Monday, October 5, 2015

Southern Exposure: French Autumn Wreath

Imagine that you exit the highway and turn down a country road, driving through a tunnel of trees not quite yet turned to gold. You turn into a driveway and spot this.

You have arrived at Southern Exposure for a fall decorating workshop, a fabulous dinner and with enough time to walk through the gardens and savor fall's bounty.


We were there for the French autumn wreath workshop and made sure we arrived in plenty of time to enjoy the gardens.

It may be the last days of summer but everything was in bloom and the world was splashed with color, even if the leaves hadn't quite caught up!

The trademark birdbaths had, of course, flowers and pumpkins.

Angels sat quietly by potted hydrangea.


In fact, there were hydrangea everywhere -- fitting, as they would be a big part of our creative project!

I can't get enough of them!

And in the gazebo, a chandelier and a glass of wine made a pretty pairing.

Even the greenhouse was open with the light shining through.


Zinnias filled the world with splashes of bright colors, attracting butterflies and bees.

Dusty Miller encircled a bed of tall purple salvia.

Seasonal vignettes were around every corner.

It was almost disappointing when we were called in for dinner but we knew that we were in for a treat.

The dining room carried the holiday theme of beautiful decorations.

Meanwhile the food was as divine as the setting, with pork tenderloin with roquefort sauce, mashed potatoes with French tarragon and French thyme, haricots verts, a Parisian-inspired salad with pears and brie and creme brulee for dessert.

Then it was off to the craft tent to make our wreaths. We'd already seen the sample, above.

We started out with a wreath form, a pile of PG hydrangeas and a basket of silk leaves and faux berries and nuts. Our guide, Micah, explained that our wreath was called a French wreath because the base reflected the smaller doors one might find on some French homes. It was less wide than some of the American wreath forms. And it used the natural flowers.

The hydrangea (hortensia) would dry as the wreath aged. Eventually we could remove the fall elements and add pine or other seasonal bits to change it up.

I think we had more fun than anyone should be allowed to have, wiring our flowers to the base and adding in the extra touches. When all was finished we got to pack them into a large wreath box and take home any of the extra leaves and flowers we didn't use.

Before adding the leaves and nuts

Those I was with agreed it may have been our favorite of all the Southern Exposure workshops we've attended. Certainly I was thrilled with the finished product and eager to put it up -- my first decoration for fall!

And in place from a "wide shot" (before I got the rest of the October decorating done!)

And now that I've drawn "first blood," perhaps the rest of the fall decorating will be a little easier. But gently, gently!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Not Quite Autumn at the Ditch -- and a Few Words About Dad

This is a rather long post -- two in one, actually. First, an early autumn walk through the ditch, then a few words about my dad, whose 100th birthday would be October 2.

The Ditch

A few weeks ago, after having passed up walks at the ditch for swimming, I decided it was time to check on Harry (not present this day) and my ducks, along with seeing if autumn was beginning to arrive.


The short answer is "not really." There are a few signs. Certainly the sumac is in full fall force.

And the goldenrod is looking pretty golden!

But for the most part, it's still fairly green, perhaps a more faded green, but green nonetheless.

On this flawless day, the ducks were sunning themselves in the reeds...

...and on the rocks.

Some had chosen the shady (if murky) "third" pond, enjoying the shade of the weeping willow.

Clearly it was a lazy day for the ducksters!

It couldn't be a better day for a walk, with spots of color from asters and berries.

Even the breeze was quiet, gentle and lovely. And soon, some color!


This post is going live on the day before my dad's birthday, which is October 2. Had he lived, he would be 100 on this day. It's quite the number to wrap a brain around!

Rick and I were talking about things that had evolved or were invented during his lifetime and the things that had come about since. Probably the greatest invention during his life was the computer. He died in 1993, just as the personal computer was beginning to come into vogue. A few of his friends had one but they were very expensive and the internet wasn't really what it grew to be.

How he would love that! I could see him checking out his hypochondria on every web medical site and chat room he could find (and see myself talking him down!). He'd see places in the world he'd been, learn about things that were his passions. It would be the next communication step for this guy who cut his teeth on ham radio when he was a teenager.

It struck us that in large part, most things we think of now had  been invented or conceived during his lifetime -- but had evolved into something much bigger in the 22 years since. Before he was born, most wars were regional. He was born during WWI and who would have imagined we would still be fighting them today, even if they aren't called that.

Could he have imagined that he'd hold a phone no bigger than his hand -- one that could connect to Internet? Or that long distance would be covered by the "phone plan"? Or that just about every appliance ever made would have a computer chip within?

The airplane was invented before his time -- and the car. But they both came into common use during his lifetime and even more so after. Medical techniques have changed. Perhaps the lung drugs I use each days are the next generation of medications, having evolved from those he required to simply keep going.

Call me selfish, but from where I sit, the biggest thing he missed out on in these past 22 years was me. He never knew Rick and I know he'd be so happy to know that we are so happy. He'd be impressed by Rick's classical guitar and appreciate that he liked the lake. I can imagine him having long conversations with Greg on art (another thing my dad liked) and with Kevin about Ford. Dad was a Ford guy, for the most part. The Tempo not only got him through his years, but got me through more than a few after I totaled my car a year or two after he died.

He would have been glad to know I had a cat. He always liked cats but the only one of mine he knew was Stimpy, who made visits to him on his kitty leash. He'd had loved "let me crawl all over you" Gypsy and my sweet Purr Girl Lizzie.

Dad was always my biggest supporter (mom, too -- but that was so long ago) and he always worried. He'd be relieved to know that I'm OK. Yes, I think he is.

One hundred candles, one for each of the ways I value the things I learned from you and the memories we shared.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

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