Monday, March 31, 2014

Hair Art

The Victorians treasured hair as a remembrance of a loved one, and as a medium for . . . art!  I learned all about this, um, strange art form at a small museum in Northfield, Minnesota. 

Ladies cleaned their hair brushes and deposited the hair into a hair receiver.   My grandma had one of these on her dresser.  She wore her hair in a neat little bun, and as her hair got thinner and thinner, she stuffed the bun with her own hair to make it bigger.  (I must say, I found it kind of creepy to find after she died.)

By braiding, wrapping, and looping, the hair was turned into wall decorations, jewelry, and keepsakes such as rings, bracelets, watch fobs, and lockets.  Supporters of English king Charles I after his death were given rings made from his hair.

Brooch and bracelet
Hair was a good medium for artists because it can last for hundreds, even thousands of years, and it comes in many natural colors and textures.

Here you can see the details of all the different colors of hair used.  The catalogue company, Sears & Roebuck and others began selling hair art, and to fill the demand, scandals emerged about how the hair was obtained.  Exposes showed that European peasant girls were being shorn for their locks, and the dead were being robbed of their hair for resale.  Sales plummeted and the popularity of hair art with it around 1925.
I have seen pieces of the wall art in antique stores and thought, who would buy that!  What do you think, creepy or beautiful?
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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Careful on the Curves

I had never seen these roadway mirrors until I saw Marie's post from London on Friday. I thought, "What a good idea!  We should have these".  Check out Marie's post here:

I was surprised yesterday to find one here on the other side of The Pond.  Apparently we do have these.  What a good idea!

(Yes, that's me.  Accidental selfie.)

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Friday, March 28, 2014


   There is no green yet outdoors, but indoors, I'm working on being green.  Greener. I already do all the common stuff, but this winter has inspired me to try even harder.  So far, my heating bill for this winter is double what it was last winter.  There are a couple reasons.  The number of cold and below zero days set a record, and I'm home more now that I've retired, which means the heat doesn't stay set at 55 degrees all day.
Say hi to Her Majesty.  Her hand is solar powered to give a queenly wave and the solar collector is in her purse.  Since I used to teach British Lit, I often got amazing gifts like this one.  Anyway, she is flanked by two solar powered lights I picked up at the Dollar Store.  Free electricity!  They each have three bulbs and a AA rechargeable battery and do light up a room enough to walk through and find what you're looking for.  I went back for more after I determined they were worth a dollar, but they were all gone.

Here's another project.  When my kids were little, it was very economical to sew most of their clothes, and I enjoyed the creativity of it.  Now the price of fabric and patterns has gone up so much, it's cheaper to buy clothes for my grandsons (although I do have a tradition of making them pajamas for Christmas.).  The baby bibs from the store just weren't doing the job for baby Mason, though, and he needed some bigger thicker ones to keep up with the drool and the baby food sliding down his chin.  I sewed the ones above in a half an hour and they cost a total of 60 cents.  The owl one was made from the sleeves of a pajama top and the green one (says "hug me"!) from a baby blanket from the charity shop.  The snaps on the back came from my grandma's sewing box that I inherited.   

That's our delicate, refined little boy there, chewing on his toes.

So those are my attempts to bring more green into my life.  The green dollars saved all go straight into my travel fund.  That's a good incentive.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Windows on the Past

The George Christianson Mansion, built in 1919, now houses the Hennepin History Museum in Minneapolis.  The windows look out on what is now a park and was the Washburn-Fair Oaks Mansion District in the early 1900s.  Christianson invented a process of milling spring wheat that brought him much wealth and made Minneapolis the wheat milling capital of the world.

Overlayed on the windows are transparent images of the homes that were here, some of the grandest mansions of the wealthiest families in Minneapolis.

 These "windows on the past" show the estates built in the 1850s to early 1900s by barons of the flour milling industry.   
The museum is mainly about the social life of wealthy Minneapolis.  What did the rich and famous of the era wear?  Here are a few examples.  In the City of Lakes, the beaches were very popular and the well-dressed gentleman could enjoy the lakes in one of these swimming costumes. 

Or, how about a cycling costume of tan linen to wear on a jaunt around the lake on your bicycle with wooden wheels?
Ladies,of course, had to endure less comfortable clothing to appear well-groomed and proper.  This corset intrigued me because of all the garters and other dangles hanging almost to the knee, as well as the various ways to cinch it tighter.   

And how about sitting under this electrical contraption with the wires attached to curlers to assure a popular "permanent wave" for your hair?

Volunteer Julie has a fun but exacting job.  All the hats from a just finished exhibit have to be dusted and cleaned with tiny brushes and repaired before storing away. 

They just don't make 'em like this today (at least, not in the US)!
No high society lady would be wearing this number.  This young lady appeared in one of the local theaters one night, and the show was quickly closed down after an outcry of "Indecent!" in the streets and in the press.  Other more wholesome entertainment, such as opera and lyceum shows, was quite welcome and well attended.

Sadly, Mr. Christenson didn't live to see his grand new home completed.  Neither did his wife or his son.  The home was lived in by the widow of his son, alone but for 7 servants, for the next 40 years, before it became a county museum.
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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Home Away From Home

  When I traveled in Europe with my parents as a teen, we stayed in one grand hotel, The Grosvenor in London, and one apartment owned by my dad's company in Milano, Italy.  Otherwise, for six weeks we stayed in what were then called pensions (pen-see-ons), essentially rooms in someone's home with breakfast provided.  We met so many wonderful people that way, tried out our language skills, and I just loved the experience.

