Archive for the ‘Decorating’ Category

IMHighland Park:benchG_1861

There were two open gardens at the Garden Conservancy Open Days this past Sunday. One was Mettawa Manor, the other was in Highland Park.

The Highland Park home does not have the celebrity of Mettawa Manor, but, it is rich in architecture and lush in texture. The wooden bench, above, is just one of many features in this garden that were both beautiful and inspiring.

This bench also provided these two characters, who were flitting about, a quiet spot to rest their feet after oohing and ahhh-ing as they strolled about and had a delightful time talking with the homeowner.

Tom & Penny:Wood Bench:Highland Park

Since I was one of those characters, the one who talks too much, I’ll be silent now and show you a few highlights from the Highland Park garden,



Highland Park:foxglove

Highland Park:red mandivilla

“I think I hear someone calling your name, Penny” said Tom.

“Look who it is”

How nice it was to run into Jan and Mike.


Meanwhile, back at the Manor . . .


Head #1Head #2

IMG_1987Mettawa pond:close up:plant

Mettawa pond

Speaking of manor houses, look what’s coming to Chicago’s Driehouse Museum.

Downton Abbey (PBS) Season 1, 2010 Shown from left: Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern

Downton Abbey (PBS) Season 1, 2010
Shown from left: Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern

image from here.

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Run, run, as fast as you can, you can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!

Ah, but I did catch him. I spied him hiding in between vintage china and gently used baubles on a table in one of the booths of the La Grange Antique Mall, looking DSCN6955 - Version 2rather handsome with a plaid ascot around his chubby brown neck. Right then and there, before he could run away, I snatched him up, thinking he might feel right at home on a plaid tablecloth tucked in away in drawer.

As I roamed about the mall, I eyed a small plastic bag filled with tiny boxes wrapped in plaid paper and gold ribbon and an idea for a holiday tablescape was born.Santa holding gingerbread

Over the next few weeks, as I wrapped presents, baked goodies, adorned the trees and tabletops, little bits of plaid pleasure emerged, including a box that Dottie and Rick gave us last Christmas, with a Santa glittered and garbed in PLAID! It wasn’t until I placed the jolly old elf on the table that I realized he was carrying two gingerbread men.

How fortunate it was to then remember a simple candle idea I had actually bookmarked. I mentioned it to my Antler Man whose mind was in sync with mine. Lickety split, up he came from the root cellar, carrying a box of small canning jars.

Penelope's ProgressOn and on it went; Penelope’s progress in pursuit of plaid. The cloth was laid and a cookie tin appeared. Cranberries rolled out of the refrigerator. The little plaid napkins I purchased at T.J. Maxx for half off of half off of the price some long ago Christmas past found their way to the table as well.

The pièce de résistance was to be had among my collection of Penny Books. Rather vain, I know, but, really, with a name like Penelope, books with my name in the title are few and far between. There, sitting atop my dresser, was none other that “Penelope’s Progress” clothed in a tartan wrap. A bit of irony is that I discovered it many moons ago in very same antique mall where I captured the gingerbread man.

It is nice, is it not, when a little light shines into our lives, gifting us in the simple pleasures among the rescued treasures along this road we call life?

 I hope you all had a merry little Christmas and for those of you celebrating Boxing Day today, enjoyment. Wherever your heart and spirit is, I hope a little light shines – and you catch your own gingerbread man.

Candle Jar

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DSCN4326DSCN4311Come April, our garden club hosts its annual luncheon. We get all “gussied” up, meet somewhere different from our monthly venue, and have a floral related presenter who awakens us to all the possibilities of flower arranging. We take time to thank our retiring officers, dutifully swear in our newly elected ones, and enjoy each other’s company. A member is honored as “woman of the year” (congratulations Jan).  Among a bevy baskets, filled with wonderful raffle items, lively conversations ensue -and we all feel a little lighter for a few hours.

This year, the luncheon’s theme was Stepping Out. It was one of our very best, due in large part to the efforts of the event’s chairwomen and the committees that worked to make it enjoyable. It was topped off with tablescapes that were a phenomenal potpourri of the creative juices of our members.

