Monday, July 30, 2018

Mother's child. . . . . . . .

On a recent day I felt very much my mother's child. Do you ever feel like that?
Baking was on the To Do list - some to nibble and more to freeze.
Wholewheat cheese scones for soups or salads, and blueberry muffins
 for breakfast.

Mother was definitely a brilliant woman. She could do just about anything she set her
 hand to. Dressmaker to royalty, tailor, wedding dresses, my childhood wardrobe
 perfection, my adult wardrobe fashionable - I sent the fabric and Vogue designer
 patterns, she mailed back the clothes! 
Gardener with a very green thumb, awesome cook, jam maker, cake baker.
Bartender in her father's pub in her twenties. Served in the Royal Air Force 
during WW2. A chef (no formal training but they loved every dish, and her
 amazing cakes) in an exclusive business club. 
She managed shops; lighting (where she handmade the silk lampshades); furniture;
and china departments as she knew all the beautiful British china 
patterns. . . . . . . . and before retirement, managed the busy theatre box office
 in our lovely seaside town where she met the famous, including the Beatles!  

. . . . . . .and the tea towel?

The Princess Theatre building is just visible on the left of this old but loved tea towel.
 Built in 1961, the year before I emigrated to the USA, it sits on the waterfront
 of my hometown in Devon, England. Celebrities galore have crossed its 
stage - from the pirouetting Russian Bolshoi Ballet to prancing Mick Jagger and
 his Rolling Stones!

. . . . . . . this tea towel reminds me of my mother and much of what
she taught me and passed along to me. What a hard worker she was,
what an amazing woman. I'll miss her always.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Days like this . . . . . . . .

I am truly thankful for my home today.
I admit I moan about it at times, the small size, lack of a pantry, concern about stairs
 as we age, the now pressing need to replace the entire HVAC system, the never
 ending garden chores, the biting bugs and rascally wildlife visitors in the garden,
 and so forth.
 Of course there are lots of good things too, enough for another story some day!
A bright, new, easy to maintain, turnkey condo on one level, just ready to furnish
 and relax in as we age, with a patio ready for pots of plants and kitchen herbs
 fills my dreams.

But, as I said, today I'm happy and extremely grateful for the cottage home I do have.

Earlier this week I started a post to share here about a special new woman who
 has shown up in my life. Thanks to other family members doing the 23andMe DNA
 testing, and being on, I now have a second cousin in California. 
She has been sharing so much info, and lovely photos of the family (my mother's
 side) which I'd never seen. I have been able to assist her with names, dates and
 stories to enable her to do more work on the family tree. 
Over the past two weeks we've chatted on the phone and exchanged dozens
 of emails. Our Canadian-born grandfathers were brothers and she inherited
 several steamer trunks full of photos and history from her late grandmother. 
Now she's going through them and finding such treasures. . . . . . . . . but, and this
 is the very sad part, yesterday she and her husband lost their home in the huge,
 horrific, Carr wildfire which swept through a section of Redding in northern California!
 They and their pets are safe, however I'm not sure yet what, if anything else, they
 were able to save.

Life can be so sad. Linda and her neighbors must be in shock over 
losing their much-loved homes and my heart goes out to them all.

Cottage garden with Sunflowers - Summer 2018
Gazebo - Spring 2018
Potting Shed - Summer 2018

At some other time I hope to share more about the family treasures 
Linda found in the trunks. Meanwhile, I hope you, like me, will pray
for an end to this devastating wildfire which brave firefighters on the
 ground, and in the air, are trying to stop, and that there will be no
 further loss of lives or properties. 
This is really a bad one, in fact being named perhaps the worst ever in
 northern California. Even more worrisome is the that the weather forecast
 is not sounding kind at all for the coming week, and halting the spread of
 this massive fire will take an unbelievable effort by many, many
 brave people!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Oh deer!

Here's a wake up photo!  
Ms. Jane Doe was back yesterday afternoon around 5PM. Just happened to
 look out and saw her under the fig tree eating some of the dropped fruits.
 She saw us looking at her through the glass storm door and didn't seem at all
 concerned - I think she's may be getting too tame, or she just likes what's on 
our garden menu!  
She certainly is photogenic - and look at those eyelashes!
I took over fifty photos but will just share few here.

