February 12, 2016

Valentine greetings...


Now that my little ones are all grown up and in homes of their own, I don't do a ton of "seasonal" decorating anymore.  But I did add just a few Valentine touches when I took down the Christmas decorations.  The love banner has been recycled several times--I made it a couple of years ago after I painted my china cabinet and moved it to the dining room, and then we used it for my daughter's wedding shower and also displayed it on the gift table at her wedding.  


I "upcycled" her pew bows as well!  With the addition of pine cones, the bows looked nice on either side of my china cabinet during November.  When I started decorating for Christmas I added the gold leaves, and I have now added the vintage Valentine cards as well. 


The only other area I decorated was my family room mantel.  Displaying items all together makes a bit more of a statement than tucking individual items here and there throughout the house.  The three framed prints were downloaded from Pinterest and add a nice pop of color.  The middle print has the lyrics to my favorite love song...


Flanking that print are two extra special Valentine cards.  The puppy card on the right was from my Dad, mailed to me before he married my mother and addressed inside to his "little poquito".  I treasure it.  It usually sits in my craft room/library where I can see it every day and keep him in my thoughts each and every day...


The other Valentine card is from my grandmother, mailed a month after my parents were married.  I treasure it as well.



The two figurines usually hold a place of honor in my china cabinet, but during February they regally hold court on my mantel.  "George and Martha" were a high school graduation gift to my Aunt Hester, loving passed on to me.


I found the other charming couple at my favorite antiques store--they just seemed to belong with George and Martha.  Aren't they sweet?


I have enjoyed sharing a "few of my favorite things" with you this week, and I hope you have enjoyed it as well.  This weekend I'm off to the City - it's my annual opera weekend!  I hope to have fun stories and adventures to share with you next week.  Will tea at the Russian Tea Room measure up?  Will the Van Gogh exhibit at the Art Institute be informative?  Will I manage to stay awake through the FOUR HOURS and TEN MINUTES performance of Der Rosenkavalier?  Be sure to check in next week for all the answers!

Here are two beautiful love poems from Mary Oliver's new book, Felicity. Each poem seems written for my husband and me and our own special love story...

I Did Think, Let's Go About
This Slowly

I did think, let's go about this slowly.
This is important.  This should take
some really deep thought.  We should take
small thoughtful steps.

But, bless us, we didn't.


What This Is Not

This is not just surprise and pleasure.
This is not just beauty sometimes
too hot to touch.
This is not a blessing with a beginning
and an end.
This is not just a wild summer.
This is not conditional. 


Have a wonderful weekend, and remember...
Today is a good day for a good day!!

February 11, 2016

very twee, very me...



I've been thinking about some of the things that bring me joy this week, and surely towards the top of my list has to be Sunday night - Downton Abbey time!  My husband and I and our son and his girlfriend all gather in our family room to catch the latest exploits of the Grantham family.  We worry if Edith will ever find love again, we wonder if Thomas' efforts to gain respect in the family will ever be successful, we laugh out loud at Violet's pithy one liners.  Such fun!


I've always been a firm believer in wringing every last drop of fun possible out of any given situation, so I've enjoyed making our Sunday nights even more special by providing an elegant repast for our viewing pleasure.  It may not be a proper British tea, but I've really enjoyed trying new recipes from my English Tea & Cakes cookbook and creating something lovely for my family.  To welcome the final Downton season in January I baked my first tart ever - delicious Manchester tart with an unexpected jam and breadcrumb filling, topped with meringue.  Yummy!


The next week I experimented with blackberry tea bread and Florentine slices, which have coconut and dried fruit on a chocolate base.  Delicious!  The blue willow tea cups were a special gift from my husband when we were visiting Harrods in London.


The following week I baked a Chocolate Orange drizzle cake, with tea served in my lovely tea cups that I inherited from my beloved Great-Aunt Stella.  I used to take the bus from my college in Kansas to visit her and her sister Naomi in Missouri, and Aunt Stella always used this Johnson Brothers china set for my breakfast.  I felt so special!  Sipping tea in the pretty teacup always brings back special memories of two wonderful women.


