Monday, August 31, 2020

In the doldrums -

Doldrums - 'dead in the water' - do you feel it, that inertia, somewhat like suspended animation?

The "doldrums" is a nautical term that refers to the belt around the Earth near the equator where sailing ships sometimes get stuck on windless waters.

In both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, the sailors noticed that there was an area near the Equator where there was little or no wind. Without the wind to move their sail-powered boats, they would sometimes be stuck for days or weeks. They started calling these areas the doldrums.

Did you buy a 2020 Planner or Diary? 

Of course you did!

Have you written anything much in it since March?

Mine is mostly blank and will remain so by looks of it.


September is knocking at the door!  A month I usually welcome as it starts to cool a bit and the trees start changing color - yes there are a few yellow fig leaves already - I've decided to work hard at getting out of the doldrums. This week will see me commencing on some downsizing/decluttering about the cottage. I'm sending Bob to Trader Joe's today to pick up empty boxes. . . . . .along with Dijon Mustard, haricots verts, and heavy cream!

Still have to make time to cook. . . . . . .below Angel hair pasta with cherry tomatoes and shrimp scampi, our Saturday night special. Delicious!

On the menu today, corn chowder which I'm making right now - multi-tasking as always - and pasta with ricotta with those always so good haricots verts (green beans) from Trader Joe's - just snip a corner of the bag and microwave for a few minutes.

Must go - enjoy your Monday and the coming week.
It's overcast and rain coming in here later which is good - no time to drag
 those garden hoses about today.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Hand me a paint brush please!

Dining Room - Office

I really need to do something to freshen up this room which is used daily now as my 'office'. Looking around though there's not much to change, and what is here still brings me good feelings. Over the years I've painted the walls - several times - added wallpaper below the chair rail, painted dining chairs, a sideboard. . . . . .and the Welsh dresser at least twice! That piece is so useful with its shelves, drawers and a lower 'pot rack' however it will be getting a facelift soon - when the weather cools a bit and I have more energy.

Needless to say, there will be a lot of items to move prior to painting!
At that time all will be washed and there may even be some changes in the way they are displayed when returned to the shelves. Soon a few seasonal Autumn items will be added - this year I think we're all excited about gathering pumpkins - hoping the farms will have plenty for sale.

I noticed this dresser, with its awesome display, in an older Country Home magazine article. Immediately knew I wanted to paint the interior back of mine in a similar shade of grey to change it up a bit. . . . . .and have something different to look at as I spend so much time in this room now!

We stopped at the hardware store yesterday for a/c filters, and of course
 I looked at paint samples. . . . . . . and bought a quart can.

Magnolia Home has some really gorgeous colors and, although I've
 never used their paint, when I saw Garden Trowel I had a feeling that
 was the color for the dresser.

Magnolia Home Paint by Joanna Gaines
 Garden Trowel 

"Working in the garden, putting your hands in the dirt, is something everyone should try at some point. It's a pure, back-to-the-basics experience. When you're in the garden, your trowel is an essential tool."   ~ Joanna Gaines

Once working in the garden slows down in the coming weeks, 
and my garden trowel is tucked away in the potting shed, 
I will pick up a paint brush and get to work indoors.

This will be my September project, and hopefully will be just the start
of more later.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020


What to buy for dinner at the market?

Some days cooking yet another meal becomes boring. Just thinking of something different but tasty, easy yet healthy, is a chore in itself, especially on another 94F day! I admit I love to cook but lately due to the heat I seemed to have run out of ideas for main meal salads. . . . . . . . . . . . . until last night when I made this one!

Looking through my 'SUMMER SAVORIES' folder of mostly magazine pages (why I keep clipping when I have a full library of cook books I'll never know!), I came across this one from a 2018 (July) REAL SIMPLE magazine. 

We enjoyed it so much.

We love sea scallops and keep a couple of bags on hand in the freezer (really affordable, often on sale, and excellent quality from LIDL).  I think you could also use shrimp if you prefer. 

Personally I feel the secret to this easy recipe is definitely grilling fresh corn - in a pinch perhaps it's OK with canned or frozen corn - but cutting those slightly blackened kernels off the cobs and immediately adding them to the dressing made them delicious and they kept their slight crunch.

Note - Bob grilled the corn outside! I did not grill the scallops on the outdoor grill (too many mosquitoes!!!!), but quickly sautéed them as I always do on the stove, adding a dash of my usual for extra flavor, Szechuan Spicy Sauce.

Hope you can read the recipe - I had to cut it to get it to fit here in a readable form.

Great meal - I served a piece of warmed naan bread on the side - and of course
a very cold chilled glass of rosé!
Let me know if you want to know my new favorite rosé - it surprised me
and I can't wait to buy another bottle!

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Do you see them?

There are definitely signs of Autumn around us.  

Just a glance into the garden and I see such changes in the past week. A few golden leaves dropping from both the fig tree and the Japanese maple. Opening a new magazine I find things to do such as knitting, home decor and crafting leaning toward Autumn shades of gold, rust, orange and brown. How many more scarves and cowls can I knit?  With 'silvered' hair I suppose I'll have to find new yarn colors soon!

