Accouterments of Time


It is really rather simple, all I have to do is gaze upon one, and the vivid emotion filled imagery comes flooding into my mind’s eye. One does not even need to physically hold one of these objet, although I sometimes do.

Some of these rare treasures I have found, some have found me and some have been passed down though my family as heirlooms.

They are precious time travel devices, to not only my past, but links to my elders and their life stories.

There are people who call these treasures, and those of use who curate them, by disrespectful names. (Tchotchke, bauble, Knick-knack, trinket, dust collector, and worst of all clutter or junk)

These stoics simply do not understand the power these beautiful time capsules possess for those of us who know how to connect with them.

With each one of these accouterments, I am taken back to the memory it possess’. Not only the moment acquired but the emotions and happenings of that bygone day.

For instance, when I was about 14, on a class trip one of my teachers offered to buy my group of students anything we wanted from the candy store. When I chose a porcelain figure instead of candy my teacher proclaimed I was silly to use the money to buy a dust collector. However, because of that little treasure I remember not only the purchase, I remember the who, the where, the light, the temperature and the joyous mood of a day filled with laughter.

It does not mater what they look like, or what they are made from, as they come in many different shapes sizes and materials. Some are even in the form of subsistence. (Science tells us the most powerful are the ones that contain scent. I quite agree.)

When ever I use a recipe of my grandmothers my kitchen smells like her kitchen and all the memories of that most love filled room.

No matter what the philistines and the minimalists say, I will protect them and hold them dear for as long as they are in my charge. Because when it comes to these cherished memory keeper’s “more is more”.

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A dram or a cup

Statue of St. Patrick in Aughagower, County Mayo

Image via Wikipedia

On this gloomy and overcast Saint Patrick’s day eve, my mind travels to memories of lessons and adventures I had long ago in my childhood.

Primarily raised by the eccentric and nostalgic matriarchs of my family, my early childhood tutelage was that of generations past. As a result ,my imagination was cultivated with superstitious stories and a culture filled with earnest protocols.

As far back as I can remember, the subjects of these stories were spoken of as a matter fact. The elder women of my family would mention them several times a day. Perhaps it would not be a specific mention but one as simple as “knock on wood” and their presence was summoned.

Due to this vital education in survival, I know what to do if one needs to get rid of pixies or fairies from the pantry, if god forbid changeling is suspected, how to find a unicorn or a kelpie and to avoid Shellycoat so as not to loose my way.

Armed with this knowledge and a bravery stocked by the fire of determination I would joyfully venture into the forest in search of the beings I had been raised knowing but never seeing.

The reason for this other world, fairy guided walk down memory lane is the story that Saint Patrick (a Catholic) drove the snakes (the Druids) out of Ireland. I’ve always thought it ironic that poor St. Patrick shares his day with symbols of Druid mythology. The leprechaun being the main character.

But is this odd? My Nana, a good catholic woman, who later in life attended mass everyday, was one of my chief advisers on everything fairy and the facts of what we call superstition.

I see no reason why we cannot have saints and fairies. Superstitions tangled and entwined serve to as a thread tying us to our past – To the culture of our ancestors.

I end this post with a proposal . Pour a cup of Barry’s tea or a glass of Jameson Irish Whiskey (Jameson was a Scotsman by birth) ponder on whomever you wish. God, saint or fairy.

Thanking our ancestors for the life they have given us.

L’art pour l’art or for my soul


Pressed for time but determined, I made my way across to the North West section of the city using only the GPS to guide me, as I had no idea beyond time where the pabulum for my soul was located.

Winding up the road, I could see as I drove closer nature was one of the guardians to this extraordinary place.

After some anxious searching (time being finite) I found a space to park, scrambled out of the car and gazed over the water to see the first enchanting treat. A view of the Golden Gate Bridge framed perfectly by evergreen and azure.

Walking up the path I found the next two guardians. Noble and frozen as though in mid-thought, two stone lions weathered and beautiful.

