A blog about my photos, my artwork, quotations, ideas, collections, passions, England, authors, handwork of all kinds, rusty bits, buffalo, and architectural detail...for starters. And the occasional rant.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Milton’s Cottage

I get a daily email newsletter from “The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keiller” which offers a daily poem as well as literary and historic notes relating to the date.  You may have heard him reading this on NPR radio.  When I read the daily entry I can hear his mellow tones in my head -  “It’s the birthday of…” or “On this date…”

December 9th was the birthday of the poet John Milton, born in London in 1608, and the subject of that day’s email.   I was especially interested because his cottage still exists in Chalfont St Giles – one of those wonderful English villages worth visiting just for the name.  In 1997 we went there to see Milton’s Cottage and hopefully find a restaurant.  Milton’s best known work, “Paradise Lost”, was dictated here (he was blind), but I wanted to see the cottage based on several of my postcards.  We were too late to go into the cottage, although we peeked over the hedge into the garden, but we did have a lovely dinner just across the street.

What I found most interesting about the Milton entry was this:  Milton coined more than 600 words, including the adjectives dreary, flowery, jubilant, satanic, saintly, terrific, ethereal, sublime, impassive, unprincipled, dismissive, and feverish; as well as the nouns fragrance, adventurer, anarchy, and many more.

We all know how many words and phrases we owe to Shakespeare, but I had no idea that Milton was responsible for all this.  I have never been able to read “Paradise Lost”, although I have tried several times, tempted by the illustrations of William Blake or Gustave Dore.  Maybe I should give it another try.

So spake th' Apostate Angel, though in pain,
Vaunting aloud, but rackt with deep despare:
And him thus answer'd soon his bold Compeer.

And then again, maybe not……

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Send them to Starbucks

I have a friend who called me one morning about three months after her husband retired.  She said, “If that man opens one more kitchen cupboard and asks me why I keep whatever is in there in that particular cupboard, I will kill him!”  At the moment, I think she meant it.  Having thirty-five years of reasoned and practical organization questioned by a man who can’t make scrambled eggs with less than three pans and a measuring cup is more than any woman can handle.

The anguish of living with a newly retired husband is well documented.  And for those living in the suburbs, it seems to be at least partially solved.  The husbands are sent off to the local Starbucks.

Several months ago I started a small self-improvement project that required about a half hour of careful thought and I found the distractions at home were just too intrusive – check my e-mail, make a cup of tea, straighten the rug by the door, put in a load of clothes…that sort of thing.  So I decided to take the project to my Starbucks.  No distractions, no one disturbing you, and pleasant music in the background.

I am an early riser, as are most men who have headed off to work in the AM for forty years.  We all wound up at Starbucks together.  Well over half of the people in my Starbucks between 7: and 9: are men between 60 and 75.  I was amazed.  Eventually I puzzled out that these were all retired men who had been kicked out of the house by their wives.  So they head out every morning just like they have for so many years.  Instead of standing around the water-cooler (do any offices still have water-coolers?) they sit in the comfy chairs and discuss ‘the game’, the weather, and their plumbing (both kinds).

 As a single woman of retirement age, I felt like I had stumbled into a chocolate factory – lots of opportunity but none of it good for you.  Besides, they had taken all the comfy chairs.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Soup du Jour

Another excerpt from our 1986 England Journal  We had struggled to find a B&B that evening and we were tired and hungry as we started off walking into downtown Yeovil.

It was indeed a lengthy walk into town and I was very grateful that I had had the presence of mind earlier in the day to have that big piece of chocolate walnut torte.  We walked through the equivalents of Auto Row, low-income housing, Aurora Avenue and more before we finally got into the town center.  The Tudor Restaurant, recommended to us by our B&B hostess, just happened to be the first one we found, for which we were grateful.

It was a weeknight and the restaurant was quite small so we were the only customers for the first half hour.  We were seated with many flourishes and a passable “buena sera” by the proprietor.  We soon realized that we were to be guinea pigs for the bar boy’s first attempt at waiting table.  He was very shy and quite unsure of himself, he rattled glasses and dropped silverware, he couldn’t even look Amy in the eye.  We were very patient and kind to him and we were trying very hard not to laugh.  It was a lost cause however when I asked him what the soup du jour was and he replied quite innocently, “I don’t know, it changes every day.”  That set us off with an attack of furtive giggles that lasted all night.

