Saturday, October 19, 2019

Drawlloween Week Three

Hello Again to you, Dear Friends!
Welcome to the third week of my drawings for Drawlloween.  You may notice that all but one are combined drawings of more than one prompt.  Mab very cleverly placed quite a few together in the list this year that could be used together.   So much for fun, I think!!



Poison Plant/Tatzelwurm

Will-O-The-Wisp/Haunted Forest

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Drawlloween Week Two

Hello Again Friends and Welcome to Week Two of my drawings for Mab Graves' Drawlloween Club!

Black Dog





Check back next week for the third week of drawings!!

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Drawlloween Week One

Hello, Dear Friends!
It's the time of year once again for that fun all-month-long activity, Drawlloween!  Each year, the artist Mab Graves develops a list of drawing prompts, one for each day, for the whole month.  It's so much fun and honestly, I'm always quite sad to see it end.  But, there's no time for sadness now!  It's early in the month, and following is my first week of drawings!!

Here are Mab's great prompts for this year!

I decided to make things even more interesting by
doing as many drawings as possible based on the topic
"The Haunted Toy Shop".

Still warming up, I drew this Mermaid Witch!






You can always learn more about my drawings by checking out my posts about them on my Instagram:

Thank you so much for taking a look here today!  Keep watch for next week when I show you more of my drawings for Drawlloween!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Unpredictability of Life

Dearest Friends,
I know this blog is usually the home of Teeny Teas, Miniature Museum openings and other fun things, but today is about some serious stuff.  Lots of medical talk ahead, just consider yourself warned if this in some way upsets you.  Also, I'm currently in warrior-mode, so the voice you hear when you read this today will not be the same voice you hear when you read my other art-related posts.

Tuesday of last week, August 13th, was supposed to be the four-year anniversary of surviving my emergency open-heart surgery.  But instead of celebrating, I ended up back in the hospital.  What follows is a very open account of what happened to me this week.  I'll never stop talking about what it is like to have a heart problem because lots of people end up having them and never thinking they will.  That was me, as well, prior to December 2000.

So, I woke up on Tuesday about 4:30 a.m. not feeling well.  When I say that, I want everyone to know that if you ever feel in any way very, very differently than you ever have, you should seek medical assistance immediately.  You've probably lived in your body for a while, so you know how you feel all the time.  Very drastic changes to this are generally indications something bad is happening.  I woke up to my arms aching a lot, there being a pain (but not a big one) in my chest, along with some pressure, as well as a pain in between my shoulder blades and being slightly nauseous.  These were all different symptoms from previous heart problems, but I knew something was not right.

First of all, if you already know this, great, but I need everyone to understand something...

Please read that again, and make sure that you understand that most people who have heart attacks do not experience them like you have seen on TV or in movies.  The symptoms portrayed of heart attack symptoms tend to be closer to the experience of men and women's symptoms are almost never the same or as obviously heart-related.

My symptoms of the beginning of previous heart problems were pain in my jaw, pain and tingling in my hands, shortness of breath, pressure in my chest.

So, I let Victor know that we would probably have to go to the hospital.  We live only a couple of blocks away and I was able to walk downstairs and get myself dressed, so we drove there.  This has not always been the case for me and the ambulance has had to come and get me.  Frankly, the EMT staff are mostly super great, but they are not great at putting in the lines (and my veins have been poked at so much now that they are not very cooperative anymore), so it was just better (for me) to let the ER staff do it.  If you live more than a few blocks from the hospital, you should ALWAYS call 911 and have the ambulance bring you.  Also, you must NEVER drive yourself to the hospital if you suspect you are having a heart attack!  So, in the interest of safety, I'll tell you to do as I say, not as I do in this case and just always call 911!  They are able to do things to stabilize you and that could save your life! 