Immediately adjacent and flanking either side of the path to the entrance are two magnificent bronze statues on horseback with the sun shining down, approvingly further anointing them in enduring glory. I could imagine them asking a riddle or perhaps simply keeping watch so no philistines could pass.

I walked respectfully through the gate as I entered this most sacred Palace. Soon my soul would feast on the treasure within.

Surely my body would understand that nourishment of the soul is just as important and vital to life. My body could wait for dinner, today lunch was a different type of aliment.

The air was still and hot, there were far more bodies milling about than I would have expected. I had but an hour to get my fill and I intended on taking in every delight of this banquet.

My heals clipped against the stone steps as I made my way down to the first room. There I was greeted by the first of the paintings, vases, wallpapers and andirons. My eyes ate greedily as I moved hastily through the room.

My head began to swim with fervor. I had Chronos‘ warm humid breath on my neck. I fanned myself with the program, at first fast then more slowly. I would not be spurred on too quickly.

Into the next room I slowly made my way around to each delicious morsel, my soul listening, engrossed in each of their stories.

Nearly moved to tears with each brushstroke and saturation of colour, the light of a days long since past, captured by each master. The perfect balance of form and function in the furniture, tea sets and plates.

As I moved through the gallery my soul stirred. Cobwebs of emaciation were shook off and my soul swelled so strongly with nourishment that quiet tears could not be held back. Moved by the detailed feathers of the wings of Love, as real as one could ever believe, could I hear the breeze rustling through the wings as he looked upon the sweet maiden’s face. So delicate was each petal painted, that one could have picked the flowers and placed them in a vase. What magic did John Roddam Spencer Stanhope know?

Moving through, my eyes found what they were eager to devour. Albert Moore’s Midsummer. While it is true of all works of art, I believe it may be most true for this piece, photographs do not do it justice. This painting radiates heat. It glows with a fire of something that is alive and of another world. I could have soaked in its beauty for hours. Studying each brush stroke and line until it it was forever part of me. But time would not have it and ripped me away.

I made my way through to the last of the galleries. Goosebumps and butterflies as each amazing work greeted me with its own story.

Before leaving I granted my self the gift of the hardcover book on the exhibit. Containing images of each and every treasure and their stories, as well as a plate set copied from the peacock charger designed by the great William Morris.

Over all I must say it was one of the best museum experiences I have ever had. Everyone was there for the same reason, to feed their soul. Everyone was respectful and as crowded as it was, one would believe the lot of us had laryngitis.

Unfortunately my time was too short and I left with my soul still hungry for more.

The Cult of Beauty, the Victorian Avant-Garde 1860-1900 may be viewed at The California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, California until June.

http://legionofhonor.famsf.org/

The gorgeous and well written book by the same name “Cult of Beauty ” edited by Dr. Lynn Federle Orr and Stephen Calloway, published by V&A, is available for purchase in the museum gift shop (a great way to give back), as well as via www.amazon.com

Stop your kvetching

I believe people to be generally compassionate, especially in dire situations.
But what about under everyday circumstances?  Do we always show patience and empathy then?
Please allow me to illustrate:

A man who is running late, yet again, is caught up at a red light that just seems to be taking forever to change.
In the car in front of him, there is a young lady who just found out her dear friend is terminally ill.
The light they both have been waiting at changes, the girl does not notice straight away as she is momentarily lost in thought.  The  man, short of fuse, lays on the horn. This not only makes the young lady jump, but sets her fragile mood down a grumpy road as well.  

How many times have we been in that situation, playing the roll of either character?
Is it necessary to lay on ones horn? Would not a small short courtesy beep be sufficient?
Instead of allowing ones mood to be dictated by that of a rude stranger, should we not bear in mind the anger expressed really has nothing personally to do with us and that angry man is dealing with his own issues.

My point is as Plato said so well, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

Collection or Obsession

Of my multitudinous passions, one reigns close to the top of the list. It is a simple passion. One may say I have been bit by the bug.

