Showing posts with label Creative process. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Creative process. Show all posts

Aug 16, 2013

Reality Check

R O A D    T R I P    P A R T 3!


I am hoping that this week has been good to you and that you have a great weekend ahead of you, as well. The last two posts have been about our little visit to what I call "Amish Land" an area in Ohio that is the largest population of Amish in the United States. Another name I have for this area is "Fairyland" as the entire time we were there, the entire environment seemed almost like a movie set.

On my last post, I promised you that I would write about our most memorable event. It involves an Amish family that in someway, I just fell in love with for so many reasons.

This adventure begins at the farm above. This is the only real photo of the farm that I have of my memorable moment. It starts with our day, a special list in our hand, given to us by an inn owner, who was raised Mennonite and her husband was Amish. She grew up in the area and knew all "the good places" to go and visit and a few on the list included actual homes/farms of the Amish that craft baskets or other wares to be sold. Most of these items are sold at the local stores, but they will sell their items directly from their house as well. Trouble is, a lot of them don't advertise on their property, or if they do, it is a very humble sign, easily passed while in a moving car.

We arrive at the "red farm" and turn onto the dirt road, leading up to the house. I put my camera down on the floor of the truck, so I wouldn't alarm any of the property owners with my big ole' lens poking up over the dashboard. But, boy, do I have to tell about DYING to take photos!!!  

I will do my best to describe what I saw, as you can only imagine how much I wish I could have snapped away....I did manage to sneak in a quick photo of their huge line of laundry as we drove past it, on the dirt road. The house was still not in sight quite yet....

My barber husband pulls up slowly and to my left is a huge, white farmhouse, and to my right are several huge, red out buildings and barns. Fencing, trees, a wagon...the entire "set" was there, just unbelievably beautiful.

But just as we parked, we looked up (and I am SO glad I didn't miss this next site)...we looked into the yard of this huge farmhouse, and there was a big old oak tree, and under it, a mother and her ten (yes ten!) children sitting in the shade, all of them barefoot, making baskets. Now, I am really DYING that I can't snap such a serene and beautiful moment.

She hears us, and puts her basket down, and comes up to greet us. She is small, very pretty, big, big eyes, dressed all in dark navy dress, and it closed with straight pins - no buttons or hooks! I swear, if I was a guy, it would have looked like I was ogling her chest, but I was studying how neatly she had her straight pins - those sewing pins that are so common - that is what was closing the front of her dress. She had her little cap on, and most importantly, she was wearing a huge, very welcoming smile. The pic below is part of her farm on the right (and maybe the left, too, I don't know). I took this pic as we were hunting on the map for her home, and just at the top of the hill, on the right, is where we would be turning onto her dirt road, but little did I know when I snapped this pic that I was actually getting a little bit of her home area. Once we turned right, we drove down a bit, past those buildings on the right, and her house would have been down, past these building, on the left.

She greets us and I believe her name was Rebecca (?) but not sure about that. We tell her that "Loretta sent us" and she is very happy to have us look at her baskets. I point at the tree where her basket laid, and said it looked like she was busy. She said she was just taking in the cool shade on a warm day, and she was teaching some of the younger ones how to make baskets.

We turn to go to her farmhouse, and we walk under a HUGE and very old grape vine that is just filled with grapes. The vine is on an arbor that covers the entire length of the sidewalk and we make comments about how beautiful it is. She stops and smiles and looks up at the grapes and agrees and says it is very old. I admire her for not taking something she has probably walked under a 1000 times for granted. She looked at the vine as if she were seeing for the first time. I think I enjoyed watching her enjoy her own vine, than the vine itself.

These are not her grapes, as I said, I couldn't take any pics of her home and area, but these we saw later, and these are just about the size of her vine, except her vine was covering an arbor the entire length of the sidewalk to her front porch.  What a treat to walk under such a beautiful arbor every day!

She motions us over the big front porch, which is filled baskets. Her little ones stay close to her legs, and two, hang tight to her skirt, but never take their huge, blue eyes off us. She then invites us into her home, and the front room has two large tables on it and some shelves that hold all her baskets.

I look admiringly at all of her baskets, and comment on how beautiful they are. Right then, one of her little boys, no taller than my knee, taps me on my leg and holds up a little basket to show me. His big blue eyes and blond curly hair stole my heart. The mother tells me that he is showing a basket that he made himself. I examine the basket very carefully and bend over and tell him that this is a wonderfully made basket! He grins and runs and gets another little basket and holds it up to me. I take it and exclaim that I can't believe he can make such things at such a young age and I tell him it is so very beautiful.

