My grandmother’s Scrabble club

I promised to tell a story about my grandmother, for whom this blog was named.  I only found out about the weekly Scrabble club from one of her friends from her church, a Meeting of Friends in Vassalboro, which I used to visit in the summers, when I went back to Maine.  I heard about the Scrabble group at Grammie’s funeral  from one of the other players, when we were telling each other our favorite things about Grammie.

First, I have to tell you what prompted this. It was a reminder of one of my other Favorite Things About Grammie.

Recently, my friend K. lost a friend, on social media. Not by death or in “real” life. K. lost someone because her former friend didn’t believe in K.’s support of gay marriage. K.’s mother Ruth’s words ring true, in this case. They remind me of my grandmother. When a phone call came to Ruth’s mostly-Republican neighborhood in sport of Proposition 8 – or Proposition Hate, as many of us called it – that was opposed to gay marriage in the state of California, Ruth simply said she would not support Proposition 8. When asked why, Ruth replied, “Who are we to stand in the way of love and happiness?”

This is so in keeping with my grandmother’s words. We had a unique discussion about this topic, back in the early 1990s. Grammie was 92 years old. She surprised me with her candid thoughts and blew away any preconceived notions I’d had of how “the older people get, the more conservative they get.” This was not the case. Grammie was shocked to learn that Ross Perot, who was running for president, was firing people in his campaign when he thought that they were gay. Grammie was a lifelong  member of the Friends Meeting, the Quakers. She didn’t usually talk about politics or religion with me. But she was upset. She said, “You cannot tell just by looking at someone that they are a homosexual. That’s outright discrimination.” She explained that there were many gay people in her Meeting.

She didn’t say this at the time, but there were gay people in our family that had only come out to her, and she had kept their secret throughout her life. My young nephew was able to come out to his parents, and to me. Our uncle was not so lucky. Many of us guessed that my grandmother’s eldest son had a hard time after his return from WWII. He was forever changed by the experience of driving an ambulance in Normandy, at age 18 — after being raised a Quaker. I know that kind of experience would change anyone. Grammie always supported my uncle, with unconditional love, through his drinking problems, even when he was not able to focus on a career or on his own children or marriage. She never gave up on him. Later in life, he discovered tattoo art and opened a studio. He took his grandchildren with him to England, when he visited other tattoo friends there. He would bring back the most delicate tea cups for my grandmother’s china collection. He had what I would call a mural on his back of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party from Alice in Wonderland. The only reason I know this is because I saw the photos that he gave Grammie of his competition in a tattoo show. He never showed me this body art, himself. But we were pallbearers together when Grammie passed. She was a very quiet, very loving person. Very respectful.

Back to the Scrabble club. The woman I spoke to at Grammie’s funeral said she was the youngest member of a Scrabble group and it was an honor for her to have been asked to be part of it; the other three players were all over 80 years old. She and her longtime companion had met my grandmother at the Quaker Meeting House. I learned that each Friday night, three of Grammie’s women friends would arrive at her house, with some snacks to share, to play Scrabble. The format was always consistent. They played the first three games in total silence. Then they’d take a break, laugh and chat, break out the snacks and have tea. The fourth game was much more relaxed and they talked while they played. She said she was really going to miss those games. They were run like clockwork, a vital part of her week.  And she said that my grandmother was one of the best Scrabble players she had ever met.

Now, I kind of knew this about my Grammie. My grandmother never told me about those games, nor did she ever talk about her religion. She’d invite me to go to Meeting and if I was too tired, no problem. She’d go and come back and we’d have the rest of Sunday together with visiting. If I wanted to go, she’d smile and she got to introduce me to her Friends. She was a very capable and gentle listener with a killer sense of humor and a contagious laugh. She loved listening to baseball games on the radio. Sometimes, when we were younger, we’d walk along the edge of her property, along the road where the black-eyed susans and daisies grew, and we’d pick up garbage. Just cleaning the neighborhood together. Making it tidy. Or we’d plant pansies in her yard. Sometimes we’d just sit on the porch and listen to the birds and the sounds of the occasional car going by. We didn’t really need to say anything. She loved to be with us, her family. She absolutely glowed, in that quiet way, when we’d visit.  Also, as I learned from this other Scrabble player — and other members of her Meeting — something I knew about her.  She gave the Best Hugs, Ever.  To EVERYONE in her church. I seriously have never known anyone like her. And that’s why she is my mentor, to this day.






