Blog Description

A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

Friday, September 12, 2014

Chroniclers of a New Era

As a retired teacher, I have always thought of August/September, not January, as the beginning of a new year, a time for fresh starts. Life-long rhythms are slow to change, and I still think of the beginning of the school year as a time to begin new projects, a time for a clean slate, a time to open new doors.   
The timing fits perfectly with an invitation from Anita, author of Castles, Crowns, Cottages, to be part of 

The Blogger's Writing Process Tour

in which a blogger answers four questions about her writing and in turn, invites two-three other blog writers to be part of the tour also. Anita is a lyrical writer whose style creates magic with each new post as illustrated by her contribution at 

Anita is an inspiration to write better. 
I love her photos, her stylistic layouts, and her dreamy prose. 
Most of all, her dreamy prose that sweeps me away from reality. 

What am I working on?

I am working on improving my writing skills and am attending the Blog Elevated Conference in Galveston, TX on September 25-27. This will be my first blog conference, and I am working as a volunteer with hopes to make many new blogger friends while learning some tips on better writing.  When I realized the Round Top Antique Fair's dates are September 20 - October 5 this year, I knew I had to make plans to attend the Fair since Round Top, TX is only about 2.5-3 hours from Galveston.  In addition to taking hundreds of photos at the Fair and practicing any photo tips I learn at the conference, I will be looking for French-inspired antiques and creations to purchase or to create for my annual French Country Christmas held on weekends leading up to Christmas. September is going to be a month of whirlwind falling leaves and Botanic Bleu inspiration. 

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Each writes with a unique perspective.  While my life experiences have some common threads with other blog authors who write with a French connection, each of us offers a personal view of our experiences.  When I write about traveling in France as part of my on-going Moment in France series, all of the photos are my own personal photos of scenes and events that spoke to me.  Others may have had the very same experience, but will share photos from a different angle or of a different object and will compose text emphasizing a completely different viewpoint.  

Botanic Bleu's posts on any subject are influenced by the French Country way of living that embraces joie de vivre.  Articles include garden and home decor, a recipe on rare occasions, and project tutorials in addition to the Moment in France series that has twenty posts to date.  

Why do I write what I do?

Following retirement, life became much simpler and slower-paced than when I worked full time, and for the first time, I had time to explore and to pursue creative writing. Also, for the first time I was able to spend leisure time on the internet where I discovered blogs, a whole new world. With major changes in my life came much introspective thinking.  Thus, the Botanic Bleu blog was born as a place to experience a little creativity, to share my love of French Country and Christmas, and to leave a written record of my life and work. 

“Don't let it be forgot, 
that once there was a spot, 
for one brief shining moment, 
that was known as Camelot.”  
Camelot movie/song

Personal blogs are the 21st century primary source gold mines of everyday life, of an evolving culture on the cusp of a new era created by a paperless society. We are the chroniclers of a transitional time in which our parents were in one era, and our children are in the next. 

How does my writing process work?

A scene caught by a quick look from the corner of my eye, a vignette in a Pottery Barn catalog, a comment on another blogger's post, a holiday, and a love for blue have all been the inkling from which a blog post was conceived.  Once a thought occurs, I begin taking photos, hundreds of photos, that illustrate the original thought and the visions that grow from the original idea.  Narrowing the photos to a small group of eight to twenty, I begin to see the story line unfold.  As I edit the photos and add my watermark, I number the photos into the order that they will appear in my first written draft.  Often my first draft is in my head and is changed as I write the first written draft.  

