December 30, 2009

'Tween Week: Mad for Plaid and Jazz!

It's 'Tween Week (I just made that up, actually) - the week between Christmas and New Year's...kind of like a "lost weekend" only it's a whole week!  I'm catching up on things after the run-up to Christmas, which wasn't too crazy, fortunately, and trying to organize (using the term quite loosely) for the shift to yet another year.  After a half-century plus of these things, I think I've got a fairly good handle on what the New Year holiday signifies - and what it doesn't.  Still, like Spring, it's a time for renewal and looking ahead - infinitely preferable to dwelling too much in the past.  Don't misunderstand, I do embrace the past, heritage, tradition, yada, yada, yada - some of it is quite lovely and gives a warm and fuzzy feeling - but some of it, well, not so much, so better to move on and - as with riding horses - it's important always to keep the momentum focused on moving forward.

In that vein, I'm having a little "Mad for Plaid" celebration here, as you can see from my new background.  I just stumbled across the most delightful blog, Designer Blogs (see their button to the right also).  These nice ladies do custom blog design, and although I'm not quite ready to go there full-throttle just yet, they also, very generously, offer a selection of free backgrounds.  I'm a bit of a plaid madwoman - love the stuff, especially traditional tartans - and was thrilled to see this very cheerful "Journal" design in their array of free backgrounds, so I've snatched it.  I especially like the color combination in this plaid, warm, toasty and cheerful, with a shot of light blue to accent.

To complete my somewhat limited blog renovation, I've changed up the music selection yet again.  I was pleased to come across one of my favorite newer holiday tunes, "Merry Christmas in Love," sung by the wonderful Renee Olstead.  This snazzy, jazzy charmer with a bit of a "big band" feel is the title tune from the 2005 holiday film, "Christmas in Love," with music by Tony Renis and lyrics by Marva Jan Morrow. 

Things that tremble, tingle
Like a bubble full of rainbows

Then crack
Sizzle, sing and whisper
When the shadows lace the moonlight with black
Things with silver lining
Sparkling tinsel twinkle, shining
With waving, whispy willow wings
That breathe a song of Christmas time dreams
Things that glow and glisten
Eyes of children when they listen then burst
Things are touched
The wistful wish of watching someone else succeed first
Days dingle, dangle
With a million parts I'm tangled to
Satin stars that spangle
And those Christmas bells that clangle
Our dreams
I'm dreaming of Christmas
To you, merry Christmas
Dreaming of a merry Christmas
To you, very merry Christmas
Galloping and gliding
Santa Claus his sleigh we're riding in
Bringing joyful tidings to the dreamers who are lying below
Talking of daydreams
Wishes and moonbeams
Let it tremble, tingle like a bubble full of rainbow and light
When you came to wake me and to wish me merry Christmas in love

Christmas in love
I can tremble tingle like a bubble full of rainbow and light
When you came to wake me and to wish me merry Christmas in love

Merry Christmas in love
A well-known young actress, I've enjoyed Renee's marvelous singing voice for several years now and it's very exciting to see her success continue to evolve.  (She was just 15 when she recorded this cheery holiday tune! Scary talented!)  I'm a bit late in sharing it on my playlist, but this tune seemed to capture the happy spirit of the holidays, so I included it here and will keep it on the player for a while.  The second selection, the standard, "A Sunday Kind of Love" is from Renee's debut CD of a few years ago.  (I also highly recommend her latest CD, "Skylark," produced by the legendary David Foster, who also produced "Merry Christmas in Love."  It's a treat! )  Being something of a connoisseur of what I like to call "great girl singers," having grown up hearing so many from the jazz/standards era through the pop/rock era, Renee struck me immediately as a very special young talent - the real deal, with some serious pipes!  Hope we'll all see much more of her, and hear her terrific voice for years to come.   Finally, I've included another selection from the legendary Al Jarreau - "Since I Fell for You" - a classic from the American Songbook sung by Al in his inimitable style.

With that, I'll work on more updates in the course of the next few days, but if I don't get back here before Friday, I thank you for reading and following my musings here, hope you all can take a moment to clink elegant crystal flutes filled to the brim with a fine, vintage bubbly, and offer my very best wishes for a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!