We celebrated my birthday weekend and Downton Abbey tea time with a gorgeous lemon cake, with tea served in these pretty teacups I found in an antiques store.  They are from the 1920s, so I fondly call them my Downton Abbey tea set.  The beautiful hydrangea was a birthday gift from a work colleague, and the beautiful candle and heart napkins were gifts from my girlfriend.  I felt completely surrounded by love.


I had to "blur" this picture just a little, so you can't see that a cup was dropped on top of my Lancaster lemon tart before I could take a picture!  Real life, folks, real life...


And finally, last week I served a delicious raspberry layer cake, and showed off another birthday present, my "Carson" tea print!  The pretty napkins are from my mother's birthday celebration last April.  It's nice to gaze on pretty spring-y floral napkins in the middle of winter!  The tea pot was a gift many years ago from my dear friend Barbara, and I think of her lovingly every time I "pour a cuppa."  There are a few weeks left in the season, so I still need to tackle scones, Victoria sponge cake, and like the nanny in the song below, fairy cakes! 

Would you care to sit with me
For a cup of English tea?
Very twee, very me
Any sunny morning
What a pleasure it would be
Chatting so delightfully

Nanny bakes fairy cakes
Every Sunday morning
Miles of miles of English garden
Stretching past the willow tree
Lines of hollyhocks and roses
Listen most attentively

Do you know the game croquet?
Peradventure we might play
Very gay, hip hooray
Any sunny morning
Miles of miles of English garden
Stretching past the willow tree
Lines of hollyhocks and roses
Listen most attentively

As a rule the church bells chime
When it's almost supper time
Nanny bakes fairy cakes
On a Sunday morning

~~Sir Paul McCartney

Today is a good day for a good day!
 

February 10, 2016

when morning gilds the skies...



Sunrise this morning was spectacular.  I'll focus on the sky today, and it's glorious colors, and try not to think about the wind chill temperatures!  Oh spring, it's time you start thinking about coming back to us.  Until then, I'll remember Mary Oliver's beautiful morning exclamation--these sunrises are a prayer heard and answered lavishly every morning.  My hope is that I am never too busy or stressed to forget to look to the skies where every morning the world is created.

Morning Poem

Every morning
the world
is created.
Under the orange
sticks of the sun
the heaped
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again
and fasten themselves to the high branches —
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands
of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails
for hours, your imagination
alighting everywhere.
And if your spirit
carries within it
the thorn
that is heavier than lead —
if it’s all you can do
to keep on trudging —
there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted —
each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
lavishly,
every morning,
whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.

 by Mary Oliver
from Dream Work (1986) 


Today is a good day for a good day!

February 9, 2016

these are a few...

of my favorite things...


I have a small hallway off my dining room that leads to my bedroom, the library, my office and the guest bath, plus the linen closet.  That's six doors in a very small space, and every single door has a different finish!  It's bizarre, to say the least, and one of my late winter projects (translation=can't garden yet) is to paint all the doors the same color.  When we put the new hardwood floor in our bedroom last year we extended it to the hallway as well, as it was also a victim of the ghastly blue shag carpeting.  I recently put a small bookcase on the one narrow wall in the hallway, and filled it with some of my very favorite things.  

You are my Sunshine, My only Sunshine..

The cheerful Hello sign was a Christmas gift this year from one of my sons.  His gift tag referenced all the mornings when I would serenade him awake, while he tried desperately to pretend he couldn't see his crazy mother at the end of the bed, or hear her warbling You are my Sunshine like Willie Nelson. Such great memories!!


