Monday, June 26, 2006

Summertime Swimming at the Turn of the Century

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

Found this circa 1905 image of families enjoying themselves at the beach on a hot day - makes you wonder how they cooled off with all those swimming clothes they were wearing! They are literally covered head to toe, including long sleeves.

Can't imagine wearing these bathing dresses - they were made of wool flannel, and ladies wore them with stockings, canvas shoes, and - to be fashionable - they wore straw hats with their outfits. Gee, those were ugly straw hats . . .

At that time, there were actually censors who roamed the beaches looking for ladies who exposed a bit too much skin than the local bathing codes would allow!

Bathing Beauties

These bathing lovelies above are from a few years later, circa 1907 or so, and are wearing the latest daring bathing costumes - bloomer suits and stockings. No hats, no shoes, and they even had bare arms.

Fun images from a long time ago . . .

Thursday, June 22, 2006

1920s Winning Grape Nuts Recipes!

After yesterday’s posting about little antique cookbooklets, I had a request that I post a couple of 1920s Grape Nuts contest recipes, so here are a couple of the more offbeat ones:

Winning second place in the Grape Nuts contest, earning this housewife $750:

Grape Nuts Raisin Pie

3/4 cup Grape Nuts
3/4 cup raisins, seeded and chopped

1-1/2 cups brown sugar

2-1/4 cups hot water

1/4 cup vinegar

3 tablespoons butter

Mix in order given, and cook for 10 minutes. Cool. Put into a paste-lined plate and cover with half-inch strips of paste placed half an inch apart. Bake about 40 minutes. The oven should be hot for the first 15 minutes and then the heat should be reduced.


Grape Nuts Cheese Balls

1 cup grated cheese

6 drops Worcestershire sauce

½ cup Grape Nuts

1 well-beaten egg

Mix all together and roll between hands into little balls, flouring the fingers if necessary. Put the balls into a wire basket and drop into a kettle of hot fat. In one minute they will be golden brown and ready to be served with your salad. These are especially nice served with fruit salads.


Grape Nuts Lolly Pops

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup dark syrup

2 tablespoons vinegar
1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon butter

½ cup Grape Nuts

½ teaspoon lemon extract

Boil the syrup, sugar, vinegar, water and butter until a little of the mixture will form a hard ball when dropped into cold water. Do not boil too hard. Add the Grape Nuts and stir well over a low heat, then add the lemon extract. Pour the mixture on a buttered platter and when cold enough to handle wrap a small portion aroud a small wooden stick.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

LIttle Cookbooks

I have been collecting vintage cookbooks for more than 20 years. It all started with my Aunt Nettie, who loved to cook. Her Ukrainian background leaned towards a strong interest in ethnic recipes, but she collected all kinds of cookbooks. In her younger days she used to travel quite a bit, and when she returned from her trips, her suitcases were always crammed with new additions for her collection.

She read cookbooks like they were novels. To her, each one told it's own story, and she amassed a giant collection over 50 years. Her cookbook addiction was legendary within our family, and she received all sorts of cookbooks as gifts for holidays and birthdays.

Sadly, after her death years ago, her collection was broken up and sold for a pittance. I was only able to obtain a dozen or so of her ethnic-based cookbooks (one of my favorite categories). She also saved cooking magazines - Gourmet was her favorite, but she bought many others, especially when she traveled. They were stacked up her stairway, in her second floor spare bedroom, and just about anywhere she could find room for them. There was probably a thousand or more, and they all disappeared after she was gone.

Years ago, she gave me s few of her "lttle cookbooks". That's what she called them. They were the small, soft-cover recipe booklets that were often given away as promotionals in the first half of the 20th century. I thought they were pretty cool, and still have them today. Over the years, I've added some of these to my cookbook collection, especially if they were from the 1920s or earlier. They don't take up a lot of room, and sometimes they have some really odd recipes promoting whatever product they represented.

Above are some of the "little cookbooks" I have in my inventory. The one entitled "101 Prize Recipes" is a hoot - although you can't tell from the cover, it's a promotional recipe booklet from the Postum Cereal Company of Battle Creek, Michigan, circa 1925. You'll recognize this company today as Post Cereal, and is still in production in Battle Creek.

