Coming soon to my Etsy shop…
And so much more…stay tuned!
Coming soon to my Etsy shop…
And so much more…stay tuned!
Sometimes I get an idea and I think it would be cool but I know I’ll never do anything with it. So I thought I’d occasionally throw one out there for someone else to pick up and run with. And use it as an excuse to add a little Johnny Depp to my blog. Johnny Depp is like bacon — everything is better with a little.
You know how pretty much every day is “Something Something Awareness Day” or “Do Something Something Day?” Like Hug Your Cat Day (June 4) (possibly followed by Bandage Your Wounds Day on June 5th?), or International Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19), or Scrabble Day (which is today, April 13th!). I wondered what it would be like if our family tried to celebrate one of these goofy holidays every single day for a year. I know I’m not organized or dedicated enough to do something every day, so I might instead go with weekly or monthly celebrations (International Flirting Week (third week of February)? Peanut Butter Lovers’ Month (November)?). There are lots of websites out there that list bizarre and unusual holidays, so it would be easy to set up a calendar without too much fuss. I think it’s an idea that would lend itself well to a blog. I know there’s a family out there somewhere that would rock this idea. So go ahead and try my idea, if it suits you — I’d love to hear about it!
I finally finished organizing my spices the way I’ve been planning to for oh, at least a year now. I’ve always hated the skinny bottles because you cannot get a measuring spoon into them, and since they were stored on a shelf I was always rummaging through every bottle looking for just the right spice. And my OCD self wants everything to match — we must have had ten different brands of spice bottles. I was inspired by the spice drawers of other members over at the Garden Web kitchen forum. It took me a while to figure out exactly what kind of containers I wanted to get, how many, etc. and how I was going to free up a drawer to do this:
Isn’t that just the bomb-diggity? It makes me smile every time I open the drawer.
I used these food-grade metal tins with clear tops from Specialty Bottle. A total steal:
The smallest ones I used are the 4 oz. and they held the contents of most of the bottled spices. Some of the larger bottles I had (the Whole Foods brand, Morton & Bassett) held too much to fit in the 4 oz. jars. If it was a spice I knew I don’t use as much, I just filled the tin as full as I could and will refill from the bottle until it’s empty. For spices I use a lot of I just went to a larger tin.The other two sizes I used are the 8 oz. and 16 oz. I also got a hinged rectangular tin for my bay leaves.
I used some full-sheet sticker paper I had left over from another project to make the labels with my inkjet printer, then I cut them out with a hand-held round punch. They’re 1 1/4″ diameter. I should have just bought round stickers to use, it would have been faster and easier, but this way I didn’t spend any more money on the labels. I just eyeballed the placement on the tops — I have a pretty decent eye for spacing. I’ve added a couple of spices since making the first batch of labels and it was super easy to just print another one or two labels at a time.
I love how the clear tops let the gorgeous colors and textures of the spices and herbs show:
Now it takes me no time at all to find the spice I’m looking for. I get my spices in bulk (from Whole Foods up until now, but I think I’m going to start ordering from Penzeys).
You can see in the back of the drawer some other packages — I didn’t want to put salts of any kind into the tins because I worried they would corrode the metal. I think I’ll look for some short glass jars to put salts into.
And that’s my new spice drawer! It makes me feel all organized and Martha-like. But mostly it makes cooking easier and more fun!
When we were just about to leave Paris a few years ago — in fact, as the movers were packing our things — the brocante pictured above (thanks to Google maps!) opened up in the space across the street that had been vacant for at least a year. Brocante loosely translates as “bric-a-brac,” or what Americans might call vintage (not quite antique) goods. We had nothing else to do in our rapidly-filling-with-boxes apartment, so we went over to check it out. We ended up buying three things: a crystal and pewter decanter that we call the “wine duck” for its shape, a leather hatbox, and this:
We didn’t have the slightest idea what it was, but it was funky, so why not?
It’s made of cast iron. We first thought it must be a fireplace screen of some type.
But the text reads “Société de Choubersky, Armoire Lavabo, 202 Montmartre, Coin de la Rue Drouot, Paris” which translates as “Choubersky Company, Sink Cabinet, 202 Montmartre, corner of Drouot, Paris.
A sink cabinet? What?
I’ve Googled the heck out of it in both English and French and found surprisingly little. It was possibly manufactured by Charles de Choubersky, a prolific French inventor born in 1835, perhaps best known today for inventing a portable wood stove. Some examples of his stoves can still be found.
He did invent an armoire lavabo, but the patent drawings bear no resemblance at all to our cast iron fence-like thing.
The only other thing I’ve been able to relate it to at all is this church armoire lavabo in Picardie:
I guess that would be where you wash your hands for church? Or maybe a precursor to the holy water font? Anyway.
I don’t know if it’s apparent on our piece, but the center is made up of four panels that are hinged — when the hinges are opened up all the way, the four panels form a convex curve. The two side panels are connected also by hinges to the center, and each has a center door section that drops open like a mailbox. There are knobs to grasp for pulling down these “doors.” The back side has prongs (?) that look like they could be embedded in stone or otherwise fastened to something.
