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All posts for the month June, 2010

Dover Castle

Published June 17, 2010 by Kat

European history isn’t very strong in American public schools. I remember only one year dedicated to it–9th grade–and that year was spent mostly on 20th century happenings, particularly the Russian revolution and The Age of Anxiety. I honestly can’t remember hearing a thing about William the Conqueror in public school, ever.

Thus, it probably comes as no particular surprise that the charm and allure of Britain’s medieval past was lost on me for a long time. Then I discovered the Iron Age and bog bodies, which still fascinate me. Then I had some fun dabbling in Saxon costuming. Then I read Lord of the Rings and Beowulf, and “got” the allure of the Saxon mead-halls and chivalry.

And then, last night, we watched the Time Team special about Dover Castle and its interior restoration. And oooooh, the beauty and the drama of all those hangings, all those embroidered tapestries, the painted furniture, the gold and silver-work. Suddenly, I’m beginning to feel some love for the Norman.

You can see some video of the restored rooms in Dover Castle here. Click the Great Tower link, and then the Virtual Tour link. It’s pretty fabulous.

Victorian summer cottage

Published June 11, 2010 by Kat

Somewhere Up North there is a neighborhood of Victorian summer cottages. It is nestled next to a large body of water, maybe a Great Lake, maybe the Atlantic. The cottages sit on the slope like seashells, encrusted with gingerbread and painted dainty pastel colors. They are surrounded by fast-growing perennials to take advantage of the short but blissful summer up there–lupins, hostas, bleeding heart. Each house has a name painted on a plaque on the front door, or on the front gate. One of these houses is yours.

None of the houses are meant for year-round occupation, so they aren’t insulated. Inside you can see the studs of the walls, and between the studs, boards. You can see the ceiling trestles. Maybe you can see through cracks in the floor. The cottage is full of french doors that let you rush out onto the wide double-decker porches, full of transoms that connect the rooms, full of wooden slat shutters for pretend-privacy. This isn’t a house that holds you tight and shelters you, it’s a summer house that leaves you as delightfully exposed to the elements as your light summer underwear. It is a house for people who are craving sunshine and air.

Inside, the walls are painted creamy white, the walls are painted soft sage green, the walls are painted cheerful yellow. Inside is wicker and iron furniture with cushions that won’t be damaged by the cold, unoccupied months. Inside are ceiling fans, always gently turning, turning, turning. Inside are tinny fairy lights and laughter, punched-tin pie safes, blue canning jars full of precious summer produce, and worn quilts made in the Orange Slice pattern, the Wedding Ring pattern, appliqued with flowers–quilts that someone patient and quiet sewed her quiet patience into a long, long time ago. Inside, a claw-foot tub is nestled under a steep eave, in a room with an old nail for a latch.

Outside are the huge porches, ten feet or twelve deep. They have floors and ceilings painted in soft aquarium shades, aqua, faded turquoise, celadon. They have more wicker and iron furniture with more impervious cushions. They give a sense of optional enclosure with the wrong-side of the white gingerbread, with columns, and with (rusty) ceiling fans and (bug-filled) light fixtures. On these porches ladies languidly wilt in the afternoon, and mint juleps and lemonade are served on the hour. Young people in wet swimming costumes rush through these porches, but the adults live their summers there, sipping cold drinks and talking to other summer residents passing by.

The houses have lots of visitors, relatives and friends who finally managed to make it all the way up here, and who are taking a day-trip to this island and a hike along this part of the distant woods and an afternoon excursion into town to buy fudge and tchotchkes. Perhaps the visitors say they wish that they could have a darling summer cottage just the same. Perhaps they’re really glad they can just visit. Or perhaps they really wish they had the time.

More packing love

Published June 2, 2010 by Kat

The new Vera Bradley things have arrived, and I have already sold off enough old stuff to defray the cost of them, woohoo! The Bali Gold pattern is delicious–it’s very loud, and reminds me of hot days, sultry nights, and the hot colors favored by some of the world’s most exciting destinations. I absolutely love it all.

I’m checking in so that I can publish some info about two items that isn’t on the Vera Bradley website.

First, the Knot Just A Clutch is great. It is much larger than I expected, and certainly has the capacity of the Maggie purse, if not more. There would have been no problem fitting a full-size wallet into it, along with sunglasses, keys, and lipstick. The strap is not removable (it can just be tucked inside the purse, when you want to carry it as a clutch) and seems shorter than 35″. When I wear it over my shoulder, the purse is at ribcage-level, just right to clutch it against me in a crowd.

Second, the redesigned Hanging Organizer has won me over. Previously I had complained that the top pocket is no longer see-through. What they aren’t telling you is that it contains a lot of smaller pockets, which will be great for sorting out makeup. With the zipper undone, this pocket will probably gape open a little bit, providing visual access to the contents.

And that new, deep bottom pocket? Total love. It’s lined in waterproof material.

I also bought three Bali Gold napkins off of eBay. I am going to sew them up into simple drawstring bags, to use for shoes and lingerie.

My old Riviera Blue Weekender bag sold, and went out in the mail today. I will admit… it hurt my heart a little to let it go. It’s so adorable. Unfortunately, it really is very small, and I always had to pack other bags. My new Large Duffel looks super roomy; I think it will hold a whole week’s worth of clothes and toiletries, and a spare pair of shoes to boot.