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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fabergé love

A few weekends ago, M and I went to the special Fabergé exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond.

We saw a lot of incredible stuff, really special things I had never seen before... Not just the pieces from the large collection that already exists at the VMFA and I have seen throughout my life. M had never seen any of them, so it was special for me to share a major passion of mine with him (I am a Russian history buff).

Imperial Lillies of the Valley basket: Yellow and green gold, silver, nephrite, pearl, rose-cut diamonds, 1896. This sat on Empress Alexandra Feodorovna's desk, in likely her mauve boudoir. She was the wife of the famous 'last tsar' Nicholas II.

The Imperial Napoleonic egg: Green and yellow gold, emerald panels, rubies and diamonds, 1912. Interior is satin and velvet.

The egg still has its "surprise", six-panel miniature screen depicting in watercolor six regiments of which Maria Fyodorovna was an honorary colonel. Each panel has on its reverse side the royal monogram of the Dowager Empress. The screen itself is made from translucent green emeralds, rose-cut diamonds and white enamel.

Coiled Serpent Paperweight: Persian turquoise, sterling silver, 1908. This piece is massive, about a foot wide and several inches tall.

The Nobel Ice Egg: rock crystal, platinum and diamonds, 1914. For a nephew of Nobel prize creator. Exterior of shell appears simple, it is a silver-pearl matte ground shell covered with alternating layers of transparent and opaque white enamel, each layer separately painted and engraved to resemble frost. The result is an icy lustre. Inside is a watch pendant, of enamel, rock crystal and diamonds.

The Empress Josephine tiara is the last special piece, created in 1890. No idea on carats, which is annoying. Lets just say a ton! Those briolettes are the size of my big thumbnail! The diamonds were a gift from Tsar Alexander I to the Empress Josephine after her divorce from Napoleon Bonaparte. This piece is one of only a few tiaras ever made by Fabergé.

You can get a book from the VMFA on the exhibition for $60, published exclusively for the VMFA by Rizzoli. Don't you love everything that Rizzoli publishes? I do!

Or you could be like me, and add another pendant egg to your growing collection, the big one with lapis lazuli in the bottom! Pretty, no?

The American flag one I got in NYC after 9/11 in the summer of 2002. My first one was the paisley one in the top left with the malachite on the bottom. My grandparents gave it to me in 1997. The cross one I recieved for Christmas in 1999. So it was fun to get another one. They dress up any outfit and are not as kitchy as other reproductions.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Happy Birthday, Babar!

This past Sunday was the 80th birthday of my beloved French elephant Babar!

They mentioned this news in the Sunday NYTimes! A great little write-up. I was read Babar's stories in both French and English, as my family wanted me to know basic French at an early age. We also would watch the TV show on PBS and in the early days, HBO too.

The Brunhoffs told, then wrote and animated the stories for their two young children.

Thank you so much, Cécile et Jean de Brunhoff (shown below with their sons, including Laurent who took over the role of writer/animator/new story creator after his father's early death). I cannot imagine my childhood without Babar, avec "un costume d’une agreable couleur verte"!

Did you read him when you were younger?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Shake, Rattle and Roll!

So... I am OK, the house is OK as of now, M and Lily are ok. Some neighbors were not as lucky!

One example: my neighbors, the Pendleton's, whose home circa 1819 had further damage to the residence after two strong aftershocks.

The Louisa County schools suffered severe enough damage, causing them to be closed for at least the next two weeks.

This AM DC's National Cathedral admitted damage was much worse than they had realized. And now the Washington Monument is in bad shape as well.

The below story comes from the Charlottesville Daily Progress, by Ted Strong:

MINERAL — Tuesday’s earthquake collapsed two houses and forced at least 20 people from their homes, Louisa County officials said. No fatalities or serious injuries had been reported as of 6 p.m., but officials feared the number without homes would grow as more residents returned home from work and assessed damage.

Gary and Cindy Vayo were worried their home might have to be condemned after Tuesday’s earthquake, but there was no question where they’d be spending Tuesday night.

“Right here,” Gary Vayo said with an air of certainty. “This is home.”

They were working Tuesday afternoon to clean up the debris strewn around the house, about 10 miles south of Mineral and closer still to the epicenter of the earthquake.

“I can’t believe this,” said Cindy Vayo as she surveyed the destruction, pointing out a wrecked kitchen, heirloom dishes thrown from a cabinet to shatter on the floor and a sea of other wreckage.

It was an awful thing to come home and find, she said.

