Not your average Joe

My professional hero died today. (I’m writing this in the final minutes of February 15, 2022.)

He was many things: an FBI agent, an English teacher, a real estate developer, an advocate for business and a champion for higher education. But to me, he was those and so much more.

He was equal parts masterful and modest. His piercing blue eyes could cut to the chase with a smile and his affable intellect could cut through any barrier. He was someone to everyone and a man for all people. One couldn’t help but fall immediately in love with him.

He was fascinating and formidable, though he’d never have admitted to either. One was just as likely to find him mowing the lawn of his understated and stunning home – well into his 70s – as attending a cocktail party with our city’s most powerful well-to-dos.

No matter how high he ascended or the number by whom he was celebrated, he insisted he was just “Joe,” though I could never call him that. Those three letters seemed too few to encompass the greatness, the special he embodied. I settled upon Mr. ___.  (His last name is redacted to protect his privacy.)

I adored and admired him with the entirety of my soul. I marveled at his vocabulary and his social finesse, often remarking that had Joe marched into a flowing volcano, I would have unquestioningly followed him.

I’ll never forget the last day he was my boss, the day I ugly-cried in public while entrusting to him my prized lucky scrunchie, along with a love note just for him. That sometimes lucky and fashionably acceptable hair accessory had seen me through highs and lows, the depths of the latter never fathomed until that day. I was saying goodbye to the greatest of men I’d known in my decade of working in the grownup world.

My green and gold scrunchie, bearing the seal of my alma mater – which my precious Joe was leaving to helm – was the one way I could think of to stay close. To ensure he was safe and a little piece of me was with him.  

His was among the most important approvals I sought when I met my now-husband. When B made his debut to my work-world, Joe – in his quiet, albeit unflinchingly serious manner – let him know that a contract on his life was now in force, should he ever make a misstep.

Just as unflinchingly, Joe said yes when we asked him to conduct our wedding ceremony two years later, not without first offering the backyard of his own beautiful home to serve as our venue. (We lovingly declined.)

When he arrived on our big day in August 2012, my lucky scrunchie – now his – was safely secured around his wrist as he officiated our binding ceremony. He knew it was special, and I like to think he understood how important he was to me, because it was in his care.

I thought of that scrunchie today when I learned Joe was gone, reassuring myself that he knew how wrapped around my heart he was, as he passed from this world to the next.

Ring around the poesy

Medieval friends and lovers believed the wearing of words against the skin increased the poignancy of a message. So, they secreted notes and reminders of love, friendship, even fealty on bands of gold, silver and copper for wearers to keep close.

These treasured talismans, ferrying phrases on the inside or outside of the band, swelled in popularity from the fifth to 15th centuries, peaking in the Georgian and Victorian eras. And much like the inscriptions they bore, there is no one right way to spell poesy ring. No matter your preference: poesy, posey, posy or posie, these Middle Age messengers are mysterious and magical. (I prefer “poesy” and my pocketful is below.)

The late art historian Joan Evans compiled a list of thousands of mottos and cherished communiques dubbed “Posies,” derived from the French word “poésie,” meaning short rhyme, in her book: English Posies and Posy Rings, first published in 1931. She personally amassed a collection of these rings which were donated to the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Ashmolean Museum and the Birmingham City Art Gallery.

The earliest poesy rings were engraved in Norman French, later expanding to French, Latin and English. Until 1350 or so, the lettering was done by hand in Lombardic, a script known for rounded capital letters, while later specimens were made using Gothic script – an ornate calligraphic or typographical style.

The meaning is quite clear for some: ‘Be Trve To The End,’ while others prove a puzzle: ‘Denial is death.’

The engravings are endlessly entertaining, the tidings ranging from romantic and friendly to pithy, literary and liturgical. George Kunz’s 1917 book Rings for the Finger also includes a list of posies, “Let liking last” and “Joy without end” among them.

Some inscriptions have been found on multiple rings, leading experts at The Victoria and Albert Museum to believe that poesy purchasers could select from stock phrases in addition to dictating their desired design.

Sometime around 1789, a ring like the one below was presented to Thomas Jefferson’s daughter Martha by John Frederick Sackville, British Ambassador to France. He enclosed the token in a letter, beseeching her to accept the gold and blue enameled ring as “a feeble proof de mon tendre souvenir” (of my fond remembrance) after she had returned to America with her father.

Reading “J’aime et J’espere” (I love and I hope), the ring was the second that Sackville, a noted womanizer, reportedly sought to gift to Martha. She had previously rejected a diamond (and possibly a marriage proposal) from the man, who was the uncle of two of her friends at the convent school she attended near Paris. She never returned to France and went on to wed her third cousin, Thomas Mann Randolph.

Sackville’s attempted love connection may have flopped but his enameled ring has garnered noted success, still replicated similarly to the original as well as in sterling silver for today’s everyday wearer.

Poesy rings have been enjoyably storied in historical fiction. In her book This Son of York, Anne Easter Smith employed a gold filigree band bearing Richard III’s motto: loyalté me lie (Loyalty binds me) as method of communication between the king and Kate Haute, a woman she fictionalized as his mistress and the mother of two – if not three – illegitimate children sired by the king.

Last weekend, I devoured a new novel by Kirsty Manning, The Lost Jewels, the tale of a present-day journalist who stumbles upon a potential family connection to the Cheapside Hoard, a real-life cache of jewels discovered by workmen demolishing a building in England in 1912. In part, the story focuses on a small diamond champlevé enamel ring that bears a (fictionalized) faint posie. I won’t say more because you simply must read the book. It’s SO good.

I’d love to know what is written on the inside of Queen Elizabeth II’s very own poesy ring, the wedding band from Prince Phillip gifted to her on their wedding in 1947. Reportedly, only the couple themselves – and the jeweler who made her ring of Welsh gold – know what the inscription reads. It is said that the Queen never removes her wedding band.

I can’t find any reference to the Queen referring to her ring as a poesy, though Mary Borchert, a historian with Antique Jewelry University told National Jeweler, “The message is the thing. If it has the message, you could make a point that it’s a posy ring,” she said. 

While less common today, poesy rings remain sought after by collectors – and emulated by modern designers.

Those looking for the real thing should check out Ruby Lane and I’ve also seen some listed on eBay and Etsy as well.

My two favorite contemporary designers are Laurel Elliott and Erica Molinari, whose works I feel pay the most faithful and careful homage to their predecessors.

Elliot’s collection – the more affordable of the two – range from near-exact replicas of pieces owned by major museums, to personal and more modern takes on the concept. On her website, she writes, “I am grateful to be part of the long history of the written word that connects us all through time and across cultures.” 

Molinari’s works are done in Latin and English, sometimes contemporized with jewels (traditional poesy rings did not include stones).  

Forbes’ Beth Bernstein wrote of Molinari, “In her distinctive style and with her affinity for jewelry that is deeply entrenched with meaning, Erica has continued to rejuvenate jewelry with a modern take on history and imbued all her pieces with a newly found presence—gutsier yet still feminine, an edgier take on the classical.”

I like wearing a modern replica of this 15th century posey ring, found on the river Thames foreshore at Bankside. Made of gold and inscribed in relief around the outside of the band in the period French spelling of the time, it reads: pour amour ce douc, meaning, for love so sweet. It was bezel set with a heart-shaped red spinel in four claws. (The original now lives in the Museum of London) – which is also credited for the photo, below.

It is obvious how special this keepsake must have been and I wonder how it ended up on the bank of the Thames. Maybe it was tossed into the water when the token’s promise didn’t pan out? It could have slipped from the wearer’s finger when she boarded a boat to cross the water. No matter how, the riverbank’s mud helped this piece escape meltdown and repurpose, preserving it for us to enjoy some 500 years later.

I believe posy rings are poised for perpetuity, their precious personalization setting them apart from their blank-band counterparts.

Diamond dust

I remember dragging my father by the hand across the tiled walkway of May D&F to a table stacked with glittering, plastic boxes fashioned to look like diamonds. Inside each was a pair of sparkling CZ “diamond” earrings just perfect for Mother’s Day, according to a 4-year-old and a 5-year-old me.

Yes, my mother received pairs of those earrings on more than one occasion, despite my father’s gentle nudges elsewhere. I was sure they were the utmost in fancy, befitting my mother whose jewelry box boasted shiny costume jewelry and a few precious pieces.

