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Feminine ways

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a pretty little bouquet of wildflowers on fireflys dinning room tableLast week I met my sister-in-law in one of the nearby villages to have an afternoon tea and listen to a lady speak about "vanity" collectibles; the presentation was called, "Vanity Fair". The flyer we read that led us to the tea described the woman as an antique collector of women's vanity items such as perfume, powder puffs, and compacts. My sister-in-law wanted to go and I wanted to spend time with her, so I agreed. I have to say though that, for me, spending an afternoon hearing about antique powder puffs and compacts was not exactly my cup of tea--uh, excuse me, no pun intended. You see, I grew up as a tomboy, and still have quite a lot of my tomboy traits still intact. When I was a kid I was an accomplished tree climber above all other talents ... if there was a tree, I was up it. I loved playing army with my brothers and their friends but felt squeamish and awkward whenever I was invited to play Barbie with some of the girls my age. I had a few dolls, mostly baby dolls, and I loved them. I even had a doll carriage when I really little and love doll carriages to this day. I enjoyed a little doll named Penny I had for a while. She was more of a homemaker doll than a freakishly proportioned high fashion model, so she appealed to me where Barbie did not. One Christmas Santa brought me a little kitchenette for my Penny doll, and that was pretty cool--I loved the chairs best of all for some reason. There was also a little doll called Hi Hiedi. She had a little button on her belly and when you pushed it in she would raise her hand as if to say, "Hi". She was cool. So yes, I had dolls and I played with them a bit but I had a real problem with the the whole Barbie concept for whatever peculiar reason. I never even had my own Barbie doll, so you know it was never on a wish list in my mind. The kittens find Blu to be quite a curiosity as he eats strange things and hurls right afterwardsThe worst part was when one of the girls wanted Ken and Barbie to kiss, and she'd make me hold the Ken doll while she held the Barbie and closed her eyes and made the kissing noise for them. To this day I still have the picture burned into my mind of her round face, closed eyes, and puckered up mouth as she made a slobbery kissing noise. I probably can't get rid of it because I violated her privacy so badly by peeking even she told me not to look ... yes, because the other thing I remember about that moment is feeling very badly that I saw something that would certainly embarrass her if she knew. She looked really stupid and I felt bad for having witnessed it. I was a compassionate tomboy, you see even if a bit naughty. As for afternoon tea, the first time I ever went to an afternoon tea was many years ago with my one very dear "girl" friend. When I was younger I enjoyed the company and camaraderie of men much more than that of girls or women. Please don't start throwing things at me or clicking away from my post ... most of my readers are women and I love you all. I am an evolved tomboy now with a decidedly feminine side that I thoroughly appreciate and enjoy. So all these years ago my dear friend asked me to go with her to Rose Tree Cottage in Pasadena to have a proper English Tea. I've always been fond of drinking tea, so having tea served in the afternoon with scones, coddled milk (which I had never heard of before then) and jam sounded scrumptious. Oh, and it was scrumptious. Those ladies really do know how to serve tea. The only problem for me was that all of the other women customers were so ladylike and dainty looking in their hats and gloves and perfect little dresses. I was wearing a dress, but I had on cowboy boots underneath it. I was worried I might suddenly cuss or something (not that I was real big into cussing, but in a stressful setting like that I was worried my inner cowboy/sailor might pop out and cause me to do something very out of place). Sweet little Yin sits in a stone planter on fireflys porchWell, that was all a very long time ago and the truth of the matter is that now I love going to afternoon tea. It is a lovely experience and it is feminine. Somehow over the years I have mellowed into a comfortable mix of softened up tomboy and feminine woman. Perhaps motherhood did that to me, I don't know. Certainly any of the experiences I have had in life (and lived through) that brushed and scalded and broke away my rough and hard edges have certainly added to my femininity. Whereas that first, proper afternoon tea caused me quite a lot of anxiety and discomfort now a proper afternoon tea is soothing, relaxing, and refreshing. Ironically, the week before I left Los Angeles with my husband to get married and move here to the farm, my sister gave me a bridal shower that was an afternoon tea, my best friend took me out to her favorite place for an afternoon tea, and the lady I was renting a room from took me out to the Huntington Museum in Pasadena for ... an afternoon tea. Tea, tea, tea. It was great. In fact, I was downright girlie that entire week leading up to "him". Now I love tea cups and tea pots and flowers and, well I just love lots of feminine things. I hope I never lose my tomboy edge, but I have come to accept and enjoy the fact that I am, after all, a "girl". And I honestly believe it is the art, beauty, and gentle effect of tea that has helped lead me down that particular path in my life. It is a good path that I have enjoyed following so far and have discovered some pleasant things along the way. Three new hand knit bags by fireflyAs for the afternoon tea learning about antique ladies' vanity items ... turns out it was quite interesting and I enjoyed it quite well. The lady speaker brought along a beautiful collection of vanity items (mostly antique compacts) from the 1920's. She arranged everything very scrumptiously on a large table with plenty of props (including an actual 1920's flapper dress and hat) to bring the subject to life. It was her first time making a presentation and she admitted privately afterwards that she was not confident whether or not she had done very well. We told her she had been great and seemed to be a natural. I was amazed to learn that compacts were such a big thing back then and that in fact many of them were designed by highly educated, manly engineers. Isn't that something. The tea and desserts served along with it were wonderful as well -- chocolate chip cupcakes with a graham cracker crust and soft meringue topping, strawberry sorbet, and a sliver jelly tart. My husband was away in Manhattan at a trade show that day, and I loved spending the afternoon with his sister. It was the kind of afternoon I could imagine spending with so many of my treasured readers ... not all at once mind you, but you get the idea. Bosc Pears from Local Farm Market original oil painting by J L FleckensteinBy the way, I am conducting an online survey on behalf of a client of mine -- my best client, really. He has faithfully continued to utilize my services for writing, web design and maintenance, etc. for three years now. It's funny, we have never met face-to-face but I work for him all the time and have known him longer than I have known my husband. At any rate, if you would be willing to participate in the survey I would really appreciate it. [The survey is complete now, winner to be announced shortly.] I'm going to hold a drawing of those who do take the survey and the winner will receive a beautiful print of my latest painting, "Bosc Pears from Local Farm Market". The print is inkjet on 100% cotton canvas, 8" x 10" (approximately) and ready for framing. It will be signed and numbered, and is print #10 out of a limited edition of 100. Ideally, I would like to have men and women take the survey ... so if you have a husband, brother, father, etc. who would be willing to do it they will be entered to win the print as well. It should only take a few minutes to complete, and none of the email addresses will be kept for anything other than holding the drawing and notifying the winner ... I promise. Also in a photograph up above you will see three hand knit bags I just finished earlier in the week. They are knit from a fingering weight linen yarn in a pretty blue about the color of the ocean and a nice spring green. The two colors look beautiful together, so much so that I plan to make myself a sweater sometime in the months ahead of the same yarn in those same colors. After I finish publishing the Christmas Stocking patterns (available within a week or so in my Etsy store) I'll publish the pattern for these little bags. Oh, and these bags are called "Jammies" because they are made for jam and jelly jars, or larger vegetable canning jars. The next round of photos will show them with the jars inside them. They look beautiful that way because of the lace pattern and how the filled jars look peaking through. They are a perfect summer project and lovely gift idea, which I think people are going to enjoy. Off to other adventures now, and hoping your adventures today are pleasant! ~firefly

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