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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Beginning Again...

My Start on a New Tradition of Christmas Decor
thanks to my friend, Kim.
Well, it's that time of year again.  Time to get up in the attic, or down in the basement, or in the garage and dig out the holiday decorations.  You know ...that love/hate thing you do every year.  Lights.  Tinsel.  Garland.  Tree that's never straight.  Bows and Bulbs and those homemade and collected decorations over the years that make up your family's particular "tradition".   Or for my Jewish friends, it will soon be time for your Menorah and decorations.  Whatever the case, this time of year makes us remember back to days gone by and holidays come and gone.  And most of us love "tradition".  But what if your traditions, or at least the symbols of those traditions had been lost?  Completely gone.  That's what happened to my son and I.  For more than two decades, our family had collected ornaments.  Tiny little symbols of people and places that we had loved along the way.  There was the personalized bell from my students when I taught job training classes in WV.  There were the little colored-bead angels that we bought from the two elderly ladies one holiday season in Ohio.  There were the decorations that Sam had made in elementary school..the pipe cleaner Rudolph and the Christmas Tree Ornament he had made with his cousin, Connor.  There were the "stained-glass ornaments" we had melted and made in the oven one Christmas. And there was the ornament that my penpal in Greece had sent to me one snowy season.  So many years gone by and so many symbols of that time.  Every year, Sam and I would break out the boxes and remember when as we put the Oreo ornament on the tree.  Or the fishing man that represented his dad. 

One divorce and one natural disaster with our house later and all our traditions were gone.  Not one survived.  Gone was pipe cleaner Rudolph.  Lost forever was the little bell that had made me smile.  Not even our nativity scene or our beautiful Martha Stewart tree had survived the damage.  I mourned that loss deeply.  Not because of the "things" but because of what they had meant.  It was just one more way in which my life had changed forever.

Last year, Sam and I once again went to the out building to fetch what we had for Christmas decorations.  My new mother-in-law had been kind enough to gift us with some left overs from years gone by from her daughter's collection.  I didn't have the heart to begin again that first year anyway.   So we used the things my mother-in-law gave to us and it wasn't decorating as we remembered it, but we were so grateful to have some Christmas back in the house and looking back from a year's perspective I realize that it is the time spent together and not the "things" that make the tradition and keep it alive.

And so it is with a determined heart that I begin again to collect decorations and make new traditions.  And so I was delighted when a friend gifted me with some of her collection so that I could add to what my mother-in-law gave to me as we make a new start.  And although I miss Rudolph and the little hands who made him, I'm delighted with my new Santa and reindeer and proud of my son who is now a young college man, and who delivered Mr. Claus to me and helped me set him up.   Love, family, and friendship...and time spent together. Those are the TRUE traditions that last.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Days Gone By...


Daddy and Mom in 1949
 My 86 year old mother sits beside me and talks of days gone by.  Her short-term memory is shaky at best but her longterm memory is sharp and clear on certain things.  Things such as her wedding day.  She and Daddy did not have a church wedding back on that third day of December in 1949.  Instead they went to the Justice of the Peace, Noah Hobbs, who was officiating in the Pike County Courthouse in Pikeville, Kentucky.  Mom was 23 years old and Daddy was about 28 years old at the time.  The two of them "dated" approximately three months before getting married.  Dates in Williamson West Virginia consisting of a "picture show" and the blue-plate special down at the diner afterwards.

But when Daddy became serious about Mom he decided that they had to save money because he was building them a house.  The house didn't take long to build as it was only a four room cottage but it was theirs outright with not a penny owed to anyone for the materials or the land.  It was to this little house that Daddy brought Mommy that cool December evening after their wedding.   Mom fondly recalls their no nonsense approach to things... that they stopped at the store on the way home from Pikeville and bought a can of Happy Family Baking Soda and some Eight O'Clock Coffee in a familiar red tin.   They brought some bacon and some flour and milk so that Mom could make Daddy a breakfast the next day - which she did.  And she continued making him breakfast practically every day for the next 49 years until he passed away in 1995 at the age of 75. 

