Sunday, January 24, 2016

Jonas, the Blizzard of 2016

The blizzard named Jonas which hit a good section of the east coast over the weekend has been on the news around the world.  People near and far have sent me emails and texts expressing their concern for our safety, so I thank you for being in touch.  We're doing well and have not lost power.  Thankfully!

Looking at photographs that some of my friends have been posting on social media, it seems as if everyone received a substantial amount of snow around their area.  A friend in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania measured 35 inches in her backyard this morning.  From what I've been reading, Manhattan received over 2 feet.  Here in Montgomery County, just outside of the city, we got about twenty inches of snow, so we certainly had our fair share.

I was able to take several photographs throughout the weekend of the snowstorm, and I even captured a small video clip while standing on the front porch Saturday evening.

Take a look.

This photograph was the calm before the storm.  We had had a dusting of snow a few days prior to Jonas, but it was nothing compared to what we would wake up to Saturday morning.

When I came downstairs on Saturday to brew the coffee, this is what the front of the house looked like early in the morning.  You can barely make out our car on the left.  

Taken from one of the upstairs bedrooms, you can see how wonderful everything looked behind the house.

The driveway was nowhere to be seen.  

Every window throughout the house had snow accumulation, and as you can see from this angle, even the gutters were completely covered.

That is a bench.  A snow-covered bench.

Between morning and late in the afternoon, we didn't receive a snowflake, but reports were telling us that more was on the way.  Sure enough, right before it was time to make dinner, the snow began to come down.  

I sent this photo to friends and family so that they could see the enormity of what we were experiencing Saturday evening.  There is a car there under feet of snow.  

I took this short video while standing on our front porch.  You can hear just how windy it was and how brutally cold it felt.  This was a blizzard!

Sunday morning was a different story.  The back porch next to the home office was the scene of a few birds hopping and bopping to and fro.  That heart shape is a cooling rack that Michael Bonne made for me several years ago; I forgot to bring it in!

Standing on the front porch at 8 am today was rather serene.  Nothing could be heard except for a bird here and there.  The snow drift on the left is the car and you can barely make out the steps leading up to the driveway where the snow undulates.

I put on my warmest wool coat and some rubber wellingtons before attempting to go out on the front porch.  Here I am standing on the porch.  I haven't even walked down to the first step and the snow is almost up to my knees.

One step, two steps and down to the ground.  The snow was up to my knees, so approximately twenty inches.  This was a lot of snow.

The crew thankfully arrived early to dig us out, but even the large Ford Super Duty pick up truck was having trouble navigating that driveway.  It got stuck!

This was the scene after the crew left.  Mounds of powdery snow with just enough of a walkway to navigate out to the car. 

I have to admit that I love being out in the snow when the sun is shining and there is not a cloud in the sky.  I'm not sure I'll be out and about on the field or walking the trails, because there is just too much snow on the ground to make it a safe thing to do.

Having said this, I hope all of you who were in the storm's path are safe and warm today, and are digging out of the feet of snow.  Please be careful out there on the roads and do check up on loved ones if you can. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Good Things from California

My trips to California never cease to be opportunities for me to bring back a little something (or a lot) for us to enjoy here in Pennsylvania.  More often than not, I stock up on fruits from dad's trees, and if I'm lucky enough to have found something at an antique shop, it too gets carefully packed up in my luggage for transport.  An ordeal to be sure, but it's the only way to be certain there won't be any mishaps.

This time around I found a variety of things at antique shops that I wanted to scoop up, many of which you've already read about, but I showed restraint because it would have been a nightmare trying to figure out how to ship everything.  There were two items, however, which I simply couldn't leave behind because they would have bothered me for months had I done so.  Keep reading to find out all about them!

Lemons.  I can't write enough about my love for lemons!  These tasty meyer lemons with their thin, fragrant skins and juicy insides, came from one of my aunt's who was visiting from Santa Barbara while I was there.  The bunch sitting in that Apilco porcelain bowl was only a fraction of what my mother had in her kitchen right before I left.  As much as I wanted to bring more, there really wasn't any room.

That tiny cutting board from Asheville, North Carolina, was a gift from a dear friend this past Christmas and I've designated it my citrus board.  It will get used for the cutting up of citrus and nothing else.  

Meyer lemons are prized for their juicy, fragrant nature, which makes them suitable for many culinary uses such as vinaigrettes, drinks, desserts and in savory dishes.  They're less acidic than their Eureka lemon counterparts.  Yes, I do make lemonade with them, but I much prefer to have my Hot Lemon Drop Drink with a couple of these.  The zest of meyer lemons is perfect for candying, but it superb in cakes and cookies which call for lemon zest.  These fruits are in season now and available at any supermarket.  Look for them the next time you want to add a bit of zip to your dishes.

