War Brides and Movie Stars: The Queen Mary

This is my love letter to the Queen Mary.

Docked in Long Beach, the Queen Mary is rumored to be one of the 10 most haunted sites in the country and for a small fee you can take one of her many tours including several night time ghost walks.

I’m not going to lie, whenever we go to the Queen Mary, we are usually the youngest people there by a good 30 years, but that’s probably part of why I love it. There are a number of exhibits that, frankly, I am not the target audience for like the Princess Diana exhibit, but just walking around the ship and looking at the art deco interiors is enough to keep me coming back.

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The Queen Mary made her maiden voyage in 1936 and was considered the height of luxury. “She boasted five dining areas and lounges, two cocktail bars and swimming pools, a grand ballroom, a squash court and even a small hospital. The Queen Mary had set a new benchmark in transatlantic travel, which the rich and famous considered as the only civilized way to travel. She quickly seized the hearts and imaginations of the public on both sides of the Atlantic, representing the spirit of an era known for its elegance, class and style.” -QueenMary.com. Photos are also from the ship’s website.

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My favorite exhibit is a display of the collected memories of former passengers. It’s a poignant look into life during the war because after those first three glamorous years, the Queen Mary became a warship transporting soldiers to Europe for World War II. As many as 16,000 soldiers were transported during the war. Painted to camouflage her from enemy sights, she was nicknamed “The Grey Ghost.”

The ship’s website also tells us that “Adolph Hitler offered $250,000 and the Iron Cross to any U-boat Captain that could sink the Queen Mary.”

After the signing of the armistice in May 1945, the Queen Mary was dedicated to bringing US troops home and, more interestingly, carried thousands of war brides and children born to American soldiers to the US to begin their new lives.

One woman recalls leaving England to join a husband she hadn’t seen in two years. She said she didn’t recognize him out of uniform. Watch her story here.

The following pages are taken from a promotional pamphlet for the Queen Mary who was bigger and faster than the Titanic.

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A few of the deco details (pictured above) that were restored to the ship after it was decommissioned in 1946. It was returned to its former glory and sailed for nearly two more decades of commercial use.

With the rise of commercial airlines and the decline in the market for luxury sea travel, the ship was sold to the city of Long Beach in 1967 for $3.45 million. She docked in Long Beach after her final cruise and she has remained there ever since as a hotel, museum and events space. She was even in an episode of Arrested Development. Lucille Bluth hijacks her and there are gay sailors. Heaven.

While a bit shabby, the rooms still maintain their original charm. Just go in with an appreciation of what the lady’s been through and what she’s done for so many people. Aging gracefully is a bit rare here in LA so let’s embrace it, hmmm?

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We had tea on the ship twice. It was great. The waiter, clearly accustomed to explaining every single detail of the tea service, was so delightfully bored by his own talking that I wanted to wink at him and say, “Shhhh, it’s ok. We don’t really care, just bring me all of it and I will eat it.”

He seemed to sense it though and did exactly that. I left feeling like I had willingly done terrible things to myself by eating so many scones, but then returned and did it again recently and will surely do it again soon. Make reservations and try to go on a weekday or you’ll be surrounded by screeching bridal showers and fussy groups of ladies asking all those questions our waiter friend is so very tired of answering.

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There are any number of events throughout the year you can use as an excuse to visit the ship. The Fourth of July is a big one and usually sells out right away. I hear the fireworks are to die for and yes, there are themed old timey sections where you can drink and get rowdy. Valentine’s day is another one, bask in the vintage romance. Halloween is a bit crazy there so be warned. There are lots of teenagers going to the haunted house, loud music. Meh. We recently went to a flea market next to the ship which was small but fun and came with free admission to the boat. Check out their calendar of events here, you’ll find something to do, I’m sure.

The Art Deco Society of Los Angeles apparently hosts an Art Deco Festival on the ship in August. Side note: the society also seems to host a lot of drinking events at historic bars…interesting. Cocktails and pretty? Yes.

Now the big question, is The Queen Mary HAUNTED?

