These are the hands of my family.
These are the hands of my family.
To me there isn’t any sound more pleasurable than the tinkling of a bracelet covered in charms. When I see someone wearing one I have to resist the urge to snatch up their wrist and ask for an explanation on the origin of every charm. These people are easy to find. You can hear them coming a mile away.
Of all the charm bracelets I’ve seen, my favorite still belongs to my sister. It’s a silver bracelet laden with charms from the 60’s and 70’s. Sadly, it’s too heavy to really “wear”. As a kid I lived for the times when she’d let me hold it, turning the charms over in my hand, gazing at a tiny roller skate, a flute, and spinning the miniature dial on the lie detector. Did I wish that bracelet was mine?
My mother has put together two bracelets of her own, one with gold and one with silver charms, many of these mementos of her own childhood, but some added to commemorate motherhood, plus religious medallions, and even a corporate service award from my dad. My favorites are the football charm from her own father and the locket containing her picture and his.
As a young adult finally on my own and able to make my own purchases, my first jewelry “goal” was to start my own gold charm bracelet. My husband and I collected charms for it as we traveled and he has added a few more since we started our family. A gold die with tiny diamonds commemorates our wedding in Las Vegas. A peanut reminds me of a visit to a quirky shop in Vancouver’s Chinatown. The tiny lizard with a curly tail that has snagged every sweater I own came from the Virgin Islands to remind us of a hotel room teeming with the little creatures. Cute but also… kinda not.
When my oldest daughter was a baby I started an inexpensive bracelet for her, collecting charms from the children’s clothing store Gymboree, creating a one-of-a-kind bracelet reminding me of the fun I had dressing her up. The charms came two to a card, each set matching a specific outfit design. I had one for every outfit she owned. Silly but sweet.
My college roommate Elizabeth and I frequently visited antique malls and flea markets, looking for vintage charms that we could afford. We discussed many times how sad it was to see bracelets broken up and sold piece by piece. Someday I suppose that will happen to mine, and my sister’s and my mother’s bracelets.
A small ring with a curly letter “C” that once held a tiny finger. A majorette with a baton still leading the band. A ferry-boat sailing across remembered waters.
It’s not the charms, it’s the things they remind us of.
A post from Bridget. To me a Thanksgiving meal isn’t complete without a slice of pumpkin chiffon pie. Unlike traditional pumpkin pie, this chiffon pie is light and fluffy. Using a recipe from my Great Grandmother Martha, this pie is a permanent installment at family gatherings and is made by many members of our extended family.
We alternate years between families and this year we’re at my parent’s house. My husband’s family serves a non-traditional Asian feast containing many kinds of seafood, sticky rice and bamboo soup. My parents serve a very traditional American meal of turkey, mashed potatoes and all the trimmings.
Whatever your tradition, and whatever is on your table, have a wonderful day with many blessings.
PUMPKIN CHIFFON PIE
4 t. unflavored gelatin
1/4 c. brown sugar
30 oz. can pumpkin pie mix
1 t. vanilla
1 cup whipping cream
9 inch graham cracker crust
Combine 4 t. unflavored gelatin and 1/4 c. brown sugar in sauce pan. Add 30 oz. can pumpkin pie mix and 1 egg, slightly beaten. Heat slowly to boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Chill until mounds slightly. Add 1 t. vanilla. Beat 1 cup whipping cream until stiff; fold into pumpkin mixture. Turn into 9-inch graham cracker crust. Chill until firm. Garnish with whipped cream. Make a 9 inch pie.
The pear tree on the land where I grew up has stood for over 100 years. The large horse barn it stands next to was built in 1918 and the pear tree was there before its erection, the last remnant of what was once a fruit orchard. It has grown for all the time of my life and all the time of my father’s life and much of the time of his father before him.
Every year it manages to produce an enormous crop of heirloom pears, the exact variety of which is unknown to us – but appear similar to Bartlett pears. My parents’ house stands on a windy hill, and although the barn and house and other buildings are protected by lightning rods, the tree has been at nature’s mercy. Over the years wind and ice and snow and lightning have continually stripped off huge chunks of tree. But it still stands.
Last year an enormous section of the tree came down and we were convinced it was the end. This tortoise of a tree had the last laugh however, its misshapen form producing a bumper crop despite the second year of serious drought.
