December 6, 2014

Playing Catch-Up: Post-Thanksgiving Review


Once again, I'm playing catch-up. November was a busy month, and it had barely gotten started when I was hit with a cold/flu/bug/thing on the 8th that made everything even more challenging. I was pretty well under the weather for the first two weeks, and gradually have been feeling less like I was hit by a bus, but not quite 100% a full month later.  Who knew?  Certainly not part of my plan for the month, but I am so rarely ill that when I am, I hunker down, do what I need to do to get better, though sometimes these bugs take their own sweet time to leave your body and your life.

Happily, I'm nearly there, but Thanksgiving, which is one of my favorite holidays, was essentially a non-event for me. I knew early on that I would be declining any invitations to join others' celebrations.  I had ear-marked the time to catch up on as much sleep as I could, and I had already made my own preparations for a simple holiday meal that I fondly call "personal pan poultry" - aka Cornish game hen - and a bit of home-made traditional bread stuffing and Brussels sprouts.  

For those of you who live in the Northeast, and for anyone who was attuned to the news in the weeks prior to Thanksgiving, you'll know that Western New York was beyond slammed with a huge snowstorm in early November - not uncommon for that part of the state, but the volume - 8 feet and more! - was well beyond typical for the region in mid-autumn.  And it just wouldn't quit.  I spent a few years dealing with Western New York  (along with a good chunk of the rest of the state) in a previous professional life, so while I don't live there, I did feel the locals' pain. What a nightmare! 

Fortunately, my part of the state was relatively unscathed, but eastern New York had its share of early season snow on the day before Thanksgiving - about 8 inches by the time it was done on Thanksgiving morning. When I got home that Wednesday at about 4pm, I was well prepared to hole up indoors and not go out -- and I didn't venture out until the Saturday after the holiday.

So, in belated honor of Thanksgiving, I'm sharing the above vintage postcard that I purchased on eBay several weeks ago from a seller in Tennessee. It was a nice card, certainly, but there was something else about it that compelled me to spend a few dollars (very few, fortunately) to buy it.  It was inscribed on back in ink (clearly from a fountain pen) by "Addie" to her brother, "Fred" and - although neither stamped nor postmarked - it was addressed to a rural route located in Schaghticoke, New York. Huh? Where, you ask? Well, Schaghticoke (pronunced SKAT-ti-coke) is a small, rural town in eastern New York not far from the Vermont border (in Rensselaer County, actually) that I know quite well, and which isn't very far from where I live.  It seemed only appropriate to buy it for the few pennies being asked so I could bring it back home to upstate New York.

I hope you had a happy Thanksgiving and you're gearing up for the December holidays and festivities ahead.  I'll try to get back here to post before they've passed! 

   
 


November 4, 2014

From Mid-Summer to Mid-Autumn - Whoosh!



Wow...once again, I'm lagging far behind in this blogging thing. The high-speed activity level of the year has continued unabated and I barely have time to think, let alone write, but I'm grabbing these few minutes to update a bit.

I'm limited these days to using the fireplace mantle as my outlet for creativity...there just hasn't been much time to do more in the house, so the mantle it is.  About six weeks ago, as the leaves were just starting to change here in the Northeast - I took the photo above at a lovely horse farm nearby at the height of peak fall color about 3 weeks ago - so I decked out the mantle for fall - well, actually for Halloween more precisely. I've managed to accumulate quite a few fall items that I carry forward from year-to-year, so it was a treat to break them out again even if I wanted the warm days to linger for a while. Fortunately, the warmer temperatures did linger, so I cannot complain. It has been a lovely autumn season and there are still many trees with brightly colored leaves, though the "peak" of the foliage display has passed.

So, for autumn/Halloween, I used some new pieces and some treasured items.


The centerpiece of my autumnal decor is that sweet pumpkin teapot. It's an exact replica of one that my late mother gave me about 20 years ago as a birthday gift, but, sadly, it was broken by one of my mischievous kitties (at my former home). I realized over the years that it was a special keepsake and I wanted to find another just like it, if I could. Well, don't you know, I did find one on eBay and at a reasonable price, so now it takes pride of place at the center of my mantle for the fall season.