Inside are 38 pages of recipes created by housewives of the Roaring Twenties as part of a contest. Every recipe uses, in some way or another, a central ingredient: Grape Nuts! I didn't realize one could use Grape Nuts cereal in so many different and imaginative ways.

First Prize of $1000 (which was really a large amount of money in the 1920s) was awarded for "Grape-Nuts Omelet California", to Frances Lewis Trussel of San Marcos, California. It's basically a 3-egg cheese and tomato omelet, with a 1/2 cup of Grape-Nuts mixed in. It's a crunchy omelet!!

Other entries in this contest and printed in this booklet include Grape Nuts Bread, Grape Nuts Macaroons, Grape Nuts Lolly Pops (!), Grape Nuts Stuffed Carrots, Grape Nuts Fudge Frosting, and a host of other recipe combinations I would have never thought of.

Guess that's why I really like these fun vintage promotional cook booklets - they usually have some really oddball food ideas!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Antique Checkers Gameboards

Earlier I spoke of folk art, and the many different kinds available. A very popular kind of folk art collecting is gameboards. There are all sorts of game boards available, in a zillion styles, shapes and colors.

Gameboard collectors like unusual styles, bold colors, and unique, homemade game boards, and will pay high prices for something really different. If you are interested in colorful folk art, gameboards might be a fun category to search for - here's some tips on buying an honest, good-quality folk art game board.

Above are two interesting checker gameboards, unusual because they mirror each other yet are individual in their own design. Their bold colors yet simple style make them wonderful decorative art.

They are being sold together, and were probably made by the same maker. They show no maker's name, typical of homemade gameboards. They are from the early 19th century, and they are Canadian.

Now, if they are unmarked, how would I know where they originated? By recognizing the specific design of these boards. Checker boards are usually seen in two styles - one style has eight squares across the top, while the other style has twelve squares. By counting the number of squares across the width of the board, the probable origin can be determined. Eight squares across the top indicates an American checker board, while twelve squares most likely means it's a Canadian board.

Another attractive feature of these boards is the "holding" area for checkers at each end of the boards. It indicates an earlier board, versus a 20th century board. The square nail construction also reflects these board's 19th century age. These have not been repainted - their original paint, dry and showing good crackling - make them even more desirable.

Fun to see a matched pair of boards - it's not often a collector has an opportunity to obtain a pair. These were found in a local Maine antiques shop, one well-known for it's Folk Art offerings.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

It's lighthouse Week in Maine!

The lighthouse shown here is the Pemaquid Point Light, found at the southern tip of the Pemaquid peninsula near the small fishing village of New Harbor, Maine.

It's still actively in use, although automated. In the original lightkeeper's cottage at it's base is the Fisherman's Museum, showcasing the history of lobster fishing.

Each year thousands of people visit the lighthouse and museum. They can visit the top of the lighthouse, or have a picnic at one of the picnic sites. Many people sit on the huge ledge of rocks, enjoying the sea and it's hypnotic attraction.

One of the niftiest things about Maine is it's many lighthouses. You can visit several of them, making a full week of lighthouse tours along the coast. It's a great way to see the ocean, it's crashing surf and wildlife, and Maine's beautiful sea coast.

This week is especially lighthouse-oriented - it's officially Lighthouse Week, celebrating midcoast Maine's maritime heritage. The new Maine Lighthouse Museum has opened in Rockland, Maine, with a fabulous display of Coast Guard lighthouses in Maine.

The brand new 5,000 square foot exhibition hall is named after Chief Warrant Officer Ken Black, who donated his own personal collection of lighthouse artifacts for public display. So many of the lighthouses were converted to automatic lights in the 1960s and 1970s, and, sadly, their lenses and equipment were slated for destruction. During this time, CWO Ken Black recognized their importance, and salvaged as much as he could - stunning heavy glass Fresnel lenses, beautiful brass works of earlier times, and any other lighthouse equipment he could locate.

One of the spectacular displays is the ten foot tall Fresnel lens which once powered the Petit Manan lighthouse. There are future plans to build a tower around this lens to simulate it's original historic appearance. Fresnel lenses were cast of thick, heavy glass in France. This lens is the second largest lens size made, and has a 21 mile range. They were made of multiple prisms, and in their manufacture were polished long ago by hand.

