Peonies in Porcelain

Peonies in Porcelain
Peonies in Porcelain

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“Peonies in Porcelain” is an original acrylic painting by Donna Cushman of the Constitution State, Connecticut. Donna is a Quadriplegic, and she paints with a brush held in her mouth. This greeting card was reproduced from an original acrylic painting by Donna Cushman for THASC Sales Co., a private company dedicated to the employment of a unique group of handicapped artists who create art to help rehabilitate themselves. They gain self-respect and pride through their artwork.
“Peonies in Porcelain” is an original acrylic painting by Donna Cushman of the Constitution State, Connecticut. Donna is a Quadriplegic, and she paints with a brush held in her mouth. This greeting card was reproduced from an original acrylic painting by Donna Cushman for THASC Sales Co., a private company dedicated to the employment of a unique group of handicapped artists who create art to help rehabilitate themselves. They gain self-respect and pride through their artwork.

As a child of the 60’s and 70’s, that is a baby-boomer, I was very much attracted to high-heeled boots and shoes that were so “in” at the time and Donna Cushman’s painting immediately caught my eye.

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20150624_141221-1I was also attracted to the peony flower which is a traditional floral symbol of China and is used symbolically in Chinese art. Throughout Chinese history, peonies in the ancient Chinese city of
Luoyang are said to be the finest in the country.

Since peonies are native to Asia and Southern Europe, I enjoyed their beautiful scent when I was living in Beijing and throughout my travels of southern China. In Japan its root was used as a treatment for convulsions while in the Middle Ages their seeds were medically significant.

20150624_142034-1The Chinese also use the fallen petals as an addition to salads or to sweeten water like lemonade. Peonies are commonly used in Japan as tattoos along with lions, tigers, dragons and koi-fish as a masculine design.

To me I can only imagine them as feminine as can be with their soft petals and of course, those high-heeled shoes!

Join me next Tuesday as we get closer to our national holiday, July 4, and continue to celebrate our THASC artists.

Zai jian! (Good-bye in Chinese)

-Maria

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THASC is a unique small American business producing cards and other promotional products.
www.thasc.com

Colors of Spring

Colors of Spring
Colors of Spring

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“Colors of Spring” is an original oil painting by Robert Woltanski, resident of the Keystone State, Pennsylvania. Robert is a Quadriplegic and paints with a brush held in his mouth.This greeting card was reproduced from an original artwork by Robert Woltanski for THASC Sales Co. which has employed a unique group of handicapped artists who create art to help rehabilitate themselves. They gain self-respect and pride through their artwork.
“Colors of Spring” is an original oil painting by Robert Woltanski, resident of the Keystone State, Pennsylvania. Robert is a Quadriplegic and paints with a brush held in his mouth.This greeting card was reproduced from an original artwork by Robert Woltanski for THASC Sales Co. which has employed a unique group of handicapped artists who create art to help rehabilitate themselves. They gain self-respect and pride through their artwork.

As I was driving through my neighborhood this morning I noticed that almost everyone in my community had manicured lawns and bushes with pretty flowers in a row. All except one. This house was a replica of Robert Woltanski’s garden in his greeting card painting above. Instead of a lawn there were tons of wild flowers all growing together and I wished that I had done the same thing with my front lawn: colors upon colors, all different lengths and sizes and so simply beautiful and so unique.

“Viottolone”
“Viottolone”

When I was in Florence 2 weeks ago I visited the Palazzo Pitti,
the Palace of the Medici family who were the rulers of Florence during the Renaissance. The Palace was bought by Cosimo I’s wife Eleonora di Toledo and after being greatly enlarged, became the Medici family’s new residence. Despite its imperial dominance and décor, the Palace is not as admired as its grounds, the Giardini di Boboli, or the Boboli Gardens The development of the Gardens span 400 years from the 15th to the 19th centuries. One of the highlights is the “Viottolone” pictured to the right.

