Tag Archives: windows

Twelve Treats of Christmas

My taste runs toward the savory. If offered my dessert first I’ll probably refuse. I like my veggies and my salad and my protein. But when the second week of December comes, I remember fondly all the sweet and wintry food associated with past Christmas festivities and traditions. As I sit at my desk this month, with the darkening sky outside my window and the cozy lights inside, I feel ready to share memories of some seasonal treats. For the next twelve days, starting on Monday, I’ll post one a day until Christmas. I hope these posts rekindle some of your own memories of family celebrations and good cheer.

"Studio Window with Little Lights," Carol Crump Bryner, gouache and colored pencil, 2010

“Studio Window with Little Lights,” Carol Crump Bryner, gouache and colored pencil, 2010


March Window

The month that “comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb” brings with it the first signs of spring. Color creeps back into the landscape, the birdsong can be heard again, and the winds blow away the dark clouds of a long winter.

This is the twelfth and last of my monthly “Windows.” Being able to share these monoprints and the words of my great-grandmother Lydia Jane Hall with all of you readers has been one of my favorite parts of creating this blog. Her words continue to inspire my painting, my writing, and my day-to-day life, and, like her, I welcome the spring that’s coming and the “good old summertime” that isn’t far behind.

"March Window," Carol Crump Bryner, monoprint

“March Window,” Carol Crump Bryner, monoprint

Saturday, March 2, 1912 – “March coming in like a lion. Hope it will soon be lamb like.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Tuesday, March 31, 1913 – “A beautiful early morning. The high winds of old March are howling now and hope they will cease soon as this is the last day.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Thursday, March 10, 1921 – “A nice day after the shower. The grass is beginning to look green where the snow lays. The children are well and happy out in the open. Their colds do not trouble much, only the use of handkerchiefs.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Tuesday, March 4, 1924 – “A beautiful day. A bright sunshine all day. The snow has certainly gone today, or we can see it is letting go. There is enough left yet. The water has been running off the hills all day. The boulevard covered – the streams are full. Soon the traveling will be good. The green grass will take the place of snow. The birds will come back to build their nests among the green leaves and sing their songs, and they will be welcomed by us all.” – Lydia Jane Hall

See also: April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December, January, February Windows.

On Wednesday:  Letters

February Window

The New England landscape in February is short on color. It still has an “Ethan Frome-ish” feeling about it. But it’s a short month, and there are days that brighten its passage. Red appears on February 14th when valentines, roses, and chocolates celebrate the day. My mother always made a cherry pie to celebrate George Washington’s February 22 birthday. We ate our slices after the evening meal garnished with big blobs of homemade whipped cream. I’m sorry the Presidential birthdays were merged into one work-friendly holiday. It seemed right and fun to celebrate George and Abe on their own special days, and then to start looking forward to spring.

"February Window," Carol Crump Bryner, monoprint

“February Window,” Carol Crump Bryner, monoprint

Sunday, February 11, 1912 – “Four degrees below zero in morning. Zero at nine o’clock. Severe winter weather. All at home from church.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Sunday, February 22, 1914 – Morning clear. Cold, near zero in afternoon, cloudy. South winds and very chilly. Looks like storming. The traveling very badly drifted. Snow blowing in, filling up the paths.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Friday, February 22, 1924 – “A very nice morning for Washington’s Birthday. The ground covered with snow. Quite a snow and crusty good sleighing and sliding. Hard for autos. Moonlight evening. Good time for sleigh rides. Several horse sleds have been out but no ox teams. How the times have changed since the days of Washington. Very progressive. Ellsworth and Agnes have been spending the evening listening to the President’s speech through Radio.” – Lydia Jane Hall

See also:  April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December, and January Windows.

On Monday:  Tractors

The Parlor

Gone are the days when guests were greeted at the front door and led into the parlor. “ ‘Will you walk into my parlor?’ said the spider to the fly.” The old poem illustrates the formality of a place where visitors were, in a way, held captive. Because the parlor was where first impressions were made, furniture had to be of good quality. Family portraits and sconces of light adorned the papered walls. Company sat in upright chairs and paid visits. The parlor was a buffer between the outside and inside life of the house.

