Thursday, January 31, 2008

Tagged! Twice!!

I've been tagged by Donna at Donna's Art and Adrienne at With A Grateful Heart to play the 4 Things Meme. I tend to put these things off because I think it will be tres boring for you to read, but here goes:

4 movies watched over and over:

  1. Moonstruck

  2. Sense and Sensibility

  3. You've Got Mail

  4. Local Hero

4 places I've lived:

  1. Madison, NJ

  2. South River, NJ

  3. Liberty Corner, NJ

  4. that's all

4 shows I watch:

  1. Hardball

  2. House

  3. Three and a Half Men

  4. CSI

4 places I've been:

  1. Ireland

  2. England

  3. San Diego

  4. Bermuda

4 people who email me:

  1. Robin (my BFF)

  2. Cindy

  3. bj

  4. my good friends at Amazon, Alibris, Overstock and ebay!

4 favorite things to eat:

  1. Baked Ziti

  2. Spaghetti with olive oil and garlic

  3. Eggplant Parmesan

  4. Focaccia (Do you see a pattern here?)

4 places I'd rather be:

  1. Woodstock, Vermont

  2. Garnet Hill Lodge, upstate NY

  3. Stone Green Hall in Kent, UK

  4. Longueville House in Ireland

4 things I look forward to this year:

  1. spring

  2. spring

  3. spring

  4. spring

4 people to tag:

  1. anyone who wants to play!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Flower Power

Oh, but spring seems like such a long way away right now. The ground is frozen solid here, and painted in shades of brown and gray. Empty branches rattle in the wind, and the only birdsong to be heard is the raucous call of crows.

So I tend to search the cabinets and cupboards for my flowers. Anything pink or pastel and flowery gets dragged out at this time of year. I'll take my flowers anywhere I can find them, thank you very much. Here's what I found:

A small white Fenton vase in front of a rose-bestrewn plate. I just love the luminous glaze on the shell-shaped pitcher. The smaller dessert plate is Noritake.

A small basketweave plate with a reticulated edge. This is Wedgewood, and a thrift store find. The Homer Laughlin plate on the left is also from the thrift store, and the plate on the right is from my mother's collection.

A creamer and jampot with roses galore, backed by a tall chocolate pot, also covered in pink roses.

A small cup with children in pastels. This charming scene with an umbrella reminds me of April showers. Love it.

How do you bring spring into your winter house?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Thrift Needlepoint

I think part of the lure of going to the thrift store is that you never know what you will find. That and the feeling of searching through someone else's attic. So what does that say about me? That I'm a thrill-seeking voyeur? A nosy pack rat? :)

I usually come home with some sort of dish, or maybe some flower prints or a piece of silverplate. But last week, I stumbled upon four sweet little needlepoint pictures -- two of flowers and a pair of children in old fashioned costume. As usual, I just couldn't resist. :)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Addicted To Wallpaper

I've been addicted to wallpaper for a long time. For those of you who don't know, I live in the house I grew up in, and all the downstairs rooms are wallpapered. One of my favorite memories of my mother is when we would go to the paint store together and pore over the wallpaper books. We shared a love of the "bird" patterns as we called them (tree of life, I think they're called) and anything with flowers. I thought I would show you some of the wallpaper in our Little Red House, so here goes:

Our tiny den. This room is wainscotted -- pine paneling below and wallpaper above. The room is about 12' X 15'. The wallpaper makes it seem warm and enveloping. This picture shows some of my "flower" collection -- pressed flowers and flower prints found in thrift stores.

The bathroom. There's that "tree of life" pattern. This was my mom's favorite paper. I remember it cost $25. a roll back in the 70's; quite an expense for my frugal parents. Again, wallpaper above, wainscotting below.

Our bedroom. Laura Ashley trellis pattern that my husband and I picked out over 25 years ago. Still love it.

Our kitchen. I chose this Waverly paper back when we had stained plywood cabinets and green-rimmed Portmerion plates. We still have the plates, but the cabinets are gone, thank God. I'm actually considering stripping this paper and painting in a color close to my cabinets. Look here for some pictures of the cabinets. What do you think?

The dining room. My father hung this when I was a little girl. I still love a red dining room.

The library ceiling. My mother worked for a wealthy woman whose house was decorated by Sister Parrish, which is where she saw the idea of papering the ceiling. This is a Laura Ashley pattern which picks up the reds of the nearby dining room.

