Wednesday, June 17, 2015

America's Fourth of July Party

It is almost time for America’s big birthday celebration, July 4th!  Barbecue, watermelon, apple pie, fireworks, and flags are part of the big celebration.  Front porches and gardens pop with red, white, and blue.

For collectors of patriotic antiques and  it is also a time to show off their collections.   If you have thought about starting a patriotic collection, now is a good time to begin.  Antique shops and shows will high light these items around July Fourth.  Uncle Sam, Lady Liberty, Stars and Stripes, and American Eagles are popular items. 

Here are a few porch and yard ideas for July 4th along with some patriotic antiques found on the web.

Enjoy and Happy 4th of July! 

                                                              Photos; Country Living


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Foire de Chatou-Antiquing outside of Paris

 I have been in Paris for four days shopping for antiques at St. Ouen and other areas in Paris.  Today I ventured out to the Foire de Chatou the antiques and brocante market outside Paris.   A show that combines antiques and ham; yes I said ham.  Ham, ham, and more ham.  I lost count of the vendors offering ham served in so many ways. 

Now back to the antique part….if you are the casual collector or an avid collector you will enjoy this market.  Fine silver, furniture, paintings, architectural items, country French, and vintage items are in abundance at Chatou.   The market is held twice yearly and the fall 2014 market is in process.  The show ends October 5.   So if you are in Paris over the next few days you may want to try and visit for an afternoon.  It is a short journey out of Paris and from most locations it should take about 30 minutes.  The market is outside, rain or shine.  Wear comfortable shoes and take an umbrella.  Bargaining with sellers is normal.   But bargaining that is done respectfully leaves everyone happy with the outcome.   The market provides a tram that will take you from the train station to the show and back to the station. It is a funny little tram that will put a smile on your face.  

The website for the show is;

You will need to take the RER A train outside of Paris to the Rueil-Malmaison station.   Check the connections of the Metro near where you are staying to find the station that will connect with the RER A train.  You will need to buy a ticket for an outside Paris destination; one for each way.   Today the cost was 3.60Euro each way.   You will be traveling in the direction of St. German-en-lalye.  So be sure when you change from the Metro to the RER that you go to the right platform.    Check to see that the train is stopping at  Rueil Malmasson .  Once you arrive at the station; exit and look for a large advertising sign for the Foire de Chatou and yes it does have a pig on the sign.  Ham and pigs, it is the theme of the market.  I had to walk around the outside of the  station to find it so just be patient and you will find it also.   Just wait a few minutes and Voila….the funny little tram will appear.  And your adventure is almost about to begin.



Thursday, August 14, 2014

Soothing White Interiors in the Summer

I woke up this morning to a cool breeze and a temperature of 67.  I couldn't wait to finish feeding the horses and get ready for a ride...a cool ride.  The temperatures this summer in Aiken have frequently been in the high 90's.  So I was not going to let this cool morning slip away without a ride.  Tomorrow and the rest of the week the temperatures will climb back into the 90's.  Just having a one day break was inspiring to help get me through the end of summer. 

Cool serene interiors can visually offer a retreat from the heat.  Here are a few that caught my eye recently.  Now on an antique note; notice how many of the rooms have a few antique pieces.  Even a more contemporary room benefits from a piece with age and history.

Enjoy the rest of your summer! 

Photo credit; Livable Elegance

                                                     Photo credit; Phoebe Howard

Photo Credit; Livable Elegance
Photo Credit; Unknown

                                                          Photo Credit; Unknown

Photo Credit; Unknown
Photo Credit; BAO Home Design
Photo Credit; DeCesare
Photo Credit; Deslightsbtdesign
Photo Credit;  

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

English & Irish Silver Hallmark Identification

Decoding the marks on your English or Irish silver may at first seem daunting.   There is a wealth of information on the web including charts and pictures that can help walk you through the process.  The marks reveal the British Isle where the item was made, the town where it was assayed, the year of assay, and the silversmith.
The English system of marking silver resonates with my need for structure and order.   I pick up a piece and there they are….small marks neatly lined up in order.   I will share with you my method for researching the hallmarks.   At the end I will list web sites I think you will find helpful.
Since the marks are usually small and sometimes partially obscure by tarnish I recommend you first do a good cleaning of the marks.  After cleaning the marks take a  close-up picture of them and save it to your computer.  This is always my starting point and I think you will find it helpful.  That way you can use the on-line charts and have a large clear picture of the marks on your piece which will aid in identification.   If the marks need to be cleaned apply a good silver polish to the marks and let it dry.  Once dry take a soft toothbrush or cotton swab and remove the polish.  If the tarnish is stubborn and difficult to remove from the impressed marks dip the end of a match stick (the old fashion square ones work well) in polish, place it over the mark, and turn gently.  This will usually help removed stubborn tarnish in the mark.
To help save time check to see if your piece has a full set of hallmarks which can rule out that your piece might be silver plate.   Some British silver plate will have a series of marks similar to solid silver.  Such as the firm of Ellis Barker.  But silver plate will not have the standard mark.  So looking for the standard mark first is a good place to start.  There will be 4 or 5 marks on British & Irish silver.   Below is a picture of marks on a set of English silver fish knives that were in my Ruby Lane shop.
First; look for a standard mark.  In the picture of my fish knife you will see the Lion Passant/Walking Lion.  This is a guarantee that the piece is English silver is of .925 content. 
Below are other standard marks for British Isles & Irish silver

