Monday, May 18, 2015

Lovage- a Fun Herb to Grow

Lovage is a tall culinary herb that tastes like celery.  It is part of the parsley family and can be used in any recipe that calls for celery.   It survives the harsh Chicago winters and is always one of the first plants to emerge from the ground in spring.  The first year I planted it, it grew only to about 2 feet tall.  But the second year- wow!  It grew to 5 feet tall and very bushy.  It requires no maintenance and gives you abundant growth every year. 

It's leaves are large and shiny.  The stems and leaves work in any recipe that calls for celery.
In fact, it has a more intense celery flavor.

  Notice the wide stem on the plant-

This year's growth so far, with a very chilly spring in Lake Bluff.
The wide stem is hollow inside and makes the perfect straw for sipping Bloody Mary's.

Or simply a glass of tomato juice!

Every sip is enhanced with the flavor of celery.   How much fun is that? !!!!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Building Our Retirement Home in the North Carolina Mountains

We have been dreaming and planning about building our ideal home for years and the time is finally here!  We are almost complete with the outside details and floor plans for our new home on the French Broad River.
I have just returned from a trip with my friend Jill to the Carolina's , visiting both of our new home sites. Jill's foundation has been poured and the framing is beginning.  It was so excited to see the house actually being built!
     The beauty of the area only confirms our recent  decision to build  there.  Asheville, NC has been named the Most Beautiful Place in the Country by  Good Morning America's viewers.  And the French Broad River has been named one of the most romantic rivers in the US.  The milder climate and sheer beauty of the landscape is so appealing. 

While the leaves in Chicago are just now  beginning to open  and most days are still cold, the Carolina's were delightfully warm and the spring flora was in full bloom.
Just take a look at some of the pictures of the area last week!

So many trees and bushes were in full bloom- so lush and full with flowers.

I loved this huge bush.   I have to plant one - 




Late afternoon sun on the lake by our  temporary cabin.

The sky clearing right after a rainfall.

With so much outdoor beauty surrounding us, we are been very mindful of designing a home that
opens to the great outdoors. Many national forests and the Blue Ridge Parkway are only minutes from our door.    Our property sits directly on the French Broad River and the sounds of the water crashing over the rocks and boulders is so relaxing and soothing.   
 Here is the view from our future living room overlooking the river.  Many of these trees will be
cut away to make room for the house, but we will keep as many as possible and simply remove some of the lower limbs to create a view.
We  just received the models  of the outside of our new home and the floor plans.

We are trying to accomplish a "French Mountain Home" vibe with the river as the main feature.

Because our lot is so steep, we will enter directly from the road into a pea gravel motor court. 

 Our plan was to build a one level home.  However, as we have been learning ,
it is much more cost effective to build and use your lower level  when you own  a steep lot.

The main floor has the master suite to the right of the center core with a small parlour  leading in to it and providing a buffer from the main living area.   The center of the house  is  a large gathering room with a flat screen on one end and a "reading conversation fireplace" zone  on the other end.   There will be an entertaining kitchen and dining hall , separate from a larder and scullery for the  prep and clean up of meals.   A conservatory is directly off the kitchen and has direct access to the terrace. A screened porch with a fireplace is   attached  to the end of the dining hall.   A laundry craft room is directly off the 2 car garage as you enter the side of the house.  

Our hope was to get a 3 car garage so we could store a boat for my fisherman husband.  But the
topography did not allow room for that either!

At this point in the design process, we are planning a dark grey metal roof and grey stone and stucco.
But we have already changed our minds several times, so  it's anybody's guess ???????

On the back of the home- which overlooks the river- we are planning lots of French doors with Juliette balconies.   Our hope is to be able to keep the doors open much of the year so we can hear the sounds of the river. The lot is so steep that  the lower level floor will be 12 feet above the ground.
Hopefully that elevation, will keep the critters at bay! 
 All of the bedrooms will be facing the river, so that summer nights can be enjoyed listening to the sounds of the river below.  The back of the house and terraces   face west, so we should be able to enjoy  beautiful sunsets.  Our view across the river is a beautiful lush forest on the side of a mountain..
The lower level is accessed via a  wide open  staircase off the main entrance.  Two guest suites with their own baths and Juliette balconies overlook the river below.  A shared sitting room is between the two suites. To the left of the floor will be rooms for   fly fishing equipment, exercising and an office for Mr.RTH .  These spaces will have open  to the lower level screened in porch and terrace.  The mechanical room and seasonal storage will be located to the back of the floor.

Stone terraces will be built on the south and west side  of the house, with the lower level protruding out from under the upper terrace.  That will allow more sun for flowers and herbs.  The upper deck will open from the dining hall  and conservatory.   The conservatory off the southern side will provide enough  natural light to grow herbs and flowers year round.   
The lower terraces will open off my husband's study and workout room.  We plan  to utilize the lower level screened covered porch as a sleeping porch in the summer. 

The next  18 months should be a fun time planning and designing this home.  There are so many new materials and resources to explore.   We are planning some unusual layouts and rooms in this home- not a traditional plan at all.  Stay tuned for more as we navigate the building process!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

50 Shades of Lavender

My friend, Katha and I went shopping last Friday and it was very apparent that soft purples and lilacs are very trendy right now!  From a handbag in the Burberry window to a cast iron skillet in the Le Creuset store, shades of purple were the rage.  But the most glorious shade of purple was the magnificent magnolia tree that was in full bloom in Katha's yard.   I was treated to a magnolia tree branch to take home and enjoy! 

 This is a very hard choice- but I think the darker one is for me.  Makes you want to cook, doesn't it?

Attending the Chicago Botanic Garden and Antique Show last week, we spotted this
lavender shade in KEW pottery from the Royal Botanic Gardens in London.
Imagine  these filled with lavender!

I am noticing many rooms with shades of lavender.

I love when lavender is used as the only color in a neutral room.

Anthropologie's tufted lavender settee- adorable.

Bella Notte- mixing various shades of lavender, pinks and purples.

A masterful mix of colors to create this bed.

Shades of lavender - a great mixture of plates. 

A lavender wedding gown!

Beautiful wedding gowns by Samuelle with hints of lavender.
Walking thru Joanne's fabrics on Saturday, I spotted this romantic bolt of crushed antique tulle
with just a hint of lavender to it's color and I could not resist it! 

Placing the fresh magnolia branches on the tulle enhanced the soft pale color of the tulle.

Should I make curtains- so airy when flowing from open windows!

Or a ruffled tableskirt-  maybe cover a dressing table-

( Off  the subject, but another fabulous find at Joannes Fabrics .  Embroidered and sequined fabric by
David Tutera. and only $39.99 a yard.   It will make a gorgeous tablecloth.)
Oh the possibilities for this fabric are endless! 

 New paint  shades of lavenders- love the names- Fig Preserves, Duchess Lilac, Opera

I think Mother Nature provides the best color inspiration. 
 Imagine a bedroom in the colors of this magnolia blossom.