Monday, June 11, 2012

It's Been a Long, Long Time

 Hello again to all (or any) readers! It has been a very long time since last I posted. I have been taking some of my own advice and searching out antique silver, visiting house museums, taking day trips, and rocking on the porch swing.
 This post will be a short one as all I intend to do is restart the blog itself and list some ideas for upcoming posts.

Upcoming Posts Include.....

Party Menu Ideas
Do You Collect/Hoard Your Magazine Subscriptions?
Is It Odd to Want to Use a Walkingstick and Other Eccentricities of the Modern Dandy?
Hosting a Dinner Party by Yourself?
Sealing Wax, Not Only for Royal Decrees Anymore!
Is There a Real Life Cranford?
More Hats Please!

  I hope you'll enjoy this new (overdue) series of my ramblings. As always, please, feel free to send any observations, comments (constructive and not curse-covered), or ideas you have my way. Take good care and Happy Monday!

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Aura and Allure of Old Silver

   Hello again and welcome once more to "Anthony's Everyday Advice."   These little tips and ideas found here that add elegance to the everyday should give life an enriching boost that we often forget to inject. Granted not everyone can add a front porch and porch swing to their home easily or even find time to take a day trip, there are useful, elegant accessories we can add to our homes for very little money that add elegance, charm, and a story to our enviroments. Antique silver is one of those accessories.
 I know what you're thinking. "Silver. Inexpensive?" It's true. I don't mean that you can find a solid silver punch bowl for $20.00 or discover sterling candlesticks sticking out of a garbage can on the street. You can, however, find random silver spoons in most price ranges and you may even find a "weighted" silver candlestick or two at a Flea Market for a reasonable price. You can find silver in any style you like. Whether you prefer a traditional, ornate, or streamline look, there's a piece of silver out there for you. Having a couple pieces of silver out when entertaining often gets noticed and it's nice to have a story to share behind a piece or two.
 Before you go start hunting out silver, please, allow me to impart a little knowledge that's helped me. Solid silver that you're likely to find should be marked ".925"  or "Sterling" and not "EPNS."
 ".925" means that a piece is 92.5% pure silver with 7.5% of alloys added to strengthen the soft pure silver. This mixture creates "Sterling" silver. In some countries you'll find silver marked ".800," meaning the piece is 80% pure silver with 20% alloys added. I've noticed these pieces tend to be older one from Italy. In the United States and England silver is considered sterling when at the rate of 92.5% purity.
 "EPNS" means that the pieces is "Electroplated Silver." this means that a piece of flatware, or a candlestick, or tray, or coffee pot (etc.) is made of copper or nickel or another metal and is electrically fused with a thin (and I mean thin) later of silver. Pieces marked "EPNS" are not solid or sterling silver. Do not be taken by a ride by a dealer or yard sale host who say otherwise. They are either ignorant or attempting to con you.
 Earlier in the post I mentioned "weighted" pieces. These usually items bigger flatware. The items you will find typically marked as weighted silver will be things like bowls, candlesticks, and display pieces like trophies, some older punch bowls, cakestands, and compotes. These pieces often hollow goods made with a decently thick layer or silver and filled with cement to give them strength. So if you find a heavy silver fruitbowl at a dealer and it's marked "weighted" on the bottom you know it's not completely solid silver.
   But now that we've gone through the technical stuff allow me to relay a good experience or two with you....
 Several months ago I was at a Flea Market and in a dealer's stall I found an old spoon. It was highly victorian in decoration with the Old Man of the Mountain displayed on it's shaft and "July 4 94" engraved in script in the bowl of the spoon. Well that spoon had ot come home to New Hampshire and I only paid $10.00 for it. I use it in my sugar bowl when I serve tea and every so often someone asks about it's story, but most of the time people comment on it.
 Last Christmas  Iwas at my grandmother's house and, when moving some furniture in the living room, noticed a small but pretty plate on the coffee table. The plate itself was of glass with a silver rim framing the glass plate. According to Nana these were known as "Decanter Plates" and bottle and decanters were placed on them to keep stains off tableclothes. People used these for 200 years or so. Nana said a friend had given it to her years ago and that she wanted me to have it as she knew I would appreciate it and use it when hosting people. It's one of my favorite pieces and I like being able to say it's a piece of "family silver." Hahaha.
 Well there it is. Please go out and find yourself a nice little trinket ot display and use. There's a wonderful aura of old silver. Flames look a little warmer when reflected off a silver candlestick. Coffee and tea looks a little more special when served with old teaspoons you've collected.  And here's one more arguement on behalf of old silver. The more you use the pieces and wash them in warm sudsy water, the less you have to polish them.
 I hope you find some great pieces on your hunts and feel free to comment about any of my posts and message me with any questions you have. Thanks for reading!