Although the restaurant is no longer there (it is now Cheong's Chinese Takeaway) , I feel I should say that it was a lovely meal, and the walk home was much cheerier and shorter than the walk there had been.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

I am NOT a Hoarder...

Is a collection something you work at, or something that just happens as a result of your interests, affections, inheritances, or personal quirks?  I think it can be any of these things or a combination thereof and I suspect there are other reasons that have simply not occurred to me.  What about collections where you have lost all interest in collecting further, but still appreciate what you have accumulated? What about the collection you have inherited from your Mom or great aunt – something you are not remotely interested in but which for you hold a great fondness because of the previous owner?

I started reading a book once about people who collect, I thought I might find some insights about myself.  By the end of Chapter One I had rejected the premise that I had had a deprived childhood, that I was wreaking revenge on one of my parents for God-knows-what, or that I needed psychiatric help.  While these may all apply to a greater or lesser degree to the type of hoarder which reality TV has recently embraced, I am sure there are a great many collectors who quite simply collect because they are drawn, for whatever reason, to a certain type of object.

Yes, we sometimes overspend on our collections (I gather by now you have figured out I am a collector).  Personally I confess to a penchant for things that are numbered – things which have a finite number and a list I can gleefully check off as my collection grows.

When I was a very little girl my mother started a collection for me of little shoes – china, glass, etc.  I don’t know why she didn’t just collect them herself, but I expect she had been raised to think there was something wrong in spending money on something so patently useless, so in classic parental self-deceit she started buying me shoes.  In the interest of complete disclosure, I confess to starting a collection of small heart boxes for my daughter.  I have absolutely no idea what possessed me.  My daughter never actually collected heart boxes on her own and I never actually collected shoes.  But after disposing of the majority of the collection when I was in my forties, I now have a small collection of shoes which I treasure.

An undusted collection of citrus juicers
My house is afflicted with a lot of collections, some of which I began determinedly and with much enthusiasm.  Some just seemed to happen…they happen like this: you see (or are given) something which pleases you immensely.  You set it out where you can enjoy it.  One day you are walking through a shop and you see something similar which pleases you as much as the original, so you buy it.  Here is where it gets a little tricky.  Everyone knows that two items do not display as artistically as three so it is just a matter of time until you find the third and voila! you have a collection.  Pretty soon people notice you seem to have a fondness for Minnie Mouse, or Brown Betty teapots, or glass paperweights and come your next birthday you realize you couldn’t stop this collection if you wanted to.

Cornishware - named after the blue skies and white cob houses of Cornwall

I expect to share most of my collections with you at some point – with information, photos, and rationalizations.  But it has to be said here and now that if you think collections are just “clutter” you may find it disturbing.  I refer you to a blog I have been following for most of this year: A Collection a Day, 2010 by artist Lisa Congdon.  I see a lot of items I grew up with, and quite a few that sit in some of my collections. 

This is my studio bathroom wall inspired by Lisa Congdon
The important thing about a collection for me is having at least parts of it out where I see it everyday.  I think, for the most part, I am inspired to collect visually…antique postcards, or books by certain illustrators. 

We won’t talk about the numbered, listed thing – that might actually require a few visits with a shrink.  But I promise, I have no collections of plastic margerine tubs or old newspapers...and I can still walk anywhere I want to.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pearl Harbor Day

Today, December 7th, was my parents wedding anniversary.  I always found it hilarious that President Roosevelt referred to this as a "day that will live in infamy".

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Long Climb - Porthcurno

I am in the process of transcribing a journal I wrote on my first trip to England in 1986.  It has been a very long time since I read through it and I certainly have become a more experienced traveler since then.  Everything was so new and exciting on this trip for both my daughter and myself.   So as I go through it, I will share some of the bits that I find amusing, interesting, or embarrassing with you.

Porthcurno is close to Land’s End in Cornwall and home of the famous Minack Theatre (which is another entry altogether).  This is the entry, only slightly edited, as we made our way there for the first of what would eventually be three visits.

