I am the worse blogger that the internet has ever seen. My apologies for my lack of communication during these long months, I hope you will accept them. If you were lost without my ideas, don’t worry, you’ve been found. Never read my post, well, you weren’t lost, but this is a little map to help you navigate the world of entertaining, food, and general good taste.
I have a friend from many years ago who is a dear. Sally is 100% girl, or woman as the case may now be. Recently she spoke to me about an incident which occurred on her front porch. As the story unfolds, it seems that Sally, fearless mother of four, began watching her dog eyeing something in the yard. If you are a dog owner, this will come as no shock. Many times I wonder what Jax or Bianca is examining. All too often I discover it something I don’t want them to eat. Having indoor pets outside is like putting your children outside. With that simple mathematics in mind, Sally had gone from mother of four to mother seven when you add the three dogs. As she observed the dogs observing an unidentified fascinating object, UFO for short in the dog word, Sally’s curiosity was peaked. She began to move across the yard toward Rufus, Spot, or Rex as the case may have been. She discovered a lizard. This was not any lizard, it was a 5 lined skink. Although these are perfectly cute lizards, as reptiles go, one must be aware that a skink is a skink and it will bite the *@#! (insert your favorite four letter word) out of you). Poor Sally, no one had ever taken the time to educate her on the finer nuances of herpetology. This is why our phone conversation ended with, “I saved his life, and he bit me. Thank goodness I had on my gloves for gardening; he could have caused real problems.” I waited for the “bless his soul/heart,” yet for Sally charity had stopped when he bit her.
Scratching your head yet? Wondering why I am having a lizard forum in this blog? It appears that two cultures in our world can coexist peacefully. Outdoors can meet indoors in a lively and beautiful marriage that makes those of us who live in bricks and mortar more amenable to the four legged creatures who call a pile of pine straw home.
This spring I began the chore of getting the yard ready. I was very excited about what I was going to do. I had read numerous articles over the years about making outdoor rooms. I had tried this with my patio and side porch. Unfortunately, I created an outdoor shanty closely akin to the turn of the century outhouse. When you read an article about creating these sanctuaries of the southern outdoors, some lady with a typical name like Mary-Julia Margret Jones describes the task of maintaining the garden while overseeing the fundraiser at the local hospital, chairing the bizarre for the local Episcopal parish, and serving on the scholarship committee of the Junior Ladies of Philanthropy Club. “I just have to take time to work the garden into my daily schedule.” She will purport. Come off it lady, you have a staff that maintains that garden, and they even deliver a Seabreeze when you wag your overly polished nails at them.
Personally, I do not have gardeners. I do have two dogs. One dog likes to dig. He does not dig in the right locations. For this reason, I do not feel it would be fair to term him as staff. How do we, the normal people of the world, located miles from the nearest GardenRidge, World Market, and Pier One make the idea of outdoor rooms work?
Step One- make some decisions about what you want. When I began on my front porch, I knew I wanted something I termed, Southern with a Splash of Mediterranean. Confused? I was too. I decided that reds, olives, and yellows would make my vision come to fruition. I began looking for ideas in those colors. I found curtains on close-out three years ago at a big box store. I paid $4 for pair. While snagging this “whattadeal!” as my friend Connie calls it, I also spied a lovely red table cloth, $2.50. I had curtains and a tablecloth. Yippie! What about furniture.
At the end of the summer in 2008 I found pile of summer remnant furniture in local grocery store. A single glass topped table for $10. “Yes, thank you. Put it in the car.” Two chairs at $6 each also traveled home with me that afternoon. I was set. I ran a cheap curtain rod through two ring hooks, wow those cheap curtains looked nice! I tossed the red table cloth on the table which had two mismatched chairs, and I sat back and smiled. Southern Living did not call for a photo shoot. I wondered why. I examined the porch. It had issues. Over the winter, I encountered a wooden church pew, and placed it on the porch. The dark wood added a great deal of depth, but it was missing something. As the spring of 2009 approached, I knew what was needed, flower pots. This idea was nice, but I also had to put out the right flowers. The plants that year were dead before Mother’s Day. I did have nice pots though, even if it did look like a necropolis for plant life. That summer I had the idea of adding a water feature, just something small. I still looked at the front porch and wondered how those people in the magazines made it look so put together.
I was ready to write a very stern letter to my American Idol and let her know that her magazine was a pack of lies. I would get in bed at night and think of the phone call she give me. “Martha” I would say, “I need to let you know that that the March issue if totally unachievable. Someone working for you is a liar! No one can make these blasted outdoor rooms.” Martha would sigh and say, “You know last night I was making some buckwheat pillows while I garnished a leg of lamb. That issue was on my mind too. I will send a crew out to fix things right away.” Yet, Martha and I did not have a tete a tete. I struggled that winter thinking of how to make the porch right. I started the spring with a rug. I was on fire. I also purchased two tulip chairs and a decoratively painted ladder. I shoved all of my new treasures on the porch. What did I have? No seriously, besides the birth of a junk yard? Nothing.
All winter I tossed and turned during the night. How do I make this work? Where are the instructions? I toyed with hanging basket ideas, and then figured the birds would move into hanging ferns and it would just be one more disaster. This week I reached the point of trashing all of my treasures. I pulled everything of the porch. As I examined the individual pieces, artifacts of my last four summers, I laughed at some things. I cried as I looked at other items. I realized that each component of the porch was a piece of me, just like the pieces in my home. I had created a room. I had not created a room in which I was comfortable. What was I to do?
If you actually know me, the answer is simple. REARRANGE. I have friends and colleagues who laugh incessantly at my need to rearrange items both big and small until they are just right. I began moving things around on the porch. I did not go for the staged look, I went for function. I worked to make a den for myself. See what you think…