Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ringing in 2010

Happy New Year 2010!

To all my wonderful blog friends,

Wishing you the very best in the coming year! It's been a pleasure getting to know you all, and drooling over those fabulous blogs of yours! Thank you for letting me take a peek into your lives. I look forward to delighting in your adventures throughout 2010 (I can't believe it's 2010 already!). May all your dreams and wishes for the New Year come true!


New Years Eve c. 1963
(that's me on the right, wearing the inmate shirt...)


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas 2009

From our house to yours,
a very Merry Christmas
and Happy Holidays to all!

Charlie Brown Christmas

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Winter Solstice Birthday

My birthday falls on December 21st, the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. It's really not a good time of year for a birthday, because it often gets lost with the Christmas rush.

Birthday roses
My husband Terry always makes my birthday special. This year, we went out to dinner twice. And look at my thoughtful gifts! He bought me a dozen roses, some very fancy chocolates, and the Leg Lamp ornament from "A Christmas Story." I am so lucky!

Birthday chocolates

Chocolate box
The glittery chocolate box can be used an an ornament!

Chocolate cappuccino
I love cappuccino, so this tiny chocolate cappuccino masterpiece astounded me!

Chocolate pyramid
This chocolate pyramid is coated with gold!

Leg Lamp!
One of my favorite Christmas movies is "A Christmas Story"

My mom and dad went with to dinner on my actual birthday, and were also very generous with their gift. We all had a good time at my favorite restaurant... Olive Garden!

Birthday roses close-up


Saturday, December 19, 2009

O Christmas Tree

Our Tree
Every Christmas, I set up our fake tree in just about the same way. It is stored in 2 giant plastic bins in the loft. I pull every branch out of the boxes, bend them into shape, and build the tree.

Tree Close-up 1
Next comes the lights. I love this new strand of candle lights I wove amongst the white lights this year! They look so Victorian. I used seven strands of lights in all.

Tree Close-up 2
Then, I drape strands of wooden "cranberries" in a looping fashion all around the tree.

Angel Topper
Then comes the angel topper. I unwrap the tissue from around her and climb the step ladder to place her on the very top. I was so glad when I bought her years ago. I think she's the prettiest angel topper ever.

Angel Scrap Ornament 1
Finally, I add all the ornaments. I put the biggest ones on first, to fill in any holes left by the branches and lights. Heavy ones need a branch underneath to support them. Unbreakable ones go near the bottom, in case the cats are tempted! Also, anything with ribbons or lace, or any bird ornaments go near the top, also because of the cats.

Sheet Music Ornament
This year it took me 5 hours to complete. I listened to Christmas music to get me in the spirit.

Skates & Snowflake Ornaments
Christmas time is not our cats' favorite time of year. They are never left alone with the tree! We have to lock them upstairs if we leave the house, or are asleep. So far, they've been very good, so I think Santa will bring them both a little something.

Soldier, Angel, Owl
One year, we were both looking at the tree and enjoying its beauty, when we noticed one of our cat's faces peeking out at us from the top branches!

Victorian Lady & Angel
Our Christmas tree ornaments mean a lot to my husband and I. They bring back great memories of Christmases past, and places we've been. Some are mine, some are his, and some we both picked out together.

Dresden Postcard
I wish the pretty Christmas decorations could stay up all year!

Angel Scrap Ornament 2


Monday, December 14, 2009

A Victorian Christmas Wedding

Table with floral arrangement

This month, our local historical society has decided to recreate a Victorian Christmas Wedding theme. The 1873 house has been transformed into what it may have looked like back in Victorian times for a home wedding reception. The dining room is decked out with the finest silver tea service, the best linens and lace are on display, and evergreen garland and holly add that Christmas touch.

Clayson House

The Reception

Tea service

Desserts on the sideboard

The Bride's Cake
The Bride's Cake

The Groom's Cake
The Groom's Cake

I found this bit of information fascinating:

"In 1884, the recommended trousseau consisted of a dozen chemises trimmed with embroidery or insertions, a dozen nightdresses, six well-trimmed combinations, a dozen drawers, nine camisoles, six vests, five flannel petticoats, two dressing gowns, three bed jackets, a dozen pairs of fine quality Lisle stockings, three pairs of silk stockings, two dozen handkerchiefs, a pair of French corsets, a bustle, a satin nightdress and a lace-trimmed sachet. A modest trousseau might consist of three dozen of everything."

And a partridge in a pear tree, perhaps?

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Monday, December 7, 2009

The Victorian Chromolithograph

Victorian Trade Card-ad imprinted on back
Victorian chromolithograph trade card, 1886

One of my first memories of falling in love with Victoriana was my introduction to Victorian scrap in the form of chromolithography. For several years at Christmas, my grandfather would buy me a German gingerbread cookie from a local German bakery. The cookie was in the shape of St. Nick, and always had a beautiful replica of a Victorian German chromolithograph of St. Nick printed on embossed paper and stuck to the cookie with a bit of icing. I pulled it off carefully and saved a few over the years. I always admired the colors and the art. I'm still able to find the cookies, but the art they use isn't as Victorian as the ones I used to get.

