Monday, September 1, 2014

Sisters

We have never before had cats who enjoy and seek out the company of other cats.  Alice and Dorothy's partners of choice are each other ... this isn't a surprise since they are littermates, and they have never been apart.  I have also seen one or the other of them cuddle up with Maggie, and Maggie tends to put up with it, but she doesn't like it at all.

This is a not-so-great photo of a scene from earlier this morning ...



Dorothy was washing Alice's face.  A few minutes later, Alice was washing Dorothy's ears (no photo of this).  Sometimes this type of situation ends with a biting, hissing wrestling match.  This morning, they finished their baths and are now sleeping side by side.  

Hard to comprehend that it has been four years since we brought these little striped balls of fur here to their forever home.  Adopting sister kitties is one of the best things that we have ever done!  

(The original post about their arrival 2010 is HERE.)


Friday, August 29, 2014

A Glimpse Into the Artist's Imagination

My husband started a new painting this week.  It's one that he has been mentally working on for some time now ... trying to put together a pleasing composition and make the overall painting into an accurate representation of the subject.  

It started with a photo that I have shown you before ... one of my favorites ... an image of a special moment between Daniel and me in 2011, which we knew had the potential to be a wonderful portrait.



While the subject and the mood of this photo is perfect, the background is not.  We have brainstormed different things that we could replace it with ... never finding anything that felt right.  Inspiration struck while we were at Biltmore two weeks ago, as we were admiring John Singer Sargent's portrait of Frederick Law Olmstead.  (truth be told, we were standing there trying to scheme a way to get the enormous painting off the wall and leave with it without being arrested.)



A portrait of the man surrounded by the garden of his creation ... perhaps we could do that with the painting of me.  (Let me say, up front, that my husband is a master of editing things with Photoshop, and he did lots of that to get to our final image.)

With this inspiration in mind, we got to work.  I searched through my photos to find one that would provide the look we wanted.  I found this one, of 'Alexandre Girault' spilling over the Rambler Fence, but the composition was going the wrong direction.



No problem ... it was a simple matter for him to flip the photo and make the bulk of the rose fill the empty spot in the upper right part of the composition.

now it's pointing the correct direction


The cement slab that I was sitting on in the original photo is too white and very distracting ... but, what could we replace it with?  How about some decking to go along with the weathered fence?

photo of the steps of our pavilion.


With all the pieces of this puzzle in place, and quite a bit of time spent with Photoshop cutting and pasting and adjusting colors and saturation and levels of the various components, the final inspiration image for the painting looks like this:



My husband was eager to get started on the painting right away, and he sketched everything onto the canvas the other day ...



... and he started the underpainting last night.



Even at this stage, I can see that this will most certainly be a very special portrait that captures so many of my favorite things in one fictitious-but-very-representative image.  I have a perfect spot already picked out to for it to hang it's finished ... it's gonna be a while till I can do that, tho.

(want to see more of my husband's art?  Go to his web site.)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Rafting

One of our activities during our trip to western North Carolina earlier in the month was white water rafting.  It turned out to be a perfect beginner's rafting trip ... with lots of floating and enjoying the scenery, a bit of paddling, and short bursts of stuff like this:







Our guide was great.  He quickly realized that we were fun and cooperative and fairly fearless, and he did what he could to spice up our trip ... i.e., adding a couple of rock-smacking 360s that spun our boat completely around.  (no photos of this, darn it!)

I would do this again without hesitation.  We had so much fun!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Strange Bedfellows

Yesterday afternoon, I walked into our dining room and found this little scene ...



The cats have taken to using this little dog bed as a napping spot from time to time.  Looks to me like Maggie was already there and Winnie decided that there was room enough in that upper corner to share.  It's Winnie's bed, after all.

Winnie seems to be fine with the situation ... but that look on Maggie's face and the set of her ears tell us that she's thinking something entirely different.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

In a Cabin In the Woods ...

My husband and I, along with four of our dearest friends, spent a wonderful, relaxing few days last weekend near Asheville, NC.  We stayed in a lovely little cabin in the woods.



The idea of this trip started months ago, as a long weekend for my husband and me to attend a family wedding.  When we mentioned the trip to our friends, our three-day-weekend wedding trip was hijacked and it became a five-day trip for six humans and three dogs.  More people (especially these people) = more FUN!

Friday was travel day.  Asheville is about seven hours from here ... we drove down I-81 through the mountains of Virginia, a little bit of Tennessee, and into North Carolina.





Our dog-friendly cabin was very conveniently located ... fifteen minutes from downtown Asheville, twenty minutes from Biltmore.  (Our friends brought their dogs along.  Ruby and Winnie stayed with my parents.)



Every wonder what it's like to be on vacation with three greyhounds?  Looks a lot like this most of the time.


Saturday was wedding day.  The six of us bummed around the cabin for a while, then went to downtown Asheville for lunch at Creperie Bouchon ... yummmmm!!  My husband and I left there to go back to the cabin to get dressed for the wedding, and our friends set out to explore downtown.  The wedding was lovely (aren't ALL weddings lovely?).  It was wonderful to be there and catch up with family that we should make an effort to see more often.



Sunday.  We spent the morning at Biltmore, getting our bearings and touring the house.  No photography allowed in the house, darn it ... so I took very few that day.  (don't worry, we went back on Monday, and I have lots of photos ... keep reading.)



Sunday afternoon's activity was white water rafting.  On each of our vacations together, our friend Kim takes it upon herself to find bigger and better ways try to kill us.  She is the brains behind zip lining in West Virginia, race car driving in Las Vegas, wading into the Arctic Ocean in Barrow, Alaska, etc.  Rafting on the French Broad river was tamer than I thought it would be.  Our guide was great, the scenery was gorgeous, and we had SO much fun!









Monday was all about finishing what we started at Biltmore.  Our first stop was the garden shop ... I bought a coffee mug to add to my collection, and I resisted the urge to buy any plants.





Had coffee in my new cup this morning.



The garden shop leads to the Conservatory.



















From the Conservatory, we walked out into the garden itself.





You won't be surprised to hear that the Rose Garden was my first stop ... I wish I could tell you that I loved the rose garden, but I didn't.  The shape of the paths and beds seem to have stayed true to the original design, which is wonderful, but the choice of roses to fill the beds was disappointing.  There were WAY too many drifts of David Austin English roses, in my opinion.  It reminded me of the plant choices in the rose garden at Kew in England ... which would be perfectly appropriate there.  It made me feel like the Biltmore rose garden was a copy of something else, instead of its own unique entity.



That small, black-shirted person on the right is me.










The rest of the garden impressed me greatly.  The long trellis/arbor that leads from the conservatory is covered with grapes and other vines, and it has beautiful containers hanging inside of it.







The perennial borders were VERY well designed, with a great eye for color and texture and drifts of plants within the borders.









After we finished in the garden, we went to finish our tour of the house itself.  (We had had to break away about halfway through the tour the day before to be on time for white water rafting.)  The house is absolutely jaw-droppingly gorgeous ... enormous and grand, and a family home full of personal treasures.  I loved it!

Lions flanked the front entrance.


View from the back of the house, looking toward the south terrace and the mountains beyond.


Full view of the forest and mountains.


Our trip to Asheville came to an end way too soon, as we packed up and set out for home on Tuesday morning.  There is so much to see and do there, and a return trip for us will definitely be planned in the near future.  

No matter how much we enjoy being away and experiencing new places, it's always a thrill to be back home.  The dogs were very glad to see us (though my mother said that she misses having them), and the cats are much happier with the return to their normal routines with the humans in the house ... I think they may have even missed the dogs, just a little.

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