Monthly Archives: March 2012

For Clare

by Colleen

Clare is completely unique.  As the youngest of nine, one is bound to turn out wonderfully quirky and independent, and Clare is no exception .  Even though we are the closest in age out of all the sisters with only four years between us, Clare and I are very different; and I love that.

Clare possesses a sense of humor and a penchant for dry sarcasm that I only wish I could have.  She can make any situation hilarious with her whip-like come backs and little barbs of sarcastic joy.  But at other times, she can be the sweetest of little sisters.

Clare is not only possesses Irish gift of gab, she also is an amazing photographer.

As the last picture shows, she also has an amazing connection with little children, most specially our nieces and nephews.  Clare has been able to take care of children since she was a child herself.  It’s so beautiful to watch her as she plays with Claire, Adeline, Thaddeus, and Antonia.  They adore her and beg her to stay and “play more, play more!” every time; and with a loving smile, she will.

Clare also has followed in the family tradition (well really, only Kate and I have done it) of acting.  Although she is only a freshman in high school, she has already qualified for the state level acting competition coming up in April.  I had the chance to see her perform over break and was blown away.  Clare is not Clare when she’s up there; she truly is another person, and to see her change into her character before my very eyes was astounding.

Did I also mention that she’s beautiful?

This lovely (not so) little lady also happens to have a birthday today.  For the first time in 15 years I won’t be there to wish her a happy birthday and to remind her of how very special she is.  ‘Clare Bear’, I love you, and I miss you.  The day you came into this world was a blessing to our whole family.  Happy 15th birthday!

The Heroic Brother-in-law and the 24-Hour Urine Sample.

By Nicole

Sometimes there are things in life that are so incredibly embarrassing that you are obligated to tell people so they can share in your laughter. As Kate said earlier, I am on bed rest to prevent my impatient child from emerging early.

I am being monitored for pre-eclampsia, which is an issue affecting your blood pressure and possibly causing premature birth. Last Friday, my wonderful family was in and out all day bringing me lots of movies, books, and some stunning yellow tulips. Cale came over to make me a fancy tuna sandwich (complete with a garnish and everything!) and everyone was graciously keeping me entertained. During my bed rest sentence I was instructed to provide my mid-wife with a 24 hour urine sample. The nurse handed me a neon orange plastic container and said “Good luck”. Much to my humiliation, I agreed to comply.

All was going well and my 24 hour orange project was about over when I started to have some pretty aggravating chest pain. I called the clinic expecting them to tell me not to worry and was instructed to go straight to the ER. Great. With Rob at work, the only available chauffeur just so happened to be the Sweet Ridge boy himself, my brother in law Pat Slattery.

I grabbed my jug of shame, tried to keep calm and off we went. Pat may have been concerned but was masking this in sarcasm, jokes and taking the long way to the ER, by accident. Upon arrival, I was admitted immediately and Pat was given the task of intercepting calls from my Husband. Meanwhile, Rob was slightly alarmed because when he asked if I was alright Pat responded with “Well, she’s talking.” Pat walked with me up to labor and delivery where they gave me a gown and a room. I could tell that all the nurses were assuming this was my husband and I could just see them studying his odd behavior as he was completely disengaged with his nose in a book and only offering a sarcastic comment every now and then.

We reached the room and I realized that my neon jug of embarrassment was still in the car and poor Patrick had to retrieve this for me. While he was gone I gave all the nurses a SERIOUS pep talk about that man not being my husband and my back less hospital gown. I informed them that if they were not careful and modest with this issue in front of my dear brother in law, he and I and our family would never recover. I am more likely to sue for the trauma of embarrassment than any other malpractice issue.
Thankfully, Rob showed up and my poor brother in law was released of his duties. All of my tests came back normal though my blood pressure is still too high and my bed rest continues. Thank you Patrick, I appreciate your assistance and your calmness when I really needed it. Thank you to my sweet, loving family for your visits, tuna and flowers. Lastly, thank you to my sweet, sweet husband for getting up with me in the middle of the night, making dinner and for waiting on me hand and foot, you are the best. There is a light at the end of this tunnel- only 4 ½ weeks till D day!

 

If you missed Nicole’s earlier posts, and the beautiful story of her meeting and marrying our brother Rob, here they are:

Dazed by the Ridge: The Newest Sweet Ridge Sister

It’s Okay to Not Know Everything

My Garden: My Canvas

By Mary

There are few interests that I take more seriously than my love of flowers. After the cold nights of October and the gray days of November, my garden takes several months of a break from its vibrant life of beauty, and calming graceful vitality.

