Finding all things beautiful in the world of Mary J Blige – The London Sessions

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I am still catching my breath. I have had the opportunity to get inside Mary J. Blige’s head via The London Sessions. Three weeks, collaborating with some talent from around the world like Disclosure, Sam Smith, Eg White – just to name a few, an awesome producer – Rodney Jenkins and this Legend of a Songstress – Mary J Blige – has done it again. The London Sessions have given us more than what we are worthy of feeding to our heart and soul. Usually we hear all of the drama, pain and disappointment of some of our favorite musicians. Some of our favorite singers find value in continually lamenting in their poor life decisions. Well not Mary….not our Mary J. Blige. Mary has taken the life experiences, the anger, the pain, the personal disappointments, mixed them all together and stirred up a strong tonic that when sipped will make any woman feel empowered.

Remembering when I first heard about Mary J. Blige, I remember a rough and tough, take no prisoner woman who was mostly singing to a younger crowd. A little in your face with her lyrics. Her music was hard, fast, yet soulful. It was not until Mary J. had matured a bit that her words really began to resonate with me. Although there is a song in The London Sessions that sounds like the younger Mary J. Blige….just all grown up.

Mary J. Blige – The London Sessions is sung by a seasoned, wise, more refined songstress. This CD starts out with two very meaningful ballads “Therapy”, “Doubt” – something every woman can speak to at some point in their lives to more danceable music that speaks to life’s changes.

Making a stand while recognizing change in “Right Now”, “My Loving” and “Long Hard Look”, Mary J. lets you know that it is a new day. Life lessons can make a girl wise up over time. “Whole Damn Year”…kind of puts into perspective why we missed her voice on the music scene. “Follow” has captured my heart, as the beat is something that lingers in my mind, makes my fingers pop and gets me up and moving with the message in her words. It has been my MUST listen to song of the moment and will be at the top of my personal playlist for some time I am sure.

Mary J Blige takes it home with”Worth My Time”, which I think is one of my favorite ballads. Nothing like a strong woman who chooses to just not give up. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire playlist and the story that it tells about the reinvented Mary J. Blige that we are about to seriously get to know. What a wonderful way to find all things beautiful in the music gifted to us in this album. The music drops December 2, 2014.

I participated in the Mary J Blige The London Sessions album review program as a member of bLink Marketing Network. I was provided a free album to review but all opinions are my own.

#TheLondonSessions #bLinkbiz

I participated in the Mary J Blige The London Sessions album review program as a member of bLink Marketing Network. I was provided a free album to review but all opinions are my own.

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Mt. Cuba…..your beauty is etched in my mind…

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I am still glowing, beaming and sharing my experience on the Mount – Mt. Cuba that is. Yet another one of the horticultural experiences of the DuPont family in the Brandywine Valley, that does not disappoint.  It has one of the best wildflower  and native gardens in this country and definitely a wonderful horticultural treat  in the Piedmont region.

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The home  of Lamont and Pamela Copeland, has evolved from a family home/estate to a National Treasure.

The road leading to this site was breathtaking – even before making the wrong turn on Mt Cuba road where Osage oranges littered  the roadside.  You don’t just find those anywhere.  Nor do I usually get to pause, listen and watch waterfalls alongside the road…..

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Then there is the gate…..the impressive gates that welcomed you to enjoy this special little retreat from the rest of the world.  How intricate and elegant they are…I simply had a feeling that despite  driving through rain for almost two hours, this was going to be an early birthday present to myself.

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Mt. Cuba was hosting their First Saturday in The Garden Series  it was supposed to be a Harvest Festival with hayrides, cider and apple cider donuts and a free plant to be given to all who visited for a mere $6.00.

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I toured the conservatory which was not usually shown, but since the hayride was cancelled due to the weather, the docents offered this glimpse into Mrs. Copeland’s  world. Very much a lady’s conservatory – every lady should have a conservatory…if she wants one.  From the furniture to the wall treatments – subtle elegance was the theme carried throughout.  When I went outside to visit the formal garden, I was in awe.  I embraced the beauty that surrounded me.

