Thursday, June 29, 2017

Summer Reading List

While on vacation at the beach, I read two books and started a third. One of the books I read is called The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy. From the publisher: "The Illusion of Separateness intertwines the stories of unique and compelling characters who—through seemingly random acts of selflessness—discover the vital parts they have played in each other’s lives." 

I found it to be a very unique book, written in an almost poetic style. It's not a long book, and is an easy read (I finished it in two days, and I'm a slow reader) yet it is complex. There came a point in the story when I was suddenly overcome with emotion. I wasn't expecting it. I very much enjoyed this novel and recommend adding it to your reading list.

The book I'm currently reading is The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. I may get some criticism for saying this, but I really do not like this book. I'm going to finish it mainly because is it a classic, but the style and subject matter are not for me. I loved The Old Man and the Sea when I read it in high school (but I also had a fantastic English teacher who brought it to life; perhaps without her I wouldn't have cared so much for it). However, The Sun Also Rises is pure drudgery! Are there any fans of Hemingway who would like to leave a comment and let me know your thoughts on this novel?

Another book I have on loan from the library is called On Rue Tatin by Susan Herrmann Loomis. It is the story of a woman's move to Paris to attend cooking school, eventually settling in a small town in Normandy. It combines two interests: food and France. I look forward to reading it next, as soon as I finish Hemingway!

As always, I'd love to hear what you're reading or some of your favorite books. Leave a comment and let me know. I'm always adding books to my list. Thanks for visiting MLB!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

In Full Bloom

I might say this every year, but I truly believe the dahlia garden has never looked prettier than it does this year. Now that the garden is fuller, the plants are supporting one another a little more -- but they still need plenty of bamboo stakes for stability. Some of the plants are very tall and leggy. Does anyone know a trick to make them more compact? 

I'm loving the newest varieties my husband planted this spring. Take a look!

The tried-and-true giant yellow dahias are doing well, too. In the photo below you can see our neighbor's kitchen window. She says she's enjoying the view of our dahlia garden, which is so nice to hear. I've been cutting flowers and giving them to several neighbors to enjoy. It's wonderful to have so many beautiful blooms to share!

Here are the first two cherry tomatoes from my container plant, which is coming along very nicely. It has crowded out the herbs (mental note: next year, put only a tomato plant in the container). The rosemary and lavender have been transplanted to other pots, but the celery herb, parsley and thyme remain in the container with the tomato plant.

The perennial coreopsis Zagreb, below, has come back nicely. Last year two of the three plants all but died. The foliage turned black, and we were just sick about it. The third plant hung on. We thought about removing the two, and now I'm so glad we didn't. Plants are strange things, aren't they? So temperamental. I found a good overview of coreopsis Zagreb here. Aside from being a nice perennial, it's also tolerant of both humidity and dry heat, is deer resistant and attracts butterflies. I really like how it has filled out and how it looks between the rock border and the fence. I'm so happy with how the garden is coming along. I owe it all to the hard work of my husband, who does all the planting. I love the planning, but not the planting!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Beach House

I can't believe it's been a week since we've been to the beach, and already I'm itching to go back. It's always a great time at the beach, but staying at a really nice house makes it even better. Here's a look inside!

When vacationing at the beach, we typically eat most dinners out, but this year we only ate dinner out twice. The kitchen was so nice that it was a pleasure to cook there. It's fully outfitted with everything needed to prepare a meal. I loved the Sub-Zero refrigerator and the extra wide range.

The seafood store is only a 3-minute walk from the house. Several days we took the dogs and walked there for a pound of gorgeous, large shrimp ($10/lb) and freshly caught flounder. Paul boiled the shrimp with Old Bay seasoning and grilled the flounder over charcoal. Delicious! Meals were enjoyed on the screened in porch overlooking the water.  

I loved the French doors in both the living area and the upstairs master bedroom. They provided wonderful views of the marsh. The downstairs porch is screened in, the upstairs balcony is open. 

The house has a private dock -- the perfect place for Paul to launch his canoe.

The open deck was the ideal spot for morning yoga! It was a wonderful way to start the day. The house faces north, so once the morning sun moved behind the house and the deck was shady, I'd roll out my yoga mat and practice some moves. Incredibly peaceful.

I call this next shot "Spiral stairs with palm."

The screened-in porch with the double ceiling fans was a great napping space for the dogs. It was nice that the porch is screened in (something I always look for in a beach house because of the bugs), but this year there were virtually no bugs to contend with! I only got two mosquito bites, and they happened during our walks to the beach. If you know the coastal southeast, you know that mosquitoes and no-see-ums can ruin a trip. Paul canoed well into the marsh where he fished for hours without any bug spray on, and there were no bugs. He did have bites of another kind, though. He was very pleased to have caught lots of speckled trout and one 30" red drum on his fly rod.

The sunrise and sunset views from the house were amazing -- except the nights and mornings we had rain. We had a pretty big thunderstorm Monday night, rain Tuesday night and pretty much all day Wednesday. But we didn't let that bother us! We visited a few gift shops that are usually closed when we visit in October. We also went to the Edisto Island Serpentarium, finally. We've passed it a hundred times on our trips to the island but had never been. It was awesome! We watched the educators feed the huge alligators their lunch of raw chicken, and we enjoyed an up-close and personal visit with two ball pythons. They are very "friendly" snakes, according to the young woman. The outdoor venomous and non-venomous snake exhibits were really awesome (nothing but a moat between us and the copperheads in the trees!). The turtle habitat was of particular interest to Paul, who is a big fan of them and will frequently stop the car to help one across the road. I forgot to bring my camera to the Serpentarium, so unfortunately no photos.


