Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Literary Heroine Blog Party!





Yes, Gentle Readers, it’s that time of year again—a time we (or at least I) look forward to every February with delight. I’m speaking of course of Miss Kellie’s fabulous Literary Heroine Blog Party, now in its fifth year running.

[Pixie] *Bouncing up and down* We look forward to it, too! *BoingBoingBoing!*




 



[Bramblerose] Aye, an’ that you may tie to, m’lady.

[Ciára] For certain!

[Lady Cashmere] As you said, Tom, it is an event to look forward to each Winter. A spot of sunshine amid Winter’s gloom.

[Hobbes] Mind you, this Winter has been decidedly milder than in previous years, due the to the more temperate climate we have moved to.

[Huckle] Ooh, but I know our Anka's still been eager for the day of this Party to come!

[Elsa Lightfoot] It will be interesting to see what this festival entails. From what my comrades tell me, it is quite intriguing.










Well, there you have it—this event now has the Peanut Gallery’s stamp of approval. ;-) 
*Ahem*
Now then, let the Blog Party begin!!!

~ The Questions ~
1.      Introduce yourself! Divulge your life's vision, likes, dislikes, aspirations, or something completely random! At this point in my life, I’m trying, with God’s help, to get back into my creative writing. Of all the talents He’s given me, writing is one of the most satisfying (especially when I’m able to jot down a scene that’s been burning a hole in my stomach for days on end…). This might sound a little weird—or maybe just kinda childish—but pretending the characters in my books are real people, and I’m their appointed historian…well, somehow that’s helped me focus better on not only their stories, but the worlds they live in, as well. It’s amazing!
2.      What, to you, forms the essence of a true heroine? A true heroine must be, first and foremost, a truly devoted Christian, obedient to God’s leading in her life. She is kind and compassionate, but able to stand up for her convictions, and not afraid to confront wrongdoing. She never gives up on those she loves, no matter how beastly they are at times. She is willing to help, comfort and encourage them in time of need. If she is married, she supports her husband and knows how best to build him up. She expresses her opinions in a calm, diplomatic way and is willing to step back and let Hubby Dearest make the final decision…and she NEVER says “I told you so” when it turns out to be the wrong one. If she is single, she finds other ways of serving the Lord and leading a fulfilled life, seeing her singleness as a gift.
3.      Share (up to) four heroines of literature that you most admire and relate to.

[source]
~Jo March (Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women). Like Jo, I’ve always had an active imagination and began writing at a young age. It’s hard for me to adjust to change, and I sometimes wish things would stay the same.

~Elizabeth Bennett (Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice). I admire Eliza’s spunk and wit, as well as her willingness to take a good, hard look at her family and opinions and learn from her experiences. And a heroine who walks three miles in the mud to see her sick sister—in an era when such a thing was frowned upon for women—is automatically a kindred spirit. ;-)

