They Don’t Write Them Like They Used To

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The weather may have been frightful this week, but boy, have we had some spectacular sunsets. This one, the night before last, took my breath away.

It’s awfully cold here. I think it went down to zero last night. The days are sunny, thank goodness. I’m still feeling not very tip top, so I’ll make this short today. There are times I just need to take a break and do a little or a lot of self-care. You understand, I know.

Apropos of nothing, I heard one of my favorite songs on the car radio the other day – My Romance by the great Rodgers and Hart. Lorenz Hart was a smart, witty, and sometimes, heartbreaking beautiful lyricist.

I was struck by the delicious series of rhymes used in this line:

My romance doesn’t need a castle rising in Spain,
Or a dance to a constantly surprising refrain.

Three words in each line rhyming with three words in the next line. Nothing too manufactured or obviously maneuvered. All of it seemingly effortless and beautiful.

And of course, the final line is:

My romance doesn’t need a thing but you.

They don’t write them like they used to.

Happy Thursday.

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Small Stories

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Gosh darn it. I love the fact that this den is sunken. Just two steps down, but those two steps create a separate little world. A cozy, smallish world. Since the kitchen and living room are essentially one big room, the den would be part of that expanse save for those two little steps. All the difference in the world.

I’ve been under the weather for the past day or so. The barometer that is my head went off like an alarm the night of the storm. Boom. I felt terribly congested and achy and almost like a cold was coming on. I was pretty sure it wasn’t a cold, merely a reaction to the barometric changes going on outside. I felt fairly crappy yesterday but am feeling a bit better today.

Oh winter, you are trying my patience.

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Several of you have remarked about some of the smallish lamps I have here at the cottage and if we’re talking small and charming, I have to highlight this one. We found this little lamp several years ago when we were still renting a place across the river. It was in a little shop in Millbrook, that town we recently visited that has the great diner. I don’t know about you, but there is something about a little lamp that allows for more detail, more charm. Look at those sweet faces. They never fail to make me smile.

How could we resist? Eventually, I found the red shade, which just seemed made for this lamp. Although, have you ever noticed that there are some shades that are just impossible to keep straight? This is one of them. That adorable egg cup was a birthday gift from Linda.

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After almost ten years of sitting on the windowsill in the bathroom, where it was constantly in the way of the blinds and fell to the floor more times than I can count, this little guy got moved to the bookshelves. It’s a watercolor of a Steller’s Jay and it’s on the small and petite side.

When Don and I were first courting, we took our first trip together – a trip that was fraught with misunderstandings, emotional craziness on my part, miscommunication – all the things that can happen when you are first getting to know each other and are still unsure as to where the relationship is going. We had planned to go to Yosemite, but the weather was terrible up there so we switched our destination to Lake Arrowhead, where we stayed in a sweet little cabin. There was a picnic table outside the cabin where a fascinating little bird would hang out.  I was absolutely smitten by this bird. So was Don. Turns out it was a Steller’s Jay.

Years later, when we were trekking across the country to our new home out East, we spent the night in Flagstaff, Arizona. Actually, we spent two  nights there because we were so exhausted after packing up the truck, saying our goodbyes, and not arriving in Flagstaff until the wee hours of the morning. We ran across a little art gallery and there we saw this watercolor. It reminded us of our beginnings. So, we bought it.

There’s always a story behind everything here at the cottage.

As I write this, I hear some snoring.

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Sometimes, the tunnel is just not very comfortable for Dame Scout and she walks to the sofa and looks at me. That’s my cue. I lift her up, place her on the sofa, and she settles in for a comfy sleep. And I can gaze at her all I want.

Happy Wednesday.

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On Snark

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At 6 am, with great trepidation, we opened the kitchen door. How much snow would be piled up? How much snow would we have to shovel in order for Scout to do her thing?

Apparently, none.

There’s only an inch or so of snow out there. The big old nor’easter, though still pounding away at the eastern reaches of the Northeast, was a bust here.

