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Birmingham Museum of Art

birmingham-museum-of-art02202017

Birmingham Museum of Art

TRAVEL THERE: THE JEWEL OF BIRMINGHAM

When the possibility of visiting Birmingham first came up, I checked out the city online.  The city seemed to be a foodie haven with a great art museum and a nice botanical garden, but comparing their hours to our flight schedule and the hours of the thing I can’t tell you about, I wasn’t going to have time to do anything about any of that.  So, I dutifully went about my business.  Still, something in my subconscious kept clanging.  I couldn’t exactly recall why, but I knew I really wanted to see the museum.

bma-postcard02202017Perhaps, Maybe, Possibly

One day at lunch, before we took off on the Birmingham adventure, I mentioned to Hannah Beth that I regretted we weren’t going to have time to do the touristy thing.  She assured me the museum was well worth seeing and mentioned a couple of possibilities we might have for seeing it.  I assured her I had checked for evening hours, so that wouldn’t work, but skipping the final session – that would do.

I just happen to be one of those people who believe God is personally involved in my life.  I also believe that if I’m willing to put Him first, He does everything he can to fulfill Psalms 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desire of your heart.”  In fact, He’s proved it to me too many time to deny it.

So, while we were keeping an ear to the ground to find out how significant the final session would be, God was arranging to keep things ahead of schedule so that we could get out in plenty of time to make it to the museum.  You may call that a coincidence.  I don’t believe in coincidences.

My Wedgewood-esque Fireplace

My Wedgewood-esque Fireplace

An Embarrassment of Wedgwood

If you’ve been hanging around this blog for very long, then you know the Decorative Arts Wing of any museum is my prime objective when I make a visit.  I love Decorative Arts better than anything else produced from the artistic mind.  I can spend an entire day in a Porcelain gallery – a passion I learned from my mother.

What’s more, Wedgwood,especially their Jasperware, (matte porcelain with relief decorations) is among my most favorite porcelains. Don’t believe me?  Take a gander at the photo of the fireplace my husband and I designed for our home.  You don’t have one of these unless you love Wedgwood.  It was inspired by two I’d seen in Mount Vernon.

Along with representative Wedgwood pieces gracing the mantle piece, there are various Wedgwood and Jasperware pieces spread throughout the house.  For good measure, my everyday china is Wedgwood.  Not Jasperware but Wedgwood.  So imagine my delight when I glanced over the map of the Birmingham Museum and saw three galleries designated by the word “Wedgwood”.

The Dwight and Lucille Beeson Wedgwood Collection

If you love Wedgwood the way I love Wedgwood, then go ahead and book the flight.  I’ve been in a lot of museums and so far, I’ve never seen one with so much Wedgwood.  I haven’t been to The Wedgwood Museum at Stokes-on-Trent yet, but that’s only because it didn’t exist decades ago when I visited the city.  I can assure you, this is the most Wedgwood you are going to see anywhere outside of Britain.

The galleries contain mostly Jasperware in a rainbow of hues, but they have samples of other forms of Wedgwood collected by the couple.  I swear I could have visited the museum every day for a week and been perfectly happy studying the exhibits in the three galleries.  Here are some samples.

 

That blue and yellow vase on the jade pedestal would be great in my yellow and blue French decor but the dark blue wine cooler with the white flowers must be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.  I’d leave it in the museum for others to share.

Giving the Rest of the Art Its Due

Even if you don’t like Wedgwood, the Birmingham Museum of Art is still a good thing to see.  Porcelains from other places are prevalent throughout the museum, but there are also paintings and statues and other things to enjoy.  I did run through the balance of the galleries at a high speed and then rushed back to gander at the Wedgwood a little more.  However, I did get these two postcards to prove the museum has variety.

 

ww-book02202017Buying the Book

In this digital age, when you can find almost any piece of art you’d like to see by searching it online, art books might not seem a good investment to some people.  Maybe other people spend their time cruising museums online, but I’ll confess, I want to be there and see it in person.  Seeing it online is better than not seeing it at all, but it’s not even on the same continent as first hand observation.

By the same token, while I have broken my habit of buying a book in every museum I go to, sometimes I just have to take a catalog home.  This was one of those times.  In fact, I anticipated facing down the fury of my husband if the only thing available was some $160 hardback number.