I got to the ER and you know something in your life is askew when you recognize the ER doctor and he recognizes you too!  But Dr. Matthew Kerr of Stephen's Memorial Hospital is a certifiable ROCK STAR.  When he talks to you, he looks right in your eyes.  He is so smart and so empathetic. He found my aneurysm 6 years ago and got me on a Life Flight helicopter to Maine Med in Portland.  He treated me twice in the ER in the month before I had to have my open-heart surgery 4 years ago (and again a few weeks after).  And he was there for me again on Tuesday morning.

When someone is having a heart attack, an enzyme is released into your blood stream called Troponin.  It indicates that damage (sometimes temporary, sometimes permanent) has occurred.  Generally, the doctors have to wait to see this appear before they can say you have had a heart attack.  But Dr. Kerr looked at my EKG and told me that I was currently having a heart attack and he needed to get me to a bigger hospital ASAP.  He gave me the choice to go to the hospital a bit closer or to go to Maine Medical Center in Portland, but it would require getting some clot-busting drugs before I left.  I chose to go to Portland because I have had everything done there in the past and I trust the cardiac team there.

For the first time since I started my heart adventure nearly 20 years ago, I was taken to Maine Med with the lights and siren going (and with the EMT driving like a race car driver!!)  Kudos to Kristina, Adam and Aaron for getting me there!!   On my way there, I started to feel much better because the blood thinners were clearing out the blockage in my heart.  Blood thinners are NO JOKE and I need everyone to know that under very close supervision, they can save your life.  Some of them are very good and some are, frankly, dangerous.  I almost added my specific thoughts about this, but decided to delete it.  I'll just say this: Don't let any self-serving doctor try to give you Eliquis.  If you want to hear more, you are welcome to contact me.  

When I got to the hospital, I was in line to receive a catheterization as soon as I arrived, depending upon how I was feeling once I got there.  So, they wheeled me directly to the cath lab and the doctor in charge of catheterizations, Dr. Cam Donaldson, met me in the hall outside the procedure room.  He asked me how I felt and luckily, I was able to tell him that I felt much better.  The blood thinners had clearly begun their work and had dissolved the clot in my heart enough to have made me feel so much better!  This was good news for me because it's always a relief to feel better after something like this, but also because it meant that Dr. Donaldson was able to postpone my cath until the next day.  That was safer from a bleeding perspective because it's always safer to wait until some of the blood thinners have had a chance to leave your system because they have to enter an artery in order to take a look inside your heart!!  That may sound very scary, but let's step back a minute and think about what a miracle this is!  When I tell you what they were able to see inside my heart, I hope you will me more amazed than mortified!

I spent the rest of the day and the night in the CICU, which means you will be in a very tiny room, filled with lots of equipment, a commode inside a small cupboard above a tiny sink and glass doors and curtains, which are open most of the time because they have to be able to see you all the time.  Cardiac leads are attached to you and they are looking at your heart activity all the time from the nurses station, which is only a few feet away.  At night, the lights in the nurses station are dimmed, yet they continue to work there all night.  If there is any change at all, they are able to get to you within seconds.  Luckily, it was a very quiet night for me.

Here's the one interesting (and frankly, pivotal) thing that happened while I was in CICU that day.  At some point, four or five doctors all crowded into my tiny ICU room to talk to me, all of them young and female.  I can't tell you how happy it made me to see all of these bright young ladies, all doing cardiology, making a difference in people's lives.  But one of them stepped up, introduced herself, and frankly, changed my world completely.  Dr. Jennifer Monti is so bright, so intuitive, so personable. She shook my hand and said, "Has anyone ever told you that you have very smooth skin?"  I said I wasn't sure (I was a bit confused by this being the first thing she asked me!)  She started talking about what had happened that morning that had ended up with me in the hospital and then she told me that she had her own theory about why I was there!  She asked me if I had ever heard of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.  I had, and more importantly, always wondered if I might have it, or another of the connective tissue disorders, such as Marfans!  She said that she had read all of the notes from my previous hospitalizations and she had concluded that I have EDS (Ehlers-Danlos) and that shaking my hand had been that final connection to her diagnosis!  Apparently, some of the people who have it, have "velvet-y skin"!  She could tell from the way my skin felt!  

