Saturday, December 27, 2008

My "Romantic" Life...Thank You, Romantic Homes magazine!

Thank you, Romantic Homes magazine!!!

Oh how life can surprise you!
I got the surprise of my life when one afternoon last September I was contacted by my favorite magazine, Romantic Homes, telling me they would like to include me in their February"Romantics" issue.

You could have knocked me over with a feather. And of course I said YES! :)

{I was SO happy that one of the pics they chose to include was one with our sweet black Lab, Nicodemus, in it! }

The issue has just come out and I got my copy in the mail today -- what fun to not only see the little blurb about moi, but to be in the company of some really special people!

There were quite a few chosen this year and the list is quite diverse! I was familiar with all but just a few and it was so wonderful to read about the ways they try to live "romantically".

In my typical style, I submitted WAY more photos and WAY more written copy then they could EVER use, and their finished product is just wonderful, I think.

Just for fun, here are some of the pics taken for this feature that didn't make it into the mag...

{On the left, a chair next to the front door, on it are some of my prized antique diaries and ledger books. Just outside the glass you can see one of our cats, Tigger. On the right are some of my vintage wooden shoe forms...I have quite a few of them and I suppose its now time to stop buying more. Ya think?? :) }

{Just one of my many dress forms -- this one is made of a cardboard-type material and is pretty fragile. I love how the paper is aged to this mellow, golden tone. Like the shoe forms, I suppose I've reached a level where I don't need even one more of these. Until another must-have shows up somewhere!!! :) Just a note: I know NO ONE who is this size, by the way. The waist measurement on this form is must be about 10 inches. Crazy!}

{An old rattan desk situated in our dining room next to one of the massive old doors in this room -- these doors were actually one of the main selling points of this house for me.}

The idea behind this yearly feature is to cull from various and diverse individuals those ideas and ways of life that exemplify "romantic living". I had many notions about living beautifully and it was a real pleasure to have a chance to really give this topic some thought...

As the Romantic Homes article stated, my store's "motto" is 'Elegant Essentials & Sensible Luxuries' - meaning simply that even things essential to daily life should also be beautiful and elegant; and the luxuries we allow ourselves don't have to break the bank, since a luxury is not defined by its price tag, rather bythe enduring beauty it brings to our daily lives.

Think of it -- you reach for a notepad to jot out a reminder for yourself or to add eggs to the shopping list - why not reach for a lovely pen housed in an antique French mustard jar and a beautiful pad with brightly colored paper? You can pour dishwasher detergent from the cardboard box it comes in, or you can scoop it with a silver scoop from a vintage enamelware box (see, even doing the dishes can be "beautified!"). When you finally settle in for the evening with a stack of great magazines to peruse, why not fill the room with beautiful music instead of the cacophony of the TV? Fill the air with a beautiful scent from a gorgeous candle & enjoy hot tea from a lovely bone china cup.

Each one of these in itself is a small detail, but together they equal abeautiful gift you choose to give yourself that day. These days our minds run 100-miles an hour all day. If we never give our thoughts a chance to stop, and be collected in beauty, we're simply not living, we're existing; nothing could be more unromantic.

The more you incorporate beautiful expressions of living into your daily life,the more easily entertaining, even on the spur of the moment, will become. You will already have a stock of beautiful napkins, silver will already bepolished, and beautiful china will be readily accessible rather than somethingyou have to hunt through a closet to retrieve.

Here is a twist on the Golden Rule: "Do unto yourself (and your family)as you would do unto company." And believe me, when you do have guests in, they will definitely notice the ease and grace with which you host them and it will be apparent that this is more than just an occasional practice foryou - rather, a way of life.

Think of your home as your large-scale "inspiration board" -ever-changing and alive. You're in charge of what's on display, and the current trend-of-the-moment just really doesn't matter.

So what if others don't seem to appreciate the items you've chosen to collect:
vintage men's shirt collars displayed beautifully in the laundry room
next to laundry soap dispensed from a gorgeous glass apothecary jar;
displays of wooden shoe forms and charming vintage dress forms;
a lovely bowl brimming with antique skeleton keys and a scattering of
chipped enamel watch faces.

The things you love and are drawn to reflect you, and in your home that
is all that matters. Your very soul will sing when everywhere your eyes fall
in your home there is an object of beauty and meaning, dear to you and you
alone; souvenirs of a life beautifully lived.

I just love the words of
Cary Grant in one of my favorite movies, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream Home:

"A house is like a fine painting. You buy it with your heart,
not your head. You don't ask 'How much was the paint, and how much
was the canvas.' You look at it and you say, 'It's beautiful... I
want it.'
And, if it costs a few more pennies, you pay it and gladly, because you love it
and you can't measure things you love in dollars and cents."

The painted
and stenciled floors throughout the house are quite scarred from years of very large dogs running on

The vintage windows are drafty and not at all energy efficient. 

the floorboards creak and are anything but level. 

And yet, these are all
things I love about my home. 

My home, like many others, is far from perfection, but it is just right for our family.

After all, you kind of have to extend a
bit of grace to an old "gal" who is 118 years old -- she's earned the creaks
in her joints, the scars in her finishes, and the sagging foundation (as have many of us!).

Fill your home with things that you see the beauty in (even if others
don't grasp what you see in them). Rescue a vintage typewriter and
display it prominently, perhaps with a love letter or verse tucked in the roll
mechanism. Collect antique diaries (I do) and slowly read through the daily
chronicling of the life of someone who lived 100 years ago. Oh, how they
reveal how differently we live today (and we could learn a thing or two from the past!).

Oh! Before I forget, I wanted to let you know about a few shop-update things:
Our huge 2-foot square burlap pillow covers & giant burlap market bags are back in stock. They sold out SO quickly before and we now have them back in and ready to ship!

  • Our new supply of the French metal bottle drying racks is in, too! These were a huge seller before the holidays and we finally got some back in the shop and ready to go!

  • There are new items that are going to be up on the site soon (just need to take pics) such as some INCREDIBLE French aprons -- bistro-types with great graphic qualities and done in a fabulous line-type fabric, that you will LOVE!!

  • Some gorgeous black/white French "Eiffel Tower" napkins and kitchen towel sets (if you like the ones we had in pink and in turquoise you'll adore these -- just wait!).

  • Drumroll....Our own exclusive "Mathematicus" pillows are almost done and will be available to ship in the next couple of weeks! We chose three complimentary fabrics/thread colors and three different numbers (12, 34, & 56) for the number pillows and when purchased together, it will look like 123456 when laid out together! Trust me, initial reactions to the pillows that have been completed have been overwhelmingly POSITIVE and I have a feeling these are going to be a huge hit! Coming SOON!

Well, thanks so much for letting me tell you about my "news" of being in the Feb. issue of THE MOST AWESOME mag out there -- get your copy today! Better yet, if you don't already have one, get your subscription! I've never been disappointed with even one issue in all the years I've read won't either!
Yours Beautifully (and I suppose now "romantically", too!),

Ruth Harsham

Wednesday, December 24, 2008







Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Merry Christmas! Won't You Join Me For A Cup Of Coffee & Stay A While? The Decorations Are Sparce But The Joy Is Plentiful!


[Step through our front door and come in for a bit, won't you? The French enamel sign says "Tout Va Bien" which means "All Is Well" -- never a more perfect message as you enter...]

Its FINALLY begun to 'look a lot like Christmas' around my own home. For weeks I've enjoyed the sights and decor of your homes via your blogs and each one has been a true feast for the eyes!
[Above and below are photos of the table in our living room next to the tree...the vintage ornaments in the silver tray are very dear to me...I remember putting them on our tree as a child each year and even then they were so fragile and to be handled very carefully. They originally belonged to my father's parents and somehow then we began using them on our tree when I was growing up (that's my dad in the photo under the glass on the table in the picture below). Now they are here at my house and I place them all together in a tray or bowl each year since there are so few of them left now. This is the one time when color, style or flashy flair don't mean a thing -- the main thing these ornaments bring is memories, love and a very warm feeling whenever they are brought out each year. ]

I've enjoyed your pretty snowy "villages" set up on window sills, glittery baubles and garlands hung from every nook and cranny, treasured mementos from years (sometimes generations) past lovingly displayed...It has been just delightful being able to "peek" into your homes and feel as though I'd actually stepped through your front door out of the wintry cold and come for an afternoon visit. Thank you so much for the time you've taken to not only do all the beautiful decorating, but to also capture it all in pictures and put it out there for us to enjoy!
[Below is the first thing you'd see walking into our front door, on the hallway cabinet...most of what's there is there all year, I just quickly grabbed a pillar from another room and added wired mini-garland and a brooch that belonged to my husband's grandmother. I nestled it among some pine garland and arranged a bird's nest with things that were already right there on the cabinet all year long. Done!]

