Two Inspiring Hearts !

“I believe in the hands that work, in the brains that think, and in the hearts that love…I believe in sunshine,  fresh air,  friendship, calm sleep, beautiful thoughts.” – Elizabeth Hubbard

Have you met Ben and Erin Napier?  Oh my gosh, I do hope so.  They are a lovely and delightful young couple, who host the HGTV show, “Home Town.”  Along with being lovely and delightful, they are both extremely talented.  And they share their gifts with us every Monday evening, so by chance if you haven’t met them, be sure to tune in.  I believe you will be happy you did.

Perhaps you are wondering, “Why is she writing a post about this show?” There are many reasons.  But the first is:  These young people are working desperately hard to restore and revitalize their charming home town of Laurel, Mississippi.  Laurel, Mississippi is the key here.  You see, Laurel, as the crow flies, is roughly 24 miles from Collins, Mississippi. Collins is where my mom was from and where I spent my childhood summers with my grandmother.  My grandmother had a sister (Aunt Tommy) who lived in Laurel and at that point in time, it was also home to a little restaurant known for their shrimp po’ boy sandwiches (an explanation of a po’ boy and a recipe are at the end of this post).  So needless to say, I have been to Laurel, Mississippi many times.

Laurel, Mississippi, much like many small Mississippi towns, is a beautiful little spot on this earth.  The one thing I remember most are the trees, and of course the hydrangeas.  But the trees in Collins and in Laurel are huge and old.  They form canapes over the wide streets.

I have such wonderful memories of being on my bicycle on a summer morning, riding along under the shade of those magnificent trees, enjoying the damp coolness, the smell of the gardenias and admiring the beauty of the heavenly blue hydrangeas.  That was too many moons ago, but to this day, I still remember the beauty and the smell of those gardenias.

Laurel, Mississippi is no different from many small towns all across our country.  Laurel was a mill town, lumber and cotton.  When the mills closed, Laurel fell on hard times. However, Ben and Erin are working hard to revitalize their dear town.  And for those of us who may be living in a small towns with similar issues, we should sit up and take notice.  Many small towns have been “loved back to life.”  It takes people and community leaders with a vision.  People just like Ben and Erin. 

On their show, “Home Town,” you will watch them restore old homes in Laurel.  Here is where they receive my highest possible award.  They restore, they don’t destroy.  They do all they can to save the integrity and character of a home.  Including the basic floor plan, flooring, mill work, cabinets, walls and windows.  Truly, they have a complete understanding of the word restore,  an educated knowledge of architectural periods, and style of homes.  And they well know the history of their immediate area and state.  All their knowledge and work is further enhanced by their love of their “Home Town.”  Every bit of this, along with the fact they both ooze southern charm and hospitality, makes them remarkably special.

Additionally, Erin writes a blog, “The Daily Journal ~ Erin’s Journal,”  you will want to visit here.  Although, since she and Ben have just recently welcomed their precious Helen to the world, she is taking a little time away from her blog.  But she has promised to return, so do visit her.  The blog is as lovely as she is.  

In closing, for me, often it is something simple, a phrase or a pretty photo that will switch on my lights.  Therefore, inspiring me toward thoughts of improving our own home and community.  Such is the case with Erin’s words:  “Use the gift you have to make your place better wherever that place may be ~ get up and do it!”  I do love the simple truth of  ~ “get up and do it.”  Perhaps if  we all follow her words, we will improve our own home towns.  We all have gifts, we simply need to use them.

So, I hope you may have found a little inspiration to “get up and do” whatever it is you may be wanting to do or need to do.  If not, tune in on an episode or two of Home Town ~ Monday evenings, 9:00 EST/8:00 CST, you will be sure to find inspiration there.

 

Wishing you a most beautiful week!

 

Au Revoir,

Sandra

 

Don’t Miss:  Recipe for Shrimp Po’Boy, visit here.

 

Photos:  Pinterest and The Laurel Mercantile Co. Facebook page.

“loved back to life” ~ words of Erin Napier

Romance Is In The Air – Part 2

“Love is the master key that opens the gate of happiness.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

I hope you enjoyed Part I of “Romance Is In The Air,” (if you missed it ~ visit here).   While we can’t all enjoy a romantic Valentine’s Day evening and dinner in Ravello, Italy, we can create romance and cook up a little magic in our own homes.  My husband and I gave up fighting crowded restaurants on Valentine’s Day many years ago.  Because, to us, there is nothing romantic about being in such a situation. So, today I am sharing a wonderful and easy menu, complete with recipes.  A lovely dinner at home, truly what memories are made of.

