recipe
Nov
15
2009

Please Meet My Dear Friend EllynAnne Geisel!

NQJC: This past year, EllynAnne and I met in Dallas. We stayed in the same adorable boutique hotel (the Indigo, in case you’re ever there), and when she wasn’t promoting her latest book, we were spending time together. We had a blast, and I can tell you – she is the real deal! I am excited to introduce her to y’all.

EllynAnne is the creator of National Tie One On Day  (November 25th this year – that’s the Wednesday just before Thanksgiving), and I am honoring the Day with a GRAND PRIZE  GIVEAWAY – a complete set of EllynAnne’s books (autographed!), a vintage linen and a vintage apron! At the end of this wonderful interview you will find the details about how to get your name in the VERY FAMOUS MASON JAR and have a chance or several chances to win this amazing bundle of prizes!

Now, let’s grab a cup of coffee or tea, or glass of wine, sit a spell, and get to know EllynAnne.

NQJC: Please tell us about the origins of THE APRON BOOK and your exhibit, Apron Chronicles.

eagprofilepic_smallIn 1999, when our youngest child went off to college, an emptied nest signified my twenty-four-year career as a full-time homemaker was truly over.  His departure also signaled the opportunity to pursue a second career, that of a bona fide writer. This literary dream was my life-long secret. With twelve years of less than stellar academic achievement and a brief stint at college (where I was on a serious husband-hunting mission), I had always figured I lacked the scholarly documentation necessary to write something of interest. As to the few pieces I’d submitted that had made it into print, I questioned how good the publication could be that would accept my work!

In that frame of spirit – a bit shy, more than a bit scared – I decided to write an article about my life as a homemaker and the symbol of that experience: the apron. I never submitted the piece for publication, but it energized me to wonder whether others thought about the women who had once worn the old-fashioned symbol as daily domestic armor.

Driven by an intense curiosity, as to whether I was the only one enamored of the apron as a connection to women of earlier generations, I began soliciting for apron stories from family and friends. That approach didn’t bode well – the responses were scant and questioned that I had too much time on my hands! So, I revamped and decided not to introduce the aprons, but rather to let them do all the talking.

For four years, I toted an old laundry basket of vintage aprons with me wherever I went, including traveling all over America. The basket of aprons was an absolute magnet! I enjoyed people’s reaction, which always began with their remembering a woman in their life who’d worn an apron.  I noticed that following that initial response to the basket, the storytelling became much more about life than fabric.  So I started documenting what I was hearing and then, taking a snapshot of the storyteller. I began sharing my aprons and the apron stories with local women’s groups, and early on acquired the moniker The Apron Lady (easier to say than my last name!).

My apron journey took a wayward jaunt when my respect for women practicing the disappearing Western lifestyle led me to attend one of the few trick riding camps in the country, immerse in the subculture of rodeo queens, attend the Miss Rodeo America pageant in Las Vegas, and “cowgirl up” at a working ranch, where I tried my hand at branding cattle. So much for cowgirling.  I pulled off my boots and picked up where I’d left off – toting a laundry basket of aprons hither and yon, listening to apron stories and transforming the memories into emotional narratives.

While at the Miss Rodeo America pageant, I’d met a photographer, who I stayed in touch with. She found my apron project intriguing, and when she saw the quality of my snapshots, she asked to photograph the storytellers. The result of her photography of forty-six storytellers, their apron recollections and two hundred vintage aprons became the traveling exhibit Apron Chronicles: A Patchwork of American Recollections. In summer 2004, AC showed in a public gallery space in Santa Barbara and in the fall, was a four-page feature in Time magazine (!!!); in February 2005, I wrangled an appointment with The Women’s Museum in Dallas, flew there on my own dollar, and left a day later with a contract for an exhibition in 2006. To say I love TWM is an understatement.

All the while I detoured to rodeo or worked on Apron Chronicles, I never stopped thinking about a project dedicated to the apron itself.  When I came home from Dallas, I decided to put this “apron vision” into the layout form of an apron book. I found a young graphic artist to put it together. A local print shop ran it out, and even today, when I look at it, I get weepy – that such a little beginning turned into something so big.

