Friday, June 27, 2014

a fairy tale garden

Do you know the tale of "The Frog Prince"?
I devoured fairy tales as a child, especially Anderson and Grimm. But this Grimm's tale is one I didn't really know until recently. It's very popular here and in German it has two names, "Der Froschkönig" and "Der Eisener Heinrich" ("Iron Henry"). The tale starts with the princess playing with her golden ball. To her dismay, it falls into the well. A frog offers to retrieve it for her but she must promise be his friend and share her table and room with him. She readily agrees but the minute she has her golden ball back she flees from her slimy new friend.
Her father sees what has happened and demands that she keep her promise. Reluctantly she allows the frog to become her playmate for the rest of the day. That night, when the frog wants to share her bed with her, she just can't stand it any more and she flings the repellent creature across the room (my dear readers, wouldn't you as well!?) When the frog slams into the wall, it breaks the spell that "Iron Henry" is under and he transforms back into a handsome prince. They live happily ever after.
No surprise parents might hesitate this tale to their children. At first it seems this princess is a liar and a thrower. She is very human and just like any real little girl. But the important thing is that she follows her heart's instinct and in the end that is exactly what is needed to make the magic happen. This isn't magic from a glass slipper or a pretty face, but acting out on your instinct. How wonderfully daunting and daring it is to follow your heart!
I started to really adore this tale when my youngest son was in preschool and he got the role of the king when his class performed this as a play. When the little girl playing the princess came to him and told him she would not have the frog spend the night in her room, he had to bang his fist on the table and sternly reprimand her with "You may not take back your promises!". My son at 4 was no stranger to banging his fist and shouting his demands!
So what does this have to do with my garden? A few days ago while watering the  flowers I realized "The Frog King" is right here in our yard. There's romance, purity, a hint of royalty and even a pottery frog. I didn't realize I had a fairy tale so close!
This flower bed is near the house and has a romantic castle or wishing-well feel with the rock wall and border and lots of ivy. It's just a narrow strip in the shadow of the house and I like how white and yellow flowers come to life in the shade. And after sundown when the sky is still light they just seem to glow.
This year I have white petunias, little daisies, and garden cosmos. I discovered these delightfully romantic little silene flowers with the beautiful name "Starry Dreams".
There are also the green boxwood bushes that I attempt my best with the clippers to shape into spheres and they are wonderful all year round (especially nice and green in the winter - so pretty with snow )
I found a pair shabby chic crown ornaments years ago at the dollar shop and they have gotten rusty and fragile. I hope they hold out a little longer because I think they are pretty.
The yellow flowers and the round boxwood symbolize the Princess's golden ball.
Last but not least, Mr. Frog!

Magic is all around us, we just have to open our eyes and notice!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

cherry memories

Taking a small break from cherry pitting and jam making!
Creativity ebbs and flows and my poor sewing machine is being very neglected at the moment and the stacks of fabric are nice and neat and untouched. On the other hand, my table is now a mess of photos and papers. I guess this is the way of a mixed-media creative!
All those beautiful cherries have made me quite nostalgic. This time I've reached for photos from my own childhood.
One of my summer highlights as a young girl was traveling to my grandparents and great-grandmother. They had a wonderful beach house that was so fun for all the little cousins. The peninsula where they lived in northern Michigan is famous for being the "Cherry Capitol of the World". It was a lovely drive to their house along the shores of Lake Michigan with quaint villages, old farm houses, and lush orchards. Little roadside cherry stands lined the road. We always stopped to pick up some fresh fruit for our grandparents.
I can still recall the anticipation of that moment of arrival! Embracing each other with heartfelt hugs, a happy dog jumping at our feet, and then no doubt we started to beg to change into our swimsuits and jump into the waves.
Grandmother would have a homemade cherry pie waiting for us and it seemed like there was always one stray pit. It also seemed like my father was always the one to get it, which we kids always thought was pretty funny but also a sign of good fortune.
We would spend days at the beach or taking excursions to nearby points of interest. One of the summer rituals was to drive out to the dunes and then, after hours of sandy play, stop in at a 1920's bistro in a country village for a refreshing glass of cherry lemonade or piece of pie. A few years back my parents had a chance to go there again and brought me a paper menu. My kind of cute kitsch! I knew it would eventually find its way into one of my scrapbook pages. Here we are with my precious Great-Grandmother.
I have included little subtle details to accompany the story. I have so much scrapbook paper (I admit!) and sometimes I don't really dig deep through to find the most perfect match, but just take the first thing that catches my eye. This pretty 6 x 6 pad paper has a repeating print  "New York" and "1898". Love this kind of synchronicity, as my Great-Grandmother was born and raised there. It's not quite her exact birth year but it has that end-of-the-19th century feel that I associate with her. I have also added little red and blue sequin stars and royal blue glitter letters - as a bit of Americana -  and buttons, lace, and a plastic little girl's butterfly hair clip; those elements seem "grandmotherly" to me.
The photo is perfectly imperfect. My mom is missing, but her place at the table with her piece of pie is visible; she's there behind the camera. I know she wanted to capture my dad interacting with his grandmother. Every photo has so much to tell, often those "imperfect" ones are the most interesting! I love how scrapbooking can give you a chance to look at bit closer and reflect a bit longer than you might while just flipping through a regular photo album.
This is not the first or the last page I will make with a "cherry" theme!
This is an older layout about one of our half-dozen cherry trees. It never fails to stun me with its beauty in the spring, brimming with white blossoms, or in the fall with the sun glowing through the golden leaves. Most of my scrapbook pages are about the people I love, but on occasion I will dedicate a layout to a tree!

