Sunday, October 26, 2014

"Odors have a power of persuasion

stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions, or will."  ~ Peter Suskind

With the winter season about take over much of the area, not to mention the flu and other medical issues, we might want to take a look at history and aromatherapy.  Candles smell better on a winter day.  Cinnamon and ginger work better under 50 degrees.  There is something about 90 degrees and the pumpkin spice smell that does not work for me (no offense, Florida!)

Both men and women wore scented bags in ancient Chinese dynasties.  Although men did move away from wearing the bags, they did use them as ornaments and to absorb sweat, repel insects, and ward off evil spirits.  By the 17th-19th centuries, China created scented sachets for love tokens.
Medieval times saw the sack...sachet...become a plague-bag.  They were worn around the neck or dangled from the waist.  People thought they would provide protection against parasites and miasmata (bad air).  These contained a mix of sweet powders - from balsam families...calamus, benzoin, storax, galingale(ginger), cloves, herbs and flowers.

Queen Isabella of Spain used fragrant sachets a dried roses, carnations, orris and calamus roots, along with powdered coriander seeds to scent her dresses.  Wonder if she gave one to Columbus to tuck into his suitcase as he boarded his ship? 

The Brits kicked it up a notch with sachets filled with hops.  Hops are used primarily as a flavoring and stability agent in beer although hops are also used for various purposes in other beverages and herbal medicine.  George III and Prince Albert used the Pulvinar Humuli - hop pillows - prescribed by the doctors when sleeping meds did not work.

The sachet pillow still has some therapeutic uses...lavender sachets will calm...sachets with dried moth-repellent herbs like wormwood, southernwood, costmary, lavender, pennyroyal, lemon verbena rosemary, rue, sage and tansy are called "moth bags."

We have beautiful sachet pillows for gift-giving...from an American company-Votivo...these make unique gifts for "Secret Santa"  or hostess gifts.  Memorable tuck-in for a package that is traveling across the miles.  Always nice to open a box and have a wonderful scent waft through the air.  Let the holiday aromatherapy begin!


“We are all human, and our senses are quicker to prompt us than our reason. Every man gives off a scent, and that scent tells you how to act before your head does.”
          ~ Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Sunday, October 19, 2014

“Everyone that steps on to the ladder of success

must have hope. Without it, no one is able to reach the top.”  
                                    ~Ellen J Barrier

This week in my Composition 101 class we have been reading essays in a chapter titled "Generation Recession."  These college freshmen have quite a challenge ahead of them climbing that ladder of success.  Out here in the decorative world though, it is all about ladders and repurpose.  One Pinterest page has 155 "pins" about repurposing ladders!  Holding up the Christmas tree is creative...I had a picky Persian cat who was able to bring down the tree one year all by herself.  This idea might have come in handy!
 The night stand has a nice urban feel...
 A collage of ideas...
 A plethora of climbers outside!
But, we have a round of some nice ones for whatever pin suits your personality.  The green one is extra heavy, but I love the ladders with a history of work "engraved" on them.  Of course, you can always repaint!
Never sure that the smallest one is for since I hate to admit it, but I would climb on a chair first!
Then there are the tall ones...and those do give me pause...this one in the shop reaches to the rafters...but it is good for display! 
A ladder is depicted in a Mesolithic rock painting that is at least 10,000 years old, depicted in the Spider Caves in Valencia, Spain.
The painting depicts using a ladder to reach a wild honeybee nest to harvest honey. The ladder is depicted as long and flexible, possibly made out of some kind of grass.
The step ladder is perhaps the most popular model. In an important development, in January 1862, an American named John H. Balsley received the first patent in the US for this type of ladder. The step ladder is so named because the rungs are set in a stepped rather than a runged configuration. Before the patent, the step ladder was not foldable, but Balsey’s model was designed with hinges at the top that allowed users to fold the ladder for easy storage. Also called an A-frame, the step ladder is now used all over the world.
From a UK site, some information about sizing ladders for "real" use... it can be difficult to determine the correct height for a ladder because the entire length of a ladder cannot be used safely. So, you need to consider what’s called the usable height of the ladder. When using a straight or extension ladder, avoid standing on any of the top three rungs. This rule effectively eliminates two to three feet of height, so buy accordingly. An extension ladder needs three to five feet of overlap between the sections to ensure safe use. When using an extension ladder to reach a roof, it’s important that it extends three feet above the surface. In addition, remember that a straight or extension ladder must be leaned, and this reduces the ladder’s usable height. 
 “Before you begin scrambling up the ladder of success, make sure that it is leaning against the right building.” ~ Stephen Covey 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

"Instead of buying local,

go a step further and buy personal." ~Jeff Haden

That opening line in a business article caught my attention.  We are at the Jersey shore, and now that the summer season is an instagram memory, folks are stopping by to say goodbye as they close up cottages, houses, condos for the winter.  Being in a tourist area, we do get a summer seasonal benefit, and, as Richard Moe commented in another article: “When people go on vacation they generally seek out destinations that offer them the sense of being someplace, not just anyplace.”