Early the next day, they prepped me and came to get me and take me to the Cath Lab!  I was actually not very nervous about it because I have had catheterizations before and frankly, after my open-heart surgery 4 years ago, I was fairly certain this would not be nearly so serious!  

Dr. Donaldson is a super nice man, something I so admire, because many people I've met in cardiology are nice, but some seem to possess more ego than humanity and I don't like dealing with them.  Also, all of Dr. Donaldson's team were so nice and personable!  Everyone looks right in your eyes and is very kind.  I wish I could say all medical personnel was this on point in the area of human relations.  

If you haven't had one, I'll just tell you that having a cath done will not be the highlight of your day.  It's not the worst thing you will go through, but it won't be the nicest either.  Too many needles, and yes, there is a bit of pain when they put the line into your artery so they can look around.  But, for the most part, once that part is done, there is only minimal discomfort.  This time, I was lucky, because they used the newer procedure, where they go in through your wrist, as opposed to the inside of your upper leg.  Also, doing it this way requires much less bed rest, fewer restrictions when you get home.  

The cath lab is a big room, filled with lots of equipment,  four big computer screens on the wall, a small table, which is only as wide as you are!  They have to attach separate parts on the sides to rest your arms on!  The one they are only using to put meds into the lines for is close to your side, the one they plan to put the catheter in is on a small extension at a 45 degree angle to the table.  Of the four screens, one is hooked up to the heart monitor leads and shows your EKG in real time, one is connected to the tiny (truly!) camera they have inserted in your artery, and two are connected to large PET cameras that move over your chest while the procedure goes on.  Oh, and yes, you are awake for the whole thing, but sedated to keep you calm.  It is important for you to be awake so they can ask you questions about how you are feeling throughout the procedure.

Dr. Donaldson thought that my problem was the veins that had been grafted during my open-heart surgery four years ago (those veins came from my left leg in what is called Saphenous Vein Graft surgery).  As it turned out, those veins were all still in good shape!  That was the first bit of good news!  And, because they were in good shape and didn't have any significant narrowing, there was no need for an angioplasty or stents!  More good news!  He did see evidence of there having been a blood clot there, that had been mostly dissolved by the blood thinners and so he knew for certain that this was what caused my heart attack.  They removed the line from my wrist, applied pressure, affixed a small device which applies pressure to the area to stop the bleeding and wheeled me back to my room, where I sat up, ordered breakfast and ate it all!  

I want everyone to know that I think being a doctor or a nurse of any kind is a super special, super difficult job and I think that anyone who is good at their job and good with the people they are working with is pretty amazing.  So, I like being as kind and as polite and as non-demanding as I can possibly be while I am there.  That's hard work because I'm generally tired, uncomfortable, sometimes in pain, somewhat scared, just wishing I was home.  But, sometimes my need to be the best advocate for myself puts me in the position of being a bit of a pain in the butt.  Here's a good example:  The night before, an alarm kept going off on two drips that I had.  Over and over and over. Some ninny of a nurse kept coming in and telling me that my arm was bent, but it was not!  So, finally, I unplugged the pump (it operates on rechargeable batteries), wheeled it down the hall, beeping and carrying on, and TOOK IT TO THE NURSES STATION.  Trust me, I had their attention then.  The nurse who was sitting there snapped the lines and took some air bubbles out and it didn't beep again all night.  She didn't mind and understood that you can't sleep with that beeping next to your head!

Dr. Monti and more of her team came into my room the next morning and she was able to tell me why I had my sudden heart attack.  Apparently, some forms of EDS (there are 13 variants of it) involve collagen which is faulty.  That faulty collagen can bond with the platelets in your blood and cause random blood clots to form.  So, she has put me back on Plavix (I was on it in 2010, following the placement of a stent in my heart and I tolerated it well) and she is confident that this will work to prevent anymore unpleasant surprises like what happened last Tuesday. (Oh, and I told her about the drip alarm from the night before and she told me that she liked the way I advocate for myself!)