There have been numerous sitings and as many as 150 different spirits have been “documented.” At least 49 people have died on the boat. If ever a place SHOULD be haunted, it’s this one. The engine room is supposed to be the hotbed of paranormal activity. It is definitely creepy.

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Also on the haunted list: both of the swimming pools. A young girl is said to have drowned in one of the pools. Again, it is creepy.

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And here it is empty…even more creepy.

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The number of spooky stories is countless, doors slamming, phones ringing, a phantom baby that cries. Stateroom B340 is no longer rented to the public because of its supposed paranormal activity. Faucets are said to turn on by themselves and the bedsheets fly across the room.You can read all about the ghosties on Haunted Honeymoon.

So is she really haunted? Rumor says yes. I can’t confirm it. While I barely slept the night I spent there, it was largely due to the air conditioning vent being aimed right at my delicate little face and the sink drip drip dripping and…my waiting for the ghosts to come. No ghosts came. It should also be noted that Tim slept like the dead.

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The boat does offer their own ghost tours…plural. I haven’t done any of them. If you do, email me because I’m curious about all the secrets that lurk inside The Grey Ghost. It should also be noted that this is the first in a series of haunted hotel reviews. Stay tuned.

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Port bow view of the QUEEN MARY at anchor. The Queen Mary on war service. 28 September 1944, Greenock. The 84000 ton Cunard Liner Queen Mary in her grey white war paint as she prepared to make another atlantic crossing taking wounded us troops back to America.

May your nights on the ship be spine tingling. xoxo

 

 

The Green Room

This St. Patrick’s day, let’s turn away from the corned beef and cabbage, the shamrocks and green beer. Let’s say no to the excessive drinking, the leprechauns, and whatever other terrible stereotypes we misguided Americans have placed on this Irish holiday and turn our sites to loftier goals. Let’s look to the pure color green and welcome it into our homes versus stepping over a puddle of it in the street.

There are few things sexier than a green velvet couch as the focus of a room.

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The verdant majesty above and many other fine green items were found on Eclectic Avenue.

Apparently Anthropologie loves green velvet as much as I do, look at the four below.

I coveted this green velvet Room and Board Murphy sofa until I remembered I have cats.

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Maybe you’re lucky enough to come by a vintage one:

Or just hit up Ikea. This one is tempting.

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Or you can have a velvet or leather one custom made from Roger and Chris. I love these guys. They are so nice and sent me leather samples and answered all my questions (regarding cats and leather). There is a chesterfield in my future when we move into our (hopefully Victorian) next house. You can also check out their show and as a special bonus, look at their amazing house on Apartment Therapy! I bet they’re a blast to hang out with.

If you’re ready to take the leap, consider green walls. I love how sophisticated and dark these rooms are.

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Or old worldly and charming.

Maybe you want a green roof. Warning: They’re very heavy, make sure your house can support one.NorweigenGreenRoofs20e23fff27166090b435f39ebbefd08d9green-roof-Norway

Or, dream big, how about a copper roof which will acquire a beautiful patina. Your own personal castle? Sigh.

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What about a green victorian house?

Or maybe a green greenhouse? Ok. Ok.

At the very least, consider some plants or dishes or even a botanical print.

Want more green inspiration? Get all the luck of the Irish on Miss Havisham’s Pinterest page. You’ll find minty kitchens, leafy upholstery and beautiful botanical installations.

 

Roadtrip Part One: I Want to be a Hearst

I have to be honest, when friends come to visit me in Los Angeles I feel a little pang of anxiety. I still don’t know where anything is here and driving still stresses me out. Don’t even get me started on parking. I know change is hard but I knew New York, I know it still. Everything is accessible by public transportation there. I knew New York so well I even knew tiny off beat places to go. In LA, you really have to know where you’re going and while there are things to do, they’re not always easy to get to. Truthfully, after about twenty-five houseguests, I feel like I keep doing the same things over and over.

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So when one of my favorite people on the planet came to visit recently, I decided this time we were going to take a road trip. It was time to see something you can’t see in New York and I really couldn’t look at the Venice canals again.