But, there are people who live in this area -- or in any small town America -- year round, where we shop, where we eat and have fun -- all of that makes our communities home.  This time of year brings the craft shows, the artisans' open houses, the street autumn days...and chilly November weekends are perfect for exploring the small shops or shows in your neighborhoods.  The big boxes are always there with stuff on shelves.  Why not explore the "small" boxes?

With the holiday season soon to become a whirling dervish, studies have found that for each $1 spent at a local business, 45 cents is reinvested locally. Many of the people who set up at local shows or have small shops or booths in co-ops try more to please and work harder than the CEOs of the Walmarts or the Targets of the world.  Sure, we love the 24/7 convenience, but what about stopping at a local florist for a display for the holiday table.
We got a new car the other day, and, because I have been going to this dealer for years, it was nice to be a known customer not merely a dollar sign.  I got a big hug from the Service Manager who had not been there the last time I had service, but he was working, and it was good to see him.  It is a bit of the Cheers mentality - where everyone knows your name--the buy personal as well as local!

I have fall d├ęcor from a neighbor...not a Chinese factory... I know the person who made these signs...

So, just think about buying local...Walmart's fiscal profit was 128.08 BILLION...there are many folks out there in small shops and co-ops or who are doing seasonal craft shows who would be grateful for $128.08 period!

"When you buy something made by a person, there is something special there, and you do feel it.  The consciousness with which a thing is made is often more important than the things itself."
         ~J. Donald Walters

Sunday, October 5, 2014

"It is not economical to go to bed early to save the candles...

 if the result is twins. ~Chinese Proverb

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Grace Harlowe book series, and I realized, after bringing in some more of these types of books, that I never really knew who the Bobbsey twins were.  For some reason, I had never read these, and I do not remember the series in my children's lit courses either.  So, here is the scoop on this series.
Once again, the author is a pseudonym.  Laura Lee Hope never existed.  The first was written in 1904 by Edward Stratemeyer - the purveyor of so many of these book series.  He then turned it over to ghost writers with outlines.  In researching him, I found that he did write The Rover Boys under the pseudonym of Arthur M. Winfield. There were 30 volumes, written between 1899 and 1926. The Bobbsey Twins series was next and is the oldest "surviving" series, extending to 72 volumes, written between 1904 and 1979. Tom Swift, attributed to Victor Appleton, began in 1910, and there were 40 volumes before the series ended in 1941. (There was also a Tom Swift, Jr. series.) The Hardy Boys (85 volumes from 1927 to 1985) and Nancy Drew (78 volumes from 1930 to 1985) are the other best-known Stratemeyer books.

Original writers included both men and women: Lilian Garis and Howard Garis, Elizabeth Ward, and Harriet Adams, Andrew Svenson wrote from 1904-1948, and then June Dunn, Grace Grote, and Nancy Axelrad were writers from 1953-1972.

From another source, the family is described as living in the "eastern city" of Lakeport, which is clearly in the Northeast because it snows a lot there, at the head of Lake Metoka. Mr. Bobbsey is a prosperous lumber merchant. Mrs. Bobbsey is a housewife. Bert and Nan are the older twins, and Flossie and Freddie are the younger set.  They also had a "Negro" cook and critics label them "upper middle class."

The books are never impacted by current was good in Lakeport!  The Bobbseys never age. Bert and Nan in the first book (1904) are about 8 years old and Freddie and Flossie are about 4. According to some summaries I read, the first few books are written in "real time," which is to say that the action of one follows immediately after its predecessor. The Bobbsey Twins takes place during a school year, The Bobbsey Twins in the Country concerns the first half of the summer vacation, and that vacation concludes in The Bobbsey Twins at the Seashore, then The Bobbsey Twins at School. During those books the Bobbsey twins aged normally. Stratemeyer must have realized that his twins were soon going to be too old for the books, for suddenly they stopped aging. Over the years Bert and Nan grew to be twelve and Flossie and Freddie became 6, but with all the years that went by, the family never grew older."  (Maybe we should all be Bobbseys! )
Maybe this winter you might want to pick up one of these old books just for giggles and grins...
as C.S. Lewis wrote, 
 “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.”  

