It has been a week of exploding color and warm weather! Really…it’s only February? We are all concerned that by April all the spring color will have appeared…and disappeared. My tulips have been at their peak, for the past six years, about April 1. And that is the day I have my annual hosted women’s group. The tulips make quite a show in my front gardens. Well, this year…who knows. We shall see!

In the meantime I wanted to tell you about my upgrade from the iPhone 6 to the iPhone 7. And then, a week later, I upgraded again to the 7Plus.

It is beyond fabulous!! I love the larger size: it still fits my hand just fine (an initial concern) and the screen is SO much easier to read and navigate.

And then we come to the Camera and the brand new “Portrait” setting. Take a look at the images below. The top one of each pair is the regular “Square” setting. The bottom of each pair is the “Portrait.” You get that wonderful blurred background.


I have (almost) no need to use my Canon DSLR as this “camera” does it all. And, as they say, the camera that works best for you is the one you have with you. Needless to say I am never without my iPhone. It is a huge expense but I do sort of justify it because it IS my one and only camera as well as phone and mini-computer.




This image, taken on the regular Square setting last Sunday, shows just how far along we are in the season. Cherries, Apples, and I just noticed the Bradford Pear: all the trees are about 3-4 weeks ahead of last year.

Hoping your weather has been spring-like too!
It does help the spirits, doesn’t it?
See you next week.

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Been there…done that!

We DID renovate the south side of our property back in 2011. Well, that was six whole years ago and now…well, it’s time to think about renovation (or at least updating.)

This is the space in May of 2011 after we had removed EVERYTHING. It had been totally neglected for many years, the soil was awful, and, as we walk by it several times each day we were looking for a change.

The bare bones: note the Pampas grasses at rear.

To read all about that renovation see my post:

Here it is, freshly designed and planted and looking quite beautiful! The Pampas grasses are looking green, lush and appropriate for the space.


A year later and you can see our infamous stone egg, à la Andy Goldsworthy. I was in love with it…but didn’t realize how short lived (ie fragile) it would be.


I know, I know, this looks lovely and green and lush , taken in August 2016. But that grass is taking over! I couldn’t really weed or plant anything as the blades can kill you if you brush the wrong way. And, I did NOT take any pictures in October or all fall when the plumes were 7 feet high, blowing in the wind and depositing bits of feathery mess all over. Even our neighbors complained (very politely.) You have to trust me that it was awful!

These were Dwarf Pampas Grass Cortaderia selloana ‘Pumila’

This was last week, February 8th. They actually came out fairly easily (no, I had nothing to do with the labor!). We had been concerned that we might need a backhoe, but shovels did it!

Now comes the fun part. I am thinking of doing some set-into-the-slope bluestone steps. Maybe even a very low (6″) stone retaining wall about half way up the slope. To hide that ugly cement wall we are thinking of a combination of small boxwoods (which have done well in this intense sun area) and tall lavender. We pulled two enormous (yuge…) rosemary plants: they are almost impossible to prune properly so it is easier to start again. I have two beautiful Caryopteris plants that thrive as well as the pink Guara that you can see. Of course, I will do updates here as the season progresses and we work on this area.

The most important part of this entire area, and one you don’t see here, is my watering system.

I installed the Mister Landscaper system two years ago and it has changed my gardening life! Really. It was easy to install and I even have the timer down to a system that really works if we are away.Here is the post I had done:

I can’t recommend it highly enough! If I can manage it…you can!



It was time to hit the road for a short trip to Eastern North Carolina. We wanted to revisit New Bern, N.C. where we had been just a year ago. But this time we went purposely to see and visit
Tryon Palace
and its gardens. Yes, it was a little early in the season to see many blooms in the gardens, but the buildings and grounds were worth the time. And, as it turned out, the weather was perfect: sunny and 75°.

When the tulips come up I am sure this is spectacular!


These are images from the stables: loved the light and the beautiful dark wood.

Our ultimate destination was the small town of Kinston and this restaurant:
The Chef & The Farmer 

Raise your hand if you know about this famous, fabulous, Southern-with-a-twist restaurant and its owners Vivian Howard and Ben Knight!

Vivian wanted nothing more than to leave the small country town where she grew up…and she did. For a while.
And then she came “home” to open this restaurant and make her life, with her husband, Ben, in Kinston.

Read the story on the website:
Vivian Howard

and settle down to watch the series,
A Chef’s Life on PBS

The food? Well, it was wonderful. I have some specific suggestions.. have the “Flash Fried Collards” to begin (and share..). You thought collard greens were boring? These are out of this world crisp and salty. I had the Speckled Trout (local N.C., of course) and then….for dessert the Rice Pudding. We love rice puddding in almost any form at all, but this was just plain outrageous. Served with paper thin cinnamon apple slices and bit of oranges and crispy nuts. I think it’s worth a return trip JUST for this dessert!

On the black walls are paintings…large color-in-your-face canvases. And, as it turns out, they are all the work of Ben, Vivian’s husband. We happened to have a chance to meet and talk to him. Take a look at some of his paintings as represented by City Art Gallery in Greenville, N.C.  and
Art Source Gallery in Raleigh, N.C.

If you do go to the restaurant, you will want to spend the night nearby. As it happens, just down the block is
The O’Neil Hotel

The hotel had been a bank, and yes, you can walk right into the main vault and make yourself some coffee or tea!

The ceiling in the lobby.


The former tellers’ windows in the main lobby.



This, from the hotel’s website, says it all!

We requested a corner room on the third floor; I highly recommend you ask for this one too! It was superb. Really, it may be one of the nicest hotel rooms we have ever stayed in: spacious, quiet, very tastefully furnished, perfect, comfortable bed, and oh so light and bright.

Yes! Windows that open!!

It was the perfect one night getaway. We will be returning to Kinston for sure!