Sunday, May 24, 2009

Ghosts of Petit Trianon...

On August 10th, 1901, two professional educators, Anne Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain, principle and vice principle respectively of St. Hugh's college, Oxford, visited Versailles. They reputedly experienced what is referred to as a "time slip". According to Wikipedia a time slip is defined as

"... an alleged paranormal phenomenon in which a person, or group of people, travel through time through supernatural (rather than technological) means. " Aspects of the phenomenon are described as...
"Many time slip witnesses report that, at the start of their experience of the phenomena, their immediate surroundings take on an oddly flat, underlit and lifeless appearance, and normal sounds seem muffled. This is sometimes accompanied by feelings of depression and unease."

The story proceeds somewhat as follows: During the afternoon, after touring the palace, the pair set off for Petit Trianon. Though they had a map, it soon seemed that they had missed the path. As they wandered they discovered an old plow on the side of the road by a deserted farm house. According to her account, Miss Moberly began to feel an untoward depression which she didn't understand - the walk was pleasant even if they had apparently lost their way. In her words:
We walked briskly forward, talking as before, but from the moment we left the lane an extraordinary depression had come over me, which, in spite of every effort to shake off, steadily deepened. There seemed to be absolutely no reason for it; I was not at all tired, and was becoming more interested in my surroundings. I was anxious that my companion should not discover the sudden gloom upon my spirits, which became quite overpowering on reaching the point where the path ended, being crossed by another, right and left…Everything suddenly looked unnatural, therefore unpleasant; even the trees behind the building seemed to have become flat and lifeless, like a wood worked in tapestry. There were no effects of light and shade, and no wind stirred the trees. It was all intensely still.
Something wasn't right and her companion Miss Jourdain also began to feel in her words  "a depression and a loneliness".  As they wended their way they came across two men dressed in green coats with  small tricorn hats whom they took for gardeners from their accoutrement of spade and wheelbarrow. They asked for help finding the petite manse and were directed to a path close by. After a further bit of confusion they came upon a gazebo. The sense of depression was even more pronounced. It was very still and they notice a man with a dark, pitted complexion, as if he had suffered from small pox - although small pox was virtually eliminated by vaccination in 1901 - leaning on a stile by the gazebo. Ms. Jourdain's mood moved from depression to fear as she looked at him and they hurried on their way. Just then another man ran up to them and indicated that they were going the wrong way. He spoke in rapid french and indicated they should proceed across a little bridge. They crossed the bridge and arrived at the rear of what they assumed to be the Petit Trianon. Miss Moberly saw a woman seated on a chair under the terrace; sketching. She wore a light summer dress and a large shady hat perched on a great amount of fair hair. Miss Moberly took her for a tourist though her costume was old fashioned. Their sense of gloom increased. In the words of Miss Moberly "Suddenly a footman came rushing out of the nearby building, slamming the door behind himself". He told them that the entrance to the Petit Trianon was on the other side of the building, which they proceeded to walk to. After touring the building, they had tea at a hotel and then returned to Paris. 

Back in England, Miss Moberly happened to mention the sketching woman to Miss Jourdain, who declared she had not seen such a woman. They were intrigued by the mystery. How could one of them have seen this person and the other not? When they compared recollections they both remembered feeling a deep depression and a sense that something strange had happened, so they decided to each write an account of what they had seen and then compare notes.  
It turned out that there were a number of figures whom Moberly had seen that Jourdain had not, but other details they agreed on. Upon further investigation they discovered that the day of their visit was the anniversary of the sacking of Versailles in 1792, which occurred during the early stages of the French Revolution.

Moberly came across a picture of Marie Antoinette drawn by the artist Werthmuller. To her astonishment it resembled the woman she had seen sketching near the Petit Trianon. Even the clothes were the same. This in addition to the coincidence of the date intrigued them. The two began to wonder if they had seen an apparition of Marie Antoinette, or perhaps somehow slipped a cog in time. 

Jourdain returned to Versailles in 1902 and found that she was unable to retrace their steps - the grounds seemed altered. She made frequent trips between 1902 and 1904. Each time unable to find the gazebo and bridge she and her compantion had seen on their walk. In July 1904 they made a visit together. Not only could they not find these architectural elements, the grounds were crowded with people. This was quite different from their prior visit. Where had all their fellow tourists been on that occasion?

Misses Moberly and Jourdain decided that they had seen not the Petit Trianon of the present but the Trianon of over 100 years past. They concluded that Marie Antoinette's memory of the decisive date must have somehow lingered through the years, and that they had merely stumbled upon it. They felt that this explained the sensation of deep depression they both agreed they felt upon the occasion.

