Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Dreams

I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and much happiness.

Christmas 2010
The meaning of Christmas is all about giving.  At this time of year, we are generous with giving both gifts and our time to our relatives and close friends. Many of us also remember to give to those in need so that they and their families can enjoy a special Holiday, too.  Friendship and unconditional love are among the greatest gifts we can give.

The true meaning of Christmas fills my heart at this time of year, but the child in me has hopes and dreams for the luxuries of life.

One of my hopes is for tickets to the Metropolitan Opera .

Verdi's Nabucco

I still dream of a diamond tennis bracelet from Tiffany's , a Schlumberger Lynn bracelet in 18k gold with diamonds.

I dream of adding beauty to every corner of my house with the help of excellent interior design as provided by my friend Scott Tjaden of Tjaden Interiors. Good interior design is about maintaining a level of the lifestyle we choose. Tjaden Interiors has an online program making it all possible through photographs and an online consultation where luxury and living well is only a click away, Tjaden Interiors Virtual Design Service .


I dream of an 18th century antique mirror from the exquisite Therien & Co. collections.  My friend Philip Bewley is based at their Therien & Co. San Francisco gallery. This pair of Spanish neoclassic gilt mirrors is from the fourth quarter of the 18th century, and is described as the oval plate within leaf tip and garrya husk carved frame with sunflower rosettes, surmounted by ribbon cresting.  The overall dimensions are 32” wide x 42½” high.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Christmas Lunch

It has become an annual tradition for a few of us to have a pre-Christmas lunch and then do a little shopping, marking the beginning of the Christmas season.


This corner in Toronto is where Avenue Road turns into Queen’s Park South of Bloor Street. Looking south, the Royal Ontario Museum is on the right and you can see the Ontario Legislative building in the distance.


We often go to the Holt Renfrew café. The menu never disappoints. Some of the menu choices are on this board.  If you go, you must try one of the tartines.


The Holt Renfrew Christmas window is all decorated and looking festive piled with the Holt Renfrew boxes we all love to receive.


The Hermès window is all done in orange for the men in our lives. I like the dark brown hat. Apparently, hats are back in fashion. One of these orange striped ties can make someone look somewhat flamboyant, but the look can also be toned down with a dark brown or navy blazer.

The Hermès door is the highlight of the day with its beautiful metal work. 

Monday, November 15, 2010


Derby, England ca. 1796-1805, colutea frutescens
The Gardiner Museum's permanent collection features a wall cabinet displaying a collection of pieces from a botanical dinner service made in Derby, England ca. 1796-1805. Each is painted with a different flower, and all the pieces are rimmed in a warm yellow. The hand-painted botanicals on these plates remind me of the Pierre-Joseph Redouté botanical watercolour illustrations of that time.

Derby, England ca. 1796-1805

Botanical illustration has been popular for over 200 years and has never gone out of fashion.

Flora Danica is an enduring Royal Copenhagen pattern first commissioned and produced in 1804 for the Danish king.  Today's Queen Margrethe II of Denmark still has the original dinner service in her possession and uses part of it on special occasions. Of the original 1,802 pieces, 1,530 still exist.

The Royal Copenhagen factory still produces the Flora Danica pattern.  A vintage Flora Botanica oval serving platter is pictured below.

Royal Copenhagen Flora Danica, digitalis purpurea
One of my favourite botanical patterns still being made is Spode's Stafford Flowers. The pieces are decorated with 22 carat gilding and raised gold spots in the border. A Spode Stafford Flowers covered vegetable dish is shown below.
Spode Stafford Flowers covered vegetable dish, iris & sphaerolobium

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Visit to the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art

One of my passions in life is to visit museums. Of course I like the large museums with their vast collections, but the small private museums are often real gems.


The Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art is a museum opened by George and Helen Gardiner to house their large collection of ancient American artifacts, Chinese porcelain and European pottery and porcelain.

George, a stockbroker, lawyer, art collector and philanthropist began collecting ceramics in 1976 to decorate his home. His wife, Helen shared his interest and their collection grew substantially. The collection has more than 3,000 historical and contemporary pieces and gives you an understanding of the development of the ceramic process, decoration and shape.

