Saturday, February 29, 2020

Tablescapes continue by leap year and bounds!

February tablescape's theme is a romantic tea time with a collection of "united nations" serving ware

For the new year, I declared I would post a new tablescape each month and got off to a roaring start in January, putting to use some lovely family heirlooms that had been packed away for years. I was looking forward to February's dining tableau with a theme of a romantic tea time and, like last month, continuing to bring out the beautiful, but underutilized, serving ware.

Well, like many new year's resolutions, all the enthusiasm of January can get easily derailed by February.   In my case, most of the "derails" were good ones. Wedding-planning events and tea talks kept us very busy. But, throw in a few unexpected events life throws at you  just to remind you that you can't control or plan for everything and February was coming to a quick close without a tablescape in sight.

But, then here comes Leap Year to the rescue. Today, I assembled my romantic tablescape for a tea tete-a-tete. Tea for two - and for 2020 tablescapes, we're two for two!

Aside from the pleasing aesthetic tablescapes bring to a repast, there's just a lot of good memories that come from assembling such an eclectic collection. Antiques next to almost-new-pieces found a common thread in being adorned with tiny pink flowers. The Royal Albert "rose confetti" tea set my husband gave me for Christmas three years ago flanks my grandmother's pink and gold compote dish (Hinode, Japan) which is the perfect place to house colorful macarons.

Eclectic collection of china from around the world sharing a common thread of pink floral decorations

Today's white luncheon plates, framed in small rosebuds, also belonged to my grandmother and she loved these dishes. They belonged to her friend's mother and, after she passed away, the plates were gifted to my grandmother. These sat like trophies on her pantry shelf.  When I was little, I remember going to that pantry to snag a few forbidden sugar cubes and look up at the colorful gallery of cups, saucers, bowls and dishes. These plates were made by C.T. Altwasser, a porcelain company in Silesia (a region that is now part of Germany, Czech Republic and Poland).

To round out my United Nations tablescape there were two floral tea cups from England:  one,  a Rosina pattern cup that my mom bought me while we were "antiquing" locally over twenty years ago and the other, an Ansley bone china cup that I treated myself to at the Antique Depot in Lewiston just a few summers ago.

Thanks to Leap Year, I am not only  on course for my monthly tablescape, but this extra day allowed me to spend a delightful afternoon curating both serving dishes and memories.

Seems the solution to meeting deadlines is to add an extra day. Too bad it only comes once every four years. . .

Happy February 29th!!

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Tuesday Tea and Tomes: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. (Don't wait for the Zombie edition!!)

If there's anything I've learned from movie adaptations of classic literature it is that, good, bad or awful, they do introduce a great book to a new generation (think "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies")  - or, in my case, a fine novel to an "okay boomer".

Although family and friends have recommended it as "their favorite book", it wasn't until Greta Gerwig's recently released "Little Women" movie, that I finally moved "Little Women" the book to the top of my reading wish list. I asked for the Louisa May Alcott tome for Christmas and my daughter, Rachel, granted that wish and placed a newly minted copy in my Christmas stocking.  (Such an appropriate time to receive it, as the book begins on Christmas day for the March sisters.)

It is large book, consisting of 500 pages, but it's a quick read and a page-turner. Written originally for the "young adult" market, this tale of four sisters in New England, circa Civil War era, has broad appeal in it's everyday-ness of sibling relationships and that journey that takes most of us from young "id" to adult "ego".

Many of us are acquainted with the March sister's names -  Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy - and if not so familiar with the storylines (and without giving away any major spoiler alerts to those who, like me, waited a long time to read this!), at least have a vague notion that one sister is pretty, one is a writer, one is frail and one is a bit selfish.  Certainly, that describes any nuclear family - or, for that matter - any one of us at some point in our lives.

A favorite book for some,  but I had to wait for the 2019 movie to get this on my reading list.

There are morals to the stories and inspiring tales of independence, but, at the core, it's a tale of family relationships, unvarnished in spite of polite manners and "good breeding".  Who can't identify with splurging on frivolities, like Amy's limes or Meg's extravagant dress, without thinking of the consequences? Who hasn't seen someone else get the special reward deigned to be yours and retreated, like Jo, for a good cry and some self-pity?

Of course, for this Janeite, there's definitely parallels to be drawn between Austen and Alcott. Both women wrote best about the society's they were a party to, although often on the periphery of the genteel society.  Each made money from their works, a practice not always met with approval, especially for Jane Austen's time. And, both women remained independent and single by choice. Again, somewhat radical for the 1800's.

I am now down the Alcott information-gathering rabbit hole, which started with Wikipedia and launched a few biographies purchased on-line. And, of course, I'll see Greta Gerwig's Little Women movie with, what appears to have, modern-day sensibilities.

