the june cocktail hour: the screened-in porch edition :-)

Sunday, June 19:  Happy Father’s Day and welcome to the first cocktail hour on our finished screened-in porch.  I’m so glad to see you again!  It’s a warm but beautiful day today, so please come in and have a seat on our new porch furniture.  You can help me break it in.   What can I get you to drink?  I have some chilled white wines, a Spanish Rioja, some Shock Top Belgian White, and the makings for dirty martinis.  I also have a bottle of Chambourcin from Hiddencroft Vineyards, one of our many Virginia wineries.  I’ll tell you more about our visit to this winery later.

I do have to warn you that Mike is a little confused tonight.  He made our dirty martinis with olive OIL instead of olive JUICE.  You know how olive oil floats to the top of the glass, in a thin band of gold?  That’s what you’ll see if you order a dirty martini. 🙂  I wish I had some martini glasses, as they’d look a lot more elegant than these squat drink glasses.

me in our new screened-in porch - Welcome! :-)
me in our new screened-in porch – Welcome! 🙂

Have you been enjoying the early summer? Have you gone on any fun excursions?  Have you started planning your summer travels to exotic lands or will you be having a staycation?    Have you gone to any outdoor concerts or wine tours? Have you seen your children off to conquer new challenges? Have you reconnected with old friends? Have you accomplished any goals?  Have you been on any retreats? Have you seen any good movies or read any page-turners?  Have you eaten at any good restaurants or cooked anything wonderful at home?  Have you planted flowers and vegetables?  Have you been exercising and eating healthy? Have you been on any shopping sprees?

I may have told you I got a Canon EOS Rebel SL-1 for Christmas.  It took me a while to even open up the packaging and take the camera out, but finally, on May 19, I took it out to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens to test it out.  I’d already taken a few pictures here and there, and I felt that the pictures were not as sharply focused as the pictures from my Olympus PEN.  I wasn’t sure if my eyesight was getting worse or the camera just wasn’t focusing properly, so I was dragging my feet about doing something to correct the problem.  I finally talked with the help desk at Canon, and the person there told me to test it out using two different lenses.  I have a telephoto lens and a regular lens, and I tested them both.  The pictures below are my first extended test with the camera.  I still have to say I’m not very happy with the sharpness of the photos, especially compared to my Olympus.  I think I’m going to send it back to Canon to see what can be done.  It wasn’t a cheap camera, and now it makes me depressed every time I use it because I know the pictures will be inferior.

purple
purple

The reason I even got a new camera was because my Olympus lens kept self-adjusting and readjusting, and I thought it was hopelessly broken.  But I also went online with Olympus and sent my lens to them, and now it works better.  The whole camera is quite worn out from my years of travel and photography since 2010, when I bought it in Korea.  But it still takes the best pictures.  I wish now I’d bought a new Olympus rather than the Canon.

little dainties
little dainties

I find it so annoying these days that all our local camera shops have gone out of business.  Much the same as local bookstores.  This is the result of all of us buying everything from Amazon.com or online through different websites. Even when we started looking for furniture for our house, it was hard to find showrooms where you could actually go sit on the furniture, or see it in person. I don’t want to order furniture online without trying it out or without seeing the quality of the product in person.

flora
flora

It used to be you could take your camera to the local camera shop and explain to the person what was wrong with it, and even demonstrate the problem.  Now we have to wrap the camera in bubble wrap and send it via UPS to the camera company.  Everything has become less personal.  I really hate the way commerce is becoming these days.

man vs. nature
man vs. nature

We had rain nearly every day from the end of April until late May.  It was cold and grey, a long depressing spell.  Finally, the rainy season stopped and we went right into the heat and humidity of summer.  Since then, the weather has moderated, and we’ve had some gorgeous days, in the mid- to low-70s (F), with nice breezes and low humidity.  I’ve tried to get out as often as possible.

log cabin at Meadowlark
log cabin at Meadowlark

On top of the relentless period of rain, we have been feeling quite depressed about our youngest son, Adam (23).  We thought we were helping him to get on his feet by getting an apartment for him in Richmond.  He was supposed to get a job and start taking over the rent payments, with us contributing less and less over time.  Since we co-signed his lease, and he made no effort to get or keep a job, we were stuck making the payments.  He has decided he doesn’t want to work in life, he wants to “trust in the universe” to provide for him.  His vision of living in a society without a need for money works only if you live in a commune, but even then, he would have to do some kind of work to contribute to the commune.  I believe he would consider most work as “not the kind of work he wants to do.”  Apparently he wants to do no work at all!

white flowers
white flowers

He insisted he wanted to take an entrepreneurship course online, which we decided to help him with, in the interest of furthering his education and helping him to start his own business.  After attending only one session, he dropped the course; thus we lost around $3,000.  When he came up to northern Virginia to inform us of this, I was furious.  I said, “We’re done!”  I am so tired of him taking advantage of us, and now Mike and I have informed him we are no longer contributing to him financially.  So far he doesn’t seem to mind this, as banks are sending him credit card offers right and left.  He doesn’t even live in our house any more, but I get credit card offers from major banks addressed to him at least three times a week.  I promptly tear them up and toss them in the trash, but of course I’m sure he’s getting the same offers at his apartment in Richmond.  Whereas he once told us he had maxed out all of his credit cards, he now suddenly has available credit again. We have warned him continually about getting himself in over his head with debt, but he never listens to anything we have to say.  Of course, I’m having a little trouble feeling sorry for these credit card companies who have about as much chance getting paid back as getting nectar from a stone.  How on earth do they justify sending so many credit card offers to someone with no verifiable source of income?