When the Coast Guard decommissioned and automated many lighthouses, the lights were often simply smashed and tossed into the sea. (Our tax dollars at work, destroying valuable artifacts!) CWO Black discovered this practice, and instead managed to save many items, dismantling a light piece by piece. He'd then have his fellow Coast Guard officers haul it back to Rockland, where he was stationed. Eventually, he opened his own small museum in Rockland, and people would come in and say "Hey! We have a light like that, do you want it?" Soon his collection outgrew his original location, as other lighthouse antiques come into his possession, and a new, larger museum went from dream to reality.

One of his prized possessions found in the new museum is the Mantinicus Lighthouse bell, cast in Philadelphia in 1856. It is comparable in size to the famous Liberty Bell, also cast is that same city.

In addition, a new research library has been created to complement the museum. This library is scheduled to hold all of CWO Black's lighthouse-related papers, which he has collected for decades. This special collection will be available for research by appointment.

There is so much lighthouse material that each year a new exhibit will focus on a different aspect of lighthouse history. There are still thousands of artifacts stored in crates, awaiting their turn to be displayed in the new museum!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Building a New Antiques Website

Today I spent time with a friend who is working on a website for her antiques shop. She's having a professional build the site, with her own design ideas, copy and photos. She will soon be promoting her upscale group shop world-wide on the Internet, so this is a big step in having a website presence which reflects the level of her shop's fine quality.

She's used her computer for other functions, but has not surfed much and has not seen a lot of other shops' sites. Today we spent a good amount of time wandering through dozens of other sites for ideas on color and design, as well as what she really liked and and really didn't like about websites. She now has about 6 pages of ideas for her site builder on what she wants for her own site. It was time well worth spending.

Many of the websites we surfed were quite well done, with good design and easy maneuverability. They were clear, simple to understand, and especially good for new-to-the-Internet shoppers.

However, we were both amazed at some websites - representing top notch dealers who carry some truly fine antiques - but who apparently gave very little thought to their Internet "doorway. "

One of the first problems noticed was the type font size used. Approximately 90% of the sites relied upon very small print for their information. Since the majority of antiques customers are in the 40 - 70 age group, small print causes eye strain and frustration as potential buyers struggle to read too-small type.

Even worse, several of the websites used color choices which made reading difficult. For example, one site used a medium gray background with black type. With minimal contrast between the two colors, it was extremely hard to read. Compound that with small print, and a buyer isn't going to waste a lot of time on that site - there's too many others to search.

Another problem was slow-loading photos. You could tell which sites had been done by people with little website experience - their photos took forever to load (and this was viewed on a dsl connection, so it really should have been fairly quick). One site had 5 photos, and took nearly 8 minutes to load. By then, we were bored waiting to see what that website had to offer, and headed to the kitchen for lunch.

Afterward lunch, we re-checked the site, viewed five poorly-aimed photos of an antiques mall's aisles and long distance shots of showcases with unidentifiable things in them. Hard to believe - the first photo's central figure was an aisle in their shop, with booths along the edges of the aisle. The perspective of the photo didn't include any specific antiques, and they were all jumbled together, booth after booth, with a shopper being unable to distinguish any particular booth or antique. But the aisle sure was neat and clean, and looked good . . .

One of the design details seen in several website was moving images - swaying banners announcing recent acquisition, a flapping-in-the-breeze graphic of the American flag, swans a-swimming, flashing little jagged edges balloons proclaiming NEW! We both thought that these kind of images were more distracting than helpful, and that they caused aggravation when navigating the website. We spent little time on those sites, just because of the annoying moving images.

Then there were the sites that had major boo-boos. One had blank boxes where photos were supposed to be. Another had incomplete sentences and missing information. A third was so busy in it's design, a viewer had a difficult time figuring out what actually was for sale - there were many photos of items laid out in a mosaic-styled large photo, and they all turned out to be previous sales - not a single one was available for purchase. A fourth site had several pages of copy about the antiques dealer himself, reflecting a whole lot more than the average person wanted to know about his personal life, his home, his philosophies, his previous employments (30 years worth!!), his family members, where he lived, ad nauseum. I was so sick of reading about him that I never got around to clicking on his merchandise pages!

