Monday, October 31, 2011

Season of the Witch

This must be the season of the witch! Who else could conjure up a slushy snowstorm on the brink of one of the scariest nights of the year? Well, maybe the evil ice queen from Narnia but she was busy further north and west of Blooming Hill, thank goodness!

As pretty as it seemed, there was something disconcerting about snow mixed with the peak of autumn colors...nothing seemed to blend, going from stark whites and cold greys to warm browns and muted reds looking wilted and forlorn in all of the wetness.

And, talk about frost on the pumpkins! They seemed totally confused and completely out of their element, covered in thick and icy white-frosted-slushy-style snow. No, nothing seemed to blend together at all for what should have been a beautiful amber-golden last weekend of this October month when flowers should have been flaunting their last "hoo-rah" in style.

So now we know that's how witches seem to role...or fly. They are pernickety, cranky creatures given to all sorts of mood swings. Throwing down grey-icy crystals on us one moment and making beautiful rainbow colors while sweeping through the trees, enjoying the warm autumn sun, the next moment.

It must be the season of the witch...Who else could conjure up days such as these?  What might come next during the season of the turkey?...I shudder to think.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Country Living Weekend

The stone mountain at Stone Mountain Park, Georgia.
Ahhhh, a weekend of living in the country.  Yes, I know I already live a country life every weekend, in fact, every day is country living around Blooming Hill, so to speak. However, this past weekend was all about Country Living, The Magazine at Stone Mountain Park and resort area just outside of Atlanta, Georgia and it was a whirlwind weekend of country living, in spite of these wonderfully calm and scenic views.

Saturday, Peter and I traveled down gold, emerald and crimson tinged roads and passed by wildlife like Hokies and Tigers, (oh my!) on our way to beautiful Stone Mountain Park where we presented our Blooming Hill Business and product line to the folks at Country Living Magazine,  who were there for one of their famous Country Living Fairs there as well. We were among many crafters and vendors who were selected to "pitch" their products to the magazine.

In a nutshell, it was a bit like living through an early episode of American Idol where contestants sit in a room and wait to be called in front of a panel of judges who make a decision on you and your "craftiness" in five minutes or less. However, unlike the contestants on American Idol where their entire future seems to always be hanging in the balance, I think we "crafters" took this competition a little less seriously.   After all--we were all just presenting crafty ideas and not singing for our next meal.  There was, however, a lot of optimism, excitement and hope spilling out of the room as each of us waited to claim our own five minutes of fame. It will also be a few weeks before we are notified as to whether or not we have been selected by Country Living Magazine, for probably a picture and a nod to our crafts/products in their magazine. I'll let you know when I hear something...keep your fingers crossed!

My check-in time was 8:45am on Sunday morning and by 9:15am, I found myself in a small conference room in front of two judges "pitching" lavender bundles, soaps, sachets as well as eucalyptus wreaths and statuary with Peter (a.k.a. Vana White) holding up products as I talked as fast as I could without taking a breath. Before I could even blink, my presentation was over and I was actually able to say everything I wanted to say in that very short time. They smiled and said, "Thank you, we'll let you know."  I smiled back and said, "Thank you," and we left.  What next?...Disney Word?...Hardly. We went to see the Country Living Fair in full swing in another area of the park, full of great vendors and events which seemed to be straight out of Country Living Magazine. 

Take a look at the "Lazy Boy."  Enough said!
It was still early Sunday morning when we arrived at the fair so, it was easy for us to meander through the sunny fields and shaded paths and get a closer look at everything before the hordes of crowds began to make their way into fair.  I think most were still in bed and at least one by the name of Peter wished, at the time, that he was still in bed as well. However, once he finished power-napping, I think he found the sights at the Country Living Fair to be interesting, if not unexpected at times...

Country Living at it's finest right off of the beaten path, no less!
I'd like to have this artful pile of gourds in my own yard.
Lot's and lot's of vendors.  Some of whom  I recognized from Northern Virginia.

The Charlotte, N.C. skyline.
Me, "Rosemary" and Dean.
Then, were we off to Charlotte, North Carolina to spend the evening with our friends, Dean and Judy, minus Judy who was visiting her mother.  I could not get over how happy and healthy this humongous rosemary is, planted in the ground, in their backyard. What I would give to have a rosemary this size in my own backyard!  I think I'm a little jealous that even the hardiest of rosemary's in my yard cannot "weather" the winters as well as they can down in Charlotte, N.C.

Monday morning came and it was time to make the final leg of our trip back home to Blooming Hill where the sun always shines as did our drive through the autumn-painted mountains and countryside.  Thirteen hundred miles and three days later, my Country Living Weekend is now a happy memory and, hopefully, something will come of it...we'll see.  It was an honor for Peter and me to be included in such a talented bunch of people and, no matter what the outcome, I felt as though the whole "country living" experience was worth it. I'd do it again in a heartbeat!

Okay...this may be a bit premature...but you can't blame me for dreaming, can you?!...Thanks for the very spiffy and "spooffy" magazine cover, Dennis!  Now, that's what I call country living.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tea in the Autumn Garden

What could be better on an autumn afternoon than a drive in the countryside where the air has the snap and tang of the season's first apples? Well, maybe a drive in the Northern Virginia Countryside past farm stands brimming with plump pumpkins and lush bunches of herbs that lead you to a sun-dappled afternoon tea complete with touches of summertime flavor of lovely lavender on a shaded porch looking out over a fall garden. Sounds good, doesn't it? It happened right here at Blooming Hill during the the Loudoun County Fall Farm and Color Tour this past weekend.

