Saturday Spotlight: Life Behind the Blogger

Susan from Must Love Junk, and myself (Kris) Junk Chic Cottage wanted to do a regular feature on our blogs, something unique that hasn't been done before.   So we came up with an idea to 'spotlight the real life behind the blogger' in a more personal way.
There is so much talent and inspiration in blogland, and we thought it would be fun to bring you a closer look at the person behind the blog.

Every week on Saturday we will spotlight a blogger and have them tell us a little bit about themselves and their blogs.  You will be able to see and read about each of the bloggers on both Susan's and my blog. 
Saturday February 1
Rita from Panoply

I am excited every week to introduce you to a new blogger in our spotlight but this week is a special blogger to me.  Rita has become a really special bloggie friend over this past year.  If you just look at her sweet smile it says it all.  She is so genuine and the real deal and one of the most interesting bloggers so I cannot wait for you to learn more about her.  So sit back and enjoy reading about this fabulous blogger.

I'm really happy to have been invited to Kris' Junk Chic Cottage "Saturday Spotlight:  Life Behind the Blogger Series" to share a little about myself with all of her readers (and mine).  She, along with Susan at Must Love Junk, spotlight different bloggers each week in order for us to connect just a little better with each other.  For those who don't follow my blog, let this be my personal invitation for you to come visit me at my blog, Panoply.  I'd love for you to join my circle of friends, follow along in my lifestyle ventures, and share yours with me.  Kris is my very first blog friend who quickly became an ally to me when I started blogging in January, 2013, and I feel privileged to be called her friend now, too.

So, about is a photo of how you may recognize me today:
I come from a very large family, and I am the youngest of 9 children.  Here we all are (below), circa 1960 (I am the little one, sitting on the lounge chair with my dad, and my mom is just to his left, with her arm around his shoulder).
We were a classic, middle America, post-WWII era family.  My three oldest sisters are war babies, born in 1943, 1944, and 1945.  And if you guessed we are Catholic, you are right (how could you tell???)

My parents are now deceased, but all of my siblings are still alive.  We have a total of 20 children among us, and those 20 have 22 children of their own, and #23 is due in April.  We are a classic, middle-America, dysfunctional family, lol.  And that total does not include spouses and significant others!
Photo taken March, 2012 - trying to squeeze all nine of us into a photo booth frame!
It's hard to get us all together at any one time - it's either funerals (my mom's, 2007), or weddings (the one above in 2012, my niece's).  However, for the last ten years of my married life, I have been hosting Christmas Eve for any and all family who are in town.  It is a project!  While being the baby of the family had its perks in the early years, I can see it has great potential for much responsibility in the later years.  Can you say advocate to many??  I am the communicator - I send APBs (all points bulletins) to everyone when there is life event, I advocated for my mother in her final years by attending dr. appts., and I have advocated for one sister with medical issues - you get the idea.  So, gathering family is just another form of advocacy, I suppose.

This is a photo of me with my handsome husband, also taken at that same wedding, in 2012:
In a former life, I was a corporate accountant and manager in a career spanning 25 years.  I was also a ballerina in our state's ballet company for 17 of those years, spanning the time from college graduation through mid-life.  This photo was taken the year prior to my retiring from dance in 1996, in my role in 'Pacquita':
Besides classical ballet dancing en pointe, our company also performed many character dances in slippers, boots and heels.  My love for everything Flapper/Art Deco (and the central theme of most of my collecting) was inspired by ballets created by our Artistic Director.  In 1981 we danced 'The Flappers', in collaboration with of our town's "Do the Charleston" celebration, and, in 1989, a series of emotive dances after Erte's Art Deco designs - both in character heels.

The friendships cultivated during my years of dancing span generations, and will forever be some of my fondest.
Ballet dance members, 1996 (I'm in burgundy) - many of these girls are still my friends, with children of their own now, and some are still dancing!
I have two daughters from a previous marriage, both independent and successful in their own right. Both my daughters were/are also dancers, and once they were invited to perform in the ballet company,  it was time for me to retire (1997).  I wasn't about to take on being responsible for three sets of costumes, pointe shoes, and hold down a more than full-time managerial position.  I learned to say "Enough!"

