Thursday, August 4, 2016

Summer Flowers & Friends

Since it's August and it seems liked we've been stuck inside in the air conditioning forever,
it was about time to brave the heat and see what has been going on in the backyard. 

Around here, late summer usually brings hot days of relentless sunshine, but not this year! Cloudy days with rain aren't a bad thing though, thanks to Mother Nature there's no need for extra watering.

All the extra heat and rain has brought about some interesting developments
including this little patch of volunteer violas blooming in the driveway cement.

Then there's some other voluntary visitors who are equally colorful,
although this Yellow Swallowtail butterfly would dwarf those violas.

So it was time to smell the roses,

listen to Elwood's watery tune,

and the bees buzz,

while counting ourselves lucky that there was one lace cap hydrangea bloom!

We welcomed the visits from the bugs that are amazing and helpful and

try to overlook the ones that are not, because 

you just never know what you'll find in a garden until you take a good look. 

Have a great weekend everyone!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Tea Party Madness with The Wonderland Band

What's happening in the garden? Pink flamingoes and a Hatter? 
I hear sounds most outrageous! What could possibly be the matter?


The most wonderful Mad Tea Party is finally at hand, 
and we are to be serenaded by a real live band!

Burt's joining in too, his musical skills are quite honed.
Which is only to be expected since he plays the trombone.
(What other instrument would a skeleton own?)

Kristin's playing the trumpet while Andy strums his guitar,
and with the Hatter on base, as a band, they'll go far.


What, no treats at the table? This is certainly a mistake.
Maybe playing a little louder is all it will take,
to produce a few sandwiches, some tea and a cake?

Then like magic it appeared, treats and three kinds of tea,
and the music making was taken over by the mosquitoes and the bees. 

The Dormouse showed up because he really likes cheese.
 Swiss, Cheddar or Gouda, he's easily pleased.

Some strawberry shortcake for a finishing treat?
Looks like cutting a slice could be quite a feat. 


Having finished their tea, it was time to be away,
Burt decided to take charge of leading the parade.  

The merry musicians are off, more places to explore.
Who knows what adventures they may have in store.

Maybe they will come back but for now it's time to hit the road.
  So here's one last hurrah because this story has been told!

Happy Mad Tea Party!

Thanks to Vanessa at A Fanciful Twist for creating and hosting this wonderful party!
Click on the link to check out all the other Mad Tea Parties.

My apologies for the lack of music. Due to technical difficulties I couldn't get it working in time for the party and then I was too dumb to realize I could just add it any time with a YouTube video! Duh!
I'm blaming the heat and humidity. Thanks for stopping in.

Monday, July 4, 2016

It's the 4th of July!

 Since we're celebrating Independence Day today it's probably safe to say that summer has finally arrived. It's been a long time coming this year, it's mostly been weeks of cold, gloomy rain occasionally punctuated by a sunny day where temperatures topped out in the mid 90ยบ. The weather's certainly been unusual lately but no matter how crazy it becomes, Burt is always ready to party.

Since it's been so rainy we haven't spent much time outdoors but now that we can REALLY be sure it's not going to rain or snow today, it's time to get out and enjoy it while it lasts. Maybe Burt won't set himself on fire while shooting off his fireworks tonight! 

It would be a shame to let the first picnic of the summer go by without some photos to reminisce about on some cold winter evening in the not too distant future. Ok, I promise to stop mentioning winter after remarking that the bench Ivy is sitting on was still buried in snow at the end of April.

You may have noticed that Burt has been absent lately from his usual duties as the Official Calamitous Botanicus Blog Clown. He has suffered a few injuries due to clumsiness on my part and consequentially he has been left without any real backbone. This doesn't mean he's incapable of putting forth his personal opinions but rather that he occasionally requires the  assistance of His Madness to stand upright. Obviously he's ok with occasionally being goosed.

Oops! Apparently he's not the only thing that has a hard time keeping upright.
This is just one of the many reasons Burt is not allowed near the grill.

Luckily most of the contents are plastic, something Burt can relate to.
Wonder what became of the pie?

Finally, with order restored, back to the business at hand . . .


