French Country Fall tablescape

Because I didn’t blog much in 2022, I never shared this sweet little French Country tablescape. The more I use those taupe dinner plates (I used them in a couple of Faded Summer tables this year!), the more I really like them for their versatility and pretty petal-inspired border. So I thought I would share this one now in honor of the first day of Autumn, which is coming up Saturday, September 23 – because, you know, those pumpkins!

French Country tablescape for autumn
I didn’t have my matching dining chairs yet when I set this table, but I think these dear mis-matched friends are perfect for this casual setting!

The inspiration piece for this Fall tablescape was the tablecloth – I found it while thrifting on a Saturday and brought it home only to realize I didn’t have much to go with it. But I really felt it had French Country potential, so I went out again the next day and happened to find the perfect dinner plates at another thrift store.

French country tablescape

Here’s an overview of the (very simple) place setting:

French country tablescape

I liked the layered look of the red placemats… the overall red, tan, and blue scheme reminds me of “primitive country” Americana crafts that use deeper reds and blues, and tea-stained fabric.

French country tablescape

The centerpiece is also simple: a rattan charger with a couple of the cutest little pumpkins ever – look at those fanciful stems! I added brass candlesticks and my favorite little ceramic cow. Doesn’t she look French to you?

French country tablescape
French country tablescape
French Country tablescape

I’m fairly certain the blue glassware is by Libbey – I love the deeper color, and stemware just always feels special. Flatware is my treasured “Chandelier” by Oneida, handed down by my grandmother and great-aunt. (This flatware has been in daily use by my family for over 50 years – 30 of those in my personal possession!)

French country tablescape
French country tablescape

Now here are not one but TWO sad, sorry secrets about this sweet Fall tablescape: one, I neglected to take my usual “put-away shot,” where I show everything gathered up together waiting to go back into the cupboards. And two: I actually re-donated this tablecloth at the start of this summer, so I no longer have it. And after going through these pictures, I really wish I hadn’t done that!

Here’s an image to Pin for my French Country Fall tablescape, in case you’d like to save it for future inspiration:

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Meet Boop – my new cottage cat!

Every cottage needs a cat. When my sweet long-time companion Lily passed away last month, I knew I wouldn’t last long without having another cottage cat. Little did I know I wouldn’t even make it a week!

I went along for a few days, but I just couldn’t get used to not having another living creature in the house. I didn’t like come home to a house devoid of life (sorry, houseplants…). A few days after she passed, I found myself wondering… is it too soon? Do I need time to see if maybe I wouldn’t need (or even want) another pet?

Ha!! The fact is, I had already made a few proclamations about my next cat: it was going to be a chubby senior, and its name was going to be Boop. And I couldn’t stay away from the Animal Rescue League website, so it wasn’t long before I spotted this pretty girl:

Belladonna (Boop) in the shelter
Belladonna’s shelter photo.

Her name at the shelter was Belladonna. Eight years old, 13 pounds… a tuxedo cat! They didn’t have much info on her – they said she had come in as a stray. But they had done a complete exam and some labs, and she apparently had no health issues.

Greg drove with me out to meet Belladonna on a Wednesday… adoption papers were signed almost immediately… and within an hour of being at her new home, she was out of hiding and going around to try out a few potential napping spots.

Boop's first day
Boop spent her first few hours exploring, finding the bathroom, and trying out a few napping spots. Within a couple hours she decided we could be friends.

Seriously, this cat owned me AND my house within 24 hours. She immediately became Boop, a.k.a. Boopers, a.k.a. Miss Boop or Miss B.

She is very sweet, prone to long naps, and only occasionally spicy. She also loves to play with her little stuffed ball and catnip fish kick-toy. On her second day, she discovered the work-from-home arrangement. She takes her managerial position in the office very seriously, even if the employee lounge is a little small.

Boop is a work from home cat in a managerial position.
Working from home – she didn’t realize she had a supervisory role at first!