What can I say?  My father has always had a green thumb in the garden and these amazing and delicious avocados are a testament to his care and patience. A couple of years ago he decided to plant some Hass avocado trees and this time around mom and dad were rewarded with hundreds (no joke) of these delicious fruits.  Again, can you believe that I only picked 8 of them?   

We've been enjoying one or two of them a week, and I've hastened their ripening by placing a couple of them in butcher paper.  Rolling and wrapping two avocados at a time is a good way of ensuring perfection in no time at all. These have been so good in guacamole, thinly sliced in sandwiches and as a topping for toast.  I can't get enough of them.  Thanks dad!

At first glance I thought that this was a large platter, so I asked the shopkeeper at the Pasadena Antique Center if I could inspect it.  It turns out that there were two of them in the display case!  Its jade color, which is so alluring to me, is what caught my eye as I was scanning the crammed displays.  My immediate thoughts were: "I can see cakes, cookies and other desserts sitting here with or without a glass cake dome.  They would blend in with my existing ceramics and Fire King....."

At a little over 13" in diameter (I had a tape measurer with me), these round ceramic plates seemed extraordinary to me.  Not only did I love the color, but their generous proportions and their heft (they're quite heavy) made me want to take them home.  The high rims were just right.

These pieces were completely glazed in that rich jade color, both on top and on the bottom.

The left plate had no markings to identify what it was, but this one on the right did.  Barely legible, the plate had engraved, "Bauer Pottery Co., 12, Los Angeles".  Being that they were both of the same proportions, shape and color, I immediately realized that I had early pieces of Bauer ware ceramics from the Los Angeles pottery works.  I won't tell you how much I paid (sticker shock, believe me), but as I was being rung up and chatting with the owner of the antique shop, I knew that I was absolutely mistaken with my assumption that these were originally used as platters.  It turns out that Bauer Pottery made these to use as pot saucers, which presumably had their original pots for planting any number of things.  It makes sense!  The wide diameter, the high rim to catch water spilling over from watering one's plants.  

Having said this, I am still going to use these beautiful pieces of ceramic as platters or as cake plates in the future, because to my mind, they would be wonderful repurposed in this manner.  If I hadn't told you that these were pot saucers, wouldn't you assume that they were platters or serving plates of some sort?

These French ivory celluloid knives were waiting for me. With perfect blades which showed no signs of ever having been used, the bolsters and celluloid handles seemed to be in excellent condition.  I wasted no time in purchasing them at a good price.

The stamp on the blades say, 'Arnold Scheurer Aarberg'.  One of the things that I love about these knives, other than the classic European shape of the blades, is the squared-off blade guard which connects to the bolster.  It helps rest the knives perfectly on a table without them wobbling.

How can you tell if the flatware pieces are French ivory celluloid?  When you look at the handles closely you will immediately see a series of lines running down the length of it.   

Here is a comparison of my inexpensive Martha Stewart Everyday Cottage flatware pieces next to one of the antique knives that I purchased.  The color matching is way off, but they complement one another.  I may use these two patterns together for my table, but then again I might just pair the knives with other pieces of vintage silverware.  

On a side note: my trips to California also have me eating more than my fair share of scrumptious foods from many great sources, so when I return home my body craves a small detox of sorts.  Not only have I been enjoying hot lemon sips in the afternoons with those meyer lemons, but I've also been craving vegetarian dishes such as the one above.  This is a typical lunch that I will make at home on any given day of the week.  Hulled barley is one of those fiber-rich foods which are minimally processed.  In fact, hulled barley has the most fiber of any whole grain and if you want to learn more about it, do an online search to get the facts.  We like it because it tastes so good and because it fills us up.  Served over this is a combination of cooked chickpeas and caramelized onions, sprinkled with herbs, salt and pepper.  Easy, nutritious and a very healthy lunch, I feel so much better after eating a dish like this.  Happy eats and happy shopping!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Chuck Williams Culinary Arts Museum ~ CIA at Copia

The Culinary Institute of America at Copia is planning to open the Chuck Williams Culinary Arts Museum, in Napa, California, in the spring of 2017. Through a generous gift bequeathed by the Williams estate, the CIA at Copia is happy to announce that they will have on permanent display, the numerous culinary tools and collectibles that Mr. Williams acquired over his lifetime. This important collection of approximately 4,000 culinary tools, appliances, pots and pans, and cookbooks, spans from the 18th century through today. From chocolate tin molds and European pudding molds, to French copper pots and pans, and majolica plates, the Chuck Williams private collection of unique valuables will take us through his personal culinary odyssey, which defined and honed a vision for one of this country's most prestigious brands.

