February 28, 2013

The Big Reveal!

Oh boy, I feel like I'm the host of one of HGTV's makeover shows!  Lights, camera, action...it's time for my 'crafty' closet reveal!  (drumroll....)

(for a little closet)

Whoooo loves the finished bookcase?  (sorry, that was a terrible pun).  But I couldn't resist this white owl vase at Michael's, on sale for $5, the perfect container for my scissors and a cheerful reminder of my new backyard resident.  Walmart's little plastic bins hold my measuring tapes, buttons and ribbons, and I also picked up enough magazine holders to house my collection of HGTV, Victoria, Where Women Create and Artful Blogging.  (Lest you think this is ALL of my magazine collection, I rush to assure you that the remainder of my beloved Victoria magazines are in my library.)

I now finally have a safe place to put my cross stitch frame when it's not in use.  I love using it and it makes cross stitching easier on my hands since I don't have to hold a hoop anymore. It also holds the pattern at a perfect height and distance and has a magnetic strip to keep my needles and embroidery scissors close at hand.  But when I'm finished for the night it doesn't look very artistic perched on top of the piano!  I already had the lamp and used a plain white frame to show off a little more of the colorful Chicago paper. 

And it simply wouldn't be a reflection of who I am if I didn't have a reminder of my parents displayed.  The pink card is my first Valentine card from my dad..  I came across it recently and thought it would look perfect on my bookcase, as he is never far from my thoughts. 

Isn't my mother beautiful?  I love this picture of her, taken when she was in her early twenties.  (Sorry, Mother, I know it's not one of your favorite pictures, but it makes me smile every time I look at it.)

And here's the final picture for today.  I had planned on showing off the whole closet, but I had more pictures than I realized!  Here is how the right side of the closet turned out:

The pretty floral decals were on sale at Shopko, and I already had the box and baskets.  Did you spot my Barbie Date Night game in its new place of honor?  I also hung a picture collage I made for my daughter her freshman year of college, which has pictures of the two of us when she turned one and again when she was eighteen.  It has a sweet quote from Winnie the Pooh that I'll leave with you today, and tomorrow I'll be back for.....the rest of the story! (please tell me you know Paul Harvey)

February 27, 2013

"Create" a closet!

I don't remember a time that I wasn't interested in 'crafting', starting with designing my own paper dolls and creating fabric outfits for them when I was six.  I have focused primarily on needlework, including embroidery, stamped and counted cross-stitch, knitting and quilting (beginner status!), although I have also spent time stamping, scrapbooking, journaling and a little mixed media.  I have craft books and magazines, projects and supplies scattered throughout my house, tucked away in nooks and crannies and I am always forgetting what I put where.  This lack of organization can lead to a lot of frustration when I lose part of my crafting time searching for the right pattern or piece of fabric! 

So as I shared yesterday, it was time to tackle my daughter's unused closet and reclaim it as a dedicated crafting area where I can retreat and reconnect with my creative side after a day spent staring at a computer screen and working with decidedly uncreative Excel spreadsheets.  My goal was to spend no more than $100 for this re-do, so I used my husband's motto of 'improvise, adapt and overcome' to creatively re-purpose furniture and supplies I had around the house.

First step, clear out the closet and freshen it up with a coat of paint.  My daughter's room is sky blue, with white fluffy clouds that I painted on the ceiling.  I wanted a lighter color in the closet though, so I chose the spring green from her pale yellow, blue and green bed quilt to harmonize with the blue. Blue sky, green grass colors--can you tell I'm tired of winter? While the paint was drying I covered the shelf with grey marbleized contact paper to hide the ugly brown board.  First thing that went in was my inspiration print-- Paula Vaughn's Delicate Beauties and a small tea pot filled with silk flowers.  I love this print--it harkens back to a calmer, more genteel way of life, and makes me happy every time I look at it. 

To store my yarns I hung a clear vinyl shoe organizer on the side of the closet.  It is perfect for keeping my yarns and needles together with the right patterns.  No more hunting for a pair of elusive knitting needles!

