Monday, October 31, 2011

Ode to Halloween

All-Hallows-Eve harkens back 2000 years to Celtic festivals commemorating the end of summer harvests. These festivities, celebrated on the November 1st New Year of Samhain (pronounced sow-en) were replete with celebratory offerings of food and drink to the spirits. It was believed the night before the New Year - October 31st - allowed both bad and good spirits from the dead to mingle amongst the living. Celts dressed in outlandish costumes - known as guising - and roamed the community begging for food while hoping to scare away the evil spirits. Hallowed out turnips were used as lights to guide these 'guisers' through the darkness and bonfires were lit to honor Pagan gods. Faeries were said to be present during Samhain protecting these beggars from the evil spirits. It was believed that people who gave food to the beggars were rewarded; those that did not were punished.

Over the next several hundred years, Christianity's influence replaced the Pagan rituals of All Hallowmas, with All Saints Day as a church designated holiday. All Souls Day / All Saints Day was celebrated in England by going 'a-souling' door to door asking for food in return for prayers for the dead. Halloween was not celebrated by the early settlers of the United States as they were Protestant and as such did not believe in saints. It was the Irish immigrants during the mid 1800's that brought the custom of making Jack-o'Lanterns from pumpkins and the tradition of Trick-or-Treating as we know it today. Happy Halloween! Trick-or-Treat!


Monday, October 24, 2011

Kindness Gift

Kindness becomes its own motive. We are made kind by becoming kind.

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983), American Social Writer

Staffordshire Mush Cup with Saucer, Rowland & Marsellus Co., 1860's

Kindness seems to be the word of the week for me. It has popped up - in conversation, during a book discussion, and in the news; significantly enough as to not be a coincidence. So what does it mean to Be Kind? Here is my short list:

Being charitable

Being virtuous

Being pleasant

Being considerate

Being tender

There is so much more to Being Kind.... As psychologists tell us real kindness changes people.

What does Being Kind mean to you?

Leave a comment and Be Entered to win this lovely antique transfer ware cup and saucer with the inscription:

'Take ye a cuppe o' kindnesse

For auld lang syne'

'Like' my facebook page and Be Entered twice!

Winners will be announced after a random drawing of names by the end Monday, 31 October. Good Luck!

Gardeningbren and gonerustic, kindly contact me via my e-mail, available on my web site page. Thank you!


Monday, October 17, 2011

J is for Being Jeweled

Jewelry.... throughout history it has existed as an integral part of human expression and wealth. Beginning with the first rudimentary necklace of shells strung together with twine and continuing into the reigns of Egyptian, Greek and Roman Kings. When gold, silver, and cameos were introduced to the world many millenniums ago, jewelry existed as a form of currency, a symbol of the gods, and the ultimate in physical adornment.

During the Middle Ages (5th-14th C), Christian monasteries designed religious jewelry as a means of supporting themselves. The Renaissance (15th-17th C) became known as the Jewel Age, with secular creations of jewelry as works of art for the sole purpose of enhancing beauty. Gemstones were prized for their lustrous colors; diamonds for their rarity. Improved methods for cutting diamonds increased their availability during the 17th C and beyond. Each period in history - Georgian (1714-1830), Victorian (1837-late 1880's), Arts&Crafts (1894-1923), Art Nouveau (1890-1915), Edwardian (1901-1910), Art Deco (1920-1935), Retro (1935-1949), 1950's, 1960's, 1970's, 1980-1990, to present - corresponds with specific jewelry designs identifiable with that place in time. From nature-inspired florals, animals and scroll work to crescents, garlands, geometrics, and gemstones, jewelry has evolved as beautiful forms of self expression to be worn proudly and cherished by generations to come. Collect it... Wear it... Have fun with it!

Georgian (1714-1830), Shell Cameo Pin

Early Victorian (1837-1860), Amber Lavaliere style Necklace and Earrings
Mid Victorian (1860-1885), French Jet Black Glass Cameo

Art Nouveau (1890-1915), Enameled Cabochon

Art Nouveau (1890-1915), Plique a Jour Sterling & Enamel Brooch

Arts and Crafts (1894-1923), Natural Shell Handcrafted Pin

Edwardian (1901-1910), Sterling Crescent Brooch

Art Deco (1920-1935) Faceted Garnet Brooch

Green Glass and Bakelite with Enamel Clasp (1907-1927)

Rhodium Cast Metal Rhinestone Butterfly Brooch, 1940's

Krementz Necklace, 1930's -1940's

Trifari Earrings, 1950's

Monet Brooch, 1960's

Juliana 'Chalk White' Milk Glass Pin, 1960's

Handmade Clay and Bead Choker, 1970's

Want to purchase one of these lovelies for yourself or someone special? They will be listed in my Etsy Shoppe in the weeks ahead just in time for the Holidays. Happy Shopping!


