A Trip to the Cabbage Patch: Returning to 1980’s Nostalgia

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Beware. Blood. Hairpin. Signal Loss. Trail. Inclement. Cabin. Fog.

Laid out like plot points in a murder mystery novel, these are just a handful of words that greet you on signs every few hundred feet as you climb the mountain roads of rural Georgia.

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Depending on the time of day and the season, the atmosphere is fitting for a spooky story. If it is raining or if there is any threat of rain, the mountain is covered in grey light and misty fog. The trees are dense, the hills are very steep and the trajectory is very, very curvy.

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Wild, serene and untouched by commercialism, indicators of human existence are completely void except for a hiker’s rest stop area near the top. Leading through the Chatthoochee National Forest and along the Appalachian Trail this particular hilly incline is called Blood Mountain. Murder mystery material indeed!

Just up and slightly over the top crest of the mountain a large white weather-beaten sign declares Babyland General Hospital is a quick right down a rugged road. On her way to somewhere else, Ms. Jeannie  passed the sign by, but in doing so, something familiar from a long time ago tickled her memory. Curiosity got the better of her and she turned the car around heading in the arrow’s direction. Paved but narrow, unkempt and heavily wooded on each side, Ms. Jeannie passed a couple of commercial office parks and a manufacturing plant before the landscape opened up into a panoramic vista that looked this…

Babyland General Hospital

And that’s when Ms. Jeannie realized why Babyland was so familiar. Her six year old self knew exactly what this place was… the famous garden of the Cabbage Patch.

A marketing phenomenon in the 1980s Cabbage Patch Kids were created by Georgia native Xavier Roberts. Beginning as a local handicraft, his cloth folk art dolls quickly evolved into an assembly line of characters that were sold by the millions all over the world. Xavier became a toy manufacturing genius, a multi-millionaire and a household name all within a ten year timespan.

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Xavier Roberts

As a dynamic storyteller and a natural promoter, Xavier created a whole entire world revolving around the Kids – their origin story beginning with birth in the cabbage patch, the assorted pals that friended them along the way including Bunny Bees, Farm Cuties, dogs and mountain bears and all the adoption paperwork that made Cabbage Patch Kids such a novelty in the early 1980’s toy world.

Ms. Jeannie got one herself for Christmas when she was six. Her kid came all the way from France because it was so difficult to find any available ones in the US. To celebrate her heritage, Ms. Jeannie gave her a French name  – Marie Rose – the epitome of six year old sophistication! With her green eyes, light brown hair and small chip (a shipping adventure!) on her cheek, Ms. Jeannie loved her. But as fun and engaging as Marie Rose’s story was to Ms. Jeannie as a little girl there is something unsettling about the whole Cabbage Patch world now.

Headquarters for Babyland General started out in a small historic medical facility in downtown Cleveland, Georgia, in the late 1970’s but ten years ago they moved to a brand new $2 million facility outside of town that sits on 500 plus acres. Like a bright light beacon, the hospital is beautiful on the outside with wide porches, rocking chairs…

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and flower pots that are spilling over with bright and bold arrangements…

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Because Xavier took his theme and totally ran with it from the very beginning, his Cabbage Patch detailng creeps into every aspect of the story experience beginning on the front lawn with the giant four foott wide plaster cabbage patch kid sculptures found randomly placed around the property.

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From far away in the driveway and parking areas they look like flowers. But up close they are faces!

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Inside, past a wall of framed celebrity photographs all autographed to Xavier and/or the Cabbage kids, the hospital opens up into essentially a very large gift shop. Ms. Jeannie, thinking it would somehow be like a Disney experience, was ready to suspend disbelief and soak up the scene as a nurse greeted visitors.  As soon as she announced that she was an L.P.N. (a licensed patch nurse) and that everything was for sale all in the same sentence, Ms. Jeannie began to lose a little hope in this presentation.

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Cabbage Patch Kids were everywhere and arranged in settings and scenes that ran the gamut from newborn nurseries to schoolrooms to playhouses. Literally thousands of faces greeted her throughout the walk around the room.

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babyland general hospital

Crying baby noises and gurgles played on a speaker system, a Christmas corner announced all the holiday fun one could have with their Kid and racks of clothing for both dolls and their human parents were available at every turn. It was a megaplex of merchandising.

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While there is something inherently cute about these faces, to Ms. Jeannie they also looked a little bit sad.  Part of what made Cabbage Patch Kids appealing as a little girl – was their unique factor. You could pick a doll that matched your gender and your hair, eye and skin color. You could name it whatever you wanted and you had to sign an oath that you promised to take care of it under any and all situations. It was a highly personable shopping experience back then in the age before the internet. But now seeing so many of them lumped together in a mass produced, forced style of merchandising “fun” made these Kids seem anything but unique and personal. There were just so many.

Ms. Jeannie was getting ready to leave when a message came over the loud speaker announcing a delivery that would soon occur. Visitors were directed to the big tree in the middle area of the room where Mother Cabbage was going to give birth any minute.

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Bright colorful crystals hung from the branches of the big tree and lit up as cabbage baby heads at the base rolled around in excitement.

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Anticipation culminated with the appearance of the head nurse who walked visitors through the birth of a new cabbage in exquisite detail. Ms. Jeannie will spare you the uncomfortable dialogue but the words dilation, stretching, sonogram, massaging oils and deep breathing were discussed in good measure before the nurse leaned in to have a look at Mother Cabbage’s progress. Thank goodness the baby was coming out head first, otherwise, if it was feet first it would be known as a branch birth, so she said. Oh my.