The centerpieces are usually constructed by our Designs and Exhibits committee. Sometimes, however, they are made by the members at large. Several months ago, we were given the challenge of individually crafting centerpieces – using shoes! You can, I am sure, imagine women and their shoes, but, can you visualize round tables, adorned in white tablecloths with black burlap runners and every possible make and model of shoes on top? From the small Mary Janes of a grandchild and seaside “flip flops” of a sand lover, to golf shoes and sequined high heels, the soles of our members tripped fantastically across the tabletops, giving way to the young girls hidden in all of us.

Here are but a few of the shoes that were allowed, for an afternoon, to dance atop our tables.

Do click on for a better look.



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The Christmas Room

DSCN3584Isn’t it amazing what children remember? This past summer, when our Minnesotan contingency came down for a visit, the first in  eighteen months, Keziah sat in the dining room, a room she designated as where she will always eat breakfast, and recounted her Christmas in the living room. The interesting thing is that Kezzie was only 18 months old the last time her family had been to our house for Christmas. Nearly half her lifetime ago. There she sat, telling about where the Christmas tree was, where her mommy sat, and how we opened presents.

Since early summer, to our pleasure, they traveled down several times. With each trip, the living room has developed a persona of its own.  Kezzie began referring to the room as the Christmas Room. “Yia Yia, can I go in the Christmas Room?” was suddenly queried. It is now a favored spot for us to cuddle and read a story, or for her play the “pinano” with Uncle Jason, and Papa and Kezzie watch for the deer and squirrels out the expansive window – all in the Christmas Room.

When Tom’s eye surgery was postponed with an unknown date lingering, we thought about putting up the tree earlier than usual. When Katy’s family decided to come down for Thanksgiving,  visions of sugar plums began to dance in our heads, and the idea was cemented.

Our little lass waited patiently, through the Thanksgiving feast, then Papa stringing the lights, and Friday night’s feast of the leftovers. DSCN3605Finally, the ornament boxes appeared.  The time for “making the Christmas tree” had at long last arrived. Auntie Jenny got Kezzie started, pulling out birds and balls and angels, showing her how to attach the hooks, and reveling in the joy of a child trimming the Christmas tree. By the time Tom and I entered the Christmas Room, Kezzie was going full throttle, with birds aligned, all in a row, on the same branch, for birds do need to keep each other company,  and sheep cavorting with sledding penguins. A new world order in a small Cutoff corner. She worked for two hours, never leaving the Christmas Room, independent and determined to place each and every (and I mean every) ornament in just the right spot. Owls, you see, must face the outdoors, so they will know what is going on.

We are not yet sure how our days of December will play out this year. We are , however, sure of exactly where all of our wildlife ornaments are. There is some small comfort in that. They are, of course, all on the lower branches of the tree, where they will  remain, no matter what may be, building new memories and new traditions, in our Christmas Room.


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Image from Wikepedia.

Image from Wikepedia.

Several years ago, WGN radio pulled a popular weekday segment from their daily line-up, to the utter dismay of regular listeners. Kathy and Judy were friends who sat down with us daily in our kitchens or cars, as we were out working in our gardens, heading home from a day at the office; whatever we were doing mid-afternoon. Listening to them was like a “coffee clutch” – or “coffee and”. They talked of things women talk and laugh about, sometimes serious, often irreverent, always entertaining. It rocked our daily lives when they were suddenly dismissed; a void that was never filled in their old time slot – until recently when the “Kathy and Judy” show was revived on Saturday mornings on WGN.  While it isn’t a daily time slot, their show does fill a Saturday morning, and I try to tune in when I can, listening and laughing, shaking my head, voicing my own opinions out loud.

I happened to be out and about this past Saturday morning and tuned into the Kathy and Judy show. They were doing a segment about hoarders, which led to Kathy (or was it Judy?) say that she was down in her basement for some reason when she realized how many boxes she had kept.  A conversation ensued, viewers called in, opining, and I chuckled. You see, just last week I went down to the bowels of our basement and started to consolidate the hordes of objects that have accumulated, making piles of “giveaway” items, and carrying bigger boxes, now empty, out to the garage to recycle,  a little embarrassed at all of the gift boxes I have kept. I could relate to the show’s topic.