The Museum has become an important centre for ceramics in North America.

The soup tureen pictured above is from Meissen, Germany ca. 1761, part of the 975-piece service designed by Frederick the Great of Prussia and presented by him to Field Marshall Möllendorf for his services during the Seven Years' War. It is made from hard-paste porcelain with overglaze enamels and gilding.

The ewer and basin pictured below made at Sèvres, France in 1757, is soft-paste porcelain with overglaze enamels and gilding. Warm, scented water flowed from this elegant ewer into the basin formed of overlapping water lily pads.


Pictured below is a tureen from the Russian Imperial Service, Vienna Austria, DuPaquier factory ca. 1730-35, hard-paste porcelain with overglaze enamels and gilding. This is part of a magnificent table service given by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI as a diplomatic gift to Anna Ivanovna Czarina of Russia.


If you're coming to Toronto, the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art is worth a visit.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Museum Shop in Corning

I never go to a museum without visiting the gift shop because of the unique things museum shops invariably have for sale. On our recent trip to the Corning Museum of Glass, visiting the museum shop was a delight.
Chevrolet truck ready for delivery laden with huge glass pumpkins
When we were there the Hallowe’en Season had already arrived, the dark green Chevrolet truck was full of beautiful glass pumpkins. The dark green and the orange made it all look spectacular. In these crates and all over the gift shop, there were glass pumpkins of orange and other colours.
One of the many crates of pumpkins at the Museum Shop
You can buy Corning dinnerware and other kitchen glassware. Some beautiful glass accent pieces made by the artists at Corning are also on sale. The shop seems to be four in one and goes from beautiful high-end works of art in glass, to seasonal glass accents, to dinnerware, to small souvenir pieces. I could have taken an extra day visiting the shop alone.
My blue pumpkin made at Corning by artist, Glady West
I coudn't resist buying this lovely blue pumpkin at the Shop. It was made at Corning by glass artist Glady West who has worked with glass since 1982. I will incorporate this with my real live pumpkins on the dinner table on Hallowe'en.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Enjoying the Sheer Beauty of Glass

Stained glass window designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany in 1905, made of handmade coloured and opalescent sheet glass

On the Labour Day weekend we took a small trip to Corning in the Finger Lakes area of New York, and visited the Corning Museum of Glass.  Corning is an old town surrounded by rolling hills. The main street looks like it hasn’t changed since the early twentieth century.

From left: Silesian glass 18th C., Dresden and Saxony glass 18th C., and Bohemian glass 18th C.
I was impressed by the great collection of glass that the Museum houses and spent a whole day there. I wish I’d had time to go back for a second day. The collection goes back to early times and houses pieces all the way back to ancient Greece and Rome. Besides its vast collection, the museum gives live demonstrations on glass making and has excellent exhibits on the history and uses of glass.

English Victorian glass
American art glass
 If you go to Corning, it’s worth spending at least two full days at the glass museum.

Early twentieth century Lalique

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Early Holiday Shopping

A collection of unique treasures from ca. 1895 to 1950
One of my New Year’s resolutions was to avoid a mad rush during the 2010 Holiday season, and to start Christmas shopping early. September and October is when merchants have stocked up and are beginning to display their merchandise for the coming Season. At this time it is actually easier to find a good variety of the staple gifts such as sweaters, shirts, and gloves. The toy stores are not so jammed at this time allowing you to actually think when choosing that perfect gift for the delightful child on your list.

An evening bag that sparkles in the light, made of small steel beads, ca. 1920
Of course, for people on my list who like unique gifts, I always think of antique and vintage things, some of which might be found in my boutique. When buying an antique, always make sure it has been scrupulously cleaned, or you may clean it yourself as soon as you bring it home.