Master Bathroom

Goals for me in writing are to show the best original photos I can, and to support the photos with a meaningful commentary.  Or vice-versa, write a commentary that has something to say even without photos, and to support the commentary with the best photos possible.  After the first draft, I proof read it, edit, re-write phrases, re-arrange photos, take more photos when needed, and then sleep on the post before hitting publish.  Then I review the post, edit where needed, and schedule it for publication. I don't have a formal topic scheduler/planner, but I do keep a notebook of ideas for blogs, and I organize photos into folders in my iPhoto software.  Currently, I have about 17-18 blog topics written in my notebook with varying stages of support material such as links, props, and possible photos listed.  I also have 3-4 photo folders with pictures of vignettes for sharing Christmas ideas later this year. 


to reveal who are next to share a look into their creative writing process. These two bloggers are also inspirational authors who have distinctive writing voices with many followers. Each influences me, but in different creative ways. 

Alison @ Nancherrow


Sherry @ The Charm of Home 

Both Alison and Sherry always make me smile with their witty commentaries in which they share recipes, home decor, and about life in general. Both are on my blogroll, and both host awesome linky parties on Fridays.

Take a peek at what these ladies are posting today, and then go back to read their contributions to  The Blogger's Writing Process Tour.  Whatever they are up to, I am sure it will brighten your day. 

Please join me at these inspiring sites...



Sunday, September 7, 2014

Southern Architectural Accents

Being born and reared in the Deep South, 
I have always been drawn to architectural accents 
that are wood, stone, glass, or any natural design that has character

No sleek, modern stark interiors for me.
I like looking at them, but cannot live in them. 

Think antebellum mansions with two-story massive columns, 
wrap-around porches, curved staircases, ten-twelve foot ceilings, 
raised wood panel walls, glass transoms over doors, and iron railings.
No, I did not live in such a house while growing up,
but I did live in a very shabby old dorm for four years while in college. 

While visiting my mother this summer, my brother, sister-in-law, sister, mother,
and I took a little road trip to an architectural salvage store in Cullman, Alabama. 

Southern Accents Architectural Antiques
Southern Accents Architectural Antiques describes itself as having the largest 
collection of architectural antiques in the South, selling both from their 
brick and mortar store in Cullman and from an online store. 

A collection of antique doors and chandeliers in the main floor showroom 
are just a glimpse of all that is to be found on multi-levels, inside and out, 
and in multiple buildings with entrances from more than one city street. 

Need an antique deadbolt lock to go with your new antique door? 

How about porch columns, interior columns, or stair newel posts? 

Would you like an ornate capital for your antique column or 
to repurpose as a plant, book, or cloche stand? 

Room after room all began as a small collection in 1969 in the garage of the owner 
who has turned over the day-to-day operations to his son with the help of twelve employees. 
Do you see the chandeliers?  How about that door-size carved mirror? 

And there it is, a transom window over a door! 
It reminds me of my college dorm room's transom. 
Yes, my dorm was a three-story red brick building with 
the entrance in a central turret, flanked on either side with a half-walled 
second-story terrace onto which my three huge windows opened. 
The ten-foot ceilings in the room rose above a very worn 
wood planked floor.  When the terrace windows and the transom 
were opened at the same time, a nice breeze cooled the room. 
For heat, there was a steam radiator. 
No air-conditioning or central heating system. 

But, I don't have memories of being hot or cold 
in O'Neil Hall at Florence State University, Alabama. 
Now known as the University of North Alabama,
the school's beginnings were in 1830, and it became 
the first state teacher's college south of the Ohio River. 

Many of these architectural salvage pieces could have 
come from O'Neil Hall with its wide curved banister staircases. 

One of my favorite finds was the old fireplace surround with the fleur-de-lis. 
No, it didn't come home with me, but I kept going back to look at it one more time. 
It was badly damaged with part of the iron broken to the right of the fleur-de-lis. 

Nothing like finding the very exact Old Chicago brass gooseneck faucet that was in 
your current house for over twenty years to make you feel like a relic yourself. 
My old gooseneck faucet is now in the garden shed, 
replaced by a newer, non-leaking faucet for the kitchen sink. 

There were so many one-of-a-kind beautiful old pieces everywhere. 
These were lying on the floor amidst many other plainer pieces. 
One of these, and its matching mate found after rummaging around 
on a nearby shelf, came home with me.  

