Sunday, May 30, 2010

Unusual Books

It never occurred to me to publish my own book, but in the past few years I have been given books that individuals have elected to publish.  With both of these books the authors have invested their own resources in the creation of these bound volumes.  One of the books is one by Betty Bird Foy Sanders, wife of the former Governor of Georgia, Gov. Carl Sanders.  The book is a collection of Mrs. Sanders art and it's a beautiful coffee table book.  I received the book one year during the holidays when I was helping with the packaging and mailing of the newly published volume.  

The second book I want to discuss is one called An Extra Eye, by Roy Ward.  It's interesting to note that he has published five books prior to this one though I have never seen the others.  Roy Ward is a retired country doctor who lives in Watkinsville, Georgia and much of his works highlights life and art in and around Oconee County, Georgia.  I've met him once and truthfully he would not have been someone I would have noticed in a crowd but to me his book is notable.  

The book features Dr. Ward's photography with scenes of farmers, fields, animals, country roads, barns and "four-square" churches.   Most living in the Athens, Georgia area are aware of the development and urban sprawl that has taken place in the past 10 years so Dr. Ward's book captures many sites that have begun to slowly disappear in the south.

My favorite chapter in the book is one titled A Woman of Importance.  It tells the story and showcases the art of Amelia Simpson.  Dr. Ward tells the story of being a young doctor who'd finished school to return to a small town only to quickly decide he wanted to go  live in a city.  His story goes that he first met Amelia as a young doctor when she was sick and he had been treating her for pneumonia.  The night before he left to start his new work in Jacksonville, Florida, it was cold and pouring rain.  He couldn't stop thinking Amelia Simpson.  There was no one to care for her.  It was that night that he decided to stay in this rural community to serve as the country doctor, where he retired and lives today.  At the end of the chapter Dr. Ward says, "she never knew she changed my life, and to some degree, that of our community as well."

Amelia Simpson lived in an old tenant house that had been thrown together on an old estate, most probably dating back to the days of plantations. The house had never been painted and the wood had weathered beautifully over time.  In the winter the house was all closed up so the house, warmed by a wood stove, smelled of whatever was cooking.  In the summer the house was completely opened up - no air conditioning and would smell fresh with the fragrance of the season.

Of course Ms. Simpson had a garden that provided for her and she maintained a perfect swept yard (I love swept yards and will be posting more about them in the very near future).  She lived there alone and was often heard saying, "she never needed no man."   The significant thing about Amelia Simpson was her artistry.   Dr. Ward spent a lot of time over the years with Amelia Simpson, capturing her with her amazing quilts, a beautiful swept yard and garden, "wall paper,"  lady-whirls and  of course, bottle trees.  
This photo captures two lady-whirl paper designs
In many of the old tenant homes it was very common to see walls decorated with scraps of paper, thus creating "wallpaper."  Bottle trees, like swept yards, were a tradition that was derived from an African burial tradition.  Slaves were the original southern gardeners who brought to America new and beautiful techniques that were unfamiliar to European settlers that were quickly adapted to what became known as the southern garden.  

In his book Dr. Ward expresses regret that through the years he tried repeatedly to draw attention the the incredible eye that Ms. Simpson had, especially in her quilt designs.  Each told a story using  whatever fabric was available.  The book features many of her quilts and fabric designs that covered chairs, tables and the bed in the house.  

Interestingly, all of these photos were taken more than 50 years ago.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Girls From Ames

Have you read the book yet?  I started it last week and couldn't put it down.  It is the true story of a group of 11 friends and their 40 years of friendship. Reading the book made me reflect on the girlfriends that I have been blessed to know and share memories with.   

Girlfriends have always been very important part of my life.   Growing up, I wasn't popular or part of a clique in school but I always had a good and trusted friend.  One of my high school teachers once said, "if you can live your life having made one true friend, you have experienced more than most people do in a lifetime."   I treasured those words.

After reading the book I wanted to talk about it with someone so I hope some of you have read it, or will read it and add your thoughts.  I was so surprised at the large circle of friends, being so connected without the discussion of jealousy.  There were plenty of other emotions shared but that one element was missing...I think it to be a good thing.  One thing that was upsetting was reading about the "mean girls" incident.  It was painful to read and something that I'm sure many of the women regret today.  Sally had a huge heart.
My 40th Birthday Party in 1996 - a wonderful circle of friends
When I turned 40 I wanted to honor my friends and all but 2 of my  closest friends were able to gather for a party that was held in their honor.  Each of them have given me the gift of friendship for many years and I love each of them dearly for their incredible gift.   As a part of the celebration I wanted to give each of them a keepsake gift to mark the occasion.  It was funny when I went to buy their gift(I ordered engraved silver cuff bracelets), the shop where I did my shopping thought I was getting married!
 My girlfriend Chris.  I wish I had a picture of her with her chickens.