This past summer my daughter and I were browsing through a sweet little gift shop when I spied this book/birdhouse.  I was smitten the moment I saw Trixie's smiling face.  I was never a Nancy Drew fan, having given my heart early on to Trixie Belden and Honey Wheeler.  My daughter remembered how my eyes lit up at this gorgeous book turned birdhouse and gave it to me for Christmas.  Oh the memories it brings back of lazy summer afternoons, curled up with the exploits and adventures of Trixie and Honey!

Here's a view of the top of the birdhouse--we see you peeking through the window!!


When I was a little girl, the Natale family moved to my hometown from Pietramelara, Italy.  The father, Pasquale, worked at a local supermarket and later he and his wife opened a home style restaurant, where they were well known for their world class cooking.  I went to school with one of their sons, and one of their daughters, Fernanda, became an excellent artist.  I've spoken of my father's hand carved canes before, and in gratitude of my father giving a cane to Pasquale and another cane to his brother from Italy, Fernanda gave my dad this painting, Iris No. 2. Because I shared my dad's love of irises, he later passed it on to me.  I absolutely love this painting with its soft muted shades of peach and blue.  It brings back wonderful memories of my dad eagerly browsing through his Schreiner's Iris Catalog when it arrived each year, marking which bulbs he absolutely had to order.  I have descendants of his irises growing in my garden, and I think of Dad every time one blooms.


How lucky I am to have so many happy memories!  Every time I pass through this hallway I take a few seconds to pause and reflect on how blessed I am with my family, and how very grateful I am for this life of mine.  It is my own small doorway into thanks.

Praying
It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.
~ Mary Oliver ~

Today is a good day for a good day!

February 8, 2016

these are a few...



of my favorite things (you know you are now going to have that song running through your head the rest of the day, but perhaps that is not a bad thing for a Monday morning!)


Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things
 
We didn't have raindrops this morning, but instead a light dusting of snow appeared over night.  It's so pretty right now, even if the lovely weekend temperatures are supposed to take a dive!  My teakettle isn't copper, but it certainly whistled cheerfully last night while I prepared the tea for our Downton Abbey viewing!
 

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things.

No cream colored ponies (I don't think wild turkeys and a couple of coyotes in our neighborhood are even close) but I did have a wonderful piece of apple strudel yesterday at Barnes and Noble--I love spending a Sunday afternoon browsing through stacks of magazines and books, while sipping a cup of tea in the cafe tucked at the back of the store.  It's a lovely way to peruse all those beautiful home and garden magazines that are way too expensive to consider bringing home!
 
Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things
 
I saw a picture recently on Pinterest that used part of the lyrics from My Favorite Things, and after assembling a few things from home plus a trip to my favorite antiques store, I was able to create my own display.  I am so pleased with how it turned out, and it's a nice way to still celebrate winter after the holidays with a few of my favorite things.  The fairy jar was a Christmas gift from my daughter, and I found the two mercury glass balls at my favorite antiques store.  The mercury glass jar was on clearance at JoAnn Fabrics, as were the charming little putz houses.


 
 
I had gathered the pine cones on our vacation last fall, and found this pretty vintage ornament to tuck in with them...

(dang, I see a few extraneous items have been tucked into my pewter plate along with the pinecones!)

Here is the full display, which also gives me the opportunity to still use my lovely vintage white pitcher and kerosene lamp.  My "inspiration picture" used a sign instead of a chalkboard, but I thought the chalkboard will prove more versatile, as I'm already thinking how I can change things up for Easter!
 

 When the dog bites, when the bee stings
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad.

Hopefully there will be no dog bites or bee stings today, but it is Monday, so I'll hum this song on the way to work with a few of my favorite things tucked in my heart for good keeping!

Today is a good day for a good day!

January 29, 2016

this beautiful world...

Whoo-hoo....the weekend is fast approaching!  A few more hours and it will be "date night".  As we have matured (we have wisely decided to not ever use the phrase growing older) going out on Friday nights has lost a bit of its sparkle.  Crowded, noisy bars/restaurants full of incredibly young people has lost its allure. But hanging out at home with my best friend?


