Thursday, July 30, 2009

Puffy Eyes

We have a ritual that if after our night time story, the children still have trouble falling asleep, I sing lullabies to them. Wren often chooses the songs in a small whisper, and more often than not, Puff the Magic Dragon is close to the top of the list. I grew up with this song sung by Peter, Paul, and Mary. I had it on a 33 and played it till I knew the lyrics by heart. Still, some thirty years later, it still chokes me up. It used to be that I could get all the way to the part where Jackie Paper grows up without my voice catching. But now that I have had Dane, it takes a lot less time to falter my voice. Wren loves this song so much. On some level, she understands it to be a right of passage. She knows that it is both happy and sad and wonders at how singing a song can make her Mama tear up so easily. Still, I sing it whenever she asks. But it always leaves me feeling a bit sad, especially now that I have my own Jackie Paper. If you haven't heard the song in a while, or perhaps never heard it the whole way through, here it is in written form. Sing it with someone you love.
"Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called honah lee,
Little Jackie Paper loved that rascal puff,
And brought him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff.
Oh Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called honah lee,
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called honah lee.
Together they would travel on a boat with billowed sail
Jackie kept a lookout perched on puffs gigantic tail,
Noble kings and princes would bow wheneer they came,
Pirate ships would lower their flag when Puff roared out his name.
Oh! Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called honah lee,
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called honah lee.
A dragon lives forever but not so little boys
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys.
One grey night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more
And Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.
His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain,
Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane.
Without his life-long friend, Puff could not be brave,
So Puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave.
Oh! Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called honah lee,
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called honah lee."
I have often thought about writing another happier verse to end this song, but it some ways it would miss the whole point of the song, wouldn't it? Our little ones grow up before our very eyes and this is what the songs authors, Leonard Lipton and Peter Yarrow, beg us not to miss. But... it is still so difficult to leave Puff in that cave all alone. I always hope another little boy comes along.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Rescue Remedy


It's difficult to pass up a deal, more like a steal, when you are around furniture so often. We receive all kinds of calls about antiques restoration and end up going on a lot of "go-sees" to see if we can be of help. Often times, we are able to pick up things at good prices while we're out and about on these calls, and sometimes the odd item just leaps into our truck from the curb. These little chairs we picked up in Florida for a song. But someone had done that ever popular late eighties silk stripe dining fabric upholstery and it had been sitting there ever since. The seats were in pretty bad shape, and at first glance so were the wood finishes. But often times, all it takes is a gentle cleaning and wax to bring back the luster. It goes without saying, never refinish a piece that you do not know the value of. If it's old and/ or rare you will plummet the value by taking away the old finish. This presents a problem when you really wish to have a painted finish or different stain, but it really is best to leave well enough alone when it comes to woods. My husband is called in for repairs, great and small, and all the work is done with care to add value, not take it away.

These chairs just needed a good cleaning and simple Williamsville wax. I shed the old fabric, replacing it with a more homespun look to match our Saltbox style house in creams, eggplants, and reds. This is in part my summer education of soft restoration. I am diligently learning the trade of seat upholstery, wing chair upholstery, couch upholstery, shaker tape seating, and rush work- God help me on the last.
My Father in Law is a wonderful craftsman and at one time a skilled rush worker. It is like a bicycle, he can still do it, but he says it takes a great deal of painstaking time.

Here are the old and new versions side by side right before I get ready to tear into the second chair. These will go happily in our dining room as extra seating right next to our Windsors. I like things to compliment each other and a house put together over time never matches exactly. Next I am tackling a set of four ladder back chairs that have been in our family for ages. Their old torn rush seats are being replaced with Shaker fabric taping in evergreen hues. I cannot wait for them to come back into everyday use.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Close to the Clouds

