Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Regular updates to Stalking the Belle Époque will resume on Monday, December 27, 2010.  Here’s wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas!

Image: Adoration of the Shepherds, Guido Reni, 1640, The National Gallery, London

Treats of the Day: Assorted Candies

Cookies aren’t the only things to come out of my mother’s magical kitchen at Christmas.  Cakes, breads, puddings and a wide variety of savory dishes are beautifully produced.  And, so is candy.  This assortment of candies is always a welcome treat.  Splendidly molded chocolates sprinkled on the reverse with nonpareils shimmer in the light.  Some have been filled with nuts and dried fruit.  Cool, crunchy peppermint bark of white and dark chocolate layers is always a favorite.  And, of course, there’s always the luscious, creamy pralines—both traditional and chocolate.  This is the time of year when we should celebrate, and, in doing so, let the calorie counting rest for a few days. 

Ornament of the Day: Father Christmas

When I was a little boy, I loved the stories of Babar, the King of the Elephants.  One of my favorites was Babar and Father Christmas.  I always wanted to put a Father Christmas figure at the top of the Christmas tree.  However, no such tree topper was to be found.  Finally, when I was about thirteen, we found one, and I’ve had it ever since.  He tops the big tree in my dining room each year, and I just adore him. 

Reminder: "Punch's Cousin" Will Return on Monday

Punch’s Cousin will be taking a brief hiatus until Monday, December 27.  Of course, you can access the Chapter Archive here.  When we return, Mr. Punch and his friends will have many challenges to face as the calendar changes to 1853.  There’s lots of excitement in store…

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Isaac Van Amburgh and Bertie

“All I’m saying is that I don’t appreciate when the lion tries to steal focus.  Now, are you gonna eat that lamb?”

Image: Isaac Van Amburgh and His Animals, Sir Edwin Landseer, 1839, The Royal Collection

Unfolding Pictures: A Silk Cockade Fan, 1880

Cockade Fan, 1880
The Royal Collection
Cockade fans, also known as “Chinois” fans, were the pinnacle of the fan-makers art and were considered quite the luxurious novelty. Cockade fans—with a full circle of stiffened silk pleats as opposed to the typical lunette fan-shape—were typically fashioned in two styles: Retractable and Rigid. With the retractable variants, when the owner tugged on the tassel at the end of the fan, the silk leaf would fold and retract into itself, leaving only the silk-covered tube to be tucked into a pocketbook. The rigid fans always stayed open and also serves as a face screen to protect a lady’s face (and make-up) from the heat of the fire.
This retractable cockade fan was created in 1880 by a French maker for Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. A patroness of the arts and herself a talented painter, Princess Louise had a great passion for hand fans and collected many throughout her lifetime, even loaning seven fans from her collection to the first “Competetive Exhibition” of the English Fan-makers Company.

Mastery of Design: Queen Victoria’s 1842 Christmas Brooch

Princess Victoria Brooch
Presented to Queen Victoria on Christmas, 1842
Designed by Prince Albert
Crafted by William Essex after William Ross, miniaturist
Enamel, Gold, Diamonds, Rubies, Sapphires, Emeralds, &
The Royal Collection
To celebrate Christmas with his wife and their first child, Princess Victoria, Prince Albert designed a beautiful enamel and jeweled brooch for Queen Victoria. Inspired by a painting by Raphael, the prince envisioned an angel with sparkling wings and the face of their infant daughter.

Jeweler William Essex was commissioned to create the brooch to Prince Albert’s specifications. For Princess Victoria’s enameled, cherubic face, Essex used as his model a miniature painting of the child princess by William Ross. The resulting brooch of enamel, gold, sapphires, rubies, emeralds, diamonds and topazes shows the young Princess as a putti draped in a regal blue robe. In her tiny hands, she clutches a cross of diamonds and rubies.

Queen Victoria was—rightfully—thrilled with the brooch and wrote in her journal, “The workmanship and design are quite exquisite, and dear Albert was so pleased at my delight over it, it’s having been entirely his own idea and taste.”

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 129

Honey, you know I can’t do that.” Marjani shook her head.

“Please,” Naasir croaked, “Please.”

“You’re askin’ me to take your life, Honey.” Marjani said softly. “You’re askin’ me to do somethin’ that ain’t my place to do. It’s not up to me to decide who lives and who dies. The Holy Mother done put me on this Earth for to nurse folk and make them well. My place here is to give people the chance to have life, not to take their lives away.”

“But, my destiny…” Naasir rasped.

“Listen, Honey.” Marjani smiled. “Don’t you think that whatever happens is our destiny? Now think ‘bout it. You’re here, ain’t ya? Them fine English gentlemen—it was their destiny for to get ya out of that place and bring ya back here—alive. Did ya think of that? If that ain’t what was supposed to happen, then it wouldn’t o’ happened.”

Naasir sighed painfully.

“Honey, I understand what you’re thinkin’. I do, for true. But, we gotta realize that sometimes what we think is supposed to happen, isn’t the way it really is. When I got married—when I was a young girl—I thought my big, strong husband and I would live a long time together, happy, with our babies. But, then I watched my babies die—three of ‘em—just little infants. And, each time, don’t think I didn’t curse the Lord and tear my hair. I shouldn’t have done that. When I finally done realized that it wasn’t my place to decide what was to happen—as soon as I let it go—then I was blessed with a baby who done lived. My Nontle. I saw her grow and become a beautiful woman. Then, my dear husband—he died. It’s not what I thought would happen to us, but it did, and I made my peace with it. And, then, my Nontle, my beautiful Nontle with a baby of her own, she died. I watched her go, Naasir. I held her hand and watched the life leave her. It ain’t what I thought my destiny would be, but it turns out that’s what it was. Now, here I am, in New Orleans—a free woman, a free woman with a child to raise. But, I’m blessed. Blessed to have folk who done care enough to give me a place to live and food in my belly. I got friends. So do you.”

“It was written.” Naasir rasped.

“Sure, Honey. I know the legends. I know the story of The Great Man of the Rocks. I know the tales you been told, cuz I been told the same tales. But, sometimes, the things that are written are different than the things that happen. Remember, Honey, those things that were written were done so by man and man is nothin’ but a bunch of mistakes. If the Holy Mother and the saints wanted you to die, you’d a done died at Iolanthe’s hand. But, you didn’t. You’re here. You still got your place in what’s written, and it’s bein’ rewritten as we go. Ain’t for us to decide, Honey. It’s bein’ decided for us.”

Naasir was silent.

“Now, do you want some of that elixir that Dr. Halifax made up for ya? It’ll help your pain.”

