest hi-rise to be completed - there are several others
 plus more under construction - on land which at one time was most likely part
of the farmland (we dug up a vintage tractor seat in our back garden) where
 our older neighborhood stands tucked in between massive oak, hickory and pine trees.

We have lived in this area of Raleigh, north of downtown, for almost 40 years.
The changes to the landscape were slow at first, then with more roads, high-priced
suburban neighborhoods, and strip shopping areas gradually stretching even further
 north, the countryside has been eaten up, bite by bite, year by year.
It's called progress!

Across the main road from our neighborhood, built just prior to our move here in 1977,
 was the only enclosed 2-story air-conditioned mall between Washington D.C. and
 Atlanta, Georgia. 
It was also Raleigh's only mall with two levels of department stores, shops and
 restaurants, a fun place to visit for many years. Later it was sold and gradually
 went downhill when other more modern upscale malls started springing up around
 the growing city. 

In 2001 along came a man with great vision who bought the dreary mall,
 a nearby shopping plaza, aging apartment complexes, and much of the
 surrounding area, eventually building what has become known as Midtown. 
This North Hills area is an ongoing expansion of quality hotels, hi-rise office
 buildings, posh apartment complexes, great shops, a multi-screen cinema, 
hi-tech bowling alley, brewery, outdoor park and performance/concert areas,
 and many excellent restaurants of every type. 
Now under construction, along with three more office buildings and a boutique hotel,
 is also a wonderful retirement/assistive living complex.

The design and quality construction of this entire new area couldn't have been 
better. We do have more traffic, and lots more people, but with something
for all age groups we enjoy how lively this destination close to home has become.
The fact that our property values are increasing as we now sit on a prime location
 is good. There are a lot of people moving to Raleigh/Wake County - they 
estimate 63 per day - who work for these national companies, many of them
 want to buy homes!
   Older homes are selling quickly, some becoming tear downs, and larger, 
elegant houses are being built in their place, this helps breathe life into a somewhat
 tired neighborhood. We enjoy hearing the music wafting over from the Thursday
 evening Summer concerts, and a Saturday morning Farmers' Market brings 
plenty of fresh farm bounty almost to our door.
During the holiday season from November thru early January, there is plenty of
 entertainment and we can walk from home - no searching for a parking spot.

The outdoor concert/performance park.

Construction continues with more office/hotel/apartment high rises underway.

Will we remain here in this now busy urban neighborhood? 
Who knows what the future may bring!
Have you lived in your neighborhood many years? 
If so, has it changed much?

Monday, August 22, 2016

Before we leave. . . . . . . . . .

Monday morning. 
Sun shining. 
No rain coming for the entire week.
No wind blowing. 
Humidity a bit lower. 
Temperature a comfortable 80F - in the shade!

The kind of day I've been waiting for.
Time for spraying - but not plants!
The back garden is not very pretty now after many weeks of constant heat
 and dryness, however today it provided a good airy outdoor space to get busy
preparing our clothes, travel bags etc. for the upcoming Kenya trip.

We already had several pre-treated clothes from past Africa visits, however they've
been laundered a lot so have probably lost much of their insect repellency. 
Other items we are taking also need help as mosquitoes continue to 
spread malaria and now zika. Spraying with Permethrim is not something we
really like to do but with me who has a serious allergic reaction to
 mosquitoes - and oh how they love me - I cannot take a chance. Will also
be spraying any exposed skin with a Deet repellent often once we're settled 
in our camp.
Guess I can leave perfume at home this trip!
It's always quite a rigmarole getting everything in order for safari or expedition
 type vacations. With luggage sizes/weight restrictions, especially when small bush
 planes are used, you need to take only what you will really/truly/honestly require.
 Good planning and a bit of ruthless editing when actually doing that final pack is
 definitely required. 

The items are all dry now and taken indoors. 
Thankfully this product is just about odor-free and does not stain fabric.

We have a good handle on what we'll be packing in a couple of weeks - so Bob I and
 are now spending an hour or so on this beautiful afternoon going through our
 'KENYA' folders and weeding out paperwork we've doubled up on, and thereby 
minimize what we need to haul in our backpacks.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Along the winding way. . . . . . . .

