Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Rehearsal

The Rehearsal

The old clock by the fireplace ticked a late message, clearly conveyed with each hour that past. The sweet sound of its chimes wound down the long hallway to the bedroom where I sat in bed, snuggled down in soft pillows, reading. Once again, I’d stayed awake much too long. Once again, while the rest of my family slept, I was lost in the pages of a book, this time following behind a mysterious heroine as she roamed the dusty stacks of the Bodleian library. I shadowed her down the honeyed cobblestones of Oxford and into the wilds of Scotland and by the time I finally turned out the light, sleep was the last thing I now had on my mind. I closed my eyes but knew it was futile. Not wishing to wake The Songwriter with my tossing and turning, I scooped up my pillow and headed for the far part of the house to the little sleeping chamber under the owl-filled trees to read just a little bit more.

Having sneaked away so quietly, I did not expect to be followed, but I had not counted on Edward. Not two minutes passed by before I heard him come into the room. Peering up over my book I could see him, staring, fur mussy from sleep, sitting like a polar statue in the dark at the foot of my bed. I knew what that stare meant. And he was right, of course. I should go to sleep. Morning would be awful if I didn’t. Closing my book with a sigh, I patted the side of the bed and Edward sprang up in an instant - turning once, settling in, his big furry head resting on my tummy. We closed our eyes to sleep. And that’s when the rehearsal began.

It was true the night choir out in the back garden was lacking some members this early in Spring. Some musicians were late in returning from their long winter break to places unknown. I noticed the sopranos were just a bit thin and supposed the cicadas had yet to arrive. And the rhythm section sounded slightly weak as not all of the crickets were back. But the tree frogs and nightingales filled in the gaps with a gusto worthy of August. And the Great Horned Owls harmonized up above me in a duet that was fit for the angels. Together they sang a wild lullaby in round sonorous notes, just for those like myself who’d stayed awake much too long.

The music they made meant my book was forgotten.

My eyes were now heavy, I was ready to dream.

And Edward, as usual, was right.

I needed to go off to sleep.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Language of Flowers

The Language of Flowers

Here in the south, winter is ever mercurial. There are Januarys when the supermarket shelves are stripped bare by those whirled into a panic over the latest snowy weather report. Then there are Decembers when the Christmas wreath adorning the front door finds itself totally obscured by stubborn scarlet leaves that still hold tight to the limbs of the dogwood tree by the porch. We never know what to expect. It is a rare year, however, when winter shuns us completely, with nary a snowflake nor gale. But such has been our fate this year and Edward and I, both ardent lovers of cold, have been seriously displeased by the weather. January felt like March. February flirted like May.

So it was on this hot March day that we two disgruntled souls made our way along the sidewalk for our afternoon walk, both of us feeling fairly resentful towards the vernal mantilla that now draped itself so lavishly over our street. But like any coquette, this newly born season so famous for beauty began, ever so slowly, to win us both over in whispers.

The first voice we heard came from the wisteria vine escalading up into the pine trees, its raiment of lavender blossoms seducing the air with sweet fragrance. Then we came to the chorus of cherry trees, with petals so white as to be a reinvention of the colour. They dotted our pathway - one here, one there - their beauty both shy and extravagant at once. We stopped under this ivory umbrella, both of us breathing deeply. Edward glanced up at me just as I looked down at him. And we smiled. Ah, we couldn’t help ourselves. All around us, it was Spring. Red and purple tulips, yellow daffodils. Azaleas and hyacinths, foxglove, wild violet. Each flower seemed to be speaking to us in a language almost audible and one heard so clearly on the first day of Spring. Colourful voices lifted up all around us - a Strauss waltz, a Wordsworth poem.

Perhaps the Victorians understood better than we the communicative power inherent in the natural world, a power most manifest in Springtime. These romantic souls used floriography, better known as the language of flowers, to express their deepest feelings; feelings that usually could never be spoken outloud. Lovers would send coded messages to one another hidden in bouquets of flowers. A posy of baby’s breath told a lady she was loved everlastingly and if that posy included some jonquils, honeysuckle, daphne and moss rose, well then... she was a lucky girl indeed. But oh, it was a dark day when a clutch of yellow roses was left at the door.
Purple Hyacinths begged for forgiveness.
Verbena requested prayer.

