Category Archives: Inspiration

April Showers, Spring Flowers and Dandelion Bouquets

Already April. Spring.

Since the last post describing the world as our marketplace, we have been a little overwhelmed with the response. Such an honor it is.  The wares produced here in the Ohio Valley that once moved up and down the mighty Ohio River are now making their way across the globe via our little post office and then onto planes and trucks.

Already it is spring. It is raining – April showers do bring flowers. The wildflowers here in the foothills of the Appalachians are a never ending delight. Always there is something that I have not seen before – and some flowers that I want to see more like violets.

If there is one essential item that every mother needs – now that is one big assertion – that one essential item is a small vase for spring bouquets. I once called ours, “the dandelion vase.”  It is the small vase that is used for the precious bouquet of dandelions carried with such joy. “Mommy. Mommy. I found these flowers for you.” As a first time mother, those dandelions were carefully arranged in a tumbler of some sort. Looking a little forlorn – a little out of place and then of course, they looked a little weedy. But the sentiment overwhelms.

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A New Look for a Vintage Filigree Vanity Tray: Mason Jars and Milk Glass

I often wonder about the new homes for the vintage treasures that we send. Taryn paired a 1950s mirrored filigree vanity tray with painted ball jars and then added a glass knob.  . . . what a great new look for a vintage tray.

Vintage Filigree Mirrored Tray with Vanity Jars. Ball Jars painted white - Voila! New use for Ball Jars.

Vintage Filigree Mirrored Tray with Vanity Jars. Ball Jars painted white – Voila! New use for Ball Jars.

Amesville, Ohio: A Place Called Home

I grew up in a large Metropolitan Area – Chicago Heights, Illinois. It was suburban; my big idea as a teenager was to move to the city. I loved the energy and anonymity of the city.

Once married, I lived in Kirksville Missouri, back then it was a very small town. I soon discovered the joys of living in a small town. No doubt because it was a college town, I had great friends and so many unforgettable moments. Soon enough, I found that I could not imagine living in the big city, especially with children in tow.

Living in a small town is easy. The drive to the post office, bank or small grocery store/gas station is about seven minutes or 2 1/2 miles. It is a a beautiful drive  . . . it looks a lot like the drawing The Ohio Company.  In Amesville, there are no traffic lights.  There is very little traffic. There are very few residents; around 150-200 lucky people live here..

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Inspiration: First Comes Love

Songs and stores from childhood are simple which is why we are able to learn them quickly and recall them years later. Like this one:

Jack and Jill sitting in a tree,

K-I-S-S-I-N-G

First comes love . . . then comes marriage . . . then comes Jack  with the baby carriage.

Boys and girls chant this rhyme at the first whisper of romance particularly in primary school.  In fourth grade, I received a locket on Valentine’s Day. After that day, he would not speak nor look at me.  He was tormented by our classmates who sang the song relentlessly on the playground.

K-I-S-S-I-N-G is not just a childish taunt; the song represents the socially accepted order of love and marriage. Breaking social rules and crossing boundaries is not easy even if we think that we are modern. The Jan van Eyck portrait of marriage still raises eyebrows; the pregnancy of the bride is unexpected in a Renaissance painting perhaps. But then as now, life is not always orderly nor simple. Marriage does not inevitably follow love;  marriage does not always last a lifetime and sometimes, the baby carriage remains empty.

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The Spirit of the Gift: A Box of Chocolates

Tucked in an old trunk, an empty box of chocolates with an inscription,

Kenneth’s first box of chocolates given by Uncle Darrel Sept. 7, 1926. 

The old box is fragile; it was constructed of paper but, it had survived over the course of eighty-eight years! I imagine that Kenneth left the box behind when he was no longer a boy; while his mother neatly tucked it away for sometime in the future. Carefully, I opened the box and discovered a handmade stuffed elephant. . . This was precious; I felt a tingle up and down my spine – the spirit of the gift survived.

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Eighty-eight years later, I understood the sentiment. The first step or the first word or the first box of chocolate mark moments in time that become more meaningful over the course of a lifetime. Here I stood with this memento with its beautiful art deco design – deep blue lovely actually. I dusted it carefully and placed it on a table.

