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Friday, July 30, 2010

Maybe more beautiful the second time around

You may recall my earlier post ,
here entitled Helleborus.

Now, several months later, the flower heads have dried on the plant, and have spilled their many seeds. (I'll be watching for little seedlings next Spring)

I can't decide which I like better. The dried or the fresh flowers.

All you have to do is change the water a few times and you will have this unusual and beautiful bouquet for several more months.

What makes the hellebore so special is that it blooms very early. Here, in zone 3, I can start looking for their buds in March.

Helleborus come in many colors, from white to chartreuse, to red, yellow, orange and more.

Next time you are visiting your favorite garden center, look for this unusual and rewarding plant and take it home with you.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

After the Rain

It doesn't happen often - we live in the Desert

But when it does, everything sparkles and shines

The hollyhocks try to outdo each other

This year, the kohlrabi, the entire row, insisted on growing 2 together, must be the chicken manure

Growing up in East Germany, every spot of land had to be utilized for vegetables and fruit. My Mother always let us have a little space to grow a few flowers to cut for the house. And so, somewhere in my vegetable garden there will always be a spot for flowers.


Monday, July 26, 2010

I'm a copycat

More than 30 years ago I purchased a set of every-day dishes, hand painted in Italy

They are showing a lot of wear but only a few pieces are missing. I have enjoyed using them, they have a charming and simple design. Now, one thing that has always worried me; the lead content found in early pieces.

So, I am painting a new set. What do you think? Here are my first samples.

Should I copy the originals more closely, i.e., add a yellow border and simplify the design?

I would love your opinion. Please comment.



Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Join the Pea Party

He calls them "po de soies"

I don't know why, maybe he can't pronounce Petits Pois

The best part of growing little peas is to stand in the row and eat till your heart's content

The best way to harvest peas is to pull them out, all at once, and settle down to a contest of who can shell the most peas in the shortest amount of time.

I always win, by a landslide. I have had lots of practice. Sitting in a circle, old and young, in our little farm village, listening to the old women, telling stories of "how it used to be".

Not too far from the serious work sits a bottle of champagne, on ice.

Before they all go into the freezer a traditional meal of little peas and tuna in a bechamel sauce is served with a glass of champagne.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Green Gold

Bubleurum Rotundifolium

It is called "Green Gold" because it is an abundant and easy-to-grow bouquet filler. It has similar blossoms as Euphorbia but without the sticky milk sap. A sap which causes strong allergic reactions in many people.

Bubleurum is a member of the carrot family. The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. It is easy to start from seeds and once you have it growing in your garden, it will self-sow but never become a nuisance. In the past, it has been used as a traditional medicine for many ailments, in particular, to relieve the symptoms of the flu and the common cold.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Are you a Super Sleuth ?

If you can find for me a few yards of this particular fabric you will be rewarded with a very special prize.

The fabric is hand printed in France. It is not made anymore. My upholsterer found 100 yards of this fabric but it is in a different COLORWAY. The name of the fabric is "Le Rosier" , M.I.E. France. The small sample I have comes from Cowtan & Tout.

These are my chairs and ottoman. Because we have such large windows one of the chairs needs to be repaired. It has received sun damage on one arm. The sun exposure problem has now been resolved with our new pergola.

The vines, are being trained to add extra shade. Additional sun shades will be installed.

This is only one choice of many, of my large hand painted ceramics, from which you will be able to pick your prize if you can find a source for the above pictured fabric.

Your help would be so appreciated.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Firenze Flea Market

My very first purchase while traveling Europe on $5 a Day

It has been repaired many times. Recently, I spotted the same candelabra in an open air market while driving to Tarquinia, Latium, by the Tyrrhenian Sea. It just didn't feel right to replace my first purchase from Italy.

It has been many years, yet I still remember the sunny, sunday morning at the Florence Flea Market.

Do you remember your first purchase from an Italian Flea Market?


Sunday, July 11, 2010


Commonly known as Foxglove, a herbaceous perennial and biennial.

The scientific name means "finger-like".

Foxgloves thrive in acidic soils in partial sunshine or deep shade. They do not bloom until the second year.

Digitalis contains cardiac glycosides called digoxin. The entire plant is toxic to humans and animals alike. The upper leaves are especially potent, just a nibble can cause death. Digitalis is used to control heart rate, especially atrial fibrillation. One of the more common medicines made from foxglove is called Lanoxin.

So, please remember to wear gloves when working with Foxglove and have a very happy Sunday.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Giving it character

Have you noticed?

Many Italian ceramics have been treated with an antiquing jell. Sooner or later, the pieces will have to be washed. You now have a brand new piece, one which has lost some of its characteristics. The aging agent is applied AFTER the piece has been fired making the effect only temporary.

So, why not apply the antiquing process BEFORE the last firing, making it permanent, as I have done with the urn you see above? One of the more successful applications, I have discovered, is to save the "dregs", or sediment produced while painting with water and powder pigments.

On the left, the urn is painted and sprayed with a very light coat of the "dregs" liquid. You can spray several coats of this water-based liquid until you achieve the desired effect. All that is then left to do is to apply a final coat of clear glaze and then fire the piece to 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. After firing, (picture on the right) the aging treatment becomes more pronounced.

See how the pigments fuse with the glaze during the final firing, making the colors brilliant and permanent (pictured on the right). Now you can scrub and clean all you like without fear of losing any part of your original piece of art.

Tell me, how do you feel about giving ceramics an aged patina?


Monday, July 5, 2010

How did he do it? An interview with my husband

We needed Barn Doors. Who is going to build them for us?

Don't you love my stork towers?

Where did the idea come from I asked him? He is always driving. How much can you see while navigating the roads of northern Italy?

You see lots of yellow stucco buildings with red tile roofs. And you see barns with little square windows and large barn doors. He came home and knew exactly how to build our barn doors better than anything we had seen in Italy.

My favorite building and my garden

Our builder didn't want to tackle the doors. The local millwork shop didn't know how to support the heavy doors, each weighing more than 400 pounds.

My non building, business executive husband came up with a very novel idea. Not only did he hand build each door but he also had the metal fabricating shop manufacture 4 steel plates (2 for the front and 2 for the back ) each measuring 8 feet tall. The steel plates were to act as "washers".

The heavy doors were hung onto the metal plates, of course. Problem solved.

The builder sent over his workmen to study the new invention.

I have told you before, I have a very smart husband.

Friday, July 2, 2010

A New Experience

Wish me luck!

It isn't difficult to paint, but it is! Not because of the design or because of the shape. It is difficult to paint because I am painting on top of a layer of white POWDER.

Need to hurry and paint the lid so that I can get this urn into the kiln. At 1800 degrees the pigments will fuse with the Maiolica glaze and that is when the magic happens, if I'm lucky.
A few weeks ago the Mayor of our next town came to our artist meeting with a proposal. Would we artists consider coming to her town for the 4th of July celebration and sell our art?
Only a month ago I set up shop in the "Old School" for Memorial Day Celebrations in our little town. I did well. Made a little money for the school fund and a little money for myself. I was lucky.

Will I be lucky tomorrow?


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Pot Culture

Yes, French, Italian and Spanish antique terra cotta pots are fabulous, the bigger the better. But why not also plant dozens of smaller pots?

They can be moved to wherever they are needed the most. Place them in an optimum, for growth, location and then move them around. Maybe to a small side table when serving brunch. Maybe next to the champagne bucket. Maybe up a flight of stairs. Maybe grouped, en masse, by the front door. You get the idea.

They don't all have to be in terra cotta pots. See the old wooden stump, or the aged cement urn? But, please, don't plant your flowers into plastic pots.