June 29, 2010

Days Off

I took this week off in anticipation of packing and moving. When things changed, I decided to stay home this week anyway and just get some things done.  Thanks again for all kind words, good wishes and excellent suggestions.

I had lunch with a friend today and took bags of clothes and other goods to one of the local thrift shops. This was the place where I’d scored the two Hermès scarves a few months ago.  I figured that it was a bit of karmic payback. Of course, I didn’t get out of there empty-handed, and picked up a few goodies.

Speaking of goodies, I’ve been seeing the wonderful French Ivory cutlery in the strangest places. I was going through some older magazines in preparation for taking them to the Book Thing, and in the December 2009  issue of Elle Decor UK, I saw a set of the round-tipped knives. I still have a dozen or more of these knives from my package from ex-Andy, so look for them on my Etsy shop.scan0152 They had suggested that the knives would make a brilliant Christmas present. I agreed, and thought that they would also make a unique wedding present. In fact, someone bought a set of the silver in a “canteen” {British - a box or chest for cutlery and other table utensils} for a wedding present.  6-10 024Next, I got an e-mail from an auction company in the area, and they also had a canteen filled with fish knives and forks.  I e-mailed this to my mother to show her the set, and then we spent a delightful half hour perusing the auction site finding lots of goodies.french ivory Auctions are brilliant places to get great deals on amazing things. One lot we both liked was this set of six Hepplewhite-style, shield back chairs in mahogany. For $150!auction Or how about this? Klismos style with inlaid crest rail, curved stiles, carved splat with rosette, above a trapezoidal slip seat, straight rail, raised on molded sabre legs.  Price: $40 for two!auction2 Sure, both sets of chairs could use new upholstery, but for a combined total of less than $200, you’d have money to spare for new fabric.

Auctions are so much fun, as long as you don’t get caught up in the frenzy of the moment. They are a great way to educate your eye about what’s good and what’s not. Every city and town has an auction house and it’s a fascinating way to spend an afternoon or evening. If an item is not sold during an auction, some auction houses will let you bid on-line if you’re interested in purchasing an item.

June 28, 2010

Day is Done

When I was a child at summer camp, we used to sing a song to the tune of taps:

Day is done, gone the sun
From the lakes, from the hills, from the skies.
All is well, safely rest.
God is nigh

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I can’t tell you how glad I am that today is done.  I very much appreciate all of your lovely and supportive comments on this blog and on Facebook.

In the scheme of things, cancelling the purchase of the house is not huge, but it’s been an integral part of my life for more than six months and has occupied a large portion of my thoughts and dreams.Constellation 099I am going to mourn for this for a few days and then move on, hopefully finding an even better house.


At the last possible moment, I have cancelled the purchase of the house that I've invested so much time, effort and energy in purchasing. There were some significant structural issues that came to light at the last minute, so I felt I had to walk away. The house is 110 years old, so I expected some issues, but not the ones that we found.

The hunt begins again.

June 27, 2010

Flowers on Sunday & Not Much Else

I missed the Farmers’ Market today because I was having a lie-in with the two dogs. Even though it’s close to 90 degrees at night, both dogs feel the need to be thisclose to me!

I went to a great impromptu brunch today to watch England v. Germany in the World Cup. Dire results for England though.World Cup 2010 My hostess had picked up four bunches of mixed wildflowers at the Market, some to take to a baby shower today and some for her fabulous kitchen. Check out the awesome stove in the picture on the right!

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I especially liked the Queen Anne’s Lace flowers in all stages of bloom.

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The bouquets were really huge and Julie, my hostess, told me that she paid $5.00 each for them.6-27 001 Such a deal!

June 26, 2010

Wedgwood Museum Collection May Be Sold in a Pension Dispute

From the Guardian

Supporters of the award-winning Wedgwood Museum in Stoke-on-Trent are launching a battle to save priceless examples of Josiah Wedgwood's work from being sold to the highest bidder.

The contents of the museum, managed by the independent Wedgwood Museum Trust, are under threat because of a huge pension debt left after the ceramics company went into bankruptcy.september 011

A complex law introduced to protect the 7,000 former factory workers at the site means that the trust, if found legally liable this autumn, may be forced to sell its collection to meet the £134m shortfall of its former parent company, the Wedgwood Group.

New owners took over the brand last year and the trust was forced into administration this spring, although the museum remains open while the future of its contents is decided.