The teapot is surrounded by some Halloween items I've had for a few years - none particularly costly - many picked up at local discount stores, thrift stores or church sales, but I just liked their style or feel. Most were less than a dollar.  The larger faux pumpkins/gourds I picked up last winter when my local K-Mart was closing. (Glad there's still another one about 15 miles away or I'd be very sad -- K-Mart is great for fun things like this -- sometimes they're a bit hokey and overdone, but easily re-made or minimized with a change of ribbon, etc. for a more elegant style.)  I also love the little metal votive candle holders with the cut-out pumpkins - they're a bit hard to make out in the photo, but so fun at night when illuminated!


For another inexpensive seasonal element, I cut out two sides of a six-pack carton of Blue Moon pumpkin ale. I'm not a big beeer drinker, but if I do have a pilsner on occasion, I like the fuller flavored brews like the richly flavored ales one finds at this time of year.  I thought the appealing graphic design of Blue Moon's pumpkin ale carton was very well done - and fun! -so there is one side of the carton adding a bit of bright blue contrast to the orange of the pumpkins. I found the little blue terra cotta jack-o-lantern votive holder at Goodwill a few years ago...it just spoke to me.



If you look closely, you'll see a small wooden black cat hanging ornament with an applied jack-o-lantern just to the left of the teapot spout. I think my mom gave me that one, too, for my birthday one year (November 1), so I gather she thought it was a cute combination of elements that would appeal to me, being a cat person, too. In the foreground is a charming small banner that I picked up at a delightful gift shop in Kinderhook, NY, several years ago that features beautifully hand-made primitive items. This banner consists of three sections of a stiff paper, faux-painted to mimic wood with a pinked edge and, cleverly hand-lettered with "The Witch is In" and "Halloween". The sections are strung together with heavy black thread and it's a hoot! 

I must confess Halloween, while fun for me as a child, has never really been my favorite celebration. As I've gotten older, I sometimes avoid the fray and go out for dinner - no more costume parties for me, thank you - but a commitment kept me at home this year, so the handful of trick-or-treaters I did greet wasn't much of a bother and, fortunately, I was prepared for them.  I just remind myself that it's always a fun tradition for the kids - especially the littlest ones - so I just rolled with it. It was fine.

Now that Halloween has past, I've put away those items and have started pulling out the Thanksgiving pieces, but before I get heavily into that celebration, I'm giving the mantle a bit of focus on just the fall season. I've replaced the pumpkin teapot with a fun new one that I just found recently that works perfectly.  I'll be posting images of the current mantle display soon, so stay tuned for that and the change-up to Thanksgiving. The holidays are rolling in fast and furiously now, so I promise it won't be long!

July 5, 2014

A Very Bunny July 4 Mantle


This year, I'm still getting settled in my new home, so the festival holiday decorating is, out of necessity, restrained and contained. Still, I do like to use the fireplace mantle as the focal point for any celebratory displays.  Since my July 4 decorations were somewhat limited, as well, it seemed the best way to use them was atop the mantle.

I picked up Mr. and Mrs. Independence Day bunnies at a July 4 festival in central New York about 25 years ago. I was heavily into my "country home" period and they just appealed to me. (My only stuffed animal to survive from childhood was a beloved bunny, so this pair spoke to me instantly when I saw them, snapped them up and brought them home.)

To my disappointment, I discovered that Mrs. bunny lost one of the tiny wooden beads that served as eyes (as you can see on Mr. bunny). Not sure how that happened, but they've been in storage in an uncovered box for some months so I can only assume the single thread keeping it tethered simplly broke and I didn't notice. Still, the beads are quite small and I thought she could do with some larger "eyes" and I found a pair of pretty, bright blue buttons that I though would do the trick very nicely. (I'm thinking about a similar pair of red buttons for Mr. bunny in due course.)

None of this is very fancy as holiday gestures go, just a few things that are in keeping with the spirit of the holiday, all linked by some fun red foil-covered wire with stars to provide the requisite "fireworks" and sparkle. It's the best I can do at this stage...more elaborate decor will be possible in the months ahead, I'm sure, but I should have the full compliment of July 4th regalia for next year.