Her ONLY vice… and she is a cat, after all… is that she likes to sharpen her claws on the carpet. I got her a scratching post to no avail. I noticed where she was scratching and put down a little throw rug that she could pick at to her heart’s content… but she changed spots. I have a few other ideas we’ll be trying so hopefully she’ll soon have a favorite spot to scratch that isn’t the carpet.

Meanwhile, she can sleep in her little bed in the office while I’m working, or sleep on the big bed at night with me, or sleep in the rays of sunshine out on the porch. She has tried out several spots throughout the house…

Other spots around the house
Trying out all the observation spots. The office is best for birdwatching; kitchen or porch for outdoor cat-watching; and the dining room table for dinner-watching.

This spot, in the crook of the arm of the couch, is her favorite unless we are working in the office.

Favorite napping spot outside of office hours
Favorite napping spot outside of office hours.

Happy to say that Boop has found – and commandeered – her forever home. She is officially the cottage cat of Lynnwood Cottage!

Large and  in charge
Large and in charge

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Beach themed tablescape for end of summer

In 2021, at about this time of year, my sweetie and I got to take a really unique vacation – we drove from Iowa down to the Gulf area of the US, and thanks to a friend who owns a business is Gautier, Mississippi we took a tour of the Pascagoula River and connected swamp channels. One of our little “side-jaunts” on that trip was a morning drive over to Pensacola, Florida, where we spent a few hours on the beach. I hadn’t been to the ocean for several years, and it always makes me cry when I go, and so our stops at Gulfport, Biloxi, and Pensacola – though brief – were (and are) very special to me!

Pensacola Beach, September 2021
Pensacola, FL Beach – September 2021
Pensacola Beach, September 2021
My late summer beach-themed tablescape reminded me of this little guy on Pensacola Beach!

This year my “beach vacation” took the form of a beach-themed tablescape, set at the end of summer as a bit of an homage to our trip and to late-summer beach visits in general. I really love the way this turned out, especially since I didn’t have to purchase anything new for it – everything was already in my stash, including all the centerpiece elements.

End of summer beach themed tablescape
End of summer beach themed tablescape

Because we’re still in Faded Summer, I stuck with more muted tones as suggested by the Pier 1 salad plates – no beach balls or pink flamingos this time!

End of summer beach themed tablescape
End of summer beach themed tablescape

Here’s the full place setting, including the taupe dinner plates I’ve been using for most of the Faded Summer season, the Pier 1 melamine salad plates, and straw placemats in “Sea Green” over a champagne-hued tablecloth.

End of summer beach themed tablescape
End of summer beach themed tablescape
End of summer beach themed tablescape

Flatware is my handed-down “Flair” silver by 1847 Rogers Brothers – the curved handles not only serve as a hint for which side of the plate each piece goes on, but they also are a bit reminiscent of waves.

End of summer beach themed tablescape

Glassware is what I consider to be one of my luckiest finds ever – I found four of these gorgeous blue and green “Bahia” tumblers by Bormioli Rocco, $1.99 each at a consignment store. Pristine condition, perfect for this color scheme, and STUNNING in person! The wave motif where the stem joins the glass is just artistry.

I paired them with Cristal D’Arques “Longchamps” goblets – also a thrift-store find, and I love the sparkle these bring to every table!

Late summer beach themed tablescape

The napkin and ring were also thrifted finds in appropriate beach colors. The napkin itself works so well with the taupe plates, and the ring is a pretty sky blue without being too bright for this Faded Summer version.

Faded Summer beach themed tablescape

I did a runner-style centerpiece for this table, using my hand-painted “Beach” sign as the base and a bit of faux fish netting found in my stash of shells. The candleabra provides a bit more silver sparkle, and you might notice a couple of ocean themed “conversation starters” if you look closely. (And no, I don’t mean my sweet new feline friend, Boop, the tuxedo cat – more about her in a future post!)

Late summer beach themed tablescape
Late summer beach themed tablescape
Late summer beach themed tablescape

Did you see them? Maybe I didn’t show the right angle yet – it’s these two sweet little vintage “Wade’s Whimsies” ceramic figures: a sea turtle and flowing-finned fish! If you want a new collecting obsession, just check your favorite vintage re-selling sites for Wade’s Whimsies!

