Taste of France

Without question, my favorite evenings out are those spent with friends catching up, sharing stories, laughing. A real bonus is when the time together includes enjoying a meal at home where it is quieter, the atmosphere is more relaxed and there’s no rush to get up so someone else can have your spot.

tablescapeThis evening at a friend’s was especially wonderful. It was delightful to be outside beneath clear sky and with a breeze from the bay enjoying a lovely sampling of French cheeses and tapenade. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe hors d’oeuvres were not the only clue to the French inspired dinner that was to come.

tablescape

Any meal served on this delightful table was going to be a real treat.

tablescape

I loved the layers of cloth,

flowersand the flowers, hinting of the coming of fall.  They were perfect complements to the colors and textures on the table.

tablescapeThe place settings were a potpourri of color and pattern, each a reminder of the warmth of Provence.  The mercury glass candle holders added a touch of sparkle

tablescapethat when lit cast a soft glow over the table.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI couldn’t resist sneaking a peek in the kitchen to find out what were the tantalizing aromas.  Bouillabaisse was bubbling on the stove, and it was just the kind I like, full of shrimp and shellfish.

cevicheThat by itself would have been enough to satisfy any of us, but the meal began with a delightful mango/shrimp ceviche.  This was a new combination for me, and I loved the subtle sweetness of the mango.  That is a recipe I’m going to have to get to share with you.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe bouillabaisse was just as good as it smelled, and for a bit conversation around the table stopped, and all you could hear were moans of pleasure, a sure sign of a successful meal.

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Needless to say, our hosts got rave reviews for their culinary skills and for the gift of a very special evening that included having to come in our best interpretation of French attire.  Would you believe the hubby, he who grumbles about anything having to do with costume, won prize for the best?  Go figure!

Tell me, what is your favorite way to spend time with friends?

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Joining

Tablescape Thursday

Share Your Cup Thursday

Show and Tell Friday

Anything Blue Friday

Plates, Plates and More Plates

platesThere’s nothing new about using plates as wall decor whether hung simply

platesor in interesting arrangement.

platesThey add color

platesand touches of whimsy.

tablescape/platesSo, having seen the many creative ways plates can add interest, they seemed a good way to fill a blank wall.  The result sometimes shows up as background in one of my posted tablescapes, and many of you have asked how it was done.  Well, here’s the story.

platesIt started with a couple of oyster plates and an artichoke plate, not quite enough for a wall, so off to Marshall’s for inspiration.  What caught my eye were the shapes and textures of white, not what I had been thinking of at all.  Selecting plates to add to the three I had became a fun creative exercise and a very inexpensive one!

At home came the hard part, deciding how to hang them.  I arranged the plates by size and texture on the floor. Looking down at them, my first thought was there was too little dimension.    Yes, I do like dimension, so the question became how to have some overlapping layers.

plates Long nails from the hardware store provided the answer.  I have to tell you though, I made a few extra holes in the wall before I figured out that the bottom nail had to hit exactly the right spot, inside the rim, on the back of the plate.  Fortunately, a little putty and paint repaired the damage that likely would have been avoided had my engineer hubby been around during the hanging!  While the paint was out, I also painted the nails to make them less conspicuous.

platesThough I started the project with a template, a fixed plan didn’t last long as each plate began to define its own place.  The one in the middle went up first and from there the arrangement took on a life of its own.  The finished result is unexpectedly sculptural which makes it all the more interesting.

So, there you have it, the story of the plate wall.  No special skills are required, just a little playful imagination and a few long nails.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Joining

Make It Pretty Monday

Metamorphosis Monday

From Dream to Reality

Wow Us Wednesday

Rooted in Hope

Rosie and Opal

Rosie and Opal

Two brothers shared a passion for elephants that began when, as young men, they joined a circus. There they became attached to Rosie and Opal, Asian elephants now more than 40 years old, retired from the circus and in need of special care.