My friend's afternoon of website research will pay off. By doing her homework, she is now full of good ideas to share with her designer, which will save her much design time and cost. Advance planning will make all the difference in her website, and soon she'll have a classy Internet site equal to her fine shop.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Folk Art in Maine

Maine is known for it’s folk art. It’s not unusual for a folk art collector or dealer to travel to Maine just for the purpose of hunting for something special. They won’t know exactly what they are searching for until they see it, but they will definitely know when they find it. Folk art is so individual in style and design, and one person’s “gotta-have” might be skipped over quickly by another when it just didn’t speak to them.

Clients often ask me to define antique folk art. Basically, a folk art antique is something hand-made and original, imagined and created by someone who made it as a one-of-a-kind item. It definitely will not be a mass-manufactured piece.

It can be a hooked rug, or a figural item made of wood or metal, maybe a piece of decorated stoneware, or even a piece of furniture. It’s appeal lies in it’s naivete’, it’s country-like “feel”, it’s informality. If you see ten of exactly the same "folk art", then I wouldn’t consider it to be a true folk art one-of-a-kind antique.

It can be more than one hundred years old, or it could have been made just 50 years ago. There are no date limitations to folk art, although the earlier the better. There are folk artists working today who are making a name for themselves with their unique ideas, and they will be appreciated for many decades for their art.

One of the hottest folk art items today are early hooked rugs, usually pre-1910. They are the kind of wool rugs made by women who used their own ideas instead of a manufactured pattern, and then used whatever wool fabrics they saved - usually recycled clothing - to make practical, useful rugs for their homes. Animal designs are extremely popular and can be quite pricey - cats, dogs, horses, roosters and lions all draw premium prices.

Condition is important - good early hooked rugs might have foundation dry rot, which is difficult and expensive to repair. Missing sections of wool can be restored, and a professional conservator will use antique fabric of the time period and style for repairs. Professional washing will brighten a rug and make it worth hanging as wall art; a rug should always be cleaned before restoration so colors can be matched properly.

A good rug will look it’s best mounted on a frame, so it can hang on the wall and be appreciated as wall art. Putting a good rug on the floor can cause more damage as it’s walked on, and certainly one can’t see it as well on the floor compared to wall-hanging it.

Maine is known nationally amongst dealers as THE place to find good rugs - so many women here made fabulous rugs long ago. Rug hookers here were so resourceful and creative, and were influenced by their surroundings. Many antiques shops offer fine early hooked rugs of all kinds - scenics, florals, animals, geometrics, sailing ships, just to name a few categories - with the earlier late 19th century rugs most desirable.

Good rugs can costs a few hundred dollars, but some will cost several thousand dollars, with size, rarity of design, and expertise of hooker all considered in pricing.

If you are interested in having your own rug cleaned and/or restored, please feel free to contact me for more information.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Maine can be so unique in antiques shopping. The antiques here tend to be of two categories - practical, or folky. It reflects the lifestyles of Mainers in times past (but also today too). They are hard-working people who appreciate family and home, but also have a whimsical, humorous side to them (maybe because of all those long, hard work days??) that reflects in their antiques.

For example - in just about every shop, you’ll find plenty of fine quality antique furniture. Much of it is at least one hundred years old, but there is a wide assortment of both formal and country furniture from the very early 1800s. Mainers value practicality, so furniture is well-cared for and passed through the generations, often still in it’s original finish of varnish, or early original paint. Refinished furniture does not command the attention nor the price compared to original, dry surface. Many antiques dealers actually specialize in original surface furniture.

Some shops deal only in formal furniture and accessories, while others carry only country painted pieces. It's not unusual to find shops which carry both. It all depends on the shop owner’s interests, as well as what can be found in local homes and auctions. Prices are all over the board - it’s possible to find lovely, ready-to-use furniture from 1800 to 1900 in the $350 to $1000 range, and almost always it’s of better quality than one might find in the new furniture stores.

Antique furniture was often handmade by a local craftsman a century or more ago, built by someone who understood wood, construction and usefulness. It was made with pride and resourcefulness, often of woods found in the craftsman's own home area. These are details which account for why antique furniture is still in regular use today.

Think about all the production manufactured furniture made in America during the last 30 years. Do you believe it will still be in use one hundred years from now, or will be found in an antiques shop in beautiful condition and ready for a customer's home? Maybe, but doubtful. Modern furniture, even some of the more expensive lines, is regularly made of veneer over pressboard, stapled together (much quicker than handcut dovetailing and glueing), with modern spray finishes which only hold up for a few decades, and then are difficult to restore.

