Monthly Archives: April 2013

From dandelions to pink Angeliques

My garden …

Consider for a moment the lowly dandelion, universally despised for its aggressive personality. But look closer … can you imagine a happier, sunnier shade of yellow? And the blossoms … not unlike pom-pom mums, with tiny tubular petals. The tender young greens are edible in salads, and although I’ve heard of dandelion wine, I do wonder why it’s not available in stores. With their ease of propagation, it’s really a shame these little annuals don’t get more respect. What if someone discovered that extract of dandelion is the cure for diabetes or hypertension, or contains the secret to effortless weight loss? What if dandelions were our nation flower … would we cultivate a lawn of dandelions instead of grass? Give Mom a dandelion color bowl instead of a hanging fuchsia basket?

bouquet of dandelions tied with white ribbon

While dandelions can only dream of such redemption, I’m on a season-long mission to eradicate the little yellow bastards from my yard.  I thought about counting them as I dug them out, but I can’t count that high. What to do when weeds get the better of you? Go visit someone else’s garden—one where they have a staff to do the weeding—and indulge in a weed-free fantasy!

Lakewold Gardens …

Every spring, Eric and I gather with a handful of friends to tour some of our local gardens. We call ourselves the Pink Angeliques … although I don’t know why. This Sunday we converged on Lakewold Gardens in my old stomping grounds of Lakewood, Washington, where the pink Angeliques were in full bloom.

Pink angelique tulips

Lakewold, a Georgian-style estate on Gravelly Lake, was built in 1917, and opened to the public in 1989. This year we were able to tour much of the house (which is usually off-limits) because the American Society of Interior Designers was hosting a design showcase. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take photos of the interiors, but I did get some color inspirations for when we get around to repainting the living room. (Yet another task on our very long to-do list.)

Luckily, we had a dry day to explore the gardens! This is the back of the house, seen from the lake side. Yeah, I could live here …

Back side of Georgian mansion and lawn

and float in the lovely quatrefoil pool.

Quatrefoil-shaped swimming pool and planters

Mt Fuji cherry trees line the brick walk to the gazebo. I need to learn how to train our Mt. Fuji so it will grow horizontally like this. Of course we won’t be around to see it grow this old … but maybe someone will.

Mt. Fuji cherry tree with spreading horzontal branches

A view from the gazebo down the long brick walk to the house. Lots of weddings happen here.

View from Gazebo toward house

This ancient, huge wolf tree (a Douglas fir with low, spreading limbs) shelters a shade garden.

Wolf tree and shade garden

My favorite trees on the property are these Shindeshojo Japanese maples with their brilliant magenta new leaves, set off by purple rhododendrons.

Magenta-leaved maple with purple rhodies

I love these little checkered lilies. I also love their name: Fritillaria.

checkered lilies: fritillaria

This rustic table has hosted picnics by the lake since the 1960s.

picnic table and benches made of hewn logs

And the French stone hound has graced the driveway since 1917. Bon chien!

dog with flower basket sculpture

Then it was home to our own little weed-and-mole infested garden, which I’m trying to imagine in its full summer glory. Meanwhile, in the backyard our Japanese garden is bursting with color, if not a few dandelions. If only I didn’t have to spend all day at work, I’d have this place whipped into garden-tour shape in no time! I NEED to retire!

springtime in our backyard garden

Win a garden trowel!

For a chance to win a $50 Sneeboer garden trowel from Garden Tool Company, check out!



These are a few of my favorite things

A DIY house renovation blogger whom I follow (Victoria Elizabeth Barnes) is hosting a link party (check out her blog and see her amazing favorite find!). What’s a link party? It’s when a blogger invites other bloggers to share posts about a certain topic, thereby increasing everyone’s blog exposure … and if there’s anything a blogger craves, it’s more exposure.

The theme for this party is “my favorite find,” my one favorite item—bought, found, salvaged, stolen … or, in my case, inherited.

My absolute favorite item is our house itself. Built in 1913, in my stewardship since 1984. (No, I didn’t inherit the house.)

Bungalow front yard and brick walkway

But, assuming the entire house is not what’s meant here, what’s my favorite item in it? What one thing would I grab if I suspected the house were about to fall into a giant sinkhole caused by rampant mole activity? Besides one boxer and six rambunctious cats? That’s such a hard question, I’m going to push the envelope and see exactly how many things in my living room alone make my favorites list.

I found all of my “finds” in my parents’ house—I grew up with them. My parents have been gone for some time now, and the stories that go with these pieces are getting foggy, which is unfortunate … and kinda sad.

So c’mon in and look around. Here’s exhibit A, hanging on the wall in the foyer.

Two grays hills design Navajo rug

My grandfather bought this Navajo rug when he worked in a mining office in Montezuma, New Mexico around 1914. It’s a simple two gray hills design in natural-colored wool. I love the striations in color and the irregular design (the diamonds on the left are elongated by one square). It’s a little frayed at the corners because we actually used it as a rug for most of its life. (Sigh … the truth is, it’s not really hanging on the wall, but I wish it was. It desperately needs cleaning after a century of use and abuse … and one of these days I’ll get around to taking it to a rug-cleaning specialist so I can display it in the manner that it deserves.)

Careful! Don’t bang your shin on this beast. No, it’s not a gramophone. It’s a late-1800s foot-operated fire horn, used by miners to send signals. This thing, with its leather bellows, makes the most mournful sound, somewhere between a foghorn and a braying jackass.

Foot-operated bellows horn

Copper plate with mining horn operating instructions

The manufacturer is Siebe Gorman and Co, Ltd, London. I’m unsure how it came to our family. My dad, who was a kitchen designer, may have bought it from a client. (He occasionally came home with interesting finds, himself.) Funny thing is, the guy who used to own the house across the street also had one of these in his living room!

And over here, next to my easy chair … this lamp is the first thing I thought of, and is my truly favorite piece.

Table lamp with handpainted scene on glass shade

I remember seeing it in my paternal grandparents’ flat in Milwaukee as a very young child. It’s made by Classique, a Chicago lamp company, and dates from around 1910. The heavy “chipped ice” glass shade is handpainted on the reverse side. The two pull chains end in cute little acorns. It needs rewiring—only one of the sockets work—and someday I’ll get around to that. I have a couple other antique glass lamps courtesy of my parents, but both were damaged when the cats threw a big party while we were gone on vacation (picture a feline “Risky Business”). Fortunately, they’re repairable … when we get around to it. Are you seeing a pattern here?

Tucked away in a bookcase is a fun item that belonged to my dad when he was a kid. The Hoot-Nanny is a design toy (forerunner of the Spirograph) from about 1930. Insert a pencil and paper, choose your settings, turn the crank, and create a cool looping, swooping design. I played with this for hours as a child, and I loved it because I knew my dad had also played with it way back when.

Hoot-Nanny spirograph toy

Since I already have one foot in the dining room and all my kitchen stuff is IN the dining room because of our renovation, let’s check here for kitchen treasures. (Pardon me while I rummage in this box.) Here’s a piece from my mom’s family: a Joseph Heinrichs copper coffee samovar from the early 1900s. I don’t think it’s particularly rare, but I’ve always admired its coppery curves.

Antique copper coffee samovar

Make me stop!! I have to save treasures in other rooms for another post. This exercise has been illuminating for me because as I picked these pieces, I looked them up online and learned a lot. I’ve lived with them forever, and, while I always knew they were special, I’ve taken them somewhat for granted. Before the Internet there was no way to know what you had without finding a reference book or an antique dealer. Now, here I sit in my jammies, learning about the interesting oddities that have surrounded me all my life.