The Hours They Do Go By

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I’ve been trying to count only sunny hours lately. It’s challenging on many fronts. I know I’m not alone in this.  But spring is on the way again, the days are getting longer and despite snow (!) warnings for this weekend, it will come. Just as it does every year.

Since I last wrote to you, I’ve been playing hooky but that doesn’t mean I’ve been idle.  I’ve just been working on things on the personal side. SO many things have been put on hold for far too long and it’s time to get moving.

Two years later and we still have a storage Pod in the driveway…I think this wave of construction is finally complete. Now comes the task of bringing everything back into the house and either getting it organized or letting it go.

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Looking at trim for new curtains

I’ve finally re-engaged with the remake of the living room, too. After 21 years, both the curtains and the furniture need rehabbing. For 2 years I have had a bolt of fabric standing in the corner, waiting for me to have the time to pick out trim and get it made into new curtains. As a closet interior decorator, this is a fun project. Except that I am having a dickens of a time finding fabrics that I actually love. I’ve been hitting all the fabric stores for 3 months now and have yet to find a combination that gets me really excited.

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Major pruning and garden clean-up is underway

I’ve also managed to get some much-needed time in the garden.  It had been so neglected for the past couple of years that I felt really sad every time I went outside.  There’s a ways to go but at least we’ve made a start. I’ve gotten all the roses pruned and we’ve cut out a lot of dead stuff from the shrubbery.  Garden beds are getting cut back and raked.  And with this crazy weather – 75 degrees one day and then 35 the next – Mother Nature is pretty confused. With this last stretch of warm weather, all the cherry trees are in full bloom, the daffodils are already on the wane, and even the hostas have broken ground.  We are about a month ahead of schedule! People love the warmer temps but, honestly, it is not a good thing. We’ve already had to cut the grass for goodness sakes!!!

The other thing I’ve done is to make 2 trips home to work on sorting my parents’ house out.  This last trip, at the end of February, was concentrated on getting their bedroom cleared out.

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This is the view from one window in my parents’ bedroom. Pretty special.

As you may imagine, it’s been a bittersweet project.  My dad has been gone since June 2011 and it is still really, really hard for me to part with his clothes.  But my sister and I managed to go through all their clothes, separating them into piles for the church rummage sale, those that were good enough to go to the hospital commission shop in town, and those which just weren’t good enough to go anywhere.

This process has taken me back to the 10 years I spent doing estate sales.  I know how to clean out a house.  But when it is a house that your parents built and lived in for more than 60 years, it’s an emotional minefield and not a task to be rushed.  I am incredibly fortunate that I have had the blessing of time.

I stumbled across some marvelous finds. In the back of a closet was a large portfolio; when I opened it, I found a cache of handmade Valentines that my grandfather LaMotte (my mother’s dad) made for my grandmother.  Every year of their married life, Grandfather made Grandmother a Valentine.  Isn’t that wonderful?  But these are not Valentines in the usual sense – they are HUGE.  Some of them measure 2 feet in diameter!

Like this one from 1957:

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Grandfather’s 1957 message of love to Grandmother

It’s in the form of a play that reads clockwise all the way around.  I love everything about it. The thought of him cutting out all this stuff and pasting it together charms me no end.  What a treasure.  And what a testament to love.

In this same closet, way in the back on a shelf was a small metal box.  When I opened it, I saw 2 rubber-banded stacks of correspondence.  They were letters, telegrams, and flower cards people sent when both my sister and I were born.  I had no idea that this stash even existed.  I opened the top letter in “my” pile; it was from my godfather, “Uncle” Chuck Lloyd, congratulating my parents on my birth. And the tears started to flow.  My heart felt so full and yet so sad at the same time.  I couldn’t read any more. I just couldn’t. I put the rubber band back on and brought them back here with me for the day when I could sit down and read them all. And maybe just have a good big cry.

In a bottom drawer of my mom’s, I discovered 2 tiny perfectly starched embroidered infant dresses.  Just these 2 little things – I’m guessing 1 for each of us – out of all the clothes my sister and I have had during our lifetime, my mother lovingly ironed and saved for herself to remember her babies.  I don’t think I can explain the feeling in my chest when I unearthed these.  It was overwhelming.

But there was more. I reached back in the drawer and found a large envelope.  Inside were more letters.  As I pulled out the top stack, I was looking at my dad’s familiar handwriting.  The postmarks were all from 1950 and the dates were in perfect order: June to November.  These were the letters my father wrote to my mother during their courtship. They met on a blind date of all things and I think it was love at first sight. He wrote her several times a week for the next 6 months until their wedding on November 25, 1950.

