Saturday, December 31, 2011


For every season there is a purpose ...

A mist hangs over the hills shrouding the trees in a veil of invisibility.

How grey is my valley...

A lonely leaf hangs tenaciously on  bare vines
...a  pile of oak leaves will soon crumble to dust and return to the earth

and dry thistles will be mowed down

rusted smudge pots waiting ...
to be put to frost prevention service among the tender vines of spring

Rusted relics of  harvests past

a  few  remaining apples ,  food for  hungry little creatures 
seeking sustenance in winter

and a decaying rose defying time
clinging to the bud of it's youth

a sagging roof

an old worn mosaic floor oncovered in a 19th century bank building
now The Harris Gallery in Healdsburg, California

All these  images of age I see so clearly for their beauty


 - year's end-
the passing of another season ...


and right next to the decayed rose
 a new bud ever hopeful , confident
spring and new beginnings are just around the corner

The sun will emerge through the clouds and a new day will begin

PAINTING from The Harris Gallery

Thanks to all of you who have reached out to us with such generosity of spirit
as we travel the difficult road of closing down Summer Hill Ltd.  Your support has been 
overwhelming. True friends have emerged and bonds have been strengthened.

Our sincere apologies to those we have disappointed or let down. These are circumstances out of our control. We gave it our all...

Before condemning another
you must first walk a mile in their moccasins

May the new year bring you good health, love, and hopefully a bit of prosperity.

"Since my house burned down I now own a better view of the rising moon"
Mizuta Masahide Japanese poet and samurai 1657-1723

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Coming full circle

It's a wrap.....

It seems that one of my  readers was highly offended by my last journal entry about gifting. I can only imagine that they looked at the pictures of all the outrageously extravagant gifts and did not bother to read the words which were very obviouly facetious .

Those of you who did read through and past  the photographs hopefully could tell that it was written tongue in cheek.  My intention was  not  to overlook the true spirit of the season, nor to make anyone dealing with  difficulties in these hard economic times feel badly.

The effects of this depressed economy are far reaching and very few have been  left untouched.
After 27 years in the business of manufacturing fine hand crafted furniture made in America- my husband and I have had to make the painful decision to roll up our Summer Hill tent .  This has involved letting people go,  who over the years have become tight knit members of our Summer Hill family. This has been  the  most difficult time in our lives.

The Summer Hill Barn
Original oil painting by Susan Watson

In 1985 we launched Summer Hill ltd in the loft of the barn behind our house.
We tended the fragile  sapling, watched it take root and grow
into a successful and accomplished company.
Our objective was to create bench made furniture of lasting quality and fine design.
We employed American workers on American soil.  

The iconic Brighton Bed 
Even our textiles were all domestically woven 
until the American mills began to shut down
faced with foreign competition. 
 Only then did we cross oceans to grow our textile collection.

The original Summer Hill  Fabric Collection
still remains a popular staple

The  Bar Harbor was the first chair in The Collection
Being a fashion business,  designs come and go, tastes change, and new styles evolve.  As Creative Director of The Company it was  my responsibility to keep pace with the times moving from the original overblown silouhettes to the more sleek and refined.  My objective was to  always maintain a classic, timeless sensibility and never sacrifice comfort and quality.

The Arno Chair

The Adams Bed
The Christina Sofa

These past  three to four years have been particularly challenging for  the home furnishings industry due to  a prolonged economic down turn coupled with a new customer demographic.  One month up - one month down- we have been on a roller coaster
but remained eternally hopeful.

Even the shelter magazines began dwindling down to a mere handful.

Thank heavens there are still those of you who are highly tuned in to the design world, love design,  and seek out quality and originality when furnishing your homes.  You are not satisfied with purchasing from a catalog of  'sameness'  just because the photography looks pretty good.

Distinguished interior decorators and architects will always be available to help  guide you through this priviledged process and maybe my journal will provide a few inspirations as well.

So all that said...
 Summer Hill has come to a cross roads.

