Thursday, December 15, 2011

garden gate

keyhole in garden gate, Dinan, France
In ten days, it will be Christmas morning!  This past Sunday, I went to the annual performance of The Singing Christmas Tree at the Orange Baptist Church.  My grandma started the tradition at Orange Baptist and was the director of the performance for 22 years.  She said the first year, people were lined up all the way down Main Street and around the courthouse, waiting to get into the church, and that even after they had violated fire codes with as many extra chairs as would fit in the aisles, and people standing, they had to turn people away, and that people were so excited, a reporter from the radio station came out.  Can you imagine!?  I guess you see lines like that for Justin Bieber concerts, but I can't help myself from getting carried away with the old-fashioned romance of the radio and so many people wanting to hear a choir singing carols in a church while assembled on wooden bleachers disguised with fresh greenery and formed into the shape of a Christmas tree...  Everybody together with the smell of matches and wood polish and that unidentifiable something that  can only be the scent of rituals being repeated for years on end. I've been to the performance almost every year.  And every year my dad whispers and squirms around like a boy the whole time, which is annoying and lovely all at once.  This year, the phrase from Deck the Halls... "fast away the old year passes" really struck me, and has been flitting through my thoughts all week.  I love that phrase.  It is beautiful, I think. Sometimes life has an unconscious pace that rolls along evenly.  And sometimes, there is a sensation of anticipation, that some unknown something is about to turn, change, tangibly evolve.  Lately I've had that feeling.  Maybe I'm just excited for no real reason, and that is good enough in itself.  But I love feeling like I do, like I'm approaching a garden gate, and can see just a little through the keyhole... wondering if the gate is locked or unlocked, if I have the key that fits in my pocket, or if I'm going to have to weld one, or if I'm just going to scale the wall instead of using the gate.   And I wonder how exploring the whole of the garden is going to compare with the tiny glimmer of a view visible through the hole.

Monday, December 5, 2011

for the birds

I saw the sun rise on Saturday morning before the Christmas market in town.  I stayed up way too late on Friday night trying to put the finishing touches on my wares, but even exhaustion couldn't curb my enthusiasm. Here is a picture of my little 'booth' at the market in the early morning light.  Wearing long johns under my  jeans, wool socks, two shirts, two sweaters, a vest and gloves, I manned my space for six hours.  My eyes were puffy and my nose was bright red... and my hairdo wasn't too attractive either, I realized after the whole day had gone by, but I had a really good time talking to market-goers and other vendors in the refreshing winter air, and I made lots of sales!!
Today I found this porcelain heart bowl at the Goodwill for 49 cents.  I filled it up with seeds and put it on the table outside the window next to my work space in hopes that it will lure some hungry birds for me to spy on!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

feather collecting

chicken, turkey, hawk, turkey, duck, owl, peacock, woodpecker
I've been a real busy-body the past two weeks... doing my regular old waitress work, painting watercolors based on some ancient Islamic tile work and trying to compose a pattern from them for a lady's kitchen curtains, trying to re-create an out-of-print Moliere-themed fabric, making new pillow material for my own projects on Etsy, and getting ready to be a vendor at the Christmas Market that will be at the train station in Orange this Saturday.  I finally made bread (and already ate it up).  It has been magically warm the past few days.  The other night I had my door open for hours while I was at the sewing machine, listening to Chopin nocturnes, and I could even hear crickets singing outside in the darkness.  There were no bugs around to fly into the light, only a couple giant wolf spiders scampering across the floor, which don't bother me anymore... I got used to hundreds of them in my parents' basement during my childhood.  Yesterday while I was at my work table with the door open, I heard rustling and saw a flash of brown from the corner of my eye.  That scared me.  My impulse thought was 'rat'!  But the rustling was only the claws of a little bird on the floor, and he quickly excused himself back outside to the bushes.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

good breakfast, good book

Most of the leaves have rattled down off the trees and it's getting pitch dark by five thirty.  It's almost time for pumpkin pies and snow and Christmas trees and parties where the fireplace is lit up and there's a great big pile of coats on the spare bed.  It's time to welcome winter and all the quiet and cold that comes with it, including rubbing globs of cream on chapped hands, getting used to going on walks when you can't hear very well because a hat or hood is rubbing your ears with the rhythm of your steps.  And in winter, warm food and good books become more important than ever.

