yes, vintage linens are among my favorite things

So I know I must be pretty boring every time I talk about how much I love vintage linens, but I do.

I bought a couple new old dish towels and these two amazing embroidered vintage pillowcases that were all remainders of an estate sale.

I think people overlooked the pillowcases because they were super yellowed with age in spots including covering the fabulous embroidery. They are embroidered with pine cones and pine branches. I just thought they were so incredibly special.

So I soaked them overnight in Restoration and a little Woolite. You can buy Restoration directly from Engleside Products or on Amazon.

I have said before how terrific this wash is on vintage linens and quilts and old crocheted items. But I wish I had taken a photograph of the pillowcases before I soaked them because this was that amazing a transformation!

Now my old linens are drying on a clothes rack and when they are dry I will press them and put them on my pillows next time I change my sheets!

Don’t overlook old and vintage linens. They add so much charm and character to your home.

I am also in the process of restoring and patching an old flannel-backed quilt from Maine. I love them on our beds in the winter there’s nothing cozier and nicer than an old patchwork quilt and vintage embroidered pillowcases! and if you shop smart and aren’t afraid of cleaning items up you can usually find both of these things at less than fancy dealer prices.

christmas has left the building

Bit by bit, Christmas has left the building. It has taken longer this year post knee surgery. I also have been sorting the ornaments, honing down what I actually use versus what I haven’t been using.

I did decide I really liked the look of my copper tray loaded up with my old glass candlesticks, so that I am keeping that the same way. I have just put away the Christmas candles and the Christmas tablecloth I used this year which was a cheerful tartan. Now I have one of the vintage damask tablecloths I own on the table. It’s sort of a deep teal to green shade. Totally mid-century and totally fun.

Only the tree remains up and that is indeed a process to take down. The old ornaments all go into their own boxes. One by one. It’s old mercury glass topper has already been put away.

One thing I linger on is my great grandparents’ German Kugel that hung in their home in Lancaster when Mumma, my maternal grandmother, was a little girl. Mumma gave it to my mother, who gave it to me. I don’t have any daughters so I don’t know to whom I will pass it some day.

What I can’t ever decide about the Kugel is should I put it away. It hangs on the dining room chandelier and I love to look at it. So should I keep it hanging? I want to, but realistically if I keep it hanging all year round, chances are I will damage it. So into it’s box it will go until next year.

That is the funny thing about Christmas decorations. There are some you could look at all year round like the Kugel, and others like the Santas and Nutcrackers who seem to stare at you after a while.

Until next year, Christmas, until next year.

life in black and white…at life’s patina

Once upon a time in 2012 in the summer I was asked to photograph beautiful Chester County properties for a historic house tour. The Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust’s Annual Historic House Tour.

On this day, for the first time I saw Willowbrook Farm, which most of you know as Life’s Patina. At this point in 2012, the barn where so many go to enjoy special events and charity shopping days was being restored. I had not even met Meg Veno yet.

I fell in love with this farm on that day many years ago.

The restoration and adaptive reuse of the barn and the restoration of the property is an amazing thing to behold. It’s just so beautiful.

The care, the love, the attention to detail. And I have loved all of my many subsequent visits ever since.

Meg is inspirational to me. She is endlessly creative and has an incredible eye. She is also one of the kindest people I have ever met.

I was going through old photos and came across these and thought I would share them.

Life’s Patina is also expanding. They are restoring and renovating the Jenny Lind House in Historic Yellow Springs Village.

Now Yellow Springs is one of my very favorite places and has been since I was much younger. I used to come to Yellow Springs with my parents. My father loved the village and we used to come for the art show and sale and the antiques show they used to host (which I always thought was fabulous by the way.)

I took these next two photos of the Jenny Lind House last May 2019. I was in the village for the Herb Society Plant Sale. It’s so wonderful to see the house come back to life!

Anyway, enjoy the photos and celebrate those who chose to restore and renovate and find an adaptive reuse for old structures. We need more of that around here!

Make sure you check out Life’s Patina on their website and Facebook page. They often have terrific events. And the bonus is you also get to see a property that’s a slice of heaven in Chester County!

the end of the decade, new year’s eve 2019

Lovely Loch Aerie, Frazer, PA

It has been a crazy decade chock-full of so much. I wasn’t sure what my last post of the year was going to look like until I started looking at some of my photos of houses that had captured my interest and fancy in the past decade.

So in all of the houses I have looked at in this decade I have decided to remain true to Chester County today and give you my three favorites.