Hurrah!

I am not one to berate our local weather guys, who are the ones I rely on for a sane, thoughtful forecast. All of the models predicted a major event and, to their credit, they predicted a large amount of snow, but always referenced the instability of the forecast and the fact that it could change. I’m just grateful that people in my neck of the woods are safe and have power.

Armchair quarterbacking or weather forecasting is not for me. Yes, the Weather Channel tends to run toward hype. But even in their case, I have to believe the intentions behind all of it are basically sincere.

I say all this because our local guys have a Facebook page where they post updates in addition to the ones on their website and there are lots of snarky comments there this morning. In response, I posted one that said: Shut Up. Be grateful that these guys work for hours and hours trying to give us the best possible information. Be grateful that we dodged a bullet. Be grateful you are safe.

I’m sick of snarky. Everyone’s a critic nowadays on the internet. Everyone has a snarky comment or two or three. Everyone says hurtful things. It’s so easy, in these days of a keyboard, a mouse, and a public forum where everyone can spout supposed witticisms that really only serve to hurt.

From the Urban Dictionary: Snark. Noun. Combination of ‘snide’ and ‘remark.’

Snarky is lazy. It masquerades as wit, but isn’t funny at all.

One of my favorite lines from The Newsroom, and one that creator Aaron Sorkin has used in interviews, as well, is:

“Snark is the idiot’s version of wit, and we’re being polluted by it.”

Amen. We are being polluted by it.

Mean-spirited comments on blog posts. Mean spirited comments on forums. Mean spirited comments on news sites. Mean spirited comments on sports sites. And mean spirited comments on 24 cable news programming.

And of course, I don’t mean literally ‘everyone.’ But there’s sure a lot of it out there.

Noel Coward, a true wit, would be turning over in his grave.

Hey, I don’t mind a reasoned and fair critique. That kind of dialogue can be valuable for all concerned. We need  that.

But snark? No and no. Snark is just a cheap shot. Snark has no intention other than to hurt.

End of sermon on this miraculously blizzard-free, snow-free morning.

I am grateful. I know that weather can turn on a dime. I thank everyone for doing their absolute best to forewarn us of possible danger.

Mother Nature can be fickle. I get it.

Happy Tuesday.

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We’re Waiting

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I instagrammed a photo yesterday entitled “The Calm Before the Storm.” Though this photo is a different one, I suppose the message remains the same.

There’s a big storm coming. We’ve been deluged with lots of ominous updates and, in the end, who knows exactly how much snow we’re going to get? At least a foot. Maybe two feet. This event will start later today and go on through Wednesday morning.

Yikes.

We made the usual pre-storm trip to the grocery store yesterday and it was packed with shoppers. We always end up buying canned goods that we hopefully never have to eat but want to have on hand if the power goes out, like Spaghetti-Os and canned macaroni and cheese. Bread. Milk. Bottled water. Pie. (That’s not an absolute essential, but Don likes comfort foods in times like these.)

We’ll fill the tub with water since we have a well pump that runs on electricity.

And that, my friends, is about all we can do! I find the time that I spend waiting for it to start the most unsettling. So I’m going to give myself lots of chores to do today. It is what it is. That particular phrase gets a bit over used, but then again, it seems to work for all sorts of situations.

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I’m diving into Laura Lippman’s first book in the Tess Monaghan series, which is being reissued. I’m reviewing it next week.

I am on alert for shovel duty in Scout’s mini-corral. That will be the ongoing challenge during the storm; clearing enough space for her to do her business.

That mini-corral, by the way, has been a godsend. I am so glad we built it for her. With all the ice we’ve had this year, the big corral would have been nearly impossible for her to navigate. Even now, the pathway up to the corral is covered in ice. She has adjusted to it rather nicely. We have to keep on top of ice and there have been a few times that we’ve had to salt it like crazy, but she’s safe. That’s the most important thing.