Naasir sighed, “Yes.”

“That’s my man,” Marjani smiled. She spooned some of the medicine into what remained of Naasir’s mouth.

“No close your eyes,” Marjani said softly. “And, let yourself dream. The answers you don’t seek will come to ya in your dreams. I promise.”

Marjani sat with Naasir until she was sure he’d fallen asleep. She then left his room and returned to her own bedchamber where Meridian sat on the bed with Columbia and Little Fuller who were also asleep.

“Go on to your room,” Marjani whispered. “I’ll watch the little ones.”

“How’s Naasir?” Meridian asked quietly.

“He’ll be fine,” Marjani nodded firmly. “Now, he’ll be fine.”

Meanwhile, upstairs, Adrienne was just coming down the staircase as Mr. Punch and Robert entered.

“Dieu merci! Mon cher Punch, vous êtes enfin accueil. J'étais tellement inquiets. Maintenant, nous pouvons tous être ensemble. Où nous appartenons!” Adrienne exclaimed, rushing toward Mr. Punch.

“That’s right, Lady Chum.” Mr. Punch smiled. “We’re all safe.”

“Where’s Her Grace?” Adrienne asked.

“Left her there.” Mr. Punch mumbled.

Adrienne glanced at Robert who shook his head slightly.

“Well, it doesn’t matter.” Adrienne said firmly, talking Mr. Punch by Julian’s hnds and leading him into the parlor. “All that matters is that you’re back!” She proudly announced, “Look, Cecil, look who has returned to us.”

“I say, Old Punch, how good it is to see you.” Cecil rose from the chair where he’d ensconced himself. “I was frightfully worried.”

“No need.” Mr. Punch smiled. “My chum what loves me came and helped me and now I’m back.”

“If you’ll excuse me,” Robert said. “I’m going to go check on Naasir.”

“Tell him that Mr. Punch is thinkin’ good thoughts ‘bout him.” Punch said quickly.

“I will.” Robert smiled as she left the room.

“Mr. Punch, before you ask, and I know you will, Toby and your puppet are both in your room. The last I saw, Toby was asleep by the fire and Meridian—very carefully—placed your puppet on the bed.”

“Good to know,” Mr. Punch grinned. “And, yes, I was gonna ask.”

“You must be hungry.” Cecil said, “Let me ring for some nourishment.”

“Nah.” Mr. Punch shook his head. “Let them nice people sleep. It’s late. I’ll go down and get me-self somethin’ to eat later.”

“As you wish.” Cecil nodded.

“Cecil, dear,” Adrienne began, “I’ve put Nellie in the far back bedroom and given her one of my night dresses. She seems quite comfortable.”

“What’s Nellie?” Mr. Punch asked.

“A houseguest.” Adrienne explained. “Someone I knew long ago.”

“Ah.” Mr. Punch nodded. “She ain’t gonna want to play with me puppet, is she?”

“No.” Adrienne smiled.

“Fine, then,” Mr. Punch sighed, sitting down on the settee across from the fire.

Robert returned to the parlor. “I don’t know how she managed it, but Marjani has somehow coaxed Naasir into taking the pain medicine I prepared. He’s fast asleep.”

“Good.” Cecil grinned.

“I passed Meridian in the hall,” Robert continued. “She tells me that Fuller is quite content in Marjani’s’ room.”

“He can stay there awhile.” Adrienne smiled. “He seems to like Columbia a great deal.”

Cecil looked around the room, “Could it be that, for once, we’re all in our proper places?”

“I think it is,” Robert chuckled, sitting down on the settee next to Mr. Punch.

“You know,” Adrienne began softly, “We never really had a chance to finish our celebration of Christmas.”

“No.” Mr. Punch grunted. “We sure didn’t.”

“Let’s do so now.” Adrienne smiled. “Though we’re away from home, and though the world outside is teeming with people who wish us harm, we can at least be thankful for this moment—all of us together, a family.”

“Presently, my dear,” Cecil walked to his wife. “We’re untouchable.”

“I am thankful, I am.” Mr. Punch mumbled. “Thankful for all we got. Tomorrow will show its ugly face and grab at us with its tattered claws, but tonight, let’s be warm and jolly.”

“Well said.” Robert winked.

“We’re not alone, you know.” Adrienne whispered.

“What?” Mr. Punch frowned. “Who’s here? Not that Arthur?”

“No, no, dear Punch,” Adrienne shook her head. “What I mean to say is that we have someone watching out for us. Someone good. In Heaven…”

“Ah,” Mr. Punch nodded. “And, with Him is me pa, and Marjani’s daughter, and yer ma and pa.” He looked at Robert. “Isn’t that right?”

“Yes.” Robert nodded slowly.

“They want us to be happy whenever we can.” Adrienne said.

“So, let’s be happy, then. For as long as we can.” Mr. Punch smiled.

Robert put his arm around Julian’s shoulders. “For as long as we can.”

“After all,” Mr. Punch grinned. “This is what we’re fighting for.”

“And, we’ll be triumphant.” Cecil nodded.

“That’s the way to do it!” Mr. Punch cooed.

“Indeed, dear Punch,” Adrienne smiled. “That is the way to do it.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-128? If so, you can read them here. Punch’s Cousin will return on Monday, December 27, 2010, here at Stalking the Belle Époque.

From Mr. Punch, Robert, Adrienne, Cecil, Marjani, Naasir, Toby, Fuller and Meridian, we wish you a very happy Christmas, and the kind thought that we all remember, “That’s the way to do it!”

Cookie of the Day: Pecan Tassies

These miniature pies are a holiday favorite, especially in the Southern United States.  A beautifully tender cream-cheese-based crust holds a luscious filling of minced pecan and gooey brown sugar.  You can even add chocolate chips!  My mother drizzles each bite-size tart with melted chocolate which adds another layer of scrumptious flavor.  For all the joy of a pecan or derby pie in one handy package, a Pecan Tassie is the perfect Christmas cookie.

Ornament of the Day: A Holiday Hamburger

Trying to find ornaments that represent our pets can sometimes be tricky. But, it can be done. On one recent Christmas, Bertie was presented with this sparking glass hamburger—symbolic of the annual “burger bash” we have for Bertie’s birthday. If it were up to Bertie, the Christmas trees would be decorated with real hamburgers, but this is much more practical and attractive.