We have been priviledged to work with a wonderful team on the  Summer Hill Staff in our corporate showrooms, our corporate offices and our workroom.  We have made good friends among our representative showrooms across the country, as well as our multi-talented suppliers, and it has been our pleasure to be a part of making  a house a home for all our many loyal customers.

If you own a piece of the Summer Hill legacy 
perhaps it will become a family heirloom passed from one generation to the next.

However, with profound sadness we have had to make the difficult decision to close our doors.
Despite the sadness I am reminded that when one door closes ...
                                                                                                                 another door opens.                                                                                                                                      

I look forward to what lies ahead as I relaunch my former career as an interior and architectural designer.  It's where I  first began designing  the products that became the Summer Hill Collection .

It seems that I have come full circle...
A feather wreath from Anthropologie

So until we meet again  ...
                        I wish you a new year of peace and prosperity.

Rela Gleason Design

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Wrap it up !

How many catalogs have you already tossed this season?
Hopefully they were printed on recycled paper or I cringe to think how many forests are decimated each year.  The bulge of my mailbox is enough to turn almost anyone into a "tree hugger."

Nieman Marcus Christmas Book 2011 deserves a quick glance to see what the frivolously unimaginative rich can purchase on a whim.
A motor boat for $250, 000.00
... perhaps a little personal retreat in your back yard where you can spend a few quiet minutes of private time making out your shopping list...all this 'splendor" starting at $75,000.00
and if you need to get away from it all..
a day in the country for a mere  $9,500.00

Actually a day in the country can be priceless- driving down
The Silverado Trail this week I actually gasped
at this amazing display of color -
Living here is a gift
This Christmasy looking vignette makes a
private Scotch tasting look like a real bargain

Luxury gifts are nothing new...

The diamond engagement ring presented to Grace Kelly
by Prince Rainier of Monaco
She wore the ring in her final film HIGH SOCIETY

Princess Grace bejeweled by her Prince
 did not live happily ever after...
but she is still GORGEOUS !

"It's the thought that counts"

and Liz seems to like what Mike Todd (hubby Numero Tres) was thinking

This 69 carrat bauble was a gift from husband 
Richard Burton ( # 4 and #5) the second time around

Elizabeth sold it in 1978 and used the proceeds 
to fund a hospital project in Botswana.
Why Botswana- but certainly a generous gesture

A custom flamingo broach of diamonds and other 
precious stones especially made for Wallis Simpson
by Cartier on order of her prince
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor
She is wearing her famous broach in this photograph
She sure had this puppy whipped

We can only guess at the turn of history had Edward not
abdicated his throne for the "woman I love."

go figure---there is no accounting for taste

SO- speaking of diamonds...


Go see 

the story about a week during the filming of

and BTW- don't bother to try renting the original from Netflix...
endless wait...
Sir Laurence with his wife Vivien Leigh

Though she is not a dead ringer for the "Blond Bombshell," Williams has
figured out that Marilyn was a total creation of Norma-Jean Baker.
With a breathy whisper and a wiggle of the rump both gals
transform into Marilyn. The cast is star studded with familiar faces
but Williams steels the show.  She is perfection.

The movie is smart and funny, tender and nostalgic,  with a  beautifull star
studded cast but  Williams steals the show- she is a gift.


A perfect gift would be movie tickets. Bundle up some  tickets with a gift certificate for a nearby restaurant and ...

Tah Dah...

Dinner and a Movie  

Lavish is lovely-    don't get me wrong- I would not turn my nose up at a share in a private jet...However...

LET'S GET REAL-                           
Prime Minister, Winston Churchill  gifted Lewis Douglas, 
the retiring American Ambassador to the 
Court of St. James with one of his own creations that Douglas had been admiring.

