Eclectic, quirky, and sometimes edgy…this is how things look from my front porch.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Abandoned Houses

Am I the only one who passes abandoned houses on country roads and wonders what became of the families who once built a life there? Virginia creeper vines insistently twist themselves into any crevice or crack, filling the vacuum that nature abhors. Neatly trimmed yards fill with weeds and trees self seed in a haphazard way. An occasional faithful perennial planted long ago by a young wife in a feed sack dress lifts its face to the sun or twines along a sagging fence.

How did the ties to the community grow loose and finally disappear? Did elderly parents pass away and educated children move to greener pastures? Doors stand open and windows gape blankly. The house remains silent.

Abandoned houses are best captured in black and white or sepia tones. They have their own stark and sad beauty. Does the house still contain the echoes of little feet and the growth marks in pencil on the pantry door? Did Grandma rock gently on that porch? Did a mother peer down the road waiting for a son to come home from war? Did the rain beat a tattoo on the tin roof as a young couple made love underneath? Did a middle-aged farmer sit on those sagging steps, wearily pushing his sweat stained hat back on his head as he read a foreclosure notice?

We will never know, because the abandoned house along a country road keeps its own counsel and shelters its own secrets.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Thinking Globally

I've always been fascinated with globes, geography, and different cultures around the world.  I love ethnic food, ethnic dance, ethnic music, and learning about the different ways we express who we are through our culture. 

Time Life published a series of books called "The Foods of the World."

I think there were about a dozen volumes, "The Cooking of Japan," "The Cooking of Italy," etc.  I devoured every volume, because not only was cooking discussed, but also the culture of the area.  Proving that there is a picture of everything on the Internet, I found this shot of some of these favorite cookbooks next to...a globe, of course.

When I moved to Hawaii, I didn't know that there was a country named Tonga.  By the time I left, I had Tongan friends.  Through my Red Cross service, I learned about far off places like Kwajelein Atoll in the Pacific and Diego Garcia, BIOT (British Indian Ocean Terrority). 

I went on to supervise multicultural outreach workers.  I learned about their experiences as Vietnamese boat people, as Somali refugees who went to a high school graduation and ended up never seeing their families again.  I worked with the primitive Hmong people from Southeast Asia who worship animal spirits.   I learned that Vietnamese are largely lactose-intolerant, the Chaldean people of the Bible are still around, and Somalis have strong teeth because they drink camel's milk which has a high calcium content.

Lately, I've been stumbling across globes for under $5  in my thrifting adventures.  I love to search them out in junk stores and Goodwill.  Vintage status is easily determined by looking at Africa and checking for  Zimbabwe or Rhodesia.  Rhodesia means vintage.  Looking at Eastern Europe helps, too.

My upstairs hallway is long and dark.  It is hard to get a good shot in that area.  The globes are sitting on a bench storage unit.  The top lifts and there is a cedar lined storage area inside.  It is sort of like a window seat with no window.  The best part of this little vignette is that it keeps me from piling stuff on the bench

I found the frame for the chalkboard left out for the trash in a swanky neighborhood and spray painted it.  The scrollwork against the yellow wall pleases me.  I couldn't find a piece of wood that would fit behind the frame, so I just painted the wall with chalboard paint.  I change the message on it several times a week.  It reminds me of cleaning the chalkboard and clapping the erasers when I was at Sunset Ridge Elementary School and had Mrs. Thierfeld for fourth grade.

The chalkboard reads:  "He's got the whole world in His hands.  1 Samuel 2:8.  That Scripture says, "The foundations of the earth are the Lord's." 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Church Pew

Many years ago my mother graced our front porch with a vintage church pew.  It was rather non-descript initially, but in my mother's own special way, she jazzed it up. 

Mom once won a prize for having the most beautifully-decorated Christmas home in East Hartford, CT. She used a birdcage in her Christmas decor before shabby was even chic. 

