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December 31, 2008

December 28, 2008

Beads In History (My Version) -Part I

Antique glass trade beads photo copyright 2008

Shreve (The Daily Coyote) Stockton talking  about making jewelry from Porcupine quills on her latest BlogTV video reminded me. I've been wanting to write/right my own take on Beads In History. 

In olden days before Europeans began landing in North America in droves, Native American beading women made beads from Porcupine quills. 

Just obtaining a Porcupine was an undertaking.  
Then removing, trimming, washing and dying the quills. 
Pricked sore fingers and aching muscles, so much tiring work even before beading could begin. (Let's not even get into cooking Porcupine.)

Then one day word began to spread that the Europeans had something new and amazing, long strings of glorious glass beads in many colors. 
No plucking, no pricking, no washing no dying. Straight to sewing and stringing.

There would be no peace at home until the crafty women had those beads.

Soon the ambitious Dutch, anxious to settle the island between 2 rivers, they called New Amsterdam, offered to buy the island from the local Native Americans for a cache of those prized European beads.

The Native American men knew they didn't own the land the Dutch wanted nor any other land. 
Believing land was for everyone's use. 
But they thought about returning home to their beading wives and mothers without the shiny glass beads and they wanted peace.

So shaking hands, they took the Dutchmen's beads and hurried off  leaving the smug settlers thinking they had just pulled off the real estate deal of the ages. 

History for true beaders.

Little Star learning to bead from her Grandmother
from my book, LITTLE STAR.  (note: They are Plains Indians,).

December 24, 2008

Warm Holiday Greetings

Whitebird imprint at Putnam.

Tomie told me I could do any tale I wanted as 
long as it wasn't Italian  ;-)  

In the traditional tale the child of ice and snow melts away
in spring then returns with winter. 

In my version, love and devotion are magically rewarded
at Christmas, inspired by Russian folk art.

Warmest holiday wishes to all!!

December 23, 2008

Snowcat Tizzy

One afternoon when Tizzy was still a baby and looking out over the city from the living room window, he began chirping. His pointy little kitten tail wagging excitedly.

He had never seen snow flakes before, but he recognized magic.     =^..^=

December 17, 2008

Folk Art Finds

These charming papier mache folk art ornaments are formed in Springerle cookie molds.  All made in Lancaster, PA.  Found at the Pennsylvania General Store at Reading Terminal Market Philadelphia, PA. They have edible Springerle cookies as well.

A few steps west of the Market on Arch St just past the new location of the AIA Bookstore I stumbled on The Fabric Workshop and Museum and  these charming Owl and The Pussycat topsy turvy dolls.  Flip the skirt up over the owl and the pussycat is revealed and visa versa. Hand silkscreened on cotton sateen, Liberty print fabrics and ribbons by artist Kiki Smith. 

December 14, 2008

Hooray For Hanukkah, Latkes!

This year Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, begins one week from tonight on December 21, 2008. 
The celebration lasts for eight days and commemorates
the rededication of the second Temple at the time of the ancient Maccabees. 

Here is my cover for Hooray for Hanukkah by Fran Manushkin, that I illustrated for Random House a few years ago. In this story the Menorah relates the holiday customs celebrated by the family as a new candle is lit each night until there are eight candles.
The publisher asked me to set the pictures in a city brownstone at the beginning of the 20th century which gave me a chance to illustrate some favorite decor and costumes.
When it came to depicting Latkes, special holiday potato pancakes, there was a humorous discrepancy between the latkes Cathy Goldsmith,  my editor, was familiar with and the latkes I drew in my sketches. My latkes looked like those I had been raised on. They were made from grated potatoes, eggs and matzoh meal which produced the delicious coarse crispy golden fried potato pancakes of my childhood. Her family latkes, on the other hand, as I recall, were made from a smoother potato mixture,  crisp on the outside but more rounded and softer inside. Our "dispute" ended in compromise and this taste-full memory.
LATKE RECIPE - (like my family makes)
(6-ish servings)

2 cups peeled and grated Idaho or Russet potatoes
1 small grated onion
3 beaten eggs
2 1/2 tablespoons of matzoh meal
 salt and pepper to taste
peanut oil

Put grated potatoes in a sieve over a bowl and push with the back of a wooden spoon to release as much moisture as you can.

Mix the potatoes, onion, eggs, matzoh meal together in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a large heavy bottom frying pan over medium heat until hot.

Place 4 heaping spoonfuls of potato mixture in the hot oil and flatten each to between 1/2 and 1/4 inch thickness. Brown on one side (about 4-5 minutes)  then use a spatula to turn and brown them on the other side.
Remove when done and drain on paper towels. Serve hot with sour crean , apple sauce or yoghurt.

To good to eat not only on Hanukkah, yum!

Read what Fran Manushkin, the Author, has to say about writing the book, HOORAY FOR HANUKKAH at for hanukkak.htm

December 7, 2008

Happy Birthday Mom

A jolly late morning gathering of (most of) the clan to wish our dear Mom, Grandmom and Mom in law a very happy day.