We passed by famous Land’s End with only a glimpse from the top of the road.  We just couldn’t work up any enthusiasm for it and so went straight on into Porthcurno and began looking for the Minack Theatre.  We had already discovered, to our great disappointment, that we were in the middle of the two day layover between productions, but we wanted to see the theatre itself regardless.

At this point we did what has become something of a joke for us; that is, take a path or a road or a carpark when we arrive someplace, only to find there is another one (or two) which is  much shorter, closer, or less steep.  We took the “Coast Path” up to the theatre, not realizing we could have driven right up the land side of the hill to a carpark within mere feet of the ticket booth.  We rather suspected we were taking an alternate path when we began because of the sign posted warning against use by the aged or the infirm.  I can tell you firsthand that if you weren’t aged or infirm when you began the climb, you were by the time you reached the top.  The path took us up the cliff – I’m not stretching it at all when I call it a cliff – to a viewpoint overlooking the lovely sand beach across Porthcurno Bay.  At that point the path divided, we took what we hoped was the less challenging of the two with survival in mind.  When we finally made it to the top we labeled a new category of experience: ’ I’m glad I didn’t know then what I know now or I wouldn’t have done what I’m glad I did.’  This applies most often to long climbs necessary to get somewhere and it seems there is a long climb necessary to get anywhere in England, so the list is growing fast.

What made the climb more than worthwhile was the breathtaking (no pun intended) vistas every time you stopped for a minute.  It was at this point that it occurred to me for the first time that I was looking at the Atlantic Ocean.  My rather limited experience with oceans had allowed me to subconsciously think of any body of water that extended beyond the horizon as the Pacific Ocean.  Obviously, this path was used only  just often enough to keep it visible in the grass, because there was not a single piece of litter to be seen and the wildflowers grew and were blooming everywhere.  It was a memorable experience.

The path went up the right side of this photo, somewhat above what can be seen here.
Photo by Oliver Beattie

And just for the record, we walked back to the carpark down the regular road.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Call it Magic – if you like

As much as I love the art and photography in my postcard collection, I am often touched by the occasional message on the back.  Over half of the postcards have never been sent, and over half of those that have bear the usual “Having a wonderful time, wish you were here” sort of message.  Since most of my cards are from England, it is often more like “Rained all week but having a wonderful time anyway.”

When I log any new postcards I have a standard process.  I clean them (erase prices) and determine locations, then I add them to my Excel spreadsheet (those who know me are chuckling at this point).  My favorite bit, just before I file them away, is to turn them over and read the back.

In the early 1900’s postcards were often used to mail ads and some of them are wonderful.  Rheumatism is an older term, used to describe any of a number of painful conditions of muscles, tendons, joints, and bones.  Anyone over fifty knows what it means.  Because it was such a general term, countless cures were sold everywhere from High Street to the back of a Gypsy caravan.

Thomas Armitage & Son’s shop is long gone, but I’ll bet someone somewhere is still selling the rings.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Twenty One Bags

My mother is 96 and her memory is failing, but like most people in this condition she has crystal clear memories of incidents in her youth.  Although you expect it, it is still always surprising.  Most curious to me (and I ponder this often) is exactly what made a particular story stay in her mind – or all they all still there, just not accessible.  This year at Thanksgiving as we sat around the table drinking our coffee and digesting, apropos of nothing, she began a story.  What struck me about this story, although it certainly stands alone as interesting, was how clearly she told the details, without pause or uncertainty.  There was no doubt as to the truth of the story, she is no longer capable of exaggerating without tell-tale hesitation or eye-shifts.

When she was growing up in Montana, there was a man with a very large ranch between her father’s and Great Falls.  He had a son who was learning disabled but still largely functional.  The only problem was that he would wander off into the countryside and it took much time and many people to find him.  So they decided to move him into Great Falls.  They found him a rooming house right downtown next to the Paris Department Store where everything was convenient for him and he seemed to be doing very well.  Every morning he would go into the hole-in-the-wall cafe next door and have them fill his thermos with coffee.  Then he would return there for his afternoon meal.  He followed this routine without fail.  One day his family came to visit him and they stopped at the  cafĂ© first.  They were told he was doing well, had been in for his morning coffee, but strangely, had not come for his lunch.  When they went to his room they found him on his bed (Mom hastened to assure us he was fully dressed!) but he had passed away.  In the corner of his room they found 21 bags from The Paris.  Each bag contained a pair of pants and a belt.  They all still had their tags and the sales slips. This was a comfort to Mom as she was confident they had been able to return them and get their money back.

