Saturday, September 23, 2017

Late Summer flowers, early Autumn days. . . . . . . .

No real signs of Autumn here in the southeast yet. . . . . still very hot and dry.
Autumn greetings to you my friends - my favorite season of the year, even though
 I'll be a year older in colorful October. . . . . . . and hopefully much wiser!

Things are crazy around the cottage as we finish up the first week of the 
the big exterior project.  Lovely to have a quieter day with no hammering, 
drilling, sawing. . . . . . and handsome, young, muscular men (sorry Bob!)
 playing country music and guzzling an unbelievable number of bottles of
 chilled water from my refrigerator.
 It has been 90F each day so can't say I blame them. 
It will all start all over again come Monday morning of course!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Hummingbird days. . . . . and the house project!

I cleaned out and refilled the feeder hanging on the front porch yesterday.
 It will be the last time for this year as these amazing tiny birds will be heading
 further south soon. . . . . also work has started on the exterior of the cottage
 so the feeder will have to be taken down. . . . . . . .more on that later.

We have a pair of ruby-throated hummingbirds flying back and forth - mostly when
 I pass the dining room window without a camera in my hand - of course! No other bird
 is as tiny, or flies backward like this one. It also hovers and flies up and down. I did
 manage to get these few half-way decent photos during the past couple of days.
Sometimes I sit outside on the porch but they aren't too happy when they see
 me and take off. They move so quickly, sometimes buzzing me with a soft
 chatter and whirl of those wings - they do not sing.
Weighing in at just 2-3 grams, it takes about five average-sized hummingbirds to
equal the weight of a single tiny chickadee! The heart beats an incredible 1,260 times
 a minute, it breathes 250 times a minute, and the wings flap 50-60 times a 
Above and below - Mrs. Hummingbird
Iridescent green back among the wet oak leaves.
Mr. Hummingbird - you can just make out his ruby colored throat which ends in a lovely scalloped design. 
I took this photo, one of my favorites, a couple of years ago. This female loved the
 morning glories clambering up the porch, and perched on them often.
  I often wonder if it's the same pair returning each summer, or perhaps their offspring.

Do you have hummingbirds in your garden?
I hope so as they so pretty to watch - if you're quick!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Scribble Picnic - Watch Out!

Watch where you're going!
Watch your step!
Watch your back!


So handsome, and always turning its head (270 degrees!),
watching with those amazing eyes!
When back in England a few years ago I visited the World Owl Centre
 (now called The Hawk and Owl Centre) at Muncaster Castle in Ravensglass, 
Cumbria, where I was able to take close up photos of the most beautiful birds.

For today's theme I immediately thought of the owl, always on the lookout, 
mostly for a meal of course!
I edited my photo back to a sketch in PicMonkey, then added color
 with watercolor pencils.
Be sure to visit Michael's SCRIBBLE PICNIC - I just know there will
be some interesting takes and great art for this thought-provoking theme.
Happy day!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Seeds forever. . . . . . . . .

Hmm! What's this I see?  Something new for breakfast.

Really amazing how one sunflower seed can grow into a strong, 6 foot tall sunflower with a
gigantic head full of another few hundred seeds - didn't stop to count but it certainly looks that many!

I've saved quite a few seeds which hopefully will germinate next summer - the
 remainder are feeding lots of garden birds and it seems the cardinals are really
 enjoying them the most.

Lovely sunflower season is over now. I've cut down all the tall stems and will
 look forward to planting again in that spot next year. 
They brought brilliant color and joy both to me, the neighbors, and even
 people just driving by.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Men of the World. . . . . . . . . . . .

You may recall, a couple of months back, I made a some collages
 of beautiful women I photographed around the world.
Today it's time to show some of the men I have also captured with
 my camera.

Remember travel can take you to wonderful places 
where you meet the most interesting people.
Bob and I had great conversations with many of these gentlemen
on our travels. Interaction with them in their homes across the globe
 certainly made each place even more memorable. 
 Kenya, Ireland, Sicily, Malta, California, Morocco.  

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The week is almost over. . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . and although still very warm here, autumn is in the air.

Early morning coffee in the gazebo yesterday.
 Time to put the summer decor away and bring out some autumn color.

This was one of those weeks. 
You know, THOSE weeks. 

