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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

Pink Snapdragons Say Paris

Friday, May 31, 2013

Pink Snapdragons
jumped into my grocery cart.

What can I say?
So cheerful, go with my house colors, need a spring pick-me-up,
powder room needs fresh look, the price is right ....
Okay, you can go home with me.

Just a handful of flowers in the clear water pitcher...
No need for florist foam, frogs, filler flowers...

The flowers say it all.

Perfect complement to the wallpaper...

Graceful fronds...

Multi-hued pinks, creams, greens...

Each individual bloom so perfect...

Pink hand-made Paris ribbon complements the snapdragons and stems...
And makes me remember Paris florists...

The first fallen petal is still beautiful even in its demise...
Brown edges enhance the pink petal and reflect the ribbon's colors.

The spent bloom creates a still-life
that draws attention to it instead of the arrangement.

Is that not what happens in France?
Unexpected vignettes capture your attention
and captivate your eyes and heart.
Please join me at these inspiring sites...

Bird Bath Blur

Monday, May 27, 2013

are free spirits
that entertain, delight, and mesmerize us.
Flying, gliding onto branches...
Swooping through the woods...
Warbling, calling to one another, and answering...
Flashing brillant, or subdued, plumage depending upon gender...

We look for ways to bring them into our lives.
Source:  The Graphics Fairy
Prints on our walls...

Dishes on our tables...

Carvings in our vignettes...

British Country Living
Displays from our magazines and books...

 Cages in our tablescapes...

Birdbaths in our gardens...

Little pools of water with iron birds on the side...

Perched over the water's edge...

Can it be? 
Perched over the water's edge...
A grey little friend enticed by the promise of cool water...
A drink?

No, not a drink!
A bath!
Oh, how funny this little fellow looks...
Jumping around, looking side to side, dipping his wings...
What fun to see him...bathing...
Laughter cannot be contained... 
Out loud, unbridled laughter...

Flapping, fluttering,..., then 
becoming a bathing blur...

Oh, little bird that 
entertained, delighted, and mesmerized me, 
making me laugh aloud, 
then holding back fearful of
scaring you away.

For him, just a routine bath,
On a warm day in May.
For me, a rare glimpse of joy, 
Of a bathing blur today.

Bringing a little bird into our lives...
White dish with bird...Grace China @ HomeGoods
Preserved boxwood @ HomeGoods
Carved wooden birds @ World Market
Birdcage @ HomeGoods
Ceramic Bird cruet @ World Market
No compensation from anyone...
Please join me at these inspiring sites...

Feathered Nest Friday @ French Country Cottage

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Patriotic~Red, White, Bleu

Friday, May 24, 2013

Hurrah for the 
Red, White, & Bleu 
all summer long...

May 26 ~~~ Memorial Day
June 14 ~~~ Flag Day
July 4 ~~~ Independence Day
July 14 ~~~ Bastille Day
of course, a little French has to be included
September 2 ~~~ Labor Day

A celebration table that will 
set the joie de vivre for any of our patriotic holidays...
Just seeing red, white, and blue cheers me!
Hurrah for the red, white, and blue, 
may it wave as our banner forever...

Holidays bring families together 
to enjoy good food, to enjoy laughter, and 
to enjoy swapping stories.

To show how important families are to us, 
we set tables with special dishes and decor.

The table runner is two kitchen towels from France.
I mixed the unexpected red dominoes with
traditional themes of stars and stripes for a fun table 
and as a reminder of fun games to come later this day. 

Lots of memories of good times/jokes recanted to 
young, old, new to the family, those who
just want to hear it again...
"Mr. J took a bite of Mrs. J's ice cream, 
when she asked for a bite of his in return, 
he said, 'close your eyes, open wide,' 
and gave her a BIG spoonful...

Most of us do not have 
sets and sets of dishes to create 
a multi-layered place setting.
The red, white, and blue striped layer is 
a french fries paper holder from World Market. 

