Enjoying the Simple Pleasures of Life, While Living in a Complicated World


A Tea Story: Blue Calico Transferware

A Tea Story~ Blue Calico Transferware


When I was first married, I discovered my favorite color… cobalt blue, and incorporated into my decorating throughout the house. After we moved back to Minnesota, I was going to school and taking care of my parents. Life was very hectic, and then our daughter came along. For us, going for rides in the Minnesota or Wisconsin countryside was our way of escaping the confines of the city and busy schedules. We would pack a lunch, get in the car and go for a drive. One day, on a day trip to Red Wing, Minnesota we discovered a wonderful china shop, and that’s when I spied it…cobalt blue and white dinnerware. The English pattern was ‘Blue Calico’ and I fell in love with it. There was one drawback, it was more than what we could afford on our budget, and I dreamed of having a lovely set to serve company during dinners and special occasions.

Years passed by, and we were approaching our 30th anniversary. I can say that after 30 years of buying gifts, we were both at a loss what to get each other. Our custom was to go out for a lovely dinner, or I made a special meal for us to enjoy at home. After dinner, we exchanged cards and gifts.

The weekend before our anniversary, we were shopping at Marshall’s where we each went our separate ways. John headed over to the shoe department and I went to look for sheets and towels. A few minutes later, I spied John in the housewares section of the store and rather curious, began making my way over in his direction. Just as I turned into the aisle, he spun around with a large dinner plate in his hand, along with a huge grin on his face. In his hands was a plate, not just any ordinary plate, but a plate I had always wished for….Blue Calico! My face must have registered surprise, delight, and awe…he began laughing. “Where did you find it?”, I signed in huge sweeping gestures. John stepped aside and I could see he had filled the cart with all manner of dishes and the sale price was incredible, compared to the retail price. That’s when he asked me, “How many sets do you want…8, 10, 12? We’ll have to see if we can find more pieces at other stores.”

For rest of that Saturday, we drove around the Twin Cities buying every piece of Blue Calico we could find. I recall being concerned we might get into an accident and all of the lovely dishes packed into our car would be smashed. When we reached the Roseville store, we were close to completing a service for eight. Imagine our relief when we discovered the store had a huge inventory of Blue Calico. We filled up our cart to complete a service for eight, along with additional serving pieces. I made my way to the checkout, and John lagged behind. The girl at the register remarked how pretty the dishes were, and I told her how many years I had been waiting to buy the set. She double wrapped each dish in paper, and carefully stacked them in my cart. Heading out to the car I noted…not only did I have my dream china, we could easily afford a service for eight!!

The backseat was overflowing with bags of Blue Calico, and as I stood next to the car contemplating where to put more dishes, John appeared from around the front of the car…pushing another cart!
“Surprise! I got you another set for eight! Happy Anniversary!”

The next weekend was our 30th anniversary and I made a very special dinner for us. The table was resplendent with blue and white calico dishes, lovely roses, antique linens, glassware and candles. In fact, candles were burning throughout the entire house that evening, bathing the rooms in a soft, romantic glow. The highlight of the evening was dessert. Every year I make my favorite wedding cake recipe~ a white cake covered with white, butter-cream frosting. In candlelight, it looked more beautiful than ever before, served on plates with deep cobalt blue and white…my anniversary china.


Breathe in a Memory

~Breathe In a Memory~

There are perfumes that bring to mind very special occasions, particularly~ anniversaries, promotions and “I-was-thinking- of-you-gifts”.  I can look at each bottle, and remember with delight unwrapping the package and the surprise of a scent I’ve always wanted to try, or a well-loved perfume I’ve enjoyed over the years. Scents that are soap and water fresh, redolent of flowers or gentle notes of flowers and herbs. Sensual and seductive perfume, lovely for a special evening.

White Shoulders~ I wore on my wedding day. Maybe Baby~ I received on my 35th anniversary, a scent I had never tried given to me by hubby and is now a favorite. Bvlgari Voile de Jasmine~ I love to wear everyday, and is one of my favorite ‘soap and water’ clean scents.  Joy~lovely for an evening out. Windsong~ I spray on sachets in my sweater drawer. Chloe Narcisse~is an old favorite, perfect when going out for a fun day shopping, or out with friends. Even after a lovely perfume bottle is empty, I remove the cap and keep it in my lingerie drawer, leaving a lingering scent.

All of these perfumes I keep as warm memories each time they touch my skin, breathing in the moment.

