Thursday, July 14, 2011

Vintage Table Linens...or...send me to Betty Ford - I admit, I'm addicted.

My Mom came to visit me this past week and oh my goodness, did we get ourselves into Trouble. And yes, it deserves a capital T. For starters, I found a new addiction: handmade, gloriously whimsical, and completely unnecessary vintage table linens. But, I'm ahead of myself.

My Mom (my best friend) has thrown off the anchors, and is starting out on a new endeavor - which you'll hear about directly from her in her new blog, soon to be created. This new endeavor has brought her into the world of vintage textiles and when she found out that one of the best East Coast vintage textile shows was to occur in Sturbridge, MA, we schemed a week together.

The vintage textile show was this past Monday, the day before the start of the infamous summer Brimfield "Antique" Shows (more soon on that!). Sturbridge is about an hour east of the Pioneer Valley, so we planned an early departure so that we could arrive at the start of the show. After a drive through the small towns that make up most of Western and Central Massachusetts, we arrived at the Host Hotel in Sturbridge where on the front door was a prominent "No photographing or sketching permitted" sign. Apparently, devious types had been visiting, sketching and photographing, and then creating reproductions to be sold to unsuspecting consumers at top dollar. Too bad for the bloggers of the world.

We paid our $10 dollars and passed through the door, sans cameras. In the first booth we wandered into, we found the most amazing placemat and napkin sets, likely from the 1940s and 50s. I found a set that I immediately fell in love with, but thought - "No, we shouldn't buy the first things we see." So we proceeded to meander through the booths. Vintage clothing racks lined each booth, Bakelite jewelry abounded, vintage buttons, lace, fabric and hats took over any available space. Honestly, it was a bit overwhelming. The vintage clothing was difficult to see because so many pieces were crammed on each rack. The '50s cocktail dresses looked a little sad with their crinoline squished up against cotton day dresses from the '30s- '40s. (Hint to vendors - organize your merchandise by era.)

Despite the sheer volume of stuff (some great, some okay, and some JUNK), it was so much fun to look and admire. We spent hours going through the booths, but at lunch we both decided that we should focus on the things we really wanted. I kept coming back to the fact that I had NEVER forgotten some pink elephant cocktail napkins that had been used during the wedding shower weekend for a dear friend of mine. I thought, "Well...hell. Here I am at a vintage textile show. Maybe I can find some neat cocktail napkins." I also kept coming back to the amazing placemat and napkin set that we had seen at 8:00 AM in the first booth. Over sandwiches, we decided on a plan: 1) Go to that first booth and see what hasn't sold. 2) Go back to the one place we saw an assortment of cocktail napkins.

Upon return, we found that the two sets we had fallen in love with were still there. Hooray! And so, we made some purchases. Perhaps my Mom will blog about her purchase, so I'll give you a peak at the one she so generously made for me (thanks, Mom!):

Love the sailboats! Can you see the cloud detail in the upper left corner? The edges are amazing too. 

Here's some detail of the sailboats - complete with little people to man the sails! Apparently the pink color of the sails is desirable in vintage linens.

Here you can see the fish detail and the gorgeous edge stitching.

Can't you just see these used for a summer lunch? Why aren't things made like this anymore!? The extra special part of this story is that the seller of these linens bought them at an estate sale in Pennsylvania and she discovered that the previous owner lived in the same area I grew up in! She was a baroness. With exquisite taste.

After we made these fun purchases, we made a beeline for the vintage cocktail napkin ladies and spent about 30 minutes devouring their collection (and book on the subject!) My Mom and I couldn't resist buying 3 sets - one of which we will share by sending back and forth whenever either of us needs to host a baby shower (each cocktail napkin was appliqued with a pink elephant balancing a pink/blue/white ball!). The other 2 sets have started my collection. And yes, I have a marine problem:

The shape of each napkin is perfect for folding and handing to a guest with their custom cocktail - mojito anyone?

The detail of these fish is so impressive - check out that tiny delicate stitching.

And because I love navy. And I wanted to keep with my marine problem: fish. Each was handmade in Portugal.

The result of this vintage shopping spree? Parties at my house are going to go swimmingly. Hah.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Did I find my aesthetic?

I've tried for years to nail down my interior aesthetic. I know what I like for exteriors and need no help there - in fact, I wish I didn't have such a defined taste in that realm. But interiors!? I can't figure it out. I love prints, I love vintage/antique, I love industrial, I love natural fibers, I love color, I love traditional, I respect modern. Ugh - if I pursued all that...we'd have one garish looking house.

I've tried to take style quizzes on various websites. I've tried to nail down the colors that I'm most drawn to. But everything I try leaves me in the same place: a persistent state of indecision without ability to move forward with anything interior. I also have a difficult time buying furniture or decorative items, because I have a fear that anything I buy will look out of style in 2 years max. And so: our house is spartan. And the furniture that we do looking a little ragged.

