Monday, March 31, 2008

Life at Chateau Gahan Isn't Always a Bowl of Cherries

My sister commented to me the other day that my blog is making her sick. Sick, she says, because I sound all Pollyanna. "Your life sounds way too perfect", she whines. Now, you have to know my sister to know that she says this in a very loving way, albeit whiny. She adores me (as much, no, not as much, as I adore her). We pick on each other as only two best friends can. There are never any hurt feelings involved, for the simple reason that we know how far we can push it with each other. And, the bottom line is that all of our conversations end in us laughing hysterically. In the case of her protest about my blog, the ensuing laughfest was all about our dysfunctional lives, our regrets. Granted, I want my blog to be uplifting and reflect my, for the most part, content lifestyle. But perhaps a little dose of reality would make me more real. So here goes . . . a list of the things that make my life very real. Humbling to write, but like Pollyanna herself, I'm including a line that gives the ugly reality a somewhat positive slant.

10. I'm chunky. But children like to cuddle with me.
9. I've come out of a terribly failed marriage. But have come to find myself — whom I rather like, I might add.
8. My daughter and I have our rocky moments. But she sure is my favorite person to be around (when I like her, which is 99.9% of the time).
7. I have a horrible sense of personal style. My home and surroundings are lovely, and that's where my creative energies go. I don't go so far as to embarrass my daughter with my clothes choices, but suffice it to say that she and her friends have talked about getting me onto What Not to Wear. Pollyanna would commend me for all the money I save by buying big men's shirts and polyester pants at Goodwill.
6. I pick at the skin on my thumbs. A bad and ugly habit. But at least I'm not picking on people.
5. I regret the selfishness I displayed in my twenties. I know I hurt a lot of people, even alienated some. The silver lining is that I'm 47 now and wiser, and whenever I get the chance, I apologize to those people and ask forgiveness.
4. I wish I would have pursued my life's passions. I remember as a child digging in the yard and pretending to be an archaeologist. As a "world famous magazine editor," taking blank sheets of paper and creating kids' and lifestyle mags filled with my own articles and drawings. Laying out house plans, complete with furniture, on graph paper, dreaming of becoming an interior designer. The bright side: at least I took my art history degree and worked for two years at a museum of art AND I do have the other half of my life ahead of me.
3. As a mother, though, had I been financially able to, I would have been a stay-at-home mom. I could never understand why any woman would choose to have a career if financially she could be at home with her children; that's just my personal opinion. Nothing can get back the time I lost with my daughter; it would have been so fun to be more involved in her school and afterschool activities. But, I've been super lucky to have a well paying job with a certain degree of flexibility.
2. I suppose I'm probably odd-woman-out, but I have no desire to date or have a man in my life. Is this selfish of me considering that Harleigh would love nothing more than to have a loving father in her life? Just the thought of going on a date sucks the life out of me. I'm happy with things the way they are. Perhaps I'll have a change of heart when my girlie goes off to college. Or I will wind up what the neighborhood children call "the character," who lives alone in a house full of cats, pulls a wagon to the grocery store, and festoons her front porch with a giant plastic goose adorned in an ever-changing parade of holiday attire.
1. And finally, I sometimes battle with depression. I think it is very hormone-related, as it came upon me when pre-menopausal night sweats began and the period started ignoring the calendar. Before I experienced these bouts, had anyone come to me looking for a sympathetic ear about their depression, I would have told them to suck it up, think of happy things, and get on with their life. But now that I know depression on a fairly intimate basis, I have a whole new appreciation for what people go through in this state.

And so, there I am, exposed. And happy to be the me that I am.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

One of my favorite beach purchases

On every summer beach trip we usually buy something to bring home that we can keep out as a reminder of the vacation. This is one of my favorites, a hanging hot air balloon that for years we hung in Harleigh's room. Then when her tastes changed, we moved it to the rumpus room. One of those things that I will have forever, that my grandchildren will look at and imagine The Borrowers piled in and waving, off on a trip to some faraway land.

