Monthly Archives: June 2009

Taking Time to Breathe

My husband and I went for a walk on Sunday. Freshly homemade ice-cream cones in hand, melting so fast in the sun it was dribbling down our chins. We headed for the common to stroll down to the pond. We haven’t been to our little hidden oasis yet this year with the hustle and bustle of everything. When we stepped through the undercover of the trees it was just as magical as ever.

The lily pads were open and sparkling in the sun, the baby ducks were paddling around being a bit brave as they explored the pond with their Mama not far behind. It is a very “Wind in the Willows” cove. Kenneth Grahame lived in Buckinghamshire and wrote about Ratty, Badger, Mole and most unforgettably, Toad. All living along the banks of the Thames. I know that this little place is one they would have visited on an adventure, “simply messing about in boats”, or at least enjoying a lovely summer picnic prepared by Ratty.

We stopped to watch the Mama ducks chatter to each other and after finishing our cones we headed back down to a main path. After walking only a few short steps I paused, the ground was crawling underneath me. I bent down to look around and the forest floor was covered with baby toads. They were everywhere, some heading to the pond, some crossing over the path into the woods. They were amazing to watch. Another couple was heading toward us, they looked at us crouching down over the earth like we were crazy and just kept walking. Here they were, walking down a sunlight-dappled wooded path on a dreamlike summer day and they didn’t even stop to take in what was around them.

Life is always hectic, but I endeavour to make sure I take time to breathe; we should all try to do that. Here was a little miracle happening right in front of us, all these minute baby toads making there way out into the world, hopping along on instinct. Will I ever see something like that again? I don’t know, but I do know if I didn’t stop to breathe I would have walked right on down the path just like the couple that passed us. Taking detours every now and then when they present themselves are well worth it.

Boxes & Bows & Bags

I don’t think it matters how old you are, the receiving of a package or letter from home is a treasure that brightens your day. It is almost the equivalent of receiving an Oscar when you are in College. After collecting your package from the school post office you carried it proudly all eyes looking at you, coveting it as you headed back to your dorm. Because, inside that box held much needed love from home. I received a birthday package from my sister yesterday and what magnificent bits and pieces it held.

In such a modern society there is nothing still more important to me than to not lose the art of letter writing and gift packaging. Everything inside my box was laid out so beautifully when I opened it. All carefully wrapped and purchased with thought. What is a better gift, no matter how big or how small that is bought with thought? W.H. Auden said,”none will hear the postman’s knock, without a quickening of the heart.” How true that is, an unopened package holds secrets yet to be told.

In some small way I can imagine the joy a letter brought to the pioneer families, they were brave souls. They were adventurers! What a welcome feeling a letter or package brings, it envelops you like a hug. It is these sometimes seemingly ordinary connections to home that make you feel so near to the people you are so very far away from.

Better Gnomes & Gardens

I have a thing for gnomes; they are whimsical, magical, seemingly
happy little creatures. Usually dressed in bright clothing with pointy little hats. They are friends to woodland animals and charming decorators of their red polka dot mushroom houses.

In looking for some vintage ephemera I went to one of my favorite sources, D. Blumchen & Company and I came across a gnome village they had created with instructions coming soon to tell you how to make your own mushroom gnome men.

Although considered a kitsch object, gnomes have been around for generations. In Sweden and Denmark there are numerous vintage postcards and household items with gnome and pixie themes. It has carried on to the present; many of their Christmas decorations revolve around these magical beings. I, myself have a few Danish pixies that come out to play at Christmas and guard over the presents Santa has delivered.

Like Cath Kidston’s Miniature Garden (blog written 5/13/2009), this little model village is again something I find charming and enchanting. Another little world you wish you can step inside and wander around. A world where ladybugs pull your flower laden cart and cozy candles bring a warm glow to the soft inside of mushroom houses, where you sit, sipping tea out of acorn cups next to a crackling fire.

