Sunday, July 27, 2014

"Life is rather like a tin of sardines-

we're all of us looking for the key.”  ~Alan Bennett

"Someone's sweet, old tasteful Granny died..."   That was a comment that I saw on Facebook posted in response to a photo of Limoge plates that someone purchased at a Goodwill.  I guess only tasteful little old ladies had pretty things?  But, why does it not compute that the antique/vintage world is merely recycling?  The same day that post showed up Country Living had a list of things to buy at thrift stores or yard sale:  Cast iron,  Solid wood furniture, Tools, Jewelry, Kids' toys, Picture frames, Leather bags, Plates, glasses and silverware.   The responses to that were even better..."Seriously ?!?!?! Not a chance! Sometimes other people's junk is just that JUNK"  and "Less is more and stuff is often just stuff"...and, of course, the show Hoarders that focused on the extremes (as reality TV loves to do), but it scares collectors: "Seriously, if I ALWAYS snapped up those things, I'd have a very real hoarding issue on my hands."                     

So what is the key to this business?  Who knows?  In that spirit then, let's just look at keys--and they don't take up much room either! (Hey! I can transition--actually I had a customer searching for keys to collect and that was the firestarter here!)  Keys and locks go back to ancient Babylon and Egypt over 6000 years ago.  They were wooden with small pins, and  by using wooden toothbrush-shaped keys, Egyptians could lift those small pins and unlock the blot. Sadly, this design had several disadvantages – both lock and key were made from wood (material that is very susceptible to external brute-force attacks) and the key itself was very bulky and heavy. The oldest examples of these ancient locks were found in ruins of the Assyrian palace of Khorasabad, in a biblical city of Nineveh dating to 704 BC.
The next evolution of keys came from ancient Roman engineers and inventors who used iron and bronze and created much stronger and smaller locks with keys that were light enough to be carried on person. Roman locks, too, were an improvement on the Egyptian model. 'Wards' were developed – projections inside the lock which demanded a corresponding 'bit' on the face of the key. Only the key with the correct slots for the projections to pass through would be able to rotate and throw the bolt.
Astonishingly, locks changed little over the following 1,700 years. Warded locks were actually quite easy to pick – given a tool that could clear the projections and a bit of patience – but efforts were made more to confuse or confound the lock picker rather than to re–engineer the lock. Keys were made exquisitely complicated and very ornate. Keyholes were obscured so lock pickers couldn't easily identify them, and dummy keyholes were designed to waste an intruder's time.
As far as the form of the keys was concerned, one great invention changed their look forever. According to my research, the introduction of wards into locks shaped the keys from large flat structures with pins on their end to the look of what we call today the “Skeleton key” – simple cylindrical shaft that has one single, thin and rectangular tooth (or bit). This design continued to be used for 17 centuries after the fall of Roman Empire, receiving only minor update in their looks (during all that time locksmiths were more focused on deceiving the thieves or making their work more tedious than innovating new safeguarding mechanisms). Skeleton keys can be found even today in houses that were built before 1940s.
Modern “flat keys” were first introduced to the public by Linus Yale, Sr and Jr. in mid 1800s. By using a tumbler lock and a more sophisticated way of regulating the pins, these flat keys became an instant success across entire world. They were easy to manufacture, and thanks to invention of key cutting, easy to replicate in large numbers.  (I found a flower frog makes a neat display for keys!)
Today, the majority of the locks in the world use flat keys that activate mechanisms invented in 1800s - warded locks, lever tumbler locks and pin tumbler locks.  Magnetic signatures, which are most often used in public buildings (such as hotels), government facilities, scientific labs, and similar sensitive locations are the "non-key" keys.

I can't help but wonder what locks all these keys opened...the stories they could tell...and why would someone keep a broken key ?  I bet that tale is a good one!
“It's a lot easier to be lost than found. It's the reason we're always searching and rarely discovered--so many locks not enough keys.”  ~ Sarah Dessen from Lock and Key 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

"Art is the overflow of emotion

into action.”   ~ Brian Raif 

The advantage of the small independent shop is that you get to know your customers beyond the shop and bag routine, and, in talking to one of my "regulars", I found out that she took her art into action. Traci Dunham writes children's books, and she took the initiative to find a publisher...and, as the saying goes, the rest is history!
In this computer world where people connect via texts, tweets, and pins, it is wonderful to meet someone who still believes in words on paper and illustrators who can turn those words into wonderful scenes.
The book is available online at and at Barnes and Noble also.  The book can be found at the Whale's Tale in Cape May and the Cape Atlantic Book Company in the Cape May Mall.   She does her own marketing since she is self-published and has no agent out there promoting her.  So, if you are from the area, Traci will be signing books this Thursday, July 24 at 10:30, in the Haddonfield Library.  She will be at Rhinoceros Gamery, Activity Center, and Toy Store in Haddonfield on August 7, and on October 11 at the Collingswood Book Festival

In an interview with TURNING STONEchoice (Article here), Traci says, "I wanted to let children know that their self-worth comes from what is on the inside.  It doesn’t matter what you look like or what you do.  Beauty comes from the inside out.  Raising a daughter that is handicapped has shown me that every person has value and a purpose. I love books that have a message and too many children’s books today do not.  With so many children being bullied, I want every child to know that even though they are different it is ok."

