A Farewell of Sorts

129twigandvine A Farewell of Sorts ©Sue Schlabach

It’s been nearly a year since I’ve written. As the months yawned on since last June, I couldn’t think how to synthesize what I wanted to say.

So the long and short of it, is that we are moving on from our little house on the hill. Not without some reluctance, but also not without a lot of excitement and expectation. We’re ready for the change.

And so, this writing about 129—the physical address of that little house on the hill—is going to shift and change. My world is still a tangle of twigs and vines, but my gps is a moving thing. We’re living in temporary (but splendid) digs while we contemplate where to put down roots again after the little house sells. It goes on the market officially this week. We’ve been madly painting and scrubbing, weeding and raking. We needed to pay full respect to the place we love before handing it on to the next owners.

Our home of 17 years always felt so permanent. Everything we did there we thought we were doing for the duration. So why leave it? Because we’re ready for something different. Because the making of a place and a home is as fun as living within its embrace.

Our new home is also facing a meadow, and it’s only a few minutes from my parents and my brother’s family. The horse is a mile up the road, and I’ve set up a new studio that I’m excited about. Art and life continue to be at my crossroads, though my crossroads are new.

Marie-Elaine Cusson

129twigandvine_marie_elaine_cusson_home Montreal Photography © Sue Schlabach

Marie-Elaine Cusson lives on a street just off the bustle of Sherbrooke in Westmount, Montreal. The quiet of her upstairs rooms belies the action just around the corner. But the quiet is mostly in the late night hours when her family is sleeping. Then she and her dog, Cacouna, settle into her little studio of the kitchen and she gets to work.

129twigandvine_marie_elaine_cusson_home Montreal Photography © Sue Schlabach

I just spent a few days in Montreal with Marie and glimpsed her creative and family life. This is one of my favorite parts of my job—getting to know the artists I work with and understanding how they approach the creative process.

Marie rifled through portfolios, pulled up images on her iMac and served up frothy café au laits with ease, while sending off her three kids to soccer practice or the park. Soon we got down to business thinking up new ideas for her as we begin our work with her for Wild Apple.

129twigandvine_marie_elaine_cusson_home Montreal Photography © Sue Schlabach

All around were collections from the sea, found in the coastal Gaspé region of Quebec where the family has traveled every summer for years. Shells, seaglass, driftwood and sea anemones arranged in artful display accompanied family photos, small paintings, art by the children and favorite books. A large world map occupied an entire wall above the sofa. Photos of African children framed in the bathroom started our conversation about Marie’s time teaching in Burkina Faso the the Côte d’Ivoire.

Marie works in paint on canvas, or pencil and marker on illustration board, then moves to the computer to fully realize her art and design. Her studio walls continued the exhibits of favorite photographs, mementos of travel, and collections from the natural world.

Next week she and family head to the ocean. No doubt she’ll return with more treasures and lots of new paintings and drawings.

129twigandvine_marie_elaine_cusson_home Montreal Photography © Sue Schlabach

129twigandvine_marie_elaine_cusson_home Montreal Photography © Sue Schlabach

Lightness, Whiteness

Jane Cumberbatch Home, Pure Style, photos ©Sue Schlabach www.129twigandvine.com

I feel well familiar with whiteness right now. Our landscape remains monochrome, blanketed with snow.

But I leave for London tomorrow where the grass is green and the air is mild.

Mild never sounded so good.

Jane Cumberbatch photo ©Sue Schlabach, www.129twigandvine.com

I’ve been remiss in writing about an afternoon I spent with Jane Cumberbatch in London last fall, and since whiteness and brightness reigns in her home, it seems only fitting to finally share it.

Jane’s books about her Pure Style approach to life are the cat’s meow, and she showed me her latest bit of color accent: hand-painted striped borders. In all the whiteness and brightness, a stripe of color would do anyone good. I came home with quince (a cheery acid yellow) and cake tin (a green-tinged robin’s egg blue). Both sit on my studio shelf saying, “stop being afraid and do something with us!” Maybe when I get back…. I do have ideas for where stripes would be just the ticket around here.

