Friday, July 31, 2020

Harvesting first figs, dessert and timber!!!!!

They've arrived and there are plenty for all. . . . birds,
squirrels and yes, we humans! 
Ripening is beginning and we are picking and sharing daily now.

Brown thrasher enjoys figs!

Beautiful fig leaves!

Easy dessert anyone?
I love this one - gobble them up while still crisp
from the oven!

The fig tree will be pruned later in the year when the fruits are finished -
it's becoming far too big!
Grass starting to brown in the heat - hoses at the ready to keep summer flowers
 and shrubs going a little longer hopefully.

This is what's been keeping us busy this week - a hard-working, polite and good natured 
crew taking down one tree and pruning several others on our property. Soon we hope
to continue with the back garden landscaping project. . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . .BUT, as you may know, there's a hurricane
 on the way, heading right toward North Carolina!!!

Monday, July 27, 2020

Wines of Summer -

Monday afternoon.
Temperature 94F - clouding up but doubtful it will rain.
We watered everything at 8:00 AM - sadly the garden is withering fast.

Sometimes, when enjoying a chilled glass . . . . . . or two, I think "let's throw 
caution to the wind and kill the entire bottle."
On these hot, very humid mid-summer days with nowhere to go, one could
 do just that. No need to get in the car and drive. Not wrong to be giggling or
 appearing somewhat unsteady on the old legs. . . . . nobody's looking or caring.
But I can't say I've ever done that, finished an entire bottle of
 wine myself. . . in one sitting!

Bob has cut back drastically on wine consumption in these past months.
He does enjoy a beer some days but drinks mostly water. 
That's really good and definitely healthy, but does make me feel somewhat
 guilty chilling a glass and popping a cork.

Do you enjoy wine?  
I admit that I do and usually enjoy a glass with dinner, and these tropical
afternoons sometimes sip one on the porch before dinner!
We buy wines which look interesting when grocery shopping mostly.  
We have our wine rack stocked with reds but now, for summer drinking, 
we fill our small second fridge with rosé and
Sauvignon Blanc, with a bottle of champagne thrown in ready for 
some kind of special celebration. . . . . if one shows up which is doubtful
these days.

I have to add here that this past week I enjoyed a fabulous
rosé wine from the Veneto area of ITALY!  

Veneto is the eighth largest region of Italy and has more than 90,000 hectares

 of vineyards, of which 35,400 are of DOC status. A rich hunting ground for

 the thirsty traveller, it is home to the Soave DOC, famous for its dry whites

 made from Garganega, and the Valdobbiadene DOCG region, world famous for

 its Prosecco . . . . . 

. . . . . . .and also for some great rosé wines.

Tesoro Della Regina - unusual in a shorter, fatter bottle ($13.99) -
more robust than many rosés, fruity and dry, delicious well chilled
(always chill your glass too!).
 Recommended by the manager of our nearby Total Wine store,
it's the best rosé I've tasted this summer.

Ah Venice - to spend time admiring your beauty again would be wonderful.

Bob in Venice - October 2012
One of my favorite photos of Bob - he says the beer was OK too!  


...........and Bob!

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Picnic Time -

'Picnic'. A word shrouded in mystery.

Although the association of outdoor eating and the picnic is not yet 200 years old, 
records of meals eaten outside go back centuries. In those days al fresco eating
 wasn't necessarily organized with pleasure in mind. The majority of cases were
 travelers wending their way over rough roads and dirt tracks, carrying provisions
 with them, and there was no choice but to eat outdoors in all types of weather.

I shared my picnic basket thrift shop find before.
(This week we had to search for it in the attic and found it hidden behind boxes - we
hadn't used it in a while).
Some years back I was thrilled to find the woven basket sitting on a shelf, empty, 
but in great condition, no stains or rips in the dark green check lining fabric, 
closure and handles all in great shape.
I actually had the nerve to ask if they could discount the price as there were
 no picnic accessories included - they took $1 off and I purchased happily
 for just $6.99 - a real bargain!

As mentioned in my previous post, I'm planning a simple picnic this 
weekend. . . . . . . when hopefully it will cool off a bit.  Driving out into the
 countryside will be enjoyable as we haven't really been anywhere other than
 grocery shopping for so long. 
Spreading a blanket on the grass and popping open a nice chilled rosé
 while nibbling tasty morsels is a much needed summertime adventure, 
something to make life a little more normal.

