Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Joy and Sorrow

 I always find it ironic that joy and sorrow, sunshine and shadow, seem ever present with each other. This week, for the second time this year, our family has both a wedding and a funeral back-to-back. We will joyously celebrate with one member of our congregation as she marries her true love, and then with sorrow celebrate the life of a precious member of our congregation who was a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and friend to many in our church.

All this is happening the very same week that my peonies are blooming. The first one was picked on Sunday and I'm guessing the last one will be picked before the week is finished. Talk about pure joy. This is it! Several times a day I walk out to check on the bushes. Each day I pick some more and then spend countless minutes throughout the day photographing them! Ha ha ha! The children are sick and tired of me driving around town pointing out every incredible peony bush in bloom to them. They do not care!!!

I have a whole post to devote to peonies at some point, but I have to post a few now! :) Tomorrow we'll do wedding flowers -- and right now I have about 80 white peony blooms in my kitchen and fridge!

In the midst of all this real life, all my kids want to do is go to the pool! ha ha! We have had lovely weather for it this week -- mid 80's. 

On Monday I managed to spend some time in the kitchen garden. Just about everything is planted except a few more marigolds and a bunch of basil. Weeding doesn't bother me but planting seeds I find tedious! I am avoiding it..... Once this garden is done I need to move on to the mammoth task of my side garden which is now overgrown with perennials. It will take a solid week to get it done.

 I am slowly unwinding from the school year. I am remembering how much I love homemaking and missing time to take good photos, record recipes, stitch, embroider, quilt, create. I am searching for margin in each day.

Well, I have a little flower girl in the tub who needs her hair washed. :)

May you savor the joys and have strength for the sorrows in your week.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Mondays are for Grace

"Trust does not mean hoping for the absence of pain
but believing in the purpose of pain."

-- Kevin DeYoung

Friday, May 23, 2014

Scotland: Hill Top (England)

I think of all the people and places that we studied in conjunction with our trip to the UK last year, Beatrix Potter's life probably had the biggest impact on me. 

When we got to the Lake District the incredible beauty of the place fell like such a weight on my chest that I suddenly knew why Beatrix Potter had to live here and understood what her inspiration was for her artwork and then her life as a farm woman and conservationist. 

You can't just enter this part of the country as an observer. It demands a response.

Our day to visit Beatrix Potter's Hill Top Farm was the rainiest of all our days!

The weather put no one off and we had to park a good way down the road beyond Hill Top.

But it gave us the chance to approach the village on foot and admire the blackberry bushes on the side of the road.

Blackberries!!!! As in Peter Rabbit blackberries. (In case you didn't know, this blog is name for blackberries....)

From this view you can see Beatrix's married home (Castle Cottage) on the far right of the photo (off-white color) and then you can see its proximity to Hill Top Farm (which would be to the left of the white car in the photo). This was one of my big discoveries of the day -- I had no idea how close the two homes actually were! No wonder Beatrix could use Hill Top for artwork and entertaining guests -- she had only to walk over the field between the two.

Here we are walking up the long side garden towards the house.

A very wet day indeed!! And the entrances to the house are limited to something like 8 people every 10 minutes.

Might as well have a look around! Here is the orchard:

A view from the kitchen garden which was just below the house:

This looks like a scene right out of Mr. McGregor's garden! (Incidentally, Scots were known for being excellent gardeners and so perhaps that is why Beatrix chose a Scottish name for the gardener in Peter Rabbit!!):

Another view of the garden with the Hill Top Farm barns beyond:

Another entrance to the garden from the side:

And here are the barns because I needed to know exactly where Beatrix was going when she checked on her livestock:

Here is the part of the house that Beatrix added in 1906 for the farm manager and his family. You can see Beatrix's initials and the date in the front of the building. The current farm manager still lives there!

A bit of perspective of the house as a whole:

Getting closer to our time inside. The docent outside was happy to answer any questions we had while we waited:

When it was 11:50 it was our turn to go in!

