Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Ancient Spring Legends became modern day traditions...

While planning my Spring post I decided it might be interesting to explore the origins and legends of Easter and include a few of Passover. Recently John and I were reminiscing about Easter when we were kids. I will weave those remembrances in and share more of myself in the process. My poetry is titled Wondrous Legends, hope you enjoy.

I am Polish, first generation on my Dad's side, second on my Mom's. I grew up with very traditional customs being observed and celebrated. John is second generation Italian on both sides of his family. We share very similar upbringings, each middle children and both born with a sense of adventure with close knit family ties.

Easter is the holiest day of the year for Christians. After 40 days of Lent and a fast it is celebrated by attending Church service followed by a huge feast. Easter is a moveable feast occurring after the Full Moon following the Vernal Equinox on the next Sunday.
Unless it interferes with Passover and then it's the Sunday after. Any Sunday from March 22 - April 25th Easter can be celebrated. 

Passover is always on the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox. Passover is the Jewish Spring festival celebrating their liberation from the Israelites 3,300 years ago from Egyptian slavery. Passover lasts 7-8 days from the 15th day of the Hebrew month Nissan (usually April). First night is the Seder, a ritual dinner telling the story of Exodus.

When my son was 2 and I was newly divorced, a year before John entered into our lives and hearts we were invited by the parents of my best friend to share a Passover Seder with them. I had never attended a Seder before but was aware it is a ritual dinner telling the story of Exodus. I spent a mesmerizing evening sharing Jewish customs and Seder foods.

We were instructed to envision Egypt and the Israelites suffering from persecution while leaving to cross the Sea of Reeds, while God parted the water to pass. Seder starts with the reading of the Kiddush over a cup of wine. Each person has 4 cups to drink (small cups) of wine at the Seder. Wine is used because it symbolizes joy and happiness in marking the four great merits while the Israel's were in Exile. 

1. They kept their Hebrew names
2. Spoke their own language
3. Remained highly moral
4. Remaining loyal to one another.

Easter for Christians is Resurrection Sunday. We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The resurrection is the center of the Christian faith. Without Easter there would be no Christianity.

The Easter egg is an ancient fertility symbol of the rising of the Vernal Equinox, Spring meaning rebirth. Many, many years ago Christians would dye Easter eggs Red to symbolize the color of Christ's blood. Orthodox churches abstain from eggs during the fast of lent. To keep them from spoiling they were hard boiled and by coloring them it would bring a touch of Spring indoors.

The tradition of dying Easter eggs has wandered and now kids want dyed eggs to be colorful and fun to resemble their Easter baskets jelly beans!

My Dad's parents owned a Chicken farm just outside of Frenchtown, NJ and Easter always meant lots of eggs to dye. Even my Dads Brother Bruno raised chickens at his and my Aunt Clara's farm, so eggs as a kid were plentiful.

One of my fondest memories on Easter morning was our egg fight with Mom, Dad and my brothers. An egg cracking game with the goal to be the last uncracked contender.

My Grandmother was into natural dying her Easter eggs. I remember she would save up onion skins for months and put them into a nylon stocking that hung in their farmhouse kitchen. Grandma dyed eggs with Beets too, but it was the brown eggs that turned russet from the boiling onion skins I would select for my egg to fight with. Forget the pretty colored pastel eggs, even as a kid I knew the eggs dyed with onions produced harder protected shells. 

So did I ever win? Sure, a couple of times. But the fun was always afterwards with my brothers continuing to smash the eggs until they were pulverized bits of shells. Lots of laughter and fun bringing out the competitive nature in our family. John's family did not engage in an Easter egg fight and up until research for this post I thought it might be a Polish tradition.

But live and learn ... So what are some of the countries who partake in the Easter egg fight? India, Serbia, Netherlands, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and the Jewish culture to name a few.

Our favorite Italian Easter specialties are the sweet breads and Ricotta cheese pie.
There are also Hot cross buns and sweet breads marked with an X to symbolize the cross. The breads are risen breads with the eggs baked in. Yeast sweet breads were perhaps a desire for Easter traditions to be different than Passover which is unleavened bread.

The photo is of a Polish bukka. This is what I grew up eating each Easter. But as John and I over the years joined our traditions together we now eat both. For Easter every year until Mom passed would bake a Lamb cake in a mold. Mom would zone out in a inspired coconut haze and with green food dye color the shredded coconut for the grass under the Lamb. The cake recipe was a yummy moist lemon pound cake. The Lamb was iced with buttercream and then Mom applied it's wool of shredded White coconut. It wasn't a Lamb yet until Mom cut a Black jelly bean in half for his nose and pushed raisins in for his eyes. Flowers would be piped out of a pastry bag to adorn the Lamb's neck.