That wooden box and its forbidden treasures fascinated me. Sometimes, I’d risk a peek into the tangle of pendant necklaces and beads to see what was hiding there. When I was brave enough, I’d slip onto my fingers the too-big rings that looked most mysterious: one, a brass poison ring, the other a weighty gold-plated faux citrine cabochon – but never the real jewelry (her wedding ring or diamond-chip cocktail ring).

That cocktail ring. My cheeks still burn hot at the memory of my mother standing at the top of the stairs, her eyes narrowed as she pressed me about its whereabouts one weekend evening. No, I hadn’t seen it and no, I hadn’t stolen it. Honest. Yes, I was sure I was telling the truth.

I can’t completely blame her for suspecting me; my esteem for those trinkets had to be palpable. Still, I quietly swallowed the lump of relief and vindication when the errant ring was recovered an hour or so later, dusty, in the vacuum bag. It had fallen, unnoticed, into the grasp of the thick, off-white 1970s-era carpet in her bedroom.

While that incident is unlikely the nexus for me, diamonds have long evoked exclusivity and faint glimmers of fear. Off limits. Too expensive. Only for the committed, the beloved.

Flash forward to the night my husband proposed in a quiet restaurant on a rainy night in Jamaica. Not long after we’d tucked into a tight window-side table with a misty ocean view, our appetizer plates arrived. There, between carefully stacked pieces of jerk chicken and the edge of my plate, sat a diamond ring.

“Oh no! They’ve brought this plate to the wrong table,” I thought to myself, my eyes darting around the room in search of an obviously unsettled and nervous man. They eventually landed on one – the man directly across from me.

“What….what…what is that? Is that what I think it is?” I stammered, my hands flying to cover my mouth. Silently, he nodded as he approached my chair and bent on one knee. “Well?” he asked, with a hopeful half-grin. And just like that, a diamond was on my finger.

For the rest of the trip, I turned that ring inward, clenching my palm around the stone when we were in public. “That’s not the point,” I protested, when my intended affably remarked that my ring wasn’t the stuff of armed robbery. This one was special because it was mine.  

I’ve been wearing that ring for a decade now and I’m still just as careful with it as I was in those first days. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying lockdowns have only served to further preserve its status, because I don’t wear it around the house. (Too dangerous.)

The other day, though, I thumbed my nose at convention and wore my ring around the house, just because I could.

I told my husband that it felt somehow like my ring was new again. He said he was glad it still made me happy.

I’m also happy we don’t have carpet.

Happy National Jewelry Day!

Yes, it’s a Sound of Music trinket box. No, I don’t own it.

Earrings and pendants and rings on my fingers… 

Bracelets and chokers and necklaces glitter…

Neatly stacked boxes all holding my bling…

These are a few of my favorite things.

Today is the best of the year here at Thoughtbaubles: 24 hours dedicated to celebrating my most beloved accessory: National Jewel(ry) day.

According to National Whatever Day, March 13 is a day for celebrating adornment. The site points out, “With some exceptions, such as medical alert bracelets or military dog tags, jewellery normally differs from other items of personal adornment in that it has no other purpose than to look appealing.”

Maybe that’s part of what makes it so special: it serves no necessary purpose. It’s the utmost in extra.

The counter at Marxstyle. 940 16th St, Denver

The editors at People magazine reportedly shopped to mark the occasion, as did I, with a visit to my favorite shop on 16th Street: Marxstyle. It’s a fun and funky little family owned shop that has held its ground on the ever changing thoroughfare for 19 years.

If you’re a Downtown regular – or even occasional visitor – stop by and check them out. Scarves, purses and (of course) jewelry, oh my!

As of this post, we’ve got seven hours (mountain standard time) left.

When the work calls….

When my mood falls…

and I’m feeling sad…

I sometimes go shopping and find a new gem,

and then I don’t feel so bad!


A lotus grows in New York

20170605_194821.jpgThe early-to-mid 2000s were formative years for my personal style – most importantly – via my jewelry box. Long before I became fluent in the language of Waxing Poetic, I was prostrate at the altar of Me & Ro.

The brand was launched by Robin Renzi and her now former partner in design, Michele Quan, in 1991. The pair was thrust into the limelight eight years later, when opportunity “buzzed” their intercom as they worked in their Lafayette Street studio in NYC.

