Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Birds, puppies and houses

To get us started on our move to Tennessee our daughter and son-in-law rented a truck and came for several days to pick up some of our furniture for our Nashville house.  It is just a dent - maybe 5% of our things, but a start just the same.

It will take several months to go through all our accumulation of 40 years for the move and it will keep me busy.  I still took time to take pictures in our backyard.  We moved our house plants outdoor as the weather was mild.  On the leaf of one of the plants was a tiny frog - I had never seen its kind before - it was the size of a coin.  (Click on collage to enlarge.)

Our first tea rose for the season was very pretty.  In the 1970s I planted an heirloom pink climbing rose bush - I forget its name now.  It has survived neglect all these years and gives us a profusion of blooms with many petals.  It climbs high and I can see it, eye level, from the second floor window.

A family of yellow finches adopted our bird feeders.  Their bright colors would be a splash of sunshine under any weather.  I took their pictures through our kitchen window that has a screen so the pictures are not as clear as they could be.

Other birds would come to the feeders, but the little yellow finches did not like that.  They would fly around them or sit on a branch and impatiently wait, and then come back and resume their feeding.

My husband will miss this backyard that attracts so many different birds.  Our Nashville house has a small yard with hardly any bushes and trees.  Here we see such a variety of birds - many I cannot photograph as they fly away so quickly.

One bird was unknown to me - it had the body of a sparrow but the striped head of a finch.  Anyone knows what it was?

I had some old pecan nuts that I threw under the bird feeders.  A little squirrel kept running back and forth with the nuts and took all of them away.

The chipmunk's head was hard to see among the red rocks.  He is well camouflaged in the top photo.

Last week we drove to Tennessee to stay with our daughter and family.  We did see a robin by their house.  But I was in the car and too far - it flew away as I came closer.

Our daughter and family live in Brentwood, Tennessee.  It is a suburban town south of Nashville (only 13 miles from our future house downtown.)  They chose this location as they worked in towns in opposite directions and Brentwood was in the center of their commute.  They live in a nice house, not a maxed-out fortress like those now being built in the area.  Brentwood is in Williamson County which also includes the cities of Franklin, Fairview and Spring Hill. The area is pretty with rolling hills and farms.  The Harpeth River runs through it.  Native Americans were the first residents of Brentwood.  European-American white settlers came next in the 1700s, dislodging the Native Americans.  After the Civil War small farms growing tobacco and other crops were cultivating the land.  Brentwood was incorporated as a city in 1969.

Brentwood is not a "city" per se - it has no real downtown or the usual Southern "town square" with a historic courthouse.  It is made up of subdivisions, churches, schools, grocery stores, restaurants and banks - no sidewalks - you have to drive everywhere.  It used to be mostly spacious farms, fenced-in pasture lands - but the land is being sold to wealthy residents and promoters who build oversized houses.  In 2006 Williamson County was the 11th wealthiest county in the country (and still is in the top 20,) maybe because famous country singers live in and around Brentwood, such as Dolly Parton, Faith Hill, Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney, Garth Brooks, Keisha, Carrie Underwood, Trisha Yearwood, etc., as well as well-known athletes and other celebrities.  I also read the 90% of the new residents of Brentwood and adjacent localities are not from Tennessee.  Driving around the county we can still see how pastoral and peaceful it must have all been.

Driving about 4 miles away to the grocery store, we pass some pretty landscape with trees, an historic house and barn, but suddenly come upon a huge McMansion in the middle of a field - it is startling.

As you drive down the county roads you still see some lovely farms with horses running free.  But, maybe next door to an old house there will stand a gaudy, incongruous and artificial French-Normandy castle meets British cottage mega house.  Then there will be an empty lot for sale followed by another McMansion of a totally different style - an oversized brick a gogo pretentious abode.  It has an Italian look, but with big Southern columns and weird windows on the roof looking like antlers.  Next might be a 1960 era ranch.  What a series of discordant architectural styles.

Imitation castles next to old country homes - interesting neighborhood ... The European inspired fake castle (on the second row right in collage below) which includes disparate ornaments, was built in 2008 and has 6 full and 3 half bathrooms, a 7-car garage but only 4 bedrooms.  It is listed at $6 millions.  I checked and found that after several fields, they are surrounded by a barn looking building as their neighbors to the right and an ancient mobile home for the neighbors to the left (2 bottom pictures below.) ... The house certainly clashes with the local ambiance.