Up to her elbows in cabbage leaves the nurse finally pulled a naked baby out of Mother Cabbage, spanked its bottom, wrapped it in a blanket and then called on visitors to name it before the new baby was whisked off to the nursery where its vitals were checked and an outfit was selected. At that point Ms. Jeannie headed for the exit door.

On the drive out, a final sign from the cabbage gang bid Ms. Jeannie goodbye.

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It took a few days to figure out what that whole experience was exactly. Some further research on Xavier explained that he was not actually the original designer of his dolls. Back in the 70’s he noticed the handmade dolls of Martha Nelson Thomas at a craft fair. She built a family centric persona around each of her handmade dolls, referring to them all as babies, and offered kids the ability to “adopt” them. Xavier picked up on the charm of that notion, bought one of her dolls and began creating his own versions in duplicitous style.

Martha Nelson Thomas

Eventually after ten years of legal battles over rightful ownership of the original cabbage patch kid designs, Martha and Xavier settled out of court in the mid-1980’s. Martha was paid an undisclosed amount to forgive and forget and Xavier went on to grow his empire.

Since their inception over 95 million Cabbage Patch Kids have been sold around the world. They morphed into books and movies, cartoons, television shows and video games and a million different merchandising pieces from key chains to coffee mugs. They’ve been launched into space, opened the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity. But perhaps most importantly they have captivated kids and collectors hearts for thirty plus years, securing their place as one of the most iconic toys of the 20th century.

So why did visiting Babyland General leave such a strange taste in Ms. Jeannie’s mouth?  Like the drive up there, with its murder mystery stylings and foreboding signage, this trip to the Cabbage Patch presented an unsettling look at a situation that wasn’t quite what it appeared to be. Blood Mountain is a beautiful spot in Georgia, one of the highest vistas in the state but it is also a dangerous natural landscape. Babyland General is a beautiful light-filled building on a gorgeous piece of property, but it behind all that polish, shine, and kid-friendly disguise there lurks a darker world of commercial motivations.

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If you’ve been to the Cabbage Patch please share your experience in the comments section below. Ms. Jeannie would love to hear your thoughts!

 

The Little Fig That Could: An Update and a Nanny

The cutest little thing greeted Ms. Jeannie on the screen porch this morning…

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It’s a fig leaf, dear readers! And can you guess where it came from?

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That’s right! It came from our very own fig clipping water method! It’s hard to believe that this was the easiest most uncomplicated way to grow a fig tree. And yet, here our little dazzler is – her own version of jazz hands greeting the day.

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If you recall from previous posts, Ms. Jeannie tried two different ways to grow a fig tree from a clipping.  There was the newspaper method and the water method. After trial and error, which you can catch up on here, the clear winner was the water method. In a nutshell… cut a fig clipping in winter, stick it in a jar of water for several months and watch the roots grow.

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Then transfer the rooty clipping to a pot filled with potting soil. Ms. Jeannie at this point still kept the clipping indoors for a couple of weeks, but placed it next to a window that receives indirect sunlight. Then, on a bit of a whim one gorgeous afternoon, she moved the pot to the screened-in porch. That side of the house gets late afternoon sun for a few hours and apparently that was the ticket for this little one to sprout!

And so here we are, in newborn fig heaven.

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When this little darling sprouts a few more leaves, she’ll transfer it to a bigger pot. In the meantime, she’ll just watch it grow.

Another little delight that greeted Ms. Jeannie recently, was this fellow…

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Just like the kitty that surprised Ms. Jeannie in the fig bush last year – this visitor also found his way into the yard from the fig bushes. Perhaps there is some sort of trap door in those fig bushes! A little underground network of tunnels for stray cats, with a special sign at Ms. Jeannie’s fig roots that reads REST STOP – THIS WAY!

Whatever the case – it seems Ms. Jeannie is on some sort of list now to receive a new cat every summer. This one she has named Boy-O because he’s very clearly a chap, and he’s got green eyes and that handsome black and white coat which favors the Irish complexion.  Ms. Jeannie actually went through a whole roster of names beginning in Italy (since he was in the figs on a hot summer afternoon of course!) … there was Paolo, Giuseppe, Jono. He was completely indifferent to those names so Ms. Jeannie changed directions… Adolph, George (this was long before the royal baby!), Leo, Sam, Charlie. No interest again. Then she said in exasperation – “Boy Cat what is your name?!”  And he turned his head and looked at her. Aha! Something was ringing a bell. “Boy. Boy Cat. Boy-O? Could that be it? Boy-O?” Immediately right after she posed this question, he meowed.  Clearly there was  a winner in the name department!

So it’s been about a month now that Boy-O has visited here with Ms. Jeannie. He loves to eat and he loves to pal around with Ms. Jeannie’s two cats.  He enjoys walking around the garden, licking fallen figs and drinking out of the bird bath.   But perhaps his most favorite thing to do is nap. He loves the side porch, more than anything,  just like the little fig sprout does. Most afternoons, Ms. Jeannie sees him sprawled out like this…

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All this afternoon bonding time with the fig sprout has led Ms. Jeannie to think that perhaps Boy-O is a fig nanny. Maybe that sign in the underground tunnel reads FIG NANNIES – APPLY HERE, and Boy-O just showed up because he needed a job.

Whatever the circumstance, Ms. Jeannie is working with her local vet to try and find a home for him. It’s a daunting task as  they have their own giant book of Boy-Os that also need homes. “But mine comes with a skill,” Ms. Jeannie told them. “And he’s dedicated!” The proof is in the pictures…

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Fig nannies just don’t come along every day, dear readers, so if you know of anyone – who might need such a talent, than Boy-O is their man(cat).