To house Mr. Williams's vast collection of kitchen ephemera under one roof is a stroke of genius on his part as well as the museum's.  I can only imagine how these pieces will be displayed and how the curators at the museum will help us understand the importance of each tool.  

Below is a glimpse of what to expect.  These photographs are courtesy of the Culinary Institute of America, which inducted Chuck Williams into their hall of fame back in 2002.  

Pure white molds made in Europe as well as the United States, from the 18th through 20th century, range in shapes and sizes, and are highly sought after today.  Williams-Sonoma currently has two ceramic molds in its product line which can be used to make cakes, puddings or breads.

Specialty chocolatiers continue to use molds such as these to make a variety of chocolates for customers.  Many of us have contemporary versions of such molds to use as cake pans, and Williams-Sonoma continues to produce them for our kitchens.   

If you shop at Williams-Sonoma, you will notice how many pieces of their dinnerware get inspiration from items of the past.  The brand always manages to bring back the classics.

Shapely, beautiful and very collectible, domed copper molds are such a delight to behold.  I have yet to see versions of these at Williams-Sonoma stores. Perhaps one day.  

Cake tins, bread boxes and cupboards used for the baking of one's daily bread, have their present-day versions.  

Copper pots and pans haven't changed much throughout the centuries.  One can still find French or Italian copper manufacturers who produce many of these pieces in the same manner.  Williams-Sonoma carries a large product line of such wares.

As the founder of the eminent Williams-Sonoma stores, Chuck Williams, without a doubt, helped shape this country's approach to the finer ways of cooking. Mr. Williams's passion for introducing us to the best and latest kitchen gadgets and tools, found its outlet when he first opened a Williams-Sonoma store in downtown Sonoma, California, back in 1954.  From this humble storefront emerged a brand and lifestyle that continues to set the gold standard for everything having to do with the kitchen.

At his passing, Chuck Williams left us with such a great culinary legacy through the hundreds of stores that bare his name.  What's more, he has left us with a rich legacy of culinary history which will now be on permanent display in a museum.

The first Williams-Sonoma store.

The Culinary Institute of America at Copia will be remodeling its spaces this year with projections for opening the Chuck Williams Culinary Arts Museum later next year.  If you live near Napa, California or if you plan on visiting the area in the spring of 2017, make it a point to explore the museum.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Pasadena Antique Center and Annex

At the beginning of the new year I had the pleasure of visiting the Pasadena Antique Center in California for the very first time.  A few of my friends had mentioned that this establishment would be a place that would entice me with their selection of antiques, but little did I know that I would love it so much.

As much as I try to keep my antiquing to a minimum while I'm on vacation, I'm always up for visiting places I've never been to before because one never knows what vendors will have in their booths.  Believe me when I tell you that there are many more antique stores in Southern California that need to be explored in the future, and there is the Long Beach Flea Market which I need to return to.  It will all happen in good time.

This collage shows you a sampling of what I encountered as I made my rounds at the Pasadena Antique Center.  There is so much wonderful antique pottery by Bauer and several other pottery works that I hadn't even heard of before.  A few vendors made me feel like I had walked into an antique store on the east coast because of their Pennsylvania Dutch quilts, Shaker furniture and other handmade ironworks that are very much a part of the furnishings one finds in my area.

The Pasadena Antique Center and its annex consist of 40,000 sq. ft. of showrooms in which over 130 vendors display their antiques and collectibles. From period furniture and Murano glass, to copper molds and vintage silverware, it's a mall that requires at least one to two hours of scouring shelves, tables, cubbies, display cases and floors for those collectibles that many of us like.  More than likely you will encounter the owner's beautiful and friendly dog, Sir Walter Raleigh (above).  This retriever guards the thousands of antiques in the store and is always up for some pets from well-wishers.  We had to coax him with a small snack to pose for the photograph on the day that I was visiting.  He's so adorable!

One of the first things to catch my eyes were these old copper molds from France.  I looked and examined them, and then I asked what they wanted for each.  Considering that the vendor was not willing to break up the set of molds to sell by the piece, the lot was not super expensive, and yet, I walked away from them because it would have opened up a whole new collection for me to begin.  Maybe someday, but not now.  Don't they look like they came from the Downton Abbey kitchen?

Here is a bundt-style copper mold and some smaller molds behind a glass cabinet.  The price tag shows you what some of these highly collectible pieces go for.  Considering their age, this is not too bad.

This large antique jar with tin lid reminded me so much of the jars that Martha made famous while taping her shows at the Westport television studios.  When the Martha by Mail catalog was in production, they sold a version of this style of jar to customers.  I cherish the ones I have, and if I had had room for more, I would have purchased this beautiful piece of glass.  If you own the Martha by Mail set, this jar was about the size of the large, four gallon piece.