Here is a photo of me with my two daughters, taken just this past Christmas (2013):
My younger daughter, M (left), is an RN, and my older daughter, B (right), is an educator and Arts Administrator.

Both of my girls are married, and here is a photo of all of us at Christmas, 2012:
Daughter B is married to an educator who is currently working as a certified EMT, hoping to achieve prerequisites necessary for entering a Physician Assistants' program.  M, the RN, is married to a fireman/EMT.

I have three grand-dogs.  Meet Sebastian (below), the wild child (he's just over 1 yr), a Welsh terrier (looks like a miniature Airedale, which is the breed my daughter had before this one).
Sebastian, taking a break from running
My two other grand-dogs are Banjo, known as a WV brown dog (shelter adopted); and Edie, another shelter adopted, [mostly] beagle.  Banjo is now a brother to Edie (who was adopted first), and they have personalities of a Grandpa and Grandma - very laid back.  In fact, Edie hardly ever barked (a Beagle!) until Banjo came and taught her.
Edie and Banjo, with their adopted person, my SIL
We live in West Virginia, a state separate from Virginia since 1863 (it's a sort of sore subject with us proud hillbillies, as most sports and news announcers invariably call us Virginia when broadcasting).  We're the northern most southern state, and the southern most northern state.  Southern Living calls us (where I live) middle south.
Our WV state capitol building, along the banks of the Kanawha River
This is the heart of West Virginia, and just happens to be my neighborhood.

Our state is a well-kept secret (unless you read surveys that indicate we are the fattest, most miserable, and most poorly educated in the nation, second only to Mississippi.  Who are they asking is what I want to know?!  And then there's the chemical leak in our water supply that just made national news, unfortunately making WV an ongoing science lab, waiting for long-term results).  Our state has a lot of natural resources - coal, natural gas and timber - and a lot to offer in terms of tourism, with four distinct seasons.
WV in winter - "Country Roads, take me Home, to the place I belong.  WV, Mountain Mama, take me Home..."
The Greenbrier, "America's Resort", located in White Sulphur Springs,WV (about 120 miles east of our home), is a luxury resort, made famous originally for its healing, natural spring waters in the late 1700's...
The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, WV - main entrance
...and home to the famously bold interior design of Dorothy Draper, most recently renovated by her protege, Carleton Varney...
The Greenbrier - main lobby
...and is where Mr. P. and I stayed after we were married in 2003, having returned a few times since. 
Mr. P. and me, on our wedding day (2003), in our home.
West Virginia's motto is "Wild, Wonderful, West Virginia", where you can enjoy lots of year-round activities, such as skiing, snowshoeing, white water rafting, hiking, biking, kayaking, and ziplining.  We've done it all!
Daughter B, me, and Mr. P., ready to go ziplining in WV
Mr. P. and I dated for just over five years, and have been married for almost eleven years now.  Looking back, we've done some amazingly fun (and scary!) things and have been to some amazingly fun places!  Besides all the activities I've mentioned, we also ballroom dance - an easy transition for me after I retired from the ballet (Mr. P. had taken lessons for several years prior, and I just waltzed right into being his partner).

We skied in WV and in Breckenridge, Colorado....
Mr. P. and me, skiing in Breckenridge, CO
We scuba dive in Grand Cayman almost every year since I became certified in 1998...
Mr. P. and me, under the sea, at about 60'
We've also enjoyed parasailing the past few years while in Grand Cayman...
Mr. P. and me, about 100' in the air!
We have taken some great trips right here in the US, including several areas of Florida, the New England states, DC (a favorite place to go for cultural and shopping ventures), and through parts of the the Rockies (CO) and the Western US (AZ, CA and NV). We've also visited some of the great landmarks in the Eastern US, including many in Boston, NYC, Newport, Washington, DC, Mt. Vernon, Williamsburg and Monticello in VA, as well as the Vanderbilt Mansion in NC.
Pensacola Pavillion, - Seaside, FL
Mr. P. and me, in Sedona (AZ)
Petrified Forest (AZ)
Cayon de Chelly (Chinle, AZ)
Monument Valley (UT) - via back road,  Navajo-guided tour
Pacific Grove (CA)
Big Sur, CA - view from Highway US 1 
In our nation's capital (DC)
Vanderbilt Mansion (Asheville, NC)

Behind-the-scenes rooftop tour, Vanderbilt Mansion - it was very high!
We would still like to tour parts of the US (Pacific Northwest and Alaska) and hopefully Europe someday, we just don't know when.  As an expert witness in Economics, Mr. P. is still somewhat tied to his work calendar, but it's getting better.