I was faced with a dilemma: read them or not?  After all, my mom had burned her parents’ love letters, feeling that they were just too personal for anyone else to read.  I feel a little differently. I think letters are a gift, a tangible reminder of your parents’ love for one another.  But still…actually reading them is another matter altogether.  In the end, I did read a couple of them and then slipped them back into place to save for the next generation.

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A letter to Santa from my sister

In this same envelope were cards, all in my father’s hand – some from him (all with “to my darling” on the envelope) and some from us before we were old enough to write our own. There were some of those, too, once we started writing for ourselves.  Valentines and letters to Santa and Mothers Day cards.  What a trip down memory lane.  And all of it gathered meticulously together in this single envelope.

There were plenty of less emotionally charged moments, too.  I found my dad’s top hat from the 1940s for one thing.  They sure knew how to dress back in their day. Times have changed.

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Trying on my dad’s top hat

And there was this stuffed in the furthest recesses of a cupboard, all by itself:

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++++++++++++

I’m back home now, continuing to count my blessings.

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I’ve been concentrating on Ginter Park Garden’s Club’s 4th Annual Spring Market.  Once again, I am co-chair and I’ve spent countless hours getting vendors lined up as well as trying to get the word out. We have an amazing group of local artisans and vendors this year. If you are in the Richmond area on March 25th, please join us.  We’d love to have you!   You can find out about it here.

I’m off to the Philadelphia Flower Show next Wednesday! I’ve never been and am soooo excited! The theme is Holland this year. Windmills! Tulips! Oh, my!

Oh, and I almost forgot! The Beekman Boys, Josh (l) and Brent, were here in Richmond last weekend at the Garden and Home Show. I caught up with them on Friday. What a treat to get in a little visit with them.

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Have a wonderful weekend everyone! Stay warm and don’t forget to set your clocks ahead Saturday night before you go to bed! Next week will be so much lighter! Yippee.

Soon, I’ll be back in the workshop making new treasures, too!

I’ll leave you with some flowers, the lovely Lenten Rose (hellebore) to cheer you. Til next time, xoxo

Stuck in a Time Warp

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This darling handmade angel was sent me by my customer Sandra who lives in Florida. I just love her.

A Christmas time warp.  Here it is, January 29th, and I have to confess to you that I have not taken down one lick of my Christmas decorations yet.  In my defense, I didn’t finish getting the house decorated until the night of December 23rd.  What about you?

I’m not quite tired of them yet but I think by the first week of February, they will be heading back to their little beds to sleep until next December.

There has been something inordinately cheery about having all these lovely things to look at during the dark days of the past month. I think we have seen the sun about 3 times. It gets wearing.  It’s nice to have a little cheer inside when the world outside is not so great.  Besides, last year, I did not get any decorating done with everything that had been going on.

But this year, we had a truly wonderful Christmas. No hospital stays (3 of the past 5 Christmases have been spent in the hospital with either my mom or the Mister).  We had so much to be grateful for. And at the very last minute, my sister and her 3 girls decided to come down here to spend Christmas with us. They rolled in about 3 in the afternoon on Christmas Day.  She even brought the turkey!  We had the most lovely time, our little family around the table for a superb dinner with all the trimmings. Then presents afterwards and a well-deserved good night’s sleep.  When they left on Boxing Day, the house seemed pretty empty for awhile.

On the spur of the moment, when they were leaving home to come down here, my sister went up into my parents’ attic and brought Mom’s snow babies with her so we could put them on the table.  My mother, who grew up in Baltimore County, MD, always loved the elaborate “Christmas garden” her family had under the tree.  Included in this set up were snow babies – the real ones. We have no idea what became of those but at some point Mom starting collecting the Department 56 repros and she put them on the dining room table where they scampered around doing whatever it is that snow babies do.  To have her collection with us this Christmas was the icing on the cake.  I put this little one on my tree.

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My mother’s snow baby, swinging on a star

Getting back to decorating, I managed to get 2 big trees up and decorated plus a feather tree for the Pleasure Dome (that’s the Mister’s music/reading/TV refuge).  Other than that, the decor is fairly minimal but I made sure there was a touch of the festive season in every room downstairs.   And Edward came by about a week before Christmas and we got the outside lights up!  It’s just not Christmas around here without them.  They are still up, too.

I thought I would share some photos with you.

This is the big tree.