We had strict instructions on removing our jackets and turning them inside out so as to preserve the contents of the house (we had to carry them around with us):

We were not allowed to take photos of the inside of the house which was, of course, disappointing. A few of my favorite memories from inside:

-- the first view of the large living area with the black stove in the fireplace just like in many of the books
-- the inviting table and chairs in front of the fireplace, making you want to spend the day there
--the low ceilings and the dark lighting
-- the perfect, tiny parlor with fireplace, table and china cabinet and the Edward VII coronation teapot that features in one of the stories
--seeing Lucinda and Jane (dolls); this, along with the very ham in the dollhouse from which Beatrix painted the ham in "Two Bad Mice" flooded me with memories from my childhood and it was as if I'd seen these things a hundred times and yet it was the first time.
--seeing the art room with art from Beatrix's mother, father, brother, and herself

Back down the long garden that is so beautifully described in the book at the end of this post:

And then just down the way is Tower Bank Arms pub which features in at least one of the stories:

I thought I would walk around the tiny village and take a few pictures of other houses and buildings:

Making my way by road over to Castle Cottage.

And here is Castle Cottage from the back:

The view out to the fields:

And the view behind Castle Cottage:

Apparently poaching is a problem!

A few more cottages lining the road:

Back to the center of Near Sawrey:

And a rain-drenched rose:

And a pile of giant marrows growing in front of Tower Bank Arms!!!

Wishing I had gone in and had a cup of tea inside the Arms in this window!

It was so special to visit Hill Top! Afterward we headed over to Wray Castle -- the very first place the Potters rented when they visited the Lake District. That will have to be for another post!

Beatrix inspires me with her love of nature and everyday life. I also feel that her very difficult childhood and the isolation and emotional pain she endured became the rich soil from which her art and writing grew. Her commitment to land conservation and the gift that the Lake District has become to the people who visit is an example to all of us.

Now, since we couldn't take pictures inside the house, and many can't actually go to the house, here are two books you'll want to read to bridge the gap:

At Home with Beatrix Potter: The Creator of Peter Rabbit by Susan Denyer is gorgeous book that will show you all the rooms inside Hill Top as well as talk about the various other places Beatrix stayed and lived in the Lake District. It is filled with many beautiful photos as well as artwork by Beatrix, and of course lots of history and information.

Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life: The Plants and Places That Inspired the Classic Children's Tales by Marta McDowell, which came out last year I believe, is a most delightful book! McDowell discusses Beatrix's history with gardens and then goes through her garden at Hill Top season by season!!!! It's on my wish list and I am certain if you love gardening, or Beatrix Potter, you will love this book!

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Words and Wool

Well, I got back a bit of my "I love to sew flowers" feeling. :) Good thing. These are promised to a shop on Saturday. Now they are all done!

I also found a few minutes to sew these strips together into a quick and easy quilt. I am quilting large running stitches with pearlized cotton. It's going on the little couch in my dining room.

I also got back over to my mom's for another painting lesson! We did water pictures this time and mine turned out like the Bahamas! ha ha! Every time I look at it I can pretend I'm on summer vacation!

And after nearly a year since we were given these chairs I recovered them!!!! I've been looking and looking for fabric that would work for the chairs, go with our color scheme, and not break my budget. Well, the waiting and praying paid off! A friend gave me a bag of stuff she was getting rid of and this fabric was in the bottom of the bag!!! Wow! It's way better than any pattern I've seen at the store so far and it certainly met the budget. :)

And now for books. Here is a picture of my stack of holds at the library this week:
 Picking up my stack of books and sitting down to read through the first chapter is equivalent to sitting down at a fancy restaurant and being served a gourmet meal. It is such a treat!

Today my "book quote exchange letter" arrived in the mail. It is always exciting to see where and who it comes from. This time it came from Grantham, England!

And for what I've been reading:

Windy Foot at the County Fair by Frances Frost was finished up with the kids this week. We are all so attached to these stories now. Even Laura drew her own portrait of Windy Foot last night when we were reading.

Grace Filled Marriage: The Missing Piece, the Place to Start by Dr. Tim Kimmel is a book I just started and already I like the premise and idea of the book -- give your partner grace! I'll be reporting more on this when I finish it!

Gladys Taber Still Cove Journal is my current "Gladys Taber". It is based on her time out on Cape Cod. It is her last book and it hasn't been my favorite -- perhaps I am more attached to her life in Connecticut on Stillmeadow Farm. But, it is still good!

What Are You Looking At?: The Surprising, Shocking, and Sometimes Strange Story of 150 Years of Modern Art by Will Gompertz is helping me to make sense of the modern art movement. I grew up around very realistic, Dutch Master type art and so that is what I grew to love and understand. I still have a ways to go but at least I'm starting to get my head around the last 120 years of art. (Do beware that there are some images in the book I would not want my child stumbling onto.)

For more ideas on knitting and reading, visit Ginny's Yarn A Long.

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