I wish I could have each and every one of you into my home for an afternoon -- complete with hot coffee, tea, cider, cocoa, chocolate (lots of it!), Christmas cookies and candies of course -- and just visit with you.
[Above is a favorite Christmas kitchen towel with the entire song "The First Noel" printed on it. The two little faux Christmas petite fours are some that I've had for probably almost 20 years! I simply placed this on our kitchen table this year with all the things that are always there anyway, and that was that! ]
I'd treasure hearing your stories, hearing the room filled with laughter and then even (as we women can be prone to do) share a tear or two. We each have a unique position in life and no matter how each of us goes about our lives on a daily basis, I truly believe if we could bring all of it together in a room at once, we'd be utterly amazed at what we truly possess as women and how truly influencial we are in the lives of those with whom we live.

[Above and below is the dress form project I did over the summer -- "she" started out as a brand new, not-so-special form (white fabric body) and following the directions many of you have seen online, I painted her, aged her with antiquing glaze and voila - she is now known as Joelle and she stands in our front hallway just inside the front door all year long. Her accessories change throughout the year depending on my (her) mood, but for now she's wearing whatever I found in the few boxes I brought in from storage... And she wears them well, don't you think? (Oh those French women -- they can look good in ANYTHING they just 'throw on', can't they?) ]

This past year may have seen many changes for you -- good and/or not so good -- but no matter how bleak things may appear from time to time (or for you, perhaps for a very long time), there is always, always hope. Hope embodied in the celebration of Christmas truly does endure for the rest of the year -- as it is a hope that is not affected by economics, politics, or crisis of any sort. This hope is the one and only truly unwaivering constant that can be counted on.
The more this is focused on, particularly this time of year, the less all the "fluff" and "stuff" of this season matters.

[Below is one of our Christmas cards that I love so much, I framed it in an otherwise unused mirrored frame. At the last minute, I placed it in the tree...immediately I knew it was right. The tree symbolizes Christmas, but a tree also enters into why He was born...thinking toward Easter and the cross... Amazing. Actually, its amazing love.

This truth has been "brought home" to me this year more than ever. It had really bothered me that I was almost three weeks "late" getting my house decorated and even now it is done very sparingly. (Last year almost 10 trees, this year one small one!) I began to think that at this point, "what's the point"? Since in just a couple of weeks it would all have to come right back down. Then I realized, who cares if it isn't done to a caliber of Macy's or Saks? Even the smallest effort (and this year I do mean small!) imparts that beauty, that feeling of warmth and meaning that the season is all about.

[Above you'll notice the clock faces in the tree -- guess where those came from?? Remember Fabulous Fifi's recent garage sale?? Well I went since I'm only an hour away and she GAVE these to me! I had admired them in the pictures of her home on her blog and there they were in her garage sale -- I knew that if Ididn't leave with anything but those, I'd be happy. And she ended up just giving them to me. Thank you, Fifi. I just love them. And I love them in the tree! I'll always think of Fifi when I see them. How fun! ]
It's been kind of like one of those life-challenge questions you hear, that are supposed to get you thinking about what's important: "If your house was on fire and you could only grab an arm-load of things, what would they be?" Well, this year, decorating-wise, it was the same thing: "If you have only a few hours to decorate and that's it, what will you bring in from storage and what stays packed up this year?" The resulting "finished product" has been interesting...not over-done, and only the things I really, really love and love to look at. And the funny thing is, compared to all the effort that went into the display here at home last year, I'm telling you -- I'm sold on "simple"! :)

[The tin winged box in the photo above has a paper stamped tag in it (because I couldn't find anything else small enough to fit!) and it usually hangs all year long on one of the knobs on our victrola player. While I was decorating the tree, I turned around and there it was, hanging on the victrola so I snagged it and placed it on a branch. I do love this box, though. Its so unusual and I often think of all kinds of dreamy little mini-scenes I could create inside it....]

[Reading through antique journals and dairies gives you a real sense of how complicated our lives today have actually become! Maybe we really haven't "come a long way, baby" after all!]

