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Folk Art: Lamentations

    Earlier this summer, I had customer suggest that I do a piece inspired by Saint Felicitas, the patron saint of parents who've lost children. I was struck by that idea--- because its true, there isnt much out there that feel appropriate as a gift for a friend or family member going through this terrible loss.

 Ruminating over this concept, I came up with the painting above-- which Im simply calling "Lamentations." It felt right in my search to find a scripture that would be at once acknowledging of sadness, yet hopeful. When I finished this piece up--- I had this distinct feeling that I had had some help in its creation. I'm pleased with how it turned out--- I had wanted it to straddle that fine line of "I am so sorry you're hurting" while also being something pleasing to look at. It is my goal that when someone sees this piece that comfort is their reaction, not a reminder of grief.

   And so--- I have already sent the image off to my printer to be made up into 5x7" postcard style prints. I like the idea of it being small and sturdy-- something that can be tucked in a mirror, kept on a bedside table, tucked into a card or package.

   I will let you know when I have them in hand and they'll be in my etsy shop!~
Hope you're having a wonderful week--

::Many Harvests::

   "Harvest" seems to be the theme of the last few days. Many things have come to fruition--- literally! Our little peach tree in the front yard--- the one we bought before we'd even officially closed on the house--- bore its first fruit this year! We call it "Audrey's Tree", and have planted a second one beside it that is "Robbie's tree." Audrey's became heavy with fruit that we watched and babied and fretted over ever since those first blushing blossoms bloomed. How satisfying to get to go outside and snap the fruit off the trees--- just enough to fill one big bowl. Probably enough for a very satisfying pie or cobbler! Oklahoma is good peach growing country--- in Porter there is the state-famous Porter Peach Festival--- and all the stores are filled with Porter Peach jams and jellies and fruit. It feels good to participate in the local growing harvest, so I always try to get Porter Peach items when I'm buying peaches. That is--- unless we're eating peaches off our tree!
   Another harvest of the furry kind--- our sweet foster kitty Lucy had her babies! They were born on July 23 and today are 5 days old. We were all able to watch and monitor the birth, which was exciting for my junior veterinarian in residence. She was acting odd (crouching and hissing when she's never hissed at us) so I told Audrey to go out to where Lucy lives in the studio and watch her. A little while later, there was a clatter at my back door and audrey exclaiming "Lucy had a kitten!"
   By the end of the afternoon, that one little orange kitten turned into the largest kitten brood we've ever had--- seven kittens! Seven! That little cat....had seven babies!
  I'll admit I got a little teary eyed watching her clean them up and get them moving and they crawling around, blink, looking for milk and then drinking it up with ferocious abandon. I think about how the woman at the shelter told me that this mama cat had been caught in a trap and then brought into the shelter, where she'd languished, already heavily pregnant, for more than a month. What a pleasure it is to have been able to give her a safe cool place to make her nest and welcome her babies. 
  To be honest I worried that seven would be too many kittens--- that one would get the short end of the stick and not thrive-- and what if one was sickly? Or.....you know. But those worries are easing every day as they just get fatter, fluffier, more feisty and loved.

   And when we're not picking fruit off trees or watching live cat births, lol, I have gotten the baking bug. My commitment to making more homemade things usually leads to one afternoon a week where I just...bake stuff. Some of my favorite things to bake for our treats is this granola concoction that I, frankly, just made up with the idea for muesli and granola in mind.
  What I do is cook down some peanut butter and honey together till it makes a sauce. Into this I mix oats and other healthy things I have on hand--- like nuts, dried berries (raisins or cranberries) seeds and ok, chocolate chips. I think I'd mixed in some cocoa powder in the batch pictured above. After I mix it all together, I bake it just for a few minutes on 350* to 'set' it and then let it cool....I put it in a big canister for us to pick at when we need a snack, and feel good that its all something I made and not something in a wrapper.
   I also love to make banana bread in my "eh, whatever is in the pantry!" method of cooking--- I made two loaves to cut up and keep for grazing during my last baking day; one with chocolate chips and the other with a batch of nearly-over-ripe blackberries we had.

