Bracelet with Charms from Europe

Silver charm bracelet filled with European memories.

First in a series.

I assembled this charm bracelet during my first trip to Europe with my parents and sisters. It was almost a Grand Tour – several weeks long, starting in NYC and visiting ten countries. In every country, except for Sweden – don’t know how I missed – I bought a charm. And in every country I had an adventure. I was young – celebrated my 19th birthday in Paris – but old enough that my parents let me out alone on occasion. (More fools they!) We were a family that sang and laughed and got into and out of scrapes with good humor. Lots of fun stories, though not the ones I expect my sisters would tell!

The trip began in NYC. I went some days ahead of my family because my college roomate lived in Scarsborough, NY and invited me to stay with her. She had an older brother, so you understand a date was assured. Even more enticing – there were bars where an 18-year-old could have a real drink. My state only only allowed 3.2 beer and I have never liked beer.

So the date. I don’t remember much about the brother. Kinda stuffy. Not much dash. But the drink I remember exactly: a gin and tonic. Having no experience, I asked what he’d recommend. And while I like them now, at the time it seemed bitter and harsh. Good thing he didn’t recommend something sweet and fruity that I would have quickly downed. I embarrassed myself enough for a first outing, or so I felt. Although given the drinking stories I hear, I was a total prude.

So we sit and talk a while. I sip, tiny sips, trying not to grimace. Not feeling much. Where’s the buzz? The loosening of inhibitions? Such a disappointment. Then I had to go to the ladies. Way across the room. Standing up, I realized, yes, I felt something. Dizzy. Maybe wobbly, even. I made my way over, did my thing, came back. He was laughing at me.

“Why? I didn’t stagger or fall.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone walk so carefully.”

The highlight of my Scarsborough sojourn. When my family arrived, I joined them in the city where we visited some landmarks before our flight out (which I’ve written about.) The charm for the beginning of the trip was from the United Nations — the bright blue and orange circle on the left.

Next up, England.

Hobnail Dishes – Guest Post

Cup and saucer from an entire set of hobnail dishes. The name comes from the pattern of raised knobs on the surface of the glass, similar to the studs used on boot soles in the time period. It became popular after the depression and is most often seen in milk glass. However, it was available in colors as well as clear.

This story is from my father-in-law, Don. When he was in high school, he took 2 years of Latin — considered important if you were going to college — and he belonged to a Latin club. The club used to meet in the evenings at each other’s houses. They didn’t speak Latin at these meetings, rather they were social events encouraged by the teacher.

An aside: My mother-in-law took Latin also, same school as Don. She didn’t like Latin and the teacher, whom she remembers as old, called her “a nice girl” which for some reason hurt her feelings. She went home and cried about it. She attended the same high school as Don but at the time of the Latin classes, she was dating Don’s best friend.

In any case, at these parties Don noticed that all the mothers had complete sets of dishes. Eventually it was going to be his turn to host, and his mother’s dishes were a melange from several sets. (She, by the way, had taken Latin and remembered one phrase — Ubi est agricola, where is the farmer — and used to say it to him all the time.)

Before the club met at his house, Don bought his mother a complete set of these dishes. What a win/win situation! His mother felt loved by her son. And his friends saw that he had matching dishes in his house, just like in their houses.

His daughter, my wonderful sister-in-law, now has the set in her china cabinet. It was given to her by her grandmother, who told her she had set them aside specifically for her. The set is no longer complete; the glass tends to chip. She uses one of the saucers as a soap dish (shades of the bone dish, also hers).

Florida Flora

Florida flora with a bird.

I have never considered myself a Florida person.

I love mountains; oceans don’t do it for me.

However, I have always loved plants.

When I was young, we lived in a new subdivision.
I pined for the other side of town where there were tree tunnels.

The glory of California, except for the sun, is lost on me. The plants are spikey and mean looking.

But I am beginning to like Florida.
I don’t know what all of these are, but aren’t they spectacular!

p.s. The bird is at the bottom…

Thai Mask

A painted wooden mask. I bought this mask in Bangkok, on a hot day. (All the days in Thailand were hot…91 at 11:00pm I recall. Ok, not so different than this summer!) The shop was really just an outdoor stand near the giant Buddha.

The Buddha lies on his side, seemingly as long as a football field, and asleep. This is Thailand, so he is covered with gold. Impossible to get a full-length picture because he’s inside a long structure like a train station, but more decorative, with painted rafters. What I like best about him are the soles of his feet, decorated with swirls of mother of pearl. Makes me think he might have been ticklish.