A substantial dinnerware service of 19th century French porcelain by Sarreguemines comes with 25 dinner plates, 16 rim soup bowls, 2 oval platters (large and small), 1 compote dish, 1 vegetable bowl, l large round serving bowl, 3 large round serving plates/chargers and 2 round footed dishes.  At $2,250 for the set, the vendor is willing to negotiate.  This white porcelain is exquisitely shaped and handpainted with a flower motif.  The pieces are gilded for that extra touch of elegance.

One of the things that I love and appreciate at this antique center is the way each vendor displays their wares.  They create a 'living picture' with their merchandise, and the ones that include furniture, do it with such self-confidence.  Things may be crammed here and there, but everything makes sense.  Wing chairs, papier-mache bamboo trays, oriental rugs, silver tea services all have their place at the Pasadena Antique Center.

While antiquing it is very important to give every display a thorough look because things may be hidden beneath a shelf or tucked into a cabinet.  Some cabinets will have a single piece of something highly sought after, so it's up to you to find it and ask to be helped should you wish to purchase it.

As you already know, I love good earthenware bowls from a bygone era. Imagine my chancing to find a set of 5 matching yellowware bowls in near perfect condition?  They were pretty hefty and absolutely beautiful.  My friend Janet loves to collect those ceramic 'Pure Butter' display stands from England, and at $395 for the one pictured above, these are for the discerning collector wanting only the best in their kitchens. 

I left my heart with this beautiful French earthenware batter bowl.  As much as I would have liked purchasing it, there was no room for it to carry on the plane with me, and I didn't want to chance it with shipping.  If it's there the next time I visit, I will have to find a way to bring it back with me to Pennsylvania.

This large train set makes a great display.  Its handmade wooden detailing makes each of these box cars and passenger cars unique pieces.

There was depression glass, and then there was depression glass!!  Cabinets filled to the brim with pink, blue, vaseline, green, yellow and turquoise depression glass made me want to start collecting this antique glass.  The nice thing about depression glass, in my mind, is that it can be paired with so many things when setting a table.  I was lucky enough to find an old egg beater bowl by McKee to add to my jadeite collection.  I like its practical shape and size.   

Venetian glass is thin, delicate, beautifully designed and a true collector's item.  These fine pieces here include wineglasses, champagne glasses and fruit bowls with saucers.  The lightly-colored stemware has a pale green hue with azure accents around the bases and stems.  If you like Murano glass, these  collectible pieces can grace any finely-appointed table setting.  Expect to pay between $150-$250 a piece.

This is what I mean about the abundance of silverware.  A single shelf in the annex section of the Pasadena Antique Center had dozens of serving pieces.  I fell in love with a teapot that was in relatively good condition. There is so much to sift through, though, so it's wise to have a clear picture of what suits your tastes.  As I was turning a corner I noticed a box filled with mismatched Bakelite flatware.  Not wasting a moment I quickly began to go through it, and found some French celluloid dinner knives (I'll show these in a future post).  

This vendor made me feel like I was back in Pennsylvania.  From hooked rugs, Pennsylvania Dutch quilts, Shaker ladder-back chairs, tables, side tables, and cast iron weathervanes, this small space was such a pleasure to go through. The large wooden batter bowl and stack of Shaker boxes caught my eye.  Both were colored black and were clearly used a lot.  Lovely!

Isn't that early 19th century New England walnut side table perfect?  I love its simplicity and its delicate proportions.  The 19th century wooden keepsake box (bottom) was sitting in front of the Shaker boxes and that wooden bowl I mentioned.  

Do you know what this stand was used as?  It's an 18th century (yes, that old!) handmade, candle holder stand.  It was priced at $1650.  That brass instrument was another wonderful item from a bygone era.

The top photo in this collage shows that enormous bowl that was probably used in a Pennsylvania kitchen sometime in the early part of the 19th century. Considering its age, it is in relatively good condition.  The brass implement with wooden handle sitting on that ladder back chair is a bed warmer.  It is probably 18th century English, but I'm not 100% certain.

The Pasadena Antique Center and Annex
480 S. Fair Oaks Avenue
Pasadena, California
(626) 449-7706  

I hope you enjoyed taking this little tour of the Pasadena Antique Center with me, and I highly recommend that you pay a visit to this great business in the near future.  It's a fun place to go antiquing for an afternoon either with a group of friends or simply on your own.  If you're like me then you probably like to antique shop by yourself, so that you can have uninterrupted time to look, assess and purchase what you like.  

As someone who has been antiquing for years now, I can safely say that this antique center located in the heart of Pasadena is one of my favorites.  I've made it a personal objective to visit here whenever I happen to be in Los Angeles in the future.  

I want to thank the owners and Sir Walter Raleigh for making my stroll through this fine establishment a pleasant experience.  I'll see you soon!   

Happy Antiquing!