Category Archives: Collections

Newspaper Names: Read all About It!

I sport some newspaper genes. Many of my McArthur ancestors were journalists, my father spent his career producing the very paper on which your daily is printed, and, I, in my small way, write a regular column that appears on newsprint. I remember when there was a morning paper and an evening paper in most towns of any size, and when I first moved to Chicago there were four dailies: The Tribune, the Sun-Times and the Daily News. We’re down to two. (**Edited to mention that the fourth paper was the Chicago Daily Defender.)

But this isn’t going to be one of those nostalgic pieces full of millennial gloom and doom about the disappearance of the daily rags. (I am glad to see my hometown journal,  Le Nouvelliste is still around with all the lurid stories filed under “Faits Divers.”)

Those who know me well know I have a weird kick in my gallop about names. People names, pet names, place names, botanical names, brand names, grocery store names — I roll my tongue around a good name, then store it away in the rental storage unit my brain’s become.  A discovery of a great newspaper name among all those ho-hum Timeses and Posts and Gazettes and Suns and Newses makes me happy, well, forever!

Among the big market papers are some really good names. How about The Cleveland Plain Dealer? I have no idea about the paper’s politics, but it just sounds so solid. So plain. The there are the portmanteau names, where the second word dispenses some character to the blah first word: the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Should I ever become a newspaper magnate I’ll rename my paper to include the word Picayune.

In fact, there’s a paper in Texas that I might need to save up some apron money and buy: The Beeville Bee-Picayune. The Rochester, New York daily Democrat and Chronicle has some nice old-fashioned newspaper name heft. But hey, all these guys don’t make the cut, or would have to qualify, to get into the Best Newspaper Name Tournament.

I don’t have to drive but a couple of hours downstate to Bloomington-Normal,( home of the Redbirds!) to find a beaut: The Pantagraph.  Then there’s the Laramie Boomerang — what the heck? The Nome Nugget ? Perfection! I’d love to shake the hand, backward over the years, of the wag who named The Tombstone Epitaph.

Go pour yourself a big fat flute of champagne, stand up, and shake out the folds of your de la Renta gown. Drumroll. Ladies and gentlemen, the award for the best newspaper name in America goes to the Linn, MO Unterrified Democrat!

Do you have any nominations for next year’s ceremony? Or maybe you’re like Lou, who’s been making up names of his own while I’ve been writing this. He likes: The Rockford Files, the St. Paul Epistle, the Ledger Demoines, (yeah, it takes awhile and isn’t that great,) The Lincoln Log and the Aspen Tablet. Send them this way, and we’ll read all about them.


Filed under Collections, Free, HeeHee, History, How Cool is That?, Library Card

Apron of the Day: “Off the Hook”

Fry more fish, open more oysters, bake more bluefish. Here’s the Apron of the Day in my new “Field and Stream” series. Thanks for the idea, Jayne — I have more different deer and quail prints than I could have thought possible.

It’s oppressively hot and humid tonight, but I hustled Loulander outside for a quick photo shoot.

The fabric: I love the colors and I added a bright button on each pocket just to, I dunno, follow the fun forms of the lures.









The apron:











This camo fabric cracks me up — truly. It’s fish camo!








The apron. Note that I’ve made Loulander smile and he’s trying.











It’s burger night tonight here in the ‘Ville, and as soon as the buns have risen enough to bake I’m gonna be all about a cheeseburger,topped with Charlene’s tomatoes and some cheese. Some late season Illinois corn on the cob will make it fab. But hold the lettuce: I don’t hold with no stinkin’ lettuce anywhere near my cheeseburger!


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Filed under A yard of fabric, Apron of the Day, Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Collections, Food, Needlework, Reversible Aprons, Sewing

Royal Silver

For someone who grew up in the Dominion of Canada, with one set of grandparents who emigrated from England, I grew up in an antimonarchist family. My parents loathed  the idea of the constitutional monarchy,Britain’s pseudo-official presence in Canada, and the damn corgis. My grandmother, Margaret Banister Leyland, the pride of Burnley, Lancs.,  had particular scorn for the late Queen Mum – “Silly bitch.” Take that Helena Bonham Carter!

