Saturday, April 30, 2016

A Feast for the Eyes and Inspiration for the Gardener

     Our neighbor, William, designed and installed a beautiful garden in Roanoke this year at a home called "Oak Knoll". It was the highlight of this year's garden tour for which William kindly gave us tickets. There were six homes in total on the tour, but Oak Knoll was definitely the princess. In my opinion, the misty rain and low hanging clouds only made the gardens more beautiful. I love a garden in the rain. 
     You can read a little bit about Oak Knoll and the other homes on the tour HERE. The home interiors were open to the tour as well, which was very generous of the homeowners considering the amount of heavy foot traffic and the wet weather. I noticed they wisely covered floors and carpets in plastic. We mainly skipped the interiors because they were very crowded and we really preferred to see the gardens anyway. 
     Oak Knoll is built into a steep hillside and takes up the space of seven building lots. It has a grand view and truly is a beautiful estate. William did an amazing job on the garden design and the homeowners added an abundance of potted plants. Here are a few of my favorite shots.
The long sweep of garden rooms along the back of the house

Potted pants at the kitchen door. There was an identical arrangement on the opposite side of the door.

From the patio looking out to the front of the house

Looking along the back of the house from the potting shed over the garage.
Pot, pots...
... and more pots

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Goings On

     It's a tricky business finding that balance in time management between too much and too little to do. In my eagerness to do everything I do just that, everything. Spring is usually like that anyway. It comes in with such a rush as the sunshine and warmth rouse us out of our winter slumber. The beauty of spring is both intoxicating and exciting and we want to plant every inch of field and explore every corner of woods. Lazy days will come again when the heat and humidity build, but for now we can be outside in comfort and fill our plates with too much to do.
     Craft-wise, my hooked rug is coming along. This is my learning piece and as such, I am learning a lot. The perfectionist in me wants to pull loops out and fix this and that, but at that rate it would never be done. My mentor, Eleanor, is full of praise for what I've accomplished so I will trust her judgement and not fuss too much about perfection. She uses the word, "primitive" a lot and reminds me we are making "primitive" hooked rugs. She is a genteel lady, in her eighties I believe, and she lives in a very, very old home that had its beginnings as a log cabin. Entering her home is like stepping back in time. There are hooked rugs and antiques everywhere. This week she invited another fellow "hooker" to join us and we spent a lovely afternoon together, hooking and chatting. Eleanor served tea and shortbread with a tea cozy, quilted coasters and all. Sometimes being grown up is just like how we played house when we were little. I loved playing house...
     Anyway, here is my progress thus far. I like the process of hooking and I see a lot of room for personal improvement. I may revisit this same pattern one day and hook it again in a year or two just to compare.    
100% wool fabric is cut into 1/4" wide strips and then it's pulled, in loops, through the linen backing.

The main pattern is finished and now I can start on the background.
    Another sewing project I started is a calico prairie dress for granddaughter, Mari. I used to sew a lot of calico clothing for the girls when they were little. Claire has a prairie dress that she played in quite a lot. Here is a photo of her when she was about ten years old and we lived in New York. I'm happy that I can now sew for Mari. Claire chose a pretty blue calico for Mari's dress and she gave me the pattern to use.

Claire (now Mari's mom) around 1995-96

Mari's calico will match her pretty eyes
     On another note, the raised garden beds are all planted and we've been harvesting asparagus and baby spinach. Last night we put up the electric wire to protect our little crop from the deer. We also took a stroll across the field to William's to visit his lambs. His three ewes all had twins and they are adorable! I'll be feeding the animals this weekend and will try to take more photos. Those little lambs don't stand still for a moment for me to take a photo so, I have a little video instead.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Sunday Singing

Sunday Singing, where I share one of the many songs we sang at church this day. Here we have, "Cornerstone".

