Thursday, November 28, 2013

One of the Best Reasons to Be Thankful

Today, don't forget to let your pets know how much joy they bring to your life.

Don't We All Wish For Hazel?

If not everyday, at least to clean up after dinner today.

(By the way, iPad users may have had some trouble viewing today's videos.  I don't know why.  That's what I get for posting at 2 in the morning.  However, the kerfuffle is fixed now.  Enjoy the bounty of vintage weirdness.)

Thanksgiving with George and Gracie

Just because they're lovable...

Holiday Posting Schedule

It’s “Thanks-a-ma-giving” here in the U.S. And, yes, that’s how I refer to the holiday, because…well…because of Homer Simpson, mostly.  Besides, if you have been sniffing around here since 2010, you know I am just more than a little peculiar...part of my charm, or something.

Bertie and Mr. Punch insist that I take a few days off. Even the manx, Stumpy, and the giant orange cat, Oscar, who live in my back yard have let it be known that I might benefit from a wee break. 

And so as to prevent myself from Bertie's furry wrath and in order to avoid repeated blows to my head from a slapstick-wielding puppet (and there’s no telling what a cat with no tail and a twenty pound feline would do to me), I’d best cooperate.

So, we’ll be on hiatus until Monday...or, maybe Tuesday...of next week when it’s back to business as usual.

And, don’t be surprised if Mr. Punch has something to say about his thirdThanksgiving!

Also, Happy Hanukkah! And, to our overseas's November.   So, hooray for you, too!

Happy Thanksgiving From Springfield. ..

At home wisth, Margaret, Bud, Betty, and Kathy

No, not the home of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie et al.  But, the home of  Bud, Betty and Kathy Anderson.  You may notice that at this point, all but "Father" will sound different. Jim Anderson knew best on radio before he came to TV.  Enjoy this "Father Knows Best" radio special, just for Thanksgiving.  

Of course, this was before he ditched the Andersons, changed his name, moved into Beaver's house and called himself "Marcus Welby."

The radio episode may sound familiar to regular viewers of the much-loved 1954-1960 television program, despite the fact that the only recognizable voice is that of Robert Young (the only cast member from the 1949-1954 radio version to, appropriately enough make it to the tv show) since this script was adapted for the small screen.

Here are parts one and two of the radio program.

And, well...

I was going to post the television version, but the only one online was one that asked viewers to purchase it.  Not fair.  So, here's a favorite Bud episode of mine.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Here's wishing all of you a very happy Thanks-a-ma-giving.   We will be back with the usual business next week, including new chapters of A Recipe for Punch.

Happy Hanukkah!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Mastery of Design: An Impressive Reversible Mosaic Necklace, 1850

Uppermost Face
Micromosaic Glass, Gold, Silver, Copper
Italian, 1850
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This impressive parure, consisting of a necklace, bracelet and earrings, truly is the definition of “mastery of design.” It has the unusual property of being reversible, per each individual section. Each of the micromosaic panels is double-sided. The wearer had the option of displaying scenes of monuments of Rome or images of figures in regional costume, or a combination of the two.

Each panel is comprised of the smallest glass pieces--containing more than 5000 pieces per square inch. The panels are set in silver held together by gold links and backed in a copper alloy. The work of an unknown jeweler, this magnificent suite is surely from Rome.


The Suite

Treat of the Week: Family Favorites!

This past weekend, at my parents' house, Bertie and I relaxed with a casual feast of homemade pizza and a delightful salad. Four Italian cheeses, olives,  caramelized onions, fresh herbs,  zesty olives and sundried tomatoes topped my mother’s special pizza sauce and a crust fashioned from homemade dough. My parents actually made five pizzas. One for dinner and then four smaller ones—two of which I brought home.  


The salad featured pear, pineapple, Stilton, avocado, hearts of palm, radishes, olives and all sorts of other goodies.  It was a lovely meal.  One my all time favorites, in fact!

And, then, dessert...another family favorite!

One of my earliest baked-good-related memories is my love of “Grandma Cookies.” We’ve always referred to these light, doughy confections by that name since they came from my maternal great grandmother who frequently made them.

The proper name of the original “Grandma Cookies” is Anginetti. These knots of dough are tender and lightly sweet with a sugar-lemon glaze adorned with colorful sprinkles. Anginetti are a traditional Italian cookie which was often prepared for weddings—the knot symbolizing the union. I remember eating these as a little boy and I love them just as much today. They’re refreshing with a mild citrus taste. The secret is using fresh lemon in the glaze. Once upon a time, I even showed you how to make them. 

