Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Carolina Designer Craftsmen Guild Show

Colorful floorcloths by GraffitiMats.
Each year on Thanksgiving weekend the Carolina Designer Craftsmen Guild Show is held in the Expo Center of the NC State Fairgrounds, and this year marked their 42nd show.  I always look forward to the show.  One of the artists that I liked this year is GraffitiMats where artist Sheree White Sorrells and her husband Ken create fabric collages on canvas.  Their floorcloths, table mats and coasters are fun and functional and display colors in unusual combinations.  Check out their website to learn how they make this colorful artwork (  I bought some of the coasters, and now I'm wishing I had bought a floorcloth for our kitchen.  Guess I'll just have to make a trip to their studio in Waynesville, NC.

Marti Mocahbee, Clay Artist.
I love, love, love the pieces by clay artist, Marti Mocahbee.  Her pieces have a contemporary style with influences from the past--Greek, Egyptian, Celtic, Native American Indian and Japanese.  (

Bowl by Marti Mocahbee (from her website).
The show had its usual variety of media represented: clay, fiber, glass, jewelry, wood and photography.  Meeting the artists and enjoying their works was a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and I am already looking forward to next year's show.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fiber Visions: Art to Wear

Fiber Visions

One of the most beautiful booths at the Carolina Designer Craftsmen Guild's Show this past weekend was Joanna White's Fiber Visions( 
Her hand painted silk garments in vibrant blues, purples, greens and shades of orange truly are "art to wear". 
Hand-painted silk kimono with machine quilting.

Artist Joanna White.

"Silk is a living, breathing fiber that reflects light and has an inner radiance that brings forth the beauty of the wearer. Painting on silk is like flying in beautiful skies . . . the dyes move and flow magically on stretched white silk."
Joanna White

For a description of Joanna's technique and to see more of her beautiful art, check out her website:

Monday, November 28, 2011

Fatsia japonica, a Great Plant for the Shade

Small courtyard between bedroom deck and garage landscaped with evergreen shade plants.
Years ago when we built a garage south of and quite near the house, we created a little courtyard between the master bedroom deck and the garage.  Not only did it change the view from our deck, but it created a shady area along the side of the garage.  We have been able to landscape this area with shade tolerant plants that provide a lovely view.  One of our favorites is Fatsia japonica (Japanese aralia).  
Fatsia japonica is the focal plant in the courtyard.
Fatsia, an impressive plant with a big personality, is an evergreen plant with large shiny, lobed leaves up to 12 inches wide.  It is native to Japan, as the name suggests, but it is used worldwide in landscapes.  Fatsia provides a nice architectural plant in the landscape, especially when mixed with plants such as monkey grass (in foreground of photo) and hellebores (in background of photo).  These along with the Carolina jessamine on the fence provide a green shade garden year round.
Large, shiny evergreen leaves of Fatsia.
The leaves of this plant can be used nicely with indoor flower arrangements, and they are long lasting..
Flowers of Fatsia.
Flowering season is October or November and the flowers are tiny, white, and occur in spherical clusters on a terminal stalk.  The flowers don't add much to the landscape appearance; the plant is grown primarily for its outstanding foliage.

If you are in need of a focal plant for your shade garden, I highly recommend Fatsia.  It is great for dramatic, architectural effect with its large glossy leaves.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Autumn Leaves: Raking Of and Playing In

Red oak in yard with a lot of leaves yet to fall.
Growing up in the country one of my favorite memories of autumn is that of raking up a big pile of leaves and playing in them.  We lived in a wooded area, and in the fall we would rake the leaves off the lawn into large piles and burn them.  We didn't compost back then.  To this day whenever I smell leaves burning it takes me back to those childhood days.
A pile of leaves I raked up on the back patio.
We are in a heavily wooded neighborhood here in Raleigh, and although our son Patrick takes care of most of our landscaping needs, I occasionally indulge in some leaf-raking as I did the other day.  I still enjoy it.  Of course we don't burn the leaves, but pile them along the curb for the city to collect and compost. 
Leaves along the curb ready for collection by city.
Grands in the leaves Thanksgiving 2007.
Children still enjoy playing in a pile of leaves.  Four years ago on Thanksgiving my grandchildren were out in the yard romping in a pile of leaves.  That provided a great photo op for me, and the grands were delighted to have their picture taken in the leaves.
Grands in the leaves Thanksgiving 2011.
This year on Thanksgiving there was a big pile of leaves in the yard, and  I thought I would recreate the leaf pile photo.  It was not easy coaxing the grands (especially the boys) to pose for the photo (What a difference four years make). You can tell from their expression they're not having as much fun as they did four years ago.  I wonder what their reaction will be next Thanksgiving when I declare, "It's time for the leaf pile photo!"

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Half Gallon Now 1.5 Quarts

Have you noticed recently how grocery products are becoming smaller while the price stays the same or maybe even increases? Food companies are keeping the price of an item the same while decreasing the amount of food in the package. The company recoups the costs of the rise in commodities and hopes consumers don't notice that they're getting less of the product for the same price.
What used to be a half-gallon of ice cream is now 1.5 quarts.
Breyer's ice cream went from 2 quarts (half gallon) in a carton to 1.75 quarts and now it's 1.5 quarts.

