Thursday, December 4, 2008
Since the Christmas season is upon us, I wanted to inspire everyone again with Linda Wallace’s trees. You will find it on the side bar just below the shop. If you haven’t seen her numerous Christmas trees, you are in for a treat. I always enjoy seeing them. I love the idea of the hand towel tree! I want to do one. I would still like to make the same kind of “album” for the Sampler Stockings, but I need your pictures and stories to do that.
Posted by Mary at 02:42 PM CST
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Now that the cold weather has set in I think about food a lot more. Since the winters are so long here, that’s not a good thing. I discovered something though that really satisfies my afternoon craving for a plate of cookies, but it has NO calories. What is this, you might ask? Well, it’s tea! I am not a big tea drinker except when we’re in England (it tastes better over there), but this tea is different! It’s from Bigelow and is called Vanilla Carmel. I absolutely love it. I put a little milk and sugar in it and drink it every afternoon. Actually, I must tell you what got me started on this. We were given some Celestial Seasonings holiday herb tea a few years ago. It’s called Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride. I love their packaging. The tea is also just fantastic! I like to give it as a hostess gift during the holidays. If you have a sweet tooth, but don’t want to eat that plate of cookies, then you need to check out these yummy teas! Here are the web sites:
Posted by Mary at 02:44 PM CST
Thursday, November 6, 2008
I am just putting the finishing touches on my new room. I think my daughter’s room is going to be a great place for me to work. I decided to hang my grandmother’s graduation dress on closet door in the room. It has a lot of lace, tucks, embroidery, and many covered buttons. I love it! I also hung my collection of 19th century beaded bags. The designs are so lovely and intricate. Several of my daughter’s photographs from Italy have a place of prominence over my desk. Finally, last but certainly not least, I wanted to hang on the wall several of my children’s clothes that I have kept over the years that remind me of them when they were tiny. I have an old antique shelf with hooks. It was perfect for their little clothes. I have one more room to paint and hang new curtains, then I will be done! I forgot how much I loathe painting. I need a little decorating fairy that I can just direct to do the things I don’t want to do. I don’t think I am going to find one.
Posted by Mary at 01:08 PM CST
Saturday, October 25, 2008
I realize I have been neglecting my journal for a while. Actually, I have gotten a lot done to my house though. I am now redoing my daughter’s room upstairs. I plan to take it over as my workroom. It amazes me how choosing colors for my needlework is similar to the way I choose paint colors. This time I started with an old quilt I have. The colors in it are charming. Since it will be a focal piece for the room, I wanted to paint the walls a color that would make the quilt really “pop.” I have chosen a drab looking pale green. I have been surrounded by this color only while I have been painting. Every once in a while I will get the quilt out and put it next to the wall to reassure myself that I picked out the right color. It is a wonderful “background” color, but very boring on it’s own! I have been looking at interiors on the Internet as well as in my books. This picture is from an Irish castle, which is a country house hotel. I love red, but it is a huge challenge to accessorize a room properly when the main color is red. They did a good job! I am glad I didn't have that challenge though.
Posted by Mary at 03:08 PM CST
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
I have decided to remodel several rooms in my house. I have always loved our sunroom, but we have traveled so much in the past three years that I haven’t really done much with this space. It has remained a workroom for me, which I have enjoyed because it is so bright. Well, since both our daughters are now out of the house, I decided to take over one of their rooms and redo the sunroom. Hopefully, it will be a proper “winter garden” room. For inspiration I have turned to several books I own. The two that I really love are:
Nineteenth Century Decoration
The Art of the Interior
by Charlotte Gere
The Domestic Interior 1620-1920
by Peter Thornton
These books are fabulous. They are mainly paintings of interiors throughout history. I feel like so much of what is in the magazines is very similar. I wanted fresh ideas! I would be surprised if you could find either book in a book store at this point though. I have had these books for quite some time. If you love interiors these two books are really a “must have.” The painting above is by Claude Monet. I don’t remember seeing it in either of my books, but this is the type of painting that is in both books. They are each lavishly illustrated! Feel free to email me if you have any questions I didn’t answer about the books. I would check with abebooks.com or amazon.com to see if they have them.
Posted by Mary at 07:30 PM CST
Thursday, October 9, 2008
As I was walking yesterday two little girls passed me on the sidewalk with their American Girl dolls in hand. It brought back memories of my girls with their American Girl dolls. What I find fascinating about these dolls is the creator of the company. Pleasant T. Rowland was a teacher and, obviously, an amazing entrepreneur! How her company got started is something you hear all the time with successful companies. There was a need and no one was filling that need so she stepped in to provide what was missing! This is how it started. One Christmas she decided she wanted to give her two preteen nieces dolls as a gift. All she could find were either baby dolls, or Barbie dolls. She felt there was really nothing suitable for her nieces. Apparently, this frustration along with a trip to Colonial Williamsburg provided the “light bulb” moment she needed to create the American Girl line of historical dolls accompanied by books about each of the dolls.
What I didn’t realize was that these dolls fit into a much earlier category of dolls. They were known as travel dolls. This doll was usually about 10” in height (or smaller). Because it was a “travel” doll, it naturally had a trunk with clothes! This doll was only brought out for trips. The idea was to keep the child entertained. Once the family returned home, the doll was put away. Hitty, the doll I mentioned in my last post was a travel doll. In this very fast-paced world, where things have gone over the top for children (even with the American Girl dolls), a simple doll with some clothes sounds refreshing! With the economy the way it is, maybe even a simpler doll could be fun, a paper doll perhaps. I’ll save that for next time.
Posted by Mary at 01:55 PM CST
Monday, October 6, 2008
I spent most of last week dusting and washing everything in my house. I haven’t quite finished it yet, but I am almost there. My new half bath is finally finished and I love it! After writing about Victoria’s dolls last week as well as listening to the news while I was cleaning, I decided that everyone could use some Guatemalan worry dolls. These are tiny dolls only about one half inch in size. The ones I have seen come in a little basket with about six colorful dolls. They were created for children. If a child couldn’t sleep he was supposed to tell his worries to the doll then put it under his pillow and go to sleep. The doll would then take on the worry. In the morning when the child woke up, the worries would be gone because the doll had taken them away. While this is a cute idea, I am afraid it really won’t do us any good! You can still find an abundance of these dolls. I have seen them in shops that carry a lot of international goods.
I am amazed at the creative thought processes that accompany various dolls. Another wonderful doll with a story is Hitty. Hitty was an actual wooden doll purchased at an antique shop in New York City in the 1920’s. The owners wrote and illustrated an imaginary biography of Hitty. It is entitled, Hitty, Her First Hundred Years. The story is about how she went from owner to owner in that period. It’s a wonderful book! In fact it won the Newberry Award in 1930. In my opinion, the creative thinking that produced these dolls and their stories is something that people really gravitate to because it is very simple and everyone can relate to it.
Posted by Mary at 04:40 PM CST
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
When my husband and I were in Wales several years ago I stumbled across a book about Queen Victoria’s dolls. It was in the library of the house where we were staying for the weekend. I took some notes on the book because the subject fascinated me. I wanted to share just a little of what I discovered.
When Victoria was not yet Queen her life was very sheltered. Apparently, she did not have any companions her own age to play with so her dolls became her main company from the age of twelve to fourteen (1831 – 1833). I dare say it was her lack of friends that sparked her imagination to create this amazing doll world! She didn’t just have one or two dolls; she had one hundred and thirty-two of them! To me, what is more interesting is that she “dressed” thirty-two dolls herself. By that I mean, she made all their clothes from the very tiny ruffles and pockets to the half-inch square handkerchiefs on these dolls. Baroness Lehzen, her governess, dressed the rest of the dolls. Victoria’s wooden creations were all sorts of characters. She had court ladies, actors, housekeepers and, of course, gallant young men. The princess not only dressed her dolls perfectly, she even cataloged them! There is a small copybook of Victoria’s that has survived from her childhood, it is entitled, “List of my dolls.” Each doll that Victoria dressed is carefully marked. With this wide array of characters Victoria created dramas, pantomimes, and operas. After her doll phase, she moved on to watercolor painting and opera. This picture is a watercolor she did at seventeen. It is a scene from an Italian opera.
Posted by Mary at 06:20 PM CST
Friday, September 19, 2008
Since my entire house has a thin layer of white dust all over it, I have decided that following the carpenter around with my dust buster is a lost cause. I am just glad that what is being sanded is a small space. I am also ready for this project to be over! Anyway, in an effort to feel productive, I am going through my notes and drawings as well as old magazines so that I can feel as though I am making headway on something. I still can’t really work with all of the distractions. Since I have wanted to concentrate on the theme of “inspiration” this fall, I thought I would share this picture with you. It certainly looks like an enormous dining room in a great country house, but it isn’t. It is Queen Mary’s doll house! It is, in fact, the biggest doll house I have ever seen. It is on permanent display at Windsor Palace. I happened to find an article on it yesterday when I was going through some of my old English magazines. I thought I would share some of what I read. I initially thought the doll house was Queen Mary’s doll house as a child, but I discovered the King’s cousin, Princess Marie Louise, commissioned it after World War I for Queen Mary because of her love for miniatures. Everything about this doll house is real only tiny. The large (relatively speaking) silver plate in this room was made by Garrard, the crown jewelers! The paintings are the exact miniature replicas of some that hang in the Royal Collection. There are sixty-six dozen cases of miniature wine bottles (filled with vintage wine of course). These bottles were commissioned along with the exact same miniature labels for the doll house. There is really so much to say about this doll house. If you love miniatures as I do, you should look for the book written about it. It is an older book now, but you could probably find it on the Abe Books web site, or Amazon. The name of the book is, Queen Mary’s Doll's House by Mary Stewart-Wilson. The doll house took three years to complete!