I gussied the basket up a bit, added some of my pretty antique china and 
serving utensils before taking photos to share with you. 
Of course I will use more utilitarian accouterments for the real picnic.

One can also plan a kind of makeshift 'picnic' at home if traveling is not possible.
We often eat al fresco no matter the weather - sitting in the gazebo in the back garden.
There are no sweeping vistas, rippling streams, ponds, lakes or rivers. . . . . . 
. . . . . just bird baths, and a little tinkling fountain. 
Massive old trees overhead, with patches of blue sky just visible here and there, 
offer cooling shade.
The overhead fan turns silently, stirring the humid southern air.
Now and then a breeze sweeps through and rustles the tablecloth, lifts a napkin. 
 The birds sing loudly, take a bath, then preen on a branch.

Yes, come to think of it, perhaps the home picnic is one of the most enjoyable.
Now appears this weekend will still be very hot. I may just get the basket out
 and pack a picnic to enjoy right here in the gazebo under the shady trees!

Wishing you all a good weekend - even though it feels
 like all the days now run into each other. . . . . . week
 or weekend, there's not much difference, is there?

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Say "Hi" to Charlie -

He was back yesterday. . . . . the little green gecko who seems to have taken up
 residence on and around the front porch. I think he lives in a large pot planted with ivy. 
It's snugged up against one of the huge hydrangea bushes under which I've placed
 a shallow 'bee bath'. He probably drinks and bathes there when the bees are off
 doing what honey bees do.
Why Charlie?  
Who knows. It was the first name that came to mind as I watched him move silently
 across the porch rail in the heat of the day.

The garden is quiet under the blazing sun, but I do hear baby birds - mostly cardinals
 who now are raising their second brood. The parents seem to keep them underneath
 the shrubs in the shade. 
Such sensible birds.

Today Bob has gone out early - 8:00 am - to mow the lawn as it will be another scorcher.
Thunder showers are possible this afternoon and evening but I'll be out there
  watering the pots this morning to keep things going until/if rains do arrive.
This will be a sandwiches and soup day. I'm just totally burned out regarding
cooking and need a break from the kitchen.
I'm thinking a picnic for the weekend. Just a little drive somewhere with
a change of scenery as we've not been anywhere for so long. Throw down a 
blanket, open the plastic bottle of rosé - actually French believe it or not - and
munch on something simple, cool and summery.

Do you have weekend plans?
Have a good time and stay safe.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020


Just really too hot to do much of anything requiring energy. Sitting in a cool
room with a good book is perfect.
Yesterday's official temperature, recorded at Raleigh/Durham International
 Airport, was 107F!

However the cottage is cool thanks to our wonderful a/c, so I did end up baking
 a cake late afternoon as I had apples and blackberries to use up.  
I made the bon appétit magazine, Blackberry-Yogurt-Tahini Cake. . . . 
with a couple of changes.  Chopped a large Granny Smith apple and added
to the fresh blackberries, and as I was out of tahini, I used French acacia honey
instead, and again added a few sesame seeds - both worked well and made a
 lovely dense cake. We enjoyed a slice for dessert topped with dollop of fresh
 whipped cream. . . . . and this morning I had a tiny slice for breakfast and 
found it even more moist and yummy - no wonder my linen pants are tight!

Above is a photo taken back in 2017 when I first made this cake - and a link 
to that post which has a link to the original bon appétit recipe . . . . .  and also to the
 really easy and tasty Tomato-Lemon tart you can see in the background. 
This simple tart is a great way to use up some of the fresh picked tomatoes
 we all seem to have available right now.

What's cooking in your kitchen?
Hope you have cooler weather than here.

P.S. I see Blogger is messing with photo uploading 
again today!

Sunday, July 19, 2020

HEAT: Cool Pools, Moonflower, Ice Cream -

Above - Rattray's Camp, Mala Mala, South Africa - 2010 & 2012
Stunning plunge pool/outdoor shower - elephants passing by in the
river below.

Vumbura Plains, Botswana - 2010
Personal plunge pool overlooking the Okavango Delta.