Now, in my present life, I pass things on in the marketplace – a big marketplace powered by the internet. I write descriptions that are probably too long and often, I think, too sentimental. I could easily write a description lacking the story of this empty old chocolate box; perhaps,

Old Ramer’s Chocolate Box. Good Condition. Measurement 10″ x 4″ approximately.

But then, the history is lost – and so is the meaning. So, I photographed the box, pondering each detail of the graphics; looked at the elephant again and then wrote this description:

The amazing graphics on this paper wrapped cardboard box – are remarkable and in very good condition . . . the box is dated with a charming inscription:

“Kenneth’s first box of chocolates given by Uncle Darrel Sept. 7, 1926″

The craftsman era is reflected in the graphic tree with fruit while the peacock seems more reminiscent of art deco .  . .
Whatever the inspiration, the brilliant blue, red rose and linear horizontal graphics eventually lead to the logo for Ramer’s Chocolate. The logo is repeated on the side of the box . . .

We are selling this advertising box as found . . . upon opening the box, we were surprised to see a handmade elephant tucked inside, no doubt, an attempt by Kenneth’s Mother to save one of his childhood toys. This is a treasure. Measures about 10” X 4 1/2 X 3 1/4.
Condition: At the corner of the lid, there is some loosening
of the wrap. The elephant needs a wash as evidenced in the
photograph.

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For a while, I had the pleasure of enjoying the box on the table. I wondered if anyone in the world appreciated the bits and pieces of the past. Maybe no one will ever . . . I would say to myself. But one evening, the Etsy Notification sounded . . .TMA had just ordered the Ramer’s Chocolate Box! I was a little let down, no longer would I see the beautiful graphics as I passed the table. I worried also – why did someone want this box? I carefully packed the chocolate box. I also reiterated to the new owner that this was a precious chocolate box.

Two days later, the new owner, Tanya replied:

The package arrived today in great shape – thank you so much – especially for the background information.  While having dinner just a couple of weeks ago, my daughter Ali was telling my Aunt Barbara (nee Ramer) about her new job at the bakery, which includes candy making.  My Aunt then went on to tell us how my Nana (Hortense Ramer) always knew what was inside the chocolate pieces in a candy box based on the design on the candy because she worked for Ramer chocolates – apparently my grandfather’s side of the family (Earl Ramer) owned a chocolate shop.  It was a tidbit of info that my Aunt learned from my Nana at some point (my own mother had never heard that story), so I of course had to google Ramer Chocolates to find out more.  My Nana lived in NJ her whole life, so when I saw that Ramer’s Chocolates was based in St. Paul, Minnesota, I wasn’t sure if there was a connection.  I then came across your etsy site in the google search,  and being a huge vintage fan, was further intrigued…unfortunately my nana passed away in 2006 at the age of 97, so I couldn’t ask her about working for her husband’s family’s candy shop  (maybe he was just a boyfriend at the time).  I hesitated about making the purchase until I saw the inscription from Uncle Darrel….maybe not a direct connection, but my mother’s name is Darriel Ramer, so to me that was more than a sign that this vintage item belonged in my collection – and upon receiving it, I actually got a chill when I opened the box and held it in my hand…
My Aunt did say that my grandfather’s family was from the midwest, so I am definitely going to do more digging.
So to make a long story short, the Ramer’s Chocolate box has found a perfect new home and will be cherished and handled with great care for many, many more years to come.  Thank you for brightening my day 🙂
Family Crest

Family Crest

An incredible history for an empty box of chocolates drawn from the early days of electricity to the age of the internet. I wonder if Tanya’s grandmother was there the day that the box of chocolates was shipped to Amesville, Ohio. It is entirely possible; the A. M. Ramer Company did not survive the great depression a few years later.

Lately, I have been spending some time reading about the company – I have found so many interesting details. The facility built in ca. 1916 cost a staggering 375,00.00! Saint Paul was becoming the candy capital of the world. And Mr. Ramer was a part of the growth of the candy industry and the growth of Saint Paul as a manufacturing center. The train from Chicago would pass the candy companies –  no doubt passengers enjoyed a sweet treat! But fortunes rise and fall, then as now. All that remains of the A.M. Ramer Candy Company is the bond of family. The spirit of the gift survived long past the lives of Kenneth and Uncle Darrel; the spirit of the gift lives now in the life of another family. A Circle. The circle of giving . . . Nice.

