Bellflowers for a Fairytale Garden

7/03/2018

Why are bellflowers so captivating?

Perhaps their delicate beauty and ability to be found in the most unexpected places has led to their starring role in folklore. Let’s not forget their striking blue color, such an uncommon hue in the garden. Or the fact that many varieties are edible and pretty easy to grow. What’s not to like?

Bellflowers are the common name for campanulas, which is Latin for little bell. Their lovely bell shaped flowers are most commonly blue, but can also be found in purple, pink, and white. Many of the common names of bellflower varieties point to their importance in folklore: Fairy Thimbles and Harebells.


Fairies

The harebell is one bellflower (Campanula rotundifolia) with ties to fairy lore in Scotland, Ireland, England. It’s known as the bluebell of Scotland. This wildflower is found in woods and meadows and has an airy appearance with blue flowers on delicate stems. They are symbolic of constant love in Scotland but grief in other parts of Britain (perhaps because they were planted near graves).

They are also known as fairy thimbles. Legend has it that the bells would chime to bring fairies out to play. Beware the wrath of the fairies to anyone who disturbed these flowers! Cicely Mary Baker describes them in her 1923 book, The Complete Book of the Flower Fairies: “They tinkle while the fairies play/With song and dance the whole night long/Till daybreak wakens, cold and gray, And elfin music fades away.”

The bellflower’s music comes up in many poems. The delicate swaying of the bellflowers in the wind is also a common theme, among famous and unknown poets alike. Here's a stanza from an 1835 poem, "The Blue Hare-Bell": "The source of that whispering strain I'll tell;/For I've listened oft/To the music faint of the Blue Hare-bell,/In the gloaming soft;/'Tis the gay fairy folk of the peal who ring,/At even-time for their banqueting." It was written by Louisa Anne Twamley,  “A young lady, who, at the age of twenty, is a Poet, a Painter, and her own Engraver.” (p. 189, Flora and Tahlia). 

 ‘‘Flora batava’’ by Jan Kops and others, 1822

Witches

The name of harebell comes from old superstitions about witches turning into hares and hiding among the meadow flowers. They are also known as witch’s thimbles, witch bells, the cuckoo’s shoe, old man’s bell, and dead men’s bells. The old man meant the devil. Some folklore has the witches using the juice of the flower in a spell that turned them into hares. It was very bad luck indeed to have a hare cross your path. 

In an alternative belief, the flower juice made witches fly. Even with these sinister connotations, tradition has it that dreaming of harebells meant a true love. At least one variation simply links the name to the hares ringing the flowers to let other hares know of their whereabouts.

File source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rapunzel_omslag.gif
Katalin Szegedi, 2009

Rapunzel

Another variety of bellflower is at the heart of the Rapunzel story. Rampion (Campanula rapunculus) is a biennial found in Eurasia and North Africa with edible roots and leaves. The rampion is the garden plant that Rapunzel’s parents keep stealing from the witch. The Brother’s Grimm name of Rapunzel came from the Latin name for rampion, rapunculus, which means little turnip. 

According to Mrs. M. Grieve, writing in A Modern Herbal (1931), rampion was a popular garden vegetable in Germany, Italy, and France, and sometimes in England. Both the roots and leaves were eaten. It is a very old garden staple, dating at least from the time of Shakespeare. Shakespeare uses the plant in some of Falstaff’s slang. 

Italian folklore claims that rampion can make children peevish. An Italian folktale from Calabria also features a rampion. After pulling it out, a girl discovers a staircase in its hole that leads to an underground adventure with the fairies.

Johann Georg Sturm, 1796



Have you thought of adding bellflowers to the story you are telling with your garden? They do not like very wet conditions, but they thrive in well-drained soil of any pH in both temperate and subtropical areas. Some popular varieties are the Peach Leaved Bellflower (Campanula persicifolia) and Canterbury Bells (Campanula medium).

How I Stay Productive When I Want to Goof Off

6/06/2018
procrastination is my friend
Procrastination is My Friend

I admit it, I am a very good procrastinator. This trait follows me wherever I go. I’m more than ready to put chores off until tomorrow.  One memory stands out from early childhood. My father said to me “you are a procrastinator!” I think it made an impression because it wasn’t a normal word for a 4-year-old to hear. I did take it to heart. I’ve come up with some great ways to actually use my procrastination to be productive. It sounds funny but it works. Try and see for yourself. 


the substitution
1) The Substitution

This is my very favorite method. It works like a charm. I procrastinate on one task by doing another. This keeps me very productive and allows me to put things off at the same time. It might sound strange but it really works! I have no shortage of tasks in running my own business, so this method fits my work beautifully. For example, I can procrastinate and not make a new listing for my online store by making a new piece of jewelry. I can put off writing a blog post by making a new listing. The possibilities are endless.
the list
2) The List

