Tuesday, December 22, 2009

On the Streets Where I Live

With the big "thank you party" to the contractors and neighbors behind me I feel like I finally can sit back and take in the sights, sounds and smells of the holidays as celebrated in my new city. With camera in tow I set out to report to the blogosphere about the unique way that Richmond decorates for Christmas. It is sort of a blending of Mardis Gras and Christmas - lots of pink, purple, feathers and huge ornaments. And the all of the lights make it so magical. Add to that a foot of snow and all we need is Currier and Ives to come down and do some paintings.Beautiful Monument Avenue lights.

Last Christmas Harry and I could barely bring ourselves to decorate. We knew we were moving and we were trying to minimize the amount of work that is involved in decorating so as not to offend any potential buyer. Turns out that we took it off the market anyway, for a few weeks, as selling a house and celebrating Christmas don't mix. But we still couldn't bring ourselves to put lights out front. The big challenge this year was finding all of the decorations. We stored some in the garage and some in the closets above the clothes closets that are impossible to get at. Lights were in one place, ornaments in another, a centerpiece that I had searched high and low for turned up under some draperies in a box marked "draperies". I wouldn't have found it except that I gave my sister my old Living Room drapes at Thanksgiving - they are too short for Haven't tall windows and I was going to put the box in deep dark storage!!

I felt a renewed urge to decorate the outside of Haven as I not only have a huge magnolia out front but several mature boxwoods in the back. In addition to that, most of the neighbors were out on Thanksgiving decorating the fronts of their homes. Peer pressure and keeping up with the Joneses in full force.

I was feeling especially crafty so I made a magnolia wreath. The waxy texture of the leaves is so different than any other greenery, and grouping them together, I feel, makes a pretty big design statement. However, after taking in what the rest of Richmond does, my wreath is looking pretty conservative and plain. Next year I'll know better.Haven's front door.

Trumpet vine gone wild.

You might find your lost hubcap here.

Typical of Monument Avenue Decorations

In the tradition of Williamsburg but taken to a new level
Photos don't do this house's decorations justice.

In addition to decorating the house, these Monument avenue residents park an old caddy out front with Santa in the driver's seat. There usually isn't enough snow in Richmond for Santa to use his sleigh so we get our presents delivered via Cadillac.
Those are my presents on top.

Who wouldn't want to ride along with this gang?

I've also made it a goal to get to hear as much free live Christmas music as I can this season. This is easy as there are a plethora of churches within walking distance of Haven and I think they are all secretly competing to see who has the best music. First was a visit to First Baptist at the corner of Monument and Boulevard. They had a 100 person choir in addition to a small orchestra, bell ringers and dancers. The music included pieces I had never heard and were beautifully performed.

Later that week I walked down to the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart for a lunch time concert featuring local soloists. Divine. I'm not a big church goer but I could sit in this church and listen to the music forever. Except that the Catholics don't pad their pews like the Baptists and the Presbyterians do so I can't sit there too long.

Then on Sunday Harry and I went with some friends to a Carol service at the Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church on Monument Avenue. The highlight for me were the children's choirs. All three of these churches are gorgeous on the inside and delight not only the ears but the eyes. I know there will be more this week - I'm on the prowl. Maybe the Lutherans will be next. Or the Methodists - not sure.

The only thing left on the "to do" list is to bake some cookies that the boys look forward to every Christmas and to make everyone take a walk after dark to see all of the lights. Oh, and I haven't even begun to wrap. I like to save that for Christmas eve.

Yesterday I purchased a big hunk of tenderloin at Belmont Butchery. Can I tell you how wonderful it is to have a butcher in the neighborhood? They are so nice in there and helpful and that little slab o' meat cost a small fortune but, hell, it is only once a year and every bite is worth the money spent. Besides, the red wine cuts the cholesterol down. (Hah! - just kidding - don't send the food police over here). Today, I went to Jean Jacques French Bakery in Carytown and purchased a Buche de Noel. It was pricey but I've made one of those before and it took me quite a while to recover. I hope it tastes as good as it looks.

If I don't blog again before Christmas, I hope you all have a peaceful and healthy celebration. Talk to you again, soon.

Merry Merry

Monday, December 14, 2009

Shades of Gray, or is it Grey?

It has been a while since I've added a post to the Haven blog. Life is crazy at this time of year!

So, to bring you up to date, the first phase of the renovation of Haven is complete. The floors in the Living Room and Dining Room were stripped of their lumber liquidator look and we sanded and sealed the original heart pine floors. They are a little rough due to all of the nail holes from the lumber liquidator mahagony but I prefer that to the slick dark floors that came with the house. Once the floor people were gone, we were able to move all of our family room furniture down stairs and place things back in the living room and dining rooms.

