Sunday, January 29, 2012

Tea in my home
         Visiting Pleasant Hill Farm

   Before the Spencerian Saga, Tasha visited our farm. What a special moment for me who has loved her art since childhood. I remember standing on the stool in the children's section, pulling out books, seeking those with her illustrations. I wanted to dress and live like the children in her books.

My husband, John picked Tasha up at Carol Lueck's house and drove Tasha to the farm. On their way, they passed a beekeeper's home and his sign for beeswax. John told Tasha that we bought our wax from the Conners, so they stopped and she was thrilled to select a heavy round of clean wax that we later mailed to her home. Tasha enjoyed her ride past orchards and vineyards. Once she reached the farm, she toured my gardens, and met our goats and fowl. We also walked on Lake Michigan's beach and watched the waves.

Because it was still canning season, I had left a basket of pears on our porch. Their scent filled the air and mingled with the fragrance of a sweet autumn clematis. Tasha loved fruit and commented on those tasty looking pears, so of course we sliced some up and reveled in their sweetness. Sometimes I think of Tasha when I see fill mason jars with pears, or pass a bowl of pears ripening in my kitchen. I am thankful for the moments I shared with Tasha and the memories that grow sweeter each year.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sodas at Corgi Cottage
                      CHOCOLATE SODAS

Tasha loved chocolate and often commented that she needed some "sweeties" to stimulate her creativity. I agree! The Spencerian Saga took place during September, one of those lovely, golden weeks before the seasons turn. One afternoon, our group visited the collection of Spencer's artwork at the Ashtabula Library and we also viewed Mr. Spencer's former home.

Tasha, Carol and I rode in a new friend's car and on the way back to our lodgings, I pointed out that it was the first day of Fall.

"We should celebrate!" Tasha said.

"Why don't we go out for ice cream?" I said.

The day was warm, and ice cream sounded perfect to everyone else. And thankfully, about that time we spied an ice cream shop and Bill pulled in his car. We trooped in. During our discussion about what to order from the numerous choices, we realized that we all loved chocolate sodas.

So the five of us sat down at the old fashion soda counter. We slurped the cold chocolate through straws and spooned the ice cream. It was one of the best sodas I have ever consumed.

In this photo, Tasha decided it was time for chocolate sodas at Corgi Cottage and she whipped up a fantastic treat.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Enjoying a free moment at the Saga


            While driving to Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio, to attend the Spencerian Saga, Tasha asked Carol and me to not reveal her identity.

            “I just want to blend in and be myself,” she said. “I want to enjoy this time with you and the other students.”

            I was still amazed that despite my limited farm income, that I was attending the Saga with her. Tasha had offered to pay my way and had suggested that perhaps I could repay her by quilting the top she had pieced. But while John and I were discussing the situation, God provided another means. A woman who had ordered a wall quilt changed her mind and asked me to make her a full-sized bed quilt. The payment for her quilt sent me to the Saga.

            Of course, Carol and I agreed to remain silent and allow Tasha the freedom to be herself. After we arrived at the Saga, Tasha conveniently forgot her name tag, and when we ate dinner with the other attendees, Tasha demurely answered their questions.

            “Oh, I like to draw and sometimes write stories. I’m just an old woman having fun. Now tell me about yourself?” she said, transferring the attention.

            Tasha managed her ruse until Wednesday, when one man noticed her doodling on her paper. She had illustrated sections of her worksheet with birds, flowers and a squirrel.

            “You must be Tasha Tudor,” he said. “My daughter adores your books. We love your artwork.”

            “Yes, I am Tasha Tudor,” she said and handed the man her sheet of paper.

            That afternoon, most of the students raided the local bookstore, and graciously Tasha signed numerous copies of her books. Yet, I realized that by the time fame found her, Tasha had gained what she wanted. Everyone had come to know her as a witty and talented person who loving shared her gifts with friends.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tasha at the Saga in her 1880's gown
On one of my first visits to Corgi Cottage, I sifted through what I call, the creative clutter on Tasha's long work table and found two books on how to learn the Copperplate script. For over a year, I had wanted to learn Spencerian Script and had searched for a the correct type of steel pointed pen. Tasha revealed that she, too, wanted to learn this 19th century form of penmanship. Both of us had resolved to improve our handwriting!