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From all angles, I saw beauty….natural beauty.  So much so,  I had to hold back my tears of joy for making the time to make this trip. I get newsletter updates from Mt. Cuba that cause my mind to wander as I enjoy the updates on events and seasonal photography. These updates were what made me think that this was the perfect excuse for a roadtrip….I could not have picked a better day. In 2009 a local artist, Andre Harvey of Rockland, DE created a piece of art called “Samara – Turning With The Wind”.  This work of art captured my attention and took my breath away.  The descendent’s of the Copeland ‘s are still active on the Management Board that keeps Mt. Cuba beautiful and important to those who are interested in the beauty, as well as the study of Appalachian Piedmont plants and their preservation.  image

When I re-entered the house to inquire how to reach the rest of the gardens, I was asked if I wanted  tour guide.  Initially, I said no, as I enjoy the peace of investigating  nature, with only my camera(s), in silence and just allowing the moment to envelop me. I also did not want any of the docents to get muddy or cold. However, Mary P. offered to take me around.

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I am so glad  she did. I was reintroduced to plants I was familiar with and introduced to others that I knew nothing about.  From the ferns, to the Euonymus known in the south as “bursting heart” to one of my favorite plants “Amsonia hubrechtii”, Mary proved to have a wealth of knowledge about this place of peace.

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The round  garden….

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The ornamental grasses in the meadow and spotted throughout the gardens…

 

 

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The art found throughout….all spoke to the thought process behind the making of Mt. Cuba.

I will not spoil  it for you  by telling you everything that is there except the waterway the was hand dug and re circulates will take your breath away, the borrowed views are just fantabulous and well in the Spring, the bulb displays are one of a kind.  I love to visit gardens as they disrobe for yet a different season.  I can’t wait til Spring to revisit Mt. Cuba often and repeatedly.

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I dare say, make time to visit the Mt. Cuba Center…..sign up for their newsletter, I promise  it will convince you that it is worth the day trip to the Brandywine  Valley.  It’s minutes away from Winterthur, Longwood Gardens, Haley House and the Brandywine River.

If you want to go to an awesome place of peace or find out more about Mt. Cuba, go to their website http://www.mtcubacenter.org

Leaving District Heights……………………

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Well, not me but the leaves are, the season is and another season is on its way. I am a big believer of pausing and embracing the natural beauty that surrounds me.  I was prompted to take a walk and see what beauty lies in District Heights that might perhaps go unnoticed.  When I took my walk, I fell in Love with District Heights all over again. To be perfectly honest, I decided to walk because the cars behind me were not appreciative of me stopping to take picture after picture, after picture.  I was in awe of the beauty that is in and around this community.
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I started in my own backyard…as the leaf color was on parade and refused to go unnoticed.

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Aminia by my side, she hunted for acorns, as I looked forward and upwards to take in the palette of reds, yellows, greens and browns. I am still wondering why the acorns have not shown their crunchy existence now for about three years……must be a no production cycle….always learning something new in nature…(sometimes nature is cyclical..)

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The pansies around the clock tower look quite perky and speaks to The Garden Coalition caring about the beautification of our community.

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The poison ivy seductively says “come hither” with the most beautiful leaves of three one could ever see.  Don’t touch it though…..if you are allergic to it……it will still make you itch and perhaps blister.

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Let’s also not forget the hairy vine – found in abundance climbing the trees along the banks of the creek on District Heights Parkway.  While intriguing, leave it alone or it can make our life quite interesting!!!!! (That’s English Ivy along side it….don’t be fooled)
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English ivy….climbing up trees and with seed….not a good thing.   English ivy needs to be pruned every year to keep it under control  It is one of the most used groundcover in America…but has gotten out of hand.  Usually if it has gone long enough, by growing vertically, it will set seed, multiply and begin to suffocate other native plant material surrounding it.  If you walk along District Heights Parkway and notice our collection of vines that are not all good – Clematis terniflora, poison ivy, porcelain vine, grapevine, Euonymus (also fruiting and ready to spread), honeysuckle and oriental bittersweet, you would be amazed at the busyness of nature.
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Euonymus with seed…
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Clematis terniflora…..loves to get super happy in nature.. here, there and everywhere.

By walking in our community, one will also notice the natural ledges and patches of moss creatively gracing the banks and rocks alongside the waterway.  It speaks to peace and natural beauty.  Imagine if the vines were actually controlled, so that the other natives which are being suppressed, could be seen again. In the Spring, you would be amazed at the colonies of May apple that grace the edge of this woods line as well as the viburnum – which are now in their autumn splendor.
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The subtle beauty of this wooded area also speaks to sometimes leaving things a little undone.  I have seen beneficial insects, as well as wildlife in the spring as they awaken, having found secret protected spots to feed, procreate and survive over the winter.  It is absolutely amazing.  An ecosystem in my community that sometimes in our busyness, goes unnoticed.
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I am one who believes in engaging my community.  Do you have a photo of an awesome tree, shrub or borrowed view that speaks to you in District Heights??? or elsewhere??  Please post it in this blog and share it.  I am sharing a few more photos of glowing trees, borrowed views and things that just make you want to go outside and embrace the beauty that surrounds you.  We have so much here……so much at our fingertips.
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Communing with nature is always a good thing.  Get outside, embrace the beauty that surrounds you and make time to enjoy life.  I love my road trips……but sometimes beauty is right under our own noses……………….