The mother had been talking to my barber husband, and she glances over and laughs and tells me that he now just playing with me, that he didn't make that basket, he just likes showing them. She smiles and says something to the boy in their language, and very obediently, he goes right to her and leans against her leg.

Of course, while inside, I try to take sneak peeks of the home, not wanting to be rude. But I just loved her home! So very clean, simple - but in a very good way - and very warm and inviting, for it being so sparse. How I wanted to open the doors in the room and look all around!! Polished wooden floors, gray/blue paint trim and white walls. Nothing hanging up, but some very beautiful chairs are around the room.

Above is a pic of a farm not far from Rebecca's and how lucky to have been there to see the cattle crossing the road!

We all go outside to the porch and take a look at all the baskets again and my barber husband asks her if where he parked is okay, or in the way? She glances out, smiling, all happy, and tells us our truck is fine. She says her husband and cousins should be coming back soon so they can "thrash the field" this afternoon. I watch the barefoot children play in the yard, nearby, and found it so charming that their mother was barefoot as well. So proper, and friendly, and yet, she is barefoot, enjoying the cool grass under the tree, I am sure.

As I look at all the children, not loud at all, but just playing nicely, I make the comment to her that she must really stay busy and cook a lot! She misunderstood me and she thought I was referring to her cousins staying for dinner, and the extra work that would be for her. So she replies, "Oh, no. Not really extra work. I cook everyday so much, that two more men don't make a difference. Besides, I already made two extra pies, a pudding, and two chickens are roasting...." And she says it all so matter-of-factly, but so happily. I look at her, and she doesn't look tired at all, in fact, she looks really refreshed. It isn't even noon and I glance over at the long line of laundry that she has already washed and hung up in addition to all the cooking she already made that morning! 

I smile and tell her how much I love her dress (I would find antique buttons to sew on, I think I would pass on the straight pins!) And I tell her how cute the children's clothes are too. She smiles very happily and thanks me, and I ask her if she made them. "Oh yes, I sew all the clothes for my family." She tells me again, very matter-of-factly, and so humbly, as she ruffles the blond curls of the little boy leaning against her.

And my not-so-humble barber husband, points at my dress and happily tells the young mother, "My wife made her dress too! She is learning to sew again and she made that..." I smile, very happy that he is so proud of me and my "sewing" while also noting how we just don't even come close to the word "humble" like she does so very effortlessly. But I know my barber husband is just proud of my "jumper dress" that I made out of a linen curtain....another story for later. 

She smiles at my dress and asks if I sew a lot? And I explain that I am just taking it up again, but I enjoy it. She smiles brightly at me, with our common bond. She gives some instructions in her language to one the children and the little girl runs off somewhere. I am just in awe at her simple ease with herself, her children, and she seems so at peace...and so energetic! 

We finally choose a large blanket basket (and as I type this, I realize I don't even have a pic of it to show you!) and she is very pleased, as it is the largest basket she has. We are more than happy to pay for this craft, and meet the woman who made it.

She calls to her boys to get a little pull wagon so they can roll it out for us to the truck. And off they ran, all happy to be of assistance to the strangers on their front porch. I am realizing that our visit is almost over, and how I wish it could have lasted longer. I would have loved to spent the afternoon with her, learning how to make a basket and ask her probably a zillion questions, as I am always so curious about other cultures and love to learn about people.

The little boys return with a little pull wagon and load the large basket on it and start to push it down the sidewalk. Rebecca thanks us and waves good-bye and her attention immediately goes to her other children an she talks to them in her language. The children seem just as curious about us, as we are about them...I saw several looking over their shoulder at us as we left.

The littlest girl, about two or three tagged along side me, and her little toes were coming very close to the wagon wheels, so I warned her to stay back some. I said this twice, before I realized she didn't understand English yet. So, I just bent down and scooped her up, out of the way of the rolling wagon and she just grinned at me as I placed her out of the way and tousled her blond curls to say good-bye. I have no idea what happened to her little cap, but I have a good idea that finding her cap is like in our culture, trying to find a baby's missing sock. Seems like babies always are pulling off only one sock and losing it. I have a feeling that hunting down the toddler's cap, is very much like a lost comes off when the little girl feels like it, and where it ends up, is probably anyone's guess.