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Well, that was a lovely Christmas. What now?

    Hello again and thank you for popping by and looking over my newest post. I hope you had a lovely and nearly stress-free Christmas. I'm sorry it's been three whole weeks since my last post, but I take my own advice and focussed on simplifying my busy December. That being said, it was a good one!
 My father's side of the family had their celebration together on the 19th. We skyped for a couple hours with my cousin serving in Afghanistan and played Bingo. It wasn't our traditional Christmas, but those of us at Uncle Arn and Auntie Susan's house had a really nice time. On Christmas Eve my mother's side of the family held it's annual White Dinner. Just as mentioned in a previous post, this is our formal celebration of the year. We tried to simplify it a little, but the food and personalities kept it a success. We even held a Yankee Swap and it was a blast!
 Christmas Day was held at our family home in New Hampshire. My mother had to work most of the day and my brother and his wife drove up in the early afternoon. Mom and I entertained ourselves by going to our neighbors' house for breakfast (an annual thing we do (We didn't crash their Christmas)) and returned home to realize we had to throw a Christmas Dinner together. Christmas Day is traditionally celebrated with Dad's side, so Mom and I were thrown off-guard. Luckily, we improvised and created a nice three course meal with stuffs from the freezer and pantry. It's fun to be creative!
 And so that was my Christmas. But what do I do now? New Year's Eve will come and go. Will I keep any resolution I proclaim to myself? I made the decision that I'll damn well try this year. You see 2010 was only an okay year for me. In January I was a college graduate working at the mall. The day before my birthday party I lost said mall job and that set the tone for my 2010. Granted, there have been some great times this year. Day trips and visiting friends, sleeping in a lot, having plenty of time to read, having time to help others, and finding some really great bargains while antiquing were all wonderful things. But 2010 found me depressed and looking for a career, but only finding temporary and menial work. In conclusion, this year has not been my finest. "These are hard times for everyone," is what I keep hearing and seeing everywhere I turn. I'm sure many of you reading this have noticed how things are.
 So where do we go from here? That's where a few realisitic resolutions will come into play. What are some things you want to change in your life? Feel free to make a list. They always help to clarify things. After much thought, I concluded that aside from finding some sort of career there are other things I'd like to change and accomplish in 2011 that will enrich my life.
 My advice to you is to set up three realistic goals to accomplish. If you try slightly you'll reach one of them this year. If you conciously try you'll reach and exceed all three. For example, I've decided that in addition to finding work, I'm going to add two fruits and a veggie to my diet everyday. Yes, in my time secluded from the working world I have turned to chips and sugary snacks too often. Not in 2011. I'll work on replacing some of these fattening and skin-diseasing treats (still delicious though) with foods that are good for me. Another goal I have is to actually exercise three to five times a week. I don't mean hit the gym and go nuts. I mean jogging in the warmer weather and lifting weights a few times a week. I'll feel so much better about myself come the beach weather! Finally, I'd like to improve my skills on the piano. In the Spring I gave into a longtime fascination and picked up a couple how-to guides on clearance and found a tinny keyboard at a yardsale. I've taught myself a little treble clef. My good friend Gabe gifted me his keyboard some time ago saying he'd rather see me use it than pack it and move it to New York. And with a more professional piece to play on I've been more goal oriented. But there's always room for improvement. And 2011 will be my year to imrpove on the keyboard.
 As you read, I have multiple goals. None of them are completely outlandish. I can add better things to my diet and I can get up off the couch. I know that somewhere there's gainful employment waiting for me. And bettering myself with the piano will be music to my ears! These goals with determination and conciousness, a little bit luck, some pressure from friends and family, and God's blessing, I can accomplish and I'll be the better man for it. 2011 is my year! I don't care who owns 2012. By then I'll be making money, be fitter, and tickling the keys so relentlessly that I won't care if my year is over.
 So to conclude, what are your goals for this coming year? 2010 was great for some of my friends and they wouldn't change a thing in their lives. But for most of us 2010 was a year of some trial and tribulation. What can we do to better ourselves next year? Like I said, little goals (baby steps) will yield some noticable results.
 Let me be one of the first to congratulate you and wish you a happy, healthy, and enrichening 2011!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