That never grows old!  Nor does a lovely bottle of wine, a wedge of my favorite British Wensleydale cheese studded with cranberries, and long, rambling trips down memory road with soft candlelight casting shadows in the room and one of our beloved LPs playing in the background.


All that's left is to decide which album to choose first....the Stylistics? Fifth Dimension? Neil Diamond? Chicago? Or a little Simon and Garfunkel to put a happy smile on my face?


I'm sure laundry and grocery shopping will appear somewhere on the radar this weekend, but for the most part I plan to CRAFT.  This time of year always gives me a bit of cabin fever, and home projects keep me busy and not missing my back deck and garden quite so much.  And right now the projects are piling up!  I have three special birthday gifts I hope to complete this weekend, plus I finally found the perfect fabric for new family room window valances.  But, my friends, you know how it goes!  If you Give a Mouse a Cookie....you'll also want to paint a couple of walls to match the valances!  I also need to finish a baby cap I'm knitting, order yarn for a new baby blanket, and finish a special quilt for Lily.  I have more than enough to keep busy until I can get outside again.  Of course, my brain is swirling with ideas for my garden and side deck as well...!!

But I'll be sure to slow down Sunday evening in time to watch the next episode of Downton Abbey.  I have had such fun the past few weeks trying new recipes and sipping tea in style while watching this wonderful Masterpiece Theater production.  I guess it's time to crack open the cookbooks and find the perfect recipe for this weekend!


And because I am so very lucky to have someone special to hold hands with tonight, I thought it was the perfect time for another incredible love poem by Mary Oliver, A Voice from I Don't Know Where.

It seems you love this world very much.
“Yes,” I said. “This beautiful world.” 

And you don’t mind the mind, that keeps you 
busy all the time with its dark and bright wonderings?
“No, I’m quite used to it. Busy, busy, 
all the time.” 

And you don’t mind living with those questions, 
I mean the hard ones, that no one can answer?
“Actually, they’re the most interesting.”

And you have a person in your life whose hand 
you like to hold?
“Yes, I do.” 

It must surely, then, be very happy down there 
in your heart. 
“Yes,” I said. “It is.”

January 27, 2016

Cold blows the wind from east to west...

I have to agree with Robert Burns this time of year---up early in the morning is not for me, when the hills are covered with snow!  And yet, here I am, again, up way before dawn, peering out into the blackness and wondering if there will be even a hint of sunshine to offer hope on another dark January day.

We had a few more inches of snow the last two days, resulting in pretty scenery outside my door:




and visits from a few intrepid souls that don't seem to mind the wind as much as I do...


We have had coyote sightings the last couple of weeks in our neighborhood, and every morning I peek outside to see if there are any unfamiliar paw prints in the snow.  So far I haven't glimpsed them, but since I've seen raccoons, ground hogs, wild turkeys, deer, and a gorgeous red fox in my yard over the past few years I bet I'll catch a glimpse of them at some point.  It still amazes me that I have so much wildlife in the heart of the city!

But a glance out of my kitchen window this morning as I quietly make the coffee shows only darkness and more snow, so I'll turn to the warm and steady glow of a candle  instead to light my way towards morning.  Cold winds outside, but warm hearts inside!


Up in the Morning Early
 
Cauld blaws the wind frae east to west,
   The drift is driving sairly;
Sae loud and shrill’s I hear the blast,
   I’m sure it’s winter fairly.

Up in the morning’s no for me,
   Up in the morning early;
When a’ the hills are cover’d wi’ snaw,
   I’m sure its winter fairly.

The birds sit chittering in the thorn,
   A’ day they fare but sparely;
And lang’s the night frae e’en to morn,
   I’m sure it’s winter fairly.

Up in the morning’s no for me,
   Up in the morning early;
When a’ the hills are cover’d wi’ snaw,
   I’m sure its winter fairly.

And no matter how hard the cold wind blows, or how loud and shrill its blast, let's still remember that 
Today is a Good Day for a Good Day!