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For the first time in my life, I had a fake tree for the main event.  I did not have anybody to help me wrestle a giant, heavy tree into place this year so I decided to go with a “permanent botanical.”  It was not a decision made lightly, I can attest to that. At first it was weird,  but as I kept going, I kinda started liking the way the ornaments went on – especially the big ones.  By the time it was finished, it was darn near impossible to tell that this is not a real Fraser fir. Can you tell?

Now that it is almost February, I can tell you unreservedly that it was pretty cool not to have to worry about watering.  Or having to vacuum up tons of dry needles all over the place.  Or burning the house down!

But the best thing of all is that I did not have to put those blasted LIGHTS on the tree!!!!  I hate lights!!!!

It took me bits of several days to do decorate this one but I had the absolute best time with it.  Every ornament I pulled out made me smile.  Christmas music was playing.  All was right in my world.

I put the other large tree in the garden room.  That’s the tree that has mostly vintage ornaments on it.  I like to sit out there late at night, with just the tree and candlelight, a glass of wine (or two) and listen to music. It’s glorious.

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From my vantage point, I can see the other tree in the next room.  Maybe you can see why I am so reluctant to let all this go.

Christmas came and went for me very quickly.  It’s only a month down the road but it seems so far away already.  Still I have plenty of reminders.

Including some wonderful gifts.  My friends totally get me. Here are a couple of the treasures I received from them.

I also got this adorable old elephant – the one with the red bow.  He is joining the rest of my herd of well-loved pachyderms under the tree.

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Earlier this month we had the most beautiful snowstorm. I love snow.  And I especially love it when I do not have to get out in it – as in to drive to work or something – which I didn’t.  I stayed put and gloried in it, spending a lot of time out in the garden room reading my new Christmas books and watching the snowflakes fall and then, later on, the birds flitting around (don’t worry, I kept the feeders well-stocked).

Emma loved it, too!

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Even the trees inside looked prettier once the sun came out.

I have unashamedly and without any guilt (well, almost none) not done much of anything this past month.  After the challenges of the past 2 years, it has been wonderful to kick back and just relax.  I needed a break.

But now it’s time to get back to reality.

After  great deal of thought, I have made the decision to back off from my show schedule this year to allow me to bring some balance back into my life. I have not made firm decisions yet about the second half of the year but I am going to pass on the spring shows this time around. There are many things I have neglected on the home front and I look forward to getting something accomplished there. These range from closets that desperately need cleaning out to doing some redecorating and getting back to gardening.  And traveling – I really want to do some traveling.

This most assuredly does NOT mean that I will not be working.  I will.

In fact, I intend to be back in the workshop in the next couple of weeks.  I still have people waiting for wreaths and centerpieces and I want to get more done early in the year so that I do not run out of product when the holidays roll around. That’s what happened in 2016.

I am looking very forward to getting the creative juices flowing again.  That not only makes me extremely happy but gives me a sense of purpose. We all need that.

There are signs of some life in the garden.  The so-called “stinking” hellebores are coming into bloom.  Whoever decided on that nickname maligned a wonderful workhorse of a plant.

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The hellebores are coming into bloom. This is helleborus foetidus

And I have beautiful hyacinths blooming in the kitchen.  Their fragrance is divine.

“If, of thy mortal goods, thou art bereft,
And from thy slender store two loaves
alone to thee are left,
Sell one & from the dole,
Buy Hyacinths to feed the soul”
– Muslihuddin Sadi,
13th Century Persian Poet

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I hope that you all are well and thriving in this new year.  I’ll be back soon with more. For now, I’ll leave you with a gratuitous dog picture.

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Really, you must admit she is adorable.   🙂

Oh, and I wanted to show you this collage from Instagram of the “9 best posts” for 2016.  I’d say wreaths were the winner, wouldn’t you?

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You can follow along with me here.  It’s not all about Christmas, I promise.

 

Counting Blessings

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A year ago, we had Thanksgiving in the hospital.  Followed by Christmas, and then New Year’s.  It jokingly became known as the “Holiday Trifecta” between us and the team at UVA.

Many of you remember that we had Thanksgiving in the hospital at the University of Virginia because just a couple of weeks before, Patrick had had a liver/kidney transplant.

The week before that, I had lost my mother.

There’s no real describing the enormity of those two momentous life events, especially when they come at you with such lightning speed.  Still, we had much to be thankful for last Thanksgiving. And small as our celebration was, it was, in fact, very much a celebration.