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While I lack the ability to parallel park, I do have a husband who doesn’t mind driving, loves adventure, and has a fantastic sense of direction. Lucky for me or I would have gone mad within a few months of living here. So, armed with road snacks and a destination, off we went.

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To Hearst Castle:

If you haven’t been to Hearst Castle, go. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen. Perched high and overlooking a remote section of the California coast, every bit of it is jaw dropping. When I visited I kept thinking I should just sneak away, hide in some quiet room, and spend the night because it really should be my house, guys. It’s such a powerful impulse that the second time I visited I actually started looking around with intent to stow away. If I disappear one day, you’ll know where to find me.

You can imagine that the home of William Randolph Hearst, media magnate and the inspiration for Citizen Kane, might be something unusual and you would be correct. No expense was spared building the house in a time when the rest of the country was suffering from the stock market crash and the Great Depression.

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The tycoon himself.

“Hearst Castle’s history begins in 1865, when George Hearst purchased 40,000 acres of ranchland. In 1919,William Randolph Hearst inherited what had grown to more than 250,000 acres, and was dreaming of ways to transform it into a retreat he called La Cuesta Encantada—Spanish for “Enchanted Hill.” By 1947, Hearst and architect Julia Morgan had created Hearst Castle: 165 rooms and 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools and walkways—all built to house Hearst’s specifications and to showcase his legendary art collection.” So sayeth the Hearst Castle website.

First, let’s take a moment to appreciate that Hearst hired a woman architect. Interesting. Second, consider the lengths Hearst went to; he even went as far as to have whole rooms from great houses in Europe purchased, shipped, and reassembled as part of the construction process. So elaborate were his building plans for Hearst castle, they were never fully realized in his lifetime.

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Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, Mervyn LeRoy, and Hearst himself. Nice outfit, Billy boy.

The castle served as a playground for Hollywood’s elite who were bused in from Los Angeles each weekend to dine, drink, and dance the night away. When you were at Hearst Castle, you wanted for nothing; evening wear was even provided if you forgot yours. You could swim in either the outdoor pool or the indoor pool, play tennis, stroll the gardens, view the private zoo, or catch one of Hearst’s latest films in the movie theater.

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The largest swimming pool I have ever seen.
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Indoor pool, my favorite. The tiles are gold.
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Inside the movie theater. Photo by Alana Cowan (houseguest supreme)

There is a guest wing for both ladies and gentlemen, never the two shall meet (wink, wink) and a number of guest cottages around the property. The guest cottages are bigger than my house, by the way.

My favorite room has to be the gothic study.

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Not to be confused with the library which is filled with antiquities. Those vases along the ceiling? Those are Greek and Egyptian.

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Oh you know, just a bedroom.
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This room is called the “jewel box” but I just call it my bedroom.
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Meh.

And let’s not forget the great room.

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Now for the juicy part. Hearst was married to a former vaudeville performer, Millicent Veronica Willson who he fell in love with when she was a mere sixteen years old. She bore him five sons, one of which is the father of Patty Hearst who was famously kidnapped in 1974 by the Symbionese Liberation Army, a cult. Under the influence of the cult, Hearst assisted in a bank robbery. Her sentence was commuted by President Carter and she was officially pardoned by President Clinton. She has gone on to appear in a number of John Waters movies including Serial Mom, Cry-Baby, Pecker, and Cecil B. DeMented. This only makes me love her and John Waters more, but back to Millicent Hearst.

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Patricia Hearst and John Waters

Poor Millicent rarely stayed at Hearst Castle though. She and her husband lived very separate lives. She lived in New York and became a great philanthropist. Her husband lived in California at Hearst Castle with his mistress, actress and comedienne, Marion Davies. They lived together quite openly though he and Millicent remained married until his death. How modern.

Millicent and Marion:

It’s said that the portrayal of Marion Davies in Citizen Kane so enraged Hearst that he launched a full on attack against the film and its director, Orson Welles. Even Welles later admitted that his depiction was unfair to Marion who was a very talented actress. Marion actually supported Hearst in later years when he hit hard times financially and was forced to sell off much of his art and property. She married eleven weeks after Hearst’s death in 1951. Read about the battle over Citizen Kane here.

