Monday, August 30, 2021

Cool liquids -

The best iced tea ever!

Jeanne's elixir ~ a wonderful herbal blend of lemon myrtle, 
chamomile, lavender, rose, spearmint and peppermint.
I brewed enough to keep in the refrigerator during this ongoing 
heatwave . . . . . . . . . .
When visiting Jeanne's beautiful farm in New Hampshire
last month, we sipped this same tea in her sun room looking out 
across the stunning landscape toward the mountains . . . . . and she 
kindly gifted me with this jar of the blend to bring home.
You can follow Jeanne here at her fabulous blog ~  COLLAGE OF LIFE.


Iced tea, the northern name, is usually called sweet tea here in the south
and brewed from black or green tea leaves. A form of tea that is brewed
 cold to begin with, and then mixed with ice, it’s almost always
heavily sweetened, especially if you order it away from home.

Though I've lived in the south over forty years where sweet tea is a
 legendary drink on hot or cold days, I have to admit I am not a lover of it, 
perhaps imbibing only a few times. Iced coffee, yes, yes, yes, love it, 
especially on a hot day like today and all the past days recently when
 temperatures hovering around 100F continue to be the norm.
Hot tea I enjoy anytime, black, green and herbal.

Recently I tried Kombucha for the first time. This brand
is made by a local company
It was quite refreshing but after reading that it may
not be a healthy alternative I doubt I will drink it often.

If tea is not your choice of beverage but you want a refreshing fizzy drink,
I tried this one. Nothing outstanding regarding flavor, very subtle, but
 Pellegrino by name alone makes one feel Italian, and the tall skinny can
 is very attractive if you're a visual person, lol!!!!
Hey friends, these days anything different that might make one
 feel special is good!

Stay cool!

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Pre-Autumn Porch -


OK, if I have to stay here for autumn's arrival I can at least start on a little
 decorating to cheer up the now so tired summer look. All was looking dead, 
dreary and downright boring! 

It didn't take much effort this morning.  All I did was pull on the new
 golden IKEA pillow covers, and go to the potting shed and sort through
 out-of-season stuff tucked away at the back of shelves. I found the pretty
 china Italian pitcher and the glass light in fall colors. This ball is filled with
 mini lights and is battery operated with a 5 hr. timer. Set just as dusk falls,
the evening hours on the porch are brightened.

My Christmas cactus has spent summer on the porch. It was doing nothing
 on the dining room table, seemed in a state of dormancy with never a bloom. 
Now it appears to have some new growth and looks a lot healthier so will
 stay there until cold weather arrives, perhaps in October.

The new plant, picked up yesterday at LIDL for just $6, is a Petra Croton. 
I've never owned one before but seeing the display of perfect colors for
 the porch, I grabbed one!  Crotons are interesting plants and can grow
 really tall as houseplants. I'm only planning to use it outdoors through
 the fall months, perhaps hide it in the potting shed over winter and see
 if it survives.

Have you ever grown a croton?

"What makes homeowners love Petra Croton is its incredible coloration—deep green leaves with variegated, multicolored veins in bright red, orange, and yellow. If you have room to fill, the Petra Croton houseplant will make that space shine, growing 6-8' high. You can also keep shorter by topping it in spring. This plant will only need water when the soil begins to dry out. Otherwise, it likes humid environments and an occasional misting of its leaves. Be sure to keep in a warm spot in the winter time, and be careful when moving it. Too much motion causes it to drop some leaves, but don't panic, just stick to the watering and lighting requirements and it'll bounce back fast. Petra doesn't only add mood-lifting beauty to your home. As it grows, it helps purify the air, too! "  Michigan Bulb Co.   

Now if only the weather would change, bring us some cooler temperatures
 and rain, we could sit out and enjoy the porch again!
Meanwhile thoughts are with everyone along the Gulf Coast in the path of
 yet another possibly catastrophic hurricane - be vigilant, stay safe.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

A long way from home ----


. . . . . . . will not be winging its way back across the pond for the time being.

Thatcher Rock and Tor Bay, Torquay, England ~ my home.

For the third time since COVID-19 arrived and shut down the world to international travelers, we are cancelling our long overdue trip home to the UK. We were due to leave in a few weeks and planned to stay for 3 weeks. Now, after much thought and discussion, listing the pros and cons of travel overseas, and checking with my family and friends in England, we have decided not to risk a trip which still has so many cons, especially with new variants rearing their ugly heads, and no way to get a third vaccination before leaving the USA. 

I so miss England. 
I miss not seeing my remaining family and friends across the pond. 
We are all aging and time is precious. It's now well over two years since
 I last visited due to COVID . . . . . the longest period of time I've ever
 spent away from my real home since emigrating almost 59 years ago! 
I am homesick - really homesick! 

Thankfully my home never actually fades from my memory as I've been
 fortunate to go back such a lot. . . . . . and now we will plan to go next
 year, perhaps in late spring.

