Monday, July 22, 2024

Too hot to bake.....and more about Bob!

I have mixed feelings about coming here so infrequently.  Guilt?  Definitely! 

I'm having feelings that blogging is just too much like hard work compared to Instagram. Speed and ease of posting a photo or photos, typing just about anywhere when you have a phone and a few spare minutes. One and done kind of communication. My IG account is Private so I don't have to deal with strangers and the unknown. That said, I feel sad not spending more time here on the blog but, in all honesty, I just haven't had that time this first half of the year for many, and varied, reasons.

Just as the late Queen Elizabeth stated in 1992 regarding her 'annus horribilis' year - I think 2024 is turning out to be mine.


Truthfully, it really is too hot to bake this summer. Independence Day holiday in Raleigh brought the highest temperature ever recorded here, 117F. Nobody in their right mind would turn the oven on in that heat. Thankfully there are bakeries - this beautiful loaf was baked at our favorite in downtown, Boulted Bread. Their pastries are also great, the plain croissant being top of my list, one of the best ever. We're now a little cooler and having long awaited rain. I am back baking and roasting, and we are enjoying frequent al fresco dining in the screened gazebo most evenings.

A couple of posts back in May I shared Bob's emergency hospitalization. During that upsetting time, following so many tests and scans, two tumors were visible on an MRI. Going forward with a visit to a urologist after leaving hospital, an exploratory surgical procedure was ordered and Bob went under general anesthesia in hospital. Sadly the diagnosis is cancer. Last week, while awaiting major surgery, he was given one dose of chemo and has managed well, no pain, no side effects. The blood infection, in case you're wondering, had nothing to do with the cancer, however helped in discovering it in time to prevent spread hopefully!

Bob's surgery will be a robotic-assisted Nephroureterectomy which includes losing a kidney (but thankfully he has a healthy looking one remaining). Other bits will also be taken but hopefully he will not require chemo/radiation afterward if there is no metastases. Fingers are tightly crossed, prayers are being said by family and wonderful friends - many thanks to you all.

I'm sad and sorry that I haven't been able to visit/comment on blogs for far too long. I will return here soon, probably once we get the surgery date. As the cancer is a rare and aggressive type we expect to get the go ahead as soon as he can be worked into the surgeon/hospital schedules. 

Please keep Bob in your thoughts - some of you have met him and know what a great man he is, the rest of you please take my word for it.............he is very special, has beaten cancer before, and is sure he can do it again.

Sunday, June 30, 2024

Growing up in Devon -


This beautiful scene depicts part of my English childhood. Created in pastels after a visit to my home town, a dear friend now long gone, gave this to me so I would always remember where I came from and what I loved about the countryside where I spent so much time.  The tall oak tree in the center of the fields was one I often climbed in with my best friend. She and I would balance astride a sturdy lower branch, talk about our dreams and the future. These fields were where my mother and I would gather mushrooms early mornings . . . . . . before the dairy cows came out and trampled them. 

Much changed over the years before I decided to come to America. We grew up and my best friend became a hair stylist. I went to college and trained to be a secretary, remember them? We had boyfriends and danced in clubs. My mother worked several jobs and we gave up tramping through the damp fields, preferring to sleep a little later before going to work. My dad worked hard too, and my brother became a great tennis player whilst still in school, trained and played mixed doubles with Sue Barker as his partner - Brits reading this know who she is of course!

Growing up in another country, across a wide expanse of water, means your children and grandchildren may not spend a lot of time in your homeland. We took our children to England several times when they were young. Travel was much easier in so many ways. . . . . .or perhaps it seemed that way because we were younger, healthier, and the world was a much different place! They spent time with their grandparents and other family members. They met my school friends, neighbors and their families. We enjoyed English summer days at the beach, some sandy others pebbly, Devon has a selection of both. Outdoor afternoon tea, watching brilliant colored peacocks strut through the orchard gardens was fun. Viewing wild ponies run across the golden gorse smothered ancient landscape of Dartmoor was exciting to city children. 

One of my own favorite childhood memories is of summer Sunday afternoon picnics on the banks of the River Dart. The surrounding moor was always a special place. . . . . .and the weather was usually pleasant and cool compared to here in the US southeast. Writing this today in much too hot, close to 100 degrees, and in a severe drought, I have a deep yearning to be back home across the pond.