Renzi recalled the incident to People magazine in 2000, “The man downstairs says, ‘There’s a woman here looking for you.’ I said, ‘We’re not a store; we’re not open.’ But the woman got on the phone and said, ‘Hi, this is Julia Roberts, do you make jewelry? Can I come up and see it?’”

I spotted Me & Ro pieces in nearly every scene Roberts filmed in 1999’s Notting Hill– as did millions of others – and Me & Ro was On. The. Map.  Roberts is rarely photographed without at least one piece from Me & Ro; she accepted her first Oscar wearing  the line.

“Loving Me & Ro is like loving chocolate—it’s a no-brainer,” the actress told InStyle magazine in 2011. Dozens of other actresses have followed suit: Mariska Hargitay and the majority of the female cast of Law and Order SVU and Marisa Tomei are just a few. I was delighted to see Sandra Bullock wear a necklace identical to one I had, while she filmed Two Weeks’ Notice.

I can only imagine it must have been a defining moment for Renzi and Quan when THE Elizabeth Taylor discovered Me & Ro’s delicacies. (She did write a book about her lifelong love affair with jewelry, so it’s fair to consider her an expert.)

While my pocketbook couldn’t compete with the buying power of those leading ladies, my adoration of the brand, could. The attention to minute detail, devotion to symbolism, substance and craftsmanship was unlike anything I’d ever seen.

20170606_120319I bought my first piece – this 10k gold slate engraved in the Sanskrit word for truth – on a slow night in the newsroom in 2003 in the beginning of my journalism career. Over the coming years, I added to my collection; rings and pendants, earrings and the tiniest of diamonds. I took immaculate care of each of them, thankfully so, as I ended up financing a career change in 2006/7 by selling off the bulk of my pieces.

Rooted in Buddhism, eastern cultures and Bohemia, Me & Ro’s first offerings are engraved in Tamil and Sanskrit, pendants hanging from natural leather cords, rough cut gemstones honoring the natural world. The pieces are finished with a satiny, brushed texture, a quiet nod to luxury.

Renzi told the Stone Set, “I fall in love with jewelry because it speaks to me on many levels. The way it looks, the craftsmanship and quality, and what it represents. I want people to fall in love with my pieces for all of those reasons. Like when something hits you and you have to have it! I am inspired by life—it all melds together and comes out in jewelry.”

The line, now a quarter century old, has expanded into more trendy fare, including pave diamond pendants reading “kiss me.” Me & Ro touches on every faith and every style.

“I like personal jewelry that I wear and doesn’t wear me,” Renzi says. With Me & Ro, that’s a mission every accessory aficionado can accomplish. (Keep in mind, the price point on some pieces has nearly tripled over the past decade.)

In 2009, following Quan’s departure from the business to pursue fine art, Renzi went as far as to launch a special, purposely affordable take on the line for HSN: Robin by Me & Ro. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in being less than thrilled about the venture; the departure from quality was obvious – metals were plated, gemstones were created… Thankfully, the move was short-lived.

In its place, Renzi in 2016 launched a line of sterling silver pieces exclusive to Amazon.

“The jewelry for Amazon is about symbolism and inspiration. I am not elitist. I had tried to do jewelry at a lower price point myself, but I refused to go to China. Everything for Amazon is produced in my factory where my fine jewelry is made on 47th Street. It’s really pretty. I think it’s well-designed, made in America and has a really good price point—and Amazon has allowed me to do that. It’s a great opportunity.”

20170606_120845Speaking of opportunities, I’ve begun rebuilding my collection, with different pieces this time. I tracked down a now-discontinued tiny 10k lotus petal and Iolite necklace, engraved in Sanskrit, which I pair with sterling and 10k earrings engraved in Tamil.

Just last week, the gorgeous sterling silver and ruby mandala (at top) arrived in the mail to accompany a matching ring I often wear. (Thank you, hubby, for succumbing to my mooning over it on the Internet; it was on sale!)

Renzi, too, has spent the last few years rebuilding.

She told Flair, “When market crashed in 2009, I had four stores and 100 employees. I thought ‘this is crazy, I don’t know how I got here’. So I built my website, pulled out of department stores and ultimately got out of wholesale.

I’ve completely revamped and restructured and now we have 20 employees. I think it’s nice to have a smaller company–to take better care of myself and my employees.”

