Monthly Archives: June 2014

A garland of ginkgo leaves

As you’ve seen at the bottom of my posts, we’ve adopted the ginkgo leaf as our house’s symbol. I think it began when we planted a baby ginkgo tree in our Japanese garden five years ago. The little bugger was a stick only three feet tall 2009. Now, it’s over 12 feet tall.

bough of green ginkgo leaves

Since then, we’ve accumulated a number of ginkgo-themed items, like this vase from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin.

yellow ginkgo vase

And these candy dishes, souvenirs from a visit to Bend, Oregon.

ginkgo leaf candy dishes

And our bathroom night light.

ginkgo leaf night light

I even have a ginkgo print shirt and two pairs of ginkgo leaf earrings. So, we were excited to find an Arts and Crafts ginkgo stencil pattern in the gift shop when we visited Frank Lloyd Wright’s Oak Park home and studio in 2012.

Now that we were making over our spare room, I had the perfect place to use it. The honey-gold walls needed a little sumpin-sumpin. In my mind I saw a crown of bronze metallic ginkgo leaves circling the room. Sometimes it’s difficult to translate my visions into materials that are available in real life. But this time, Lowe’s had the perfect shade of metallic bronze in their paint samples.

The paint gal shuffled off to mix a quart. When we returned five minutes later, she informed us that they no longer carry that paint. “Then why do you have the samples in your display?” I asked. “The vendor hasn’t removed them,” she shrugged. ARGGHH!!!

With my vision in jeopardy, I turned to the internet. Who makes metallic paint? Sherwin Williams to the rescue! They have metallic paint in all colors of the rainbow. I selected a bronzy shade called “Coconut Husk,” a gold metallic base with a brownish tint.

quart of Sherwin-Williams 'Coconut Husk'

I had never stenciled before, but it seemed like a pretty straightforward process. I was only using one color … what could go wrong? After our floor refinishing fiasco, I’m happy to report: Nothing!

Here’s what I used: the stencil, paint, a natural sponge, blue painter’s tape, and light duty spray adhesive. Plus, a pencil, a paint tray, and a step ladder.

stenciling supplies

First, I measured each section of wall, found the center point, and determined how many stencil repeats would fit. Then, working from the center point toward each end of the run, I held the stencil against the wall and made tiny pencil marks in its registration holes. Next, I took it outside and sprayed the back with a light coat of spray adhesive, and added a strip of blue tape to the bottom edge.

The stencil was easy to align vertically because I simply abutted its top edge to the picture rail, using the tape to hold it in place. I carefully pressed the entire stencil onto the wall, making sure all the delicate pointy ends were firmly adhered. Then I dipped a corner of the sponge in the paint—not too much—and daub, daub, daubed until the exposed wall was uniformly covered.

stencil adhered to wall

closer view of stencil application

Kitten Break!

When I was stenciling near the windows, I saw our three feral kitten friends tiptoeing by under the hedge. I rushed to meet them on the front porch to take their pictures. Here are the Morse triplets: Dot, Dash, and Ditto, now nearly a year old.

three tabby kittens

They’re still basically wild, but they interact with us a lot, hanging out with us when we work in the gardens, and showing up every evening for happy hour treats on the back porch. Lately I have been able to pet Ditto while she eats Fancy Feast from my hand, and Dot and I play a game where I walk my fingers toward her and she gently bops my hand. What little sweethearts!

Break’s Over

Removing the stencil was easy—I simply pulled gently from one corner. I painted three or four repeats, and then washed the stencil in the kitchen sink to remove built-up paint.

washing stencil in sink

Respray, retape, move the ladder, repeat. It took a lot of daubing over a couple of days, but at last I was done and I could step back and survey my work. I couldn’t have been more pleased. The effect was exactly as I’d imagined: The ginkgo garland took the room right back to 1913!

finished stencil

another wall with finished stencil

We love how the light picks up the subtle sheen of the stenciling, and how the border softens the transition from the picture railing to the wall. Now, all we have left to do are install the new window coverings (on order), buy more bookcases and a new ceiling fixture, have the room rewired, and finish the closet. Hmm … we’re not as done as I thought we’d be! Will we ever finish anything??



