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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

A Dragonfly Magical Moment

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Magical moments happen at every age. 
One is never too young, nor too old for special 
once-in-a-lifetime events to occur. 
Events that stir excitement in a flash. 
Ones recognized as something special is happening, 
stirring a lightness in one's heart and actions. 
An event that for a few moments 
suspends daily routines and 
causes unbridled joy. 

I am not young anymore. 
Just today I remarked that I am considered 
a senior citizen by all groups that offer discounts... 
Restaurants, movie theaters, museums, 
the U.S. government, etc... 
I wasn't really lamenting the fact, 
just stating an observation 
and wondering how did that happen? 
When did I blink and become a senior citizen? 
Regardless of age, 
magical moments still happen. 

While watering the yard a couple of nights ago, 
unbeknownst to me, 
hitched a ride into the house 
on the sleeve of my t-shirt. 

Here it is, holding on underneath my sleeve. 
I didn't realize it was there until I sat down on the bed 
and caught a glimpse from the corner of my eye. 
At first, I thought it was a dead leaf, 
then felt it flutter and realized it was a 

I immediately hopped up, looking around for a camera. 
(Blogging has changed my reactions.)
Into the bathroom I raced to get my iPhone, 
racing against time, hoping the dragonfly did not zoom off. 
This was a special event that had never occurred before, 
during all my years becoming a senior citizen, and  
required a pictorial record. 

After struggling to get a photo shot of it on my sleeve and 
only managing to get a blurry photo of the dragonfly and 
a sharp image of the bathtub, 
the dragonfly buzzed to the wall, 
fluttering and flapping its wings to find a hiding spot
behind the framed bouquet of lavender. 
A couple of times it landed totally hidden 
behind the framed lavender, 
but emerged again. 

Several images later, 
the dragonfly rested on the edge of the bathtub. 

Then the dragonfly flew to my hand and landed. 
No fear, just marvel, at my good fortune 
to have a dragonfly land on me twice. 

The wings were so translucent and shimmery.

For a few moments,
daily routines were suspended as I
studied the beauty of the dragonfly and
felt lighthearted with joy. 

After a short rest, the dragonfly flew to the wall again 
where I was able to capture the living dragonfly inside a clear jar 
allowing me to release it out the back door. 
Without hesitation  
the dragonfly buzzed out of sight and sound, 
free of captivity. 

I think the little dragonfly probably became 
a senior citizen dragonfly in those few minutes, 
aging dragonfly years brought on by fright.  
Then again, it rested on my hand without apparent fear. 

Folklore legends say that 
if a dragonfly lands on you, you are going to hear good news 
from someone dear to you. 

Do you think I will hear multiple good news 
from someone dear to me 
since the dragonfly landed on me more than once? 
While researching dragonflies, I found 
a delightful and informative blog post. 

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I'd Rather Be in the Garden...But Not in 104°

Monday, July 28, 2014

I'd rather be in the garden, 
but not in 104° 

Fabled Texas summer heat has arrived, 
in all its blistering, sweltering, suffocating, 
100+ degrees. 

A couple of weeks ago we were lulled into thinking 
summer would be mild mannered this year. 
Why, we had one day with 69° as the high. 
Rain came, torrential rain came. 
A city nearby had 14" in one 24-hour period. 
Could this be north Texas?! 
Cool temperatures AND rain? 
Two more days followed with highs in the 70s. 
I was giddy, laughing out loud, smiling for no apparent reason, 
but the reason was the delightful temperatures. 

That's when I decided to make some garden signs 
that celebrated how I was feeling about the weather. 

The larger sign was inspired by Pinterest. 
Between Pinterest and Blogs, I find all kinds of inspiration. 
Enough for a hundred years of projects. 
I'm kind of slow. 

 To speed up the lettering process on the big sign, 
I used photo canvas cloth and printed out the phrase 
instead of painting the phrase.  

Directions for creating the "I'd rather be in the garden" sign. 
  1. Microsoft Word Document - Page Set Up 'landscape', letter
  2. Insert Text Box so different fonts can be layered. That's how the plant sprigs were added to the letters in the word "GARDEN".
  3. Fonts used - Jacques and Gilles for the words and Bodoni Ornaments for the sprigs.
  4. "Fill" the text box with background color of choice.
  5. Use a very pale color for the text color. This is how to get the text color to look almost white. Let the printed sign dry.
  6. Spray the canvas sign with Rust-Oleum Matte Finish - Clear Protective Finish for Crafts, Arts, and Decorative Projects.  Find at Home Depot.
  7. Glue canvas to weathered reclaimed scrap wood found underneath your deck (that's where mine was.) Use Elmer's Carpenter's WoodGlue Max, waterproof and stainable, interior/exterior.
  8. Nail the sign to a stake - Grade Leveling Stakes found at Home Depot come in several lengths.  I used an 18" stake for this sign.
  9. The sign is water resistant, not water proof, and should be used in sheltered areas. Mine did get sprinkled on during one of our most-welcome rainy days before I got it inside. The water beaded up, and the ink did not run. Whew! 

