The winds outside the studio are howling with our third blizzard of the winter. This one is a much more serious storm for our friends to the north and I have yet to hear from the stalwart islanders who are in the path of the gale force winds…but one of them has managed to send along some fortification for our own storm weary selves…
Leave it to Wendy and James to know exactly what would perk up our spirits… Chilmark Chocolates !!!!
For those of you who have never had this treat…there is a little farmhouse in the town of Chilmark on the island of Martha’s Vineyard…and in back of that farmhouse is a little shack…and inside of that shack are a team of chocolatiers who have overcome some of lifes more difficult challenges and have found meaningful work blending and dipping and creating the most delicious candy on the planet.
If you have been there then you are familiar with the crowded dance in the tiny parking lot and the streams of visitors who wait their turn in front of the long case to choose and point and watch as the staff fill tiny dark brown fluted paper cups with the sweet delicacies. I expect that on a snowy february day there is not much of a wait…but the thoughtful effort to procure these boxes and send them south to us in the depths of winter….is nothing short of spectacular.
Pat would not let me show her face in the photo but I can attest to the smile from ear to ear…with a tiny little dab of chocolate at the curl on one side.
A great shout out of thanks to you both. Brilliant !
Here’s a look at what Wendy is doing when she’s not playing an elf and is in her Vineyard studio…and when James gets a web site up and running I’ll pass along the link to his own amazing artwork… wendyweldon.com
And though they don’t have a web site…here’s a link to a very old NYTimes article on the startup of Chilmark Chocolates… Click Here
We bundled up and went over the river and through the woods to EY and Alice’s house for an evening of fine food, good company and great music. The Murphey’s are innkeepers at the E J Bowman House B + B in Lancaster, PA.
Where Alice is famous for her gourmet breakfasts and charming hospitality and EY is famous for gathering musicians and friends together so he can wander through the crowds joining in on the jam sessions with his tin whistles and his clever reparte.
Last weekend Pat and I joined in the merriment and I got to fulfill a life long dream of playing the Bodhran in an Irish band.
The evening started with a potluck spread out over three rooms and it wasn’t long before the musicians started one by one to play in a little nook in the front hall. By the end of the evening, with the crowd in full voice and brew inspired gusto, anyone with an instrument from harp to fiddle to guitars gallore and full throated keyboards, pipes and spoons and yes, bodhrans….was playing to bring the house down.
In this most welcoming and generous of venues, and in true Irish Session tradition, I pulled out me drum and me tipper and beat along to the lively tunes. The best part was the kind reception from the pros who admired my ebony tipper and showed me a few pointers on their sweet and beautiful Waltons Bodhrans.
When the skin on my old bodhran split a few years back I replaced it with a drum with a synthentic head. It’s tunable and the guys did get some terrific sounds out of it but it’s nothing like the velvety notes they were getting on the real deals. Of course they went to the emerald isle herself to pick theirs up. But then that’s another dream…
Meanwhile it was grand to step out of the studio and tap into the life source again…
I am in a blue February funk today and, as my dear departed friend Polly would say… it’s time to…
“shake yourself together !”
So I’m doing just that…I cleaned the studio office yesterday in preparation for getting taxes ready and I gathered up all the post-its which have been tossed about for months now. When I come across a web site or blog that interests me I jot down the link with the intention of sharing them with you all. Today’s the day.
The site that started me doing this is the Juniper Moon Farm blog (formerly the Martha’s Vineyard Fiber Farm). Susan Gibbs and her team of women are trying to make a go of raising goats and sheep to produce fine yarn and spinning fibers. They have the unique marketing concept of running their venture as a CSA (community sponsored agriculture … I think) so they sell shares in the fiber from each shearing. This way they pay for the caring and feeding of the flock as well as have a ready market for the end product.
Decades ago my dream of doing just this very thing went astray …after shadowing a shepardess and seeing some of the not so pleasant sides of sheep caretaking…but I have been a lifelong knitter and spinner and have become hooked on this blog as I follow the many ups and downs along their journey. Susan is an avid blogger so there is something new everyday. Lots of photos of her flock and free giveaways, and she often has a feature called…something you might like…where she shares links to neat sites or products she has found on the web.
So, for all you knitters and spinners out there… if you don’t already know of this farm…you’re gonna love it !
