Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A true romantic

I am a romantic.

 As a child I loved nothing more than running through the fields near my home, hair streaming in the breeze, a fistful of wildflowers in hand imagining myself a fair and gentle princess. On any given day I could be seen riding my strawberry roan mare bareback through the thousands of acres near our country home. The scent of dry grass and sight of giant ancient oaks taking me in my mind to a space and time where I was a  maiden warrior riding the vast expanse of my kingdom.

Although life, marriage, five children, the years and my surroundings have changed me outwardly, that romantic imaginative spirit lives on.

I love all things Jane Austin. I love the drama, the strong female characters. I love the settings of charming villages and dark mysterious estates. I fancy myself to be Jane at times- living and breathing through the words she penned so eloquently years ago.

Last summer I had the good fortune to visit England while my daughter and son-in-law lived there to complete their Masters degrees at Cambridge University. I spent many days "banging" around the charming historic city of Cambridge. 

King's College Chapel at Cambridge University
Punting on the Cam a peaceful and historical event....drifting through time.

My grandson and I riding along while Daddy punts.
Punting on the river, running through 1000 year old gardens, standing in the shadow of Kings College and attending evensong at Pembroke.

Pembroke College chapel where we attended evensong.
Each morning as the quaint British robin sang his lilting melody and each evening as the chapel bells rang out, my romantic soul swelled.

The crowning event of my sojourn to the Queens country took place during one particular day. My daughter and son-in-law arranged for a days' journey to Jane's home. We traveled the winding picturesque country roads through Nottingham forest...
The ancient oak. Thought to be the home of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. The diameter of this tree is about 16 feet across! the beautiful town of Chatham. 

An amazing thatched roof cottage in Chatham. This home stands just down the road from Jane Austin's.
Thatched roofs, thick stuccoed walls and stone fence greeted us at every turn. When at last we arrived in Jane's town it was everything I had dreamed it would be.

The gardens surrounding the home she lived in with her mother and sister are a bit different from when she cared for them. However, a beautiful antique, pink rose, planted during the time Jane lived there, still clambers over the entrance to the home. As I walked under it's ancient canes the scent filled my mind and heart. I imagined Jane and Cassandra there to greet me.

Jane's beautiful clambering rose.
Me enjoying my dream destination.
Her pianoforte still fills one corner of the sitting room. My daughter, fingers light and flowing played as if invited by Jane herself, filling the room with the melodic sounds of her time.
The very desk at which Jane wrote and the ink well she dipped remain near the garden window. Her inspiration and thoughts must have flown much as mine do, imaging herself beautiful, strong and brave.

The very desk and chair at which Jane wrote.
Upon returning from England I decided my soul needed a place of respite in my own home. A once loved bedroom across the hall from our elegantly renovated bath sat empty and forlorn. It's previous inhabitant now married.

I decided this would be my place. A place to remember. A place to dream. A place to BE Jane, a fair princess or a maiden warrior or any other entity I desire.

I set about restyling the room. Fabrics purchased in Cambridge became pillows and a bedskirt.

Fabrics "harvested" in merry olde England. My favorite are from Cath Kidson. Check out their online store.
Poetry penned in elegant script  by my great-grandfather rests on the antique wire bed stand.

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Dolls once played with by great great grandmothers....

...share space in an antique hutch with treasured teacups collected by a cherished grandmother. 
Some of my cherished tea cup collection.
The "Queen's" patterned china collected in my travels rest within as well.

Small lithographs of pastoral scenes, images of what I imagine Jane's life to have been like, adorn one wall. My treasured watercolor of Jane's Chatham home hangs nearby.

A beautiful hand crafted porcelain bride rests atop an antique dresser(a wedding gift to my mother).

Every inch of this room fills my heart and soul feeding the romantic that dwells within. When I am sad, thoughtful, filled with a longing for fantasy or a life like Jane's, I step into "my" space, softly close the door, lie down on the matelassé' coverlet and dream. Sometimes awake and sometimes with my eyes closed.