But, in the June 2011 issue of House Beautiful, I turned to page 84 and almost felt something clicking into place. The next 8 pages revealed a home that I would love to visit...or LIVE IN. The gorgeous spread is called "Simplify It" and the genius design is by husband/wife team Jesse Carrier & Mara Miller. After reading a bit...I realized that they actually designed Anna Wintour's house. Wow. And the fact that she actually promotes their work...and had them design the lobby of the Vogue office? Amazing.

So anyway, the house - called Dove Meadow - is a 19th-century farmhouse in upstate New York. The furniture is all vintage or antique (probably muy expensivo) and they manage to use color, prints and natural fibers in this cohesive, unpretentious, clean, earthy way. I love this house. Also...they are innovative: The curtains in the office are my favorite - "handkerchief-style curtains" affixed with two simple hooks (LOVE):

And I'm absolutely using the same idea for kitchen bar stools, but we'll do navy blue instead of red:

Anyway - check out the whole spread on the Carrier and Company website...or take a look at House Beautiful. I think my plan is to rip out the pages of House Beautiful and carry them around in my journal so that when I'm out at flea markets and 'antique' shops - I can be reminded of how all the things I love CAN actually work together. This house is exactly what I want to achieve in our I just have to do it.

Taking it outside

This spring was the first spring in our new house. We moved in on March 1st with plenty of snow blanketing everything. Almost through April we were snowshoeing in the back woods, enjoying the white quiet of our woodsy, rural life with Porter bounding through 3 ft of snow. Since we found the house in January, we weren't quite sure what we'd discover under the snow. As much as I love snowshoeing, I was excited to see what would appear.  And I haven't been disappointed. Spring brought us a goshen stone patio in the backyard, beautiful stonework walls, a belgium block lined driveway and some pretty little flower beds.

Since the house had been vacant for 2 years, the flowerbeds (or shall I say weed-beds) needed some TLC. We weren't quite sure what we had, but knew for certain that we had some ornamental grasses and boxwood bushes (one of which got nailed pretty badly by the plow guy). I also knew that I had a lot of mulching and weeding to do. As a kid, I used to help my parents in the yard just about every weekend during growing season. I weeded, mulched, watered and whatever else they needed. During those years as I crawled through their gorgeous gardens, I think I absorbed a lot of information about gardening, or at least I hope I did. One lesson that I definitely learned: mulch works. It helps keep weeds at bay, it helps lock in moisture so your flowers don't get too thirsty between showers, and it just makes everything look nice.

So in early May I set out to tame the wildness of our neglected flower beds with weeding and mulching. I snapped a few pictures for your viewing pleasure: 

Here's a little post-weeding comparison: without mulch vs. with mulch. Check out that sorry excuse for a plant -he's not digging the sun that he gets in that spot and needs to be replaced with something more sun-tolerant. I'm thinking hydrangea.

Here's the front flower bed in May. The grasses back there don't get enough sun and will need to be moved. The middle boxwood is the one that had the run-in with a plow. It seems to be bouncing back a bit.

Love these low walls that we have. Our hostas are big and beautiful now - the landscaper or whoever put them in got placement right for those. They love the shadey, protected spot between our front porch and the enclosed breezeway. those walls. Ornamental grasses are looking better now as compared to this photo as well.

I've ALWAYS wanted to have hanging fuschia baskets...and now I do! Our front porch is perfectly shadey. We got these beauties at Stuart's Nursery in Turners Falls, MA, but inspiration was delivered by Riverside in Waterville, ME.

And here's the view of our backyard mountain in May! The mountain's trees have leafed out...and it looks lush and lovely.
Here's the bed in the back, next to the sunroom. It's going to be a great perennial bed once I get my act together and plant a few more things. I've already added some lupine, daisies, and bee balm. My zinnia seedlings are starting to sprout too (I should have put those in earlier!)

And while I've been working on the flower beds, Jon's been tackling our lawn (or more accurately, our expanse of weeds).  It's going to take years to get our lawn to be at least 50% grass. And that's Jon's department - I just supply the cold beer when he comes in from outside frustrated that his grass seed isn't growing...or after a downpour has washed all of his seed away.

Despite the lawn problems, our back patio is just lovely. The mosquitoes this year were a bit of a pain, but now...our afternoons out there are amazing. Margarita or beer + patio + great view + great company = heaven. Check it out (and please don't judge our patio furniture - there's a plan in the works): 

Happy Saturday! I hope you're outside in your yard...enjoying a lazy afternoon.

Friday, February 25, 2011

I love my dog.