I've never had a group of friends that were connected in any way, nor did I feel that they needed to be.  Each of them knew something about the other, but my friends come from different parts of my life.  
 Here's Judy!  Just can't imagine my life without her in it.  We raised our kids together. 

There are friends from when I taught school, worked in the firm, from junior high and high school, college, church and my neighbor of 18 years.  Each are important to me in so many ways.  Most celebrated my 50th birthday too.  It meant so much when my Dad died to start the funeral and realize that Melinda, Judy, Fran and Tricia had traveled 2 hours or more to be there for me. 

My high school friend, Deborah

If only there were more hours in a day.
I'm so lucky to have a soul sister like Adrienne...

Adrienne in France
and we are so connected. She lives in NY but we still manage to see each other once a year.

Adrienne on the Great Wall
 There is also my soul sister that lives in Seattle.  She's the mother of my Goddaughter, Shea.  Of course we have to connect as often as possible.  I don't want to miss out on watching Shea grow up.

Caitlin and Shea
Then there is my sister.

Me and my sister - the laptop sisters (notice the matching pajamas - we still buy matching clothes).  Please overlook the morning face with no makeup.  BTW- the critter hanging on the bed is a possum.  I call my husband Hossum and he calls me Possum and I actually found a stuffed 'possum at Cracker Barrel!

It has always seemed that each friend is like a facet of me and they polish and add shine to my life.   I would love to have more time for girlfriends.   After reading the book I want to have girlfriend reunions every year.  Please add your thoughts.

Wow.  The power of sisterhood.  It's one of life's greatest gifts.

James Earle Jones said, “One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can't utter,”   and that's exactly how I feel about my friends.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Lyndy Broder and Clematis

Seeing all the clematis in bloom this week reminded me of a friend from that I've lost contact with over the years.  Back in the mid 90s I worked to start a garden club that really bloomed into something extraordinary.  As the club formed, I reached out to the current president (at the time) of the state Master Gardner's association who just so happened to live in our county.  He offered to help round up incredible speakers for the first year so that we didn't have to pay speakers fees and it wasn't long before our club grew gaining some amazing members and plant experts.  One of those experts was Lyndy Broder.

I don't really recall what I knew about Clematis before I met Lyndy but after spending time with her and visiting her gardens, clematis became an important part of my garden. First, I'll tell you a little about Lyndy and then share a few things about clematis.

Lyndy was a busy mom with career and four children so she didn't really begin to garden until her early 50s.  Lucky for her, she was able to retire early and one of the first things she did was to complete the Master Gardner's program.  Lyndy got involved with a number of the plant societies but one of the plants that captured her attention most was clematis.  She began to study the plant and learned that there were varieties to be found on the tundra and in our woodlands.   After hearing about Brother Stefan Franczak

Lyndy made a trip to Poland to meet Brother Stefan and to study some of his developed varieties.  Over the years Lyndy has become an international expert on clematis and has more that 200 varieties in her garden in Stockbridge, Georgia.  Most recently, she was a contributing author for a new book by Dr. Allen Armitage on vines and climbers.

At Lyndy's you quickly learn that this beautiful vine can be tucked in with so many other plants to create a multitude of unexpected blossoms.  She will often tell you that she plants a clematis with, and at the same time as another tree or plant with the intention of additional blooms.  The thought is that if the plant has bloomed, you can get a second showing with a clematis added to the planting.

A few years ago we moved and in planning our move, I rooted and dug up many of my plants in order to be able to take some of my favorite ones with me.  Unfortunately only six of my clematis survived the process but that gives me an excuse to buy more!  Just in case you are looking for a place to shop for clematis besides your local  nursery, check out Donahue's Greenhouse.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Time For A Change

Up till now I've had my dining room table set for spring but with all the hydrangeas starting to bloom I think it's time for a change.   The room looks really happy with lots of yellow, orange and green. 

It may be hard to see but the egg cup is resting on a flower plate..  


I was especially happy when I found these lollypops that looked like spring candies. 

These linen napkin ties are one of my favorite things.

Today is our neighborhood cleanup so I'll be headed out to work on neighborhood projects but when I get home, it will be time for a change.  

Have a great day!