We sit in our truck and I glance over at the beautiful farmhouse and then down at my camera, and I am so tempted....but wait! The little fairyland event isn't over yet. We have to wait and give room for the big wagon with two huge horses, being driven up the little dirt road by a little boy! Now this was too much.

Since we were already down the dirt road some, I quickly snapped a photo, as they were at a distance. We had to back up, as we realized they were coming up our way! And I managed to get one more pic. These pics do no justice to the entire scene, though.

If only you could see just how young and little these little boys were. We sat in the truck and the one waved to us as he very easily maneuvered past us and to the red barn. We sat and watched (I call it being curious, others might say "nosey") and out came some Amish men, beards and all, pulling out some very old tractor equipment or an engine of some sorts. My barber husband craned his neck, as he was now dying to go over to the men and watch them hook up this farm "machine" thing...

It was time to really leave now, and I watched behind me, like a little kid with her nose pressed against the back window of the truck and watched the huge family just go about their daily business of living.

I wanted so badly, one photo of the place, and I wasn't paying attention, that we were at the end of the road, and so I pulled out my camera, trying to snap at least one photo memory of such a nice visit. I didn't get anything but a crooked, blurry house and fence...or so I thought...

To my joy and surprise, when I got home and downloaded my photos, what do I see peeking out of the doorway? An Amish boy! I think this was one of her cousins? He didn't look like her children. I barely saw him, as he is in the shadows, just as curious about us as we are about them. I lightened the shadow up a bit to see him better, and I have to say, this is probably my favorite photo. What a nice way to end our visit...that this boy found us worthy of a "peek" and all along, I wanted so badly to "peek" more into their lives as well. 

We might have more in common than we realize.

After I got home and relived the visit through my pics, I kept going back to our visit with Rebecca and her ten children. I couldn't for the life of me figure out why I was so enamored with her. It wasn't until a few days later, while admiring our new basket, did it hit me why I found her so fascinating.

In our blog-obssesed, reality-show, tell all, announce all, advertise our talents, become-a-star-overnight with You Tube culture....I think I found it so amazing to come in contact with a very talented, very beautiful, very hard-working, but seemingly very happy woman who has zero interest in "showing" what she is capable of doing. Here she is, a young, beautiful, mother of ten, who sews, cooks, creates crafts - all without electricity - and she has no need or desire to "show" others her talents. 

She is a walking, living, breathing "reality star" with no design for any spotlight. Not even a small one. Heck, I had to ask her if she made all those clothes...she never once came out and told me until I asked! 

This very talented, loving, welcoming woman has no website, Facebook page, nor blog. This very caring mother of ten doesn't have a reality show about raising all those kids (again, without electricity....!). She didn't hand me a beautifully designed business card either. Her humble basket-for-sale sign nailed to the tree didn't even have her name on it. She is not competing for "followers" and she doesn't lose sleep about all the other baskets that are for sale in the area either. She knows she does a good job, and actually, that is all that really matters.

She knows.

  And when I look at her long line of laundry, I don't see just clothes or hard work. I actually see a big family hanging out together, with a mother who cares enough to see that her family has the best that she has to offer them.

I am willing to bet that in Rebecca's house, there is no such thing as "guest towels" or "the good china for company" or "guest soaps" either.  To her, her family gets the best of what she can offer, and if the outside world never really finds out about how beautiful she is, or talented with the thread and needle, or crafting baskets, or how she can whip up "two pies and an extra pudding" so effortlessly on a wood stove...things we in "reality show" world would find so amazing. 

Her world is her reality. She feels no need to "show" her reality because she is busy living it - happily. 

And that is what I think I took away from this very memorable visit with Rebecca. She is busy just living her life. 

While her life might be so hard in so many ways (no air conditioning, washing clothes by hand, cooking on a wood stove in the summer, sewing all the clothes....), she also has the joy of doing, creating, and living her life to the best of her ability with no blogging, Facebook, website, or You Tube influences that can, at times, wrongly convince her that she isn't "doing enough," or "talented enough," or "pretty enough," or "smart enough" to do all that she is doing. We don't like to admit it, but I haven't met a woman yet who hasn't admitted that too many visits on Facebook or lingering on beautiful blogs during a time she isn't feeling up to par, can have its negative affects as much as positive. Rebecca doesn't have the influences of magazines, talk shows, or celebrities reminding her constantly that there is "more" to life, and she better not miss out! She doesn't have commercials or billboards reminding her she is getting older, and looks are important.

