Friday, November 30, 2007

A Surfeit of Santas

It started quietly, as it always does, with one St. Nicholas doll, sitting on his toymaker's bench, gifts in hand. I loved his soft red vest, and his plaid knickers. His boots sported some small gold buckles.

A few years later, he was joined by an outdoorsman, with a fish in his creel and snowshoes to brave the winter storms. Again, he wore plaid trousers, tucked into his furry boots.

Next came a rugged individualist, with brown buckskin pants and a fur-trimmed, long plaid coat. I love that coat, and if I could find the equivalent of it in my size, I would buy it immediately. He carries a rocking reindeer. How cute is that?

Finally, a Santa in full sartorial splendor -- he wears wine-red velvet trousers, a green waistcoat with absurdly large gold buttons, and a heavily- flocked, ermine-lined coat and hat. He carries a beautifully decorated wreath, and a toy jester.

Yes, we have a surfeit of Santas in this house, all dressed better than me!
OK, what the heck happened to my header? It shrunk! I can't deal with that now -- I've got to get Katie to school and send out 22 emails to the spring soccer team!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Kitchen Tree

This is a little tree I usually put up in my kitchen. The tree itself is from Michael's, where there are always great sales before Christmas. It's all decked out with some silverplated cutlery. Everything is small, to match the scale of the tree.

There are some sugar tongs, a butter knife, a couple of children's spoons and a diminutive salt shaker. There's also a small fork -- a fish fork? Plaid ribbon entwines the whole, and a small St. Nicholas peeps out from behind the branches.

The tree sits on our butcher block cabinet, along with a few Christmas plates and some more greenery. Slowly but surely, Christmas is unfolding here. More to follow in the days ahead...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


We had a full moon here a few nights ago. It was shining in the bedroom window at night, waking me from a sound sleep, even with the curtains drawn. Of course, once I'm awake, it's very hard to fall back asleep. My mind just seems to switch on, and we're off to the races! I think about what I need to get done the following day, or whether my daughter will make the basketball team (she did), or if I will get pancreatic cancer like my mother. Yes, that's the kind of thing I worry about in the middle of the night. Sounds silly in the light of day, but at 3 AM? Usually I will get up, go downstairs, and lose myself in a good book for about an hour.

Then, when I start yawning in earnest, I'll go back to bed. But first I have to brave the downstairs bathroom without thinking of that scene from The Sixth Sense. You know the one -- where the little kid gets up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. He leaves the door open, and while he's peeing, a ghost glides silently past in the hall outside. I never can decide if it's better to leave the door open, or close it and risk opening it to something scary! LOL

Anyway, once I go back to bed, I usually fall asleep pretty easily. Of course, my husband could sleep through just about anything. And he's always warm, too. How unfair is that? I've been having a hard time adjusting to the colder weather this year, and sometimes I've been going to bed with long underwear, fleece jammies and thermal hiking socks. Yes, I know, dead sexy. Of course, a lot of this gets shed in the course of the night. Menopause approaching? Wonderful!

Well, that's my insomnia routine. What do you do when you can't sleep?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

That's A Wrap

Well, I haven't started my Christmas shopping yet, so I don't have any presents to wrap, but if I did, here's the perfect wrapping inspiration.

OK, this lady really knows how to wrap a present! Have you ever seen this book? It's by Carolyne Roehm, and it's a true feast for the eyes. Her gifts are so beautifully wrapped that whatever is inside is almost superfluous.

I was lucky enough to stumble across a copy of Presentations at TJMaxx, but you can find it here. If you like what you see, you also might want to subscribe to her email newsletter. Total eye candy! Her other books, At Home with Carolyne Roehm, and A Passion for Parties, are also totally wonderful. Here are a few pics from Presentations for inspiration.

I wish I could come up with anything half as beautiful!

Monday, November 26, 2007


OK, here's how far I got with the Christmas decorations -- a few of them are sitting in a jumble on the kitchen table, and I have to move them every time we sit down to a meal!
I have replaced the turkey dishes with a few Christmas ones, and put out a red tablecloth.

