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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

August - The Blue Hour

Saturday, August 27, 2016

l'heure bleue en août  
the blue hour in August 

Because of its beauty that makes time stop for an instant, the expression l'heure bleue has come to describe a variety of special times and events, not just a description of a special blue glow at dusk. Each month in 2016, I am sharing a collage of blue images that create a little l'heure bleue for me. 

Shoes? Did you say shoes? Did you say shoe sale? BLEU CHAUSSURES? (blue shoes)

Time stops! Wherever I am. Whatever country I am in. For shoes. 

If there are blue shoes, count on being there for more than an l'heure bleue instant. 

While all shades of bleu shoes make my top ten list, numbers 1, 2, and 5 are the blues that are almost guaranteed to LEAP into my hands and onto my feet.  

The names of the blue colors alone are enough to send me into a misted-over glazed moment lost in time. 

1. Delft Blue

2. Bright Batik Blue 

3. Blue Multi 

4. Indigo Blue 

5. Blue Ribbon 

6. Navy Blue 
(with a little red grosgrain ribbon bow) 

I do have a cardinal rule, however. If shoes are not comfortable when I try them on, no matter how beautiful they are, I do not buy them. Too many hours standing on my feet teaching math, doing outside bus duty, monitoring students during fire drills, walking to the baseball field daily to get first week attendance counts, and walking up and down stairs in the largest high school in Texas under one roof (during the late 1990s). 

There are so many stories these shoes could tell, but only two, make that three, will be told today. 

Blue Multi shoes #3 were the shoes I wore to my retirement-from-education luncheon at the Mansion Hotel Restaurant in Dallas. Twelve of my closest colleagues who had major influences in my teaching and administration career celebrated this milestone event in my life with me and these shoes. 

Yes, these shoes fit right in at the Mansion. 

Navy shoes (with little red grosgrain ribbon bows) #6 came from Lyon, France one summer while chaperoning students. It was legendary among all the other chaperones, and as a result, their students, that I would buy at least one pair of shoes while in Europe each summer. 

That's not the story being told today. 

Here's the story. 

Teaching precalculus honors to incredibly bright students each year was one of my favorite courses to teach, but it was hard work finding just the right words and examples, and making sure all of the necessary foundation facts and concepts were in place before introducing the next major concept. 

Students were focused, intensely engaged, and took diligent notes during each day's lessons. Some times the lesson required a lot of background information. One day after a several minutes of intense explanation of a rather difficult concept, just as I was getting to the final step, a bright young seventeen-year-old male raised his hand to ask a question. All eyes went to him as I said, "You have a question," thinking he needed more information before proceeding. 

Everyone waited for his question.

"Ms. Stringham, did those shoes come with those red bows or did you paste them on yourself?" 

Silence for a moment, and then the room filled with laughter from all of us. I could barely answer from laughing so hard, "The shoes came with the red bows." 

Bright Batik Blue shoes #6 are my all-time favorite ones. Such a beautiful bleu color, a soft textured suede, a barely-there wedge heel, an open toe, and so comfortable to wear make these shoes my favorites. 

Do you have a favorite, #1-6? 

Shoes are one of my passions, and whenever I find a virtual pair on the internet I love, I pin it to my Pinterest board, Shoes.  

August, The Blue Hour 

Tra-la, I'm off to Paris to buy more shoes. 
My sister is going, too, but shoes are not her thing. 

If everything goes as planned, fingers crossed, 
pre-scheduled posts will continue while I shop for shoes in Paris. 
I will be able to read emails while in Paris;  
alas, I will not be able to respond to comments until I return. 

Leave your comments anyway so I know which shoes are your favorites.  

Maybe, just maybe, there will be an Instagram photo from Paris. 
Don't be disappointed if there are not any;  
I am just learning Instagram. 
Click my blue Instagram button at the top right to follow me 
just in case there are Paris photos. 

Please join me at these inspiring places for more joy of living. 

Dishing It and Digging It @ Rustic and Refined



How to Bring Coastal Summer to a Deck

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Where is your favorite beach? Perhaps one spot comes to your mind instantly or perhaps, like me, no beach comes to mind as your favorite. Yet, the beach always comes to my mind in summer, and the two go hand-in-hand in my mind. 

Summer and the beach  

Since I am not going to the beach this summer, I brought a little beach to my deck. Here's how to bring coastal summer to a deck far from the beach. 

Start with a glass decorated with a beach symbol... a starfish, seahorse, shell. 

Add sand to the glass. Since I had sand left-over from when my garden shed was transformed from An Ugly Duckling to a White Swan, I used some of that. If you don't have any sand from other projects, local hardware stores stock more than one kind of sand usually, and sell it in bags. 

Place a small candle in the sand, and add seashells around it. Use a candle that is in a small glass for three reasons. 

1. The small glass contains the burning wax keeping the sand and seashells clean.

2.  The small glass keeps the larger glass from getting as hot. 

3. The small glass inside the larger glass provides two structures between which to contain the small seashells. 

Display a small collection of seashells in a small glass container like this recycled glass dish. 

These small shells were collected along the shores of Cape Canaveral when I went to see one of the last launches of a space shuttle, but that launch was scrubbed due to the weather. What to do when vacation plans fall through? Make other plans. Like collecting seashells... 

That was the second time I went to Florida to see a shuttle launch, and both times the launch was cancelled. Third time was charm since I did see the launch of the Endeavor shuttle, the next-to-last ever shuttle launch. 

