I went looking to see if there was something different than last week's snowdrops to put into a vase this Monday but the choices in my garden are still quite limited. I did manage, however, to find a Hellebore in bloom and some Tommies to add to the snowdrops. Since Easter is approaching I decided to put my tiny posy inside this equally tiny wire basket. Once I did that I realized I should get out my other Easter items and make an actual holiday display.
The basket got moved into the living room where it joined the stack of gray art books on our pair of Chinese wine tables.
But then I moved it again to showcase a bowl of decorated eggs. Joining them (from left) are an embroidered felt egg, a souvenir egg with articulated legs (from the gift shop at the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle), and a large paper egg from the dime store.
This bowl of eggs lives in the china cabinet behind glass doors so I see them all the time. But I do enjoy looking at them up close and rearranging them in their bowl this one time each spring.
This lovely little bunny in her bright yellow embroidered coat is keeping watch over our carrot collection. My husband loves carrots, so I started buying him a carrot for his Easter basket each year. Sharing space with them are some felt peas in the pod.
I know there are many gardeners who have a lot more options to put into their vases this week. Hop on over to Rambling in the Garden where Cathy hosts "In a Vase on Monday" to see what they've created.
On St. Patrick's Day it is worth giving a thought to the reason so many Americans — like the Brazill family — are of Irish ancestry. A million and a half Irish left home to come to the New World during the Great Famine brought on by a late season blight on the potato crop. This poem was written by an Irish tenant farmer at the time and is a lament for the potato itself. This version, sung by Liam Ó Maonlaí, is on the soundtrack to "Long Journey Home" about the Irish in America.
It is also worth noting that Wisconsin's "state soil" — Antigo Silt Loam — is a perfect soil for growing potatoes. The Antigo area specializes in growing certified seed potatoes. Wisconsin is 3rd after Idaho and Washington in U.S. potato production.
A thousand farewells to the white potatoes for as long as we had them, a pleasant hoard affable, innocent, coming into our company as they laughed with us at the head of the board
they were help to the nurse, to the man and the child, to the weak and the strong, to the young and the old but the cause of my sorrow, my grief, my affliction them rolling away, without frost, without cold
what will buy a shroud for those to be buried? tobacco, pipes or a coffin of wood? if we are to die now may the high-king protect us and, of course, it would be a release if we could
We started celebrating Valentine's Day a little early. Actually my husband does not believe in made-up (aka Hallmark) holidays so he's not big on Valentine's Day — despite the fact that he's given me many lovely presents over the years.
We started the day Saturday with our usual group of friends for Saturday morning coffee. Then I went off to spend the morning with my textile group while he talked with his college-bound nephew about his potential options. We met up again to go to the gym for a brief workout.
And then we went off to our city's original shopping mall which is smaller than is common and was emphatically local until recently. Now it's being redesigned and relaunched with brand names like Kate Spade, Sur la Table and Madewell. What that means is there are a number of empty storefronts at one end of the older mall space. So they set up half a dozen pop up shops for the weekend, including Pleasant Living whose east side shop I still miss.
We bought a set of 1920-30s Sheffield nickel silver flatware for six.The knife handles are celluloid, I believe. It has four serving pieces and two kinds of soup spoons, demitasse and dessert spoons. I know. This is totally against the trend of downsizing and casual entertaining. Two things I think about but am not good at. Also picked up a beautiful Chinese ceramic garden stool, decorated in soft blues on gray.
Hit the grocery store to pick up everything I wanted to make a couple of the recipes in this week's New York Times food section. We started with Mark Bittman's Champagne cocktails, Hook's Tilson blue cheese and my favorite cranberry and hazelnut Raincoast Crisps while sitting in front of fire, candles lit and the two of us getting slowly lit as we worked on the NYT Sunday crossword.
Dinner (above) was David Tanis' concoction of Seared Sea Scallops with Ginger-Lime butter, sweet potatoes and greens. He used baby bok choy but I subbed a quick saute of arugula. He baked his potatoes and I roasted mine. A superb meal and one to make again.
So we'll be spending Valentine's Day sleeping in and doing what ever we usually do on Sundays . . .
