Sunday, 28 August 2011

My Lucky Cat Bank

Driving home from work one day I pulled over for a garage sale on impulse and found this awesome "waving cat" coin bank. 

As it was at the end of the sale, they practically gave it to me just to take it away. I was more than happy to oblige as I love cats. I've always loved cats. I grew up on a farm and my family called me the "cat girl". I also believe in karma and being in the right place at the right time. 

It's a Maneki Neko - Japan's Beckoning Luck Cat. Legend has it that long ago an emperor declared all cats in general should be respected as sacred animals after one saved his life. Apparently he was riding his horse down a country road when he spotted a small cat waving at him. He dismounted from his horse to get a closer look and his horse was struck dead by lightening. 

The legendary cat has been transformed from an Emperor's Good Samaritan to a bringer of money and good fortune to all Japanese. There are a few different variations of the Maneki Neko and legends to go with them, and it's likely you'll find one of these on display in every Japanese shop.

Ironically, I have been diagnosed with a cat allergy, so I'm glad I've found a version that brings not only a smile to my face every morning but maybe some good luck as well!

Everyone could use a little good luck. What's your lucky piece?

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Vintage Art Nouveau Vase

I'm just learning about Italian pottery and would love to share some history of a small vase that prompted my research. 

The bottom stamp seems to have been applied before the glazing, hence the smudge. It indicates it was made by ZSZ Zanolli for Faone Scardin, a Milan wholesaler. ZSZ was established as a joint venture between Sebelin, Zanolli and Zarpellon in Nove, Italy in 1921. It remained in operation until the 1960s.

Because the company broke from the traditional Nove type of ceramics (Art Nouveau) and began producing Art Deco style pottery, I believe this vase was one of the the early pieces, dating it to the early 1920s.

I was thrilled to find a photograph of the ZSZ factory and the birthplace of my vase on the Ceramics Italy website (don't you just love the Internet?):

I know Art Nouveau style isn't for everyone, but I think the vase is charming. I love the shape of it and the beige color (probably darkened with age), as well as the way the round scalloped rim seems to offset the square feet. And that such delicate ceramic flowers were affixed to something kind of chunky. 

All in all, this little work of art stands 6-3/4" tall and 6" wide from rose to rose. It has suffered some damage over the years to some of the rose petals and leaves, but luckily time hasn't affected the brightness or beauty of this piece. 

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Quirky Collectible

Don't you just love this adorable winking lady tea cup? She's hand painted with a red rim, blue eye, pink cheeks, red lips, red earring and a black necklace. She came from my aunt's cupboard, but originally belonged to my grandmother. The cup measures 4" diameter and 3" tall.

Several versions of the winking teacup have been made. This one, stamped "Made in Staffordshire England" on the bottom, was made c.1950 as a premium for Lipton Tea.

Bailey's Irish Cream had another version made in China in the late 1990s as a promotional item. It features the Bailey's logo as an eyebrow over the open eye with the word "Yum" inside of the teacup. Apparently actress Helen Hunt hand painted some cups and signed them in another set released in the 1990s as a fundraiser for youth in California.

Male versions were also manufactured for the 1950s Lipton Tea promotion and photographs of them can be found on the Internet. I would love to have a mate for my lady, but alas, she flies solo for now. 

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Swanky Swigs

Collector glassware is fast becoming a favorite of mine, but it can be really hard to identify items.

Luckily, this small juice glass came from my grandmother's house, via one of my collector aunts, so we know it is a Swanky Swigs collectible.

Don't you just love the name? When my aunt told me what it was, I immediately knew I had to research it. What I found out was that Swanky Swigs were made from the 1930s - 1950s by the Kraft Food Company as re-useable containers for their peanut butter, jelly, mayonnaise and cheese spread products. They were produced in the USA by the Hazel Atlas Glass Co. and in Canada by Dominion Glass. Each had a metal snap lid and was hand decorated with stencil and glass enameling paint later heated to help retain the image.

Complete sets of drinking glasses in various sizes and with numerous patterns could be collected. Several pop culture swigs were distributed with Welch's jelly during the 1950s and 1960s featuring characters such as Howdy Doody, the Flintstones and the Archies. These are very valuable.

All Swanky Swigs are collector's items, because a lot of them didn't survive the advent of technology, namely the dishwasher, which would ruin the color pattern on the glass.

Luckily my grandmother never owned a dishwasher so the color block pattern of mint green, canary yellow and coral is brightly preserved on this glass.

If you're interested in adding to your Swanky Swigs collection, you can find this item in the Retro Junction shop on Etsy.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Weekend Cherry Pie Project

This weekend I decided to bake a Nanking cherry pie completely from scratch for the first time. I mean really from scratch. The cherries grew in my backyard on two small bushes. I left the harvesting a little too long and nearly didn't get enough to make a pie thanks to the greedy neighborhood birds.

Speaking of birds, I decided to use a vintage pie bird when baking my cherry pie. A pie bird is a hollow ceramic device, traditionally from Europe and shaped like a bird that you place in the center of fruit or meat pies during cooking to let off steam. They have been used since Victorian times.

According to Wikipedia, the nursery rhyme "Sing a Song of Sixpence" refers to "Four and twenty blackbirds, baked in a pie; when the pie was opened, the birds began to sing". Whether pie vents were designed to look as birds because of this song, no one knows. 

I wasn't sure how to insert the pie bird, so I just pushed it into the pie. The pie still oozed a little bit around the edges when baking, but it didn't boil over into the oven.

Time wise, my weekend project took about 1/2 hour of cherry picking, 1/2 hour of pitting the cherries, 1 hour to make the pastry and pie filling (I'm out of practice and disorganized) and then 45 minutes of baking time.

Here is the recipe for my pie if you'd like to try it sometime.

(One 8-inch Pie)
2-crust pie crust, unbaked
2 cups pitted sweet cherries
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
Combine the cherries, sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice and fill pastry with cherry mixture. Cover with top crust, fold overhang over top edge, press to seal, and flute edges. With a fork or knife, make vent holes in the top crust or insert pie bird in the centre. Place on middle rack of oven and bake for about 40 minutes at 375 degrees, until the fruit is bubbling and the crust is golden brown. Allow to cool at least 30 minutes before cutting. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whip cream, if desired.

This recipe is from the "Fruits of Your Labor" cookbook by the Colorado State Forest Service.