Ready for Summer

I got this small (toddler-sized) handmade Adirondack chair at a tag sale held by a local private school. I love that it always reminds me of summer and the beach. Even at Christmas, it kept its place, but did share it with the Christmas tree.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Sounds of Home

Once I moved to Georgia in the early 90's, I had my sight set on buying a home. It took until 1999 to make it happen, but I knew going-in that it would be a long road to get there. There were two sounds I associated with the haven of home: the sound of a screened door squeaking open and then slamming shut, and the sound of a bell calling a playing child home for dinner.

And so with my house, I purchased the cheapest screened door I could. One with no springs: it slams shut. And as a housewarming gift, a girlfriend got me this bell which hangs outside of our garage. I would ring it to call Harleigh if she was up the street playing. And often the ringing would follow with a Dad yelling "Harleigh, your mom is calling you home!" And hearing the slam of the screened door would mean the next thing I would see would be a dirty, happy smiling face, jabbering a mile a minute about the tree fort all the kids made or the cool way a wagon tied to the back of a bike made for a neat ride. These simple things are the payoff of all the hard work it took to make this house happen. Everyone should be so lucky to have this music playing in their home.

Sweet Books and Flocked Ponies

I have a few books on my study shelves that are ones I read over and over again. Anything by David Sedaris is worth reading again for a good laugh out loud — his humor never gets stale. Peace Like a River and A Painted House are faithful repeats. And I'm a huge fan of Deborah Smith. Most of what she writes is in the romance genre — not my fave type of reading — but others she's written are beyond wonderful. Side story: A friend had lent me one of Deborah's books, A Place to Call Home. I couldn't read it quickly enough. Each page was better than the next. (I think I even highlighted lines I liked.) A few months after finishing the book, I was walking through a mall and passed a book store. In the window was a sign "Book signing today with Deborah Smith." I took a quick detour and walked up to the table and met her. I was so overcome with emotion that as soon as I was finished chatting with her, I grabbed my daughter, hid in the book stacks and cried. Embarrassing as all get out. Not sure what came over me, other than I had loved the book so much and got so much pleasure in telling the woman who wrote it just how much it meant to me. A chance I normally wouldn't get.

Anyway, there's no chance of meeting Truman Capote, but this little book of three of his short stories is also on my list of read-agains. I savor these little gems of stories. They're so simple and honest. And with so few words, Mr. Capote can paint such a vivid picture of his characters. And this book is all about the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays . . . making them that much more endearing. A must for your study shelves!

And here's a little jar I decorated with this super cute flocked pony. Found some at the craft store in all kinds of fun colors and couldn't resist.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Pix from our 2000 Train Trip to Baltimore

In Monday's post I talked about Harleigh dressing up for our train trip. I went through pictures last night and here she is. She was so into whatever character she had in her mind. Lots of dainty movements, and I'm sure there was a bit of a British accent at one point or another. At dinner that evening, wearing a different long dress altogether (complete with crinoline and bloomers), she graced her way through to the dining car and ate like a very civilized traveling lady.

Monday, March 24, 2008

My daughter was meant to live in another era . . .

My daughter is a big fan of old movies. Since she's been little, she's always loved musicals — Oklahoma, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, White Christmas, to name but a few. And the romance of days gone by has always fueled her imagination. I remember a time when she was about 8 years old and desperately wanted a vintage bathing cap. We bought her one, and off to the neighborhood pool we went. She wore a plush full-length terry bathrobe over her one-piece bathing suit and a big-brimmed straw hat and big sunglasses a la the gals in the 40's when they headed poolside. I think she might have even put on a pair of high-heeled mules to add to the aura.

Back in early 2000 we took a train trip up to Baltimore. Trains in old movies were always so cool. The porter, the dining car, the train station, even stepping out of a train is elegant. Harleigh dressed the part for our trip. She wore a long dress-up dress, lace-up Victorian boots, her hair up in a bun, and she carried a hat box. Once in the train, she changed into a fancier long dress for dinner in the dining car. And our private room was the neatest thing ever. Everything compact. What a trip. What a girl.

Here is a poster I got her for Christmas this year which I have to take to get framed. So Grace Kelly.


I've had several requests for the recipe for the chocolates from Marie and Jacques. Here it is! (Click on it for legible version.)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Finished Table

Finished the table today. It's a light shade of pink and I've sanded some areas. Harleigh now has her nest (this chair and table) whole again.