An English sterling silver evening bag/change purse, 1909
To avoid last minute gift wrapping, I always wrap gifts as soon as possible after I purchase them. An antique needs to be wrapped with extra care. If it is large, such as a piece of furniture, an attractive bow is all it needs. A small object can be wrapped in tissue paper and placed in an attractive paper gift bag tied with ribbon. Raffia tied around the handles of a brand new brown paper gift bag is especially appropriate. An antique can also be placed in a brand new box and wrapped with appropriate gift wrap. An antique or vintage gift should always be accompanied by a card or small note on parchment paper giving a full description of the object including the approximate year of origin, the place of origin, the maker, the material, and the pattern, if applicable. The addition of a history of past owner(s) is always welcome if it is available.

An English sterling silver 5 X 7 picture frame, 1954
Over the Holidays I like having favours for my guests on hand because we all become like children at that time of the year. Children’s favours are always easy to find. I will have small flashlights and tape measures for the men. I found these delightful pocket tissue packs for the women.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Wedding Rehearsal Dinner Reminiscences...a Week Later

Across St. John's Harbour--a Fjord, is the Easternmost Point of North America
My son and daughter-in-law were married last Saturday in the bride’s hometown of St. John’s, Newfoundland. My husband and I hosted the rehearsal dinner the night before at the Clovelly golf club in St. John’s. I had never been to Newfoundland before and needed to make all the plans from home in Toronto. Early on Friday, the day of the rehearsal, my husband, daughter, and I arrived at the club with pre-printed menus, name cards, memory runners for the two tables, and last minute instructions for the club. Our dinner was scheduled to be held in the club’s regular restaurant, but to our pleasant surprise, the events people offered us the members’ lounge exclusively for our party.


The members’ lounge is a large square masculine style room with dark furniture and paneling. There is a bar in one corner, and a grouping of wing chairs in another corner bracketed by large bay windows. Another seating area is in front of a rustic fireplace.


After the rehearsal at the church, all of us arrived at the club, the bridal couple, their ten attendants, and the bridal couple’s parents. Because it was a little cool outside, the fire was already burning in the fireplace making the room warm and inviting. Two tables were set with dark brown table cloths, the memory runners, votive candles, and flowers in long bud vases. We had a chance to bond as we lingered near the fireplace over drinks and appetizers before sitting down to dinner. My son made a gracious speech thanking everyone for their help. He and his fiancée then distributed their gifts to everyone in the bridal party. Excitement reigned and stayed with us in anticipation of the following day’s festivities.


The two memory runners I mentioned earlier were a surprise for the bride and proved a great success. The bride and her two sisters were thrilled; I received huge hugs from all. A twitter friend in San Francisco, Linda J. Marshall (@LindaJMarshall), designed and custom made them, replicating the design on the rehearsal dinner invitations. To make them especially meaningful, she added the first names of each member of the bridal party to the runners. She suggested the couple would use them each year on their anniversary. Think of the stories they will tell their children in years to come.


The long bud vases with yellow daisy-like flowers were not exactly what I had ordered from the florist, but we were able to group them in an attractive way on the tables. Later in the evening, I was glad the flowers worked out as they did. The bud vases were attractive, quite heavy and square in circumference. There were enough of them to give each of the ladies attending a bud vase filled with yellow daisies to take home.

The Maid-of-Honour's Keepsakes
In some future posts: more wedding photos.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Pressed glass basket
Glass has been produced since ancient times. Glass is made from silica, lime, and soda. Lime is the stabilizer and soda serves to lower the temperature when added to the silica.

Royal Brierley candlesticks
The way glass objects are made can be divided into four major groups: blown, mould-blown, pressed, and moulded glass. Blown glass is the traditional method where a glass blower dipped a long hollow pipe into molten glass and picked up a small glob on the end and blew into it to adjust to the correct size. The product was finishing by rolling it over a slab of marble or metal. The mould-blown method is done by blowing the glass into a mould and forcing it against the sides of the mould. The pressed glass method is forcing molten glass into moulds without using blowing power. Pressed glass was first made in 1827. Pressed glass pieces always have smooth interiors and patterned exteriors. Moulded glass objects are made in the same way as pressed glass, except that larger moulds were used.