“And then... you call to your insurance agent, and you find out you don’t have any [coverage],” Vayo said.

The quake emanated from a spot south of and between Mineral and Louisa, and both towns suffered damage to items such as plate glass windows, shelves, chimneys and drop ceilings. The county’s middle and high schools were casualties, suffering what officials termed “obvious” damage. Damage to other county schools was possible as well, officials said. Officials received many calls about collapsed buildings, said Louisa County Fire Chief Scott Keim.

The exact location of the collapsed homes was not immediately available. Officials opened a shelter at Moss-Nuckols Elementary School for those forced out of their residences.

Both Louisa and Mineral are small and rural, and many of the structures in the area are one-story. In much of the countryside, damage wasn’t apparent at first glance. Officials called in a helicopter from the Virginia State Police to search for collapsed houses, since many aren’t visible from the road.

In Mineral, town council member Brooks Besley was working in a big straw hat with a broken crown, boarding up a shattered window in his tool dealership, when Willie Harper, the town manager, dropped in to talk with him.

Harper gestured to the hole where the plate glass had been.

“That’s a nice clean window you got right there,” he deadpanned.

The two started discussing possibilities for a temporary home for the town government. The town hall had suffered a rather severe ceiling collapse.

“I don’t think we’re going back in it until we have some substantial support in it,” Harper said. The town hall in Louisa was also put out of commission.

Randall Robinett was in the warehouse section of his shop, Main Street Computers and Music, in Louisa when the quake hit.

“I mean, this place started shaking,” he said. “I bolted out that door as fast as I could. This is an 1890s building.”

Monday, August 22, 2011

Do you Durkee?

Ever tried Durkee? This brand has been around for decades. It is difficult to find in many grocery stores but members of my Southern family say it is the only thing they will eat on a sandwich. It is often in the foreign and specialty condiments aisle... It is a mixture of mayo, mustard and egg yolks. Sounds disgusting but this spread is a secret in a lot of old southern recipes!

Durkee is now distributed by a company based in Memphis, but the original company was founded in 1851 by Eugene R. Durkee im Buffalo but moved his HQ to NYC. Durkee had a New York residence along the Hudson - down the street from the Astor's Waldorf estate. He also had a major factory along the LIRR and it has since been refurbished as a high school. He was one of the first industrialists to trademark and patent items.

So, how do I eat my Durkee? I like my Durkee with turkey, as my Grandpapa does. It is also excellent with a toasted ham and swiss, cooked panini style. Durkee is really tasty on a BLT and on a post-Thanksgiving sandwich with turkey and cranberry. Great add in or substitute for egg salad, potato salad and as a condiment for crab cakes. Oh! And Morton's of Chicago used it: Morton's Blue Cheese Dressing (Makes 5 cups)

2 cups of real mayonnaise like Duke's or Hellman's
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sour cream
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspooon Durkee's Famous Sauce
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
salt and freshly ground black papper
7 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (1 1/2 cups)

In a large bowl, whisk together mayo and sour cream. Add buttermilk, Durkee's and seasoned salt and whisk until well mixed. Season to taste with salt and pepper and whisk again. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in blue cheese. Transfer to storage container with tight lid and refrigerate for at least one day and up to 4.

From Morton's of Chicago Steak Bible

Here is some more industrial history, for much of the 20th century, Glidden (the paint people) owned the Durkee name via Wikipedia:

The Glidden Food Products Company was formed in 1920. This subsidiary refined vegetable oils and produced oleomargarine. By the onset of the Great Depression, Glidden had formed a conglomerate that was able to purchase smaller companies disadvantaged by the economic turmoil of the time. The purchase of Durkee & Co., a leading manufacturer of salad dressings, meat sauces, pickles, spices, and condiments, for $1.8 million in mid-1929 precipitated a name change for Glidden's food subsidiary to Durkee Famous Foods, Inc. Durkee was widely known as the maker of Durkee Famous Sauce, reportedly a favorite of President Abraham Lincoln. Glidden and Durkee would enjoy a half-century of cooperation. Late in 1929, the operations of the Portland Vegetable Oil Mills Company were incorporated into Durkee's business, and in 1933 the Van Camp Oil Co. was rescued from bankruptcy and added to Durkee's long list of operating companies. All of Durkee's assets were later acquired by Glidden in 1936, when the subsidiary became a division. The construction of a hydrogen plant in New Jersey enhanced Durkee's vertical integration for the production of hydrogenated oils.
By the end of World War II, Glidden was a leading manufacturer of margarine. Its spreads were sold under the Durkee, Troco, and Dinner Bell tradenames. Margarine sales made up a substantial portion of the Durkee division's total revenue. The acquisitions of the 1930s and 1940s tripled Glidden's sales from $50.17 million in 1940 to over $170 million in 1945. Glidden sold Durkee in 1980. Durkee is now owned by ACH Foods under Associated British Foods.

