In A Flash

As I sit at the kitchen table staring once again at a gray sky and winds whipping leaves around the driveway I am reminded that although the calendar says spring, the thermostat says, well…something else. 

Spring is revealing itself daily

 

Feeling more like Thanksgiving than Passover/Easter, it is nice to see that despite the brisk temperature, spring is revealing itself daily.  And today, as we celebrate Earth Day, I relish the fact that I am privileged to be spending it in the country with Irwin, our youngest son and especially with Charlie. 

Charlie is delighted to be welcoming spring with us

 

Last Friday Irwin, Charlie and I left the Gallery in the early afternoon and headed for the country.  Although it was too cool to drive with the top down, I was just happy that the temperature was above freezing and no precipitation was in the immediate forecast.  The first blooms of the season were making their debut and we were anxious to spend some time drinking in the glorious weather.

After dropping our bags and putting away the food, we grabbed a couple of frosty beers and headed out.  On the way, as is my ritual, I checked on the nest outside our front door and was beyond thrilled to discover it had a new addition already built and a lovely expectant couple preparing it for the season.  This was a good sign. 

A new addition on last year's nest

We settled into our weathered Adirondack chairs and were transfixed by the cacophony of sights and sounds of the season.  I was struck by the seemingly simple yet extraordinary fact that each spring season, like a snowflake, looks the same, but in fact there are no two that are exactly alike.

Irwin enjoying communing with nature

 

A perfect place

 

Heading inside for a refill, I walked by my laptop and wrote:

 

And at that very second I heard Irwin scream “Charlie, come back here”.

What was just a serene moment of enjoyment and reflection was instantly transformed into one of absolute panic and chaos. As I headed to the porch door, I caught a glimpse of Irwin running across the lawn and reversed directions heading out the mudroom door to the driveway.  While in hot pursuit, Irwin screamed that Charlie, our senior dog with disc problems, had taken off after a fox.  Charlie was nowhere to be found as Irwin headed past the future location of our garden and into the woods screaming Charlies name. 

into the woods

 

Thinking that Charlie might be headed for the road, I flew down the driveway, still in my heeled boots screaming his name, hoping that the approaching car did not hit him.  But there was no Charlie in sight and at that moment, the all too painful reality struck me like a boulder.

a long way in heels

 

I continued to scream Charlies name and Irwin’s as well because I could no longer hear him.  I ran up the steep grass covered hill thinking that perhaps Irwin, who had been having chronic back issues, might have injured himself while hunting for Charlie.  As my breathing quickened I hoped that my ascent would compensate for that morning's missed cardio session while not give me a heart attack.  Amazing what runs through your mind at moments like these.

the path of my troubled ascent

 

 

these boots were made for Walking NOT running

 

When I reached the top of the hill and still could not hear or see either Irwin or Charlie absolute terror set in and I had difficulty catching my breath (which I must say, in retrospect could have been caused by my poor cardio skills) and I felt almost as if I was having an out-of-body experience.

Back in the driveway, I was welcomed with silence and my panic ensued.  I continued to yell Irwin & Charlies names in vain while conjuring up painful images in my mind.

Just at that moment I heard Irwin shriek: “You get back here right now” and saw Irwin and Charlie emerge from the woods.  What in reality was less than five minutes seemed like painful eons.   It was hard to imagine Charlie, who has difficulty jumping on the bed sometimes, taking off at lightening speed, but nevertheless, he did.  It was even more difficult to comprehend that he could have been lost or worse.

 The lessons learned are plentiful and obvious but still worth repeating.  Savor each moment rain or shine.  Life is finite and even the best laid plans can change in a flash. 

As I sit here typing with Charlie at my side and our guest snuggled in her nest, the sun has made a brief appearance and the Magnolia is on the cusp of blooming.  And I am grateful to be able to share this happy ending.

Our guest in her nest

 

our beloved magnolia

 

Happy Earth Day, Passover & Easter!

