Sunday, November 30, 2008

What's Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea?

whether at dusk and in fog...

in the soft and early sunlight

in vivid twilight hues

in shades of emerald


blue bell

or azure

there's Rich and me....

The first photos were mine, the last was Brandi's

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving at the Beach

My mother used to let me take time off from high school, for what she called "mental health days" to go to the beach when I was blue, overwhelmed or discouraged. Consequently, the beach, almost any beach, is my most potent elixir of joyousness.

To you, the viewer, these pictures below may seem overly-photoshopped, psychedelically colored, amateurish, and kitschish. But, in my mind's eye the beach looks just like this and is pure heaven. The only thing that rates better than being at the beach, is being with my family.

So, imagine my barely contained exuberation at the anticipation of spending this Thanksgiving at the beach with my family.

I am one thankful human. I hope you are too.

These are Rich's beautiful pictures that I overly-Photoshopped.....

Thursday, November 6, 2008

To Our Children: The History of the Stuff in our House

Your Dad and I are particular about the things we put in our house. Most of our things are from previous generations. A few things we bought. Many we refinished. Some were gifts. Numerous items were from Dad's or my travels, or from his international students. Almost everything in our house has a story. Almost every single thing represents someone, something or some time beloved.
I maintain that many of our things are imbued with the spirit of the person that loved them, or with the spirit of what that item represents. Dad thinks I'm being dramatic.

You could say that we are not a couple that runs to a sale at "Rooms To Go."

I remember when Grandma Marge made a list for her Will of which items would go to whom when she died. It was the first of many lists. And of course she gave the lion's share of furniture to your Aunt Paula. There is some benefit to being the only girl, after all. At some point, in the explanation of the distribution of items, Grandma Marge told Paula that she, "was not to sell or give away any of these family heirlooms." I remember Paula replying, "but if I have to sell some of these to feed my children, I will!" at which point your grandmother said, "Of Course!" (can't you hear her saying that in her thick NY accent?).

Well. I want my children to know that our under no circumstances are you to sell any of these beloved items. Most of these things are valuable only to us. So, sell your stereo system, plasma television and fancy computers instead. Sell your I-Phone (Daniel). Stop your subscription to Video Games Weekly (James). Cancel your cable. But I digress.

My point is, hold your family history close.

And -- Daniel and James-- learn to love antiques. In addition, pick partners who love antiques or who appear to be indoctrinateable. Brandi is coming along nicely.

So: Listen up. Here's the story of the things in your house (this technology saves me from taping notes to the back of everything, like your Grammy and my Tanta did, which totally ages you, and now that I think of it, might be a significant predictor of Alzheimer's Disease, or impending death or something):

Grammy grew up with 4 sisters (Helen, Viola, Eileen, and Athalie) in a big farm house in very Scandinavian Rosburg, Washington. Her Swedish father, Oscar Olson was a lumberjack, fisherman and dairy farmer. Her Swedish mother, Elin (the E is pronounced as a long A) Olson cooked, baked, cleaned and gardened. The secretary (on the left), the round dining room table, and the large mirror are all from the farm. The label on the back of the secretary indicates that it was shipped by Sears & Roebuck Co. to the port of Astoria, Oregon, where Gram's Mom and Pop would have picked it up. Most of these things are probably Circa 1910, they're all oak, and except for a very few embellishments (wood scroll work) they're all simple in design; very "American" middle class purchases of the time. Fancier European furniture would have been purchased by a more monied or cultured family. Grammy hid her paper dolls on the ledge under the table.

Aunt Eileen, Gram's elder sister by 13 years, took over with farm with her husband Grant Olson after WWII (at that time Gram's parents moved into a white cottage on the property)
. Aunt Eileen did not like old things . She would throw "outdated" things "over the hill," which is where a lot of the Olson family history went to die. About 40 years ago, Aunt Athalie (7 years Grammy's senior) rescued the secretary from "the hill" but Uncle Emmett would not let her rent a trailer to take it back to Reno. So, Pappa nabbed it for me, took it to Portland, and transformed it from a black lacquer-smeared-mess in numerous pieces to its present state of glory. It resided in my childhood bedroom for years. For just as many years, Aunt Athalie lamented not having that secretary. She says it is hers. I refuse to give it up.