Just as the layout was completed, I received a phone call from an editor at a New York publishing house, saying she was interested in doing an apron book with me. Almost five years later, and I still recall every detail of that moment, what chair I was sitting in, the sun coming through the front windows… I told her about the layout of my vision for just such a book, and she asked to see it. I mailed the print-out to her, and after about a week or so, she got back that she loved the idea and had forwarded the concept to Lark, a book production company, to create a saleable version of The Apron Book.  I signed with Lark June 1, 2005. An agent and I spent the entire summer creating the package Lark would send to publishing houses. On October 1, 2005, THE APRON BOOK was sold to Andrews McMeel Publishing. I jumped for joy, a sight my husband still talks about.

NQJC: For anyone who dreams of writing a book, do you have any advice?

Go into any bookstore and what? You’re surrounded by thousands and thousands of books, most written by no one you’ve ever heard of. In that environment, you logically ask yourself, well, geez, how hard can it be to get a book published?  I’m here to tell you nothing is harder, despite how smoothly my own experience sounds.

What I didn’t share earlier is the amount of rejection along the way. I have a file folder of scrawled notes of dismissal from agents, magazine editors and museum curators. But it was a face-to-face rejection from an agent that really resonated, because he told me flat out that my proposal was boring. Boring. I practically took to my bed, I was so stunned, so hurt that he would call my beloved apron project dull.
Then I bucked up, allowing perhaps he spoke some truth. I took a hard look at things and concluded he hadn’t rejected the subject matter, but its presentation. Reviewing, revamping and rewriting took two years. The reworked vision became the print out that turned into THE APRON BOOK.

Bottomline. Put your writing out there, and you’re going to be rejected. On the flip side, if you never share your writing, you cannot be rejected. That’s how it works.

Personalize rejection or let it be galvanizing. That’s the choice. Writing is rejection, except when it’s not.

NQJC: You’re such a confident speaker – were you always so comfortable in front of a crowd?

Jerry Seinfeld famously noted that given the choice of speaking in front of a group or dying, most people chose death.  That was me. Rather than speak up, much less stand up, I’d just a soon die.

In 2003, I decided to challenge my fear of public speaking by joining Toastmasters, a world-wide public speaking organization. For my first presentation, I wrote a piece on blushing; then I read it aloud word for word. In the critique that followed, it was kindly suggested that I try again the next week, and present the same piece but without the script. I almost didn’t return, but in doing so, I changed my life.

Standing before the group, the prior typed out piece in hand, I set it on the podium, took a deep breath, and on the spot, introduced myself as Ellyn no-space Anne, a confident, articulate person who loved nothing more than the opportunity to stand before very large audiences and speak her mind. Every one laughed, and EA, the public speaker was born.

Six years later. As I’m being introduced, I always look very calm – smiling, nodding, little wave here and there – but on the inside, my heart is beating so fast, I really do appraise the crowd and hope that someone knows CPR. As my name is announced, I perform a mental ritual – I take a deep breath, and tell myself, It’s show ti-i-i-ime!  And EllynAnne takes over.

NQJC: How do you come up with ideas for making your aprons?

I view aprons as accessories to an attitude, outfit or occasion, so inspiration is more often than not based on my personal need. And if the design pleases me, then I figure others will find it a perfect “fit,” too. The Smoochie was borne from my need to accessorize my favorite little black dress that I was planning on wearing for the author/publicity photos in conjunction with the publication of THE APRON BOOK.

I’d purchased the fabric when we’d visited friends in Houston – my dear PC looked up fabric stores in the yellow pages and drove me to the independent shops, and at one of those, I found and bought the lips fabric – about 10 yards, I think. I wanted the shape to flatter, but at the same time, the fabric carried its own humor, so the design had to be fun fun fun from the get go. The quilted lips pocket still makes me laugh; the polka dot ruffle was an afterthought and turned out to be the cherry on top.

