Weekend Snapshots 45

We’ve been getting ready for the holidays…img_2148Around Halloween time, I was wandering around the dollar bins at Target. In my mind I could hear my mom’s repeated admonition: “DON’T BUY JUNKS!” But her voice was overpowered by the siren call of the best Target dollar bin loot ever! I got three white ceramic houses with holes in the back into which you can insert tea lights. On Saturday I went back to buy more. Tragically, they were all gone. Shoulda bought more junks when I had the chance!

img_2145That evening my daughter and I got dressed up for my son’s piano recital and realized our outfits perfectly coordinated. Obviously, a photo was in order! The dogs insisted on getting in on the action:img_2181


After the recital we raced back home to welcome some very special guests…I feel very lucky to have a close friend I’ve known and adored since we were just twelve years old. She lives in California, so we don’t get to see each other very often, but as is the case with the very best kind of friendships – time and distance don’t matter. I was so happy to get a chance to catch up with her and to finally meet her fiancé.

img_2187-2img_2190Looking forward to going to their wedding next September!

You shouldn’t have!

These days, my husband and I only get presents for our children, never for each other. Every once in a while, I pick something out for myself, but I always give Colin the credit. It’s a win win every time.

“Oh my gosh! I LOVE it! How did you know this is exactly what I wanted? Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!! Mwah!”

Here’s what “he got me” this Christmas:

I love it! It was perfect after it was resized, free of charge, to fit my finger, which has apparently become even chunkier than before. 

And here’s the drawing it came from:

I’ve always adored this picture, depicting all three of my children. It was drawn years ago by my oldest son on a tiny scrap of paper. Now I can wear the drawing on my finger every day!

Mia Van Beek, a jeweler whose studio is here in Charlottesville, can use your own child’s drawing to create everything from a pendant to a ring. Best of all, the whole process can be done by email. You can check out her beautiful work here:

Formia Design

Junks I Collect No. 7: Japanese Maples

Japanese Maples (Acer Palmatum) are beautiful in all four seasons. With their many variations in size, shape, color, and texture, they can be arranged as you would flowers in the garden. The leaves can look like little stars or hands (hence the name “Palmatum”); others with more deeply dissected leaves can have a more thread-like appearance. The tiniest leaves are as small as a thumbnail. One of the greatest pleasures of having Japanese Maples is watching the leaves change color with the seasons. They come in a wide spectrum of greens, reds, dazzling fuchsias, glowing oranges, yellows, purples, and almost black. There are some fascinating leaf color variations like the Lily Pulitzer green and pink combination that you see in Higasayama. My favorite combination is green edged with a deep, moody purple. Sometimes the most striking color comes not from the leaves, but from the branches themselves. Sango Kaku and Beni Kawa, for example, have brilliant crimson branches. The most beautiful color can even come from the seeds. I once witnessed the breathtaking vision of a Japanese Maple hung all over with seedlings that looked like ruby red ballet slippers glowing in the sun. In the winter, when the trees finally lose their leaves, the structure of their elegant architectural branches is revealed.

I only have a couple Japanese Maples planted out in the garden. Most of them are in heavy blue ceramic pots that withstand freezing temperatures year after year. Mature Japanese Maples are fairly expensive plants to buy, but you can find them as bonsai starters for reasonable prices. (Check ebay)!

This weekend, my Head Assistant Gardener, aka my daughter and I embarked upon a mission to repot this Beni Otake Japanese Maple:

Step 1 – cover hole at bottom of pot with coffee filter to prevent soil from washing away

Step 2 – Have able assistant add soil to bottom

Step 3 – Transplant tree, then add pebbles and sempervivum (hens and chicks) to the base

Step 4 – Pose trees for a family photo. Say “cheese”!

I grow: Red Dragon, Higasayama, Beni Kawa, Orange Dream, Wou Nishiki, Shindeshojo, Beni Otake, Hanami Nishiki, Murasaki Kiyohime, and Chishio Improved.

I’ve tried and failed to grow Beni Maiko a couple times. I want to try again, because it’s a beautiful tree, but mostly because I love its name:  “Red-Haired Dancing Girl”!

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Junks I Collect No. 5: Bonsai Trees

My husband and I got married at the Meridian House, in Washington, D.C. This Neoclassical house was designed in 1920 by John Russell Pope, the architect also known for designing the Jefferson Memorial, the West Wing of the National Gallery, and the National Archives. It was built as a personal residence for Ambassador Irwin Boyle Laughlin and remained in his family until 1961 when it was sold to the American Council on Education and then to the Meridian House Foundation, which became Meridian International Center in 1992. It is now used to house the Center’s office as well as for event rentals.