“I think careful cooking is love, don’t you?  The loveliest thing you can cook for someone who’s close to you is about as nice a Valentine as you can give.” ~ Julia Child

Le Menu 

Filet of Beef au Poivre

Garden Salad – with Champagne Vinaigrette   

Crusty Bread

Choice of  Red Wine

Dessert ~ Chocolate Orange Mousse, with Whipped Cream

 

 

 

Recipes:

Filet of Beef au Poivre

Note:  This recipe serves 6.  However, I make the same amount of sauce for 2, and there is just a little left over. If you have sauce lovers, and are serving 6, I would double the sauce.

6 filets mignon, cut 1 1/4 inches thick

Kosher salt

Coarsley ground black pepper

3 1/2 Tbls. unsalted butter, divided

1 1/2 Tbls. olive oil

3/4 cup chopped shallots (3-4 shallots)

1 cup canned beef broth

1/2 cup good Cognac or brandy

Place the filets on a board and pat them dry with paper towels.   Sprinkle the filets with salt and then press the black pepper evenly on both sides.  Allow them to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.   Heat olive oil and 1 1/2 Tbls. butter in a large saute pan over medium- high heat until the butter almost smokes.  Place the steaks in the pan and lower the heat to medium.  Saute the steaks for 4 minutes on one side and then for 3 minutes on the other side, for medium rare.  Remove the steaks to a serving platter and cover tightly with aluminum foil.  Meanwhile, pour all but 1 Tbls. of fat from the saute pan.  Add the shallots and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes.  Add the beef broth and cook over high heat for 4-6 minutes, until reduced by half, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add the Cognac (I use brandy) and cook for 2 more minutes.  Off the heat, swirl in the remaining 2 Tbls. of butter and a 1/2 tsp. salt.  Serve the steaks hot with the sauce poured on top.  

Champagne Vinaigrette 

1/4 cup champagne vinegar ~ do not substitute

3/4 cup olive oil

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 heaping Tbls. honey

salt/pepper to taste

Whisk together vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, and honey.  Slowly whisk in olive oil until vinaigrette is emulsified.  Or as Julia says, “Beat it into submission.”

Wine Note:  Understand, I am certainly not a wine expert.  But, my recommendations are based on selections we have come to know and enjoy.  Therefore, I would recommend a good Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir.  Josh Cellars is a lovely California wine.

 

 

Chocolate is no ordinary food.  It is not something you can take or leave, something you like only moderately.  You don’t like chocolate.  You don’t even love chocolate.  Chocolate is something you have an affair with.” ~ Geneen Roth

Chocolate Orange Mousse

Note:  This can be made a day in advanceBe sure to place plastic wrap directly to the top of the mousse.  This will prevent hardening of the surface.

6 ounces good semisweet chocolate, chopped

2 ounces good bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1/4 cup orange liqueur – (recommended:  Grand Marnier)

1/4 cup water

1 tsp. good vanilla

1 tsp. orange zest

12 Tbls. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

8 extra-large eggs, at room temperature, separated

1/2 cup plus 2 Tbls. sugar

pinch of salt

1/2 cup cold heavy cream

Combine the 2 chocolates, orange liqueur, 1/4 cup water, vanilla in a heat-proof bowl.  Set it over a pan of simmering water just until the chocolate melts.  Cool completely to room temperature. Whisk in the orange zest and butter until combined.

Place the egg yolks and 1/2 cup of the sugar in a large bowl.  Beat on high for 4 minutes, or until very thick and pale yellow.  With mixer on low speed, add the chocolate mixture.

Place 1 cup of egg whites (discard the remaining whites), salt and 1 Tbls. of sugar in another large bowl. Beat on high speed until firm but not dry.  Whisk 1/4 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture; then fold in the rest carefully with a rubber spatula.

Using the same bowl, used for beating egg whites,beat heavy cream and remaining 1 Tbls. of sugar until firm.  Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture. Pour the mouse into individual serving dishes or 8-cup serving bowl and chill.   Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

“In case you ever foolishly forget; I am never not thinking of you.” ~ Virginia Woolf

It is my most sincere wish that you have enjoyed Part I and Part II of, “Romance Is In The Air.”  Hold close those you love, and savor all the moments.  je t’aime ! 

 

Should you need a little extra inspiration for the evening, visit here. 

 

Wishing you and yours a Happy Valentine’s Day !

remember ~

Red tulips are an overt declaration of love !