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Wineward Bound: Travel South to Chateau Elan Winery

Ms. Jeannie’s friend was visiting from the West Coast a few weeks ago, and over dinner one night he was remarking on a wonderful trip, he and his fiancee had taken to Napa Valley. Of course they stopped at a bevy of wineries to learn and sample and the whole experience really opened him up to the wide world of wine palates.  So Ms. Jeannie thought it would be fun, now that he was a wine connoisseur of sorts, to take him on a  little southern road trip to Braselton, Georgia, the location of the state’s most noteable vineyard, Chateau Elan.

Chateau Elan Resort & Vineyards, Braselton, GA
Chateau Elan Resort & Vineyards, Braselton, GA

Wine in Georgia, you say? How could that be, Ms. Jeannie? Well, my dears, Georgia has actually been growing two unique types of grapes since the 1500’s  – the scuppernong and the muscadine grape. It is not uncommon to see little vineyards of two or three rows in people’s yards all over the south. Ms. Jeannie, herself has two rows of 35 foot vines herself. Here’s some pictures…

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Muscadine grapes
Muscadine grapes on the vine
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Scuppernong grapes on the vine

Larger then your traditional grape, muscadines (red) and scuppernongs (golden) are just slightly smaller then the size of a golf ball. You can see in this picture some some sizing perspective…

Muscadine & Scuppernong Grape photography by sintwister
Muscadine & Scuppernong Grape photography by sintwister

Both muscadines and scuppernongs have a thick, tart outer skin and a sweet, juicy center that is similar to a plum, yet with a touch more tang. Most people bite and then suck out the sweet interior pulp – but Ms. Jeannie likes to eat the whole thing or cut them up in little segments like a sweet tart.

First discovered growing wild in North Carolina by Italian explorer, Giovanni de Verranzano in 1524, these two varieties of grapes grow naturally only in the Southern United States where they thrive on a short cold season and lots of humidity.

Giovanni de Verranzano. Photo courtesy of biography.com
Giovanni de Verranzano (1485-1528). Photo courtesy of biography.com

When Giovanni discovered them growing in the Cape Fear River Valley, he wrote in his trip’s log book that the “grapes were of such greatness, yet wild, as France, Spain, nor Italy hath no greater.” At the time, Giovanni was on a coastal exploration trip on behalf of the French King, Francis I. Ms. Jeannie wonders what this french King must have thought of the their-bigger-than-yours statement when Giovanni went to report his trip findings!

On a side note, unfortunately, in the end things didn’t fair so well for Giovanni, who on his third trip to the coastal US,  was killed (and some sources say eaten) by local natives in 1528. Goodness gracious – it is not a very sweet ending to the story of a man who discovered such a sweet fruit.

Anyway, back to the grapes…the wine produced from muscadine/scuppernong grapes is very, very sweet, (think sweeter then a riesling) and light in body, which makes it nice (in small doses!) on those hot summer evenings, when it seems too stifling  to eat anything but air. Often times, as in the case of Chateau Elan’s varieties, these local grape wines are enhanced with other local fruits like peaches, strawberries or blueberries which give it a unique flavor. This enhancement also makes for interesting culinary delights  like fruit syrups drizzled over ice cream, simple soaked white cakes or jams and jellies, so scuppernongs and muscadine, as you can see, s are quite versatile when it comes to cooking as well.

Chateau Elan offers four local varieties of muscadine/scuppernong wine as well as a variety of wines imported from their California vineyard, Diablo Grande in Patterson, CA.

Diablo Grande Resort in Patterson, CA
The vineyards at Diablo Grande Resort in Patterson, CA

Ms. Jeannie went on the wine tour and tasting at Chateau Elan so that she could try both the sister wines from California as well as the local Georgia wines.

The vineyard at Chateau Elan was established in 1981 and sits on 3,500 acres. It’s about a 45 minute drive east from Atlanta in the tiny, rural town of Braselton, GA.  Braselton has a little Hollywood color to it. The actress Kim Basinger, bought the entire town  for $20 million in the late 1980’s with the idea of turning it  into a Hollywood film set/production studio. Unfortunately, that idea never materialized. Kim ran out of money and wound up selling Braselton to a developer in the mid-1990’s. Now it is mostly known for it’s antique shopping, area golf courses and of course, the Chateau Elan Resort which in addition to a winery includes a small luxury hotel, several golf courses and a spa.

Before we look at the wines, Ms. Jeannie wanted to point out  a few pretty things she noticed about the Chateau itself…

Innovative flower beds!
Pretty flower beds!

Since it was early Spring when Ms. Jeannie visited – the gardens and vineyards were just waking up – but to add a bit of color to the landscape, the flower beds surrounding the Chateau all contained a bright yellow/blue combination of pansies and guess what…  flowering broccoli!  Very pretty and quite an unexpected pairing! Ms. Jeannie will have to remember this for her early season gardening.

The statue and fountain gracing the front entrance.
The statue and fountain gracing the front entrance.

At the entrance of the Chateau is this wonderful bronze statue of a woman stomping the grapes set inside a large fountain.   It’s a really pretty figure!

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When Ms. Jeannie was taking pictures, crows were hanging out on the roof-line – maybe they were getting together for cocktail hour themselves!

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The winery tour starts inside the Chateau in the large gift shop area. On the tour, Ms. Jeannie learned about the production side of wine-making which included, of course, how it was stored, and bottled. It was a pretty industrial process and a long way away from stomping of the grapes that the statue represented – but it was interesting none the less.