As you can see, the Viottolone , or large avenue, leads all the way to the large pond called the “Isolotto”. Perseus on horseback is emerging from the pond. Another beautiful fountain is “Neptune’s Fountain, pictured below and called “The Fork” by Florentines because of his trident.

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20150528_114439The Boboli Gardens offer the perfect place to escape the hot summer days in Florence. The side avenues off the Viottolone offer the perfect spots to relax and enjoy the tranquility of the Gardens.

Most of our own gardens offer the same place of relaxation on a much smaller scale than the famous Boboli, and Robert Woltanski brings each of us through his THASC greeting card to the special place outside our back (or in some cases, front) door.

Have a lovely Spring weekend in your garden or backyard.
See you on Tuesday with another recipe from THASC’s kitchen.

Ciao a presto. See you soon!

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-Maria

THASC is a unique small American business producing cards and other promotional products.
www.thasc.com

Spring

Spring
Spring

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“SPRING” is an original watercolor painting by Janice Peroni, resident of the Garden State, New Jersey. Janice is a Quadriplegic and is aided by the use of a wheelchair. Janice paints with the restricted use of her arms and hands. Her paintings come alive with color and movement. This greeting card was reproduced from an original artwork by Janice Peroni for THASC Sales Co. who has employed a unique group of handicapped artists who create art to help rehabilitate themselves. They gain self-respect and pride through their artwork.
“SPRING” is an original watercolor painting by Janice Peroni, resident of the Garden State, New Jersey. Janice is a Quadriplegic and is aided by the use of a wheelchair. Janice paints with the restricted use of her arms and hands. Her paintings come alive with color and movement. This greeting card was reproduced from an original artwork by Janice Peroni for THASC Sales Co. who has employed a unique group of handicapped artists who create art to help rehabilitate themselves. They gain self-respect and pride through their artwork.

The happiest time of year for most New Englanders who abhor winter is the arrival of Spring. The sudden bursts of plants and flowers making their way through the still somewhat solid ground is inspiring that finally we will have some reprieve from the cold and snow.

20140509_144237-2When I first saw Janice Peroni’s painting, it immediately brought me back to the lilacs that my Mom loved so much. They were not the first to bloom so we all waited patiently for their lovely scent. My parents had them planted in specific places, one of them being right outside the bedroom windows. We all knew when they arrived as that distinct scent came flowing threw the half-opened windows to wake us up.

One of the sad things about Spring is that it doesn’t last very long. The flowers, that is. To have six long months of a barren winter compared to about three weeks of flowers, seems just not fair, but that is probably why we relish it so much. My favorite flower has always been the rose, but originally there were no roses in my back yard. Other gorgeous flowers like lilacs, sunflowers, hyacinths, daffodils, irises, lily of the valley and azaleas covered most of the garden beds.

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When I bought my childhood home back after thirty-five years, one of the first things I wanted to do was to plant roses….and roses I did. Roses are late bloomers, which was for me a good thing because I always had them in the end after most of the others were gone. I planted them everywhere: wherever I could find an open spot. After having been away almost a month, when I lifted my blinds I was so surprised to see a garden full of roses!

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So I notice my calendar that says June 16th and I know we officially have 5 more days of Spring and all its beauty. The grass and bushes around the house are green and full again.
The warm temperatures remind us that summer is finally arriving in New England.

Janice Peroni must have thought the same thing when she painted her watercolor of lilacs and roses. For me a perfect combination for Spring.

Please join me and the precious people of THASC Sales Co. again
on Thursday for more lovely visions of life.
Until then…Enjoy the last days of Spring!

-Maria

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THASC is a unique small American business producing cards and other promotional products.
www.thasc.com

Two Cardinals

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“Two Cardinals”

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“Two Cardinals” is an original oil painting by Teddy Wayne Smith, resident of the Bluegrass State, Kentucky. Teddy was diagnosed with Anterior Horn Cell Disease and has been bound to a wheelchair since birth. He has lost the use of his left arm, but continues to paint and draw with his right arm. Teddy is also an accomplished author of the book titled “Teddy – Finding LIFE in a World of Destruction”. This greeting card was reproduced from an original artwork by Teddy Wayne Smith for THASC Sales Co. which has employed a unique group of handicapped artists who create art to help rehabilitate themselves. They gain self-respect and pride through their artwork.

