Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advent - a season of anticipation

This year has been a true celebration of the seasons and all that nature has to offer. I feel that blogging has brought me closer in my wanting to move with the treasures of each season and not rush along. So this year, with each Advent Sunday, I will focus on a 'virtual' candle and reflect on what Christmas means to me while sharing some photos of my home.

I waited to start decorating so I have only decorated the entrance hall of my house so far. The first advent candle is traditionally the candle of Expectation or Hope. I found by waiting that my feeling of expectation resembles that of what I felt as a little girl. I was most excited about being able to start setting up the tree. I was bursting while waiting for my mother to say it could go up.

My brother's birthday is on December 17th and my mother made us wait until then. Oh how hard that was! One year, I asked her if I could set it up earlier that year and she said only if I was going to do it all myself. I did and happily. My father, who was from German descent, loved telling us that he never saw the tree until Christmas eve. His parents would set it up in a closed room and only let them see it when it was finished. Thank goodness he did not follow that tradition or I would have burst each year from expectation.

My expectations of Christmas have altered over the years. My husband and I no longer exchange gifts. We pick out two charities and donate money at Christmas. We are grateful that we have so much and feel that Christmas should now be about sharing that with others.

Regardless of your nationality or religion, maybe you can spend some time this week reflecting on your own expectations and hopes for the holidays. I hope it is not spent only in the hustle and bustle of shopping, baking and decorating but also thinking about what makes Christmas important.

I found this quote on the internet and felt it was good to pass on to you today for this first advent as SinterKlaas or St. Nicolaas is this week in Holland. Ponder this in the coming week:

A St. Nicholas’ Note . . . Edward Hays, A Pilgrim’s Almanac (adapted)

"It is fitting that the feast of St. Nicholas comes at the beginning of Advent and the beginning of the shopper’s season. As the patron saint of shoppers he proclaims, ‘Keep it simple!’ Keep it simple enough to fit in a shoe or a stocking.

"One gift that could fit in a…shoe, or in a stocking hanging on the fireplace, is a note that speaks of one of our most precious gifts, the gift of time. Such a St. Nicholas note might read: ‘The gift I give to you is half an hour of quality conversation each night right after the dishes are done.’ Or, ‘The gift I give to you is one Saturday a month to be with you and do whatever you want to do.’ We can appreciate the value of such a gift if we keep in mind that according to a recent survey, the average married couple in America has only 30 minutes a week of communication outside of exchanges that take place at the dinner table, and between parent and child is only 14 minutes. As you can see, the possibilities are almost unlimited for these St. Nicholas shoe gifts.

"Come, St. Nicholas, patron of shoppers and gift-seekers, and make Christmas this year fun, creative and love-filled."

On a separate note, this is what our drive home from Cranberry Cottage looked like. It was snowing heartily in the north. As we drove farther south, it turned to rain but we enjoyed a little bit of a winter wonderland.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Goodbye to autumn.....

For me, Thanksgiving has one more meaning. It is an end to autumn. I am always very thankful for autumn and all its glories. It is the most colorful and scent filled season, from the parade of colors on the trees to harvest time's bounty to forest woods magical show of toadstools.

I am sad to say goodbye to autumn 2008 but look forward to the new autumn of next year. We enjoyed our Thanksgiving meal last night and I put some symbols of autumn's bounty on our dinner table.

I am looking forward to winter and hope like a little girl would for some snow days. I started my holiday decorating now. With my next entry, I will start sharing some of the festive corners of my home.

I hope you also had a wonderful autumn and are excited for the upcoming holidays?

"How silently they tumble down
And come to rest upon the ground
To lay a carpet, rich and rare,
Beneath the trees without a care,
Content to sleep, their work well done,
Colors gleaming in the sun.

At other times, they wildly fly
Until they nearly reach the sky.
Twisting, turning through the air
Till all the trees stand stark and bare.
Exhausted, drop to earth below
To wait, like children, for the snow."

~ Elsie N. Brady, Leaves

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A day of thanks!

I wish this could be me today bringing my mother a bouquet of pretty mums. She always loved them. But instead, I will close my eyes and think about her today ~ Thanksgiving Day! I am thinking of those things I am thankful for and there are many. I decided to dedicate this post to something I continue to be thankful for each and every day ~ my mother. She is a wonderful friend to me as well as a guiding light as a mother. I am glad that even though I am not really into many modern things of this day and age, the computer gives me the chance to be in contact with my mother every day at the click of a button. We no longer feel we are an ocean apart when we can talk to each other daily and share little things. Perhaps today, you can take a moment to contact someone in your family or a dear friend that you are thankful for...

Meet Mr. Turkey! He was a gift made for me by my very dear aunt. She passed away a couple of years ago but this little fellow she created spends each Thanksgiving with us. He looks over our dinner table and sheds a tear for his long lost cousin on our table. *grins* That is if I get to the grocery store to buy our turkey. We can buy a turkey breast here so I don't have to wait hours for it to roast. I am breaking tradition and not having pie for dessert. I really feel like having warm tapioca which gives me a feeling of home. My little brother and I would dance and sing the tapioca song when my mother made it for us. I decided that it was the perfect way to close off our Thanksgiving meal this year.