   Of course, around this...as always....there is painting. Painting caught in fragments of time. Large chunks of quiet painting are rare jewels these days, but sometimes I can snatch one up to enjoy. This saturday I was able to slip off to a yarn festival-- Fiber Christmas in July and bought some dreamy alpaca yarn, then spent the afternoon painting (in peace and quiet!!) and it was lovely.  I just finished a big private project and am working on a few more. Commissions and dare I say--- book illustrations? The painting table is a busy place, these days!

  Well, I will sign off for now. It's nearly lunch time! Gotta get these little people fed. Talk with you later!~

New England Love: Old Timey Interiors

      Many, many times on our big trip to New England, I would walk into a room and my heart would just ache. I was just---- in love--- with every little piece of pattern, paint, furniture, detail. On all our adventures, from Historic Deerfield to Old Sturbridge Village, we were able to go into antique spaces that just made my heart sing. I would think "Yes! This is what I'm trying to paint!"

      One of my favorite live-in spaces was The Red Lion Inn (see my bearded sweetheart looking so nice in this old timey setting!) with its many rooms filled with antiques, beautifully done wallpapers and just ambiance to the hilt. It's my dream to one day run away with said bearded man and spend a weekend there--- just us two--- at this beautiful inn tucked in the Berkshires. 20 year anniversary, perhaps?

    These following photos were taken at Old Sturbridge Village, which--- if I lived closer-- I would positively haunt. So many beautiful spaces, all set up for you to actually look at, touch, be a part of. You can walk through these parlors, through these kitchens and little rooms where so much life went on. It is a museum, yes, but it is one mean to be savored. I stumbled through just in awe, every corner just a painting waiting to be captures. I fell head over heels in love, for sure!

   What strikes me most about all these interior spaces is the love of color--- rich color--- but it doesnt feel overwhelming. The Americans of the 19th century had such a marvelous sense of color and pattern. I loved all the sage green, the aqua, the hints of mustard and ox blood red. 

   One thing is for sure---- I am so inspired to take all this inspiration and use it for future paintings, and my own home! 

  Hope you enjoy them too!~

The Sweltering Summer Days

   We are in the thick of it. Sweltering, bright, let's be honest--- oppressive--- Oklahoma heat. Summer has come and she has settled in over us with no plans to leave.

   Mornings are my favorite time of day in the summer. Things have cooled (slightly) in the night. This is when I do my impersonation of jogging, then check over the yard and the garden, watering, and seeing what's ripened. This year it looks like we'll have a real peach harvest! Audrey's tree is heavy with fruit--- Robbie's tree, the baby tree, still has some growing to do.

   I'll be honest, this time of year--- July--- is the hardest for me. I'll be living in my imagination, curled up somewhere in the Berkshires or rambling through Tasha Tudor's garden until the light is gentler. I suppose every place has its 'bad time of year' and for me, this is it for Oklahoma.

  Yet in photos, of course, it can be lovely. The flower beds are in full bloom--- the black eyed susans have bloomed and my little garden helper was so nice and gentle with them-- no picking! Just smelling.

  I also hung up the little woven basket I got in New England as well as the little Betsy Ross flag---when I saw that basket in a little roadside plant stand near Hoosick, NY I knew; it had to be mine. Every season....something new in the basket. Challenge: Accepted.

  Some exciting news around here is that we've become foster parents! Kitty foster parents, that is. We have joined a local organization that partners with our town animal shelter that fosters animals in private homes so they dont have to be in the shelter. Special needs, elderly, very young and pregnant animals are all the type of animals that are in desperate need of fostering since the shelter environment can be so bad for their health. Newborns, especially, can get very sick if kept in the shelter too long.

   And so, we have taken in our first foster--- a tortoise color female kitty who is very very pregnant. She lives in the art studio, where she puts her big belly on the cool wood floor and she likes to sit under my chair or on my art desk while I paint. Perhaps she's just exhausted, haha, but she is such a well mannered and loving cat. We have named her Lucy Maud (after that Lucy Maud) and each morning Audrey rushes over to check to see if the kittens have come.