My school handed us tiny Union Jacks and trucked us to the track of the Semenaire St-Joseph to watch the newly crowned, young and lovely Elizabeth II drive around the playing field in an open car, the dashing Prince Phillip beside her. So strange: I can remember the experience clearly, but it replays in my mind in black and white. I have seen the Queen, and I didn’t need to go to Buckingham Palace with Alice.

I agree in principle with my parents: The British can keep their monarchy, but Canada should tell them to bug out.

So I’m embarrassed by my fondness for Royalty kitsch. I want William and Kate tea towels, tea cups, egg cups, aprons(!) placemats. Heck, shower caps. Because they seem like an unaffected young couple, and because they’re doing a smashing job at their first official visit, in Canada, I wished I was hitting all the tacky souvenir shops on Sparks Street in Ottawa, hoovering up every trinket.

Have I mentioned that I’m a collector? I have so many rag tag collections that I’ll write about them in other blog posts. But today, watching the charming Duchess of Cambridge aceing her first official walkabout in Ottawa, I remembered a tenth of my sterling silver tea and coffee spoon collection, not those from the Columbian Exposition (another standalone collection) or small towns all over the USA and Canada.

My royal sterling collection! These weren’t dead cheap when I bought them, but I was in a royalty souvenir trance and, besides, I’m crazy about them. Most of them were made by Birks,Canada’s great silversmith, who if it’s smart, will be churning out Will and Kate teaspoons.

Voila!  And be patient with my lousy photography.

I have two sets of George VI/ Queen Mum spoons


It must be swell to have a throne. These are prettier, and heavier than my crappy photography can imply. They’re ice cream spoons.

These are demitasse size, and bear dates. The one on the left:”Crowned May 12 1937.” The one on the right: “George VI and Queen Elizabeth Canada 1939.”

This sugar shell is my favourite because it’s flat out gorgeous from its fluted bowl to the chased handle that celebrates the rose, the thistle, the shamrock and the daffodil, the floral emblems of her dominion in the British Isles. Gee , I wish I could take a decent picture. The writing, down the handle of the spoon, reads: To commenerate the Coronation, June 2nd, 1951.”












But this funky old spoon, coin silver plated ,( which is rotten, because coin silver is pure, soft and likely to be stripped down to its base metal) is old.  As it is here, poor spoon. But, if you can make it out, this spoon honors Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, 1902. Brings out all my “Forsythe Saga” “Duchess of Duke Street” nostalgia.

Hey, I’ll make some of my fab frozen yog and lay in some cheap prosecco. Let’s dig in, with royal spoons. Just show up.


Filed under Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Collections, Twenty bucks

Shine on Bright and Mysterious Object: French Sewing Table

I’m home and all’s well. I was accident prone in Ottawa — (I haven’t mentioned that a Valentine’s Day candy pulled out a tooth,completing the Ottawa Trifecta of pain and humiliation.)

But apart from a broken toe, crochet elbow and the hillbilly smile, I was healthy like horse in Ottawa. I took a mile walk, on average, every day, and several of those days were a windy minus 20.  I shivered at bus stops. I bought a scarf, and remembered the true purpose of a scarf. I made myself — the beginning of my elbow prob — a cap. I lived through a Canadian winter and felt great.

Then I got on an airplane and I got sick. Flying does that to me — the ears don’t drain, the sinuses fill, post nasal drip and within a day I’m coughing up green pea soup, deaf, feverish and languid. Too languid to write a proper blog post.

So I’m going to show you my mother’s French 1820s sewing table. My parents got smart fast about buying antiques: they went to the same auctions their dealers attended and profited from the etiquette that precludes dealers bidding against customers. This table was an exception: they payed retail, mucho retail, at a shop. My father provided the explanation for this pricey purchase: “Your mother said if I didn’t buy it she’d never talk to me again.” (Note: After a day of shoulder-turning, my mother would have had plenty to say!)

It was, and is, the only table in the house that’s banned from plates, coasters and ashtrays because the original finish is still superb. It’s about a meter tall.

The pale green moire silk work basket is in perfect condition.

I just know that no Amish work table would feature a mirror on the inside of the lid, but those genius needlewomen had no cause to fiddle with a ringlet or practice a moue.

The interior. That pale green kid leather pincushion flips out. Please note the little bundle of slats, which fit into the slots at the upper edge of the table. Would the little compartments have held thread? Beads? Earrings?