Nice neighbors are such a blessing

I am truly blessed to have the neighbors that I do. Everyone is respectful, nice and cares about the street we live on. When our kids were little, the street bustled a little more, with bike riding, tent building, and outdoor games. Now that the kids are older, there's less of that. It's now kids home from college for the weekend, prom pictures out in the driveway, and boys who once ran through the sprinkler now cutting lawns for spending money. My neighbors next door smoke me a turkey every year for Thanksgiving and give me a crate of citrus for Christmas. Harleigh delivers cookies every Christmas pulling her little red wagon (which I still make her pull even though she's a teenager . . . the neighbors love the tradition . . . although I've given in on not making her wear the Santa hat). I feel safe and thought of on a daily basis.

Jacques and Marie across the street are French, and Marie makes these wonderful chocolates which Jacques dropped off this afternoon as an Easter treat. Ooo-la-la.

Pretty Doorstop

My front door is forever open. Gideon, after all, has to view the world — in our case a little town in Georgia — going by every day. I've taken a piece of Nippon (my father collects it and has thousands of pieces, some of which he's given to me on various visits up to his home in the countryside of Maryland), filled it with sand, and now use it as a very pretty doorstop.

Happy Easter, World!

I have a small blackboard in my kitchen that I've propped up on a cookbook stand. It is a constantly changing billboard of welcomes, holiday announcements, good luck wishes and random thoughts. And today's wish to all . . .

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Dog Day Afternoon

Temperatures in the 70's. Sunny. Warm breeze. What an Easter weekend! Spent a good part of the afternoon in the yard. Harleigh in a bikini trying for that tan-before-Spring-Break (back in my day we called it frying with baby oil on). And I sat in the shade with my calves out in the sun, pants pulled up to my knees, reading. And Gideon played ball and lounged. Most dogs play with tennis balls. Our boy is so big that a soccer ball works much better.

Was at church this morning dressing the altar for Easter. Tons and tons of beautiful white lilies. I can't wait for service tomorrow. Our church is having a breakfast beginning at 7AM which we'll go to. And then I have to prepare both the 9:30 and 11:00 services for communion. Always been a crier, big time, and I really amp up the prayers before Easter service because it takes every ounce of strength I have to keep it together. Between the full orchestra (the trumpet leaves me practically curled in the fetal position with emotion), the Easter hymns, and the service ending with the Hallelujah chorus (our choir is quite amazing), I'll wind up with a headache from holding it all in. And my lip quivers, which is never pretty.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Spring Break in England

On past Spring Breaks, Harleigh and I have headed to the Florida Gulf Coast and stayed in various rental bungalows and houses. On the last few trips, I've indulged myself with the purchase of British home and decorating magazines (rather pricey here in the States, but worth every penny). But this year Mommy will be staying at Chateau Gahan for the Spring Break while Harleigh heads to Florida with a girlfriend and her family. I plan on doing lots of nesting, but figured that my one splurge should not be solely saved for sitting on the sand under a beach umbrella, so I bought two today . . . along with Artful Blogging, a book unto itself.

The Greatest Gift of All

I will try to keep in mind all throughout the day today why I am off of work, what this holiday signifies. As I stood at my kitchen window, warm mug in hand, cocooned in my cozy home, gazing out at my cherry blossom tree,which is just beginning to bloom, I thanked Him.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Greek Easter Cookies

I'm always up for a good ethnic holiday food tradition. When a Greek gal I work with, Georganne, was giving another coworker a couple of xeroxed pages of Greek Easter Cookies recipes from her church's cookbook, I snagged a set. (And who doesn't love those church cookbooks, right?) Of the 8 or so versions of this cookie, I chose the one submitted by a Greek woman with the longest, and most Greek sounding name. Turns out, the woman's recipe I chose happens to be a late member of their church, and so I felt especially honored to have chosen her version. While the list of ingredients was hardly daunting, the 20 minutes of kneading the dough was a bit of a work out. But the cookies turned out beautifully. They sorta remind me of a Stella Dora cookie that my Dad always used to eat. As a kid I could never understand their appeal . . . a cross between a cookie and a biscuit, on the dry side and not very sweet. In other words, no Oreo. But now I can appreciate a cookie with a smidgen of sweetness, some density for dunking in coffee, and a tradition to boot.

