Summer is served…warm & bright with long days of sunshine!

This quaint vignette, from a garden in France, can be found on a blog I follow by Kristin Espinasse, French-Word-A-Day. She placed this vintage kitchen chair in her yard and Voila’… cherry tomatoes quickly began to scramble over it!  Just the bit of whimsy I love to find in a cottage garden. For years I have placed many different types of chairs in both my gardens and landscape designs for clients…some for vines, some for roses and some in the potager for little cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and small French melons…and even some for just a bit of rest. I tend to use whatever I can find to add that tiny bit of unexpected delight to my garden…So, be creative, find that special something that makes you smile and put it in just the right spot in your garden.


A vintage teak deck chair here is a  nice spot to rest, relax and enjoy the fragrance of old garden roses…


Below, this old red “motel” chair adds some color contrast to the yellow Black-eyed Susans blooming throughout the garden..while offering a spot to set a few garden essentials, clippers and a weed/trim bucket.IMG_3047

Along with chairs…


Through a garden gate…especially one that lures you in…offering a hint of what you might find once you enter…just another bit of whimsy to add to your summer garden. A gate is what you typically see when you approach a garden, and it instantly makes a statement. Framing a gate with an arch makes a gate even more distinctive…



Are you among those who can remember…the smell of fresh cut grass and the whirring sound of an old rotary mower…the churning, cranking sound of a wood slatted ice cream maker packed with ice and cream and fruit from the garden…the twinkling of fireflies in the yard at just about dark…the feel of a gentle breeze just before a gentle cooling rain shower…the taste of juicy watermelons, peaches and ripe blackberries just picked fresh from the vine and warmed by the sun…thankfully, if so, those wonderful old summer memories offer timeless values in a world often moving too fast.

1952 Red Ford Truck-S 

Ah, those summer memories…as a kid spending my summers on the family farm, work was hard, the days filled with lessons learned and exciting adventures! After a full week of working the fields of cotton and tobacco, alongside all the folks who were PAID, my hands were stained from picking tobacco leaves and my legs wobbly from dragging heavy burlap bags filled with just-picked cotton boles to the mule sleds. Cotton can get heavy, a pound is a pound and most of the bags held about 30-40 pounds depending on the picker.

I was also responsible for helping my grandmother with the vegetable garden and the chickens and the cows. All this daily activity made me greatly appreciate the once a month reward for, “not paid help”, of a trip to the beach. Nags Head, North Carolina was our favorite destination! Early Saturday morning we put hay bales in the back of  the old pickup…looking very much like the above picture…and laid quilts over the bales to keep the hay from making us itch. In the kitchen, while chicken was frying in an iron skillet, we laid out fresh sliced bread on the table, slathered mayonnaise on each slice, sprinkled pepper & salt and then added huge, thick slices of tomatoes I had picked from the garden. Along with the chicken, tomato sandwiches, bowls of potato salad and deviled eggs, jars of sweet tea and a chocolate cake were packed into large metal “coolers”  layered with hunks of ice from the chest freezer in the wash house. About 6:00AM, we all…my cousins and I… climbed in the back of the truck and the adults in the front cab, and grandpa headed down the long dirt drive that led to the highway traveling east for a day at the beach. All the way there we sang and told stories and laughed, read the Burma Shave signs and watched the farms and fields of corn and peanuts and all the other crops roll by. Our excitement grew as we passed all the road signs telling us we were almost there! We spotted the giant sand dunes and screamed…”Finally we’re here”, even though it only took 2 hours to get there. Grandpa parked the truck along the “beach” road, we all scrambled out of the back, unloaded the quilts, coolers and beach chairs and walked onto the warm sand. All day we would swim and ride the waves and run with the dogs and build sand castles, and bury each other under buckets of wet sand. Finally, happily exhausted our stomachs grumbling and anticipation high, we sat down on the quilts to enjoy our beach feast…Later, on the road headed home, we all fell asleep…our hearts filled with joy over such a simple day of fun at the beach.

Our picnic spot did not look quite so lovely as the picture below, but NOW as I remember the days, I imagine how a vintage spot might have been in anther place, far away…


A taste of the good life…Years ago, Grandmother would say, “If you go find and pick a quart or two of blackberries and a basket of peaches, I’ll make my special cobbler…” Well, I took off running down the path to where I knew there were loads of berries and picked and ate until I had enough. The peaches were more of a challenge, I had to climb up the tree, ignoring the bees, and fill a basket with ripe sweet fruit. Back in the kitchen, I helped grandmother prepare the fruit mixture and watched as she made the special cobbler crust. Many years later [the 80’s] while living in California, I would make this special cobbler for friends and clients…They loved it and I even had one celebrity client make an offer of marriage if I would make the cobbler for him every week…’course he was joking!! But it’s that GOOD!


Blackberry and Peach Cobbler…Ingredients for the filling: Mix together  2 quarts of blackberries, 2 quarts of peeled peaches, 2 cups of raw sugar, 1/2 cup of flour, some cinnamon and a pinch of salt…I do squeeze juice from a fresh lemon juice over the mixture, but it is optional. Let it sit while you make crust.

For the crust: Mix/cream together 2 sticks of soft butter, 1/2 cup raw sugar and 1/2 cup brown sugar. In a seperate bowl, sift together 3 1/2 cups flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, pinch of salt…Add butter mixture to dry ingredients and then add 1 cup chopped pecans…mixture will look a bit like cookie dough. Put the fruit in a 4 quart baking dish and then drop spoons of dough on top of the mixture to make a cover. Bake at 350′ for about an hour…check several times to be sure the crust doesn’t get too brown. Filling should be bubbly around the edges. [I put foil under the rack to catch any possible spills.] Serve with FRESH whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.