Twelve days in New England

I haven’t posted for a while because we have been on vacation in New England, centered around my stepdaughter Maddie’s wedding. Would you like to see pictures of something other than refinished floorboards? Here, let me bore you with a few hundred photos!

Eric’s four kids grew up in Maine, so we make trips to the East Coast every few years. But they’re all grown up now, and beginning to scatter around the country. We were excited to come to Vermont for the wedding and to enjoy a rare visit with Eric’s family. I always look forward to being called “Dah-cy.”

We flew into Boston and drove to East Berkshire in northern Vermont, following the route Google plotted for us … until I saw on a paper map that Hwy. 58 through Hazen’s Notch is unpaved. Did we really want to risk driving the proverbial ten miles of dirt road through the wilderness? (“… and they were never heard from again”) We chickened out and drove around. We had a wedding to get to!

Maddie and Holly chose a wedding venue far out in the sticks, but what a charming place. Pigeon Hill Farm features an 1870 Italianate farmhouse B&B, gorgeous English gardens, chickens and cows, and a rustic carriage house for wedding receptions. The entire property is surrounded by a tall hedge of over 50 varieties of lilacs, all of which were in glorious full bloom. Eric is allergic to lilacs.

Pigeon Hill Farm Italianate farmhouse

Pigeon Hill Farm

wedding garden

Pigeon Hill wedding garden

Pigeon Hill reception hall - "The Stables"

Pigeon Hill reception hall – “The Stables”

Pigeon Hill Farm pasture and fence

Pigeon Hill Farm pasture

Chicken behind window

One of the girls

The garden wedding went off without a hitch, neatly sandwiched between thundershowers, which resumed when we entered the stables for the dinner reception.

Holly and Maddie

The brides–Holly and Maddie

Maddie's family at the wedding

Maddie’s family–Eric and I are in back row, third and fourth from right

We enjoyed staying in the farmhouse, with its gently peeling, dusty ambiance and vast collection of antique artifacts. I feel inspired to display more of my own vintage heirlooms when I finally finish the kitchen. (No, it’s not done. You thought it was? HA!) I was particularly  intrigued by the stoneware bucket built into the porch floor—just wring out your mop and toss the water. It’ll discharge somewhere down the hill.

wash bucket drain in floor

Built-in wash bucket drain

Pigeon Hill Victorian foyer

Pigeon Hill foyer

The wallpaper in the bedrooms  reminded me of the wallpaper I used to have in my house. (The bird pattern was custom-made to match a scrap of the original.)

vintage floral wallpaper

Some of the wallpapers at Pigeon Hill Farm

This 1929 General Electric refrigerator with condenser top would look awesome in my kitchen. It still runs just fine.

white 1929 GE refrigerator

1929 GE refrigerator

After the excitement of the wedding, the next best attraction was the old store next door, also owned by Pigeon Hill. This store last operated in 1952. It’s part time capsule and part antique storage. Our favorite part was the little dentist/doctor office in the back, still stocked with equipment and medicine bottles. (Authorities relieved the premises of the cocaine and opium long ago.)

old general store building

Old Pond Store


Doctor's office within store

The doctor is no longer in

We sadly said goodbye to everyone and headed east to tiny Otis, Maine, where our friend Pam lives in a lakeside camp. (This time, with the assurance of locals, we took the very safe dirt road across the mountain.) We spent a day hiking on Mt. Desert Island in Acadia National Park, hanging out in Bar Harbor, and dining at the local lobster pound. Lobster No. 58, you were delicious!

rocky Maine coastline

The quintessential Maine coast shot from Acadia National Park

lobster with 58 written on it

Lobster No. 58

We continued on to Freeport, Maine to try to catch up with Eric’s son, Ben (which, unfortunately, didn’t work out) and for our obligatory stop at LL Bean. Then we hopped back over to southern New Hampshire to visit Eric’s eldest daughter, Ellie, and our three little grandchildren. We see these kids only ever few years, so when Grandpa and Grandma show up, they don’t know who the heck we are. By the time we leave they are starting to bond, only to forget us again when we disappear. This falls short of most people’s grandparenting experience … but that’s what happens when you live 3000 miles away.

