Friday, March 22, 2019

Story of a 1930s Woman and Her French Normandy-style Home

Today is our tenth wedding anniversary. You may think it odd that I've chosen to celebrate this milestone at home. I turned down John's offer to take me out for dinner and dancing in the city, and my best friend's insistence on a party in our honor at her house.

Tonight I want only to be with the three most important people in my life, John and our two children. At nine years old, Johnny is growing up so quickly and little Joyce won't be a baby much longer either. The years ahead will pass all too quickly.

As I set the table for dinner I can't help thinking about the years when the children were so young and John was always home from work to see them before they went to bed.

Now he works such long hours to see his company through a tough year.

Maybe we shouldn't have built the big house last year, but we both fell in love with the houses of Normandy when we honeymooned there, staying with a friend John met during the War. John says that when this Depression ends, the house will only rise in value.

But will it be too large for us once the children are grown and gone from home? We've not been able to have a third child yet. I've always wanted a house full of children and even grandchildren someday.

And John by my side, us growing old together.

I think back to our first anniversary when John and I celebrated at our favorite Italian restaurant.

We were so much in love and so happy talking about what we would do the next day. Our Sundays alone together were so important to us because we worked in the city six days a week.

As we ate our dinner, John told me his plan for our returning to France in five years. We were like children let out for recess in our happiness, discussing all that we would do and the places we would visit. 

Our plans changed once the children came along, only postponed, John insisted. 

I hear Joyce coming down the stairs and turn to see her pulling her dolly behind her and rubbing her eyes sleepily from her nap. I put the last plate down and hurry to her, forgetting about Paris.

Paris could wait. It always has.


You all know my love of the 1940s and 1950s. I have an armoire full of women's magazines from the late 1800s through the 1960s but have tended to ignore the many 1930s magazines produced during the Depression years.

But recently I began wondering about the homes and families of that time period because our house was built in 1935. I've been spending hours immersed in those 1930s magazines and have become fascinated by the women of those years. 

I kept coming back to one woman in an ad for laundry soap, wondering why it drew my eye.

 I love her green dress, her hairstyle, her pearls and her poise. And then I found the perfect home for her, in the same magazine, a French Normandy house. 

Aren't the clustered chimneys fabulous? And the slate roof and the green shutters? Look at the casement windows. I've always loved casement windows but can you see that the little awning window over the casement is open on the second story? I wonder if all of them open? Darling!

And the porch is quaint, don't you think? Hopefully, it will never be ripped off by an HGTV host, being that it is in a historical district.

This house is from a real neighborhood, the very desirable Forest Hill in Cleveland, Ohio. The entire neighborhood was planned to include only house designs of European Provincial architecture. 

It is on land from the John D. Rockefeller Estates. Four hundred French Normandy-style houses were planned but only 81 built. These houses still stand as they were built of masonry walls, concrete slabs and steel joists.

Here is a link to the historical society there.

The pictures of the Normandy-style houses are gorgeous! You are in for a treat if you watch the slide show of the houses. I even spotted the exact windows I talked about on many of the houses.

Have any of you ever heard of this neighborhood? 

One of my favorite books of old is Came A Cavalier by Frances Parkinson Keyes, set in Normandy. Have any of you who have had the good fortune to visit France ever been to the Normandy region?

Thank you for reading my story and for indulging my new passion for the 1930s!

[All of the above pictures were from the March 1932 issue of Ladies' Home Journal.]


Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Needing Sunshine in My Kitchen


This picture our son took of our youngest granddaughter says Spring and Sunshine to me. 

It captures that essence as well as our granddaughter's thoughtful and curious nature.

I know it's not officially Spring yet but sunshine and daffodils are as good as a spring tonic to me.

I'm just craving light after so many rainy days, are you?

RH helped bring more light into our kitchen recently when he drastically pruned two big holly bushes that are up against the house, one that completely blocked the smaller window in our kitchen.

I've never shown the "black hole" on that end of the kitchen but here's a picture from Christmas where you can see it down at the end. That small window that is covered with a holly bush is the exact same one that you can see in the corner of the big window. Huge bush and it made that end of the kitchen so dark.

Now here is the same small window with much of the lower part of the bush removed. Light! Even on a cloudy day.

I know that most of you would probably have cut down the whole bush--but then where would our large finch family live? And where would the cardinals shelter from the rain? They were upset enough with us from this trim job. You should have heard them fussing!