I guess God was doing me another favor, because there was a reasonably priced soft cover edition of the catalog – only it had a large sticker designating it as the display copy.  I chatted up the clerk, who was a volunteer.  She looked in the stockroom – nothing.  She offered to have someone take a gander in the warehouse in the next day or so and call me if they had anymore.  I just stood there clasping the display edition as if my life depended on it.  “I’m leaving town this afternoon,” I all but wailed.  “Oh we can ship it to you,” she assured me.

I put off replying to her suggestion by telling her about my fireplace.  Then I mused as to what in the world I would do if there were no more of the books in the warehouse.  She decided to sell me the display copy at a discounted price.  BINGO!  I’m getting a whole lot better at this negotiating thing than I used to be.  I’d have paid full price just to have it, but I’m sure the fireplace story did the trick!

The flight home was not as trouble free as my flight to Birmingham.  The flight was delayed for hours and as a result I know more about the food vendors at the Birmingham airport than I should.  I’d been on a diet, which had been seriously threatened by the fast food offerings served to us at that thing I can’t tell you about, but what damage had not already been done got done.  So much for dieting.  And so much for Birmingham.  Come back next week and see what I’m up to.

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Filed under ART, Attractions, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, Museums, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

San Marcos Premium Outlets

A Sampling of my Souvenirs

A Sampling of my Souvenirs

TRAVEL THERE: MY KIND OF SHOPPING AND MORE

I love shopping.  Actually, it would be more correct to say I love buying.  I’m perfectly capable of wandering through a bazaar or market in a faraway place, just to get a feel for the place, but for me, it’s a lot more fun if there’s buying involved.

My husband has finally cured me of that – at least when he’s around.  I used to come home from trips with a souvenir from every stop.  I collected trinket boxes and Christmas ornaments.  I loved to find handmade clothing and jewelry.  I gathered up souvenir booklets like some people collect baseball cards.  In the early years of our marriage, this practice created great discomfort for Bill.  He followed me around  with his eyes full of pain and flinched at every purchase.  I didn’t pay close enough attention, so he started helping me understand his point of view.

Collecting just doesn’t make any sense to him.  To Bill, all my gorgeous trinket boxes seemed like clutter.  He’s suggested I store most of them and only put out a few at a time.  What once held pride of place, on the fireplace mantle of my apartment, is now hidden away upstairs on a shelf in my office – along with all my framed family photos, my large collection of books and … well you get the picture.  I don’t have to allow much room for souvenirs in my return luggage, anymore.

From time to time, I’ll have a lapse of judgement.  We’ll be traveling and I’ll pick up an item with that look in my eye.  Bill goes into panic mode.  Trinket boxes and Christmas ornaments are strictly taboo.  If I’ve picked up an item for the house, Bill wants to know exactly where I plan to display it and of course, he really loves what’s there and doesn’t want to replace it.  Whatever it is, it won’t be coming home with me.  Clothing and jewelry?  Forget about it.  He asks what I’m going to throw away or donate to make space for the new item.  My only hope of making a purchase is when I find a gift for someone else.  It takes some of the fun out of it.

The Exceptions to the Rule

While he can’t see the value in that cute straw purse on the beach or an embroidered sweater in the Alps, Bill does understand I know my way around an outlet mall.  He fully endorses my outlet shopping.  Mind you, he rarely goes with me, but he also doesn’t need resuscitation when I come home with armloads of shopping bags.  See, he knows that cute straw purse on the beach has a mark-up somewhere in the range of 100%, but if I buy a top at an outlet mall, they’ve almost had to pay me to get me to carry it out.

I’m also allowed to buy shoes at DSW.  I never look at anything unless it’s on the clearance rack and even then, I’ll only look at things that are 50% or more off.  What I love is the yellow stickers, because that means they are marked down 80% or more.

San Marcos Premium Outlet

20170112_075950For some reason I cannot fathom, I never shopped at the San Marcos Premium Outlet – at least not in the last 20-30 years.  It seems as if long ago I might have gone with Mom and Aunt Edie, but I think the stores may have been on the other side of the road – and none of the stores I loved this time were there.

You know I love San Antonio and get there every time I can, but for some reason, we’d just drive right past this outlet mall or stop in Salado.  It pains me to think of all the bargains I’ve missed.

