Thursday, January 31, 2008

Dishes by the Set

This last short post finishes the four part series of my tour called A Matter of Taste: Ceramics and Culinary Connections at the Museum of Anthropology at UBC.

By the period of this French dinner service, around 1770, while still made of tin-glazed earthenware, plates had begun to have more variety in shape and so now there were soup plates and matching serving platters, and gravy boats. As you can see the edges were also a bit more varied. The floral motif of decoration also reflects the idea that flowers were used in cooking much more so then than we do today. Marigolds, violets, calendulas, roses and lavender for example were often included in food preparation in earlier times.

I assume these are soup plates although I don't remember the docent
saying this and I didn't write it down.

There were many dinner plates in this set and in the background you can see a beautiful tapestry setting off the whole display

This tapestry was commissioned from a local Vancouver artist, Ruth Jones
in 1990 to complement this dinner service in the display
Ruth Jones is an accomplished tapestry artist who works in the Aubusson tradition and in fact she completed the graduate program in Tapestry Design and Production from the National School for Decorative Arts in Aubusson, France.

The final part of the tour included a taste of mead and some cookies made with flowers. Mead is still made by Middle Mountain Mead nearby on Hornby Island. This is from their website which is very interesting if you would like to explore there.
Mead is wine made from honey and water, often flavoured with herbs, fruits, spices and other botanical elements.

Middle Mountain Mead is an artisan honey winery combining the best of ancient and modern techniques to create small lots of premium handcrafted mead. As well as being a superb wine, mead has been central to rituals of celebration and remembrance down through the ages.
I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into the world of ceramics and their food connection. If you missed the earlier posts in the series click for one, or for two and finally for three.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Plates and Tankards

Continuing my report on A Matter of Taste: Ceramics and Culinary Connections next we turned to the ordinary plate, a relatively recent object for an individual. Initially people helped themselves from the communal dishes and their portion was held on a trencher, actually a slice of bread which soaked up the juices and was consumed.

Loaves of bread were round and cut into three layers horizontally. The poorer people were given the bottom part, more often burned than not because of the variability of the ovens, the workers the middle layer and finally the top part or the "upper crust" went to the richer or more important people.

Then the trencher became wooden and needless to say since the hygiene of the day left a lot to be desired they often gave rise to the disease known as trench mouth, or acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis. Now I have heard that this term for the disease arose during the First World War, but this was what the docent told us. An expression that I use often is trencherman for someone who has a very hearty appetite and I once had to explain the word to an Italian including the derivation, in Italian. I wonder if he ever dropped it casually into conversation.

Eventually everyone had their own tin-glazed earthenware plate, sometimes with the name and year of manufacture as you can see above. These examples above are of Haban Faience, made by the Anabaptists, a group of radical religious dissenters which arose in Europe in the the sixteenth century. Their decoration was quite simple in style and usually reflected nature.

Collection of Tankards from Slovakia around 1670

These very nice tankards were part of the display in the exhibit, with the examples being both regular drinking drinking vessels along with some very large ones which were for decorative purposes only. So what did you drink with meals in those days? Well it depended where you lived. In Britain and the Germanic countries it tended to be ale or hard cider or mead, although mead, which is made from honey, was replaced by ale as honey became more expensive. In the Latin countries wine was more usual, while perry or pear cider was very common in Britain and France. The lids were separate and added if you could afford them. They were designed to keep out the flies and other insects. In certain parts of Germany laws were passed requiring these tankards to be covered. For those who could not afford the extra expense of a lid, a slice of well toasted bread was used as a cover and so the expression to "toast" someone or something arose.

A closer look at this rather large earthenware tankard with
its very fine pewter lid

Now I'd like to share a little about terminology used for this tin-glazed earthenware. The following three words were bandied about freely on this tour.

