Odds and Sods Around Our House

According to a British psychologist yesterday was Blue Monday or the saddest day of the year. His reasons: Christmas and New Years are in the past so homes are now bare of decorations and resolutions have already been broken; December’s credit card statements have appeared; the weather is less than hospitable here in the Northern Hemisphere; SAD has taken hold of many people; and we are only halfway through the longest (or what seems like the longest) month of the year.

I’m not sure how valid any of that is but I do have to admit that the house seems a little dreary without the decorations and over a week of rain, sleet, snow, fog, ice and cloud make it even more so. However there is a hard and fast rule in our house – the decorations, which go up on St Lucia Day, come down the day after Epiphany. As Laurent was taking them down on January 7th I took pictures of several pieces that decorate tables and window sills here on Water Street at Christmastide .

In one of the arcades between Getreidegasse and Universitätsplatz in Salzburg’s Old Town there is a small shop that sells pewter figurines created by the Wilhelm-Schweizer Company. On each of our Whitsundtide visits Laurent picked up a pewter piece that caught his fancy.

These first three are definitely Christmas decorations.. The tree is approximately 10 inches in height and the figures just a little over five.

Wilhelm-Schweizer has been producing individually cast and hand-painted pewter figurines since 1796 and is still owned by the Schweizer family.

Though their Christmas and Easter collections are their most popular lines – particularly with tourists – the Bavarian folkloric figures are also charming. The little Chimney Sweep does have a New Year connection. In several Eastern European countries there is the tradition of touching a button on a sweep’s jacket for good luck in the coming year. And I suppose the clock seller does have a connection, howbeit tenuous, to New Year’s Eve.

Of course we took a look at their recent catalogue and saw at least two more zinnfiguren that we’d love to add to the small group. Well a return to the Whitsun Festival and Salzburg, if not planned, is at least on the bucket list.

The word for January 17th is:
Pewter pyoo͞′tər: [noun]
1.1 Any of numerous silver-gray alloys of tin with various amounts of antimony, copper, and sometimes lead, used widely for fine kitchen utensils and tableware. The normal ratio is 4 parts tin to 1 part e.g. lead.
1.2 Pewter articles considered as a group.
1.3 A material made of calcined tin, used in polishing marble.
Early 14c., peutre, from Old French peautre (12c.) and Medieval Latin peutrum, from Vulgar Latin *peltrum “pewter”.

Odds and Sods Around Our House

Back in the Dark Ages when Laurent and I were, for lack of a better word, courting we would occasionally bring home surprise gifts for each other. (Don’t give me that eye roll, you may well have done the same sort of thing.) At the time I was working at Ottawa Airport and there was a little gift shop that often had bibilots that seemed appropriate (i.e. cute) at the time.

So one evening after an afternoon shift I presented himself with two brass – no not monkeys! – mice. What they were meant to signify at the time or for that matter what purpose they served I’m not sure.

Though I would dare say that visitors never noticed them they have accompanied us in our travels and always had their place on shelves or in cabinets in our various homes.

I have always liked this inquisitive little creature. She, and I’m sure it’s a she, has gazed at family photos, festive candles, creche scenes and other nick-knacks for the past 43 years.

The word for September 27th is:
Bibilots /bē′bə-lō″/: [noun]
1.1 A small decorative object; a trinket.
1.2 A miniature book, especially one that is finely crafted.
1.3 A small object of curiosity, beauty, or rarity; especially, an object of this kind which can be kept in a cabinet or on a shelf.
French, from Old French beubelet, from a reduplication of bel, beautiful, from Latin bellus, handsome.

Odds and Sods Around Our House

A recent posting on the Tome of Faces reminded me of a hillside town in Lazio that we frequented on Sunday for pranzo (lunch) when we lived in Rome. A pleasant 90 minutes from Rome – well okay sometimes closer to two hours with the traffic – Sermoneta was always “worth the visit” for lunch at Il Giardino del Simposio, famous for its homemade bottarga seasoning, and a stroll around town.

One of those strolls took us by Uscio e Bottega, Laboratorio Ceramiche Artistiche*, a ceramic shop. Now to be honest these shops are ubiquitous in hilltop towns but there was something that caught Laurent’s eye as we walked passed it. And chances are if it catches his eye we will soon have it in our home.

And as a result this lemon bedecked jar sits in our living room. At the time the artist only had an example in the shop but took an order to create a version for us. It meant another trip back to pick it up but we didn’t mind that.