Deb and I started at Off 5th, the Saks outlet.  I’d been looking at white pique dresses all summer long, but could not tolerate spending $150-200 for one dress.  At Saks, I took several reasonably priced options to the dressing room and found one for about$20 that I loved.  (I didn’t even know I was headed to Egypt on my next trip.  Imagine how cute I will be, going out to dinner in Sharm!)  Then off to the shoe department.  Score!!  Ellen Tracy brown crocodile pumps with a leather stack heel for $16.99!   $16.99!!

20170112_080244After that auspicious beginning, my purchasing slowed down, but I did pick up a few items here and there.  Then we wandered in to Dream Land.  I pride myself on looking designer without paying designer prices, but I confess, there are designers I love and if money were no object, as my spouse if fond of saying, I’d load my closet up with them.  My new favorite is Carolina Herrera.  To my utter delight, she has an outlet store in San Marcos.  The prices are still a little out of my reach, but they are closer than the ones at Northpark.  Armani, Brahmin, Coach, Ferragamo – all these and more grace the sidewalks of the San Marcos outlet mall.

But let me tell you my favorite.  I love St. John.  I can pick out someone wearing it a mile away.  There’s a sleek elegance I aspire to that exudes from each St. John creation.  Their store is not exactly on the main drag, so we had to wander a bit to find it, but I adored the few moments I spent there.  No reason to spend any more, because nothing was in my price range.

At a final stop, we found a handbag for my bestie.  She’d been willing to pay $100 for something adequate at the Saks outlet, but we agreed to keep looking.  She got a Brahmin for about $120.  I was giddy.  She hoped I was spending her money wisely and now I think she agrees I did.

Then it was time to head back to join the women who had spend the day in Gruene, because we were headed out to dinner.  See you next week!

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Filed under DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

A Lovely Afternoon in Passau

5p-oooTRAVEL THERE: GLADLY GUIDELESS IN GERMANY

After lunch Bill and I ventured into Passau on our own.  While we’d been frustrated by our guide’s demeanor during the morning, he had led us through a shopping area and shown us a nice riverside walkway.  Passau is no Vienna and we’d had lunch, so Bill was amenable to hoofing it around on our own.

 

A Marvelous Afternoon

While our morning tour had left a bad taste in our mouth, it had not besmirched the charming little town.  The first item on my agenda was to find some tokens for my friends.  A thorough search of the room did not turn up any of the darling gingerbread ornaments I bought in Cesky Krumlov, so I needed to get busy.  I wanted to get something for my Bible Study girls and then I had a couple of other friends for whom I wanted to buy something more substantial.

Ludwigstrasse

Ludwigstrasse

Passau has a significant pedestrian area with shops called Ludwigstrasse and nearby are a couple multistory of enclosed malls.  My patient husband wandered through all of these with me, hunting down the appropriate souvenirs – only I wasn’t finding much that I thought was appropriate.  Finally, we wandered into a knick-knack store and while most of the items were tacky bibelots   with the words “Passau, Germany” emblazoned on them, I found a shelf populated with charming ceramic cherubs molded into a variety of poses.  I’d found the trinkets I wanted for my Bible Study girls.

5p-ooo-3Strolling Along the River

I was still baffled about what to get for my best friend and my next door neighbor, who is truly the best next door neighbor in the world, but Mr. Bill was ready to roll.  We headed toward the river and were hugely rewarded.

The morning had been chilly in more ways than one.  Yes, our guide had been Mr. Rude, but the weather was overly crisp, also.  I’d layered up with a denim jacket and a wool cape, but had still been uncomfortable.  The afternoon weather was so glorious that we might have been in Dallas on one of its best days.

We discovered it was the first really warm day for Passau that spring and the whole town had turned out to enjoy the river.  Children tossed balls into the air.  Lovers ogled one another on shared blankets.  Giggly girls shared secrets strolling along the river.  Another girl sat on a stairway leading down to the river captivated by a book.  Beer drinking students toasted everyone that walked by.  It was like a movie set!

Once More to the Ludwigstrasse

Armed with a map the rude guide had provided, Bill and I maneuvered around the finger of land pointing to the confluence of the Inn, the Ilz and the Danube.  When we got back to the boat, Bill agreed to hit the Ludwigstrasse with me one more time.  I was in a tizzy.  I had to finish packing and dress for dinner soon, but I just didn’t want to head home without something for my friends.