It is my firm belief that we should each have a magic place. A place we can step into and romanticize. I like to think Jane would agree.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Putz Village complete!!!

Welcome to the winter wonderland...

I completed my Putz village today. With the help of my youngest daughter, I added people and a few tiny details.

This charming little town now rests on the barnwood cabinet I built especially for the guest room (more on that later). Each night before a guests drifts off to sleep they can view this pastel paradise. Perhaps it will prompt sweet dreams of winter scenes. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Winter comes...

Winter came to our home today. She rode in on a sparkling silver stag.
Photo courtesy of Steve Gourlay
Leaving in her path crystals and ice. She touched the last rose of summer, cloaking her in ice, setting her to sleep  until next years' awakening.

Today she dusted the mountains with snow. As if by magic they became host to the confectioner's sugar and crystaled rock candies.

Now I can begin... to listen to the sounds of the season in song. So I put on the music. Christmas music (just a tiny bit early....shhh). My old friends Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Michael Buble and Burl Ives. Singing songs of my childhood,(My mother's favorite Christmas music) and inspiring an afternoon by the fire painting and crafting.

I love the tradition of a Christmas village. This year, I learned that the original "villages" were inspired by the placement of a nativity under the Christmas tree. A "putz" or Christmas village grew from that tradition.

Photo courtesy of
In the early 20th century many "putz" homes were made of cardboard and decorated with paint, glitter and miniature deer, trees and snowpeople. The first villages are accredited to the Morovian church. They mass produced and sold the tiny homes as a fundraiser.

 Later in the 20th century homes became ceramic and resin. Mass produced and sold in discount stores.

28 years ago I made my first village homes. A church, which of course every town needs. A few humble cottages and shops were then added. Through the years our family has added more buildings, people and accessories.(see our village in the next post).

This year, as a tribute to the original putz homes I decided to craft a tiny village in pastels for my guest room. My intention was to construct them from paper and cardboard. Today however, I made a hasty visit to the dollar store to see the new additions. Winter brought with her some additional treasures! I bought five tiny houses and a gazebo.

Joy filled my heart as I hurried home to light the afore mentioned fire, pull out the paints and begin crafting.

I first sprayed each house with a quick coat of white Rustoleum paint with primer. After allowing it to dry (mostly), I pulled out my crafts paints and set to work. 

Each tiny home, church and business was magically transformed into a tiny pastel dream! Acrylic craft paints were the first layer added to my white base. Then, light greens for the swags and wreaths. Acrylic white to highlight the snow. A layer of glitter paint for highlights.

The final step was to coat each little cottage in Modge Podge and press sparkling crystal glitter to every square inch.

I love my little houses. I will add some bottle brush trees and a few tiny reindeer to finish off my "putz" village. Look for a future post to see the assembled town!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Forgotten Holiday...

I am not that old.

Although my kids may disagree...

Even I can remember when Thanksgiving was a big deal. Anticipated by every child and grown-up. 

Thanksgiving Day was the first official day of the holiday season. Stores were closed. Businesses closed for family to be together. No one went anywhere other than their dinner destination. 

Now it seems to be the forgotten holiday.

 I remember looking forward to the assortment of friends and family  arriving. Pies, cranberry orange relish( a family recipe) and the GINORMOUS turkey laid out on our pool table turned buffet. It was a special all day event.

Thanksgiving 1976

We woke early to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving day parade. Eagerly seeking the arrival of Santa and his sleigh bringing the parade to a close.

via: Maceys,com


Dinner was the main event followed by games of tag and hide and go seek for we cousins and friends. The grown ups would stay inside and visit. Sometimes Grammie and the Aunts would play a game or two of canasta. Stories of ancestors and thoughts of gratitude were shared. It was a time for family. A time for togetherness, patriotism and reminiscing.