Posted by Mary at 06:34 PM CST
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
There are rainy days when it is fun to stay at home and figure out a worthwhile activity to while the hours away and watch the rainfall. Then there are days when the rain is scary and out of control. We have had record rain amounts here in the Chicago area this past weekend, but nothing like the devastation that has occurred in Galveston and Houston! Even though it wasn’t as bad here, people were not looking for that fun indoor rainy day project to do. I have never seen such outdoor activity in a rainstorm. Elaborate drain systems were being constructed to divert water from basements; other people were outside with their neighbors trying to unclog various drains so the water could move instead of backing up. This a picture of Venice with water canals as streets. It’s totally charming! It is just NOT charming when there should be streets instead of canals! I have wanted to share some fun, unique “indoor” projects, but my mind just couldn’t go there this weekend. Perhaps when my sump pump quits going off every thirty seconds, I will be able to think of other things besides rain.
Posted by Mary at 11:10 AM CST
Thursday, September 11, 2008
As the most expensive half bath in the country continues to be reconstructed, I thought I would share with you another expensive project that happened in France in the early 1780’s. Imagine a young queen, becoming more and more unpopular because of her outrageous spending habits. At the same time, she becomes increasingly out of touch with the world and the things happening all around her. Understandably, she is looking for things to occupy her mind and time. So much could be said about Marie Antoinette, but I mainly wanted to focus on how she created Hameau de la Reine, The Queen’s Hamlet. It was designed by the Queen’s favorite architect, Richard Mique. Although it is built within the park of Versailles, it is a complete “fake” little hamlet with a mill, farmhouse, and dairy. The idea was to create the look of a Normandy peasant village. Natural gardens with pathways replaced the more formal gardens. Lakes, trees, and lawns with vistas were also added. This was the place Marie Antoinette would escape to play at being a peasant (which didn’t help her popularity much!). They even cleaned up certain docile cows for her to milk. The milk pail had her royal monogram on it, of course. The King could not visit this “hamlet” without an invitation. While money and imagination can produce fanciful places such as Petit Hameau, I believe that imagination can unlock all kinds of creative thinking that make money almost a non issue.
Posted by Mary at 06:45 PM CST
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Because my husband and I are now home we are taking care of projects that have been on our "to do" list for quite some time. Our big project for the fall was to tear out our small half bath and start over. We thought this would be very straightforward. After all how involved can a 10' by 4' space be? This week I have discovered it can be exceptionally complicated. I now have a huge hole in the ceiling of my back hallway, all of our clothes are taking over the living room, and pictures from my dining room, and hallway are in the sunroom. Apparently when this bathroom was created by the previous owners, they didn't pay much attention to code so this very small project has turned into a monster. Once this half bath is complete, I will be able to boast that I have the most expensive half bath in the country! I feel like Marie Antoinette. I would love to run away to a small hamlet and play at being a peasant instead of being here listening to the sound of numerous saws ripping up my house. I actually intended to write today on Marie Antoinette and her "small hamlet" which is fascinating, but will save it for tomorrow, or Thursday when I am not so preoccupied!
Posted by Mary at 01:59 PM CST
Thursday, September 4, 2008
While I am still thinking about associations, I thought I would add something about patterns. I am amazed at the numerous similar patterns you can find in nature. One that I especially like is the swirling pattern. You find it in snails, unfolding fern, and the galaxy! Another pattern is what I call a lightning pattern. You find this pattern in rivers viewed from the air (such as the one pictured above), veins of leaves, as well as lightning and other things. Patterns and colors have always fascinated me. Actually, I have two books from the National Wildlife Federation that have numerous pictures of what I am talking about. One book is entitled Patterns of the Wild and the other book is Colors in the Wild. They are most likely out-of-print, but when I checked Abe Books I found them both. You need to scroll down though to actually find them on that site.
Posted by Mary at 03:41 PM CST
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
It is amazing to me how much we consciously, and more often unconsciously, associate colors with climate. There is a certain orange, red, and yellow in the fall that shout, "I'm fall colors." Then there is the red, orange, and yellow that proclaims they are from warm weather climates. The difference is the setting it's in. The rolling hills of New England covered with the red, orange, and yellow leaves have a crispness to it while the very same colors in the southwest exudes a warm climate feel. I got my fill of that warm climate feeling this past weekend. I never realized how the same colors could produce such a variety of impressions. The two pictures above illustrate my point. The leaves certainly have the color of fall while the painting by Paul Gauguin (painted in Tahiti) using the same colors evokes an entirely different feeling.
Posted by Mary at 06:21 PM CST
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Before I leave town (yet again) for the Labor Day weekend, I thought I would unpack what I'd like to do this fall leading up to the holiday season. Then, beginning in January, I will start sending out newsletters on topics I will be covering each season. Please sign up for the newsletter if you haven't already. Just scroll down. It's on the side bar.
This fall though, I want to share things in history that were imaginatively conceived and created by ordinary people, as well as, princesses and Queens. These wonderful creations I hope will be an inspiration to our own creative endeavors. As we see many original ideas today being copied over and over, it does seem as though we have lost our ability (and the discipline) to think for ourselves in a creative way. I hope I can spark and encourage imagination by the stories I will share and the frequent small projects I plan to offer.
Posted by Mary at 04:06 PM CST
Monday, August 25, 2008
When our children were little I always thought that their toys just seemed to take over the entire house. I was excited when they got older and the toys disappeared from the living room. What I did not realize at the time was, as they got older, they began to view “home” as a free storage unit. When we came home from Maine (as well as a year in England) we discovered a table and six chairs, a side table, and another chair in our basement. As I went though the kitchen cabinets, I found NINE various water bottles…none of them mine. We have so many bikes, spare tires, bike racks, and helmets around here I could start a bike shop! After looking around and seeing ALL of the things our children (as well as the children we have “adopted” along the way) have left here, I have decided we need to reclaim our house!!!
Posted by Mary at 01:43 PM CST
Saturday, August 23, 2008
My husband and I arrived home last night. Our kids (minus one...a different kid from the one who was missing in Maine) came over and had pizza with us which was fun. It's always good to be home! The task of getting the house in order once again after being gone for a year seems a little overwhelming at this point. As my husband said, it's like moving all over again! Maybe it's a good time to remodel!?
Posted by Mary at 03:38 PM CST
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Well, I saw my first red leaf. For me, that means it’s time to head home! It seems as though people who do not live in the northeast always want to come to New England to see the colors of autumn. When I see orange and red leaves I immediately think the beautiful leaves are just going to fall off the trees and then it will be winter…forever! Anyway, I trick myself by going home to Chicago. I will be able to buy a few extra weeks of warm weather before there is a sense that autumn is upon us. I will also get an extra dose of summer by going to Texas for Labor Day weekend. I can get my fill of extreme heat over the long weekend, which is enough. The thing that makes it hard to leave Maine is it's shear beauty. I always hope for dense fog the day we leave!
Posted by Mary at 01:59 AM CST
Saturday, August 16, 2008
I am beginning to gather things up to take back home with me. We leave for Chicago on Tuesday. I have mentioned the downtown coffee shop in an earlier post, but what I have not mentioned is the fact that all the goodies we ate there were made by many of the women in town. I have been trying to be good, but I just can’t resist some of the things that were offered in the coffee shop. It got worse when they offered free samples! This summer I think I ate the best cookie I have ever had, truly! I asked Pauline, the creator of this cookie, if I could share this recipe. She told me she tweaked another recipe and added a few of her own ingredients. The result is pure cookie heaven! Here’s the recipe:
Pauline’s To-Die-For Cookies (my title)
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip/Butterscotch Chip Cookies
Heat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl combine:
1 ¼ cups brown sugar, packed
1 cup butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
Beat at medium speed until light and fluffy.
2 Tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
Beat at medium speed until well blended.
1 ¾ cups flour (or possibly a little more)
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 ½ cups oatmeal (either old-fashioned or quick)
6 oz. package chocolate chips
6 oz. package butterscotch chips
1 cup of nuts (optional)
Drop by teaspoons on an ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 9-10 minutes for a chewy cookie or 12 -13 minutes for crisp cookies. Let cool 1 minute before removing from cookie sheets.
You won’t be disappointed!