Rich and I bought the sideboard (far wall) from a used furniture store in Seattle about 23 years ago. We bought the rocking chair to rock both of you kids to sleep. The dining room table chairs were given to us by Pappa and Grammy as a wedding present. Pappa purchased the antique soda fountain chair for his basement-bar in Portland.

A closer look at the mirror. I remember it was mounted vertically in the sun room near the stairwell to the upstairs in the farm house. It was silver. I painted it gold. And while I'm writing this I have a confession to make: while I was painting this gold, I knelt on the glass and broke the original beveled glass in the frame. Ack. I cried for weeks about my stupidity and did purchase the best beveled glass available to replace it. But, nothing really does, replace it, I mean.

My Godparents, Win and Glenn ("Oz") Osborn, gave us this magnificent cut glass bowl and matching cylindrical containers for a wedding present. These would have been difficult for Win to part with, which is partly why I love them so much. I think this is the only piece I have from their Portland West Hills' home. Michael (our cat) knocked them over a few years ago and I had to glue one of the little tabs back on one of the cylinders. I put antique Christmas ornaments in them during the holidays. They make me happy.

This pitcher is from the farm tea set. Grammy later bought the other items to match it, including the tray. I have the beautiful little diamond ring that the vendor put in that pitcher as a part of the sale. If either one of you have a daughter she can have it. I was given the ring when I was 15 and wore it until I got married at 25.

This is one of the original farm chairs that Dad and I rescued from the second-floor "Tramp Room" in Rosburg. The "Tramp Room" was the room where Gram's mother let homeless men and 'occasional workers' sleep during the Great Depression. That would never happen today, as that room was next to the childrens' rooms. This chair is probably the nicest one of its kind remaining, and has been refinished, reglued, and reupholstered many times, the last time by Anthony Saia of Baton Rouge (we ask him to refinish an item, and to upholster it with whatever scraps of material he has hanging around his shop. The results of that "decorating plan" are what you see in all of the chairs around our house).

Another Anthony Saia redecorating feat: Target stools, sawed off, and refinished with scrap fabric.

This picture was also from the "Tramp Room." We all thought it looked like James.

That picture hangs in our house near this very old sepia photograph of the Portland Waterfront that Pappa found.

Back to the dining room: I love the detail, yet simplicity of the "pressback" chairs (Amish in design).

Here is a profile of the secretary. The beveled glass is original.

A peek at the treasures on the inside of the secretary.

Here, the glass items are pieces from Grammy's girlhood "china." The white dishes are paper thin English bone China (1800-1810) and I believe they are from Eleanor's Estate (Grandma Marge's very good friend who is buried under the Mulberry Tree in the front yard in Pearl River). The two vases are from the LSU Ceramics Art Exhibit last year. As a potter, Dad thought that they were expertly made. I love how they fit together flawlessly, are smooth as glass, and are slightly different but perfectly complementary colors.

The Celadon vase on the left was made by a master potter in S. Korea and is signed. We purchased it on our 1992 visit. The vase on the right was from Eleanor's Estate and I'm sure it's very old. Someone glued the base to the vase, which pretty much ruins the value. It also keeps me from finding an artist's mark.

Here is another one of Gram's childhood china sets. This particular pattern is called Flow-Blue and was an attempt by English potters to copy the very expensive pottery of the day from China.

The left rear Celadon vase is from S. Korea, which we purchased when we picked-up Daniel in 1986. It's not a particularly good specimen, as you can see from the chunky, heavy cut outs (we learned our lesson and bought a good Celadon vase, explained previously, when we returned in 1992). The front left green pot was made by Grandpa Marvin. It's perfect. The green and white Wedgwood was from Edna's apartment. The little green butter dish is old, but unsigned, and is probably from Grammy and Pappa's house (I have probably 100 butter dishes from Portland stored somewhere). The right rear vase is faux carved Jade that I bought in Beijing. I bought the right front carved elephant from a street child in Tamil Nadu, India in 2000. He carved it out of soapstone, and if you look closely, you'll see that it is an elephant, within an elephant, within an elephant; all made out of the same piece of stone.

