Sunday, June 21, 2009

"Don't Sweat the Small Stuff"

*A Father's Day Tribute to Dad*

The earliest memory of my father that I could dig out of the archives of my 43-year-old brain, is one of mohair and stubble. It was dark. I had had a bad dream, and Dad came into my room, brought me out to the living room, and cuddled me in the big (egglplant color?) mohair chair we had back then. I want to say I was about three years old. I remember running my small fingers over the prickly-yet-soft fabric of the chair, feeling Dad's warm stubble on my own cheek, and the deep timbre of his voice as he hummed and comforted me. It's a good memory--the basis of many more memories of Dad that fill up the archives of my life as the third of four daughters.

Dad worked a lot and traveled quite a bit when we were kids, so most of my memories revolve around the dinner table, and weekends. The dinner table was where we all sat and shared our stories from our day, and was most definitely our best "family time." My mother told me once that when she had asked me to share something about MY day, I said "It's OK, Mom. I'd rather listen." THOSE days are Now you can't shut me up!

I digress. Our dinner table conversations would be comprised, more often than not, of wild imagined alligators in creeks, and "purple stuff", all conjured up in the imagination of my little sister Margaret (to the great surprise, consternation, and/or delight of us all), or of long run-on- sentence stories held together with endless strings of "and...." and "so...." from my sister Ann. Dad's stories were of his childhood, and all of us would beg to hear them over and over again. "Tell us the one about the..." and off he would go, telling us about growing up in his parents' boarding house, and the characters that came through town, the girls he liked (or who liked him), passing out in gym class during the tumbling lesson, listening to old radio shows, and stories about his brothers and uncles. I wish I could remember more detail from these stories, but I do remember the feeling of time travel I would get while listening to them. Dad's a good story-teller. I feel like I got a good picture of who he was as a little boy from those stories.

Speaking of story-telling, I also remember our nightly routine of reading before bed. Mom and Dad would take turns reading chapters each night. Now that my mother has passed (sorry, Mom!), I can admit to you all that my father definitely wins the reading prize. He would read the Paddington Bear series to Margaret and I while we were all tucked in our bunk beds, and would embellish and gesticulate, and make the story come to life. He wasn't just reading. He was telling the story. He would also "close the ceiling" when he was know--to keep the monsters and the rain out. We asked my poor mother to do it for us once while Dad was away, and we were sadly disappointed. My mother always remembered that--I STILL feel badly about complaining to her about her inability to "do it like Daddy does!" Ah, well...the trials of motherhood--that's a whole other blog....

Since he was stuck with four girls and nary a boy in sight, my father made the best of it. To this day I am grateful to have been raised as a capable woman who feels that nothing is impossible--that I can do whatever I put my mind to. We gardened, weeded, planted, roto-tilled, felled trees (an adventure in itself), hauled wood for the wood stove, burned creosote from the wood st0ve pipes, mowed lawns, and did whatever else needed to be done to keep life moving forward on a three acre property with a 100+ year old house on it.

I watched him put a new muffler on our old Honda. I helped him install bamboo fencing as a privacy screen for our pool. I helped him hang ceiling tiles in the "back room"--a job I was apparently better equipped to do because I have good spatial relations skills (for fitting the tongue and groove tiles together), where Dad was lacking. We made a good team. My earliest gardening memory is from when I was about 7 or 8 years old, and Dad showed me how to pop a pansy plant out of a six-pack, break apart the roots, and put it in the ground. It's another simple memory, but one that has stuck with me all these years probably because it was quality time with Dad.

With gardening, came the harvest. We pulled the hulls from hundreds of strawberries to make strawberry preserves, and peeled and sliced peaches for canning. We also ate more corn, zucchini and green beans than any child should have to endure in their lifetime. Of course, now that I'm an adult, I understand the beauty and delight in a fresh ripe tomato--something I could never quite grasp as a kid.

My father taught me how to change a flat one cold winter morning in the front yard. He went out one morning to discover his car had a flat tire, and he looked upon it as an opportunity to teach. (Teaching is in his blood--his mother was a teacher. It was a stepping stone in his career, and a skill that never left him.) We froze our fingers off that morning! Luckily, I've only needed the tire-changing skill once since then, but I'm never worried about getting a flat. I feel prepared. Who needs AAA?

Speaking of cars, my father was there when I bought my first car (used Honda civic). Well, ok, he was there to make the down payment and get me all set up to make payments--I was young, broke, and in college! He was also there for my second car purchase (a NEW Honda civic), in which I dragged him along for advice. He pretty much kept his mouth shut, and to this day, he won't let me live down the fact that I picked a stereo instead of air conditioning in that car. He says "at least you had TUNES!" Ha ha. Very funny, Dad. Every car I've owned since then has had air conditioning.

I have camping stories, trips to New York City stories, "my first computer" stories, and cooking stories, too, but rather than bore you with what's starting to feel like my life story here, I'll leave you with this one truism that my father said to me many years ago, and which I try to live my life by: "Don't sweat the small stuff, Sharon Marie." This, after my little sister had just smashed up his brand new Nissan Pulsar at a four-way stop. I was incredulous that he wasn't more angry. He said "Well, at least she wasn't hurt. It's just a car." And of course, after my sister died many years later at the hands of a drunk driver, I thought just that about EVERYTHING else--it's ALL small stuff. "Things" aren't what matters. People are. Family is. I cherish my family, and as crazy and disfunctional as we all are, I've always known that I was loved. There was never any question of that. And that's all anyone can ask for.

Thanks, Dad. Happy Father's Day.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Kitties and Fountains and Moss, Oh My!