Nearby, in my area of North Carolina, is an artist/musician/stonemason
 who will wow you with his amazing creations in garden landscapes using the 
most beautiful pebbles. 

His installations mimic wandering streams with floating flowers, gentle running
 brooks, even the look of textiles draped across larger stones and rocky
outcrops in a landscape.

Graham Fry had already worked a decade in landscaping featuring stonework
which included building massive walls, outdoor fireplaces, unusual steps and
 stairways, elegant paved walkways and patios etc., when he gravitated toward
 work using stone in its smallest form, pebbles.

Beside being beautiful art, his creations in the landscape are able to address
 problem areas such as poor drainage, or a lack of good soil for growing plants. 
Can you imagine the patience required to create these glorious installations?

Graham, also a working musician, plays guitar with well known rock
 (no pun intended!) bands. While laying rocks and pebbles he's always
 listening to music to help with the flow. It's not hard to hear a melody in
his work such as this one below. To me, these creations bring yet 
another aspect of Nature to surround a home and make a
very beautiful garden area which will last a long time.

I learned of Graham's company and outstanding work from a recent article
 in our local Raleigh newspaper. I was so excited that I went immediately to his
 website to learn more. You should do the same, go here to WINDING PATH 
to see more of his astounding body of work.

I have an area in my garden where I know Graham could work his magic -
it's now near the top of that ever expanding wish list!

All photos via Winding Path Custom Stone Masonry, Durham, NC
Permission to share here given by Graham Fry. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

When a house is a home. . . . . . . . . . . .

We live in an aging cottage.  
Many things are looking tired on the exterior and we must make some decisions in the coming months to ramp up the maintenance plan.  Part of our problem has been traveling often and letting things slide. We still get the chimney cleaned every year, we burn a lot of wood all Winter, and safety comes first and foremost.
 Yesterday we had the deck power washed because I just couldn't stand looking it after so much rain and then torrid heat baking it all Summer. Weather conditions, and so many huge overhanging trees, had done a job on it, turning the golden wood dark and dreary, quite uninviting. Now it's bright and beautiful again, for a while! 

Then there are windows, high up on each side, and another reason a one story condo looks more and more inviting! 
Just so you know, Bob will get upset at that last sentence!
I so love to look out at the garden through sparkling glass. I can no longer hang out the second floor windows to work magic on grimy glass! I did this until lower back issues put a stop to such silliness. Right now I'm 'babying' my back so that I can head to Kenya pain free, hopefully managing those wonderful game drives on rough terrain without discomfort. Ladders, did I really hear you say that dreaded word. . . . . . . the piece of equipment we older gals and guys need to steer clear of. So the young pony-tailed power washing guy, with muscles and no fear of heights, was also given the window washing job!

We need to have some major tree pruning and drainage work done in the back of the house, and come next Spring there will be more exterior freshening and fixing. All shrubs close to the house will have to be cut down prior to exterior painting - a huge job I can't even bear thinking about.

Well, as they say, "that's life", let's face it, being a homeowner/gardener
 is not for the faint-hearted.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Feeling a bit Swedish today. . . . . . . . . .

When you don't have one of these nearby, but see one on a road trip, it's hard
 to resist quick stop. 
We did just that last week on the way home from the airport and our appointments
 with US Customs and Border Protection to apply for Global Entry.
Furnishing departments were definitely geared up for 'Back to School'  and
 I must say IKEA really knows what young people love to have in their personal
 space. Prices are affordable and design is always cutting edge.

However, many items require construction skills as they come flat-packed.
Don't know if I have the patience these days. . . . . . .and crawling around on hard 
floors while trying to put things together kills the old knees! 
Building furniture is a job for the young. 
 (Pardon the wrinkled linen pants - not the best for sitting in the car but
oh so cool on these 100 degree days).

We bought a few kitchen items, white bowls, wooden spoons, napkins, towels.
Then we headed to the food court where we stocked up on Swedish delicacies we
enjoy - cookies, crackers, dill sauce, and decided to try their coffee - will give you 
my opinion once I've opened and brewed.

I could spend an entire day just taking photos in IKEA.
Do you like to shop there?
What are the special items you would bring home?