Adam has possession but not ownership of a 2004 Toyota Sienna van.  We have already told him when his lease expires, he cannot live with us.  If we let him live with us, then he gets exactly what he wants, a free ride!  So, we figured he could live with the homeless people in Richmond (he says he’s befriended many of them!) and sleep in the van.  Well, voila, just last week, the van broke down and now needs a whole new engine, at the cost of about $3,500.  We thought we might be able to sell the van and help him pay down some of his debts, but now we can’t even do that.

sculpture at Meadowlark
sculpture at Meadowlark

Apparently, when Adam’s lease expires on July 8, he’s considering flying to Vancouver (I assume paying for this flight and expenses with his credit card), where he will meet up with “like-minded people” at some retreat and try to “make a go of it.”  We reiterated that we are not contributing to him financially, and he seems to not care at all.  We have now finally realized that all our good intentions regarding our son, who we love dearly, have only hurt him and made him feel entitled and unappreciative.  He has made one bad decision after another, in an unending chain.  We have now decided that we need to let go.  He’s an adult now and though we’ve tried to give him advice and provide him with every opportunity, he is not of a mind to appreciate any of it.

Since making this decision, I feel a burden has lifted.  Though it horrifies me to think of him starving or being homeless, there is really nothing we can do, and we just have to let him suffer the consequences of his bad choices. If he does go to Vancouver, at least he won’t be right under our noses, and maybe we can put him on the sidelines of our minds.  We’re both trying to create the possibility that this is a phase, that he will grow out of it, that he will eventually get his life together.  We at least hope for this outcome.  Ultimately, we have no control.  And I’m tired of having his situation ruin my emotions.

But wait.  The Adam situation changes by the moment.  Just tonight, he called to wish his dad a happy Father’s Day and said he’s now considering renting a cheap room from a friend he knows in Richmond because he enjoys some of the camaraderie with his brother in Richmond and lately has been participating in a hand-balancing class there.  What?? He says he doesn’t want any money from us and is thinking of working a couple of days a week at the place where Alex works.  Oh my gosh!  He is all over the place.  Mike says he’s decided: Expect anything and everything, and expect the unexpected!

Why on earth are we worrying about him and torturing ourselves when he seems not to have a care in the world about himself??

In letting go of Adam, we’re trying to focus on ourselves and our lives.  We’ve spent the last couple of weeks planning our trip to Iceland (August 13-25), booking our flights, a rental car, and all of our accommodation around the Ring Road.  We’ve gone to a number of outdoor concerts. We’ve gotten together with friends.

outreach
outreach

On one sunny Wednesday at the end of May, we went to Kalypso’s Sports Tavern, a nice outdoor restaurant on Lake Anne.  It was packed with people who had been cooped up inside for well over a month, but we enjoyed our dinner and wine, despite having the worst waitress on the planet.

On the last Friday in May, Mike and I went to the Herndon Town Center for Friday Night Live! The band, The Reagan Years, recreated the sounds of the 1980s. We enjoyed the music with beers and Lime-a-ritas.  It was Memorial Day weekend and one of the first sunny weekends in ages, so it was totally packed with people!

Saturday turned out to be a stunning day, so Mike suggested we go visit a couple of wineries in the western part of the state.  We first stopped at Hiddencroft Vineyards.  The tasting room is in a circa 1830s farmhouse with two tasting counters; it has a view of the backyard, Dutchman’s Creek and a period kitchen building.  A large deck seats 44 guests under colorful umbrellas, and has an open view of the vineyard.  Behind the deck, a large patio and massive fire pit provide additional seating and warm ambiance in cool weather.

Hiddencroft Vineyards
Hiddencroft Vineyards
Mike at Hiddencroft Vineyards
Mike at Hiddencroft Vineyards
Me at Hiddencroft Vineyards
Me at Hiddencroft Vineyards
pretty and fragrant tree
pretty and fragrant tree
Hiddencroft Vineyards
Hiddencroft Vineyards

Of course, having wine in the middle of the day made me pretty sleepy, but that didn’t stop us from going to another winery, Creek’s Edge Winery.  This is a larger winery than Hiddencroft, situated on 11 acres of rolling hills. The building is an Amish structure, in the tradition of raised barns.

Creek's Edge Winery
Creek’s Edge Winery
inside the silo at Creek's Edge Winery
inside the silo at Creek’s Edge Winery

At this winery we sit at a table with two young people wearing shirts that say: DiVine Wine Tours of Virginia.  We ask them about their company, and they tell us they drive groups of about 10 people to wineries for the day, so the participants can enjoy drinking wine without driving.  The company focuses on the educational aspects of wine.  According to their website, they “offer unique experiences and insight into the business, the grapes, the process, and other interesting facts that the wineries love to share with new as well as experienced wine enthusiasts. Some stops will include behind the scenes tours, some include food pairings, some will have historical stories that will really grab your attention and still some simply have stunning views.”  I ask them a bunch of questions about the job, and they said they are hiring and take down my name.  I was contacted by the hiring person, but we still haven’t actually met.  I thought it might be a fun “occasional” job, but we’ll see if it ever comes to fruition.