I miss those cakes and asked Kevin just last week what ever became of Moms Lamb mold. He's looking for it and hopefully there will be annual Easter Lamb cake once again.

As a kid we would have Easter dinner with my Dads brother Bruno and Aunt Clara. Kielbasa and grated fresh horseradish would start the meal. My Uncle Bruno would break out in a sweat a day earlier grating the root. The years it was extra hot Uncle Bruno would mix it with beet juice to take the heat down a notch. The Polish call the horseradish Chrzan. We also would eat horseradish with our Easter Ham. 67 percent of Americans serve Ham on Easter. John remembers both Leg of Lamb and Ham for his Easter meals.

Curly Lambeau was lonely ... Penny White of Angelsdoor blog created both Curly and little Dixie with a dark chocolate face and don't you think they make an adorable couple? Penny named her and I added Louise, so meet little sweet Dixie Louise.
The large metal silhouette of the urn is by Rosemary of Villabarnes blog and etsy store.

Close up of Dixie Louise. 

Our Simon when he was a kitten, took a catnap on Easter Sunday on top our antique Senufo African Stool and surprisingly he woke up a bunny rabbit. 

Inside my French Ballet theatre from Burlap Luxe I've staged a Easter Bunny production.

The Easter Bunny Rabbit is an interesting legend from the 1500's. Rabbits and Hares were popular medieval church art. Back then belief was that Hares and Rabbits were Hermaphrodites who could reproduce without losing its virginity. An association with the Virgin Mary. Eggs are fertility symbols of the ancient past, symbolizing the rising fertility of the Vernal Equinox.

The tradition of the Easter bunny appears in drawings often in clothes as he carries colored eggs in a basket along with candy and toys for good girls and boys. The American belief in the Easter Bunny was first introduced in Pennsylvania by the German settlers.

Centuries ago the Northwestern European folklore had the Easter Bunny as a Hare. The legend tells of only good children receiving a gift of colored eggs in nests that they made in their Easter bonnets during the start of Eastertide.

An adorable bunny on a swing and urn silhouette I taped miniature tulips to. (Links at bottom of my post).

The Polish have a tradition on Holy Saturday called "Swieconka" which means the blessing of the Easter baskets.

As a child my Mom would make up our straw Easter baskets with green Easter grass and lots of jelly beans as a filler. I have no affection for jelly beans, nope not at all. Every year a milk chocolate bunny, a chick, a White chocolate Lamb and a cross and an chocolate butter cream egg. Generous yes, but all but the Bunny were small. When we were kids all our Easter chocolates were solid. 

John remembers receiving a very similar Easter basket of treats. John was one of those kids that bite the Bunnies ears off first. YIKES! I would ask my Dad to break my bunny into pieces because I couldn't bring myself to biting off the tail or ears!

It wasn't until I became a Mother and assembled my son Chris's Easter basket I realized the symbolism and love my Mom put into my brothers and my baskets. When my son was young Cadbury eggs with the gooey yolk centers and Jelly Bellies were very popular, especially with Chris. Chocolate Bunnies and a Lamb plus Cross were always part of his basket along with a scattering of car toys. As strong as my indifference to Jelly beans is my son loved Jelly Bellies and every Easter he'd engage in a bean tasting of each flavor following with his review as if they were a fine reserved wine.
Funny with each flavor he would change his reviews! Cherished memories we hold precious and dear.

"What is the real purpose behind the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus? They seem like greater steps toward faith and imagination, each with a payoff. Like cognitive training exercises."
~Chuck Palahniuk~

There are many intriguing stories told in life's wondrous picture book,
Most have developed out of religious customs and deserve a further look.

The legend of the Easter Bunny originated in 13th century pre-Christian Germany a very long, long time ago...
And ever since Easter Bunny's been laying eggs and hiding them in the garden the legend has been told.

A Bunny laying eggs in a garden, oh my, such an amazing concept and magical power!
Bunny hiding eggs amongst the Spring flowers for an Easter egg hunt to delight children for hours.

Magicians pull a rabbit out of their hat and we all know it as an idiom - yes but of course.
But throughout all these years believing Easter Bunny lays eggs the Christian legend still does endorse.

Well without doubt "Believe" to me has always been the most magical word in my active imagination.
The egg roll on the White House lawn on Easter Monday started when Dolly Madison made her proclamation.

