Saturday, March 6, 2010

Pretty Rugs, New Blogs and Followers and Bailey White

Beautiful Mini Rugs from Glenda Howell, New Blogs and Follwers and Bailey White

The beautiful little rya rugs above were sent to me by Glenda Howell of Peppercorn Minis, a relatively new mini blogger from New Zealand. I love them. Joanna has already claimed the fuzzy little rose one for her planned mini bathroom in her house I've got to finish! The striped ones would be lovely as rugs or table runners. Thank you, Glenda! She sells these beautiful little creations in her Etsy shop, Undancy.

I would also like to thank new followers:

PuNo's Mini's from Germany
Catherine from Kilmouski and Me.
Karin--didn't see a blog for you, Karin but welcome!
Pokadot Toadstool, maker of art dolls and polymer clay sculptures.
Bassom Bear--maker of precious tiny teddies
Emma and Neil from Paris Miniatures--makers of wonderful mini poly clay foods.
Debbie Peel from Beautiful Dee's--she has a beautiful blog and is dealing with life issues just now with support form her blogging friends and family.
Oiseau deNim who also makes beautiful poly clay foods and is a fellow Team MIDS Etsy member.

I have also discovered some wonderful new blogs lately which may or may not be new to blogging but are new to me and worth a visit:

Catherine's blog, Kilmouski and Me (listed above as a link) is an artist and metalsmith who plans to design and build a dollhouse this year.

Anneke of Pieplyts in the Netherlands is sharing some beautiful minis in her projects and collections.

Daisy of Antique Daisy says that she is a "teacher, student and loves dabbling in anything creative. A jack of all trades and master of none." So she is indeed a kindred spirit to me and many of us. She has some lovely mini projects.

And lastly, my Flickr friend, Amy Gross, an artist of the natural elements and a miniaturist. She has a new blog, Look Closer. I've followed her around on Flickr drooling all over her pictures for several years and fell in love with the little dollhouse she rescued from the landfill, took home and personalized with her special touch. She liked my description of her art I left so I'll repeat it here: I said it is 'beautiful, luminous and ethereal and it is like stopping a movement of nature in a fraction of time and preserving it for the rest of us to say, "Ah! Yes, I forgot how lovely and mysterious it all is if I take time to look more closely.'
--Amy, I don't know if you are familiar with Bailey White, a former NPR contributor who shared her essays about her eclectic family and wrote three books, among them When Mama Makes Up Her Mind (and other dangers of southern living) and Sleeping at the Starlite Motel, both collections of her stories. But I have included one of her essays in this post as she lived in southernmost Georgia near the Florida line and your last post featuring your flea market finds inspired me to dig it out! I hope you have the time to read it!


On my to-do list is learning to cast resin figures of my sculpts. Here is a bunny in progress:

And lastly, Chris V. at Candid Canine offered to do a swap with me and she requested a spooky painting. Here is one I have done and I want to try a few more for her to choose from (kind critiques are welcome--LOL!)
For all of us wishing to organize, straighten and clean up our work areas, I have also included one of my favorite essays by Bailey White from her first book which I bring out and just read for pure enjoyment every now and then. I see 'Mama' as yet another cautionary tale for me like the mother in Grey Gardens. My hoarding and inability to throw anything out is a scary thing sometimes!

Good Housekeeping

by Bailey White

It was the middle of November, just a month before the wedding, when my mother announced that she was going to invite the family of our cousin’s bride to Thanksgiving dinner at our house.

“They need to get to know us on our own ground,” she said. She rared back in her reclining chair. “You girls can help with the cooking. Let’s see, there will be ten of us, and six of those Mitchell’s” (the bride’s family).

My mother was sitting in the kitchen, dammed in by stacks of old Natural History magazines. Behind her a bowl of giant worms, night crawlers, was suspended from the ceiling. She uses worm castings as an ingredient in her garden compost, and she keeps the worms in the kitchen so she can feed them food scraps.

My sister and I didn’t say anything for a while. I watched the worms. Every now and then, one of them would come up to the edge of the bowl, loop himself out, swag down—where he would hang for an instant, his coating of iridescent slime gleaming—and then drop down like an arrow into another bowl on the floor. My mother had an idea that the worms missed the excitement of a life in the wild, and she provided this skydiving opportunity as an antidote for boredom.

