March 23, 2016

I'm not sure what tomorrow's weather will hold for us, as the storm maps have been jumping all over the place in terms of how much snow we are going to receive.  But that is outside.  INSIDE, our house says spring has arrived!

My dining room buffet top has changed from celebrating all things Irish to gentle reminders that spring is here.

This pretty cake stand is a great way to display my two little Lefton china figurines and a tiny teapot from Bath, England.  I love the little lamb's expression!

Sorry for the lighting in this picture--even with the flash off it was hard to get a good shot of this sweet little goslings picture.  This hung in my grandmother's home in Indiana when I was a little girl, and I was so touched when my mother gave it to me a few years ago.  It usually hangs in my library but it seems just right for an Easter display!


And next to the goslings is my prized McCoy vase, filled with pink and green flowers that match the plate to its right.

The plate is a new addition, but with all my children coming home for Easter, it seemed apropos.  I love having a home where my loved ones want to gather together.

Even my hibiscus wants to jump on the spring bandwagon!!

In my family room, I took a decorating tip from Joanna Gainers from HGTV's Fixer Upper show and used a few vintage books in my spring mantel display...

I think my little figurine is waiting patiently for those April showers to arrive!  She's perched on one of my all-time favorite books, and behind her is one of the pansy prints from my mother's birthday celebration last year.

Hopefully flowers will soon be blooming outside, just like they are on this little cottage!  The title of the book sums up this blog (and me) pretty well.

Here's a spring poem from Longfellow to cheer us up in spite of the weather forecast.  I can't wait for more glittering sun and clear blue skies!  We'll celebrate Longfellow's The Return of Spring today, even if tomorrow we return to winter!

Now Time throws off his cloak again
Of ermined frost, and wind, and rain,
And clothes him in the embroidery
Of glittering sun and clear blue sky.
With beast and bird the forest rings,
Each in his jargon cries or sings;
And Time throws off his cloak again.
Of ermined frost, and wind, and rain.

River, and fount, and tinkling brook
Wear in their dainty livery
Drops of silver jewelry;
In new-made suit they merry look;
And Time throws off his cloak again
Of ermined frost, and wind, and rain.

But rain or shine (or even snow) shouldn't stop us from remembering that


March 21, 2016

"If Spring came but once in a century, instead of once a year, or burst forth with the sound of an earthquake, and not in silence, what wonder and expectation would there be in all hearts to behold the miraculous change?   

~~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Sometimes it's the little things in life that bring the most pleasure.  A date night with my husband, browsing at the antiques store, and scattering small touches of spring around my home brought a smile to my face and quiet contentment to my soul this weekend.  Hanging a cheerful reminder in the kitchen...

and enjoying a hot cup of coffee early in the morning from my favorite coffee mug, with the luxury of a whole day stretching before me with no demands on my time...

other than watching my sweet dog sit and wait for unsuspecting passers-by to catch her attention was enough.

The afternoon light highlighted a simple bouquet of flowers, adding grace and beauty to a room...

and the sunlight streaming through my bay window cast rainbows around my living room.

Emily Dickinson knew a thing or two about that special light that spring brings with its arrival...

A LIGHT exists in spring
  Not present on the year
At any other period.
  When March is scarcely here
A color stands abroad
  On solitary hills
That silence cannot overtake,
  But human nature feels.
It waits upon the lawn;
  It shows the furthest tree
Upon the furthest slope we know;
  It almost speaks to me.
Then, as horizons step,
  Or noons report away,
Without the formula of sound,
  It passes, and we stay:
A quality of loss
  Affecting our content,
As trade had suddenly encroached
  Upon a sacrament.

I hope we all find the light today, and let its beams fill our hearts with joy!

March 18, 2016

Holidays and traditions just naturally go together.  Ever since my children were quite small I have been ladling leprechaun soup into their bowls on St. Patrick's Day.  Serving vegetable cheese soup didn't make them jump up and down for joy, but adding a dash of " magic leprechaun juice" to the pot and renaming it certainly did the trick!  Add in an oh-so-easy loaf of homemade Irish soda bread and somehow this super easy meal became our traditional Irish repast.  Corned beef and cabbage was never going to make the list with my picky eaters! 