That's it so far.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Birds

Do you remember the old Alfred Hitchcock movie, The Birds? Tippi Hedron in her pillbox hat and white gloves, getting out of her car to pump gas, and being attacked by, you guessed it, the birds? This fall, we seem to be in the flight path of some major migrations, and several times now, I have found myself in the middle of a swirling, whirling, cackling host of grackles. (Is there a noun that denotes a group of grackles, like a murder of crows?)

The first time it happened, I was driving my daughter to basketball practice. The car was totally surrounded, and so many birds were crossing in front of the car that I had to stop in the middle of the road. The sound of beating wings was palpable, even with the windows closed. It really freaked my daughter out, but I was sitting there with a big grin on my face -- too cool!

The second time was a few days later. I heard the sound of beating wings, and scratching bird feet on the roof, and their loud, raucous calls. I ran outside with my camera, and felt like I was in the middle of a maelstrom. Birds were in the sky, on the roof, in the trees. They were loud and, well, joyous. Does that sound silly? Maybe it was just that I was joyous, to be in the center of such a group. Somehow, though, they seemed excited to be going on their seasonal roadtrip. Are we there yet?

Then, in a rush of wings, they lifted up as one and wheeled through the sky, like a giant black velvet ribbon. 


Friday, November 23, 2007


Are you full yet?  Because now the mad rush begins.  Oh, not the shopping rush -- I refuse to go anywhere near a store on Black Friday -- but the rush to perfection.  Is my house clean?  Are my decorations perfect?  Are all the gifts wrapped just so? 

 I am going to take a deep breath this weekend, and decide to be, well, sub-par.  To shoot for something  less than perfection.  In fact, I'm going to decide to totally chill out this Christmas.

  Right after I drag all the decorations out, and make the lists, and find the perfect wrapping paper to match my decorations...What, you don't do that?   I always choose red and gold paper because that looks best under our tree in the library.  OK, a little anal, I suppose.  But I promise I'll chill out after I find the perfect wrapping paper!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sweet Sixteen

My darling daughter, my baby, turns 16 today. How is that possible? It seems like only yesterday that I was singing her to sleep, whispering to her in a darkened room.

For Katie

When you are old, remember this --

A father's love, a mother's kiss,

A sister's smile, a brother's hand,

Your name writ large across the sand.

A garden close with perfumed air,

A daisy woven through your hair.

A velvet night with stars splashed through,

A song...a whisper, "I love you."

Happy birthday, baby.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like... Thanksgiving?

It's 37 degrees and rainy this morning, but this is what we woke up to yesterday morning at the Little Red House. Three days before Thanksgiving, and it's beginning to look a lot like, well, you know... I just can't think about Christmas until I've gotten through my daughter's birthday, which is tomorrow, and Thanksgiving. Then we'll drag out the decorations, and start shopping, and wrapping, and baking...

Jeez, I'm tired already, just thinking about it!

Monday, November 19, 2007

All is Well

Many thanks for all your thoughts and prayers. They certainly lifted me up, and helped me to get through an anxious time. The surgery went well, thank God, and Dan is now home resting for the week. Thanksgiving will be quiet, which is just fine with me. My son, Liam, will be coming home from Philadelphia on Wednesday, and it will just be the four of us for dinner. Heavenly.

I wanted to take a minute to show you this covered dish that I found at a thrift store last week. You all know how I have a thing for dishes with lids on them, so I couldn't pass this one up, even though it was a little pricey at $10. When I got home, I did some research and found out that it was made by a company in Carlsbad, Austria, probably in the late 1800's. There was a similar dish offered on ebay last week, with a starting bid of $49.99. Oooohh, I love a bargain!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Cheatin' Chicken Noodle Soup

This is what I make when I want something warm and wonderful, but I don't have a lot of time. I call it "Cheatin' Chicken Noodle Soup" because it's not totally made from scratch. I guess you could call it "semi-homemade," but I think someone's already come up with that name!

This isn't really a recipe; it's more of a guideline. Anyway, here goes:

Cheatin' Chicken Noodle Soup

Coat the bottom of your soup pot with extra virgin olive oil. Finely dice some onion, carrots, celery and garlic. Saute until soft. Salt and pepper.

Now you need some chicken broth. I have used the kind that comes in a cardboard container (like College Inn), and I have also used bouillion cubes and water. I have even used a mixture of the two. Whatever. You probably need about 6-8 cups.