Though modelled after olive oil or water jars of the past it is meant solely as a decorative piece and we are happy to have it as such.

However we did not leave the shop empty handed. This decorative platter came with us and is now on a wall in our kitchen. It can be a pick-me-up in the dead of winter to look up and see those lemons, the blossoms and greenery

*I had forgotten and could not read the name however my friend Simonetta was able to work it out and it is now named. Thank you Simonetta.

The word for September 13th is:
Ceramic \sə-răm′ĭk\: [noun]
1.1 Any of various hard, brittle, heat-resistant and corrosion-resistant materials made by shaping and then firing a nonmetallic mineral, such as clay, at a high temperature.
1.2 An object, such as earthenware, porcelain, or tile, made of ceramic.
1.3 The art or technique of making objects of ceramic, especially from fired clay.
From Ancient Greek κεραμικός (keramikos, “potter’s”), from κέραμος (keramos, “potter’s clay”), perhaps from a pre-Hellenic word.

Odds and Sods Around Our House

If the foe shits ….

It has been suggested on more than one occasion by my faithful reader that I have an obsession with shoes. I will contest that based on the hard facts that are revealed when I check the number of posts tagged “Shoe” or variations thereof. In 3,164 posts there have only been 26 – 26! That is less than 1% and of those 26 only two indicated the shoes in question were for men. Okay so I’m about to bring that up t0 27 out of 3,165 but that is still less than 1%!

Below is a recent photo of “shoe tree” hanging in my closet. There are 12 pairs of dress or dress-casual shoes of various styles there and a miscellaneous collection of sandals, sneakers, slippers, and boat shoes on the closet floor.

Not all but a goodly number of my shoes all neat, tidy and, these days largely unworn.

Much of what hangs around in my closet does just that – hangs around unworn. Retirement and a more relaxed social scene here on the Island gives me few occasions to put on my best bib and tucker or shoes for that matter. And a little problem with my feet – which I must admit have been carrying me around pretty well for 27,617 days – many of them are too tight and uncomfortable. It has been suggested by a podiatrist that part of the problem may have been that they were too tight in the first place! But I digress.

I have decided to cull the lot and donate the unwearable to a local charity that helps helps new arrivals to our (and now their) Island. Most are in extremely good condition and in more than acceptable styles. However there are a few that I am reticent about giving away even though I doubt I will wear them again.

Case in point a pair of Mezlan dress shoes that I bought in Coral Gables back in 1996.

A combination of leather and linen they were made at the Mezlan facility in Almanza, the shoe making capital of Spain since the 14th century.

I was working on Air Canada’s US route expansion at the time and spent two months at Miami Airport training staff for several of the new airport offices. My colleague and good friend Frances and I would occasionally go out for dinner and one evening we went to her neighbourhood of Coral Gables. An after dinner stroll took us by this very upscale shoe store and in the window those beauties beckoned to me. Frances knew the salesman – they had gone to school together in Kingston, Jamaica – and very rapidly, and I do mean rapidly, in Patois negotiated a deal. I don’t recall what sort of deal it was but it must have been a good one as today the purchased of a pair of Mezlans require a bank loan secured by your first born.

I would love to say I have worn them often but honestly the last time I remember was for our wedding thirteen years ago this coming Thursday. This would suggest that I should either put them in the donation box or find a few occasions over the next few months to sport them. I am torn.

The expression for July 19th is:
Best bib and tucker
A very old phrase meaning: one’s best clothes.
A bib refers to both a gentleman’s frilly shirt front and a tucker is a lacy ornamental covering for a lady’s neck and shoulders.
It is an 18th century term, the first known citation of which is from a translation of the Marquis d’Argens’ ambitiously titled work New Memoirs establishing a True Knowledge of Mankind, 1747.

Odds and Sods Around Our House

In a previous post I mentioned all those one of ingredients or kitchen utensils that were bought for a particular recipe or dinner never to be used again. The same thing applies to a few items of silverware that we have safely stored in the sideboard should they ever be required again. I unearthed a few of them earlier today, brought them into the sunlight, polished them and present them as definitive odds and sods!

Before Downtown Abbey or whatever it was called we were all caught up in the Edwardiana of Upstairs Downstairs. Should my faithful reader not be familiar with that programme it was an early big-house-servants-masters series without the glitzy production values but far better written than Baron Fellowes tepid soap opera. It quite captured the fancy of North American TV audiences between 1971 and 1975 and helped fill the coffers at PBS stations across North America come pledge time.

