Monday, January 31, 2011

Ode to India

You may recall a post from a few weeks back entitled: Understated Simplicity which spoke of one of my son's trip to India. Upon his return, bearing gifts and photos, I realized how little I knew of that grand, lovely country. Following is a very brief history and pictorial story, on this last Monday of the Month Ode To...India. Enjoy!

Mumbai Harbor, considered the Gateway to India from the Arabian Sea, is the only natural deep water harbor in Western India

Taj Mahal Palace & Tower Hotel, Mumbai,1903, a gracious landmark of Moorish, Oriental & Florentine style at the Gateway to India

The Taj Mahal Palace is considered by Conde Nast Traveller as one of the top 50 hotels in Asia

Red Fort, New Dehli

Agra, Taj Mahal, built entirely of marble,is one of the most perfect buildings in the world, with an almost surreal serenity despite hoards of tourists. It is a spectacular feat of engineering and design encompassing a 186 square foot building, capped by a 70 foot diameter, 120 foot tall dome surrounded by 4 minarets (prayer towers) standing 133 feet tall.

The world's costliest mausoleum, this Shrine of Love sits on the banks of the Yamuna River, with passages from the Quern inscribed into its Islamic architecture. Built from 1636 - 1653 by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal.

Darjeeling Tea, Masala and Pashmina

India. Just the name evokes intrigue, mysticism, and emotion. It is the Birthplace of Hinduism and Buddhism which both remain influences in the Indian society. Hinduism effected the caste system, or social classes which is still practiced today, albeit illegally. And, Buddhism equates to spiritualism through the practice of meditation and belief in dharma (the moral law which guides ones life; considered the very foundation of life and a necessity to achieve good karma) and karma (the actions undertaken by the body and the mind which determine the state of ones existence in the reincarnated life). Fittingly, the National Flower of India is the Lotus, Nelumbo nucifera, an exotically beautiful aquatic plant symbolizing Hindu gods and goddesses, enlightenment, purity and knowledge. Historically, the entire continent had been conquered and invaded by foreigners throughout its 75,000 year history. It was ruled by the Mauryan dynasty, 321-185 BC, which was one of the worlds largest empires at the time. From the 4th C through the 11th C, Hindu religious and intellectuals resurged and this period of time came to be known as the Golden Age of India as Hinduism and Buddhism spread to much of Asia at that time. From the 10th C through the 15th C Muslim rule influenced art and architecture. Upon the gradual decline of the Mughal Empire in the 18th C, opportunity presented itself for the British East India Company to gain a foothold and it was from that period through the 19th C that India was gradually annexed by the British East India Company. Dissatisfaction led to the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and resulted in sovereign rule by the British Crown. During this time and through the mid 20th C India witnessed rapid infrastructure development with surging population growth encompassing economic decline. Its struggle for independence from England was won and complete in 1947; there exists 7 union territories, 28 states. Both the United States and India are considered the worlds largest democracies, although the Indian President's role is largely ceremonial with national executive power centered in the cabinet led by the Prime Minister. It is recognized as the third largest economy in Asia, behind China and Japan.

India is a country of contrasts: From the serenity of the Himalayans to the astounding beauty of its ancient monuments, with the Taj Mahal as one of the 7 Wonders of the World, to its jammed packed open-air bazaars, India seems otherworldly. As a country one third the size of the United States with almost three times the population (1,155,347,678!), it remains to be experienced in all its glory. Peace Be Upon You!

Monday, January 24, 2011

V is for Van Briggle

Van Briggle Pottery is considered the oldest continuously operating Art Pottery in the United States. Begun in 1901 in Colorado by Artus and Anne Van Briggle, it had quite the impact on the Art Nouveau movement at the time. Artus Van Briggle, born in 1869, was introduced to painting at an early age by his artist parents. At the age of 17, he decorated china dolls in Cincinnati, OH, and later took a job at Rookwood Pottery where he excelled at hand painting original designs. Maria Storer, founder of Rookwood, was so impressed with Artus' talent she sent him to Paris, France to study art at L'Academie Julian. This exposed him to numerous artistic styles and he became enamored with matte glazes of the Chinese Ming Dynasty. This was also where he met his future wife, Anne Lawrence Gregory, also an accomplished artist. The couple moved back to Ohio with Artus resuming work at Rookwood. In 1899 due to a bout with tuberculosis, they moved to the therapeutic, drier air of Colorado Springs, Colorado while continuing to experiment on pottery glazes. Artus perfected a satiny matte glaze akin to those he loved in Paris and opened Van Briggle Pottery. He and Anne created countless designs in the Art Nouveau style until his untimely death in 1904, at the age of 35. Anne continued the pottery business adding countless designs. She remarried in 1908 and moved to Denver in 1910 until her death in 1929. The property in Colorado Springs was leased and then sold several times. Its current owner and chief designer is Craig A. Stevenson.

