Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Few of My Favorite Things

There are items in my home now that remind me so much of my childhood.  They are the reasons I feel comfortable living in far away places, whether those places be on the other side of the world or the other side of our country.  I do have favorites.  But those favorites change from time to time depending on the season and my mood.

These pieces always find a prominent place in each of our homes.  With our many Navy moves, we always get to decide where our favorite things will be displayed.  What may be a dresser in a bedroom in one home can become a buffet in our dining room in another.  I love the change of pace and having the ability to change the function and location of a piece....although I do not love having to pack and unpack again with each  move :).

 The table in the picture above has served so many purposes in the past for our family. It originally belonged to my grandparents.  Back in the 1930's the top of the table sat atop a sales counter in my grandfather's general store.  It was used to display sewing thread.  When the store closed, my grandmother, whom I call the Original Repurposer, had the box transformed into a side table.  Of course, my grandfather provided the manual labor to make the transformation.  As a child, I can remember the table being at my grandmother's bedside.  I loved the look.  Even back then I was a lover of all things vintage.  I never knew my grandfather, he suffered a stroke and passed away just three weeks before I was born.  My mother and grandmother always spoke of him with love in their eyes, so I know  he was a pretty incredible person. Having all the things that were special to him surrounding me as I grew up, and even now that I have my own family, makes me feel connected to him.

On top of the table sits a basket I found years ago at a thrift store.  It is filled with seashells, driftwood and small treasures that we have collected from all our travels, and home towns, across the world.  I use the term "home towns", for we feel, even if we're stationed in a location for only one year, it becomes our home town.  I even have shells in the basket my dear friends sent to us from their beautiful home in the Caribbean.  There's also a cypress stump my father found during one of his outdoor explorations of the Charleston Lowcountry.  I love that bit of cypress.  The fact that my children,  parents, grandparents, and dear friends have held some of these items in their hands makes them so special.

The small footstool below the table is a creation of my grandfather's as well.  I love the stool and remember sitting on it on my grandmother's front porch while I watched in amazement as she nurtured her garden into a splendid summer work of art.  She was a master gardener....guess what her name was?  It was Flora! A gardener with "Flora" for a name has to be a master! 

So, as the song goes, "these are a few of my favorite things".   I can't imagine setting up a home without these and so many of my other family treasures.  We keep saying we need to downsize, but I just can't bear to start thinking about that....not yet anyway.

Have a wonderful day everyone and take extra special care of all your favorite things!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Greatest Advice a Sister Could Give

Today is my big sister's birthday.  I truly think she gets younger with age.  Does that make sense? Maybe not. However, I reserve the right to think she is one of the most amazing women ever, and not just because she seems to have reversed her aging process.  Her secret is simple, do all you can to take care of yourself and others and be kind and generous with your time and talents.

My sister and I did not grow up together.  She was the oldest and I, the youngest.  There are almost 16 years that separate us.  She was more of a mother figure to me growing up than a sister.  But as I got older, I realized the expression, "Your sister is your best friend," is more than an expression, it is a true statement.  

Research shows that people who have sisters have a lower risk of depression, higher self esteem, and a generally more positive outlook on life.  It's no wonder.  Sisters always have your back, so to speak.  There is no doubting it.  There is a certain security  in knowing that you have someone on your side no matter what.  Someone who will not preach or "parent" you, but someone who is there for you unconditionally.

As the years pass, distances and busyness can get in the way.  Long periods of time go by where siblings are not able to spend time together, especially if they live an entire country apart as my sister and I do.  But, whenever they come together, it is as if no time has passed at all.  This is how it is for me.

When I am in the company of my big sister, it is as if I am back in the school of life.  She never ceases to amaze me with her sage wisdom and intuition.  My sister  has taught me so much about life.  Not by preaching or nagging, but by living.  She is an amazing friend to her friends; wife to her husband; and mother to her children. So many of the lessons I have learned in parenting have come from her.  Those lessons don't end as our children get older, they only change.  I feel she has taught me all the important points of parenting adult children.  Her three children are devoted to her and know she will always be there for them.  I hope I can take the example she has set and continue to be there for my children now that they are young adults.

