Sunday, April 22, 2012

Savoring the Rare Peaceful Moments

(To preface this post, let me just say that Blogger has introduced a new editor and I am cautiously exploring my way through it.  Bear with me if things look a bit out of kilter for awhile.)

Something odd has been happening at random moments over the course of the last two weeks.  Just when I began to wonder if my nerves would ever calm down again, I find myself experiencing flashes of inner peace.  The flashes are not long-lived, but when they suddenly appear, the feeling is wonderful.  I've come to savor the rare moments when I sense all is well.

Yesterday was the first time in a long time that I felt truly peaceful for an extended period.  Central Texas woke up to one of those wonderful spring days when the sky is an intense blue, the breeze is just the right temperature, the birds are singing, the flowers are still in bloom and the air is filled with a light perfume.

The week before had not been so peaceful.  The aftermath of my annual birthday week vacation is a backlog of work that accumulates when I disappear for a week and that I have to clear out before I can relax and think about other things.  I finally caught up on Thursday afternoon, but at that point I was required to begin preparing to play hostess for the monthly DAR meeting Saturday morning.  Add to that, my mind has been mulling over what on earth I was going to do about the rapidly approaching deadline for the annual Frankum reunion newsletter when I had no ideas at all.  

So I woke up a bit frazzled Saturday morning, rushing about to pack the car with cookie tray, fruit bowl, pitchers of orange juice and tea, bags of ice and serving supplies.  I had been given a list of things to bring by the other hostess, so at least I did not have to think about what to bring, but it seemed she gave me all the bulky and heavy items (fair enough since I'm much younger than her, but Big Red was loaded down by the time I got everything packed).  This was my first time to act as hostess at one of our meetings and, naturally, it had to be a meeting that involved a field trip and we had only a slight idea of what our serving situation was going to be.  I headed to the McDade Historical Museum early enough that I would have time to deal with the unknown.

The McDade Historical Musuem has been on my to-do list for years, so I was glad to get the opportunity to visit.  Normally it is only open on the 1st and 3rd Thursday afternoons, when I am normally working.  I've just never been able to time it right to get in a visit.  The museum has a large collection of McDade pottery, which I also collect, and my Hodge side has deep roots in McDade, so I knew I would find a lot to interest me.  I was not disappointed.

There were samples of every stage of the McDade pottery industry, photos and family tree charts of many local families, displays with history of the more notorious elements of McDade's history (anyone familiar with the Christmas hangings?), local history books I've not yet been able to acquire for my personal library (I am eager to get back there to dig into those), and a marvelous backbar and bar that are not original to the building, but period examples of what must have been there back in the late 1800s when McDade was truly a part of the wild, wild west.  As I explored, part of me was recognizing that this old building was there when my granddaddy Hodge and his grandparents were citizens of McDade and I was walking in their footsteps.

An artist's rendering of the McDade Pottery 
In addition to touching the past, both literally and figuratively, I had the opportunity to have a nice private conversation with the curator, Audrey Rother, who I have visited with in the past and who is a fountain of information about the area.  Nothing I like better than to chew the historical fat with someone who likes to visit the past as much as I do.

When the exploring was over, the DAR meeting done, and Big Red packed up for the return home (incidentally with a good part of what I had taken over there untouched), I checked the time and realized that I might be able to swing over to the First Baptist Church of McDade and catch the ending of the McDade Cemetery Association meeting.  Since I have a bunch of relatives buried in the cemetery, I try to make regular contributions and participate in their meetings when I can.  I arrived just as they were ending their potluck meal and I had a chance to visit with cousin Dorothy Edwards and her daughter and to say hello to Mother's old school chum Maxine Wolf Turnipseed before they started their fundraising auction.

I do love auctions at family and community gatherings.  You never know what is going to pop up and quite frequently you can grab a rare book or handmade item that is buried in the pile of odd crockery and doo-dads I wouldn't have on a bet.  I lost out on a cookbook compiled by the local Kastner family (the Kastners were great friends of PawPaw Hodge), but I wasn't going to lose out on a set of 4 doilies handmade by Maxine.  (I also acquired one of those odd pieces of crockery that wasn't moving--basically a pity bid.)

Up to this point in my day, I realized I was having fun, but it wasn't until I headed away from the church with the doilies sitting in the seat beside me that I realized I was in one of those treasured tranquil states that are all too rare lately.  I impulsively decided to take advantage of the situation and extend my outing.  I headed to Paige to visit one of the truly great local yarn stores, Yarnorama, a store on the level of anything Austin has to offer and located in the Bastrop County boonies.