I love the French bourgeoise who bundled her sewing into that silk work basket, admired herself in the mirror (or checked it for the entrance of a jealous husband) and I love the family who saved it so my mother could buy it and I could use it.

If I had her maid I’d tinkle a bell and ask for a poached egg on toast and afterwards loosen my stays and recline somewhere. As it is, I’ll poach and toast and pass out in front of the news.

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Filed under Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Collections, History, Home, How Cool is That?, Needlework, Worth it anyway

Shine on, Bright and Mysterious Objects

Laurie Colwin, wherever you’re lounging in Literary Valhalla — forgive me for bastardizing one of your best titles.

I’d planned to rent some skates today and ask Daddy to take some pix of me falling on my can as I attempted to glide along the beautiful Rideau Canal. Again God said “Hah! Not so fast, sister! ” and encouraged me to run a shopping cart over my left pinky toe. It resembles a baby eggplant and I can barely get my shoes on, let alone a skate. Perhaps it was Her way to remind me that I haven’t done the Hans Brinker thing for thirty years, and that a swollen toe heals faster than a broken leg.

So much for today’s plans, skate-wise and blog-wise — time to move the photography inside.I thought I’d share some of the objects from my parents’ silver collection and run a small contest. Some of them you’ll recognize and some may be mysterious. I’ll send a prize, made by moi, to anyone who achieves 100% identification of the mystery objects. None of today’s shiny things are the oldest or most valuable in the collection — they’re mostly Edwardian — but I love them. They’re mad cheerful, and for me they’re free;I get to use them and I didn’t pay a single pound sterling.

Here’s a snap of most of them to give you an idea of the scale:






I love engraving. Here I’m an Anglo Indian military bride:








I want to run out and buy Jordan almonds, licorice allsorts and wine gums to fill the little pans! The hallmarks indicate that it was made in Chester in 1908. The inscription reads:

Presented To

Capt. and Mrs. Farley


The NCOs & Men Of

“E” Company

2nd North Stafford Rgmt.

Peshawar India 1910

On the Occasion of Their Wedding

I can’t provide the date and provenance of this basket of beauty because I’d have to root around to find Daddy’s copy of Tardy’s. It continental and clever– each cup sits on a little peg so that the maid can’t jiggle the soft-boiled eggs about on the way to your breakfast table.










I’ve never seen such a pretty piece of tea strainer engineering as this: The baskets turn to the horizontal when it’s time to strain a new cup, so that you can dump the leaves efficiently. Again, I’d have to find Tardy to check out the German marks. (I’ve hooked it over an epergne handle to give the general effect.)









Now I’ll move into the Mystery Item round. Number One, from Birks, a Canadian silversmith. It’s about seven inches long.




Number Two (Chester 1904)may be my favorite of the group because it’s just so plain weird. I’m sorry about the crappy picture ; when I decided to reshoot I found my battery was dead. You might want to consult the group shot above.











Number Three, Birmingham, 1902.










So, as they say, enter to win a Valuable Prize! And pray for me — I’ve been so accident prone I’m afraid I’ll fracture a finger flossing my teeth!


Filed under Art, Body, Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Collections, Giveaway, History, Home, Incredible Edible Egg, Worth it anyway

End of Year Lists

I’m not talking about New Year’s resolutions (I have yet to keep one, so why bother?) or Christmas lists –somehow Christmas has become much simpler. I’m talking about those “Best of” lists that bloom in the first week of December, the lists about books.

We’re New York TImes “Weekenders,” which means that we walk down the driveway Friday, Saturday and Sunday and scoop up the plastic bag that holds one of the few fripperies in our lives. (A subscription to The New Yorker is another. Um, I guess we’re officially Old School.)He’s a fiend puzzler and these three days provide the most challenging grids.

How would we spend Sunday without The Times? It’s the atheist’s Sunday observance , and I continue to amaze myself that I can spen three quarters of an hour reading the Style section, Easy.

But I digress. The Book Section had the traditional 100 Best Books listing this Sunday, and the tab-sized sheets are sitting on the piano bench lest they be carelessly recycled. The fun of reading the list is to discover that fancy-dancy literary critics agree with some of your faves, remembering books you should have read and haven’t, and scowling at entires that strike you as super snores.

