Friday, September 26, 2014

Where's My Fashion Style?

There's probably a reason I never, absolutely never, blog about fashion.

I don't blog about nuclear physics, either.

But I do know that when I see Autumn styles, I want this…

I want plaids, woolens, nubby textiles, rich Autumn colors.

So I go to Goodwill and add to the jackets in my closet,
never able to resist them but never really knowing how to use them either.

I turned to Pinterest today for help.
How could I use this 1960s Fashion Bug jacket I found at Goodwill?

Could I somehow make it look like this outfit? 

I doubt it.

What about this red plaid jacket with black velvet collar?

Would this inspire me?

Do you think I could pull off that look? I wish!

I love this short jacket I found at Goodwill a few years ago…

Maybe this look?

I have a black purse fairly similar to that, well almost.
I could buy a red plaid scarf.

There's this old Pendleton jacket I snapped up at GW…

How about copying this look?

Hmm, black leather purse again.
I have some red flannel sweatpants,
and I could borrow R.H.'s black rubber boots.

But no, here's the look I'd prefer…

Might need to actually buy some boots for that one
and maybe order new legs, etc. too?

Here's the prevalent look when I searched for 
Autumn plaid jackets on Pinterest…


Hey, I used to have skinny legs like that,

when I was 13.

Or was I just 12 there, posing at Myrtle Beach
with my Uncle Leon?
Even then he had better calves than I did.

Wait! I've found it, my Fashion Style!

She probably has the attitude necessary to pull it off.

I guess attitude goes a long way in fashion

and these ladies have plenty of it.

I love the ladies on the Advanced Style blog.

Wish I could get them to tell me how to use my Goodwill jackets.

(Oh, no, not that, ladies!)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

"Welcome, Kind Fall"

Four months from today will we all be saying, "Hurry up, Spring! Hurry up, Summer!"? I hope I won't be. I'm truly trying to embrace all the seasons in their turn now even though August makes me forget to appreciate summer. 

That's all behind us now and Autumn, glorious Autumn is here at last! My bed gets dressed with   linens of a darker hue.

The old cranberry spread comes out and the faded ancient pillow with pink deer.

Otis registers his disgust with the whole Fall Housecleaning of his bedroom by crawling under the bed, bushy tail and hindquarters stuck out.

I go around the room dusting every single book and vacuum Zack's Teddy, being careful not to catch his tattered cravat in the vacuum. He always guards the books that sit bedside, current nighttime reading close at hand. 

Below the old green chair that was one of the two we found in the smokehouse when we moved here is a very special trashcan. And believe it or not, I'm going to show you a closeup of my trashcan. Oh, the depths that bloggers sink to.

Why am I showing you my trashcan? Because, as Dolly Parton's character said in Steel Magnolias, there's a story there.

First of all, it's a pretty trashcan. Second, it is almost 53 years old. And the third reason I'm showing it to you? It caused the first married argument between R.H. and me. In 1961 I paid $14 for it, almost half of my weekly salary--in our first week of marriage. What can I say? I lost my heart to that trashcan. And that $14 trashcan has lasted longer than any trashcan R.H. has ever bought.

On to clean the family photos on this table made out of the base of a Singer sewing machine my father gave me and to the books I simply must have close to me as I sit in my Quiet Time chair.

More books hidden behind the door, all cleaned for Autumn. Books that are special to me, all of Alexandra Stoddard's books, all of Jan Karon's, and now Louise Penny's mysteries are there as well as others that I don't want to get lost in other bookshelves in the house. 

Beatrix Potter's Little Black Rabbit on top gets vacuumed too. I rescued him from our daughter's yard sale years ago, and Jemima Puddleduck. What? Selling all her B. Potter stuff? Home they came with me, and many of her Breyer's horses too. 

(See, Tammy, how can I ever hope to become a minimalist like you?)

No books here but a few pieces of precious Royal Doulton plates. Precious because I once bought them for my mother and in her 80s she let them come back to me. She loved them. I love them.