I wish you all a warm and happy Thanksgiving Day!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Creating cozy...

This is what happens when one season melts into another. Today we are having snow which is unusual for us in November.

While we were still in the throws of autumn, the winter has appeared and the Snow Queen has placed her white cloak over our garden.

To me, autumn and winter are times to make a home cozy and with our new furniture, I find myself moving things around trying to find the best way to use things now.

And with this, last week I moved one of my sideboards out of the room as it was just too full. I then moved the sideboard I normally use behind the couch to the wall near our woodstove.

A winter roses tapestry tablerunner, chocolate colored lampshades and a floral arrangement with red carnations, branches and berries give a cozy and warm glow to the living room.

A piece of my handmade bobbin lace works well with one of the miniature portraits in my collection.

A magnifying glass for examining things just that little bit closer.

For years, I have had this sideboard set up to look like a writing desk. I have always enjoyed the look of it like this so was a little weary to change it. Now I am pleased with how this corner of my living room has turned out so I am glad I did change it.

Still not wanting to rush the season, regardless of the snow, our autumn tree is in a new corner of the dining area of the room. It lights up a very dark spot and makes it nice to sit there for our dinners. I am not going to start any holiday decorating until December has come but this creates a festive mood for the current season.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Creative privacy

One thing I have not adjusted to in my 22+ years of living in Holland is the lack of privacy. Houses here are built so on top of each other and I find it very irritating to be so seen by my neighbors but also to see them. I know everyone says it is because land is at a premium here but I think that is simply an excuse accepted by all. Land is split up by our city officials and they have created this high pricing. They receive huge amounts of money by pressing everyone into a small area. Only 15 to 20% of the land in this country is actually housing.

You have to become a bit creative to give yourself a feeling of privacy if you do want it. Others leave things wide open but I don't feel comfortable doing that. So when I went with a friend last week to visit this wonderful farm selling all kinds of brocante, I found two wonderful wrought iron window ornaments and knew these would help give me a feeling of some privacy in the guest room.

I have been toying with the idea of having a balcony railing made by the same man who made our gate. It would be very costly and I still wanted more privacy too. Using these window ornaments works for both ideas. I have the added touch I wanted with the upstairs window and I also get a little bit of an obstructed view in the windows.

This is a perfect example of what it is like in our road. Our neighbors and we look directly into each others homes. My neighbor keeps his windows whited out even which means it is not the prettiest of houses to look at either.

If you have a view from your home, take a moment today to really look at it and enjoy it. It is a blessing!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dutch traditions!

Don't you love traditions? We had a busy weekend at the cottage but had to pop back into the village to run to the butcher and look who we ran into. This is one of the fun Dutch traditions that in mid November, SinterKlaas arrives in Holland by steamboat from Spain with his helpers Zwarte Piet.

He had a Pieten band to provide music while he talked with everyone. After we had been to the butcher, we drove back down the road and The Sint was still there talking to some mothers and their children so my 'big boy' waved happily from the car to him and SinterKlaas waved happily back to him.

Another Dutch tradition we have this week has to do with our kitchen remodeling. We are still waiting to hear from the sprayer but we have the door knobs. I wanted the traditional old Dutch knobs which you find in the very old farmhouses. After searching online, we found a woodturner near Jos' new office who makes them. He went on his lunch hour to get them after we ordered them online. Here they are. I love them! Now I have to start staining them so they are ready when the doors arrive.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Eating speculaas in February

What a title! And then you see that this blog entry is about the work I have been doing in my bedroom decorating and that title seems to make no sense. Right? Well, it will as I tell you a funny story...

I started working on an idea for our bedroom back in September of 2007. You can see the start of it here. It started with me making a patchwork quilt. I found one online that was rather expensive and realized I had similar fabrics in my quilt stash cupboard. It was so simple as it was just a block pattern of squares so I made one myself. One thing leads to another...

The above photo shows the nightstands which Jos sanded and I drybrushed as I had done with my chest of drawers. But I still felt it just did not look right. The iron headboard Jos made for us and my lamps just look too cold against the oatmeal colored walls.

I bought some linden green chalk paint to paint the wall behind the headboard but it turned out the old saying "You get what you pay for" is true. The paint was cheap and was awful. It left the wall looking stained and not giving the chalk look whatsoever. I was going to run over to the paint shop and buy a pot of Farrow and Ball to use then realized I still did have a liter of paint left from a terrible mistake made by a shop when we were painting our walls in the entrance hall and laundry room.

