Happy Birthday Beatrix Potter! (1866-1943)

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My daughter made the sign for the party on our kitchen chalkboard (it’s chalkboard paint on two masonite panels). My son brought his own Peter Rabbit down for the chair.

Beatrix Potter’s birthday is today, Sunday, July 28, 2019. She means a lot to me and my children. Her influence has reached many over time and around the earth. I love her art and the story of how she came to live the life she wanted.

Perhaps no other Victorian artist, and not many childrens’ book illustrators and authors have been so remembered, recognized, and loved. The text may be archaic with Victorian vocabulary,  (I often need a dictionary while reading!) but the illustrations are absolutely genius.

 

Above are my very first Beatrix Potter things. My parents were Anglophiles and this is my Peter Rabbit nursery set and my first book.

 

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Wedgwood not only made the iconic Peter Rabbit nursery china you can still buy today, but tea things for adults too!

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Her world is infectious and I’ve shared it with my children and all of my students over the last 14 years. In this post you will see how Peter Rabbit has come to live in our house and the “birthday” dinner my children and I did a few years ago!

From a depressing, stifling, and incredibly lonely childhood, run by a domineering tyrant mother, Beatrix Potter broke free after nearly 40 years. She did so over a period where she self-published her swan song “The Tale of Peter Rabbit,” became engaged to her publisher Norman Warne when she was in her late 30’s, and after his death from cancer, bought a farm and eventually moved there.

Her Little Books were the vehicle for her journey to the important financial independence and self-esteem she needed to attain her freedom. And those books contain glorious work. Soft, naturely, a true celebration of God’s creation. Even now her worship with watercolors still resonates over a century later.

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Some of our Peter Rabbit (and Brambly Hedge) china. We use it almost every day.

Reading these to my first graders every year is difficult, and I always think they will tire quickly of all the words they don’t know (and neither do I!) and the long length of the books. But that never happens. They are under Beatrix’s magic the second they clap their eyes on the pictures. They beg me to read all of them!

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My classroom set of the Little Books. A very, very kind school librarian saved these for me from the trash after they were discarded. My first graders adore these books and pour over them all year long.

A few years ago we had a little dinner for her birthday. I am a firm believer in making magic for children. I went “shopping” in my classroom and in my house and found that I actually had a lot of things that would fit right in with the World of Peter Rabbit. Now I am a collector and I love beautiful and fun things. They inspire me so. Everything can be found on E-Bay at some time or another, just keep looking! This was really (although I didn’t know it at the time) the first Ginger & Pickles!

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I can’t quite remember what we had for this meal but I know we had butternut squash soup with it and angel food cake (that my incredibly talented DD made) for dessert. I borrowed the silver and crystal from my mom.

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Some of my Beswick Beatrix Potter People. I started collecting these when I found out about them from Susan Branch. I buy damaged ones on E-Bay for pittance. Sometimes I get a treat. My kids got me the Guinea Pig for Christmas one year. They are pretty affordable. The Guinea was only $14.00. I don’t think there is a big market for these anymore, so they are not the prices they used to be, thankfully!
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The Beswick Peter Rabbit family at their station on top of Mrs. O’Keefe (our O’Keefe & Merritt stove). I bought these chipped/repaired. Inevitably they fall and we just glue them back together! LOL

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The mushroom above I made from Sculpey clay and baked. Then I colored it with watercolor pencils and it looked like watercolor! It was such a fun craft! I was inspired by Beatrix Potter’s mushroom art- she was a very studious naturalist and loved fungi.

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Our Steiff mouse peeking out from behind Margaret Lane’s definitive biography of Potter, first printed in 1946. Next to it are rubber stamps made for teachers in the 80s & 90s by Kidstamps, a tiny Wedgwood teapot and a McCoy flower pot.
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Two Steiff Guinea Pigs peek out of a Longaberger basket in the kitchen window-sill. Next to them are a Frankoma sugar & creamer. Below is a bicycle basket from Basil. The window is deep because our window a/c is in there.

 

 

 

 

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These guys keep me company while washing the dishes. They were all broken and re-glued when I got them on E-Bay. That way I don’t worry about them getting knocked around in the kitchen. We just glue them again! The mouse in the ballgown from The Tailor of Gloucester is my favorite here.

 

 

A wonderful game, finally made a long time after Potter’s death, designed and made by Beatrix herself! This is my son’s favorite game to play with me. We make up all different kinds of rules to keep it fresh. It’s basically McGregor chasing Peter through the garden as he tries to get his lost buttons. It’s also a wonderful map of his garden painted by Beatrix herself. It also comes with duplicates of her instructions and original Peter Rabbit letter. It is so fun!

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The company that made the first game (The Traditional Games Co. LTD.) also made others. The Blackberry game here is our favorite.
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My books on Potter. Susan Branch’s book has a lot of info as well as her visit to Hilltop farm in it. At Home with Beatrix Potter shows the inside of Hilltop. It is a great buy as no one is allowed to photograph inside the house. The Magic Years of Beatrix Potter is the best from Margaret Lane’s The Tale of Beatrix Potter. Beatrix Potter: A Journal is really for kids, but is a delightful treat and is like stepping into a museum of her life.
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We moved a lot of our people to the china cabinet in the dining room during the renovation. The 100th anniversary large Beswick Peter Rabbit I go on E-Bay for $5!

 

It was also my sweet DH’s birthday this month so I made him his favorite- a Key Lime Pie! I just used the recipe from the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook. It is delicious. He likes it with Key Limes because they are super sour!

If you love Beatrix too you can find a way to give your family or yourself some magic. See what you have to decorate with- it doesn’t have to be “Peter Rabbit” stuff. You could watch Miss Potter or the original animated series (on YouTube), and have a summery meal in remembrance of her. Have fun bringing magic into a regular old day!

With love and the spirit of Beatrix to you from Kansas Street,

-Jaime

 

 

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