Monday, August 31, 2009

Tearoom Tour

The weekend was for measuring and planning our son’s new kitchen. Hubby will build the cabinets in Missouri, and we will truck them to Kansas. Later in the fall, we all will gut his kitchen and create a lovely living space for the son!

We arrived in Wichita early enough on Friday to do a tearoom tour before the kitchen took over the weekend. We were sad to learn that a Victorian tearoom has closed and another is for sale. The economy has clobbered Wichita where many people, particularly in the aircraft industry, have lost their jobs.

However, we found a new tearoom, The Cup and Saucer, on the west side of Wichita. Cute little place with a small antique store included outside the tea area. It is chock full of shabby chic decorating items. The food was good, tea delicious, and the décor was inviting. Owner Sherry Underwood was attentive and informative.

Afterwards, we dropped by Riverside Cup of Tea for dessert of caramel pudding cake and ice cream with iced tea. The Riverside was the first tearoom we found in Wichita and remains special to us. It is nestled in an old neighborhood near the banks of the Arkansas River. It is not far from where DH’s grandmother lived for years. Here the décor is delightful as well and food is always good. The Riverside is distinct in that they are now serving breakfast on Saturday mornings. The menu sounds great with lemon pancakes, a hearty breakfast casserole and several egg dishes for morning choices!

One other new tearoom is small and tucked into a collection of shops in a brick building at Old Town. This tearoom has only been open a few months, but the owner, Irene Neilson, has owned a tearoom in Lindsborg, Kansas prior to this one in Old Town. Time was short, and we had no time for sampling here!

Before leaving town on Sunday, we dropped in at World Market, always a fun place to look for tea, foods, and kitchen items. I picked up a new tea by Republic of Tea, Pumpkin Ginger Spice. This morning we sampled it on the deck in an amazing fall-like temperature of 49 degrees. It was tasty, warm with spice and definitely a good item for autumn drinking. Although I hate to see summer end, especially this cooler one for Missouri, I will be glad to see mums and pumpkins make their debut. If only they were not a harbinger of winter!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Shepherd of the Hills

When I was in junior college, I worked a few hours a week in a bakery that was owned by two brothers. They had to start their work at 3:00 a.m. each day. They baked a variety of breads, hamburger buns, and sweet rolls. They were usually almost finished when I arrived at 2:30, unless it was a heavy day, and then I would help slice buns or clean pans. Otherwise, my job was to sell out the front cases, take orders for the next day, and close up shop about 5:30 in the evening.

The brothers were middle-aged and married. They worked long, hard hours and dropped into bed early so they could arise in the middle of the night for the next day baking, of earning their dough so to speak. Charlie talked the most, and still that was only a few words a day. He could not understand why I had dreams of being an English teacher. He said they were cranky old women, buns on their necks, and wore glasses on a string that bounced on their bosoms. He said I was too sweet and fun to be one of those women.

Charlie had little appreciation or interest in reading. He said he had read only one decent book in his life, and that was a required reading novel in high school. The book was Harold Bell Wright’s Shepherd of the Hills about a man learning about forgiveness and living a moral life in the Ozark hills of Missouri. Charlie said it was a wonderful story, later made into a movie with John Wayne, and he wanted me to read it. He loaned me his copy and I tried. However, I never could warm up to the story, thought it hokey and had a great deal of trouble reading the twangy dialect of the characters.

But last winter, my book club decided to read this novel as their classic. We all live near towns like Pittsburg, Kansas and Pierce City, Missouri where the author was a minister during his lifetime. Age has allowed me the patience to read the dialect and an appreciation for the hill history included in the story. Written over a hundred years ago, the story of romance and redemption is still timely. Although Branson is a mecca of country music now, the novel names places and characters like Mutton Hollow, the White River, the ball knobbers, and Sammy Lane that are still recognizable in the Branson area today.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Blue Willow Dishes

One of my earliest memories was having a set of child-sized Blue Willow dishes. Although only five, I was careful to never chip or break a piece. I used milk or juice in the teapot, marshmallows in the bowls, and served vanilla wafer meals on the plates. How I loved those dishes, and how devastated I was when a visiting friend destroyed them with one accurate strike to my tot tea table loaded with the entire set. Although Santa replaced them with a set of floral china that I still have, I never felt the same about the new dishes and longed for my old Blue Willow.

Blue Willow china was put into production sometime in the late 1700’s in England. The pattern of a bridge, pagoda, Chinese servants or fishermen, and two blue birds flying above the scene were inspired by a Chinese story of a father who would not let her daughter marry her true love. The couple eloped and the father threatened to kill them when caught, but the gods saved them by changing the couple to love birds for life. The pattern became popular, and broken shards are often found in old sea wrecks, old trash dumps, and excavations sites. The pattern traveled across oceans in rolling ships and across prairies in covered wagons. The pattern was a favorite for everyday dishes of author Laura Ingalls Wilder.