For me, this place of intimate knowledge has been the area around Park City, Utah. For some years before I had children, I had the privilege of traveling into Salt Lake City in the Spring and again in the late Summer. I cannot say which is my favorite time of year- it is impossible to choose. I love traveling there alone, and I love sharing its infinite beauty with others close to me. My last trip there was special as I was three months pregnant with Wren, and figured it would be one of my last visits for a while. All the different times spent there blend into one long wonderful memory and it is sometimes a challenge to separate the visits into neat little chapters. Places you love do that to you...they increase your good feelings to such a height that it is almost as if you spend your time there in some sort of emotional nirvana. I would rush to the airport at the earliest flight time catching the plane at an hour before which I was usually ever awake just to make it into town by lunchtime. Once in that plane seat it was like my mind completely renewed itself because it knew what lay in wait. I stayed at the same little inexpensive inn every time I went. I adored the owners and it was right in the city of Salt Lake seated neatly below the university. I would fall into bed exhausted there and rise with an urge to run out the door and do it all over again. Most times coming off the plane I would pick up a four wheel drive vehicle and head straight out to Park City not bothering to even drop off my bags at the hotel. My usual lunch spot was always the same that first day- Main Street Pizza and Noodle for their bow tie pasta in a vegetable cream sauce. It was just the thing to energize a quick stroll through town and not heavy enough to prevent my indulgence in the most enormous caramel apple you ever laid eyes upon. A huge copper cauldron of hot liquid aroma lures you in from the sidewalk at the RMCF (Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory) in front of Dolly's Bookstore. Apple in hand, the stroll down Main Street is just that much sweeter. The altitude can get to you on the first day off the plane, especially when coming from sea level. I always try to get a good nights sleep and return to Park City the next day to meet up with a guide at Red Pine Adventures. There is no better way to explore the area around the Canyons than on the back of a large but gentle horse.

There are numerous footpaths that run along the mountain sides right in Park City. I developed an intense love for Utah's wildflowers along these paths and would often walk them until the sun began to fade away. Indian Blanket Flower, Columbine, Lupine, Indian Paintbrush, and Stone crop dance like an impossibly intricate Impressionist painting everywhere the eye falls. A quick jaunt up Main Street and out of town brings you to Guardsman Pass. Breathtakingly beautiful, it delivers you right up into the clouds. If you have a good vehicle this road will take you all the way out to Brighton and Big Cottonwood Canyon. Then just a few miles outside of Brighton is a little shining jewel. I never could pass Silver Fork Lodge without stopping in for a meal. Small in size but large in ambience, Silver Fork Lodge is a place frequented by true Alpine Lovers. It is a bit of the old Utah prior to the mayhem of the Olympics and the serious obnoctiousness that has become the Film Festival. Both Big Cottonwood and Little Cottonwood Canyons offer unbelievable scenery and the chance to hike, boulder, and climb your way into physical exhaustion...the good kind. Keeping the windows down allows you to hear the rushing of the snowmelt in the creeks, and provides the opportunity to stop and watch the dance of a flyfisherman casting his line above the sparkling water surface.

My permanent choice of staying at the City Creek Inn was made after the first time I checked in. It lies at the heart of everything. One route leads out of town and toward Park City, another leads into that heavenly drive along the Cottonwood Canyons, and yet another leads to the impossibly beautiful Sundance Resort owned by Robert Redford. It is possible to travel to Sundance along two routes, one being the highway which takes you past amazingly high waterfalls and a lazy floating river. The other, and it is a bit of a secret, is to travel the back route in summer via the Timpanogos Cave winding road. You will be stopped at a certain point well into the route and it is extremely important to tell the Ranger that you are just passing through. Otherwise they politely tell you to turn around. It is an incredibly remote road which is closed at first snowfall until well past Spring, and passes right through a private camp before landing you on the entry into Sundance. Sundance in the summertime is a marvel, and far too beautiful to put into words. Lunch at The Foundry is a perfect way to ease into the day. Wood fired pizza can be devoured and the extra wrapped up neatly in your knapsack. The chair lift will take you to the top of the mountain, but I much prefer to hike it along Stewart's Falls and into the valley of Mount Timpanogos. This valley is remote in every sense of the word and I fully expect to come nose to nose with an ambling black bear here someday. The valley leads into a thickly forested area along a winding path, from which if you know what to look for, you may catch a glimpse here and there of Mr. Redford's main house. I think he is fully aware hat he has landed in heaven a bit early. From here, you can catch the chair lift down or simply follow in the well worn paths of the mountain bikes. I have not been as lucky as my friends whom I have sent to Sundance, who on their first day were served ice cream from the Sundance Kid himself and asked to join him at his table for dinner. Their German heritage was a plus as Mr. Redford's wife is of German descent, and he was grappling to learn her language. I have to say this made a huge impression on my friends who on the same trip bought an alpine house up the road from Sundance. I think he, and the place, have this effect on people.

