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      The thermometer on the porch hovers just above 50     degrees…I am outside enjoying the day…and also soaking up some Vitamin D.

Rounding a curve on the PATH…I love the one shown here…passing a terra cotta container holding a plethora of pansies tumbling over the edge…French thyme and chives adding more fragrance and texture to the “pot” and as I got closer to the bench,  heard rustling and chomping from inside a huge camellia bush full of luscious pink blooms. We startled each other…a yearling doe with innocent eyes dashed away towards the woods, a pink bloom hanging from her mouth. Usually the deer do not bother my plants , mainly because I feed them molasses corn, I’m sure…and Holly usually marks a line along the woods as she takes her morning relief walk. So I guess the lure of beautiful and tasty camellia blooms was just too much to ignore.

Early Risers…Near the stones, tiny green tips of hyacinth and wood iris are pushing through the mulch…eager for spring. Masses of snowdrops under the bare trees will soon happily announce that winter’s end is near. Interplanted with crocus and early daffodils, the area in the center of the gravel driveway will soon offer an ecstatic gardening moment of color and bloom.

IMG_0448Simple Pleasures…something to create for your Valentine’s Day sweet table…I found this photo idea in a British magazine and just love the simplicity…and the fact you can make it yourself! You simply need some antique plates in graduated sizes, a few liqueur glasses to go between and a lovely teacup and saucer for the top. Use a glass-bonding glue to put it all together…Viola!

You can use the same china plate pattern or a variety of plates and patterns and edge trims as shown in the photo. This is such a clever idea for using those odd plates and glasses easily found at flea markets.

Why not make one for a friend while you’re creating…

cabinet As you can see in the country cupboard, I have a collection of some very nice old blue and white china, along with a  variety of Ironstone pitchers and platters…I have thought about using some of them but just can’t bring myself to take away from their value. But then I think how silly I am being…NOT going to sell them so maybe I’ll just do a Blue & White theme sweet stand! My liqueur glasses are another tale though…wrapped in tissue and tucked in my carry-on, I brought them home from France so they will remain in use…

The old metal tray with hand painted flowers is one of several…the knife box something I found 30 years ago at an antique shop in Frederick, Maryland.

dishesAs you can see in the close-up photo, I love to combine many collections and pieces found in my traveling and antique searching. The Blue Willow cream pitcher is from England, the espresso cups are from an Italian coffee bar, the plates in the background are over 100 years old…and still look great!! My Santon came from a shop in Ax-en-Provence which makes these specialty figures.  Part of my enjoyment here is taking each piece down, cleaning it and thinking back to where and when I found my treasure and what made me buy it.

I rarely re-arrange the collections as I feel that after several iterations, I have found a good balance of size, pattern and color.

Speaking of Cleaning…Most of you know how strongly I oppose using synthetic chemicals for cleaning your home, especially when there are so many good alternatives available…along with all the simple household products easily used for cleaning…white vinegar, baking soda, lemons, borax, essential oils and such.   AND, for years I have written about the dangers of too many chemical antibacterial formulas being used, especially on children. Again, there are many herb based “soaps” or hand cleaners that are much safer to use. I am very encouraged to read about doctors now warning of the danger of too many antibacterials used on children today! Well finally! So check that “hand sanitizer” in your purse…then go to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s or other natural foods markets and find an alcohol-free, better product. I keep lavender based hand cleaner in my car and use it every time I get gas or use a shopping cart…and also rub it on the steering wheel.

Small things that can make a big difference…a good clean out and straightening of the linen closet does a lot for winter blues. This is a real treat for me and find myself doing this for my daughters almost every time I visit! Labeling shelves for different size sheets is a must for easy organization…and pillowcases are best stored separately by size. Old linen pillowcases that are rarely used look lovely when stacked and tied with ribbon. To keep the closet sweet smelling and free of moths…use lavender filled muslin bags sitting on the linens on each shelf as well as big chunks of homemade lavender soap sitting in a basket on several shelves. To open a linen closet and find a very fragrant, neat and orderly, crisp pile of linens, well, that gives the appearance of a well-ordered household…and a homekeeper who appreciates the beauty and scent of her fine linens every time she changes the bedsheets.

 

photo mailbox

Protect your hands…winter gardening without gloves can be very damaging to your hands. Please, invest in gloves…but if you forget and find yourself wrist deep in dirt…wash your hands well when you leave the garden work for the inside…try some organic coconut oil rubbed into your hands to moisturize and nourish…your skin will stay smooth and supple. I do this before wearing my work gloves and then again before going to bed…I have an old pair of white cotton gloves that go on after slathering on the coconut “oil”…

I installed several old mailboxes throughout the garden…it’s easy to leave gloves and tools for when I walk the garden and feel compelled to dig!

 

St. Valentine’s coming soon…LOVE to all from HOLLY and me!               IMG_0861

 

 

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