The Secondhand Purse

Good Day Good Friends! Are you staying inspired?

I love thrift stores, antique malls, secondhand places! Always have.

During the pandemic, I didn’t visit any of the secondhand stores I love. I really missed that. I’m eager (after my busy summer ahead) to be able to browse them again. For me, it’s not about shopping. It’s about finding a special or useful find that will bring joy to my life.

In any case, there is a local consignment shop that more recently, every time I walked by, was closed. Only, there was a leather purse in the window that I just felt was meant to be mine.

At length, after seeing it again and again in the window of this closed shop, I finally found the store open one day and promptly purchased the purse. Great price, and I was really happy.


Only, after getting it home, my house began to smell like strong perfume (understatement). Those of you who read this blog know that I am VERY allergic to perfume. I didn’t notice while carrying the purse home on a walk out-of-doors. But now, I got close to the purse and YIKES! It was as though it had been soaked in strong perfume. I now have to believe that it was sprayed inside, intentionally. This wasn’t a little surface fragrance. It was in the leather.

This was really upsetting to me. I’d pined for that purse for a long time but now it seemed I would have to promptly remove it from my house.

All of this to say, I looked up ways to remove perfume from leather online. And I, after weeks, have almost achieved the goal of removing much of the perfume from the bag. It has required wiping down, filling with baking soda, filling with newspaper, airing in the window, repeatedly. It’s been a chore.

The winner? Newspaper, I think. It seems to take in the perfume. You pull out the newspaper and it is scented. You throw it away, and do it again as needed.

Perfume and I are mortal enemies. But I really wanted to give my new secondhand purse a chance and I’m glad that I made that effort. It’s not there yet, but it’s come a long way. Enough that I can carry the purse around. It is at present however, taking another round of newspaper!

Sometimes there are hard cases in life. But when you love something enough, the extra effort is worth it.

Stay Inspired.

A Remark On Beauty…

Good Day, Good Friends! Are we staying inspired?

Don’t forget to say “Hello” in the comments! It always means much to hear from you!

I’ve only a few thoughts for today, but I’ll have more posts to share this week…

Tomorrow there is to be a blizzard in these parts. Many inches are expected. When this happens, this urban-dwelling street-parker has to move her car to a parking garage in advance, so that her old clunker doesn’t get ticketed or towed when the sirens scream and the city plows come barreling through…

The upside is that while I’m working from home tomorrow, I won’t be worrying about the weather conditions outside and feeling uneasy about my car. My tin can will be safe and cozy. And I won’t have to dig it out. The downside is that, city parking garages will cost you your firstborn. But what can I do?

Whether we are country mice, or city mice (one of my favorite childhood stories), we all have to deal with the weather. So I’ll just grab some goodies from my favorite grocery (a few blocks from the garage) after I park my car downtown tonight, enjoy the crisp air as I walk home, look up at the night sky and count my blessings…

But I wanted to share: I read an article I felt in tune with, in USA Today, by Alia Dastagir titled: Goodbye heels, hello ‘lady-stache’: Many women ditch beauty routines for good.

The article speaks on how women who have been working from home are taking a new look at their beauty practices, and thinking about the purpose of their past processes. I found myself nodding my head. So many women, spending so much time, money, and thought, in keeping up with standards, just to head to work.

My story is a little different. I haven’t really been too concerned about these things for a long time. The hair, and makeup, and nice clothes. Minimal has been working just fine for me these days.

{As a side note, just to embarrass myself…I don’t brush my hair, and never will. Once, I had to have a hair brush cut out of my hair. Perhaps even more than once. It was an awful affair. I still wince. I don’t believe in hairbrushes. They are from the dark side. Finger-combing is a much more peaceful attempt at managing my rebellious, knotty tresses.}

However, when I was younger, I absolutely did care about the way I looked – to the point of vanity. Mostly, I just enjoyed looking nice. But as we know, a lot of psychology revolves around this topic in our culture. And it is easy for a woman, myself included, to worry about whether she is ‘meeting expectations’.

These days, as long as I look clean (no stains on my clothes), respectable (a family term? about all of my wrinkly, non-ironed outfits? I embrace wrinkles – HA!) (or to not wear the sweater with all the holes in it – even if it’s my favorite sweater), and professional (most businesses have a dress code – fortunately my style easily falls in line), then I feel confident enough to head into work…

Only, my personal battle isn’t so much with looking glam these days…it’s with my allergies.

I have terrible allergies, that have only gotten worse over the years. Allergies to mascara, that make my eyes burn. Allergies to deodorants that make my underarms itch (there’s chemicals in everything friends). Even shampoos that though are more effective than ‘natural alternatives’, have too many loud fragrances that cause me issues.