Posted by Mary at 09:36 AM CST
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
The weather here today is beautiful. The water is so blue and the sun is so bright. It's awesome. Because it has been a foggy summer, every time the sun peaks out I dash outside to enjoy it. While I have been sitting on my deck, I have been reading a book that I thought those of you who love Maine would like to know about. Several of the women in town are rereading this trilogy about lobstering families that live on an island in Maine. The first book of the trilogy is entitled "High Tide at Noon." It is written by Elisabeth Ogilvie. She wrote this first book in 1944. Books that are written during this period seem to be far more descriptive, in my opinion, than books written today. When you read "High Tide at Noon," you can almost picture the island, the harbor, etc. It is difficult to find old books such as this, but I have a great source! It is called Abe Books. If you are having trouble finding any old book, just try to find it on this site. I have had wonderful luck with a variety of books. Here's the link:
Posted by Mary at 04:19 PM CST
Monday, August 11, 2008
Blueberry season is in full swing here. I asked my husband to go pick some blueberries by our house to eat with some other fruit I had on hand. He got carried away with his new rake and brought me enough blueberries for a small army. I actually like the wild blueberries better. They are smaller and much sweeter and they are literally everywhere! With all the wild flowers, wild roses, and berries of every kind, it makes me think that on a small scale this is what the Garden of Eden must have been like. I wonder if it had this much fog?
Posted by Mary at 02:16 PM CST
Friday, August 8, 2008
Speaking of looking for treasures, today we went down to our bay to go clamming. The red tide has finally subsided after six weeks so the clammers are back. Actually, my husband and I mainly watched as our friends dug for clams. I did dig a couple of times and I found one big clam (very exciting!). If you are going to dig for clams, first of all you need a permit of some kind unless you live on the bay where you are going to dig. Second, rubber boots, really old clothes, and gloves are necessary. The most important thing though is the clam hoe and bucket! Next, knowing where to dig for the clams is all important. Apparently when you get out on the clam flats you want to find holes in the sand. Our friend told us that the larger oblong type holes are the best. Chances are there is a clam underneath the sand large enough to keep. Finally, the actual digging for the clams is really an art form. It was fun! While we were out there, I couldn’t help but think that our son especially would have loved digging for clams growing up. It’s just a giant sand box that has large worms (yuk!), bugs, and clams which were all the things he enjoyed finding and playing with as a little guy.
Posted by Mary at 05:29 PM CST
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
One of my favorite new activities here is to look for sea glass. What I like about it is the fact that as you walk along the beach and listen to the waves, which is always fun, you can look for treasures! Sea glass is nothing more than old pieces of glass that have had waves roll over them so much they look like little shiny colored stones. This has become such a popular activity that you have numerous people turning their wonderful treasures into all sorts of jewelry and mosaic style pictures. I think people have always enjoyed turning found objects from the sea into various forms of art. I haven't decided what to do with my sea glass. For now, I just like looking at it!
Posted by Mary at 01:09 PM CST
Sunday, August 3, 2008
This past week we had our children (minus one!) visiting us. We planned lots of fun things to do and we generally had good weather, which up here where nature is the main attraction was very important. On Friday, we had a special dinner with some of our dear friends in town. The men are lobstermen so we naturally had lobster and other fish dishes. Our kids loved it. When we were about to leave, our hostess told us to please take home the remaining lobsters. She said if we didn’t take them they’d just be thrown out...thrown out!! LOBSTERS! I love them so you didn’t need to ask me twice. I think lobsters are wonderful! I remember the restaurant lobsters. My father always made it clear that ANYTHING that had “market price” where the price was supposed to be was too expensive for us to even consider eating. That always ruled out lobster. My husband has taught our kids the same lesson. I am staring at five lobsters in my refrigerator and for once “market price” is a moot point!
Posted by Mary at 06:26 PM CST
Monday, July 28, 2008
I thought I would tell you what I am planning to do this next year. This fall I am going to send out a newsletter and then with each new season I will send out an additional newsletter. In the newsletters I will describe what I plan to do project wise. I will also give you more information, history, and interesting tidbits associated with the projects as well as provide a free chart and scrapbooking drawing to download that will go with my latest project(s). These free items will only be available through the newsletter and not available on the web site next year. The newsletter is free. Just put your email address in the box and click on the “subscribe” button. As I mentioned earlier, I will do NOTHING with your email address except send you four newsletters next year. You will be able to unsubscribe at any time. To find the subscribe box on my side bar, just scroll down a bit.
Posted by Mary at 05:40 PM CST
Friday, July 25, 2008
We have had friends visiting us for a couple of days. Since they have been to Acadia National Park several times with us, we decided to take them to Canada. We went to West Quoddy Head lighthouse and walked on a trail along the coast, which is the most eastern point in the US on the Bay of Fundy. We then crossed a bridge over into Canada to see Campobello Island and FDR’s summer home. This is their summer “cottage” pictured above. I absolutely love this house. It is filled with comfortable furniture, fireplaces, lots of windows and beautiful views from every room. I could just move right in and not change a thing, which is unusual, because I usually do find something that I would want to change. I even liked the dishes! We ended our day in Canada at a popular restaurant on the island called Family Fisheries. The fish was fabulous! This picture is from a website of a couple who I think travels more than we do! They have a lot of great travel tips hence the name of their site is
I would check it out if you are planning a trip. Chances are these people have been where you are going! I will write about my newsletters soon. Please sign up if you want to receive them.
Posted by Mary at 03:10 PM CST
Monday, July 21, 2008
Isn't this little guy cute? It's a puffin with some nesting material. These birds look more like cartoon characters than REAL birds to me. Where we live in Maine is the best place to see them. There are tours that can take you out to Machias Seal Island where there seems to be a large concentration of Puffins along with other amazing birds. Weather permitting, you do get to see some awesome coastline and lots of birds. If a birding tour is something that interests you then you need to visit Captain Andy Patterson's web site.
It is http://www.boldcoast.com
I hope you have noticed the new feature on my side bar. It is hopefully a more organized way I can let everyone know what I am going to be doing this next year since we will finally be home and I can get back to work. I have actually been working the whole year we have been gone. If you want to hear more, please put your email address in the subscribe box. I will not do anything with your email address except send you about four newsletters over the course of next year. I will explain more about my newsletters in my next post.
Posted by Mary at 01:26 PM CST
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Everywhere we have lived in the past, the townspeople had the usual garage and two cars. If they had teenagers, maybe there was a third car. I have had to reorient my thinking up here. Not only do people here have the usual cars/trucks, but they have things I have never heard of before and it’s not just one or two folks that have these different things - it’s everyone! We are strange because we JUST have one car here, but then we are from “away”! Since this is a working fishing village, there are the lobster boats of course, but then the lobstermen need a skiff (small motor boat) to get out to their lobster boats. There are the forklifts (bobcats?) that are necessary to move bait around. In the summer, most of the men use their scooters to get around town and the wharves. No family would be complete without a skidder. What IS a skidder you might ask? Well, it is a huge machine they use to haul logs out of the woods (it’s mainly a winter machine, unless you need it to pull someone’s tractor or car out of a ditch). Finally, there are the four wheelers! Even children as young as two have their own little mini four wheelers. The toys just get bigger as they get older!
Posted by Mary at 03:08 PM CST
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
The saga has continued with my black fly bite. I went from looking like I had been hit by a frying pan to looking as though I went a few rounds in the boxing ring. My eye became swollen shut yesterday, but today it is open again thankfully. Apparently these black fly can drive even the animals crazy. I guess it is a small price to pay for the bunk house we had delivered on Monday when I got the bite trying to make sure the little house was placed where I wanted it. It is very plain at this point, but we plan to embellish it next year. I have always liked "out buildings". This garden pavilion at Monticello is one of my favorites. I am not quite sure what the function of this pavilion is. Maybe you just go in and sit down with a cold drink after you have worked in the garden. I think other beautiful structures on a property really add interest when they have the same workmanship and detail that the main house has. It will be fun to add the extra details to our new little house. If there had to be a hiccup, better my bite than problems with the bunk house. If you are interested in garden houses, pretty sheds, etc., there is a wonderful web site you should visit. It is
http://www.gardensheds.com Be sure to visit their gallery pages!
Posted by Mary at 01:54 PM CST
Monday, July 14, 2008
Growing up in Texas we had a lot of scary bugs. Many of them were very serious insects that could possibly kill you so my husband and I have never paid much attention to "normal" bugs. Here in Maine they have flies. In fact, there are LOTS of different kinds of flies. There are the "no see-ums," the green fly, the deer fly, the horse fly, and my favorite, the black fly! (I am sure I have forgotten some other kinds of flies.) The black fly are supposedly around only the first part of the summer (not true!!!). They are deceptive little things. You think they are gnats until all of a sudden you have enormous welts where they have bitten you. We have been working outside quite a bit recently in the late afternoon which must be their favorite feeding time because I now have a giant welt on my neck and head. It looks as though someone hit me with a frying pan! Not only are these big welts ugly, but they itch for days. Having grown up with scorpions, black widows, and tarantulas I feel kind of wimpy complaining about flies!!!
Posted by Mary at 07:17 PM CST
Friday, July 11, 2008
I always look forward to Fridays and Saturdays in our village because that’s when the “Downtown Coffee Shop” is open! This is exciting because it is the only store in town. My friend and I do our usual walk and then stop in for a cup of coffee and a muffin (which probably negates all the walking we’ve done). It is a place to see people from town and sit and talk for an hour or so. It’s the kind of coffee shop that is not a serious money making business. Two of the women forgot their money this morning so they had to put it on their “tab” to pay tomorrow. Several of the talented town’s people have their photographs, paintings, and jewelry in the shop. I am trying to figure out how I can feature some of these talented people on my web site so you can meet them and see their work as well.