Next you need to add some chicken. I use a rotisserie chicken from the deli counter. Just cut it up in small chunks. I use just the white meat, because my kids are picky eaters (if you can picture a 180 lb., 6 ft. boy/man as a picky eater), but use whatever you like.

Then all you need are the egg noodles. You can either cook them separately or boil them directly in the soup. Your choice.

OK, that's all there is to it. It reheats well, too, so make extra. Enjoy!
I'm so sorry I haven't been able to visit with all of you too much lately -- my husband hasn't been feeling well, and it turns out he needs to have minor, outpatient surgery tomorrow. I might not get to post for a few days. Please remember us in your prayers. Many thanks.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Lovely Surprise

Many, many thanks to sweet Dena, at Swaddle Cottage, for giving me the Friendly Site Award. I'm truly honored, because Dena is such a lovely person, and always leaves the most wonderful comments for me! It's so easy to be a friendly site when you have such friendly readers.

I have been totally overwhelmed by the wonderful people I've met here in blogland -- sweet, and kind, and generous to a fault! I'd like to pass this award on to Rosie, at Rosie's Whimsy, for her kind and generous comments, and her welcoming blog. If you haven't already visited, please go over and meet her -- you'll be glad you did!

Before I go, I just wanted to share this pretty plate with you. As some of you know, I love milk glass, and find quite a bit of it at thrift stores. I've never seen a painted piece before, but I love the fresh flowers, and the pierced, basketweave edge. And it was only $3., so I couldn't resist. Besides, it just makes me smile!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

My House, Myself

Does anyone remember that book, My Mother, Myself? As an entry in the nature vs. nurture debate, it posited that our mothers are a key influence in our lives, and shape the sort of women we grow up to be. I think I was a teenager at the time it came out, and the thought of becoming my mother was horrifying to me. Now, of course, I'd love to be even half the woman my mother was. But the reason I bring it up is because I often wonder how much my house has affected the person I've become.

I guess my experience is not really a common one -- I've lived here pretty much all my life, with a few short breaks here and there. This is a very small house, with not much room for entertaining. It is the sort of house that is very intimate and comfortable for one, or two, or four, but after that it gets a little crowded. We have had 22 for dinner (buffet, of course!) but that felt like we were bursting at the seams. Eight or ten seems to be a more comfortable number.

Now, I have to tell you that we do not entertain much, except for family gatherings at holidays. This has a lot to do with time constraints, and personal inclination (too much work!), and even character. Both my husband and I are not really super outgoing people, and we cherish our quiet home as a refuge from daily stresses. Also, I tend to worry about appearances -- the house is messy, the carpet on the stairs is threadbare, the bathroom ceiling is peeling... you get the idea. This I think I get from my mother! :) But I sometimes wonder if I'm not the entertaining sort because I grew up in a house that is not designed for huge gatherings. Would I be different if I had grown up in a big house? Would I be more inclined to have a huge party if I lived in a huge house?

Actually, I think I was just born shy, and I'd feel lost in a big house. But I always wonder...

What kind of parties do you give, and do you feel that your childhood home or upbringing influenced the way you entertain now?

(This is my idea of the perfect "entertainment" -- sitting in front of the fire on a chilly evening, my husband on the sofa next to me, my daughter laying on the floor, and my son lounging in a chair with his feet up, everyone engrossed in a good book!)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Where's The Barn?!

Last week, having seen a notice for a barn sale on Craigslist, my friend, Robin, and I decided to take a ride. Robin copied the directions, and we set out at 8am, after the husbands and kids were off to work and school. We figured it would take about 40 minutes to get there.

Two hours later, we still hadn't found it.

Now here's the difference between men and women -- our husbands would have given up after 45 minutes. But this was a sale. We spent two hours looking for it. Two hours driving back and forth down the same five-mile stretch of road, past the same county road crew (who must have thought we were nuts!), occasionally detouring down side roads, seeing a whole lot of beautiful scenery but no barn sale. We found a thrift store in a nearby town, but it wasn't open.

Damn. We were ready to shop! Or at least browse.

Having armed ourselves with listings for nearby antique shops, we decided (finally) to give up and look elsewhere. That's how we ended up freezing our asses off in a barn. Yes, it is wonderfully ironic that we started the day looking for a barn, and managed to finish it, freezing in a barn. A really, really cold one.

