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Hunters Home in January

Hi Friends,
    I hope you are keeping well and warm on this frosty January day! I know my friends north of here are experiencing extremely cold temperatures this Oklahoma girl can't even imagine....stay safe! And keep bundled up and warm!
    Here it is cold and clear day with beautiful blue skies. It's been a chilly month this January, but we've had no real snow. Since this is the start of the year, I thought a fun project would be to share with you Hunter's Home throughout the year as the seasons change. Hunter's Home is the living history museum where I volunteer as a historical interpreter. At most events you can find me there, usually with my spinning wheel and a basket of wool. This year is going to be particularly exciting at Hunter's Home because we will be getting more livestock and outbuildings to make the museum an even bigger and better working farm. And I love having a place where all my favorite 'old timey pursuits' are an asset and where I can meet people who love history like I do.

   In today's post though, I thought I'd give you a little peek inside the home and at the people who lived there. What makes this home so special is that it is the only remaining antebellum home left in Oklahoma (from the time when the area it is located was the Cherokee Nation). It was built in 1845 by a white man named George Murrell who was married to the niece of the Chief John Ross of the Cherokee Nation.

George Murrell
 Let's start from the beginning though....and as the months go by, explore the story of the Murrells and the Rosses and the people of The Cherokee Nation....

George Michael Murrell was born in 1808 to an affluent, plantation owning family in Lynchburg, VA. As a young man, he joined his older brother in the operation of a mercantile store in Athens, TN, near the border of the Cherokee Nation in its original tribal lands.
    In business, he became acquainted with Lewis Ross, brother of the Nation's chief and a wealthy merchant in his own right. Lewis Ross was also the treasurer of the Cherokee Nation.
    Soon, George found himself deeply infatuated with Lewis' young teenage daughter, Minerva. He wanted to marry her, but was denied permission. So instead, George and Minerva decided to elope in 1834-- she was just 15 and he was 26.
  It seems all was quickly forgiven though, as George was brought into the family business and family life, and when the Cherokee were forced from their ancestral lands by the United States Government, he decided to travel with the Ross family on the arduous journey now called "The Trail of Tears" to Indian Territory. This was a harsh forced removal over land, in the dead of winter, with dwindling supplies. Approximately a quarter of the tribe perished on this journey.
Minerva Ross Murrell
    However, once they had settled in their new allotted land, the Cherokee Nation began to rebuild itself as a formidable nation in their own right. The capital at Tahlequah became a hub of culture and refinement. The neighborhood of Park Hill, where the Murrells built their stately Greek Revival home (much like what George would have seen growing up in early 19th century Virginia), was especially renowned. The Chief himself lived just up the road at his home Rose Cottage--- which was decidedly not a cottage in its stately beauty. A Cherokee Female Seminary (A women's college) was also just up the road.  George was an ardent Anglophile, loving all things English gentry, and would even host fox hunts on his lands. That is how the home came to be called Hunter's Home, and you'll see many references to foxes within the home and in the gift shop.

What may surprise many readers is that on the journey to their new homeland, many Cherokee also brought their own African slaves. And as a white southerner, George Murrell also owned enslaved people and would inherit more through the years. It was enslaved artisans and servants who built Hunter's Home, cutting massive stone, making intricate woodwork, building walls and installing windows. They then lived in cabins on the property, and essentially kept the plantation of Hunter's Home running while George set up his new mercantile business in the Cherokee Nation.

    Today, the home is open to tours Tuesday-Saturdays. The amazing thing about the interior of the house, is that many of the furnishings are original to the Murrell and Ross families. The living room set you see above, the piano, the art....these are all original family artifacts, lovingly sourced back to the home after they had been dispersed to different family members in the late 1800s.
   The photo above is the formal parlor, where affluent guests would have been received. The Chief undoubtedly was invited into this room to either talk the politics of the day, or play a genteel game of cards. It is also likely that this is where George spoke with delegates of the Confederate States and eventually let the treaty that joined the Cherokee Nation to the Confederate cause be signed in October 1861.
             This room is actually the second parlor, used as an informal family space. You are probably shocked to see a bed in this room, but this was actually Minerva's bed. In about 1850, Minerva was diagnosed with an illness called 'intermittent fever", which was most likely Malaria. As her health failed, Minerva still wanted to be part of family life, and so in the summer months she stayed in this beautiful bed while her family visited, knit, sewed, read the paper and relaxed with her.
Amanda Ross Murrell
    After 5 years of struggling with her illness, Minerva passed away and is buried in the Ross Cemetery just up the road. After a mourning period of about 2 years, George married Minerva's younger sister, Amanda.
  While this may seem a little out of the ordinary to our modern sensibilities, it was a common practice to marry a dead spouse's sibling in the 19th century. And in George's case, it was especially important that he marry another Cherokee woman so that he could stay in the Cherokee Nation with his home and business. In marrying Amanda, he kept his life mostly unchanged, even keeping his same in-laws.
    While George and Minerva had had no children of their own, George and Amanda went on to have 6 children. However, only one of those children was born at Hunter's Home, because the Civil War was on the horizon and would tear the gentile world of Park Hill apart....