No one will advocate for yourself like you.  Do yourself a favor and keep the communication going between yourself and all medical personnel.  The good ones don't mind and most of them are grateful for communicative and helpful patients who want to be their partners.  Dr. Monti told me that I tell my story better than what she can get from the notes!  It's a lot to remember if you don't have a medical background, but sometimes it helps them and what helps them ultimately helps you.

If you have read this far, thank you!  I know it is a lot.  But before I go, please let me remind you of this again:  If you are a woman and you have a heart attack, your symptoms can be very different from a man's.  This information could save your life.

Be safe and healthy.  Everyone has something unique and important to contribute to life (well, almost everyone, don't get me started!).  Listen to your body.  Lots of times, if it is in trouble, it will try to let you know.  Treasure those doctors who are willing to listen to you and learn from you.  Don't be bullied by those who don't want you to know anything about their dumb "doctor stuff".  Egos should be checked at the door when doctors enter patients' rooms!  Good doctors know this.  Humanity is not weakness, but strength.

And mostly, thank you again for reading this!

(And, as per usual, Blogger may or may not allow you to leave a comment!  If you can't, please feel free to leave me a comment on either Twitter or Instagram (links to the right in the side bar), indicate that you want this to be a comment on the blog and I will be pleased and grateful to post them for you.  Apparently, I am still able to post comments to myself, which is so endlessly helpful, isn't it??)

Monday, August 5, 2019

A Celebration of a Garden - A Teeny Tea...

Greetings to you, All Dear Friends of The Tearoom!

I'm happy to welcome you, once again, to a Teeny Tea!

It's a beautiful day and all of the summer sun has been at work on the porch garden, so that we may have our tea there again today.

The pansy garden is decorated festively with a tiny bunting! (As always, don't forget to click on the images to see them larger.)

This is Mistress Oiseau and she floats over the garden. She is a paperdoll designed by Alex of The Ragged Caravan on Etsy. (To find out more about her, please see the end of this post)

We seem to have a shy and curious visitor in the garden today.

I love days like this so much.

We live all winter long for a handful of days this bright and warm.

Today reminds me of one of my favorite paintings "Souper à Deux" by Mildred G. Burrage, 1912 (Portland Museum of Art, Portland, Maine)  I've only seen this painting once in person (although it is part of the PMA's permanent collection), but it has stayed in my head since the early 90's and it feels like it has influenced so much of how I approach creative projects on days like this.

One our lovely bees

And so, we begin our day and set the table for our tea!

Ah!  Brownie has arrived!  He likes to arrive before everyone else to make certain his piano is properly tuned.

To all of my friends who are doing their best to keep working and creating, in spite of illness or injury, please allow Brownie to help inspire you.  Recently, he developed a problem with his hip and I was not able to see how to repair it, so I have made for him the very stylish pair of brown velvet trousers he is wearing.  They allow him to stand again, as well as sit, so that he can continue to play his beloved piano.  Sometimes it takes a lot of courage, as well as additional forms of creativity, in order to keep moving forward.

Our shy deer visitor is coming closer, in order to hear Brownie playing.

And look who is making his way through the tangle of plants!  It is our friend Eadwig!

Mr. Bear has arrived and is so happy to see Eadwig!

Some more guests have arrived!  Please say "Hello!" to the Jacobobs!  They were created by my friend Kit Lane!  (For more information about the Jacobobs, please see the end of this post.) Brownie, Eadwig and Tulip are so happy to see them today!

It's such a warm day, so we are all grateful for a large glass of iced tea to sip before we begin!

We have our choice today of either Brambleberry or a combination of Awake and Earl Grey. Turbinado sugar and freshly-squeezed lime juice are available if you like one or both in your tea!

Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle is always so helpful at serving everyone.  It's my pleasure to serve her.  She likes her black iced tea with extra sugar!

Dear Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle is getting ready to begin to serve our tea as everyone begins to take their seats.

Our menu today is a Celebration of a Garden...

And here is Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, with the first of our sandwiches!

Lovely slices of mixed grape tomatoes and yummy fresh mozzarella,  with just a smear of pesto is such a favorite of us all.

Here is another favorite sandwich for our teas, cucumber and watercress mousse, so cool and refreshing on such a warm day!

Our next sandwich today is reminiscent of a favorite French combination:  lovely crisp slices of Easter Egg radishes, in their bright colors, accented with a compound butter of finely chopped nasturtium leaves and white pepper!

And finally, something new and delicious!  A pesto, made from peas, olive oil and parmesan cheese.

(We were hoping to use the micro-greens we grew on the porch, but, sadly, the slugs enjoyed them first.  Mr. Bear has made growlings at the slugs.)

It's definitely time that Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle took a rest and had her sandwiches!

You might notice a new pair of tongs we have!  Everyone is delighted with these strange but fun bird claw tongs, which we ordered from our dear friend Laura.  (Please see more information about Laura's Etsy shop at the end of this post.)

Thursday and Hyacinthe have been looking forward to these fresh veggie sandwiches all day!

Mr. Bear is mesmerized by the colors, but not so mesmerized that he would consider not eating them!

As usual, Mr. Mookie and Teddy have a few more sandwiches so they can help to feed Baby Hoobert.  

And, near the piano, our teenier guests are also enjoying their tea and sandwiches...

For our dessert today, again, I have taken something traditional and given it just a few changes. Summer in New England means certain things to me and one of these things is strawberry shortcake, but rhubarb is also part of my summer memories, as I remember how my parents (who were both raised in Maine) made it and still stands as my favorite: as a simple compote.  So, I have combined both of these summer fruit desserts and our sweet today is a Hibiscus Rhubarb Shortcake.

As is traditional in New England (as well as popular in some other parts of the U.S.), our favorite way of making shortcake is starting with a really lovely biscuit.  For my friends outside of the U.S., our biscuits are similar to a scone, but perhaps more buttery and more fluffy.  Many people here in the States start their shortcake with a small, yellow spongecake, which you can always buy in the produce section of the supermarket, but it's not our favorite.  My mother always made them with biscuits and I do the same.  I found a really lovely recipe for biscuits on the King Arthur Flour site and you can find it here.  We like them a lot for their very mild buttery and less baking powder-y flavor, which I do prefer to my mother's recipe.


Next, since I don't grow rhubarb myself, I was very lucky to have been given a nice, generous handful by my neighbor!  And when I stewed it, I followed a tip by my friend Jill Colonna, who recommended that in order to make the rhubarb a more pink color, simply add a hibiscus tea bag! Brilliant!  I did not have any simple hibiscus tea, however, but, as usual, I found a way to use something I had, with good success.  Tazo Tea makes a really wonderful, flavorful herbal tea called Passion.  It is made up of hibiscus, rose hips, lemongrass, orange rind, licorice bark and a very small amount of cinnamon.  Using this tea made the rhubarb a lovely vivid pink-red shade and all of those different flavors in the tea really make it special.

Of course, we top each shortcake with a dollop of whipped cream...

...and finish with a sugared viola!

If you have ever wanted to make these, don't wait any longer.  I found the recipe in the Spring 2019 issue of Sweet Paul Magazine and it really couldn't be easier.

I'm not sure if the print version of this magazine is still available, but you can always buy the digital version for your iPad or iPhone (the Issuu app is required to view it, available in the App Store).

I made these from the violas and pansies from my porch garden!
I think they are a pretty spectacular result for my first try and 
could make such a beautiful decoration for so many desserts.

The rhubarb is being served in a lovely new dish I found on Etsy.  But I can't help but notice that Mr.Bear is taking particular notice of it.  

