Thursday, August 28, 2008

Mr. and Mrs. Douglas

It was half-past two and it was tea-time. Mrs. Douglas was particular about one being punctual for tea, but lately she has had to exercise some tolerance for tardiness. She waited for her friend Mrs. Sylvester to join her. Mrs. Sylvester was also very recently married and she was already expecting. With sore ankles and woozy spells, Mrs. Douglas understood she had all the excuse in the world to be late, so she patiently waited, having Mary keep the kettle hot in case she had to make a new pot..

When the doorbell rang only a few minutes late, and Mary let the visitor in, Mrs. Douglas settled down into her favourite wingback, and started to pour the tea. She looked up at the door expectantly, surprised to see Mr. Douglas enter, not Mrs. Sylvester. He looked most pleased with himself.

“Ah, you’ve served tea. Capital!” he declared. He sat down and helped himself to Mrs. Sylvester’s tea and pastries. Mrs. Douglas was confused.

“Don’t eat that. It’s for Mrs. Sylvester. She’ll be arriving at any moment.”

“I ran into Mr. Sylvester just a moment ago. He was on his way over to excuse his wife from today’s tea. It seems the lady isn’t feeling too well today. So we’ll have tea together for a change.” He smiled and then dug into the lovely service of tea; which included both smoked salmon and egg sandwiches as well as plump, golden scones, and a fine array of pretty pastries.

“What brings you home so early?” Mrs. Douglas asked, delicately biting into a dainty petit-four. She was quite delighted to see her husband so early in the afternoon. It was a welcome change to have him home for tea.

“I’ve a surprise for you,” he smiled. He jumped to his feet, and left the room, returning with two small framed portraits. “As soon as the artist brought them, I came home directly. Look! They’re finished at last!”

Mr. and Mrs. Douglas have only been married for a year and a half. Mr. Douglas is a fairly well-to-do young attorney with great prospects, and Mrs. Douglas is a doting, loving wife. At their first anniversary, Mr. Douglas commissioned these portraits to be made for their humble drawing room. At length, the portraits were complete.

Mrs. Douglas was enchanted, and interrupted tea to insure they were hung on the wall at once.

The creatures are Douglas squirrels; which are the kind that frequent my home near Mount Hood. As usual, they are wearing Regency period clothing; Mrs. Douglas sports a cap, a turkey-red gown and a chemisette. She sits modestly with her hands folded in her lap.Mr. Douglas wears his best blue frock-coat, his tangerine waistcoat and a nice crisp cravat. He is a handsome young fellow indeed.These are both hand-painted and sealed in craft paints on wooden plaques. They hang from a swiveling ring topped by a bow. They are backed in black felt. The plaques are ~ 2" x 4" at their widest points.

Happy Birthday Tasha Tudor

Tasha Tudor (August 28, 1915-June 18, 2008)

Dear Tasha,
You lived your life the way that made you happy; and never allowed any external forces define you. There is so much to be admired in that. Happy Birthday. Wherever you are.

"Einstein said that time is like a river, it flows in bends. If we could only step back around the turns, we could travel in either direction. I'm sure it's possible. When I die, I'm going right back to the 1830s. I'm not even afraid of dying. I think it must be quite exciting." ~Tasha Tudor

Official Site
Memorial Page

Monday, August 25, 2008

Reflections of childhood

When I was a child, there was a period where we lived in a very, very old house. Our portion was built in 1725; one of three buildings that had once comprised a single small chateau. Damaged during WWII and rebuilt as three separate residences, the houses still sat inside a moated ring, with ancient oaks, a tangled, unkempt orchard, bamboo, swans, peacocks and geese, sunken paths and massive rhododendron bushes that domed over them like waxy, leafy tunnels.

I spent many hours in that magical garden; riding my pony on the paths, pretending I was a girl-hobbit on a quest. Between two chestnut trees was a gargoyle stone bench. It was the furthest part of the garden against the moat, and dark and gloomy and always peppered with the prickly husks of chestnut burrs. On my favourite old oak tree, a swing hung suspended from a massive limb. Next door, in the oldest, nicest of the buildings (that still had the old tower complete with crenellations, and was made entirely of stone), lived the owner of the property; Hélène, but I knew her by a more familiar name; “Tati”. She was born in 1899.

