Monday, October 30, 2017

Miscellaneous Musings No. 10 - Happy Thanksmas

Happy Thanksmas, everyone. Yes, we live in an era where anything and everything goes, and holidays are no exception. We are currently celebrating Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas - just choose your category.

Halloween is not my favorite holiday, but I can't fathom pulling out the Christmas decor just yet. What you see below is the extent of my Halloween decor this year, and I've already sold the ghosts. The little witchy woman is only 3" tall, so she's barely even visible. The rest is just fall decor that happens to blend.
My neighbors along our walk path, on the other hand, seem to love Halloween, and have some friendly competition going as to who can be most creative. I personally favor the picnic. They actually have some real food out - the crackers and orange. I am totally surprised the squirrels or other animals haven't gotten into them.
Thanksgiving. This is a preview of my playing with dishes before taking the turkey platter into the antique mall for a vignette there.
Christmas. On October 24th, this is what I encountered at our Town Center Mall - the makings of the Christmas decor. Those are some big balls! The gal in Macy's told me they'd had their trees up in the store for three weeks already on this date.
Just like the holidays, the same seems to be true for the weather - confusing. I posted this (below) on Facebook on October 24th, just shortly after returning from the mall. The weather had an alert for graupel, which I had never heard of until then.
Apparently, I wasn't the the only one who'd never heard the word graupel. "Soft hail". In our neck of the woods, we call it slush. However, it sounded like hail when it came down. It basically was the ushering in of fall on the weather front. After another yoyo week of weather, ranging from summer temps to cold rain and even snow flurries last night, today we have a beautiful, colorful fall day.
Speaking of weather, remember that nun from Hurricane Irma I wrote about in the last musing? Well, guess what? She now has an IPA (India Pale Ale) created in her honor - Nun with a Chainsaw. How original.
Another crazy, mixed up thing this time of year is sports - you can watch major league football, basketball, baseball - any or all, not to mention college sports and your weekend kids' and grandkids' games of soccer, volleyball, etc. It's crazy!

And, then there's TV programming. I somewhat limit my viewing time to just a handful of shows, but Hallmark wants to make sure I take time for their 21 all-new Christmas movies, let alone those previously aired. My favorite new fall program is The Good Doctor, by far. When Mr. P. saw the rug on the floor in the doc's bedroom, he said, "hey, your purse ladies (the Traveling Tote Tribe) would like that, wouldn't they?" Yes, I think so.
Freddie Highmore plays the Good Doctor - Dr. Shaun Murphy - with impeccable realism, and I really look forward to the show each week. He definitely studies his character's idiosyncrasies associated with his spectrum of autism to portray it authentically.

We all probably tend to have some idiosyncrasies we display in our daily lives. One of mine is organization. The picture below is how I ready my condiments for a hotdog/french fry combo I get at one of our local lunch places. Mr. P. said, "Take a picture. People won't believe how you line them up [and open the edge of each before food is served]". I keep the mustard turned the other way to differentiate its packaging because Mr. P. doesn't like mustard. This way, when our food comes, I'm ready, and the food doesn't get cold waiting on me to open those tiny little packages!
If I were dressing up for Halloween, I think I'd be a shindig dancer this year. While most women of a certain age (mine!) loved Bobby Sherman growing up, it was the dancers behind him and the other music performers that I loved.
Oh, and those go go boots they sported? Oh yea, baby, I had some of those in 1967. I remember wearing those with red stretch pants, and playing Twister (without the boots, of course).
{Sigh}...on second thought, I think I'll just pass out the candy. Or not.
Maybe I'll just turn out the lights and save the candy for Mr. P. and me, and be a bad little witchy woman.
Ta ta for now.....oh, speaking of which, have you had your mammogram?? Better do it!

Rita C. at Panoply
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Thursday, October 26, 2017