Oatmeal is a common warm breakfast.  But I don't really like oatmeal very much.  Actually it's one of my least favorite foods.  I like thick slices of toast with butter melted into them in the mornings.  But since I have been lazy and haven't made bread, last week I put together pretty much the sum of all that was in my cupboard:  oatmeal (that I only had for the purpose of putting in bread dough), cinnamon, a granny smith apple, and maple syrup.  And I really liked it and have eaten it several times since.  Just boil the oatmeal on the stove top with a dash of sea salt (sorry, I don't measure or use timers... the oatmeal of course expands when it cooks and it looks mushy when it's done).  While the oatmeal is boiling, chop up any apple you like into little cubes and drop the cubes into a big bowl (that you would like to eat out of).  When the oatmeal is done, dump it over the apples, then sprinkle it with four or five big pinches of cinnamon, stir it with a spoon and then pour real maple syrup over it.  It is a good winter breakfast or afternoon snack and it sits just right in your belly.

And about the book... I have been reading Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay.  I found it by pure luck last time I was at the library.  It is not a very professional or intelligent practice, but I enjoy walking up and down the aisles of the library almost like a water witch, following my impulse.  I pull books off the shelves and open them to random pages and read passages.  If it feels right, I check it out and give it a whirl.  So I found Russian Winter like that, and it is the most beautiful novel I have read in a long time... it is not tedious or pretentious, nor is it formulaic or simple.  It is real and rich and of genuine, old-fashioned literary quality.  The characters are outstanding and the atmosphere and setting feel breathtakingly real.  If you are looking for a book to help ease you into a winter state of mind, and to make you feel completely content with a blanket and a cup of hot tea and nowhere to go, check it out.

Friday, November 11, 2011

William Morris

Daffodil Chintz 1891 furnishing textile by John Henry Dearle, who designed for William Morris
"The past is not dead, it is living in us, and will be alive in the future which we are now helping to make."
           - William Morris

Friday, November 4, 2011

one downy feather

Today is grey and windy.  A perfect day for naps with strange dreams, or thinking about the little boy in Roald Dahl's The Witches sitting with his Norwegian grandma in front of the fire telling stories and mending socks.  It's the kind of day when forgotten smells bring you vivid, unexpected memories and the past seems to want to lure you and wrap you up in a heavy fate-like blanket.  I  was so lost in these kinds of thoughts and feelings while I was out walking that I gasped when I heard the sound of a big old sycamore leaf rolling along the packed dirt behind me in the lane.  I'd expected to see a person or an animal when I turned around.  And I especially liked this feather caught in the leaves.  I wonder if it was from a hawk or an owl?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

the newest pillows

I've had a hard time making myself sit in front of my computer and getting down to business... but sometime soon, I will be putting my newest pillows on my etsy site.  For the moment, here's a preview.

one of those days

painted lady with a battered wing tastes the asters
 Tuesday was still and warm.  It was the kind of day when it seems like you can tell the earth has changed its tilt and the sun puts a gilded kind of glow on everything it touches.  After spending so many hours in the car between Georgia and Virginia, I spent a lot of Tuesday outside, happily stunned by the beautiful weather.

The Country Living Fair

We had so much fun!  Imagine, a little section of woods in Stone Mountain Park was filled with shops sprinkled in between tall pines, lining curving dirt paths.  We wended our way over the paths - rusty orange pine needles all over the ground, smelling good and making the woods feel cozy... and I went into a trance walking from one delight to the next... antique boxes, nightgowns, slips, tablecloths, pillows, wildly upholstered chairs, old plates, tea towels, alarm clocks, coffee grinders, paintings... I just wish I'd been wearing a snow suit Saturday morning because it was a lot colder than I expected.  Sunday morning, I pitched my product.  My voice probably sounded like Mickey Mouse in fast-forward, but it was fun and the judges were kind and receptive.  I won't find out whether or not I'll make it into the magazine for a couple months, but I'm happy either way.
This chocolate Buddha sitting on my knee is from Matthew's Chocolate Shop in Hillsboro, NC.  We stopped along the way - just by accident - and are already looking forward to going back on purpose, as soon as we can.  It is a magical, old-fashioned shop - tiny, with a glass case of chocolates and a velvet curtain tied back behind the counter.  The chocolates are not just beautiful - they taste very, very good.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Georgia, Georgia

Last night, I stitched labels into several of my new pillows... It was such a happy feeling to be working on a chilly fall night to the light of Emma's sewing machine.  I wondered what she would think if she knew what her great-great granddaughter was doing with her old machine.  I'm almost all ready for the Country Living Fair in Atlanta.  Gretchen, Mom and I will be kicking up gravel on Gooch Lane at 8 o'clock sharp on Friday morning.... the beginning of a ten hour adventure in the mini van!  Whew, I have butterflies!!

