Dear Angelene,

Your mom's band goes on tour this week, so we had a family dinner to hold us over until we all come together again.

My idea for our table came from Kathleen at Yellow Rose Arbor.  Last week, she chose an inspiration item for her table setting -- a cute little bluebird teapot wearing even cuter red tennies.  Her table grew from her inspiration.  So this week, I decided to try the same thing -- find some inspiration.  A watering can at TJ Maxx caught my eye.  I love black and white stripes and bright colors, and the watering can had them all!

Then serendipity!  I found three black and white mugs. at TJ Maxx.  They were on sale for $2 each.  The rest of the table was easy.  The flowers are recycled from Easter.  I peeled away the outer petals from old roses,  put them in small votives, and added some baby's breath and recycled yellow ribbon.  Then, to make the votives seem more important, I put them in hurricanes.  Presto!

Here's my place setting and yours.  Finding sippy cups to match the tablescape has become a wonderful challenge!

Many of these items are from around my house.  The black and white tray was one of my first home decorating acquisitions -- back when your dad was just a bit older than you are now and we lived in a tiny in-law unit in Berkeley, California.  I felt extremely grown-up buying that tray!  It's a quarter-century old now, and I love it every bit as much as I always did (and might explain my attraction to the zebra mugs).

If ever trapped on a desert island and allowed only one set of dishes, it will be my Spode (there will be tablescaping on my desert island)!  The black and white polka-dot casserole dish is the real deal -- Spode.  Everything else I got at wonderful discount stores, without which I could not pursue my dish hobby.

Here's a photo for you of the entire table (I got to sit next to you this time)!

What's this blurry photo?  Your booster seat was forgotten at home, so we set you up on two law books.  They first belonged to my dad (your Great Grandpa Jackson, whom you never had the pleasure of meeting), and then the books became mine.

See the spot on the top book, Corpus Juris Vol. 63?  When I was cleaning up after dinner, I stepped on something moist and squishy!  Yuck!  It reminded me of stepping on a slug.  Slugs used to get into our Berkeley in-law unit, which was part of a very beautiful garden.  But this time, the squishy thing was a beet!  The beet fell from your plate, to your lap, to Corpus Juris Vol. 63, to the floor.  And forever more, Volume 63 is imprinted with your beet from yesterday's dinner.

I don't know whose law books these will become someday -- maybe yours?  But now you know the story of the purple spot on Volume 63.

One of my wishes for you, Angelene, is to seek and find inspiration in your life.  My dad's stories about the law and his books -- which I used to dust in his office on the weekend -- inspired me.  Our wonderful table last night grew from the inspiration someone shared about her own creative process.  Each moment of inspiration is a gift.

Inspiration might arrive in the form of music.  We already know that your mama's music charms you beyond words. 

Inspiration also might come from books that you dust with love, stories that people tell you, or little bluebirds wearing red tennies!  Be on the lookout, Angelene!

All my love,

Grandma J

 P.S.  Special thanks to Katherine at Yellow Rose Arbor for inspiring this message to my granddaughter and for the cutest bluebird I've seen!

Table Artists

Dear Angelene,

Your Grandma J (me) loves dishes, as did your great-great-grandmothers, Maggie Lambert Jackson and Gertrude "Tudie" Pierson.  A few months ago, I found out there's other people like me who love to set tables.  And we have a name -- tablescapers.  I like to think of us as table artists.

As you grow up, Angelene, look for a way to express the artist inside of you.  Someday you may encounter a wall that prevents you from going forward.  But you can craft passage to the other side by using your creativity.

Angelene, these photos are for you -- so you can remember Easter 2010 -- and for my fellow tablescapers (not a few of whom are moms and grandmas, too)! 

The silver candlesticks belonged to one of my grandmas (either Maggie or Tudie -- I can't remember).  I took the ribbon off my Easter Lily from the grocery store and tied bows around the candlesticks.  The bows repeated the yellow in the chargers, which were from Crate and Barrel -- only $14.95 for four.   Grandma Jackson -- Maggie -- gave me the Buttercup silverware, which I treasure.  And the white dinner plates and Franciscan salad plates are not only from TJ Maxx, but TJ Maxx on clearance!!

