Thursday, February 28, 2008


Tole trays are not that cheap but I do love them so. I have several around the house; they display so nicely. What is rather cheap AND satisfies my desire for pretty tole trays, are these pins. Found on ebay for under $5 a piece, I can wear one or several at a time. I always get compliments on them, and it's a fun collection to add to.


I am the woman at the beach who you see with a straw hat on her head, a sunburnt back, a bucket and shovel in her hand, stooped over, eyes to the sand, scouring the beach, tidepools and rock jetties for shells. I have quite a collection at home, some of the prettiest from family vacations to Marco Island and Sanibel Island, both on the Gulf of Florida. I could spend the rest of my life doing this every day. Sometimes I'll be on all fours for hours at a time (hence the fried back) searching for the smallest of seashells. Other times it's a long swim out to a sandbar where I'll move slowly in knee-deep water, using my shuffling feet like a metal detector looking for treasure. And the day's bounty is prettier than any gold coin or gleaming jewel.

I am starting on a new project, making shell crosses (will post completed ones soon). With Easter just around the corner, I really wanted to work on something that would make me contemplate this Holy time. I hated to dig into my own sea collection — everything has such memories — so I did order from U.S. Shell. Here is the first shipment, having arrived yesterday. Weekend, here I come!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sharing the Love

Take a look at today's post on Daisy Cottage! Kim had requested one of my hearts for her collection and what I sent to her is featured along with other hearts she has received. It's so nice when your pretty things travel and wind up in the hands (and heart) of someone who appreciates what you do! Thanks, Kim!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Old Man BB Eyes

My sister and I grew up in the suburbs of Baltimore in a modest split-level in a subdivision of working dads, stay-at-home moms and kids, lots of ‘em. We walked to school, rode our bikes everywhere and lived for the days when the telephone repairman would work on a pole nearby and leave us a rainbow of hundreds of plastic-coated wires to play with. Summers amounted to lots of wagon-float parades, where moms came out on front steps to cheer a one-minute event, which had been days in the making. On warm evenings the neighborhood kids would be bathed and in their jammies, wet hair combed to heads and smelling of baby powder. Our parents would let us run around outside before bedtime while dads talked about yardwork and moms fanned their faces and exchanged stories of pre-school and successful recipes. There were lightning bugs to be caught, playing cards to be clothes-pinned to bicycle spokes, and the bell of the Good Humor truck to bring us all to life on the most oppressive and humid of August days.

There was a group of kids (me, sister Beth, Alan, Cathy, Lee, Bryan, Karen) who all lived within two houses of each other. Adjacent to our houses there was an old cemetery. The portion of the cemetery that bordered us was a huge field with wild grasses as high as our necks. It was great for catching butterflies, which for a while there we did with a vengeance. In the summer we’d wear our bathing suits, wrap sarongs around our waists and carry large, wooden salad bowls on our heads and walk through the field playing “Africa.” We’d sing “My Own Home” from The Jungle Book. The boys would take sticks and beat at the grass pretending to “harvest.” Every hour or so someone would yell “lion!” which meant that the men had to save the women, taking them to safety in a line of trees, where the boys would scamper up the branches and be on the look out for the retreating danger. The game would last until we heard moms call for dinner.

The graveyard itself was old (est. 1882) and overgrown. A few of the plots had marble bowls or urns as decorations, and we girls would mash berries in them and pretend we were making food. The boys liked to hide behind the tombstones and carry out wars with neighboring, invisible tribes. An old, slight black man was caretaker of the property; he lived in a rickety house within eyesight of where we played, but far enough away that we felt brave enough to trespass. The grassy field and cold, white marble tombstones and statues were magic to us. Living in this world far outweighed any fear we had of being run off. To us we were on another continent . . . we were in Africa. We never did any damage when we played, although there were older kids in the neighborhood —hoodlums our parents called them — who vandalized.

We called the caretaker Old Man BB Eyes, because one day when he came out on his porch to shoo us off, my sister thought she saw him carrying a gun, and yelled “he has a gun.” To this day she swears she saw him wielding a shotgun. Somehow in the spinning of the legend, the shotgun became a BB gun and a nickname was born. That’s all it took to instill fear and fable into our cemetery days. One kid swore the old guy was both black and white (not sure how he came to that conclusion) and so he also became known as Two-Tone. Whatever his moniker, I look back now and think that that this dear old man was probably a grandfather, a widower, perhaps a war veteran, who was just living out his retirement years earning some extra money by looking out over this quiet, holy place that we called the best place in the world to play. And as only kids can do with their wild imaginations and need for drama, we turned him into a boogey man.