After a somewhat rainy start on the 4th, the weather in the Great Northeast is expected to be summer perfection for the whole weekend!  Hope your July 4th was a fun and festive celebration and the holiday weekend is a happy, healthy and safe one! 

June 21, 2014

Fast Forward to Summer!

I admit it. I've been AWOL. It has been a busy crazy spring and I have no other excuse, but I'm hoping posting today, on this first day of summer, that I'll be forgiven.  I've got some photos to share...nothing spectacular, but better than none at all.

As I mentioned the last time, I moved into a new home at the first of the year.  I'd rather not get into photos of the home itself because it has been - and continues to be - a rather protracted settling in process, but I have been spending time out in the yard and creating the start of a pleasant environment out there.  My home has a lot of northern exposure, so doesn't get a ton of direct sunlight inside (except through the skylight at mid-day), but as the sun moves around during the day that yard gets a good bit of direct sun from about mid-day on and plenty in the afternoon.

Since I don't have the time or energy to get into creating a vegetable garden, I am experimenting with container plants, mostly flowers and herbs that I can shift around to capture maximum sun.  I've picked up some of the usual annuals - geraniums, petunias, a few snapdragons, some vinca vine - and have been enjoying their constant blooms since late spring.

I also decided I'd be a little bit ambitious and start some annual flowers from seeds, just to see if I could create a real display of vibrant color. I've always admired the brilliant zinnias that a friend grows annually, so I'm giving them a go, along with morning glory and some cleome.  I've grown the latter two in the past and always liked them, but it has been quite a while since I've grown anything from seed, so this will be a little bit of an adventure.  Perhaps in another month or so, I'll have some new colors in bloom...we'll see.

In the meantime, here are a few shots of my efforts to date.      





February 1, 2014

New Year, New Home






Well, the 2013 holiday season (post-Thanksgiving) came and went, and while I'd started a Christmas Day post, I only got as far as the first word..."I".  Now, more than a month later, and after several interrupted attempts in January, I'm finally back to give it another go on February 1, so belated Happy New Year (plus 31 days)!

To be fair, I had something of a legitimate excuse for my absence -- I moved.  Again.  Seems like it is something I've done several times during the past few years - actually I have moved twice since 2010 - so while I've learned never to say "never" and certainly nothing is forever (sigh), this move was a deliberate one to a very neat place that I looked long and hard to find. 

The latest move was driven, in part, by my changing job situation and location, so once the job location was settled, I set about to find a place that would meet my fairly short but very firm list of needs.  The past few years have been ones of some compromise involving the location of my residence, and being the "mom" of several beloved if somewhat aged felines that have been with me since the day their little furry selves were born at my former farm in the country, they were the number one non-negotiable.  Where I go, they go.

Fortunately, after several months of scouring the market (which, fortunately, is something I also do as part of my job, so fairly easy to manage), I found the perfect place.  Another requirement was that it be very near my workplace.  That's not something that was important to me in the past, when I actually preferred to be in the country and just far enough from the office (25 miles) that it wasn't too nearby, but was easy to get to via the nearby interstate highway network.

But times change, preferences change, and I've reached a point where, even though I've always loved driving and travel, my days of commuting more than a few minutes are done.  Gas is no longer as cheap as it was back when I had that easy, 30-minute commute, so the goal at this point was to find a place that met my needs in a pleasant location that was convenient to work and to all the other amenities I need regularly (grocery, bank, cleaners, gas station, and a little discretionary shopping and dining).  In other words, a place in suburbia.  Hard to believe, since I abhorred that notion of suburban living for at least 30 years, but age and life have a funny way of reminding you that it's time to adjust the residential priorities. So I did.

Now I'm five minutes from my office and the aforementioned amenities are even closer...yet just enough removed from my home that they're not "in my face" - just a short ride away.  I truly never believed I'd say this, being the city-born girl who is a country girl at heart, but love it!  Sure, I miss the rural landscape right outside my door, but it's only a 15 to 20 minute ride away, so not far at all.  All I really need at this point is a private little patch of grass, some trees, a few pots of flowers, my bird feeder and the ability to watch the neighborhood squirrels figure out where to find nuts, berries and my bird seed.  It's okay...I'm happy to share with all of Mother Nature's creatures, and they provide endless hours of entertainment for the kitties on the other side of the sliding glass door. No, I don't see wild turkey or deer out my kitchen window any longer - sigh - but when I do see them in my travels in the country, I appreciate them even more.