It is such an inconsequential story, sad and amusing at the same time.  Obviously it had made a large impression on Mom when it happened and I can envision her family sitting around the table discussing it…just like my family did. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Big Oops!

I started this blog with a quote from Samuel Beckett, “No problem. Try again. Fail again.  Fail better.”  Turned out to be somewhat prescient.    In my ‘Snail Mail’ blog entry of 11/17  I mentioned a bit of guerrilla mail I had been indulging in by sending postcards  of floral clocks anonymously (that’s what guerrilla mail is) to a workmate of my daughter’s.

I had visions of her pleasant trips to the mailbox in anticipation of another installment of “Floral Clocks Around the World”.  And the denouement with the last one pointing to the blog entry was looked forward to with great anticipation by both my daughter and myself.

My guerrilla mail was a bitter failure.  The recipient was not amused, to say the least.  To that I say, “No problem. Try again. Fail again.  Fail better.”   Next time we will be very careful in our choice of recipient.

It appears an apology is in order, and if so I certainly do apologize.  But it is a shame it was such a lovely idea gone awry.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Few More Envelopes

As much fun as it is sending my colorful envelopes to other people, the most fun is sending them to myself.  Whenever I have a really good match between an envelope and a stamp, I send it to myself.  I have quite a nice collection now and I thought I would share just a few more.

My favorite is one I made by scanning a photo of my daughter and two of her childhood friends taken at Volunteer Park in Seattle.  This is sort of cheating, since I made the 'paper' used for the envelope, but I couldn't resist this one.

And here are a few more of my best matches...

These were made from magazine pages, old calendars, gift wrap and book illustrations - don't worry, no usable books were harmed in this exercise.  The downside of all this is that I can hardly bear to part with a magazine until I have pulled out the good pages.  I have about three feet of single magazine and calendar pages sitting under the table in my studio just waiting for the perfect stamp issue.  Oh yeah, and I have a whole bin of made up envelopes waiting also.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I Love the USPS

I practice snail mail.  In fact, I have practiced it so much I have gotten quite good at it.  After years of being neglectful, my addresses and birthdates are in order and I send birthday and anniversary cards, even to people who live just down the street.  I have never understood why people who will spend $4.50 for a birthday card are too frugal to spend 44 cents for a stamp.  Buy a cheaper card and mail it to me. Give me the pleasure of sorting through my bills and catalogues and finding something that was sent to ME – me with a face.

For years I made envelopes out of calendar and magazine pages – glorious, colorful and often amusing envelopes.  They were filled with  cartoons, recipes and news clippings that I thought would be of interest and mailed to friends and family.  For the most part they were gratefully appreciated, although I know of two people who tossed them without opening because they just assumed anything that colorful and cheery must be an advertisement. 

I've sent the best matches of envelopes and stamps to myself
I collect antique postcards and I send antique postcards.  Art and sentiments which are a 100 years old are no less worthy today.  Recently, I anonymously sent about 20 postcards (from 30 to 80 years of age) showing floral clocks to a workmate of my daughters.  She has been receiving them at the rate of about 4-5 a month.  Although I don’t really know this woman, my daughter thought she would appreciate both the postcards and the guerrilla mail.  I sent the last one this week, and she should be reading this blog this week, as far as I know she has no idea where they are coming from.

The last of the floral clocks

All this to prove my credentials, leads to the point eventually…

In the course of sorting through an embarrassingly large accumulation of greeting cards it became clear to me that the greeting card people no longer produce for people who actually use our postal system. 

It may just be that I find them especially attractive, but a surprisingly large group of my cards are square.  This means the post office will charge me an extra 20 cents.  Quite a few cards were actually over the 1 oz limit – heavy paper, multi pages, add-ons – therefore requiring another 17 cents.  I had a few that were both square and overweight: 81 cents 

All of the above are acceptable to me because I truly believe the US Post Office is one of the most valuable things I get with my tax dollar.  Where else in the world can you get safe, dependable delivery six days a week for a matter of pennies?  If I mail today in Seattle, my 44 cents will deliver in 2 days in New York (in most cases).  I think that’s a heck of a deal, but a lot of people do not agree with me.  I actually had a friend that drove to my house to deliver a card to save the cost of a stamp – think about it.