Au Revoir,

Sandra

 

Photos: Pinterest, Facebook

Steak and Chocolate recipes are from Ina Garten.  Vinaigrette is my creation.

Music, “Everybody Loves Somebody,” by Frank Sinatra on You Tube

 

 

 

Romance Is In The Air !

“ROMANCE is a celebration of the senses ~ a celebration of being Alive.” ~ Susan Branch

Many of you most likely realize by now, I am a hopeless romantic.  Clearly, anyone who collects peonies certainly must be.  Flowers truly speak the language of love.  Their beauty is captivating and romantic.

“A rose is a rose, but a peony is a friend forever.” ~ Unknown

“She was a real romantic she loved the moon and stars rain and thunder roses and poetry.  Anything alive. Anything with soul.” ~ N. R. Hart

Many years ago, sentiments were conveyed by one’s selection of flowers for a bouquet. Did you know that a bouquet of red tulips is an overt declaration of love?  Yes, it is.  Should you want to research this topic further, there are numerous books available on the language and meaning of flowers. Meanwhile, if you are looking for true love, be sure to keep a forget-me-not tucked in your locket.  Or, if you would like someone to know you are thinking of them, send them a bouquet of  zinnias. And in case you are obsessed with peonies like I am, the meaning of a peony is:  Good Life, Happy Marriage and Bashfulness.

Lovely and heartfelt words are, and always have been, marvelously romantic.  I do so love such words.  As a young woman,  living and working in Washington, D. C. I would attend poetry readings on the campus of The George Washington University on Saturday mornings.  To do so, I had to change buses three times.  But for me, it was worth every effort.

“Poetry, beauty, romance, love…are what we stay alive for.” ~ Walt Whitman

And when it comes to saying things beautifully and ever so romantic, the French are not to be out done.  Such as:  In French, you don’t say “I miss you.”  You say “tu me manques” which means ~ “you are missing from me.”  Doesn’t that make your heart pound a little harder?  It does mine.

 

“When he spoke, what tender words he used !  So softly, that like flakes of feathered snow, They melted as they fell.” ~ John Dryden

Romantics are known to add romance to their homes.  Among their favorite additions, may be a pretty dressing table.

“Prendre Le Temps.” ~ Take your time.

Or, tables covered with gorgeous linen falling to the floor.  Doesn’t lunch or dinner at such a table, with your special someone, speak romance?

Always, a little sparkle.   

Tassels and Trims.  

And, always and always – stunning blooms.   

Romantics are also drawn to lovely linens, and adore magnificent needlework.  Many of us have such an appreciation of how women of past generations have poured their desires for beauty into needle, thread, cloth and canvas.  And, this remains a great source of inspiration for women today, as many continue to create this delicate art. 

 

 

“Let us have a quiet hour.” ~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Beautiful rituals are also part of a romantic life.  Ah, the pleasures of the “quiet hour.”  Today, many or probably most, women do not have an hour each day to devote to quiet reflection.  But, we can certainly dream about it, and enjoy it when we can.  A cup of perfectly brewed tea in a pretty china cup,  can bring instant calm to a hectic day. 

 “Brew me a cup for a winter’s night.  For the wind howls loud and the fairies fight;  Spice it with love and stir it with care,  and I’ll toast our bright eyes, my sweetheart fair.”  ~ Minna Thomas Antrim

 

“Love is the flower you’ve got to let grow.”John Lennon

Of all the things I have mentioned today, I would say romantics enjoy the romance of daily life probably the most.  We treasure time spent with those we love during long lunches or dinners.  We absolutely adore real conversations, beautiful movies, wonderful books, magnificent gardens with luscious blooms, the wonders of nature,  laughter of children, bird song, and fluffy white clouds on blue skies.  

So, “My Valentines,” I hope you have enjoyed, and been inspired by Part I of, “Romance Is In The Air.”   But, for the most beautiful inspiration today, visit here !

 

Part II will be published Sunday, February 11, 2018.

 

Thanks for visiting. Wishing you and yours a most beautiful day !

 

Au Revoir,

Sandra

 

 

 

Photos: Michael S. Lambiotte, Pinterest, Facebook, and Veranda

Music and Lyrics, “My Valentine” by: Paul McCartney,  Youtube

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Is In Your Garden ?

“It is hard to forget someone who gave you so much to remember.” –  Unknown

 

This past week we had a few warm days, so I ventured to the garden to see what was happening.  A few of the early blooming daffodils are beginning to peak through the soil and the snowdrops are up about and inch, both such wonderful promises of spring. 

