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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Polishing Up the Past

It's that time again - time to get out the silver and the few good dishes I own and spruce them up for company. I didn't grow up with sterling flatware. Mama was far too practical and efficient a person to want to fiddle around with silver polish - although I remember there was a little jar of Twinkle Silver Polish beneath the kitchen sink. I wonder what she ever used it for. But ours was a strictly utilitarian table. Even when she finally got a set of matching flatware, it was stainless steel and Daddy and I bought it for her for Christmas one year. I suspect it was a particularly uninspiring gift for her but it thrilled my little teenage heart. I could hardly wait till it was my turn.

Daddy is the one who grew up with sterling flatware  ThePrince did too but his mother not only used it all the time, she had also selected a very plain pattern so if it did need polishing it was easy to do.  One Christmas though, she took me up into the attic and pushed a box towards me, saying that this was all the extra bits and pieces of silver flatware from her side of the family and did I think I'd like it as a Christmas gift?  Would I? Is grass green?

She was the only person in her generation who both married and had children and over the years she inherited houses full of stuff. I was on the scene when Mimi's house was emptied out and most of the furniture in that house ended up in mine. In 40 years of marriage I have only ever bought 3 pieces of furniture. I love living with these pieces of the past. Their past is now my past and my present is their future. We have shared a life together that makes me feel very cozy. It helps when I have to dust these curlicued bits of history - and makes housework a little more like caresses. Ditto with the silver - which is of all different designs.

This year I thought I'd track down the names of these silver patterns - just in case somebody wanted to make me a gift - or maybe a set came up at auction and the sliver melters didn't hear about it.  Also, since our Thanksgiving guest list will be smaller than in recent years, I am sticking to as many complete places settings as I have - and piecing out the rest in similar patterns.

The Haile/Blakey/Wright silver is the most mixed and unmatched. There are 8 dessert forks in Concord, a 1926 pattern by Wallace so I'm sure they're Mimi's silver since that's about when she got married.

There are 2 groups of 6 spoons - but neither of them match the knives and none of them are in the Concord pattern. There is also the ancient ladle from the Wrights of Greenway. Grandma says it was scraped so many times against the oyster stew pot the lip of the bowl wore down. This piece is about 200 years old now and I didn't even try to track down that pattern. It's what I'd call ... Old Plain Silver ...  as opposed to plain old silver.

That very scrolly fruit sever on the cloth above the ladle is another Blakey piece that so far I have yet to identify. It's the dickens to clean if it ever gets tarnished but I keep it wrapped in silver cloth.

The silver from my side o the family is some of my grandmother's flatware. The pattern is Clermont and it's a 1915 Gorham pattern.  For decades I've lusted to have matching place settings in sterling and for the last 5 or 6 years that Daddy was still in his own house he'd say "There's some flatware in that drawer. If you want it you can have it."

Well. I thought I knew what my parents owned and I didn't need More Stainless Steel flatware so I would always say no thanks. But when we moved him to a senior apartment and I finally opened that drawer and discovered the box held the familiar silver from my grandmother's table I felt like an idiot. I remember he was in his huge ungainly recliner and I sat beside him as we looked at the contents of the box.

"Oh yes. That's the McClean silver" he told me. His father had been Evelyn Walsh McClean's lawyer. Yes. The Hope Diamond Lady. And there are dozens of stories about her - how she would visit and toss the diamond in his lap for him to play with ... She must have been very colorful. Daddy said she gave that silver to his mother and it may be true but - then again - it may not. So I just think of it as Grandma's Silver.

There is also a story about two aunts, a theft and a quarrel and the silverware, but there you have it. Family stories tend to get inflated with the telling, especially if there is some jealousy behind them and besides - I was only about 14 so I may have misunderstood.

All those stories, all that history, all the memories are just the thing for a Thanksgiving eve when beloved friends and family are on their way to feast with us. It will be my delight to spread the table with my old friends, all spruced up, polished and gleaming and ready to serve.

A happy Thanksgiving thought.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Hey! Where Do You Think You're Going, November!

