Sunday, August 13, 2017

Panoply Travels, July Finds

This post could just as easily be titled "Strangers in a Strange Land".

The Travels
July had nearly come to an end, and the Panoply sisters had yet to have a road trip for vintage shopping in 2017. Since we were together in West Virginia for a farm-to-table event the last weekend of July anyway, we decided to venture out for a little vintage shopping, in a little vintage town called Harrisville, West Virginia. If ever you go there, don't blink, or you'll miss it altogether!
Why Harrisville? Well, our primary mission was antiquing, but we'd heard Harrisville also has one of the oldest, if not the oldest (as they claim) five & dimes in the US. More on that in a minute. First, we hit Arlo's antique mall.

At Arlo's we were greeted with an outdoor section full of architectural salvage, piled all around the building's exterior, as well as under a carport/porch sort of entry with taxidermy deer stacked high, and peeking around almost every nook and cranny. It was a rainy day and we didn't want to get filthy bugs right off the bat, so we went inside where the decor was, well, let's just have a look-see....
Is that Tippi Hedren, and is she wearing a taxidermy bear coat??
Besides being a taxidermy haven (we resisted), there were aisles and various floors full of stuff, and the place was like a labyrinth to walk through. Naked mannequins positioned alongside reliquaries, deer head on top of most everything, and lots of the typical glassware, kitchenware, china, pottery, etc.
Strangers in a strange land: each aisle stranger than the one before, or the next to come
Though not too many things, and not at very great prices (disappointing!), we did manage to pick a few things at Arlo's.

Onto Berdine's Five & Dime, which has been around since 1908, we'd  been given a heads up by a dealer friend that this store takes only cash and checks. :)
Berdine's Five & Dime Since 1908
Stepping inside was like walking into the past, creaky floors, tin ceiling, wares and all, including candy sold by the pound.
I snapped the photos below without customers, but the place was packed with customers shortly after!
While my sisters were picking out a few novelty items as gifts for kids and grandkids, I couldn't help but choose the two little items pictured below: a cute little lamb, and a WV handcrafted hummingbird nightlight.
After Berdine's, we stopped for lunch next door at Carolyn's. Carolyn's only been around 50 years. ;)
Finished with lunch, we traveled further down country roads until we got to a point of zero wi-fi in a town called Cairo. Zero, as in my cell phone couldn't even navigate. A one-truck, multi-purpose town, or so it appeared.
It could have been Cairo, Egypt for all I knew, but they pronounce theirs as "key row". I had to look at a map to get us back to civilization! We walked into an antique store which had no one working and, in fact, no one around, but the doors were open! We walked right back out when no one answered our calls of "you who?" Talk about Country Roads! Strangely, I had taken a photo of  the antique mall but it disappeared into the Twilight Zone through which we were traveling so I cannot prove it.
Antique Mall of Marietta, OH
We then headed across the river into Marietta, OH, and hit the Antique Mall of Marietta. This turned out to be our best vintage shopping of the day. Situated in an old school building, the 8,000 square feet of creaky wooden floors, old subway tile walls and remnants of perhaps a principal's office housed about 100 separate, small booths.

The Finds
So, what did I buy? I picked a few mantiques, including a pair of vintage Canadian snowshoes, a 1952 TX Medical Field Service School framed photograph, a 'W' sports letter, and a pretty cool vintage air pump with wooden handle and brass body.
I also picked a small, Alfred Meakin (England) "Tintern" green and white transferware pitcher.
All in all, the resale pickins' were slim for July, but I did manage to also get to an estate that yielded the items pictured below: a small, rattan side table and three quilts. The quilts are nice, but machine made, not hand-stitched, which makes them less desirable to me (no desire to foster, that is, but will offer for sale right away).

That's it for recent Panoply travels and picks.
Mid-June yielded but one auction's finds, of which I'd almost forgotten about. One is already in the booth, a Mail Pouch barn sign, (regionally painted) oil on canvas.
The other two items are a child-size Windsor chair and homemade, hand-painted toy chest.
While I could probably get into my basement stash and find other things I've long forgotten about and feel as though I just went shopping, my Panoply sisters and I are already making plans for another trip over to the Cincinnati area soon. We seem to always do well there, and sister J's husband cooks for us. ;)

Thanks for coming along for July's weird sort of antiquing adventures. Have you ever been a little disappointed in scouting out new-to-you places, whether it's retail, antiques or estate sales?

Rita C. at Panoply

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Am I Blue Plate Special

Images often evoke song titles for me. They can be figurative interpretations, or they can be literal ones. Then, sometimes the interpretations take a little twist, with a play on both. Today's table setting is a bit of both interpretations, and I'm calling this the Am I Blue Plate Special tablescape. It's also a little like the Before and After game segment on Wheel of Fortune, if you've ever watched that. ;)
Am I Blue Plate Special
I have had a random collection of blue and white china for many years. I have given away and traded much more blue and white china than I've even kept (I know that's hard for you who know me as a dish collector to even believe!).  