For me, there really is no place like home. Mine is still across the ocean despite having lived here many more years than there.  Off to grab a cold drink and then pull a salad together - too hot to cook, too hot for anything much. Hope your summer days are pleasant.  

Devon thatched cottages in Shiphay village where I grew up.

Friday, May 17, 2024

Time Will Tell --------

If you don't follow me on Instagram, and are wondering where I've been hiding as I've been missing from here, forgive me!
I have several reasons for not writing or sharing photos and life over the past month. One is being totally worn out at the end of the day after of weeks of home projects. How people live in their homes when doing complete restorations is unimaginable to me. Just getting through the days without going insane when all seems to be falling apart around me is taking its toll. Why do I still post on Instagram you may ask. Because it's quick and I can collapse in a chair or my bed and write a few words along with a few photos, usually something snapped that day and from the garden mostly as I haven't gone far lately. Let's be honest, sitting at the computer and composing a neat and tidy, well-written (hopefully) blog post, usually with photos, takes more of an effort and a lot more time. . . . . . . and having strangers working, coming and going, and just being there in your house or garden, disrupts everyday normal living.

That said, when I did get out more recently, the week before this one, it was mostly back and forth to the hospital.  My lovely Bob took a middle of the night ambulance ride when he became very ill. Because of his pain, and a temperature of 105 degrees, the EMS had him down the steps on that gurney in no time and he was gone in the flashing of lights but thankfully no sirens. I won't go into details other than to say a blood infection can be a scary, dangerous thing. . . . . . he had so many tests, scopes, scans and such, and 6 days of IV's and antibiotics. Great care from the doctors, nurses, technicians, and all the workers who help make a hospital run, such as the housekeeping lady from Peru taking care of his linens, to the be-bopping musician with the 'dreads' pushing his bed along the hallways to the MRI's and CT scans etc. So many great people that it's impossible to thank everyone. Our hospital is in the top 20 list of hospitals across the USA. We feel blessed.

Bob is home and still on antibiotics for a few more days. He's feeling better but requires a follow up exploratory procedure very soon. The surgeon was very pleasant when we met this week, explained everything in detail, and said this will all be done ASAP.  In all honesty we are both tired and praying things will go well. So many of you know Bob personally which is why I'm sharing this here. I feel bad that I haven't been leaving comments on your blogs and hope to catch up soon.

Now our new back deck is being built. The guys are two brothers and they are doing perfect work. Reliable, timely, polite, pleasant, and truly interested in pleasing us and doing what we want. . . . . . . . . . .and they call their mom in Honduras every morning!!!  I'll share photos of the deck soon.

The garden has again offered respite lately. I'm behind with a lot of things - such as sewing seeds. This spring seems to be so lush all around when one steps outside. The jasmine vines are massive and perfume the air, especially in the evenings when we've made use of the gazebo prior to the deck work. Pink and purple roses, peonies and clematis are lovely, and now the blue hydrangeas are opening.  But for me it's also the greens, so many shades painted on the shrubs and trees, fresh and clean prior to the oppresive heat and humidity of summer when all will sizzle and call out for water.

A few garden scenes and flowers captured recently - enjoy!

......and a special surprise the day I brought Bob home from the hospital,
Mrs. Cardinal had built a nest in the candolier on the front porch!
This is a first - usually we have finches in the hanging Boston ferns but
they've stayed away this spring.

This weekend I plan to get a ladder and look in the nest - I know she
must have eggs as she stays constantly, only leaving for a minute or
 two when we go out the front door.

Happy weekend. . . . . . a wet one forecast here but I hope to catch
 up with gardening, need to plant seeds and do some serious weeding.
We English grew up gardening in the rain so it will be like the 
good old days!


Monday, April 22, 2024

Earth Day 2024 ~


I've never had luck growing beautiful hellebores in my garden, or delphiniums, lupins, euphorbia, Japanese anemones . . . . .  and many more plants I recall were easy peasy to grow in my childhood home in Devon, England. My mother, among so many other creative jobs and hobbies, also had a green thumb and worked wonders in our small gardens in front and back of the bunglalow. People passing by on foot, which most did back in those days before everyone sailed by on wheels, stopped and admired our front garden. Around the small lawn were beds of mixed shrubs, some evergreen others flowering, including fuchsia, always a favorite. A fragrant lilac was tucked in a corner, pyracantha espaliered up a wall below a bedroom window. Perennials such as peonies and dahilas were so abundant they would take your breathe away. A boxwood hedge, trimmed to around four feet surrounded everything. Our soil was rich, our rain came often, and we never needed a garden hose for watering. 

