Sunday, December 30, 2012

"Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning

but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us." ~Hal Borland

As a teacher, I always see this as mid-year...I live on the school year calendar. It was Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. who decreed January 1 as the "new" year; however, medieval Europe banned celebrations as pagan and declared December 25 and the birth of Jesus as the new year. In 1582, the Pope created the Gregorian calendar and restored January 1 as the new year for the Catholic countries. The Brits and other Protestant countries held out, and it was 1752 before England and her colonies (think America) switched from March to January.
The old tin noise makers that celebrate New Year's and Halloween were part of an ancient custom to scare away evil spirits-that accounts for the Halloween ones.  There should be no evil on Times Square!   But our tin noisemakers were made by Kirchhof, U.S. Metal, J. Chein, and T. Cohn.  They were popular during the 1920s-1940s.  The age can be identified by the handles since the earlier handles were wood and the later ones were plastic. These little tin toys though are harmless compared to some of the noise customs around the world.

In Denmark, they bang on doors and throw pieces of broken pottery at houses.  Most of Europe seems to favor fireworks instead of celebration vandalism.  The Japanese go from house to house pounding bamboo sticks and banging on drums.

The French and Spanish customs are different.  The French regard the weather as the prediction for the year; wind blowing east means good fruit yield while blowing west means a bumper crop of fish and livestock.  The south winds mean good weather all year, but the north winds signal crop failure.  The French also toast until January 3 so that the leftover wine will not cause a bad year.

In Spain, you need 12 grapes for the midnight strike.  For each stroke, you eat one grape, and, if you consume all the grapes, it is good luck.  I would think small grapes would work for this!

So, whatever your custom is Monday night, work your magic...make some noise...and even though we will not have Dick Clark to usher in 2013, time marches on~Happy New Year!

"New Year's Day: Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual."~Mark Twain

Sunday, December 23, 2012

"Bayberry candles burned to the socket,

bring health to the home and wealth to the pocket!"

Burning bayberry candles on Christmas Eve or on New Year's Eve is a tradition from colonial days.

Candles made from animal fat smoked and gave off an odor could be rancid.  In their explorations, they discovered the bayberry bush that was abundant along the Atlantic coast (pre coastal mansions).
The berries give off a waxy residue when boiled, and they collected that and realized they could make candles from that that burned longer and cleaner, and they smelled far better than animal tallow.   As you can imagine, the number of berries it would take to make one candle was numerous; therefore, the bayberry candles were burned on special occasions only, and so the Christmas and New Year's holidays were such occasions since they related to a new year of health and wealth.
Bayberry's botanical name is Myrica gale, and its foliage is said to be a natural insect repellent.  The fruit of one variety is an important crop in China, where is it sold fresh, dried, canned, and in juice and alcoholic beverages.  Denmark uses it to spice beer and snaps (schnapps).
So, as we begin the holiday season, remember...no matter what you are celebrating...

Christmas... is not an external event at all, but a piece of one's home that one carries in one's heart.  ~Freya Stark

Sunday, December 16, 2012

"Cold hands...

warm heart." ~ V. S. Lean

This  "proverb" has been traced back to Collectanea by V.S. Lean.  Here is the blurb on this collection: "Lean's Collectanea is a vast collection of proverbs, folklores and superstitions acquired over a lifetime by Vincent Stuckey Lean of Bristol (1820--99). Painstakingly collected and researched during Lean's travels on the Continent and throughout Britain, the 5-volume Collectanea is packed with many thousands of entries, helpfully arranged by theme and fully indexed."

Sadly, many of the sayings that have been passed down over the ages are being lost to the world of texting, and today's feature definitely stifles texting!  It is the "muff"!
The muff was introduced into the fashion world in 1570, and it served as a purse and a hand warmer.
 In the 1600s both men and women used them, but by the 19th century women had taken over the market as an essential winter accessory for elegant dress, and they were done in large down muffs to velvet ones that matched the trim on dresses.
 
The word muff probably comes from the Old French "moufle" which meant thick glove or mitten.  The Dutch have a similar word - "mof" and the Walloon language (Belgium and surroundings) have "mouffe." 
I have a large fur...don't know what fur...muff and a child's muff.  The fashion muff had a revival in the 1940s and 50s...think the child's is probably 1950s, but the large muff is probably Victorian.
 
 
 
I also have some fur collars...all tie in with Anna Karenina...
 
 
But, if you see someone with cold hands and no muff, remember this Japanese proverb...
"One kind word can warm three winter months."
  


Sunday, December 9, 2012

"Lighting one candle

from another -
Winter night"
~   Buson
Beeswax candles offer a honey scent, a golden flame, and the longest, cleanest burn of any candle.