   But let's save that for another time, shall we? :)

If you'd like to learn more about Hunter's Home, you can visit the website HERE. Thursdays through Saturday, they offer Living History with dressed interpreters (and sometimes, I'm one of them!). Even though it is winter, there is a lot going on as staff prepare for the spring planting season and planning for new livestock. It's a wonderful place to visit, and Tahlequah is a really neat town with a history much older than a lot of the state's towns. The Cherokee Heritage Center is just up the road, as is the Chief John Ross Museum and cemetery.

  Til next time,
Take Joy!~

Stitching in Art & Life

   Hi there, friends~
    Thanks for coming by to see me today. I do appreciate you taking the time, and I want you to know that! So often social media can feel like something that needs to be stepped away from, its too frantic, its too confrontational. I miss the 'good ol days' of low key blogging....when we just made stuff and shared it and visited eachother. I wish I could figure out how to find that sweet blogging spot again (blogspot? lol) til then, I will keep coming here and writing to you, hoping that perhaps we can get a bit of that old blogger magic back.

   As for my latest 'I made this' post, I am very happy to show you this latest painting "Stitching Lessons." The idea for this piece was born from my interest in cross stitching, and the history of it (the 'history of it' aspect is always my favorite part of everything, be warned!) Cross stitching and embroidering in general used to be just one of those skills that most women knew and taught their daughters, nieces, neighbors. Like weaving or knitting, knowing how to stitch was very important.

  Imagine, if you will, the wash pile from the Bennet sisters in Pride & Prejudice. So many white petticoats, chemises, drawers! All made from the same material no doubt, and made identically. How then, was Jane to know her chemise from Lizzie's? Why, by the stitching of her initials in her items.

   Our love of monogramming everything from diaper bags to napkins stems from this 'olden day' way of marking your precious linens as your own. It was also a way of beautifying your every day items--- from your clothes pin bag to your favorite pillowcase. Marking and beautifying things with needle and thread is another way our ancestors lived their everyday lives and used their artistic talents. And that is the idea that inspired my painting "Stitching Lessons...."

    I have been practicing my stitches as well. Although the days have passed when I would have had to mark all my things, there is still a lot of opportunity to make some pretty lovely items for my own enjoyment using cross stitch. Right now I'm working on a pin cushion barrel inspired by Hunter's Home (which was until recently called The Murrell Home), where I regularly volunteer.  I wrote a post about it when we first discovered it, but I think I will start sharing more with you about it as I return as a volunteer. I've really enjoyed my time out there, and it give me a chance to indulge in some of the old fashioned pursuits I enjoy and share them with other. Last time I was there, I was working on this piece. I hope to have it finished soon so I can take it back to the house to show my friends!

   I also made myself a little sewing box not long ago, and it has a little velvet pin cushion glued into the top. I really like how it came out, and its the perfect little box to contain a project, a collection of thread, my scissors, waxer, and a thimble. The waxer is a little cake of wax I made a while back out of pure beeswax (I just bought a block of it at Michaels, use a coupon and get it 40% off!) and an old iron mold pan I have (because I have old random stuff like that, being the person in my family who takes in the old things!)
   I found that the easiest method to make the waxer was to spray each mold with Pam cooking spray, pour in a bit of melted bees wax (I double boiled it in a glass measuring cup that is now JUST for wax....'cause its covered in wax now!) and let the wax dry. Thanks to the Pam, the waxers popped out of the mold pretty easily once they've hardened.! To use my waxer, I run my embroidery thread along the waxer to make it a bit stiff so it isnt as likely to snarl and tangle, and I find it makes it easier to thread through the eye of the needle as well. You can see in the photo below that my little waxer has gotten a lot of use, but its still got a ton left to use of it! I love that its something that you can use up to the last bit. Its also something that I gave for Christmas to my friends who like to do hand sewing. Isnt something pretty and useful the best gift?

