Thursday, March 18, 2021

An Irish Mermaid Speaks, Belatedly


My mermaid and I are late with this St. Patrick's Day greeting but you know how changeable mermaids are, especially an Irish merrow who I pretend is a Middle Irish murdúchann. 

Yes, she should be green but then, merrows are shape shifters so why not red?

I thought of my mermaid who sits by a beautiful shamrock plant when I read what my favorite philosopher, Alexander McCall Smith's Isabel Dalhousie, has to say about them:

"One should always listen to mermaids," said Isabel. "They address one so infrequently that anything they have to say must be important."



Even children know that a mermaid can love a human being so I'm sure that the hearts of sea-nymphs all over the world have ached for the sadness and fear in humans this past year. 

Although we are feeling more hopeful this March and are beginning to see vaccination numbers growing for this terrible illness that has plagued us, some have experienced personal loss and nearly everyone has seen their life changed in ways they never would have thought possible.



RH and I have both had our vaccinations and most of our immediate family have had their first one, something for which I give thanks every day. And yet, there are still 2 a.m. moments when a feeling of panic envelops me and I start praying with an agitated spirit.

I try to remember this quote from one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Goudge. 

And then I say to myself that we should believe in that which we felt when we were strong and happy rather than in that which we feel when we are sick and sad. Do you not think, Judith, that one is more truly oneself in times of joy than in times of sorrow?

This is from Goudge's 1938 novel The Middle Window and I hope there is wisdom in that advice. I try not to trust these middle of the night feelings but rather remember what I know to be true. I am more myself in "times of joy than in times of sorrow." 

There have been times lately when I feel like Shirley MacLaine's character Ouiser in Steel Magnolias--"I'm not as nice as I used to be." Maybe that's true but I prefer to believe it's not. I prefer to blame it on a year of pandemic, a year of missing family, a year of not being able to go thrifting or antiquing, a year of no birthday parties, a year of no hugs...and the list could go on but does not include family members on the list of those who have died from COVID-19. So what on earth do I have to complain about? 

I think it's in those self-indulgent grumpy moments that my mermaid wants me to remember times of joy and strength and not be drug down in an undertow of fear.

She wants me to remember that Spring is nearly officially here and new growth is outside my windows.

I'm excited about that! Never before have I been so glad to see March on my Karen Adams calendar.



Don't you love that handbag? Mermaids may not need handbags but I would love one just like this. 

I'll say slán for now, dear family and friends, but remember one thing from this belated St. Patrick's Day post...

Listen to the mermaids! 

One last little known fact, Mermaids love to dance. You gotta love that!  




Sunday, February 28, 2021

It's the Small Things in Life

 I keep forgetting to show you these pictures I took last fall of the valance I found on Etsy.


I was looking for something else and noticed a thumbprint of a fabric that made my heart cry out in joy. Old fabrics call my name anyway but before I even clicked on the small picture I knew I had to have it, whether I had a place for it or not.

It was described as "Set of 2 Vintage Country Kitchen Valance Horses Farmhouse Curtain 110" wide x 15/26" long. And they were only $27!


I decided that I needed a valance over the white cotton curtains over the kitchen sink that I pull only during midday when the sun is extra bright. I made them from a vintage sheet I bought almost 50 years ago at the Nashville Flea Market. 

The handmade curtain valance has scenes of quaint old world farms and homes and a church. I love all the black horses and cows and that the border on the top and bottom of the valance is of two different plaids. 

RH spent an hour getting it to hang just right. It was a good time to clean the top of the fridge also. After the valance was up he admitted that he really liked it.



Since there were two valances we hung the second one over the breakfast table, taking down the vintage red curtains that blocked too much of our view to the pond. It worked perfectly with my plan to have less red in the large breakfast/dining/sitting room and more blues and greens. But pictures of that another time.



Happy March, everyone! I don't think I've ever been more happy to welcome the month that Gladys Taber says is a patchwork quilt. I've enjoyed the touch of spring that RH's Valentine's Day tulip bulbs brought me, but just think what it will be like to see the spring bulbs blooming in the yard before too long!


We are still getting a few at a time of these sweet tiny double snowdrops.


It's the little things in life that give daily joy. Like tiny blooms from a Lilliputian world or an old valance you fall in love with.

Is there something you've fallen in love with lately that makes your heart leap in joy?


Friday, February 26, 2021

The Elegant Eight

 On January 21, a skein of eight Canada geese circled overhead and landed on the pond and then spotted the new grass growing beside RH's workshop and came to visit. 


I understand that when they waddled up the hill to our driveway they became a gaggle of geese, but after a few days they became The Elegant Eight to me. RH and I watched as they left every afternoon near dusk and flew back in every morning around 7 a.m. The two times of day were highlights in our small-world life.


Soon they were joined by other Canada geese, totaling 20, all honking for RH to put food out for them after they found the cracked corn he puts out for our resident 5 crows and ground feeding birds. (Are 5 crows enough to be classified as a murder of crows?)