Thanks for stopping by and I hope everyone is having a great 4th of July!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Spring Wild Flowers

In the middle of May, when I was in grade school, my cousin and I would get off the bus and go into the woods to pick little bouquets of wild flowers to give to our Gram for her birthday. She was one of the sweetest people I've ever known and a perfect grandma. Of course I had another grandmother also, and the stark contrast between the two of them helped me to appreciate her all that much more! 

Every spring when the wild flowers bloom I feel like she's still here. Gram was quite a gardener and something of an environmentalist, she preferred organic fertilizers to chemical ones and refused to spray pesticides on her fruit trees. My dad thought she was hopelessly out of step with modern times.

Both my grandmothers lived on farms their entire lives and loved spending time in the woods. Even my very strict, no-nonsense grandmother was always ready to pack a lunch and take a few of her grandchildren for a picnic under the birch trees. We always had a good time as long as we were on our best behavior and there was no fooling around that ended up with someone falling in the creek.   

Naturally, since it was forbidden to go near the water we couldn't have been more attracted to it. Those picnics never lasted too long, I'm thinking that was maybe her plan to begin with, ha!

Trilliums were the one woodland flower we always left out of Gram's birthday bouquets because picking any parts off the plant can kill it even if the rest of it is left intact! It's amazing that they manage to survive at all considering how many humans and deer there are tromping around the forest. Thanks to a mild winter followed by a wet spring we're seeing lots of them this year. 


The most common color is white but they also come in a bi-colored pink and white, red and purple but they're relatively rare, some are endangered and protected. I recently read that the seeds are spread away from the parent plants by ants. Finally, a good reason to tolerate those little picnic pests!

The wildflower season passes in the blink of an eye in this part of the country. Since woodlands and lakes are also prime mosquito habitat getting to see them can be itchy. This year due to the unusually cold spring we've been experiencing the little buggers aren't hatching, though it won't last long.

These days I don't pick wildflowers but I can still hear Gram telling me to be careful when collecting blossoms for her bouquets not to accidentally pull up the roots! Maybe that's why I can't bring myself to pull out all the wood violets that are taking over my lawn. Wonder what she would say about that?

At least they're less annoying than dandelions.

Thanks for stopping by, I hope you are having a great weekend!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A New Knee, Tall Tales and a little Feminism

If theres one consistent thing about Burt, it's that he usually gets pretty wrapped up in whatever is happening at the moment. You can't really blame him for being enthusiastic! 

Nick, aka His Madness, had his old knee replaced with a snazzy plastic and titanium number a few weeks ago and looking after him has been Burt's number one priority. He felt it was only fair that he should return the favor since Nick put him back together after he came apart last summer.  

Recuperating can get to be a bit boring and sometimes things don't always go as smoothly as they could. It was clearly time a diversion of some sort. 

So in the dead of winter we decided to take a road trip. All those icicles were starting to look just a little too much like prison bars and it was time for a break. Now leaving town is not something we embark upon fool heartedly during the season of blizzards and sub-zero temperatures but never the less sometimes it is absolutely necessary in order to maintain our sanity. Luckily, the conditions that day were pretty typical, an overcast sky with a stiff wind howling out of the north. Most importantly it wasn't snowing which was about as close to perfect weather as we were ever going to get!  

The destination for our winter exploration was a 15th century French gothic building located on the campus of Marquette University in Milwaukee. It was mentioned briefly on a local television show and caught our attention since it has to be the oldest building in the state. Jean Nicolet was the first documented European to set foot in Wisconsin, and that took place in Green Bay in 1634. Above is a 1910 mural depicting a highly suspect account of his arrival. Supposedly he came ashore with both pistols blazing and wearing an elaborately embroidered silk robe. Apparently thinking he had found China. It's also highly unlikely that there was a welcoming committee of Ho-Chunk people waiting for him or that they would have stuck around after that rude performance, yet the tall tale persists.