My mother has adapted the same dough into other variations. The “S” Cookies are so-called for their shape, but also in reference to their Italian name, Sapienze. These cookies are said to have originally been baked by the nuns of the Monastero Della Sapienze. Though the base dough is the same, the flavor is quite different. Instead of being glazed, they’re elegantly dusted with confectioner’s sugar.

A flavorful third variation uses the same dough, but, this time, is layered with apricot or strawberry jelly to create a sweet, luxurious pocket. They, too, are glazed. Moist and delicious, they show that this versatile dough is scrumptious in many forms.

This goes to show that one of the best ways to remember the history of your family is to continue their culinary traditions. Eating the same foods that our ancestors ate makes them feel that much closer.

Painting of the Day: “A Horse Frightened by a Lion,” George Stubbs, 1770

A Horse Frightened by a Lion
George Stubbs, 1770
The Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

Eighteenth Century painter George Stubbs was celebrated for his equestrian portraits, but often desired to paint loftier subjects than horses. Still, his public expected horses from Stubbs, and horses he gave them. However, he found a way to incorporate the horses that his fans desired into grander paintings.

This canvas entitled, “A Horse Frightened by a Lion” was inspired by Stubbs’ 1755 trip to Rome where he spotted a fragment of an ancient sculpture in the Palazzo dei Conservatori. Stubbs’ has rendered the horse magnificently, which is not surprising. The lion, however, looks a little weak and drowsy—owing to the fact that he figure was painted with the only model being a lion skin. Regardless of the rather limp lion, it’s still a powerful painting.

Ancient Sculpture

Sculpture of the Day: The Meissen Three Graces, c. 1785

The Three Graces
Meissen, 1784-1785
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This handsome figure group depicts the “Three Graces” as known from classical Greek mythology. They are called: Aglaea, Euphrosne and Thalia and they personify charm, beauty and joy (among other interpretations). These young ladies were the companions of Aphrodite, Apollo and Athena.

Made in Meissen, Germany around 1784-17855, the group of hard-paste porcelain is modeled after classical sculptures and murals depicting the subject—specifically one particular sculpture in the collection of Cardinal Borghese in Rome. The cardinal’s sculpture had been restored in the early Seventeenth Century. During this restoration, carved flowers were added to the hands. The sculpture was sketched and painted numerous times.

It is believed that the Meissen Factory’s J.E. Schenau, who ran the Meissen drawing school, sketched the design which was modeled by Christian Gotfried Jüchtzer. The group was so popular and produced in such numbers that, by 1789, the moulds had worn out and needed to be repaired by Jüchtzer. 

A Recipe for Punch, Chapter 20

Chapter 20:

Jackson stood at the farthest end of the grand dining hall, framed by the architecture of the monumental room like a desiccated saint in a gothic reliquary.  He watched with pointed eyes as Gregory and William served the dinner, a dinner, of course, of which he did not approve at all.

Mrs. Pepper had prepared many of the Duke's favorite dishes in addition to those preferred by Lady Fallbridge and Lord Colinshire, hoping that familiar tastes and smells would make that strange and foreign place seem somehow more... livable.

The late Duchess would never have allowed such food to have been served below-stairs let alone in the banquet hall.  Chicken and turkey, rustic breads, compotes of berries and creamy sauces, sharp cheeses.  He wrinkled his nose.  Unrefined!

Lady Fallbridge and Lord Colinshire carried on as if they were not aware that the food on which they dined was wholly unsuitable.  Jackson studied the Duke.  Surely--mad as he was--he knew that his cook, this woman he had intentionally brought all the way from London...well...Her Grace would never have stood for it.

Jackson narrowed his eyes and waited.  Staring, staring.  He knew the Duke could feel his eyes cutting into him.

Finally, the Duke looked up and met Jackson's stare.

"Is something troubling you, Jackson?"  The Duke asked.

"I?"  The butler asked.

"Yes."  The Duke replied.

"Why do you ask, Your Grace?"  Jackson replied.

"Because you are staring at me."  The Duke responded dryly.

"I am only trying to anticipate your needs, Your Grace."  Jackson answered.

"I need not to be stared at."  The Duke replied.  "You are not serving any particular purpose.  Gregory and William are functioning well without you.  Why don't you retire downstairs for awhile?  After dinner, however, I would like to speak with you."

"You Grace, it is customary that I..."

"Jackson...please go."  The Duke sighed.