P.S.  We had great fun at the neighborhood clean up.  Here's our team:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


I won!!! Yes,  I entered and won the giveaway on Penny's blog The Comforts of Home!  Penny is mailing me a copy of the Pierre Deux French Country Decorating Book.  This is so exciting!  I haven't ever won a prize in blog world and this morning I got up thinking about Penny's wonderful giveaway.  Just a few hours later Penny sent me an email saying that I'd won the book and nothing beats a great book.   Thank you so much Penny.  Just in case you've never visited Penny's pages, let me tell you about her.  She is an amazing mosaic artist and she lovingly creates beautiful, romantic home decor items.  She also decorates, gardens and connects with other bloggers.  If you haven't had a chance to meet her you should stop by and visit her at The Comforts of Home or Lavender Hill.
Thank you Penny!!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Selecting a House Color

We have a colorful neighborhood and one of the reasons for all of the color is our neighborhood.  As the neighborhood was being built, the neighborhood required the builders to vary the colors.  They worked with the local paint store to put together a palette of arts & crafts colors to help make color selections easier for the homeowners.

To help me make my selections my husband and spent a lot of time driving through neighborhoods in the Atlanta area.  I settled on a blue/grey color with white trim, and just next to me is a green house trimmed with beige.  On the other side of the green house is one that is barn red.  My other next door neighbor is going to paint her house and she's selected a yellow ochre color.  She and her husband actually tested several shades on large areas of her siding to be sure they achieved the desired colors. My neighbor is from Sicily and she was trying to capture the color of an Italian villa.

It is so difficult to select the right color and it can be costly if you make a bad selection but the one thing that helped me was to be able to see houses that featured the color combinations I was considering. It is so much easier to visualize the final product when you have the chance to actually see color on a large scale.  The paint store is a great resource too and they can offer lots of tips, such as select three colors to help create interest.  I had a really hard time with this advice and opted instead for two colors with stained wood serving as the accent color. One of the things I learned not to do is to ask the advice of your neighbors.  Our Italian neighbor who tested colors on her house first made the mistake of asking a few neighbors their opinions and a few of the comments hurt her feelings.  Luckily she followed her own judgment and the house is turned out beautiful.

I hope you will take a few minutes to get inspired and see some of the color that has been used in my neighborhood.

Shades of blue

and yellow 

and purple,

beige and even orange!  Shades of green and brown are really popular too. 

One of the houses near me just sold and I'm really excited.  The new owner to be said he's thinking of painted his house a dark purple with gray and white trim.  It sounded luscious to me.  

My first blog stop in the morning is typically Marie Arden Pink Living  and it started me thinking.  The one color missing from our neighborhood color palette is


Saturday, May 15, 2010

What Do You Listen to On Saturday Mornings?

A couple of years ago I bought myself a small under-counter dvd/cd/tv/radio combo for my kitchen and it is one of my favorite things!  On Saturdays I love to get up and put on some of my favorite easy listening music.  Here are some of my favorites.

Blossom Dearie 
Astrud Gilberto

Rosemary Clooney


Some of my other all-time favorites are Deano (Dean Martin is my dream man),  Henry Mancini, Brazilian music (I have a collection of cds so the music plays for hours), and a number of the Putumayo Presents French cds.   We used to have an incredible international records store at Peachtree Center in Atlanta.  It was so much fun to go in and visit with the owner.  He really knew his music.  Sometimes on Fridays when I was having a bad day I would hop the train at lunch headed for the shop in search of a Friday mood adjustment.  When I would get to the shop I tell the owner what kind of mood I was in and he would always say he knew just the sound I was looking for, then hand me something new to listen to.  He got me hooked on listening to lots of things that are no longer heard on the radio, but well worth hearing. Trapped in a time warp....hmmm, maybe.

Have you ever listened to the soundtrack from Woman on Top?  I loved the movie and the music makes me happy. 

And I almost forgot BASIA!  The beautiful Polish singer/songwriter who performs with her sister!  I love that, as my sister and I still sing together.  At Basia's last Atlanta performance my sister and I went and had the pleasure of meeting and sitting with former CNN news anchor, Mile O'Brian and his lovely wife.   Anyway, my sister and I kept whispering through the show how the backup singer's voice sounded so similar to Basia's and she looked a bit like her too.  Before the night was over, she introduced her band - and her sister!  How cool is that!

Happy Saturday! What are you listening to today?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Ladies In Lavender

 Have you seen the movie?  It was filmed in Cornwall?   Just in case you want a taste of Cornwall, you might like watching Ladies in Lavender,  or perhaps you saw the Shell Seekers  or read the book.  It also takes place in Cornwall.   In high school I loved reading Victoria Holt books (my maiden name is Holt so I was certain it was written by one of my relatives!).  I was totally captivated by Bride of Pendorric and the mystique of the tide and fog in Cornwall.  Equally interesting and worth contemplating has always been the Merry Maidens and don't forget the pasty!