Sunday, September 28, 2014

"You like potato and I like potahto,

You like tomato and I like tomahto;
Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto!
Let's call the whole thing off!
 ~Ira/George Gershwin

I brought in a stash of jadeite or jadite or jade-ite!  That is what made me think of the old song with the potato/potahto lyrics.  Same goes for collectibles and collectables.  For awhile, I was calling jadeite "Martha green" because Martha Stewart had launched it into everyday use and even had it reproduced in 1999 (based on today's labels that is probably now listed as vintage!).
Like Kleenex, jadite is a generic term for green opaque glass and was produced by a variety of companies although Fire King's "jade-ite" is what most people think of when they hear that word.

This is a "jadite" Scottie dog ink blotter from  Houze Glass.  They called the color "jadine".
Here is a little information on them..."Houze made utilitarian glass products for many years in mostly during the first half of the 20th Century. Some of its early odd lines were gear shift balls and glass eyes for taxidermists.

During the 20s and 30s, the company made some spectacular lamps for national stores such as Woolworth. Their most famous trademark is Houzex which was often in the base of their lamps. Other products involving the color 'Coralex' was unique to the company,  a transparent, satin opaque pink glass. Other colors in this type of glass were baby blue, opal blue, moonstone, nile green, jadine, canary and veined onyx."
Jade green milk glass, or “jadite” has been made since the beginning of the twentieth century, but the word itself was coined by the Jeannette Glass Company in the 1930′s. McKee Glass, a contemporary of Jeannette, called their opaque green “Skokie Green.” The Fenton, and New Martinsville companies made a similar color they called Jade Green. Akro Agate’s version was Apple Green.

A full decade later, Anchor-Hocking’s heat proof jade green was named “Jade-ite”. The "Jadeite Fire King" brand was first produced by the United States glassware firm Anchor Hocking in the 1940s.
Most of Anchor Hocking's output of Jadeite was between 1945 and 1975.  A durable product in a fashionable color, it became the most popular product made by Anchor Hocking
I have a good selection of the jade-ite restaurant dishes in dinner and luncheon plates as well as the "Jane-Ray" - the household version of jade-ite.  Some bowls are still available, but I do have collectors who snatched up some of the rarer pieces.  The restaurant ware was produced from 1950 to 1956.  It was marketed for Mass Feeding Establishments, but it was sold in the five and dime stores.  The thick lipped coffee cups were called "cheater mugs" because the restaurants saved about an ounce of coffee even though cup looked "large".

These dishes cannot be treated like modern glass.  Fire-King glass was developed before microwave ovens were available for domestic use, and none of the earlier pieces are marked “Microwave Safe.” Some Anchor-Hocking patterns not marketed as Fire-King are indeed made of the same “heat proof” borosilicate low expansion glass.
The modern dishwashing soaps will reduce the "lustre" on the plates.  It actually removes a thin layer of glass over time.  When you see faded-looking pieces, you know they were done in the dishwasher.   It is hard to remember that restaurants actually had people washing dishes which is why this restaurant ware still looks "new".

To date your Fire King, here is a chart that I found online...

1942 - 45 FIRE-KING in block letters
Mid to late 1940's OVEN Fire-King WARE MADE IN U.S.A. ("Fire-King" is written in script lettering)
1951-1960 ANCHOR HOCKING OVEN Fire-King WARE MADE IN U.S.A. ("Fire-King" is written in script 
1960 - late 1960's ANCHOR HOCKING OVEN Fire-King DINNERWARE MADE IN U.S.A. ("Fire-King" is
      written in script lettering)
late 1960's- early 1970's ANCHOR HOCKING OVEN Fire-King OVEN-PROOF MADE IN U.S.A. ("Fire-King" is     written in script lettering)
Mid To Late 1970's ANCHOR HOCKING OVEN Fire-King Suburbia OVEN-PROOF MADE IN U.S.A. ("Fire-
     King" is written in script lettering)

So if I go for scallops and you go for lobsters,
So all right no contest we'll order lobster
For we know we need each other so we
Better call the calling off off,

Let's call the whole thing off.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

"My sheets are monogrammed, so is my silverware

 and pretty much everything else I own. My rule is, if it's not moving, monogram it."

