Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Arkansas Confession: I am a sixth generation Arkansan, and I have never owned a pick-up truck.

I also wear shoes.

My daddy’s idea of “off roadin’” was veering the golf cart into the rough to find a shanked Titleist ball.

Go For It

My husband and I had lovingly restored a 1923-era Mid-Town Tudor cottage for 16 years with no intention of leaving… ever. One afternoon while drinking coffee on our shady veranda, we decided to leap through opportunity’s window to live my childhood dream of country living, This crazy idea came suddenly and unexpectedly, as all great adventures do! 

Country living is a dream since childhood: Sixth grade drawing found in an attic trunk

No one was more surprised than we were.

Recently, I had toured the Wal-Mart Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas. I had loved seeing Sam Walton’s famous truck, but was greatly inspired by his brass keychain which read, “Go For It”. So much wisdom.

Life does not give unlimited “ports”. I believe a wise person knows when it is time to get off the ship. This was our time.

When the Hillcrest Cottage walls began to talk too much. When the ghosts of my children and their friends floated by too much. I had a desire to get busy living for the future more than the past.

These walls whisper the story of grade school sword fights, marathon video game parties, late night study sessions, and the laughter of family gatherings. They speak of the love we do here, of forgiveness, of grace, of the thousands of "I love you's", of acceptance and belonging somewhere in this big, impersonal world. The yucky stuff, sifted through grace, will be trampled underfoot and swept aside. The good stuff will rise as a sweet aroma full of goodness, like the smell of bacon frying on a snowy morning.

I don't have to live here to recall my memories. The best videos are played in the mind.

So, good-bye Mid-Town with all your wonderful amenities: walking on sidewalks to restaurants, the bank and post office, the grocery store, and, even, to work.

Good-bye wonderful old Tudor cottage where we raised three sons plus a slew of other people’s teenagers who we loved as our own. The laughter and love filled this four-story house from basement to attic. All those incredible memories are packed away and sealed with a smile. I will take them with me.

A lot of living happened in Hillcrest Cottage.

Good-bye hometown, you will always be my first love. You made me who I am. I know everything about you, both good and bad; I still love you anyway.

River Trail and Pinnacle Mountain, I love you.

Good-bye work colleagues, wonderful bank lady, old friends, new church that we were only beginning to know and love, River Trail bike path, familiar random faces whose names I do not know but were still part of my belonging here, morning view on my veranda with the peaceful clicking of the ceiling fan, daily 3 mile power walk through Knoop Park, secret room behind the bookcase, my Mr. Ed door, midnight snowy walks through downtown Hillcrest, and I am certain I have left  someone or thing out of this list.

Good-bye "Hillcrest Cottage Life" blog. This is my final post.

The moving trucks are loaded up outside. It is time to go.

It is always good to leave something you love while you still love it.


P.S. When two city kids exchange their mid-town life for a country farmhouse, this happens at my new blog: Hillcrest Cottage Farm (hillcrestcottagefarm.com)

"The Farm"

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Always There

50's Mom

A defining moment came in the third grade.  My even-organized-at-a-young-age self was horrified to discover I had left my lunch on the kitchen counter. My teacher was kind; I walked the embarrassing mile to the school office where I was allowed to call home. In less than five minutes, my mom magically appeared, lunch in hand and smile on face. I will never forget the wave of thankfulness which was far greater than in having a full belly; it was in having a mom who was always there.

60's Mom

Duh. She was present at all my big moments, as most mothers are. She watched proudly when I danced as a rose "butt" (bud) on the Robinson Auditorium stage. She was first grade "room mom" and Brownie leader. She cheered loudly at every softball game. At my horse shows, my football pom performances, my track meets, she was always in attendance. When college arrived, she was at my sorority bid day and initiation which she had worked tirelessly to help me achieve.

In an effort to report the facts correctly, I have this addendum : When I was on the Bozo Big Top TV Show, which was already a disaster because Bozo was grumpy, ran out of Oscar Meyer hot dogs and did not have the Frosty's Root Beer which he was holding up as the official drink of the Big Top Show, my mom took a crazy moment for herself and was at the horse races in Hot Springs. There was no recording of the show. It was a one-time event. My mom missed my TV debut... but, for that, I forgive her.

This memory is vivid because she never missed anything else.

