Thursday, October 30, 2008


The Autumn Sketch Book
of Bess Stanhope
October 31, 1925
It's Halloween Day and I'm so excited. Irene Bitz and I are putting the finishing touches on the Mystic Revels party we are hosting at her home. We have been planning it for weeks! Fortunately, Irene is mad for Halloween and she bought most of the party supplies and decorations. We began our party planning by consulting several issues of Dennison's Bogie Book (above).

The Bogie Books give instructions galore for everything you need to host a successful Halloween party, midnight supper, card party, social, open house, dance, soiree or revels. I don't think there's a theme they haven't covered!

Every terrific Halloween party requires an intriguing invitation. Here's ours!

We've hung this crepe paper streamer all around her living room.

We're putting this crepe paper banner across the front of the buffet table.

We'll keep the lights low but have set out plenty of lanterns to set just the right spooky mood.

For our guests, there'll be horns, noisemakers and blowouts,

and hats for those who did not wear a costume.

Don't you just love this colorful coaster?

We've hung these colorful die cuts on the walls.

Some of these die cuts are older, having been made in Germany. Irene has been collecting them.

This crow is my favorite.
And one must have an owl at Halloween.

Tables will be set up with Halloween-themed board games, and there will be a small round table tucked into a corner, where I, Esmerelda the Gypsy, will be telling fortunes.

Later, we'll clear the table for card games, including whist and bridge.
We looked at several sample menus for our buffet:
Hot ham shortcakes with cheese sauce
Dill pickle sticks
Celery curls
Pumpkin-face tarts
Ice cold Coca Cola
Chicken corn
Caramel Apples.
Here's another menu:
Goblin-face meat pies
Julienne carrots
Orange ice
Chocolate cookies
Ginger ale
Irene's husband Ed, liked the idea of the meat pies, but he wasn't too keen on the other items on these menus. He wanted heartier fare.
We finally decided to go with heated pans of meat balls and chicken wings, plus finger sandwiches, salmon croquettes, cheese straws, deviled eggs, Waldorf salad, a carrot and celery tray, angel food and devil's food cakes, sweet cider, Coca-Cola, ginger ale, coffee, chicken corn, nuts, popcorn balls and caramel apples. We won't be serving liquor, but I am sure there will be a bottle or two of red eye passed around.

Today is very warm for Halloween Day - 70 degrees - so I'm certain the children will enjoy trick or treating. Once they are safely back at home, our revels can begin. Because it is a Saturday, we can stay up late without a care! And guess what, tonight the moon is full. A full moon on Halloween is a rare occurence. It won't happen again until 1944!

I wonder just what we will see under the full moon tonight?

NOTES: Chicken corn is an early name for candy corn, which was invented in 1898. Red eye is a homemade whiskey popular with the Germans From Russia settlers in North Dakota. Many of the best early Halloween decorations were made in Germany, but of course their importation stopped when WWI broke out. Halloween paper goods were quite inexpensive back in the day, but now are extremely collectible and terribly expensive. A copy of the 1925 Dennison's Bogie Book (Bess' year!) recently sold for $160.00! I have taken poetic license and mixed vintage decorations from the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s. Shh, don't tell. I didn't check the actual weather for Halloween 1925 in North Dakota, but it was a Saturday and there really was a full moon that evening.


If you enjoyed this glimpse of vintage Halloween, you might want to check out this post I wrote last October. You may also enjoy scrolling through my other October 2007 posts to see the entries about vintage Halloween postcards.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


The Autumn Sketch Book
of Bess Stanhope
October 17, 1925

It's time to start thinking about putting together a Halloween costume. When I was back home in St. Paul, I would have started planning for my costume a lot earlier, because they were so much more elaborate. This year I have had fun just looking through some books featuring lavish Halloween costumes. The gypsy costume from Dennison's Bogie Book (above) is intriguing.

Had I still been living in the cities, I might have chosen to have the Cleopatra costume made for me, but instead of having that net hoop, I would have extended the striped skirt.

I really fancy this spider web costume too. Wouldn't my dressmaker have had fun with that one?

