Friday, September 27, 2013


Richardson Wright, editor-in-chief of House & Garden from 1914 to 1946, wrote this:

"Here is a nice word that collectors will enjoy--Serendipity. It was coined by Horace Walpole out of the fairy tale, 'The Three Princes of Serendip,' the heroes of which were always making discoveries by accident. And that is its meaning--the faculty of making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident. When you wander into an antique shop in search of a pewter candlestick and find a unique piece of Irish glass for next to nothing, you are blessed with Serendipity."

I felt blessed with Serendipity one day last spring when R.H. and I had an hour to spare before going to a birthday party in a town near us and dropped into the local Goodwill. On the bottom shelf in the dish section, pushed to the back, were two stacks of luncheon plates taped together.

I loved the hand painted look of them and put them in our basket after turning one stack over to look at the back. It read "Martres" and "France" and were 50 cents apiece!

Once home I searched online and found only two like them, in Belgium for about $14 each. Not exactly diamonds and rubies but nevertheless, it was Serendipity.

I almost felt like Serendipity had blessed me again when I went outside to look for something to make a centerpiece for the table and found these few blossoms on one side of the hydrangea bush, the other side turned brown.

And old-fashioned bouquet for an old square blue Mason jar.

These plates were just right for chicken salad. The well loved and much missed novelist, Laurie Colwin, wrote: "Chicken salad has a certain glamour about it. Like the little black dress it is chic and adaptable and can be taken anywhere. You can dress it down and feed it to a child, or dress it up and serve it at a dinner party. You can accessorize it in an interesting way and astonish your friends at lunch."

Everyone has a favorite recipe for chicken salad. I started with the Barefoot Contessa's recipe and then changed it to include green apple slivers after tasting the delicious chicken salad at the Storie Street Grille in Blowing Rock, North Carolina [here].

I also made one of my favorite soups from Lee Bailey's Soup Meals with leeks, celery, onions and shallots. If you love soups you won't go wrong looking for Mr. Bailey's soup cookbook on used book sites. The recipe for Carrot-Dill Soup I made last winter [here] is also in this book.

Since I can't go to Serendipity in New York for this (at $25,000.00)....

I will go to Goodwill and hope for Serendipity. Where have you found Serendipity?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Happy Anniversary!

Our whole family was thrilled the day we got the news

 that our son Defee had proposed to Wallace.

It was a blessed day for all of us when we waited along with Defee...

for this beautiful young woman...

to become his bride...

Happy Anniversary Defee and Wallace!

And many, many more!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Suppose he'd listened to the erudite committee,
He would have only found where not to look;
Suppose his terrier when he whistled had obeyed,
It would not have unearthed the buried city;
Suppose he had dismissed the careless maid,
The cryptogram would not have fluttered from the book.

W. H. Auden
"The Quest" IV

Suppose I had done this, suppose I had done that? Sometimes the Suppose Game causes us to give thanks, as Auden did, for something good that happened, whereas taking another action might have ended in catastrophe. But the other kind of the supposes that refer to the past where you berate yourself for what you did, or someone else for what they did, well,  it can drive you nuts, can't it? 

Suppose instead that I ask myself, "Suppose I close my laptop by 8 p.m., as all insomnia experts advise?" "Suppose I actually get outside today instead of finding too much to do inside on this nice September day?" "Suppose I choose an apple instead of continuing to think about the dessert I'm craving but would not be good for me?" "Suppose I take half an hour today to read my Bible and pray for my children instead of blogging?"

So many supposes. Those where I look back over my shoulder as I walk forward today will surely trip me or at least slow me down. I should probably even be careful of the supposes that loom in the future--"Suppose I end up in a nursing home and turn as mean as a snake? How can I do that to my children?" Oh, the time I waste on these kind of supposes.

Suppose instead that I try to limit my supposes to today, this hour, this minute? Suppose I end this post and get up and do something that I can look at by day's end and say, "My, that looks nice! My, that was a delicious supper! My, the late rose bloom is pretty this year, and isn't our big Brown Eyes happy to have me outside walking with him?"

