Friday, April 30, 2010

Etiquette: It Started In the Garden

No, I don't mean the Garden of Eden. Although perhaps there are some etiquette issues there with the apple and the serpent and . . . well, you can draw your own conclusions. I'm talking about the concept of etiquette and the origin of the word itself.

And of course, no one can pinpoint the moment when informal etiquette arose - perhaps when a caveman offered his cave-mate the choicest morsel of woolly mammoth, thus setting an example followed to this day. What we do know is that formal etiquette originated in the French royal court in the 16th and 17th centuries. (Another day we'll talk about the year 1669 - when dining knives lost their points!)

But, back to France and specifically to the Palace of Versailles. Louis XIV’s gardener posted signs, or tickets (etiquettes), telling people to keep off the newly seeded lawns; the courtiers ignored these signs until the King issued an edict commanding everyone to “keep within the etiquettes” and the modern term was born.

Today most public gardens have similar signs, although the penalties for breaking the rules is less severe.

So, have a seat on this cozy bench and think about garden etiquette and I'll join you tomorrow to continue this chat.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good May . . .

. . . without celebrating National Poetry Month, that is. That's right, there are only a few days left in April and I couldn't let the month pass without mentioning National Poetry Month. My intention was to blog about it on the first, but like an April Fool, I neglected to . . .

But, there's still time to focus on your favorite poems - or maybe discover a new favorite! I love the official NPM poster, seen above. The lines from Wallace Stevens' Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour were slightly familiar, so the poster led me to find the whole poem which is delightful. You can read it in its entirety here. The Academy of American Poets sponsors the celebration and you will find lots of interesting poems and activities on their website:

And for those who find poetry out-dated and boring, this modern twist on William Blake's Jerusalem might change your mind:

I think Blake would approve of the portrayal of the 'satanic mills', and if you saw the movie Calendar Girls you'll appreciate the snippet of the ladies from the Women's Institute. If you like this rendition of the famous poem-as-hymn, check out the YouTuber's other videos - he has some fabulous performances of other classic poems (like Marlowe's Come Live With Me and the darkly comic Tim Turpin).

There is always room in a busy day for a little poetry, so set aside a few minutes before the month ends to enjoy a great poem - as for me, I'm off to check out the Poems on the Range!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Porkchop Walks Into a Bar . . .

. . . and the bartender says, "I'm sorry, we don't serve food."

I hope you liked this little joke - it never fails to crack me up. At a previous stage in my career I was a technology trainer and on a (seemingly) regular basis my classes would be halted due to technical issues. The students and I were often held hostage while someone from IT tried to fix the problem.
Have you ever tried to keep a group of adults (who were mostly forced to attend in the first place) happy in similar circumstances? If so, you'll know the value of a good joke - and by good I mean one that is appropriate for all audiences and not offensive to anyone (including porkchops and yo momma) and is moderately funny. The porkchop joke was always my go-to joke and I highly recommend it.

Here are a few other tried and true bar jokes:

Two peanuts walk into a bar . . . and one was a-salted.

Charles Dickens walks into a pub and orders a martini. The bartender asks, "Olive or twist?"

A skeleton walks into a bar and says, "Give me a beer and a mop!"

Hope these gave you a chuckle and I'd love to hear your favorite jokes. I'll leave you with a sneak peek of this iris and later in the week I'll reveal why it's special:

Monday, April 26, 2010

Pickled Bird of Paradise

If Peter Piper picked a peck of crocked plants,
Where's the peck of crocked plants Peter Piper picked?

Bet you can't answer that one! Where would one find a peck of crocked plants? If the plant in question is a Bird of Paradise and the quantity is a bit more than a peck (20 gallons actually, which is 10 pecks) - then the answer is on my porch, of course! Remember the antique pickle crock we purchased last fall? (You can read about it here.) It's now the home for a lovely Bird of Paradise. This BofP should not be confused with the other birds who love the porch and make their nests in every available flowerpot - I'm referring to the nervy little Carolina wrens!