And a Caldwell rose lamp that is one of my most favorite inanimate things in this house. I got it from my sister and it stood in my kitchen for a long time until an Italian fish lamp seemed more appropriate there. Now it's back in my bedroom with all the other roses.

My favorite chair, my slippers, books around me, a lamp over my left shoulder. A window.

And a picture of something that didn't get Fall housecleaned yet. It will take hours to clean this bookcase that sits on top of my dresser. It holds the books that I never lend out, not because they are first editions. Some are but mostly it's just books I've collected over the decades that I read over and over. 

The books of Gladys Taber, Frances Parkinson Keyes, Beverley Nichols, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, David Grayson. Special old Christmas books.

And momentos such as the first little black bottle of Joy perfume that R.H. gave me long ago. One pretty Autumn day I'll spread an old sheet on the bed and take everything out, clean it and put it all back, no decluttering here. 

But that's for another day.

"Ode to the End of Summer" by Phyllis McGinley

Summer, adieu.
                            Adieu, gregarious season.
Good-by, 'revoir, farewell..
Now day comes late; now chillier blows the breeze on 'Forsaken beach and boarded-up hotel.
Now wild geese fly together in thin lines
And Tourist Homes take down their lettered signs.

It fades--this green, this lavish interval,
This time of flowers and fruits,
Of melon ripe along the orchard wall,
Of sun and sails and wrinkled linen suits;
Time when the world seems rather plus than minus
And pollen tickles the allergic sinus.

Welcome, kind Fall, and every month with "r" in
Whereto my mind is bent.
Come, sedentary season that I star in,
O fire-lit Winter of my deep content!
Amid the snow, the sleet, the blizzard's raw gust,
I shall be cozier than I was in August.

Safe from the picnic sleeps the unlittered dell.
The last Good Humor sounds its final bell,
And all is silence.
                                            Summer, farewell, farewell.

Monday, September 22, 2014

"Ode to the End of Summer"

"Summer, adieu.
Adieu, gregarious season.
Good-by, 'revoir, farewell…"

Phyllis McGiney
"Ode to the End of Summer"
in Times Three

I celebrated the end of summer by putting away the summer bedding in the pictures here, linens that were so welcome last Spring and now, on this day with the windows open to a chilly breeze blowing through, seemed as faded and tired as most of the flowers outside. 

Even the embroidered peacock on a vintage sheet I bought at a flea market in the '70s has lost its charm. Time for him to hibernate. 

Tomorrow I'll post pictures of the bed all dressed for Autumn--and finish Phyllis McGinley's poem. I'm sure she would have been thrilled to know that her poetry was illustrating my sheets. She most likely would not have liked my weird assortment of patterns in my bedroom but this is one room where I indulge my love of Cozy Farmhouse decor. And I haven't bought matching sheets in over 30 years, ever since I purchased matching everything for the bed and was stuck with it for years. 

Do I sound as uninspired tonight as I think I do? It's been a long day. R.H. and I have done fall housecleaning all day. Okay, I admit that I mostly did basic stuff while my husband vacuumed walls--he pointed out how dusty they were with a flashlight--mopped floors, mopped under the beds, cleaned his bathroom from top to bottom including washing the walls, cleaned baseboards, vacuumed and aired all 8 dog beds outside, AND grilled chicken outside for our supper. And other stuff that I can't remember.

Is he a keeper or what?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Our Fur Babies on a September Morning

I don't know if this video will work or not since it looks different than what I used to put up on Across the Way, but here goes. Katie Belle, Otis and Milo, and a glimpse of Sammi enjoying a beautiful September Morning. And R.H. instigating the singing dogs.

Okay, folks, that didn't work too well. There's evidently no sound, plus it keeps playing over and over and seems to be speeded up.

Well, imagine R.H. singing in a falsetto voice: "Puddy, puddy, puddy!" Katie Belle, the Jack Russell starts singing and the little Milo joins in. Otis and Sammi, the cat, ignore these people and are too cool for Sunday School.