A Tea Story: My Mother’s Depression Glassware

~My Mother’s Depression Glassware~

My mother and father were married over 50 years, most of it lived at their home in Oak Park Heights. The house is no longer there, torn down for a federal bridge project that is waiting to be constructed over the St. Croix River. In their last years living on Peabody Avenue, they experienced more health ailments and physical problems arose. The final straw was when my father broke a hip, and they needed to move to a one floor townhouse to accommodate his needs. Their house had been put up for sale, and I began the process of sorting through decades of accumulated items throughout the house.

My mom’s kitchen was very basic, it didn’t even have a dishwasher. However, it had cabinets that reached to the ceiling and one day, I had to clean out the very top cupboard shelves behind square doors. I had never seen either of my parents open the doors and take something out, or put anything in the cupboards. My mother sat at the kitchen table and watched me as I climbed a tall stepladder to reach the doors. I asked her, “What do you think is in here?” She answered matter-of-factly. “I haven’t opened those doors in decades, I couldn’t begin to tell you what might be in there.”

The doors held fast, and from the looks of it, had been sealed over the years by a myriad of paint layers. Undeterred, I found a thin knife and began the arduous process of cutting through the layers, and it took over a half hour to work my way around the perimeter of the door. I took hold of the door knob, and looked over my shoulder and smiled at her. She stood at the bottom of the ladder, curious as to what I would find. With a tug, the door opened and I peered inside. “Well…what do you see?”, she asked.

The cupboard was filled to the brim with glassware, in the form of several sizes of brown amber plates neatly stacked, along with matching cups and saucers. I took hold of a plate and showed it to her. She could barely speak, and covered her mouth with her hand in astonishment. “Oh…my.”, was all she could say, as she took the plate and sat back down at the table. I quickly climbed down the ladder. I was just as surprised as she was. “Mom, do you know where these came from?”

Her memory for the last year or so, had been faltering, and she thought they had come from a relative. “It’s depression glass and was popular years ago. They’re now yours. I never used them all these years, and won’t need them in the new house.”

That afternoon, I opened more cupboards, removed plates of several different sizes, cups and saucers, bowls, and a creamer and sugar. My mother and I spent the afternoon together, reminiscing about dinners and family get-togethers while wrapping each piece in newspaper, and packing glassware into boxes. That evening, I brought them to our apartment and placed them in a closet. Little did I know, a few months later, my mother would suddenly pass away without warning. She never got to see the new house my husband and I bought, and moved into with our daughter. Months after we settled into the house, I unpacked all of the dishes and placed them on the back, bottom shelf of a large china cupboard in our dining room. A few weeks ago, I discovered them. I’m planning a special tea this spring in the garden, and inviting my cousins, where I’ll tell them the story about mother’s depression glassware.

There’s a saying, “You can’t go home again.”  In the case of my parents home, that is true. However, I have the memory of that lovely day I spent with my mother in her kitchen, every time I see her set of depression glassware.

It’s French Press Friday

~Coffee Heaven, In a Cup~

I love tea & french press coffee. I write about tea, and photograph desserts, china and all things related to the wonderful qualities that are present in each cup of this marvelous brew. However, each and every Friday, is dedicated to drinking & serving french press coffee.

A few weeks ago, my Bunn coffeemaker finally brewed it’s last pot of coffee and I decided to not replace it. That’s correct…NOT replace it. Not only does it take up counter-space, it’s most positive feature is that it makes a pot of coffee for more than 3 or 4 people. From now on,  I’m making french press whenever I want a perfectly brewed cup of coffee. Today… it’s ‘French Press Friday’, (to be perfectly candid, I use my press anytime during the week) and I’m  enjoying several cups of perfectly brewed coffee as I check my email, blogs, and begin editing photographs depicting desserts and tea. I love the irony….

Here’s today’s french press photograph~ a Spode ‘Blue Room’ cup and saucer, filled with medium roast, french press coffee and accompanied by a yummy eccles cake!

So today…share a cup of this full-bodied, smooth coffee with someone you love.
I hope you have a lovely Friday, and the goodness continues on into the weekend!

Creating a Craft Area~A Place for Creativity & Inspiration

Creating a Craft Area~A Place for Creativity & Inspiration

A few years ago, I won an essay competition on a public television program, where I had to describe how I would transform a piece of unpainted furniture, namely, a cupboard with shelves and drawers. They shipped it to my home, and as I wrote in my essay, began the transformation into a craft cupboard with a padded bulletin board, and create a craft table to match.

I started with the paint, Old Century Colors in buttermilk (#2030) and painted the inside shelving and outside. It’s a wonderful shade that blends with any color, and I love how it lightened up the entire cupboard! Next, I found fabric for the padded bulletin board. The board is a nice feature to place patterns and pictures for inspiration. Lastly, I designed a fold away craft table and painted it in the same color as the cabinet. The table folds and for storage behind the cabinet!

