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Edinburgh

Cai is getting married to her darling Englishman!  And, of course, she’s getting married in England.  So, after two and a half years of staying put, I headed to Edinburgh, where Sam and Sarah joined me for a few days before we made our way to Northumberland.

We walked down the Royal Mile, slipping into a few closes, entries, courts, or wynds along the way.  Yes, there were St. Giles’ Cathedral, John Knox’s house, and the modern Scottish Parliament building, along with throngs of tourists like us.  It was lovely to be back.  We were too late to visit Holyrood, but stopped for tea at the visitors center.

 

We caught a glimpse of Arthur’s Seat just beyond.

Dinner that night was at a pub just around the corner from our hotel. From our second floor perch we could see the crowds of people stopping for a drink, but they eventually thinned out. I had some sort of steak and kidney pie that was quite good, while others had haggis, ditto. Great view of the Victorian decorated ceilings from our seat.

Gilded ceiling and thistly wallpaper

The next day we took a bus to visit Rosslyn Chapel, known to the cognoscenti from the Dunnett books, known to lesser mortals from Dan Brown’s. The bus stopped in a little hamlet, and we walked to the chapel, booking tickets for after lunch. We wandered downhill through woods, with great views of the chapel,

and on to the ruins of Roslin Castle (spelling is all over the place: Rosslyn, Roslin, Roslyn, etc.).

It turns out that you can rent the castle through the National Trust if you wish. And of course the dog lovers found a couple of dogs off leash!

After a nice lunch at Dolly’s Tea Room

(yes, there is such a thing as vegetarian haggis!),

we made our way back to the chapel itself.

Founded in 1446 and still used for weekly services, the chapel has had its ups and downs. Cromwell’s men stabled their horses inside at one point, and over time it gently decayed. A restoration in Victorian times, followed by a more robust effort in the ’50s, and most recently a very thorough redo completed in 2013 have left it in good shape and open to the public again.

The stonework is quite remarkable, with many grotesques and gargoyles.

We went inside for a bit of a guided tour, where the leader pointed out numerous green men carved on pillars, plus the famous apprentice’s pillar, but since photos are not allowed, here’s a link to a great online tour.

Headed back to the city, we had dinner at a nice casual place that featured lots of interesting drinks, good hamburgers, a very knowledgeable waitress, and a great sign. Yes, this was the place where I left my purse on the back of the chair (which I did years ago at the cafe by Arthur’s Seat, so it’s a tradition). Luckily, they had found it and put it aside, so all ended well when I came by the next morning.

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Pinkalicious

Thursday was a shopping marathon!!! Our first stop was Ridhi Sidhi Textiles in Jaipur, which was absolutely amazing. Yes, an unpreposessing exterior, but wow!  This is the main retail shop, where we all fell madly in love with the kantha quilts.  You can see them stored on the shelves, with the overflow spilling onto the floor..
I bought five of them for presents, including one made of silks. There were several more rooms, filled with pajama sets, shirts, clothes of all kinds, and more fabric.

Then we moved on to the warehouse, where one room was just piled with quilts, wall hangings, clothes and who knows what all. We pawed through the piles looking for gold and in some cases found some.  I came away with this old (how old?) quilted piece. 

A bit the worse for wear, and I don’t dare wash and block it, but I love these liberated stars.

In the main area were bolts and bolts and bolts of cloth. Wow! They use this electric cutter to slice through zillions of layers of fabric. (Sorry for the dizzying ending!)  Again, I bought some yardage, of course.

Then on to the final warehouse/shop/business, where we saw the men doing block printing and tried our hands at it, too.  Look at all those intricately carved blocks on the shelf behind him!

We also tried on lots of clothes (none of which worked for me but others struck gold), and bought more. Unbelievable! We ran out of time so we will return later to pay up.