Ramer Candy Company Building

One last thought, I won’t worry about my descriptions being rather long or overly sentimental. Well, not so much . . .

Lust and Vintage Linen

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Damask For Dinner

I am not sure how it happened. It all started in Missouri almost forty years ago . . . going to auctions and finding beautiful linens . . . looking for linens that were not polyester . . . finding vintage linens so soft, so detailed  . . . handmade by women who cared about the little things in life. It is not that they were not busy – wash dishes, wash clothing, make dinner without machines. Taking tatting thread and a hook and weaving lace trim for a hand towel; taking a needle and embroidering a name. Small details. Setting a table with a tablecloth or setting the table for lunch in the field or at the table with a luncheon cloth made with colorful mid-century prints. Those were different times and days. . .

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I would cringe at the idea of paper napkins or even paper towels at the table. Not because of any reasons other than, my admiration for the women that took the time to set a table, iron linen and even sew and embellish table linens and bed linens; and my preference for soft linen around a child’s shoulders at dinner time or in my hand. IMG_6286This apron was found in a trunk that was filled with the presents presented to a teacher over many years in our small rural community. The fabric is elegant, much like the cotton used for shirt making when shirts were made by shirt makers!

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Detail of Lace

My preference for linen napkins is to use them without ironing – they are so soft and luxurious! Vintage fabric is durable if cared for properly. In my opinion, it is best to wash but not starch especially when stored; lightly starch for use if you choose; never store unless washed since the tiniest bit of an edible will attract nasty little critters (bugs/mice). If storing for a long time, it is best to wrap them. Recently, I found a few old nightgowns but one of them was covered with dust from an attic. I very carefully hand-washed the gown. The fabric was so deteriorated that it shredded in my hand. So sad. The lace used however is stable and so beautiful – it is perfect for a project! Just as they did so long ago, we have now adopted the habit of recycling, reusing and up cycling these fragments of the past . . . not only as patchwork quilts but in so many ways.

 

I carried my new finds home. For many years, there were boxes of linens and no one seemed to want them not even my children! The collection soon outgrew the linen closet, chests of drawers and the dining room. Now, I have the pleasure of passing my finds on! And now, my children, older and wiser, appreciate my collection! Thankfully, many collectors now realize their value especially as those days become a more distant past.

Hopefully, they will once again be well loved and passed on . . .

Vintage Fashion

IMG_6683I have been watching The Paradise on PBS; I admit that I began watching it as a fix. I missed that other series about Mr. Selfridge. Imagine, all the way from Marshall Field to London. The spirit of the age (the Zeitgeist) is palpable in both series – the optimism in modern science, technology, and industrialization influenced style, fashion and taste. The world, they believed, was a better place for all of humanity. And in many ways, their world view was well-founded on the evidence around them – electricity, communication, transportation and medicine. Their style was a visual display of modern luxury  – new luxuries like turning on a light past dark and reading!  It was a revolution.

THE LUXURY OF VINTAGE FASHION

Today, the marketplace is brimming with readily available and fashionable clothing; yet all too often, fine craftsmanship has disappeared – at an affordable price. Part of the appeal of vintage fashion is that we can enjoy beautiful materials and workmanship without breaking our budget. And, there is also social responsibility – vintage goods of all kinds are integral to a sustainable economic system. Whew! Having said all of that, vintage clothing is a part of history.

I enjoy the theater of dress – and the theater created by Mr. Selfridge and the ficitonal, Mr. Moray. I marvel at the clothing Ginger Rodgers wore as she danced away the night, Katherine Hepburn in pants that flowed like a skirt and followed every curve. And so on . . . like Ingrid Bergman, who looked beautiful no matter what she wore – and still looks beautiful behind a mink stole on a mannequin in a small, very small vintage store. Hmmm, that brings up fur and the bad wrap it has in today’s world (no pun intended)  . . . The allure of the forties was elegance. Growing up, there were women who attended church with a fur coat – my great aunt was one of them. It was Chicago. In Chicago, winter is cold – no matter what the temperature, the wind off the lake is cold. . . the antidote before the new man made ultra loft fillings was fur. Fur is warm . . . Last winter, I wore a vintage fur jacket and now, I do not think that I could give it up. I hate being cold when I am outside – and I like being out of doors.