 The design world is full of avid collectors. Each designer will have their own penchant for this or that. However, nearly everyone will agree, the one that is most arresting is the passion for Blue and White. I dare say, more design books have been written about this color than any other.

I see this focus of passion as a practical and intelligent design choice. Every designer worth their salt will tell you that a successful design scheme takes strict discipline.

One must start with an inspiration. My inspiration early on was blue.

Growing up with designers and then later on working in the design industry I have been exposed to various and unique design looks, beautiful rooms, and their contents. There is a new fabric, light, chair, and color every second. One must stay focused so as not to get lost and end up with a room that looks like a hodge podge with no rhythm, rhyme or reason.

The color blue is in every room of my home. It is not the only color but it is the dominant color. It is the thread that ties it all harmoniously together as one.

I once thought that blue bit me while I was in college, but, if i am honest, it happened in early childhood. My mother had a beautiful set of Liberty Blue Staffordshire plates.

The historic buildings and scenes featured would inspire my imagination of colonial times in America. Dinner was more interesting when we used the Liberty Blue. As one was having dinner, one could easily imagine the days of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Talk about having a dinner date with history!

Later on in college, setting up my first apartment, I came across some delightful plates with a cobalt willow pattern. The plates did not have bowls, so I went to Pier One and purchased some inexpensive blue and white Chinese bowls. From that moment on I cultivated the obsession. I learned early on that cobalt blue patterned plates could be mixed and matched. It was more interesting. Each find reminds me of a different time and my life. A diary in blue and white china.

After my college years, I started adding accent colors and other accessories. I could change the mood of the table with a change of the shape, subject and accessories. I could add a pop of sunflower yellow to send an Indian inspired paisley patterned plate to Tuscany for breakfast. My blue willow could be used for a luncheon with tea or as a plate for an Asian inspired dinner. With a change of table linens the plates became a sort of chameleon.

The key is the color. Not only the blue, every blue in the cobalt violet blue family from watercolor to deep cobalt works well together. Blues that tend toward the teal or green will not do.

I also make sure that the white is the traditional stoneware. Too ivory or too white will throw off the pairings.

With focus and continuity in my color scheme, I am free to play with the mood of my table.


Here are some guidelines to get you started.

  • Choose a pattern and color you love. Shop off the beaten path.
  • Be faithful to the color. Until the shade is burned into your mind’s eye, carry a fabric swatch or paint chip that matches the color. This way you will always have a reference with you while you are out and about. Some of my best finds were stumbled upon.
  • Continuity. If you already have your home decorated use that as your inspiration. Choose your color from one already dominate in your home.
  • Bear in mind your style. Is it traditional, transitional, contemporary. Do you have a”look”, English, French, Italian.? Are you into clean modern lines or a more softer more feminine style? There are so many different looks today. If you are unsure, check out a few different design magazines. Go through and tag every picture that moves you. Then go back and compare them. This should help find your design look.
  • Accessorize. Layer with pops of colors or interesting objects of the same color. Table linens are a great way to dress the table as are flowers of any variety. Although, I recommend staying away from flowers that have a strong scent.
  • Discipline. Stick to your design scheme. This will save you time and money.

Finally, I would like to recommend one of my favorite books on this subject, A Passion for Blue and White, written by Carolyn Roehm

 


Regale Reasonably

One of my absolute favorite activities is to host an intimate dinner party for four to six friends. Entertaining friends in one’s home is relaxing, fun, and a great way to socialize if you are on a budget. I learned very early on that I am able to feed four or more people depending on the dish for the price it would be for one or two people dinning in a restaurant. Perhaps even less if your guests bring the wine.

Start with a tried and true recipe. It need not be haute cuisine. Choose something that you enjoy making. The company and conversation at the table is what is most important.

When I was learning to first cook, the first recipes I wanted to attempt were my grandmothers. A true chef in her own right I would follow her recipe to the letter. Never did the dish taste as delicious as when my grandmother created it. How nettlesome, and what was I doing wrong?

