Monday, January 28, 2008

Snow White's House: The Little King

Although it's hardly a popular modern pasttime, I have a devotion to the Infant of Prague, the "Little King," crowned and robed, which my fifth-grade teacher, Sister Mary Rose, planted in me. I was intrigued when my "Snow White" friend admitted that she had recently taken up the same devotion. After the death of her mother, she began to find statues of the Little King turning up in odd places. Or rather, she says, "He found me." And she took Him to her heart and home.

Now the small statues, free of their stiff embroidered robes and clad in the simple priestly alb, send their benediction from several quiet corners in her home. The one above stands in the entry room window. Another holds court in the kitchen, adorened with a rose-ribbon-stole, and a third reigns on her dresser.

I particularly love the evocative shrine that my friend and her children made for the King in the photo above. A clock reminds them that Christ is King over all time. The candlestick is empty, for Christ is the Light of the world. Snake bones and skin they found on their property recall how Christ crushed the serpent's head.

The picture was drawn by my friend, and the quote by Minnie Aumonier below reads: "There is always music amongst the trees but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it."

After my son Joshua's death, the non-Catholic parents of a friend of mine made a pilgrimage to Prague, and brought back a tiny statue of the Little King for me. His castle is the shelf over my kitchen sink, a constant reminder to me, as a parent, that the Lord of the Universe is also a Child.

Sister Mary Rose taught her class a poem to the Little King, which perhaps she had composed herself, since I've never found it anywhere else. Alas, I only remember the last verse, but that is enough for a prayer:

Little King, so dear and sweet
Here we cast before Thy feet
All we are, or yet may be,
Every sense and faculty,
All our body, all our soul,
we subject to Thy control.
All our hearts to Thee we bring:
Take them, keep them, Little King.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Prayers for the Zak Family

I want to ask for urgent prayers for the Zak family. Their daughter is a fan of my Fairy Tale Novel series, and we've frequently exchanged friendly emails.

Yesterday they lost their youngest son, Luke, age 10, who apparently died in his sleep. I can only imagine how much their family is struggling right now. Please, please pray for them. I remember the shock of losing my Joshua, and how terrible it is to lose a son. He was their youngest son, their "little angel," as their daughter put it.

Please pray for the Zak family. May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Snow White's House: Random Window

Just one of the many delightful views to be found in my "Snow White" friend's house... in this case, three pots of herbs and a garden beyond...

Monday, January 21, 2008

Snow White's House: A Genius For Still Life

One thing I love about my "Snow White" friend's house is how she can arrange everyday useful objects in such a way that they resemble small works of art. A good example is in the downstairs bathroom of her house. A spacious wooden shelf hangs over the commode, holding useful everyday items on the lower shelf: mirrors, a box of tissues, and toiletries in a wooden basket. Folded washcloths and cosmetics are aranged on shallow wooden trays on the second shelf. The top shelf holds more decorative elements and spare liquid soaps. Less pretty items are stored in the vanity cabinet beneath the sink. The orderly arrangement of the objects and using trays to divide them keeps everything from looking cluttered.

A few other inspired touches liven the small room. Shells are coupled in a metal soapdish on the wall. And other chunks of marbleized and speckled soap are mixed with river rocks in a slotted dish. I love how this solves the problem of unsightly small chunks of soap, camoflauging them by grouping them with pretty stones.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Rose Red's House: Living Color

"Rose had long, shining red hair (and)...always wore bright colors -- blue, purple, gold, and green; she was like a bright new color herself, vibrant and alive." -- The Shadow of the Bear: Snow White and Rose Red Retold, 1997*

Unfortunately I don't have as many pictures of my "Rose Red" friend's house, but I love it as much as Snow White's. Like Rose Brier, the character she inspired, my friend loves bright, strong colors, and always has, despite the fact that, growing up, she was told by fashion mavens *not* to wear such colors, with her auburn hair. But my friend, always the nonconformist, fearlessly wore those colors anyhow. And after she married, she decorated the home she shares with her artist husband in the same daringly dramatic manner. I love her use of Tiffany glass (her husband works in stained glass), the antique sofa she found and had reupholstered, her red velvet curtains, hanging lamps, and unicorn tapestry over the fireplace. The house they share with their two toddlers is furnished with her and her husband's artwork (she is an accomplished painter and potter) and has many touches of their own artistic style. While the "house tour" of their home will be more brief, I hope you find it just as enjoyable!

*I cut this line out of the 2008 edition of my book: it just doesn't flow: but I wanted to pay homage to it here.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Snow White's House: Elements of Style

You will find this little still life in my "Snow White" friend's living room: mismatched yet complementary lamps, a postcard on a tiny easel, a wooden statue, pottery bowl, and an African violet. Throughout her home you can find variations on this theme: art, light, and life, with flowers generally being a part of both. This isn't to say that every fabric is floral as well as every painting -- although a wildflower motif is very much in evidence, it's subdued. You notice it subtly -- on the lampshade -- on the napkins pressed under the glass topping a worn dresser.

"Snow White" was the first person I knew who collected old furniture, especially painted and distressed pieces, years before Shabby Chic became stylish. But I wouldn't call my friend's style either shabby or chic. She is kind to older furniture, thoughtfully arranging it so that you can appreciate the fine styling or unusual shape without calling attention to missing paint or other defects. For example, above, the floral botanical print complements and brings out the green paint on the dresser, but the glass and crisply pressed napkins minimize the shabbiness. And she has the knack for placing just the right amount of objects on a table: one would be too minimalist -- seven would be cluttered. It's little arrangmenents like this one that make "Snow White's" house a treat to those who will notice.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Entrace to Snow White's house

"I think that if a real princess was lost in this moden world, and she could be whatever she wanted, she would be a musician." - Blanche in The Shadow of the Bear, 2007

My "Snow White" friend actually is a musician, among her many accomplishments. Thanks to a musically-inclined mother, she and several of her sisters are all accomplished harpists -- and now she is teaching her own daughters the art of playing the harp. The harp is a lovely instrument to look at as well as to listen to. My friend owns several harps, and one sits to the right of her doorway. Original artwork and a generous amount of books fill in the spaces.