I don’t know any other bird that gets me to jump off my chair to run and see it than the North American male cardinal. In fact it is one of the most well known and favorite birds in North America so much so that seven states honor it as their state bird: Kentucky, West Virginia, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Illinois. The NFL’s Arizona Cardinals and the MLB’s St. Louis Cardinals, as well as many other universities have made the Cardinal their mascot. A cardinal is distinguished by it’s bright red crest and bill and it’s black “Lone Ranger” mask and a shade of red that can only capture your attention and hold it. Since cardinals don’t migrate they are as conspicuous in winter against a snowy background, and in summer for their musical whistles. Both the male and female sing. Not many North American female birds sing, but the female cardinal does, often while sitting on her nest, probably an indication of when to bring food. Being the romantic that I am, it makes me happy to know that males and females stay together for life, perhaps why Teddy Wayne Smith depicted them above in a pair. They have a life span of up to fifteen years.

I found this beautiful Haiku by Christine Kelly written coincidentally on my Dad’s birthday Feb. 2, 2013 that says it all I think about devotion and love:

Cardinals
Pair of Cardinals
perched together in the snow,
one warm, beating heart.

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Cardinal musical bird

My mother was a great lover of cardinals and all my life I still have her favorite knick-knack of a musical cardinal that she left. It plays “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning”, probably because in summer their whistles are one of the first sounds in the morning.

Many people think that cardinals are a sign of their lost loved ones and that they are a symbol of that person visiting them when they appear. According to this myth, they usually show up when you most need or miss your loved one. They also make appearances during times of celebration to let you know they will always be with you.

My friend Rosaleen who was very close to my parents has gifted me with some lovely reminders of my mother in the form of cardinals. One is this lovely snowy globe and recently she gave me some delicate cardinal hand-painted cups. Since I bought my childhood home back a few years ago, she is certain they will always be poignant reminders of them.

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Cardinal snow globes

Cardinals are easily attracted to backyard feeders with sunflower seeds. They measure about 8” in length and have a wingspan of about 10 -12 inches. Although the male brings the nest material to the female, it is the female who does most of the building! They have a global breeding population of 120 million with 77% in the U.S. For those who choose to hold the Cardinal dear: you are a special person: energetic, vital, rare and always willing to care for those in need.

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Hand painted cardinal cups

Thank you, Rosaleen.

See you next Tuesday. Have a warm almost summer weekend. Hope you see a cardinal.
-Maria

THASC is a unique small American business producing cards and other promotional products.
www.thasc.com

Precious Freedom

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“Precious Freedom”

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“Precious Freedom” is an original oil painting by Novella Duke, resident of the Volunteer State, Tennessee and the Sunshine State, Florida. Novella was diagnosed with Scoliosis at age 8 and is aided by the use of a wheelchair. This greeting card was reproduced from an original artwork by Novella Duke for THASC Sales Co. which has employed a unique group of handicapped artists who create art to rehabilitate themselves. They gain self-respect and pride through their artwork.
“Precious Freedom” is an original oil painting by Novella Duke, resident of the Volunteer State, Tennessee and the Sunshine State, Florida. Novella was diagnosed with Scoliosis at age 8 and is aided by the use of a wheelchair. This greeting card was reproduced from an original artwork by Novella Duke for THASC Sales Co. which has employed a unique group of handicapped artists who create art to rehabilitate themselves. They gain self-respect and pride through their artwork.

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Living on a Street named “Poppy” most of my life always brought special meaning to Memorial Day for me. I grew up when people often wore silk poppy flowers to remember the fallen. After World War I, a poem was written by a Canadian physician named John McCrae called “In Flanders Fields” which may have been the beginning of wearing poppies. The poem talks about the poppies that grew among the soldiers’ graves in Flanders. Two years later in 1920 the poppy became the official symbol of remembrance adopted by the National American Legion. Here is part of that poem:

“In Flanders Fields”
John McCrae

20150417_153141-1-1-1Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Many veterans or those still associated with the Armed Forces sell silk poppies on the corners of most cities and towns during the weekend while others place flowers or American flags at the stones of the fallen or attend parades with marching bands following servicemen and veterans from various wars.

