Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Trough Herb Planter

Here's a situation many of us have encountered: shopping with someone and being persuaded to buy something we did not need. While at an antiques show, a friend and I spotted an old Chinese carved granite trough (originally for holding farm animals' drinking water). My friend looked at me, and out came "so cool, Loi!" "You've GOT to buy that!!" Really, but I don't have any horses or pigs??!! After a brief chat, I ended up hauling this massive and heavy-as-heck trough home.

For a while, the trough sat upside down in a hidden corner of the garden :( I thought of converting it into a powder room sink. But, it was just too heavy - both physically and visually.

One morning in the midst of watering all my individual pots of herbs, the idea of using the trough as an herb planter came to me. Yes!!! I now plant it with various herbs, and experiment with different combinations each season. Having most of the herbs in one pot is handy, and easier to water. I also have separate pots for rosemary and mint. The rosemary prefers it drier, while the mint is very aggresive.
 Placed on the sunny terrace outside our kitchen, the herb trough comes in handy.
 Even though our trough already had a hole in the bottom, I placed a layer of gravel to improve drainage.
 I love the scent and taste of thyme! Two varieties here.
 Together with this prolific fig shrub and pots of rosemary and mint (both not shown), this is our mini urban kitchen garden.
 While we were on vacation, many of the herbs flowered. After these photos, I quickly removed all the flowers. Herbs allowed to flower and seed can die back or develop bitter leaves.
In addition, soapstone sinks, marble wash basins, oversize mortars, and galvanized tubs would make wonderful herb planters. Just make sure to cut / drill a drainage hole. An architectural salvage yard is a great source for such pieces. Also, search online with the following keywords:

- Chinese granite trough
- Stone trough
- Old soapstone sink
- Turkish marble basin

Happy planting! 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Mount Desert Moments

It's late July in DC and we're in the middle of a scorching heatwave. How I wish we were back in Maine where the temperatures are cooler! 

As mentioned previously, Tom and I spent a part of our recent Maine holiday discovering, exploring and enjoying Mount Desert Island. By the way, Mainers generally refer to it as MDI or Mount de-ZERT (dessert).

MDI is where majestic granite mountains rise up to meet the sky. It is also where mighty ocean waves collide with steadfast rocky coasts. And, it is where verdant forests gently give way to historic seaside villages and towns - some bustling and touristy, others a bit time-forgotten but genuine.

We absolutely fell in love with the authentic landscape: powerful and raw, yet quiet and atmospheric. There were, indeed, many special moments.
One morning with a bright sunrise ahead . . .
. . . another with the island enveloped in dense fog.
We passed through the small village of Somesville frequently. Dating from 1761, it is Mount Desert Island's earliest village. Shown above is the Somesville Historical Museum, and below is the library. Charming, right?
The Bass Harbor lighthouse perched on a jagged cliff.
Welcome to Acadia National Park!
Birches, ferns, moss, and lichens growing profusely in the woodlands.
We arrived early to hike around Jordan Pond (which looks more like a lake). Those twin mountains are known as "the Bubbles."
Tom and I worked up quite an appetite after completing the loop around the pond. We sat down for a yummy lunch of Maine lobster stew and warm popovers with fresh strawberry jam and butter at Jordan Pond House. Simply deeeee-lish!!! :)
Many guests sat outside to enjoy the view of the pond and the Bubbles. As the restaurant tends to get busy during July - August, make a reservation or get in line around 11:00 AM. I thought an early morning hike while temperatures were cool and lunch later worked out really well. 
On another day, we took the 27 mile drive on Park Loop Road. I highly recommend this meandering drive with its many scenic stops and breathtaking vistas.
 Make sure to hike or drive up to the top of Cadillac Mountain for the most incredible panoramic view of Bar Harbor and the islands.
A gift from John D. Rockefeller, the 45 mile network of crushed stone carriage roads, complete with 17 rustic stone bridges, are open to hikers, bicyclists and horse drawn carriages.
 Pleasure boats and lobster boats sharing this quaint harbor. I thought these colorful row boats were really fun.
On our last day, we visited Garland Farm, the final home and garden of prominent landscape architect, Beatrix Farrand (1872-1959). I am saving Garland Farm for a future post. Stay tuned for more!
So long, MDI!  ~ Loi

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Wedding in Maine

The past two weeks have been deliciously sweet and slow. Tom and I, along with our doggies, just returned from an old-fashioned summer holiday in Maine. We had a lovely time visiting small fishing villages, historic coastal towns, and Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island, where we stayed in a simple cottage on Bass Harbor. Our cottage didn't have air conditioning, and it was marvelous enjoying the fresh air and harbor breezes through the windows. (I can't remember the last time our windows were opened during July in DC. Our temps this week are in the mid - upper 90s!)

The highlight of the trip was the wedding of Jon and Missy in North Yarmouth. Missy is Tom's niece and goddaughter. The lobster feast and ceremony were held on the grounds of an old farmhouse. Dinner was served in the charming lofty barn. The wedding was beyond beautiful: it was organic, warm, and full of flair. Everyone felt comfortable and had fun.

Many thanks to Jon and Missy for letting me share their wedding. They did a fabulous job planning and executing every detail. We are incredibly proud of them!
All over Maine, many of the fields are covered with wildflowers in July. This was taken near the wedding site.
The wedding was preceded by a lobster feast the day before. Is there anything more delicious than fresh Maine lobster with drawn butter? So simple and yummy!
Brothers Alex and Michael, Tom's nephews, attended in festive attire. This is their mother, Katie. I remember Katie when she was just in grade school, and now, she is this awesome, earthy and beautiful mom. 
And this is the glowing bride, Missy, on the eve before the big day.
Don't you love the burlap draped over the pergola? I might have to copy that, Missy!
This is the very proud mother of the bride, Denise, next to brother Tom (and godfather). Meet Charlie the dog! Doesn't Charlie look dashing in a custom seersucker bow tie sewn by cousin Lisa?
The angelic flower girl, Gracie, with dapper cousin Michael. Michael and Alex were the ring bearers. Gracie is holding a newspaper cone containing dried lavender. Instead of throwing rice, we tossed lavender.
The bridesmaids above.
Presenting the handsome groom and beautiful bride: Jon and Missy!
Jon's father, Robert, and sister, Allison, are immediately to the right of Missy. The couple with some of their friends from the theater world. Needless to say, there was plenty of fabulosity!
Name / seating cards, attached to lavender sprigs, were arranged alphabetically on a table.
The barn all decked out for dinner. Let's check out the decor. There were hundreds of votive candles, and each table had different flower arrangements from the local farmer's markets. I love the little tree stump risers under the flowers, as well as the burlap runners.
Guests coming inside for dinner. Let's see which is my table. Ahhh, table no. 1 - cool!!! :)
Each napkin was neatly folded, tied with twine, and adorned with a sprig of rosemary.
After dinner, the dancing started. Below is Jon dancing with his 90 year old grandmother. And they were hitting that dance floor fast and furious!
I hope you have enjoyed Jon and Missy's beautiful wedding!
PS - Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to photograph all the family members, and this was completely unintentional :)