My sister was eyeing the jars of fleas on the kitchen counter, part of an ongoing experiment with lethal herbs.

Those worms, or their ancestors, had been there my whole life, but somehow, until this moment, it had not seemed odd to have a bowl of night crawlers getting their thrills in the kitchen.

Worms,” I whispered to myself.

“Fleas,” my sister whispered.

My eyes fell on a rusty 1930’s Underwood typewriter under the kitchen sink. It had been there as long as I could remember, the G key permanently depressed, the strike arm permanently erect. My sister and I exchanged a look.

“What is that typewriter doing under the sink?” I asked flatly.

“Let’s see, we’ll have your Aunt Thelma’s sweet potato crunch and Corrie Lou’s cranberry mold,” my mother said.

Besides the typewriter was a guide to the vascular flora of the Carolina’s, a turtle skull and a dog brush. There were hairs in the dog brush, black hairs. Our dog, Smut had died fifteen years ago. I thought about the typewriter, the turtle skull, and the dog brush. I thought about the worms. I thought about the bride’s family—nice people, we were told, from Bartow County—walking into this house on Thanksgiving Day.

“Welcome to our home,” my mother would say. And she would lead them over the stacks of books, through the musty main hall, and into a twilight of clutter. They would clamp their arms to their sides and creep behind her with their tight lips and furtive eyes, past rooms with half-closed doors through which they would glimpse mounds of moldy newspaper, broken pottery in stacks, and amazingly preserved, my grandfather’s ship-model collection. From one room a moth-eaten stuffed turkey would blindly leer out at them. “Storage!” my mother would explain cheerfully.

The guests would be settled on the front porch where they would gaze hollowly down into the garden while our mother explained the life cycle of the solitary wasp who made his home in one of our porch columns. My sister and I would pass around plates of olives and cheese brightly, trying to keep a lilt in our voices and making the guests feel “at home.”

“You can’t do it!” my sister exploded. “We can never get ready in time!”

“What is there to get ready?” our mother asked innocently. “Just the food and we’ll do that ahead of time. You should always do the food ahead of time, girls,” she instructed us. “Then you can enjoy your guests.”

“Mama!” my sister wailed. “Just look at this place!” She gestured wildly.

“What’s wrong with it?” My mother peered out at the room through a haze of dust. Behind her, another worm dropped.

“Just look!” Louise threw her arms wide. “The clutter, the filth . . .” she spied the rows of jars on the counter. “ . . .the fleas!”

“Don’t worry about the fleas, Louise,” our mother reassured her. “I am working on a new concoction, based on myrtle and oil of pennyroyal. I may have the fleas under control by Thanksgiving.”

Louise sank into a chair and looked our mother in the eye. “Mama,” she began, “it’s not just the fleas. It’s . . .”

But I had come to my senses.

“Stop, Louise,” I said. “Get up. We’ve got a week-end. We’ll start on Saturday.”

Louise arrived at dawn, the Saturday before Thanksgiving, loaded down with vacuum cleaners, extra bags and filters, brooms, mops and buckets.

Mama was sitting in the chair in the kitchen, eating grits and making feeble protestations. “You girls don’t have to do this, Bailey. I’ll sweep up on Wednesday afternoon. Then on Thursday there will just be the cooking.”

“I know, Mama,” I said. “but we want to do a good job. We want to really straighten up. You’ll be glad when it’s all done. Eat your grits.” I didn’t want her to see Louise staggering out with the first load for the dump: a box of rotten sheets, some deadly appliances from the early days of electricity, and an old mechanical milking machine with attachments for three teats.

Mama would not let us throw out a box of old photographs we found under the sofa—“I may remember who those people are some day”—or the lecherous old stuffed turkey with his hunched up back and bad-looking feet. “It was one of Ralph’s earliest taxidermy efforts,” she said, fondly stroking the turkey’s bristling feathers down. And she let us haul off boxes of back issues of the Journal of the American Gourd Growers’ Association only if we promised to leave them stacked neatly beside the dumpster for others to find. But she got suspicious when she caught Louise with the typewriter.

“We’re going to throw it away, Mama.”

“You can’t throw it away, Louise. It’s a very good typewriter!”

Louise was getting edgy. “Mama, it’s frozen up with rust and clogged with dust. None of the moving parts moves. And they don’t make ribbons to fit those old typewriters anymore.”