Saturday, April 23, 2016

My Perfect Ten

     We would all agree there is no such thing as the perfect ten in a person. Reality is, we are all flawed to the nth degree. However, in terms of our spouses and our children, we all (mostly) feel that we have the very best for ourselves. Sometimes, it's all those flaws that endear us to one another and makes that special someone our very own. And when we love one another despite the flaws, we grow a strong marriage and a strong family. That said, I have the perfect ten in a husband...for me : )
     In honor of Steve's birthday today and the anniversary of our meeting thirty seven years ago, I would like to highlight for posterity this perfectly flawed person who is the perfect complement for a perfectly flawed me.
     Today was a rare day in the fact that Steve and I spent the entire day doing everything together. Usually in our free time we co-exist around the house, each happily doing our own thing and only sharing a small portion of the day in an activity together. For example, he reads while I cook or he's in the basement while I'm upstairs, that sort of thing. However, today we went to the dump together, we attempted to get him a haircut together, we ran errands together, we planted a tree together, we went out to dinner together, and we played shuffleboard together. We even called it a day at the same time, which is extremely rare. Man! All of this togetherness sure made our imperfections more visible. Let me rephrase that; it made all of my imperfections shine forth. Once I let go of all that, which was within the first hour, our day was perfectly perfect.
     In  all our years together, it is clear that life has given Steve and I many a storm to weather. We are beginning to look weathered. The impulsiveness of our youth is gone, our castles in the sky have come down to earth, and the light on our days feels more golden than crystal clear. We understand each others imperfections better and that makes them easier to overlook. Perhaps we're just weary. We have definitely learned the value of time and that it should not be wasted on petty things.
     So, Steve's hair is uncut because he has no time to leave work for a haircut; he is perfectly hard working. His communication skills are different than mine because that's how perfectly genius people like him communicate. And the saxophone that reverberates throughout house and fields beyond is his perfect relaxation after he's been pulled in a million directions at work all day. How empty my world would be without this noise. But what really sums up his perfection in my eyes is his smile at the end of this little video- it's really perfect.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Teaching an Old Dog a New Trick

     A dear lady at our church makes beautiful hooked rugs. She's an expert at her craft and she displays and uses her rugs all over her home. I have always enjoyed creating things with fabrics and I especially like the old crafts of re-using old things to make something new, such as quilts, wool penny rugs, etc. So, when Eleanor offered to take me under her wing and show me how to hook rugs, I was all in. (You should see her "stashes" of wool in all their earthy, glorious colors!)
     My first piece will be a small wall hanging, about 12 by 18 inches large. You can purchase pre-printed patterns that are already printed onto the linen rug backing, but I opted to draw my own pattern from a design I saw. The colors are what really drew me to this design with its purple thistle, and green leaves on a creamy background. I'm so excited! Here are two photos of it's meager beginning. I first drew my pattern to the size I wanted and cut it out. Then I traced it onto the linen with a permanent sharpie marker. Most of the patterns I've seen look like simple coloring book outlines, as does my thistle. It's only after the addition of the many hooked loops of colored strips of wool that these designs come alive. Stay tuned for my progress. I hope I can be good at it.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Sunday Singing

Ten Thousand Reasons for my heart to find...

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Strawberry Time in Raleigh!

    I took one of our favorite road trips to Raleigh last week to visit Claire and the grandchildren. Henri came along, as always, and we had a wonderful time. The weather was perfect for any sort of outdoor activity and when Claire announced it was the beginning of strawberry season, we were all happy at the prospect of sweet, fresh strawberries! Raleigh has multiple pick-your-own farms to choose from which is similar to what we had in New York. Throughout the growing season we picked strawberries, blueberries, apples, pears, plums, etc. Each month brought a newly ripening crop to pick. We have nothing at all like this around Roanoke and we've missed it. Just a twenty minute drive from Raleigh and we were surrounded by huge strawberry fields. Look how they grow their berries- tidy rows are mounded high and covered in black plastic. This is not an organic farm, but it is obvious these berries are grown with care and attention. This was the first week of the strawberry season which runs through the beginning of May. We had no trouble finding ripe, red berries to pick. The children were a great help at picking.

