Saturday, December 31, 2011

Running late

So my little project for New Year's Day is - ahem - finishing up the Christmas cards.  (Hey, i live in Appalachia, i can claim we're celebrating Old Christmas on January 6th, right?)

I carved the block a while ago - even got my mother to mail me one of the antique reindeer so i could take photos to work from - but there were some technical difficulties with the ink i used to print it and more with getting a workable file set up on my computer (with somewhat limited software offerings, a recent virus, and complete refusal to speak to the network, including the printer...).

Anyway, here's the reindeer block print, and along with it, my best wishes for all of you in the New Year.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas bonus

I sold a lot of prints last week, and picked up very welcome consignment checks from both of the stores where i've got them for sale. They've funded a minor burst of last-minute Christmas shopping, chiefly conducted on Etsy and at local thrift shops and used book stores.

Scouring one of the thrift stores - unsuccessfully - for bowls my sister would like, i found (and promptly bought myself) this flour sifter:

Honestly, i've survived a lot of years without a flour sifter, but i do bake a lot, and who could resist adding that much cheerfulness to one's kitchen, for four and a half bucks?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

To-do list

The breathtaking late '40s (maybe early '50s) cashmere coat i found doesn't quite fit me, so i can add it to the shop without too big a twinge, but i have plans for a consolation prize: this gorgeous swing coat pattern from my stash - and from about the same date.
I love the full sleeves, and the hand topstitching.  I haven't figured out what sort of fabric i want to use - cashmere would be fabulous of course, but it's an open question whether i can find it, and a bigger question whether i can afford it.  An alpaca blend would be lovely too.  The bad news?  This - like a lot of vintage patterns - is in a teeny, tiny size.  Specifically a 30" bust.  So i'll have a lot of grading to do.  Since the style isn't really fitted, there's some fudge room, of course - once the shoulders and armscye are adjusted, the rest should be pretty straightforward.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Today would have been Grandma's 90th birthday.  We were close, and we had a lot of things in common.  We were both December babies, for one thing, which meant that i could always count on her not to combine my birthday and Christmas presents.  She figured out once that were were the same age - to the day - when we each got engaged.  Her first husband, my grandfather, died of cancer, and she was one of my greatest supports when, three years after, mine did as well.

And so maybe i shouldn't have been surprised...

When i was planning the wedding with my second husband, Grandma, the daughter of a jeweler, took a keen interest in the rings.  And when it turned out that she wouldn't be able to travel to the wedding, we arranged to make a "detour" to visit her and her husband at their home - several hours further south than our intended honeymoon destination - bringing wedding favors and cake.  I knew that pretty much as soon as we sat down, i had better present the rings for inspection - we'd decided on vintage jewelry for me, both the engagement ring and the band.  So when i held out my hands so Grandma could take a good look, i was a little taken aback when she started to giggle... not quite the reaction i'd expected.

I looked up, befuddled, and Grandma said simply, "you're not going to believe this."  And then she scampered (86, and she scampered) back to her bedroom.

A moment later, she reappeared, and pressed a ring into my hand.  "That's the ring my daddy carved for me when i married your Grandpa."

It was the exact same pattern, a wreath of simple orange blossoms all the way around the band.

I had never seen it before - i remember her wearing a wide, plain band of yellow gold.  Hers was slightly thicker, and made in platinum, while mine is white gold.  Mine is actually probably the older of the two - i've only found fragments about the maker, but it looks like the company probably went under in the Depression.  Hers, of course, was custom made in 1944.

I now wear both bands together.  It was the one thing of hers i was really determined to have.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The quest picks up steam

I'd been keeping an eye out for a potential successor to my beloved but increasingly battered bright yellow enamel tea kettle.  In a casual sort of way, you know, to see if the thrift gods would smile again.  But now, the cats have knocked it off the counter and broken the handle and chipped most of the enamel off the spout.  It's done for (and they're lucky to still be wearing their own skins right about now...).

