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Archive for the ‘Victorian glassware’ Category

Giving . . .

A. C. 3

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.  The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”   Isaiah 9:6-7 KJV

This is the greatest GIFT, the gift of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ Who suffered on an unspeakably cruel cross and died to pay our sin debt—then rose victorious to give us eternal life, HIS abundant life now and forever!  I received this priceless gift of God’s Grace forty-four years ago this coming January.  The GREATEST GIFT!

I was blessed to have parents and a closely bonded extended family and friends who loved life, valued life, and lived by Godly principles.  My grandparents were Bible believing Christians, and in later years I was greatly persuaded that my parents also received the greatest gift—The Lord Jesus Christ.

In my early childhood, family Christmases were somewhat shadowed by a tragedy that had occurred before I was born:  my sister, Shirley, had died at age two on Christmas Day.  Yet Christmas was always a time for celebration, hope, and joy.  We loved being together, we loved the music, we loved the Christmas Story.  And we loved giving and receiving gifts.

In light of the fact that we believers are recipients of the Greatest Gift in Heaven and on the earth, because we are walking around everyday with the very life of God in the Person of His Holy Spirit, the most natural thing to do is to give gifts to family members and friends.  Up until I believed in the Lord Jesus, I naturally loved giving gifts; it was the most wonderful and fun thing to do.  But once I became a believer, God’s Spirit enhanced and blessed our family traditions in such a way that I was, and still am,”over the top” with His joy over our family Christmases.

The Christmas worship services, the music (decades of singing in choirs), favorite recipes (which our children looked forward to each year and still serve to this day), the gatherings with laughter and games we played with the children (and still play, as new family games appear on a regular basis), and our tradition of GIVING became so endowed with implicit depth of meaning and God’s love, that it is inconceivable to imagine any other way to live.

As Joe and I raised our six children, extra people at the family dinner table (year round, not just at Christmas) was a given.  Friends were family.  If a child or young adult friend of one of our children hung out in our home, he or she automatically became one of the loved ones; they were included in the food, hilarious games, and the Christmas giving.

What is more fun than giving and receiving?  It’s not about spending a lot of cash.  Although exceptions have been made over the years for some special item or when there is a specific need, it cannot be about spending huge sums.  We have, to date, forty-nine immediate family members, not counting myself.  But even if we were just a handful of folks, it would still be all about loving each person and deciding what would be fun to give—rather than just blowing money.

I love to make gifts.  For years good gifts came out of my oven or off my pantry shelves where bountiful jams and jellies were preserved.  Now we have children, their spouses, and their children who share yummy kitchen creations.  Although I still bake some things, now I am very happy to paint a watercolor, knit a hat for a child (or an adult), design and knit funky, colorful scarves for all ages, and share my homemade soaps in those lovely gift boxes (just inside the door as you enter JoAnn Fabrics, and at other outlets as well).

Throughout the year, my antennae is up when I browse at art fairs, antique malls, and even rummage sales.  By Christmas each year, I’ve managed to acquire a stash for family members and friends who appreciate lovely vintage art glass or a hand crafted piece of stained glass, mosaic, pottery, whatever.

And then there is that fantastic treat, popular as of recent years, the Gift Certificate.  Although that may seem to be a cop-out to some, I think the certs are wonderful.  I tailor them to individuals.  Some of our young families do a lot of home repair and renovation.  Home Depot.  One family member loves Starbucks, but being a diligently frugal young lady she will pass up that luxury on her budget.  I get tremendous pleasure out of giving her a Starbucks cert for her birthday or sometimes Christmas—and picturing her savoring her powerful coffee and perhaps a sweet.  And who doesn’t love Barnes & Noble?  Books and music—something for every preference and taste.

In our mushrooming family, Joe and I have seventeen great-grandchildren ranging from age twelve down to nine months.  Babies typically get little cuddly animals from this Granny—stuffed, not live although I’d love to be given permission to pick out a real kitten or puppy.  That is yet to happen!  The other children?  Books, puzzles, crayons, etc.  It’s easy, almost a “DUH”, to find gifts for young people.  In fact, all ages are easy, when you long to give some little token of your love and thoughtful consideration.