From Holly, after a cooling bath, and me…make some great summer memories!

Suddenly it’s mid-summer…


I woke up very early this morning, made my coffee and poured a cup, put a pan of biscuits in the oven, went to the back door and pulled on my flowered boots and out I went with Holly to wander through the garden while throwing out feed for the chickens in their favorite spot under the trees. I turned on the hose and set the whirling sprinkler  on the roses and then decided I would pick a few blackberries to go with my cantaloupe. Amazingly I found a handful of ripe and juicy and deep purpley-blackberries that the birds and deer hadn’t absconded with…but, my real treat this morning will be the biscuits and homemade jam. I really don’t do this biscuit baking very often for obvious reasons but having just looked through my BOUCHON BAKERY book last night and, well, THOMAS KELLER’S biscuit recipe was right there, I just couldn’t resist…Justifying with the thought that Holly would get one, I would have two, save some for dinner and then the chicks would get the rest…or maybe I’ll freeze a few for later in the week! And after all, I did have some buttermilk in the fridge…dscn4435.jpg

Summer’s perfect moments and memories…Now that mid-summer is here, I find myself thinking back to all the summers I spent on my grandparents’ farm during July and August. What joy I had with grandmother when she would put a pound cake in the oven of the old wood stove and say …”We’ve got plenty of time while it’s baking, let’s go pick some berries and make a pie later….”SO, we would go berry picking after chores were done. Whether it was strawberries, blackberries or blueberries in season, I always managed to fill my little straw basket that I had decorated with scraps of ribbon Grandmother had saved from birthday gifts and sewing projects. Back in the kitchen she would have me gather all the ingredients, put them on the huge wooden table covered in blue and white checked oilcloth. We used this table, made from an old walnut tree that had fallen after a violent rain and wind storm years earlier, to prepare foods, roll biscuits, mix batter and eat meals on together…she even used it to set a big wash tub on and bathe my new baby brother… She would show me how to blend the cold, fresh-churned butter into the flour with my fingers and then how to roll it out gently…”You can’t overwork the dough…” she would caution. Oh, the aroma of a fresh fruit pie baking in the oven…

Later in the season, she would always let me climb up into the peach trees to pick enough for a fresh peach pie. This was such a wonderful time which led to many precious memories…the adventure of seeking and picking fresh fruits of the season and the rewards of learning how to make jams, preserves, pies and cobblers…and time spent with my precious white-haired Grandmother.

A favorite find…I always loved cooking on Grandmother’s huge black iron wood stove and years ago when I told Carl how I would love to put one in the kitchen he looked at me and wandered off to the workbench to tie some flies, all the while shaking his head and muttering. So I soon found a beautiful substitute…a French make…Le Cornue!

d28abc6b9baa86231753d6aa80a222b8One of the best stoves in the world…and a bargain at close to $16,000…luxury doesn’t come cheap! The cream de la crème of cooking! No need to describe his reaction and comment on my stove choice, needless to say I settled on a new gas drop-in with a much more acceptable price tag.

SUMMER is SERVED…As to cooking, here are a few summer ideas...Crab filled lettuce eaves, baby spinach salad with cucumber spirals and coconut shrimp, and a new favorite…chunks of grilled chicken and vegetables served in pita bread with a creamy lemon dressing…oh, I could eat these several times a week!!

Well, it wouldn’t be summer without home-made ice cream…On those long summer days on the farm, we often made ice cream. After a trip into town, sitting in the old International Harvester pick up truck, to get ice from the ICE HOUSE, we gathered under the shade of huge pecan and walnut trees where we would pack the old wood ice cream maker with ice and rock salt and watch excitedly as grandmother poured the cream and egg and fruit mixture into the metal cylinder…then came the work! Taking turns, we would turn the crank for what seemed like hours but in reality about a half hour total was spent churning. Nothing can compare to opening the top of the freezing container and pulling out the paddle for the first licks of the lucious mixture inside. Nothing artificial, just cream from our cows, eggs from our chickens and fruit from the garden!   For good health sake try an alternative, fresh made FROZEN YOGURT. A refreshing lime yogurt is simple: I mix a 32 ounce container of organic plain Greek yogurt, 3/4 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of fresh squeezed lime juice, and for more lime flavor add zest from 2 organic limes. Pour into the churn container that sits in the freezer just waiting to be used and follow directions on your model. I have a simple Cuisinart ice cream maker that takes a little less than 20 minutes to churn this mixture into frozen yogurt. Refreshing as a summer rain shower!


Great Garden Idea…This canvas cover, simple to make, can provide a bit of shelter from the hot afternoon sun…get creative!


Take a break! We all need a break from our daily routines…not necessarily a full-blown holiday…but a day or a place for settling thoughts and calming mind & heart. Of course, my friends, you all know my heart’s desire would be to sit in the lavender fields in Provence…a scented scent of purple!

861096cdd183bc5a7f5186cf67b2df03…but since that won’t be happening any time soon, I’ll just have to be creative here at home in my own heavenly hideaway! I can spend an afternoon in my own garden relaxing under a canvas shelter or beach umbrella…or on terribly hot days, spend time inside working on creative projects. It just becomes a matter of choice at the moment!

Watching dusk fall over the garden, I smell the honeysuckle’s evening scent as I walk out to close up the chicken pen and coop for the evening. Time for brushing Holly and another glass of wine…