“Twenty-five Teacups”

Opening this Friday evening, November 1st, Bainbridge Arts and Crafts, the gallery where I show my work, will host “Tea Party” – a multi-media exhibition. I was invited to participate early last summer, and my “Twenty-Five Teacups” will be at the party.

Because I love everything about tea – the warmth, the lift, the comfort – and the cups – whether reaching for a favorite at home or choosing from a good grouping at a friend’s house, I was excited right away to be included.

All spring I’d been thinking about pattern and the Souleaido squares were still on my worktable, so I began there, settling on a grid of twenty-five squares, composed of two patterns (wallpaper and tablecloth) and a teacup (mug or cup and saucer, each has its time). I adapted some of the fabric squares and had fun searching for other inspiration to make up backgrounds (learning a lot about the little motifs used in patterns for centuries).

I rearranged repeatedly (my painter friend encouraged my keeping on through many photo texts). I enjoyed manipulating the color, shape, and stylized flowers in the patterns. Then, with all the backgrounds and cup silhouettes complete, I decorated the cups with more recognizable flower species – from this summer’s garden, from my morning walk, and from my old work.

The squares are small (5½” x 5½”), on heavy Fabriano paper. The gallery plans to hang them unframed in a grid (attached by tiny, powerful magnets), and price them at $65.00.

I will post all 25 teacups for a while here on “Her spirits rose…,” beginning with “Teacup Seventeen” (Helenium) – orange flowers for this Hallowe’en week!

 

Returning To The Subject of Pumpkins

My post last week confused things – written quickly early Tuesday morning, in the euphoria that immediately followed unscheduled but successful surgery – I didn’t make it clear that my good-natured husband was the patient!

During this recovery week (he’s really recalled to life now), we’ve watched the season shift. One day the north wind blew, the temperature dropped, and it hailed! The autumn signals sound – mice move indoors, colds and flu shots happen. Trees blaze gold and red against blue skies, alongside the flashy colors of late season flowers like cosmos, zinnia, and lantana. Suddenly the puffer jacket and watch cap dress code applies, and what the Seattle paper calls “The Big Dark” – rain and wind and glowering skies – settles in.

The seeds Sweet Baby and her dad planted in our little patch on Mother’s Day produced 25 pumpkins and a dozen delicata squash. I harvested the pumpkins, pulled their shriveled leaves and stems, and uncovered a cascade of orange and yellow nasturtium blossoms from the seeds they also planted.

Already I’ve given away a lot of pumpkins, stored some in the garage, and made several pies, including one to pack up for Lady B and her brother – carried back to Alaska by their dad who came down to help and cheer the hospital stay and the patient’s return home.

Winter begins – with hopes for health – and pies aplenty!

 

Life

Pumpkins – I meant to write about pumpkin harvest this week – but we’ve had four days when life rearranged petty plans. It’s an all’s well that ends well story, but was a rocky time getting there. My appreciation for my good-natured husband’s strength, the kindness and skill of paramedics, nurses, and surgical team overflows. There’s nothing for it but to express appreciation for life itself  (why don’t I pay attention to that every single day), and repost that cheerful Batman – along with his out-of-season but somehow triumphant flowers!

Five Decades and Holding

50 Years! My good-natured (the explanation for this longevity) husband and I celebrated our fiftieth wedding anniversary in California last week. I still can’t grapple with that number, but it was fun to mark it with the SoCal branch of the family.

From their house we drove north to a rented house in Montecito, (right near Santa Barbara) for three days. Cars and people a plenty, but the beach is perfect – white sand, hard-packed by the water and fine for walking. We picnicked on the beach, watched Sweet Baby love holding on to her dad’s shoulders as he caught waves near shore on a boogie board, walked along Butterfly Beach and goggled at the mansion built by the emperor of Beanie Babies, visited Ganna Walska’s Lotusland (built over decades with an astounding collection of tropical and sub-tropical plants, some 20 different gardens filled with stories of horticulture and history, never just one of anything but mass plantings of giant trees), played a lot of UNO and JENGA, and ate a celebratory meal at a Montecito restaurant (featuring fantastic plant-based food) to mark the actual event.

We laughed a lot about that blustery day 50 years ago, when we married in a cabin on Kenai Lake in Alaska – and I thought about how lucky I’ve been and how grateful I am.

Most often these days Sweet Baby draws mermaids – complicated aquatic creatures with elaborate clothing, curls, and crowns crowded onto a page – but she took time out to draw us on our special day in 1969!