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The barrels were beautiful all lined up in rows.  The wine is aged in both French and American barrels…

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Once the tour was over it was on to the wine tasting. During the tasting, Ms. Jeannie sampled five wines, three from the California property and two from Georgia.

The start of the tasting!
The start of the tasting!

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The first wine Ms. Jeannie tasted was the Chardonnay Reserve 2010, which she liked very much. In addition to the actual tasting part, she also learned how to sniff, swirl and suck in her breath to really appreciate the advanced flavors of the wine. This does make a big difference – to taste your wine this way.  It’s nice to take some time to appreciate what you are drinking and to identify the subtle mix of flavors and aromas.

Chardonnay Reserve 2010
Chardonnay Reserve 2010

Next was the Pinot Noir. This one was lighter in color than Ms. Jeannie expected!

Pinot Noir 2011 Reserve
Pinot Noir 2011 Reserve

The next was Ms. Jeannie’s favorite of all the samples, the Scarlett 211. It was full-bodied and smelled a bit like incense.    The Scarlett is a blend of Syrah and Sangiovese grapes which gives it a darker, richer color than the Pinot Noir.

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Scarlett 211

The last two Ms. Jeannie tasted were the Georgia wines. The first was Summer Wine which was muscadine  infused with peaches…

Summer Wine
Summer Wine

The second was Spring Blossom which was muscadine infused with raspberry…

Spring Blossom
Spring Blossom

Both were very sweet with residual sugar levels of 6%, ( to give you some perspective, the California wines had sugar levels of .5%). Ms. Jeannie, herself doesn’t care for such sweet wine, so she preferred the California varieties better – but she could see how these two could definitely be incorporated into a flavorful dessert.

In addition to wine, scuppernongs and muscadines also make fantastic jams. Ms. Jeannie wants to send  a giant box to her sister this summer so she can experiment with some special jam recipes! She’ll keep you posted on how it all turns out.

After the wine tasting, Ms. Jeannie and her friend headed to Paddy’s Ale House, just one of the 9 dining experiences on the Chateau property.

Paddy's Pub - direct from Ireland
Paddy’s Pub – direct from Ireland

The pub was built in Ireland, then deconstructed,  brought to Georgia and reassembled. It has wonderful character and has retained a true Irish spirit. So if you are not exactly a wine lover – but a beer lover instead –  than this is a grand spot to while away the afternoon. They serve all the traditions – warm Guinness, Irish whiskies  and their own take on traditional fare like Fish & Chips, Shepard’s Pie and Boxty.  Ms. Jeannie had the Shepard’s Pie which was comprised of  braised spare ribs, mixed with vegetables and baked under a layer of mashed potatoes. Delicious!

If you have visited the Chateau, Ms. Jeannie would love to hear about your experience so please comment below. If not,  are there any local wineries in your neck of the woods that you enjoy? If so, please share them with us!

Storytime with Ms. Jeannie – The Journey of Christmas Pig

So a little bit ago, Ms. Jeannie met this wonderful character whom she affectionately called Christmas Pig…

Vintage cast iron pig

Ms. Jeannie’s not one to notice looks first, but as you can see, he was nothing but handsome, with his distinguished rusty patches and his shabby chic patina. This pig had personality written all over him.

Ms. Jeannie made a home and a job for him on her kitchen shelves, holding down her fort of antique ironstone platters.

Pig on the job.

Pig seemed suited there for awhile. Each morning he’d greet Ms. Jeannie with a smile and a story. He’d recount his past, as she stood sleepy-eyed at the counter waiting for the coffee to brew.

A long time ago, Pig was born into a cast iron stable set made in England. His barn mates included a cow and a horse, a rooster, a lamb and some chickens, possibly there was a goat too (this part is a little hazy).

The stable was owned by a blond boy named Hugh, who fancied short pants and jam sandwiches and calling his mom, Mum. At some point in Pig’s early life, he  and Hugh crossed the great ocean together, journeying to America via steamer ship. The crossing was long, but every afternoon, Hugh took Pig out to the lido deck to show him the waves and the water. The salt air settled on their skin.

Boy and Pig wound up in a wonderful old house in the States. Years passed. The boy grew up. Pig was packed away. For years Pig stayed among the packing papers dreaming of what his future would hold. One day, when he could stand the confines of the box no more,  he mustered the courage to leave his world behind.  Discovery was calling and Pig proclaimed himself a new explorer.

Fate eventually led Pig to Georgia. And then to Ms. Jeannie, where they became fast friends. Together they settled into Southern life.

But soon, Pig began to grow restless. Even though he enjoyed Ms. Jeannie’s company and his job of guarding the ironstone, he began to get antsy.  His hooves started knocking against the shelves, then against the platters. At first it was just light little taps – barely audible, but as the days progressed,  the taps grew louder and louder until they could no longer be ignored.

Ms. Jeannie understood.   A restless spirit cannot be contained. It was time for Pig to move on.

“Let’s make this next trip spontaneous,” he told Ms. Jeannie. “You arrange it and I’ll go. Anywhere in the world.”

And spontaneous it was going to be! Exotic even. Ms. Jeannie was in touch with a lovely lady in Singapore who was ready to give Pig his next story. Thrilled by the prospect of crossing oceans again, Pig packed his bags, practiced his Chinese and headed off to the post office.  Unfortunately, a one way postal ticket to Singapore wound up to be a much larger expense then even a Pig could afford, so he returned to Ms. Jeannie’s shelf once again. His dreams of Asian escapades so short lived he couldn’t even remember what they were.

“Keep your chin up,” Ms. Jeannie said. “Something will come along soon.”

