Grammy's House is a term affectionately used by our two grandchildren, Xavier and Sophia. Our sweet Sophia, resides here with us. We named our 100 year old Victorian home Rose Water Cottage when we moved here, in June of 2011. It is quite a haven for grownups who are weary of being grownups. So, welcome to our storybook world...where magic happens every day.

Storybook Cottage Crafts

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

My friend, Bill Fry...

I went on a little journey this past weekend.
 I traveled to Mayfield, Kentucky, to meet up with dear friend Kim, and from there, we would drive to
her family's home in the small town of Eldorado, Illinois.

She grew up on this farm, with this big red barn…

…and her dad, Bill, would take me around the place and tell me stories…
and show me his garden
(the asparagus, gone to seed…where the cucumbers had grown...he just set out those over there…)
There was just so much to tell..and just so much to take in…

He was fairly excited. To say the least.

Kim and I have been friends for 20 years.
It was the summer of '95 that we met and found we would be teaching on the same team,
assigned to a profoundly wonderful group of 6th graders.

It had been 20 years since I had visited her childhood home, met her parents Vernie and Bill,
her little brother John and her big sister Barb. I learned she had lost her oldest brother, in a tragic accident.
But life had gone on…

And now, on this visit…we were grieving the absence of her mom, who passed on February 26th.
On the same day, I was remembering what would have been the 30th birthday of my Rachel Rose.
A day of grieving and loving and remembering.

Kim decided we would surprise her dad, with my visit.
Mission was accomplished.

We drove out to the family's lake house, built on the banks of a lake not far down the road from their home. John's bees were in a clearing, off to the side. Canoes were at rest at water's edge.
It was peaceful.

My friend Bill, calls me Chris. He just does.
This is what he has called me for 20 years.
So I answer.
He pulls out the photo albums, and tells me stories of friends in California…"..and there's me and Vernie…and there's John with Terry's son…" 
So many memories…
and I listen.

He flips through the pages, and suddenly it's time to go…

We will meet up with little brother John at the restaurant in town…
where everybody knows everybody..

and then we'll head back to the house..
and friends and family will drop by..and check in…and head out again..
Much laughter and story-telling..
and the cat's out of the bag.
Tomorrow is John's birthday.
I can NOT believe it.

It was just the other day, he was that young man of 23…
Time marches on.

Off to bed.

Saturday morning, I descend the stairs and smell coffee. It's early,
but Bill/Dad has already left for work at the furniture store... NuWay…where he runs the show.
It was established sometime in the 20's. He's shown me the old photos…the old "cash register"..
He is there 6 days a week...

By 8:00 am..he's popped in with the newspaper…and then he's gone.
He calls to tell us there's gas in the car…"in case you gals want to go shopping"…

So we finish our coffee…and our long conversation…and we fix our hair and our makeup and discuss lipgloss colors (the things we used to do all those years ago)

We drive to the nearby town of Harrisburg, Illinois, and enjoy a grilled chicken salad at
The Burg.
It is such a darling cafe, with its framed flag with 48 stars...

It has been lovingly restored.
In its former life, it was a pharmacy…and then a tavern.
The owner saw its potential.
We're thankful.

We then make our way to the neighboring boutique Gypsy Moon…which was formerly 
Myrons (an upscale dress shoppe in the 6o's) and before that..
it was a bank…

We head to the grocery store, to acquire goods for the evening's celebration/cookout, and make our way back to her momma's kitchen...
and while Kim prepares appetizers and treats, we have more time to reminisce and share memories and talk about life…and our children...

At quarter past 4, with Dad/Bill riding in the back seat…
 we drive through neighboring Riverside to see the church where Bill and Vernie were married.
It had suffered a terrible blow by a tornado, a few years ago,
but reconstruction is underway, and we are thankful.
We are on our way to attend mass at "the little old country church" in Ponds Settlement.
I have never attended Catholic mass. This will be my first.
I am overwhelmed by the sacredness…the songs…the ritual…
Kim kneels..I kneel…I follow her lead.
We sing and pray and we share "peace" to our pew neighbors…

We stop by the house for the appetizers, and then it is on to the house by the lake.

There, John has grilled for all of us…and there are deviled eggs and cheese balls and fresh tomatoes and chips and all kinds of cookout delicious-ness…
and a birthday gift he shares with all of us...fresh bread, made by the nuns.

And then there's Kim's cousin Lennie, who taught kindergartners for 35 years..
and we are kindred spirit friends in an instant...

As dusk approaches, I look towards the water…

There is no singing "happy birthday"…
just this…

quiet moments. 