Along the way, we stayed at two of our favorite B&Bs, Freeport’s White Cedar Inn, and the Benjamin Prescott Inn in Jaffrey, NH. Both of these inns make us feel at home, and we stay there every time we’re back east.

Benjamin Prescott Inn, Jaffrey, NH

Benjamin Prescott Inn, Jaffrey, NH

With the family portion of the trip completed, we were off to Cape Cod for a few days of R&R. We’d been to the Cape before, but only for a couple of days. This time we had four and a half days to play. I insisted we stay in one B&B the whole time—unusual for us, but we’re so glad we did, as it gave us time to chill a bit. You never quite know what you’re going to get when you pick a B&B online—they’re all so different—but we hit the jackpot with the Mulberry Tree Inn in South Dennis. The 1802 house and gardens are perfect. The innkeepers thought of every comfort … and stuffed us with gourmet breakfasts! What a great way to relax!

Mulberry Tree Inn, South Dennis, MA

Mulberry Tree Inn, South Dennis, MA

garden shed under big mulberry tree

The garden shed under the enormous mulberry tree

Provincetown was our first day trip destination. Provincetown is built on a sandbar, with two long east-west streets and dozens of lanes that run between them, crammed with historic homes and cottages. We ate lunch at the Lobster Pot and wandered the main drag like the tourists we were. At a bookstore I bought a copy of Land’s End – A Walk in Provincetown by Michael Cunningham (author of The Hours). I read it on the flight home, but wished I’d read it before we came. Eric’s personal challenge was to photograph every lighthouse on the Cape (he’d already gotten four in 2010). On this day we bagged Long Point and Race Point lights, and enjoyed some beachcombing on beautiful Race Point Beach.

Provincetown waterfront

Provincetown waterfront

Commercial Street, Provincetown

Commercial Street, Provincetown

Race Point Beach

Race Point Beach

On our second day we took the passenger ferry to Nantucket. Besides the wedding, my favorite part of the trip. The whole island is a National Historic Landmark District, and as such, all buildings must be shingled, clapboard, or brick. Most are weathered gray shingled. This gives the community a sense of visual cohesion and order, similar to the feeling in Santa Fe or Sedona. I want to live there. Specifically, in one of these two cottages.

cute Nantucket cottage for sale

I could live in this Nantucket cottage

another Nantucket cottage for sale

I like this one, too.

The fly in the ointment is that real estate on Nantucket is out-of-this-world ridiculous. This cottage was one of few listings we found under a million dollars. Maybe if we sold everything we owned we might be able to swing it, but we’d have to work until we were 90 … and the commute would be killer. Still, I can dream.

Cobblestone Nantucket street

Nantucket is famous for its cobblestone streets

Nantucket cottges on dock

Houses line the docks. My favorite Nantucket shot.

lighthouse at Nantucket harbor

Nantucket Harbor Light

Hyannis Lighthouse

Hyannis Light on the way back to Cape Cod

The following day, we drove all over the upper and lower Cape (from the elbow to the shoulder to the armpit, so to speak), meandering through picturesque communities. We bagged Chatham and Wood’s Hole lighthouses, ate a sandwich in Sandwich, and a bad burger in a cool old diner in Falmouth.

Wood's Hole lighthouse

Wood’s Hole light

traditional diner

“Eat heavy” at Betsy’s Diner

It was hard to leave Cape Cod, but I’m sure we’ll be back someday to dig deeper into its sandy history. On the way back to Boston we stopped to check out Plymouth Rock in its arcaded enclosure. (Do you think that’s really the actual rock??)

Plymouth Rock

Plymouth Rock

We took an evening stroll around Boston Garden, but by then we were too pooped to pop.

Swan boats

The graceful swan boats in Boston Garden

And then … we were home and back to work … like it never happened!