OPG

Downton Abbey Redux

And two hours of escapist pleasure! A new movie featuring old friends, following a familiar story (that now looks like it could go on and on)!

The film begins two years after the series ended and contains everything we loved (or didn’t love if you are an outlier): the clothes(!), the exchanges between Violet and Isobel ever more quick and acerbic (as much fun as you remember), love in all forms, new romance, family enlargements and entanglements, intrigue, a little melodrama, some jolly good times, and a surprising lot of laughing for viewers. And the house – the big screen allows spectacular shots of its setting and its grandeur! Julian Fellowes’ continuing story brims with of a sense of life ending and life going on.

This wonderful piece in the Washington Post “The Downtown Abbey cast wants to take you back to a more innocent time – 2012” captures it exactly. And I remember oh so well the series beginning! The opening music takes me right back to that snow-muffled winter at Downtown Abbey when I learned to be a granny – such a happy time!

Baby Brother Turns Three

We spent a noteworthy week in Alaska in early September that began with a third birthday party full of fun. Baby Brother’s mother arranged for the Anchorage trolley (much like the trolley in the Land of Make Believe on “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood,” but usually full of tourists exploring Anchorage) to take party goers for a ride – high excitement!

Then home to pizza and a two-layer, construction site birthday cake decorated with a scattering of miniature heavy equipment, three tiny warning-cone candles, and the birthday boy’s name plowed out of Oreo cookie crumbs.

Baby Brother’s first year of preschool hadn’t started yet, so he was a great companion for fall days in Anchorage – game to go outside no matter the weather, and up for a bakery stop after requesting a “breakfast sandwich” (his dad said he wasn’t sure he’d ever had one when I reported that), though he settled for a blueberry muffin. He was completely engrossed in the Anchorage Museum’s Discovery Center’s activities for children – visiting Chompers – a large resident turtle, emptying grocery shelves into a little cart, making enormous bubbles, and building with giant soft cubes.

He’s often absorbed by his own undertakings for long periods of time – stopping occasionally to address a nearby adult with surprisingly complicated language. His comprehension and ability to express himself are impressive. Part of it comes from listening attentively when people speak, he tips his head and gazes into the distance, before interjecting a question.

At the bakery he noticed a woman with silver hair and stylish black glasses, and as she walked by, he said sociably, “You look like Gaga!” (his maternal grandmother). The passerby, recognizing the word for grandmother, said, “oh aren’t you sweet” – a comment often heard about Baby Brother.

This week was also Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes’s 10th wedding anniversary! At the end of the week, they went off with the dogs for a tiny getaway to Girdwood. They left during afternoon nap, and when Baby Brother began to stir, Lady B put down her “Go Fish” cards saying, “Let me handle this!” And she did, with a little faux roughhouse and much laughing caused by monsters under blankets.

We read the birthday gift books repeatedly that evening – a Lowly Worm book about his “applecar – and “Richard Scarry’s Funniest Storybook Ever” (which Baby Brother calls, “What Do Funny People Do All Day”). Dinner and bedtime were uneventful (Lady B explained, “first you read to him and then to me”), and everyone slept all night. (These things matter if you are the temporary caretakers!) In the morning, eating pancakes, Baby Brother asked about the dogs, but no inquiry about his parents’ absence.

I attribute that lack of worry totally to his sister – where she is, all is well. We expect so much of the first child, and Lady B steps up. She’s a source of joy to her brother, providing elaborate, imaginative play, initiating “let’s pretend” or “ok, now you be king” games with him. She’s a safe harbor for him and a guide for me – she knows where everything is and how things are done.

My Baby Brother moniker might be outdated very soon – he’s no baby anymore – but very much a little brother with all the good-naturedness that comes with the position!

 

My Best Portrait Ever

In the midst of a week when governments fiddled while the Amazon burned, and continual bad and crazy presidential behavior bludgeoned us, I received a welcome letter from Sweet Baby in the mail. It contained a penline and crayon portrait of me (she says) with long curly hair, a rainbow-skirted dress (with a tiny bow), an apple in a green tree, and a heart for love. Spirits rose!

Summer’s Ending

Waaay too soon – but Lady B begins school today! We talked to all of them last weekend, before they set off for the last of their summer activities.

I am always absurdly glad to have seen them on Facetime – and this time at the end of the conversation, Baby Brother shared some surprising news: “I have a farm in England,” he said, adding that “the cows and pigs have ladders so they can climb to their bedrooms upstairs.”