A highlight of my 3 days in Thailand was an elephant ride. We were the last group of the day, just a few of us. Understand, you sit very high on an elephant, in a throne-like wooden chair. You climb a ladder to board, then off you go, single file. Green jungle all around and right beneath your feet, the “driver, who sits on the elephant’s head, wearing a bright blue saucer hat. The drivers are quite young. The story is that little boys are matched with baby elephants and they stay together all their lives, since elephants live so long.

I was riding last in line and it soon became obvious that my elephant would have rather been home, resting. We lagged. Then the elephant, let’s call her Phoebe, saw some delicious bush just off the path. She went for a snack, taking me along for the ride. The little driver gave Phoebe a prod. She shook her head and continued to munch. Another, sharper prod. Phoebe, annoyed, shook again. At the third prod, she began stamping her feet and swinging her body side to side. I hung on for dear life, laughing as if on a Disney ride. Don’t know what the driver said, but eventually we got back in line and contined our walk.

When we returned to their “home,” Phoebe and her friends had the treat of a bath. The boy drivers and the elephants in the river were like boys anywhere, frolicking with their dogs. Only these playmates were slightly larger.

Bone Dish from Antietam – Guest Post

Simple white bone dish, designed to sit next to a plate and hold bones once the meat was eaten. No marking on the bottom.

This dish comes from Don and his daughter, Denise. Don begins the story:

My mother had a great-uncle who had been a child during the Civil War. He told stories of sitting up on a hill, watching the battle of Antietam. [ed: Fought on September 17, 1862, it was the first major battle on Union soil and the bloodiest single-day battle in American history, with casualties totalling about 23,000.] Obviously this made a big impression on him because when he grew up, he made a living scouring the battle site for souvenirs and selling them in a little shop.

We went to visit him when I was young and he gave this dish to Mother. He said that it had been left behind on the battlefield. Not much use for a bone dish in battle, so the family speculates that it was used in blood-letting, still a medical practice at that time. Or held under the chin for shaving.

Now the story takes a slight detour. Evidently this uncle had a near brush with death by lightning. A ball of fire came in through an open window and rushed through a room where he was standing. Denise remembers her grandmother always insisted that the windows be closed if there was a storm, allegedly because of this uncle’s experience.

The dish came to Denise as a memento when her grandmother died. It now has a place of honor in her master bath. Its curve fits right along the sink where it makes a fine soap dish.

Horse and Cart – Guest Post

Wooden horse and cart, made in Japan. Belonged to Mary’s grandmother.

This isn’t exactly a guest post, because Mary is my sister. On the other hand, the object isn’t in my house, so I decided to label her as a guest. (She’s welcome as my guest any time, with or without the horse and cart!)

This little tchotchke was in our Grandmother’s house. Mary loved it and was allowed to play with it, very special to her because from the time she was seven she wanted a pony. Every Christmas she knew this was the year – she’d check the carport and the backyard – but no. Finally my mother told her if she wanted a horse, she’d have to pay for it herself. By the time she was sixteen she’d saved 625 bucks and bought her first horse – Silky!

I want to make a detour here – how she ever came to name the horse such a boring name is beyond me. Maybe it came with it. But when Mary named her cars (oh, we all name our cars – mine was the Wonder Bug, but that’s another story), she did so with elan. Roaring Judy, Babe Blue Ox, Hot Lips (red, of course), Moose the Mustang, Benson, and finally Harvey. I imagine you can guess the make and color of that one.

Anyway, horses were her big deal and my parents were happy. She was busy at the barn and riding in shows, no chance to get into trouble. But it backfired when it came time for her to go to college. Horses were all that mattered and she didn’t want anything more to do with school. She tells the following story:

Daddy was watering the flowers in the backyard. I told him I didn’t want to go to college. I wanted to train horses.
Daddy said, “Will that afford you the lifestyle to which you are accustomed?”
“Will it make you happy?”
I was always grateful he didn’t just turn the hose on me!

Mary went on to work in Hawaii and to be a trainer at Hope Ranch in Santa Barbara. Every once in a while she’d be thrown. A worker would run over and say, “Shall I call an ambulance?” Her answer was always no, until the last time she bit the dust. Her neck was fractured and she went to the hospital.

Now Mary is an extrovert and she was left alone a lot in the ICU unit. She says when she got so bored she couldn’t stand it, she’d pound on her own chest and make her heart go crazy so a nurse would run in. They finally put her into a private room with a TV. Wonder why? In any case, although there was no lasting damage from her fall, she decided it was time to move on.