I show it to him each year before I hang it on the tree. He wags his tail, and if he could, I think he’d sing…this…

Object of the Day: Veiled Planet

Masters of capturing both the terrestrial and the heavenly in their beautiful art glass, the glass-makers at California’s Correia Studios, often use ethereal imagery in their line of paperweights.  This large weight called, “Veiled Planet” reminds us of Saturn—with a twist.  A watery planet veined with icy lands is engulfed in a glittering atmospheric layer which itself is embraced by a delicate cobalt blue ring.  The workmanship is exceptional and shows the cleverness of Correia Studios and their ability to make dreams a glittering reality. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Unusual Artifacts: A Needlework Pocketbook, 1781

Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III, was an expert in the art of needlework and passed many an hour with her embroidery. In fact, her love of needlework was so great that she was a financial patron of a school for “Embroidering Females.”

Needlework Pocketbook
Embroidered by Queen Charlotte, 1781
with implements of gold and mother-of-pearl
The Royal Collection
As gifts to her dearest friends, Queen Charlotte often created beautifully embroidered objects. Such is the case of this intricately embroidered pocketbook which Queen Charlotte sent to her friend, Mrs. Delaney, with a note which said that she should wear, “this little Pocket-Book in order to remember at times, when no dearer Persons are present, a very sincere well wisher, Friend, and affectionate Queen, Charlotte.”

The purse was lined in pink satin and contained an assortment of gold and mother-of-pearl implements which would have been useful to any lady of the day. The contents included scissors, a spoon, a pencil, a ruler, a knife, a compass, assorted ear spoons and scoops, and a bodkin. In this instance, the bodkin was not meant to be used as an implement of war, but rather as a device used to make holes in fabric or leather.

This attractive (and handy) gift remained in Mrs. Delaney’s family for many years until it was somehow acquired by Queen Mary who spirited it back to Windsor Castle.

Antique Image of the Day: Queen Alexandra’s Christmas Gift Book, 1908

Queen Alexandra's Christmas Gift Book
"Photographs From My Camera"
The Royal Collection
For the Christmas of 1908, Queen Alexandra—wife of King Edward VII—allowed a collection of photographs that she had taken to be reproduced by The Daily Telegraph.  Sales of the album, which was called, “Photographs From My Camera,” were to benefit charitable institutions.  Copies of the album sold quite successfully and afforded the public an intimate look into the private lives of the Royal Family.  This leaf, for example, shows two candid images of King Edward VII—one while deer-hunting in Scotland (top) and the other showing the King chatting with two members of the household staff.

Building of the Day: St. Paul’s Cathedral, London

"Old St. Paul's"
St Paul's Cathedral
Five churches have stood on the site of St. Paul’s Cathedral since AD 604. The first three were destroyed by fires—a common theme in the history of London. The fourth cathedral known today as Old St. Paul’s lasted from 1087 until 1666. That’s a very good run for any building. Of course, Old St. Paul’s had its fair share of drama. The grand Episcopal cathedral took 200 years to complete, and, that’s not counting delays in construction due to damage sustained by another fire in 1136. In 1561, the spire of Old St. Paul’s (one of the tallest in the world at the time) was struck by lightning which, frankly didn’t do wonders for the spire nor for the church. The damaged spire was removed and never replaced. By 1630, Old St. Paul’s had begun to fall apart. Famed architect Inigo Jones added a new façade to the existing building in his celebrated Classical Style. But, still, the interior of the edifice was crumbling.

"The Great Model"
St. Paul's Cathedral
In the 1650’s, officials had decided that St. Paul’s needed a complete renovation. Much debate ensued as to whether the cathedral should be salvaged or pulled down and started anew. The Great Fire 0f London of 1666 promptly answered that question for them. The conflagration which had destroyed huge portions of Central London managed to gut Old St. Paul’s.

Architect Sir Christopher Wren had already been hired to oversee the renovation of the Cathedral and continued in that capacity after the Great Fire. Once the decision had been made to pull down the gutted cathedral, Wren began presenting plans for a new St. Paul’s. His first three ideas were rejected as being too modern, un-British, and not in keeping with other Anglican churches. The third design had been Wren’s favorite. To demonstrate the proposed final product, Wren built a large model of the plan which he called, “The Great Model.” The thirteen foot tall model from 1673 is still on display in the Cathedral and gives us a sense of what Wren had really wanted to do with the building.

Wren's Final Design
St. Paul's Cathedral
 After the rejection of the Great Model, Wren decided not to show anyone his designs anymore, and presumably set about building the cathedral. In point of fact, he had quietly shown a fourth design to the proper authorities who had given him permission to begin. This design—known as The Warrant Design—was the basis for the building we see today. Meanwhile, Wren had gotten special permission from the king to make any ornamental changes he wished to the building. And, so, as the Cathedral was constructed, Wren quietly introduced a fifth design with a vastly different ornamental scheme.

The final design, as built, was based in large part on St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The dome of St. Paul’s—the tallest structure in London until the 1960’s—stands at 365 feet and is actually a “triple dome” meaning that the internal structure of what appears to be one piece is actually three complicated domes combined within themselves to support the massive lantern.

The Interior of the Dome
St. Paul's Cathedral
The final stone was placed in the lantern of the “new” St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1708, and in 1711, on Christmas Day, Parliament declared the cathedral complete. In reality, it wasn’t complete, and construction continued for several more years afterwards.

During the Blitz
The cathedral has stood since then, basically unaltered and in very good condition. It has survived considerable mayhem of its own having been struck with bombs in 1940 and 1941 during the “Blitz” of World War II. In each instance, the bombs that hit the cathedral were removed before they could detonate.

Today, St. Paul’s remains a working Episcopal Cathedral, a center for the arts, and serves as the burial place of many an important figure. Open to the public, St. Paul’s is doubtlessly one of the world’s most beautiful buildings, and one that everyone should see at least once.

The Nave
St. Paul's Cathedral

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 128

Mr. Punch howled as Arthur wrestled him to the ground.

“I ain’t done nothin’ to ya!” Mr. Punch screamed. “I never done nothin’ to ya! Why do you have to torture me?”

“Sure, you done somethin’ to me, kindly Lord Fallbridge,” Arthur taunted Mr. Punch. “Don’t you recall tryin’ to throw me in the sea?”

“After ya poisoned me and me chum! Why? Why do ya hate me? What’d I ever do? Weren’t I good to ya when you were me master’s footman? All the while, you’re botherin’ Lady Barbara and makin’ her with child! All the while you’re takin’ what ain’t yours! And, then…” Punch yelped as Arthur kicked him in the side.

“Arthur!” Ulrika shouted. “Control yourself. This isn’t the way. Pick him up and take him into the mews.”