 

A Garden of Dreams

It is late March and despite the subfreezing temperatures and the promise of snow later in the week, we just met with our gardener to discuss the vegetable garden we want to plant this spring.  The snow has finally melted, for now at least, and it appears as if some “early birds” are already nest hunting around the house, confirming that spring will arrive…eventually and our Garden of Dreams will become a reality.  The excitement is palpable.  Well OK, maybe it is not as exhilarating as winning the Mega Millions, which I tried unsuccessfully to do this weekend or even as stirring as the status of March Madness, but for Irwin and I and our slow home lifestyle, it is absolutely thrilling.

 

Irwin & our gardener measuring for the garden

 

An "Early Bird" Nest Hunting

 

We have been discussing the possibility of planting a vegetable garden for eleven years, ever since taking title of our home in the country. The thought of growing food along with caring for farm animals has been a dream of ours from the outset. It is almost impossible NOT to consider a slow home, farming life when surrounded by lush farmland, rolling hills and babbling creeks, but the reality of our weekender status never allowed us to move forward with either. 

 

lush Farmland, rolling hills

 

 

 

babbling creeks

 

 

However, that never stopped us from dreaming about as well as continuing to discuss it.  Early on, immediately following our first visit to the local county fair, I was convinced that raising animals was our destiny.  After looking at all of the beautiful farm animals brought to show at the fair, I knew that would be a part of our future in the country.  And while my dream of an Alpaca farm is still on the back burner, our dream of building a garden and growing our own vegetables is coming to fruition. Now that is progress, country style.

 

A Fair to Remember:

Howdy Cowdy

 

 

 

A couple of kids

 

 

This big piggy

 

 

Seriously, she's got Milk

 

 

Alpacas...on hold

 

 After sharing the fresh salad our neighbor Gloria, a master gardener, brought to our Road Party last summer, we revisited the possibility of planting a garden this year.  Gloria had offered to mentor us, which was just the impetus we needed to get the ball rolling.  While we had what we were hoping was the ideal location, there was still the issue of maintaining the garden during the week, when we are in the city.  That glitch was remedied when our wonderful neighbor Jeanne suggested that we collaborate on the vegetable garden.

 

Gloria's fresh garden salad- helped make our dream a reality

 

The plan was simple.  We would house the garden on our property (Jeanne does not have an appropriate spot) and she would help maintain and water it as best she could, when we could not be here.  After initial costs were calculated, we would determine appropriate shares of cost and harvest and go forward from there.  All we needed to do was wait for spring.

And what a wait it has been.  Despite several glorious spring days, we in the Northeast, are still experiencing winter weather daily but are hoping that eventually, (and by that I mean before July) spring will indeed arrive.

So here are the basics of our plan:

A ten by ten or smaller sized garden with raised beds. We don't want to bite off more than we can chew, at least initially.  A fence eight to ten feet high surrounding the garden to keep out the deer that use that area as a thoroughfare as they head up and down the mountain and chicken wire under the beds to deter woodchucks.

That is it: Simple and sweet, at least for now.   Much like our life in the country.

We'll see how this plan pans out.  I am sure like most other things, it will be a process with many lessons learned along the way.  But have no fear, I will be sharing updates as they occur and spring’s renewal as it transpires.

Just wanted to leave you with these beautiful faces of Charlie’s friends in the country. They stopped by to say hello while we were out making plans for our vegetable garden.

Finnegan

 

collie

 

 

And share this beautiful pair of bouquets, which are always in full bloom.  All the proceeds from the sale of these spectacular chairs will go directly to Komen CT.

 

 

 the entire proceeds from the sale of these beautiful chairs will go directly to Komen CT

 

The event may be long over, but the memories remain. 

Please join the celebration as we share:

The Life of the Party: A Fall Celebration

The New England Home Connecticut Magazine Fall Networking Event with photos courtesy of Landino Photo

  

Pink Tulips Always Life Affirming

 

Our very own: Steve & Irwin

 

 

Robin Horton of  Urban Gardens & Caitlin McVarish of Apadana Fine Rugs

 

 

Beth Dempsey of Images & Details & Liz Orgera of Shorely Chic

 

 

Sandra Ferguson of Connie Beale & Liz Hynes of Juliska

 

Kyle Hoepner of New England Home & Carolyn McDonough of Diane James

 

 

Stacy Kunstel of New England Home, Jane speroff of Jane Speroff Interiors & Cynthia Mason of Cynthia Mason Interiors

 

 

 

Our Host with the most

 

 

Ann Morris of Komen CT with Irwin

 

 

Should I be Jealous?

