Sunday, November 29, 2009

Star light, star bright, drunken paper whites!

Last Sunday of the month...the months seem to be only a few days long lately...maybe it is the mixture of life that makes time whirl by...not sure though that I would want dull moments anyway.

So, I am finally starting to think winter...holidaze...chilling out even though the semester is ending, research papers coming in, finals and grades to plan. But, I am always into multi tasking...if you are reading this, I am sure you are also!!!

Anyway, this year I am trying the paper white routine. Years ago I tried them, but I was not impressed by their so-called perfume; however, the woman at the garden center at Terrain assured me that these would be fragrant. (Side note here...many of you know of my appreciation of the retailer Anthropologie...well, they have a garden center in PA...showstopper to say the least--Terrain . Maybe I can get back there and do a show and tell on that place. You can find them at if you want to take a look.)

So, in anticipation of late December bloom, I have started the sequence. They take 3 weeks.
Now, it seems simple enough...just add water...Paper whites are the original “Just Add Water” plant. While paperwhite bulbs can be planted in soil, more commonly they are grown in pots or dishes with some stones or marbles to anchor them in place and a little water. Here are directions...

1.Select a container that is about 3 - 4 inches deep (8 - 10 cm) and that has no drainage holes.

2.Spread an inch or 2 of stones, marbles or even gravel, along the bottom of the container.

3.Position your paper white bulbs, pointed end up, on top of the stone layer. Go ahead and squeeze them in. They not only look better in a large group, the tight fit will help keep them from toppling over.

4.Add another layer of stones to fill in any gaps and cover the bulbs up to their shoulders. The pointed tips should still be showing.

5.Add water so that the level just reaches the base of the bulbs. Allowing the bottom of the bulb to sit in water will stimulate growth. Covering the entire bulb with water could cause it to rot.

6.The bulbs don’t need light at this point and they prefer to be kept on the cool side, at about 65 degrees F (18 degrees C.)

7.Check your bulbs daily to see if they need more water.

8.When you see roots developing, move the container to a sunny window. The sunnier the better, but try not to let them get too warm or they’ll grow leggy.

9.Once the plants flower, they will last longer if moved out of direct sunlight, to a cool spot with indirect or diffused light. You can start pots of paper whites every couple of weeks, for a continuous display throughout the winter.

Now here is the kicker...get them drunk and they will be even better. One of my customers recommended vodka in the water, but, after doing some more research, I found these guidelines.

How to Stunt Paperwhites with Alcohol...

1.Pot your paperwhites in stones and water, as you normally would.
2.Once the roots begin growing and the green shoot on top reaches about 1-2", pour off the existing water.
3.Replace the water with a solution of 4 - 6% alcohol, as described below.
4.Continue to use the alcohol solution for future watering.
You should see results in a few days.

How to Make the Alcohol Watering Solution
•The alcohol content needs to be less than 10%, or your plants will overdose and severe growth problems will occur. Many liquors are only labeled as "proof", not percentage of alcohol. Don’t confuse the two. To determine what percentage alcohol you have, divide the proof in half, So and 86 proof bourbon is 43% alcohol.
•You can use any hard liquor (vodka, tequila, whiskey...) or rubbing alcohol. Don’t use wine or beer because they are too high in sugar.
•Check the bottle for the percentage alcohol.
•You will have to do some math to get the different concentrations of alcohol down to 4-6%.
To convert your booze to 5% alcohol, just divide the percentage alcohol by 5 and then subtract 1. That will tell you how many parts water to mix with your 1 part alcohol. Ex: 40 divided by 5 = 8: 8 minus 1 = 7... 7 parts water to 1 part alcohol.

Now, I would do the math before you start mixing in case you take a nip along the way!!!

Of course, I am going to use vintage pieces for their growing season, and I will post their progress.

How special a gift this would be for someone. Since they take 3 weeks to bloom, you can time it so that the blossoms are open for the holidays. what a neat hostess gift. Tuck a special book on gardening or a journal with the greenery.
It shows more imagination and the true spirit of the season...after they bloom, they can be kept in a cool, dark place, and then planted outside in the spring. They will take 3 years to recover, but they will bloom again in their natural habitat.

Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow....
- - - Robert Frost "My November Guest"

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sweater, n.: garment worn by child when its mother is feeling chilly.

So said Ambrose Bierce, but the weather here is getting chilly...after all, it is the end of November so let the sweaters begin!

What caught my eye this week was a picture from this a fairly new TV show, Glee. Although I usually watch shows that have teaching as a plot line, I have missed this one, but the magic of internet TV will allow me to catch up. Anyway, this picture of a character who is the guidance counselor at the school made me take notice.I think the setting is modern, but she has a sweater clip on!!!! These are so retro 50s! I have had women who did not even know what they were for! If for no other reason, I have to watch to see what trends may be on the move if this show is as successful as it seems to be.

I actually ended up with a stash of these clips in an auction lot the other night.
Some of the older ones have rather nasty looking alligator clips on them while others appear to be simply tie clip styles.

It appears these may have evolved from the European chatelaine pins. These were pins with chains enabled women to keep their needlework scissors and needles handy. Originally chatelaine dates to the middle ages. The name was given to the keeper of castle keys (usually the lord's wife) which were worn on a chain like a belt. Eventually, keys were replaced by magnifiers, sewing kits, and even books! It was streamlined to the pins with small chains as castles fell out of favor as the family homestead.

But, as Fran Lebowitz says, "If you are a dog and your owner suggests that you wear a sweater suggest that he wear a tail."
Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

South Jersey Glass

Despite the fact that we were almost blown out to sea this past week, South Jersey is an amazing potpourri of places and people. We do have beaches, boating, and beauty, and a little bit of attitude thrown in.