My mother says these dolls are from my childhood. I have no recollection of them. The wind-up bunny still turns pages in his book, but his head is wobbly. The eggs to the left have chicks in them that will hop around if wound. The blue cradle is my babyhood music box that I think James over-wound (it can be fixed). I made the other eggs as a child and we have used them as Easter decorations every year since. The white pitcher is Grammy's from childhood.

This is Grandma Lena's 1925ish radio cabinet that she used as a liquor cabinet to store a bit of vodka, to make White and Black Russians. It was covered in dark lacquer, which Daddy and I stripped on the front porch of our Seattle rental using toothbrushes and Q-tips. I bought the right rear vase from Southwestern China. Dad brought back the glass candlesticks from Bulgaria. The right rear green plate says "Pearl River, NY, The Town of Friendly People" and came from the house on Centre Street (I can hear Marge's voice, dripping with sarcasm, inserting the word "White," as in "The Town of Friendly White People.") The whale was carved out of soapstone by Grandpa Marvin. The exquisite green porcelain pots were all made by Marv.

I love these little green pots. Grandpa Marvin was a master potter.

A close-up of the front of the liquor cabinet. The design is of Renaissance Style, but not made of wood, which would have made it less expensive.

This chair is from "Tanta" who lived in Seaside, Oregon. It has a cane bottom that has been refurbished but that probably needs to be refurbished again. The side rails to the chair are of a pineapple pattern.

Tanta (Hilma- 1883-1972) was Grammy's aunt, her father's (Grandpa Olson's) baby sister. I remember Tanta as a large woman who lived in a doll's house on a canal in Seaside, and had pet ducks she called, 'honey baby.' She may have called everyone 'honey baby.' Grammy says she was one of those people who became sweeter as she aged (sorry children, no blood relation). We visited her when we went to the farm to see Aunt Eileen and Uncle Grant. Tanta means aunt in German. I'm not sure why she is called anything in German, considering that everyone else was Swedish. She was one of the cast of characters that lived near the farm to whom I am related: Aunt Halide, Aunt Ida, Aunt Emma and Uncle Oscar. Uncle Oscar was Grammy's mother's half brother who lived on a farm in a glen with goats I would try to ride. He had unwrapped licorice in his pocket that Gram warned me not to eat, but I did. The sister of his deceased wife --who Grammy said had lost her mind from "the menopause"-- would peer at us from the rear of his house. To get to Seaside from Rosburg, we took the ferry from the Washington side to the Oregon side. Now there is a bridge.

These two pictures were also from Tanta. You can see the mariner theme in the first one.

Here is Lena's Tchatchke Stand. Above it is an original Chaim Gross (a cousin of your father's) from Edna's Estate, and an antique Japanese block print that Uncle Robbie gave me the first Christmas I was in the family. Beside it is another one of the farm chairs.

Bowls Dad brought back from Italy. An antique pressed glass candy dish with pine cones in it. I have pine cones all over the house.

More antique pressed glass candy dishes from Grammy's family.

A yellow antique vaseline-glass candy dish from Grammy and Pappa's, filled with dried rose petals from Pappa's Wake (Pappa loved roses).

The cherry wood sailor's chair is from Lena's house. We have had it refinished twice. Days after we got it back the first time a 5-year-old-James banged on it numerous times with a metal rod. Why? We do not know.

Above the chair is the cuckoo clock from the farm. It does not work again, as Tuki chewed up the original pendulum (which is now wrapped in tissue and is in the right bottom of the sideboard in the dining room. Why I am keeping it I don't know). I have two other pendulums I've purchased but they're not quite the right size. Grammy had this fixed for me once by a cuckoo clock expert in Baton Rouge who has since died.