I constantly find wonderful cooking and crafting books (mostly like new) at a nearby St. Vinnie’s.  Again, these gift books are tailored to the recipients and their hobbies and interests.  How rewarding is that!  I have delighted someone’s heart, for all of $2.19 or thereabout.

Underlying it all is the fact that we love because He first loved us.  We give because He has given to us—that Greatest Gift of salvation and eternal life.  Giving is sharing.  When we are filled to overflowing with God’s gift of love, we simply can’t not share with those whom we love.  When we are filled to overflowing with God’s Word and His gift of grace, we are delighted to graciously receive and enjoy the gifts which our loved ones have thoughtfully selected or made for us.

Christmas!  A stress-free time of joy.  That doesn’t mean that our circumstances are all perfect, at all times.  For many years our celebration centered at our home, and I fed a lot of people.  Granted, sometimes I felt a bit stun-gunned when the season was over, because I had spent physical and emotional energy far beyond any that I possessed.  But God has always given me what I needed, to serve Him by serving people.  And stun-gunned though I was, it was with a sense of purpose and great blessing that I “collapsed” into a quieter routine (as quiet as a routine can be when raising six children).  I knew that God was the center of my giving (as well as my “giving out”) and I rested in Him.  I still do.  It’s the only way to live, and it’s the only way I want to live!

We have had poignant holidays in the wake of bereavement over loss.  We have had tearful Christmases when circumstances were nearly devastating due to a loved one’s rebellious decisions.  Four Christmases ago Joe and I were a wall apart in hospital beds, beginning the arduous recovery from major surgeries both occurring in a space of a few hours a couple of days before Christmas.

But it was still, and always will be, Christmas.  The Grinch can’t steal it and neither can illness, family sorrows, death, economic circumstances, or any of the world’s weighty problems.  Christmas!  If a metaphorical Grinch were to come on Christmas Eve and confiscate our trees and our lights and our presents, it would still be Christmas and we would still be giving—because in all of our giving we are giving ourselves, and giving to our Lord the thanksgiving and glory which He deserves.  If we have nothing to give, we will still give somehow in some way.

Christmas is stress-free and joyous—a time to celebrate the loving and giving that we treasure around the year.  We love because He first loved us.  And we give, because He has given us THE GREATEST GIFT.  It would be unthinkable to do anything else but give when we have received so much!  Merry Christmas!

Margaret Been, December 23rd, 2014

Note:  On the bottom left side of the above photo, you will see a charming manger scene created out of popsicle sticks, bits of cloth, and miscellaneous odds and ends.  This was custom-made for Joe and me a few years ago by four great-grandchildren under the supervision of their Mom—our granddaughter, Alicia. 

If you look closely on the bottom left, you will see little bits of white and purple under or beside the people:  Joseph, Mary, Baby Jesus in His manger bed, and a shepherd.  The little bits are sheep, fashioned from pipe cleaners and dabs of white material, by Alicia’s youngest child—less than two years old at the time if I recall correctly.  Now that is a gift to treasure forever!

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Reflections on Home

®®New Play Area

My philosophical mother left me with many quotes on which to ponder, one of them being:  “It takes all kinds of people to make a world.”

That certainly is a fact, as each of us was created to be unique.  Each of us is an original piece of art.  Although we may have similarities we were not intended to be prints or reproductions of another human.

I try to understand other people whose style and preferences differ from mine, and it’s just plain fun to discover whom people are and what “makes them tick”.  Perhaps the best way to get acquainted with another person is by visiting in that individual’s home.  I want to believe that most people who spend considerable time in their homes have some pastime they love, some kind of a life within their walls.  This life may be reflected via the books on the shelves, the cookbooks and appliances in the kitchen, baskets and tables overloaded with crafting supplies, the presence of houseplants indoors and gardens outside the windows, a dog or cat (or both), and of course a musical instrument—perhaps more than one.  The presence of art on the walls and family photos on shelves and tables says a lot—if indeed the walls, shelves, and tables are laden with pictures which are worth a thousand words.