When I run across beautiful things that are appealing and bring to mind an era of fashion then I can imagine that they would add personality, color and even usefulness in the present to a wardrobe. So it is with the sequined dress made in Italy with fine wool and hand sewn sequins that are 1/2 in diameter. I am not so good with a camera – capturing the play of light is difficult and so too, it is impossible to portray the fit. This dress is short enough and tight enough but not form fitting.  . . . actually it is perfect!

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I am also quite taken with the pure all out eighties look of the long dress that takes off from the psychedelia of the seventiesIMG_5819. . . .look at the gold coins! Not the kind of dress to wear if you do not want to be noticed. . . . The colors are disco happy. Hard to imagine having a bad time wearing this dress. The detail in this dress is absolutely excellent – lined, the coins are hand applied as is the gold trim. I imagine that shimmery sandals would work well and still allow perfect comfort . . . my daughter, who knows so much more about fashion than I, suggested the fur stole. And of course, she is right – partly because, this dress seems to require an extraordinary occasion and a puffy coat, well, it would be out of sync . . . but a stole, like a mink stole would make it theater . . .

Lots and lots of new things in store that I hope to get online – lots of slip dresses, and new vintage imported from Austin,  reminiscent of my hippie past.

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Local History – Athens County


 

I am an historian – a card carrying historian – the post doctorate degree made it official and public. I look at the world around me with a particular if not downright peculiar lens. Every object that I look at tells a story. Recently, I acquired boxes of papers and books left by a teacher who enjoyed a long career in the local schools of Amesville.  So far, I  have only managed to touch the outermost contours of her work. . . not her private life . . . but a glimpse of her perspective. I know that she was dedicated and adopted new methods of teaching. I know that the world was changing around her in ways dramatic and yet, after so much time has past, her world is recognizable. It is a blessing to live here – a place rural and somehow magnetized by the life of the college town of Athens. It is a strange brew.

All history is local. I am not the first historian to recognize that fact. As interesting as it is to study big world wide events, it is often far more engaging to see the connection in the everyday lives of real people. For instance. in her papers, there are commemorative booklets that she gave to her students.

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One of these little mementos is dated 1927 while another is ca. 1930. I can’t help but think the adage,  wealth seeks us in 1930 was influenced by the economic convulsion that rocked the world. . . even pottery sales were sluggish those years around Ohio. On the other hand, the student might seek wisdom. The take-away? We can control our destinies by choosing wisdom. How many times have we heard, do what you love and the money will follow?

Not sure how many graduated in 1927, but there were nine graduates in the class of 1926. Local dignitaries were there while the Girl’s Glee Club and a solo violinist entertained the graduates and their well wishers. The festivities took place at the Presbyterian Church in Amesville. . . now that might come as a surprise. . . or not. I am certain that the local church provided a beautiful backdrop the evening of graduation. At that time, that the choice of the local church building did not stir debate. It was a convenient, available and dignified location to celebrate the accomplishments of nine students. It was a natural choice for the members of this tight knit rural community. It just made sense; common sense you might say. Life must have been simpler.

 

Notice the engraving on the announcement. It was printed on beautiful cotton paper! So much detail for nine graduating seniors. . . I wonder if the students recognized the planning and preparation that went into their commencement. The simple life – a world of beautiful paper, embossed invitations and gilt!

Fine Paper, Engraved, Embossed with Gilt

Fine Paper, Engraved, Embossed with Gilt

In the hills of Appalachia, in the early twentieth century, rural people had an appreciation of fine paper and engraved invitations. This fact forces us to rethink dichotomies such as rural/city in the world of geography and workers/elites in social and economic terms. In fact, it might even bring us to ponder the definition of the derogatory, hillbilly.

If you have made it this far, thanks for bearing with me. . . in history, there are rarely straight lines; even rarer still, are there answers. A million questions linger – there is a story here.