 Betsy Abeles-Kravitz Of New England Home with Irwin

 

 

 True Blue: Ruth Warner, Susan Blumenfeld, Charles Warner & yours Truly

 

 

what a team! Glenn Sadin,  Betsy Abeles-Kravitz,  Kate Koch

of New England home


 

 

Beverly Rivkind of Beverly Rivkind Interior Design and Stacy Kunstel

 

Me with Tamara Stephenson of NestNestNest & Susan Young

 

 A view of the room

Carlos Solano & Steve Cassler

 

Irwin & Amanda Martocchio of Amanda Martocchio Architecture & Design

 

 

Mark Klapper

 

A pink moment: A perfect Nest

 

The best neighbors anyone could ask for:

Erica DiMartino, Victoria Keating and Liz Hynes of Juliska with Kyle Hoepner

 

 

A Special Bench, A Special Price, An important Cause

 

 

Pretty in Pink 4 Life Bench $1800 with all proceeds to benefit Komen CT

Available  for purchase

A Mid Century Masterpiece: A Gift 4 Life

 

As the moon set I set the alarm for two am, yet by midnight I was still awake.  I could not shake the events of the past few days and I could not get this phrase out of my head: “More being, less doing.”

 

The moon setting over "our" mountain

 

It is no secret that we love our life in the country. We have managed to rebuild a slow home that we have furnished with vintage and mid century pieces and live an intentionally slower life that we fully embrace.  We even held off bringing internet into our home for over ten years, fearing that it might inhibit the quality of life we enjoy here.  I write about it all the time, the slower pace, the thoughtful lifestyle, paying attention to the little things, making memories, taking the time to smell thethe rebirth of spring, but never had the importance of this lifestyle become clearer to me than this past week.

I attended the memorial service of a friend’s sibling, an extraordinary individual who passed away too soon. Although the situation was tragic, the celebration of his being was stunning and I walked away wishing I had known him in life. His wife’s words resonated in my head as she reflected upon their life together, wishing that there were “more being and less doing”.

More Bee-ing

 

So simply stated, it was profound: More being, less doing. Which brings me back to Friday night.  Setting the alarm and getting up at 2am would probably have not been a priority two or three years ago.  I would have probably set the alarm with good intentions and then shut if off and gone back to sleep.  I now know better.  Given the finite amount of time we are privileged to be here and how quickly it flutters by, every day & every experience is a gift to be savored. The time spent “being” is why we do all the ”doing” in the first place.

Life Flutters by

 

Although I know that inherently, and write as well as talk about it, I often forget to do it.  My children remind me of this all the time and to be honest, I am not always the best at practicing what I preach, but I am going to try each and every day as I chant my new mantra: More being, less doing.

So, Irwin and I took a blanket outdoors after 2am and lay under several more as we faced the Northern sky awaiting a five thousand year old event that did not disappoint.  We spent over three hours gazing at the meteor shower and the enormity of the heavens; just being, not doing.

Perseid Meteor Shower

 

Make a Wish and....

With much anticipation and little fanfare, Irwin & I packed a bag or two, grabbed Charlie and headed for the hills last week to spend some much needed time in the country.  This is what we live for and we celebrate our good fortune every day that we are able to spend in our home surrounded by nature.

Of course, the first thing I did upon arrival was walk the property and check on our seasonal guests.  I was so excited to see the nest that had been built Memorial Day and had eggs hatched on the longest day of the year now housed a robust brood of six babies that were preparing to depart, leaving us as “Empty Nesters” once again.  The added pleasure of finding that a beautiful pair of cardinals had built a precious nest of birch bark in our beloved lilac bush almost sent me over the top.