[source]
~Queen Elsa (Disney’s Frozen). OK, so this one is a stretch. Technically, Frozen is supposedly based on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, but the movie is such a far cry from the original (and is actually better, IMHO) that it’s essentially a new story. Anyway, I included Elsa because I really connected with her more than any other Disney heroine. Like her, I have a lot of fear, especially about using my gifts or even telling people about my writing. Some people (especially in Christian circles) seem to think anything imaginative/fantastical is wicked, so in order to appear “the good girl I always have to be,” I shy away from telling people I write fantasy (“conceal-don’t-feel”). Like Elsa, I feel inhibited, trapped inside myself. But I’m getting tired of being so afraid, so perhaps one day I, too, will reach a “Let It Go” moment (but there will DEFINITELY be right, wrong and rules for me!).
4.      Five of your favorite historical novels?
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, of Great Renown in Nottinghamshire
by Howard Pyle
Wives and Daughters
by Elizabeth Gaskell
Anne of Green Gables
series by L.M. Montgommery
5.      Out of those five books who is your favorite major character and why? It’s pretty evenly tied between Jane Eyre, Elizabeth Bennett and Molly Gibson. They’re all spunky, yet respectful to those in authority over them, ladylike yet not weak. I think the prize has to go to Jane, though, for leaving Mr. Rochester even though it went right smack against her feelings. Her convictions about right and wrong were stronger than her emotions…and her integrity was rewarded.
6.      Out of those five books who is your favorite secondary character and why? I’m going to say Roger Hamely (Wives and Daughters). His family called him clumsy, but I loved how he took Molly under his wing like a big brother would do. He was loyal to his father, even when the Squire was in a foul temper, and to his brother, despite his somewhat wayward nature. My only beef with Roger is his idiotic puppy-love for Cynthia. Oy!
7.      If you were to plan out your dream vacation, where would you travel to - and what would you plan to do there? I’d still dearly love to visit Great Britain and explore my roots. England, Scotland, Ireland…the old castles, the quaint little villages, the breathtaking scenery…*sigh* Sometimes I fancy I can feel it all calling to me….
8.      What is your favorite time period and culture to read about? I’m most interested in the Medieval to Renaissance and Regency eras, and there are certain facets of East-Indian and Japanese culture that are quite intriguing.
9.      You have been invited to perform at the local charity concert. Singing, comedy, recitation, tap dancing… what is your act comprised of? I’m with my mom, brother, aunt and cousin, teaching anyone who wishes some fun little folk dances Mom and Aunt learned as children.
10. If you were to attend a party where each guest was to portray a heroine of literature, who would you select to represent? I’ve puzzled over this one off and on for several years now. Most of my favorite heroines are brunettes (or played by them), and since I’ve vowed never to dye my hair and can’t afford a wig, this leaves me up a bit of a creek. However, I might be able to pull off Elsa (if I could just get that Coronation hairdo right), or Snow White from the Brothers Grimm’s Snow White and Rose Red.
11. Favorite author(s)? Ones that are generally good throughout their works:
~L. Frank Baum
~A.A. Milne
~Jeanette Oke
~L.M. Montgomery (with some exceptions)

12. In which century were most of the books you read written? Mainly 19th to early 20th, with a very few earlier and/or later.
13. In your opinion, the ultimate hero in all literature is… Och, it’s been so long since I read any of my favorite books, I really can’t say. So I’m going to vote for Samwise Gamgee again.
14. In your opinion, the most dastardly villain of all literature is... Pretty evenly tied between Mr. Brocklehurst (Jane Eyre), Claude Frollo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) and Hyacinth Clare-Gibson (Wives and Daughters), AKA Horrible Hyacinth. :-P
15. Describe your ideal dwelling place. See my previous entries here, here, here and here. I’ll have to write up a proper in-depth description and post it in serial form in future….
16. Sum up your fashion style in a short sentence. Classically feminine, practical, versatile and comfortable, leaning towards romantic with a generous dash of whimsy.
17. Three favorite Non-fiction books? 
~Making and Dressing Dolls’ House Dolls in 1/12th Scale by Sue Atkinson
~How to Make your Dolls’ House Special
by Beryl Armstong
~The Miniature Costumiere
by Catriona Hall
18. Your duties met for the day, how would you choose to spend a carefree summer afternoon? In Summer, sitting out in the arbor-seat or gazebo, listening to the birds in the woods, watching the ones coming to the feeder and the hummingbirds and butterflies in the flowerbeds, feeling the soft breeze in my hair as I embroider my favorite flowers and other pretty designs on a peasant blouse or tunic (…after we’ve planted the flowers, set up a bird area and the gazebo, that is…).
In the cooler months, you’d find me either playing with PaintShop in an attempt to make Character portraits (and eventually illustrations for their stories), knitting or crocheting, or curled up with a good book and a wee snack. :-)

19. Create a verbal sketch of your dream hat - in such a way as will best portray your true character.  Every year I puzzle over this one, too, since my bangs make hat-wearing rather difficult (and I must have bangs. Trust me). And while I do acknowledge the fact that the right hat can really complete a cute outfit, I find myself drawn to ones that are more serviceable than decorative…although they need to look nice, of course. For Spring and Fall, I find my “Snowbunny” Earflap Stocking-cap works pretty well:

Photo courtesy of my Bro :-D
(Garn, I hate my profile!!)
It’s made from a knitted material that has mohair or something similar in the mix (a Christmas present from Mom), lined with flannel and trimmed with acrylic yarn. It needs some TLC and a bit of tweaking, but overall it serves me well.
For the coldest months of Winter, I fancy something like this:
 
