Archive for November, 2010

We’ll be doing a few things for the holidays and one is taking part tomorrow in the Holiday Open House for the hamlet. It’s been organized by Sheri at the Orchard Valley Spa, a great new addition to the town. At least nine or ten of the shops in town will be taking part so it should be a fun time. We’ll be open until 9pm on Friday as well as our usual hours on Saturday and Sunday. I’ve been working hard on reorganizing the whole shop and making sure we’ve got a great selection of gift items out as well as our beautiful vintage Christmas ornaments. We’ll also have some chocolate goodies for visitors. (not home-made ones alas, since we don’t have a commercially certified kitchen)  It’s hard to believe the holidays are almost here but I’m starting to feel the season!

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This is the last, and smallest of the completed chalkboards. In this case,

detailed silver-leaf frame with chalkboard

I went with an existing frame in it’s original finish. It’s a Roma molding with their typical silver leaf surface. (I had stumbled across it as an empty frame and snatched it up) It’s ornate without being heavy and the scale is a good match to the size. It’s not a standard size, 10” x12”, but it’s still large enough to be useful and small enough that it’s easy to fit, even if you don’t have a lot of room. The ornate but narrow frame also works because it gives the piece some presence but you still have most of the room it occupies available as writing surface. I understand that it might be a little too dressy for some people, but it would be a terrific combination of decoration and function in a more formal space.

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This is another of our “new” chalkboards. This one is much smaller, it has a 12” by 16”

12 x 16 chalkboard in white vintage frame

writing surface. I had actually intended to make a couple of ones that would be an in-between size of 16” by 20” but one of the frames got snapped up before I could get the board into it! This frame is from the early seventies and, while nicely carved and solid wood, had one of those “spattered” paint finished, in a range of gold, orange, red and black. I find the white a much better choice. (and it’s so much easier to decorate with) This size means it’s easy to fit in smaller spaces while still providing stylish functionality. (in fact, I know that my mother has been eyeing it for our own kitchen ) As is typical for me, I’ve got it ready to hang in either way, just to maintain a maximum level of flexibility.

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So, one of the things I’ve been working on has been a group of decorative chalkboards.

24"x36" chalkboard in decorative white frame

We’ve managed to collect a number of vintage frames, some of which are just not in all that great shape. Generally these ones are from the 40’s or 50’s and forward and may have taken a couple of small knocks here and there. They also tend to have, though they are period accurate, pretty ugly finishes at least as far as I’m concerned. (this frame for example had the off-white base colour, brushed with a cheesy gold paint on the high points, that was so common in the 50’s ) The shapes of them are great, so it seemed like the best option was to go with a simple and versatile finish that easily fits in a range of decors. With that in mind, I went for a crisp white. It provides a nice contrast to the black of the writing surface and will look great anywhere. This is the largest one so far and the board is a standard 24” by 36”. I’ve wired it so it can be hung either horizontally or vertically, since useful items like this tend to get moved around over time. It almost found a home yesterday, while I was putting it together so I’m sure it won’t be around for long!

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I can’t say I generally pay much attention to the Royals, (The British and therefore also the Canadian ones)

Royal Worcester by Spode Charles and Diana Wedding mini plate

but they’ve been all over the news the past few days. I’m actually a bit shocked to realized how old Prince William is, since I can remember watching most of Charles and Diana’s wedding on the television. (It’s more about how old I am than anything else) I’m sure his wedding will be toned down at least a little but I’m also sure that there will tons of items made to commemorate it. I had mentioned that we had a group of Royal family items come in a while ago and the announcement has given me a push to finally get around to photographing and listing at least the wedding ones. The Wedgewood plate is up and I’ve also just got another of the mini plates on-line. It’s a Royal Worcester Spode, done under the Palissy name. It also still has it’s box and features the most typical design in the things we have. I’ve got an ever smaller mini-plate that is very similar and a mug that I still have to get up, but they should be done in the next couple of days.

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I know I’ve been neglecting to post but the fall has turned out to be much busier

red wines for sampling

than I had expected. I’ve got a bunch of different things in process and I’m hoping to start getting some picture up as soon as they are done and I have a chance to write them up. In all the rush we did take some time out on Saturday night to go to our first Opimian Wine event since the big move. The parentals have been into the wine thing for a long time and the Opimians have been one of the groups they’ve been involved with. We’ve been sorted into the London chapter, so it was bit of a drive, but not too far. This event was almost a cocktail party, except with wine. They had a range of reds and whites for sampling and an assortment of wonderful hors d’oeuvres to munch on. It was a great way to check out a range of wines we were unfamiliar with and not have to commit

Cajun shrimp

to a multi-course meal. (or full or even half glasses of the wines, since I usually only want a mouthful or two to try each one) I can’t say we fell in love with any of the vintages on offer, but the food was amazing! The photo is of the huge and delicious Cajun shrimp. They were great, as was all the seafood, but I think our favourites were the pear and Cambozolo tarts. They were not sweet at all, except for the natural sugars from the fruit. It was a pleasant evening out and a nice break from our hectic fall schedule.

