Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Visit with Dad and Anny

Last Wednesday, my dad arrived from Maryland with his sweetheart Anny.

Anny is German-Bolivian, and speaks Spanish better than English, so my youngest daughter made a sign that read "Bienvenidos a nuestra casa, Anny and Abuelo!" (We practiced a few other phrases before they arrived.)

Sweet Anny jumped right in to befriending my children. One of my teen daughters was preparing for an All State chorus test, so Anny helped her by playing the practice piece on the piano.  This comes naturally for her since she was a music teacher in Bolivia for many years.

Dad kindly brought down a large framed print from his dining room that I had asked to have after my mom died last year. I hadn't had the room in my van to bring it home when we went up this summer for the Hess family reunion. This picture has been a favorite of mine for the longest time - "Hailing the Ferry" by Daniel Ridgway Knight. So pretty! 

My sweet Mom
What makes it even more poignant is that it hung in my grandparents' "Squirrel Hill" homestead in Pennsylvania for decades, and I'm guessing my mom grew up with it. My Aunt Nancy says she thinks it came from my Grandpa Hess's side of the family since he was so fond of it. I love heirlooms that span the generations. 

On Thursday, the kids were off school for Rosh Hashanah, so most of us decided to go to the scenic boat tour on the Winter Park chain of lakes. 

So many magnificent mansions on the lakes! I still like the plants and animals best, though.

(Mr. Rogers lived here on this lovely house on Lake Maitland.
I can imagine it is always "a beautiful day in the neighborhood here!)

After the boat tour, we stopped for lunch at The Coop, known for its southern cuisine. (It's owned by 4 Rivers Barbecue, so what can we say but "Yum!") We bought a bunch of chicken (served in a big tin bucket) with some sides and served it all family style around our table.

Our next stop was Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art on Park Avenue. It's the home of the most comprehensive Tiffany stained glass collection in the world, as well as a lot of other American art. My mother, a talented stained glass artist, loved this place. I still do. Photography is not allowed inside, but here's a shot from the back of the building. You can also see much of the Morse collection at their web site linked above. As I walked through the galleries, I kept thinking, "Feast! Feast! Feast!" That's what art is to me: a feast for the soul. I think I'll do a separate post on my This Mom Grows Up blog about my reflections on the Morse art.

That evening, we invited my wonderful German next door neighbor Marianne to come for dinner. She had a lovely chat with Anny in German, of course! Marianne has been such a marvelous friend all 21 years that we've lived in this house. What a treasure!

On Friday, we went to my daughter Julia's apartment for lunch, and my daughter Mary's family joined us, too. Mary's husband Ryan enjoyed a German chat with Anny, and Julia showed her photos from one of her own five trips to Bolivia. I loved seeing all four of my adorable grandsons in one place.

That evening we had a family dinner with eight of my ten kids and all four grandsons, and the next day after breakfast, Dad and Anny left for home. We all love Anny and we're glad we had a chance to get to know her. 

Grace and peace,

Virginia Knowles

P.S. Dad and Anny got married in November! :-)

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Visit to the Waterhouse Residence Museum at Lake Lily

My youngest daughter and I visited the Waterhouse Residence Museum, a Victorian home at Lake Lily. She's been there once or twice, and I've been there more times than I can count in the 21 years we've lived here. They change the decor every now and then; this time it reflected the relative simplicity of the World War 1 era. I'll let the pictures and captions tell the rest of the story.



Darning work basket

Parlor flower arrangement

"Why We Work for Suffrage in War Time"

Victorian plate on the wall

Dining room

Kitchen with butter churn

The subtle white patterns between
the colorful blocks


Ruler marks engraved into work table
(Those are not corn dogs or maracas, but darning eggs.)

Carpentry shop

Feeding the egrets and ducks at the lake

I am always inspired by the simple, vintage elegance of both the Waterhouse Residence and the nearby Leu House museum. It makes me want to go home and clean, organize, and decorate!

You can read about the rest of our home school day here: A Home School Day with Just One Child

Other photos from the Waterhouse Residence: Still Life

Another recent photo post, this from Lake Bell: Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies (Strength in Hymn)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Your Kindness Gave Me Courage

“Your Kindness Gave Me Courage”
by Virginia Knowles

Your kindness gave me courage 
A gentle conversation
A thought-filled gaze
A good deed done 
A warm embrace
A place at your table  
A long letter, short note, silent words
A prayer for wisdom and strength
A gift from the heart.

Surely you did not fully know
(How could you?)
What that would do in me.
Could you sense my soul’s burdens:
The dark and doubt and defeat?

Then, just then, your kindness came as
Light: luminous
Love: lifting and leading me with 
Steady steps toward faith, hope, and joy.

