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Friday, 18 January 2013

The Icicle Flower


The Snowdrop

Already now the snowdrop dares appear,
The first pale blossom of th'unripen'd year;
As Flora's breath, by some transforming power,
Had chang'd an icicle into a flower,
It's name and hue the scentless plant retains,
And winter lingers in its icy veins.

Anna Laetitia Barbauld

(c. 1766)
Each morning as we drive along the plateau where the Vouvray vineyards stretch out as far as the eye can see, Angélique chimes out: 'but Mummy why do the vineyards not have leaves?' (Please insert here a charming but somewhat affected-sounding French intonation.)  My immediate response is always: 'because it's winter and the vines are sleeping'.  This morning after dropping her off at the childminder's and popping back to check on Héloïse, freshly out of hospital after a wisdom teeth extraction, I returned to the vines to ponder over a worthy answer to my youngest daughter's question.
As I bent over those gnarled, twisted, slumbering stumps, coated in lichen and frost,  I thought how the next time Angélique would pop that recurrent question I would start off by telling her how funny it is that trees get naked in winter whilst we pile on extra clothes.  I might then go on to explain (in simpler terms) that in the depths of winter water turns into snow and ice so the vines cannot drink and so they pare down to a minimum.  Growth requires food and water, so they stop growing, and since the most growth happens in the leaves, the leaves fall.  I often marvel how in winter the vines look as though they might be perishing.  They are, of course, very much alive, their attention simply turning inward as they become a stark silhouette of inscrutable branches.  Come March they will begin to sprout tiny green shoots.  In May they will abound with vivid green foliage.  And the miracle starts all over again.
Should my answer discourage Angélique from posing this question again, I remain confident that she will find dozens more to ask before our short car journey is done.

Our long, wooden table is graced with an exuberant display of pink hyacinths which spill their scent and blooms over us.  I think of the gardens of Versailles and how the Sun King would order his gardeners to dig out and replant thousands and thousands of hyacinth bulbs, white, blue, and reddy-pink, overnight so that his courtiers and guests would marvel at the magical transformation which had taken place in the flowerbeds whilst they slept.  I also smile at how both courtiers and guests would be driven away from the gardens by the overwhelming scent of hyacinths.  We only have seven bulbs, thankfully.
There has been a lot of dreaming and creating this past fortnight.  I intend to continue dreaming and creating for the whole of this year (and beyond).  I have plans but I must work hard (around my children) to bring these plans to fruition.  I'm thrilled and candid all at the same time.  I generally consider myself to be a plodder who likes to run.  Small, constant steps forward work best for me.  Meanwhile I have been graced with hare orders and deeply, deeply touched by the kindness of others who communicate with me, by email mostly, their sweet, generous words of encouragement.  How may I express my gratitude to these wonderful souls?  Perhaps by endeavouring to create better.
I am caught between loving winter and feeling excited about the creative possibilities spring will bring: think of all those spring and Easter hares!  Angélique's third birthday is fast approaching with Tristan's hot on its tracks.  I love this time of year.  It's all about expectation and hope (as long as you can dodge the seasonal flu and cold viruses).

I made Mademoiselle Snowdrop because there is something magical about midwinter flowers.  They grow in shady places, their feet firmly planted in icy winter but are also the heralds of the glorious pageant of spring flowers. I think snowdrops are sweet-natured, timid, generous flowers (in Why Is The Snow White?  Snowdrop is the only flower to give her colour to Father Snow) and I am pretty certain they chime when they sing although, perhaps, their voices are mostly muffled by snowfall and howling winds.
I am fortunate to have a friend who specialises in French lace and fabrics who has recently supplied me with all manner of early twentieth-century lace and fabrics.  Mademoiselle Snowdrop's dress is fashioned from a piece of delicate French lawn and her body is made from hand-dyed linen.  I think of her more as a family keepsake than a toy.  She's off on her travels now and I shall miss her.  I love snowdrops (enough to have commissioned a pretty snowdrop necklace from Emma at Silverpebble last year).  After making Mademoiselle Snowdrop I re-read Monty Don's words as he describes the long parade of white flowers in his garden in The Ivington Diaries:

all [...] white flowers hint at other colours, and all need green to seem as white as possible. Green is the context that makes white look simultaneously rich and etheral.  White flowers tend to have less form and bulk than darker colours - this is because white bleaches out into the space around the plant. [...] White looks better within defined green shapes and contained areas.  At Sissinghurst this is done by edging the smaller beds with box hedges that are higher than the paths that divide them.  This creates an effect of boxes out of which the white planting erupts and doubles the amount of green in the garden.  It is a detail but one of real genius.

