Sunday, March 29, 2015

take your time

this just in from the book "how to be parisian wherever you are":  take the time to talk to the elderly lady next door, to read a book, to walk to work instead of riding the subway when it's a beautiful day.  take the time to escape for a weekend with friends.

take the time to listen and to get to know yourself.  take the time to change, to grow, to rest.  take the time to say yes, take the time to say no.  take the time to be quiet.  take the time to look after your body, to eat well.  take the time to ask yourself who you are and what you want.

call your grandmother on her birthday and rinse your hair with cold water just like she taught you, listen to your children, breathe deeply, take the time to make fresh-squeezed orange juice for breakfast, to go to a museum, to go for a stroll in the woods and to listen to the sounds of tiny creatures in the grass.  in summer, take the time to compile a scrapbook of pressed flowers with a child, to read him a story.

take the time to take time because no one else will do it for you.

and don't forget to daydream in the bath, just like when you were little.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


to some, this may not seem like a big deal, but if you knew what a novice seamstress i am, it's like the eighth wonder of the world that i just finished sewing my own shirt.  it went something like this:

day one:  take coupon to fabric store, choose linen and approach counter, it's on sale a little so the coupon doesn't apply, i want it anyway but don't know how much i need, the sales lady asks if i need pellon, i have no idea that pellon is a type of interfacing and yes, i need it.  spend small fortune.

day two:  wash the fabric, dry and iron. it frays like crazy. i look at the pattern but don't open it yet.  it says "easy" on the front, how hard could it be?

day three:  mom, help!  she gets me started with basics to do with selvage edges, pattern markings, grain, basting and brings my grandma's pinking shears (pictured above along with a real wooden spool). she is appalled to learn that i sometimes use fabric scissors to cut paper and i promise never again to commit this cardinal sin.  i apologize for not paying more attention in 4H (and reminded her of the time i snuck into the sewing room and stapled the hem of a skirt she was making for me because i wanted to wear it sooner rather than later, i never have had much patience in this department).

day four:  i take a really deep breath to invoke the seamstress spirit of my great-grandmother, grandmother and mother, clutch the shears and make my first cuts of fabric, forgetting to breathe properly for about 20 minutes.

day five:  i wind matching bobbin thread which takes me an embarrassingly long time and start putting right sides together, it works!  i remind myself out loud to have some fun.  i put in darts for the first time and i gain confidence but save the sleeves for another day (how on earth do they expect me to fit a big circle inside a small one?)

day six:  sleeves!  and a whole lot of vocabulary about under stitching and ease stitching and other things the pattern assumes that i know. i laugh out loud because i know french, write a bit of hebrew, understand latin roots, and can hold conversation about iambic pentameter and early british novels but am completely flummoxed when it comes to even the most basic terms in sewing language. words and phrases like "stay stitch" and "shrinking out fullness" vex me greatly.

day seven:  in the same amount of time it took God to create the entire universe i have constructed but one simple garment.  it fits and so i also say, "it is good" and rest.

next time maybe i should just go shopping, but then again i will never be quite so fond of a garment as i am of this one and its endearing imperfections.  after all, why go to the store when you can spend 24 collective hours of your life wrestling with fabric?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

maisie meets the dowager countess

it's spring break, a time where i can unabashedly immerse myself in a few of my favorite things!  i think it's bliss to read for as long as i like, so it's not surprising that i'm nearly done with the entire maisie dobbs mystery series by jacqueline winspear (who, incidentally, spoke at a local bookstore last night).

at the same time, i've been catching up with seasons 1-3 of downton abbey, realizing by happy accident that the series run parallel to one another, both being set in england during the era of WWI and WWII.  when read and watched in tandem, a fuller picture of life during the early to mid 1900's becomes clear and, even though both works are fictional, when taken together give a very detailed accounting of life for those in various class systems.

i get a kick out of imagining what it would be like for the heroine and psychological investigator miss dobbs to meet the dowager countess of downton abbey.  maisie--gone from servant to just inheriting a large amount of money and property--having tea with the larger than life grantham family matriarch herself (played by maggie smith). 

granted, i most immediately identify with the working class and can empathize with the roles of lady's maid, governess or school marm/spinster.  conversely, i've imagined what it might be like to be lady so and so of such and such estate and the societal pressures (not to mention the amount of clothing changes--as i type this it is nearly supper time and i'm still in mismatched flannels if you must know) to keeping generations of wealth in the family. 

i suppose each has blessings and drawbacks...who do you most identify with and why? also, i wonder what other books and movie sets might go well together that we haven't yet considered?

Monday, March 16, 2015

texts from jane eyre

this book had me howling out loud with laughter!  mallory ortberg, having read dozens of classics, has put them in text format in her book "texts from jane eyre and other conversations with your favorite literary characters".

an exerpt from emily dickinson (the poet known as a nature-loving recluse):
-have you seen my white shawl?
-i thought you were wearing  your white shawl.
-alas, a person cannot be content with just one white shawl.
-i think i saw it downstairs.
-you know i don't go downstairs, i will knit a new one.
-that's ridiculous.
-when i die, i shall be buried in that shawl.
-you're not dying, you're just afraid to go downstairs.  when can i come in?
-after a hundred years.
-emily, will you give me a real amount of time, please.
-after all birds have been investigated and laid aside.
-do you have birds in there?  emily, answer the question.
-a single bird.
-this is why people don't visit us, emily, the bird thing.

and from shakespear's hamlet, part five:
-darling, i don't mean to criticize, but you really hurt your father's feelings last night.
-he's not my real dad.  why do you even like him.

and henry david thoreau:
-hey, do you want to come over, i just stole some pies.
-this lady just left them out on her porch so i took em, self sufficiency.
-i don't think that's very self sufficient
-so i'm going to the woods, ok, maybe a few months or maybe forever gonna live in a cabin, so can i borrow your cabin?
-you want to live in my cabin?
-yeah and do you mind if i have some friends over?
-you mean friends over in my your self sufficient deliberate cabin?  you're full of beans.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

waiting, hoping

donald jackson is the calligrapher for the Queen of England.  he took on the Saint John's Bible project that i've written about previously and that is on display right now at our local university.  i've been so inspired by both the words and images of this that it's given new meaning to anticipating Easter and a renewed interest in studying the techniques of hand lettering and gold foil illumination.  this crucifixion scene seems more hopeful to me than most, as it appears at this angle to "fly upwards" even as we wait and hope for resurrected life.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

little women

every once in a while, i'm drawn back to a classic novel that i either can't remember reading or it's been a long time.  "little women" by louisa may alcott falls nicely into that category, so i'm reading an old hard cover copy of it right now.  seeing the musical performed recently rekindled my interest in it and i love how alcott takes her time to really develop her characters through dialogue and description, also capturing an era of wartime in a positive way.  themes of generosity and hospitality are always in fashion in my mind, so those are fun to read as well.  i find i get rather lost in the pages in a timeless sort of way, just like the girls do while putting on their plays in the attic. thankfully imagination never goes out of style!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

you were born for this

you may have noticed i don't post a lot of pictures of myself.  this one feels different, however.  have you ever looked at yourself or seen a picture that captured a pure moment of joy?  this is mine.  a "this is what i was born for" moment in life where your eyes sparkle because it represents a sweet spot of doing that comes straight from the core of who you are!  this was taken at a recent retreat where i was facilitating art for 45 women and reminding them that they are creative.  in between paint layers we shared stories and ways to add color to daily life.  what's your photo moment?