Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Pink, Pink Rose?

Hi Everyone,
I'm joining Beverly of How Sweet the Sound this week. This marks the second anniversary of her very popular weekly event. Visit her HERE and check out all Beverly's pink-loving participants!

It was such a beautiful, sunny day that I decided to set a table for two on the deck. I was in the mood to keep it simple. I quickly assembled an unstructured arrangement of fresh garden flowers (as I did last week and the week before). I also draped a garland of native clematis and old-fashioned pink shrub roses over the railing next to the table.

In keeping with the simple approach I was taking, I left the glass tabletop uncovered and opted not to layer plates -- just a dinner plate and cup & saucer at each place setting. Almost everything I used is vintage and came from various local estate sales.

As I arranged the flowers and set the table, a poem/traditional song by Scottish poet, Robert Burns, kept running through my mind. No, these roses aren't red, but much of what you'll see in the photographs is in the red family. So, here you have:

"My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose" (1794)

O my Luve's like a red, red rose

O my Luve's like the melodie

That’s newly sprung in June;

O my Luve's like the melodie

That’s sweetly play'd in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,

So deep in luve am I:

And I will luve thee still, my dear,

Till a’ the seas gang dry:

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,

And the rocks melt wi’ the sun:

I will luve thee still, my dear,

While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only Luve

And fare thee weel, a while!

And I will come again, my Luve,

Tho’ it were ten thousand mile.

Robert Burns (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796)

When asked for the source of his greatest creative inspiration, singer songwriter Bob Dylan selected A Red, Red Rose, as the lyrics that have had the biggest effect on his life.

China: Lenox Rhodora, introduced in 1939
Flatware: Vintage mix-and-match, mostly silverplated
Stemware: Rock Sharpe, various designs on stem #3005

I really enjoy using these Rock Sharpe glasses! They have a formal look, and guests frequently comment on their beauty. Fortunately, they're far more durable than their appearance would indicate. Prices vary, but they can often be found at estate sales and on eBay for little more than the price of basic, mass-produced everyday glasses.

Are you up for a little tabletop history lesson?

This is called Libbey Rock Sharpe because it is a Libbey Glass Company's blank (Stem line # 3005) which Cataract-Sharpe Company used for their cuttings (Pattern Cut 3005-5) in their Rock Sharpe line. Cataract- Sharpe Company purchased blanks from Libbey for their fine cuttings. This stem was made during the 1930s - 1940s and has Libbey's chip-resistant "Safedge" feature which Libbey introduced in 1924.

This pattern is featured in Bob Page and Dale Frederiksen's book, "A Collection of American Crystal", pg. 66, 1995. Quoted from this book:The Cataract Company was a high quality cutting operation that decorated fine handmade stemware supplied by other firms. For many years, Cataract-Sharpe had purchased blanks from the Libbey Glass Division of Owens-Illinois and decorated the crystal at its factory in Buffalo. The company made no glass itself. Cataract-Sharpe cut many intricate, deep-cut crystal patterns. Many of the designs were ornately done and brilliantly polished. A fern-like design was a very typical design for Sharpe and it appears in a variety of their cut patterns. In the 30's and 40's, the company widely promoted its Rock Sharpe Crystal products in many of the major women's magazines. Rock Sharpe was some of the best-selling stemware in American during that period.

I hope you'll join Susan of Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday. It's always great fun to see Susan's wonderful tables and those of her talented participants!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Another Place and Time!

If you're a regular reader of Affordable Accoutrements, you're accustomed to seeing me setting tables with vintage items I've collected from estate sales, antique shops, and thrift stores. A quick glance at the picture below, however, will tell you something's different this week.

We're definitely in a different room this time. In fact, today's table is set in a completely different house, a very special one that I've mentioned before on Affordable Accoutrements. It was during a (virtual) tour of Historic Bolivar, Tennessee, a few months ago. You can see it HERE.

Here's the property's historic marker, erected by the Tennessee Historical Commission:

The Pillars, built circa 1828, is now an Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities property (owned and maintained by the Hardeman County Chapter). U. S. Presidents, James K. Polk and Andrew Jackson; Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America; and Sam Houston, governor of two states, President of the Republic of Texas, U.S. senator, and military hero, were all entertained here by John Houston Bills and his first wife, Prudence Polk McNeal Bills, a cousin of President Polk. Celebrated American folk hero, frontiersman, soldier, and politician, Davy Crockett also came to call. The Pillars served as a hospital twice during the Civil War, alternately providing care for men on both sides of the conflict.