I know you're not supposed to feed wild geese but they were here anyway, feeding on what our small birds ate so soon we were putting out chopped grapes and apples, romaine lettuce and cucumbers, and leftover oatmeal from our breakfasts.

They are often joined by a small herd of deer who cross our yard every day.


Yes, deer ruin some of the small trees RH planted in our front yard but aren't they beautiful?


Back and forth from the pond to our house the geese came throughout the following days, especially as soon as they saw RH's truck pull in the driveway. I've since read that geese are very intelligent and I can easily believe that.

One day last week, a few days before the big ice and snow storm arrived, two geese with white heads landed on the pond and came up to see what all the commotion was about at Home Hill. I think these were Blue geese.


A paddling of ducks flew in after them, smaller than the mallards who regularly visit. Goldeneye ducks were the only type of small wild duck I could find that look like them when I enlarged the picture and spotted all the white on their chest and sides. 


These small ducks flew away once this hawk landed on the bat house overlooking the pond.


Every evening RH and I would watch the Canada geese fly into the western sky, a melancholy but sweet sight. And then one morning, two days before the ice storm arrived in Nashville, The Elegant Eight and the other geese didn't return. Within 24 hours the pond was frozen over. RH says they probably flew to water that wasn't frozen but may come back when it thaws.


I hope so. I miss them. One afternoon when RH was working late I went out among them. They were a little frightening, hissing at me. I was surprised by how tall they were. 


I steeled myself and kept scattering frozen corn that I thawed and warmed slightly until everyone had a fair share, 20 geese swirling around me. 

At that time I didn't know that Canada geese have been known to bite or fly into your face and maybe that's what saved me, them knowing that I wasn't worried about that. Or maybe I was just lucky. 

It was an experience I'll never forget even if I never get up my nerve to get as close to them again.

And I'll always have this video that RH took one afternoon as The Elegant Eight went through their flying-away ritual. Every time I watch it my heart flutters a little as they top the far trees. 

It's only a minute long and I think you'll understand how I feel about The Elegant Eight.


P.S. Look who came back two days ago! The Elegant Eight and some of their friends!


RH saw them land on the pond and then walk to the thawed parts and hop in the water. It must have been so cold! If you look at the top of the picture above you can see another pond, two houses down from us. It's small but has a fountain that birds like.

I came into the kitchen in time to snap RH in his robe returning from feeding The Elegant Eight an apple and grapes that he quickly chopped up.

 That was a happy day for us. RH and I are so very thankful for something else also.

Last Saturday, as soon as the Music City Center opened back up for vaccinations after the snow and ice, we went back for our second Pfizer vaccination. If it hasn't been available for your age/vocation group yet, I hope it will be soon.

I knew that we might feel a little poorly (as my grandmother used to say) afterwards and had planned ahead with freezing some meals and getting caught up on things. RH had a bad headache the first night and fatigue for a couple of days. About three hours after the vaccination I felt as if I'd been struck with instant flu, aches and chills and a feverish feeling. For the next two days I took it easy and then spent another day well enough to start catching up on housework but having to make myself. The next day I was fine!

I have marked three weeks on the calendar and then, God willing, I hope to start grocery shopping myself again--may I never again complain about having to go grocery shopping! There are so many places around that I haven't been in nearly a year that I'd love to visit again. And then there's the big thing to look forward to, visiting with family as soon as it is safe to.

We were told that we need to continue wearing masks everywhere because we could still be carriers, a fact I didn't know. And our vaccination is 94% effective, so there's always that other 6% risk. Our dose is only 50% effective against some other strains of COVID so we realize that diligence is still needed.

I hope you all are well. I hope that all of you have moments in your day that bring you joy, just as The Elegant Eight have us. And I pray that this blasted pandemic will someday come to an end.

[2/28/21--look at this guy that was at our bird feeder when I opened the kitchen door this morning! He ran towards the road but looked back at me so I could snap his picture. He was handsome but I really don't want him hanging around. He looks like he's missing a leg here but I don't think he was.] 




Saturday, February 6, 2021

My Winter 2021 Kitchen Shelves


It is so much fun getting to change what's on the kitchen shelves that RH and his brother built for me when we moved here to Home Hill, almost my favorite thing to do in the house.

I think a January refresh is my favorite since by then I'm more than ready to take down any Christmas items. But this year when I saw the picture I posted at the top of my blog post of December 30th, I was really ready to make a big change. I liked it the day after Thanksgiving when I put my snowmen mugs and old ornaments and a wire Christmas tree on the shelves but I cringed when I looked at what I published here the end of December.


Why couldn't I see that it was far too cluttered?

Now, I will never be a minimalist but when I went into my kitchen on New Year's Day 2021, even I knew that all that was just too much.

While I could never style the shelves as minimally as on the Pinterest pin I had RH copy my shelves from shown in the printed out picture below, maybe I could shop my cabinets for something I'd like better. So I took everything off the bottom shelf and washed it and RH did the same with the top shelf and I began all over.