Ironically my three house picks for the decade are not traditional 18th century Chester County Farmhouses, but three 19th-century stone houses of a certain era.

You see the first house above. My ultimate old house love, beautiful and lovely Loch Aerie mansion. I have written about her enough that I don’t have to reinvent the wheel and restate her history.

Loch Aerie on Lancaster Avenue in Frazer in East Whiteland Township enters the next decade with a guaranteed and brilliant new lease on life. She is being restored to her former glory, and will have an adaptive reuse that will ensure her place in architectural history for decades to come.

Old stone house Francis Ave, Berwyn, Easttown.

Next on my list is a house I was reminded of this morning. I know nothing of her pedigree. It is the great stone house on Francis Avenue in Berwyn.

My great friend (and Chester County historian and artist) Catherine Quillman and I stumbled upon this beauty in 2016 one fall afternoon.

We took a wrong turn somewhere after leaving Jenkins Arboretum and all of a sudden we were on Francis Avenue in front of this house. And before anyone flips out, we did not trespass. I had a camera with a zoom lens with me and I took photos from the street. This house captured my fancy for a number of reasons, including the fact that the stonework reminded me a lot of Loch Aerie.

I know absolutely nothing of the history of this house other than its 19th century and in Easttown Township . I think it probably has a name (possibly according to a 1912 atlas it appears it was maybe called “Rhydlyn” home of James G. Francis, whose sister in law I believe was famed local photographer Lucy Sampson according to census records from the early 20th century and according to the census she lived there for a while!) I don’t know if it is listed on any national registries or even a state or local registry. I couldn’t find it listed anywhere. (I am told it is mentioned HERE.)

It strikes me as a similar vintage to Loch Aerie. I also do not know the current ownership of the home but I am told it is being preserved as part of some kind of a development. I am also told that the glorious slate roof is no longer which I can’t say surprises me because old slate roofs are incredibly expensive to maintain and it’s a lost art of the craftsmanship of roof building. There are very few slaters left.

My last house which captured my fancy a great deal in this last decade is the Joseph Price house in West Whiteland Township.

This house is on S.Whitford and Clover Mill Roads in Exton. The Joseph Price House in West Whiteland Township.

Here is a wonderful little slide show presentation on prezi. This house is historically listed. It was built in 1878 and altered in 1894 by the house namesake inhabitant at the time. It was altered from a Gothic style to a Queen Anne style.

I was also told in the 1990s it was separate apartments inside and there were also cottages around it which were rented out as well.

In the 1950s and 60s there was a large barn there that was a sale barn for cattle run by Bayard Taylor —a blog reader told me that. He knew because his mother did bookkeeping for that business while she was in college.

This house is not completely deserted I am told there is a caretaker who still lives there. However, this house has an uncertain future at best and nobody seems to know what will happen to it. Which is a shame because it’s very cool.

So as we lift a glass one last time to toast a crazy tumultuous decade everywhere, let us think of our future and historic preservation. There are so many cool houses like this throughout Chester County from all eras of time.

Less development. More land and structure preservation and adaptive reuse. That’s my final wish for Chester County for 2019.

Please do not trespass on these properties. Either get permission to wander around or look from the street.

Have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve!

Joseph Price House. West Whiteland Township.

life stories

I need to take the time to write down the stories I heard yesterday so I don’t forget. Given the anesthesia and everything that went on yesterday with my surgery I’ve probably forgotten some things already.

Yesterday was my second knee surgery. This time it was definitely gardener’s knee and it was my other leg. The surgery seemed to go well but I will admit today the pain is still somewhat not fun.

I had my husband just drop me off because there is such a lot of waiting before I actually go into surgery that I didn’t want him trapped at the hospital when he had a busy work day ahead.

I met a lovely couple in the waiting room who were in the bed and holding area immediately next to me as we both were given our marching orders before going up to the holding areas for surgery.

This couple had an amazing tale. A true love story that today in the morning after thinking about it really gets me a little choked up because it’s beautiful and so happy and it’s so the power of love over the ages.

They are in their 80s. They met when they were in college. Life took them in different directions and they were very happily married to other people for decades. Somehow they came together as widow and widower and the wife moved across the country where she had lived her life out west. So now they are married and live in the area. The husband has lived in this area for decades.

I’m not sure what the husband did for a career, but the wife was a nurse her entire career, including an army nurse in years it must’ve been quite challenging. They were so happy and so in love and so positive. I think the wife sort of adopted me until I went to the pre-surgery line up and holding area because she knew I was not as much of a tough girl as I wanted to be waiting there by myself. And that was my decision. My husband would have sat there all day for me. I did not want him to.