Am I Blue is a song recorded originally in 1929 by Billie Holiday, but I became familiar with it in 1972 with Bette Midler's version (from the Divine Miss M, great album). Every time I see blue and white decor - whether it's a classic, nautical theme, antique Asian, English, Delft or any other country's porcelains - I get this sort of sad feeling. Why? The reason is because I don't have blue of any significance in my decor.

Since my collection is somewhat randomly mixed for this table, it prompted a phrase coined sometime during the 1920s, "Blue Plate Special". The phrase was coined by small restaurants offering special meals - different each day - at special pricing. Well, I certainly am using different plates all around this table, all of them either vintage or antique.
Am I Blue Plate Special Tablescape
Some dinner plates are what I call one offs, from past estate purchases.
1920s Phoenix Bird or Flying Turkey, Made in Japan

1920s Wood & Sons Wincanton Blue, Made in England
Other blue and white dinner plates I own may have 6 or more in a set, but no full service in the pattern.
1920s Abstract Cherry Blossom, Nippon
The plates below are a portion of what I won at an auction of a woman who owned a family-style restaurant in town (who was my mother's age, b. 1920). She displayed these plates and many, many more in her home and restaurant. I have 7 of these, and have always liked them.
1896-1912 Empire Works Porcelain Co, Stoke on Trent England
Some of the Empire Works plates have a pattern majority on the left side
Some of the other Empire Works plates have the pattern majority on the right.
I'm using the Empire Works plates for my salads in today's table - two of each pattern.

With a blue paisley tablecloth (RL, Homegoods), blue and white hand-dyed napkins (Sundance Outlet), and all the blue & white dishware, the glassware (vintage Blenko, dimpled crackle) becomes nearly transparent on the table.
The white chargers (Pier 1) and flatware (Horchow) allow contrast so the place settings aren't totally lost in the sea of blue.
There's lots of mileage to be had with hydrangea blooms as centerpieces.
I later switched out the centerpiece because, well, why not? The graduated hurricanes are part of my summer sunroom table decor, and they're currently holding Blenko glass balls (vintage) that coordinated.

I know a lot of people everywhere have infused blue and white into their decor, no matter what style they gravitate towards. I think I need a little blue and white in some part of my own decor at some point. This tablescape was just another reminder.
What's your favorite way of seeing or using blue and white in home decor?

(A special thank you to Cecilia from My Thrift Store Addiction's Vintage Charm #96 for featuring this post!)
Rita C. at Panoply

Friday, August 4, 2017

Dickinson Salt-Works Farm-to-Table Experience

I mentioned in a previous post my Panoply sisters and I were getting together the last weekend of July with fun things planned. One of those was attending a farm-to-table dining experience at a 200 year old, revived salt farm in West Virginia. The farm and business is named J. Q. Dickinson Salt-Works. I have no affiliation with their company or products, but simply must share their unique success story and my experience at their farm-to-table event!
Farm-to-table at J. Q Dickinson Salt-Works
When we arrived at the sold out event, imagine my surprise when I realized the revived salt farm's most recent former life was as a garden landscape center I visited in 2003, while planning our landscape renovation. Much of the garden center's original design remains.
Garden hardscape at J. Q. Dickinson Salt-Works
Gravel pathways led us from the parking to the lawn setting for the meal event. A succulent planting at the entrance was gorgeously displayed in an urn at least two feet wide. A water fountain was running between a beverage table setup and a row of newly planted limelight hydrangea bushes on the perimeter of the lawn. The lawn itself was set with two rows of connecting farm tables, with a total of sixty or so chairs.
Weeping cedar Atlas at J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works
Across from the beverage table was this glorious weeping cedar Atlas. This. This is the plant that mesmerized me 14 years ago to want one in my own landscape as a specimen plant.
Main building at J. Q. Dickinson Salt-Works
The main building, situated right behind the hydrangea plantings, serves as the kitchen, restroom facilities, offices, and retail shop for J. Q. Dickinson Salt-Works.
Neighbors and Panoply sisters
As if the surprise of the location's former business as a gardening center wasn't enough, my sisters and I ran into some of my neighbors who had also come to the event. We all joined together, found our seats, got a drink, and assembled for a quick tour of the present-day working salt farm.
Nancy Bruns providing tour of Salt-Works processing
Nancy Bruns, trained as a chef, is the creative brain responsible for and representing the 7th generation descendants of the J. Q. Dickinson Salt-Works. Armed with the family's original well logs and maps, Nancy and her attorney brother, Lewis, teamed up and enlisted professionals to attempt tapping the salt river beneath the farm land, two hundred years after their ancestors originally tapped it. The salt beds from which the brine is extracted are the result of the Iapetus Ocean, the body of water predating the Atlantic Ocean (400-600 million years ago)! These salt beds and salt river lie beneath the Appalachian mountains.
Inside the J. Q. Dickinson Salt-Works Evaporation House
This tour was full of fascinating facts! As a result of the continental plate shifts, the Iapetus Ocean disappeared, but the brine kept bubbling up. By 1815, the Dickinson family had several salt wells established on their farm, and the surrounding river valley became a hotbed, leading the salt industry, long before the coal and natural gas industries of West Virginia were born. At the time, salt was necessary to cure meats, as there was no refrigeration. Competition was only as near as Syracuse, New York, so the Kanawha Salt - named for the river valley from which it was extracted - became the epicenter of the country's salt production.
J. Q. Dickinson Salt-Works Processing and Packaging facility, product package
By the mid-1800's the Kanawha Salts were enjoying its heyday, even winning an award as the world's best at the London World's Fair in 1851! However, with railroad connectivity, competition increased, and the Kanawha Salts waned by the 1950's. After being mothballed over 60 years, the brother-sister team took the risk to revive the salt production. With the aid of the family records, brine was successfully found nearly 350 feet below the farmland's surface.