It was simple, aside from being a new cook, I had yet to find the fun and passion of the preparation. My focus was on the destination, the end result and not the pleasure of the journey. The knowledge that I am cooking a dish that will connect me with my grandmother, as well as share such a favorite with my friends was forgotten in the nerves and exceptions I had set for myself.

As soon as I adopted the mantra, “I can always order pizza, I can always order pizza” as well as the encouraging words of my grandmother that she too has had mishaps with meals. I began to relax, have fun, and the food began to taste better and better.

Then one day after numerous dinner parties my cookery came close to tasting like my grandmother’s, but not exactly and I realized that I would never cook exactly the same as Grandmother. She was a different person, her pinch and my pinch could never be the same, and her experiences with food in life have been different then mine. Her perspective and pallet were slightly different. After all, I love sushi and my grandmother does not. My cooking became just that – mine.

My confidence grew and I felt the freedom of experimenting and trying new cuisine. I am still no where near as an accomplished cook as my grandmother but I have confidence and a true passion for food.

Next choose plates you would like to use. I believe strongly one eats with ones eyes first. Actually studies have confirmed this. Think of the table as the stage on which you set the mood for your dinner party.

The price and where one purchases plates is inconsequential. What is important is that they bring joy to one when looked upon. This basis holds true for the cutlery, glasses, table linens and accessories.

Since this is an informal dinner party, I will only need place settings for dinner and dessert. I like for my plates to have continuity throughout an evening, so I will stay with my favorite colour blue for the two courses.

I have decided to use my whimsical maritime plates. The color and the theme set the tone going forward.

Following the plates choose the glassware. I will be serving wine with dinner, and, of course, one must always have a water glass.

In keeping with the theme, and the casual easy ambiance I would like to achieve, I will use my cheap, cheerful, and hand blown glasses. The bubbles remind me of old glass lobster buoys.

The only cutlery needed is plased standardly, napkin and fork on the left, knife, blade iron the right. I could place the desert spoon at the top, just above the plate but I will bring them out with the dessert at the end of the meal instead.

The plates have touches of green. Thus, I pull the green color as an accent and use a green majolica pitcher for the wine, and some green and blue cloth napkins.

I love to decant wine. No one is ever concerned with the label when wine is poured from a lovely pitcher or decanter.

Then the fun bit, setting and accessorizing the table! Candles are a must! Everyone and everything looks better in candle light. I adore mixing and maching tapers and votives.

Have fun using your imagination to add accessories. Simple blue glass sea shells catch the light and bring another layer to the table scape. All set upon a blue table cloth.

I want to share with you one of my own recently and favorite recipes:Kale and carrots, sauce panwith lidKale, ripped up into bite side peaces, no stem, one big handful per person. It cooks down much like spinach

Carrots, chopped into disks, one good handful per person

Garlic, minced approx two teaspoons

Butter, tablespoon per handful or to taste

Lavender, teaspoon

Sea salt, a couple good pinches

Thyme, teaspoon

Lemon, teaspoon

Water to cover the bottom of sauce pan

Toss together cover, and cook down over low heat. You may also cook down like a spinach or other greens nice and wilted.

While the Kale and Carrots cooks, sauté the fish.

Simple provincial style fillets (as easy as chicken) Skillet

8 wild snapper fillets (bones removed)

Flour, enough to lightly dust fish

Butter, two sticks

Olive oil, a good swirl in the pan. Olive oil cooks at a higher temp and will help the butter not burn.

Herbs de provence, to taste

Garlic, at least three Hefty teaspoons. Minced

Lemon, half of a small lemon, to taste.

In a large skillet on med high, heat olive oil, butter, garlic and herbs. As soon as the butter has stopped frothing add the lightly flowered fillets. Let them cook until there is a light gold color and the edges have turned opaque white. Then flip over and cook the other side being sure to baste with the butter and herbs. I like to do this often. It will keep the fish moist. This does not take very long a few minutes each side.

All served on a plate along with some good quality crusty french bread.

A nice glass of white wine and some lovely company.