Jane Cumberbatch home photo ©Sue Schlabach, www.129twigandvine.comJane Cumberbatch home photo ©Sue Schlabach, www.129twigandvine.comJane Cumberbatch home photo ©Sue Schlabach, www.129twigandvine.com

And so, we ate apple cake and drank delicious strong coffee. I wandered the sunny rooms of Jane’s south facing house and found recognition around each corner, since her home is used as a styling location for magazine shoots and throughout her books. And plenty of surprises too, of course.

Jane Cumberbatch home photo ©Sue Schlabach, www.129twigandvine.comJane Cumberbatch home photo ©Sue Schlabach, www.129twigandvine.comJane Cumberbatch home photo ©Sue Schlabach, www.129twigandvine.com

See the two at the bottom center? Quince and cake tin. Ready to bring some color back into my world.

Soon. Soon.

Jane Cumberbatch home photo ©Sue Schlabach, www.129twigandvine.com

Heather Chontos—Milk Farm Road

by Heather Chontos, Milk Farm Road blog

photo by Heather Chontos, Milk Farm Road blog

In the continued quest to think about how to creatively cover my thrashed, but cozy, feather-filled couch, I came across the artist Heather Chontos‘ canvas painted throw.

That’s inspired.

Heather Chontos, photograph by Robyn Lea for EST magazine

Heather writes and occupies a sublime spot in Portland, Maine. I like her carefree approach to getting paint on a surface—whether it’s the table she’ll serve an artisanal meal from or a 6-foot canvas on her studio wall.

I also love her studio name Milk Farm Road. It conjures all sorts of visual sparks for me— a summer path edged with Queen Anne’s Lace and hawkweed, the warmth and scent of a milking parlor in a barn. I see white pines nearby and hear the call of phoebes. Why phoebes? No idea. I think hot cookies are in the picture since milk usually makes me think of hot cookies.

Heather and her studio are featured in the latest issue of EST—a great online magazine from Australia. She is in issue #12, and you’ll need to subscribe to see it. But it’s free! So do it.

She has a fascinating story that I hope you enjoy while imagining cookies, paths and milk houses.

All photos after the first are photographed by Robyn Lea for EST magazine.

Heather Chontos, photograph by Robyn Lea for EST magazineHeather Chontos, photograph by Robyn Lea for EST magazineHeather Chontos, photograph by Robyn Lea for EST magazineHeather Chontos, photograph by Robyn Lea for EST magazine


© Lauren Geremia, shown on www.129twigandvine.com

bird ceiling by Lauren Geremia

2014 is marching onward. Here I am in February watching the light change and finding myself cleaning the house with spring on my mind and snow whirling outside the windows. My daughter turned 12. We are on the verge or acquiring a horse that needs a home. Life is changing and I’m barely catching up.

The sky cracked and sparkled this morning. The thermometer said zero (fahrenheit). The sky was the color of raw silk. A fresh foot of snow capped the barn, the chicken house, and the cars.

Stepping outside I braced for the chill, and instead felt a balm I didn’t expect. Not a trace of wind. Only a soothing touch in the air that promised that spring is coming—even though it’s still a long way off at the 35th latitude (8 weeks, I’d wager).

And so.

Birds—wings frantically beating—caught my fancy this morning, thanks to Desire to Inspire. This design is the work of Bay area designer, Lauren Geremia. Thanks Lauren for capturing my mood on this bitter cold morning.

Reminder to self. Look up.

Candlelit Tree, Dusting of Snow


Merry Christmas to you all from Pennsylvania. This may be the first candlelit tree I’ve seen in person. We glimpsed it last night after the Moravian service in Lititz, Pennsylvania.

