Monday, March 23, 2015

Renewal & Retreat

To retreat is to draw back. I've decided to treat myself with a short retreat, a withdrawal, if you will, from the webbed world into a more secluded, more tangible setting: home. I'm retreating to a place of safety, privacy, a place of meditation, study, and creation. I retreat not into a shell or a cave but into the wild wide open of the world, out of doors, away from screens, gathering bits of renewed spirit and new perspectives along the way.

Starting April 1, I am going to distance myself from the internet and in doing so my Etsy Shop will be on a vacation of sorts, but will re-open. So if there has been something you've had your eye on in my Etsy shop I would snatch it up soon before my windows are drawn shut. It will be quiet here in my little virtual alcove, too, for a while but rest assured that fresh projects will follow.

In the time that this offers me, I plan to immerse myself in Spring and with it some new artistic endeavors, some great books, and glean new inspiration from the trees, the green, the April showers. Already I have started reading Robert Macfarlane's Landmarks which is fantastic. I've also read his Wild Places and The Old Ways. All are just amazingly inspirational and profound. He is a wise man with  hunger for the wild. I've dipped back into Emerson's Walden for a little nature walk around the pond. I've a million ideas that I'd like to make time for and new mediums I'd love to try. In Winter ideas stew and steep and in Spring I begin to do things, make things, write things. Spring is a fertile field.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I hope you are enjoying some Irish culture, either some music or food, maybe a film or black pint of Guinness. I'm getting ready to do the thing that reminds of Ireland the most: walking in the woods. Lucky for me, there are some mossy green woods right outside my back door. Slainte! 

Dunluce Castle, Antrim, Ireland

Bonamargy Friary, Ballycastle, Ireland

High Cross at Muckross Abbey, Ireland. Print for sale Here.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Irish Rover

Here is a new creation, on the shelf in my Etsy Shop, just in time for St. Patrick's Day. The Irish Rover journal is inspired by the culture and landscape of Ireland that I so love. The end pages are from a vintage volume of Irish Literature in Old Irish Text. The inside is lined with a marbled handmade paper and is adorned with three green vintage postage stamps: two from Ireland, one from Luxembourg. The journal is hand bound in a soft, smooth leather, a muted khaki green, evoking moss and lichens and weathered old tree trunks. Great for journey and dreaming. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Memories & Milestones

A recently completed book for a dear friend and her new baby boy. May they record many magical memories in this album and keep track of his firsts and favorites and all the wonders of childhood and motherhood.

embossed leather and brushed soft leather combination
Vintage Map End Leaves

Vintage Brass Button

Long Stitch with Hemp Thread

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Irish Relics

Well folks, March is here. Spring is in sight! Green will return soon (in fact, before this last snow I saw the daffodils peaking through). For me March is a magical beginning to spring and all the lovely things that we'd almost forgotten. Also, I love to celebrate Irish heritage, St. Patrick, and remember the times I've visited the Emerald Isle. My mom found these books, years back, in her attic. They belonged to a relative of mine at some point. And though they are quite tattered and moldy, they are curious treasures. They are volumes of Irish Literature published in 1904, edited by the one and only Lady Gregory. My favorite volume here has English on the right and old Irish Gaelic on the left. The end leaves are lovely with their harps and shamrocks and the other pages have harp watermarks. Rare treats to find in a forgotten corner or a dark, damp attic. So here is but day one of one of my favorite months. Gather your green!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Time for Tea

It is snowing again here in the Ozark Mountains, cold and still coming down. It has been snowing us in the last 3 weekends and we've been stuck at home and mostly indoors. We try to get out and enjoy the wonderland but the cold limits that time. So inside we've been drinking more tea than ever, especially since I just received a giant order of my favorite teas from across the pond.

It's been nearly a decade since I visited Bath, England, since I stopped in the Jane Austen Center, since I drank that first cuppa Winter Mix in The Regency Tea Room about the Center on a cold English January day. And even though it has been so long, the aroma and taste of that tea takes me back in memory with surprising clarity and immediacy. Scent memories are powerful magic. 

The tea that the Jane Austen Center serves if from Gillards of Bath and after tea that afternoon I found their booth in the Guildhall Market and bought a few bags to savor back at home. They've been selling tea since 1886 and they know what they are doing. The Winter Mix is a black tea peppered with orange peels, almond pieces, cloves, and petals of cornflower, sunflower, and hibiscus. I rationed that souvenir bag for some time before it dawned on me that they might sell their tea on the great wide web. And so they did. I've been ordering from them for 9 years now. 

I have tried many of their blends by now and haven't been disappointed once. I have to warn you, though, that for US customers the shipping is quite steep. I pay as much for shipping as I do for the tea.** That said, Gillards Teas are so reasonable that it is still quite affordable. And I find loose leaf tea a bit steep in my area. With shipping and all, it is still cheaper than anything one could find at the new/booming/overpriced Teavana. The more you order with Gillards, the better deal you get. If you order 8-10 bags of tea  (125 grams/4.5 ounces) they cost about $8.75 a bag, shipping included. (FYI Teavana is selling tea for $6 -10 for 2 ounces). Usually a couple of friends and I pool our orders to make a large order.

Gillards Tea comes beautifully packaged in bags that keep well. And if you'd like you can have them traditionally wrapped which makes a beautiful gift or treat for yourself. I usually opt for the cello bags because they keep the tea fresher. I reccommend the Winter Mix, of course. The Earl Grey is the best ever. The Jane Austen Blend is a great black tea and Chai is wonderful, too. I've also been pleased with smoky, mysterious Russian Caravan, the Apricot, Mint, Mrs. Woodward's Blend, Christmas Tea, and Summer Mix. All just fabulous. So gather your friends and make an order!