I’m the canary in the coal mine. My body tells me when there’s something bad in a product. Whether my eyes start to water, or my skin gets a rash, or I get a headache, or start having trouble breathing. But God bless it – there’s lots of companies making amazing products nowadays – and they don’t cause these problems, free of the icky stuff.

But all of this to say – When I read that article, I thought about how it’s been a nice relief to not use these harsher items, which admittedly, often do get ‘better results’ than the natural ones I prefer (or to just be able to skip some products altogether in the daily routine). I’ve been thinking about this a lot. About all the worries I’ve been freer from – including others besides.

Funny, I wouldn’t be concerned about judgement on this topic from my present coworkers. Yet still, these items are ingrained in our brains since birth, and we hold ourselves to the standards we have cemented.

Look nice, smell nice, act nice, smile. Always appear on top of your game.

But…many days, that’s really hard.

Of course, I know the story is different for everyone. But as for me, the article struck me – extending beyond just mascara – and into the great many pressures we all put on ourselves.

Just remember – Love yourself. You are enough.

I love that while working from home, I’ve really been able to just focus in on embracing my work.

Now, isn’t that beautiful.

Stay Inspired.

All the thoughts…

Evanston has entered a new Stay-At-Home phase, alongside Chicago, to last at least 30 days. No Thanksgiving gatherings advised, of course. I wouldn’t have been gathering anyway, too risky. But that we’re slipping backwards instead of moving forward…well, I felt that.

All the thoughts, right? About it all.

I have been reflecting on all the ads that pop up for fashion items on the internet. It never ends. Buy makeup! Buy perfume! Buy nice clothes! Buy some stuff! And, I sit there and wonder…what are they trying to sell here? An illusion of normalcy? People aren’t really going anywhere. Where would they be showing off their style? Online? At the grocery store – all masked up?

And this isn’t me being negative. Not really. Because the truth is, I love pretty things too. And it’s natural for people to want to look and feel good, no matter what is happening in the world. I support that. But when I see those ads, I think, that stuff doesn’t feel so, important. At all. It wouldn’t even be fun to buy any of it, even if I were inclined. Not right now.

I’ve been pondering the last pair of sparkly heels in my closet…and friends, I once donned so many fashionable pretties. And I’ve wondered, will any such thing ever be important to me again?

For now, I think I’ll be looking for the beauty in life elsewhere. It is certain I won’t find it in one of those ads.

All the thoughts.

And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

Matthew 6:28-29 KJV

Stay Inspired.

I’m a bit of a nuthatch…

Greetings Good Friends! How I am wishing you every good thing today!

Keep your chin up, I say! Keep your chin up!

I, am beat. Yikes! I’ve a literal mountain of laundry to do, but I don’t know if I have enough strength to stir today. My goodness. I think I’ve only enough energy to stir over to the fridge for something good to nibble on…HA!

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Last weekend, I received a sweet package from my dear friend Cira. She took an old flowered blouse of mine, the fabric of which I’d loved, and made pouches and masks out of it. Aren’t they so beautiful? Additionally, the light green zipper-pouch, as soft as velvet, was sewed and sent by my mama for my birthday!

Tell me that homemade gifts aren’t the best? Tell me I’m not spoiled?

I am envious of these ladies’ talents. Only, I’ve never had a stitch of patience for sewing. Pun intended. So, I’ll just continue to admire their talents while sporting my pretty new accessories!

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Someone special also gave me a book of birds for my birthday, the pages of which are magic to me…

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I love nature so much. I stopped the other morning to crane my neck straight back and have a conversation with a striped-headed nuthatch peeping and hopping upside down on the underside of a tree branch. My guess was that he was looking for insect snacks.

He didn’t really have time for me and said so.

I’m certain other pedestrians witnessed this and thought I was a nuthatch myself. Yes. Yes indeed, I am a bit of a nuthatch.

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Though I have my hands full with current writing projects, I am considering to write a book of true short stories. A collection of those magical, bizarre, and even humbling moments I’ve witnessed in my life, and what they’ve taught me or made me feel. Its purpose would be to entertain and inspire readers. An eclectic little treat. I may start jotting notes soon to form a path for the work…

Now, I know not all of you have the same passion for insects that I do (though I’m sure many of you must since bugs are so awesome)…but I’ve a special creepy-crawly tale for you…

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A few months ago, while at the kitchen sink, I witnessed an itty-bitty miracle.

A house centipede, of which I see commonly enough around my dwelling (and who sometimes make even me goose-bump), was lurking at the sink and got himself waterlogged to the point of mush. All his many long legs were a single drenched mass, and I felt poignantly sad for it.

Now, I have saved approximately one zillion little buggies from approaching death. True story. And, I have learned by trial that a corner of paper towel softly dotted to a waterlogged insect can transport it to a better location without squishing it. If it survives after that point is between God and the bug, but at least I did my best.

I thought I’d give this a go, but the creature looked quite pathetic. I may have even said a prayer for it; God loves all creatures, great and small, right?

It took a little while, maybe even a quarter of an hour, but eventually the creature dried out and unfurled. A little twitch here, a little twitch there. Ultimately stirring back to life to run away. I was sort of baffled, but also genuinely exultant by the happening! That bug had been in really bad, quite hopeless shape, just minutes before…

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But I tell you this, not just for the sake of the nearly implausible resurrection that I witnessed, and me so obviously fond of bugs. It was really just, such an inspiring show of resilience!

I know many of you are having a hard time. And even if you’re doing okay, there’s still no way to escape the global stress and worry. Many moments in these last months have made it feel like the whole world is drowning in the second coming of God’s great flood! And no matter where you live, there is no mountain peak high enough to escape to. It’s sort of a, come-what-may, wait-and-see time for the whole world.

Just wanted to say…like that little waterlogged dude…we have it in us. Hold your breath (not literally please), wait it out, keep your faith, keep your cheer, say your prayers, love one another, hug each other (or like…a mime hug from 6-ft. away), thank each other, uplift each other, help each other, laugh, look to your blessings and the bright side…

I am happy to report that I have since had two additional centipede saves, including that striped creature above, the other a baby centipede, neither of which I thought would make it. They really need to stop this daredevil behavior around the tub and sinks. It’s giving  me the nerves.

In other news…my mama bought me two beautiful new lipsticks for my birthday. The very colors I would have bought myself. I love lipstick. I really do. I had already been devising to pick out some for myself, a treat, but then these arrived in the mail.

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Just one problem. 

I can’t go anywhere without a mask.

I don’t even wear blush anymore (which I also love), because it only rubs off and sullies the face covering. So…do I just prance around my house wearing my new lipstick, even though no one will actually see it?

Sounds like a plan! Maybe I’ll just write a whole bunch of letters, plant a few good lip-sticky smooches on paper. If you happen to receive one of these letters, you’ll understand why (apart from the fact that I’ve always been a little eccentric). I was just finding creative reasons to wear my new birthday colors…

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In other, other news…eat your veggies. Just saying.

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In other, other, other news, I was gifted a bushel (what is a bushel?) of farmer’s market autumn apples last week. How lovely! Two weeks’ worth of sweet delights in my lunch bag. The giver is certainly, the apple of my eye! I’ll be sending them a lip-sticky thank you note

Stay Inspired.

 

Welcome to The Hen House!

Hello All! I hope that you are keeping inspired?! Glad you’re reading today, because I’ve got a special treat for you!

I enjoyed another adventure in Milwaukee last Saturday, and it included a remarkable visit to The Hen House. No, there were no clucking chickens present. Only a room full of fabulous hats, alongside one accomplished milliner!

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Ms. Kate McLaughlin, founder and milliner extraordinaire, was there to greet guests to her hat shop with a welcoming smile…

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Unbeknownst to myself when first entering, I already knew the artist! Years ago when I was a part of the Guilde of St. George at Bristol, Kate was one of the talents contributing costume expertise, helping to make history come to life!

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“I know you!” I blurted when seeing her behind the counter. We soon made the connection, and I’m sure that neither of us could believe that that had already been two decades ago!

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I soon expressed something like, “I didn’t know you loved hats so much!”

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Kate had a delightful response. Something along the lines that hats had always been her cookie of costumery. Love it!

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The Hen House is so amazing, as it brings a wonderful tradition back into our current day. The days when you could walk into a specialty shop and have something custom-made…

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I didn’t spend enough time to really dig into that process, but judging by the antiquated head-forms covering one wall, Kate and her shop must best be considered one of Milwaukee’s gems…

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This is what we will title: The Wall of Millinery Wonder…

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I digress, but…isn’t this one lovely?