The ones when you have a lot of crazy stuff going on, stuff you don't have much
 control over. For me, almost five hours (spread over three visits) in the dentist's chair 
was certainly exhausting. Meeting with four house painters for estimates
 was such a chore. Estimates are now in and the spread is so huge
it's going to take us all weekend to make a decision on whom we should hire 
for the job. 

At the end of the day you plop down in your favorite chair, with a glass of wine,
 hit the television ON button and just want to be taken away, somewhere, 
anywhere, to a place where things are calm and beautiful and you don't have to
 think about bad stuff. Best to stay away from any news channels, and instead look
 for cooking, decorating, history, and my favorites. . . . . . .nature/travel shows
 on PBS, all of which are comforting but interesting in times of stress and strife!

I bought some chrysanthemums to brighten the now bare front entry.

Around the cottage things are a mess as we had everything cut down
 in the front beds in readiness for the upcoming house painting.
  It looks desolate and sad but perhaps rejuvenation is required anyway.
Shrubs and vines were overgrown! Soil needs replenishing and new plants
 will go in later.    

Meanwhile another weekend is upon us. Whatever you have planned
I hope you have a great time.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Fall Fashions - adding color for cool days ahead . . . . . . .

I've never been a great lover of pink shades - for me and my clothes - but I really 
love this long magenta cardigan sweater in mohair.
It does dress up a pair of basic blue jeans (an article of clothing of which I've yet to
 find the perfect pair), and is perfect over this pretty print mimicking floral embroidery
 which is popular this season.

Fall dresses are pretty this season, and actually some look really comfortable to wear. 
This pink and gold print is beautiful on black.

You may have noticed how oversized sweaters continue to be popular. I have several
 from last Fall/Winter - being tall I can wear them. Many are being shown with light, 
sheer but lined, skirts rather than a trouser or skinny pant. This merlot shade is 
lovely in chenille.

Oh my, then there is this coat!
I would adore to have it in my wardrobe.
I can definitely picture myself wearing it to the theatre, perhaps over 
that dress above, and to Holiday parties on chilly December nights.
It looks rich and radiant in this beautiful shade of wine. . . . . . . . 
. . . . . . could it perhaps be an early Birthday present, hint, hint!
I did not see it in the ZARA shop I visited in Viriginia last week so
 think it must have just arrived.

ZARA - Autumn 2017 Collection

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Scribble Picnic - Black & White. . . . . . .

When on safari in Africa one of the many animals I've loved viewing has 
been the plains zebra, also known as Burchell's zebra.
They say no two zebras are alike when it comes to their stripes! That's
 quite amazing when you look across the vast bushveld landscape where
 huge herds are grazing in their very neat looking black and white coats.

For today's Black & White theme, I edited a color print to a black
 and white sketch, then used watercolor pencils to add back
  the black stripes. . . . . . . . . 

 . . . . . . . or, in case you want to see pure black and white, here you go!

Another look, just because zebras in real life are awesome!

Visit Michael's SCRIBBLE PICNIC where our group is sure to come
 up with some interesting art in black and white.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Weekend time in the kitchen. . . . . . . .

Do you, like me, love cakes with fresh fruits as an ingredient?
Somehow they just seem healthier - well that's my excuse for enjoying 
dessert, or a slice with a coffee now and then!
 I found this one, Blackberry-Tahini-Yogurt Cake in the September issue
 of bon appétit magazine when I was waiting in the dentist's office last week.
  I borrowed the magazine - promising to return - and brought it home to make
 copies of this cake recipe and the Tomato-Lemon Tart recipe. 
The recipes are also online so have linked them.

These recipes were quite easy and I was very pleased with the results.
I did tweak both, adding toasted sesame seeds for a little crunch on the cake,
and fresh mozzarella to the tart as it was served as an entrée.
The very thinly sliced lemon is a nice, unexpected, addition to the tomatoes.

Cooking, baking, and of course eating, is a way to handle waiting out a hurricane
 or similar bad weather situation over which we have no control - if of course you're
 not evacuated from your home.
I stayed busy in the kitchen over the past weekend whilst awaiting the possibility
 of Hurricane Irma changing course and heading toward North Carolina.
 Thankfully that didn't happen, so all my prayers continue for what is now the
 massive clean-up, recovery and rebuilding etc. in Florida. 

Do you like to get busy in the kitchen when marking time?
How about changing recipes - do you often add other ingredients?
Do you cook from scratch more, or less, these days?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Time to pause . . . . . . . .