One day I was shopping in a local bed and breakfast gift shop that was going out of business. There I spied an adult-sized platter and vegetable dish in the Blue Willow pattern. The fact that is was stamped Made in Japan and made of the richest shade of blue enticed me further to bring it home with me. Thus, my collecting of Willow started. I now have some in every room of the house, use it on the table for daily meals, and I even have a few pieces stashed under the bed.

(Laura Ingallas Wilder's dishes on display in
Manketo, MN near the setting of her Little
House on Plum Creek story.)

My friends have helped me out knowing my love of Willow. Different ones have given me a chocolate set, a child’s plate, a platter, an odd cup here and there. My mother-in-law donated her Willow cake plate to my cause. I hand carried an unusual cup and saucer home on a flight from Vermont, and I bought a whole box of odd plates in a dusty shop in eastern Colorado. Of course, DH and I canvass flea markets looking for fresh pieces. Although you can still buy a set of Blue Willow dishes new, it is much more fun to “seek and find". Besides, the older pieces have the richest shades of blue and more detail.

Recently, neighbors down the street were downsizing. He had a few pieces of his mother’s old Blue Willow and asked me if I’d like to look. I bought a platter that was like many I have only a tiny bit more oval, along with the one rice bowl he had with a stamp on the bottom from Holland. I also bought a blue and white bowl that is not Blue Willow, but it looks to be a flow blue, old and fits right in to complement all my Willow.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A Bought Lesson

My good friend Tracy, who used to live two doors down instead of two hours away, frequently quoted her mother. Mrs. P used to say, “a bought lesson was worth more than a taught lesson”. I guess this piece of red glassware would certainly fall into the category of a “bought lesson”.

When I was about seven years old, I wanted to help my Granny do something around the house while she and Mom talked. Mom told me to go out and play, but Granny got me a dust rag to dust her tiered occasional table. I was very careful but still something happened. A nice red vase fell over and broke into many pieces. My Mom was livid with me, but Gran understood because after all I had volunteered to help her at something, anything just because I loved her. However, Mom thought I should learn a lesson and had to earn the money to pay to replace the vase.

Mom found a similar one, although not the same kind of vase, at our town’s local Rexall and Gift store. We priced the red goblet, and it was $9.00, a small fortune in the 1950’s. I had to start saving my coins and work for extra money. I made my bed, cleared the table, carried and held wooden clothespins while Mom hung the laundry outside. There were not many chores where a kid could earn a nickel when she was seven. Grandpa helped by making up errands for me like bringing him his briefcase for which he paid a dime, sometimes a quarter!

Finally, I had the money and we purchased the red goblet and took it to Granny the next visit. She displayed it proudly for years. After she died and her house had to be broken up; we were all there packing and sorting things. My dad reached over for the red goblet off the shelf and handed it to me. Then he said, “I think you should take this. You have paid for it once,” and he smiled.

Although that red glass is not a style like anything I have, I display it proudly. I am not sure what I learned out of that experience. Maybe it was to take responsibility for my actions, paying my dues for choices made, or just to avoid dusting at all costs! But the red glass goblet sits in my own hutch reminding me a “bought lesson is worth more than a taught lesson”.

Wooden Boats

Several years ago, DH wanted to build a boat after buying a wooden boat book at the L.L. Bean store in Maine. Therefore, he went to the garage with very few tools, no space, skimpy budget, and spent the winter steaming, bending, nailing and fiber glassing a 16-foot cedar lathe canoe on an oak frame. He made a beautiful boat that cut through the water like a sharp blade. We did not use it very many times though since in Ozark streams our aluminum one worked better for fishing. With a square stern and being a foot longer, it was more stable.
DH grew up on a Kansas farm where he dreamed of boats. On summer days when he had free time, he built small balsawood or paper crafts and took them to Flat Rock Creek that hugged the edge of the family farm. There he sailed them, dreaming of someday building and sailing his own boats. Meanwhile, I grew up only a few miles away and had an innate fear of water. Yet in our marriage, I swallowed most of the fear and tried to support him in his dreams by canoeing and fishing.
So he decided to sell the wooden canoe and build another bigger wooden boat. We put an ad in the paper and on Craig’s list, but no calls came. Yesterday morning we set the canoe in the front yard with a For Sale sign, although we thought it would be hard to sell an expensive item of special interest that way. Before we had finished our first cup of tea on the deck, we heard truck doors slamming and saw men checking it out. One after another, they stopped on their way to work, pricing and dreaming of their own exploits in the watercraft. The canoe sold in thirty minutes!
The man who bought the cedar canoe is building a large cabin on Table Rock Lake. He wanted to hang the watercraft as cabin décor rather than float it. He wants to use it over a pool table where he hopes workers can insert electrical work so the canoe actually lights up the game space. It is a little hard to think of this beautiful piece dry-docked. Meanwhile, DH dreams again of boat building.