Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Fleurs: Balloonflowers and Anemones

I love these blue balloon flowers but mine have been almost overtaken by anemones. But a few manage to pop out here and there.  I wish I had one in bloom to show,  but they are almost as interesting when they are ready to pop.  I guess I should dig them out this fall and put them in a different spot. I used to have a pink balloonflower too, and I see it coming up in the spring, but who knows where it is now. Covered by anemones I guess.

The anemones really take over in the fall. I have noticed that they are much healthier this year.  The past few years they have gotten black spots on the leaves and while the flowers were fine, the plants didn't look very attractive. I decided it was some kind of virus, so this spring I sprayed them every 2 weeks with a fungicide and it seems to have been effective. I was just out checking them and taking pictures, and noticed that they look much, much better. A lot of things are reviving with this little bit cooler weather. My salvias especially seem to have perked up, and are blooming better. This weekend I am going to check my pots and write down which plants have done the best and which I can forget about next year. I like to do this kind of obsessive record-keeping. I don't think I've had too many failures, because my pots still look great for the most part.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

How It All Began

I really enjoyed this book. I had read another book by Penelope Lively this year that was a little harder to get into (Moon Tiger)  but I was pleasantly surprised by this charming novel, her most recent book. It begins when a seventy-ish woman, Charlotte, is mugged on a London street by a teenager, and falls and breaks her hip. The consequences of her fall, and how one unexpected event can affect a whole cast of characters (including the mugger),  is the heart of the novel.

It is decided that Charlotte must recover at the home of her daughter Rose and husband Gerry. Rose works for an elderly historian named Henry, who they call His Lordship. His Lordship has a daughter named Marion, who is involved with a married man named Jeremy (married to Stella). And Charlotte, who is bored to death at Charlotte's house, decides to help an immigrant, Anton, learn English. One thing leads to another and we see how all these lives are changed by the one event. And I especially liked all the literature references, as Charlotte is a voracious reader, and shares her love of books and reading with Anton, helping him to learn English through reading him stories.

I really like the way Lively writes, which is easy and eloquent, and very readable. Her characters are believable, and I particularly liked Charlotte, who is struggling with the aches and pains of old age and the loss of her independence, and who finds comfort and solace in her books. I especially liked this passage:

"Her life has been informed by reading.   She has read not just for distraction, sustenance, to pass the time, but she has read in a state of primal innocence, reading for enlightenment, for instruction even.  She has read to find out if things are the same for others as they are for her – then, discovering that frequently they are not, she has read to find out what it is that other people experience that she is missing.”

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Vines Gone Wild

I love my vines, and by the end of the summer they are in their prime, often gone slightly wild. Above is my sweet autumn clematis, which is cut down to the ground in March,  and just look at it now! It would be climbing over the house if I let it. I keep trimming it so that we can get through the gate, but it's hard to keep up with it. In an other few weeks it will be totally covered with little white flowers.

One of my very favorite vines is hyacinth bean vine, which I first saw many years ago at Monticello. I brought home some seeds and have been planting it most every summer since. They are the purplish leaves shown above and below. They get a beautiful lavender flower and dark purple seed pods in the fall. It's a spectacular vine. I'm going to plant more next year.

And of course I have lots of Virginia Creeper. I didn't plant this, it just appeared and I like it. It can be invasive so I cut it back quite a bit in the spring.

And Akebia covers about half of my fence. It's pretty invasive too, but it's so pretty and good at covering an open area like a fence. It gets pretty little purple flowers in the spring.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Let The Day Go

Let The Day Go, by Grace Paley

who needs it
I had another day in mind
something like this one
sunny green the earth
just right having suffered
the assault of what is called
torrential rain the pepper
the basil sitting upright
in their little boxes waiting
I suppose for me also the
cosmos the zinnias nearly
blooming a year too late
forget it let the day go
the sweet green day let it
take care of itself

Monday, August 27, 2012

Sunflower Fields

I saw some pictures recently of the McKee Beshers sunflower fields off River Road in Potomac, and so late Saturday afternoon I dragged Walt out there to take a look. It was a perfect day for picture taking, as it was cloudy and a little off and on drizzle.  It took us awhile to find the sunflowers, as access is off of an unmarked dirt road and then you have to walk down a gravel path to a clearing where there are sunflower fields on either side.

