Sunday, May 30, 2010

"I know not what course others may take . . .

. . . but, as for me, give me liberty or give me death." ~ Patrick Henry

And that's what Memorial Day is all about, isn't it? Remembering those who died for our liberty.

What began as a way to honor those who died in the Civil War is now a holiday to remember all the men and women who died in military service. And as this 1909 postcard shows us, flying the flag is the perfect way to acknowledge the holiday (and don't worry, the dress code is now a bit more relaxed . . . jackets, ties, and corsets are optional when raising the flag).

If you're interested in a more active way to mark the day, check for local parades or ceremonies or click here to find the closest National Cemetery holding a Memorial Day ceremony. And, however you choose to celebrate, I hope you have a great holiday!

Golden Gate Cemetery, San Bruno, California

Thursday, May 27, 2010

What's better than a vintage tablecloth with no holes or stains?

One with holes and stains, of course! I'm not talking about your Sunday-best antique damasks - because they are better without flaws. But, an everyday vintage cloth that has a few problems is wonderful - you needn't worry about ruining it by using it.

Over the years I've purchased many vintage cloths from antique shops and eBay and often select ones with small holes or stains, like the one above. The less-than-pristine condition makes them really affordable and I don't flinch when spills occur. It's quite liberating - throw it on the ground, eat messy outdoor foods . . . no problem. The funny thing is that lots of use has never added a stain or tear to any of these cloths, which leads my husband to think we should be this cavalier with new ones as well. This just goes to show you can sometimes live happily with someone who has a different world view . . .

As the summer is officially arriving this weekend, consider a picnic with some great food, friends or family, and an old tablecloth. We recently packed this rolling cooler and small bag and headed out for a leisurely lunch.

En route to our destination, we passed a lovely colonial church and graveyard and decided to stop there instead. Yes, we are those people - the ones who love old graveyards!

And this one dates to colonial times and even has a picnic table, which was much friendlier once it was covered with our old cloth!

We dined in breezy shade, with tombstones on one side (see the really old markers above!) and the lovely brick church on the other.

And a few pretty blooms mixed in here and there.

Now I'm in a picnic mood and hope to enjoy a few more before the weather gets really steamy! My little, holey cloth has been washed and is back in the trunk of the car - just in case we need it! And I'm off to look for a new, old cloth on eBay . . .

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Is This How You Imagined Shangri-La?

We all know Shangri-La is a fictional place*, yet it brings to mind a blissful, mysterious, locale. One man, however, had a more specific vision of Shangri-La and spent years turning that vision into reality.

The man was Henry L. Warren, a tobacco farmer from Prospect Hill, NC and the result of his vision can be enjoyed by travelers to this day. His Shangri-La was created from local stone and found objects and the 'town' grew to include 27 buildings - each featuring a unique design.

I first saw Shangri-La about twenty years ago and when a recent trip took me past it, I stopped to take photos to share with you. If you're ever traveling between Hillsborough, NC and Danville, VA you can stop and experience it for yourself!

You'll be amazed at Mr. Warren's ingenuity and dedication. He died in the late 1970s and, yet, his work lives on in this magical little town.

If you visit, don't miss the walkways embedded with arrowheads - hundreds of them, in varying patterns.

This quote from Sam Walter Foss' famous poem sums up this little Shangri-La . . . and I'd say Henry Warren embodied it!

*We're not counting Camp David, which was originally named Shangri-La by FDR

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dust Off Those Tap Shoes - Today's a Holiday!

That's right, all you Fred & Ginger wannabes - today is National Tap Dance Day! It's no coincidence that today is also the birthday of Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson who was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1878. Bojangles is often credited with changing the style of tap dancing - from a flat-footed shuffle to an on-the-toes precision. He's also remembered for coining the phrase "everything's copacetic" . . . which is probably how his audience felt while watching his performances!

As a girl I took tap and ballet lessons and have taken tap again as an adult. Luckily, I never had aspirations of being a professional (if you saw me dance, you'd know just how lucky!), but I still love to tap. Perhaps tap dancing will emerge again as a popular entertainment . . . there must be lots of movie-goers who would prefer to see a rousing Gene Kelly number over another teen-age haunted house flick.