December 4, 2008

Lost & Found

When I was a child, most of the children's books I read came from the library. Though I remember many of these fondly , the few that I owned are emblazoned in my memory. I may not remember titles or author names, and certainly not publishers, but hours, days and months of poring over the illustrations etched many of them forever in my mind. 

When Jane Flory and I discussed our childhood books, there was one in particular that I always brought up. It had disappeared years before during one or the other of our numerous family moves up and down the east coast. I remembered only that my book had a yellow cover and contained several fairy tales, Cinderella, Rumplestiltskin and one or two others.

I was particularly enamoured of the 3 increasingly more beautiful dresses Cinderella wore to 3 balls. The first white, the next silver and the last one gold. I remembered the white had elegant ermine trim and the gold skirt billowing gracefully as Cinderella ran down the palace stairs. 

Occasionally over the years, I'd peruse the shelves of old kid's books in used bookstores in Philadelphia or New York but never stumbled on my old favorite.

As well as old books, Jane told stories from her art school days. Her classmates included artists Beth and Joe Krush, who in MY student days were teaching and illustrating books. Though as students theirs was a particularly talented class, as is usually the case, there was one other student they all mentioned with respect tinged with a touch of envy. Catharine Barnes' early talents and personal style set her above the rest. She also had a wealthy Uncle who took her on a European trip during the great depression. Right out of art school, Ms. Barnes had gone to New York finding immediate success not only illustrating books but taking the fashion and advertising world by storm as well. 

When I finally got a computer (with Jane's help) and began to learn about search engines, I began looking for my old fairytale book. Quite a challenge without an author name, title or publisher. All I knew was Cinderella and Rumplestiltskin and it would have been published in the late 40's or early 50's. I tried Powell's and the other out of print and used bookstores with no luck. There must be a ka-billion books of Cinderella and Rumplestiltskin since WWII.

I never got to show Jane my favorite old book because after 40 years of friendship sadly she passed away in November 2005. A month later, I was once again fooling around googling with a combination of my pathetic clues.  This time I included words like "ermine trim on Cinderella's dress".  Suddenly I had a hit on a website specialising in helping nutty middle aged people find their long lost old books from hardly any clues.
There it was - title: Let's Pretend, author: Nila Mack, illustrator: Catharine Barnes!!
With Jane gone, I called Beth and Joe Krush. Joe answered and after I told him the whole story. He assured me this was most likely their same Catharine Barnes and then suggested that I call her and ask for myself! Call her?

While my mind was exploding, Joe went off to get her phone number and address. Not only was Catharine Barnes alive, she was living right across the river in New Jersey and Joe had seen her fairly recently at a function at the old alma mater and he was giving me her address and phone number.

I decided to write Ms. Barnes a letter. She was convalescing and living with her sister. It was helpful to introduce myself as a book author and illustrator, a long time friend and colleague of Jane and the Krushes and a fan since childhood, of her Let's Pretend art work. I also invited the ladies to lunch or tea and sent a copy of my latest book.

In the meantime, unbelievably, there was a copy of Let's Pretend  for sale on Ebay. I followed it for days finally
placing what I was sure would be a way more than adequate offer. But somehow in the very last seconds I lost the auction. 

A letter came from Ms. Barnes sister. They had been delighted to hear from me. They invited me for lunch and naturally I accepted. Too bad, I didn't win the book. I wanted so much to have it for her to sign.

Though I no longer recall all the details here's the gist of what happened next.
My brother Ted showed up with a copy of Let's Pretend. When I lost the auction, he was the first one I told. Somehow,  he had managed to contact the winner. Turns out she had 2 copies of the book and heaven only knows what it cost him but he wanted me to have the book so he got it. Ted can be relentless, bless him. There are not words. 

I spent a delightful afternoon with Catharine and her sister Ginny. Though we had not met before, we were like old friends because of our mutual chums, art school and professional experiences. Catharine's version of her old school stories and her exciting glamorous artist's life in New York in the old days were fascinating and often humorous. We compared notes.
I brought her some of my books, some done with Jane and Catharine Barnes signed my Let's Pretend book. 

I can't help feeling my old friend Jane's fine hand in this tale. She could be pretty sneaky. Bidding a last farewell with a wink and a smile. 

December 1, 2008

Delightful Legacy

Is there anyone who sees Robert Dodd's marvelous celluloid rings that doesn't want to own one.....or two.....or more? 

Each ring painstakingly fashioned from 20-150 pieces of rare antique celluloid. Shaped by heat and the pieces bonded with acetone.

Sadly, my friend Alice M. at The Carrot Box reports that Robert Dodd passed away November 25 at 91 years of age.

I hope his family will take comfort knowing that his small works of perfection will continue to delight and his legacy continues.

See more of Robert Dodd's marvelous rings  at