Wish you could hear it.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Louise Penny's Chief Inspector Armand Gamache Books

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is the main reason I'm completely enthralled with the mystery writer Louise Penny's books--and that her literary books have a quality that ranks high with me, namely that they don't belabor the point. 

Here is a link to the official Louise Penny website.

If you like mystery books go to her site for a list of all 10 books in the series so far. I've never been hugely into the mystery genre since it seemed as if no one could compare to Dorothy Sayers, especially her Gaudy Night. Louise Penny has won me over with each successive book. I'm more in love with Armand Gamache with each book and with the characters of Three Pines in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, even with my man Armand's wife, the lovely Reine-Marie Gamache. After getting to know Reine-Marie in the books it is easy to see why Armand is such a happy, content and kind man.

"Watching Reine-Marie as they sat on the balcony,
Gamache was once again struck by the certainty he'd married above himself.
Not socially. Not academically.
But he could never shake the suspicion he had gotten very, very lucky…
none more than having loved the same woman for thirty-five years.
Unless it was the extraordinary stroke of luck that she should also love him."
[Trick of the Light]

Place is important in Penny's books and important to Gamache as he solves the mystery mainly by sheer listening, listening to possible suspects and listening to what their homes say about them.

"Gamache loved to see inside the homes of people involved in a case.
To look at the choices they made for their most intimate space.
The colors, the decorations. The aromas.
Were there books? What sort?"
[The Cruelest Month]

Food is important in Penny's books, some of the best of which is served up at Olivier's Bistro in Three Pines, the kind of restaurant we all look for, trying to find one where we belong. Another Cheers--where everybody knows your name place. The second time I read the series I kept a notebook of the mouthwatering food served to guests of the Bistro. 

One meal Armand had there: Lobster bisque flavored with cognac, coq au vin with a hint of maple, young beans and glazed carrots, creme brûlée. [The Cruelest Month] Order me that please!

Jean-Guy, Armand's second in command ordered: Filet mignon with cognac blue cheese sauce. [Bury Your Dead] Jean-Guy is the man younger readers have a crush on. 

Clara orders: Creamy seafood chowder with chunks of salmon, scallops and shrimp, baguette and sweet butter. [Cruelest Month] Who is Clara, you ask, if you haven't read the books yet? Ah, Clara, she's another part of the stories.

"For many years Clara would remember how it felt standing there.
Feeling again like the ugly little girl in the schoolyard.
The unloved and unlovable child.
Flatfooted and maladroit, slow and mocked.
The one who laughed in the wrong places and believed tall stories,
and was desperate for someone, anyone, to like her.
Stupid, stupid, stupid…
the balled up fist under the school desk."
[Still Life]

Armand Gamache understands Clara, and others like her.

"Was there an invisible world, Gamache wondered.
A place where diminished people met,
where they recognized each other?
…The sort others cut off in conversation,
cut in front of in grocery lines.."
[A Rule Against Murder]

Can you tell that I'm a fan of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache? I'm also very much a fan of the lovely author Louise Penny, who wrote these characters to life. I hope she keeps them coming our way. On her website she says: "If you take only one thing away from any of my books I'd like it to be this: Goodness exists." 

As with all books in a series, I've loved them to a lesser or greater degree but I cannot resist committing myself to my very favorite of all. I could not put down number nine in the series, How the Light Gets In. It even rivals Dorothy Sayers' Gaudy Night. I can't give much higher praise than that, and it was named by the Washington Post as one of their top five fiction books of the year. 

Good reading, everyone!

Friday, September 12, 2014


In the days after 9/11, I could not escape the pull of television news. It seemed one of the few ways I could take part in my country's sorrow. Then there came a day when I realized that I had to find my way back to what I could do, and that was to go on in the only place I could--in my home and with my family.