Flags and flowers...
The American and French flags are in an 
antique blue bottle.

White flowers, red berries, and blue stars...

Place cards are homemade using white card stock 
trimmed with deckle-edge scissors and
decorated with US Postage stamps.

Words that describe ideals we hold dear...

The fleur de lis is a nod to 
the French who celebrate 
the French National Day of independence, 
known as Bastille Day, 
on July 14.

Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité
Liberty, Equality, Fraternity
The national motto of France...

Stories of aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, babies... 
Stories of time spent serving 
in the military, defending our freedom.
Three nephews, brothers in the same family, 
who were career military...
The oldest in the Air Force, the middle one in the Navy, and 
the youngest in the Army...
Each with different stories...
Tours in Iraq...
Working in the Pentagon on Sept. 10, 2001, 
but not on Sept. 11, 2001... 
Repairing ships...

Moods lighten and thoughts turn to 
dominoes "42" which is one of the favorite games in this family. 

After the dishes are washed and put away, 
the centerpiece remains and so does the 
patriotic basket on the coat closet door 
seen from the table.

A faded American flag design basket holds
American and Texas flags, 
plus flag tissue paper,
bluebonnet printed ribbon, 
and a flag decorated legal envelope.

The patriotic basket will hang 
all summer 
from the closet door hook 
as a celebration 
of all our 
red, white, and blue holidays.
Renaissance Lapis china by Fitz and Floyd
Jamestown Red glasses by Fostoria
Stainless flatware by Towle
White Madeline plates by Pier I
Blue chargers by Kirklands
Please join me at these inspiring sites...

In Memory of Oklahoma School Children

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

As a former teacher, then administrator, 
who practiced storm drills every year in Texas,
my heart and soul are unspeakably devastated 
that children lost their lives at school
from a tornado in Oklahoma
May 20, 2013.

Oh, that we teachers could always
protect our students...
sometimes we cannot...
even though we dedicated our lives
to loving and caring for others' children 
as our own...

Prayers for all the parents and other 
family members who lost little ones...

Prayers for the teachers, administrators, 
and support staff who will 
always remember those little ones and 
whose hearts are aching for their students and 
with their parents... 

Prayers for the families of 
everyone who lost loved ones, 
especially those teachers who gave their lives 
covering their students...

Prayers for the survivors who will never 
forget the devastation and loss 
suffered on that day...

Prayers for the responders 
who have to carry those images with them
the rest of their lives...

Thank you, Lord, for providing 
those who willingly make the sacrifices 
for others... 

Lavender on the Table Adds Joy

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Clean, clutter-free tables 
and countertops make me happy.
Yet, totally bare surfaces seem empty, 
lacking life, as though no lives 
in the house. 
Thus, I strive to balance a life-filled  
house without life-clutter.

creates joie de livre 
even before it blooms. 

The scent alone enlivens a room, 
even if there are no flowers.

A single large white oval stoneware bowl 
holding two small nursery lavender plants 
give joy and life to the kitchen. 
Each time one passes and gently touches a leafy stalk, 
a wondrous scent fills the air.

The metal lavender label adds a focal point,
causing one to stop to read what is says. 

A white wicker tray under the bowl 
keeps the bowl from scratching or 
water-damaging the table.

But, white on white...? 
The kitchen towel covering the tray
is the perfect shade of French bleu and white.
Plus, it is from France. 
Seeing it each day makes me smile; 
it is another reminder 
of the lavender fields of France.
Yes, the centerpiece is providing life to the kitchen.

The dark blue tablecloth made clashing blues...
and too much layering...
Easy...remove the dark blue tablecloth 
simplifying the clutter. 

Add just one other element to connect 
white, wood, and herbs together... 
A box of white wooden herb stakes...

A few herb markers scattered on the tray...

A few scattered in the box with lavender on top...

For me, this table centerpiece balances 
creating a life-filled kitchen 
without life-clutter. 