Posted by Mary at 01:44 PM CST
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Shortly after we arrived in Maine many of the coastal areas were shut down for clamming and harvesting other shellfish because of red tide. I think “Red Tide” sounds more like a movie title, but it is, in fact, a natural occurrence of algae bloom that can be poisonous. Therefore, the clammers that I always love watching in our bay are not out digging at low tide. Our bay is considered the best for clamming in Maine. I heard the locals say it is because of the sand that is here instead of it being mud. They say the clams just taste better. I am no connoisseur. All I know is I LOVE the clam chowder here! Hopefully, this red tide won’t last all summer. I need my fix of MAINE clam chowder, as well as some fried clams. It makes me hungry just thinking about it.
Posted by Mary at 03:39 PM CST
Monday, July 7, 2008
With the 4th now over, I feel as though I can catch my breath again. It is amazing to me how much fun you can create when you live in a small fishing village. The 4th of July activities lasted for two days, which is usual in our village. For the past two years we have been here it has only lasted one day though. Because this year the holiday fell on a Friday it lasted the usual two days again. The celebration started with the traditional parade which is mainly the children riding their bikes, or tiny four wheelers all decorated. Several were decorated like their father’s lobster boats. Then the games started. There was the chewing gum contest to see who could blow the biggest bubble first, the cracker-eating contest to see who could eat four crackers the fastest and then whistle. It was quite a challenge! The day ended after a town lunch and more games. The next day there were lobster boat races in the harbor, then crate races between two piers (the water was only 48 degrees!). Fifty kids signed up for the privilege. The town baseball game was next. It was between the old guys (Dad’s that are in their forty’s and fifty’s) and their sons who are in there twenty’s and thirty’s. There was also a town picnic while the game was going on. The day ended with a concert by the harbor and the big finale was the fireworks over the harbor. It was a perfect holiday celebration. The only way it could have been more perfect was if our kids had been here to enjoy it with us.
Posted by Mary at 10:30 AM CST
Thursday, July 3, 2008
When Mainers talk about people that come up here just for the summer, they refer to us as people from “away.” While that could make you feel like a complete alien, I don’t mind it at all. I view it another way. Because this State is referred to as “Vacationland,” they accept those of us who just come to enjoy Maine in the summer. Frankly, I would not want to be here in the winter. Actually, South Carolina sounds nice for winter. I know I’m a weather wimp. We deserve to be called people from away because we don’t endure the harsh LONG Maine winters. We just come along once all the bad weather has disappeared and it is beautiful. We are true “fair weather“ Mainers…except for the fog!
Posted by Mary at 02:07 AM CST
Monday, June 30, 2008
There are tons of moose here in Maine; at least that is what one is led to believe. There are certainly signs on most of the roads warning that they might be present. In one of the shops in town, they have some wonderful pottery with a moose as the focal point. What is also interesting is that in order to hunt moose in Maine, you need to win a lottery for the privilege of hunting them. For those who win this lottery you can actually go on “moose safaris”! Personally though, I have never seen a living moose. I did see a dead one by the side of the road last year. It was HUGE! They are such a curiosity to me. I really want to see one…from a distance. They look like such mournful creatures though, don’t you think?
Posted by Mary at 01:23 PM CST
Friday, June 27, 2008
I have never been jealous of other people's gardens until this summer. In Massachusetts, the woman who lived around the corner from us used to garden in what looked like a beekeepers suit because of the mosquitoes. Her garden was beautiful. It should have been! She went to great lengths to make it look that way. In Illinois, if your garden is fabulous it is usually because you pay someone to keep it looking that way. Well, up here there are wild flowers galore. While there are still the cultivated gardens my favorite spots are the numerous meadows filled to the brim with wild flowers. The flower pictured is a lupin (it can also be spelled lupine). It is literally everywhere up here. You find them by the side of the road, in overgrown fields. No one tends these flowers, but they just appear every June. Some of our closest neighbors have loads of lupins in the meadows by their houses. The reason this really bothers me is because we have gone to such pains to create a meadow full of wild flowers. We now have a lot of charming wild flowers, but not a single lupin! We finally BOUGHT one and planted it! Maybe we’re trying too hard.
Posted by Mary at 01:56 PM CST
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Walking in Maine is completely different from walking in England. In England, the country footpaths are surrounded by serene and genteel landscapes. The hills are dotted with sheep or cows and often off in the distance there is a wonderful country house you can see. On the other hand, here in Maine my four mile route involves the road by the beautiful rugged coastline and then up a more remote road surrounded by pine trees. At one point last year my friend who I walk with suggested we take the path through the woods. I half-heartedly said, “yeah, maybe at some point.” You see there is a lot more going on up here. While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife claims that mountain lions (also known as cougars, pumas, ghost cats, panthers…here we go again!) are extinct in the wild, my neighbor around the corner from us saw a mountain lion and cub. She now gardens with a shotgun. We asked about the mountain lion when we got here this summer and heard that the mountain lion family are still neighbors as well. I don’t intend to walk with a shotgun (I’d probably injure myself) but, I found a big stick that I walk with when I am alone. It won’t do me any good if I actually SEE the mountain lion, but it makes me feel better.
Posted by Mary at 01:06 PM CST
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Well, I swore I wouldn’t mention the weather again, but I can’t help it. I have to talk about the fog because it is such a big part of life on the coast of Maine…especially Downeast Maine. Acadia National Park, which is in Downeast Maine, is one of the most awesome places in the States. Our friends from Boston joke about visiting it. They were telling their children how beautiful it was explaining the various islands and the blue water. They had to describe it to their kids because they couldn't SEE it! If you want to live in this wonderful part of Maine, you have to put up with the fog. I was chatting with one of the lobstermen at church this morning and he was trying to explain to me why we have fog when we do. It is something about the new moon and tides. I tried to at least LOOK like I understood, but I still don’t get it. Anyway, we have had fog since we got here two days ago. It made it easy to get the cottage cleaned and ready for summer. I have finished cleaning. It can be sunny now.
Posted by Mary at 05:44 PM CST
Monday, June 16, 2008
It would have been very helpful yesterday if I could have carried water the way these women carry water, maybe I wouldn't be so sore today. We had a terrible storm here Sunday morning that knocked out our power for nine hours. Because we have a sump pump in our basement that depends on electricity, it also went out. We bailed water out of the sump pump for about eight and a half hours so that the water wouldn't overflow into the room. We have finally learned our lesson. We are getting a back up sump pump and possibly a generator! It was a father's day we will never forget! We leave for Maine tomorrow and should arrive on Friday.
Posted by Mary at 02:08 PM CST
Saturday, June 14, 2008
While I am not a big fan of Georges Seurat, I do love this particular painting. I think it is probably Seurat's most famous painting. It is amazing to me the way he achieves this look. He uses a technique called pointellism which are just dots of separate color that then builds up the image. It reminds me of needlework somewhat! This type of painting is best viewed from a distance so you can truly appreciate what the artist has done. Even though this is a river scene in France, there are many beautiful riverside scenes here in the States as well. The Mississippi River on the Iowa and Illinois border is really beautiful. Unfortunately, in the midwest many of these rivers have caused a great deal of damage. While we had a massive flood in our town last August, I think this set of storms have been worse generally for a wider part of the midwest. When we leave for Maine, I am putting my files someplace secure. I just hope I remember where that secure place is when I get home!
Posted by Mary at 06:49 PM CST
Thursday, June 12, 2008
There is a web site I love that has primitive paintings. The artist is from New Hampshire and her work is wonderful. These are two of her pieces. You can see more of her work at her web site,
I also wanted to let you know that my passion for right travel has led me to add another section to my side bar. Take a look! Hopefully it will provide you with some tips and products that can help when you travel. As I said earlier, you always need more money and fewer clothes!
Posted by Mary at 02:40 PM CST
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
My husband and I just returned from visiting his mother for a week. We will be home for a week before we leave for Maine. I am beginning to have very definite ideas about travel. First of all, you always need fewer clothes than you think (and a lot more money!). While I have always been a big fan of black, I think for travel it is a must. With the airlines charging for suitcases now, it is great when you can take only a carry on bag. The travel wear black pants, dress, and jacket, plus colorful tops, belts, and scarves will do the trick for any place you go. Throw in a pair of shorts, casual tops, and sneakers and you're ready. I feel like an expert traveller! I am actually going to add another section to my store on travel. It will be on the side bar soon. Why the picture of horses? That's the way I'd like to travel to Maine, but by the time we got there we'd have to turn around and come home. At least we'll be driving this time, and not flying!
Posted by Mary at 04:21 PM CST
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Believe it or not, my husband and I are leaving again for a week! We are going to see his mother. Since I will be in an internet free zone, I will have to do without the internet. I will return next Monday.
Posted by Mary at 12:01 PM CST
Sunday, June 1, 2008
Since we arrived home yesterday, we realized that it has stopped snowing in Chicago and our back “garden” looks like this! Not really, it actually looks worse. I hope you have had a chance to go to my “How to be English” shop on my side bar. It was such a fun thing for me to put together!
Posted by Mary at 01:22 PM CST
Friday, May 30, 2008
Well, I am putting the kettle on to make a pot of tea in my Brown Betty. I thought you might like to have a little sit down with a cup of tea as you browse through my new store that I have added to the website. Just look for the painting of Queen Victoria on my side bar and click on, “How to be English.” I have included all the things in this store that I consider quintessentially English. You might just want to pick up some last minute souvenirs for yourself. My husband and I leave in the morning to return to the States.
