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Oktoberfest || Maeystown, Illinois

Little Prairie Girl visits a charming fall celebration in historic Maeystown, Illinois.

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Autumn is hands-down my favorite time of year. The changing leaves, the color palette of burgundy, gold, persimmon and chocolate, bonfires, hayrides, warm sweaters, flannel blankets, mulled wine…just listing this stuff of dreams is making me tingly!

I try to take advantage of as many fall festivals as possible, so I can really soak in the beauty of the season, but it gets hard because there is so much to choose from every week in our area beginning in September right through the winter holidays.

One of the best events, in my opinion, is the most excellent Oktoberfest hosted by the uber-charming of Maeystown, Illinois.

The tiny village (population 157 in 2010) is nestled on a hillside next to a beautiful creek and definitely feels as though time stopped sometime in the late 1800’s. Only street signs and a few parked cars here and there give it away that the village really does exist in modern times.

Oktoberfest is usually held on the second Sunday of October every year, and yes, I do mark it on my calendar a year in advance! Some of my best antiques have come from this show and you can bet your sweet bippy I’ll be at their spring show too!

Here are just some of the many treasures I saw that day…

turkey platebrass cottonrussian plaquesweet annie

chestcandlesFor more information on the history of Maeystown and other events, visit maeystown.com.

Until next time, get out there and enjoy fall!

Calligraphy Calamities

Little Prairie Girl attempts calligraphy and hilarity ensues.

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It should come as no shock to you by now that I am fascinated with customs from days gone by.  So when I learned that my good friend was now teaching calligraphy in small groups, I decided to jump all over that shit and hold an intimate gathering at my place for a few like-minded ladies to learn with me.

Because, let’s face it:

  1.  There simply aren’t enough calligraphy parties in this world for fabulous women, okay?
  2. When the nuclear holocaust comes, as it inevitably will because of that fucker in North Korea, the women who are going to survive are going to be the ones who have been educated in some kind of colonial or pioneer-style life skills (yeah, I dipped candles when I was in elementary school, bitch), not those women who are shoving jade eggs up their vaginas and cupping to rid themselves of phantom toxins (fuck you, Goopies).

Giddily, I pulled out my best china, silverware, napkins and put on a little spread that would satiate and soothe my overworked and underpaid girlfriends.

As I sat down to the table with my crystal champagne glass and plate full of cream puffs and brie, I thought, “This is going to be so rad.  I am going to be the best calligrapher ever!”  We briefly discussed what we wanted to do with our new found skills – addressing Christmas cards, filling in geneology charts, making cute chalkboard signs…the project ideas were endless.

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Our teacher began class with how to hold the pen properly and to understand the structure of a nib pen.  It’s very important to keep the nib clean and to continually wipe off the nib with water and a dry towel to ensure that the ink flows freely.  “Yes,” I thought.  “I am one with the pen.  I am one with the nib.  I am just moments away from dazzling my peers with my incredible natural talent.”

We began by making a series of short, upward strokes, ever so lightly touching the pen to the paper.

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So easy, I got this,” I smugly said to myself.  I looked around the table.  I could see my friends were thinking the same things to themselves. Then it was time for the downward stroke.  Piece of cake.  I just add a little more pressure, and BINGO, a beautiful, thick line, created by moi, calligrapher extraordinaire.  “When society breaks down after the bomb is dropped,” I thought, “And we are living in a Mad-Max/The Village scenario, hundreds will flock to me to write their missives for them as carried by my noble peregrine falcons. They will call me The Messenger.” (FYI:  I don’t have any peregrine falcons to speak of….yet.)

Now it was time to start creating capital letters of the alphabet.

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Moans and sighs were heard all around the table.  “We’re gonna need A LOT of practice,” my mother muttered.

No matter.  A beginner always stumbled a bit. By the time I got to capital E, I would have it all down pat, right?

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As our instructor circled the group, giving helpful and supportive advice, the following was overheard:

“Oh my God, I think I’m actually getting worse.”

“My hand is cramping.”

I’m going to need more champagne.”