Monday, October 10, 2011

Just Mushrooms

Not presumed to dictate, but broiled fowl and mushrooms - capital thing!
Charles Dickens, English Novelist, 1812-1870

Angel's Wings

Variable Russula

Gem-studded Puffball

A Delectable Mix

Most people eat to live. Italians live to eat. I know this first hand as I am the product of two generations of venerable foragers. My earliest memories are of my grandfather, donning his old leather shoes, thread bare plaid shirt jacket, khakis and, most importantly, his 'lucky' basket as he set out for the Great Mushroom Hunt. My grandfather even went as far as noting: 'October 12th is THE best day to find the best mushrooms.' And find them he did. There were all sorts of ways to stave off thieves from his 'areas'... Stones were carefully placed along leaf-strewn woodland paths to
indicate coveted locations where the little gems seemed to thrive . 'Good spots' were returned to days later, especially after soaking rains, when the mushrooms exploded as if from outer space. And, there were the Italian names for the delectable fungii: signorinas and manellas which were among the most prized treasures. Who cares enough to take pictures of a car trunk full of mushrooms, as proud as if it were a grandchild?! It initially was all about the hunt, as I can relate to as an antique nut, but ultimately it was all about the food. This tradition was passed down to my dad, who passed it down to each of his five children. I, as an avowed naturalist, need no excuse to go into the woods. Foraging for mushrooms with my 80 something year old dad is a treat beyond words. And the reward... well, that is priceless.

A mushroom 'expert' is known as a mycologist. Before attempting to forage, be smart and educate yourself. Classes are available at Community Colleges and local Environmental organizations. I highly recommend the National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms, published by Gary H. Lincoff. It is well organized with beautiful photos and descriptions. Remember this: All mushrooms are edible - once!

Tried and True Mushroom Saute - Made the Italian Way

Thoroughly wash soil and leaves from fungii; cut into bite sized slices/pieces, bring to a boil for a minute or two in slightly salted water with a splash of lemon. Drain, rinse, freeze or proceed to cook by sauteing in olive oil: a sliced onion, minced garlic (2-3 cloves), chopped tomato, and parsley. Add drained mushrooms, seasoned with salt, hot pepper flakes and a splash of white wine or vermouth with olive oil to finish. Mushrooms will be ready to eat in 5 to 10 minutes. Enjoy!


Monday, October 3, 2011

I is for Imperial Glass

Katy Blue Lace Edge pattern, 1930

Scroll Fluted pattern, late 1920's-early 1930's

Nu-Cut Pattern, 1920's

Genie Lace Edge pattern, 1950's

Imperial Glass Company was founded in 1904 by J.N. Vance of New Crystal Glass (1901). With the help of Edward Muhleman in Bellaire, OH it produced beautiful handmade glassware and continued manufacturing pressed glass with the advent of machinery during the early 20th C. Rapid growth and demand for glass continued and in 1909 Imperial introduced its first line of Carnival Glass, popularized by Fenton and others. It became known as one of the most elegant glassware companies in the US. The most recognized pattern from Imperial Glass is Candlewick (1939) whose design was inspired by a Colonial needlework technique and is often confused with the similar Anchor Hocking Burple pattern. More than 200 items were produced in the Candlewick line, competing with Fostoria Glass America and Cambridge Glass Rosepoint as the most collectible patterns of all time. It also launched the Cape Cod pattern as giveaway items in conjunction with the Quaker Oats Company and supplied F.W. Woolworth with much of its utilitarian glassware. During the 1920's, Imperial introduced its elegant and art glass lines known respectively as Nu-Cut and Nu-Art, imitating higher-end crystal and Tiffany glass. Yet despite the quality and popularity of its glassware the recession of the 1950's, coupled with the availability of inexpensive glassware from abroad strained the company to the breaking point. Although it filed for bankruptcy in 1931 and was able to recover, the global market changes of the mid 20th C proved too much. Lenox Glass of NJ bought out Imperial Glass in 1973, keeping it going until 1984 when production of all patterns from Imperial ceased. Although I recently came across a 6" Candlewick clear blown glass Candy Box with lid listed for $400.00 (!), generally pieces of Imperial Glassware are affordably available as elegant accents for your home. Happy Hunting!


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