Next came a new white bookcase from Target.  Thanks to my husband's assembly skills it was put together and in the closet in no time!  
While utilitarian, there wasn't much 'oomph' to the bookcase, so I jazzed it up by inserting paper wrapped foam boards on the back of the bookcase.  I had foam core left over from another project, so it was quick work to wrap the boards in cheerful paper that I found on my recent trip to Chicago. The light green background of the paper matched the new wall color perfectly and the pinkish/red flowers add a great pop of color.  Simply measure the back of the shelf, wrap the board like a present, carefully wedge it into place, and presto-change-o--a colorful bookcase!

Tomorrow I'll show you the finishing touches in the closet.  It feels so good to have a dedicated place to create!

Happiness is:

 Pauline North

An artistic squiggle
A toddler’s giggle
It’s a warm glow inside
The sky at dawn
A baby being born
Its that feeling of deep joy
A sparkling waterfall
A crisp cuckoo’s call
It’s a lightness in your life.
Only beauty abounds
No discordant sounds
It’s knowing you are free.

February 26, 2013

The time has come, the Walrus said...

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things;
Of shoes and ships and sealing wax,
Of cabbages and kings...."
While these aren't little oysters begging for more stories from the Walrus,  I do think these little guys look like they are begging for a closet re-do!
Lately every time I opened my daughter's bedroom and looked at her closet, I was reminded of the Walrus' hodgepodge list of miscellany.  We took the doors off her large closet years ago and over time it had become the repository for all those bits of flotsam and jetsam that float around the house looking for a place to land.  

Right side of closet--purses, old lampshade, and the glass top to an old coffee table I'm restoring (thanks to Willow's energetic teething!)
One of my favorite magazines is Stampington & Company's Where Women Create, which has me oohing and aah-ing over the beautiful and creative work spaces that women carve out for themselves.  It finally dawned on me that I had could also create such a space for myself...I just had to think outside the box a little.  Or in this case, think outside the closet!

Spoiler alert:  this next picture IS NOT my house!
Seriously...wouldn't you just feel like you had died and gone to heaven with a craft room like this?!

I must confess, it's a little embarrassing to show these 'before' closet pictures, but I try to keep it real in my blog and not just show the pretty side of my life, so here it is.  Please tell me you have tucked-away corners like this in your home too!

Old computer desk, wallpaper, storage boxes, miscellaneous books and on the floor--my 'new' Barbie Date Night game!
With my daughter in college and newly engaged, she is only home to visit on weekends and over the holidays, so as long as I keep her bed so she has a place to lay her head at night, I feel no qualms about commandeering her closet for my own creative nook.  Join me tomorrow for the first peek at my closet reclamation!

The Closet

Joel Bjorling
The bulging closet is
Breaking the hinged door,
And mildew is starting
To saturate the carpet floor;
I need to take a day--
Oh, God, may it be soon--
To plunge into the rummage
Before it reaches to the moon.

It took a crowbar
To open the door;
There was a solid wall of "stuff",
How could there be room for more?
Blankets, bedspreads, boxes,
Crayons, tattered pants, and shoes,
A bicycle, a skateboard,
And a forgotten game of Clue.

A couple of times,
I was nearly sucked into the mire,
Kicking to escape
From a twisted, inner-tube tire;
One hasty move
Could cause an avalanche,
And, heaven knows,
I'd never have a chance.

Finally, after digging and pitching,
The closet was clean,
Thanks to Fabreze and Murphy's Soap,
It's now a gem to be seen;
I defeated the smelly dragon
And he's gone without a trace;
The closet is organized,
With everything in place.