Later in the day, the BIG  newspaper would arrive filled with ads and toy catalogs from what seemed to be every store. My sister, brother and I would sprawl out on the floor, pen in hand, to circle all the amazing offerings we wanted Santa to bring a month later.

Once our minds had been filled with gratitude, anticipation and sweet dreams, our bodies would succumb to the turkey,  trimmings, and our second helping of pie. We would head off to bed looking forward to the second day of the magical holiday season.

The day after Thanksgiving was much anticipated too. We knew mom would take us shopping with her into downtown Sacramento. Somehow all the stores, lampposts and mall centers had been magically transformed with holiday décor and lights.

A visit to Santa was the order of the day for us children. Often we would carry with us those treasured Thanksgiving day ads to share with the jolly elf exactly what we were dreaming of.

Christmas 1970
When our long day of trudging through stores had come to an end; When we had conquered the line to speak with Santa, we returned home.

One of the very best parts of our Thanksgiving holiday actually happened the day after. Mom would make turkey soup with the leftover turkey, veggies and stuffing. She added savory rice to thicken the mix. Upon our arrival home  from our foray into the land of holiday and lights, a delicious bowl of turkey soup awaited.

The last and possibly most exciting day of our Thanksgiving weekend brought the transformation of our own home. Dad would pull out the boxes of decorations from the attic. Then mom and us three kids would set about transforming the house. Holly garlands as tie backs for all the curtains. Peek a boo Santa adorned the toilet seat. Our elves and sleighs rested on the ledge near the kitchen.

The piece de resistance... we brought home a living Christmas tree to fill the house with the fresh scent of Christmas. Treasured ornaments from years past were carefully hung on the limbs. There was no fancy tree skirt. Mom would pull a freshly washed white sheet from the linen closet and my sister and I would lay bellies down under the tree to spread our new fallen "snow".

Thanksgiving weekend was a time of love and magic. A time to be grateful for all the blessings we had received during the previous year. Thanksgiving weekend was a time to share with family and friends. Precious memories were made.

There was no rushing off to a sale or standing in line all night. Thanksgiving was OUR day.

Thanksgiving at Grandma's house

Thanksgiving 1999

My husband and I have tried to hold on to Thanksgiving. Our children look forward to many of the same magical traditions of gratitude and family.

Monday, November 3, 2014

All are safely Gathered in....

I love the Thanksgiving season.

When Halloween is over, I am ready to take down the spiders and skulls. Storing them away til next year brings a sense of calm and respite.Creepy crawlies are exchanged for harvest and plenty.

Welcoming in the harvest season begins at the front door. I even plant brightly colored mums near the steps, just so we can enjoy the color with our harvest décor. 

Pumpkins, gourds, leaves and berries are gathered from the garden and surrounding fields. Fruit baskets, an old wagon and farm bucket make for delightful displays when filled with the gifts of mother earth.
Once the exterior is done, my heart turns to the hearth. It IS after all the heart of our home. Transforming the fireplace hearth and mantel brings me particular pleasure. Each year I begin by stripping it down to the bare bones.

A trip along the river bank or into the fields near our home comes next. I gather branches, leaves, fruits etc to dress the surfaces of our home. Pumpkins and gourds are gleaned from the garden

When I have gathered all that catches my eye, I bring it in and lay it out on the floor. Then the fun begins. Layer by layer the mantle and hearth are filled with the emblems we are THANKFUL for.


When the fireplace is finished I move on to warming the room as a whole.  I add the half panel fabric pieces to my white linen drapes. This immediately changes the feel of the room.

Runners in a fall print are added to our wingback chairs in the reading corner. Throws are pulled out too into a harvest basket for snuggling up.

Pillows are transformed with easy textural covers. Velvets, rough linens in fall prints, even burlap to complete our harvest look.(These custom embroidered pillows are available here .)

Last, the mayflower and pilgrims take their place of honor...this year at the center of our harvest table.

Welcome Thanksgiving....welcome friends and family...all are safely gathered in.