It’s a good move, in my humble opinion, exemplified by the pieces released last year to mark the company’s silver jubilee: limited edition, labor intensive and intended to “feel like a second skin.”

Much like a lotus flower pushing through the mud to bloom, (and that often appears in her pieces) Renzi has succeeded by evolving and refusing to give up.

“To me jewelry empowers you to believe in yourself, and I think people are ready for that now,” Renzi says.

She’s right.

Silver lining

Wearing southwestern jewelry, along with my NorthFace fleece jacket and driving a SUV in the snow. Does it get any more cliche?

Let’s talk  Native American-made jewelry. Its got its own special kind of magic. It’s huge and small, ornate and incomplex, fundamentally storied and mystical.

Even when the symbolism is overt, these pieces demand explanation. Made of sterling silver and often inlaid with brightly colored stones, the pieces bear witness to the quiet strength, pride and beauty of the United States’ indigenous peoples.

Despite the vast variety of imagery, design and craftsmanship, each piece seems to bear a shared humanity, carrying with it a bit of the person who gave it life. I like to imagine the artists honing a skill passed down for generations, their fingers blackened with tarnish, polishing the pieces to a perfect glow to be displayed on blankets, black velvet or inside cases heavily laden with treasure.

s-l1600I particularly enjoy the use of finely detailed patterns like the ones that mark the pottery pieces (of which I’m most fond) on this vintage bracelet I bought on eBay (left).

I love how these pieces revere and honor nature, animals and folklore. I would argue that no other genre of jewelry makes the simple more beautiful than pieces rooted in our country’s ancestry.

Living in Colorado, these pieces aren’t just for special occasions, solely paired with denim or reserved for days when cowboy boots are a must. They’re for everyday wear and I take advantage of the opportunity frequently. Today I’m wearing a pair of pendants I bought at the gift shop at the Colorado Convention Center, home of the blue bear.

20170210_165327Many shops that set their sights on the tens of millions of tourists who visit our state annually are a gold mine for these pieces. (Just be careful not to pay too much.) Some of the shop owners will haggle while others hold a stiff line.  Another reliable source is the many antique and consignment shops across the Metro Area. I purchased the bulk of the bracelets pictured at the top of this post at the  Hampden Street Antique Market.

Adding these pieces to your jewelry stable is a wise investment; their value and application doesn’t ebb and flow like many other styles do. Much like the turquoise stones so regularly employed by these pieces, no matter how long they’ve been worn, they remain cool. (A quick test of the authenticity of turquoise is it will be cool to the touch, even while in direct contact with the skin for several minutes.)

20170213_150630Case in point: During a recent visit to my favorite Denver consignment shop, I marveled at a beautifully bulky hinged cuff bracelet, forged of solid sterling silver in the image of a saguaro cactus.  “Isn’t that amazing?!,” the shop owner exclaimed, adding “It’s from the 40s.” I’d never have guessed it was born in the same decade as my parents. Aside from its size, it blended right in with the dozens of other pieces she had for sale that day – some new and some vintage.

I encourage you to blaze your own trail and to make your own statement with bright stones, Hopi overlay, Navajo Conchos or Zuni fetishes, to name just a few. This jewelry gives true meaning to the term “conversation piece.”

Roy G. Biv

In 2013 when I 13124663_10154271808838755_6238862855837539800_nlearned the baby in my belly was of the female variety, my 6-year-old niece declared that the theme of her nursery should be “rainbow zebra.”

Despite my opting not to go that route (her nursery is periwinkle and green), that saturated steed has been a mainstay in my daughter’s 3-and-a-half years of life.

1896840_10152978645848755_3723640402400884733_nAt a craft fair the year after her birth, I happened upon a pairing of the Rainbow Zebra cloth book and accompanying stuffed toy. Soon enough, “Rainbow BEEZA!” became part of our nightly routine. I can recite it by heart. Meanwhile, her aunts, cousin and of course, yours truly, added to her polychromatic pony collection with toys, clothing and artwork.

My girl’s interest in Rainbow Zebra has currently waned in favor of Minnie Mouse and Every. Single. Disney princess. But I won’t let our favorite multicolored mammal fade into the past. I cherish memories of reading (and reciting) that story with her nestled in my lap so many times. Maybe, royfor me, it’s a way to cling to her babyhood a little longer.