So, i need to replace it.  The criteria are these:

  • No cutesy designs
  • Wide enough lid for easy cleaning
  • It must not make noise. No whistles. This is not negotiable.
  • Leading contenders for material are enamel or copper.
  • I'm on a budget.  Well, actually, i don't even have a budget for this, so i'll be scraping it together out of some other planned expenditure. It wasn't supposed to get busted. So forget all those ones that are priced for rich people who want decor pieces.
  • It can't be too nasty to actually use. Dings and "character" are fine, as i am, after all, looking for a vintage one.

Judging will be entirely subjective.  I tend to leave my teapot on the stove most of the time, so i want one that makes me happy when i look at it.  Have a candidate? Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pocket change

I picked up this glass globe at the flea market last weekend, for the regal sum of 75 cents.  I've popped it onto the overhead light in my workroom, and i'm absurdly pleased with it - i love the combination of the clear and frosted glass, and i'm  sucker for that swag-and-tassel design.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Mystery du jour

More or less on a whim (and with the vague recollection of similar pieces in old ladies' china cabinets), i scooped up a little lusterware teapot last week.  It's marked, and i've found the mark identified in a couple catalogues, so i know the manufacturer is Porzellanmanufaktur Rudolf W├Ąchter... but i haven't been able to pin down when the company was using that particular version of the mark.  It seems they began using it around 1927, but vexingly, no one seems to give an end date - so other than the fact that the company folded in 1974, i don't have much to help narrow it down.

Cute little thing though, isn't it?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

By the book

Because we are geeks, a wander through a used book store places high on the list of date-night activities.  Trophies from the pillaging will then be waved at the other party while waiting for dinner to arrive (but generally carefully tucked away once there's food on the scene).  On one recent instance, this 1928 sewing textbook was my prize:

It's not as lavishly illustrated as some contemporary sewing books (like this one i've got), but the text and the explanations are pleasingly clear.  It's got more on working with machines (including what look to be some good bits on attachments) and less on working with commercial patterns - perhaps because this one wasn't published by one of the pattern companies...

There's a nice, clear diagram of sewing machine parts - useful for troubleshooting (and for generally making sure you don't sound like a fool in explaining what you're doing).  Also, of course, there are the obligatory bits on handstitching, and a charming photo of a "convenient, well-equipped sewing laboratory."

 From there, it proceeds to details of simple sewing projects and fine tailoring...

Daunted by all those strange-looking bits of metal in the box of attachments?  See, the binder's not so scary:

Friday, November 11, 2011

Peer pressure

My sister paints these swell boxes.  They've been appearing as holiday and birthday gifts for several years now.  She keeps muttering about making them for sale, and in fact sold a few through a friend's craft collective.  She talked about sending some down here for one of the shops where i consign prints, and they were interested in having them.  So i'm hoping to nudge her again, because i think they'd do really well if she wanted to put them out there...

The little square box was the first one i got, and i think it's still my favorite.  (And in case you're wondering, yes, there are four-and-twenty of them.)

What do you think? Maybe we can convince her.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Down the shore

I like autumn best in the mountains where i live now (though spring's no slouch), but at the shore, summer reigns.  My grandmother's family had a shore house when she was a girl, and she made certain she had one when i was small.  From the time i was about four years old, i spent large chunks of my summers with her - the parents would stay a few days, then head back south, while i (and later, my sister, too) stayed on.

We spent days investigating the beach and the shallows of the bay, learning how to handle a boat, making pilgrimages to the boardwalk, to Barnegat Light, or across the bay to Clearwater and then across the little barrier island to the ocean.  We ate from the bay - clams, crabs, flounder - and from the land around - beans, peppers, tomatoes, asparagus from the garden, blueberries from the farm up the road, corn and melons from the roadside stands.  Rules were plain - and unyielding - but few.