I tried to remember how many photographs I’ve taken of this tree — so many. I’ve stood under the branches and watched my father go in and out of the barn, or watched the cattle eating or standing in the lot and listened as the insects buzzed and sucked at the fruit. When the ripe fruit falls, the ground is so thick with pears you have to walk around or risk oozing fruit squishing up to your ankles.
Over the years the fruit has made its way home with a variety of family and friends. One year our school bus driver stopped the bus and hopped off, filling a sack before heading on his journey.
This year some ended up with Martha Scott in historic Fort Scott, Kansas. Martha is the author of both a blog and a column in the Fort Scott Herald-Tribune, Lines from Linderhof. Over the years many of her columns have been read aloud or passed around in the family, and more than a few recipes have graced our tables.
Linderhof is a historic 1920’s home in Fort Scott and Martha and her husband (with a little help from their corgi Dolly) enjoy gardening, decorating, cooking and entertaining individuals from far and wide. Their blog Lines from Linderhof documents their lovely home and hospitality. My brother and his partner were fortunate enough to attend a wonderful luncheon at Linderhof earlier this month, and Martha served a delicious pear and almond tart, using the pears from my family’s tree.
Martha is a woman after my own heart. I’m not much of a baker but she made a fast friend with her table setting featuring Wedgwood china dating to 1870, an heirloom lace tablecloth, damask napkins in silver napkin rings, and German silver cutlery monogrammed with her German grandmother’s initials. Sigh.
I find it appropriate that pears from a 100+ year old tree and Wedgwood china from 1870 were served together. Doesn’t it look delicious?
Sweet Tart Crust
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/4 t. salt
9 T. very cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
Put the flour, sugar, salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in. Stir the yolk to break it up and add a little at a time, pulsing after each addition until combined.
Knead the dough, wrap in plastic, and chill at least 2 hours before rolling it out. After rolling, press into a tart pan.
If you’re in a hurry you may press the dough without chilling into the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan. Don’t be too heavy-handed; press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but don’t press so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture.
4 cups water
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 T. fresh lemon juice
3 medium size firm but ripe Bosc pears, peeled
2/3 c. blanched slivered almonds
1 T. flour
7 T. sugar
6 T. butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
1/2 t. almond extract or 2 t. brandy or 2 t. Poire William
1 baked sweet tart shell
For pears: bring 4 cups water, sugar and lemon juice to boil in large saucepan over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Cool pears in syrup.
For almond filling: finely grind almonds and flour in food processor. Mix in sugar, then butter and flavorings (if using). Blend until smooth. Mix in egg. Transfer filling to bowl. Cover and chill at least 3 hours.
Position rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 350 F. Spread almond filling evenly in baked tart crust. Spread each pear half to fan slices but keep slices tightly overlapped. Slide spatula under pears and arrange atop filling.
Bake tart until golden and tester inserted in center of filling comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Cool tart in pan on rack. Push pan bottom up, releasing tart from pan. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.
I don’t know what makes me salivate more in this picture… that china, that fork or that tart! Thanks Martha for allowing me to reprint your recipe here.
If you get a chance to visit Fort Scott, Kansas be sure to take a drive past Linderhof. Martha frequently entertains and offers private cooking classes. Fort Scott has many historic homes as well as the famous Fort Scott National Historic Site, dating to 1842.
A post from Bridget. I think my interest in the magical and mystical stems from Halloween nights. It was the one night we were allowed to roam unattended, as I walked the streets of my small home town in the dark with only a friend in tow. We felt perfectly safe, yet at the same time, the air seemed charged with electricity and danger.
Raised on a farm, we had to drive five miles “to town” where my mother would chat with a friend while we were released to a night of utter freedom; just as long as we were back by 9 o’clock.
We knew which houses had the best candy (the Holy Grail being the family that gave out full-sized candy bars) and which served the homemade popcorn balls which looked better than they tasted. The popcorn ball lady was our church organist, and she always made you de-mask and announce who you were and who your parents were before handing out her homemade treats. She acted grumpy but we knew it was a ruse. Later we ran past the ramshackle house of the town “crazy guy” who might have been crazy but was probably just lonely.
