Thursday, December 1, 2005

plain2 (118k image)
I have been working with Plain and Fancy by Susan Swan today as a reference for some new designs that I hope to have available next month. By the way, I discovered that this book is still available from Amazon so it is on my Resources page. I thought it was completely out of print. This is a "must have" book for every serious needlewoman.
I found something in the book that I had forgotten about. I thought it was so humorous, I wanted to share it with you all.
On November 28,1827 the Baltimore American and Commerical Daily Advertiser had an article entitled, "Code of Instruction for Ladies." It basically summarized society's expectations of women. I won't list all of the expectations, but I think you'll get the basic idea.

1. Avoid contradicting your husband. (Right off the bat, I would be eliminated from proper society!)
2. Occupy yourself only with your household affairs. (hmmmm...)
3. All men are vain, never wound this vanity...A wife may have more sense than her husband, but she should never seem to know it. (has any woman ever really done this?)
4. When a man gives wrong counsel, never make him feel that he has done so... ( what??!)
5. (This is the REAL topper!!) Seem always to obtain information from him, especially before company, though you may pass yourself for a simpleton. Never forget that a wife owes all of her importance to that of her husband. Leave him entirely as master of his own actions, to go and come whenever he thinks fit.

I don't think I would have fit in to that society.

Posted by Mary at 07:27 PM CST
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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

chainbooks (25k image)
Chains on old books are a rather common thing to see in the old libraries of Cambridge and Oxford, England. I don't know if the books have always been chained, or if that is something relatively new. The chains I saw didn't exactly look new!
When we were in Cambridge last winter, I wanted to take advantage of the wonderful library there and check out some of the newer books that weren't chained. I was told that since I was not a student, I would need to come with my husband (who had library privileges). The librarian also told me that I was not allowed to touch the books, only my husband could. I could though go with him into the library and point to the books I was interested in. That got old real quick!
I wish that you could thumb through all of the books I put on my resource page. I would let you touch them - you wouldn't have to just point! I found another entire shelf that I forgot to include, so those books have just been added. I am also working on a list of old and hard to find books. I will post that list after Christmas. I am planning to do a weekly book review on each book in my library and why I bought it. Since you really can't touch the books (that's ironic), the review might at least give you more information.

Posted by Mary at 11:56 AM CST
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Monday, October 31, 2005

turtle (32k image) Well, as you can see not much has changed on the web site. I feel like this turtle! David and I are working on the site "behind the scenes." I have decided though that I want things to be right instead of just out there. I will put up the new parts of the site as they are ready...and right! I think you will enjoy it.









Posted by Mary at 01:24 PM CST
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Monday, October 3, 2005

inkwell (42k image)
Well, things are changing on my web site ever so slowly. I am really not good at multi-tasking. Did you notice the new feature here in journal though? You can email me from here just by clicking on the "send a comment to Mary" button. Since the travels and touring will move to it's own spot, this journal will return to being more of my think tank on decorative arts. I will give you all the information on books that I am reading, things that I think would interest you in various museums, magazines with good articles. Whatever I find as I work, I will pass along to you. In the travel and touring section as well as here, you will be able to ask questions if something is unclear to you, or you want more information. I think this will be a more efficient way of communication. Let me know what you think as things begin to change.

Posted by Mary at 11:10 AM CST
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Thursday, September 8, 2005

construction (35k image) I wanted to let everyone know that I am about change my web site just slightly. It's a rather overwhelming task, but I think it will be more fun to visit. I am going to add an online "magazine" that will change quarterly. I am also planning a travel journal with entries from me and many other guest travelers. On that site, you will also be able to ask the traveler any pertinent questions about their trip you might have. There will be many other things as well that I think you will enjoy. Wish I could just wave a wand and it would be done...oh well.
I sent out a survey to eighty-five of you that have been customers for years. I want to thank you all so much for your overwhelming response. It was not only extremely helpful, but it confirmed some of the directions I was thinking of taking. If I missed anyone that would like to throw in their two cents, please email me. I hope to have all the changes made by October.

