Monday, February 28, 2011

The Start of Something New

As we watched the purple semi truck come rumbling down our road and make it's way to the entrance of our driveway early Saturday morning, we knew that our day of reckoning was finally here. After months of talking about it, then planning it, followed by clearing the land and ordering the structure, the building materials for our studio/showroom were actually showing up at Blooming Hill's doorstep and now the real fun was about to begin. It seemed entirely appropriate, as well, that the new building would arrive in style, no less, than on the back of, what else?...a lavender truck. I believe it was providential, indeed!

The wood was neatly bound into huge rectangular packs and the first thing the trucker asked was, "Where is your forklift?" with a Lucy, you got some splainin' to do look on his face. "Well, see...that's the thing, we are the forklift, so to speak," answered Peter. "Well come on up and open these packs.  We'll lift them down," he said with a shake of his head and a grin on his face. Thank goodness for good-natured truckers!

Now, the task of unloading the thing would prove to be a big job but not as daunting as it first seemed with the likes and strong muscles of Kevin and our neighbor's son, Ryan McKenna, as well as the welcomed assistance of his parents, Joyce and Joe. Even the trucker himself get into the rhythm of removing each board, piece by piece, off of the long flatbed. It seemed as though we had a pretty good system going with Peter unstrapping and opening up the tightly packed piles..  Then, he and the trucker lifted them down, piece by piece again, to the next person waiting in line. Whether it was a small window box or a stack of sixteen-foot long tongue and groove planks, being painstakingly carried to their final destination up the driveway, it seemed to me as though the unloading would never end.  I kept looking up at the flatbed as each pile was completed and there always seemed to be another load of wood eager to take the previous pack's place...go figure!

An hour and a half later, the flatbed was finally unloaded and the trucker, and his wife, who steadfastly remained in the truck so as not to get recruited in the transportation of wooden objects, bid us adieu and Joyce, my ever-so-thoughtful and kind neighbor even provided lunch for all of us as well.  So, after the photo session around the McKenna's John Deere Tractor, we retired to my kitchen for delicious and hearty "sloppy joes."  Is it nap time yet?...

Well, nap time never came for Peter who then went down and reorganized the wood.  Each piece is marked by the company with red, green and yellow dots as well as clear writing instructions at the end of each board explaining as to where it should be placed when constructing the building.   "This should be easy," remarked Kevin, "Just like Legos!"   Of course, he then went in to finish and send in a genetics paper that was due by 4:00pm.on Saturday proving, once again, that there is no free lunch in life, even during your spring break home from college.  I'm thinking that compared to a genetics assignment, anything should look easy however, it might also be a little like Legos, too.

Peter spent a good part of Sunday morning taking stock of everything, including the new nail gun he got for Christmas and  a borrowed compressor on loan from yet another neighbor--we have very nice neighbors-- as well as the right kind of nails to use in order to construct our new "Legos-for-grownups--structure."  At lunch, time he announced to Kevin and me, "Don't spill a thing on these directions!  They are color-coded, too."  Frantic, I put the mustard and catchup back into the fridge as quickly and carefully as possible.

By late afternoon on Sunday, the floor of the studio was already beginning to take shape.  Maybe it is a little like Legos.  Let's hope a lot sturdier and maybe not so colorful when it's all finished and we are ready to open.  I'll keep you posted on our progress as it takes shape, board by board and dot by dot.

So, that's what we did over the last weekend of February.  What did you do?  Here's hoping that March comes in like a lamb and decides to stay that way, too.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Happy Birthday Mr. President!

A tisket, a tasket, red roses in a basket....Or so my saying goes on this President's Day.  Peter gave me this lovely basket of miniature red roses for Valentines Day and even though that day dedicated love, affection and admiration has come and gone for yet another year, there is still more reason to celebrate with roses during February.  Can you think of a better way to say "Happy Birthday Mr. President" than with our National Floral Emblem, the rose, as proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan, in November of 1986.  This proclamation is recorded in the United States Code (Title 36, Chapter 10) and by Congress in a Joint Resolution (#159).

Upon doing a little internet-style research, it seems that several American Presidents, as well as a few First Lady's, have carried on love affairs with roses throughout our history.  In fact, the White House Rose Garden has been in existance since Woodrow Wilson's wife established it in 1913 on the site where Theodore Rosevelt's wife, Edith, had previously established a colonial garden back in 1902, where a conservatory rose house had stood through many previous administrations.

There are many roses, all in different and unique color combinations and fragrant scents, named for United States Presidents, and even some of their wives, as well.  They are, however, becoming harder and harder to find in the plethora of rose selections out there. But, we all know of the famous "Mister Lincoln," a velvety red hybrid tea variety with a strong citrus scent. Did you also know that there are three more rose bushes named in honor of Abraham Lincoln?  One more hybrid tea rose and two miniature roses as well.

