Monday, September 1, 2014

Why I garden....

“We cast a shadow on something wherever we stand, and it is no good moving from place to place to save things; because the shadow always follows. Choose a place where you won't do harm - yes, choose a place where you won't do very much harm, and stand in it for all you are worth, facing the sunshine.” ― E.M. ForsterA Room with a View

There was a time, early on, when I gardened to make things more beautiful for myself; there is nothing I love so much in life as a nice view.  

The many hydrangeas that line the driveway go from a soft green
to a downy white to eventually, the most delicious blush hue...

Like all people who have gone to Europe before me, I came home and realized that what I really needed was a GARDEN.   Very Henry James of me...

Oh sure, I had a small garden before, but now I wanted paths, potagers, perennials.


And so, over the past six years, I have toiled away and now it is getting to be quite lovely.

I would like to say that the pot has been artfully placed.
It has not.  In fact, it is has been lying on its side for a month.

Early on, I used my garden as a way to relieve the stress of a job that could be overwhelming.  

Weeding was a meditative practice and still is I guess.

I cannot tell you what I think about when I weed.

In fact, I am sure I don't think about anything at all, but can that really be so?  If it is then I am thankful, since having some time without racing thoughts is a joy, is it not?

And there is always a surprise.

The butterfly bush which suddenly decides to bloom just as the butterflies are
contemplating leaving...

The phlox that suddenly decides it wants to be the showgirl
in a white/yellow composition.
Who am I to argue with a phlox?

The glorious fragility of the white phlox buds,
no doubt worried that Ms. Pink is coming any time now...

But something happened a few years ago and it has been creeping up on me ever since.

Around 2010 or so I realized that I stopped gardening for the view and discovered that now I garden for the birds and the bees.

Where I live, bees are not doing so well.  We spend so much time putting junk on our grass and food and not enough time thinking about the impact of that junk.  Our bees may be our canaries in the coal mine.

Most of my plantings are in support of them and I am happy to report that 2014 was a bit of a bee-naissance here in my garden.

Not the number of bees of my childhood, so many bees that woe-betide the child who was so stupid as to walk across a field of clover sans sneakers....

But those days are gone for now.  And so I must help all that I can.

So basically, whatever the bees loved, they got.

They REALLY loved my lavender.  And so I cut very little this year and left the rest to my voracious friends.

think of the sachets that might have been....

In fact, my whole garden has a forgotten fairy tale quality about it these days, for no weeding here till after the frosts.  Everything belongs now to the birds and the bees and the butterflies, who are feasting constantly.


I admit to a grand love affair with bee balm,
something I share with the bees and the hummers...

I admit to being a little in love with this phase of the garden; the glorious decadence of June and July has slowly given way to a last gasp of beauty.


I stay out of everyone's way except to watch and enjoy.  The weeds will still be there in a month...

The unruly can be cut back..

You wouldn't think there would still be something sweet in there,
 but the bees keep finding it...

Early in the morning we see the bees resting on the flowers, so sleepy that you feel you could give their backs a good scratch.  Later in the day is quite another matter.

Soon the bees will be gone.

My hummers are eating nonstop, readying for their grand adventure.

There is a metaphor here in this last gasp of beauty, allowed to age naturally and beloved for doing so.

So much in life now is about extending youth.  About extending June at the expense of September.

But September is just as lovely, just as beautiful, albeit in a less flashy way.

There is a knowing in the late summer garden that doesn't exist in the June one.  The tropical storm weathered, the heat wave, the pool parties, the wine in the gazebo, the visits by groundhogs and skunks and squirrels and deer.  The surprise plant that suddenly showed up, uninvited.  The anthill that refuses to be moved.

We give too much up if we hang on to those early days.  And by allowing the garden to fade, allowing the bees and the birds the luxury of eking every last bit of life out of the plants, we ensure that next year's garden will be just as lovely, if not more so.

We ought to do that for ourselves as well.  We ought to love ourselves just as much in September.

So now I garden for them: all the salamanders that I almost step on when I head out for my morning walks, the wee frogs, the hummers that perform 18 hours daily free of charge, the bees, the dragon flies.  One night two weeks ago, Barry and I took Indy for an evening walk and there were hundreds of dragonflies in the air around the corner.

We believe we live in an age without miracles, but I tell you, when you have hundreds of dragon flies flying around your head, you feel like Alice through the looking glass.

I garden for all the of the creatures impacted by our wanton disregard of the world around us due to our false belief that we are separate from them.

And I can tell you that I have spent more happy hours in the company of the bees than in many of the useless meetings I was forced to sit through in my career.  At least their stingers are apparent!

And in the end, I garden to make my corner of the world a little lovelier, more gentle.  And if you need that respite, and I believe we all do, I encourage you to visit, or better yet, create your own.

“To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee,
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.” 

And that, Janet, is why I garden!

Have a glorious Labour Day!  Stay Safe out there!

xoxo wendy

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Style Wednesday: the sweater jacket

Ah the jacket/blazer.

There are some on whom the blazer is a thing of beauty.  So "je ne sais quoi", so effortlessly chic.