The two women approached the Society for Psychical Research with their concept that the Trianon was haunted. The Society declined to investigate. They then decided to conduct their own investigation and prove that they had seen the ghost of Marie Antoinette.

Their original accounts from 1901 were the basis for the investigation. Their argument being that they had accurately described the state of the grounds in 1789 when they had no knowledge of eighteenth century Versailles when the accounts were written - that it would have been impossible for them to have remembered such details unless what they had witnessed was a memory of 1789 that they had somehow stumbled into. The result was a book published in 1911 entitled An Adventure which they published under the pseudonyms of Miss Morrison and Miss Lamont. This is some of the evidence they presented.

* They had seen a plough, but on later trips they learned that no ploughs had been kept in the gardens of Versailles in 1901. However, an old plough had been displayed on the grounds in 1789.
* They had crossed a small bridge, but on later trips they could not locate this same bridge. However, they discovered that a bridge had existed there in 1789.
*There was no gazebo on the grounds of the Petit Trianon. However, the women discovered an old map that showed a gazebo-like building where they had seen one. It had been torn down long before 1901.
* They had seen two men in green coats. Neither the gardeners nor any other employees at Versailles wore green coats and tri-cornered hats in 1901. These men, they later learned, were wearing the uniform of Marie Antoinette's Swiss Guard.
* They had seen a sinister man, apparently suffering from small pox. This man exactly resembled Comte de Vaudreuil, an enemy of Marie Antoinette.
*The running man was a messenger sent to the Petit Trianon to warn Marie Antoinette that a mob of French citizens was headed to Versailles.
* They saw a footman rush out of a building and slam a door shut behind himself. However, this door was actually barred and bolted shut when they visited, and had been kept so for many years.
*Finally, the sketching lady herself could have been no one else but Marie Antoinette.

An Adventure stirred a firestorm of public interest, selling 11,000 copies. It also attracted a ton of criticism, with debunkers arguing that the two women simply got lost, or their memories of what they had seen were mistaken. There was even a claim by literary critic Terry Castle that a shared delusion may have arisen out of a lesbian Folie à deux between the two women.

Both were highly respected educators, working for a reputable scholastic institution, and news of a "paranormal" experience would most likely not have been advantageous to either their career or personal reputation at the time. Furthermore, they did not broadcast their experience until many years after the event, when they published a book under assumed names. (Their real identities were revealed only after the death of Ms. Jourdain, in 1924). Both women declared to the end of their lives that what they had experienced was real.

I have been fascinated by their story for years and wish that something other than a long hot walk had distinguished my journey from the Palace to the Petit Trianon! If you are interested, their book is available at both and
For the record, I compiled this account from various sources including Wikipedia entries and other on line websites.

I tried to find a copy of the painting by Werthmuller that Miss Moberly saw and which Madame Campan claimed in her memoir to be the only true likeness of the Queen, but was unable to locate one. Perhaps there is one reproduced in their book - I will have to check....

Saturday, March 28, 2009

shaken AND stirred....

I am enamored of St- Germain, the French boutique liqueur made from Swiss elderflowers. From bottle to last sip, it is, as their product legend says, "vie Pariesienne en boutielle"...
"After gently ushering the wild blossoms into sacks and descending the hillside, the man who gathers blossoms for your cocktail will then mount a bicycle and carefully ride the umbels of starry white flowers to market. Vraiment."
Who can resist such blandishments? St-Germain knows that it isn't just the bottle itself (lovely as that is) that forms the packaging. An astute awareness that romance is the glue that gently binds the package together, and the wisdom to throw in a soupcon of humor lest it become too pretentious, shows the folks at St-Germain are very clever indeed. Again let me quote... 
"....we can say that no men, bohemien or otherwise, will be wandering the hillsides of Poland this spring gathering wild potoatoes for your vodka.....Yes, in this day and age St-Germain is exceedingly special and rare. Consequently, we are able to hand make only very limited quantities..."
Not only is it visually exquisite, it is hand crafted! In limited quantities! Of course the la plus grande question is how does it taste? At this point I am so in love I would drink it if it was just beautifully packaged water and happily pay the relatively expensive $30 price tag for 750ml to boot, but they do such a stellar job of describing the flavor I will once again let them tell the tale...
"Neither peach nor pear, lychee nor citrus, the sublime taste of St-Germain hints at each of these and yet none of them exactly...A little like asking a humingbird to describe the flavor of it's favorite nectar. Trés curieux indeed, n'est-ce pas?"
In more pedestrian terms, it is sweet without being cloying. Rich without being heavy, and more importantly I think, it doesn't taste like perfume. It has a floral bouquet with more of a complex, almost savory taste. Mixed with champagne for their signature cocktail, vodka, soda, or even tequila it is a lovely twist for old favorites, but I almost prefer it alone in order to savor the unusual flavor. The St-Germain website is also beautifully styled and has a nicely edited collection of recipes to help you enjoy St-Germain to it's fullest. Trés Magnifique!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

family heirlooms...