What really proves my point is the paper being used for envelopes.  I found dark green and dark blue envelopes – I happen to have white gel pens, but how many normal people do?  And quite a few were made from a metallic or pearlized paper that does not accept most pens – alright, I happen to have fine point Sharpies also, but how many normal people do?  Aside from establishing that I am not normal, I think I have made my case. 

The greeting card industry may have given up on snail mail, but I haven’t.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

My Studio

Now that we have established that one needn't be an 'artist' to have a 'studio', I thought perhaps you would like to see a little more of my studio.  It has taken me nearly two years, but most of this small space is neatly organized.  I am proud to say I can find almost anything I need at any given moment.  There has even been time to arrange some of my stuff in a visually pleasing manner.

In fact, I think you could say that neat organization is, in itself, visually pleasing - if not actually inspirational.

Honesty (and I have promised myself to be honest on this blog) forces me to also share some of the wild corners.

Give me another year, let me finish a few projects, and I may even get the corners loooking beautiful.

Friday, November 12, 2010

When is it a studio? When are you an artist?

I’ve dabbled in the Arts since I was in Junior High, pretty much all the arts.  Writing this blog could be considered “dabbling in the Arts”, and I am not without some musical talent.  But I want to talk about drawing, painting, graphic arts, collage, bookmaking….and I also want to talk about cardmaking, scrapbooking, beading, and all the fabric arts.

There is a room in my house that is filled with things that I have saved, rescued, and purchased.  Indulge me while I give you a partial (just the tip of the iceberg) list:
          Fat Quarters (fabric)
          Pressed leaves and Flowers
          Cell phone parts
          Paper of all sizes and content and color
          Paint chips
          The complete DMC Embroidery Floss line
          Colored Pencils
          Rubber Stamps
          Watercolors, Acrylics, Inks
          Broken Jewelry Bits
          Beads – LOTS of beads
          Silk Ribbon
          Paper Ephemera of all kinds
          Three cameras
          Postage stamps (all ages, all countries)
          Reference magazines and books

When I start a new project, I rarely have to leave the room for anything but food and drink.

I create in this room.  I sew, paint, collage, stamp, bead and play in this room.  Finally, after several years, I call this my studio.  For some reason it is easy to call it ‘a studio’, but hard to call it ‘my studio’.  Nor can I call myself an artist.  I have sold my work (and I am more inclined to call it stuff rather than work), won minor awards, and received much appreciation from friends and strangers – but that doesn’t make me an artist.  While acknowledging my talent for color and design, I know that I am not even close to being at the level of the people who fill the walls of galleries and the art fair tents.  I also know that a lot of women who do call themselves artists are simply modestly talented women with husbands who are happy to support and indulge them.

Alas, without the pure talent or the husband, I am doomed never to be ‘an artist’.  But at least I know I sometimes do create real art and at least I have a studio.

The fact that no one understands you doesn’t make you an artist.  -Unknown

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Ugly American

I confess, it was I.

It was November 5th in Old Hastings on the South coast and this was the trip where I was only a few months short of a knee replacement so we were using handicapped parking everywhere.  That included our stop at a lovely pub in Old Hastings for our evening meal and a couple of ciders.  The streets in Old Hastings are narrow but we parked on the double yellow, hung the handicapped tag and walked away.  There were some temporary ‘no parking’ signs but it was already after 6:pm and we figured the workers had just forgotten to pick them up.

Typical Old Hastings street.  Postcard dated 1927 but it has hardly changed at all.

We knew it was Guy Fawkes Day, but frankly we expected perhaps to see a bonfire somewhere up on a distant hill at best.  Just as we were thinking of leaving, there was a great racket outside and everybody ran out to the street - as did we.  It was a parade of sorts - men and women in costumes, pushing burning barrels down the narrow street.   The crowd was illuminated in the spooky way only flames can do and everyone was laughing, singing and shouting.