February 25, 2013

Sundays with Willow

Yesterday was one of those days where I found myself sadly lacking in ambition or energy, with no desire to tackle any projects.  I had plenty of things that needed doing around the house, but no motivation to do anything except curl up on the sofa, read a good mystery and play with my dog.  And let me tell you, she was delighted to have this unexpected time to snuggle!  Willow takes the term LAP DOG to a whole new level! After my shih-tzu Belle left us in 2011 I vowed to never again have a pet, as the pain of losing them is so very great.  But after a few months, the house was too quiet and I knew it was time to open our hearts and our arms and welcome a new member of the family.  My husband, who was devastated when we lost Belle, was strong armed gently persuaded to help us in the hunt for our new shih-tzu and it was he that found our Willow Jade and brought her home.  She was so tiny and so quiet that the first few days we thought perhaps we had ended up with a bark-less dog, but as she settled in she found her voice and her spirit and has been happily loving and entertaining us ever since.

Willow perched like Snoopy on top of his doghouse, although her favorite spot is the top of the family room sofa.  From this vantage point she is poised to leap at unsuspecting family members that cross her path.  Her eyes aren't really that green, but green enough that her middle name is Jade!
She plays and plays and plays... (this isn't Willow, by the way...she looks just like this when she runs but I can't get the picture taken without her being just a blur!)
but isn't averse to a good ol' nap!
The New Dog  
by Linda Pastan
Into the gravity of my life,
the serious ceremonies
of polish and paper
and pen, has come

this manic animal
whose innocent disruptions
make nonsense
of my old simplicities--

as if I needed him
to prove again that after
all the careful planning,
anything can happen.

February 22, 2013

I am in need of music...

“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”

―  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I have this quote pinned to the board above my computer at work, where I can read it everyday and remind myself to not let daily life blot out my appreciation for the 'sense of the beautiful.' 
Pinned Image
It's Friday and after a long week at work and doing taxes and filling out financial aid forms in the evening, I am so ready for the weekend and a little r&r.  The weekend officially starts this evening with a chamber orchestra concert featuring world renowned violinist Tasmin Little.  She was recently awarded the prestigious Order of the British Empire from Queen Elizabeth and I am so excited that I have the opportunity to hear her in person.  I would agree with Elizabeth Bishop today--I am in need of music that will touch my soul and wash away the cares of the work week. 


Sonnet (1928)

I am in need of music that would flow
Over my fretful, feeling finger-tips,
Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,
With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.
Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low,
Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,
A song to fall like water on my head,
And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!

There is a magic made by melody:
A spell of rest, and quiet breath, and cool
Heart, that sinks through fading colors deep
To the subaqueous stillness of the sea,
And floats forever in a moon-green pool,
Held in the arms of rhythm and of sleep.

Pinned Image

Have a wonderful day! 

February 21, 2013

Stella and Naomi

If you have a garden and a library... 

If this sign is correct, then I am indeed a blessed woman!  My bookshelves are overflowing (more on my plans to 'weed' out my library collection on a later post) and my garden is hibernating, waiting for spring to return and wake it up.  And in a happy coincidence, my library window looks out into my garden!  What more could I ask for?  I could, I suppose, ask for spring to arrive soon or today's snowstorm to disappear, but I know it will all happen at the right time.

I thought today I would share two additional 'memory' plants with you from my garden.  My dad's mother had two special sisters, Aunt Naomi and Aunt Stella.  They were both widowed rather young and were devoted to each other, living together until Naomi's death, at which time Stella moved to South Dakota to be with all of us.  During college I used to take the Greyhound bus from Lawrence, Kansas to their Missouri home, where I would be pampered all weekend.  I was 500 miles from home and frequently homesick and my visits to those two wonderful women were high points for me.  I am lucky enough to now enjoy the special china in my home that Stella would set out for me when I visited, making me feel like an honored guest.  I proudly use it as my "Sunday best" and think loving thoughts of her with every dish I set out.  