Once again, it has been quiet around the Emporium. We want to say Thank you to friends, old and new, who keep the creative inspiration flowing for us here.

Thank you, Roberta Lincoln, proprietor of Frog Fountain, who offers lovely, handmade doll outfits and toys via her Ebay shop.

Thank you, Hilda Westervelt, proprietor of Bellisima Couture for doll collectors, who offers amazing handmade couture garments.

Also thank you to Linda Wenzelburger, costume maker and convention-goer extraordinaire; and Scott Pennington, kilt-maker, for seeing me through the months of the Dickens Fair, 2014 and into January of this year.

Thanks to Beth Woolbright. Thanks to Scott Hamner for going for hikes and talking about singing, recently.

And this year, thanks to Eileen S. for volunteering with me at the Costumer’s Guild open house and finding time to have tea and talk about survival and the creative process. Also thank you to Judith H. Dunlap for making me feel welcome at the same event where I met Eileen. Here is a cupcake painting she made some years ago.


Starry Night cupcake cake, with a few nibbles.

Starry Night cupcake cake, with a few nibbles.

February 2015

February has seen the return of Lady V_Jay Jay in her pink outfit, as a greeter and fundraising for the Oakland 2015 readings of The Vagina Monologues.  Here is a photo of this year’s amazing cast:


Thank you to all of our sponsors and to the people who helped us sell out the two evening shows, and fill the hall at the matinee, held at the Humanist Hall. All proceeds went to Bay Area Women Against Rape. 


AdvanceHealth Chiropractic & Rehabilitation

Ais Q. Harvey

Bacheesos restaurant

Bibliomania book shop

Cemora Vanetino-Devine

Chelsea Hill

Daryl Rodillas

Dr. Clo Lau

Ericka Schneider

Eva Salyer

Follies & Dollies

Get Goes Mobile Coffee

Greta Joseph & La Sagata

GwendOline PouchOulin

Howard Bloom

Jessica Opitz

Juan Romero

Kin Folkz

Liba Falafel

Lisa Marie Arens Insurance Agency

Liz Burden and Serenitea Handmade Soaps

Marcelina Verarde

Micha Bennett-Cauchon

Mystic Hands Massage & Body Work

Neena at Feelmore 510

Perch Cafe

Princess/Merlin Monroe/Chris Hughes

Splendid Colors

Suzette Davidson

Sweet Bar Bakery

Tanaya Hurst and Rogue Making

Tech Liminal

The Creativity Stimulus Package

The White Horse

Viscera Studio



Welcome to London! (inside the Cow Palace, Daly City, CA)


Hello, hello. It’s that time of year when theater, dance and literature enthusiasts from all over the greater San Francisco Bay Area congregate to prepare the Great Dickens Christmas Fair, to go on beginning November 22, 2014, 10 AM – 7 PM– we are open for five weekends, including the Friday after Thanksgiving, through December 21, 2014.  Check out this Map of London!


On behalf of the Emporium, Miss Charlotte Badger would like to Cordially Invite You to help us celebrate the holidays in the tradition of Charles Dickens! Miss Badger has agreed to step in to the hubbub of the Fair on behalf of the Emporium proprietor; she’s  been helping out at Dickens workshops by hemming pants, finding suitable hats, locating lace and caps and helping our friend Jacqueline with her hand-sewn bonnet commissions.   In just a few short weeks, Miss Badger will be singing with the Coventry Carolers  and working at the Green Man Publick House at the Great Dickens Fair.