December 23, 2009

A Little Touch of the Holiday Season

Most of the time, I write these posts on my laptop sitting at the kitchen table, looking out at my back yard.  I love being in the kitchen, the heart of the house for me and for my mother before me, sitting in this chair at the table, yet connected through the expanse of windows and door that provides a wide view of the outside world to the small bit of Nature just beyond them.

While the masthead above is of the snow-covered front of the house, most of the exterior photos in my earlier posts were taken of the lovely, big maple trees in the back yard as their colors changed from emerald green and deep, rich garnet red to the bright yellows and oranges of autumn.  Through these windows, I watch the squirrels, the birds and the resident chipmunk that routinely chirps loudly when ever he (or she - not sure) sees one of the cats inside the window, peering out menacingly at them, studying their potential prey (but never the twain shall meet, if I can help it).

Now that winter is here officially, the scene out back is looking pretty stark - a bit like an Andrew Wyeth landscape.  It has its own kind of appeal - revealing the time of rest and recovery of the trees and grass, preparing for the renewal of springtime to come - so I don't mind that it's fairly bleak, as winter is inclined to be. 

Yesterday, though, I decided a shot of bold color was needed to brighten the landscape and help celebrate the holiday season.  I haven't decorated much inside the house yet, so I'm not quite feeling the holiday spirit.  I grabbed one of the round, rich green wreaths that I store from season to season, attached a bright red bow, took it outside and placed it on the old green bench under one of the sugar maples that I can see readily from the warmth of my kitchen.

Today, as if on command, it began to snow...just a light dusting (I hope), adding even more holiday flavor to the scene.  I'm starting to get that holiday feeling.  Maybe now I'll pull a few more decorations out of storage and start decking the inside halls...just in time for Christmas.

December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice Serenity

I just noticed on the calendar that today is the winter solstice - the day when we have the least hours of daylight (or according to the online information I came across, when the earth's axial tilt is farthest away from the, okay). 

With the glow of the holidays twinkling all around and snow-covered winter scenes blanketing much of the Northeast and mid-Atlantic thanks to the past weekend's winter storm (which, fortunately, managed to avoid my area of upstate New York - phew!), I thought I'd share an image of this beautiful painting, "A Quiet Stream," circa 1890, by Albany native Walter Launt Palmer (1854-1932).  Some things may change, but the serenity of a magical rural landscape in winter endures.

December 20, 2009

How Sweet It Is!

Ah, that illustrious line from the late Jackie Gleason...and so relevant to my latest thrift store adventure.  I was "cruising" my local outlet looking for more little bargains to re-sell on eBay when I was stunned by an item I found hidden in a sea of glassware.  As it happened, a few months ago I was doing something at my kitchen counter where I keep a group of circa 1970s glass canisters that I use for the usual storage purposes - flour, sugar, coffee, tea, etc.  I had purchased these Scandinavian-inspired canisters - sleek clear glass with cork tops and wooden spoons - new.  It was the 1970s and I think they were among the first items I ever purchased deliberately for my own home.  Prior to then, much of what I had used was inherited from the great aunts whose charming 1940s Cape Cod style house I had purchased and occupied as my first home as an adult.  Trendy as mid-century modern might be now,  the 1970s was the era of new, post-mid-century modernism and clean lines, simple, elegant design, and lots of clear glass and whites accented with bold solid colors were all the rage - think Marimekko from Finland, Kosta Boda from Sweden, Dansk - with a lot of natural elements - pottery, big green houseplants, etc. - you get the idea.  Well, I admired these simple glass canisters with their natural cork tops and wooden spoons at a local higher-end gift shop and eventually purchased them.  (I don't recall now what their cost was, but they were pricey even then, so I suspect I waited until they went on sale!)

Back to standing by my kitchen counter a few months ago - I don't recall exactly what I was doing, probably fumbling around to make coffee one morning and - whoops! - the glass sugar bowl slipped from my grip and broke into several pieces on the floor.  Dang!  This nice bowl, with its cork top and wooden spoon matched my canisters.  In fact, it wasn't necessarily intended as a sugar bowl - it looked more like a jam jar, with its straight sides - but it was the right size so I've used it for sugar for several years after I broke the bowl I originally used that was a small replica of the canisters' traditional milk can shape.

