Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fall Findings

The colors of fall are amazing. I just love how the reds and greens are made even more beautiful when situated beside the color of brown. These are some photos that were taken just a few steps from my home.

Isn't this just the prettiest shade of red?

One lonely acorn fell into the dry bird bath.

Green or red? This plant can't seem to decide.

Little splotches of green brighten up the landscape.

All acorns are invited to the party going on beside the sidewalk!!!

The ground is covered with lots of acorns, big and small, this year. I hear the familiar drop and roll sound on the roof day and night. Does that mean we are in for a rough winter?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Perfect Weekend

I love fall weekends! There is something about the way the chill in the early morning air melts into the warmth of the afternoon. There is also something special about the way that the sun's light illuminates the glorious colors that are found all around.

This past weekend our family traveled for the day to the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway once again for some sightseeing and a picnic. I can't think of any better way to celebrate a fall weekend than time spent together enjoying God's creation. I thought I would share just a few of the pictures that I took of our drive.

The trees are just beautiful when clothed with fall colors.

This is my husband's favorite part of the parkway.

Everyone loves a picnic!

Who could resist a little shopping?

We had to visit Ben Long's fresco painted on a little country church's wall.

Isn't the church absolutely beautiful?

We have been studying Michelangelo's art and fresco painting. When you home school, every trip becomes a field trip.

When your hobby is photography, everything becomes a photograph.

I love the cross against the blue sky.

Every trip to the mountains has to include some exploring.

Isn't it amazing how a little trickle of water...

...can turn into a beautiful waterfall?

Michelangelo could not have painted a picture as lovely as this.

Stopping in Hickory to have dinner with my nephew was a great ending to a perfect day.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Evening Strolls and Southern Charm

Earlier this week I posted about planting creeping fig in an attempt to incorporate some Southern charm into the landscape around my home. I mentioned being inspired by glimpses of the gated gardens of Charleston, South Carolina. Many commented about their own love for Charleston or a wish to visit there themselves. Bonnie even suggested a lovely book about a Charleston garden (which I will most certainly read)! Allison, one of my newest blogging friends, mentioned a desire to see more of my own Southern garden. So here it goes!

After pondering Allison's request, I came up with many reasons as to why she would be disappointed after seeing my garden.

1. I do not really have a garden. (I use the words garden and landscaping

2. I am not a gardener. (I am in awe of those of you who are true gardeners.)

3. My landscaping has many imperfections. (Did I mention that I am not a gardener?)

4. This summer's drought really took its toil on my landscaping. (a.k.a. garden)

5. Fall is not the best season for show-and-tell. (See some of my spring posts.)

However, as I have said before, I am a very transparent blogger. I am not afraid to show the bad as well as the good in my blog. Keeping that in mind, I took a little evening stroll around the house trying to capture some of the Southern elements of my landscaping.

A climbing camellia is actually a regular camellia that is pruned to appear to climb the brick wall.

The Adirondack chairs are not a Southern element, but the view is!

What Southern garden is complete without lots of ferns? I just wish I could get mine to grow as big as the ones in Charleston. Any ideas?

Of course every garden needs a kitty or two. They are perfect for catching pesky voles.

Every Southern garden needs roses! Since I am not a gardener, I grow knock-out roses. These are easy to grow and smell wonderful.

This is a picture of the alcove area created with our addition. The creeping fig is on the wall that cannot be seen. If you look closely you can see one of our Southern enemies...Bermuda grass! It invades every inch of our landscaping. Does anyone have suggestions on getting rid of it for good?

Our fall-blooming camellia is full of buds this year.

Camellias truly are southern shrubs that I cannot get enough of.

As you can see, my alcove is not big enough to be called a courtyard, but I just love the character that it adds to my home.

Look! I found a little surprise! I noticed my first fall camellia bloom during my evening stroll. (Thanks, Allison, for sending me out to photograph my landscaping!)

I love this time of evening during the fall months. The air has a certain woodsy scent that one can just inhale deeply to melt away the stress of the day. Maybe I was wrong...maybe fall is the best time in my garden/landscaping/yard. And, maybe...just maybe I'll turn into a gardener when I grow up! When under the influence of this autumn air, one begins to believe that anything is possible.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Creeping Fig

John and I visited Charleston, South Carolina about nine years ago for our tenth anniversary. We both fell in love with the city instantly and have returned several times for family trips as well as anniversaries. The charm of this city puts a spell on us every time.

