a little midweek loveliness

Jane and Cassandra Austen tending their garden at Steventon Rectory

Saw these wonderful naive cut paper collages by Amanda A. White on Etsy the other day. A former Londoner now living in the Canary Islands, Amanda specializes in depicting the homes of famous British writers — notably, the Romantics and the Bloomsbury Group.

For me it was love at first sight, especially since I’ve actually visited some of these places — Brontë Parsonage in Haworth, Keats House in Hampstead, Dickens House in Gads Hill, and Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage in the Lake District.

Bronte Parsonage in Haworth
Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage in Grasmere
Dickens House at Gads Hill, near Rochester

Amanda’s charming collages make me want to see all the other homes I didn’t know about before, especially Vanessa Bell’s Charleston Farmhouse (Vanessa was Virginia Woolf’s sister):

Pretty amazing what the right artist can do with old magazine clippings (mostly from Vogue and National Geographic). What’s also cool is how the Keats House Museum contacted Amanda after seeing her Keats House collage on her website. Now, her prints and cards are for sale in the museum gift shop!

Keats House collage that caught the eye of the Keats House Museum.
Keats House in Autumn (Wentworth Place, Hampstead)
Dickens Birthplace, Portsmouth

Sigh. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to step right into these pictures?

Find out more about Amanda’s Writers’ Houses Project at her website, blog and Etsy Shop. Check out the Christmas cards too. 🙂

Jane Austen and her sister Cassandra walking to Steventon Church on Christmas morning.


Copyright © 2013 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

set sail for the captain jefferds inn!


I used to think I’d never want to be a sea captain’s wife. Waiting, always waiting for his ship to come in. Pacing, forever pacing the widow’s walk. Are those his sails I see on the horizon? Is another storm rolling in? Maybe he’ll bring me a cache of fragrant spices from the East Indies. 🙂

Well, all this was before I stayed at The Captain Jefferds Inn, one of several former sea captains’ mansions in Kennebunkport that’s been converted to a Bed & Breakfast. I guess those salty sea captains, engaged as they were in lucrative trade and shipbuilding, liked having tangible symbols of their wealth and status on full display in the community. It was good of them to provide their left-behind wives with a nice place to hang out in their absence, don’t you think?


Captain William Jefferds was especially lucky. Rather than having to build his own mansion, he and his wife Sarah received their beautiful Federal-style home as a wedding gift from Sarah’s father. It was built in 1804, and it wasn’t long before the pitter patter of twenty-two little feet echoed within its walls. I doubt Sarah was ever bored when William was out to sea. Come to think of it, with eleven children, it doesn’t sound like William was gone all that much. 🙂


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carlyle house cauldron tea and tour

Happy Almost Halloween! 

‘Tis the season to practice your cackles, dust up your brooms, and sip strange brews.

Is he hiding a biscuit in his vest?

This past Sunday, Len and I headed out to the historic Carlyle House in Old Town Alexandria to attend a Cauldron Tea. I’m always happy to steep myself in the fun of a seasonal tea and this one came with the chance to tour the beautifully restored 18th century Palladian-style home of one of Alexandria’s founders, John Carlyle, a wealthy merchant who apparently knew how to invest his shillings and have a really good time.

We arrived a little early, so we strolled around the lovely 3/4 acre garden, which showcases plant materials available to Carlyle during the time of his residency. We were greeted by the chitter chatter of hundreds of birds, no doubt exchanging Sunday pleasantries and engaging in mini-debates (we are a swing state after all). I’d been to Old Town countless times, but never knew this sweet little haven was here. Perfect spot for a tête-à-tête!

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