How I do miss the sun, blossoms, weeds and dirt in the winter months. Come spring, just like the re-birth of the garden; a whole new part of me comes alive.

In February the plotting starts when I pour over seed catalogs. This year spring came early, so planting has too. All the bulbs that I carefully store away each fall get unwrapped from their improvised quilts of newspaper. Digging and designing a more perfected area are all part of the joy of gardening.

Often I second guess myself. Fortunately, I have my Mom as my mentor. She is a true master artist of cottage style gardens.

My Mother is extremely patient and supportive of my novice endeavors. Though our tastes in garden design differ, our passion for creating beauty has been a complimentary effort.

Tomorrow the two of us are driving an hour and a half round trip to pick up a box of calla lilies that I have been thinking about all winter. Some may wonder why one would spend so much time and energy growing plants, but for me, I wonder how anyone can not get inspired by the sheer goodness of growing something real and beautiful. Gardens are a canvas to me. They are the perfect opportunity to create living art, and from now to October, the artist part of myself will be digging in the dirt.

Your Turn

by Kate

And now, it’s your turn. What are your questions for the Sweet Ridge Sisters?

Perhaps you’ve been wondering how her new life in the remote farming country is working for our sophisticated city sister in law, Nicole?

I’ll give you a hint- she’s on bed rest at the moment, and may just have time to answer your questions. You may even have time to ask your spring gardening questions from our father, the master farmer of asparagus, garlic, and much more.

He’s headed out into the fields every day now, but if you submit your questions quick I’ll make sure he sits down long enough to answer your queries.

Perhaps you have a question for Mary about her time in Russia, or her new crop of lambs. You may be curious about life back home on the farm for Clare, or for Colleen far away in Dallas planning a semester in Rome. Whatever your question, we’d love to hear it and have a chance to respond.

Please leave your question in the comments. Can’t wait to hear from you!

Kate (and all the Sweet Ridge Sisters)

 

Inspiration, Expectation: Anthropologie, Spring 2012

by Kate

The world is in bloom.

Spring arrived with a great rush here in Pittsburgh. Midsummer heat swept through the bare branches of early March, bulbs burst into full flowering brightness, a lush carpet of grass sprung up from the bare brown soil, and suddenly the air is full of sweetness. Spring is a season of powerful newness. Since I am here in the city and far from the farm fields of home, I decided to celebrate the season by packing up my camera- and my toddler…

…and heading over to see the new crop of displays at our local Anthropologie. Like my recent trip to meet the Pioneer Woman, this trip was partially inspired by my sisters, especially Mary, who lives on a ridge far away from fancy stores and big book signings. Mary will be moving into her own little cottage in a couple weeks. She has a beautiful ( and anthropologie-ish) knack for home decorating, and I can’t wait to see what she does with it. I though these pictures might inspire her.

Lets look a little closer at the front window, shall we?

This spring, Anthropologie is inspired by Abstract Expressionism. It says so, right on the window.

Meanwhile, I am inspired by Anthropologie. In part, this is because, unlike Mary, I am a terrible shopper. As the eldest of nine children raised by a journalist/farmer, I didn’t get into the habit of shopping at an early age- though I did get really proficient at sorting through the regular large bags of clothing left at our home by helpful friends and members of the community. Even thrift store shopping is fraught with tension for me. I lack the ability to see an object or piece of clothing and know how to integrate it into my home or wardrobe with a strong and significant sense of Style. However, I am capable of recognizing beauty and creativity when I see it- so, I love wandering through Anthropologie. I think they do a fantastic job of marketing brilliant creativity and an eye for beauty.

I love the way this display flows, and the colors of their spring collection. I also love that this shirt is laid out on what appears to be a butcher block table.

This next picture is a great example of the way the designs within the store play with texture. Something about this reminds me of the running a theatre company and working on set design. However, I am pretty sure that something about the chair would remind my husband of a piece of furniture that has been attacked by a vicious bobcat and then left in the rain. Sometimes our tastes differ, have I mentioned that?

I have another ulterior motive in my recent love for bright and flowing prints, like the shirt featured above, and the dresses below.

As a very tall, very straight hipped, and very fair skinned person, I generally shy away from bright and flowing clothing. I feel that it makes me look ridiculous, as though I am swathed in a bright and cheerful tent and billowing in the wind. However, these days I am a very tall person who is four months pregnant, and my shape is definitely starting to shift. So is my taste in clothing. Bring on the bright and the billowing!

Also, bring on the big accessories. Luckily, the fact that I am a bellydancer means I have lots of necklaces like this one lying about.