Here's the Wikipedia entry on these delights:
Koulourakia, (In Greek pronounced: koo-loo-RAHK-yah), is a traditional Greek dessert, typically made at Easter, to be eaten after Holy Saturday.They are butter cookies with egg glaze on top. They have a sweet delicate flavor with a hint of vanilla. Traditionally they are shaped by hand and sometimes are covered with sesame seeds. Koulourakia are well known for their sprinkle of sesame seeds and distinctive ring shape. In fact, the word is the diminutive form for a ring-shaped loaf or lifebelt. In fact, the word louri in Greek means belt. These cookies are also often shaped like small snakes by the Minoans. This ancient culture on Crete worshiped the snake for its healing powers. However, yet other shapes were added to the. Now there are also braided circles, hairpin twists, figure eights, twisted wreaths, horseshoe shapes, Greek letters. Greek pastry chefs, however, still usually form Koulourakia like snakes. These are also rightful with morning coffee or afternoon tea. In Greece, they are baked especially at Easter.

And here's the recipe I used (click on image for a legible version):

Rose Bowl Flea Market

Some coworkers of mine were on the West Coast last week conducting a press check for one of the publications our company wrote and designed. I had called one of the gals, Courtney, on Sunday morning to follow-up on some business and she told me that the day would be a non-working day for them and she and another coworker were meeting up in the lobby of the hotel and heading off to the Rose Bowl Flea Market.

When I lived in Southern California, going to outdoor flea markets was a cheap weekend event. I'd pack up the car with baby, stroller, food and drink and we'd head out and spend the day in the sun, walking the row after row of vendors. We didn't have much money back then, so buying was not really an option. And so a flea market trip was more like a walk through a museum or gallery, viewing the beautiful "art," stopping to study and dream about what I would do with a chance to buy whatever I wanted to. The Rose Bowl Flea Market was a one-time visit for us, being quite a drive from our home in Huntington Beach. But I remember the huge number of vendors, the colorful tents, the people with wagons and carts, everyone enchanted by the surroundings and not wanting it to end.

And so Courtney, knowing that I'd rather be with them at the Rose Bowl Flea Market than anywhere else, went on a mission to find me a treasure, and came back with not only this lovely little Wedgewood plate, but the ticket from the Market. Is this girl a gem or what?


Our little boy turned one today. What a wonderful year it has been. We grow in love with him more and more every day.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Happy Friday (and Happy Birthday, Beth!)

Looking forward to this weekend! Palm Sunday is one of my most favorite of church holy days. We'll probably dye eggs this weekend. And a Greek gal I work with gave me some recipes for Greek Easter cookies, which seems like a fun baking project for Sunday afternoon.

And Happy Birthday to my sissy! Love you dearly. (These last of my winter pansies are yours to enjoy; as pretty to look at as you are!)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Morning Pictures

Just a simple posting of some pictures from this morning, the sun warming the house, Salty and Peppy enjoying the light. The only thing that would make my window view perfect would be to see a white beach beyond the starfish perched on the sill.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Shell Cross

I finished the first of my shell crosses last night. I can't part with this one and so I'm hanging it in my bedroom. I love the half of a pink urchin at the bottom; some of the shells I ordered came in broken and so I used those wherever I could. While most of the shells are used with the outside showing, I used two shells inside-showing to represent Christ's heart, open to loving everyone and exposed for all the world to see, and to show how our hearts should be open to all the good and beauty that God can bring into our own lives. I also have a pearl in my design — pearls are mentioned often in the Bible. In one case the Kingdom of Heaven is compared to a "pearl of great price."

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Blind as a Bat

When it comes to seeing up close, I've become rather challenged. I have a pair of reading glasses (from the Dollar Store) in every room of the house. Much like keeping the remote handy but camouflaged, my reading glasses need to be handy but blend in as nicely as possible with all the prettiness that surrounds me.