How do you eat your Durkee? Do you have any family memories of it?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Summer Reads: The American Heiress

Seeing as I work in a library, I took the liberty of trying to find some books to suggest to our Library Director - who then disperses the options and then people may or may not choose to pick them up depending on the budget we have at that time. One of those books came in a couple weeks ago, I guess right after I returned from vacation, and I loved it!

It is called "The American Heiress," a historical novel by Daisy Goodwin. It is lush and descriptive on all of the things I care about - fashion and interior design. And thankfully, unlike many historical novels, it is not ALL a smoozy overly graphic romance novel. Because I am not into that at all, ew. Full disclosure, there are maybe two scenes that are of romance level graphicness, but they are not pages worth of descriptions, so you are safe. Ha!

"The American Heiress" starts off at a Gilded Age ball in Newport, Rhode Island, held by a new money family - the Cash's - who are leaving the season to go overseas to find their daughter, Cora, a titled husband. She has no trouble finding someone after she injures herself during a hunting outing... the Ninth Duke of Wareham, Ivo aka Maltravers. (the names in this book are a bit ridiculous)

In Wharton-esque fashion, everything is described. The buildup to the wedding, the food being served (all of the weird ones of the period including several kinds of aspec which my grandmother still serves at Thanksgiving... ew.), the wedding gifts, wedding dress, jewelry, homes and mannerisms of people. One guy spanks his wife with a hairbrush because she was acting inappropriate. HA! Okay, probably not funny but I was amused. A hairbrush. Ouch.

What is fun is that due to Cora's injury, there is a bit of a mystery element that as a reader you can see through but poor ignorant Cora is completely blind to. Apparently her injury is bad enough that she suffers from a slight case of short-term memory loss from the day she went riding. She gradually becomes less naive as the book nears its end, but it is fun to see how a side story adds a couple subplots to the book and develops into something more dramatic by the climax.

I also loved the subplot about Cora's South Carolinian maid Bertha, who is from a mother who is a slave and a father who is white. She has been given all of Cora's hand-me-downs (which means they were worn once, obviously) and she is light-skinned enough to pass as a lady in certain portions of the book. She strikes up a romance with a white English butler and I enjoyed reading her observations of their relationship - how the dynamic is different in New York City versus England, how he does not totally understand the stigma when he wants to marry her, and how socially it is not totally acceptable that they be together but she loves him too much to really care what other people think as long as neither loses their job.

Poor Cora thought married life would be more warm and light-hearted than it is for her in England - but it is fun to watch dynamics shift for her over the course of the text! I mean, duh GF you are in England. Things are a bit stiff sometimes even if you are loaded with $$ and gorgeous. Let it go. She thankfully tries to modernize her home since he father gave her a huge trust that only she has access to - winning!! Of course, the hubby kind-of resents that but it is fun to read about her missions - indoor plumbing, for example, was a big deal to him. Also her swimming in cold water while pregnant.

I would definitely recommend it for a beach read or any sort of vacation, really. Fun and something mindless - but I did not necessarily feel like I lost any time reading it as it was a fun, short-term amusement.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Here I Am!

So I know it has been a long time. I am sorry for disappearing on you guys. Here has been my mission as of late - get a permanent job with benefits. Not as simple as you would think when I have a five-year plan I want, and need, to stick to!

...Obviously, due to the economy this mission has taken a good bit longer than I had planned. BUT, I get new leads every week and I never fail to send out at least 20 applications a week when I am at my very best. There is only so much I can do when I am still working at my alma mater part-time during normal business hours. That has been my main priority.

That being said, it has been quite a summer for me. My 26th birthday, a couple concerts, the 4th of July (my Parents Anniversary; see them below on the QE2 returning from their European honeymoon in 1979!), visiting one of my GFs in DC for a long weekend (see me at too), a couple beach vacays, and this Sunday the Fabergé exhibit at the VMFA.

I have been going through my magazine backlog and have prepared a lot of fun Fall 2011 stories. Lots of great trends I hope to point out to you all.

I think every now and then a GOOD solid blog break is helpful. Otherwise an uninspired person just sounds so redundant! I am happy that I am inspired once again!

In the meantime, lets all act like our favorite Duchess: