Thursday, November 25, 2010

Angels among us

One of the earliest holidays memories I have is from a shopping trip to Roanoke, VA with my grandmother.I was around three, and we were at a department store called Heironimus, and it had a magical display of Christmas ornaments. Gran let me choose one, all of my own, for my tree at home. I chose a tiny angel with a porcelain head and tulle netting body, with little chenille arms,and she was holding a teeny little wand with a star on top. Every year, I placed her on the tree myself. Even now, more than forty years later, she keeps a place of honor among my holiday decorations, mostly because of the tie to my grandmother and those happy memories.

Some people have cookie baking grandmothers, others have storytelling grandmothers, others have far-distant grandmothers, or grandmothers of many other flavors. I was lucky... My Gran lived within a mile of me, and for the first nine years, I was the ONLY for me, she was the ultimate grandmother. I spent almost every weekend with her. She'd pick me up on her way home from work on Fridays, and I went back home sometime Sunday afternoon. Sometimes we cooked, sometimes we did house chores together, and sometimes we shopped or travelled. I went pretty much anywhere she did. We stayed up late, and I was allowed to rummage to my hearts content anywhere in her home. I could dial her phone number all by myself before I was 4 (and did, much to my mother's chagrin, on occasion.) She was my confidante, best friend, and staunchest ally and I learned so very, very much from her. She did things her own way, and on her own schedule. She has always been plain-speaking and direct, with a fiercely independent spirit and an immensely loving heart. She worked hard, and never ever let one of us down. She never broke a promise to me. (How many people can you say that about??) Even after my brother and cousins arrived, she still managed to make each of us feel special. (Don't tell any of them, but I'm still the favorite... or better yet, ask any of them... I'd be willing to bet each of them thinks they held that spot!)

Maya Angelou wrote, “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” I think for most of my family, my grandmother has been that "safe place". She's 93 now, and in failing health. The goal now is to take care of her in the way she's taken care of all of us for so long.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Huh? Tablescaping?

"You're doing whaaaaaaat? What the heck is a tablescape??"

I've heard that question more than once. and yes, I've answered it multiple times as well. My longsuffering son no longer even blinks an eye when he comes in, and the dining room table looks like we're expecting Martha Stewart for dinner, or that I've decided to open a Mexican restaurant, or maybe that it's St. Paddy's Day. In September. It's fun, having the flexibility to create such different scenes, just by changing the dishes and accessories on my table. Flexibility is one of the main reasons Fiesta appeals so much to me. Well, that and the COLOR. I can't draw. I don't sculpt. I can however, take an old tablecloth and use it as a canvas. My dishes and other odds and ends are the paint. Sometimes, my table is utilitarian. Other times, the table is pure whimsy. It can be bold or delicate, simple or complex.

When I was ten, it was an onerous task. I HATED setting the table. Same Corelle dishes. Same placemats. Put ice in the glasses, make sure that the flatware is out and in the right spot. We used paper napkins. I was positive that eventually the drudgery would suck all the life right out of me. Who would ever have dreamed that today it's a form of self-therapy?

Usually, I'll start with the tablecloth. I'll choose by season, or by color, or just because I have one that hasn't been used yet. I'll spend some time, pressing the cloth, getting all the annoying wrinkles out. I'm learning not to do too much preplanning, because often what I "think" will work on a table ends up not suiting me at all. Once I've chosen dish colors, then I can choose napkins, rings, glassware, and other accessories to achieve whatever "look" I'm shooting for. Often, it takes a bit of trial and error before I'm content. On some level, all the activity is relaxing for me. I've never decided whether it's all the decisionmaking or whether it's the creativity that settles me, but in either case, it just works.

Over the last year or so, I've had several opportunities to do tablescapes with friends. What a learning experience! What wonderfully different influences all these ladies have had on me! I found that I approach color very differently than my friend Yvonne. I tend to gravitate toward dominant colors in a tablecloth, while she nearly always chooses subtle blends as a basis for choosing colors to accent. Some friends like their dishes to match, others like to set their tables with settings like mirror images. One friend in particular has this gift for setting the most gloriously welcoming mismatched tables. When I see a photo of hers, I nearly always want to just sit down at her table and just enjoy being there.