But, standing in our dear garden with  most of the residents still fast asleep, thoughts of everyone who lived there came ever so sweetly to me.  I feel quite blessed for this precious spot of earth and for the everlasting reminders of all the many special people who reside in our garden.  Yes, you read that correctly, I did say people.  The beautiful iris (Stairway to Heaven) was given to me by my dear friend and former neighbor, Cathy.  Oh, the garden memories I have of my friend.  We shared many plants and had such fun.

Another beauty from Cathy is her beloved tree peony she raised from just a sprig. When Cathy had to move she was unable to take her treasure, so she gave her to me.  As Cathy laid her gently in the spot we had prepared for her in my garden, she said, “Honey, I am so sorry to leave you, but I promise you won’t hurt long.” Every time I see her in all her magnificent glory, I think of and remember my talented friend.  I named the peony, Princess Cathy.  Perfect, don’t you think? And, by the way, her blooms are a mere 10 inches across. 

I could never write about my many gardening friends without telling you about Linda.  Many of the plants Linda shared with me were left in our garden in Virginia.  However, the one I chose to bring to West Virginia is a fabulous beauty and is rare.  Her name is Ruby Morning, she is a chocolate iris.  She is stunning and lives next door to a gorgeous butter yellow peony, named Sunny Girl.  The two bloom at the same time, are breathtakingly beautiful together, and seem to be quite happy as close neighbors.

 

Oh, I must tell you about Pandora.  Pandora was the PTA president at the school where I worked.  She was a delightful woman, who loved not only her children, but all children.  Pandora and I had an instant connection, the state of Mississippi.  Pandora was from a small town in Mississippi, close to the town where my mom was raised, and where I spent many of my childhood summers with my grandmother.  One gorgeous spring day, Pandora came to our school with a huge bundle of the most vivid crayola yellow irises I ever saw.  And, of course being a true gardener, she shared a clump of these beauties with me.  Just imagine, these irises traveled from Pandora’s grandmothers garden in Mississippi, to gardens in Virginia, then on to a garden in West Virginia. 

But at the very top of those residing in our garden, are treasures from my dear mom and grandmother.  Mom loved pink, I do too.  And her favorite iris was a lovely pink creation named Beverly Sills.  When we sold mom’s home, of course Beverly came to live with me.  She truly is a star in our garden, and means the world to me.

And my grandmothers peony, which moved from West Virginia to Virginia and then back again to West Virginia, is an heirloom peony and extremely fragrant.  In researching information regarding this peony, I believe her name is Chestine Gowdy.

These are just a few of the many great and wonderful gardeners I have been blessed to know, learn from, and enjoy in my gardening life.  Once spring arrives, you will meet many more of them.  It is amazing how the garden world does seem to unite those who love her.   I do hope you have treasured friends and family living in your garden.  But if not, perhaps this post will be just the needed inspiration to reach out to friends and family members by sharing the beauties from your garden.  Give others a “gift for no reason.”  To me, sharing is the absolute best part of gardening.  I can tell you, “The rewards are priceless.”  

Friends blooming in Le Jardin – Spring, 2017   

“My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece.” – Claude Monet

 

Wishing you a most beautiful day !

 

Au Revoir,

Sandra

 

 

Note:  Photos are from spring, 2017

Photos:  Michael S. Lambiotte,Pinterest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Stroll With Blue!

“The sun is up, the sky is blue, it’s beautiful, AND SO ARE YOU !”  – Unknown   

Good Morning, my Beautiful Friends!  I do hope you are seeing a blue sky this morning.  Here in North Central West Virginia, we have many gray winter days.  Fortunately, our home has almost floor to ceiling windows in many rooms, which afford us a great deal of light.  But, should this find you suffering a wee bit from the “Winter Blues,” perhaps a stroll through the following rooms, filled with blue, may lighten your heart.  And, you just may decide, blue is beautiful.

Let’s begin by visiting two lovely foyers.  The first is wearing deep blue chinoiserie on the walls.  

And this one has  two gorgeous lamps with French blue shades, a marvelous painting, and an urn with blue hyacinths. 

From the foyer, let us proceed to the dining rooms.  The first dining room is made blue by the drapes, seat covers, rug and accents.  Although, this room could easily be changed by selecting another color from the rug and then changing the drapes and seat covers.  

Ah, this room has such softness, wearing its pale blue.  It invites guests to share in an intimate candlelight dinner, even if it is 1:00 in the afternoon. Truly, a room to linger and enjoy wonderful conversation.

