Tasha Tudor, the beloved children's book illustrator, was born Starling Burgess in 1915. For her, that was almost 100 years too late. Living in New York City until she was nine, she moved to her aunts in rural Pennsylvania after her parents divorced. The freedom of country life agreed with her and her desire to live an 1830s lifestyle began to grow.
While in Redding, she met and married Thomas McCready. He helped her to fulfill her dream when they purchased a 17 room house on 450 acres without running water or electricity. There, her four children were born and Tasha's creativity blossomed as she began to write and illustrate her own stories.
She often drew pictures of her children, dressed in period clothing. Her daughter Bethany recalls feeling like they were living some of the wonderful fairy tales and stories their mother read to them. She also enveloped them into her world of fantasy, passing on her love of acting and playing with dolls. They devised many activities for the dolls, holding fairs and parties and making miniature Christmas presents.
They even sent letters and parcels through their own special mail service called the "Sparrow Post" All of this served as inspirations for Tasha's drawings.
During this time, her husband encouraged her to publish her first book... PUMPKIN MOONSHINE. Fifty years later it was still in print.
Because of the success of her books, Tasha was able to realize her dream of living in Vermont. In the 1970s her son Seth built her a home modeled after a nineteenth century farmhouse, using only hand tools in the construction. With her beloved Corgis for company she tended her beautiful garden, continued to draw and lived happily in a time and space of her own making. She was legendary for her pies.
According to Richard Brown, an editor at Biblio, "It was a magical place, east of Vermont and west of New Hampshire, caught in the year 1830. A handful of floppy eared goats grazed in the barnyard, doves strutted and preened along the roof ridge and a brightly colored flock of chickens wandered about."
Watch the video below and enjoy her amazing garden. The narration is in Japanese (the only copy I could find) but you will get to hear Tasha speak.
Tasha Tudor wrote and illustrated over 100 children's books, leaving a legacy in art of a much, much gentler time. I sat with her one afternoon when she came to speak to a group of women. She was not only delightful but very funny and a savvy business women. She told us that when she finds small birds and animals that are dead she puts them in her freezer. Thawing them a little, they make excellent models. She laughed when she recalled her refrigerator repair man's shock as he opened her deep freeze.
Later we sat in the garden and I watched her sketch. She drew two adorable rabbits lying on their tummy's with their noses touching. She sold it to my friend for $250.00 I will always treasure that afternoon, it was "magic."
Tasha passed away in 2006 at the age of 92. Here are some of my favorite pieces of her work...
I loved Ireland...the endless GREEN countryside and the miles and miles of rock walls. The music, the dancing, the Irish lace curtains and the gypsies that kept sneaking into our Shelbourne hotel... it was magical.
This version of "The Cup Song" with a young girl singing in Gaelic brought back lots of memories. I taught this game to the sixth grade girls at our school. They nearly drove their teachers crazy before the year was out.
One day I was sitting in the faculty room during lunch when suddenly we heard clapping and stamping coming through the wall that connected us to the girls bathroom. The teachers were shocked... "what on earth is that noise?" I quietly got up to leave and smiled ... "Beats me."
Imagine living in a world where everyone knows the rules
and you can count on the person to the left of you
I love these paintings by Beth Carver. They make me want to join them for the afternoon. They are surely, the best of friends. I imagine they've thrown caution to the wind, not giving the fat nor the calories in that ice cream a second thought. What's the saying... "Life's short, eat dessert first."
I grew up in a house with six brothers. My first experience with a real girlfriend was my oldest sister in law. I was only five and she was 20 when she married my brother but I vividly remember that she adored me. She would talk about "girly" things with me and once when I was about seven she gave me a little bracelet with eight tiny lipsticks attached. They were real... real lipstick. I was beyond mesmerized.
Over the past 60 years she has always been a
soft place to land. What a wonderful woman.
Why does it take some of us so long to figure
it out? Jeanne and one of her granddaughters
My daughters and daughter in laws
The year I got divorced I made an amazing friend. She was also going through a divorce and we had an immediate connection. When a divorce happens it quickly becomes obvious that friends and family get worn out. They just want you to be happy again! I was lucky to have this friend. We talked for hours, for months, for years. We cried, we agonized, we went over and over the details. We got each other through the worst of it. And through all of that we laughed and laughed and went to lunch and the movies and laughed some more. She was the closest thing I have ever had to a sister.
Then one day, out of the blue, she did a 180 on me. She would not explain why, she said she couldn't talk about it. I apologized many times for whatever I had done, but there was no turning back. The friendship was over... she walked.
OUCH... all I could do was just keep moving. It took a while to recover but in that process I learned a couple of things about being a better friend.