The original date chosen for the holiday was May 30 as the perfect date for flowers to be in bloom, but was changed to the last Monday in May when Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1968. Whatever day it is celebrated, I thank all of those every day, past and present, who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we may be free. Novella Duke is right. Freedom is Precious. We should remember that every day. Thank you to the Precious Art by Precious People. Novella is one of them.

See you in June. Next Tuesday, that is.
Have a wonderful weekend and Happy Birthday, Scot!

-Maria

The French word “Merci” or “Thanks” written on the American flag in front of a white cross in the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
The French word “Merci” or “Thanks” written on the American flag in front of a white cross in the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.

Marples the Clown with Daisies

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“Marples the Clown with Daisies”

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“Marples the Clown with Daisies” is an original pen, ink, and acrylic drawing by Gary Lapelle, resident of the Mountain State , West Virginia. Gary conracted polio at the age of three that left him paralyzed from the neck down. Gary is now able to walk and has partial use of his right hand and arm from surgery and rehabilitation. This greeting card was reproduced from an original artwork by Gary Lapelle for THASC Sales Co. which has employed a unique group of handicapped artists who create art to help rehabilitate themselves. They gain self-respect and pride through their artwork.
“Marples the Clown with Daisies” is an original pen, ink, and acrylic drawing by Gary Lapelle, resident of the Mountain State , West Virginia. Gary conracted polio at the age of three that left him paralyzed from the neck down. Gary is now able to walk and has partial use of his right hand and arm from surgery and rehabilitation. This greeting card was reproduced from an original artwork by Gary Lapelle for THASC Sales Co. which has employed a unique group of handicapped artists who create art to help rehabilitate themselves. They gain self-respect and pride through their artwork.
Most children love going to the circus and being entertained by funny clowns of all shapes and sizes who make them laugh. The principal types of clowns are the “whiteface”, just that, ie., it uses clown white makeup to cover the face and neck, and is more sophisticated, sometimes seen wearing the ruffled collar. They are also called the “sad clown”. I have a small clown doll on my shelf which will show you what I mean:

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20150415_082512-1The ‘auguste” face usually has the mouth and eyes thickly outlined in white. Usually his costume is either too big or too small and his role is being confused or foolish. To give you an idea of what an auguste clown, also known as the “happy clown” would look like, I’d like to show you my Capo di Monte clown which I purchased in Venice many years ago. It has great attention to detail. First, let’s look at the face make-up (note the mouth and eyes in white)

Clown costumes tend to also exagerate some body parts, such at the feet and noses. You will note the oversized shoes on my clown:

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The character clown in the American circus is usually either a hobo, tramp or bum clown. Emmett Kelly, Red Skelton, Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin were all character clowns. Clowns don’t talk but rather use props like a squirting flower or riding a “clown bike” to evoke humor. Sometimes clowns do, however, perform other skils in the circus, like walking a tight rope or riding a horse. Time to look at my clown in full: Note the large bubble nose and the “squirting” flower on the lapel and his oversized trousers:

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Some people have expressed a fear of clowns, particularly those in the circus The term “coulrophobia” is used to describe this fear as abnormal or irrational fear of clowns. Some argue that notorious figures in real life (John Wayne Gacy) have contributed to this fear. Additionally the fact that much of a clown’s behavior is anti-social can create feelings of unease. NOTE 1.

When I see a clown, I think immediately of Judy Collins classic “Send in the Clowns.” I actually have a clown music box that plays the song.
Here are some of the lyrics:

20150415_082211-1“Isn’t it bliss?
Don’t you approve?
One who keeps tearing around,
One who can’t move….
Where are the clowns?
Send in the clowns.