So, who's your favorite tap dancer? How about your favorite dance movie? I can't really choose a favorite, but am especially fond of all the Fred & Ginger films. In honor of National Tap Dance Day - here's a great clip from Swing Time.

Happy Tapping~~~~~ shuffle, ball, change~~~~~~shuffle, ball, change~~~~~~~ remember, everything's copacetic when you're dancing!

Monday, May 24, 2010

On this day in 1819. . .

. . . a Queen was born. If you're not sure which Queen, here's a hint: a British Queen. That really narrows it down as the 19th century saw the same person on the throne from 1837 through the end of the century. Yes, the Queen in question is Victoria. She may be primarily remembered for two things - her long reign (63 years!) and her decades-long mourning for Prince Albert, but there's so much more to appreciate about Queen Victoria.

And while Hollywood isn't usually the first place to look for historical accuracy, I think you wouldn't go wrong starting with The Young Victoria and perhaps ending with Mrs. Brown. (Okay, I know there are questions about the accuracy of MB, but it's a great movie. If you're not convinced, here's another fact - it stars Judi Dench!) And The Young Victoria leads me to think of the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, who teamed up with Martin Scorsese to create the movie. I recently saw the Duchess of York at a fundraising luncheon and she spoke about the movie, primarily in the context of keeping dreams alive and working towards them - even if it takes 17 years before they come to fruition (as it did for the movie).

And on the subject of Sarah Ferguson, recent news stories aside, she is an engaging speaker. She was warm and funny and forthcoming about her mistakes without indulging in the usual tell-all. If you have an opportunity to see her, my advice is to go - you don't need to be a Royal Watcher to appreciate her message - or share her affection for Queen Victoria.

And if you're still not convinced about The Young Victoria, I have one more surprise up my sleeve. The screenplay was written by Julian Fellowes who wrote Gosford Park, which is one of my favorite movies. (Monarch of the Glen fans also know Fellowes for his portrayal of Kilwillie, famous for his Gentleman's Relish and deep pockets.)

So, my tribute to Queen Victoria has rambled quite a bit, proof that English teachers are right - you need an outline before writing. For a different sort of tribute that doesn't ramble at all, check out the special tea honoring Queen Victoria's birthday at Eastlake Victorian. You'll want to sit down and enjoy the fare . . .

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Rabbit Has a Charming Face, but . . .

The rabbit has a charming face,
Its private life is a disgrace.
I really dare not name to you
The awful things that rabbits do.

The Rabbit (1925), Anonymous

Isn't this a charming little poem? Although it's unclear to this modern reader how the rabbit disgraces himself, or herself, as the case may be. What comes promptly to mind, though, is the way rabbits hop around at dusk and nibble their way through the tastiest young leaves. Disgraceful! Did you know that rabbits eat up to one pound of greens each day?

What I'd like to find is a civilized rabbit like Br'er Rabbit or the White Rabbit - one dressed in formal wear who has more pressing issues than sneaking around mooching our plants.

What we actually have, though, is a pretty smart rabbit - one might even say he's no Dumb Bunny! This year he's only eating plants we don't want - like this volunteer violet. Do you have a problem with violets? They pop up in one little corner of our yard, both in the grass and in the beds - and even though some might not consider them a weed, they are a weed to me. (Doesn't that have a bit of a Godfather sound? Kind of like "you're dead to me", except that "you're a weed to me" isn't quite as ominous - or is it if you're the violet? If someone said that to you, would that make you shrink?)

So here's hoping our bunny sticks to the violets and hollyhocks (also volunteers, but that's an interesting story for another day)! This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship . . . and I might even re-write The Rabbit poem:

Our bunny has a charming face
He hops around with joy and grace.
You won't believe what he can do,
The weeds are gone when he is through.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sundials . . . !!

Remember the clocks made of flowers that we discussed earlier this week? Well, let's continue that theme with a brief chat about sundials. We all know a few basic sundial facts: sundials tell time using the sun, they're often seen in gardens, and they're a really old technology (in fact, Wikipedia tells us they've been used since 700BC). But, what I wanted to share is the work of an incredibly talented British dialist - David Harber.

