Install at Lake House

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We had a lot of fun yesterday installing window treatments in a house on a lake that has been recently renovated. The Duralee and Thibaut fabrics are all fun and lovely together-they really reflect the personality of the client!

Concord Museum Garden Tour

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Lately I haven’t had much time to write my blog-I was getting ready for the Concord Museum Garden Tour (which included our house-pictured) on Friday, May 31 and Saturday, June 1st. We had beautiful,warm, sunny weather and it was a fun event to work on.This is the 24th year of the Tour-I think we had a very good variety of gardens on the tour-some in town,some in the country,small,large but mostly people commented that they each had elements that they felt they could do-not everything was complicated and needed a full set of gardeners!

Thoreau’s Cape Cod

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In 1849-1857 Henry David Thoreau took 4 trips to the area called Cape Cod. As George Howe Colt points out in his book “The Big House” Thoreau is the first person to pronounce living near the sea to be a therapeutic thing to do! Up until then only fishermen lived near the sea and it was not considered desirable.

Here is an excerpt from Howe’s book-“In 1849 the notion of voluntarily traveling to Cape Cod to see the ocean -without planning to fish,build a ship,go whaling,or scavenge a wreck-would not have occurred to anyone except,perhaps,a man who had spent two years gazing into a small,dark pond. Cape Codders considered shorefront land nearly worthless.Cape Codders would have snorted if someone had told them their most valuable resource lay in those serene bluffs and forbidding shores. But Thoreau knew better-” the time must come when this coast will be a place of resort for those New Englanders who really wish to visit the seashore.” In July of 1872,the Old Colony Railroad completed an extension down the east shoreline of Buzzards Bay to Woods Hole. Over the next twenty years,the Old Cape Cod was overlaid with the new.”

This is very interesting to me on a personal note as our area in Falmouth was started exactly then-the first six cottages went up in the late 1870’s. Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard and many other communities sprung up at this time-many of them,such as ours, were originally camping grounds for church-related activities and renewal. In fact, when you buy a house in our area the lots are designated as “tent lots”!

New Oxford, Pennsylvania

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If you are in Gettysburg visiting the battlefields, take a 9 mile detour on route 30 east to New Oxford PA. There are great antique stores(the prices are fantastic) and there is the Christmas Haus. If you are in the mood to stock up on German smokers,nutcrackers,pyramids and ornaments-you are in the right place.You can also order their wonderful imports online.

Kitchenette Restaurant in Manhattan

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My girls and I love this breakfast place Kitchenette, in Manhattan. Not only do they have great food but I LOVE the decorating-so adorable!! There are two locations-one on Chambers Street and one on Amsterdam Avenue, uptown. Try it next time you are there!

The History of Bridge

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I started playing Bridge about 2 years ago. I have A LOT to learn-it is clear! I was curious about the origin of bridge as a game and this is what I found out:

The origin of playing cards was in China, where paper was invented, dates back to around the year 1120. Originally, cards were used for fortune telling and gambling. Cards were introduced into Italy and Spain around 1370, probably coming from Egypt. Tarot cards, used for fortune telling, were introduced in Italy in 1440.

In 1432, Saint Bernardo warned the “Faithful” that cards were invented by the Devil, later picked up by the English Puritans — often regarded a “The Devil’s Picture Book”. By 1495, Henry VII issued a Decree forbidding his servants from playing cards except during the Christmas Holiday.

Later, Elizabeth the First levied a tax on the manufacture of playing cards, which generated significant revenues for the Crown. By the era of Queen Anne, card playing was in full swing. Men preferred Piquet, women loved Ombre, while the Clergy and Country Squires played Whist. Have you ever wondered why the Ace of Spades looks so distinctive? Well, it was the official stamp of certification to indicate that the proper English tax was paid on that deck of cards (the Stamp Office kept the only stock of pre-stamped Aces of Spades) — the card manufacturers were forbidden to produce that Ace. This tax hung around all the way onto 1960, yet the unique look of the Ace of Spades still is found on most decks.

By 1860, Europeans as well as Americans accepted card rank naming convention, markings on the faces that declared their values.

Some believe that the 12 Honors of the deck refer to the 12 signs of the Zodiac or the 12 months of the year. They say the two colors (Red and Black) refer to the Solstice and Equinox phases. They see the four Suits as the four Seasons, the entire pack of 52 cards representing the 52 weeks of the year, and the 13 cards in each Suit being the same as the weeks in each quarter of the year (Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall).

Bridge was derived from Russian Whist, called was called Biritch, meaning an announcer (players “announce or herald” their auction). Books on Whist date back to the mid-1700’s. The first book was written by none other than Edmond Hoyle, titled Short Treatise.

Eventually, the French began using ordinary stencils, which could be cheaply produced. Thus, the cost-effective French cards were widely used in England and the United States. For some time, the designations on the “face cards” varied, but when the French accepted Napoleon as their leader, they reinstated the notion of the King and Queen. However, Napoleon didn’t care for their medieval look, believing they should be “archaeologically correct”. So an artist was assigned to design authentic costumes on the cards. But Napoleon’s cards weren’t liked by the masses so the medieval cards resurfaced.

The first President of the United States, George Washington, enjoyed Bridge. In fact, he enjoyed small wagers on the game, apparently to make it more exciting.

In 1857, the English began playing Whist in a “duplicate” method to eliminate most of the luck associated with the deal of the cards. In 1883, American’s began playing inner-club matches.