As we were congratulating ourselves for stumbling upon this fun event, the parade slowed and came to a halt.  We couldn’t see what the problem was, but pretty soon they slowly began to move again, very slowly.  You can only watch so many men slowly pushing burning barrels before you are ready to head home to your comfortable B&B so we walked towards our car.

And there it was, the bottleneck.  We looked at each other, pondered stepping out into the street and into the car, and thought better of it.  We felt bad, but not suicidal.  When the parade finally worked past the car and around the corner, the street was suddenly dark and quiet as the roar worked its way down to the beach.  We sauntered casually across the street, looked around, then jumped into the car and left as fast as we could.

I’m still embarrassed, but I feel better now that I have confessed.

Remember, remember, the 5th of November
The Gunpowder Treason and plot ;
I know of no reason why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes,
'Twas his intent.
To blow up the King and the Parliament.
barrels of powder below.
Poor old
to overthrow.
By God's providence he was catch'd,
With a dark lantern and burning match

Holloa boys, Holloa boys, let the bells ring
Holloa boys, Holloa boys, God save the King!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Parking Rant

You can say what you will about senior citizens who drive with their turn signals on, or about ‘Godknowswhat’ ethnic group who shouldn’t be allowed behind the wheel, or about women drivers in general.  I want to talk about parkers…people who are done driving for a bit. 

Why are so many people unable to park straight and between the white lines?  And why are so many of them driving pick-ups, LARGE SUV’s, or late model luxury cars?  Wait a minute, I get it.  They are not unable, they are unwilling or unaware.  I don’t know which is worse.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


I had been on a Henry VIII reading binge for months and it was spreading forward into Elizabeth I and other Tudor history.  At the same time I was becoming really interested in plants and gardening – because of climate similarities, most of my research led me to English gardens and gardeners.

Alone on my patio one sunny summer morning in 1984, I thought about my brother in Germany (for a year), my mother traveling in Europe (three weeks), and my daughter touring Europe with a girlchoir.  I had never been further away than Indianapolis!  Not fair, I thought, this has got to change.

Pondering the logistics of a single woman and 14 yr old daughter traveling in a foreign country led me to the inescapable conclusion that England – with no language barrier, no summer heat & a reasonable rate of exchange – was the perfect destination.

In the heart of Salisbury, Wiltshire

And it turned out that it was.

That first trip to England was perhaps the most wonderful three weeks of my life.  Absolutely nothing went wrong or dissappointed.  We even had some exceptionally good food!?!  I felt a deep and warm connection with everything I saw and I fell hopelessly in love with all things English.  This vacation also took what had been a good mother-daughter relationship to a whole new level of communication and enjoyment.  We added a deeper level of friendship that has lasted us through as many trips to England as we could afford over the years.

Some very good English food at Lewis's Tea Room in Tintagel, Cornwall

This love affair has now carried over into most facets of my life and if you read this blog long enough, you will find out more about England than you ever thought you would.

Sheep and standing stones in Amesbury, Wiltshire

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Self Diagnosed

I have CDO.

It's like OCD, but all the letters are in order like they should be.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Having been recommended to me by nearly everybody since it first came out in 2008, I was recently given a copy of this lovely book by a lovely in-law so I sat right down and started reading it.  The fact that I spent nearly all of one day and evening reading straight through tells you how much I enjoyed it.

Having several Guernsey postcards in my collection certainly enhanced the experience.  Being able to picture the setting adds so much to a good read and in this case, as the book consists of letters between the main characters, it was doubly welcome.  The day after reading the book I dug out my Guernsey collection and herewith share a couple of them with you.

The same day I went looking for the eponymous recipe.  As is typical with internet adventures I came up with a multitude of possibilities, which included ‘best guess’ recipes and outright denials that such a thing even existed.  I will trust the publisher’s website for the book (however foolish that may be) and provide you with their recipe, including their comments:

Here’s a recipe for a potato peel pie, but I warn you, it tastes like paste. The more authentic it is, the nastier. These ingredients will make a very small pie (expand at will):

1 potato
1 beet
1 Tablespoon milk

Peel the potato and put the peelings in a pie pan. Don’t cook the peels, because you’re in the middle of an Occupation and you don’t have any fuel. Boil the potato and the beet together in salty water, but not for very long, due to the fuel problem, just until you can stick a fork in the potato. Take them out and mash them up with the milk. Pour the glop in the pie pan. Bake at 375 for as short a time as is consonant with digestion (fuel again), say, fifteen minutes.

