I returned home from California to Nantucket’s best kept secret – end of summer. By the last week of August right through Columbus Day, the weather on Nantucket is spectacular! The ocean is warm enough to swim and it’s not too hot to do anything outdoors. My garden is thriving, even after this scorching summer thanks to Sally Obremski who’s kept it looking good. So now I’m enjoying some last days on the beach. One of my favorite spots is Stone’s Beach on Surfside. It’s still the way it’s always been, no perceivable erosion here. But the thing that always makes me smile is the little “free library.”
When working on a book we always take a lot more photographs than we ultimately use. We look for 8 good shots in a house so we have choices for full page shots and detail shots as well as intimate shots of rooms. But ultimately there are always cuts just as the words also get edited for space. My books are usually 224 pages. There are always sacrifices. Do we make photos smaller so we can include more or do we cut words to make photos larger. The process of putting a book together once it’s been written and the photo have been taken is an exercise in compromise.
When I was in grad school, I had one of those teachers you remember all your life. She said, “If you want to be a writer, you have to learn to be an editor” So, you do the creative work and then you put all emotion aside and become the editor. The more unemotionally and professionally you can do this the better the finished project. It’s always hard. What’s worth keeping? What has to go?
I have a file of the photos that weren’t used in all of my books and now, with this blog I get to select from this group whenever I need an illustration.
The other day I was trolling through that file, One of Terry’s gorgeous photos popped up. It was taken on a beautiful summer day on the back deck at Ginny Kinney’s house on Silver St. Her daughter-in-law Lief had styled a table to suggest a lazy afternoon party. I think it would be a delightful theme for a bridal shower – “Come for cupcakes, strawberries and lemonade”.
I’ve been home for three weeks and it’s hard to re-enter what I refer to as my real life. As I do my errands, shopping at the Stop and Shop, the post office, bank, etc. I bump into people who have their own tales of woe about this past winter. Mostly they survived and seem a little shell-shocked. – not quite believing that the worst is over. I’ve decided that “How was your winter?” is not a good way to greet people.
Many folks were able to get away for a brief respite from the relenting weather. What started out as a novelty, a time to hunker down and enjoy being at home, turned into “enough all ready!” by the third big storm. Coming back when it’s all over seems a bit like cheating. My property doesn’t look too bad and miracle of miracles our car started right up when we turned the key in the ignition.
Now I too am embracing the spring and with it a new book launch is about to happen. This is the hard part of my work. The planning, the execution of it, is what I enjoy. Promoting a book, planning talks and coordinating book signings is harder. All my writer friends agree. We are used to being behind the scenes. We are cowardly, hiding behind our names printed on the jacket of our books. Coming out, so to speak, is a bit harder. Talking about a book is always fun because it’s a chance to share the experience of how it was created, and a chance to relive that experience. I’ll be sitting at a table for the Nantucket Book Festival on June 20. On the 19th at 2:00 in the library park I’ll be talking about how this particular book came about.. Producing a book is an exciting project and, I am often asked how I find the houses for my style books and how we go about planning the photographs and interviews and all the behind the scenes tidbits. In July Terry and I will present a slide show in the Great Hall. Two of the articles featured in the first two issues of Nantucket Today magazine are on cottages included in the book.
This is the month for celebration. There is, of course, the prospect of spring. It seems, no matter how cold or miserable the weather has been, the Daffodils never disappoint. How is this possible? A million Daffodils all discussing the matter underground and then, on cue, popping through the hard, muddy, wet earth in unison all over the island. Why is it we have become so cocky sure that they will arrive that the Chamber of Commerce has put a lot of stock into promoting this weekend? Every B&B and hotel room is filled, stores are stocked and decorated, restaurants use this as a target reopening date and most of all, in all good faith, the ferries are booked. Not only with visitors coming to the island but with antique cars coming from far and near to be in this most celebrated of parades. It’s enough to boggle the mind of the most skeptical among us. What if there’s a snowstorm? It’s possible. What if the daffodils just can’t struggle through the still frozen earth. Could happen. But it never has, so we collectively see the glass half full and plod along getting ready for the big event. Most of us are just happy to welcome spring – at last.
Daffodil weekend is coming but even more exciting, we are on our way
to spring.. While in Key West this winter we entertained a lot and we were entertained. It’s a social town and it’s fun to be able to eat outdoors. Even in the summer in Nantucket it is hardly ever warm enough to have dinner outside.