An Impromptu and Easy Holiday Gathering is a Great Thing

      "We all enjoy visiting with our loved ones. Many of us enjoy hosting them too. But everyone gets stressed when when putting together a big holiday To-Do!"
     Indeed, that is quite the poor rhyme, but you know it speaks the truth. And it's a rather sad truth really. People love to celebrate together, but those households that host celebrations often feel some serious strain the day of. We don't need to be stressed. We don't need to have everything just so. We do however crave companionship and our cravings are often the strongest around a holiday. So what is my point?
 Over the years my family had several Christmas time celebrations that we hosted or attended and these, while memorable and wonderful, could prove stressful indeed. A few of our formal occasions have lived through to today and we cherish them for it.
 Every year Mom's side of the family holds it's "White Dinner." This meal was originally known as the "Dinner of the Seven Fishes" and came over from Naples with my ancestors. This is our formal gathering of the year. We are, of course, our usual boisterous selves and smoke cigars on the front porch. But this yearly ritual is when ties are worn and the women dress up better than at Easter. We have lobster and baccala and delicacies we only treat ourselves to this one time a year. The "White Dinner" is sacred and I pray that when it's my generation's turn to lead the family my cousins, brother, and I don't screw up and allow this to fall by the wayside. Yet, the prep work and all the details of this can be overwhelming and when people are dressed we often loose part of the value of these things.
  That nearly brings me to my point. (The point being) It's wonderful to have formal traditions, but not every party or gathering you host needs to be your own "White Dinner." As a matter of fact some of the best parties or dinners I can think of are the impromptu kind. In her 1959 book on entertaining, Betty Crocker recommended Pot Lucks, Dessert Parties, and the like as informal and impromptu gatherings that people enjoy and don't have to stress the hostess (or the host (My how things have changed!)).
 We celebrate a little thing called "Conti Christmas" with my godmother and her family. This used to consist of a sitdown meal and piles of presents per person. My mother and godmother recently decided to simplify this annual pastime. This year (we hold this celebration in the late part of November or early December) we filled ourselves with appetizers and a few select desserts. Instead of going through piles of gifts, we held a "Yankee Swap." We had a blast! Little stress in setting up or shopping for our celebration, but maximum enjoyment being at ease and with stomachs full together.
  I myself am holding a pretty informal "Christmas Time Tea" this Sunday. Granted I'll use the silver "Twelve Days of Christmas" spoons and my fancy tea set from 1936. We won't however dress really formal. I told the girls to wear pearls as they are lovely and can be dressed up or down. We won't sit in the more formal living room where the tree is. Instead, my friends and I will sit in the family room where my Christmas vilage is set up. There will be carols on the radio and we'll eat things I've prepared and things from the market. There will also be a story telling contest. We may even decorate a tabletop tree to send to a friend in town! Yes, just a couple hours on a Sunday afternoon for friends to enjoy each others' company and relax in the middle of December. Such a thing is possible and I invite you to try it out yourselves.
 As always, thank you for reading my ramblings. I hope you find them somewhat entertaining, if not nearly helpful. Feel free to comment anytime. Enjoy your day and thanks again!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

