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St Audrey and La Vie Francais

 Hello there, my dear friends! Greetings to you from this very hot and steamy prairie! I hope you are well and having a wonderful summer holiday. Summer has found me, for the most part, home. And Im not wasting any time--- I am thinking about Autumn, Christmas and Saint art! My big trio, my favorite things.

   I recently finished this saint portrait--- can you guess who she is? She's rather obscure....but so meaningful to me! This latest painting is St.Audrey--- or St Etheldreda as she's also known-- saint of Britain, princess, queen and abbess. She was a jewel of a woman! Audrey is also my oldest's name, and so you know I love her...

  St. Audrey (or Etheldreda) is not that well known now....although there's an old Catholic Church in London called St Etheldreda's that you can STILL visit! And the Cathedral of Ely is also special to the story of Audrey, as Ely is where she founded her own abbey.

   To me, the name Audrey is so French...reminding me of the actress Audrey Tautou who played "Amelie" and of course the striking European beauty Audrey Hepburn, who was an icon of French style when adorned with the likes of  Givenchy.

  But no! Audrey is a very British saint and one I'm happy to add to my portrait gallery! The original is now listed in my etsy shop, and I hope to have prints soon.

   But, that doesnt mean that my heart hasnt been entirely take up with a bit of France....(cue La Vie En Rose...)
   These last few weeks (or years) have been rough in our national and global landscape. It makes my heart hurt and I am someone who wants to fix it all right now. But the things I can fix are very modest...I can donate money and time to worthy causes, but I've also learned I need to protect myself, and fill my 'well' with things that bring me joy and calm my spirits so that I can do the most good for my family, community and world.

  One of my indulgences at the moment is.....c'est vrai....all things French! French books! French music! French food! Rick Steves trotting around France! It all brings me joy.

   Two books I've really been enjoying lately are "Home Sweet Maison: The French Art of Making A Home" by Danielle Postel-Vinay and "In a French Kitchen" by Susan Herrman Loomis. I love learning about new places and different cultures, and I also love being home and eating food! So both these books have been wonderful reads. Postel-Vinay's book goes into detail about why the French do what they do with each room in their house-- beginning in the entry way which is like an intimate preview of the homeowner's personality and private life.

  Reading that they also enjoy filling the space not just with visuals but also scent, I've been inspired to have a luscious candle burning for no-good-reason, just to make my home smell nice and cozy and oh-so-french.

  Herrman-Loomis' book, "In A French Kitchen" is an absolute favorite of mine, going deep into the methods and traditions of cooks and food fanatics of France (and they all love their food!). Feeling total solidarity with all those French cooks out there working with dull knives and a weakness for bread. Moi aussi, girl, moi AUSSI.

   "In a French Kitchen" also comes with lots of recipes of amazing french dishes, and I finally tried one that looked pretty easy, an old fashioned French comfort food called Matafan. This dish was so easy but so, so good. Basically, its like a cross between a pizza and a quiche. Flour and egg are mixed to create the 'cake', and this recipe has it topped with bacon and gruyere cheese. I paired it with a simple kale salad and everyone has loved it, even the snooty kids who prefer hot dogs to fine French cuisine. In the past week I've made this no less than three times-- twice for us, and one to send home to my grandparents. Its quick and easy and I imagine there's a million ways to make it so that its sweet or savory. A new favorite! Can't wait to try more recipes from this book.

   Delving into this book has gotten me more interested in cooking, which I admit I get uninspired to do in the summer. Its just so hot outside, the last thing I want to do is turn on the oven and make something hot.
   But thanks to my backyard birdies, I have a lot of eggs that I need to do something with, and these recipes have me interested in trying new things. I also made a plum cake the other day since plums are in season.....sadly we wont have any peaches this year because of a late frost. But the plums are good, especially with homemade whipped cream. If you're interested in the plum cake recipe, I'm planning on sharing it in my next newsletter, if you'd like to sign up!

