Tag Archives: decorating

Twelve Days wrapped up.

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This evening I was reminded of one snowy night last week up at my daughter’s: I walked outdoors and crunched through the snow, far enough from the house that the fairy lights were hidden behind a tall spruce tree, and I looked up – oh my! The stars were brilliant, and I immediately saw two constellations I hadn’t noticed the last time I was in the mountains, in October. It is evidently the season for Orion and the Pleiades. I always think of the Pleiades as the Seven Sisters, because when I first met that group I was in Turkey, and my friends there called them that.

Tonight I took a bowl of kitchen scraps out to the trash, and saw those same constellations shining right above my house in lowland suburbia. A cloudless sky seems strange, after days and days of clouds and rain. But there it was. I was carrying out all the rind and seeds of this giant Rouge vif D’Etampes pumpkin, which I bought in the fall and which has been sitting on my front walk until today, when a black spot revealed a bit of rot setting in.

I cut out that bit of flesh and then roasted the two halves one at a time, because they were too large to do otherwise… unless I had cut the pumpkin into smaller pieces, but I wasn’t smart enough to think of that idea until later…

(Those are Asian yams baking at the same time.)

…maybe because I brought a cold home with me from the northlands, and my brain may still be affected, though I feel very well today. Another more pleasant gift was a jar of our Glad-type of peppernuts ! that Pippin baked for Christmas. I took this picture in my car before I had eaten too many, and I’m proud to say I have continued with restraint. They are the sort of treat we can’t seem to produce every year. Maybe next year I will bake some myself; on the way home I bought one of the ingredients that is often not easily found except at truck stops.

I didn’t bake half of the cookies I’d planned this Christmas. Instead of baking, I had my little road trip, and then a couple of days of lying around under the weather. I figure if I haven’t done my baking by the Twelfth Day it will have to wait until next year.

Speaking of the Twelfth Day, here is one last image of Theophany, from my dear friend May’s parish, and her arrangement of the festal surround.

My red berries from the bike path cotoneaster bushes dried out before Theophany, and I had to wander the garden a bit to find something to extend the season for my kitchen windowsill. In January it’s succulents and olives.

I’m slowly putting away the decorations and burning down some of the candles, beginning to settle into what looks to be a quiet month of guilt-free homebodiness. I have a good stack of firewood, and enough housework and reading to keep me busy for a year of Januarys. And more than five quarts of pumpkin now in the freezer to make sustaining soups and puddings for the rest of winter and beyond.

Live your life while you have it. Life is a splendid gift.
There is nothing small in it.

-Florence Nightingale

Days and bags full of children.

Last week I laid out these sleeping bags in my new guest room, for the use of my grandchildren whom I was expecting along with their parents, flying in from Colorado.

Night after night I’ve started a little blog report on the fun we’ve been having, but night after night I’ve had to crash before I could complete a paragraph. This afternoon has been a little pause, wherein I drank tea and will try again.

One of the first tasks I set the children to was shelling my Painted Lady beans. They were fascinated with how the giant speckled beans fell out of their crisp pods with the slightest squeeze and crunch from their small hands. After we had disposed of the pods, and the remaining several pounds of beans were sitting in a stainless steel bowl on the table, with children and adults frequently stopping by to run our fingers through the sea of them, each of the kids asked if they might have a bean to keep, and I completely understand why. They are so smooth and large, it’s nice to have one in a pocket as a friendly pet.

The weather has been br-r-r-r-cold, and a week of rain is in the forecast, but has twice been pushed into the future. One non-rainy morning we took advantage of that delay and drove out to the coast, while my town lay under a disheartening blanket of fog. By the time we reached the beach, the sun was shining and it was a very pleasant day for a picnic and even playing games in the surf.

I pulled my Seanna doll out of my backpack to show Clara, three years old. This is the doll that I’d found washed up on the beach last winter.

Several gifts of the to-be-opened-early sort have arrived from Aunt Kate, such as a reindeer ring toss game, and a fir scented candle. We dutifully and gleefully opened them!

It has been much easier to make progress on decorating, now that my elf helpers have arrived. I’ve begun to realize that in this era, Christmas decorations have to go up gradually. When there were seven of us in the old days, we’d do the tree and everything in one day and evening, and take it down similarly. But now, with just me to care and to do it, that style and method does not fit. I bought several strings of led lights this year and I plan to keep them up at least until February.

There are dozens and dozens of dolls and stuffies in my house, and Clara is making sure that they are all taken into her care and concern. She lets me know every time one or a group of them is going upstairs to bed, and when they wake up again; also, whatever names she might have given them. I guess it’s always nice to know one more woman who likes to talk about babies! A large teddy bear has been bedded down near the woodstove for a couple of days, and when I walk past and see him out of the corner of my eye, I repeatedly think he is a sleeping toddler.