On Tuesday, June 7, I met an old friend Layne, in Winchester, Virginia to see the Alphonse Mucha: Master of Art Nouveau exhibit at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley.  I’ll write more about our meeting later.  Layne is interested in social entrepreneurship and has lived a number of years in Chang Mai, Thailand, and is now living in western Australia.  As an expat, she understands me and my expat experience.  It’s great to meet up with someone from my “tribe,” someone who shares an affinity for the expat life and travel.

I’ve been trying my best to be healthy, but it’s been awfully hard without having a normal kitchen in my house. The month of rain also put a damper on my 3-mile daily walks.  My current addiction to Creamy Dill Lentil Chips dipped in Whole Foods Jarlsberg Cheese Dip doesn’t help my plight.  It’s no surprise that I have now gained back almost all the weight I lost since I returned home from China last July. 😦  I can’t wait until my kitchen is back together and I can start drinking smoothies again and eating more healthy foods.

Below are some views along one of my walks around Lake Newport in Reston.

Since Mike works Monday through Friday, often until 6:30 at night, I don’t see much of him.  As I don’t have a job, I find myself getting lonely.  I have applied for a number of jobs here in the U.S. all to no avail.  Though I’m fully qualified for the jobs, or even overqualified, I never even get a call to come in for an interview.  Because of this, I’ve started applying to teach abroad again, mostly in Morocco, but though I’m way overqualified, I never get any response.  I can’t help but think it’s because of my age, which they can tell by looking at the year I graduated from college.  In many cases I have to send my birth date! I’ve even talked to some friends in Oman about returning there, but I haven’t applied because I was hoping to go somewhere different.  Of course, Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar offer the highest pay.  The jobs in Morocco, Poland and Turkey, where I would actually love to live, have the lowest pay. I was contacted by a Polish school but the pay was only $500 a month + free accommodation.  I didn’t even want to pursue it because if I lived in Europe, I’d certainly want to travel and I’d never be able to afford it on that salary!

Meanwhile, I’ve been sending my novel out to agents and getting no response whatsoever.  I consider myself lucky to get a rejection letter.  I also follow a blog about publishing and self-publishing, and in one of the blogger’s posts, she said, “Any time I see a book that opens with a funeral, a death, a hospital scene, I cringe. This is going to sound cruel, but we really just don’t care. If we have not been introduced to the characters who are clinging to life or recently deceased? We have nothing emotionally vested and so sections like these are just tedious.”

Oh dear!  I found this so discouraging, as my book starts with a funeral, and, since I read this, I’ve been paralyzed wondering if I need to write the book all over again!  I’ve been so disheartened, I haven’t sent it out in weeks.  Luckily, I had someone at the Landmark Forum volunteer to read it, a young Russian woman.  She read it and liked it a lot, and told me she was hooked by the funeral scene, so she encouraged me not to change it. The main thing she didn’t like was the number of sex scenes!  I didn’t think I had that many, but I’ll have to look it over again. 🙂

To break up the work week, Mike and I often go somewhere for dinner; on Wednesday night, June 8, we went back to Lake Anne to eat dinner at another outdoor restaurant, Cafe Montmartre.  We had a lovely evening, sharing a half carafe of red wine and a fairly decent but not stellar meal.  I love eating outside at Lake Anne Plaza because it’s less crowded than the more trendy Reston Town Center.  Despite Lake Anne’s Soviet-era architecture, it is still a lovely spot for an outdoor dining experience. 🙂

On Thursday-Friday, June 9-10, I went by myself to Philadelphia to explore four gardens: Shofuso Japanese Garden, Chanticleer, Longwood Gardens and Winterthur.  I’ll write more about that trip later.  While I was in Philadelphia, our contractor Morgan sent me a picture of our finished laundry room.  Hooray!  At least we don’t have to drive back and forth to my sister-in-law’s house in Vienna 20 minutes each way to do laundry.  The color of the laundry room is Sherwin-Williams “Coral Reef,” and I was at first a little shocked by the color as the faux painter who’s doing our kitchen/family room suggested I use a satin finish, which is much brighter than the flat finish I used to test the color.  Though I was shocked at first, I’ve now come to love it.  It makes me smile every time I go in there. 🙂

Our laundry room: Sherwin-Williams Coral Reef
Our laundry room: Sherwin-Williams Coral Reef

I finished reading The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker and I really enjoyed it.  This was a fairly quick read about an enduring love story set in Burma. Because I spent two weeks in what is now called Myanmar, I wanted to read a story set there. I enjoyed the story of Julia, who goes in search of her father after he mysteriously vanished one day from her life. After finding a love letter to a woman in Burma, Julia goes in search of him. There she meets U Ba, a man who has a story to tell Julia about her father.

I’m reading an engrossing book now, Hummingbird House by Patricia Henley.  The main character Kate is a midwife who comes face to face with the horrors of war in Nicaragua and Guatemala.  I’m almost finished it and am really enjoying it.

As for movies, I’ve seen a lot of movies since we last met: A Bigger Splash, The Man Who Knew Infinity, Love & Friendship (confusing), The Lobster (bizarre and disturbing), The Idol (about an Arab singer from Gaza on an Arab Idol Show in Cairo), Dark Horse, Me Before You, and finally, Maggie’s Plan.  The best of this bunch were The Man Who Knew Infinity, The Idol, and Me Before You.  The others I thought were mediocre.