And we always capped off our meal with a viewing of Disney's Darby O'Gill and the Little People.  What's not to love about tricky leprechauns, Irish fiddle music and a ridiculously young Sean Connery singing My Darling Irish Girl?  If you don't believe me, you can catch his performance here!

My family is all grown up now, but it's fun to still cook the familiar foods and celebrate, even if the number of bowls around the table is much smaller now.  I was so touched last week when my oldest son requested my recipes so he could start making leprechaun soup for Lily! 

I had lunch downtown yesterday at my favorite Irish pub (another tradition!), and the Capitol looked so beautiful in the sunlight.

I had forgotten how much I enjoy the hustle and bustle of downtown, especially when you encounter kilted bagpipers!!

Before we say Slán (goodbye) to Ireland I thought I'd share my favorite Irish poem with you.  In a recent poll of Irish Times' readers W.B. Yeats' The Lake Isle of Innisfree was named Ireland's favorite poem, but I'm more fond of his beautiful He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven.     

Door County sunset, July 2015
May your day be filled with warmth and whimsy and a lingering touch of leprechaun magic!

March 17, 2016

So the Dickens Village is all packed up and safely tucked away for next year.  But time stops for no woman, so just as the seasons keep on changing, so do my seasonal home touches.  I hesitate to use the popular but seriously over-used word "vignettes" and frankly, I am just not creative enough or have enough time to spend hours creating perfect little scenes to celebrate the changing seasons. But I do enjoy adding a few little touches here and there, just to freshen things up a bit.  I'm rather picky when it comes to St. Patrick's Day, because I really don't like the over-commercialized little leprechauns and pots of gold, but instead prefer a more muted and vintage approach. 

My dining room buffet changed from "Silver White Winters" to a green landscape...

 I used a lovely little cottage from my Dickens Village, plus pewter pieces I've collected from different visits to Mt. Vernon.  It was fun to use my vintage cake stands to display the cottage and also a green cup and saucer from the Tower of London.  I think my little fairy adds the appropriate touch of whimsy just as well as a leprechaun would!

I couldn't find a banner I liked so I ended up making my own.  I used gorgeous cardstock from a collection titled "Once Upon a Time" and painted chipboard letters black, brushed with metallic gold.  Sláinte!!

My mantel in the family room changed from pink to the appropriate green...

I found vintage Irish postcards for the banner, and I love how easy it is to find free printable signs on the internet!  I added some silk greenery that I already had on hand - a new mantel display in under ten minutes!

I think I have recycled these burlap wedding pew bows as much as I can! I've decorated them for Thanksgiving, Christmas, winter time, Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day, just by tucking in a new small vintage card.  I don't think Easter eggs or American flags will look quite right with the burlap, but who knows? I may find just the right touch!

I'll leave you with the lovely Irish blessing that my sons sang in elementary honors choir, and my hope that all of you will have a blessed day.  

March 16, 2016

It's March!  The daffodils are starting to stretch their little stalks out of the ground and wave hello.  The birds have rediscovered their songs and are merrily chirping outside while I get ready for work.  My back garden is free of snow and I can see my hyacinths starting their journey to the light.  But indoors? My Dickens village is still up - the last remnant of the holidays - and it's time to pack it up.  Probably past time, but my family so enjoys how the village cast its soft glow all night in the family room, so I keep it up until the last snowflake has disappeared outdoors.  Good-bye, London!!

 Goodbye, charming little residential area on the outskirts of town, where Charles Dickens writes at home at his beloved Gad's Hill...

 Goodbye to the hustle and bustle of the market square, Victoria Station, St. Martin's in the Fields, and Buckingham Palace...

  Goodbye to all the wonderful performances at the Globe!  Your merry band of entertainers have kept us well amused over the holidays.

Goodbye River Thames and brave little skaters!  Goodbye to the gin distillery that provides me with all the gin I need for my lovely Pimms Cups!

 Goodbye loyal and faithful Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London!  Keep the ravens safe and well fed until next year!

 "They're changing guards at Buckingham Palace
Christopher Robin went down with Alice..."

 Goodbye wonderful musicians whose beautiful strains of God Bless You Merry Gentlemen you can hear very softly at night, if you listen with your heart instead of your ears...

Please keep the chestnuts hot and the gingerbread crispy until we meet again!