There's Nothing Wrong with a Little You Time during Yuletide

   The holiday season is a blessing as well as a stress inducing period for most of us. With our lives full of work or school, household duties and errands, we're still expected to go to parties, host parties, go carolling, buy and wrap gifts, make dinner, decorate the house, attend plays and recitals, and shovel snow too; all during the single month long period known as Christmas time. Granted, most stores start their Christmas ads the day after Halloween now and you can buy most types of meals from a caterer or the La Carte department of your local supermarket, with all the joy of seeing friends and family and showing them a nice time we still get pretty stressed at points during this merry season. I guarantee at some point you'll be blessed with your own stress this holiday, but luckily there is a secret weapon that helps lessen and even alleviate some of the stress and allows you to "Keep Calm and Carry On" with your holiday plans.
  "You Time" is that wonderful period inwhich an individual has only for his/herself. This period is for you so you will be able to go on with the holiday season and all it's prep-work.  During this time you might read a magazine or part of a book. You might write out a list of To-Do's and To-Buy's as to make your days and excursions to the mall somewhat clearer and that less stressful. Maybe your "You Time" is sitting infront of the TV and wrapping a couple presents during commercial breaks, giving you one less To-Do and a little entertainment. You may take a 20 minute power nap or just sit in a big chair sipping tea, hot chocolate, coffee, or something stronger for a few quiet moments.
  I find that reading a short story or listening to an old radio comedy in the car puts me into a good mood during the holidays in between errands and work and cleaning and TRAFFIC. It's all a very Zen-ish thing really.
 This Christmas season take a litte time for yourself when you feel you need it. Whether it's a couple minutes a day or a couple times a week, you'll feel a little more energized with a clearer head and a better attitude. People like relaxed personalities more than wound-up hysterical sorts. And none of us wants to be the buzz kill at a gathering. It's not selfish at all to take five or ten minutes and escape to your bedroom to relax when entertaining, so long as the preparations are all made and your guests haven't arrived yet. Center yourselves. Refresh yourselves. And most importantly, enjoy yourselves this season.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Porch and It's Swing, the Family's Social Facilitators

 When I think of Thanksgiving the traditional cuisine immediately comes to mind. Very soon after visualizing the turkey though comes the family and spending time after our meal on the front porch. In my previous posts I have alluded to my family, particularly the maternal half of the family, and the memories I have with my grandparents and the high quality of life I've enjoyed through the time spent with them. Now Dad's side is wonderful and my brother and I have just as many cousins, aunts, and uncles on Dad's side as on Mom's side. Dad's side gave me Grammy and Grampy, whom you may remember from the first post. On Mom's side, however, my brother and I have more cousins about our age and therefore we all really grew up together. Nana and Papa's house has hosted us at Sunday Dinners and many, many holidays. Their vegetable garden acts as the family's green grocer come summertime. And Nana and Papa's house, a big old Victorian, has a long front porch featuring a legendary porch swing!
   A porch swing is a wonderful type of social facilitator. You can sit on one and watch the world pass by. You can have a quick talk with neighbors passing by walking their dogs. You can enjoy the breeze on a hot summer afternoon. You can swing on a porch swing! I don't know who created the porch swing, but God bless whoever made them available to the masses.
  Nana and Papa's porch swing is rather ancient. My cousin Eric and I have sometimes speculated it being original to the house. The chains are rusty and everytime a couple of us sit on the swing we know we may end up on the floor. But, honestly, the story about the two cousins sitting on and breaking the porch swing would make for a funny and popular story at our house!
 The porch and porch swing are used in every season. I've sat on that porch during springtime rainstorms and to watch the leaves fall from the trees in the autumn with Nana by my side. Manys the time a group of us has sat out on the porch enjoying the swing and eating our fast melting ice cream during the summer. On Christmas Eve the porch acts as a smoking room for those in the family enjoying celebratory cigars.
 Porches and porch swings really are part of our American scene. Shockingly though, some people with porches are without porch swings! That's a shame. Rocking chairs are pretty decent substitutes, but very few rocking chairs, aside from those bulky looking "rocking benches," can fit two people at a time. I do love the rocking chair, but a porch swing is a must in my mind if you've got a decent sized front porch. So next Spring, pick up a porch swing as part of your home improvements. You won't regret it.
 In closing, I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy your dinner and your friends and family. Be thankful for what you have and those who have fought and fight to make certain our "Freedom from Want" is preserved. Enjoy the spilling of dishes and glasses, the staining of tableclothes, and the yelling at the TV. All those little things are part of the wonderful tradition we call Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Rustic Soup for a Cold Night