The first is faience and according to Wikipedia its derivation is as follows:
The name faience is simply the French name for Faenza, in the Romagna region near Ravenna, Italy, where a painted majolica ware on a clean, opaque pure-white ground, was produced for export as early as the fifteenth century.
Secondly we have majolica:
Majolica (pronounced and also spelled "maiolica") is a garbled version of "Maiorica", for the island of Majorca which was a transshipping point for refined tin-glazed earthenwares shipped to Italy from the kingdom of Aragon, in Spain at the close of the Middle Ages.
The third term was Delftware or English Delftware as noted before:
The first northerners to imitate the tin-glazed earthenwares being imported from Italy were the Dutch. Delftware is a kind of faience, made at potteries round Delft in Holland, characteristically decorated in blue on white, in imitation of the blue and white porcelain that was imported from China in the early sixteenth century, but it quickly developed its own recognisably Dutch décor.
To end on a personal note, I have visited Faenza on more than one occasion, especially to visit the Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche or International Museum of Ceramics, a splendid museum which houses the greatest collection of ceramics in the world, with examples from classical times to pieces designed by Picasso, Chagall and Matisse.

In the time honoured tradition, the craftsmen of Faenza still practise the fine art of ceramics and there are more than sixty workshops still producing today and although expensive you can buy these beautiful pieces there in many stores. Yes, of course I did buy some on my visits and here you see a few examples of JMB's small collection of Faenza ceramics. Yes, I do use all of them.

The patterns are garofono or carnation for the blue and red items on the right, fiorazzo for the beige platter and bowls and cartoccio for the blue covered dish in the centre front.

There is one more post to round out this series. Just a short one really for this one somehow became quite lengthy.

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Matter of Taste: Ceramics and Culinary Connections

Assorted Apothecary jars in the collection

As I said in a recent post I went on this new tour, A Matter of Taste: Ceramics and Culinary Connections at the Koerner Ceramic Gallery at the Museum of Anthropology.

A recent addition to the tours at the Museum, it was led by a docent, Arlee and first of all she talked about Walter C. Koerner, his connection as a benefactor to the university and the museum. I was familiar with the late Mr Koerner as I saw him on occasion over the years at various university functions and for the last 18 years of my pharmacy career I went to work in the Koerner Pavilion, which was the Acute Care building of the hospital at the University.

The ceramics housed at the museum were Mr Koerner's personal collections, which started when he was a young boy in his native land, formerly Moravia but later part of Czechoslovakia. and there are over 600 pieces covering the period from 1500 to 1900. It was decided that instead of just talking about the bald facts known of the objects this tour should highlight the social history of some of the items, namely those related to food. So Arlee began to talk about food habits and how they reflect the times and fit with the cultural context. In no way was this talk exhaustive and I report it just as it occurred.

In the Middle Ages and beyond, food was medicine and medicine was food. Medical practice often consisted of trying to balance in the body, often by means of diet, the four humours which are shown in the chart below from this article.

Humour Season Element Organ Qualities Ancient name Modern MBTI Ancient characteristics
Blood spring air liver warm & moist sanguine artisan SP courageous, hopeful, amorous
Yellow bile summer fire gall bladder warm & dry choleric guardian SJ easily angered, bad tempered
Black bile autumn earth spleen cold & dry melancholic rational NT despondent, sleepless, irritable
Phlegm winter water brain/lungs cold & moist phlegmatic idealist NF calm, unemotional

So the first ceramics we looked at were apothecary jars of different types. All were made of tin-glazed earthenware and depending where they originated they were called faience, majolica or deftware. Some of the jars were actually for liquids and had spouts for pouring while others were for dry ingredients or salves. Some had the names of the contents incorporated into the design of the glaze. Usually the glaze was white to duplicate china which was very rare and expensive and often the decoration had an Eastern flavour. As an aside, apothecary jars are still produced today as decorative accessories for pharmacies and homes. Most of the ones I have seen in pharmacies over my career were made of glass which of course does not protect the contents from light so these earthenware ones were superior in that aspect.

A rather elaborate salt dish

There were several attractive salt dishes or salt cellars in the collection and this one was quite charming. Because salt was so expensive the actual container part for the salt is small but the overall dish is large and ornate to represent the importance of salt. Because salt was obtained from the sea as well as mines the decorative images on the cellar were often images or fish or sea gods.

During the Middle Ages when salt was a valuable commodity, salt would be kept on the table in elaborate metal or glass dishes as a status symbol.

Last year I read an interesting 400 plus page book called Salt: a world history, by Mark Kurlansky which certainly told me more than I ever wanted to know on this topic. Unfortunately it was a bit tedious at times but I still enjoyed it on the whole. I think most people know that the word salary is derived from the days when people were paid for work in salt and of course to sit above or below the salt designated one's importance to the host. These two facts were the only two related on this tour.