Two weeks ago, I painted her this painting at a class with my sister.  (You may have seen this painting featured on Undercover Boss.)

And, thanks to Links of London, I have my very own Rainbow Zebra, to honor my precious princess. It arrived in the mail this week, all the way from the U.K.  s-l300

Maybe even more than clinging to every bit of my girl’s childhood I can keep, I  believe the message the story bears is one particularly important right now for every child, every person: It’s OK to be different and always love who you are.

For those interested, the full text of the story is below. I’ve as yet been unable to determine who wrote the book, but to him or her, I say thank you for the brightly hued happy memories.

Once in a jungle far away, a herd of zebras spent each day. They grazed on grasses in the sun. They pranced and played and had great fun. They all wore stripes of black and white, which to the zebras seemed just right. “Black and white’s the way to be,” they all agreed contentedly.

They were quite happy with their lot, except for one. His stripes were not black and white but a brighter hue…yellow, green and red and blue. This little zebra said with a sigh, “I want to be like you…oh why can’t I be black and white too, not yellow, red and green and blue?”

He tried to scrub his stripes away! He tried to fade them in the sun! He tried to cover they with clay! But nothing worked. No way. Not one. So finally one dismal day he waved, “Farewell!” and went away. He told the herd, “I must go see if somewhere there’s someone like me.”

He walked until he came by chance upon a place called Jungle Ranch. “Here,” he said, “I hope maybe to find someone who looks like me.” He met a leopard wearing lots of splendid orange polka dots. A silly green gazelle was there and a sleepy lion with red hair. He met all sorts of jungle creatures with bright colors and pleasant features. “You’re nice,” he said, “as nice as can be, but none of you are striped like me.”

And so he walked for hours and hours until he came to the Land of Flowers. Their smiling faces were green and blue and red and pink and yellow too. “But none of you are striped like me,” the zebra sighed unhappily.

And now quite tired, he lay his head upon the fragrant flower bed. He woke again to thunder and lightning and rain so heavy it was frightening. A dreadful storm had come to pass. It shook the trees. It shook the grass.

And when at last the storm passed by. A rainbow arched across the sky. The zebra smiled with great delight at seeing such a wondrous sight. “A rainbow’s beautiful to see. And it is striped…just like me.”

So from that day he took great pride, in his own multicolored hide. Back to the herd he brought a glow, the beauty of his own rainbow.

(Hardly) A Renaissance Woman

Each Summer, my husband, his friends and I make a pilgrimage to Larkspur -home of Colorado’s Renaissance Festival. Now in its 40th year, the festival draws more than 200,000 people annually. (This year, due to scheduling, we’ll make two.)

Together, we jaunt through the facade of a medieval castle, beneath revelers perched atop the gates shouting a merry welcome. We’re greeted by players who’ve taken up a weekend job to call me m’lady. Inside, it’s dusty, dirty, sweltering and expensive. There’s little shade to be found and Colorado’s fabled afternoon downpours often turn the park into a muddy mess. (And don’t get me started about the poor elephants and big cats that serve as entertainment. It infuriates me.)

fairy.JPGAside from those factors, the event greatly amuses me. The poorly executed fake British accents. The token rotund woman in a chain-mail bikini. The knights in knockoff armor who’ve clearly taken a break from LARPing and marathon games of MAGIC, WoW and D&D to try their hand at capturing the hearts of fair maidens clad in fairy wings or gypsy garb.

There are pirates, church folk, tavern wenches and Robin Hoods aplenty. Lords and ladies mingle with dragons and demons. And, with LOTR’s and Game of Thrones‘ rise to fame, a visit isn’t complete without spotting a Legolas or a Daenerys “Stormborn” Targaryen.

costumeDespite not fitting in with the crowd, I love the people watching. Some of the costumes are beautiful and elaborate and I respect the stamina of those wearing them. IT’S. SO. HOT.  Only twice, under extreme duress, have I ever attended “RenFaire” in costume, and both times I paid dearly. (Think heat rash and migraine.)

costume 2I’m perennially disgusted by the gaggle of “gents” gorging on oversized turkey legs, the greasy juice dripping down their faces and onto their kilts. Though in truth, the food is delicious, (I’m partial to the artichokes)  I’m not sure they had deep-fried macaroni triangles in the 16th Century.