[source]
A knitted “Pixie-bonnet” with ties…only I’d make mine in ocean colors (blues, greens, teals, turquoises, purples), with a tweedy texture produced by twisting two worsted-weight yarns together to simulate the bulky yarn called for in the pattern. I’d also make I-cord ties, add tassels to them and the top point of the hat, and line it with fleece for extra wind protection.
Summer is the hardest season for hat-wearing for me, actually. Being fair-skinned, I tend to burn easily in places (mainly my scalp and oily nose!), so I need a wide-brimmed hat of some type. I actually have one make from strips of white ribbed material (similar to grosgrain ribbon) all gathered together, which works pretty well…but it looks a little plain. Anybody have any suggestions on how to dress up a hat without it looking like a costume accessory??
If I had my ’druthers, I’d try the kerchief look (see below):
http://www.artfire.com/uploads/product/7/757/26757/4826757/4826757/large/brown_bandana_kerchief_-_brown_bandanna_triangle_headband_head_cover_42eaca73.jpg
[source]
[source]
Portrait of a Young Girl in a Red Kerchief
[source]
It seems like it’d be so much more comfortable…and if they got dirty, I could just toss them in the wash!
20. Share the most significant event(s) that have marked your life in the past year. Our move to Oregon was pretty significant—and how! I have never seen the Lord’s hand at work so clearly…or so quickly! (Mind you, there were admittedly some thumb-twiddling and downright head-banging rounds of The Waiting Game, but once things fell into place, we hit the ground running to try and keep up with Him!!!) See this post for how it all began….
21.  Share the Bible passage(s) that have been most inspiring to you recently. One of the elders at our church (we’re currently between pastors) has been going through the book of Malachi, and amongst the warnings and chidings from the Lord to rebellious Israel was this passage:

Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon His Name.
    
“And they shall be Mine,” saith the LORD of hosts, “in that day when I make up My jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.”
Malachi 3: 16-17, KJV (capitols added to Divine Pronouns)

To me, this passage says that those whom God has chosen for His own are as precious to Him as jewels, and He will keep and protect us from His coming wrath. When we surrender our lives to Jesus and acknowledge Him as Lord, we are counted as His children. It brings to mind several other wonderful and uplifting Scriptures in Paul and Peter’s epistles, speaking about our “inheritance incorruptible,” which God is “able to keep” until the day He calls us Home. Hallelujah!
* * *
Be sure to stop by Kellie’s blog and read some of the other entries—it’s always such fun to read how other people answer the same questions.

Until next time, Gentle Readers,
God bless,
~“Tom”~

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine’s Day



Here’s a little something in the “awwwwww” department for those who celebrate Valentine’s Day: Cute Couple pix from some of my favorite stories—on the page and on the screen—plus a few of my own Characters.
 
Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett (-Darcy)
(Pride and Prejudice)

 
Flynn Ryder/Eugene Fitzherbert and Rapunzel
(Disney’s Rapunzel)

 
Hobbes (orange) and Cashmere (white),
Faerie-tigers
(The Pirate-hunter)

 
Frödr and Shíra, Faerie-snow-leopards
(Ýdära books)


Elaine Marley and Guybrush Threepwood
(Monkey Island adventure [computer] games)


And speaking of computers, here’s a special little something for all my Gentle Readers who double as computer geeks:
 
 Until next time, Gentle Readers,
God bless,
~“Tom”~

Friday, February 6, 2015

Fashion Feature ~Birthday Couture~


(Outfit pictures courtesy of my obliging Bro. :-D)
Please excuse the dorky pose; I haven't been
photogenic since I was 18. :-P

~What I’m Wearing~
 Shoes: Black 3-strap heels—thrifted
Stockings: Black fleece-lined tights—hand-me-down from Mom
Dress: “Viola”—made by me
Hairstyle: “Rosaleen” All-over Curls with Lace-braids
 Jewelry: “Woodland Faerie” Necklace; Amethyst Eardrops—made by me
Not pictured in outfit shots:

“Amethyst Wings” ring (left)—Arden Fair Mall, February 2000
“Flora” ring (right)gift from Daddy, February 2001



It’s been a tradition of mine for most of my life to wear something purple on my birthday. After all, purple has always been my favorite color. It also *just happens* to be the color of my birthstone and birth-flower!