At auction Friday night, I bought some fun glass items. South Jersey housed the first successful glass manufacturing company, Casper Wistar in Alloway, 1739-1781.

Glassmaking was prolific from 1830-1890 until automation came to the industry. Although traditional items were produced...pitchers, bowls, salts, ink wells, scent bottles...some unique products were also designed. These whimsies included toy drums, canes, swords, and real oddities like the hammer here, not to mention the hatchets. The one is dated from the 1893 World's Fair. There is also a about fragile justice!

Then I bought this glass hat...
not to mention top hats in glass.

I did see an article on the web that called these top hats celery vases although I would think it would be pretty fancy for celery! I can see them used as floral vases. They are in the glass whimsy family though!

The most common color was aqua since it required no coloring agents...all the canning jars were produced that way. Amber, green, glue and clear are readily found, but ruby and amethyst require gold and quartz or gems to produce the color. These balls are variations of witch balls. The witch's ball date back to 18th century England.

They were hung in a window or in the house, or even given a place on a velvet pillow. They were thought to trap negative energy and prevent it from impacting the household. We need to hang some of these balls throughout the world, don't we!!!

Or, perhaps all we need is to fill this giant wine bottle and pass it around! "“We are all mortal until the first kiss and the second glass of wine.” (Eduardo Galeano)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

World Kindness Week...

I told you last week that we needed to be nice to November, and, in doing some research, I found that this is World Kindness Week with Friday the 13th being World Kindness Day. I keep thinking if we could just "be nice" that this would be a better world. You can disagree with someone nicely if you think about it, but it seems like name calling is in vogue these days, and, if people do not agree, they do not talk it through. Anyway, I appreciate those of you who come here to read and, hopefully, learn, and I am thrilled by the kindness that you show in your responses to my posts.

Now a book I bought at the flea market this week is the inspiration for today.

The editor of the book, published in 1919, said that Roosevelt said, "I would rather have this book published than anything that has ever been written about one." The letters were messages of "constant thought and love," and, before the children could read, he would send "picture letters."

Now, this new tech world has replaced much of our letter writing...and, so many will say...who has time to sit down and write a letter? Just email!! But, there is something about getting a card or a letter...there is the envelope...the stamp...not the forever stamp, but one of the neat postage pieces...and the joy of sitting and reading.

Letters used to be the main link to the outside world, and the written word provides records and history. What will remain for future generations? Text messages, emails, tweets? They get deleted. Anyone have a stash of printed emails tied up with a ribbon in an old candy box anywhere?

Ancient Egyptians wrote letters to the dead, not to keep in touch but for help. These were mostly done on pottery. The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology at University College London preserves two such pieces. One is a letter from Qau, from a man to his parents (father on the inside, mother on the outside) and a letter from Hu, from a woman to her husband. In Qau's letter, he asks for help in a dispute over property. He writes on the inside of the bowl to his father, with a shorter message on the outside to his mother. Guess he thought Dad could handle the issue better!

In the 1600s the Dutch painter Vermeer did a series on woman writing, receiving, and reading letters.Victorians were known for decorating their envelopes, and letters were decorated with illustrations, and it is in that spirit that I had Sherri of Punk Rose Designs create some special cards for the shop...we have holiday as well as everyday cards.

Handcrafted and far more affordable not to mention special than Hallmark. How neat would this be for a thank you card for a dinner invite?

Or, this card for a special sleepover...or even to frame and put on a nightstand?

So, it is in the spirit of being kind and celebrating random acts of kindness, drop someone a that you write...handwritten...don't worry if you are not a is still you...because "Never get tired of doing little things for others. Sometimes, those little things occupy the biggest part of their hearts."

Sunday, November 1, 2009 nice to it...

November...although the 11th month, the name actually derives from the Latin, meaning nine. When the Romans added January and February to the calendar, they did not bother to rework the months. I feel sorry for November because it becomes lost in the rush to the December "holidaze." Even 18th century English author Joseph Addison maligned November..."The gloomy months of November, when the people of England hang and drown themselves."

November is the month that calls us inside...the leaves are turning...for us at the shore here, the tourists are dwindling...the temps are dropping. But, I find it full of odds and ends. So, in honor of November and moving indoors, here are some interesting odds and ends from the store.

I have several glass knives. They are from the Depression era, and I have one that is in its original box.
The inside of the box provides excellent directions for its use. As a composition teacher, I am amazed by the confusing sentence structure in many of today's guides compared to the precise directions on these types of items.

Obviously the owner of this knife did not follow the directions is a tad ragged.
But, I guess they did not have the 17 cents to send it off to Atlantic City to have it resharpened.
And, the owner of this one was not going to lost it at the church social! Her name is engraved on it. I would imagine this was a shower or wedding gift.

Another item that is fun to collect is the napkin ring. The Victorians did not launder frequently so that each person had his or her own napkin ring which held the napkin for the week's dining. It is rare to find matching sets unless they are engraved. I am fascinated by the intricacy of the simple silverplated rings. Although many search for sterling silver rings, I like the less expensive but no less decorative plated ones. Here are a couple I have in stock now.

Maybe, if you start now, you could find unique rings to put out on the holiday tables.

So, welcome to November! And, in addition to Veteran's Day and Thanksgiving, there is Sadie Hawkins Day, Military Family Appreciation Month, National American Indian Heritage Month and National Pomegranate Month. Also, you can celebrate National Family Week, Cookie Monster Day, National Men Make Dinner Day, International Tongue Twister Day, Marine Corps Birthday, and Buy Nothing Day (I have issues with that...chuckle), and, above all, a celebration for World Kindness.