Kids enjoy a romp on the lawn seeking out eggs and partaking in the egg roll,
while adults watch and cheer and enjoy a pleasurable Springtime outdoor stroll.

Legend is written the Easter Bunny evaluates children's behavior and rewards good girls and boys.
Sounds like the original legend of Christmas with Jolly old Saint Nick who delivers toys.

It's said if you want to raise intelligent children read Fairytales to them which I believe with all my heart,
There is a artful joy weaving together mythical stories and knowing it will enable our children to mature smart.

Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Santa Claus all very creative legends for both young and old.
Never loss sight of the magical allure of these wonderful Fairytales throughout generations being told.

© Vera

I prefer Easter eggs dyed naturally, it is just my personal choice. If you would like to dye naturally below Is a guide from Apartment Therapy's kitchen blog from last year. I grew up with both, eggs dyed with natural vegetables and food colored eggs. In recent years John and I dye naturally. If you've never tried it you will be amazed at the beauty of non-toxic naturally dyes eggs.

Naturally-Dyed Easter Eggs
Per cup of water use:
  • 1 cup chopped purple cabbage — makes blue on white eggs, green on brown eggs
  • 1 cup red onion skins — makes lavender or red eggs
  • 1 cup yellow onion skins — makes orange on white eggs, rusty red on brown eggs
  • 1 cup shredded beets — makes pink on white eggs, maroon on brown eggs
  • 2 tablespoons ground turmeric — makes yellow eggs
  • 1 bag Red Zinger tea — makes lavender eggs
→ Add 1 tablespoon white vinegar to every cup of strained dye liquid
→ For every dozen eggs, plan on using at least 4 cups of dye liquid

Bunny on swing -  healoom from her etsy shop
Urn in theatre and large urn in Curly and Dixie's photo http://www.villabarnes.com
Curly and Dixie wool needle felted Lambs and Brown Bunny in theatre Penny White 
French Ballet Theatre, Doré Callaway of http://burlapluxe.blogspot.com and her etsy store.

Photos 3,4,6,8,9,14 and 16 - Google image # 5 source is Bon Appétit
All others taken by me-Vera

Blessings to you during Eastertide and Passover.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Artful Expression in our row-home

We express ourselves artfully everyday. Revealing our natural creativity, which is only limited by our own imaginations. We oftentimes display it in subtle ways, the way we wrap a scarf, or arrange a bouquet of flowers. The way we choose to feather our nests for a desired look. Combining talent and items that aesthetically express our personalities intrinsically. But sometimes when achieving a new look we must elevate our comfort level and relax enough to dismiss our fears of what other people may perceive.

"This world is but a canvas to our imagination."
~Henry David Thoreau~

Todays post invites you back inside our row-home for a share of some of my own artful expression. I've approached our interior design with a more textural feel than overall prints. But animal prints do appear. I prefer geometric patterns and I've hand painted a Harlequin pattern throughout our home along with hand painted Black olive branches. They appear in almost every room and very well may be my signature expression. 

I am an artist who paints murals and does faux painting, besides writing poetry. I mix my own paint colors and make glazes to accomplish my intended expression for clients as well as myself.

In our Dining room my hand painted armoire offers an abundance of storage space for dishes, glasses and linens all used in entertaining. It is set against our checkerboard wall that was faux painted by me on 24x24 inch Kraft paper which we crafted into a wallpaper that extends into the kitchen. John was responsible for hanging all my 24x24 pieces and I think at the time of gluing and applying them onto the wall I was John's least favorite person! For you see Kraft paper has a mind of it own and when wet it stretches. Who knew! My intention in creating handmade wallpaper was to correct our old homes plaster walls multitute of sins from settlement and hopefully disguise fine cracks. It did - but oh my what a labor intensive ordeal!

We purchased this armoire unfinished, it is Red Oak as is our almost 90 year old hardwood floors. I love oaks open surface grain and for this armoire I made up two different glaze stains for the overall pickling/liming of the piece and then overlaid a taupe/grayish glaze/stain on top for the Harlequin pattern. 

Then I painted my art of Black olives, in my imagination I (wish to) reside/retire one day in Tuscany. This photo shows an up close look at the upper olives...

Photo of the lower Black olive branch on the drawer, After curing my paints for at least 30 days I waxed the entire armoire 3 times with satin/clear Bri-wax.

A closeup of the armoire's side and of our metal chairs we use at our table as extra sitting. John welded together broken pieces of iron found in his Dad's basement. Who, to his final days could not remember how they ended up there! I faux painted them and we covered the seats with (sigh) Mongolian Lamb seat covers. Perhaps originally lawn chairs they intrigue us and seat guests.