Don’t you love farce?
My fault, I fear. I thought you’d want what I want…
Sorry my dear!
And where are the clowns
Send in the clowns
Don’t bother, they’re here.”

Hope you all enjoyed our blog on clowns which was inspired by THASC artist Gary Lapelle. Marples looks like a “happy clown” to me. What do you think?

Join me on the last Thursday in May to salute those whom we honor on Saturday, May 30, Memorial Day.

-Maria

Note 1. “Why Are Some People Afraid of Clowns?”, Zidbits. October 20, 2011.

THASC is a unique small American business producing cards and other promotional products.
www.thasc.com

Beach Front

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“Beach Front”

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“Beach Front” is a watercolor painting by Christopher Kuster, resident of the Sunshine State, Florida. Christopher is a Quadriplegic from a swimming accident in 1992. Christopher paints with a brush held in his mouth and enjoys spending time with his art. This greeting card was reproduced from an original watercolor painting by Christopher Kuster for THASC Sales Co., which has employed a unique group of handicapped artists who create art to help rehabilitate themselves. They gain self-respect and pride through their artwork.
“Beach Front” is a watercolor painting by Christopher Kuster, resident of the Sunshine State, Florida. Christopher is a Quadriplegic from a swimming accident in 1992. Christopher paints with a brush held in his mouth and enjoys spending time with his art. This greeting card was reproduced from an original watercolor painting by Christopher Kuster for THASC Sales Co., which has employed a unique group of handicapped artists who create art to help rehabilitate themselves. They gain self-respect and pride through their artwork.

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New Englanders like me wait with baited breath for the arrival of beach weather. In comparison to our long, long, cold, snowy winters, our summers last really only two months so the anticipation of its arrival drives many of us to the beaches even before they officially open on Memorial Day. Rhode Island is known as the Ocean State and has some of the most beautiful beaches on the northern east coast. When I lived in Boston, I noticed the Bostonians wear hardly any outer clothing at the first sign of a day over 50 degrees. Most of the young people are wearing shorts and T-shirts as I always was still “freezing” until it was really, really hot. In fact I shed my down jacket yesterday afternoon for the first time this year and I still have my heat on!

20140619_160504For those who are fortunate enough to own properties on or near the beach front, renting your little house or bungalow can be very profitable during the summer. Rates per week are exorbitant as everyone wants a piece of the action or, should I say, a piece of the sun.

My best friend Ruth’s sister Gini rents a cottage every week in June down in Narragansett, R.I. in a quiet private village called Breakwater Village. In fact she has to start looking a year in advance to secure a place for the week. Everyone takes a chance that the weather during his or her week will be bright and sunny. Some are less fortunate. The week that Gini chooses is always the week that includes Ruthie’s birthday and all the “girlfriends” are invited for the week. The week kicks off with a huge lobster dinner (I think everyone but me likes lobster) and the gentlemen are invited to join for that day only!

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Most of our time is spent on the private beach or on the lawn chairs reading or sunbathing. Most of the girls opt for the beach, which is not far from the cottage down a small dirt path.

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In the early evening we take a walk around the village and talk to people who are sipping on a glass of wine or enjoying a sailboat pass by.

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Christopher Kuster’s painting reminds me a lot of the quaint little beach houses in Cedar Key, FL, with their pastel fronts and the cool palm trees swaying in the breeze. If you have never been to Cedar Key, put it on your list of beautiful places to visit when you are in north central Florida.. This quiet little town has fewer than 1000 permanent residents and is full of great shops, terrific restaurants and seafood. In fact Cedar Key rivals New England as one of the nation’s top sources of farm-raised clams.

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Back at Breakwater Village in Narragansett, we are getting ready for Ruthie’s birthday party. What better way to end the week with celebration and a wonderful view of the bay? No matter what part of the country you have your favorite getaway cottage at the beach, THASC’s Christopher Kuster reminds us that it is all where we want to be come summer.

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Ruthie and me
Ruthie and me

Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend which is the signal for the official opening of summer beaches in Rhode Island and more importantly the remembrance of our veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we may be there.

