Posts Tagged ‘Tovah Martin’

I’m dreaming in green; lush, mossy, magnificent green and longing for those first, tentative tips of spring bulbs and pussy willow blossoms.

Soon. Very soon.DSCN7326

While the sun hasn’t shown her rays very often lately, here along the Cutoff the days ARE growing longer and the seed catalogues are tempting us with old reliables and new introductions.

There is a dream of buds swelling here and there. With a hope that is buried and waiting in this long winter, the daffodils and hyacinths are waiting, their tips of buttery yellow and grape are the epitome of patience under the ice and snow.

With our heads bent to the wind, we will brave the gusts and the cold and the snow and whatever else this season may still throw at us. We will layer on extra clothing as the car warms up. Once home again a cup of freshly brewed coffee or a piping pot of tea. Soup is often simmering on the stove, and now that it is Lent, pepper and egg sandwiches are the fare of choice on a Friday afternoon.

I’ve been enjoying tall cups of hot, Mexican chocolate now and again, with my dear friend Kathryn or with my daughter 9781444730302-1-4Jennifer, at a new coffee house that recently opened not far from here. Tom and went there for an afternoon treat on Valentine’s Day. La Fortuna’s owners are third generation coffee producers. Isn’t it amazing how fast a new establishment can become a favorite?

Books, of course, are always at my side. I’ve been reading “The House on an Irish Hillside” by Felicity Hayes-McCoy, and I’ve been pulling out old issues of Victoria Magazine for inspiration . . .

. . .  and I have ben hopping about, chasing sunbeams with my camera – whenever the sun pokes through.


What are you reading these days?

What are you sipping on?

Where are you going – or where did you just come from?

What are the signs of your season beginning to change?

Will you watch Sunday’s episode of Downton Abbey, the Oscars, or both? Neither?

Are any of you watching in Grantchester?



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189428I originally knew Tasha Tudor through the many books she illustrated, some of which she also wrote herself. “Pumpkin Moonshine” was her first published book, followed by the “calico” books, then her illustrations of classics, including those of Louisa May Alcott and Frances Hodgson Burnett, along with cookbooks, nursery rhymes, fairy tales, and a host of other illustrative endeavors.

It wasn’t until the late 1990’s that I discovered Tasha Tudor herself when a series of books about her idyllic lifestyle on a hill-top “west of New Hampshire and east of Vermont” were published. A happenstance discovery of “The Private World of Tasha Tudor ” in a bookstore soon took me on a remarkable journey of learning about Tasha Tudor – and a little bit about myself in the process.

A diminutive woman steeped in old Yankee ways, Tasha’s book, “The Private World of Tasha Tudor” took me inside her Vermont farmhouse, Corgi Cottage, out to her gardens, and into her unique imagination. Tasha Tudor led much of her life steeped in the 1800’s, wearing clothing of that period, weaving her own cloth, making her own candles, and eventually building a house in Vermont that visitors were hard pressed to believe was built in the late 20th century.

In her lifetime, Ms. Tudor was asked by President Johnson to make ornaments for the White House Christmas tree, her hand crafted dollhouse with its furnishings and dolls, made by Tasha, were on display at the Abbey Aldrich Rockefeller Center, and Life Magazine once photographed the wedding of two of her dolls. (The dolls, being quite modern, eventually separated.) After a television interview, Tasha Tudor became an icon for those who sought the simpler life of getting “back to the land”.

It was “The Private World of Tasha Tudor” that took me in, made me feel at home, and spurred a rather large collection of all things Tasha Tudor, as well as an appreciation for the photography of Richard W. Brown, who lives in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont.

“Tasha Tudor’s Garden” is where I often go for garden inspiration. I long to grow foxgloves six feet tall like Tasha Tudor did, and I wish I could encourage my roses to ramble 189425with wild abandon as those in her garden. I’ve given up on sweet peas – well, almost given up, we’ll see. I’ll try them one more time. The point is that Tudor’s garden is lush, a bit whimsical in nature and all that a cottage garden should be. Some of the seeds sown in it are ancestors from two centuries ago. Richard Brown collaborated with Tovah Martin on this book. I love her style of writing and would not be stretching the truth at all to say that she has influenced how I “talk” about my own garden.

Together, Brown and Martin produced a third book, “Tasha Tudor’s Heirloom Crafts”, which is a unique glimpse into the many ways Tudor adopted a 19th century lifestyle into the modern era we all live in. It is chock full of pictures and words about Tasha’s kitchen, the extensive collection she amassed of 18th and 19th century clothing, her well utilized barn that connects to the house in the manner New Englanders use, and the marionettes that led to “A Dolls’Christmas” and helped keep her growing family fed with the performances they starred in. It is a book in which to find Tasha weaving and painting and making candles and all manner of other crafts that she continued to employ into her eighth decade.

Tasha Tudor died a few years ago, just before her 92 birthday, if memory serves me correctly. Some of her clothing sold for handsome sums. A museum is underway in her memory. There is still a family website for all things Tasha Tudor, as well as those of her family.