Pig sighed and wallowed and tapped around for two days, before Ms. Jeannie reported good news. A porcine model was needed ASAP in New York City for a Christmas production! Pig was perfect for the part!

Giddy, Pig packed again. While he got ready, Ms. Jeannie told him of all of her New York City adventures growing up as a girl. Pig listened intently to every word. His imagination swirling with all the sights and the sounds and the possibilities that Ms. Jeannie suggested.

“Goodbye, sweet Pig,” Ms. Jeannie said as she dropped him off at the post office. “Keep in touch,” she whispered.

Two days later, Ms. Jeannie was delighted to receive a picture and a note from Christmas Pig…

Pig in the big city!

Dear Ms Jeannie!

I did arrive in the city that never sleeps today, safe and sound! I’m enjoying the view from my new home and I’ll secretly tell you something: my new family is talking about me moving to some summer cottage, but I’m enjoying the bright lights in the city and I have bigger plans now… after my first model gig I’m going to look for an agent and I promise you, you will soon see me as a star on Broadway! I’ll blink at you from the posters!

Oh Pig! Ms. Jeannie looks forward to seeing your star:)

Be on the lookout readers – the next famous pig in the city could be our very own;)

Someone’s Been in the Shed…

Or more accurately, Ms. Jeannie should say, something has been in the shed. Take a look…

A snake skin!  Mr. Jeannie Ology was the one to discover it, wrapped in between the prongs of a pitch fork hanging on the shed wall. Yikes – that would be quite a surprise to happen upon. Here’s a closeup of it’s head…where you can even see the skin covering his eyes…

Snake head.

If there is one creature in the natural world that Ms. Jeannie has an honest to god fear of – it would be snakes.  The South is home to some pretty big ones, so as a gardener, Ms. Jeannie has learned to be cautious about where she goes digging.

This snake skin measures  just over 47″ inches long and at it’s fattest area 1″inch around. Holy moley – that’s a big one!

The fattest part of the snake measures 1″ inch thick!

Snakes shed the outermost layer of their skin as they grow. Unlike humans, as we grow and expand, so does our skin. But as snakes grow, their skin only has so much capacity for extra give. So they shed what no longer fits and moves (or in this case slithers) along in life.

Illustration from The Question and Answer Book of Nature by John Saunders circa 1962. Available for sale in Ms. Jeannie’s shop. Click the photo for more info.

They do this shedding fairly often, more frequently when they are youngsters growing into adults (as much as once a month) but once they reach adulthood their growth slows down quite a bit, so shedding slows down to once every two or three months.   This still seems like a lot to Ms. Jeannie.  At those rates, you would think that we would come across more snake skins then we do.

Funny enough, as mentioned above, their was a small section on snake shedding in the nature book  Ms. Jeannie has for sale in her shop…

The Question and Answer Book of Nature by John Saunders and illustrated by Donald Moss.
Page 20…Why Does a Snake Shed its Skin ?
Complete with illustrations from world renowned illustrator, Donald Moss.

Ms. Jeannie just knew this book would come in handy for both kids and adults! The illustration in the book features a timber rattlesnake, which got Ms. Jeannie to thinking about what kind of snake her skin is from.

While trying to identify the type of skin, Ms. Jeannie discovered a website where you can send in photos of your snake skins for free identification. So she just sent her pictures off.  We’ll see what they say!

Mr. Jeannie Ology’s bet is that it belongs to a black snake. Do you have a guess? If so, comment below and we’ll put your naturalist abilities to test!

Interview with an Etsy Art Buyer: What’s She Searching For?

Ms. Jeannie has this lovely friend Tuny who has lived one of those adventurous sorts of lives here and abroad.  She’s fun to spend time with because she’s always got something interesting to say. Last time they got together they were talking about the royal wedding and trying to determine William’s last name. Tudor?  Windsor?  Wales? They were determined not to look it up online yet try to figure it out by going through the lineage of the royal family. They got about 20 minutes into that and then decided to consult Google.  (In case you are interested it’s a hypenated name, Mount Batten – Windsor!)

Anyway, in trying to guess the right name, their conversation took all sorts of twists and turns. There were references to Tuny being engaged to a Spanish bullfighter, her years spent as a librarian, her travels, her books, her artistic endeavors and her love of cats.

Cats – yes most definitely. Tuny might just be one of the biggest collectors of cat art that Ms. Jeannie knows. Specifically she loves cat folk art, which Ms. Jeannie can understand since she is a big folk art lover herself!

Each August, Ms. Jeannie anticipates the Slotin Folk Art Festival held in Norcross, GA (this year it’s August 17th-19th). If you have never been – it is quite an experience of color and creativity – so much so – by the end of the day, Ms. Jeannie’s brain feels swimmy with pageantry. Tuny would love it here!

A glimpse into the festival. Photo courtesy of blackartinamerica.com

It just so happened that the first piece of folk art Ms. Jeannie ever bought was at the festival in 2008…a small 4×4 painting of a bird. Here’s a photo of it…

The start of Ms. Jeannie’s folk art collection.

Ms. Jeannie loved the flowers and the colors. The fact that it featured a bird made it even more perfect. It is by far the most colorful piece of art that Ms. Jeannie owns.

So thrilled, Ms. Jeannie was, of her new acquisition, the artist wrote a personal little note on the back and signed her name.  Ms. Jeannie’s glad she bought it that day as she hasn’t seen this artist at the festival any years since and she can no longer read the name of the artist’s signature. It’s one of those long scratchy, crawly names that she wrote upside down with a faded marker pen. This makes Ms. Jeannie cherish her folk art bird even more so. A special memento from a special day.  Periodically, Ms. Jeannie will move Bird about  the house  to spaces and places that need a little extra brightening. Bird is good at offering that extra bit of light. Art is good at offering at that extra bit of bright.