Back home, I keep myself quite busy, still working part-time with my husband in his consulting business, as well as antiquing with two of my sisters, M and J.  We go to antique stores, flea markets, auctions, estate sales, and yard sales, combing through stuff and more stuff, until we all have stuff bursting from the seams of our homes!  That is how we eventually started Panoply - we took our stuff to the local antique mall and opened our first booth in 2008, and one year later opened yet another booth.  We're still selling.
Panoply sisters M and J at the World's Longest Yard Sale in Covington, KY, Route 127
My blog writing started as a means to keep sister J in touch - she lives in Cincinnati, and was still working when we started our ventures (she just retired in May, 2013).  I always took photos of our booth spaces when M and I would restyle...
April,  2013 Booth Space Vignette
...and started uploading the photos onto Shutterfly for ease in communicating.  Then, I started tagging the photos with captions, and lo and behold, I began making photo books in Shutterfly.  I created my first book on my purse collection ('A Panoply of Purses')  - my collecting passion is vintage / antique beaded and mesh purses, especially from the Flapper/Art Deco eras.  Then, I shared my photo book with my fellow purse collectors (Antique Purse Collector's Society) via a discussion thread, and it was well received.  I decided to start blogging to share with others, while still keeping sister J in touch.

I've found that the gene for shopping, collecting, and purging (via selling) naturally spills over into the process of making a house a home.  Before I married Mr. P., his home was just a house (he had never been married).  When he married me, he got a wife, two kids, a dog and, literally, another house.  The contents of my house fit into his house with room to spare. I have said before that Mr. P. does not like stuff; I like stuff.  And I very much enjoy decorating our house and turning it into a home.  He's a minimalist; I'm a stuff-ist:  stuff in the rooms lived in, and extra stuff in the closets and the basement for when you change your mind.  Antiquing and blogging have helped me reconcile the needs I have in being creative, sharing my love in finding cool things, fostering them (if only for a while), staging & selling them and, occasionally, being able to incorporate them into our home.  Seems like my family and Mr. P.'s family like my cool things a lot more than he ever will, but I carry on.  And I blog on.

I am also an avid landscape gardener (no fruits and vegetables, just flowers, shrubs, and trees).  I had only small plots of flowers in my home property before marrying Mr. P.....
A first project Mr. P. and I did together once I moved in with him was a renovation of our property, incorporating the adjacent lot into a cohesive landscape with the house.  That was in 2004, and I soon after became a Master Gardener for my personal gain in gardening.  I love my garden, and look forward to the seasons each year.  I have always journaled my garden, and found it is also good subject matter for blogging.  My garden has grown to look like this most recently (all photos below taken in 2013.  To see more, here's a link).....
Heirloom irises
L to R:  hybrid roses, knockout roses, bee balm and spirea (front)
Hybrid roses, with black-eyed susans and butterfly bushes in background
Looking through knockout roses, toward hydrangeas
And so, after my first year of blogging, what started as a Panoply blog of mostly antiquing ventures has turned into a Panoply lifestyle blog.  Panoply means, according to the dictionary, "a wide-ranging and impressive array".  Well, it may not always impress (especially when it comes to Mr. P.), but it certainly is wide-ranging.  If you'd like to see a wrap-up of my first year in blogging all in one post (2013), here's a link.  
Kris, thank you for allowing me to share with your readers today!  I love your friendship and your blog!

Thank you Rita for sharing your  beautiful family, home and exciting life with all of us.  I love our blog friendship that has developed over this past year.  You truly have become a great friend and I thank you for that gift.   Now that you have gotten to know more about Rita head over to Susan's blog and read about another very sweet blogger Holly from Down to Earth Style.