The paper in the first photo is another Waverly pattern -- hung in our hallway. I realize that wallpaper is making a comeback, but the patterns are a new and modern take on traditional ones. But I just love these old patterns -- I'm definitely not a modern girl. :) And yes, I guess you could say I'm addicted to wallpaper.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Birthday Tole

How perfect is this? Yesterday was my birthday, and I was feeling a little morose about the whole thing. Yup, I was definitely feeling my age, and looking forward to a little Hershey love. However, a lovely piece of tole can cheer a girl up no end!

This sweet little tray is a present from my dear friend, Robin. For a while now, Robin has been bidding on (and occasionally winning) toleware trays on ebay, painted by a wonderful artist named Won Buikema. Won's ebay seller name is mahan555, and she has a beautiful tray currently listed here. If you are a dog lover, you'll love this one. Won also takes commissions, and is painting Robin's dog, Rosie. I can't wait to see the finished work!

The tray Robin gave me is approximately 14" X 9", and is painted with robins in dogwood branches, with a lovely border of red and gold -- practically made for our Little Red House. How perfect does it look up here above the range? I just love it -- thank you so much, Robin!

Here is another tole tray I got for my birthday, this one from my family. It is a little bigger -- about 18" X 15". I love the scallopped edges on it, and the elaborate painted border. What a beautiful birthday gift! I'm so lucky to have such a wonderful husband and kids. Thanks, guys!

Edited to add: I am also blessed to have such wonderful friends in blogland. Thank you SO MUCH for your sweet birthday wishes -- I'm overwhelmed by your kindness. xoxo

Friday, January 25, 2008

Birthday Wishes or What I Want To Be When I Grow Up

Forgive me a little introspection, but today is my birthday. I turn 51. Yikes! It's a little scary to even type that. For years at a time in my 30's and 40's, I never really knew how old I was. I know that sounds silly, but if you had asked me my age ten years ago, I would have had to stop and think a minute. Age didn't seem all that important. Now, suddenly, it does.

For the past year, I have seen my in-laws practically age before my eyes, and that has been a sobering sight. I lost my own parents when I was still too young to consider their deaths a memento mori. That will not be the case with my in-laws.

And now, of course, there are the incontrovertible signs of age. I guess part of it is the graying hair, and the much fought-against weight gain. My daughter got her driver's permit on Wednesday -- God, do I feel old! And the menopause thing is such a barrel of laughs, too.

So, to celebrate my birthday, I have decided to self-medicate with Hershey's Kisses. Lots of them. And to compile a list of things I'd like to be when I grow up. :) So here goes:

  1. An astronaut. No, not really, but I would like to learn more about the stars. Be able to identify some constellations in the night sky.

  2. An architect. Well, at least enough of one to help make our Little Red House a bit more functional and slightly bigger.

  3. A fashion designer or a crazy bag lady. I'm a little conflicted on this one. Some days I wish I could put together a decent outfit. Other days (and there are many more of these) I wish I lived in a place where everyone wears sweatpants.

  4. A gardener. In a beautiful English country garden. I don't want to be in charge; just one of the many minions who pull weeds and make compost. There is something so comforting in the thought of working out-of-doors with the seasons, in the midst of such beauty. Lovely.

  5. A chef. Or at least someone who does not panic at the prospect of getting dinner on the table every night.

  6. An author. Of something slightly longer than a blog! :)

Well, I think that's enough of a list to be getting on with. Excuse me while I go get some more Hershey's Kisses.

Edited to add: Today is also Amanda's birthday. Please go visit her and wish her a happy day!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Breakfast at Tiffany's

Well, no. But here is breakfast at Little Red House -- oat bran hot cereal, with sugar and milk, served up on a pretty gold tole tray from ebay that I just could not resist! :)

What is your favorite breakfast?
Thank you all for your kind comments and prayers. As far as we can tell at this point, my husband's back pain, while not disappearing completely, has lessened considerably. We'll see how today goes. Your support definitely made a stressful day a little less so -- and I thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Short post today -- my husband is getting a spinal injection to relieve the pain from two herniated discs, so I'll be keeping my fingers crossed and saying my prayers. Can I ask my friends in blogland to do the same? Thank you so much!