Growing up in Huntsville, Alabama, I was very aware of and interested in the space program. Several family members worked for Marshall Space Flight Center or subcontractors. I have vivid memories from the 1960s when booster rockets were first tested over 15 miles away from our house. On summer days with clear blue skies, my bedroom window would begin to shake as thundering, rumbling sounds filled the air, sounding like a thunderstorm. The rockets were "tied down," and the engines were fired for testing. 

The dream was to see a live shuttle launch. Collecting shells was a fun way to while away the time while waiting for the exhilarating event. The shells became mementos of a life dream fulfilled.  

White sand, white shells, and a white candle coordinate well with other decor, including French country. 

Add a heron decorated tin to hold fresh white stock flowers, a freshly-painted white Adirondack chair, and a blue and white throw pillow printed with summer phrases. 

With just a few items, it is easy to bring coastal summer to a deck. The keys to achieving the look ... 

a blue and white color scheme 
traditional beach symbols like sand, shells, seahorses, herons
Adirondack chairs

Voilà... Without seeing the rest of the setting, this scene could be on a deck along the coast. 


New Life to Old Adirondack Chairs

Sunday, August 21, 2016

One of the best things about covered porches is the protection they provide furniture and pillows. Our Adirondack chairs, however, sat on the old open deck for years and did not receive the TLC (tender loving care) they should have. 

Rain, sleet, hail, snow, and ultraviolet light took their toll and weathered the chairs to a dark gray. Hiding behind patriotic pillows in Three Easy Designs - Patriotic Deck the chair still looked inviting and was comfortable, but also looked a little forlorn and unloved.

However, with a lot of elbow grease, a power washer, a sander, and some paint I gave new life to our old Adirondack chairs this summer.

Step by step they regained a brighter, lighter look and regained some of their former glory. Do not expect them to regain the beauty of their youth; more like a well-done face-lift of a gracefully aging beauty.

Nor should these three steps of renewal be called easy. Remember the first thing I listed was elbow grease, but the finished chairs were worth the effort. 

Step 1  Power Washing

This took the longest time, except for painting, and was the hardest step physically. I power washed the two Adirondack chairs in the yard under the pear tree which allowed the tree to soak up the water and provided shade for me as I worked. 

If you have ever used a power washer, you know to wear old clothes. I was soaked from the back splash of water, and was filthy from the back splash of dirt from the ground. 

The chairs were so weathered the power washing really roughed up the wood. 

Had the the chairs been cleaned routinely, it would have taken less power washing to get them clean, and the wood would not have been damaged as much. 

Step 2  Sanding

The rest of the restoration was completed on the covered porch section of the new treehouse deck. A large plastic tarp protected the new deck floor. By setting the chair legs on paver stones, the chairs were lifted higher making it easier on my back as I leaned over the chairs to sand them. 

A power sander made this step easier. Since the wood grain was so damaged, I used a #80 grit sandpaper for the first sanding. The sandpaper package described #80 grit as the grit to use to remove old paint and/or to level uneven surfaces. 

Boy, did these chairs have uneven surfaces! So much so, I wondered if the chairs were beyond repair, but the coarse sandpaper quickly showed the chairs could be salvaged. 

I used #120 grit sandpaper for a second sanding to give a smoother surface and focused on the arms, seat, and inside back slats since these surfaces would be the ones with the most contact for people sitting in the chairs. 

Step 3  Painting 

I used Rustoleum spray paint and primer in Heirloom White. Since the chairs had never been painted or stained, the wood soaked up the paint. 

On the first coat, I began to have second thoughts again. This time about painting the chairs, wondering how they were going to turn out. You know that feeling... OH, NO, WHAT HAVE I DONE?  Should I sand all this paint back off and just apply a clear sealer? 

With the first coat of paint the chairs looked very much like they did before power washing the gray off. 

The chairs looked very rustic and C H I P P Y, a style that many people like. I prefer a little less chippy and a lot more painted surface. 

Each coat of paint reassured me that Heirloom White paint was the right choice to give new life to these old Adirondack chairs. 

Not quite there, but getting closer to the finished look... a white beach chair weathered over time from sitting in the white sand on the Gulf coast. 

One more coat of Heirloom White got the look. 

Please join me at these inspiring places for more joy of living. 

Dishing It and Digging It @ Rustic and Refined



New Treehouse Deck Finished

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The new south deck is not really a treehouse deck, but the deck is over four feet off the ground and has trees on all sides making it feel like a treehouse deck. And it is finished! 

Paris Peach Desk Supplies

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Have you been shopping for school supplies for YOURSELF yet this year? You have to see this beautiful coordinating set of what I'm calling Paris Peach Desk Supplies at Office Depot/Office Max stores. 

New Treehouse Deck and a Fixer Upper Moment

Thursday, August 11, 2016

I had a Fixer Upper moment today with the construction company building a new treehouse deck on the south side of the house. 

Went like this... picture Joanna holding her cell phone flat in her hand, palm up. Phone ringing.... 

Photography - 102

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Recently one of the all time Rock Stars of blogging told me the two most important things needed for bloggers to improve and to gain a wider audience are photography and finding your tribe. Somehow, I already knew that photography was key to reaching a greater number of people, but hearing it from a super Rock Star Blogger turned my instinct into a pressing reality. 


France Travel Tips- Best EVER Carry-On Bag

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Everyone has ideas about how to pack for a trip. Perhaps from personal experience, advice from friends, or even from researching packing tips. These France Travel - Best EVER Carry-On packing tips are a combination of all of those sources of advice, but most of the tips have been refined from personal experience traveling to France for more than thirty years with student groups and with family and friends. Now, my trips combine traveling with family and work-related traveling. 

Keep reading for what my carry-on bag to France looks like now.