Wednesday, February 27, 2013

We Make Our Own Sunshine

Likely because I have had to spend the past few days inside the apartment waiting for packages to be delivered, I am craving sunshine and light and fresh air and bold colors like mad lately.  The joke has been on captive-feeling, Cabin Fever-ed me so far this week, since although online shipping notifications stated that the packages were "out for delivery" starting in the morning both Monday and yesterday, the buzzer didn't ring until 3 p.m. Monday and until 6 p.m. last night, so I had stayed indoors "for nothing" hour after hour both days when I could have bundled up and headed out for a walk.  I love my little home, but even a homebody needs fresh air and exercise, especially a homebody who recently polished off most of a Valentine's Day carrot cake by herself.  :)  

This reminds me to tell you that in last Sunday's post about my grandmother, I should have mentioned that whenever my dad would try to get Grandma to join Papa on his daily walk or to do a bit of exercise on her own, Grandma would shake her head and reply, "But I did that already!  When I was a schoolgirl, we all had to do fitness exercises!"  As if physical activity was a life event.  :)  Year after year, Dad argued the benefits of a daily walk, but Grandma never budged on the issue.  She had done that already, end of story.  Remembering their frustrating-to-each-other arguments on this still makes me laugh. 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch. . . .Stuffed and I have spent my time off this week here in the apartment, Stuffed more often than not cuddled up with paws outstretched under the space heater or radiator while I've tried to get some more projects crossed off my seemingly epic To Do list.  I have been faux-upholstering (just kind of making it up as I go along) the wing chair above for awhile now.  A post for another day, and hopefully, not too long from now either, as I'm eager to be done with this project.  After rearranging the fabric squares with straight pins the past couple days, I think I have the patchwork the way I want it.  (A quick glance behind me and I see it's changed a little more since I took that photo, but you get the idea.)  The seat, for now, is a vintage pink roses baby blanket.  It's not at all a cutter, and I almost hate to hide the size and condition of it by using it as a chair seat, but it's also perfect for the project, so for now, it stays.  I haven't touched the chair's sides or bottom/skirt yet and have only begun to re-cushion the arms, so there is still much to do, but it's beginning to look the way I'd envisioned it.  And Stuffed has been content to nap in the warmth instead of nosing around the needles, thread, and hot glue, so we're both happy.  
A few rays of sunlight have been spotted in here this week. 
Pay Day will find me treating myself to this year's first bundle of Daffodils.  They are my favorites, so they show up here and there in various ways in the apartment year-round, but there's nothing like a real Daffodil, especially during these dreary end-of-winter weeks. 
February wraps up tomorrow.
March is almost here. 
And today itself is cozy and certainly good enough, with its comfy cat and spots of light and its colorful patches and tea and a husband on the way home from work soon.  There is even--although Grandma would shudder at the thought--time and opportunity for a brisk walk.  Life is good, life is very good, and let me not forget it. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Cuddle Paws

I have a few days off from work and am trying to get a lot done around the apartment.  'Always time to cuddle this black and white puffball of a cat, though.  Gahhhhhhh, I love him so much.   He chased the rays of rare-this-month sunshine around our table and in the bathroom for awhile earlier this afternoon, and now, post photo-shoot, he's sitting in the kitchen seemingly guarding my bubbling pasta as it cooks.  'Such a dear, sweet heart, my little home companion while Mike's at work.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