Arthur tried to lift Mr. Punch from the banquette, but Punch struggled, biting Arthur’s hand. Arthur slapped Julian across the face.

“No!” Ulrika screamed. “Don’t leave any marks on him.”

Before Arthur could respond, he was knocked the ground with one swift punch to the jaw—delivered by a panting Robert Halifax.

Arthur moaned, lying on the ground as Ulrika rushed to his side.

“He’s bleeding!” Ulrika said fiercely. “Dr. Halifax, you’re a brute!”

“Be quiet, bitch!” Robert spat, helping Mr. Punch to his feet. “Or you’ll get the same. Woman or not!”

“Yeah,” Mr. Punch mumbled as he leaned on Robert. “Shut yer gob!”

“I demand that you stay,” Ulrika bellowed. “You’ve hurt Arthur quite badly. Look at the blood!”

“I hope he chokes on it.” Robert grunted. He put his arm around Julian’s waist. “We’re going home.”

With that, he led Punch away from Arthur and Ulrika.

“Are you hurt?” Robert asked Punch as they walked.

“Not so much,” Mr. Punch said. “Coo. Ya got a wicked fist, don’t ya?” He smiled. “Nice to see it. That’s the way to do it!”

“As a rule, dear Punch, I don’t make a habit of striking people. However, in this instance, I feel it was quite justified.”

“You won’t get no argument from me.” Mr. Punch chuckled, wincing for a moment as his felt the throbbing in his side where Arthur had kicked him. “What do those folk got against me?”

“I don’t think they have anything against you personally—except for the fact that you’re alive and in their way. It’s greed that motivates them, Punch, not hatred.”

“Ain’t it the same thing?” Mr. Punch asked softly.

“It rather is—at its core.” Robert nodded.

“Here, how’d you find me?” Punch asked.

“Marjani said she had a feeling that you were in trouble. I was actually headed toward Iolanthe’s when I saw you with Arthur and Ulrika.”

“How’s Naasir?” Mr. Punch asked, leaning further on Robert.

“Not well.” Robert sighed.

“Is he gonna live?” Mr. Punch asked.

“I don’t know.” Robert shook his head. “I don’t know if he wants to.”

“Why not?” Punch asked. “Why not want to live? Sure, the world’s got wicked folk what’ll kick ya and call ya names, but it’s also got chums and dogs and sausages and pretty things to see. That’s worth livin’ for.”

Robert smiled, “Perhaps you can convince Naasir of that.”

He paused. “Mr. Punch, where’s the Duchess of Fallbridge?”

“Left her at Iolanthe’s.” Mr. Punch answered. “I realized somethin’, I did. Realized that you can’t help people what don’t want to be helped. Her Grace wants to be miserable, she does. She wants to be miserable so she can make folk even more miserable. Tryin’ to save her weren’t no good. Wouldn’t a done a bloody thing.”

“We just have to help ourselves, I suppose.” Robert said, glancing over his shoulder to make sure Ulrika and Arthur weren’t following them. He could still see them in the distance, Ulrika leaning over Arthur and trying to help him to his feet.

Robert sighed. “You’re right, dear Punch, you can’t help someone who doesn’t care to be helped.”

Meanwhile, in the house on Royal Street, Marjani applied more salve to Naasir’s terrible burns. Naasir reached for Marjani’s arm with his charred hand, shuddering with pain.

“Don’t try to move, Honey,” Marjani said.

“Help me,” Naasir croaked.

“That’s what we’re tryin’ to do,” Marjani smiled. “Come on, lemme give ya something that’ll take the pain away. Dr. Halifax done left this bottle here. I know it’ll help ya.”

“No.” Naasir rasped.

“How can I help ya, Honey?” Marjani asked gently.

“Kill me.” Naasir coughed. “Please.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-127? If so, you can read them here.

Cookie of the Day: Ischl Tarts

For as long as I can remember, each Christmas, my mother has made Ischl Tarts. Ischl Tarts originated in Germany and part of Austria, centuries ago, and were often baked during Christmastime.

These delicate cookies are labor-instensive, but well worth the trouble of assembly. It’s easy for me to say that since I’m not the one who makes them, but, rather the one who eats them. The cookies begin with a dough of cream cheese and ground almonds. The dough is then rolled out and cut into a rosette shape, half of which are cut with a central hole. These form the tops of the cookies. Once baked, the bottom layers are spread with a layer of raspberry jam, and the tops are dusted with confectioner’s sugar.

Once assembled, these gorgeous cookies are not only delicious, but beautiful. The contrast of the snowy white confectioner’s sugar and the bright red jam immediately put one in mind of Christmas.

Ornament of the Day: A Bag Full of Fun

Bertie loves opening presents—when they’re for him. He could not care less about presents that aren’t for him. One of his favorite things is being presented with a gift bag. He enjoys removing the tissue and sticking his head deep into the bag to see what he’s been given—pulling the gift out with much tail wagging.

This ornament of a Westie poking his head out of a festive gift bag obviously makes me think of Bertie and his love of presents. It also reminds me of the days when Bertie was a bit smaller (and I was a bit younger) and would carry him in a “snuggly” bag as one might carry a baby—his bright-eyed face sticking cheerfully out of the top. Our Christmas ornaments should make us smile, and this one definitely does.

Object of the Day: An Antique Spelter Statue

This spelter figure is something of a mystery to me.  Attractively cast and finely detailed, the sculpture has no signature and seems to be missing her base.  Similar figures of reclining females in classical garb were a popular subject matter for Nineteenth Century French and English sculptors.  Very often, sculptures of this size were cast to be mounted on clocks.  Could it be that this lovely lady once graced the top of a mantel clock?  I suspect so.  Since she lacks the wooden base which usually supports spelter statues, I have the feeling that somewhere out there exists a clock which his missing its lady.  Or, perhaps not.  Perhaps she was always meant to be exactly what she is—an elegant figure unto herself.  Regardless, she seems quite content—forever in repose, and quite comfortable. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Film of the Week: The Bishop’s Wife, 1947

Producer Samuel Goldwyn, by all accounts, was enthusiastic about his film adaptation of the novel, The Bishop’s Wife, by Robert Nathan. He had a top-notch cast which included David Niven, Dana Andrews and Teresa Wright. The film was sure to be a success—especially during the Christmas season.

However, the story which centers around the lonely wife of an ambitious Episcopal Bishop whose life is interrupted by an interfering angel, was a failure with preview audiences. Goldwyn had to act quickly to salvage the film before its release. He swiftly fired director William Seiter, replacing him with Henry Koster. Goldwyn also hired Charles Bracket and Billy Wilder to quietly rewrite the script. Essentially, a completely different picture was made.