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Hearst and Davies characters in Citizen Kane set in a mock up of the famous great room.

Hearst Castle and its impressive collection of art and artifacts was donated to the state of California and is a museum now but I have grand plans to occupy it. They’ll never find me. Never! I highly recommend the evening tours which aren’t offered year round so do your homework. The entire estate is decked out for an old Hollywood cocktail party and it all feels a little bit spooky. As an added bonus, it will be easier for me to sneak off and hide in the shadows in the evening.

Four hours from Los Angeles and you feel like you’ve escaped the city. You feel like you’ve escaped back in time. Well played, California, well played. As much as I hate to admit it, you definitely can’t find Hearst Castle in New York.

It’s a non-profit so go support your local castle. Hey Hearst Castle administrators, just list the guest rooms on AirBnB already. See? Fundraising issue solved.

 

 

 

 

 

Freaky Friday

Welcome to Freaky Fridays where I post links to the odd and the fantastic. Thank you to my friends, especially Sally and Susan, who provided me with pure gold this week. Have a weird news story? Send it to dearmisshavisham@gmail.com

Cameos carved from Oreos by artist, Judith G. Klausner. Delicious.

Mugshots of female criminals of the Edwardian period as found on Dangerous Minds. These ladies will cut you.

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Want to sleep in the Paris Catacombs? I mean, who doesn’t? It was listed on AirBnB as a contest (I didn’t win).

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A pony dressed like a unicorn leads police on a wild chase near Fresno. I love everything about this story.

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Then there are people bending over and filming themselves as creepy round creatures. I hate everything about this story.

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Folk art from the golden age of secret societies? Yes. On display at the American Folk Art Museum in Manhattan until May 8.

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18 rare catbreeds you’ve maybe never heard of. I like cats, shut up.

Who hasn’t done a thing or two out of spite? Would you build a house just to infuriate your neighbors? Explore the concept of the spite house as found on Hyperallergic.

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You just have to love the British. Giant walking porcelain dolls spotted all over London. Brilliant.

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Likewise, a pack of Miss Havishams took to the streets and subways to promote the BBC’s version of Great Expectations. Flattering, dearies, flattering.

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May your weekend be filled with mirth. xoxo

Happy Birthday, Barbie.

So Barbie and I have the same birthday. Yep.

The Barbie doll made her debut on March 9, 1959 and she has gone on to be the most successful doll in the world.

I made my debut on March 9…many many years later and have gone on to be…decidedly not Barbie.

If you didn’t know, the original Barbie doll was based off of a German novelty toy for men, Lilli. Read all about it on the fantastic  Messy Nessy Chic. They are identical. Today there would be an intellectual property lawsuit but not back then, nope. Lilli was just Barbie’s naughty older sister…or evil European twin?

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Honestly, you either love Barbie or you hate her. But if you love her, sometimes you really really love her. Meet real life Barbie doll, Valeria Lukyanova, who just happens to also claim to be a being from another planet. Watch Vice’s piece on this unicorn of a woman. It’s aptly titled Space Barbie. You must see it to believe it.

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I have a complicated relationship with Barbie. While I had plenty of Barbie dolls as a young girl, I also can’t help but enjoy a bit of schadenfreude when she falls from grace. Here are some of my favorite non-Barbies found on the internet:

Tramp Stamp Barbie (This one actually was on the market for awhile). You can imagine the parental outrage.

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Nun and Muslim Barbie. See? Religion isn’t all bad.

Minimum Wage/ Single Mom Barbie. This one made me sad.

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Serial Killer Barbie. Enough said.

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Vampire Barbies

Daenerys Targaryen Barbie

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Elvira Barbie

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Classic Horror Barbies

Rockabilly Barbie

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Japanese Pop Culture Barbie

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Hardcore Barbies

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Zombie Barbie and Day of the Dead Barbies

Mad Men Barbies (and Kens)

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Barbarella and Furiosa Barbies

And my personal favorite, The Birds Barbie.