Recently my niece asked me for a recipe for my rum cake.  I hadn't made it recently, so when I dug out the recipe to send her I thought I would make one for us too.  The recipe calls for an 18.5 oz box of yellow cake mix.  As I searched for such a box at the grocery the other day, I found that box is now 18.25 oz.  I'm hoping that a quarter of an ounce is not going to make a difference when I make this cake.
This yellow cake mix has gone from 18.5 oz to 18.25 oz.
I'm wondering if I will one day buy a dozen eggs at the grocery store and find that there are only eleven eggs in the carton!
Will a dozen eggs contain only 11 eggs in the carton one day?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner at the University Club

For the last five or six years Dan and I have had Thanksgiving dinner at the NC State University Club where we are members.  It has become a tradition, and each year we invite family or friends to join us  Yesterday we invited Dan's son Malcolm.

I did my graduate work at NC State and as an alumna I and my extended family are eligible for membership in the Club, and we have been members for about fifteen years now.  The Club has just undergone a major renovation, completely redoing the lobby and the main dining room.
Logo in the lobby.
The main dining area.
Among advantages of membership is the opportunity to partake of their wonderful Thanksgiving dinner.  It is always good.

Plates ready to be filled.
Great selection on the fruit platter.

My entree.
 After a fruit salad, I chose for my entree turkey (dark meat) two kinds of dressing, cranberry sauce, collards, sweet potato casserole, and squash casserole.  All were good.
There was a vast array of desserts including pecan pie, pumpkin pie, several different cakes, and several different cheesecakes.  I chose a small spiced pumpkin cake.  I had my pumpkin pie and rum cake later in the day at home.
Small individual pumpkin spice cakes.
We enjoy our membership in the University Club all year round, but especially at Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Lunch at Pullen Park

Enclosed carrousel in Pullen Park.
After being closed for two years during its renovation, Pullen Park opened this past weekend. I went over Sunday, but the crowd was so large I couldn't find a parking place.  So I waited  and went for my morning walk over there on Monday.  It was not so crowded then.

The carrousel.

The carrousel has been beautifully restored and is now enclosed so it will be protected  from the weather and will stay open year round.

The little train has been refurbished too.

It's very nostalgic going to the Park because we took our children and grandchildren many times to ride the carrousel or the train or to just have a picnic in the park.  Now my children are grown, and all but two of my grandchildren are too old to take to the park--well the grown children and grandchildren might enjoy a picnic there.
The red caboose provides fun for the children.
Extensive playground for the children.
The lake with the paddle boats.
The cafe that features locally produced food.
One new feature is the Pullen Place Cafe.  The Cafe features seasonal and locally grown foods.

The Cafe.
By the time I finished my walk and my wandering around the park it was lunch time so I had lunch at the Pullen Place.  I chose a baked sweet potato topped with butter, brown sugar and pecans.  The potato and the pecans were grown locally.  The cold apple cider that I chose was also produced locally.
Sweet potato and apple cider.
We in Raleigh are fortunate to have such a wonderful park.  The renovations are beautiful.  I think I am going to plan a picnic in Pullen Park for all the family, and the young or young at heart can ride the carrousel too.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Guest Blogger: Shelley Fink-Brackett

Shelley and her husband, Jesse. were among the NC State Alumni group that toured Italy with us in September.   Shelley is a great photographer, and today she is a guest on my blog sharing some of her photos and comments.

Shelley and Jesse in Florence. Photo by Gray Lewis another member of the tour.
Shelley and Jesse are on the Ponte Alle Graczie over the Arno River with the Ponte Vecchio in the background.  They were on their way to a restaurant recommended by a neighbor from Newport News.
Photo by Shelley Fink-Brackett.
"Horse drawn carriages are the gondolas of Florence.  They are everywhere waiting to carry tourists around the city.  I had heard the expression 'strapping on the feed bag', but had never seen one.  After many photos of carriages and horses I came upon a horse fully engrossed in the contents of the bag.  The white horse looked on with envy as if to say 'why are you getting food and not me'." SFB

Photo by Shelley Fink-Brackett.
"These two dogs were in the Piazza Grande in front of the Hall of Justice in Perugia.  They were oblivious to the frenzy created by the world renown murder trial going on a few blocks away." SFB

Photo by Shelley Fink-Brackett.
"Assisi was the home of Saint Francis, the patron saint of animals.  One of Francis' pigeons joined us for lunch at a sidewalk pizzeria.  Pigeons kept their distance unless invited for a piece of crust, but were quick to check out tables vacated by diners.  This pigeon didn't find much on the table beside us and glared at us hoping he could make us uncomfortable enough to cut lunch short and leave behind something more appetizing." SFB

Thank you Shelley for sharing your photos and comments.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Grace in Action

 I was looking back through some photographs that Meredith made this summer with her new camera.  The family was in Florida for the AAU Basketball Nationals where Zach was going to be playing.  She was trying out her new camera, learning to take rapid shots in preparation for photographing during the ballgames.  Granddaughter Grace was her guinea pig for trying out the camera.  (All photos by Meredith Palmer.)

Grace says "Thumbs up, Mom."
I must learn to do this with my camera before basketball season gets underway.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Potato Soup on a Cold Day

Left over oven-roasted potatoes.
It was a rather chilly day on Friday.  Time for soup I thought, and I had some leftover oven roasted potatoes from Thursday. Perfect for making potato soup.  This recipe is for two servings.
Cook four slices of bacon until brown, drain and set aside. 

Roux of butter and flour.
Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan and add 1.5  tablespoons of all purpose flour.  Whisk together until smooth over medium heat. 
Gradually stir in two cups of milk.  I had a little half & half and used that mixed with skim milk.  Whisk constantly until thickened. 
Add diced potatoes and two green onions diced.  Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.    
Mix in crumbled bacon and 1/3 cup of shredded Cheddar cheese.  Continue cooking until cheese is melted.  Add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.
And there you have it.  Nice hot potato soup for a cold day.  (You can use a left over baked potato as well.)  Enjoy, we did.