Here is the (1910-1920) Upright Mendenhall player piano from the farm. I believe the shipping label on the back says it was shipped to the Port of Astoria. Sheet music rolls are in several boxes in the attic. We have had it tuned, but it needs to be totally refurbished, inside and out. It's difficult to pump. The bellows are the originals and definitely need to be replaced. It used to have a bench seat with all of Grammy's sheet music in it (that she drew fashion designs all over). However, I haven't been able to find it or them. I'm sure that all of that went over the hill. This swivel seat is original to the house and piano. I did not grow up with this but was so grateful to have it after Aunt Eileen and Uncle Grant died. I am sure I have paid at least an amount close to someone's yearly tuition to have it hauled with us every time we have moved.

James and Rich play by ear. I can read the music to play the songs in the songbooks. Most of them are nursery rhymes. Kellan LOVES them.

On top of the piano is the picture that used to be in my bedroom in Portland. It fell off of the nail on the wall during Hurricane Katrina, shattering the glass and denting the picture, but I've left it in its present position on the piano ever since. The orange dish is antique carnival glass from our house in Portland and is filled with shells that I've collected from around the world. The large shell is one of Daddy's finds from the last time we were at the Gulf on vacation with Uncle Rob's family.

On top of the piano are several old lamps from, left to right: 1) Grammy and Pappa's oil lamp, 2) Tanta's brass based lamp, and 3) Lena's oil lamp (that I had electrified).

View of our family room facing the courtyard.

Uncle Robbie made this coffee table for us from the cherry wood from the property in Shandaken, NY (Daniel, remember falling trees there?). In the basket are Grandma Mabel's cloisonette pieces. Kellan likes to place them around the house. In fact, I'm missing one now.

This claw foot oak table was from Edna's. The lamp was from Tanta's Estate, and was given to her by her first husband John Corno, a Ship's Captain. Family lore has it that he died after contracting the plague after taking an afflicted little girl to the hospital. The writing on the base of the lamp looks Arabic. Tanta's second husband was Propser Saey. Grammy detested him. She tells me he was a "street sweeper" (could she have demoted him to a lowlier position without making him an outright beggar?). Gram says that Tanta moved in with him and was his "housekeeper" before they married. We don't know how he died. He had enough money that she was able to leave Seattle and buy that little cottage at Seaside. The pot with the candle in it was made by Daddy.

Here is a panorama of the living room facing the fireplace. There are two bookcases: the one on the left was purchased from a very nice antique shop in Seattle (along with the peach colored vase on its top); the one on the right is from a furniture maker (Christian Street Furniture) that replicates antiques in Baton Rouge. Above the mantle is a lithograph of "The Elms" at Penn State, hand signed by the graphic artist Harold Altman. It was given to Daddy by Grammy and Pappa when he graduated from Penn State with his PhD. My law office in State College faced The Elms walkway on campus.

On our fireplace mantle: Both of the ceramic pots were made by Grandpa Marvin. The wooden fiddler is an exact copy of a large 24" one on the floor to the right of the mantle. They were given to us by the Aguilars from Ecuador. The elephants are from Sri Lanka. The two thin wooden pieces are from Ghana: Dad brought back the one to the left, and Abe and Abena gave us the one to the right. The copper piece to the right of the elephants was one of Grandma Marge's auction finds.

The bookcase holds our most beautiful books. It also holds some delicious little surprises: antique carved ivory figurines, and tiny round silver, bone and ivory containers from Sri Lanka. A white and gold teacup, without a saucer (Nana's?). A white ceramic Madonna and a perfect pink porcelain pot made by Marvin. Exquisite marble and brass bookends: more of Marge's auction finds. A letter from Chiam and Reenie Gross to Edna; a book about Chiam, signed, for your father and me.

You can see Daniel's Korean doll on the chair that Kellan now likes to play with (poor thing, Daniel chopped off most of his hair).

The top of the bookcase holds a brass menorah, small containers and other items from Lena and Ben's, a brass kaleidoscope dad bought me, Lena's brass clock that has never worked, and the peach vase that Dad bought at the same time as the bookcase. More pine cones.