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And this was my favorite Barbie growing up. Golden Dreams Barbie. She really liked the nightlife, she liked to boogie. In fact, we need to hear that song right now.

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Ok, I’m going to jump in my corvette, drive to my dream house, and celebrate my birthday with my Ken. xoxo

All the china…allll of it.

Rather than having strictly matching sets, my cupboards are filled with one-off antique china plates that I happen to fall in love with. They’re inexpensive and it’s like having ten different china patterns. If one breaks, you move on.  I’m not the only one who feels this way, have a look at the brilliant Cake Stand Heaven blog and shop. You can buy whole mismatched sets grouped by era and color.

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Not everyone enjoys finding plates at flea markets and antique stores, however, and even I have succumbed to wanting a whole set or two of some patterns.

I have a nearly complete set of Blue Heaven. What’s great about this pattern, aside from it’s mid-mod vibe, is that you can find pieces of it everywhere: etsy, ebay, flea markets, and even on the Replacements site.

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At the request of the lovely and talented author Susan Elia MacNeal, Miss Havisham has compiled a smattering of beautiful dishes for your table. They are dishwasher safe for the most part because we certainly don’t have time for anything else. Some are steals, some are extravagant, all are special.

These Pavoes plates feel like they were stolen from the Russian Tea Room. They are, in fact, based on a 17th century Portuguese design. Bring me a rustic boule and a flagon of wine now please.

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This Adelaide pattern also comes in both pink and blue, but I prefer the black which can be tricky to find. It looks like pen and ink. The blue and pink are available at Macy’s.

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This minimalist, yet haunting, every day set by Corelle is a steal. Act fast, they’re on sale. You can also have a custom set of plates printed to your specification at Zazzle. Dishwasher safe!

These Masked Skull plates by Rory Dobner are available online at  Liberty London. Gold trim, darlings.

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I also love his Fantastic Mr. Fox plate, his bee and pirate plates.

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I can see these exquisite Firenze Medici plates by Juliska moldering away on the table of Miss Havisham. They are inspired by handmade Venetian paper and available from Neiman Marcus. I encourage you to zoom in on the details.

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I love these happy botanical plates also by Juliska.

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The Simply Fine Chirp series from Lennox is available at Macy’s. This set has the advantage of a wide array of accessories from serving platters to table linens. You might also enjoy the Flutter  or Curious Toille series from Loveramics.

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Who knew Christian Lacroix designed china? Save your pennies for this flight of fancy. The Vista Alegre Series.

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A dish for every occasion. Sometimes a lady needs to go on safari and when you do, I hope you dine on Lynn Chase’s Jaguar Jungle.

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If you’re lost in the woods, I hope you remember to bring your Dupaquier Dinnerware by Mottahedeh and if you are off for a horseback ride, snack from these pony cocktail plates from Pottery Barn.

And, of course, if you are slaying a dragon, please dine heartily on the Red Dragon plates before the kill; you’ll need your strength.

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I was happy to see these at Pottery Barn right now. Poppies!

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And this whole setup is fantastic. Spring has officially sprung at Pottery Barn. There are also table linens for all your spring desires.

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I got these Jason Miller plates as a wedding gift and they are now in everyday rotation. I hate having to choose one thing definitively thereby excluding all my other options, so these were perfect, half china pattern, half black crow.

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Seletti also understands my ambivalent nature. I might have to splurge on these hybrid masterpieces.

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And I love pretty much anything that comes from Pipstudio especially their Royal Collection. Happy happy happy.

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Melody Rose in the UK has some whimsical offerings. The trapeze plates are my favorite.

Whatever your pattern, whether it’s vintage or new, expensive or thrifty, don’t save your pretty dishes for special occasions only. I purchased a set of Jadeite dishes and cups a few years ago and they sat in my cabinet for way too long. The set was piecemeal, three cups and a few plates and eight, no NINE saucers. I couldn’t turn them down yet they sat unused for years. Finally, I just started using the extra saucers to feed the cats. It makes me happy every day. Life is short, don’t eat from ugly plates.