She was and is the most devoted daughter I have ever known.  I wish I could have been the same.  As we spent time with my father during his last days, she never left his side, ever.  I saw the love of a daughter that I could only aspire to copy.  I couldn't get past the sadness, heartbreak, and grief of losing him to truly "just be" with him as my sister was.  She is brave and courageous beyond belief.

One of the most important lessons my sister taught me, that sticks with me every single day, is to never give up.  She would not allow me to give up because I had made mistakes or because I didn't have the confidence to continue on.  She would always remind me that it was okay to make mistakes and learn from them.  The point was to never make the same mistake twice!  I've remembered that my entire adult life and have passed it on to my children.  I hope they can hold on to that tidbit of wisdom so it will serve them well in their adult lives.

So, today, as my sister celebrates her birthday, I hope she reads this and knows how much I appreciate all she did for me.  I also want to remind everyone to tell your sisters (and brothers too:) that you love them ~ and will be there for them forever!

I love you, Big Sis ~ Thank you for always being there for me.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Suburban Rebel

I  broke a rule today, knowingly.  I have done the same thing day after day knowing it was against the rules and regulations of the neighborhood in which I live.  Can you guess what I have been doing so recklessly?
I have been hanging our laundry outside to dry.  That's it, I confess.  I think this makes me somewhat of a suburban rebel.

Those who know me, probably wouldn't describe me as a rebel or a rule breaker.  Actually, I am usually  a "by the book" sort of person.  I love to follow directions, instructions and rules.  However, the code in the homeowners association of our neighborhood that prohibits laundry hanging outside does not sit well with me.  So, out the laundry goes every time I get a chance.  Saving electricity in the heat of the summer just makes sense, not to mention the fact there is nothing sweeter than folding fresh line-dried laundry.

I live in an area where the humidity is low and the sun shines brightly almost every single day.  Those conditions, added to the fact that we always have a very slight, gentle ocean breeze makes drying our laundry outside heavenly.  I admit, there have been locations we have lived that have  made it difficult to dry an entire load of laundry outside.  Humidity levels of 95% and daily afternoon thunderstorms made trying to dry a load of laundry like drying a wet towel in a sauna.  It just didn't work. So, I gave up.  But here in Southern California, the conditions are perfect!

Growing up, I remember watching my best friend's mother hang their laundry out on the line every single day.   It was a comforting constant.  I would look up the hill toward their house and see their white sheets and towels blowing in the wind.  All was right with the world; and, if I was lucky, I would be able to make it up the hill just in time to help bring  in the armful of fresh, mountain scented laundry.  Life was good.

So, back to reality.  Hopefully I will not receive a nastygram from the homeowners association.  I promise to be discreet and chose only "presentable" laundry to expose to all the neighbors who may happen to peer through our fence boards to see that I am only exposing them to our linens, shirts, shorts and jeans.  Everything else, sadly, still goes in the dryer.   I do want to try to be a good resident. After all, I don't think anything I do can compare to our neighbors who have rebelled in a much bigger way .....they have chickens!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Today, July 8th,  would have been my father's 84th birthday.  I chose this date as the "Grand Opening" of my Etsy shop to honor him and his creativity.  My father was the most creative person I've ever known.  His ability to take a simple piece of wood, clay, name the material, and turn it into a work of art amazed me and everyone who came in contact with him.  I am thankful for all he taught me and for the lessons I learned as I watched him at work.

This day has been looming on the horizon for us all here at my house.  I've been supported by my husband and kiddos and I thank them so very much!  Even our oldest, who isn't at home this summer due to the fact he is now a grown up with a grown up job, is on standby in San Francisco awaiting the Grand Opening call.  We'll all be Skyping at 12:00 midnight to celebrate the opening of the shop.

I would like to thank my parents for giving me that adventurous spirit (although it has been lying latent for the last 20 years or so as I gathered the courage to venture into the unknown of an entrepreneur).  I would like to thank my children for helping whenever I needed the help.  They took over the running of the household over the past few weeks as I was buried in wooden planks, stretched canvases and paints and inks.  And, I would like to thank my wonderful husband for being my biggest supporter.  He has more confidence in my ability than I could ever be.  He gives me the little bit of extra encouragement I need when I'm getting tired and frustrated and revert back to the old Alison of thinking I'm taking on too much.  Without his support, I wouldn't have the courage to push on with Hartley Rowe.

