Sunday, January 31, 2010

Another snow day...but February 2 is coming...

AND it is the last day of January...and so...once we get through the Groundhog, we should be in the final stretch...I thought maybe you might like to know a little history about the infamous groundhog day. Having grown up in Pennsylvania, Punxsutawney Phil became the key to the end of winter. Of course, I always felt sorry for the poor rodent as they pulled him out of a makeshift burrow and held him know that the guy is not thinking kind thoughts.

The groundhog tradition stems from similar beliefs associated with Candlemas Day and the days of early Christians in Europe, and for centuries the custom was to have the clergy bless candles and distribute them to the people. Even then, it marked a milestone in the winter and the weather that day was important.

According to an old English song:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.

It is also tied to nature and the hibernation cycles of some animals. The current prediction is:
If he sees it, he regards it as an omen of six more weeks of bad weather and returns to his hole.

If the day is cloudy and, hence, shadowless, he takes it as a sign of spring and stays above ground.

Now, I am not sure why cloudy weather would be a sign of spring...heaven knows that every cloudy day has brought us that which you see above! Anyway, if you are so inclined, here is a recipe for a Groundhog Cookie that is served at the festivities held in Punxsutawney that day (if you saw Bill Murray in the film Groundhog Day, you know that this is a big day in that little PA town!) The cookie is a spice wafer style...and you can even order groundhog cookie cutters!

Groundhog Cookies Recipe

2 cups sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup soft butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg yolk
1 egg, slightly beaten
Currants or raisins

Sift together first seven ingredients. Set aside. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Blend in molasses and yolk. Stir in flour mixture and mix well. Form into a ball.

Wrap in plastic wrap. Chill overnight, several nights or freeze.

Place small amounts of dough on a sheet of plastic wrap, and cover with plastic wrap. Roll 1/8 inch thick. Cut out cookies with lightly floured cutter.

Place cookies on greased baking sheet. Brush with slightly beaten egg. Decorate with currants or raisin eyes. Repeat until all dough is used.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes in a preheated 350-degree oven. Cool slightly before removing from cookie sheet. Makes 72 or more medium-sized groundhogs.

So, this week it is all about weather...whether we want it or not! And, as someone once said, "Don't knock the weather; nine-tenths of the people couldn't start a conversation if it didn't change once in a while."

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Ah...the "pompadour"

Following on last week's post, it seemed appropriate to unveil a print in the shop...that of Madame de Pompadour (1721-1764) posed with her reading and is from the mid 1800s and was imported from Paris, with that information on the back as well as the imprinteur mark.

Consider the woodwork on the corner of this impressive frame...
Madame Pompadour had a collection of 3525 books, their bindings were made of red leather and her coat of arms were printed on the covers. I found a site that listed the books in her collection, and it appears her favorites were French drama, French poetry, and French novels. But, she was quite an intellectual...she supported the arts, worked to design city squares, buildings and avenues in Paris: the Champs-Elyses is one of hers! Many scientists and men of letters were protected by her, safe from the negative judgements which come basically from the Church: thanks to her protection they were able to publish new works, like the first Encyclopedia.

But her history is quite fascinating...from a synopsis of a biography on her by
Nancy Mitford:
When Madame de Pompadour became the mistress of Louis XV, no one expected her to retain his affections for long. A member of the bourgeoisie rather than an aristocrat, she was physically too cold for the carnal Bourbon king, and had so many enemies that she could not travel publicly without risking a pelting of mud and stones. History has loved her little better. We learn that the Queen was a "bore," the Dauphin a "prig," and see France increasingly overcome with class conflict. Mitford restores the royal mistress and celebrates her as a survivor, unsurpassed in "the art of living," who reigned as the most powerful woman in France for nearly twenty years.
She wins a personal battle against the old, distorted mentality that considers women hopeless at doing anything. Actually in this historical period, women improve their power through the art of seduction and, using it as a weapon, move kings and men of power like pawns in a chess-game. As Cato said, twenty centuries ago “The Romans govern the world while women govern the Romans”.

Obviously, the 21st century is not new to the love of pleasure and treachery since 18th century Versailles was there long before we were!

The name of Mme de Pompadour is still used nowadays to define an endless range of products, from sparkling wine to underwear, from fireplaces to flowers. Some flowers are called Pompadours because of their famous pink/violet colour, which Madame de Pompadour set as a fashion for her ceramics of Sèvres. The blue of her dress has come to be known as "pompadour blue," not to mention the pompadour hairstyle~
But, you have to is that working for a certain famous pompadour wearing guy these days?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Can you snuggle up with a Kindle?

Well, maybe, if that is your significant other's name or one of your pets...but I am talking about the electronic box. So much is being written about the e-book world, and I suppose it will eventually take over just as records gave way to CDs and then to the Ipod, but I am maintaining my love of books--hey, I did not get those degrees in English and Library Science for naught. I cannot resist a stack of old books...I love the titles, the authors' names, and, when there, the illustrations.

I bought a stack of books by author "Temple Bailey." Now the name fascinated me because the books were from the 20s and the 30s. In doing some research, I found that her first name was Irene, and her middle name was Temple...probably her mother's surname. Anyway, she was born in 1885 and died in 1935. It was noted that beginning in 1902 Bailey was contributing stories to national magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post, Cavalier Magazine, Cosmopolitan, The American Magazine, McClure's, Woman's Home Companion, Good Housekeeping, McCall's.

In 1914, Bailey wrote the screenplay for the Vitagraph Studios film Auntie, and two of her books were filmed. She also had three of her books on the list of bestselling novels in the United States in 1918, 1922, and 1926 as determined by Publishers Weekly.

But what the research uncovered that was missing in my stash...

were the covers that came with the original books...