I have hiked areas in the Wasatch Mountains that make you feel like you may just be the last living person on Earth. You may see and near no one, or you may come around the bend and find yourself in the company of a Mama moose and her little one. I met these two way up in the mountains above Jordanelle Reservoir. I had heard of the dangers of moose, but this one seemed unfazed to share the trail with us. Nevertheless, I gave her a lot of space. Each trip into the wilds here demands that you prepare to be there for days, even if your intention is a few hours. Weather here in the mountains can change on a dime leaving you stranded in a pair of shorts at freezing temperatures if not careful. It is this volatility that makes the area so rugged and awe inspiring. It is also one of the main reasons I will wait until my little ones are a little older to return to my beloved Utah. I once foolishly asked a Ranger if there were accidents with children along these impossibly steep and high altitude footpaths. Only a few times came the reply, but that was enough for me.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Mid Summer

And while it can be overwhelming to take it all in, because I know not all of it will ever really get finished, it is hard to be disatisfied with the beauty that is everywhere I glance. There is quite a bit of painting to do on garden accessories that have been weathered and worn, but then it occurs to me that their patinas really look quite nice. To the back of the list it goes. I notice a furry bee climbing about the metal bees on the red wood heart. How appropriate, a bee house in a bee.

The Gay feather has opened in its characteristic top to bottom fashion and its cheery purple flowers are keeping the sandbox company. At their feet is the fuzzy Lamb's Ears that the children love so much to touch. Children of yesteryear used the soft leaves as bandages on scrapes and cuts. Wren tries to convince me to try this each time we need a bandage.

The Day Lillies are still putting on their spectacular show, though their gardens need weeded yet again. We manage to pop off the wrinkled blooms as we come and go sending them back to the soil to provide nutrients for next years blooms. I notice the fishing net in the rocks of the drive and think of the three eager faces peering out from the glass in Wren's aquarium. We "borrowed" them from the pond after returning our last critter to the water. We will miss him, as he was a large snail, and did a superb job of keeping that aquarium crystal clear. I believe our new friends are tiny baby bluegill. They'll visit for a few weeks and go back home to grow as large as their friends.

White Zinnias have bloomed in a sky blue crackled pot. More are coming into bloom and I am hoping to see that beautiful shade of chartreuse that only a Zinnia can conjure up. Huge dinner plate sized Dahlia's are reaching for the clouds behind them nestled in the tall green grasses. The day we see their flower buds will be an exciting day.

Purple Cone flowers that were planted after the deer ate so many of the seedlings are coming into flower all along the path to the herb garden off the southwest corner of the house. The little seedlings that were not eaten are still so small. Perhaps they are putting down roots and we might see this display multiply greatly next year. The first blooms were those huge cones that measure two to three inches up in dome shapes with their pale purple petals pointing slightly downward. The sight of these always makes me think of Thumper in Bambi. Our own little Bambis are enjoying the green beans and carrot tops in the garden. There are lots and lots of deer this year after many months of hardly seeing any at all. Their shy manners and coy stares make everything here in the land seem in balance once again.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Birthday Dreaming

and our baby will be four. This time last year we were so busy preparing for Wren's third birthday party. We had a Winnie-the-Pooh party and there had been so much to do. I really cannot imagine doing something like this every year because of the time required to prepare, but we had so much fun that I know we will do it again in the near future. We kept the party smallish, having about eight children and their families. Each child- and this was really the fun part- received a hand embroidered Rabbit with his or her name and a hand embroidered little tee shirt with one of the Hundred Acre Wood characters. We had found iron on tee shirt decals in pastels and cute little Winnie the Pooh material gift bags to hold them. The Rabbits have adorned our Easter baskets since the birthday.