I cannot help but think of this language now as Edward and I make for home. Each flower we see is sending us a sweetly secret message for this new season.
The wisteria calls out a welcome, the tulips speak only of love.
The pear blossoms remind us of comfort while the daffodils vow a new beginning.
And as we pass by the little bed of lily-of-the valley that returns every year to a neighbour’s garden, I swear I can hear those tiny flowers singing again and again, “return to happiness, return to happiness”, their perfumed voices fading slowly on the afternoon breeze.
Return to Happiness.
Is there a better way to think about Spring?


I would be remiss if I did not mention The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, a book I recently read and completely loved. A wonderful story of forgiveness that also communicates in a floral language. A perfect story to read in this daffodil month of new beginnings. You can also investigate this most expressive of languages for yourself with A Victorian Flower Dictionary, HERE.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Everyone's Irish Today

May you always walk in sunshine.

May you never want for more.

May Irish angels rest their wings

right beside your door.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

from Edward

Monday, March 12, 2012

Don't Let It Go To Your Head

Don't Let It Go To Your Head

It was one of those waiting rooms designed for women. The furniture, though cutting edge, still managed to retain a softer look - all rounded arms and muted colours. Scattered about, Vogues and Bazaars shot lip-sticked smiles in my direction. Not a Sports Illustrated to be seen. I had come to this spa for a massage, nudged along by a sore right shoulder brought about from too much late-night knitting. Tying my fluffy white robe a bit tighter round my waist, I sat sipping my cup of green tea, wondering how best to explain my shoulder to my masseuse without eliciting a giggle or two. A knitting injury? How many of those does she see in a week?

Fortunately for me, the dear lady didn’t giggle. She merely nodded sagely as I acted out my problem... “See, when I turn my head to the right, it really hurts”.

Then she cocked her head and gingerly asked, “Have you turned forty yet?

I choked a little on my tea.

Was she having me on?

I, um... well, I’m a little bit older than forty”, I mumbled.

She nodded at me as one does to a child and said in a conspiratorial whisper, “Well. I’M already forty-five and I can tell you, aches and pains begin to show up then. You just wait”.

Believe me, I don’t remember much about that massage. I only know that I left the spa with not just a much looser shoulder, but a high-flying self-esteem as well. She didn’t even think I was forty yet! That meant she still thought I was in my thirties. Wow! I began to rethink some things. Perhaps I shouldn’t be wearing my hemlines so long, after all. Maybe it wasn’t too late in the game to become a ballerina! Should I give those Twilight books a second look? And why not wear five inch leopard print stilettos and leather leggings? I bet I could pull that off, given my youthful appearance!

The euphoria of this delightful miscalculation of my age continued unabated until this week when a dear reader directed my attention to an article in London’s Daily Telegraph in which From The House Of Edward had been named one of the Top Ten Home and Property Blogs. An undeniable honour and one that sent my spirits soaring and my fingers quickly typing out the website to read it for myself.

Hurriedly glancing down the page I found the entry!

It began...

“From The House of Edward, written by a grandmother in the American South.....”

Whoa. Wait. What??

My heart stopped. Cold.

Written by a GRANDMOTHER? What? I read it again.

And again.

But with each reading, that word not only remained, but appeared to increase in size until it covered the entire page, blotting out any other complimentary description of my dear little blog that followed. My eyes shot to the profile photo at the top right side of my blog. Oh gee, do I look like a GRANDMOTHER? I do! I look like a GRANDMOTHER!

I stubbed my toe on a dog toy as I ran like a lunatic down the hall to the bathroom where the magnifying mirror sat waiting. Once in front of this oracle, I stared into it like the evil queen in Snow White.