The Lobster took place in some not so distant future and people had to be coupled or they would be turned into animals.  What was so disturbing was the truth of it.  People in societies all over the world are expected to be part of a couple or they are outliers and often ostracized.  I found this during my 7-year separation from Mike.  In China, in Oman, all over Asia, in Turkey, and even in the U.S., I’ve found people who actually felt sorry for me because I was alone.  I HATED that attitude!  I enjoyed traveling alone and often living alone, and I resented that people saw me as less than whole because I was single.

On the Saturday evening after I returned home from my solo trip to Philadelphia, Mike and I checked out an Indian restaurant at a nondescript little strip mall along the way to our favorite movie theatre, Cinema Arts Theatre.  We were surprised when we went inside Curry Mantra to find the most colorfully decorated restaurant. The outside was nothing special, believe me!  In the hallway from the bathroom to the restaurant, I found the color of my laundry room!  I was so excited.  After dinner, we went to see the documentary Dark Horse, which was interesting, although I was expecting it to be a regular movie, not a documentary. 🙂

Having dinner at Curry Mantra
Having dinner at Curry Mantra

The following Sunday morning, Mike and I took a 5-mile walk around Burke Lake.  I always complain because though it’s a nice walk, it isn’t very photogenic. 🙂

Burke Lake
Burke Lake
the edge of Burke Lake
the edge of Burke Lake

This past Friday night, June 17, we met our friends Karen and Michael, along with Carlos who works with Mike, at Friday Night Live! to listen to Burnt Sienna.  The five-piece band hails from Philadelphia; they’re young and full of energy.  They have a great stage presence and play music from every era.  Also unusual for a band, they have three excellent singers who take turns performing.  All are equally talented.  We’ve already put on our calendar to see this band in Arlington on August 5.

While at this concert, I went with Karen to the food kiosks where I ran into the Principal Broker at Keller-Williams Realty, the one who taught the real estate class I took in January.  I passed both the class test and the state and national exam on the first attempt, something that is apparently rare. However, I still haven’t decided whether I want to sell real estate or not.  My first inclination is NOT to do it.  When I ran into this broker, he said, “Why haven’t you gotten your license yet? I admit, I’ve been stalking you because I knew you passed the test! I keep looking at the list of new licensees and your name isn’t there.  Why haven’t you gotten it?” I said, “I’m just not sure I want to do it!”  He told me if I decide to do it, to please contact him, no matter how long it takes.   Well, of course, I must make some decision within a year of passing the test — by mid-February of 2017.  I’ve kind of decided that if I can’t get a job here or abroad by the fall, maybe I’ll try it out after all!

Our renovation is proceeding nicely.  The cabinets are in, and as of this week, the counter tops have been installed.  I was in Richmond, helping my older son Alex find a new apartment, as his lease expires on July 31.  While I was there, the contractor sent me pictures of the new counter tops.  Because of the way the light was shining on the white island counter top, I thought, Oh my god, it’s so bright!  It’s actually a white marble-looking quartz counter top.  The perimeter of the kitchen has black counter tops with beige veins in it. Since I returned home from Richmond, the island counter top has been covered in cardboard because the floors are being sanded and finished.  So I actually haven’t yet seen it in person.

The screened-in porch was finished this week, and our furniture was delivered, so we can now sit out there for cocktails!  The electrical work hasn’t been finished out there yet, so we don’t have the fan or lights, but those should come this week or next week.  Our contractor tells us we should be in the kitchen by the end of this coming week.  However, we won’t be able to move our family room furniture back in because the faux painter is coming on June 29-30.

Last night, we went to Eastwind Restaurant, our favorite Vietnamese restaurant in Fairfax.  I love this restaurant and the Vietnamese owner, Dong. He always greets us warmly when we come in and I can’t help but think it’s because I’ve been to his home country and we can talk easily about his home and Asia. Tonight he gave me this hat as a gift; his son recently visited Vietnam and brought it back. Dong has been in the USA since he was 17 (1979) and has only been home once. He is the nicest man imaginable and seeing him again made me miss Asia. (My legs look especially short here because Mike is tall and looking down on us short people!)

me with Dong, the owner of Eastwind
me with Dong, the owner of Eastwind

Dong said he’s been here 37 years so he considers this his home now. His parents are dead and he has a big Vietnamese community here, so he doesn’t really miss his home country. He was one of the boat people who escaped Vietnam during the war, from home to Hong Kong to LA to Washington with the the help of Catholic Charities.

Ok, enough about me.  I know I’ve been very chatty this evening.  Now, please tell me all about you!  I love to hear what you’re up to.  Please share if you’ve read any good books or seen any good movies or concerts or have experienced any exotic travel destinations.  What do you have in the pipeline for the summer?  Please, do tell all!  And please, please, I beg you, share with me if you have any problems with your adult children. I feel like I’m the only one in the world with challenging children!! 🙂

weekly photo challenge: curve

Saturday, June 18:  This week’s Photo Challenge asks us to get inspired by the curves around us, from curves in architecture to bends in nature to man-made undulations.  I had a fun time looking through my happy memories to find photos for this challenge.