[The photos above show antique, very time-worn day books (old versions of Day-Timers) and ledgers. Oh my, how I love these books...they are sooo old and sooo worn that the pages literally disintegrate and crumble in your hands. Their aged, brown good-looks are perfect, stunning in fact, with the sage green irridescent taffeta fabric used as a tree skirt (a fabric remnant purchased at least 15 years ago for next to nothing!).
I noticed the books just lying in another room while I was putting the Christmas decor around the house and I snapped them up and headed straight for the tree...I love them there!
To some these old, broken down books may look like garbage --something that you couldn't even imagine paying good money for -- but to me they are beauty in its highest form. They have been used by someone so long ago I'll never know them, but that person's writing endures on those pages and is there for me to peruse and enjoy, dreaming of what it must have been like in his/her day...You can't "buy" that kind of dreaming. Yes, I paid for the books, but the dreaming and wondering...priceless.]

So, for every extra tree that doesn't get put up (usually in a room no one even goes in), there is that much more time for sitting with a loved one over coffee or tea. For every garland I choose to LEAVE IN STORAGE, I exchange that for a few more moments to just sit and breathe...
[The photo above is a shot of part of my dining room table...nothing except the glittery grapes and the candle holder with silver candles was added for Christmas...not exactly your traditional Christmas looks or colors, but then, not much around the house is. ]
So, as you may have guessed, I'm taking in the beauty of my "Charlie Brown Christmas" this year with new eyes and you know what? I think our buddy Charlie knew what was up all the time... Simple is better. Way better.
[Above are view from two rooms -- on the left is the tree as seen from the dining room looking into the living room at the front of the house...our one and only tree and a pretty thing she is, huh? The picture on the right is looking through the dining room back toward the family room -- where we do most of our living. In fact, its funny that I didn't even consider it when taking these pictures so quickly, but I now can see the yellow throw we use on chilly nights piled/bunched up in a heap right in the middle of the couch... (you probably would never have noticed it, but I sure did when I was uploading these pics!) Yep...we really do live in this old house, and the camera caught a perfect example of daily life here -- a throw casually pitched on the couch after a long stay in front of the tv... perfect. ]
Who knows...perhpas next year I'll be totally ready for the gazillion trees and garlands again.... maybe next year we'll go away for Christmas and I won't decorate at all! (NOT!) But all I know right now, today, is this: I wish you all -- each of you -- the best, best Christmas ever. Your circumstances being whatever they are, may you stop for a moment or two, take a deep breath, and look around you....when you boil it all down, it truly is 'A Wonderful Life', isn't it? And there isn't anyone on earth who really, truly has it "better" than you....
Merry Christmas!!

You are loved,

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

And Yet Another QUEEN Is "Crowned"...

One of my biggest joys is the feedback I get from customers who let me know not only how happy they are with their purchase, but also how they're using it!
And in particular are those who have purchased our big, beautiful birthday crowns who email me pictures of the BIG DAY and the BIG PARTY and the reigning BIRTHDAY QUEEN wearing her new crown! :)

I thought you'd enjoy the latest installment from Teri, who purchased one of our birthday crowns for her daughter's big day... Here is beautiful Lexie who turned 14 and who had what sounds like THE BEST party ever!!
P.S...Doesn't Lexie look almost like an American Girl doll should be patterned after her? :)

Teri planned a Parisienne-themed party (a girl after my own heart!) for Lexie and I don't think she missed even one detail in her party/table planning! Just look:

Teri says: "I wish you could've seen the table in real life. It had blinking lights mixed in with the silver streamers, and lots of candles lit."

And here she is!! To further carry the French-theme and quote Marie Antoinette, Teri chose our "Let Them Eat Cake" crown! Perfect!

Teri also made the incredible cookie-cake (shown below) was frosted with pink icing then Teri the Eiffel tower was piped on with cake decorating gel! HOW CLEVER!!!

Lexie and her friends had the big birthday bash at home, then, as all queens-in-training must do, they HEADED FOR THE MALL!!

What I love is that even at 14, none of them were "above" visiting Santa! Good girls! (Lexie, the birthday-girl, is to the right of Santa).

It has really been so special for me to "be a part of" these various occasions that have taken place after our birthday crowns were ordered and shipped. But alas, on a "sad" note, all of the crowns are now sold out -- sort of an end of an era. :)
But I'm sure I'll still get other "updates" on how my sweet customers are utilizing some of the fun things they've purchased. Keep the emails and pictures coming -- its wonderfully fun!!