Looking forward to leaf sharing with you, as I wander off to find the perfect leaf or leaves….before it leaves District Heights…..and before I go on another road trip!!

Teri

Fall Femininity….Camellias Bloom With Total Abandon…..YOU CAN GROW THAT!

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See that beautiful, fresh spot of color in the garden, when everything else is fading into fall??  Well, more than likely it is a fall blooming Camellia, otherwise known as Camellia Sasanqua, one of the most floriferous and feminine blooms happening in the fall garden.

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Camellia Sasanqua is a shrub that came from the woodlands of China, Japan  and Korea.  It was exported in 1692 and was introduced to Europe in the 18th Century. Initially Camellias were thought to be an indoor plant.   Plant aficionados in the South figured out that they were warm enough and that the conditions were right to grow it in the garden.  One place where one of the original Camellias still survives from the original initial planting in the 18th Century is at Magnolia Plantation in South Carolina.  The most extensive collection of Camellias was started here by Rev. John Grimke-Drayton.    (If you have never been to Magnolia Plantation, it ia a must see at any time of the year!!)

Growing Camellias is easier than you think.. Keeping the soil at a 6.5 ph, a tad moist but not soggy, regular irrigation, protected from winds,  semi shade (although there are newer cultivars that do not mind sun), a little fertilization when they are not in bloom (I use fish emulsion twice a year) and no underplanting required.  Camellias love to not have their feet (roots) stimulated or disturbed.

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One major pest to be cautious of is scale. Scale can devastate a Camellia in a season and can spread from plant to plant.  One other common issue is petal blight.  This fungal disease can move to quickly end a perfectly floriferous explosion of bloom. When the flowers are brownish along the edges of the bloom, this is sure-fire sign that blight has come to visit.  The browning blooms tend to fall off in 24 hours or so.  Not a good thing – diminished bloom never is!!!  Garden hygiene is the best way to combat this disease – cleaning up all fallen blooms and a fresh mulching usually does the trick.  There are chemicals to aid in fighting this fungal disease, check with a reputable nursery for these products.  Other than these two issues, Camellias are generally carefree shrubs.

Pruning to keep the height within reason and structural presence is also essential.  Camellia Forest Nursery suggests pruning new growth when it is half hardened.  This practice will increase the density of the shrub and maintain a healthy form and reachable height.  As with most evergreens, circulation throughout the shrub will minimize hiding pests and circulatory diseases. There are dwarf cultivars and new colors, as well as increased hardiness for colder zones, as research continues for this Lady of the autumnal garden.  Camelias are also great for espaliering along a wall, which makes a great winter statement of bloom in the garden.
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When the leaves are falling and the garden is waning, you can almost always count on the fall femininity of the Camellia Sasanqua in the garden…….YOU CAN GROW THAT!!

Conservators and Stewards of Our Land…are you up to the challenge?

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Fall is here officially.  There are weather warnings lurking about, I went searching for my official dog walking gloves, hat and coat and I need to call the gutter guys.  It is here and it came suddenly, but we knew it was on the horizon.  Some of us are rushing to get that Fall “Clean Up” done…………………………..afterall, it is a traditional ritual.  Every opportunity should be utilized for garden clean up so that the leaves do not smother and ruin the lawn and garden…..

STOP……LET’S THINK ABOUT THIS…..

As much as I am in the woods enjoying the view, hiking or just communing with nature, I have yet to see anyone raking the wooded areas in nature so that under plantings will survive….Have You???  From Giverny to Chanticleer to other favorite gardens I frequent, the best areas, with the richest soils are those left mostly alone, allowing nature to do her thing.  Even in a private mountain garden I frequent, I can dig with my hands to scoop up and smell wonderfully, rich earth, as the leaf litter – naturally broken down by Mom Nature – has become layers of fantabulous, rich soil.  If you feel you must rake – think COMPOST.  Slow composting allows Mother Nature to do the work slowly, over time and with little effort on your part.