"It would be desecration if this incredible collection was broken up for sale," said Alison Wedgwood, of the family, as a campaign to preserve its heritage was launched. Among the items that could be lost are precious "first day" vases, dating from June 1769, when Wedgwood moved his renowned ceramics works to a new factory he called Etruria in Staffordshire, and then personally threw six celebratory pots to mark the event – fashioning them into regal vases. Later that year he told his colleague Thomas Bentley that the vases should "be finished as high as you please, but not sold, they being the first fruits of Etruria".Wedgwood 049

A legal decision is expected in October. If lawyers rule that the trust is liable for the shortfall, the collection will be stripped of its unique assets. "But this would not mean a penny more for pensioners in Stoke. It is not about that," said Alison Wedgwood, an economist who is the wife of Josiah's descendant Tom Wedgwood. "It is just that the national Pension Protection Fund cannot step in until the legal matter has been decided." Wedgwood and her husband argue that it would be "a tragedy" to see the collection sold separately, and a decision against the trust would have damaging implications for similar trusts set up to protect historic items. The factory site is still used to make high-end ceramics, though most of the porcelain is now made in Indonesia.Wedgwood 077

Josiah, who was born in 1730 and died in 1795, invented and produced three of Wedgwood's most famous ceramics – Queen's Ware, Black Basalt and Jasper. He named the Etruria factory after the district of Italy where black Etruscan porcelain was excavated, and he turned the family business into a pottery empire with quality as its trademark.

"He was a force of unstoppable energy, funny and fierce, tender to his family and ruthlessly determined in business," according to the writer Jenny Uglow, who is campaigning to safeguard the collection. "He also combined a set of qualities rarely found in a single person: a genius for chemistry, a passion for good design, a daring, innovative style in manufacturing and a genius for marketing."Wedgwood 016

Bone china made in his Stoke works graced the best tables of the world for hundreds of years, including in the dining room of President Theodore Roosevelt, whose tureen serving dish is part of the collection. In recent years, sales of china have suffered due to changing social trends. Now the people of the Potteries fear the museum may go the way of the Minton Museum collection. Once this passed into the hands of Royal Doulton, much of it was sold as individual lots at auction.Wedgwood_Logo_40What a shame.

Dog Day Afternoon

I am babysitting Halas, the Wonder Dog, for the night. Poor Halas has a broken tail. It’s so sad.

Hal’s favourite thing is to stand on top of Connor.  Here they are in the back of the car, with Connor contentedly chewing on a bone and Halas standing over him!Hal & Connor 

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Hal & Connor4 Connor’s such a trouper! He puts up with all of Hal’s harassments because he loves him.

June 24, 2010

Almost There!

I got word late last night that the seller’s bank has accepted my contract on the house, at an even better price that I’d originally offered. How strange.

So, within the next week, I have to have the house inspected, finalize all paperwork, have the settlement and move. I am sure I will look like the Beverly Hillbillies going back and forth between the old house and the new one. beverly-hillbilliesI work well if there’s a deadline. When I moved to the UK, I finally bought a plane ticket, so I would quit faffing around and get on with things. I have my notebook with everything written out so I won’t forget, I am making notes and calls and I should be able to get everything done.

The plan is to pack stuff in my current house, move things that I still want to the new house next Thursday, and then anything that’s left here will be sold at a “yard” sale. Anything left over after that will be taken by a hauler that I know. junk So, if posting is light and Etsy listings are heavy in the next week, you’ll know why!

June 23, 2010

Hot as the Hinges of Hell!

It’s 10 p.m. and it’s still 90 degrees outside! The humidity’s high, too, so it’s really miserable. But it was just a few months ago that we were buried under many feet of snow.

One of the secrets to keeping cool in weather like this is to wear lots of natural fibers. I am very partial to linens and light cottons. A friend used to say “Linen makes the party”, which was really about entertaining. linen_tweed_thumbBut I like to think that wearing nice linens put you in a party mood.

Wearing linen in the summer just feels right. A dress like the one below is great because it doesn’t cling to you at all and lets the air circulate. If you’re in air conditioning, you can just throw a pashmina or light scarf around your shoulders.LinenDress I love wearing linen trousers in either black or white. I try not to have lined linen trousers, but if you’ve got white linen, they should be lined. linentrousers I like wearing a loose linen shirt over the trousers, usually un-tucked for a more casual look.