As we'll still in pollen season, the rest of the porch is quite dirty, but in a week or two we'll have it spic and span and can enjoy this new addition. And hopefully this plant will not be too large to come inside next winter . . .

Hope your week is off to a great start - as promised, garden etiquette is coming up in a few days (I was sidetracked by a busy, fun weekend)!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Good, the Fresh, the Hot, and the Hideous

I'm off on a short road trip later today and will, therefore, be away from the blogworld until Saturday or Sunday. While I'm away, I'll be thinking of these things that occupied me over the past few days.

A little spring cleaning brought organization to my sideboard drawers, including this big improvement. This antique tea set has rattled every time the bottom drawer was opened - for several years. Now it's nestled in its own basket ~ shhhh.

Also in the 'good' category - this little teacup ornament that was hiding behind some napkin rings. Once forgotten, but now waiting to grace next year's Christmas tree!

On the fresh side, the first herbs from our kitchen garden. Well, we've had rosemary all winter, but the others spent the cold months under heavy plastic and have emerged green and healthy.

During this week of fabulous cool spring weather, you might wonder what was hot. This feeder, that's what. It holds Hot Meats! From the Cole's company, Hot Meats are sunflower meats coated in hot chili peppers . . . squirrels won't touch them! Our birds love the Hot Meats though (and, yes, that's an orange slice on the other hook.).

So this brings us to the hideous - this pole and transformer. If this is what's the norm in your neighborhood then it's not unappealing, it's just what is. But, our end of the block has had underground utilities for almost twenty years and this pole is a new and unwelcome change. And I'm not even showing you the guy wire with its fluorescent orange sleeve! So, we'll have to wait and see how this little drama unfolds.

That's what's going on in my world. I hope things in your world are cheery! I'll be back over the weekend to chat about garden etiquette.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Two Birthdays Each Year? How Regal!

While many women over 40 try to ignore their birthdays, Britain's Queen Elizabeth celebrates two each year! Personally, I love birthdays and would be happy to have two annually, especially if each came with a 21 gun salute and lots of champagne (the champagne is a guess, but wouldn't you have a little bubbly if you were a queen?)! The Queen's actual birthday is today - April 21, or should I say 21 April.

She's 84 and, as seen in these photos famously taken by Annie Leibovitz at Buckingham Palace a few years ago, as regal as ever.

Her official birthday will be celebrated in June with the Trooping of the Colour - find out more about her birthday celebrations here. You might also like this series originally seen on PBS: Windsor Castle: A Royal Year. You'll see how the castle staff prepares for state dinners (don't miss the footman standing on the table to light the candles), spring cleaning (in case you're not sure how to dust that suit of armor or 3 ton chandelier), and other interesting events. Of course, it's available on Netflix, too!

And if royal jewels are more your style, you'll enjoy Geoffrey Munn's fabulous book on Tiaras:

This lush book is 400+ pages of beautiful tiaras with interesting backgrounds on the designs and women who wore them (including members of the British, French, and Russian royal families). Don't be put off by my less-than-perfect pics, the book itself is dreamy!

While not limited to the Queen's jewels, it has fascinating details about many tiaras worn by her and other family members. And what better royal treatment for yourself than a few hours spent with lovely diamonds!

Finally, I have a few royal connections myself (she wrote tongue-in-check), my mother portrayed Queen Elizabeth a few years ago in a local spoof of Keeping Up Appearances (and this would be the time to mention that she's not 84!). Also I'll be seeing a minor royal at a fundraiser in a few weeks . . . more about that after the event. So, in honor of the Queen's birthday, treat yourself a little royally today! As for me, I'm ringing for the lady-in-waiting to bring my champagne . . .

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

One of the these things is not like the others - & that's not dandy!

This week my Dianthus / Pinks are in full bloom and that makes me very happy. Pinks are such an easy plant to grow - requiring little attention and delivering big color each spring. This variety is called Maiden Bloom and it has performed really well for us - from eight small plants six years ago to this spreading group of blooms! There's one little problem this year, however. Can you spot it?