By the way, I do love Instagram. I try to post there once a day. It’s a lot of fun, easy to scroll through when I’m out and about with my iPhone, easy to update. No, I’m not one of those bloggers who prefers Instagram to blogging. Not by a long shot! But I love seeing photos from the people I follow that represent little bits of their daily lives. I usually post photos that I don’t post on the blog, so you’ll get a different take on my life here at MHC. If you’re interested in following me, there is a button at the top of the sidebar (it looks like a camera) that you can click. Or you can click here.

New post up on Just Let Me Finish This Page. I’ve gathered together a list of books that are about books, bookstores and collecting books. Click here.

Happy Monday.

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Early Sunday Morning

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Another porch plant brought in for the winter, this one gracing us with delicate little purple flowers.

I sit here in the early morning lamplight – I seem to be waking up rather early these days – sipping coffee, while Don plays his guitar quietly in the living room, Scoutie sleeping by his side.

I’d say that’s a nice way to begin the day.

Speaking of coffee, our neighborhood market ran out of Peet’s French Roast and we were forced to try another brand until new stock came in. The brand, which shall be nameless, was okay. But just okay. When I went to Target on Friday, the very first thing I did was run for the coffee aisle and replenish my stock of Peet’s. Since it was on sale, I grabbed two.

I didn’t actually ‘run’ for the coffee aisle. A better description would be ‘walked briskly.’

There’s everything else and then there’s Peet’s.

We got about six inches of heavy, wet snow yesterday with big, fat flakes falling during the night and well into the day. Drum roll: Don got to use the snow blower. He was very happy. I shoveled Scout’s small corral and all the paths to the house and shed. All in all, I got some good exercise and, in terms of yesterday’s post, I felt better because of it. Just enough shoveling. But not shoveling to the point of exhaustion which would have been the case pre-snow blower.

Then we had some frozen pizza.

Then, to test out the effects of the snow blower on the long, uphill driveway, Don got in the car and went to the store to buy some Vitamin D, per your advice.

Then we watched Coal Miner’s Daughter  on TCM. I hadn’t seen it since it first came out in 1980, so it was like watching it for the first time. Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones were wonderful. Last Sunday we watched To Kill a Mockingbird. Thursday we watched Singin’ In The Rain. All in all, a great week for movies on TCM. Do I even need to say that both Don and I cried when Scout said “Hey, Boo” in TKAM?

No, of course I don’t.

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I’m almost finished with John Connolly’s The Reapers. (Goodness, I love his books.) Then I have to take a break from all things Connolly and start reading some books scheduled for review.

Remember the quilt I pieced when I was working in Hartford a couple of years ago? I started hand quilting it at the time, then I lost interest and put it away. I hauled it downstairs the other day and it now sits on top of the basket across the room from me here in the den – taunting me. I do believe I’m going to get back into the hand quilting, which will take a long while to finish as I apparently decided to quilt overlapping circles that are dense and close together. That means the amount of quilting per square is on the heavy side. That also means that I have continue that pattern or it will look bizarre, so it will take a lot of time. This is the kind of project where I have to erase the enormity of the whole picture from my mind and truly do it ‘one day at a time.’

How is your Sunday shaping up? I hope you are having a relaxing, happy, wonderful day.

Happy Sunday.

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Winter-Me

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The last few days have brought a realization. The pieces of a puzzle have come together for me at this point in time.

Winter, after a lifetime of winters, is different for me now. I was raised in the Midwest, have lived in Boston and Philadelphia and New York State – all places that see their share of tough winters. I’ve only spent eight years of my life in a place that was sunny and warm in the winter. The conclusion being: I’m used to winter. I come from tough stock. I’ve braved all sorts of wintery experiences. I can handle it.

But I can’t. Starting with last year, which was admittedly an extreme year for winter in my neck of the woods, I have crossed a sort of divide. Winter brings a kind of depression to me. I feel down. I feel distant. I have to force myself to do something other than those routine daily chores that are done without thinking.