Knowing the canisters' provenance, the bowl was now a "vintage" item, so I wondered whether I could find an exact replacement.  I checked the listings on eBay just in case.  There were some similar pieces, but they weren't quite the same as these canisters or my bowl, so they just weren't right.  Not finding anything that pleased me, I resorted temporarily to putting a few cups of sugar in a clear plastic container just for convenience, while keeping the rest of the sugar supply in the larger glass canister for storage, as usual.

As I wandered about my thrift store the other day, I was looking for a small, clear glass votive candle holder for a ceramic candle lamp I purchased recently that lacked a votive candle when - whoa! - there it was...a small glass container with straight sides and a loop for the spoon that was literally identical to the one I had broken!  There was no cork top and no wooden spoon, but no matter, I still had those, and the price was maybe $1.99.  Ecstatic at my incredible luck, I quickly plucked the glass bowl from the myriad wine glasses, vases and crystal bowls that surrounded it and placed it safely in the basket of my shopping cart. 

Who would have guessed I'd ever find that particular bowl in my own neighborhood, at my favorite thrift shop?  How sweet it was...and is, yet again.

Merry Christmas to all!

December 7, 2009

Let It Snow and Al Jarreau

Well, we finally got our first decent dusting of snow of the season over the weekend.  Some accumulation was predicted and, no, my new masthead photo is not indicative of the result of the weekend's snowfall.  That was from a few years ago when we were really inundated with the white stuff.  We did get about three inches or so...just enough to make driving a bit treacherous (I know, I was headed down the interstate in the midst of the worst of it), but not impossible.  The good news was that I reached my destination in good order and more or less on time.

I enjoyed a little "B&B" weekend of sorts.  Spent a few hours with friends in the country on Saturday, then headed south to Putnam County to meet up with other friends who have the most charming historic house on the Hudson River.  It's a jewel box of a house, with a panoramic view of a lagoon, the river and a mountain on the far shore.  Heaven!  We headed down to Peekskill for a wonderful dinner at a restaurant in a former grist mill - the food was "hand crafted" as the menu indicated, so everything was prepared meticulously to order...and simply superb.  Then it was off to a concert by legendary jazz/R&B vocalist Al Jarreau and his impressive band.  The set list was a blend of Mr. Jarreau's hits and some holiday tunes from his 2008 holiday CD.  Afterward, he signed copies for audience members and while they had run out of inventory of his CDs, I waited in line to say hello and quickly share with him a little story. 

I had first seen Mr. Jarreau in concert at Saratoga (NY) about 25-30 years ago.  I remember the evening vividly because he was riding the crest of the wave of initial mainstream success after some of his great tunes were released and had become popular radio hits - tunes like "Mornin''" and "We're in This Love Together."  Great stuff.  But beyond the music, which was terrific, Mr. Jarreau was perhaps the first popular entertainer I'd seen who had such a profound rapport with the audience that it was palpable, and thrilling.  I had seen many concerts in my young life even at that point - rock, jazz, classical, etc. - but I'd never been part of such a special, magical concert experience as that one.  It was so enjoyable - and impressive to me - that, over time, it set the standard for me for everyone and everything I've heard since in concert, and it still is.  Then, on July 4th of this year, Mr. Jarreau was the headliner in an afternoon and evening of free concerts celebrating the holiday in Albany.  I hadn't had a chance to see him in concert in the intervening years until then, but I made the effort to see him that evening.  He was as good, if not better, than ever.  (I've added a few samples of his music to my player here, so you can enjoy him as you read.)

When the chance arose recently to see him again in concert over the weekend in Peekskill, I jumped on it and my friends were keen to join me and hosted my wonderful weekend visit.  It was a terrific performance (with an equally enthusiastic audience) and it was such a treat to meet and share with him on Saturday evening, for the first time, how special that his concert was for me so many years ago, and how the memory of it has stayed with me throughout the years as an important benchmark of high quality and specialness.  He was so gracious as he listened and responded to me cheerfully, "Well, you just keep on coming back!"  Indeed, Mr. Jarreau, I most surely will.

December 3, 2009

Black Friday's Cool Coup

While I had no intention of venturing out into the retail fray on infamous Black Friday, I happened to find myself at the nearby thrift store while I was running an errand to the post office.  The parking lot was fairly empty, which surprised me, so I decided to stop in to see if they had any items that would be suitable for re-sale on eBay.  I've had good success finding great items there that I've purchased very inexpensively and resold on eBay for a decent profit.  It's a great resource and I get to support a worthy enterprise that is run by a well-known nonprofit organization, while earning a few dollars at the same time.  Every little bit helps.