Hello gorgeous! This little cutie belonged to Pat's grandparents. We don't use it because I am afraid to break it (as you will see this would be very bad indeed) and it has an odd smell that permeates anything you put in it - not bad, just odd and not something you want your cookies smelling like. In many cases I think that family heirlooms become special because of the person associated with it. It isn't that they are so valuable but they are imbued with that particular energy. 
Flapper girl here always makes me think of Pat's grandfather - Cubba. I never met him but the stories about him are legion and I wish I had. He was apparently quite a prankster and had a marvelous sense of humor. Tucked away inside is a list that he and Pat made when Pat was just a little boy - maybe 8 or so. It details supplies to be purchased for their trip "out west to the park country next summer". It has things like 40#'s each of bacon & beans, 3 rifles, 4 pistols and a hundred rounds of ammunition. They didn't forget the "trinkets, mirrors, combs etc. to trade with Indians", plus 6 horses and 2 cups for coffee! He once cracked and emptied the nut meats from an entire bag of walnuts, glued the shells back together and gifted them to a friend. 
Cub was the railroad depot agent in a small Minnesota town, taught himself  the law via a correspondence course, was a Justice of the Peace, and with Pat's grandmother Rose (Grammie), saw John Dillinger rob a bank in Iowa. Inside of the "hat" lid of the cookie jar is a note put there by Cubba in his beautiful handwriting...

It says: "I have been in the Campbell household for 20 years! Now - please don't break me." Can you imagine if I did? What an ignominious distinction. Cub must have written this some time in the early 1960's. So far so good.

Paris in the springtime....

For all of you who love Paris - durrr....who doesn't: Lynn Goldfinger over at Paris Hotel Boutique has a wonderful online store. It has the kind of European antiques and collectables that you drool over. Check it out and see what I mean. I've purchased a few things from Lynn over the years. Sometimes she gets hard to find ribbons embroidered for couturiers to use as labels when fashioning garments. I have a meager collection of them and usually buy them whenever I can if they aren't too dear. She also has a fun blog that chronicles her antiquing expeditions and other interests. Paris Hotel Boutique Journal. As added incentive for your visit I want to let you know she is currently doing a spring give-away. As she says on her blog: " If you can't spend April in Paris perhaps these gifts will transport you there" I won't spoil the fun by telling you what the gifts are but I will say - I was there in a heartbeat to sign up myself. Fingers crossed! The image below is from her blog. A sign from  Crown and Crumpet A fab tea shop in San Francisco. I love this sign!

Hmmmmm...This makes me think....I should photograph my collection of enamel signs.....

Thursday, March 12, 2009

tromp l'oeil


Fool the eye. That's what I aim for when creating paper shoes. Since I make them in pairs and package them in faux shoe boxes, I hope that they might cause someone to do a double take.  If so - success! I guess calling them paper shoes is somewhat of a misnomer; they are a combo of cardboard, paper, and sometimes bookcloth. One of these days I will learn to make a template so that I don't have to reinvent the (w)heel twice for each pair. Ginza were auctioned off for Lucia's annual Farm To Table event. Fleur, the pair below, appeared in a fashion show for Lincoln Park area merchants in Chicago, representing Paper Source.


I have selected materials for a new pair, and even know what I am going to do, but haven't found the wherewithal to actually make them. Maybe after I finish everything I am making for the GILT pop-up sale. More about that later....

Saturday, February 21, 2009


This is a subject which has fascinated me for ages. I look with AMAZEMENT upon the myriad examples of William Shakespeare's verbal acuity - do you know how many common words and expressions were coined by him - including the word amazement? The list is mind boggling.

According to Michael Swaim from
"Shakespeare invented more words than most people even know. Seriously, there's at least 1,500 different words and phrases that don't appear anywhere prior to the Bard of Avon putting them on paper. When he got stuck trying to think up a word, the man just made his own."