A smaller but more decorated salt dish

Next time we'll look at a few tankards. As I said snippets of fact were dropped rather randomly on this tour and I apologize for the fact that they are a bit disorganized and not at all comprehensive. They did provide a suggested reading list both on ceramics and food related topics and there is always google.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Saturday Photo Hunt --- Old Fashioned


I grew up in the days when women were not properly dressed unless they wore hats and gloves and matching shoes and handbags. All through my twenties until sometime in my early thirties I always wore a hat. Then came freedom from hats and "hat hair".

There has been a resurgence in the wearing of hats by some women, including me, and you saw one of my current hats in the RED Saturday Photo Hunt.

Despite moving to two different countries in the meantime, I still have one hat from my youth in Australia, all those many years ago. I bought it for the wedding of a university friend who married the year we graduated, in 1957. So fifty years old, and rather OLD FASHIONED, but still quite lovely, may I present this hat which I do wear very occasionally.

I need an invite to a garden party tea. Don't you love
the full-blown roses?

I could not decide which angle was better, so you have both.

Two OLD FASHIONED ladies, with JMB on the right, never without a hat
in those days, the Fifties


Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Posset Pot

Today I went with the Art Appreciation Group of the Faculty Women's Group to the Museum of Anthropology to take part in a new guided tour the museum is offering called A Matter of Taste: Ceramics and Culinary Connections.

One of the great benefactors of both the University of British Columbia and the museum itself was Walter C. Koerner and housed in the museum in its own gallery is Koerner's personal collection of European ceramics which is a world-class collection of over 600 pieces made between 1500 and 1900.

I will tell you more about this different tour at a later date but today I am just going to give you a teaser of what you will see there.

A posset pot of English Delftware, which is tin-glazed
earthenware, made around 1660

A posset was a medicinal drink composed of hot milk, curdled with liquor and other ingredients, often spices. It also had a meringue-like froth on the top. It was used as a remedy for colds or other minor maladies. Often the patient was lying in bed and the mixture was partially spooned out and partially sucked from the spout. The word posset became a verb which had the meaning of pampering someone or making them comfortable.

These pots were common wedding gifts and became family heirlooms. This particular pot is the size of a large teapot and the blue and white decoration imitates Chinese porcelain and shows the popularity of Eastern design at the time.

UPDATE in response to comments from here . Also I took the wording directly from the card with the object:

English delftware is tin-glazed pottery made in the British Isles between about 1550 and the late 1700s. The main centres of production were London, Bristol and Liverpool with smaller centres at Wincanton, Glasgow and Dublin.

English tin-glazed pottery was called "galleyware" and its makers "gallypotters" until the early 18th century; it was given the name delftware after the popular tin-glazed pottery from the Netherlands

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Short Book Club ---- The Tipping Point

I missed the last meeting of the Short Book Club, due to being in the infectious stage of a horrible cold and not wanting to pass it on I stayed home, so I had no input into the choice of book. It turned out to be The Tipping Point, which I had certainly recommended earlier on as a suitable book for the club.

I first became aware of Malcolm Gladwell when I read Blink which appealed to me greatly. Immediately I followed it with his earlier successful book, The Tipping Point. First published in 2000, somehow I had missed it and even then it was two years after I read it that it made it into the book club. So a very quick re-read was necessary before I was able to remember it enough to be able to discuss it.

Subtitled How Little Things can Make a big Difference, the title of the book comes from the study of epidemiology where the tipping point is reached when an infectious disease reaches the crucial point when it passes into the epidemic stage. Gladwell calls it a book about change and he proposes the idea that trends and changes in social behaviour and the acceptance of new products behave like social epidemics. Thus they have a tipping point which changes them from a small event into something which makes an enormous difference.

He says he got the idea for the book when he was a reporter covering the Aids epidemic and heard the expression for the first time. He asked himself, "What if everything has a Tipping Point?" So began his search for the Tipping Point in a social and business context and other non-medical areas.

During his research into various fields and industries and areas of study, he identified three key factors that influence whether something will "tip" into success or popularity and he discusses these at length, using specific examples where they have worked.

