Blooming-hills

Over a week has passed since our 2nd Annual Road Party and while the bubbly and food have all but disappeared, the memories and flowers linger still. 

This year we opted for a brunch event where we served our newly famous Belgian waffles with fresh whipped cream and fruit along with home made biscotti and thirst quenching Mimosas.

 

Our very own chef: Irwin   

We decided to utilize the porch and front lawn, which are both shady and cool during the early part of the afternoon and had an immeasurable amount of help from our neighbor Jeanne, who co-hosted the gathering as well as our good friends Marty and Robyn, who came for the weekend.                                              

 

 Jeanne, our neighbor and resident bartender

Our neighbors brought an array of epicurean edibles including scrumptious spinach and mushroom strata, spinach and feta individual spanakopita, a homemade peach cobbler, herb biscuits, parmesan rolls, a fresh blueberry pie from the local blueberry festival and bottles and bottles of Prosecco.

                                 

Lots and lots of Prosecco

 

Unlike an evening event, which allows for more time to capture the set-up pictorially, a brunch with a warm main course does not permit such a luxury, so we hope you will use your imagination.

What I was able to capture were the simple,colorful floral arrangements Irwin made from an assortment of flowers Jeanne ordered from a local farm.  The total cost for the flowers was a mere thirty dollars and we are still enjoying the blooms more than a week later.  Irwin employed an assortment of vintage pieces including a silver plated pitcher, a pewter pitcher, assorted glass vases and our personal favorite, a ceramic swan that Irwin purchased in Virginia last year.

                                                   

  

a pewter pitcher filled with farm favorites

 

 

A silver plate pitcher filled with a breathtaking assortment

 

the same pitcher over a week later 

 

a simple table set with a petite bouquet

 

the petite bouquet the following week

 

 

a beautiful swan

 

beautiful still

 Needless to say, a good time was had by all.                                                                 
 

                                      enjoying the afternoon

        

In our last post we suggested using found objects to hold candles for a little Midsummer Lights Dream. Found objects can also make interesting containers for flower arrangements, making every day a special occasion.  And this time of year the burgeoning plethora of wildflowers are wonderful additions to seasonal blooms.                                                                                                                          

  

Wildflowers, including Goldenrod

So, this weekend, purchase or pick some of this season’s best and fill your favorite containers.  Whether you are enjoying your time indoors or out,   surround yourself with the sweet bouquet of flowers and enjoy your very own Blooming-hills.

 

 

 

 

 


The other day our country neighbor and good friend Jeanne stopped by with her delightful dog Zippy for a collaborative dinner and we once again began the discussion of where to eat.  It is not that we have no place to eat, but rather the opposite.  The number of places in and around the house available for sitting and especially eating has become somewhat of a joke amongst our friends over the years.

Charlie's good friend & neighbor, Zippy

 

It is true, we have many places throughout the house, both indoors and out to sit and relax and…to eat.  What can we say? Maybe it’s because we both come from families where food is so important, or maybe it is because in our city apartment, we have no outdoor space, and our formal dining room was eliminated years ago and combined with our living room to make way for a much-needed den.  Whatever the reason, if you are looking for a place to relax or…eat, we have a place for you!

 

dining in the great room under ceiling fans is a great alternative on warm evenings

 

We love spending time in the country and when we are not working on the house, we are usually relaxing and/or entertaining at home.  Irwin loves to cook and set a table so we rarely eat out and because Irwin is a creative genius whose mind is constantly churning out new ideas, it is essential that different venues are available for him to work in.

My favorite way to begin an evening: a pitcher of cocktails

 

Alfresco dining under a tree

 

Our Dining Room: A thanksgiving favorite

  

Most breakfasts are served in the kitchen or on the porch, where the usual fare is either my famous blueberry or banana pancakes or Irwin’s world-renowned breakfast frittata made with whatever is available in the fridge.

 

Our kitchen: open 24/7

  

 

the porch: No  Reservation needed

 

irwin's famous frittata

 

Lunch and dinner can happen almost anywhere but always feel special.

 

dining on our deck is lovely in the afternoon

 

So, whether you are two for dinner or serving twelve, have one eating area or more, little changes can go a long way in making  “at home” dining special.

For example:

We always use an abundance of candles, votives and tea lights.  They add warmth and make everything sparkle and glow.

 

Authentic atmosphere

 

Tea light in vintage cup with fish tank gravel

 

 

light, light and more light

 

When possible, we use cut flowers from our garden; they are easy and inexpensive and always look and smell wonderful.