In light of all those sun-drenched days i remember, this is one of my favorite pictures from the albums i took from Grandma's place - Jewel and Paul, probably very late '30s or early '40s, just where they were usually to be found - in a boat:

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

That kind of day

1. Hunt for photo corners to mount print to mat.
2. Knock down pile of vintage patterns waiting to be listed. Swear.
3. Pick up patterns.
4. Look for photo corners, discover potential stock for new vintage shop.
5. Bag vintage goodies (so they can all be lost together), watch picture hanging hardware and neckties reserved for a sewing project slide from basket to floor. Swear again.
6. Re-fold ties, return to basket.
7. Discover missing remote for CD player (okay, it's not all bad).
8. Discover box of photo corners (things are definitely looking up...).
9. Knock down patterns again. Swear profusely.
10. Find box. Put patterns in box.
11. Pull out frames and mats to pick a good combo, discover that black frame - just purchased - has a ding.  Swear.
12. Reach for Sharpie for quick-and-dirty touch-up.
13. Sharpie is missing.  Mutter.  Hunt for Sharpie.
14. Give up in disgust, decide to use brown frame instead.
15. Put away black frame.
16. Pick up papers to pull out a different mat. Find Sharpie. Swear.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Payment in kind

I stopped to pick up a check yesterday for several prints that had sold at O'Hurley's, but got distracted by this awesomely soft-and-fuzzy black sheep finger puppet.  Gen, crafty salesperson that she is, helpfully pointed out that she could just deduct the cost from my consignment check.  So he came home with me.  I think i'll call him Alf.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A first attempt

Gift production season is upon us - especially upon those of us who are cash-strapped.  I'd noticed these coiled fabric bowls a couple years back, on the "i could do that" theory.
I bought one to have a closer look, and later flipped through instructional books on the technique in a local quilt shop.  Have to say, i don't really think there's enough to it to warrant an entire book - i mean, once you have the basic idea, it's pretty much theme-and-variations - but i followed (more or less) the tutorial here.  In a nutshell, you're wrapping strips of fabric around clothesline, then coiling and stitching the wrapped clothesline.

So, i finally made one today... (this one's for my mom, and it's safe to post it here before she gets it - i'll eat my hat if she sees it - the only way she sees anything on the blog is if i pull it up when i'm at her house and then push her into a chair in front of it).

Things i learned on the first iteration: select tightly-woven fabrics, buy more needles than you think you need, and bite the bullet and cut the strips on the bias.  It'll take more fabric (unless you're doing multiple bowls, then the difference in yardage won't be so much), but it will wrap much more neatly and fray much less.

Getting the coil started is by far the biggest pain in the rump; the first angled coil is slightly fussy, but that's the worst of it.  I still need to refine my technique for finishing the last coil at the top - i'm not entirely pleased with that part.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

For the man of the house

The spouse came back from a business trip that involved lots of fieldwork, testing wireless equipment, and he came back grumbling about the fit of the shirts he'd packed.  Wanted to know if i could make him some that would work better.

Now, i could probably take a pattern from one of his existing shirts and then adjust it to remedy the fitting issues, but it would be a big pain in the butt.  So i started watching for a pattern to use as a starting place, which would eliminate the first step, and we could move along to adjusting for fit.  I just got a hefty batch of 1940s menswear patterns, and i've held this one back for the spouse:

It's got the essential characteristics: button front, chest pockets, long sleeves with cuffs - which he will always wear rolled up, but which must be long and not short... (shrug - guess we all have our quirks).  I like the way the pleats are done in the back - there's no shoulder yoke, but those reinforcements where the pleats release are just cool, and it'll add the little bit of fullness you want across the back of a work shirt.  The pattern calls for machine stitching a triangle to anchor the pleat, but i'm wondering if a hand-worked tack might not be even more interesting... have to scratch my head about that one a bit, because it might not be large enough to keep the folds of the pleat from rolling up uncomfortably inside the shirt.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Scratch and dent sale

I was trolling through the flea market a few weeks back - late in the day for that sort of thing, so the vendors were a little thin, but i was going past and thought i'd breeze through and see if anything caught my eye.  The flea markets here are by and large no use at all for finding patterns, but sometimes you can get notions or books or other related sewing things, and there are useful household items to be had.

Transferware is one of the things i watch for - it's started to get expensive in some of the local thrift shops, so i haven't had much luck building my oddball collection of mismatched dishes there.  So when i walked by, this piece caught my eye:

I was almost past the table when the brain pointed out to the body that was already cruising onward, "hey, that one's seriously old."  I checked myself and went to take a closer look.  I remember thinking, "i'll eat my hat if that's not a nineteenth century piece."  