And finally, do the followers of Vanessa'a muched loved blog, Do You Mind If I Knit?  remember these pictures of a Snowdrop Theatre?  I love it and I miss Vanessa sorely.  Don't you?

I hope your weekend is peaceful and inspiring.

A bientôt,

Stephanie

ps Thank you to all of you who have visited Madame Millefeuilles recently where I am now at over 500 likers.

59 comments:

  1. I love the questions children ask, I think your answer is perfect. Snowdrop is so pretty, have a lovely weekend! :) x

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  2. lovely new mademoiselle snow drop love the new bunny like the little tiny flowers too hope spring will come soon have a lovely day
    leon10

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  3. The pictures of the vineyard are just wonderful. Love the gnarly look of the bases of the vines.

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  4. I love snowdrops such brave little flowers and Mademoiselle Snowdrop, like her flower namesake is beautiful!
    Angélique is so sweet and I have to say posed a very sensible question!
    I hope Héloïse is feeling much better.
    I wish you a wonderful weekend Stephanie,
    Vivienne xxx

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  5. Ah... such a beautiful post on this very snowy day, Mademoiselle Snowdrop is a true beauty, you are so clever.
    Wishing Héloïse well soon x
    I love your daughters question but my guess is the same as yours, there will be plenty more!
    can't wait to hear about your plans
    happy weekend!
    love jooles xxx

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  6. Stephanie, I was just thinking about Vanessa the other day, wishing her well hoping she is okay. I love snowdrop, she just might be my favorite bunny yet, such a gorgeous girl in her lace and lovely green. Beautiful.
    Have a great day,
    Meredith

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  7. What a lovely post - and Mademoiselle Snowdrop is fabulous!
    I was/am a big fan of Vanessa's - I do hope she is OK and will one day return to us!

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  8. I, too love the comments and the wisdom of little children. Many years ago our number 1 grandson asked "Grandma, where do things go when you can't find them?" I still don't know the answer!
    Love Mademoiselle Snow drop. She is as beautiful as all her sisters.

    Sue

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  9. I love snowdrops too ... they and crocuses were my Grannys favourite flowers ... because they heralded spring and were a small sign of winter coming to an end ... they always remind me of her ... your little Snowdrop is beautiful ... wishing you a lovely weekend ... Bee xx

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  10. Oh my beloved friend,

    I have missed your posts so much! I take it you have had a wonderful holiday with your family, and it looks as if your part of the world (my dream destination) is looking as lovely as ever. The gnarled vegetation, the rough and weathered terrain is just so becoming and makes US STOP to take notice of the ways of the life and its cycles. Just fantastic.

    Of course, your sweet bunny is just precious, and I hope to one day have a smaller version of her. I invite you to come to visit me when you can; I hope to post another post tonight or tomorrow, but I would love for you to come to see the bunny picture I have up at the moment....it reminds me of the world you love to create.

    Hugs to you and it is so good to see you back! Anita

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  11. There is so much in the dear post - thinking how children continue to teach us & explore - and your return to the vineyards. What struck me was the thick and gnarled vines & how substantial they are compared to our nearby vineyard which is less than 10 years old & struggles through harsh Wisconsin winters. And your Snowdrop bunny - a gorgeous shade of green with sweet pink polka dot ears.

    Since following your blog, a yen to return to knitting has grown. It has been years so will start simply with a narrow scarf made from the precious qiviut fiber our son & future daughter in law presented to me at Christmas. Oh my quilting & knitting - if only I could create more hours in each day.

    Have a lovely weekend!


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    1. What a beautiful comment! It's so lovely to see you here today!

      More hours in a day? Oh yes, please!

      Happy weekend to you and your creative dreams.

      Stephanie

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  12. I love the pink inside her ears :) You amaze me with what you create while tending your family, so very industrious! Love the snow white theme and we are dead in the middle of winter without a snowdrop in sight, but soon.