As I bounced from storefront to storefront appalled at the pricing, Bill came to the rescue.  One of the clothing stores was having a bit of a sidewalk sale and Bill pointed it out.  I doubted anything would be affordable, even marked down, because all the prices I had seen were pretty steep.  Bill helped me figure out the exchange rate and the discount.  Suddenly, I was all smiles.  Not only had we found exactly what I’d love to get for Deb and Sherry, but I wasn’t going to break the bank!

It was a quiet night on board.  The evening happy hour was devoted to disembarking instructions.  Dinner was delicious, but sad.  We’d made wonderful friends and we didn’t know when we’d see them again.  Then there we had to be out early in the morning.  For all practical purposes, the cruise was over.

Come back next week and I’ll get you back to Dallas.  In the meantime, enjoy this video of our final stop.

 

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Filed under Architecture, ART, Cruising, DESTINATIONS, International, Shopping, TRAVEL

YouTube Videos Lie

TRAVEL HERE: HOME IMPROVEMENT INSANITY

I’m going to rant today.  I’ve whined before over the “improvements” companies insist on making to things I love – “improvements” that render my favorite things useless to me.  All it takes for a cosmetics company to discontinue a lipstick color is for me to like it, but that’s different from improving products past the point of being useful.  You know what I mean.

The Tension-less Shower Rod

I grew up with something called a tension shower rod.  The tension came from a spring.  You’d twist the rod until it was just a smidge bigger than your opening.  Then you’d squeeze it into place and forget about it – like for decades.  This was a true improvement over the old shower rods you attached with screws.  The improved rod worked without marring your wall and if it ever did come down, you weren’t left with a hole in the wall.  What’s more, if your spring ever did lose a little of its tension, you could just unscrew it a little bit and get another decade or so out of the rod.

Then the shower rod companies decided to “improve” their product.  I remember going to the store and buying a tension shower rod and coming home to put it up.  I ripped off the cellophane and started twisting it the way I always had, but something was wrong.  I dug the wrapping out of the trashcan and paid more attention to it.  A big blue star on the wrapper informed me the rod was “SPRINGLESS”.  And they thought that was good news???

For awhile, springless and springed tension shower rods were sold side-by-side, but only for awhile.  After our most recent move, there were no springed tension rods – at all.  I looked everywhere.  So, I came home with the new springless version and gave it to my husband, because I already knew there was no hope for me with the rod.  He watched a YouTube video and managed to install the rod, but after a couple of weeks our expensive custom shower curtain was down on the floor.  After a few rounds of that, we went out, bought the really old kind that screws into the wall.  It took some research, but we found one.  Months later, the shower curtain is still up there.  I’m thinking it will always be up there, but so will the holes we made.  So much for improvement.

Do-It-Yourself Mini-blinds

There was a time when people who wanted mini-blinds had to call a decorator.  I’m glad those days are over.  Now you can get mini-blinds at your big box home-improvement store, but the measuring might be a little tricky.  For our latest house we ordered “custom” blinds and since we have 30 some odd windows, measuring them was quite a challenge.  My husband did the installing and it wasn’t the easiest thing he’d ever done, but he did it without the egregious use of swear words.

So when we needed mini-blinds for one of our rent houses, we thought we knew what we were doing.  We showed up with our measurements, thinking we’d go in and make do with the “standard” sized blind that were trimmed to fit, but got a lesson in mini-blind packaging from our friendly big box sales employee.

Seems folks used to measure their window and then the store personnel would do some kind of mathematical equation to provide blinds with the perfect fit.  The mini-blind manufacturers have now decided to cut out the mathematical equation.  Now when you go to the big box store you just pick out the box with your window width on it and voila, you have mini-blinds that fit – at least theoretically.

We pointed out to the nice man at the store the blinds were at least a foot longer than we needed, but he assured us the length was adjustable.  Nice right?

The actual installation of the blinds was pretty straightforward.  In fact, hubby was able to negotiate the blinds into the window without reading the instructions or asking me anything.  Then we got to the adjusting the length part.  I dug out one of the instruction pages and read through it.  The instructions sounded like gobbledy goop to me.  There were four different types of string and you had to hold your tongue just right, but the instructions assumed we’d find it simple.