Take a closer look - see that familiar fluffy white lollipop?! That's right - it's a dandelion! Little spring weeds are inevitable and usually quickly removed, but this year lots of pesky dandelions are popping up in the lawn and flower beds - did I mention there are lots of them?! We've never had a problem with dandelions before and I have a theory, but, alas, cannot reveal it in the interest of neighbor relations!

So, what to do with a dandelion like this? The obvious answer is to remove it before it gets to this point, but I didn't see it. Isn't that just like a weed? Keeping its head down during the early stages? I could just leave it, but the thought of those seeds blowing over the garden and becoming 50 tiny dandelion plants is just too much . . .

So while I ponder my attack, you might want to think about adding Pinks / Dianthus to your garden - there are so many great ones from which to choose and here's a sampling:

Photos courtesy All Americas Selection & NCCE.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

I'm thinking of a word . . .

Laura of White Spray Paint fame asked a simple question about the plants pictured on my post yesterday. Her question exposes the reason I'll never have a true garden blog - I don't always know the names of the plants in our garden! In my mind, I'm the kind of gardener who keeps a fabulous garden journal - complete with notes, drawings, little seed packets, maybe even pressed flowers . . . you know the type of journal. In reality, I have three journals - each one containing some sketchy notes and lots of empty pages. One year I actually did great drawings of several beds, but as fate would have it those beds were redesigned when we hired a landscape designer the following spring and I've yet to capture the new beds. It's only been five years though . . .

But, back to Laura's question about the plants - what are they? I know the general name of all but one - the one pictured above. And it's not that easy to identify a plant if you don't already know the name - it's like finding a word in the dictionary if you don't know how to spell it. What's especially annoying is that I have known - and should know - the name of this because it's not some exotic plant - it's as common as jasmine or a Lady Banks rose!

This train of thought took me back to middle school and our perennial substitute teacher Mrs. Harris (I've changed her name for obvious reasons). Whenever a teacher was absent, Mrs. Harris filled in. She was an elderly lady who came to school dressed for church - suit with matching shoes, perfectly applied makeup (and by perfect I don't mean lightly), handbag with scarf tied to the handle. She never looked at a lesson plan, but rather had her own diversions to keep us busy. One was the Dictionary Race. She'd say a word and the first student to find it in the dictionary won. I loved this game - my secret was to start with with the dictionary opened at the middle. But, mostly we 'worked on' Spelling - remember Spelling? The purpose is to learn new words - definitions and spelling. Well, the way we studied Spelling with Mrs. Harris was for her to sit serenely at her desk and say, "I'm thinking of a word . . ." Then we would guess until someone correctly named the word and she'd check it off her list and say, "I'm thinking of a word . . ." as if she was saying that phrase for the first time. Even 5th graders knew how pointless this was, but it was a fun break from routine studying. So today I'm recreating this by sitting at my desk and saying, "I'm thinking of a plant . . ." And, I'll be waiting for someone out there to shout out the right word! And if you don't hurry I'll have to touch up my foundation or rouge!

As for the other plants, they are: Cherry Laurel (Otto Luyken), Camellia (this was already planted when we moved in and I don't know the variety, but it's a late bloomer and not as susceptible to blight as our December bloomers), Hawthorn (again not sure of the variety - I thought it was a Winter King, but when I looked it up in Dirr's the foliage is different).

So, Laura thanks for the question that led me down memory lane (that's M.E.M.O.R.Y., memory). Let's see who answers . . .

Saturday, April 17, 2010

What's Cheerier Than Lots of White Blooms?

Okay, I don't have an answer to that, but here's a peek at some cheery white blooms around our garden (feel free not to notice the sad foliage on the cherry laurel).

The funny thing about these plants is that I didn't realize we had so many white spring bloomers - obviously that says something about my garden planning . . . hope you're enjoying great April weather this weekend!

Friday, April 16, 2010

It's a Bloom Storm!