Here are a couple of books on the list I’ve read and loved loved loved.

This is modern Jane Austen. I saw it at the library and took it out because I’d read a rave review somewhere. Never has a rave been more deserved — it blew me away.

A gentle, witty cookbook that made most everyone’s  Best Cookbook list is Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table. This is not a rehash of French classics, it’s fresh and modern. I loved that she gave me permission to buy chicken bouillon cubes — it seems that French ladies use them all the time.

But jeez, I haven’t dipped a toe into the “100 Notable Books of 2010.”  I want to read Operation Mincemeat and Charlie Chan and Big Girls Don’t Cry and Keith Richard’s Life. That’s the beauty of saving this section — it’s a heads-up for wintry treks to the library.

Send me your list!





Filed under Books, Collections, Five bucks or fewer, Media, Worth it anyway

All I Want for Christmas is my Left Bicuspid and Other Stuff

Actually, I’m not totally kidding here. My mouth is a dental nightmare and I lost my upper left bicuspid a year or so ago. I could get by in public with a “flipper,” a tooth on a wire and plastic armature, but somehow someone stepped on it and broke it in half (probably me) during the Thanksgiving festivities. It can still fill in the gap when I don’t want to appear in public as a Dust Bowl matron, but the rough edge hurts. All of you with good teeth: know how lucky you are.

But that’s selfish stuff. What I really want for Christmas is my Daddy at home after his therapy for his hip replacement, as vital and optimistic as he was before the Fall. I believe he will be.

It’s funny, the Christmas List devolving. Even ten years ago I could write: “Silver bracelet from Tiffany’s, Vol de Nuit, ____________ novel, silk jammies, new Cuiz. Although I’d still love any of those items, the sheer desire isn’t there. I own the jammies, the bracelets and still have a few spritzes of Vol de Nuit.

What I’d love is miles. Because we don’t own any credit cards we don’t have any miles, but oh! to revisit Paris and Rome. To discover for the first time Athens and Istanbul, to sunbathe in Antibes or Antigua.

When we were newlyweds and broke, we had season tickets to the Lyric Opera. Monserrat Caballe, Jon Vickers, Joan Sutherland, Placido Domingo — but we were a cheap el ride from the Opera House. In my wildest dreams of avarice I’d take a season subscription and the moolah to spend a night in a boutique hotel, dining with my Chicago buddies and drinking lots of Henriot champagne.

I want to spend most of February in LA with my daughter and son-in-law. I might just swing half of that, unless my neighbors get annoyed at the cat-sitting calendar. (And I wouldn’t blame them.)

You might have noticed that World Peace isn’t on my Christmas list. Well, pierced ears were on my list for ten years and Santa never took my mother’s hand and led her to the Piecing Parlor. It wasn’t gonna happen with earrings and it’s never gonna happen with World Peace, because the world has never been at peace.

My list is shorter every year. But y’know, it’s cheaper and cheerier.


Filed under Born in Chicago, Collections, History, Holidays, Home, Into the Mystic, Music, Worth it anyway

Apron of the Day: Labor Day Edition

It’s been a languid Labor Day Weekend — lots of tennis, a big pot of chile last night. Eggplant parmesan is on the menu for tonight.

I miss family bad over holiday weekends; what’s a holiday weekend without making potato salad for eighteen?  If not for US Open doing the traditional  holiday marathon coverage it would have felt like any old fin de semaine.  I missed my daughter especially, because I was reminded of all those tween years when we watched her heartthrob Pete Sampras thunder ace after ace.  But nostalgia can sometimes be a drag on cheerful, so I’m not going down that road.

I slept too late, spent too much time on the couch watching tennis and flipping through the Sunday Times. But I retain some apron discipline: between sets or after midnight I sewed two aprons. One is a commission and a Christmas present, so I can’t show it yet. I’m waiting foe a delivery of custom chosen fabrics for other special orders, so I went back to the holidays theme: something autumnal,a  Thanksgivingy print on one side, a Christmas print on the other.

You have to see the fabric closeup — it’s called “Christmas Rose” — just a cotton print but with a glam golden background.

The autumn side:

I love the leaves:

This is just catch up, friends. I promise a more substantive post soon.