Fresh garden flowers-always a hit

  

We usually mix and match glassware, dishes and flatware to create interest.

This mix on our patio is fun

  

AND…we primarily use cloth napkins with napkin rings.  I know, nobody wants to spend time ironing napkins- and the truth is, I don’t.  We use lovely cotton and linen napkins that just need to be folded warm from the dryer.

 

Lovely napkin rings a gift from good friend Maybelline Te

 

 

Another feast cooked by non other than Irwin

 

I know these suggestions seem very basic and they are, but with a little imagination, you too will feel like you are dining out…at home.

Make a Wish and....

With much anticipation and little fanfare, Irwin & I packed a bag or two, grabbed Charlie and headed for the hills last week to spend some much needed time in the country.  This is what we live for and we celebrate our good fortune every day that we are able to spend in our home surrounded by nature.

Of course, the first thing I did upon arrival was walk the property and check on our seasonal guests.  I was so excited to see the nest that had been built Memorial Day and had eggs hatched on the longest day of the year now housed a robust brood of six babies that were preparing to depart, leaving us as “Empty Nesters” once again.  The added pleasure of finding that a beautiful pair of cardinals had built a precious nest of birch bark in our beloved lilac bush almost sent me over the top.

Five of six of our latest brood

 

Our cardinal

 

the cardinal nest made with birch bark

 

From the beginning our house has attracted wildlife, a topic I have addressed in previous posts and am constantly in awe of.  Irwin and I often joke about how we have willed the arrival of our feathered and furry friends and perhaps we have.

It could be argued that our purchase of a painting of a large black dog, initiated the arrival of Charlie, our big black dog and the sketches of birds nests along with the glass eggs in nests displayed in our home have heralded the abundance of nests on our property.

the painting that heralded charlies arrival

 

The "man" Himself

 

sketches of nests

 

 

glass eggs in nests

 

One could further agree that a sketch of a raccoon, the only valuable gift left by the previous owner of our house, was single-handedly responsible for last summer’s Raccoon-Fest, and finally, the placement of the wooden bunny in our “Wish Basket” which to our utter shock and amazement, brought bunnies to our property.

our raccoon sketch

 

 

Our raccoon-Fest

 

 

our "wish basket"

 

our bunny

 

We believe that the universe will give you what you ask for if you put it out there so our wish basket is always on display in the den.  We keep the wooden bunny and Charlies broken collar in it at all times as a reminder of the enormous wishes we have been granted.

Now I’m not saying that we always get exactly what we wish for, I did NOT ask for a woodchuck, especially after last summer’s raccoon-fest and our sealing up all the openings under the porch, but nevertheless, Woody, as we’ve come to call him, not only resides on our patio in a gargantuan cave he has built, but has an extended family of baby woodchucks living under our porch.

Woody

 

woody's home

 

I’ve also put several small winning lottery tickets and handfuls of dollar bills in the basket and have yet to win Mega-Millions or Powerball but there is always the possibility.

So why not make a wish or two? Who’s to say how messages are communicated in the universe or how things are heard in the heavens?  What is important is that we put our message out because…you never know.

We just added our latest wish in the basket….I’ll keep you posted!

 

our latest wish is in the basket

 

The Sweet Smell of...Roses

I can’t help myself.  When springtime explodes in the country and we are on the cusp of summer my heart literally skips a beat.  When hummingbirds visit while I have my morning coffee on the porch and fireflies light up the night time sky like fireworks, I am in heaven because I know that this is the season when we become more than transient guests in our own home.  This season, however fleeting, is the one that literally forces us to stop whatever we are doing and smell the roses.

While Irwin and I try to get away for at least one night a week during the year and spend part of the winter holidays in the country with the family, it is not quite the same as the late spring and summer when we afford ourselves the luxury of spending considerable blocks of time in our rural retreat.

And…what better way to welcome us for the season than to be greeted upon arrival on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend by a sweet little bird finally building the nest I had been pining for since the start of spring; the nest that has been there every spring/summer since we bought the house, the nest I was so disappointed not to see on Mother’s Day.

 

The perfect building project began on Friday-moved in on Sunday

 

It is part of my ritual.  When I arrive at the house, I walk around and examine the changes in our plantings and check on our seasonal guests including the Robin’s nest in the gutter and the other in our beloved Dogwood.  Imagine my utter surprise and sheer glee when I saw the first specks of mud on the porch roof. At that moment I exhaled, knowing that all was right in our little piece of the universe.