The house with the church pew was in a beach community in New York and had terracotta colored shutters.  Mom painted the church pew to match.  She placed two huge round terracotta planters on either end and planted orange impatiens that spilled over in rioteous color.  The house was a not uncommon looking Cape Cod, but she made it look special.

Ever since then, I have wanted an antique church pew.  Not long ago, I was able to barter some blog work for a business in exchange for the pew I'd had in mind since I was in my teens and a marvelous metal tray with a sepia-toned chippy landscape on it. 

I thought the stairwell area needed a little something, so I made a wreath out of coffee filters.  I also got a small third-degree burn on my thigh from dripped hot glue, but we won't talk about that.

I was on a vintage roll that week, when I stopped in Goodwill for a spotting operation and found Webster's Unabridged Dictionary from 1935.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

An Early Christmas Present

Someone really wonderful sent me this especially handsome and colorful rooster, which you can see on the left-hand side of the pic.  I found the gray rooster at Goodwill.  I was thrilled that he matched my gray counter (which I painted about six months ago), but the corner was just a little drab.  Mr. Colorful Rooster punched things up, don't you think?  The platter was $1 at Goodwill.  I stole the idea from some magazine article and just wrote on it with a red Sharpie.

Here is the second part of the gift, a hand-made table runner wth a red, yellow, and blue rooster pattern.  I love it!

Here's a close up:

Last year, this same kind person sent me a rooster calendar.  I put Mr. February, Mr. November, and his other colorful companions in some inexpensive frames.  I love how they look.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Spooky Vintage Halloween

I love visiting Richmond, Virginia's Carytown neighborhood, a mile-long eclectic mix of interesting shops and restaurants.  There's a wonderful vintage clothing shop called Bygones, which always has spectacular seasonal displays in their big front window.

This year's Halloween display shows a woman knitting with a man in tails holding her knitting "yarn" (actually sparkling beading).   At first I didn't really notice all the spooky elements, only the spider web she was knitting behind her.  And then I realized that she had six legs!  I'd love to meet the person who arranges these displays.

The inside is just as clever with all sorts of vintage clothing going back all the way to the 1800's. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I am a huge fan of vintage pictures.   I'm mad about flower pictures, bird pictures, and sentimental old religious prints. 

My grandmother had a breakfast nook that looked into the backyard.  It was much like a booth at a restaurant with high-backed chairs that fit two alongside a green formica table.  There was a little window with a shelf underneath at the sill level.  It held an old-fashioned radio tuned to the news on WTIC-AM and a toaster with a cloth-covered cord. 

My grandmother always had toast wth jelly, often orange marmalade, and several cups of strong coffee while she read little bon mots from the Tips and Topics section of the Hartford Courant out loud.  "Copper can be easily cleaned with a mixture of salt and lemon juice" or "Store your winter things with a bar of soap or a scented dryer sheet for a delightful smell"  or "garbage disposal blades will be sharpened by egg shells or coffee grounds."  Stuff like that.

After she ate, she'd often make breakfast for my Dad if he was around, creamed chipped beef that came in a funny little jar was a favorite.  Dad would read the sports section or the LL Bean catelog that was next to the toaster, along with an appeal from the St. Vincent de Paul Society and the latest bulletin picked up at St. Rose Church, where I was baptized.  "Lemon juice will remove the odor of onions from the hands," Helen would advise to no one in particular.

From my vantage point, right before my eyes on the opposite wall were two sentimental old religious plaques  One was a painting of a wee little thatched house.  At the bottom were the words, "Let me live in a house by the side of the road and be a friend to man."  The other picture was a picture of Saint Patrick with an Irish blessing on it. 

I have no doubt that it must have been the many years I spent looking at these two pictures that put something inside my heart that such things meant, "home."

The picture of the young child is called, "The Light of the World" and depicts Jesus.  It hung in Helen's living room for as long as I can remember.

I always bring out the picture of the couple praying over the fields right around autumn, with its harvest and thankful themes.  

