Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Made in the U.S.A.: Dishes


It is getting harder and harder to find things that are made in the U.S.A.... I have been especially looking for a new set of everyday dishes for at least a couple of years now (notice the recurring theme of how I never buy anything quickly or impulsively!), and wanted them to be American made. 

Our last set of dishes were Mikasa (not American made), and although pretty, they have not lasted very well, in my opinion.  Although some people would think keeping the same set of dishes for 15+ years is doing well, our previous set of Pfaltzgraff Heritage dishes is still mostly around, with barely a chip (although they can break too, they are just very sturdy) .  Previously USA made, as our set was,  Pfaltzgraff dishes are no longer manufactured in America. Even Buffalo China -- the dishes you remember from eating at diners -- is not made in Buffalo anymore! You can probably still find some at antique stores or on ebay...but it is sad... 

Then with the ongoing insecurity of lead and other contaminates that may be in china, or in the glaze used on china (mostly made in China),  I was really determined to find American made dishes.  There are still a few manufacturers around -- you have to look (and you have to love Google for being able to research!) A good list of American made products can be found here, Americans working,  for starters. 

Anyway, it came down to two different ones for me: Niagara China Americana in Rekindled Ruby or Homer Laughlin Gothic, a pretty off-white/cream china with a raised gothic pattern, which I had come across at the restaurant of a historic hotel we stayed at -- the General Francis Marion Hotel in Marion, VA.  
Homer Laughlin Gothic mug -- nice, but do I need 36 of them?
 Homer Laughlin is the company that makes Fiestaware, but the Gothic pattern (and others) are sold at  restaurant supply stores, like Wasserstrom and The WEBstaurant Store. Items in a restaurant supply store are sold by the case, and although a case of 12 plates sounds fine (and maybe a good idea too -- if you have some that break you will still have a service for eight), some items are only available in a case of 24 (certain bowls) and a case of 36 (the mugs I liked).  I do not have the need for 36 mugs, or even have anywhere to store 36 mugs!  I guess I could have given some away, but the idea of buying more than you need still doesn't seem right to me -- maybe because my parents grew up during the Great Depression...

I checked with  Niagara Ceramics that the china I was buying was still made in America, and my contact person said -- "yes, it is!"  They have a lot of really nice patterns, but I liked the color and simplicity of this one best, which will be a Christmas present to my husband and myself this year:
Rekindled Ruby
Niagara China -- Americana -- Rekindled Ruby
I definitely think we should return to manufacturing more things in America, but I understand that it is cheaper to buy them made elsewhere (except maybe France!)  I would happily pay more for something of good quality that is proudly made in the U.S.A!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New Lighting For Our Kitchen Table

Final decision on a new light for over our kitchen table:
Linear Strand Crystal Chandelier from Zgallerie
After shopping since last years kitchen renovation, we finally decided on this light, which I have admired since seeing a similar one in a kitchen shown in this post,  Willow Decor: Belgian Dream House .  The entire family liked it, which is important, and hadn't happened with any of the previous choices, so I ordered it yesterday.  Very excited to finally have a new light that we all like to replace the one that was here when we bought the house -- the gray flecks on the glass shades made it look dirty even after it was cleaned!  Will post pictures of the new light up after it is delivered and installed.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Holiday Music: for Thanksgiving/Christmas

I love Christmas music, and actually start playing my Christmas cds before Thanksgiving. A few of them are good to listen to for both holidays -- my Celine Dion cd, These Are Special Times, is one of them. This beautiful song is from that cd: 

Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli -- The Prayer

I have also been listening to:

George Winston -- December,  peaceful and beautiful piano music
The Nutcracker Suite, by Tchaikovsky, and
A Charlie Brown Christmas, by Vince Guaraldi, which is joyful, jazzy and peaceful at the same time...
What holiday music do you like to listen to?
Let the music, joy and spirit of Christmas be upon us!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanks to my friend, Addy, for this beautiful pot of Thanksgiving herbs that I used for my centerpiece this year:

Friday, November 18, 2011

Five For Fighting: World

I love this song ... Can you dig it, baby?

"What kind of world do you want?
Think anything
Let's start at the start
Build a masterpiece..."

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

All My Pretty Crimson!

This is our Japanese Maple -- last night and then today -- notice the leaves down already...  It was so beautiful this year:

View from the front walkway:

And the pear trees that line the backyard -- they are now more toward vermillion:

Finally, some leaves I found on my walk yesterday: 

Think these are oak, pin oak and maple.

Music For a Rainy Day: Classical

I love music -- all kinds.  While at home I usually listen to a classical radio station -- we are fortunate to have an excellent one here in the Washington, DC area -- and my classical cd's.  Great to listen to anytime, but especially appreciated on a rainy day to help me get motivated.  Currently located on the sidebar from two of my favorite motivating cd's:

Monday, November 7, 2011

Recurring Themes: American Folk Art

I'm not sure I'll find a definition of "folk art" that I like, much less "American folk art".  But this is what I  mean when I think of American folk art, and what I like...

The two pictures below are both from our family room:

Edward Hicks: The Residence of David Twining

 The above Edward Hicks: The Residence of David Twining, is a giclee print that we bought and had framed after a trip to Cooperstown, NY and the Fenimore Art Museum, where we saw a couple of the artist's versions of Peaceable Kingdom on display. A link to the Fenimore Art Museum is here:   There are apparently four known versions of The Residence of David Twining, and an interesting history can be found in the Lot Notes of Christie's here: (mine is not the version in the Christie's picture).  I would love to go back to Cooperstown and visit the museum again, but until then I have this remembrance to view in my house to help recapture the feeling.

Racing at Broussard's Farm by George Rodrigue

George Rodrigue is a Cajun folklore painter, well known for his Blue Dog paintings.  We visited his gallery in New Orleans about 20 years ago when Cameron was a baby.  They allowed us to take a photo of Cameron, who was sound asleep in his stroller underneath one of the paintings.  I will have to find that photo and add it later.  Anyway, we bought this signed limited edition print, above, at the gallery and had it framed. I especially liked it because of the horses and because of the silhouette of the large tree in the background, as well as the bright colors, which were used in a very limited way -- mostly on the horses and  flags -- and also the way the railing comes in and out of the picture at an angle  (which is not unlike the opening gate in The Residence of David Twining).  You can see more of George Rodrigue's art here:

Picture book by George Rodrigue: Why is Blue Dog Blue?

My "Blue Dog", Olivia
Here I think have captured Olivia posing with that look in her eyes like Rodrigue's Blue Dog. As a note, I would love to try to paint this someday, although I understand it is difficult to paint black dogs... but maybe since I have not painted anything in years (other than the house) this small fact will not matter, as it would not be expected to look too professional anyway. Maybe it is like cooking, where the love you put into it makes all the difference!...
Here are three more images of American folk art that I have collected from my house:

Dinner bell picked up from an antiques store in Luray Virginia (not sure how "antique" it really is, but I like it)

One of two black Labrador dog bookends sitting on the fireplace mantel in our family room -- reminded me of Olivia, who is half Labrador and half Border Collie.
From a book I bought second hand on Rufus Porter, an American painter whose mural paintings I have admired.
Finally, I think that folk art extends to other arts, like literature, and in my definition, I would include some of my favorites: Washington Irving's Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle,  Longfellow's "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere", and this poem by Robert Frost:

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.