Five of six of our latest brood

 

Our cardinal

 

the cardinal nest made with birch bark

 

From the beginning our house has attracted wildlife, a topic I have addressed in previous posts and am constantly in awe of.  Irwin and I often joke about how we have willed the arrival of our feathered and furry friends and perhaps we have.

It could be argued that our purchase of a painting of a large black dog, initiated the arrival of Charlie, our big black dog and the sketches of birds nests along with the glass eggs in nests displayed in our home have heralded the abundance of nests on our property.

the painting that heralded charlies arrival

 

The "man" Himself

 

sketches of nests

 

 

glass eggs in nests

 

One could further agree that a sketch of a raccoon, the only valuable gift left by the previous owner of our house, was single-handedly responsible for last summer’s Raccoon-Fest, and finally, the placement of the wooden bunny in our “Wish Basket” which to our utter shock and amazement, brought bunnies to our property.

our raccoon sketch

 

 

Our raccoon-Fest

 

 

our "wish basket"

 

our bunny

 

We believe that the universe will give you what you ask for if you put it out there so our wish basket is always on display in the den.  We keep the wooden bunny and Charlies broken collar in it at all times as a reminder of the enormous wishes we have been granted.

Now I’m not saying that we always get exactly what we wish for, I did NOT ask for a woodchuck, especially after last summer’s raccoon-fest and our sealing up all the openings under the porch, but nevertheless, Woody, as we’ve come to call him, not only resides on our patio in a gargantuan cave he has built, but has an extended family of baby woodchucks living under our porch.

Woody

 

woody's home

 

I’ve also put several small winning lottery tickets and handfuls of dollar bills in the basket and have yet to win Mega-Millions or Powerball but there is always the possibility.

So why not make a wish or two? Who’s to say how messages are communicated in the universe or how things are heard in the heavens?  What is important is that we put our message out because…you never know.

We just added our latest wish in the basket….I’ll keep you posted!

 

our latest wish is in the basket

 

Capture the Flag...And Memories Too!

Last year, right before Memorial Day, I wrote a post about our flag tradition.  Well, with the Fourth of July practically upon us, I thought it would be a good idea to re-share this lovely tradition with all of you.

Our Annual Flag

As we all know, summer is fleeting.  Even as we are preparing to begin the celebrations of the season, back to school items and early fall fashions are hitting the shelves and windows of our favorite stores.  While this has been going on for quite a long time, it seems that it worsens every year.  Irwin and I always joke about it, saying that it is difficult to find summer items in mid-July because stores are filled with Halloween items and sleds, which by the way, is not very far from the truth.

As more of our goods became imports and delivery times increased, retailers had to make earlier commitments to goods and ….well, you know the rest, we are about two and a half steps away from Christmas in July-literally.

So, while that ephemeral summertime window is open, we should take every opportunity to savor the sweet smells and vivid colors of the season, and do all that we can to capture this season’s memories so that they can be enjoyed throughout this year and for years to come.

colors of the season

 

 

A happy fellow in yellow

 

Coleus Foliage

 

Vivid in Violet

 

Our flag tradition allows us to do just that.  It began three years ago when:

our flag, which we had hung from our porch in the country, was ruined in a storm and Irwin and I were unable to find a good quality replacement in time for our upcoming Fourth of July celebration with friends. In a quest to create last minute, patriotic décor, Irwin grabbed a handful of small, cut out, color copies of a beautiful American flag, which we kept in a jar in the kitchen and placed them in planters all over the porch.  He then hung one flag on one of the posts as well.  Our celebration was a success and even after the holiday ended, and the other paper flags were put away, the flag on the post remained.  Irwin suggested that we leave it up there until the following July 4th, as a tribute to our country and as a reminder of the wonderful celebration we had.”

The flag remained there until the following July 4th, when we took it down, noted the names of the guests from the previous year on the back and placed it, once again, in the glass jar on our kitchen shelf.  We replaced it with a new flag that already had the current year’s guests’ names on it. And the tradition continued.

 

 

our Captured Flags

 

 

This year, we will replace the flag, once again and save the current flag along with its memories for years to come.