I researched the web to see if there is a Land Planning Commission in Brentwood and Williamson County.  There is, but I could not find in their zoning regulations anything on architectural integrity, or community harmony.  I did see that a developer had offered to build affordable housing but had been voted down.  You won't find apartment complexes, housing projects, modest neighborhoods here.  The aim is to let high-end grandiose suburban homes take the place of old farms.  The down-home Southern charm won't survive.  This is a shame because there used to be historic large houses in the area, and they blended in the scenery (see the first 3 historic homes below.)  Now it is just a pastiche of style, to celebrate "money" with ego boasting Hummer type houses adorned with huge windows (that don't match the building size,) a tower or two, and a mishmash of styles.  The sense of place and the character of the valley are gone - left are these over-designed, ostentatious and disproportionate houses competing for massiveness (and sprawl is ignored.)

There are many of these multi-million supersized bloated mastodons on the market.  They are not "green," consume enormous amount of energy, and are car dependent (there is no public transportation anywhere that I could find,) cheaply built and encouraged by land developers and local municipalities.  Their garish designs are not in harmony with their surroundings - you don't get a sense of "community" with them  - no harmonious symmetry.  These starter castles on the lush Williamson County farmland dwarf their neighbors' older homes - what is happening to the culture of architecture in America?  Maybe these ridiculously sized, socially irresponsible homes don't use architects, just developers and a plan book.  On the other hand I read that "millennials" (77 million young people aged 18-36) prefer to live in small houses in cities and in the mixed-used communities of urban centers.  They reject living isolated in sterile sprawling mega houses in the middle of a field - so what will happen to the McMansion monstrosities in the future?

You may think that I am a bit hard on this, but I come from Europe where there are stringent national land-use laws.  Urban planning laws are also tougher - my mother, who wanted to add a room and rear entrance to her house, had to wait one year for a building permit - it had to "fit" with the neighborhood, be historically done, even though you could not see the room from the front of the house.  Most old cities in Europe would not have their unique characters if some of their wealthy citizens, like here, had decided to build a mega house in their town, without any regard to their neighbors and environment.  There are many wealthy people in Europe.  Just imagine, just for fun, if one of these Williamson County huge single family houses were built into one of the European cities below - what would they look like in these cities?  In the left columns are: Cinque Terre, Italy - Colmar, France and Dinant, Belgium.  These cities do have their proper style of architecture but here, in Williamson County alone, an assortment of styles have been randomly copied from a motley collection of European mansions.

There is an interesting article on McMansions by columnist Thomas Frank - read it here (Let them eat McMansions: the 1 percent income inequality and new fashioned American excess.)  He says: "The suburban ideal of the 1950s, according to "The Organization Man," was supposed to be "classlessness," but the opposite ideal is the brick-to-the-head message of the dominant suburban form of today.  The McMansion exists to separate and then celebrate the people who are wealthier than everybody else; this is the transcendent theme on which its crazy, discordant architectural features come harmonically together.  This form of development wants nothing to do with the superficial community-mindedness of the postwar suburb, and the reason the giant house looks the way it does is to inform you of this.  Have the security guard slam the gates, please, and the rest of the world be damned."  I am pleased that we will be living downtown Nashville, in an historic district.  It is a Neighborhood Conservation Zoning Overlay district where you just can't build, add or demolish a house at will.  Many houses are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  Below are some more areas of Williamson County that have not been built over, yet.

Our daughter read on the web that a local animal rescue shelter needed some help.  They had just found 8 puppies abandoned in a box and were asking for volunteers to keep some of them for a while.  Four of these puppies were in the house when we arrived.  My husband and almost 3-years old granddaughter favored the little white puppy, but it became sick and had to be returned for several days.

The other three puppies were energetic and lively.

The puppies were so cute; I could not stop taking their pictures.


One of the puppies watched my husband pushing his grandson on the swing.  But then they all fell asleep.

Luckily the puppies did not go to the front yard or they would have seen a big, wild rabbit.  He was fat and did not run away when I came closer to take its picture.