One caution - as with almost anything associated with Shakespeare (except apparently the quality of the work itself) there is controversy. Some questions exist as to which words he invented and which he merely popularized through the vast army of people who have read the works. Jennifer Vernon from National Geographic News   -
"Be that as it may, Shakespeare certainly popularized the use of certain words through his plays and poems in a way that has been unparalleled. Perhaps the true brilliance of Shakespeare's wordplay lies in his alternate uses of existing words, such as using a noun as verb...for example... Shakespeare's transformation of "lace," a noun borrowed from French, into the verb "lac'd" (laced).
So bearing this in mind, I think we can still say we wouldn't be here without him - whoever he was...don't get me started - I belong to the Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare's plays contingent.

Are you ready? I think just a few of the words and expressions Will●speak (sorry) for themselves:

Eyeball, puking, obscene, fashionable, sanctimonious, eaten out of house and home, pomp and circumstance, foregone conclusion, full circle, neither rhyme nor reason, seen better days, a sorry sight, a spotless reputation, arch-villain, bedazzle, cheap (as in vulgar or flimsy), dauntless, embrace (as a noun), fashionable, go-between, honey-tongued, inauspicious, lustrous, nimble-footed, outbreak, pander, sanctimonious, time-honored, unearthly, vulnerable, and well-bred.

Here is an edited list with attributions to particular plays. This was copied from an article by Michael LoMonico, a professor at Stony Brook University in Long Island, New York and also a Senior Consultant for National Education for the Folger Shakespeare Library. Yes it's long but that's the point!

A fool's paradise—Romeo and Juliet
A foregone conclusion—Othello
A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse! —Richard III
A tower of strength—Richard III
Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him—Hamlet
All the world's a stage—As You Like It
An eye-sore—The Taming of the Shrew
As white as driven snow—The Winter's Tale
Ay, there’s the rub—Hamlet
Bag and baggage—As You Like It
Bated breath—The Merchant of Venice
Beware the Ides of March—Julius Caesar
Brevity is the soul of wit—Hamlet
Budge an inch—The Taming of the Shrew
Cold comfort—King John
Come full circle—King Lear
Come what may—Macbeth
Crack of doom—Macbeth
Dead as a doornail—Henry VI, part 2
Death by inches—Coriolanus
Devil incarnate—Henry V
Dish fit for the gods—Julius Caesar
Dog will have its day—Hamlet
Done to death—Much Ado About Nothing
Double, double, toil and trouble; fire burn, and cauldron bubble—Macbeth
Eaten me out of house and home—Henry IV, part 2
Elbow room— King John
Et tu, Brute! –Julius Caesar
Every inch a king—King Lear
Fatal vision—Macbet
Flaming youth—Hamlet
For goodness sake—Henry VIII
Foregone conclusion—Othello
Frailty, thy name is woman—Hamlet
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears—Julius Caesar
Full of sound and fury—Macbeth
Get thee to a nunnery—Hamlet
Give the devil his due—Henry IV
Good night, ladies—Hamlet
Good riddance—Troilus and Cressida
Green-eyed monster—Othello
Halcyon days—Henry VI 
Her infinite variety—Antony and Cleopatra
Hoist with his own petard—Hamlet
Hold a candle to—The Merchant of Venice
Household words—Henry V
I have not slept one wink—Cymbeline
In my heart of hearts—Hamlet
In my mind's eye—Hamlet
Into thin air—The Tempest
It smells to heaven—Hamlet
It was Greek to me—Julius Caesar
It's a wise father that knows his own child—The Merchant of Venice
Kill ... with kindness—The Taming of the Shrew
Knock, knock! Who’s there? —Macbeth
Laughing-stock—The Merry Wives of Windsor
Lean and hungry look—Julius Caesar
Let slip the dogs of war—Julius Caesar
Lord, what fools these mortals be!—A Midsummer Night's Dream
Love is blind—The Merchant of Venice
Merry as the day is long—Much Ado About Nothing
Milk of human kindness—Macbeth
More sinned against than sinning—King Lear
Murder most foul—Hamlet
My own flesh and blood—The Merchant of Venice
My salad days, when I was green in judgment—Antony and Cleopatra
Neither a borrower nor a lender be—Hamlet
Not a mouse stirring—Hamlet
Now is the winter of our discontent—Richard III
O, Brave new world—The Tempest
Once more unto the breach—Henry V
One fell swoop—Macbeth
Out, damned spot!—Macbeth
Out, out, brief candle—Macbeth
Paint the lily—King John
Parting is such sweet sorrow—Romeo and Juliet
Play fast and loose—Love's Labour's Lost
Pomp and Circumstance—Othello
Primrose path—Hamlet
Put out the light—Othello
Sharper than a serpent’s tooth—King Lear
Short and the Long of It—Merry Wives of Windsor
Short shrift—Richard III
Smooth runs the water where the brook is deep—Henry VI, Part II
Something in the wind—The Comedy of Errors
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark—Hamlet
Sorry sight—Macbeth
Spotless reputation—Richard III
Star-crossed lovers—Romeo and Juliet
Stony-hearted villains—Henry IV, part 1
Stood on ceremonies—Julius Caesar
Strange bedfellows—The Tempest
Suit the action to the word—Hamlet
Sweets to the sweet—Hamlet
The be-all and the end-all—Macbeth
The better part of valour is discretion—Henry IV, part 1
The course of true love never did run smooth—A Midsummer Night's Dream
The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose—The Merchant of Venice
The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers—Henry VI, part 2
The game is afoot—Henry IV, part 1
The game is up—Cymbeline
The naked truth—Love's Labour's Lost
The play’s the thing—Hamlet
The quality of mercy is not strained—The Merchant of Venice
The lady doth protest too much, methinks—Hamlet
The readiness is all—Hamlet
The rest is silence—Hamlet
The time is out of joint—Hamlet
The working day world—As You Like It
The world's mine oyster—The Merry Wives of Windsor
There is a tide in the affairs of men—Julius Caesar
Though this be madness, yet there is method in't—Hamlet
Throw cold water on it—The Merry Wives of Windsor
Till the crack of doom—Macbeth
'Tis neither here nor there—--Othello
To be, or not to be: that is the question—Hamlet
To make a virtue of necessity—The Two Gentlemen of Verona
To the manner born—Hamlet
To thine own self be true—Hamlet
Too much of a good thing—As You Like It
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown—Henry IV, part 2
Unkindest cut of all—--Julius Caesar
We are such stuff as dreams are made on--The Tempest
We have seen better days—As You Like It
Wear my heart on my sleeve—Othello
What a piece of work is a man—Hamlet
What the dickens—The Merry Wives of Windsor
What’s done is done—Macbeth
What's in a name?—Romeo and Juliet
When shall we three meet again? –Macbeth