Wade's Whimsies sea turtle
Wade's Whimsies ocean fish

Here are a couple more views around the table.

Faded Summer beach themed tablescape
Faded Summer beach themed tablescape
Faded Summer beach themed tablescape

And a couple of shots in candlelight!

Candlelight beach themed table
Candlelight beach themed table

Here is the put-away shot – sorry to see this one go back into the cupboards, it feels like I’m saying “Summer’s over,” when of course there is still warm weather to be enjoyed!

End of summer beach themed table

And here is an image to Pin in case you would like to save my Faded Summer Beach themed tablescape for future ideas!

Of course I will be sharing this post for Tablescape Thursday over at Susan’s blog, Between Naps on the Porch! Click through for more tablescaping inspiration! I hope you are inspired to enjoy the remainder of summer and – if possible – visit your favorite body of water before the season is over!

End of summer beach themed tablescape
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Engage your senses to enjoy the last of Faded Summer

There are still a few weeks to go in the “unofficial fifth season” of Faded Summer (by decree it ends September 30th), and I hope you will continue to enjoy the remainder of it using these past few blog posts for inspiration. (Or, enter your email address over on the right there and request your free copy of the Official Guide!)

This post is essentially just a final tip for fully savoring the last remnants of summer. Ready? Here it is:

Engage your senses!

You know the old expression, “stop and smell the roses”? That saying is probably more relevant today than ever. I usually try to just slow down a bit at this time of year because it feels like we are always rushing toward the next thing, even moreso as we approach the fourth quarter of the year known for its extra hustle-and-bustle. I want to encourage you to pause whenever you are feeling rushed or overwhelmed, and take just a moment to see, touch, smell, taste, or hear something very intentionally.

For me, there are a few specific things that delight each of my senses at this time of year. Maybe you have your own, but you can absolutely borrow my list if you need a jumpstart!

Sight: Faded flowers, migrating birds, the way the sun hits the landscape as its relative zenith changes its height in the sky.

Sound: Cicadas, crows, the change in the “frog chorus” to include American Bullfrogs, and the distant sound of high school marching band practice at 6:30 a.m.!

Texture/touch: Fabrics like wash-worn denim or corduroy, or even garden experiences unique to the season: have you ever run the palm of your hand over the crest of a mum plant that’s in full bloom? Soft and bumpy, like a chenille bedspread!

Textures of Faded Summer

Taste: Sweet corn, apple crisp, pears – the natural flavors of Faded Summer!

Tastes of Faded Summer

Smell: Comfort-cooking (time to turn the oven on again, at last!), the refreshing smell of cool early morning or late night air (and rain!) when you’re finally able to open the windows.

The neat thing about inventing your own unofficial season is that you get to decide when it starts and ends. I’ve always said, Faded Summer is from August 1 – October 1, unless I decide to extend it or end it early. This year it seems like the weather has stayed hotter for longer, and I do admit I am going to be ready for cooler temperatures (and decorative pumpkins) VERY SOON.

I plan to use the rest of Faded Summer finding and appreciating the small details of seasonal transition as often and as intentionally as I can. I’d love to know what your favorite sensory pleasures are in Faded Summer. Share your thoughts in a comment on this blog post (click the headline at the top of the post then scroll to the end and click “Leave a Reply”), or visit the blog’s Facebook Page (Vintage Floral Cottage) and leave a comment there!

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Basic birdwatching and bird feeding: Make feathered friends in Faded Summer!

I’ve always enjoyed seeing birds around my yard, but over the past couple of years I’ve made an effort to learn a bit more about them and provide supplemental food and water that would appeal to them. I’ve come to realize that basic birdwatching (just being a novice!), and encouraging birds to visit my yard, flowers, feeders, and water sources, is one of the most satisfying aspects of gardening.

Homebuilt platform feeder, visible from the bench at the end of my garden - and also from my work-from-home office window!
Homebuilt platform feeder, visible from the bench at the end of my garden – and also from my work-from-home office window, which is out of frame on the left!