Posted by Mary at 05:43 AM CST
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
As the reality of packing and thinking about what needs to be accomplished hits me, it makes me panic a little. Our life style has been very simple here. We have walked everywhere (we have no car!), which has provided us with time to think, talk, and enjoy the surroundings. I believe simplicity promotes creative thinking because there is time to imagine, dream, write, and draw. Some of my favorite authors drew detailed maps of their imaginary worlds. To cultivate creative thinking you do need time. My two favorite maps are The Hundred Acre Wood from Winnie the Pooh and C.S. Lewis’s map of Narnia. What I hope to pack in my suitcase and take back to the States is the sense of time that I need to continue to draw, write, think, and imagine. It also won’t take up much space, which at this point is very good!
Posted by Mary at 07:08 AM CST
Monday, May 26, 2008
This weekend began our week of saying good-bye. On Friday evening, our friends in the village outside of Cambridge where we used to live had a party for us. We started out in the garden and then proceeded to our friends “party barn.” I love the way we were able to actually visit with each other. After we had our starters, the men had to move two places over. This musical chairs theme occurred several times during the course of the evening. Because these are all good friends who have lived in the same village for well over twenty years, this type of moving around and talking with someone else was fun and done with ease. Since my husband and I have moved a lot (in my opinion), we know and appreciate what a gift it is to have such a special group of friends. I will miss my friends from the village.
Posted by Mary at 06:15 AM CST
Friday, May 23, 2008
I feel as though I must say one last word about evensong and Kings. No trip to Cambridge is complete without coming to evensong at Kings College. All the colleges have evensong. I actually like The St. John’s evensong as much, but the chapel and history of Kings College is so rich, that if you must just choose one, go to Kings. You know it has a long history of tradition when you see the Kings College choir boys in their top hats and morning coats walking in a line every day through the gates and to the chapel. It’s quite a sight.
The history of the chapel and choir is fascinating. I will provide you with a link that describes all of its rich past. In short though, it was Henry VI who had a great desire to see daily singing services in his wonderful chapel. The 16 choristers were given scholarships at the Kings College School and in return they sang at these services.
Today, the choir is internationally known. They are probably most famous for their Christmas Eve service, Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, which is broadcast worldwide. I plan to have a list of my favorite CDs from Kings here on my site soon.
Here is the web site that will provide you with the complete background of the chapel and choir.
Posted by Mary at 09:09 AM CST
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
My husband had a great aunt that his family referred to as Auntie, Aunt Jenny, AND Aunt Janie interchangeably. I always thought it was different. When I asked him why they did this, he said he had no idea it was just the way it was. Well, I have been confused over here about the various names they use for glass houses. There are so many! There is the hothouse, conservatory, greenhouse, orangery, and finally the Palm House (which I think I understand). I thought I would research this to see if I could find something that would define the function of each glass house.
I am quoting from a site describing the glass houses at the Kew Gardens.
“Several of the glasshouses at Kew Gardens—also know as green houses, plant houses or hothouses…” This sounds as confusing as the names for my husband’s aunt! Maybe I am the weird one. By the way, the Kew Gardens are a must see if you come to England.
Posted by Mary at 11:54 AM CST
Monday, May 19, 2008
I love the 19th century British caricatures. Over time my husband and I have amassed a huge collection of them rather unintentionally. When we started buying them they were delightful, yet inexpensive. In fact, they were cheap! I realize nothing stays the same, but I haven’t even found any caricatures here this time. I decided to see if I could find any online and, I did! It is a fabulous site.
As I looked though the collection of caricatures, I found the one pictured above. It is just so classic I had to post it. Notice the sampler on the back wall! Beneath the picture it reads, “Farmer Giles and his wife shewing off their daughter Betty to their Neighbors on her return from schools.” Isn’t it wonderful? When you go to the site, look under the James Gillray caricatures and scroll down. It is at the bottom of the page. The first thing that might hit you is the price...I wish I had bought more caricatures when they were inexpensive!
Posted by Mary at 05:56 AM CST
Friday, May 16, 2008
Next to country houses, my favorite places to visit here are pubs. If I could, I would love to produce a stylebook entitled “Pub Style.” I would put The Eagle at the top of my list. It is a pub in Cambridge that I mentioned when we were here in 2005. It is full of World War II memorabilia in one of the rooms, but there are multiple rooms in the pub. One room has old stripped pine paneling with numerous prints, paintings, plates and other stuff. I think what I love about The Eagle is that it feels very personal. It seems as though many people have added their touch to make it the cozy fabulous place it is today. There is no hint of a decorator imposing a certain look. Actually, what I find sad is the wonderful old pubs that have become decorator decorated and pared down, which to me, seems to be code for antiseptic and very uninteresting. Don’t you think that would be a fun book? I would love to travel around and discover more pub style. I think it could be very inspiring decoratively.
Posted by Mary at 05:35 AM CST
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Since we have been having such wonderful weather recently, I have noticed something very interesting. There are people walking all over the grass! They are ignoring all the signs of warning not to step on the grass. I had to find out why. What I discovered was it is OK to step on the grass if you are a member of that particular college. So my husband and I could go have a picnic at St. John’s without fear of the grass police chasing us away. In fact, Prince Charles landed his helicopter on the Trinity lawn when he was a student here. The picture above is part of Trinity College. His father, Prince Philip, on the other hand was not permitted to land his helicopter on the Trinity lawn because he was not a “Trinity man.” It just makes you feel all special if you can walk on the grass!
Posted by Mary at 12:26 PM CST
Monday, May 12, 2008
The fragrant aroma from the wisteria that seems to cover every college building in Cambridge is so delightful it just makes me want to stop and do nothing but smell the flowers! Actually, I think my husband and I saw every wisteria vine in town this past weekend. A couple that lives in Cambridge invited us for dinner. We said we would just walk to their flat since the weather has been so perfect. They sent us a detailed email with walking directions. As we started out we were supposed to walk across a green. I questioned my husband if this was the RIGHT green we were to cross as we forged ahead. He was very noncommittal. I should have known that was a red flag. While we knew the location of the major streets, it did turn out to be very significant which side of town you were on when you came to those streets. To make a long story short, we walked for an HOUR AND A HALF. I consider it a miracle that we ever found their house. After a lovely evening, our host gave us a ride home. I think I enjoy smelling the wisteria more when I know where I’m going.
Posted by Mary at 10:15 AM CST
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Every once in a while over the course of this year my husband would look outside and say to me, there is a baby deer in our garden. This seemed highly unlikely to me since we are so close to town. And, it was always a little deer that he saw...hmmm. Finally, the last time he saw this phantom animal, I asked him if the baby deer had it’s spots. He seemed confused by that question. I decided he was seeing things and it was probably a dog, or something. Then two days ago I saw this creature. It IS a tiny deer, with antlers even. He’s no bigger than some of the tall flowers. We watched in fascination as he moved through the garden doing what all deer do best, eating everything! He was awfully cute though. I found out that he is a muntjac deer. If you go to some of the country houses in England they often have large parks. It is not unusual to find deer, or other animals in the park that are not native to this country. Well, these muntjac deer are originally from China, but were brought over to Woburn Park (a beautiful country house) in the early 20th century. There have been escapes from the park as well as deliberate releases. Apparently now the muntjac population is growing all over the country. While they are cute, I hope they don’t make their way across the Atlantic. We have quite enough deer.
Posted by Mary at 08:50 AM CST
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
I have a love hate relationship with cloisters. There is nothing more bone chilling and, frankly, depressing than walking through cloisters in the winter. The wind whips around making the already damp moist air feel as though you walked into a freezer that had a blowing fan inside it. On the other hand, the cloisters in the warm weather are delightful to walk though because not only does it usually frame a beautiful garden, but also it shades you from the heat.
There are cloisters framing many gardens at the colleges here in Cambridge. Since our friend has been visiting us, we have taken him through many of the college’s cloisters and gardens. He is a medical doctor in the States and he came over to get a little rest and relaxation. I think we wore him out looking at everything. One thing we did that I would highly recommend that you do if you come to Cambridge (and have the time) is the two-hour walking tour. While it was approximately $20.00 a person, it really provides you with a lot of great ancient history about the town. Here is the link to the tourist information center:http://www.visitcambridge.org
Posted by Mary at 12:14 PM CST
Monday, May 5, 2008
We have a friend visiting us from the States for a few days. He is an avid gardener. We suggested he come in May because the gardens would just be beginning to come to life. If you ever are in Cambridge in May, it is worth the price the colleges charge to see their amazing dining halls, attend evensong in their chapels, and view their gardens. My favorite college garden is Clare College’s gardens. To me, they are the most lovely. Not only are they beautiful, but idea inspiring as well.
Posted by Mary at 07:36 AM CST
Saturday, May 3, 2008
Now that we have been rain-free for almost twenty-four hours, I have noticed that the croquet sets are up and the badminton sets are out. I think the recent history of badminton is interesting. While it is believed that “badminton” is an ancient game originally from Greece, various forms of the game had been played all over Europe since the 17th century. One of the games that children played in England called shuttle-cock was basically badminton without the net. It was the Duke of Beaufort of Badminton House that gave the game its modern name. While Badminton House is known mainly for horse trials and foxhunts, its name has been made famous by badminton. The Duke introduced it to his guests at a lawn party as the Badminton game. In the 1870s, the first rules were written down. Badminton was granted Olympic status for the 1992 games. I am so glad he refined the game. I have always enjoyed playing badminton.