Several years ago the brothers began dreaming about bringing the two to Hope, Maine. Some people thought they were crazy to think of having Rosie and Opal in such an unnatural climate and environment, but persevere did the brothers and their dream became a reality.

Hope ElephantsHope Elephants has become a popular destination for visitors to Maine’s midcoast as well as an educational opportunity for school children throughout Maine.

Hope ElephantsThe facility not only provided a unique and caring environment for Rosie and Opal, it introduced children and adults  to the habits of these marvelous animals and increased awareness of their threatened plight and the importance of protecting wildlife.

Hope ElephantsFor three years, Rosie and Opal have been lovingly tended by one of the brothers whose veterinary skills vastly improved their quality of life. His commitment and dedication to Hope Elephants won admiration from people not only in the local community but throughout the world. Just this week a National Geographic reporter was in Hope to prepare a feature.

The story of Hope Elephants has in the last few days been tragically interrupted. Dr. Jim Laurita fell, hitting his head on a concrete floor. No one was there to witness the accident or what happened next, but this is what we hope is true.

Elephants have a tendency to use their trunks and feet to help an injured herd member. Seeing her loved caregiver down, one of the elephants tried to raise him, planting her foot on his chest and crushing it, causing death by asphyxiation.    Dr. Jim’s death has been ruled accidental, but that doesn’t lessen the impact of this incredibly sad incident.

Because currently there is no backup care for Rosie and Opal, they must be returned, as requested by Dr. Laurita should anything happen to him, to a facility in Oklahoma that cares for retired and aging elephants. They will be missed, but the passionate kindness of Dr. Jim Laurita will long be remembered.  It is hoped that one day Rosie and Opal or other elephants who need the special kind of care given at Hope Elephants will return.

Should any of you reading this post be touched by this story and wish to learn about a foundation established to honor Dr. Laurita and continue his work, you may learn more here.

i so appreciate your taking time to read this story

Challenged!

Rarely do I have a problem putting a table together, but this one was hard, I mean really hard.  The challenge began with wanting to use a lace table topper given me by one of our exchange students.  It is white and not big enough to be manipulated in the same way as runners or cloths.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs you can see, things didn’t get off to a very good start.  Is this boring or what?

tablescapeDefinitely some tweaking is required.  Turning pieces upside down, rearranging them and adding some candles helped.  Now there is some dimension and texture starting to happen.

tablescapeWhen it came time to select dishes for the table, I decided to stay with a neutral (hard for me) palette and chose these hobnail edged plates, yet another of many purchases from TJ Maxx.

tablescapeSurveying the developing look, I couldn’t do it, that is stay colorless, so I added touches of color with  multi patterned napkins, floral for gals

tablescapeand animal print for the guys.

tablescapeAt the last minute, a flower  or herb stem was tucked into each napkin.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASpeaking of flowers, they were another way to add a little color to the table, so the cake stand pear was replaced with a lovely pitcher of subtle hued fall blooms.

tablescapeNow things are beginning to come together, and a touch more color is sneaked in with the addition of the goblets.

tablescapeStanding back and taking a look, I think OK, this is kinda me, but the getting there wasn’t easy.

tablescapeI have to tell you if it took me this long to set every table, there would be fewer of them!  Isn’t it amazing how some things can be such a challenge?

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Joining

Tablescape Thursday

Country Fairs=Simple Pleasure

country fairFrom mid August to mid September, it seems that every small town in Maine has a country fair.  Experiencing them has been quite a new adventure for me, one that has been so much fun.

country faircountry faircountry faircountry fairThe food section is filled with tantalizing smells that let us know right away we’ll be eating our way through the midway.  You just can’t beat fried clams or fish ‘n chips at a country fair, and there’s homemade ice cream, strawberry shortcake and apple crisp to boot.  There’s plenty of junk food, too, but I try not to see it!

country fairFood and produce exhibits are loaded with homegrown and homemade items, and it seems that everyone who enters gets a ribbon of some kind.  