When beeswax candles burn, they clean the air like a great, natural, air purifier, and they are a link to a deep spiritual belief system. For each pound of beeswax provided by a honey bee, the bee visits 33 million flowers. It eats 10 pounds of honey. It secretes the beeswax from its abdomen, and then uses the wax to construct a honeycomb. Beekeepers recover the wax from the comb by heating it in water where the melted wax rises to the surface and can be removed.

Many have written about the wisdom of the beehive, and how burning beeswax puts a person in a special mood of reverence. It is easy to imagine why, given that millions of flowers have been visited and pollinated to make any one beeswax candle. According to my research, healing and spiritual powers have been attributed to all products of the beehive. Honey has always been considered holy, a gift from God, and endowed with esoteric and mystical qualities.

The Path of Pollen, or bee shamanism, is a calling into the secrets of healing, longevity, and spiritual powers of bee products, including honey, wax, and pollen. The Hebrew word for bee is dbure, meaning word, with the message being that the bee brings the Divine word. Specifically beeswax candles are designated for the Christian Roman Mass.

Air contains billions of electrically charged particles called ions. Ions enable us  to absorb and use oxygen. The ions in the air can affect our mood, energy and health. Negative ions actually feel good~a little twist there. Too many positive ions make us feel bad (like too many cookies or drinks at a party this time of the year), and they are loaded down with pollution and allergens that are drawn to them and suspended in the air. Negative ions, on the other hand, remove the pollution and allergens from positive ions, allowing them to drop harmlessly to the ground.

Beeswax candle fuel is the only fuel that actually produces negative ions, which not only helps remove pollution from the air but increases the ratio of negative ions to positive ions, the ideal and necessary scenario for clean air.

And, in the next couple weeks we all shall the next be busy as a bee, to paraphrase Chaucer from the medieval Canterbury Tales...and I am hoping for those positive ions...

"The bee is more honored than other animals, not because she labors, but because she labors for others."
          ~Saint John Chrysostom
 
 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

"All the variety, all the charm

all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow.”   ~Anna Karenina...Leo Tolstoy

Ah...December...the winter movie scene is decorated with classics...Anna Karenina...


 
Lincoln...
And, Christmas Day...unwrapping...

 
Lincoln a has local connection...from Royal Port...  http://royalportantiques.typepad.com/  in Salem..."If you go to see the Spielberg Movie, Lincoln, you will also be seeing some inventory from our shop! Who would of thought... A little bit of Salem in such a Major Motion Picture! Yes we rock!" 
 
I have commemorative candles by Votivo for Anna Karenina.  It is good to be part of a classic revival...maybe movies like these will create interest in history...not to mention make people realize that the past is not old and dusty...or smelly...the "Anna Karenina" candle is amazingly fragrant...and comes with a bookmark...yes, bookmark...not a digital icon...a real live put-it-in-your-book mark!
 
As the days get shorter, remember...

"Laughter is sunshine; it chases winter from the human face."    Les Miserables ~ Victor Hugo

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Shopping: the fine art of

acquiring things you don't need with money you don't have. 
             ~Author Unknown

Since 1955, Ralph and Terry Kovel have been pivotal in setting the tone of the antique world.  Much has changed--Ralph Kovel died in 2008, and Terry Kovel, although 88 years old, continues to be involved in the antique world.  Her daughter now helps with the business, and she became the co-author of the standard price guide. (There is a son, but he confesses that he is a minimalist). The price guides have faded since the market does not seem to care for pricing information all that much, but this one manages to stay on the shelves.
 
The madness of this past weekend makes me wonder if anyone really cares about the value of anything these days.  Fortunately, their daughter was involved with collecting unlike the I-pod/pad/phone children of today who really do not seem to have any interest in the past, but, needless to say, she is not a kid anymore so the future of price guides may not be a guarantee!
 
But, the good news is that the searches on their web site make it seem like antiques are not totally forgotten.  Top searches in October included Carnival Glass at #1, followed by Halloween, Mary Gregory (there's an oddity), Jewelry, Occupied Japan, Russel Wright, Royal Copley, Bavaria, Coca-Cola, and Stoves.
  
The Kovels have collected everything from American art pottery to Holt Howard ceramics to printed textiles to furniture and enamels. Most unusual collection--produce stickers like the colorful ones on bananas that say “4011,” the UPC code for standard yellow bananas.  Ralph Kovel was actually a true American business man...research uncovered that in the 1950s he was in the export-import business and imported a variety of things, including the Lambretta motor scooter, the new bikini bathing suits European women were wearing, and specialty food products. He didn’t like the constant travel, so he started his own business as a food broker, representing packaged foods and other products to grocery-store chains, and fast-food restaurants. He represented many of the new frozen food lines, like Stouffers, specialty items like Sweet and Low packets, and even live, bare-root fruit trees.


