A Neighborly Hello

(This article contains company references but is not a sponsored post. I am a dedicated customer and paid for all products myself.)

My husband and I recently drove around our new neighborhood, admiring the California spring flowers in our neighbor’s yards. I continue to be absolutely amazed at the magnitude of many plants and the vibrancy of the colors.

I had my camera with me so Scott slowed down or stopped for me to get out and snap a few pictures.

The next day I had an idea:
I sent some of the pictures to Artifact Uprising to get some of their matte-finished, 4×4 prints of my neighbor’s flowers. Artifact Uprising prints are difficult to describe. The paper is almost cardboard-level thick and the photo finish has an artistic quality to it. I have used their prints for many special occasions and this seemed like a good reason to turn to their specific printing quality.

I was excited to receive the photos in the mail this week. I made white cardstock, folded cards to support the photos (which I had printed with a white border – you can opt to not have a border at all.)

I then wrote a quick handwritten note inside, thanking the various neighbors for ‘beautifying the neighborhood’. Scott and I drove the same route, collecting their mailing addresses. I stamped a Paper Source ‘HELLO’ onto the back flap (Paper Source is my favorite stamp maker and I adore their large-flap envelopes) and voila’!, a quick little note thanking our neighbors for their hard work.

Everyone likes for their hard work to be noticed. And can you imagine receiving a card in the mail with a picture of YOUR yard on the front?!

It was such a simple way to lightly introduce ourselves to some of our neighbors – and to do it in a way that makes them feel appreciated.

This process could easily be done with neighbors you already know. I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t want an unexpected pat on the back! Planning and executing a yard design is challenging and expensive and takes a great deal of patience and a bit of trial and error. I appreciate the time they put into making a beautiful spot of land.

And when you reeeeeeally want to say you care? Don’t forget the washi tape! 🙂

a rainy afternoon

I would love for the following pictures to look as if it was a reading and plant-playing kind of day, but in reality – it was a little nuts.

Our VERY indoor-only cat decided a group of young squirrels was just too much for her to tolerate, and dashed outside as I opened the door to go repot a new plant I’d just bought. She never shows any interest in going outside so we rarely pay much attention to our comings and goings. But today – she was feeling all sorts of courageous and out she went. Long story, short – she eventually made her way back home, cowering and dashing straight underneath the sofa.

All of this while my husband was at the dentist’s office getting a root canal. So you know – just a typical nutso day in the life. Just like everyone has. (Lesson: don’t be fooled by the pictures!)

I did eventually land in this chair for some female spy reading. So that’s always a good way to end a day!

Meanwhile, here are a few new plants to play nicely with the books. This Maranta leuconeura (prayer plant) is finding a nice spot in the afternoon sun in my reading corner. She seems to be a bit of a slacker, however, because she doesn’t do a lot of praying. Or at least unlike other prayer plant varieties I have had – she doesn’t close up as much as they did in the evenings.

That’s okay. I like having a bit of a rebel around.

One thing I’ve learned about prayer plants is that they are very picky about their water (a trait they share with their owner!) The fluoride in tap water can turn their leaf tips brown. I have a process now where I fill up some jugs of water a day or two ahead of my usual watering schedule to let it air out for a number of hours. A lot of the additives they put into tap water will evaporate out before I water my plants. It’s an extra step – but those beautiful leaves are well worth it!

I worried I’d lost my purple oxalis (shamrock plant) during our move to California. It was doing so well, then it started ‘dying back’ after we moved here. I tried her in a few different light situations, but nothing seemed to help. (Not even my ‘This is Your Last Chance’ speech I gave her.)

But about a month ago she started putting out new sprouts and is continuing to do so. She’s on the rebound from her dormant stage – something they go through every couple of years. She’s a good lesson on not giving up on people. (or plants!)

And how about this cutie?! She is a Sweetheart Valentine Waxplant (a Hoya kerri). I bought her online and hope she grows long and proud. I can’t wait to see where she first sprouts her next ‘heart’ leaf! I think she’ll also make a dramatic ‘before and after’ picture eventually. Send me all the hearts, I say!

And another cute little succulent I just couldn’t refuse. Worse than ‘that doggy in the window’ – all a succulent has to do is look plump and green and oh-so-tiny and I’m a sucker at their mercy.