I found this beautifully worked piece of cross-stitch at the thrift store recently. I'm trying to decide whether to have it framed or made into a pillow. The linen is marked Columbia Minerva Co. 1972. Whenever I come across something like this, I always wonder about the woman who made it. Where did she live? What was her life like? The piece is so colorful and beautifully made; she must have been quite an artist. Might still be. I wonder where she is now, and why her work was in the thrift store. I guess I'll never know, but I am thankful to have her handiwork.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I Want To Be Bunny Williams

Yes, I know my Blogger profile states that I would like to be an international supermodel, or a forest ranger or a jockey, but I'd really like to be Bunny Williams. Can you imagine a childhood in the rolling hills of the Virginia countryside, and a first job at Stair & Co., the English antiques dealers in New York city, cataloguing glorious furniture? And then on to work at the great interior design firm of Parrish, Hadley?

It doesn't get any better than that!

Of course now Bunny Williams is a renowned interior designer in her own right; with her own very successful decorating firm and a fabled garden decor shop, Treillage, which she owns with her husband, John Rosselli. And she has three absolutely beautiful homes: in Connecticut, New York City and Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic.

She has written three great decorating books, including An Affair With A House, which is my all-time favorite. I can't tell you how much I love this book. It's the one I never tire of reading cover to cover, as much for the text as for the pictures.

Her third book, Bunny William's Point of View, was under the Christmas tree at our Little Red House this year, and I can honestly say that it will soon be as well-thumbed as my copies of her earlier books. Every page is a feast for the eyes, with stunning photos by Fritz Von Der Schulenburg. But more than that, it is wonderfully well-written, with clear, concise and easy-to-follow advice that will be helpful even if you are not decorating the mansions that many of her clients own.

Chapters include Floor Plans, Color, Lighting and Furniture, as well as Fabric, Inspiration and Layering . Each is beautifully illustrated with pictures of rooms Ms. Williams has designed. The rooms are gorgeous and lush, layered with fabulous old books, paintings, bibelots and objets d'art. You could spend hours (and I have) just poring over every room. The final chapter is a tour of her house in Punta Cana, called La Colina (The Hill). This could be a book in itself. I have never coveted any house by the ocean until I saw this one. All I can say is, "Wow!"

So I realize I'm never going to be Bunny Williams, and my Little Red House is a far cry from the beautiful homes she helps create, but her passion for old books and beautiful fabrics and glorious dishes shines through on every page. So in a strange way, I feel a real kinship with her, and in the end, that's what makes her books so enjoyable. Get these books if you can; I know you'll love them.

Monday, January 21, 2008

My Obsession

If you've been visiting here for any appreciable amount of time, you'll know that I have a thing for china. I love milk glass. I adore transferware. I set the table for fun. I have a slight problem passing up a good buy when it comes to anything dish-related.

I need therapy.

Of course, as I point out to my dear husband, I never ask for jewelry, or furs, or designer handbags. I don't want to go on a cruise, or vacation in Gstaad. I'm not even perfectly sure where Gstaad is. Or how to pronounce it.

I just like dishes.

So sue me.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Getting My Ducks All In a Row

Or, in this case, chickens. Don't they just make you smile? I already had the biggest and the littlest. The second from the left is a gift from bj, at Sweet Nothings. The second from the right is one that my friend, Robin, found for me. I love the way they look all lined up. Cute!

So, getting my chickens all in a row, here are several awards I have been given recently. I am thrilled to death that people actually read what I write; and to be recognized by my peers and friends is so wonderful! Many thanks to all of you!

Karen, from A Scrapbook of Inspiration, and Barbara, of Lapplisor, gave me this award. What a sweet sentiment! I have to say that Karen's blog is always as named -- a wonderful place of inspiration; and her stories of art and travel always make my day! Thank you, Karen. I always love to visit Barbara as well. She does the most beautiful needlework you've ever seen! Thank you, Barbara! I'd like to pass this award on to Dena, at Swaddle Cottage. Her sweet comments always make my day!

I got this wonderful award from Terri, of Pennyann Poundwise. I still find it amazing that people actually get up in the morning and look forward to visiting my blog. How strange is that? Anyway, thank you so much, Terri! I'd like to pass it on to Kathy, at Kathy's Cottage. Her delightful blog is my daily dose of cottage cheer.