The finished product will look quite attractive and pink. If you squint, you can almost imagine raspberries. Don’t be fooled. It looks a lot better than it is. However, if you forgot that you were in the middle of WWII and added a bunch of butter and milk and salt, it could be quite tasty.

You will notice it says “could be quite tasty”,  not was quite tasty.  If they weren’t willing to try an enhanced version, I think I will pass also.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
By Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Few Postcards

Not too long after my first trip to England, while still totally infatuated, I went to a large antique show.  Walking down one aisle I noticed boxes full of postcards and a tab labeled “Yorkshire” caught my eye.  I took the cards out of the section and discovered one of Staithes, a small coastal village which had been one of our more enjoyable overnight stops.  (Someday I’ll tell you the story about the Staithes horse breaking wind…maybe)  I looked up at the dealer and said “I spent a night there.”  She replied that she had spent several years just a few miles from there and we were off on what has become a fairly typical conversation for me…Where did you go? What was your favorite village, museum, inn, building, shop, garden, etc?

Staithes, Yorkshire

In a moment of inspiration, I thought it would be fun to collect an antique postcard from all the places in England where we had spent a night.  After all, we were only talking about maybe 20 cards and they seemed to be quite reasonably priced.  Thousands of postcards later…..

So let me tell you about deltiologists (postcard collectors).  Most of us come to the hobby as a result of working a family tree, working a stamp collection, or documenting a hometown, hobby, or favorite vacation.  It is hard for us in this time of cell phones and the WORLD WIDE web to imagine that postcards were the means of everyday communication for most of the English speaking world in the early 1900’s.  Some places in England had 6 mail deliveries a day and you could send an invitation to dinner that same night and get a response before it was time to put the potatoes on to boil.  As a result, there are millions of postcards out there to sort through and more surface in grandmother’s attic every day.  I am pleased to have the 1914 postcard that was sent from my great aunt to my grandfather (back on the farm with his three boys) telling him that he was finally the father of a newborn baby girl – my mother.

The advent of modestly priced cameras allowed anyone to take pictures of grandma on the front porch or dad’s prized mule team and have them printed direct onto real photo postcards….more millions of cards.  And then the blossoming wealth of Americans in the fifties and sixties meant world travel - all documented by postcards…millions of them.

Cards can be purchased from 10 cents for a typical chrome view from the fifties to thousands of dollars for beautifully printed, pristine cards by well known artists of the day or real photo cards from defunct far east nations.  There is truly something for every interest, bank account, or perversion.  Yeah, there are plenty of ‘those’ postcards too.  If you collect postcards, it is not long before you have thousands.  I make no apologies.

Friday, October 15, 2010

I Can’t Help Myself, I’m Nostalgic

My rubber ducky circa 1950 and a bottle from my 1986 England trip

This morning, I was reading a cartoon (Cow and Boy) that started with Boy saying “I tend to live in the past. I can’t help myself, I’m nostalgic.”

I have, over the years, used a lot of different words to describe the non-physical me:  procrastinator, creative, verbal, collector, common-sense, organized, and a great many more that are less flattering.  Now I think I must add nostalgic to that list.

Much like I discovered at the age of 50 that I had been “a bit” dyslexic when I was a child (Mom didn’t seem to think I had any need to know, and in retrospect, she may have been right – no opportunity for excuses or self-pity), I suddenly realize that being nostalgic explains a whole lot about my character…and my whole life for that matter.

I have bored countless friends and fellow employees over the years with stories about my ex, my mother, my college years, and my travels.  I cannot part with anything that belonged to any of my ancestors, and that includes that hideous cup one of my great-uncles gave to my grandmother.  I reread my favorite books about every ten years.  I have much-perused photo albums and journals from every trip I have ever taken.  I’m nostalgic.

For the scientifically inclined, this appears to be a genetic trait.  My daughter still has every note that she was passed in all her school years.

***In case you are curious:
            Boy: “Heck, I was still wearing diapers when I was five.”
            Cow: “Cuz you were nostalgic?”
            Boy: “Well, maybe that was more cuz I was lazy.”

