Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Out with the Old, In with the New!

This is a follow up to my story yesterday about the toll the extreme summer heat has taken on some of the flowers in our courtyard. If you would like to read that post you can click here. And now for "the rest of the story."

You may recall that my red Verbena was languishing on what I call "death row" (a place where my plants go when they are scraggly, faded, and sad looking).

I couldn't stand to watch their suffering any longer, and bought some "Chapel Hill Gold" Lantana plants to replace the Verbena.

Late yesterday afternoon some dark clouds started rolling in and I took advantage of the sun screen and went out to plant the Lantana.

It was painful to have to pull up the Verbena plants. They had been so pretty and had really struggled to be "good flowers," but they were no match for our sizzling Mississippi temperatures hovering close to the 100-degree mark for several days in a row. Perhaps they will be given a "new lease on life" when they reach the landfill.

I would like to think of them reviving themselves and standing tall and proud, their bold red blossoms beautifying their final resting place. Sorry, I tend to get emotional about losing my "death row" plants.

Oh, well ... as they say, "Out with the old, in with the new!"

And here are the Lantanas in their new home. Is it my imagination, or is that a welcoming smile on Harry the Heron's face? And look at that frog beside the pond in the background on the left. I think he looks kind of happy to see some new flowers, too!

Remember the pink Verbena (from yesterday's post) that was languishing away in the urn?

I had a couple of Lantanas left, so I "recycled" the pink Verbena, too.

I love it when a plan comes together, and I'm very pleased with my new flower bed. I just hope the Lantana remembers the "Promised Performance" pledge on their tags ...

... Because I surely don't want them to end up "you know where."

And to give them a little extra "encouragement," I couldn't resist adding this little sign.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Thou Shalt Not Whine About the Heat

I have a little wooden plaque prominently displayed above my cooktop in my kitchen where I can see it everyday.

It reads:

I wish I could say that I am a faithful follower of that rule, but I have to confess that I have been known to whine "every now and then" ... and it seems that "every now and then" has become more and more often now that summer has arrived, bringing temperatures in the mid-90s and heat indexes hovering around 115.

I've been practically hibernating the past couple of weeks, only going outside to water my plants on our porch, and to watch the flowers planted around our courtyard slowly fade and wither under the sizzling June sunshine. It's as if they are on "death row," just serving their time until the inevitable happens -- I can't stand looking at their little yellowed leaves and scraggly blossoms any longer and pull them up!

I braved the noonday sun yesterday (97-degree high/117-degree heat index) to capture some pictures of my struggling red Verbena patch.

It doesn't look so bad from a distance ...

But when you look more closely, you see that it's really suffering.

Especially when you consider that it looked like this just a couple of weeks ago:

And, sad to say, I've already put some pink Verbena that was in one of my urns out of its misery, and this poor little "death row" plant's days are numbered, too.

This is the way it looked a couple of weeks ago, bless its heart:

When I looked out the window yesterday morning at the red Verbena, it seemed to be gasping for breath and begging for mercy, so I decided it was time to put it out of its misery, too.

While I was out running some errands, I stopped by Home Depot and was delighted to see a cart filled with a new shipment of "Chapel Hill Gold" Lantana plants that they hadn't even had time to price yet. They looked so fresh and GREEN and healthy, and I just couldn't leave them there. I thought they would be perfect to replace the Verbena.

I didn't get the Lantana planted yesterday, but hope to this afternoon when it cools off a little (hopefully, without too much whining about the heat, and before dark!).

Oh, and did you notice what it says on the tag? It says, "Promised Performance." I wonder if that means it will be granted a pardon before reaching "death row?"

I turned the tag over to read the planting information, and discovered that the sale of those Lantana plants supports the Sweet Melissa Lung Transplant Fund. I was pleased to be able to contribute in a small way and thought that was very nice lagniappe. If you would like to read Melissa's story, you can click on the link.

As I continued to read the "fine print" on the back of the tag, I also learned that "Asexual reproduction of plants protected by the Plant Patent Act is prohibited." So, remember that the next time you think about reproducing your plants. You don't want to end up on death row, too! That would result in some major whining, I think.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Thank You Note

Just a note to thank you, my sweet blogging friends, for visiting me at Southern Lagniappe, and for your kind and gracious comments. No matter how boring or repetitious my posts may sometimes be, you always come up with something sweet and thoughtful to say about them.