Her next book is Lu Lu and Me, "a story of two sisters, one who is handicapped.  It is written from the point of view of the sister who is not handicapped. She talks about their differences and let’s everyone know that even though her sister is different it is ok."

I am so glad that Traci shared her talent with me.  I always love the story behind the "stuff" in my shop, but, even more rewarding, is the story behind the people who are in my shop...and as her main character Mr. Oyster says..."the beauty I have lies inside me."

Sunday, July 13, 2014

""Every person needs to take one day away.

A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future.  Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence.  Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for.  Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”  ~ Maya Angelou in Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now 

My main frame computer sprung a leak so to speak so I am working with my net book...and it is easy for quick hit and run work but not this type of rhetoric, so...

Sunday, July 6, 2014

"Answer July--

Where is the Bee—
Where is the Blush—
Where is the Hay?

Ah, said July—
Where is the Seed—
Where is the Bud—
Where is the May—
Answer Thee—Me—"
~  Emily Dickinson,  " Answer July"
And July it is - already!  I love the farmers' markets filled with the colors and fruits of summer.  It is always exciting in the spring to see the flats of plants, but there is something more appealing about the bounty of summer.  I have bean plants toppling over under the weight of beans, and we wait patiently for the tomato plants to produce, but luckily the farmers are ahead, and I can live off their crops.
I think of women years ago who would be canning all of the bounty of summer, and, of course, the mason jar is a mainstay.  Mason jars are still being manufactured, but they are in every vintage/antique/thrift shop!   These jars are made from soda-lime glass.  It is inexpensive, chemically stable, reasonably hard, and safe for beverages and food as well as windowpanes!  It can be remelted so that makes it ideal for recycling also.

The earliest glass jars were called wax sealers since wax was poured into a channel around the lip that held on a tin lid. This process was complicated and error-prone, but was largely the only one available for a long time and widely used even into the early 1900s.
The most popular form of seal was the screw-on zinc cap discovered by John Mason (from New Jersey--amazing how much NJ has been in the invention business) and patented on November 30, 1858, a date embossed on thousands of jars. Jars with "Patent Nov 30th 1858" were made in many shapes, sizes and colors well into the 1900s. Since they were made in such quantity and used for such long periods, many of them have survived to the present day.
Another popular closure was known as the Lightning closure, named after the first US made brand to use it, which was embossed with "Lightning" on the side. More commonly, this is often known as a bail closure, or French Kilner — it consists of a metal wire arrangement with a lever which, when pivoted downward against the side of the jar, applies leverage to a glass lid, clamping it down over a separate rubber O ring. The bail style jars are still widely used in Western Europe, in particular, France and Italy, where the two largest producers, France's La Parfait, and Italy's Bormiolli Rocco, produce the La Parfait and Fido brands respectively.
The bail jar was not as popular in the US when canning lost its appeal in the 1950s and 60s. The modern canning jar industry was developed by Jarden...and featured easy screw tops and the National Center for Home Food Preservation discouraged use of the bail style jars.

From1860 to1900 a great many patents were issued for various jar closures. The more esoteric closures were quickly abandoned and can fetch high prices in today's antique market. Antique mason jars' values depend on the age, rarity, and condition.

The age and rarity of a jar can be determined by its color, shape, mold and production marks, and closure. Most antique jars that are not colorless are a shade of aqua known as "Ball blue," named for the prevalent jar maker. Colored jars were considered better for canning use as they block some light from reaching the food which helps to retain flavor and nutritional value longer. More rarely, jars will turn up in amber and occasionally in darker shades of green. Rarer still are cobalt blues, blacks, and milk glass jars. Some unscrupulous dealers will irradiate jars to bring out colors not original to the jar.

Even so, simple jars have gone up in price since they are gaining the attention of the younger buyers, but the clear jars are still in production, and Ball reproduced the blue jars.
I did read an interesting article -"These Mason Jar Salads Are Your New Go-To Lunch"- linked here .  There are recipes listed, but here is an example...
Caprese Pasta Salad

2 tbsp basil pesto (homemade or store-bought)
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 ½ oz fresh mozzarella, chopped into bite sized pieces
2 oz cooked penne pasta
½ cup fresh spinach leaves
½ cup fresh basil, chopped

From another article,  "Despite the obvious cuteness factor, these jars will keep your greens fresher than fresh, they won’t stain, they’re BPA free, microwave and dishwasher safe, perfectly sized for salads for one, won’t leak, travel well, and are reusable...There really are only two rules to the mason jar salad: Start with the dressing or sauce, and end with the lettuce and herbs. However you want to layer the rest of the ingredients—try different meats, beans, lettuces, cheeses, vinaigrettes, or sauces—is up to you (though I usually layer by weight so heavier items, like tomatoes, are on the bottom)."

"Let my words, like vegetables, be tender and sweet, for tomorrow I may have to eat them."