Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Gumnut Babies ~

A few days ago I found a small branch from an oak tree lying in my driveway. The leaves were still bright green and it had tiny little acorns on it, with their caps still firmly attached. Coincidentally, a friend of mine wrote to me the next day about the same thing, and asked if I'd ever heard of Gumnut Babies. I hadn't. These delightful characters are the creation of Australian children's author, illustrator, and cartoonist May Gibbs (1877 - 1969). Born in the United Kingdom, Gibbs moved to Australia with her family when she was a young child. She fell in love with the Australian bush, where she would ride her pony and let her imagination soar. Her imaginative interpretation of the bush greatly influenced her later work. Gibbs first book featuring the Gumnut Babies was published in 1916, followed by several other works featuring the characters. Her most famous was published in 1918, and titled "Snugglepot and Cuddlepie." May Gibbs also created two comic strips, Bib and Bub and Twiggy Touchwood. They were published in Australia and New Zealand. Enjoy!

One of my favorites! A Gumnut Babies' party!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Antique Tea Accoutrements

I love these silver antique tea strainers. Although I usually use tea bags, I think they're beautiful. Tea strainers are made of sterling silver, stainless steele or fine china. Tea is one of the world's oldest beverages, and today is the second most popular beverage, next to water. I love that the whole process of "tea time" is so ceremonial that it requires special accoutrements. Even if one doesn't own fancy tea strainers or teapots, most people who are confirmed tea drinkers have their own special cups or mugs and a favorite "routine" of preparing and savoring tea.
It's believed that tea dates to 2737 BC in China, when it was first used for medicinal purposes. Around 780 AD, a Chinese scholar named Lu Yu documented his twenty-year research on tea, which helped elevate it, and the "art" of drinking tea was born.

Antique Chinese copper teapot

18th Century Porcelain Chinese Teapot

Tea was not introduced in England until the mid-17th century. It was actually first offered in London's coffee houses, but by 1750 it had become the favored drink of many. The custom of "afternoon tea" is said to have started with Anna, 7th Duchess of Bedford. She enjoyed having tea in late afternoon between lunch and dinner, as dinner was often not served until 8:00pm or later. The custom caught on, and through the years "high tea" in the late afternoon became the main meal of the day for the working classes of England.  Today, "tea" is still the evening meal in England, which most Americans refer to as "dinner."
Vintage English teapots

Georgian Sterling Silver English Teapot

1786 George III antique silver English teapot

The British brought their love of tea with them to America and by the mid-1700s, loose-leaf tea was the most popular drink consumed in the Colonies. The tea bag was introduced at the beginning of the 20th century, and with it, an increase in the popularity of tea, most likely due to the convenience. Prior to that, a tea infuser, sometimes called a tea ball or tea egg, was another method of steeping the tea leaves in the pot or cup.

Until next time ~ take time out from your busy week to remember: "Tea is a cup of life!"

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Where Did Summer Go?

Okay, so it's not "officially" the end of summer, but here it is, the 21st of August. My niece and nephew are starting back to school tomorrow, the sun is setting a little earlier day by day and there's that feeling of change in the air. I still have a stack of books I was going to read this summer and places I wanted to go, but haven't. My summer "To Do" list still has far too many things on it that aren't yet crossed off. However, on the positive side, I accomplished one huge goal this summer - I started this blog and have learned so much along the way! Autumn is coming and it's my favorite season of the year, so I'm looking forward to sharing more art, more books, more stories, more beautiful images and more tea with you!

Some of the books still to read on my shelf!

The following poems were written by my friend, Sophia, and so beautifully express this subtle shift in nature as summer comes to an end.

Sophia Basan

Crickets still sing
Fog rises in the mornings
Above the unharvested fields
I’m listening
For the first geese
To fill the sky
With Southbound honking
Leaving autumn in my arms….
Still the morning dove calls
And the last lily still blooms
The apples are still green on the trees
Winter sleeps
Beneath the wildflower meadows
I’m listening for the first geese
To fill the sky
with Southbound honking
Leaving autumn in my arms….