And finally, this Amazing Blogger Award came from Dena at Swaddle Cottage and Abbie at Whimsy of A Staggering Artist -- both amazing ladies. I was also tagged to play this game by Stephanie, of The Hearts of Hartmann -- a sweet girl and a fun blog! I'm supposed to list seven random or weird things about me, so here goes:

1. I am a cable news junkie, especially during election season. I think it's my version of gossip.

2. I love trashy romance novels, which is somewhat strange considering I was an English Literature major in college. Or maybe it's just a response to having had to read Moby Dick.

3. When I go for a walk, I'm always picking flowers, or gathering leaves and nuts and stones. I bring them home and put them on the windowsill above my kitchen sink. They always make me smile.

4. I played first doubles on my high school tennis team. God, that was a long time ago!

5. I spent much of my childhood riding (and falling off) horses. Once, in a horse show, I was thrown and landed on my head. My hard hat got wedged down and it took two grown men to get it off -- one to hold me down and the other to pull.

6. Amazingly enough, the hat must have done it's job -- I was one of those nerdy straight-A students.

7. I have never had a manicure or pedicure -- can't stand the thought of someone touching my fingers or, even worse, my toes. Ick!

Phew, I'm glad that's over! OK, now you know the worst. LOL I'm supposed to pass this on, but I think lots of you have already played, so I will just let it float out into the ether. If you want to pick it up, go for it!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Fun(ction) in the Kitchen

Recently I talked about "Fun in the Kitchen." Then I realized that a major reason I have fun in my kitchen is because it is so functional. I did a post a couple of months ago about our kitchen renovation, and how long it took me to find a kitchen designer. You can read about that here.

Our kitchen is such a joy to work in because of Dave Presuto, of Beauty Craft Kitchens in Green Brook, N.J. Dave is the genius behind these wonderful features in our kitchen:

An end cabinet that can be accessed from the front or from the side -- we never have to dig through everything to get to the pot in the back of the cabinet! I can't tell you how marvelous this is!

A small cabinet for cookie sheets -- love it!

A dish rack directly above the dishwasher. This is so wonderful. Actually, the slide-out trash bin is next to the sink, which is next to the dishwasher, too. So dishes go from scraping to rinsing to the dishwasher, then to the dish rack. Perfect!

Microwave next to the freezer. This is great for the kids when they want to make a frozen pizza. Now if I could only get them to clean out the microwave afterward!

And finally, the cabinet above the refrigerator opens downward with a reinforced hinge. I can actually reach the pots in the front of the cabinet without standing on a chair, and without having to hold the cabinet door up. Makes life much easier!

So that's my fun(ctional) kitchen. It's a joy to work in -- thanks, Dave!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

My Reading Spot

I know that in the past, I've told you how I find this time of year so hard to take. The excitement of the holidays is only a distant memory, and taking stock of our lives in the past year often disappoints with unfullfilled resolutions (still haven't lost that extra 20 lbs.!). My birthday comes towards the end of the month, but that's quickly becoming something I don't really want to remember. And I just need spring.

So whenever I feel as though I could use a mental health boost, I try to spend a few minutes sitting in the sun on this sofa, reading and enjoying my morning tea. The sun just pores through this window, and often there are small birds hopping from branch to branch in the shrubs outside. A nice way to start the morning.

Here are some books I got for Christmas. My family knows that I love books, especially decorating books, so there are always a few under the tree at our Little Red House.

So if the sun is shining, chances are this is where you'll find me.

I think I'll go make another cup of tea!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Capturing The Light

I don't know about you, but in the winter, I feel as though it's all about capturing the light. (Jeez, you would think I live in Norway, but New Jersey is about as light-deprived as I can take!). I follow the sun from room to room, and I try to decorate with the greens of the coming spring.

I also gravitate to white at this time of year, both as a fresh and bright way to leave the saturated color of the holidays behind, and as a means of capturing the bright winter light. So out comes the milk glass.

I wasn't always a big milk glass fan. My mother had a few pieces, but they never really appealed to me. Last year, though, I picked up a 50 cent milk glass urn, brought it home and displayed it with my mother's pieces, and an obsession was born.

I have since bought pieces in thrift shops for as little as 25 cents. The average price I spend is $3 -- $4. The most I have paid is $10. for an intricately carved piece with a lid.

I love the color -- somehow fresh and modern. I love the shapes and the fact that, with no painted decoration, they play off of one another to make pleasing groups. And I love the way they capture the light.

So here they are in the bright southern light of the dining room window. This sight never fails to cheer me.

Happy winter!