Monday, December 24, 2012

Ringing of the Bells

Every so often I get a kind of Heimweh --homesickness -- for Germany, where I lived as a child, and for Ithaca, where I grew up. When one lives in either place, one hears bells every day, great bells and small bells. At Cornell they ring morning bells and later in the day, when I used to walk home from school, I'd often listen to Far Above Cayuga's Waters or the Cornell Changes as they seeped through the hemlocks and the mist. In Germany, the bells rang the hours and the services, and their pulse was part of my pulse. I miss that very much, and listen hard for church bells that sometimes are rung not too far from here, but the wind rarely blows from the south.



So here, in honor of Christmas Eve, let's listen to bells, from churches all around the center of Trier. A kind person filmed the six o'clock bells, and how magical and peaceful they are.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Blog Award: Take Two

Sarah Jane of Romantic History tagged me for the Liebster Blog award. While I don't quite meet the criteria, the challenge is a fun one and so I'll play along as well as possible. Thank you, Sarah! Yours was so enjoyable to read.

Here are the rules:
1. You must post eleven random facts about yourself.
2. You must also answer the eleven questions the awarder has given you and make up eleven questions for your awardees to answer in turn.
3. Tag eleven fellow bloggers.
4. Notify them that you've awarded them.
5. No tagging back.
6. The eleven blogs you tag must have less than 200 followers.

Eleven Random Facts About Me
  1. Sarah wrote of her affection for the Queen of England. That was a surprise. It should not surprise you, by contrast, that hugging, observing, giggling at, petting, feeding and carrying around cats is a favorite activity. A cat lover I've been since almost before I could walk.
  2. In the cereals and crackers cabinet, all boxes must have their Nutrition Facts labeling facing the wall. If my husband should put a box in so the label shows, I turn it around. What is it about those labels I can't seem to handle?
  3. Mall stores and big box stores bug me. Crusty, dusty collectibles shops, nifty antique shops, and consignment shops attract me like honey.
  4. Deep-seated belief: If it's used, it's better.
  5. If the label of a package of specialty food, preserves, say, reads that it was made in Sweden, or Germany, or France, or anywhere in Europe, I get all nostalgic and want to bring it home. Usually that doesn't happen. My purse would squeak.
  6. My children speak at the dinner table as if we have tiny ears and cannot hear well. What do you think: should we plug cotton in our ears or try for the 1,020,583rd time to encourage/enforce a regular speaking voice?
  7. I love Advent deeply, and Lent, and all periods of waiting and thinking.
  8. Christmas Day is too much. As a child, it was a reliable rule of thumb that I'd get a fever or throw up and have to go to bed. It was much more peaceful there, anyhow. Like my father-in-law, I find being outdoors Christmas afternoon, in the cold and generally accompanied by just one, or no other people, quite nice.
  9. I love Kentucky -- a lot -- but am homesick for Ithaca, NY, almost every day of the year. It's cold, precipitates -- mists, drizzles, showers, rains, pours, teems, flurries, and snows -- more than it doesn't, has more than 100 waterfalls within the city limits, spawned all the Moosewood cookbooks, probably is home still to communes and other utopian communities, is far from the nearest interstate highway, and is, or was, home to people, and their children who value character and the life of the mind more than money.
  10. I like dictionaries and wish we had the complete Oxford English Dictionary -- the giant one -- in our book collection. Well, if wishes were horses...
  11. My boys have said that they will always be my babies, even when they're all grown up.
Answering Sarah Jane's Questions:

1. What is your favorite era of fashion and why? (sorry, had to ask this, I always want to know this about everyone I meet!)
The 18th century. Surprising, because I haven't made anything that dates to before the 1790s. The silhouettes are uniformly elegant, the trim endlessly fascinating, the fabrics are so lovely that we've kept repeating and riffing off of them since, and there were so many utterly fascinating women who lived during that period.

2. What is the worst hair cut you have ever received?
A horrible shaggy cut in high school that made my curls -- my hair is naturally curly and frizzy -- stand out around my head. A shy person by nature, carrying that mop was dismal.

3. If you could afford anything, would you have your clothes made or would you prefer to sew them yourself?
A mix of bespoke and my own creations.

4. What has been the happiest moment of your life?
There hasn't been just one. The moments that the boys are being utterly sweet and loving are probably the happiest moments now; earlier I might have said our wedding day; those days as a child playing in the creek next to our home were bliss.

5. What is your greatest inspiration for daily living?
Again, I don't have a single greatest inspiration, but draw them from lots of sources: my parents, books, Christianity. The older I get, the more people and things are "inspirable". The art of appreciation gets deeper as you age, perhaps.