  Other than our morning stirrings, we are usually inside. It's just too hot to be out and about when its 110 outside. No wonder I dream of a summer where you can wear sweaters at night. New England, I am still dreaming of you......

Til next time,

Tasha Tuesday: The Stillwater Society

 Good morning, and happy Tasha Tuesday! 
Settling in here at home, but still reflecting on such happy memories of being at Corgi Cottage.
   Visiting Tasha's home, and other New England staples like Historic Deerfield and Old Sturbridge Village left me feeling refreshed and longing for a simpler way of life. Getting out of the loop of everyday noise was....refreshing. And seeing how others lived so simply and richly was so inspiring.
   I loved seeing Tasha's home where she lived and worked, surrounded by her animals and the things and people she loved. I couldnt help but yearn for that in my own life, and I know many of you friends share this feeling.
   With these thoughts in mind, some friends and I started a brand new group and blog called "The Stillwater Society." Inspired by the "Stillwater" concept that Tasha herself concocted, this society is all about "the little things" in life.

  Here is a little bit about it from the blog: 
We members of The Stillwater Society are fans of 'the little things' in life; time spent with family, an appreciation for nature,making things by hand and sustainable living. In short, we enjoy searching out what is good in this world and sharing it with those we love.

   The concept of The Stillwater Society was first dreamed up by American artist and illustrator Tasha Tudor. You will find that she in a great inspiration for us all here, in our humble society. Her influence is keenly felt and celebrated, and we welcome Tasha Tudor fans of all ages, nationalities and walks of life to  "Take Joy" with us here and in our online Facebook community.

   On the blog, we hope to bring you inspiring posts on old fashioned cooking, gardening, art, home decor, knitting and embracing the handmade lifestyle.

   In our Facebook community, we will be able to chat together in real time about our shared interests, share information and inspiration. We'd love to have you join us!

   If this sounds like something you'd enjoy, please join us! You can visit the new blog HERE. And our facebook group is located HERE

   Have a wonderful Tasha Tuesday, friends!~

Old Sturbridge Village: Lovely Homespun Scenes

    For someone who loves New England and old buildings and history and old fashioned clothes and all the things, Old Sturbridge Village always sounded like a sort of heaven. An entire village made up of old buildings relocated in the hills of Massachusetts to form a little community full of costumed reinactors doing real things and inviting you to join them? Sign me up, please!

   That's why I was so excited when we all decided to spend the weekend of Independence Day in Sturbridge, exploring the village in all its old fashioned glory for two days.

   Of course the day we got there I had come down with this strange cold, struck down by Yankee sniffles of some sort but by God, I was gonna do Old Sturbridge Village! (insert fist shake at the sky here.)

   There was a town square, complete with bandstand and a rolicking patriotic band! There were shops and a workshops and farmsteads. Every inch of the place was old and authentic and the ambiance was amazing! The kids loved it, especially the school house where they may have coaxed all their parents to try to jump rope (turns out I've lost that skill!) 

  But more than anything, I loved taking a moment and stepping back and just watching. The young women in the garden, the young men parading down the lane in uniforms long since forgotten. The artisans at work at the potters wheel or forge. The general store in all its rich and exotic glory--- everything seemed so much more special and beautiful on those gleaming wooden shelves. Romancing me by the concept that they'd been brought "all the way from Boston" which, long ago, might as well have been a thousand miles away.

   As I like to do, I tended to disappear behind my camera, looking for scenes and vignettes, trying to get what I saw to seep into my mind for future painting reference. The sound of a marching band lilting through the woods from town. The way the sun glinted in through the antique glass of an old window. The smells of hearth cooking. The delight all the childen took in simple pleasures, and no one once asking about minecraft or a kindle.

   I'll be honest, I was in bed looking at catalogs and "antique houses for sale" adventisements and totally missed any fire works. The second day in Sturbridge, however, I was feeling much and we wandered back to Old Sturbridge Village--- and back in time. The crowds from July 4 had subsided and we were able to wander around and have it much more to ourselves.