We called first, to see if they were open, and to ask how big the selection was. We've gone to several big antiques "malls" lately, and are kind of spoiled for selection. After all, we are serious shoppers (wink, wink) and need some scope to test our mettle.

I won't tell you the name of the place, in case by some amazing karmic coincidence they happen to be reading this, but let me tell you about it. It was housed, as I have said, in a barn. At first, we couldn't find an open door. Then, a rather taciturn man came out of an adjoining building and opened it for us. We were his only customers. He told us to turn the lights on as we went, and admonished us to remember to turn them off again on our way out. Then, we entered.

Imagine the coldest place you've ever been, and multiply it by about five. That's how cold it was. Now imagine furniture that hasn't been dusted in, oh, a millenium or so. You get the picture. I bought a milk glass cup that had a dead bug in it, along with some suspicious small round brown things. Uggh.

The barn was a big, rambling place, with open stairways between levels, and holes in the floorboards. You could sometimes see 20 feet down to the floor below. As long as you kept your eyes on the merchandise, it wasn't too bad.

I found some vintage Christmas ornaments, in their original box. (See, Julie, you've got me in the mood!)

And five beautiful linen napkins with crocheted lace edging.

I also bought a small silver sauce boat to add to the collection, and a silver engraved cup. All the items were higher than thrift store prices, but not too bad.

They didn't charge extra for the bug.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The View

No, not the TV show with Barbara Walters. I've been thinking, lately, of the view from one room into the next. Our Little Red House has a very open floor plan; you can easily see from one room into the next. This makes it both hard and easy to decorate. Hard, because you always have to keep in mind the transitions from one wallpaper or color to the next. And easy, because your colors are pretty much dictated by what's in the next room. There are not endless choices!

The picture above is the view from our dining room into the library. That window is old, and not particularly weathertight, but I wouldn't replace it for the world. That's my "sit in the morning sun and read" window.

One of my favorite views is from our tiny den toward the kitchen table. There's alot of pattern in this house, including an ever-changing variety of tablecloths, to protect what was my mother's dining room table. I love flowers, and can't afford to keep fresh, so I have faux arrangements that I change with the seasons. (Yes, I know, faux are a no-no! This was like dogma on HGTV's Rate My Space, so of course a few of us had to tweak the powers that be, and post our faux arrangements. Ask BJ, over at Sweet Nothings, to tell you that story.) Anyway, this scene changes with the seasons.

Here's the scene from our den into the library. We just had the fireplace cleaned, so we're looking forward to lots of cozy nights in front of the fire! Can you spy all my decorating books under the end table?

Finally, here's the view from the library to the dining room. Can you tell why I like this one? The dishes, of course! :)

But do you see what I mean about transitioning colors? Pretty much everything here has to be some mixture of red, cream, beige, brown and green. Makes it easy, but also hard, especially if you also love blues!

How do you choose the colors in your house? Do you change them frequently? Are they dictated by what's already there?

Do you have a favorite view in your house?

Saturday, November 10, 2007


The other day, my sweet husband called on his way home from work, to ask if I had seen the fabulous sunset. Of course I hadn't, because I was hunched over the computer, blogging away! LOL I looked out the window, and the sky was ablaze -- there is no other word for it. So I grabbed my camera and tripod, and ran into the backyard. I snapped away until the light faded. Here are a few of my favorites:

May your day be sweet, and your night sweeter.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Tole Trays

I seem to have started a collection of green tole trays for my kitchen. Like all my other collections, this one snuck up on me. I found the first one at the Visiting Nurse's Rummage Sale,

and Cindy, from My Romantic Home was sweet enough to give me the second one.

The third one came from an antiques store. It is is quite an unusual shape -- long and rectangular. I have placed it behind the faucet on my sink.

The last one is green and gold -- perfect colors for my kitchen. It was $4. at an antiques mall in Lambertville, NJ. I found it all dusty and dirty, under a pile of other stuff. As soon as I saw the colors, I knew it had to come home with me. I love it with these silver sauce boats.

I just lost a beautiful tray on ebay Tuesday night to someone named Rhonda. Rhonda, was that you?! :(