New Beginning: A Slowhome Lifestyle Inside and Out

As I emerge from the beauty, self-evaluation and repentance of the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur, I am struck by the difficulty of the task that lies ahead of me and the enormity of work I have to do…on myself.  But like with many other aspects of life, this transformation is not simply a one-shot deal or quick fix, but rather a slow, deliberate attempt to make the necessary changes.

As we all learned in Psych 101, the first step in making any real change is the acknowledgment of the changes we need to make.  Although I am acutely aware of some of my shortcomings, self-reflection can be somewhat overwhelming; like looking at our reflection in a magnifying mirror under the harsh florescent lighting of a hotel bathroom.   Seeing things in this glaring light makes it more difficult to strike the appropriate balance and focus on our whole being.  The little blemishes in our persona seem exaggerated and we become so transfixed on looking at our shortcomings we neglect to acknowledge our accomplishments.

So how do we go about an inner redesign?  How do we untangle the intricate web we’ve spun? 

Tangled web

Well, I’ve decided to take a slow- home approach to my inner being, much the same as Irwin and I have adopted in our country lifestyle.  Rather than embarking on an extreme make-over, which would be much like throwing out the baby with the bathwater, or doing a home tear-down when only one room needs attention.  I am approaching my inner décor redesign slowly, with forethought and a definite plan. Segmenting that image I see in the mirror and tackling one section, “one room” at a time. 

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Segmenting the mirror

this particular one is our 20th century wagon wheel Mirror

 

I will make small changes, re-purposing where possible, then stepping back and evaluating before moving forward. While I know that any change can be difficult, I also know that less is often more and in order to create a sustainable inner core, I must let go of much of the clutter that I’ve accumulated over the past year. 

 

Much like the serenity prayer, my goal is to “accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference."  While I know there may be setbacks along the way, my direction will remain constant-moving forward slowly and deliberately learning and growing along the way.

Serenity

Wishing all of you a wonderful year filled with health, happiness & prosperity!

 

 

This past Saturday night we hosted our first “Road Party” in the country and it was  spectacular!  It was attended by nine families including ours and was so successful, we have decided to make it an annual event.            

Our House

 

Unlike suburban neighborhoods with streetlights and sidewalks, our road in the country is light-less and dirt. While our home is situated close to the road, most of the other homes that dot our road are nestled in the mountainside at the end of dirt driveways, many of which are a half mile long or more. 

Our Road 

 

That being the case, it should come as no surprise that after ten summers in the country, we knew little, if anything about our neighbors.  But all that changed last summer, when we met our new neighbor Jeanne and her dog Zippy.

Zippy and Charlie became fast friends and Charlie (as well as Irwin & myself) eagerly anticipated Zippy & Jeanne’s impromptu visits before or after their afternoon walk.  Jeanne, living here full time for half the year had managed to meet more local people in her first month here, than we had met in the ten years previous and it was through her that we finally met some of our neighbors last Labor Day.

Zippy & Charlie: Best Buddies

 

This year Jeanne had a brilliant idea.  She suggested we collaborate and host a “Road Party” to get to know more of our “hidden” neighbors. Because there is nothing we enjoy more than hosting a party, we immediately offered our home for the event.  Jeanne dropped mailers in every mailbox and under every front door she could find on our half of the road (the road is over three miles long) asking people to RSVP and bring an appetizer, side or dessert.  We had no idea who or what to expect and the result was more wonderful than we could have ever anticipated.

Our neighbors regardless of whether they were able to attend or not, called and emailed telling us how much they loved the idea of a road party. Despite never having any discussion about specifically what anyone was bringing, the collaboration was astounding and the resulting menu blended together seamlessly and needless to say, the buffet was plentiful.

In keeping with our slow home philosophy, we re-purposed cloth napkins and dishes that we had originally purchased and/or made for our children's B’nai-Mitzvah years ago and made a tablecloth from an upholstery fabric remnant.  Using our own silverware, the only disposable items used at the gathering were about thirty plastic cups, which were recyclable.