I posted this new Pilea glauca the other day on my Instagram account. Her leaves are so delicate. Look cross-eyed at her and she’ll just start dropping leaves. But she’s thick and leggy and ready to do some major spilling this summer!

A Rubber Tree (Ficus elastica) and a ruffled leaf Philodendron selloum – always holding up the veteran army of houseplants around here.

What new plants or flowers have you acquired this spring? They make beautiful decor accents – but in reality, are living, breathing things – surrounding us with all the love and oxygen they can put out. Just the kind of roommates I enjoy. And never – not even once – have they tried to dash outside when I open up the door!

PLACEMAKER by Christie Purifoy

I am currently reading this beautiful book by Christie Purifoy, Placemaker: Cultivating Places of Comfort, Beauty and Peace. The book releases in mid-March 2019 and will be a soothing balm for our overly-stressed, multi-tasking souls.

Placemakers is for the home lover. The outdoor admirer. The family gatherer. The story collector. For the past decade I have felt very strongly that one of my biggest roles in life is to create a welcoming home. My regret? That I didn’t embrace this role stronger when my children were young. Perhaps that is a natural occurrence for many of you as well. When your babies are young, there is so much clutter and lack of sleep. As they mature, there seems to be nothing but running and doing. Concerts and sports events. Home tends to be a quick landing spot between the lines of your to do list.

But the older I get, the more I realize the respite that is home. It has been my passion to create a soothing and calm place for Scott to land after a 12-hour day at work. Even in writing that line I am aware of how genteel and old-fashioned it sounds. Perhaps even egotistical. I balk at the pollyanna nature of it, but I know in my heart that it is the mission I have been given. Does this sound anti-feminist? I certainly hope not as I stand here a proud feminist. We too often acquaint progressive women’s rights with doing and becoming. But the true essence of the movement is to create space where women can become anything they wish to become – which does not exclude the role of supporting and encouraging those we love. But it isn’t all done just for my family. Beauty and consistency makes my own soul feel calm and settled.

We plant seeds or saplings in neat rows. We prune limbs, and we tend the soil. We do not make the trees, but we make a place for them.

I did not have a word for the role I play until Purifoy so elegantly termed it: placemaker.

When I was first married and moving into our apartment (my first home ever away from my childhood home and college dorms), I found great pleasure in creating a homey home. I remember one of my friends came over for the first time and as she left she commented: “Your home doesn’t look like you just moved into it. It looks as if you’ve lived here for years.” I considered this a huge compliment – and still one of my favorites.

For friends and family to find a place that evokes feelings of warmth and welcome – that is my greatest joy. I am (…to a fault and the butt of many jokes…) constantly tweaking things around our home. And now, with the California weather, our backyard is merely an extension of our physical house. I am invigorated by dirt and the care of each plant and tree. I grieve when they die and I feel empowered when I can help to save them.

Making and tending good and beautiful places is not a dishonorable retreat. It is a holy pursuit. We were never meant merely to consume the gifts of creation. We were made to collaborate. We were made to participate. This book is an invitation to reconsider your own relationship to the ground beneath your feet and roof over your head.

I expected this book to be a pretty addition to our coffee table. How surprised I’ve been to find the girth of insight and encouragement I’ve found between its pages. A book that I could probably ‘whip out in a day’ has become a slow and methodical read – filled with underlined words and many pauses for reflection. And sometimes shouts of ‘YES!, that’s exactly how I feel!’

You can pre-order the book now. I strongly suggest you rush to your favorite book-selling site to grab one for yourself.

Meanwhile, I continue to read…

THE AMERICAN SPIRIT by David McCullough

I recently finished this collection of speeches by David McCullough.
His love for history is contagious and reignites my own B.A. in History. His many graduation commencement speeches are all laced with the plea for the graduates to continue to study history. Quoting American historian, Daniel Boorstin:

Trying to plan for the future without a sense of the past is like trying to plant cut flowers.

I have often been frustrated with the way history is taught in public schools. History is not a litany of facts and dates. History is merely a series of contiguous and interlacing stories. Beautiful stories of overcoming threatening odds and even stories of abject failure. But all the stories of history feed into the place and time that we find ourselves in today.

‘What is story?’, McCullough asks his crowd.
Essayist, E. M. Forster elaborates:
If I tell you the king died and then the queen died – that’s a sequence of events.
If I tell you the king died and then the queen died of grief – that’s a story.