For much of the autumn, I had this Chinese vase sitting on the granite vanity top in my bathroom. Every time I walked through the garden and saw another interesting bit of dried material, I clipped it and added it to this arrangement.
But once we hit December, brown definitely looks out of season and sad. So I swapped it out for some holiday glitter. This is a silver vase we bought years ago at a garage sale. It's filled with sparkly and beaded "flowers" that I've been collecting over the years. The little cut glass jar with the silver lid is part of my grandmother's silver dresser set, that is out of the picture at the other end of the vanity. You can see more of that set of Art Nouveau silver here.
I love all the glitter and silver and mirrored reflections. It's a perfect display for New Year's. But this bouquet also requires me to constantly wipe glitter off the counter!
Stop by Rambling in the Garden, the host of this most delightful meme, to see what other gardeners have found to put in a vase this Monday.
A long-time reader of this blog recently inquired as to whether I'd put out all of my and Mark's childhood toys for Christmas. I told her that they always make an appearance for the holidays. I just hadn't done a post about them. So here's an update for Susan and anyone else who has a soft spot for their childhood treasures. The toys are mainly displayed in my red sitting room. I did the black and white needlepoint portrait pillow based on one of Mark's woodcuts which was based, in turn, on the photos in the book "Wisconsin Death Trip."
My Little Women doll (Meg) by Madame Alexander and my rabbit fur trimmed satin baby slippers dominate the right end of the bookshelf. Those slippers are a sure sign that I was the first granddaughter!
This end features Mark's well-worn stuffed donkey and his lone leather sandal. The contemporary papier mache pull toy and hand-painted blocks are both by artist Tracy Higgs.
The cabinet below held the music rolls for my grandparents' player piano. The beaded bag was my grandmother's and came from France in the early 20th Century.
The trees belonged to my mother and the tractor and wagon are Mark's. Having them "pull" an ornament is a nice way to incorporate them into the Christmas decor. Our teddy bears are spending the holiday enthroned in an upholstered chair in our bedroom.
The last time I bought a big Poinsettia for Christmas, my husband and I were so taken with its peachy-pink color that we decided to paint an accent wall that color. This time, I wanted another plant that was not a true red which would be too intense a color to put next to the Lohan sculpture just out of photo range. And since there is nothing blooming in my garden at the moment, I went plant shopping at a local independent florist.
I also decided to take Loree at Danger Garden's Poinsettia Challenge to use that plant and to do more with it than just plop it in place. In fact, once I put it in my grandmother's green Roseville Luffa jardiniere, I decided it was much brighter than it seemed under the shop lights. I definitely needed to tone it down somehow. But I didn't really want to cut the plant apart to make it look and feel a bit different.
Instead of clipping the plant, I added assorted stems of statice, dried ferns and other brown-toned foliage. The ends of these plants (at least the live ones) are stuck in those little glass flower tubes and inserted around the plant. I stuck a few dried stems right in the midst of the Poinsettia as well.
Next I added a mini Christmas tree decorated with cookies, a big candlestick and a string of holiday lights.
Here's a close-up of the cookie tree which my sister-in-law gave me last Christmas. The cookies are by Rumi O-Brien, a local artist who is talented in a variety of media. I thought the red, pink and green frosting was a fun way to reiterate the colors of the arrangement and keep the whole thing from being too serious.
This shows you the "bouquet" in situ with a gold-leaf folding screen on the wall and a Ming dynasty Lohan at the right end of the table.
When I was growing up, holiday meals always took place at tables set with beautiful china. My mom, the grandmothers, the aunts — no matter who hosted the family dinner it was served on great dishes. As I've said many times before, those experiences turned me into a dish junkie. Today I have my grandmother's gold-bordered service, which I just used at Thanksgiving, as well as a set of antique dinner plates with a wide red band dripping with gold curliques. They are my usual go-to choices for December dinner parties.
Last December, when we hosted friends for dinner, I made Afro-Brazillian fish stew and it needed to be served in bowls. That necessitated re-thinking everything because my big soup bowls are blue and white. But I think I managed to create a holiday feel without going all red and green, which I try to avoid everywhere but in my red room.