Monday, October 17, 2011

new pillow, new plate!

my new $1 plate from the Wellsville China Co. in Wellsville, Ohio
 There's a shop off of Main Street in Madison called 'The Feed Store'.  It used to be a feed store.  And now instead of being home to bags of cracked corn and trail ration, it's full of antiques and old junk... baskets hanging from the ceiling, unruly piles of dusty paintings and photographs, teetering stacks of chairs, tins of buttons and wooden spools, and busted-up suitcases full of beautiful old flour sacking material.  This is where I've found some of the fabric I'm using on the backs of some of my pillows.  I could spend hours looking around in this shop... but the only down side is that it is rather expensive.  Most of the things aren't marked, you just ask the grandmotherly proprietress how much.  Sometimes you can get a great bargain, but a lot of the things, as Nora said as we were descending the stairs leaving the shop earlier this week, have New York City prices.  I did find a new plate though, to add to my collection.  And it was only a dollar!
Nora inquired about a weather vane that was $350 and an old feed sack that was $75.  Those prices are unbearable after you've gotten used to finding really good deals.  For example, I found the beautiful blue and white linen hand towel above rumpled up in the bottom of a cardboard box at another antique shop a few miles up the road.  It was only 50 cents!  And I got three antique chairs like the one above at the Goodwill for only $2.49 each!!  I covered the seat in one of my new fabrics - a pattern I made using one of the paintings I did of Madame Gaillais' roses in France.  And I made the pillow with another one of my new fabrics with my watercolor of an owl butterfly from South America.  Their defense mechanism is to open their wings, which look to predators like the intimidating face of an owl.  And then there are the little yellow and orange Cleopatra butterflies in between.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

two scraps of news

I'm going to Atlanta, Georgia for the Country Living fair to present my fabrics and pillows.   My appointment with the judges is on the morning of October 23rd.  If I'm extremely lucky, I might get featured in the magazine!!  It's a long shot, but I'll do my best.

Also, I've entered one of my fabrics - 'french radish on red zigzag' - in the root vegetable themed contest through Spoonflower.  If anyone has time to visit the site and vote for me, I would be very honored!

Here's the fabric so you can recognize it:

French Radish on Red Zigzag 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Art critics

Not only are my chicks all grown up - rooster crowing, hens laying eggs - but they also have a taste for painting.  This past Sunday my dad and brother were laughing at me from the kitchen window because my chickens kept hopping up on the picnic table to have a look at the watercolor I was working on :)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A beautiful week

I have two wonderful grandmothers, and the one who lives closest to me was able to go with me to the art show at Firnew Farm last Saturday.  It was a gorgeous day, and we enjoyed the car ride through Madison's rolling hills, with the mountains glowing purple blue in the not too far distance.  The art and live music were in the milking parlor you can see in the background (photo below).  The exhibit was full of excellent work and the atmosphere was magical inside the old wooden walls with the music and such a large gathering of caring, talented people full of creativity and appreciation.  In addition, there were three alpacas to visit with.  My grandma, who had never seen an alpaca before, fell head over heels for them.  In the picture below, she is petting the little baby named Prince.  I think she would've tried to get me to load him into the back of my Subaru if his owner (the man in the background wearing the hat) had turned his head for one second.  If there had been any sort of raffle to win one, I think she would've bought at last 25 tickets.  It was so much fun watching her enthusiasm and touching their soft, soft fleece.  Afterward, we went to a little cafe in Madison and ate homemade pie.  I had pecan and my grandma had blackberry.

 The mushrooms from my previous post continued to flourish and this clump opened to be an extra-vivid shade of tangerine.
 And this hand-painted sign charms me every time I pass it on the highway on the way to and from work, especially because I know it won't be long before it will be packed up for winter.  I took a picture of it while traffic was stopped for roadside work.

And lastly, on Tuesday, I spent a really good day with my mom and sister.  We all found treasures at an antique store in Ruckersville... my mom an old, old rocking chair, my sister some vintage earrings, and I found some linens - including a beautiful tablecloth (at an amazingly good price)  in perfect condition.  But before the treasure hunt, we ate lunch at a Mexican restaurant.  In the little and very dingy bathroom, there was a poster for the pregnancy center, with the familiar slogan 'Late?  Worried?' written in Spanish.  And I realized for the first time that 'worried' in Spanish is 'preocupado'.  And I thought, preoccupied is the perfect adjective for what it means to be worried, because it describes exactly why being worried is such a terrible thing to do.  It overshadows your thoughts in such a way that you  are previously occupied and completely lose the beauty and the gift of the present moment.  When you are worry-free, the present is illuminated.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Art Show!