Almost as soon as January entered the picture, with all the holiday celebrations come and gone, I felt a change coming over me. I became a bit detached, for want of a better word. I couldn’t understand it at first, but as I put those puzzle pieces together, a pattern emerged. A bit of lethargy, more than a little testiness on my part, no feeling of get-up-and-go. Nothing seemed to hold my interest for very long.

I think, after years and years of winters, winters that had no effect on me other than the usual hassles of shoveling and inconvenience (cold temperatures have never really bothered me), I’ve entered a new phase. I get depressed in the winter.

This is not to be confused with clinical depression, which is an entirely different thing.

So maybe I’ll call it the Doldrums.

This is seasonal. It’s a mix of Seasonal Affective Disorder, feeling shut in, unable to work in the garden, endless gray skies and extreme weather, along with a lack of work that often comes in the winter. There’s probably more to it than that, but that’s a good start.

It’s such a strange change for me. Almost like I’m dealing with someone other than myself. Did reaching the 60 year mark also mark a mood change? I mentioned it to my dad yesterday and he immediately said, “It’s because you’re older.” He said it very firmly, with no hesitation. He’s been there, he said.

I know all about full spectrum lights and SAD. I need to get more exercise, force myself to take walks on a gray, wintry day, and my sister suggested some Vitamin D. I’m pretty sure I know what to do to combat this feeling. Nevertheless, it’s a wee bit bewildering and baffling. It’s a new Winter-Me. I can’t say I’m entirely comfortable with it and I suppose that goes with the territory.

Yesterday, I was determined to be cheery and I pulled it off, for the most part. Today, we’re being inundated with snow as a result of a Nor’easter. Another challenge. Being in the country is lovely most of the time, but in the winter it can be tough. Cities also bring challenges, but you’re out and about along with lots of other people, so there is less of a feeling of isolation. Isolation that I normally love and embrace.

Blogging helps because it forces me to write something every day. It helps me to see the beauty of daily life – even in the winter.

Ah well. Do any of you suffer from this winter malady? Do you find yourself with a case of the blues during these days of less daylight and more weather challenges?

Do you get a case of the Doldrums?

(You may occasionally see an ad on one of the photos in a post. I’m experimenting with avenues for more ad income, which has been very low as of late. Just giving you a heads up.)

Happy Saturday.

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Scenes From The Cottage: The Studio

For those of you who are new to the blog, this is a little space I carved out of the upstairs hallway. I use it for my sewing machine and a cupboard that holds supplies and favorite things. I used to call it my studio. In fact there was an article published about this space that used that very word.

However, ‘Studio’ is another term I’m trying to phase out – purely in terms of my personal space. Because I don’t feel entirely comfortable with that word. Don insists that I’m an artist. And I am. But do I earn my living from the things I create in this space? No. So, studio? I’m not so sure.

So….what word to use?

Craft room? It’s not really a room, is it? Craft space? No. I’m also tired of ‘craft’ and ‘crafting.’ Creative space? That might be a possibility, although my creative space is not limited to this hallway. If I could get away with it, I’d use the word ‘atelier’ because it conjures up spaces with skylights tucked in the attics or garrets of a French building. And I have a skylight and this space is located in the former attic of this cottage.

Atelier, though bordering on pretentious, might be sort of fun. What do you think?

I’ve chronicled this space a lot on this blog and it has gone through various incarnations. To tell you the truth, I haven’t been using it much lately and I’ve felt sort of ‘meh’ about it. I think it has nothing to do with the space, but more to do with where my head is at lately.

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Letitia, my vintage dress form, and the cabinet I got on Craig’s List for $75. I repainted it at the same time I was going crazy painting the bedroom furniture.