In fact, I have a very similar necklace to the one above. I love it, but for some unknown reason I’ve only worn it once. I now resolve to work it into my wardrobe on a regular basis. Wandering through the displays at Anthropologie often reminds me to see the beauty in things I already possess- like this heap of clay pots.

I too possess a (significantly less orderly) heap of battered and empty pots, located in a forlorn jumble to the side of our back porch. One of them is verdant with a random and likely weedy growth, and the rest reproached me throughout the entire last gardening season. Seeing these displayed made me feel marginally better about this eerie similarity to my pitiful pot heap. I am going to guess that my husband will NOT be convinced that this justifies the jumbled heap or makes it any more attractive- so I have put Clean Pots on my to-do list for the next week.

I do not on the other hand happen to have a large collection of home- made aprons, but my domestic goddess sewing sister Mary makes them, and I bet hers rival the ones on display here.

Lets look a little closer at all that china.

I really loved the bee on this plate, and the brightness of the mugs.

There were lots of cheerful pieces of china.

But I was extremely relieved to discover that the plate my (almost) two year old fell in love with, and began to play with, was plastic. Pretty and unbreakable plastic plates have been a staple in my house recently. In fact I may return and pick up some of these some day soon.

There were many things in the store that reminded me of the the farm where I grew up- Anthropologie is all about the farmhouse chic.

This strawberry plate reminded me of my sister Colleen, because of her love of all things French and also because growing up, Colleen headed out to the upper fields and found the first ripe strawberry of the year.

Speaking of strawberries, these ceramic containers are a permanent version of the ubiquitous stacks of cardboard containers that we use to harvest berries every year.

These spindles are old and distressed, but they remind me of the beautiful new Amish crafted spindles on the long dreamed of front porch recently added to my parents big farmhouse.

This display case reminds me of  my mother’s cabinets.

This bouquet in the mason jar reminds me of the huge vases of fresh flowers Mary arranges and brings in weekly when our flower gardens are in season…

I would be very curious, Mary, to see what sort of bouquet you would arrange in one of these vases.

Or perhaps not. They are really not quite Wisconsin farmhouse vases. This long plank table, though, reminds me of the huge Amish crafted wooden table at home- albeit with an added abstract expressionist Southwest twist entirely missing from my Wisconsin home.

This next little table, on the other hand? It reminds me, rather sorely, of the beautiful beat up weathered splintery table in my basement, that I lobbied my husband to include as part of our home decor. Sadly, he was not supportive of the splintery beauty. I love half refinished things, and he does Not. Mary, perhaps something like this could be included in your future home?

Speaking of future and imagined home decor, I really do love this Abstract Expressionist theme.

I have always loved the idea of being a painter, and having a light drenched studio, and sort of generally being surrounded by half painted canvases and the like. Sadly I have slim to no talent with visual arts, included but not limited to basic painting of walls, so (to the relief of my husband, I am sure) I will stick with the harp and dancing, and gazing at the Abstract Expressionist Spring displays at Anthropologie.

Aren’t they pretty? Note to Mary: perhaps you might want to think about lampshades?

Actually, perhaps I should think about and actually purchase multiple lampshades, and in fact a lamp. Mine run the gamut from ripped to scorched. But back to the topic of imaginary bedrooms in imaginary Painter’s Lofts. I fell head over heels for this platform bed.

Oh man. Everything about this is so alluring to me. The bare drywall, high platform, exposed pipes, and dangling wire. The suggestion that this bed exists in a huge open space with glazed windows and light pouring in. I examined it from multiple angles, lost in imagination…

and only returned to earth and practicality when my very good friend pointed out that it sure was a high bed for a toddler to fall off of. True. This fact reminded me that years ago I did live in a one room cabin with a loft bed and a wall of windows and no running water and an extension cord just like that one running mysteriously in the window and down the hill, from whence came power. I loved the beauty and the loneliness of that time- but I swore to myself that when I had a toddler, I would also have running water, and rooms, and stairs instead of a ladder. And I do, and I’m grateful for it… but if I did have a loft bed (and loft life!) I would definitely have a blue parrot chair.

Perhaps I would also have a drafting table, in this fantasy life. Possibly computers have replaced the drafting table, but that is no trouble in my fantasy world, where one could also drink whiskey in a haze of blue smoke while drafting Howard Roark-ian masterpieces of modern architecture.

I could of course mix additional drinks in my southwestern inspired kitchen…

And then, exhausted, I could repose upon this worn leather sofa for rest, respite, and further inspiration.