What a joy that must be. 

And what a joy for me to be so simply reminded that being content with my life, as is, is really just fine.

May you find joy to live your life as you desire. And may you also have no desire to prove to others or seek validation, that your life is really just fine, as is.

from my house to your house,


Apr 14, 2013

Getting in Touch with Textiles


I am hoping that this beautiful spring day is finding you all well, happy, and out doing something fun in the weather - should it be as nice where you are, as is here.

It is no great secret that I have a love affair for fabrics. My barber husband has accepted our "open marriage material" when he got stuck  married me.  He accepted my love affair so much, he bought me a mini-me for Christmas... but just a whole lot smarter than the bigger me.

Never mind that I haven't touched a sewing machine in 30 years...geesh, when I added up the years, I just could not believe that it really had been that long! But I had been wanting a "simple little machine" for quite some time now, just to hem something up, to fix a little thing here or there....but my sweet barber husband went with my seamstress friend, Maureen, and together, they selected the baby lock "Elizabeth" sewing machine. I think the name had something to do with it. Due to my recovery time and so on, it wasn't until only two weeks ago, did I even take it out of its plastic and go to the free classes that come with this computerized wonder.

I feel like Ripvanwinkle...because the last time I sewed on a was black, had zero buttons, and I had to turn the wheel to line up the needle - a big no-no apparently with this prissy, I mean, perfectly-lined machine. The ladies in the class laughed as I leaned forward, adjusting my glasses as the teacher showed me how it could thread itself, and I would exclaim, "Well, look at that!" Or when I learned how I no longer need to yank five inches of thread from the needle AND the bobbin out (like in the old days) and the teacher could really tell I was old school.

But the most impressive of all, even with all the stitches it can make, is the button for the automatic scissors. When I was showed that button, I just sat and stared at it and the women thought it was funny that I found that feature the most amazing. Back in the day, I used to make my mother clothes. She was very tall, and I would make her blouses and customize the pattern with my own touches to fit her; and myself skirts and pants. Hard to believe I ever did that. And boy, have the prices of patterns ever gone up!!

It wasn't until I downloaded the above photo did I realize how funny it looked. This brand new computerized machine surrounded by all the very old things...and yet, it is the old things that I feel so very at home with and the modern machine is so very foreign to me. So I made the photo all aged and old looking for fun. As you can see, I even had my old tape measure and folded wooden ruler out, as at the time, I didn't even have a current tape measure. (I do now.)

So the first think I grab to try out is a pair of antique pillow cases that I have and I stitched on a decorative stitch and also my name and my barber husband's name....yes, I was tempted to stitch out "barber husband" but I wasn't confident enough to get all the stitches right yet...but I see it coming in the future. 

Then I go find a stash of vintage linen and old table runners that I can cut up - I know, I know, it is just like my old books. People used to freak that I would rip up old books to use in design work. I also tear up (rather cut up) old fabrics, linens, runners, table cloths, clothes, you name it, when I design bedding, pillows, you name it. So having designed professionally for about 15 years now, I don't think twice about cutting up something I found at a market in Europe. Just like that very old table cloth that I used for my skirt for my wedding gown - "zip" went the scissors that my used seamstress to cut the lace as I told her how I designed it. She is used to me by now. Now, I have the scissors in my hand...and ZIP, go the scissors, as I am dying to make some REAL pillow cases, as I hate, hate, hate store bought ones.

Here is my stash (above and below) that I found in one of many places around our this linen. One is a table runner from France, another an old cheap table cloth that I will practice on and another an old Belgium linen sheet that I will cut up for the pillow cases...

Now they are in pieces...can't turn back...gotta figure it out.

The top is the vintage case with the name that I practiced stitched. Below it is one king-size pillow case (I made two) with the real old linen Belgium sheet and the French runner for the cuff. I love sleeping on it. I used the center of the runner for my own German "feder decke" which literally means "feather cover." We don't have the beautiful bedding that I have designed for so many over the years....nope. That is something most of you don't know about us. I LOVE to design bedding, but first, I can't afford my own designs, and secondly, it is too much work for me to make the bed every morning, even though it is really pretty! We sleep German style. There is no such thing over here in the states, and don't be fooled into thinking there is by some company who claims they sell "German linen bed sets." There is no such thing. Germans don't have actual bed "sets." At best, maybe matching colored pillow case with matching colored decke cover. The higher quality items tend to be white, linen, or heavy, soft cotton, that feel like heaven.