Fast forward to now, one year and five more hospitalizations later.  We are home this time and most thankful for that.  But we are also just plain grateful that there is a “we” and not just an “I”  who are celebrating Thanksgiving this year.  It might not have turned out this way.

Recently, though, as things seem to have become a bit more stable and less fraught on the health front,  I’ve felt my thoughts turning more towards my mother.  Because in life you must focus your priorities on the living, I never really was able to grieve my mom.  Lately,  however, I find myself suddenly gripped with her loss at unexpected moments.  Those moments pass – and believe me they are as physical a moment as they are emotional – but I suspect the next few months may be kind of rocky.  The beautiful thing, though, is that while I do miss her dearly, I can’t in all truth be sorry for her.  She had lived a long (just shy of 94 years), happy life.  She bore the loss of her husband of 60 years bravely for over 4 years. But she was ready to leave us.

I’m very, very lucky to have had her for so long and I count my blessings every day that I had two amazing parents.

So, getting back to Thanksgiving, I thought of this picture (above) and the most marvelous memories just came flooding back. Memories of the Thanksgivings of my childhood and youth. Every year, we went “next door” (we lived in the country, on a family farm) to our grandmother’s for a family get together and a feast of Dickensian proportions.  It would be us (4), my grandmother (she was my dad’s mom – my grandfather died just before I was born), my Aunt Marnie, and a handful of delightful older cousins (elderly Cousin Mary and her daughters, the Fletcher sisters). Sometimes “Uncle” Rowland, another relative, would join us, too.  It was a spirited and fascinating group. After we had feasted near to bursting from a groaning board of culinary delights, we would hoist ourselves up from the table for a postprandial walk down the lane so we would not collapse into a tryptophan stupor before our annual intensely competitive game of “Guggenheim” (you might call it Categories).

Anyway, this photo was taken in the early 1970s, actually I think it was probably in 1973, my senior year in college. That’s my mother on the left, my sister in the middle, and me on the right.  We were just heading off for our Thanksgiving walk when our cousin, Mary Fletcher, snapped this.

Of all the characters we were blessed to have with us on those Thanksgivings so long ago, my sister and I are the only ones left.  But the memories are so vivid that it’s impossible to be sad.  Instead, I know just how lucky I am to have had them and the folks who peopled them in my life.

So today, Thanksgiving Day 2016, I’m especially grateful for my many blessings. I hope you are feeling thankful on this day, too.

I leave you with this lovely prayer:

 

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Object

object noun |ˈäbjəkt|

1. a material thing that can be seen and touched: he was dragging a large object | small objects such as shells.• 

Philosophy: a thing external to the thinking mind or subject.

My brain is feeling a tad fatigued so these are pretty literal depictions of this week’s theme.  Still, I hope you like them.  Just a little reminder that if you click on them to enlarge they look sooooo much better!

Goggy's CookbookThis is my grandmother Trippe’s cookbook.  It contains her handwritten recipes.  It also has favorite ones she clipped from the newspaper and those that friends sent her.  It is zealously guarded as important family business.  To give you a little idea of its age, my grandmother was born in 1886.  She died in 1978 just shy of her 92nd birthday.

I like the textures here: the tattered composition book on top of the well-worn wooden cutting board.

Moving on, I notice that several of my images this week are garden themed.  Perhaps I am tiring of winter after all.

Olive JarA wonderful olive jar in the garden at Virginia House here in Richmond.

Garden MaidenThe lovely garden maiden in my secret garden.

Camellia Showers, Faun Dreams

This sleeping faun is in another part of the garden.  She dreams amidst fallen camellia blossoms.

The next one is for my Christmas people.

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Yes, you have seen this guy already this week but he cheers me so immensely that I had to bring him back.  He might actually have been perfect for the Juxtaposition theme of last week, positioned as he is in front of that harbinger of spring – the daffodil.

And finally, here is an object of my affection:

Emma PBMy sweet Emma P who loves the snow!

Be sure to check out others’ interpretations of this week’s theme here.

I also posted an entry on my Garden Reverie blog if you have any interest in popping over to it.

Thanks for stopping by!

For My Sister

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This is Nanny’s wreath.

I wanted to do something really special for my sister this past Christmas so I made her this wreath as her big gift.

She has an awful lot on her shoulders these days and since I live several hours away, there is a limit as to how much help I can be.  Since our Dad died in 2011, Nanny has more than just her own house, business, and 3 girls to take care of.  She not only sees to the care of our Mom (if you read my last post, you know our 91-year-old Mom had a stroke just before Christmas) but to a myriad of other interests that our father always took care of.  It’s a lot to contend with and I am so grateful that she is there to take care of it for all of us.  I don’t know how she manages, quite honestly.