Enter “Viola,” a Regency-inspired frock made mostly from vintage patterns (circa 1970s-80s), re-drafted to suit my shape (although the pattern I used for the main dress actually had the Empire waist in the perfect place for me—a very rare thing for us long-chested gals). It’s made of poly-rayon gabardine, which drapes beautifully and is easy to care for on the whole.
There are a few things I’d tweak if I ever made this pattern again—namely, installing the zipper in the side seam, as the sleeves are too restrictive for me to reach it in back. >Sigh< I’ll also probably stick to round, V or rounded-V (“diamond”)-necklines from now on; sweetheart necks just don’t work on me.
Side view of hairstyle. Taken at the end of the day,
when my pretty corkscrews had turned into
Bad '80s Frizz. :-P
That said, it went together much better than the ill-fated “English Lavender” (but then, I did a mock-up of this pattern beforehand, whereas EL was the mock-up—BAD IDEA—and this pattern was much simpler, construction-wise). The dress fits pretty well and is otherwise comfortable and flattering. I received several compliments on this frock (especially from the twelve- and thirteen-year-olds who sing in the choir with me, LOL)!
Eventually, I want to make a chiffon overlayer, embroidered with a dainty vine-pattern and possibly trimmed with more colorful embroidery in key areas (as I mentioned in my CE), to dress it up some. Unless I decide something like that would be too costume-y….
By God’s grace I was able to whip up this pretty little necklace (christened “Wooldand Faerie”) and put new earwires on my Amethyst Eardrops in time to wear them on Sunday. The necklace was supposed to have two oval cabochons on either side of the silver vines in the chain, but the settings I got didn’t work as well as I’d hoped, and there wasn’t time to order anything else before my birthday. So I just threw some amethyst beads in the chain for now and hope to make it up proper at a later date (Lord willing).

This is the nicest outfit I’ve made myself in a long time, and it’s so wonderful to actually have a dress in my closet again!

Until next time, Gentle Readers,
God bless,
~“Tom”~

Sunday, February 1, 2015

[Belated] Character Encounter—Surprise Date ~Ciaran~




For February 2014, Kendra decided our CE for the month would be one of our characters taking us authors on a surprise date. And who better to take myself on a date than my “imaginary beau”? ;-)
Unfortunately, I had pretty much decided to take an extended hiatus from blogging by then, so I wasn’t able to get it written in time for the link-up. 

*EDIT* Kendra said I could link-up with this year's CE, even though it's a year late. Thank you, Dahling!!! /EDIT
 
However, Ciaran has been gently prodding me to “write the Birthday Story” off and on, and since this story—which came into my head on my birthday—was absolutely perfect for the CE, by God’s grace I’ve finally gotten it ready to share with my Gentle Readers. Since it was written over the course of a year after my birthday, it has changed a little in some of its details, but the essentials are still there. I do hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it (although I’ve had to cut it way short, as it was turning into a long-winded novel-wannabe)!
* * *