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The girls: my mom’s Shirley Temple doll on the left, Tressa (who has two left feet, so of course I had to rescue her) is in the center, and Emma (also a rescue) is on the right. Party hat made by my friend Tina, who also gave me the tiara.

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Egg cups on a vintage mantel that’s been hung on the wall. I found the flower print in San Diego, the shadowbox holds a program from the Broadway play, Claudia, along with a little tiny bride and groom cake topper. The program was given to my by my friend Suzanne. That burlap and lace ribbon says Mockingbird Hill Cottage. The fireplace screen on the floor was found in my friend Heidi’s now defunct shop. I love it. The pink sewing box was found in Wisconsin when I was coaching there. It holds all the letters Don sent to me when we were courting. (Lamb Chop has recently moved to the top of the sewing machine. She gets around.) The sewing basket (which has recently moved to a closet in my effort to clean up this space) was found in a local shop – embellishments added by me. It holds all my embroidery supplies.

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Inside the cabinet: threads, ribbons, buttons, some McCoy, fabric covered boxes, a piece of Roseville Pottery, a koala bear bank from my friend Becky, and my bride and groom cake toppers.

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The putz sheep that my friend Lori (who is the owner of Vignettes in San Diego) had a friend embellish and decorate for me is on the right. I treasure it so much! I miss Vignettes, which is my favorite shop ever. The putz sheep on the left was given to me by my dear friend Judy. The Claudia covered matchbook was made by another dear blogging friend, Elyse.

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If you look at the frame on the right at the top, you can see the original colors of the cabinet.

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My Ranarp lamp from IKEA. And more overwintering impatiens. The pin cushion was made by Debbie of Happy Little Cottage. I found the little blue pitcher with the letters CH on it in a little antique shop. My initials, of course, so I had to have it.

There was a lovely old shelf on the wall behind the sewing machine but it fell off the wall one day. I’m still trying to figure out if I want to repair it or just put something else there.

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A favorite chair. If you look closely, you can see where I stepped through the cane on the chair back. Yes, my friends, I did. I was standing on the chair in the bedroom trying to get to a leak in the ceiling and the chair fell over, causing my foot to go through the cane. I was extremely ticked off at my foolishness. Much cursing and swearing ensued.

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Lamb Chop and Baby Lamb Chop sit on top of the sewing machine, which is covered by a vintage embroidered doily roll that I found in an antique shop a few years back.

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The baby mug with the C was made by Emma Bridgewater. I got it many years ago while I was in London at her shop in Marylebone, which I think is no longer there. I found the wall pocket in a local vintage shop.

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A vintage kitchen spice shelf hangs on the wall. That’s the original Lamb with the Party Hat. Yes, indeed! And a doggie toothpick holder, some vintage miniature clothespins and a Paris/Eiffel Tower medal I got at Vignettes in San Diego.

There are other tours of the studio, ahem, atelier, on the blog. It’s had many looks, and lots more ‘stuff’ along the way; I cleaned a lot of that up about a year ago because I was in the mood for a less cluttered look.

That’s it, my friends. No bathroom tours and definitely no tour of the guest bedroom/office/studio which is currently a mishmash of furniture and guitars and amps. Maybe someday.

Happy Friday.

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Scenes From The Cottage: The Bedroom

I’d say the “Master” bedroom, but really, let’s be honest here. We have two bedrooms. One functions as a guest bedroom/office/studio. The other is the one we sleep in. So I’m not going to use the somewhat grandiose Master. Come to think of it, Master of what? Of his domain? Of his lands?

And why not Mistress? Or Master and  Mistress?

I’m starting a movement to cease and desist using the term “Master Bedroom” unless you have an estate in the country with servants in the house and serfs working your land.

The bedroom is tucked under the eaves, which makes furniture placement a challenge – to put it mildly. But it’s cozy, that’s for sure.

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It’s impossible to take a picture of the entire room. I’ve tried.