   My little chicken yard is just as entertaining as ever, and we've got a few babies that are growing up, the shared brood of two mama hens. This is Dolly, my Silkie hen and one of the babies-- Im pretty sure she's going to be a Polish Chicken and I am loving watching her little mohawk grow in! Since we dont have a rooster, whenever my girls get broody and want babies I go to the feed store and adopt them some babies. Last time our feed store had a variety of fluffy footed bantam babies (my favorites!!) but then this little one with an interesting poof on her little head. At first I thought that mean she was a silkie like my Dolly, but conferring with friends who are my 'chicken experts' we realized she's a Polish.....and Im so delighted! I'm sure I'll share more as she grows. But these chickens...provide me with endless entertainment with their play, their personalities, their livin' the chicken life. And of course, they also provide me with lots of eggs, in all shapes and sizes, from tiny green ones (that's from Queenie, the bantam Easter Egger) to large chocolate colored eggs (from Charlotte, the Cuckoo Maran)

   Well, its time for me to get started on my day. After a little bit of a lull, I've decided to consolidate things and keep my blog and art updates in one place, this blog site. I hope you come visit me often! Cant wait to share all my new creations and little adventures with you.

Looking forward to chatting with you again,

Notes from a Summer Garden

 During the summer, mornings are my favorite time. The light is lovely and buttery, but not harsh yet. The garden has had a nice rest during the night. There is a sense of waking up, unfolding, peace.

    It's no secret around here that I struggle with summer. The heat here in the southern plains gets to be too much for me. The light too harsh.  I spend most of the days inside, waiting for morning and evening, but at least in the mornings the mosquitos arent out to eat me alive. And so, morning wins-- as the best time to be out and about in the garden.

  Recently my littlest and I were out trimming the roses. They has started to brown and fade, so I was ruthless with the remaining blossoms in order to encourage new growth. He was dismayed though, that I had cut any flowers down, and gathered them up to put in our little garden chapel.

   The chapel is, essentially, a shed. But it has become a lovely little respite for us and the centerpiece of our new cottage garden. It is also featured in a new article I wrote for Grow Christians, and just published today. I'd love for you to go over to read it!

This summer we are not traveling, but sticking close to home. This has worked out well though, as I've started training courses for a program called Catechesis of the Good Shepherd that lasts through the summer. This training will allow me to open my own 'atrium' at my church, where children can learn about their faith and church in a Montessori- style environment. I have been able to take my son to a friend's atrium at her church, and it is so lovely and peaceful. I am looking forward to starting one for the children at my own church, and have started gathering little items to put in it.

   Some of the items I've found have included several handmade vintage linens that I found at a parish garage sale--- and they cost a wopping 10 cents a piece! I got several, brought them home and gave them a gentle wash and hung them on the line to dry. They looked so pretty out there, fluttering in the breeze. I hope they enjoy their new life with little hands. Part of the mission of the class is to inspire reverence in little ones, and let them handle beautiful things. I know these pieces that someone made long ago will help my little friends come to enjoy beautiful things and cultivate a beautiful faith.

Meanwhile, in the garden....those hardy midst-of-summer plants are starting to flourish while the more tender spring loving plants recede. The Oak Leaf Hydrangeas are getting their pink summer color (they begin spring a beautiful creamy white and change shade as the heat rises) and the zennias have popped up to enjoy the sunshine. The roses are sleeping now and blooming less, and everything is green.  I've also had my lilies open up to enjoy a fleeting moment in the sun--- they are spectacular and last far too short a time--- and an looking forward to the phlox and black eyed susan blooming soon.

   Every pretty blooming thing has its time--- it grows, it blooms, it fades. They all get their time to shine. And I am here to enjoy it.

   Til next time--
Take Joy!~

New England Travel: The Rebecca Nurse Homestead

On a gorgeous summer day in New England, my family and I were lucky enough to visit the Rebecca Nurse Homestead last summer. If the name Rebecca Nurse sounds familiar but you can't quite place it, it is because Rebecca was one of the most well-known victims of the Salem Witch trials.

   Rebecca was a well respected member of her community. At 71 years old, she was also one of the oldest victims of the hysteria that engulfed the area around Salem, MA. Around the year 1692, many people were accused and more than a dozen killed in an effort to rid the community of 'witches.'