I don't recall people celebrating "Earth Day" as being a named day back then. Every day was a day when we acknowledged our beautiful planet. Continents, countries, oceans, mountains, deserts, landscapes. . . . . . . . everything, everywhere, it was earth and we were grateful for everything it provided. Having seen a lot of this planet during visits to all seven continents, I have wonderful memories of special places. . . . . and hopefully will see even more!

Okavango Delta - Botswana 2010

Maasai Mara - Kenya 2016

Chilean Fjords - 2018

Enjoy the day celebrating our planet EARTH - let us all do our best to save it and keep it beautiful.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Complicated - but there's always the garden!

Since my last post life has been complicated. 
I want my days to be like my bits and bobs around the house, neat, clean, organized, tidy and in top working order. Instead, these days, and past several weeks, I've been inundated with home projects, some planned, others nasty surprises, ranging from emergencies, to 'fix its' that are not actually broken but "let's do it now and be safe rather than sorry later".

I'm not going into the sordid details, just know nothing lasts forever in a home be it plumbing, electrics, roofs, outdoor structures, or even perfect gardens. Things age, wear out, break, disintegrate, fall off, blow away . . . . . . and even grow too big to manage, like 100 ft oak trees and 10 ft azalea shrubs. Who knew that taking down a tree that size might some day cost $5,000! Our biggest tree still stands and we say a little prayer when the wind picks up, wondering why the builder didn't clear the land before sitting our little house on it forty years ago. The azaleas we embrace and love their huge size with thousands of blooms right now.

As homeowners we sometimes turn a blind eye to maintenance issues, especially those of us who know very little about building and the length of time products last before dripping, cracking, corroding etc.  At times like this I wonder why I didn't decide to spend my life married to a plumber/electrician/sheetrock/painter/handyman. Even better a general contractor who could help out with everything in the home requiring attention and, with a snap of his fingers, have a reliable service person there with the right tools, a working pickup truck (that doesn't drip oil on the driveway!), who uses tarps and drop cloths and eventually fixes everything perfectly . . . . . . . and doesn't talk down to me or make me cry!
Are you getting the picture here?  

Yes, it's my garden and I love it. I sometimes complain wishing we could move to a new place with no repairs, less maintenance, no garden to weed, on one level with no stairs, no lawn to mow, no large trees to fall on us when the winds pick up . . . . . . . . . . .  and then I recall the months stretching into years of the pandemic and how having a garden perhaps saved my life.  All those days spent in the garden, on the front porch, back deck, away from the mosquitoes in the screened gazebo, were days I remember with love. The garden was my safe haven while the world was in turmoil.
Gardens here are at their peak of loveliness right now - the southeast brings a springtime where everything blooms profusely. It was my reason for moving here all those years ago when Bob's company flew me down to Raleigh in April 1977 for a weekend to look around - he was already working here - to see if I liked it and would want to make my home here.  I fell in love and had no doubts about living here . . . . . . . knowing immediately I would so enjoy having a real garden like I had in England as a child.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Through the garden gate.........

. . . . . . . on the first days of Spring.

Spring has arrived, its beauty already brightening up the landscape.   

This Magnolia liliflora in the garden by the gate was planted 16 years ago when quite small, just 18" in its garden center pot. It's now about 20 feet tall. A moderately fast grower until about 20 years of age, it should top out around 25 feet with a 20 ft. spread. One of the earliest multi-stemmed flowering trees in the USA, it blooms from late winter and is a beautiful first indicator of spring, with flowers opening before the green leaves appear. . . . . . .I think you will agree it's very lovely.

The trumpet vine I've left on the arbor over winter as it supports a plethora of pollinators and wildlife, including hummingirds. It looks healthy and is making preparations to bloom soon, however, being such a vigorous plant, it will need to be cut back to the ground next fall to keep it in check.........and allow a touch up paint job on the woodwork. The John Cabot climbing rose is making its way to the top of the arch also, despite pruning it back some weeks ago. I will let it do its thing this spring as it is a beautiful hardy rose.