Richly Rustic, Romantic Autumn Tablescape

I favor a mix of masculine/feminine style in home decor, and I am also always looking for an opportunity to infuse antique, vintage or repurposed elements together with new items as part of my style. In my favorite way, I've created a tablescape that is richly rustic, yet romantic, in that contradictory style I favor. It captures so much of what I love, and works perfectly for the autumn season.
My tablescape started with my fall dining room centerpiece I created back in September. The dough bowl was originally an estate sale find a couple years ago. I then layered on cuttings from the garden, acorns gathered, and baby boos from the farmers' market.
I recently came upon this vintage MacKenzie-Childs wool "lap robe" in the classic thistle motif, one of their early textiles (meaning late 1980s, early 1990s) from a seller in a collector's group. The throw became my tablecloth.
Place cards are vintage forks bent as easels, with a few sprigs of dried lavender attached with simple shipping tags, stained for an aged appearance. The tags are what my Panoply sisters and I use for pricing, and they serve well in this setting.
The napkins rings are repurposed leather belts found on Etsy. The felted wool birdhouse was a souvenir from our cross-country trip last year, from a little shop in Moab, UT. The bronze flatware was first used here. Navy napkins are hemstitched cotton.
The plate stack base starts with wooden chargers, sourced from another Etsy dealer last fall. Together with the dinner plate - my go-to, creamy-white base, both were first used here. The salad plate - sold as an appetizer - is my jewel on this table. It is Ralph Lauren, from the Carolyn collection. Out of the entire collection, I fell hard for this plate alone. I love the design and colors together.
The Carolyn collection was inspired by Ralph Lauren's 2008 fall ready-to-wear collection (see photo below). The feathers and jewels on the Carolyn collection epitomize Lauren's classic way of creating. The master of renegade and refined, rustic and glam, Ralph Lauren's styling is what I aspire to achieve in my own, small way.
I have the coordinating cups and saucers from this collection. They are paired with crackled glass water tumblers and wine glasses in a purple hue, embracing what was my mother's favorite color.
Just as an appetizer is interchanged as a salad plate, who's to say a saucer can't be a bread plate? Creative license, I say, using what you have and like for a purpose not necessarily originally intended.
As another nod to my mother and her style, I placed a couple pieces of her costume jewelry (purple stones) on the table, nestled under the centerpiece and beside my wine glass. They're also visible in the centerpiece photo shown earlier in this post.
The table is set in my dining room, where the furnishings exude a mood that matches my intended juxtaposition of elements. Leather and leopard, rosewood and white paints, mixed metals - all of these collide to set the scene.
Brass candle lanterns offer a bit more drama to the atmosphere.
I will enjoy using the elements of this tablescape for the entire autumn season. So many of the individual pieces please me beyond tablescaping, and are useful as decor. As a tablescape, this certainly is relaxed enough to pull off for a casual dinner, yet dressy enough to use for hosting Thanksgiving or other special occasion. 
Whether your style leans exclusively one way or you prefer mixing it up, I hope you find value in using decor elements for multiple purposes to increase your enjoyment in having them. Thanks for your visit today. Your readership and comments are always welcome!
Source List
Dough bowl, trophy, brass candle lanterns, fork easels - estate finds
Tartan wool lap robe - MacKenzie-Childs, individual seller
Wood chargers, napkin rings - Etsy sellers
Flatware, glassware, napkins - Pier 1
Cream dinner plates - Filigree, Pfaltzgraff 
Appetizer as salad plates, cups & saucers - Carolyn, Ralph Lauren, Macy's

(A special thanks to Michael Lee at Rattlebridge Farm: Foodie Friday and Everything Else and Sharon at the Snickerdoodle Create, Bake, Make Party #206 for featuring this post!)
Rita C. at Panoply
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Monday, October 16, 2017

Leaf-Peeping on WV Country Roads

It seemed as though fall would never make its presence in our city, so last week we made a two-day trek to the West Virginia area referred to as the Potomac Highlands. The crooked and broken arrows on the map below show the general direction of our trip, with a yellow circle highlighting the areas visited.
Fortunately, our fall color has come just a little later than the WV Division of Forestry predicted in the map shown below. We enjoyed much colorful foliage on our trip (see circle on map for area visited).

Our highlights included stops at Seneca Rocks, Blackwater Falls, Canaan Valley and Smoke Hole Caverns, and we criss-crossed through four different counties - Randolph, Tucker, Grant, and Pendleton - as well as the Eastern Continental Divide.

Day 1: Much of the highways traveled were state roads that looked a lot like the picture below, with lots of curves, grade changes in elevations, and too many logging trucks to count. Deer darting across highways are also a known hazard this time of year, particularly near dawn and dusk, and we saw our share of those, too.
Spruce Knob Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area - our first stop
After a little over 3 hours of driving, we made our first stop at Seneca Rocks. The Appalachian Mountains were formed as a result of the uplift of the continental crust nearly 275 million years ago. Heat and pressure caused sandstone layers to metamorphose quartzite, and Seneca Rocks, part of this Tuscarora quartzite bedrock, juts at an imposing 900' above the Seneca Creek valley below. Evidence shows Native Americans inhabited this area during the Archaic Period (8,000BC - 10,000BC). Algonquin, Tuscarora, Seneca, Cherokee, Shawnee, and Mingo tribes all dwelled, traded, and fought in this area. European settlers arrived in 1746.
During WWII, soldiers climbed here to prepare for mountain warfare. Today, this area is recreational to hikers, rock climbers, sightseers and ameteur geologists. We hiked the 3 mile (round trip), 900' elevation Seneca Trail, with an observation platform as our resting, turnaround point.
Seneca Creek, Trail Start