One of my favorite things to do in Charleston is to walk the streets taking a peek through the iron gates into the hidden gardens. Although the view is limited due to the high garden walls, one can always get a little glimpse of the beauty beyond the gates. I have always wished to go back one day for a garden tour in that lovely city.

One of my goals for my own garden is to create some of the old Southern charm that is captured so well in the gardens of Charleston. Fortunately, I was able to incorporate some of that charm into my own landscaping when an addition to my house created a little alcove with French doors leading to my patio. The addition created a wall that is visible from my kitchen window. A feature that could be cold and unattractive proved to be the perfect place to add some Charleston charm.

I decided to add some creeping fig to climb the wall giving interest and beauty to the bare brick. A neighbor informed me that creeping fig would never survive our winters, however, I planted my three tiny plants anyway. Look at them now! After several cold winters, the fig is still growing by leaps and bounds. Even though it starts looking a little ragged near the end of the winter season, it perks right up in the spring. I guess the alcove provides just enough protection from winter's bite. That just goes to prove that sometimes it pays to ignore the advice of another and plant what you love and just wait and see what happens.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fall Garden

Our local farmer's market has closed for the season. What a shame! I will miss the fresh vegetables that are so readily available in the summer. Thankfully, the fall season has some veggies of its own to share. Until they are ready, I'll have to look back on pictures from the summer market.

My dad still has butter beans producing. He also has an assortment of wonderful fall greens that are just now ready to pick. We have already enjoyed some delicious mustard greens and turnip greens. I still miss my tomatoes, fresh from the vine.

John and I finally planted our fall garden (a little late) last weekend. We have not had much rain at all and we couldn't decide if it was even worth the effort. After much consideration and procrastination, we planted some romaine, kale, broccoli, and cabbage. It has been unusually warm for this time of the year, so maybe some of it will have time to grow and produce.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens. Unless the weather cooperates, it looks like I'll have to drag out the water hose. It will be worth it to have some good ole fall veggies to eat. Do you have a fall veggie garden? What do you have growing?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall

I love this time of year when summer slowly drifts into fall. It seems that just for a little while we are able to enjoy the best of both worlds. The days are sunny and warm, while the nights are clear and cool. This is probably one of my busiest times of the year. (That may explain why I am a little behind on my blogs.)

This fall seems to be especially busy for our family. Catie has spent most of her time applying for colleges and scholarships, and Carson has been busy with her music. I am so proud of both of my girls. Although they are very different in their likes and dislikes, they both seem to have a drive to develop the talents and abilities that God has given them. John and I couldn't be more blessed.

Even with all of their activities, I have managed to savor the last little bit of summer. I am trying to hang on to my basil just a little longer. Although my tomatoes have long been gone, I did make a caprese salad one day last week with store bought plum tomatoes that I roasted to bring out the flavor. It was yummy.

I just wish that I lived near a store that sold freshly made mozzarella. Now, that would have been perfection.

To bring in fall, I decided to make something that I have never made before.... butternut squash soup. I wish I could give you a wonderful recipe for this soup, however, I can't. When I cook, I just combine ingredients that I think will be good together and go for it.

I started by sauteing onions in olive oil and a little butter until they were softened.

The hardest part about the whole experience was peeling the squash. Does anyone have suggestions to make that easier? After peeling the squash and cutting it into cubes, I roasted it in the oven at 400 degrees for 30 minutes with olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary. I turned it over once after fifteen minutes.

Doesn't that look delish! It was actually very good after roasting. I think it would make a perfect side dish.

Then, I combined the roasted squash and the onions in the pot and added enough chicken stock to cover and simmered for about 15 minutes.

After letting this mixture cool, I pureed it all in a blender, put it back into the pot, and added chicken stock and half-and-half until it reached the consistency that I wanted.

It was very good for my first attempt. Butternut squash soup is a perfect choice for a fall meal starter. It was a little rich and my family said that the serving bowls were a little too big. I'm sure that one could make it with just chicken stock to make it a little healthier, but I kinda like the richness.

As you can see, I celebrate the changing of the seasons in the kitchen. How do you say goodbye to summer and hello to fall?