She lived alone; however on occasional weekends family from Brussels would come tramping into the house and suffocate her with noise and disturbances. Sometimes, her great-nieces would stay for the weekend. Snotty girls, who like their parents, bragged about living there someday. Tati much preferred quiet and a glass of wine—and dreaded the advent of the weekend.

Come supper-time at my house, I would pick up my dinner plate and walk across the graveled area to Tati’s house. I would climb the stone steps in back, so worn they looked like wet, sagging fabric, up to the little bailey; and go into the French doors into her sitting room where Tati was invariably perched in her chair, watching television, with a little glass goblet in her hand. It was usually the Asterix and Obelix glass, with cartoon characters printed on it. It would always be layered in fingerprints which I had likened to insect-wings as a child. Her bottle of red wine was always open, and at her side. My mother joked that she lived so long because she was marinated in vin rouge.

I loved Tati. I would put my plate down at the round table where she sat, and we would watch television together. I would eat my dinner; which she inevitably criticized for its unappetizing appearance… and then she would either complain about how ‘nervous’ television was these days, or tell me stories about her life and youth in this place. Oh, the stories she told… of German occupation, of bombs, of cars taking over where horses once dominated, of the land around the house before the neighborhoods began to grow; of her childhood, of the old tortoise her mother had given her; which still lived at that time, creeping around the garden and the bailey (and even climbing those stone steps!); Rosalie the ornery, hissing tortoise; I’ll never forget. Sometimes we played gin, other times dominoes.

Whenever I had time to be there with her, I was there. Sometimes we’d sit together and not say anything at all. I’d just listen to her breathe and watch her nod off, and I’d help her upstairs sometimes when she was too tired or tipsy to do it by herself, or fetch her things if she wanted them… Tati was always happy to have me. I had a tumultuous family life that anyone in the vicinity with ears knew about, and she knew I liked to escape the craziness sometimes. We didn’t discuss it much, but there was an understanding between us. She had never married, she had no children of her own. My mother speculated that she was of a Sapphic nature… She never told me of great loves. But none of that ever mattered to me. I adored her and her beautiful old house. The tangle of rooms and staircases, crannies and what she called a ‘boîte a Juifs’ where escaping Jews were hidden during the German occupation… there were old prints, and creaking floors, oddly angled doors and rooms and landings at odd levels. I loved the way it smelled too; a bit musty but only cool and stony. It was where I loved to escape. I envied her family members who eventually took it over when Tati got weak. I wasn’t permitted to visit much anymore. I sometimes watched her worriedly from my parent’s bathroom window. They’d brought her bed downstairs, and she hardly left it. I don’t know when she died. Once the family moved in, our relationship with the place had changed. Other things had happened as well, that much to my chagrin; caused us to move shortly thereafter.

I’ve never had my own grandparents—they were long passed away when I was born. My few years with Tati are what I imagine having a grandmother would be like. To this day, I will never forget how much I valued her friendship and her company during a difficult time in my childhood. She gave me a window into a very personal past—created an appreciation for things like what WWII would have been like for those whose land was occupied; for quiet understanding and subtle affection, for trust and appreciation, for things old and new… and for clinging on to the things we treasure even with vultures looming.

I’ll never forget Tati or that magical place.

Etsy Feature

I am now a proud member of the EtsyBloggers Street Team. That means that I am part of a large group of Etsy shop-owners who have banded together to promote our shops and our hand-made products.

One of my duties is to create a promotional post every month for a featured Etsy shop. This month’s featured shop is “Tulip’s Treasure Box”. I’m really excited about this aspect of being a member of the EstyBloggers Street Team; simply so I can become acquainted to the huge variety of lovely handmade products that can be found on Etsy. Here's Tulip's Blog too.


Tulip’s Treasure Box features some really gorgeous hand-made jewelry pieces, as well as handy ‘upcycled’ tee-totes and beautiful beads. She is currently having a sale on some of her items. I recommend you check my fellow EstyBlogger Street Teammate, and also take a moment to browse the cornucopia of creativity that is Etsy. Support crafters and the artists!

Monday, August 18, 2008

A touching discovery...