Why write a post to my dog? Because sometimes when I'm driving and he looks at me in the rearview mirror, I am overcome with love. Because his audible yawns in the morning provide the most gentle alarm clock a girl could have. Because he gets 'helicopter' tail when he's at his happiest. Because he is a rumpled mess of fur and dreadlocks, but he thinks he looks great. Because he hates the rain and stepping in puddles, but LOVES to get toweled off. Because he is lying on the floor next to me even though we have multiple rooms where he could be. Because he gets so excited when my husband comes home that he wags his tail uncontrollably knocking things off every surface. Because he loves me so much that I find my discarded socks, bras, t-shirts and pajamas in his bed. Because he still has the capacity to surprise me, even though he is so predictable. Because he gives kisses on command. Because he sits at the vet office and doesn't freak out when an errant bulldog tries to bite him. Because his paws smell like popcorn. Because he thinks squeaking toys are the most amazing thing a person could give him. Because he somehow knows to be gentle with babies and old people. Because he loves my dad and my brother, even though men make him a little nervous. Because his bark is big enough, his stature imposing enough to be our alarm system/theft prevention device. Because he tries to sit on my lap, even though he is 103 pounds. Because he never allows me to feel lonely.

Porter has been the single best addition to our lives since our wedding on 10/14/06. Even on a day like today (rain on top of snow forming slushy puddles the size of swimming pools) he makes me get outside to walk and breathe fresh air. His uncompromising desire to smell every little rock makes me pause to observe the world around me. Despite the plethora of furballs, the chewed shoes from puppyhood, the responsibility of owning him, I am so grateful for his life, his quirks, his funny personality.

Porter, we love you so much. I just wanted to let you know. I hope we tell you enough.
The day we adopted our little "Bumpers"

I spent every morning of his first 4 weeks at our house holding a bully stick for him to chew.

His first bed.
Snuggles with Mom.
Porter helps Jon with tile removal during our first home renovation.
17 weeks old.

Fall in the Pioneer Valley, our new home.
Porter loves the snow.

Our 2010 Christmas Photo

Showing off his Capt'n Hook whiskers. Porter love to snuggle. And so does Jon.

Looking rather regal with the Holyoke Range behind him.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

See...there's this thing I haven't mentioned.

So back, oh, one month and three days ago Jon and I put an offer down on a house. For normal people, putting an offer down on a house is something they discuss and share widely...asking for advice, approval, whatever. Jon and I were convinced that we would jinx the process if we started talking about it, so we kept it to ourselves and our families.

The past weeks have been chaotic, fun, exciting, busy, and intense. And the whole process will culminate, hopefully, on March 1st with a successful closing! Yah...normal people don't really go from not looking for a house to buy and then buying one within 1.5 months. We, if you haven't already figured out, are not normal. The opportunity was just too good. The house was just too dreamy. This house will be our 5th residence and 3rd owned home in just 4.5 years of marriage!

The house is so completely different from our past homes: It's in, brand new, never been lived in. It's a GREEN in, efficient, geothermal heating/cooling system, super insulated, thoughtfully situated on the land to maximize natural sunlight, and built of as many sustainable and reclaimed materials as possible. And it's out in the country (more like mountains), as in, rural.

I think it's as close to a perfect blend of Jon's taste and my taste as a house could get. It's a new, eco-friendly house with character and good architectural details. My dream is to throw some photovoltaic panels on the south facing roof and get off the grid. Here's a sampling of the new abode. More photos once it is legally and officially ours:

Here's the front of the house. Love that porch and the awesome stonework stairs! I'm thinking of painting the doors red.

Best room in the house. The south facing sunroom w/ double sided fireplace.

The sunroom is on the other side of the fireplace. This "great room" is open to the kitchen and will be an open dining area and living area.
And here's the icing on the cake: the view from the back of the house. Rural, yet only 6 miles to Jon's job and 15 to mine.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Baby Shower!

This post is incredibly overdue, but better late than never - eh? At least it will be finished before my friend's baby arrives!

For Ruth's baby shower, my friend Beth and I got to work on some cute theme-focused favors for the guests to take home. Everyone loves a party when they receive gifts too! You'll remember that we had a "sweet pea" theme for the what better than a little homemade sweet pea to take home?

I found this adorable blog post with plans for DIY felt sweet pea ornaments. Due to lack of time, the realization that the only felt balls I could find were in Australia, and a few other friend Beth and I had to make a few changes to the design. I think ours came out pretty cute anyway! Instead of felt balls, we used wooden beads.

The shower was so fun...and I believe it achieved its purpose: our dear friend Ruth was showered with love and support. We are so fortunate to be surrounded with a sisterhood of such strong and wise women. We are also lucky to have our friend Cathy's "barn"...which has become the go-to party space!

A few more details for your viewing pleasure:

Our friend Beth brought line and clothes pins to hang up some of the gifts. Easy and quick decoration!

Kate brought these amazing deserts.

Adorable...and all gone by the end of the party!

Instead of silly games, we asked that every guest write a favorite piece of advice for the new mom on a card. We put the advice cards in a basket...and as Ruth picked out the advice cards...she would read the advice out loud for everyone to hear before opening that guest's gift. It made the gift opening really interactive...and we all learned a lot!

Some of the food and drink that we made for the party. My contribution: non alcoholic punch and alcoholic white sangria (thanks Martha Stewart!).