The last dining room, designed by Mark D. Sikes, is such a lively room.  However, with the gorgeous chandelier and beautiful furnishings, it is quite elegant.  A room for celebration of daily life to grand events.  And the heavenly French blue is my favorite shade of blue.

Next, let’s visit a few living rooms.  In this room, the deep blue of the sofa immediately captures your attention, making the color the star of the room.  Additionally, the color is also happy with the warm wood tones.  A most enjoyable space for family, or to entertain guests.  

Oh, this room speaks eternal spring.  It is soft and full of light – it whispers.

And the last, but certainly not least, this living room is what I refer to as a ‘happy room.’  The fabric on the chairs, and the shade of blue are simply happy.  Who wouldn’t enjoy spending time in this charming room?

Before we see the kitchens, let’s visit the powder rooms.  The first room is stunning, with navy chinoiserie on the walls and a classic marble sink. 

To me what makes the next room stroll worthy is not just because it is wearing a pretty shade of blue, but because it has good bones.  This room has in place a most attractive vanity with a marble top and a beautiful faucet.  With little expense, the entire personality of the room could be changed to suit individual taste.  

 In our first kitchen, we see this fabulous stove.  I will tell you, “I covet this stove.”  Really, I do. 

And this kitchen is so clean and fresh, all dressed in classic blue and white. 

Oh my, this is a dream of a kitchen.  Quite French inspired, with its lovely chandelier and weathered blue.  The blue looks as though it has baked in the Provence sun.

And what a lovely breakfast area.  Wouldn’t this beautiful blue make you happy every morning?  I believe it would make morning coffee even better – if that is possible.  

So next on our stroll, let’s wander through a few bedrooms.  The shade of blue and fabric choice in this first bedroom is soft and beautiful. 

Another soft room with a lovely choice of bedding.

Regarding this last bedroom, the words of Alexandra Stoddard come to my mind, “All you really need is a wonderful bed.”  Clearly, truth for this room.  But, don’t you think the shade of blue is also wonderful?  My goodness, I certainly do.  No, I will change that.  I think it is a magnificent shade of blue! 

 

Today we finish our stroll  with sun rooms.  The powder blue of the first two rooms maintains the feel of softness and calm. 

Notice the wide powder blue band along the leading edge of the draperies, they form such a nice frame for the windows.

The medium shade of blue in this room creates a much more vibrant room than the previous two rooms.  The varied fabrics selections for the pillow covers are quite happy together.

Dear friends, this concludes our stroll for today. One I hope you have enjoyed. While these photos are from pages of glossy magazines and Pinterest, I hope you will take away some inspiration and ideas you can use in your home.  Things such as lighting, cabinet hardware, style of furniture and placement, window treatments, types of rugs, fabric selection and accessories.  And, perhaps an appreciation of the many different shades of blue.  Also, there are a few interesting ‘blue notes’ at the end of this post you may enjoy.

Questions? Always look to nature.  For it is there you will find answers, beauty, and the most beautiful of all colors.

 

“Blue color is everlasting appointed by the deity to be a source of delight.” – John Ruskin

 

Thanks for visiting.  Always wishing you, Blue Skies !

Au Revoir,

Sandra

 

Blue Notes:  

“Blue is the only color which maintains its own character in all its tones…it will always stay blue.” – Raoul Dufy

The color Blue, symbolizes trust, loyalty and confidence.

President Martin VanBuren is credited with introducing blue into the decorating scheme of the White House in 1837 and since then, there has been a “Blue Room” in the White House.

The French believe the color blue keeps away evil spirits.  Thus, explaining the color blue on many of their doors, shutters and window trim.  The color blue is also used widely in their kitchens, preventing anything evil from the food.

 

Photos:  Pinterest, Better Homes and Gardens, House Beautiful, Verandah House and Facebook

Designer, Mark D. Sikes – photo noted

Shhh! The Jardin is Sleeping!

“Every gardener knows that under the cloak of winter lies a miracle…a seed waiting to sprout, a bulb opening to the light, a bud straining to unfurl.  And the anticipation nurtures our dream.”  – Barbara Winkler

January is dreaming time for gardeners.  The garden catalogs begin to arrive, or should I say ‘wish books.’  These wonderful wish books hold page after page of glorious blooms.  As we browse the pages of these books, our thoughts often turn to our gardens from the previous year.  Thoughts of what went wrong, what went right, what would work better, and we don’t fail for a minute to think of – what would be simply wonderful.  Garden dreaming is one of the many great joys of gardening, almost equal to the joy of seeing our dreams become reality.