Now don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against grandmothers. I know quite a few and they are, on the whole, a marvelous lot. And yes, technically, I guess I’m old enough to be one. Technically. (I mean while we’re at it, technically, Brad Pitt is old enough to be Kate Middleton’s father, which is certainly a rather appalling thought and not something he'd want pointed out in the Daily Telegraph, I just bet.) And anyway, actually Being a Grandmother is not the issue here. It’s having someone just assume you are one and broadcasting that fact to the world! To be fair, when I brought up the mistake in my thank you note to the kind gentleman who included me in this illustrious list, he apologized profusely saying there was something he’d read in one of my former posts that led him to believe I was, indeed, a grandmother. So perhaps his assumption wasn’t based entirely on my profile photo. But, still.

After a few depressing moments during which I sat on the side of my clawfoot tub with my forehead resting in the palm of my hand, I happened to look down into Edward’s worried face.

I could read his thoughts as clearly as if they were my own.....

“Well, you went and did it, didn’t you? The very thing you’re always telling other people not to do. You let someone else define you. Truth is, you’re not in your thirties. You’re not a grandmother, either. So what? Why let yourself get thrown off the track by either false assumption? And anyway, I happen to love you just like you are. So get up and let’s go for a walk”.

So, we did.

And I felt a bit better.

A bit.

Later when I felt strong enough to actually finish reading the Telegraph's Top Ten List I saw my blog described as “Curiously old-fashioned advice in a very modern package.”

I liked that very much.

But don’t worry, Edward. I won’t let it go to my head.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A March List... and a Giveaway From Edward

In Like A Lamb....

and A Giveaway From Edward

1. Juniper Moon Farms

As I write this, we are under the threat of tornadoes that have carved a path across the eastern part of the US with a fury and are currently lighting up our television screen with colours of red and fuschia. It looks to be a long night. Even so, I have to admit that March did come in like a lamb on Thursday. Warm, breezy, and most unusual for this time of year. And as it is time for one of my occasional, and rather eclectic, lists, I thought it would be appropriate to open with one of the most wonderful, and lamb-filled, sites I’ve found.

I recently came across Juniper Moon Farms via Twitter, and it has since become one of the sites I check into every single morning for a daily dose of sweetness. In search of a “more authentic life”, Susan Gibbs, (aka @ShepherdSusie on Twitter) left her job as a New York City network news producer to purchase a sheep farm. That’s the basic story but there is so much more. This wonderful web site is the perfect place for anyone who loves animals, knitting, gorgeous yarns, farm life, beauty, nature, photography ... I could go on and on, but you really should visit and discover Juniper Moon Farms yourself. They have a delightful daily blog and there is now a magazine in the works. I cannot wait for that.

Visit them HERE.

I hope you enjoy the rest of the list for March.

Oh, and be sure to read till the end.

Edward is conducting his very first giveaway!


2. Jubilee Scarf

How I would love to be in the UK this spring.

Not an unusual longing for me, it’s true, but this spring that longing is especially strong, for this is the spring of the Queen’s Jubilee, a celebration of her sixty years on the throne. Of course, this has to mean some fabulous shopping opportunities are out there. From books to tea towels, candy tins to dinner plates.

For myself, the moment my plane landed, I would head straight over to the Victoria and Albert and snatch up one of these fabulous scarves.

Designed by Laura Berens, this lovely scarf manages to be both nostalgic and modern at the same time.

I’m crazy about it!

Find it HERE

3. Kitchen Dancing

There is always music playing in my kitchen.


I cook to music. We eat to music.

Even when we leave the house, classical radio is left on for Edward and Apple and I have absolutely no doubt it contributes greatly to their calm, companionable personalities.

With so much music playing, is it any wonder The Songwriter and I often dance in the kitchen? Surely we aren’t the only ones.

This tea towel is perfect for us.

Find it HERE.