I only had eight of everything -- and Angelene, you made nine.  So you had your own special place setting!  I hope you'll use it every Easter!  I found the bib at Fresh Vintage Shop on Etsy, another gathering place for creative souls.  They have wonderful handmade clothing and accessories for children:


In its real life, the rabbit is a casserole dish, not a vase for bright pink roses!

Some eggs on the table were real, some plastic, some paper mache, and some cloth -- whatever was on sale!

The bird's nest came with fake eggs, and I placed some real eggs on top that we dyed the weekend before Easter.  The real eggs jazzed up the nest a bit!!  The green polka-dot pitcher held maple syrup for the french toast casserole.  The pitcher came from pre-Easter foray to Marshall's on Saturday, when I should have been cooking!

The bunny mugs held the fruit salad.  And each guest received a favor with candy and a memo clip.  I cut up Easter cards (the chicks with sunglasses) to put on the clip and add some whimsy.


Here's a birds-eye view of a setting.

And here's the entire table:

Your mom (my wonderful daughter-in-law, Stefanie) took many of these photos.  Your dad helped me cook up a storm.  And my brother gave me a camera for Christmas so I could start taking pictures.  This really was a family affair. 

Easter was pretty successful!  Here you are on your way home from Grandma J's!

Many thanks to Susan of  "Between Naps on the Porch" for hosting Tablescape Thursdays.  I've been enjoying Thursdays for months now and am pleased to contribute my Easter table.

All my love to Angelene,
Grandma J

I'm Gonna' Be How Old?

Dear Angelene,

You're gonna' be one year old, that's how old! And your grandparents risked life and limb to get your backyard ready for the birthday party next week. Grandma J had a hard time with the heat at the nursery when we picked out flowers for the flower boxes (105 degrees heat index today in Chicago). And Grandpa Dave and Grandma Esa got battered when the brand new party tent they put up decided to fall over.

But we soldiered on, got all the flowers planted (Grandma Esa and your mom began planting, and then your dad took charge and finished). Your mom swam with you in your little pool, and she washed more fish-themed dinnerware than she probably wants to see in a lifetime (Grandma J found a good sale). And we decided on final tasks for the week: cake, balloons, flowers, party favors, last-minute items, and, of course, live goldfish to give to all your friends. Grandma Esa is exhausted (she worked on your birthday party since 7:30 this morning), Grandma J almost had heat stroke, and Grandpa Dave hauled, drove, assembled, and gardened -- all for Angelene's birthday. Whew! We're almost ready for your big day!

I have no wise message to slip into this letter, no family memory to tell you about (other than the one we made today). I just want to let you know how much you are loved, how everyone is making this birthday special for a special little girl, and to post this wonderful picture of you!

All my love, Grandma J

Princess and the Pea

Dear Angelene,

When you read the story of the Princess and the Pea, you'll know why I got you this fish rug to sit on at your birthday party. You hate sitting on the grass because it prickles, and you might have to sit on grass because your party will be a fish-themed swimming party in your backyard. The rug will be our secret. Not everyone may understand the importance of your having a fish rug. But Grandma J does.

In the Princes and the Pea, a bedraggled girl shows up at the Prince's palace during a storm. The girl says she's a princess, and the Prince believes her. Plus, he thinks she's sort of cute. So he invites her to stay at the palace that night until the storm ends.

The Prince's mom doesn't think this girl is a princess, but mom needs proof she's right. She's afraid her son might fall in love with a non-princess. So mom puts a pea under a stack of mattresses. Mom knows the girl won't feel the pea if she's used to sleeping on straw. And if she sleeps on straw, then she's not a princess. But the girl feels the pea! She's a real princess!

Angelene, you're a real princess, too. That's why Grandma J wants you to have a soft rug to sit on at your birthday party.

A word of warning about this whole princess thing, though. You notice how the princess showed up at the palace bedraggled because she was out in the storm? Well, Grandma J knows she was out in the storm helping people who wouldn't be able to crash at a palace at the end of the night. Princesses are kind, gracious, and hard-working. Like your mom, Grandma Esa, and Grandma J.