The centerpiece brings memories of a good time in France, 
has a beautiful blue (my favorite color), 
has a crisp white stoneware bowl 
(my new favorite thing), 
and has a fragrant up-lifting scent. 

These days in my life I see symbolism everywhere.
A clutter-free environment, but one still 
filled with beauty is what I want my life to be. 
I do not want a bare life.
The white stoneware bowl and 
the box of wooden herb markers 
are from my shop.
Please join me at these inspiring sites...

Sarlat French Country

Thursday, May 16, 2013

When one thinks of France,
is usually the city that comes to mind.

Indeed, for some people that is the
only French city that comes to their minds.

Yet, travel to small towns such as
is how one comes 
to know France and
to understand better what
French Country embodies.

Sarlat began in the VIIIth century, and,
over the years, has alternately prospered and declined.

The old city is designated by France as a
Villes d’Art et d’Histoire 
and is considered one of the 
beautiful cities of Europe by Michelin Guide.

Sarlat's old city was saved from ruin and destruction because 
the modernization in the early 20th century that 
destroyed other French old cities 
bypassed Sarlat.

The old town retained its cobblestone streets and
honey-colored stone buildings with their
tile roofs and architectural details.

Only since restoration began in 1962,
has Sarlat's economy improved once again.

Rain does not deter shoppers for each Saturday's
open air market in Sarlat's streets during the summer.

Today the town has many shops that offer new and old items
that reflect what we Americans call French Country style.
Part of the joy of shopping in Sarlat is seeing the old
buildings that house the shops.
I could spend days in each one, examining all the
details of the stonework walls, wooden beams,
wide-plank floors, and window designs.

While French decor is part of French Country style,
French Country is more than a decorating style.
It is a way of life.

Sarlat is French Country.
Trefoil windows, exterior metal lanterns, decorative ironwork,
stone buildings, exterior shutters, French doors,
old stone benches, balconies....

In addition to the French Country architecture
are the French Country ways of life.
Window boxes filled with flowers so beauty is present
in sight, sound, scent...
Sculpted trees lovingly tended with care
by hand over a period of years to shape each one...
Ivy growing on the walls to soften the
stone's harsh edges and to provide shelter for birds...

See, the door is ajar on the balcony.
In your mind's eye...
Can you see a woman about to walk out onto
the flower-filled balcony to cut a few flowers for the dining table?
Smiling, humming a song,
carefully choosing just the perfect blossoms,
and her dress swaying as she twirls around to
return inside...

Ah, we just missed the older man wearing a
black beret and shirt with rolled-up sleeves whose
hands are weathered from years outside.
He just turned the corner after
finishing clipping the few stray leaves on each of the trees.
One of Sarlat's residences houses
French families who live the French Country style...
The window boxes have flowers; wisteria covers 
the entrance courtyard and grows up the building.

A semi-circle tops a window in the turret.

The private courtyard entrance provides a 
sheltered area for shade-loving impatiens 
behind the wrought-iron gate and half-walled fence.

Did you spot the red geranium in the window 
above the courtyard almost hidden by wisteria?

How about the proverbial 
French number with blue background? 
 No. 9
What is it like to live in a town that
only requires a single digit house address?

I live in the country, and my house 
address has four digits! 

Could I have an invitation to come in?
To experience French Country living?
To share a leisurely dinner of four courses over four hours?
No rush, prepared with all fresh, locally grown ingredients...

How lucky I have been to visit Sarlat more than once.
In Sarlat, I feel my pace slow, 
taking time to sit with a friend for an hour 
eating a freshly-prepared apricot crepe.

Yes, one can feel, understand, and experience
French Country 
in Sarlat.
Castles Crowns and Cottages 
is hosting a
special all France link party
Friday May 17-24, 2013 
Please join me at these 
inspiring sites...
FRANCE Simply Irresistible @ Castles Crowns and Cottages