Suppose I do that. And suppose, if you're reading this, that you accept a small gift from me and do not spend another minute leaving a comment here today. Suppose instead that you do something you've been wanting to do. It's my gift to you, and anyway, there will be another post at Across the Way tomorrow where you can leave a Happy Anniversary wish to more of our big family. 

If you wish, that is.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Iron Mountain Pottery

This is a blatant attempt to sneak in a late summer post while it's still summer and use some of R.H.'s pretty pictures.

These sturdy green bowls are from the Iron Mountain Pottery in Laurel Bloomery, Tennessee. The pottery closed in 1992 but there is a blog that tells you all about it [here].

This green pattern is called Evergreen and hard to find today. We bought them on a trip to the Iron Mountains in 1985.

I use them often but never put them in the dishwasher. Here they were used for taco salad (no chips for me) when our daughter and son-in-law visited us Labor Day weekend.

Here's a picture of Christy and Bryan all spiffed up when they returned from a special luncheon celebrating their son Alex's engagement that weekend to his fiancé Melissa!

I found the tablecloth at Goodwill and naturally it called for sunflowers for the centerpiece.

The glasses are red Fenton. We have blue and green too, bought many decades ago. I've been told that true Fenton glasses stack where reproduction glasses don't. All I know is that they're pretty.

I used these Evergreen bowls again two weeks ago for a dinner of Oprah's Okra Shrimp Gumbo. (The shrimp was from Key West and delicious.)

I left off white rice and instead decided to indulge my craving for my favorite potato salad that is based on a recipe from the great Nathalie Dupree. 

This small yellow pyrex bowl of potato salad was supposed to be healthy, wasn't it? Lots of chopped celery and onions, sliced olives and organic eggs from a nice young couple down the street. All marinated in olive oil and apple cider vinegar overnight. Of course, I did add in some organic mayo with no sugar from Trader Joe's.

I gained back 4 pounds of the 11 I had lost. I must admit that this one little bowl was not all the potato salad I ate over the next three days. It's taken me another week to lose those 4 pounds so now I still have to lose another 4 pounds in order to be able to buy that lampshade for a 15 lb. loss reward.

You weren't able to read that, were you? Good.

All posts must come to an end so that's it today, folks. Sometimes you just have to be drippy, I mean sneaky.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Harvest Moon

The Harvest Moon

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

It is the harvest moon!

LueAnne Johnson on Pinterest

On gilded vanes and roofs of villages,

On woodland crests

And their aerial neighborhoods of nests deserted,

On the curtained window-panes of rooms where children sleep,

On country lanes

And harvest-fields,

Its mystic splendor rests!

justdanceandlaugh: By Country Magic 26. night night Tumbir

Gone are the birds that were our summer guests;

When the last sheaves

Return the laboring wains!

Sweet dreams during the Harvest Moon from Across the Way.....

Camilla Duran on Pinterest

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

"For All People"

In memory of the victims of the Navy Yard shootings and in remembrance of the hurting families left to mourn them:

For All People

by Jane Merchant

God bless and fortify them

God hear when they entreat,

The strong, courageous people

Too brave to own defeat.

And oh, God bless and help them,

God answer when they call,

The tired, defeated people

Who are not brave at all.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Small Price to Pay for Living

Have you ever plowed through a book telling yourself it had to get better, that there had to be some redeeming value in the characters? I don't do that often anymore as life is too short and there are too many good books out there waiting to be read for me to finish one that doesn't win me over near the beginning.

However, I recently rediscovered an author from my younger days, Taylor Caldwell, and began to read her again. When I was in my twenties I lost myself in her big books, such as Captains and the Kings, Dear and Glorious Physician, and Bright Flows the River.

Her books have such full character studies. You get everything there is to be had in her characters, flaws and strengths. I almost gave up on one recently, and it is not one I'd recommend unless you like to read about weirdly dysfunctional families. Come to think of it, isn't that what most best sellers are about today? If that's your cup of tea, look for an old copy of Taylor Caldwell's Let Love Come Last. Terrific title, isn't it? Not a lot of love here though, I'm afraid.

