Decked out

The Mister and I have spent the past few summers mourning the great screened porch we left behind at our old house.  Brick floors, wide white wooden framing, ceiling fans, a seating area, and a dining area—it really was a great porch, and we spent a few minutes there on all but the chilliest mornings saying prayers together and drinking coffee.  We ate lots of family suppers there as well, and it was the place we started with appetizers and drinks whenever we had company.  It was the perfect spot for napping and it was where we carved pumpkins and dyed eggs.  Our present house has a deck, two actually, with the primary one about 20 feet off the ground below, which is quite steep.  In other words, we will not be turning this deck into a screened porch.  Nevertheless, we have finally decided to get over ourselves and to pay our deck some attention.IMG_1952 So, we found an iron mesh table and chairs to seat six at—where else?—Target.  I’m not sure these pieces will stand the test of time, but they’re classic, and they’ll surely last as long as the deck.  Our lot is wooded, and the deck is well-shaded most of the day, so we did not buy an umbrella—yet.

IMG_1955Hydrangeas in big weathered clay pots fill out the corners of the deck and soften the spaces between some old Adirondack chairs, where we sit in the mornings.  The flowers above are the Nikko Blue variety.  Below are the Annabelle hydrangea, which are tinted the palest pink that darkens and eventually turns a lime green, if left on the plant.

IMG_1954

IMG_1953  The only other plants on the deck are boxwoods, which do well in containers and don’t seem to mind the shade.   

Funny, we’ve already carved pumpkins and dyed eggs out here.  Now, we’re drinking coffee and saying prayers.  Come Memorial Day, we’ll grill out and share family supper with friends.  And that’s when we’ll be all decked out.

May-hem

I’m afraid I would only bore you with my list of excuses as to why I haven’t written lately—more work and less play sums it up pretty well.  That, and knowing that our oldest will be graduating soon, which meant that any writing attempts on my part resulted in treacly drafts about the passage of time.  You’ll probably see one of those before long anyway, but for now, I’m sticking with a few items that have stood the test of time.

Not long after I’d “set up housekeeping,” as my beloved Nannie would say, I went to work for a regional art museum as the public information director and editor.  Each year, the museum’s membership organization held an antiques show as its major fund-raiser.  The show, which will be twenty-five years old next fall, has raised millions of dollars for art acquisitions, and this same show ignited an antiques acquisition fever in yours truly.   Young and poor and spending too much money on shoes, I could only afford to buy a decoy that first year.  I bought it from Philip Harvey, at the time one of the country’s foremost collectors and dealers in shorebirds and old working duck decoys of the North Carolina Outer Banks region.  IMG_1942 It didn’t take me long to decide that my bird would look even better on a great blanket chest or table.  And so it went.  Thankfully, a colleague, who was also an antiques dealer, took me under her wing.  She invited me to her home and showed me her collection, and she visited several antiques shops with me, showing me how to look for signs of wear and age.  She recommended I read Nancy A. Smith's Old Furniture, which no furniture lover should be without.  And she told me that I should concentrate on buying one great piece each year—if I did that, she said, by the time I was 40, I would have a great collection.  I was 25 at  the time.  My mentor also advised me to buy things with versatility in mind—a blanket chest, for instance, could be a coffee table, a toy box, guest room storage, a side table for a chair, a charming seat under a low window.   She was, of course, absolutely right.

And so, without further adieu, here is my first antique purchase: a circa 1820 walnut American (Virginia) washstand.  1820 VA washstandIt’s been a side serving table in my first tiny dining room, a foyer table under a mirror, a bedside table, and even a computer table.  Presently, it hangs out in the kitchen, where, at long last, it just gets to be pretty.   IMG_1941 At least I think so.  Of course, in the picture I can see that I need to re-tuck the lamp cord.  The hand-turned bowl on the bottom shelf was my great great grandmother’s dough bowl; now it holds corks from Sunday night suppers.

Just say no . . . (I’m talking to myself, again)

Every now and then, I become delusional.  I persuade myself that five hours sleep is enough—for me.   It’s in those delusional moments that I take on something I shouldn’t.  Sometimes it’s a volunteer job (when I’m feeling a little guilty for not doing more).  Sometimes it’s a professional opportunity that seems as though it could be worthwhile.  That’s what happened this time.  Usually my freelance writing is focused on art, art history, or architecture—subjects that really interest me.  Sometimes, though, I write about business, which, can be interesting. So, here I am writing business profiles about small businesses that are definitely not interesting, and the most maddening part is that I’m not supposed to try to make them interesting!  They are to be all business—facts and figures--presented in the most uniform, businesslike manner as possible.  Sigh.

Still, I’m working at home, and that’s worth quite a lot.  For one thing, I’m enjoying my new home scent, white birch.  It’s from the Caldrea Essentials line, which was recently introduced at—where else?— Target.  diffuser Even more than that, though, I’m enjoying my new hand balm.hand balm It has a wonderful grapefruit-y fragrance, and the consistency of the hand cream is not at all greasy.  Target is also offering candles, dish soap, countertop cleaner, hand soap, and lotion.

Caldrea was acquired in 2008 by the SC Johnson Company, which I’m sure explains this year’s roll-out to the masses at Target.  Previously, Caldrea was a company of 50 employees, and its products were sold in small boutiques.  (Occasionally a  rogue bottle turned up at TJ Maxx, I noticed.)  The firm also makes a line of soaps and lotions for kitchenware purveyor Williams-Sonoma.  My understanding is that Caldrea founder Monica Nassif continues to run the Caldrea division.  So my question is, does Caldrea Essentials for Target (a less expensive and less luxuriously packaged line) compete with its boutique line, or has SC Johnson simply brought a great product to more budget-minded consumers?

Clearly, I have business on the brain.  And I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Oh, and, just to be clear, Target did not compensate me for this post.  As if!

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