The first is the Law of the Few in which he proposes that only a small group of people, admittedly very specific people, are needed to champion something for it to tip. These he calls the Connectors, the Mavens and the Salesmen. Connectors are people with widespread ties to many others in different groups, Mavens are foremost gatherers of information and use it to help others while Salesmen are charismatic people who persuade and influence others in buying decisions and behaviour.

The second is the Stickiness Factor which is a more ephemeral concept to define. What makes something "stick" in the minds of the public and become an influence or a success when we are bombarded by so many choices in today's world? He uses children's television, Sesame Street in particular, for his in-depth analysis.

The third factor, according to Gladwell is the Power of Context. For the Tipping Point to be crossed the environment or the moment in time is crucial. One of the examples he uses to illustrate this point is the reduction in crime in New York city in which some small changes in the environment were able to "tip" into a major reduction in the crime rate.

He has many case studies in the book to illustrate his conclusions and I found it a very easy and interesting read. His study of the problem of teenage smoking is quite enlightening although I do not agree with his conclusion that it is a rather benign experimentation only.

In an afterword he considers the Internet and email as well as the use of the telephone. He suggests the overuse of these technologies produces a kind of "immunity". The same is true of advertising. Who watches the ads on TV or reads them in magazines? Once again people are turning to the Connectors, the Mavens and the Salesmen and so word of mouth is just as important as ever.

I don't know if this is a great book, however it certainly attained great popularity and I have to say that I found it very interesting myself. I think it is a worthwhile read and it provoked a very good discussion at the Short Book Club and I don't think you can ask for more than that, do you?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Dancing in the Street

When I talked about music in my life recently, I don't believe I spoke about the emotional response that music provokes in me. It's most likely because music seldom does inspire that kind of a feeling in me. What that statement says about me I'm not sure. Whether it is my upbringing in a world almost devoid of music or whether it's some lack of feeling in me personally, I cannot say. Of course it is not totally true for I have been moved to tears by music. Sometimes inexplicably.

I've spoken before about how Send in the Clowns brought tears to my eyes for many years for no reason whatsoever and there have been other times when music has affected me emotionally. In the seventies, when guitars and modern hymns became part of the Catholic Mass celebration I was always moved to tears by a hymn we sang with the combination of a heartbreaking melody and these words below.

Hear O Lord the sound of my call
Hear O Lord and have mercy
My soul is longing for the glory of you
O hear O Lord and answer me

Every night before I sleep
I pray my soul to take
Or else I pray that loneliness
Is gone when I awake.

Why do I no longer feel
Like I've a place to stay?
O take me where someone will care
So fear will go away.

In you Lord I place my cares
And all my troubles too
O grant, dear Lord, that some day soon
I'll live in peace with you.

No, I didn't really want to depart this earth any time soon, then or now, but this did draw an emotional response in me every time. A sad one.

But what about joy? Shouldn't music bring joy into people's lives? It has often brought me pleasure but joy? I think one of the first times I thought about music and joy was seeing a video on TV, years ago, of David Bowie and Mick Jagger singing Dancing in the Street. I knew who they both were but didn't really know much about the music of either of them. But in the performance of this song, which neither of them wrote, I found a really joyful musical experience.

Some months ago I bought a CD, Best of Bowie and put it onto my iPod. This has become one of my favourite CDs and I play it at least once a week at the gym. When Dancing in the Street comes on, I seem to pick up the pace for it is truly an exuberant song.

However not everyone is so enamoured with this performance as this quote from the Wikipedia entry shows.

Although a hit at the time of its release, the record (as well as the rushed video) is not particularly popular today among either Bowie or Jagger fans. Many Bowie, Jagger and rock fans in general often refer to this pairing as Ja-Bo (or JaBo) a derisive allusion to the saccharine media nick names for celebrity couples. The term Ja-Bo was first coined by the popular rock music discussion blog, Rock Town Hall who in 2007 named this video "Rock Crime of the Century".

Naturally you can find this on YouTube so I invite you to listen to this performance and tell me what you think. A joyful experience or Rock Crime of the Century?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Saturday Photo Hunt --- Important


I think that most photo hunters will say that their family is the most important thing in their lives, however I don't usually post photos of my family, except occasionally my granddaughter.