I used little plexiglass napkin holders, that are actually vases, with a sprig of evergreens for a Christmassy touch and silky plaid napkins for a bit of glam. The placemats are some kind of straw which also has a bit of a sheen.
Our wooden Italian putti is in the corner shedding a little candlelight. More candles are on the table along with a big bowl of dried pomegranates, pomanders and assorted ornaments.
I won't be able to recreate this setting again this December because Mark never liked those napkins: too thin and too slippery according to him. So this fall they were relegated to my bin of supplies for textile projects. They definitely have a lot of potential in that area!
Last week on my way to the grocery store, I noticed the city tree-trimming crews had worked on all the crabapple trees in the median on Whitney Way not far from my house. I decided I'd take a chance that everything would still be there when I drove back from the store. It was, but I wasn't going to take another chance and go home to get clippers and change my clothes. So I pulled over, took off my coat, and hauled a branch loaded with berries to my car. Then I struggled to get it in the back seat. Took up all the room and the end of the branch hung out the open car window.
Of course, the minute I looked at all the branches on the ground, I realized the ones that were loaded with bright red berries were not crab apples at all. They were Hawthorns, most likely Washington Hawthon (Crataegus phaenopyrum), a tree we had growing in our garden until it got wiped out in a snowstorm a couple of winters ago. Check out those thorns! Real killers. Mark helped me cut it into manageable sized branches and then I decided how I'd use them. (Note I am working outdoors in mid-December in Wisconsin!)
I cut the the branches into shorter lengths and trimmed out some of the deadwood and some of the thorns. The presence of thorns meant this bouquet had to be where no one was going to accidentally bump into it. So, first I added a halo of berries to the big Mark Skudlarek platter hanging by the front door. No vase needed!
The platter is just to the right of our bright red front door so the berries were just what I needed to add another touch of holiday color to match what was on the other side of the front entrance. Last year this pine cone garland was draped over the windows in our bedroom, held in place with long ochre-colored satin ribbons.
I bought a couple of stems of red-twigged dogwood at the grocery store and clipped some pruning from evergreens in our garden. I put them in the front hall in a red enamel Haws watering can. Then I added as many branches of Hawthorn berries as I could manage to squeeze in.
A big glass jar of pine cones gathered in our garden repeats the theme from the bench outside.
Love how the red picks up the color from Leslie Nelson's needlepoint/quilt. And I love the fact that I was unexpectedly able to pull this all together thanks to city work crews and warm and snowless December weather. To see what other gardeners have put in a vase this Monday, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden who hosts this weekly meme.
I have antique red dinner plates for twelve and a set of gorgeous green and gold plates with flowery centers, also for twelve. I have two different kinds of contemporary white dinnerware in the kitchen cupboard. And stacks of wood-fired stoneware plates in the so-called pantry. Of course, there are also piles of placemats and napkins to mix and match with all the dishes. I am a dish junkie from all those years of holiday dinners around beautifully set tables. Having items to create your own beautiful table was a sign that you were a grown-up — at least to me.
Earlier this week I thought about all those possible options for the Thanksgiving table. When it came right down to it, however, there was really only one choice: my grandmother's china. She and my grandfather were married in 1906 so these dishes have seen a lot of family dinners. I am the third generation to enjoy this heirloom china and the stemware that goes with it.
Though it looks pretty fancy, I put a plastic cloth underneath the black linen one and a decorative runner down the center of the table. That means I can set down warm dishes and we can drip and spill to our heart's content without destroying the wood underneath. If you look closely you can see little slips of yellow paper in all the serving dishes. They're to remind me of what I planned to put where and also so I can give guests a task in the the kitchen if they want to help.
I wrote out the menu on this lovely menu card, the last one of a package I bought so many years ago I can no longer remember when or where I got them. But they are fun to use when I feel very la de da. Now I just have to make salad and get the turkey and dressing in the oven and then I can sit by the fire until the guests arrive.
Hope you have a lovely Thanksgiving filled with your favorite people and favorite food!