6. If you could be remembered for one thing, what would that be?
Lots of times I think it would be nice not to have to be remembered. What is one life in billions, that it should have to be recalled? Yet for those who knew me, it might be nice to be remembered as a someone who tried to be helpful.

7. What is your favorite season and why?
Mid-springtime, when leaves are still transparent green, when daffodils have yielded to late-blossoming trees and azealeas, when roses are thinking of opening, when the soil smells so good that it might be edible, when the birds are all nesting and raising their young and are loud about it, when the evenings lengthen and the windows can remain open to let in fresh air, when eating outdoors is in the forecast.

8. What scares you?
Lightning, heavy traffic, heavy crowds, little boys who run towards the street.

9. What small item do you use on a daily basis and would horribly miss if it were gone?
Cafe Vienna, from Kroger's Private selection. While I love good coffee, there is something comforting about this synthetic, microwaved brew in the morning.  Go figure...

10. What is your favorite Christmas treat?Just one favorite? It is to laugh, as they say. Yet if you limit me to one it would be the star cookies (cutout cookies) that we make every year. Crispy outside, nice bite inside, buttery. Frosting. Sprinkles :}

11. If you had a million dollars plopped in your lap, what would you do with it?
Funny, husband and I have thought of this a lot. We'd start a foundation, and collaborate with others over the years to build several parks around Lexington: some natural-style parks with woods and water, others formal with flowers, parterres and allees and gravel walks and formal lakes and water features and places to hear music. We'd save other parts of it for college funds, give some gifts, and maybe, maybe find a tiny piece of property on a lake, with a cottage.

Who Shall Be Tagged?
Among those whose blog I follow, most have already received the Liebster blog award or don't qualify. Here are a few blogs, however, that have seemed to slip under the Liebster radar, and their authors do great work:
Questions for the Be-tagged
  1. How did you become involved in costuming, which as people may have said to you, is a rather unusual hobby?
  2. What is the oddest thing anyone has every said to you when they found out that you like to sew costumes?
  3. Are you by nature one who crosses all "t"s and dots all "i"s, or one who prefers to wing it, or somewhere in between?
  4. In your dream home, what would hang at the windows, or would anything hang there at all in the way of coverings, I mean?
  5. If you celebrate Christmas and put up a tree, what type of tree do you like and how do you decorate it?
  6. If you could travel anywhere in the world for two weeks, where might you go, and what would draw you there?
  7. Do you think you'll costume so long as you breathe, or do you think you might tire of it at some point?
  8. Do you like like meals that come from a single pot? In German that sort of dish is called an Eintopf, and my dad always called his creations "one-pots", a direct translation, with no gussying up.
  9. Caffeine or no caffeine in your cup or glass of a morning?
  10. Do do you enjoy tying bows on things?
  11. If you could present your best-loved one or ones with any gift in creation, what might it be?

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Redoing the Den, Step One

For the longest time the den has been waiting to acquire an identity. It's an awkward room, long and narrow, spanning the width of the house. Windows all along one side, another on one end, and the rest just blank space. A tunnel.


Down the road we hope to put a fireplace and built-in shelves at the end, but that is likely years away, and in the meantime the blank walls have been echoing. Annoying, because we do a lot of playing, homework, resting, napping, eating, and living in here.

Last week while antiquing with my mother, I ran across a step-back cupboard. It had been in the home of a Versailles dealer for awhile, and is in lovely condition.

It feels very Kentucky-ish, very streamlined, of cherry and walnut. Age? Anywhere from the 1820s to the 1860s, most likely. It's nicely constructed with square nails, handsome dovetailing, and with properly hand-adzed chamfering on the drawers, plus hand-cut wood notches so that the upper-cupboard's shelves can be moved as needed. The boards are splendidly wide in key places, the upper door panels' joins have widened into gaps with the aging of the wood, and oh, it's nice and heavy. Good thing that like much case furniture of the day, it's in two pieces. Good thing, too, because Mom and I moved it from the pickup into the house by ourselves. That surprised Curte later: how'd we get something heavy off the pickup, up the steps, and in by ourselves? When two women really want to do something, you'd be surprised at what's possible, I wanted to say, but grinned instead.


With the cupboard in place, and Mom's sweet loan of a little country table from New York, where I grew up, the room started to build into place. Lamps and tables moved, the few pictures and a mirror too, and when the lamps were lit, the space started to show how cozy it could be.

Now for sconces to either side of the cupboard,  the TV moved to inside it, some photos and paintings, a down pillow or two, working London shades at the windows, trim at the top of the walls, an hollow ottoman that can hold the boys' toys... Well, all of that will take lots of time but the point is, it's an echoing tunnel no longer. It's beginning to be home.