This past week, my friend Daphne asked me to do some tablescaping with her.
Sounds simple, until you learn that she's in Boston, and I'm here in Virginia. We've tablescaped in the past. In fact, our friendship started with a shared love for a particularly difficult to find Wilendur tablecloth. We each managed to acquire that cloth within a few weeks of the other. So, it seemed only fair that we each set a table using the cloth. The fun was enhanced when our tables ended up in The Dish, the Fiesta collectors quarterly magazine.

This time, we each have a cloth with fruit and pinecones. The cloths are identical, except that Daphne's cloth is bordered in yellow, mine in a mauve blue. Daphne invited me to be a "guest blogger" on her Tabletop Time site. We didn't discuss what colors we'd use, or even which dishes. It's more fun not to know! You can see the end result of our project at

Monday, August 16, 2010

Don't Worry...Bee Happy

Welcome to the Jungle!

I'm embarrassed by the shape of my back yard this about jungle land...whew. The bees, however, are loving it. I was so entertained this morning watching the bumblebees tumble, roll and dive through the passionflowers and wallow in the crepe myrtle pollen that I grabbed the camera.


I was really happy to see a few honeybees--most of the hives around here were decimated by that fungus a few years back. The bumblebees were the most fun to watch. Some passionflower blooms had up to four bees at a time, but they were so busy doing bee gymnastics that I never could get a picture with them all in focus! I'm pretty sure that if any of them got pulled over, most of them would get citations for bee-ing under the influence.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

An affair with linens.... AKA Tablecloth Insanity

So... it's no real secret that I have dishes all over the place in my house. I use my dishes (yes, even the "rare" ones), so it makes sense that I need a tablecloth or two... vintage tablecloths

I can remember my grandmother always using a tablecloth for family dinners. Mostly it was one big white damask cloth or another, but occasionally she'd use colorful old printed cloths, and I thought even then that there was something special about them. She didn't even care if something got spilled on them. She just worked miracles and got the spots out. Maybe I can blame my fascination with linens on genetics? This is my great-great grandmother...and gee, look at that nice new linen she's propped on... I do have some of her linens, but I don't have that one.

I've found that I really enjoy getting cloths that others have given up on (or never even tried to save) and salvage them. Like my Gran, I've found that I'm fairly good at getting stains out. There's something really satisfying about taking something that someone else didn't think was worth saving and making it useful again. My neighbors likely thought I had lost my mind the day I washed a big lot of old cloths, and put them in the grass to dry in the sun...

I even have a Plan B for those cloths that resist my efforts: They travel cross country to live with my friend R. She sees that they get new life as a bag or some other useful thing.

At any rate, after I started collecting Fiesta, I picked up a cloth or two at estate auctions. I found some other folks online who loved Fiesta and other Homer Laughlin China. I joined HLCCA, and an online messageboard called Collectible Medium Green. Those folks posted pictures. I drooled over those images. Somehow, over the last few years... my one or two tablecloths multiplied and multiplied, and multiplied.

I really didn't think I had *that* many cloths. They lived in various totes and bags, on shelves in my linen closet, and in a drawer in my dining room. When my son moved into his own place a couple of years ago, I suddenly had room in my house for things. I turned his bedroom into a guest room. One problem: he had left the massive cherry gun cabinet that he made in high school here with me. Inspiration struck, and I put plastic shelving from Wal-mart inside the cabinet and started pulling linens out. I had enormous fun, sorting and folding those cloths. Somehow, they filled the cabinet.
And still, I'd find another one that I "needed", or wanted to rehab. I bought books. I gave cloths as gifts. I even had a booth and sold some this year. I expected that to be hard, but instead it was fun seeing someone else getting excited about a color or pattern. It was even more fun knowing that the cloth would be used, and maybe the person would think of me when they did. And that might even be more fun than actually using the cloth myself.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Kitchen Impossible