Waterfall Furniture of the 1930s and 40's
Mom pauses for a moment and has a soft look in her eyes as she remembers.  "Your daddy had already bought and furnished the house", she says.   There was the mohair sofa and chairs and the little dinette set with the folding leaf in the table and of course the bedroom suite. And I know exactly what she speaking of.  Even though I could not remember "the little house" about which Mom was speaking and even though I grew up in the "new house" they built after they moved to Lawrence, County Kentucky, Mom brought those first treasures along with her when they moved.  The little dinnette table still sits in her kitchen these 60 years later.  The 1930's era "waterfall bed" was their bed for years until it was passed down to me.  And growing up, how many times had I sat at that waterfall vanity and brushed my hair?  The vanity that is still in Mom's bedroom today.   How many times had I looked at Mom's lovely vintage dresses and suits that hung in the matching armoire which my southern mother called a "chiffarobe"?

Even the Baking Soda Can and the Eight O'Clock Coffee tin had made their way to our new house and had become fixtures in our lives for as long as I can remember.  The Happy Family Baking Soda Tin was my mother's button holder for as long as I could remember.  How many times have I seen her reach for it in its place on the chest of drawers and remove the lid and spread out a mish mash of buttons all over the bed for us to pick out the one that would best match the outfit she was making for me.   Every time I see that can I think of Mom and her sewing my clothes over the years.  Everytime she reached for the can she thought of Daddy and that young girl she once was on that very first day they married.

That Happy Family Baking Can sits proudly in my own home now.  It's button holding days are over and it's original contents long forgotten but it is a constant reminder of what hearth and home is truly about... family, love, time, and ties that bind.   A tiny treasure and tangible reminder of a legacy of  love that my parents left to me.   It is one of my favorite pieces in my house and each time I look up and see it, I smile.  And so does my mother.     

Friday, November 18, 2011

Little Treasures

One thing I love is collecting little treasures for our home.  Please understand that this was not always easy.  For many years there was simply no budget for such.  So if I was fortunate enough to find a nice piece at an estate sale, I counted it a blessing indeed.  Sometimes, it fit my tastes and likes and budget so well that it almost felt as if providence had left it there just for me to find. I counted each one of these things as "little treasures".  My sculpture here is one of those little treasures.



"The Ring" is a fairly well-known piece by Russian-born Sculptor, David Fisher.  Fisher studied at a Greek Art College in Odessa.  He is known for his works in marble, granite and wood.  He has 15 pieces in museums throughout the USSR.   His latest works include a tribute to the Holocaust Victims, with one sculpture in the Hollywood Musuem and one in Boca Ratan.  Born David Fedorovic Fisher, the artist turned 83 in 2011.  He's lived in the United States since sometime in 1970 and one of his latest works was a bust of President Obama.    Fisher designed my sculpture, "The Ring", over 30 years ago, in 1980. Because it depicts the lasting bond of love and committment between a man and a woman, it instantly caught my eye.  Although many of Fisher's work are huge pieces, he is also known for pieces, such as this, that promote love, and women. 


Fisher once said, "Of course I have in mind woman as the embodiment of all that is beautiful."   


To learn more about the artist and his work, you can visit his website at http://www.wix.com/len926/david_fisher 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Keepin' It Real...


The Star Gazer Lilly is one of my favorite flowers
 Okay, a word about fake flowers.  Everyone knows that real live plants are terrific.  They are aesthetically pleasing and can add a lot to a home.  I have several live plants myself  that my Mother-in-law graced me with as a gift.  We'll discuss those at a later date.  But for now let's talk about the fake plants and flowers.  There are some great choices out there now.  And although I try to cut fresh flowers from my garden in the Spring and Summer to use inside the house, if you are not as blessed as Oprah to have fresh cut flowers on hand all the time, then from time to time, perhaps you're like me and you decorate with the fake ones.