Our first president, George Washington, was also a farmer and an avid breeder of roses during his lifetime.  George, being the dedicated, loving son that he was, named one of his roses for his mother, Mary Washington.  Thank goodness, somewhere later in history, some rose aficionado had the presence of mind to honor George Washington by naming an exquisite miniature red rose, like the ones Peter gave to me, after him.  After all, if you can't name a rose after the "Father of Our Country," than who can you name a rose after?  I think it would be considered most unpatriotic not to have a "George Washington Rose,"  don't you?...I'm just sayin'...

Another interesting rose tidbit I discovered was, while you could plant a pretty good-sized rose garden with various bushes named for republican presidents--Herbert Hoover, McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Coolidge, Eisenhower, Reagan and Taft, (don't forget to throw in Nancy Reagan, Pat Nixon, Barbara Bush and Laura Bush to complete the assortment)  a democratic rose garden would be much smaller.  Only Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt and John F.Kennedy have been honored with the naming of a rose.  The 'Lady Bird' Johnson and Rosalyn Carter Roses would help expand this garden a bit more.  However,  Jacqueline Kennedy does not have a rose named after her even though she is credited for bringing the White House Rose Garden, in long need of attention and refurbishing, during her tenure as First Lady, back to life as well as into the public eye once again.  Perhaps the the rose breeders out there have just overlooked her since there are over 6500 varieties of roses out there (and, without a doubt, more to come) that are classified into over 100 species of roses...whew!  At least there is a Jacqueline Kennedy Garden on the east side of the White House.

Such a presidential flower, the rose is! Proudly on display not only in our gardens but also in parades, churches, monuments and memorials. Appropriately described in Reagan's proclamation, "The American people have long held a special place in their hearts for roses.  Let us continue to cherish them, to honor the love and devotion they represent, and to bestow them on all we love just as God has bestowed them on us."

In any case, versatile and charming roses are for any and every occasion...especially presidential birthdays, like this one, that we all celebrate as we look forward to the coming spring and warmer weather when roses will be blooming freely once again, in our own gardens, be they stately or humble.  So, let's celebrate the rose on this President's Day and get this birthday party started, perhaps just outside of the West Wing at the White the rose garden!

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Geranium Valentine for You!

Just in time for Valentines Day--pink and red geraniums, all vibrant and frilly.  Who thinks of geraniums for Valentines Day?  I sure didn't. At least, not until I walked into the greenhouse and found these these little lovelies blooming happily away.  I can't resist their summer-like splendor in the midst of February, even on a day where roses are the standard and candy provides the finishing touch.  Rather, pink geraniums convey "preference" and scarlet-hued blooms tell the beholder of them, "Your smile bewitches me!"  Ahhhh, geraniums on Valentines Day are every bit as wonderful as roses and candy.  After all, one in the hand is worth two in the bush, or several in the greenhouse, as the case may be.

The celebration of love on this day has many legends and beliefs associated with it and there really is a St Valentine, in fact, there are about three accounted for in history.  One of those Valentines was a priest who was persecuted and martyred under ancient Roman rule for helping young men, destined to be Roman soldiers, secretly marry their sweetheart before they were sent off to the battlefields.

Garden folklore tells of this day as the one in which birds choose their mates. This tale, even in modern times, can probably be tied to the reason that flowers and small tokens of affection are given to loved ones in the name of St. Valentine. I can picture a pair of robins, building their springtime nest together and finding joy in tiny twigs and cotton fragments gathered from the nearby fields.

Geraniums are even connected in garden lore to Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Throughout the world, there are gardens grown and cultivated in honor of her and geraniums are included in many of them where their "Marian" name is often referred to as "Beautiful Lady."  That seems quite appropriate to me as I gaze upon their curvaceous leaves and plump petals, always so eager to share their light-heartedness and gaiety from even the confines of my humble little greenhouse any time of the year.

Geraniums may not be as elegant as even a single rose.  Yet, in their own way, they convey affection and tenderness, and their "ruffled" appearance lets geraniums "walk in beauty like the night." Always resilient, they withstand heat in my summer-time garden, and offer tranquility in my winter-time home and seem comfortable in any setting.

Valentines Day speaks of love in so many ways with so many possibilities and geraniums, to me offer a fresh look to an age-old day of tenderness between loved ones of any kind.  Their branching stems are like outstretched arms, sturdy, strong and always welcoming.

So, on this Valentines Day, among other things that mean so much to me, I ask myself, "How do I love thee, fair geranium? Let me count the ways..."  Most of all, you bring, unassuming to this day, a patchwork of sweet pinks and bold reds to my kitchen table and windowsills and the promise of steadfast love all of the year through.

Happy Valentines Day to you!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Day In The Life...

Four-thirty on a February Sunday morning can come awfully early, even when you have been preparing yourself for days in advance. I'd been giving myself a pep talk about rising at such an awful hour and actually looking forward to Peter and I spending the day at an auction and then on to a folk art show.