The Studio at Firnew Farm: Feast in the Field - September 10 & 11, 2011

I've entered three pillows and one watercolor.  All the art  is hung inside the farm's old milking parlor, plus the special exhibit in the silo! 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

September morning

Today the sky was low and grey.  This morning I went out in the misty damp, prowling around for wild mushrooms.  Not to eat.  Just to admire.  It was a still and quiet morning, except for the rallying of the crickets.  They've been magnificent lately... I think their song has taken the place of the frogs... it's so nice, like a constant ringing glow in your ears.  I'm not ready yet to think about when the population dwindles down to one or two lonely crickets creaking in a corner before the real onset of winter.  But there's no sense in thinking about that now.  For now, we are right in the magical end days of summer, and this morning, I remembered what it was like to spend countless hours exploring outside alone, like I used to do so often when I was 'little.'  There's something so good and simple about hunting for things outside, which also reminded me - other than feeling a little bit guilty and awkward when people ask me what I do, I am very happy being a waitress at this time in my life.  I don't have a job title that carries much weight for people who like to weigh titles, but I have a schedule that allows me to wander around in the woods getting serenaded by crickets while looking for beauty...  while other people might be stuck in traffic wearing pantyhose.  I'm privileged!  After finding and photographing these mushrooms, I painted a couple I picked while I drank licorice tea and listened to a recording of Jane Eyre. I read it for the first time in 6th grade and loved it for some reason.  While this morning I could clearly remember why I loved roving around outside so much when I was in elementary school, I cannot for the life of me figure out why I enjoyed Jane Eyre. Is there any drearier story?  But I will finish it.  Books on tape from the library are an invaluable resource for someone who likes to work on projects and does not have a TV.  I can listen to stories galore (for free!) while I sew and paint.

PS - Does anyone else have the feeling that this year has been an extra-productive one for the mycelium around here?  I've never seen so many kinds of mushrooms in person!  But then again, I probably neglected to look.

Monday, August 29, 2011

A pile of pillows!

Did you know that paintings could turn into pillows?! 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

a cup of tea and a peach

I violated the cardinal rule about blogging... I left off posting for about two months.  But I can't say I'm sorry or make any promises.  First of all it would be ludicrous because there's no one to apologize to.  My only readers are my friends and family, who already hear all my stories and blabbing over the phone or in person and I don't think they really read my blog anyway, but became "followers" because they're so good to me.  I still don't know what it is that makes me want to keep this blog since I keep a real paper journal and because blogs are such a weird mixture of public and private and there's something inauthentic about trying to present your life in an on-line magazine kind of way.  But I do enjoy reading other people's blogs, and I'll persist in trying to keep up this one.  In case there is someone reading whom I haven't spoken with lately, I did everything I said I was going to do on my list of things to do at the beach.  I got a big bar of French-milled soap and took every shower outside, two of them even at night by candlelight.  But  after the vacation, I got into a terrible mood that went on for weeks...  I worried a lot... I was grumpy, anxious and pessimistic.  And now, I think I'm finally restored.   I've moved to a big, clean basement apartment (with windows!) in Madison County. It is a really good temporary arrangement and a perfect workshop.  I have been sewing and sewing and sewing... there are scraps and thread clippings trailed all over the floor... evidence of work getting done, which makes me feel good.  I've been making pillows and will post them for sale on my Etsy site this coming Monday.  I am working on an entry for a contest through Country Living magazine and also trying to prepare entries for an art show in Madison.  By the end of next week, it will be a new month, and I'll have sent off my current projects and be starting new ones.  Anyway, I've been hunched over the sewing machine so much lately that I've been a terrible delinquent today... looking at over-sized decorating books in bed, finishing a silly love novel about an Italian orphan I got addicted to, and drinking tea and eating peaches out on the porch while making lists.  Now I have to try to do some of the things on the lists (how can I be slacking like this in the midst of all these deadlines?!?) before it's time to dash to the restaurant and take dinner orders.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

surprise strawberry I found in the garden this evening!

I'm not a good 'relaxer.'  I think I have been at other times in my life, but right now, I'm itching to figure things out and get things done.  Things like where to live next, how to make more money and all sorts of logistics surrounding my fabrics and my future.  If I were a nail biter, I don't think I'd have any fingers left at all.  Because of all this, I'd decided I wanted to skip my family vacation and stay home alone to do research, send inquiry letters and try to find answers to as many of my questions as possible.  But my mom threw a fit, and my second cousin was counting on me to take her.  So I'll be on a barrier island off the coast of Virginia for five days, starting tomorrow.  I have two choices:  to resist every minute of the vacation, or to embrace it the way I would have fifteen years ago.  I'm going to embrace it, with a minor twist.  I'm making a list of things to do, so I can have the satisfaction of feeling like I'm fulfilling goals.  Yep, I'm a little bit nuts.

send postcards
ride my bike
take walks
start and finish a book
paint one watercolor
write in my journal
wake up early
drink coffee on the porch
take only outdoor showers
search in all the little shops for antiques (especially linens!) and other treasures
drink beer
jump around in the ocean
have lots of exciting conversations with my vivacious family
wear only loose, soft clothes
worrying is strictly forbidden

That's it.  Those are my goals for the week.