Vintage Torquay guide book - a much cherished item from home.
I often spend time looking through this book and remembering how
 things were when I lived there in the 'good old days.'  

There really is "no place like home" no matter how long one has been
 gone and made a new life elsewhere. 
Do I have regrets about leaving? Yes, sometimes I do, but I mostly
feel I made the right move and am thankful for the good life I've
experienced in America all these years.

To live a full life includes having regrets. T
hey are an unpleasant,
though unavoidable, part of the human condition. 
You may know people who staunchly declare that they have no
 regrets whatsoever. That is unhealthy because with regret we get to
 reassess our lives. Whether or not we chose our actions, 
we get to think about who we are, how we relate to the world
 and where we may have failed.
Regrets are necessary to being a complete human being. 

Meanwhile, as the saying goes, once again "I'll pick myself up, brush myself 
off, and start all over again" - and hope to go back home as soon as possible.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Out of town............


A beautiful poster in IKEA reminded me of my time in the Baltic states.
Sweden being so beautiful.

Even one night way from home feels like a vacation these days.
A road trip, though mostly highway, brought views of fields, farms,
barns. . . . . .and hay bales already being rolled, a sure sign that 
fall is just around the corner.
I know I shouldn't wish a seasonal change so soon, all time is precious,
however this truly disappointing summer weather of 2021 needs to be gone.
Bring on September, October. . . . . .pumpkins, gourds, changing foliage and
 cooler nights to put a spring in my step again. 
Cashmere sweaters, boots and scarves. 
I'm so ready for a nip in the air, aren't you?

A few things from the IKEA visit.
The store was quiet on a Monday, everyone was masked.
There were many empty shelves awaiting stock delivery.

Sunflower gold was prevalent in decor accessories - a lovely shade
 which will also work for Autumn. I purchased the pillow covers to
change up my front porch - they will work well with the blue patterned
 cushions on the chairs.

Hope your week is bright and cheerful in many ways.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Signs of life -

A recent visit to New England - first travel away from home in so long - included 
familiar small towns tucked along scenic coastal New Hampshire.
Portsmouth has always been a favorite and we spent many a day there
 when we lived in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Portsmouth, historic seaport and popular summer tourist destination
 on the Piscataqua River bordering the state of Maine. 

Some interesting places and signs noted as we walked around the town.
You may recall how much I love signs.

Meanwhile, packing an overnight bag today as we will head out of town
 tomorrow on a short road trip to visit a dear friend in Charlotte, NC. 
Of course it will include a quick stop at IKEA on the way back as we
 don't have one here!

I'll have news regarding other planned travel later in the week.
Have a good Sunday - stay safe if you are in the path of Hurricane Henri.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Bird tails. . . .and tales!


Nothing visible through the windows these early mornings. Condensation on the outside where the humidity is so high, and the glass so cold on the inside due to the A/C pumping out . . . . . Bob likes it really chilly indoors, me not so much.

Later in the day our newest winged visitor to the garden is very visible and
 not welcome!

This is a juvenile Red-tailed hawk, extremely common just about everywhere,  circling overhead, sitting on telephone poles and fence posts, hanging about in the tall oaks ready to grab a rodent, especially a squirrel. Sadly, they also take rabbits, and I've not seen my baby bunny for a couple of days!

Here you see it looking up into the fig tree - later it was staring me down from a branch of the fig tree, seemingly oblivious that I was a human and just a couple of feet away with a camera in hand. I'm not sure who was the most surprised at that close encounter!

It's also flying onto our roof a lot - here you can see it's a youngster as it has yet to develop red tail feathers, and the breast is still speckled all over. Although this raptor does not take a lot of birds according to what I read, we did see it swoop down under our feeder and fly off with a small one busily nibbling on the ground, probably a finch. Yes, I know that's nature but I was angry, very angry!

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Summertime desserts -

 . . . or

We picked the last of the figs at the weekend. The last that we plan to use or share this year. Other than picking an odd fig hanging low, rosy, ripe, juicy and ready to nibble, or a couple to add to my morning yogurt during the week, figs will be off the menu until next year!
The final "let's add figs" baking project was this crostata. Both figs and pears were begging from their bowls on the kitchen island, "use me", so they ended up becoming friends in one larger bowl. With a little sugar, lemon juice and flour, they were then wrapped in a pie crust, gently brushed with cream, sprinkled with a little sugar and popped into the oven.
Voila!  A delicious easy dessert following a bowl of homemade tomato basil bisque and a classic Caesar salad . . . . . . on a hot, muggy evening.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Fun and hard work in the sun!

A little more on that recent second summer trip to the local sunflower field. 

Our photographer granddaughter Jasmin did a photoshoot of us for fun.  Late afternoon and still stifling hot, we grabbed hats and bug spray and I covered as much of me as possible, mainly to prevent bug bites, hoping not to pass out in the heat!

