I took my dear sweet husband, AKA Top Cat, to Connecticut to celebrate his birthday last weekend, which began with Saturday afternoon tea at Ye Olde Country Inn of Mystic, overlooking the Long Island Sound:
The weather outside was frightful (cold and grey, a bit misty and raw) but the inn was delightful.
In New England, you get used to the sight of muskets on the mantelpiece.
Yes, Mystic Connecticut is a real place with a real pizza parlor…
…and a real Main Street with a steeple…
…with a real independent bookstore (Bank Square Books and of course I checked. They had one copy of my book Le Road Trip in the Travel section).
The town was beautifully decked out for the ChrisHanuKwanSolstice holiday.
I have a soft spot in my heart for red velvet bows…
…and for pubs named The Harp and Hound…
…and for small cafes…
…and for little pumpkins lined up in a row…
I want this window for my house:
Instead of pumpkins, this house a collection of gargoyles guarding the front yard:
But you can tell by the topiary that these gargoyles are friendly gargoyles:
And what’s not to love about this house here?
If not the fish-scale shingles, don’t you love the great front porch with a hefty guardian pumpkin on it? Maybe you’ve noticed that most of the private homes in downtown Mystic are mounted with plaques that tell the name of the sea captain or lawyer or merchant who originally built the house in the 18th and 19th century, when Mystic was a bustling burb in the thick of the whaling industry. But this house has a plaque with a woman’s name, Caroline Townsend 1892, on it.
No plaque on this house, though:
If you’ve ever been to Connecticut you’ll recognize this as the iconic Connecticut house…
…complete with its iconic Connecticut stone wall. You’ll find these old stone walls everywhere in The Nutmeg State:
As you drive through the Connecticut countryside you’ll see these stone walls showing up even in the middle of forests, the only thing left to show where once there used to be a farm or homestead. Our drive out of Mystic kept us close to the shore of the Long Island Sound…
…where all the boats go to hibernate over the Winter.
Then we turned inland…
…and headed for Foxwoods Resorts, the largest casino in North America situated in the heart of the wilderness of the Mashantucket Pequot Indian Reserve (this is the view from our 30th floor hotel room):
Well, it was Top Cat’s birthday weekend, and he does love his Texas Hold ‘Em, and he is one of the original card-carying Foxwoods Players from when this casino complex was nothing more than a shed with a bingo hall. Just to show you that You Never Know Where Inspiration Lurks, it was at Foxwoods that I got my big Giverny inspiration when I got a bird’s eye view of this carpet in the lobby of the MGM Grand Convention Center:
To give you an idea of the scale of this design here’s another shot of the lobby — that’s a three-person sofa in the upper corner:
I LOVE IT! With a little tweaking this carpet could be turned into a great Giverny abstraction. Can you see the flowers of the Clos Normand? The pools of water in the lily pond? The flow of the Epte tributary to the great Seine River? Trust me, they’re there. Just as they are here, in my map of Monet’s garden at Giverny:
And in my portrait of Monet on his Japanese bridge, overlooking his beloved water lilies:
I thoroughly enjoyed all your ideas for my Giverny product line — thank you everyone who left a suggestion in the Comments last week. As for note paper and tea cups and calendars, I can have those up on this site in a week or so, as a friend has brought to my attention this thing called Zazzle that lets you make this stuff PDQ. I believe her exact words were, “Zazzle it, you moron.” Maybe she didn’t actually say “moron”, but I got her drift: I should have been doing this a long time ago. So stay tuned.
As for Sarah’s idea that I do an embroidery kit, I have to wonder if this would do:
I sewed this in 1990 as a wedding gift for my twin sister. It took about 60 hours, if I remember rightly.
Ah, those hours and hours of quiet stitching and loud reminding my cats that my spools of embroidery floss ARE NOT YOUR TOYS DAMMIT. These days I don’t sew any more, and I only have to yell at my cats that my watercolor brushes ARE NOT YOUR TOYS DAMMIT.
THIS JUST IN: My literary agent is having a Holiday Party this year!!! So you know what that means!! I’ll be able to rub elbows with my agent’s much more famous and hip clients — and this year I vow that I WILL say Hi to — heart be still — Neil de Grasse Tyson!!!!
And if I do, I promise you that I’ll have the photographic evidence to prove that once in my life, I was cool enough to be in the same room with Neil de Grasse Tyson!!!! Watch this blog o/a Dec. 21, is all I can say for now.