It took me a while to feel the inspiration of how to decorate the dining room. My parents gave me their dining room table and china cabinet when they retired to Florida but I couldn't decide how to treat the walls and ceiling. I bought a chandelier from Currey and Co. long ago but that is as far as I got. The room is dark - there is a set of French doors leading out to a dark space between my house and my neighbors and then a window which looks out at another dark part of the front yard. So, it finally came to me after hours of pondering -- why not just embrace the darkness - it will never be a light filled space so why try? In addition to being a dark space, the fireplace surround is a dark slate.

While browsing through the books at the Benjamin Moore store a few weeks ago, I came across a photo of a room by Samuel Botero (see 5th Avenue house in portfolio section). It has a very "barely there" damask stencil applied to the walls. Aha.

My good friend, Anji Johnston, who did my kitchen checkerboard, was enlisted to come back down to transform the room.
Dining Room "before"

First I got Harry to paint the ceiling Benjamin Moore Pearl Gray and the crown Benjamin Moore White Dove. While he was up on the ladder, I was working on the base for the walls - Benjamin Moore Stone Harbor.
Then Anji arrived with her bespoke stencils and we worked to get the right paint color for the image itself. I wanted it to be very muted so Anji took the base paint and added black artist acrylic to it. She also kept a bit of the ceiling color handy for some light contrast.

The first "test" of the stencil - perfecto!

I couldn't be more pleased with how it turned out. The next week I had 18 people for Thanksgiving dinner - we put the kitchen table at the end of this table . A couple of people at the end were in the hallway but it was so nice to not have to stick the children at a kid's table in another part of the house - it was so nice to be all together. Onward towards Christmas.

By the way, the radiator covers were made by Tim McCready of Bankston and Bailey and were painted by Anji and me the same color as the walls so that they would recede. The funky valances were done by previous owners - I believe as a way to hide some pipes as the ceiling is lowered behind them. The sisal followed us down here from northern Virginia and fits fine in its new home.

The last thing we were waiting for before we could call the project complete was the fireplace insert. I didn't have it in time for Thanksgiving but the week after Mike from the Victorian Fireplace shop came out to install the gas insert, mantel and hearth. We ran it all weekend as it was rainy and cold here in Richmond and we were out in it a lot as we went by foot to Fox Elementary to get our Christmas tree. The fireplace unit works by remote control - and although I love the smell and sound of a "real" fire - there is nothing like sitting back on your behind and pushing a button for some instant ambience and warmth. I had a party here on Saturday to thank the contractors and neighbors and worked like a fiend to find the Christmas decorations and get them up. The party was so much fun and so now I can sit back and enjoy my home and the moment I am in. Richmond has a special way of decorating for the holidays and I will try to capture the feeling in my next post. Best wishes to you and yours at this time of year.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

What a Week

Actually it has been a weird couple of weeks. It started out with a 3:00 a.m. visit to Retreat Hospital for Harry Homeowner. I went to dictionary.com to look up the word "retreat" as I wasn't quite sure why this hospital was named that. I thought of retreat as a place to go for peace and quiet. But, I found out that it also means "an asylum, as for the insane". Okay - makes sense now. Poor Harry has had a history of kidney stones, so often that it is almost routine except that it happens in the middle of the night so it isn't really a part of any one's routine around here. So, off we go to the hospital which is only about 6 blocks from Haven. I had taken our younger son there on our first day in Richmond so I was thinking that we might want to go a little further afield the next time. But Harry was in a lot of pain so off we went. The scenario is pretty much always the same - they check him in and then he writhes in pain as they try to find a vein to put a port in for that all important pain medication. His veins like to hide. Then, as he goes off to his happy place I sit and stare at the cinder blocks hoping that someone will come to take care of him. All he needs is a pain prescription and time to let it pass but they insist on all of the tests known to man first. As he went off to his happy place I felt a panic attack coming on. The beeping of machines and retching of all the other patients was making my skin crawl. Right before Harry went off to that zone he told me I could go back home. Nice wife - I took him up on his offer. I crawled back into my cozy bed and then he called a few hours later and said he was walking home. I forgot to mention it was raining. The good news is that he passed it not 24 hours later. It looked like a peppercorn (too much information?). In the meantime I had this dull ache in my cheekbone that I was trying to convince myself wasn't teeth related. I finally cried uncle and went off to the dentist. Paybacks are hell. I had to have a root canal. It wasn't all that bad - thanks, Dr. Londrey.