Those days were rich in imagination, and most of today’s kids don’t have a clue what a grassy field, a bowl and a stick can become. I sometimes feel like my generation was the last to know sweet, unadulterated play, without the electronics and media to muck things up. The lesson here: play dress-up with your kids, start a lemonade stand, gather up a bunch of pieces of furniture and throw sheets and blankets over everything to make a giant fort, get the neighborhood kids together on a warm summer evening, plop your own self down in a lawn chair with a flashlight and play flashlight freeze tag. Pretend you’re on another continent.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

And the Oscar goes to . . .

Here at Chateau Gahan, we like to serve up a nice spread for television events, even if the audience is just us two gals. Whether it be the season finale of a favorite sitcom or TV drama, the Super Bowl, or the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, we're all about the food. With tonite's Oscars, the fare consists of peel-n-eat shrimp, edamame and grapes (and I threw a pint of green tea ice cream in there as well). Not a rhyme or reason to these choices; just what a trip to the local Asian market resulted in. It sort of has a peel-it-pop-it-in-your-mouth theme. Yeah, that's what we'll go with.


I watched my teenage daughter take off her Ugg boots this morning and, without a thought, lay them on her bed. I would no sooner take off a pair of shoes, even slippers, and put them on my bed than I would leave a wet towel on the bathroom floor after a shower. I'm sure that I was that way when I was her age. Mind on other things, OK to live in a bit of disarray.

It served to remind me that I needn't get freaked out about the "hair" bunnies that constantly litter my hardwoods from our ever-so-hairy sheepdog, the paperwork and mail that I just can't seem to get ahead of and filed, the not-so-perfect yard (well, cut my self some slack on that one: it is the wet and barren end of winter). The bottom line is that I do the best I can, we live in relative cleanliness and those Ugg boots on her bed do make me smile every time I walk by and see them . . . after all, they do remind me that I have an unpredictable, wonderfully adventurous, carefree woman living with me and reminding me, on a daily basis, that I need not sweat the little stuff.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Monkey Face

We used to call my little sister Monkey Face; she was absolutely adorable. Here are some pictures of the two of us from the early 60's.

Bethie home from the hospital; a little more daunting to me than holding a baby doll.My mom dressed us up in really cute clothes: stirrup pants, white leather mary janes, gingham, pigtails.For Easter, our Nana knitted us these matching yellow coats, PapPap would get us corsages, and of course there were pretty dresses, new pocketbooks, and Easter hats!Ballet recital.And one of my favorite pictures of all. I believe it was a snowy day outside and Beth and I were playing dress-up. I had on some goofy winter hat (we called it the light bulb hat), you can see apron ties hanging, so I must have put on one of my mom's. There's some sort of cape involved in my get-up. And it appears I have a purse. But the piece-de-resistance is the mittens I have on my feet. (You can see the thumb sticking out on my left foot). I have no idea why I chose to put mittens on my feet, but at that age I think every kid thinks "why not?" And you can see Beth in the background sitting on the sofa (in her diaper and a long sleeve undershirt — back then we ALWAYS wore undershirts) and she's pouting because I wouldn't let her wear the "mitten" shoes.

Next Door Neighbor

One of the things that struck me as so smalltown about blogging is that despite there being a network of women worldwide, the sense of community that is created amongst the gals who share the same interests and read each other's blogs daily is as comforting and natural as sending your little one next door to borrow a cup of sugar. I felt it in a very real way when I got a comment and email from Kim of Dear Daisy Cottage, one of my favorite blogs and inspirations, asking if she could purchase one of the hearts she had seen on my blog. I was elated! Here is the package, ready to be sent . . . returning that cup of sugar I borrowed.I used the My Funny Valentine sheet music as wrapping paper (see my Valentine blog where I used the sheet music as a prop), and as packing to keep the hearts from getting damaged I used a cut-up vintage bed sheet. I often come across these and fall in love with the pattern. With all the mailings I do, I decided that cutting up the sheets into small strips using pinking sheers created the perfect packing material for small boxes.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Seems Like Only Yesterday . . .