Simple isn’t exactly the word I would use, but there was one part that was virtually impossible.  At the bottom of the blind was a plastic plug which had to be removed so you could thread those four types of string through the hole it filled.  The instructions said to remove the plug with a screwdriver.  Bill gave it a shot, but his efforts destroyed the plugs.

Remembering the “helpful” YouTube video he’d watched to install the SPRINGLESS  tension rod, I whipped out my phone and googled “adjusting Levolor blinds length.”  (FYI, there are 6100 results to that inquiry.)  I clicked on the Levolor video and watched it while Bill wrestled with a mini-blind.

Liar, liar!  Pants on fire!  Since we’d already figured out those four types of string, I waited impatiently while the video got to the plastic plug part.  The video showed the bottom of the blind and then someone popped the plug out with no hassle at all.  I must have watched that part of the video three times, thinking I missed the part where they explained the removal process, but the truth of the matter was, they cheated.

The blinds are installed and we adjusted them, but let’s hope our tenant never gets around to inspecting the bottom of the blind.  Next time we’ll just leave a foot of extra slats laying up in the window.  So much for that improvement, too.

 

 

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Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty at Dallas Museum of Art

Focus on Fashion

Focus on Fashion

TRAVEL HERE:  NEW EXHIBITION GOES FAR BEYOND BEAUTY

I do love fashion and Dallas is a great place for it.  NorthPark, The Galleria, Highland Park Village, The Dallas Design District – these are just a few of the places Dallas offers to the fashion-minded and until mid-August, the DMA is another stop for the fashion-forward.

The DMA Does Fashion

I can’t believe the Jean Paul Gautier Exhibition was five years ago!  It seems only yesterday I was popping into the DMA at every opportunity, showing off the strolling mannequins and crazy designs to anyone I could drag down there.  The Gautier exhibition was not the DMA’s last nod to fashion, but it will always be one of my favorites. 

That’s why I was so excited when I heard about this latest exhibit, Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty.  I haven’t been all that fond of some of the recent exhibition offerings, so I was ready to love something.  Unfortunately, I was not in town for the kick-off party, but I was invited to a lecture about Penn, so I waited until I knew more to take a peek.  The lecture was last Tuesday, so I’ll share a few tidbits.

Highlights of the Lecture

20160524_190437Sue Canterbury, The Pauline Gill Sullivan Associate Curator of American Art and presenting curator for Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty in Dallas, was the speaker.  While the delicious Harlequin Dress pops off the signage for the exhibition, Ms. Canterbury chose  a very different type of photo to use as the intro slide of her lecture.  The message?  This isn’t your usual fashion photographer.

Becoming a famous fashion photographer was not the overriding passion of the young Irving Penn.  He studied drawing and painting in college, but fell into an internship at Vogue magazine.  Yeah, it makes me crazy, too – like Samantha Brown falling into her job as a TV travel host.  I’m still waiting to fall into whatever my destiny is and I’ve been waiting a long time.  It isn’t that either of them was undeserving of their luck, I just wish they’d smear a little of it on me.

Anyway, after his internship he slipped down to Mexico to give drawing and painting a try, but instead spent most of his time on the business end of a camera.  The interlude convinced him that he was in fact a photographer, so he came back to the States and was welcomed back into the bosom of Vogue.

20160524_201855Far from being an elitist artiste photographer, who showed up late for a shoot and reduced the models to tears, Irving Penn embraced his job.  He admired the models who he said trained him in fashion and always named them in the photo credits.  He worked hard designing his shots long before he got into the studio.  He became a virtuoso in the dark room, practicing his own brand of alchemy.  When it came to equipment, he became an engineer, not only training himself to know everything about f-stops and lenses, but inventing modifications to get his cameras to do what he wanted them to do, even if they weren’t originally designed to do it.

Then there was his work.  At the time he joined the industry, fashion photography was somewhat of a mess.  The scenery added to the frame was so fussy and crowded that one was hard-pressed to see the actual subject of the photograph.  Penn stripped all that away, leaving only the fashion against a stark background.  You see it all around you today and don’t realize who to give the credit to.  Well, you can thank Irving Penn.

You may be wondering if you’ve seen any of his work.  Seen a Clinique ad lately?  Well, he gave them their clinical vision.  As Ms. Canterbury flipped through the slides I saw many that made me think, “I remember that!”  But Irving Penn was a lot more than a fashion photographer.