   The Nurse homestead is located in a bucolic area just outside of the city of Salem, in the city of Danvers. It is the only original home of a Witch Trial victim that is open to the public. Set back in a lush field of countryside and partitioned by a beautiful old stone wall so common in the area, the homestead's centerpiece is the gorgeous antique red salt box where Rebecca raised her family, tended her chores, said her prayers, and watched grandchildren play.

   Inside the home was simple and gorgeously restored to the late 17th century with items displayed much like those the Nurse family would have used. As a fellow fiber artist, I was enamored with the old spinning wheels and other fiber art equipment that filled the main common room.

   Although Rebecca has achieved her fame for her tragic end, viewing her home and seeing it brought to life in such a lovely way by the volunteers who manage the property makes it clear that she led a rich existence in her 71 years before the trial. She tended the fire and made delicious meals, she sat at her wheel and spun yarn to keep her family warm during the frigid New England winters; She rocked babies, she cared for the sick, she looked out the window and smiled as her children ran by in play. She was an industrious woman and a person of faith. A sister, a wife, a mother, a granny. She was much more than the villain her hysterical neighbors feared her to be, and more than the victim history remembers her as.

   Perhaps it was Rebecca's death that started to sour her neighbor's lust for blood and desire to punish. To many in her community, her status as a witch rang false. Even the judges involved--- which included the ancestor Nathaniel Hawthorn, who would change his family name's spelling from Hathorne in shame-- had doubts. Her first trial had, indeed, found her not guilty. But her accusers couldn't let go. It is said that Rebecca's miss-hearing of a question led to her eventual demise. She was hung and buried in an unmarked, unchristian grave.

   However, it is family lore that once night fell, Rebecca's husband and son retrieved her body and buried her in a secluded grove of trees on the family land. Later relatives erected a large memorial to her in the family plot, and other members of the family also take their rest there.

   The Nurse family cemetery is located just a short walk from the house, across a peaceful field and enveloped in the shade of an old grove of trees. There the Nurse family find their final rest, and vindication through the wisdom of history.

    Rebecca's life is a bittersweet tale. But I am so glad I was able to visit her home, and feel more of her life there to ponder than that of her death. I am also so thankful that I was able to take photos within the house, and found the entire homestead site to be beautiful, serene, and well taken care of.

   The Rebecca Nurse Homestead is a completely volunteer run endeavor, and is owned by the Danvers Alarm List Coy in the town of Danvers, MA.
   You can find out more about the homestead at their website, HERE.

     And one last look back at Rebecca's home....so beautiful sitting there in its lush landscape, as it has done for centuries. It is interesting, isnt it, that it is her memory that lives on, her home that is so beautiful cared for.....when the memory and names of her accusers have faded back into the dusty annals of time. It is my fervent prayer that we always right our course as a nation, no matter how difficult it is to do or admit. That we always find ourselves centered back at mercy, truth and the high ideals on which our nation was founded.

   With that in mind, I leave you now with a quote from Nathaniel Hawthorne, famous Salem writer and ancestor of Judge John Hathorne, Salem Witch Trial Judge:

"Words - so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them."
~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

Our Lady of Guadalupe

  I have been busy in the studio lately, but recently I felt the urge to stop working on holiday items and paint what was weighing on my heart. And what was on my heart has been on the hearts and minds of many of us-- the humanitarian crisis of children being separated from their families at our southern borders.

  In response to this, I began painting something comforting and connected--- Our Lady of Guadalupe. When I finished her, I decided that I wanted to use the proceeds from her sale for good-- and have decided to donate $50 from her purchase price to support those who are helping bring compassion and mercy to the situation--- Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. This worthy organization also hosts a respite center for travelers and refugees, offering meals, clothing, a chance to clean up and become oriented. You can read more about their wonderful work HERE.

  And so, if you are interested in purchasing this painting and offering your aid along with gaining some art, visit my etsy shop. And I also encourage you to donate to Catholic Charities to help those in need.

  Thank you so much~~