And here begins this blog’s version of paying it forward…
Links you might like…
This is my bestest pal Peter Follansbee. He has made several appearences on this blog and even if you are not a woodworker you will enjoy reading his… Peter Follansbee, joiner notes . We started our careers together in a tiny frameshop in a closet on the second floor of the Harvard Coop and now we are growing old together each doing the thing we love most to do in this world. In addition to being a devoted scholar, brilliant humorist, master craftsman, and all around brilliant human… Peter and his equally brilliant wife Maureen are raising two clones who have inherited and are surpassing their own spectacular qualities…. Rose and Daniel who make occasional guest appearances on Papa’s blog.
Laurie R. King…can’t say enough about this author and her books. But she can and does in her blog . There is a countdown in progress for the latest in her Mary Russell novels…release date is 27 April. Get all the preview buzz complete with puzzles and artwork and lots of extras and give yourselves a treat and start the Kate Martinelli series. She’s gotten me through hundreds of listening hours at the easel.
Alison Shaw…famed photographer of all things Martha’s Vineyard and beyond. You have to see these images in person to fully appreciate the depth of their beauty but the website is a place to start until you can make the trek to the vineyard. This year we will be sharing the spotlight, together with Carol Maquire at the Granary Gallery summer show… 25 July… and I am honored to be in such fine company.
My all time favorite cookbook is one that Alison photographed and Tina Miller wrote…Vineyard Harvest . We love the lobster maki recipe !
And a shout out to our dear friend Vanessa Earl. She’s a dynamite artist and human who has a querky and compassionate love of artistic expression. She’s an artist to watch and though she doesn’t write on her blog often enough, it is a breath of fresh air when she does. Her photography seems to be taking a back seat to her fiber arts at the moment but anything V lends her hands to results in magic.
That’s just a start. I can throw a couple of those post-its away now. Stay tuned for more to come…
I remember sitting at this computer a year ago today…plowing through piles of tax papers and getting an email saying that a litter of 14 pups had arrived…and one of them was our sweet little girl…
So far she has celebrated her birthday with a little run through her snow maze…some zippers around the studio kitchen…whining at the window as she watched Zola get on the school bus…then…on the sly…while I was writing this blog entry…she somehow found the stash of bully stick chews and gave her own self a birthday present.
We have a couple more surprises in store for her today…and I can’t wait to see what others she has for us.
We look forward to many years worth of fun and adventures to come….Happy Birthday Finn.
Sitting here in the studio looking at mountains of snow.
Three days of hard labor with the snow shovels and monster blower machine thingy and I am so grateful that all I have to lift today is a triple ought sable haired brush.
At the height of the blizzard I took this shot from the studio window…
And here’s a look at a painting that I worked on after our first snow storm back in December…almost the same view…just pan over to the right a bit more…
And a look at the labyrinth that I have to shovel out for Finn each time it snows so her mending legs have a better than fair chance out there in the tundra…
And the Apprentice Herself tucked into the snow fort that has melted some but was well over her head a day or so ago…
The good news is that we finally got Miss Pat out of the lane and up to town. Her cabin fever was approaching the red zone so even the laundromat was looking good !
Blueberry pancakes for both of my valentines this morning to fortify another day of winter survival adventures…and I shall be more than content to paint the day away and know that I am so well loved by my two sweeties.
Last week we weathered a trifecta of sad, painful and challenging events. Pat’s father, Frances (Pez) Ritchey 86, was admitted to intensive care and we waited each day to hear news of his deteriorating condition while in the hospital in Hawaii. On the home front our dear puppy Finnegan was scheduled to have the first of two surgeries on her front legs to minimize the elbow displaysia with which she was diagnosed in December. And, along with several other million people, we were following the weather channels who predicted us to be in the core of the blizzard of 2010.
I’m sad to write that Pez died on Saturday. Pat was relieved for him that he was not allowed to linger on machines and that she was able to have many hours of conversations over the last few years about the old neighborhood and adventures that she remembers fondly with him when growing up in Lancaster, PA.
We brought Finnegan home just in time to batten down the hatches for the big snow storm. It has been four days now and she is doing remarkably well. On strict house arrest until her next surgery in a month, she is getting regular therapy sessions and a big dose of love from her buddy and me and ….except for insisting that we refer to her as “You Highness” when she has the Elizabethan Collar on…she’s a model patient.
Today the apprentice returned to the studio for the first time and was beyond excited to see that her toys and bones and her brushes and paints were right where she left them.
Meanwhile I had the pleasure, while taking Finn out several times during the blizzard, to watch it bury our little corner of the planet. We got two feet and more in some spots and the snow blower finally has paid for itself.
Here are some highlights mid-storm and the morning after.
I can report that we made it up to town today to stock up for the next storm which is predicted to be a piddling foot or more moving through here tomorrow night. Restocked the pantry and the wine cellar…so we’re ready.