What a wonderful day! First of all, it was about 60 degrees today . . . heaven. Taking off from work made for such a memorable day for the birthday girl AND for me. She drove to school this morning (with me, since she has just a learner's permit) and we stopped on the way at Chick-Fil-A and sat in the car and ate and laughed. Off to a good start. I then came home, ran around outside with Gideon and baked the cakes. I drove back to school to take her to lunch. Everyone at school had made a big deal about her birthday, and those who hadn't yet wished her a happy sweet 16 were reminded to do so after seeing me drive up with the car all decorated. Someone at school recommended a Mexican restaurant close by and it was, hands-down, the best Mexican I've ever eaten. Good food and lots of talk about what kids at school did for her special day. I had to pick her up at the end of the school day, so rather than go all the way home, I dropped her off after lunch and then went to some area flea markets and antique shops. It was at a last-minute jaunt into a Goodwill that I found this mini-cake stand. How perfect would this be for the cakes I had just made! And for $2.02! (And do you know why Goodwill uses that funky pricing system? I always have wondered and so I asked the checkout girl . . . it seems that people will come in and take a crayon or pencil and try to change the price on an item, so by making a price $2.02 or $6.26, the first and last number always match and so it is harder for a person to change it.)

Anyways, here is the other cake I made on the new stand. How cute is this? And, by the way, for about the most colorful cake and cupcake decorating you can do, get the cans of spray on color. Using Wilton Food Color Mist Spray is as fun, fast and gratifying as spray painting a piece of furniture. There's no taste. Just lots of tacky color. It makes me feel like I'm in a cheesy beach town watching the guy in the kiosk spray painting names and beach scenes on license plates and t-shirts.

Picked my girl up after school, who was all smiles and claiming this to be the best day of her life, and we headed home. One of her best friends had arranged with me to come into the house before she got home from school so that she could decorate Harleigh's room and leave a gift. Home to lots of yellow balloons and one of those BFF posters with pictures of the two of them and words cut out of magazines (cool, fabulous, best buds, friendship) — who wouldn't love a handmade gift like that. Had plans to go out to dinner, but girlfriends beckoned and sad to say, at the age of 16, spending time with girlfriends often trumps an evening of dinner with Mom and then home to watch American Idol. She was grateful for the day, and I sent her off with lots of hugs and kisses (thank God she still does that willingly in public!). I love seeing her happy. Especially on a day that means so much to her. And you know what? Today means everything to me, remembering 16 years of Harleigh. Good God, am I blessed.

Camellias in Bloom

Both my camellia bushes are in full bloom which means lots of little bowls of blooms all around the house. Yay! Spring is just around the corner.

Sweet 16

Today's the big day! Here is Harleigh's cake, waiting for her to come home from school. I've always wanted to get her one of these Josef Original birthday girls, and this year, with the big 16 happening, it seemed the perfect time. I used these mini springform pans from Williams-Sonoma. They are the perfect size! I used two to make this cake, cutting the "muffin top" off of each to make the cake flat.

Flea Market Find

I visited a particular flea market over the course 3 years, every time eyeing this child's old tin washing machine. When the booth owner decided to call it quits and sell everything at a drastic discount, I snatched it up. After all, if it hadn't sold in 3 years and was staring me in the face now at half the price, then it was meant for me.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


I have decided to post about my sister, and to do it a lot. She lives in Maryland and I live here in Georgia. I would give an arm and a leg to have her here with me. But instead, she remains up there and I stay here, with all four limbs intact. We talk every day, for the most part, and on days when we don’t talk, we make up for it with two or more conversations on another day. We use each other, in a sweet way. No one can make me laugh like she can, and no one can make her laugh like I can. If we don’t wet our pants laughing during one of our conversations, then consider the dime we spent on minutes a waste of money. We use each other to build each other up, to bounce ideas around, to vent. Not such a bad deal.

She is beautiful, and works out every day, so she has a killer, rock-hard body and dresses in fun, young clothes. I am chunky and lean toward big men’s shirts and polyester pants. She has the most lovely dimples when she smiles; I wear my dimples on my thighs, where they’re not nearly as cute. We are vastly more different looking as we get older, but we gel like only best friends can.

Today, I did not wet my pants when we talked. But the day is still young . . . and I haven’t sneezed yet.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sunday at Home

Had a wonderful dinner last night at my parents for Harleigh's Sweet 16 birthday. We had a standing rib roast, carrot souffle, baked potatoes, Yorkshire pudding (Mom chose a box mix instead of her tried-and-true homemade recipe; this one flopped royally, but gave us a good laugh), and my mom's "THE best lemon meringue pie you'll ever eat" for Harleigh's dessert of choice. And, of course, gifts.

Today I built a fire although it wasn't nearly cold enough outside to warrant it (this afternoon I gardened in a t-shirt!?!?!) and worked on my teabag cards. Have to get them done in time to get them to Feedle-dee-dee for Mother's Day shopping. An hour of putting jewels in the flowers.