To August
Sophia Basan

Last month of summer
I drink thee like a precious cup of tea
Each sip a taste of herbs and sun

In vain I try to trap
The crickets’ song in my heart
To warm a long Winter to come

I breathe you deeply with all your colors
Your dancing cottonwood leaves
Your sunflowers and purple thistles…

Each barefoot step in hot sand
Each splash of jumpin fish
Each wave against my belly

Laughter and freedom
My sun baked brown daughter
Running to me with her arms open for a hug

What if I could build a castle with a poem
And you could live in it
All year long we’d be waiting for apples to ripen…

Friday, August 19, 2011

Being Twins in the 1920s - In Their Own Words

Hazel and Nellie 1939 

It seems like everyone is having twins these days - Julia Roberts, Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt. My mother was a twin. She and my Aunt Hazel were born in 1925 in rural southern Ohio. Aunt Hazel is thriving today at age 86 - a strong, sassy woman who is always up-to-date on all the latest happenings in world news and celebrity gossip. My beloved mother, however, passed away almost 13 years ago after undergoing heart surgery. Mom was (physically) the weaker twin, having developed a heart valve defect when I was born. She was also more quiet and shy than her sister, Hazel. She said her Mom used to always tell her, "that's okay, because still waters run deep."   Twins were not nearly as common in the 1920s and 1930s as they are in today's world. I used to spend hours talking with Mom about her early life, and now spend hours on the phone with my Aunt Hazel. They both shared bits and pieces of their lives with me during our talks and in letters that give a little slice of life of the era, as well as what it was like growing up as a twin in the 1920s and beyond. In their own words:

From a letter from my Mom dated December 25, 1993:
Dear Cindy,
I answered some of your questions when we talked on the phone, so now I'll answer more and give you a little information on my childhood days. Dad worked for a Mr. Spurlock and delivered milk door-to-door, as they did back then, and he also drove a school bus when Hazel and I were born. As he left to pick up the kids one evening, he had to first stop and send a doctor to the house as Mother was in labor with us. The doctor told Dad, "if there's one baby, I won't charge anything for delivery, but if there's two, I'll charge double!" Mother told me in later years that she thought she got me and Hazel mixed up, and I may be the one named Hazel, and Hazel may be Nellie. When Dad knew there was already one baby, he said, "I'll name her Nellie after Mr. Spurlock's daughter!" So then Mother said, "well, we'll name the other one Hazel after his other daughter."  I remember we lived in a big, two-story white house by the Ohio River. In the backyard, we could walk way back and there was a bank, looking out over a hill to the river. We would sit there and watch the paddleboats and river boats go up and down the river. There was a big lighthouse with steps going up to it that your uncle had to light it in early evenings to help the boats on foggy nights. When I was in the first grade, I fell off the steps at school and cut my forehead and broke my leg. So I couldn't finish school that year, and they made Hazel stay home, too. This seems odd to me now because it was like we were one person (don't you agree?)

From a letter from my Aunt Hazel dated January 8th, 1999:
Dear Cindy,
One of my earliest memories is when we were five years old and started school. Mother had made us long-sleeved yellow and white dresses that had little elephants all over. Both our favorite color is yellow. I remember us being scared the first day and Nell hid behind a door and started crying, so I started crying too. All the kids were staring at us because twins were very rare back then. An older boy said, "why are they crying?" Another one said, "One is crying, because the other one is." Later that year, Nell fell off the outside fire escape. It was winter and the stairs were covered with ice, so she fell into the snow below. We used those stairs to go to the outhouse because our school room was on the upper level of the building. All the kids heard her scream and I knew right away that it was Nell, because we always knew where the other one was at. There were no emergency numbers or vehicles back then, so the teacher wrapped Nell in a blanket and took her and me home. When we got home and Mother saw us getting out of the car, she started screaming. Nell had cut a big gash in her forehead and broke her leg, so they kept her in a big chair for about six months and she wasn't allowed to walk. I don't even remember her having crutches, but I do remember Dad pampered Nell a lot! One night he came home from work and gave her some red beads. I was so jealous and always hated the color red after that! Anyway, Nell carried a scar from that fall on her forehead and that's one way people would tell us apart.

More to Follow Later!

I'm a Winner!

I received this beautiful beaded Boho-style bracelet in the mail yesterday, that I won in a giveaway from Cindy Adkins' Whimsical Musings ! The card and little box are as pretty as the bracelet. I love, love beaded jewelry and it's such fun to receive presents in the mail! It's also amazing to have been picked at random as the winner of Cindy's giveaway, what with us having the same name and all (and no, we aren't related!)  Thanks, again, Cindy! 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Country Farm Stand/ Fried Green Tomatoes Recipe

My sister and I stopped at a country roadside farm stand today. I love the sight and smell of all those colorful fruits and vegetables - all natural, organic, straight off the vine! Here's a sampling of what we saw:

Baskets and baskets of ripe, juicy tomatoes
 ...and more tomatoes
Heirloom "Cherokee Purple" tomatoes
and more peppers!
Green tomatoes

