Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Goldfinches. . . . .

American Goldfinch : Carduelis tristis

This brilliant yellow pair - male on left, female right - arrived at the front porch
for some nibbling. 
 I purchased the small thistle seed feeder on a whim at the hardware store
and hung it out on Saturday. It came with a 3-lb bag of tiny black seed which
 alone is costly, but this entire deal was just $8.00.
 Many call it thistle seed however Nyjer is the seed of the African yellow daisy
 and is not related to thistle plants. Goldfinches love both Nyjer and thistle seeds,
 often using the wild thistle's silky down to construct their nests in late summer.

 It was a lovely surprise to catch the pair on the
 feeder Sunday morning right outside the dining room window.

A perky, obviously bright yellow bird at this time of year, the male being
 more colorful than the female, both become much duller in the winter months.
  They are partial migrators, flocks of up to 20 move around North America and
 most often are found in open fields, scrubby areas, and woodland.

Any new birds visiting your garden or patio?  
This spring I've been really lucky catching such beautiful bright-colored birds
 choosing to stop by the garden. 
Thoughts of moving are now definitely on the back burner. . . . . . at least
for the time being!

Monday, April 29, 2019

Water, water everywhere!!!

Torquay Harbour, Devon

The arrow marks the spot. 
This is where we'll stay for the upcoming visit to my home town in England -
following a couple of nights in Bath on the way south.

On the water, close to everything, and with no treacherous steps
 like the last visit HERE.
This photo is actually taken from the hilltop where we stayed last time.
Yes, the view was amazing but the access problem - especially climbing
 up and down 277 slippery old steps on wet winter days - was not.

Have you visited southwest England? It really is beautiful so if you haven't
made it there yet I hope some day you will.

P.S.  Always something before travel starts - such this morning. 
The washing machine decided not to stop filling and we paddled through the kitchen
 with a load of towels to mop up a lot of water!!!!
This is why I never leave home with either the washer (floods) or dryer (fires) running.
 Repairman coming tomorrow! 

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Elizabeth Barrett Browning in Devon -

The life of the Brownings was a great love story, part of which is set in my
 hometown Torquay, in England.
Famous writers, such as Agatha Christie and Charles Darwin wrote 
books there. . . . .  and the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning,
wife of poet Robert Browning, lived there for a while when her health
 deteriorated, before moving to Italy where she died in Florence in 1861.

We've booked an Airbnb in Torquay in what we are hoping will be
 "the merry, month of May!"
It's next door to the Hotel Regina where Mrs. Browning lived for a short time 
when her declining health required a warmer climate.
It's still run as a hotel, but is apparently nowhere near as glamorous these days. 
 Most of these historic buildings have lost their glow now they are over 200 years old.
Owners seem financially hard-pressed to make repairs, freshen up facades, 
and keep interiors bright and clean. 

This amazing old copy of Mrs. Browning's book of sonnets was sent to me by
 my lovely blog friend Shane in Auckland, NZ. It arrived last year before I knew
 I'd be staying within a stone's throw of where this famous poet sat, long ago,
 putting pen to paper and writing beautiful poems. 

So yes. . . . . . for those of you who've asked if I'm planning a trip anytime soon,
This week will see me going home to visit family, old friends, and new friends!

More another time.
Happy day.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Peonies, a pretty bird, and blooms . . . . . . . .

The peonies are budding, more blooms than former years, so perhaps at long last they
 are enjoying their spot in the garden and their roots are happy!
Looks like I may miss their fragrant blooms though - unless they hurry up and open
 this coming week. Traveling this time of year makes it hard to leave the garden when
 it's really at its prime.

A surprise visitor to the garden this week. . . . . . . just one, perhaps lost on his way
to the woods where he and his mate prefer deciduous forest for nesting. 
He was returning from winter migration to Mexico, Central or South America.
 This is the male Red-breasted grosbeak, such a handsome bird
and a joy to see.  A plump black and white bird with a large triangular rose patch
 in the center of chest, wing linings are rosy red and the large bill is ivory.
Female is completely different - heavily streaked brown and white, with large
 white eyebrows and orange yellow wing linings.

He stopped on the feeder, then took a drink, hardly more than a minute
 visit - couldn't believe how lucky I was to catch him and get a few photos
 from the dining room window!

I captured all these blooming beauties in the garden over the past few days.

Notice my beautiful first bumble bee, and we've seen a few butterflies.
Have decided not to do the 'mosquito spray' this year.  We did notice
 a definite lack of pollinating bees, butterflies, dragonflies etc. all last summer
with the spraying service coming every 3 weeks. Yes, I was only bitten 
a few times, which was a relief, but the garden seemed empty of beautiful
 flying creatures and I felt guilty!  This year I'll be back to spraying myself,
not my garden!

With several really warm days, then some good heavy showers yesterday, 
 everywhere is blooming.  April is certainly a colorful month in our area
of the southeast.

We have a perfect weekend weather forecast for here - hope you do too.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Chickadees - they're back!

Recently, I mentioned it appeared the Carolina chickadee pair had decided
 not to nest in the little 'Home Sweet Home' box on the porch this spring. 
Wow, how wrong I was, and how these tiny creatures never cease to amaze me.

There is now daily activity.
Quietly, the pair of tiny birds have built a nest!  

After cleaning the front porch, the pollen season just about over,
 we've been sitting outside on the last couple of beautiful calm, warm
evenings - sipping an aperitif after several hours working in the garden -
and watching this little guy bringing green grubs to the nesting box, 
obviously feeding the female who must be sitting on eggs.