There are definitely days when I feel it must be
better to be an animal or bird, even a reptile. . . 
. . . not a member of the inhuman race.

Even as we deal with horrendous destruction by
Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, we take time to 
pause on this always heartbreaking anniversary.
We have just watched the annual 9/11 Memorial Service
from Ground Zero in New York City, marking the 
tragedy on this morning sixteen years ago.

We will never forget that day.

All photos from Kenya - September 2016

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Prayers for Florida. . . . . . . . . .

We watch the news, we check with friends here who have family and
 friends there. . . . . .sadly not everyone was able to 'escape' and move
 to safer places. Hurricane Irma is so huge she will impact just about the
 entire state of Florida today, tonight, and into tomorrow.

Irma continues her path, ravaging the Florida Keys this morning and now
heading toward the heavily populated west coast of the beautiful 'sunshine state.'
We really have no idea as to how devastating the property damage might
 be, but we sincerely hope there will be no loss of life.
Florida, you are in our prayers today.
Photos of calmer ocean moments taken on other shores during my travels.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Wishing, hoping and praying. . . . . . .

This weekend is likely to be a very difficult time for so many people in our country.
 Like many of you, I'm definitely going to be praying and hoping that lives will not
 be lost as this epic storm makes landfall in Florida. I know most of us will be glued
 to televisions and computers anxious to hear the news and eventually view video
 and photos of what has happened. 
Here in North Carolina it appears we may be spared. We never really know
 though as weather patterns can change rapidly when mighty hurricanes blow in. 

Be strong, have faith, and hope for the best possible outcome.
Later, if necessary, and you are able, be prepared to help those in need
 in any way you can.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Weather woes. . . . . . . . .

 I was up early today knowing the gardening crew we hired would be arriving
 to work on cutting, clearing and removing my lovely overgrown small trees,
 shrubs and plants along the front of the cottage. We are preparing for power
 washing, exterior wood repairs and a fresh coat of paint, so need
 unencumbered access for the carpenters, painters etc.

Memo to self: 
1. In the future cut back on planting everything I fall in love with at the
 garden center.
 2. Engage services of others when it come to keeping up with the big garden
 jobs from here on out.
3. Travel less!

We moved a lot of potted plants ourselves yesterday, ornamental ivy, small
 potted conifers, Summer herbs and fading annuals. Also moved lanterns,
 birdbaths and garden ornaments before heavy rain came late in the day. 
Morning sun at the kitchen window.

Today started with bright sunshine, cooler temperatures, and continued
 until this evening, a near perfect weather day. Hopefully this is not the lull
 before the storm!
No rain expected for a few days but who knows what is going to happen
 when Hurricane Irma makes up her mind as to which direction she will take
 north from Florida this weekend.
We have lived through several hurricanes right here in
 Raleigh even though we're 2 hours inland from the coast - and have had severe
 damage to our home, cars and property. The most intense damage was
from Hurricane Fran which made a landfall here on September 5, 1996.
Fran hit us at night and was a Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained
 winds of 115 mph. We were without power for almost two weeks.
   Sadly 26 people were killed here during Fran, and $4.16 billion in damages
 made it the most expensive natural disaster ever for North Carolina. 

Irma is a category 5 packing sustained winds of 175 mph!
We are scared!

Calm in the front garden just after sunrise today.

Mr. Northern Cardinal who seems to love hanging out here in the south, but 
may be safer flying north by Sunday.

Today's garden visitors included the usual cardinals and finches, plus a lovely bright
surprise, a pair of precious goldfinches.

Good pickins' from the garden today - what may well be the last of enough
 basil to make one more batch of pesto to freeze for Winter. One good looking 
jalapeño pepper from my neighbor's plant. . . . . . . .and the rose? 

The last welcome bloom for some time from the pretty rose named PEACE.
This very old plant is now cut down as part of the ground clearing in front of the front
 porch - however she's a sturdy girl so I hope will return later with more fragrant flowers.

My thoughts tonight are with not just my own friends in Florida, but also with you if
 you are there, and your families and loved ones who might live there also. 
I pray you will all be spared injury and damage to your homes. Irma really does look
 like an unforgiving, horrific storm at this time, and now Hurricane Jose is following
 behind and growing stronger. . . . . . . .all of us in the southeast are really scared, 
and that's no lie!
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