Ralph sold McDonald’s fresh potatoes in 1956 by the carload when hamburgers were 15 cents and the chain said they would never use frozen French fries. He bought a small salad dressing company in Cleveland named Sar-a-Lee and soon was selling custom-made dressings to major fast-food chains for their newly popular salad bars. In 1987 his company was purchased by Sara Lee Corporation, and he became a senior vice president in the foods division.  When his children chewed the paper straws in their milkshakes, he developed the first plastic straw for McDonald’s by using the outer part of a plastic clothes line.

So, after seeing all those folks grabbing all that Chinese made stuff over the infamous Black Friday, it is good to read about the American ingenuity that used to exist in this country.  I imagine within a year or two, as a friend so aptly commented, stores will be handing you turkey dinners so that you do not even have to sit down and try to talk to those relatives...just grab plate and head up and down the aisles.
"Once again, we come to the Holiday Season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice." ~Dave Barry

Sunday, November 18, 2012

"Let us remember that, as much has been given us,

much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds.
                                 ~  Theodore Roosevelt

And so it begins..."The Holidaze"!

I am sure that Abraham Lincoln (who is showing up in local theaters-stay out of the balcony, sir!) never would have guessed that his declaring the last Thursday in November in a Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1863 in the midst of the Civil War would turn out to represent annual retail war in the aisles of stores across America.  In 1817, New York became the first of several states to officially adopt an annual Thanksgiving holiday; each celebrated it on a different day, but the American South remained largely unfamiliar with the tradition. In 1827, magazine editor and prolific writer Sarah Josepha Hale—author, among countless other things, of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb”—launched a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. For 36 years, she published numerous editorials and sent scores of letters to governors, senators, presidents and other politicians.
Abraham Lincoln agreed to declare a proclamation entreating all Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.” (Note nothing sad about getting a jump on Black Friday.)
But, perhaps it was President Franklin Roosevelt who put the $ in Thank$giving.  He moved it to the third Thursday in November during the Depression to stimulate the economy!  But, he faced serious opposition!  Little did he know!

A day in the fall to give thanks spans cultures, continents and millennia. In ancient times, the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans feasted and paid tribute to their gods after the fall harvest. Thanksgiving also bears a resemblance to the ancient Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot. Finally, historians have noted that Native Americans had a rich tradition of commemorating the fall harvest with feasting and merrymaking long before Europeans set foot on their shores.

Enjoy your day...but keep in mind...

"We tend to forget that happiness doesn't come as a result of getting something we don't have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have."                   
                         ~Frederick Keonig

Sunday, November 11, 2012

How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate

our heroes and she-roes! " ~Maya Angelou

Today is November 11 which happens to be the official Veterans Day.  It dates back to WWI…the war that was supposed to end all wars~little did they know that war was not a passing fancy.   Even though the Treaty of Versailles was signed in June of 1919, the armistice went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, and so that date has been the marker.
In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…"
 
The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926, with these words:
Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and
Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and
Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples. 
 
Sadly, Armistice Day was not the last of guns and bombs, and so President Eisenhower had to modify the name to Veterans Day.  Even sadder, the date is celebrated more with sales than "thanksgiving" as the original proclamation declared.  But then, every holiday per se has become a buy it now/sales/credit free-for-all.

My memory of Veterans Day goes back to my 7th grade history teacher who made us memorize “In Flanders Fields”. The use of the poppy as a symbol for Veterans Day is directly related to that poem. Its opening lines refer to the many poppies that were the first flowers to grow in the churned-up earth of soldiers' graves in Flanders, a region of Europe that overlies parts of Belgium and France. The poem was written by Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae in May 1915 after witnessing the death of his friend, a fellow soldier. The poem was first published on 8 December 1915 in the London-based magazine Punch.  I leave you with those words...
"In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below
We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields."

Sunday, November 4, 2012

"I try to take one day at a time...

 but sometimes several days attack me at once. ~Jennifer Yane
 Although we personally escaped with extremely minor issues from Sandy, the coastal areas from here north were reclaimed by the seas in many areas.  I want to thank all the folks who emailed and messaged me as well as owners of the small companies that I deal with who knew we were in harm's way. 