Why am I even writing about it? Because my reward for having completed the book did come at very nearly the end of the book. A son of these miserable parents breaks away in desperation and travels the world in search of some meaning in life. Finally he meets a monk I would love to know. It seems I'm destined always to fall in love with minor characters in books. He is an Italian monk though, wouldn't you know it! Listen to the gold nugget buried towards the end of this sad book:

The monk put his stained hands on his immense hips.
Slowly, again, he drank in the sight of the sky
and of the mountains and of the sea.

"The signore has told me of India,
and of the religion of the people who live there,
how they believe that life is inseparable from pain,
and therefore not desirable.
The Signore seemed to think this belief very wise.
I do not think it wise. I think it is illness.
True it is that life is inseparable from pain.
Even a child understands that.
But if so, of what importance is it?
Pain is a small price to pay for living.
A broken heart or a broken fortune is bearable 
so long as the eye can look upon the sun."

So many times I have read blogs of families whose finances were ruined in the economic crisis that burst upon our country in 2008. People who lost jobs and eventually their houses. People who are still struggling and may never make it back to that former level of financial security. And yet so many of them blog about their new lives, about trying to bring beauty into their homes through frugal creativity and ingenuity and hard work. Others write of facing a frightening illness, again. 

But each of these have gone on to life because life, after all, is such a gift, one that can end abruptly. To look at the sky each day, to see the sun come up and the seasons change, is that not bigger than almost anything? 

As we are just days away from the seasonal change that is lovely autumn, listen to the monk, dear ones! 

What is pain or worry, but a small price to pay for living? Look upon the sun!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

"Get Out of Dodge"

You've heard that expression often, I'm sure, and maybe even heard Marshall Dillon say it. I've muttered, "Time to get out of Dodge" a lot in the last month, only Dodge for me is not Dodge City, Kansas. Dodge is my kitchen, and there are times I have to get out of it and away from the refrigerator immediately. When I posted that I had been focusing on trying to improve my health [here], so many readers were supportive and followed up with encouraging emails. So I thought I would give you an update and tell you that I was indeed serious abou it and have stuck to this for one month now, not eating any desserts, white flour products, or pasta, and even doing what one of my sisters has been urging me to for years--stop drinking diet sodas. There have been days when I would have paid $10 for a Fresca, but thank you, Jenn.

I have lost 11 pounds this past month.

Do I feel better? Yes. No. Yes. No, depending on what time of day it is, how much sleep I had the night before, whether the fridge is stocked with healthy stuff and a good meal prepared, whether I've had my Quiet Time to pray and read and journal--so many variables. I try not to think about that and just have faith that a year from now I could be feeling much better.

Do I sound a little down about this? If I do, maybe it's because I hit the FaceTime icon accidentally instead of the internet icon when I got ready to write this post. Maybe you, dear reader, like looking at your "live" image on FaceTime or Skype, but I find it a little scary. Who is that woman?

"Sometimes she looked at herself in the mirror and was amazed and troubled
at the placid, wide face, the big body reflected there,
knowing it was not herself,
puzzled that the self could be so at variance with its shell."
Nelia Gardner White in The Doctor's Wife

This post needs some pictures, and I'm not anywhere near ready to show you any of me, so I'll show you what my first reward was. When I had stuck to the new eating plan for two weeks--I refuse to call it a "diet" as I know these are changes I need to stay on the rest of my life or at least until a doctor gives me thirty days to live, in which case just take me to the nearest Dunkin' Donuts, please--R.H. surprised me with my first reward. 

One of my earliest posts on this blog [here] was about wanting to have the red molding between the kitchen and family room, and the French doors, painted white. Instead of the retro red and white kitchen I had originally, I have been changing the colors to go with the pink German contemporary sofa, and pink accessories in the kitchen. One morning recently, R.H. told me he asked Zack to pick up paint for this job and Gurn to do the painting. I couldn't have been happier if he'd given me a diamond ring, seriously. 