   Fast forward to last fall and London where I discovered the modern version of the pension, the small  B&B.  I stayed two wet but lovely weeks in the village of South Ealing in an Edwardian terrace house with old working fireplaces, beautiful old woodwork, and chickens and rabbits in the garden.

It was a 15 minute walk to the Tube station, and then a straight shot into London on the Picadilly Line.  The quiet neighborhood was made up of young families and students and there were grocery stores and small ethnic restaurants an 8 minute walk from the house.  It was perfect for me. 

   Linda, my host, owned a business in London.   She was friendly, interesting, and couldn't have been more generous, stocking the cupboard for breakfast and buying little treats she thought I would like to try. 

   My comfortable room was on the second floor, but the whole house, including kitchen, was mine to use.  Linda worked long hours so we chatted in the morning and in the evening I usually had the kitchen and house to myself. I had a shelf in the fridge and cupboard, and use of the cooker and washer and dryer.

South Ealing, walk to the subway

   There are several websites out there for booking home stays, but the one I used was Airbnb.  From their listings and the recommendations people leave, I think you can get a pretty good sense of whether or not the site will be appropriate for you.  The cost of my room was about $40 per night.
Not a sight you would see in my town!
I so enjoyed living as a Londoner for two weeks, shopping groceries, stopping to buy a coffee on the way to the Tube in the morning.  If you are adventurous and friendly, I would recommend trying a homestay next time you are traveling.
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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Guns 'n Roses

The Imperial War Museum in London is well worth a visit.  When I visited last fall (with fellow blogger Fun 60), sections were being renovated for the centenary of World War I in 2014, but there was still plenty to see. The most moving exhibits for me were in the World War II section, particularly one of London at war and one of the Holocaust.  I hope to get back this fall to see the renovation and the parts that were closed.
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Friday, March 14, 2014

Chaska, Minnesota

 Last weekend I was in the area of the small town of Chaska, Minnesota.  I read that it had a museum as well as a well-preserved historic district, so I thought it was worth a visit.  Sadly, the museum wasn't open on Saturdays so I was unable to see it or to buy a guide. I had a bit of a look around with a map of the historic buildings on my phone, but I know I missed things.

The town grew up in the mid 1800s around brick manufacturing.  While most towns of this era were built of timber from the Big Woods of Minnesota, Chaska was built of the local yellow brick.  That's probably why so many of the buildings are standing today -- they didn't succumb to fires.  The Herald newspaper building above was built in 1871.
This 1902 beauty, on the square around the central park, is for sale.  Only $400,000 and the inside is as elegant as the outside.

 Moravian settlers built several churches in the area, beginning in 1858.  This one faces City Square Park.
One of the brick manufacturers built row houses for his workers and their families.  Row houses are commonly found in big cities.  These are unusual because they were built in a very small and rural town.

Chaska had several flour mills, most water powered, but this one, built in 1900, was steam-powered.  Today it has been converted to a restaurant, shops, and a sports bar.

Sadly, many of the historic buildings are empty of tenants. This sign looks out on the empty street from a block of closed businesses.

The museum is fundraising by selling bricks made from the Chaska clay deposit.
The lack of a map and the treacherous walking conditions (snow had not been plowed but left to pack down, melt, and refreeze into ice) meant that I missed interesting buildings.  Maybe I'll have to go back someday.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Lost: One Hour. Found: Signs of Spring.

Except for that lost hour of sleep, it's been a pretty nice weekend here.  Most exciting is, the snow is beginning to melt and the birds are beginning to sing. Also my potted hyacinth burst into bloom, scenting the whole house, my garden seeds arrived in the mail, and look what I found at a used book sale.  1,000 Place To See Before You Die for dreaming, and Let's Travel Minnesota for being a little more practical and likely to happen. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


Gentle eyes that see so much, paws
that have the quiet touch, purrs
to signal, "all is
well" and show
more love than
words can tell.

touched with
pride, a calming
presence by our
side.  A friendship

that takes time to
grow.  Small
wonder why we love them so.
--author unknown

Monday, March 3, 2014

Yarrrrr, Matey! Just Don't Do It!

   The Museum of London Docklands relates the history of the Thames River, the docks, and the dock workers that brought goods to the city. 

   One of the many fascinating exhibits is on the topic of punishment for piracy. Of course, pirates had to die for their crimes, but the extreme methods of execution were designed to deter further would-be pirates from contemplating similar acts.

This chain was found in 1920 when the the area of the Execution Dock in Wapping was dredged.  The chain was used to hang a  body from a stake in the river for three tides after the execution.  Behind the chain is a receipt for the delivery of pirates to the Execution Dock, dated 10 May 1762.

   Taken from the stake, the lifeless pirate's body was tarred (for preservation?), stood in an iron gibbet cage, and hung in the river until it rotted away. 

   Apparently, it was quite a sight to see a row of "gibbet tassles" swaying over the water.  Horrifying, I would think.

  The museum is in a sugar warehouse built in 1802 on the West India Docks, Isle of Dogs, east London.

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