Worth every penny/pence.

**Gillards informed me that because many packages were getting lost in transit, they now deliver packages that require signatures, resulting in a higher shipping rate. They, too, wish they could offer less expensive shipping for international customers

Just a portion of my tea loot.

Traditional Flat Wrapped - Add a note during checkout if you'd like it.

An old photo of Gillards Tea in Bath, England

Where you'll find them now in the Guildhall Market
My first cup of  Winter Mix in the Regency Tea Room at the Jane Austen Center, Bath.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Cold Magic

I took a walk in the woods yesterday as the snow was still falling. Most of it had arrived over night. I left behind deep footfalls as I made my way into the white. A snowy forest is a quiet and still place and I could here the snow falling and after a while I began to notice the flakes sticking to my coat. It seemed a marvel that with my naked eye I could easily see each snow flake, crystalline and unique. They started out tiny but got bigger and I watched in wonder as each flake landed like a miracle. Soon, I laid out a blanket upon which to catch the flakes and began taking a flurry of photographs with no special equipment. These flakes were about the size of cupcake sprinkles and needed no magnification to see. What a gift, I thought, to be able to see such design in nature. Perhaps this isn't that unusual but I certainly have never seen snow such as this. I hope others in my neck of the woods noticed, too. It was some kind of magic to behold. Though winter and snow often feel like burdens, there are always reminders that it is truly a gift and with it comes the promise of spring, of green, and other magic soon to come. If only you take the time to look, to see.

Flakes on my dog, Derby's fur

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Puppy Love

Thursday, January 29, 2015


What has kept me busy of late has been painting these huge signs on the windows of Bootleggers Restaurant and Brewery in Aurora, Missouri. Last year, Bootleggers was closed due to a fire and now, under new ownership, it is set to re-open February 3rd.
For those of you who don't know, Bootleggers is a lovely restaurant in downtown Aurora. It is situated in an old building that dates back to the 1800s and once housed the Aurora Bank when Aurora was a bustling mining town. Many charming original features remain like the tellers' booth, the bank vault, old brick walls, and tin ceiling tiles. The old vault now houses the micro-brewery which will hopefully be up and running in the near future.
I'm very excited to see two young women entrepreneurs, Andrea and Tara, raising Bootleggers from the ashes. I think they have fantastic ideas about how to update the restaurant without losing the features and ambiance that make it one-of-a-kind. While standing outside Bootleggers painting, I got a small taste of how much the community misses the establishment. Many people stopped to ask about it or honked encouragingly as they drove by. It has been closed for nearly a year & its return is greatly anticipated. Hop over to their Facebook Page to stay updated and get a sneak peak. I wish them the best of luck!
The Sign from inside

Traveling Chariot Sale

Use coupon code GROUNDHOG now until February 3rd to get 30% off anything ofver $15. Let's usher in Spring with a treat. Visit Traveling Chariot Etsy Shop to browse my wares.

Oxford Oasis - 8x10 Photograph
Royal Wanderer- Traveler's Pocket Journal - Handbound Embossed Leather Journal
The Little Black Quill - with Small Quill Pen, Paper & Cedar Stand

The Shadow of Winter

Groundhog Day, February 2nd, is almost upon is and even though winter has not been harsh here in the Midwest, an early Spring is always welcome. New Englanders will probably be desperate for the arrival of Spring after their recent weather.
Traditionally, if the groundhog emerges from his burrow and it is cloudy, thus seeing no shadow, spring will come early. If it is sunny and the groundhog sees his shadow, he will retreat back into his burrow and winter will persist for six more weeks.
This tradition has trickled down from ancient times. February 1st is the Celtic Festival of Imbolc, which divides the winter from the spring and honors the Celtic Goddess of fire and fertility, Brigit or Brigid. She dispelled the dark of winter and was "mistress of fertility"* to the land, animals and women, too. Later this day would be Christianized into St. Birgit's Day, the patron saint of mothers, cattle, and poets. Imbolc marked time to begin sowing seeds for Spring and reading the signs of nature to forecast spring weather. "An exceptionally fine day was regarded as an omen of poor weather to come."** Seeing a hedgehog was a good sign, because he would always return to the burrow if he sensed the coming of bad weather.** Traditionally, ancient civilizations also trusted the Badger to impart this important prediction because they lived beneath the earth where Spring might already be afoot. If the badger saw his shadow, winter would linger on. This tradition came over to America with German settlers and became the Groundhog Day we know today, once with a little more veneration.*
So many nearly forgotten or over-commercialized traditions are deeply rooted in the past. There is so much history in the transformation of traditions, from a Celtic Festival to Punxsutawney Phil, and much can be learned about our ancestors who settled this country and the places they left behind.
*Dance of Time by Michael Judge
**A Year in Ireland by Kevin Danaher

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Winter Woodland

Here in the Midwest, Winter has not blanketed us in snow, even though all the persimmons seeds I opened were spoons foretelling a  wet snowy winter . Winter has frozen us and thawed us out, time and time again - a cyclical loop from a frigid 20 to a balmy 60. I really quite like it, this waltz between winter and spring. The simultaneous cold and wet did something marvelous where we normally have a wet weather stream. I was pleasantly surprised to come upon this frozen stream falling down our land. I could see water moving beneath the ice and sometimes could hear it moving in the cold silence. Woodland walks have been frequent, especially in the mild weather when the birds come out to frolic and gossip on the heavy cedar boughs, even cedar wax wings have stopped at the watering hole. It is an absurd spring day today at 65 but of course, we will freeze again soon.