Don't you love real wood shutters? Shutters that are actually hinged and can be latched to keep out damaging storm winds and the sweltering heat of a bright summer day ...

Below is an original portrait of Major Bills in the home's entry hall.

The parlor to the left of the foyer ...

The Bills family lived in the home for approximately 140 years. Most of the furnishings are original. Behind the wonderful old square piano is one of the home's windows with "jib" doors(that allowed the window to be raised and the wooden double doors at the bottom opened) to provide easy access to the porches.

I was honored to be asked to stage the dining room for this year's tour of historic homes in Bolivar. It provided a slightly daunting challenge, as I thought of the home's rich history and of the celebrated guests who'd been entertained there in the 1800s. When Paula, one of the organizers of the tour, asked me if I'd be interested, she kindly offered to let me use any of the Bills family's china and serving pieces that remained in the home. I told her I'd feel more comfortable using something of my own, unless it needed to be period china. She assured me that it would not be necessary to adhere to an historic interpretation, pointing out that The Pillars had truly been a family home over a very long period of time. She reminded me that things had been used, worn out, replaced as styles changed, thrown away, inherited, and so on.

Naturally, the night before, I had selected (and packed) everything I planned to use. From unloading the car to unwrapping china and crystal, setting the table, arranging the flowers, cleaning up the staging area, and taking photographs, I managed to finish the task in well under 2 hours on Saturday morning. It was a pleasure to be a small part of such a well-orchestrated day that involved dozens and dozens of docents and other volunteers. I admire their dedication, their passion, and their energy. Community pride and a warm spirit of cooperation were evident in everyone I met that day from children to the beautiful octogenarian who didn't look remotely near the age she demurely revealed herself to be.

Isn't it a wonderful room? A docent mentioned that Major Bills preferred light, warm wall colors that reflected the soft light of candles and oil lamps. One of the rooms is painted a fairly intense, slightly greenish, shade of yellow that most of us today would find somewhat garish. They know it's a color he favored, however, because he wrote down the paint formula in one of the detailed diaries he maintained over the years. She said it brightens the room in the daytime, and takes on a soft, subtle glow by candlelight.

The chandelier originally hung in the home of one of Tennessee's former governors.

Cissye, president of the local APTA chapter, can be seen in the background preparing to make beaten biscuits to serve to tour participants. Since she's average height, or slightly above average, it's easy to see how tall the ceilings and doorways of the home are.

Have you ever tried beaten biscuits? In days gone by, these were made by beating the dough until it blistered (about 15-30 minutes) to make the dough "snap." They are sometimes considered "Sunday biscuits" and can be stored for several months in an airtight container. Beaten biscuits were once so popular that special machines, called biscuits brakes, were manufactured to knead the dough in home kitchens. A biscuit brake typically consists of a pair of steel rollers geared together and operated by a crank, mounted on a small table with a marble top and cast iron legs. That's what Cissye used during demonstrations for visitors, and she explained that the dough has to be put through the rollers approximately 200 times!

I decided to go for an old-fashioned look, using vintage Tiffin crystal stemware and Haviland china.

The table's so beautiful, I opted to dispense with a tablecloth. It can be expanded to serve 12 guests, but I decided to remove some of the leaves and set it for 6, leaving plenty of space for guests to move about in the room.

This set of crystal also includes oyster/cocktail glasses and pretty little cordials, but I felt that four stems per place setting would be sufficient.

The clear glass underplate is Caprice by Cambridge. The solid, gold-rimmed china is Concorde by Theodore Haviland (made in America), and the salad plates are French by Charles Field Haviland (an 1880s pattern).

The flatware is Jamestown, introduced by International in 1916. Even though it's 20th Century, I felt that it had a nice, old-fashioned look that worked well in this context.

The large, starched dinner napkins are vintage, and came from a recent estate sale.

That's Paula in the center. She was giving last-minute instructions to this young docent and volunteer. The young man learned to churn butter (in an antique churn), to be served with the beaten biscuits. I sampled the crusty quick bread with butter later in the day. Absolutely delicious!

The cabinet below is filled with china that was hand-painted by the young ladies of the Bills family. It seems that they were all quite artistic. In addition to decorating the beautiful china pieces, several of them were prolific painters of landscapes and florals. Their drawings, paintings, easels, and other art supplies can still be seen at The Pillars.

Here's a closer view of some of the china they decorated. China painting, of course, was considered a most suitable activity for cultured young ladies of the Victorian Era.