We drove back to Georgia, to our cats - without a fuzzy puppy, unfortunately, or ... fortunately?  :-)

There are many photos in this long post, but since I only can post once a month or so, there is plenty of time to read and look at them.  I also had some fun with watercolor and paint.







Friday, April 1, 2016

Spring all around us - and blog anniversary

Spring has been in Georgia for several weeks already.  I carry a little camera in my purse and, along the way, take many pictures of pretty trees in bloom.  The pictures are from everyday places in town as we go on our errands.  In early March while we waited on our car having a part repaired we walked next to the garage and this is what we saw.  (Click on collages twice to enlarge.)

Around our home, houses nearby have many blooming bushes and colorful trees.

Trees in blooms are not choosy; they will bloom around modest homes as well as around mansions.

Sometimes I see beautiful trees while driving, but if cars are following me inches away and I can't stop.  If I can park, I'll stop for a few moments.  Below, my husband took a picture of me while I was in a driveway snapping blooms.

There should be a sign on my car bumper saying Will stop for trees in bloom!

Since we don't live in downtown Atlanta where there are tall office buildings, our doctors' offices can be in small houses.  Last week I went to my dentist for my scheduled visit, and was in awe of the Japanese cherry trees blossoming around his small building.  I took 20 photos of the trees and blooms; below are some of them.  It looked like some cotton balls or even snowflakes had been stuck on the branches.

Pink blossoms were bursting out on trees in the parking lot of another doctor's office.

In the parking lot of my husband's lung specialist, red tip buds were also showing deep pink colors.

Blooms were even coming out from the tree trunk.

We drove to the Cobb County government offices to bring back a form last Friday.  They were closed because of Good Friday, but we enjoyed walking around their nicely manicured lawns and their blooming trees.

Then yesterday we had to drive to the Georgia Tag Office to get our 2016 vehicle tag.  The skies were overcast but driving back home, in the distance, it looked like some pine trees had a purplish tint.  We stopped and I took many photos, vertically and horizontally.  There was a multitude of wisteria vines growing wild on most of the pine trees on a ridge.  Even mundane errands bring joy when the surroundings are lovely.


Last Saturday, March 26, was my birthday.  I had hoped to go on a small road trip in the Buckhead area of Atlanta to look at spring flowers blooming around beautiful mansions, but it rained.  In the evening we went to an Italian restaurant in Kennesaw called Provino's.  They offer a free dinner on the day of one's birthday.  I had the "Veal Francese" (French veal) which is veal scallopini egg dipped, sauteed golden in lemon butter & wine sauce.  A small side of pasta with fresh tomato sauce came with it as well as a salad and hot garlic rolls.  My husband had a seafood pasta dish - both were good but I forgot to take pictures.  For dessert they gave me a complimentary dish of spumoni ice cream.  I took its picture with my cell phone.

But since this was not a birthday cake, we did buy a belated birthday cake at my favorite French bakery "Douceur de France."  It was a chocolate cake, called "Chocolate Lover" sheet cake, with chocolate mousse, chocolate truffle and chocolate genoise - delicious!

As I mentioned before, we live northwest of Atlanta in Cobb County.  We are located in the west part of the county and are between 6 and 8 miles from five small towns: Marietta, Kennesaw, Acworth, Powder Springs and Dallas (in the adjoining county of Paulding,) so there is a good choice of restaurants.  Last year for my birthday we went to an award winning Louisiana restaurant in Acworth called "Henri Louisiana Grill."  It had great atmosphere and excellent cuisine.  It is in downtown Acworth across the railroad.  There were blooming trees along the railroad tracks at the time, and I took their picture, of course.

The azaleas in our backyard are in full bloom.  Yesterday the weather forecast predicted heavy rain with strong winds and even a threat of tornado.  I took several pictures before the rain came.

We have three azalea bushes - pink, bright red and a white one.  The white shrub this year is especially nice.  I took several photos with my iPad.  I wish I could take these azaleas to Nashville whenever we move there.  Have any of you, with a green thumb, been successful propagating azaleas with cuttings?  Any tips?