Wren and I made the pinata in the design of a honey bee after some trial and error and literally stuffed it full of candies for the big day. We painted the bee, and also a large tag board of Eeyore for a Pin the Tail game. Little braided tails were made out of knitting yarn and tied with red bows just like in the Pooh stories. Kids drew Pooh sticks to see who would go first. Eight children ranging in age from one to six were hilariously funny to watch during the games and most were played in some fashion other than what was planned which made it all the more humorous. Kids also took home a handmade coloring book with all the Pooh characters to remember the day. We had stacked up quite a few Winnie the Pooh items from the bargain stores and I was amazed at the prize bags that each child was able to take home. It had hardly cost anything at all to put those together and yet the children had so much fun with them.

Wren wore a vintage 1970's Sears Winnie the Pooh dress that was nearly identical to one I had as a child. She still calls it her Pooh Party Dress.

The cupcakes were lemon and chocolate flavored with lemon drop bees atop. A super chocolaty cake was served for the adults and the recipe came from the Pooh Party Book which was published in the 70's. The ingredient list was downright scary with cocoa, chocolate syrup, and chocolate bars but it all seemed to bake right into one of the most moist cakes I have ever eaten.

An over sized Winnie the Pooh was at the helm of the sweets table. Winnie's signature red balloons were throughout the house and a vintage child's Pooh bed sheet made a wonderful table covering.
We spent a lot of that glorious day outdoors eating chicken salad croissants and potato salad. The sounds of the children laughing that day is something I will always remember. This year we are taking Wren someplace special for the day. It will be her choice- the zoo, aquarium, museum- in either Cincy, Columbus, or Indy- the city is also up to her. I just cannot believe she will be four in one month. How time flies when it is spent with such special little people.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Home Away from Home

Sometimes it is a difficult thing to go back to the places of your childhood. Decades pass and things change... it is inevitable. One of my best childhood friends had a campsite at Sandy Pines in Michigan. She would take turns taking all of her friends up there on summer vacation, though I have to say I went a lot. I may have had more than my fair share of turns, and boy, I am grateful. Sandy Pines is etched in my memory for so many reasons. Back then, in the late 1970's, Sandy Pines was a place of dirt roads, limited electric use, and small campers. Sure, there were those members sporting double slide outs on their motor homes and they seemed to be camping in expansive luxury. But back then most of us were sleeping in campers that were designed for people who really liked each other. Once you arrived at your campsite after driving what seemed like days, the car pretty much stayed put. We walked a lot more back then- miles even along those dirt roads that were more like sheltered paths under green canopies. If we were lucky, we got the golf cart. This was like being allowed to drive the family car without a license! Our site was on the far end of the resort. We had the best of both worlds because we had the outdoor pool, the huge dangerous hill that was a thrill to race down with the golf cart rattling the whole way, and- and this is a big one- that wonderful feeling that you had to take some huge adventure if you needed to do the slightest thing like run for marshmallows after nine pm. It meant one heck of a long scary golf cart ride clear to the other side of the resort where the general store and gas station were. We volunteered to run every single errand back then. My favorite part of that long trip to the other side occurred as we shot out of the woods and into a clearing that jogged around Lake Monterrey. Light played off the surface of the water, and the road here was always a little more sand than dirt which made it appear oddly pink as the sun went down. The little chapel stood on the shore here and it was always so peaceful. Life was so incredibly simple on these days at Sandy Pines. Breakfast was eaten on the run, lunches were often hot dogs or grilled hamburgers eaten on those few minutes out of the pool or lake, and dinners- well, this was a whole other story. My friend's Dad was one heck of a cook. I marveled at these dinners made in this tiny trailer by this huge man who looked every bit the part of Yule Brenner in The King and I. I tasted foods on those trips that have become some of my favorite foods today as an adult. Back then I suffered my way through it but I knew on some level that someday I would appreciate these strange things that showed up on my plate. At night we would unroll what seemed like fifty pounds of sleeping bag that had belonged to my friend's older brothers when they were Scouts. Bless those poor souls for having to hike with those bags because they had to have weighed in as much as the kids. Those bags were Army green cotton with flannel plaid linings. We'd get in them and pray for rain. There was nothing like going to sleep with the sound of rain hitting a metal roof just inches over your dry head. Those sleeping bags smelled musty and I can sense it just sitting here writing about them. Our prayers for rain were often answered and I am sure that is mostly to blame. "Yule" was a loud snoring sleeper and having to get up and go to the bathroom at night was a terrifying experience. You had to navigate your way to the end of the camper through a path that couldn't have been more than ten inches wide. Getting past the snoring gentle giant in the complete dark was scary indeed. No matter what you did in that camper it was so easy to wake people up, and I knew if that snoring stopped I had interrupted some one's nice deep slumber. What fun those days were. We were so young and carefree. Bug bitten and sun burnt and so happy. My friends parents are now gone as is the campsite. But life is odd, truly. One of my favorite aunts decided to get a summer place in Michigan a few years back. We had talked about all the work they were putting into their place and how much they were enjoying their summers. What I didn't know until later was that my aunt was spending her summers at my childhood haunt. It is her place now. So much has changed. Paved roads, lots of entertainment, and even condos were built. But I am sure the essence remains the same. She has asked me up for a visit and I cannot wait for her to show me around. My Sandy Pines is gone, but hers is very much alive. And like good family genes, her present Sandy Pines will have enough of the old Sandy Pines to stir up all of those old childhood memories that I hold so dear. To you Floyd, Ruth, and Kristina- thank you for all those days in the sun.

