Saturday, March 31, 2012

good morning from the Catskills

Weren't we just talking about spring and flowers? I awoke to snow this morning and begin to think of nature not as a mother, but as a mischievous child. As I drink my coffee and look at the steep wooded hills, bluestone slabs and waterfall view I fantasize about building a painting studio. Look here on Tiny House Swoon at the one made from old windows, and enjoy all three pages of tiny swoon-worthy house pictures.


Thursday, March 29, 2012


 I have a little fantasy of selling flowers in the store--nothing fancy. Stems or bundles similar to what is sold at farmers markets.

Pakatakan Farmers Market in the Catskills

farmers market bouquet

I have been reading with interest about a developing buy local movement for flowers.  Karen Orlando's blog Outside Now, chronicles, among other things, her new business creating small locally grown bouquets for businesses in Brooklyn. See posts here.  And if the New York Times writes about it (here) it must be true. This video about a California woman whose garden includes more that 200 varieties of roses that she sells in a kiosk in Santa Cruz is beautiful and inspirational.

I am trying to work my way out of a funk about the store. Running a business in a flood-ravaged, economically depressed area is a challenge. I'm losing money and there's no point in continuing unless I enjoy it. For weeks I've been struggling, fighting the urge to just shut it down. But now I'm thinking about flowers. Growing them. Selling them.  Not in a big way. Fill a few buckets. See what happens.

We have 60 acres of hilly woods in the Catskills. An abundance of ferns and moss. Wildflowers grow near the creek. I keep a couple vases in the store filled to bring the vases and the store to life.

There is a grassy area between our driveway and the creek. My husband planted blueberries near the edge, but otherwise it's just grass. I am wondering if I could turn it into a wildflower meadow. Until I retire I won't be there enough to maintain a "real" garden, though I'm already planning it in my head. (Drifts of daffodils and delphinums...) So I'm going to research planting wildflowers. (ironic? oxymoronic? just plain moronic?) Suggestions for no-maintenence flower gardens welcome.


Monday, March 26, 2012

flowers in (and out of) the house

Last week was gloriously warm in New England. Birds and buds awoke and I started spring cleanup.

Of course I was thinking ahead to Jane's Flowers in the House and by Friday the only flowers blooming were purple crocuses. So I hastened to the supermarket for backup daffodils and purple tulips.

Also primroses and pansies for the plant stand on my deck that I hope to have dripping with flowers soon.

Last night we had a stern frost, and the crocuses froze, though my neighbor's forsythias look good.

Then I noticed this, which I think is a mountain laurel. (flower people?) Sort of wild and modest. Not something I think about for flowers. edited to add: Thanks to Jane and the Hattatts I now know this is a Pieris Japonica.

It has clusters of small, delicate bell flowers. So very pretty. I'm a little bit in love with them.

Be sure and check out more Flowers in the House. They will make you happy.


Friday, March 23, 2012


        My father and Brazilian Air Force plane, 1950's

In the 1950's my father worked for the State Department. He travelled the world, had adventures, and brought home interesting things. Many years later, living in San Francisco, he retired for medical reasons. He continued to consult with the Environmental Protection Agency, his employer since 1970, and occasionally manned his friend's high-end antique store, while the friend, a CIA operative, went on missions. (True story.) He and my stepmother also had an antique business, and he was a master of high-low--mixing expensive items with those found at flea markets and garage sales. I have fond memories of accompanying him to the Alameda, Marin, and San Jose flea markets.

My father (sunglasses) and Secretary of State Dulles

In the early 80's they moved to a little house in Yountville California--it was packed with collections. He died in 2006, and after my stepmother died in 2010 (an event that led almost directly to me opening the store--see here) I had to choose what I wanted from their house. I took some special things for my children. For myself the things I wanted were mostly on the flea market end of things--including a large collection of wood-slice paintings he'd picked up here and there. I have about thirty landscapes--lakes, mountains, and so forth, in our Catskills house. I put a few for sale in the store.

Three wood slice paintings of the Cliff House in San Francisco, a place that was special to my father.

 This one, of Mission San Luis Obispo, California, I put in the Etsy store, thinking it might appeal to someone who lives there or collects items relating to missions.

Today, I got this message: "I live in San Luis Obispo and I have recently been put in charge of my elementary school's silent auction fundraiser and was hoping you might be interested in donating this piece. I just had to ask because I really love the idea of bringing this painting "home" and think it would be a huge hit in our auction. We are a terrific little elementary school..." 

I wrote back that I would be happy to donate it. My father would have enjoyed the travels of this little work of art created in San Luis Obispo in 1946 that wound up in Yountville California in the 1980's, Massachusetts in 2011 and is now going back to San Luis Obispo on a mission to raise money for an elementary school.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

sea nettles and frog ponds

I went to the aquarium in Boston Friday. (Did any other aquarium have a band playing Celtic music the day before St. Patricks?) They have a fine exhibit of jellies.

                           jelly fish, New England Aquarium

As mentioned in my last post, when I was a child, I lived on the Severn River (in Maryland, not England) an estuary of the Chesapeake Bay. Every summer when the water warmed, the sea nettles (a species of jelly fish) came in. We scorned those kids who had community pools that looked like chlorinated concrete shoeboxes, when we could swim forever. I can still feel the sting and prickle of the nettles, a small price to pay for the vast, deep, ever-changing life of a river.

