Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Beacon

Another perfect summer morning, another walk by the sea.  This time I was on St. Simons Island, Ga - one of Georgia's Golden Isles, and the place that my very lucky sister calls home.  This lighthouse sits in The Village on St. Simons, bordered by brick walks, pristine lawns, live oaks and palms.

The ocean is just to the left in this photo, where the view out to sea includes the northern tip of Jekyll Island.
Had the thermometer not been threatening to explode with the heat of the day, I'm quite sure I could have parked myself on a bench and spent the rest of the morning content just to be.
 Don't you love a good lighthouse?
Tomorrow is Countdown Friday
Contentment - even in the heat of the day - is still a very good thing.  

Thursday, July 21, 2011

His Name is "Mr. President"

Sometimes true life is so quirky and funny, no writer of fiction could ever do it justice.  This day from many years ago was one of those times.

My son, Troy, the adventurer, called me early one morning and said "Let's play hooky from work and go watch Air Force One land in Charlotte today."  Not only did he not have to twist my arm - but I suggested we go by and pick up my 88-year-old dad, the original adventurer in the family.  We didn't have to twist his arm, either. 

As soon as we arrived on the tarmac, I realized Dad had nowhere to sit.  The day promised to be hot.  I had just dispatched Troy to go over and ask the Secret Service if we could borrow one of their folding chairs when a very nice man walked up to us and introduced himself as Garland Denney.  He offered his extra chair to Dad and the two of them began a pleasant conversation while we all waited for the plane to land.  Mr. Denney was apparently one of the last great Democrats in the State of North Carolina and was proud to say so.  After having accepted his gracious offer of a chair, we didn't have the heart to tell him we were all registered Independents and didn't come to the airport so much to see the President as we did to see Air Force One.  It's a big plane.
Then, at one point during the conversation, Mr. Denney disappeared briefly and reappeared with "someone who wants to meet your dad".  It was the Governor of North Carolina, Jim Hunt - another of those famous Democrats.  A bit flabbergasted but maintaining his dignity and composure, Dad rose to his feet and extended his hand to the Governor.  They chatted briefly and the Governor congratulated him on coming out to see the President with two successive generations of his family in tow.  Again - we just didn't have the heart - so we all smiled and said "Thank you very much, we wouldn't have missed it for the world."

Mr. Denney was apparently a personal friend of the Governor's brother.  After our surprise meet-and-greet, he continued to entertain us with stories until at last we saw the President's plane land.  

The crowds were all being herded behind the standard barricade and were lining up for a chance to shake the President's hand.  We intended to watch him descend the stairs of the plane and then make an early exit to our car ahead of the rest of the crowds, but Mr. Denney had other ideas.  He insisted that we follow him off to the side - to stand just beyond the crowds inside a little roped-off area.  We hated to be rude and dutifully traipsed along after him like a flock of baby ducks - thinking that he had managed to find a spot where we could get a better view of the President.

Once there - we realized the truth.  We were in a specially restricted area where - after greeting the crowds on the "rope line" - the President of the United States apparently planned to saunter over and spend a few minutes chatting with us privately.

Now, allow yourself a brief visual.  Mr. Denney was standing there holding an American Flag and wearing a few prominent campaign buttons.  My dad looked perfectly fine, but had only changed out of his bedroom shoes at the last minute before leaving home.  I was clad in a canary yellow T-Shirt and slacks and a big pair of Jackie O sunglasses.  And Troy - if memory serves - was in a baggy polo shirt, cut-off khakis and flip flops.  Welcome to North Carolina, Mr. President.

The President worked the rope line with the Secret Service and a few news cameras, all the while inching closer to our little corral.  Then, just before he extended his hand to Mr. Denney - who began pumping it furiously - my dad (who was next up) turned to me - in all seriousness - and said "Now...his name is Bill isn't it?"

With a SPLIT SECOND to spare - literally - I managed to lean into his sweet, hard-of-hearing ear and say "His name is MR. PRESIDENT".  I had no idea if he heard me or not, but there was time for nothing else, because there stood the President of the United States being introduced to my dad.  Mr. Denney was saying "Mr. President, this is Fred Harrill and he is 88 years old and he came all the way down here with his daughter and her son - three generations of the same family!"

I held my breath but need not have worried.  My dad - every inch the gentleman he had been his whole life - extended his hand and looked Bill Clinton in the eye and said "God Bless You, Mr. President."

The President paused just briefly and then said, "God Bless you too, Fred."  After that, Troy and I were also introduced and had opportunity to shake his hand - me in my canary yellow and Troy in his flip flops.

A photo op followed (my dad is the tall man in the blue shirt with Clinton's hand on his shoulder) and then the entire party took two steps forward into the Presidential limo which was waiting to take them into Charlotte for the day.  As they pulled away, Governor Jim Hunt turned and looked through the back window at us with a wink and a wave.

No one believed us when we came home.  Not one person.  Had we not been in possession of the picture - which Mr. Denney had insisted on having developed before we left Charlotte to send home with us - I doubt that anyone would believe us to this day.

We have since stayed in touch with Mr. Denney - and every time we think of the day we decided to play hooky and watch a plane land - we shake our heads and laugh.  And, oddly enough - I learned something that day.  I don't look a thing like Jackie O - even in her sunglasses.