First, I allow my friends to move in and out of my life freely. Just because I don't see them everyday doesn't mean we're not still friends. I am not "needy" and I don't cling to any of them. I'm my own BFF. If no one is available I am comfortable going to the movies alone, to lunch, even shopping... its all good. I have lots of friends and family and I enjoy them but I allow them the same freedom that I value.
The second thing I learned was to be a better version of myself. I had to honestly look myself in the mirror and see if I liked what I saw. There were a few rough edges. I am fairly quick witted and I love to laugh but I have worked very hard to make sure that what comes out of my mouth does not hurt someone else. I am definitely more patient and then there is... FORGIVENESS. I have finally, finally come to understand that I should forgive others quickly and freely not just for them but because I can't keep carrying it around... its too heavy.
Am I perfect? Absolutely not... I am a work in progress. I love this quote by George Elliott. It speaks to the kind of friend I would like to become...
"Oh the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away."
I have been blessed, in this life, to know some pretty remarkable women... Tonya is one of them. When I started this series "Women of a Certain Age" she immediately came to mind. We have known each other for more than 20 years but as I visited with her I was shocked at all I didn't know. I can more clearly see, not only, how she became a master gardener but how she has connected with the earth in such a way that everything she touches blooms.
With Tonya's permission I will tell her story...
Tonya's Guest House
At a very, very young age, Tonya's mother abandoned the family. Her father, overwhelmed by his circumstances put her and her two brothers into the foster care system. It fully lived up to its reputation. They remained in that situation until Tonya was four years old. Then one day she and her brothers were whisked away and placed for adoption.
She recalls being shown her room for the very first time. Not only was there a bed just for her, but a beautiful dresser filled with clothes she could call her own. To this day she loves the smell of the wood and cedar in a dresser drawer.
Then... her adopted parents divorced and once again her life turned upside down. She remained with her father but life was extremely difficult and harsh. She recalls wishing for "normal"
Tonya's one soft place to land was her Grandma Irene. This good woman taught her to garden and to love the earth and Tonya found peace and solace digging in the dirt. She even mowed lawns with a push lawnmover for 25 cents just so she could smell the grass. Gardening saved her soul and became her passion. Tonya's Herb Barn
Moving to the country, Tonya has transformed her backyard, quite literally, into a botanical utopia. Around the Guest Cottage, the Herb Barn, and of course her Shop there are masses of blooms. As a master gardener, she knows every flower, herb, tree and weed under her care.
Guests come to dine under the arbor and many a lucky bride and groom have celebrated their special day in her "little piece of heaven"
She teaches gardening and herb classes, raises chickens and has just acquired some darling goats. Well known for her "tussie mussies" and her flavored oils she is "famous" for her Lemon Thyme cookies.
All that Tonya missed as a child she created as a adult. Encouraged by a loving husband and six lucky children she has transformed harshness into tranquility, loneliness into beauty and neglect into a gentle, forgiving nature.
"Standing in her garden feels like coming home"
Join us Thursday and I will tell you about Tonya's adventures in raising chickens and share her famous recipe for...
Holocaust survivor, concert pianist and remarkable woman
Alice and her twin Marina were born in Prague in 1903. Her father was a prosperous businessman. Her mother, a well educated woman, moved in the city’s shimmering artistic circles often playing host to Europe's prominent writers, philosophers and musicians. Alice and her siblings were exposed to the "great talents" at a very young age.
Irma, her older sister, taught little Alice to play the piano when she was only five. At 16 she began serious study at the Prague German Conservatory of Music and by her late teens she was wowing audiences with her concerts.
She married Leopold Sommer in 1931 and together they had a son they called Raphael. Alice filled his life with music and he would later become a renowned cellist.
Aware that the Nazis were headed in their direction most of their family and friends fled to Palestine. Alice and her husband stayed behind to care for her invalid mother. She said... "The lowest point in my life was escorting my mother to the deportation center in Prague." It was at this sad time that she began to work on Chopin's Etudes.. a set of 27 solo pieces that are some of the most technically demanding and emotionally impassioned works in piano repertory. This music would quite literally save her life and the life of her son.
Then in 1943 the Nazi's came for her family. The three of them were sent to Terezin, a concentration camp that was promoted by the Nazis as a model institution. Many of the prisoners there were Czechoslovakia's foremost figures in the performing arts.
“It was propaganda,” she later remarked.
Nonetheless the sustaining power of music was real. She performed in more than 100 concerts for the prisoners and the guards. In her words...
"We had to play because the Red Cross came three times a year. The Germans wanted to show its representatives that the situation of the Jews in Theresienstadt was good. Whenever I knew that I had a concert, I was happy. Music is magic. We performed in the council hall before an audience of 150 old, hopeless, sick and hungry people. They lived for the music. It was like food to them. If they hadn’t come to hear us, they would have died long before, as we would have."
Alice's husband was sent to Auschwitz and died from typhus a short time later. When a guard approached her and told her not to worry, that because she played so beautifully she and her son would never be taken away, she realized that her music, quite literally, was going to save their lives.