It was mostly at home that I could make a difference. And so like countless others, I began to pick up the pieces and look around me, see what was being neglected and try to do something about it. 

Home, the place we return to at the end of the day, if we are one of the lucky ones.

We cook and we sit down at the table together and clear the dishes and feed the pets and sweep the floor and watch a movie or read a book and turn back the blanket and go to bed. 

All very good stuff, things denied to some and things not enjoyed under present circumstances by many others. 

Homemaking. Making a home.

There was a book by Elizabeth Goudge called Pilgrim's Inn that I read years ago that was a revelation to me and remains to this day one of my favorite books. This quote contains what is, to me, one of the most important themes of the book:

"Lucilla knew always, and Nadine knew in her more domesticated moments, that it was homemaking that mattered. Every home was a brick in the great wall of decent living that men erected over and over again as a bulwark against the perpetual flooding in of evil. But women made the bricks, and the durableness of each civilization depended upon their quality, and it was no good weakening oneself for the brick-making by thinking about the flood."

[Pilgrim's Inn by Elizabeth Goudge]

Think back some years with me, will you? Back to a time we really don't like to think about. To the weeks after the war in Iraq began. Not to the yay or nay of it, but to the interviews journalists did in what was left of Iraqi  homes.

Do you remember the camera going into houses where women were still doing their best to make a home for their families? There were curtains hung, a vase of flowers on a bright tablecloth. Food being cooked in a pot for the family meal. 

These women knew, more than any of us, how important it is to make a nest, a home, even under terrible circumstances. 

Obviously there is much sadness in this world of ours today, much evil. But we have to go on with our brick-making, don't we? 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

"Danse Macabre"

"It's farewell to the drawing room's mannerly cry,
The professor's logical whereto and why,
The frock-coated diplomat's polished aplomb,
Now matters are settled with gas and with bomb….

So good-bye to the house with its wallpaper red,
Good-bye to the sheets on the warm double bed,
Good-bye, dear heart, good-bye to you all.

W. H. Auden

When Auden wrote this in the 1930s, already the diplomat was becoming obsolete. The statesmen of old? What use would they be now? Can you reason with a terrorist? 

I try to keep Dewena's Window positive, try to keep its issues within my sphere of influence. But how many years will pass before any of us awake on September 11 without immediately thinking of that day in 2001? 

The day the World Trade Center collapsed into ashes, part of the Pentagon was destroyed, and major airlines were hijacked as weapons of murder. A day that changed our lives forever even if we were not among the day's victims.

That morning here in Tennessee began as a lovely early autumn day with our windows open to a refreshing breeze and the sky intensely blue and cloud-free. It turned out to be similar to another day that Richard M. Kitchum wrote about in The Borrowed Years, 1938-1941: America on the Way to War.

"The one thing everyone in Europe could agree on was the weather: it was the most hauntingly beautiful springtime in memory--soft, radiant, dazzling days stretching on one after another as if to blind people of what was to come."

These are the things we remember after catastrophe strikes: how we stretched when we awoke that morning and threw back the covers in anticipation of the day ahead, what we had for breakfast, waving goodbye to the children before they got on the school bus, the grocery list the most important thing on our mind. 

And all along, if we had known, "It's farewell to the drawing-room's mannerly cry."

That is what I'm thinking of today. That farewell to a life of reason. Of being blind to what is to come. Tomorrow I will move on and cope. Today I will mourn as W.H. Auden did in "Danse Macabre" and pray that we heed his warning.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Russel Wright

There was a fascinating article in my vintage Woman's Home Companion magazine written by Russel Wright himself called "…any man can keep house". Mr. Wright's wife, his design partner Mary Wright, had passed away leaving him as a single parent to little daughter Annie. 

He wrote: "I organized my menu files into a Menu Book containing 60 complete menus with a recipe for each dish and detailing the service and accessories for each meal."