That month, Victoria Magazine had featured an article about Michael Sull and his workshop called The Spencerian Saga. Tasha, Carol Lueck who was also visiting, and I discussed the article and how we would love to attend the saga.

"Let's all go together!" Tasha exclaimed in her enthusiastic way.

Carol and I agreed to think about it, and on our return trip home, we found a Spencerian Calligraphy kit in an art store, just like the one I had discoverd before heading out to Vermont. Ah, we thought, a sign that we should register for the Saga! We sent Tasha the kit so that she could begin her studies, and we mailed off our applications for a week that turned into one long slumber party with Tasha........

Monday, January 23, 2012

Rose Petals

While rubbing Crabtree and Evelyn's rose scented cream into my hands, I sniffed, realizing that this was the same lotion that graced Tasha's skin. Friends gave her boxes of Crabtree and Evelyn products, and whenever I see that name, I think of Tasha who prefered natural fragrances. Once she gave me a bottle of Tea Rose perfume, saying that it reminded her of the roses that filled her garden with their heady scent. We both loved old roses and over tea, would discuss various ways to take cuttings or we shared stories of "rescuing roses" from abandoned homesites and old cemetaries. And of course, we were both blessed to have slips given to us by friends.

I loved the Cecile Bruner rose that climbed in her green house, sending out sprays of delicate pink. Despite the snowflakes fluttering against the glass roof, we gathered roses that Tasha floated in small pink luster bowls or she decorated a cake with the shimmering petals. No matter what season swirled around Corgi Cottage, Tasha tucked flowers into corners. Primroses lined the wintery kitchen windowsill while camillas glowed from a large Canton china basin. I suppose Tasha's New England spirit discovered these small ways to battle the winter with beauty and fragrance.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

swans and artists

One evening, Tasha and I watched Jane Eyre with Marjorie Tudor, enjoying the film's costumes, the gardens, manor house and the richness of the English traditions. We dined on bowls of Tasha's vegetable soup, nibbled fresh bread, and sipped our tea. As a farm wife, my life is limited by the rhythm of the seasons and I have never been to England. After the film ended, I said, "Once in my life, I wish I could experience living like that..."

Tasha smiled and told us: Many years ago when she was studying art in England, a Lord invited her to for a weekend at his castle, a fairytale place surrounded by a moat and floating swans. Upon her arrival, Tasha was given a maid to take care of her, and at the dinner table, a footman stood behind her, to move her chair and take care of her. The Lord had invited other artists, and they spent the afternoons in a studio-like room, painting and talking about the creative process.

I sighed. "How enchanting, I wish I could have been a mouse in the corner, watching the events."

"It was fun," Tasha said. "But I would rather be here with you, eating homemade soup, chatting in Corgi Cottage."

I've never forgotten that compliment that also illustrated how Tasha valued simple moments shared with friends.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sunshine and Canaries

Today's sunshine and fresh snow reminded me of the times I visited Tasha Tudor at Corgi Cottage. Canaries and the chorus of the other birds, parrots, diamond doves, floated upstairs to where I slept in her canopy bed, covered with a lace spread. I really didn't want to leave the comfort of the feather bed, but I also wanted to be a helpful guest. Because I kept goats, chickens, oxen and sheep, I wanted to assist with chores or at least throw more wood on the fire. So I hopped out of bed, threw on my dress, patterned from one that Tasha gave me, and added an extra petticoat.

Of course, Tasha was already up, milking her goats and the oatmeal was simmering. We always ate near her fireplace, so I set the small tray that served as a table. Sometimes Tasha would ask me to feed her canaries, other times I hauled in wood, one of those never-ending jobs that also tracks in sawdust and wood chips. Hense a good sweeping follows a filling of the wood box.

And soon Tasha and I shared breakfast, hot oatmeal and brown sugar, and steaming cups of tea. She liked her with warm milk, but I prefered mine black. Sometimes we made plans to go to town, or to search her trunks for a certain piece of clothing so I could make a pattern. Compared to my life at that time where every weekday I jumped into home schooling my sons, visiting Tasha offered me a delicious calm, filled with her wisdom and laughter.