the best cheese straws in the world!

It’s time to bring food to this blog! Cheese straws are my favorite offering to bring to holiday gatherings. The recipe comes from my maternal grandmother’s family from Orangeburg , South Carolina.  The tradition has been passed down from mother to child for generations. There are cheese straws and then there are these cheese straws, which always get a lot of attention. I’m working on teaching my sons how to make cheese straws. They sure like to eat them! The trick is to use the sharpest cheddar cheese you can get and to roll them as thinly as possible.

My grandmother (2nd from left) with the Salley family, in about 1900.

Ingredients: 3 Cups flour, 2 tsp. seasoned salt (I use Lawry’s), 1 tsp. dried mustard, 1 cup butter, 8 oz. very sharp cheddar cheese. Start by mixing the flour, salt and dried mustard in a bowl.

Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter, like you are making pie crust.

Grate the cheddar cheese and stir it in with the flour mixture.

Dribble ice water into the mixture and combine until it sticks together in a doughy consistency. Don’t let it get too soggy!

Divide into balls, wrap and refrigerate for a few hours.

Roll out the dough balls as thinly as possible and cut in strips with a pastry roller.

Spread the straws out on a cookie sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. They may take longer to cook, so check them often and switch pans to different racks during baking time.

They don’t take long to cool, so immediately sample a few. Now, put them out and watch them disappear! They can be saved in a tin and make a great gift, too.

Mom’s look-a-like doll

When I visited my sister Anne this past spring, she brought out our mother’s look-a-like doll. Mom’s doll was made by our great-aunt, Alma Salley.

Here’s a picture of Mom with her father in the early 1930′s. Mom described him as a kind, gentle man and I love seeing photos of them together. We never knew him, as he died before his grandchildren were born.

 Anne and I remember receiving exquisite doll clothes made by Alma when we were young. We didn’t see our Salley relatives very often, as they all lived in South Carolina and we were in New England. This is an old painted photo of Alma, who was born in the 1880′s and lived through a lot of changes, well into her 90′s.

This photo shows my great grandparents and their five daughters. My grandmother, Louise (second from the left), was the only one who left the south. After 8 years of courting, she finally gave in and moved north to Rhode Island, to marry my grandfather. By that time, she was 35 and he was 45, old newly weds for their era, but common by today’s standards. The “Salley girls” were famous in Orangeburg, SC for their spirited independence and all five of them went on to graduate from college. Even though there weren’t any males to carry on the family surname, subsequent generations have several first named Salleys, like myself. We are descended from Henry Salley, who came to America along with a group of other French Huguenots who founded Orangeburg, South Carolina in the early 1700′s.  

Dr. Michael and Adele Salley and their daughters, circa 1900

 

Anne & Dennis wedding dolls

On my recent trip to visit my sister and her husband in Oregon, I took pictures of their wedding dolls. I made them for Anne and Dennis when they married in July, 1988.

In typical Mavor fashion, the wedding was an eclectic blend of cultures and styles. It would be out of character if any of us had a conventional wedding! Anne wore a dress from Afghanistan, with a Swedish crown of candles. (She spent a college year in Sweden.) Dennis wore a Polish outfit in a nod to his family heritage.

The dolls are about 6 inches tall and I think they were displayed on top of the wedding cake.

The candles on her head-dress are tube beads.

The hat, shoes and boots were made of real leather.

I remember enjoying adding the decorations to their clothing. It was fun to revisit the dolls after 24 years!

Turkish Dolls

I’m guessing that these 12″ dolls are Turkish, or I might be influenced by my recent visit there. (Emily just commented that she has one like the woman from Morocco.) They’re from my grandmother’s collection, which she accumulated in the 1950′s and 1960′s. I don’t remember her telling me about a trip to Turkey, but I know she traveled all over the world with her sisters after she was widowed in her early 60′s.  As a child, I would gaze up at her souvenir dolls, which lived on high shelves in her living room, out of reach of young fingers.

Now, they are mostly packed away in boxes or crowded into my studio display cases.  

The curious thing about these dolls is their hair. What’s with the blondish copper color? They look like Scandinavians dressed up in Ottoman costumes.

The dolls’ faces are sculpted with stockinette and painted. I find the man’s “fake snow” turban a bit bizarre, too. They certainly have a lot of character, but I find these more humorous than beautiful.

still animating, slowly

My husband and I have been spending the winter learning about stop motion animation. Rob and I have been doing numerous tests, which are painstakingly slow. The patience required is a different kind than what it takes to stitch a field of French knots. You have to pay attention all the time and not zone out. The more we become familiar with the process, the more we feel like we are just scratching the surface.

We’re trying out the equipment on my fabric relief Self Portrait: a personal history of fashion (see it here), which I brought home from the show that just ended at the Brattleboro Museum.  We are making an animation by rotating the piece on a lazy-susan, taking a series of close-up photos from overhead as we turn the picture incrementally. When we’re finished filming (I can’t say when), my Self Portrait will be returned to its semi-permanent home at the Woods Hole Public Library.

We’ve set up a work area in the basement. Rob is a retired engineer who loves the challenge of figuring out the technical stuff. He used to design camera equipment for remote under-water vehicles, so I’m lucky to have his expertise.

It’s hard to say when we’ll have something to show for our efforts. Right now we’re just playing, figuring out how to animate my artwork. While Rob is reviewing our new camera and learning the computer program, I’m making characters and sets for another film we’ll eventually make. As the weather gets warmer, it will be hard to stay in the basement, though. We’re taking the long view with this project–it looks like we’ll work off and on for at least a year before we have a finished film to share. Hopefully, our patience will be rewarded.