After this, we were booked for tea at the Sujan Raj Mahal Palace, an 18th century building which has been converted into a boutique hotel for the rich. Tea was in a room known as ‘51 Shades of Pink’  and served by turbaned waiters. Lovely little cakes and sandwiches, and, of course, tea. 

We walked through an elegant Anglo-Indian drawing room on our way to tea.  Here are the current owners:

A vintage American car was parked under the canopy outside. Very fun.

All in all, a good day, and here’s the group picture outside Ridhi Sidhi to prove it!

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Dyeing and shopping

Today we traveled out of Jaipur to a dye shop to meet an award-winning master dyer and to dye some fabric ourselves. First they showed us beautiful examples of tie-dyed fabric with an explanation of how they do it, carefully rolling up the fabric and tying it tight.

The workspace was cluttered, but I’m sure they knew exactly where everything was.

The precision of their results is amazing.  Here’s the reveal of one of their scarves, and you can see how tightly it’s wrapped. 

Then it was our turn.  We climbed up steep marble stairs (no hand rail, of course!) to the rooftop where we spread out on blankets in the sunshine to fold, pleat and tie our dampened fabrics.  As you can see, you loop the fabric around your big toe, pull the fabric tight, and proceed to tie it.  There is a trick to tying tightly which I only sort of mastered, but they were there to help us. In fact, one of the men kindly took the fabric away from me and redid it correctly (that’s my useless toe in the corner of the shot.)

Here are the well-worn scissors we used to cut the string.

Then we went back downstairs to the dye pots for the first dip,

after which we air dried our pieces and then gave them a second dip.

Then the master showed us his antique textiles. Pink is a color only for royals, we learned. This gold embroidered piece was made by his mother, so probably about 100 years old.

The master showed us how to wrap a turban, and Sujata and Amy tried them on, to everyone’s delight.

Then it was time for the great reveal as we untied our knots and spread open the fabric. All were gorgeous!  Here are just a few:

We took the bus back to Jaipur for some shopping at the state-run handicrafts emporium. I picked up some lovely fabrics and sets of bangles for Cai and Sarah. After that, we walked along Mansagar Lake, a lovely body of water with the iconic Jal Mahal (water palace) at its center. The trees on the lake were busy with birds, I wish I knew which kinds.  We saw camelswaiting for tourists to ride them, also this painted elephant that Cathy paid a small fee to feed.  Back at the hotel, we picked up our tunics from the hotel shop, had drinks in the bar and then went on to dinner. Afterwards we were offered henna painting that was fun, and I love the outcome, even on my wrinkly hand. And so to bed for a good night’s sleep at last!

 

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August Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day

July in Virginia is usually even hotter than August, but this year August might be winning.  A week of highs approaching and exceeding 100 degrees is giving way this week to high humidity and daily showers.  Better than drought, I guess?  Of course, the sunny garden is an absolute JUNGLE at this point, and it’s too wet to weed it.  Maybe next week.

Rudbeckia subtomentosa, a tall one that I should probably move.  It’s in the boxwood garden and doesn’t get quite enough sun, but isn’t it bold and lovely?

The less dramatic black-eyed Susan has decided to sow itself in the back, but here’s one small clump in the side garden by the raised bed.

An anonymous sunflower sowed in the big blue pot.  Again, not quite enough sun for the best show.

The silken flowers of the datura bloom early in the morning and fade like the twelve dancing princesses by mid-morning.

The native passionflower is a real problem.  It pops up everywhere and aggressively twines around everything it can find.  It even pops up in the lawn.  But then I see how the butterflies and bees love it, and I let it go wild.  I need to get a grip!

I imagine this bee got drunk on the nectar last night and is just beginning to wake up this morning.

I’ve moved the hummingbird feeder so that I can see it from the sewing room window.  The hummers love the feeder as well as the zinnias.  They  don’t  seem  to  mind  the  scruffiness  of  this  part  of  the  garden.

