Sunday, January 25, 2015

“It's early on a beautiful winter morning.

The house is quiet. The sun is shining. I'm thankful. I'm happy. My cup runneth over. Now there's coffee everywhere.”
~Mindy Levy

I never know what is going to set my curiosity on fire, and this week as I was rearranging things for spring in the shop, I came across this coffee pot.  I don't even give coffee brewing a second thought...filter, grounds, water...push the button, but looking at that pot, it sent me on a coffee pot search.
The history of coffee drinking seems to have originated with the Turks (not Starbucks) in the late 6th century, and nothing is recorded until 1818 when the first coffee percolator was designed by American-born British physicist and soldier Count Rumford, otherwise known as Sir Benjamin Thompson (1753–1814).

He invented a percolating coffee pot between 1810 and 1814 following his pioneering work with the Bavarian Army, where he improved the soldiers' diets as well as their clothing. It was his abhorrence of alcohol and his dislike for tea that led him to promote the use of coffee for its stimulating benefits. For his efforts, in 1791, he was named a Count of the Holy Roman Empire and granted the formal title of Reichsgraf von Rumford. His pot did not use the rising of boiling water through a tube to form a continuous cycle.

The first modern percolator incorporating these features and capable of being heated on a kitchen stove was invented a few years later, in 1819, by the Parisian tinsmith Laurens. Its principle was then often copied and modified. There were also attempts to produce closed systems, in other words "pressure cookers".
In 1840, the Napier Vacuum Machine came along. At the time, it was complex to use but made an amazingly clear pot of coffee, which was prized by coffee lovers. Vacuum coffee makers continue to be popular to this day, so no history of the coffee maker would be complete with its mention.

The first US patent for a coffee percolator, which however still used a downflow method without rising steam and water, was issued to James Nason of Franklin, Massachusetts, in 1865.
Finally, an Illinois farmer named Hanson Goodrich patented the modern U.S. stove-top percolator as it is known today, and he was granted patent 408707 on August 16, 1889. It has the key elements, the broad base for boiling, the upflow central tube and a perforated basket hanging on it. He still describes the downflow as being the "percolating." Goodrich's design could transform any standard coffee pot of the day into a stove-top percolator.
Developed in the mid 1800s, the first electric percolators were a big hit with consumers, as it made it easy to make pot after pot of coffee without dealing with the stove. Today's percolators, still part of the history of the coffee maker, don't look much different from the originals.

In France, a device called a biggin made the first drip coffee.  Another French inventor invented the pumping percolator at the same time, which was to become highly popular with cowboys, pioneers and 1950s moms.
Of course, the history of the coffee maker changed forever in 1972 when Mr. Coffee, the first commercially successful automatic drip coffee maker, came on the scene, revolutionizing  the history of the coffee maker forever, and now Keurig has stepped into that revolution.  I must admit that I am happy to have the Mr. Coffee because I was never sure about the stove top coffee pots...never really knew when to pour although it always smelled amazing as it bubbled away!

“Life without books, chocolate and coffee is just useless.”
                                                            ~Nadun Lokuliyanage

Sunday, January 18, 2015

"When words fail,

 Music speaks.
  ~H.C. Anderson
The earliest sheet music was laboriously written by scribes in the monasteries of medieval Europe. These beautiful examples were carefully inked on parchment and are prized today not only as music history but as artistic masterpieces. With the invention of the printing press, Johann Gutenberg and his followers developed methods of printing music, as well as words, during the fifteenth century. The printing of music was limited in quality and quantity for several hundred years, but the industry traveled to America with the founding of the Colonies. 
The first music published in North America was The Bay Psalm Book printed in 1640 by Harvard College Press. The book contained only text because the congregations of churches were assumed to know the songs by heart.
The printing press changed the printed word much like the digital world has transformed these words you are reading.  Publishing music, complete with notation, became an industry by about 1800 when a number of firms in both America and Europe rolled out their presses to print both serious and popular music.  The Industrial Revolution gave rise to the middle class and allowed individuals more leisure time and money to spend on pianos for their homes, instruments for the town band, and attendance at the symphony. Composers were motivated to create when, during the nineteenth century, musicians began to pay for the privilege of performing the writer's music.

By 1890, many department stores had counters for the sale of sheet music, and its popularity forced the price down. By 1910, Woolworth sold sheet music for 10 cents a copy.

The musicians of Tin Pan Alley in New York City were made famous early in the 1900s by the swift availability of their tunes in sheet music form; George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" (1924) is an excellent example. Composers Aaron Copeland, Charles Ives, and Virgil Thompson established their own publishing house and gave the American public its own contemporary, classical music. When Charles Lindberg made his solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927, 100 songs commemorating the event were printed in sheet music form within a year.