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With a plain top and either black or white trousers, I can wear bright jewelry, usually beads or an interesting necklace, and fun shoes like these colourful Moroccan slippers below!linenslippers What’s your favourite thing to wear in the summer?

June 22, 2010

More Kindness from Strangers

I am continually awed by the kind things that complete strangers have done for me in the past, like here and here.  Another stellar example of this occurred today when I received a very heavy package in the mail, all bound with tape and with the always anticipated customs form on it.

A few weeks ago, when I had mentioned the French Ivory silver that my ex-housemate, Andy, had sent me, someone e-mailed me and asked whether I’d be interested in the collection that he had. 6-10 024He said that he’s at the age where he finds himself clearing out deceased relatives’ houses and is reluctant to throw things away. He wants them to go to someone who appreciates them.

Astonishingly, I got a package with 40+ pieces of assorted “silver” ranging from a tiny butter knife/spreader to three very large dessert spoons. Most of the pieces are marked “EPNS” which is electro-plated nickel silver, an early process of plating, made famous in Sheffield, England.

Here are a few stand-out pieces:6-22 032 These are pastry forks. The tine on the left is heavier than the rest to make it easier to cut through a pastry crust without damaging the other tines.

These spoons are from the old Odeon Theatres in the UK. This chain of theaters was started by Lord Braeburne, who was David Hicks’ brother-in-law and married to one of Lord Mountbatten’s daughters. I worked with his grand-daughter in Wales.

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This piece gives me the chills. I am sure it’s all because I got a fish-hook caught in my foot as a child, and don’t like anything that’s barbed like this.  This is either a pickle fork, an olive fork or a cocktail fork. 6-22 027x This sweet little spoon looks like the King’s pattern. I have a set of Mappin & Webb knives and forks in this pattern. The tines on the forks that I received today, and in the Mappin set are sooo sharp and the knife blades are stainless steel!

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To dear, sweet Roger, thank you so very much for a wonderful present!

June 21, 2010

Classic Cars

Today, I attended a golf tournament to benefit the Baltimore Architecture Foundation, whose Board of Directors I have just joined. 6-21 004 Although the day was beastly hot – in the 90s – it was a great event and we raised a load of money. And it was a great way to spend the first day of summer!6-21 002Aside from playing golf on one of Baltimore’s most exclusive private courses, the highlight of the day was the collection of antique and classic cars that the golfers drove to the event.

The cars ranged from a great 1960s Porsche Targa6-21 015 to a 1971 Fiat, purchased in Italy, driven through Europe and then shipped to the States.  6-21 007 There was a 1931 three window Ford V8 in an incredible cherry red in near perfect condition. 6-21 021 There were several old Mercedes Benzes, including this 1960’s sedan with a cream leather interior. 6-21 011 Stunning.

But the car that stole my heart was this little 1960s Austin Healey 3000 MkII convertible in a brilliant red, just like a classic Chanel nail varnish. 6-21 029 Just a sweet perfect car. 6-21 028 It was a great day and a great way to celebrate the arrival of summer!

June 20, 2010

Flowers in Sunday and a Winner

This season seems to be very accelerated at the Farmers’ Market, with both peonies and sunflowers making a concurrent appearance. 6-20 010 I have heard that the huge amount of snow we had this winter was excellent for growing, as the snow was actually an insulator for the earth and so the soil never had a hard freeze, and when the snow melted, it saturated the ground with nutrients. 6-20 012 Regardless of the reason, there were gorgeous flowers at the Market today, and I brought a bunch of sunflowers home with me. Of course, I left a trail of petals around the market, in the car and on the sidewalk, but they’re gorgeous anyway!

How much fun are these zucchini blossoms? 6-20 011 I love the way they fill their boxes with the buds all pointing up!  Each has a tiny zucchini attached to the bottom, and you can sauté them in a little olive oil, or stuff the blossoms with a nice goat cheese.

Connor finally found the time to read through the submissions for the winner of the flag pennants, and decided to choose my friend Bonnie. flags 004 It’s been a rough year around their household, and if these flags go a little way to cheering up her husband and my friend Robbie, that will make me very happy.

I got this picture from a reader who bought some of the flags, in a fabulous blue damask print, and here’s what she did with them.FlagsCheck out the adorable puppy! Lust is right!