Santa Gingerbread Cookies
Modern day versions of the cookies from my childhood

Years later, when I started collecting antiques, some of the most affordable things to collect were original Victorian chromolithographs in the form of calling cards, post cards, die cut scraps, advertisements and other ephemera.

Scrap Book Cover
a typical Victorian scrapbook cover, with an Eastlake design

Victorian Cat Scrap Sheet
Chromolithographed scrap would come on die-cut, embossed sheets
for you to cut out and paste into scrapbooks or use for crafts!

Think back to the Victorian time. This was the first form of full color art the masses could easily acquire and enjoy! Women and girls collected and pasted this scrap into scrapbooks, or bought framed chromolithographs to hang on the wall. Before chromolithography, only the affluent could commission or buy an oil painting. Color photography didn't exist. Hand-tinted photographs and prints were to be had, but the labor it took to hand tint these made them still harder to afford for most people. Hand-tinted prints and photos were often "tipped in" to books and folios, with tissue carefully protecting these delicate images.

What fun it must have been when the chromolithograph came along! From the mid 1800's through the turn of the century, the chromolithograph had it's heyday.

chromo vs process screen

Let me explain a little bit about the process. A picture was created by laying down specific colored areas one at a time using grease crayons and stippling to create an image. Skilled artists copied oil paintings or created original works of art by hand. The artist had to know where and how much stippling was needed to fill each area so that when the colors were all together, a believable image was formed. These artists only worked in black and white, for they were creating their art on lithograph stones. Each stone represented one color, and several stones were used to achieve the final result. It was very labor intensive work, but when complete, multiple copies could be made, and the print mass produced. This, in the end, brought the cost down. The image above shows the chromolithograph on the left and a reproduction using 4-color process separation on the right.

Louis Prang Christmas card 1870s
Louis Prang Christmas card, chromolithograph 1870s

The advent of chromolithography brought us mass-produced Christmas cards, Valentines and every holiday card and postcard imaginable! Manufacturers and businesses advertised with full color giveaways including trade cards, calendars, postcards, and scrap as well as colored labels and packaging. Some famous chromolithographers include Louis Prang (Father of the American Christmas Card) and Currier & Ives (Better known for their hand-tinted lithographs).

Some nice examples of Victorian scrap
Some nice examples of chromolithographed Victorian scrap

Victorian Calling Card 1
A typical Victorian calling card. Scrap was glued down on one side only.
When it was lifted up, the name of the caller was revealed.

Trade Card-Houshold Sewing Machine

Trade Card-The Sterling Organ
Victorian chromolithograph trade cards

With the discovery of the photographic process of color separation (which photographically and now digitally breaks an image down to its basic components using the four colors of cyan, magenta, yellow and black to virtually create the illusion of the full spectrum), it was no longer necessary for an artist to manually break an image down into dots. (An interesting note: the Impressionism and Pointillism art movements of the late 19th century used this same theory to create tiny dots of brush strokes to create a similar illusion!).

Georges Seurat, La Grande Jatte
"Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" by Georges Seurat
The Art Institute of Chicago. Pointillism at its finest!

Well I admit, I was a color theory geek in college as I studied fine art and graphic design. I'm in love with the chromolithograph. If you're lucky enough to have some original Victorian chromolithographs, take out a loupe or magnifying glass and take a close look. You will be looking back in time to a dead art form.

Some great references:

Chromolithography and the Private Library (be sure to read all 3 parts)
The Scrap Album ( a lot of nice pages with great information and images)

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

More Christmas in Chicago

I've been noticing the Christmas decorations on more buildings in Chicago this past week. Sometimes, a simple wreath is all it takes to decorate some of these buildings, many of which are highly decorative in their own right!

Crain Communications Bldg.

Wrigley Bldg. 1

Wrigley Bldg. 2

I was able to stop briefly at Christkindlemarket last Wednesday for its opening day. It was cold and rainy, but the crowds were out in full force. This week, I returned to closely inspect all the booths. I have my eye on a cute little nutcracker ornament, but it's something I still need to think about.

Christmas Tree at Daley Plaza

Christkindlemarket 1

Christkindlemarket 2

I had some delicious cheese puff pancakes sprinkled with powdered sugar, and a big stuffed pretzel. Delicious!

Christkindlemarket 3

There were so many traditional German things to buy. I've always been fascinated by Black Forest cuckoo clocks. The nicer ones are really expensive. They're not really Victorian in the American sense, so I guess it would look strange in my house. Plus, I already have two nice chiming Victorian clocks that drive me crazy if they don't chime at the same time. I'm always adjusting one or the other. Throw a cuckoo into the mix, and I'd probably go off the deep end!

Cuckoo Clocks

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