My ancestors had their picture taken in a parlor that is probably not the parlor at the farm. They appear to be at a wedding. You can see the bride reflected in the mirror. It may have been my grandmother Agnes and grandfather Ellsworth’s wedding or maybe the wedding of Alice Hall to Harry Dickerman. The seated family members wear their best clothes. They look uncomfortable. But I’ve always loved the ghostly look of this parlor photo.

From left: Unidentified relative, William E. Hall, Lydia Jane Hall, Lydia Reed Davidson Hart, Edgar Hall

From left: Unidentified relative, William E. Hall, Lydia Jane Hall, Lydia Reed Davidson Hart, Edgar Hall

The farm parlor I remember was a nearly square room with three windows and three doors. It faced south, and provided warmth, light, and sunshine. Cherished paintings and portraits hung on the wallpaper. It was sparsely furnished. A piano took up most of the west wall, and my grandmother’s planters most of the south wall. In one corner an antique marble-topped table held a basket of old photographs. My grandmother often sent me home from my visits with a photo or two from that basket. I’ve used many of them here in my blog posts.

In my mother’s day the parlor had taken on the role of a multi-purpose room. The family gathered around the piano after Thanksgiving dinner to sing songs accompanied on piano by my Aunt Hattie. Toys sometimes littered the floor. Because it was the warmest room in the house, (shutting all three doors kept in the heat from the cast iron radiator and the warmth of the sun shining through the windows) my great-grandmother sat in the parlor and watched her grandchildren play as chilling drafts of air cooled other rooms.

In 1930, when my mother was twelve, her three-year-old brother Luther died of pneumonia, and his little body lay in a coffin in the parlor during the days of mourning. Friends and family and neighbors came in and out through the front door to say goodbye to the child.

But as life went on and the days grew brighter for my grandparents and mother and aunts and uncles, the room again became a warm and cheerful place. The parlor hosted card games and club meetings. In 1932 the local newspaper ran this photograph of my mother and other members of the “Capable Cooks 4-H Club” doing a demonstration called “Many Ways with Carrots.” I wish I’d been there in the parlor to see that lesson. I would like to have known exactly how many ways there are with carrots.

"Many Ways with Carrots," cooking demonstration, Janet Hall standing on right, 1932

“Many Ways with Carrots,” cooking demonstration, Janet Hall standing on right, 1932

My mother, standing on the right, looks tidy and professional. Because I was a 4-H member myself, I know that 4-H cooking demonstrations have to be detailed and exact. My mother cooked that way for the rest of her life. She measured her ingredients closely, cut her cucumber slices to a paper thinness, soaked cut onions in ice water, and greased and flowered her baking pans so thoroughly that not a single crumb would be left behind after the cake was turned out onto the plate. She learned her lessons well, and was always a “capable cook.”

In my dining room in Alaska, I have a Christmas cactus grown from a cutting of my grandmother’s original plant. In this photo my mother stands in front of one of the parlor windows. Through the window you can see the plants my grandmother Agnes grew – geraniums, Christmas cactus, amaryllis, and begonias – and also, reflected in the glass, the silhouette of the barn across the street with its rooftop cupola.

Janet and the parlor window, 1942

Janet and the parlor window, 1942

On Wednesday:  The Tree

The Room With Nine Doors

I was proud of my grandparents’ living room. It seemed huge, and it had nine doors. How could I not brag about a room with so many ways in and so many ways out?

For the first year of my life the living room was where my extended family rocked and cuddled and cared for me. As I grew older, my brother and cousins joined me there to play hide-and-seek, watch television, and listen to the aunts and uncles chat over Sunday afternoon tea.

Me in my playpen near the doors to back staircase and back bedroom

Me in my playpen near the doors to back staircase and back bedroom

My grandmother let my mother and her siblings and friends push aside the carpet for roller skating, parties, and dancing. This was only possible because in the 1920’s my grandparents tore down walls and turned what had been two or three rooms into this one large space.