We all know that is so easy to get caught up in the complexity of daily living and lose sight of the time we need to spend enjoying the beauty we are surrounded by.  But acknowledging it and doing something about it are two incredibly different things.  Just the other day, I had that very discussion on Twitter with two good Twitter friends, @tandemantiques and @jonathanlegate.  We all acknowledged the fact that because summer is fleeting, we must take time to “smell the roses”, a priority that we often overlook.  I said that I needed to enjoy EVERY moment of this precious season and take it one day at a time.  Hilary (@andemantiques) agreed adding “It's true - I know that I sometimes squander my now because I'm focused/worried about down the road”, something we are all guilty of and Jonathan added: I’m “always thinking of the future but taking time to enjoy the present while respecting the past.”   A truly beautiful statement that says it all and is something we should all allow ourselves to do.

So, here is to summer and the beauty it reveals to us everyday.  Let’s all make a commitment now to stop and enjoy "the sweet smell of... roses” this season before it is just a memory.

Some of "the roses" we have stopped to smell this season so far: Enjoy!

Superb Spirea

 

 

colossal Catnip

 

Color-fusion

 

 

relaxing Goldfinches

 

A statuesque Iris

 

 Breathtaking Day Lilies

 

A humble bumble bee

 

The beauty of another sunset

 

The Golden glow of evening's approach

 

 

The warmth of a tea light

 

Only nature's song can be heard

 

the dance of the flames

 

Waxed beauty

 

 

Our mentor Charlie, who inspires us everyday & reminds us of how sweet the roses can be!

 

 

 

Cues & A's

This past weekend, Irwin and I made a briefer than expected jaunt to our much beloved country house.  When we last visited, it was clearly still summer even with the scattered leaves blanketing the driveway.  Our return, although only three weeks later, revealed autumn’s almost complete conquest. 

We arrived late on Friday afternoon and were immediately struck by the transformation both visual and textural.  Armed with my camera and laptop, I eagerly anticipated capturing the grandeur of the changing foliage through images and words.

Sitting by our first fire of the season, in our newly completed DIY Great Room, we enjoyed the surprisingly early change of season, even for Upstate New York.  Looking at our fireplace surround and the contrasting wall color I began to think about how the seasons affect our design aesthetic. Now I know this is not a new concept, but it does bear repeating.

The next morning, I looked at the changing foliage outside the sunroom window and remembered how different it appeared in late May with all the greenery in new bloom and the fresh lilacs on the coffee table.  Now, the bright green had been replaced with the rich golds, amber and russets of fall and on the table, the vestiges of a summer orchid past its prime.  I was just about to run over to the farm store to pick up some beautiful mums to “Fall-ify” the house, and photograph the seasonal change when I received a call from our son back in the city telling us he had a fever. It was a low-grade fever, but a fever nevertheless.

Sunroom in may        

 

            

Sunroom in October

Well, I did what any mother would do.  Fearing a rocketing temperature, I grabbed my bag and we headed home.  No mums, no crunching through the crispy leaves, no photos of pumpkins, or foliage.

As disappointed as I was, it was no reason to forsake this post, or for that matter, the rest of the plans we had for the country.  So, I decided to try to take my cues from nature right here in NYC and headed out, camera in hand to capture the changing season, NYC style.

With chilly morning temperatures and blustery winds, autumn has arrived in NYC despite the fact that the leaves on the trees have not really begun to change.  Just strolling through my neighborhood, I was able to capture the sights and textures of this amazing season, which I am delighted to be able to share with you.

 


 

 

 

  

 

Pumpkins & Peppers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pomegranates & Gourds


 

 

 

 

 

 

Purple & Green Cabbage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mums

 

Corn, Coleus & More

 

       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Plantings &Pashmina

and of course, trees

So, relax with a warm mug of apple cider and drink in the seasonal colors and textures that surround you.  Bring them into your home via plants or pillows, pumpkins or Pashmina, and take your design cues from nature. 

It is officially Summer!  AND as soon as it stops raining for more than fifteen minutes, we will all be uncovering our grills, reopening our umbrellas and resuming outdoor living. 

So, how can we freshen up both our indoor as well as outdoor spaces without straining our non-existent budget?  Accessorize, accessorize, accessorize.  Maybe it’s because Irwin and I owned an accessories company for fifteen years, or maybe it’s because I am accessories collector by nature, whatever the reason, I LOVE fashion as well as home accessories and I especially like when the two are combined.