He was a voracious photo diarist.  Wherever he was, he endeavored to capture the essence of what he saw, often by adding a flavor of Dadaism.  While other photographers in Paris clamored to capture the obvious beauty of the city, Penn sought out beauty in unlikely places, like in the flour dust on a pastry chef’s shoe.  Back in the States, he hired models who usually posed for art schools and brought them into his studio for geometric studies which stare so closely into the crotch of the model, with such technicality, that you forget what you are looking at and begin to see the geometric form.  In Peru, he hired out a studio usually patronized by the native population for holiday photographs, then paid the customers to let him shoot them in their unique costumes in poses of his choosing.

I could go on, but I think you get the picture (I’ll admit, pun intended.)  If you love fashion, you’ll love this exhibit, but so will people with an interest in photography who have no interest at all in fashion.  Marketing types will have a field day.  So obviously, I think you need to get down to the DMA and see this exhibit.  I’ll be joining you myself, soon.  They’d shuttered the exhibition when the lecture was over, so I have to get down there and see what I was writing about.

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Gift Card Showers

Gift Card Showers - A New Trend in Gift Giving

Gift Card Showers – A New Trend in Gift Giving

TRAVEL HERE: APPARENTLY IT’S NO LONGER THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS

Let me begin with a disclaimer.  I was recently one of the hostesses for a gift card bridal shower.  I adore the bride and if she’d wanted a mud ball shower, it would have been my pleasure to throw her a mud ball shower (not that I know what a mud ball shower is).  However, the bride had no idea what kind of shower she wanted and when one of the hostesses suggested a gift card shower, that seemed to please most everyone.  We had a lovely shower, the guests seemed to love it and the bride was pleased – mission accomplished! 

Seems as if in this, as in most other things, I was reminded of what an old lady I am.  I always swore I wasn’t going to be one of those people who sat around extolling the good old days.  When I was in my teens, everybody at my church knew the anti-rock-and-roll mom.  In all other things she was an absolute delight, but if you dared  show a fondness for any music newer than the Big Band Era, she became your worst nightmare.  Hopefully, I’m not anybody’s worst nightmare, but how awful is it that I want to buy a present, not a gift card, for a bride? 

The Way It Used to Be

Back in the day, when one of the young ladies in our church showed up with an engagement ring, all of our mom’s would go into a tizzy.  Immediately, there would be a lot of chatter about which ladies would be the most appropriate hostesses for the bride-to-be’s shower, usually a Miscellaneous Shower, but on occasion they would agree to a Kitchen Shower or perhaps a Linen Shower .  That was usually decided before Sunday School was over and by the time the pastor finished the sermon, the only question was which hostess would actually earn the honor of having the shower at her house.

Please understand, the bride might have just gotten engaged the night before, with no idea of a wedding date or guest list, but the bridal shower wars had begun.  Most of our church showers had 10-20 hostesses and the bride was hard-pressed to come up with more guests than there were hostesses, especially since her closest girlfriends would also want to throw a Lingerie Shower for her and Miss Manners said no one should be invited to more than one shower.  What’s more, anyone invited to a shower, by necessity, had to be invited to the wedding.  (For those who might be interested, there was an exception made for close relatives and members of the bridal party.  They could be invited to multiple showers, but they were not required to show up with a gift to each shower or if they chose, they could present personal gifts or tokens of affection.)

To today’s modern bride this all might seem burdensome.  You’ve already been living together for several years, you’re having a destination wedding and you can’t imagine the idea of polishing silver.  You’re also horrified at the thought of all those hand-written thank-you notes.  Surely, email would be OK – right?  Fine, do your own thing.  Miss Manners has died an agonizing death.  I’m just here to tell you that all of this used to be more fun.

Registering Your Selections

With a major mall planted every 5 miles in Dallas, it’s hard imagine the original reason brides registered their selections.  There was a time when you only registered at one store and which store told a lot about the life you planned to lead.  The store would help you be smart.  They’d discuss the lifestyle you intended to have, the number of guests you would invite and how many of those guests were in-town.  Based on these factors and some others, they’d help you decide what to register for and then they’d take steps to make sure they’d actually have the things you registered for in stock, in time for all your events.