First Floor - Hall Farmhouse (after 1927), Carol Crump Bryner

First Floor – Hall Farmhouse (after 1927), Carol Crump Bryner

My great-grandmother wrote in her journals about the parlor, the sitting room, the front room, the west room and the downstairs “chambers.” She never mentioned a living room. I don’t know what the old footprint of the rooms was, but there was originally a large central chimney with a fireplace on each side, one for the parlor and one for the sitting room. These fireplaces were removed during the expansion and a new chimney and fireplace built at the west end.

Fireplace and window, 1951

Fireplace and window, 1951

The two windows at the west end of the room that looked out onto Muddy River and the orchards were the inspiration for my “Window” series of monoprints, and the memory of the many doors in the living room fueled my ongoing fascination with views into and out of rooms. A door at my grandma and grandpa Crump’s house in downtown Wallingford is the subject of a 1990 painting.

"Door to Grandma Crump's Sleeping Porch," Carol Crump Bryner, oil on canvas, 1990

“Door to Grandma and Grandpa Crump’s Sleeping Porch,” Carol Crump Bryner, oil on canvas, 1990

Here’s a list of the nine doors in the farmhouse living room:

  • The door into the dining room.
  • The door behind the desk (an unused door into the bathroom.)
  • The door to the back staircase.
  • The door to the back bedroom
  • The door to the side yard.
  • The west door to the parlor
  • The east door to the parlor.
  • The front hallway door
  • The door to the closet under the stairs

Some doors, like the door to the bathroom, remained closed. Others, like the door into the dining room, stayed open. But with so many doors there was always the sense of life going on inside and out and the feeling of endless places to explore. In a room whose function was never strictly defined, there was always something to do. The possibilities felt endless.

"Interior," (the farmhouse living room), Carol Crump Bryner, linocut, 1976

“Interior,” (the farmhouse living room), Carol Crump Bryner, linocut, 1976

On Wednesday:  Baked Beans

June Window

June must have been a welcome month for my great-grandmother, Lydia Jane Hall. By 1921, when she wrote the second quote, she was spending her days in a wheelchair because of rheumatism. But she was also, by that time, surrounded by the busy life of a farmhouse with three young children in it. She patiently sat through her days, watching, trying to help a little, and observing.

"June Window," Carol Crump Bryner, monoprint

“June Window,” Carol Crump Bryner, monoprint

Sunday, June 1, 1913 – “A very fine day – everything is lovely outside. The birds are especially fine around us with their sweet notes, which is very nice for those that are at home like myself. Should be lonely without them.”

Thursday, June 2, 1921 – A nice cool day when the sun shines clear and warm. Everything is beautiful, the fields are full of flowers, the roses and peonies are coming. Lydia [my mother’s sister] brings them in to show me. Soon the harvest will be here. How fast we are going on the wings of time!”

See also – April Window, May Window

On Monday:  Rooms and Doors

May Window

From the farmhouse windows Lydia could see the orchards of apple trees and watch the activity on Whirlwind Hill, the road that ran between the house and the barn.

There are two quotes for this May window. In the nine years between 1912 and 1921 her life had changed. In 1913 her youngest child, my grandfather Ellsworth, married my grandmother, Agnes Biggs, and by 1921 they had three children. Lydia’s husband William died in 1920.