Now, veneer when used as a specialty wood in a specific design, is a beautiful thing. So often these day veneer is used to make a piece of furniture look good, but the item's "bones" - the underwood beneath the veneer - is of pressboard. As an example, furniture makers in the 18th and 19th centuries crafted fabulous mahogany burled veneer as design accents, all supported underneath by hardwoods (but sometimes pine, depending on what was available locally)-. Back then, the concept of pressboard wasn't in use.

Yet regularly, quality antique furniture can be found for less money than their modern reproduction “cousins”. When clients approach me about antique furniture and are unfamiliar with a realistic price for a piece, I suggest that they first visit their local new furniture store - preferably an upper-end, fine quality store - and check that furniture for construction, finish, color, style and price. I ask them to look at the back of a chest of drawers, for example, and also view the individual drawers on the inside, to see what kind of construction was used in these modern pieces. I ask them to check for the kind of wood used - solid hardwoods throughout, or pressboard on the back and drawer interiors?

Just about any experienced antiques dealer can discuss in detail the furniture they have for sale, so comparisons are easy to do. Once a client has a good understanding of basic furniture points, they can then discuss why pieces are priced the way they are. Well-made furniture is worth investing in, and the value of an antique furniture piece will hold, even increase over the years, while newly made furniture value will not.

One of the best things about antique furniture is it’s individuality - especially in one-of-a-kind furniture that a craftsman made himself, based on his own ideas, his experience, and his design capabilities. It's even possible that this craftsman had a need for an item to fit in a specific spot in his home, so that furniture's size and form might be unusual.

Knowing that you’ve purchased a unique antique (a phrase abused much too frequently, but can easily and honestly apply in both antique furniture and folk art) adds to your own personal antique collection, and shows your personality through your selection of what speaks to you!

Tomorrow I’ll talk about antique folk art - one of Maine’s favorite specialties

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Auction in Maine

Went to a local auction a couple of nights ago. The hall was half-filled, mostly with local dealers. There weren't a lot of non-dealer people there, probably because it had been raining all day, and a lot of folks just don't want to bother with an auction - even if it's indoors - if it's raining. The idea of loading one's purchases into your car after the auction isn't very appealing if you are doing it in a downpour.

I went with a close friend, also a dealer, more for the entertainment than to actually buy anything. The selling lately has been on the slow side - June is often quite soft for sales. That usually means that buying is going to be limited, since minimal sales means no cash flow to spend on fresh merchandise.

Seems like just about everyone one there was in the same boat. Although everything sold and only 2 or 3 items were passed due to no bids, the prices in general were quite low for most of the items. Apparently, most of the dealers in attendance were not willing to spend a lot of money, and nearly everything went for very reasonable sums.

Being a mid-week evening auction, it wasn't surprising to see the hall only partly full. Folks here in Maine tend to settle in for the evening, and often don't go anywhere after dark. Also, this auction was sort of a run-of-the-mill kind of auction, with no items really unusual or special. Most of the furniture needed some kind of work, either minor or major. The smalls were nice quality, but nothing really fabulous. Overall, it was all merchandise that was nice but needed some attention, or was somewhat common.

I bought little - a couple box lots is all I was interested in. My friend purchased a nice lot of pottery, mostly all in good condition, all nice smalls which she can use in her shop and sell for very reasonable prices.

A few purchases I missed out on - the auctioneer was very fast. He averaged approximately 150 items an hour (he uses an auction catalog, so it's easy to track his selling rate per hour). Even with a bit of good description and jovial conversation with the crowd, he STILL managed to hit 150 items/hour. That's pretty amazing - just think where he'd be if he was really in a hurry!

Unfortunately, that also meant that if you didn't pay close attention and get your hand up quickly on the item he was selling, you wouldn't be in on the bidding. I missed two lots that way, and then began to pay a whole lot more attention to bidding. Once I got into the swing of his fast chant, I finally was able to purchase a few items - I just had to stop socializing and gabbing with friends so much, and take care of business first!

Friday, June 09, 2006

More Language With Flowers - Food Ideas!

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Maybe I’ve just got gardening fever, or am itching to get cooking something special, but I’m still intrigued with the whole idea of using flowers as conversation, and have found another listing of the Language of Flowers. (See my blog of a few days ago for other Language of Flowers ideas.)