Who doesn't love a hearty stew or soup on a cold night? No one I can think of either. Two nights ago  friends of mine, Katie and Silas, were hosting a party they called "Bean Feast" at their family home on the outskirts of town. The catch was that everything eaten had to be based on some sort of bean.
 I was excited to go, but had no idea what to make. On top of not having any inspiration for a dish, I had little in the pantry to play with. And on top of that, a cold New England night was setting in and I was not driving to a grocery store. And the kicker of all this was I realized all these handicaps to my bringing a dish maybe an hour before having to be at the party.
 Thank God for the 1000's of sites on the internet dedicated to fast, easy cooking. After taking stock of what I had in the house and with a recipe for "Quick White Bean Stew with Swiss Chard and Tomatoes (courtesey of," I got to work. Sadly, there was no Swiss Chard in the house and the dish was not working out. At that point my improvisational skills kicked into gear and the recipe I'll give you now is what I came up with. Most of the ingredients should be in your kitchen. If there not, stock. You'll want to make this on a cold night.

Anthony's Cold Night Tuscan Soup

3/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 Cloves Garlic (Sliced thinly)
1/2 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
4 Cups Canned Chopped or Diced Tomatoes
3 Cans of Cannellini Beans (Rinsed and tossed dry)
1 head of Romaine Lettuce
Balsamic Vinegar (To taste)
1 Small Jar of Pesto
3/4 Lbs. Cooked Sweet Italian Sausage (Optional)

 In a pot heat the Olive Oil on a low heat. Add the Garlic and Crushed Red Pepper and cook over a slightly higher heat until the Garlic is a gold color (don't burn it). Dump the Tomatoes (Chopped or Diced, your choice) and bring to a boil, stirring often.
 While the Tomatoes are heating in the pot,  cut the Romaine Lettuce into strips. Place the strips into a bowl and pour some Balsamic Vinegar onto the Lettuce. Stir these to coat the Lettuce and set aside.
 Next add the Cannellini Beans to the pot mixture. Stir these in and bring to a simmer over higher heat for atleast five minutes. Once the the beans looked cooked add in the Romaine Lettuce and let that cook too. Finally, you may lower the heat and stir in a small jar of your preferred brand of Pesto. Add the sausage if you like, or you may keep it Vegetarian.Serve hot with some sort of rustic bread.

 I made the Vegetarian version as I didn't know if anyone at the party was a Vegetarian. Without the sausage this is still a hearty and filling dish. Next time I'm adding sausage though for my own enjoyment.
 To end the story and this post, I'll tell you that my dish was very popular and we nearly finished the pot. The other dishes served included a bean dip made with roasted red peppers, a bean salad, a great pot of chili, a pasta and bean salad, and bean brownies (these were actually delicious and very chocolatey (spelling?)). After dinner atleast half the party stayed and played boardgames and Taboo and held various conversations until 1 am. Katie and Silas really do show their friends a wonderful, hearty, and casual hospitality that I know I appreciated sincerely. Their thank you card is in the mail now actually.
  Have a great Sunday and feel free to make comments or ask questions anytime.