I learned upon arrival that there was a storewide sale in progress - discounts on clothing and holiday merchandise, in addition to their usual weekly 50% discount on items marked with a specific color of price tag. The color changes each week and this week it happened to be pink.  Armed with that information, I began to scour the housewares shelves for potential re-sale items.  I noticed that a group of dinnerware items - some salad plates, cups and saucers - marked with the "mse" (Martha Stewart Everyday) mark bore the price tag color of the week.  I had seen them before and admired them, but, even though they were quite affordable, I didn't want to buy for myself.  I strolled down the next aisle and - lo! - there were the matching dinner plates.  I picked them up, looked at the price and started to do the math.  All told, there were 16 pieces in the store, a complete service for four, including dinner and salad plates, cups and saucers - all in perfect condition.  They made their way into my basket and out the door for a mere $12 plus tax!  They are a calm and cozy taupe color, octagonal shape, with a simple raised dot pattern around the border, and make the perfect dishes for everyday use.

I've been using these dishes for about a week now and I love them.  Happy ending all around.  Oh, and I found some great stuff to re-sell on eBay, too.  Happy holidays!

November 26, 2009

Bountiful Birds

When I lived in the country, I often saw numerous wild turkeys.  They would stroll by the window with their offspring (chicks?) and be essentially unfazed by the other critters - horses, cats.  In fact, I'm sure they came by often because of the cornfield behind the house and would pick through the droppings in the horse paddock, looking for undigested remnants of corn in the sweet feed in the horses' grain mix.  I also think one of the "guest" horses, a dear, half-blind, chestnut gelding that I'd known for years, was quite intrigued by, and enamored of, the turkeys.  So much so, that one day, when the snow had weakened the already questionable board fence, he leaned over it, straining, I'm sure, to see the turkeys that were wandering nearby, that the rail dropped on one end, leaving just enough from for him (and my own horse - his accomplice) to literally step out of the paddock and go for a bit of a jaunt.  Of course, they chose that moment because I had just left for the post office and wasn't there to interrupt their hiatus from confinement.  I blame the turkeys, but I still liked them.

I love scenic turkey images, especially vintage ones, perhaps because they remind me of that idyllic life on the farm (when I wasn't chasing after errant equines) this cheerful holiday post card I picked up on eBay a few years back. 

Have a very happy Thanksgiving!

November 20, 2009

Bye Bye, Birdies

I sold the last of my turkey plates today.  I bought eight plates and a large matching platter at a country auction about 10 years ago, I think.  I used them on a few Thanksgivings, but, over time, I lost my fondness for them.  They were made in Japan and probably dated from the 1940s or 50s.  The pattern, by a maker known as L & M, is called Country Fair.  They have a kind of retro, rustic holiday charm about them.

But my taste really leans toward the more traditional decorative wares of England, with finer details and a more elegant, less casual appeal.

So I've sold the last of the plates on eBay, along with the platter and they're off to points across the USA - to Colorado and California, Ohio and Oklahoma - to grace other Thanksgiving and holiday tables.

They were fun while I had them, but I'll use the proceeds to purchase plates that I really love...maybe of different patterns, but I think there will be turkeys on all of them.

November 9, 2009

More Falling Leaves...

And more Monday morning embarrassment from this corner of the globe.  I'm just flat out busy, so I regret the lack of time to add pithy comments or interesting insights into the state of the universe, or at least my backyard.  So, since I haven't got much else to share today, I thought I'd provide just that - more from my literal backyard.  One of the two great maple trees in the back yard seemed to think it was supposed to be the last hold-out of the fall, clinging desperately, and belatedly to its bright yellow (turned from green) leaves.  They finally have started to give up the ghost over the past week, and now there are more on the ground than on the tree, but I've captured a bit of their evolution, so here's a view of the changing scene.  What was a beautiful golden canopy over the yard is now a yellow carpet on the ground...sigh.

November 2, 2009

Playing Catch-Up

Now I understand how other bloggers feel when they've missed many days of posting!  (I also sympathize with the followers of selected blogs - I know I'm always eager to read the latest posts of those blogs I enjoy, as well.)  I have a few excuses, one not so fun (being under the weather for a bit), and one much more fun (traveling), but I promise I'll play catch-up as much as I can over the next few weeks, but with one caveat. 