Thanks for coming along on this visual tour of our trip to the beach! What are your summer vacation plans?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

New Dahlias in the Garden

We returned from a week at the beach to find the dahlia garden in nearly full bloom. What a nice welcome home!

Earlier this spring, Paul planted some new dahlias and I'm loving their deep red colors. They are spectacular! I snipped some to create a little arrangement for the bathroom sink. They include a deep red flower (front and center below), a lighter red bloom that has some yellowish petals toward the back, and a magenta flower. Such pretty colors!


Monday, June 12, 2017

A June Trip to the Beach

Hello, friends. We are just back from a trip to the beach, our favorite destination. I feel so refreshed and relaxed! I have a lot to share with you, but have limited time at the moment, so for now I'll show you just a few photos from our trip. 

First, I have to say how much I loved being at the beach in early June. Usually, Paul and I go in October, which is also a wonderful time to go because it's much less crowded, but still warm. In June there are certainly more people, which gives the beach a different vibe. But this year I couldn't wait until October since our beach trip last year was cancelled due to the hurricane, and we didn't go on a vacation the year before. I think we were even more grateful and appreciative than usual to be spending a week at our favorite beach since it had been nearly three years.

We rented a gorgeous home that's much larger than we need (3 bedrooms, 3-1/2 baths), but it met several criteria: it's on the water, it's dog-friendly and it was available in June. Stay tuned for photos of the interior!

This house faces north which provided amazing views to the east and west.

We were up early each morning and had only to step out onto the open balcony from the master bedroom to see beautiful sunrises like the one above. From the screened-in porch and open deck on the main level, we enjoyed many sunsets like the one below.

We also did some canoeing, launching from the private dock at the house. The proximity to the marsh was ideal for Paul's fishing adventures. He caught many speckled trout and a 30" red drum (all were released).

Ella and Henry are good canoeing companions. They are very relaxed and just lay down or sit quietly to enjoy the ride. Our previous two dogs, Phoebe and Winnie, also enjoyed riding in the canoe, but they were larger dogs and Phoebe, who was part Lab, always acted like she was going to jump into the water, which made me nervous. But these two dogs dislike the water, so no worries about them jumping overboard!

Check back soon for more details of our 2017 trip to Edisto. Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

This and That

Hi there. How did it get to be June already? I have no specific topic for today's post ... just thought I'd share a little of this and a little of that, a few things I've been enjoying lately that you may find interesting (or not, but I hope you do). First up, this pretty glass canister with olive wood lid.

I have two of them in my kitchen. They're from Williams Sonoma (no, this is not a sponsored post; I wish). I got the first one for free by redeeming some bonus points. I liked it, so I ordered a second one using more bonus points a couple of months later. The lid on the first canister fit perfectly, but the one on the second canister not as well. I read the single review of this product on the website and it was quite negative, the major complaint being that the lids don't fit well. The lid on my second canister isn't so awful that it warranted returning the item. It just requires a little twisting motion to get it to fit tightly. In the photo below you may be able to see how the lid on the right looks a little askew. It doesn't bother me, though. Plus, it was free, so no complaints here.

I have this coffee "station" set up (but I keep only the canisters on the counter) where I make coffee using a French press. It's a pleasant morning ritual, when I have time for it. My husband spoke so highly of his Yeti travel mug that I finally bought one. It's amazing how long coffee stays HOT. Sometimes I burn my lips and mouth on coffee that's been sitting in the mug for over an hour. Several times I've forgotten about the Yeti's heat retention and have taken a swig while in my morning staff meeting. I have to keep from spewing coffee all over the table and saying a curse word, it's so hot. I don't know if this is a good product endorsement or not. (It is.)

Last fall I bought my husband a Yeti cooler for his birthday, something he'd been wanting for a while. He loves it, and I know it will come in handy during our trip to the beach this year. I plan to fill it with food we probably won't be able to get at the small beach grocery store (like Noosa yogurt, which I'm addicted to).

Speaking of coffee, here's a gorgeous coffee table book I recently added to my limited collection of interior design books. The book features interiors of the nearly 12 homes Ellen DeGeneres has owned and decorated over 25 years. Her style is unique and eclectic, and  a little on the masculine and modern side, which is why both my husband and I like it so much. This is the first interior design book that we agree on. My design tastes span a wide range of styles, but Paul's are a bit more narrow (not a criticism, just a fact). Page after page, he kept saying "Wow," and "Cool."

Ellen's art collection is pretty great, and aren't these sheep a hoot? If I had a larger house, I'd have some fun with quirky objects like this.  

Changing gears, let's talk fashion. While I would never call myself a fashionista, and this will never be a fashion blog, I do feel compelled to write a little bit about my favorite line of clothing, Eileen Fisher

If you take a peek at my Style board on Pinterest, you'll see a common thread, so to speak: lots of black and grey, with unstructured knitwear making up the majority of what I gravitate to. I went by the mall on Memorial Day to use a couple of coupons ($20 total with no merchandise exclusions!) at Belk, where I planned to buy a refill of Bobbi Brown powder. First I made a detour to the Eileen Fisher department where I found a wonderful organic linen dress, below. It was half price, plus I used the $20 in coupons toward the purchase. I was pretty darn excited. Over the years I have bought many Eileen Fisher pieces and still have most of them. They're classic and timeless. The quality is excellent, so the clothes last for years and years, making the cost a little more bearable.

(photo: Eileen Fisher)

I wore the dress with black Eddie Bauer leggings ($14 on sale -- they're the best ever! I own several pairs) and new Kork-Ease sandals, which I had also gotten on sale for a killer price a few weeks ago. Sorry about the shoes being out of focus. Apparently my camera was focused on the dress. Can you see the touch of blue in the weave of the linen fabric?

What's new and interesting in your corner of the world? Do share! I love hearing from you. As always, thanks for stopping by the Bungalow.
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