Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Peony

“The old cobbler had believed in something he called "the signature of all things"-namely, that God had hidden clues for humanity's betterment inside the design of every flower, leaf, fruit, and tree on earth. All the natural world was a divine code, Boehme claimed, containing proof of our Creator's love.” ― Elizabeth GilbertThe Signature of All Things

There is, at times, an advantage to being a few weeks behind everywhere else when it comes to gardening.  I can ooh and ahh over Rosemary's garden over at Share My Garden or Janet's at The Gardener's Cottage weeks, nay months, before my own blooms.

Even here in New Brunswick, I can see what's about to come into bloom in my own garden about two weeks sooner if I only go downtown.  So really, you get to enjoy the season that much longer.

In my little corner of the world, we are starting to slip into summer and what was a slow march to glory in the cooler June days has become a quick step, a dizzying paso doble, as one flower passes off the mantle of star to the other.

This week begins the week of the Peony.

The peony is almost everyone's favourite flower.

Unlike the rose, it is almost carefree (except for the two that need to be moved this summer as they will not bloom due to too much shade...), seems to get hardier and hardier and more prolific as the years pass and fills every vase to over-flowing...

I counted yesterday and I have 15 on my acreage, all in varying stages of coming into bloom.  I need more.  Can there ever be enough?

 The first to bloom is always my most dramatic beauty, the Queen, who is blessed with one of the few spots of full sun on our property:

What I love about peonies, besides the myriad of varietals available, is that every stage is equally lovely, from the tight balls of colour fairly straining to burst forth...

to the tentative unfurling...

to the show:

The peony is the showgirl of the garden, and she earns her keep.

While the Bachelor's Buttons are almost riotous in their display (look at me! look at me!), the peony just has to be.

And the peonies arrive in the nick of time, just after the snowball bushes are spent, evidence of their brief and glorious lives everywhere:

And while the bridal veil spirea have a very Anne of Green Gables sense about them...

and the Irises their stately disarray

There is only one plant in the garden right now that can compete with the peonies and that is BUTCH:

There is something so delightful about watching the garden unfold, week by week, day by day.  It is different every year and when you are sitting out in it, enjoying an ice tea and reading a good book, you are grateful for the hard work you've put into it.

Last night was hot and after watching a movie, we went out and sat in the gazebo, waiting for the fireflies to come out, which they did.  In the moonlight, my garden is a mysterious place, a place of secrets.  I cannot help but agree with the cobbler in the Elizabeth Gilbert quote above.  (BTW - I am reading and LOVING that book but more on that when I finish it!)

Summer is fleeting and we must enjoy it!

Some like a garden where the hand of art
Appears in every terrace, walk, and bed,
Where vases stand in even rows apart
And shrubs are taught symmetric shade to spread:
But little art I wish; enough for me
This garden where the flowers grow in sweet

Fair is each budding thing the garden shows,
From spring's frail crocus to the latest bloom
Of fading autumn. Every wind that blows
Across that glowing tract sips rare perfume
From all the tangled blossoms tossing there;
Soft winds, they fain would linger long, nor any
farther fare!

But sweeter far in this old garden close
To loiter 'mid the lovely, old-time flowers,
To breathe the scent of lavender and rose,
And with old poets pass the peaceful hours.
Old gardens and old poets, happy he
Whose quiet summer days are spent in such sweet
-John Russell Hayes, The Old Fashioned Garden

 Have a lovely Sunday and: GO NETHERLANDS!!!!!!!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Decorating Muse - What's Yours?

My last post on lightening my colour palette has begat this post on what gets us going when we decorate.

I am no decorator.  While I have had help from time to time (see: coral debacle), 90%+ of our home is my vision, for good or bad.

My taste is like me - a collection of bits and bots, whims, fancies, tricks of light.  There is nothing prized except the art work in terms of value and the antiques because they are all family heirlooms.

I do not know really know decorators except for Canadian Sarah Richardson, Nate Berkus and Elsie deWolfe.

When I see others in your blogs and in the magazines I do pay attention, but I must be honest: I have pedestrian taste.  I cannot afford, nor would my good Scot blood allow, most things I see.