Those of you who have been following this blog for a while will remember the new California King bed we ordered last year and the delivery saga that ensued. We ended up having to sleep in the full sized bed in the other room for about a month. To say we were in tight quarters is an understatement. But the new bed has been with us almost a year now and we love it. LOVE IT.

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No, I don’t iron my pillowcases, not even for a photo shoot. I can’t be bothered. I do make my bed every day, though. I cannot handle an unmade bed unless I’m sick.

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A couple of years ago, when Don was away working, I went on a mad painting spree. The furniture in the room had a variety of wood finishes, many of them darkish. We have two small windows in this room, so I decided a creamy white was in order. It looks much better, though I worried it would be a bit feminine for Don. He assured me that he didn’t care because he was only in the bedroom when it was time to sleep.

A practical guy.

The dresser was found on a street in Cambridge when I was living there. Free. My friend and I carried it for about four city blocks and then up four flights of stairs. I’ve had it for about 23 or 24 years. It’s been painted gray, then yellow, and now aqua and cream.

The vintage rocker needs some repair and I plan on attending to that shortly. I love that rocker. I crocheted that throw and made the quilt, as well.

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A vintage tea towel as dresser scarf, assorted jewelry, a silver pillbox from Tiffany’s given to me by my late mentor and his partner, my grandmother’s lamp, my great-grandmother’s tea chest, and a photo of my late brother and me.

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A photo of me when I was teaching at Boston University (oh, to be that young again), some McCoy and Roseville pottery, and Don’s head shot (which I took).

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A pansy print that I bought while working in Owensboro, Kentucky. I love the print and the vintage frame. A D hook from Anthropologie which holds my necklaces (most of which I never wear). D for Don, by the way. I also had the C, but I couldn’t find it when I was putting this up. So the D won.

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I coveted and salivated over this painting for over a year. It was in a shop in San Diego – Vignettes – and as I went back and forth to SD to coach a few shows, I would see it and gaze upon it and then I would walk away because it was too expensive for me.

Finally, I took a picture and sent it to Don, talked it over with him and got his approval, and then drove to Vignettes where Lori, the owner, told me that she had wrapped it up for a customer and was getting ready to put the sale through when the customer changed his mind. All the while, she had been thinking that I was going to be so upset when I saw it was gone.

That clinched it. I bought it. I always knew it would go on this section of the wall that surrounds the chimney.

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Impatiens brought in for the winter.

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Egg cups. And a Christie Repasy print.

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Beautiful Japanese wood block prints on rice paper. These are Don’s. He bought them when he was courting me and living in the company housing provided by the Old Globe. He wanted something to personalize his living space.

On my side of the room:

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Books and lots of ‘em. There are books behind books – two layers deep.

The black and white photograph of a rose was taken by my late brother, there’s vintage mirror my mom bought me when I was visiting them in Michigan, another parakeet lamp that I found (!) that needs some rewiring, photos of Winston and Riley and Scout.

The lone wolf print was purchased while we were living in San Diego.

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My traveling pals: Maggie Rabbit, Wayfrum Holmes, Little Lamb. They’re sitting on a vintage hatbox I found many years ago in the Berkshires. And that’s Home, by Edgar Guest. I found it in a local antique shop last year.

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More books. A bit blurry, but you get the picture. They’re everywhere.

There’s also a cabinet to the left of my dresser that our old behemoth of a television sits on, but I didn’t get a photo of it, though there’s one elsewhere on this blog.

On a sunny day like today, the bedroom is filled with a lovely, rosy glow. And though I’d love more wall space, instead of the half-walls, there is something wonderful about being tucked under the eaves in an attic bedroom.

Any questions? Feel free to ask in the comments section.

Happy Thursday.

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Scenes From The Cottage: The Kitchen

The kitchen was what clinched the deal for Don. Not that it has a lot of bells and whistles. Not that it is full of stainless steel appliances and cupboards galore and granite or butcher block countertops. Nope. It has too few cupboards and mismatched appliances. It has tile countertops that I’d love to replace.