I have much work to do here at home that has been delayed because of the aforementioned reasons, so I have to jump-start the tasks at hand before much more time passes.  Perhaps I'll post some photos of befores and afters, since the time has come to spruce up the city home and make it a shing jewel of modern design.  We'll see if I can pull it off with little time and even less money!

In the meantime, I've continued with my homage to autumn - added another tune to the playlist, removed a couple of others, but I'll be working on that in the weeks ahead, too.  And, to entertain you visually, here are a few more autumnal images taken in the 'hood over the past week or two.

Thanks for hanging in...I'll try to make it worth your while for sticking around!

October 24, 2009

The falling leaves drift by my window...

Autumn leaves, a wonderful ballad originally written in 1945 by two Frenchmen, Joseph Kosma (music) and Jacques Prevert (lyrics), with English lyrics by the great Johnny Mercer.  My neighborhood is now a sea of golden, orange and russet leaves.  On my way home from errands this afternoon, I spotted this stand of maples that I pass routinely, but today they were so striking in their autumn attire, all golden with dark trunks soaked from the day's rains.

The falling leaves drift by my window,
The autumn leaves of red and gold.
I see your lips, the summer kisses,
The sun-burned hands I used to hold.

Since you went away, the days grow long
And soon I'll hear old winter's song,
But I'll miss you most of all, my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall.

My little neighborhood street kind of looks like a boulevard in Paris, doesn't it?  I love autumn.

October 16, 2009

A Chill in the Air

Autumn has surely arrived - the colors on the trees are brilliant - and the weather has been unseasonably cold.  It's gorgeous, but I've paid the price for the weather and the season, I fear.  I came down with a typical cold myself, so I've been out of commission, I'm afraid, or I'd have done an autumn tablescape for Tablescape Thursday, and tried to write a bit about some other things.  Instead, it's mostly been five days of sneezing, sniffling, aches, coughing, and all that nasty stuff.  I promise I'll get back to posting more often as soon as I catch up on life in and around the house, but in the meantime, just enjoy the music I added to the blog a week or two ago.  It's some of my favorite music, musicians, and composers.  In fact, I think I'll pour myself a little glass of sherry and have a sip while I enjoy the sounds, too. 


October 1, 2009

Tally Ho! Tablescape

Taking a cue from yesterday's post about my trip to Kansas and chance encounter with a majestic grey horse in the heart of the hunt countryside, I pulled a few things together to mark the start of autumn with an equestrian themed tablescape for Tablescape Thursday (see Susan's Between Naps on the Porch - linked here and also found in my list of links - for more of the Tablescape Thursday tradition she started, along with links to lots more that other bloggers have submitted this week).

I've pulled together a red and black buffalo plaid placemat, which always makes me think "hunting," over a red/black woven mat (sources unknown) and a Royal Worcester bone china English teacup and saucer with horses and hounds and inscribed on the inside of the cup with "To A Very Important Person." I found it several years ago at a horse event trade fair from a Vermont antique dealer, I think.  It's always fun to celebrate and honor a special dinner guest by serving them with this unique teacup.


To the left of the cup is a lovely crimson cotton napkin with a contrasting beige cotton binding from Martha Stewart Everyday for K-Mart that I picked up at a tag sale (!).  Holding the napkin is the piece I initially thought of when envisioning this tablescape vignette.  (I know it's not quite a full-blown tablescape, but I'm gradually working my way up to that, while trying to do something applicable while squeezing in myriad other demands on my time.)  It's a bone china foxhunter napkin holder, one of a set of four greys and four bays (brown) horses, each with a red-coated rider, by RPA (Phillipines).  I know I mail-ordered them some years ago, but I can't recall who the retailer was - probably one of the equestrian gift shops in the mid-South.  These rings are such fun and always inspire comments at dinner parties when I set the table with them.

Beyond the napkin holder is a crystal decanter that I inherited from an aunt who also was an avid horsewoman.  The decanter label, a wonderful little Coalport bone china piece made in England and purchased from Thomas Goode & Company in London, indicates the vessel is filled with sherry, so I think of this setting as an afternoon tea - a bit of tea to warm weary bones and a sip of sherry to warm the soul and ease the transition to evening as the sun sets on a long day of riding to hounds in pursuit of "reynard" (the wily fox).  To the right of the teacup is a beautiful etched sherry glass, one of my grandmother's glasses.  She was the original horsewoman in the family, having ridden in Ireland as a child - the tradition continues!