 

 

 

Memories in a jar

 

 

While Irwin and I have been trying to capture summertime in a jar since we were little kids by collecting fireflies & caterpillars, our “Capturing of the Flag” is far more humane and longer lasting.

 

So, while you are preparing for your family celebration this weekend, consider including our version of “Capture the Flag” in your festivities.  With best wishes for a happy and safe Fourth of July from our family to yours!

 

 

our newest family members

 

 

The Sweet Smell of...Roses

I can’t help myself.  When springtime explodes in the country and we are on the cusp of summer my heart literally skips a beat.  When hummingbirds visit while I have my morning coffee on the porch and fireflies light up the night time sky like fireworks, I am in heaven because I know that this is the season when we become more than transient guests in our own home.  This season, however fleeting, is the one that literally forces us to stop whatever we are doing and smell the roses.

While Irwin and I try to get away for at least one night a week during the year and spend part of the winter holidays in the country with the family, it is not quite the same as the late spring and summer when we afford ourselves the luxury of spending considerable blocks of time in our rural retreat.

And…what better way to welcome us for the season than to be greeted upon arrival on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend by a sweet little bird finally building the nest I had been pining for since the start of spring; the nest that has been there every spring/summer since we bought the house, the nest I was so disappointed not to see on Mother’s Day.

 

The perfect building project began on Friday-moved in on Sunday

 

It is part of my ritual.  When I arrive at the house, I walk around and examine the changes in our plantings and check on our seasonal guests including the Robin’s nest in the gutter and the other in our beloved Dogwood.  Imagine my utter surprise and sheer glee when I saw the first specks of mud on the porch roof. At that moment I exhaled, knowing that all was right in our little piece of the universe.

We all know that is so easy to get caught up in the complexity of daily living and lose sight of the time we need to spend enjoying the beauty we are surrounded by.  But acknowledging it and doing something about it are two incredibly different things.  Just the other day, I had that very discussion on Twitter with two good Twitter friends, @tandemantiques and @jonathanlegate.  We all acknowledged the fact that because summer is fleeting, we must take time to “smell the roses”, a priority that we often overlook.  I said that I needed to enjoy EVERY moment of this precious season and take it one day at a time.  Hilary (@andemantiques) agreed adding “It's true - I know that I sometimes squander my now because I'm focused/worried about down the road”, something we are all guilty of and Jonathan added: I’m “always thinking of the future but taking time to enjoy the present while respecting the past.”   A truly beautiful statement that says it all and is something we should all allow ourselves to do.

So, here is to summer and the beauty it reveals to us everyday.  Let’s all make a commitment now to stop and enjoy "the sweet smell of... roses” this season before it is just a memory.

Some of "the roses" we have stopped to smell this season so far: Enjoy!

Superb Spirea

 

 

colossal Catnip

 

Color-fusion

 

 

relaxing Goldfinches

 

A statuesque Iris

 

 Breathtaking Day Lilies

 

A humble bumble bee

 

The beauty of another sunset

 

The Golden glow of evening's approach

 

 

The warmth of a tea light

 

Only nature's song can be heard

 

the dance of the flames

 

Waxed beauty

 

 

Our mentor Charlie, who inspires us everyday & reminds us of how sweet the roses can be!

 

 

 

It is often said that you can never go back, that it is best to allow memories to remain as memories because all to often, when revisited, reality pales in comparison.  While this is true most of the time, sometimes, if the stars are aligned, some memories are well worth revisiting.

Irwin & I returned to the country for one night last weekend, because although we knew we needed to be in the city Sunday, we just could not bear to miss a weekend of spring’s continued revelations.

Upon arrival, I was shocked and disappointed to find the addition the robins had added to the nest featured in last week’s post, The Best Nest, torn down and laying in shambles on the ground.  I was not sure if the original builders returned and reclaimed their nest or something catastrophic had happened since neither bird family appeared during our short visit.  The burning bush guests were still in place, but there were still no tenants in the roof of our front door porch and it remained beautifully repainted and nest-free for the first time since we own our house.