But occasionally when visiting a home I draw the proverbial blank.  No books, no projects, no art to reveal a period or style of interest, no messes, no pets, no plants beyond the “tastefully correct” one or two—potted in matching, stylized planters rather than those ice cream buckets and COOL WHIP® containers which frequently hold my overflow of greenery.  Not even a happily messy computer corner!  Sadly, only one piece of equipment normally characterizes the apparently wasteland homes:  that ubiquitous television.

Quite possibly, the homes which appear sterile, sans personality, may not actually be like that at all.  When one is a guest, one seldom sees all the nooks and crannies.  In the most generic of furniture store homes, there are apt to be hidden away places where the residents read, craft, make music, or whatever.  As interested as I am in people and their lifestyles, I certainly don’t want to be crass and ask to see their hidden recesses—the NO ENTRY zones of a house.  So I give my host or hostess that benign benefit of the doubt.  Certainly they have some life passion, some activity that causes them to jump out of bed each day and say “HELLO, WORLD!”  Probably my host and hostess simply have chosen not to divulge exactly whom they are and what they are about.

I accept the preference for anonymity, and I understand that I may be the odd one in today’s world.  I LOVE to share.  I love to be transparent—an open 1000 page book with loads of information on every page.  As much as I love to know, I love to be known.  And as far as I know, that’s the way life was originally intended to be!  Unlike that pair in the Garden after the fall, I have absolutely no desire to hide from God or anyone else!

Meanwhile, since Joe and I have moved into a four room condo it is easier than ever for visitors to ascertain what we are all about.  Our interests pervade every corner of our home, for all to see and enjoy.  We have never had more of ourselves on our walls, tables, shelves, and floors—and we are delighted beyond expression with the overflowing abundance of our current time of life.  Crowded, YES!  Even CLUTTERED—although to me “clutter” bespeaks random chaos, and I will have none of that.

Tidiness and order rule the day, and we can always stuff one more meaningful object into the order of our home.  Minimalist gurus (who for some odd reason find no significance in memories manifested all around them, no joy in the colors and textures of a life well-lived) will call us “hoarders”.  I call us “LOVERS OF LIFE”!  Thus the spinning wheels (which really spin beautiful yarn from luxuriously fleeced sheep’s wool) lurk behind a favorite easy chair, accompanied by baskets of wool and more baskets of yarn—plus needles and other accoutrements of knitting.

My piano hosts an assortment of music books—and musical scores printed out and taped together so that I can play without turning pages.  Our kitchen contains the necessaries—toaster, coffee pot, blender, crockpot—plus a representation of bygone eras in funky kitchen collectibles.  Our dining area buffet serves as a display area for my soap industry—while hundreds more soaps are stacked in drawers and stored in huge plastic bins under furniture and in closets.

Our bedroom is also my art studio, with a messy table for acrylics, collaging, etc., and another table for watercoloring.  Crammed into a bedroom corner is my writing studio with my very own laptop, printer/scanner, and voluminous files (I will always love paper).

My husband’s den is his bit of Heaven on earth with the TV, his own computer/printer/scanner, filing cabinet, posh reclining chair (suitable for snoozing on), and even a daybed for that occasional afternoon “lie down”.  Joe keeps his clothes in a dresser and closet in his den, while our enormous bedroom closet houses my clothing plus bins and shelves laden with more soap and somewhere between 600 and 800 paintings.  I tell our children they’ll have a post-humous fortune on their hands some day.  (Obviously, I’m joking!  My art is amateur stuff, paying dividends of endless and infinite fun!)

Both living room and bedroom have indoor garden areas—with tropicals in the east facing patio door, and succulents in our south facing bedroom window.  And everywhere are BOOKS, BOOKS, BOOKS.  Shelves groan with books, tables support the weight of them, and floors feature book towers in every room.

All of that—including a zest for collecting with a partiality for Victorian era art glass produced by our great American 19th century glass companies, English china, and most anything vintage and funky—goes a long way toward telling our guests whom we are, in this happiest of homes which I’m inviting you to tour with me today!