After the war, Alice and Raphael emigrated to Israel to reunite with family. She taught for 40 years at the Jerusalem Academy of Music until her final move to London. Her son Raphael, an accomplished cellist died suddenly at the age of 64 from an aneurysm. Once again music sustained her. Friends recall that they knew she was going to be fine when she began to practice again.
For Alice, music was her passion, her life, her love. But it is only a piece of what has been a remarkable life. She refuses to HATE anyone... only LOVE. She even goes so far as to express gratitude for the experiences she had in the camps... it shaped her life.
One of the most memorable things about Alice is her smile and her laughter. She lifts everyone around her. The people in her London neighborhood and specifically her apt building count themselves lucky that they get to listen to her beautiful music everyday.
"They know when it is 10:00 AM because that's when I begin to practice."
Throughout her years in Theresienstadt, the loss of her mother and husband, the hunger, the cold and the death... AliceHerz Sommer was sustained by a Polish man who had died long before. His name was Frederic Chopin.
Known as the oldest Holocaust surviver, Alice passed away peacefully last Sunday at 110 years of age. She leaves behind an extraordinary legacy of talent, passion, love, forgiveness and... laughter. A truly remarkable woman.
This is the trailer from the documentary "The Lady in Number 6"
Maybe I've been living under a rock but I have never heard that phrase until last week. There was a woman on twitter who was very upset that someone would say this. I understand that "mutton" is probably not a very flattering term, but I had a very different reaction...
I laughed so hard I had to pull my car over to the side of the road. It brought up all kinds of images, some that I have seen first hand...like when I complimented a friend on her gorgeous legs and angles and the next thing I know she shows up at work in a low cut mini dress and very tight leggings. Doesn't sound too bad except her torso is at least a size xxl. Oh my... no one was looking at her ankles.
images from pinterest
We are all different in personality, size and opinions and we can certainly make our own choices. From my perspective... I don't think aging means we have to give up anything, we can just "tweak" it a little.
I remember in college discovering that lingerie came in colors. I owned a lavender bra... it made me feel so feminine. I still love colored underwear but I can't always find it in the fit I need. I opt for camisoles and slips in every color available. It still makes me feel "jeune femme".
Here is a dress that I absolutely adore. If I bought it in my size I would be a spectacle. It is too short and all the shirring around the middle would accentuate my torso... since I'm a "tomato on toothpicks" I wouldn't want that.
But I love the colors and the print. If it was a flowing skirt, paired with a little jacket or sweater I could pull it off.
Same beautiful print, same gorgeous colors just modified for my age and figure.
Even though I could not buy any of these beautiful clothes right off the rack, with a few adjustments I could wear "my version" of them all. See what YOU think...
Helen Mirren, a class act. I love the sheen of the silk taffeta and the monochromatic theme. I never think of taffeta in any other color but BLACK but here it is! The pearls match her hair. Can I just say... WOW! I'm going to keep my eyes open for a taffeta "something"
Love this sweater and the plaid coat. Because I am "trunky" the large plaid would not be flattering on me... but I could swap it for my navy pea coat and then go hunting for a plaid scarf. I'm going to find this sweater.
What a fun, quirky combinations of plaid and leopard. BUT... if I wore this I WOULD be "Mutton dressed like Lamb. I would simply mix the whole thing up...plaid shirt, black V-neck sweater, dark wash jeans and a "to die for" LARGE leopard handbag.
These shoes are beautiful, but not worth the literal pain I would be inflicting on my feet. I own a pair of black heels almost this high and wore them to a Christmas party last year. Dumb decision... I had a son on one side and a daughter-in-law on the other walking me to my car. I can't wear high heels. But there are hundreds of printed shoes in flats and wedges. No need to be boring!
And then... there are all those gorgeous little black dresses that I would look ridiculous in. It doesn't stop me from loving them. I am obviously attracted to black lace. When I happened upon a heavy black lace sheath at Talbots I snapped it up. It falls right to my knee and has a simple grosgrain ribbon around the waist. Its sleeveless (which I can't wear) so I paired it with a 3/4 sleeve length black sweater that has rosettes on the shoulders. It makes me feel very "Coco"
The truth is... I LOVE BEING A MUTTON. I've got more CENTS/SENSE than when I was twenty and I definitely have more confidence. What is it Kathy Bates says to the girls in Fried Green Tomatoes...
"I'm older and I've got more insurance."
Through the years I have come to believe that the most beautiful women are the ones who smile with their eyes, think carefully before they speak and are generous in their friendships.
Beth says that her inspiration for these works was an epiphany she had on the beach in Melbourne, Florida where she was meditating on the impending passing of her father. She noticed these older women playing in the surf like children and it lifted her spirits. From that time forward, her paintings were centered on the simple joys of living.