I love the fact that my British husband and I got married at the home base of an “organization dedicated to promoting international understanding.” I love the Latin inscription over the front entrance to the house:  “Quo habitat felicitas nil intret mali” (Where happiness dwells, evil will not enter).

But what I loved most about the property was the rear garden with its pebbled courtyard and allée of pleached linden trees that form a sort of natural outdoor cathedral.

In keeping with the tree theme, our wedding cake featured a tree on top of it (and underneath the tree – my dog, whom I’ve written about here).

We used little potted bonsai trees as combination seat markers and favors.

The day before the wedding I picked up dozens of  little Serissa trees from Merrifield Garden Center in Falls Church, Virginia. This is my favorite gardening center, and really – my favorite store period. I sat on the floor of my parents’ back porch for hours repotting the little bonsai starters into tiny little terra cotta pots tied with ribbon. My sister poked her head in, took one look at me and my dirt-smeared face and dirt-encrusted fingernails, and stated the perfectly obvious: “You’re insane.”

Since our wedding, I’ve had a sentimental fondness for Serissa trees and have tried and failed to grow them ever since. Wikipedia says they are “fussy”: “It responds adversely…if over-watered, under-watered, if it’s too cold, too hot, or even just moved to a different location.” Oh, how I can relate to this plant! I have come to terms with the fact that I’m incapable of keeping my Serissa trees alive, so whenever I get the chance, I replenish my stock at Merrifield Garden Center, the only place I’ve ever found them as starter bonsai plants. I know they’ll die, as all my others have, but I think of them as cheaper and slightly longer-lasting than cut flowers, which I never buy. (The words “false economy” are ringing in my ears as I type).

These Serissas were about $10 each. You can usually find even smaller ones for about $3. I pot them up in bonsai pots (also from Merrifield Garden Center) and cover the soil with moss. The garden center also sells tiny little sculptures that you can add to your plants. I usually just add a little seashell or something of that sort.

I placed an ammonite fossil at the base of this one:

Believe me, I’m not blind to the sad irony that this symbol of our love is constantly dying due to my mismanagement. But I console myself with the thought that persistence (even in the face of repeated failures) counts for something. In fact, the ability to acknowledge and accept our failings, as well as a healthy dose of (often black) humor, has helped us to hold it together for almost sixteen years now. Just this morning my husband started referring to himself as “my better half.” He caught himself and said, “Actually, I’m more like your ‘tolerable eighth,’ maybe even sometimes your ‘intolerable sixteenth’.” Finally, he hastened to very generously reassure me that I was his “magnificent 7/8ths”!

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“Junks”* I Don’t Collect

When you think of Anthropologie, you probably think of boho chic clothing and accessories. I’ve recently discovered that it offers so much more…

For example, did you know you could buy a real grasshopper  in a glass globe for a mere $1298?

Or how about an easel? Sure, you could buy a brand-new, good-quality easel at the art store for between $100 and $200, but for a mere $2100 you can buy an easel that’s been pre-paint-splattered for you:


Bet you didn’t know you could buy a $3000 chicken coop from Anthropologie.

Screen Shot 2013-01-28 at 8.30.08 PMHow about a copper bicycle for $6000?

Screen Shot 2013-01-28 at 8.15.56 PM

For just $500 more you can buy a limited edition paddleboard. There are lots of pretty ones for $6,500, but this one’s my favorite:

Screen Shot 2013-01-28 at 8.18.07 PM

If you have a larger budget, say $12,000, why not invest in an Easter Island shaped Ping Pong Table ?

Happy Shopping!

* My mom is always exhorting me to not buy “junks.” I admit I do buy junks, but not junks like this!

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P.S., or: Other Stuff that Happened This Weekend…

But first, the drawing:

Jeanette, you’re the winner! Can you please send your address to me at owonderfulwonderful@gmail.com? I’ll send you this:

Now for the rest of the weekend update:

1) I declared shorts a contraband item. I was tired of arguing every single morning with the boys about wearing clothes appropriate to the weather (“Go back upstairs and come back down wearing LONG SLEEVES! LONG PANTS!). I was fed up with seeing them shivering and blue-lipped in the 40 degree weather. I demanded that they take every single pair of shorts out of their drawers and hand them over. And then I hid them. Of course, it’s going to be 70 degrees today.