Orrefors decanter
As I search for additions to my boutique inventory, I generally come across glass objects that originated in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Most 19th Century glass objects that have survived until today show they are lovingly made and so exquisite that they are hard to resist. During the 19th and 20th centuries, glass factories produced large quantities of glass objects. Some of the beautiful glass objects produced since the 1920s are vintage and not yet antiques. Many of them are works of art highly prized today and are destined to become antiques of the future.

Victorian enameled decanters ca. 1880
Glass is coloured through the addition of oxides to the molten glass. The other ways glass is decorated are primarily by cut, etched, engraved, painted, and stenciled decoration.

Cranberry glass ca. 1875
Highly prized is cranberry glass is named for its colour. Cranberry glass was blown, or mould-blown. The colour was produced by adding powdered gold to molten amber glass and reheated. Less expensive glass made by adding copper instead of gold can be identified by a bluish tinge in the colour of the glass. The set of glasses above are antique cranberry glass, true to the cranberry colour.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Picnic on the Beach

Finds: Mid-Century Orrefors Romeo & Juliet Vase. Mid-Century Birks Regency Silverplate Candlesticks.

At this time of year, I like going to sales in the country hoping to find choice pieces for my boutique inventory. Hunting for antique and vintage treasures is what I enjoy most in what I do.


My husband likes to come along if the sale is on a weekend so that we can take some of the time to explore the area. On a recent trip, we decided to take a small picnic lunch. It is fairly easy to find a spot for a picnic in one of Ontario’s provincial parks or conservation areas. At home we normally eat from good china, but having a meal in a natural outdoor setting with few implements seems to add to the enjoyment of being on a picnic.

Finds: Spode Copeland Hand-Decorated Plates, ca. 1940.  Vintage Wedgwood Creamware. 
Find: Victorian Enameled Glass Decanter, ca. 1880
We found a sandy beach on the shores of Lake Ontario only one and a half hours from Toronto. There's an island on the left in the photo above, but you can’t see all the way to Rochester, New York on the other side of this huge lake. We brought my movers’ quilt that is comfortable to sit on and seems impenetrable to any ants lurking nearby. Lunch was thinly sliced left-over New York steak on thin whole-grain rye, limeade, and take-out cut up watermelon for dessert.


Friday, July 16, 2010

A Day in Stratford

Stratford ON,Norbridge Antiques,Stratford Festival

The summertime is an ideal time to take day trips and explore the local villages and towns in the surrounding area. Ontario is full of picturesque well-groomed farms, villages and towns. Most of them are low-key, unpretentious and charming.

Stratford Festival,Norbridge Antiques

Recently I visited Stratford with my husband and our daughter. Stratford is the home of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. The Festival has a world class production company and brings Shakespearean plays alive on stage every summer. Christopher Plummer who is now over 80 has regularly starred in many of their productions and is appearing there again this summer in “The Tempest”. The Stratford Shakespeare Festival also puts on other plays and musicals. Our choice was the musical “Evita” which turned out to be an excellent production.

Stratford Festival,Avon River,Norbridge Antiques

Only two hours from Toronto, Stratford is a Victorian town with a charming old square, and lots of quaint shops and restaurants. The parkland on the Avon River banks within the town are dotted with benches and picnic tables which make you want to stay awhile and enjoy the swans, ducks and small boats.

Stratford ON,Straford Festival,Norbridge Antiques

Although there are plenty of restaurants and cafés in town, the Avon River looked like the ideal place for a picnic the day we were there. I like picnics but I hate eating at a bare rough picnic table. For that reason, the movers’ quilt or industrial quilt is an ideal tablecloth. It is thick and easy to wash. For all of you who might be interested, our lunch consisted of thinly sliced leftover pot roast on whole wheat hamburger buns, cherry tomatoes on the vine, small elegant cookies from a Toronto bakery, carbonated not-too-sweet pink lemonade from France, and apricots that I am sure were grown in Georgia.

Stratford Festival,Norbridge Antiques,Avon River

If you go, there is free parking almost everywhere, and nothing is too far away. Be sure to visit the antique shops in town and in the nearby hamlet of Shakespeare. The Scottish shop on the main shopping street is also worth a visit.