I will not be sad at all to see summer leave this year! It's not my favorite season in the best of times. This year the weather has not been overly generous with what I would describe as "beautiful Summer days."  Rain and heat, oppressive humidity, lots of almost sunless days, heavy grey clouds, and rarely a brilliant 'Carolina Blue' sky which we are known for! 

I did a little baking at the weekend - this blueberry peach crostata, good and somewhat healthy.  
I also had my car detailed ready for Autumn, it's looks like new although quite old! Our long time friend will return on Thursday to do Bob's. 
Although we have no plans to drive far in shiny clean vehicles, we did go for pedicures together on Sunday afternoon. Our sweet Vietnamese ladies are always excited when "Mr. Bob" accompanies me - he made them laugh behind their masks!  
We made travel reservations for a Thanksgiving trip to family in Arizona - in hopes it pans out. We are also making plans to get home to England next Spring - I can hardly wait! 

I stepped outside late on a recent evening. The air had cooled a bit for the first time in months and the shrill sound of the cicadas had lowered a little. Then I heard them in the high trees across from the cottage, a pair of Great Horned Owls. Their conversation was interesting being so close, yet invisible.  I wondered what it was about. . . . . a new romance, what delicacies they might find for supper, flying conditions for that cooler night? Such large beautiful birds, but sadly rarely seen in their natural habitat.

Great Horned Owl
My photo from a visit to the World Owl Trust some years ago.

This tufted, yellow-eyed owl with gravelly hoots that carry far, sound almost like a muffled foghorn from a distance. When pairs chant together the female goes first, followed closely by the male. The second and third hoots in their series tend to be the shortest. Great Horned Owls can be found all over the continental United States, Alaska, and most of Canada. The 'horns' are actually tufts of feathers. The ragged ends of the wing feathers result in silent flight. This large bird doesn't build a nest but takes over nests of crows, hawks and Great Blue Herons, or uses tree cavities. One brood per year with two white eggs, are usually laid here in the Carolinas in December and January. Fearless, it's one of few animals that will kill skunks and porcupines.  Amazing birds!

How is your week going?  Well I hope. I'm off now to water the garden as it's looking parched with no rain in several days. I may pick basil, it's still growing strong and green, to make yet another batch of pesto to freeze.  

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Surprisingly pretty!

Rose Mallow - a potted surprise started blooming this week.

 Each showy rose mallow blossom lasts only a single day. If you cut stems back 
by one-third, they bloom until early fall and keep the plant blooming until 
it goes dormant in winter.

"Rose mallow is a plant that goes by several names -- swamp mallow, 
crimson-eyed mallow or perennial hibiscus. The funnel-shaped blooms
 of the 6-to-10-foot shrub are often rose pink or white with a red center, 
and it thrives in moist, even wet, soil. 
Rose mallow is perennial in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant
 hardiness zones 5 through 10. No matter what you choose to call it, 
annual pruning keeps it healthy and attractive."

This one first grew last summer - a bird must have
 dropped a seed. 
Thank you sweet bird!
I'm just leaving it in the large planter as the flowers
 are really stunning to view from the kitchen window.

Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Garden Notes for August -

These photos are from yesterday morning. 
All taken with iPhone 11 Pro.

The garden has really changed in the past few days.  
Early morning air is feeling slightly different but days turn hot and humid quickly.
Clouds roll in by mid-afternoon and rain is almost daily, damaging the leaves of
 many plants. Black spot and Anthracnose is rampant.
 Leaves are dropping, especially from the hydrangeas - they look very sad.
The grass is green due to the rain - much greener than usual in August.
We've not used sprinklers all summer.

Are you familiar with re-blooming azaleas?
These I planted many years ago and I must say they haven't disappointed.
They are now on their second bloom of this year, brightening up what
is now a mostly green side garden area. I was able to take photos from my
neighbors side of the fence when going over to feed Nala cat!
Below are some notes on the Encore Azaleas, which these are.

"Encore Azaleas have a special, multi-seasonal bloom cycle.

The bloom cycle begins in spring, along with all other azaleas. However, when other azaleas start losing their flowers for the year, Encore Azaleas are busy setting new buds for a second blooming. Before the last spring flower falls, summer flowers are ready to explode.  But they aren’t done yet, there is still another blooming cycle in fall. We’re talking about vibrant flowers three seasons a year—the show is never cancelled – even the evergreen foliage brings life to barren winter! 

Encore Azalea makes a multi-season landscape a reality, offering re-blooming shrubs in 31 varieties ranging in color and size. And, these high performers are pest resistant and sun tolerant with 24 varieties that are cold hardy to zone 6."

A surprise on the back side fence (bottom middle photo in the collage above).
The tangled jasmine is re-blooming and smells divine.
I put in one plant there 20 years ago. It now runs about 30 feet, completely
 hiding an ugly chain-link fence a long ago neighbor installed to keep
two Boston terriers in check.

