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February 7th, 2012

Here is an easy alternative to having a neighbor water your house plants while you’re away from home. You can turn your bath tub into a temporary greenhouse. Place a plastic tarp or container in the bathtub. I used one of those under-the-bed storage containers. Place houseplants in container.

An under-bed storage container fits a standard tub perfectly.

Water well, allowing a small amount of water to remain in the container.

 

Give them a good, cool shower, allowing a little water to remain in the container. If using a tarp, be sure to close the tub drain. The collected water will keep the humidity levels high so plants won’t dry out so quickly.

snug inside their little greenhouse

Close your shower doors or curtain tightly. If your bathroom has a bright window, open the shades to let in the most light and use a clear shower curtain. If you don’t have a window, turn on the shower or bathroom lights.

Your plants should be okay for up to two weeks or possibly longer, depending on the type of plants you have.

In addition to growing plants, you may also grow some mildew from the high humidity. There are many safe and effective mildew remover sprays that will take care of this should the problem occur.

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February 6th, 2012

In the cooler months, dark leafy greens are at their flavorful best. The plants actually need a good frost to sweeten them up. Kale, Swiss chard and a southern classic, collards, are my favorites. I’ll be sharing a few recipes for these in the next few weeks. Here’s the first:

This is an easy, delicious meal which only takes about 45 minutes to prepare, including prep time. The way I cook makes it difficult for me to provide exact recipes as I improvise (a lot!). But I will provide the basics of what I did. Feel free to change it up. Also, I prepared this dinner for two, so multiply as desired.

You’ll need:
2 slices bacon
1 medium bunch fresh kale or Swiss chard
½ medium onion, chopped OR chopped fresh garlic, about 2 large cloves
1 cup chicken stock or water
Scant ¼ cup yellow grits
2 heaping tablespoons grated parmesan cheese, or more to taste
2 heaping tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, preferably dry, not packed in oil. Chop any large pieces.
½ cup EACH water and milk
1 tablespoon butter, optional
¾ – 1 lb. fresh rockfish (striped bass), rinsed and patted dry.
Penzey’s Fox Point Seasoning www.penzeys.com (or lemon pepper)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and black pepper
1. Wash the kale well, even if it comes in a bag that says “triple washed”. It’s preferable to buy a bunch of fresh, organic kale instead of the bagged variety. Remove tough stems, roughly chop leaves. Leave the leaves wet.

 

2. Cook bacon in a large pan with sides. (The kale is going in this pan.)

 

 

3. While bacon is cooking, heat water and milk to a boil, stir in grits, a pinch of salt and healthy grinding of black pepper and sun-dried tomatoes. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and stir frequently. Add more water if grits get too thick. After about 20 minutes, if grits look too thin, finish cooking uncovered.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.  Remove bacon from pan and set aside on paper towel. Add onion or garlic to pan, sauté for a minute, then add wet kale. Add about 1 cup stock or water, turn kale using tongs and cover. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally. Don’t worry if the top won’t fit on the pan at first. The kale will reduce in size by about half as it cooks.

5.  Heat non-stick grill pan over medium – high heat. Rub both sides of fish very generously with olive oil. Sprinkle  both sides with salt and pepper. Sprinkle Fox Point Seasoning or lemon pepper liberally on flesh side only. When pan  is hot, place fish on grill, skin side up. Do not move fish around. Let it cook for about 10 min. (or more if fish is thick). When this side is done, fish will release from pan easily. Gently turn the fish with a large spatula. It helps if you cut the fish into serving sizes before you begin cooking. Continue cooking until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Do not over-cook.
6.  By the time the fish is done, the kale should be crisp – tender and the grits should be creamy. Crumble the bacon into the grits and stir in the cheese. Taste the kale and grits, adjust the seasoning. Add butter to the grits if you like.
The key to this meal is getting everything going at about the same time. The kale, grits and fish will take approx. the same amount of time to cook, so you will feel something like an orchestra conductor as you stir and flip each item in turn.


If you like red wine, go with a pinot noir (my choice). If you prefer white, a slightly oaky chardonnay would be nice. Enjoy!

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February 3rd, 2012

There is an elegance in natural materials shaped by the hand and heart that is unequaled in anything artificial and mass produced. No one understands this better than Glendon Boyd.

Glendon Boyd is a national treasure. I first encountered Mr. Boyd in October, 2010, at the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival at Ferrum College in southwestern Virginia. He was quietly working at his craft while crowds clamored around his booth. They were there to purchase wooden bowls carved by Mr. Boyd and utensils made by his son-in-law, who was busy taking care of the customers. I felt fortunate to be able to snag a few pieces before being jostled aside by eager collectors.


Later, upon closer examination, I too, fell under the spell of this simple and beautiful work. I had to know more. So I called Glendon Boyd and made arrangements to go see him at his home and workshop in Floyd, VA.

There was a light snow in Richmond the night before I headed out to Floyd. The farther west I drove, the more snow and ice coated the trees and roads. Floyd is deep in the heart of Appalachia. There is no interstate route or major highway. You get there on roads with names like Shooting Creek which is so narrow, I prayed I wouldn’t meet an oncoming car. I finally found my way to Mr. Boyd’s house. He was there to greet me in the driveway and took me inside his shop which smelled of sawdust…one of my favorite fragrances!


Mr. Boyd is a quiet, humble man. He let me oooh and ahhh over his work while he told me stories of how he looks for just the right tree and then turns the wood so that, as he carves, the grain goes the direction he wants it to. He talked about how some of the wood he uses is still logged by horses because there are places in Appalachia you can’t get to with heavy equipment. He showed me pictures of his father, also a woodcarver. Glendon Boyd is a fourth generation woodworker.