See you on Thursday.
Regards from Breakwater.

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-Maria

THASC is a unique small American business producing cards and other promotional products.
www.thasc.com

Among My Souvenirs

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“Rocking Horse”

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“Rocking Horse” is an oil painting by Grace Hedlund, resident of the Empire State, New York. In June, 2003, Grace suffered a head injury that caused her impairment in the left side of her body, loss of balance and loss of memory. Grace is still able to paint but finds other activities difficult and exhausting. This greeting card was reproduced from an original artwork by Grace Hedlund for THAC Sales Co. which has employed a unique group of handicapped artists who create art to help rehabilitate themselves. They gain self-respect and pride through their work.
Howdy Doody doll
Howdy Doody doll

I am one of those people that I guess you would call a collector. Some prefer to call me a pack rat since I hold on to things I love for a long time. Sound familiar? Most of them were given to me by someone or left behind by someone and others I bought and can’t seem to part with. When I first saw the “Rocking Horse” painting by Grace Hedlund, it reminded me of those special toys from childhood and then I loved to collect dolls like most little girls. My favorite doll might surprise you. My favorite one was a Howdy Doody doll which I got when I was about 7 years old. Back then he was all spiffed up and had a straw cowboy hat and some leather cowboy boots and a nifty checked scarf which matched his shirt tied around his neck. Over the years he’s a little worn out: he’s lost his cowboy boots, hat and scarf and he’s broken his nose. Most of the children who come over now are afraid of him and make me hide him, but I’ll never get rid of him. He’s too precious a memory and still has his spot on my bedroom pillow after all these years.

20150405_143128I’m also in love with anything made of ceramic or glass. An old friend, Mr. Charles Anderson, had a clock collection for years when I rented an apartment from him. There was one special clock, the most beautiful I’d ever seen, I may add, totally of ceramic and hand-painted a lovely violet with little flowers. It still chimes on the hour and sometimes on the half as well. When he passed, I bought it from his estate back in the 70’s and although I’ve transported it to many places, it still remains chip free. It’s a beauty and I’ve had it for so long now, how can I ever part with it?

20150405_142536-1My mom left behind a number of teapots but none is as pretty and beautifully decorated as the deep blue one with detailed gold trim. I have to admit that I’d rather admire it than use it for fear of breaking it, so it sits on a shelf in my cluttered basement collecting dust. I must find a way to fit it into the kitchen one of these days!!!

20150405_142929When I was living in Beijing in the late 90’s, I invited my sister to come over and spend close to a month with me. My brother knew how much living and teaching in China meant to me and for Christmas the following year gifted me with a very touching hand-painted ceramic piece of two Chinese women sitting on a bench sharing stories, much like my sister and I had done. China was a very special trip for us and she was quite the star with her bright red hair! I have a room where I dedicate a bookcase and other built-in ones for my Chinese souvenirs, like the medals we both received for climbing the Great Wall and the statues of the Terracotta Warriors from Xian. On the top shelf, however, sits the ceramic Chinese ladies.

20150405_142902At this point in my life, my house looks more like a museum of sorts and my basement could very well look like a flea market as I have so many things stacked on moveable shelves for lack of having space to display them upstairs. Most of them would be useless to most people and I really am not a hoarder, but my sister used to call it “separation anxiety!” I’ve mentioned my glass collection in another blog which I wrote on Venice but I didn’t talk much about the multi-colored tiny glass perfume bottles with glass tops that I collect. They are all different shapes, sizes and colors and most of them are small. There is one large one in the middle of all of them which I favor and has a beautiful red glass top. I think you’ll agree with me that it is the leader of the pack.

20150405_142430-1If you read my recent blog about Sorrento, I mentioned that inlaid wooden boxes are a dying craft, however, besides the small ones I’ve dispayed in that blog I also have a bigger, beautiful jewelry box which I had bought for my mother a long time ago when I was in Sorrento. That, too, sadly for the moment sits downstairs on a shelf, but I do have big plans for it someday!

