Thursday, February 13, 2020

Blenko 'Blow Your Own Water Bottle' Workshop

At the end of January, a friend and I took the opportunity to participate in one of Blenko Glass Co.'s workshops they offer for the public. Glass manufacturing has a long history in West Virginia, and Blenko's been manufacturing glass in our state since 1921. It's a great experience to not only tour glass manufacturing, but to take part in the process! For one price, participants are allowed to go onto the glass factory floor and work alongside the veteran glassblowers, creating one of their designated production items, and take the item home (after a week of firing in the kiln). The January workshop was to make the iconic Blenko #384 (the 4th design originally introduced in 1938): the water bottle (decanter).
The first thing you do when going to one of these workshops is enter through the gift shop doors - temptation right off the bat!
We then moved in groups onto the glass factory floor, which is basically a huge, 100 year old warehouse with glass furnaces scattered throughout, heating up to 2400° in each. We dressed in layers but most workers were in t-shirts. I went first, and my friend followed after me.
We were shown a table display of colors to choose from that day. My friend and I both chose Azure blue. The master glassblowers led us through steps of guiding a wooden spoon dipped in water beneath the glass blob to cool it, coaching us on blowing the glass into the mold, using the tool to bend the spouts, and then walking alongside us as we put the decanter onto the lehr (a type of oven that cools the glass). They handled the more dangerous and delicate steps in between of heating the glass in the ovens, rolling and breaking off the excess glass from the molds, and the handing off tools used.
A very smart marketing move on Blenko's part is giving each participant a $5 coupon toward any purchase, good only for the day of the workshop. If you bought anything, you were then given the chance to spin a game wheel for a chance at another free item. I bought the water bottle in Elderberry, and won a mini water bottle (I chose Cobalt)!

We returned a week later to pick up our water bottles. So, how did my water bottle turn out? Let me preface my answer by saying that when we participate, we are told that not all products make it through the cooling process. In that case, you're allowed to choose a 'second' from the gift shop as a replacement. Well, mine made it through the cooling without breakage, but.....
Look closely at the dimple on the front of the bottle (L frame, above), and then look at the interior of the bottle (R frame, above). Evidently I didn't blow hard enough because the glass didn't fill out the mold completely! No problem, my friend gave me hers (same color), and she chose Elderberry (same color I bought the day of the workshop). It was all good!

I love the iconic Blenko #384 glass decanter, and I have been growing my collection, using each one frequently. They are 8" tall and hold 32 oz (minis are 6" and hold 16 oz), easy to handle with indented bodies, and have pour lips on both edges, great for either right-hand or left-hand grip. They are often colorful elements featured in my tablescapes, such as the Elderberry in this tablescape.....
.....the Cobalt Blue in this tablescape.........
.....the vintage color, Antique Green, from this tablescape...... well as this tablescape....
I also love using them in seasonal displays, such as the Antique Green one, below.....
.... and this one (Spring Green).
The water bottles can also be used very handily as flower vases. Below is a photo of my current growing collection of Blenko #384s: (L to R) Cobalt (including a 16 oz mini), Azure, Elderberry, Antique Green, Spring Green.
I participated in one of the earlier Blenko workshops in 2016, making Easter eggs. You can read about that here (btw, if you read that earlier post, you'll find I am 0 for 2 in success for end results, lol). If you're ever coming through West Virginia or making plans to, you really ought to check out the Blenko Glass Co. website and see if one of their workshops is being held during your trip. The workshops fill quickly, so keep that in mind! Here's a link to the official Blenko Glass Co. Facebook page also, where I first saw my workshop advertised.

Do you like Blenko or have any pieces, vintage or new? Do you think you'd enjoy a workshop like this? I love reading your comments, so do tell, and thanks for your readership today!

Rita C. at Panoply
(A special thanks to Cecilia of My Thrift Store Addiction's Vintage Charm Party #221 for featuring this post!)