There's nothing like a whole field of sunflowers--so much sunshine, even when there's no sun.  Apparently the fields are planted with sunflowers to attract doves, as this becomes a hunting area in the fall. But for now it sure is a pretty place to walk. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Nitsa's In Town

Having a little vino with Nitsa at Reston Town Center. And trying to talk her into moving back to Virginia...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Lunch in Leesburg

Pretty windowboxes on a bank building
Liz and I had a belated birthday lunch for her yesterday in Leesburg. It was a beautiful day to be out and about, checking out the antique stores and my favorite French store. And a yummy lunch too!

The weather is still beautiful, cool mornings and low 80s in the day. Perfect. Today my friend Nitsa is coming to visit, on her way back to New York after some time at Lake Anna. Can't wait to see my Nitsa Pizza.

Amazing hanging baskets in Leesburg

Lunch in this old bank
Downtown Leesburg

Loved these white pots on a front porch

Oyster shell bird bath

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Winding Down

It's funny how the end of summer sneaks up on you. It seems like overnight the mornings have become cooler, the days are a little shorter, even the light seems different. The garden is a little wild. Last night as I was leaving work at 9 pm, it was completely dark. It's so strange. I did spend an hour or so yesterday outside in the garden, mostly weeding. Huge weeds. How do they grow so fast?   Things are winding down there too, I can tell.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ice Cream Treats

I read an article in The Washingtonian the other day about all the best summer ice cream treats in the area. One was the vanilla custard in a waffle cone from Milwaukee Frozen Custard in Herndon, so I am doing my best to try them out. The other one that caught my eye was a toasted marshmallow milkshake at Spike Mendelsohn's Great Stuff Eatery in DC. Yummo, that sounds amazing.  I think it's worth a drive to Capitol Hill for a milkshake,  don't you?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Portlanders in Town

Mark and Katherine

Busy weekend as our good friends Mark and his daughter Katherine from Portland, Oregon have been staying with us since Thursday. They are on a cross country trip, having left Portland at the end of July, traveling to the east coast to see Patty's family in New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, then headed south to see us. It is great to see them and catch up on news and life. I had to work on Saturday, so Walt took them on a long hike along the C&O Canal, which they enjoyed.

It rained most of yesterday and is cool and cloudy this morning, what a change for us. I was just outside looking at the garden and can't believe the weeds. It's amazing what a little rain can do, weed-wise. As we were having breakfast this morning, Mark and I saw 2 hummingbirds zooming in on my pots on the deck. I have to figure out how to catch a photo of that!

I sure do miss my chere amie Patty.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Julia Child's Birthday at the Smithsonian

Julia's copper pot collection

Eileen, Prudy, and I had a little field trip yesterday to the Smithsonian's Museum of American History to celebrate Julia Child's 100th birthday. The exhibit featuring Julia's actual kitchen from her Cambridge, Mass. home, reopened on Wednesday after being closed for a year-- you can see Julia's pots and pans as she hung them from her pegboard walls, her handwritten labels on glass jars,  her food processors, her cookbooks, all her utensils, and knives. Her entire copper pot collection that she bought in Paris is on display. Episodes of her first television show, The French Chef, were running all day in the museum's theater. We sat and watched her make omelets (20 seconds!), pie crust, and roast chicken. There were book signings for a new biography about her, and several other Julia books.  This is restaurant week in DC, and lots of restaurants are having special Julia dinners, featuring her most-loved recipes. So great!

Peeking in Julia's kitchen

Julia's cookbooks

There was a "surprise" event at 1 pm, which turned out to be a band decked out in chef's jackets and toques playing music.  A huge cake was wheeled in and the crowd all sang "Happy Birthday" to Julia. We especially loved the conductor using a giant whisk.  As you can see many in the crowd were wearing chef's toques also.  So fun.

Conductor with giant whisk!

 Of course we had to have a little lunch afterwards (at Central), and some fancy desserts in honor of Julia. Yummo. Happy Birthday Julia. You inspire us.