4. Finally!

I stopped taking the Oscar awards seriously the year Meryl Streep failed to win best actress for the movie, Ironweed. Her performance in that film just devastated me with its truth and compassion and I was aghast when she was left sitting in her chair watching Cher accept the award. My shock continued year after year as, once again, the statue was handed to another. Was there any other actress who brought Lindy Chamberlain to life as she did in Cry in the Dark? Sister Aloysius in Doubt? Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada? Such marvelous work, but still no Oscar win. I do believe she is taken for granted by Hollywood. Just imagine if an unknown actress had played Julia Child the way she did in Julie and Julia. Why, that actress would have been hailed as a genius with an Oscar in her hand for certain.

So it was with low expectations I heard Colin Firth call out the roster of Best Actress nominees last Sunday night.

And it was with a tear in my eye that I watched Meryl Streep accept her first Oscar in twenty-nine years.


5. Traveling With Dogs

As The Songwriter knows all too well, I am someone who deplores election years. The malicious negativity, the patronizing that insults my intelligence at every opportunity, the sheer shrillness of it all simply sets my teeth on edge. Here on this blog, my own little corner of the world, I usually choose not to cover such things.

So at present I’d rather not discuss the candidate who promised to put a colony on the moon by the close of his second term, a vow that managed to embrace both idiocy and arrogance in one fell swoop. Nor do I wish to consider the candidate who declared, quite chillingly, that the separation of church and state makes him “want to throw up”.

But I am prepared to take serious issue with the chap who considered it appropriate to strap the family dog to the roof of the car for a twelve hour trip from Boston to Toronto. When the dog understandably became ill during the journey, this prince of a man simply pulled the car into the next gas station, where he hosed off both car and dog, and put the poor creature right back up on the roof. Although this candidate has told the press that he sent the dog to live happily ever after on a farm, his own sons told the press that, in fact, it ran away upon arriving in Canada after that fateful journey. Trust me, I would have run away too.

This is utterly horrifying to me and tells me absolutely everything I need to know about this man.

For reference, this is how the family dog should travel in a car.....


6. Downton Withdrawal


It’s over.

For a whole entire year.

Whatever shall we do?

Perhaps these will help.

Find Them HERE.

7. Leonard Cohen

Be still my heart.

He’s back.

With a new CD called Old Ways.

Is there anything more to say?

Get it HERE

8. Ottoman

So you’ve finally bought that cottage at the beach. The one you’d always dreamed of. Set off by itself on a rise just beyond the dunes, its windows are always open to the wind off the Atlantic, its weathered wooden floors always slightly sandy. You’ve painted the sitting room Wimborne White and slipcovered the fat armchairs in heavy white linen. Across the chaise by the window there is a sunflower yellow shawl, as large as a bed sheet, that you knitted yourself. The shell lamps were made by a lady in town and their cream coloured shades are forever slightly askew, the result of the jostling they take when your two standard poodles play chase each other around the room. Over the fireplace hangs a portrait of your great aunt Lillian, the one who took a solo trip to Africa when she was seventy-eight years old. She is wearing a bright blue dress and holding her Cairn Terrier, Henry, in her lap. And in the center of the room, always at the ready to welcome a tea tray, or a pair of bare feet, sits this ottoman.

Find it HERE.

9. Stag Head

I am happy to go on record as saying that I simply do not understand hunting for pleasure. I’ve had hunters try to lessen my revulsion for this so-called "sport" by telling me of the exhilaration they feel being out in the wilderness, coming face to face with one of God’s grand creatures. But they always lose me when they get to the part where they shoot the animal between the eyes. Watching the life light drain from a magnificent animal holds no joy for me, quite the opposite. Likewise, seeing hunting trophies displayed on the walls of houses gives me the serious creeps.

Perhaps that is why I love this stag so very much.

Needlepointed and filled with whimsy, this Frederique Morrel creation is the only stag I would ever think of hanging on my wall.

I simply adore it.

See more of her amazing artwork HERE

10. Edward Presents Mr. Chewy

When we adopted Edward he had been on the streets for several months. Hard to believe, I know, and something we never discuss. I have no doubt those particular memories have evaporated for him anyway. He had a bit of a wonky tummy at first, the result of insufficient, and less that nourishing, food. So we made certain that he got the very best diet he possibly could and he was soon thriving. Both Edward and Apple eat really well, I’m happy to say. They deserve it, and a good nourishing diet makes such a difference in their health. I read food labels and make certain every thing they have, either for meals or treats, is as fresh and beneficial as possible.