The bookcase on the right holds books yes, but in addition pictures and various delicate and much adored (by me) cups and saucers from my Nana and Granddad's house (Fay and Clair "Dutch" Ashbaugh) on SE Ellis Street in Portland. These are some of the only things that I have from their house. Two are very fancy adult tea cups (the red rimmed one is marked "Japan" and the yellow and purple pansy and viola one is marked "hand made in England, Bone China, RC Sina") and two are children's cups (one is marked "hand painted Nippon"). The bottom shelf has a green and pink flowered dish and a matching tea pot from Edna, the former marked Haviland, and the later, Nippon. There are other wonderful finds here: the marble and brass bookends from Grandma Marge's auction forays, Russian nesting dolls we won at an LSU ICC auction (donated by Yanna Kuzmina), a brass candle stick-- very old, but from where?, framed pictures of our young children.

You can tell it's autumn because I've displayed the "pumpkin man" on the mantle. There are other pieces of autumnal textile art placed around the house, all of which were made by women prisoners in Louisiana that I purchased through the School of Human Ecology at LSU. The wood sculpture beneath the clock is from Ghana (Abe and Abena). That's "Georgie" in the picture.

Here is an oak table that Dad and I bought at a used furniture store in Seattle. It was painted pink. We tried to strip it to no avail, so we had it dipped, which stripped it but which is not supposed to be good for the wood. This textile is from a quilt that Grandad's grandmother made (think of it-- that's four generations from me, and five from you two). The wood bowl was made by Grandpa Marv.

Two of Grandpa Marvin's beautiful pots.

My 50th birthday present: A cuckoo clock from Geneva.

Grammy and Pappa bought this small secretary as a place to put our telephone in the house on 23rd Street in Portland. It sat in the narrow hallway outside my bedroom and by the storage closets for years. On top of it now is a tea pot I brought back from Beijing; a picture of Grandpa Benny in his youth (in a zuit suit); and a brown pitcher from the farm. The mirror was Grammy's parents' and used to frame a picture of Grammy's mother's (Grandma Olson's) mother and father. Grammy does not know the whereabouts of that picture. Underneath (out of the picture) is a Sri Lankan footrest decorated in red elephants given to us by Priyan and Rangika.

The living room facing the stairs and kitchen.

The walnut marble table and chairs are from Edna's in NYC (originally Lena and Ben's). The marble has a growing crack in it-- I've had professional movers crate it so that we could safely take it everywhere we've moved. An Ashbaugh family photo album is to the left, an antique vase from Dad's trip to Bulgaria is in the middle, and a carnival glass dish from Portland is to the right. We purchased the pink Morris Chair in Seattle at the same time as the bookcase and vase. The prints to the above right are 2 matching original ink drawings of children from S. Korea, and underneath is one of the many Hanukkah cards from Chaim and Renee Gross that we have around the house that Edna had framed and displayed in her NYC apartment on 888 8th Avenue.

Two other pieces of art from Lena, Ben and Edna hang in the hall outside our bedroom. The top is a Robert Russin, and the bottom is another one of Chaim's Hanukkah cards.

Back to the living room. Another angle: The four prints above the television are of the Alhambra in Spain (I read Dad Tales of the Alhambra as we walked through it). A favorite memory. The various pottery pieces stuffed around the television were made by Grandpa Marvin.

A Sheltie painting from Rich last Christmas. The other pottery pieces are Marv's and are some of my favorites.

This is our window to the left of our sink in the kitchen. The pottery (blue vases) were made by your Grandpa Marvin. The large leaded glass vase was from Tanta's house in Seaside, OR. Dad and I bought the white farm pitcher from an elderly neighbor in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle. And the small cut glass container with the silver top was from Edna.

On the left side of this picture/mirror shelf is the cappuccino maker Daniel and James bought me during our stay in Rome during Rich's sabbatical. The curious thing about Rome was that we could let our young children run to the bakery or coffee shop alone.

Measuring spoon sets from Taos, NM. We got them during our skiing trips to Red River.

We bought our kitchen table when we moved to State College. All the brass pieces on the table are ebay or etsy purchases. I just liked them.

We display many of Rich's best photographs in our kitchen.

And other treasures from our travels. (Dad made me tape up the sensor on the back of the clock. He didn't like the birds tweeting every hour on the hour).