                      ~Reese Witherspoon

I have always loved the vintage/antique monogrammed items.  It made it personal; you knew someone had owned that. 
The definition of a monogram is "sign of identity", and that really was its original label personal property.  Ancient Greek and Roman rulers monogrammed their coins as way of identifying a region as a transition was made from bartering to a monetary system for trade. 

Nobility monogrammed everything from weapons to banners to household items.  In the Middle Ages, artisans used their monograms to sign their work.  Victorian aristocracy used the monogram to display their high rank in society.  Monarchs have always had monograms...

Early monograms only consisted of two initials, and the three initials did not gain favor until the 18th century.  In doing this research, I found that the wealthy took to monogramming in the 19th century, marking books, cigarette cases, lighters, the silver, the towels in the bath, the bottles in a cellar and the shirts in the closet—things small enough to steal—but eventually the monogram became
a matter of pride.
The shirt monogram began in grand households or colleges where many shirts
were laundered together—the elegant ancestor of today’s laundry mark. Now the
monogram isn’t there for the laundry but for the ego. It used to be said that the
proper place for the monogram is over the heart. Flashier dressers have long
favored the shirt cuff, as it will be noted in a handshake, at the card table, lighting
a lady’s cigar. 

There is also "Monogram Etiquette"!   The most common format is three letter representing the first, last, and middle names. (That causes some problems for those of us with double last names...or the Irish/Scots and their Os and Mc/Macs).  But, the last name initial goes in the center and is larger type.   Married monograms include the wife's first name, the married last name, and then the husband's first name.

Of course, in retail, monograms are also well known...          
But what started me on this research was the celluloid set pictured above that I found last week...this defies the etiquette rules since it only has one initial. Was it a young woman? Why only an R? And despite the fact that it appears never to have been used, why did the R fade on the comb? The mysteries of the antique world! So, next time you see monogrammed clothes or other items, think about the person to whom these things belonged...and don't worry if the initials are not yours...we don't have to have "selfies" all the time! 

  "The monogram is an elegant way to make your mark. It’s your name boiled down to the essence, executed with graphic artistry."  ~ Glenn O'Brien    

Sunday, September 14, 2014

"I think of life as a good book.

The further you get into it, the more it begins to make sense."  ~ Harold Kushner

As one who turns 66 this week, I am not sure some days my book makes sense, Mr. K, but I am grateful to have this many pages to turn!  I am back to teaching, and it always amazes me how few of my students read on a regular basis other than their assigned readings.  There was a time as evidenced by books when reading was common.  Of course, there were no "I-things", and there is no denying that our culture has evolved.

I do have several customers who buy and read the older books.  Several volumes of a Grace Harlowe series are currently in the shop.
 Grace Harlowe is the protagonist of four series of books for girls, published by Altemus between 1910 and 1924. Some volumes were reprinted by Saalfield Publishing. The High School Girls Series, College Girls Series, Grace Harlowe Overseas Series, and Grace Harlowe Overland Riders Series were written by Josephine Chase, under the pseudonym Jessie Graham Flower.

I found a summary online of the series.  The books follow Grace Harlowe and her friends through high school, college, abroad during World War I and on adventures around America. In The High School Girls Series, Grace attends Oakdale High School with friends Anne Pierson, Nora O'Malley, and Jessica Bright. The four promote fair play and virtue while winning over troubled girls like Miriam Nesbit and Eleanor Savell, playing basketball, and founding sorority Phi Sigma Tau. The group becomes friends with boys in their acquaintance: David Nesbit, Tom Gray, Hippy Wingate, and Reddy Brooks, forming "The Eight Originals."
The College Girls Series sees the friends part ways: Grace, Anne, and Miriam depart for Overton College, while Jessica and Nora attend a conservatory. The Eight Originals gather on holidays, but the seven College books focus on the three at Overton, along with new friends like J. Elfreda Briggs. (Don't you love the names?) They form Semper Fidelis, a society devoted to aiding less fortunate students at Overton. Following graduation, Grace rebuffs offers of marriage for "what she had firmly believed to be her destined work,"  managing Harlowe House at Overton. By the end of the series, she and most of her friends have married within their circle.