I hand painted the "herbs" sign by 
printing the word "herbs" on paper,
cutting out the word, taping it down to the wood, 
and spray painting it. 
The Grade Leveling Stake is 12" long and cost 25¢. 
Spray the sign with Rust-Oleum Matt Finish to protect it. 
The herbs sign is water proof and can be used outside. 

Yes, I'd rather be in the garden, but not in 104°, 
the temperature on my car's dashboard at 7:00 p.m. tonight. 
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Summer Blues and Whites

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Languid hot summer days 
require cooling blues and whites. 

Fresh white mums, 
blue and white stoneware, 
botanical blue printed jug, 
white ruffle-edged footed cake plate, 
blue etched stemmed glasses 
cool down the kitchen 
in the midst of July heat. 

My kitchen has blue as one of its basic colors, 
but the new botanical jug and etched glasses 
bring new summer blues. 

As much as I like white and 
have added more white all around the house, 
I keep being drawn back to blue, 
my first love. 

These new blue etched stemmed glasses 
will be perfect for summer entertaining 
and for holiday seasons to come. 

Lightweight with graceful curved lines, 
they are easy to hold and 
are large enough for generous servings. 

Summer blues and whites 
fit in all around the kitchen from every angle. 

There are only four sitting out 
to cool down the July heat, 
but I have twelve, 
plenty for company.  

Come on over. 
A nice big glass of iced tea will help us 
beat the summer blues. 


Stemware ~ Sheila pattern, Joss and Main 
Botanical jug ~ eBay

No compensation from anyone, 
just want to share the sources for those 
readers who like to know.

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Amour de porte française

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Europe: Simply Irresistible,  
. . . . . . . .
A collection of dream voyages 
posted by world travelers 
about destinations that call to them. 

Where, you ask, calls to me? 

Off we go to my dream destination. 
Beynac Château inside the walls 

. . . as part of Anita's 

Castles Crowns and Cottages

Pack a bag, 
just a lightweight carry-on, 
and come along for the journey 
to irresistible places 
across France. 

Then visit the simply irresistible destinations 
of the other 54 bloggers. 
It's bound to be a 
Grand European Tour. 

What is irresistible about France? 
There are . . .  
the food, the gardens, the shopping, 
the history, and the architecture. 

All are reasons to return over and over again 
to France, but our journey today is about  

Amour de porte française
(French door love) 

The doors, oh the doors... 
From massive carved wooden doors in Paris 

. . . to carved stone statues surrounding a door also in Paris. 

Wandering the streets of Paris 
for usual tourist activities is always interrupted 
just to gaze at the beautiful doors. 
Repeatedly, I catch myself straining my neck, 
slowing my pace, and exclaiming, 
"Look at that one," 
to my traveling companions. 
Inevitably, we stop to take in all the details. 

Beyond Paris, there are more doors to love. 
The Dordogne area is filled with 
castles, ancient cities, cave drawings, and 
lush countryside. 

Massive defensive walls 
surround the 13th century town of Beynac, 
and visitors enter through an old city doorway  
to make their way to the Château de Beynac. 

Along the narrow cobblestone street 
is this door just inside the old city walls.  

The massive wooden doors built in the 
creamy colored stones has an iron gate 
that can be dropped in front of the 
main Château de Beynac entrance. 

The iron studs in the doors and 
the arched shape of the doors 
are hallmarks of medieval doors. 

Inside the Château walls rising far above the Dordogne River 
are many more buildings other than the main castle.  

We have to get closer to the small 
addition on the right side of the above building to take in all its beauty.  

Two doors to study and to love. 
Could there once have been a balcony that 
the roof door opened onto? 

How long did it take for the 
stone mason to carve the intricate stones? 

Is this not the quintessential French architectural style? 
Cream-colored stones, red tile roof, carved arched wooden doors, 
and stone carvings around the roof door. . . 
Oh, be still my heart! 
To see this structure, 
to touch the stones and the wood, 
and to feel the air on the terrace 
is to experience France. 
Simply irresistible. 

The city gate has two distinctive towers 
surrounding the gate that leads into Domme. 
Any French person can identify the old city from this view 
of the well-known doorway that is on our list of 
doors to love.  

Château Montford was razed and rebuilt multiple times since 
the Middle Ages, and is not open to the public. 

Built close to a public highway 
and on the Dordogne River, 
it can be admired from outside its ramparts. 

Does this entrance not look like a 
Hollywood set? 
Yet, it is the real thing. 
See the stone crest at the top? 

The wisteria-covered courtyard 
behind the wrought-iron gate 
is one of my favorite entrances in France. 
What a glorious sight the courtyard must be 
when the wisteria is in full bloom. 
Perhaps one day I will be in Sarlat 
when wisteria is in bloom. 

Located in the walled city of Sarlat, 
the little courtyard has a door to love. 
The graduated carved stone surround 
is elegant in its simplicity. 