The flower heads looking like these above a couple of weeks earlier were already drooping as you can see in the photo below.  We were drooping too after thirty minutes of wandering along the pathways. . . . . .and ready to get out of there!

Our version of American Gothic, lol!!!!!

Photos of us by Jasmin Sullivan 

Earlier this week, after moaning and groaning about the torrid heat, Bob and I went to work on the back garden walkway areas early in the mornings. . . . .7 AM working outside is not our usual time! The 10 cu. yds. of Cypress chips had been dumped half way up the driveway and no way could they stay there too long. With assistance from a gardener and his helper, we did get the mini mountain reduced and taken to the back area in wheelbarrows, those old-fashioned ones that have seen years of hard work without falling apart - bet you can't buy them built to last like that anymore!

Prior to completing a few hours of raking and spreading, Bob and I replaced the stone slabs which had been removed when the big oak tree was taken down - a rather hefty job as those Tennessee stones are not lightweight by any means. 

The finished job looks fine, clean and bright, and these long lasting wood chips usually hold up well for a few years. The square stepping stones were easy to move and are there mainly to mark the underground electrical line to the potting shed. Guess what. We've already vowed this will be the last time we do this. . . . . and I'm sure you can understand why, right?  Funny thing is, when we finished up and stripped off our saturated gardening gear, we took our blood pressure readings which were excellent, we each had lost a pound, and I guess all that work was classified as 'exercise' as gardening usually is!

OK, this will be it for my sunflower stories for this year.  I did buy these yesterday from Trader Joe's along with a beautiful bunch of chamomile blooms and eucalyptus leaves.

You may wonder about the FAIRE publications on the table. Are you familiar with this somewhat new European quarterly luxury magazine which is more like a beautiful book?  FAIRE was brought to my attention when we were back at longtime blog friend Jeanne Henriques beautiful farm in New Hampshire a couple of weeks ago. If you don't know Jeanne yet I would suggest you hurry on over to her website Collage of Life where you will meet a creative, well-traveled woman who has lived in many countries, who writes beautifully . . . . . .and is very special in so many ways. You will also fall in love with her farm and English Springer Spaniel Tani.
After a quick glimpse at Jeanne's copy of FAIRE while enjoying another visit to her studio, I decided to purchase the two copies already published from their website. They were shipped from the Netherlands and arrived very quickly. Sitting in a cool spot with a chilled drink on these stifling afternoons, I've found comfort and peace in these outstanding stories of the creative women and men they showcase around the world. The captivating photography and well written stories are excellent, and as always the minimal advertising is a plus!

I'm already looking forward to future issues. . . . . .and needless to say these, like favorite books, will be keepers and referred to often. Sorry friends, no passing along of FAIRE!

Friday, August 13, 2021

Far too hot and we need rain!

The daylilies are over.  I don't have many as they are not my favorite, however they were pretty this year as they now seem to have changed to double blooms......don't ask me how!

Sunflowers I do love but it is another summer with none surviving in my garden - all the seeds I planted were devoured by wildlife. These were from another summer a few years back when the deer and squirrels apparently weren't as hungry!

The two fawns are still around and looking healthy. They stick together and make a beeline for my neighbors tomatoes - I admit to chasing them off. Well not really chase, when they see me coming with the camera these skittish babies are gone in a flash!

This one is under the fig tree, looking back at me sneaking out the front door.  

Speaking of figs. . . . . .they have actually become a nuisance this year - just too many, too high to pick - so the over ripe ones are now falling and covering the lawn and splattering onto the driveway. This means constant hosing down to prevent walking them into the house. What will we do?  Bob is talking of taking the tree down!  Me, no way could I do that, I love this tree. However, what we thought was a good pruning last year - but seems to have made the tree put out more very healthy growth - must be repeated, and in a more drastic way, especially cutting back the horizontal spread. I will be discussing this with my tree guy later this fall. I must add that the bees are loving the ripe figs. I will do a lot to help bees, and if we leave them alone they stay away from us. 

Brown Thrasher enjoying figs.

Our heatwave continues, no rain this week. Heat index made it well over 100F the past two days and will again today. Thunder rumbled off in the distance last evening but not a drop fell from the cloudy sky. Forecast shows possible rain each afternoon, hopefully some will come.
The garden really looks sad as far as blooms - nothing pretty to cut and bring inside so I'll buy flowers later today when I stop at Trader Joe's!  Even the basil appears to be giving up the ghost. . . . . .perhaps I can make one more batch of pesto for the freezer this the weekend. 
I am not a summer person. I prefer cool, even cold air. I grew up in rain, fog, mist, often clothed in a waterproof Mackintosh, Wellington boots, wool sweaters, armed with an umbrella much of the time. Yes, here in the southeast, August is my most disliked month and I'm ready for autumn which can't arrive soon enough!!!