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Purple Hearts for Valentine's Day

Hello, readers! Today's post is delivering inspiration for celebrating love with a tablescape - whether it's for Valentine's, Galentine's, or any other meal with loving overtones.
I've set a very simple table with a mix of masculine / feminine touches. The tablecloth is a classic paisley print, in shades of winter grays, and is my base for a start / slant toward a masculine appeal. I tend to gravitate toward less popular color schemes or themes for Valentine's tablescaping. The idea of purple hearts is a departure from the typical Valentine red or pink hearts, but they sparked memories of my father, a purple heart recipient in WWII, and my mother, who loved the color purple. For a related post, see "Love Letters From the Greatest Generation", here. Mr. P.'s birthday is in late January, so I certainly had him in mind with this styling also.
I have caught myself building a collection of purple elements over the past few years. I purchased the crackled stemware a few years ago, then added the purple placemats last year. This year, I added the mulberry heart bowls, elderberry glass decanter, and eggplant napkins. Don't you just love all the names for purple, masterminded for marketing appeal?
I am within driving distance to both Homer Laughlin China Company and Blenko manufacturers, based in West Virginia since 1903 and 1921, respectively. I called the HLC Fiesta factory outlet nearest me to see if they had the mulberry heart bowls, possibly in less expensive manufactured 'seconds' (no), but I found firsts, sale-priced, on the factory's website. Mulberry was HLC's 2018 color for new Fiestaware production.
The elderberry decanter was picked from among a lot of 'seconds' at the Blenko Visitor's Center in Milton, WV, and was their 2019 color for new productions. This decanter is the iconic #384 (the fourth design introduced in 1938), is still manufactured, and remains highly popular. It's so affordable to shop at the factory and be able to choose your own. I couldn't find any flaws with the one I picked.
The rest of the table elements were all pulled from my inventory: chargers, dinnerware, flatware, place cards, and centerpiece. My go to style is in a mix of not only masculine / feminine, but also a mix of new and vintage pieces.
My centerpiece is crystal candlesticks, flanking a crystal bowl filled with a trio of silver bocce balls, ivory buttons, an icy flower pick arching over, and little lights strung throughout. The intention was a simple, wintry look. Napkins were styled in the simplest of folds, a rose (for a links to Youtube video how-tos, click here or, alternatively, here).
For even more 'love'ly inspiration, have a look-see at all the stylists and links to their ideas, conveniently listed beneath the graphic below. I'd like to thank Chloe Crabtree of the blog, Celebrate and Decorate, for her lead in gathering all the stylists for today's tablescaping ideas.
I hope you've found a thing or two that inspires you today. I've included my source list just below for your convenience and retail interest (no affiliations, I am a non-revenue producing blog!).
Purple Hearts for Valentine's Day Source List
Tablecloth - Tabitha Webb - HomeGoods
Chargers, Placemats, Napkins, Stemware - Pier 1
Sterling Flatware - Prelude - Auction
Cream Dinnerware - Pfaltzgraff  Filigree - eBay
Mulberry Heart Bowls - Fiestaware - Homer Laughlin China Company Fiesta Factory Direct
Elderberry Glass Decanter - Blenko - Blenko Factory/Gift Shop
Crystal Bowl Centerpiece - Tiffany (gift)
Crystal candlesticks, silver bocce balls, ivory buttons, place cards - vintage finds
I will leave you with the following history on this holiday: The origin of Valentine's Day, according to Britannica Encyclopedia, ranges anywhere from an ancient Roman, "coming of spring" festival (Lupercalia), to a Roman Catholic bishop's martyrdom for defiantly marrying couples as a means of sparing the men from war, to a modern day celebration of romance. Just so you know, the idea of Valentine's Day was largely commercialized starting in the late 1700's. It's not that I don't like the idea of celebrating Valentine's Day (Mr. P. proposed to me on a Valentine's Day!), but I am sensitive to those who don't like the holiday. For all those struggling with Valentine's Day as a holiday for whatever reason, this one's for you:
Thank you for your readership today. I'd love to hear your thoughts on Valentine's Day. Feel free to leave your comments. I try to respond to each and every one.
Rita C. at Panoply
(A special thanks to Linda of Life and Linda's Love Your Creativity Link Party #31, to Julie of My Wee Abode's Tuesday Turn About #35, to Bev at the Eclectic Red Barn's Thursday's Favorite Things, and to Kathy of A Delightsome Life's Home and Garden Thursday #35 for featuring this post!)

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Traveling Tote Special Edition #22: MacKenzie-Childs Recognition, and a Special Giveaway!