Who knows, this might be a lost relic from the Notre Dame! Or maybe it was just the bathroom sink cabinet for M. de Choubersky’s workshop. Drop me a line if you can solve my mystère.
This is my desktop today. Actually, it’s not really a desktop, it’s a drafting table, and it’s more for projects than for office-type work, but you didn’t know that. The contents of the table depend entirely on what I’m focusing on at any given time. Sometimes it’s covered in beads and wire and pearls for jewelry-making, sometimes thread and scissors and the sewing machine, and sometimes photos and albums and scrapbooking papers. And then sometimes it’s just a catch-all for things going in or out of my studio.
Right now it’s covered in stacks of letters, documents, newspaper clippings, photographs, lists, and other ephemera. This is a chunk of family memorabilia from Sean’s family, specifically from his grandmother and great-grandmother. There are some amazing finds in here and my current project includes sorting and scanning all of it. All the genealogy clues will go into my Ancestry.com family tree. These piles will all go back into storage, albeit in a more organized and archival format. Then it’s on to the next giant box of stuff. If I don’t get sidetracked into another project in the meantime…
BTW, I took this pic in crappy light and it looked crappy, so I ran it through a Photoshop action created by Daniel Box. He created a series of PS actions that imitate Instagram filters – download them at the link. I used “Gotham” here. I think it gives my boring, badly-lit snapshot a vintage feel that suits the subject matter, don’t you?
The holiday decorations are all taken down (except for the outside lights, ahem) but it’s always nice to have pictures to remember the tree by. Our tree usually looks pretty similar from year to year, because we have a large collection of ornaments we’ve gathered over time — from my childhood, bought during our travels, received as gifts, and of course, handmade by the kids. I do like themed trees and enjoy looking at the trees of people who change their decorations every year, but I can’t imagine not using all of the special ornaments we have.
Some years, like this one, I add another childhood memory to the tree: real metal tinsel like we had when I was growing up in Germany. I know, tinsel is so tacky — but that’s modern tinsel. The stuff sold as tinsel today is generally made out of plastic. It’s very light-weight, more like Easter basket grass than the tinsel of old. Metal tinsel has weight to it, so it hangs beautifully and sparkles as well. (We once had some of the really old kind, made of silver, and that stuff was heavy and ohhhh-sooo-coooool.)
I have a stash of German tinsel from when I was a kid that my mom saved (so, 30+ years old) and this year I supplemented that stash with some vintage strands from Celebrate 365. It isn’t manufactured anymore because it’s lead-based, with the usual health and environmental consequences that come with lead, so you can only find packets second-hand. It’s called Lametta-Eis in German, and there are a handful of other places it turns up for sale, like eBay and Etsy. From a health standpoint, I feel OK using it, since our kids are way old enough to know not to eat it, and our dog Troy doesn’t eat things unless we specifically give them to him (true story). I am careful to wash my hands after handling it, and to not break it if possible. It’s quite fragile, actually, although with proper care it lasts for decades. I always save even the littlest bits that get torn off so they don’t go into the landfill or out with the tree to the compost. The fact that it’s vintage and lasts for so long also helps quell environmental concerns. It’s not like not using it would make it disappear, so I will continue to carefully use it and then dispose of it safely some day when it has fallen to bits.
The new tinsel, though vintage, was relatively smooth and straight and quite shiny. My old stuff was crinkled and some had darkened over the years. So to blend the two, I first thought I would crunch up the new stuff to make it crinklier (like how tinfoil gets crinkly when you ball it up). Ah, good. It looked more like the ripply-surfaced icicles it’s supposed to imitate, but I thought I could make it even prettier. After some experimentation, I ended up crimping it between my fingers to give it waves (like a crimping iron). Better!
(That’s a Seattle Mariners stocking ornament there, natch.)
I added the tinsel one and two strands at a time just to the tips of the branches, which isn’t as slow a process as it sounds, then gathered all the strands on the branch between my hands and crimped it all at once.
See all the lovely waves? Some of my mom’s stash was gold, so I think about 1/4 of the tinsel on the tree is gold, mixed in with the silver. It also comes in colors, like red and blue, though the colored lights on our tree bathe the strands in all kinds of shades anyway.
Taking closeups of the tree is a great way to document such a difficult to photograph subject. This is one of my favorite ornaments, by Kathe Wohlfahrt, which we picked up on a visit to Germany. Many of my childhood ornaments are from Kathe Wohlfahrt, collected one or two at a time over the years when we lived there. The older ones have chipping paint and a few bits missing — like my one-winged angel — but I treasure them. If you ever have the chance to visit Rothenburg-ob-Der-Tauber (the famous walled city) in Germany, the Kathe Wohlfahrt factory and shop are located there. It’s like a Christmas wonderland, that store.
All in all, an old-fashioned tree with a lot of memories. One of these years I’ll document all the special ornaments. I’ll have to do it before my kids move away, because they’ll be taking their ornaments with them, just as I did when I left home. And someday, maybe one of them will want the tinsel for their tree. If not, at least they’ll have the memory of “real tinsel.”