   Visiting this place will always be such a special memory to me. Oh, how I wished I lived closer! I'd love to see it in all the seasons, and see all the fun events they have (battle reinactments! Sheep shearing! Christmas festivities!) But I will content myself with this lovely visit with so many special people. So glad I got to share this weekend with family and friends!
Now, keep watch! Some of these scenes might appear in future paintings! Only time will tell!~

A Visit To Tasha's House

The Rookery on the Tasha Tudor family property

    I decided to write this special post first just to get it down while it's relatively fresh. My memory is so full right now, but I know that the details will fade, the feelings and images too. Must get it down, while it's still lovely and I can still see the rain in the garden! This is the day we went to visit Tasha Tudor's home in Vermont!

   Firstly--- the photos I'm posting that are mine are from the Rookery. The Rookery is another home on the property that is used as the family shop. It is packed full of amazing Tasha goodies--- a treasure trove for sure. The family asked that we take no photos at the actual garden and house, so all those images are tucked into my memory to cherish. But I wanted to share with you these lovely things as I rambled, so that you could enjoy.....The garden and Tasha photos are by Richard Brown.
Lovely treats and beautiful dolls by Marjoie Tudor
 That day we headed out from Albany to gray, overcast skies. The weather report was foreboding--- thunder and rain. But nothing was going to dampen our spirits! We drove up through the drizzle, climbing up to Hog Back Mountain where we were met with dense fog....blocking out the sight where three majestic states met in the mountains. I just had to take its word for it!

   When we got to Marlboro and turned off onto the country lane....the lush green woods of Tasha's world enveloped us. Here it was, this lovely place where so much beautiful art and so many timeless stories were born.

   Of course (was there no doubt?) we ended up being the first ones to arrive. It was drizzling and Tasha's son Seth came out to meet us, and ushered us into the rookery. I tried to play cool but I was--- as they say-- grinning like a 'possum.

  Inside we explored the beautiful rooms of the rookery, where I was struck by how wonderful it was to see so many Tasha things--- from dishes to illustrations to stuffed animals--- gathered together. There was also some wooden items built by Seth Tudor--- everything from doll chairs to real chairs. I was impressed throughout the door by all the old fashioned items he made--- in the house and well, the house itself! Seth built or helped build all the buildings on the property.
Tasha's gorgeous dishes displayed in the rookery

   Soon other friends started to arrive, and the next time I ducked out into the yard, it was filled with activity! I was able to meet so many long time lovely friends, including Christine and Linnie and Christie and so many others who were just so sweet. I got hugged before I even knew who was hugging! And so many big excited smiles and lots of laughter. The Tudors were on hand as well-- Marjorie, Amy, Seth and their girls, and they graciously let us all mill about as if we were at a family reunion until it was time to get down to business!
Sweet Linnie and me in front of the rookery

Lots of hugs and smiles at the rookery!

Photo by Richard Brown
    It was still raining--- softly--- as we headed down the lane to Tasha's house. I grabbed Audrey's hand and Patricia grabbed Alice's and we walked through the woods--- its bright little stream tumbling down beside the drive, to the open field where Tasha's beautiful lupine bobbed their heads in the gentle rain.

   They had divided us all into groups and we were, happily, the corgis! We stood outside Tasha's gate (where internally I was like "Oooooooh, it's TASHA'S GATE! THERE'S HER HOUSE!!!!") but I tried to keep myself respectable. Several friends had said they wanted to see my face when I finally saw her house, and I hope I didn't disappoint! Ha!

  They divided us all so that some people went through the house first and some went through the garden. My group took to the garden first, and in we went, into Tasha's dreamy space--- which was filled to bursting with lush green and blossoming plants. 

   A gentle rain fell as we entered the garden and many of us had our umbrellas. I felt glad that this was the weather that we had in the garden--- all the blossoms opened up for a drink, the light was gentle, the air cool. There was a peacefulness that settled in on the garden with the rain, and I did enjoy the 'wet cool earth' under my feet!