This morning, I was googling an image for my post. I wanted to find an appropriate image that would encapsulate my sentiments of watching my husband leave for his field-job which will keep him away from me for 6 weeks at a time. As I browsed the images, I stumbled upon this website:

It is a website I haven't been able to close all day. I've been at work since 5:30, and I've been doing paperwork, and taking brief breaks to read the website. Before you click the link, be warned... it's addictive.

Christopher John O'Connell Cocorochio is a young man who has for about a decade, been traveling on foot and by many other means, scraping by with odd jobs to keep himself and his dog Job fed as he journeys on itchy feet all over the country and the world. He started in New England, and has walked through a number of states, touching people's lives, documenting these moments on his spartan website. There are a few poignant images that capture his travels, and narratives that bring you through his joy and his heartache, and he names the people who've reached out to help him and Job. He had been taking footage of his travels in the hopes of creating a documentary. Now he's working on a book. His latest entries bring him through Oregon and into Northern California. He had stayed a while in Astoria.

You follow him from the beginning, when he decides to drop his workaday life; and chooses the road. He begins with his old dog Bandit and continues on now with his new road companion, Job. It is a tremendous tale in these few web-pages. Too big a story almost; with little gaps that leave you wanting.

Why does he do this? In his words:

"To protect the only thing I've ever been able to count on...

Growing up I was told:
~ pollution we are creating is poisoning the atmosphere creating acid rain which kills plants and vegetables.
~ chemicals found in aerosol cans are causing a whole in the ozone layer, a part of the earth's atmosphere that allows life to exist on the planet.the world's rainforests which provide a major portion of the oxygen in the air that we breath are being cut down at a rate of something like an acre a minute.
~ our president lied under oath.
~ nuclear weapons that we and other countries posses could blow up the planet several times over.the greatest cause to all global and social problems human beings face is our uncontrollable population growth.
~ the United States makes up something like 18% of the world's population, yet we consume 60% of it's resources.
~ nuclear power plants create radioactive waste that is extremely poisonous to humans and all life forms and will be for thousands and thousands of years so we bury it deep underground.
~ cars, trucks, factories and oil burning furnaces used to heat most homes pollute our atmosphere making sunlight harmful to humans causing skin cancer while at the same time altering the global climate causing unpredictable and catastrophic weather conditions.
~ the global oil shortage is causing international conflict and war killing thousands of soldiers and innocent civilians.This list could continue, but it's too negative to continue with.

As I was becoming an adult I saw none of these issues being addressed or even being taken seriously, (oh wait, I think we fixed the aerosol can thing.) yet I was suppose to forget all this and drive a car, get a job, make money, buy a house, get married, have some kids, let them learn all the same stuff then expect them to forget it all, too. And, adults wonder why our youth are so disenchanted.

If being dependent on electricty can harm people that aren't even born yet then I won't be dependent on it.
If being unable to live without a car causes war and pollution then I'll live without one.
If making money our number one prioroty keeps us divided then I won't make it mine.
....the earth.

Whatever his motives are; be it as simple as what he has listed there, or be there reasons beyond that; things to run to or from, things to seek, to hide; perhaps he feels that he alone sees the state of the world, and that he must do this on behalf of the rest of us; all that aside, I cannot but see how brave he is. How pure a soul to simply cast off the things we all think are so important, to do it with dignity; to have his pride and allow himself to be perceived as something other than what a really noble creature he is.

And most of all, he's taking care of his dog Job, which that alone, speaks volumes about the man's character.

In this time he's lost Bandit, his mother and friends. He's been there when it counted but he can never be still for long. Like the wing-footed Hermes, he takes to the wind, carrying his message to complete strangers. Where will he end up? Will he ever find the peace within to stop at last? Who knows. All I know is that I find so much depth in his story. So much loving and joyful and tragic things.

It sort of put my whole morning into perspective. My husband took a job away from our small family so we could have a home and some means of comfort... and Chris John has shucked it all to find some peace with himself. It makes me think. Is it all worth the stress and pain?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Happy Friday from Mr. Corbeau

"I much prefer my solitude and a good pipe," Mr. Corbeau declared, "however I cannot object to the occasional company of a pretty lady now and again."
This is another of my breaktime specials... copy-paper, erasable coloured pencils and a fine-point pen. Happy Friday. Thank goodness it's here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Another *@!*%$& Day in Paradise.