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When Kate shared a little bit of her story about how The Hen House came to be, I was really inspired. When sharing that her first custom hat order after opening had been for a going home, speaking so sweetly on that memory, the gloss was readying in my eyes. When she told of the hat-making events that are hosted in her shop (wouldn’t that be fun), I imagined such a merry party. And when Kate spoke about doing what she loves, I just wanted to nod my head and smile, thinking…

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That’s where it is. Right here in this shop. Through all the hard work, there’s real joy, when you find a way to do what you love. You are an example, Ms. McLaughlin, Master Milliner! Thank you for the wonderful introduction to The Hen House!

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Now, I must add, The Hen House connects to The Brass Rooster, the master hatter of which is Kate’s husband John. It was a room full of men’s hats that is a wonder all to itself, so I’ll save it for a future post. But let’s just say, whatever style of hat you seek, I believe you’ll need look no further than 2250 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. in Milwaukee!

Tin Foil And Red Hots Forever…

This is Jessica, one of my most beloved friends. She was married in Paris a handful of years ago and I stood up with her as her Maid of Honor. It was a morning I will never forget. Have you ever seen a more beautiful bride?!

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I don’t think I’ve ever smiled so much in my life, so happy was I be with my best friend on her special day…

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I felt compelled today to remind her what an amazing person she is! How intelligent, beautiful, and strong…

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She’s also hilarious!

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Like, the kind of funny where you’re perpetually experiencing that deep gut laughter…

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Or maybe it’s just because we understand one another’s humor? When we were girls, we used tin foil to set curls into our hair, and ate red hots while we did. It was a thing? We’re weird…

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A while back, we attended a special exhibit, Passion For Fashion at The Art Institute here in Chicago. I can say that I’m definitely the sort of woman who prefers fashion from history, rather than modern fashion! We of course had a blast reviewing the incredible displays…

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It’s difficult to see the details from my photos through the glass, but we marveled at some very old, well-preserved dresses…

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My biggest wonder was how a woman’s waist could ever be that tiny?

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And the art they exhibited that showed fashion from the past was obviously very romantic and beautiful. I need to get back to the Art Institute soon and take another stroll…

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I love special exhibits like these. Jessica and I also once went to see a preserved baby mammoth at The Field Museum, on the coldest winter day ever. That was incredible. How fortunate I am to be in a city with so many wonderful museums and theaters, and always have an amazing friend to go to them with!

Jessy, just wanted to thank you for being in my life, my most beloved friend. We are going to live to be very old ladies together. Tin foil and red hots forever!

Frayed to Feathered!

The last time I saw my wonderful Chicago stylist Krista McGann was almost two years ago, when I donated 20 inches! To see the post, click here. Judging by how many people have clicked on those pictures, I think it’s safe to say that folks get a kick out of ‘before and after’ photos as much as I do, though it was a pretty drastic haircut…

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A few weeks ago I treated myself to the snip of a fair amount of inches. And for my cuts, I trust no other than Krista. She is an artist with the scissors! And though I don’t color my tresses, she is a master colorist too. You can view some of her work on her link above. If you live in, or will be visiting Chicago, I highly recommend her!

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I knew that I didn’t want a bob quite as short as last time, but I also wanted to be free of the agitation that my thick hair can be. I’m hardly embarrassed to say (though I should be embarrassed) that I cannot stand brushing my hair. Therefore, my locks (already thick, wavy and prone to tangles) can get unruly. Some mornings I wake up feeling like the fairy queen of the forest, wild tangles, bird’s nest, glitter, braids, sticks, and every other sort of thing in my hair! Just kidding…my imagination is actually more unruly than my hair…

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But to illustrate how thick my hair is (impossible to tell from a photo), as Krista razored my hair this go around, she cut her finger real good. Oh no! Yikes! I’m sorry Krista!!! She said she remembers cutting a finger every time she cuts my hair, because of its thickness. She always razors out the weight to thin out my style, and I guess when you have thick hair, it’s easier for a razor to slip? But I’m no stylist, so I dunno? Stylists, feel free to comment on the secret of razing strands (it’s magic)…

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A few bandaids later and here was the final do. All feathered and light, instead of heavy and frayed. I’m sorry to sacrifice Krista’s finger, but the cut is lovely. Thank you!!

I hope you’re enjoying the start of summer folks! I’m heading up to Bristol tomorrow to set up The Quill and Brush. I’ll be sure to click a few photos to share. Opening weekend next weekend. Ahhh! So excited!

Hats To The Heavens!

I’m a hat loving, hat wearing kind of gal! Further, I love costuming. So, you’ll quite understand how I have so many fabulous photos of wondrous hats, taken at the Bristol Renaissance Faire

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These pretty towers add even more elegance to what are already such smartly dressed noblewomen…

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And such a tall and pale-yellow number so nicely compliments this saucy mistress!