The Joe Pye weed is just coming into bloom, a bit shorter than usual since I gave it the Chelsea chop.  And the butterfly bush is still going strong.

This one is a bit of a mystery.  I think it’s Arisaema dracontium (Green dragon) that I got at the farmer’s market years ago.  I noticed the seedhead and then not long after these little seeds.   At first I thought they might be bugs!

The perennial pea from Mom is looking a bit worse for wear right now.

Looking forward to some better weather so that I can edit this wild landscape!

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July Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day

Crape Myrtle, a bit less floriferous than last year, for some reason.

We are at the peak of hot, humid summertime in Virginia.  My rule is not to try to do any real gardening in July and August, but I do keep up with watering annuals when I can.  Otherwise, it’s HHH (hazy, hot and humid) and not fit out for man or beast.  Lots of purple in the garden, but other colors, too.

Echinacea purpurea, morning glories,  and  a few  Mexican  petunias, Ruellia simplex

Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’

butterfly bush  complete  with  butterfly

Mandevilla

achillea

zinnias  and   cosmos

dahlias

hostas

tiger lilies (Lilium ‘lancifolium’ or ‘African queen’)

Liatris (Gayfeather)

Verbena bonariensis

Mountain mint with just one of the hundreds of insects that buzz around it constantly

One lone poppy out of the seeds I planted too late this year.  Next February for sure! 

Fnally, the lovely Souvenir de Ste. Anne rose having a second flush

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Seeds and more

I have a box of seeds that has gotten out of control:  seeds from a few years ago, new seeds, empty seed packets in hopes that I will remember what I planted, etc.  A few days ago I took a fit and planted them all, mostly in the raised bed after harvesting the radishes.  I hope that some of them will come up, but I mostly wanted to give them a chance and then throw out the empty packets!

Lemon gem marigolds either brought back from Italy or from Seeds from Italy

Cosmos ‘Psyche White,’  ‘Gazebo Mix’ and ‘Sensation Mixed colors’

Zinnia ‘Benary’s Giant Purple’ and ‘Zinderella Red’ (these should clash ferociously)

Mexican Sunflower ‘Torch’ (Tithonia rotundifolia)

I still have some sunflowers and a Hyacinth Bean left over, plus some seeds for fall sowing and lots of vegetables.  Maybe I’ll just toss them all this fall.  Be brave!

Thanks to vendors for the images

Pretend it’s June

I forgot to post on the 15th of the month as we are supposed to, but at least I remembered to take pictures this time around.  Starting in the back, the peak of bloom under the oak tree is just past, but I can still see columbines, including this enormous one that tumped over from its weight

and this white one that I won’t cut back as I’ve done to all the plain blue ones this year, hoping that the more unusual colors will self-seed and bloom next year.

 

Two varieties of geranium macrorrhizum, one ‘Ingwersen’s variety’ and one something else, both beloved by the bees

Itea ‘Henry Garnet’ in bloom

Tradescantia that pops up here and there in various shades of blue; I think I first got this from Mom but now it’s gone to town.  And the remnants of the white bleeding heart.

The containers are doing well so far, one planted with Caladium ‘White Christmas,’  the small Hosta ‘Alan McConnell’ and Foam Flower ‘Sylvan Lace.’

The other has a Caladium, a white-spotted begonia from last year (‘My Special Angel’) and some white impatiens. 

It actually looks a litte sparse now that the alyssum has gone by.  It does need a spiller, doesn’t it?

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day

It’s actually on the 15th of the month, but I’m a bit slow to catch up this time. In bloom in my zone 7 garden last Monday:
snowbells (just starting to bloom)
hellebores

species daffodils (my favorites)

winter aconite (just going by)

crocuses (I don’t remember planting these here, but okay)

squill

It’s been a cool spring, and things are late this year, judging by last year’s photos. The forsythia is not blooming yet, and the daffodils in the cutting garden have just started to open. Soon enough it will be on us like a runaway train!