My creative space is a mess – stacks and piles of old sewing books, vintage magazines, fabric, odds & ends and hundreds of aprons are everywhere. But it’s the cacophony of colors, textures, prints, embroideries, and shapes that is energizing. I spend the day by myself, in this room, kept company by a life size cardboard Elvis – my muse – and my imagination.

I am especially inspired by a beautiful old cloth that is stained or holey and past actually using. Such a cloth screams Opportunity!, and some of my best creations have come from the most damaged of good.

NQJC: How did it happen that Bree on Desperate Housewives wore two of your aprons and Smoochie was featured in Vogue?

Watching the premiere of DH and seeing Bree in an apron, I immediately thought, hey! she should be wearing my aprons. But I had no idea how all that worked. However, I was sure I had to know someone who knew someone who had an acquaintance with someone who did know.

I emailed everyone I thought might know “that someone,” and after 3 months, I heard from a woman who worked in film. She wrote that everyone in Hollywood belongs to unions, including the wardrobe mistress of DH, whose email she was providing.

Between Christmas and New Years, I emailed the wardrobe mistress. The first line of that email was: If you are reading this, it is my lucky day. On January 1, 2005, she wrote back: This is your lucky day. I have that email in a little safe deposit box.

Vogue is a bit of a different story – I’d provided an editor a box of aprons for a photo shoot, including a Smoochie. When the box was returned, there was a thank you note included, but that was it. Six or so months later, I received an email with Vogue Magazine typed in the subject line. I almost didn’t open it, figuring it to be a joke or a virus or something else not good. The email requested purchase information for Smoochie, which would appear in the forthcoming issue.

I wasn’t too excited, assuming my apron would be in some composite photo on accessories, and show up about the size of a pin head. Was I ever wrong! I was in an airport when I saw the new Vogue. The issue was huge, and it wasn’t for several hundreds of pages that I saw my apron. Adorning the waist of the most gorgeous model. I started shrieking a little/lot, and holding it over my head, showing it to everyone on the concourse. A lot of people stopped and shared the moment with me. It was such a big deal.

NQJC: Do you like to cook?

Growing up, I was a picky eater, and I still have a “thing” about texture, color, foods on the plate seeping into each other, and wet bread. Living the single life, I thought myself quite the cook when I conquered frozen fish sticks and brown rice. Then I fell in love with someone for whom food is a large part of his enjoyment of life. We married in 1975, and received multiples of the year’s hottest kitchen accessory – the crockpot – and The New York Times cookbook by Craig Claiborne. Reading recipes became a new past-time.

Despite my lack of culinary experience, by precisely following the recipe, I became a consistently decent cook. To this day, I do not improvise. I love trying new recipes, especially breaking the rule of commonsense that one should do a trial run with a new dish before serving it to company. There are foods I refuse to cook, either because I won’t eat it (duck), the mess isn’t worth it (fried chicken) or Colorado’s altitude makes it too hard (souffles). I think pizza should be its own food group. My favorite pizza is a thin crusted alfredo with spinach, onions, mushrooms and Italian sausage crumbles, and I make it from scratch. My favorite dessert to serve is real chocolate pudding topped with a dollop of real whipped cream. I eat apple slices and peanut butter for lunch every day. I am a fool for egg salad. I love pot lucks.

NQJC: When we were together, we talked about our children a lot, and our parenting philosophies.

In choosing exactly what to teach my sons, I was guided by a notion that one of my jobs was to raise them to be good husband material. Early on I determined the homemaking skills that would be most appreciated by women to be their ability to do a family’s laundry, cook one breakfast and two dinners and pick up after themselves; everything else she would teach to her liking.

When they entered middle school, I provided instruction on sorting clothes, loading the washer, dryer temperatures, and folding. I continued ironing their important shirts, because I enjoy ironing. Cooking progressed as they grew older from simple meal preparations to stuffed french toast, poached salmon and steak-on-the-grill. But it was tidying their personal spaces that became a war of wills and ultimately, I just shut the doors on their pig-pen preference and figured two out of three husband-perks would do. To date, they’re very good citizens who can do their own laundry.  I laugh that when they do marry, I’ll be so old, the tears I’m shedding will be from cataracts.