I guess I should go give this tree a hug for giving us so much fruit and always reminding me of very happy times.
Thanks for looking. I hope you have a very sweet day!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

cherry season

Last post I was daydreaming under the cherry tree. Now I'm lazing around no more! My darling husband and daughter have been so busy picking cherries from our little orchard and every time I get through one bucket, it seems like another one has materialized when I turn around! I have to admit I feel a bit chained to the sink, protected by a favorite apron, grateful for the bounty yet wondering if there will ever be an end to the pitting.

Aren't these beauties just gorgeous to look at?
My daughter has also been helping by brainstorming up great ideas for dealing with our harvest.
She baked a pie and a cake and thought we should try to dry cherries. Years ago we had purchased a food dehydrator and sadly, I have to admit it kind of got forgotten in the cellar. We dusted it off, and voila, the dried cherries are absolutely fantastic, I am going to start another batch today as they are simply delicious and chewy to munch on as a snack. They would also be perfect for muffins.
There are about 2 dozen jars of cherry jam now in the cellar (so nice in the winter and wonderful gifts); the last batch was the best with a dash of cinnamon and a splash of Amaretto, divine. Lastly, we concocted a delicious berry sauce with the last of our strawberries and the first of the red currants, and of course a generous amount of cherries. Lovely on vanilla ice-cream.
Off to the kitchen for the next batch!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

summer living

Spring suddenly became sweltering summer this past weekend. It was the hottest Pentecost on record. We were so lucky to have a 3 day weekend so we had a chance to enjoy family time at our favorite lake to splash, swim and cool down.
Family days at the lake mean I need to be really organized and get my shopping done or else I get to concoct "interesting" meals with whatever I find in the fridge. This spaghetti salad was one of those things but it turned out delicious! I tossed in mozzarella, green onions, sliced olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, red pepper, toasted pine nuts, and chopped arugula from the garden; then drizzled a dressing of olive oil and red wine vinegar, salt and pepper over the (cooled) pasta.
A platter of colorful fresh finger food is even easier than making a salad. I find even my pickiest eaters will gladly nibble away on fruit and veggies when displayed like this.
If we can't find time to travel to our lake, I seek refuge from the heat with a cool snack under the shade of one of our cherry trees.
If you love gorgeous nostalgic photos and lovely traditional recipes, and if you have a bit of an Italy obsession (check all of the above!), I highly recommend the beautiful book "Limoncello and Linen Water" by Tessa Kiros. I am savoring it slowly and these hot days are just the perfect backdrop for imagining....

Alas, thunderstorms have chased away the heat and blue skies, but at least my flowers got a wonderful drenching of water and the temperatures have cooled down slightly. And my children for once are happy that it's raining while they have school and not the other way around. (They really are convinced the weather changes the minute the school bell rings!)

I hope wherever you are, you have a lovely day -  with or without raindrops but certainly with few moments for daydreaming!


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

reds & pinks in the garden

The garden is bursting with reds and pinks - not just flowers but fruits. We are picking strawberries and eating them for dessert, for breakfast...they are not huge like the ones in the store but so sweet and fresh.
The roses are still blooming away. So fragrant. I'm in love. I visit them frequently and stick my nose right into them and I hope my neighbors don't think I'm too crazy!
We have two quite old cherry trees which do provide a small harvest most years. Monday morning I made some cherry jam - with a generous splash of Amaretto.
These super lovely labels were a free printable. I popped them out with my circle punch. Link to the labels and more cute jam inspiration here.
As we are a bilingual family I can never decide whether to write the labels in English or German so I just do a few each way. (Plus I think it's just fun to write the word "marmalade"!)
There can never be too much pink so we have geraniums, petunias, peonies, poppies....
Thanks for visiting!