Friday, April 29, 2011

A Week of Beauty and the Giveaway Winner!

Hello, my friends!  I assigned everyone who entered the giveaway a number, then I used Random Number Generator to select a winner of the Novica gift certificate, and I'm pleased to announce that the lucky person is Patti!  I happen to know that Patti is a very talented artisan herself, so it's wonderful to share this prize with her.

Thanks to everyone who entered, and to everyone who visits The Magpie's Fancy.  I love the community of people I've met here over the past two years.

The collage above is of various shots from my week.  That's my little sunporch, and down in the right corner is the creamy lemon meringue pie I made for Easter.  I'll be posting the recipe for it on HubPages this weekend, and I'll let you know when it's up.

Wishing you all a beautiful weekend.  Like you, my heart and thoughts are with everyone who has been affected by the horrible tornadoes this week.  Each day lately seems to be a reminder to live life to its fullest and cherish one another.  xo g  

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wishful Thinking and a Giveaway

I'm engaging in a little Wishful Thinking at Reverie-Daydream today.  Please come visit me there!

Also, if you haven't registered for my giveaway, you can do it here
 The prize is a $75 gift certificate to Novica--
a truly beautiful online catalog full of handmade beauty from all over the world.
Deadline for registering is this coming Friday at noon EST.

I hope you're having a beautiful week.  
Welcome to new followers and subscribers!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Remembering Why


The childhood scents of Easter were always milk chocolate, of course, and baked ham, and the overwhelming scent of my favorite purple hyacinths--for I adored anything purple and anything from my father, and this flower was his special gift to me every year, its little pot wrapped in pink foil and tied with a wide yellow ribbon.  

And then there were the sights of Easter Mass: the church crowded with grownups and children alike, kneeling stiffly in their best dresses and suits, and every female wearing a new--or newly decorated--straw hat.  My own was white straw decorated with fabric daisies and bearing a white elasticized cord that hooked under my chin to keep the hat firmly on my head.  The straw made my scalp itch, and throughout the homily I tugged at the cord, certain that it was going to choke me to death before we ever got to communion.  Even so, I loved Easter and what it represented.  It seemed to me a day of mysteries and questions at the end of a long month of mysteries and questions--and, of course, sacrifice.  The big question among all my Catholic friends every year was always, "What are you going to give up?"  My answer was always candy.  The obvious choice, but also, looking back, the wise one, because it made that hollow chocolate bunny taste all the sweeter come Easter Sunday, but also because giving up some small thing that we truly desire is a good practice in life, as in Lent. Even as a very little girl I knew it was a meager gesture in the face of the magnitude of Christ's sacrifice, and yet all the children I knew made it quite solemnly, a credit to the people who raised us to see ourselves as one small part of something much greater than ourselves.

I still remember asking my Catechism teacher repeatedly why Good Friday was called "good."  I was  eight years old, and I kept saying to the poor woman, "but it can't be good, if Christ died.  That's not good."  She sighed and said, "Yes, Gigi, but he rose again.  That's why Good Friday is 'good.'  He died so that he could rise again."  I sat in the large, dimly lit church every morning during Holy Week, peering up at the stations of the cross, wondering why Christ had to die and rise again.  Why, I wondered, couldn't he just have kept on living, making loaves and fishes and doing other wondrous deeds.  Sister Edwina had led my class all around the church the previous week, showing us the stations and teaching us about Christ's Passion.  Now I sat beside my family in our pew and realized that my question about Good Friday was only the the first in a long line of hard questions that I would be asking for the rest of my life.

Today, as my husband and I colored Easter eggs and he made the traditional potato, kielbasa, and horseradish borscht from his mother's recipe, we talked about the Easters of our childhoods, each of us living in small New England towns, he an altar boy in a Polish Catholic church and me the granddaughter of French Catholics.  Our upbringings were shaped by traditions and foods and words and gestures imbued with a history that we couldn't have imagined as we hunted for eggs and chocolates in the wet morning grass, our baskets hooked in our elbows, feet racing to discover the next secret hiding place.  Little did we know that life would always be full of mysteries, and that decades later we would still be searching.  

I looked up this afternoon from dipping a perfect white egg into a bowl of blue dye.  "Why," I asked my husband, "do we still make all the traditional dishes, and why do I remember exactly how your dziadzi liked his borscht--with lots of horseradish stained pink by beet juice?" 

"Because," he replied, "so many of the people we love have died.  We make these dishes to remember them.  We remember them to feel connected.  They helped to make us who we are."

In the face of mysteries and questions, these gestures--these flavors and smells and snapshot memories--help us remember where we came from, help us shape who we wish to become, and to make each day, in the most profound sense, truly good.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Very Special Giveaway

Hello, my friends.  
As promised, I have a very special giveaway to share this week.  
The prize is one $75 gift certificate from Novica.

If you have never shopped at Novica, you are in for a treat.  All of their products are handcrafted by artisans from all over the world.  Novica works in association with National Geographic to connect buyers directly with artists and craftspeople.  As they explain in their mission statement: "We want you to know about who you're buying from. We want you to feel that attachment to the product and to the hands that created it." 

Photo from here.

I recently ordered two items from the Novica website, the "Wine Garden" silk batik shawl by Yuni Kristina from Bali that is pictured above and a gorgeous pair of chalcedony earrings crafted by Thai jewelry artist Khun Boom.  Novica items are shipped directly from the country where they are made, so my items arrived separately, but very soon after I ordered them, and they came packaged in beautiful gift boxes.  In fact, the scarf came in the deep-red and black silk box in the photo above--a box that I will definitely reuse for storing jewelry.