Waiting on lots of shipments to arrive to not only get these cards done but to finish the shell crosses I've been working on. A rather twilight-zoney kind of day, but am getting a lot done despite the odd overcast unseasonably warm weather and a mood of malaise in the house.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Coming Home

There is nothing like coming home on a Friday evening after a long week of work and knowing that you are home for two whole days. Even Friday nights have an especially peaceful quality to them, unlike other nights of the week. Here are some pictures I took this evening of my entry hallway and kitchen.

This portrait, one done of my father by a fellow student when he was in art school, is one of my favorite pieces of art in the house. When recently my dad asked if there was anything in particular of his that I would want someday, I told him this painting. He packed it up and shipped it off; it was probably in a basement or attic of his, and he knew I would enjoy it more than he. And I do.

My kitchen is the one room in my home that I would redo in a big way if I had the money. It consists of the prep area, shown below, and then the eating area, which (see earlier posts) has become a lovely sitting area. I would love to break through the ceiling and give the kitchen a roof-pitched two-stories. I would take out the cabinets that are above the stove and build an island, creating a big open space.

One thing I am rather proud of is my kitchen backsplash. When I moved into the house I had faux wood laminate countertops and backsplash. Knowing that replacing the countertops would be beyond my financial means, I focused on making the backsplash a little more appealing. On a yard-sale spree one weekend, I chanced upon a roll of vintage Delft blue tile contact paper. I bought it knowing that it was my answer to the dated laminate backsplash I hated so much. So, off to buy some paint to cover the laminate sin. Even my friendly ACE Hardware man told me that this was a bad idea (and I think a man in a red vest is the next best thing to God). But as a woman, I forged on, knowing that I could do anything I put my mind to. Armed with enamel paint which I presume means that it can cover ANYTHING with success, I painted the whole backsplash white. I then cut out individual tiles from the contact paper and adhered them. I wound up with something clean, fresh and ME. This all took place in 1999 and to this day not a tile has curled nor an inch of paint chip. I love it when whims pay off.

First Bloom

The first bloom of the season, and see the two new buds ready to blossom.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Grab What You Love

This morning I gave some thought to what one thing I would grab if, heaven forbid, something disastrous were about to happen to my home. This would be after saving the most precious things to me . . . child, dog, myself, photos, pocketbook (for its contents only). I looked around at all the things I've collected and love. Everything in my surroundings has a meaning to me, a memory to it. Suffice it to say that I love my home because it is just that . . . it's more than a house, it's a retreat, a nest, a refuge, a "place in which my domestic affections are centered." So, where to begin with the idea of that one thing.

I love my collection of Peek Frean tins. And while there was a time that I was obsessed with miniature chairs (and have grown quite a collection), I'm actually thinking the time has come to rotate them out of the house and into the attic. My gathered and displayed shells are full of memories. The graceful and arching orchids that grow so wonderfully in my foyer, with the perfect light, are definite sources of happiness to me. But the winner is . . .

my Carl Bray painting. Back when I was married and we were living in California, a stone's throw from the sand and pier of Huntington Beach, we often vacationed (and then-husband had business) in Palm Desert. I never much liked the beaches of Southern California — much more a Florida Gulf Coast kinda gal — but the deserts of California made be dizzy with their beauty. On each visit there I would see, in galleries or hotel lobbies, these beautiful paintings done by a local artist named Carl Bray. Way out of my price range, and certainly not affordable considering our financial status at the time, but I vowed to own one someday.

Back in 1999, starting a new life with my daughter in a new home, back on my feet financially and emotionally, I searched ebay for his paintings. Again, most were not affordable, but I didn't give up. Then came the posting I had been waiting for. A small Carl Bray painting (most of his work is on a large scale) with colors that couldn't have been more suited to my personal palette. And at a price I could not only afford . . . it was a bargain. Opening the box when it was delivered to me was almost ethereal. The painting represented me finally making it, healing from a bad marriage, holding onto a dream, finding beauty in a place in my life that had been so ugly and sad. I could feel the desert heat again that I had loved. I could see the smoke trees, mountains, and the fields of wind turbines. I wish I could tell Mr. Bray just how much this little painting means to me. It hangs above my fireplace mantel, and my parents got me a gallery light to showcase it.

While I don't know that I can afford or find another affordable second Carl Bray, I have found other desert paintings to add to the collection. Here is one in my bathroom.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Big Lazy, Spoiled Boy

Cupcakes and Laundry

When I'm doing laundry I usually bake. It helps that the stove and the washer and dryer are in the same part of the house, but other than that, there's no correlation between the two. Perhaps measuring the detergent into the washer makes me want to measure flour into a sifter. Who knows. But no one in the house is complaining. When mom is gettin' clothes clean, there's always somethin' warm comin' out of the oven.