As I was snapping photos of my azalea bushes I could hear Canada geese calling - they were flying toward me.  I aimed my iPad to the sky and was lucky to catch them.  They were flying high so my photos are not very clear, as I did not have time to adjust the iPad.

I almost forgot - my blog was started in 2009 when we visited our daughter for my birthday.  She  was living then in Long Beach, California.  So my blog anniversary coincides with my birthday.  It is hard to believe that I have been blogging for seven years and am now starting on my eighth year.  Time has gone quickly.  I have enjoyed the comments from many wonderful blogging friends, visiting their blogs and meeting some of them, too.  I thank you all for making blogging so much fun for me.  For now, I'll end with an haiku by Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828.)  He was better known as Issa, a pen name meaning Cup-of-Tea.  He was a Japanese poet and lay Buddhist priest.

Spring breeze -
the pine on the ridge
whispers it

- Kobayashi Issa

Below is a wood block print by Benji Asada, a painter and print-maker from Kyoto, Japan (1899-1984) entitled The Pagoda of Ninnaji Tanyu.

 In my next post, I'll go on with the second part of the Bulloch Hall quilt show.


Friday, March 18, 2016

Bulloch Hall 34th Quilt Show ... and more - part one

Time is moving so fast that I almost missed Bulloch Hall 34th Quilt Show "the Great American Cover-up Quilt Show."  Fortunately I read a notice about it in a newspaper, just in time.  This year the show was held between March 4 and 13, 2016.  It featured a special exhibit of quilts made by fiber artist Christine Cetrulo of Lexington, Kentucky - however photos were not allowed.  But it was OK to photograph this year's great variety of quilts, about 200 of them, displayed throughout the historic 1840 house museum.  We went on Tuesday, March 8, 2016, a beautiful sunny and warm day - 76 degrees F (24.4 C.)  It is always a pleasure to visit this imposing antebellum mansion in Roswell, Georgia.


My dear readers have seen several of my posts on Bulloch Hall quilt shows and at Christmas time, when the home is decorated for the Holidays.  This is our 4th year visiting the quilt show; chick here to see the 2013 show, here for the 2014 show, and here for the 2015 show.   Major Stephen Bulloch built this outstanding home for his wife Martha and their six children.  As I mentioned before, their daughter Millie married Theodore Roosevelt, Sr.  Subsequently Mittie and Thee's elder son, Theodore, became the 26th President of the United States.  The Bulloch's younger son, Elliott, was the father of Eleanor, who married Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States.

As usual, we were greeted by large quilts hanging in the front hall.  (Please click on collage to enlarge.)

Below, my husband is reading the show brochure while seating in front of quilt no. 1 "Crazy Daisy" by Diane Knott, a local guild member.  This quilt is feature on the cover of Ms. Knott's book "Scrap Quilt Secrets."  More of her work is displayed in other areas of the house.

In the back of the front hall was a striking blue quilt, called "Trees in the Moonlight" by Wanda Rose Stewart next to "Stwabewies Peese" by Devon Pfeif that was inspired by her granddaughter.

Then we walked into the dining room.  By the fireplace was a quilt that looked like a portrait painting.  It was "Life Journey" a self-portrait by Devon Pfeif who says "Upon completion of a project there are always bits and pieces leftover.  Those are what make up this quilt.  They have traveled with me for 30 years and are my life's journey."


The warming room contained some intricate geometric designed quilts, a quilt on a table and a quilt showing some sweet dogs.

There was also a bright red quilt from Diane Knott's book.  A quilt placed on an easel, called "Caged Bird" by Joyce Daniels, had been inspired by Maya Angelou's book I know Why the Caged Bird Sings.  On the wall was hanging a large quilt made from a multitude of little squares.  It was called "Nationwide Swap" by Sharyl Dawes.  She explained that the squares were accumulated through a Facebook Group.  Each month they exchanged 20 different mini charms.

In the back hall quilt no. 52 "Santa Fe Arch" by Ann Quandee was machine appliqued, hand and machine embroidered.  It was inspired by photos from Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The "Wicked Challenge" quilts were hanging along the staircase.  The 20"x20" quilts were made of specially died green Cheerywood fabrics.  Up at the landing were a colorful owl "Ready for Carnival" and a fun "Night at the Circus" quilts.