The above play area is a magnet for our great-grandchildren (16 children, ages 10 and under) who visit whenever they can.  And my happy little kitchen beyond.  (Actually, it’s Joe’s kitchen for the duration of my post-surgical, arm-in-sling adventure.)

Fiber studio

My fiber studio resides behind a living room easy chair.  The spinning wheels are not for “show” (although they are very beautiful, made from cherry wood).  The spinning wheels spin, and produce luxury yarns for sweaters, scarves, and hats.  Years ago, Joe made the pine dry sink for me.  It houses my collection of English flow blue china and my Grandma Kate’s English (Aesthetic Period—circa 1885) Indus wedding dishes featuring graceful birds and foliage reminiscent of the British Empire in India.

Most of the baskets in our home are homemade.  The one with the coral insert is an Irish potato basket, and below it with gorgeous ultra-marine blue/violet fleece inside is an egg basket—both crafted by moi.  The larger basket, in the style of Wisconsin Native Americans’ basketry, was woven by our daughter-in-law, Cheri Been.

make art

One of the many perks in our condo home is the fact that Joe and I each have our very own bathroom.  What fun is that!  Joe’s is the larger of the two, and it contains a shower which he loves.  (I HATE showers, probably because they remind me of that most detested of all scenarios—high school gym class!)  I have a tiny bathroom, but it contains a TUB (one of the great loves of my life).

I painted the blotchies on the upper walls, and our grandson, Tyler Been, painted the gorgeous New Mexico-ish red lower walls.  This is my Louis L’Amour bathroom—replete with cowboy pictures, and photos of family members on horseback.  As you can see on the above left, I have hung some of my own Southwestern art here as well.

TPJ 2

Here is another shot of my sweet loo.  The Civil War era folding chair is a family heirloom, with needlepoint painstakingly stitched by my mother many decades ago.  I treasure the no-longer-available glass ARIZONA TEA® bottles, plus my collections of all things horsey and Western.  (The oil painting on the left is not mine.  It was a rummage sale prize, unearthed a few years ago.)

Art 3

The messy inner sanctum of my studio is open to all who venture here, since we always have our company put their wraps on our bed.  That’s an old fashioned thing to do, perhaps dating back to when closets were not so prevalent as they are today.  To me, wraps on the bed are the most gracious way to go.

soap 5

No home photo shoot would be complete without a glimpse of my soap.  I brag about my soap way too much.  It’s excellent, and we have used nothing but my home made soap since 1976.  Today my soap is far removed from that crude stuff the pioneers made over an open fire, using fat drippings from their slaughters and kitchen grease cans.

I use the finest vegetable oils (olive being the Lamborghini of oils!) and pure, rendered tallow—all of which I purchase online from COLUMBUS FOODS in Chicago.  High grade cosmetic pigments go into the soap for color, plus quality fragrance oils.  I have online sources for these ingredients, as well.  Soap making is an expensive hobby, well worth ever drop of cash and elbow grease involved!  And we saponifiers always have a beautiful gift to offer our family members and friends—the gift of the finest soap.

Ambience (2)

Old painted furniture, dried hydrangeas, British India style shelves, platters and bowls which don’t fit in cupboards and thus are relegated to the floor, family photos, sparkling glassware including Vaseline glass with glass fruit, cookbooks, a teapot and cups and saucers (just a few of a plethora about the home), and a toy bear (also one of many) co-exist in happy harmony.

Now if you happen to be thinking, “This is really weird!” just remember:  “It takes all kinds of people to make a world!”

Margaret L. Been, 2013

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Which one doesn't belong

Remember those kindergarten worksheets where a group of objects were pictured, and you had to circle the one which didn’t belong with the rest?  Well, if you play that game with the above photo, I certainly hope you circle the broken piece of junk in the upper left corner!  That doozey not only “doesn’t belong” because it’s broken, but also because it is BRAND NEW—whereas the other items are vintage or just downright OLD.  And some of us know that OLD is often best!