Photo by Richard Brown
   At one point Winslow, who was our garden guide, said we could stand on the porch if we'd like. Much of the group moved on, but a few others and I crept onto the porch--- with the table set to the side with a beautiful tea set put out, as if Tasha had just ducked in to get the snacks. I stood there on the porch, looking out through the hanging fuscia and begonias and took in the garden. It's an image that I'll treasure for always!~

  We took a lovely ramble around the garden--- where Tasha's peonies were still in bloom, and roses all the beautiful cottage garden flowers. I may have cupped a big lacey peony blossom in my hands, just amazed that there I was---- in Tasha's garden.

   Winslow took us around the pond, into the azalea garden (with the biggest azaleas I'd ever seen in it!) and around to Tasha's green house, with that famous Bay Tree standing sentry in the brick walk way. In Tasha's greenhouse she had little fruit trees, like lemon trees, and a very large rosemary bush that was so fragrant. There was a tiny ladder from the greenhouse into the main house, which someone would have to be very nimble to climb. We were told Tasha navigated that ladder well into her 80s!
Photo by Richard Brown

   We circled back to the house then, where we met up with Seth Tudor. He led us through the opening where the barn meets the house and there we were, in the warm lovely spot where Tasha used to feed and milk her goats.
    From there, we went down a very narrow hall and into the main house and oh! What a sweet and amazing place. It was all very little, all very packed full of all Tasha's beautiful old things. It was very much as if she's just gotten up to check the kettle and would be back in a moment.

Photo by Richard Brown
 In the kitchen, Seth worked the water pump in the old sink and we all took in the many dear little things in the tiny room that led into a small keeping room with a large fireplace. A tin kitchen sat before the fireplace, of course, and all her bits and bobs for managing an open hearth were still hung on the walls. 

  I was also enamored by the stenciling along the walls in this room--- something I'll have to look for in some of my books. It was so pretty and very well done. The whole house seemed so very old, and so very loved.

   Off of the kitchen, there was another room set up with a large fireplace, a bed and the long table where Tasha did her painting. This, of course, was the space that made me a little teary eyes as I spotted where she hung the Advent wreath--- the stand where she put her paintings, and all her paints and supplies set out, waiting for her deft hands. It was such a special moment, to be there, in her creative space. My heart did leap a little!
   We were also able to see her snug little bedroom, with her sweater spread out over the pillow and all her little trinkets on the dresser. There were old books everywhere....and looms and knitting supplies. Her hobbies were obviously important to her, and were tucked in everywhere in the little cottage.

Tasha's lovely tea things displayed in the Rookery
   Outside her bedroom was a room with a large loom and just outside her door was the famous doll house. I had always had a hard time imagining what exactly that doll house looked like, and its basically shelves with each shelf acting as a floor in the house.

   We were able to explore the little house--- sometimes with flashlights, since it was a dark and gray day-- and Seth was very nice to answer anyone's questions.

   I just stood and listened and looked. My eyes couldnt even take it all in. There was just so much in all the spaces. Old heirloom paintings, sets and sets of tea dishes (Tasha even  had a tea set displayed in her bathroom! Which also included a copper tub!)

   One of the most special moments included touring Tasha's marionette theater off the barn, which was set up with marionettes she and others in the family had created. Seth had recently created a new set for the theater, and as we waited for the last group to finish Winslow showed us all how one of the soldier marionettes worked within the theater. Later, they took our photo there.

   There were so many little beautiful corners, so many little treasures, to look at and file away in memory. If you ever get a chance to do this tour, please just GO. You will not regret it!

    After the house tour we all returned to the rookery. I had the pleasure of walking with Seth and some other friends on the way back. When we got there, who did I see but my little Robbie! So busy playing with the littlest Tudor girls and their chickens that he hardly noticed his mama had arrived! He had such a fun time, sticking his little fingers into the chicken wire top of the baby chicken's pens and letting them nibble on his fingers. 
Robbie getting a good look at the Tudor chickens

   Inside the Rookery, the Tudor Family had set out a lovely offering of snacks and tea, and we were all able to shop the wonderful items offered there.
   Among other things, Audrey selected A Child's Garden of Verses and I got Robbie One is 1 (Of course!) so that they can always remember the day they went to Tasha's house.