My luck was holding.  I arrived when the store was in a lull and had the owner all to myself.  I had no business acquiring any more yarn, but naturally I did.  I can't browse a yarn store and not bring home a new yarn.  I also found the yarn bowl I had been waiting for.  The shop sells yarn bowls created by a local potter and I've wanted one for a long time, but until now none of his offerings had spoken to me.  Yesterday there was a deep blue bowl that called out to me almost immediately.  The idea of a yarn bowl is that you can place your ball of yarn in the bowl, thread the yarn through the side and your yarn will not tangle as you knit.  Mine will be used primarily for display.

This yarn was my impulse buy.  I am drawn to interesting textures and I fell in love with this slubby linen/cotten blend.  I expect a scarf will appear shortly.  I also bought yarn for a wonderful little shawl that the owner had on display.  As I was leaving, she cautioned me about returning to Bastrop via Highway 21 because of a bicycle race that had traffic tied up, so I drove back by way of the back road from Paige to Smithville.  It was a good decision, because nothing makes me happier than to drive along a curving country road on a beautiful day.  My inner peace was extended.

When I got back home, I was busily unloading Big Red when I remembered the art show that was in progress at the Deep in the Heart Foundry that is just over the hill (as the crow flies) from my house.  I made another impulsive decision to get back in the car and go see what was happening there.

I've been to the foundry many times and there is always something new to see, as they are always placing pieces of their current works in progress around the property.  This time I was greeted by an enormous horse.

This will be a part of a new project to commemorate Route 66.  I believe the entire piece will consist of a horse and wagon meeting up with a Tin-Lizzie automobile.  The Tin-Lizzie was across the way, almost complete, and two horses rearing up in surprise were in another corner.  I look forward to seeing the completed work.

Inside the gallery are their smaller works and I had gotten wind that they were offering some mini-paintings.  I expected maybe a half-dozen that would still be priced too high for my wallet, but there were at least two dozen sprinkled around the gallery and, while not exactly cheap, they were reasonably priced for original works of art their size.  I decided to indulge myself in the purchase of two.  There were two different artists involved and I decided to buy one of each.

The little painting on the right grabbed my attention from the first.  It reminded me instantly of travels in New Mexico and, sure enough, I was told that John Maisano was influenced by the American west in his paintings.  The one on the left was a more difficult choice.  The artist, Jaime Howard, works locally out of the gallery and she herself was helping me with my purchases.  I was torn between a modern abstract and this painting that suggested a sunset.  I finally decided this was the one that should be added to my collection.  Now I need to pursue the dollhouse art gallery that has been simmering in the back of my mind.  These little guys need a good home.

From start to finish, yesterday was a day I needed badly.  History, yarn and minis, combined with time on the country backroads.  A perfect combination.

And I'm hopeful that these periods of peace are coming back into my life on a more regular basis.


Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Birthday Indulgences

Traditionally my mood takes a big jolt toward the better when it gets close to my birthday. The bluebonnets burst into bloom, the birds are singing before the sun comes up, the butterflies are busy and the temperature is just right. For many years I've tried to take a week of vacation during the week of my birthday to take advantage of my good mood. It used to allow me the opportunity to adjust to Daylight Savings Time, but now that they've moved that back into March I tend to hit a really draggy spell just before April that corresponds to the last push of allergy season.

But with the dawn of the first week of April and a week of vacation and God's in His heaven and all's right with the world, I begin to feel better and I start to throw caution to the wind and allow myself a few indulgences in celebration of my birthday. My policy generally is "If I want it and if the price is not too outrageous and the money is there to cover the check and it's still in the month of April, go for it".

This year I fudged the rule just a few days early and bought my first birthday present toward the end of March. I had spotted this modified grandmother clock display cabinet a month or so ago at the Antique Mall in Round Rock and had managed to talk myself out of it. (It wasn't April yet and I still had my winter somber going.)

When I discovered it was still there waiting for me, I decided we were meant for each other. I've been looking for a mantle clock case for some time with the idea of creating a miniature clock shop and had not been successful finding the right case for the right price. I decided why not expand my plan to include the clock maker's workshop and living quarters. Now the big problem is where this piece is going to live in the house. Still studying on that.

A nice bonus to my annual feel-good month is that the Spring Antiques Fair in the Round Top/Warrenton area generally occurs the week of my birthday. This year I've been fighting a siege of back trouble, so I wasn't particularly interested in walking myself into a backache, but I didn't want to skip it altogether, so I made myself a compromise. I would go to my 2 favorite sites and also hit the big antiques mall in Giddings on the way home.

So yesterday I rolled out of bed early, visited my chiropractor and hit the road for Warrenton and Cole's Antiques Barn, a nice big collection of dealers who can be counted on to tempt me with a wide variety of the kind of antiques I enjoy - from oak furniture to dollhouses to textiles to Texana history books.