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Love that Thrifted Vintage Look

I love old things, but I believe that the era from 1920-1940 is my favorite.  My guess would be that this is because it is the era of my grandmother's home, which was extremely important to me.   Helen's house was a refuge in a chaotic childhood. 

Some of the things I really love from this era are sentimental old floral and religious pictures, as well as old-fashioned lamps.  I hit the jackpot recently.

Here's a close up of a new-to-me lamp with lovely floral detail.  I picked up this pair at Goodwill recently.  The lampshades were found at Lowe's...reproductions of 1940's era lampshades which compliment the lamps perfectly
Here's a close up of the vintage picture.  I slammed on the brakes when I saw a pair of these, each floral slightly different, in a Habitat for Humanity Thrift Shop in Norfolk, Virginia.  The shop was largely a dusty, poorly-arranged disappointment, except for the wonderful old pictures and a milk glass cookie jar.  I spray painted the frames white.  The plantation shutter is part of a pair found in the attic when I moved to this house.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Small Fall Changes

The gilding of the Indian summer mellowed the pastures far and wide.
The russet woods stood ripe to be stripped, but were yet full of leaf.
The purple of heath-bloom, faded but not withered, tinged the hills.

Charlotte Bronte

I love making subtle changes to certain areas of my home to celebrate the seasons as the year marches on. 

Perhaps this is because I attend a liturgical church, where the passing year is marked by the church's seasons: Advent, Lent, Easter, and Pentacost.  The linens on the altar, the flowers chosen, the hymns sung all  reflect the season.   During Lent, our season of reflection, there are no flowers at all, followed by a lavish, exuberant display celebrating the Resurrection.

In any case, I enjoy marking the change of the passing months, just as I like observing the same thing in worship.  I've learned to celebrate seasonal changes frugally, as well. 

Years ago, I would purchase anything at Michaels' that captured  my fancy.  Anybody can do that.  There's nothing especially creative or personal about buying items gathered by someone else who doesn't know my personality and paying full retail price.  A cleverly eclectic decor really brings life into your home when you find one-of-a-kind, thrifted pieces.

Now I search for specific thrifted items, especally seasonally-themed vintage pictures. I've always been turned off by the ghoulish, macabre, tombstone-y Halloween items.  Death is nothing to celebrate, so I stay away from all of it. Bright orange and autumn-y red shades no longer enhance my decor.  I was having diffculty finding many of the white or off-white pumpkins and gourds at reasonable prices, so now I just paint them myself.  The items in the white display with the mirror in the back were all thrifted from Goodwill and sits inside my fireplace.

The picture of the fall birds on my mantel, as well as the wild turkeys on my marble-top table were purchased for under $5 at Goodwill.  I've been holding on to both of them since the winter in anticipation of Fall.  I painted the mantel picture's frame yellow to match the living room.   At this point, I believe I must have every color of spray paint ever manufactured.

I have two cloches or bell jars that I use continually throughout the year.  Neither were thrifted.  One is antique.  I found the other on sale at Walmart.   Amost anything pretty can be put under a cloche for a more important decorating statment than if the item sat alone.  Although both of  my cloches were over $20, I use them constantly.  They have been a sort of decorating investment.  This Autumn, I have a green pumpkin perched on top of fall-themed saucers in the dining from and a ghostly sepia-toned hand on top of more fall plates in the foyer area.

More Autumn finds next time while I await The Great Pumpkin...


Monday, September 20, 2010

McCoy at Goodwill

I love finding "buried treasure" at Goodwill.    I found these wonderful McCoy vases, the pink and blue ones pictured, for $2.25 last Thursday.  I love when I find something like this!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Martha Ann

I went to Martha Ann’s funeral yesterday. The church was packed, as it should have been. It was nearly impossible for me to comprehend that my vibrant, busy, inquisitive, frugal, perceptive, and sometimes bossy friend was lying still in the coffin underneath the white pall.

