Sunday, December 7, 2014

Home for the Holidays . . . and All Year Long

Hellebores on my father's antique desk in the dining room.  

I've been wanting to write an update about our house all fall, and I'm finally getting to it now, at the very time that Compass is running a series called Starter Stories, featuring bloggers posting about their first apartments, their starter homes, or the homes that gave them a fresh start.  Urban Compass is a very user-friendly real estate platform that connects folks looking for apartments in NYC with neighborhoods that suit their personality and preferences.   

The side table at night in the dining room this past fall.  
I'll share a photo later this week of it with the manger for Christmas.  

I'm excited to participate in the series, since we've lived in seven apartments, one loft condo, and three houses over the twenty-four years that we've been together, and I know a thing or two about the challenges and rewards of finding just the right place to call home--whether it's your first place or your eleventh!  And while this wee cottage is far from our starter home, it has definitely been our start-over home.  

Old books find their way into every room in the house.

As I've written about before, I believe that a place can save you, if you let it.  Mr. Magpie and I moved back here to Portland, Maine, after two decades of school and jobs had carried us off to distant places.  Returning to the city where we first met was probably the most important decision we've ever made for ourselves as individuals and as a couple.  We'd gone through a heartbreaking time in our lives, and we desperately needed to move and start fresh.  But we couldn't just sell our loft condo in Massachusetts, buy a house here in Maine, and be done with it.  The recession had dropped to its lowest point, and our condo's mortgage was under water.  Selling wasn't an option. So, like many other folks at the time, we rented the condo out to tenants, and then became tenants again ourselves.  After several years of being homeowners, it was a bit of an adjustment, but a necessary one if we wanted to live in Maine.

An autumn vignette in the living room

We rented here in Portland for a couple of years, saving our pennies and biding our time until we were finally able to buy our home in the summer of 2012.  It was actually a more exciting day to me than the day we bought our first home.  As some longtime readers know, during the first month after we moved in, we set to work right away, making this place our own.  One of the first things we did was to paint the rooms in shades inspired by the Maine coast.  In the two years since then we have expanded the gardens outside each summer, turning them into tumbling, colorful cottage gardens.

The Hobbit Garden in midsummer, with phlox, bee balm, Abraham Darby roses, lavender, salvia, and petunias blooming.

Scarlet runner beans and nasturtiums at the back door.  In the foreground is a Bridal veil spirea.
Looking from the spot where the Hobbit Garden (named for its curving wattle fence) transitions into the little woodland garden.  On the other side of the fence are our herb gardens and the patio.  The wild looking arbor is made from branches and this past summer it was covered in scarlet runner beans and sweet peas.

One corner of the herb garden ( taken in Fall 2013, while we were building the arbor)
As much as I love the gardens, I find myself also loving winter hibernation in this house.  The Christmas season never fails to stir the most domestic of feelings in my magpie heart.  As soon as the first snowflakes fall, I'm lighting a fire in the fireplace, baking shortbread, and stringing fairy lights in nearly every room.  I can't help myself.  

Christmas 2012

Our bedroom/sleeping loft
A few days ago we made our now annual trek to a local tree farm to cut down the Christmas tree. It was a blustery, frigid afternoon, and the muddy pathways between the trees were coated with a sheer slick of ice, so it was tricky to even get to the trees, let alone saw one down, but we managed, bringing home a smaller one than usual to fit into one corner of the living room.  

Late afternoon at Staples Tree Farm

I've also draped the mantle with fresh greens from the trees in our yard, tucking in pinecones that I've iced with silver glitter as well as the bird nests I've found on the ground over the last couple of autumns.  Our yard is home to many birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and other wild beasties, and we feed them seeds and water year round.  For Mr. Magpie and me, our home wouldn't be complete without the wild creatures outside as well as the wild ones inside (Scout and Dill, our tuxedo cats). 

A closeup of one of the nests on this year's holiday mantle.  I'll have more photos of the whole mantle and other decorations soon!

The kitchen windowsill at suppertime with a string of fabulous Starry Starry Lights

The tree is now up and decorated, but I've still got work to do.  There's the manger to finish, and the sparkling winter village.  The ever-thoughtful Mr. Magpie bought extra strings of fairy lights, so you know I'll be plugging them into every available outlet.  I think it's time to play some Christmas CDs and mull some apple cider.  The holidays equal home for me, and this year more than ever, I'll be grateful to start a new year in our little white cape beneath the great white pine.  


  1. Such lovely images of your home & gardens, it certainly shows how much you enjoy it. The holidays are looking very merry & bright ... thanks so much for sharing.

    1. Thanks, Susan. It will definitely be a merry & bright Christmas. ;)

  2. Oh what a delightful post!

    And with promises of more delights, in all the click-able links, contained here.

    Which I will return to later, and enjoy looking at each one.

    So happy that all this has come to happen, for you. With much work on your part of course.

    Oh yes! Faerie Lights all over!!! I so agree. ,-)))))


    1. I'm so glad that you enjoyed it, Tessa. When a home brings this much joy, it doesn't feel like work at all. :)

  3. danke für die tollen bilder!!! eine schöne woche wünscht angie

  4. Just gorgeous! I love seeing your home and the snow.

    1. Thank you, Marilyn! Although, I have to admit I'm often envious when you post your daily garden photos on FB. Your growing season is soooooo much longer than ours! :)

  5. You know you've done well when slowly and surely you've made yourself a "Home Sweet Home" ~ just beautiful!

    1. Thank you so much, Lisa! Wishing you the happiest of holidays. xo


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