Back in my mother’s time, this store would usually be the local jeweler.  Many of these stores had a dining table on their sales floor and they would set it with the selections of “their” brides.  The table would be set with a variety of settings and next to each would be a crisp white place-card with a bride’s name on it.  When one of the local “it” girls made her selections, everybody in town went to see what she had chosen, whether they were invited to the wedding or not.  Then her selections would be the talk of the town for a season.  Before you get to judgmental, think about what you watched on TV last night.  I’m thinking there’s a chance that discussing a real person’s choice of china and silver might be more entertaining than a lot of what shows up on TV.

In the days of those marvelous church showers of my memory, life had already gotten more “convenient.”  I registered at Joske’s, because that’s where my mom worked.  She decided it would be “convenient” if I also registered at Sanger-Harris.  The Joske’s where I registered promised to display my choices, but that just meant everything I had chosen would be somewhere on the sales floor, not on a dining table with my name on a place-card.  A bride in those days only registered for a few items, the ones she really wanted.  She’d inform the hostesses of the colors she planned to use in her home, so people could buy more “practical” gifts like towels and skillets, but they had to depend on their own taste.  One of the nightmares I remember from this double registration was keeping each store aware of the actual total I had received of the various items.  Not so convenient after all.

Opening the Gifts 

The day of the shower was a real bonanza.  You knew you were going to get at least one gift of amazing proportions, because the hostesses always went in together on a single gift.  Sterling silver was beyond anybody’s pocketbook by the time I married, but I had registered for fine china, fine crystal, “good” flatware and casual china – eight of everything.  When all the presents were stacked up and ready for me to open, I have to admit the one which interested me the most were the ones wrapped by Joske’s and Sanger’s.  Those were the gifts for which I had registered.  I thought that shower was my only real chance for a complete set of china.  Since I now have four sets of china, none of which came from that day, this is pretty funny.  For the record, I inherited most of it.

Though none of the crystal and china I opened that day made it to this end of my life, some of the funny odd things I had not registered for are still with me.  Porcelain items fired especially for me in the church kiln, a casserole dish that didn’t match anything, a watercolor painting and various small kitchen utensils that I can’t stand to let go of, even though I have never used them.

Things Kept Getting More Convenient

Due to lots of advertising and the counsel of greedy salespeople, brides found more and more stores at which to register and more and more items to include on that register.  No longer was a wedding guest left to their own taste in the bath towel department.  Some brides registered for all the same stuff at forty stores and others choose all different things at four stores.  As you purchase your gift for the forty-store bride, you are aware that everyone invited to the wedding may be buying the exact same item at one of hundreds of stores throughout the world – let’s not even talk about online shopping.  If you wanted to buy a complete place-setting for the other bride, you might have to make purchases from all four stores.

Things got so convenient that shopping for a bride got to be a real pain in the neck.  You knew when you got to the shower there was every chance in the world that this purchase that you had labored over might be reduced to humiliation when the bride opened the fifth sugar bowl of the day.  The thing I hated most was that more often than not, your gift was actually a piece of paper assuring the bride she could trade it in on one of her crystal goblets.  No store anywhere made any effort to have your selections in stock.  They just wanted to get the money and the bride was left with the job of hounding the store for that last pickle fork that no one anywhere seemed to have available.

I Want to Buy a Gift Anyway

When I graduated from high school, I received a gift in the mail from the sweet woman who had cleaned our home in Dublin, GA.  Gertrude was beloved by every member of the family, but it had been several years since she’d seen me in person.  We exchanged Christmas cards and visited her each time we were in Georgia, but I guess it was hard to judge my size from a picture.  Gertrude sent me the hugest pair of nylon panties I had ever seen in my life, but as my mom pointed out, it was the thought that counted.

I still feel that way.  You might end up hating an item I purchase for one of your occasions, but it has been my pleasure to go out and shop for it.  If you did register your selections, I will buy one and I will have the store wrap it in their most opulent gift wrap.  If I was left to my own taste, then I assure you that I labored over what to buy with complete joy and I will most likely wrap it myself with many kudos for whoever thought up gift bags.