NQJC: As we’re approaching Thanksgiving, how does your family celebrate?

For years, our sons lived far, far away, including in foreign countries, and we had to adapt to their absence at the Thanksgiving table. When one or the other did visit, it was like a Folger’s commercial on Hallmark Hall of Fame – you know, when the music would swell and the mother would turn around and see her boy, and call out He’s home!!

When one or both did show up, however brief the stay and no matter the season, it felt like Thanksgiving. So I started keeping a turkey in the freezer at all times, available should either call with the news of a visit.

Last year, Noah and Gideon were here for Thanksgiving. There wasn’t much notice, so Hank purchased a smoked turkey breast, which we understood was precooked and only needed to be warmed up. It was disgusting, like eating processed luncheon meat, like what’s in those sandwiches handed out on an airline.

They’re coming this year with the caveat that we get it right. That means no weird turkey or a new dish that doesn’t look at all like the photograph I cut from the magazine. My boys have long memories.

A Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving is on tap. Although I just read in this morning’s paper an advertisement for a deep fried turkey. Don’t know that I can resist that!

NQJC:  With the success of your apron empire, has your life changed at all?

Yes! I have real need for many pretty dresses and lots of shoes.

For all the achievements and accolades in Apron Land, I have this very real life that is quite day-to-day and requires nurturing, but it’s the existence that includes my marriage, which is the most important detail of my world.  I pay close attention to my real life. It’s what’ll be around when everything else goes away.

NQJC: What defines you?

Donning pearls every day.
Watching Entertainment Tonight like there’s going to be a test on it or something.
Always paying more than the bid because I’m sure the workman bid less than he should have.
Trusting everyone.
Greeting the day in a good mood.
Loyalty.
Curiosity.
Repeating myself, which as women know is how we communicate, but a trait which drives men to utter distraction.
My laugh.

NQJC: What do we still not know about you?

My one true talent may be that like Scarlett O’Hara, I am resilient.

NQJC: Any words you live by?

“Everything’s gonna be okay. Now let’s go have fun.”
Mike Meyer’s dad

apronlineNow I suppose you know how to get your name in the jar one time don’t you?  Yep, leave me a comment or say HI to EllynAnne and I will put your name in once.  Another way you can get your name in again is to mention this great interview on your own blog.  So that’s two ways.  And a third way is for you to grab this  button

eainteviewbutton

and post it in your side bar or somewhere on your blog.  Later on in the progress of this giveaway leading up to National Tie One On Day and the drawing, you will have several more chances to get your name in THE FAMOUS MASON JAR. Oooo, I reckon I should tell you what the winner will receive!  You better get a grip, ’cause this is amazing!

You get a autographed copy of each of EllynAnne’s Books:  The Apron Book, The Kitchen Linens Book and Apronisms!

eabooks

But wait that’s not all!! Uh Oh that sounded like one of those crazy infomercials!  Anyway, that’s not all!  I also have for you a vintage apron as well as a vintage linen!  Either add these to your collection OR start your collections with them!  I will save those photos for another day.  Today is all about EllynAnne, National Tie One On Day on November 25 AND EllynAnne’s beautiful books!


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Victoria

Hello EllynAnne and Susan,
I thoroughly enjoyed the interview, you both were great! I would love to have my name added to the mason jar.
Fingers crossed,
Victoria

I love reading about women who have been successful not only personally but also professionally. It gives me hope at my age that good things can happen still. Thank you. I don’t win, I will purchase your books!!!

You’re right. This is amazing!

Thanks for the fabulous interview with EllyAnne. Now I want to iron all of my aprons. Wearing pearls, of course!

Sue

I’d love a chance to win all three books and a big ole wave to EllynAnne!

Cheryl

Hello to you both. What a great interview! I am particularly interested in aprons and what they mean to different people. I received my first apron as a gift from a good friend when I was recovering from major surgery. In today’s crazy world, the apron to me is symbol getting away from it all in the kitchen and creating something comforting for others. If I don’t win, I am so enamored by what these books are like that I will ask for them as a gift.

oh, lovely! those are such nice things!!!!