Hello, readers! Today's post is a very special edition of the Tales of the Traveling Tote, celebrating our tribe's 5th anniversary of travels! We are also celebrating a very special anniversary giveaway that will allow one lucky reader to have a unique connection to our anniversary, and it is sponsored by the team at MacKenzie-Childs! Please read further for the details on how to enter. I promise you it's very simple! Now, allow me to introduce to you to my latest tote.....Miss Penny!
The team at MacKenzie-Childs created tote bags for each of us traveling tote members in celebration of our five years of loyalty and travel adventures! The news of the gift coming was a total surprise to us, but enthusiastically received. The sewing team found insight as to each of our personalities through our respective blogs, and came up with unique designs for each of us. We all had a lot of fun communicating with each other as we received our totes, trying to guess whose was whose. Patti received photos of each of them from us individually, and ultimately sent out the collage photo below, asking us if we guessed correctly. It took me four tries to name them correctly! Here's a collage of each of our bags:
These bags are so easy to carry! Lightweight, yet roomy enough for a weekend stay. Mine made its first trip in early December to take in holiday festivities for a weekend away. I can't wait to take it with me in the years to come!
Cherry Kay created a poem for us to share with you, our readers, as a teaser to our very special giveaway surprise. Be sure to continue reading!

The Traveling Totes Tribe is offering one lucky reader a very special giveaway. Our giveaway sponsor this time is MacKenzie-Childs, in recognition of our tribe's five years of loyalty and travel adventures. Leave a comment, telling me one way in which you might use the tote pictured below. Up to ten readers who do so will randomly have their names thrown into the hat (with our other tribe members' random ten draws for comments left on their posts) for an opportunity to win this gorgeous MacKenzie-Childs tote made expressly for our anniversary! The winner will be chosen January 27th and will be notified by email soon after. This post will be updated once the winner is announced. Be sure to leave your email (either in the comment or by emailing me directly at Panoply) so we may contact you if you're chosen. Good luck!

You may increase your chances of winning by leaving a comment on each of my tribe members' blog posts below. Good luck!

Debbie with Miss Tassie @ Mountain Breaths
Emily with Miss Lulu @ The French Hutch
Patti with Miss Tizzy @ Pandora's Box
Jenna with Miss Hello Gorgeous @ The Painted Apron
Linda P with Miss Gigi @ Life and Linda
Rita with Miss Penny @ Panoply (you are here!)
Sarah with Miss Poppy @ Hyacinths for the Soul
Jackie with Miss Pansy @ Purple Chocolat Home
Ricki Jill with Miss Square Peggy @The Sketchy Reader
Cherry Kay with Miss Waverly @ Entertaining Women
POST UPDATE January 27, 2020: The winner of our MacKenzie-Childs serendipity tote bag giveaway was announced on Patti's blog at Pandora's Box. The winner is Rhonda, who left her comment on Jenna's blog at the Painted Apron. Thank you to all who entered, and congratulations, Rhonda!

Just as a testament of our varied travels so far, here's a graphic of where our original Courtly Check totes have collectively visited in the past five years, in the United States alone! Only seven more states (MI, WI, MN, ND, MT, NB, CO), and we have the entire US and Puerto Rico covered!
Here are the countries to which the totes have collectively traveled the past five years. They include the US, France, Italy, England, South Africa, St. Kitts, Neves, Grand Cayman, Honduras, Mexico, Belize, Bahamas, Canada, and St. Thomas: 
As you can see, there's plenty of adventure left to cover. We're coming for you, world!
Thank you so much to all my readers for following along with the Traveling Tote Tribe. We'll see you again on March 1!

Rita C. at Panoply

Monday, January 6, 2020

Miscellaneous Musings No. 17

Welcome to another instalment of Panoply Miscellaneous Musings. These are a collection of random thoughts from a racing mind, quirky things noted around me, and sometimes just life imponderables. I have a category devoted to these on my blog because, well, it's how my mind works. To know me is to know I typically have many tabs open on my computer and my brain at any given point in time. You may want to grab a drink, as it's been awhile since I've compiled them. The length proves it. So, here we go with Miscellaneous Musings No. 17.