Would you or your loved ones would like to come see the spectacle, eat delicious foods, greet Father   Christmas, encounter various characters from the works of Charles Dickens, see Her Majesty Queen Victoria and her retinue, or dance at Fezziwigs? Yes?! Then please contact the Emporium so we may assist Miss Badger with preparing the appropriate amount of discounted tickets for you on the day you wish to attend.


london-shop_2722857k hairstylesbk1

From our friends over at Shear Madness

From the Stuff We Love files, here is another “competition” for the most crafty, beautiful, clever and creative entries we’ve seen in costuming – this is focused on Embellishment of costumes. This from Shear Madness, The Joy of Impractical Costuming

“The Shear Madness Mascot is heavily embellished.  Embroidery and trim on her boots.  Embroidery, beadwork, trim and chain on her skirt.  A faux-mechanical fronts-piece with findings, gears, copper strapping and copper vent-covers.  Embroidered lapels.  Hand-beaded silk sleeves.  Bloomers covered with lace, trim, beads and cording.  A copper beaded ruff with copper mesh.  A beaded crown on her knit and crocheted wig.  I don’t think there is a single piece on this that isn’t embellished, other than the pre-made gloves.”

And here is the Malvena Pearl’s Emporium Proprietor dressed as the First Doctor (can you spot her hiding between Glynnis and Nell?) in this group of Doctor Who(s) plus Cindy Lou Who:


All the Whos in Whoville




Many things to Do and Tell about

So, do tell! Our proprietor went to her 20th Mills College Reunion yesterday and she saw lots of long-lost pals and even met some new ones whom she had only known in her volunteer capacity as Class Agent from 1994 to 2007 or so.  She even did some (gasp) Networking for her day job status, as she has only recently been offered a Temporary Full Time Job at her old stomping grounds, UC Berkeley. Aherm. What does the Queen of England have to say about this? Let’s find out:

COSCon MN 2013 Queenie 1 Queenie from the rear endQueenie in stocks 2013


We were So Pleased to see our buddy and pal Jane Cudlip King, from the class of 1942, at the lunch on Toyon Meadow! We also saw Redwood Mary and hung out with her for most of the day, meeting friends and classmates of hers, getting caught up, getting our photo taken and hearing part of a dramatic reading of Letters  written to Mills College President Aurelia Henry Reinhardt, during the Japanese internment period of American History (talk about infamy, holy cats, why did the government force people to live at race tracks?!) that was being read at Danforth Hall. Our proprietor could only stay for an hour and a half of that before she had to go to her Class Dinner at a classmate’s home, which was also awesome in many 21st century ways, unlike walking back into the past when seeing all the wonderful alumnae and staff who were Kind to her. That is what we take away from the day at Mills.

Also? The lunch didn’t suck and she got to give out information about her latest volunteer organizations, the East Bay Children’s Book Project and the Next Step Learning Center for adult literacy in Oakland.

Speaking of life during World War II, Here are some Photos of the Fires of Wisdom: Mills College Alumnae Oral History Project at a few of the annual Tea outings, which keep the Mills Tradition of Having Tea and Schmoozing up a storm. CAN YOU TELL WE LIKE HATS? Yes. Yes we do. Old hats. And outfits that recall the Tea Parties of Yesteryear. We keep this Fire alive to Stay Connected and share Experience, Strength and Hope.  To share our activies and triumphs, stories of our travels and job huts. And to give scoop on what vintage clothing stores and thrift shops are still in business or what flea markets for charity had the best deals on gloves. (not really a huge topic but sometimes…)

The first photo is of the Fires of Wisdom group at a performance of our Dramatic Reading at Alumnae Reunion at Mills A note from our proprietor:  HI JANE! I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU ARE STILL CONDUCTING THE CAMPUS TOURS! We LOVE YOU and WE HAVE MISSED YOU SO MUCH! I almost burst into tears when I hugged you, yesterday! SEE YOU SOON!