He is reading that word on the side, Saccharin.  And reading it again.  And again.  But what does it mean?

He asks his dear friend Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle to take a look, but she does not know what it means either.

They ask Teddy to take a look, owing to the fact that he is the elder statesman of the family, but no luck.  He has never seen a word like this before.

So, they ask Eadwig to take a look.  He speaks several languages  (including several bug languages as well.) Although he does not know this word, he thinks that it looks like it might be French.

After some murmuring between them, Mr. Bear thinks he has figured it out!  Let's take a listen to what he has to say...

We have talked about it and have decided that the word "Saccharin" is on that new bowl because it is a souvenir from a town called Saccharin.  It's like some nice teacups I have seen from Niagara Falls or The Queen Mary (I do not know who The Queen Mary is, but she must be very important to have her name on teacups!  I don't suppose I will meet her, but I wonder if it would be OK to ask her about the teacups if I did?).  Since Eadwig has told us he thinks that might be a French word, we think that Saccharin must be a town in France, like some of the nice places we saw when we watched the Tour de France or in that movie we don't remember the name of.

We have decided that it must be a very nice place to live, so we have imagined what it would be like.

We are sure we would live in an old house with beautiful windows.  It is covered in shrimp colored plaster, with shutters like clotted cream.  Some of the rooms are small, but we are all comfortable there.

Our little diningroom is upstairs and looks out over trees, which someone told us are called linden trees.  All we know is that they smell very pretty in the spring.  From our window, we can pretend it is a treehouse when we look out.  During the summertime, the buzzing cicadas keep us company and we like to listen to them.  Eadwig understands them and sometimes he sings us their songs in words we can understand.

In the wintertime, we miss our friends the cicadas.  We understand they are sleeping under the roots of the linden trees.  We hope they are warm enough.  They would be welcome to come inside to sit next to the fire with us if they wanted.

Some nights, after our dinner, we like to go out in the backyard and read stories to each other or sing songs that we know.  Sometimes, fireflies come around too.  We think they must like our singing.

After we made our trip to the market, we couldn't wait to get back to our home and eat some of the cherries we bought from the nice man there.   The cherries are beautiful and we like to look at them a long time before we eat them.  Cherries are some of our favorites because they are beautiful and they taste nice too!

At night, we snuggle in bed and wait for the moon to come out for the night.  Looking at the moon is one of our very favorite things.


Thank you, Mr. Bear, for telling us about what this word means.  I, for one, am perfectly willing to accept that definition.

As we are cleaning up from our tea today, Eadwig asks if we can leave out a plate of biscuit crumbs,
in case the shy little deer is hungry.  Of course, I am happy to do so.

Once Eadwig has left, the deer slowly approaches the plate of crumbs...

Thank you so much to all Friends of the Tearoom for attending yet another of our Teeny Teas!  xoxo

Additional Information:

Mistress Oiseau (from image 2) is a digital download paperdoll, designed by my friend Alex Wells of The Ragged Caravan on Etsy.  I printed her out, assembled her, added some wings, and some organza ribbon to the bottom of her dress.  

If you love the Jacobobs from today's tea (image 22), you can find them in my friend Kit Lane's shops on Big Cartel and on Etsy.

The vintage bird foot tongs (from Image 37) are from my friend Laura's delightful vintage shop Provoquer la Curiosite on Etsy.

The bunting decorating the garden today (image 1) was made from my own print-and-cut bunting, Vintage Floral Bunting, from my Etsy shop Velvet Revived.  If you would like to use it to make your next tea more festive, you can find it here.


Completely boring, but important note:  Apparently, Blogger continues to make difficulties for people wanting to leave comments.  Some of my friends are leaving multiple comments, while some can't leave one at all.  If you would like to leave me a comment on Instagram or Twitter, please feel free to do so (please indicate you would like it to be left as a comment) and I will post it to comments myself.  Thank you all, as always, for reading my blog posts!  xo