My dad's family came to the U.S. from the U.K. and after a brief stay in Boston his great, great, great, great, grandfather settled in York, Maine where he married and started his family.  As he grew older he eventually returned to Land's End, Cornwall and remained until his death.   His children grew up and one of his children's, children, eventually settled in Tennessee and this is the beginning of my family as I know it.  

Still, Cornwall will always be a place where I feel strong connection. 

It reminds me of the riddle we had to memorize in third grade...As I was going to St. Ives, I met a man with seven  wives. . . .

Monday, May 10, 2010

Favorite Memory of a Scene

Every now and again there are a few very special scenes that replay in my mind at unexpected moments.   Most of the time these aren't scenes or places where I've managed to take a picture.  In fact, quite the contrary.  These are usually places when I have been overwhelmed or totally captivated by the moment and the thought of getting my camera doesn't cross my mind.

One of these very special memories took place thirteen years ago.  My husband and I traveled to the U.K. to visit my brother-in-law who had been recently engaged to a British woman.  He was living and working in London but his wife-to-be was living in Marazion, Cornwall.  So on a Friday afternoon, in ridiculous traffic, we set out for the Cornish coast.  I have to be honest with you.  Growing up, I read way too many love stories set in Cornwall so I was simply beside myself to be going for a long weekend visit.  Because traffic was so bad just getting out of the city, our drive took far longer than it should have and admittedly, I fell asleep along the way.

My brother-in-law woke me up saying that I needed to be wide awake for what I was about to see.  As I woke up I could see a full moon in the sky.  It was the kind of moon that turns everything a deep, beautiful midnight blue.  As we rounded a corner I saw the sea reflecting the moonlight and then rising up out of the water was St. Michael's Mount.  Honestly it is impossible to share with you the memory of that moment but I can share with you some of my souvenir stones.  I loved the rocky coastline, so much so that I brought home a dozen rocks! 
Do you have a favorite memory of such a beautiful scene?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Big Surprise on Mother's Day

For those of you reading in the U.S., I hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day.  I'm blessed that my kids do a really great job in making me feel special year-round.

Unexpectedly, I had a big Mother's Day surprise.  If you have read my blog over the past couple of years you may recall that my husband and I sponsored a young girl from Liberia who is seeking asylum in the U.S.  She has no living relatives and when she was first released from detention (if you arrive in the U.S. with documents that are out of order, you sit in jail), she came to live with us.  Prior to coming to America, she had been living in a refugee camp for several years, then housed in jail here in the U.S. for 4 1/2 months prior to being released into our custody.  She is now trying make a life in California.

Today just before lunch a delivery man arrived with a package for "mom."  It was two dozen roses from my Liberian daughter.
Then a short while later my Liberian daughter called to say she was on her way to visit.  Yes, she is here in Atlanta for a visit!!!  It was such a wonderful surprise to see that she is doing well, happy and finishing school.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Think About This As We Approach Mother's Day

One of my girlfriends who grew up in a home that took in foster children sent me this today.  It really does tug at my heart.

While millions of children across the country celebrate a heart-warming holiday with their moms, 123,000+ children are waiting in U.S. foster care for a permanent and loving family to call their own.  These children have been abused, neglected or abandoned, taken from their home and are now without a mother, a father...a family.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


I love potatoes so you can imagine how delighted I was on our recent trip to Germany to learn that one of the villages we visited had a restaurant in Rothenberg ob der Tauber that had nothing but potatoes on the menu.  I know what your thinking.  That is was just a potato bar or a mashed potato bar, but it wasn't!  Everything on the menu was a unique potato dish so we decided to order different dishes to that we could taste different things.  Here are just a few examples from the menu of Roedertor.  

A Diner and His Potato

1) Potato Pizza.  Just imagine a delicious thin crust with cheese, onions, tomatoes and cubed potatoes.

2) Cordon Blue Sandwich.  This was INCREDIBLE!  The "bread" was actually mashed potatoes and in between the two layers of potatoes were the cheese and ham.   It looked as if the potatoes were put in both sides of an omelet pan and topped with cheese and ham.  Then toasted to a golden brown.  YUM!

3) Potatoes and salmon.  Okay, can't complain about smoked salmon and crispy hash browns with sour cream and capers.  It didn't have an amazing presentation but it was yummy.

4) Potato spinach souffle.  On the menu there was a long list of souffle options but we selected the spinach and it was delicious.

The menu was so creative and it made me think about hosting a potato party.  BTW-have you ever had Potato Candy?  It's one of my childhood favorites! 

I didn't take food pictures (my pictures of food are generally unappetizing), but I did take some pictures in the restaurant.  Not only is the food great, it's adorable inside the restaurant.

Well, I'm off to make some hash browns!