Tableware set up: Nothing Disposable Here

 

Irwin took two colors of napkins from the assortment and in lieu of napkin rings, he used a roll of twine we had and rolled and tied each napkin with a simple twine bow; an easy and inexpensive touch that made tremendous visual impact.

Re-purposed napkins tied with everyday twine

 

Irwin then strategically placed cut flowers from our garden in vintage silver plated champagne glasses as well as a collection of vintage vases we have accumulated over the years.  He supplemented our garden’s bounty with flowers Jeanne had purchased at a local farm to complete the arrangements.

Vintage silver plated champagne glass with farm flowers

 

More home grown flowers

 

Farm Flowers in our vintage vase

 

More local flowers in a vintage silver plated bowl

 

 

And...More local & farm flowers

 

our miniature roses

 

And the food, have I mentioned the food? Well, all of the food we prepared as well as the food that our guests brought was made with locally grown or purchased ingredients and was amazingly fresh and tasty.

Irwin's Fresh Mozzarella, tomato & basil salad-locally grown with toasted ciabatta bread & hummus

 

 

a new twist: hummus served in margarita glasses

 

 

Can't you just smell the fresh basil?

 

 

Jeanne's home made roasted chicken salad

 

My home made pasta w/arugula pesto sun dried tomatoes goat cheese and local grilled corn

 

Our neighbor Gloria's garden salad made form vegetables she grew in her garden (sorry for the leftovers photo)

 

Drinks including water, Iced tea and my special vodka cocktail

 

Jeanne's home made peach & plum pie made with locally grown fruit

 

 

my home made cupcakes

 

 

 Charlie: Ready for guests

 

 

 

Although I stopped taking pictures when the guests arrived, I must list the delicious additions they contributed to the event:

  • A home made Ceasar salad
  • A home made Goat Cheese & Pesto Torta
  • A home made grilled summer squash salad ( squash grown in neighbor's garden)
  • Home made crab filled finger sandwiches
  • A fruit salad that included sever types of locally grown plums as well as peaches
  • An assortment of local artisanal cheeses
  • A rustic peach pie made by a local farm as well as a mixed berry pie from our local Biodynamic farm

But more than the wonderful food, the time spent getting to know our neighbors was priceless.  We met new neighbors to the road as well as long standing residents; weekenders like ourselves as well as full-timers. We shared a meal as well as our love for this special place on our planet and as the evening came to a close and we cleaned up, we all agreed to do this again next year.

 

Glasses that we frosted for oldest son's bar mitzvah in 2001 now staples in the country

 

Another Season

As we turned into our driveway and caught sight of the magnolia in bloom, I took a deep breath and let out a sigh; another season had arrived. While all of the seasons are breathtaking in the country, spring is by far my favorite.

Our Magnolia

We had planted the magnolia five springs ago in memory of Irwin's father who had passed away the year before. Magnolias were his favorite and this little fledgling has been a source of inspiration to our entire family. So to see it in bloom with daffodils at its side practically brought tears to our eyes.

Beautiful magnolia blossom

 

Daffodils

Irwin and I first became acquainted with our country home in the springtime ten years ago.  At the time, it was a decaying house and acreage.  Looking back, it is hard to believe that we were able to envision any existence in this place, yet ten years later we continue to marvel at how life affirming this plot of land on this mountain can be.

our mountain

As the house was in the process of a rebirth, so too was the surrounding land, which began to revive itself and offered up new surprises almost daily.  There were the apple trees that revealed themselves the first fall, the shock of lilacs the following spring, rosebushes that seemed to appear out of thin air several years later, and the countless other miracles of nature that we have been privileged to witness, including the appearance of our beloved Charlie, who too was a gift of our mountain.

Lilac in bloom 
 

our sweet willow

charlie, our greatest gift

When spring arrives on “our mountain”, as we have come to think of it, the simplicity of rebirth and renewal make almost anything seem possible.  As Irwin and I took a walk out into the woods, signs of spring’s resurgence were all around us and the profusion of new growth was awe-inspiring.