2)During Saturday’s round of a zillion and one errands, I got alarm clocks for the kids. They were so excited,  they set them all by themselves the minute we got home.

3)On Sunday morning, Chloe/Cute-But-Rotten-Dog #1 escaped. By the time I found her, she was busily chowing down on something that smelled distinctly fecal.

4)Later that afternoon two of my children went to a roller skating party. I got lost on the way there. It was the first time they had ever been on roller skates. My daughter had a wonder/terror/joy-filled grin on her face the whole time. She clutched me as if she were drowning, but still managed to fall more than a few times. As we staggered back to the car at the end of the party she declared, “Roller skating is not my thing.” THANK GOD! because my back is killing from trying to keep her upright. I wish I could have taken a picture, but as I said, I spent the whole time trying to keep my girl from cracking her skull open.

5)I got lost on the way back from the skating party.

6)An hour later I got lost on my way to pick up the boys from their piano lesson. This is with my GPS and Siri to boot. (More on this sad state of affairs tomorrow).

7)As he was toiling away on his term paper, my oldest son suddenly piped up at around 10 pm Sunday night to say, “Hey! I have to bring in my edible cell project tomorrow! We have to bake a cake and make it look like a cell.” I sent Colin to the 24 hour Harris Teeter to buy a cake, which was transformed into this:

IMG_04748)I went to bed a little after 2 am. Shortly thereafter the alarms on the kids’ new clocks started going off. Every two hours.

9)And finally, just as I knew she would, Chloe threw up in her crate overnight. I wasn’t expecting the added bonus of dog poop, however.

Now there’s a fine way to start your Monday morning.

Junks I Collect No. 4: Miniature Chairs

Miniature Chairs

My favorite!

Some of these have a slot in the back so they can be used as place card holders. I, being the true “junks” collector that I am, have never used them for so practical a purpose.

My little niece who came with her family from Wales to spend this past Christmas with us was completely enamored with the little chairs. She carried them around everywhere in a little plastic tub. I’m going to mail some of them to her, because I love a girl who can appreciate my “junks”!


Sandy & Junks I Collect No. 3: Paper Balloons

I’m writing this in haste, because the lights keep flickering and I’m fairly sure we’re going to lose power any minute now.

Thanks to Sandy, we all stayed home today, and I finally got Teddy’s new room all cleaned out! (It was an unused “bonus room” that had become the repository for everything we couldn’t find a place for. I don’t know about you, but I’m incapable of having a clean house without having at least one junk room). It literally took us months to get it all cleared out. To celebrate we decided to tackle a project that we’d been meaning to get to for a long time, which brings me to…Junks I Collect No. 3: Paper Balloons.

Kami Fusen are Japanese balloons made out of paper. They look like this at first:

You blow into a little hole to inflate the balloon so that it ends up looking like this:

And then you can do this:

Or this:

The big red fish balloon is from the Japanese Tea Garden Gift Shop in San Francisco, which I wrote about here.

If you’re in NYC, you can find paper balloons in one of my favorite stores of all time: Pearl River. You can order from them online too.

The best selection of Kami Fusen I’ve found is online at UGUiSU.

The other fabulous thing that happened today was the well-timed arrival of the “BugZooka” that I ordered from amazon to help us deal with the trifecta of stink bugs, ladybugs, and ants that have descended on our house.

This could just be the greatest thing ever invented! It requires no batteries. You “cock” the BugZooka by compressing an accordion-like air chamber. You aim it at the bug, press a little red button, and ZHOOP! the bug gets sucked up into a chamber. If you’re a total dork like me, you can really hurt yourself if the air chamber expands into your chest when you push the trigger button. You can catch and release, or flush those bad boys right down the toilet. So simple. So satisfying. So beautiful, really. It kept the kids entertained all day, and there’s nary a bug in sight now.

So Teddy’s room is clean and decorated. We’ve eliminated every bug we could find. Now what am I going to do about this?

My bedroom is the new junk room. Yay.

Stay safe, friends.

Junks I Collect No. 2: Kokeshi Dolls

These handmade dolls originated a couple hundred years ago during the Edo period in the northeast part of Japan. They were first made and sold to tourists visiting the hot springs. Traditional dolls are made of wood and are very simple in shape. Rather than having articulated limbs, Kokeshi have arms that are always painted on. While the oldest dolls are made of plain wood, modern ones like these, called “creative Kokeshi,” are typically very colorful:

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