Ah, this fantasy life is exhausting- but there are bits of every scene that I’d love to bring into my world. The bright pillow on the couch, for example? That I can do. I also have a drawer full of beautiful napkins like the ones in this basket, although they are currently only used to occupy the toddler who throws them on the floor and then stuffs them back in the drawer.

I could always browse through this coffee table book for ideas.

Or simply continue to seek inspiration from my little sister Mary, who seems to have a great grasp of modern vintage style, and who regularly plots and plans in journals that look a lot like these.

Come to think of it, I have a couple books like that myself- it’s just a matter of using them. For me, that reminder is one of the best things about a trip to Anthropologie. It is good to be reminded that there is such potential for beauty all around us- even in a life without a platform loft bed, painting studio, or drafting table. And with that, I am off to look for beauty in my own humble home- quite possibly while wearing bright and flowing printed clothing.

Till next time!

-Kate

 

For more Sweet Ridge Sisters posts on Anthropologie, see here:

anthropologie, slatterie style

Sisters in the City (NYC Edition)

It’s The Little Things In Life That Make Us Rich

By: Mary

On Tuesday I had to return lamb replacer at the Tractor Supply store in Viroqua, WI. After the return was accepted, I decided that I would look around for just a teensy non-purchasing bit. I made it past the flower bulb and seed displays, and the tack isle, and even past the stock tanks that held fuzzy goslings and newly hatched spring chicks. ” I am just looking, not buying” is what I kept telling myself. However, I caught sight of the shelves of rain boots and that that’s when the real non-purchasing test began. One specific pair of boots seemed to be saying to me “Mary Brigid, you really must, must, must(!) purchase me to accompany you on your summer adventures.

I told myself that I didn’t need them, because after all, I already bought a pair of gray rain boots with butterflies on them while in New
York city with Colleen back in January.

But the talking boots at Tractor Supply are size 7, have roosters on them, are strawberry colored, and they really, really seemed like they wanted ever so much to get a lot of mud, muck and dirt on them. So of course I ended up walking out of the store with the boots in my hands. Later I christened them while digging out burdock root in a pasture, raking the yard and garden, and sawing down a lilac.

I don’t regret the purchase, because after all- a girl can’t have too many pairs of rain boots.

It’s the simple things in life like rain boots that make my lifestyle rich. Rich for the discounted sum of $9.99 followed by a session of physical labor in the sun.

More on Mary’s love of rain boots here:

Sisters in the City (NYC Edition)

Rain Boots and Lambs at School

Creek Jumpin’

by Colleen

While Kate may have been busy with her sophisticated city adventures, I was busy showing my friends a good time in the country. Once the snow melted and we had all already tromped a few miles up and up and eventually down the hills surrounding our home in Middle Ridge, WI, it was time to come up with something more daring to do. And so I proposed the idea of a little Polar Bear Swim in the creek. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from my Southern friends, but to my happy surprise they did not look at me like I was a crazy idiot and walk away shaking their heads. “Haha, suckers,” I thought to myself. “You don’t know what you’ve been swindled into.”

What we had in store were the icy waters of Coon Creek, the little swimming hole which my family has populated every summer for as long as I can remember. Spring fed with a surprisingly strong current, the deep green waters have chilled me on even the hottest summer days. Luckily, I was the only one with this knowledge, and not wanting to scare my friends off, I kept it that way. And so, on a sunny but brisk 35 degree day, we made the ten mile drive down to Coon Valley and to the creek.

The troops and I made the walk down the path to the creekside.

Layers were shed.

And consultations about the the intelligence of this move were made.

“Okay guys, now how the heck are we gonna do this??”  Selena, Hermes, and Killian, weaklings all, were worried about the rocks.  Pffffttt, come on!  There was no choice but a heroic leap.  And so we all lined up for the Olympian feat.

Too impatient to listen to their dither, I ran on headlong and leapt into the icy waters, followed closely by the rest.

And it was cold, oh so very cold.  To my utter humiliation, it was noted by everyone that I screamed loudest upon breaking surface.  Texas-what have you done to my Midwestern toughness??  But to climb out of the water was amazing.  The cold penetrated everything but in a way, I was the most awake and alive then I’d ever been.  From my purple feet to my blue lips, I tingled and shook.  And it was lovely.  I looked into the pale noonday sun and just smiled with joy.

I was so proud of my friends, each of which fared as well or better than I in our creek jumpin’ excursion.  To finally find people as crazy as me, what a blessing!  I think I have the toughest Southern friends ever.  And I think that maybe, just maybe, next time I’ll take them to the creek when it’s oh, say 50 degrees?, hotter.  But I don’t think it will be nearly the same.