I am a list-making fiend, but the list must be messy and unstructured. I suspect some procrastination arises from the stress of thinking that the day is too short for all the things that need to get done. Just the act of making the list reduces that stress for me, and I usually find myself ready to tackle a task afterward. I also love making lists on scraps of paper, post-it notes, and spiral bound notebooks.  I do not like using nice templates and pre-formatted lists (such as the daily to-do list with neat columns for dividing your life into slots for “exercise,” “errands,” “work,” “play” etc.). Just give me a blank sheet to fill in and I’m good to go. I’ll frequently come up with amazing ideas for completely unrelated things while making my messy lists. I'll take inspiration wherever it comes from.
the reward
3) The Reward
I reward myself before the work is done. If I have a very busy day ahead and I’m not sure how everything will get done, sometimes I take a deliberate break before tackling the tasks. This break must have a clear beginning and end time and it has to be something that will do you good. Some of my favorite breaks are taking a short walk or tending to the garden. If you time things just right, the 15 – 20 minutes you take off won’t be enough to keep you from getting your work done. In fact, you should feel so much better after playing hooky that you are incredibly productive when you get back to work. 
don't argue with Plato
Don't Argue with Plato

Substituting one task for another, making a list, and rewarding myself before the job help me stay focused and productive. 




Lilacs in June

5/30/2018

Common Lilac. W. Curtis St. George: Crescent Feb. 1. 1792. Published in Curtis Botanical Magazine. Website by National Agricultural Library, ARS, USDA

We enjoy the bloom and scent of lilac in our yard, but the flowers usually appear in early to mid-June.  How does one garden at an arid 7220 feet? Long ago, I gave up picture-perfect, manicured plants in this harsh environment of red rocky dirt, drying winds, and minuscule amounts of precipitation. I let go of the struggle and discovered the joy of working with the elements present in my environment.


Wildflowers in the Snowy Range, Medicine Bow National Forest

I value the rugged flowers, shrubs, and trees that do well with minimal effort on my part. If a new plant introduces itself, I allow it to make a home in the garden. Above all, my Wyoming garden hones the skill of acute observation.

Happy hollyhocks and bachelor's buttons in my garden.

Where does the grass grow? In the shade of the trees, because the sun is too harsh in unprotected spaces. Instead of focusing on grass, I focus on the trees, and baby them with precious watering regimens. The grass will be less of a struggle and water-hog after the trees take root.

Magnificent lilac putting on a show.

Look out to the prairie – does it seem barren? Look down, and one gains a different perspective. A lovely myriad of miniature wildflowers vies for your attention. The detail of petals and leaves in purple, blue, yellow, and green will make you catch your breath in delight. Look up. Dazzling azure skies and limitless horizons await you. Just remember to wear a hat and sunscreen. Here are some helpful resources if you find yourself in a similar situation.


Treasure or Trash? A Quick Guide to Vintage Brooches

4/11/2018

Have you ever wondered about a vintage brooch that caught your eye at a garage sale or thrift shop? Or a piece in a family collection? Collecting costume jewelry lets you own a piece of the past and wear it, too. You can express your style through your collection and learn about history at the same time. 
Brooches and pins are great for the beginner collector because they provide clues about their origin that are easy to spot. Brooches from the 1950s to the 1980s are also fairly common and easy to find and come in a wide variety to satisfy any taste. You can practice your observational skills on these small treasures of the jewelry world before branching out into bracelets or necklaces.
I will go over three quick tests that can give you enough information to decide if a piece is worth more investigation. The easiest clues are located on the back of the brooch. Let’s take a look at what is right in front of our noses. Use this guide on the catch, hinge, and mark anytime you are curious about a new piece.
The Catch
For the purposes of quick and preliminary identification, check out the clasp. If the pin exceeds the length of the brooch and goes beyond the catch, so that the pointy bit sticks out along the edge, you most likely can date your piece to the turn of the 20th century or earlier. 
A simple “C” catch to hold the pin in place is the earliest type used, although some newer pieces also use it. The trombone catch was an early version of a safety clasp seen mostly in European jewelry from the late 1800s until the 1940s, with some in use after that period. In this type, the pin fits into a long tube. 
A catch with a safety mechanism that rolls over the pin to hold it in place has been in use since the 1920s, with some early versions dating to the 1890s – 1910s, but became very common from the middle of the 20th century to the present. Occasionally, you will find very old pieces with a newer clasp that was added on later. This can usually be seen by the small metal pads holding the newer clasp in place. 
The Hinge
A sign of age can be found in the hinge you encounter. From the 1850s – 1910s, tube hinges were common. These had three hollow tubes fitted together with a piece of metal that fit through all three to hold the pin in place. Pieces from the 1890s – 1910s could also have a smaller hinge with more rounded edges. These were much easier to make than the tube hinge and as such quickly became popular. 
The 1920s saw the machine made ball style hinge that has remained popular till today. A gluable bar pin, with one long bottom piece with both clasp and hinge attached to it, indicates a less expensive piece of jewelry than a clasp that is connected to the back by the hinge on one end and the catch on the other. Clasps are very important in dating jewelry!
The piece below has a pin extending beyond the edge, a "C" catch, and a more rounded hinge than a T hinge. It probably dates to the period 1890s - 1910s.