Get out your see-through umbrella because there's a storm on the way that you'll want to see! Yesterday while visiting a friend, I saw these covering her lawn:

Despite the large number of blooms on the ground, there are more to come:

So for a few days, the tree is a lovely Spring Pink and Green!

Hope some lovely blooms come your way this weekend!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Brining: It's So 2009!

As the title of this post suggests, I'm not a brining convert. In theory brining is a tasty idea - who wouldn't want juicier, saltier meats? In practice, however, I don't think there's a noticeable difference in a dish that was brined and one that was cooked properly without brining. For several years now, cooks have been inundated with recipes and products for brining - from Cooks Illustrated to FoodTV to Williams-Sonoma. And speaking of Williams-Sonoma, have you seen their brining bags?

Their photo, seen above, shows the bag in action. Now, I'm a big fan of Williams-Sonoma and, in fact, purchased something in their store over the weekend. However, the brining bag strikes me as a bit over the top - it's just a big zip-top bag. W-S lists its features as: heavy-duty to prevent punctures, re-usable (if you choose to hand wash and dry), double zipper to prevent leaks. In other words, it's the same as the Ziploc bags you can purchase at any grocery store or even the commercial-grade Ziploc bags available at Cabela's (who knew Cabela's customers need to keep things fresh?). So at $4 a piece, why would someone buy the Williams-Sonoma bags? Seeing these a few months ago just cemented by theory about brining. Once you can purchase unnecessary accoutrements for a trend, it's Jumped the Shark.

All trends wax and wane, and I think brining peaked last Thanksgiving and will shortly be on the decline. This leads us to the big question - what will be the next big food trend? I hope it's not more of the weird food combinations like chocolate-covered bacon or Krispy Kreme bread pudding (honestly . . . I've seen this on the menu at a local restaurant) that keep popping up. My prediction? Salt slabs.

In the Himalayas, slabs of salt are mined and cut just like granite and the resulting plates or bricks are beautiful and sturdy - perfect for cooking, prepping, and serving. They retain heat and impart only a mild saltiness, much less than you normally add during cooking. You can check them out at Salt News and purchase them at many gourmet shops (including Dean & Deluca, where the ones shown above are now specially priced). Even eBay has some nice sources for salt blocks.

So let's trade in our brining buckets, bags, and injectors for a few beautiful salt slabs. And if you're feeling adventurous, toss in your cedar grilling planks, too!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Liberty of London for Target . . . but, not for me

Too young to remember the British Invasion? You know . . . the Beatles on Ed Sullivan and all that? Me, too, but not to worry because there's a new wave of British goodness coming your way. The famous and fabulous Liberty of London has arrived!
That's right, the iconic designs and fabrics that made Liberty famous on both sides of the Atlantic are now available in the US. The flagship London store, seen below, is a wonderful mix of modern and classic - offering everything from designer clothes to antique arts and crafts furniture, and, of course, their beautiful Tana Lawn fabrics which I always coveted during my smocking days!

Having been a huge fan of Liberty for years, I was really excited to learn that Target was going to carry a line of Liberty items. Classic Liberty designs have been used to create bedding, lingerie, and all types of housewares. And apparently this line has been quite a hit because most items are sold out in the local Target stores and online. I've visited four different locations (sadly, to no avail) looking for this teapot:
That's not as drastic as it sounds, I was close to the different stores for other reasons (really!). The quality of the clothing/fabric items may not be a high as items purchased at Liberty - but, then again, the price isn't as high either. If you'd like to add a little Liberty to your home or wardrobe, check out the whole Liberty of London collection here and visit your local Target for items not seen online - the garden and storage items are especially appealing!

And Liberty's British Invasion doesn't stop with Target - M A C Cosmetics is also collaborating with them on a fun range of makeup and accessories inspired by those classic Liberty designs. Check out the collection here.

The lipgloss is especially fun, although it hardly compares to the teapot!

Hope your week is off to a great start . . . and maybe I'll see you at Target!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Birds Do It, Bees Do It . . . & I Wish They'd Stop!