Along with the new script came a new cast. Teresa Wright had to withdraw from the project due to a pregnancy. Dana Andrews, who had been cast as the Bishop, was dismissed from the film. Koster brought in Cary Grant to replace Andrews, but Grant didn’t want to play the Bishop. He wanted to play the charming, dashing angel. And, so David Niven, who had been cast as the angel, became the Bishop to allow Cary to get his wings. Loretta Young replaced Teresa Wright and was given the opportunity to create a character that solidified her place in the Hollywood pantheon.

The redone The Bishop’s Wife previewed quite well, and plans were made to release the film. A peculiar trailer was producer (see below) which features the three main cast members shambling around the studio, out of character. It’s quite odd. Some believe that this odd trailer was created to maintain the “secrecy” of the identity of Cary’s character. Others believe that it was made this way because the picture was behind schedule and actual footage had not been finalized.

The result is a charming film which quickly became an American Christmas favorite. It’s a charming story with a lovely cast which also includes Gladys Cooper, Monty Woolley and Elsa Lanchester. It’s just the sort of fanciful, delightful picture that’s perfect for the holidays, and, despite the troubles endured in making it, turned out to be a real gem.

Her Majesty’s Furniture: “The Centre Table,” 1826

"The Centre Table"
Ebony, Gilded Pine, Gilt Bronze, Oak and Marble
Morel and Seddon, 1826
The Royal Collection
Avid collector King George IV purchased the inlaid hard-stone top of this table in the early Nineteenth Century. Intricately inlaid table tops where quite the fashion, and examples created by Italian craftsmen were highly sought after.

George IV commissioned the furniture makers Morel and Seddon to create the massive base for the table. Crafted of ebony, gilded pine and gilt bronze, the ornate base was completed in 1826 and was intended for use in the newly appointed Crimson Drawing Room at Windsor Castle. George IV was so pleased with the result, he ordered several other inlaid pieces to add to the room.

Gifts of Grandeur: The Boucheron Bracelet

The Boucheron Bracelet
Boucheron, London, 1952
Designed by the Duke of Edinburgh
The Royal Collection
In keeping with the precedent set by Prince Albert who frequently designed gifts of jewelry for his beloved wife, Queen Victoria, Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, has also designed magnificent jewels for Queen Elizabeth II.  For their fifth wedding anniversary, Prince Phillip envisioned this magnificent bracelet of gold, platinum, sapphires, diamonds and rubies which takes the form of a repeating pattern of their initials “E” and “P”.  The bracelet also features two jeweled roses and Prince Philip’s own naval badge.  This magnificent piece was expertly crafted by the jewelers of London’s famed Boucheron. 

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 127

Nellie gasped, “You mean to tell me that you want me to return to Iolanthe?”

“Isn’t that what you want?” Robert asked.

“Robert, my dear brother,” Adrienne said softly, “You’re tired. You don’t know what you’re saying.”

“Yes, old man,” Cecil added.

“I know exactly what I’m saying.” Robert smiled. “Nellie, you yourself have said that you’d be foolish not to return to Iolanthe’s. I agree with you.”

“But, you shouldn’t want me to go back.” Nellie frowned.

Robert sighed, “I don’t want anyone else to have to suffer because of Iolanthe’s wrath. Do I think it’s healthy for you to be in Iolanthe Evangeline’s house? No. However, I think it would be equally dangerous for you to be found absent, and, then incur her further anger. We’ll help you free yourself from Iolanthe. But, we can’t do it tonight. Furthermore, if Cecil brings you back there, he can look for Mr….His Lordship.”

“Ah, now, I understand.” Nellie muttered. “You’re using me as bait.”

“You’re the one who argued that you couldn’t stay here.” Robert replied with considerable exasperation.

Nellie began to sob. “You’re too cruel, Sir.”

“It was your own idea…” Robert threw his hands up. “I…well, frankly, I don’t understand. There’s a man who is suffering terribly because of Iolanthe’s cruelty. Him—at least—I know I can do something to help. Good evening!” With that, Robert briskly left the parlor.

“I say,” Cecil began. “I can’t help but share in my brother’s confusion. Nellie, we don’t want you to leave. If you want us to help you, we’re happy to do so. I know what Adrienne endured from Iolanthe Evangeline. None of us wants you to have to continue to suffer. However, you’ve insisted that you must return, and when we suggested that you might be correct, you’ve become upset.”

“Well, it is upsetting, my dear.” Adrienne said, putting her arms around Nellie. “Sometimes the things we know we must do can be very upsetting. Nellie, please understand, we want you to stay.”

“Then, I’ll stay.” Nellie replied firmly, “wiping her eyes. But, know that she’ll come after me.”

“We know.” Cecil nodded gravely.

“Come,” Adrienne said. “I’ll take you upstairs and we can get you comfortable. You can wear one of my lovely night dresses. You’d like that.”

Nellie nodded weakly.

“I’ll be back shortly, dear.” Adrienne said to Cecil who nodded and sank into an armchair.

Meanwhile, Robert walked angrily into the servant’s hall. “All this stuff and nonsense. Foolish drama where there needn’t be any…” He paused. “Merciful heavens, Punch has influenced me. I’m talking to myself.”

He entered the room where Marjani was tending to Naasir and forced himself to smile.

“How are we doing?” Robert asked as cheerfully as he possibly could.

“I’ve done put this salve on him. Poor fella, I know it musta stung him terrible.” She looked at Naasir. “But, it’ll help ya to feel better, Honey.”

Naasir didn’t answer. He opened his eyes and looked desperately at Marjani.

“No sense in worryin’.” She said to him, “Things are what they are. You’re here now and this is the path you’re on. We’re gonna take that path together.”

Naasir moaned.

“Have you convinced him to take the medicine for his pain?” Robert whispered.

“He won’t do it,” Marjani replied softly. “He don’t want it.”

Robert grumbled. “Why does he wish to suffer?”

“It’s his pride,” Marjani whispered. She looked Robert in the eyes. “There ain’t much more we can do for him now. I’ll stay with him. You go on and get yourself some rest. You look terrible tired.”

“I am.” Robert nodded. “But, how can I rest knowing that Mr. Punch is out there with Iolanthe Evangeline?”

“He’s comin’ back to ya, Dr. Halifax.” Marjani smiled softly. “I know it in my heart.”