However I expect there will be a lot of photos of what I consider the two most important things in my life, after my family. The first one enables me to interact with you and of course is my computer. Yes my Dell Inspiron 6400 laptop, desperately in need of a memory upgrade from 1 GB total RAM to 2GB, hopefully soon. Yes, that is my daughter and granddaughter on the desktop.

Equally important in my life are my books. My many, many books. Thousands of books, for I never get rid of any of them. Oh, oh. I think I need more bookshelves, they are in piles on the floor again.

My most important books are my hardcovers of my favourite books, the House of Niccolo, an eight part series of historical novels by the Scottish author Dorothy Dunnett, some of which are autographed by the author.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Musica è.... Music is.....

The title of this post comes from a song by Eros Ramazzotti about whom I have written previously, more than once. Musica è or Music is. Recently I read what music means to Crushed and it started me thinking about what music means to me, what part it plays in my life.

Looking back on growing up, in Australia, the only source of music in our house was the radio, one radio, or the wireless as we called it then, with about three or four stations as I recall: an official Australian Broadcasting station, ABC and a few private ones. Everything came through that source, the news, sports broadcasts like cricket and rugby, radio serials, comedy shows like the Goon Show and music. Whatever they broadcast. Their choice, not yours. In fact the golden era of radio was right after the Second World War.

Naturally, as a child, I had no choice in the matter of the radio, neither when we listened nor about the station. I had a much older brother as well and his choice came before mine. So music in our home tended to be almost non existent.

Not till high school did we have an official music education program and we were introduced to classical music on records and I became a member of the choir, for I was a half decent alto. What little music there was in my life tended to be classical. My brother had taken to going to free symphony concerts which the Sydney Symphony Orchestra put on regularly and he often took me along. I did learn to love the violin and would have loved to have taken lessons but in our family there no money for luxuries like that. I suppose popular music was dance music but I never learned to dance and didn't go to the Saturday night dances which seemed to be a large part of one's social life when I was a teenager.

Television came to Australia in 1956 but we did not have one until just before I left home in 1960 to go to England. So as far as music in general was concerned my life was a bit of a barren wasteland. Although when I was in university I did belong to a very large choral society for some years so I knew that area fairly well.

In London I went to lots of musical productions and symphony concerts with my friends and a large variety of music became a part of my life. In 1961 I married a man for whom music was an integral part of his life, well classical music that is. He grew up with a father who was a clarinet player in the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and the ABC Military Band. At one point they had 14 pianos in their house for his father was also a piano restorer. When we got married he had a stereo with a quite large record collection, all classical so this is what I heard in our house and came to love too.

Needless to say we both missed out on the change in music in the sixties, the rise of rock and roll, although I developed a taste for folk music and bought lots of records. I even bought a guitar and took lessons and became a "folk singer", mostly for my own enjoyment, sometimes in my children's schools.

So music became more important in my life and certainly my children had all the opportunities for music that I never had. Both learned to play instruments, both had their own stereos with their own choice of music, naturally not ours. We owned one of the very early CD players and when you went to the music store, you didn't say do you have the X version of the Beethoven Violin Concerto, you said do you have the Beethoven Violin Concerto on CD and bought whatever they had. Now we have CD players in every room and hundreds of CDs everywhere.

But the really big change in music listening came from the iPod. Less than seven years ago the first one rolled off the production line. What a magnificent technological advance. Now music goes with you everywhere. Your choice, no one else's. Even I have one, as I wrote before and I love it. You have total control over what you hear. So much better than our old Sony Walkmans.

Recently I have decided to explore the areas of music I missed in the earlier days and have been buying some old classics of the rock era as well as borrowing some from my son. Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, U2, David Bowie CDs sit by my player at the moment. I can't say that I have learned to appreciate them yet but I am giving them a chance.

Crushed wrote:
The last fifty years have been an explosion in musical development. Here, technology and knowledge have led the way. In music, man has made huge strides over the past few decades.
Well I have lived through those fifty years and more. I have moved from a life with almost no music to one with music all around me. To where it means as much to me as reading does, well almost. I must not exaggerate here. I've moved into the era where Eros says in his song (English translation below comes from here)

Perché un mondo senza musica
non si può neanche immaginare
perché ogni cuore
anche il più piccolo
è un battito di vita
e d’amore che
musica è

Because one cannot imagine
a world without music
because every single heart,
even the smallest one,
is a beating of life
and love that is

Eros, in concert, singing Musica è. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Yes Beautiful but...........