     In the wee hours of my birthday morning, I opened my eyes and was immediately wide awake. It happens now and then, and it’s usually very annoying because it steals my energy for the day ahead. However, this time I wasn’t worried about it, since we were planning to spend a laid-back day at home after church anyway. I lay there, just resting, thinking over the fun things Mom and I had planned to do, looking forward to my special day.
     My bedroom door opened a crack, and a soothing white light—with just the faintest hint of silvery blue—shone through, illuminating the room. The door opened a little further, and I was able to distinguish the shape of a beautifully wrought lantern as the source of the light, held by a tall man with a familiar freckled face framed in neatly-kept fiery curls. His grass-green eyes twinkled merrily as he beamed an infectious Donald O’Connor smile at me.
     “Ciaran,” I whispered, smiling back at him.
     “Hullo, lass,” he replied. “Many Happy Returns.”
      “Thanks,” I answered, propping myself up on one elbow.
     Ciaran entered the room and, laying the lantern on my bureau, closed the door softly behind him. The soft glow emanating from the graceful silver lantern reflected off the gold buckles on his brown leather shoes and the gold buttons on his long, goldenrod-yellow waistcoat and pea-green jacket, both of which had a scaled-down Georgian feel. He had even donned a pair of creamy ivory stockings and buff-colored knee-breeches. His ivory shirt boasted several tiny covered buttons down the front, disappearing into his waistcoat—but no stock or wrist-frills—and I saw now that he carried a wide-brimmed brown felt hat in his other hand.
     “And what are you all dressed up for, laddie buck?” I quipped.
     Ciaran smiled mysteriously and held out his free hand. “Come wi’ me, lass,” he said, “an’ ye’ll be findin’ out.”
     “Come where?” I asked.
     “I’ve a surprise for ye.”
     “But—but I’m in my pajamas!” I protested, pulling the covers around myself.
     “Never ye mind, lass,” he beamed. “That’s been provided for. Ye see, I’ve got ye a wee gift.” He walked over to my closet, pulled out a dress and brought it over to me. A dress the color of amethyst, overlaid with chiffon embroidered with airy, self-colored rose-vines. For trim, it boasted strips of purple fabric embroidered with green vines bearing clusters of roses and violets, adorning the Empire waist, the sides of the bodice—framing the gathered neckline of the chiffon layer—and at the seam between the long fitted lower sleeves and the small puffed upper sleeves.
     “My—my birthday dress!” I gasped. “But…I had to leave it plain; there wasn’t time to embroider the chiffon layer. Shoot, I didn’t have time even to cut out the chiffon layer!
     “No’ in the Real World, lass,” he explained, “but in your Imagination, your gown is as ye intended it to be.”
     He opened the room-door again, and a tall and beautiful lady entered. The lantern’s light glistened in her shining white hair, which reached her slender waist in soft ripples and had the faintest hint of blue. She wore a flowing white robe with a sky-blue undergown, and the gown’s long angel-sleeves were slit up the center, the slit bridged with strings of sparkling beads to match those sprinkled here and there on her gown. Her fair skin had a sort of moonlight glow to it—a glow that seemed to come from within—and her eyes were the color of cobalt blue glass. The silver filigree circlet adorning her brow sported little poppy-shaped flowers wrought of the same white-silver metal, enameled with blue in the centers, and tiny gemstones in varying shades of blue.
     “Lady Muriel!” I gasped.
     The Elven lady approached and, rather than saluting me in Elf-fashion, she curtsied deeply and gracefully. “Many Happy Returns of the day, Anka,” she said in a voice like silver bells. “I am come to help you prepare for the celebration.”
     “Celebration?” I echoed.
     “Ye’ll be findin’ that out soon enow’, lass,” Ciaran chuckled. “Now if ye ladies’ll excuse me….” He slipped back out the door again.
     “Always the gentleman,” I smiled, throwing off the covers.
     Lady Müriel helped me to dress, handing me a pair of purple stockings and matching cotton-velvet slippers—again, products of my Imagination, since I haven’t been able to secure their Real World counterparts. A line from the Anne Books flashed through my head as I surveyed my appearance critically in the full-length mirror: “You look almost pretty in that gown!”
     “Oh, but you are pretty, Anka,” Lady Müriel assured me. She smiled sheepishly as I shot her a bit of a frown. “Forgive me; I did not intend to invade your privacy, but the thought was so…loud, one might say…I could not help but perceive it.”
     I lifted one corner of my mouth. “Forgiven. And thanks. I guess I can be”—I shrugged—“pretty enough, with a little effort.” I lowered my brows and pursed my lips at the reflection of my plastic- and-foam-encased hair. “But I daresay I’ll look a lot better once I lose these curlers, wot?”
     “Allow me, Anka,” Lady Müriel offered. She began carefully sliding my hair off the objects in question, and they slipped out easily and smoothly, leaving my hair in perfect ringlets. Next, she gently combed her fingers through the ringlets, separating them into softer, more natural-looking curls, and lace-braided the hair in front of my ears, joining the two braids at the back of my head into one. The finishing touch was to remove the curlers from the hair at my temples. I couldn’t hide my astonishment when they, too, slid off the rollers as smoothly as the rest of my hair and formed perfect, airy little corkscrews.
     “Wow, you’re good,” I remarked.
     “Your hair is beautiful to work with, Anka,” Lady Müriel replied.
     “Er—thanks, but I think you deserve some of the credit. Usually, when I do my own hair like this, it sticks to the curlers—the little tendrils especially—and the ends come out a bit frizzy.”
     “But they are not ‘frizzy’ now,” she pointed out.
     “Must be that Elf-magic of yours.”
     Lady Müriel looked confused. “It could not be, Anka; I do not have my wand.”
     I smiled patiently at her. “You’re more skilled with magic arts than you give yourself credit for, my lady. One day, you’ll find out you don’t need your wand to focus your powers.”