Hanging on the checkerboard wall is my 2014 Christmas gift from John. A one of a kind Papier Mâché Creole Angel house created by Doré of Burlap Luxe. I love shadows at play and this captures them in a hauntingly beautiful way. I swear I've spent my life chasing the beauty of shadows as they dance and play and spark my imagination. On the very day Doré listed this amazing piece I had purchased a piece of jewelry and honestly was broke. So I showed it to John who was instantly captivated by the New Orleans charm and the shingles on the roof and said want it? Merry Christmas... Some art is meant to reside with us in our hearts and home.

Just thought I'd share my nearly 5 foot high (if you stretch out each branch) curly Willow branches in our Demi-John. I love the wildness of the branches as they add an organic layer against the Japanese wallpaper of hand applied leaves. Our little wine corner in the Dining room... I so wish I could magically say poof and turn it into an actual wine cellar. Ahhhhh the allure of dreams.

I've recently fell in love with all of Villabarnes hand cut metal shapes. On our antique olive oil jar we added one of Rosemary's very creative metal cut outs. We strung the handcut tag with triple wrapped picture frame wire. Always adding those industrial chic touches to our home we think the wire looks cool. 

Our antique Olive oil jar has an up light in it and it sits left to our 300 year old Buddha.  John drilled through it to wire for the light, which adds a romantic warm glow. In future posts I will share many more of Rosemary's creative cutouts made from salvaged metal and where I've placed them which add interest and curiosity to our home.

Up in our Bedroom you'll find my hand painted armoire with a Harlequin pattern and Fleur-de-Lis. This piece is a Pine piece and didn't have the beauty of the open Red Oak armoire downstairs. But no problem, to achieve the same effect I've always appreciated a challenge. After all I pride myself in my faux painting and ability to make art.

I first painted the entire armoire cottage White. Next step I mixed up a taupe/grayish color to paint the Harlequin pattern on. Then I mixed a glaze/stain the color hue of natural Red Oak to do a paint technique to "fingers crossed" look/resemble the grain showing through like the armoire in our Dining room.  Closeup photo of the side.

Enlarged closeup up of my Fleur-di-Lis art I painted, it's actual measurement is only 3 inches high. It was directly painted atop the Harlequin and reflects the layering of it.

Oftentimes I will personalize the inside doors as a unexpected surprise detail. The walls in our master are faux painted in a calming Green in what I call my faux Rain finish. My mind never shuts up so it is important to me to have a soothing bedroom as inspirational thoughts and ideas follow me 24/7.

John as an artful expression a few years ago built me this Dracula Castle as a gift. I am fascinated by Vampire stories and actually I'm currently writing a short story/fable about a young college student who becomes a Vampire. One day when finished I will share it on my blog. But I warn you in advance its different from any of my normal/other shared poetry. To me the fable is passionate and erotic.

John purchased plans for the Dracula Castle on etsy and then decided the size, turrets, roof and floor architectural design were not what he envisioned. So he redesigned his own plans. Yes, John too is very artistic. He printed it onto canvas and assembled the Castle in canvas, cardboard, foam-core and wood. It is displayed in our built-in bookcase in our sitting/reading room. Inside Amber fairy battery operated lights let us use this as a nightlight, OK perhaps a scary fantasy driven nightlight but indeed one we adore.

John gifted me with the handmade fully articulated Vampire and hand carved coffin made in England for the castle.

Close up inside the Dracula castle. The mice are my personal touch! Vera ... Mice ... Really? !!!

Staying in the sitting/reading room John printed onto canvas a Lamb photo I found and fell in love from Google images to help us celebrate Springtime. The Papier Mâché and plaster technique Believe banner was created for me by Méa of Méa's Vintage in Germany. Believe is one of the most magical words I know, it resonates in my soul.
For a moment just conjure up what the word truly means. 

One of my most precious Springtime childhood memories involves going to my Aunt Vicky's (Mom's sister) and Uncle Otto's home. They raised Sheep, Sheep usually mate in the Fall and Lambs are born in Spring. When the new Lamb's were born I would pester, seriously torment my Mom to drive my Brother and I over to play with the baby Lambs. I can be very convincing,,, My brother Mike would tire before me with playing outside and go indoors to build with his Lincoln Logs. I would feed the Lambs with a baby bottle and play for hours on end until I was dragged inside.

I remember Aunt Vicky always baking pies when we would visit and the smell of freshly baked pie cooling on the countertop was enticing enough to get me away from the baby Lambs.