Image result for confessionalLawsie! It's half over and TheQueen has been so silent. Well. I should confess - I have been committing blog-ultery over on Sparkpeople dot com because this close to the Food Frenzie of the holiday season, about the only thing I've been concentrating on is managing my weight. This is a perennial Queenly issue anyway and 2014 has been a particularly difficult year for keeping things in check.

In a deeper confession, I'm not sure I really have anything to say here today, but I don't want to come back later and see that there are zero posts for November.

What? TheQueen has nothing to say? Well - of course she always has something to say - but too much of it is likely to be whining and kvetching and complaining. Autumn of 2014 hasn't been any easier than Summer, Spring or Winter was. No. That's not true. We have automatic heat in the house now so WOW ... that has made a huge difference. If you recall, a large part of the reason last winter was so effingly difficult was that we couldn't get this house warm. Our sole source of heat was the old wood stove and the firewood, while seasoned, was always wet because it was always raining or sleeting or just plain cloudy and the temps stayed down down down. Wet wood is bad enough but when your prince is the type who forgets to keep the fire going while you are at work, wet wood is evil incarnate.

This year we have festooned the walls with these  and life is so different. A chilly day - and we have had quite a few of them already - just means when I get home the house is toasty warm. Coming down to the den to type in the wee dark hours of the morning used to mean putting on my winter coat and wrapping up in a blanket and taking frequent breaks to hold hot cups of coffee. Now things are different. Things are better. I am feeling disgustingly spoiled.

And for the curious - so far - and granted - we're still in the easy part of the cold weather season - the electric bill has gone up about $10. I will wait till the end of the cold before I make my final review of this system but so far - much more than so good.

So what else can I tell you about TheQueen?  There are a scant 46 days left of this year (to which I won't be all that sorry to bid goodbye - and now I'm feeling guilty for complaining about the gift of life and all) and much of that is already booked with holiday stuff.  My loyal fans know that I love me some holiday season but  I swannie, I can't believe it's already time to start Making Plans. I did have the good grace to cast on a Christmas sock and so there is real knitting going on (turning the heal on sock #1 today). And at least I thought about what sort of Christmas Card I'd like to make. Sister just sent out the call for photos for the Family Christmas Calendar. She started making them as gifts to the parents - but we all love them and I'm glad she's continuing the tradition now that we are orphans. My beloved LD and our precious daughter in law PD will be here for Thanksgiving, along with 7 other guests. And I am hope hope hoping we can finally get back to Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens for a caroling light show. I have explained to ThePrinceConsort that there are to be no heart attacks this Christmas.

I have also pulled out my tattered copies of the Betsy-Tacy books because nobody can do autumn like Maud Hart Lovelace. Her high school books are my favorites although I am also a sucker for Betsy and Tacy go Downtown - which is about middle-schoolers. Autobiographical, with the perfect patina of fiction smoothing over memories and plot twists, these books had as big an impact on forming me as "The Laura Books". (Laura Ingalls Wilder) Perhaps even a greater impact, now that I am old and now that I already got to do my own Little House in the Big Woods thing and it's pretty much a fulfilled fantasy instead of a longing. I read these kiddy books in secret because ThePrince will prod me about why I am reading them again if he sees me and TheQueen disdains explaining herself. Also - this particular trip down memory lane is something I like to do alone and he is all about the togetherness.

One of these days I will honor these books with a blogpost about why they are so important - to me and, I wish, to today's techno-plugged kids. I could go on and on about why I think they are preferable to most of the  soft-core violence and suffering stuff being written for middle readers these days, but for this fall I will just enjoy them.

So. What else? I haven't done much art lately and was feeling decidedly colorless and art-less. Also, I have been fighting with some excess poundage (hence the above-mentioned blog-ultery) for most of 2014. In an effort to give attention to both issues I have created a glitter chart for myself - small enough to fit in my Daytimer. It has a clutch of action-steps I can take to earn points and when I earn 100 points I can add $100 to the camera fund ... that pitiful sum which I have raided all summer long when Other Expenses cropped up. I would very much like to get a new camera and I think I'll need about $300 for it. There is an additional reward of a pair of boots when I reach my goal.

And so. That is the state of mid-November at TheCastle. One will hope that the future will hold more and perhaps even better quality writing from TheQueen. But there you have it - one can always hope. There is always tomorrow. And Tara.