Posted by Mary at 05:59 AM CST
Thursday, May 1, 2008
This is the hall at Peter House. It is the oldest college at Cambridge. Compare this hall with the picture of St. Johns College hall below. This hall is much smaller and more intimate. Read below about dining in hall.
Each of the colleges at Cambridge (and Oxford) has a formal dining hall. They have a similar look and yet I think each is very distinct. My husband’s college is St. Johns College, pictured above. Thirty years ago when I first saw the hall I was in awe. Actually, these halls have now been made well known through movies such as Chariots of Fire and Harry Potter. To dine in hall is quite an experience. All of the students wear their academic robes, as do the fellows of the college. I think the customs that are followed before and after each dinner have been set in stone for hundreds of years. The way the dinner begins is with the fellows of the college marching in from another room. They go to the "high table," then there is a gong, followed by a Latin prayer. High table is usually a step above the rest of the dining hall and is situated at the front of the hall. After a student rattles off (usually in record speed) the Latin prayer, then everyone sits down to be served the meal. At the end of dinner (or rather when the fellows are finished), there is another gong, everyone stands, another Latin prayer is said, and the fellows return to another beautiful room for their port. Usually the students stay a little longer, but then it is over. I have always enjoyed dining in hall. It is a wonderful tradition that is such a part of Cambridge. In a world where there is now so much sameness, it is nice to experience something uniquely British.
Posted by Mary at 08:30 AM CST
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Cambridge is overrun with millions of babies, baby ducklings that is. They are so cute! You see these precious little fur balls all over the college lawns, which I find extremely funny. Perhaps I should explain. All of the college lawns are mowed to perfection. They look like golf course putting greens. It seems as though every time I walk through Kings College the grounds are being mowed yet again (I walk through the college almost every day). I have discovered that the pattern in the grass is also important. There are signs everywhere on the lawn edges warning you not to even THINK about setting one toe on the grass. As I walked through the college the other day there were three mother ducks with their ducklings (each mom had about eleven ducklings) romping around on the grass. Several people stopped because the baby ducklings were just such fun to watch. I think every kind of baby is cute…well, maybe not baby snakes.
Posted by Mary at 09:48 AM CST
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Yesterday we went to visit Waddesdon Manor. It is one of the few National Trust houses, which is relatively close by, that we had never seen. As we drove through the countryside it was beautiful to see all the intense yellow fields of oilseed rape (I still can’t get used to that-is that even the right way to say it?). Once you arrive at Waddesdon, there is still quite a drive to the house. As you wind around the hill leading to the house, a peek through the trees makes you aware that the views from the top will be worth the drive alone. The shear size of Waddesdon is awesome. It is a massive French chateau style manor house. It was built in the Victorian era and as you can see, it shows. We took an audio tour of the house, which was very informative. Waddesdon is filled to the brim with beautiful French paneling, exquisite porcelain in every possible form, unbelievable 18th century silver, and fabulous paintings. I loved seeing Gainsborough’s “The Pink Boy.” I think if bumper stickers had been around during the first Lord Rothschild’s lifetime, he should have had one made that reads, “I’d rather be in France.” While you could overdose on all the things that each room contained that was of value (no wonder he didn’t like kids), I found myself intrigued by the button collection, the watercolors of various china patterns, and the 18th century trade cards. I think Lord Rothschild would have found me a disappointing guest.
Posted by Mary at 01:39 PM CST
Friday, April 25, 2008
I am a huge fan of Jane Austen. When you visit some of The National Trust country houses you can almost picture what society must have been like at that time. My favorite all time movie is the A&E version of Pride and Prejudice. In fact, my girls and I watched it so much that finally one of our six video tapes broke!
The pains that everyone went through to be introduced into proper society was remarkable. I wonder what Jane Austen would have thought of the internet? It is still somewhat strange to me even though I use it all the time. Our “introductions” now are clickable links to other web sites.
Well, I am about to add those same types of links to my web site, but I also think that some introductions are necessary. I have mentioned to you my gardening friend, but she is not ready to be introduced as she is still sorting out things on her web site. However, there is someone else that I would like for you to meet. She is Nancy Abigail, a Chicago children’s photographer. Her work is fresh and unique. She has an uncanny way of capturing the moment with children. Be sure to view her portfolio which is at the bottom of the page. I think you will enjoy her web site:
She also happens to be my daughter! I would love to introduce my two other amazing children, but unfortunately they are not part of the web site “society.”
Posted by Mary at 08:20 AM CST
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Around this time of year many of the fields in our area turn a bright shade of yellow. Since I have admitted in the past that I am, sadly, a “city slicker,” I have no idea what this crop is that is growing in the fields very near to where we live. For all I know it could be the most common crop grown everywhere around the world. After some investigation, I discovered that it is called rapeseed, or oilseed rape. (Don’t ask me, I am just reporting what I read.) Apparently, it does dominate the countryside in the British Isles although it is grown in other places such as Germany and Canada. In some counties in England this crop covers up to one tenth of the farmland. When it first comes up it is just an ordinary green plant, then within a matter of days the entire field turns bright yellow. It’s beautiful!
Rapeseed is a member of the cabbage and turnip family and the edible variety, which is the oilseed rape, is used to make cooking oil.
It is a sign that spring is here. I love the signs of spring!
Posted by Mary at 06:31 AM CST
Monday, April 21, 2008
I feel a real artistic kindred spirit to William Morris (1834-1896). He loved the medieval period and early English Gothic style, as do I. In 1859 Morris had Philip Webb design a new house for he and his wife. Red House, as it was known, launched Morris into a career that became a stylistic movement. As he was trying to fill his new house with carpets, furniture, and other pleasing aesthetic things, he couldn’t find anything he liked so he created them, or had them created! The result of this need and frustration was the birth of a small firm with several friends including Philip Webb. The company produced the quality hand crafted items that Morris felt was so important in the decoration of a house. The wallpapers and fabrics that William Morris created are true works of art to me. His work was based on his study of the natural world and also previous historic interpretations.
His passion and commitment to excellent design has made his designs distinct and enduring. While he and those in his firm were influenced by historic periods, his interpretation of that style is completely unique. It is known today as the Arts and Crafts movement, but I think of it as William Morris style.
Posted by Mary at 07:20 AM CST
Saturday, April 19, 2008
My oven here in Cambridge and I don’t communicate very well. I really don’t understand it. I am able to use it, but just barely. I often have to pull out the manual to make sure I got the temperature right, and I turned on the oven I actually put the food in. My oven is pretty ordinary, but then there are the Aga cookers. I just love the way they look. The picture to the right is a 19th century English farmhouse kitchen. The stove is probably the forerunner to the British Aga. I have always thought it would be wonderful to have a huge country kitchen with the massive Aga cooker inside a brick fireplace in the kitchen, similar in size to the one pictured. In fact, I bought a magazine yesterday (Period Ideas) that has an article on Agas. After reading the article, I did a google search to find out more. What I discovered was a culture devoted to this cooker. They are true groupies! There are so many websites devoted to it. The one I found most interesting was Aga Central. Their website is:
One of my favorite questions that was asked in their section FAQ is, “The Aga cooker has no temperature adjustments. How do I cook?” (And I thought I had problems!)
The answer was that you needed to figure out which plate was for boiling and which one was for simmering, and then there was the option of controlling the temperature by placing your pan slightly off the hotplate. For the oven temperature adjustments, you could put large pans of very cold water on the hot plates and that would gradually reduce the temperature in the ovens. Wow! It’s unbelievably involved…so why do I still want one?
Posted by Mary at 09:06 AM CST
Thursday, April 17, 2008
John Constable, a famous British 19th century landscape painter, captures the English countryside so well. I love his work. This is one of his paintings done in the early 1800s.
Our oldest daughter has been visiting us this past week. Several times during her visit we walked out on the country footpath to the neighboring village of Grantchester to have lunch, or tea. The countryside in this painting is not unlike the meadows we walked through. Yesterday as we were walking back, we noticed a large bird flapping his wings furiously, but staying in a “holding pattern.” It looked so strange so we stopped to watch. After a few seconds he made a nosedive straight down. It was a hawk. We continued to watch him as we walked along the footpath. He did a lot more wing flapping and nose-diving. He was great entertainment, but I am not sure he found anything to eat while we were watching.
Posted by Mary at 11:36 AM CST
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
These are two sketches from one of John Days FIFTY scrapbooks. I absolutely love them! Mr. Day (1824 -1888) was a well-known orchid grower who had nearly three thousand detailed drawings and watercolors of tropical orchids. The Victorian society was fascinated with the stories of journeys to far off places to collect these exotic flowers. The orchid hunters, as they were called, overcame many dangers and challenges to bring these specimens back. How did I discover these amazing drawings? Well they are in a book, entitled, A Very Victorian Passion. The Orchid Paintings of John Day. You can read more about the book at this site:
Maybe we can incite another orchidmania!