Click on the picture below to go to D. Blumchen & Company’s Website.

sect floral mush header

“Better Gnomes & Gardens” Image by Artist Ken Brown, embellished by J. Michie

The Cookie Jar

Food, like music, is a cultural transcendent. We bond over food. In looking at our cultural and geographical diversities we do have similar dishes to one another. The smell, look, taste and even thoughts of food conjure up very powerful memories for me. For better or for worse, food makes me happy. I have only to think of Paris and I can see the patisserie my sister and I visited near the apartment we were staying in. What could be better than sugar for breakfast? We feasted like Marie Antoinette on pastel colored cakes, éclairs, iced in chocolate, with billowing clouds of pastry cream oozing out and strawberries delicately sliced on top.

The aroma of something delicious wafting out of an oven door or an open window brings to mind childhood reminiscences. I grew up in an unusual household, in that both of my parents are excellent cooks. Through them I have learned to cook and to trust my instincts in the kitchen, to know if something is “right” by the smell, the look, the taste.

The food was just as important as the company. We all ate dinner together. That was our time to talk, to be. It took time to make the meal and therefore it should take time to enjoy it. We caught up on our day, on what was coming up for us in school, in work. Both of my parents worked and yet we still ate healthy balanced meals and they made time to be with us, no matter how tired they were.

It is a sad comment on today’s society that food companies are now making commercials to encourage us to prepare their particular meal in the hopes that we will have a “family night” once a week to enjoy it. Family night is every night. It should be the core of your household; the kitchen is after all the “heart of the home”. But, maybe the problem lies with us instead, with the busier we get as a society and the more media based we become, possibly the only option is for the media to encourage us to get back down to family basics.

As I was doing a little research I came across an old Susan Branch newsletter pertaining to some of her cookie recipes. I have always loved her illustrations, wishing I had that talent. I have given her books to friends in the past knowing they will thoroughly enjoy thumbing through them with a good cup of hot cocoa or tea, but at the same time, I am sad to not be keeping it for myself as my own little treasure to go back to again and again.

Having made some of her recipes in the past I wanted to share this link with you; I am not sure which I enjoy more the recipes or just staring over the charming illustrations surrounding them. As Julia Child says, “Bon Appétit”!

Please Click on the Cookie Jar to go to Susan Branch’s Website.
cookie-jar

(recipe card image taken from “Recovered Recipes“)

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Birthday IceCream

Today is my birthday! This year has gone racing by and it doesn’t seem right that it should be June already. I LOVE birthdays, whether it is mine or someone else’s and I think they should carry on for more than just your actual birthday as well, like Alice in Wonderland’s “Un-Birthdays”:

“There are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents … and only one for birthday presents, you know.” – Lewis Carroll

In saying all of this, for the first time in my life I am not overly excited about this particular Birthday. I thought, like many of us do, that I would be in a different place right now, but that is obviously not in God’s plans for me at the moment.

Jack Byrnes’ wisdom tells me that you don’t always see the whole puzzle, so I am just waiting on some pieces to come together. We are blessed with a home, with food, with a job and most importantly with love, and that is all you really need. So, I continue to walk in faith and as Frank Sinatra sang, “the best is yet to come”. I’m going to hold to that and embrace the moment.

As my husband told me this morning, good things come to those who wait, and I have patiently waited for a pair of wellies for forever and amongst my birthday gifts this morning, sat a shining green pair with polka dots on them, just for me!

All the Fun of the Fair!

The day of the Fair was an early one. I was up at 5 am and after showering, double-checking I had everything that I needed; I was out the door and on my way. There was already a flurry of activity when I arrived.

The sun was beaming through the trees and drying up the morning dew. The stallholders who had already arrived were moving methodically and quietly. Everyone was concentrating on setting up their stall and getting ready for the fun but long day.

It didn’t take me long to set up and before we all knew it, customers started to appear. The weather held out for us and we had a steady flow of people. Children squealed at the sight of the dollhouse they could play in and had their own tea parties inside while their mother’s had grown-up tea parties at one of the quilt covered tables. You would see everyone making 2 to 3 loops around the stalls trying to take everything in, before stopping to have tea and then going back to make purchases.