Sunday morning the house is filled with the fragrance of home-made breakfast.
Kim has out done herself,
and I realize we have not captured a photo of the two of us.
Niece Jessica, snaps...

..and then it is time for goodbyes.
It is hard.
We hug and kiss and hug some more…
and he fills the back of the car with tomatoes and cucumbers, green beans and peppers…
"Chris, I got sweet corn for you…" 

and we're on our way…

I arrive home to one happy little girlie…

Monday morning, Sophia and I set up camp on the back porch and commence a lesson in the
snapping of green beans. 

(We find one of Grammy Nancy's bowls..
and have quite a discussion of this dear one who resides in heaven)

She digs the tiny "nuggets" within, and says, "Grammy, you can eat dese widdle beans! Dare da-wicious!"

That task is accomplished, and I am on to the schucking of the corn..

and she appears, with her widdle stool…and wants to learn…

I take over the peeling and slicing of the cucumbers..
placing them inside the refrigerator dishes passed down from my Uncle Neil and Aunt Lea…

….and this tomato! Good gracious…have you ever??

The purple of the eggplant and the yellow of the corn, alongside that 'ripened to perfection' tomato..
I am in Garden Goodness Heaven!

I add chopped onion and Apple Cider vinegar…a dash of salt and pepper... and scoop the concoction into another lidded glass dish and into the fridge for chilling…

Tim prepares the corn for grilling (melted butter and tarragon) and then returns with this mountain of caramelized corn…

The freshly snapped green beans are cooked down to perfection, the new potatoes boiled to just the right softness…and we enjoy the feast…
wishing terribly, that Bill Fry could join us at our farm table, here in our little cottage in Franklin.

As I reflect on the weekend, I am grateful for my friend Kim.
We had no idea, that summer of '95, that we would be enjoying such a steadfast friendship,
all these years later.
We had no idea the road ahead would have so many bumps and twists and turns.
This new road she travels, that her family travels….
moving forward, missing her mother's physical presence…
it is hard.

Our dads share the same name, and each of them is called Billy by family and forever friends.
My dad was born on November 7, 1931.
Her dad was born on November 11, 1932.
They each love their girls in a mighty way,
and they are proud of their accomplishments…and remind the world around them, 
of all their girls' successes, because the world needs to be reminded…always…
They both know Jesus, and their faith is profound.
I am thankful for these two dads. 

I have already relayed my thanks to Kim,
but to Barb and John..and to Patrick and Matt and Jessica and Bradley..and to Lennie and Roger…and Mark and Josh…to Sister Alicia and Aunt Ada…to Nathan and Courtney and baby girl Kennedy…and Brandy and Hayden…
Thank you for sharing your Bill Fry with this "long tall Chris" from Tennessee.
I am proud and honored to call him friend.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Video…How Rose Water Cottage Press Came to Be

My dear dear daughter-in-love, Jenny Dew Blankenship…talented beyond words…has produced a video chronicling how Rose Water Cottage Press came to be.  She has developed a YouTube channel of same name (Rose Water Cottage Press), as well,  and we hope to continue to add more snippets of life at Rose Water Cottage…the reading of Bedtime Stories….How this adventure into storybook writing/illustrating began…and more…

Please feel free to share this video, if you feel it could encourage or inspire a friend or loved one in their endeavors to find their hidden gifts/talents, for we all have something to offer. Sometimes, it just takes someone believing in us.

I am thankful for those who have and continue to encourage and inspire me on this incredible journey.

Many blessings to you dear readers.


(business cards)

(Quietness..a rose that survived Katrina, discovered in 2003, that I acquired at Antique Rose Emporium in Texas, April 2015)

(My hydrangeas in the old iron flower pots, have taken on a shabby chic look)

(Eliza sits atop her travel case, awaiting her adventure to a doll's fair in Vermont…sporting her new wardrobe from her dear friend Rachel Noelle Pallas who has the most wonderful things in her Etsy shop https://www.etsy.com/shop/Shabbyforme)

Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Shabby Chic Workshop at The Prairie by Rachel Ashwell

It has been a whirlwind since the last post that documented the move into my little Storybook Studio. 
Thank you for your incredible patience.

In April, I traveled to Round Top, Texas, to attend the Shabby Chic Workshop at 
The Prairie by Rachel Ashwell…
conducted by Rachel Ashwell.

We gathered in the Ranger's Lounge there, on Friday afternoon, 
and I claimed space on a big comfy chair …Eliza takes up quite a bit of room, you see...

There were 18 women in attendance, and we were able to enjoy a meet and greet 
connecting with friends we had only known, thus far, through the internet. 
(There's quite a shabby chic sisterhood on Instagram)

Sweet Dee Magdalina, was one of those precious ones...