     She nodded, but didn’t reply to my statement. “I believe you are ready for the festivities, Anka,” she said. “I shall leave you with your faithful escort.” Then she raised her left hand, palm outwards, with the middle finger leaning forward slightly and the thumb at an acute angle from the hand—the salute that Elven ladies give each other. “Elyon be with you, Anka.”
     I mirrored her salute. “And also with you, my lady,” I replied.
     Lady Müriel left via the door, and Ciaran re-entered at nearly the same time, smiling approvingly at my attire.
     “Och, but here’s a bonny lass,” he beamed. “Purple suits ye, an’ that ye may tie to—but don’t be forgettin’ your Ankúlen, lass.”
     I lifted one corner of my mouth. “Which one? I seem to have multiple Ankúlens, you know.”
     “The one best suited to your character, lass.”
     I smiled, knowing exactly which one he meant—the one I called “Woodland Faerie.” In the days preceding my birthday, I had put together a dainty chain with silver leafy vines flanked by amethyst beads, a pewter rose-shaped Y-connector in the center, and an amethyst teardrop hanging from it. I had intended to put oval cabochons on either side of the vines, instead of the beads. But the settings I’d bought for the cabochons hadnt worked out like I’d hoped, and there wasn’t time to order anything else before my birthday. As it was, there had been just barely time to get my basic dress and the necklace just wearable by the end of January.
     I wasn’t too surprised, then, when I opened my jewelry case and found “Woodland Faerie” set with the four-stone-flanked vine-chain, all ready to wear with my beautiful embroidered gown. Again, that was how I imagined it. Smiling with satisfaction, I held my hair out of the way while Ciaran fastened the necklace about my neck, and looped my arm through his when he offered it. He retrieved the Faerie-lantern and opened the door once more, and together we stepped through it and left my bedroom behind.
     Imagine my surprise, my utter amazement, when, instead of finding the tiny hallway and the bathroom doorway before us, I saw a vast room with an arched vaulted ceiling, supported with beautifully carved ashwood beams, gleaming like solid moonlight in the light of three immense chandeliers. These were wrought of shining silver filigree with an almost pearlescent sheen, shaped like what appeared to be tulip-blossoms, with leafy branches spread out from the base, hung with glittering crystals and sporting what looked like candle holders at the ends, except that the light in them was not that of candles. The floor and the walls were of white marble inlaid with green in narrow bands, bordered with thin lines of gold, and a magnificent marble staircase led to a gallery where musicians played. The music that floated down through the room had a soothing—almost otherworldly—quality to it, yet at the same time refreshing and exciting. Then it registered in my brain that a great crowd filled the room—people and animals and mythical Creatures of all descriptions—folk I recognized more or less instantly.
     I shot Ciaran an open-mouthed smile as I realized where we were. “We’re in Ýdära!” I whispered excitedly, squeezing his arm. “This has to be the Palace of the Faerie-king in Arboria, and all those folk out there”—waving my free hand in their direction—“are my Characters. That’s why you told me to wear my Ankúlen—so we could go In!”
     Just then, an Elven servant took Ciaran’s hat and the lantern, curtsying to me and calling me “Anka,” as had Lady Müriel, before hurrying away.
     “Come, lass,” Ciaran whispered, giving my hand a pat, “’tis time ye were meetin’ your party guests.”
     The first to approach us was Nácil Vítuódhrán, son of Othniel King of the Faeire-folk of Arboira—none other than the Elven-king himself. He placed his right fist on the left side of his chest and bowed from the waist, saying, “Many Happy Returns of the Day, Anka. Welcome to my humble Palace. It is the hope of all who gather here that you will be pleased with the celebration we have prepared for you.”
     I felt I ought to curtsy and attempted to do so…and while I daresay even an Elven-child of three or four would probably have been more graceful, at least I kept my balance.
     “Your Majesty—and all of you—I am…well, I’m quite overwhelmed—and honored! Thank you all so much.”
     “On behalf of all the folk of Ýdära, the Mirach System, the Land Behind the Door, the World of Men and Onória, I say, ‘You are most welcome.’ And now—to the banquet!”
     A cheer arose from the crowd—particularly among my teenagers and Brynikins.*
     In the center of the room, in line with the elegantly-carved thrones of the Faerie-king and –queen, stood several long tables put end-to-end and covered with snowy linen cloths embroidered with more tulip-flower motifs in gold and silver thread. The tables were laden with steaming serving dishes of manacotti, chicken piccata, and tortellini in pesto. There was a huge green salad tossed in a simple vinaigrette, baskets of toasty, cheesy garlic bread; ruby-red cranberry juice and blood-orange Italian soda in cut-glass pitchers frosty from being chilled. There were cut-glass bowls of olives and pickled vegetables, platters of thinly-sliced salami, a variety of cheeses, as well as the most beautiful filled chocolates I’d ever seen. All foods I enjoy—some of my absolute favorite dishes, in fact.
     “You’ve been busy, laddie buck,” I quipped to Ciaran as we filled our plates.
     He assumed an innocent expression. “Oh, I have, have I? Be ye certain-sure ’twas meself arranged all this, then?”
     “Of course, you,” I countered, ruffling his hair as he leaned over to spear some pickled wax-beans. “Of all my Characters, you’re the one who knows me best. How else could Victor—I mean King Nácil—have my favorite foods at his banquet?”
     Ciaran’s only response was a sly grin and a wink.
     We mingled with the crowd, greeting and being greeted by various and sundry folk whose stories I have yet to write, but that are already more or less formed in my head—and growing all the time! But it would take far too long to describe them or recount all the wonderful conversations we had together. Suffice it to say, it was a time I’ll never forget.
 