Ironically, in a unique timing event before this storm hit the fan so to speak, I happened to order some bulk herbs for the shop from a Pennsylvania company called Stress Tamer!  And, in true spirit of the Post Office delivering despite weather, my mailman brought 2 big packages to my door only 2 days after the chaos.   I have lavender, rosebuds, balsam, cedar, calendula, and chamomile.
Calendula and chamomile are soothing herbs, but lavender is the best known, and it was even used in hospitals during World War I.  A cup in boiling water will provide a relaxing aroma...too bad we could not infuse the Hudson River with it since it looks like a war zone up north!
The ancient Greeks called the lavender herb nardus, after the Syrian city of Naarda (possibly the modern town of Dohuk, Iraq).  Lavender was one of the holy herbs used in the biblical Temple to prepare the holy essence, and nard is mentioned in the "Song of Solomon":
                                   ...nard and saffron,
                                   calamus and cinnamon,
                                   with every kind of incense tree,
                                   with myrrh and aloes,
                                   and all the finest spices.
During Roman times, flowers were sold for 100 denarii per pound, which was about the same as a month's wages for a farm laborer. Its late Latin name was lavandārius, from lavanda (things to be washed), from the verb lavāre (to wash).  The Greeks discovered early on that lavender, if crushed and treated correctly, would release a relaxing fume when burned.
The Romans in the 16th century hardly ever took baths, and soap was too expensive. However, it was far easier to grow lavender so the Romans used lavender as a perfume instead of using soap.  So, the lavender jug is filled up once again...and we have lavender salt for cooking and lavender sugar for on the tops of cakes and cookies.
 
So, for our friends who have been stressed beyond, we leave with these words from the 17th century:
 
"we shall find a cleanly room
lavender in the windows
and twenty ballads stuck about the wall."
                                  ~Izaak Walton The Compleat Angler (1653-55)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

"There are some things you learn best in calm,

and some in storm." ~Willa Cather

And I guess here at the southern tip of New Jersey that we are going to have some serious lessons learned in the next couple of days.

But, Mother Nature wins out!  So, just a quick post today since I am still making sure everything is secure.  Obviously, in this area the last thing on anyone's mind is shopping unless it is for water, batteries, supplies.

Images of women representing mother earth, and mother nature, are timeless. In prehistoric times, goddesses were worshipped for their association with fertility, fecundity, and agricultural bounty. Priestesses held dominion over aspects of Incan, Algonquian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Slavonic, Germanic, Roman, Greek, Indian, and Iroquoian religions in the millennia prior to the inception of patriarchal religions.  Women should have held on with those manicured nails!

The word nature comes from the Latin word, natura, meaning birth or character. In English its first recorded use, in the sense of the entirety of the phenomena of the world, was very late in history in 1662; however natura, and the personification of Mother Nature, was widely popular in the Middle Ages and can be traced to Ancient Greece in origin. 
Medieval Christian thinkers did not see nature as inclusive of everything, but thought that she was created by God, her place lay on earth, below the heavens and moon. Nature was somewhere in the middle, with agents above her (angels) and below her (demons and hell). For the medieval mind she was only a personification, not a goddess. The modern concept of nature, all inclusive of all phenomenon, has returned to her illustrious traditions.  And, it is not nice to fool Mother Nature!  So, for all in her "trick or treat" path, be safe!

"Any proverbs about weather are doubly true during a storm."
                                                                       ~Ed Northstrum

Sunday, October 21, 2012

"There is no season when

such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on the feelings, as now in October."   ~Nathaniel Hawthorne
 
I love fall...I love the colors...this is the field across the street...I am into color...not just one plain color but the blends, the muted, the layers.  I was rearranging the shop today...no easy task, but I realized that Gonder Pottery reflects the layered colors in their glazes like the fall colors.  Many potteries had the straight colored glazes, but Gonder's Pottery is recognizable for its mottled appearance.
 
 
 
Years ago I had written about Gonder, but the fall layers bring me back to this pottery again.  Lawton Gonder, the founder, began the pottery in 1941.  Lawton Gonder was born August 27, 1900, in Zanesville,  Ohio, and his parents worked for Weller.

At the early age of 13, Gonder began working for John Herold who was a family friend and ceramic authority.  He learned the ceramic trade at the Ohio Pottery Company running molds and casting handles and spouts for teapots.

On December 8, 1941, Gonder purchased the Zane Pottery Company plant from Mrs. Mabel Hall McClelland in South Zanesville.
All Gonder is marked, and I have had pieces with paper labels in addition to the incised mark.


Some of the early pieces of Gonder molds resemble RumRill designs that had been manufactured at the Florence Pottery. Since some of the RumRill pieces have been found with similar and sometimes identical, shapes, matching mold numbers, and glazes, it is possible that some RumRill was produced at the Gonder plant.  The company was only in existence for 16 years...a victim of Japanese imports where they were cheaper by the dozen...I keep telling you China is nothing new in the manufacturing world.  We have been putting each other out of business for many decades!

Since it was in production for such a limited time, it is not seen in quantity, yet its prices are reasonable (actually in this economy everything should be reasonable--actually sensible perhaps is more appropriate!).  Anyway, if you are into the layered look, this pottery may be your style.


"October is the fallen leaf, but it is also a wider horizon more clearly seen.  It is the distant hills once more in sight, and the enduring constellations above them once again." ~Hal Borland