On the nights there was a moon, I swear it felt just like a scene out of “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown”, still my favorite holiday show. Some years we sweltered, some we froze, some we were drenched in rain. We wore cheap costumes or those cobbled together from hand-me-downs or made by our mothers. None of them were from the Chasing Fireflies catalog, that’s for sure.
We chattered about the notorious threat of razor blade laden apples, but the worst thing we ever received were the dreaded rock hard black and orange taffies, the cheapest candy that was for sale. Still hate those.
To this day, Halloween is my favorite holiday, positioned at the end of my favorite month. I think my friend Angela feels the same.
I took a quick pit stop by her house to snap a few photos of her gorgeous annual Halloween spread. She shares my love of vintage and quirky items, and combines it with impressive layering skills. She also applies just the right touch of spooky. Unlike me, she really mixes it up from year to year and I always look forward to seeing what she has put together.
Enjoy today’s dose of pretty. My pretties.
Angela creates vignettes throughout her home combining modern items such as silver mercury glass and crow and spider motifs with vintage items such as amazing Halloween blow molds. Flickering orange “gaslights” throughout her displays add to the overall effect.
“Spooky cloth” is used not only as a mantel drape but interwoven with natural elements and lights for a spiderweb effect.
Her mantel is a delicious combination of textures and layers – and I love how she’s not afraid to just toss things in at crazy angles like the zombie grandma pic peeking out from behind. All of the books on display also tie into the Halloween theme.
An amazing display of mercury glass balls filled with orange lights creates a gorgeous lava-like effect.
An avid scrapbooker and crafter, Angela repurposed the RIP letters from different letters of the alphabet cutting them and stapling together with an industrial stapler before painting them black for a wonderful Frankenstein look.
Among the many displays is one of my favorite touches – a black feather wreath enhanced with sprigs of dangling black foliage, hung from a thick black satin ribbon. Just another example of her talent for embellishing ordinary objects to make them something special.
Thanks again Angela for letting me invade your space. And here’s hoping you all have a magical Halloween filled with full-sized candy bars.
A post from Bridget. Having recently given birth to my third child, a lovely little girl with a shock of dark hair, I’ve reentered the twilight that is infant care. Dust collects in the corners and grows daily, threatening to roll over the me, like the big rock in the cave at the beginning of the first Indiana Jones. I try to channel my inner Zen and overlook the dishes, the laundry, and the dirt, and instead focus on the face of my littlest daughter, because this time around I really get how fleeting it all will be.
This morning on the way to school my two older children asked why everyone makes such a fuss over the baby – women, men, children, toddlers, young and old – everyone wants a peek at the miracle of a little one. To my children the answer was simple – a baby is both joy and hope.
Here’s our chance to finally get things right. Here’s our chance to enjoy gazing forever at someone who won’t tell you to stop, and in fact, never wants you to stop holding on tight. Here’s our chance to make silly faces and talk in goofy voices and no one makes fun. Here’s our chance to remember when our sister or brother was small; our daughter, our son.
I attended a funeral yesterday for a friend’s elderly mother, and as we left the burial services I heard an older couple behind me discussing the baby I carried over my shoulder. “Doesn’t that bring back memories?” he said. “Yes it does.” she replied with her voice trailing off. Yes it does.
Here’s my chance to remember that my memories with this little one are happening now.
My mother has spent many years collecting a fairly large display of vintage framed prints of babies. Fat cheeked little boys and girls, many asleep or smiling up with bright eyes. Some were cobbled together from old scrap paper, calendars, or thermometers. Most were purchased for little or nothing but grouped together make a lovely collection; a tribute to the time when we all were those babies.
My new little daughter is sleeping now and soon it will be time to snap off some photos celebrating her two month birthday. Two months! She’s gained a few pounds, outgrown a couple of impossibly tiny onesies, holds up her head and is threatening to roll over soon. She hasn’t left much time for cleaning or blogging or clicking “like” buttons on Facebook, but no matter.
For me and many people of earlier generations there aren’t a lot of baby photos to document the process. By comparison, my older children’s lives are virtual flip books of the thousands of images I’ve photographed. Of course the sweetest moments aren’t often captured by a camera, but I can’t help myself.