And actually, I am quite content with that, most of the time, though I admit to wishing I better understood principles of design, as it would no doubt hold me in good stead.  At present, when something works it is almost always accidental.   And when something bothers me, I cannot explain why it bothers me except it makes my stomach hurt, similar to bad writing and too many cheesies.

Often what starts me down a road is something that is kind of quirky.

This early 1960s toy kitchen (I had the yellow version)

and my parent's canisters from the same era

led to my kitchen:

And as much as the soothing blues have inspired me to paint the dining room, so too has the portrait of my mother in her blue sweater as a young girl:

old picture and excuse the mess!

As an aside, many of you will recall that My mom and her younger brother Barry (!) grew up with Donald Sutherland and were very good friends with him.

Sadly she never got to meet him again after he went Hollywood, which I think was always sad for her in some ways, and kind of a relief in others.  I was thinking of them the other day when I saw this preview for the next Hunger Games movie:

Josh Hutcherson and Donald Sutherland in 'Mockingjay – Part 1'

Donald just chews up the scenery in the best way possible in these movies!

But I digress....

Every Ralph Lauren lifestyle ad I've ever seen inspired me to paint our library a deep navy.

A sweater I have inspired the peacock-coloured walls of my bedroom:

As funds and time allow, we "upscale" a bit - get the better lamp, a window that actually opens and closes, trade in the old thing for something a little finer.  But generally, there is nothing fancy here and though I am often inspired by the nesting magazines I read, I do not always see myself in them because their spaces seem too perfect, too staged for my lackadaisical tendencies.  Even as I sit here writing this in my office I am looking down at an old business card I dropped three days ago by my feet and I notice the extension cord that needs to be wrapped up and put away.  

And if I tell the truth, I am most taken with spots with lots of imperfection, lots of character.  The dent for me is as interesting as the piece itself.  I am fascinated by what people collect and bare walls make me nervous; I feel they would swallow me whole!

So I would love to hear about what starts you decorating and how you choose your styles and colour schemes?  Do you copy many things?  Do you get help?  Please share!

Have a lovely evening and stay safe out there, especially all intrepid travellers!

xoxo wendy

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Lightening Up

Is there something in the air?  Well there sure is around here; the pollen is so thick that floats by like some fantastically weird desert or snow storm.  Yellow, yellow, everywhere - I could brush off the deck furniture four times a day and have no impact...

But more than that, I feel myself attracted more and more to only those things and those people who fill me up with their good energy. They literally and figuratively lighten my load and I love it!

This is being reflected in my house, funny enough.  For years, I was attracted to only deep, rich hues.  I think I have gone through nearly every colour of gold in Benjamin Moore's colour palette - now I find myself hopelessly in love with pale greens, pale blues, whites and creams.

You would be forgiven for blaming this on the coral abomination, but that would not be accurate.

In fact, it began a few months ago in this bathtub:

Because as I lay soaking in the tub, I realized that it has been ten years since we had reno-ed the bathroom and I still LOVED it.

Just like I still love my kitchen:

And the newly-lightened-up family room

and laundry room:

and Parisian loo:

I felt calm with this colour palette offsetting all of our antiques and things I have collected over the years.  And I didn't grow tired of the colours.

So I am lightening up, and more pictures soon, as our painter is coming to paint our dining room and hallway, because I am a rotten painter and Barry has been flat out installing a new front door:

definitely a BEFORE picture!

While I wait, I am lightening the bed for the season....

And these cushions are waiting for the pale walls so they can really pop!

Hmm, now if I could only lighten Wendy...

Ah well, we do what we can...

Have a great day and stay safe out there!

xoxo wendy

Sunday, June 22, 2014

My friend Mary has published a book!

Hope everyone's weekend is going well.  I have been having a social weekend, but I am also battling a cold and now cannot speak at all.  I am sure that the quiet Sunday ahead for me will be appreciated by Barry...

But today is not about my voice, but rather it is about my friend Mary Mesheau's voice.  Many of you will recognize that name as Mary often comments here and has her own blog, Rewired for Fun.

Only Mary can look regal on the beach with cows in behind...