Here are before and after pictures that I took hurriedly before the painting began and after it was finished. Not much styling went on at this point but please see if you don't think it looks better now. Honestly, the yellow walls aren't quite as bright as it looks here, but Benjamin Moore didn't name it Yellow Raincoat for nothing. And it's great on dreary days.




[after, with Katie Belle outside the door]

Losing the red molding and red French doors for Benjamin Moore's Decorator White was the best reward R.H. could have given me. Thank you, R.H., and thank you, Gurn!

What is my next reward going to be? When I've lost 15 pounds I am going to treat myself to a lampshade for this sweet lamp base I bought on eBay to go with the old gray and pink majolica Italian fish.

See the darling little pink fish on it? I'd love to have some hints about what kind of lampshade to buy for it. It will need to be a rather conical shape to fit the space, and it won't need to give bright light as I have plenty of that from other sources. So black would work, but is that too much with the black granite countertops?

Well, my goodness, I think I may have cheered myself up a little just from talking about new lampshades. And from talking to you.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Marc Appleton & Me

Truthfully, there is no Marc Appleton and me, only in my Dream House dreams ever since I read the paragraph below in Architectural Digest when they asked the Santa Monica architect what his personal dream house would be:

"A compound of small separate buildings situated in an abandoned plant nursery.
When I was a child, I always enjoyed walking through older nurseries with my mother,
smelling all the different flowers and plants as we strolled down dirt paths
damp from watering in the bright sun or in the shade of trees.
Littered about were lath houses, sheds and pavilions,
and yet the architecture seemed incidental to the landscape--
a landscape that had sometimes broken free of its containers and taken root.
It seemed a magical environment and the kind of place
in which I could happily imagine living:
this shed the bedroom, this one the kitchen,
the rose-covered pavilion and dining room,
all scattered throughout a maze of landscaped 'hallways'--
a true marriage of architecture and landscape."


My mouth dropped open in astonishment when I read this, for it was exactly my own personal dream house of decades that Appleton had written about, his own words coming as if from my heart.

My sisters and I grew up going to nurseries in McMinnville, Tennessee with our father, gardener extraordinaire, garden center and later nursery owner himself. Years later I continued visiting nurseries with my husband when he and his brother owned one of the many Mom & Pop garden centers that existed before the big chains drove most of us out of business.

Even on vacations we always visited nurseries. One we stopped at with our two youngest sons was high in the North Carolina mountains above Lake Lure.


It was a hot summer day, even in the mountains, when we spotted the nursery and stopped, always on the lookout for rhododendron and mountain laurel. A breeze and the sprinklers going soon cooled us down as we wandered from one faded wood building to the next, Zack and Defee exploring with R.H.


I strolled along behind, looking off to the mountain peaks and valleys that I love so much, thinking that I could happily make my home here in a heartbeat. There was a two-story brick house off to the side, home to the family that owned the nursery, but I would have chosen instead to live in the old buildings, walkways leading from one to another, letting me choose a different function--with minimal alterations--for each building.


A family could have breakfast in the shed that faced east with the morning sun shining on glasses of orange juice and newly laid eggs, sunny-side-up.


Choose another building that faced west for all to gather at day's end for a supper of mountain trout...


And then move outside on the porch to eat warm blackberry cobbler, squashing buttery crust into melting vanilla ice cream, swallowing the last bite as the sun disappeared in an orange glow behind a far off mountain peak.


In between times, they could each escape to a room of their own to read....

[Mitch Shultz on Pinterest]

To rest....


To sleep....

[flickr: kelly_k's photostream]

And to dream...


The woman who owned the nursery was worn down to a frazzle by the care of it. Her husband had "passed over" and all their children who had grown up there and put in their own sweat equity now had jobs they preferred elsewhere. There was one man there that day, her only hired help. She was sitting on a future gold mine of property probably, but to us it was a peaceable kingdom that we envied.


It was just one more family-owned-and-operated small agricultural business fading away to nothing and destined to be swallowed up by developers.

Unless either Marc Appleton or I bought the place that was our dream home.