Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Our first winter frost in the new year

Have you ever noticed how much prettier the world is when it is painted with frost? I woke up this morning to our first frost this year. It has been far too warm here in Holland. Last night it dipped down to minus 6C in some places. Here it was cold enough to give my garden slight touches of winter frost. I love looking out my window to see the white touches in the bright sunshine.

Photo of one of my garden lanterns.

Someone painted pictures on my
Windowpane last night --
Willow trees with trailing boughs
And flowers, frosty white,

And lovely crystal butterflies;
But when the morning sun
Touched them with its golden beams,
They vanished one by one.

~~ Helen Bayley Davis, Jack Frost

Monday, January 22, 2007

A quote from Jane Austen.....

"The rooms were dressed up with flowers, &c., and looked very pretty."

~~ Jane Austen

From a letter to Cassandra written from
Sloane St.: Thursday (April 25)

Photo of my coffee table decorated with dwarf hyacinths, chevron quilt, the book "Tea with Jane Austen" by Kim Wilson and antique glasses

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Still 'nesting'

"Just as meditation can be healing for the body, cleaning can be healing for a house. It's taking away what doesn't belong to allow the beauty of what does belong to shine forth. This affects the lives of the people who live there: Even a relatively neat environment is conducive to both good living and clear thinking."
~~ from "Shelter for the Spirit" by Victoria Moran

My 'nesting' season is continuing here in my home. This weekend, I am finally starting on my quilt studio which has been neglected during the cleaning and decluttering of the other rooms upstairs. I found it easiest to get through other rooms by putting off the decisions on certain items by placing them in the quilt studio until I got to this last room on my list upstairs.

This room is very important to me and normally a place I spend a great deal of time in. It is my center of creativity and where I find peace while doing the crafts I love so much. It does not look like that sacred place at the moment. I want to start in this room with that sacredness in mind. My quilting and stitching are very much what makes me who I am and this room should reflect that also. It is connects me to things from my past. My past projects are there waiting to be used during the correct season or on display to enjoy in the studio. There are items there that remind me of the special people that gave them to me.

Do you have a special room that holds items that connect you to your past? Do you have items there that can be seen for all their beauty to remind you of family and friends who are dear to you? Look around in that room and see if you need to edit things to bring out the beauty of those items you really do love.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Further story about my dishes and Jane Austen.....

We drove down south to Chawton from the Lake District. We found a wonderful farm B&B in Chipping Norton to stay at with the friendliest farmer and his wife. It was really wonderful. There was a good laugh when they asked if we stopped there so we could visit Blenheim Palace the next day. We had no idea we were near Blenheim Palace but were tired and stopped on the way to Chawton to visit Jane Austen's house. They had no idea who Jane Austen was which I found amazing. We joined them later the next day after returning for tea. They asked about how the house was and had I read the novels. I was impressed with the farmer after all and thought he must have been joking with me when he said he did not know who she was. His wife came in the room with tea on a tray and proceeded to ask him if he told me he looked up Jane Austen after we left that morning. We had a great laugh together. I have never forgotten that stay with them or their beautiful farm!
This is the house than Jane lived in with her mother and sister in the Hampshire village of Chawton.

While in one room, I read about Jane writing Cassandra about buying Wedgwood dishes and a some of the original dishes are there at the museum.

Excerpt from Jane's letter:
16 September 1813, Jane was writing to Cassandra from London: "We then went to Wedgwood’s where my brother and Fanny chose a dinner set. I believe the pattern is a small Lozenge in purple, between Lines of narrow gold, and it is to have the crest."

I was also very much in love with the dining table in the parlour of the house which is also the room in which Jane wrote some of her novels. Seeing the set of Wedgwood here after only just buying our own set was very surreal. The photo above is from a book I bought at the museum which shows the parlour and table with the dishes.
A couple of years later, we had been looking for a very long time for a new dining room table. We thought an antique would be too expensive but started to discover that it is not necessarily so. We looked at a number of places and almost were going to buy a rectory table when we decided to stop by one more shop out in the Dutch countryside. We walked in and there was our table. It is a Victorian crack winding table from 1860 but looked so much like Jane's table back in her cottage in Chawton. I was thrilled to have found it. It seemed to have made our trip to England those years before even more complete!