Posted by Mary at 02:17 PM CST
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Monday, August 29, 2005

orvieto (61k image)

There is a lot happening at our house this week. As I mentioned, I am taking our youngest daughter to California to begin her freshman year of college on Friday. Tomorrow though, our middle daughter comes home from four months in Italy. She spent a semester there last fall and loved it so much she went back in May for the summer! She was all over Italy this summer, but her main base of operation was in Orvieto, pictured above. Isn't it beautiful? I am going to have Nancy, my daughter, be the first guest journalist for my travel log. Because she is a photographer, we should not only have ideas from her on interesting things to see and do, but numerous pictures. Watch for the travel log this fall.

Posted by Mary at 02:31 PM CST
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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

breakingties (281k image)
Norman Rockwell is my favorite 20th century artist. He had the ability to capture many of life's moments in paint. The amazing thing to me is the fact that he did it over and over again throughout the course of his career. He painted everyday life fifty to sixty years ago and it still remains a timeless work of art, which validates the great gift that he had.
This particular piece is the one that almost makes me cry when I look at it now. I can so identify with the father in the painting. He appears to be trying very hard to be strong and almost emotionless as his son sits by his side with equally restrained emotions. The forlorn look of the dog resting on the son's knee and the suitcase with the "State U" sticker complete this all too familiar life picture. I am taking my youngest daughter to begin college next Friday. She will be very far away in California. The only difference in our life picture from Norman Rockwell's picture is the amount of baggage she is taking. Hope we can can get it all there!

Posted by Mary at 02:46 PM CST
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Thursday, August 11, 2005

sailboatmaine (38k image)

I promise we will get back to our final tour of Cambridge, but I have taken another trip and I wanted to share that with you. My husband and I just returned from Maine. The heat in Chicago finally got to us. If you find yourself wandering around Maine this fall, I have a few suggestions for you. Visit Castine, Maine! It is like stepping back in time. It is an old coastal village that is one of the oldest villages in the country. I promise you won't be disappointed! There are several wonderful inns in the town. I recommend An Explorer's Guide to Maine by Christina Tree and Nancy English if you are planning a trip to Maine. They have a lot of very helpful information on inns, restaurants, things to do, etc. all over the state. Another place I especially liked was Hancock Point. The old homes there are just amazing. The picture above is a schooner cruising in the Penobscot Bay. While this picture was taken on a foggy day, our time in Castine was clear and picture perfect.

Posted by Mary at 01:50 PM CST
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Sunday, June 26, 2005

I just returned from a weekend in Iowa. I was invited by the Mississippi River Sampler Guild to come and give a program. It was such a delightful weekend. For those of you who have never been to Iowa, it is a beautiful place. I think most people think of Illinois and Iowa as being totally flat and covered with corn fields. The driftless area though in Iowa and the northwestern part of Illinois were untouched by the glaciers. Because this area was not "mowed down" by all of that ice, it is extremely hilly! As you drive out farther in the country, all of a sudden there are hills and valleys everywhere. It was a delightful surprise to my husband and me when we first discovered this part of Illinois and Iowa. You can see from this old map the hills that they have drawn. I love old maps! To all the women in the Mississippi River Sampler Guild, thank you for all of your warm hospitality and a wonderful weekend! I loved it!

By the way, you will be able to buy the project that was worked on this weekend. I will feature a picture of all of the finished projects made by the MRSG women in September. You will be able to purchase the charts in the shop at that time.

Posted by Mary at 04:37 PM CST
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Friday, June 17, 2005

DSCN1489 (642k image) This is a picture of the combination room at St. John's College, Cambridge. As I have mentioned before, it is my husband's college. I love this room! When it is out of term, the "fellows" (professors) have their meals here. The tradition for all those dining in college to wear their robes remains essential. I have been a guest for dinner in the combination room on a couple of occasions. At night, it is completely candlelit which gives it a truly magical and elegant feel.

Besides being elegant, this room is also famous! During the Second World War, they planned middle D-Day here. Apparently, it was used because of it's enormous size. You won't see this room if you visit the colleges, but you can see the halls of the different colleges where meals are served during term. They are just as wonderful.