 I found lots of white and cream colored dishes in my cupboards and tried out different arrangements for several days. I even eliminated some things from the pot rack.


I had some old U.S.A. cereal bowls and copied another favorite Pinterest pin, putting three on the top shelf that were too crazed for food use.


 The only thing I bought to change the shelves was this doily from eBay for under $10 and I think it looks pretty under the bowls, with an old platter from RH's mother behind them.



The other cereal bowls that we use all the time went on the lower shelf along with two old chop plates that we use all the time and a stack of gorgeous Italian plates shaped like some sort of spiny sea creature that I rarely use. Someday they will be passed on to family, but only to someone who has the patience to hand wash them.


I put my truffle pig on the shelf too because he's so cute that I never could stand to use him as a cutting board.

An old blue bowl went on the top shelf in front of a special platter that I bought for my mother one day in Blowing Rock, North Carolina when she picked it up and said she needed a pretty platter.


It's Royal Doulton's Countess pattern and later on in life my mother returned it to me when her hostessing large family parties had ended. I know there will come a day when I'll be doing the same thing with this platter and so many other pieces of favorite china.

I'm enjoying this new lighter look in my kitchen and it led to me going through my cupboards and deciding there were lots of things I no longer needed. It was fun to have a grandson say that he wanted all my drip-edge brownware McCoy and come by for them and I can see that there will be more favorite things to pass on in the future. 

I'm in a rare decluttering mood this winter. 

Are you?



Thursday, February 4, 2021

Even an outbuilding should be pretty, right?



Back in April I showed you two Pinterest pictures that I'd given RH when he started building his new carport and workshop. If it was going to take up so much visual space viewed from my kitchen window then it needed to be pretty, and I taped the picture below up on a kitchen cupboard to show him the kind of scalloped trim I wanted put on the front.


 And he and his brother did it! Doesn't it make a big difference?

The second Pinterest picture I showed him was to remind him that I wanted wide trim on the windows and doors and a big green enamel barn light fixture.

We found the green barn light at Overstock and RH was careful to put wide trim on all the doors and windows. 

Nancy from Joyful Cottage told me that the Swedish Red that I wanted for the paint was actually Falu Red and expensive but that Benjamin Moore's Heritage Red was a good match. 

We had it all professionally painted. RH loves building projects but hates painting. We chose Benjamin Moore's Heritage Red and Simply White for the trim, and Behr's Eastern Bamboo for the doors. The roof is Timberline green dimensional shingles. The building is made of Hardie board. [The neighbor behind the building is the one who shares all his garden bounty with us in the summer.]

Inside the workshop the walls have been insulated and installed but when a friend gets time in his schedule he'll help RH drywall the ceiling. 

And there are cabinets and worktables to be built but eventually it will become a true workshop. Work goes slow but it is getting done. And we have space in it for a second fridge!

This next picture shows part of the old small three-bay barn that is the only storage RH has here as there was no garage or basement. The two outer bays really need to be torn down but we want to save the taller middle part. 

There's enough work to be done for a long time but at least now we have a covered place to park our vehicles and a guy place to escape from the house for all his projects.


One reason I was drawn to Swedish Red houses is that under the vinyl siding of our 1935 cottage is red clapboard! Wouldn't restoring that be a good project for RH to tackle next? 

I hear him saying "What?" I don't think it's going to happen but at least my wish came true, the one where I asked him--"If we have to have a building stuck out behind the garden can't it at least be pretty?"

 If I told you how old RH is he would kill me but take my word for it, that this man and his older brother have built this still amazes me. He does not know the meaning of retirement. In short, he is a keeper!

Everyone who left a comment on my previous post was so sweet that I realized how much I missed them and decided to try to keep comments open here. I'll do my best not to get behind and drop out again. I mean, you simply are the nicest people, whether you ever comment or not. Thank you!


Monday, January 25, 2021

Short Post, Must Read Book


The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly completely captivated me! 

Multi-layered books can sometimes be too confusing to bother with but Kelly handles it expertly.

Three women, three time periods, one garden in England. It ticked off so many of my boxes.  

I had forgotten that I had pre-ordered this book so can't remember who recommended it. I'm opening up comments on this post so that you can tell me if it was you, or if you've read it or want to read it. 

Not every book is for every reader, but that being said, don't miss this one if you love novels centered around gardens. I know I've read a few great ones like that in the past but cannot remember the names now. Perhaps you can?


 Julia Kelly's The Last Garden in England is sitting on my wannabe plant table. My firstborn gave me the orchid four years ago and it's kept company by three jars of paperwhites that replaced the first group that bloomed for Christmas. It's my first year to plant them on top of broken pieces of clay pots instead of river rock or gravel and I love the look of it. No gin or vodka for mine as that seems to turn the roots ugly. 

There you are, a short post from me! I could have left off all the last lines about my plants too but old habits die hard, as Benjamin Franklin said. I just looked that up.