I had such a good time making this one.  I wanted it to be fun with references to what we liked as kids but without it ending up being juvenile.  We led happy, charmed lives as children and Christmas was the pinnacle of the year.  It was almost Dickensian in its splendor.Detail of Nanny's  Wreath ©Glittermoon Productions LLC 7

I started with this goofy Santa.  The minute I saw him in a dusty old antiques mall, I snapped him up with her in mind.  This is exactly the sort of thing we loved as kids.  Who knows, we might even have tried to make one like it ourselves.  Somebody, sometime took a plain old red ball and gussied it up with a delightfully homemade face, beard, and hat.  I love it for its homespun look and think about who might have made it.  I hope they like the fact they it has a new, happy home.   Right next to him is a sequin decorated felt reindeer that takes me back.  We would have had this fellow playing with our trolls in an instant.  Detail of Nanny's  Wreath ©Glittermoon Productions LLC 1

This is a little bit of a wider shot of the top.  Can you see the little bottlebrush tree next to the reindeer?  Then there’s the terrific gold ball with the stenciled child riding a broomstick pony; we spent years riding our own stick ponies in addition to the real thing.  There’s also a red Poland ball with a little house to reminder her of home and that fabulous ball in the bottom right corner with the guitar-playing Santa (it is very special and I don’t part with those easily).  He is to remind us of all the music we grew up sharing together.

LIke the Beatles. At the risk of dating myself I will tell you that I remember vividly us sitting in our jammies in front of the black & white (!) TV watching the Beatles make their US debut on the Ed Sullivan show one Sunday night in February 1964.  Now, that was something. Ok, so I digress…

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I had been saving this wonderful 1960’s white plastic Santa with his reindeer and sleigh for her, too.  I added the tiny shopping bag as a touch of whimsy (we do like to shop!).   Of course, there is a host of other great stuff on the wreath, too.  The palette is a traditional one of red and green with dots of other colors to spice it up.  I added fabulous vintage green and gold Doubl Glo coiled garland to sperk things up a bit.

Can you spy the red C9 lightbulb on the bottom?  That’s a nod, with love, to our Dad, who always decorated our fresh-cut cedar tree with those big colored lights.  He especially loved red. Daddy would go out scouting our farm for a suitable Christmas tree months in advance.  On Christmas Eve morning we would troop out into the woods and cut it down to bring home.  We got one for our grandmother, too. Daddy would also get his shotgun out before Christmas and shoot mistletoe down from the top of an oak tree for Mom to make a kissing ball with.  If you have never had a cedar tree for your Christmas tree you can’t possibly understand how prickly they are to try to decorate – it’s torture!  But it looked awfully sweet when we were done.  I admit, though, I was glad when the day finally came where my parents decided to actually buy a Christmas tree – hallelujah!

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In this close-up on the left side, you can see a jazzy jumbo Poland ball with multi-colored dots all over it.  Just above that is tucked a yellow Jewelbrite and to the left of it is a gold plastic bell.  Then there is that great blue Poland with the mica snowman as a reminder of childhood snow days spent out in the country where we grew up. Moving to the top, directly next to the gold stenciled ball, is a clear red glass ornament with tinsel inside – that’s unusual and has quite a bit of age on it.  There are also a Shiny Brite striped bell and a Japanese lantern, too.Detail of Nanny's  Wreath ©Glittermoon Productions LLC 4

Here’s a close-up on the other side of the wreath with some wonderful ornaments including a big swirly teardrop, a fab red ball with a comet, the cool little teardrop-shaped indent, and a green plastic bell.  Up on the tippy top is a Shiny Brite striped top, upside down.Detail of Nanny's  Wreath ©Glittermoon Productions LLC 5

I wanted you to get a really good look at the Shiny Brite musical Santa ornament (I love, love, love it), the comet, and our cozy little house welcoming us home in the snow.

Detail of Nanny's  Wreath ©Glittermoon Productions LLC 3I am going to leave you with this close up of the adorable  little 1960’s elf tucked under the reindeer.  We no doubt played with his cousins when we were little.  But perhaps the most important ornament of all is the red ball just behind the elf with the hearts stenciled on it.  That’s to remind her of me.  Because I made this with love.  Just for her.  I love you, Nanny. Thank you for being my sister.