* * *



Until next time, Gentle Readers,
God bless,


~“Tom”~
 

* Brynikins = My term for Halflings or Hobbits in Ýdära. My mother’s suggestion, based on the Welsh word bryn (“hill”) and the Old English manikin (“little man”).

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Life at Longacre, Part One



~A Virtual Tour of our Oregon Residence~
(Click on the photos to enlarge)

Hail and well-met, Gentle Readers! I’m popping back into the Blogosphere to give you a peek at the new home God led my family to in Southern Oregon last Summer. The pictures were taken in Fall, but due to Moving Madness™, Real Life and my infernal tendency to procrastination, I’m just now getting around to posting this. >Le Sigh<

Anyway, I call our new home Longacre because it’s set on 1.88 acres, but since it’s only ninety feet wide, it extends quite a ways up the hill—possibly half a mile. The name has a slightly Native American flavor to it, although a friend told me it sounds like something out of Jane Austen, too. Cool!
Our new home!
Our tour begins at the road we take to get home—a relatively quiet country road in a hilly, wooded area of Southern Oregon, with gorgeous views of nearby mountains, just a stone’s throw away from two of the three local rivers. As you can see from the picture, there are several trees (TREES!!!) on and around the property, many of them oaks (which don’t grow in Idaho and were sorely missed). The little building in the lower-left corner is the well-house, which not only supplies us with all our water, but with its bright-yellow sunburst decoration, makes a good landmark for friends to find us!
The Orchard

OUCH!!!
(How is this tree even still alive?!)
Further up the hill are the remains of an orchard. We think there are English and black walnut, apple, plum and apricot trees here. I say “remains” because many of the poor trees have problems (the apricots having hardly any wood left on their trunks--see pic at right), so none of them are very healthy. We may end up just putting them out of their misery *cue chainsaw noises* and start over…if we decide we can handle growing fruit.


The Meadow










The Pear Tree
Beyond the Orchard is the Meadow…a small meadow, with a baby willow tree growing in the center. There are also wild roses in one place, :-D and a pear tree at the far edge of the meadow (that bright green one under the golden trees in the upper-right)…which consequently is the healthiest fruit tree at this end of the property. We didn’t get many pears last year because the crows and ravens stole them all….
     