Fried green tomatoes are a traditional southern dish. Although I was raised in northern Ohio, my parents were from the south, so I grew up eating them. They weren't one of my favorites as a child, but later in life, I started to appreciate their tart crispiness. There's definitely a "trick" to getting them just right and my Mom's were the best! I confess - I've never made them myself, but I bought some green tomatoes at the market today and I'm going to try it. I'll let you know how they turn out! For now...here's a picture of how they're suppose to look and my Mom's original recipe. Fried Green Tomatoes aren't exactly diet fare, but served as a side dish with other southern favorites like green beans and ham and cornbread ~ ah, a little peice of Heaven!

If you can, use fine white cornmeal, which is the primary cornmeal used in the South. Buttermilk adds flavor and tang, but is optional, as regular milk works just as well. 

  • 3 medium, firm green tomatoes
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup milk or buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
 Cut unpeeled tomatoes into 1/2 inch slices. Sprinkle the slices with a little salt.  Place the flour a in separate shallow bowl. Then combine the bread crumbs and cornmeal in a separate bowl and the egg and buttermilk (or milk) in another bowl.

Heat the oil in a skillet on medium high heat (you want the oil pretty hot.) Beat the egg and the buttermilk together. Dip tomato slices in the flour, then buttermilk-egg mixture, then the cornmeal-bread crumb mix (some people use cornmeal only and skip the bread crumbs.) In the skillet, fry half of the coated tomato slices at a time, for 3-5 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Set the cooked tomatoes on paper towels to drain. Enjoy!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Walking the Golden Gate Bridge

Today I've been thinking about the time my friend Jeannette and I took a day trip to San Francisco and walked across the 1.7-mile long Golden Gate Bridge. Here's a shot of the bridge from the Marin County/Sausalito side.

A close-up look at the walkway on the bridge.

Designed by Irving Morrow, he is also credited with choosing the bridge's trademark bright orange, a color now known as International Orange. I love the bridge's Art Deco style. At 746 feet above the ocean, it's difficult to imagine just how large this bridge is without actually seeing it.  Walking across it is an exhilarating experience!

After our walk across the bridge, Jeannette and I headed to Stinson Beach, which is reached via the winding, steep, narrow Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway.)  In some areas, the mountains hug one side of the roadway, as cliffs drop off on the other side into the Pacific Ocean.

The road to Stinson Beach

Stinson Beach is a tiny village approximately 20 miles north of San Francisco. It's fairly secluded and has 3.5 miles of beach for walking, kite flying, sunning, and beachcombing. I found a huge piece of gnarled, weathered-grey driftwood that I fell in love with - so, of course, we dragged it back to her truck, laughing and giggling all the way!  I displayed the driftwood in my home for years - until I moved to Ohio and couldn't figure out a way to ship it!  Fun memories!

  The village of Stinson Beach

Happy 75th Anniversary Golden Gate Bridge, on May 27, 2012! Thanks for the memories!

Until next time,

All photos courtesy Google Images

Friday, August 12, 2011

~ Afternoon Tea ~

"There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea." ~Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

Afternoon Tea,1880, Marie Bracquemond, French (1840-1916)

Five 'O Clock Tea, 1880, Mary Cassatt, American (1844-1926)
Cassatt lived most of her adult life in France

The Cup of Tea, 1879, Mary Cassatt, American (1844-1826)

Tea, Frederick Carl Frieske, American (1874-1939)
Frieseke resided in Giverny, France for fourteen years

Tea Table in the Garden, 1925, Esther Borough Johnson, British

 Private Thoughts, Joe Bowler, American (1928- )

Afternoon Tea, Everett Lloyd Bryant, American (1864 – 1945)

In the Spring, Harold Knight, British (1874-1961)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Antique Tea Tins ~

Hello everyone! I thought I'd share these antique/vintage tea tins with you today. Not only were they practical, but also lovely works of art! As someone who loves tea, they're fun to collect and display on a shelf, but I'm sure there's lots of other uses for them also. Of course, they can still be used to stash your tea, too! Another treasure to look for in the antique shops and thrift stores!

English tea tins, circa 1870

 Floral tea tin with embossed roses

Lipton's Tea Merchants, circa 1920s

Uneeda Tea, circa 1920s

 Tetley's India & Ceylon Tea, circa 1920s

Stag's Head Tea, circa 1920s

Chinese tea tin, circa early 1900s

Here someone used tea tins for a flower display! I love it! Until next time ~ enjoy!


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