I'm sharing a picture of my parents.  This was taken when they were newlyweds and building their first house together.  My mother's eye for design and my father's ability to create works of art are the driving force behind Hartley Rowe, named for my  mother, Mary Jane Rowe and my father, Jack Hartley.   I miss them both desperately, but am so thankful I was raised by two beautiful people who saw the world as their canvas.

Please let me know what you think about the blog and about the Etsy Shop.  I'd love to hear any suggestions you may have.  Thank you for supporting this blog and me.  My friends mean the world to me!

At midnight tonight, click on the link for my Etsy Shop Hartley Rowe and have fun looking around.

Take care, Everyone!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Dining Room By Any Other Name is a.....Workshop

How often each year do we really share a meal in our formal dining rooms?  For some of us, we may never dine in our dining room.  Sure it looks beautiful and is situated in a prominent place in our homes as if to welcome everyone around the table. But the truth is, we bypass it almost every day to opt to sit at our kitchen table. For us, that kitchen table is the hub of the house.  We're around it for breakfast and dinner and sometimes even for lunch.  We've had lighthearted conversations around it and we've had heated debates.  But, we always know it is a sacred spot where we will have a wonderful dinner and ample opportunity to participate in family discussions.  Can you tell, I love my kitchen table.

The truth is, I love my dining room table too.  I don't mean to neglect it; it was once our kitchen table.  Two of my favorite homes we have lived in (as you may remember, we moved many times with the Navy) did not even have dining rooms.  We had one table and that was certainly enough.  But since we bought our farm kitchen table eight years ago, our old kitchen table had been relegated to the dining room.  Some would think that was a promotion!   Moving up to the dining room!   No, that is not the case.  The old kitchen table sat in a room where no one pulled up a chair for a meal, except for a large gathering or celebration.  

Well, I am  happy to report that the old kitchen table/now dining room table has a new life!  In addition to the fork marks scratched into the surface by one second oldest son (then age one, now age 23), it now holds drying racks, waxed paper for surface protection, and containers of paint brushes and sandpaper.  The table is the most important piece in my new workshop!  I am so happy to bring it life again.  The fact is, we now have two tables in our dining room.  One is my planning desk, (you saw it in an earlier post after I painted it) and the other is this newly re-purposed work table.  You can see a glimpse of the table top in the photo above.  It is solid oak and will last forever. We bought it in 1989 after losing our first table in a move.
That's another story for another blog post!  

On the table you can catch a glimpse of some of the items I've been making to list in the Hartley Rowe Etsy Shop, which opens on July 8th.  I must admit, I love working in that room now.  It still resembles a dining room, but in its current chaotic state, I am having a blast.  I am so glad we decided to give the room a new sense of purpose and am elated I am not banished to the garage to do all my creating.  This afternoon, my daughter was cooking brownies in the kitchen while our youngest was upstairs playing his guitar.  I was right in between the two, painting away, and loving life.  It is so amazing what a warm, comfortable room can do for your state of mind. Everywhere I look, I see old familiar objects.  There is an old chest of drawers from my grandmother, that once served as a buffet that now houses old photographs and supplies.  The old, wonderfully worn stool that my grandfather made that has followed us all over the world is sitting in a corner with a basket of books on top.  Leaning against the stool are several old shutters I bought at a terrific flea market.  I am thinking of turning them into bulletin boards, but they look so great propped against the old stool,  I may just leave them there.  

I hope our table is happy and that the room is enjoying being used.  I am certainly enjoying its new lease on life.  I just regret taking so long to realize this was the perfect room for a purpose other than dining. We need to think outside the box (or should I say, room) when it comes to finding purpose for our spaces.  So, do not be afraid to dust off your dining room table and get out your work gloves, or your computer;  or even dust off your sewing machine.  I hope you find out what your dining room is just waiting to become.