Even though you could not fathom
Its deep reach and widening ripples 
I knew then what I know now
And what I live a little more each day.

The very remembrance
Keen and bittersweet
Still fills me with dignity and wonder that
I can see, speak, serve, sing and
Bring light and love to others.

I bless you, my friend, with all my heart.
May the Lord Almighty bless you beyond
Full measure, pouring over the rims, for
Your kindness gives me courage.


I wrote the first draft of this poem on Sunday, my 51st birthday. The opening line has taken root in my heart for many months; now it has bloomed into a poem. I think back on myriad stunning kindnesses showered on me by family, friends and even strangers as I have faced various continuing challenges in life. I have only just begun trying to thank each one personally, and I will continue. 

I had thought, on approaching my 50th last year, that I would compile a book of essays, poems, and photos as a memoir and call it Pilgrimage and Jubilee. I have not yet accomplished that, but I can at least share links to several of my free verse poems that reflect my life journey. Most of them already have photos and essays to go with them, so there's that. Here they are in reverse chronological order.
A dragonfly
on my birthday -
quick snap!

More posts about kindness:

And lastly, a few quotes:

In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out.  It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being.  We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.  ~~ Albert Schweitzer

The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing... not healing, not curing... that is a friend who cares.  ~~ Henri Nouwen

A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love. ~~ Saint Basil 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Ready for Autumn Decorating?

Dear friends,

Why yes, I did already start decorating for autumn! We're in Florida, and we never get all of the pretty fall leaves anyway, so what difference does it make if I celebrate them a little early? I'm trying to think cool, cool, cool. Then, too, much of my spring & summer stuff has been up since January, so I want to give my fall favorites ample time before I decorate for Christmas in early December. Plus, my youngest daughter and I are about to start a home school unit study on the early colonial period, so if I put a few pilgrim figurines out, they'll fit right in.

I don't have everything out yet. I started with hanging some leaf garland that I just got at Walmart for $3, and found it wasn't nearly long enough. Then my 9 year old informed me that I had more of the same stuff in my autumn decorating bin (I had wrapped it around a berry wreath before), and voila, it did indeed match! So I had several feet of it to stretch across our foyer closets above the wooden Home Sweet Home sign. Well, once she got the bin open, we just couldn't stop ourselves from pulling everything out -- so much cute stuff!

I somehow acquired the Bless Our Home door wreath and the hallway Welcome wreath after autumn last year because I know I'd never used them before, even though they were in my bin. Where did I get them? Yard sale? Goodwill? I don't know, but they were a nice surprise! And they match!


The cardinal flag is from my mom's house. I inherited so many pretty things from her. Bittersweet, yes. I carry on her bird legacy. It is an honor.

I've had the apple plate, baskets, and "apple" for a really long time. Their traditional autumn display spot is on top of the living room book case.

I had two silk bouquets that were too tall for my tastes. I had used them in a door basket before I got the wreaths. The flowers looked awkward in any vase we had, so I took some wire snippers and cut the stems off of the bunches to shorten them and spread them out. (My arthritic hands weren't happy about that.)

Here we are! I bought two baskets at Goodwill for 39 cents each and filled them with the shortened silk flowers. This one is on my bedside table, and I see it the first thing when I wake up. "Give Thanks" is a great thought for morning!

These pilgrim figurines have flat backs, so they always go at the back of my stove above the dials. I bought the wood blocks (above and below) at a dollar store.

My sister gave me these tall nearly faceless pilgrims when I was up in Maryland this summer. She bought them for own home at Plimoth Plantation, but had never even unwrapped them. They seem to go well enough with my cornucopia. (Ironically, there were made in China.) These are on a tall wooden cabinet in our front hallway. Underneath is a beautiful golden lap blanket that someone from my mom's church knitted for her while she was in the hospital.

I had just put a new battery in my clock and was about to put it back on the wall when I got the idea of putting a fall wreath up around it. Clever, eh? I don't remember where I got the wreath either, even though it too is a more recent addition to my collection. I just know I didn't buy it new!

What don't I have out yet? Mostly pumpkin stuff, potpourri, and Indian corn. I may replace some of the more worn items in October for a little bit of newness along the way. Even if I don't, we have enough here already.

I may end up rearranging my autumn decorations as I go along. This is just how I have it now. I've already been experimenting with different options.

I love to figure out new ways to use what I have and not spend a lot of money. That takes resourcefulness at times, but that's always a good skill in which to stretch myself.

Do you want to see my posts from previous years? Look here!

What is your favorite decoration here?

How do you decorate your home for autumn?

Leave a comment!

Virginia Knowles

P.S. The leaves remind me of a haiku I wrote last year:

"Autumn Breeze"

Dear Autumn Trees, please
Give me all your gorgeous leaves.
More will grow. Love, Breeze.

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