Filed under A yard of fabric, Apron of the Day, Collections, Holidays, Needlework

Meet the Neighbors: Today’s Photo Shoot

Our next door neighbors, the Simpsons, have been our friends since the day they moved into their brand new house twenty eight years ago. A  Higher Power has blessed us: they’re still here! We’ve raised our kids together, landscaped several times,attended what seems likes a century of Parent’s Nights, prayed our children into the driveway after they got their licences, and have performed more than a quarter century of mutual cat-sitting. The Simpsons  know more about us than anyone but our parents and children.

If you’ve seen my apron photos of Lou looking handsome, but bored and glowering, you’ll understand why I thought I’d spare him the necessity of modelling my backlist — all those aprons lurking in the linen closet in the times before Facebook. Because, if I ever get an apron business plan together, I vow to use only fabulous “real” people as models I set up a session for today at noon with the Sensational Simpsons. I tell you, I’m a genius! Not only is their house two gallons of Windex cleaner than mine, but they actually got into the process! With Lou it’s stand-and-shoot. The Simpsons discussed shots, props, and they actually smiled.

This is a small sample of the pictures I took today — I want this to be about them, not my aprons. I’d love a modelling agency to spot this and sign them all up. Let’s start with Charlene.

She’s an inspired decorator, still the Kool Aid Mom, and she’s holding prop tomatoes from her garden. The UPS truck seems to stop every other day to deliver a piece of genealogical evidence, she’s such a great housekeeper that I swear she could make soup in her toilet, and so help me, her garden has rooms. Here’s a charming little sliver along the side of her house, all marigolds and those tomatoes.

A couple of you have asked what a Ball Apron  looks like. This is close, but not frivolous or lacy enough.

Char always gets it, always understands. I’m not half the woman she is.

Shake hands with Big Dale, and that is one firm handshake. He’s a Vietnam era Marine, a retired cop with twenty years in, a teacher and a role model to his kids’ male friends. His day job is making sure that the atoms at Fermilab don’t overheat. He’s the straight- up skilled, endlessly kind neighbor of your dreams. He’s been taking classes with his daughter at Sur la Table, and I know his knife skills must be fearsome.

I love this menu Charlene prepared for their last family dinner party:

This is a man whose masculinity is so secure that he didn’t mind posing in this:

He might have preferred the cowboy verso:

(Great gams, Big D!)

I could write a book about Little Dale, and someday I may. I’ve known him since he was four, and he was my daughter’s partner in crime and friendship until the politics of third grade boy/girl stuff separated them for awhile. Honor totaled one car when she was in High School. Little Dale pushed his parents’s auto premiums as high as cornfields in August.  What Little D always possessed, and still does, is a ton of charm. He teaches college level Anthro and Archaeology now. Charlene and I have a collection of first day of school pix of Honor and Dale heading for yellow  bus. Here’s the 1990 edition:

Little Dale (as tall as his father now,) had, um a late night. Here’s his big boy self, refreshed with a samurai attitude and a breakfast beer. God, I love this kid.

The reverse:

Obligatory kitty photo:

I was one lucky photog today. Christina swung by! She’s the daughter of the house, a florist, a gardener, a mother and so gorgeous that restraining orders were taken out on some of her high school boyfriends. Like her brother, she possesses ridiculous amounts of charm and smarts. Here’s the verso of the “Ball Apron.” Another member of the Simpson tribe is due next week.

If I were religious I’d use the” Blessed” word for whatever prompted two young couples to buy adjacent lots in the ‘Ville, and hang in here. And Lou has some serious competition in the high fashion  world of  apron modelling.


Filed under Apron of the Day, Born in Chicago, Collections, Free, Home, Into the Mystic, On the Street Where I Live, The 'Ville

Apron of the Day

Actually, this is the Apron of Yesterday. I’ve had a busy day, which included mailing off my first apron order (two aprons!) so I’m only half way through today’s apron, which is a holiday reversible numero.

The pretty pink print closeup:

Here’s the VERY masculine and silly Guy Side:

Here’s the closeup — I need to see if this fabric is still available:

So that’s the Apron of the Day feature for 8/18/2000. Now I’ll go write a proper post!

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Filed under A yard of fabric, Apron of the Day, Collections, Needlework, Worth it anyway