Also in medieval Sarlat, 
the door at #20 seems modest compared 
to the massive doors of châteaux. 

Near the center of Sarlat 
this arched doorway opens to a passageway 
with multiple doors opening onto it. 
I wonder about the  
stone-carved crest above the doorway. 
Was this a royal household?  

Sarlat was saved from being razed and rebuilt as a modern city 
in the 1900s because it had fallen on hard 
financial times. 
No one was interested in the small crumbling city. 
French laws protecting national historical sites were passed,  
and Sarlat benefited from government funds 
to help restore the city and to revitalize its economy. 
Today it is thriving with the help of tourism. 

How glad I am that these beautiful doors 
have been restored. 

Throughout France, 
gardens and courtyards are graced 
with modern metal doors like this. 
Another style to love. 

An old wooden gate stands with a gnarled tree 
that has sprouted new growth. 
What once was a doorway into an enclosed field in Carsac, 
a small town near Sarlat, 
is still a thing of beauty in its forlorn setting. 

For a list of more posts about France, 
click on 

A Moment in France
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Tree Top Loft ~ Where Botanic Bleu Creates

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Looking out at a spreading oak tree 
from the second-floor loft window 
allows my mind to wander and 
allows my thoughts to drift away 
from everyday life. 

This is my creative space, 
where Botanic Bleu is created. 

Join me on a tour of my tree-top loft 
as part of  

Sitting in my office loft is like 
being in a tree house that 
looks down into the living room 
and looks beyond to other big oaks in the east yard.

The tree top loft is 
an office space for working, writing, and 
dreaming in my dream house 
that we built by doing much of the work ourselves.  
And, twenty-seven years later, we are 
still updating and maintaining by doing work ourselves. 

For years, this is where I 
wrote lesson plans, typed tests, 
printed six-week assignment sheets, and 
graded tens of thousands of mathematics papers.
(No exaggeration; I taught math for 29 years, 
then became a school administrator.)

visions of new ideas, 
of rearranging spaces, 
of creating vignettes and tablescapes, 
of composing blog articles, and 
of finishing old projects 
take hold here. 

The space has transformed from a teacher's at-home office. . .

. . . to a blogger's creative loft. 

The little loft is only 8' wide by 14' long, 
open to the living room below, 
open to the stairs leading up to the top floor bonus space, 
and ends with a small closet at the enclosed end.

The tall mauve-colored cabinet is made from
old recycled doors and
holds reams of paper, computer manuals,
and office supplies.
It is on the list for a make-over inside
to transform it into a more creative space.

The small three-shelf wire basket on wheels
stores the paper cutter on its top and
holds left-over teaching materials.
It, too, is on the make-over list to reorganize
the drawers to hold supplies that I now use.

The work space is two pieces,
an old communion table and a folding wooden table,
positioned to form an L-shape.

The wooden folding table is easy to move around,
is large enough to spread out projects, and
is convenient for using the paper cutter
that is stored beneath it.

The old oak communion table came from the
church I attended in Alexandria, Virginia
while I was a young single working in
Washington, D.C.

Years of neglect had left it in sad shape.
The finish was marred and had a big black spot
that looked like an ink stain.
One of its legs had been broken and repaired.
It was in such sad shape that the elders
of the church would not accept any money,
just gave it to me.

After stripping it with a chemical stripper,
sanding it, and refinishing it with a fruitwood stain,
the little table regained most of its former beauty
and became my office desk.

A few years ago we removed the drawer
and installed a slide-out shelf to hold a computer keyboard.

Desk supplies and files fill the white file cabinet
that was a sale item from Pottery Barn about five years ago.

Wouldn't you know I didn't like the industrial-looking 
drawer pulls that were on the cabinet. 
No problem. 
Buy new iron pulls from Lowes, spray paint them white, 
and replace the industrial pulls. 

Behind the door is a small walk-in closet not ready for its close up. 
The antique pine armoire came from Forney, Texas 
and holds wrapping paper, ribbons, tissue paper, 
bags, and craft supplies. 
Some of the bags have escaped to the top 
where I can see them every day. 

Look closely behind the lit lamp. 
See the rolls of fabric? 
How about the old wrought iron floor lamp? 
Projects in the making. . . 

France has long been a love. 
The framed pastel printed French map 
shows the locations of gardens 
all over France.

The old chair once had cane inserts in the arms, 
had a fruitwood finish, and had green damask upholstery. 
Long before I knew about blogging, 
saw all the remade old furniture, and 
joined the current "love white" trend, 
I transformed this old chair using white paint 
and the rose/trellis print fabric. 

You know, I think I've been a blogger for years. 
Just didn't know about blogs. 
But, within a week of discovering my 
first blog to follow, 
I began blogging. 

Blue and white fabric sits in a clear container
awaiting some inspiration.

The tree top loft is a great place for pondering,
planning, and creating. 
At least some of the time...  
When I switched to a laptop computer, 
I began creating everywhere.

Don't miss out on all the other 
fabulous spaces where bloggers create. 
 Where Bloggers Create 2014
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