Even though we have never met, I have come to know and admire each of you ... not only for your accomplishments as decorators, or quilters, or gardeners, or homemakers, or photographers, or teachers ... but also for the compassion, grace, sincerity, and kindness reflected through your words and comments, not only to me, but to others.

You never cease to inspire me by your eloquence, entertain me with your wit and humor, and encourage and comfort me by your grace and steadfast faith in the face of adversity.

Your sweet spirits, compassion for others, and devotion to your families and God always inspire me to be a better person ... and my days are brighter for having met you.

Thank you, my friends ...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Story of Kaspar the Cat

I love listening to audio books while I'm driving, especially during the hour's drive from Vicksburg to Jackson, which I make at least once a week, if not more. I have been listening to bestselling author David Baldacci's book Deliver Us from Evil, and would like to share a story from the book that I think is interesting.

I checked to see if the story is true, and discovered that, indeed, it is. It is the story of Kaspar the Cat, a longtime resident of the Savoy Hotel in London.

Opened in 1889, the Savoy is one of London's finest hotels, and has long been cherished by the rich and famous for its grandiose Art Deco interiors and its tradition of service and comfort.

The story begins in 1898 when Woolf Joel, a South African guest at the hotel, gave a dinner party to which only 13 were able to attend. He laughed off the old superstition that tragedy would fall upon the first guest to rise from such a gathering, and so the dinner continued. His friends' fears were soon justified however, when Woolf was fatally shot following his return to Johannesburg.

After this incident, the hotel always provided a staff member if a party had 13 guests. However, as some of the dinner conversations were often of a confidential nature, a wooden-eared black cat named Kaspar was conceived to become a convenient 14th guest, a tradition which, as far as I can ascertain, remains to this day.

Kaspar is a sleek three-foot high wooden sculpture created for the hotel during the 1920s by Basil Ionides.

When hosts find their private dinner parties attended by the unlucky number of 13 guests, they can request the pleasure of Kaspar's company as the "14th guest." The handsome cat is seated in a chair, draped with a dinner napkin, and is served each course as though he were one of the diners.

When not attending dinner parties, Kaspar resides inside a glass display case opposite the hotel gift shop.

I've never had the pleasure of visiting London, but if I ever have the opportunity to go, I think the Savoy will definitely be on my list of places to see. It has been closed since December 2007 for extensive renovations, with a reopening date of October 2010. Wouldn't it be fun to be the first to host a dinner party for 13 in the new restaurant, and have the pleasure of meeting and dining with Kaspar. Just imagine the stories he could tell about dining with the rich and famous (including several times with Sir Winston Churchill) ... if only he could talk.

Friday, June 25, 2010

TV or Not TV? That is the Question!

One of the most debated issues in decorating these days is probably the pros and cons of hanging a TV set over a mantel or fireplace.

Until recently, I was a full-fledged member of the "Absolutely-Hate-the-Idea" group, but I have to admit that I'm considering joining the ranks of the "On-the-Fence-for-Now" group, also known as the "Wishy-Washy" group.

I've always loved decorating our mantel for the seasons, especially for Christmas, and I just can't imagine replacing my garland and birds with a television set!

However, having said that, we have been toying with the idea of building a house, and have had several lively "discussions" about the placement of the fireplace in the living room. We are considering rebuilding a house we built in 2000, with modifications, and in that house, the fireplace was in a corner, with a built-in TV cabinet with doors next to the fireplace; floor-to-ceiling bookshelves were beside the TV cabinet. This is a picture of the living room in that house which will give you an idea of the layout.

I cringe when I look at that picture and see how my taste in decorating has changed. Our friends at Rate My Space would have a field day "critiquing" it, but bear in mind that it was ten years ago! You will also notice in the picture that the mantel was decorated for Fall.

I said all that to say this: In the new house, my husband wants to move the fireplace from the corner and recess it into the wall where the TV cabinet was ... and hang a flat-screen TV set over it. This would give us more room in the corner where the fireplace was, plus, we could add the floor-to-ceiling bookcases on both sides of the fireplace. The TV set wouldn't just "hang on the wall," but would have some kind of wood trim around it and would be recessed within the frame.

I like that idea, but I truly can't bear to think about not being able to decorate the mantel. And now you have "the rest of the story," which explains how I have become a "fence-sitter" whenever the topic of hanging the TV set over the fireplace comes up.

I have researched the subject and browsed through magazines for pictures and ideas, and would like to share my findings.

There are several factors to be considered, such as the aesthetics of this location, proper viewing angles, and the impact heat may have on your TV performance.