This time I’m going to concentrate on food plants - can’t you just imagine sending someone a message with a special meal? I'm thinking graduations, birthdays, Father's Day, special achievements, anniversaries, tea parties, bachelorette parties, Girl's-Night-In get-togethers, or ????

Don't forget to include a printed explanation of what the plants, fruits, nuts, spices and foods represent. That's the whole fun of this!

Anyhow, here's some Victorian ideas:

Advice . . . . Rhubarb
Affection . . . . Pear, or Sorrel
Argument . . . . Fig
Benevolence . . . . Potato
Bulk . . . . Watermelon
Charity . . . . Turnip
Cold-heartedness . . . . Lettuce
Compassion . . . . Allspice
Dignity . . . . Cloves
Energy in Adversity . . . . Camomile
Esteem . . . . Garden Sage
Foolishness . . . . Pomegranate
Festivity . . . . Parsley
Frugality . . . . Endive
Give Me Your Good Wishes . . . . Sweet Basil
Indifference . . . . Mustard Seed
Intellect . . . . Walnut
Power . . . . Cress
Profit . . . . Cabbage
Reconciliation . . . . Filbert
Remembrance . . . . Rosemary
Remorse . . . . Raspberry
Riches . . . . Corn
Satire . . . . Prickly Pear
Strength . . . . Fennel
Surprise . . . . Truffle
Temptation . . . . Apple
Thy Frown Will Kill Me . . . . Currant
Virtue . . . . Mint
Virtue, Domestic . . . . Sage
Warmth of Feeling . . . . Peppermint
Worthy of All Praise . . . . Fennel
You are Perfect . . . . Pineapple
Zest . . . . Lemon

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Auction Tips

Auctions are always fun to attend, and one never knows what fabulous old items might show up. Here’s a few auction tips:

  • Try to preview the items at auction before bidding starts. Some auctioneers get quite testy when you are trying to look at things he’s actively attempting to sell. If you get in the way of the auction runners, the auctioneer will most likely say something to you about it.
  • Some auctioneers will point out flaws and damage, but don’t count on it. Previewing an auction prior to auction time will allow you to search for cracks, chips and other damage before you bid.
  • Check box lots - sometimes there’s hidden treasures within. Just before bid time, make sure that the treasure you want is still with that lot. Items do move around, and if you are counting on a particular item within that lot, you want to be sure it’s still there.
  • Remember to register before you bid. Bring your driver’s license so the clerk can get all the information needed. Nearly all auctioneers require pre-registry.
  • Be sure to listen to the auctioneer’s announcements before the bidding begins. Auction rules will be announced - whether there’s a buyer’s premium, “as is” terms, method of payment, and even background information pertinent to the origins of the items being sold.
  • Keep track of who is bidding, so you don’t bid against yourself. Most auctioneers won’t allow that to happen, but once in a while you’ll run into an auctioneer who will take advantage of you if you aren’t carefully watching.
  • Keep your bid card ready - some auctioneers can easily bid more than 100 items an hour, so the auctioneer’s chant can be fast and furious. Don’t delay in bidding - know your limits and get your hand up before the auctioneer closes that lot with a resounding “sold!”
  • Track the items you’ve won, and match the final dollar total to the clerk’s total when you are checking out. Honest mistakes do happen.
Auctions are tremendous fun, but set your limits on items you’ve personally previewed and stick with them. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of auction fever, and your wallet may not appreciate it!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Fabulous, Whimsical Clouds

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Cloud image from

Stumbled across this wonderful site called The Cloud Appreciation Society, which is based in Britain. This entire site is dedicated to cloud-watching, and what fun it is!

There's a Cloud of the Month section, cloud art, cloud poetry, and many photos throughout the site taken by members of the Society. You can even participate in the Cloud Chat room. There's also a section on clouds that actually look like things, which you can find here.

If you are looking for a few moments of quiet contemplation, take a look at this site - it's great!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Language of Flowers, Part Two

Yesterday. I wrote about the Language of Flowers, one of the Victorian era traditions long ago forgotten. But wouldn’t it be fun to send messages to those you love through the beauty of flowers?