A walk in the woods

 

rebirth on the forest floor

 

 

Greenery abounds

We were greeted at breakfast Sunday morning by our first guests of the season, who were up bright and early working on their new home right in the elbow of the gutter outside our kitchen window.  Seeing those birds made me smile because they were confirmation of spring’s return and with it the proliferation of new life. I was duly impressed by their fortitude; they were not deterred by our removal of all the nests last fall in order to repaint the house.  They returned and began to build anew in the very same spot they had built their nest last year.   

 

our 1st guest

foundation is built

All of the creatures, both large and small have been busy preparing for springtime on our mountain. There is much activity, some of which is easily observed.  Other activity cannot necessarily be seen, but signs are all around.

the smallest creatures

 

Paw prints courtesy of our friends down under: raccoons

That is the miracle of another season.  No matter how severe the winter, no matter what happens on Wall Street, when spring arrives and the creatures of our mountain that share our house and land return, we know that literally, hope springs eternal.

Even the inanimate objects have embraced the season and have found ways to come to life.

 

mossy turtle 

And if the sights and sounds that surrounded us were not affirmation enough, what we stumbled upon on the path leading to the back of the house confirmed what we already knew: We are extremely lucky.

 

lucky penny

Whether we realize it or not, nature is our greatest collaborator each and everyday.  So while we should celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22, 2010, we must cherish our Earth and it’s miraculous beauty every single day so that generations to come will be able to bask in the sheer joy of… another season.

 

Earth Hour Came A-Courtin'

Irwin and I decided to spend Earth Hour in the country this year.  We thought it would be a good opportunity to celebrate global renewal in a place that celebrates life everyday, in simpler, more basic way.

And simpler it is.  Our house is located in a rural community, where cow crossings outnumber street crossings.  Our single stoplight town is a twelve-minute drive down the mountain and has no drug store or cleaners. Our road is unpaved possessing neither streetlights nor sidewalks, and cell phone service is non-existent on our property.

Cow Crossing

 

Local Pedestrian

Our one & Only

While we celebrate the fact that we have indoor plumbing and electricity (most of the time), we have no internet access and put our cable television service on hold from January through May, requiring us to get in the car and drive over a mile and a half down the road in order to check our email or text messages. It doesn’t get much simpler than that for modernists like us.

That being said, celebrating Earth Hour in the country required very little powering down.  In fact, just before 8:30 pm, when Earth Hour began, only two small lights were on in the house and Irwin & I were already seated in front of a roaring fire, in our otherwise unlit Great Room.

Can you hear the roar?

As Earth Hour approached, we powered down the house and lit a small candle in a chamberstick as well as pair of beautiful candles in our courting candlesticks for extra light.  Yes, you read that correctly, courting candlesticks.

chamberstick

 

 

courting candles

I had no idea that courting candlesticks even existed until last time we were in the country and used these candlesticks.  I made a comment about the fact that these rustic candlesticks had a crank to adjust the candle up or down, and Irwin then explained that these were, in fact, courting candlesticks.

Courting candlesticks were used from the 1600’s through the 1800’s by the parents or guardians of proper young women to set an appropriate time limit for dates with their suitors. The candle would have been placed in the room where the young girl would have welcomed the young man.  If a parent did not approve of a young man, he or she might be inclined to put out the candle immediately.  If the suitor was well liked, the candle might be raised to the highest point to allow for a longer date.  Who knew?

 

Courting candlestick

And so Earth Hour was spent, relaxing in front of the fire with courting candles for added light.  While banding together with our global community is empowering and working towards a common goal of global sustainability is extremely important, we don’t need to wait for Earth Hour to arrive to “power down “ our lives.  The benefits of getting back to basics on a regular basis are bountiful and a renewed appreciation for the many blessings we already have in our lives is paramount.

Earth Hour Came A-Courtin'

 

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