I was an ardent fan and never missed an episode on a Sunday night. A bit of an industry built up around it. I had a cookbook that purported to be written by Mrs Bridges (Angela Baddeley), the cook at Number 165 Eaton Place. There was also a journal by Mr Hudson (Gordon Jackson), the butler that included a useful list of all the silverware needed for a proper nine course dinner should you be required to provide sustenance for Edward VII as he ran between court and chorus girl. I am please to say we have a few of the requisites! With the exception of one special piece just where or why we acquired them I don’t know.

This set is just the thing for serving the Dover sole you are having as your fish course. The blades and tines are silver plate and lest my faithful reader concern themselves the handles are made of celluloid not ivory. The knife is hallmarked and from that it is possible to determine the purity of the silver, the manufacturer of the piece, and sometimes even the date it was made. The hallmark EP on the verso of the fish knife blade indicates that this two items are silver plate. I’ve been able to determine they are Sheffield silver and the markings indicated that they are Sheffield from the Atkin Brothers: HA, EA and FA are Harry, Edward & Frank Atkin. The style of the HA suggests a date between 1901 and 1917.

This slightly more elaborate fish knife was again part of a larger serving set. I am still trying to decipher the hallmark but it would appear to come from the James Deakin & Sons London workshop. But I will try and figure out the other markings as of course now I have started down a rabbit hole.

The next piece bears no hallmark but is deeply treasured because it was a birthday gift from Nick and Nora’s Uncle Pervy almost forty years ago. And it is the one odd and sod of this lot that has actually been used.

Can my faithful reader guess what it is and what it is used for?

Of course when you were serving your fresh fruit course a pair of grape shears are a definite requirement. Again we are looking at silver plate and the hallmark indicates them as a production of the Rogers Brothers workshop part of the International Silver cartel. Created in 1898 it initially comprised of 14 silver studios of which Rogers was the largest. I will have to investigate the other markings a little more closely to see if it will reveal dates as the style is quite modern. And as International Silver still exists quite possibly they are of a recent vintage.

And here’s another “what the hell is that for?” item.

Again there are no markings but I am assuming this little five inch fork is silver plate. Because of its size I am guessing it was used at a breakfast buffet rather than a grand dinner party. I leave it up to you, faithful reader, to tell me what purpose, or food, it served.

Now that they are newly shining I hate to put them back in the sideboard drawer but chances of a dinner that will require them are very slim.

The word for May 20th is:
Celluloid \ˈsel-yə-ˌlȯid\ [noun]
1. A tough flammable thermoplastic composed essentially of cellulose nitrate and camphor.
2. A motion-picture film
Mid 19th century (1855) English: from French, from cellule ‘small cell’ + -oid (to form noun denoting form or resemblance).

A Beijinger living in Provincetown

Life of Yi Zhao, a Beijinger living in Provincetown, USA

Moving with Mitchell

Jerry and I get around. In 2011, we moved from the USA to Spain. We now live near Málaga. Jerry y yo nos movemos. En 2011, nos mudamos de EEUU a España. Ahora vivimos cerca de Málaga.

Writing Archives — Gregory Josephs

So Many Years of Experience But Still Making Mistakes!

Old Lurker

The mouthiest lurker you ever did see

following hadrian photography

I came, I saw, I photographed…


The Early Postcards of Prince Edward Island

Simon's World

Adventures in being me

Fearsome Beard

A place for Beards to contemplate and grow their souls.

Larry Muffin At Home

Remembering that life is a comedy and the world is a small town.


Telling the stories of the history of the port of Charlottetown and the marine heritage of Northumberland Strait on Canada's East Coast. Winner of the Heritage Award from the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation and a Heritage Preservation Award from the City of Charlottetown

Tangled Histories

So Many Years of Experience But Still Making Mistakes!

Isaac L. Stewart

Historian & Genealogist


So Many Years of Experience But Still Making Mistakes!


Procrastination is the sincerest form of optimism

Harper's Valley

Adventures in Hubris


So Many Years of Experience But Still Making Mistakes!

She Who Seeks

So Many Years of Experience But Still Making Mistakes!


To live is to battle with trolls in the vaults of heart and brain. To write; this is to sit in judgment over one's Self. Henrik Ibsen

I'll think of something later

So Many Years of Experience But Still Making Mistakes!


So Many Years of Experience But Still Making Mistakes!

singer for all seasons

So Many Years of Experience But Still Making Mistakes!