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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

Safari - Africa Or Your Own Backyard

Thursday, April 30, 2015


to Africa or to your own backyard. 

I live in the countryside with no city codes 
that regulate lawns, gardens, fences, driveways, etc...  
Neighbors are out of sight which provides homeowners 
freedom to design their properties as they choose 
which is a major factor in why we choose to live in the countryside. 

We can have tall grass without causing a problem, and  
we can have a safari setting. 

Here are ways to make either a safari to Africa or to your backyard 
one that follows the traditions of long-ago, big-game African safaris. 

A cotton safari jacket is a requirement to hold travel necessities. 
With at least four pockets, there is room for a small digital camera, 
spare batteries, extra lenses, and personal items like tissues and snacks. 

The long sleeves are perfect for an added layer in cool mornings 
and nights and can be taken off during the middle of the day. 
The majority of safari wear to Africa is khaki colored, 
but a navy blue safari jacket works as a neutral with most colors. 

This very jacket went on safari to Africa. 

Navy blue safari jacket in Kenya 

Sturdy navy blue leather low heel boots offer support 
over uneven terrain and in tall grasses. 
Shoes taken on trips should always be ones that have been worn 
for several weeks beforehand so that the shoes do not cause blisters.  
A once-in-a-lifetime trip is no fun with feet that hurt. 

After an exciting day filled with spotting exotic animals, 
a good chair in which to relax is also a must. 

Traveling many miles a day and making camp in the wild calls 
for a chair that is easy-to-transport. 
The same can be said for outdoor chairs at home; 
the chairs must be easy to move from storage to the deck, patio, 
or to the yard for an at-home safari. 

Just because a chair must be functional doesn't mean 
it can't also be pretty. 
With very little fabric this director's chair's seat and back 
went from plain canvas to a rose-covered trellis pattern. 
 Victorian travelers carried china, crystal, and silver on safari with them. 
Having a beautiful folding chair follows that tradition. 

Small wooden folding tables are also easy to transport 
and can withstand changes in the weather. 

In camp, tables hold reading material, lanterns, and personal items. 

No television, no Internet service, and no electricity in the wild 
encourage conversations, reading, and quiet reflection. 
Sitting in the backyard at home also encourages slowing down 
and enjoying those same things. 

Reading glasses, a magnifying glass, and field glasses 
make sure nothing is missed up close or from afar.  

A set of field glasses for each person on safari guarantees no one 
misses seeing the elusive game animals. 

A hard navy faux crocodile case protects glasses 
while traveling in the bush and while outside at home. 

To make the most of any trip, read travel guides before choosing where to travel. 
Make a list of the places and things high on the safari list. 
Mount Kilimanjaro, Victoria Falls, Serengeti migration, Massai villages, etc... 

Consider which animals to see are a must and 
where those animals are most likely to be seen. 
Lions, cheetahs, rhinoceros, water buffalo, elephants, zebras, giraffes, etc... 

What kind of accommodations? 
A tent in the bush? 
A luxury tent? 
Overlooking a watering hole for the animals? 
A treetop hotel? 

Then match travel guide descriptions for places that offer the most things on the list. 

On a backyard safari, read the travel guides and an atlas 
to plan dream safaris for the future. 

In addition to reading material, a safari table also holds  
items for living in the outdoors. 

A large lantern provides light on the table for evening conversations. 

A small ceramic oil lamp is easy for an individual to carry at night 
to light the way from the sitting area to the sleeping area. 

An antique French wasp catcher lures a variety of flying insects 
to provide environmental-friendly and time-proven insect control. 
My good friend, Dana, at The Starfish Studio, found several of these 
antique French wasp catchers at an antique store that was going out of business. 
She graciously bought one for me, too, and shipped it to me. 
She may have some in her Etsy shop. 

A final view of the at-home safari table and chair 
shows the narcissi in the tall rye grass. 
Narcissi should be allowed to grow until 
they naturally fall over and go dormant 
in order for the plants to store nutrients in the bulbs 
for next spring's blossoms. 

Living in the country allows us to leave the 
bulbs and rye grass unmown until nature completes its task. 
The narcissi leaves are beginning to brown 
so it won't be long before it's time to mow. 

Do you have everything needed for your own safari?