                                            The standing lion for sterling silver made in Edinburg
                                         The crowned harp for all sterling silver made in Dublin


                                              The thistle for sterling silver made in Glasgow 
                                            The image of Britannia for Britannia standard silver 
Second; look for a town/ city mark.   This is the town where the piece was assayed for silver content.  In the marks shown in the picture you will see a Leopard’s face which denotes London as the assay town/city.  So now you would know to look at date charts for London There were 10 major assay towns. 
Third, look for the date mark.  The “N” shown below is the date mark on the fish knives.  Note the outside shape of the mark and the font. 

Now that you have identified the town/city mark you can use one of the many charts found on-line or in reference books to identify the date on your piece.   These marks correspond to the particular town where the piece was assayed.   So be sure to look at the correct city charts.  Note the letters, their fonts, and the shape of the punch will correspond to years on the chart.  This is where having cleaned your marks will help.  The shape and fonts are important as they changed through the years.
Fourth; look for a sovereign’s head/duty mark.   Your piece may or may not have one.  This will help narrow down the date range if this mark is on your piece.  These marks will show on the date charts. The mark which was used to shown that a tax had been paid to the “Crown”  was discontinued after 1890.  The profile on this mark was the reigning monarch at the time.   The fish knives I used in this article were marked with the profile of Victoria.  This mark was used from 1838 to 1890.  So with the information of this mark I know that I can narrow my date range search to those years.   Thus eliminating the need to look at so many letter marks and hopefully save my eyesight.
Fifth; you will find the maker’s mark/ initials.  There are numerous sites which identify these marks.  The shape of the mark is important since you may find that there will be several silversmiths with similar initials.  So watch for conjoined circles, square, circle, and shield shapes.  Below the GA is in a conjoined circle.

An excellent site for helping to identify British & Irish assay and makers marks;

Enjoy the search! Remember to buy antique silver. Reuse and recycle beautiful pieces from the past!





Sunday, May 18, 2014

Ginger Ice Cream

As mentioned in my last writing I had a Mother’s Day picnic at the New York Botanical Gardens with my husband, youngest daughter, and her husband.  It was a glorious day and the Gardens were showing off their spring treasures.   The cherry trees were in full bloom and offered carpets of blossoms on the pathways.  After our picnic my husband made his way to one of the food trucks in the Gardens in search of dessert.    He found an ice cream truck which just happened to the longest line of all the food trucks there that day.   He bought four for us to sample and after a taste or two we could see why  the line was so long.  It was thick and creamy and the choices were inspiring.   Not your average ice cream vendor.

Of the four we sampled the ginger ice cream was a surprise and the favorite.   A subtle ginger flavor was enhanced with the addition of bits of candied ginger.  On the way home back to Aiken, I decided to search for a recipe so as to duplicate the experience at home.  I located several on the web and chose to go with a recipe on the website Food Network from Anne Burrell.  Her recipes are creative and her passion for food is addictive.  I have only watched her show a few times yet I feel recharged and ready to head to the kitchen even while the show is on.  Her recipe for ginger ice cream also included an accompanying recipe for Molasses cookies that were used to make ice cream sandwiches.  I did not make the cookies this time; however, I will do them in the future.  They sound so good with the ginger ice cream but I did not need any more temptation after being on vacation.
I changed the recipe slightly and these are the changes: 
After bringing the cream mixture to a boil and steeping the ginger for an hour.  I put it in the refrigerator and let it steep overnight.  I then drained the ginger and reheated the cream mixture and continued with the recipe.   I forgot to put my ice cream bowl in the freezer ahead of time so it had to wait and no harm was done.
I read the reviews which were extremely positive but several mentioned it was quite sweet so I reduced the last ½ cup of sugar that is beaten with the eggs to ¼ of a cup. 
Her recipe calls for using whole eggs.  Often ice cream recipes use only egg yolks.  I proceeded with using whole eggs and found that I still had a creamy texture. 
Once finished in my ice cream machine I turned it into another container.  At that point I added ½ cup chopped candied ginger.  Then it was off to the freezer for an hour or two before I could present a sample to my resident ice cream expert (my husband). 
If you love the taste of ginger you will find this a refreshing dessert and well worth the time in the kitchen.   
Ginger Ice Cream & Molasses Cookies; recipe by Anne Burrell on Food