Another portrait of John Houston Bills. This one, I believe, is a hand-painted copy of the original displayed in the entry hall.

I placed two Haviland trays on the sideboard, along with Jamestown serving utensils (the plated tongs are modern, but added another shape and a bit of extra shine). The flowers are casually arranged in a thrifted ironstone urn.

Looking to the right, we see some of the family's original ironstone pieces. The small tureen is monogrammed JHB for John Houston Bills.

The centerpiece is a casual mixed arrangement of garden flowers I cut the evening before and conditioned overnight. I decided to drape English ivy down the length of the table and across the mantle, so I harvested some of that as well. I kept the cut ends in water overnight, but first I had rinsed it thoroughly (outside with a garden hose). I also patted it dry with paper towels just before arranging it, to make certain not to cause water damage to the surface of the table.

This is very similar to the arrangement I did for last week's table post. It includes various types of roses, peonies, azaleas, Virginia Sweet Spire, hydrangeas, and a few fern fronds.

The simple vase is from Ikea. I thought it had a timeless look that didn't call too much attention to itself.

It's strawberry time in West Tennessee! Supermarket berries serve the purpose nicely during winter months, but there's nothing quite like a fully ripened, sweet, juicy strawberry! These came from the local farmer's market. Adding sugar to one would be "gilding the lily!" I do NOT, however, have any objection to using fresh berries as an ingredient for a moist delicious strawberry cake!

There's a great strawberry cake recipe in the cookbook below, The Sampler II. It's being sold by APTA members as a fundraiser to help provide income for upkeep of The Pillars. I sampled the strawberry cake at one of the other homes on the tour, and it was perfect! That recipe alone is worth the $20 cost of the cookbook but, don't worry, there are many, many more, from soups to appetisers, to main courses, to desserts. They're nicely organized as well, in a ring binder with tabs for various categories. You can visit their website HERE for further information about the cookbook and about scheduling private tours (or rentals for events!) of The Pillars.

Let's pretend our docent is Evalina Bills Polk. I read online that, following the Battle of Shiloh, on April 6-7, 1862, Major Bills (her father) had gone with three other townsmen to the battlefield soon after the engagement. He was concerned for the welfare of his son, Leonidas I. Bills, and of two sons-in-law, Captains Marshall T. Polk and Robert H. Wood, who had lead their Confederate troops in that battle. Mrs. Sarah Childress Polk, widow of President James Knox Polk was promptly notified of Mr. Bills’ capture and Capt. Marshall Polk’s (Evalina’s husband) serious injury. She telegraphed President Abraham Lincoln from her home in Nashville requesting their release. Mr. Bills and his party were allowed to leave on their own parole on the condition that they not take up arms against the United States.

"Evalina" told me she very much liked the table setting. Perhaps that's one of the reasons she's smiling today!
Let's step out onto the home's shady front porch. I asked if there had ever been neighbors across the street. The answer impressed and delighted me. It seems that visitors today have almost exactly the same view as the Bills family in the 1800s! Read on ....

In 1947, Joseph and Louise McAnulty purchased a 10-acre tract of forested land within the city limits of Bolivar (across from The Pillars). They later learned that their woods were a remnant of a rare virgin forest! McAnulty was a prominent local businessman whose family had lived in Hardeman County for many generations. The local Episcopal Church had owned this forest since the 1800s where they built a girl’s school on a slope surrounded on three sides by wooded ravines. The McAnulty family built their home on this old school site being careful not to disturb the precious forest that, as far as they knew, had never been cut.

In the 1970s, university professors informed McAnulty that his oldgrowth forest was the only known remaining example of the original upland forests that once existed in West Tennessee prior to settlement. In this diverse mixed oak forest were many old White Oaks measuring up to 56 inches in diameter and estimated to be 450 years old. The professors recommended “McAnulty’s Woods” to the National Park Service as a National Natural Landmark. It was designated in 1973 when the McAnulty family signed a voluntary agreement to continue to preserve and protect the site. The land will keep its National Natural Landmark status for as long as the owners abide by this agreement.

I hope you've enjoyed visiting The Pillars today. Please join Susan of Between Naps on the Porch and visit all her talented Tablescape Thursday participants. I'm also linking to a new party I hope you'll visit, Centerpiece Wednesday with The Style Sisters. Check it out HERE. Thank you to everyone who stopped by to view this post and a special thank you to the Hardeman County Chapter of the Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities for inviting me to be part of their annual tour of homes. It was an honor and a great privilege.

Kindest regards,