It's just been one of those weeks. Stupid crisis after annoying deadline; stupid person after stupid person. Why can people get away with being unreliable? Why can't people answer emails, follow up on voice-mail, take two freakin' seconds to do something they said they'd do? Oh, and how much effort does it take to add an 'out of office' notifiation to your email and voice-mail?

This is my desk:
Pathetic isn't it?

I feel like I'm going to tear my hair right out of my head. In my mind I wonder if this is all there is? You get up and slog to a job every day that you derive little to no joy from for the better part of your life, so you can enjoy the last decade or two of your existence in comfort? There's something deeply, deeply wrong with this. We get a whopping 70-80 years if we're lucky; we should spend it in the best way we know how! Responsibility SUCKS!!! I want to be a kid again, I'd even go to school willingly this time 'round.

Right now, becoming a hermit in a unibomber cabin sure sounds pleasant. No commute, nobody blowing you off, no whiners, just the trees, my dogs, peace and quiet to pursue the things that center me... wouldn't that be nice? Instead of squeezing the good stuff into the spare 2 hours I get a day to myself? We have to work so hard to keep what we have... is it worth it?

ARGH!!!!! Where is Friday? I'm waiting.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bonny Bonnets and Beautiful Things

Nothing centers me more than doing things with my hands. I can feel my blood-pressure even out, and my frenetic thoughts that are like mexican jumping beans inside my head just fade into quiet pensiveness when I've got something to create.

Ever since the founding of the Oregon Regency Society, I've been preoccupied (moreso than I had ever been before) with the Regency period. Once, I simply would immerse myself into Jane Austen adaptations, or read the books (which I do twice a year no fail)--now I am taking it to another level. I'm making gowns and bonnets and reticules and all manner of other items. The society has also resparked my love for drawing period pieces, and my whimsical Potter-knock-offs... I'm more creative than I've been in years. I'm not writing as much as I used to, but that will never really go away, it simply takes a back seat something when that part of my brain that likes to fabricate things takes over

Instead of allowing my creations to clutter up my home (my husband calls it the 'craft-house' when I'm in project mode, because my small cabin gets cluttery very quickly), I've been selling them on etsy. I've even developed a pattern for my signature 'stovepipe bonnet'. It's really something to be making money doing something that you like. I wish I could do it full-time.

One of my first etsy customers is a big-spender. She bought an existing bonnet I had up there, plus commissioned two more (a stovepipe and a soft-poke like the sage one), and is also buying my pattern and a reticule. This is the soft-poke bonnet I made for her.

I went all-out and covered this one in dupioni silk. It's so lush and pretty and crinkly. It's my favourite soft-poke so far I think

The stovepipe is a ruched delight. I went wild with feathers too. I used my own pattern for it.

The pattern for the stovepipe includes two variations. Click the image for details.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Posie Gets Personal.

Every morning, I take a few minutes to browse my favourite list of blogs. Among them is "Posie gets Cozy"; a wonderful lady who is also from Oregon whose charming blog outlines the delightful crafts she does, talks about her really great life in Portland, shows her brave approach to cooking and more.

Today, her post was very sad. It made me cry.

She talked about the loss of her dog Audrey; and as these things do, it brought back one of the hardest times of my life; when I had to put my 12-year-old companion and best friend Eddie to sleep. And August is also the anniversary of this period. It will be 2 years. It was when the cancer in his nasal passage and brain had finally made him so miserable, that I could no longer bear to watch him suffer so. That was one of the hardest decisions I've ever made in my life.

I was lucky enough to have my friends at Linwood Animal Clinic. I used to work there, and they were so kind. They gave us the surgery room to ourselves. Dr. Cain sedated him first; and for the first time in months, he relaxed and was soft and yielding like he used to be instead of tense with pain. When she gave him the injection, he went so quickly. I just laid my head on him and wept and wept and wept. It was so very, very sad. I couldn't imagine what my world would be like without him. It's still empty without him sometimes. My husband and I both cried all the way home. Flower was so lonely too, even if he didn't like her very much.