Itt5 first learned of a tin kitchen from books about Tasha Tudor. I was determined to try roasting a chicken in front of fire from the moment I saw her doing so using a tin kitchen. I looked at antique malls, fairs, and searched the internet for about six years before literally stumbling upon one at an antique fair one afternoon. My giddiness was a dead give-away to the seller if there ever was one as my foot brushed against it, I looked down to see what was in my path, only to hop back in pure glee, exclaiming “it’s a tin kitchen”! I lugged it home and before much time had passed, I cleaned it up and managed to roast a whole chicken in it in front of an open fireplace. I can’t begin to tell you how delicious it tasted, or express my sense of accomplishment at having figured out how to cook with it.  How I miss that fireplace of our old house. How I miss that roasted chicken.


Well, I rambled about much like Tasha Tudor’s roses. When Juliet mentioned she knew of Tasha Tudor’s books, but not much about her, I thought it might be a good spot in time to share some of the books I have that illustrate the life of such a well-known illustrator, thinking they might interest some of you as well.

It is very cold here, with the temperatures hovering around 16° F. Snow is dancing about, looking for trees and bushes and rooftops to cling to. I think I’ll make a cup of tea and invite Tasha Tudor to visit me for a spell. Which book will I select?


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Having just read Belle, Book, and Candle’s thoughtful writing on commonplace books, and a bit too busy right now to write a new post myself. I am reposting my own post on commonplace, which I wrote several years ago, in hopes that you will not only take the time to read Belle, but that you will consider keeping a commonplace book yourself – or tell us about the one you do have. Belle, Book, and Candle’s post can be found here. Thank you, Belle, for the inspiration I needed today.  Penny

Commonplace. The recording of words and ideas in a common place. It was started many hundreds of years ago and became known as commonplacein the 1600′s. It is used to this day by writers, poets, speechwriters and songwriters – even scrap bookers. I started thinking about the practice of gathering ideas in a commonplace book as I was reading a blog about books.

Do you have any idea how many blogs there are just about books? There are blogs about mysteries and children’s literature and authors. There are Pearl Buck and Jane Austen blogs. There are blogs about decorating with books and making books, and, of course, many authors these days have their own blogs.

They are all commonplace.

I have kept card files on books I’ve read since my first Kiddie Lit class. I no longer include such things as publisher and copyright date, but, I do write a brief synopsis of the book, what it was about, the month and year I read it and sometimes, when I’m really full of myself, I rate it. ★★★★★ Commonplace.

I also have kept a book with quotes. If I hear something notable or read something, I will write it down and cite the author. Sometimes, I will cut a quote out of a magazine or on a greeting card and paste it onto a page of my quote book.  Commonplace.

Emerson and Thoreau, Jefferson and Whitman, Hardy and Twain all kept such personal books. Many even learned the practice of commonplacing at Oxford or Harvard – or at their tutor’s direction.

My mother kept scrapbooks of pictures and memorabilia  that I enjoy today and my father kept succinct books that recorded good fishing spots and articles.

dscn6694I first heard such a collection of phrases mentioned as a commonplace in “Tasha Tudor’s Heirloom Crafts”. Tudor was, among many things, a crafter of dolls. Her dolls lived in intricate, homemade doll houses, so famed that they were attracted to the folks at the Smithsonian and displayed there. Her dolls, clothed and appointed with furniture evoking the 1800′s, had their own commonplace book with tiny writing on the pages.

I love the idea of a commonplace book and was intrigued by the realization that I have kept such books not knowing their origins for much of my adult life. Quite exciting for something so common to me.

Do you practice commonplacing?

Do you keep a journal, special notebook, scrapbook, or log?

The image is from “Tasha Tudor’s Heirloom Crafts”. Photography by Richard W. Brown.

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We had a delicious rain yesterday. It sprinkled all day. That slow, steady rain I remember from childhood days of playing in puddles and quacking like ducks. No thunder. No lightning. No theatrics. Just a soft, summer shower to wash off the dust of this long simmering season, refreshing our souls and replenishing our soil.

As I often do, especially in summer, I turned to my gardening books. There are books about the physical practice of gardening; the anatomy of plants, the science of roots, horticulture.Then there are books about the physical pleasure of plants; the arranging of flowers and aesthetics of gardening. It is there that I found myself burying my nose as the rain washed down on this small little life on a cut off road.

A book I always enjoy and have written about before is called A Time to Blossom by Tovah Martin.  It is one of those books that always give back to me more than its purchase price, making me smile with its gentle words and pristine photography.

I settled like fairy dust on this picture of hollyhock dolls. I don’t remember ever making them, but, I wish that I had. Maybe next year I’ll grow hollyhocks, just so I can.

What a wonder that a soft summer rain can bring to our hearts and our souls!

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Come summertime, when the roses are a bloom and the daisies start dancing in the breeze, I tend to pull out my gardening books and think about revisiting my favorite children’s literature. Quiet and shy as a child, I was content with my nose in a book on a summer’s day, curled upon my bed or sitting on the front stoop. The world came alive in my travels through books and I knew I always had a friend.