Sheet music can be recycled even if you have no musical talent. Cover art greatly interests collectors who seek out the Art Deco designs of the 1920s and African-American songs published as early as 1835, for example. Even the titles of the obscure songs could provide a chuckle if framed or mounted and hung.  From a large stack, I quickly assembled some that could be framed...how about a grouping for a bedroom...theme...dreams...
Or, how about one for a Baby Boomer's birthday...
For those of us here in New Jersey... 
Or, maybe just home anywhere...

Are you Dutch and have a sister? (sadly I don't or it would be hers)
There are those with famous singers...I know maybe not everyone knows who Frank is...
And, then it is just song titles...could be great inspiration for writing!
Think repurpose if no piano players are around...sheet music is not just for stuffing in the piano bench!

               A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence.
                                                       ~Leopold Stokowski

Sunday, January 11, 2015

“On a good day, even writing can feel like a form of collecting--

of gathering words, images, and ideas and arranging them in an order that feels right.”
                                                ~Amanda Petrusich

While reorganizing for the new year and combining some things from cleaning out my Mom's house, I came across a box of wall pockets from my collecting past.
I remember in the late 60s – early 70s going to the flea markets and searching for these pieces of wall art.  Many I bought for 25 cents which translates to $1.57 in today’s money, but I have not seen a $2 wall pocket anywhere in my travels although on ebay I just saw one for $1.99, but shipping was $5.95.  Wall pockets made sense to me because they did not take up much room and came in many thematic schemes--animals, birds, fruit, veggies, faces as well as the traditional flat cones.

Before decorative wall pockets were created, flat backed wooden boxes hung on walls to hold papers, candles, matches, or eating utensils, as well as cloth pockets designed to hold sewing tools such as scissors, thimbles, or thread.
Decorative wall pockets, or “wall vases,” first became home fixtures in the late 18th century when porcelain potteries were booming in Europe. Staffordshire, Minton, Wedgwood, Royal Worcester, Royal Doulton, and Meissen all produced elegant wall pockets made out of fine china.  Here is a showstopper Meissen piece that I saw as I researched; although I have not bought any pieces in a long time, if I saw this one, I would probably give serious consideration!
From the 1920s through the 1950s, there were thousands of wall pocket styles made over the years. These popular decorative accessories were shaped like teacups, parrots, irons, and flowers, just to a name a few themes, and they hung on the walls of the most fashionable homes of the day.

Unmarked American wall pockets and imports from Germany, Czechoslovakia, China, and Japan weren't nearly as popular as the big names, but I bought ones that intrigued me when I went shopping.  Collecting, like my opening quote about writing, should be personal.  It always makes me a little crazy (crazier?) to see people collect because they think it will gain value.

For collectors just being drawn to these space-saving trinkets, bargain wall pockets can still be found in the $20-$30 range.  Different glaze variations on the same piece or different styles in a series can result in variations in price. A number of the plentiful wall pockets made by McCoy fall into this category.
For instance, a hard-to-find McCoy orange wall pocket usually sells for $200-250,
but a more common pear or apple wall vase can be found in the $25-30 range.
I have the apple, but I never saw the orange.
     I liked pockets with sayings...this is a favorite...
If you are into modern design, there are wall pockets for that motif also...
Or, how about dogs?
Depression Sunbonnet Sue...
Then, there are the strange ones...
But, you can sail on through all the themes...
Collect what you love, not what may be of value someday...as I unwrapped a box of these wall pockets, I smiled thinking of my younger days at the flea market when I was buying for my first apartment, and that is what collecting should bring you - memories and moments.
                                        
                                                  Collectors are happy people.
                                               ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Sunday, January 4, 2015

"I wonder if Chinese tourists get upset

when they buy a souvenir from America and find out it was made in China."
                                         ~Unknown

This past week I spent some time finishing a clean out of my Mom's house.  She had kept many (did I say MANY!) souvenirs from trips she and my Dad had taken.  The problem is that the "treasures" were swizzle sticks, coasters, brochures, and pens.  Nothing along the lines of antique/vintage souvenirs that I buy for the shop.
In the early 19th century, inexpensive commemorative china was imported from Europe to America.

"Historical Staffordshire," made in that English region from the 1820s, depicted scenes of American communities and historical figures.
In the 1880s, railroads made travel available to the masses, and it created interest in mountain resort communities, seashore attractions, and historical sites.  Each area had their own souvenirs so you will find some pieces that may be less known in today's Disney world.
In doing my research, I learned that merchants in the late 19th and early 20th century looking to capitalize on the tourist trade could count on traveling salesmen from several china importers to provide them with custom-made pictorial ceramics. Shapes were standard, but any image or saying could be transfer-printed from a decal made from a copper or steel engraving. The views generally were taken from postcards, most likely those on hand when the salesman took an order. Common themes include main streets, churches, post offices, harbors, railroad depots, schools, courthouses, hotels, hospitals, stores, bridges, monuments and historic homes.