The backyard drainage issue was worked on a couple of weeks back and hopefully will correct the water runoff during heavy rains. Water rushes under the fence from the neighbor above whose back yard slopes down. I've just found a photo taken at Easter 2001 when the fence, also the potting shed, were both installed. Guess they've done well for 23 years. . . . . . and there's Bob, still with hair (shhh!!!!) with granddaughter Jasmin who's now 27. Where did all those years go?

Cool, rainy days are welcomed in springtime. I embrace them knowing that the torrid heat and humidity we must learn to live with in this area are not far behind. 
The gazebo, my favorite spot once mosquitoes arrive, well actually at any time, still stands. Its cedar 'bones' quite sturdy although the roofing shakes may have to be replaced some day - no leaks but they are well-chewed by squirrels.
The deck will be getting a makeover come May - when our builder is scheduled! The 20 year old Brazilian hardwood, Ipe, showing age, will be replaced by lower maintenance Trex composite deck boards, steps and metal railings that will hold up better and give a refreshing new look. I've already purchased a new patio umbrella, previous one broke off in a bad storm recently, so will put that up soon.

As we know, if maintaining a garden, no matter the size, the upkeep is never ending as outdoor structures can never really be a hundred percent weather resistant!  I won't even get into too tall, aging trees and massive shrubs. . . . . . that's another 'through the garden gate' story for later.

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Family and the Secretary ~

A Saturday morning memoir ~

Those days are gone. My life is different now. I miss much and managed to do much more in times gone by. I'm not a fan of aging. I wish I had more energy, that my legs and arms were stronger, my feet more sure and comfy where planted. My memory though still good doesn't always give me a word immediately. Names are sometimes forgotten. I look things up but I don't ask Siri. 

I sleep upstairs in my 'room with a view' and let my better half enjoy the master bedroom downstairs. I have to have the light on and read for a while in bed or I can't fall asleep. He falls asleep when his head hits the pillow, snores and changes position a lot. I never seem to move once I'm sleeping soundly. I wake up with hair flattened on the same side every morning. I like my bed and always say "goodnight" to my long gone, much missed Mum. I recall in her later years, long after my Dad died, when she told me snuggling into her bed was the best part of her day. She lived to be 91. She looks down on me from the photos on the wall, a child with her siblings in one, age 21 in another, and as a bridesmaid - and the dressmaker of all four gowns - at a sister's wedding in another. Sepia photos of children in lace up boots. Girls with hair bows, a boy in short trousers, grandmother holding her second set of twins. Five children in four years! The historic part of my maternal English family. I remember them all and feel their absence every day.

The antique secretary once belonged to a North Carolina country doctor. The piece is sturdy, weighs a ton, probably mahogany, the paint was done prior to my purchase from SuzAnna's Antiques. I love it and will never part with it. It's the first thing I see when I wake each morning. It holds my collection of favorite books and a mishmash of items. I change or move around things on the shelves and padded bulletin boards I made. I store paper goods, pieces of my life. . . .and secrets inside.

In earlier days, which really weren't that long ago, I so enjoyed what friends and I called 'treasure hunting' - mostly shopping and collecting vintage and some true antiques. Come Spring I was anxious to get going with gathering new pieces for my booth at SuzAnna's Antiques. I shared a fun space with my dear friend Vanessa. We loved those special days, buying, displaying and selling, and the camaraderie of the other dealers.  

~ SuzAnna's Booth 2011 ~
I still have several items shown here in my home 

Today I came across an old blog post about those days. It included this list I made in March 2011 -

SuzAnna's Antiques is really warming up now that Spring is here................soon I'll share more pics of the treasures available........meanwhile I'm off to a huge neighborhood yard sale this morning. 
My shopping hunting list for my booth includes ~
  • Chandeliers for glitter and glamour - French would be best
  • Small furniture items in need of love and new homes
  • Ironstone Platters, must be crazed, cracks add character
  • Antique silver flatware/trays - unpolished of course
  • Old beautiful linens for tables and beds 
  • Shells, coral, barnacles - for seaside decor
  • Old bound books - fun to read and play with
..............and whatever else catches my eye. 

This Saturday morning is dull. It rained in the night and there's no sun yet to dry things up. But no snow as in the northeast. That said, the sun has just popped out which always helps when life seems somewhat downhearted. Bob's eye surgery Tuesday went well however he does not have restored clear vision yet!  We are hoping this will improve with time. . . . . . .we are great believers in healing takes time.

~ Pieces of the past ~