Suzanne

Susan – Such a lovely interview. Quite exciting and the blog looks beautiful. I miss you much and will post the button so others can come visit! Have a great Sunday. ~Kelly

thriftmaven

What an interesting interview!
My old Granny always wore an apron-all.day.long. If I ever saw her without one, I thought we were going to town!!
I have a very comfortable happiness with aprons-have all the ones she made for me when I was a child (sometimes we would match!! LURVED THAT) and ones that she wore. I’ll buy every interesting one I come across at charity shops too!

what a very nice interview. so nice to get to know folks a little better.thanks for sharing! will post about the giveaway and add the button to my blog. have a great week gal!

What a great interview! I’d love to win the books!

Jennifer

Would love a chance at this incredible giveaway. Loved the interview~thanks for sharing!! Jennifer

I knew it just had to be EllynAnne!! She is divine! I was lucky enough to meet her when she was out signing and promoting The Kitchen Linen Book. She gave a wonderful presentation then took time to chat with all of us there and pose for pictures and sign autographs.

Friendly, honest and approachable – that’s EllynAnne!

What a fun interview! I love EllynAnne’s blog and books and enjoyed learning more about her. Especially loved her Toastmasters story … so glad she went back LOL!

I have been coveting the linens books for so long and I have it on my x-mas wishlist! Wonderful giveaway! Fingers crossed….

What a fascinating interview and lady Susan! I loved meeting her. Wonderful giveaway as well. I have always loved aprons and received quite a few at my wedding showers yonks ago! I wear one every day at work of course, but not so pretty as the ones you show here. I would so love a pretty one!

Anne

PLEASE put my name in the Mason Jar..I’m getting my sewing machine oiled today and making aprons for my daughters in law for Christmas..I found some vintage apron patterns at a garage sale this summer..Wish me luck..

Nancy from Mass

Hi to EllynAnne! I just love aprons!

Jennah

Great Interview!!! Great Giveaway, Thanks for offering this!!!

Oh I just loved this interview! And I just love the name EllynAnne! I’ve been following her blog and facebook for a while now and am just delighted when I get to read or see something new from her. Please put my name in the drawing… I’d lose my cotton pickin’ marbles to win those three books! :)

Thanks for sharing the great interview ladies! Please throw my name in the jar.

Oh, aprons. Love aprons. Lately, its the best way to carry things while on crutches! Nice deep pockets. Although the water bottle holder on one crutch and the cell phone pouch on the other are a great help, too. Thanks for sharing the great interview!

Karen

Holly

I love the interview – I think I need to come up with a list of things that define me too… I wish I could say it was donning pearls everyday, but I’ll start smaller, like brushing my hair everyday!!!

Lillian Child

This is a shout out to EllynAnne – loved the interview – you sound like such a delightful lady! Would love to share a cup of tea with you sometime and chat on the porch. I don’t have a blog so this is the only way I can enter for a chance to win these fabulous prizes. I’ll keep my fingers crossed in hopes of being the lucky recipient. Thanks for the chance to win.

What a great interview! I enjoy reading about successful women and their blissful journeys!

I’d love to have my name put in the Mason Jar. Thanks for an awesome giveaway!

Brenda S 'Okie in Colorado'

There is nothing sweeter than an apron. Thank you NQJC for the great interview and thank you Ellynanne. I didn’t realize Bree had worn one of your aprons! How exciting. I hope one day I will wear one as well. Thank you for dropping my name in the Mason Jar!

Crystal

I very much enjoyed reading this interview – thank you for taking the time and for posting it! I have EllenAnne’s Apronisms book and keep it on the fridge with a big magnet clip – changing pages every so often!

You are both inspiring ladies!

Hi Susan and EllynAnne. I loved reading your interview. I would love to have my name added to the mason jar. I would love the books and vintage linens. They would look great in my farmhouse kitchen. ;)

What a fun interview and wonderful books! I’d love to win :)
maiseismom at gmail dot com

Carina

Thank you for such a lovely giveaway!!! As a mom to 4 children who wears an apron every day, I especially loved this post! Great interview!