When i turned it over to look for a maker's mark, the vendor said since the plate was chipped, he'd take a dollar for it.  The chip is mostly on the underside, but does show on the front at the rim, about one o'clock.  I decided that even with the chip, it was worth a buck for a bread plate with an interesting pattern and some age.  If nothing else, i'd get my money's worth in the amusement value of a pleasant little research project.

If a quick online search is to be relied upon (which it's not, but it's somewhere to start), the mark on the back was in use for about a decade in the middle of the nineteenth century. 

The shot at left is lousy with glare, but does give a better representation of the color.  The scene in the center of the plate is pretty typical, but i really love the border on this one...

Friday, October 7, 2011

Society pages

For your amusement, a little glimpse into the manners of an earlier time: a social page note about a party given by my grandmother, long before she got to the "Grandma" stage...

Miss Jewel Zuber of 91 Mountainview road is having a week-end house party at her parents summer home at Metedeconk.  Her guests include Harriet Pratt, Peggy MacKenzie, Lew Lasser, Vincent Kane and Sam Lightholder of Millburn, Lucile Matteson of Short Hills and Paul Jacobus of Irvington, Boating, swimming, dancing, acquaplaning and picnicking will provide the week-ends entertainment. Mr. and Mrs. Zuber will chaperone the party.

You can see the whole June 9, 1939 issue of the paper here.  Though the family no longer appears in the society pages - indeed, the local papers around here no longer have anything that would even pass for a society page - i take some perverse comfort from the text (faithfully transcribed above), and the knowledge that the copy-editing then was no better than what i see now.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Out of the attic

Grammy had a wonderful attic.  For most of my childhood, it was unfinished, dimly lit, a bit spooky, but filled with fascinating things in the drawers of massive old dressers and on the shelves of a glass-fronted bookcase.  There was a copy of The Old Curiosity Shop which was inscribed Christmas, 1890 - which seemed positively ancient to me, and was probably the oldest thing i'd been allowed to handle without adult supervision.  I remember sitting on the floor in front of the bookcase with one slim blue volume from a set of "The World's 1000 Best Poems" and reaching the sucker punch at the end of "The Highwayman" - which leaves quite an impression when you're 10 or so.

Over a number of years, old volumes made their way to my own shelves, as gifts or on loan, or now and again even rescued out of boxes destined for garage sales (got a 1909 Hammond's World Atlas that way... that was in 1989 or 1990, and i remember being amused that the maps for swaths of Eastern Europe were almost current again).  By the time Grammy died, the collection was considerably smaller, and the bookcase - to my dismay - gone to a cousin.  But there were a few old books left, a bit of an odd selection, but i took several home because no one else wanted them.  One of those books seems seasonally appropriate, now that we're into October:

 This little book has a copyright date of 1912, and it's full of games that lean largely toward magical prediction, usually regarding selection of mates, rather than toward anything spooky or diabolical.  I rather suspect that it was aimed at young ladies.

A few of the suggested games, for inspiration in your own festivities:


1. The dragon consists of half a pint of ignited brandy or alcohol in a dish.  As soon as brandy is aflame, all lights are extinguished, and salt is freely sprinkled in dish, imparting a corpse-like pallor to every face.  Candied fruits, figs, raisins, sugared almonds, etc., are thrown in, and guests snap for them with their fingers; person securing most prizes from flames will meet his true love within the year.

2. Or, slips of paper on which verses are written are tightly wrapped in tin-foil and placed in dish.  Brandy is poured on and ignited.  The verse each person gets is supposed to tell his fortune.
     Place burning dish in middle of a bare table, for drops of burning spirits are often splashed about.

[Don't try this at home, kids...]


     Suspend horizontally from ceiling a stick three feet long.  On one end stick an apple, upon the other tie a small bag of flour.  Set stick whirling.  Each guest takes turn in trying to bite apple-end of stick.  It is amusing to see guests receive dabs of flour on face.  Guest who first succeeds in biting apple gets prize.


