JAPANESE TREE PEONIES – the brightest star in the garden

Once upon a time (all good stories begin with once upon a time)  many centuries ago a delicate tree grew in China.

The flowers on this tree were so magnificent, so unusual only the Emperor of China was allowed to possess a tree peony.

These  tree peonies would live up to one hundred years, but  they could never be moved for they would die.

Beauty such as this could not be held captive by one man.

In the eighth century the royal court of China shared these blossoms with Japan.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “if the stars should appear but one night every thousand years how man would marvel and stare”.

Truly the Japanese Tree Peony is the star in this garden.    Blossoms,  heavy with fragrance and the size of dinner plate, fill one with rapturous, delirious delight.

One can only stand

and stare

and marvel.




My Christmas begins the third week of November.    I appreciate the rituals of Christmas.   Decorating our home.  Baking traditional Christmas treats.    The wrapping of presents.  Life is to be enjoyed and I remove the pressures of the season by starting early.  Armed with secateurs and large wicker baskets I prune  the  row of cedars across from the cow barn.  I  snip the fragrant cedar branches accompanied by the gentle mooing of cows.  A perfect start to my slow Christmas.

It is my tradition to make the front door Christmas wreaths for our home and for my good friend and neighbor.  Every year it is different.  We live close to the ocean so this year it seemed appropriate to embellish the wreath with  shells I have collected.

The music of Charlie Brown’s Christmas plays in the background as  I brush the shells with glue and then sprinkled them with fairy dust.   It gives the shells a frosty glitter of snow.  To fasten these treasures from the sea I hot-glued florist wire to the backs.

Add a white satin bow and voila!!  Christmas begins at our front door.

In the early weeks before Christmas I polish the silver and lovingly  wash the crystal.  Everything must be shiny and bright.  Then I create more magic with lights.

It gives me pleasure to celebrate the season in this quiet, calm way.    There is much history in this display.   The crystal and silver is a collection of gifts and family treasures.  It is important to me honour them in this manner.  My last task –  fill the crystal decanter to welcome guests into our home.





She safeguarded memories.  Behind glass.    Away from curious fingers.  Inquisitive questions.    Beloved treasures.  Souvenirs of her childhood.

An old letter.  Dolls worn with love.    Small bits and pieces of her life.

On the shelves she placed beloved objects.  Liberating the past.   They had sustained her.   She opened her heart and shared  her soul.  This is my poetry.  These are my day dreams.

Embrace these simple pleasures.  These happy, bitter-sweet  memories.   This joyous parade  will follow me to the end of my life.




It is the calm and solemn night

A thousand bells ring out, and throw

their joyous peals abroad, and smite

The darkness, charmed and holy now!

The night that erst no name had worn,

To it a happy name is given

For in that stable lay new-born

The peaceful Prince of Earth and Heaven

In the solemn midnight centuries ago.

(Alfred Domet)

Our nativity set is almost fifty years  old.

A romantic and lush  wreath says welcome in an elegant way.

Vintage mercury glass candles, a cherished gift from our Andrea.

When I was very, very small my Mother always made me a Christmas Doll.  I grew up, but never lost my love for dolls.  My Mother was almost ninety years old when she made me these dolls.  I made  the Raggedy Ann over fifty years ago for my daughter.

Elegant santas grace the fireplace….

And the stocking is hung with care.

My beautiful niece, Jennifer, made me this stocking years ago.  It is the last  decoration I  hang.  Now  our home is ready for Christmas.


“A flower’s appeal is in its contradictions – so delicate in form yet strong in fragrance, so small in size yet big in beauty, so short in life yet long on effect.”  – Adabella Radici

A glittering butterfly pin adorns flowers.

A pink butterfly pin on pink hydrangea

A single lily and a garden painting brighten an elegant kitchen.

Flowers instead of a fire.

A home filled with flowers.

A home filled with love.

Bright gerber daisies make me smile and breakfast taste even better.

“And I will make thee beds of roses and a thousand fragrant posies” – Christopher Marlowe


Between the time of remembering

and the moment of forgetting

there is a country

where we gathered treasured moments.


My library Santas … gifts from my Mother.


My Santa carries  a treasured tiny book – Poems of Keats … a gift from my oldest friend,  Jill.


A  Christmas prince  so handsome, so charming as all princes must be.


For every prince there must be a frog.   An outrageous frog – a Christmas remembrance from my sister Heather.


A table tableau  of  old silver – remembering past Christmas feasts with friends and family.


And finally the cards of Christmas past.  An exquisitely illustrated card  my daughter sent me years ago.  It is always the first thing to be set out when I begin my slow Christmas and the last to be put away.

Between the time of remembering

and the moment of forgetting

there is Christmas.


The morning in Paris began silvery gray.

On a cloudy morning Paris shimmers with a brilliance.