If Martha Ann had been around during WWII, men would have called her a “great Dame.” Whenever I think of Martha Ann, I think of that movie, “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.” That’s just how Martha Ann was.

She was a no-nonsense, plain-speaking, jean-clad lighting contractor with ruddy cheeks and tousled hair. Until recently, she seemed far younger to me than her actual age of 66. Nothing intimidated Martha Ann; she was utterly confident in her own abilities. She was forgiving of foibles in both herself and others. She never held a grudge.

Martha Ann had a deep commitment to her community. She was the No. 1 Portsmouth, Virginia cheerleader ever. She saw things as they should have been, not as they were, even though she was a realist. But she wasn’t just one of those folks who criticized everything and sat at home with her folded hands in her lap. Not Martha Ann, not ever. She would work like a dog to see that change was effected, whether to was going to Richmond to successfully change state vacant house code or running for Mayor.

Martha Ann was also a person of deep faith. This sustained her through very tough times; the death of her daughter as a young adult, a terrible motor vehicle accident that left her knees in constant pain, a divorce, having her Victorian house flood twice, and battling breast and then bone cancer.

My dear friend, there will never be anyone else like you. I can’t bear to think of City Council meetings without seeing you in your old familiar place. I don’t want to think of Saturday mornings without your phone calls or my life without your sage advice. How can you be gone?

Thank You, Jenene

I love all my peeps over at Goodwill.  Donna's Mom, Jenene, lives out of state, but follows my blog.  She is in the process of down-sizing.    And so, this beautiful girl, which belonged to Jenene, is now living at 256!    Specifically, she lives in Piper's room, the little bedroom where my niece stays.  The fan the doll holds belonged to my wonderful friend, Hester.  Jenene is moving here soon.  I can't wait to get to know her.  In the meantime, thanks - thanks a bunch!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Digital Impressionsim

Van Gogh - Wheatfield

Annie - Sea Grass

Rescue, Virginia

Please enjoy these wonderful old time-y pictures of a community along the water:  Rescue, Virginia.   Think way back when is just, well, way back when and places like this don't exist anymore?

Surprise!  I took these this morning less than a half hour from my house!

Friday, September 10, 2010

I Dig Graveyards

I actually said that to a client who called while I was exploring the graveyard surrounding Kinsgston Chapel in Mathews, Virginia. I wasn’t trying to be funny, I just said it, with no irony in mind at all.

My Dad got me started on loving graveyards. I don’t see them as being macabre, sad, or scary. Graveyards are tangible history we can examine for ourselves outside of a book.
Years ago, Dad told me about an ancient burying ground in downtown Hartford that had been enclosed by buildings as time went by. You entered into the graveyard through an office building. Graves dated back to the 1600’s. One poignant pair of headstones from that era captured my fancy: a husband who died at sea and a wife who “drowned in her tears” a month later.

Grace’s graveyard was completely different from that hidden spot surrounded by hustle, bustle, traffic, and office workers hurrying to lunch or back to their offices. Here, there was utter peace, simply the sounds of the wind soughing in the old growth trees, the faint sound of the water, birds twittering, and the occasional plop of a falling pecan. It was a final resting place in every sense of the term.

Trees soared over my head, leaves fluttered bright green, the blue sky was the background and the sun filtered through it all.

The water flowed past, as it has for a thousand years and, no doubt, will continue for a thousand more. There was just peace, blessed peace.

When peace like a river attendeth my way

When sorrows like sea billows roll

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say

It is well, it is well with my soul.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Dilly Dally Emporium

I met the nicest woman on my trip to Mathews.  Karyn owns a magical shop called "The Dilly Dally Emporium."  She is a kindred spirit, also from Connecticut originally and my exact age.  No wonder I loved her shop. Isn't that just the best name, "The Dilly Dally Emporium?"  Being a great dilly dally-er, the name resonates with me.