Before popping into the box he sits here, makes a tiny chirp to advise her 
of his arrival, flies in and then back out in about 30 seconds and takes
off to resume his search for supper.
Note, no Boston ferns in my hanging baskets yet!

This is probably the fifth year the chickadees have nested in this now
somewhat weathered little house!

"In order to see birds it is necessary to become part of the silence."
. . . . . . Robert Wilson Lynd ~ 1879-1949

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Somewhere across the sea. . . . . . . .

. . . . . . is my home on the bay.

Dress ZARA:Spring 2019

I'm packing again!
Heading across the pond soon as it's
time to visit with family and friends.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Kitchen notes -

The deer came by the other evening and nibbled on my roses - took all the lovely
 buds forming on the Peace rose (which made me so mad) in front of the porch,
 and many of the red Knockout rosebush buds by the front steps. They come right
 up to the house apparently! These are also Knockouts but off a large bush now
 blooming near the birdhouse which they must not have discovered yet. . . . . . or
 perhaps don't like the flavor of pink!

Speaking of flavor and munching. . . . . . . . . 
Many years ago I said "no more kitchen gadgets, I have no space to keep them."

A few weeks ago, while in our nearby 'Sur La Table' shop, I broke down
and allowed the manager to talk me into this one, she said she loved hers.
 I was actually looking at the spiralizer attachment for my KitchenAid mixer, 
but refused to pay over $100 for that, especially as I would not use it daily.
Want to make more veggies like my zucchini above - think healthy alternative
 to real pasta as we're really trying to cut carbs!
Recently I purchased a small container of pre-made 'zoodles' at the grocery
 store. They were not good, watery, doubtless had some
 type of preservative added, and grossly overpriced.
This OXO Good Grips version (they do make great items), with
 three different blades, was so much cheaper (under $40) and so easy to
use and clean - I'm enjoying it. Now if I can just find a place to store it!!!

Here's OXO's great video showing how much fun this gadget can be.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Linen Looks . . . . . . .

Purchased this brick red linen jacket recently from ZARA online as we don't have a
 store close by.
If you know 'neutral' me you know I rarely wear such a brilliant color! I thought this
shade so great with cream - and I already have a cream linen trouser - and, being 
 a shade which will work in autumn when still warm here, I grabbed it as one
has to do with ZARA as they sell out fast.
This jacket is loose fitting, unlined but with finished seams, deep pockets
 and a longer length - always a plus. It's a heavier linen so hangs well - and is
 machine washable, probably best alone with the intense dye.

Today I'm thinking about lighter clothing in readiness for summer.
I don't do well in hot weather.
Yesterday was really quite chilly - an unusually cool Easter for the south - and 
although I did head out to a restaurant lunch wearing a linen blouse and jacket, 
I took along a warm sweater to change into for a visit to my daughter's home later.  
I am a linen lover!  
Upholstery and pillows, bed sheets, table covers, napkins, hand towels, 
and of course clothing.

Above, this is another piece I would enjoy - coat length and such an
 amazing mustard shade. 

- Both of these are also from ZARA -

Below, what might be the ultimate lighter linen piece for a cooler summer's
 day - just throw on over a linen or cotton tee and enjoy the breeze!

I'm not planning many purchases for summer - still trying to downsize.
How about you?  Will you shop for clothes and footwear for summer?
Do you still go shopping at the mall, or in the city?
What are your feelings on buying clothing and shoes online?

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Easter Sunday in the Garden. . . . . . .

 It's Springtime and North Carolina's azaleas are in full bloom. 
Everywhere, from suburban gardens and vintage back yards, to formal parks
 and rural trails through woods and forests, this native plant blooms in gorgeous
 colors from pure white to deep purple, and all shades of pink, orange and
 red imaginable. Azaleas add Southern charm in the high western mountains
 and the eastern Atlantic coast. . . . . .and all points in between. 

The many days of rain recently have certainly brought the fig tree along quickly
 and we are now seeing quite of lot of fruits tucked into those beautiful
hand-shaped leaves. I love this now huge tree so much - often feel like
 kicking myself into believing I've grown it from a tiny potted plant.
Much tree 'whispering' went on here over the years!

Took these two photos of the tree from front porch yesterday early morning. 
Severe storms had passed, everything still sodden but thankfully no major damage here.  
We always move our cars back down the driveway away from the huge oaks in
 the back garden when winds are high!

Hoping your Easter is full of blessings and special moments.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Country Home. . . . . . . . . .

On Thursday, a sunny afternoon trip south of the city took us through green
 and gold farmland. Once off the highway, weaving our way through small towns
 and communities, we noted agriculture was obviously the main way of life. 
Fields had been tilled ready for crop planting, trees were almost fully leafed out
 green and gorgeous.

This country farmhouse, old and in need of perhaps a little sprucing up, stood
 surrounded by huge trees. I asked Bob to turn the car around so I could go back
 to take these few photos with my phone. We talked of how we'd love to know
 the history of the farm, its inhabitants, was it still in the same family, will they
 plant a usual North Carolina crop this year, corn, soybeans, cotton, even tobacco.
 I can imagine the perfect sunflower field here. . . . . . . waking early on summer 
mornings to see a field of tall golden 'faces' turned toward the rising sun.

Yesterday the weather was the exact opposite of the lovely day in the country. . . . . we
 were under a tornado watch almost the entire day whilst having more storms with
 strong wind gusts and heavy rain. Thankfully our area was not too bad, but not far off 
property was damaged and many people have lost power. 

Friday, April 19, 2019

EASTER . . . . . .

A trip across the is pond coming up and there's much to do before leaving.
My Easter celebration will be quiet.

Easter blessings to you and your loved ones.

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