Curvy arches at ruins in Oman
Curvy arches at ruins in Oman
arches in Cordoba's Mezquita
arches in Cordoba’s Mezquita
Lotus
Lotus
sunflower
sunflower
the Li River near Yangshuo, China
the Li River near Yangshuo, China
The Longji Rice Terraces in Guangxi, China
The Longji Rice Terraces in Guangxi, China
a curvaceous flag at the cowboy museum in Oklahoma City
a curvaceous flag at the cowboy museum in Oklahoma City
curving staircase at a Virginia winery
curving staircase at Creek’s Edge winery in Virginia
Grassy curves at Chanticleer Garden in Philadelphia
Curving grasses at Chanticleer Garden in Philadelphia

weekly photo challenge: pure

Sunday, June 12:  The Weekly Photo Challenge asks us to show something pure:

    • not mixed with anything else

    • clean and not harmful in any way

I love these peonies I found blooming at Meadowlark Gardens in May.  They seem the perfect embodiment of pure.

IMG_9876
peony in pink
IMG_9868
luscious peony
IMG_9877
peony heaven
IMG_9872
peony side view

 

winterthur museum, garden & library: a delaware country estate

Friday, June 10:  After having my lunch at Kennett Square, I head across the Delaware state line, only a 13 minute drive from Longwood Gardens, to the Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library. Founded by Henry Francis du Pont, Winterthur (pronounced “winter-tour”) is a famed museum of American decorative arts, reflecting both early America and the du Pont family’s life. It also boasts 60 acres of naturalistic gardens set amidst a 1,000-acre preserve of rolling meadows and woodlands.

Welcome to Winterthur
Welcome to Winterthur

From the Visitor’s Center, we have to take a tram to the Museum, which is in the heart of the estate.  We are given a guided garden tour while in the tram; our guide points out some features of the garden and its history.  Unless otherwise noted, most of these photos were taken with my Canon EOS Rebel and seem very blurry to me.

on the Winterthur grounds
on the Winterthur grounds
Winterthur grounds
Winterthur grounds
Winterthur grounds
Winterthur grounds

In the Museum, we get an hour-long guided tour of a small portion of the 175 rooms of the Henry Francis du Pont home.  Many of the rooms have historical architecture and are furnished with his outstanding collection of antiques, as well as objects added since his death.

According to the Winterthur website, Henry Francis du Pont (1880–1969), the only son of Henry Algernon and Pauline du Pont, was born at Winterthur and, in his words, “always loved everything connected with it.” A member of Delaware’s industrialist du Pont family, he studied at New England’s Groton School and later attended Harvard from 1899 to 1903. In 1901 he began taking courses at Bussey Institution, Harvard’s college of practical agriculture and horticulture, and took his first trip abroad (Henry Francis du Pont and Winterthur).

I’m always more interested in being outdoors than in fancy houses, so as soon as the tour is over, I escape to the Reflecting Pool.

heading to the reflecting pool
heading to the reflecting pool
stone building
stone building
the reflecting pool
the reflecting pool
the reflecting pool
the reflecting pool
statue in the reflecting pool
statue in the reflecting pool

Earlier, the tram tour guide had pointed out the Quarry Garden, which looked beautiful from the tram.  I make my way there on foot, quite a long walk!

walking toward the Quarry Garden
walking toward the Quarry Garden
heading toward the Quarry Garden
heading toward the Quarry Garden
The Quarry Garden
The Quarry Garden
The Quarry Garden
The Quarry Garden
The Quarry Garden
The Quarry Garden
Beyond the Quarry Garden
Beyond the Quarry Garden
pond peeking
pond peeking
pond beyond the Quarry Garden
pond beyond the Quarry Garden
pond beyond the Quarry Garden
pond beyond the Quarry Garden
The Quarry Garden
The Quarry Garden
flowers in the Quarry Garden
flowers in the Quarry Garden
Quarry Garden (iPhone)
Quarry Garden (iPhone)
The Quarry Garden (iPhone)
The Quarry Garden (iPhone)

On the way back to the museum, I walk through the Enchanted Woods, created especially for the du Pont children.

The Enchanted Woods
The Enchanted Woods
The Enchanted Woods
The Enchanted Woods
Playhouse in the Enchanted Woods
Playhouse in the Enchanted Woods
misty mushrooms
misty mushrooms

Finally, I make it back to the museum, where I catch the tram back to the Visitor’s Center and make the very long drive back to northern Virginia.  What a fun trip exploring the Philadelphia/Delaware gardens in such perfect weather!

philadelphia’s longwood gardens

Friday, June 10: This morning, I get up early so I can get to Longwood Gardens by its opening time of 9:00.  I stop in at a tourist information office just outside Longwood and pick up a pile of brochures about things to do in the Brandywine Valley, good ideas for another trip. 🙂

Yesterday, I used my Olympus PEN EPL-1 and my iPhone at Shofuso and Chanticleer.  Today, I used my new Canon Rebel for Longwood and Winterthur.  Some of the pictures came out okay, but I deleted way too many that looked a little blurry. Many of these don’t seem very sharp and some seem overexposed; I used the automatic setting but they should look better than they do, in my opinion.  I have since sent the Canon back to the Canon factory for an adjustment; instead of fixing the camera, they sent me a new one, which I haven’t tried out yet.  There are a few pictures here with my iPhone; they sometimes turn out sharper than either my Olympus or Canon, but today, they seem of equal quality.

Longwood Gardens, founded by Pierre S. duPont, is 1,077 acres, larger than either Shofuso or Chanticleer, which I visited yesterday.  My first stop is the Rose Garden, where the planting arrangements and architectural elements are typical of an early 20th century rose garden.