The following tips are from Canadian House & Home magazine. Here is what they recommend for proper placement (the red comments are mine):

Treat it Like Art: Your flat-panel TV should be mounted at the same height as you would hang a piece of art of the same size over your fireplace. It doesn't say anything about where you put your garlands and birds. :(

If in Doubt, Do a Little Math: Depending on the height of your mantel — or if you don’t have one, the top of the fireplace — hang the TV four to twelve inches above. If your mantel is higher than four feet, then hang the TV no more than six inches above.

Think about a Tilt Mount: Mounting your TV above your fireplace means it will be higher than normal (ideally, your TV should be at eye level for comfortable viewing), so you may want to consider mounting the TV onto a "tilting and panning wall mount" so you don’t have to crane your neck to watch television, and can also enjoy the view from anywhere in the room.

Mock It Up First: To help you center the TV to your fireplace and decide on the most pleasing height before you start drilling holes, test its placement by cutting out a paper rectangle the same size as your unit and tape it to the wall. Evaluate its placement from a sitting position and adjust it accordingly.

Do the Radiant Heat Test: Test out the radiant heat that emits from your fireplace as it could greatly reduce the lifespan of your TV. Assess this by starting a fire and place your hand over the area where your TV will be mounted. If it feels considerably hotter than room temperature, you should consider placing your TV elsewhere in the room. [Another factor to consider if you have a mantel is that heat is deflected out and up by the mantel and does not directly affect the TV]

Now for the fun part. Here are a few pictures I came across that capture the imaginations and creativity of designers when it comes to disguising TV sets when they are placed over a fireplace, thereby becoming the focal point of a room. The ideas range from plain and simple to elegant and fancy. I've also seen pictures of TVs hidden behind paintings or other works of art, and TVs that recede into a cabinet or piece of furniture, but that gets to be quite costly.

I think I like the following idea the best of the ones I've seen so far (I'm sure I will look at hundreds more pictures before I settle on one ... IF we decide to go with the TV over the fireplace, that is.).

Photo of fireplace by Lydia Lindsey, Flickr (I added one of my pictures to the tv screen).

By the way, have you seen how THIN the latest flat-screen TVs are? It's really amazing and hard for me to comprehend.

If you are still with me, I'd like to hear your opinion on this subject and hope you will take the time to comment. To paraphrase our friend Shakespeare: To hang the TV over the fireplace, or not -- that is the question!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Copycat Decorating Idea

My new issue of Country Living magazine arrived in yesterday's mail and as I was thumbing through it, I saw an idea I liked. It was a very simple arrangement of fern fronds arranged in three glass bottles, and I thought, "I can do that!"

Here is the picture from the magazine (you can click on it to enlarge it to see the arrangement better):

I didn't have three bottles like the ones in the picture, but I was pleased with the look I achieved with three old glass candlesticks I've had for years.

Here's a picture showing the vase of silk daisies that are usually on the game table for spring and summer ...

It's not an earthshaking change, but I had fun trying to duplicate the arrangement in the magazine, and I think I may make another one to use as a centerpiece for my 4th of July patio table.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Building a Bird Nest 101

When you think of a bird's nest, you probably imagine a beautiful little work of art consisting of delicate twigs and vines and bits of moss diligently collected by the mama and daddy birds, tightly woven and neatly bound together to form a safe nest in which to raise their new babies ... right? Well, I've discovered that not all bird nests look like this one:

Some nests look like the busy little mama and daddy birds could have used a few lessons in nest-building before they started working on their nest. The little house wrens (I think) that built this nest on top of a column on our porch are a case in point. Just look at the results of all their hard work:

Is that not the messiest bird nest you've ever seen!

And they couldn't have picked a worst spot for it ... under our porch where we spend a lot of time (when it's not so hot).

This is the fourth time they've built a nest on top of that column. The first three nests either fell apart or were blown down, and they finally abandoned them. I thought they had learned a lesson, but I guess they thought they would give it one more try.

You've got to give them an A for effort and diligence, at least, but I don't think they'll ever get more than a C- for aesthetics, bless their little hearts.

If this nest holds together long enough for the wrens to have babies, I will keep you posted. However, having experienced the dubious pleasure of birds building a nest in a basket on my front door once, I have to admit that I have mixed emotions about them raising their babies above my rocking chair on the porch.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summertime and the Livin' is Easy

With Mississippi temperatures hitting the low 100s, and heat indexes hovering around 105 degrees, it makes me wish for a couple of days like February 12th of this year ...