It's hard to tell in the photo, but the High Road (at right) is actually a little steeper than it looks
The driveway splits at this point into what I call the High Road and the Low Road (but unfortunately, neither of them lead to Scotland :-P). The High Road is lined by struggling members of the juniper or cypress family, with creeping juniper and young madrone saplings at their feet. If the trees were healthier, they’d lend a rather grand “manor-house” feel to our humble home, wot?
It ain't fancy, but it's home!
And now we get a better view of Longacre House itself. Note the big, spacious front porch (twice the size of the one at Prairie Cottage) and the lovely, soothing sage-green color the former owners painted it. There are the remains of some flower beds and an herb garden, and a wisteria vine at the left-hand corner (which went bye-bye in late-Fall because we’re all so allergic). The former owners had carpet laid out on the area in front of the house, to smother the weeds, and eventually we’ll probably spread some gravel and make this a parking area.

To our great delight, they left this lovely arbor-seat, and a grape-vine has already taken up residence on it. We’re really jazzed about this grape-vine because it’s a concord—and not just any concord; a highly-prized Dark Purple, to boot!—which means Lord willing we can find us another steamer, we can make homemade grape juice again!
This area has some real potential as a flower garden/thinking spot one day.

Shall we see what’s round the back of the house before we go inside?
"Two Point" (front) and "Three Point" (back)
Here’s the backyard…which obviously needs some TCL yet. But there’s a lot of potential! The little tree turning reddish is some kind of cherry (whether edible or ornamental, we’ll find out come Spring), and you can just make out the apple tree behind the blue spruce at the back of the lawn. We got some good apples off this tree, and what we didn’t eat, the local deer were more than happy to clean up (see picture).



A better shot of the back lawn, taken from about where the High Road connects with the Low Road. Yes, Gentle Readers, we have a circular driveway. *Ooh, vahz!* ;-)

The bushes to the left are rhododendrons and a camellia, with little dog-violets (yay!) at their feet, and some wild cyclamen from Aunt Betty nestled amongst them. I have to watch them carefully, otherwise these clowns will dig them up:
Turkey-turkey-turkey! (--turkey....)

*Ooh, vahz = An expression denoting something is high-class, or very proper. Usually uttered with dramatic sarcasm.
Source: A pronunciation of V-A-S-E, converted by Tasha L. (née H.) into an expression, which was adopted by our family in February 2012.
~Tom’s Dicionary of Whacked-out Terms and Old Family Sayings




The back acre. We were told there was a garden area back there, but now the wild blackberries have taken over. Peter thinks it won’t be too hard to reclaim, though…eventually.
Note the beautiful orangey-red vine maple at right. I don’t think we’ve ever had a maple tree before….
We have hiked up into the back woods a few times—earlier in the Fall before it started raining regularly—but I never got any pix. But Spring is coming, and they’ll be gorgeous when the oaks get their new leaves, and the madrones are in bloom. :-D


The Low Road. This shot gives you a feel for how the house is situated on the property. This one is prettier, however:

We’ll probably leave the creeping Saint John’s wart on the side of the hill to prevent erosion, but eventually we want to clear out what’s at the top of the hill and make some flower beds. You can’t really see them, but there are a couple sweet briars amongst the creeper! Rosehip tea, anyone?

Between the trees on the left, one can see the neighbors’ pond:
Late-October/early-November, 2014.
It's now twice that full with the Winter rains
  In Summer, this was nothing but a little scooped-out-looking hole in the hillside, where the deer sometimes rested under the shade of the trees. After the rains came, however, it quickly turned into a proper little pond. I call it the Naiad’s Looking-glass. :-) (Come Summer, however, it may become merely Deer Hollow when it dries up again.)


The Meadow and the Orchard, seen from the Low Road.
This is directly across the drive from the last shot. Mom and I have evil exciting plans for this site. Like terracing, some flowers, and steps leading from the Upper Level down to the Low Road and the Meadow….
Well, now we’ve come back around to the Y in the driveway, so that completes Part One of the tour. In Part Two, we’ll head back up the hill and see the inside of the house!

Until then, Gentle Readers,
God bless,
~“Tom”~