In the interest of clarification and fairness the following list is composed of expressions commonly attributed to Shakespeare but are actually ones he only helped immortalize in his oeuvre.

• All that glisters (glistens) is not gold
• To knit one's brow
• Cold comfort
• (To) give the devil his due
• To play fast and loose
• Till the last gasp
• Laughing stock
• Fool's paradise
• In a pickle
• Out of the question
• The long and the short of it
• It's Greek to me
• It's high time
• The naked truth

As you can see there are entries on Professor LoMonico's list that appear on this one....

Jeez louise!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

In defense of Rachael Ray...

Not that she needs me to defend her but I am so tired of people making their names, their bank accounts, and their egos bigger by blasting someone else. Do you realize there are websites dedicated to the sole idea that Rachael Ray sucks? To take the tack that she influences people to their detriment and has crossed a moral rubicon by doing ads for Dunkin Donuts, as Tony Bourdain does in recent comments, takes a lot of "nasty bits". Having read two of his books I am inclined to think that he should definitely not be casting aspersions on anyone's behavior. To quote Bourdain "... Wallowing in your own crapulence on your Cheeto-littered couch you watch her and think, "Hell...I could do that. I ain't gonna...but I could--if I wanted! Now where's my damn jug a Diet Pepsi?" He also says "I'm a radical environmentalist; I think the sooner we asphyxiate in our own filth, the better. The world will do better without us. Maybe some fuzzy animals will go with us, but there'll be plenty of other animals, and they'll be back. The world will do better without us, when the blight of humanity is removed'. Beautiful - so much for the vaunted public that she is influencing for the worse. To use a friends appellation, the Lou Reed of cooking has not a moral leg to stand on. If she had the same manner but was selling that food out of a cart on a third world street corner he would be spending a gazillion dollars and miles of video tape to record her prowess for us to admire.
If she truly sucks - and by the way has any one of the people raising hell out there about how her food is crap and they could cook better with one hand tied behind their back, actually tasted her cooking or made one of her recipes? I'm just asking - then she will eventually fail. Period. To those who object to her manner and her vocabulary I can only say from personal experience that I wonder how they would perform in the same situations. I have done live TV, stood up in front of a room full of stone faces and tried to make a go of it and let me tell you, I have resorted to a few catch phrases and tap dance moves to make it happen. Crap in burger basket anyone? Well too bad Chuck Shad.