The dreams of gardeners are a source of ongoing energy and certainly passion.  They are the motivation which keeps us fighting bugs, pulling weeds, feeding, watering and pruning.  Our dreams are nurtured by the beauty we have created.  That beauty is our reward for the many hours of hard work, love and devotion.  

In addition to dreaming, winter is also a time for us to enjoy the beauty of winter in our garden.  From inside our warm and cozy homes, we can gaze through the window upon our gardens and enjoy the way the snow bends and twirls the branches. And, the magnificent beauty of the naked tree branches, frozen and sparkling with ice crystals.

“Nature has undoubtedly mastered the art of winter gardening and even the most experienced gardener can learn from the unrestrained beauty around them.”  Vincent A. Simeone

Perhaps we may see and enjoy garden urns we filled just a few weeks ago with holiday greens… now dressed in white.  

Or we may imagine a wide variety of sweet song birds splashing in their bath when spring arrives.

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently?  And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.” –  The beautiful words of Lewis Carroll

In winter we rest.  Gardens and gardeners both need rest. Our senses are restored and nurtured as we think of the gorgeousness which will arrive in the days ahead.

                                                                                                                                                                               

“January is the quietest month in the garden… But just because it looks quiet doesn’t mean that nothing is happening.  The soil, open to the sky, absorbs the pure rainfall while microorganisms convert tilled-under fodder into usable nutrients for the next crop of plants.  The feasting earthworms tunnel along aerating the soil and preparing it to welcome the seeds and bare roots to come.” –  Rosalie Muller Wright

Most garden dreams thrive on hope and gardeners are a hopeful lot.  Our hope is reinforced each year by our successes and we we think in terms of another year regarding failures. We always keep dreaming, reading, learning and sharing.  And to me, sharing is one of the greatest joys of a garden.  There is no greater joy than cutting an armload of fabulous peonies for a child or sharing a beloved plant with a friend.  It truly makes my heart sing.

I hope you have a garden to gaze upon on these cold winter mornings.  If not, perhaps you are dreaming of one.

 

Thanks for visiting.  And, may your garden dreams become real ! 

He who makes a garden walks hand-in-hand with God.” – Unknown

 

Au Revoir,

Sandra

 

Photos:  Pinterest

A Rare Gift

A letter is a blessing, a great and all-too-rare privilege that can turn a private moment into an exalted experience.” Alexandra Stoddard

How long has it been since you have received the Gift of a Letter ?  And, how long has it been since you have written a letter?  My answer to both questions would be – too long.  While technology is a marvelous tool, it does not have the intimacy of a beautiful handwritten letter. A handwritten letter says, “You matter to me,” and is an enduring source of beauty.  It is a gift of your time and affection.

In previous centuries, most letters were written out of necessity.  Through these letters, business was conducted, sympathies were conveyed, friendships were nourished and family ties were maintained – despite separations due to distance and war.  During such times, letters were a great source of comfort and a sense of connection to one another.  Lives lived through letters.  And, before many people had the means to travel, letters provided information about distant lands. 

Letters can also become treasured keepsakes.  I have stacks of letters from my dear mom.  She wrote to me almost every day the many years we lived in Virginia.  Mostly, they were a note she would write while enjoying her morning coffee.  Things such as:  “Honey, you would love it here this morning, it is snowing.” Or,  “Oh, I wish you were here, the spirea and the rhododendron are magnificent.”  One special letter held a beautiful maple leaf.  Mom knew the fall of the year was always a difficult time for me, because fall in coastal Virginia is not brilliant with color, as is the state of West Virginia.  The tree which produced the beautiful leaf, the house the tree sheltered, and my precious mom are all now gone.  But her letters and the beautiful leaf are among my most treasured possessions. 

Letters can also answer questions and tell about lives of those related to us, but perhaps never really knew.  I recently read an article by Brendan Mathews, about his paternal grandparents.  He received a box of letters from a cousin and for him, it was like opening a “treasure chest.”  Reading the letters exchanged between his grandparents during World Ward II, he gained information about their lives and love for each other he never knew.  And, had the letters been tossed, he never would have known.  visit here

In our increasingly mechanical and impersonal world, now more than ever, the handwritten note or letter is of great significance. Something as simple as a handwritten invitation, thank-you note, or a note to say hello is a sincere statement of thoughtfulness, love and affection.  John Donne said, “More than kisses, letters mingle souls.” I know his words to be true, and if you have been the recipient of sweet letters, then you do also.  So, the next time you are out and about, purchase some lovely note cards or writing paper, cheerful stamps and a pen that writes well.  Write to your friends and family.  Your notes and letters could mean far more than you know, and they just may become treasured keepsakes.  In closing, I can think of no better way to say ‘au revoire’ than with the words of Emily Dickinson, “My letter as a bee, goes laden.  Please love us and remember us.  Please write us very soon, and tell us how you are.” 

