Tag Archives: Mrs. B at Home

Scents of a Woman

There are days that begin like any other – wake the boys, fix the breakfast, pack the lunches, drive the carpools – that then unfold with the most unexpected delight.  Not all surprises are good ones, I know, but sometimes the unanticipated delivers a burst of joy.  Last week a friend, a good friend who will not flinch at the mention of either silver polish or faltering faith, sent Meyer Lemons from California with no warning.  I sliced the top of the box with the kitchen scissor and unrolled the stiff paper bag releasing the citrus scent laced with sweetness.  I tipped them into the box and bent at the waist to breathe it in.

Careful not to waste the bounty, I plotted and planned, flipping pages of cookbooks to look for recipes appealing, yet unfamiliar.  I hadn’t baked with lemon before, though I love it.  Lemon Marmalade? Well, I’d never, though now I have and will again.  The fact that no one else would like it made it better, bore the same satisfaction that ordering Milk Duds at the movie did as a kid.  (My sister didn’t like them so I didn’t have to share.)

And then, on to the 147-step Lemon Tart that gave me fits, the result of my insecurity.   No need.  The flavor was delicious, but the texture of both crust and curd were memorable.  Everyone liked it, but I ate most of it myself, standing at the counter on one foot, the other resting against the inside of my knee, a habit of unknown origin that I can only hope works the core.

A little left, enough for muffins, surely, though I saved it for cocktails and toasted the giver.

And then, as if the universe knew that winter had ground on a little too long, another gentleman pressed a bouquet of flowers into my hands as we parted.  I can’t be sure that this is so, but I do not think that hyacinths and I had been previously introduced.  I’m pretty sure we never met (though perhaps our cousins went to camp together) and now, I cannot imagine life without them, so heavenly is their scent.

I carry them with me from room to room, nuzzling their rubbery blooms.  I am intoxicated by them.  The idea of hyacinths comforted me through the lines of a poem I kept tacked to my cubicle wall a lifetime ago:

If thou of fortune be bereft,
and in thy store there be but left
two loaves, sell one and with the
dole, buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.

I thought it was the beauty of the blooms that inspired the poet, but now I realize they delight the soul not only at each sight, but with each breath.

Fruit and flowers and friends are carrying me through to Spring.

The poem, above, and the one secured with push pins to my wall, was attributed to John Greenleaf Whittier.  In searching for it today, I see a very similar version is attributed to Moslih Eddin.

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All Your Questions Answered

I’m following up on a few reader’s questions here so there is no need to hunt back through comments.  The color of that small hall is Benjamin Moore’s Tyler Taupe.  The painted chest in that piece was at Mission Road Antique Mall, but the dealer is Barbara Farmer who also has a shop, Parrin & Co., at 45th and State Line.

I did “Gracie” my dining room walls; you can see the results here.

And, how long did the powder room take? Hmmm… Painting the top part was easy – two hours, say.  I spent long stretches over two days measuring the Greek key.  Two to three hours?  Likely.  Then, the painting went pretty fast.  Probably another two hours.  (Notice how two hours measuring was long and two hours painting was fast?  Life is like that.)

As far as effort in relation to results, I would say both the powder room and the dining room (and even painting the small hall twice) made more sense than the ridiculous amount of time I spent laying out these paint palettes for the rooms of my (still nameless) house.  But it’s rainy and my eldest has been sick since Friday and I have loads of tiresome things to do, so it was a welcome diversion.

Image, top, my master bedroom paint colors, which all happen to be Benjamin Moore. 

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We Are Winter

We have been getting together for dinner with three other families for a while now. There is a total of thirteen children and when they are all in attendance everyone has a friend present and there is truly nothing better than having a friend present.

It has worked out that each family’s dinner lands in a different season and we are winter.  Winter is difficult for me, sun worshipper that I am, so this bit of manufactured warmth in the form of a house full of friends is nourishing.

I feel that the house is just starting to come together, is just starting to feel like mine, and a party always brings a burst of energy for the filling in.  I had originally painted this hallway a light blue and it never felt right.  Experimenting with colors for our bedroom doors I fell in love with this saddle-leather shade.  Not right for the doors, it seemed just the thing for the hallway, a bridge between our room and Bill’s Calke Green study.

An old bench, one that had not even found a good home in the old house, held space here. The painting was my wedding present to Bill, and if it’s not something that we would buy now, it reminds me of where we were when I was so much under the influence of other people.

I had seen this chest and it kept knocking on the back door of my consciousness.  Readying for the party I decided that it was, indeed a good idea.  When I went to buy it, it was out on approval with someone else and, I am embarrassed to say, I had a temper tantrum.  A small one, but a tantrum nonetheless.  I called a friend in full froth and as I was finally winding down I said, “I mean, I get that’s it not a kidney,” though I was behaving as if it were.

I just wanted the house to be pretty.  Just wanted to do a little less explaining and apologizing.  Just wanted things to be right for this crew that I like so well.  The shop called in the middle of one of the boy’s basketball games to say the piece had come back; it hadn’t worked for the other buyer.  A few friends said, “karma.”  But I am not sure this cosmic kick-back is what my bad behavior earned and I am looking over my shoulder wondering what the universe might have in store.

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Patience and Process

I began at the paint store in the knowledgable hands of Vic, on whom I can always count for advice and a story or two.  He assured me that Benjamin Moore Regal was the way to go and he was right; it covered dense and dark in one coat.

When I told him what I was doing he looked down and nodded his head.  “You know, I can paint a steady, straight line,” he looked up from under his brow and finished, “with either hand.”  I smiled back, “You know, I can, too. Pretty much.”  

 And I did.  The lines waver slightly – you can see that they were not taped.  I like it better.  No pretense.

I made a quick guide and started at the center of the longest wall and moved toward the door.  I was intent on getting the worst out of the way, the Catholic school girl in me still so deeply embedded that I felt the need to earn satisfaction through suffering.  But I succumbed.  Succumbed to the creamy temptation of the paint and the soft “shush” of the brush on the wall.  The marking scrambled my brain, but the painting soothed my spirit and before the small space filled with the scent of the intoxicant I realized that this was what I sought from the beginning.  

In no hurry, with my focus on what was right in front of me, I took it a little at a time.  There was the bother of corners and plumbing, but even those, with patience, were managed.  Standing back now, with pictures and props in place, it looks as if it all worked out as it should.

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Math and measuring are a hateful and horrible business.  I wonder at people who find comfort and security in numbers and order, while I am perpetually vexed.  There are fifteen squares in the powder room and I did not execute the meander correctly once.  Each time I had to reconnoiter the bit in the middle.  Each time.

Beyond that, there are tricky parts both behind and beside the toilet and under the sink.  In a perfect world, one would execute such a project free of such obstacles.  It is not a perfect world.  As I found myself lying on the floor wedged between the toilet and the wall maneuvering a yard stick with one hand and a pencil with another, I was reminded of an interlude in the lower berth of a bunk bed in Stillwater, Oklahoma my freshman year of college.  This latest feat, at least, yielded satisfying results and left no lingering notion that looks foretell neither intelligence nor prowess.

Beyond the physical discomfort was the anxiety of making a mistake.  Pencil, of course, can be erased, but inky, black paint on a flat, white wall is the sort of slip that is difficult to undo.  This is where one needs to exercise forethought and caution.  Regardless my focus and enthusiasm, slip I did.  Today I face sealer and more dreaded calculations as I finally hang the silhouettes.  At the moment, from a language perspective, it’s a bit of a PG-13 environment.

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