The piece of junk is (allegedly) a jar opener, recently purchased at (you guessed it!) WalMart for (would you believe?) $3.98 plus our Wisconsin sales tax.  We bought one a few weeks ago.  That very night I used it and it broke in my hands—without even beginning to open the jar. 

Being nice folks, we gave the silly contraption a proverbial benefit of the doubt, returned it to WalMart (they are good about returns there), and bought another identical alleged jar opener.  That very same night Joe used it, and it broke in his hands without even beginning to open the jar.  So we wrapped #2 non-jar opener in a bag with its sales slip and for all I know the goofy thing is still sitting in our van.  Returning purchases, even to “good” WalMart, gets old.  We may save ourselves a hassle and simply forfeit the $3.98 plus Wisconsin sales tax.

Meanwhile, back to “OLD is often best”!  The other items pictured above have been with me (or someone else) for a long time, and I am still using them. To the right of the silly piece of junk is a genuine jar opener which was in my family ever since I can remember.  But some jar lids are made differently today, and my family treasure no longer works on every new jar of jam or whatever.  Yet I will never part with it.

The other vintage items have been picked up for a song.  (I do a lot of singing during garage sale season!) I dearly love them, and they warm my heart for 2 reasons:  1) they haven’t broken with decades of use and 2) they are drop dead gorgeous.  I am one of those odd individuals who cannot live without ambience and charm.  OLD normally abounds in ambience and charm, and NEW often does not—with the exception of babies, kittens, and puppies.  They have charm, plus!

Most of our kitchen and dining room items are OLD:  my Grandmother’s (1880) dishes plus our wedding china and a plethora of auction and antique mall gems, Victorian era glassware, old sterling and silverplate, practical utensils like those pictured above, charming tins (mostly made in Britain), wonderful old mixing bowls, etc. 

Contemporary brides register for exotic cookware.  I always smile inside when the gifts are opened at showers.  I truly wonder if those “out-of-the-home” career women are really going to do all that much cooking!  As the latest in French cookery is unwrapped at bridal showers, I fondly think of my circa 1953 pots and pans—the classic Revere Ware which never wears out. 

Over the years I’ve tried an occasional non-stick this, and trendy-pretty that, always to return to my beloved first choice of stainless steel with copper bottoms.  Along with the Revere Ware, I treasure my old cast iron frying pans and Dutch oven.  There is nothing in the world like cast iron for creating rich brown gravy on a brown pot roast baked for hours in a slow oven.  Crock pots can’t do that, and I challenge the exotic French stuff to even try!

Conversely, we do have a few new kitchen items of which I am inordinately fond:  my lime green digital scale (the above-pictured scale doesn’t measure to the ounce—a feature I need for making perfect soap), my flaming red Kitchen Aid hand mixer with 5 speeds, and a funky orange collander (would you believe, plastic?).  Also our coffee pot is new, but actually the concept is vintage; it’s a percolator!  Not many are made today, but there are a few out there—accessible on AMAZON. 

Percolators make real (strong!!!) coffee with a mellow flavor.  Since my mother used to say, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”, I won’t even tell you what I think of that other kind of coffee maker—currently ubiquitous. 

Where is all of this Monday morning diatribe going?  Simply here:  it’s only late January, and already I’m chafing, chomping, straining for those garage sales to start.  🙂  In lieu of garage sales, Joe and I may take a spin over to St. Vinnie’s this week.  Just like our home, St. Vinnie’s is a charming place where OLD is often best!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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Vaseline Glass--1

Glass has been a major interest and source of delight for me as long as I can remember.  When I was a child, my parents took me to antiques shops which were often located in homes back in the 1930s and 1940s.  When visiting or traveling via small towns (there were no interstate or toll highways to bypass communities in those days) we would cruise through neighborhoods looking for window signs which read:  ANTIQUES. 

Some children might have been bored to distraction by such a pastime, but I was not “some children”.  I can’t even begin to express the joy I experienced when touring these home shops.  My hands were well-trained to remain with fingers interlocked behind my back, so there would be no temptation to touch anything.  In this rather uncomfortable position, I would quietly inspect every shelf within reach of my eyes, and every table-top arrangement of gorgeous Victorian and Art Nouveau glassware.