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  13. My snowdrops are just coming out and may be better for having a blanket of snow over them. I love to see them emerge out of all the damp and dark earth. Mademoiselle Snowdrop is beautiful as are all your creations. You have such a talent and I am wondering what the next one will be, beautiful for sure.

    My youngest daughter once asked "why do stones jump in your shoe when you walk along"? Anyone know the answer?

    Hope Heloise is feeling better.

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    1. Brilliant question which I will reflect on, Shirley! Infact I will be putting it to my family this evening over dinner. My eldest daughter, many years ago, wanted to know what olive stones were made of? Anyone know the answer to that?!

      Stephanie

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  14. Dear Stephanie,
    What a beautiful post your bunnies are always so beautiful and I love the material you have used to make Mademoiselle Snowdrop. Those twisted frosty stumps of the vine are delightful to see, I so glad Angelique asked the question and you took us into the vineyards with you!
    Sarah x

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    1. Good evening Sarah! I've been thinking about you since the New Year. I will be popping over to visit your corner of the coast very, very soon.

      Stephanie

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  15. I miss Vanessa a whole lot too Stephanie, I do hope she is ok. Your new M. snowdrop is another beautiful and delicate beauty, I am sure she will be loved wherever she may one day live.
    Gorgeous photos of the vineyards, thank you. I love that Winter has its own beauty and we can rejoice in that. Its busy snowing quite hard outside now and I am hoping to wake up to a white and very still and quiet world tomorrow. Have a lovely cosy weekend xox sending snow hugs your way x Penelope

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  16. I love the questions childern ask. They make us adults look a lot closer at things.

    Have a good weekend

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  17. Yes! Vanessa and her blog were much treasured and very missed. Perhaps if we call to her gently she may come out from the shadows and let us partake of all the lovely things she shared with us once again. I DO miss her, she is a lovely person. Mostly, I hope she is well and happy that is the most important thing.

    I love your explanation of winter, it's a lovely meaningful one and one we can cross reference to help with the darker and more shady times in our own life cycles too. I especially love this hare, I'm very fond of the green and her lovely pink ears. Snow drops are beautiful, so delicate with their little heads seeming to hang on by just by a thread but being tough enough to withstand the winter.

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    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I very much appreciate it.

      I'm afraid that Vanessa has been through some upheavals. I pray things are falling into place for her and that she will feel compelled to turn to her treasured blog once again. She is an amazing person and talented artist.

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  18. I love the way you think of explaining winter to Angelique and the shapes of the vines are fabulous. I used to dislike winter intensely but am coming to see its beauty.

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  19. Children are wonderful teachers, aren't they ? The frosted naked vines are fascinating, looking so old. Mademoiselle snowdrop is lovely, impossible to decide which of your mademoiselle collection I prefer. Snowdrop are precious flowers in our family, since Elsa's birth with their bloom...

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  20. Snowdrops are one of my favourite flowers. I just love your snowdrop hare too,
    Yes, I miss Vanessa, hope she comes back blogging soon. Her papier mache figures were wonderful.
    Carol xx

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  21. Snowdrops are such a gift aren't they, they bring such joy, as I'm sure Mademoiselle Snowdrop will, and as the missed-by-us all Vanessa did.

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  22. Stephanie, you've brought such beauty into chilly mid-January. Mademoiselle Snowdrop is a winter beauty who hints that spring draws closer, day by day. The hand-dyed linen is exquisite, as is all of Mlle Snowdrop's being.

    Thank you for all the closeup photos of the vineyard. Something about those "undressed" vines somehow reminded me of dancers, with all the graceful curves and bends.

    Your daughter asks fine questions, and her mother clearly presents her with marvelous answers.

    Yes, I do miss Vanessa's posts and think that eventually she might return. What an original and varied talent she has!

    Best wishes to you and yours. I think I might find time for a walk over to Central Park tomorrow to see if I might find some early New York snowdrops.

    xo

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  23. Dear Stephanie,

    So beautiful, the inquisitive little minds of a sweet child and it does not seem that long ago that mine were asking similar questions.
    They look like very old vineyards but know they must make wonderful wines.
    Mademoiselle Snowdrop is a darling and how gorgeous to have the old French lawn and some lace. Hope that Heloise is feeling better after the wisdom teeth extraction.
    Happy weekend
    hugs
    Carolyn

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  24. Those vines look much sturdier and gnarlier (if that is a word) than I imagined them to be - and very ancient too (though I suppose their age is measured in decades and not centuries).