Posted by Mary at 12:43 PM CST
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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

mybed (13k image) Well, we're now home. It is always nice to come home and sleep in your own bed! This is a picture of my bed...sort of. Actually, this is a bed at Walker Creek furniture in Essex, Massachusetts, but it is virtually the same bed that was made for us. Robert and Patti Hanlan, the owners, are our friends.The bed is hand-crafted of tiger maple. The bed posts are copied from an old bed. Their shop is amazing and the quality of all of their furniture is unsurpassed. Take a look at their web site and I think you will agree.

As I was saying, it is always nice to be home. I do have more pictures to share. I am trying to organize them so our tour of Cambridge will last for a while longer!

Posted by Mary at 10:49 AM CST
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Saturday, April 30, 2005

mathbridge (53k image)

This is probably the most interesting bridge that goes across the River Cam. It is called the mathematician's bridge and is part of Queens College. Sir Isaac Newton designed the bridge in the 17th century and it was originally built entirely without nails! Later, some curious folks decided that they would dismantle the bridge to see how Newton had done it. The only problem was they couldn't figure out how to put it back together the way it had been originally designed without the nails. Hence, the bridge is now held together with bolts. I recently heard a slightly different version of this story. They took the bridge apart to clean it and could not get it back together without bolts. Which ever version is correct, the fact remains that originally it had no nails and now it does!

Posted by Mary at 12:56 PM CST
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Saturday, April 23, 2005

mapcam (38k image)Before I share any more pictures of Cambridge bridges with you, I thought I should put up this old map to give you some orientation of the town. The map has been around for hundreds of years and is still available to purchase. In fact, we have a copy of it. The original is a copper plated print from c.1573. The interesting thing is that what is pictured is actually very up to date. This city is so ancient it really hasn't changed much. On this map you can see the various spots where the bridges are placed to cross the river. The large buildings are the different colleges. There is a bridge at each college that backs up to the River Cam. Each bridge is somewhat different. Before you get to any of the bridges you go through the "backs" of the colleges. This is also pictured on the map. It is where you see the lawns and the animals.

Posted by Mary at 07:46 PM CST
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Sunday, April 17, 2005

eaglebig (36k image)

This is my favorite pub in Cambridge, The Eagle. It is truly a classic pub with paneling on the walls which is somewhat different in every room. There are also old prints, fire places in each room, windsor chairs, etc. It has one added unusual feature. During the second world war, many of the RAF and American Air Force soldiers would frequent this pub. One night by candlelight, they all signed their names on the ceiling. If you think to look up, you can still see their signatures all over the entire ceiling. The walls in that particular room are filled with pictures of the soldiers and their planes. Our houses should be so personal! You could almost sense what it must have been like the night they were all there. If you go to Cambridge, you should definitely stop by this pub. This is actually the courtyard of the pub. When my friend Nancy came to visit us about ten days ago, it was a little too nippy to sit outside. We sat with the soldiers.

Posted by Mary at 03:28 PM CST
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Saturday, April 2, 2005

meadows (11k image)      orchard (28k image)
It is a beautiful Saturday here. There is no threat of rain (very unusual!), so we are going to walk to Grantchester and have some cream tea at The Orchard. This is the field next to the river Cam you walk through to get to the village of Grantchester. A lot of people punt along the river to Grantchester. The walk itself is about a mile and a half to the village. The picture above is the lawn of the tea room. There are numerous tables set up outside in the actual orchard so that you can take advantage of the weather and enjoy your tea and cake. A pot of tea without a little cake is kind of boring, don't you think? Put on your walking shoes and watch out for the cows.

Posted by Mary at 07:15 AM CST
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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

countryside2 (5k image) This is a tiny picture, but it give you some idea of the beautiful countryside. While we were in Wales, it was lambing season. I could have sat outside and watched the sheep and the lambs in the pastures all day long.




Posted by Mary at 11:39 AM CST
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stdein (22k image) This is the front of St. Deiniol's where we began our short stay in Wales.