In 1891, a duplicate tray was invented, used to hold the cards separately so players could replay the identical cards. The idea was to eliminate chance and provide a true test of skill. The boards were originally called the Kalamazoo tray.

Early accounts indicate that in 1903, some of the British civil servants stationed in India created a method of bidding the trump suit, coined “auction bridge.” A later account dates auction bridge back to 1894, with Turkish or Russian origin from Plevna during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878.

By 1893, Bridge was introduced in New York, using formal rules that were recently printed by Henry Barbey.

Then in 1925, the American multi-millionaire Harold Vanderbilt, introduced exciting scoring bonuses in Bridge (while on a cruise ship). With this change, auction Bridge became known as “contract bridge”.

In 1931, Ely Culbertson wrote the number one and two book seller of any book, titled “The Culbertson Summary and the Blue Book”.

By the late 1400’s, Suits began to appear on cards (the Suits — Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, and Clubs are know as the French National Suits) — the first three Suits are presumably adapted from the German Leaves, Hearts and Hawk Bells. Over the next 200 years, the Suits became standardized. Due to the intricate designs on the “face” cards, the cost to purchase playing cards was originally quite expensive (due to the hand painting) although that didn’t keep the “commoners” from using them. Demand by the populous led to mass production using a technique using the woodcut. The card designs were carved on woodblocks, then inked and printed on paper. These papers were then glued to blank card stock. Around the mid-1400’s, the French incorporated suit signs and flat silhouettes in only black and red colors.

Incidentally, a regular deck of playing cards are 8.9cm long x 6.3cm wide. But since Bridge players hold 13 cards, the Bridge deck is 8.8cm long x 5.7cm wide.

Thoreau and Climate Change

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“I soon found myself observing when plants first blossomed and leafed, and I followed it up early and late, far and near, several years in succession….”
Henry Thoreau, Journal, 1856

In Concord, Massachusetts, spring is coming earlier. Using plant flowering data collected by one of Concord’s most famous residents, Henry Thoreau, from 1852–1860, Boston University biology professor Richard Primack and his team of graduate students have found that, on average, spring flowers in Concord bloomed a full twenty days earlier in 2012 than in Thoreau’s time—and their statistics clearly show a close relationship between flowering times and rising winter and spring temperatures.

Early Spring: Henry Thoreau and Climate Change, a ground-breaking exhibition at the Concord Museum from April 12 through September 15, 2013, explores three centuries of careful observation of seasonal natural phenomena in Concord, a pool of data on the relationship between climate and biology that is essentially without parallel in North America. The exhibition also provides an extraordinary opportunity to examine the Concord Museum’s renowned Thoreau collection that includes the desk on which Thoreau wrote Walden, together with examples of his original field notes, journal recordings, seasonal charts, and botanical specimens. This material has never before been exhibited together.

Henry Thoreau (1817–1862) is one of the most read, beloved, and influential of American authors. He thought and wrote expansively about the natural world in a way that has, since his time, come to be called ecological. For the last ten years of his life, he devoted a portion of every day to a large-scale project to gather and analyze data on the changing phenomena of the seasons. He measured snow depth, watched for the day when the ice melted off Walden Pond, noted the arrival of songbirds in the spring, and above all, recorded the first flowering time for hundreds of plant species in Concord. “I often visited a particular plant four or five miles distant, half a dozen times within a fortnight, that I might know exactly when it opened,” Thoreau wrote in his journal.

The exhibition draws upon the Concord Museum’s unparalleled Thoreau collection of 250 objects, preserved by the Museum for more than a century. The collection includes the humble green desk at which Henry Thoreau wrote, his Walden bedstead, his snowshoes, spyglass, walking stick notched for measuring snow, and his copy of Wilson’s American Ornithology. These icons of American literary and natural history will be exhibited together with rare historical material—Thoreau’s seasonal charts, field notes, and journal—on loan from The Morgan Library and Museum. Additionally on view will be examples of Thoreau’s own herbarium specimens from the Harvard University Herbaria, and Thoreau’s flute book used for pressing plants, on loan from the Louisa May Alcott Memorial Association.

Thoreau’s choice of Concord as a subject was emulated by a continuum of naturalists, some amateur and some professional, in the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. The observations of these citizen scientists—carefully recorded over many years—now form an invaluable resource for scientists interested in the topic of climate change. Dr. Richard Primack, Professor of Biology at Boston University and Guest Scholar for the exhibition, has successfully used the data collected by Thoreau and later Concordians as comparatives to sets of data that he and his graduate students have been actively collecting in Concord since 2008. The work of the Primack Lab is a cornerstone of the Early Spring exhibition.

Jefferson and the invention of the Swivel Chair

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My sister and I were watching Downton Abbey last night and a reference was made about Thomas Jefferson inventing the swivel chair by the Dowager Countess. I googled it and sure enough…

That’s right, that office staple of today was invented by the US’s third president. Jefferson bought an English-style Windsor chair (the ones where the legs and the back are put into drilled holes) from a Philadelphia cabinet maker. He then modified it so that the top and bottom parts were connected by a central iron spindle-enabling the top half known as the seat, to swivel on casters of the type used in rope hung windows. And thus the first swivel chair was born.When the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia, Jefferson’s swivel chair is purported to be where he drafted the United States Declaration of Independence in 1776. Jefferson later had the swivel chair sent to his Virginia plantation, Monticello, where he later built a “writing paddle” onto its side in 1791. Since 1836, the chair has been in the possession of the American Philosophical Society located in Philadelphia.