I come from a family with four daughters. I'm the oldest (the blond in the rear), then comes my sister Nan (front right), and sister number 3 is the baby in this Christmas picture. My dad is keeping an eye on her as it's her first birthday. Yes, Meg was born on Christmas Day.
I'm age six which might be a bit old to be getting a teddy bear at Christmas but that's my guy at Meg's feet. I believe the plush wire-haired terrier is hers. I can actually recognize at least one ornament on the Christmas tree that is hanging on my tree today and I am wearing a navy blue jersey pinafore with red embroidery on it that my mother made.
Lest you think my teddy bear is just a memory, here he is in my red sitting room with Mark's donkey and another bear that was a grownup gift. The "Backscratchers" chair is by Madison artist Rumi O'Brien. Merry Christmas to you all!
I stopped by Olbrich Botanical Gardens yesterday to drop something off and the parking lot was packed. Inside the building was full of parents and children enjoying the holiday Train Express complete with lots of Legos. It was a wonderful sight to see so much happiness in one place.
Since I was there I thought I should take a peek inside their Growing Gifts Shop. Toys, clothing, books, jewelry, cards, something for almost everyone on your list — especially for gardeners. I came out with a bagful of treats: A quirky little vase that's narrow enough for my windowsill or the toilet tank, special balloons to make cool ice lanterns, Alpaca socks and a hat with ear flaps and lots of tassels, ornaments and a couple of nail brushes. And members get a discount! One more reason to love Olbrich and to become a member. We joined when we began our first garden back way back when.
I saved this photo of an ice lantern last year and had been meaning to go in search of heavy balloons to try to make some. Now that I found them at Olbrich I just need the weather to stay cold enough to quickly turn water into ice.
I actually have a few cuttings from the garden still managing to survive on the kitchen windowsill, but they're not worth showcasing for this meme so near to Christmas. I also have some holiday themed art featuring flowers that is hanging in the hallway leading to our bedroom. I did this drawing with text in 1990 as a special rendition of my newspaper column, "The Artful Shopper," that ran in The Capital Times newspaper in Madison from 1983 until 2008.
Its mate is hanging across the hall on the opposite wall. If you are good at spelling you will notice that I put an extra "s" in the word Christmases. I redid that headline and temporarily affixed it on top of the misspelled one. After it went to press I removed the correction and let my mistake stand.
The frames on this matching pair of artworks are a soft matte silver. Mark framed them for me as a gift one year.
At the end of the hall are a drawing of an angel that Mark did in the 1980s on our first Apple computer. He used the mouse to draw it! The wintry water color was done by Virginia C. Wilson, a multi-talented woman and the mother of local artist Chuck Bauer. The painting was a gift to us from Chuck after his mother died earlier this year.
The bathroom off this hallway has more flowers via a framed piece of antique Chinese embroidery. There's a bit of Eucalyptus and evergreens on top that match the bouquet on the bathroom vanity.
I always glitz up this bathroom for the holidays with my grandmother's Art Nouveau silver dresser set, our garage sale silver vase and a little Revere bowl that holds my watches.
Along the sink wall (hanging above the toilet) is another piece of Christmas art decorated with holiday greens. This is a photo of me with Santa when I was little girl. I'm all bundled up in my snowsuit so I can't imagine I was standing in a long department store line. But neither can I quite remember where or when this might have been taken.
This is what the fireplace wall looked like last year. We bought a small Dennis Nechvatal watercolor that was mostly blues (not visible here) in September 2015 and thus used blue as the theme for the art work in the room. I added a long rope of brass discs and pomanders with gold ribbons along the top of the fireplace as holiday decor.
Last week we decided it was time for a change before the holidays were upon us. As artists with lots of artist friends and a collecting habit, our basement looks like the storeroom of a commercial gallery. No matter how much we downsize it's never obvious that anything has left the premises. On the upside that means there is alway a lot to pick from when we want to replace and rehang works.
We brought a couple of pieces upstairs and one thing led to another. The top painting is by Chuck Bauer, a Madison artist, while the lower work is by a Chicago artist. We got Chuck's painting at one of his country open studio events and the other one from David Ward at Stony Hill Antiques on Regent St. where we've found many kinds of treasures over the years.
The two landscapes on the left were found in antique shops while the other three are works by Mark. The central drawing of UW Arboretum is from 1981, the woodcut of the Arb is from 1984 and the charcoal snowfall drawing is from 2011. The tea bowls are Japanese.
The only concession to the holiday is the pair of glass tea light holders and the tiny Robert Indiana "LOVE" sculpture. A photo of that sculpture is part of the display out of view at the right end of the room that I wrote about on Monday. The wall at the left end of the room has a goldleaf Japanese screen and lots of candles for a Christmas glow.