    I like your description of the vines' "attention turning inward" in winter - it seems to be applicable to most of us in this cold season - our attention turning inward to home and hearth and the warm core of life.

    Mlle Snowdrop is as lovely as all her sisters have been before her. That green lace and the snowdrop ribbon are exquisite. :)

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  26. This is a wonderful birthday surprise for me, to see a post from you on the 18th! 43 today my friend. I can't believe it. Guess what. Last night I finished the book. Oh this book. I've never read anything quite like it. I just loved it and I love that it came from you! I'm so happy that I get to keep it because this one I'm going to be re-reading again and again. I'm a big re-reader of my books.

    Have you finished yours yet? You have to tell me what you thought of it. I really thought it was beautiful and quite well done. Very impressed with that author....

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    1. Oh wonderful, lovely, adorable Melissa! HaPpY bIrThDaY to you! Many, many joyful wishes are winging their way to you for an extra special year. 43? I'm one year older than you. It's all going too fast for my liking ;-)

      Yes, I've almost finished my book. I am an obssessive reader usually but have so much happening these days. I need to learn to sew, knit, and read at the same time.

      I am so grateful for your kindness, dear Melissa! How I wish you lived downn the road. What fun we would have!

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  27. I love the tiny floral patterned fabric you have used here on this Snowdrop inspired hare. How fortunate to have a friend who supplies lace also. Your creations are amazing, each one a work of art. I shall write about my very own hare soon, she has missed you somewhat but is settling in nicely.

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    1. Hello Valerie! Thank you for letting me know your Mademoiselle is settling in. Please, take your time in writing about her. Do you think she will be flattered or overwhelmed by the coverage? :-)

      Peaceful weekend to you.

      Stephanie

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  28. Good morning Stephanie...I hope the snow has arrived for your little ones this weekend!...Ah, Mademoiselle Snowdrop is adorable and I love your hand-dyed linens which create such beautiful hares along with the truly exquisite lace and embroidery...definitely a family heirloom to treasure!
    Best wishes to Héloïse too...She really is much better off without those wisdom teeth...they seem to be the cause of endless problems...I hope she is feeling much better now...
    Little Angélique is such a perfect age, isn't she?...They really do make us consider the world around us in a far more magical way!
    Happy Weekend Wishes Madame Millefeuilles,
    Susan x

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  29. HELLO BEAUTIFUL FRIEND!

    How I love your header, with those slim and tall mice folk!

    Stephanie, thank you for coming to visit me today! I seem to not be able to finish my next post for whatever reason makes itself present before me, taking me away from my work! I hope these winter days are giving you all the inspiration you need to continue on your dreams and creativity my dear! I LOVE the idea of Once upon a Thrice because the more we do something, the better we get at it! Oh to have the TIME to do so!

    Big hugs et gros bisous ma belle! Anita

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  30. Stephanie that is a wonderful color for a rabbit. A wonderful green for many things!
    The vines are hypnotizing, a tribute to older is even better!
    And finally I do miss Vanessa, her wonderful talent, sharing, interesting ideas for projects and enthusiasm. I hope she is well and thriving.
    xx
    julie

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  31. I saw some snowdrops growing outside just after christmas, I don't know how they're faring during the snowfall! I love the twisty wood in your photos of the vines, so beautiful and so amazing that everthing comes back to life again isn't it? Mademoiselle Snowdrop is wonderful!xx

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  32. Mademoiselle Snowdrop is gorgeous - nearly as beautiful as Mademoiselle Butterfly....hee hee! I know I've said it before, but you really are very talented. Thank you so much for M's beautiful hare - she really is an heirloom and I hope she'll be with us forever. I will email you a photo so you can see her being loved
    Emily x

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    1. Most uncanny! I was actually thinking about you this afternoon Emily! Happy New Year to you all! I'm so pleased you dropped by today!