My kitchen is tiny... you can shake a stick in it, but it had better be a small stick, and you probably ought not stand under the ceiling fan while you're shaking. I don't mind because it suits my 1940's Cape Cod house. It's cozy. The walls are white, appliances and the floor are black and white, but pretty much everything else is Technicolor. The countertops are still the original ripe homegrown tomato red that Mrs. Waddy chose. She and Mr. Waddy built my house, and we're only the 3rd family to live here. Mrs W. had beige walls and flooring, and plain chrome hardware on the (tiny) cabinets...but she must have loved color to have chosen that snappy red for the counters. They're nearly worn out, and I've put off choosing something new for ages... I've looked at quartz and Corian and laminate... agonized over colors, and been shocked at some of the prices... Originally I wanted black,or something dark with little chips of Fiesta-ish colors, but it's hard to think about walking into the kitchen and not having my old faithful countertop... Who on earth other than me could get sentimental about laminate??? I mean, really. You can see a snippet of it as a backsplash at the sink and under the window.

Mostly, I don't notice how small my kitchen is, because I'm usually the only one in it. Other people are usually distracted by all the Fiesta, so it's unusual for anyone to mention anything else. I do wish I had more storage, but it's probably better for my wallet that I don't. Besides, I really don't want a recurring guest spot on Hoarders. Really. Don't.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

In the garden of weedin'

One of the problems with loving flowers and deciding to have a big flower garden is that you have to stay on top of all the chores that come along with it. Sure, mulch helps keep the weeds down, and having mostly perennials saves a lot of labor, but gardens require ongoing maintenance...and the last couple of years have been challenging for me. This year, my knee is healed, and hopefully I can get things in better order.

It's hard to know where to start... Should I be methodical? Should I just plan to set the timer and do whatever strikes my fancy for that period of time and assume that eventually I'll get to all of it? Maybe I should just scrap the whole thing, and start over...? Nah. Too many neat things for me to do that! I can see Jack in the Pulpit peeking around the overgrown spirea, and the crocosima has multiplied a lot... there are peonies and roses blooming, iris and columbine, too.

Maybe I should just take the camera out, and show you...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Home Again

Last week this time, I was wandering the maze of tents known as the Brimfield Antique Show and Flea Market. I knew beforehand that this was a huge event, but somehow I still managed to be amazed at the sheer size. Brimfield is an easy drive from Boston, MA, and my friend D. invited a couple of us to come and stay at her house go with her to the Show. We decided to go Wednesday and Thursday, and the weather was, well... interesting. Wednesday's rain and chill meant we had layers of clothing, as well as rain gear on. Crowds were sparse, and I spent the day taking my gloves off and putting them back on. We all found some treasures and were well-pleased with our treasures. Thursday was sunny and hot,another wonderful dish friend joined us, and the crowds were massive.

Here we are at the start of our Thursday jaunt:


By the end of the day, we were a lot more wilted, but a stop for dinner and then Ben and Jerry's ice cream perked us right up! It's a tradition at my friend's house to pile each day's treasures on the dining room table and take a picture... Lots of goodies to admire.
Day 1:
Day 2:

Friday, April 16, 2010

Itch, itch, itch... add b's as you desire.

So...just for the record, poison ivy sucks. A lot. It all started a week ago with a tiny little itchy spot inside my wrist... and I hadn't even been out in the yard!!
No clue where I got it, but by Saturday morning, I had multiple dots on my lower arm. Ok, fine... I know what to do. Pharmacy. TecNu, lots of washing, and caladryl is my friend. No big deal. Sooooooooo... by Sunday it was all the way up my arm, two dots on my collarbone, and it's time to get some intervention (prednisone). Usually, that fixes me right up. It's now a WEEK later and I STILL have poison ivy... the old spots are better, but two new ones on my neck and a couple of tiny places on my arm AGAIN. I wore long sleeves to work all weekend last weekend, and will do so again this weekend, which is NOT fun, but it keeps me from messing with it.
I took ALL my laundry to the laundromat today... bed linens, all the towels, all my clothes and rewashed everything at one time. I'm wiping down anything I can think of that I might have touched, and I think maybe I'll ask John to wash the dog. Just in case.