Providing resources for birds is very simple, and a perfect activity for Faded Summer. I can’t possibly provide a comprehensive “birding guide” in one blog post, but here are the most basic elements – and a few of my favorite resources linked at the end!

Why begin birdwatching (and feeding) now?
In the midwestern United States, as in many areas, there are certain birds that are here pretty much year-round: Northern Cardinals, Blue Jays, sparrows, and even American Robins, among others. But in Spring and then again beginning in August (Faded Summer!), a larger variety can be attracted and viewed due to Fall migration. At this time of year, the birds who migrate to their northern nesting grounds in Spring are headed back to their Southern homes – sometimes as far away as Mexico and South America!

So as migration season progresses, even if certain birds don’t live in this area during the actual summer months, they can still be spotted for a few weeks during the migration seasons. For that reason, it can be quite satisfying to put out certain types of food in Faded Summer! (For more about basic birdwatching, migration patterns, maps, and species, be sure to visit All About Birds – a free resource provided by the Cornell University Ornithology Lab. )

Water before food
Water is, unsurprisingly, even more important for birds than food. A great way to start your birdwatching journey is to simply set up an inexpensive bird bath, and keep it filled with fresh water. Even better, a fountain with running water! Birds are attracted to the sound and sparkle of trickling water, and a fountain will draw them quickly to your space for drinking and bathing.

My curb-picked tiered fountain... a challenge to keep  it clean, but worth the effort!
My curb-picked tiered fountain… a challenge to keep it clean, but worth the effort!

I also provide pollinator watering stations in my garden. These are simple dishes filled with rocks and water, which bees and butterflies use to hydrate and/or sun themselves.

Pollinator watering/sunning station
Pollinator watering/sunning station. It dries out quickly, so I have to refill it sometimes multiple times a day.

Placing feeders
We’ll talk about types of food in a moment, but first a couple thoughts on where to place a feeder or two. Birds love a bit of nearby cover, so if you can place your feeders near trees or shrubbery, that will give them the protection they need from predators.

Places to perch are also important. This requirement is easily met just by hanging feeders from shepherd’s hooks, and the feeders themselves will also often have built-in perches. Fences and arbors also help fill this need. Of course, you will also want your feeders and baths visible from your window or a garden seating area so you can watch the fun!

My platform feeder is on the left, with a peanut feeder barely visible behind it. There are more peanut feeders, my hummingbird feeder, and my fountain, just out of frame to the right. This is the view from my office window. The foliage and bushy flowers, the large boxwood shrub upper right, and a lilac bush about 20 feet away to the right, provide lots of cover and even nesting space.

Types of feeders and food
There are many styles of feeders, and many are designed to attract specific birds with specific food. For example, cardinals and blue jays will pick sunflower seeds and whole peanuts off a simple tray feeder, while Baltimore Orioles love grape jelly in a dish as well as oranges sliced in half. Eastern Goldfinches love sunflowers (they’ll hang upside down off drooping sunflower heads to grab the seed right off the plants!) as well as hanging feeders full of Nyjer seed. Many birds also love safflower seed.

It’s easy to go overboard with feeders and food, and it can get messy. I’ve narrowed mine down to a homebuilt covered tray, hanging feeders with chopped peanuts, and a hanging Nyjer feeder. I’ve got examples of most of these linked in Resources at the end of this post.

Goldfinches love sunflowers!
I absolutely LOVE Eastern Goldfinches, but they only come to my yard when the sunflowers start blooming. Despite their scarcity for me personally, they are in fact the official state bird of Iowa. I always feel like someone should make remarks from a podium when they finally arrive in my central Iowa garden!

A great tip, even for basic birdwatching, is to avoid commercial “wild bird food” mixes if you can. Fillers in these mixes such as milo and millet make a huge mess and attract birds that are already over-populated, such as sparrows. After a great deal of reading and trial, I’ve fine-tuned my menu and now purchase black oil sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, chopped peanuts, nyjer, and whole peanuts in bulk. My feeders are placed near patches of seed-grown sunflowers and zinnias, which birds (and pollinators!) love.