Entertaining begins with a beautifully set table. I love setting the table almost more than anything else having to do with having guests for a meal. How you set a table sets the mood. You might pick a color scheme, a season, a holiday, or a special occasion. Or, you might just be in the mood. Setting a table is a most satisfying creative endeavor. A beautifully set table, no matter how simple, makes guests feel special.
I put this in the category of dreaming of summer. I know. I’m rushing the season. But this is such a beautiful oasis in one of my favorite Key West homes that I have to share. And while the palm trees aren’t found in Nantucket this casual porch scene could be anywhere.
Bamboo furniture is hot again. I’m not sure if it ever went out of style but it’s sturdy but light, care free maintenance and good looking. It can be left outdoors and if you cover the cushions with Sunbrella or another weather resistant fabric its pretty durable for our weather.
The thing I like are the playful retro accessories. The homeowner collects early sand pails with delightful illustrations on them. She buys them on eBay. The old time radio is another artifact from the past, retrofitted to work.. Even the lamp made of bamboo spokes was an eBay find. I love a table lamp in an outdoor room. Turns it into a real living room feeling.
If you’ve ever read anything about Key West you know about the chickens! Yes they have a run of the place. One gets used to them crossing the road! They run around Blue Heaven, a touristy restaurant that thinks this is a cute public relations idea! It is not!!! But I like the chickens. Just not running under my feet, pecking away at crumbs dropped under the table on the restaurant patio. I do not go there. Once was enough. But chickens are part of the scenery here and their image is on EVERYTHING! There are paintings in galleries, statues of chickens for the garden, chickens on t-shirts and even chickens on a sponge! There was a chicken store with real chickens roaming about. They sold all kinds of tourist stuff with chicken images. It’s kind of like “when in Nantucket you buy Nantucket Reds” even if you never ever wear them once you are back in Omaha. I actually bought a cap one year with embroidered, “chicken girl” on the front.
One year the town hired a “chicken catcher” and paid $50. per chicken to take them to a “chicken farm.” That did not last long. The chickens multiply faster than the chicken catcher can catch them.
A tiny spike in the temperature and everyone starts thinking spring- or wishing for it by now.
It happens every year so you’d think we’d be use to it. But when that first daffodil pops up everyone goes a little crazy. You’d think we’d never seen one before. But let’s face it. The Daffodil Weekend is a fact of island life. It’s kind of a rite of passage here.
But right now I’m in Key West and thinking about orchids. In Key West the orchid is like the daffodils, hydrangeas and roses all wrapped into one. Orchids bloom here all year long and while the hibiscus and the bougainvillea are just as prominent they can’t rival the orchid in popularity. So if you’re having a bit of winter blahs consider an orchid to cheer up your home. It won’t last as long as down here but it will give you a pre-spring boost.
Orchids are interesting plants. Here in the south they root right on tree trunks and it isn’t unusual to pass house after house with orchids blooming on every tree in the yard. I love the colors, purple, pale yellow, and most of all white. The white orchid is my favorite. It’s so classy and elegant.
Last week I wrote about staging a home. The motivation for this might be a desire to rent or sell your home. Then again, it’s a fun winter project. We have no control over the weather. But we do have control over our nest. AND, changing your interior can give you a lift. Think spring! Yes it’s cold and snowy outside, but it can be spring inside.
I was helping a friend style a huge loft-like apartment for sale when I wrote my last blog “STAGING”. With very little money I was able to make this cold space look a bit lived in. The idea was simply to suggest how it might be used. So here’s what we did.
Holidays are my least favorite subject for a column. There’s not much that hasn’t already been written in past years and by everyone. When writing about home décor it’s hard to ignore the color associated with the holiday, My friend Patrick used to own an Irish bar. He embraces this as HIS day and we always make sure to celebrate him on March 17. Reminding him of the religious connotation or any mention of the early St. Patrick for which the holiday originated falls on deaf ears. He does the day proud with his shamrock suspenders and everything green.
Think Irish, think green. This particular shade of green comes from the green harp flag used by the Irish Catholic Confederation. The phrase “wearing of the green” comes from a song of the same name.
So, putting all the religious association aside and embracing it as a fun-loving day, it seems a good excuse to “go green” and really overdo it. Set a table in green and white. It’s the only thing I could to do without being a hypocrite and pretending to like the color and the whole idea of a day devoted to drinking green beer. Any holiday is a good excuse to set a table for friends of all persuasions.