     Tie wedding-ring or key to silken thread or horsehair, and hold it suspended within a glass; then say the alphabet slowly; whenever ring strikes glass, begin over again and in this way spell the name of future mate.

The book helpfully gives examples for suitable invitations, too:

Monday, September 26, 2011

My turn

Lots of folks i know through Etsy and Twitter have tried making their own laundry detergent lately; i finally got round to giving it a go, and to doing a bit of field testing after.  They've been using the recipe here, but if you've read any of my recipe posts, you know that i'm an inveterate tinkerer, and have to fiddle with anything i try.

The original version calls for Fels-Naptha soap, but even though it no longer contains any napthalene, the label is disturbingly vague about what it does contain.  I decided - knowing you can get soap flakes of various things like Ivory in the laundry aisle - to try using a plain, unscented Castile soap.  The other ingredients are washing soda and borax, both cheap and readily available at the grocery store.  Since i was using an unscented soap, i also added in a few drops of lavender essential oil.

The sum total of the procedure is to grate the soap and then mix it with a cup each of the borax and the washing soda.  I used about 10-12 drops of lavender oil to scent the whole batch, and mixed that in well before packing it in a couple of small mason jars - i was tickled to find in my stash of pint jars one that reads "Naturally Fresh," so of course i had to pack some in that.  You only use about a tablespoon per load (got myself a cute little coffee scoop at the thrift store that works very nicely for measuring).

The report from the field test? It works, and it works quite well.  I tried it on an musty set of sheets that was still smelling funky after three rounds with the commercial detergent, and the sheets came out de-funked.  It looks like it will be significantly cheaper than the stuff i was buying, and it doesn't take much time to prepare.

Notes for next time: add a little extra soap - the Fels-Naptha bars are 5.5 ounces, and the bar i used only 4 ounces.  It's supposed to be low-sudsing, but i think it could use a wee bit more.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Coming attractions

(PressingNeeds edition)

I've been having fun with block printing on the wonderful little Moleskine pocket notebooks - i've got a couple listed in the shop, and some others that have been given as gifts.  I'm hunting for a new source for the blank notebooks, though - i'd been getting them through my sister, who worked at Borders and could count on a decent discount on a package of notebooks.  Now, obviously, that source is sunk.  I can find them locally, but not at a price that makes selling printed ones look tremendously viable.  So i hope to be able to do more, but for now, this is one of the last few that will be making its way to the shop:
I have to admit, i really like that turquoise ink, especially on the brown kraft cardstock.  I think i need to find more excuses to use that color.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Grandma wasn't what you'd call a shy violet, and some of her jewelry tended toward the... dramatic.

But some pieces are more sweet and traditional, like this charm bracelet.  Her father made it for her - he was a jewelry designer and diamond setter by trade - when she was a teenager, and she in turn gave it to me:
Disclaimer: my photography here really doesn't catch the detail etched in the charms... even the links in the chain are etched, every other one.  Also, fair warning, if you try calling me "Suzy" i will not answer politely.  Grandma got away with it, but she was the only one.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Carnivores, eh?

Some days i really wonder just how much English the cats understand... today, the phrase "i'm baking fresh bread" motivated an indecisive Winston to suddenly leap up off the porch step and dash inside. 

Winnie (on the bottom of the tabby stack, there) is an abject carb slut, and cannot be left unattended around bread, flour, potato chips, or anything vaguely pastry-like.  He will rip through any packaging - the bread i bake is now kept in a hefty plastic loaf keeper, inside a cabinet with a strong magnetic latch.  So far, it's kept him out, but i worry...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Speculative yardage

I try really hard not to buy fabric just because it presents itself.  After a couple of years working at G Street Fabrics, i have enough stashed for several years' worth of sewing projects, boxes and boxes of stuff, from interesting cotton prints to plaid silk taffeta to an insanely-gorgeous-but-totally-impractical linen lace (with a lily pad motif, no less...).

But there are certain circumstances wherein the rule is bent.  And finding nice quality Belgian linen at $2.00 a yard on clearance is one of them.  I bought eight yards.  I'm actually not that keen on the color, a pale seafoam green, but for $2.00 a yard, i'm willing to consider overdyeing it, or - since it's fairly sheer - underlining with a different colored fabric to shift the color a bit.