'Jane' then moved on to the bird feeder which was almost empty from so many
 hungry birds hanging out these hot days.  We allowed her to nibble for a short
 while, and I took my photos - before clapping hands and shooing her off - though 
how she actually gets the seeds out those small holes made for tiny bird
 beaks, is beyond me!

She is so sweet - and I'm almost ready to forgive her a bit of nibbling as she must 
eat - but I'm wondering where the rest of her family might be. I hope she's not an
 orphan and that they have moved on leaving her here alone.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

A splash of magic from a secret palette. . . . . . . .

Fig Tree and Birds feeding 

I did it!  I purchased the Waterlogue app for my iPhone.
For the past 24 hours, I've been 'painting' - and having so much fun!

I'm not sure if it's cheating a bit, after all I only took the photos.
Someone/thing techie out there in space is responsible for the paints
 and brushes, the canvas etc.

But, I have to admit, I now have several of my photos
changed into watercolor paintings. . . . . and they are fabulous.

I may make a set of cards, a calendar, or get some large prints for the wall.
I'm posting these in smaller format - the can be much larger - but this size 

makes them more like little jewels.
This one above I took I about an hour ago following a good rain shower,
much needed as it's so dry, then a watery sun popped out from
 the clouds for a few minutes.

 I noticed that most of the birds now feeding are very young, and very

 hungry and thirsty.
They appear to be the Springtime offspring of our adult birds,
especially, cardinals, finches, doves, towhees etc.
Now and then a male parent cardinal does come to the feeder
and feeds a juvenile male - mom sits in the fig tree and watches - I 

took this one yesterday.

Male cardinal feeding male juvenile.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Iced Drinks for Summertime. . . . . . . . . .

Tomorrow's Scribble Picnic art get together over at Michael's 
is canceled!  Too much going on in many people's lives these busy
Summer days - even I missed the last two weeks due to 
travel and busy days when I returned. Perhaps the 'picnic' will
 return at a later date, I hope so.
I'd already worked on my piece for this week - theme 
Iced Drink - so decided to share it anyway.

For me, on late afternoons into hot, humid evenings here in the southeast, 
you may find me enjoying my favorite 'iced drink', Rosé wine.
I've taste tested many, some excellent and far too pricey, others not so
good, from all growing areas in the world.
This pretty shaped bottle of dry rosé (must be dry, no sweet wines for me)
from Provençe, has become my go to choice for this Summer. . . . and at
just $7.99 at Aldi it's a winner!

My original photo, taken on the dining room table, is edited in PicMonkey
 to a 'sketch' then I added back color with watercolor pencils.

I'm pleased with this effect - I love watercolor paintings.
I know there are some 'Watercolor' apps available that turn your 
photos into paintings - anyone use one of those and can recommend?

I use a MacBook Air so it has to be compatible. Unfortunately Waterlogue,
purported to be the best app, is not available for MacBooks or iMac.
It is available on the iPhone though so perhaps I'll try it there - can at
least use it on photos taken with my phone rather than camera.

Cheers, and a happy Summer painting days to all my artist friends.

Monday, July 23, 2018

How does one apologize. . . . . . . . .

. . . . . .  to a wild creature who visits the garden?

I have no idea, however, here and now, I am apologizing profusely to 'Ms. Jane DOE' 
(as we've named our pretty young lady deer - see previous post) for putting
 the entire blame on her for the destruction of the sunflowers!

Yesterday afternoon:  sunny, humid, late day storms all around us but fortunately
 we escaped high winds and quarter-sized hail. Not a deer in sight but more sunflowers
 were literally struck down, when we weren't looking, by some animal chewing 
through the thick stalks - about 12" up from the ground. 
The flower heads/seeds that hit the ground had been chewed up, gobbled down,
 spit out. . . . . and only defoliated stems and piles of yellow petals remained.

We began to rethink the culprit.

Here he is, maybe one of several who hang about our garden. . . . . . . . and this
 is where I saw him early this morning when I first looked out the window. 
(By now, you must think I spend my entire day looking out the window with a 
camera in hand - I admit I sometimes do).

More smaller flower stems were on the ground, however the thickest stalks
 were still standing and there he (or perhaps she) was, clambering about on
 the leafy stems, reaching for the seed-filled heads and having a
 healthy/hearty breakfast.  

