Never too early to think it’s almost spring

They’re orange.

I bought myself some tulips the other day. They were closed up so tightly I didn’t know what colour they’d be until they opened today.

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It’s about this time every year that I start to buy myself tulips to remind myself that it’s not far to spring.

I inherited my love of tulips (and vanilla ice cream) from my dear friend Bruce. Years ago, Bruce threw himself a birthday party. He filled his tiny apartment with pots of tulips in every colour. And I mean filled. He’d cleaned out the tulip supply of every market in his neighbourhood. Tulips covered the tables, his desk, the bookshelves, the floor…it was beautiful, and very Bruce-like. I remember meeting some really interesting, smart, creative and nice people at that party. But what I remember most is that whenever anyone left the party, Bruce hugged them then handed them a pot of tulips to take home. He had made sure to buy enough tulips so every guest could leave with some.

Bruce passed away some years later, at Easter, so of course there were tulips at his funeral. But it’s the birthday tulips I’m reminded of every almost-spring, when a little joy and colour is in order.

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Mrs. Malkin’s Purse

A few years ago I went in search of a vintage purse for a wedding I was attending. Hitting up my favourite haunts in Kensington Market, I decided on this little black silk-taffeta number:

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I found it in the same store where I later found my 1920s banjolele. I seem to have some kind of interesting vintage karma going on with that place.

The purse is vintage 1940s or 1950s, with a label that says “Styled by Du-val, Toronto, Canada.”  I’ve since found a few other purses online with “Styled by Du-val” labels, but their labels said either “Hong Kong” or “Japan.” I can’t find out anything about this company. Not that it matters…while I don’t know much about this find’s provinence as a vintage purse, I do know something about its previous owner.

When I got home I discovered that the small pocket in the lining was actually a double pocket, and deep in the second pocket were hidden a few surprises: a tiny clear lucite comb, two pennies (1941 American and 1951 Canadian), and two handwritten place cards from a long-ago fancy dinner, with the names of one Mrs. Malkin and her husband.

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I have a friend who’s last name is Malkin, who I hadn’t seen in a long time since he’d moved across the country. Mrs. Malkin’s place cards made me think of him. I wrote him to tell him that I may have just bought his grandmother’s purse. We don’t actually know if this Mrs. Malkin was any relation or not, but we both think it would be nifty if she was.

I think Mrs. Malkin was something of the sentimental sort. That dinner must have been special for her to keep the place cards, and it’s sweet that she kept not just hers but her husband’s as well. And the two pennies…

For some reason it never seemed that they were just random change that had fallen to the bottom of her purse, especially since they were in the inner pocket, and women would have kept their coins in a change purse. They felt like lucky pennies deliberately kept in the purse. I wouldn’t be surprised to find a lucky penny in a purse. There is a superstition that you should never give a purse or wallet as a gift without leaving a coin in it. It’s supposed to ensure that the purse will never be empty. My grandmother did this, and I still do it. Some of us also do this with purses we donate to charity, so it will be lucky for the new owner.

But here were two pennies, not one. And since the comb and place cards were still in the purse, I’m more inclined to think these were Mrs. Malkin’s lucky pennies, forgotten in the purse rather than deliberately left there. Why did Mrs. Malkin have two lucky pennies? Because I’d already found a love token made of two dimes, and two having symbolic significance for partnerships in many cultures, it wasn’t that much of a stretch to think that the two pennies somehow belonged, symbolically, with the two place cards…a penny for Mrs. Malkin and one for Mr. Malkin. Were the dates and countries of origin significant in any way? Sometimes they are, with lucky pennies.

All speculation, of course. I don’t know what Mrs. Malkin’s real story was…but it does seem like her purse is trying to tell one.

Puzzle Rings: The Finale

The optimists have spoken in my puzzle ring poll, so I took up the challenge and attempted the puzzle ring. The results: I’ve still got it. Take that, younger self! (Details below, if you want the solution.) Sorry to disappoint the 25% of you who were rooting for my cognitive decline.

I also did some digging about the puzzle ring’s history (no, I didn’t look for the solution online). There are various theories about the puzzle ring’s origins, but they appear in a lot of cultures, dating back centuries. They were often used as wedding rings; they were meant to ensure that the couple stayed together, because the wearer couldn’t take the ring off without it falling apart, or they symbolised the effort required to keep a relationship together, depending on who you read. One widely circulated (and rather cynical) tale says that a Turkish nobleman gave one to his betrothed to ensure she didn’t stray, because she’d have to take the ring off to cheat, and he hadn’t given her the solution to the puzzle.

All three of my rings, while different in style, are based on the same basic 4-ring puzzle. You can get them in 6- , 7- and even 12-ring puzzles. If your ring looks vaguely like mine, here’s a step-by-step guide to assembling it:

Step 1: Remove the mummified tape that’s been holding it together since the first incarnation of Starsky & Hutch:

Step 2: Drop it on the table so there’s no hope of cheating. It will now look like this:

Step 3: Locate the two rings that are roughly the same shape. They’ll be sort-of “V” shaped, but one will be slightly smaller than the other. These rings will be opposite one another if you spread out the four rings. Align the two “V”s so that the smaller one nestles in the larger one, with the other two rings hanging between them:

Step 4: Try to hold them as above without dropping them and having to start all over.

Step 5: Of the two remaining rings, locate the one with the bumps (the other remaining one will be smooth). Turn the bumpy one sideways so it aligns with and encloses the V’s:

You may have to experiment to find out whether to twist it clockwise or counter-clockwise – that will depend on the next step.

Step 6: Twist the last ring so it fits into the groove in the previous ring. They should fit together neatly. If they don’t, try twisting the third ring in the opposite direction. You should get them looking like an “X”, like this:

Step 7: Drop the outside rings down. They should slide into place easily. If they don’t, you probably have to reverse the alignments of rings 3 and 4, as in Steps 5 and 6 (or even rings 1 and 2, in Step 3. Confused yet?) If you’ve done it correctly, you’ll see the completed ring appear:

TA-DA!

Oops.

I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby

There’s an old saying about poverty: “He’s so poor he doesn’t have two dimes to rub together.”

I thought about that when I found this tiny trinket in an antique store cabinet: two old Canadian dimes, hollowed out and nailed together:

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And then turned into a locket:

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I have no idea of the identity of this smiling gent with the slightly askew tie, but he looks like a charmer. The dimes are both George V, who ruled from 1911-1936; the coin dates would have been on the sides that were hollowed out. Love tokens from modified coins were popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, and sometimes given in place of an engagement ring. They were also given to girls from sailors as a promise they would return. Given the vintage of these coins, there’s a chance this man may have been a WW2 soldier. Either way, by that time, the love-token tradition would have been slightly archaic. Clearly this man was a romantic.

Dimes of this pre-war vintage would have been 80% silver, so a decent enough substitute for a store-bought silver locket. And fellas, while store-bought jewellry is always nice, there is nothing more romantic than a hand-hewn token of your love. Some lucky gal carried around her man in her pocket, perhaps even secretly, with the knowledge that he went to some effort to ensure a place in her heart.

Sigh…