20150405_141854-1Grace Hedlund’s painting brings me full circle to my own rocking horse and a very special family treasure. It’s made of brass and is very heavy and is used every day to hold my swinging door open. So you see many of my souvenirs still play active rolls in my life.

How many of you have special collectibles that you’d like to tell me about?I’m anxious to see some of your photos of them!

See you next Tuesday!
Thank you THASC and thank you Grace for some special memories.
-Maria

THASC is a unique small American business producing cards and other promotional products.
www.thasc.com

Bouquet for Mom

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“BOUQET FOR MOM” is an original oil painting by Sue Bingaman, resident of the Keystone State, Pennsylvania. She was injured in a snowmobile accident that left her a quadriplegic. Sue paints with a cuff around her hand with an adapter that holds her brush. This pocket planner was reproduced from an original oil painting by Sue Bingaman for THASC Sales Co. which employs a unique group of handicapped artists who create art to help rehabilitate themselves. They gain self-respect and pride through their artwork.

By:
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My mom and me as a child
My mom and me as a child

As Mother’s Day approaches this weekend, I thought I’d like to put my thoughts to my wonderful Mom, Sara. I lost her way too soon, but there is always something lingering in my life that reminds me of the joy she gave her family. I’d like to share her most happy moments with you.

She was born Sara Nancy Rose Santoro to immigrant parents from Sicily and was the 4th in line of 6 siblings. She had promised her father that she would finish going to college after she married, as she met the love of her life, Joseph Mario Vallone, in her junior year of college at URI and got married soon after that. She did complete her degree in education by going to extension classes and getting her B.A. in elementary education after the three of us were born. Unfortunately, her father passed away suddenly and he was never to see her graduate.

The story of her wedding and marriage is a lovely one. My Dad had told me that he saw her for the first time at her parents’ house while he was at a college meeting for Italian-Americans sponsored by her sister and some friends. By Mom came home that weekend from college and as she entered the room, he took one look at her and said to his friend Sal, “I’m going to marry that girl”. And so it went that at 20 years old, my Mom married Joe Vallone, on September 23, 1940.

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20150404_132711My parents had quite a honeymoon for those times. My Dad had graduated from MIT in 1938 and had a red convertible Buick in which they toured the entire United States, stopping, and in some cases, visiting different cities for more than a day, They were gone for one month! September 23 to October 29! She kept a diary which I found among her things and the first pages she scribbled “Joe and Sara” and then listed all of the states they visited.

20150404_132725After the opening pages with her list of States, she wrote her first entry. It reads:
“1940
Monday, September 23
The most beautiful and I’m sure the most memorable day of my life. Married at 9:00 am- Dinner and reception at Rhodes Annex
Arrived at Mohican Hotel- Connecticut – at 10:30 PM. Stayed in Room 320. Joe carried me across the threshold. Ate at Peterson’s
Then started for New York…”

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Mom at 36

My mother was a beauty and we all knew it. I wanted to be just like her. She was fashionable and always well manicured. She had beautiful legs and always wore high heels. I loved to go shopping with her. She had an eye for fashion and went to the nicest stores. She always brought me with her, probably because she knew I was most like her in many ways and had the most patience. She loved my sister and brother just as much.

Dressed up for Easter
Dressed up for Easter

She was very talented and made all of our clothes as children. Especially for the holidays, she made sure we got all dressed up before going to see our grandparents. We always had bonnets for Easter and my father bought all the ladies corsages. I remember they were gardenias and loved the smell.

My grandmother was very special to me. When I got my first job teaching across the street from her house, every day I used to cross the street and go up a little pathway that lead me to her house. She would always make me a nice soup and a hearty meal and we would speak Italian. She was truly my second mother. My own mother was so fond of her mother that my Dad would take her with them on day trips and out to restaurants. She was a jewel, too, and I could see where my Mom got her sweetness.

20150404_134515I was lucky to have taken my Mom to Italy after my Dad passed away. She loved it and always asked me to take her back. We saw all the big cities, but never got to Sicily. My only regret was that I never took her back to Sicily to see her Mom’s and Dad’s hometowns. We ran out of time.