The motto of Great Dixter, the late Christopher Lloyd's legendary garden, is "Deny yourself nothing." That little tidbit certainly explains the voluptiousness of their plantings, whether in endless borders or the containers that almost obscure the front door.
I've decided that it's also a good way to look at Thanksgiving. No matter how much we say we're going to make it a more simple celebration, more low-key and more low-fat, I don't believe it ever happens. This is the one day of the year when we can go back to the table for seconds. Or fourths.
And after an election that has left many of us feeling adrift, I plan to take Dixter's motto to heart. I'm going to enjoy every morsel of food, every hug and kiss, every story I've heard a million times before. And I am not going to talk about, read about or even think about politics. Every time I'm tempted to glance at a computer screen, I will look out the window at my beautiful garden and refresh myself instead.
Years ago I bought this covered veggie dish and a platter in the Fruit Basket pattern by the English china manufacturer, Mason's. For a lark I went online last fall to see if one of those companies that carries old china patterns might have a piece. Indeed they had a few but they were asking more than I wanted to pay. Imagine my delight when I found this little covered jar only days later at a local antique shop at a much better price.
I decided it would make a great vase and not take up much room on the Thanksgiving table. At the rate we're going, I may be able to almost repeat this bouquet when Thanksgiving arrives.
The main item is an annual Hibiscus which has been living by the front door and still looks great. There are more than a few spikes of Agastache with color left on them, but that's the last bright Baneberry seedpod. Most of the Heucheras are still going strong though I doubt I will get another fat flower stalk like this one from a plant in a protected location. It was fun to think about the next big holiday coming up and what might be available to create a bouquet for the big feast.
Mark and I were invited to a dinner party at the end of last week on an absolutely beautiful evening. The table was equally beautiful; so much so that I made him grab a few pictures on his phone. There was seating for 14 guests which meant Mark had to take more than one photo to get the entire table. There were lap blankets and throws in case it turned chilly and we needed to cover up but the temperature never fell so much that anyone needed a wrap.
I particularly liked the look of those French park chairs all in a row, looking so pristine with their white enamel paint.
Mark and I brought easy hors d'oeuvres: olives and breadsticks. Gardeners, note that I used a vase to hold the breadsticks. I needed a tall plain container and I realized nothing fit that description as well as a vase!
In case you are curious, the entree was Cioppino with cornbread. Dessert was a fabulous lemon poppyseed layer cake served with coffee and glasses of iced Limoncello. A wonderful way to welcome September. Thank you Jane and David for including us.
Since it's Labor Day in the U.S. I thought I would look at the work of putting a flower arrangement together and write about the tools I use to do that. I'm guessing many of you have the same weapons in your arsenal, but perhaps you'll find a new idea or product here.
In addition to vases, I also have a selection of attractive containers to use when I just want to disguise a plastic pot. Wondering about those bits of white paper towels that you can see? I always put something between containers so I don't chip the edges when I stack them up and rudely shove them into this fully stuffed cupboard. (This cupboard is in the basement and still boasts its 1960s paint colors).
A few pieces from my massive stash of containers. These are all ceramic. One was made by my best friend from college, one came from my favorite antique shop before it closed, one belonged to my grandmother but most are by Midwestern potter friends.
For cutting flowers in the garden or while arranging them indoors, nothing beats Japanese Koshiji pruners. The pair I use in the garden have pink plastic wrapped around the handle so I can find them again when I set them down. The small clippers are by Fiskars. I have a number of Japanese flower holders (Kenzans), including this shaped one in the center of the tray.
There's a spiral flower holder that can also hold a candle in the center that was made in Manitowoc, Wisconsin in the 1950s. It's in its original box which is slowly falling apart. That odd green shape on the left is meant to hold a candle in an arrangement when you are using floral foam. It's upside down here; the sharp point gets stuck in the foam and the fat cup holds the candle.
I have a jar of smooth pebbles that I got at a nursery as well as two small boxes of black Mihama pebbles from Japan. I use them to hold stems in place in a vase or just scatter them across a table around a vase. There's a roll of fine green wire which I have rarely used as well as a box of tubes with rubber caps with a slit in them. They sometimes come on flowers that are delivered and I save them anytime I came across them. I use them to hide a flower in a quirky location where I can't fit a vase. I have dried moss and birds' eggs — anything that might come in handy to create an effect. But if you've been following my Monday vases, you may have noticed that I don't take advantage of all these nice tools and objects nearly as much as I might!