With my birthday being in November, I am often given an amaryllis at that time. This past year was no different and I potted it up at once. I can't say that I am particularly fond of them for they produce one long flower stalk, which when the huge flower opens, leans precariously over one way or the other, threatening to tip the whole thing onto the floor. Every day you have to turn the pot towards the light, for they are phototropic, but once the flower is out, it is impossible to straighten it again, due to the weight of it.

As you can see, even with a brass support, it is leaning wildly and usually I place a huge dictionary besides the pot to prevent it from toppling right over.
It's twenty-seven inches tall

Yes, it is quite beautiful, a lovely colour but still a huge nuisance
and non vale la pena, just not worth it

Now for the educational part of the program. Although commonly and erroneously called an amaryllis, this bulb is in fact a Hippeastrum.

Hippeastrum is a genus of about 70-75 species and 600+ hybrids and cultivars of bulbous plants in the family Amaryllidaceae, native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas from Argentina north to Mexico and the Carribean. Some species are grown for their large showy flowers. These plants are popularly but erroneously known as Amaryllis, an African genus in the same family.

Contrast this with:

Amaryllis is a monotypic (only one species) genus of plant also known as the Belladonna Lily or naked ladies. The single species, Amaryllis belladonna, is a native of South Africa, particularly the rocky southwest region near the Cape.

Now that wasn't so painful was it.

A little award came my way recently. You make my day! It came from Ian Lidster who definitely deserves it. As well as being a professional journalist and writer he maintains a wonderfully entertaining blog. He wrote a newspaper column for many years and in my opinion there is no one like him to take an idea and run with it every which way, in a quietly humorous way. If you have not encountered Ian before take a look at The 'gormful' could rule if we'd let them? I was really looking for a hilarious one he wrote about sleeping nude but could not find it. Thanks for thinking of me Ian, I really appreciate it.

I want to apologize for this blog still being a bit sporadic and even more frivolous and less erudite than usual. At my age, you'd think I would have my act together. Maybe soon, maybe later. Who can say?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Best Posts of 2007 by Blogpower Members, Self Chosen

In celebration of the one year anniversary of Blogpower, that group of varied, erudite and very talented bloggers (well, save me, I'm the varied bit), of which I am a member, I have compiled a post showcasing the Best Posts of Blogpower Members for 2007. Each of those who submitted chose one of their own posts which they were proud of or perhaps resonated with their readers.

However, instead of putting it on my site, as I did with Blogpower's Advent Edition round-up, I have published it on the group's own blog.

George, the canine owner of one of our members, is raring to go so won't you go with him to see what the Blogpower members were nattering on about in 2007?

George lives in Wales with Liz of Finding Life Hard?

Thank you for clicking and visiting Blogpower, you won't be sorry and George has some other furry friends over there to introduce you to.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Saturday Photo Hunt --- Skinny


I used to be SKINNY, but no longer I'm afraid. In my better days, at five feet six and 110lbs. On my wedding day in London, almost 47 years ago. A print made from a slide and scanned, so pretty poor quality. Ah youth, gone but not forgotten!

However, I occasionally drink a SKINNY caffè latte, although mostly I drink rooibos or South African red tea, full of antioxidants so they say.


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh

Many years ago, the "old scientist" had a post doctoral fellow who eventually went to Saudi Arabia as a professor of chemistry. He spent 12 years there but returned on many occasions to visit us. Once he came at Christmas and gave us this treasure as a gift.

A Native Indian copper box, hand made and beautifully carved with traditional designs by one Richard Jay Dieks of the Bella Coola tribe in Northern British Columbia. (Click on all the photos to see more detail.)

The lid lifts straight off and you can see that the corners are green with verdigris which is the common name for the green coating or patina formed when copper is exposed to air over time.

Here you can see the detail of the lid and the box itself is lined with a beautiful rich coloured suede.