Safari Checklist
  1. Safari jacket
  2. Sturdy boots
  3. Folding chair
  4. Folding table
  5. Safari travel guides
  6. Field glasses
  7. Table lantern
  8. Wasp catcher

May your life be filled with moments to savor 
a safari at home, unmown grass, and good conversations. 

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Mudroom Makeover

Sunday, April 26, 2015

And Spring cleaning continues at my house... 

Wait 'til you see my mudroom makeover! 
A catch-all mudroom is becoming an organized 
fun place to store tools, flower vases, over-sized pots, 
and vintage bits and pieces. 

While cleaning the mudroom, a makeover began taking place in my mind. 
Turn it into someplace to hold my favorite French wire basket, flower pots, 
a collection of vintage gardening tools, small construction tools, and vases. 

Turn it into a small attached 
indoor tool shed. 

The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. 

The mudroom was truly built to be a mudroom. 
The front entry is small with the front door directly across from 
what was the back door when the house was built. 
Coming in the back door after working in the yard 
and garden brought all the mud and dirt right into the front entry. 
Not a pretty sight. 

We talked about needing a mudroom and one summer while I was 
chaperoning students for two weeks in France, 
my husband built the new mudroom. 
When I left for the trip, no mudroom; 
when I returned, there it was, a wonderful surprise, a new mudroom. 
At least there was an enclosed space with a brick floor. 
The new back door (it was new in the early 90s) matches the original back door 
so that light comes into the mudroom and on into the front entry. 

Whitewashed pine beadboard walls and ceiling were added right away. 
A small bench was built to use as a place to sit 
to take off muddy shoes before coming into the house. 
One small shelf was built about six feet from the floor 
so that people would not bump their heads while sitting on the bench. 

Over the years, the bench, shelf, and floor under the bench 
became a catch-all for the things that did not have a designated home. 
No before photos... 
Remember I had this brainstorm while cleaning. 

After removing everything and cleaning about two weeks ago, 
two new shelves were added between the original bench and top shelf. 
I whitewashed the new pine shelves and sealed them with clear polyurethane 
to try to match the existing wall and shelves. 

The original top space is roomy enough to hold large ceramic drink dispensers 
and a metal box to store unsightly items. 
The new shelf holds antique fruit jars and a bottle from a French flea market 
with plenty of room for a rustic bucket to hold flowers. 

The new large shelf, big enough to use as a work counter, was built at just 
the right height for me and with plans to keep it fairly uncluttered. 

The mudroom is a small space but with room for antique tools and bottles 
as well as the more utilitarian tools regularly used around the house.  
Rearranging already took place between photos. 

The space is smaller than many closets. 
There are 31" between the back door and the wall behind the shelves. 
The width of the shelves is 32". 
The smaller top shelves are about 11.75" deep, and 
the big counter height shelf and bench are 20.5" deep. 

This same look and design could be used to convert a closet 
into an inside tool/garden shed either with a solid door 
or with a door with divided glass panes. 

The original bench at the bottom is sturdy enough to hold large ceramic pots 
and metal bins for holding small construction and garden tools. 

Small shovels, forks, and gardening gloves fit into the ceramic pots. 

The old gardening fork came from Chipper's antique store in Alabama 
and the verdigris metal sprinkler parts are left over spare parts from 
a sprinkler system that was installed in the back yard. 

The top three cloths are bath cloth/dish cloth size and came from HomeGoods this spring. 
The four larger cloths are dish towel size and have been collected over the years. 
I can hardly pass up a periwinkle blue or lavender dish towel/cloth. 
100% cotton is one of the few prerequisites ~ along with pretty. 

Old metal tarnished a verdigris color is another weakness 
especially if it belonged to a loved family member as these two did.  
The odd-shaped tool has a flat-head screw driver at one end 
and two sizes of hex bolt dodads at the other end sticking out of the jar. 
Dodad is the name of a construction gadget, isn't it? 
This is the only one I've ever seen like this. 

A selfie! 

My husband used to laugh and to tell others that I wore matching 
outfits even to work in the yard and garden.  
True, my outfits do match. 
Of course, he was referring to matching blouses and pants, 
but when I noticed my blouse matched the dish towels and cloths, 
I had a laugh that my outfit matches what I'm working on. 