country fairIn the case of foodstuffs, giving awards may be a little easier than sampling.

chickenchickenchickenchickenGoing through the animal barns is entering a whole new world for this city gal.  There are species there I have never seen before, especially of the two legged variety. Wonder if my farmgirl daughter has any of these chicks.

country fairThe four legged critters take everything in stride and are nonplussed by curious onlookers who want to take their picture.

country fairOccasionally, one will even strike a pose!

country fairFor 4H and FFA kids, these fairs are opportunity to show their animals and, perhaps, pick up a cash award.  Judging from the grooming efforts, the competition is taken very seriously.

country fairThere are all kinds of other competions from horse pulls

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAto calf roping, a really fun event to watch and one that gals do really well.

country faircountry faircountry faircountry fairTo my amazement, the Union Fair had a circus that was a real family affair. Talk about a variety of acts, there was everything from magic to acrobatics to juggling to walking on swords and swallowing fire.  

country fairFor me, the highlight of the fairs is harness racing.  From what I’m told, a successful driver can make a tidy sum during the fair season.  He won’t benefit from my money, however, cause my bets are pretend, and it’s a good thing because I’m not very good at picking winners.

Who would guess that Maine has introduced me to so many new things?  Here, life is enjoying simple pleasures.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Buck’s Harbor: A Favorite Destination

MaizyOn a lazy, hazy day Maizy is ready for a little cruise, so off we go to Buck’s Harbor, a peaceful and protected cove perfect for an overnight stay.

Pond Island

Pond Island

The getting there is one of the most beautiful passages on Penobscot Bay.    Cruising along , we pass islands with the most descriptive names: Pond, Butter, Eagle, Horsehead, Beach, Deer.  Each has its own character, and several are among my favorites to explore.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs we near Buck’s Harbor, way in the distance is the new bridge that separates the mainland from Deer Isle.  Perhaps this is Maine’s version of the Golden Gate.

Buck's HarborA little closer, sitting on a rocky island, is a single dwelling that once housed a lighthouse keeper.  Like most other lighthouses in Maine, it is no longer in operation.  Still, I love thinking of them as guardians of the sea.

Buck's HarborBuck's HarborBuck's HarborBuck's HarborEntering Buck’s Harbor, we find we are not the only ones who think this a great spot.  Thunderstorms are forecast for later tonight, but all will be safe as the harbor is protected on all sides by land.  If you look at the differences in the sky, you can see those storm clouds brewing.

Linda  058Like many places in Maine, Buck’s Harbor has an interesting history.  It is the setting for many of Robert McCloskey’s  children’s books including Blueberries for Sal, Time of Wonder and One Morning in Maine.

Buck's HarborIt is home to the Buck’s Harbor Yacht Club, built around 1912 and the third oldest yacht club in Maine.  Interestingly, its  burgee was the first private flag to be carried through the Panama Canal.

Buck's HarborAside from the yacht club, there’s not a whole lot in the town closest to the harbor, but what there is is quintessential Maine. There’s a real throwback general store where the motto is “We want to be the best little market in Maine”.  I can’t tell you whether or not it’s made it, but I can tell you it has some really good homemade cookies!

Buck's HarborShould the boat need stocking, there are also some good eats there.

Buck's HarborThere is a sweet little Methodist church  which is why spending Saturday night here is a must.   Dogs area allowed to attend Sunday morning service, so  Maizy can go, too.  I don’t know what it is about that church, but it feels so very right.

Buck's HarborWe managed to get ashore before the rains came, but when they came it was a downpour with lots of thunder and lightning.  The storm lasted more than 2 hours which meant a very leisurely dinner at Buck’s, not a bad deal at all.

Buck's HarborI hope you’ve enjoyed this little visit to Buck’s Harbor.  It’s a simple place where one can be surrounded by the beauty of nature and the charm of a very unspoiled Maine town.    As the sky clears and stars pop out one by one illuminating the sky with sparkling diamonds, it seems the perfect place to be. 