Want more inspiration? Follow Miss Havisham’s Tea on Pinterest.

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PS: These only cost me five dollars. DEAL!

Go Ask Alice

Alice in Wonderland has captivated readers for decades. Written by English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll, it was published in 1865. Three years earlier, Carroll rowed a boat up the Isis section of the Thames river with three young girls and Reverend Robinson Duckworth inside. The three young ladies were the sisters Liddell,  daughters of Henry Liddell (the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University and Dean of Christ Church): Lorina Charlotte Liddell (aged 13); Alice Pleasance Liddell (aged 10); Edith Mary Liddell (aged 8).

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Alice Liddell, far right.

While on the river it’s said Carroll entertained the girls with a story that was so beloved by Alice that she asked for it to be written down for her and thus Alice in Wonderland came into existence. Carroll approached the artist John Tenniel to illustrate the manuscript.

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In 1998 Lewis Carroll’s own copy of Alice, one of only six surviving copies of the 1865 first edition, sold at an auction for US$1.54 million to an anonymous American buyer, becoming the most expensive children’s book (or 19th-century work of literature) ever sold, up to that time. Alice Liddell’s copy of the manuscript sold in 2009 for $115,000.

The relationship between Alice and Carroll is a murky one. She posed for Carroll often and those photos have been cited as proof that the nature of their friendship was less than appropriate.

This past June The Morgan Library in New York held an exhibit celebrating the 150th anniversary of the book’s publication. The exhibit included original drawings by Carroll and Tenniel as well as a number of photos. I was surprised that there was no mention of the question of Carroll’s relationship with Alice. You can view a number of the illustrations online at The Morgan Library’s site. There is an interesting article on the subject of their relationship here.

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Character development sketches between Carroll and Tenniel

We may never know the truth about Carroll’s proclivities as Richard Cavendish writes here:

“The friendship between the Liddells and Dodgson (Carroll) had broken down in 1863, for reasons that are not clear – the relevant page in his diary was cut out by one of his descendants – but it may be that Mrs Liddell was uneasy about him and Alice. Polite relations were resumed after a few months, but the earlier warmth did not return. ”

Alice grew into an adult and married a cricket player at the age of 28. They had three sons. She became quite the society hostess. After her husband’s death in 1926 she found the upkeep of their household to be draining. Facing financial difficulties, she sold her copy of the manuscript for £15,400. She died in 1934 and is quoted as saying, “I am tired of being Alice in Wonderland.”

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Alice as an adult.

Alice in Wonderland has been the subject of songs, art, and numerous films, one of my favorites is the stop motion film by Jan Svankmejer.  You can watch the trailer online.

There are no shortage of Alice themed events. Don’t forget to attend The Victorian Tea and Dance Society’s Alice in Wonderland themed social Sunday, March 6.

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Should you find yourself in London, you must go to The Madhatter’s High Tea at the beautiful Sanderson Hotel. I left with diabetes but I also left happy.

Want to throw your own tea party? I have several pieces of the Alice in Wonderland collection from Fishs Eddy in New York. I love them. Not sure if they still have the dinnerware but they also carry the prettiest cake stands.

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Cakestands for days.

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And who’s ready for a garden party? Alice always is.

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Need to make a pillow? A skirt? Find all the fabric you need on Etsy:

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And let’s not forget shoes. Wow.

From Elusive Rabbit:

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Or these from Irregular Choice:

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Care for a scarf?

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An entire tea set? Egg cup? Gift wrap? Check out The Alice Boutique.

I find The Hudson Hotel in New York to have a very Alice in Wonderland feel. Much of the furniture in the library bar is oversized and the lobby is really something. It’s a fun place to take a client for a drink.

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Or this acrylic chandelier from Vinci Living. Plenty more Alice interior design ideas on Lace and Ruffles.

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And I leave you with a great Queen of Hearts from Popsugar:

Queen-Hearts-Alice-Wonderland

Curiouser and curiouser!