   We were able to visit with friends and we had a little picnic lunch we'd packed and with the weather so iffy--- we just let the kids eats right there at the Rookery on the picnic tables. Tables, of course, that Seth made!

   While we were there, someone brought in the little outfit, complete with snow shoes, that Tasha's grand daughter Laura had worn in the iconic painting "Laura in the Snow" and it was such a special thing to actually get to see that dress, shawl, boots and snow shoes! It just really made the impression of how real all the things Tasha painted were. That a little long-ago girl had been out in the snow with her black cat, and Tasha captured it forever. That print is the one I bought last time I was in Vermont, and it hangs in my own studio above my painting table.
The clothes and accessories little Laura wore when Tasha painted "Laura in the Snow"
 After shopping---- which was SO FUN--- we packed up our little lunch basket, hugged our friends goodbye, and started out for Brattleboro. There, we met with some of my new instagram friends Brenna and Aimee to visit the Tasha Tudor Museum. 
   At that point, Robbie seemed pretty done with the day, (ha!), and I spent the majority of that afternoon chasing him around the yard of the museum. We got to sit with our friends though and have some great conversations and enjoy a day steeped in all things Tasha.

 And so.....after that, we got back in the car and headed home to Albany. Our heads full of all things Tasha. On the way back, Hog Back Mountain had cleared enough to let us stop and take in the majestic mountains, although rain was coming again.

  But we didnt care if it stormed again, the day was too lovely to be dampened. I'm so glad to have had this experience and so humbled that it was able to happen. A big thanks to the Tudor family for opening their home and their world to us, and to my partner in crime Patricia for arranging the whole tour. Also--- thanks to all the special friends who joined us that day, for great conversation, laughter and hugs. It was perfection. And so very inspiring.

   And now...time to get painting!
Take Joy!~

Back From New England!

   Oooooh, friends. I am back. Back from the land that speaks the native language of my heart! Back from the land of 'all things old timey'--- my beloved New England!

   What a trip. 21 hours in the car. Each way. With two kids. But we did it, and we had such an amazing, memorable time. I am positively filled to brimming with inspiration not just for art, but life in general. After a week in New England, immersed in its history and beauty, I feel the need to live simply and deeply. To avoid the frenzy of the modern world as much as I can and take things slow. To eat simple, real food. To use the pretty dishes. To enjoy the sunshine, and to spend time in the garden. To really hang on to those eternal things, to shut out the noise. 

    Many of you have probably followed along on instagram and I was so happy to have you as traveling companions. How fun to share our adventures and delight in it all together! I am happy to share with you photos now from 'the real camera' and I plan to spread out all the the beautiful things I saw ever so slowly here, so that we can savor and enjoy them for a long time to come!

   On this trip, I was able to share Historic Deerfield with my family, and we also spent July 4th Weekend in Old Sturbridge Village. The high light of the week, of course, was a visit to Tasha Tudor's home in rural Vermont. I cannot begin to tell you how meaningful it was to be there, with friends....in her garden, walking through her door, seeing where she painted. Seeing that space that inspired so much beautiful art and such a full and rich life....I was overwhelmed with happiness and awe. I was able to stand on her little porch, all set up for tea time, while it rained. That is a moment that will forever be etched in my mind. It was so lovely. And I cant wait to share more about that day with you....

    Of course now that we're home, the mundaneness of 'getting back to life' has happened--- as well as laundry and dishes, and all those things. However, I've found myself trying to hang onto that simple, handmade, home centered life we experienced in this land of such rich history and beauty. And, of course, I want to paint....and the inspiration just wont stop!

   And so...come back soon for more inspiration, more photos, and more ART. I cant wait to get back to creating! All I need now is a paint brush in hand!~
Talk with you soon---