And then there are the short women with large chests.  

These are the women for whom the jacket becomes just another bulky layer, just another way to shout to the world "look at me!  all of my weight is up THERE!!!"  You can see the arrows pointing at you from every direction.

There are exceptions of course.

A really expensive, well cut jacket of a lightweight material, can hold it all in AND add shape, all while skimming over the girls in the most becoming of ways.

That jacket/blazer, my friends, is like the unicorn, and when you find it you must buy it forthwith and be glad.  You can even gloat a bit to your busty pals, feeling their steely gaze of contempt and remorse upon your contained self.

But for me, for most of us, the solution is the sweater jacket/blazer.

A knit version that adds little bulk, skims and supports, makes you feel dressy without feeling like the Michelin Man.

I have a few of these beauties in my closet and I have seen a few more that can go casual or more dressy depending upon what you pair them with.

Fossil has introduced the Erin Sweater Blazer, which comes in 3 colours.  I am choosing to showcase the Dani BP colour story one:

WC2730P - Erin Sweater Blazer

I have no experience with Fossil clothing, so I cannot recommend or not recommend this, but I think it is awfully nice and seems very fall-ish to me.

Banana Republic has a number of sweater jackets in their fall rollout:

Moto Sweater Jacket
Moto Sweater jacket

Textured Moto Jacket
Textured Moto Jacket
  • Faux-Leather Trim Moto Sweater Jacket
    Faux Leather Trim Moto Jacket
It appears that BR is all over the moto jacket, which I don't mind at all, as I quite like it.

Other options:

How aboout the Brora Biker Jacket:

It does seem as if the whole world has gone Sons of Anarchy, doesn't it?

Talbots has a nice version:

Talbots Merino Stand-Collar Sweater Jacket
Teacups - I noticed Talbots has a sweater with teacups!

For those whom money is not an object, I think the Balmain version below would be a dandy:

 knit blazer-balmain structural knit jacket in black

or this Loro Piana cashmere number:

 knit blazer-loro piana losanna cashmere blazer

And I would love Smythe's chubby faux fur sweater/jacket.  I have seen this in person and it is magnificent!

Mongolian Chubby (Faux) in Black

I am still interested in the BR grey moto jacket, but I can wait for a sale..

  • Boiled Wool Moto Jacket

For me, in the end, a knit blazer is a wonderful thing.  It has only taken me about 20 years to figure that out!

How about you?  Any one else a knit jacket/blazer fan?

Hope you have a wonderful day - stay safe out there!

xoxo wendy

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Fall (but not yet...)

Everywhere I look in the last week everyone is talking about fall clothing!  It is always a sign of the end of summer when this happens, isn't it?  

But it is soooo hot here this week and I am not planning to put away my summer clothes anytime soon.  I am ever hopeful, so plan to not switch out my closet until later September.

What I continue to find is that when I buy much dressy clothing, it sits unworn.  I just don't do that kind of thing enough anymore to justify the cost.  The theory silk dress I bought last spring has been worn once.  I will wear it at least once or twice more before I launder it and pack it away, but my reality now is that a silk dress seems too fussy for me now, for my life.

This dressy clothing category - in between casual and dress-up clothing - is not getting much play for me and will not be added to this fall.

What I am looking for are in fact, variations of what I wore 25 years ago - comfortable pants and tees and sweaters I can wear while working at home. Knit dresses and skirts.  Loafers and boots and the odd ballet flat.

The other day I was at the Gap and bought a lovely grey cotton v-neck cardigan from the men's section.  It was the perfect combination of slouchy and comfort.

What I have discovered is that I love dressing up, really dressing up, but the rest of the time I want to be chic-ly comfortable.  I want to be funky again.

I did purchase a pair of jeans for the fall, and they are indeed funky.  Citizens for Humanity waxed kai jeans - which I plan to wear exactly as shown (without the jean vest):

these are slightly longer on me, even with my long (short) legs!
And last month I picked up the basic Eileen Fisher black pencil skirt.

And this simple Theory knit cardigan, which I snaffled on sale:

I am also planning to buy a Brynn Walker black jersey dress and leggings to wear with my boots

long black dresses-dillards-bryn walker bertram dress

Simple neutrals and slouchy knits.  And while it seems dark, I will add lots of white and cream and camel and the odd shot of colour when I need to colour it up.

I adore the outfit below from Emerson Fry:

My friend Julie has a love affair with Emerson Fry this fall and I can see why!

The Emerson Fry pencil pant is definitely in my future!

I don't need much - I have added one pair of boots to the fold (besides those winter boots, which I sure hope I don't need to get out until late November!):

Steve Madden Trooper

The joy I have felt this past year in reclaiming my old clothing style, albeit in more expensive versions of what I have always loved, has been wonderful.

There will always be pops of colour - I have ordered the following to see if I like them from J Crew:

Collection Biella velvet tassel loafers

J.Crew women's needle-punch lace sweater and plaid scarf.

And I am sure before the holidays I will be buying a lovely party outfit or at least a lovely party piece.