2013's Valentines

I've always thought of Valentine's Day as the highlight of post-Christmas winter.  Just when the season seems endlessly cold and bleak, Valentine's Day arrives with its cozy reds and warm pinks and its gifts of love and flowers and pretty sweets and kind words.  A little girl in my care at work last week put two and two together while we were making cards and exclaimed, "Hey!  Val!  Valentine!  VALentine!"  I told her that the fact that my name is in it was part of the reason I loved this holiday so much when I was her age. 
 I love it now for better reasons, rest assured.  Since I didn't have my first boyfriend or even date until I was 24, my love for the day was never about dolling up for a romantic dinner out or finding the perfect present for a man or any of the other things we're too often told are the point of Valentine's Day.  It is for me a whole week of finding and making cards, catching up on letters, looking up recipes, deciding what to bake and which tablecoth to use, admiring the stores' displays of flowers and sweets, and marching through snow to the post office to send my stamped and stickered greetings.  I set what remains my own record my freshman year of college by mailing 44 Valentines, but even years like this one, when payday was the day after and the holiday was a more low-key affair, simply sitting down with a cake recipe and a few cards, stickers, and stamps before me was enough. 
 I mailed out Aunt Laurie's card and then realized I'd forgotten to include a frog somehow, a Valentine's Day tradition she has graciously come to accept over the years, so I created a second little card and walked back to the post office with it so it would arrive on time.  
Aunt Laurie's own card arrived Thursday and was more of her amazing paper art.  Remember the incredible scrapbook she made for Mike's and my first anniversary last April?  Lately, she has been crafting these house cards--"Cottage Cards by Laurie," she labels them, inside a heart-shaped tag that hangs from the chimneys--with windows and doors that open to reveal images, the recipients' names, and other little surprises.  
 This Valentine's Day's sweetest surprise came from my friend Tina, who is also my friend Sommer's sister.  In a big red heart-covered envelope was not only a long letter, but also recent pictures of her and her family, a handmade fabric Valentine card, and a puffy cinamon-scented fabric heart to hang.  Tina and I have shared the most heartbreaking moments over the years, so to be exchanging happy hearts still twenty years after we met is now the sweetest gift of all--and one that likely delights Sommer.    Life is such a wild ride. 
 An exchange of cards and a small carrot cake for us here Valentine's night, leftover cake the next few days, and Valentine's Day/Week has now come and gone again.  Love to you all, and here's to a happy March. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Today is my grandmother's birthday.  On what would be her final birthday, the local newspaper noted that she was now the oldest person in town, a fact that she rolled her eyes upon sharing with us. 

Grandma was the only child in a family of nine who wasn't born in France.  Her father died not long after her family came to America.  Her mother hated having anyone underfoot while she was in the kitchen, so Grandma didn't learn to cook until she herself had gotten married. My mom still marvels at what a great cook Grandma turned out to be given that, but I am more impressed that someone who had never met any of her own grandparents back in the Old Country ended up being the epitome of a sweet old-fashioned grandmother. 

To her fellow high school students in the Class of 1927, she was "Frenchie."  Papa called her "[his] little Napoleon."  To her nieces and nephews, she was "Aunt Hen."  Her name was Henriette, in tribute to her brother Henri who had died not long before she was born, although it was informally Americanized into "Henrietta."  She hated it, she told me when I was a kid, and I was surprised and responded honestly that I thought it was pretty.  Her foreign name conjured up to my young mind happy images of both cozily-roosting chickens and lovely French ladies. 

Grandma taught me how to play cards and bake bread and peel an apple in one long unbroken strip.  I taught her that when an apple is sliced in half horizontally, a star of seeds appears.  She once said that it was impossible for her not to laugh when she heard me laugh, and she called me "[her] sweet girl." 

She cried while holding my younger brother for the first time, and since his, our older brother's, and Grandma's birthdays are all in February, she would always make a special birthday dinner sometime that month in shared celebration. 

The next-to-last time she and I saw each other was a May afternoon in a city hospital far from her home, and I was wearing a tie-dye t-shirt.  When I leaned over her bed to give her a hug and kiss, Grandma took in my wildly-colored top and weakly commented, "My arms look like your shirt."  Poor Grandma's skin was splotchy with bruises in various stages by that point.  Her observation was the last dry-humored comment of hers that we smiled at together.   

A rainbow appeared soon after she died, and as she had requested, she was buried with a letter my dad had written her from Vietnam.  She had wanted me to have her writing desk and handmade crochet tablecloth, and I do, but it is her scrapbooks and recipes and family papers and photos I treasure more.  She has appeared in a few precious dreams since I've died, and one helped me gain perspective at a time I felt I was spinning out of control in life.  

I think of her when I see cottage gardens, round loaves of homemade bread, delicate script handwriting, canned goods, cantalope, Poinsettias, political cartoons, poetry anthologies, pastel mints, and barkcloth.  When my ex-boyfriend and I visited her grave a couple weeks after she died, I left her a letter promising, among other things, to try always to be her sweet girl.  That I am forever her granddaughter is one of the most beautiful-to-me things about my life.  I miss her more, not less, every year.  And I hope she still laughs when she hears me laugh.  