“Huzzah for the tipper,” rings out on the regular as attendees guzzle flagons of wine or ale (in the form of Coors Light). Artisans beckon festival-goers into their booths to hawk their wares. That’s when it gets good.

dressThe handiwork of the craftspeople who set up shop is simply amazing. Handmade wooden drinkware, blown glass, fantasy artwork, clothing, textiles and jewelry are just some of the offerings of the more than 200 vendors at the fair. Last year, we bought our daughter this dress (right) for just $20. She wore it until her arms got too big to fit through the armholes. We loved it.

For a wedding gift in 2012, I presented my husband with hand-forged pewter goblets featuring a pair of dragons intertwining into a single heart, a row of amethysts dotting each of their backs. A couple of years later, my husband commissioned a one-of-a-kind pair of leather boots bearing an understated purple dragon. They took months to make and are truly exquisite.

But as you might surmise, dear reader, the accessories for sale are my favorite: Rows of hand woven and painted scarves, sterling silver and gemstone jewelry glistening in the scorching sun… Sign. Me. UP.

PicMonkey Collage

Over the years, I’ve purchased or been bought the three pieces at left, from the same vendor. They’re gorgeous and I love them all. The Citrine dragonfly is my favorite, since it was a present from my sweetie. The other two I acquired; both are made by Peter Stone. While you can come by his enormous cache of work online, it’s fun to scoop one up at the festival to remember your visit. For me, each marks the passage of time.

I’ll likely be doing so again on our upcoming visit in a couple of weeks – after a few cups of mead and at least one Steak on a Stake. Sorry hubby, but honesty’s the best policy.


Israel, I’m infatuated

Early last fall, my husband came home with news.  He delivered it casually as he poured juice to accompany our daughter’s pre-dinner snack. “So, they’re sending me to Israel for work.”

A sly smile spread across his face as my eyes widened and my index finger extended to an exaggerated point. Before I could speak, he raised his palms defensively and said, “I already told them you’re coming with me.”

Crisis averted.

12645026_10154014457933755_7228192715664048313_nMy entire adult life, I had wanted to travel to the land of milk and honey to absorb the history, to smell and taste the food (THE FOOD!) and to revel in the beauty that has inspired many of my favorite jewelers.

Thankfully, this was no secret to my sweetie, who happens to be one of the Chosen People.

Despite my long-term idolatry of all things Israeli, I did not seek him out on J-date. (We met on Plenty of Fish.)

Obviously, my spouse was excited to visit the birthplace of his ancestry (his family are Jewish Americans by way of Russia). He did his best to suppress the panic that ensued because he recalls very little of the Hebrew he learned for his Bar Mitzvah.

telavivAfter a series of delays due to technical issues and scheduling snafus, he touched down in Tel Aviv the last week in January; I joined him a week later. With just five days to spend in the country for vacation, our trip was more a mission than leisure. Both of us wanted to experience as much as we could.

We spent our first day walking across Tel Aviv, which has a “cool part of L.A.” vibe. We noshed on goose bacon and the fluffiest pancakes I’ve ever eaten. My adoration of the city was instantaneous and consuming. The people and the places are beautiful. (And you’ve never eaten an apricot until you’ve eaten one from Israel. They’re insanely good.)

20160421_081450_resizedMy husband bought me this lovely necklace (right) depicting a stalk of wheat, fronted by a small gold-washed Magen David, at the shopping mall adjacent to our hotel.

We visited Masada, the place where the last Jewish stronghold against Roman invasion stood. That place and the lots that were drawn there are an incredible testament to the endurance and resilience of the love and faith of the Jewish people.

Inside its gift shop were dozens of beautiful earrings, rings, necklaces and bracelets resembling some among my collection of Israeli jewelry at home, from the likes of Shablool, Or Paz and YAM. The bright, fiery blue opals, deep red garnets and dark turquoise set in Israel’s iconic ribbony sterling silver greeted me like an old friend.

The prices, however, did not. (eBay, Etsy and Amazon have done away with the captive market.) So, the painfully pretty pieces stayed there to be admired and acquired by another.