Oh and I fully expect to dress to the nines when Barry and I hit Chateau Lake Louise next month!

But the rest of the time, you will mostly catch me in very simple, comfortable fare.  It feels like I have finally made the transition to the new life and it is a comfortable and comforting place to be!

Knit sweater, jeans, loafers & Balenciaga purse. Great weekend outfit. Would also work well as a casual office outfit.

Style!. Paris. Coffee. Long cardigan in a taupe color. Black shirt. Black slacks. Loafers.

Girls We Know: Daphne Javitch, former costume designer turned founder of lingerie line TEN Undies. Daphne wears the J.Crew women's drapey wool sweatpant & a mix of her own items.

I hope you have a great day and I look forward to hearing all about your fall style choices!  stay safe out there!  xoxo wendy

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Passamaquoddy Bay and Maine, Part Two: A Visit to Eastport, with a side visit to St. Andrews and a shout-out to Helen's Restaurant

Hi all,

I don't know where the days are going, but summer is swiftly fleeting here.  There is a grand rumour that it is about to be very hot this week and I am not complaining...

Thought you might be interested in our next stop en route home last week after our visit to Campobello Island.

As we headed up route 1 towards Calais, we came upon the sign for Eastport.   I asked Barry if he'd ever been.  He had not and I was sure I'd not been there for at least 30 years, so we turned right and headed out to the ocean.


We could not have been more charmed.

If you'd asked me prior to last Tuesday to describe Eastport, I would have said "fishing village".  As of Tuesday, I would say "vibrant artist community".  The streets are lined with funky artisan shops, antique shops, little restaurants.

How about that bench to the right?

I don't know about you, but it so wonderful to see a vibrant downtown!

There is a lovely walkway along to the wharf

Every shopkeeper that I chatted with was friendly and interested in why we were in Eastport.  My favourite shop was a little candy shop called Sweeties Downeast, which is run by the loveliest woman (and her two terriers) who moved to Eastport from Pennsylvania for the lifestyle.

Sweeties Downeast

Sweeties Downeast in Eastport. Hilary Nangle photo

I admit to buying a bag of popcorn and a bag of rock candy for my kids (they are 19 and 22 so I am sure they were not waiting for rock candy, but I was quite taken with it, because it looked like real polished rocks!)

After that we wandered over the Tides Institutes and Museum of Art.

Located in an old bank in the heart of downtown Eastport, it is a charming and friendly place.

The view from the window above the sign:

Sadly, they were just in the throes of dismantling a wonderful exhibit by Shoshanna White.  The images were haunting and would be a wonderful addition to any collection.

Upstairs, the gallery is a warm welcoming space and it is obvious that it is home to a vibrant community of artists and art lovers.

We also stopped into the Eastport Gallery, which was also home to some beautiful pieces.

The Eastport Gallery  74 Water Street

Now that we have discovered Eastport again, we will be back soon.  Apparently, early September is Eastport's Pirate Festival, when the town swells to 15,000 people.

I don't know who came up with the idea for this festival, but it looks like a rip-roaring good time!

any excuse to wear a puffy shirt, I say!

Where would I stay?

Well the Kilby House Bed and Breakfast looks charming:

Kilby House Inn B&B of Eastport Maine

As does the Commons Eastport if you are not a B&B person (put Barry in that category):

nice morning breakfast view

Eastport is about 1/2 an hour from Calais, 10 minutes Lubec and around 1 1/2 hours to Bangor Maine.

About 20 minutes further south from Eastport, you will find Machias Maine.

When I was a kid, at least once every August, my dad would put us all into the car and we would drive the 45 minutes down the coast to go to Helen's Restaurant in Machias.

the original location - that looks like the old car parked out front! ;-)
It was, my dad contended, the home of the best blueberry pie in the world.  This was a man who knew his blueberry pie, so that's saying something...

look at the pies! yum...

Helen's has moved, but the pies continue:

if you click on pies link above, you will see that the blueberry is all caps, an indication to me that Helen's recipe endures

We didn't get down to Helen's on this trip, we ran out of time, but I see a late September/early October road trip for pie in my future...

After leaving Eastport, we drove 1/2 an hour around Passamaquoddy Bay to St. Andrews and had a mid-afternoon lunch at Kingsbrae Gardens's cafe, probably my favourite spot to eat in New Brunswick when it comes to a view.  


We settled under our favourite apple tree and ordered some libations and a good meal:

New Brunswick's own Picaroons beer and the end of my sauvignon blanc..

Barry deep in thought after a morning spent with Presidents and artists...

Don't sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me...

It was the perfect end to a leisurely day.

Doing both sides of Passamaquoddy Bay is certainly do-able in a day, especially if you are only an hour away, but I highly recommend making a weekend of it and really enjoying the pace.  Driving up both sides of the St. Croix River is a feast for the eyes as well, and not to be missed.

This is the area of my heart.  I grew up in the middle of this area - St. Stephen - and I firmly believe there is a little house waiting for me down there in my later years!

And if you are coming, let me know - would love to meet you for a piece of pie...

Have a wonderful Sunday and stay safe out there!