There are so many ways to incorporate special messages with flowers. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to pick specific flowers for wedding arrangements? Certain meanings could be “written” into the bride’s bouquet, but also into the groom’s boutonniere and the bridesmaids flowers too. Who said they had to match?? Instead, a bride could choose special-sentiment flowers and include a written interpretation of her feelings with each floral arrangement. How wonderful to show one’s affection and admiration by presenting a one-of-a-kind floral statement!

Just by combining your choice of the flowers, herbs, fruits and plants listed here, you can send secret messages! Or, since there are specific meanings to certain trees, plant a tree for a friend!

Here’s a beginning list of flowers that will help you build bouquets, corsages or full-sized floral arrangemenets:

Acanthus . . . . the fine arts
Agrimony . . . . . thankfulness, gratitude
Almond, Flowering . . . . hope
Allspice . . . . compassion
Alyssum . . . . worth beyond beauty
Amaranth, Globe . . . . immortality, unfading love
Amaryllis . . . . pride, timidity, splendid beauty
American Cowslip . . . . divine beauty
American Elm
. . . . patriotism
American Linden
. . . . matrimony
. . . . expectation
. . . . inspiration, magic
. . . . temptation
Apple Blossom
. . . . preference, fame
Apricot Blossom
. . . . doubt
. . . . unchanging friendship
. . . . thee only do I love
Ash, Mountain
. . . . prudence, with me you are safe
Ash Tree
. . . . grandeur
. . . . temperance
Bachelor’s Button
. . . . celiibacy
Balsam, Red cure ,
. . . . relief
Balsam, Yellow
. . . . impatience
. . . . sharpness of temper
. . . . hatred
Beech tree
. . . . prosperity
. . . . meekness
. . . . truth
Bluebell constancy,
. . . . sorrowful regret
. . . . bluntness
Branch of Currents
. . . . you please all
Bridal Rose
. . . . happy love
Broom humility,
. . . . neatness
Bud of White Rose
. . . . a heart ignorant of love
. . . . touch me not
. . . . riches
Butterfly weed
. . . . let me go
. . . . profit
. . . . warmth
Camelia, White
. . . . . . perfected loveliness
. . . . indifference
Carnation, deep red
. . . . Alas! for my poor heart
Carnation, striped
. . . . refusal
Carnation, yellow
. . . . disdain
Cardinal Flower
. . . . distinction
. . . . strength
. . . . energy in adversity
Cherry tree, White
. . . . good education
. . . . rendezvous
. . . . frugality
Chrysanthemum, red
. . . . I love
Chrysanthemum, white
. . . . truth
Chrysanthemum, yellow
. . . . slighted love
. . . . mental beauty
. . . . dignity
Clover, Red
. . . . industry
Clover, White
. . . . promise, think of me
Columbine, purple
. . . . resolved to win
Columbine, red
. . . . anxious and trembling
. . . . always cheerful
. . . . hidden worth
. . . . riches
. . . . delicacy
. . . . grace, youthful beauty
. . . . cure for heartache
. . . . impatience
. . . . Thy frown will kill me
. . . . diffidence

This is just a beginning of the list - I could show pages and pages of special meanings through the Language of Flowers. Amazine how the Victorians figured out their own way of speaking through plants, trees, herbs and spices, bushes and vines. Various versions of this old book are still available, so if you are have an interest in this “antique” way of sending messages, try to find your own copy and have some fun!

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Language of Flowers

In Victorian times, flowers were used as a means of saying what one would not be so bold to say in person. Instead, single flowers, bouquets and arrangements were given, and specific thoughts were expressed in the kind of flowers and the manner in which they were given.

I've been reading a wonderful late 19th century book, "The Language and Poetry of Flowers", and am intrigued with how detailed, sometimes complicated, this method of communication could be.

The Love Flowers
The simple statements were pretty easy to guess - a single red rose signified "I love you", and we still use this today, don't we? The same message coul be given by offering someone Myrtle, too.

But did you know that giving someone a dog rose means "I love you, and it causes me both pleasure and pain"? Don't ask me where one finds a dog rose - clearly that was a flower of the times, and would be difficult to find now. Just as well . . .

What if you received a coxcomb as a gift? This asked "Do you love me?" And in those days, a four-leafed clover wasn't a sign of good luck. Instead it meant "Be Mine."