 

Do write to me, I love to read your comments. 

Thanks for visiting, and have a wonderful day !

Au Revoir,

Sandra

 

Notes:  Brendan Mathews is the author of The World of Tomorrow, named as Editors Choice by the New York Times Book Review.

Gift of a Letter, a book by Alexandra Stoddard

 

Photos:  Michael S. Lambiotte and Pinterest

 

Inspiring Hearts !

“Hearts can inspire other hearts with their fire.” – Susan Branch

                                                    Japanese Tree Peony who resides in “Le Jardin.”

Happy New Year, everyone!  Most likely, as you opened this post you were thinking, “Why is she writing about peonies in January?”  Well, this post isn’t about peonies. I will save my peony obsession writings (notice writings is plural) until spring.  However, photos of magnificent blooms certainly offer inspiration for the garden world. 

As we begin the New Year, my post today is about inspiration.  To me, inspiration is the magic which sparks the fire within. Example:  When I gaze upon one of my treasured peonies, I am inspired to try and conquer the garden world.  And through the years, I have tried. ‘Believe me, I have tried.’  But the point is:  There are so many wonderful things to do in this world, and each of us have our own unique talents. Thereby, holding the power to be ‘inspiring hearts.’

Because you have arrived at “Where Inspiration Blooms,” perhaps you may be interested in, and also enjoy, a bit of inspiration.  Inspiration as you ponder projects you may be considering for your home during the months ahead.  The following living areas are so clean and fresh.  Clean and fresh … perfect thoughts as we begin a New Year. 

In the photo below, the way the art work is hung beside the built in cupboard,  gives the illusion of doors. Quite clever.

Looking for something different? The deep lilac on the pillow covers and throw offers vivid color without permanence.

And, soft peach on the walls speaks spring and summer.  Although to me, the color transports me to time spent in the Caribbean Islands – perhaps it does you, too?

Or do you have a room or area in need of some sunshine?  Look what the yellow buffalo checks do for the area below.

Oh, but wait – there is more. While not everyone has rooms with such grand architectural details as in the following photo. The photo presents many items of inspiration.  The beautiful chandelier, the special way the chair ties are braided down the backs of the chair legs, the topiary trees in the Provence planters, lovely mirror with flanking sconces, and the wonderful vintage flat wall cupboard. Similar items are readily available today.

And, we can always take inspiration from the classic, blue and white.  

Of course we can not exclude the bedroom, our most special retreat. Notice again, the soft peach on the walls.

Love the chinoiserie toile headboard, bed skirt and window treatments. And, the aqua creates a happy feeling in the room.

The following rooms offer timeless beauty.  With their soft colors they are calming, and invite you to rest.

I always draw great inspiration from finding a color or an item in an unexpected place.  Such as the lovely lilac window treatment in this stunning kitchen. Also, notice the beautifully potted orchid in the same lilac tone, to the right of the stove.

When we train our eyes to notice fabulous details,like those on the duvet and draperies, inspiration follows.

 

I do hope you have enjoyed your visit today.  It is my goal to inspire you toward all things of beauty.  Such as: Talented people, magnificent gardens, glorious flowers – especially PEONIES, lovely rooms, beautiful words, and great cooking. And the words from Jodi Picoult are so worth remembering as we seek inspiration,  “Extraordinary things are always hiding in places people never think to look.”  To that I will add, often, in our own homes and backyards.”

     

Use your gifts to inspire others.  Be an ‘inspiring heart’ – our world needs you!

Thanks for visiting !

Au Revoir,

Sandra

 

Photos: Michael S. Lambiotte, Pinterest, Facebook, House Beautiful and AD

 

 

“Grace Notes”

I wish you a vital, happy, healthy New Year.  Fill the moment and tomorrow with many grace notes and love.  When you do, joy will follow.“- Alexandra Stoddard

As hard as it is to believe, January 1, 2018, will arrive in just a very few days.  In our quest to live a good life, I believe it is only our human nature to look back at the year, congratulate ourselves on what we did well, and give thought to things we want to do differently or better.  So, today I would like to share a few thoughts from others regarding such matters of importance, wishes, and the month of January.  Thoughts I hope you will enjoy and find meaningful as you contemplate the year ahead.  And at the end – a recipe for good luck!