That’s why Edward and I were so tickled when the folks over at Mr. Chewy contacted us to ask if we’d like to host a giveaway for their site. Everything they carry is good for your dog or cat. The best diets, the healthiest treats.... (Edward is particularly fond of the Dogswell Chicken Breast jerky with Flaxseed and Vitamins), plus all the best flea and tick treatments. And they’ll ship straight to your door.

Visit them HERE.

Mr. Chewy is generously offering a $50 gift coupon to one fortunate reader of From The House of Edward!

All you have to do is leave a comment here on this post. Even better, become a follower for an extra chance to win.

Edward and I will draw the winning comment on the night of the next full moon...

March 8th... at midnight.

Edward wishes you all good luck,

and a Happy Month of March!

Congratulations to Kay Furlong!
She's the winner of the Mr. Chewy giveaway.
Thanks to everyone for playing!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Snow Child

The Snow Child

Perhaps it is simply the light, one no other season can claim. A light that boldly pierces the windowpanes to paint razor-sharp runes on the kitchen wall. A light that boomerangs off the blanket of snow, brighter than the sun itself.

Or maybe it is only the fragrance. Filling the crystal air with the wild scent of ice and hemlock, cinnamon and pine, it comes to me as the memory of an old friend whenever I bury my face in Edward’s cold fur during a romp in the early hours of a January morning.

It is there in the boreal moon that hangs low over the tops of the bare naked trees.

In the emerald madness of the northern lights.

And in the snow.

Always in the snow.

Drifting down through the dark woods at midnight or resting on my eyelashes during an afternoon walk.

It has a magic that Springtime knows nothing about.

A mystery denied to the fall.

It is winter and, for me, it has always been the most delicious season of them all.

Edward and I have been denied a true winter this year, temperatures rarely dipping low enough to excite us, wind that has refused to properly howl. A much more salubrious climate than summer, to be sure, but a bit of a disappointment nonetheless. Perhaps this was the reason I was drawn to this title on a prowl through a bookshop last week. The Snow Child. With its frost white cover of a little girl and a fox peering out at me from behind bare trees, this book ensnared my eye as soon as I walked in. I reached for it instinctively and purchased it at once. Perhaps you’ll think me mad, but some books are like that. They call to me. I seem to recognize their covers. Their size and weight just feel at home in my hands, as though every single word, not one less nor one more, adds up to something written especially for me. This was such a book.

I carried The Snow Child home and made myself wait to open it until I could snuggle down in bed with Edward’s big head resting on my tummy. And just as I suspected, it was all there. All the magic of winter that I had missed these last months. All the mystery. All the beauty. All found in this story of a little girl with white blonde hair, darting through an Alaskan forest - a flash of blue eyes in the sunlight, a snippet of colour in snow.

I am reluctant to tell too much about The Snow Child lest I spoil someone’s personal discovery of its delightful power to bewitch the imagination. I will say that the first time author, Eowyn Ivey, has captured a story on these pages that should rightfully become a classic. Born and raised in the Alaska she writes of, every word simply sings with authenticity and unique creativity.

I have been to Alaska in January and driven a dog sled through the forested wilderness, an experience that shall never leave my memory. I recall gazing into the first line of fir trees that stood sentry over the dark woods all around me as the dogs stamped and jostled, ready to run. Without being told, I knew this forest was unlike the ones I lived with at home. Behind those laced limbs of green were secrets I could never hope to decipher, ancient, other-worldly, and more than a bit unsettling. If only I had stared a bit longer, allowed my eyes to push past the green guardians and glimpse the icy kingdom inside, who can say what wonders I would have found. Instead, feeling the chill of mystery, I called out to the dogs and they spirited me away in the wind. Now, through The Snow Child, I know a bit more about what could have been mine to discover if only I had waited around a bit longer.

You simply must read this book!