Somewhere in the middle of all of that I discovered that both dogs were covered in fleas. I thought I had dodged a bullet and didn't put the frontline on them as I assumed that we were into the winter season and that the fleas were done, or that Richmond maybe doesn't have a flea population. I can't thank Patricia at Critter Wash enough for coming to my rescue - she took them that morning and while they were being de-flead I came home and threw everything in the wash and tried to de-flea the house. According to Patricia the fleas are really bad right now.

And then the torrential rain started and so the Honda wouldn't start and water started pouring into the brand new kitchen from one of the recessed lights.


The only "safe" way to get up to the roof is to put a ladder on the balcony off of the guest room and climb up from there. I held the ladder (pouring down rain) while Harry climbed up to see what he could see. I kept wondering if the ambulance crew would take him to Retreat. After throwing a few leaves over the side of the house he came safely back down with no real diagnosis. I guess we need to call in a roofer.

I tell you all of this because sometimes I think my blog sounds a little to sweet - like everything is rosy all of the time. I don't like to whine but this week just got the better of me.

The week came to a lovely end with a visit from one of my favorite bloggers, Michele from My Notting Hill and her adorable daughter. I first "met" Michele when she blogged out the interior design firm in DC that I work for and she has been really helpful to me in starting this blog and also had one of the most enjoyable parties that I've been to in quite a while. The new range got fired up and I made my favorite tomato tart with the last of the season's tomatoes.
The first layer of Heirloom Tomato Tart - YUMMM

We did a quick tour of some of my favorite Richmond shops: Sunny's Good Time Paint, LiVing, a new shop on Grove Avenue featuring talented artist and craftsmen from the area, Fraiche, and U-fab. It was great having some time to get to know Michele and her daughter (in person!). Off they went to their final destination, Williamsburg, and I made my list of which galleries I wanted to visit during First Friday's Art Walk.

Normally we head down to Broad Street to take part in First Friday. However, this month I was sent an invitation to an opening to a gallery closer to the hood, as there are several galleries out this way that participate. Our first stop was to Reynolds Gallery on Main Street. The current exhibition features the work of James Prosek
His watercolors of fish on tea-stained paper knocked my socks off. I have just the wall, just not the budget.

Then we walked down the street to Glave Kocen - another favorite.
Santa, if you're reading this I'd like one of these dogs for Christmas. The current exhibit features the work of Steven Walker.Beautiful depiction of one of Richmond's train trestle

Our next stop was the Page Bond Gallery for the Sanches, Scurlock, Crumb opening. I fell in love with Mary Scurlock's trees.
My photos don't do these encaustics justice - get over there and see them in person. Maybe I need to sign up for an encaustic painting class. First I'd better learn how to draw trees!!

After the gallery openings I came home to plug in my camera battery in preparation for the Urbanna Oyster Fest. Any festival that celebrates a slimy colorless crustacean has to be attended. Unfortunately, I woke up with a raging sore throat and headache so I stayed in bed.

But I hate to whine - there is always next year. The good news is that in the midst of all of the above we hired a charming VCU student to come help us move the upstairs Family Room furniture down to the new family room and to move the guest room furniture (stored in the Dining Room) up. Now we just need a cable hook up for the television and we'll be spending more time in the newly renovated spaces. More on that to come.

Have a great week - I'm hoping for a peaceful, healthy one.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Hanover Halloween Part Three

Words can really not describe what Halloween was like on Hanover last night. So, I'll let the pictures do the talking.
We started out with 45 bags of candy at 5:30 and they were gone by 7:30. There was a constant line of trick or treaters at my porch so I had no time to take pictures. When I had about 5 pieces of candy left there was a slight lull so we ran inside and turned out the porch lights and then headed back out to join the party.

Right across the street the neighbors created a cemetery for the night. All night long this boy kept jumping out of the coffin with his chain saw. The screaming crowds could be heard well into the night. I'm sure he scared the you know what out of a lot of toddlers.
The block between Meadow and Granby is closed to traffic. This block is where most of the action was.
On the left you can see that Elmo came down from Sesame Street to be at the party.
This string duo played jazz for all of us from their front porch.

Rumor has it that over the years this pirate ship has conveyed twice with the sale of the house.
I couldn't believe it when I saw these gorgeous chandeliers hanging outside this home.

I love this huge black cat - look at the line-up of people waiting their turn for a snicker bar.
Scary witch with a bowl of eyeballs
Great silhouettes
Scary silhouette.

This neighbor not only had the skulls in the ivy but also several awesome paper mache aliens.

I can't wait until next year's party. The renovation will be way behind us and we can focus on how we can keep up with the Joneses in the Halloween decorating department. In the meantime, I have 17 people coming for Thanksgiving dinner (5 staying here for 4 nights). Yikes.

We finally moved some furniture downstairs this weekend and have livable spaces - more on that later.