Rose Garden at Longwood
Rose Garden at Longwood
Rose Garden
Rose Garden
peachy rose
peachy rose

Adjacent to the Rose Garden is the Topiary Garden, which includes more than 50 specimens in 20 different shapes.

Topiary Garden
Topiary Garden
Topiary Garden (iPhone)
Topiary Garden (iPhone)
Topiary Garden
Topiary Garden

The 4-acre Conservatory at Longwood is something to behold!

The Conservatory
The Conservatory
The Conservatory
The Conservatory

The East Conservatory is under glass with water features.

Inside the Conservatory
Inside the Conservatory

The Orangery offers flowering plants and manicured lawns.

Orangery
Orangery
Orangery
Orangery

Click on any of the pictures below for a full-page slide show.

The Waterlily Display features aquatic plants from all over the world

Waterlily Display
Waterlily Display
Waterlily Display
Waterlily Display
Waterlily Display
Waterlily Display

The Palm House, or Banana House, features 30-foot herbaceous plants filled with unique flowers and highly recognizable fruit.

Palm House
Palm House
Palm House
Palm House
Palm House
Palm House
Palm House
Palm House

And then there is a little hallway with Bonsai plants.

Bonsai
Bonsai

The Mediterranean garden features plants grown in Mediterranean-type climates characterized by moist, cool winters and hot, dry summers.

Mediterranean Garden
Mediterranean Garden

After leaving the Conservatory, I meander through the 86-acre Meadow Garden, with its three miles of walking and hiking trails.  Here I can see native wildflower plantings and broad sweeping views.

Meadow Garden
Meadow Garden
Meadow Garden
Meadow Garden

After a long walk through the Meadow Garden, I follow signs to the Italian Water Garden.  According to Longwood Gardens, Mr. du Pont planned every aspect of this Garden, from the sculptures inspired by his travels in Italy to the hydraulic calculations. He even calculated that the northernmost pools needed to be built 14 feet longer than the southernmost pool to appear symmetrical from the viewing deck.

Italian Water Garden
Italian Water Garden
Italian Water Garden
Italian Water Garden
Italian Water Garden
Italian Water Garden
Tree house
Tree house
water gardens
water gardens
water gardens
water gardens

The early Flower Garden Walk, laid out in 1907, “reflected what he termed “old-fashioned” influence, with nostalgic cottage-garden flowers, rose-laden trellises, picturesque benches, a bird bath, and even a shiny ‘gazing ball.'”

I find some pretty gardens by the Peony and Wisteria Gardens.

Fountain
Fountain
Flower pots
Flower pots
Fountain (iPhone)
Fountain (iPhone)

I rest a bit after all my walking in this shady little arbor.

Arbor
Arbor
Fountain in the Flower Garden Walk
Fountain in the Flower Garden Walk
Flower Garden Walk
Flower Garden Walk

Finally, I end my tour of Longwood at the Rose Arbor.  This area serves as an outdoor concert area when the roses are blooming in June.  In the center of the arbor is an old Italian wellhead surrounded by seasonal displays.

Rose Arbor
Rose Arbor
Rose Arbor(iPhone)
Rose Arbor(iPhone)
Rose Arbor (iPhone)
Rose Arbor (iPhone)

Before heading to Winterthur, which isn’t far away, I go to The Market at Liberty Place in Kennett Square. There I order the Kennett Crepe, with exotic mushrooms, ricotta, spinach and a fruity balsamic glaze.  I’m not that thrilled with it.

After lunch, I head to the other duPont estate, Winterthur.

philadelphia gardens: chanticleer

Thursday, June 9:  I make it to Chanticleer just before 4:00, so I have only an hour to see the entire garden before it closes.  The garden has been called “the most romantic, imaginative, and exciting public garden in America,” according to the estate’s brochure.

The Chanticleer estate dates from the early 20th-century, when land along the Main Line of the Pennsylvania Railroad was developed for summer homes to escape the heat of Philadelphia, according to Chanticleer.  Adolph Rosengarten, Sr. and his wife Christine built their country retreat in 1913 in the Wayne-St. Davids area. The family’s Philadelphia-based pharmaceutical firm would become part of Merck in the 1920s.  A 1924 addition converted the summer home into a year-round residence.

The Rosengartens named their home after “Chanticlere” in Thackeray’s 1855 novel The Newcomes.   The Rosengartens played on the word, a synonym of “rooster,” using rooster motifs throughout the property.

The Chanticleer Foundation owns 47 acres, 35 of which are open to the public.  The main path is just under a mile in length.

I enter through the Teacup Garden entrance.  Seven horticulturists are each responsible for the design, planting, and maintenance of an area.  The Teacup Garden features seasonal plants and bold-textured tropical and subtropical plants.

the teacup garden entrance to Chanticleer
the teacup garden entrance to Chanticleer
teacup garden at Chanticleer
teacup garden at Chanticleer
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
alcove in the Teacup Garden
in the teacup garden
in the teacup garden
purple flowers in the teacup garden
purple flowers in the teacup garden
the teacup garden at Chanticleer
the teacup garden at Chanticleer

The Tennis Court Garden focuses on perennials, both woody and herbaceous.

pathway through the tennis court garden
pathway through the tennis court garden
leafy exuberance
leafy exuberance
the tennis court garden
the tennis court garden