So when Ms. Jeannie chats about cats with Tuny she can understand how her love of all things feline plays such an important part in her life.   Read on as Tuny sheds some light on what it means to be a collector …

Ms. Jeannie: What is it about cat art in particular that appeals to you?

Tuny: Well…partly it is that cats themselves appeal to me; I like being around them, interacting with them, learning about their individual personalities, and enjoying their appearance, which brings me to a second, and perhaps more important, part, in this context: It’s a cliche that some people can toss a scarf or throw onto a sofa and have it transform the sofa, as if an experienced interior designer had done it. Cats are so well designed that no matter what they’re doing, it’s art. They can sprawl, curl up, stretch out, etc., and always look as if it were deliberate, because they form a pattern. But even more than the above, I love them and want to celebrate them.

Ms. Jeannie:  How did you discover Etsy?

If you are unfamiliar Etsy.com, it is an online international marketplace devoted to the sale of handmade crafts and vintage finds.

Tuny: MANY years ago, before I knew much about online activity, I must have been searching for “cat art” and came upon a kitty puppet that I wanted in the worst way–but it said to Sign in to Etsy, and I didn’t understand what Etsy was or how to go about that…especially as the only computer I had was my work computer, and I didn’t want to sign into anything on it. It wasn’t until several years later, when Etsy became better known, that I figured all this out.

Screen shot of the Etsy Home Page

MJ: What do you like best about Etsy? What do you like least?

T: Perusing Etsy’s like being let loose in a really cool art festival, in the comfort of my own house, where I have access to art from around the world–that’s the best. Least are two things: when searching for something, odd things that have no relevance often turn up in the results. I understand, in most cases, why this happens, but I wish there were a way to put in limiters, such as “no prints” or “no cat-eye beads.” The other thing isn’t a real dislike, but I wish one could purchase an Etsy gift certificate that would be good for a shop of the recipient’s choice.

MJ:  How did your interest in art develop?

T: Because I come from a very talented family, I always thought that my own efforts in that direction weren’t worth the effort, as it were, but when I was in my late 20’s, living abroad in a country with a long tradition of leather book binding, I started making little illustrated books for a friend, and had them bound. When I discovered how much fun painting was, talent or not, I was hooked.

The bookbinding episode was in Portugal–I didn’t learn bookbinding; I went down to one of the binderies, which were small operations, and told them what I wanted to do, which was to paint some pictures and have them bound into a small book. They gave me the paper of the right size, and when I finished the paintings, I took them back and they bound them into a small leather book. I made several of those. What I did learn, also in Portugal, was to make what are called tapetes, or carpets, of Arraiolos, in a very simplified form…a sort of long-armed cross-stitch done in wool on a burlap-like background.

Antique Arraiolos Portuguese Embroidery Panel from Helena Alexio Glamour

MJ: What type or types of art appeal to you most?

T: Folk art and illustrations in children’s books

Playing House by hottamaleart
Vintage Children’s Book Illustration “Dali’s Russian Dream” from MissQuiteContrary
Siamese Cat Folk Art Painting by 3crows
Vintage Children’s Book Illustration Alphabet from nesstiques
Ghostly Cat Halloween Clay Folk Art Ornament by KilkennyCatArt
Vintage 1950s Child’s Book Illustration from kelleystreetvintage

MJ: If you could sit down and have lunch with any famous artist, living or dead, who would you choose and why?

T: None; I prefer admiring from a distance.

Le Chat Noir Photo Cafe by Jessica and Holly

MJ:  As a world traveler, exposed to many different cultures, how has travel affected your viewpoint on art?

T:  Travel has enhanced my appreciation for indigenous/folk art of various countries.

The Traveling Cat Art Print by TheSmokingCat

MJ: What is your most favorite museum?

A. Honolulu Academy of Arts

Honolulu Academy of Arts (Honolulu, Hawaii) Exhibition Hall

and the Folk Art Museum in Lisbon.

Museu de Arte Popular in Lisbon, Portugal

MJ: As a painter yourself, what do you hope to express with your work?

T: As all I paint is cats, then, an appreciation for them.

Love Song: Every Heart Has Its Song for Those Who Would Listen by Tuny

MJ: Explain your ideal art buying experience. Would you like to meet the artist face to face, get to know them, understand their motivations and their inspirations, their back story, or do you like to buy art and imagine your own stories surrounding a piece?

T: I enjoy meeting artists, particularly if I encounter them repeatedly at art shows, etc., but I like their work to speak for itself.

Irving Ponders the Nature of Consciousness by Matte Stephens

MJ: If money was no object, name 10 pieces of art that would be in your collection.

T: I enjoy looking at, experiencing, if you will, fine art, but my affinity is with folk art, most particularly cat folk art–so an unlimited collection of that would be lovely.

Original Folk Art Cat Woman Painting by LindaKellyArt

MJ:  Who is the most interesting artist you have met so far?

T:  Hard to answer, because they all have something interesting to contribute.

(Ms. Jeannie’s side note: Incidently, Tuny’s niece, Diana, has an Etsy shop dVineArt which combines two of Tuny’s favorite mediums: cats and illustration! This must run in the family!)

Santa Paws Christmas Pendant by dVineArt

MJ:  As you transition through different stages in your life, do you find that your taste in art transitions with you or do you find yourself returning to the same artists, the same types of art, the same themes over and over again?

