Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Grandmother's Legacy

As a child I vividly remember my paternal grandmother washing clothes in her old ringer washer in the basement of the country farmhouse my grandfather built. I remember watching her wash the clothes in the big tub and then running the wet fabrics through the ringer before hanging them out on the line to dry in the sunshine. She did it with the skill of a woman who had done so many, many times probably every day of her life. It was in this manor that she washed all of the clothes for her family of six.

Later in life my three uncles and aunt pooled their funds and bought grandma a brand new Kenmore washer from Sears. She told them she did not want or need it, esoterically since there wasn't anything particularly wrong with the washer she already had. Not being a woman who easily embraced new things, the new sparkling white washing machine stood in the corner of the basement mostly becoming a great place to store garden baskets and canning jars.

When grandma developed Alzheimer's and had to be put into a nursing facility, her children, knowing that she would never come back to her home, sadly began the  task of dividing and selling off her possessions. Because money was needed for her care, many of the things in the old farmhouse were sold. One of the things I loved the most about grandma's country kitchen was her old hooiser cabinet. I remember her rolling out pie dough on the worn enamel topped work surface and sifting flour from the built in sifter. Taped to the inside of the doors were her most cherished recipes, most scrawled in pencil on yellowing index cards. I dissembled the treasured piece and brought it back to Richmond where it lives in my kitchen today.

Near the end of cleaning out her house, there were inevitably some things that no one wanted or knew what to do with. My dad told me in passing that they didn't know what to do with her old ringer washer. He laughed to himself when he thought of how his mother had snorted at the new Kenmore and had instead continued to wash and ring on the tried and true machine that she knew oh so well. I told him to not throw it out but instead bring it to me on the next trip to town. A few weeks later I was the proud recipient of a trophy to my grandmother's sweat and toil to keep her families clothes clean. I also had the cherished memory of a short, feisty woman with the tenacity of a pit bull, and the smile of an angel.

Today my grandma's "angel" smiles at me every day when I open my back door. Her old ringer washer beams back at me from the corner of my deck - but now instead of washing and ringing - it holds green and growing things that remind me every day of her. Love you grandma!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Pleasures Of A Porch

One of my very favorite attributes of our mid century bungalow in Richmond's Westover Hills is this wonderful front porch. To enter our home you first walk through a lush English cottage garden (I can take no credit whatsoever for this - that's Marc's domain!) and up onto our porch to reach the front door.

The intimate space isn't huge, but it serves as another outdoor "room" which we enjoy all year long. My favorite time of the year to enjoy a porch has to be the summer. During this time the porch is dressed in all of its summery finest with both vintage and new wicker chairs, a wicker fern stand with a huge Boston fern, and a wonderful wicker porch swing hung from the tongue and groove ceiling painted glossy white. Sitting on the swing at night and hearing the "creak, creak" of the chains on the hooks as you swing and listen to the croakers around the creek across the road cannot be beat!

Last spring we painted the grey concrete floor a cheery butter yellow to match the front door and window shutters. Yellow always makes me happy!

Marc and I are not the only ones that enjoy our front porch. Miss Nadine (in the picture to the right) and Snowball find the porch a great shady refuge on a hot summer afternoon and spend hours napping on the furniture. Nadine in particular enjoys swinging on the porch swing - I don't believe it but she does!

Porches for the most thing are a thing of the past, I guess they fell out of vogue at some point. Growing up we never had anything more than a concrete stoop and a few steps up to the house. The Victorians especially loved their porches (see my Cape May post earlier) and their homes almost always featured a huge front or wrap around porch. Some of the Victorian revival homes of today as well as other styles have thankfully brought the tradition of the porch back again.

It seems that a porch - whether front or back - seems to beckon one to sit a spell, slow down, relax, and sip on a tall glass of lemonade or sweet tea. Okay - as sappy as that all may sound - I bet you would like to swing on that wicker front porch swing right now with a kitty in your lap? Maybe slowing down and taking a few stolen moments to sniff the roses is what we all could use a little of these days. Sounds good, huh?

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Summer In Cape May

Last summer Marc and I had a lovely visit to the beautiful seaside town of Cape May, New Jersey. If your travels have never taken you to the Jersey shore, this is a trip you must make!

Cape May has the largest collection of Victorian homes in the United States and is amazingly beautiful. These houses, built between 1880 and the early twentieth century, are characterized by elaborate "gingerbread" moldings and decorative woodwork, big front porches, interesting architecture, and beautiful colors. The houses are often called "painted Ladies" by those who adore this beautiful architectural style.

There are many, many wonderful B & B's everywhere and there are great antiques shops, gift shops, fudge and ice cream shops, galleries, and restaurants and cafe everywhere!

The very best way to get around is by bicycle. Thought cars are allowed in the town, there is not a lot of parking, so many people walk or ride bikes. We took our bicycles with us from home, but they can easily be rented from vendors all throughout town for a small hourly or daily fee. Most of Cape May is flat so there are not a lot of hills to maneuver which makes it a leisure bicyclist's dream!

The streets are wide and lined with a canopy of huge leafy trees offering shade everywhere. There is a downtown shopping area which is a old-fashioned main street pedestrian "mall" where cars are not allowed. This area is just full of wonderful curiosity shops, clothing boutiques, antiques markets, and outdoor cafes. We found it a great place for people and dog watching!