The children spent hours doing cut and paste one afternoon, and Brodie made this starry paper box. The family brought several of their own essential toys and books, of course, such as the best Tin Tin books for Dad to read to the boys. I’ve been reading the same Letters from Father Christmas to them that I read last year to Pippin’s children.

Soldier and Joy and all will be with me through Christmas Day, which means more good times, and scenes to illustrate my happy days. Most or all of the children take a stuffie into their sleeping bags with them each night; Clara may have several bears, rabbits and sheep at the bottom of hers by now.

I made a big pot of chili using a cup of the Painted Ladies we’d shelled, plus all of the jarful I brought home from shelling  with Cathy a year ago, and lots of vegetables. It was fantastic; the fat beans came out creamy yummy.

And I asked the children to pose with their personal beans as a remembrance.

Moving toward civilization.

Today was my house blessing of Theophany. I was glad it had been delayed a few weeks after the feast on January 6th, because I wanted to put the house in order beforehand, especially the construction/storage areas that were still in process until a few weeks ago.

So as I was getting things spiffed up for today’s event, I thought, this is the time to share a few carefully chosen images, for those — maybe only a very few? — of my readers who are interested in the indoor physical landscape of my days.

My total remodeling project is not done, but nothing stops me now from living fully in my three new rooms — that is, once I unpack and figure out how to arrange things. I’ve bought a few pieces of furniture and have taken a carload of stuff to the thrift stores, but there is still a lot of processing and figuring out to do. I ordered a cozy armchair that won’t be here until about Pascha (May), and I can’t finalize the arrangement of the morning/sewing room until I get that.

Above is a photo of the morning room from a year ago, and there are lots of Before and In-Process pictures in a post aptly named: Hodgepodge. I don’t intend to show any of the remaining hodgepodge or mess. Instead, I picked out a few tidier scenes or items to focus on.

Above, you can see through the doorway at left into my bedroom. My goddaughter Mary’s father A. made the cabinet doors for me and trimmed out everything. It was so heartening to have someone who was enthusiastic about doing the work and even communicated with me about it! Not to mention the beauty of the result. He had no part in the work that I complain about farther down.

I’m sure I’ll be rearranging sewing things again and again, but for now, I have all my fabric and projects in the cabinets in the proper room. I did remove five boxes full of fabric from my stash, which I will give away, but I kept all of my Waldorf doll supplies. And all of the luscious fabric I brought home from India.

The cluttered environment has disturbed me inwardly, I always knew that, but when I managed to open up floor space and dresser tops, and whittle down the mass of unpacked boxes to take up less and less space in corners… why, I felt like a new person, becoming civilized! It was very calming.

At right is an unfinished area of my bedroom, which had to get repaired after pulling out an old built-in cabinet. There was a nail still sticking out so I put up this hanging I found in a box, that I made eons ago. I still have a lot of painting to do (I should say, for someone to do) in my room, and a few other rooms of the house.

The new bathroom is pleasantly boring in beiges and white, tile and granite. I wanted it that way so I could have colorful towels and shower curtain. That storage cabinet at left I found at Home Depot and bought another one for the master bath.

I have so many interesting little tables that I am fond of for various reasons. This one is a hundred years old at least, and used to live at my husband’s family’s summer cabin. I have never known it as the patio table it was obviously designed to be; it always sits along a wall as a shelf, and its known to be wobbly on its own. But I will probably keep on keeping it, at least while I am in a big house.

My closet got refurbished, and I added a little dressing table to replace what got lost when the two rooms were linked by a door in that spot. It was so long between the time I made decisions and the completion of those shelves, I don’t remember how I ended up with melamine, which is really cheap. So I bought a piece of plastic to put on the dressing table top, to protect it from getting wrecked. The next picture shows the view from the bathroom.

On the dressing table right now I have a Valentine’s Day card I gave to my husband a really long time ago; and an icon of St. Porphyrios.

This is the one bank of drawers I have in the closet. Because it has nice drawer pulls it looks upscale and makes the closet feel fancy — until I want to open the bottom drawer, which as you can see sits right on the floor. So that doesn’t work very well. The shelving units didn’t fit nicely in the crooked old closet space and there are shims and gaps everywhere. Like a 1-2″ space at the ceiling, big enough to collect dust and spiders, but too small to store anything — except for our entire vinyl collection! Maybe I will find some other belongings that are conveniently short and flat, that need storing.

I have oh so many paintings, pictures and other beloved items that eventually I will find new places for, on the walls of several rooms, after the painting and furniture arranging are complete. I’ll leave you with one that I had forgotten about, a little Peruvian farm scene made in Peru, a style of tapestry that was sold in a local shop in a past era. One more thing I am looking forward to incorporating in my newly civilized, homey decor.

“It is the main earthly business of a human being to make his home, and the immediate surroundings of his home, as symbolic and significant to his own imagination as he can.”