Last year I was on the prowl for oak bookcases and a bedstead for the guest room and could find nothing of interest. I'm sure glad I had already found the oak bedstead for my room and the North Wind bookcase and the white iron bedstead for the guest room before I made the trip to Cole's this year, because this year everybody had oak bedsteads, iron bedsteads, matched twin bedsteads and oak barrister bookcases. I like the pieces I have collected better than anything I saw yesterday, but if I had still been looking, it would have been more temptation than I could have stood.

I did find some tiny houses to add to two collections I half-heartedly add to from time to time even though I do not presently have anyplace to display them. (In the background are Sheila's houses and in the foreground are pieces from the Liberty Falls collection.)

I succumbed to temptation at another booth that drew me in with a display of items from the fifties. I was in flashback mode to my childhood. One item particularly caught my eye and I'll share that in closing. The lady had a Bliss dollhouse that I would love to own, but Bliss dollhouses have reached the stage of being museum pieces and I can neither afford them or afford to subject them to the natural disaster of living with 3 cats. But, I did find a tiny little yarn bowl to add to my knitting store dollhouses and I found 3 additions to my small collection of darning eggs.

I am accustomed to running into wooden darning eggs of various shapes and sizes, but I had never before seen a glass darning egg. I knew there were ebony darners with sterling handles, but had never seen one for sale and the multi-colored one I just thought was neat. They have been added into the yarn display that serves as a side table in the living room

I was patting myself on the back for sticking to small items and was on my way out to the car when I cruised through a booth and spotted a box of tiny little plastic figures that I knew immediately I had once possessed, but I could not remember where they had come from. I decided to buy a few of them to use as dollhouse figurines and sought out the dealer to inquire about them. It turned out they were Cracker Jack prizes, which explains why I could remember having a variety of them when I was a kid. (Unfortunately I could not get a good photo of them.) I was just wrapping up my business when I glanced over and saw something that I knew was going home with me if I could afford it. The same dealer had a number of old clothes wringers, some attached to old wash tubs but several that were designed to be clamped onto the tub of your choice. I think the dealer knew he had a hot one and he immediately knocked $15 off the asking price. So I brought home my traditional antique oak purchase from Cole's.

It is a pretty little thing, with ornate metal findings that have adjustable settings and a long, curving handle. Not so easy to find a corner to tuck it into, but I knew I had to have it and it is now sitting on the corner of the fireplace, happy to settle into my collection of rustic antiques.

My second stop was the antiques show at La Bahia in Burton. It was there that I saw bedsteads that would have tempted me if I were still looking. I found lots to look at, but managed to only purchase a quick lunch there, which I ate while visiting with other antique hounds on the hunt.

I had gauged my stamina fairly well, because by the time I left La Bahia my back was protesting. So I pointed Big Red for home and made my last stop in Giddings at the Whistlestop Antiques mall. This has become a new favorite place for me and I like to hit it every 3-4 months. I was resisting temptation fairly well, but in one of the last booths I found another little treasure. This little iron chair is destined to get a new coat of white paint and a bit of re-upholstering before it takes its place in the guest bedroom with all the other white wrought iron pieces that have come home with me.

And now for that trip down memory lane. Back when I was a little girl in San Gabriel, one of the ladies in the church made a framed ribbon doll for me. It may have even been a birthday present, but I can't really remember. It has seen better days and at one point Mother told me I ought to just pitch it, but I resisted and hung onto it. When I started working on the guest room, I decided to try and replace the frame although I feared that it would crumble into pieces when I took it out of the old, rickety frame. It made the transition to a new frame and it now hangs in the guest room where I've been enjoying seeing it again on display.

The booth at Cole's where I found all the great nostalgia pieces had a framed ribbon doll hanging on the wall. I was so surprised to see it because I had never seen another example and really did not even know what to call what I had. She told me they were popular in the 30's and 40's when ladies could buy the paper dolls and then create their own custom craft work with the ribbon and laces of their choice. It turns out there is a whole community of ribbon doll collectors out there and I was surprised when I got home and did some EBAY searches. Sure enough there are a lot of examples for sale. The dealer told me that for mine to be dated to the 50's was not that common, but the later versions usually included silk flowers (mine does). I can't really remember who gave me this piece, but I suspect that it was an older lady who probably learned the craft at an earlier period of time. Where the earlier versions made use of stock paper dolls with faces and more defined hands and feet, I suspect my doll's extremities were hand drawn. I had no idea I had something collectible in this little piece and I'm glad I decided to hang onto it.

So begins the month of birthday indulgences. This year's birthday may turn into an expensive indulgence. I just concluded a meeting with a group of folks who are set to do some remodeling for me in the next month or so. The older I get, the bigger I indulge!