   Well, I will go for now, but again--- thanks for your visit! I will order prints of "Stitching Lessons" soon to put in my etsy shop if anyone is interested in having a print! The original has already sold :)
   I'm thinking now about spring art, and thinking about flowers. I noticed today that little fronds of daffodil leaves are sticking up out of the cold ground....those silly things...they do this every year, pop out a bit early and then always regret it! Yet so far, we really havent much snow this winter. Sigh. We need at least ONE good snowy experience, don't you think?

   Well, snow or no snow---
As always,
Take Joy!~

St. Agnes Eve

   Hello there my friends, and welcome! Did you know that this evening is....St. Agnes Eve? Ah, well...it is! Tomorrow, January 21, is The Feast of St. Agnes, an early Christian Martyr from the reign of Emperor Diocletian. Legend holds that she was a beautiful young girl of about 12 or 13 years old who was killed because she had decided to dedicate herself to Christ and not marry. Facts about her life and existence are murky, although early archeaological evidence has been uncovered of virgin named Agnes who was venerated for her sacrifice.
    This young martyr is often depicted with a lamb, since the name 'Agnes' is derived from the Latin word for lamb, "Agnus." Like many martyrs of this early Christian era, her story is marked with extreme violence. She lived in a world that was ruled by domination and brute force. Yet in the midst of this time, Agnes was a child who was brave enough to stand up for her beliefs and withstand efforts to degrade and assault her. It is said that anyone who attempted to hurt her was struck blind, or even fell dead. When several methods of trying to kill her failed, she was finally beheaded, and her renown seems to have sprung up from that very day.
   I read recently that another concept of 'virgin' in these times was 'free woman,' a woman who belonged to no man but Christ. In this moment in time when women were literally considered property, this was a society-shaking concept. She created an identity for herself that was not dependent on a mortal man, and this infuriated those in power.
  Something else that is thought provoking is how the story of one brave child has lasted so long...when the names of Emperors and rulers fade from public memory, a young girl who stood up for herself still remains part of memory and faith story. To me, that is all part of the miracle of little Agnes.

    As the decades turned into centuries and Christianity became a way of life for many Europeans, Christian stories and folk traditions began to spring up and intertwine. St. Agnes Eve traditions about love took hold in medieval times, where somehow this patron of chastity became the champion of young ladies in pursuit of finding their true love.
   In England and Scotland, young women saw St. Agnes Eve (January 20th) as a night that a vision of their true love would come to them if they followed the steps of simple rituals.

   One such ritual included the young woman picking pins from a pincushion while reciting the Pater Noster (Our Father prayer) and sticking the pins into her sleeve. Then the young woman was to go directly to bed, laying on her back with her hands behind her head. That night as she slept, her True Love was to come to her and give her a kiss in her sleep....

  And so, on this St. Agnes Eve night....I hope you take a moment to remember this little saint of such renown. And if you be single and looking for true love....perhaps its time to search out your pincushion.

   My little painting above was done recently, and although the original is sold....I'd like to do some little saint cards, I think, and add little Agnes.

   Take Joy!~

Winter Vigil, Winter Blooms

   Good morning, my friends. I am writing to you this morning on a very cold, gray day here in Oklahoma. There is no snow....and all the rain we've had has stopped. All that has served to make things very muddy, very muted, very still.
   I wanted to share with you one of my newest paintings, that is all about winter, yet all about rich color too. This painting is "Winter Vigil" and it has a very meandering inspiration, and for all of that, I think it turned out so lovely! The seed for the idea of this painting came from the Christmas Album of British/Eastern European singer, Katia Melua, who was born in the country of Georgia. She sang a gorgeous rendition of Rachmaninoff's "Nunc Dimittis, All Night Vigil." Its considered one of the Russian masterpieces of music, and Melua's version just pulls at my heart strings. This section of the piece also finds inspiration in The Presentation of Our Lord/ Purification of the Virgin Mary, and you'll see that depicted in the icon behind the young woman who is keeping her Winter Vigil, candle in hand. The original is now sold, and I was so happy to hear that it went to a person who has been doing wonderful work with a church associated with the name of the icon! You can now buy prints of this piece, however, in my etsy shop.