When my son first introduced me to your mom -- she and your dad must have been on three or four dates by then -- I knew immediately your mom was a real princess. No Princess and the Pea test for her. Grandma J knew right away she was the real deal.

My dearest granddaughter, if you ever find this fish rug in an attic or old box some day when you're grown, please remember that it represents how much your Grandma J loves you. She didn't want the grass to prickle you at your first birthday party.

Love, Your Grandma J
P.S. Angie: Here's the picture that sent me to Target to get your fish rug. You were NOT happy sitting on the grass this day!

Door to Destiny

Dear Angelene,

Your papa took lots of photos at the Congress Theater on Saturday night. Your mama titled the black-and-white photo above the Door to Destiny. It leads to the stage -- to her destiny.

The photo has a stylized 1950s feel to it -- maybe because the man wears a white shirt and tie. I like it.

My favorite is your mom's band -- The Right Now -- getting ready to go through that door. The hallway comes to life in the second photo. Those are 1960s acid colors. I do love the sixties -- I grew up with the Beatles.

I also love the last picture of the band's back-up singers. They're in the dressing room getting ready to go on. Grandma J's favorite color is orange, but I'd like the picture even if it weren't tinted orange.

Your dad won awards in school for his photographs and paintings. He comes by his talent naturally from your great-grandfather Edward Jackson (my father). When my dad died, I discovered in our basement thousands of photographs that he had taken. I did not know the pictures existed. Uncle Bruce and I hope to catalogue and electronically preserve them for you and your children.

I'm not sure if my dad once believed that photography was his destiny. I do know he believed it saved his life during World War II. His platoon was lined up on a field, and an officer asked if anyone had photography experience. My dad raised his hand and was removed from his platoon to become an army photographer. Sadly, he said that everyone in his former platoon was killed during the war. I wonder if that's why he stopped pursuing his destiny -- if that's why we didn't know about the photographs in the basement.

Music, photography, art, writing. Ms. Angelene, whatever your destiny, you have creative genes.

Love, Your Grandma J

"I'm with the band."

Dear Angelene,

When I was a teenager, I always wanted to say "I'm with the band." I figured any girl who could say those words was popular and had a boyfriend. But the closest I came (and it wasn't very close) was going to the Cellar, a teenage nightclub in Arlington Heights, where I was both the secretary of the Shadows of Knight Fan Club and the hat-check girl. There weren't too many hats, but I also collected everyone's dollar as they came through the door.

But last night, at your mom's spectacular performance at the Congress Theater, I got to say those words, "I'm with the band." I arrived at the Congress early, could not stand too long in line waiting for the venue to open, and I said those magic words. They worked, I got in, and the experience was just as sweet as if it had happened 50 years ago.

Your mom's band, The Right Now, performed as the opening act for another band -- but everyone said The Right Now should have been the headliner. Your Grandpa Dave said "The Right Now owned the Congress Theater last night"! And I said that the band "conquered the Congress"! The Right Now was golden. It was quite a night.

The picture at the top of this post shows your mom on stage at the Congress last night wearing her beautiful Betsey Johnson dress with a purple tutu. There's also a picture of The Right Now poster, a portrait of your mom, and a shot of the entire band during the soundcheck.

After the concert, I felt high on the triumph of the band and the wonderful little family made up of your papa (my son), your mama (my daughter-in-law), and you (my Angelene). There's also your Grandpa Dave and Grandma Esa, your Uncle Bruce and Uncle Ryan, and me.

I'm with the band.

Love, Your Grandma J

Left Hand Turns

Dear Angelene,

My mother (your great-grandmother) would only make right turns when driving in the little town we lived in, Arlington Heights, Illinois. She was afraid to turn left in front of oncoming traffic. She could get all over town making right hand turns in her Buick -- but she never left the village boundaries when she was at the wheel.

I wrote a short story about this in college called "Left Hand Turn," so now you know what the title of this post means.

My intention in writing this "Dear Angelene" blog is to tell you things I would like you to know. You are not quite one year old, so you can't understand these things now. But maybe this blog will be here when you're old enough to find interest in these words.

For now, I just want to tell you to make peace with left hand turns so that you can face the oncoming traffic without fear. There's more I want to impart to you, but that's a good start for today.

Love, Your Grandma J