The Chanticleer House and Terraces have two beds of ever-changing silver, pink, and gray plants framing a large lawn still used for entertaining. The swimming pool has replaced the old vegetable garden and is now framed by two copper-roofed corner pieces.

chanticleer house and terraces
chanticleer house and terraces
pool at the chanticleer house
pool at the chanticleer house
chanticleer house and terraces
chanticleer house and terraces

At the top of a new elevated meandering walkway sits the Apple House, a small shed once used to store apples.  Inside, is a charming little oasis.

the apple house
the apple house
inside the apple house
inside the apple house

The new elevated walkway, completed in 2015, is 530 feet long and over six feet wide, with two viewing platforms and an elevated grade of 8%.  It enables people with disabilities to descend to the lower gardens easily. At its highest point, it sits eight feet above a blooming meadow with a grove of quaking aspens running through it.

the serpentine garden
views along the elevated walkway
along the serpentine garden
flowers along the elevated walkway

The Great Lawn is a wide expanse of grass with grand views of the house and the gardens, with some whimsical seats.

wildcat chairs
wildcat chairs
the great lawn
the great lawn
looking up from the bulb meadow to the chanticleer house
looking up from the bulb meadow to the chanticleer house

The large pond of the Pond Garden was “constructed in the early 1970s and remained unplanted to serve as a mirror for the trees that surrounded it. Over time, plantings edged their way, creating a dense herbaceous thicket of summer and fall flowers and fruits. Additional ponds were added in the last seven years” (Chanticleer Garden Guide).

the pond garden
the pond garden
the pond garden
the pond garden
the pond garden
the pond garden
the pond garden
the pond garden
the pond garden
the pond garden
the pond garden
the pond garden
the pond garden
the pond garden
the pond garden
the pond garden
the pond garden
the pond garden
the pond garden
the pond garden
the pond garden
the pond garden
grasses in the pond garden
grasses in the pond garden

The Pond Garden’s perennials emphasize foliage.  It’s quite layered and beautiful; this is one of my favorite parts of Chanticleer.  I’m definitely going to have to come back here when I have more time to linger.

pond garden
pond garden

As I walk to the ruins, I find this stone seating arrangement.

ruin and gravel gardens
ruin and gravel gardens
ruin and gravel gardens
ruin and gravel gardens

Minder House, built in 1925, is where Adolph Rosengarten, Jr. lived most of his life. In 1999, under the vision and direction of Chanticleer’s Director Chris Woods, the house was razed and construction of the Ruin Garden began. Originally the plan was to use the partially dismantled house as the ruin, but for safety reasons the only part left of the original house is the foundation and the tile “rug”(Chanticleer Garden Guide).  According to the brochure, “the Ruin is a folly… built to appear as if the house fell into disrepair.”  It is very picturesque!

ruins
ruins
ruins
ruins
ruins at Chanticleer
the tile “rug” of the Ruin garden
fountain
fountain
inside the ruins
inside the ruins
the ruins
the ruins

While I’m at the ruin, I see the Chanticleer folks sweeping through the park and I note that it’s six minutes till closing time.  I hurry along the path like a good little girl, passing the potting shed and the cut flower and vegetable garden.

potting shed
potting shed

Sadly, I leave the garden and head to Crowne Plaza Philadelphia – King of Prussia, where I’ll stay the night.  I enjoy a margarita and salmon dinner at the festive bar of Bahama Breeze.  Though I consider killing time at the King of Prussia Mall, the largest mall in America in terms of leasable space, near my hotel, I opt instead to have an early night reading my book, Hummingbird House by Patricia Henley, and watching the History Channel’s Alone. I’m not normally a reality show fan, but the fact that it’s on the History Channel makes it more enticing.  It’s purely by accident that I stumble upon it.

The series is filmed in northern Vancouver Island, British Columbia, following the self-documented day-to-day lives of 10 individuals as they attempt to survive in the wilderness for as long as possible. The participants are isolated from each other and all human contact, and the one who remains on the island the longest wins a grand prize of $500,000. The series premiered on June 18, 2015 (Wikipedia: Alone).  I find it quite fascinating, and later, when my son takes off for Vancouver, I can’t help but think back to this show and worry about what will become of him.

Check out other beautiful walks through gardens and exotic lands, here, on Jo’s Monday Walk.

philadelphia gardens: shofuso japanese house and garden

Thursday, June 9:  I have been wanting to visit some of the well-known gardens around Philadelphia before spring is over, so I take the opportunity today to drive up for an overnight trip.  My goal is to see four gardens: Shofuso Japanese House and Garden, Morris Arboretum, Chanticleer, and Winterthur.  It turns out I don’t see THOSE four gardens, but I do see four gardens (minus Morris Arboretum, plus Longwood Gardens).

It’s always a challenge to outsmart Washington area traffic, especially when you have to go around the Beltway, which I must do to get to Philly.  I decide I’ll leave at 10:00 a.m., when rush hour should be over.  Lately, it seems that rush hour is NEVER over, and today is no exception.  It takes me longer than I expect to get to my first garden, Shofuso, arriving around 2:00!  Shofuso closes at 4:00, and so does Morris Arboretum, which I also plan to see today, so I must hurry if I want to see them both.

