Monday, May 21, 2007

Purples of Spring

There is purple all over the yard. The chives are in their puffy brilliance. Purple irises - we call them "flags" - are doing their thing in the background.

The Lilacs have just about faded along with the graceful wisteria, but as I was getting dressed this morning, I looked out the window to see this gorgeous clematis blooming on the hill behind the house.

My husband got a number of them at an end of year sale and just planted them here and there at the base of trees scattered along the hill.

They are getting to a size that they are really becoming beautiful - and what a lovely surprise.

Above the stone wall at the back of the patio, the columbines have returned this year. We were afraid we had lost them, but apparently they were just taking a short break last year.

They are planted in the shade and the dark purple one was in such deep shade that the flash went off on the camera as I snapped the picture. It looks so much more dramatic this way!

So many of the flowers of spring are shades of purple, but they will be making way for all the bright yellows and pinks of summer. The dependable marigolds, bright cosmos, 4 o'clocks and day lilies will all outshine them in brilliance, but spring flowers are the first, the ones that remind us that summer is really coming. The royal purples lead the way.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

New Stuff

In April, I was registered for a class with Jen Geldard, the glass artist I most want to take a class with. I learned, just before the day of the class, that it had been canceled and I was heartbroken.

The bright spot of the situation was that I found myself with some extra "glass money" and decided that if I couldn't "sit at the feet of the master" I could at least try to improve my control by purchasing some things I thought might help.

This is my new torching set up. The "wings" coming out from the desk and the little bicycle handbars sticking up from it are part of a piece of equipment called a "Creation Station". It gives me a firm support for my elbows and a place to brace my wrists while working. Sometimes it's very hard to have a steady hand while placing ornamentation on beads, so this should help.

The pinky-purple rectangle in the center of the picture is a didymium shield. Didymium protects the eyes of the glass worker and also filters out the bright sodium flare that results from the glass being placed in the flame so we can see the actual bead instead of the flare. Until now, I have worn didymium goggles over my glasses which were bulky and annoying. With the shield, I only need to wear my glasses and now, when I look away from the flame to find a specific color of glass, I can actually see the color.

I've only worked with this set up twice now and although I find it more comfortable, I'm not sure the quality of my beads has shown much improvement yet.

I was inspired by this peacock feather (which happened to be hanging in my laundry room) to try to make some peacock beads.

The round on on the left was the first try and I think that one "got" the colors better than the later ones. Now to work on a set...

On another note, Tina & I taught an online class a couple of weeks ago on balms and salves.

As a result, I was inspired to make these two new products. The bug off stick is a solid "lotion bar" containing lots of bug repelling essential oils. It actually smells pretty good (there's some rose geranium in there) - and no dangerous chemicals.

The Extra Essential lip balm is something we used to make for the shop, but now it's repackaged and spiffed up for resale. Don't you love the little hooky thing on the top? How handy is that for hanging wherever? It's another one that is just full of good things.

The original formula for the eo blend is from an oil we put together for someone who was feeling a fever blister starting on her lip. She applied it and the fever blister (cold sore) never developed.

Our Mom loved that lip balm and swore by it, so making it so close to Mothers' Day is particularly appropriate.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Landis Valley

We love this herb fair for the friendships we have made over the years and the opportunity to reconnect with old friends and to meet new ones. It isn't bad sales-wise, either!

I apologize for the lousy picture of our set up at Landis Valley, and as it turns out, we changed it all around anyway, but this was the only one I had time to take and I just hate to post without a picture!You can see the soaps at the left end of the table, then my jewelry display and finally, Tina's books/magazines. We wound up straightening the two tables (and the tablecloths!) into one long display which worked, oh, so much better.

On the left of the picture, the wooden stars are made by Fred Will, Barb and Fred are from Sugar Grove Herbs in Somerset, PA. Apparently, in their area, barns are/were decorated with these stars rather than the hex signs we have here and Fred has been recreating them. Fred was our "tent husband", running for food, helping with the heavy work, putting up and taking down the tent sides... just an all around nice guy.

The weather was beautiful both Friday and Saturday and herb lovers came out in droves. Friday is traditionally the day everyone vies for the best selection of plants, while Saturday is when the rest of the folks come to get a gander at and buy all the other herbal goodies.

Speaking of other herbal goodies, the plate set to the left was my personal purchase at the Fair. It is a 10 inch square plate and half round side dishes made by Sharon Magee from Waynesboro, PA. She presses the live plants into the green clay and then fires it with underglazes to bring out the original colors of the herbs.

