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)