English Johnson Brothers Devonshire pattern
During one visit Aunt Stella sorted through a trunk full of linens in the basement and gifted me with a beautiful pink quilt she had hand stitched years before.  I treasure it and display in in my library, where it brings back gentle reminders of the sweetness and kindness of two gentle women.  
Aunt Stella, Aunt Naomi, my dad and me, @ 1974
So of course my garden has to include something that reminds me of Stella and Naomi, and what better than cheerful daylilies that bring exuberant color to the garden?  I have lined my garden walk with vibrant yellow Stella D'Oro lilies:

Taken last year in mid-spring, so the garden isn't  filled out yet
and I filled in one side of my perennial garden with Naomi Ruth daylilies, whose beautiful apricot/orange hues blend well with the purple Russian sage.  And as luck would have it, Ruth was my grandmother's name!  So there you have it, three sisters all hanging out in my garden, brightening my world every day.

 Here's a pretty little poem that salutes my daylilies (title and author unknown):

Awake, glorious belle,
Come out in your apricot gown
With silent trumpet sounding

Morning dew lies sweetly
Upon petals of flesh
Let the breeze caresses you
And send you dancing in sun’s spotlight

Rejoice in your day
Evening comes too soon

Wilting, folding inward
You bow your head and wonder
If anyone even noticed you there

Take heart
The Creator saw all
And sends comforting words
Floating on night winds
“Well done”

Do not Disturb

 Have a wonderful Thursday, and stay warm!

February 20, 2013

Garden memories

The weather people kept their promise yesterday...they promised COLD and that's what Mother Nature delivered!  This cold streak, coupled with the promise of yet more snow tomorrow has me on a 'wish it was summer and I was in my garden' streak.  I started my garden 'from scratch'--the former homeowners were both blind and had no interest in landscaping, so I inherited a completely blank slate for a yard.  No shrubs, plants or flowers at all!  But with a house full of kids plus a demanding and time-consuming career my garden kind of grew like topsy...no time to truly plan it out.  I knew I wanted mostly perennials so I've had to be patient while plants have established themselves and grown over the past nine years.  But the one thing I did plan right from the beginning was to incorporate some special  memories amidst my plants.

Here are some of the 'memory keepers' currently in my garden:

At one time my dad was passionate about iris, and had over 40 varieties in his own garden.  He was always quick to share when it came time to divide the iris so a number of family members and friends had bulbs they willingly shared with me when it came time to start my garden.  I love knowing that they are descended from the flowers my dad loved so much.  And when it comes down to it, nothing beats the sweet, sweet fragrance of iris in bloom!

Dad's iris, circa 1970.  The mug is perched on top of our family camper, I have no idea why!

one of Dad's 'offspring' !  2012

I have pink simplicity roses lining the perimeter of my garden in memory of my sweet niece, Rosie, who sadly passed away as we were buying this house.  She loved flowers and I think of her so often as I tend my roses.

Invicibelle hydrangea
We lost our beloved shih-tsu, Belle, shortly after my father.  She is buried underneath our lilac bushes, and in her memory we planted a beautiful hydrangea that bears her name and describes her spirit.

One idyllic evening my mother and I had the opportunity to stroll through Queen Mary's Rose Garden at Regent's Park in London.  We came across a beautiful bed of delphiniums and we couldn't believe their beauty and their size.  I now have a giant delphinium that reminds me of that wonderful time with my mom.  It makes me happy every time I look at it.

Mother and I, Quuen Mary's Rose Garden at Regent Park, London 1997

Believe it or not, this is all ONE plant!
I have an armillary!  When my husband and I visited the gardens at Falkland Palace, the favorite castle of Mary Queen of Scots, we turned a corner and came face to face with a gorgeous giant armillary covered in ivy.  I thought it quite lovely and simply had to have one for my own garden.  I can't say I've been too successful with growing ivy around it, but I love it all the same. 
Scanned picture from my photo album, Scotland 2004

My garden armillary surrounded with cheerful coreopsis and daisies
So here is a sneak peek at some of the flowers that make me smile and bring back happy memories as I tend my garden.  It may still be winter outside, but spring can't be too far away. One of my favorite poets, Emily Dickinson, loved her gardens and many of her poems are about her garden flowers and her enjoyment of nature. As the snow keeps coming and the winds keep blowing, it's nice to remember that a little 'spring madness' will eventually arrive!