This has been a holiday filled with singing. Tonight I am hoarse from an impromptu evening of carols and songs around the family table. Briefly, it felt like we were in another era – a time of candelit trees and pump organs. But some around the table were finding lyrics on smart phones. Two worlds blended on this Christmas night in a still-young century, and it felt good. Very good.

Sleep my child and peace attend thee, all through the night.

Hello Winter. Thankful.

129twigandvine November snow © Sue Schlabach

Almost Thanksgiving and the grass is nearly obscured by snow. That’s okay with me after the mild, lingering autumn we’ve had. Our garden wall project that ate up our summer (and was partially the reason I rarely wrote), is nearly complete, and that is one of a million things I am thankful for this season.

Warm eggs in my ice-cold hand. Birds at the feeder. A water droplet at the bottom of every one of the hundreds of crab apples on the tree outside my window. An open afternoon after several weeks of busy, busy, busy.

We’re off to Montreal on Friday. Wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving wherever you are, and see you again next week.

129twigandvine snow and eggs © Sue Schlabach129twigandvine Garden Progress © Sue Schlabach129twigandvine Woodbine leaf © Sue Schlabach129twigandvine Woods walk findings © Sue Schlabach

Under the Cacao Tree in Bonnington Square

129twigandvine, Paper shade by Studio Pinto (etsy). Photo © Sue Schlabach

London, September.

Bonnington Square was lit dimly by streetlights as we left the busy roads near the Vauxhall Station. Sara described it to me on the Tube, and here it was, as though she’d conjured it. The corner Italian deli, the little restaurant where they held cooperative dinners when she lived here in the 80s, the tall, narrow house and its artistic occupants, the rooftop gardens… I’ve heard about Chantal Coady and James Booth in all the years I’ve known Sara (going on 13 years), so to say their reputation preceded them is understating it. In my several treks through London in the ensuing years I’ve visited Rococo Chocolates, Chantal’s masterpiece of a chocolate shop, but had never managed to meet up with her. Now she was hosting us for dinner, and Sara was full of stories.

The three-wheeled Rococo car on the street resembled the white and blue packages in the shop, and signaled that we’d arrived at our address. The house was narrow and tall, just as Sara said. In front a garden seemed to burst from the sidewalk. Were they all in pots? Were the pavements removed? I’m not sure. It was dim, and we were already inside, removing our shoes and being welcomed by James—who was heading out to the aforementioned deli, and Fergus—his 16 year old son who was lounging in the sitting room off the hall.

129twigandvine Dinner Chantal Coady James Booth, Rococo Chocolate © Sue SchlabachUp the stairs in search of Chantal. It seemed like there were more turns of stairs than a normal house could hold. We were in a veritable castle tower, going up, up, up (I learned later that the house has three floors divided by landings at the half level, so it feels like you are climbing six floors).

At the fifth turning—or was it the fourth?—we came upon the rooftop garden, seen in silhouette in the London gloaming. We continued on to the top which opened into a sitting and dining area off the kitchen with its greenhouse roof above the full sized cacao tree on the island. Indeed! Cupboards in deep Rococo blue made me say to myself, “Of course.”

129twigandvine, Chantal Coady and James Booth's London kitchen, Photo © Sue Schlabach

Chantal took us another half floor above this to her mezzanine office, a perfect spot to dream up recipes and designs for future Rococo delights.

An evening of stories from the years when Sara and her husband Bob lived here. Sara gathered three wine glasses and floated lit tea lights in water before placing her newly designed paper lampshades on each one (her new etsy shop is Studio Pinto). Chantal brought out a long-forgotten photo of Sara and Bob taken in the rooftop garden. They seemed like a pair of exotic eastern Europeans in the 1920s, captured in a meadow beside a caravan.

Photo of Sara and Bob taken by Chantal Coady in the 80s,129twigandvine, © Sue Schlabach

Food and drink appeared at intervals…prosciutto, prosecco, potted shrimp and nasturtium blossoms. Pigeon and roasted vegetables (James was not satisfied with the preparation….but it was delicious), clafouti and cream. And, of course, chocolate. Also at the table was Emily, their old friend and the creative force behind Posh Graffiti, a brand that makes and distributes sustainable wood baskets and carvings from Bali.