In a medium saucepan combine the cream, 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar, vanilla extract and ginger. Bring to a boil, turn off the heat and let sit for 1 hour.
In a small bowl, combine the eggs and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and beat to a homogeneous consistency.
Bring the cream-ginger mixture back to a boil and turn the heat off. Immediately strain and whisk a third of the cream mixture into the egg-sugar mixture and then immediately whisk the egg mixture back into the remaining cream mixture.
Chill the mixture over an ice water bath.
Churn the chilled mixture in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's directions.
Serve as is, or to make ice cream sandwiches, place 1 generous scoop of ice cream on the bottom of 1 Molasses Cookie and place another cookie on top. These can be done ahead and frozen. Let warm for 5 to10 minutes before serving.
Molasses Cookies: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt and set aside.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and then the molasses. In thirds, gently mix in the flour mixture until just combined.
Using an ice cream scoop, scoop out the cookie dough into 1-inch balls onto a sheet tray covered with turbinado sugar. Gently toss the cookies in the sugar, covering them completely. Place the sugar-coated dough balls on another sheet tray and gently squish a little.
Bake for 9 to 10 minutes. Remove the cookies to a rack to cool. Yield: 36 cookies.

Photo; Bojon gourmet
                                                                    Photo; Unknown


                                                              Photo; Food Network.Com


Monday, May 12, 2014

Mother's Day in New York City

Time has escaped me these last few months.  Maybe it was the extreme winter that left me with little time and energy to add to my blog.  It seems just less than 10 weeks ago I was dealing with freezing temperatures and deciding how many blankets to put on the horses.  Today, Mother Nature has given me a different set of issues to contemplate.   The temperatures in were in the high 90’s and all blankets were packed away.

This afternoon I arrived back at the farm after a long weekend in New York City.  Months ago I mentioned to my husband that I wanted to go visit my youngest daughter for Mother’s Day.  This is an American celebration that dates back to the early 1900’s.  In 1914 U.S. President Woodrow Wilson declared by presidential proclamation that Mother’s Day would fall on the second Sunday in May.

Since I was last in the City my daughter and her husband had purchased a place in the Upper East Side. They had previously lived in the Village and Tribeca.   I am so familiar with many areas in the City after living there part time; however, each neighborhood  offers comforts and close conveniences that only a large city can offer.  My husband needed a shoe repair shop within hours of arrival and he found one less than a block a way that could meet his needs.   Seafood, wine, flowers, fresh vegetables, a park to exercise…all these needs could be met without traveling far. 

It was a grand glorious weekend that included a visit to the New York Botanical Gardens and a vigorous hike through Harlem on a quest for the best Burrata in the City.   My daughter had been told that Casa Della Mozzarella on Arthur Avenue held fast to the honor of the best of the best.   We had visions of creamy mozzarella and crusty bread that would be the stars of our picnic in the Gardens.   So my son-in-law laden with a full back pack was gracious enough to “transport our picnic with a smile”.   The Botanical Gardens were in full bloom and a picnic with cheese, bread, and wine offered the crowning touch.   The next evening we spent one evening on a roof top playing Scrabble and watching the sun set over Manhattan. 

 Our Daughter and Son-in- Law enjoying the Cherry Blossoms in the Gardens

Before we could blink….it was time to leave and head back to Aiken.  The horses and our Lab, Traveler received great care in our absence.  Tonight Traveler and I sat out on the back veranda until the last bit of sunlight had faded.   I traded the sound of honking taxies and sirens for the sounds of crickets and the beautiful songs of Whippoorwills.   Without a doubt; I realize a part of me belongs in the city and a part of me belongs in the country. 




Sunday, December 22, 2013

Stress Free Christmas Decorating Using Antique Collections...Well Almost!


Every Christmas many of us look forward to holiday home tours.  It is a treat to visit homes bursting at the seams with decorating ideas.  Often the homeowners have enlisted help in order to be ready.  They have a deadline and their goal is to be ready for the tour.   Though most of us have set a deadline in our minds for our decorating we do not have the pressure of groups of people wandering through our homes and gardens that have paid a fee in exchange for holiday ideas.

Quite a few of us are still trying to finish decorating a mantle or dining room table with company just a few days away.  I have complied a some pictures that require a few of your favorite things, some greenery, and flowers.  For those that collect antique sterling silver or silver plate you are fortunate to have a items that sparkle with the season.  Remember to always use some form of liner in your silver when using it to hold flowers or greenery.  The decay of green leaves or stems can damage to silver.
Group collections of wooden boxes, tortoise shell items, mother of pearl items on mantles with pine branches tucked around them.  Copper food molds, pewter chargers, and antique wooden bowls gathered together in the kitchen need only a bit of greenery to unify them.  I have been collecting copper for years.  Copper anything!  I have quite a few small copper food molds and miniature items.  For years I have used them along with a growing collection of cookie cutters,some new some old, on a garland surrounding a kitchen door.  It is a tradition that my grown children still ask about.
I always am asked " Are you doing the garland with copper this year?" 

Merry Christmas and Happy Antique Collecting
                                                      Tea pot collection and red flowers                                                                
Red flowers and greenery
 Southern Accents

                                                             Silver bowls and trays
                                                                         Southern Accents

                                                           Silver cups, greenery, and flowers

                                                               Simple window boxes
                                                                     Martha Stewart

My copper food molds and cookie cutters
More of my garland and copper
My favorite copper molds...found last year in England
Shaped as a Horse foot with shoes