The Mark
Once you begin looking into the history of jewelry, you’ll discover many popular designers, like Trifari, Coro, and Hattie Carnegie. You’ll also find designers with smaller lines, but still collectible with well-defined styles, like Bergere, Judy Lee, and Alice Caviness. Many of these designers used specific marks on the backs of their pieces, and some changed their marks over time, giving the collector a nifty way to date pieces. 
If you find any marking on the back of a piece, it’s worth taking a closer look. It could be a maker’s mark or a mark for the type of precious metal used in the piece. However, unsigned pieces are also collected, so don’t discount a piece that catches your eye just because it doesn’t have a maker’s mark. A mark just means the piece might be worth taking home and investigating further. 
Trifari and Coro were very popular companies from the 1930s – 1960s. They both predate this period and continued afterwards. The Coro jewelry company was founded in 1901 and lasted until 1979. It trademarked its name in 1939. At this point, they marked their pieces with various renditions of Coro. They introduced some higher end lines over the years with different names, like Corocraft and Vendome. Pieces marked Coro Duette were a type of convertible brooch patented in 1930, which had two smaller brooches artistically attached to a larger one, allowing wear as one piece or three. 
The Trifari Company was in existence from the 1910s to the 1990s and used a variety of marks over the years. A mark of Trifari with a crown over the T was quite common from the end of the 1930s – 1960s. The company was renowned for the level of craftsmanship they brought to costume jewelry. 
Hattie Carnegie was a clothing designer whose jewelry line began as an addition to wear with her clothes. Her official jewelry line was in existence from 1939 – 1979. Her jewelry could be marked with HC, Carnegie, or Hattie Carnegie. Her earliest pieces were unmarked. Any mark is worth further investigation, if for no other reason than to learn more about the history of a piece. Remember, some highly collectible lines were not marked at all.
The brooch on the top shows Trifari with a Crown over the T and a copyright symbol. The brooch on the bottom reads Coro on the left hand side, under the catch.

The catch, hinge, and mark checklist will help you decide whether you’ve found a brooch that will warrant more research. Each small clue can add to your knowledge of a piece. What if you find a brooch with a glued on clasp and no markings, but you are drawn to it due to its design or the visible quality of its construction? Enjoy it! 
The beauty of collecting is how personal it can be. Your observational powers will grow as you examine more pieces and do more research. A lesser known or more recent piece might just need time to become more collectible. Even if it is not worth a lot, if it adds to your collection and brings you joy, it’s worth keeping.



A Beginner's Guide to Vintage Costume Jewelry Research

3/14/2018


Do you have an old piece of costume jewelry lying about? Perhaps it was your grandmother’s? Or maybe you found something special at a thrift store and would like to know more about it. Have you ever wished you could pick the brain of a longtime vintage jewelry dealer about a piece’s history?






It turns out that many dealers have generously shared their knowledge with the general public. Take a look at these encyclopedic sites. They are a great starting point when researching a mystery piece of jewelry. You might just find enough information here to identify your jewelry.
  • Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry is owned by Jane Haley Clark and based in Albuquerque, NM. You will find a large library of vintage jewelry information on this site. This is the place to start if you want to identify a mark, learn about a designer, or look up an old ad or catalog.
  • Illusion Jewels is a comprehensive site covering vintage jewelry designers, ads, and catalogs. They also have a lot of information on maker’s marks. It is the creation of Dotty Stringfield, owner of Illusion Jewels, and contributor Pat Seal.
  • Elizabeth M. Rowlands, who owns Emerald City Vintage Costume Jewelry, put together a wonderful resource. It includes a collection of vintage jewelry ads to get a feel for different eras and perhaps spot a piece you own. She also has a glossary of jewelry terms and a list of patents with pictures for identification.





