Sunday, October 28, 2012

Tea for Me in Cape May

What a difference a week makes, huh? Last week at this time I was enjoying a fantastic weekend in Cape May, shopping a bit, walking on the bay, and attending the very inspiring TEDx event at Congress Hall. I enjoyed my boxed lunch ("Shoobie") at TED on the Congress Hall veranda in a wooden rocking chair. Other folks were enjoying the Halloween Parade, peak birding, and other fun outdoor activities.This weekend, my friends in America's Oldest Seashore Resort are preparing for what could be a historic weather event officially named Hurricane Sandy. Because it will combine with some other, lesser, weather events and the full moon which means higher high tides, it's unofficially dubbed the "Frankenstorm." Friends of mine who have been looking forward to this weekend in Cape May for months had to cut it short and weren't able to do the Skimmer Salt Marsh Safari trip, or visit Jersey Shore Alpacas, or do just about anything as the town covered itself in plywood. I'm sitting on my couch exactly 100 miles north of my Cape May couch reading about my Cape May friends' preparations and last-minute decisions whether to stay or go before Sandy comes to town. Officially, citizens of Cape May have to leave by 4:00pm today. It's scary stuff. So just in case you would like to distract yourself from this dangerous event (provided you have found a safe place) how 'bout I tell you about my very Cape Mayish shopping trip last Saturday?

If you're familiar with Cape May, New Jersey, America's Oldest Seashore Resort, you'll know this odd little spot where Jackson and Perry Streets meet. A grandiose miniature golf course, a municipal parking lot (behind the sign above), some typical Victorian homes, and two antique stores populate the corners. Last Saturday, I focused on the big, triangular antique store called Antiques Emporia. This building has housed antiques for as long as I can remember (and I go back pretty far in Cape May!). Rather a conglomeration of small individual stalls than a giant antique store, this emporium offers a quirky shopping experience. Over the summer my finds were some 1940s and 1950s McCalls craft magazines and a Christmas tea cup and saucer.

Antiques Emporia and Tea by the Sea
Last Saturday I bought an antique Royal Doulton teacup and saucer, white trimmed with gold.

To accompany my new Royal Doulton acquisition, I spent some quality shopping time in the point of this triangular building, where we find Tea by the Sea. They sell fancy gourmet loose teas, a wide selection of bagged tea, teacups, teapots, tea accessories, Chinese tea sets, tea cozies, and tea books. With this shop as my tea consultant, my tea time will never get boring. Just look at the selection of twelve tea treats I brought home last weekend:
That Caramel Peach in the center was especially good.
I've become fond of an afternoon cup of tea ever since I realized that the tea plus the ritual of brewing the tea are effective stress-reducers. I feel as if I'm channeling my grandmother--I remember she loved tea. I have gathered one tea + saucer envoy from each of my sets, and I've been collecting a few antique representatives as well. Here's the gang waiting for duty on that same Grandma's sewing machine cabinet:

That's Mom's gray teapot and embroidered linen tablecloth, and the teacup + saucer with the pink roses represents her china. My official china is the Noritake Rothschild at the right end of the first row. It also has pink roses. The green in the foreground is from my Fiesta everyday stuff. The white behind it is from a set Mom bought me piece-by-piece at the Acme supermarket. The rest are treasures I found in my Cape May antique haunts.

At work the tea ritual is less fussy and more streamlined. At work I am rarely free at 3:00, but I refer to the afternoon anti-stress teatime as Tea at Three whenever I squeeze it in. My tea and tea accessories remind me of my Cape May hangouts. The tea ritual really does help to relieve stress, and the tea itself seems to calm the tummy. I think Grandma was onto something.

I'm not promising that a simple cup of tea will distract us from something as epic as a Frankenstorm, but it might help us relax. Go find the tea cozy and don't forget to "hot the pot" as Grandma would say--swish some hot water around in that teapot before the boiling water goes in. Today I'm enjoying some African Rooibos Red Tea and thinking about my Cape May friends, the animals in the Zoo, the alpacas at their farm, Victorian architecture that has seen storms like this before, and my cherished getaway 100 miles to the south.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Shipwrecked at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Step Out! walkers gathered by the East Entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, October 6, 2012

I was in the neighborhood for the Step Out! walk for Diabetes on October 6, so I decided to step over to the Art Museum for lunch and culture.  The SHIPWRECK! exhibit I was anxious to see is in the Museum's annex called the Perelman Building which I was also looking forward to visiting. I was delighted with both.

SHIPWRECK! featured painter Winslow Homer, the star of nineteenth-century maritime painting, and more specifically, his masterpiece, "The Life Line."The painting is stunning, of course, skillfully depicting the drama of the rescue. The rescuer in the painting brings the limp woman to safety over a wild, stormy sea. They are using a breeches buoy, a typical lifesaving device from the 1800s, where the victim is placed in what looks like a pair of short pants hanging from a rope and pulled to shore. In Homer's painting, the woman is riding the breeches "sidesaddle" to protect her modesty. The rescuer's face is hidden by the woman's scarf following the tradition of portraying anonymous rescuers. There are quite a few examples of this in the SHIPWRECK! exhibit. Ancillary to the stunning painting is a video showing with x-ray photography the changes Homer made as he created the painting. The rope from which the breeches buoy hangs was originally straight, but Homer made it bend to show the weight and strain of the struggling people. The rescuer's face had originally been visible, but Homer painted the red scarf over it to render the rescuer anonymous. Here's an interesting video discussion of "The Life Line" from smarthistoryvideos:

Winslow Homer and the nineteenth-century maritime tradition are the focus of this large exhibit, but my other top favorite is Vernet's eighteenth-century "Shipwreck". This dramatic painting shows a wrecked vessel with the storm and rescue still in progress. It reminds the viewer subliminally of the potential force of nature, a concept that occurs to me during storms near the sea. This painting was borrowed from the National Gallery of Art for the SHIPWRECK! exhibit. Check out this online interpretation of the painting created by the National Gallery of Art.

"I wasn't expecting all this!" remarked a fellow art lover in the gallery. Me, too: this exhibit covered shipwrecks, marine painting as a genre, "Heroes of the Coastline," the folks waiting at home, and Winslow Homer before and after "The Life Line." I think my friends on the coast, experts on lighthouses and maritime history, would love this exhibit. It's worth the trip!

The other standout art from yesterday's visit was the Perelman Building itself. The Art Deco building was finished in 1927 for the Fidelity Mutual Life Insurance Company. It became the annex of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2007, and now houses galleries, a museum shop, library, and cafe. Examples from the original, pre-renovated Art Deco are everywhere. Another day, when my feet aren't sore from fundraising walks, I will explore this building further. It is right across multiple lanes of traffic from the West Entrance of the Art Museum, accessible by foot or shuttle. Here are some teaser shots:
The Art Deco facade of the Perelman Building
One of the big Perelman doors
Take this staircase down to the Library
The Art Deco Perelman Building, annex to the Philadelphia Museum of Art