      Stephanie

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  33. Wow, what an amazing post. I loved your photographs of the vines in winter, I've never seen that before so was most interested. And I love snow drops, and I still don't have any, as I always forget to buy them in the green, so thank you so much for that gentle reminder. And by the way, the fabric and ribbons you used in your snowdrop hare, lovely, just lovely. One day I shall save enough pennies (when I am not buying wool - or driving lessons!) to buy one of your lovely hares, that will be a lovely day indeed.

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    1. Happy New Year to you and your family! I often think back on our meeting at Loop last May. I was, infact, ordering MORE yarn from their online shop today! I'm afraid I'm addicted to their supplies! Are you?

      I wish you much creative joy and happy times and, should you feel the urge to possess a hare, you know where to find me.

      Stephanie

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  34. Such a beautiful post with much to ponder over! The gnarled vines look full of ancient wisdom. I hope that the vines at the vineyard where I volunteer have such long and fruitful lives as the ones at the Vouvray vineyards! x

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  35. I found your blog through Acorn Moon and love it. Your hares are beautiful and your lovely thoughts on the vines were great. I live near a wine area in South Australia, at the moment they are battling 40+ F heat and hoping the grapes dont cook on the vines.

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    1. Welcome Penny! My heart aches for all the troubles endured in South Australia. I hope you are keeping safe and well.

      I'm scuttling off to visit your blog now :-)

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  36. Bonjour Stephanie!
    Lovely to have found your blog...how gorgeous...

    Thank you for leaving your sweet comments on mine.
    I love Miss Snowdrop. How wonderful you've used all those lovely french fabrics.

    Tilly x

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  37. Snowdrops are such brave little flowers, they push their way through the snow and ice giving a promise of the Spring to come, they are definitely one of my favourite early blooms. Mademoiselle Snowdrop is a delightful reminder of all the loveliness of a Spring garden waiting in the wings, a little ray of sunshine on this cold wintry day.

    kim x

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  38. oh you are the best mummy stephanie! i loved hearing about your lessons and i love seeing another of your sweet lovey bunnies (how do you part with them?)
    and i am so happy snow child is working its magic on you. it's really sweet to mention vanessa, i know she is loved by SO many. i have my fingers crossed she'll be back! have a wonderful week ahead dear.

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  39. Dearest Stephanie...Thank you ever so much for your lovely, thought-filled post. I find that there IS such beauty in a wintertime garden...a study of structure really.
    Ooohh, I do envy you and the fragrant hyacinths that grace your table...a tonic for the soul surely, as the howling bitter winds rap against the windowpane.
    Your Mademoiselle Snowdrop is a most charming young hare, and am delighted to know that she has already found a loving, forever home.
    Wishing you joy in the days to come...may each be filled with wonder.
    Fondly,
    Judy xx

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  40. I enjoy reading your lovely posts so much, Stephanie! :-)
    I love your Snowdrop - what a pretty one!!!
    Carly
    x

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  41. Spring sleeps so much deeper where I live. I won't see any hint of her for at least three more months.
    Wonderful, delightful post as always, Stephanie!
    Happy day to you & yours,
    Zuzu

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  42. elle semble attendre le printemps patiemment cette petite lapine ..;comme elle est belle!

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  43. Dear Stephanie, you bring back so many memories of my own sons when they were growing up...I wish I could remember more than what I do. I live in the wine producing area of Ontario and our vines are pretty much dormant now as well, but they still look beautiful covered in their winter guise at the moment.
    Your lovely little hares are always enchanting to see! N.xo

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  44. I think Snowdrop is my favorite bunny yet! and so appropriately named!!! I delighted in the early hellebores I found peaking out in my garden already----but to see those snowdrops in the snow must be really special.

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  45. You are so knowledgeable and wise and my gosh, eloquent besides a sewing enchantress! I love the innocence of our children's curious questions. They are so refreshing. The hare is beautiful as you are.

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  46. My most precious Stephanie, I am so thrilled to see that you visited me! I am running over to my email to send you the information you asked for! THANK YOU! Anita

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  47. How lucky you are to have a friend who specializes in french lace and fine fabrics. Your Mademoiselle is really charming
    I read where Gaspard had surgery and I sure hope all is well now

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  48. Hello and thank you for your kind words. I love the images of the vines in winter and introducing me to such a beautiful poem.
    Love your sweet toy rabbits :)
    Michala x

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  49. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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