Anyhow, I am happy to report that Mary's wonderful book is now available for order from Amazon!

Writing under her maiden name of Sawyer, Mary has crafted a taut murder mystery that centers around a horrific murder which may or may not have been committed by one of Principal Stella Page's students, a First Nations student named Lillian.

Did I mention that Mary is a retired school principal?  Well she is, and she uses all of her considerable years of experience to paint a compelling story of a principal's sense of duty to her family, her community and most of all, to her students.  There is plenty of suspense and best of all, Mary really provides us with an accurate portrayal of an individual torn, emotionally and professionally, between the conflicting demands of many.  For the police, Stella's participation is the key to solving the case, but they don't reckon on her dogged determination to support her students first.

You can order Beyond Me: A Principal Mystery at or  Right now the site says it will not ship for 3 to 5 weeks, but I believe that the wait will be much shorter!  I hope you will order it, both to enjoy the story and to support our Mary!

Well done Mary!  How exciting to see your hard work paying off!

Have a great Sunday all!

xoxo wendy

Friday, June 20, 2014

Miller Time Friday - Some Wisdom

Summer is finally here!  I have been as busy as a one arm paper hanger, between work and my garden and am just now catching up.  Oh and I definitely have world cup fever, but more on that this weekend...

This morning, Miss Gigi shared some words of wisdom on Facebook that I thought were just too good not to pass along here.....

It never ceases to amaze me how many people let life happen to them.  I have been one of them from time to time myself and this is a good reminder to take the bull by the horns and shift your perspective...

10 Ways You’re Making Your Life Harder Than It Has To Be

1. You ascribe intent.

Another driver cut you off. Your friend never texted you back. Your co-worker went to lunch without you. Everyone can find a reason to be offended on a steady basis. So what caused you to be offended? You assigned bad intent to these otherwise innocuous actions. You took it as a personal affront, a slap in the face.  

Happy people do not do this. They don’t take things personally. They don’t ascribe intent to the unintentional actions of others.

2. You’re the star of your own movie.

It is little wonder that you believe the world revolves around you. After all, you have been at the very center of every experience you have ever had.

You are the star of your own movie. You wrote the script. You know how you want it to unfold. You even know how you want it to end.  Unfortunately you forgot to give your script to anyone else. As a result, people are unaware of the role they are supposed to play. Then, when they screw up their lines, or fail to fall in love with you or don’t give you a promotion, your movie is ruined.

Lose your script. Let someone else star once in awhile. Welcome new characters. Embrace plot twists.

3. You fast forward to apocalypse.

I have a bad habit of fast forwarding everything to its worst possible outcome and being pleasantly surprised when the result is marginally better than utter disaster or jail time. My mind unnecessarily wrestles with events that aren’t even remotely likely. My sore throat is cancer. My lost driver’s license fell into the hands of an al-Qaeda operative who will wipe out my savings account.
Negativity only breeds more negativity. It is a happiness riptide. It will carry you away from shore and if you don’t swim away from it, will pull you under.

4. You have unrealistic and/or uncommunicated expectations.

Among their many shortcomings of your family and friends is the harsh reality that they cannot read your mind or anticipate your whims.  Did your boyfriend forget the six and a half month anniversary of your first movie date? Did your girlfriend refuse to call at an appointed hour? Did your friend fail to fawn over your tribal tattoo?

Unmet expectations will be at the root of most of your unhappiness in life. Minimize your expectations, maximize your joy.

5. You are waiting for a sign.

I have a friend who won’t make a decision without receiving a “sign.” I suppose she is waiting on a trumpeted announcement from God. She is constantly paralyzed by a divinity that is either heavily obscured or frustratingly tardy. I’m not disavowing that fate or a higher power plays a role in our lives. I’m just saying that it is better to help shape fate than be governed by it.

6. You don’t take risks.

Two words: Live boldly. Every single time you are offered a choice that involves greater risk, take it. You will lose on many of them but when you add them up at the end of your life you’ll be glad you did.