I've been a fan of David Harber's amazing sundials, armillaries, and fountains since seeing his work in a garden magazine five or six years ago. Periodically I visit his website to drool over the sundials and see what fabulous new items he has created.

How lovely to be able to envision and make sundials and statuary that are so beautiful, traditional, and yet innovative? Perhaps in my next life I can be an artistic dialist like David Harber.

Or perhaps I will awake one morning to find one of these in my garden - perhaps an armillary like the one above that can be customized for an anniversary or other special occasion.

Or perhaps a moondial like the one below. I could sit beside it on summer nights and read appropriate books - for some reason The Hound of the Baskervilles comes to mind!

I hope you like David Harber's work as much as I do. These few photos are just the tip of the gnomon* so rush over to his website and prepare to be dazzled!

*The gnomon is the straight edge that creates the shadow

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Going Down the Wrong Path . . .

Wouldn't you love to be on this path - even if it turned out to be the wrong path? Well, tonight I'm on a different path and so must make this very brief. I started a new work project today which is great, but I underestimated how quickly it would gather steam . . . so hopefully a better post tomorrow when I have time to really chat about sun dials.

Until then, check out some other dreamy garden paths at Veranda (just because the magazine's gone doesn't mean we can't still enjoy it online!).

Monday, May 17, 2010

Does Your Garden Have a Clock?

Most gardens do not have clocks - in fact, that may be one of the best things about gardens. How can you relax and enjoy the flowers and butterflies and birds if you're watching the clock? But, alas, we aren't always at leisure to spend all day lollygagging, so if you're thinking of adding a timepiece to your garden to keep you on schedule, you'll find some inspiration below!

The most famous floral clock is likely the one in Geneva (above & below) - no surprise there, as Swiss watches are the best it follows that the best floral timepiece would also be Swiss. The plantings are routinely changed as these photos show. I love the varying heights and the giant hands. The second hand is the largest in the world at 2.5 meters (for the metrically-impaired, like myself, that's over 8 feet)!

Melbourne, Australia also boasts a stunning floral clock in the Queen Victoria Gardens. Interestingly, the clock was donated to the city by a group of Swiss watchmakers in 1966.

The floral clock in Canada's Niagara Parks is (according to the Park website) photographed almost as often as the Falls! Plantings are changed twice a year and the background design is altered as well.

Finally, if you're interested in growing your own clock, the Missouri Botanical Garden gives you an inside look at how theirs was created.

I love the plants on the hands. Check out their Behind the Scenes site for step-by-step photos.

If an 8-12' clock doesn't fit into your garden plans, stop by tomorrow and we'll look at some fabulous sun dials! I'm off to wind my watch . . .

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Grasshopper Dreams of the Wright House

Remember the fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper? Well, this weekend I was the grasshopper! We've just returned from a weekend away; it was one of those spur-of-the-moment trips that was really fun, but because we had not planned ahead there are now lots of things to do to prepare for the week ahead. Meanwhile, those of you who didn't play all weekend are ready for Monday and will start the week rested, with an empty laundry basket and a full larder. Oh well . . . spontaneity often has a price and tomorrow I'll tell you if this weekend was worth the price!

The next time you decide to take a mini-holiday you might consider getting away to an architectural masterpiece. The May issue of Town & Country has an article about the Frank Lloyd Wright homes that are now open for overnight guests. Here are some highlights:

The Seth Peterson Cottage (above) is a dreamy Wright creation that overlooks Mirror Lake in Wisconsin. For around $300 per night, the whole 880 sq. ft. house can be yours. The house is also open for tours and special events. The Palmer House in Ann Arbor (below) is much larger and sleeps six. It can be rented from $400 per night or by the week (this includes the separate Tea House!).

Imagine spending a cozy Saturday with friends in the room above. And, you're not limited to these two, check out these Frank Lloyd Wright rentals as well:

The Bernard Schwartz House in Two Rivers, WI
The Penfield House in Willoughby Hills, OH

I'm off to unpack and dream of the Seth Peterson Cottage on Mirror Lake - I just hope my dream doesn't include pesky, hard-working ants . . .