You can never have enough storage for crafts… and the two lower drawers can  hold patterns. paper or fabric and designs in hanging files! Remove the hanging files, and you have storage for bulkier items.

The table is a wonderful addition for cutting out fabric, paper for stamping, or working on projects.When crafting friends come over, you have room enough for six people to spend an afternoon or evening together. One great feature… you can use it for a lovely buffet table with plenty of room to set out food for family and friends!

To have a dedicated space for crafting makes it more pleasurable, more organized and you can spend time dreaming or working on projects surrounded by inspiration. As you can see, it doesn’t take a large amount of space, you can have a simple cabinet, along with a fold up table! I use mine everyday, and find it makes the simple pleasure of crafting a joy!

A Passion for Blue & White China

I  have a passion for blue and white! In my home, you will find the deep, vibrant color~ cobalt blue, throughout my home in china, decorating accessories, crafts, and I continue to find ways to incorporate it in my home and life. When I discovered china with cobalt blue, I was in heaven!

~Annie’s Blue & White China Collection~

A Mismatched Tea Set

A Collection of Cups From Tea Sets

Blue & White Tea Set on an IKEA Enameled Tray

The beauty of blue & white is appealing to many people in the clean, refreshing contrast of pristine white and deep, vibrant blue. My husband surprised me with my dream china~ Blue Calico (second cup from the bottom) and it’s my anniversary china used for family gatherings and special dinners. However, that’s another story, I’ll  be sharing with you…

Mariann Hayes Photography~ Moonlight in Minnesota


Quote of the Day~ Henry David Thoreau

~Quote of the Day~

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

Henry David Thoreau~ Walden: Or, Life in the  Woods

Quote of the Day~ George Elliston

” How beautiful a day can be
When kindness touches it!
~George Elliston

Believing in the Kindness of Strangers

My oldest brother, James, came to live with our family in the Summer of 2008 when we learned he was terminally ill, after he survived a terrible fall in his home. It was through the kindness of strangers his life was spared, and during the next two years, learned a great deal as his caregiver. Jim passed away June 2010, and over the last two years of his life, I came to appreciate many things in life. This is how my journey began, believing in the kindness of strangers…

I knew something was wrong when I couldn’t reach my eldest brother, Jim, by telephone. At first, I thought he might be out with friends or shopping. As the day went on and my calls went unanswered, I became worried. I contacted the police in Lenexa, Kansas, and requested a welfare check at his home. This began a chain of events involving complete strangers trying to save my brother’s life. From this experience, my life changed by having faith in the kindness of strangers.

An officer called me after he found my brother lying on the floor. Jim had been on the floor eighteen hours and had gone without food, water, or medications. I knew the situation was critical. He had been immobile for many hours and his kidneys would have begun to shut down, leading to kidney failure. I thanked the officer for his help and when I asked if an ambulance was on the way. “Your brother declined medical attention. I cannot force him to go to the hospital. He’s lying on his bed and will call as soon as possible. I’m on my way back to the station,” he matter-of-factly replied.

Jim never called back. He was 500 miles away and needed medical attention. How was I going to get help to him? I didn’t know any of his friends; I only knew they were ham radio operators. One of them, Warden, lived in a nearby town. I thought our brother, Greg, who was also a ham radio operator, might have his phone number. He did! I called Warden and left this message on his voice mail:

“Hello Warden. This is Jim’s sister, Annie, from Minnesota. I was unable to reach him and sent the Lenexa police to his home. They found him on the floor. He’s alive, but he was on the floor for over 18 hours and refuses to go to the hospital. I don’t know what to do. Please call me back as soon as you get this message.” Thirty minutes later, he called from his cell phone. “I just got your message. I’m on my way over to Jim’s. I’ll call you as soon as I can.” This man, a complete stranger to me, held my brother’s life in his hands.

Warden phoned an hour later and was very concerned. The situation was serious. I needed to get there as soon as possible. He had arranged for several ham radio operators to stay with him until I arrived. As my brother and I drove to Kansas, Warden called my cell phone with regular updates. Once we arrived, it took a few hours to persuade Jim to go to the hospital. After he suffered another fall, we called an ambulance, and after more  persuading, they whisked him away and when he arrived to the emergency room was admitted in critical condition. He was hours away from developing permanent kidney damage.

I believe the kindness of strangers changed my life. After a long hospitalization and rehabilitation, Jim moved into our home. Warden and his wife have become dear friends. One of my most important experiences that has touched my life… I will never forget… how having faith in the kindness of this one time stranger, saved my brother’s life.