Perhaps you have diligently scoured these sites yet questions remain about where your piece is from and who made it. Time to hit the books! Turn to the historians, researchers, collectors, and dealers who have written enough books to fill a specialized library on vintage costume jewelry identification. Here are a few to get you started.
  • Warman’s Costume Jewelry Identification and Price Guide by Pamela Y. Wiggins with photography by Jay B. Siegel (2014). Pamela Wiggins is a jewelry appraiser and dealer who has written extensively about vintage costume jewelry.
  • Inside the Jewelry Box: A Collector’s Guide to Costume Jewelry by Ann Mitchell Pitman (2004). Ann Mitchell Pitman based this book on a news column called “Inside the Jewelry Box” that she began in 1997 for antiques publications. She has spent more than 30 years collecting and writing about vintage jewelry.
  • Answers to Questions About Old Jewelry 1840 – 1950 by C. Jeanenne Bell, G.G. (5th edition, 1999). Jeanenne Bell is a well-known jewelry appraiser and dealer. You may have seen her on Antiques Roadshow! She has a knack for making specialized knowledge accessible to a general audience.

I hope this list helps you as you search for the story behind your jewels. A wealth of information is out there for you, thanks to the experts who have taken the time to create amazing resources for collectors. 

How to Size a Beaded Bracelet

2/07/2018


Bracelets are so easy to wear and add a little extra flourish to your day as well as your outfit. But have you ever had the experience of buying a bracelet based on a standard length for the "average" human and then not having it fit how you'd like, even though it's the same length as other bracelets you own? The online world gives you so many possibilities to add bracelets to your collection that you'd never find anywhere else, yet how do you ensure that the bracelet you order online fits?

Just like knowing precise measurements for clothing can go a long way towards deciphering different manufacturer's sizes (where the universal size 8, or 6, or 14 just exists in our imagination), using your personal wrist measurement, and then following up with some detective work if necessary with the store, will help you get the perfect bracelet fit every time.




The length of a bracelet or generic wrist size will serve you well if you are interested in a cuff, bangle, stretch beaded, or chain bracelet. The length will not help at all if you want a collection of beaded bracelets that all have beads of different sizes. Have you ever been tempted by a pretty beaded bracelet but discover that its length of 7 inches is either too big or too small for your wrist of 7 inches? How could this happen?





Although “standard” beaded bracelet sizing is usually about 7 inches in length, this has nothing to do with how the bracelet will fit. Unlike the uniform size of a bangle or cuff, a beaded bracelet will change fit based on its bead size. Big beads simply take up more space around the wrist. The inner circumference of a beaded bracelet is the most important measurement for you to know.



What is the best way to size a bracelet that you can’t try on in person? Measure around your wrist with a tape measure at the spot you’d like the bracelet to sit. Think about how you like to wear bracelets – fairly snug or with a bit of wiggle room? Measure accordingly. 

When you find a bracelet that you are interested in, look for information listing either the inner circumference of the bracelet or the size of the wrist that will fit the bracelet, not the length. The inner circumference of a beaded bracelet is much more important than the length in getting a perfect fit. It needs to match the measurement of your wrist. When in doubt, ask the seller!



Remember, two beaded bracelets with the same length will not fit all “universally sized” wrists of 7 inches (let alone all of us with individually sized wrists from petite to large). A 7.5 inch large bead bracelet will have a smaller inner circumference than a 7.5 inch small bead bracelet. Only the circumference of the inside of the bracelet, or exact note of the wrist size suitable for that bracelet, will tell you what kind of fit you’ll get.  

Fall Sunlight and New Beginnings

11/30/2017
The sunlight seems to have an extra special richness in the fall, doesn't it? Nothing is better than a long walk through the autumn sunshine when it's just a little bit cool before the real cold sets in. We have had a particularly mild fall here, just perfect for long walks. Ten years ago, we moved to our first home in October, and now we have moved again in early November. When we first moved, our children were barely toddlers. Now we have a teenager.  

I thought I'd feel ambivalent when my children moved through the stages of childhood, as they grow so quickly. It's actually wonderful to see how they change and amazing to compare their pictures from just a few years ago to the present. I particularly love seeing them puzzle through problems, form their own opinions about life, and develop individual interests in subjects from art to astronomy. I think this new house will work well for the teenage years and beyond.  

Cordie the beagle

The change of seasons and of houses brings bittersweet memories. I'm unpacking old photos of loved ones no longer with us. The memories of my lost family members grow stronger every year, not weaker. The love between us prevails over the pain of losing them.
We had the honor of living with two rescue beagles at our old house. The photo above is of our dear pup who is no longer with us. She enjoyed playing in leaf piles as much as the kids did. Jack Jack the beagle is still here, which surprises us all. He has epilepsy, a heart murmur, a slipped disc, and practically no teeth left. Yet he keeps going and still enjoys rather long walks for an old dog. 

Colorado Wyoming Border

I hope Jack Jack enjoys our new house as much as we already are. Our dachshund-chihuahua mix, Marley, seems to be settling in nicely. He is quite excited about the new smells in the neighborhood. We've already discovered many promising walks nearby, including a greenbelt two blocks away. I hope your fall is filled with lots of fresh air and bright colors.
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