The Dilly Dally has a gorgeous selection of one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces. There were several that greatly tempted me. I am partial to unusual jewelry, especially necklaces and earrings.   There were all manner of pampering lotions and bath-related items.  I bought an airy, beautiful Battenberg lace parasol that I'll share with you later.

Look at Karyn's marvelous Autumn "Christmas" tree., shown below  What a clever idea!  Wouldn't it be amazing to start a tradition of decorating one after the back to school rush and then change it over the day after Thanksgiving to a Christmas theme, as you eat turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce and stuffing on the side?    

I fell in love with this sweet girl below.  She reminded me of some wig stands my mother had in the sixties.  That was when every fashionista worth her salt had a "fall" or a wig to augment her own hair.  She's sort of a 1920 flapper meets the sixties beauty, isn't she?  I simply loved this little vignette.  I greatly appreciate a shop owner who takes the time to create pleasing displays.  It sparks my own creativity.

As they say in Hawaii, Karyn and I "talked story" for quite a while.  Isn't that the best expression, talk story?  The companion pigeon English expression for gossiping about someone is referred to as "talk stink."  Maybe if people admitted that they were "talking stink" they'd do it less.

Do you remember the advertising jingle, "You can trust your car, to the man who wears the star?"  Texaco advertised this way for years and the employees had the Texaco Star on their uniforms.    I think the Dilly Dally's building used to be a service station, take a look at this vintage logo built into the building.    Those were the days when business owners expected to be in the same location for a while.

You can find Dilly Dally at 200 Main Street in Mathews, VA, if you happen to be out that way.  The phone number is 804-725-0955..  As Karyn's quicky business card says, it is "4,000 square feet of the tastefully unusual" kind of place.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Signs of Autumn

Don’t you think the vintage pitcher and matching glasses are sweet? I picked them up at a vintage store on my weekend adventure to Matthews County, VA.  They seemed so “Daisy Cottage Kim” to me and were reasonably priced. They had to find a new home at 256.

Happily, it is cool enough to sit at the old table on the front porch once again and have breakfast. This morning, I sipped my chai tea, poured some orange juice from the vintage green pitcher, and enjoyed a sweet onion poppy seed bagel with cream cheese.

This is the literal “view from 256” where I can sit in my pj’s early of a morning, hidden behind the veil of a trumpet vine that conceals me from everyone else. There are old growth trees hundreds of feet high in front of me. Birds nest in the vine. They’ve grown accustomed to me and flit about totally unimpressed.

Signs of Autumn abound, whatever the calendar may say. While driving this weekend, I saw two flame-colored trees amidst the sea of green. I hear the announcer calling Greyhounds’ football games. The notes of the marching band travel all the way back to my front porch.

A Norfolk Southern train horn (did you know they used to be called “steam trumpets?”) sounds and then a few minutes later, another whistle announces the arrival or departure of the ferry, depending on which half hour it is. That ferry has been in operation since the 1600’s; I find this continuity very pleasing. These are the fall sounds of my town, those sounds that first charmed me when I moved here at just this time of year.

Are you seeing Autumn yet?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Mathew's County, Virginia

Richardson's Restaurant on Church Street in Mathews County, VA is a destination, not the kind of place you happen upon.  Happen upon it I did, however, and had tasty lunch, tastier and more upscale than I was expecting.  It is located in this old drugstore.

I wondered about listing an emetic and a potion said to decrease sexual desire on the walls, but Richardsons was, after all, a drugstore.

The ceiling is punched tin and an old Coke cooler is stationed at the front door, just like the one I mentioned here.

 Mathews County is located in the Middle Peninsula of VA, about an hour's drive from my house and light years away from here.  Think Mayberry and you'll be close.
The lunch couner with the chrome-edged bar stools looks to be original.   I had one of the most extraordinary Cobb salads ever, and I am picky about Cobb salad.  I also ordered crab puppies, a crab cake in the shape of a hush puppy.  It was an explosion of spicy, crabby goodness.