One of my most treasured gifts is a painting by my Dad
- the only painting he has ever done-
Lose the beard and it's practically a self portrait

An elaborately encrusted Madonna was a gift
from Tony Duquette to his friend, the actress Irene Dunn.
It's actually a very subdued piece for Tony, perhaps in deference to it's
religious significance
Miss Dunn was a devout catholic and a
great admirer of Tony's work

Tony designed for theatre in everything he did.
Over-the-top was never enough
He was a firm believer in



I was gifted by my friend Andrew Fisher
of these oyster shell spoons and a gold leafed rope knot
 Andrew was a 
protoge of Tony Duquette's
Imagination and creativity is clearly something they had in common-
and a gift 

I asked friends to share gifts they have received that have been memorable and special.
Thanks to all of you who contributed- just not enough room to include everything and everybody

Time and again it proves true that these gifts are very personal and don't necessarily involve big price tags.  They are, however,  gifts of time and generosity.
You are unlikely to find that in any catalog.

Gifts of Time

Maddie-Cashie and Ben - Personal Treasures

"This fort our dads built out of old logs and bird netting is 
the coolest thing ever ! 
No one is allowed in it if we don't invite them."

Frank Ponterio - Interior Decorator

..."It's truly a gift to have a counterpoint to my daily life
as a designer...
experiences I share with my family at our  farm in Wisconsin."

A mini Frank
Picture Perfect
"What's better than being entrusted with a new project 
when you are 87?  
In a startling departure from custom, the bottle's 
back label has this credit
"Photography by Fred Lyon, treasured friend to Ali, Charles and all
 who know him."
Now that is a remarkable gift !"


Wine always makes a great gift .
Don't Drink ???  ...then regift it

Jeffry Weisman and Andrew Fisher- Interior Designers

"That would have to be the 400 rose bushes Andrew planted for my 40th.  It was the ultimate gift that kept giving-totally overwhelming in scale, extraordinarily romantic and thoughtful, and just got better every year.

The gift that keeps on giving

Our neighbor across the road, Emiline Tessier had a persimmon tree on her property. When she died we were permitted to move her favorite Persimmon tree and relocate it to our garden.   "Tessie"   bears fruit every season and I make Persimmon Pudding Cakes to give  as gifts during the holidays. 

The Jiro which has the round bottom is wonderful eaten fresh
The Hachiya persimmon has a pointed bottom
and can only be eaten cooked

A dense moist gingerbread like cake with nuts and raisins - best served warm with vanilla ice cream

This recipe is best made ahead of time by several days or even months.  I have kept cakes frozen for 11 months with no ill effects.  Just be sure to wrap well- defrost slowly - reheat
before serving.

Fill a large lidded pot with water and bring to a simmer on stove top

Butter the inside and the top of a fluted pudding mold available at any cooking store . I always find them at flea markets- guess a lot of people lose interest- it does take time to watch over the steaming
                                                                          But SO worth it...

1/2  Cup butter plus some extra- softened 
1      Cup granulated sugar
1      Cup SIFTED all-purpose white flour
4      Ripe Hachiya persimmon pulp(about 1 cup)
2      TBLS  Brandy or Grand Marnier
2      Large eggs-slightly beaten
2      Teaspoons baking soda mixed with 2 teaspoons warm water
1       Teaspoon vanilla extract
1       Teaspoon each-ground ginger and cloves
1/2   Teaspoon  ground cinnamon
1       Cup chopped walnuts
1       Cup golden raisins

In the large bowl of an electric mixer cream the sugar with the softened butter at medium speed.

Slowly at low speed mix in flour alternating with persimmon pulp until incorporated

Stir in baking soda mixture- eggs- brandy-vanilla and spices

Mix in the walnuts and raisins and continue beating at a very low speed a few minutes till batter is well incorporated

Spoon into prepared pudding mold and clamp top on securely
Place in the bath of simmering water- water should reach about 3/4 of the way up the sides of the mold.

Cover pot and continue simmering about 1 1/2 - 2 hours until a test scewer comes out clean.
Check water every so often to be sure it does not all boil away.

Allow cake to cool about 1 hour before unmolding