There is a giant old seaside hotel called Congress Hall that overlooks the ocean. It is a colossal structure with tall white columns and an interior that is casually elegant. It features a wonderful grill and restaurant and some cute shops on the ground floor that sell local artisans work and upscale home decor and gifts inspired by the sea with shell motifs and mermaids.

Marc and I visited over the 4th of July and it could not have been a better time to visit beautiful Cape May!

The whole town was emblazoned with American flags and festive red, white, and blue bunting billowing from porches and railings. Red and white geraniums bloomed from concrete urns and hanging baskets flourishing in the constant breeze scented with salt water.

One of the things I remember most vividly was a huge Independence Day Community Cookout held out front of the Congress Hall Hotel. There were giant white tents set up with grills loaded down with hamburgers and hotdogs and a big buffet line filled with baked beans, bbq ribs, potato salad, and homemade ice cream cones for dessert! I certainly could not imagine a place that was more a slice of Americana - so much like a Norman Rockwell painting I just couldn't stand it!

We have visited Cape May twice now - both times in the summer. Our first visit was cut short because my dear grandmother was ill and dying and I had to get home to see her. This second time was like a bittersweet return visit with a dear friend.

We stayed in a lovely B & B called the Twin Gables. It was snugly situated on a quiet side street and was just wonderful - a true slice of heaven! Our innkeeper Regina and her two well behaved dogs were the perfect hosts. We enjoyed a well appointed room full of Victorian antiques and bric-a-brac that I had to resist from quietly slipping into my suitcase!

My favorite memory from Twin Gables was the amazing screened in front porch, its' wide boards painted a glossy battleship grey. Here we would rock for hours in vintage wicker rockers and enjoy afternoon tea and amazing breakfasts served by Regina herself. Her omelets, freshly baked blueberry muffins and fresh fruit in the morning were simply amazing! One afternoon I witnessed an elderly gentleman visit with a flat cardboard box full of fresh straw and blueberries. Those treats of course ended up on our breakfast trays the next morning!

Our vacation was capped off by a half-hour long incredible firework display over the ocean, fired off from a huge barge floating just offshore. As dusk set in it seemed the whole town assembled on the beach with quilts, blankets, and folding chairs to witness the spectacle!

If you come beautiful Cape May - and you must - it seems that anytime of the year is a good time to visit. While the summer is idyllic, the autumn and Christmas season appeared to be wonderful times as well. The events calendar was filled with holiday craft shows and Christmas house tours as well as horse and buggy rides. Whenever you visit, you will surely fall in love with Cape May!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Weekend Antiques Market

What could be more fun than a great weekend at an outdoor Antiques Market? At a recent outing in northern Virginia, my good friend Mona and I spent the day perusing the tents and stalls filled with vintage goods, antiques, ephemera, painted furniture, antique linens, and just about anything and everything that makes people like us break out in a cold sweat!

The weather was divine and the pickings were even better. We waited in a long line of traffic going into the fair and were finally directed to park in a huge grassy field. A short walk and we were at the entrance - both of us so excited at at all of the goodies that awaited us. There were vendors from all over Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and beyond with so much eye candy we almost went into a sugar coma!

When I go to these kinds of events I often get what I can only describe as sensory overload. There was so much to see, not to mention the live music and the food trucks serving up funnel cakes and sausage sandwiches.

There was vintage loot for miles - so much to look at! We saw some great friends during our shopping and enjoyed a perfect day shopping through the fields of amazing finds. We scored a great candelabra, metal buckets, watering cans, old vintage trade signs, farm baskets and several amazing birdcages!

A True Honor!

Wow - it is such an honor being chosen to be featured in the June 2012 issue of Romantic Homes! Each month this national home decorating magazine chooses a shop to feature in its "Shopkeeping" section. We were asked about a year ago to be included by the editor.

If you are not familiar with Romantic Homes, it is a wonderful resource for vintage-style decorating with antiques and vintage collectibles. It always features several lovely homes, as well as craftspeople and is a true inspiration to anyone who loves this wonderful look in their homes and in their lives.

This is the second time my stores have been featured in national magazines and the experience is amazing!

Romantic Homes is based in California, so having their photographer and reporter just stop in was not an option. We shot hundreds of photos and submitted them to the magazine. The editor and art director decided which ones to use, and a journalist called me to do an hour long interview. The result is a something I must say I am very proud of.

To see the article, visit Barnes and Nobel, Target, or wherever magazines are sold. We had many, many copies but have since sold out.

Thank you Romantic Homes once again for including Feathernesters on your pages!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Yard Longs

Popular during the late 1800's and early 20th century, these wonderful prints were named because of their size - 1 yard long.

Most of the most popular Yard Logs were created by French artist Paul deLongpre, and featured beautiful still life floral themes. Roses, hydrangeas, tulips, and lilacs were often painted by deLongpre, but he also painted birds, baby chicks, and other bucolic themes.

This beautiful Yard Long features romantic white roses and lilacs. I found the gorgeous old board already cut with the scalloped top which I painted white and distressed. I then decoupaged the print on the board and finished it with a piece of thin green trim.

This piece was in the shop for a whole 20 minutes before it was snatched up by a lucky customer.

I often wonder where all the things I have created over the last 25 years "live" now. Who enjoys them, who gave them as gifts...and which ones were destined for a thrift shop? Oh, if things could talk the stories they would tell!