The last entry in her honeymoon journal reads like this: “There’s no one in the world like Joe — never too much of anything precious.”20150404_132829

That was my mother’s love story. I wish all of you a very happy Mother’s Day on Sunday whether she’s with you or not, keep her in your heart.

See you next Tuesday
-Maria

THASC is a unique small American business producing cards and other promotional products.
www.thasc.com

Bird Houses

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“Bird Houses”

By:

“BIRD HOUSES” is an original watercolor painting by Kevin Slater, resident of the Hoosier State, Indiana. Kevin is a quadriplegic from a high school wrestling accident in 1973. He paints with specially adapted brushes held in his mouth. This greeting card was reproduced from an original artwork by Kevin Slater for THASC Sales Co. which has employed a unique group of handicapped artists who create art to help rehabilitate themselves. They gain self-respect and pride through their artwork.
“BIRD HOUSES” is an original watercolor painting by Kevin Slater, resident of the Hoosier State, Indiana. Kevin is a quadriplegic from a high school wrestling accident in 1973. He paints with specially adapted brushes held in his mouth. This greeting card was reproduced from an original artwork by Kevin Slater for THASC Sales Co. which has employed a unique group of handicapped artists who create art to help rehabilitate themselves. They gain self-respect and pride through their artwork.

It is so easy to love this greeting card, isn’t it? The beautiful colors and the topic remind us that Spring is close by and that soon our feathered friends will be our neighbors. I always wondered how they fit through those little holes and made their homes or nests in such a small place and wonder how did they ever survive winter without such protection? Now I know why.

I will admit that I tried my first bird house last autumn and didn’t have much luck. However, things are about to change. This past Christmas, my cousin Michael sent me the most spectacular hand-made birdhouse I have ever seen. In fact, I think there are just three people that have one like this made purely of cypress, one of few woods that are good for birdhouses. It is large, decorative and resistant and will camouflage well in the garden. Bird houses are supposed to blend in with the surroundings to prevent attracting predators from destroying them.

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One of my girlfriends named Gini gifted me with another lovely birdhouse for my birthday. This one is hand-painted and beautifully designed with a nice, heavy chain. I think as soon as I do my Spring clean up in the back yard and the garden is full of flowers, I will put both of them outside.

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Not all backyard birds use houses including cardinals and orioles, but enough common birds do. About 30 bird species in each region of the country, or cavity-nesters, will also use a birdhouse. The most common occupants are house sparrows, bluebirds, chickadees, purple martins and tree swallows.

There are 5 key factors that will give you the best chance to attract nesting birds.
They are:

  1. Use a birdhouse that fits: Small birds need small houses, and large birds need large houses.
  2. Pick the proper house design : Wood is the best material. The houses should also have ventilation around the top and drainage holes in the floor.
  3. Select a suitable nesting location: The best location for bluebirds is an area surrounded by fields where the insects they eat are plentiful for them and their young. Tree swallows want to be closer to water where aquatic insects are bountiful.
  4. Hang it at the right height: Bluebirds like them about 5-8 feet above the ground whereas house wrens prefer them 6- 10 feet above the ground and hanging from a tree.
  5. Check the entrance hole: House wrens require the smallest entrance only 1-1/8 inches; bluebirds need about 1-½ inches to get inside.

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THASC’s artist, Kevin Slater, reminds us of why it is important to have birdhouses, also known as nest boxes, because they are a safe-haven for birds to raise their young. They protect birds in winter that huddle together for warmth. In migration they serve as a safe place to rest. Lastly, birds eat seeds and spread them, which in turn promotes plant growth, and they also eat annoying insects.

I just went outside and saw the first shoots of my Spring flowers pushing through the earth. I heard the tweets of birds in the distance. They will be coming closer and I am so happy I can offer them a home. Why don’t you try it too!

See you on Thursday.
-Maria

THASC is a unique small American business producing cards and other promotional products.
www.thasc.com