Fires of Wisdom 2006

Fires of Wisdom 2006



Fires of Wisdom 2011 Tea at Lovejoy's in San Francisco

Fires of Wisdom 2011 Tea at Lovejoy’s in San Francisco




Cecille, Kathleen, Moya, Betsy, Jane, Beth, Erika and our own Malvena Pearl’s Emporium Proprietor

Bagpuss, a UK television show that parallels the life of Malvena Pearl’s Emporium

Bagpuss is a UK children’s TV show that our proprietor found out about on her 2008 trip to England with our dear pal Beth Woolbright. Wikipedia tells us, “UK children’s television series, made by Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate. The series of 13 episodes was first broadcast from 12 February 1974 to 7 May 1974 through their company Smallfilms. The title character was “an old, saggy cloth cat, baggy, and a bit loose at the seams”. Although only 13 episodes were made, it remains fondly remembered, and was frequently repeated in the UK for 13 years. In 1999 Bagpuss topped a BBC poll for the UK’s favourite children’s TV programme.’

Beth and I had gone into Hamleys of London, an incredible toy shop that’s been open since 1981.  We went in to look for Doctor Who toys but stopped first at the aisle of  stuffed animals to find Paddington Bear. That’s where we first saw Bagpuss and several smaller dolls that were singing mice. This show is about a young girl named Emily, her stuffed cat named Bagpuss and their stuffed animal friends who help Emily repair old and broken items for her “shop” which doesn’t sell anything. In summary, it is a parallel life to that of the proprietor of Malvena Pearl’s Emporium. We haven’t sold much and we opened the place with a live Bagpuss-like cat named Roo.

In addition, we’ve recently heard of a shop in Oakland, CA that Doesn’t Sell Anything, either. Bravo!

Here’s Zasu, Roo and some other Emporium animals, assisting the Proprietor in testing the merchandise, supervising the projects and generally being helpful:

stuffed animals on dog bed

stuffed animals test a newly made dog bed


Zasu holds down the skirt of the White Queen Dress for the Beeper Egg Hunt ALICE IN WONDERLAND Tea Party

Roo tries on the finished bustle

Roo tries on the finished bustle

July 23, 2014

Garnier Palace d'Opera

Things are quiet at the Emporium as our proprietor is in a new role in support of her household. Her recent work assignment involves database management. This temporary post is in an old Victorian building for a wonderful, small arts and cultural organization. The other offices in the building are rented by lawyers. Each office is tiny, so the place is a rabbit’s warren of independent attorneys going about their work, quietly, with an occasional visit by couriers who bring boxes of files in and out.

She likes to think of database management work as following in the footsteps of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville, who each worked at the Customs House in Boston. These posts inspired their work, clearly, and made it possible for them to support themselves. She especially thinks of the characters at their tasks in Melville’s story Bartleby, the Scrivener.  (download a copy of this wonderful story here.) However, in the twenty-first century, our proprietor is not required to use a quill pen to copy names and addresses into the tomes and correspondence files.  All the same, those names inspire stories in one’s mind, as one works through the changes and confirms zip codes and street addresses. Another phenomenon she has noticed is that after doing this kind of list maintenance in various forms, for multiple employers for 27+ years, the same names seem to come up, which is good. Or at least, they look Familiar. But there are always new ones, in many languages. It isn’t boring and it’s a great cause.

We’d also like to let readers know about another great cause: The East Bay Children’s Book Project, created by Anne Katz, our dear friend. The proprietor has also been volunteering there. They give away donated books to children, teachers, classrooms and anyone who needs children’s books. They have a new home. Go over to their site and see the goings-on! It is quite inspiring.



July, 2014

Yesterday was July 14, Bastille Day and we acknowledge this with our annual singing of La Marseillaise, the French national anthem. We also acknowledge that there has been little activity on our site for some time.

We thank you, dear reader, for your patience as the proprietor of the Emporium has made many transitions throughout the last year.

We have been renovating the studio and find that we have some stock left that readers may be interested in, namely the Tarot of the Tailors, a divination deck of cards, shown below.  If anyone you know collects tarot cards or is a seamstress, this is a fine gift. Please contact the proprietor if you have questions about this wonderful, unique deck of cards.  We offer them  on discount, now at just $8.00 each plus shipping.

Please be in touch with us. We want to hear from you.  Thank you for your support!