I hope that they went to a good a girl's scrapbook...although I happened on a website that sells facsimilie covers for $15...but then I got to thinking about modern books...e-books...there are no graphic losses to artists who will gain noteriety from being the illustrator. And that brings me to the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The man who did many of Bailey's illustrations was Henry Hutt. In tracking him down, I found an article from August 1912 NY Times: "Divorce proceedings were begun this afternoon by Mrs. Edna G. Hutt against Henry Hutt, a New York artist. The complaint only sets forth a charge of desertion, alleged to have occurred in New York in 1910, seven years after they were married. Mrs. Hutt also requests the court of give her the custody of their eight-year-old child, who is with her in Reno." Obviously, Hutt found himself ato use a Temple Bailey title!

And for giggles and is an excerpt..."blindle" style (blogger + kindle) and a list of some titles and plots...

So...I still think it is better to curl up with a book...or to have a stack of books on the nightstand instead of an electronic tablet...but Bob Dylan's words still echo today...
Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

"Histories, chronologies and almanacs...

offer us the illusion of progress, even though, over and over again, we are given proof that there is no such thing." — Alberto Manguel (The Library at Night)

When I was little, I remember going through The Farmer's Almanac and checking out the winter to see if snow days were in the future...come to think of it, I think I looked at it with that idea in mind as a teacher also!
Anyway, these 19th century almanacs caught my eye at auction!

Now, according to the 2010 Farmers’ Almanac, this winter will see more days of shivery conditions (no kidding!?!):a winter during which temperatures will average below normal for about three-quarters of the nation.

A large area of numbingly cold temperatures will predominate from roughly east of the Continental Divide to west of the Appalachians (see map). The coldest temperatures will be over the northern Great Lakes and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. But acting almost like the bread of a sandwich, to this swath of unseasonable cold will be two regions with temperatures that will average closer to normal—the West Coast and the East Coast.


While three-quarters of the country is predicted to see near- or below average precipitation this winter, that doesn’t mean there won’t be any winter storms! On the contrary, significant snowfalls are forecast for parts of every zone. (check!)For the Middle Atlantic and Northeast States, for instance, we are predicting a major snowfall in mid-February; possibly even blizzard conditions for New England
(indeed, even shovelry is not dead).

The first almanacs were published in the 15th century. Many historians consider that the first printed almanac dates to 1457 and was printed by Gutenberg in Mentz, Germany. They had projections for the weather (no Weather Channel, remember?), the harvest and even for wars. Some advice about nourishment, health regulations, and economic guidelines were also included.

The Old Farmer's Almanac
(still in publication today) was originally published in 1792. Robert Thomas was the Old Farmer's Almanac's first editor and owner. Within three years circulation had raised from 3,000 to 9,000 and the cost of a Old Farmer's Almanac was about nine cents. On an interesting note, Robert Thomas only added the word "Old" to the title in 1832 and then promptly removed it. However in 1848, two years after his death, the new editor and owner put the word "Old" back.

Also still in publication, the Farmers' Almanac was founded by editor David Young and publisher Jacob Mann in 1818. David Young was editor until his death in 1852, when an astronomer named Samuel Hart Wright become his successor and calculated the astronomy and weather forecasts. Now, according to the Farmers' Almanac, the Almanac has become more guarded with its famous weather predicting formula and created "Caleb Weatherbee," a pseudonym that is given to all past, present, and future Almanac weather forecasters.

The Public Ledger was a daily newspaper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania published from March 25, 1836 to January 1942. Its motto was "Virtue Liberty and Independence". For a time, it was Philadelphia's most popular newspaper, but circulation declined in the mid-1930s. The almanacs I have in the shop are wonderful pieces of history that were distributed by the Ledger newspaper...there are emphatic warnings that they are not to be sold, and it is amazing that they have survived all these years. I love some of the tidbits from within the pages...

And any graphic designer has to look at the cover with admiration...

Of course, the most famous almanac is Benjamin Franklin's
Between Shakespeare and Franklin, many of our daily phrases can be attributed to them. So, I leave you with one from "Poor Richard":

If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten either
write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

And we are off...

The celebration of the new year is one of the oldest holidays. Many believe it was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago marking the first New Moon after the Vernal Equinox(spring).

The Babylonian new year celebration lasted for eleven days. Good thing we narrowed that many black-eyed peas and pork and sauerkraut can one devour? So, how did New Year's Day move from the summer to the winter? Traditionally, the original Roman calendar consisted of 10 months, totalling 304 days, winter being considered a monthless period. (No argument from some people on that, I am sure!)

Around 713 BC, the semi-mythical successor of Romulus, King Numa Pompilius, is supposed to have added the months of January and February, allowing the calendar to equal a standard lunar year (355 days). Although March was originally the first month in the old Roman Calendar, January became the first month of the calendar year either under Numa or under the Decemvirs about 450 BC (Roman writers differ).

Since January is named for Janus, who is pictured with two heads, one looking forward, the other back, it symbolizes a break between the old and new. The Greeks paraded a baby in a basket to represent the spirit of fertility. Christians adopted this symbol as the birth of the baby Jesus and continued what started as a pagan ritual.

Today our New Year's symbols are a newborn baby starting the next year and an old man winding up the last year. So, here we are in 2010. My shop is waiting for a rebirth...empty spaces in anticipation

of what is in the an old piece of carved wood that has been given a new life just like the new year...

...a pile of crystal necklaces waiting for a new neck to embrace...

not to mention my paper whites...they seem to be enjoying the vodka way too much...they have buds, but they are still drinking...perhaps I have the Babylonian paper whites...celebrating for 11 days...or more!
Perhaps the antique/vintage dealer should claim Janus as a mascot...after all we are constantly looking at the past and making it work for not only the present but also the future! May it be a good one for all!