Great interview!! I love making aprons out of old pillowcases for craft sales! Keeping my fingers crossed for the giveaway!! :-)

Oh yes! Count me in please! I have been a busy gal making or re-creating aprons for gifties. My latest is a half apron from the cutest black and white ruffled skirt.

Laura

Aprons! I love aprons!!! I also love books!!!! A book about Aprons? Oh MY!!!!

Already posted above, but I wanted to add that I posted about this here:
http://blissguild.blogspot.com/2009/11/blissful-journey.html

I’m crossing my fingers!

Hi, EllynAnne,

It seems to me that the apron craze is symbolic for our desire for deeper roots, bonding with family, the simple life, and what is best about home. Thanks for putting words and pictures to these feelings.

Thanks for the chance of winnng these lovely goodies. What an interesting article, and an amazing person EllynAnne is. I love my aprons. One child once asked me “do you ever not wear an apron?” I took that as a compliment as a homemaker to five children and a hubby. None of my aprons are as cute as EllynAnne’s though!

What a great interview and an interesting topic! I’m thinking about gifting a few aprons for the holidays this year! I’d love to be entered into your drawing.

Leslie Anne

Susan, I ran across your blog through Brocante Home, while checking on Alison again after hearing of the flood in northern England yesterday. I’d love to be entered in your giveaway – I started collecting aprons a couple of years or so ago. Only have a few, but I’m happy with what I’ve got! I’ve seen EllynAnne’s books before – they’re lovely, aren’t they? I don’t have any yet; I’d be a proud owner though! And autographed? I’d be steppin’ in high cotton! (that’s a good thing, in case you’re not from the south!)

I’m visiting family out of state for the holidays (through Christmas) and when I get home I’ll subscribe to your feeds – whenever I try to subscribe from here, all I get on my homepage is something about the NY Yankees schedule! Not really my cup of tea!

Thank you for your generous giveaway!

Leslie Anne

What a great giveaway! Hi EllyAnne!

this is great! love your aprons and thanks so much!

Rachel

What a great interview! I will definitely be wearing an apron all day while baking on Tie One On Day! Thanks for this awesome contest!

Great interview! I am such a huge fan of EllynAnn! I actually started an Etsy business because of her inspiration.

grabbed the button and blogged at http://www.seasonedhomemaker.com

Great interview and a wonderful woman! I enjoy reading your blog- it is very encouraging to a young wife :) ! I always feel like what I’m cooking tastes better if I’m wearing an apron!

Thank you for this delightful interview, it brought back many memories of aprons. The first one I made in 4-H, an organza one where I learned to make some embroidery stitches to embellish it. Another was one I received at a Home Economics conference I attended with the words “Home Economics Skills for Life” printed on it, my children each wore it at school when the took their cooking classes,and it is still used today.
I appreciate your philosophy on what to teach children,your love of vintage textiles and pearls and the wisdom and beauty of graying hair.
Thanks for sharing

I already posted, but just grabbed your button for my blog, http://ourlaughingplace.blogspot.com

I am so inspirec by EllynAnn that I actually started an apron business. Great interview!

Also posted it on my blog with the button!

Nancy Ravise-Noel

Hey there gal pal! Add my name to the jar with all the other hopefuls, please and thanks! Sending a big hug….Nance

What a great interview of sweet EllynAnne… Apron Maven Extrodinair!
Hope it’s not to late to toss my name in your Mason Jar.
I too am an apron addict & wouldn’t have it any other way!

What a great interview! I’m so glad that I just happened upon your blog, that was really interesting. I love aprons! Please toss my name into your jar. Thanks for the opportunity.

Cindy

I am a HUGE fan of EllynAnne. Not currently an owner of her books, however,
I frequently borrow them from my local Library. As a collector of aprons I would love to own her books. Thanks for the interview and the giveaway.

Thanks for adding my name to the Mason Jar!!!