Nest remains

 

 

pieces on the ground

 

Still Vacant

 

While Irwin was thrilled with the prospect of clean front steps for the first time in ten years, I was struck with a bout of melancholy.   As silly as it may seem, I love having these guests every year because they are a reminder of life’s promise and renewal.  While I began to grapple with my sense of loss, I walked around the perimeter of the house, desperately seeking some new affirmation of life, when I noticed our budding lilacs.


 

lilacs in bloom

 

Lilacs are one of my favorite flowers.  Their scent takes me back to my childhood, when my grandmother, who truly had a green thumb, tended the small garden that surrounded our house.  While we had fruit trees and a grape vine along with her prized roses, my favorites were the enormous lilac bushes in front of our porch.

 As I stood there, feet firmly planted on our soil with my eyes closed, memories of my childhood flooded my mind.  They were so tangible and life affirming, that I found myself smiling. 

The “green thumb” gene was not one that I inherited from my grandmother, as evidenced by the number of plants that have died under my care, still my appreciation for all things green runs deep.  As the lilacs of my childhood signaled the beginning of spring along with the promise of summer, our lilacs in the country perpetuate that affirmation each year.  It is no coincidence that our lilac bushes usually reach full bloom around Mother’s Day, showering me with fragrant memories.

 

Summer's promise

 

We returned to the country yesterday to celebrate Mother’s Day with our children and as promised, the lilacs were in full bloom. As we sat around the table enjoying our first barbecue of the season and reminiscing, the fragrance of the lilacs wafting through the air reminded me to step back for a moment and drink in the new memories we were creating.

 

Full Bloom

 

And….as it that were not gift enough, to my surprise and delight, when I looked out the kitchen window this morning, I saw that the robin’s nest was rebuilt.  Still in true robin’s nest style with a multitude of branches and leaves hanging over the side, but seeming more finished and polished than the last incarnation.  I’m assuming this time they consulted with an interior designer!

Re-designed nest

 

 

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

 

The Best Nest

When we awoke yesterday morning and saw what a glorious day it was, Irwin and I were excited to hit the road for some R&R in the country.  But after dallying far too long, and with the expectation of bad weather the following day, we toyed with the idea of blowing off the two-hour drive and just chilling in the city. However, when Irwin and I realized that obligations the following weekend would probably not allow us any retreat time, we grabbed a bag and headed out despite the late hour because the idea of missing two weeks of seasonal transformation in the country was more than either one of us could accept.

We could not wait to get back and see what had transpired over the previous six days and we were not disappointed by the array of changes that welcomed us. 

As we pulled into the driveway a single daffodil that had bloomed by the magnolia greeted us.  Further up the driveway, our fragrantly blooming cherry tree welcomed us right outside the mudroom door.  We found a new guest preparing for residence in a sweet nest located in a burning bush next to the porch while another feathered friend was considering a flat in an architectural trellis.

Daffodil

 

 

Cherry Blossoms

 

New Guest

 

Architectural Trellis
  

But the most profound change was the drastic addition to a nest that seemed complete last week and was in fact last Monday’s Photo of the Day, "Perfect Project".  A once neat nest had been transformed into something much more extravagant and I couldn’t imagine why.

 

the nest last week

 

The nest when we arrived this week
 
 

This morning the explanation was revealed .  Last week's guests had abruptly departed and ownership of the nest had flipped.  The new nesters were a pair of robins who, despite the wet weather, were busy making some additions to suit there own needs and tastes; not so dissimilar from what we do when we want to make our homes our own. Fortunately for the robins, they were left a nest with a solid foundation and good bones to build upon, which made the transition easy.

New Nester

 

The rain continued to fall throughout the afternoon as the robins maintained a low profile, making it difficult for me to capture their DIY project in action, but the lesson that they shared with me was very clear.  A solid foundation is the key to good design.

The latest incarnation of the nest

As we create and personalize our living spaces it is important that they be built on a solid design foundation that can adapt to both our changing needs and tastes as well as the needs and wants of others who may inhabit our nests after we leave.

Who could argue with the simple truth that a little birdie shared with me?

 

 

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