I know the deer come through at night - I see their hoof prints - they may
 even have a nibble on the sunflowers on their way, but I now really don't think
 they've eaten all the sunflowers this summer, squirrels have definitely had more
 than their share!
Will I plant sunflowers next year?
Of course I will - but I'll have to buy seeds as I've not been
 able to rescue any from this summer's crop.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Sunday in the wildlife 'park'. . . . . . . . . .

This morning's visitor to the bird feeder!
I raised the dining room blinds and there she stood, so beautiful and silent,
staring right at me - fortunately my camera was on the table and I managed
a few shots.

Last year, I shared photos here of a somewhat younger (spots on rump) visiting
 white-tailed doe. 
She had scars from a fresh injury on her right side above her front leg and up
 her neck. My friend Gina noticed them in the photos and thought perhaps she
 had been hit by a car. Be certain to visit Gina's amazing blog Art and Alfalfa 
if you haven't done so yet. It's so beautiful where she lives and she is a lovely, 
multi-talented artist.

Looking closely, I'm thinking the now faint marks on her fur below the sunflower
 leaves, in the same area, could be the healed scars. If so, I'm so happy she has
 survived. . . . . . . even though she's gobbling up the garden!

After realizing I'd seen her, she moved on across the lawn, took a quick
 nibble at the hydrangea plant behind the acer. . . . . . . . . . . . 

. . . . . . . then trampled through the now almost dead sunflowers which she's
 enjoyed, and destroyed, for a couple of weeks. . . . . . . . . 

. . . . . . .on to my neighbor Bob's tomatoes where she nibbled the
 leaves. I picked all the ripe fruits yesterday - he's away and gave me
 permission to take any or all rather than have them rot. . . . . lucky me.

At that point I opened the door and told her to leave. Here she is
taking such dainty steps across the road to a neighbor next to
 the wooded area of the cul-de-sac. We think perhaps she hangs
 out there where there is a small creek for a water source.

Remember now, we don't live in the countryside. These deer and other
 wildlife are losing their natural homes due to land being built on all around us. 
They have nowhere else to go. We've lived in this house 32 years
 and never saw a deer in our garden until just a couple of years ago when
 construction took off big time.
Close by, we now have office towers, retail shops, apartments, condos, 
and huge high-priced houses where small ranch homes used to stand
in our neat and tidy, heavily wooded neighborhood.
Apparently it's called 'progress' . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Worth heating up the kitchen. . . . . . . . .

Baking days continue as Bob is still buying far too many blueberries. . . . . .
and they just don't keep long in this hot weather!

Good thing is muffins freeze so well. . . . . . . . and the neighbors love them too!
This week's batch were jumbo size, eight instead of twelve. I prefer these
because they seem more moist, and of course you get to eat more healthy
 blueberries. . . . . . . .and one is so filling you're not tempted to nick a second
 one and feel guilty!!!

Results from this never fail recipe I've shared before in posts HERE back in 2014
 and HERE  in 2016.

This post from a blog post waaaaay back in 2012 actually has the recipe
 if you want to try these yummy muffins. I now usually make one change, using
 half whole wheat flour rather than all white, they are delicious and less
 crumbly this way.  

Muffins are so easy to make and quick to bake.
Great for breakfast, lunch, even afternoon tea.

After carrot and raisin - my all-time favorite - these blues are next, then
 perhaps cranberry-orange, plus of course lemon-zucchini. . . . . . and
 I should be baking them soon with the usual summertime glut of zucchini

Do you have a favorite muffin?
Any muffin recipes to share?

Have a wonderful weekend.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Baking with fresh fruits. . . . . . . . .

Baked this easy galette yesterday as I needed to use up a remaining piecrust 
taking up space in the refrigerator.  Picked up a box of California plumcots------not
 pluots which are quite different------at LIDL, and found they did the job nicely in place
of traditional plums which were not available. 

As we all know by now, making a rustic, free form galette is a lot easier 
and more fun than a traditional pie. I've learned that baking on a sheet of 
parchment paper is best - with fruit it's almost impossible not to have
 juices leak out making it difficult to remove the pie which becomes stuck
to the baking sheet. This way just lift the galette with the parchment and
plonk it on a serving plate! I used my deep vintage pie pan which I love.

Here's a link to Plumcots interesting history. 
BTW, this is not a newfangled genetically engineered fruit which is good news!

Have you tried plumcots? 
Pass the crème frâiche, whipped cream or ice cream!
Do you enjoy baking, and of course eating, fresh fruit pies, tarts, galettes?