   I am also happy to report that just a few days ago, The BBC featured Katie Melua singing for the Gori Choir (a women's choir from her native Georgia) singing in a gorgeous Orthodox church, with a wonderful introduction from Melua. Here is a link to the youtube video of that performance, and I hope it makes you fall in love with the music and the painting too:

   Now doesn't that make you feel all quiet and contemplative, on a dark winter's day? I know it does for me ;) But also.....these dark winter days have me enjoying little glimpses of grown and green, and I couldnt resist bringing home a little bouquet of roses the other day, to sit in my kitchen window...

  I also finally planted the bulbs I bought well...in December, thinking I'd have them out at Christmas! Well, that didnt happen....but the bulbs were still cheerfully ready to be planted and start to thrive near the dining room window. I planted paperwhites and then an Amaryllis in brass planters I've gotten at Estate sales and Good Will. I also found a little hyacinth in a pretty white and blue porcelain bowl at the grocery store of all places....and yes, that came home with me too! I'm a little glad I was behind in planting them all, so now we will have a little taste of spring as we wait out the rest of these winter days...

   I also wanted to share with you an intriguing antique photo I found in a heap of old photos in an antique mall in Missouri a while back. I was drawn to it because of the woman's headscarf and the exotic cyrillic writing on the back. I shared a photo of the writing with friends on instagram, and was told that the photo mark indicated that it was taken in St. Petersburg, Russia! The fact that is said "St Petersburg" instead of Leningrad indicates that the photo was taken before the Russian Revolution in 1917.

   I am so intrigued by their faces....and wonder endlessly about what their story may be. The fact that I found this photo in Missouri leads me to believe that it came all the way from Russia with an immigrant. Who were the immigrants, I wonder? Did the entire family come? Or perhaps just the couple with the baby? Or even the young woman beside her father? Was this a last photo before the big trip, to remember loved ones? Oh the story that is hidden here....if only there were names to perhaps look into who they were, because I always want to know the story...instead I will just hope that their adventures and life were happy and blessed. And that sweet baby.....where might life have taken him or her? Hopefully to wonderful places.....and who knows, perhaps their descendants live nearby?

   Well, I will leave you for now, with wishes that you too find happiness and blessings wherever life takes you! Thank you for coming to visit me here. I am busy painting, with my artist eye set on spring. It will be here before we know it!~

Take Joy,

Welcome, 2019

   Ah, here we are:: 2019. Welcome!~
A fresh new year, with months of blank pages for us to write in. It's always exciting....and I always get in the mood to start new projects, make new plans for new art....it's a time of hope, and that is always a good thing. This is also a time of quiet coziness, and I've been looking forward to that just as much as Christmas, I think. Now.....we are left to our own devices. The calendar is cleared of parties and gatherings (as nice as those are). The cold days stretch ahead....but they are days to fill with whatever we like. And I look forward to that!

    For the past several weeks I've been enjoying some little stitching projects and have been having lots of fun with them. I've always loved the look of cross stitch, and would try it off and on throughout my childhood....but never got the hang of it. Strangely, I think doing things like knitting and weaving, learning to read those patterns and do those things.....made cross stitch easier to take on! And with little projects like these ornaments I made, they're finished fairly quickly.
   This Christmas I made an ornament for my brother and his new wife and also a little love bird ornament for my parents since they celebrated 40 years of marriage in 2018. I've also been playing around with other simple motifs I've found in several sampler books I've gathered, and have been enjoying myself....

       Of course we are, technically, still celebrating Christmas. Epiphany is still 4 days away so we are still making merry a bit. I am enjoying so much my 'bright copper kettle' that I received for Christmas this year. Its a Newey & Bloomer kettle that my husband gave me, and its pretty fancy--- he's always good at researching and finding the best thing. I know this kettle is going to make me a lifetime of good tea and coffee, and I love it. It's even just pretty to look at! Who knew I could be so charmed by a kettle?!

   But, of course, between the cups of tea and stitching, I am planning for a year's worth of art. As I've gained experience, I've learned that even though I often get grand and amazing ideas, its best to bite off little manageable bits at a time. I definitely plan to put out a 2020 calendar, so rest assured you'll have another coming! I've got some other ideas for projects....but they need to percolate. We shall see what 2019 will bring.....but you can be sure it will bring lots more art!~
Thank you for coming by today....and I hope you have a wonderful new year....
Take Joy!~