And even the big window has more light now and I can see more of our yard to check up on BreeBree and James Mason when they're in the pen playing. (That green pile on the ground was just one of the huge piles of holly branches that has now been taken to our neighbor's burn pile.)

I was so happy with the additional light in my kitchen that I went around snapping pictures as RH was snipping away outside.

That's my pink, green and blue blouse reflected below in the silver tray behind my cooking spirits. Okay, I admit it's not a blouse, I still had my gown and robe on. Am I the only one who photographs around the house not dressed properly for the day?

And then the sun came out for a peek and I went nuts snapping photos of it shining on things in my kitchen that weren't used to seeing it.

If you remember, the open shelves and pot hanger was the first project RH did here after we moved in two years ago in January, with the help of his brother.

Oh, look at my little brown-eyed girl basking in the sunshine!

Here's the two old agate enamelware buckets we use to hold potatoes and onions. We've had them almost as long as we've been married and that's a long time.

I know I already showed you my pot rack but it's just the absolute best solution for a small galley kitchen. The stainless steel rod had been in the barn at the old house for years and is one example of RH being right in never throwing anything away. 

That may be one example but many more examples exist that might not agree with that if you knew just how many dumpsters Zack and Courtney had to rent just to empty out two barns, a smokehouse and cowshed when they bought our place.

Here's another space saver, a granite lazy susan that our daughter Christy gave RH for Father's Day one year. It holds all the vinegars and oils.

You'll find post-it-notes up on my cabinets, and granddaughters' drawings, and quotes I'm loving, and prayer lists that I can see every day.

A new addition to the kitchen is the oil painting I commissioned from my daughter-in-law years ago with a paraphrased Bible verse from Proverbs done in raised letters all over the painting. I couldn't capture the writing in the photograph but it says:
Words satisfy the mind as much as fruit does the stomach; good talk is as satisfying as a good harvest.
 It originally hung over my dining table at Valley View, a reminder of how important good conversation is, then moved over the bathroom mirror here, the only place I had room for it. 

But with a planned bathroom repainting here soon and finding a quirky old black and white picture at an antique store in December added to the bathroom, and another second one, with plans to look for more, I took all pictures and objects with color out of that room and found the perfect place for this in my kitchen over the door leading to our breakfast room/dining room/sitting room.

Here's a picture of RH's kitchen project of last summer. He, with the help of two sons, replaced the old tiles that were not only ugly but downright dangerous with luxury vinyl plank flooring in a pattern I chose called Scratched Stone. I absolutely love it and after 12 years of having black and white checkerboard tile in our kitchen at Valley View--gorgeous but showed dirt so easily--this distressed look is so forgiving. That white streak is sunshine!

After putting down the new floor they moved a cabinet over some five or six inches where it would be snug against the stove. The gap, of course, was because stoves were much larger when this house was built in 1935. I toyed with the idea of choosing a retro replica because I badly wanted a white range to match the white dishwasher and fridge. I checked with the company that Rue's stove was from but hers is gas and ours would have to be electric and they didn't have the same good reputation as the gas ones.

And the really expensive white larger electric stoves were just that, really expensive. So I settled for a new one that cooks great and has a beautiful blue enamel interior but is no star in a blog-worthy world of beautiful gas stoves.

I'm just glad there is no longer a gap between stove and counter.

Here, see below how the coffee pot counter is moved down from where the upper cabinet is? That's the cabinet the guys moved. I love the little bit of extra floor space it gives us and makes a perfect place for my babies' water bowl on the floor but if you're the one putting down a fresh bowl of water for BreeBree and James Mason, watch out for your head on that upper cabinet!

Both RH and I have seen STARS a time or two until we learned our lesson.

And there's something else I taped up on my cabinets, a menu I want to make soon and don't want to forget.

After the new floor was finished we went looking for something to put in the space below to hold stuff. We looked at expensive made-in-China cabinets and rolling tables, etc. in stores until I got stubbornly passive-aggressive and refused to buy any of them.

We were both frustrated with the whole day but I asked to be taken to the nearest antique mall where we split up with a focus on any possible contraption that could hold stuff and still have character.

RH found a dry sink! 20% off and under $70 with tax! And oh my goodness, it fit right in there with a 1/4 of an inch to spare. I tell you, passive-aggressive sometimes works!