“Nonsense,” said Mama. “You put that typewriter down, Louise. It just needs a little squirt of oil. Bring me the WD-40.”

Louise put the typewriter down with a clunk. I brought a can of WD-40, with the little red straw to aim the spray. Mama put on her glasses, pursed her lips, and peered into the typewriter. Skeet! Skeet! She went to work with the WD-40 and a tiny, filthy rag. “You girls are throwing away too much,” she said.

By midafternoon we began to feel that we were making progress. We could see out the windows, and we had several rooms actually in order. We had found our brother’s long-lost snakeskin collection and the shoes our great-aunt Bertie had worn at her wedding; a dusty aquarium containing the skeletons of two fish; and under a tangle of dried rooster-spur peppers and old sneakers, a rat trap with an exquisitely preserved rat skeleton, the tiny bright-white neck bones delicately pinched. “Just like Pompeii,” Mama marveled.

By the end of the day we had cleared the house out. What had not been thrown away was in its place. I had dropped a drawer on my foot, and Louise was in a bad mood. Mama’s glasses were misted with WD-40. We sat down in the kitchen and drank tea.

“What I want to know is where are the priceless heirlooms?” asked Louise. “You read about people cleaning out their attics and finding 200-year-old quilts in perfect condition, old coins, cute kitchen appliances from the turn of the century, Victorian floral scenes made of the hair of loved ones. What kind of family are we? All we find is bones of dead animals and dried up plants. Where are the Civil War memorabilia, the lost jewels, the silk wedding dresses neatly packed away in linen sheets and lavender?”

“Well,” said Mama, “you found your brother’s snakeskins. And I think this rat skeleton is fascinating. How long must it have been there?”

“Don’t ask,” moaned Louise. “I’m going home.”

On Sunday we dusted everything, swept, vacuumed and mopped the floors, washed the windows, and laundered the curtains, rugs and slipcovers. By nightfall the house was ready.

“You girls have certainly struck a blow,” Mama congratulated us. “This place is as clean as a morgue.” We left her sitting in her chair with the worms, the typewriter, and the last surviving fleas.

I walked out with Louise. “She looks a little forlorn,” I said.

“She’ll get used to it,” Louise declared. “And the Mitchells will never dream that we are peculiar.”

Thanksgiving morning, Louise and I divided up the cooking. She made the sweet potato soufflé and the squash casserole, and I cooked the turkey and made bread. Mama spent the morning in her garden picking every last English pea, even the tiniest baby ones, because we knew we would have our first frost that night.

At ten o’clock we set the table. For a centerpiece Mama put some pink and white sasanquas to float in a crystal bowl, and the low autumn light came slanting in through the windows onto the flowers and the bright water. We had built a fire in the stove, and the heat baked out the hay-field fragrance of the bunches of Artemisia hung to dry against the walls. The floors gleamed. The polished silverware shone. Beneath the sweet fall smells of baking bread and sasanquas and drying herbs I could just dectect the faintest whiff of Murphy Oil Soap. Louise and I stood in the middle of the living room and gazed.

“The furniture looks startled,” Louise said.

“It’s beautiful,” I said. “And here they are.”

:”Welcome to our home. We’re so glad you could come,” Mama was saying to the Mitchells. “Come out onto the porch. You will be interested to see the wasp who lives there. It’s a solitary wasp, quite rare. . . . I know it looks a bit cleared out in here, my girls have been cleaning. Bailey, Louise, come and meet these Mitchells.”

We sat on the porch for a while, bundled up in coats, and watched the last petals of the sasanquas drift to the ground. Mr. Mitchell examined the neat, round hole of the solitary wasp with some interest.

“Do you have a knowledge of the hymenoptera, Mr. Mitchell?” Mama asked. And she was off.

Mrs. Mitchell had smiley eyes and a knowing look. She leaned over to Louise and me. “It’s the cleanest house I’ve ever seen,” she whispered. We were friends. Louise and I took her to the kitchen to help with the food.

Other guests arrived—our brother and his family, aunts and uncles, and the bridal couple. The house was full of talk and laughter. We brought out food and more food. Everyone sat down.

Then, “Where’s Daddy?” asked the bride.

Sure enough, an empty chair . . . two empty chairs.

“Where’s Mama?” asked Louise.