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Hanging On

Linda  054 (1)Some may think summer is over, but as long as there is blooming color, I’m hanging on!

tablescapeLittle sprinkler cans are among my favorite things, and they are perfect for creating a colorful centerpiece.

tablescapeWhat’s great about using them for flowers is it doesn’t take much  talent to arrange something attractive.  Here, the cans are filled with colorful blooms and spread atop interlaced table runners that are substituting for placemats.

tablescapeFor a little added texture are burlap wrapped glasses from the Dollar Store that I wrapped with a strip of burlap. Sometimes they are vases, but this time around they serve as holders for candles that tonight will cast a soft glow over the table.

tablescapeTaking a cue from the flowers made it easy to select these plates, another of my collection of finds from TJ Maxx.

tablescapeThere is just enough inky blue on the plate to make these thumbprint stems a perfect complement.  When I bought these as an antique store several years ago, I never dreamed they would work with so many things. What a wonderful find!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANo napkin folds this time as napkins are tucked into pewter rings.  For years, I yearned for the real thing, but the prices for silver ones is dear, so these are a great substitute.  Each one is different and on this garden themed table, they look like they could be meandering among the flowers.

tablescapeAdd coral and green salad plates, and this table is done with little fuss.  You know, it doesn’t take much to create a warm and welcoming table in a style that best suits you.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Joining

Tablescape Thursday

Birthday Thoughts

Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!

Dr. Seuss

Linda  042Today is my birthday, and I am me with a head filled with thoughts and memories.  It always surprises me when someone talks about liking birthdays and celebrating them for days on end.  That has never been the case for me.  In fact, I don’t recall many birthdays that were very much different from any other day.

As a kid, there was one birthday party when I was 10.  It was a small gathering of school friends, and I remember every face in the group and most of the presents I received.   I still have a couple of them, and they are special treasures.   I’m thinking that was also the only time I had a birthday cake which is OK because I’m not a big cake fan. 

Turning 16, 18, 21……Those birthdays are barely blips on my screen of life.  I was thrilled  to get my driver’s license at 16, but 18 and 21 coincided with returning to college away from anyone who might remember or know it was my birthday.  With no one making the day special, it didn’t seem so to me either.

During the early years of marriage, the hubby would acknowledge my birthday with a  a roughly drawn sketch of a rose with the message to multiply by 12!  Those were the best bouquets ever as well as the only ones we could afford.  

birthdayLater, there were children.  Thanks to their youthful enthusiasm, wet kisses and hand made cards, birthdays became a bit more meaningful.

The most memorable birthday may well be my 40th.  The hubby and I were scheduled to have a nice dinner at one of Houston’s better restaurants with another couple.  We were all dressed up, but instead of arriving at the scheduled place, our friends delivered me to a crawfish and beer joint where excited voices yelled SURPRISE.  What a surprise it was, even to the hubby.  There I was in the midst of jeans and boots in my very cute ruffled red cocktail dress having the time of my life.  We finished the evening by going to a bar-b-que joint where we danced  the Texas two step to the strains of a county/western band.  That was quite a night and one of the few times in my life I have been caught totally unaware.

Ten years later, I wasn’t too excited about being 50 and I threatened anyone who suggested doing something special for my birthday.  On the day, no one mentioned birthday and I went with friends to an outlet mall about 2 hours from Houston.  When we returned that evening, the house was crowded with people, all of whom were there having a good time and celebrating an unbirthday.  No one wished me a happy anything, and the hubby got high marks for throwing this party!

Since then birthdays come and go with each one reminding me that I have less time in front of me than behind.  Seldom am I with family other than the hubby, but birthdays are made special by warm wishes and many kindnesses from treasured friends who make each one a held tight memory.  For that I am grateful as it makes the slate seem less empty.

Well, these are my thoughts on my birth day, and I’m curious about yours.  How do you celebrate?  Does the celebration last a week, a year?  What makes it special?

i so appreciate your visit and the thoughts you leave behind