Meanwhile back a couple hundred years, the St. Joan Chapel began life as the Chapelle de St. Martin de Sayssuel in Chasse-sur-Rhone, south of Lyon. It fell into ruin after the revolution and was discovered after WW1 by a young architect who arranged it's sale to an American socialite, Gertrude Hill Gavin. In 1927 it was disassembled and shipped to Long Island, New York and added onto a French Renaissance chateau she had picked up on a previous shopping spree. Shortly afterwards the French government put a stop to the looting of their architectural heritage. The chateau was destroyed by a fire in 1962 but the chapel survived and it's new owners donated it to the university. After a second trip and another reconstruction it was dedicated to St. Joan of Arc on May 26, 1966. 

As with most buildings that travel many miles from their original homes, it's changed a lot. I've been lucky enough to visit Gothic cathedrals in France and if there's one thing they have in common it's their frigid interiors, even in August! It was very cold that day and a big surprise to be greeted with a balmy (almost too warm) chapel, all due to the radiant heating installed under the floor. It is used for services daily and I suspect the parishioners really appreciate that upgrade. The roof of course is also a complete reproduction and the stained glass windows were fabricated in 1929 by a New York firm.

The reason for it's dedication to Joan of Arc is found in a niche to the left of the altar in the photo above. According to legend, Joan prayed before a statue of Mary while standing on this stone. After finishing her prayers she would kiss the stone and from that time on the stone has remained colder that the stones surrounding it. This was not part of the original chapel but was added by the architect who oversaw the it's reconstruction in New York. Neither of us were adventurous enough to actually check out the temperature difference since we both spent most of our childhoods being reprimanded for misbehaving in church. Poor Nick attended Catholic schools and to this day has a fear of nuns!

The building with it's trees and garden make a lovely centerpiece to the campus, especially since it is so carefully nestled in the middle of the modern buildings. It appears a French teenager with a little help from a socialite has stolen the show from the great explorer and Jesuit Pere Marquette. Although, it's probably only fitting since in 1909 Marquette became the first Catholic university in the world to go coed and that at least is one fact (according to their web site) among the all tall tales.  

Appreciating art is always thirsty business. Happily, a few blocks up the hill from the university is the Ambassador Hotel where they pack their Bloody Mary (a different Mary!) with a smorgasbord of asparagus, sausage and mozzarella sticks along with the usual garnishes. Talk about a liquid lunch!

Cheers and thanks for stopping by!

Have you run into any tall tales or nuns lately?

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Some Spring Things

According to the calendar it's officially been spring for a whole week!

Unfortunately for us, it appears that Mother Nature is still on the previous page. 

At least we can pretend everything is coming up tulips and daffodils by visiting the "Rooms of Blooms" event at our local Paine Art Center and Gardens. In March of the last few years, area florists and garden clubs have been decorated the mansion with unusual and extravagant floral displays. It's always a treat to escape the cold and snow and wander through room after room of flowers.

In order to link art and nature the arrangements are generally positioned beneath the more important works of art as well as the usual places. Four hundred years ago when this portrait was done, could the subject of The Lady of The Lennox Family ever have imagined it would end up in a 1920's fake Tudor mansion in Oshkosh, Wisconsin built from the profits off kleenex and disposable diapers? I suspect it would be something like, "WTF! How did I end up here? Is this country even on the map?"

Down the hall in the formal dining room the table was all decked out in this over the top centerpiece. I'd be afraid that one clumsy move would have the whole thing toppling down on everyone!

Some decidedly safer roses for the Lake St. John, Canada, watercolor by Winslow Homer.

The breakfast room not looking like the bright and sunny space it was intended to be.

 The French Barbizon school was a favorite of the Paine's and this painting, The Watering Place by Emile van Marcke de Lummen was adorned with an arrangement of sweet little daisies. Is is possible that there is a public place in Wisconsin where there's not a cow or wedge of cheese on display?

Upstairs, traditional bouquets adorned the dressing room,

and across the hall was this untraditional but interesting assemblage.

At the other end of the estate, tea was served amid the tulips in the new-ish Conservatory. 

Things also took a more whimsical turn with some botanical couture.
The front of the dress was interesting enough but the back was spectacular!

Of course I've failed to mention that the whole place smelled heavenly.

Meanwhile, Burt and Ivy were hard at work decorating eggs just in time for some Easter spookiness. I hope everyone is enjoying spring and indulging in some chocolate bunnies and eggs!

Best Wishes to everyone for a Happy Spring or Easter, whichever you celebrate!