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I Shop at Fat Lady Stores

I hate it when someone says I have such a pretty face.  What they really mean is "You've got a really pretty face for someone with such a lardy ass".     - Sex & Chocolate

These are some things that really bother me about being fat.  And just for the record, I am not pleasingly plump, circumferentially challenged, or modestly overweight.  I have been all of those things at some point in my life, but right now I am fat.  There are mirrors in my house – I am fat.

* I once had a sister-in-law who would stop in the middle of a sentence rather than use the word “fat” when talking to me, as though she would be insulting me just by using the word in any context.  That really bothered me.

*Fat male comedians who make brutal jokes about fat women – but never fat men - I am pretty sure they have mirrors in their houses too.

* Fat people who are never seen eating at parties.  Who exactly do they think they are fooling?

*Plus-size clothing manufacturers who seem to think that because you have gotten fatter, you must also have gotten taller.  This results in necklines that hang off your shoulders and sleeves 5” longer than your arms when all you need is something that goes around your lardy ass.

If you assume that fat people are either stupid or lazy, or possibly both – go read someone else’s blog.  But be careful out there, keep it to yourself.  You’d be surprised how many people have dear relatives and loved ones who are fat, smart, and hardworking.  They probably won’t say anything to your face, but they’ll never really forgive you either.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tucked into Jane Austen - another bookmark

She walked down these stairs every morning when she lived here with her mother and sister in Chawton, Hampshire.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Losing is Not an Option

I have had it with that phrase.  I am done with it.  What world do you people live in?

Losing is ALWAYS an option.  And it seems to me I always hear it from people under the age of 30.  Once you have worked your ass off for a company and had it close its doors, once you have given a spouse everything you had to give and still wound up divorced, once you have watched someone fight for their life against cancer and succumb…you know losing is ALWAYS an option.  Thinking otherwise is going through life with your eyes closed.

Tell me you are giving it everything you’ve got; tell me you’ve worked, prayed, practiced, studied and are wearing your lucky socks.  Just don’t tell me losing is not an option.

***and besides….everytime a contestant on Dancing with the Stars or Top Chef says it, they are always the next one out.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Bookish Idea

Thomas Hardy's Childhood Home, Lower Bockhampton, Dorset

I have a lot more good ideas than I have time or money.  Unfortunately, I usually find enough of both to start something – but often not enough to finish.  Let’s be honest, I’m just not good at finishing things.  So if it’s a good idea that can be worked in stages, there is a chance for some success.

Most of my trips to England have several slots in the itinerary for the homes of my favorite English authors or locations associated with their lives or books.  This is not difficult as England is just crawling with both of these.  If I like an author, I want to read everything he has written and I want the books on my shelves because I am one of those odd ducks who rereads books on a regular basis.  (This is something I will probably discuss at a later date.) I try to buy used books whenever possible – it saves money, it saves books, and I often get a pleasant little surprise that has been inadvertently tucked in the book by the original owner.  I’ve found such things as a French train ticket, a vintage London bookstore receipt, and a ticket stub from an early Star Trek movie – not to mention bookmarks from exotic locations, like Cleveland. 

So here is a lovely idea I had which I would like to recommend to any avid readers out there.  When you are ordering prints from your vacation – get an extra copy of any that are associated with a book on your shelf, write the date and general information on the back, and tuck it in the book.  I can imagine someone, perhaps a grandchild, opening Hardy’s “Mayor of Casterbridge” and finding a photo of  The King's Arms' Hotel in Dorchester High Street - its "spacious bow-window projected into the street over the main portico," through which Mrs. Henchard saw her husband being entertained as Mayor of Casterbridge.  More likely, they’ll open a Harry Potter book and find the Gloucester Cathedral Cloisters, a filming location for several of the movies.
Here is an example: The Book

The photo of an actual Mousehole Cat taken in Mousehole, Cornwall in 2007:

A photo of my miniature Cornish Kitchen with the Mousehole Cat sunning himself:

(more about this kitchen later)
 I’m actually doing this – and someday, someone’s gonna really love it!

A little library, growing every year, is an honorable part of a man's history.  It is a man's duty to have books.   - Henry Ward Beecher