But because it was added on to this little cottage many, many years ago, it has a slanted ceiling that is much higher than the ceiling in the living room. It slopes down from the wall it shares with the living room to the wall that faces the back forty. Since Don does a lot of the cooking and he’s over 6′4″ tall, he fell in love with the space. And we both fell for the windows that are on all three sides of the room.

I’ll try to note things you might want to know below each photo, because there are a lot of photos.

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The view from the living room. The island was made from an old sideboard. McCoy Pottery is scattered throughout the room. That’s Scout’s dog food under the island. The lampshade was recovered in some of the fabric from my stash. The Vernor’s crate is one of my very favorite things.

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As Is. A well organized message center? Decidedly not. Photos of family on the refrigerator.

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The table was originally finished in a very dark stain, so I painted it. I got it from my friend Heidi’s shop for $75. It has two leaves, as well, though I think we’ve only used them once. The chairs have been gathered here and there. The one with its back to the camera was found for $5. It’s vintage and was made by Thonet.

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Pretty cups. Bottle rack from World Market. The little tray was decoupaged by my friend Tina. She also gave us that beautiful aqua pitcher.

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Riley’s Dish Garden, in honor of our dearly missed boy.

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The pantry. I bought that canister (part of a set) when we were driving across the country on the way to our new home in the Northeast. The horseshoe is Don’s.

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The kitchen cabinet was found in a little shop on the other side of the river – we had a very, very, very small kitchen in our rental and we desperately needed the storage space. I changed out the stainless steel knobs to some pretty glass pulls. It’s full of McCoy, Fiesta, vintage china, Emma Bridgewater, transferware. I made the light hanging over the table from an old lamp shade base which I covered with old doilies. The red cloth-covered cord came as part of a kit. I also made the chalkboard and the hanger for Don’s Jumping Jack collection. You’re welcome to pull on one as you come in or out the door.

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Fiesta and McCoy.

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The sign is one of my favorite things – made by Paula of Castle and Cottage Signs. Isn’t it lovely? More McCoy, as well.

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I found this sign, which is not vintage, through my friend Heidi. I loved the colors and it was the perfect size to hang over the entrance to the living room.

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The funky paper towel holder made from an old chain display rack.

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The bench by the kitchen door. We bought it right after we moved in here. We store a lot of tools inside the bench. Dog towels; both on and under the bench. In the winter, hats and gloves.

And the view from the kitchen into the living room and den:

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There you have it. As Is. The way we live. There’s always clutter on the kitchen table, notes and lists on the island, pottery everywhere (I don’t know what I’d do without it.)

Cheerful clutter, I call it. A sleek kitchen is clearly not for us. I admire them. I marvel at the space and the counters free of clutter. I dream of matching appliances and butcher block countertops. And a dishwasher that works.

But cheerful, funky, and colorful is really our style. The pottery has been gathered and collected over the years. The table and chairs pieced together over the last almost ten years. The chalkboard was made from part of the trim that originally came on the sideboard (which I found at auction for $60). The lamp was a solution to a kitchen with recessed lighting, which I like, but let’s face it, there are times when some mood lighting is in order. We came up with the paper towel holder not long after we moved here and bid on the chain display at a local auction. We brought it home and soon I had a vision of dowels and paper towels. (Hey, that rhymes.) It’s one of our favorite things. The island was something I dreamed up to give us more storage and counter space. We can’t imagine life in the kitchen without it.

If you’re interested, there are more photos of the island and the chalkboard and the hanging light and information as to how I made them elsewhere on the blog.

Any questions? Ask away in the comments!

Happy Wednesday.