I only arrived at my new suburban abode on New Year's Day, so I have only just begun to get settled, and it will take a while before I have a sense of the rhythm of this place, but I'll be back as often as I can to share the latest evolution here at the abode as I gradually transform this plain box it into what I hope will be home for me and the kitties more than just a few years.  We'll see how it goes!

November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving...Let's Hear It for the Big Bird's Big Day!

It's a lightly snow-covered landscape here in upstate New York for Thanksgiving this year, and cold, too!  The weather gods wreaked a bit of havoc for "home-for-the-holidays" travelers yesterday, but things seem to have settled down now and it's a bright and clear, if very chilly, day.

I recently wrote a post that I shared with friends on Facebook about my disappointment that a lot of the accoutrements of autumn and Thanksgiving were pushed out of view in retail stores almost moments after trick-or-treaters made their annual neighborhood tours.  Hardly an autumnal display of gourds and pumpkins or a traditional turkey dish or platter to be found anywhere and this most American of holidays was still nearly 4 weeks away!  It was so disheartening to me to see the trappings of Christmas, lovely as they are, consume our visual environment in the stores before we've taken a moment to enjoy the rest of the autumn season, the bounty of the annual harvest, and given thanks for our many blessings.  

The nice thing about Thanksgiving is that it's about celebrating food and the importance of sharing it with friends and family and being thankful for the good things in our lives.  It's not about buying stuff and shopping, though the retailers are starting to intrude on the day in ways that I wish they wouldn't.  We can shop 24/7 now, and we don't need to leave the comfort of our chair to do it -- why do stores feel it necessary to open on Thanksgiving Day to sell us stuff and make an extra dollar?  I love the Pizza Hut manager who refused to open his shop on Thanksgiving - and was fired as a result.  Something is very wrong there.  As far as I'm concerned he did the right thing...and more should follow his example.  

Enough ranting, though...it's time to get back to chopping and sauteeing and preparing to take my contribution to a dinner with friends and celebrate the day and friendship and give thanks for my many blessings on this sunny day.

Happy Thanksgiving to you!

November 3, 2013

Spring Ahead, Fall Back - Seasons Changing...


To my utter embarrassment, spring was the last time I posted here.  It was just a very busy spring and summer, and early fall, so now, upon the first day of (Eastern) Standard Time, I've managed to come back to the fold.  I so enjoy reading others' blogs...it has become part of my regular weekend traditions...and it's always a treat.  I owe my patient followers an explanation.

I can't promise I'll be back to routine posting, as I'm in a period of transition again - actually, I hope it's close to the end of my extended period of transition - so things are still a bit hectic, but I hope they'll be on a more permanent footing by the first of the year...time will tell.

In the meantime, I celebrated a "milestone" birthday last week - at least some consider it a milestone when there's a 0 involved.  I just prefer to think of it as hardly any different than the day before or the day after.  The fun part was that I was the happy recipient of the lovely arrangement of flowers, mini-pumpkins and bittersweet pictured above. I put them on the shelf by the window and, this afternoon, the sun shone in to illuminate them at just the right angle.

The sun shining in at a certain angle during mid-afternoon also signaled the aforementioned seasonal change as the sun begins to drop on the horizon an hour earlier than yesterday.  It's the sign that the growing season is done, and winter is around the corner.

I love the fall, when the leaves change and the traditions of autumn - Halloween and Thanksgiving - immerse us in the colors of the harvest and pumpkins, but I've always found the change to EST as a depressing day. We "gained back" the hour that we lost in the spring, and though we don't lose an hour, of course, the hours of daylight, which have been diminishing naturally since late June when they were at their longest, are given a preemptive jolt, and the sunlight disappears by 5pm here in the Northeast.  For two months, I'll endure the loss of late afternoon/early evening light and celebrate again when the winter solstice arrives in December...

Enjoy these early days of November as we fall back into the mid-autumn routine.