Inside the box were these two objects which he had bought in the East: the one at the back, a piece of frankincense, the other myrrh. Thus the gold (well copper really but sort of gold coloured), frankincense and myrrh. The gifts which the Magi or Wise Men were said to have brought to lay at the feet of Christ. All of these items were rare, precious and expensive.

We all know what gold is and but what about frankincense?
Frankincense is tapped from the very scraggly but hardy Boswellia tree through slashing the bark and allowing the exuded resins to bleed out and harden. These hardened resins are called tears. There are numerous species and varieties of frankincense trees, each producing a slightly different type of resin.
It's highly fragrant when burned so used in incense as well as in perfume and aromatherapy. However I never found this frankincense to be very aromatic of itself.

But the myrrh (front) was incredibly fragrant for years, although much less so now. I keep them in separate bags inside the box and I would often open the myrrh and sniff it. And myrrh?

Myrrh is a reddish-brown resinous material, the dried sap of the tree Commiphora myrrha, native to Somalia and the eastern parts of Ethiopia.
In ancient times it was highly prized in perfumes and incense. In fact it was worth more than its weight in gold and cost five times more than frankincense.

It is very widely used, both internally and externally in Chinese medicine with many healing properties attributed to it, but in modern Western medicine it is used externally, especially in mouthwashes and toothpastes and in liniments and ointments.

I have always considered this one of the best Christmas gifts I have ever received although I don't suppose it's very valuable, but it was a truly thoughtful gift.

I want to apologize for not visiting my blog friends recently. Something occurred that has been keeping me very occupied timewise but I am hoping to be out and about to see you all soon. I have not forgotten you. Please don't give up on me.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Eclectic Collection

Finally all the Christmas cake and cookies have been eaten at our house, although there are a few Japanese mandarins left. Today, January 6th, some celebrate Twelfth Night, when the Christmas tree is finally dismantled and all the decorations put away for another year, so as not to bring bad luck upon the house. Well, we wouldn't want that, now would we? So we took down the decorations and all the lights, put everything away in the storage boxes very carefully, put out the tree for the recycling pick-up and replaced the items that had been removed to make room for the decorations for the Christmas season.

On the table where I put our crèche I usually display what I call my "rock" collection, probably the most eclectic one you'll find. It's not at all comprehensive, it consists of things I have picked up over the years which have a geological source. They vary from the formally carved pieces, like the sculpture you see below, to slices of geodes, a chunk of fool's gold, some fossils, even stones I have picked up in places I've visited.

Sun and Moon, an onyx sculpture I bought in Mexico
more than twenty years ago

A chunk of petrified wood, basically a fossil where all the organic
have been replaced with minerals

Leopard skin jasper, a member of the quartz family, formed into an egg shape
I am particularly fond of this stone and have a necklace
and earrings made of it

On the left, three stones I picked up on the island of Vulcano, a small
volcanic island off the north west coast of Sicily.
They used to smell very strongly of sulphur but no more

On the upper right, a piece of lava I took from the slopes of Mount Etna, or
Mongibello in Italian, the very active volcano in Sicily

On the lower right, a stone I picked up on the beach in Cannes,
on the French Riviera

Not even vaguely connected to geology, I keep keep this treasure on
the table along with the "rocks"
Un chiodo del cinquecento or a nail from the sixteenth century which
a restorer gave me in Florence when I visited his botega or workshop

Well I hope it doesn't bring bad luck but I always leave my Christmas front door wreath up until if gets so dry that it starts to shed everywhere, which is usually about March. I'm so cheap! Happy Twelfth Night.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Saturday Photo Hunt --- Delicious


Well wasn't this a fun Photo Hunt? On my walk to Granville Island yesterday I visited the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts which is on the route. It is a well known school for the professional chef and baker and they have a wonderful restaurant, as well as a Bake Shop and Café where we often stop off for lunch. While there for lunch I took these photos for your delight and let me say I think they are the height of Deliciousness.

A wonderful selection, what do you fancy?

A Sacher Torte perhaps?

A Strawberry whatever it may be?

I think when they graduate the students must go to work at at Stuart's Bakey
in the Granville Island market

A very beautiful Fruit Flan?

Perhaps chocolate is your bag?

A Strawberry finale, on its own little gold foil server?

I hope you enjoyed my version of DELICIOUS with this fine selection of pastries and desserts from the environs at Granville Island.