North American Sea Nettles, New England Aquarium

I enjoyed everything about the aquarium--adorable penguins, gorgeous tropical fish, goofy blowfish, massive sea turtles...but was particularly interested in a look at specific habitats such as salt marshes and mangrove swamps. They made me think of our frog pond in the Catskills.

                                            frog pond, Andes NY

On my evening walks in the spring and summer I look forward to the sounds of the frogs croaking and splashing as I near the pond. Approximately 1/3 of the world's frogs, toads and salamanders face extinction due to pollution, pesticides, climate change and habitat destruction. Frogs, with their permeable skin and land/water life cycle are extremely vunerable to changes in the environment. This sensitivity makes them an early warning system for ecological decline. Every spring, when I walk to the pond I am afraid that they will not be there, and I feel a palpable sense of relief when I hear the first deep rib-bit and the splash of a frog who wants nothing do with a human.

                      Madagascar tree frog, New England Aquarium

African bull frog, New England Aquarium

Friday, March 16, 2012

surrounded by nature

Until I was seven, we lived in a house in Virginia, surrounded by woods. My strongest early childhood memories are of being in the forest with my dog, peering down (not far, since I was small) at ferns, may apples, and Virginia bluebells; and up at the light slanting through trees.

From ages 7 to 14 I lived in a house on the Severn River in Maryland, and then in one surrounded by hills covered with olive trees, poppies, and mustard flowers in California.

Much of my childhood was spent outside. Even today, I feel the most comfortable, the most myself, when I am surrounded by nature.

Two weeks ago I was at this beach in South Carolina, with no other people in sight. It was a sunny windy day.

The sand blew so hard I thought of tales of sandstorms in the desert.

Mesmerizing patterns formed.

I'm sure that the woods, water, and hills of my childhood are why, the first time we saw our property in the Catskills it resonated so deeply with me, and continues to do so eleven years later.

Is there a place you feel the most yourself?

I am staying in Massachusetts this weekend, thinking about going to the New England Aquarium...

Enjoy your weekend!

All pictures, except the first and last were taken by me in South Carolina. The first one is credited, the last I took on our property in the Catskills.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

other things

Despite the occasional $1.00 weekend, I did sell almost enough last year (with some help from the Etsy store) to cover store expenses. Meaning rent, utilities, shopping bags, and so forth. I never expected to make any money from the store, but it is starting to feel out of balance--the time I put into it, the long drive, working in the store all weekend, is not so rewarding any more. It was something I needed, but I'm not sure I still do. I won't make any hasty decisions or changes, but I don't think it's sustainable in its current form. Or is it? Check back with me at summer's end.

I am thinking about other things I'd like to do on my country weekends. Like hiking and painting and reading. I've made new friends through the store and I'd like to spend time with them.

I can't stop thinking about the foot bath that Haricot writes about here.

Those last two pictures were taken in the South Carolina Sea Islands. I think I'm going to visit New Orleans next. I want to fall in love with a new place, and that could be the one.

Do you prefer me to respond to your comments: In the comment section? Via email? Not at all? Only if you have a question?  edited to add: This question is not about the time it takes to respond--I enjoy doing so, and having the connection with you. Sometimes it turns into a conversation, or deepens the connection. Like we're having a cup of coffee (or tea) together. I really just want to know if you have preferences. I never know which way to do it, and so go back and forth.

Monday, March 12, 2012

last weekend, in the Catskills

Total sales for the weekend? $1.
(now you know why I think about closing for the winter)

The store was, um, quiet, so I did a lot of reading.

Saturday afternoon my husband, seeing my developing bad mood, (why did I think it was a good idea to open a store?) watched the shop for a while, and I took a walk around the village of Margaretville. First I went in the library and my mood immediately started to improve. Our house is in a rural area midway between Margaretville and Andes (which I wrote about here), so I think of country when I think about the Catskills, but the many small villages that dot the region (and all of upstate New York) are filled with charming old houses, such as these in Margaretville.

They will be even prettier when spring comes with its buds, blooms and blossoms.

Notice the Victorian dollhouse on the porch. (Click on pictures to enlarge.)

I was quite taken with this sculpture.

And this house. A purple house and an extra hour of light make everything look better. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

please come upstairs!

I'm back from South Carolina and itching to get up to the Catskills. Not going until Friday morning but I'm already packing the car. I have some gorgeous vintage quilts.

Jigsaw puzzles for children and adults, stuffed birds (from Audubon that make genuine appropriate bird calls when you squeeze them), seed bombs, vintage odds and ends.

Somehow, I have to get more people to come upstairs to the store. (If you're new here, the store is in a big old mercantile, divided into smaller stores. I share the second floor with an art gallery and a home furnishings/accessories store.) I have put up more signs, but we still don't get nearly as much foot traffic as downstairs. There is a space downstairs coming up for rent, but the rent is so much higher I don't think I should do it. I will advertise more, put up more signs and just try to make it the best store I can. And hope that people find it. What would it take to get you upstairs? Chocolate chip cookies?