Dickens Village, you bring me so much joy!  That is, of course, after I forget about the hours of unpacking and assembling, arranging and re-arranging, multiple trips to the hardware store for replacement light bulbs, plus the countless trips up and down the basement stairs to pack it all away again.  But as Ecclesiastes reminds us, there is a time for everything, and I suppose that also means a time to unpack, and a time to pack it all away.  Thank you, sweet sweet memories, for all the joy you bring my family at winter time!  And now?  On to spring decorating!

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,    
 a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build, 
     a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, 
     a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away, 
     a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak, 
     a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

March 9, 2016

What gets me through the long, dark winter days?  After the holidays I count on the arrival of seed and plant catalogs to brighten up my evenings, as I spend hours flipping through the pages and plotting my spring garden.  Spring hasn't arrived here yet - there is always time for a late blizzard to catch us all off guard in April - but warm weather the last few days has melted the last of the snow and I feel my desire to be outside, messing around in my garden, starting to increase in intensity.

Thank heaven for plants in my solarium that provide a spot of color on those oh-so-dreary winter days!  The promise of little buds that turn into magnificent orchids...

 and Christmas cactus that bloom right on schedule...

Even my local Trader Joe's, that I pass on my way home each night, does its part in providing lovely and affordable bouquets that grace my kitchen and living rooms...

Emily Dickinson must have felt that same early spring fever, when she penned this delightful poem, greeting March like a dear friend come, at last, to visit. Let's all enjoy March's visit, shall we?

Dear March - Come in - 
How glad I am -
I hoped for you before -
Put down your Hat - 
You must have walked -
How out of Breath you are - 
Dear March, how are you, and the Rest -
Did you leave Nature well - 
Oh March, Come right upstairs with me -
I have so much to tell -

I got your Letter, and the Birds - 
The Maples never knew that you were coming -
I declare - how Red their Faces grew -         
But March, forgive me - 
And all those Hills you left for me to Hue - 
There was no Purple suitable - 
You took it all with you -         
Who knocks? That April -
Lock the Door -
I will not be pursued -
He stayed away a Year to call When I am occupied - But trifles look so trivial As soon as you have come That blame is just as dear as Praise And Praise as mere as Blame -

March 4, 2016

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today...

Life can have its spectacular vacations, trips to see loved ones, or adventures in a different city.  But most of our days consist of far less glamorous meetings, trips to the dentist, laundry, grocery shopping, paying bills, shoveling snow.  I've learned to savor the sweet moments of ordinary days to lift my spirits, especially in this rather dreary in-between season where spring teases and winter answers back.  

As I crested the hill right before my driveway last night, the setting sun gave me this spectacular view.  I startled my husband when I ran in the house, flung my purse and gloves on the counter, grabbed my camera and ran back outside, but this picture was worth the scurry.

This morning I awoke to a beautiful sunrise, as captured from my bedroom window.  I love the crescent moon and the pink tinged sky, a lovely welcome to the new day.  It's hard to feel grumpy when your day is book-ended with beauty!

And what about the in-between moments?  Of course there are lots of hours in between sunrise and sunset, so I take delight in the small things that please me.  One of those small things is a simple vase I recently found at my favorite antiques store.  A long time admirer of McCoy pottery, I had found this particular style of vase a few years ago on Ebay, but for a price I wasn't willing to spend (close to $100!!). I have searched for years for a rectangular vase that could serve as a replacement for a favorite graduation gift from a special family member, that was accidentally broken when my children were young.  She was our family's beloved "story lady", a librarian who delighted in telling us fanciful stories that I have passed on to my children.  My "graduation" vase was brown and tall, rather than wide, with lovely flowers on the front.  I've searched for years for a similar one and thought this McCoy vase was particularly nice.  I know I can't really replace a special gift, but a similar one would still remind me of Eva Lois and her gift of magical stories.  

So you can imagine my delight when I found my long-desired vase at the antiques store two weeks ago, for the truly magical price of $18.00!  Not a chip or scratch on it, either.  I absolutely love the yellow bird set in the middle of the vase.  The vase has given me so much pleasure over the last two weeks--filled with cheerful daffodils the first week, and this week sunny alstroemeria grace my kitchen island.  

It really is the little things in life, isn't it?  And of course, for me, one of my favorite simple delights and spirit-lifters is poetry, such as this lovely A Prayer in Spring by Robert Frost.

 Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill. 

Happy Friday, my friends.