     Along the road to the strawberry fields were many garden nurseries. We went to one called Broadwell's. It's a pick-your-own nursery of sorts. There are acres and acres of potted nursery plants and you drive around in your own car and stop whenever you see something you want. You get out and load it into your vehicle yourself and continue on. The catch is, most of the plants aren't labeled so you have to know your plants. Claire used her smartphone to look up a few that she wasn't sure about. The prices are rock bottom and the plants Claire has purchased here in the past have all been healthy. It was a fun place to drive around. The kids loved it when we drove through the areas being watered by the large water sprayers. There were also many birds roaming the property. We saw countless peacocks and large flocks of guinea hens, all very entertaining. One peacock strutted around in an empty greenhouse that he had all to himself. His tail fathers were fanned out and he appeared to be quite vain and pleased with himself. Jack described him perfectly when he said he was shaking his tail.
    One of my goals while in Raleigh was to shop for a bra. (Girl story here.) In addition to an absence of fruit farms, Roanoke is sorely lacking in good shopping. I don't care for shopping malls, but sometimes a trip to one can't be helped. There's nothing worse than having a shopping need only to end up frustrated and bagless. Such was the case when I tried to shop for a bra in Roanoke. Let me say, our Belk department store leaves a lot to be desired. The lingerie department is always in disarray and it's impossible to find sales help anywhere in the store. I tried to shop Macy's as well, but the end result was the same, nothing. I don't even wear an unusual size, so I don't understand why it's so frustrating. 
     In Raleigh, I went into the Belk at Crabtree Valley and I'm pretty sure I heard angels singing as I walked past rack after rack of orderly merchandise. It was a weekday morning and there were salesgirls everywhere, all easily identifiable! I saw a table with cookies and fresh fruit laid out in the bra department! Really! There was a Wacoal brand representative on site this particular day and she offered to fit me. I was personally measured and left to lounge in a nicely appointed fitting room while she went out to the racks and found a dozen bras for me to try. In no time, I was purchasing two new bras at a register attended by three salesgirls. Lastly, they put a free cosmetic bag in with my purchase. I left the mall feeling very, very happy. I'm sorry Roanoke, but you have let me down. I know we're a poor country city, but there's never an excuse for poor customer service. I love living here in the Roanoke Valley, there is no place more beautiful. But, I've decided to save my shopping for Raleigh from now on.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sunday Singing

And so through all the length of days...

Monday, April 4, 2016

Three Hundred and Sixty Degrees of Breathtaking

The tree house and swing at the edge of the woods with the purple redbuds behind. Don't you love green fuzz of new leaves beginning to swell on the trees?
         With all the beauty of spring time in the mountains, it is impossible not to smile at the deep satisfying goodness of life. The forsythia and flowering pear may be fading, but the lilacs, redbud, and apple blossoms are taking over. Oh, and my apologies to the dogwood. How could I forget you, sweet things?! The landscape is a new riot of pink and purple with strong hints of green. I mowed the lawn for the first time this season and the aroma of cut grass was intoxicating. I continued mowing a perimeter around the field because Henri enjoys his walks there and the field grass is quickly getting too tall. All this tromping and riding around the property helps me to observe and take stock of the things that need tending. The list grows ever longer and includes moving the swing to a higher branch, transplanting the daisies to a better location, getting rid of the diseased peonies, and installing flashing on the horse shed. The list is much, much longer but I don't want to overwhelm Steve if he reads this : )
     I'm also seeing the home and property from a grandparent's perspective nowadays. The children love to play outside when they visit hence, the swing, tree house, and fields will be playgrounds once again. It seems like it was only a short while ago that our own daughters were running through these same fields, jumping from hay bales, and galloping the horse up the hill. I'm glad this home place wasn't quiet for too long between the generations. There's much more enjoyment still to come and we'll keep the bonfires burning and the marshmallows handy as long as we're fit and able. My hope is for Nonni and Pop's house to be a place the grandchildren enjoy visiting. I won't try out the swing before we move it because I know for a fact the branch isn't safe, but I may climb up into the tree house to be sure all is in order there. I might just take a book and pillow up there and stay a while.
     I had a day's worth of bookkeeping to do this morning and I had been at it for a couple of hours when I rummaged through my inbox and stumbled across a letter my mom had penned a few months ago. It broke my heart to see her handwriting. She couldn't see and therefore struggled to write. Grief ebbs and flows at the drop of a hat, the sound of a tune, or the appearance of a letter. A good cry later and I took Henri outside where we both benefited from the fresh air. It truly is a beautiful day even with the chill and breeze. My heart swells with gratitude for nature's beauty and the healing properties with which God has imbued it.  

When I photographed the lilac I noticed the dogwood up on the hill behind it. Perfect!

We had visitors today. They came into our field and their presence taunted Henri to no end! They are the cutest things to watch, waddling in formation.