The small, wrought iron candle holders were a housewarming gift many years ago and the fanciful hunting print with a charming little verse shown in the right corner used to hang in my bathroom (!) when I lived in the country.  (It already had some water damage when I bought it, so I had it framed and matted to mask the damage and withstand the intrusion of moisture.)  Fortunately, it didn't suffer from the exposure and it's now out of the bath and awaiting a decision on where to re-hang it.


The verse reads:

See the hounds begin to feather:
There's a touch by all that's good!
Hark! they're getting fast together;
Now they thunder down the wood.
Leap oe'r the brook; don't stay to look!
Ride at the gate; you'll be too late.

Cheers!  And tally ho!

September 30, 2009

Sunflower State

With apologies, I've been away from blogging for a bit because I was traveling, making my first trip to the Sunflower State:  Kansas!  Had a wonderful time visiting my good pal (and horsewoman), Susan, who moved west two years ago.  Susan has a lovely small farm where she keeps her horses.  The late September weather was absolute perfection - sunny and mild with a gentle breeze - I couldn't have asked for a better climate for my first visit. 

Okay, I confess, while I was taking in the magnificent heartland scenery, trying to get a sense of this rural landscape - rolling and expansive in comparison with others more familiar along the Eastern seaboard - I occasionally glanced warily at the western horizon.  This is acknowledged tornado country (hello, Dorothy and Toto) and it's a reputation that is difficult to shake mentally, especially if you've never been there.  Those forces of nature are not to be trivialized - they're scary and dangerous.  Gazing at the sprawling landscapes, it was easy to see how the openness of that vast terrain is an inviting playground for a madly spinning twister.

But enough about that.  There were no tornados (although, apparently, there was a raging thunderstorm overnight one evening that neither Susan nor I noticed) and the weather was grand. 

We toured around the region and went to look at a horse for sale nearby that Susan had heard about and thought might be suitable for a mutual friend back here in New York who is in the market for a new steed.  (The gelding we saw turned out to be quite special, so much so that both Susan and I could envision owning him!  No decisions yet, but we were glad we made the trip to see him.)

On our return, we made a few stops, including a visit through the "hunt country" of northeastern Kansas.  Here's a shot I snapped of a handsome foxhunter - probably Thoroughbred or TB-cross - near Louisburg.  For Tablescape Thursday tomorrow, I'll use him as my inspiration and do something with a foxhunting theme.  Stop by for a stirrup cup of hunting port!

We also visited by the Louisburg Cider Mill, a charming complex southwest of Kansas City that was just gearing up for a harvest festival over the weekend, including a corn maze (ubiquitous these days), and craft vendors, etc.  We were a day early, so avoided the crowds and still had fun shopping in the gift shop.  There also is a restaurant/cafe adjacent to the shop and the mill has a mail order business as well.  I decided to purchase a small packet of private label garlic powder (I had run out at home) in a plastic zip packet.  Only later did I realize how much the odor of the contents permeated the packet!  It was a short visit, so I had a suitcase that was small enough to be a carry-on bag and I had visions of garlic odors wafting throughout the planes on my return trip!  I double-bagged the packet in two ziplock bags and hoped for the best.  No one noticed (at least I don't think anyone noticed), so it wasn't as much of an issue as I feared.

We grabbed a cup of fresh-pressed cider for the road (tasty!).  The visit gave me some food for thought (literally and figuratively) about a Kansas lifestyle as I contemplate my options for relocation.  Not sure that I will move, as I do love my area of the country, but it's no secret that taxes in New York are the highest in the country and I've never been a huge fan of snow, so I've been contemplating other parts of the country as alternatives.

In all, it was a great trip and a wonderful visit with my friend.  I'm looking forward to returning soon to experience more of the Sunflower State's attractions.