Athens County Fair

Things have changed since the first county fairs in Athens County. Until this century, after the Great Depression, most folks lived in rural areas. Not until the last quarter of the last century did we witness an exodus to the city – people left to find “good jobs.” The pendulum swings again, the “good jobs” have evaporated. . . . demographics shift again. But  people still gather at county fairs or church celebrations to share a sense of community with others. . . in fact, fairs in medieval Europe had the same festive atmosphere that our county fairs have today. As luck would have it, recently, quite a few boxes of papers have landed in my lap . . .  from Amesville spanning eighty years. It is a treasure trove filled with notebooks distributed to farmers to keep records of planting time, fertilization and crop yields; guides for putting foods by; guides for young people in the Grange; beautiful cards distributed by a baking company with illustrations of birds that were “good for the land” – and photographs of boys with girls posing for school pictures, yearbooks among so many things precious and rare. . . IMG_5271 But perhaps, the strangest and most interesting of all is the story, “Travels of a Rolled Oat” published by the Quaker Oats Company in 1930. in this pamphlet, we see oats that are first planted, processed and finally eaten by a young child.  The story starts like Moby Dick . . . “being an account of an old man in Sweden” who keeps a shop. . . and tells Nils how it is that oats are grown. The oats are depicted as if they are living organisms that finally become a part of the young man. It is the rolled oats who tell the story and in the end, “the rolled oats become a part of Nils.” IMG_4432There are other pamphlets as well, such as Pigmies. In this tale, germs are represented as pigmies – the smallest of characters taken from myth by the author to tell the morality tale that Hercules could not fight against an army of these! Another pamphlet, The Jungle Pow-Wow published by Colgate Palmolive to teach the universal benefit of brushing teeth. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the hygienic movement addressed many concerns. Teaching children the virtues and benefits of cleanliness, good health and an adequate diet were among the topics that teachers, like Mrs. Linscott at Amesville-Bern Middle School addressed. Teachers used materials provided by private industry to teach. Funds were limited and resourceful teachers used these aids. . . The radio and television were just new mediums for major companies to influence our tastes. From my vantage point, the pamphlets are priceless – they often have amazing graphics. And the pamphlets tell a story of all the resources that one teacher pulled together to address the needs of her class. I am humbled by this rural school teacher . . . who has left me with new insight into how it is that we became a “great melting pot.”

Selling Pieces from the Past – Part One

In my bio, I have described myself as a historian and collector. . . my first collection, books. History and literature stretching from the middle ages to the present. How many? I never knew. I never counted. I knew there were books that I needed. Books that I needed to read again, paragraphs to ponder, sometimes to wonder. Some books you know you will always go back to again and again. Then there were the rare books. Books the university library did not have that I needed to read slowly. I would check out books from my library at home – Alden Library – usually, I had over 200 books from that source. I was writing a dissertation that spanned two continents and the lives of two brothers, sons daughters. I read constantly. My appetite was voracious. Then I moved to a cabin in the woods – I needed to purge that collection. I gave away so many books without any sense of loss.

In turn, I started a new project, the history of Ohio River Pottery. I began collecting pottery made in Ohio. I wanted to write a history – not a guide to identification but rather a history of the people who built the industry and how they kept that business going for the next century. As I discovered, the story is a political, economic and social history. I also realized after that collection took shape, that the patterns told their own history of cultural change – colors, ornamentation and shape reflected taste and fashion. A new journey of discovery. . .  In turn, I am now selling that collection. In my mind, the sales would allow me the time to write the history.

Impetuously, I forged ahead into online selling and a storefront – the collection had grown too large for my barn! Now I was faced with a new learning curve. . . what came naturally for my children, by the way, was not natural for me. Certainly, I had used the internet to research in libraries from Quebec to Paris. But selling required another kind of knowledge – lots and lots. And organization and most of all presence . . great stress soon followed!

Books are simple to organize . . the miracle of the Dewey Decimal System! I can walk to my bookshelves and find a booka in a matter of seconds. But plates . . . over my head it seems. I have always favored white. Simple, pure and the eye is drawn to the form. While I had know Homer Laughlin since I first needed a plate, or so it seems, I at long last discovered Russel Wright! He understood form and the way in which everyday objects affect our lives. . .