Good, bad or awful, the recent theater release got me to where I needed to be. If you haven't read this classic - or need a refresh - I highly recommend spending some time with the March sisters and their "coming of age" tales. Please don't wait until "Little Women and Zombies" comes out before taking action!

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Megxit leaves Royals a bit "harried": People, chefs and Royal-philes weigh in on Meghan and Harry

 This Royal-phile/"source", armed with Harry and Meghan souvenirs and People Magazine, weighs in on Megxit.

In 2020, England will not only exit the European Union, but experience the exit of 2018's most celebrated union of Royal and Hollywood. Brexit and Megxit:  both filled with angst, controversy, divisiness and, maybe just a bit of "isn't this over yet?".

Met and interviewed Harry's uncle in 2014
Last summer, had tea  in NYC - same as Meghan 

As to the latter regarding Harry and Meghan, we are most assured that there's so much more to come. As a "royal-phile" who has visited both Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace, personally interviewed Harry's uncle, Lord Charles Spencer, as well as chef to both Queen Elizabeth and Princess Di, Darren McGrady, had tea at Manhattan's Lauderee, where Meghan met up with gal pals last year and, as one who has poured over numerous English history books as well as last week's People Magazine, I'm ready to get into the public forum of the Megxit bruhaha and opine as a my own self-appointed "source".

Visiting Kensington Palace in 2011 with daughter, Rachel

It seems such a short while ago - and that's because it was less than two years ago - that the marriage of Harry and Meghan had many of us transfixed to the royal wedding television coverage (oh, and I'll add here, that some of us were on television to discuss the television coverage) .

On Fox 2 News - part of The Townsend Hotel Royal Wedding Celebration, 2018

It was union of movie star Beauty and princely Beast, reminiscent of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainer's  celebrated wedding over sixty years ago. A beautiful American actress marries a Royal - but "fast forward" to 2020, and this bride and groom are a cheeky sort, independent and not embracing the will of the "firm".

What does all of this mean? Titles are stripped, but a "transition period" is being worked out with Buckingham Palace's, CEO.  According to the Queen's statement, issued January 13th, while she and the family are supportive of Harry and Meghan's desire to create a new life, she also acknowledges,  "these are complex matters for my family to resolve. . ."  (And you thought political debates at your Thanksgiving family dinners were tough. . . !)

In front of the home of "the firm" with husband Chris, Rachel and son, Matt, 2015

One of my favorite citing's from last week's People Magazine article "Harry and Meghan Walk Away" is from royal biographer, Ingrid Seward.  She observes that this crisis is unlike any other the royal family has encountered in modern day. For the first time, a prominent royal family member is walking away not amid scandal!

(That reminds me, I forgot to add to my royal-phile credentials, "Binge-watcher of The Crown". The Royals come from a long line of sensational, scandalous behavior. Not-so-long ago, the Queen's sister was prohibited from marrying a divorced man, but extra-marital affairs were accommodated. To modern-day sensibilities, that's not only incredibly hypocritical, but down right absurd.)

Royal Chef, Darren McGrady not a fan of Megxit

Royal Chef, McGrady feels Meghan is self-centered and manipulative. In a series of tweets on Twitter, he states not only would Princess Di be furious with Harry, but that she thought him a bit of a flake.  One tweet states: "I remember Princess Diana in the kitchen at Kensington Palace talking about her boys - 'William is deep like his father. Harry is an airhead like me'".

A bit saucy, but this is from a man who specializes in sauces.

Maybe tides will turn for Harry and Meghan once a new royal personality emerges that's  even more controversial. As a recent article in The Atlantic points out, Kate was not initially viewed so lovingly. Early on, she and her sister Pippa were referred to as the "wisteria sisters - highly decorative, terribly fragrant and with a ferocious ability to climb".

As for this royal-phile, I feel that while the royals are truly the epitome of the greatest accomplishment of  their life being achieved by "accident of birth", there is really something fascinating about those less-than-one-percenters who live publicly like a fairy tale, but privately like the most outlandish scripts of "Days of Our Lives".

Happier times for the young couple. Well wishers from our cruise staff on the Queen Mary

Is it a having-ones -wedding-cake-and-eat-it-all-too mentality for Meghan and Harry to partake and embrace in  all the pomp and circumstances of a lavish, expensive and highly public marriage ceremony only to eschew some of the strings that come with serving as a part of the royal family?  Yes, I think it is, but I also understand that the press and the firm can be ruthless, unkind and treacherous. (and full disclaimer - I had a lot of fun and did quite well as a benefactor of Meghan and Harry's nuptials).

Wedding souvenirs. Tea, biscuits and People will help!

Currently, we're a house divided - my husband gives the marriage one more year and I think they'll hang for awhile. Not sure if it will be happily ever after, but, with my souvenir mugs and biscuit tin and next week's People Magazine, this "source" will be sure to stay vigilant on the watch!