When I created my Thanksgiving tablescape back in November, I told y'all I had a story to tell about the Juliska salad plates I used. Try as I might to eliminate dishes stored in this downsized living, I ended up with 12 of these when my intention was to have 4.
A scam seller attempted catching me in his web on eBay after I ordered these on a Buy It Now transaction. The scammer sent me a total of 3 sets (of 4 plates each) when I paid for 1 set. The seller later sent me an email (in poor English), trying to get me to send money for his [intentional] duplicate shipment to an email outside of the eBay official account (a huge red flag!). I contacted both eBay and Juliska directly. Without going into the dirty details, the seller had apparently tapped into the Juliska wholesale customer database to fake orders under bonafide [business] customer accounts for drop shipments. The eBay representative confirmed fraudulent activity and told me the seller would be handled (no further details). Juliska told me to keep the dishes, but encouraged me to only purchase from authorized Juliska dealers in the future. Turns out the 3rd set ended up back with its rightful Juliska independent distributor after reaching out to me with the shipping address the fraudulent seller had provided. I still have 2 sets, the eBay seller has not been blocked, and I will not be buying other than from authorized dealers. Lesson learned.

Speaking of tablescaping, I saw a great video on a Facebook group I'm a member of, Tablescapes and Tablestyling. It was on competitive tablescaping.
Although I really enjoy tablescaping, I didn't know the competition of such was a thing. Back in 2017, I first noticed our local ReStore sponsoring a tablescaping competition with local small business participants using their items, which would be donated to ReStore afterward for resale. It was great! Winner had bragging rights and all the participants had the opportunity to promote their business through use of items they typically offer for sale.
ReStore Tablescaping Competition 2017
Besides the video and what my local ReStore sponsored, I found another article about competing with themed tables from Apartment Therapy (click on link, here).

Besides dishes, textiles (mostly throw pillows) have been a major weakness for me since the downsize. I read somewhere that throw pillows are stuffed animals of grown women. LOL. Truth! I take comfort in the fact that a girlfriend told me she currently has 15 new ones stored in her basement her husband has yet to see. 😂
My attempt to control the space which throw pillows can consume is in buying Hefty vacuum seal plastic storage bags (no affiliation) until I decide which ones will be purged through my next yard sale. I don't buy pillows anymore unless they have zip closures so I can pull the forms and store them flat. In the collage below, you can see how easy the storage is. The bottom left frame are some of the many no zipper pillows I have vacuum sealed.
The purge still continues, even though it's been almost one year since we moved (which has flown by). Just this morning Mr. P. asked me what I was doing with the four area rugs rolled and standing in the coat closet (top L frame of collage below). Likely, I'll be selling those pictured in the yard sale, too. I thought I'd use them, but haven't. It's just so much easier cleaning wood floors without rugs.
I have at least five or six smaller hooked wool rugs (holiday) in the storage unit, too, not to mention other small rugs I moved and am storing at the loft.

January seems to be the month everybody gets on the bandwagon for purging / organizing. I guess I'll be re- re-organizing. I have one closet in the loft that I call my household closet. It definitely needs re- re-organized, even though it's gone through at least a couple iterations already. What you see pictured below is about one-third of the actual size (R & L sides store nearly equal amounts). Love those high ceilings, but all those boxes you see stacked on the floor have still not been gone through since the move.
Speaking of purging, when you find money or uncashed checks, let me caution you about trying to cash them. We found two last year, one of which cost us a returned check fee after cashing (later waived by our wonderful bank rep) due to its age. Even though both checks were over six months old, one issuer apparently enforced the timeframe, one didn't.

Also related to purging, and this one's important to note! From Time magazine, please read this article. You may want to pin it (from the original source, of course). It tells why you need to make a "When I Die" file, and it's never too early!

Out and about in our neighborhood.......
Our capitol building is undergoing some major structural repairs and this is its current look:
It kinda reminds me a huge Jiffy Pop popcorn pan - remember those? - but most residents around town call it the giant condom. Maybe so, but it doesn't seem to keep bad politicians from proliferating.

You've heard how Southern mamas put bows in their girls hair, right? This Blessed Virgin statue was spotted along one of our walk paths in the new neighborhood.
We occasionally drive through the old neighborhood and walk there when we have errands to run in that area. I still can't bring myself to walk past the house, just drive by. This past weekend we drove by and there must've been over 100 Canada geese on the riverbank. Ugh. I don't miss chasing them at all. One former neighbor sent me a video of the geese crossing the street, told me she missed us. 🙄  I memorialized the geese at the loft, did you notice? It was part of my Christmas decor, at the front door. That lighted floral arrangement is a resting Canada goose.
Can't miss the chance to share my granddogs. Two under two and one spoiled rotten. Can you tell which is which?
If you're on Facebook, there was that 10 year challenge of pictures of yourself. I didn't post it, but this was me, 2009 and 2019.
While we were away in early December, I was in the bathroom and noticed a short hair, either an eyebrow or from my crown, that grazed my face, which happens fairly frequently. I actually don't brush my hair, just comb it after washing, and then run my fingers through it with water each morning. Whoa! That hair was attached, and was on my chin! Baby fine, but still, that was a first! Geez, I'd always heard women talk about that, now I guess I have that to add to maintenance. That's one thing hypothyroidism has not left me without (thin hair). Even my hairdresser said to me, "I thought people with hypothyroidism didn't have eyebrows?" Not this chick.