Glendon Boyd chose to leave the trees' bark on the edges of these beautiful bowls.

Mr. Boyd signs and dates most of the bowls he makes. He also carves the name of the wood species into the bottom of his bowls as if to recognize the trees’ contribution. On the bowls made from wood logged by horses, even the horses get credit. He doesn’t see his bowls as art, though as he said, “some people do, I guess.” Rather he makes them to be simple, serviceable pieces.


I went home with several of Mr. Boyd’s beautiful bowls that day. I hope, someday, to go back again. You won’t find Boyd’s Bowls for sale online, or as I suggested to Mr. Boyd, in a gallery. He said he doesn’t want to “keep up with all that”. He does what he does on his own terms, with skills handed down to him from his great-grandfather, whom I’m sure would be very proud.

I am especially fond of the asymmetrical shape of this maple bowl.

a collection of small bowls made by Glendon Boyd

 

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February 2nd, 2012

The world of interior design and decorating has exploded in recent years. The Internet offers the public access to resources (or knock-offs thereof) formerly only available to the trade. There are multiple TV networks dedicated to making you believe that you can not only do it yourself, but that it will cost you next to nothing. In malls and shopping centers, almost every store that sells home furnishings now offers “free design assistance”. So why would anyone pay for a decorator?

A grand Capitol Hill residence

1.  There is a difference between a sales call and a design consultation.
When stores offer “free” design services, rest assured, the associate’s main objective is to sell you merchandise from his / her place of business, period. There is nothing wrong with an in-home sales call, but just be sure you understand what you’re getting into.

A palette of muted colors and classic Asian furnishings

When I call on a client, my objective is to find out as much as I can about the people who will use the space I’ll be designing. Good design is about people, not merchandise. It’s about how life functions in a space. It’s about how one feels walking into the room and also how comfortable you are hours later. A well designed room reflects your lifestyle or the image you want your home or business to project. It has nothing to do with my personal style, but rather my experience and skill in helping you develop yours.

2. Good is never cheap and cheap is never good.
A professionally designed space is an investment meant to enhance your quality  of life for a long time. Trends come and go, but we all want a touch of newness in our lives from time to time. My job is to use my knowledge of materials as well as my “eye” for design, to guide you toward sound investments on the big ticket items. I can help you design a solid foundation of superior design and long lasting quality. Then we can satisfy your craving for the latest trend with just a few well chosen accessories rather than re-doing everything.

Dressmaker details, simple accessories and luxury fabrics create a feeling of understated elegance and femininity..

3. Time is money.
Do you want to spend every week-end driving to furniture stores trying to find the perfect chair? How many sample jars of paint will you smear on your wall in an attempt to find the perfect color? Your time is valuable. I have the expertise and resources to sift through the thousands of choices and come up with one or two selections that are perfect for you.

Relaxed formality with a blend of textures

 

4. Relationships, relationships, relationships
I ask a lot of questions when I design a space for you…A LOT of questions. I need to know so much more than the budget and the measurements of the room! When you entrust me to design the space in which you will live your life, I take this responsibility very seriously. I stand behind my work and the products and services I provide. There is no “return policy” or disclaimer. Just a promise that I will do whatever is necessary to make sure you love your space.

A restful corner in a well-appointed guest suite

Many times, my clients become my friends. I get to know their children, their dogs and the things that are most important to them. I am flattered when a past client refers a friend to me, or when they call on me again, many years later, to do “the next house”. Because we know each other so well, we both know what to expect…a good design that works.

And that is money well spent.

I designed all of the spaces above, exclusively for some of my favorite clients. If you have questions about specific materials, furnishings, colors, etc., contact me through my website, (link at upper left), or post a comment here.

 

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February 1st, 2012

The hardest season for a gardener to endure is winter. The cold, soggy ground isn’t fit to dig. I find myself, at times, standing in front of my dining room window staring out at my little garden, lost in a daydream about what I plan to do if spring ever gets here. Truth is, I don’t like to be cold, so I don’t venture out into the garden much when the temperature drops. But with the sporadic occurrence of unseasonably warm days this winter, I find myself out there more than usual; even if just to investigate a tiny spot of color I see from my window.
There is beauty in the winter garden. It is not as bright and cheery as the spring garden or as full and lush as in the summer and fall. But if you look closely, there is a subtle beauty…well worth doning a sweater to experience.


Flowering quince only needs the slightest encouragement from a warm afternoon to burst into bloom.


Nandina berries seem to almost ignite!

This is the time of year to appreciate the supporting cast of the garden. The evergreens get their brief moment in the spotlight. These are the “bones” around which all the other plants are structured.

A Leyland cypress, a very old English boxwood (yes, that is only one plant), nandina, gold dust acuba and gumpo azaleas, with their varying textures and shades of green look especially beautiful.

 

Walls and fences covered with ivy are usually in

the background. In winter, they are front and center.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Colonial Williamsburg bird bottle makes a snug place for my feathered friends to spend a cold winter night.

I’ve been cultivating this moss for a few years. Looks like it has finally decided to stay.

 

Tiny sweet alyssum seedlings sprouting in the moss seem to be braving the cold for a head start on spring.

 

A light snow (from a previous winter) adds another dimension to the winter garden.

Deep purple ajuga will be blooming in a few weeks, but the foliage is worth admiring right now.

 

One of my favorite flowers, hellebores (Lenten Rose) is also among the first to bloom. The bracts last well into the summer.

 

The lilies are still asleep, as are the peonies, but spring is on its way. Until then, don’t miss the understated beauty that nature offers even on the coldest days of the year.

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