I think, and I learned this working at the vet clinic and dealing directly with people on a daily basis who were making this decision, that what makes this so hard is not just that you are losing a companion who has stood by your side and never once cast a disparaging glance at you---what makes it so hard is that you have to make the decision. You have to decide that the creature you love so much has to go now. You have to decide that you will wake up the next day and they will no longer be there. You have to reconcile that the void you will feel every day from now on is something you decided.

I've dealt with death in my family before, it's horrible; but frankly, this was worse. This innocent creature that has depended on you, loved you unconditionally, this living thing that has sort of enmeshed itself into your daily life like nothing else can, is in pain; is sick, is suffering. You question yourself; "is it too soon? Could he or she have lived a bit longer on pain medication? Did I do the right thing?"

I kept Eddie on medication for a while, but in the end, he didn't recognize me sometimes. He'd stand and stare at the wall, and growl. He would pace and pace and pace. But the backbreaker for me was when he stopped sleeping in bed with us... and he would lie in his dog-bed, stiff as a board, and shudder with each breath. I was so scared I'd wake up and find him dead; and that he died alone, and in so much pain and suffering and I wasn't there for him. Or that I'd come home and find him, and all those same feelings would rush into my head.

It was so very hard. The car and the beach would bring lapses in his suffering; for short bursts, he was himself, making nose-marks on my windshield and bouncing from back seat to front with his long tail wagging. I'd get all this hope, and then he would slip back into this painful march. My husband had never endured this sort of thing, and I think he took it harder than I did. We are such saps, because we can't even cope with seeing a picture of him without getting misty-eyed.

Going through life battling depression is hard; but it was made easier, and gave me more direction when I had Eddie to focus on. We took care of eachother. He was a cantankerous old curmudgeon; but he was entirely my dog; focused 100% on me. I was true north and he was the compass. He was my shadow. I've never adored a dog as much as I loved Eddie. I probably never will again. 12 years of friendship is nothing to scoff at.

I cannot bring myself to dispose of his old Kong toy, or his red collar with jingly tags... His ashes are in an urn over the fireplace; yes, it's weird... but I look at Eddie like a lifesaver. His needing me kept me going sometimes when nothing else could. Steadfast and loving, I miss that dog every day. My friends at Linwood; unbeknownst to me, had made a little plaster-casting of his paw-print for me, and waited to deliver it to me when I'd had a couple of weeks to adjust. It was such a great gesture. What great people.

All I can say to anyone who goes through this; let your vet be your reassurance that your decision is the right one. Hold onto their memory, and make sure you get a puppy before they get too old, because the puppies absorb some of their habits and quirks, and they carry them on.
Anyway... now that I've become Debbie Downer, I'm off home. I have to go home and cuddle Flower or play with the ever-energetic and emtpy-headed Simon. I have to think of good things now.

My new Bonnet pattern is selling like hotcakes! Check out my etsy shop when you have a chance.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Happy Friday from Tillie & Chantal

The best of friends.

Tillie sleeps at the foot at Chantal's bed every night, and Chantal shares bits of her breakfast with Tillie each morning. Tillie waits patiently at Chantal's feet under her writing desk while Chantal she learns to make elegant letters. When it's lovely outside, they chase each other about the garden, and throw toys made of felted wool. When it's raining, they sit in the drawing room, Chantal stitches on her sampler and Tillie lies by the fender of the fire. Tillie sits by the door and waits for Chantal when they are out visiting. And when she comes home, Tillie dances and wiggles and wags her tail in delight to see her again.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

A Midsummer Night's Dream

The Oregon Regency Society had its Midsummer Night's Dream Masquerade Friday night, and it was an evening of magic and delight.

There were strolls through enchanted pathways...

And by chance, did we see a fleeting glimpse of a pixie?

The forests's sprites and faeries tell no tales.

... and did we see the Queen of the Fae herself mayhaps?

...or perchance run into a mischievous satyr or sprite?

We did dance, and laugh, and dine until the stars covered the sky.

My gift to the owners of the Ainsworth House & Gardens for their kindness and friendship. What a beautiful, beautiful venue.

Find the full collection of images here:


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