Monday, February 11, 2013

Desk Redo

One of last fall's projects was redoing our desk.  Here it is this morning, finally, a rare touch of blue in our otherwise rainbow-colored home.  My mom "ruined" blue for me decades ago:  She has always used it on everything and in almost every room, and in a shade I've never liked, so I've been on Mom-induced Blue Overload almost from birth.  But a bright blue!  A sky blue!  An aqua blue!  Those, I love, and I mixed and matched until I got the desk looking and feeling the way I wanted.  Below is the desk pre-project.  When Mike and I were crammed into our crazy old studio apartment with barely a path between bed, desk, table, bathroom, and kitchen-nook, the desk was hardly visible, but here in our new home, it's one of the first things we see when we come through the door, so I knew I'd doll it up. 
I attached blue gingham oilcloth attached to the desk's top and keyboard tray.  I swooned during a visit to my parents' house last year when I saw this floral fabric Mom had used to make a shower curtain, and she later gave me a couple yards for my birthday.    (She was likely just thrilled that her daughter finally wanted something blue.  She'd have given me anything.)  ;)
It still looked too bare to me, though, so I decided to make a frame for the monitor to give the project an extra pop of color.  The frame is posterboard from the grocery store.  Its cover is oilcloth.  I went with black gingham to spare Mike the pink-Roses-on-cream that I really wanted (not that he'd have really objected, but. . ."Marital Compromise Time!" as we say).  
But that looked too busy and just didn't do it for me, so the search was on, and I found what I wanted at Deborah's Laminates etsy shop:  Laminated fabric in this funky aqua pattern that looks like embroidered tie-dye  'Love, love, love. 
A few more photos and Val/Mike Things to jazz it up, 
and now, although I still want to find another mousepad (likely a pink-Roses-on-cream one [see how this Marital Compromise thing plays out?!]), I'm declaring another apartment project on my To Do list done. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Face of Sweetness and Trust

After a few days of not sleeping well, I'm spending today catching up on cleaning and errand-running now that I've gotten some sleep and am feeling better.  A quick Kit Kat break, though, since Stuffed's too sweet to keep to myself.  The photo above is one of my all-time favorite ones of him.  Mike's parents' cat died two weeks ago, and there were more than a few tears here when we heard that and then looked down at this dear little face before us.  Live forever, Stuffed!   

And especially for Lisa, who asked for Stuffed's latest home movie, here's a minute-long one Mike made one night last week while I was at work.  :)
And with dish-washing and lasagna-making still not crossed-off on the List of Things to Do, that's all she wrote. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Giveaway Winner and Groundhog Day Love

I'm likely the only one goofy enough in my immediate family to feel this way, but today and tomorrow, Groundhog Day, always seem like extra-special days designed for my family, as if  the first couple dates on the calendar this month are very much "ours."  My older brother's birthday is today ("Groundhog Eve"), and he, my dad, and I were all born in Punxsutawney, so we share the hometown of the celebrated groundhog, "Punxsy Phil."  It always feel both odd and somehow fitting for "our" family birthday and hometown to be celebrated and on the news over a national holiday every year.  (My family would all roll their eyes at this, as I said, but I myself love holidays, even strange ones that fete a rodent weather forecaster.) 

Have I mentioned here before that groundhogs are one of my favorite animals?  They can get so big and chubby, and their hind-ends waddle when they run (if they're chubby enough), and they just melt my heart.  'Love, love, love them.   
I worked at a dollar store off and on throughout college and a couple years after, and one of my customers mentioned once that she had found a groundhog cub in the woods behind her house, and after watching it for awhile and concluding that its mother must have died, she decided--illegally--to keep it as a pet.  The groundhog lived right in the house with her and her family for years, just as a cat or dog would, she told me--and although I wouldn't really keep one as a pet the way they did, I've been somewhat envious ever since.  A pet groundhog!  Be still, my heart! 

And as I just said to Terri from the lovely blog "Artful Affirmations," be still to her heart too because she's the winner of my first giveaway.  Congratulations again, Terri!  :)  And thank you all for your sweet comments and the stories you shared in the comments of the last post. Reading them and discovering new blogs and new people brightened an exhausting end-of-January, so thank you for everything.   

Happy birthday, Older Brother, congratulations again, Terri,  and a jubilant Groundhog Day weekend to you all.  ;)