In light of the contentious political scene today, I needed a reminder that the American spirit surpasses time and presidencies. I was taken aback, however, at this quote from Margaret Chase Smith, the senator who stood up to Joe McCarthy in the 1940/50’s:

“I speak as a Republican,” she said on that memorable day in the Senate. “I speak as a woman. I speak as a United States Senator. I speak as an American. I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the four horsemen of…fear, ignorance, bigotry and smear.”

In this book of speeches, McCullough pulls heavily from many of the excellent books he has written. I recognized many of the references. Of all the McCullough books I have read, his account of the life of John Adams is by far my favorite. McCullough made me fall in love with our second president and increased my admiration for his long-suffering wife, Abigail. Their love story is amazing to watch unfold through the pages of his biography.

The American Spirit will reignite your love for country, American history, and rhetoric. Or at least that was the effect it had on me…

Handwritten Recipes

I recently found some favored childhood recipes in my mother’s old recipe box. My mother died in 2010 and I have used her wooden recipe boxes as decorative reminders in my home. But flipping through her handwritten recipes – and many from her 4 other sisters – is like sitting down with her at the table and discussing the art of cooking. I am reminded once again of the importance of seeing the familiar handwriting of someone we have loved our entire lives. Touching these index cards is a physical connection to her. What a treasured gift.

I enjoyed reading this note from Mom’s next oldest sister, Peggy (and the only remaining sister.) Their love for fashion and fine things is not so unlike a letter between sisters today. And always – as southern women are want to do – the discussion and sharing of recipes.

A few simple favorites from my own childhood…

Del Marvelous Chicken

Del Marvelous Chicken
– Peggy Mervine

(‘Delmarva’ is a term commonly used in the East for the Delaware-Maryland-Virginia peninsula)

1 chicken cut up
1/4 lb butter
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 cups Rice Krispies

Dry chicken thoroughly, add salt and pepper to melted butter. Crush Rice Krispies on waxed paper. Dip chicken in seasoned mixture and then roll in crushed krispies.

Place chicken separately on tin foil-lined flat pan.

Cook at 350 degrees for one hour.

One of my favorite cousins, Max, loved his mother’s red velvet cake. Max was a little over a decade older than me and I thought he pretty much hung the moon. Anything he did, I wanted to do. Anything he loved, I wanted to love. He was tall and cool in the ’70’s. If you’ll notice on the lid of my mother’s recipe box, I wrote his name, as I was horrible about doing all over the house with whatever word or name I was feeling at the time. How my parents didn’t kill me on the spot, I’ll never know!

Red Velvet Cake

Red Velvet Cake
– Mary Scott

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup Crisco
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tablespoon cocoa
1/4 cup red food coloring (2 oz)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp soda
1 cup buttermilk

Cream sugar and Crisco. Add beaten eggs, food coloring and vanilla.

Sift dry ingredients 3 times and add alternately with buttermilk to sugar mixture.

Mix together and beat into batter the vinegar and soda.

Cook for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees.

I can almost smell this next recipe cooking away in my Mom Mom’s kitchen in Duncan, Oklahoma. To this day, the smell of boiling chicken sends me right back to that screen-door-slamming, fig-tree-alleyed, workshop-mesmerizing home on the corner with the big mimosa tree out front.

Chicken and Dumplings

Mom Mom’s Chicken and Dumplings
– Pearl Forshee, dated April 5, 1967

4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup shortening

Add enough hot water (approx 2 cups) (not boiling) to make a stiff dough.

On a floured board, work and roll out.

Thin cut in desired length.

Drop at once into slowly boiling chicken broth.

When all dumplings are in broth, lower fire and cook a few minutes longer.

You may add 2 eggs to stiffen batter if richer dumplings are desired.

Sidenote: That’s all the directions that were on the card. I would assume you have cooked a full chicken, deboned it and now place the chunked up meat into the chicken broth and noodle mixture.

Come to think of it – my birthday is coming up next week so I think I’ll put in a few childhood favorite requests with Scott for my birthday meal. Bonus: red velvet cake is his favorite cake. Speaking of which, I will be missing my yearly banana cake from my mother-in-law, Joanne, this year. (Unless she’s figured out how to package one up and send it from Kansas City.) She has lovingly made it for me every year for my birthday after I mentioned that my own mother made it for me every year. Banana cake with coffee-laced icing. DELISH!