Marley has that, 
"I can't believe you actually let people see the mudroom," look. 
This is before he explored the cleaned room with the new shelves. 

The floor space under the bench is large enough for a plastic bucket, 
rubber boots, and for a shelf out of the refrigerator, 
one of those catch-all items that needs a different home. 

There is still more to do. 
Actually, there are a couple of things already in place not in these photos. 
In addition, I want to add some hooks to the wall above the new large shelf, 
hang some vintage gardening tools, to add new caulking, 
and to repair the back door. 
Then there's the other side of the room that needs rearranging. 
Spring cleaning and organization continues... 

I really like the mudroom as an inside tool/garden shed. 
Plus, it still functions as a mudroom from the backyard. 

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Boxwood ~ Fresh, Dried, Preserved

Thursday, April 23, 2015

New growth outside and real greenery inside 
revive my spirits each Spring.  

Boxwood is one of the plants I love using
more than one way to provide that greenery for Spring renewal.

Preserved boxwood from HomeGoods

Boxwood ~
fresh, dried, preserved 

Boxwood is not a new plant for homeowners and gardeners. 
Fresh boxwood with its delightful fragrance and easy-to-train nature 
have made it a very popular plant worldwide. 
Here in the United States, boxwood gardens appear at historic grand gardens, 
and in France, sculpted boxwood also appears in renowned public gardens. 
A French connection always piques my interest. 
See links at the end of the post to visit boxwood sites in both 
the old and new worlds. 

I've recently developed an interest in trying to grow boxwood shrubs 
outside both for how they look outside and for cutting sprigs to bring inside. 
Sculpted boxwood in an urn gives the front entry a touch of the French look I love.  

The first day of Spring gets so much attention, 
that I realized recently that I forgot that Spring lasts until mid-June. 
Spring does not come for just one day and then leave the next. 

The boxwood shaped tree hasn't forgotten however. 

At the beginning of Spring, 
the boxwood tree was moved from the protected covered area 
to along the sidewalk where it could get sun and rainwater. 

The tree-shaped boxwood has new growth everywhere 
and continues to thrive in the ongoing Spring sunshine and temperatures.  
The winter was harsh with snow, ice, and frigid temperatures even into March 
making me fear that the new little potted boxwood tree would not survive. 
There are a few dead sprigs, but all the new growth will 
fill in the dead spots quickly. 

A real bird's nest made by some sweet little bird in the Bonjour bucket 
welcomes you inside to see more boxwood greenery.    

Inside, the front entry has a new nursery potted boxwood 
with its light fragrance and lots of new growth in a plant stand. 
For less money than the cost of a Trader Joe's wreath, 
a small boxwood shrub is a Springtime fresh look that can be used inside, 
and then relocated to outside long before Spring disappears in mid-June. 

There are also formerly fresh, but now drying, boxwood wreaths 
on a back door and on the little chippy green wooden folding chair. 

The wreaths were fresh from Trader Joe's at Christmas time. 
One was on the front door and the other at the top of the kitchen plant stand. 

I'm saving them to reuse next year as painted wreaths. 
I've never tried this before, and the wreaths may not last until Christmas, 
but I'm enjoying them as air-dried boxwood for now. 
Those $10 wreaths from Trader Joe's are a real bargain 
that I'm stretching through Spring, or longer. 

Preserved boxwood wreaths are so beautiful that I use them 
year round, not just at Christmas. 

This one hangs in the kitchen sunspace, but only for a short time. 
Sunshine and late Spring warming temperatures will cause it 
to fade and to dry out. 
Soon I will move it back into my bedroom to hang 
out of the direct sunshine and on the door of a French armoire. 

Boxwood in all its natural states,
fresh, dried, and preserved, 
brings new spirit and green throughout my house. 

Wishing a sunny bright Spring for everyone 
where ever you are planted...  

See the following links for boxwood information 
and visits to beautiful gardens. 

And Spring cleaning continues at my house... 
Wait 'til you see my mudroom makeover! 
A catch-all mudroom is becoming an organized 
fun place to store tools, flower vases, over-sized pots, 
and vintage bits and pieces. 

Please join me at these inspiring sites...