This chest of drawers was in our basement in Portland. Daddy purchased the lace table runner in Romania. If you look under the lace you will see indentations from a tracing wheel that as a child I ran in a triangle shape on the wood. Pappa refinished right over it, without trying to remove the pattern I made. The Finnish glass salad bowl was a gift from Sanna Kalioranta that I converted into a shell display holder. The single half shell on the red box was a present to Nena and Pappy (that's us) from Kellan.

Pappa bought me this bear for some astronomical price at an antique show in Portland when I was a little girl. The old woman that had the booth told me it was her toy when she was a child, at which point I became hysterical. What person would abandon their childhood bear? He is now missing an eye; I think Michael bit it off. I sewed a button in its place. I recently found a bear renovator on etsy, which is where this little fellow will go on vacation soon.

This chest is from the farm. It holds my childhood toys.

Dad and I bought this oak plant stand years ago. If you're wondering why your mother-- the plant lover-- has fake plants in her house, the reasons are Michael and Gray. They eat the real plants, which causes intestinal difficulties, and creates messes for me to clean up. In just weeks our plants are torn to shreds. This plant is the only real one left in the house only because they can't get to it. The anthurium was recently moved to Grammy's house because the cats kept knocking it over. Dad came home to dirt on the floor and out it went.

Pappa saved this "broom closet" from the "hill" at the farm, stripped and refinished it and put it back together. It is made out of at least four different kinds of wood. It has holes eaten in the back by mice. It's one of my favorite pieces in the house.

It is now used as James' "office." You can see how organized he has become.

Our front bedroom is our guest bedroom and is what we call "The Vlosky Hotel." It houses all of Rich's international students when they first arrive in-country. It is also now used as Daniel, Brandi and Kellan's room when they come to visit. All friends who sleep here are cared for carefully. The oak mirror was made by Uncle Rob. The pink, green and white blanket was crocheted by Aunt Edna. The two pillows were made by children that went to the Sarvodaya School for the Deaf in Moratuwa, Sri Lanka. Gram and Pop gave us this antique iron bed frame when we were first married. Dad made us trade-up to the ugly queen sized bed we have now in our bedroom because he didn't have enough room in this "full" sized bed. It is the bottom end of this very bed that Daniel climbed over, slipped, and bit his tongue almost in half.

This "water closet" was Lena and Ben's. The "Home Sweet Home" embroidery was crafted by Grandma Mabel.

This is a plaster framed beveled mirror from the farm that I painted. Original glass.

This is a photo of my Grandad (Pappa's father) and his sister that died. It is in our bedroom. Old frame, old glass.

A photograph of Lena and Ben is also in our bedroom. We framed this about 25 years ago. Ben looks like a relative of Daniel.

Above the bureau in our bedroom are the wedding photographs of Nana and Granddad. Nana told me that they went to get married, by themselves, when she was 16 and he was 21. No family or friends were there. She said, "that's just how it used to be." It's interesting that they were not photographed together. Nana told me she never graduated from high school and that "she didn't want to talk about it." However, I found her high school graduation certificate in some of Pappa's papers...?

This is a wedding photo of Grammy's parents (my Grandpa and Grandma Olson). It hangs above our bed. It used to hang above Aunt Eileen and Uncle Grant's bed at the farm, which was downstairs off of the dining room. It is a good example of early 18th Century painted photography (when only black and white photographs existed). My mother, Grammy, now tells me she is guilt ridden because she extracted this photograph from the farm. I'll have to leave it to an Olson in my Will.

You can see why Rich and I say that in our bedroom "we see dead people."

This is the top of one of the chest of drawers in our bedroom (also purchased in a used furniture store in Seattle). Most surfaces in our bedroom look like this, and display picture-collages that either Pappa or Daddy made for me. The pottery is of course Grandpa Marvin's. The fan is one of many that I received as a child from a Merchant Marine neighbor of ours in Portland,"Mr. Rhotan." I have probably 40 others in several shoe boxes in our closet. All from him and perfect for a little girl's room. The right front frame contains wildflowers I collected and pressed when Dad and I lived in Weaverville, CA during the first months of our marriage. The table runner was made by my Nana and has a matching bedspread.

** All of these photographs by moi. Can't blame them on Rich.
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