Banana Bread Cake

Ms. Shaw’s Banana Bread Cake
Grandmother

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
4T buttermilk
1 tsp soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup butter
1 cup mashed bananas

Mix all together in mixer. (My mother usually doubled this recipe and made it a 3-tiered cake with icing in between the layers. Because, icing.)

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-60 minutes

Icing:
1 box (16 oz) powdered sugar
1 stick butter
cold, strong coffee – add a little at a time

Old Sac Town

 

We’ve heard many people around here talking about Old Sac Town – an area in Sacramento with historic museums and shopping. So yesterday, on Scott’s day off, we decided to go check it out. But first, coffee.

Scott picked out the coffeeshop from a google search.

I can’t imagine what drew him to this coffeeshop…… -ha!

It was a cute little coffeeshop. I mean – when you have drinks named the ‘Keith Richards’ or the ‘Kerouac’ – how could we go wrong?!

Old Sac Town was quaint, but I think our expectations were a little different so we ended up a little disappointed. But it’s always fun exploring together so we had fun.

The Tower Bridge in downtown Sacramento is a vertical lift bridge over the Sacramento River. It’s a striking part of the Sacramento skyline.

And how about staying in a hotel on the river??

It was interesting to see the old buildings along the riverfront.

The below picture: Scott thought it looked like a good juxtaposition. So when Scott throws around the word ‘juxtaposition’, you take the picture! 🙂

We expected cute antique shops, etc. When we lived in Omaha, we were true fans of Old Market which is a fantastic place to shop. Lots of variety and independent shops. Unfortunately though, Old Sac Town appeared to be a lot of tourist shops with souvenir-type gifts, t-shirts, and tchotkes.

Lots of restaurants and Sacramento tshirts. -ha.

But any time with Scott, is time laughing and having fun. So all’s good.

It’s fun being a naive tourist in your own new city. I take a lot of those pictures you take as you zoom by in the car and the images never turn out that great. You know those? Yeah. Those.

acs_0610

Right now in California, the flowering trees are truly gorgeous and getting ready to explode!

Look at all those buds ready to bloom. It makes me want to come back to this very spot in a few weeks. It must be an overwhelmingly beautiful tree.

It’s nice to see the foothills and mountains now that they are snow-capped. They mostly look like clouds in the distance. Occasionally you see cars driving around town, covered in snow and you know they’ve come down from the mountain area.

I’m not sure when I’m going to get used to seeing weed talked about so freely here in California – all legal.

It was a fun day doing a bit more exploring around our new state.

Presidents’ Day Cabinet

I don’t know about the President’s rotating cabinet, but I am so so so in love with my new China cabinet.

Have I mentioned my extreme love for Facebook Marketplace?! I have found so many treasures on that site – and am learning to be patient and wait for the good stuff.

A few days ago I saw this cabinet on FB and jumped at it. I *think* it matches my grandmother’s corner China cabinet that my parents have in their dining room. (And yes, I called my father and told him to put my name on a post-it note and attach it to the back of it!) -ha!

We went to pick it up this morning. The man who sold it to us did an AMAZING job of wrapping it up tightly. I am so very thankful for that (and have given him a high rating on Marketplace because of it.)

After cleaning and buffing it (I’ll talk more about that in a separate post), I began filling it with some odds and ends. I didn’t put all of my dishes in there because I wanted some variety. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been collecting transferware dishes this year so I put some of that inside as well.

Then I took the opportunity to snap some other pictures of our main living area. We are really enjoying this little California cottage. People have asked me before what my home decor style is and quite honestly, I don’t know. If there’s a mash-up of colonial/primitive/cottage/contemporary – then that’s it. 😀 We are constantly trying to simplify. In some corners we are okay. In others, not so much. It’s an ongoing process, right??

Walking in our front door you see this…

Here’s a quick walk through of the living room- dining room area…

Another thing –
I ordered some embroidered sheers for the dining room window but they are VERY MUCH on probation! I am ordering another pair to see if I like those better. For now, I’m calling these my RBG sheers since they look like her collars. -ha!!

Thanks for indulging me with a zillion pictures of our new baby (who, as it appears on the back, was born in 1951.)

Here’s to Presidents’ Day cabinets!!