A brilliance polished by centuries of admiration.

We were in the 6th Arrondissement.

The birthplace of the existential movement.

Dazzling with the hippest art galleries and bookshops.

The sun came out as we strolled the cobbled streets popping into that most decadently delicious Valette for  Foie Gras.

Oh the joy of nibbling your way through  the Raspail Organic Market.

Devouring  piping hot potato-onion and carrot-wheat galettes .

Then I met my dream.

In a  shop perfumed with delicious cooking aromas.

An immaculate white clad chef beckons me.  I cross the creaking  worn wood floor and caressed  La Cornue,  the epitome of stoves.     Not for me a Viking,  an Imperial or a Wolf, or even an Aga.  The stove of my dreams was La Cornue.

An alter to culinary extraordinaire.

My bouillabaisse would be better.

The croissants crispier, light than air.

The chocolate cake richer and darker.

It called to me.   It would be the heart of my dream kitchen.  It would be the soul of wonderful food memories.    I left clutching brochures to cherish.  Perhaps one day I would have my La Cornue engraved with my name .  (Yes, when you order a La Cornue stove they build it just for you, and then engrave it. )

LA CORNUE  , 18 rue Nabillon,   the dream I met in Paris.


This adoration of fine art.

It fills one soul.

Captures ones imagination.

And, takes your soaring through the centuries.


A dusty old used bookstore on Queen Street in Toronto.

Treasures are always waiting to be discovered in stores like this.

The bookstore is  “picking up sticks” and moving .  EVERYTHING is on sale.

Books soaring to the ceiling.

Piled in pyramids on the floor.

The discovery!!  A stack of portfolios containing copies of old masterpieces.

I shuffle through them.  Painting after painting.  Masterpieces I had admired in art galleries in cities around the world.    The pile – a bit tattered around edges  – one dollar.

I knew exactly what I can do with this paper treasure.


Take one unpainted canvas in a dimensions closest to the size painting.


Give the canvas a coat of black acrylic craft paint.


Now paint over the black with dark brown paint and then gently rub some away.  The trick here is to try to match the background of the painting.


Cover the canvas liberally with Modpodge .  I have put a large book under the canvas to act as support to the canvas.    Centre your painting on the canvas.  Press firmly down on all parts of the paper.    A brad(a type of roller used for wall paper seams) is perfect for this.    (This is why you need support under the canvas).  Give the painting two coats of ModPodge using a criss-cross motion that leaves brush like strokes.  It adds to the authentic look of your work.


The unfinished canvas  will look  like you’ve discovered your little bit of joy laying neglected in an attic.  The simplicity so much more elegant that an elaborate gold frame.  How brilliant is this!!



A flock of witty French pigeons discuss the menu.

Olive Tapanade  for an appetizer

plump green and dark olives

fragrant rosemary, sage and thyme.

Something robust,



pork roasted crusty brown with fennel and garlic.


The pure alchemy of crème brûlée’

To amuse

witty pigeon place cards.



Place cards for fun.

To amuse especially  the youngest guest at dinner.

I down-loaded this charming idea from countryliving.com/pigeoncards.  Printed them on coloured cardstock to compliment my French plates.


I thought these birds are so sweet I’ll trace them onto patterned cardstock (found at a craft store) to match these plates.



For an all white theme I traced the sweet birds onto pages from an old book then distressed the edges a little.


How easy is this.  Your pattern and a bone folder (or soup spoon) and one can create their own flock of pigeon place cards.

(You’ll find the recipes for Olive Tapanade and créme brûlée  on my food blog Mrs.Butterfingers.Simply click on the recipe names.    The porchetta recipe – that is yet to be posted.)


“Home is a name,

it is a strong one;

stronger than magician ever spoke,

or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration. ”  (Charles Dickens)

I’m walking the streets in Toronto, around West Queen West.   It’s a delightful way to look  for lovely old homes brought back to life by loving hands.   These  homes have personal grace.  They display not just renovations  but something more.

They flaunt   a little magic,

A  bit of sophistication,

And a goodly amount of charm.

No staid brass numbers for this beauty but an  address  beautifully scripted above the door.

Almost but not quite a painted lady – rather a romantic  house – pale green and lavender The gingerbread trim has been loving restored by caring hands.

Someone with  a sense of wonderment and just a little bit outrageous had the courage to paint this house in  their favorite colours.   Then they screened  it with an  enchanted forest.  A fair maiden stands hidden on the balcony.

Surely an artist lives in this house.  They have painted the columns all around  with vines and flowers.  Summer and winter they welcome one and all to come inside.

For years this house was filled with the laughter and excitement of families.   Reborn, i has become a tiny, elegant cafe.  The kind of place you would stroll to for an early morning espresso or perhaps a croissant.

There’s no place like home.  Just click your ruby-red heels together and you’re there.