September 17, 2009

Tablescape Thursday: Homage to Oaks and Acorns

I know I promised I'd post photos of my newly planted chrysanthemums...well, better (a little bit) late than never.  Here's a bit of floral autumnal splendor, even if the leaves aren't yet keeping pace with the overzealous mums.
Then, of course, there are the acorns.   A veritable deluge of acorns!  I don't recall in the many years that I've lived in this home, both growing up here and returning to live here five years ago, that there were ever so many acorns.  The one, tall, handsome, red oak tree that towers over the house seems to have triple the usual amount.  The squirrels and chipmunks are in acorn heaven.  I am not.  Scattered on the driveway, just in front of the garage, they are like ball bearings underfoot.  And my car, which sits parked under the shade of the grand, old, acorn-spewing oak, is pelted routinely, as if the target in some sort of mysterious game for urban rodents. Five points for the hood, ten for the windshield, and jackpot if one hits the emblem just above the grill?  We are not amused.

So, in an effort to make peace with the oak, the acorns, and the cheeky resident rodents, I gathered up a few of the bombarded acorns and made them the focal point of my first (ever!) Tablescape Thursday.  With all due respect to Between Naps on the Porch (where I believe this delightful weekly trend either began or at least is well and truly celebrated), I give you my homage to oaks and acorns.

September 14, 2009

A Drive in the Country

A friend and I took a classic "drive in the country" over the weekend.  We had planned the outing for a few days, and, after considering the directional options, we settled on the village of Sharon Springs, a charming small village in Schoharie County, about 20 miles from Cooperstown (which everyone knows as the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame) in the east-central region upstate New York. 

There is tremendous history in this region, which is in the heart of the Mohawk River valley and identified as the Central-Leatherstocking tourism region by state's tourism industry.  Schoharie County is farm country - rolling land, characterized by fields and woods and the babbling Schoharie Creek that feeds into the Mohawk to the north.  The area was long known as the "Breadbasket of the American Revolution," as it has some of the richest, most fertile soil in the world.   The name "Leatherstocking" also should give a significant clue to the area's past - it's the region that author James Fenimore Cooper immortalized in his renowned "Leatherstocking Tales," including the story of "The Last of the Mohicans." 

The village of Sharon Springs has a somewhat more recent claim to fame, since it was in the 19th century that the community boasted the most popular natural spas in the East, if not the entire country.  Thousands of visitors flocked to the region to enjoy the mineral spas and stayed for extended periods at one of the dozens of grand hotels built in the village. 

The American Hotel, Sharon Springs
(historic postcard)

Over the years, the area lost a lot of its appeal as competition from the mineral springs in Saratoga, about 80 miles to the northeast, siphoned off its prominent Social Register patrons like the Vanderbilts, who soon migrated to the southern Adirondacks for the additional attractions of that area, including the historic race course.  By the mid-20th century, the New York Thruway (the first of the country's superhighways), about 20 miles north, diverted traffic and left Sharon Springs, along US Route 20, to wither.

Today, the village is experiencing a very gradual rebirth.  It still struggles to attract visitors, but Cooperstown is the major lure in the area, and the summer season is prime time.  There are energetic entrepreneurs who have invested significant amounts of time and money to restore some of the village's architectural treasures.   The American Hotel (pictured above and below) is one of the few of the remaining grand hotels - a historic gem that was in great disrepair, but was rescued by a pair of gentlemen from New York City several years ago and serves as an anchor in the village's evolving rebirth.

 My friend and I strolled to the Black Cat Cafe & Bakery for lunch, just across from the American Hotel.  We had a delightful time, chatted with the cafe's ebullient owner, and learned a bit more about the recent renaissance the village is striving to achieve.

Alas, we were a week too early for the village's Harvest Festival, but it promises to be a big event.  Some folks in television production with ties to the village are taping some content for the Discovery Channel, so perhaps Sharon Springs soon will become the newest destination hotspot in the region.  It has so many of the ingredients that make for a delightful visitor experience, but it doesn't suffer (yet) from that polished-to-death, trendy-beyond-words ambience that sometimes renders a cookie-cutter sameness in character to so many other "quaint" villages.  Sharon Springs oozes its share of quaintness and charm, but it's not totally pristine and, as an afficionado of the qualities of historic villages that make good travel destinations, that is, in my view, a very good thing.  It's a real place, with real challenges to offset its assets, but with great potential, and it has great heart.

