Thursday, June 28, 2012

Queen Amelia of Portugal as a Cat
I came upon the original of this portrait in a book of photographs made by a Louise, Lady-in-Waiting to Queens Victoria and Alexandra.  The volume contains several pictures of her that caught my interest, and I decided to learn more about her.
Amelia, though a member of the Bourbon family, grew up in England and can only be described as a Thundering English Rose.  She shod her own horses, even after marrying Carlos I of Portugal.  As queen, she rode a camel in Egypt and once jumped fully dressed into the ocean to save a laborer.  The contribution for which she is lovingly remembered - and which undoubtedly saved her life - was the establishment of a tuberculosis foundation.  She also used the new x-ray technology to convince her ladies of the physical damage done by tightly laced corsets.
What really made her a heroine in my eyes were her actions when her husband and elder son were assassinated before her eyes.  Since the government of Portugal was actually conducted by two political parties that switched places every year, there was so much public unrest that she generally refused to allow her family to ride in an open carriage.  Unfortunately, when the royal family returned from a vacation, the Prime Minister (who stayed safely at home) sent an open carriage to meet them.  The King, who was more concerned with oceanography and building the country's navy than with his people, deemed it imprudent to ask for other transportation.
When shots rang out at very close range, Queen Amelia stood up in the carriage and threw her bouquet at the man who killed her husband.  Then she stood in front of her two sons.  The assassins got the Crown Prince when she lost her balance as the carriage turned a corner.  Police and military finally intervened, and thus she saved her younger son.
Later, she tried to help Manuolo reign, but the political situation was still impossible.  The two were allowed to escape on the royal yacht Amelia.  After World War II, the Portuguese government allowed her to return to visit old friends and collect a few belongings.  Somebody even wrote a song about it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

My First PG13 Card on Zazzle
This little picture based on a painting of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema turned out so well I couldn't resist putting it on Zazzle cards and postcards.  What male convalescent doesn't like a good laugh?  And what caregiver doesn't want a male convalescent to have a good laugh?

I grew up around the nude paintings and pencil sketches my father enjoyed doing.  There doesn't seem to be much point in nude cats, though I do occasionally draw some in see- through clothing.  Alma-Tadema, almost alone among his contemporaries, continually hinted at the not-so-nice wild life of the Greeks and the Romans.  The symposium scene I based this on is one such effort.

I have put a number of my drawings on Zazzle products.  Hope you enjoy browsing through them!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Homemade Soft Trumpet Case
When my son was in college in the early 90's, soft-sided gig bags were all the rage for trumpet players.  Naturally, he wanted one, so I went to a music store to price them.  I came home angry.  These folks wanted $80 or $90 for a soft, slight case that wouldn't do anything to protect a trumpet!  By jingos, I'd make him one myself.

The result is shown above.  My son Lawrence still proudly uses it.  As you can see, I used the fake leather available in most sewing stores and added plenty of pockets inside and out, plus fancy initials.

I lined the inside with the padded quilted material sold for linings and used commercial webbing and D rings for the strap.  Then I attached satin ribbon to the raw opening and set in a heavy duty zipper.  When I had to pay to repair another dinged valve casing, I slit open the lining and stuffed in a whole bag of polyester toy stuffing, then sewed up the slit.  Since then, there has been no more damage while the trumpet is in its case.

Lawrence has received many compliments on his gig bag and is sure I could make them to please other musicians.  I think this is quite true for trumpets, but I would hesitate to protect a woodwind or stringed instrument in this fashion.

If anyone is interested in such a case, email me at or


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Why Did I Choose a Zazzle Store?
When I plug my Zazzle site into a search engine, I find a number of inquiries in different languages about what kind of experience people have had ordering from Zazzle.  I personally have used three of the major design-and-order-your-own-products sites:  Cafe Press, Zazzle, and VistaPrint.  All have proved satisfactory, but Zazzle is the only one that offers to promote your own store with your own products.

My last use of Zazzle was for the picture above.  I needed a travel mug for my coffee loving son.  A previous ceramic-covered one had broken, and Zazzle offers an all stainless steel travel mug.  It arrived promptly and is seeing frequent use.

When I started my Zazzle store, I discovered they hold their vendors to high standards.  You literally cannot make a product for sale if the picture resolution is fuzzy.  For example, I edited the picture above and changed the resolution so it would work for multiple Zazzle products.  You'll see them in my store within a couple of days.