Going through all those souvenirs was rather overwhelming, but it did show that my parents had rather spirited and joyous travels.  What will the children of today uncover after 50-60 years of their parents' lives?  There is a thought to ponder in the new year!
“Ever poised on that cusp between past and future, we tie memories to souvenirs like string to trees along life’s path, marking the trail in case we lose ourselves around a bend of tomorrow’s road.” 
 ~Susan Lendroth

Sunday, December 28, 2014

"For last year's words belong to last year's language

And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning."
                                                      ~T.S. Eliot
2015 in our calendar sights...survived that grey/black/24/7 Christmas...maybe we can make some resolutions to keep that holiday a little saner next Christmas. 

Anyway, in pre-Christian times,  Babylonians celebrated the new year in March, but the Romans changed it to January.  Janus was the two-faced god who looks backwards into the old year and forwards into the new. Janus was the patron and protector of arches, gates, doors, doorways, endings and beginnings. He was also the patron of bridges, and the bridge Ponte Fabricio which crosses the Tiber River in Rome to Tiber Island survives from its original construction in 62 BC during the time of Julius Caesar.
Even today it is believed that if you touch the Janus head as you cross the bridge, it will bring good fortune.
The custom of setting “New Years resolutions” began during this period in Rome, and they made such resolutions with a moral flavor: mostly to be good to others. When the Roman Empire took Christianity as its official state religion in the 4th century, these moral intentions were replaced by prayers and fasting--so much for being good to others?

In the 17th century, Puritans in Colonial America avoided the indulgences associated with New Year’s celebrations and other holidays. In the 18th century, Puritans avoided even naming Janus. Instead they called January “First Month.” (Echoes of Harry Potter and "he who must not be named...aka...Voldemort!)
Puritans urged their children to spend their time reflecting on the year past and contemplating the year to come. In this way they adopted again the old custom of making resolutions.  American theologian and New England Puritan Jonathan Edwards took the writing of resolutions to an art form. During a two-year period, when he was about 19 or 20 following his graduation from Yale, he compiled some 70 resolutions (You can read all 70 on that link if you are interested), and they focused on various aspects of his life which he committed to reviewing each week.  A couple caught my eye: 5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can, 17. Resolved, that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die, and 36. Resolved, never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call for it.

So, as the new year begins this week, I leave you with words from Mother Teresa...“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”

Sunday, December 21, 2014

"Symbolizing eternal hope, the wreath

goes 'round and round.  And where it starts or ends cannot be found.  Woven of things that grow-for life, and hung for holiday delight..."

                      ~Anonymous

Today ushers in winter, and the wreath has been used symbolically for centuries in pre-Christian, Pagan, and Christian cultures.  In earlier times, the Winter Solstice was a time of death and rebirth, a celebration of the end of the ever shortening days and the anticipation of the coming promise of spring.  As part of many celebrations, evergreen wreaths were gathered as a sign of the approaching spring light.  In Sweden, wreaths were fashioned for similar purposes, with the addition of candles that symbolized the power of the sun.

The wreath likewise has a storied history in ancient times. In the Persian Empire, wreaths were believed to be a symbol of importance and success and were worn as headbands.  Ancient Greeks placed wreaths of laurel on the heads of victorious athletes in their Olympic Games. Wreaths were worn similarly to crowns by Roman leaders and were also hung on doorways as a sign of victory.
The Christmas wreath has come to convey its own set of meanings in modern times. Across time, the circle or ring shape of a wreath that has no beginning and no end symbolizes eternity or eternal rebirth. Pre-Christian cultures’ interpretation of the power of evergreens to battle the forces of winter has evolved into a modern representation of eternal life. The vast array of materials that are used to create a modern wreath carry significance as well. Holly represents immortality, for instance, whereas cedar stands for strength. But for many, the wreath’s symbolic attributes are much simpler than all this. The Christmas wreath has evolved into a sign of welcoming and an acknowledgment of holiday.
Down the road here, is a wonderful small nursery...on Route 9 just north of the zoo...
And they are stocked with handcrafted...
They make everything from freshly cut materials, and they will create to order.  Pick a plain wreath and pick some ribbon...they have rolls and rolls of varied ribbons...
The little shop has a variety of arrangements and ideas for decorating...and not just for Christmas...how about something to brighten a cold winter's day...take a photo tour...




There is also a little outbuilding packed with antique/vintage goodies as well as traditional seasonal floral fancies...









Shopping in small venues is more personable than the big boxes.  Wandering around just frees the spirit...Christmas is more than "black" or "gray" days...more than 24/7 buying frenzies.  Christmas is finding a special wreath that someone lovingly assembled...
It is a creative idea for a post...
or a mailbox ...

or a window...
It is buying local...supporting those who live in your neighborhood...who work creatively...


 If you are in the area, stop in...get some greenery for January!  Think out of the holiday box...they will be there from 9 in the morning until 4...or give them a call...(609)465-7465...
"Winter, a lingering season, is a time to gather golden moments, embark upon a sentimental journey, and enjoy every idle hour. "
                                                                  ~John Boswell