My camera was passed about and some of my favorite pictures of the night were taken by fourteen year old Millie. She is a young camera enthusiast with an artistic eye all her own.

Well after midnight we wended down the stairs to finish the night in the—bathroom. We did an impromptu photo shoot of a new line of bath products—REN—made by a friend of Chantal’s. The Moroccan bathroom was the ideal setting, and I think we did okay for a midnight shoot with the camera propped on art books, don’t you?

129twigandvine, REN bath products © Sue Schlabach 129twigandvine REN shoot in Chantal's bathroom © Sue Schlabach

Go wander about…….

Rococo Chocolate  Just go look. *sigh*

Chantal and James’ house featured on Gap Interiors here.

Studio Pinto Tea light lampshade luminaries to delight & amuse…

Posh Graffiti  Sustainably made wood products from Bali—gold leafed letters, baskets

REN London-based pure skin products. This line available at Rockett Saint George.

Photos taken by me, Sara Pinto and Millie Coady-Booth.

An Autumn Pairing

129twigandvine, © Sue Schlabach. Tunbridge, Vermont, road. Fresh mint tea.Two autumn moments.

Last week I drove the back way from Strafford, Vermont, through Tunbridge toward Royalton. Late afternoon sun on country roads.

I made the last pot of fresh mint tea before heavy frost.

These are a few recent images from my instagram feed.

Joy on the Loose in London

© sue schlabach, 129twigandvine, sara pinto and her fabulous fanRecently I found myself in London with the amateur absurdist, Sara Pinto.

How I know Sara is a long and separate story.

For this story, all you need to know is that we are old, old friends. That creative sparks fly when we are together. That Sara now lives in Glasgow instead of 45 minutes down the road.

September. London. Old friends reunited. We found ourselves walking through South Kensington smiling, laughing, giddy. The crowds on the sidewalk split to let us pass, as if exhibits of happiness were equal to pure madness.

photo by Sara Pinto, seen on 129twigandvine On the Tube platform a gentlemen accused us of being drunk. I guess in a way we were: drunk with happiness to see each other after more than a year, drunk with ideas to share with each other, drunk with stories to tell, drunk with anticipation of the hours ahead.

Instead of adjusting our behavior, we felt spurred on to do more smiling, more laughing, to be more absurd. We only stopped short of public operatic singing in our gestures of joy. Just barely stopped short. And I think there may have been a little singing. (Just not in an operatic style.)

photo by Sara Pinto, seen on 129twigandvineReactions were first wary, then curious, before a smile would creep onto someone’s face. The Londoners we met were warming up to us.

In John Lewis we made the small act of buying socks as fun as a childhood jaunt to the circus. We took ‘kilroy was here’ selfies with enormous sunglasses, with coffee cups, on the Tube… Every so often Sara had a hot flash and pulled off some clothes and fanned herself furiously with a Spanish fan.

In the Islington coffee shop we visited twice in one day, the staff not only remembered us, but recalled (in minute detail) what we had ordered the first time. This is when absurdity pays off—you become memorable. It doesn’t hurt to have a Spanish fan.© sue schlabach, 129twigandvine, sue schlabach and sara pinto coffee selfie© sue schlabach, 129twigandvine, sue schlabach and sara pinto selfie, london John LewisSo do yourself a favor. Get a little absurd with someone you know well. Feed the absurdness in yourself and spread it about. Belly laughs are good for everyone. So is happiness.

It’s easy to spread misery. But it’s just as easy to spread joy. Pass it on.129twigandvine, © Sue Schlabach, selfie in Liberty, LondonMore about Sara: author, animator, a sometime accordionist, artist, and—of course—an absurdist (who is far from amateur). Go snoop around her website!

The second and third photos were taken by Sara Pinto.

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