Grace Harlowe Overseas Series follows Grace and many of her friends to Europe to serve in World War I. A number of the college friends join a Red Cross unit known as the Overton Unit, but as the war progresses, they grow more scattered. At one point, the remaining principal characters consist of Grace and J. Elfreda, while the rest fall to the periphery. Grace and her husband return with a daughter, Yvonne, whom they adopted in France.
Grace Harlowe Overland Riders Series follows Grace and some of her friends through adventures on horseback around North America, upon their return from Europe.

At the time of their publication, the Grace Harlowe series were advertised as "stories of real girls for real girls."  The Grace Harlowe Overseas Series, in particular, was written to translate world events to a generation of young girls. Sold as "War Books for Girls," one preview read, "Many war books fail to interest girl readers because they do not describe the Great War from a girl's point of view. But it is quite certain that every healthy girl reader will be enthused with the description of the Great War . . . These books give intimate descriptions of conditions found in France by the many young American girls and women who were there to serve their country by aiding the American fighting forces."

What is phenomenal is that the texts of all of these books are online as part of the Gutenberg Collection.   Project Gutenberg is a volunteer (catch that word) effort to digitize and archive cultural works, to "encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks". It was founded in 1971 by Michael S. Hart and is the oldest digital library. Most of the items in its collection are the full texts of public domain books. The project tries to make these as free as possible, in long-lasting, open formats that can be used on almost any computer. As of March 2014, Project Gutenberg claimed over 45,000 items in its collection.  BUT...if you want a real paper copy, we have some of the collection...and check out the new bookmarks my sea glass artisan has created!
But, I leave you with a line from Oscar Wilde, an Irish writer from the late 19th century...always amazing how the more things change, the more they stay the same as the old chiche goes!

In old days books were written by men of letters and read by the public. Nowadays books are written by the public and read by nobody.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

"I cook with wine,

sometimes I even add it to the food.”  ~ W.C. Fields 

Curiosity always gets me.  Fortunately, I have a degree in Library Science so research is second nature, but, as I was wrapping a customer's purchase of several wine glasses, I was thinking why the fine stems.  Why not just a typical tumbler?  There are reasons.
The 14th century merchants of Venice set the standard of elegance in wine-drinking by combining the skills of the glassblower and designer. According to my research, "the clarity and transparency of their cristallo glass allowed the color of the wine to be fully appreciated. The Venetian style persisted in the next centuries, however the ever-changing style of interior decoration influenced new designs for glasses."

In the 1670s an Englishman George Ravenscroft developed a new formula for glass using lead oxide. The lead glass was softer, stronger, heavier and more luminous. When first introduced, the styles continued to emulate the Venetian forms, however, the lead glass was too heavy and slow to set. In the 1690s the more simplified style of balustrade stems consisting of bold, massive “knops” came into fashion, modeled after the furniture of the time.
When the dining room became a clearly defined space within the house in the 18th and 19th centuries,  and formal dining customs were established, dining became a ritual, and dishes, flatware, and glasses had to match.   In the 19th century wine glasses were usually produced in sets. More enhancements were made over the years, and by the 1950s, some manufacturers produced different shapes and sizes for different variations of wine.
There really is a reason wine glasses are shaped the way they are, and the stems are not just for decoration. The proper way to hold your wine glass is by the stem.  Traditionally, white wine, excluding sparkling, is meant to be served at a temperature between 48 and 58 degrees Fahrenheit. The recommended temperature for serving red wine is between 58 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Should you hold the glass by the cup, your hand will warm the wine too quickly and the flavor might not hold as well as you wish.

Although wine glasses are primarily designed for the drinking of wine, people have used them in a variety of ingenious ways, including the teaching of sounds. (crystal glasses produce specific notes when struck)  If you want a wine glass, there is really no single good or bad glass unless you are  evaluating wine, and then subtle differences can impact your wine tasting.
The most popular is the chimney shape wine glass, which has a broader bottom and tapers towards its brim. You will have enough space to hold enough wine and still swirl it around safely. On the other hand, the narrow opening concentrates the aromas that will help you in your assessment.
The overall shape is more important than the size of your wine glass. Some people have points in favor of larger glasses while others argue equally well for smaller ones. What is important is that you choose a wine glass that you are comfortable with (mason jars work well depending on the day you have had).
Don't use soap when cleaning your wine glass, which may get trapped and interfere with the taste of the wine. Just rinse well using hot water.
“Do you drink?"
"Of course, I just said I was a writer.”
~Stephen King