It was an exciting day and I got my first big break. Penelope, another stallholder and owner of RosaBlue (www.rosablue.com), came over to look at my stand and after seeing my products she was interested in trading with me.

Our first venture together will be selling my “tooth” bears to her and offering a personalizing service to her customers who want a child’s name placed on their particular bear. I am thrilled and hoping to be able to have some of my other products sold by her in the future.

The day was over all too quickly and after breaking down my stand and helping to clean up we all sat down and toasted the day and the sunset with a glass of wine. After hugs and kisses goodbye, to some friends I won’t see again until November, I gathered up my stock and decided to take the long way home to just have time to myself to reflect upon the day.

Click on the Pictures Below to see some of what the day held.

 

Away We Go!

The eve of the Fair is finally here. I have spent the day helping to put up tents, hang bunting and creating signs for the “Big Day”. After months of hard work tomorrow will prove if I have made the right decisions about the products I am selling.

I always said that if I had the opportunity to have my own store I would not sell anything that I wouldn’t personally buy myself. So, in saying that, I have not made anything that I would not personally have in my own home. There are quite a few things I am going to be very hard pressed to part with, but I will just hope they go to a good home.

I have so many emotions about tomorrow, I am excited and nervous, but at the same time I am sad that it will all be over too quickly. I just have to remember that it isn’t that long till November and after a short rest I will be back and busy working away on things during the summer for the Christmas Fair.

This is it! So, I’ll just hold on tight and away we go….

4 Days and Counting…

The Fair is almost here. Friday is D-Day! Today I have been busy washing and ironing the tablecloths that I will bring with me. Double checking to make sure I have the baskets and items I want to use for display to set the “mood” and just coming up with layout ideas for my table.

A small gang is gathering on Thursday and we will all pitch in to put up tents and hang bunting from every available space. Now, if the weather just holds out we will be doing fine. The forecast is sunny, but this is England and by Friday the weather report could change to snow. Only here can you have all 4 seasons in one day.

Tonight I will be finish up packaging, pricing and labeling. I am in the home stretch, and raring to go!

Please Note: Illustration by Margaret Tempest from “The Little Grey Rabbit” series.

The Magic of Ordinary Days

Yesterday I cut through the wooded path on the Common to meet some friends arriving that morning, who are going to spend their summer travelling around Europe.

As I walked through the woods I turned my iPod down so Vivaldi was no longer drowning out the cars but was instead enhancing the sunlight dappled path marked by chirping birds heralding from every direction. A friendly robin hopped off of his singing branch to walk a few steps with me, biding me farewell before he flew away.

It is these days that you see the magic in the ordinary; drinking it in and letting it wash over you. Things here suddenly seem to change overnight. One day it is damp and rainy and then the next everything is green and vibrant and lush. My little garden has suddenly come to life almost over night, with yellows and pinks and white rainbows of color popping out everywhere.

The Common is a little oasis in the middle of town. Walking down the path you are suddenly surrounded by the arms of the trees. The forest envelops you and you no longer think you are in a village. There is a magic to these woods. A place you would have pretended to be Robin Hood in as a child, brandishing your bow to a quivering tree. You can imagine the highwaymen hiding in the thick of the bushes, waiting for the coaches headed to Oxford or coming to London.

There are two ponds on the Common; one is more enchanting than the other. It is hidden away and only slightly visible from the road. A very entertaining family of ducks live there and if you are quiet enough you might be lucky to have a Muntjac cross your path in the coolness of the forest. The Common asks only one thing in return of you, to stick to the “countryside code”, leave nothing behind but your footprints. In a time where people seem more and more to have a need for instant gratification, leaving only our footprints is something to strive for. What would your footprints say about you?

As Robert Louis Stevenson said, “the best things in life are nearest: breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you”. These are the simple things, the magic of ordinary days.