Now that I look at my photos again, 
I'm wishing I had bought another piece in this photo. 

Looking at these photos also makes me excited to get to go 
the Round Top Antiques Fair in south Texas September 28-October 1. 
Once again, it is going to be hard to choose what to buy. 
Things I will be looking for are a French mirror, old iron fencing, 
and a blue seltzer bottle from France. 

Plus, I will be keeping my eyes open for unexpected treasures. 

Please join me at these inspiring sites...



Saturday, September 6, 2014

Nest Feathering

Everyone feathers her nest to   
make her home meet her needs and dreams.

Gathering materials, one little twig, leaf, or grass tuft at a time, 
a little chickadee weaves her nest all together into a refuge against the weather. 
Yet, who hasn't seen a bird's nest also with something a little sparkly in it, 
sunlight glancing off a piece of tinsel, 
or a stray snag of ribbon fluttering in the breeze? 

My little feathered nest is created with eye-catching appeal by 
looking for great discounts, 
making homemade one-of-a-kind items, 
using objects in unexpected ways, and 
repeating colors and themes within view of each other. 

Nest feathering involves more than creating a safe haven from the world, 
more than gathering the essentials needed for a shelter.

Nest feathering includes finding the little tinsel to brighten our nests, 
or finding that snag of ribbon to flutter in the breeze,  
those special things that make our nests comfortable 
and welcoming to family, to guests, and to ourselves...

and that makes our nests uniquely ours. 

Looking for those special touches to weave into my home, 
I found these blue and white checked placemats from the 
Pottery Barn Outlet earlier this summer. 
(Someone please straighten those mats!
The shade of blue is a perfect companion for the 

I like leaving the mats on the table even when there aren't 
any dishes on them.  Plus I like using one as the base 
for a small collection of other things that feather my nest. 

Creating items myself is one way I feather my nest. 
The blue nest sign is the latest addition to my ever growing 
collection of handmade garden signs using reclaimed wood 
and photo canvas signs printed on the computer. 

Many of us find making items ourselves is a way to save money 
allowing us greater choices in how we spend our incomes. 

For me, there are two other major factors in making something myself. 
First, by making it myself I create things I cannot find in a store. 
I get to have a BLUE nest sign. 

Most of the garden signs are in shades of green or brown, 
traditional colors for gardens that appeal to many people. 
These signs will be part of my annual French Country Christmas event. 

The BLUE ones, however, are to feather my nest. 
They are the tinsel that sunlight glints off in my breakfast sunspace. 

The second other factor for making things myself is I enjoy the creativity. 
I can spend hours finding just the right twigs for the birdhouse perches, 
winding a slender vine so that it flutters around, tying an ultra narrow 
snippet of silk lavender ribbon, and positioning a single stalk of lavender. 
Creating each little birdhouse so that no two are alike... 

A decorative birdhouse emerged from a plain 2"x4" pine stud. 
Its roofline is two simple cuts to form a peak, its tin roof was cut 
from a small sheet of tin from the hardware store, and its entrance 
holes and perch holes were cut using two different sized drill bits. 

By flecking the tip of a small artist's paint brush loaded with red paint 
onto the painted white background, the spatters add visual interest 
and depth to the birdhouse's finish. 

A small spotted brown REAL bird feather gives the impression we just missed 
seeing the bird fly away. If we had just turned our heads a second sooner! 

Unexpected uses catch the tinsel and ribbon...  
and stretch our resources in our feathered nests. 

The blue ceramic platform holding a small bird surrounded by 
speckled blue eggs is a drink dispenser stand, another great 
buy from the Pottery Barn Outlet, but used in an unexpected way.  

Nest feathering... 
Using collected objects that are connected by color and by theme, 
like the garden signs and table vignette, creates maximum impact. 

A blue nest sign on a stake stands near the other garden signs. 
Variations on a theme, with no two exactly alike. 

Just as no two bird nests are exactly alike. 

Please join me at these inspiring sites...