From the imponderable files......
Are you like us, and basically use the heels of loaves of bread as freshlock mechanisms and never use them much or at all? They're kinda like the bookends of bread books, aren't they?
Lastly, random thoughts at bedtime....this is so me.
If you stuck with me this far, I so appreciate your loyal readership. Drop me a line, anytime. I'm open all night...well, my mind pretty much is, anyway. If you want to see my other Musings, here's a link that lists them all, here.

Oh, and don't forget to come back on January 15 for a special edition of the Traveling Tote. It's our 5-year anniversary, and we've got a great giveaway. You're gonna love it!
Postscript to publishing: I didn't even realize when I hit publish on this post that it was exactly seven years ago on this date that I started my blog!
Rita C. at Panoply
(A special thanks to Rebecca from Zucchini Sisters' Celebrate Your Story #214 for featuring this post!)

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Panoply 2019: It's a Wrap!

Well, I've packed away all my Christmas decor, and now it's time to collage all my blog posts for 2019 as a final step before closing the book, so to speak. I'll have all my posts bound in a yearbook style format using Blog2Print (no affiliation, I just love the product and service).

I only blogged 24 posts (counting this one!) in 2019. That's a testament to my year of downsizing (and the fact that I was too busy to write about the action I was in the midst of). The theme of downsizing was definitely the center of my universe in 2019 and a recurring theme throughout the year. What you'll see below is a photo collage of each of my topics this past year, with individual post links below the photos if you're so inclined. I boldfaced one or more of my favorites in each category.
Home & Garden
Welcome! Our Urban DwellingJuly Garden MemoriesCozying Up the CondoChristmas Home Tour 2019: It's Christmastime in the City
Travel: Tales of the Traveling Tote
Tales of the Traveling Totes #18: Urban Renewal;  Tales of the Traveling Totes #19; Tales of the Traveling Tote: Fun in the SunTales of the Traveling Tote #20 and a GiveawayTales of the Traveling Tote #21: Fall in Utah's National Parks
Purple Passion Fire and Ice TablescapeSpring Blooms TablescapeEmbracing Summer: Pineapple Delight TablescapeA Patriotic Tablescape: Celebrating Freedom, Always!Tete-a-tete Summer Tablescape on the BalconyFeline Fondness for Fall TablescapeTutu Fun! Danse Macabre TablescapeForest Walk Thanksgiving TablescapeBlack Tartan Plaid Holiday Tablescape
Miscellaneous Musings and Organization
Downsizing: Tips on Purging, OrganizingTop Tips as We Gather TogetherMiscellaneous Musings No. 16
Panoply Antiquing
Panoply Booth Displays: Purging Household ItemsPanoply New, Vintage Finds
All of the categories of my topics are pulled from my main menu. If you click on each of those topics at the header of my blog, you'll see the list of the posts pulled for each of the categories. It's just another way of keeping things organized.

Reflecting on the major push of downsizing, purging and organizing, I am happier with fostering less material things which, looking back now with 20-20 vision, had me feeling a bit overwhelmed. My Panoply sisters and I are even purging in our antique booth spaces at this writing, and hope to have a fresh start in 2020. So, even though shopping will still be happening, it will be with more of a "just in time" versus "just buy it" mentality.

I so appreciate each and every one you, my readers, and love the friendships struck through blogging. I hope those of you who read but don't always comment will feel welcome to do so anytime. I always try to visit blogs if you have one, and try to respond by email to comments. It's rare that I can't figure out who the commenter is or that I don't have a contact to reach you, but if so (and you're no-reply commenter), I'll leave a response on the post. I'm really looking forward to hitting 2020 with optimism and enthusiasm. I hope you are, too.

Happy New Year!
Rita C. at Panoply
(A special thanks to Suzanne at Pieced Pastimes: Saturday Sparks Link Party #356 for featuring my annual wrap up post!)