I liked quilt no. 77 by Gail Oliver, called "Awakening Wicked."  She says "Elphaba decides to trust her beliefs and not judge right from wrong based on others' values."

My husband's favorite quilt was very large and pretty austere - white with blue border.  It is called "Welsh Beauty Celebrating Love" and was quilted by Karen Hallacy's mother to celebrate Karen's 25th wedding anniversary.

More lovely quilts were exhibited in the upstairs hall, and in the two bedrooms.  Quilt no. 108 below, near the chest of drawers, is called "Magnolia" and was made by Virginia Bradley, age 12, in Edgecomb County, North Carolina in 1863.  Virginia died a year later due to the diseases of the Civil War.

A guild volunteer was working on a quilt in one of the bedrooms.  She told me the pattern was called "stained glass window."  On the bed, a blanket had white applique designs - it is no. 91 called "Snowflakes" by Nancy Summa (top right below) who says "Since my husband is a retired Army, the use of his Army blanket makes the piece more meaningful."  I had never seen a plain wool blanket embellished like this.  It looked very pretty, indeed, for a rough Army blanket.  No. 84, in the center below, is "New Zealand Memories 2015" by Emily Wert.  She says "My husband surprised me with new wedding bands inscribed in Elvish on our 34th anniversary trip to NZ."  This quilt is made with fabric printed pictures and New Zealand fabric.

The quilt behind the bed is called "Kneeded Distraction" and was made by Shari Chastain of Kennesaw, Georgia (top right below.)  It is a play on word as she says that she stitched the blocks during recovery from two knee replacement surgeries.  Quilt no. 100, on the bed, is called "Swoon" by Jan Antranikian and is shown at the top of this post.

On a table in Mittie's bedroom was a sweet little quilted piece near the book "Mittie and Thee - An 1853 Roosevelt Romance."  The quilt is called "Les Coiffes Catalanes" by Jean Sands.  She says "Six vintage traditional head gear from the Pyrenees Orientales region of France were disassembled to make this wall hanging."  Below are two postcards of French ladies wearing the traditional costume from that area, next to a map of France showing Departement no. 66, the Pyrenees Orientales (bottom of map and filled in red.)  This French Departement is located near the Spanish border and the tiny nation of Andorra.

The pictures of the ladies on the little white quilt mentioned above are wearing Victorian clothes and go well with the lace and trim around them.  Even with an old-timey style this quilt has more the approach of a modern "improvisation" quilt because of the asymmetry of the background.

Most of the quilts exhibited at Bulloch Hall were of the traditional style, and they were gorgeous.  But I also like the artistry of modern quilting - the improvisations that show the personality of the quilter.  My blogging friend Ruth of the blog "Birds of the air quilts" is a creative modern quilter - below are two of her quilts: "Nancy's macarons" inspired by a painting of Paul Klee, and an urban modern garden improv from Virginia Woolf's book Mrs. Dalloway.

Another quilter, Cassandra of the blog "The [not so] Dramatic Life" quilted a vibrant mini improv quilt with scraps of lovely shades.  See below her "Blue Improvisation: Mini Quilt #6."

Both of these gifted ladies have a new approach to quilting that is original and innovative.  Their quilts are stunning and I thank them for letting me show their work on my blog.

Another quilt I liked very much was called "Raven Stealing the Sun" by Stella Lang.

Stella says that her quilt was inspired by legends from Indians of the northwestern United States.  But when I saw it, I immediately thought it was representative of Canada First Nations people, especially Coast Salish artists.  We went to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, three times and I bought several postcards of drawings made by Pacific Northwest Native people.  Some of these were drawn by artist Joe Wilson, born in Koksilah, near Duncan on Vancouver Island.  See examples below.  I love the great native art on Vancouver Island.

Now I still have photos from the quilts in the attic of Bulloch Hall, plus the sewing room and two rooms downstairs - they will be included in part 2 of this post.

Just a couple more drawings before I go - I saw these Native American cartoons by Ricardo Cate and could not resist showing them to you all.  Ricardo Cate, of native Kewa Pueblo heritage, is the only Native American cartoonist carried in daily mainstream newspapers.  (cartoons courtesy R. Cate.)


 More quilts to come ...
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