A little madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King,
But God be with the Clown —
Who ponders this tremendous scene —
This whole Experiment of Green —
As if it were his own!

Happy Wednesday!  May your day be filled with warmth and love. 

February 19, 2013

Winter doldrums

"February, when the days of winter seem endless and no amount of wistful recollecting can bring back any air of summer."
-  Shirley Jackson, Raising Demons

Blech.  It's Tuesday, and last weekend seems a long time ago, and next weekend too far away to truly anticipate yet.  It's one of those days to just get through, even though you know in your heart you should appreciate the gift of another day and spend it wisely.  But it is COLD out and worse, the roads are slippery and it's snowing.  It's supposed to drop to -20 wind chill tonight and more snow is on the way. 

"Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow, and, driving o'er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight: the withered air
Hides hills and woods, the river, and the heaven,
And veils the farm-house at the garden's end.
The sled and traveler stopped, the courier's feet
Delayed, all friends shut out, and housemates sit
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed
In a tumultuous privacy of storm."
-  Ralph Waldo Emerson

At this point, what is keeping me going are the cheery arrival of garden catalogs.  Deep in the heart of a Midwestern winter, it's so wonderful to curl up after work with a cup of tea and a stack of catalogs that promise that spring will come once again, that sunshine and warmth will return and that my garden will once again be filled with blooms. 

My lilacs will fill the air with their amazing fragrance.

My iris (descendants from my dad's iris collection) will proudly bloom.

My roses will greet the sun.

But until the spring magic happens, a big thank you goes to White Flower Farm, whose spring catalog is keeping me from going snow crazy!

February 18, 2013

The ordinary man

no ordinary quotes

When I was in Chicago a couple of weeks ago, my friend and I passed by the old Chicago library, now the Chicago Cultural Center.  We usually make time to stop inside--it's a beautiful old building and the architecture alone is worth a visit. 

We've sometimes caught free Sunday afternoon classical concerts in the beautiful Preston Bradley Hall, where the music integrates seamlessly with the stunning room.

Chicago Cultural Center Concert

We also can't resist the allure of the Art-o-Mat.  An Art-o-Mat is a retired cigarette vending machine, converted into original art dispensers and displayed in city art museums worldwide.  This particular machine has been at the Cultural Center since 2000, and we get a kick out of picking our very own original art for two dollars--who could resist such a deal?!

We didn't have time to stop by this visit, but we were intrigued as to what kind of exhibit prompted these big banners hanging all around the perimeter of the building.  All the hype at present is about how you should strive to be extraordinary, so the banners were a little jarring.

Over the weekend I was thinking about all the men in my life--my father (who would have celebrated his 89th birthday on Saturday), my grandfathers, uncles, cousins, and my brothers, as well as the most important men in my life--my husband and my sons.  All men of extraordinary character, but men who lead quiet, ordinary lives.  Men who care for their families, try to do their level best at all times, and show up on time for their commitments to their employers, their churches, their friends and their families.  No hype, no drama, occasionally overworked, usually underpaid, but always loving and ready to lend a helping hand.  I guess my vote is for ordinary...who could want more than this?

The Ordinary Man
Robert W. Service

If you and I should chance to meet,
I guess you wouldn't care;
I'm sure you'd pass me in the street
As if I wasn't there;
You'd never look me in the face,
My modest mug to scan,
Because I'm just a commonplace
       And Ordinary Man.

But then, it may be, you are too
A guy of every day,
Who does the job he's told to do
And takes the wife his pay;
Who makes a home and kids his care,
And works with pick or pen. . . .
Why, Pal, I guess we're just a pair
       Of Ordinary Men.

We plug away and make no fuss,
Our feats are never crowned;
And yet it's common coves like us
Who make the world go round.
And as we steer a steady course
By God's predestined plan,
Hats off to that almighty Force:
For my blogging friends who were expecting to see a post about Downton Abbey's season finale today, all I can say is I need a little time to recover from the ending.  Maybe I can gather my thoughts on the finale later this week, but for now I'm sticking to more 'ordinary' posts!