Our next stop was the Dead Sea before we stayed the night in Jerusalem, crossing the country’s capital on foot the following day. We popped in and out of houses of worship, all of which claim ownership of that holy land.

12642539_10154013438803755_3401927284124268222_nJerusalem is a breathtaking place in every sense of the word. Gazing across the Mount of Olives, it’s difficult to grasp how a city that has been razed and built again 33 separate times and that is a daily victim of violence can still be so beautiful and seemingly peaceful.

After a stop to place prayers in the Western Wall, we wove our way through a sprawling market at the heart of the city, its twists and turns taking us into a variety of faith, ethnicity and culture. Tiny stores peeked out from holes carved into walls, offering spices, meats and grains, toys and clothes and bits of silver and gold. Some vendors sat quietly letting the sale come to them, while others occupied narrow walkways, shouting the availability of their wares to all within (ringing) earshot.

Much of the jewelry offered was similar at each shop – pendants and rings mimicking the stones of the Wailing Wall, vibrant Breastplates of Aaron and delicate filigree Chai charms.

The textiles in that country, not surprisingly, are amazing. The scarves, tapestries and linens we saw were more artwork than tools of cloth. The colors and details are unlike anything the United States has to offer. We came home with hand-sewn table runners dotted with colorful  pomegranates as gifts for family.

12662548_10154016965753755_7409226149486601665_nOur last day was spent back in Tel Aviv, perusing the Nachlat Binyamin artisans market. Israeli artists are rich in talent and inspiration. The crafts for sale capture the ambiance of this country’s piece of the Mediterranean with bright colors and ethereal imagery.

Now after three months back at home, my mind often returns to Israel in moments of quiet. It is no secret why visitors travel there again and again. The next time I get there, many of those artists will also be rich(er) with my money.

I will always be thankful to my husband for sharing with me those days in Israel and a bit of his special heritage. Shalom!

It’s all Greek to me

I’d love to think I were Greek in a former life, but DNA doesn’t lie. I’m purely a western European mutt.

MCDALCA_EC032_H_Jennifer-Aniston-Along-Came-Polly-467Despite my heritage, I harbor a fascination that borders on obsession with this gem of the Mediterranean and all that comes from it.

Even my most admired style icon – the actress Aphrodite that is Jennifer Aniston – is (half) Greek. Just today, People magazine named her the most beautiful woman in the world for 2016.

Anyway, back to my point: I love all things of the Grecian persuasion – most notably, the jewels.

It all began with an inexplicable fondness for cameos. I collected a handful of them as a young girl and sadly, every one of them has been lost to time (or maybe a Caboodle thief).

Any woman my age can call herself a liar if she says she wasn’t at least a little bit in love with George Michael – our modern day Adonis. I was slightly crushed when he came out, you lucky menfolk, you.

As an adult, I learned to love Greek food. I learned about Greek mythology (not just from Percy Jackson). I lived vicariously through my parents when they crossed “take a Mediterranean cruse” off of their bucket list, ogling every photograph they captured and demanding specific details of every meal they consumed.

CEringThe first piece of fine jewelry I ever bought myself was  a ring like this from Caroline Ellen, engraved with a humorous ancient Greek saying. I saved up for a long time to have it commissioned after spotting it in a June 2003 issue of InStyle. The scratches and dents in my ring’s heavy gold blend into a fine patina.

My interest has since expanded into ancient Egyptian and Roman cultures – both of which owe much to Greece and its people. (If you tell me you didn’t like the short-lived ROME series on HBO, I will call you an idiot. To. Your. Face.)

20160420_150321-1_resizedA large part of my jewelry wardrobe bears Greek symbolism. I have replica coin necklaces featuring the likenesses of Cicero, Calliope and Minerva. I have an Alex and Ani bracelet honoring Hermes, the great communicator and trusted messenger of the gods.

The earrings and bracelet (pictured left) are vintage finds I made on Etsy and eBay, respectively. The earrings, a rare piece by Angie Olami, are a tribute to Philotes, a lesser-known goddess of friendship and affection. The bracelet is a beautiful example of the widely-used Greek Key, or meander, pattern which symbolizes infinity or the eternal flow of things.

I’m hoping to have the opportunity to wear my lovely pieces while visiting the birthplace of democracy someday. Sweet hubby, I’m looking at you to get me to (the) Greece!