7. You constantly compare your life to others.

A few years ago I was invited to a nice party at a big warehouse downtown. I was enjoying the smooth jazz, box wine and crustless sandwiches. What more could a guy want? Later in the evening I noticed a steady parade of well-heeled people slide past and disappear into another room. I peeked and saw a large party with beautiful revelers dancing and carrying on like Bacchus. Suddenly my gig wasn’t as fun as it had been all because it didn’t appear to measure up to the party next door- a party I didn’t even know existed until just moments before.
I do this frequently. Those people are having more fun. Mary has a bigger boat. Craig gets all the lucky breaks. Ted has more money. John is better looking.
Stop it.

Always remember what Teddy Roosevelt said: “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

8. You let other people steal from you.

If you had a million dollars in cash under your mattress, you would check it regularly and take precautions to insure it is safe. The one possession you have that is more important than money is time. But you don’t do anything to protect it. In fact you willingly give it to thieves. Selfish people, egotistical people, negative people, people who won’t shut up. Treat your time like Fort Knox. Guard it closely and give it only to those who deserve and respect it.

9. You can’t/won’t let go.

These are getting a little harder aren’t they? That’s because sometimes you have to work at happiness. Some hurdles are too difficult to clear by simply adjusting your point of view or adopting a positive mindset.
Do you need to forgive someone? Do you need to turn your back on a failed relationship? Do you need to come to terms with the death of a loved one?
Life is full of loss. But, in a sense, real happiness would not be possible without it.  It helps us appreciate and savor the things that really matter. It helps us grow. It can help us help others grow.
Closure is a word for people who have never really suffered. There’s no such thing. Just try to “manage” your loss. Put it in perspective. You will always have some regret and doubt about your loss. You may always second guess yourself. If only you had said this, or tried that.

You’re not alone. Find someone who understands and talk to that person. Reach out for support. If all else fails, try #10 below.

10. You don’t give back.

One way to deal with loss is to immerse yourself in doing good. Volunteer. Get involved in life.
It doesn’t even have to be a big, structured thing. Say a kind word. Encourage someone. Pay a visit to someone who is alone. Get away from your self-absorption.

When it comes down to it, there are two types of people in this world. There are givers and there are takers. Givers are happy. Takers are miserable. What are you? 

I don't know who Tim Hoch is, but I think he is pretty bloody brilliant!  

In honour of Wisdom and SUMMER, let's have a cocktail, shall we?

Lemon Thyme Herbal Martini Recipe –

The Drunken Botanist

  • Muddled Lemon Thyme — Handful
  • Citron Vodka — 2 oz.
  • Superfine sugar — 1 teaspoon
  • 1 oz triple sec
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • Ice
Throw all the ingredients in a shaker. Shake well. Strain ice and thyme out as you pour into a sugar-rimmed martini glass.

I definitely think I need this book - I would like the moniker of The Drunken Botanist!

We have a very social weekend ahead of us - an event with my old work colleagues tonight at wonderful Kings Landing:

And tomorrow night, a Caribbean-themed dinner party with our close friends!  and the sun is shining!

Hope you have a great day! Stay safe out there!

xoxo wendy

Saturday, June 14, 2014

cooking with flowers

Some of you may recall I purchased this book last summer:

To be honest, I didn't really "get to it" last year, but am determined to do better this summer.

So with the lilac and tulips waning, it seemed like the perfect time!

The critical thing is to clean those lilac blossoms well.  It is amazing how many little critters get into the tiny flowers...

The picture below shows the blossoms 'steeping' in their simple syrup:

Already beginning to take on a lovely pinky hue...

And the piece de resistance is serving your lilac sorbets in tulip cups:

Scoop in your sorbet, and enjoy!

Very little work and very lovely and distinctive tasting.  The tulips themselves were quite tasty as well!

How impressive would this be for a dinner party????

A caveat: I would NOT do this with store-bought tulips or lilacs.  You simply have no idea what they have been sprayed with to keep them fresh for the journey.  These were picked from my completely organic garden(s), so I was confident about them.

This is the beginning of my love affair with flower cooking...  It makes the nasturtiums and squash blossoms I had previously been cooking with seem like mere child's play!

What do you think?  Would you try this?

Have a great Saturday!

xoxo wendy