70's Mom

She taught me how to ride a bike, roller-skate, high jump, throw a softball, jump off my house's roof without breaking a leg, and climb a tree. (My dad was forced to send me to "charm school" to  bring balance to my young life.) In our house, no one could throw up in the middle of the night without my mom magically appearing, cold wash rag in hand. Most mothers make the big events.

My mother was special because she was always there in the daily stuff.

Late 70's Mom

In college she always made sure that my car was full of gas before I headed up to school, kept me supplied with all toiletries (For some odd reason, she got stuck on cotton balls , and I had a warehouse full upon completing the university days), sent me packages and cards at every holiday, and did my laundry for four and one half years (how she accomplished this is a story for another time...ha...but she did it!).

Even three and one half hours away, she was always there.

80's Mom

During the newly- married years she was my hot line for cooking advice. She learned how to pull a U-Haul trailer behind her car so she could bring me extra furniture. She willingly volunteered to nurse Jeff through a very bad case of adult chicken pox because I had to work and could not. (Although she had to recant in her second phone call upon realizing she had never contracted the disease. How she had made it through three cases of her children having had the disease is unknown.)

Even at five hours away, she was always there.

Through our many moves as married adults, my mom was available to help or not to help as needed. She could pack and unpack a kitchen like nobody else. Just say "we are moving" and my mom would start collecting boxes and deliver them to us. She knew all the best place to find them.

I could not have made it through my early years of parenting without my mom. She would often drop by and begin folding my huge pile of clean clothes. She was always available to babysit. Oh how my boys loved (still love) their "Dee".

Always there:  not in a helicopter- hovering sort of way, not in an enabling- bad -behavior sort of way, not in meddling- in -my affairs sort of way. In junior high, within 10 minutes, my mom was screeching up to the country club pro shop, wet hair dripping down the smock of the beauty shop where she had been when she had received the golf pro's call that " Your daughter was hit in the head with a 7-iron" during junior golf clinic. Or, the week before our wedding when we were driving her car and a huge beer truck ran a light nearly killing us, totaling her car, but she was on the scene in less than 5 minutes with only concern for our well-being and none for her car.

These events were pre-cell phone days, I tell ya the woman has skills!

All the Grandkids...Missing Conly

My mother devoted her entire life to her family. I promise I have never heard her whine or complain about all the work she did for us. Every meal, every sack lunch, every birthday and holiday. Available 24/7. There has never been one ounce of doubt that if I called my mom to bring my lunch  or to drive seven hours to our Alabama house that she would drop her life and...

always be there.

My mom is 85 and has never worked a single day of her life for a job which would give her a paycheck. But for the job she did raising me and beyond...

For always being there.

 No paycheck could ever compensate her sacrifice and devotion.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Snow Days

In the South, we like our snow just enough to have some days off, get our cheese dip and chili on, wear ski clothes, sled, take snow walks, and drink hot chocolate. We like our snow just enough  to make us smile, but not enough to experience power outages or car trouble or inconveniences of any sort. Our "inconveniences" are normally the "I-can't-make-it-to-work, but I-CAN-make-it-to-a- friend's-house" sort of kind. 

In other words, Southerners believe snow should be pretty but not a bother.

Mac the Labradoodle and Lucy the Beautiful but Goldendoodle-less love our annual snow romps at night when they can run the neighborhood streets without leashes and tumble in the drifts together.

Mac is wishing for more snow fun.

This past snow was a beautiful "night snow", and we loved it.

Hillcrest Cottage Night Snow

Gipsy the Teardrop is looking oh-so cold and lonely. We are dreaming of more fun times pulling her behind the Expedition on our next outdoor adventure. 

Right now, however, camping outside seems like a long time away.

Hang in there, Gipsy
So... pretty much done with the snow, as the rest of the country can heartily agree.

"Come quickly, Spring. I think we are now very ready for you."

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Time to Think about Time

I am thinking about "time"... and the passing of it... and the year ahead. I am setting goals... and cleaning house... and sending my college guy back to school.

The Hillcrest Cottage December was filled with warm fires... time spent together...

                                            with hot chocolate and handmade marshmallows.

Time was invested in family and...

more family and...

face time with military son. (Thank you, technology.)

With the help of a son, the Hillcrest Cottage year began with painting three rooms... which led to rearranging and cleaning everything.

Now, it is time for "normal" to return. (Whatever normal means.) It is time to set goals and look forward. I sense that exciting things are around the corner. I am anxious to start the daily work of working toward achieving my dreams.