Like the “little black dress”, the ultimate chameleon of attire, which can engage a myriad of looks simply by changing the accessories that are worn with it, your home can be “dressed up” or down reflecting either your mood or the season simply by changing the way you accessorize it.

Here is a perfect example of how you can continue to re-invent a simple piece throughout a season.

My sweet vintage plaster duck was once part of a set.  When its "sibling" met an untimely end, Irwin decided to reposition it prominently for this season.  Here is her evolutionary process thus far:

 

 

 Vintage Plaster Duck

 

   
With Flowers
 
With A Pearl Necklace
 
As part of a vignette

 

With a Double Necklace 

 

So, accessorize, accessorize, accessorize.  Fabric, pillows, flowers, even jewelry.  Your home is the new "little black dress".

Part II of our Summer Series: Stars & Stripes & Memories Forever

        

Memorial Day weekend has just ended and the unofficial beginning of summer has finally arrived.  We are all busy summerizing our homes and bringing the indoors out.  So, while we are planting our gardens and stocking up on Citronella candles in anticipation of that fleeting, yet eternal season in the sun, Irwin and I have some tips on how to make it more memorable.

Two years ago, our flag, which we had hung from our porch in the country, was ruined in a storm and Irwin and I were unable to find a good quality replacement in time for our upcoming Fourth of July celebration with friends. In a quest to create last minute, patriotic décor, Irwin grabbed a handful of small, cut out, color copies of a beautiful American flag, which we kept in a jar in the kitchen and placed them in planters all over the porch.  He then hung one flag on one of the posts as well.  Our celebration was a success and even after the holiday ended, and the other paper flags were put away, the flag on the post remained.  Irwin suggested that we leave it up there until the following July 4th, as a tribute to our country and as a reminder of the wonderful celebration we had. 

The flag remained there until last July 4th, when we took it down, noted the names of the guests from the previous year on the back and placed it, once again, in the glass jar on our kitchen shelf.  We replaced it with a new flag that already had the current year’s guests’ names on it. And the tradition continued.

This year, we will replace the flag, once again and save the current flag along with its memories for years to come.

So, here’s the lowdown on today’s memory-maker:

Find a flag design that appeals to you (there are many wonderful flag photos on line and in books), make some color photocopies in a size that is appropriate and start making some amazing memories.  And….don’t forget to apply sunscreen!
 

        

            Flag Jar on our kitchen shelf        

                                                                     
                                                      Close-up of Jar            Back of flag w/guest names

                                                                  

                                                                    Flag on our porch post

You know the type.  You’ve all seen them.  You probably own some.  But do you know what to do with them?

Every spring as we open our homes and sheds and awaken our clay pots from their winter hibernation, we invariably come across several, who either by exposure to the wrath of Mother Nature, or through the clumsiness of our gardening skills, have incurred serious injuries.

We have known our share of cracked pots over the years and know that they have a variety of uses including, as welcoming toad homes, or smashed and used as pieces for mosaics or to place in the bottom of planters for better drainage.  All of these are great options for your cracked pots,but before you get out a trash bag, a toad, or a hammer, read on.

Irwin and I are always looking for new, creative uses for those warriors of weather especially, this year when one of our favorite pots was cut down in the prime of its life.  We saw the end approaching last year, when an overzealous gardener, set it down a bit too roughly, causing a fracture in its base.  Refusing to relinquish the pot, we placed it, ever so carefully, on a porch table, where it remained, precariously perched, for its final summer.  After the hiatus of this past winter, it was apparent that the pot could not be resuscitated.  Refusing to remand it to a “potter’s field”, Irwin re-purposed the “Cracked Pot’ into two extraordinary pieces of pottery.

Here is what we did:

 

    
 

Original Planter with crack

  
 

Close up of crack

  
 

Top portion re-purposed & planted in garden with metal sculpture

 

     
 

Base re-purposed & planted with sculpture

 

 

Vignette using re-purposed base

 

So, as Irwin and I begin our tenth summer in the country, we are happy to have one of old favorites, a true “cracked pot”, reincarnated and repurposed, ready to celebrate the joys of nature with us once again. So, as Irwin and I begin our tenth summer in the country, we are happy to have one of old favorites, a true “cracked pot”, reincarnated and re-purposed, ready to celebrate the joys of nature with us once again.

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