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Only a straw hat decorated with a bit of plumage will do for this authoress (who secretly dreams of living in a hobbit house). But I digress…

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Oh my gosh, the Queen’s hat! Look at those gorgeous feathers!

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…spy especially upon Her Majesty’s striking red plume and Tudor Rose!

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What a magical crown for one such etherial fairy queen!

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A wild creature perches upon this witch’s hat, zoom in and you might see it!

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Well met sir! Your hat is so grand as to be in a category all its own!

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One noble’s hat was adorned with trimmed feathers on their individual rachis. I thought they made a clever ornament!

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And nothing like prettily fashioned hairstyles and delicate lace collars to add to the elegance of these women’s hats!

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How special the simplicity of this young lady’s cap…

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How daring the effect of an artful tilt and golden feathers. Fantastic!

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And how sweet the pretty veils of young maidens at their games…

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And at their prayers…

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Truly an excellent ensemble, one lady so richly adorned in blue…

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Another one of Her Grace’s gorgeous pieces. What a designer has she!

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Oh precious the crown of yellow buds and green…

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And such a treasured wreath of feathers, from out of a dream…

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There simply are no lack of smiling faces, and thoughtfully designed hats on this festival day!

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But I must tell you this…

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No hat can beat the one worn by the kindest of ladies, Lady Ettie!

My Pretty Venice

Absolutely charming! That’s what I think about My Pretty Venice: A Girl’s Guide to True Venice by Isabella Campagnol, Elisabeth Rainer and illustrated by Beatrice Campagnol. This lovely book put a smile on my face at the turn of every page…

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To begin with, I greatly esteem writer Isabella Campagnol who is the author of Forbidden Fashions: Invisible Luxuries in Early Venetian Convents which I previously reviewed here. With her being a fashion, textile, and decorative arts historian who writes on Venetian topics, who better to co-author a modern guide directed toward such themes, with rich history weaved in?

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What do I love about this book? First, Rainer and Campagnol have written an uncomplicated, selective guide to Venice, directed toward delights that ladies might enjoy. That hidden garden, that charming bookstore, a place to pamper your toes or find elegant trappings. However, it isn’t just dry information, it’s playful and delightfully accompanied by Beatrice Campagnol’s darling illustrations (also including illustrative, well placed photos by Lorenzano Di Renzo). A thoughtful guide for the travel-minded, adventurous spirit that is also endearing to the imagination!

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I really enjoyed the cameos and curiosities throughout the book as well, which retell interesting histories and share snippets of important ladies from Venice’s history!

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For you gals who love Venice (like me), or have a friend who does, My Pretty Venice is an absolute treat! Whether or not you’re heading to that magical city anytime soon, a flip through this book’s pages will sweep you away on your own little holiday!

Lady In A Green Dress

This one was called the green dress, for the light olive color. It was a beloved gown (and still is, though there is no way I could squeeze into it nowadays). I wore this one for two seasons as a courtier in the Bristol Renaissance Faire’s Guilde of St. George when I was 20-21 years old…

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Lita, artist and designer, has a way of making elegant creations without the showy additions. Simple is often the most beautiful. How much fun I had running around Bristol’s enchanting outdoors in that dress!

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Lita is also quite the milliner, having made this hat from scratch. Oh yes, this woman has ninja milliner skills. Using plastic cross stitch canvas, she cut out the parts of the hat with precision (how does she do it? I’m not even sure I know how to use a measuring tape properly), then did the same with velvet fabric, and then handstitched the entire thing. She measured my head so that it would fit like a glove. It still does all these years later (for I guess heads don’t get bigger over time the way waistlines are apt to do).

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I danced a lot of courtly dances in that gown, and still remember the sway of the skirt as it swished over the farthingale. How merry!

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I also had a jolly time tripping over dozens of inanimate objects, like that hapless cushion there on the ground. I did it gracefully however, as if I hadn’t a care in the world…

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I also often swung on an enormous swing in that dress, an attempt to get a breeze in the 90 degree weather!

And, I remained dutiful in my role as a maid of honour to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth I. She is there at the front of the line wearing her noble purple. Oh heavens! How much fun, and how much history I learned. The memories of my days in that green gown are priceless…

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Lita (artist) and I (author) are still working diligently to prepare for this year’s opening day at the Bristol Renaissance Faire! We will be getting to know our tented shop this very weekend, considering how we will delight guests with our displays of historical fiction & fantasy books and art. We are The Quill and Brush and you will find us on King’s Landing at the perimeter of Lake Elizabeth. Opening day is July 9th! We can’t wait to see you there!