One thing that lady and I talked about was ancestry.com. She had started an account not too long ago and showed me some really cool pictures of family members – her ancestors – that she never knew existed.

In the holding area as I waited my turn to go into the OR I met a bunch of amazing nurses. I can’t stress enough how wonderful every nurse I’ve ever met at Chester County Hospital is.

I had a great conversation with a nurse whose name of course has flown right out of my head because we when were talking they had just begun the sedation process with me. This nurse noticed the limb alert bracelet on my left hand. Because I have had breast cancer and had the sentinel node removed I can’t ever have anything in my left side that was the side the cancer and lymph node was removed from.

She apparently has worked with a lot of breast cancer patients and excuse me she was interesting to talk to. Also talking to her made me realize how lucky I’ve been with breast cancer.

From that point on everything was a bit of a blur. When I woke up in the postop (which is now called something else in the land of new speak) there were some patients and nurses and it was sort of a lie there and drool for a while because I was so out of it coming out of anesthesia.

As I woke up a little more I overheard a nurse comforting a patient to the left of me. The patient wasn’t right next to me, she was a couple of beds down. And the nurse was distracting a patient by telling her about a box of special Christmas ornaments that they get out every year. They sounded like they were old Shiny Broght ornaments. But what got to me was her describing whatever was written on the box from whomever used to own them in her family.

And those are the kind of little heartwarming stories around the holidays that always get to me and make me smile because I know how special it is to me when I pull out the old ornament boxes and see my father’s hand writing on top of these boxes that are totally falling apart but I just keep taping them up so I have his hand writing there to greet me every Christmas.

My post op nurse was younger than I and from Lancaster. She was so calm and soothing. We talked about Lancaster County which was fun because that is where my maternal grandmother was from who was Pennsylvania German.

Across the postop room for me was this awesome nurses aide who ended up taking me down to the first area I came into while my husband was on his way to pick me up. She is a lovely young woman who moved here from a big city elsewhere to give her kids a better life. And she was telling her coworkers about one of her children who apparently has been a straight “A” student their entire life and just got into their pick of colleges. Another happy life story.

I know not every day in the hospital you find happy and loving and just these really warm and wonderful vibes because of the nature of a hospital. But I always seem to have these experiences in Chester County Hospital.

The entire hospital had holiday trees everywhere which I thought was awesome because I love decorated trees.

For a day that was about surgery and kind of tough on me it was also a day I enjoyed because of the people I met. I guess my whole point to this meandering post is if you’re open to it you never know where you’re going to meet interesting people.

Here in Chester County we are lucky to have this hospital.

So now I rest and heal and then begin the process of rebuilding my leg at physical therapy.

I don’t know how much I will be writing between now and the new year, so I will take this time to wish everyone a happy healthy 2020.

Cheers!





ice storm of 2014

The ice storm of 2014 was my introduction to a real Chester County winter where life stands still and the pause button is hit.

The ice storm created many beautiful tableaux to photograph, but it was treacherous and I’ll admit it was a pretty hard 10 days after that storm.

I remember it was snowy leading up to February 2014. See above for a photo I took on Sugartown Road around February 3rd that year.

When we woke up the morning after the ice storm, it was quiet and we had no power anywhere and like many of my neighbors we had a tree on part of our house. It felt claustrophobic and cold at times because the tree was on top of us until Belfor and our arborist at the time could get to us.

Everyone pretty much had debris on their homes unless they were in a wide open space with no trees immediately around.

That photo is one I took of our arborist at the time on top of the giant beech that half fell on our house. It could have been much worse than it was and it was bad enough. But we didn’t lose our home and I remember news reports during that storm where people’s homes were crushed by falling trees loaded with ice.

By the time we were into the week mark without power it was a little like Little House on the Prairie around here. You take a lot of things for granted when you don’t have power.

One of the things I remember most from that time is how generous neighbors were with one another. Where I live there was one exception. Someone at the end of our road who had a full house generator to the best of my knowledge never invited anyone in even to warm up with a hot cup of tea or coffee. The rest of us were roughing it with out generators for the most part.

We were lucky because we have a woodstove and our house is small enough that it did not get as cold as it could have been.

Cheers went up when the Calvary (PECO) got to us to restore power. My husband decided during that storm I was too much of a “city girl.”

But there were moments after that ice storm that were just breathtaking in the majesty of Mother Nature as the shot I got one morning after the storm.

Cheers to 2020.