Note: The above painting by Paul Turner Sargent captures the Sandy Pines of yesterday with amazing clarity.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

One Beauty Finds Another

"What's that?" she whispered. I gasped too. It was beautiful, almost too pretty to be real. With a wingspan of over 4 inches across I thought it was a paper toy at first. Then it fluttered. Oh no, had I caught it in the door? I quickly bent down and looked the critter over for injuries, and luckily found none. But it seemed disoriented and unsure of where to go. It seems as if it had spent the night lodged between the door and the screen and was working out some wing cramps. We marveled at the colors and patterns at play on the wings and the fuzzy orangeness of its large body. As I snapped a photograph it suddenly took flight. What was it? I felt sure it was a moth. A quick reference check turned up that our critter was a Tulip Tree Silk Moth. The markings were unmistakable. Ours seemed to be a male. They search out females in the evening hours in order to mate. What a treat it was to be able to see one of these creatures up close. I imagine he is off looking for females somewhere and trying to find a less dangerous place to recuperate after another amorous evening!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Lily Love


For the past few years it seemed like the only lilies we had were the common orange day lily found along every roadside here in the Ohio River Valley. We had a yellow peek through here and there- that was until the whole clump of yellows was accidentally hit with a golf cart last year. Whether it is some blessing in the weather this year, or some unknown garden tonic bestowed by fairies in the night, we cannot for our lives figure out where all these colorful lilies have come from. What was once an orange display of beauty is all of a sudden a rainbow of different shades of reds, yellows, whites, pinks, and oranges. It is simply amazing.

The name day lily implies that the flower only lasts a day, and despite having read this on numerous occasions, I can say with certainty that the flowers last much longer.

The colors are endless in how they combine. This one with its creamy petals and maroon center tinged with chartreuse is a favorite.

This was our more common color, and still the orange variety is our most prolific.

A buttery yellow specimen.

This one is magic, such a deep maroon that it nearly appears black.

Whatever has happened with the lilies this year, we hope it continues. It is wonderful to come and go along the walkway and see such a wide array of flowers. I think I'll just go on letting Wren think it was the fairies. Who knows, maybe it was.