Posted by Mary at 08:22 AM CST
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library (15k image) This is a picture of the library at St. Deiniol's. They have an extensive collection of books on a wide variety of subjects. You can find everything from theology to art history. In fact, the library houses approximately 250,000 books. While we were there, we spent the days wandering around the immediate area and searching for "jewels" in the library. I discovered some real treasures that I plan to share with everyone.

The only negative thing about Wales are the roads. My driveway in Wheaton looks like a highway in comparison to some of their roads.

Posted by Mary at 08:16 AM CST
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Monday, March 14, 2005

ely (12k image) This is a picture of Ely Cathedral which is in Cambridgeshire. I have used the picture to the left because this massive cathedral just appears as a lone great mountain juting out of the ground as you approach Ely by car. Ely Cathedral is in what is known as the fens. The original cathedral was actually on an island. It is truly an impressive structure. Originally built in 673, the monastery was destroyed by the Danes in 870. The original structure of the present building dates from the early 1080s, but there were numerous additons to the cathedral until the 15th century. No visit to Cambridge would be complete without seeing Ely Cathedral.

Posted by Mary at 06:45 AM CST
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Wednesday, March 2, 2005

cambridge03 (89k image)Cambridge is filled with many passageways such as this one pictured here by Kings College. Since quite a few of the colleges along the River Cam are right next to each other, there is no lack of tiny passageways. Historic architectural structures are at every turn. It is wonderful. Before you get too jealous, it is raw and cold. I have discovered these new lovely short-cuts because I have been desparate to get back to the house! On a brighter note, all of the spring bulbs are coming up. It will be nice when the rain gets warmer.


Posted by Mary at 05:07 AM CST
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Friday, February 18, 2005

foxhounds (282k image)

I just heard that yesterday was the last day you could hunt fox in England. When we lived in a small village outside of Cambridge eighteen years ago, it was always fun to see the hounds racing around with their noses to the ground trying to pick up the scent of a fox. When they realized they were on the right track so to speak, they would dash off with the hunt following their lead. It was always quite a sight. I had a wonderful view of all of this from the window of my work room on the third floor of our house in Bourn.

The English media speculated that more and more city folk began to "invade" the country folk. They did not understand the country ways and the sport of the hunt. I must admit that once they actually find and kill the fox, it is rather barbaric, but the English hunt is such a tradition! To me, it's as "English" as tea! They will apparently do what the Americans do which is follow a scent that has been laid before the hunt. I think the hounds in this painting look as though they know their days are numbered hunting fox.

Posted by Mary at 09:36 AM CST
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Wednesday, February 16, 2005

trinity (52k image)

I arrived in London this morning and finally got to Cambridge at 10:00AM, which was 4:00AM by Chicago time. I think travel is amazing. Everytime my husband and I take off in a plane, he always marvels at the fact that such a huge metal "bird" can get off the ground and take us to far away places. I thought in honor of defying gravity, I would post a picture of Sir Issac Newton's room at Trinity College, Cambridge.

Posted by Mary at 10:12 AM CST
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Friday, February 11, 2005

I wanted to let everyone know that my husband and I are going to Cambridge, England until May 1st. My daughter will be taking care of all of my mailed orders. The most wonderful thing about computers is that I can still communicate and do my work from Cambridge. I am planning to have many journal entries while there, as well as, keep up with the school. When I return home, I am hoping to have some special designs to offer in the shop from my stay in England. Since I can stay in touch so easily, you can join me. Won't you come to Cambridge with me? My flight leaves on Tuesday, February15th. You better start packing.

This is a picture of the bridge at St. John's College, Cambridge that goes over the River Cam. This is my husband's college. I will explain more about all of the bridges that go over the River Cam later.

Posted by Mary at 11:43 AM CST
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Tuesday, January 4, 2005

Aren't these lovely pieces? I wanted to share them with you at the beginning of this new year because I think they provide pure inspiration to the needlewoman. The sampler wedding pocket is my favorite. I had never seen one before. I think it is such a wonderful piece, I want to design one! Actually, all of these needlework pieces are for sale. If you would like a description of these items, visit The Silvermine Antiques web site. The web address is

Posted by Mary at 07:30 PM CST
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