Hyatt Hotel, Raleigh, NC - a night now and then 
for a 'staycation' - before COVID of course!

So, no pool, no beach trips, no visits to a lake or pond
right now. Thankful for cool indoor air, whirring
 ceiling fans, tall iced drinks, ice cream.
I made my own this week, Pistachio, and it's good!
Served here in one of my dear friend Gina's
pretty bee bowls.

The garden is struggling in this heat of course.
Bob and I were out there very early this morning,
watering and dead heading petunias, geraniums,
soaking hydrangeas and the pots of basil etc. 

Last evening I spied this first moonflower 
unfurling its petals - watched for couple of hours, 
then caught the full blown flower before dusk. 
My moonflowers and morning glories are now
 tangled happily together, clambering up the porch.


Ipomoea alba, sometimes called the tropical white morning-glory or moonflower
 or moon vine, is a species of night-blooming morning glory, native to tropical
 and subtropical regions of the New World, from northern Argentina north to Mexico, 
Florida and Puerto Rico. Wikipedia

Here's to another week ahead.
Stay cool, be strong, remain well dear friends.

Friday, July 17, 2020

No travel, so enjoy cherries - and the backyard -

Illustration by Charles Robinson
From A Child's Garden of Verses.
by Robert Louis Stevenson 

Cherry ripe, cherry ripe,
Ripe I cry,
Full and fair ones
Come and buy.
  English Folk Song ~ poet Robert Herrick 1591-1674

I love making a cherry clafoutis when these sweet, firm and
 flavorful dark red stone fruits hit the market.
Yes, it's cherry ripe time! They are stacked upon grocery produce
 shelves in boxes and bags, and are really hard to resist.
These are also excellent for eating fresh - just rinse first!

 This is when I truly wish I lived in the Pacific Northwest where most
 of our cherries are grown in beautiful Washington State.
The mahogany red Bing variety now being picked are large, firm, 
just juicy enough, and with an intense vibrant flavor. They keep well and
 are perfect for this classic French dessert.

If you're my age, give or take a few years, you will be familiar with the
always smiling, soft-spoken Ina Garten, author of many great cookbooks
featuring 'Easy French Food You Can Make at Home', and her
 Food Network TV show, Barefoot Contessa. Ina lived in France for a while 
so really knows her way around a classic French kitchen.
I use Ina's clafoutis recipe from her cookbook Barefoot in Paris,
 adding a dash of black raspberry Chambord liqueur for extra flavor - 
and I always seem to have a bottle hanging around!

What's cooking in your kitchen this weekend?

Young blue jay chilling out.

The baby birds of spring are growing quickly. Juveniles now, they have learned
 their way about the garden and seem familiar with places to cool off now the
 heat of our southeastern summer smothers us all.
Mockingbird almost all grown up!

Soon I'll show you what's going on in our back garden area - changes are underway.
Scraps of paper notes, my silly little sketches, a notebook of squiggles, a folder of
torn pages from magazines, garden books, landscape plans. . . . . I have them all
piled here on the table and the dream in my head.

Dreams need plans.
Plans need money.
Some work needs professionals.
Hope we're up for it!

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

There's still some good in life -

Yes, these days are tough to say the least.
Seeking out little niceties and unexpected surprises
 are often required to bring a smile to the face, 
a warm feeling in the heart . . . . . . . . . and a giggle
 which is always so good for general wellbeing.

Sitting here at the dining room table a movement on the porch caught my eye. 
It's already hot and will become much hotter as the day rolls on.  
This little guy is preparing for another scorcher with a lengthy guzzle from the
 fountain (which by the way no long founts but makes a good bird bath!).
 I grabbed my phone a managed a few shots.

Notice how plump he is - I smiled.
A long drink warmed my heart as it cooled his thirst -  
and just look at his funny back legs position, 
I truly giggled out loud when I saw that!

Quarantined, locked down (or up!), self-distanced . . . .  
. . . call these crazy days, which have now become
 months, difficult, different, whatever. 
We can't give up.
Perhaps no longer the best life, but still we should 
try to make it a good life.

My dear blog friend Elizabeth says it all so
 well in today's post on her always fabulous blog -

Read her great post then go enjoy all the lovely things
 she shares such as food, recipes, fashion, books, and
 so much more.