T: Basically I continue to like the same kind of art, see above, that I always have, but it’s exciting to see and learn about the many, many kinds of art that are out there. As I transition, I continue to meet different kinds of art, and it’s like stumbling on gold.

Nice Kitty Found Object Assemblage Sculpture by CastofCharacters23

14. What book are you currently reading? What is your most favorite book?

Currently re-reading Kipling’s Puck of Pook’s Hill;

Rudyard Kipling’s fabled tales about the hidden history of Old England

all-time favorite: Pride and Prejudice.

Jane Auston’s most popular novel and her most favorite. It has been adapted for both television and screen many times. One of the most cinematic versions is the 2005 Focus Features film version starring Keira Knightly.

MJ:  As an avid reader, what art books would you most recommend? 

T: Right now, my main interest in art reading is to learn how-to’s; I tend to review the myriad of books one can find by searching under “collage,” ” paper making,” or whatever, in Amazon, and then reading the reviews to see what’s worth pursuing, purchasing those that seem appropriate.

MJ: What is your favorite way to view art? Online? In a gallery? On the street? At a craft show? At a museum?

The Observing Cat by liatib

T: All of the above.

MJ:  Explain a situation where art has directly affected your life.

T: When I retired, I joined one of our local art groups and have been busy ever since, volunteering, teaching, occasionally entering the art challenges–in effect, acquiring a whole new life.

MJ: What is one of the most interesting displays of creativity that you have seen in the last five years?

A. In our art group was a young man, an excellent artist, who had been in the group for some years before I came, and had, evidently, grown considerably in his talent during that time. By the time I came along, he was still developing, constantly experimenting and pushing himself, in all sorts of exciting directions. And then it was discovered, too late to do anything about it, that he had cancer. Yet he kept on with his art, pushing and experimenting, in the few months he had left.

Cat Proverb Art Print by GoingPlaces2

MJ: If you could travel to any city on the globe, solely to view a piece of art what city and what piece of art would you choose?

T: The Terra Cotta Warriers!

The Terracotta Warriors

The Terracotta Warriors are indeed fascinating! Ms. Jeannie would like to see them for herself as well. To read more about how they were discovered by a Chinese farmer who was digging a well and to see more photos of the thousands of them in them unearthed and reassembled for display, click here. Ms. Jeannie wonders iof there are any warrior cats in there?! If so, I bet Tuny would find them!

This interview is part of an ongoing interview series, that Ms. Jeannie is orchestrating about artists, writers and musicians and their inspirations. To read other interviews in this series, simply click on the following links:

A Trip to Paris Yann Pendaries https://inthevintagekitchen.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/a-trip-to-paris-with-photographer-yann-pendaries/

Sunday at the Diner with Luncheonette Vintage https://inthevintagekitchen.wordpress.com/?s=luncheonette+vintage&submit=Search

Discussing Rustic Home Decor, Beer & Movies with Designer Frick & Frack Scraps https://inthevintagekitchen.wordpress.com/2012/04/06/discussing-rustic-home-decor-beer-movies-with-designer-frick-and-frack-scraps/

BLOG UPDATE: So it seems my dears, in one of these fabulous conversations with Tuny something went awry. There was no love of a Spanish bullfighter in her life – how could Ms. Jeannie have b4en so confused?!  Although Tuny did have an experience with a bullfighter, as she tells here

“The closest I ever came to one, except at a bullfight, was on a train that did a night run between Madrid and Lisbon. Whilst in Lisbon, I went to Madrid to visit some friends, and on the return journey, established myself in one of the little compartments with facing seats. Shortly thereafter I was joined by two lower-echelon members of a torero’s entourage, and we dozed from Madrid to Lisbon.” 

Okay so it’s not a Romeo and Juliet love affair but it’s interesting just the same:)

On the Set of Get Low: Ms. Jeannie’s Moment in the Movies

Two years ago, there was an open casting call for extras for the film, Get Low, which starred Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek,  Bill Murray and Lucas Black.

Get Low movie poster

Ms. Jeannie had never been an extra, so she signed up with excitement,  for her moment in the movies. She thought it might be a fun way to spend an afternoon, but it actually turned out to be a two full days of activity!

Day 1 involved a trip to “wardrobe” which was actually one of the film sets,  Gaither Plantation, located near Atlanta.

Gaither Plantation’s main house served as the exterior of Sissy Spacek’s house in the movie.

It was a gorgeous location!

Ms. Jeannie was on set for only ten minutes before she saw Sissy Spacek, coming out of her trailer, just feet away!  While on set,  the extras were asked not to bring any camera or video equipment and also asked NOT to get  autographs from any of the actors.

Wardrobe was set up in one of the outbuildings on the plantation.

The log cabin (on the far left) was the site of wardrobe.

There, Ms. Jeannie met no-nonesense costume designer Julie Weiss, who has worked on a ton of movies including The Time Traveler’s Wife, Secretariat, Frida (see past post about this movie here), American Beauty, Steal Magnolias, Honeymoon in Vegas…so many movies that Ms. Jeannie loves!

Get Low was set in 1930’s Tennessee, so all the extras had to be authentically dressed in period clothing, makeup and hair.  Julie was no exchanger of pleasantries, she was on a serious mission to get everyone in and out and dressed appropriately.

For Ms. Jeannie, she choose a red and navy pattern print dress, a red, navy and white plaid coat and a funny looking navy and white hat.  Ms. Jeannie managed to sneak a few photos of her outfit up close. Shhh..don’t tell Julie!

Lots of pattern mixing going on!