And then she was there…as lovely in real life, as we had all imagined...

It wasn't long, and we were on our way for a tour across the property.
My mother always taught me to sit at the front of the class, for that's where you will learn the most, 
so I headed for the front of the line…so I could learn from the best...

In the midst of the tour, there was a moment for a quick photo...

On the tour through the darling little cottages, Rachel shared her vision for the property and we saw all the many elements of her famous Shabby Chic aesthetic..

 vintage wallpapers and massive white framed mirrors ...

I love the sweetness of the prints and the soft palette…

Follow the leader into the Blue Bonnet Barn…

Inside the Pearl Barn, all of the images I had studied in her book…they were all before me...

Rachel's incredible collection of vintage prom dresses had been hung and appeared as if they were dancing amongst the rafters….

The Junk Gypsies created the "25" lighted marquis for the "25 years of Shabby Chic" celebration…
featured on their episode that aired July 10, 2015

We made our way back to the Ranger's Lounge, where a feast was being prepared…

Danny, the man with the big boots and hat, happy to wear a Shabby Chic apron, prepares fried chicken and french fries…

and sweet Kathy, one of the women who would "wash mousie dishes"..
falls in love with a certain little mousie girl, Eliza...

While the preparations are being made, Rachel invites me to the porch…where there is a bit of quiet..
and she meets this little mouse
in a tiny tutu, and tiny slippers, and a tiny tiara..
and a tiny millinery crown (a gift from one talented artisan named Rachel, as well)
and Eliza can hardly contain the joy.

They are fast friends…

It is time to eat.
We take a seat
and accept a gift…
Rachel collects cameos, and she shares.
The horseshoe is in honor of the great state of Texas.

She welcomes us to the table…her farm table…
with its pitchers of roses
and jelly jar glasses 
pretty prairie dishes..

Dinner is scrumptious
conversation is riveting and lively
and then it is time for school
and we enter the classroom….
As it turns out, the big comfy chair I chose, is right alongside her perch.
That stool, there, is where she will sit 
and we will take notes and hang on every word.
Shabby Chic History, The Shabby Chic Aesthetic, Business
 These would be the subjects covered in each session of the workshop

 The next morning, we enter the classroom once again, and by noon, 
another delicious meal is prepared.

We are then given the choice to spend the afternoon shopping in town
or to hang at The Prairie,
as helpers for a photo shoot of the new comforters in the 
Simply Shabby Chic line of products.

Eliza and I are all about helping…

This suite in the Liliput Lodge is a favored dressing room for Brides-to-be,
and this darling girl, Valentina Pollard, is in awe of its beauty…
and the fact that it is hers to enjoy for the weekend, has her completely overwhelmed.. 
Add that it is the site for part of the photo shoot.. there are just no words...

Enchanted by the lighting…

Off to the Pearl Barn, to collect a barrel of silk flowers,
and we are treated to a peek inside Rachel's bag of "bits and bobs"..
vintage millinery and laces and ribbons…
those seen in countless photos and even the
 Junk Gypsies episode...

The barrel is retrieved and we make our way to the clothesline…
(The Blue Bonnet Barn in the background)

Every detail tended to …every single one…
until it is perfectly charming…

We were able to help a bit, but mostly it was watching and learning.
Her process of creating the "beauty of imperfection"
is something to behold.

And then it was time to clean up.
As these twin sisters carried away the barrel of flowers,
 I snapped a photo…How could I not…

Ali and Jen, you are two of the dearest and sweetest!

I was taken with every aspect, every detail of this place…this little piece of heaven..
with its fences and ivy and roses…
and enjoyed capturing some photos of my own...

Saturday evening at dinner, we realized a band from Australia, Heart Collectors, was in town,
and would be coming to serenade…
…and they did..
and we danced and sang along…

Before we could blink twice, it was Sunday morning…
and as I slipped out to the balcony of the Liliput, still in my Shabby Chic jammies and robe,
I spied sweet girl,
cup of coffee in hand, gazing down that long drive,
pondering the future..filled with promise...

and I do the same...

After a hearty breakfast, and conversations of reflection around the farm table
(with sweet Carolyn, from Australia)

it is time for the final session of the workshop.

As it comes to a close…
a message from her heart leads to a tender moment…

This shy British lady has dreamed big and worked hard,
and we are blessed to enjoy the fruits of her labor.
The World of Shabby Chic is alive and well.

I am forever grateful for this weekend of motivation and inspiration, 
and I look forward to sharing the tale of Eliza's adventure to this little piece of Heaven,
in my new book
"Eliza Visits The Prairie by Rachel Ashwell"