My dishes

This is my set of 'good' dishes. It is from Wedgwood's Edme Plain also known as Queen's Ware. We went on a trip to England many years ago and had a route planned out to visit friends in Yorkshire followed by a few days in the Lake District and then on to Scotland. It was May and there was a freak snow storm which caused us to change our plans. We had already been touring the home of the Bronte Sisters, James Harriot country, both homes of William Wordworth and Beatrix's Potter's Hilltop Farm. When the kind people at the last B&B in Keswick told us that the roads to Scotland were impassable, we changed our plans to continue on a 'literary tour' going down to Chawton to see Jane Austen's house.

On the way, I noticed a small red notation in the atlas saying Wedgwood. I convinced my husband to take the exit and see if the factory was open to the public. It was to my delight and there was a factory shop. I had always dreamed of owning a set of Wedgwood but it was simply too expensive for us. At the factory shop, we found a set of Edme Plain dishes that were marked at 1/3 of the normal price. I was thrilled. We asked the sales lady if they could be very well packed as they had to travel home safely on the ferry. She was very kind and did a wonderful job of making sure we could get them home safely. She commented that they never have the Edme Plain complete like this and we were very lucky. I was in heaven knowing I was able to get them.

The story takes another twist which I will tell you about in my next blog entry.....

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The 'nesting' season

Do you find January to be the 'nesting' season in your home? Our thoughts turn to how cozy our homes are in the winter season.

It is the time of year that I go through things and clear old and unwanted items away. This year more than ever. We have so many things that I have noticed we have not used lately since we have too much. At the moment, I am trying to come up with items to take to the thrift shop so others can enjoy them. This will mean I can get out the special items that I love and have put away for safekeeping. I started thinking about this when we had a discussion on one of my lists about not using my good dishes. I decided that as long as they were set up so beautifully in the hutch, I still will not get them out daily to use.

I have photographed my old blue and white dishes and put them up for sale online. I then put the good set of dishes in the kitchen cupboards to start using. Beautiful things are only beautiful if you see and use them so that they can be appreciated.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Differences in nature

The birds are gone,
The ground is white,
The winds are wild,
They chill and bite;
The ground is thick with slush and sleet,
And I barely feel my feet.

Some things are oddly different in nature. I grew up with robins in the States being a larger bird that showed the first signs of spring. Here in Europe, a robin is a tiny little bird that stays here year round and is very much a visitor to our garden even in the deep winter. He loves to even sit among the branches of any shrub to watch as I do odd jobs in the garden. He jumps and darts around mostly on the ground waiting for the seed that other birds carelessly throw from the feeders. He sometimes sits on the edge of a garden chair looking curiously in the cottage windows at me.

Photo from the BBC.co.uk website.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Where has winter gone???

O, wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

~~ Percy Bysshe Shelley

Is it climate change or just the natural courses of Mother Nature. There are many conflicting ideas about what is happening with our seasons. Some weather men say this abnormal weather does happen once in a while if you review history. I named this blog for my love of the seasons. As I look outside my window, it feels more like spring starting than midwinter. Our bulbs are coming up too early. Even the wild geranuims are starting to sprout their tender first leaves. We will have to start doing our 'end of winter' garden preparations now instead of the normal end of February. I wonder if February will still bring us winter? It just may be that Mother Nature holds some surprises in store for us. At any rate, looking at a Thomas Kinkade painting gives me the feeling that winter is here and I will hold that in my heart for now.

Is it winter in your part of the world? Tell me about how things look out your window today.....I would love to hear from you.

Painting by Thomas Kinkade ~ 'Evening Glow'

Friday, January 05, 2007

More wintery decoration ideas

What says winter more than ice skates? Use any pair you have or can find (check out flea markets). Tie them together and add any extras you like. I used a pair of antique wooden skates with some greenery, child's mittens and a bow. Mine are hanging from my radiator as you walk in our front door. This is where my mirror is with all my snowmen so it really says 'A Winter Welcome'.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Decorating for January

It is January and time for the Christmas decorations to come down. It is also a time when the house can look rather bare after becoming used to the festive look. I try to put out items that work well in January. I have lots of candles sitting around along with a blue and white quilt. I also wait to use my snowmen then and not with Christmas. I have three adorable reproduction vintage snowmen. I put my 'Dress Warm' pinkeep I made on a plate stand. The chubby snowman was a gift from a friend as well as the white hyacinth bulb in the silver pot. It was given to me at Christmas time and works so well with the snowmen.

This year, I am really sorting through my decorations before I put them away. I have so much and really need to cut back. I am packing up all my items for my tree and then going through all the rest to decide if I really love the things enough. I also got out an old set of coffee cups along with some odds and ends like mugs that I never use. I will take them all to the thrift shop so that someone else can enjoy using them instead.