In winter, I add suet cakes in small hanging “cages” which woodpeckers enjoy – but I avoid these in summer because the ingredients not only melt and make a mess but can also coat feathers and make flying difficult.

A favorite visitor in my garden is the ruby-throated hummingbird. In my previous home I had about a dozen of them. Currently I only have three. I’m told it’s likely the same three, returning year after year – which is pretty amazing when you consider how far they have to migrate! They are beautiful and SO entertaining to watch! I put up a couple of hanging feeders every year and fill them weekly with homemade nectar. (Honestly, the red-colored store-bought nectar is expensive and unnecessary!)

Glass hummingbird feeder
I like this style feeder but the plastic perches get broken easily so it’s not the sturdiest choice.

Making homemade nectar is so simple! The recipe is four parts water and one part granulated sugar. So, for example, 2 cups of water and 1/2-cup of sugar. Boil the water, then remove from heat and add the sugar. Stir until it’s dissolved, then let it cool completely before adding to the hummingbird feeder.

It’s important to rinse out the feeders and clean them when replenishing the nectar because mold can quickly start and grow. Hummingbirds will avoid the feeder if it’s dirty!

Another style hummingbird feeder
Another style of hummingbird feeder, with trumpet-shaped ports. Hummingbirds love trumpet-shaped flowers, so this one is popular! The yellow centers are supposed to be “bee guards,” to keep bees away. They don’t do much to discourage ants, though.

Ok not gonna lie, I ADORE crows! They are smart, social, and so interesting! And many people have had the amazing opportunity to actually befriend neighborhood crows by providing supplemental food and exchanging “gifts.” I would love for this to happen to me, but so far it hasn’t.

The best (and only) helpful hint I can give you on this topic is to search for videos about “befriending crows” on Youtube or even TikTok. It appears the trick is to be consistent, providing treats (whole peanuts or cat food kibble) at the same time everyday – which explains why I’ve had no luck with this. I need to make a more concerted effort – maybe this will be my year!

Here are a few of my favorite birding resources and products. Please note that all links are Amazon affiliate links – this means if you click through and make a purchase, it costs you nothing but I do earn a small commission which helps support the blog. So, understanding that all of these items (or similar) are probably available to you locally, thank you for any purchases you might make! Also note that my platform feeder is homebuilt and my fountain was a curb find (see photos earlier in this post) so I don’t have links for those.

“Birds in Your Backyard” – a great “beginning birder” book!
National Geographic Bird Identification Guide

A lightweight, inexpensive bird bath – I had this one at a previous home. It’s lovely, but depending on placement it might require being weighted or staked so it remains upright in a storm.
A heavier ceramic bird bath – just one example among hundreds.

Hummingbird feeder – Again, dozens of styles of these, but I use this general design a lot. Skip the red nectar!
An oriole feeder to hold jelly and orange halves – I’m trying this one for the first time this year!
Metal mesh feeders for chopped peanuts. The starlings had taken over my tube-shaped mesh peanut feeder, so to discourage them I switched to these ball-shaped ones. Too hard for bigger “bully birds” (sorry starlings, you know it’s true!) to cling to, and even the smaller birds have to work harder to get the peanut pieces out of the smaller holes so the peanuts last longer.
Cage-style suet feeders for cool- and cold-weather months. Woodpeckers love suet cakes, and these feeders are inexpensive and easy to refill.
I’m trying this “tail prop” design suet feeder for the first time soon!
Kaytee sock-style feeder for Nyjer seed – attracts goldfinches.

Metal mesh and sock-style feeders.
Metal mesh and sock-style feeders. I’ve always liked the picture on the right of the goldfinches – I love seeing them in my yard, and that one on the crooked pole just seems very non-chalant!

Final thoughts
If you would like to enjoy Faded Summer by making a few feathered friends, consider putting up a platform feeder and a metal mesh peanut feeder. You can start out with just black oil sunflower seeds and whole peanuts on the platform, plus chopped peanuts in the mesh feeder. Add a suet feeder when the weather gets cool, and definitely let me know if you make friends with any crows!

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