“We’re gonna need A LOT more practice.”

As I sat practicing my letters over and over again, I finally realized, there’s a reason why calligraphy is so beautiful.  It is an ART.  And it takes practice.  Lots and LOTS of practice.

I helped myself to more champagne.

As everyone started to feel more relaxed (due to the copious amounts of cheese and chocolate, I’m sure), the conversation veered toward the philosophical and what we go through as working women.

My mother pretty much summed it up when she so wisely stated, “Here’s the thing, you’re expected to be good daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, employees and community citizens.  At the end of all that, what’s left for you?  This is why gatherings like this are so important – it’s important to do things for yourself.”

As our calligraphy party came to a close, I may not have been a complete natural, as I so foolishly thought I’d be, my heart was still full because I had been able to spend a few precious hours devoted to keeping antiquated arts alive and to do it with some of my favorite women.

I have resolved to keep practicing my calligraphy and have received a suggestion that I should host a “Little Women Night” with as a friend suggested, a “gaunlet of needle-craft, harpsichord and singing.”  Because, you know, somebody is going to have know how to do that stuff in order to teach others to how to pass the time in underground caves, waiting for the radiation to dissipate. What do you think?

A Glorious Fourth

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As I sat here tonight, struggling to find a new topic for a new post, I heard the explosions of fireworks from a neighbors’ yard.

Eureka, I thought, Independence Day.  

I simply love Independence Day.  On the other 364 days a year, I am a pretty glass-half empty person when it comes to national and religious holidays – even at Christmas time.   The commercialism and in-your-face tactics of marketers to buy, buy, buy around those holidays wears me down, but believe it or not, on July 4, I look past all that to become the most patriotic asshole to walk on this side of the Mississippi.

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I mean, what’s not to love about Independence Day?  First of all, it’s a day off of work (I can hear you saying, hell to the yeah to that!).  Secondly, red, white and blue has got to be the greatest color combination of all time.  It just works, people.  Thirdly, you go ahead and tell me that you don’t get a little choked up when you see elderly veterans stand up and salute the flag when you watch “A Capitol Fourth” on PBS (admit it, you know you do).   And lastly, I love it because Independence Day is a day when we celebrate with family, friends, food and fellowship for the sacrifices of those who have come before us to make America a decent place to live.

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I also know my love of this day came straight from Chapter 8 in Little Town on the Prairie.

After wakening to the sounds of the town’s blacksmith exploding gunpowder on his anvil in the early morning hours, Charles Ingalls embraces the day.

“Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light?” Pa sang.

“Charles!” Ma protested, but she was laughing, because it really was too dark to see.

“It’s nothing to be solemn about!” Pa jumped out of bed.”Hurray! We’re Americans!”

Later when Laura, Pa and Carrie head to town for a small celebration put on by the founding members of the new community, patriotism swells in the heart of Laura.

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Laura and Carrie knew the Declaration by heart, of course, but it gave them a solemn, glorious feeling to hear the words.  They took hold of hands and stood listening in the solemnly listening crowd.  The Starts and Stripes were fluttering bright against the thin, clear blue overhead, and their minds were saying the words before their ears heard them.

“When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”….

Isn’t that just wonderful?  I reread that chapter every fourth of July to remind myself that even though the United States of American is far from perfect, it’s still my beloved country.

So, on July 4, I’ll be in my Betsy Ross costume, singing at the top of my lungs to “Yankee Doodle Dandy” with James Cagney, and crying my fake eyelashes off watching the elderly veterans salute the flag on PBS, watching baseball and eating apple pie, and thinking about this wonderful melting pot of cultures, religions, personalities and politics that I call home.

Until next time, I wish you all A Glorious Fourth!

 

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Rusty, dusty and musty

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Everybody raise their hand who has a favorite annual antique show!

Great!  Let me tell you about mine.

Mine is the Forever Vintage Market in Highland, Illinois that runs twice a year.

It’s just big enough to have a great selection of merchandise with good prices, super food trucks and great music, but just small enough that it doesn’t feel overwhelmed with crowds or tons of questionable looking reproductions.