Here are my Valentine's Day cupcakes. I make a mildly sweet whipped cream frosting which means a generous sprinkle of sugar on top won't make the cupcakes too sweet.

And as far as measuring laundry detergent goes, you'll never catch me measuring out of a box using that clear green plastic measuring cup they give you. My detergent goes into this plastic candy canister along with a vintage tea cup. (I do prefer glass containers, but in this case plastic is a little more safe; if I were to hit the cup on the lip and it were to break into the detergent, it would be a mess.)

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Mother's Day Corsage

Every Mother's Day since my daughter has been old enough to walk and talk, her grandfather has come over the day before Mother's Day when no one is home and hidden a corsage in the back of the fridge. On Mother's Day morning she then presents to me a corsage "from her." It's a really sweet gesture that continues to this day. She knows it's there and peeks at it hidden behind jelly jars and milk cartons, and I pretend that it's not there and act surprised (she and I laugh as every year acting clueless never seems to get old). I wear the corsage every year like a proud badge . . . to church in the morning, to a big Mother's Day brunch afterwards, and then it takes a place of honor on my bedroom dresser until its brown petals and crisp baby's breath wind up a memory.

So this year I came up with an idea (not to replace Poppy's corsage, mind you, but merely as an idea to test drive for other moms) of doing a silk flower corsage that includes a picture frame (or several if a mom has more children) and could stay a keepsake. My version also includes a "With Love" ribbon and a butterfly. I think at the beginning of each New Year I might find some picks with the year on them and could include those so a mom remembers from what year the corsage came. And, of course, the picture frame could date the corsage as well, with the year reflected in the age of the child. I love live flowers just as much as the next mom, but nothing can beat looking at keepsakes and momentos that remind me of why I love being a mom.

Valentine Kitty

Didn't do any embroidery last night like I had wanted to do, but I was quite comfortable working at my table in the study, which means a whole different set of craft skills kick in - lots of glue involved. I love little jars for keeping things organized. They have a quality to them unmatched by plastic organizers. Here is a pimento jar I covered using the same kitten/yarn idea I had used on one of my matchboxes (see my January 8 post).

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

My Funny Valentine

After our Tuesday evening fix of American Idol, I snuggled down in my chair in the ken, Gideon snoring and dream-twitching at my feet, NPR on the radio, and made these two valentines. Pretty little things that served their purpose to keep my idle fingers busy. I pulled the silver pipe cleaner from my Christmas stash 'cause as far as I'm concerned, every holiday should have a little glitz and glitter. And the kissing birds were just too cute an idea to pass up. I think I'll work on a few more tonite (my embroidery skills just aren't where they need to be so I think I'll work that into more designs).

Monday, February 4, 2008

Great Find

Back in the days of Lakewood Antiques Market (those of us who lived for the second weekend of every month knew it as simply "Lakewood"), we'd happen upon the most wonderful finds. The Saturday or Sunday jaunt to this much-missed event usually involved a gaggle of girls. We'd pick a day, a time to meet, and a place (food court? at the "top of the hill"? the entrance gate?). We'd all have a "mission" and work in packs or go off on our own, but always with everyone's "missions" in mind. If kids were a part of the gaggle, they were each given $5 and encouraged to barter, which always made the purchase that much sweeter. The day had to include eating at the food court. I remember days hotter than h-e-double-hockey-sticks where we'd score an umbrella'd table, ahhhh the wonderful smells of funnel cakes and grilled hamburgers, sharing a table with strangers who, by the end of the meal, had become fast friends, comparing our stories of slick negotiating strategies.

On one of our trips there, sadly right before it shut down, my daughter and I found this dress form. It's not a real sewing dress form, it's more of a display form. It's now one of the cutest things in her room. It's always "dressed" in something fun. This weekend I was knee deep in costume-design and -making for our church's Lent dramas. With my daughter sick as a dog and in no state to be a model for me, we lugged the dress form out of her room. It worked wonders. And the whole time I was draping and pinning, I was remembering Lakewood days and feeling rather melancholy.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Pussy Willow

I think the pussy willow is just about the loveliest thing that God came up with when he was in the midst of "think up plants" day in the creation process. And I suppose that when he came up with the pussy willow he had already created the pussy cat and the weeping willow tree. I've never grown them and think that I should if at all possible. I had them at my wedding. Lots of them.

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