And since i was already bending the rule, i also bought the remainder of this piece of madras (alas, there were only 2-1/2 yards on the bolt).  I hope it keeps its slight sheen once i've pre-washed it, it's very pretty as it is.  Trying to decide between a breezy summer blouse and a pair of pajama pants...

Monday, August 29, 2011

Excavation (literary edition)

I've been doing some cleaning and sorting, and have turned up all manner of interesting and forgotten things.  Here is a tiny sampling of them, for your perusal...

First, a postcard - doubtless acquired at a thrift store, given the book it was tucked into - of this beautiful and devastating 17th-century effigy:
It's apparently in the collection of the V&A.  The notes on the back add the inscription:

Lydia Dwight dyed March 3 1673

It reminds me of Ben Jonson's epitaph "On my first daughter" though that was written some 80 years before.

Now (so as not to be thoroughly bleak), let me add this poem by Borges, which i'd printed out and filed away a few years back, and unearthed today (okay, it's in translation, because i have only Sesame Street Spanish...):

The Just
Jorge Luis Borges

A man who cultivates his garden, as Voltaire wished.
He who is grateful for the existence of music.
He who takes pleasure in tracing an etymology.
Two workmen playing, in a cafe in the South, a silent game of chess.
The potter, contemplating a color and a form.
The typographer who sets this page well, though it may not please him
A woman and a man, who read the last tercets of a certain canto.
He who strokes a sleeping animal.
He who justifies, or wishes to, a wrong done him.
He who is grateful for the existence of Stevenson.
He who prefers others to be right.
These people, unaware, are saving the world.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Report from the coop... also, a sale

Chickens don't like seismic activity.

We can add yesterday's earthquake to the long list of things my chickens disapprove of, including snow, cats, closed doors, strange new birds, snow, celery (except the leaves, which are acceptable), and snow.  They really don't like snow.

It turns out that the monthly delivery for chicken feed falls early in September, a fact i had failed to account for in my planning.  Thus, the second part of today's post: time for a quick sale at the pattern shop!  Now through August 30th, use the code "SCRATCH" to get 15% off your order... you could get this, which would be perfect for back-to-school:

Friday, August 19, 2011

Ribbon roundup

Thirteen entries for this year's fair, six of which are now sporting ribbons... there are two third place ribbons, one on the wineberry-blackberry-blueberry jam, and one on the still life photo entry, this shot:

(I took that while passing the time at a gig where the spouse was playing music, but i was not. Didn't think it was one of the better photos i'd entered, but it looked like maybe the judges had a thing for peaches in the still life category...)

The berry cheesecake bars had a second place ribbon on; made them with blueberries this time - all the blackberries on the mountain fizzled in the drought, and all the ones in the store had been flown in from unacceptably far away.

There were blue ribbons on the Fitz print (i always knew he was a winner), on my bread, and on my roasted tomatoes.  I canned the last of the tomatoes this way last year, after i finished the tomato sauce, and they were wonderful - this year i skipped making the tomato sauce, and went straight to the roasted tomatoes.

I've been trying to remember where i found the recipe, but it's so simple that i did it from memory this year: chunk the tomatoes (halve for something small like Romas, quarters or even smaller for heftier tomatoes - i like to use a variety of types in each batch) and plunk them on a baking sheet that's been drizzled with olive oil.  Parchment paper is your friend - while it's not essential, it will make packing the tomatoes and cleaning up after much easier.  Pop them in the oven at 425-450F (whatever won't set off your smoke alarm - that seems to be the deciding factor for me) until the skins are a bit crinkly, the tomato chunks are sagging in on themselves, and if you're lucky, there's a little color around the edges where they've started to caramelize.  Transfer to sterilized pint jars, adding in a fresh basil leaf here and there.  When you've filled the jars (don't pack too tightly, just what will fit) top them up with olive oil, leaving appropriate head space.  Put on the lids and process for 15 minutes in a boiling water canner.  You can put them on pizzas, chunk them up a bit for an instant-and-charmingly-rustic pasta sauce, toss them into stews... mmm!