The market is held at the Madison County Fairgrounds and just reeks with country charm.  Many vendors are housed inside of actual stables where animals are shown at 4-H competitions.  It’s fun to walk on dirt paths strewn with bits of straw and ogle at the fantastic wares.

The Market is held in other venues during the year, but it’s just not the same.  I love the rusty, dusty and musty feel of the whole thing.  When I find that special certain something to buy, I feel like I’ve found a diamond in the rough.

But, enough of my prattle!  I won’t keep you waiting any longer – enjoy!

 

blue and white jugs

 

flower chair

blue and white

bookcase

4H Barn

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deer

grapes

orbs

painting

silhouette

pennant

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swan

white cabinet

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Until next time – get out there and support your local antique shows!

For more information on Forever Vintage Markets, visit forevervintagemarket.com.  

A ridiculous Mother’s Day (in a good way)

Ah, Mother’s Day.  The one day a year when mothers everywhere are exalted and waited on by their loved ones while being festooned with meaningful words of love.

NOT.

I have learned the hard way over the years to take charge of my own Mother’s Day celebration, else I’ll be waiting for my family to make last minute plans for me and I get stuck doing actual work on what is supposed to be my special day.

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I mean, look at this poor woman.  I bet this photo was taken of her after her family left her house on Mother’s Day years ago and she was finally getting some damn rest.

But why focus on myself for this day?  My sainted mother, Margaret, has certainly earned and deserves more than her share of special days, so this year I decided we were going to do something out of the box for the both of us and bring a little levity to the celebration.

With the secret help of my mom’s good friend, we put together an assortment of hats, gloves, corsages and embroidered handkerchiefs to bedeck us when we went out for our traditional luncheon.

mom with hats

I thought my mom was going to pass out from laughing so hard when she saw this array of goods on her patio table.  But why not?  It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.  I love photos from past generations of seeing elegant ladies with hats and corsages celebrating special occasions and let’s face it, I don’t want to go to my grave someday never having done the same.  Life is too short, people, to not be a little ridiculous.

Aren’t these orchids beautiful?  Why do we save corsages only for high school dances and weddings these days?  Wearing this made me feel like QEII!  

In the end, we decided to go with these numbers.  Mom, in an over-the -top black chapeau with bright green feathers and me in a little veiled pillbox and Lilly Pulitzer dress.  (And no, my mother is not an amputee, if you’re wondering.  For some reason she put her arm behind her back at last minute because she didn’t know what to do with it for the photo.)

Once we felt sufficiently robed as ladies of distinction and style, we headed to Josephine’s Tea Room & Gift Shop in Godfrey, Illinois.

Josephine’s is a totally frou-frou destination for any woman who wants to immerse herself in pure femininity.  The tea room offers scrumptious food and the gift shop has a dazzling array of items for the home or a lady’s closet!

Outdoor seating area

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Dessert!

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Inside the gift shop….

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I’ll admit it, we received many compliments on our get-ups and I ate up every minute of it.  We also got some looks (you know what I’m talking about) from some members of our fair sex, but it didn’t matter.  My mom and I had a lot of laughs while spending time together and I crossed off one more item on my bucket list.  What more could you ask for on Mother’s Day?

black and white annie

Until next time, don’t be afraid to be a little ridiculous.

For more information on Josephine’s Tea Room & Gift Shop, go to http://www.josephinestearoomsandgiftshops.com/

 

Springtime in Elsah

 

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There’s nothing I love better in this earthly life than springtime.  Watching the world wake up after a long, cold, hard winter in delicate shades of green, pink and yellow, stirs my tired, snow-weary soul.

Laura Ingalls, my hero, loved springtime too.  In Little Town on the Prairie (one of the best Little House books, in my opinion) Laura wrote,

“Now it was springtime.  The Dakota prairie so warm and bright under the shining sun that it did not seem possible that it had ever been swept by the hard winds and snows of that hard winter.  How wonderful it was to be on the claim again!  Laura wanted nothing more than just being outdoors.  She felt she never could get enough sunshine soaked into her bones.”