Shofuso Japanese House and Garden is a traditional-style Japanese house and nationally-ranked garden in Philadelphia’s West Fairmount Park that reflects the history of Japanese culture in Philadelphia from 1876 to the present day.   It was built in Japan in 1953 using historic techniques and time-honored materials.  The house was exhibited in the courtyard at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and then moved to Philadelphia in 1958 to the site of several previous Japanese structures dating to the 1876 Centennial Exposition (from Shofuso’s brochure).

I end up by accident at the Fairmount Horticultural Center, but there is no one selling tickets and I don’t see another soul around.  I figure this must not actually be Shofuso, so I hop in my car and drive further along the road.

Inside the Fairmont Horticultural Center
Inside the Fairmont Horticultural Center

On my way to my car, I find this sculpture titled “The Wrestlers,” artist unknown, from 3rd century B.C. (cast in 1885).  These men are engaged in the Greek sport pankration, a blend of wrestling and boxing.  This sculpture is based on the 3rd century B.C. Greek original, which was lost in antiquity.  First century B.C. Romans made a marble copy, which was restored in 1853 and later displayed at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.  This cast was made from the Italian marble copy.

The Wrestlers
The Wrestlers

I drive down the quiet road and finally come upon the actual Shofuso.  After buying my ticket, I’m told to remove my shoes and put on paper socks to walk through the tea house.

According to the garden’s website: “Shofuso is a 1.2 acre Japanese garden listed as the third best Japanese garden in North America by Sukiya Living, and named the “Best Hidden Tourist Attraction” by Philadelphia Magazine.” It was named to the Philadelphia Historic Register in June 2013.

Welcome to Shofuso
Welcome to Shofuso

In Japanese tradition, architectural spaces designed to be used for tea ceremony gatherings are known as chashitsu.  Typical features include tatami mat floors, shoji (translucent paper screens reinforced with lattice), a tokonama (decorative alcove) and a ro (sunken hearth).  The ro is covered with plain tatami and is not visible in the warm months.

Tea ceremony is at once an art form, a spiritual discipline, a way to socialize, and a window on Japanese culture.

Japanese Tea House
Japanese Tea House

“Waterfall Painting” by artist Hiroshi Senju (b. 1958) was installed in 2007. He is known for his large-scale waterfall paintings, primarily working in the nihonga style.  Nihonga is used to describe paintings that have been made in accordance with traditional Japanese artistic conventions, techniques and materials.  While based on traditions over a thousand years old, the term was coined in the Meiji period (1868-1912) of Imperial Japan, to distinguish such works from Western-style paintings.  Nihonga typically combines pigments derived from natural materials (e.g. minerals, seashells, corals) in a medium of animal glue, which is then applied to washi (Japanese-style paper) (from a plaque at Shofuso).

The Waterfall
The Waterfall
Japanese Tea House
Japanese Tea House

Tea houses such as this have two rooms: the main room where the hosts and guests gather and tea is served, and a mizuya, or water room, where the host prepares the sweets and equipment.

Inside the Japanese Tea House
Inside the Japanese Tea House

Once I leave the tea house, I’m allowed to put my shoes back on to walk around the garden.  The pond is lush and serene.  I find one young man meditating on the shore and I try not to disturb him.

Japanese pond
Japanese pond

 

Bonsai tree on the island
Bonsai tree on the island

In front of the tea house are colorful boxes of incense and some fish-shaped wind socks.

incense for sale
incense for sale
fish windsocks
fish wind socks
hostas
hostas

I find some small-scale pagodas in the garden.

pagoda
pagoda
bridge to the island
bridge to the island

In a bamboo grove, I meet Jizo, one of the most loved of all Japanese divinities.  Traditionally, he is seen as the guardian of children, in particular those who died before their parents.

Jizo, one of the best loved of Japanese divinities
Jizo, one of the best loved of Japanese divinities
pagoda and pond
pagoda and pond
Japanese garden
Japanese garden
maple trees and the tea house
maple trees and the tea house

A frequent sight in Japanese gardens, the granite tsukabai, or basin, is a testament to the Japanese ideal of purity.  Washing hands before entering the tea house was customary as a purification ritual.

Tsukubai or basin
Tsukubai or basin
Shofuso
Shofuso
Japanese Garden
Japanese Garden
The tea house at Shofuso
The tea house at Shofuso
bamboo corner
bamboo corner

I didn’t mention that one of the reasons I chose these two days to visit the Philadelphia gardens is that the weather forecast was perfect, with blue skies and temperatures in the low 70s.  It couldn’t be a more perfect day to walk around outside.

gorgeous trees
gorgeous trees
Shofuso
Shofuso
Shofuso
Shofuso
the pond's edge
the pond’s edge
mini pagodas
mini pagodas

It’s lucky that Shofuso is so small; I’m finished walking around by 2:40.  On my MapQuest, it looks like it takes some 25 minutes to get to Morris Arboretum, so off I go.

Goodbye to Shofuso
Goodbye to Shofuso

When I get to the gate at Morris Arboretum a little after 3:00, I’m told it will cost me $17 for less than an hour (as they close at 4:00).  I tell the woman at the gate I will try to come back tomorrow, as it seems quite a steep price to pay for less than an hour.  After doing a U-turn and heading back to the road, I put Chanticleer into the MapQuest after reading that they’re open until 5:00.  I zoom to that garden, arriving at 4:00.  I still only have an hour, but it only costs $10.  Somehow that doesn’t seem so painful a price to pay.

Chanticleer ends up being my favorite garden of the four I see.  I’ll definitely have to come back when I can take a long lingering stroll.