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The weather has just been amazing this past week. Today has been so warm

tiny leeks, Nov. 2010

that I’ve been taking any excuse to work outside. We did get a hard frost last week and it finally killed of the raspberries, peppers, hostas and other summer plants. We’ve since cleared out most of the gardens and disposed of the remains but left a few things in the ground. The leeks are one of them. Back in the late spring, I bought a couple of flats of what I thought were green onion sprouts. They have a super-fast ripening time and the plan was to put them in with the tomatoes and they would be ready for harvest before the tomato plants gave them too much shade. It was a good plan, except the sprouts were leeks not onion.  (small, stringy, green with white bottoms, and I swear the package said “green onions”, it was an easy mistake !) We planted them anyway and they were very quickly lost in the tomato jungle. The strange part is that, when the tomatoes were taken out, the leeks were still hanging in there. It’s weird, many are barely larger than when they were planted, but they still look healthy! I expect plants to grow or die, not do this sort of infinitesimal growth. I think our largest is barely 3/4 of an inch thick. They are still doing well, post frost, but we’ll have to decide if it’s worth picking them sometime soon. If we do, they’ll have to go into a dish with something else since I think we barely have enough to make a single cup of leek soup!

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I’m always amused at how we seem to somehow end up with things along a similar theme, even if they were all found separately.

grouse foot Scottish sterling pin

One of the most noticeable, in the store at the moment, is a group of Scottish pins. The oldest, that I can confirm the age, is this ladies kilt pin. It’s an actual grouse foot that has been preserved and then set with sterling silver mounts and a pair of fine faux amethysts. It’s from 1959 and we know that for certain because it’s fully hallmarked from when it was made in Edinburgh. I had found it among some other jewelry that I had picked up for materials. At least the Scottish thistle engraving and hallmarks made it easy for me to know where it was from, if not why it was made. It’s more than a little strange so I did a bit of research and it seems that the feet are considered lucky, much like rabbits feet in other places. I have to say that it is nicer than most of the pins of it style that I could find. Many of the other feet looked far more claw-like and the fine feathers were not in as good shape. Also, the decorative mounts mean that it is still pretty, even if it is a bit of taxidermy. This kind of pin isn’t the sort of thing that appeals to just anyone so, while it is on display in the store, I’ve gone ahead and listed it on-line.

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squash “noodles”

We had a few plants not make it through the spring, The biggest ones being the roses

black bean chicken with spaghetti squash

in the front of the house. (downy mildew got them) A friend gave us some mystery plants to fill in the space this year. (we’ll put in something more permanent next year ) We knew they were some member of the squash family, but not sure what specific type. It turned out that they were spaghetti squash and we ended up with about six good sized ones. I’d never really tried it, except for a couple of bad experiences in restaurants so we had low expectations. We cut into one and cooked it in the microwave. What came out was impressive. A pale yellow, perfectly textured “noodle” that tasted lightly seasoned with a hint of squash aroma. After the first round I wanted to try using it like a real noodle and made a batch of black bean chicken with broccoli and mushrooms. The strong, salty flavor of the sauce was a perfect match to the veggie “noodles”. The texture was solid enough to work well and have an excellent mouth feel. I think we’ll try and make room next year for a few more plants since we’ve been so happy with trading in our pasta for squash!

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So I took advantage of having the day off and caught the afternoon show

decorative kale outside the Avon theater October 2010

of Evita yesterday at the Avon theater. We had the original London cast recording on vinyl while I was growing up, so I was familiar with the music, but this was the first production of it that I’ve seen. As always with Stratford, the quality of the performances and the production were top notch. Josh Young, who played Che, is new to Stratford and was a stand-out. He puts in a performance that makes me hope he’ll become a regular here. The dancing was also spectacular, especially the pair doing the tango during I’d be Surprisingly Good for You. One of the things I love about most of the productions I’ve seen here are not just the amazing quality of the dancers but also that they have such great mix of them. There are different body types and not everyone looks the same, like you typically see in ballet. I think it’s fantastic to see this level of performances done by people who don’t fit the standard mold. I’ve been talking to people who had seen it through the season and, while everyone said it was good and they enjoyed it, many had mentioned that they found it sounded a bit shrill in spots. I understood what they meant and I think I know what the problem is. Most of it is that Evita is a true rock opera and fits in perfectly with similar pieces also done in the seventies. The thing is, for it to sound right you need a whole lot of sub-woofer. Like, rock-concert-in-a-stadium level sub-woofer, and let’s be realistic, they don’t have that sort of sound system in the Avon. There’s also one small part between Eva and Peron that is clearly on the upper edges of the performers ranges which did sound a bit strained. Once I realized what the issue was, it didn’t bother me and I still think it’s a pretty minor quibble, but I see why it’s been mentioned. I think this is the last week of performances so I’m really glad I got out to see it. Now we’ll have to wait and see what’s in store for next season!

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