These are just plain odd. I wouldn't be caught dead leaving the house in one of these. The black face is particularly dreadful.

This isn't a Halloween costume, of course, but I had to laugh out loud when I ran across this illustration. What self-respecting North Dakota farm wife would put on a fancy dress and heels to go out in the barnyard, let alone let herself be surrounded by a bunch of pecking birds?

In the end, though, I think I would have chosen this butterfly fantasy. It's made entirely of crepe paper!

In St. Paul, many of the owners of the stately homes on Summit Avenue would host Halloween open houses. People would move from house to house, savoring hors d'oeuvres and cocktails at each (I loved the Brandy Alexanders and Pink Squirrels). At one party I attended, they actually had a bathtub full of gin!

At about 9:00 p.m. the young adults would depart Summit Hill for the Halloween dance at the country club.

Hmmm, my mind keeps being drawn to a gypsy costume...

Of course, out here, the Halloween costumes are much simpler. Mine would have to be a lot sturdier and warmer than that crepe paper dress creation, and I don't have much money. But if I were a gypsy, I wouldn't have to sew a costume. I could round up a white peasant blouse with a sleeveless lace-up vest, a shawl, a long skirt and high boots. That way I could put long stockings on under the skirt and I could be toasty warm when I take the children trick or treating in case the weather is cold.

I could tie a red scarf over my hair and wear big hoop earrings and tons of bangles and beads. I could use the same costume when I go to Irene Bitz' Halloween party, where I will be playing a fortune teller. Yes, that cinches it. I WILL be a gypsy for Halloween this year!


Credits: Charcoal drawing of gypsy, Leslie Langille Benson; Painting of gypsy, Ada Pester.


NOTE: Please check out Lena (Mrs. Staggs') post for Wednesday, Oct. 29 (A Happy Miscellany): It's an Autumn Sketch Book page featuring a hayride. I never even thought of a hayride for Bess and her friends, but it is perfect for an autumn sketchbook.

Lena's book is the inspiration for my book. Wednesday's post is her ninth one giving us tips on how to make an autumn sketch book. Though usually I just use general ideas from Lena's book, I will be copying this page almost exactly. Thanks Lena, I am enjoying this so much and will hate to see it end!

Sunday, October 26, 2008


The Autumn Sketch Book
of Bess Stanhope
October 26, 1925

This past weekend I did something I had never done before. I got a substitute teacher and took the train east for four days back home in St. Paul. Last year, I never even went home for Christmas.

Now that I have a year of teaching under my belt, I felt confident that the students would do well with a small change. The substitute was Irene Bitz, a good friend of mine who was, in fact, the previous teacher before she left to get married. The students all love her so they were fine while I was gone. (In fact, last fall I had to persuade them to accept me – the upstart young teacher who took Mrs. Bitz’ place!)

Very early Friday morning I drove my Ford to Bismarck and boarded the train. I was so happy to get inside and settle into my seat. The wind was whipping the autumn leaves about me as I got on the train. I must say, I felt very snappy in my new "city dress" and cloche hat.

Before I left, I bought a couple of the latest magazines. I seldom purchase magazines anymore as they are now a luxury, but I felt like splurging a little. The stories and articles provided me with ample entertainment as we traveled across North Dakota. Not long after we left Fargo, the landscape began to change to my beloved lakes and woods. It seemed like we were in the Twin Cities before I knew it.

My parents are on an auto tour of the Southwestern United States to buy Indian artifacts, so I stayed with my best friend from home, Ellen Morrison. Her husband Elliott is such a dear and they were terrific at making me feel at ease in their home. They are gracious hosts whose only concern is for their guest. Ellen and I had a wonderful time catching up after everyone else went to bed.

Saturday morning, Ellen was following her usual weekend routine so I went to my favorite St. Paul cafe near the Cathedral. I used to sit in one of its wooden booths for hours, sipping coffee, observing people, sketching and writing poems.

