Sunday, June 26, 2011

“I wonder how much it would take

to buy a soap bubble, if there were only one in the world.”
~Mark Twain

I do love bubbles...
and neat soaps are right there with those bubbles!

I am on a Buy American kick...and buy from the those who are trying to survive in this economy on their own. I realize that not everything can be purchased that way, but even if we all try to buy that way every now and then, it will support an American. So, this week I am featuring a new soap that I have brought into the shop. It is made in New Hampshire. Did you know though that the Babylonians were the first to make a soap product? The earliest recorded evidence of the production of soap-like materials dates back to Ancient Babylon where a recipe for soap was written on a Babylonian clay tablet around 2200 BC. It consisted of uḥulu [ashes], cypress [oil] and sesame [seed oil].The Ebers papyrus (Egypt, 1550 BC) indicates that ancient Egyptians bathed regularly and combined animal and vegetable oils with alkaline salts to create a soap-like substance. Egyptian documents mention that a soap-like substance was used in the preparation of wool for weaving.

The word sapo, Latin for soap, first appears in Pliny the Elder's Historia Naturalis, which discusses the manufacture of soap from tallow and ashes, but the only use he mentions for it is as a pomade for hair; he mentions rather disapprovingly that among the Gauls and Germans men are likelier to use it than women. Aretaeus of Cappadocia, writing in the first century AD, observes among "Celts, which are men called Gauls, those alkaline substances which are made into balls, called soap."

According to research, soap-makers in Naples were members of a guild in the late sixth century, and in the 8th century, soap-making was well-known in Italy and Spain. Soap-making is mentioned both as "women's work" and the produce of "good workmen" alongside other necessities such as the produce of carpenters, blacksmiths, and bakers.In France, by the second half of the 15th century the semi-industrialized professional manufacture of soap was concentrated in a few centers of Provence— Toulon, Hyères and Marseille— which supplied the rest of France. Finer soaps were later produced in Europe from the 16th century, using vegetable oils (such as olive oil) as opposed to animal fats. Many of these soaps are still produced, both industrially and by small scale artisans. Castile soap is a popular example of the vegetable-only soaps derived by the oldest "white soap" of Italy.
In modern times, the use of soap has become universal in industrialized nations due to a better understanding of the role of hygiene in reducing the population size of pathogenic microorganisms. Industrially manufactured bar soaps first became available in the late eighteenth century, as advertising campaigns in Europe and the United States promoted popular awareness of the relationship between cleanliness and health.
Many people assume soap is soap, but many a bar of soap may not be labeled “soap.” Most body cleansers on the market today are actually synthetic detergent products and come under the jurisdiction of FDA. These detergent cleansers are popular because they make suds easily in water and don't form gummy deposits. Some of these detergent products are actually marketed as "soap" but are not true soap in the common and legal definition of the word.If the bar you use for bathing does not claim to be a soap, it's probably a synthetic detergent product. FDA defines a cosmetic as an article intended to be used on the body for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance; thus, a nonsoap product intended for any of these purposes is automatically classified as a cosmetic.

So, if you see hand crafted soap and wonder why it is not dollar store priced, it is indeed the real thing, and, above all, it is made by hand in small batches with quality ingredients!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Old as she was...

she still missed her daddy sometimes. ~Gloria Naylor


My Dad was not big on having his picture taken...so I have very few in my stash...and he died before the digital camera came along...everyone can snap pictures 24/7 now. Still there is something about going through boxes of photos that tugs at my heart and stirs my memories. I don't get that feeling pressing little buttons...but then I was born way before remote controls, cell phones, and even...yikes!...computers.

Today is Father's Day.The National Retail Federation reports that Americans will shell out an average of $106.49 on dad this year, compared to $94.32 in 2010. Mothers, however, still raked it in in May with $140.73 spent on them for Mother’s Day.

According to the National Retail Federation, we’re going to spend $1.4 billion on greeting cards, $2.1 billion on activities, such as golfing, dining out or heading to the movies, $653 million on sporting goods and $593 on automotive accessories. We will spend $1.3 billion on electronics, $1.4 billion on clothing, $1.4 billion on home improvement, gardening tools and appliances, and $598 million on books and CDs.

When it comes down to shopping, more than one-third of us will head to dad’s favorite department store, and nearly as many will shop at discount stores. Twenty-two percent will shop online.

And while most half of us will shop for our dads or stepdads, the other half will also treat husbands, sons, grandfathers, brothers and/or friends to Father’s Day card and gifts.