I’ve gone on for entirely too long about this today, but it’s been bothering me ever since the first time a sales lady told me how convenient it was for the bride to get that card saying I’d purchased a serving piece from her fine china.  If I buy you a huge platter in triple digits, I want a huge box at the shower and I want to hear all the oooohs and aaaaahs.  If I can’t have that, then I guess I might as well get you gift card.

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Filed under Shopping, TRAVEL

Shopping in El Paso

Shopping, but in Juarez, not El Paso's Sears

Shopping, but in Juarez, not El Paso’s Sears

TRAVEL BUG TALES: DADDY MAKES EVERYTHING ALRIGHT

So, we’re in El Paso, but our hanging clothes are still in my closet in Dallas.  Mom insists the outfits in our luggage will not take us everywhere we need to go.  So it was time to go shopping.

Saved by the Sears

When it came to clothes shopping, my family was usually on the JC Penney’s team.  I’m not sure why we ended up at a Sears store in El Paso, but that’s what happened.  At the front door Dad disappeared to do something mysterious and Mom took us to the girl’s dress department.

I’m guessing Dad went to the credit department and explained our dilemma.  “Hi, I’m George Cave.  We’re here on vacation and need to pick up a few things, but I left my credit card at home.  Can you help?”  Knowing my father he told them a whole lot more and I bet before he left the office he knew everything about the people who he’d been talking to.  Dad was that guy.

Nowadays, all you have to do is give them your name and they can tell you anything and everything about yourself, re-fi your home and forecast your horoscope, but our shopping emergency happened in the days before computers ruled the world.  He probably had to give them his driver’s license and wait around the credit department while a phone call was made to some centralized billing location.  I’m imagining a huge room where someone had to go through a file cabinet or card file to find our account.

Meanwhile Mom was fluttering around with us among the dress racks.  Had I been on the store’s security detail, I would have been suspicious of my mother.  She was dancing around like a cat on a hot tin roof.  I guess she was nervous about whether Dad would succeed at his assignment.  My dad did everything my mom told him to do, but he didn’t always do it exactly the way Mom expected him to and that caused her a lot of anxiety.  Of course, we’re talking about Ruth and pretty much everything caused her a lot of anxiety.

A visit to the caverns

A visit to the caverns

The Red and Gold Culotte Dress

Over the the last week or so, as I worked on this series of posts, I’ve been going through all my photo albums trying to find a picture of me in the dress we bought that day.  I know there was at least one picture of me in it, but since it was a picture of a birthday party for my sister, she might have it somewhere.

I loved that dress.  It had a roll collar, short sleeves and a drop waist.  The color was tomato red with gold stripes – not metallic gold like it would be today, but the goldenrod color used for some copy paper.  The fact that it was culottes caused a dilemma for my parents.  School dress codes were strict in those days and culottes weren’t kosher.  Would I ever wear it again after the vacation?  Mother let me try it on, but warned me she had reservations about it.

Not sure who this guy is!

Not sure who this guy is!

I remember my dad showing up after his mysterious disappearance.  He was grinning ear to ear and mother’s relief was obvious.  “Daddy, daddy, look what I’ve found!  Isn’t it a great color?  And look it’s culottes!  I can’t wear them to school, but I can wear them to Duck Inn and choir and…”  I wanted to be the one to tell him about it, because I knew Mom would start with all the reasons it was impractical.   Duck Inn was our favorite place to get catfish and we went every couple of weeks, so I figured including it would give the idea that I’d be wearing it a lot.

There was some discussion of price and if I remember correctly, we’d found it on the clearance rack and my dad thought, for the price, if all I did was wear it on vacation I would get our money’s worth.  I wore the dickens out of that thing.  It was if I had to prove Dad was right to let me buy it.  I actually wore the dress to shredding, which was a weird thing.  I was growing fast and Mom was fastidious about the laundry, so most of my clothes looked brand new when I outgrew them.  This one started fraying where the skirt was connected to the bodice.

Susan at White Sands

Susan at White Sands

Vacation wise, I don’t remember what we saw in El Paso, but I do remember going over into Juarez.  We saw the bats erupt from Carlsbad Caverns and then went down inside the next day.  Somewhere along the way we visited White Sands National Park and the Palo Duro Canyons.  We went to Houston that year to, but for the life of me, I can’t remember whether it was on the same trip or on another one later in the year.

Come back next week and I’ll share a few tidbits from that trip to the Houston area.

 

 

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Filed under DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States