The colonial-era restored home that she and her husband own is blessed with deep windowsills. My friend has arranged artful displays in many of the window bays. On either side of the door is a potted succulent plant. When I first knew her in high school, she owned these plants, which were short little plants. Now they are practically the size of dwarf trees -- and more beautiful than ever. They are a testimony to my friend's careful and consistent care, one of the elements I love about her character.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Homes of Snow White & Rose Red

The welcoming living room of "Snow White's" country home

This post will take some explaining: my first book, The Shadow of the Bear is a modern retelling of the fairy tale "Snow White and Rose Red." It deals with the adventures of two sisters, Blanche (Snow White) and Rose (Rose Red), who live in New York City and befriend a mysterious young man known as "Bear." The book has become a favorite with many young readers, and people have frequently asked me: who are Blanche and Rose based on? Well, both characters are composites of several sisters I have known, but in my mind, the initial inspiration came from two of my friends, who are friends with one another but not sisters. Anyhow, these two girls, the original "Blanche" and "Rose," have grown up, married, and are in the process of raising their families. And both continue to be my friends and inspirations. And both of them have unique home decorating styles, very different but I love them both, just as I love the very different personalities of the sisters Blanche and Rose.

When I was home at Thanksgiving, I visited the homes of both friends and begged to take photographs. As I looked over the photos, it struck me that fans of my books would look at the homes and see them as plausible conjectures as to what the homes of "Blanche" and "Rose" would look like, if the characters actually existed and had homes of their own.

So -- that is my introduction to this series, the homes of "Snow White and Rose Red." I hope that even those of you who haven't read the books will at least enjoy the home tours!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Snow White and Rose Red Mural

In our old house, our girls' room was a tiny narrow room just big enough for the loft bunkbed they slept in. But to brighten up the room, my husband agreed to let them paint a mural on two of the walls. And the girls choose to do a mural of the fairy tale "Snow White and Rose Red." I painted the background for them: mountains, the woods, a castle, the cabin where the story begins. And the girls painted the figures of Snow White, Rose Red, the two princes, and last of all, the mother watering the rosebushes outside of the castle. I believe I painted the bear (one of the enchanted princes) which you can see here outside of the cabin.

Notice the fish jumping out of the pond. He's the other enchanted prince.

I have to say I was inordinately fond of how the castle turned out. Actually, the whole mural was quite successful: the people who bought out house liked it so much they kept it up. It's still there, last I heard.

Next post: "The Homes of Snow White and Rose Red." I'll explain what it's all about in the next post...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Snow White and Rose Red Dolls

I suppose it's safe to say that my favorite fairy tale is the little-known "Snow White and Rose Red," by the Brothers Grimm. And as some of you know, my first book was titled, Snow White and Rose Red: A Modern Fairy Tale, currently titled The Shadow of the Bear: Snow White and Rose Red Retold. My friends know how fond I am of the story, which has sort of become our family "signature." I've tried to pass some of that on to my children.

A few years ago, I gave these dolls to my daughters for Christmas: I had bought them from Nova Natural and christened them "Rose Red" and "Snow White." I had the dolls star a retelling of the Madge Miller version of "Snow White and Rose Red" which can be found here on my website.

Last winter, I did some repair work on the dolls and stitched new dresses for them, since my girls are still putting them in weekly play use. And I thought I'd take a picture of the ladies in their dresses, since they are both aging gracefully, though Snow White needs a new wire in her arm.

This picture will also serve as an introduction to a series I thought I'd do this January. My birthday's in January, so I decided to take a month to do something on my favorite things. And what a better theme than my favorite fairy tale? More coming...

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Thank You For the Bears!

This week we took down our Christmas tree and I packed up the "Joshua Bears" that were donated for this year. But before I sent them to their new home at Be Not Afraid Ministries, I gathered a large bunch for a group photo. Thank you so much for sending them all: it was a joy to have them. I admit that I am not mailing off one sweet little bear sent all the way from England: he has a "2006" embroidered on one foot, the year that Joshua died. I decided to adopt him for my very own, but the others are going to a ministry that helps parents who have received "bad news" about their unborn baby through prenatal testing. As director Monica Rafie writes, "Not all of these moms have fatal diagnoses -- there is, happily, the chance that the bear will be more than a momento! But, of course, some moms will lose their babies and they will cherish the bears - forever and fervently." Each bear I am mailing is going with a tag reading, "Donated in memory of Joshua Michael." Again, thanks so much for helping Joshua do a little more good on this earth. If you're interested in making an additional donations to Be Not Afraid or for more information, visit

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Healing Sunlight

Polly, like many of our babies, was born with just a touch of jaundice, so today I put her on the window seat to bask in a little bit of mild January sunlight while I rested. It's amazing to me how healing sunlight can be: within the hour, she looked much better.

On a side note, I just finished the baby quilt I had made of Liberty of London squares yesterday. Once it was backed with a silk-wool Dharma scarf and filled with lamb's wool, it was delightfully soft, light, and warm. The only completely handsewn quilt I've ever made, it's the perfect winter nest for a newborn.