The bottom item is my custom version of my feder decke with antique buttons and French linen cuff. The very top pillow is my "practice pillow" with the old table cloth and linen cuff. It turned out so well, that I made two. Germans sleep the best way that I know of. They don't use a top sheet. They sleep with their own....well, what we could call a "duvet" over here. It is not a feather bed, it is not a comforter, it is not a blanket. It is a very, very fluffy feather blanket (very fluffy duvet) with a very soft, hight quality cover. 

Each person gets their own and it is fabulous. There aren't tons of pillows, usually a huge pillow for each - bigger than what we call a Euro pillow and a smaller one and maybe a single third. To make the bed, the Germans usually hang the decke out the window for some time to air it out and to let the mattress air out as well. A VERY healthy thing to do. Think about it...if you had a hot, yucky night, and then get up, and immediately make your bed, you are trapping all that "yuck" in with a top sheet, a blanket, a heavy bedspread, tons of pillows and it gets gross. When making the bed, each decke is folded simply, fluffed up, aired out, and your done. My pillow cases and decke cover are washable, those "lace" things are sturdy (it is more handiwork, than lace, not delicate)...just wash on delicate cycle and line dry. There is nothing I can do to it that hasn't been done to it already. Linen is tougher than you think. And if or when it wears down, I will just make more cases from my stash. 

Now you that you all have been in my bedroom....I will take you back out again and share that I am learning a new skill that I always wanted to learn that my good friend, Bet, has taught me while I was in to knit! I am not very good, but I am addicted. I am currently knitting squares for a blanket and someday, it will be done, but here are a few pics of my other "getting in touch with textiles":

I hoped you enjoyed learning about the new "mini-me" and all that she is doing for me at the moment. I am enjoying my textiles and am loving the time I am spending cutting, sewing, and really, just playing with my toys. 

I think of you all often, and please know that your emails, well wishes, and lovely comments mean so much to me. May you find time to play and find time to enjoy whatever it is that brings you joy.

from my house to your house,


Oct 17, 2012

Inside and Out of a Little Fried Pie


Hoping you all are doing well. Been super swamped, as I am sure you have too. Last post, I showed you a few sneak peeks of the fried pies I made for an upcoming book, Pieography, by Jo Packham, that I am honored to be a part of (just found out to be due out early March 2013, so I will talk about it again). You can read about the book in my last post.

I promised that I would show how I made these little bites of delights and how, last year for Christmas, I wrapped them and set them on  my table for my dinner guests. But these little fried pies are great year round and so easy to make....but I won't be giving out the exact recipe....that you will find in the book!

Well let's get started with the behind the scenes photos...the messy stuff...where the real work is and you can see for yourself just how easy they really are to make....

I used about a 6' little soup bowl...

I use a little frosting tip as a key to my fillings....

Keeping your fork in ice helps the fork to do its job better!


Another frosting tip design....another type of filling inside!

Running out of room....piemania...taking over...

 This is just one of my favorite fillings...this one and the coconut one. You can find these with the better jams in the grocery store. They are delicious!

A little key to the designs on the put in the box.

Little sleeves please!

The little box can be found at The Container store...

 Now, do you think I would show you all of this just before the holidays and then tell you....too bad...the book isn't out until March and no recipe? Well, to be fair to the publisher, I can't give out the recipe...but I CAN suggest that you just use ready-made pie crust and it is still very delicious! (But the book is filled with great recipes!) The little sweet curds are so very tasty and is the fact that you made them by hand and with love is what counts. 

Just be sure to make a lot. They go quickly and most likely, many will never make it out the door!

I hope you enjoy your fall and holiday preparation in a slow and happy manner and not rushed this year. Take time to enjoy it and know that every year brings new things to be experienced and once the year is gone...we can't go back and do it again.

Do you ever get a dessert that is "too pretty to eat" and you are afraid to stab a fork at this work of art? And when you finally take a stab and then a bite, it isn't nearly as great as it looks? Not the case with the little fried pie. They don't look perfect, but they almost invite you to take a bite. That is what I like about them. They are better on the inside than on the out, which means they never let you a true friend.

from my house to your house,

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