Not All were Happy Comments
Sometimes, unhappy couples would send flowers back and forth, signifying their displeasure. Should your beloved stand before you, break off a rose and throw away the rose petals, he was saying "I do not love you." Of course, this is one of the less subtle floral statements!

Scarlet Auricula was given when one wanted to say "You are a miser." Surprisingly, a gift of rhododendron signified "You are in Danger." Apricot blossoms meant "I doubt you." Moonwart was known for the statement "Forget Me."

The beautiful flower foxglove told it's own story - "I know I can't Trust You!" , while petunias were a warning to "Keep Your Promise." Who would have guessed that those gorgeous peonies meant "For Shame!"

Not surprisingly, when you gave a dandelion puffball, it meant "Depart!"

Conversations Through Bouquets
  • For someone with whom you are not impressed: "Your affectation and deceit I disdain."
affectation - - - Coxcomb
deceit - - - Flytrap
disdain - - - Yellow Carnation

  • For the person who asks too many questions: "I love to disappoint your curiousity."
love - - - Red Rose
disappoint - - - Carolina Syringa
curiosity - - - Sycamore

  • For that special person you want to spend the rest of your life with: "Let the bonds of marriage unite us."
bonds - - - Blue Convolvulus
marriage - - - Ivy
unite us - - - a few whole Straws

  • As a funeral spray of flowers: "Be assured of my sympathy. May you find consolation."
my sympathy - - - Thrift
consolation - - - Red Poppy

The Language of Flowers for Advanced Speakers

By giving a flower to someone reversed, you were suggesting the exact opposite of what that flower meant.

Placing a marigold on someone's head meant "Mental Anguish". There are days when I want to keep a whole flat of marigolds handy, just for those people in my life who are causing me grief without realizing it!

Or, if a marigold was placed on the bosom, it meant "Indifference". Guess that would depend on who's bosom it was placed, wouldn't it??

~ ~ ~

Tomorrow, I'll share with you a list of flowers for building your own special bouquets, so YOU can send special meanings to those important people in your life!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

It's Summer and It's Wicker Furniture Time!!

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.It's June 1st, and you are ready to drag out the wicker furniture for your patios and porches. If your wicker has been in storage all winter, it's time to brighten it up a bit. One of the easiest ways to clean old wicker is with soapy water and a soft brush. Wicker is pretty hardy, and can take a bit of scrubbing with ease, especially if it's painted. After washing, just lightly dry it with an old towel and let it finish drying in a shady spot.

For vintage wicker collectors, some of the best pieces are those in their original natural finish. The less done to these pieces the better. Avoid painting antique wicker that is still in it's original natural finish.

Old painted wicker can be stripped, but usually it's just better to not strip it, since it's a very messy, time-consuming job. If your wicker is made of sea grass or twisted paper wicker, it will not respond well to stripping. Often just a quick washing and complete drying, followed by a very light coat of spray paint will bring life back to your wicker. Painting only needs to be done once every several years.

If you do decide to paint your wicker, pick a dry, low-humidity day. Prior to washing, remove flakes of old paint with a stiff dry scrub brush, then wash as mentioned above.

Repair loose wicker by tucking it in and glueing it with a good quality white wood glue, with the loose piece securely held with a clamp until dry. If the wrappings on the legs have come loose, you can fix that easily. Just unwrap a few turns, apply glue to the frame and then carefully re-wrap. Tape your repair to hold it in place until it dries - overnight is best.

If your wicker chair needs replacement wicker strands, it's best to leave to a major repair to the professionals, who can match the right diameter of wicker and re-weave it into a no-show repair.

Now that it's washed and repaired, you can paint your project. Cheap paint doesn't cover well, and you'll need several coats. Instead, invest in a couple of cans of good quality paint - it'll cover in one light coat, and won't fill in the wonderful details which make wicker so interesting.

Take a tip from the professionals - they buy automobile spray paint for their wicker. Auto paint can take a lot of weather abuse, and is good quality paint. There are lots of color choices too - who said wicker has to be white???

Paint in an even, fine mist rather than heavy coats. It'll dry quicker and leave all those lovely wicker details visible.

During the rest of the summer, just dust your wicker with a soft cloth or with your vacuum and it's brush attachment.

Vintage wicker is wonderful for casual summer living, and it's easy to care for. Antique wicker was made to last, and taking care of it will bring many years of use.