 

 

“Use your eyes as if tomorrow you would be stricken blind. . . . Hear the music of voices, the song of the bird, the mighty strains of an orchestra, as if you would be stricken deaf tomorrow.  Touch each object as if tomorrow your tactile sense would fail.  Smell the perfume of the flowers, taste with relish each morsel, as if tomorrow you could never smell and taste again.  Make the most of every sense; glory in all the facets of pleasure and beauty which the world reveals to you.” – Helen Keller

“Health enough to make work a pleasure, Wealth enough to support your needs, Strength enough to battle with difficulties and overcome them, Grace enough to toil until good is accomplished, Charity enough to see good in your neighbor, Love enough to move you to be useful and helpful to others, Faith enough to make real the things of God, Hope enough to remove all anxious fears concerning the future.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness.  I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art – write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can.  And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.” – Neil Gaiman

 

 

Mississippi Caviar  

1 can black-eyed peas, drained

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1/4 cup salad oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

A good dash of Tabasco sauce

Mix all ingredients and marinate at least 8 hours in the refrigerator.  I always double this recipe.  Serve as an accompaniment to meat or as a snack with crackers.  Good luck is promised to all who enjoy it on January 1.  Note: This recipe is from my grandmothers Mississippi cookbook.  I have made it every year since 1972. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Thanks for visiting. Please know how much I enjoy and appreciate your comments.

  Wishing you and yours a Happy and Healthy New Year – “Filled With Grace Notes !”

 

Au Revoir,

Sandra

 

Photos: Pinterest and Facebook

“A Few of My Favorite Things”

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.” – Norman Vincent Peale

It is difficult to believe Christmas is just a few days away.  It seems like only yesterday the peonies were blooming. So, before another day slips away, I thought I would share a “few of my favorite things.”

 

I love Christmas and every drop of magic the beautiful season holds.  From glorious store windows to the smell of wood smoke curling from chimneys. Even the mess in the kitchen from baking cookies.  I love it all, and everything in between.  

And, there is my special fondness of gorgeous packages which have been lovingly wrapped.  I love to look at them and wonder – “What could that be?”  The child in me  always shows up at Christmas.  

 

But I especially love what I refer to as “Elf Work.”  I once belonged to a Secret Elf Society.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Our society had 12 members.  Members were carefully invited, because no member could ever disclose the names of the other elves, or names of those our elves may have helped or were planning to help. Our belief was, ” It mattered not that a name be attached to an act of love, but that our actions lifted spirits and offered hope.” 

 

Sometimes we placed an entire Christmas, (tree, lights, presents and food) on the porch of a family who needed a helping hand. And, we hung gorgeous prom dresses on the front doors of many a princess who thought she would never own one, and delivered lots of bicycles at birthdays throughout the year. There were winter coats placed in strategic locations for the homeless and money for gas, along with a nice lunch placed at the door of someone who needed to travel to check on a loved one.  I lost count of the gazillion loaves of nut bread baked, tied with a pretty ribbon, and left on the porch of anyone we knew who could just use a sweet surprise. And, we always left a card which read: “Always Believe, Love Santa.” Even, if the delivery was made in June.

I can’t begin to tell you the fun we had, the strong friendships we formed – not to mention the wonderful fellowship we enjoyed.  Truly, we received far more than we gave.

They say, “What goes around, comes around,” and I now know that includes Elf Work.  The other evening our door bell rang and it was the gorgeous daughter of a lovely Elf named Suzie. You see, Elf Suzie is Belgian.  She made and brought to us, a tin of Galettes. Galettes are a Belgian waffle type cookie, most usually made at Christmas, and absolutely delicious. And, if you haven’t tasted one of these little gems since the early 1980’s, they are even more delicious.  My husband, who is also Belgian, and I so enjoyed this special treat. A kind and thoughtful treat from an Elf – just because.  Now, there is a real twist to this story. So be sure you remember the name Suzie, because you will want to read (later post) “The Story With a Twist.”  Elves are always at work – even when they are no longer with us. 

But, with all the things I love and enjoy about this season, Margaret Hendley so elequently expressed my feelings about one of my “most favorite things” when she said:  “At least once each December I take a few precious moments to sit alone in our darkened living room, illumined only by the lights of our Christmas tree, and in the quiet, remember the voices of those I love who are all now silenced, while I ponder the mystery and wonder of this most blessed of celebrations.”

Wishing you and yours all the joys,blessings, and wonder of this most glorious season !

 

Always Believe !

Love, Sandra 

 

Photos:  Facebook, Pinterest, M.S.Lambiotte