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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

Mountain Blue Barn

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Remember that feeling when school was out for 
summer vacation?
Lazy days that stretched out before us 
with no schedules, just going where 
the day took us. 

Roads in north Alabama wind through 
the foothills of the Appalachians 
and remind me of the lazy days of school summer vacation. 

Days when unexpected detours can happen. 
Like spotting an old blue barn...

And pulling over to look at it from all sides. 

Wherever we were going can wait on a lazy 
summer day. 

A rusty old metal roof and peeling blue paint 
say, "Country." 

A glimpse of a horse trailer says, "Horses," but 
where are the horses? 
None in the field around the barn. 

Just a birdhouse across the road near the closest house. 

A quiet day with no person or animals in sight,
not even a buzzing bee or fly. 
A lazy day in summer in the country...

Beat up, patched together, metal siding at odd angles, 
the barn needs repairs. 

Seeing the old blue barn along meandering 
Appalachian roads was worth the detour 
on this summer day. 
Amazing how light can change color 
from medium true blue to pale turquoise blue...

One last look as we slowly drive away 
on a lazy summer day. 
Summer days when life slows down 
and stretches out before us full of 
promise for more unexpected pleasant detours... 
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Hydrangeas and Bunnies

Thursday, July 25, 2013

from Mother's house 
are still beautiful. 

Still full of color and full of life.

Some brighten the kitchen counter in a blue Fostoria vase, 
an antique store find a few years ago. 

Some are drying naturally in three blue painted faux French flower buckets. 

The hydrangeas and buckets are the perfect colors to go 
with the bunnies hand-paintd on fence boards. 
The bunnies came from one of my all-time favorite stores in Salado, TX, 
which is no longer in business. 
You know, over the years I have had a lot, whole lot, 
of all-time favorite places. 
Many are no longer in business. 
Outliving favorite stores and restaurants is 
one of drawbacks of getting older. 
But, oh, what great memories! 

The store's proprietress was an artist with a distinctive 
interior design flair. 
She created unusual silk flower arrangements, 
custom painted furniture years 
before Miss Mustard Seed and Annie Sloan, and 
was a pioneer in the shabby chic style. 

These hydrangea-filled faux French flower buckets 
remind me of her style. 

The hand-painted bunnies hung on the front porch of the store for years, 
way out of my price range. 
Leading up to its closure, the store marked items down repeatedly. 
One day, the price was right, 
and I was there at the right time to buy 
the bunnies. 
The name of the store?  
Sir Wigglesworth

Every time I look at the bunnies in the stairwell, 
I recall yearly trips with friends to Salado at Christmas time 
for the Salado Christmas Home Tour
and for finding unique treasures at Sir Wigglesworth's. 

Hydrangeas Filled Copper Pot

Sunday, July 21, 2013

My mother grows hydrangeas by the bushels, 
from branches she bent over and buried in dirt,
then transplanted. 
Blue ones, pink ones, magenta ones, white ones, green ones, 
all down the north side of the attached garage, 
around the corner and along the east side of the house, 
and all across the back of the detached garage. 


My favorite... you guessed it... blue...
This may be my favorite flower...seriously.

I did not get the hydrangea-growing gene. 
I've killed too many plants to count.

These beautiful huge blooms are from my mom's house.  
My sister brought them home with us this week from Mother's garden. 

They are nestled in my latest find, a lidded copper tub, 
found at a very rustic antique store 
owned and operated by a high-school friend, Chipper. 
Whenever I visit Mother, I try to make at least one trip to 
Chipper's store to see his latest inventory. 

Last Saturday when we pulled into the store's drive, 
Chipper was sitting on the front porch polishing the copper tub. 
We were headed back to Mother's after a family reunion picnic at the lake. 
My sister was driving, 
and we both spotted the tub before the car came to a stop. 
 Two or three sentences later with offers and counteroffers, 
the copper tub was mine! 
Cobwebs and dead leaves all....inside.
 Chipper had only gotten the outside cleaned. 
We arrived in the nick of time before anyone else saw this beauty. 

The tub is not in perfect shape. 
There is a hole on the lid's right side above, 
the lid's handle looks like it has been mended, and 
the bottom probably is not water tight. 

But, look at the size...perfect for holding firewood this winter. 

I love the wooden handles on either end of the tub, 
and the hydrangeas are beautiful in it. 

Chipper bought the tub at an estate sale. 

I wonder if the original owner displayed hydrangeas in it or 
stored firewood in it near the fireplace. 

The hydrangeas survived the plane ride very nicely. 

You know, I think it's time I tried again to grow hydrangeas. 
Maybe, just maybe, I did inherit the hydrangea-growing gene, and 
it is just latent. 
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Great Wall of China

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Does everyone have a list, 
written or unwritten, 
of all the things they want to do and/or to see 
in their lifetimes? 

The Great Wall of China 
has been part of my dreams 
for as long as I can remember. 