Welcome 2014.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Hillcrest Cottage Christmas Tree Arrives

Once upon a time before there was a Hillcrest Cottage and when the family lived in another land, in another life, seemingly a lifetime ago, Mom and young boys were paraded in front of a very large church along with the other pastors' wives and children and were asked to share Christmas traditions and it was so awkward that I can not even look at the video and have contemplated destroying the evidence that this event ever actually occurred...oh the embarrassment and the cheese-factor.


in the moment it was either make up stuff about our family in order to sound like Martha Stewart before there was even a Martha Stewart or opt to tell the truth, which we did, of course, as we were literally before God and the whole world it seemed. 

And my creative boys came up with some truly creative traditions: Every Christmas our family puts a tree in our house which we decorate. On Christmas morning, we open presents. 

Somewhere in the story it was added by my youngest that we always make gingerbread cookies, which we did not, 


guess what I am doing after I write this story, as I have ever since that day?

And guess which tradition we have always kept? 

The tree... and it is real... because just like your pearls, I believe all Christmas trees should be real

There, I said it.

The following is another story which needs no words, except to say that a couple of important people will be missing from the Hillcrest Cottage Christmas this year. 

Insert sad face, but carry on.

And... the picture of our family in from of our car was so incredibly bad of me that it could not be included. I am going today to get my bangs fixed as my new haircut is a bit of a disaster. (Fil, if you read this I hope you will be better soon and get back to cutting my hair.)

And... I want to explain that I did make the executive decision to go "lights only" plus some simple silver tinsel... and I love the look and the simplicity. It goes quite well with my favorite brown paper wrapping.

BTW, I did make those gourmet marshmallows about which I had written earlier, and they are incredible!

Favorite books from my childhood.

Off to make the annual gingerbread cookies... and to get a bangs-trim-fix... fingers crossed.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Return of the Santa Mugs

Christmas creeps quietly into Hillcrest Cottage. "Return of the Santa mugs" is the first sign of the holiday approaching. My collection is 63, give or take a few. I have a friend who has amassed over 200... so I am not as cool (or crazy) as her. 

Here's the criteria for my collection: 
1.) Made in Japan... means it is circa 1960's. Many times the date may be stamped on the bottom. 

2.) No mug may cost over $5. The ideal price is $1. I walk away from greedy sellers who try to get more for them. The mugs are fragile and cheap. That's why I began collecting them in the first place... cheapness. 

3.) Mugs who do not meet the original specifications are allowed "in" but I am the only one who can really decide if that particular mug is worthy. 

For example: Pottery Barn has begun to manufacture very cool 1960's replicas. I buy these replicas every year because these are the mugs out of which I allow people to drink. A couple of years ago I became saddened about the way the actual use makes the little mugs peel. 

See what I mean? Fragile and cheap.

Okay... here's the tour.

I scored the following candle holder the other day at an estate sale. 

Best estate sale ever. 

It was the kind of sale about which I dream! The weather was getting bad. Everyone in town was preparing for the snow: buying up all the bread and beer and rotel. Meanwhile, I was at the estate sale of the century... a sale where every interest of my family was represented. 

I bought like a hoarder. 

No one was at this sale! It was a house stacked with very cool stuff from floor- to- ceiling. I was told the owners had moved to Oregon with 9000 pounds, and this sale was what they had left behind.


"I promise I am not one of those weird people who buys stuff all the time," I told the check-out lady. Embarrassing. Next, I went home and made my husband and son come back with me. 

They bought like hoarders, too.

We bought cowboys boots, two Christmas gifts, a pair of real ice skates (which I will share later), awesome black bear bookends, a pipe rack, tools, a $1 video game that my son spied as valuable and will re-sell, Christmas lights, calligraphy pen nibs... and this candle holder mug (1960, Made in Japan, $1).

The mug tour continues.

Now, true collectors will spy these next posers. However, I love them because they are of the drinkable variety

More drinkable mugs. I spy a Snowman!

I bought this $1 Fitz & Floyd mug at the aforementioned estate sale. He will be filled with candy for our annual Christmas "mugging" exchange coming up soon. For now, he decorates Hillcrest Cottage's very frozen front veranda.

Hot chocolate station. Decorated with vintage Christmas stickers. Going to Williams and Sonoma today for the gourmet marshmallows... yum.

And, lastly, Atticus Finch and Tabasco Spice are feeling merry, too.