Following the births of my first two children I spent much of my maternity leave out shopping for perfect little outfits, strolling around the mall, meeting people for lunch, searching the internet for fancy European wooden toys and reading “how to” books on parenting. This time I feel a bit more mellow. She doesn’t need much, and neither do I. I’m trying to savor the days we have alone before I head back to work. I don’t need to go out; what I’m looking for is right here.
“A woman’s life is her own
until it is taken away
by a first, particular cry.
Then she is not alone
but a part of the premises
of everything there is:
a time, a tribe, a war.
When we belong to the world
we become what we are.”
from Poem for a Daughter by Anne Stevenson
My friend’s mother was close to a century old at her passing, raising four children along the way. Each was as special to her as my daughter is to me and as she was, no doubt, to her own mother, way back in 1914, gazing up with bright eyes, bringing joy and hope. Doesn’t that bring back memories? Yes it does.
A post from Bridget. It’s no secret that I collect vintage costume jewelry and a lot of it. With the exception of a burning desire to own an insultingly large pair of diamond earrings, I prefer vintage over new every time.
I have a particular affinity for “grandma jewelry”, partially because for years it was the only vintage jewelry I could afford and partially because I like rhinestones and sparkle and apparently a lot of grandmothers like that too.
Some years ago I became acquainted the work of a vintage jewelry artist out of Newton, Kansas named Melinda Hutton. For a year or two she had a booth at a craft fair I visited in Mound City, Kansas and although my mother and I did our best to buy out her inventory, she moved on to greener pastures. Luckily, she didn’t go far. Since then, I’ve tracked her down at any number of local art and craft fairs in the Midwest and while there may be a few folks who own more of her stuff than my mother and I, we’ve got to be in the top 10.
Melinda started her business focusing on jewelry made from vintage buttons and eventually moved on to include buckles, old costume jewelry, game pieces, etc. She has a gift for combining old elements into new and beautiful pieces and her work is very affordable. I’ve only been to a fraction of her shows; I can only imagine how many thousands of pieces she has crafted.
The Buddha earrings above are my all-time favorites. They’re crafted from vintage buttons and if I’m not wearing them they’re probably in my purse, because I’m obsessed with the thought that I might ever be parted from them.
The heavy rhinestone-encrusted cuff bracelet above belongs to my mother and is a favorite, purchased the first year we came across Melinda’s work. Luckily Mom’s a cuff person and I’m a loose bracelet person or there might have been a fight right in the booth.
The loose fitting rhinestone bracelet above was purchased the same year as the cuff and is made from vintage buttons applied to a solid metal bracelet. Melinda’s work is incredibly well made and this bracelet has been worn dozens if not hundreds of times and still looks perfect. The discoloration of some of the rhinestones is a normal for much vintage costume jewelry.
The spiky pair of vintage rhinestone earrings above were made from a pair of modified screw back earrings.
The montage above is just a sampling of the pieces from my Closures-Remnants collection. Sorry for repeating the bracelet shot – but I’m living up to that “not quite perfect” tagline up at the top of the page.
Melinda always seems to have at least a few funky pieces made from typewriter keys on display in her booth. It’s not uncommon now to see remade vintage jewelry pieces or pieces made from typewriter keys or other funky elements (often being sold at significantly inflated prices in retail stores) but when I first came across Melinda’s work it wasn’t yet commonplace. A trendsetter.
Vintage costume jewelry is often fragile. If you wear it a lot, expect it to show. Some stones are easily scratched and old adhesive becomes brittle. The bracelet above has lost more than a few stones due to repeated wearing. I sometimes pick up inexpensive/damaged pieces from flea markets to use for replacement parts if elements go missing from items I care about.
A few tips on owning and caring for vintage jewelry:
If you live in the Midwest consider stopping by one of Melinda’s upcoming shows to check out her latest offerings and give her a wave from her Secret Fangirl here at AliceandBridget.
Closures Antique Button & Cufflink Jewelry
designed by Melinda Hutton of Newton, KS
Stillwater Art Festival
April 21st and 22nd
Saturday 10-5; Sunday 11-5
Downtown Main St.
Art in the Park
Sunday, May 6th
South Park, 12th and Massachusetts
Wichita Art and Book Fair
May 12th and 13th
Saturday 10-6; Sunday 11-5
Century II – Downtown
Mulvane Mountain/Plains Art Fair
June 2nd and 3rd
Washburn University Campus