Block printing, part one

India, and especially Rajasthan, is one of the places where block printing is a specialty, and the Anokhi Textile Museum not only displayed the results but showed us how it was done. 

We started out in the exhibit spaces. The fabrics are so lovely, and the patterns so beautiful and so reminiscent of quilt patterns, that I could not stop taking pictures. I especially liked the cloth game boards with their marching soldiers and geometric designs. The garments were lovely, too.

After such a big lunch and no nap, with the guide telling us things in a soothing singsong voice, I was nearly out cold as we made our way through the galleries, despite the beauty.  But the block carving demo was fascinating (and allowed me to stretch my aching back), both for the man’s skill and for his ability to sit in a full squat for hours on end!

Here is the man who carved the blocks, squatting on the floor and tapping skilfully at the wooden block to create the design.

Then we watched the man who prints the blocks quickly but with great accuracy, much more challenging a task than he made it look.

They showed us how to make a pretend block print on the inside of our wrists, which was oddly wonderful,

and several of us tried our hand at printing on paper.

A few more images from the workshop: carved blocks, and the trays of inks.

The gift shop offered many delights, including some little notebooks for the girls, and little purses for the nieces, plus a pack of 100 block printed squares for the quilters among us.

On the way out of the village we saw lots of kites in the air, plus monkeys shinnying up the wires and leaping from ledge to ledge.  Back at the Trident by 5:00 and dinner not till 7:00, time for a welcome rest after a busy day.

Food, glorious food

Today started with a walk through a produce market. It was hard not to photograph absolutely everything because of the colors, textures, and people. Unfortunately, I can’t identify all of these things, but aren’t they gorgeous?  

Here’s a very short video to show the sweep of items,

We were advised to ask people for permission before taking their picture. Dressed in a bright orange sari, this woman sat by her produce smoking a bidi, and I was happy to give her a tip in exchange for this photo.

And here we are threading our way between the stalls, most of which are simply on the ground, on trays or wrapped in cloth bundles.

The little metal pieces next to the carrots are weights used to weigh your produce.  You can see the scale at center top.

 

We had to skip the flower market because of street closures (Indira Gandhi’s grandson was in town), so we returned to the hotel for a quick break.  There’s a little shop where several of us went in and found fabric.  The tailor measured us for shirts, helped us select the fabric, and assured us that we would have the result tomorrow (and only $35!).

Back on the bus, we stopped at a Hindu temple built in the 17th century.   Several people were there praying in front of an altar that had two big figures in front of it, looking a bit like dolls but made of shredded tissue paper.  Everyone takes off their shoes before entering.

A flock of doves wheeled and flew above our heads.

Next door was a restaurant with a very friendly and jolly owner, along with several cooks and helpers.  For our lunch demo there were two stations set up with gas burners and prepared/chopped vegetables, manned by a man and his wife.  This spice box is found in most Indian kitchens.

Together with a helper who rushed over with the needed ingredient when called for, they demo’d several dishes to us:  cauliflower with turmeric and tomatoes, roasted eggplant in spices, okra, and more.

The cook worked so fast, her hands were just a blur. Then we went outside to gloriously colorful tents set up on the lawn and were served the most delicious food.

Appetizers of delicate samosas and something fried served with two chutneys, then the most delicious tomato soup cooked with cinnamon, chapatis and another bread, and the dishes we had observed them cooking.  Plus a most delicious dish of chickpea dumplings in sauce.  But we were not yet done!  A small dish of butterscotch ice cream with pistachios and then peanut brittle and sesame candy, which I clearly ate too fast to get a photo.  Followed by mango lassi that was delicious.  Wow!

The chef explained the tomato soup prep to us – I’m not sure I could replicate it but I’d love to try.

This was a lovely interval, and we even got to see some leopard tracks (apparently they come down from the mountains from time to time)

and a pair of parrots.  A very good visit.

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