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Book Review: Cain and Abe by James Grippando

Cane and Abe

Today I am reviewing Cane and Abe by James Grippando for TLC Book Tours. As always, I am provided with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

About the book (from the publisher): Unbelievable was the word for her. Samantha Vine was unbelievably beautiful. It was unbelievable that she’d married me. It was even more unbelievable that she was gone…

Samantha died too soon. Abe Beckham’s new wife has helped him through the loss, but some say it was a step back for Abe to marry Angelina, a love from his past. Abe doesn’t want to hear it, and he’s even managed to remain a star prosecutor at the Miami State Attorney’s Office through his ups and downs.

Then everything goes wrong. A woman’s body is discovered dumped in the Everglades, and Abe is called upon to monitor the investigation. The FBI is tracking a killer in South Florida they call “Cutter” because his brutal methods hark back to Florida’s dark past, when machete-wielding men cut sugarcane by hand in the blazing sun.

When Angelina goes missing, the respected attorney finds himself under fire. Suspicion surrounds him. His closet friends, family, professional colleagues, and the media no longer trust his motives. Was Angelina right? Was their marriage not what they’d hoped for because he loved Samantha too much? Or was there another woman…and a husband with a dark side that simply wanted his new wife gone?

My review: The blurb above doesn’t really paint an accurate picture of what this book is about. There is a new wife, and a deceased wife, yes. And the second wife does go missing. But the mystery surrounding the serial killer, the FBI agent who doggedly pursues both the serial killer and Abe, the methods used in the ongoing investigation, both by Abe and the FBI, are a more accurate reflection of the bulk of the plot of Cain and Abe.

Here is my problem with the book. For much of the story, I was fairly engrossed in the plot, in the history of sugarcane cutting in South Florida, the battle between Abe and the FBI Agent who seemed to have Abe in her sights, in the author’s clear understanding of the law and the way prosecutors work. It was fairly compelling. Some things, like the disappearance of Angelina, the second wife, I didn’t take all that seriously because that particular plot device didn’t seem to ring true, given what I had read so far.

Then, right toward the end of the book, Grippando threw in a plot twist that made absolutely no sense to me. It was gratuitous, almost as if he lost his way toward the end of the novel and decided to go for something else. And another twist, right at the end of the novel, caused me to curse out loud. Ask my husband. I was not a happy camper.

I felt like I had been duped and not in a good way and I don’t like that. Listen: every novel, every mystery involves manipulation; manipulation of the plot, of the clues, of the characters – all done to further suspense. I get it. I usually love it. But it has to make sense. It has to be supported by everything the author has put in place. All that we’ve learned about a character or characters has to lead to a conclusion that makes sense based on what we’ve learned throughout the course of the novel. If the author hasn’t done enough to support that plot twist, that new realization, it all falls flat.

Hey, I love being shocked and surprised just as much as the next person. But only if I can go back through the novel and see all the little clues that perhaps I missed or didn’t realize were that important at the time, but all of which, in the end, made the plot twist make sense.

I’m calling this the “Gone Girl Syndrome.” It’s calculated. It’s been called daring. I am not a fan of Gone Girl. I’ve written about it here on this blog. I am not a fan of the purely calculated, and in the end, heartless plot device. It isn’t clever. It just leaves me very ticked off, and I feel like I’ve wasted hours and hours that I’ll never get back.

Clever solely for the sake of clever has no lasting appeal. It has no heart.

Anyway, if you liked Gone Girl, you might very well enjoy this novel. Grippando writes well. Unfortunately, the final pages of Cain and Abe  left me feeling very unsatisfied. Up until then? I liked it.

James Grippando

About the author: James Grippando is a New York Times  bestselling author whose novels are enjoyed worldwide in twenty-six languages. Grippando was a trial lawyer for twelve years before the publication of his first novel in 1994 (The Pardon) and he is now counsel at one of the nation’s leading law firms. He lives and writes in South Florida.

If you are interested in exploring this mystery, leave a comment on this post and you will be entered to win a copy of Cain and Abe. I’ll pick a winner on Friday evening.

New post up on Just Let Me Finish This Page.

Happy Tuesday.

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