DSCN3492Saturday afternoon our niece Heather and her family, along with several of grandnephew Scott’s friends, came over to help Tom and Penny rake leaves. With two acres falling down around us, we certainly appreciated the help, and our Kezzie had fun pulling the tarp and running around with her cousin Jake.

During a break in the raking,  Andrew came in, carrying a somewhat familiar  white boxes with big, black lettering; lettering we were quite familiar with. Being decades long time patrons of a Chicago retail institution, Crate and Barrel, we knew the logo well. Our niece knows us  just well. Our Christmas tree wears Crate and Barrel ornaments from 40 years ago. I have silverware almost as old. I still use the Crate’s  working glasses for our drinking glasses and flowers still fill ribbon vases. from year’s ago.  What a sweet surprise it was to receive this  customized box – which we will definitely “hoard”.

Saturday was, indeed, a boxed in day!

Do you keep boxes? What is the oldest box you have? Have you ever shopped at Crate and Barrel?


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DSCN2321DSCN2366I wish you could see this flowery lady on the left in person. She is the belle of the ball, the queen of the prom , the next top model; a real live gal, in an earthy sort of way.  Actually, you CAN see her if you live in the Chicagoland area and come to the 2013 Elmhurst Garden Walk and Faire on Sunday.

The Garden Walk committee is busy with last minute preparations, and the homeowners are even busier. We had a delicious rain on Monday, with a bit of lightening – just the thing to to keep the blooms going and give the soil a good soaking. but, if you are opening up your garden to hundreds of visitors, the few days before are filled with activity.

The Elmhurst Garden Club presents An Afternoon in the Garden each July. This is our 18th year.  I must say, the selection committee did an outstanding job with this year’s choice of gardens.  All seven, unique in their own way, make for a pleasant day of inspiration. Tickets are still available at a reduced price of $15 until Saturday. All the proceeds go to local endeavors and for scholarships to worthy applicants. The Elmhurst Garden Club has awarded more than $185,000.00 in proceeds throughout the years,which is pretty impressive for what I can a gardening band of 100 or so women with dirt on their hands. Proceed benefit not only scholars, but school gardens, summer camp attendees, and the rebuilding of public gardens damaged after Hurricane Katrina, to name but a few.  Information on the walk can be found here.

If you are in the area, please consider purchasing a ticket and visiting the gardens, and the fair in Wilder Park as well.

If not, won’t you consider a local garden walk in your area? They will inspire and refresh you, and they always benefit some good causes.

Okay, I’ll stop talking and show you a few photos.

DSCN2345DSCN2333 DSCN2344

DSCN2293 DSCN2324

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DSCN0971In the midst of opening boxes filled with ornaments and decorations that wanted to be on the tree or mantle, atop a table or settled onto a shelf, I’d temporarily placed some glass ornaments on top of the old chefferobe. It was there the sunlight found them, bouncing off the pretty glass globes in the most alluring way. Prisms of light danced around the walls and the cut glass basket magnified the assortment of ornaments. They were like bowls of crystal candy and I could not help myself. Out came the camera as I tried to freeze a few moments in time.


The glass basket was a wedding gift of my mother and father-in-law’s: a common present in the 1940’s. It often sat on their dining room table, sometimes with flowers from Tom’s mother’s garden. I always admired it and was happy to have it one day come into our home where it has sometimes held flowers and, this year, held Christmas ornaments.

The sugar bowl was a gift from a friend. Linda found it to match a pitcher that came from Tom’s great aunt, Ethel. It is the thistle pattern and was just waiting for this orange ball to stop by and rest. I love it when old things marry well with new.

DSCN0978The chefferobe is an old dresser that sat for years in the bathroom of the family’s old farmhouse. Towels and linens were kept in it. The mirror tilts. I can imagine Ethel fixing her hair in front of it or her brother Richard shaving. It is Ethel’s pinwheel and molasses cookies that fill our house with the fragrances of the holidays each year and it was Richard who often did the icing.

The glass ornaments are from Tom’s and my life together. Some are blown glass, others hand-painted, all gaily colored holiday magic and whimsy. I appreciate the way these little works of art sat in and on the past while catching the future in the early morning sun.

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