Have a wonderful Weekend.


  1. Thanks so much, was so great of you to have Rita on your blog. I have been enjoying her blog and getting to know her just recently. have so many qualities that I've never seen combined together, your brilliant organizational skills as well as being so creative, sort of polar opposites.. You have the grace from being a dancer and yet you are extremely daring and adventurous...well maybe that goes hand in hand! I really admire this part of you!

    I could just go on and on. You have a beautiful family. You are either very very short or your husband is about 7'0!! I love that you met him and went on to have a wonderful life. You both are so meant for each other from what I see. You know, from our emails, that I'm also from a large's challenging to say the least.

    Okay. enough. Just loved learning more about you! Blessings!


  2. Rita, you are one exciting lady! Ballerina, scuba diver, hiker, gardener, etc etc! My goodness that's incredible! You have a lovely family and I so enjoyed learning all about you. I'm going to go to you blog now and read up on your latest adventures!

  3. Sounds like there's never a dull moment in Rita's life! Great post...interesting, fabulous photos!!
    Mary Alice

  4. Wow! What a full life!! Some of you ladies sure are amazing. I am definitely going over to check out her blog.

    Amy Jo

  5. Rita is such a sweet blogging friend! I knew she sells at antique mall spaces and comes from a big family, but I loved learning so much more about her and her family! :)

  6. Rita you are so adventurous! I could never go sky flying ever!! What a treat to read about you and your family!

  7. Thanks for sharing your blogging story! One of the things I love most about reading these and reading other blogers' stories is you find out that bloggers are everywhere and everyone. There isn't a reason to feel the anxiety and possible judgement you worry aboutl when you first start a Thanks again!

  8. I loved getting to know Rita and am headed over to Panoply to read more.

    Thanks for introducing me to a new blog.

  9. such a fabulously filled life story, thanks so much for sharing your story, rita:)

  10. Here's someone who is living life! I enjoyed getting to know her here!

  11. What an interesting lady. I enjoyed getting to know Rita better. I'll head over and visit her blog :)

  12. Wow, Rita! What an interesting and adventure-filled life you have! We've only just "met" recently, but I really enjoyed getting to know more about you and your family today. Thanks for sharing Rita today, Kris! Loved it!

  13. Kris, I just want to pop in and say thank you! thank you! to all your readers for the nice comments and feedback here. Life can be a lot of hard work, and scary at times, but being blessed with the opportunities to take pleasure in doing some of the things we've been able to has certainly made for adventure and fun, and leaves me with the feeling that life is, overall, very good. Sharing with family friends makes it that much better!

  14. Rita is a beauty with a beautiful family. I loved all the family photos. It sure looks as if Mr.P and Rita have green thumbs. Wonderful flowers. So nice to visit today and meet Rita. xoxo,Susie

  15. Very nice post and it was nice to meet Rita! What a great smile and what energy she has! Loved all the great pictures!

  16. What a great story about her wonderful family, her love of West Virginia (I LOVE THE GREENBRIER), gorgeous gardens, and travels…Really loved reading about Rita and her very busy and fun filled life!…One day I hope to to go the Longest Yard sale!..Thanks Kris for another great feature!!..Just loved Rita's story and many accomplishments.

  17. What a wonderful "interview" with Rita. She is a lovely person- I read every word. I love how blogging brings so many of us from so many walks of life together. I am JEALOUS that she is a master gardener. That is something I was signed up to do until a family illness changed my plan. I hope to do that someday. I need to click the link to see more of her gardens. xo Diana

  18. I have had the pleasure of meeting Rita in person, sharing many life's stories and shedding a few tears. She is one amazing woman and am so blessed to know her personally! I had no clue though of her being a ballerina! Thanks Kris for spotlighting a beautiful and wonderful lady!

  19. Oh, it was so much fun to learn more about Rita! I love her and her blog!

  20. What a fun post! I must have missed this in February, so glad you have the link on your sidebar. Thanks for sharing, Rita.

  21. What a pleasure to learn more about Rita! Now I understand our Greenbriar connection! Lovely family, lovely life....and a killer smile!
    Thanks so much for sharing!