In my bedroom they rest on a tin tray along with lip balm, a candle and matches, and a starfish. In the study where I do most of my crafting, they are hooked on a green bean can used to hold supplies. And in my bathroom they share a pretty vintage cup with a pen.

The fruit bowl in the kitchen is home to another pair. Then there's the two pair in the rumpus room, one next to my reading chair and another in a bowl with paper clips and loose coins next to the computer. And in the living room I have a pair next to my chair. In the ken, they nest in the gravy boat I just got yesterday. Now you see why I make all my eyeglass purchases at the Dollar Store.

Those Dang Remotes

TV, DVD player, stereo, IHome . . . all these remotes and an eyesore to boot. That's why I've set my sight on creating pretty places where we can keep these ugly necessities camped. A big shell in our study spoons the stereo remote. A collection of handmade purses hanging on the door of the armoire in our rumpus room holds TV and DVD remotes.

Other Finds

. . . from yesterday's stop at My Favorite Place. These miniature ceramics from Japan. I always gravitate toward these at flea markets. They sell for as little as 50 cents and I can always find a place in the house to tuck them. I love how the little bunnies have designs on their reverse sides.

Peek Frean and other floral tins

I began collecting tins with flowers many years ago. One particular type of tin, those made by Peek Frean, are my dearest and are on display in the ken of the house (And yes, I did photograph all these tins. A testimonial to just how beautiful these actually are, considering what a novice photographer I am.)

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Let It Go: The Flea Market Mantra

While out running errands this morning, I stopped in one of my favorite antique/junk/treasure places "My Favorite Place." (I'm trying to find a small dresser for Harleigh's room, but not having much luck.) As I got out of the car and began scouring their outside tables, I saw a man dredging through a giant plastic tub of shells, obviously a find that belonged to me. I nonchalantly shopped near him, spying the cheap price, and hoping he'd give up and walk away. I even admit to following him around the market, hoping, hoping, hoping. He wound up buying it and I "could not let it go." It gnawed at me. My sister called and I told her about it. "Let it go," she said. I ran into two ladies deep within the rows of junk and gems, and one was telling the other, "Let it go." I stopped them and we began to laugh about our similar happenings, and our similar mantras.

At the last vendor stall, I chanced upon a huge glass vase filled to the brim with shells, cheaper than the one that got away, and with better shells. And I found this enchanting floral gravy boat, a handy place to keep my glasses, one of the umpteen pair I have in every nook and cranny of our house.

Fit for a King (or a Queen, a Princess and a Big Sheepie)

My King-sized sanctuary. It's just me under the covers at night, but I love the vastness of my bed. And when Harleigh and Gideon want to do "snuggle-time" (a daily ritual at Chateau Gahan), we're ever so grateful for the square footage.

Missing Baltimore, Hon

I certainly don't miss the cold weather of the North, although this morning in Atlanta it is snowing . . . which means nothing. We could be wearing tshirts and running around barefoot in 70 degree temperatures by this afternoon. What I do miss is family — a generous spattering of them is in Baltimore and towns about and states abutting. I miss the ethnic pockets — Italian neighborhoods, German, Polish — all of them so rich in tradition and true to their roots.There's the food — Maryland blue crabs by the bushel to be enjoyed on a summer afternoon on wooden picnic tables, the sting of Old Bay seasoning on your fingers. And crab cakes, and soft-shell crabs. And I sorely miss the snowball stands (see this wonderful article to truly understand what a treasure this is). There's the Inner Harbor, Fells Point, marble stoops and painted screens. And that Baltimore accent, hon, is my first language. I've lost much of it now that I'm in the South, but when I go back, it spills out of my mouth and I am home.

This Christmas my dad and his wife sent a package that included this coffee. I have really enjoyed it and plan on ordering some, as I drank the last of it this morning. Again, another thing to love about Baltimore.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

For You, Beth

My sister has threatened me that she'll kick some Dawn E. Girl butt if she logs on one more time and sees a smiling Ace Hardware man looking back at her. So, since I had no time to come up with something creative, I simply took a picture of the quiet place in my bedroom where I retreat when I need some sit-in-a-chair-with-my-eyes-closed time.

You might also like . . .

Related Posts with Thumbnails