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When we allow the earth to perform, as it has done since the beginning of time, the gifts it gives back to us is simply unbelievable.  Two writers I know speak to this in their writings -Kathryn Hall (Plant What Brings You Joy – Blessed Wisdom from the Garden) and Helen Yeost (Gardening With Confidence and Plants With Benefits).

Both of these ladies reference the benefits of leaving a part of the garden “untended” a bit.  Providing a place, a safe haven, an opportunity to just “be” allows our little beneficial’s and wildlife, to eat, rest and procreate.

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Along the path in my garden, I allow the leaves to fall with total abandon.  I allow this shade garden at The Cottage to emulate nature, as much as possible.  Shaded by a very large Oak Tree, the leaves fall and scatter about and once a year I mulch in early winter, just before the ground freezes with Virginia Fines Pine Bark and Mulch.  I did this in my Fredericksburg garden years ago and in three years time, I was able to forego the mulching and just let the leaves fall.  The leaves broke down and became a sweet-smelling , fresh brown, earth worm laden valley of rich earth.  Nature has a way of taking care of itself, Man/Woman has a way of un-balancing things.  Being mindful of tender plants and minor bulbs, this practice cannot be done in all parts of the garden.  However choose a spot that you dedicate to a safe haven for all the positive things that can happen in the garden  – and let it be.  Also think NATIVE.

Native plants are tough.  They have endured more than the average plant and are usually the best investment for your money.  As in nature, choose wisely and plant them in the appropriate environment.  Do your homework – research, research, research.  As in nature, select plants that have different bloom times and seasonal interest.  Have you ever noticed the garden in it’s winter nakedness??? Or are you inside nesting when cold winter winds are whistling outside your window?????

I challenge you to be a better Steward of the land, a better Conservator of our natural space – even our own yards –  for our beneficial insects and smaller wildlife.  Get outside, commune with nature and choose a spot to be left untended.

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Are you up to the challenge??? I am………

Autumnal Bliss in the Nation’s Capitol….unexplainable beauty

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I am a native Washingtonian and there is just something about DC that tourists miss.  It happens every year, changing its appearance daily and beckons those who make time to simply pause….to savor the moment.  My friends, it is autumnal bliss in DC…and oh what visions of beauty surround us!

The pied piper of fall started at the Nations Capitol and brushed it with a pot of gold….

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He then darted about touching this and that, leaving a bit of green, shades of brown and splashes of reds.  What a character this seasonal artist is, never an identical stroke, just colorful whimsy…here and there…

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Today it was different, things once green, lush and prolifically blooming, are gently lowering their eyes, resting their leaves of green and settling in for a bit of seasonal rest, prior to another show stopping season next Spring.
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What a terrific time of the year to gather ideas from public gardens and spaces.  Utilizing some of the ideas found around us for public viewing pleasure just might excite you, cause a stir and cause you to try something new.  This is also a great time of year to assess your perennial to annual planting ratio and style.  If you only have an abundance of colorful interest during the summer months, research and explore what you might try to add three or four season interest.
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Make a few moments – not take as you already have them – and enjoy the beauty that surrounds you, right in Our National’s Capitol, right on the National Mall….our Front Yard!!!  I hear there is even a fall show in a neighborhood near you!
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Enjoying the beauty that surrounds me!

Saturday morning in my garden

One of my favorite past times of an autumn weekend is waking up and running to the window  to see my garden in the early morning light.  During the week, I do not have that luxury.  It is dark when I leave and dusk when I return home.  The many colors of fall, right in my own backyard are simply amazing.  The crepe myrtle has a cloak of many colors…

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A hydrangea that sat all summer, green as could be, finally bloomed…

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Sedum, a perennial that never fails me, stands regally on her throne…

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Roses, high hips brightening up a landscape of greens and shades of brown…

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The Japanese Maple……oh the glorious shades speak to the changing temperatures…..

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The Oakleaf, another faithful garden buddy donning her autumnal dress…….

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Shades of the season…..oh the joys of a weekend morning in my garden…..

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Enjoying the anticipation of continued bloom as the garden heads to rest after a wonderful season ……

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Listen to the season change as the leaves drop….a peaceful kind of music……..enjoy !

Not just another Thursday…..

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I came to work reading about Helianthus angustifolius….and thought that was a terrific morning.  However, I arrived at work and was gifted with this!!  Another morning of mentally at the Philadelphia Flower Show taking part in the floral arranging competition….in my mind.

Momma said there would be days like this…..

Appreciating the beauty that surrounds me……..

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