Actually I don't care who does it, but I'd like to see less pollen from reproducing plants! Actually that's not a true statement, I don't mind seeing it - it's breathing it that's the problem. This past week brought the highest pollen count in recent memory in this part of NC. Last weekend's burst of summer temps caused almost everything to bloom at once and the resulting pollen haze was stifling - at least for the allergy-prone (like me!).

Luckily a brief rain has washed away much of the offending yellow stuff, but here are a few pictures to give you an idea (these were sent by a friend and I'm unsure of the source).

The photo above was taken at Pullen Park in Raleigh; the swirling pollen is rather pretty - at a distance! If you're ever in the area, stop by Pullen Park to ride the famous carousel or take a turn on the paddle boats (I suggest waiting until the pollen season has past).

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the worst of the pollen has washed away - normally we have about six weeks of it so perhaps this year we'll only have two or three. In the meantime, I'm keeping my allergy medicine close at hand!

Hope your weekend is filled with clean air.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Have You Drawn a Bird Today?

Quick, you still have a few hours! Yes, it's April 8, a.k.a. Draw a Bird Day, the day set aside each year to try your hand at a little avian art. According to Wikipedia, DAB Day was started in the '40s as a morale booster and continues today (it's unclear why drawing birds was thought to boost morale - perhaps spending time in the great outdoors or simply the fact that it was an activity with little or no associated cost?). The drawings can be any media and any skill level - this is one time when effort is the most important factor. I don't know why I even said that . . . of course there are no rules.

Flickr has several sets of DAB Day pics - check one out here. Some cities, like Hartford, have their own ways to mark the day and, of course, there's a Facebook page (if you visit, don't miss the charming French drawing guide). And for a little professional inspiration look to Dr. Seuss and John James Audubon (click here to see this chromolithograph appraised on Antiques Roadshow!).

So, I'm off to draw a bird . . . how about you?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Springtime Wish List

What's almost as good as having tulips, Lenten roses (aka hellebore), and other lovely spring flowers in your garden? Having friends and neighbors who plant them and let you enjoy - and photograph - them!

Here are some plants I'd like to see in my own garden next year - especially the tulips! (Now that I know the chicken wire trick . . . )

In case you haven't heard of this squirrel-thwarting technique, come a little closer and I'll whisper it: you place chicken wire over the soil after bulbs are planted - according to my sources, your bulbs are then safe from digging critters! shhh~~

So even though my garden is a bit bare this spring (or I should say all the color comes from daffodils because they're deer-proof!), I've been enjoying the beautiful flowers growing in other gardens. And, I'm putting these on my wish list for next year . . . because by then I'm sure we will have the deer/squirrel situation under control!

What's blooming in your neighborhood this week?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

It's spring and my fancy lightly turns to thoughts of . . .

. . . flip-flops!

I confess, I'm a flip-flopaholic. As I no longer go in to an office each day, my wardrobe has devolved - more casual clothes that are perfect for gardening, grilling, etc. and, for spring and summer: flip-flops. I must disagree with the less-than-favorable comments in a recent issue of InStyle - if they're cute, I think flip-flops can work with dresses, shorts, pants, almost any casual outfit (I do stop short of wedding gowns and visits to the White House). If you also like flip-flops, you should check out Eliza B.

What makes these different from most flip-flops? For starters, they come in the cheeriest fabrics, patterns and colors. And you can customize them. Want velvet? Or cute cork wedges? Or . . . monograms?? (Notice the monogram on the pairs below - how great would it be to have your monogram spell W.O.W.?!)

The other great thing about Eliza B flip-flops is that they're made like shoes (as they say, like fine English shoes) - they fit well, last for years, and are comfortable enough to wear when you're standing and walking all day (even on uneven cobblestones)! A far cry from the cheap rubbery ones with the big squarish bottoms . . .

So, now you know my shoe secret . . . what are your favorite summer shoes? Do you have a flip-flop recommendation?
Related Posts with Thumbnails