Friday, August 12, 2011

The history of the future

I'm incapable of resisting very old books in thrift shops - partly because anything that washes up there after surviving for a hundred years or so probably has something going for it, and partly because i'm the sort of bookish geek delighted by historiography - even if it isn't a good reference, it's fascinating to see how people thought about and wrote about various subjects a century ago.

So the other day, for the weighty investment of $2.00, i brought this home for the spouse, who's equally keen on old books, and fond of things mechanical and scientific (which comprised the subject matter of this particular volume for children):

And inside, i found this illustration, which - all by itself - more than repays my investment (you'll want to click on the image, so you can actually read the caption...):

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Odd bits of transferware

I've been gathering ("collecting" would be far too purposeful and organized a word for it) mismatched bits of transferware, against the day when the dishes we've been using are due to be retired.  No particular theme as far as color or pattern, just things that i spot and decide i rather like... with bonus points awarded for strange or locally significant subjects - for instance, i bought a plate that has a somewhat cheesy-touristy image of Luray Caverns, done in a beautiful purple.  I added a few more pieces this weekend: a butter plate from the nearly-deserted flea market, and two dinner plates from a local thrift store.

The dinner plates scored on the local interest front: both feature more-or-less local Catholic churches dedicated to Saint Ignatius (the spouse said he's pretty sure that at least one of his sisters was married in the church shown on the plate on the right).

They look like the sort of thing that was probably custom produced in a small run to be sold as a fundraiser.  Curiously, though the plates have the same raised floral border, they're slightly different sizes.  The marks on the back and the glaze vary between the two as well.  One of them is dated 1966.  The other, while it has information on the back about the church building, has no marks at all from the manufacturer.

Even more mysterious is the tiny little butter plate (i'm guessing it's a butter plate, anyway - it's maybe a wee bit large for that, but quite a bit smaller than a saucer, and no depression to receive a cup...).  The transfer is poorly done on this one, but it was such a pretty pattern - i'm usually not a fan of the straight-up floral designs, heaps of roses on dishes just aren't my thing - but with the berries and the geometric border on the very edge, i quite fancy this pattern.  The problem?  Well, aside from the fact that it's not a great example (what with the transfer flaws), i have no idea what the pattern is or where the piece comes from.  No marks at all, so i'll have to hope that i can match it to a picture somewhere... at least there's hope, since the strawberries aren't the most ubiquitous motif on transferware.  With luck, i'll be able to find something else in the same pattern that does have a mark.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The legend of the spaghetti sauce

My grandmother's maiden name was Zuber; my grandfather's name was Paul Jacobus.  "Jacobus" and "Zuber" are not, you may observe, Italian names.  But we have a fine Italian spaghetti sauce recipe in the family, and it's because of my grandmother, Jewel.

Paul grew up in Irvington, New Jersey, and his best friend - now we get to the Italian names - was Vinny Loria (that's the two of them, aged about 15, Vincent on the left and Paul on the right).  When Paul was courting Jewel, he invited her to join him for Sunday dinner at his friend Vinny's house.  Vinny's mother, Mrs. Loria, was apparently the picture of an Italian matriarch, and Jewel saw dish after dish brought to the table.  Not wanting to offend her hostess, Jewel tried to eat some of each new item presented, but finally she couldn't fit any more in.  And still the dishes were presented...

After a while, she excused herself, went to the bathroom, and removed her girdle, so that she could return to finish the meal.  When Mrs. Loria discovered what Jewel had done, she was so flattered that she gave her the family spaghetti sauce recipe, which my very Germanic-and-Dutch family enjoys to this day.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Wake up!

There's a sale on at PressingNeeds - i need to get ready for the county fair, which means (among other things) that i've got lots of prints and photos that need to be framed, and that can run into a fair chunk of change... so, now through Saturday, August 13th, you can use the coupon code "FRAMED" to get 20% off your order!

There are lots of prints to choose from (the block i've show here is printed on one of those oh-so-handy pocket-sized Moleskine notebooks), and if you see something you'd like in a different color, or maybe framed and ready for gift-giving, don't hesitate to send a convo my way!