And, Marjani was correct. Mr. Punch was, indeed, headed back toward Royal Street—muttering angrily as he walked. The other people on the street looked at him curiously, some stepping out of his way as he walked. He must have looked quite mad. Punch paid no attention to the people that he passed nor to their judgmental stares. He continued to walk, and chatter…

“Tryin’ to help folk.” Mr. Punch mumbled. “Tryin’ to help the very folk what made me own life Hell. Thievin’ witch stole from me she did, took me puppet body and tore it to pieces, took me master’s diamond, sold her own baby, she did. But, no, I gotta try to help her. Bleedin’ Duchess callin’ me names, tellin’ me I’m stupid just like she did to me master. Still, tried to carry her out, but she’s more concerned with her luggage, she is. Nobody wants me help. Wicked whore goin’ ‘bout burnin’ people and makin’ chaos. Just want to go home, I do. Want to play with me puppet and me dog and eat sweeties and see the panto. Everybody gettin’ in me way. Mr. Punch’s just tryin’ to be a gentleman and do what’s ‘xpected o’ a gentleman and what’s he get? Nasty folk bein’ selfish, that’s what he gets. Came all the way here to get beaten about and have to hit ugly maids with lamps cuz they’re botherin’ me…”

He stopped when he saw Ulrika Rittenhouse and Arthur come toward him.

“Lord Fallbridge!” Ulrika called out.

“Coo!” Mr. Punch grunted. “Ain’t nowhere to go where I ain’t gonna get bothered.”

Ulrika and Arthur drew closer.

“Go ‘way!” Mr. Punch shouted. Passersby paused and stared.

“We just wish to speak with you about your sister.” Ulrika said.

“My wife, Sir.” Arthur added.

Mr. Punch’s eyes flashed with anger.

“Don’t care ‘bout none of that!” Punch said loudly. “Don’t come near me! I’m goin’ home, I am!”

“Arthur, grab him!” Ulrika shouted.

As Arthur lurched toward Mr. Punch, he began to run. But, the footman was too swift. Punch could not make Julian’s legs go any faster. He felt Arthur’s fingers dig into Julian’s arms.

The sensation reminded Mr. Punch of other times when hands had hurt both him and Julian and the feeling filled Mr. Punch with an uncontrollable rage.

At that very moment, back at Dr. Biamenti’s house, Marjani felt an iciness in her heart. She hurried from Naasir’s room and caught Robert just as he was walking down the corridor.

“Doctor!” Marjani shouted.

“What is it, Marjani? Naasir?”

“No.” Marjani panted. “Mr. Punch. He needs ya!”

Did you miss Chapters 1-126? If so, you can read them here.

Cookie of the Day: Praline Cookies

Ah, pralines.  Creamy, sugary, nutty, wonderful pecan pralines—the true gold of the Southern United States.  Pralines are glorious.  But, they’re never more splendid than when they sit atop magnificent cookies.  My mother has been making these delectable cookies for a few years now, and I love them.  The cookies themselves are slightly chewy, but with a melt-in-your-mouth quality that is heavenly.  Then, add a rich, majestic praline to the top and you’ve got an idea of what true rapture is like.  What better way is there to celebrate the Christmas season than with a cookie that reminds you of all of the beauty that we can find each day. 

Ornament of the Day: Hark, the Herald Cow Angels Sing

Once again imagining what Bertie might be thinking, my parents gifted him with this angelic cow—complete with wings and halo. The cow’s cheerful face and gleeful prance indicate that it now frolics in the heavens, pleased that it could provide hamburger for grateful dogs on their people.

I spend twenty-four hours a day with Bertie and, over the past eight and a half years, I’ve gotten a good sense of what goes on in his dog brain. This must be what he thinks about. It must! It’s the perfect ornament for him and I always make sure to hang it in a place on the tree where he can see it.

For a deeper look into other things Bertie might be thinking, let's also consider this 1935 "Silly Symphony" from the dog-like brain of Walt Disney.  Knee-bending in 1930's style is ahead.  Also, consider if you will that these creatures live in a world which is made of the same material that they are.  And, they don't care.

Object of the Day: An Alexandrite Stickpin

A cabochon alexandrite is set in a web of British 15 karat gold. Alexandrite, in natural light, appears to be green, and, in incandescent light, glows with a reddish fire. This stickpin dates to the 1850’s when alexandrite was reaching the apex of its popularity in Britain after its discovery in Russia twenty-years earlier.

Natural alexandrite is rare and difficult to find. I was pleased to come across this piece in a local antique store. The stone had been mislabeled, but I recognized it right away as alexandrite. If you’re a collector of antique jewelry, or any antiques for that matter, don’t be afraid to use your own knowledge. Sometimes, you may know more about a specific style, time period or material than the dealer. Take some time to study what interests you. You never know what sort of magnificent find you’ll stumble upon.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sculpture of the Day: “The Golden Age,” by W.T. Copeland and Sons, 1851

The Golden Age
W.T. Copeland & Sons, 1851
The Royal Collection
As is often the case with competing artists, there was always a bit of rivalry between the porcelain-makers of Copeland and Sons and Minton. In the mid-Nineteenth Century, the rise in popularity of unglazed biscuit figures known as “Parian” prompted both companies to claim that they had created the process. Minton is credited for naming the product “Parian” after the Italian marble due to the material’s resemblance to marble. However, Copeland and Sons insisted that they had perfected the technique.

Regardless of its origin, Parian pieces were proudly shown at The Great Exhibition. Queen Victoria was fascinated by the ceramics and even watched several pieces being made. She wrote in her diary about watching the process, “which is very interesting and pretty to see.”

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert collected many pieces of Parian in 1851. This multi-figure group created by Copeland and Sons was inspired by a passage in Ovid’s Metamorphoses and depicts a scene of innocence and terrestrial paradise in which men lived in harmony with animals.

These delicate pieces graced many mantels and tables in the Royal Residences. This one, however, was one of the Queen’s favorites as she was said to have very much enjoyed the idea of living in harmony with nature.

Treat of the Week: Tassie Pie

Here’s all the goodness of a Pecan Tassie in one giant package.  A delicate, cream cheese based, hand-made crust sets the stage for a luscious filling of pecans, chocolate chips, butter and brown sugar.  It’s a wonderfully tender confection which is filled with the rich flavors of our favorite Pecan tassies, but with the visual impact of a pie.  If you’ve ever eaten a Pecan Tassie and thought, “That was good, I wish it had been bigger,” then, here’s your answer. 