Can’t you just feel the sunshine on your face and smell the fresh grass after you read that passage?

To celebrate the advent of spring and to finally get outdoors, I recently visited the Village of Elsah, a tiny enclave nestled in the stunning Mississippi River Bluffs, just northwest of Alton, Illinois, off the Great River Road.

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This 19th century village just oozes charm.  With a population of 673, Elsah retains much of its quaint architecture and gorgeous views from its original state featuring tiny gardens and the magnificent Mississippi River.

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Elsah was founded in 1853, by James Semple, a local lawyer and politician. In 1973, the entire village was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Everywhere you turn there is something marvelous to see!

This place is SO charming that there’s even a bird house for its tiniest of residents, alongside the church!

I can’t get enough of the beautiful details in the village.  I decided on this visit that when I die I want a pineapple finial on my gravestone.  Why in the hell would you want to do that, you ask?  WHY IN THE HELL NOT, I SAY TO YOU!

Elsah’s architecture is a feast for the eyes, boasting Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Mansard, Italianate, Saltbox, and Gambrel styles.

There’s also a fantastic museum in the village dedicated to its beginnings and the founding members of its community.  A must-see if you stop for the day.  I love imagining what it must have been like when horse-drawn carriages pulled the 19th century inhabitants up and down the narrow streets in their best clothes on a Sunday morning.

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If there are any budding entrepreneurs or restaurateurs out there, I’m dying for this vacant building to be rechristened as the new Elsah’s Landing Restaurant.  If you don’t know about the original, curse your damn rotten luck because Elsah’s Landing was THE BEST RESTAURANT EVER.  This was Panera Bread Company before Panera Bread Company was a glimmer of an idea in Ken Rosenthal’s mind.  Unbelievable soups, salads, sandwiches, and desserts abounded plus the coma-inducing potato bread…the cookbook is still for sale on amazon.com (http://amzn.to/2psGGQS).  I double dog dare someone to bring it back to its glory and I’ll pledge my unwavering business!

Until next time, Hank and I wish you a beautiful spring!

Annie and Hank Elsah

 

Self care at SLAM

Little Prairie Girl goes to the St. Louis Art Museum to get some perspective.

Do you ever have those times in your life when you feel like you’re screaming into the wind?

Lately, in my professional life, it seems like I’m trying to stick my finger in a dam that has ten thousand leaks.

I find that if I’m not careful, I’ll take my work life too personally, and let it spill over into my much protected home life.  When I’m short with my husband or son one too many times, it’s a red flag that I need to practice some self-care STAT.

To recharge, (self-aware introvert that I am) I generally needs two things to get back to center – quiet and beautiful spaces.

So, the St. Louis Art Museum in Forest Park is a natural oasis for me to pull my mind and spirit back together.

Its current exhibition, “Degas, Impressionism and the Millinery Trade” is fantastic!  It focuses on not only Degas’ artwork featuring the Paris millinery trade, but also the women who populated this booming industry during the 19th century.

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There’s something about this exhibition that cheered me to no end.  Maybe it was subject matter, graceful ladies from a by-gone era working with delicate, feminine objects, or maybe it was the revelation that these women, who had a seemingly glamorous existence by working with pretty things, their lives, much like working women today, weren’t all that they seemed on the surface. These women didn’t seem so much different than me.

 

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Nevertheless, it was wonderful to lose myself in a few hours worth of frippery and frills.  I mean, honestly, look at these hats!  The only thing that would have made seeing them better, would have been trying them on, but I don’t the think security guards in the exhibit would have appreciated me trying to open the glass case and dripping bits of my granola bar over those roses and feathers.

 

This young mademoiselle’s plumage is riveting!

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Not to be outdone by the ladies, I found this stylish beau monsieur to be captivating.

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These little cake toppers make me giggle – they serve no practical purpose other than to just be pure adornment on top of a fair head.

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Ham that I am, I couldn’t resist getting in on the act.  What do you do to rest and rejuventate?  Until next time!  Au revoir!

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