One summer I devoured all of the “Heidi” books by Johanna Spyri. I was immersed in the Alps with Peter and the Grandfather.  Lois Lenski and her regional series of books kept me captive another summer where I learned about strawberry farms and the devastation of floods and how children lived in rural parts of the United States. The best summer was when a neighbor, whose four daughters were grown, gave us a box of  books. Children’s classics.  I thought I had inherited the greatest of summertime treasures.

This year, I was determined to read once again The Secret Garden. Fueled by the gardens I’ve visited lately and buoyed by the garden walk last week, I pulled it out from behind a door that houses my collection of Tasha Tudor books.  I have been once again enchanted by  the garden’s locked door and what lies beyond it that holds so much hope for the children in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic.

This weekend, I had the opportunity to visit a most wonderful garden nearby, with mown garden paths and a smokehouse, a sprawling lawn for children to frolic in, and an 1880’s house that was a treasure to behold, not to mention Barbara, the hostess, who is a most remarkable woman and mother and gardener. When the feast was ready, we all helped carrying platters and bowls and trays through the paths and to the glade, where tables awaited, candles flickered, and good food was abundant.

I sat for a moment in the clearing and just looked about, sure I had tumbled into a secret garden. Has this ever happened to you?

Back on the cutoff, I enjoyed getting re-aquainted with ten year old Mary Lennox, her friend Dickon, who can charm animals , and her sickly cousin, Colin, who emerges at last from his bed to share the joys of the secret garden at Misselthwaite Manor in Yorkshire.

It is such a joy to watch Mary and Colin blossom, much like the flowers in the secret garden Mary is determined to reclaim. Dickon is such a wonderful boy. Even the adults soften and grow in this beautiful book, which I understand was originally marketed to both children and adults when it was first released in the early 1900’s.

Have you ever read The Secret Garden? It is such a sweet story, not only of a trio of children, two who have been virtually abandoned by parents and life, who attempt to restore a garden forbidden to all at Misselthwaite Manor, and flourish themselves in the process. It is also a story of hope in what lies beyond us and how our dreams can help us to grow and to thrive and to be the best we can be.

I love the edition I have, filled with Tasha Tudor’s soft illustrations. The Secret Garden, along with Barbara’s garden, which so reminded me of the pictures I’ve seen of Tasha’s garden, have made for a most delightful time.

The Secret Garden

A perfect book for a child – or for the child in you to read on a summer’s day.

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Sometimes, in the midst of a busy day, after a trying time, or just because I desperately need to feast my eyes on some natural beauty, I find myself drawn to a shelf in my library where my gardening books are. Books on weeding and wisdom and whimsy.  If I”m looking for garden essays, botanical names, or some inspiration, there they are, waiting for me, like spring flowers waiting to be plucked.

It was to this shelf yesterday that I wandered, looking for blossoms and blooms and beauty on a bitter, cold day with snow on the ground here – in April. There it was, where last I left it.  A Time to Blossom: Mothers, Daughters, and Flowers by Tovah Martin with photographs by Richard W. Brown.

I have appreciated Tovah Martin’s writing style and expertise since first reading her words in Tasha Tudor’s Garden, which is where I actually also came to love the photographs of Richard W. Brown. They have collaborated on several books. Tovah Martin also collaborated with artist/illustrator Marjolein Bastin, whose pictures and cards I simply adore. I have written about their work,  View from a Sketchbook previously. I’ll admit, I’m a whimsical sort of gal, especially when it comes to gardening and nature (one of Tovah’s books is aptly titled Garden Whimsy).

It was A Time to Blossom that I needed yesterday, and today as well, and I just wanted to share it with all of you. I am so eager for this winter that hangs on and on and on to end and for spring to finally take hold, aren’t you? This lovely book will have to tide me over for a while longer, it seems.

A Time to Blossom takes us through the seasons with Tovah’s remembrances of climbing apple trees and tea parties and making hollyhock dolls and her adventure through childhood that led her to become a celebrated horticulturist, author, and lecturer. It is also a book about mothers and daughters and the way flowers and gardening participate in their relationships. It is a book to remind you of your own mother, or grandmother, daughter or granddaughter, or maybe another special woman in your life.

I think I’ll go spend just a little more time with Tovah Martin and Richard Brown before putting them back on the shelf. I’ll read through the seasons with instructions on making flower garlands and May baskets, or the joy of lanterns and lilies. Or maybe, just maybe, I’ll settle on just the chapter on spring and I’ll try to be content for now. After all, at least the daffodils bloomed.

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The slightest breeze of wind loosens the leaves in the trees. Fall is like watching someone stepping out of a dress, and their whole outfit is lying on the ground at their feet.  Marjolein Bastin, page 110, View from a Sketchbook

I’ve spent several days trying to find the perfect tree with her garments artfully strewn beneath her feet to accompany Bastin’s simple statement and realized that the borrowed banner from wordpress shows it better than what I can photograph right now.

Sometimes, what we are looking for is really there right where we put it.


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