The first observance of Father's Day actually took place in Fairmont, West Virginia on July 5, 1908. It was organized by Mrs. Grace Golden Clayton, who wanted to celebrate the lives of the 210 fathers who had been lost in the Monongah Mining disaster several months earlier in Monongah, West Virginia, on December 6, 1907.
It's possible that Clayton was influenced by the first celebration of Mother's Day that same year, just a few miles away. Clayton chose the Sunday nearest to the birthday of her recently deceased father. Unfortunately, the day was overshadowed by other events in the city, West Virginia did not officially register the holiday, and it was not celebrated again. All the credit for Father's Day went to Sonora Dodd from Spokane, who invented independently her own celebration of Father's Day just two years later, also influenced by Jarvis' Mother's Day. Clayton's celebration was forgotten until 1972, when one of the attendants to the celebration saw Nixon's proclamation of Father's Day, and worked to recover its legacy.

In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father's Day. Six years later, the day was made a permanent national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972. Those were the days when the 2 political parties understood compromise.

In addition to Father's Day, International Men's Day is celebrated in many countries on November 19 for men and boys who are not fathers. So...no "stuff" today...just memories...and they are worth far more than stuff any old day!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

"Don't it always seem to go

That you don't know what you've got til it's gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot"
- Joni Mitchell

And for those of us at the Jersey shore this week, it felt as though the ocean had been paved over...100+ degree heat, and it is not July. My shop is not air conditioned so it was not really a place anyone wanted to be.

It did make me wonder how folks in earlier times managed to survive with no electric cooling...or was the heat not as oppressive because there was more vegetation? This extreme climate change does make...or should make...one pause. It has paused my getting inventory into the shop, I will admit that.

I am trying to restock...I have all kinds of neat treasures to get out. This depression era refrigerator dish got me to thinking about all the neat functional items that came out of the "big" Depression (unlike our current "little" Depression).
Speaking of that era, I came across the funniest excerpt from a 1932 book, Bamberger's Cook Book For The Busy Woman by Mabel Claire: "There is no good reason for the millions of ugly kitchens in the world. Nor is there any good reason for kitchens that look like white tile lunchrooms." She also writes that "Cook book collecting is one of the most fascinating hobbies in which a woman can indulge." I can help you out with that! The shelves are stocked and more to come!


More from her essay..."One must not lose sight of utility while satisfying the desire for color and charm...Jolly flasks of Venetian glass contain vinegar and oil.The tiniest set of shelves holds the spices and colors for decorating and garnishing."
She ends the article with this: "Above my stove I have hung a mirror in a green and gold frame. It reflects the jolly kitchen as well as the cook. A cook should consult a mirror often. For what use is a decorative kitchen without a decorative woman in it!"

Little tidbits from the past...have we really advanced all that much even with all the gadgets. But even in 1932 Mabel longs for the past..."In many houses that have been restored and kept in memory of another day, the kitchen is a most interesting and delightful room."

But as President Truman cautioned, "If you don't like the heat, get out of the kitchen."

Sunday, June 5, 2011

“It is the supreme art of the teacher

to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.”
~Albert Einstein

I have been teaching since 1969, and I have become acutely aware of the firestorm teachers have been sucked into lately between No Child Left Behind and being implicated in the ills of budget deficits. Then, there is a current discussion in academia over the value of college...are we merely career training? Or, as I attempt to do, are professors responsible for igniting something more than multiple choice answers or fill in the blanks?

Where will the artists come from? The musicians? The writers? The creative spirits to look at something and see beyond...which brings me to this week's post...my jewelry elf~Sharon~returned from Florida with a new way to look at broken and vintage jewelry...the ultimate repurposing. I did not realize how much time and effort goes into this art until I had to repair a watch with a beaded band! Wow!

She has designed more of the bracelets with a mix of old and new... In my research I found that bracelets date back 7,000 years to ancient Egypt and throughout Africa in the cradle of civilization as well as in ancient China. Bracelets in Egypt and Africa were made with wood, stones, bones, and plant fibers and later copper and bronze. China produced the first known innovation to this popular jewelry with jade bracelets and elaborate gold bracelets starting in 2,000 B.C. (China has been manufacturing since the beginning of time, it seems!) Mesopotamia followed with gold bracelets as the pharaohs and emperors throughout the known world saw the need for more detailed bracelets which led to the invention of charm bracelets.

It seems the Victorians were the ones to personalize the bracelets and create themed charm bracelets...funny how things revive...like scrapbooking...very Victorian!

These bracelets that Sharon created are showstoppers...just filled with all kinds of vintage baubles and beads!





Interestingly, earrings are the number 1 jewelry accessory, and then bracelets are number 2. They outrank necklaces, pins, and rings.

So, as John Lennon said, "Will the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands? And the rest of you, if you’ll just rattle your jewelry.” {1963, at the high point of the group’s set during the Royal Variety Performance before members of the British Royal Family.}