Ms. Jeannie also wore gloves and nylons. And because she wore a pair of vintage looking black loafer type shoes to her wardrobe appointment, Julie gave the thumbs up that they could worn for the movie. You can kind of see them in this picture…

The 1930’s woman always wore gloves. Even in rural Tennessee!

After Ms. Jeannie’s outfit satisfied Julie, it was off to be photographed by costume department staff for the continuity files. Clothes were then hung up on hangers with names attached for next day’s shoot.

Day 2:

All the extras had to be on set at 4:30am in Crawfordville, GA which meant a super early morning drive for Ms. Jeannie.

Crawfordville is located about 2 hours east of Atlanta, and is as tiny a town as towns can get.  Surprisingly, many movies have been filmed there including Sweet Home Alabama starring Reese Witherspoon.

Apparently movie companies like to film there because it’s historic main street is easily adaptable.  The town is so small (population under 800) that film crews can pretty much do whatever they like, set-wise,  without displacing a lot of locals.

Here are pictures of Crawfordville’s main street as it looks today…

And here is how it was transformed for the movie. Again Ms. Jeannie was a little sneaky on set with her camera!

Dirt was brought in to cover the roads.
Fake building facades were installed on one side of the street, but all the other buildings are real store fronts.

That’s Lucas Black sitting on the bench below. The Farmers & Merchant Bank is the actual real bank in Crawfordville.

Old cars really helped give it that 1930’s feel.
More cars!

Many of the cars were loaned for the movie from an antique car collector that lived nearby. Also, in the photo above, you can see a Panavision movie camera peeking out underneath the awning. Very Hollywood!

Ms. Jeannie’s role in the movie was to walk across the street carrying paper wrapped packages. Here, the crew is preparing for the busy street scene, where Ms. Jeannie will appear.

That’s Robert Duvall standing next to the cart. It’s hard to see, so here’s a close-up. He’s the one with the full beard.

In this scene, Ms. Jeannie crosses the road in front of Robert Duvall, whose hermit character has come to town for the first time in 20 years.  The cart is driven by Hollywood’s famous trick mule Grace, who indeed was quite professional! Read more about her many talents here

Grace and Robert Duvall on set.

Ms. Jeannie had a walking partner too – a fellow extra who has made a professional career out of being an extra for the past 15 years. You can see her in the grey and green below. And that’s Robert Duvall! Up close!

It was nice to have a walking partner for company, because this one scene took about 7 hours to film. Ms. Jeannie and her partner criscrossed the street from every possible angle. It was also super windy that day, so that made some elements tricky for the crew. Julie was on set to keep everyone’s hats secured.

Pictured above is the director, Aaron Schneider talking to Robert Duval. There’s costume designer Julie,  in the back left wearing the checkered sweater.

Finally, the scene was shot, and we were all off to the catering hall for dinner.

Bill Murray was the only major actor that ate with the extras.  He sat, by himself,  but close enough to Ms. Jeannie to make her sort of nervous.  She wanted to talk to him, but she suddenly felt speechless. So, much to her disappointment, she lost all her nerve to chat.  That was when it struck Ms. Jeannie…it was as awkward for Bill Murray to eat with a room full of strangers as it was for a room full of strangers to eat with Bill Murray.  Ms. Jeannie could understand how it could be lonely, on the road, for an actor.

Hours later, in-between scenes, Ms. Jeannie got to personally meet Bill Murray, along with a bunch of other extras. He shook her hand and commented on what an unusual hat she was wearing.  He was wearing a super tight suit. Ms. Jeannie wanted to joke about that – but she refrained!

This is the outfit Bill Murray was wearing when Ms. Jeannie met him.

Now that they had established a repoire, Ms. Jeannie was hoping that she might get up her nerve to talk with him again, but unfortunately, he had left for the airport to hop a flight to California, so he could play in a golf tournament at Pebble Beach.

So Ms. Jeannie’s days spent with celebrities came to an end. After a long but magical day on set, she headed home, with the new found appreciation for actors and all those millions of unnamed extras.  Weeks later, she received a $100.00 check in the mail – her day rate as an official movie extra!

Many months after that, the trailer was released…

And then the movie. And Ms. Jeannie saw that her scene actually made it in!

Robert Duvall, Ms. Jeannie and professional extra.

To Ms. Jeannie’s surprise, costume designer Julie recreated outfits with a lot of pattern. For some reason, Ms. Jeannie thought in the 1930’s that women wore mostly solid colors. Not so!  Ms. Jeannie discovered on Etsy that women in the 1930’s like this one wore a lot of pattern together. Check out her coat and dress…

Vintage Photo from phunctum.

Thanks to the fabulous vintage shops on Etsy, anyone could recreate  Ms. Jeannie’s movie costume with the following items…

Vintage Black & White Plaid Coat from MarcellasExcess
Vintage 1930’s Dress from Revolving Styles
1930s Oxford Style Shoes from honeytalkvintage
30’s Leather Riding Gloves from Freestyle Collection

The hat that Ms. Jeannie wore in the movie was really unusual. It was shaped like this one below, but it had a big white bow that ran across the front and was floppy in back like a beret. No wonder Bill Murray commented on it!

1940’s High Hat from poppycockvintage

Get Bill Murray’s funeral director look:

Vintage Pinstripe Suit Jacket from TrueValueVintage
Men’s 1930’s/1940’s Fringed Scarf from fifisfinds
1939-1949 Men’s Brown Wool Coat from Lins Vintage Boutique
Vintage Stetson Hat Felted Derby Wool Bowler from KTsAttic

Julie would definitely approve!!!!