Painting of the Day: “The Adoration of the Kings,” by Jan Gossaert, 1510-1515

Adoration of the Kings
Jan Gossaert, 1510-1515
The National Gallery, London
Jan Gossaert, also known as “Mabuse,” was one of the first Sixteenth Century Flemish painters to travel from Flanders to Italy in order to study the work of Italian Renaissance painters. He employed the methods that he learned from the Italians to produce stunning, monumental paintings upon returning to his homeland.

This tremendous painting entitled The Adoration of the Kings dates between 1510 and 1515 and was painted as an altarpiece for the Lady Chapel at St. Adrian’s at Grammont which is near Brussels in present-day Belgium. As was typical of Italian paintings of the era, Graesart has included a contemporary sitter into the composition. The figure of the king, Caspar, was modeled after Johannes de Broemer who was appointed Abbot of St. Adrian’s in 1506 and who most likely commissioned the painting.

The scene shows the Christ Child and the Holy Family being visited by the Magi. Above the Holy Family, the famed star shines brightly—symbolizing God, the Father. From the star, the Dove of the Holy Spirit, descends toward the Holy Family as throngs of angels hover above.

The painting has always been heralded for its magnificent colors and Gaesart’s ability to render realistic looking fabrics and textures. Today, the piece is housed in the National Gallery in London.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 126

Here, Ogress,” Mr. Punch frowned. “Just step aside, would ya? I already had enough trouble for one day and I don’t ‘spose I can stand for much more. I been good, I have. ‘Xcept for hittin’ your little troll with the lamp, I’ve gone and done all this as a proper gentleman should, and I don’t see how gettin’ in me way is gonna help none of us.”

“You hit Mala with a lamp?” Iolanthe laughed.

“She ain’t dead or nothin’, says Barbara anyway.” Mr. Punch added defensively, straining under the weight of the Duchess in his arms.

“So, my little English rose, Barbara Allen, has been helping you?” Iolanthe asked, her eyes wild.

“Don’t ‘spose you could call her a rose. More like a briar. And, she ain’t been so much help neither.”

“I tried to stop him, Miss Iolanthe,” Barbara lied.

Mr. Punch rolled Julian’s eyes. “See. Now, come on, Iolanthe and let me pass. This woman ain’t so very light. Her dress alone’s gotta weigh two stone. How you women can stand to wear all this foolishness is beyond me. Seems to me that…”

“Silence!” Iolanthe snapped. “You’re a thief is what you are. You’ve come into my home and stolen from me. I don’t take kindly to thieves!”

“Can’t steal a person,” Mr. Punch grunted. “See, that’s where your thinkin’ is all wrong. You got this notion what people are things what you can trade. People are people, they are. They’re their own creatures what’s got minds and souls. You can’t trade them like you would paintin’s or bowls or even puppets. I ain’t stealin’ nothin’. I’m helpin’ this lady what gave birth to Barbara and to me body. She may not be no prize, she’s not, but she’s a person.”

The Duchess moaned. “Julian, do be quiet.”

“Here, you want me to put you down?” Mr. Punch growled.

Mala came staggering toward the doorway, rubbing her head. “He hit me!” She screamed.

“See, I didn’t kill her.” Mr. Punch smiled. He looked over his shoulder at Mala. “Listen, ugly girl, sorry for hittin’ ya, but, come on, when you go ‘round sneakin’ up on a bloke, what’s he gonna do? You’re gonna get yourself smacked with somethin’, you are. Can’t go ‘round grabbin’ at a fella from behind. Only gonna make him angry. ‘Specially when he’s doin’ somethin’.”

“Barbara, take Mala downstairs and see that she’s not badly injured.” Iolanthe growled. “Leave me with your brother.”

Barbara looked at Mr. Punch and then to her mother.

“Barbara,” Iolanthe hissed.

“Yes, Miss Iolanthe.” Barbara said, grabbing Mala by the hand and slipping past Punch, the Duchess and Iolanthe.

“Good riddance, I say.” Mr. Punch mumbled. “Now, I mean it, Ogress, this woman ain’t so light. I gotta get by. So, stop belchin’ your vague threats and let me pass.”

“You think my threats are vague?” Iolanthe snapped. “I don’t want you thinkin’ that they are. Is this more specific? I’m going to kill you.”

“No, you ain’t.” Mr. Punch shook his head. He pushed Iolanthe away, using the Duchess as a shield.

Iolanthe lunged forward, toppling Mr. Punch. He fell to the ground, the Duchess landing on top of him with a grunt. Punch rolled the Duchess over and stood up, offering his hand to her to help her to her feet.

“Julian, I can’t.” The Duchess moaned from the floor.

“Sure you can.” Punch muttered.

The Duchess took Punch’s hand and stood up, shakily.

“Good.” Punch sighed. “Now, we can walk out. Listen, if you could stand before, why’d you let me carry you?”

“You fool!” The Duchess growled. “Can’t you see I’m weak? You have always been such an idiot!”

Iolanthe saw that Punch’s attention was diverted and shoved Mr. Punch against the wall, pinning him to it.

He shook his head. “Now, you ain’t bein’ very kind.”

“It isn’t my business to be kind.” Iolanthe growled.

Punch pushed Iolanthe away. “You’re strong, you are. I’ll give ya that.” He looked at Pauline. “Come, Your Grace, let’s get goin’.”

“My things, Julian. I need my things.” The Duchess moaned.

“Your things?” Mr. Punch snorted. “You can get new things. Come on.”

“I need my things.” The Duchess wailed. “You imbecile, I need my things!”

“You gotta maid, don’t ya?” Punch grunted.

“I sent her to a hotel.” The Duchess said weakly.

“Well, then, we’ll have her come back for your luggage. Cripes! And folk say I’m crazy.”

Iolanthe lunged toward Mr. Punch again, but Punch stepped aside. Iolanthe hit the wall and shrieked.

“Here, I don’t understand. What you want her for anyway? What good can this woman be to ya?”

“I need her.” Iolanthe shouted.

“Like you needed Naasir?” Mr. Punch asked.

“Do you know what it’s like to be stolen from?” Iolanthe groaned.

“Yes, I do.” Mr. Punch nodded. “But, nobody knows more ‘bout bein’ stolen from than me master. And, I ain’t talkin’ bout no blue diamond nor even when me own puppet-self were stolen from him. I’m talkin’ ‘bout when your life is stolen from ya. That’s why I’m here tryin’ to get this woman outta here. Don’t seem fair to let anyone have their life stolen.”

“Stop talking! Julian, get my things,” The Duchess said, stumbling forward and catching herself against the wall of the corridor.