Think of that! A man, not a chef, taking the time to make a Menu Book with 60 meals in it? Yes, he had a housekeeper, but once a week he drew up menus for the week ahead out of his book for the housekeeper to follow--with the dishes to be used at each meal. I am so impressed.

[Woman's Home Companion September 1956, photo by Jerry Cooke]

Mr. Wright wrote: "My spice shelves and other grocery shelves are arranged in an alphabetical filing system. Our kitchen cupboards have pictures on the doors to show the location of groceries, china, glass and serving accessories. Everything possible should be stored at the spot at which it is to be used."

The other pictures in this article were too small to be of good quality but even his refrigerator shelves had labels where everything was to go. I repeat, I am impressed. 

[Woman's Home Companion September 1956]

I am so intrigued by this man who designed such beautiful mid-century ceramics. When our first two children were young, we drove to Florida to visit my parents who had moved there. We stopped along the way at an antique store, much too pricey for us to buy anything, but there was one big box filled to the brim with dishes. They were all a lovely pale gray and I turned them over to read "Russel Wright." 

They looked like these...

They were all only about $25, a small amount today but a much bigger amount in the early 1970s. I begged for them but R.H. said he'd think about it, that we could always stop there on the way home. Of course we did not stop. Have you noticed that when you're headed home you just want to get home? 

That box of gray Russel Wright dishes has stayed in my memory for all these decades. I know we all have things we passed up buying in a little antique store or on eBay that we regret. My advice--if you really lose your heart to something, buy it.

I love the look of these Russel Wright dishes in the pretty pinks, blues, grays and yellows...

And these Wright glasses look as if they'd never been put in a dishwasher...

But it was this collection that I saw on Pinterest that has me in major envy mode--stunning!

And look at this piece of Wright's blonde furniture manufactured by Conant-Ball...

I would adore having this Wright designed serving cart...

The cart was part of the design philosophy that was typical of Mary and Russel Wright's plan for streamlining living and entertaining in a beautiful but easily managed manner. They wrote about it in their 1950 Guide to Easier Living. I haven't read it yet but ordered a copy of the paperback edition and can't wait to read it. 

Maybe there's still hope for me yet? 

I couldn't end this post without including an ad from the Woman's Home Companion issue that Russel Wright's article was in. A turquoise kitchen built of steel. I wonder if Mr. Wright would have approved? I can see those gray dishes in it with pink ones too. Darn, why didn't I pester R.H. just a little bit for them?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

"A Besotted Reader"

"I also am a Besotted Reader,

often lost, as I was last night, in a book."

David Grayson
The Countryman's Year

These books have been some of my nighttime reading lately:

Collected Stories of Jessamyn West
(anything by West is good)

Delicious! by Ruth Reichl
(loved her food memoir Tender at the Bone,
Delicious!, not as much)

All My Yesterdays, autobiography of Edward G. Robinson
(still reading it, loving it)

The Long Way Home by Louise Penny
(saving this for a Penny post soon)

The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
(couldn't resist finally reading the book
as I remembered wishing I could be as perfect
as a Stepford wife when I saw the movie back in the '70s,
not as chilling as his Rosemary's Baby)


As I Am by Patricia Neal
(fascinating woman, admirable in her 
honesty about her own flaws--and those of her ex)

Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
(could not put it down but I wouldn't
stand up in Sunday School and recommend it)

September by Rosamunde Pilcher
(I reread this every few Augusts when I
absolutely cannot wait for September)

The L-Shaped Room by Lynne Reid Banks
(better than the old movie)

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
(don't read when you're depressed but as always
Didion's writing is marvelous--on second thought,
this book gave me strength in a difficult time)

That's all for now. 
If only I could ask you what you're reading,
and it's tempting to turn on comments.
I'm afraid I'd be back where I was at Across the Way
with no time to read if I did that!

I hope you understand.
I do appreciate it so much when I see my old
blogfriends are visiting.
Thank you for that and I hope that
you're a little relieved not to have to comment here!

Instead, be a besotted reader of books!