Back in the day, in order to have green fabric, they used arsenic in the dye. Nowadays, we take this color thing for granted. We have every color in the rainbow available to us, minus the poison!
This is so technologically advanced, it blows my mind.
I have always had trouble knowing what my favorite color was. When people asked me that question, so seemingly simple, I would waffle. I had no idea. I liked them all. My kids begged me to tell them my favorite color and I couldn’t do it.
Ponies in the Marsh at Assateague State Park.
One day my husband said to me, “are you kidding me? You bought another green sweater? I think that’s a record.” It was true. I had fourteen green sweaters and it suddenly dawned on me… like a piece of information that had been hiding in the shadows, lurking. I love green! I knew it like I know my own name…. all of a sudden.
Green and grey eye candy from Pinterest.
It hasn’t faded. Just like my color commitment phobia before, now I knew with certainty that I craved the color green. It embodies life itself. It represents the earth freshly watered and the grass after a storm. Green is a living color, the color of moss and trees, artichokes and asparagus, mojitos, margaritas and of course Kermit the Frog.
I held out on this life-altering decision, and like a late bloomer, am now longing for green. I want an emerald green sofa. I want to cast off the old “sofas should be neutral rule” so you can change the cheap things and instead bring green into my house like a tattoo I can’t easily get rid of. I want to commit to this color.
A painting on silk by my great grandmother Lela Knox.
Perhaps this is a rebellion of sorts, a rebellion against the rules of design. But for me, there is no going back.
Sometimes serendipity smacks you in the face and there is no explanation for it. That is what happened to me tonight. I had dinner with two perfect strangers… Serendipitous strangers.
I checked into a hotel in Connecticut. In fact, the best hotel I’ve ever stayed in. It was a beautiful room with the feel of a retreat. I was in this hotel because it was near to the place I needed to be at the time. Near my stepmother as she was dying.
Stepmother is such a loaded term. A term filled with cultural uncertainty. A word that can span the spectrum of meaning: an evil stepmother? A Cinderella-esque situation? Or all the way to the opposite side: the almost unimaginable kind person who cared for a child/children not her own. I mean, who does that? And in real life? Maybe this is why it is so easy to embrace the evil stepmother image, because kind stepmother is too hard to imagine.
But I was lucky. Actually we were lucky to have her. She was an amazing stepmother and she cared for us part-time from about age 8 on. I fully admit this is the unimaginable scenario that is almost boring.
She passed away this morning, but I have no regrets. I told her I loved her and what she meant to me. I spent time with her while she was ill and saw her in these last days. She had suffered a lot.
Back at the inn I had stepped out for a breath of fresh air. The innkeeper saw me outside and asked how things had gone. After I explained, she invited me to join her and her friend for dinner- even if I just needed a good cry. Oh my was I surprised and I decided to join them.
It was a beautiful evening I will never forget with two intelligent, empathetic, accomplished women who were full of life, laughter and sound advice. My faith in this world was renewed and it was the perfect medicine.
So… Because this is a decorating blog and not the writer’s forum, grief counseling or parenting blog it has morphed into, I’m attaching some grainy iPhone photos of the inn. You should stay here. You should go to Connecticut and see the scenery and say hello to Pam the innkeeper who made Connecticut feel more like North Carolina because…
This is a different sort of blog post. On the surface it is a book review. But it is also a reflection on grief. If you are nervous, then go ahead and move along. I will not hold it against you.
The book Rare Bird, a Memoir of Loss and Love by Anna Whiston-Donaldson is about grief, profound and gripping. The kind of book that asks more of a reader than a few hours of undivided attention. It lets you glimpse the world of a mother struggling to cope with the loss of her son, questioning God in her most private moments, consumed by grief and ultimately facing the question of… why?
My own experience with grief was physical. It has faded with time, but when I first lost this person, I had stress headaches, my throat closed and I could not eat for days. He was like a father to me and I was instantly filled with regret that maybe he never knew how much I had loved him. My tendency to be formal and wrap my heart up in bubble wrap, just to keep it from breaking, did not stop the heartbreak now. It only caused me to regret that I had not told him how much he meant to me when he was alive. But he knew. I know that now because he has shown me since.
This is where the book comes in. Even in death, there is comfort and hope. I look at my own twelve-year old son and think how fragile he is. It is possible to experience completely opposite emotions at once: like despair and love simultaneously. The author, Anna Whiston-Donaldson eloquently describes this phenomenon in her book Rare Bird. She shows us that “the line between here and there is a thin one.”
This book gave me the courage to visit my grandmother the other day. Normally I would not need to draw on my courage to go see her, but she has deteriorated and her Alzheimer’s disease is advanced now. I was afraid she would not know me, or that she would be experiencing sun-downing, or that she would be asleep and I would be disturbing her. But none of those things happened and it was one of the best times I ever had with her. I will cherish it always.
When I arrived, she did not know me exactly, but she knew I was important to her. The delight on her face as I told her about myself was sincere and she was proud of my accomplishments all over again. It was so funny when she exclaimed, “I could pull some strings and get you a gig in here!” It made me smile and I know that she knows how much I love her because she remembered the emotions she had for me even before she remembered who I was.
My dear friend is facing the challenges addressed by this book directly. Her twelve-year old son has a terminal illness. I can only look on and try to help and support her from the sidelines, occasionally offering an ear, a shoulder, or a cup of tea. This friend recently described to me how sharply the world has come into focus for her at times, seeing the trees and the grass in vivid color and knowing all too well how fleeting it is. At the same time, she feels she is blessed and she stands tall like the tree in the midst of a hurricane, bending but never breaking. She has deep roots and draws her strength from the water, the earth, and from God Himself. I am amazed by her beauty and strength. I will give her this book.