“Still?” Mr. Punch mumbled. “Still goin’ on ‘bout your luggage? Now, I gotta say, I been more than reasonable ‘bout all o’ this. Seems to me you…” He paused and looked at the two women who stared at him—The Duchess and Iolanthe.

Mr. Punch frowned. “Damn.”

“Julian,” The Duchess croaked. “Help me, you simpleton!”

“What am I doin’?” Mr. Punch muttered. “The lot of ya…you all want to be miserable, don’t ya?” He sighed. “You want to be miserable and you want to make everyone else miserable. And, there ain’t nothin’ I can do to stop ya. Not alone anyway. Can’t help folk what don’t want to be helped.”

Iolanthe clenched her fists together.

“Listen, I came back in here with kindness in me heart. But, it’s kindness what’s wasted, it is. I can’t do nothin’ here. You…” He looked at Iolanthe. “You’re angry ‘bout somethin’ and you want everything in the world what you can’t have to try to fill yourself up to make the anger go ‘way. You want to hurt everyone and everything, you do.” He then looked to the Duchess. “And, you, I don’t know what’s wrong with you, I don’t. You have everything and yet it ain’t enough. So, you do all you can to make sure folk suffer. Maybe it’s cuz you had too much. Ain’t no amount o’ kindness what’ll help either one of ya. I gotta take care of me-self, I do. No sense hurtin’ me-self tryin’ to help folk what don’t want it.” He shrugged his shoulders.

“What are you saying?” The Duchess moaned.

“I’m leavin’, I am.” Mr. Punch grunted. “I’m goin’ back to me family. You two deserve one another. Don’t worry, Ogress, I won’t be stealin’ from you today. So, do what you might. I know you’ll come back at us. I know your rage ain’t gonna be stopped—not by me alone. So, do what you will. We’ll be ready for ya. As for you, Your Grace, you’re your own thing. You got freedom. It’s your place to remember it.”

Mr. Punch turned his back and started down the corridor.

“Julian!” The Duchess shouted. “Come back here at once and get my things. You must help me from this place!”

Mr. Punch kept walking.

“Julian!” Pauline screamed.

Punch paused and looked over his shoulder. “We’ll be ready for ya.” He said plainly. “We will. But, just know, the next time either of you comes knockin’ on my door, will be your last. Duchess, I could take you from here, but in your heart, you’ll still be wicked. So, why try? And, as for you, Ogress, ain’t nothin’ what’s gonna save you from yourself. All the good intentions in the world ain’t gonna change a thing. So, I gotta protect what’s real.”

“Stop this at once!” The Duchess bellowed as Iolanthe laughed maniacally.

Punch turned around. “I came to this land with me master in search of Barbara—to return her to her home, to her inheritance, to her life. Along the way, I found that she’d stolen somethin’ precious from me. I wanted it back. Still, do, I ‘spose. And, if I get it back, I’ll rejoice, I will. But, along the way, I discovered more than I thought. I found out that there’s more to life than diamonds and pride. There’s love and honor. So, now I’m fightin’ a bigger battle. I ain’t fightin’ to get Barbara home. She don’t want to go home! I ain’t fightin’ to get me master’s diamond back. I ain’t even fightin’ for revenge at what all of ya done to me. I’m fightin’ to protect what’s real and important. Me chums—that little baby what thinks I’m his uncle. Me sweet doggy what loves me cuz I pet him and give him sausages and what don’t care if I’m different than everyone else. See, I know love. And, me master should, too. I’m fightin’ for me master’s life. I’m fightin’ for Robert what’s been so kind to me and what looks at me like I’m a real man. I’m fightin’ for freedom so that folk like Marjani can have the same blessings what others got. I’ll fight ya! But, I’ll do it with honor and goodness in me heart. I won’t soil myself with your dirty ways. So, both of you can try to stop me. And, in doin’ so, you may hurt me. But, you won’t win. Cleave me head from me body, rip me open and spill me guts, but you won’t win—not where it’s important. I leave you to yourselves! Draw your swords, fire your pistols, but we’re ready for ya!”

“Julian, I’m your mother! You fool!” The Duchess pleaded.

“Collect your things and go to Blazes!” Mr. Punch spat as he walked down the stairs.

Iolanthe laughed. “I win.”

The Duchess sank against the wall, slowly slipping to the floor. “Do you?”

“He’s weak, your son. He’s a mad weakling! Once again, I am triumphant. And, I shall have what I desire. My own son will thrive. I won’t be stopped. And, you, your Murderous Grace, you will be my greatest assistant. We’ll have everything. Can’t you see? I win!”

The Duchess groaned. “I wouldn’t be so sure.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-125? If so, you can read them here.

Cookie of the Day: “Aunt Ida” Cookies

These delicious pillows are made from a recipe which my mother adapted from one used since she was a little girl.  The cream cheese based dough is tender and smooth.  The rolled-out dough is layered with filling and then folded over and baked.  Some of them are stuffed with dried cherries, chocolate chips, nuts and cinnamon.  Others feature raisins along with the nuts, cinnamon and chocolate chips.  Dusted with cinnamon and confectioner’s sugar, they are a delightful combination of the creamy dough, the smoothness of chocolate, the chewiness of the fruit, the bite of the cinnamon and the crunchiness of the nuts.  Appealing in every way, these cookies are an excellent addition to any dessert table.    

Ornament of the Day: A Silver Shell

I’ve had this ornament for many years. It’s really quite charming. A real seashell has been plated in silver—creating the look of still being wet from the sea. Adorned with red and silver ribbon it makes an interesting and elegant ornament for the Christmas tree.

This is one of two such ornaments from the same designer. The other is a natural pinecone which has also been plated in silver and looks as if its been touched with a lovely winter frost. These clever ornaments remind us of nature and the beauty that surrounds us. They’re also quite heavy! So, they often end up sitting on lower branches since they tend to weight down less-sturdy higher ones.

Object of the Day: A Pair of Vintage Sconces

I am a fan of subtle indirect lighting. I like the freedom to illuminate a room in a variety of ways depending on my mood. For that reason, I enjoy using wall sconces since they light the walls and cast a warm glow throughout the room. When placed near a mirror, wall sconces reflect the light in a soft, charming way.

This pair of bronze wall sconces dates to the mid-to-late 1920’s and comes from France. As is often the case with antique or vintage fixtures, they’ve been rewired for safety. They’re really quite simple and offer a subtle elegance to a dark-toned wall. The single-armed fixtures with Rococo-inspired plaques hold two original pendalogues supported by crystal rosettes. I’ve dressed them with red silk shades. They blend nicely with the large chandelier in the room and add a warmth to an otherwise dark corner.