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Butterflies in Blue & White

Sunday, April 19, 2015

White butterflies winging their way toward a bowl full of white ranunculus 
glide by the stemware and covered butter dish. 

Can you see the tiny random polka dots in the background 
of the blue butterflies and flowers on the butter dish? 

Oh, so many bleu butterflies on the botanical printed dishes... 

Have you spotted the blue butterfly on the inside rim of the large salad bowl? 
China maker Portmeirion makes the Botanic Blue china and 
a tiny escaped butterfly is a signature mark of the pieces in the pattern. 

There, just visible inside the creamer, is another escapee,  
while another little blue butterfly seems to have 
partially escaped on the ruffled rim of the creamer. 

Laser cut butterflies at the top of the white place cards 
have yet other tiny white butterflies within the laser cut. 

Can you count all the butterflies visible? 

Scattered across the entire china pattern, 
butterflies of varying sizes, designs, and angles 
flit among the multiple varieties of flowers. 

The Botanic Blue dishes coordinate with 
Fitz and Floyd blue-rimmed Nobilis

Ruffled rims on the PTS International Adelaide cereal bowl and 
the Portmeirion Botanic Blue dinner plate are subtle design elements 
that help coordinate the two in a place setting even 
though the blues are not quite the same. 

A matching rimmed soup bowl is also perfect for cereal or salad. 

Are there FOUR different butterflies seeking nectar from the 
the flower in the bottom of the bowl? 
What is that flower, anyway? 
Is it an English primrose? 

Oh, wait! 
What looked like one of four butterflies in the bowl's bottom is really a

And, there... , on the far left top rim... 
a BEE! 

Can you enlarge your screen's photo to see all the details? 

There's another BEE on the end of the lidded butter dish, and 
there's one on the salad bowl just above the left top of the butter dish. 

Butterflies, bees, dragonflies, flowers, polka dots ...  
and b l e u. 

Each day this pattern looks more and more lovely. 

Portmeirion no longer has Botanic Blue available in the USA 
which means order from England, 
pay costly shipping fees and duty taxes, 
or look for pieces on eBay or through a china replacement service. 
But, shop carefully. 

The Botanic Blue pieces have ruffled rims, finely detailed images, and 
a signature butterfly someplace unexpected. 
See the beautiful butterfly inside the creamer? 
There are three inside the rim of the large salad bowl 
serving as a centerpiece. 
The plate has one underneath the rim. 
The rimmed cereal/soup bowl has one on the 
outside of the white rounded part under the rim. 
The small bread and butter plate has one under the rim. 

Now, look at the larger pitcher. 
No ruffled rim, no curvy details on the handle, 
and the pattern is a little faint, not sharp. 
Plus, the pattern doesn't extend under the handle. 
Instead it looks like a white rectangle under the handle. 
This looks like a reproduction piece, 
not an authentic Portmeirion Botanic Blue piece. 
The telling factor... no butterfly inside the pitcher. 

Nonetheless, the pitcher looks good with the rest of the set. 

Blue stemware with an etched floral pattern is perfect with the dishes. 

The blue and white butterflies,  
in the kitchen sunspace wrapped in new green foliage,  
herald Spring has fully arrived.   

Sunshine, warm weather, and bright green leaves are perfect 
companions for blue and white butterflies.  

Spring is here with butterflies on the table 
and in the garden. 

Bright blue skies fill the living room 
as well as the kitchen sunspace with bright sunlight. 

Fresh thyme basks in the sun and is ready 
for planting on the deck just outside the kitchen sunspace.  

Botanic Blue and white ranunculus ... 
Butterflies in blue and white ... 

Botanic Blue china is the inspiration for botanic bleu.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Botanic Blue china ~ Portmeirion (summer 2014) 
Nobilis china ~ Fitz and Floyd (inactive, warehouse sale, late 1980s) 
Adelaide ~ PTS International (HomeGoods, spring 2014) 
Blue & white checked placemats ~ Pottery Barn Outlet (summer 2014) 
Sheila ~ Blue etched stemware ~ Joss and Main (summer 2014) 
Blue chargers ~ Kirklands (spring 2013) originally brown 
Want to see more blue & white?

Summer Blues and Whites
Blue and White Dishes 
Spirea Garden Party ~ French Style 
April Chirping Bird Table 

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