To top it all off, it was Peter's birthday so it was going to be a great day, even weather wise. Sunny and in the forties, wonderful given the gloomy days we've had around here lately. Sounds like I'm still talking myself into getting up in the middle of the night for a whirlwind day trip through two different states, but it was a lot of fun. We planned on getting to the auction first and launch right into to digging through the rows of chairs, cabinets, knick-knacks and what-nots.  Anyway, we were hoping to find a few great looking painted cupboards for the soon-to be studio/showroom.You'd think that after thirty years of marriage, we would have enough furniture to furnish a couple of houses not to mention a very small showroom, but, no. At least not what my dear husband was thinking that we needed, desperately, of course.  I was also hoping to snag a few really cool vintage "gardeny-type" things since the auction web site often shows pictures of stuff like that, although rarely does it seem to come out when we attend auctions.  I always hear about urns and statuary from others who attend on the days I don't.  Anyway, I digress...After the auction, we would  then scoot over the Jersey state line and slide into what I discovered last year to be a really cool folk art show.

A car ride on the interstate early on a Sunday morning can actually be quite pleasant--virtually no cars and the scenery of rivers and bridges is quite picturesque and  peaceful when not cluttered with traffic. Something about traveling on a Sunday morning, indeed.  Even the sun seemed to take its time in rising but, when it did, the sky was clear and blue. Just as we crossed the Delaware River, the sun finally made its presence known.

Finally, we reached our first stop--the auction in Southern New Jersey.  Even though it was still early morning, I felt ready for lunch. After all. I had been up for over four hours, but no time for that-- the first lots were set to be auctioned off promptly at 8:30 am so Peter and I started alking through the long aisles piled with vintage pieces as well as "gently-used" furniture--their term, not mine. Sometimes, you just need the vision in your own mind to appreciate the beauty of a stained arm chair or chipped china. And, then there are times when you can stare at a piece forever and never figure out what even the original owner saw in it. However, there is always someone ready to snag a  scratched dresser or broken lamp home and coax it back to life. Like I said, you just need a little vision. A little imagination is never lost on things found at an auction, too.  Then again, you can also find wonderful old treasures and antiques in pristine condition.  You just have to be a savvy shopper.  When I was a little girl, my mother would spend hours at auctions and bring home some of the most curious of finds.  Most things i wouldn't look twice at but still, some things were full of potential and still sit in my house today and I'm grateful for her love of all things in need of as she would say, " A little paint, a few nails and it will be just as good as new!"

Well, we spent about an hour picking our way through dressers, tables and couches and decided that the items we were most interested in were probably going to be featured toward the end of the day.  So, since we had also planned on attending a folk art show in Philadelphia as well, by 9:30am, we climbed back into  the truck and turned out of the parking lot.  Peter turned the GPS on, and we headed for Philly with still no "fabulous finds" but with every intention to return by early afternoon in time to bid on a light blue painted cupboard as well as an interesting desk.

An hour and a few nail biting episodes later, since it seemed that we drove about 45 minutes of that hour on an empty gas tank until we found one of the few gas stations in Pennsylvania, we pulled into the the parking lot of the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center. The parking lot, there, was a good indication of how the rest of the morning would turn out to be--crowded, fun and never a dull moment. Peter and I attended this same show last year but it was not nearly as crowded nor as big so, what we thought would originally be an hour to an hour and a half tops, turned into four and a half hours. Everything from antiques to faux flowers and candles were here for the willing shopper. My shopaholic husband was only too eager to visit every booth and quite a few of them more than once and even a few of them more than twice. Persistence paid off and we picked up a lovely painted old wooden counter and an even older cabinet, with lots of character, along with some nifty garden items soon to be available at our Blooming Hill fair booths and showroom.

By 3:00pm, which felt like about 10:00pm to me, the truck was filled to the brim...literally!  Stopping at the auction on our way back home was no longer an option. Not to worry, though. We'll make it there again on another weekend in the near future...perhaps my birthday, although that is on a Thursday this year so, not likely.

However, leaving Philadelphia, proved to be another scavenger hunt in just trying to find a convenient fast food place to eat since we were both delirious from lack of sustenance. Keep in mind that breakfast was way back at five in the morning and that was a pop tart and yogurt. Needless to say, we were hungry, tired and, well, hungry!  Thank goodness for a Wendy's Restaurant we drove way out of our way for somewhere around Villanova, the University.  Again, like gas stations, it seemed like fast food chains are few and far between in the state of Pennsylvania.

We finally made it back home by 7:30 Sunday night, in time for most of the Super Bowl game, its always popular commercials and, most imporatantly,  Peter's birthday cake...Sorry, I didn't have time to make one this year but it came with a lots of love in any case.  It was a great day in the life of us...a long day, but a great day, non-the-less!