In the afternoon Ellen and I went to our old prep school to watch a field hockey game. How I remember those crisp autumn days when we were players: the fresh air, the vigorous exercise, the sportsman (or woman)-like competition, and the cheers of our classmates. It was a fine afternoon and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

After the game, we went for a stroll along the grounds of Macalester College. How striking it was to see the late afternoon autumn sun highlighting the beautiful features of Old Main.

Ellen and I were as alike as two peas in a pod for many years, for after prep school we both went to Macalester. But after college, Ellen got married and started a family, while I carried on like a foolish flapper for several years before finding my true calling.

I have always admired Ellen’s serenity, grace and class. Today she is devoted to her husband, her home and her beautiful children. Her Arts and Crafts bungalow reflects her artistic sensibility and makes me feel utterly comfortable. I am afraid it will take me a while to come back to earth after my wonderful weekend away!
Oops, I find I have made a little error in posting a picture of a 1924 Red Book. I'll leave it though because I love the image. I'll just have to make sure that I cover up the date when it comes to actually making Bess' Sketch Book. I finally found the sketch book I want to use, and am now just waiting for my new printer to arrive so I can start printing off these images. It was supposed to be here Saturday but when I tracked the package I learned it is in St. Paul. (The real, 2008 St. Paul!)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


You'll have to forgive my dreadful puns in this post. I am combining an appreciation of the Art Nouveau paintings of Alphonse Mucha and my mucha appreciation for everyone who entered the "Fire Fancies" Art Challenge and those who voted. Ewww . . . that was bad, wasn't it?

Moving right along, Mary and I announce the contest winners as follows: First Place, Carmen of "Writing From Life"; Second Place, Lena (or Mrs. Staggs) of "A Happy Miscellany"; and Third Place to Kim of "Midwest Musings". Take a bow, ladies, you all deserve your prizes.

And the winner of the drawing from among the voters is JoAnne from "Pieceful Afternoon." Congratulations!

I do appreciate Mucha very much. I chose these particular paintings because it seems that Mucha loved autumn as well as I do. The painting at the top of this post is among his most famous. It is a panel from one of his several series of Four Seasons paintings. The overall colors, the wreath of mums and the fall leaves all combine to tell us just which panel this is.

This painting of a lady with the "foofy" hair is also an autumn panel, from another of Mucha's Four Seasons series.

The painting of the lady in the green dress and the painting directly above aren't part of a series, I think, but are individual paintings. However, they still carry autumn themes. The lady in the green gown holds the bounties of the harvest, and in the painting above the lady's diaphanous dress and veil are being swirled by a wind full of tumbling leaves. And what autumn color synonym would you use for the delicious and almost indescribable color of her dress?

And finally, yet another autumn (or "Automne") panel from a Four Seasons series. This is my very favorite.
Mucha was born in the Czech Republic in 1860 but moved to Paris at the age of 27. He was known for his paintings of beautiful young women in neoclassical clothing styles. He soared to instant fame when he designed a poster of popular stage actress Sarah Bernhardt dressed for her role in the play "Gismonda".
While some call his work a prime example of Art Nouveau style, Mucha actually invented it. What was first called Mucha Style later became known as Art Nouveau style.
Mucha later returned to Prague, but it proved to be his undoing.
Although I knew a bit about Mucha, I didn't know this:
"The rise of fascism in the late 1930s led to Mucha's works, as well as his Slavic nationalism, being denounced in the press as 'reactionary'. When German troops marched into Czechoslovakia in the spring of 1939, Mucha was among the first people to be arrested by the Gestapo. During the course of the interrogation the aging artist fell ill with pneumonia. Though eventually released, he never recovered from the strain of this event, or seeing his home invaded and overcome. He died in Prague on July 14, 1939 of a lung infection." (Wikipedia).
I have to stop now. I am crying too much.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008