Tomorrow is Countdown Friday

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Buzzy Weekend

Hey Toto!  This isn't Kansas, but it is North Carolina, and I must say that a Carolina Blue sky in July is pretty hard to beat. 

We are back at work in the studio after a very busy weekend in Atlanta during which I took only two pictures - and they came out blurry.
Otherwise, our semi-annual trip to the Atlanta Market was inspiring and exciting and exhausting and way too much fun.  We had so many good visits with our clients, and caught up with some of our artist friends as well.

A few notes from the weekend:
We noticed an abundance of bright colors and happy themes in the products displayed.  Bravo to our manufacturers of gifts and home accessories for deciding that happiness and joy should rule the day when it comes to choices for decorating our homes.

Santa is back with a bang!  Look for more of everyone's favorite old elf on retail shelves this coming season, sharing the spotlight with all those adorable snowmen.
We met several artist friends on Friday night for a gathering at the Westin Hotel.  And what do artists talk about when they all get together?  Why - their ipads, of course!  We got the scoop on the pros and cons of each version - and had loads of fun looking at grandbaby photos and videos, too.  I won't mention any names because you know who you are, Brenda Pinnick!
While on my way to an appointment, I happened upon another of my favorite artists - a fellow Carolina Girl who lives just a few miles down the road from me - my friend Susan Winget.  After hugs and hellos, we made a valiant attempt at pictures (which are the two that came out blurry - sorry Susan!)
We barely missed a live cooking demonstration by Food Network Iron Chef Cat Cora in the Mart's Gourmet Kitchen Theater.  A few years back, we did catch Tyler Florence live - and the Pork Tenderlion with Salsa Verde that he served afterward was to die for.
After a quick buzz through the Gourmet aisles on Sunday morning (where we sampled everything from Striplings incredible Beef Jerky to Bellagio's White Sipping Chocolate) we rolled back to North Carolina full of fresh ideas and encouraging words from our clients.

Now, if I can manage to pull myself away from this blue sky and these sunflowers, maybe I can translate those ideas into artistic reality.

Speaking of the sunflowers, my husband, Joe, shot these gorgeous sunflower pictures just after sunrise this morning in our garden.  He has a way with a camera!

Thursday, July 14, 2011


My pumpkin wishes have come true!  He is already 18" across and still growing.  Thanks to all of you who sent sweet pumpkin thoughts my way.  My grandson's first Halloween is looking better every day.

Elsewhere in the garden and around the house, things are growing.
The zinnias are happy, as you saw in my last post.
And in the courtyard, the Fountain of the Laughing Happy Boy is still smiling.
We're off to Atlanta for a few very busy days at the Atlanta International Gift and Home Furnishings Market.  Can't wait to say hello to my clients, visit with my fellow artists-who-license, and catch up on all the news.  Atlanta Market always gives me a big dose of artistic inspiration as well.  I'll post pictures next week.

In the meantime, tomorrow is Countdown Friday.
Summer is all around us.  Remember to enjoy the flowers, birds, bees, sunshine and PUMPKINS!  

Friday, July 8, 2011

Summer Smiles

E. E. Cummings said "the earth laughs in flowers".  If true, then I would say that my zinnias have the giggles.

The first large harvest of these beauties ended up in one of my antique baskets.  Check out the new kid on the block this summer - a red-and-white peppermint stripe variety, in the center of the picture below.
I will have zinnias until Halloween.  I guess that means the garden will be in fits of laughter between now and then.
My porcelain goose just looked into the camera and said "Fine by me..."

Today is Countdown Friday

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Swimming in Marinara

The garden is singing with full voice these days.  The tomatoes are ripe to bursting and my little kitchen herb garden is loaded with fresh basil and thyme. This afternoon, with a rumble in the skies signaling a thunderstorm heading my way, I decided to sock in and try my hand at Roasted Tomato Marinara.

This was supposed to be easy, and it was.  I just didn't expect it to be beautiful.  In my big heavy roasting pan, above, I have four varieties of tomatoes - Better Boy, Roma, Cherry and Grape.  After washing and quartering, I tossed them in and added a big handful of basil leaves, a nice bunch of fresh thyme, half an onion roughly chopped, six whole cloves of garlic, an abundance of fresh cracked black pepper, sea salt and good olive oil.
Then I ran it into a 325 degree oven, uncovered, and wandered off for about two hours.  Out of the oven, I let the whole thing cool a bit, after which I lifted the herbs out and discarded them.  Next, I lifted everything out of the pan with a slotted spoon and put it in a big stainless steel bowl - discarding the liquid left in the pan.  After a few rounds with the boat motor (otherwise known as an immersion blender - and you can also use a food processor but I'm too lazy to clean all of that up), I was left with a nice thick sauce.  I ran it through a strainer to remove all the seeds and tomato peels and put it into a large saucepan for one final simmer before doling it out into freezer bags.

It tastes pretty fabulous.  And I promise I didn't plan this, but my photo of the final product looks like I dove into the saucepan for a swim.  Maybe it was the lightning and thunder and blowing rain, or maybe it was just serendipity.  Whatever the case, a journey in search of marinara took a detour through the looking glass. 

Art happens when you least expect it.

Monday, July 4, 2011