Posted by Mary at 07:22 AM CST
Friday, April 11, 2008
Last night we hosted a 50th surprise party for a good friend that lives in Cambridge. We had such a good time. My husband had to try and trick our friend into coming over so that he would not suspect anything. As usual, a very simple plan went wrong. Our friend’s wife ended up going to plan "B" so we could get him over here for his surprise party. (Oh what a tangled web we weave…!). I thought about it later and wondered “why” it is that surprises are so important to everyone. If you can actually pull off a surprise, it is so wonderful because you are doing something that you know will please the one that you want to surprise.
There are amazing surprises we encounter in other ways too. Years ago when my husband and I drove to Blickling Hall in East Anglia the drive to the hall was lovely, but the land in our area is, for the most part, flat. You are not driving over hills and being surprised by incredible vistas. As we continued to drive toward Blickling, I thought what could be out here that could really “wow” me? Then came the surprise. It was the first country house estate we had ever visited. I was shocked when I saw it coming into view. It was so beautiful and unexpected.
The National Trust owns Blickling Hall. It owns many properties. We usually join the National Trust when we’re here so we can have access to all the properties for free. My husband considers it money well spent because it keeps me out of the antique shops!
Their website is:
Posted by Mary at 08:26 PM CST
Thursday, April 10, 2008
I finally saw Miss Potter. It is truly wonderful. I highly recommend it. The movie portrayed Beatrix Potter as having definite ideas about the way she wanted the colors to appear in her books. Her style, down to the size she wanted for the books, made her unique. I love the fact that even now she is one of the best selling children’s authors in the world. Colors alone can define a particular style (or an artist) and make them identifiable. Interestingly, monochromatic colors in design have remained classic in style for centuries, like the one pictured above.
I have been studying Italian Majolica from the 16th century. They used either a particular blue and white (see small picture to the right), or blue and white and just a few other colors, but never red, only a reddish orange. At least, I haven’t found anything using red. I really like the fact that one of the identifying marks of this majolica is the color combination. I am just not sure though I could leave the color red out of my color scheme on a regular basis. I love red!
Posted by Mary at 05:58 AM CST
Monday, April 7, 2008
This past weekend was The Grand National. It is an amazing four-mile horse race that I have always enjoyed watching. It doesn’t seem as predictable as the American horse races. The course itself looks grueling with numerous hurdles, but then other things can occur. For example, if a horse loses its jockey due to a fall, it just keeps going. Sometimes that can really cause problems to the other horses and jockeys during the race. While it is a fun race to watch, yesterday when my neighbor and I were walking our usual route on a country footpath, we saw a rider dressed in some kind of uniform riding around a makeshift course with hurdles at various points. I imagine the horse belonged to the incredible country house that we can see at a distance. There is something so spectacular about watching a beautiful horse riding in the magnificent countryside. It was lovely, a simple pleasure. We stopped and watched and Lisa and I don’t usually stop for anything!
Posted by Mary at 06:34 AM CST
Saturday, April 5, 2008
Some of you have been puzzled about when I am going to resume doing mail orders. Well, officially I will begin sending out mail orders in mid August of this year when I am back at home, but we will be home for two weeks at the beginning of June so if you would like for me to mail you something then, I can. Right now I have a list of orders to send out while I am briefly at home. If you would like to have an order sent out in June, feel free to order “by mail.” I will send out only those orders I have on the list by the last week of May. If you have any questions, please email me.
Posted by Mary at 06:57 AM CST
Thursday, April 3, 2008
I think I might be the last person on the planet to know about Etsy.com, but if you are in the dark as I was, let me tell you about it. It is a wonderful site that has all things handmade. Frankly, I have never been very partial to felt until I saw the wonderful brooches made out of felt on this site. You must go have a look. It is a fun place to visit. The web address is:
Speaking of handmade, I did teach the three sisters next door (10, 8, and 6) how to stitch. I was amazed at how well they all did…even the six year old! BUT, I did change something.
Several years ago when I taught three other sisters to stitch they were 14, 12, and 7. I taught them on linen and it was no problem. This time, although I had already bought a remnant of 27 count linen, I began to think that it would just end up being frustrating for the younger girls and not at all fun. I went back to the store and bought the first piece of Aida cloth I have ever bought. Since we had been to the museum to see the samplers, they knew that girls two hundred and fifty years ago DID stitch on linen. I explained that after they mastered the art of reading the pattern and being able to follow it, we’d switch to linen. I made a very simple design for each of them. They were able to accomplish so much in such a short time that I feel as though, for their ages, it was the way to go...AND the main thing is they had fun stitching!
Posted by Mary at 09:45 AM CST
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
My family has always been big on jokes. We love to give gag gifts at Christmas…the tackier the better. One year my mother gave me plastic roses that light up when you plug them in. They take the prize for the best/worst gag gift I ever got, sorry kids. She also took them back after Christmas so she could regift it.
Anyway, I thought since it IS April Fool‘s Day I would email our kids (and my mother) and tell them that we have found this beautiful English country house (pictured above) that was an incredible bargain and we’re moving. The problem is they might believe us and get upset, so I decided to post it here instead. I do love all the thatched roof cottages here! If this beautiful cottage was ACTUALLY for sale, I could be real tempted!
Posted by Mary at 06:48 AM CST
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Yesterday we went to the Fitzwilliam Museum, finally. The girls enjoyed seeing the samplers. They were amazed at the small stitches and the fact that a girl who was TEN stitched one of the samplers on display!
After the museum, we went to two stores looking for linen. That ended up being the challenge. One store had aida cloth only. While I was with the shopkeeper at the second store searching for any kind of linen, the girls started looking at the floss on the rack. The shopkeeper made it clear to me that she only had remnants of left over linen and no color selection. I did finally find some suitable linen although the count is smaller than I’d like for a first project. When I got back to the girls they showed me the bright pink, very loud green, neon blue, and purple they had found on the rack. Hummm.
It actually made me realize that style and color choices can say a lot about a piece of needlework. For example, the sampler pictured here screams to you that it is Scottish. Why? The colors and design reflect that fact (compare this with the sampler that I found in my “Sampler Mystery” just below). You can read more about this Scottish sampler on a wonderful website I discovered.
It is www.antiquesamplers.org/home.php
Posted by Mary at 01:25 PM CST
Friday, March 28, 2008
It is spring break in Cambridge and all of the children are out of school for NINETEEN days. I never remember my children having such a long spring vacation! Anyway, it is the ultimate challenge to any mother to keep her kids happy and occupied so she can maintain her sanity. My next door neighbor here in Cambridge has four precious children, three girls and a boy. The girls are 10, 8, and 6. Their son is four. Andrew, the four-year-old, will put on his superman suit and go save the world today with one of the other neighborhood boys. The three sisters will join me for a walk to the Fitzwilliam Museum to see the samplers on display. The one pictured here from the museum was done by Elizabeth Bates, aged 10, in 1801. Afterwards we'll make a stop at John Lewis (a department store) and purchase linen and floss, then I am going to teach them how to do counted cross stitch. If it rains though, I will be watching Miss Potter and the girls will be in the company of their Polly Pockets. I will let you know what happens.
Posted by Mary at 07:11 AM CST
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
While we're on the subject of rabbits, I wonder how many have seen Miss Potter, with Renée Zellwegger as Beatrix Potter? I have been dying to see it since I saw the trailer for it online. Apparently, it was filmed in the Lake District and London. From what I could tell from the previews I saw, it looks wonderful! I will tell you what I think once I watch it. She was passionate about the beautiful Lake District countryside where she lived and upon her death gave her farm to The National Trust. I would love to see her farm while we're here. I wonder if this is her farm house pictured in the background? I have always admired Beatrix Potter and have several books on her work and life. I will let you know about the movie.
Posted by Mary at 07:53 AM CST
Monday, March 24, 2008
I would like to invite you to come with me and travel back to Massachusetts. There is a website I think you will enjoy visiting. It is www.bittersweethouse.com
Artist, Kathy Campbell, of Bittersweet House Folk Art has revived an art that I thought could now only be found in antique shops. Pictured above is her wonderful chalkware mother rabbit. I have included a lamb chalkware figure on the right that is also in Kathy’s collection.
The Staffordshire figurines, made in the English county of the same name for over 200 years reminds me of this chalkware. From what I have read, the 19th century version of the Staffordshire pottery used mainly unskilled women and children to paint the Staffordshire figurines. That is hard to believe in this day and age. These figurines were painted quickly and freely so they have an almost folk-art feel that gives them a certain charm. The pottery used was of a lower quality, which is why it was more prone to chip. They are very easy to find over here, but they aren’t cheap…especially when you do the math from the dollar into English pound.
Chalkware, I discovered, also was used to create naive figures of animals, fruit, men, and women. These pieces were made and sold throughout the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries. More figurines have been found in the Pennsylvania Dutch country than anywhere else and for that reason for some years all chalkware was considered Pennsylvania Dutch. However, history shows that chalkware figures were made in several parts of the country as well as imported from England.
Go visit Bittersweet House Folk Art. You won’t be disappointed. I can’t wait to get back to the States and order one of her pieces!
Posted by Mary at 09:09 AM CST
Thursday, March 20, 2008
The wonderful thing about being in Cambridge during Easter week are all the concerts at the various Colleges. We went to Kings College to hear St. Matthew’s Passion a few days ago. It was truly amazing. To be in a 15th century chapel and to hear Bach’s work is hard to beat. Hope you have a special Easter weekend. This is a chorale from the passion. I wonder if it has been used on a sampler.