Happy Birthday to my dear blogging friend, Lila of "Indigo Pears" (!
When I first put myself out here in cyberspace almost two years ago, Lila was the first person, outside of family and friends, to comment on my blog. She helped me figure out the ins and outs of blogging, and has been a faithful, kind and loving friend ever since.
Lila, a Southern gal from Arkansas, is a talented quilter, seamstress and watercolor artist. See the painting above? That's hers! Even better, she's giving that very same painting away - framed - in honor of her birthday. Just click on her blog address above and go to her October 1 post to enter her giveaway. (I already own a Lila original - of a blue and white porcelain vase holding Chinese lanterns and bittersweet. It holds a place of honor in my home.)
Lila's a great cook too and prints many delicious recipes. But Lila, I hope Mr. Pear took you out to dinner tonight. Happy Birthday!
And speaking of giveaways, have you voted for your favorite entrant in the "Fire Fancies" Art Challenge yet? Your votes will earn one of 12 talented artists first prize in the contest, and you could win too! Everyone who votes will go into a drawing for a vintage-style Halloween figurine of a girl with a pumpkin hat. Just go to my post below and make a comment to vote and be entered!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Mary (of "Back of the Moon") and I are excited to announce the entries in the first ever "Celtic Lady/Shopgirl Art Challenge"! If you remember, we asked you to look at the Arthur Hacker "Fire Fancies" painting, above, and imagine what the young lady sees in the flames, then create a work of art based upon it.

We were thrilled to see all the different interpretations we received. Some people even included poems or stories with their art!

Before I present the entries, I URGE you to follow the links to the original sites so you can see the art work in all its glory. I'm afraid that some of the images didn't copy well from site to site. You will especially need to go to Kim's, Lena's and Sorrow's sites so that you can enlarge the images and view them properly. Please check out everyone's posts as many explained their techniques and added back stories. (You may need to scroll down a few posts if the bloggers have added more posts since they submitted their entry.)

So when you've checked out all the art, vote for your favorite HERE with a comment. Mary and I have decided that all votes will be posted on my blog to make things simpler for us.

I also have an incentive to "get out the vote". I have a cute vintage-style Halloween figurine of girl with a pumpkin hat to give away in a drawing. Since I don't have a digital camera, you'll just have to imagine how cute she is. I will draw a name from among all the voters!

No. 1

Noni, aka Mary Ann ( ) says the piece below is "my contribution for what she might have seen in the fire, just as there was a knock on her door. "

No. 2:

Lila at "Arty Collages and Dolls" ( ) thinks the girl "would like travel and adventure with possible romantic involvement. I see her as a redhead, not just from the fire's glow. She will grow up to be a beauty. Maybe she is dreaming of dancing shoes, a horse to ride in the moonlight, a magnificent large home with rich furnishings and a long life to enjoy it all and share with those she loves."

No. 3

Kim at "Midwest Musings" ( ) titles her collage "What Does The Future Hold?" (Kim says she was going to use "Through the Looking Glass" as her title, "but Alice told me not to. :) "

(Sorry, Kim, I couldn't make it print any larger. Go to Kim's blog and click on the photo to see the collage in all its colorful splendor.)

No. 4

The collage below is by Kate at "Meanderings" ( Kate says, "Here is a little bit about my process. I had the background done and it looked like the picture fit so well. I added papers and made the heart and came up with some words that seem to reflect the painting to me."

No. 5

Bimbimbie, or Annie from Australia (, is a storyteller as well as an artist. Here's here story:

"Whether moments or years away, the future is concealed by time's curtain; yet some still strive to open it ...

Yesterday at the horse fair, Old Mara, Gypsy and teller of fortunes, had looked deep upon Bessie Dunlop's palm. "What do you see?" Bessie asked her. Not glancing upwards, Old Mara replied: "On the morrow, light your fire before the crescent moon do start her climb. Stand a fresh pot of tea with single cup and saucer atop your table and watch for my arrival.

This she did. And with a twinkling of her eye, Old Mara parted the curtain of flames for Bessie Dunlop to behold what was divined on her palm and within her tea leaves ...

As Bessie gasped and clapped to see that Tiddles was indeed King of all parlor cats and Dumplings, her gentle placid mare, a Unicorn, all that was to be decided upon was Bessie Dunlop's future name ..."