For all of my life it had been a distant dream in my mind. 
One of those dreams that remained vague, without a real plan to achieve. 
Just always ..."one day" glimmered in my mind for a brief few minutes ... 
then back to reality ...  
everyday going to work, paying bills, 
and taking much smaller, less expensive trips. 

But, on June 23, 2013, 
I saw The Great Wall of China, Mutianyu Section in person. 
My first glimpse of The Wall was from the parking lot 
far below The Wall, far below the entrance to the site, 
and far below the loading platform for the cable cars in the photo. 

Two options for reaching The Wall high up on the mountain tops.

Option One:  A 30-minute (for teenagers, longer for mature women), 
uphill all the way, HIKE!

Option Two: A 5- to 10-minute hike uphill to the ticket entrance, 
then to a cable car platform 
for a 5-minute cable car ride to the top. 
Which one you ask did I choose? 
Hmmm...the cable car photo is a clue.

More than 3000 miles long and built off and on from about 220 B.C. 
to the mid-1700s, much of The Wall as it is today was restored and rebuilt 
in the mid-1600s to the mid-1700s.
 The Mutianyu section was completed before the mid-1600s 
and was most recently restored in the early 1980s. 

Dressed as Genghis Khan, he is a reminder that The Wall was built 
to deter invaders from the north. 

The Mutianyu section has 23 gates or guard towers and is located about 
two hours from Beijing, China. 
Two other sections are closer to Beijing which means fewer 
tourists visit this section. 
The cable car platform at the top is near Gate 14. 

I touched The Great Wall with both my hands and 
walked up and down it marveling at the awesomeness of THE WALL. 

There were other visitors that day, 
but frequently there were periods when no one else 
was in view nearby.

Leaning out the openings, I gazed silently for long minutes at other gates 
and long sections of the wall, pondering its beauty, endurance, 
and significance to both the Chinese and the rest of the world.

Look at that WALL, that GATE, and
 that beautiful BLUE SKY on the day my tour group was at The Wall. 
Our guide said the group he escorted the week before had 
rainy, horrible weather in which the Wall was fogged in. 
Those tourists could barely see the Wall in front of them. 

Oh, how fortunate that I was able to see The Wall 
of my dreams! 

Look really, really hard at the photo above.  
There are two teeny, tiny 'gates' on the mountain ridge 
in the distance.  See them on either side of the large gate in the foreground? 

Up and down mountain ridges for as far as the eye could see, 
we could see The Wall atop mountain ridge after mountain ridge. 
I knew it stretched for thousands of miles, but never 
realized how much of it is visible to the naked eye 
all at one time. 

The Great Wall of China completes the unwritten list 
from my youth of places to visit. 

As I stare at this photo, I am instantly back on The Wall 
in that moment marveling at the unbelievable grandeur 
and the unbelievable reality that I was really there, 
on The Great Wall of China.
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Blue Delphiniums

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Blue flowers of any kind 
are welcome in my home and garden. 

Just when I think I have definitely chosen a favorite flower,
blue of course, 
I see another variety and change my mind. 
Lobelia, hydrangea, muscari, agapanthus, and let's not forget 
the Texas state flower, bluebonnet, all are my favorite, 
for a while...
until I see another favorite! 
Oh, yes, there is blue sage. 
I just remembered scabiosa.   
See what I mean? 

Immediately inside the entrance of the new Trader Joe's in Fort Worth 
are the fresh-cut flowers for sale. 
Trader Joe's knows marketing.

Not only did the store have pink peonies the day
I was shopping, it also had 

How exquisite! 
Each individual flower shimmers in the sun. 
The unopened buds are spurs, much like columbines. 
Oh I love blue columbines. 
Maybe that is really my favorite flower.

I have not had delphiniums in years.  
The local grocery stores do not stock delphiniums, 
nor do the local florists I sometimes frequent for special occasions. 

Alas, delphinium is not one of those flowers that 
my mom grows in Alabama, 
nor does anyone I know in north Texas grow them. 

Bleu, blue, periwinkle...  

A sea of blue in my house...
on the walls, on the kitchen countertops, on upholstered chairs, 
on sheets, on toile bed pillows, on dishes, on rugs, 
on curtains, on dish towels, on flower pots...
even my Olympus camera is blue

The blue delphiniums were the first thing in my basket at Trader Joe's. 
The pink peonies were a fast second. 

My house needed them. 

My eyes needed them, 
and the price was too good to believe. 

Sitting on the breakfast table in the sunspace,
they are beautiful from every angle. 

A very old photo (pre-digital cameras) 
from a surprise birthday party many years ago...
Look closely; the floral centerpiece has dark blue delphiniums.
Can it be that long ago since I had delphiniums?

The twirling unfurling of fronds, 
The blue blooms with full open faces, 
The vining buds of new green growth, 
 Describe delphinium's graces. 
With the new Trader Joe's close by, 
it is not going to be as long as before for 
blue delphiniums 
to grace my table again. 

They just may be my favorite blue flower after all. 

Well, for a while anyway.
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