“On the porch?”

No.

“Everyone please start. The food will get cold,” I said. “I’ll go find them.”

Outside, the temperature was dropping. This was the last day the garden would be green. I wandered along the path, following the scent of bruised basil until I heard voices way in the back of the yard.

Mr. Mitchell: “ . . . and this is?”

Franklinia altamaha, Mr. Mithcell and quite a spectacular specimen if I do say so.”

“The famous Lost Franklinia of John Bartram,” Mr. Mitchell murmured reverently, gazing up into its branches. “I have never seen one.”

The sun shining through the crimson leaves of the Franklinia lit up the air with a rosy glow. Mr. Mitchell was holding her arm in his and gesturing with her walking stick. She was cradling some stalks of red erythrina berries in their black pods.

Mr. Mitchell turned slowly and looked over the garden. “Silver bells, shadbush, euonymous, bloodroot, trillium”—he named them off. “Mrs. White, I’ve been collecting rare plants and heirloom seeds all my life, and I’ve never seen anything to equal this.”

“It’s an old lady’s pleasure, Mr. Mitchell,” said my mother. “Now wait until I take you to the dump and show you my bones. Louise threw them out,” she whispered hoarsely, “but I know right where they are. We’ll get them tomorrow if you’re interested. You will be kind enough not to mention it to my girls.”

“It would be my extreme pleasure to see your collection of bones, Mrs. White,” said Mr. Mitchell. And slowly he led her out of the pink glow and back to the party.

The next day Louise came over, and we went to sit in the kitchen and drink hot chocolate with Mama and congratulate ourselves on a job beautifully done. But Mama was not in her chair. There was a note on the kitchen table. It was typewritten. Every letter was clear and black and even.

Sorry I missed you girls. Mr. Mitchell and I have gone on a little errand.

Make yourselves some hot chocolate.

Love, Mama



13 comments:

Caseymini said...

Thanks for the introduction to Bailey White. I am going to go look for the book now. Loved the essay!

Deb said...

I loved the story. Your halloween painting is wonderful!

Chris V. said...

ooh! i like the painting and am curious about the others too! your plants are almost done....oh fun!

Peach Blossom Hill said...

Casey and Deb, I was hoping at least one person would slog through that long entry but I love Bailey White's essays so much I had to share that one!

Deb, thank you for your kind comment on my painting!

Jody

Anneke said...

Thank you for telling about my blog, that's very sweet of you! I adore that little bunny figure you made, you really should cast more of that one for sales or something! If you do I think I'd like one! It's so very real, my bunny takes that exact pose very often! :P
Oh and the spooky painting is just amazing! I love it, it's really appealing!

Glenda said...

Jody, thanks so much for your kind words about my little rugs - glad you like them!
The painting and the bunny sculpt are excellent! What a talent!
I'll be interested to follow the resin molding.
xxx Glenda

Pandora said...

I specially like the painting and the rugs.

Pan
http://smallstuff-blogspot.blogspot.com/

CWPoppets said...

Love your painting. Did you paint it on on real canvas ?

Peach Blossom Hill said...

Thank you all the kind comments.

CW Poppets, I bought the msall package of ATC cards for acrylics in the art section of the craft store, they are a nice size for miniatures I think.

Jody

Anonymous said...

My favorite Bailey White story. You know my affinity for house cleaning. Love the painting. It's very spookyooky! OK, back to lurking. - Beth

Peach Blossom Hill said...

Hey, Beth! Glad you dropped by! Yes, love Bailey White. Sometimes I just have to read a few of her essays. Why can't you and I collaborate on a collection ourselves?!!

Jody

Amy said...

Jody, that was just wonderful! I wanted to take the time to read it slowly. Vascular plants! I will never forget that, and the image of startled furniture.

I have the impulses of the mother and the daughters fighting in me all the time-I love the skeletons, and have a squirrel skull round here, and the things made priceless by the meaning given to them. And then I grow afraid of winding up on an episode of A & E's Hoarders. But it's absolutely true-those things mark time, and an empty house is a bit like a morgue. They keep us here, attached to where we live. Thank you so so much for the shout out about my blog and for sharing this story and Baily White with us. I hadn't read her before-now I'll be looking for more!

Rugs said...

Wow, i am enjoying reading your blog. I will added you to my bookmarks. Keep it up. :)