"May Window," Carol Crump Bryner, monoprint

“May Window,” Carol Crump Bryner, monoprint

Sunday, May 19, 1912 – “Fine morning. Apple blossoms are out and everything looks tender and fresh. Autos are flying by. Boys on wheels. Surrey load of young people, auto trucks with lot of people in all going east for an outing. How changed the times when team after team used to go by with people going to church.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Monday, May 9, 1921 – “Nice day. High winds in afternoon and some warmer. The trees have been loaded with apple blossoms and nearly all gone. Soon time to spray them again. The peonies, the shrub peonies, are out in full bloom. The birds are all here nesting, singing songs. Grass looking fine and heavy. Men busy preparing the ground for planting. The farm never looked more promising to me.” – Lydia Jane Hall

See also:  April Window

On Monday:  Two Aarons

A Window on the Landing

The Hall farmhouse on Whirlwind Hill set the standards for all the houses I’ve lived in. Its staircases, wallpapered rooms, tall windows, wood plank floors, attics, odd-shaped closets, and paneled doors with round knobs formed my notions of the way a home should look.

In 1973, after living in Alaska for several years, my husband and I were ready to buy a house. Expecting our first child, and eager to start nesting, we were dismayed by how few houses were for sale in Anchorage. Finally, through a friend, we found a downtown house about to go on the market. It wasn’t pretty – certainly not by Connecticut standards. This big pinkish box with brown shutters had a cement front stoop whose left side sank into the ground. But when I walked through the front door I came face to face with a center staircase leading to the second floor bedrooms.

As I walked up the stairs I pretended not to notice the red shag carpet, lumpy plastered ceilings, and shiny black louver doors. I was hoping I wouldn’t be disappointed, and I wasn’t. On the landing, at the top of the stairs, the afternoon light shone through a tall window and cast patterns and shadows on the walls and floor. The bedroom doors were paneled, and they had old round metal doorknobs. It felt like home. We bought the house, and a few years later I did a painting of the landing window. I still have everything in the painting (yes – the plant lives!) except for the window, which, during a 1982 remodel made way for a door into a new bedroom.

"Hall Window," Carol Crump Bryner, oil on canvas, 1978

“Hall Window,” Carol Crump Bryner, oil on canvas, 1978

In the farmhouse, at the top of the back staircase, there was also a landing with a wood floor, multiple doorways, and a window. I have no pictures of this window from the inside, but I do remember the importance of having that light at the top of the dark, narrow stairs. I also remember the view, which in my great-great-great-grandfather Aaron Hall’s time would have been to Muddy River and his farm’s pastureland. From the outside the window is not striking, but like much of the rest of the house it was on the inside where the memories and the views were made.

"Farmhouse Window from Outside," Carol Crump Bryner, pen and ink, 2014

“Farmhouse Window from Outside,” Carol Crump Bryner, pen and ink, 2014

On Wednesday:  Wildflowers

April Window

The farmhouse where my great-grandmother Lydia Jane Hall lived for sixty-two years was a house of many rooms – each room having its own set of long windows, each window its own special view of the surrounding countryside. Lydia kept a daily journal and made patient and sensible observations about the farm and the world around her. Because I’ve read and loved her journals, I feel close to her. I like to picture her sitting at one of the long windows looking out at the seasons of the farm.

During a 1985 workshop at the Visual Arts Center of Alaska, I made a series of monoprints to illustrate some of the journal quotes using views from these windows. I’ve taken a certain amount of artistic license with the “views.” Although these were real places on the farm, they’re not necessarily something one would have seen from a window. They’re places a housebound woman might have been remembering when looking back at her life on the farm.

To make my monoprints, I painted on a piece of battleship linoleum, placed a sheet of printing paper over the painting, and rubbed the back of the paper with the bowl of a wooden spoon so that the paper would pick up the paint from the linoleum surface. There’s usually only enough paint to make one print – thus the label monoprint. The images often appear ghostly – the effect I wanted for these windows from the past.

Because each print illustrated a quote from a single calendar month, I’ll post one a month for the duration of my blog.

In this April entry she writes about being lonesome. Her daughters Hattie and Ellen had married and moved to town. They visited and helped out as much as possible, but they had their own homes and families, and Lydia missed their cheerful presence.

April Window. monoprint, Carol Crump Bryner, 1986Wednesday, April 9, 1913

“A cold morning – getting warmer toward evening. Men harrowing for oats, trimming trees, etc. – alone and lonely. Miss my girls.”

On Monday:  At the Top of the Tree