I looked over yesterday, and there was Puff, practically BEGGING me to take his picture! :)
Are you all tired of hearing about my friend Jennifer's husband Dwight yet? Well, too bad. He built that patio about 10 years ago, I think, and put this fountain in as he was building it. Hellllooo! How cool is that?!
Look above at what he just built last weekend! Jennifer and I had seen a fountain like this at a garden show earlier this year, and she had taken a picture of it to show to Dwight. Well, apparently he went right to work drilling through some rocks, and digging a big hole, lining it with pond liner, getting some weird plastic decking drain stuff to layer all the stone on, et voila! Fountain! The plan is to put some sort of patio around it, so they can sit and enjoy.
This is Jennifer's incredible climbing hydrangea, making its way up the stone side of her house.
Above is a photo I took right next to the parking lot of a Burger King in Albany the other day. Kathleen just rolled her eyes at me, but you just had to see how cool it looked! I couldn't resist. And speaking of not being able to resist, I had a little fun with it in Photoshop. Don't forget to click to enlarge these for a better look.

My phone takes videos! LOL!

...and sideways videos at that! It's OK....just bend your neck to the left a little. Geesh.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Birthday Bash and Thrifty Treasures

I'll start with my thrifty find of the year so far! There are a couple more as you read through this post, but this silver pitcher is the big winner, in my opinion.

P.S. If you're clicking over from Rhoda's, please leave me a comment!
I'd love to visit YOUR blog!
It's a tw0-piece creamer, as far as I can tell. I was looking at that inside pointy jabber thing, and wondering about it, and BF said "I know what that is! It's to open a can of cream!" I was like "Hunh? Whatchoo talkin' about, Willis?" He remembered canned cream from when he was a kid. So I did a little internet research and found that during the Great Depression, people would use condensed milk in their coffee, because fresh cream was hard to come by.
What has me a little baffled, though, is why a company would make a sterling (or plated--I'm just not sure at this point) creamer for a CAN of cream during the depression. This question leads me to believe that the pitcher is indeed plated, but is in unbelieveably great condition. It's mark is WMF, which is German, and I think that if it's plated, it's worth about $65. If it's sterling, maybe twice that. Want to know what I paid?
A dolla'! Holla'! ( kid is rubbing off on me.)

Now on to my birthday dinner party. I potted up some of the plants that have been waiting patiently for my attention....
See that awesome antique basket? A dolla'! Holla'!

The flat saucer above was just collecting water, so I dug up some moss out of my yard, and planted myself a little zen rock garden. Cute, right? :)
The table, all set and ready for guests to arrive...
...see the candle from my friend Elizabeth over at A Breath of French Air on Etsy?
It smells so GOOD!
My new (old) wicker rocker. $50. Sorry, not such a bargain, but I spent two hours out there yesterday reading and enjoying a fire...
What do you think of my little pine trees? I felt very Martha-ish as I wrapped the grapevines around the bases to cover the pots. Kathleen thinks I'm a little bit crazy, and BF said "Aren't trees supposed to be planted in the ground?" I'm so misunderstood. ;P
....a gratuitous pic of my new car....I'm loving it!
.....and my birthday present from BF. I love this thing! It's so ME! And it echos the domed shape of my tent!
Thrifty find alert! The table below fold up flat! $15!
I'm thinking maybe some Formby's refinisher might be just what the doctor ordered for this table.
I know, you wanted to see that tree a little bit closer, didn't you? you could copy my grapevine idea, right? I knew it!
The par-tay table!

...oh, and below are all the awesome bargain pots I got at Campo de Fiori a few weekends ago. Cheap! Tent sale! Do you see my upside-down-cloche fountain? Too cool for school! It sounds and feels like a little grotto out there now.
Thrifty find alert number three! Old church pew! FREE!! I know, right?!
I'm thinking I may paint it a bright-ish color--maybe a yellow-green. We'll see.
I'm wait, my sister and I are taking pictures!
There were eight of us for dinner. So nice!
The cosmos were so pretty!
My friend Jennifer brought me the most gorgeous bouquet of peonies from her garden.

My toolbox pansies! They're really taking off. Toolbox: $1
My wave petunias are lookin' good too!
Jennifer bought me my very own pink dogwood tree for my birthday.
Does it get any better than that? Seriously.

This is a shot of the garage doors that I painted last week. They used to have all black squares that were totally beat looking. Now it's not such an eyesore. I'll get to the rest of the garage at some point this year.
Everyone brought me plants! I'm so excited! Below, ligularia, some big garlic thing, some euonymous...
Sedum, autumn joy:
Dahlias! I've never grown those before!
This beautiful bouquet of peonies and roses was from my friend Kelly. *sigh* I ADORE peonies.

Friday, June 05, 2009


You know, it's funny. Years ago, when I subscribed to gobs of decorating magazines, I would get annoyed because they would fill the back half of the mag with gardening stuff. I was NOT a gardener back then. Now here I am with my very own decorating (mostly) blog, and I think I've posted more pics of gardens than I have of interiors. Go figure.

At any rate, this is my friend Jennifer's yard. The patio above was built by her husband probably 10 years ago. It's nestled under a stand of pine trees in her front yard. Totally cool, right? The patio below was built by Dwight (same guy who built my upper cabinets for me) a couple of years ago. In the distance you can sort of make out the long border of peonies. Jennifer planted them three years ago, and they are gorgeous. Once again I hope you'll forgive me for crappy cell phone quality pics. I was there on an impromtu visit!

Gorgeous, right? Tomorrow we're headed (me, Kelly, Jennifer) down to Cleremont to the annual plant sale. I think I'm going to look for some heirloom tomato plants. I've never grown tomatoes before. This is my year to start! Also, stay tuned for before/after pics of my garage doors....I've been painting out the little black scary squares! Yay!
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