Russel Wright, Steubenville, Relish Tray

Russel Wright, Steubenville, Relish Tray

I suppose the first big surprise was that other people wanted to buy parts of this collection. . . . lots of people and lots of pieces! Nothing to complain about except that the intellectual did not have a system in place. Have been working on that for the last few weeks. . . It feels like I have been thrown into the ocean and now we will see if I sink or swim. . .  Hmmmm, I have no intention of sinking. I am learning, too slowly it seems.

Last week, an angel from Canada ordered four Russel Wright plates. Now these are pure white dessert plates. They are a captivating white . . I so hate to sound romantic but – they are white as angels wings. Not a sterile white, not at all clinical, but pure like an angel’s wings, like Sugar White! Truly. I have seemingly millions of white plates, but these are different. So now back to the process of selling. I had not yet shipped anything to Canada. So how best to ship the plates . . . .that research took time. Then the packing. The mail carriers are not gentle with packages, they are in a hurry as the whole of civilization is now. And remember, we are forging relationships with people that we do not know. So, how do we trust. . . especially, the buyer? It is all such an interesting process of give and take without the usual social cues of shaking a hand and getting to know another.

After we had all the details worked out, in packing the pristine white plates, I looked around but could only find three! I had the good luck to know a dealer who happened to have more . . . but now, the shipment is late. . .

We have devised a new way to organize those things that we list online. I also now know that shipping to Canada is simple albeit expensive for the buyer! And this “angel” from Canada inadvertently forced me to learn new lessons for parting with this collection. . . I am in her debt. Whenever I think of Russel Wright especially, Sugar White, it will be her that I remember.

In looking back, I remember a letter that Noel Sillery once wrote to the governor of Canada seeking assurances that donations would go toward the new building of a convent and church. . . he was seeking assurance and trust across great distance. . . with a letter now an email! That time in history was a process of discovery. Ahhhh, she thinks, the more things change the more they remain the same.

 

 

 

 

Ephemera

Ephemera is one of those words that when spoken sounds like its meaning . . . a soft, wispy sound like whisper and rhymes with chimera. Ephemera are things that last only for a brief moment in time . . . like whispers and chimera, ephemera lack real substance but not necessarily importance in everyday life. You might even say that we take some of the most important things in life for granted.

The bits and pieces of ephemera that we come across can really stir memories. Monogrammed paper napkins carefully folded then placed in a book . . . garters thrown at weddings . . . matchbooks from a restaurant . . . cards, letters and postcards. Fragments of life . . .

So when I first spotted this A&W root beer container . . . IMG_4536I was so surprised! I had forgotten about these containers (waxed cardboard) in the shape of a bullhorn. The root beer was so damned good; hate to admit it but when I was pregnant with my first child, I craved root beer from A&W at all hours of the day and night!

Another example of ephemera are the round cardboard inserts that were used to seal glass milk bottles. I love the reminder to wash the bottles before returning. Reminds me once again that reusing is the predecessor of recycling. Hard to believe  . . .  but those were simpler times long before a madman decided to tamper with the supply of Tylenol.  Glass milk bottles belong to the time when we had public trust . . . like trusting the milk man to keep the milk cold as he delivered it to our homes every morning.

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Even though the milk bottle is not ephemera by definition,  I found a very special milk bottle  from Chicago Heights, Illinois – and so am I.

As the collection of ephemera grew, I realized that I needed a good way to pass it on without damaging papers sometimes fragile but always precious and quite often rare. I am now packaging many of these papers in a way that makes sense to me and I hope, makes sense to you. IMG_4597There are vintage wrapping papers for weddings and baby showers, rain bonnets for showers, postcards, old coins, buttons, illustrations among other bits and pieces that fit together in ways that seem to bring them to life. I imagine some of you might use them for scrapbooks or wrapping presents or in a collection of some sort or other. I have found them useful – as they were yesterday. And beautiful, each in their own way.

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Would love to hear your ideas . . . and you might want to take a peek on Etsy or see them in the store at Eclipse when we are back from summer break.