Who knew!

 

 

Peanut Butter Cookies And Fear

The other day I made peanut butter cookies – by myself for the first time in ages. Recently I’ve had help from one dear little girl or another – Lady B, Sweet Baby, the little girl from next door. They each stood on a little stool to reach the counter while expertly forming balls and squashing them both ways with a fork to achieve the cookie’s trademark crosshatch.

It’s always fun, the cookies delicious and fairly nutritious, and they travelled well this summer – on day adventures here and to Alaska and California. We used this recipe, doubled, and cooked them a little longer than called for.

Such a normal, happy thing to do with children.

But I kept seeing these three little girls in my mind’s eye when I watched the little girl named Magdalena, sobbing and pleading with authorities that she needs her father. I can’t let my imagination go far enough to put the girls I know in Magdalena’s shoes (probably pink and glittery or sporty with velcro), but am well aware of the sheer terror of this experience.

And that’s what we (our American government) visited on children last week – along with the slaughter of people shopping for school supplies and groceries on a weekend afternoon. From conscious will to act with cruelty to failure to protect us from assault weapons – it was quite a week for the occupant of the White House and the Republicans controlling the Senate.

Far from peanut butter cookies, I can’t tie this up, but can’t make sense of it, and can’t not write about it.

Sweet Baby Visits The Neighborhood

The first four mornings of Sweet Baby and her dad’s visit (while her mom flew to her family in Thailand), she attended Kindergym camp at the high school. Gymnastics team members guided three, four and five-year olds as they walked the balance beam, swung on rings, bounced on a long walkway trampoline, somersaulted, and ran!

And each afternoon, Sweet Baby and the five-year old girl from next door played “let’s pretend,” speculated on some imaginative and giggle-worthy, if inappropriate, name-calling to elders, negotiated back and forth about who set the rules, but overall took pleasure in each other and their easy proximity.

In between times, Papa Jim switched from enacting (with infinite patience and imagination that the rest of us don’t possess) Dale or Bob, the farmers (or sometime adventure guys) with Lady B, to princess tales. In these, Sweet Baby dresses in an inherited ballet skirt worn as a headdress as she goes about her royal business.

On long summer evenings we discovered an almost sandy beach across from the ferry terminal, where Sweet Baby searched for tiny shells, and at our favorite beach, she swam in her pink wet suit with her dad. On Saturday, we picnicked at Point No Point Lighthouse beach, and drove on to Port Townsend – our first visit to the old haunts for nearly a year.

A visit highlight was Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo. Zoos can be hard, but this zoo attempts to provide realistic habitat and supports endangered species around the world. Most of the beautiful animals we saw (charismatic megafauna Mrs. Hughes would call them) live in large outdoor spaces with manufactured cliff faces, moats, trees and shrubs. In a magic moment, as the keepers shut gates across our path, the giraffes, including a baby born in May weighing 122 pounds, walked gracefully right in front of us headed for their barn. (Up close the patterns of their coats are all distinct.)

Reading wins out over most everything for Sweet Baby now. Twice we visited the library for the little chapter books with more text than pictures and read them repeatedly. The zoo day, on the ferry going and coming, we read a Judith Kerr book about a baby seal and a gentleman (now one of Sweet Baby’s favorite words). She’d spot our neighbor John and call out – “here comes that gentleman!”

Other book-learned words suddenly appear. When loading into the car, after fastening her car seat, she’d say: “OK, Daddy, clamber in! In the car we listened to “The Mouse and the Motorcycle,” and every time we “clambered in,” she’d request, “put on the mouse song please!”

My painter friend always comments on Sweet Baby’s open and smiling face – and that’s her personality – quick to engage with new people, always observing other children and moving closer to invite inclusion – and sometimes finding it. She’s expressive and funny and can laugh at herself. She twirls with the gentleman’s wife (who loves to ask her about ballet moves) while wearing the headdress as a skirt. At a stumble she says, “oh my goodness, here I go!”

A late flight on departure day allowed an aquarium visit. Sweet Baby sat right up front by the tank to be close to Diver Kim – and chortled with glee to see the puffins swimming. The tank is transparent, so you realize puffin-swimming looks like flying underwater.

Sweet Baby said she was eager to see her mom, but sad to go. Leaving the airport, after a period of silence, I told Poppa Jim I was sad and asked about him. His reply: “It’s awful.”