Beautiful in early summer. Hosta leaves, large and textured, but
 now they are in their 'death throes' - though hopefully plants feel no pain - if
planted in full sun as this one is.
I love to add a leaf to a vase of flowers - these below are some of the
 hydrangeas I'm drying for fall/winter arrangements.

Summer, so different in many, many ways this year. Garden and gardening
 have taken up a lot of time, mostly in a good way. Weather has not been very
 cooperative much of the time, but on the other hand we have, so far, escaped
 the wrath of hurricanes here. 
In my garden I feel free not having to wear a mask.
I also feel safe. 
In all honesty can't say I feel that way anywhere else yet!

What's happening in your late summer garden?

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

One day at a time -

I was accused! 
Of what you may ask. 
Of becoming negative, sad, glum, on my blog!
By whom?  
By my husband.
Yes, he reads my blog. 
He never feels down or depressed.
He's one of those lucky ones.
No matter the circumstances. . . . . 
. . . . . . positive, upbeat, cheerful Bob.
Thank goodness I have him!

One Peace rose in bloom.

Thoughts of whizzing up chilled cucumber gazpacho.

Fading but still lovely.

Was planning to bake at the weekend but didn't. 
Will soon though while peaches are perfect.

Not in my garden this summer - some other lucky person in the
 neighborhood without hungry deer!

Love this English wallpaper design named 'Allotment' -

"An allotment is a plot of land that you rent from your local council or a
 private landowner on which you can grow your own food. Allotments are
 communal places, so you rent a plot from an allotment site and share
 utilities such as water and fertilizer with the other plot owners."

First hummingbird of the summer just flew by my window - didn't stop
 so I'm sharing photos of this special tiny bird from last year.

If you've ever seen Elizabeth Debicki on screen I think you will agree that 
she is going to be fabulous playing the late Princess Diana in the last
 two seasons of The Crown.
I watched her recently in The Night Manager and The Kettering Incident.
Wow, a beautiful, willowy Australian beauty with amazing acting skills.

View from an upstairs bedroom. We recently had some tree
 limbs pruned.  It feels less crowded and I can see the sky.
I like to sit here in an old French
 chair upholstered in vintage linen and read new books.

Just a few days to go and Nala's 'dad' will be home.
No cuddles from her yet, just nuzzles!
A good kitty though, and I've enjoyed taking care
of her.
One day at a time.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Safety measures -

Yesterday I munched my way through a third of a bag - large bag no less - of warmed crunchy, 100% white corn 'Restaurant Style' tortilla chips! Now and then I dipped one in a small bowl of spicy red pepper hummus, but mostly just enjoyed the snap and crunch of the plain chip. It reminded me of the Mexican place where the chips were so good I never bothered with the salsa. . . . . . and I ate so many when the waitperson placed them on the table after taking our order that I didn't really want my meal, most often Combo #4 Vegetariano, when it arrived!

After yesterday's chip binge I felt guilty. I also I wondered if I even remembered what it was like to walk into an eating establishment, sit down with family or friends, order, be served, and actually eat a meal prepared by someone other than myself! I don't recall the date of my last restaurant meal other than it must have been during the last days of March. That's almost five long months ago. I've prepped, cooked, and put together every dinner we've eaten during that time - Bob makes his own breakfast, and we seldom eat lunch.  

I love clothes and fashion. Well I did love them until this past spring. Now fashion appears to have disappeared. Clothing seems to revolve around which mask to wear with which tee shirt to the grocery store, or with a rather more dressy linen blouse to sit distanced in my daughter's large garden, perspiration running down my back while swatting those damned mosquitoes!  If you are beginning to get the feeling I don't like summer, you're absolutely correct, and this particular summer is the worst ever.

After watching far too much TV - how many horrific crime dramas did they make when times were actually good - I thought I'd pass an hour or so last evening checking out Fall Fashions online. My tired eyes were longing to see something pretty, creative, elegant. After five minutes I came to the conclusion there is no Fall 'fashion' this year! I saved money for five long months, not buying a single summer wardrobe item, so I could splurge a little on something new in a warm Autumn shade, soft fabric, new cut, updated design. . . . . . but there's really nothing out there that I don't already have hanging in my closet! Fashion has, like cruise ships, fun weekend getaways to the coast, travel to Italy, visiting family in England, and sitting in a cozy Paris bistro. . . . . . GONE for the time being!  

I don't have safety net for times such as these.  Do you?  I feel sad, old, and somewhat useless. I worry that we may never return to the life we led before Corona virus. How does one plan ahead for days, weeks, months, perhaps even years, without the freedom to do things, go places, be with loved ones, help others . . . . . . . to breathe unfettered and in comfort. 

Safety pins will have to hold it all together and take the place of a net for me!

It's Monday and a beautiful morning with blue sky following a sunless, damp weekend. Things should dry out fast as it will remain hot. Some time in the garden for Bob to mow and me to tidy up a bit will be welcomed. Perhaps supper in the gazebo if the daily late day storms stay away. 

Hoping your week ahead is a good one.