I wanted to use a color called Speculaas which is a type of Dutch cookie. I collect speculaas cookie molds and loved this warm dark beige color which is the color of the old molds. Jos thought it would be too dark and talked me into going one step lighter to a color called Februari. So I comprised and we went to a DIY store that had a sale on this paint. A very young girl mixed two paint colors for us as we used a warm white together with it and we came home and got started. We loved the color Februari so much we decided to paint a second wall in the hall the same color but did not have enough paint. There was another DIY store starting a sale and we thought just pop there for the extra liter of paint as we could use the coupon for it there.

Jos got home and immediately started to paint the second wall but to our shock, it was not the same color. He went back and they checked and told him it WAS the color Februari but what he got from the first shop was Speculaas. The man was really nice and said he could try remixing that liter for us at our own risk. He could not get it close enough he felt in the end so we just bought a new liter and also brought home this remixed version.

The remixed version has now been used in our bedroom. It is a combination of the two colors so I call it 'eating speculaas in February'. *grins* It has worked really well to bring out the beiges in the patchwork quilt.

I enjoyed spending time this week changing all the little items around until I had this room looking just as I want it. I only wish I could convince Jos to replace that old digital alarm clock. It is left from his bachelor days but it gets him to work on time so we can buy more paint. *grins*

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A new look

We are not only changing the look of our kitchen but the living/dining room. Those of you who have read my blog for a while will know I had an English library look to the room. We had furniture which my husband picked out which was typically English. With my bad back, the furniture we had was becoming very uncomfortable. After my quilt group was here in October, I was having very bad pain from sitting on our chairs all evening and we decided we had to go out and search for some new dining room chairs. Now I love the look of my old Windsor chairs but they lean back just slightly and I need straight backs. So we went to a couple of shops and finally found what we wanted at the last one BUT one thing lead to another...

These are the four new dining room chairs. I think they really go nicely with our antique table.

But as we were choosing the chairs, I spied this set of couches. I have always wanted tweed fabric on my furniture. I love the robust country feel of tweed. Seeing the fabric made me go sit on one of the couches. It was just right as Goldie Locks would say! It had a harder seat and I could actually get up in one movement. I normally have to be very careful with our old furniture which was far too deep and soft for me. It was more in line with what my tall Dutchman likes but I have actually put my back out standing up from the couch before. After much discussion, he decided to go back to the shop and order these couches to be delivered with the chairs. I am not sure about my red wall now. What do you think?

I had made this quilt recently and it works just perfectly with the color of the couches. I was thinking last night that I will also bring down the knitted patchwork afghan my mother made for me to hang over the other couch. It is a cream color and I think will look really nice.

One item that remains and fits in very well is my leather chair and ottoman.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Magic in nature

Sometimes nature gives us gifts of things that we have immortalized in children's stories making that thing seem unreal. The Amanita muscaria is one of those beauties in nature. From stories of gnomes to this postcard of Santa, the magical red toadstool with white spots seems almost unreal when found in nature.

This is a common toadstool here in Holland. On Saturday, we had to go to a village near Cranberry Cottage to do some shopping and found a great number of them growing along the banks of a canal there. Some were fading away, their bright red now going into a brown color.

"I am rich today with autumn's gold,
All that my covetous hands can hold;
Frost-painted leaves and goldenrod,
A goldfinch on a milkweed pod,
Huge golden pumpkins in the field
With heaps of corn from a bounteous yield,
Golden apples heavy on the trees
Rivaling those of Hesperides,
Golden rays of balmy sunshine spread
Over all like butter on warm bread;
And the harvest moon will this night unfold
The streams running full of molten gold.
Oh, who could find a dearth of bliss
With autumn glory such as this!"

~ Gladys Harp

Thursday, November 06, 2008

What a busy day.....

This has been a busy day with lots of people coming and going. Our new furniture was delivered this morning. I will share photos of that in another entry. Our handyman also came by today to get started on remodeling out kitchen. We are keeping the kitchen and doing some things to make it look very different. So here is what my kitchen looks like for a couple weeks while our doors will be gone to a paint spraying company. A friend said her cupboards would not look like this if someone took off her doors. Boy am I thankful I am organized behind those normally closed doors. *grins*

The doors are all laying stacked in the living room waiting to be taken to the painter now. Our handyman has put 3mm thick MDF panals around the doors which will give a very plain and modern dark teal door a country look after they are painted.

We are getting old Dutch wooden knobs and I cannot wait to see these painted and the knobs on. Here is a little closer shot but sorry for the glare.

Next we have to go pick out a new drainboard and sink. I already know what I am going to pick for a spigot. It is exciting to watch this come together. I will keep you updated on the progress.

Note to Karen ~ Welcome to my blog. I loved reading that your family immigrated from Holland. If you could email me (see my profile), I would love to talk more with you and give you my recipe.

Further note ~ Jos just talked to the painter who told us to come in tomorrow with the doors and trim. He is going to get it done next week. I have to go along to pick out the paint color and finish type. I am so excited to see these doors painted. I am happy to say goodbye to that teal color for good.