-G.K. Chesterton

A happy hodgepodge.

Today was Goldfinch Day in the garden. It could be they were celebrating the rain; I know I am, for several reasons, not least that it’s warmer when it’s raining, and right now I have so many open spaces in my ceiling upstairs, it’s quite drafty when the wind blows through the attic. We had a very cold night and two or three suddenly wintry days.

A male goldfinch announced their event to me when I was standing near the sliding glass door: he flew right up to the glass and hovered, went away, came back two times looking at me. You say he was seeing his reflection? Well, whatever he thought he was doing, he did draw my attention to the dozens of goldfinches feasting, at the feeders and on the ground. I guess when they heard I was catering their convention, everyone wanted to come. I also stayed around so long I was almost late for church. I was trying to be the photographer, but they make it difficult by being so shy. And the rain that made their yellow brighter to my eyes only dulled the scene as a whole, and they look gray against the wisteria leaves.

It took me ages to get dressed for church; I was trying to find the boots I bought last winter, which were stored away “somewhere,” many moons ago when I was so certain that the remodeling project would be complete before another winter came along. I finally found them, and then other parts of my outfit. I am temporarily between dressing tables and have been just wearing the same earrings every day.

Granny Marigold asked how it’s going, the remodeling. A huge thing is that the floors are scheduled to go in a week from tomorrow. That means an incredible number of tasks need to be wrapped up in the next five days, if it’s all to be in the right sequence. My plumber doesn’t see how it can happen. He told me that gently when he was here this evening planning his part of the job; I was really glad he stopped by when he happened to be in the neighborhood. It seems he doesn’t use email anymore, and I’ve been writing him urgent emails. I’ve known him for almost 30 years, since he was in high school; we talked about his parents and his children before he left. He lives with his father and his son, and all three are named James.

Here is the floor plan of the changes in my upstairs. Three new rooms are being created from one very large room that had never had much done with it. Maybe because the original builders saw that they didn’t have enough support to bear any more walls; one unfortunate time drain has been the addition of great beams to floor and ceiling of the room, what the contractor kindly calls “deferred maintenance.”

My master bedroom, bath and closet are at the bottom of the drawing. The new walls are shaded dark. The door has been cut that will open my bedroom to the sewing room, and all the framing is done. A few pictures from the last year, in chronological order:

First, after removing the “popcorn” ceiling, and when they began to add support in the ceiling for the new walls:

The first of my two new windows framed:

How it used to look between my closet and bathroom (although not quite that crooked):

How it looks now:

They have put up plastic film in that new doorway temporarily, but it doesn’t keep out the cold. I’m so glad I thought to hang the sheet on a spring rod, because it’s always warmer on this side when it’s pulled closed.

Below, an example of the extra support that has been added to that end of the room, where the weight of the roof was not resting on enough beams that went straight to the foundation. When the team was looking at the situation and brainstorming what to do, one contractor who works for my contractor said to me, “You’re learning how not to build a house.”

No one worked all these four days of the Thanksgiving weekend. On Thanksgiving I did two things I’d never done before on that day: First I went to Liturgy, which was quite lovely, and I took my new friend Kay who I’ll tell you more about sometime. Afterward, we went shopping at my favorite market that has a vast deli section, to buy a few things to take to the feast we were attending, at the little monastery in town 🙂 I’d never had Thanksgiving at a monastery before, either.

Maybe twenty-five people were there. They are on the old calendar, so they had just begun their fast. Unlike many Orthodox, they do not bend the rules, so we had no turkey, and I didn’t miss it. We had various sorts of fish, and so many many different dishes that people had brought, or the nuns had made. One of my favorite things was the beautiful salad I had bought at the market. It was crunchy and pretty and everyone loved it: Mango and Jicama salad, those two ingredients cut in long matchsticks, with Chinese cabbage and cilantro and strips of sweet red pepper. It was lightly dressed with lemon juice and olive oil.

Before we came home the nuns gave us boxes and bags of pineapple guavas from their hedge and trees; as we went to our car we saw just how prodigious a crop they have. Theirs are certainly situated better than mine, none of which ripened this year.

I didn’t go to the Christmas bazaar that was at my church on Saturday, but there were a few things left that we could buy today during the agape meal, like this origami garland that I hung as soon as I got home.

After selling items at a discount for a while, they eventually were giving stuff away, at which point I accepted edible goodies, which I have put away for Christmas. Who knows if I’ll find time and concentration to make my own cookies this year.

 

I had many things to carry to my car, and it was raining, so I dug the napkin bag out of the trash to carry stuff in.

How was that for a hodgepodge post? I guess it’s only fitting that I publish at least one that reflects the scattered and nearly chaotic style of my life right now. As soon as those floors go in I will be sharing that bright news immediately!