Zazzle vendors cannot make a number of the more expensive and difficult products, like placemats, table napkins, pillows, or pitchers.  Getting appropriate picture resolution for such items could be quite difficult, and Zazzle wants you to have a good product. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

My Son Lawrence as a High School Pan
I recently came across this portrait my father had painted from a large newspaper spread featuring my son Lawrence as Pan.  The newspaper photos were taken at Nashville's Parthenon (full size and open to visitors), where the Stratford High School Latin Club had a photo shoot.

When Lawrence began talking of a costume for the state Latin Club competition, I thought of the Greek god Pan.  For one thing, it would give my trumpet-playing son a chance to play an instrument.  The panpipes shown in the picture we actually made from cheap wooden flutes at one of the import stores.  He actually played several tunes on them - including "Satin Doll", since he was also in the jazz band.

My parents and I had always been fond of Pan - not from Greek or Roman legend, but from Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows.  One episode of the book concerns a baby otter that had gotten lost.  The Water Rat and the Mole take their boat in search of him, and, after a fruitless night, hear music near dawn.  This leads them to a small island, where little Portly lies curled asleep in front of Pan.  The Ernest Shepherd drawing I remember from childhood showed Pan stretched out in much the position shown above.

My memory of that picture gave the inner-city school some well-deserved publicity.  The whole Latin club with their teacher and me bused out to the Parthenon and changed into Roman looking costumes.  Immediately the girls present noticed a problem.  Their shoes didn't look like any kind of sandals, Roman or otherwise.  So I had Lawrence stretch out on the broad Parthenon steps in the pose Shepherd had drawn.  The girls put their feet behind him and looked like proper Roman ladies.  My asthmatic Lawrence, no football player,  became a high school star!

Of course, after the state Latin Club Convention, he refused to wear the costume ever again.  It IS conspicuous - and hot.  The portrait shows the horns I made from a coat hanger, yellow fake leather, and padding.  I completed the outfit with what amounted to fake fur pajama pants with padding in the thighs to resemble goat legs.

I also made several Baby Pan dolls, after learning the legend said the midwife had dropped this strange baby.  Actually, you wouldn't know whether to give it a diaper or a litter pan, but I don't think it would be scary.  I still have two of the dolls.  Creativity is fun!  

Monday, June 4, 2012

Knitting with Two Different Yarns
Since I've been crocheting with two yarns at once and getting a good effect, I thought: Why not try it with knitting?   I didn't have to hand knitting needles big enough to handle the project I had envisioned, so I decided to test my idea with cotton yarn and my US 9 needles.  Here is the result, a 12" wide by 18" long dish towel.  The texture is very thick and sturdy.  Cotton yarn is a bit stiffer than wool or acrylic; it tends to fight back.  This made the project quite interesting.

I framed the stockinette knit with seed stitching to keep it from rolling up.  This also produces a pleasing effect.  I used one plain ecru ball and one variegated.  A towel like this could dry a lot of dishes!  Warning: you have to keep your wits about you casting off.  It's a bit tricky.

My ultimate goal is to produce an afghan using two acrylic yarns that combine to produce a soothing, subdued color effect.  I plan to do it in panels, alternating between crochet and knit.  

Someday I may learn the more complicated crochet stitches and figure out how to read patterns.  Right now I'm having fun seeing how much I can do with just plain stitching.

Friday, June 1, 2012

An American Summer in the 1930's
My father, Fulton Peay, painted this picture from a photograph he had taken as a teenager.  He didn't need color photography to remember what kind of day it had been, or how the sky and water looked.  It was perfectly clear in his outraged memory.

My father lived near the banks of the Cumberland River in an area that was then populated with summer holiday camps.  There was a pebble beach near his home, and here he spent much of his time hanging out with his camera.  There was only one public swimming pool in the area (Shelby Park), and most folks couldn't afford the entry fees.  So everybody in East Nashville and Madison came to the river to cool off.

Here he shows three bathers trying to keep cool when it's so hot the sky itself and the river look yellow.  At the moment, they're having to retreat and tread water; some rich guys are speeding past in their motorboat.  None of the three in the water could hope to own a motorboat.  They were lucky to have an old car and enough gas to get to the river - or to have friends who possessed these things.  Air conditioning was unknown then even to the rich; they had electric fans and could go somewhere cooler on vacation.

From the Reagan years onward, Daddy often talked to me about the critical importance of government regulation to the economy.  He raged at the idea that 'the government is the problem'.  The only hope for the ordinary person, he declared, was for a strong government to stand against Big Business.  He'd lived through the Depression and didn't want me to have to.