Just as you see in the photo, the scarf is a rich red decorated with a lush floral batik pattern.  Yuni Kristina explains that she learned the art of batik from her mother when she was a young girl and that her mother is still her inspiration:  "She and I still design together, especially the floral and bird motifs that are typical in Pekalongan batik."  This artist's talent is obvious, and I know I will be wearing this scarf in the summer as a light shawl with sundresses, but it will also look great with a black t-shirt, jeans, and some silver jewelry. 

Photo from here.

Speaking of jewelry, Khun Boom's designs are stunning.  I will be ordering more of her jewelry both for its beauty and value.  All of her work is reasonably priced, and I had a difficult time choosing from the many designs I loved.  This particular pair of earrings, "Sublime," caught my eye with its simple sophistication.  Boom has a tremendous amount of design experience, which is evident in all her work.  Like Yuni Kristina, she is very inspired by her mother.

Each item from Novica is accompanied by a story card telling you a little about the artist.  You can also read a full profile or watch a video of each artist on the website.  I follow the company on Facebook, and I've noticed that if a customer posts a special request on Novica's Facebook wall, the company is more than happy to talk with artisans about customizing an order.

Novica offers a wide range of jewelry, clothing, and home decor products, with a strong focus on eco-friendly gifts.  They also have a fair-trade corporate gifts section, including gorgeous stationery, art glass, sculptures, and much more.

Another reason I like Novica is that they have a microfinance program.  In addition to buying products, customers can provide loans to gifted artists in developing nations.  The loans are provided to artisans at 0% interest.  If you make a loan, once it is repaid you can earn a 15% bonus when you spend the repayment money at Novica.

I am thrilled to be able to offer this giveaway.  The $75 gift certificate can be used to purchase anything the winner desires at Novica.  To register for the giveaway, you simply need to become a follower of The Magpie's Fancy (if you aren't already) and leave a comment below.  Please be sure to include your email address in your comment so I can contact you, if you win.  The deadline for registering is Friday, April 29th at noon EST.  

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I've Been Missing You

It has been ages since my last post.  Please forgive my long absence.  Mr. Magpie and I have been housesitting for friends back on the island where we lived last year.  We haven't had regular internet access while we've been there, which has made me realize just how much I depend on it every single day for both work and pleasure.  I have also been very busy with several writing and photography projects.  Many wonderful things have been happening on the photography front--things that I can't talk about yet, but that I will sometime later this year.  How's that for a tease?

I have also had a terrible cold, which I'm only now emerging from.  Being bedridden and sans internet left me feeling quite sorry for myself for a couple of days.  A few very brisk island walks cured me of most of my self pity, though, and they also rewarded me with several marvelous bird sightings, including my first great blue heron of the year as well as multitudes of cardinals, robins, chickadees, and crazy starlings.  So spring must be here even if it still feels like winter.  At least there are a few hardy flowers braving the cold, including an elegant hellebore that I will share just as soon as I have time to process some photos.

Please come back and visit me on Friday when I will be hosting a most special giveaway.  I can't wait to tell you all about it.  In the meantime, here's a lovely Kate Rusby video just for you.


Monday, April 11, 2011

All for Fun and Fun for All

Our youngest niece came to visit this past weekend.  Here's a partial list of what we did: 

played board games, including The Scrambled States of America, Headbands, and Double Shutter; rode the ferry to the islands; gobbled gelatos at Gorgeous Gelato; giggled; built fairy houses in the woods on Mackworth Island; attended a Sea Dogs minor league game along with our nephews; giggled; went bike riding and walking on the East End Trail, where we explored the trains at the Narrow Gauge Rail Museum, climbed on old cannons, and played in the playground at the park; watched movies; told knock-knock jokes; gigggled; drew pictures with glittery fairy pens; and last, but definitely not least, constructed paper monsters--loads and loads of paper monsters.  

The photo above shows just a few of the army of monsters we built.  Everything we did was fun, but I cannot begin to tell you what a hit the paper monsters were--for all three of us!  We bought the book on a whim at the comic book store and then we couldn't stop making them.  

If you click on the link above you'll find the book/kit we used, but it will also show you several other books.  This one has fifty monsters, plus extra blank templates that you can color in yourself.  All of the monster patterns are perforated, so you just punch them out, fold them, and then glue them together.  We found that adhesive glue dots worked best for us--no sticky fingers!  There are three levels of difficulty.  The advanced patterns are quite challenging, but do-able, and all three of us found the easy and intermediate ones fun to do.

And now I am playing catch up on deadlines and loads of work, but it was good to have a weekend of giggles and glitter and monsters named things like Nom Nom, Zombunny, and Grumpy Gramps.       

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Some heartaches last longer than you think you could possibly bear--longer than you can count or measure.  And yet, you find yourself months or years later, still bearing them, and maybe even thriving.  "How can this be?" you wonder.  The ache hasn't lessened with time; no, that hasn't changed at all, but one thing has changed.  You have grown stronger.  

You are the plant that bloomed once--a million petals thin as dragonfly wings--and then when the last of the blooms fell away, a gardener cut you all the way back to your stump.  To the passerby you were dead--or worse--you'd never even existed.

The snows came, the rains, the ice; dark clouds loomed low over the garden's dark crust.  Nothing changed.  At least not on the surface, but roots do their best work with no one but the earthworms for an audience.  

And when the sun returned, you were ready.

This post is dedicated with love and thanks to an old friend who give me a big gift yesterday. 

P.S. I have questions that need answers over at The Magpie's Pen today!  Hope you'll stop on by.  xo

Sunday, April 3, 2011


"I want to do with you what spring does with cherry trees."
~Pablo Neruda