The early work of Van Briggle pottery - through the 1920's - are most sought after pieces of art. The lovely matte finish is almost powdery soft to the touch with colors ranging from turquoise blue, maroon, green and yellow. Couple this with the tragic love story of two very talented artists and you have really something to admire and cherish. Pieces of Van Briggle Pottery display that spectacular signature blue color as modern today as it was 100 years ago. Enjoy!

Monday, January 17, 2011


'The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.' Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today is the day we celebrate the Birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, 1929-1968. In 1983, then President Ronald Reagan signed this commemorative day into law as a National Holiday for all to reflect on the man who was in constant pursuit of truth and nonviolent action. Martin Luther King strove to make the United States of America a more just nation, a more peaceful nation, a more noble nation. As a Baptist Minister and prominent leader in the civil rights movement, he strove to effect change in peaceful ways yet ironically his life was taken violently; assassinated by James Earl Ray on 4 April, 1968 in Memphis, TN. King's dream was just unfolding: to end racial segregation in public schools, to produce meaningful civil rights legislation, to prohibit racial discrimination in employment, and to protect civil rights activists from police brutality. The March on Washington in 1963 was 250,000 strong. His famous 'I Have a Dream Speech' propelled civil rights to the top of the political agenda in the US and facilitated passage of the C ivil Rights Act of 1964. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Listen and be inspired by this great orators voice here
as Dr. King alludes to the Gettysburg Address, passages from the Bible, and Shakespeare. "... I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed 'We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal'...I have a dream that one day my four little children will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character....Black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics will be able to join hands and sing...'Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Monday, January 10, 2011

U is for Uranium Glass

Uranium Glass, also known as Vaseline Glass, is the name given glass resembling the color of petroleum jelly at the time of the early 20th C. The glass fluoresces bright green under ultra-violet (black) light due to the addition of uranium salt known as uranium dioxide, which is added during the molten stage. This color is more yellow/green than the green of Depression Glass, which contains iron oxide as its colorant. Depression Glass green does not fluoresce. The use of uranium as a colorant in glass dates back to 79 AD, where it was found to be a part of a yellow mosaic glass tile in a Roman villa, Bay of Naples. It was Martin Klaproth, 1743-1817, who experimented with uranium as a coloring element in glass. By the 1830's, many companies in Europe were producing Vaseline Glass, including Adams & Co., Steuben Glass, Cambridge Glass Co., and Baccarat. The Boston & Sandwich Glass Co. manufactured it in the United States beginning in the 1840's. Names for the color of the glass include: citron, jasmine, golden green, mustard, canary, and Florentine. Uranium glass colors range from yellow to green depending on the oxidation state and concentration of the metal ions present. The higher the uranium dioxide content in the glass, the greater the coloring effect. Ultra violet radiation excites the outer electrons of the uranium atoms, exuding bright green energy which is the fluorescence we see.

In 1943 through the Cold War of the 1950's, the U.S. government halted the production of Vaseline Glass, as uranium became a heavily regulated substance used in missiles and warheads. In 1958, depleted uranium dioxide was allowed to be used in glass once again. The uranium content of Vaseline Glass is estimated to be 2% by weight, with some glass from the early 20th C containing as much as 25%. As a form of Art Glass, Vaseline Glass is considered highly collectible and strikes a very cool statement with its intensity and vibrancy. Keep an eye out for it; I guarantee you will know it when you see it. And, it's always fun to get out the black light, do a little dance, and watch it glow!

(I just realized this post was written at 2:34 on 1:10:11. If I were a gambling gal, I may just play those numbers!)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Understated Simplicity

'Make everything as simple as possible but not simpler.' Albert Einstein, Physicist

This is the time of year when many of us evaluate and reassess aspects of our lives. What makes us happy; what wasn't successful; what is our plan to get to the bottom of things and to simply change for the better? The paradox of this is that in order to simplify we must have an understanding of the complex. In essence, simplicity is a thoughtful process! My last post explained our family's New Years ritual of picking Angel Cards: mine is 'Freedom' which is a word loaded with meaning for me to reflect on this year of 2011. It is most fitting today, as this is the day my youngest flies - literally he is in the air as I write this - to India. Although he graduates from College in May, his abilities have landed him an opportunity of a lifetime and he will venture so far from this nest to make his mark. I had a restless sleep last night; elated for him and his excitement, anxious at the same time for dangers that may be, and sad for my loss. I do realize now it is important to give myself the time to think. That is how I will make peace with this change, and embrace the many changes ahead. So today, I will sip that cup of Darjeeling tea- amidst the remnant and forlorn decorations, in the quiet and the dinn of this now empty house - and simply, think.

I am participating in WeekWord: Simplicity. Check out Silver Linings 4 Me to be further inspired!
Healthy New Year Everyone. Keep it simple!

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