"Very well, Your Grace."  Jackson growled, turning on his heel and heading for the service stairs.

If only Mr. Punch had known that Violet and Charles were about to enter Jackson's pantry, he'd never have sent the man back so soon.

Did you miss Chapters 1-19?  If so, you can read them here.  Come back tomorrow for Chapter 21 of A Recipe for Punch.

Gifts of Grandeur: A Platinum and Diamond Bow Brooch, 1930-1940

Platinum and Diamonds
The Victoria and Albert Museum

If Jack Ketch used this knot as his noose, more people would rush to be hanged. In another superb example of antique jewelry from the V&A, we see this diamond and platinum bow brooch made between 1930 and 1940. 

The brooch features pavé-set brilliant-cut which create the ribbon-y loops of the bow. The knot itself is crafted from baguette-cut stones which are repeated in the tails of the bow. Black onyx—a frequent medium in Art Deco jewelry—outlines the piece and gives it added weight and depth.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: “The First Interview of the Divorced Empress Josephine,” Henrietta Ward, 1870

The First Interview of the  Divorced Empress Josephine
with the King of Rome
Henrietta Ward specialized in tender historical scenes. This painting of the Empress Josephine with the King of Rome was based on this passage from Histoire de Napoleon II by Duc de Reichstadt: “At the sight of this child Josephine experienced profound emotion. She fixed upon him her eyes dimmed with tears... The little Prince returned her affection, and gave himself up, and all the gentleness and amiability of his character... The Emperor heartily thanked Josephine for this testimony of her affection. It was a day of happiness to him.”

The painting, created in 1870, was displayed at The Royal Academy and was recently auctioned at Sotheby’s.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Gifts of Grandeur: The Ladies of Devonshire Earrings, 1893

The Ladies of Devosnhire Earrings
English, 1893
The Royal Collection

These simple and elegant earrings were purchased by the Ladies of Devonshire—a group headed by one Lady Clinton—in 1893 as a wedding present for Princess May of Teck (later Queen Mary). The earrings were designed to match a pearl and diamond necklace which was presented to the future Duchess of York/Princess of Wales/Queen by a sister group called “The Ladies of England.”

Queen Mary cherished these earrings. In 1947, she presented them as a wedding gift to her granddaughter, Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II).

Precious Time: The John Pyke Clock, 1750

Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
via The Royal Collection Trust
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

John Pyke, circa 1750
Painted Pine, covered in paper,
gilt, with gilt brass mounts
Purchased by Queen Elizabeth II
The Royal Collection

This monumental clock created by John Pyke in the mid-Eighteenth Century was not originally part of the Royal Collection. Its original owner is unknown, having been purchased in 1960 by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

An exceptionally fine case of pine has been overlaid with paper, painted with an intricate design, gilded and adorned with gilt brass mounts including a figure of “Victory” or “Fame” at the top. In addition to showing the equation of time, the clock also indicates the hours of the sunrise and sunset as well as the sign of the Zodiac. At one point, it housed a musical mechanism which is no longer in existence.

Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
via The Royal Collection Trust
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
via The Royal Collection Trust
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

The Art of Play: A German Mechanical Dancing Toy, 1865-75

Mechanical Dancing Toy
The Victoria & Albert Museum
A colorfully-dressed couple dances around an opulent setting—this was the stuff of the upper-classes and was out of reach for most people, especially children. So, imagine a child’s face as he or she gazed at this magnificent mechanical toy which was made in Germany between 1865 and 1875. Sadly, most children would never have had a chance to see this toy. This was made as a conversation piece for wealthy Nineteenth-Century men and women who already had access to such events. Automata such as this were made in contrast to the novelty pieces which glutted the limited market. This was the elegant answer to all of the smoking monkeys and laughing urchins.

The mechanical figures are housed in a box of polished wood with a glass panel at the front. The while of the box is surrounded by a carved, gilt frame. The brass clockwork mechanism which operates the figures as well as the music box is activated by releasing the control switch after winding with an iron key.

The scene of a three-sided ballroom is adorned with mirrored walls and a red cloth curtain, and is trimmed with gold metallic paper. Across the front top is a band of similar cloth. The floor is of printed paper over wood, showing birds, trees,, flowers and fruit and a lead chandelier is suspended from the top. At some point later, two electric lights were added.

The figures are two bisque German dolls with blonde wigs. The woman wears a purple jacket trimmed with gold, a cream skirt covered with black lace, and black lace attached to the top of the head. The man wears a purple jacket with green and gold trim, green breeches and a green cap which extends to a long point at the back, decorated with gold trim and a gold and purple tassel.