Rare Bird, a Memoir of Loss and Loveby Anna Whiston-Donaldson is a gift. It is a gift of life; the life you may find unimaginable after suffering loss. It reminds us to untangle the barriers we put up and to love those around us freely; to let go of the fear of losing them. It reminds us that you are “braver than you think.”
I am bringing back an old post that still rings true and makes me laugh. Enjoy!
My husband will not let me play bingo. Ever. He knows I maintain a delicate balance between my religiously induced disciplines and a genetic predisposition to all sorts of addictions, including gambling. As long as I avoid temptation, I stay in balance. That is why I am no good at backgammon. I am not allowed to practice.
With a somewhat naturally addictive slant to my personality, I can take many things to an extreme that is not necessarily normal. I just read an article in “Real Simple” magazine (see link below) about how American wives are not happy because they spend too much time maintaining a clean house and helicopter parenting their children. We should instead drink wine and ignore our children like the French do and they would grow up to be well-adjusted, successful adults. I promise you I drink wine and ignore my children as much as possible, but so far the jury is out on how they will turn out.
I do love a clean house. The cleaner the house, the more I want to clean. It is never done. It causes me to crave cleanliness and to yell at everyone when they come in and drop their backpacks on the floor. The high from a clean house is cheap and leaves me wanting more. I am a clean-house junkie now craving the next fix. The problem is then I want to chase the dog with the vacuum and confine my children to their rooms. This is no good for anyone, even me, and I have to find balance.
Of course these periods of manic cleaning are more often followed by periods of complete inaction. I let things go until I am embarrassed by a neighbor who wanders over, or a friend who pops by, which causes me to spring into action. Usually just in time for their departure and once again only my family is around to witness the clean house and start the cycle all over again.
The healthiest form of cleaning for me involves changing things up. A quick rearrange of the furniture gets rid of the dust bunnies and provides a decorating change of scenery. I usually play around with the things I already have, just to see how it will look over here instead. I encourage you to try a new arrangement; you might surprise yourself. Don’t be wedded to the things you have had in the same spot for the last ten years. Change is good.
I had a little baggie in my freezer with about 10 harmless-looking little peppers in it. My friend from Trinidad gave them to me last year, fresh from the garden. At the time she warned me they were hot, but I forgot.
Beware those island peppers, oh my. I wish I had a picture of those little peppers, if only for specimen identification later.
The tomatoes had a late run of productivity and were hanging green on the vines. Prima was anxious to use them, not wanting to let any of her hard work gardening go to waste.
Fresh salsa from the garden.
I modified this recipe, Green Tomato Salsa Verde from freshpreserving.com. It is really quite tasty, even if only people from Texas are able to eat it. This is a great way to use up the last of summer’s fresh produce.
Cooking and sneezing.
Packed with flavor.
Here’s a hint: if you start sneezing uncontrollably while making salsa, ease up on the peppers. If you went overboard, then add a little sugar or honey and extra citrus. I added the juice from two additional limes and a tablespoon of honey and was able to bring the heat down to merely tearing up instead of sneezing.
This week, I called in the cavalry. Decorating has been reduced to lusting after pillows in Targetas I head for the grocery aisle, usually at some ungodly hour, wondering if I’m the only human who knows Target stays open this late.
You may recall a post in which I photographed a few botanicals (Budget Botanicals) from my yard. I printed them on photo paper and then framed them for a “gallery style” wall in my upstairs hallway. This hallway is too narrow for any furniture, and dwarfed any of the artwork I had to hang on it. Without any real light coming in, it was also dark.
The Botanicals Before.
The homemade botanicals looked great, but the wall did not. This week, I hired my friend to paint that hallway. The color is a color I have throughout my house in other places and is Benjamin Moore’s Green Hydrangea (CSP-850) from their Color Stories Collection. It is the color of a granny smith apple, and it brightens that space. The botanicals look so fresh and pretty against that wall color. Now the project is finally complete.
The Botanical Update.
A narrow pass-through.
Benjamin Moore’s Green Hydrangea.
Benjamin Moore- Green Hydrangea.
If you stand at the bottom of the stairs, you see the downstairs hallway and the upstairs hallway together, and they complete a color circle as they are both painted in Green Hydrangea. This is an interesting effect and while I am a fan of color, the risk is to use too much or too many different colors in one house. I have achieved a balance here and the amount of color feels just right.
Peaking into the downstairs hallway.
A view of both hallways at once.
The best part was coming home to a project done. Sometimes we just need a bit of help.
I blame Pinterest. However, the photograph below is not from Pinterest, but from my backyard last Friday evening.
A Summer Party!
I have a beautiful yard, a beautiful husband, and a knack for stressing him out with my big ideas. I wanted to celebrate his 40th birthday in style while he just wanted to forget about it.
Diane Daly’s Jazz Trio.
Pinterest is eye candy for decorator types. Stunning visuals at your fingertips that make one lust for all things better around the house.
Last Friday evening I threw a party that was worthy of Pinterest. Except it was better. On Pinterest you don’t get to hear the jazz trio playing, or taste the lobster canapés. You don’t get to feel the breeze, smell the wildflowers or watch the candlelight glimmer and the children run around with sparklers. It was magical and it was REAL.
A Cake Made of Cheese
Then there was the cheese. I made a cake out of cheese. This “cheesecake” was made of Fontina, an organic smoked Creamy Jack, and Camembert. I cut up fresh figs and sprinkled the cheese with blackberries. I used mini chalkboards for labels. It was enough cheese to please Wallace, Gromit and a hoard of people at my party. It was both easy and elegant, perfect for a beautiful summer evening.