But here's a word of good advice that I read somewhere concerning fake flowers:  IF YOU WOULDN'T
SEE THE FLOWER IN NATURE..then don't put it in your home.  In other words, blue roses (although there may be some exotic hybrid out there now) are not naturally occuring.  So don't decorate with blue roses.  If you want to use blue, bring it in using a flower in which it would naturally occur.  So the bottom line here is ...keep it real.  Use flower that would appear in nature and in the color that they would appear and your fake arrangements will look much more sophisticated.  



Artificial Gladolias
In a Simple Vase
look like I just gathered
them from my garden
  Another tip that bears mentioning... keep the flowers dusted and in good repair. Nothing looks worse than raggedly ole fake flowers.  Better not to have them if that be the case.  Same goes for fake fruit.  If your kids come by and try to take a bite out of your artificial fruit basket then you know you've done well.  Otherwise, you might want to just skip the fake stuff.  But done well, artificial fruit or plants can add a nice touch to a home, and besides lasting a long time.... they are forgiving if you forget to water them. Remember ...the best advice is to "keep it real" whenever possible..but when using artificials go for "fabulous fakes".

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

It's the Little Things That Make a House A Home...

It's in the details.  The smallest of things can make a house feel more like a home.  Things that say "you".   My home may not appeal to anyone else but so long as it is a place that makes my husband and son and I smile, then it is "home".    Comfortable.  Textures.  Colors.  Natural.  Wood. Stone. Metal.  I love all these things and have tried to incorporate them all into our home's ecletic look.  I'm influenced by my love of tuscan decorating but since I don't happen to have a villa in Milan, I also try to stay true to my home and it's surroundings..that being the picturesque Southern Appalachian Mountains.  So my home takes on a look all it's own.  A little bit country (bits and pieces of furniture that my husband had before we married)...a little bit tuscany (my color choices and penchant for ironworks and metal scrollwork and color scheme) and a little bit woodsy cabin (the fireplace, hardwood, and wooden rocking chair that was a Christmas gift from my husband last year).    But long gone are the days when I bought "beds in a bag" and worked from strict "themes".  Oh, I went through my "emerald" phase, and my "mauve" phase and even my "blue phase".  But now, It's more about the naturals for me.  Colors, textures, and materials that are found in nature are what I am drawn to now in my 50's.   I have always loved solid pieces.  Things that 'last' and have staying power. 

I love the metal and glass of this candy dish. 
So you won't find any one "theme" throughout our home, except the theme of "us".  And developing that look has been and continues to be a true labor of love.  An item added here, a touch there.  It all adds up to make the look that is entirely and uniquely our own.  The love is in the details, and, it's the little things that make a home. 

Home is Where the Heart Is...


Our Family Room Turned Dining Room Area

Hi, I'm Gen.  Wife, Mother, Daughter, Sister, and Friend Extraordinaire' !    My husband and I have a small, comfortable home in the Southeastern Appalachians.  I've never been accused of being a great decorator, but I am a creative individual and I know what I like.  So on a shoestring budget and with an eye for what makes me happy, I have created our home with little spaces and places that I love.  Like our dining room above.  By not using full curtains, the light comes pouring in on all sides and I love that.  It might be too open for some but because our home is so private, and backs up to the great outdoors I love watching the snow fall from the view through these windows in Winter and watching the leaves blow in the wind in the Autumn, and of course the beautiful bright green of Spring and Summer is just lovely.   

From this vantage point, I see the deer play in the backyard and a nest of squirrels and I are almost on a first-name basis. The hardwood floors and stone fireplace makes this room even more inviting.  My husband is a chef in his own right and we share many wonderful meals in this extended room.   Also an avid amateur photographer (as am I) I am in the process of framing some of his works for decorating in this and other rooms of our home. 

They say that home is where the heart is.  Well, my heart is here in this place that I share with my family.  Welcome to our "HEARTH AND HOME".  Come back soon for southern hospitality and smalltown, homespun, charm and beauty.  We hope you find all that and more here at our Hearth and Home.  -Gen.

Surround Yourself With Things and People that You Love
And Your Home Decorates Itself!