The latest buzzword of the moment seems to be "authentic" and Sharon Springs is certainly that, not at all contrived, just striving.  I'm hoping it'll get more good media attention, and more visitors, but not so much that the essential qualities of the place become obscured.  With the kind of energy, enthusiasm, and creative thinking these entrepreneurs are demonstrating, along with some thoughtful local planning, there is no doubt the village will get there.  The travel industry is always looking for new products in the form of "new destinations" - even ones like Sharon Springs that have been there for decades, waiting to be renewed and rediscovered.  I'd certainly choose to visit a wonderful, real place like that over any newly created charming village any day.  I'll be rooting for Sharon Springs and definitely will go back to visit from time to time to see how things are progressing.

September 11, 2009

Mums are the Word

Here's an early autumn view of a country backroad in the area where I lived for 15 years.  I still spend time there - it feels more like "home" to me than anywhere I've lived and most of my friends are there, or near there.  It's a very special, beautiful part of earth.
I remember years ago that one would see "back-to-school" and fall fashions in the stores by August.  It made me crazy.  I think it was mostly because it was 80-90 degrees outside, yet we were being asked to contemplate wools and tweeds and plaids.  I love them, but not in the height of summer!
I don't know whether it was the passing of a few decades or simply the fact that I don't spend anywhere near as much time in retail clothing stores these days as I did when I was a teenager (hello, Internet and online shopping!), but the merchandising schedule of mainstream retailers doesn't bother me anywhere near as much now.  Instead, I notice the harbingers of autumn in the grocery stores, where I do find myself frequently and where the seasonal displays of hardy chrysanthemums are the first retail signal to start preparing for chillier nights and cooler days.
I bought some gorgeous garnet mums a few weeks ago  in anticipation of the new season, and I picked up some bittersweet orange mums earlier today.  Tomorrow, I'll replace the fading leggy pink and purple petunias shown in my title photo above, and I'll consolidate from three separate planters and put what remains of the best of the remaining petunias together in a single pot as the last hurrah of summer.  I'll put the mums in their place of prominence and group them for as bold a color display as I can manage.  I'll take a photo when I've got them in place, so you can see how gorgeous their rich and rusty colors are.
I'm never happy to see summer go, but I have to admit this particular transitional time between the seasons is one of my most favorite times of the year.  It's still balmy, but the heat and humidity are gone and the hints of crisp fall weather are in the air. 

I love autumn best and here in the Northeast, it doesn't get any more beautiful.  I think I'm ready.  Oh, and did I mention that mums are the flower for my birthday month?

September 6, 2009

Ready, Set...We Have Lift-Off!

Hi, everyone! ( anyone actually out there?)

I started to set up this new blog space on the Fourth of July to celebrate Independence Day, but it took me two months and two days to get back to it and fling it out there into the ether...and hope it finds some interested readers.

Who am I and what am I doing here? Well, I'm a grown-up female person, a former art major who eventually became a writer/editor, photographer, stylist, and marketer, who always enjoys being creative, so I'm exploring new outlets for my creativity. As for this blog venture, initially, I wanted to create a place to share thoughts, ideas, and especially images of things that appeal to me. I don't have any particular agenda and it's not necessarily intended to be a play-by-play of my life (heaven forbid!), but I hope it will be an outlet for expression related to things I enjoy: home, design, decoration, arts, crafts, creativity, cooking, antiques, flea markets, garage and tag sales, etc. - you get the idea. 

Lately, like a lot of folks in blog-world, I've been a long-time reader of home/design magazines and found myself seeking online alternatives to magazines like Country Home (sigh) and Cottage Living that I so enjoyed, but which have folded in the past year or so as a result of this challenging economic climate and our rapidly changing reading/viewing habits. I've come across a number of blogs that appealed to me, authored by some very creative people, so I thought I'd give it a try and see what evolves.

I grew up in an urban area of upstate New York, and live (once again) in a mid-century modern home (which will be the subject of another discussion to be posted later), but big parts of my heart and soul are entrenched in the countryside nearby, where I lived for 15 years, played for at least 25, and continue to enjoy whenever I can.  Fortunately, my access to the pleasures of a rural landscape is no more than 30 minutes away in almost any direction (one of the truly great benefits of being in my urban area), so I can get a regular rural "fix" quite easily. Thank heaven for that!

Welcome to my new space and please feel free to comment since I'm hoping the communications here won't be only one-way - I'm all about the exchange and sharing here.

I'm still learning all the bells and whistles of blog creation, so please be patient with me as I ramp up my learning curve.  Thanks for stopping by...hope to see you again soon!