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Care to Join Me in Celebrating National Etiquette Week?

That's right, this is National Etiquette Week . . . and, yes, there apparently is a week for everything! In addition to being National Better Hearing & Speech Month and National Salad Month and National Salsa Month (I guess that's a double celebration if you're having a taco salad), May also includes the following week-long celebrations (this list is far from inclusive):
  • Bread Pudding Recipe Exchange Week (which proves fact is stranger than fiction)
  • National Wildflower Week
  • Salute to Mom's 35+ Week (I'm guessing only young looking 45ish moms participate in this)
  • National Safe Boating Week
  • Nursing / Tourism / Stay at Home Moms / Drinking Water / International Whistler's / etc. Week!
So, I have mixed feelings about National Etiquette Week because there are so many 'weeks' that there is little significance. And, mainly, having a designated week implies that etiquette will not be in the forefront of our lives the remaining 51 weeks. And what should one do if N.E.W. overlaps a special daily celebration? For instance, did you celebrate Robert's Rules of Order Day May 3 - I think that should fall during N.E.W. - after all Robert is all about politeness.

However, since this is the official week to celebrate Etiquette (that's right, with a capital E), I wanted to share a few thoughts. My etiquette credentials are from the Emily Post Institute and I have a soft spot for Emily. Although she passed away more than 40 years ago, her work lives on. Today the Emily Post Institute authors etiquette guides for children, adults, weddings, golf, and other aspects of modern life and you will breeze through every situation politely with the standard, blue etiquette book (now in its 17th edition . . . which says it all).

I love the poster below; it's a London Underground message from 1918 and really captures the essence of etiquette with the last sentence and the word selfish. It's so simple - etiquette is not being selfish. Putting the feelings or needs of others before your own - common courtesies sometimes, bigger sacrifices other times. Regardless, the message hasn't changed - don't be selfish!
I like these transport posters because being in crowded public spaces often brings out the rudester in us all . . . as this 1944 poster reveals:

And there's something oddly reassuring when you discover that rude behavior isn't new - rude people are like the poor, always with us. The goal for us, therefore, is to rise above the unmannered fray and keep our polite cool in even the most trying times!

So that's my message about etiquette this week. You all know the rules and we can talk about nuances another day. For now, enjoy these etiquette words of wisdom from the witty, pithy, clever Miss Manners.

Accepting discomfort cheerfully is the basic rule of picnic behavior. If one is unalterably opposed to being bitten, sunburnt, and having sand mixed with one's food, one should not go picnicking.

In response to a query regarding the proper way to address wedding gifts:
The custom is to address all prewedding presents to the bride-to-be, and those sent after the marriage to the couple. Nowadays some people may take offense at this, as a sign of inequality. Nowadays some people will take offense at anything. However, sending people presents goes a long way toward mitigating any offense.

People who boast that they "never apologize, never explain" or who claim that "love is never having to say you're sorry" ought to be ashamed of themselves and admit it and ask forgiveness.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Achoo! Why is my blog post so brief today?

No, it's not a cold . . . but I did sneeze over and over again today. Here's a hint at how I whiled away ten hours:

Cleaning the porches! If you live in an area without large amounts of pollen, this may not seem like an all day job. But, by mid-May our porches are covered with the sticky, dirty, grayish-yellow menace and the best way we've found to remove it is to clear everything off and mop the floors, then hose and scrub all the furniture . . . and boy is it a job!

Half the furniture is from the upstairs porch and my husband devised a great method for lowering it down with ropes. So that's a big chore for him, but when everything is clean it's really fun to watch the rockers and sofa rise to the second story. And that's just what I'm going to do myself - I'm clean and I'm going up to bed while I can still move!

Stop by tomorrow for a little etiquette chat . . .


It has become that time of evening when people sit on their porches, rocking gently and talking gently and watching the street and the standing up into their sphere of possession of the trees, of bird hung havens, hangars. - James Agee, A Death in the Family
Related Posts with Thumbnails