Treasures – Shirley Temple doll

my mom, Mary Louise Hartwell, about 1930

I saw the new movie, The Artist (see the trailer here) the other night and walked out of the theater thinking about tap dancing, which is featured at the very end. That got me thinking about my mother’s life as a girl during the movie’s time period (late 1920′s-early 30′s). She took tap dancing lessons and I still have her Bell Tone taps, which I sewed into this little hanging I made years ago. It’s a forerunner to the wedding banners I’ve been making lately, which you can see here.

My Mom was one of the lucky girls of her generation to have a Shirley Temple doll, which I now have. The doll has been stored in her original wardrobe trunk all these years.

Shirley Temple was discovered at the age of 3 and became a hugely popular movie star when “Talkies” began to replace silent films in Hollywood in the 1930′s.

 It looks like my Mom peeled off most of the stickers, but here’s one that’s mostly left.

I found Shirley inside, along with a closet and card board drawers full of clothes.

She looks in pretty good shape. I remember seeing the doll as a child, but thankfully, she was kept away from our grubby fingers.

The pile of clothes includes some home-made ones as well as some outfits with “genuine” Shirley Temple tags.

This doll is a treasure to cherish. I’m glad to have this memory of my mother and times past.

Felt Wee Folk around the kitchen table

fairies from "Felt Wee Folk"

fairies from “Felt Wee Folk”

Sometimes I look at my blog statistics to find out how people find me. Quite frequently searches like “pipe cleaner dolls”or “wee felt people” bring them here. This week’s wordy favorite was “how to wrap embroidery floss around pipe cleaners for fairies”.

Last week, I received the most wonderful e-mail message from Michele in Nebraska, who wrote, “I didn’t do anything else yesterday evening except enjoy every single thing on your blog.” She went on describe how she and her family have enjoyed the doll projects in Felt Wee Folk.

“I purchased your book when my daughter was 15 (she is now 20 and a new mother). She had a close friend spend the night once that year and I brought my new book, along with lots of felt, threads, combed wool (I spin) and all manner of goodies, into the kitchen with the two girls and announced we were going to make tiny dolls. You should have seen their teenage faces! At first hesitant and then fascinated and completely absorbed, those two girls insisted on staying up till 2:30 in the morning so their little people could be finished! We talked about everything and laughed and laughed and when we were done, we sat and looked at our little people with the greatest satisfaction and joy. Just recently, my daughter’s same good friend came to our house to visit and told me that night spent here was the most fun she has ever had and that she felt so much love in our home. She has her little Wee Folk doll still and wants to make more with her children when she has them.

I just thought you might like to hear that your art has the most profound effect on others in such a positive and loving way. Thank you for your years of sharing. Thank you for leaving your examples of doll art on your website as inspiration for those of us who cannot get enough of them. I am sure you will be blessed in all your new endeavors.

And finally thank you for being true to yourself, for in doing that, what you have created is truly magical.”

Stories like Michele’s make me feel that sharing my fantasy/play world is truly worth it. It warms my heart to think of kitchen tables around the world scattered with silk flower petals, pipe cleaners and acorn caps. I can imagine faces of all ages and colors bowed in concentration and busy hands engrossed in making wee dolls. It’s been almost 9 years since Felt Wee Folk was released by C&T Publishing. Since 2003, the book has been reprinted many times, selling over 50,000 copies, which is way more than any of my children’s books.

cruise to Cuttyhunk (part 1)

On a calm day earlier in August, before Irene blew up our way, my husband and I took our boat to Cuttyhunk Island. It’s only an hour ride from Woods Hole to this little gem at the end of the chain of Elizabeth Islands. In the harbor, we met up with our friends Ben and Julie and they rafted their sail boat up to our boat.

We took our dingy to shore, walked around the town and passed the public library.

We had a lobster dinner.

And walked back down to the dock to take our dingy back to our mooring.

On the way, we passed acorn stand in a golf cart which operated on the honor system .

As the sun went down and the moon came up, we returned to our boat and spent a peaceful night on our boat in Cuttyhunk harbor.

to be continued…

Cruise to Cuttyhunk (part 2)

30th wedding anniversary

Today is our 30th anniversary! To celebrate, Rob and I are going on a little trip to Long Island, NY. Ok, I know what some of you are thinking? Isn’t Long Island full of Levittown style track houses? Well, we’re going to the northern end, which we’re reaching by ferry from New London, CT. I’ll come back with pictures to show what we find. Anyway, I thought this would be a good opportunity to show the dolls I made for our wedding.

At the wedding, the dolls were hanging in a basket with helium  balloons floating above and cheese cakes below.

The dolls and basket have been gathering a coat of dust over the years, as we have also become gray.

They were made with stuffed nylon stockings, which was all the rage back then. 

I made my own wedding dress and Rob’s shirt and vest, so the dolls had matching outfits. Happy summer solstice!

61 years ago today

My parents, Mary and Jim Mavor, were married 61 years ago on March 25, 1950. This plate was a wedding gift and it’s now hanging in my kitchen. An artist and engineer couple, they were married for 55 years before my mother passed away, with my father dying the next year. Please let me indulge in nostalgia, while I show some favorite pictures.

They were married in my mother’s home in Providence , RI. I love these pictures of my parents as a young handsome couple. When my sons saw these pictures, they said, “Grandma was a Babe!”

What a handful we must have been, three children in 4 years. I’m on my Daddy’s lap, being grabbed by my younger (by 13 months) brother.

This is one of the last photos of them together.