Méa's Believe banner is art that will constantly move about in our house and always remind me to just believe. The i is enhanced with an Rhinestone. I adore bling. Do you like me hold special words near and dear? 

Meet Curly Lambeau. I asked Penny White of Angelsdoor to please create a Lamb for me for this Spring. Penny in an email asked me if I had a name picked out, after Penny had sent me a photo of my little Lamb headed to dwell in Philly. I replied no - but tonight I will go to bed and dream of his name.

Which I did, awaking in the morning feeling all cute and clever over coffee I googled Curly Lambeau. Guess what??? Over my morning Nespresso Cappuccino which I truthfully almost choked on, I discovered I'm not so clever! There was an Earl Louis "Curly" Lambeau. Founder, player and the first coach of the Green Bay Packers. Regardless, I've keep the name. 

When I first saw Penny's little Lamb I was instantly smitten. To me he reminded me of my Mongolian Lamb pillows that add warmth and beauty throughout our row-home and brought back endearing childhood memories. Isn't that what oftentimes art is meant to convey? Recalling and triggering emotions in life we treasure most.

On our oval coffee table John cut out and I hand painted a Harlequin pattern in the same colors and glaze/stains as used in all our rooms and yes it truly is a signature expression in our home. The cross is a huge vintage piece purchased off etsy and pickled by me.

The eggs are faux and real quail eggs blown out. I chose not to do a lot of Spring/Easter decorating this year. I've keep it simple but in my next post I will share more of myself and it will be my Easter post.

Currently in our guest room Cheetah and Zebra mingle and play,
in hopes that our guests will have a fun and a relaxing stay.

I've learned long ago to never take my decorating style or myself too seriously and I always try to introduce the unexpected in accessories but remain true to what delights me. Trends come and go but classic's endure.

I'll be back in two weeks. I'm working on my Easter post. Hope you enjoy my poetry of Artful expression and underneath it I've included links to the artists I've shown in this post. Their artwork compliments and graces our home and their talent truly speaks to my soul. I feel enriched in the knowledge that these incredibly gifted artists I can consider friends. 

The creativity you express comes from passionate emotion's deep within your soulful heart.
It is difficult sometimes to convey your inner thoughts as you begin to expressively start.

Brushstrokes, poetry, fashion, music, sculptures all are energy of expression that flows in harmony and awareness in your mind's perception.
Almost becoming an obsessive chaotic process as you hold onto your ideas and for me there never is any exception.

Yet the biggest obstacle I've found in acheiving artful expression always has been the dreaded fear of acceptance.
It limits the creative process and honest expression cannot capture your true intended heartfelt essence.

The energizing freedom you feel when you create from within is certainly worth the initial fear and feelings of self doubt.
Satisfaction and pride is the biggest reward for artistically creating in an abundance of energy you joyfully put out.

So please remember to never lose sight of your passionate expressive artistic side ... 
For it truly is where your heart and soul desires to explore and will always reward with inner pride.

© Vera

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Spring Ahead?

Popping in from a very snowy day in the city of brotherly love just to say hello, as we await Spring. The photos were taken today at 1 in the afternoon. Looking out from the safety and warmth from our front door. By the time snow ends tonight it will total around 8 inches+. Tonight temps will drop freezing everything and tomorrow will be a balmy -2 degrees!

My poor sweet little English Boxwoods... the little ones flanking the doorway were planted just this past season. I had lost my English Boxwood in my zinc containers from last years harsh winter. Day light savings is this Sunday and our weather forecast promises upwards of 50 degrees next week. Sure seems like a Spring dream. I am re-posting my poem from March 6th, 2014, it seems perfect to re-post today.

I will be back next week with my new post I'm currently working on titled Artful Expression. See you then.

There is secrecy in winter's twilight and the long daylight hours of Spring three months in-between.
Cold short days and long evenings turn into daily passages of time, longing for gentle warm sunshine that feels serene.

In anticipation you watch the snow fall create a white blanket, like winter's shroud of the season.
Icicles form and hang down like menacing daggers, winters weapons of protection is natures reason.

Reluctantly wildlife adapt to endure, when the lakes freeze over and the rivers are chunked with ice.
We bear witness to a hauntingly beautiful sight of winters icy whites, illuminated by the moon and stars bright light.

Patiently we persevere the winters relentless storms blustery winds, as we wait for rebirth of the frozen ground.
Daylight savings time once again is here, as fertile dirt thaws to yield fragrant flowers that will visually astound.

The long awaited promise of Spring arrives and birds return with lovely songs they sing.
Nature bestows us precious gifts every year, that magically daylight savings time gloriously does bring.

© Vera