That's me reflected in the black hole below to photograph our new find. James Mason was very interested in it even before snacks got put inside.

But look at that raw wood showing on the cabinet next to it...wouldn't you think that we would have thought to paint it before we put the cabinet in? Or even when the kitchen walls got painted white after the new floor was put down? 

Neither of us noticed it then. 

And who's going to do it now after the dry sink is loaded down with stuff? Most of you would!

You're going to laugh when I tell you that the guys did paint the other side of this white cabinet when they painted the room. You can see it painted white two pictures down. I mean...?

But I was so thankful for this white cabinet that we brought with us from Florida that was leftover from a job RH was on. Rejected because the measurements were wrong, it has three drawers of storage space for all my baking things, and the cabinet guy found a beautiful piece of marble for RH to top it with.

We had intended to someday paint the wood cabinet of drawers that the microwave sits on, in the picture below. This cabinet was a tool box for RH in our old house. But I claimed the top three drawers here for spices, etc. and tools remain in the bottom two. Compromise. 

Now, to a few more hopefully planned little projects--all of our projects will be little ones from now on, we've promised ourselves.

See the long florescent light on the ceiling? I don't want to insult anyone else's florescent lights, but I hate them! And since the kitchen here is one of the warmest rooms in the house I hope to replace it with a simple white ceiling fan with one light in it.

So that's number one on my wish list for this spring.

There's even a picture of a fan on an upper cabinet. And it will stay there until that florescent light is gone. You would be very surprised how many things actually get done if I just put a picture of it over the coffee pot.

I think I'm skipping around in order here with my pics. I put these pictures all up on the post last weekend and now am trying to write the story to go with them, not my usual way to post.

I think I just wanted to show you my solution here for storing the stacks of clean white dishtowels on top of the fridge.

The kitchen door, below. It and the trim around it need painting badly. The claw marks from five basset hounds that lived here before us are still on the outside of the door.

I'm so grateful that RH installed a storm door here after we moved. I keep the door open to the light whenever I'm in the kitchen. And BreeBree and James Mason don't have to claw on the door to get back inside from their pen, all they have to do is look at me through the glass door. Those poor bassets!

The first thing we do when we come in the kitchen in the morning is open the door to see the pond and to see if the geese have flown in yet for the day. Part of the year they sleep on another pond in the neighborhood.

Here's another mini project, see the light fixture over the sink in the picture below? Guess who picked that out? Ha! I can tell you that it sure wasn't me!

Looking for something else there, folks, not sure what but I'll know it when I see it. 

The kitchen cabinets could use painting too but for now I'm just calling them distressed.

The light fixture down by the open shelves is a sweet little inexpensive chandelier that was over the sink at Valley View. A sentimental favorite but I'm wanting something easier to clean for the sink area.

I kept hoping the sun would stay bright for these pictures but that's shy March for you, springtime one moment, winter the next.

It will come though, and the sun with it.

Whether March is sunny or cloudy, it is still beautiful, a harbinger of beautiful Spring.

Here's a cloudy springtime photo of our other granddaughter, taken last spring--or was it two springs ago? Maybe so because she has just had her hair cut and donated 10 inches of that blonde hair.

I'll have to ask permission to show you her new hairdo soon, after I get over the shock of our little girl growing up so quickly.

Thanks to their father for their beautiful photographs!

Wish I'd had him here to take my kitchen pictures. On the first day of Spring I'll be taking the picture below of his down and changing it to one of Spring blossoms. 

A few years ago for Christmas he gave me pictures he had taken representing the four seasons of the year and I love them so much and have made a little ritual of changing them on every equinox. This winter one is frozen ice bubbles around the dogwood buds in his yard.

I know this is another one of my long posts and I intend to do much shorter ones next, but I hope you enjoyed it. I know that I always love to see the kitchens of my friends, whether they are big showstopper kitchens or small cottage kitchens. 

Our daughter and son-in-law recently moved from Florida to Montana and it made me so happy to have a FaceTime tour through their house the other night. 

You just have to be able to picture where your children live, don't you? And the kitchen was the room I was most waiting to see. It was gorgeous!

Thank you for bearing with me on this long post, even if you did scroll quickly through it! But I love this little galley kitchen of ours so much and wanted to share it with you, now that there is more light in it.