The original Dickinson salt works would have used coal-fired furnaces to boil the brine. Although the original family barn and remnants of the old wells still stand on the farm, J. Q. Dickinson's salt today is processed differently than their previous generations' salt. Theirs is an artisanal operation, pumping the brine from the ground and processing the it in a nature-friendly operation. They are utilizing evaporation rooms, basically resembling large hoop houses, with the natural rays of the sun and mountain air transforming the brine into salt crystals. Inside the hoop houses can get up to 150° degrees on 90° degree days, and high humidity slows the process. The salt is scraped from the beds and further dried in cotton wraps.
J. Q. Dickinson salt crystals

The J. Q. Dickinson Salt Works is enjoying success, and is utilizing/marketing as much of its by-products as possible. Nigari, used to make tofu, is one of the salt process by-products, as is iron, which is being converted to nautral dye. J. Q. Dickinson enjoys a niche market, selling primarily to gourmet shops and restaurants. It is the only sea salt of its kind, without heavy metals. It is "94.5% sodium chloride, 3% calcium and 1.5% trace minerals, including potassium", as stated on their website. The link to their website is provided in my leading paragraph (and again at the end of this post). I invite and encourage you to explore this fascinating small business.
J. Q. Dickinson Salt-Works Appalachian Salt Sampler: Ramp, Heirloom, and Smoked
As part of celebrating the business success and further market their salt, J. Q. Dickinson began a series of farm-to-table dining events on location in 2015. Different chefs from surrounding WV locales have been host to the meals, and our dinner was prepared by West Virginia chef Anne Hart of Bridgeport, WV.  You can see our menu in the photo below, along with photos of the second, third and fourth courses.

The salted chocolate creme dessert was so delicious, it was gone before I could think to snap a photo. The blueberry shrub was notably an aperitif attributable to Thomas Jefferson, as per Chef Hart. It was intended to soothe the stomach after partaking of rich foods. It was a vinegar-based shot with a blueberry infusion. 
The Provence Market menu and three courses
In its inaugural year, the drinking policy was BYOB for the farm-to-table events. This year, wines were paired for the series of meals and made available for purchase. We selected the Barboursville Pinot Grigio.
Wine pairings for the Provence Market event
The weather was absolutely perfect for our evening, with low humidity and low 80's for temperature. 
Dinner guests at the J. Q. Dickinson Salt-Works Provence Market event
The moon was just a sliver that evening.
The company was most enjoyable. We laughed and talked all evening long, commenting on the various courses, each of us having varied opinions and degrees of hesitancy with what we ate. :)
The evening lasted from 6:30 pm to around 9 pm, and my sisters and I left with a strong desire to return again, and bring our husbands. 
The evening ending
My sisters and I each purchased a variety of items, though not at the event. We went to our Capitol Market the next day. Situated in a revitalized railroad freight station, our market houses vendors both indoors and outside, and is home to the Charleston Visitors' Center (exit 100, I-64/77E). Inside is the West Virginia Marketplace, a smorgasboard of locally made products, including J. Q. Dickinson Salt-Works, Brookstone Soaps, and Allegheny Treenware (wood utensils).
Capitol Market, Charleston,, WV
I bought the items you see pictured below: the Appalachian Salt Sampler, a small, carved wooden salt spoon made by Allegheny Treenware, a bar of soap, and a jar of burnt caramel sauce. 
J. Q. Dickinson Salt-Works purchases
The day after the event, I made myself a treat using one of locally grown white peaches I had also purchased at the market. I used French vanilla ice cream, peaches, and J. Q. Dickinson burnt caramel sauce, with a pinch of heirloom salt for good measure. Needless to say, it was the perfect summer dessert, and has me dreaming of ways to use the caramel this fall.
Without a doubt, this event was a highlight for me this summer. I knew when the schedule was announced back in March that I would be going to one of these events, and my choice for this one was remarkable. Other farm-to-table events are popping up around the state, including a series at the Capitol Market, but the J. Q. Dickinson event was first class!

I've been purchasing JQD's salt grinders and various other small items as hostess gifts for a couple years now, and the website offers many more now. The tomato jam is calling my name! Again, here's the website if you'd like to learn more about this great little success story:  J. Q. Dickinson Salt-Works. There's a tab to shop online, too.

Thank you for coming along on this adventure with me. Your readership is appreciated. Feel free to leave your comments or questions!
Rita C. at Panoply