Seneca Trail Path

Seneca Trail, rock face climbing point

Seneca Trail rock jenga

Seneca Trail Foliage
There was a 50% chance of rain during the hours we hiked and, though the clouds rolled in and out of the hills, it never rained on us. The photo below shows an enlarged image of the Seneca Rocks face, and a circle at the observation point to which we hiked.
Seneca Rocks, with observation point in view on left

Valley vista view from Seneca Rocks Observation Point

View of Seneca Rocks Discovery Center, parking lot, as seen from 900' elevation Observation Point
The estimated hike time was two hours for this trail. We completed the ascent in 40 minutes, the descent in 30. It was very tiring!

We had reservations at nearby Canaan Valley State Park Resort, the same state park where my high school girlfriends reunited this past summer. We checked into the resort by 4:30 pm, had dinner at 5, and a drizzling rain started just as we were served dinner. Lights were out by 9pm!

Day 2:
We had breakfast at Bright Morning Inn in Davis, WV, a quaint and welcoming bed and breakfast,  originally built in 1846 as a boardinghouse for lumberjacks.
Bellies full, we headed north another 12 miles to Blackwater Falls State Park. We had the entire park to ourselves on this particular morning, which was bright and clear.
Blackwater Falls, October 2017

Blackwater Falls State Park 
From here, we ventured into the Dolly Sods Wilderness. It was 10am when we left Blackwater Falls, the sun shining brightly, but it soon clouded over. By the time we turned off the narrow, side road to make our ascent to the top of the area (on a then dirt/gravel road), the fog had rolled in among the hills making visibility quite difficult. View the photo below, clockwise starting from the top left frame, and you can see the changes in the atmospheric conditions. We decided to turn around (not easy to do on the narrow road!), and headed to our next trip stop.
The road to Dolly Sods Wilderness
Of note, Dolly Sods is in the Monongahela National Forest, and contains ecotypes more common to southern Canada, with elevations ranging from 2,500 to 4,700 feet. It is now part of the National Wilderness Preservation Forest, but during WWII, it served as training grounds for target practice. Visitors are cautioned at finding UXO - UneXploded Ordnance mortars, bullets, etc - even though the US Army Corps of Engineers performed a cleanup of the area.

Our next trip stop took us back past Seneca Rocks, to Smoke Hole Caverns. A show cave featuring stalactites and stalagmites, with fresh spring water running into a coral pool and streaming throughout its twists and turns, its history is varied. Seneca Indians originally used Smoke Hole Caverns to smoke their game meats and, with smoke emanating from the single entry/exit, the name evolved. Local lore says the cavern was used during the Civil War by both the North and South (remember, West Virginia is one of two states formed during the war in 1863). After the Civil War, it is said the smoke hole was used for making moonshine during the Prohibition era. Smoke Hole Caverns has one of the highest ceilings of caverns in the eastern U.S.
It also boasts one of the world's largest ribbon stalactites
Concrete walkways, iron stairwells and various lighting throughout have undoubtedly taken a toll on the overall natural environment, but it is still a natural wonder to see the formations, approximately 300' below the mountain under which it is situated.
Our last stop for Day 2 was back to our resort destination for an afternoon Canaan Valley Scenic Chair Lift. This afforded us the opportunity to take in one more overview of the mountain range from atop of the ski resort peaks.
Throughout our two-day leaf-peeping journey, we saw plenty of scenic pastoral views and farmland.

Our trip was a nice getaway in the eastern mountains of West Virginia. But, the best view, by far, was one of a West Virginia sunrise, coming up over the mountain on our way home.
Country roads, take me home, to the place I belong....West Virginia, Mountain Momma, take me home, country roads.

(A special thanks to Christine and all the ladies of Dishing It and Digging It Link Party #171 for featuring this post!)
Rita C. at Panoply
Sharing: Amaze Me, DIDI,  BNOTP, Show & ShareInspire MeMake it PrettyThe Scoop, Dagmar's HomeCelebrate Your Story, SYS, SYCDelightsome Life H&GGrace at Home, Vintage CharmFoodie Friday & Everything Else