My parents were collectors of American glassware—especially abundant due to the soils of states such as Ohio, West Virginia, and parts of Pennsylvania and Indiana, and often created by skilled immigrants from Eastern Europe where glass blowing and molding were time-honored arts.  Thus, in the manner of individuals with a happy childhood, I grew up to continue pursuing that hobby which my parents enjoyed so much.  FENTON, NORTHWOOD, AND HEISEY are practically household words for me!

Given this background, my recent weekend in Toledo was memorable.  Joe and I went with our son, Eric, and his wife, Cheri, to visit their daughter, (obviously our granddaughter) Nicole, and her husband, Travis.  Along with being together, the ultimate highlight of this weekend was attending Nicole’s Christmas concert with the Toledo Masterworks Chorale.

But a runner-up to Nicole’s concert, was the fun of being involved in MAKING GLASS!  The Toledo Glass Museum offers ongoing workshops, in which participants make different glass items around the year:  roses, pumpkins, and whatever.  Since my workshop was near Christmas, I made an icicle.

Here are some photos of stages in the exciting process of making a glass object.  I let the workshop expert do the 5000 degree oven phases—and I just did the easy stuff:  rolling the molten glob and shaping it into a rectangle on a metal table, and crimping my icicle with a pincer-type tool to form spirals while the teacher pulled the substance up at the top.

Glass 1

Glass 7

After a glass item is formed, it must cool down very slowly in an insulated container over a period of 2 or 3 days—depending on size.  Since we returned to Wisconsin the next day, Nicole picked up my icicle and brought it to me at Christmas.  And here it is!  ↓

My Beautiful Glass Icicle

Indeed, there are some instances where a picture is worth a thousand words!

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

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The maples and sumacs have shed their glory.  That riotous circus of color is over for another year, and the muted shades of the oak leaves remain.  The maples and sumacs catapulted me into action.  Now those subdued autumn oaks quiet my soul, as a prelude to the season of rest.

Oak leaves are the last to turn, and the last to fall.  Some will cling tenaciously to their branches until the new leaves bud out in the spring.  I rejoice in the mellow oaks as they reflect the hues of many things I love:  rusty iron, tarnished sterling, faded bronze, weathered copper, ancient pewter, muted gold, and my late autumn paint palette—purple magenta, alizarin crimson, burnt sienna, raw umber, Naples yellow, quinacridone gold. 

Yesterday Joe and I set out on country roads for an end-of-the-season visit to an antiques shop in a cozy barn, COUNTRY ECHOES.  The atmosphere of this shop induces euphoria.  Retro music plays softly in the background, and every display sparkles in the sunlight which filters through the barn windows.  There’s a tucked away section for country primitives, an area reminding me of my mother’s kitchen, and a Victorian parlor—replete with English and Bavarian china, and American pressed and patterned glass in jewel tones.  

The shop features cases of vintage brooches, necklaces, earrings (mostly the clip-on variety), rings, and bracelets.  Attempts at reproducing these beauties are rampant, and supposed “look alikes” may be found everywhere—from Walmart, to hospital gift shops and the finest goldsmith establishments.  But none of the new costume jewelry can begin to match the quaint, subdued beauty of the old stuff! 

Barring special pieces containing precious gems, vintage jewelry is still very reasonably priced.  This will continue until a new generation discovers that old can be lovelier than new in many instances.  Meanwhile, since the prices are moderate, I’m buying the vintage treasures—for myself as well as for kindred souls who also enjoy “old”.  If I have a “signature look”, it’s that of vintage jewelry—the kind my mother and grandmothers wore.

Vintage housewares, vintage table settings, vintage costume jewelry—reminiscent of late autumn, when our souls are stilled by the shades of vintage oaks! 

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

I am not alone in my passion for most things old!  Again, I recommend visiting my favorite kindred-spirited author and photographer via her inspiring books—especially FOR THE LOVE OF OLD by Mary Randolph Carter.

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