I had seen one of her plates at Sarah's house in Baton Rouge and was thrilled to find that she was an artist from our own backyard! Now I can hardly wait to use these and have to find the perfect place to display them between uses.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Well, I have to post a quick entry about the past couple of days....

We flew to Baton Rouge, LA to present a program at White Oak Plantation. First picture is the two of us standing in the Jasmine Gazebo. Fragrant? Oh yes.

We really enjoyed everything about the trip. We saw new varieties of plants which don't grow here and sampled many of the local specialties - food wise.

The afternoon that we arrived there, we went to a place called Dempsey's where I enjoyed a corn and shrimp chowder along with an oyster Po'Boy sandwich. Delish!

Then we headed out to the Plantation to take a quick look around so that we would be somewhat familiar with the place the next day when we were hoping to share a bit of knowledge during the garden walk after our first presentation.

This beautiful brick breezeway was such a study in arches and repetitive shapes, the art major in me had to snap a picture.

The fountain courtyard was just one of the many gorgeous sights that awaited us. The huge terra cotta jardiniere that served as the fountain was much more impressive than it appears in this picture.

I'm sure Tina will share a number of her own pictures and perhaps others of mine will find their way here.

After a long walk where we saw things such as climbing fern vines which are apparently a nuisance there, but would just knock us out here at home where we are enthralled with ferns and they die back each year!

We also saw crawfish burrows... wild looking things that look a lot like small versions of African ant hills. Oh, and fire ant hills - something else we don't have here, but that one can stay away.

In the evening, Sarah put together a lovely feast for the three of us including a crab caserole - the recipe was included in one of her books she gave us (Yay!) , a sort of this and that salad that we will definitely be "throwing together" which included small cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, an assortment of chopped herbs, green tomato relish and a bit of Chef John Folse's Olive oil and his very special aged balsamic vinegar.

She finished it off with some lovely fig cakes baked into rose shapes. We added a bit of vanilla iced cream and some fig sauce for a very special treat - sort of gilding the lily.

This was all followed by a fabulous luncheon on Weds. at the plantation and the night before we left, we "had" to experience a crawfish boil along with a few other specialties of the area.... we certainly ate well and our presentation went well. Apparently we still have the knack of getting our info across with a sense of humor and we were happy to again have that validated.

Here, you can see Tina explaining something about the lemon balm plant on the table while the still is set up in front of her, perking away.

All in all, it was a great trip with wonderful hosts and a lovely group of attendees! We would love to return to Louisiana again one day.

Monday, May 07, 2007


The glories of Spring continue to inspire and amaze me. How many times will I live through this and yet, it is always a surprise...

The pond is always beautiful, but especially in the spring when the dogwoods are in bloom.

A couple of years ago, they were suffering from some kind of blight and we were afraid we were going to lose them. Bob found the right spray to use that brought them back with no ill effects.

They are better than ever now.

On the patio. The later blooming tulips are beginning their show. These light pink ones are so delicate - especially next to the rough trunks of the trumpet vines that cover our pergola and the brick of the patio.

It is so pleasant to be able to sit outside in the morning and drink a cup of coffee, listen to the birds and just see everything springing to life around us.

I'm hoping something - surely something(!) - will inspire me to create something new in the bead part of my life.

Tina and I are heading to Baton Rouge tomorrow to present a program on uses of Lemon Balm at a day at White Oak Plantation. She's bringing her still to make a hydrosol of Lemon Balm and I'm bringing my jewelry along with some Lemon Balm soap we made up especially for the event.

I hear we are going to be feasting on that Loo'siana cuisine and we are looking forward to the change of scene. Craw Daddy's - hmmm. I'm so weird about food, guess I'll just think of them as tiny lobsters!

Thursday evening, we return home and expect to pull ourselves together enough to vend at the Landis Valley Herb Fair. We've been participants there almost since the beginning, so we see a lot of old friends and look forward to it every year. Everything is already packed up to go, so it should be no problem (where have I heard that before?!)

One last shot of the bleeding heart in the back yard. We have three plants that were put in when we moved here - 21 years ago. Each year they get bigger and spread out a little more.

This plant always brings back childhood memories of living at our grandparents' house with bleeding heart out back.

Our grandmother told a story as she took the blooms apart.

The outside pink petals were Cinderella's gown. Her earrings and dancing slippers were inside and the very last thing is the bottle of champagne that Cinderella and her prince sipped before midnight.

I've never been to Louisiana, so I'm looking forward to it. See y'all on Thursday or so with some pix of Baton Rouge and if it's later - there will be pix of Landis Valley too.