Unfolding Pictures: The Emily Beauclerk Fan, 18th C.

Click image to enlarge.
Hand Fan
French or British, Eighteenth Century
Watercolor on paper leaf with ivory sticks and guards.
The Victoria & Albert Museum

In the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, a variety of hand fans were imported from the East into Europe. China exported a vast array of fans into England and Europe and, soon, the Chiense style became quite fashionable for hand fans. European artists strove to emulate these Chinese fans in order to keep local business going. This fan, made in the Eighteenth Century, probably comes from either Britain or France and is a clever take on the Chinese style which was growing in popularity at the time.

With expertly carved and pierced ivory sticks, the fan sports a paper leaf which has been hand-painted with a watercolor Chinoiserie landscape. However, instead of depicting the usual Chinese figures in Eastern dress, the men and women in the scene are show in fashionable European dress. Their faces, nevertheless, are meant to look Asian. One of the figures, a woman, is shown holding a paper fan with a floral pattern in pink which nearly replicates the flowers which have been painted on the reverse of the leaf. 

The fan was donated to the V&A by one Emily Beauclerk, its last owner.

At the Music Hall: “When Father Papered the Parlour," 1910

Our parlour needed papering and pa said it was waste
To call a paper hanger in, and so, he made some paste.
He bought some rolls of paper; got a ladder and a brush,
And with me mother's nightgown on, at it he made a rush


When father papered the parlour, you couldn't see him for paste.
Slapping it here, slapping it there, paste and paper everywhere.
Mother was stuck to the ceiling, the kids were stuck to the floor.
I've never seen such a bloomin' family so stuck up before!

The pattern was 'blue roses' with its leaves red, white, and brown;
He'd stuck it wrong way up and now, we all walk upside down.
And when he trimm'd the edging off the paper with the shears,
The cat got underneath it, and dad cut off both its ears.


Me pa fell down the stairs and dropp'd his paperhanger's can
On little Henrietta sitting there with her young man,
The paste stuck them together, as we thought t'would be for life,
We had to fetch the parson in to make them man and wife.


We're never going to move away from that house any more
For Father's gone and stuck the chairs and table to the floor,
We can't find our piano, though it's broad and rather tall,
We think that it's behind the paper Pa stuck on the wall.


Now, Father's sticking in the pub, through treading in the paste,
And all the family's so upset, they've all gone pasty faced.
While Pa says, now that Ma has spread the news from north to south,
He wishes he had dropped a blob of paste in Mother's mouth.


“When Father Papered the Parlour” with its theme of daffy dad high-jinks, proved to be a popular song at the music halls around 1910. It was written and composed by R. P. Weston and Fred J. Barnes and famously performed by comedian Billy Williams. In fact, this was considered one of Williams’ most successful hits.

Toys of the Belle Époque: Trentsensky Toy Theater, 1825-1880

Trentsensky Toy Theater, 1825-1880
Victoria & Albert Museum

This toy theater is originally the work of famed toymaker, the Austrian-born, Matthias Trentsensky. Trentsensky began producing these paper theaters in Austria in 1790, using his brother Joseph’s name for the company. Such paper theaters were quite popular in England. Trentsensky exported many of these printed sheets for assembly in Britain.

The theater consists of a stiff paper-board proscenium, fabric-covered base and elaborately detailed paper backdrops. “Plays” would be staged in the theater by using paper dolls in intricately drawn costumes. This particular theater was assembled in Britain and remained in the same family until 1880. The owners added several of their own backdrops to the assortment of scenes that came with the theater.

This Trentensky Toy Theater is in remarkably good condition given its age and the amount of use that it endured for nearly sixty years. Today, it is on display at the Museum of Childhood at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

In Franco Zeffirelli's semi-autobiographical film, Tea with Mussolini, a similar paper theater was used.  You can see it in this clip at about one minute in.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Paper Model Kit, 1939

Model of the Empire State Building
Robert Freidus, 1939
The Museum of Childhood
The Victoria & Albert Museum

In the 1930’s, artist Robert Freidus, created a series of paper model sets for children which were based on popular architecture across the world. Building paper models was a beloved pastime for both young and old since the Eighteenth Century. Though it’s largely fallen out of fashion, there’s still a fascination with these delicate models.

This set from 1939 produced a scale model of New York’s Empire State Building. This set, among many others, was part of an exciting exhibit at The Victoria $ Albert Museum which concluded in January wherein the guests were welcomed to create models of their own.