No. 6

After musing over the "Fire Fancies" painting, Gemma, or Linda, at "Wild Woman in a Desert Garden" ( ) drew upon another Arthur Hacker painting, shown below, to spin her story:

"Innocence Burning"

She was waiting for her husband to come home.

He was late again. Another sip of tea and with a little heartache, she remembered how she had so innocently thought life would be blissful after she got married to George. She put the food she had prepared away. She would reheat it, if and when he ever got home. Later she built a little fire and gathered her beloved cat to sit with her as she waited for George. 'Surely he'll come home soon....won't he?'

She sat staring into the fire.

What did she see?

Innocence burning:

She knew her days of innocence were gone.

Dancing in the fire.

Innocence turned to ash and smoke.

She knew in her heart that George was in love with another.

And she knew she was expecting his baby."

No. 7

Looking at the painting, Carmen from "Writing From My Heart and Soul" ( ) saw herself:

"I absolutely could read her heart because it was my own heart I was reading. Her face is so centered, so calm. Her eyes and heart are full of love and that makes her spirit fearless. She is so at peace. I can see that the storm has passed and not all is lost. A sweet blue whispering into her soul and heart has occurred. A light has brought her hope again. And the colors of her NOW are brighter. Beauty is all around. You see she is wearing her crown and wings. She is ready to fly, ready to soar!

No. 8

Betzie at "Time Enough (" ) says "This poor forlorn witch is lost in her memories of her beloved Edgar...POE that is..."

Betzie actually submitted three variations of her artwork: the lighter version, shown below; a darker, spookier version; and a black and white version. To see the other two, go to her blog. If any one if them is your favorite, vote for her.

No. 9

Lena, at "A Happy Miscellany" ( ), used "an old cigar box and various bits and pieces that represent the girl following her dream, until it came true. As an adult, she has found the key to happiness, and a happy home.

Lena says the fireplace "is filled with flowers to represent the blossoming dream. The watering can on top of the mantel, represents nurturing your dreams, and the flower pot represents leaving a place in our lives to sow the seeds of our imaginations. Everything needs room, to grow. The broom? Well, the broom represents all those things we need to rid ourselves of, in order to make our dreams come true." (Go to Lena's blog to enlarge this collage!)

No. 10

The artwork entered by Annie from California, at "In My Dreams" ( ) was accompanied by a poem:

"Withdrawn into darkness Shadowed, veiled.

Fire flickers. Embers fade.

Heart burrowed deep In cold grey ash.

Yet, my lap is warmed."

No. 11

The drawing below, "If I Had A Ribbon Bow", was done by Krissie of "Winterwood" ( ). She thinks the "Fire Fancies" girl is dreaming the same thing she used to dream about:

"I would love to spend hours just thinking of what I would do when I got older. I would listen to records in my room and dream.

One record that I LOVED was "If I had a ribbon bow" - by Fairport Convention. Its an olde English song about a girl who dreams about meeting Prince Charming and she could do so if she had a ribbon bow to tie her hair and a gown of calico for her to wear."

No. 12

Unfortunately, Blogger won't let me publish the photo of Sorrow's entry. But go to this site to see it: Sorrow, I truly apologize that I can't show your little clay figure here, who, you say, was born in the fires of contemplation. But I can publish the poem that goes with it.

"Woman on Fire"

She is more than her body

She is more than the passion that burns her,

More than the desires that consume her.

She is on fire.

She is the ember of hearth fires,

the ash of unfulfilled dreams.

She is the Phoenix that rises.

She is the flickering candle that shines bright in the dark.

The light of hope that can not be extinguished.

She is the warmth and comfort of Love

The glow that shines upon the horizon at dawn.

She is Radiance

She is a Woman On fire.


Thanks to everyone who entered and made this first challenge a success. It was great fun!

It's going to be hard to choose a winner, isn't it? Vote here by name or number, and have your friends vote too. One of you voters will win the drawing.

And contestants, create a link to this post and urge your friends to vote for you so you can win one of our great prizes. Both you and a friend could be winners! You have until midnight, Tuesday, October 21, to vote/enter the drawing.