Receive me, my Redeemer,
My Shepherd, make me Thine;
Of every good the fountain,
Thou art the spring of mine.
How oft Thy words have fed me
On earth with angel’s food,
How oft Thy grace hath led me
To highest, heavenly good.
The St. Matthew Passion
Posted by Mary at 08:47 PM CST
Monday, March 17, 2008
Every morning a little before six, there is a chorus of song welcoming the new day. I am sure this happens elsewhere, but I have never heard it anywhere else where it sounds so sweet. The songbirds in the garden at our house just belt out these amazing and complex songs. I knew nothing about birds, or their songs, but these melodies made me curious to know more about songbirds. What I discovered is fascinating!
Songbirds don’t instinctively just know their songs. There is an instinctual need to sing though. They are taught by their fathers to sing the “family” song (or the song of their species). The males learn it and practice it because their song is what will attract a mate and secure a good territory for them. It is mainly the males that sing. Songs of the same species also vary geographically. It becomes almost like a different dialect when you hear the same kind of songbird several miles down the road! Some songbirds learn the basic song then add various other bits and pieces to create their own song! To me, the more I learn about these amazing little birds that wake me up every morning, the more I want to know. Right now though that is the extent of my songbird knowledge!
Posted by Mary at 12:11 PM CST
Friday, March 14, 2008
This manuscript is from Trinity College Cambridge. I love everything about this. The writing is amazing. With all of the technological conveniences we have at our fingertips (which I do love!), we don’t take time to write much. The thought of making it beautiful would seem like a waste of time! I am grateful for all the beautiful manuscripts that have been preserved. Many wonderful examples are here in Cambridge. They are truly inspiring!
Posted by Mary at 09:19 AM CST
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
I usually walk in the mornings here. There is a footpath through beautiful pastures that goes from Cambridge out to the village of Grantchester. It’s a delightful walk. Not only do people who just enjoy walking in the country use the footpath, but also those who want to exercise their dogs. All sorts of dogs are happily running around in the field finding treasures, such as large sticks. It’s fun to watch the dog drama unfold as I walk back and forth on the footpath.
While I was in the States this winter, I visited my cousin who has the cutest dog! She is a cocker spaniel named Maudie. I made her a valentine card this year. I styled it after a design I did that is now in my Mary Beale School of Needlework. Maudie reminds me of the dogs I see. My cousin takes her to the dog park and she loves to just run around searching for her ball and playing with the other “nice” dogs!
Today though we had 70 to 80 mile an hour winds and rain going sideways so I didn’t walk…I am still not complaining! I think the storm that dumped all the snow in the States came over here and provided us with the rain and wind…I think I must have missed my calling as a meteorologist.
Posted by Mary at 07:16 AM CST
Friday, March 7, 2008
What I have always loved about samplers is the way they tell the observer their story. In one of my samplers from the late 18th century, there is a pair of rodents at the bottom of the sampler. I have often wondered why they were included...maybe I don’t want to know! Samplers aren’t the only things that tell stories.
The Fitzwilliam Museum has an amazing collection of cylinder seals that are thousands of years old! They are basically cylinders of stone engraved with a picture story. This type of seal was used for hundreds of years. Usually the image from the cylinder was rolled onto wet clay to reveal the story, similar to the one pictured here. While I have always loved seeing these, I had to really search in the museum to find the samplers this time. They are tucked away in the fan room. Personally, I think needlework should also be given a special place (it used to be!). Have you noticed that a lot of museums seem to be putting away, or minimizing the space they give their textile collection?
In light of that, I decided to highlight one of my customer’s pieces. Sue Bird did my tea cosy from Pocketbook Needlework 1998. You can find Sue's work on her page in my Gallery. She did the tea cosy in counted needlepoint and it is truly beautiful! Why not look at all those featured in the Gallery, which is not tucked away, or hidden out of sight.
Posted by Mary at 07:18 AM CST
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
I am getting ready to go the the Fitzwilliam Museum. If you visit Cambridge, it is a must see. I sort of hang out there and sketch when we're here. When my husband tags along, he always feels the need to reward himself with a florentine from Fitzbillies (near the museum). It is also definitely worth the stop...all of their sweets are amazing! I resisted the florentines when we stopped because my mind was on the museum. While we were home this winter though, the wife of my husband's teaching assistant made us some florentines because she knew how much Greg loved them. Oh my goodness!!! They were so good. I am going to have to put on blinders now when I walk past Fitzbillies to the museum. I asked Nikki if I could share her florentine recipe, so here it is:
10 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon honey
3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
2 cups chopped pecans
1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a heavy saucepan, bring butter, sugar, honey, and cream to a rolling boil. Stir in pecans and oats and cook over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes, or until batter thickens slightly and smells of toasted pecans. Take mixture off heat and let cool. Line cookie sheet with parchment or aluminum foil. Spoon cooled batter into each ring mold (approximately 1 tablespoon sized balls). Gently press to slightly flatten. Cookies will flatten completely while baking. Bake for approximately 12 to 15 minutes or golden brown around the edges. Melt chocolate chips while allowing cookies to cool, and finish by spreading back of cookies with a thin layer of melted chocolate. Cool to allow chocolate to harden.
If you like to cook (and eat!), visit Nikki's food blog she has a lot of great recipes. The blog address is www.penniesonaplatter.blogspot.com
Posted by Mary at 01:05 PM CST
Sunday, March 2, 2008
This is the "skyline" of Cambridge as you walk up the backs of St. John's college toward town. Notice the spires of the King's College chapel. I have always loved this view.
We arrived here safely yesterday without any difficulty at all. Since I have made such a big deal about the weather at home, I almost feel guilty telling you what the weather is like here. It's sunny and the daffodils are blooming, the birds are singing. I feel as though I have died and gone to heaven! Our driver, who brought us back to Cambridge, said though that it is supposed to turn cold the first of the week. As promised though, I am not going to complain.
The book I read on the plane was a biography about Coco Chanel. I have always loved her classic designs. Have you ever noticed how good design never looks "wrong," or goes out of style, whether it is fashion, all forms of needework, architecture, or anything else really. Her life was extermely intersting. I must confess, I didn't get very far in the book. She fasinates me though. I am looking forward to reading more about her.
Posted by Mary at 07:43 AM CST
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
We leave on Friday. I have started packing. The main decision now is which book to take and read on the plane ride over. More snow is forcast for tomorrow here. I will NOT miss the snow and ice. I love the saying, "Everyone always talks about the weather, but no one ever does anything about it." I feel like all I have done is complain. I'll try to be more positive with just the rain in Cambridge!
Posted by Mary at 08:57 PM CST
Thursday, February 21, 2008
It is only one week until we return to England for another three months. I am getting excited! I never thought I would say this, but I am not only excited to see friends again, I am also looking forward to the weather!!! When we first got back to Chicago we were thrilled to see snow, after all, it IS winter. I have now had enough. Give me just plain old rain! My driveway has been an ice rink most of the winter. When you add the continual high winds mixed in with the sub zero temperatures and snow (it's snowing as I write this), it doesn't make getting around very fun.
I am trying now to decide what books to pack. That is always hard because I have to be very selective. Thank goodness for the computer. I can study quite a bit from images I have on my computer (such as the one featured here - isn't it wonderful?), and then there is the wonderful Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, that I love. I always seem to leave some wonderful book at home. Hopefully, this time I will remember everything.
Posted by Mary at 08:04 PM CST
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Today, here at home in the Chicago area, we in a deep freeze! The temperature dropped almost fifty degrees from yesterday afternoon to last night. Burrrr! Maybe I am thinking spring thoughts because of that. I do know that when we go back to Cambridge (England) the daffodils will be blooming so I will get a jump start on spring.
I have a dear friend of twenty years that lives in the village west of Cambridge where we lived back in the eighties when our entire family spent a year in England, this past fall she and I spent lots of time talking about projects that we could work on together. I don't want to say too much because she needs to be introduced to you properly. I will only tell you that she is a passionate gardener...and she has the garden and degrees to prove it! I am anxious for you to meet her.
Posted by Mary at 06:23 PM CST
Monday, January 14, 2008
Isn't this a charming picture? It's an old house in Bermuda. My husband and I were supposed to be leaving for Bermuda today. He was going to be teaching there for a week. Unfortunately, while we were in Italy, he broke his wrist and had to have surgery. We didn't even actully know it was broken until we returned home! We won't be seeing this lovely country until next year. I guess you can only handle so much fun in the course of one year! While we both were excited to go, it became clear this fall that there was way too much travel on our calendar! I'm certainly not complaining!! On the other hand, it will be nice to be home for a bit longer before we leave to go back to England.
Posted by Mary at 09:24 PM CST
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
Happy New Year to all of you!
My husband and I are at home for a few weeks which is nice. The Chicago weather welcomed us home with about six inches of snow on the ground and also provided us with winds that make it feel like minus 5 to 10 degrees! Our Christmas in Italy with our family was wonderful. I hope to share some pictures. I must admit, I think it is the most beautiful place I have ever been in! I am working on several projects I will write more about those later, but for now I hope you enjoy the new year.
Posted by Mary at 12:55 PM CST