However, before we could get to the pleasures of tea with all of the trappings like rosy teapots, a bit of milk, some sugar--one lump or two--your preference, and sweet, sweet delicacies, there was some serious furniture arranging on the porch and the patio Friday afternoon due to over an inch of rain that arrived that mornig and the day before. Of course, I was on my own to do the dirty task which should have been much easier than I made it.

It seemed as though I was playing musical chairs all by myself but couldn't win the game. Everything was helter-skelter for a couple of hours as I attempted to fit five tables and ten chairs on the porch and that many more on the patio so that those coming for tea would be spared the effects of a strong wind this past crisp autumn weekend. It was survival of the fittest as the porch furniture, green garden chairs and I played tug-of-war and for once, I was the fittest!

By Saturday afternoon, when Two Broads and a Brit (and I mean that only in the nicest possible way since that is what this little tea catering company of three very talented women has named themselves) arrived at Blooming Hill to set up for tea-time, the tables and chairs were ready for them to do their magic before the guests arrived. And then, the kitchen took on the appearance of the porch from the day before, but only for a moment.  Perhaps, with a bit of panache along with a pinch of organized chaos, the 2B's & B were busy B's  (Get it?...2B's & B were busy B's?...okay, moving on...) with their preparations for the afternoon tea in the garden. 

Flowers were beautifully arranged and table cloths were gracefully placed over tables, silverware arranged with care and food set out in photograph ready fashion.  the whole place looked was so pretty and dainty and very proper for tea.  Just look at the Twinings Tea tins filled with miniature roses colorful mums, hydrangea, beauty berry and sedum, so cleverly done.

The 2B's and B getting things ready before the tea.
Teapots and teacups organized and at the ready while lavender frosted carrot cake, madelines and scones with clotted cream and homemade strawberry jam and tea sandwiches were arranged prettily on their serving dishes.  The busy, busy 2B's and B (Here we go again!) moved smoothly and quietly from table to table and back to the kitchen filling each guests table with simply delicious treats and Yorkshire tea. I felt as though I was in some kind of English movie production watching these ladies go about their business of creating such an inviting and welcoming atmosphere on my porch and patio.  However, neither Alice nor the Mad Hatter or even the Wild March Hare seemed to be anywhere in sight...probably a good thing.

Autumn tea guests and friends of mine, Samantha Maynard, Dee Verley-Matthews and Bonnie Milam
And then all too soon the weekend was over and the tea guests went back down the country lanes to their homes sufficiently safancified--that means happy and well fed--I learned that term way, way back in sixth grade. Then the dishes were washed, teapots packed, towels and linens folded neatly away and the TB's & B were merrily on their way, too... waving good-by...sigh!

The very talented Two Broads and a Brit--Kim Labash, Joan Jasinski and Karen Wild.
Now, while my porch is cleaned, organized and  paired down furniture-wise as the coming days will bring harsh changes in the weather, it looks a little forlorn without it's autumnal tea party patrons and the lovely Two Broads and a Brit--and I mean that only in the nicest possible way!  Thank you Kim, Joan and Karen and thank you to all of my Fall Color Tour guests.  Let's have another tea party soon, shall we?!  Cheerio!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

October Fashion Show

Ahhhh, October!...Here at last! It is why we endure the harshness of winter, welcome the bursting busy-ness of gardening in spring and wait patiently through the dog days of summer...So we can drink in the golden days of autumn and, in particular, the bounty of October when the first blush of crimson paints itself throughout the backdrop of trees.  The past few days of autumn bliss have me thinking of a poem by the19th Century English poet Ernest Downs and it goes like this..."Pale amber sunlight falls across the reddening October trees, That hardly sway before a breeze, As soft as summer: summer's loss seems little, dear, On days like these. 

Here in the Blooming Hill gardens, the last days of the growing season shorten all to quickly yet the plants seem almost blissful, sighing with relief, covered in morning dew that slowly disappears as the day progresses.  Petals crinkle slightly and leaves begin to curl and fall from stems and vines.  However, late blooming beauties refuse to go quietly into the winter and line themselves up for a few more curtain calls before they take their final bow.  Finally the hyacinth bean, lazily draped over the trellis, decided to open her sleepy eyes and release her violet colored blossoms while roses still flaunt their frailty and compliment the "Indian Summer" black-eyed susans.

Although lavender reigned supreme throughout the summer, they are taking their backstage places.  However, there are still a few holdouts waving good-by as the the Miscanthus grasses now proudly display their ginger-topped supremacy, bowing to no one in the haze of the early morning October sun.

There is so much more to this delightful fall fashion show, so I'll just add a few of it's highlights, sit back and enjoy the parade down Blooming Hill's runway with the rest of you...

I hope you enjoyed some of the flower fashions of the season.  See you next week here at my blog or, stop by and see us during the Loudoun County Fall Color Farm Tour, 10am until 4pm Saturday and Sunday. There are still openings on Sunday especially for the 1pm "Tea in the Autumn Garden" and the sun always shines here at Blooming Hill!