Category Archives: Birthdays & Anniversaries

Momma’s Turning 95!

That’s my mom, Millie, and on Saturday, it’s her 95th birthday. A few months ago she picked up her embroidery hoop for the first time in years and made a few hand embroidered flour sack tea towels. She enjoyed it so much, she bought more towels. And more again. And early this summer, at 94, Mom began a new venture: Millie’s Tea Towels. We sell them for her on the Convivio Bookworks website and give her the full amount of each sale. It’s the biggest thrill for her when she sells one. For her 95th birthday, my goal is to give her a really big thrill… hence a special Convivio Bookworks sale this week (and one where you get the gift!):

Save $9.50 when you buy any four Millie’s Tea Towels (or one 7-day set), and get free domestic shipping, too! Use discount code HAPPYBIRTHDAY at the check out. Easy as pie! There are nearly a hundred different designs to choose from, and each big thirsty flour sack towel is embroidered by hand by Millie herself. It takes her about a day to embroider each one––a process she just loves. Click here to shop… you’ll find Millie’s Tea Towels in the new Linens & Textiles part of our online catalog (along with some other fine new items).

Happy Birthday, Mom!

 

To the Sea, or Your Convivio Book of Days for July

It’s certainly been a hot summer for folks across North America. Here in Lake Worth, this is something to which we are accustomed, and it’s rare we have extremes… it’s just always a high in the low 90s this time of year, unless it’s been raining a lot, which it has. It’s constant and steady all summer long, and even well into fall. What does us in is the humidity. I remember a story that Bailey White wrote in which she and her mother decided to try their hands at making sun-dried tomatoes from some of their South Georgia garden bounty. South Georgia is not all that different from South Florida this time of year: hot, humid, languid. The recipe for drying the tomatoes ended with these words: Store in a cool, dry place. Bailey and Mama looked at each other. “What do they mean?” they wondered aloud.

Anyway, here it is now, July, and here is your Convivio Book of Days calendar for the month. The Dog Days of Summer, ruled by Sirius, the Dog Star, officially begin on the 3rd, as Sirius begins its annual period of rising and setting with the sun. The Ancient Greeks, watchers of the sky, observed this and deduced that Sirius, shining as brightly as it does, was amplifying and contributing to the heat of the sun, making these days the hottest of the year. In reality, it is our planet’s thermal lag; it’s a massive place, the Earth, and the Northern Hemisphere has been gradually storing heat all through the year as the days have increased in length, and though we’ve passed the solstice of Midsummer nearly two weeks ago now and days already are shorter, it takes a longer time for the planet’s temperature to balance out. And so our hottest days go on for many more weeks, despite diminishing sunlight, while in Antartica, days are growing longer, but the penguins are still huddled together, trying their best to keep warm.

What with all this heat, it seems to me a perfect time to escape to the sea. If I get up on my roof and look east, I can see the Lake Worth Lagoon, and beyond that, the Atlantic Ocean, and yet I still can’t seem to manage to get to the sea. But I’d like to, perhaps today, or tomorrow. Hence this month’s Convivio Book of Days calendar… it’s a printable PDF document, and our cover star for July is a 1932 painting by Clarice Beckett called Beach Scene. My hope is it will cool you off some just to look at it.

SUMMER SALE
My mom, Millie, was keeping it cool when she was captured in a photograph fishing off a rowboat, circa 1950 or so. She’s another cover star of ours this summer, in this case for our Summer High Five Sale, in which you can use the discount code HIGH5 at checkout for $5 off your order of $35 or more. Take it to $50 and you’ll earn free domestic shipping, too. (Click on the photo to make it larger; I love her smart sunglasses and the fact that she brought her pocketbook with her.)

Mom, God bless her, has begun a new cottage industry at home this past spring. Each day she hand embroiders a flour sack towel. Now, you can call this towel what you wish: dish towel, tea towel… but Grandma, she would have called it a mappina… and not pronounced that ending A. And still to this day, in the English we speak, peppered as it is with Italian dialect words, we speak of the “mop-peen”: an essential element of any good cook’s kitchen. I tend to go through two or three mappini (the plural of mappina) each night as I cook supper: a mappina hanging on the oven door handle to handle hot pots, a mappina on the counter to wipe up spills, a mappina slung over my shoulder to dry my hands.

And so today I’m writing to let you know about our Convivio Book of Days calendar for July, but also to let you know that these mappini that my mom Millie has been embroidering by hand, stitch by stitch, since Easter: they are now on our website, available for purchase. They’re adorable. I’m so proud of her efforts. They are part of a brand new part of our online catalog we’re calling “Linens & Textiles.” Millie’s hand embroidered tea towels focus on three different themes: there are a whole bunch that deal with coffee (“Java Jive”) and more that deal with baked goods (“Baking Day”), and then another whole bunch that offer bits of wisdom of a culinary nature (“Kitchen Wisdom”).

I think you’ll be as impressed as I am with Mom’s handiwork. Her tea towels make wonderful gifts for yourself or someone else and Millie’s getting every penny we sell them for. I figure I owe her at least that for all the effort she put into raising me. You’ll find other lovely hand embroidered textiles there, too, from the extended family in Chiapas who make the protective face masks we’ve been selling since last summer. Prices on those masks, by the way, are reduced to $10. We got our last shipment of masks from them a few weeks ago, and now, I’m happy to report, they are focusing again on their traditional wares. (Hurrah for science and vaccinations!)

Everything in the catalog is part of the Summer Sale, so go, have some fun there: Click here to shop. If you can shop while you’re drifting on a pool float, I’d recommend that.

Calendar image: “Beach Scene” by Clarice Beckett. Oil on canvas, 1932 [Public domainvia Wikimedia Commons. It’s my birthday today. Here’s a memory I have in my store of such things: My guess is it’s 1970. It is the night of the 30th of June, and it is approaching midnight, and Mom & Dad have let me stay up to bring in my birthday. The Twilight Zone is playing on the TV, black & white. I’m sitting on the couch, on top of the back cushion, where clearly I should not be sitting, but they let me anyway. I’m incredibly excited that my birthday is arriving. That’s it, that’s the memory. I don’t get that excited about birthdays anymore, but maybe I should. Perhaps we all should. It might do us good.

 

 

Memorial Day Weekend, 1949

Memorial Day has always come prepackaged with bonus material for my family, for it was the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend, 1949, that my mom and dad got married––two good looking kids from Brooklyn, tying the knot in the company of their family and friends at St. Blaise, the Italian neighborhood church, with a football reception afterward at Livingston Manor in Downtown Brooklyn: piles and piles of sandwiches, “football” referring to the idea that folks would toss the waxed paper-wrapped sandwiches across the room. “Hey,” someone would shout, “send me a capocolla!” and indeed, someone would toss a capocolla sandwich his or her way. How great is that? Sandwiches flying (and maybe being intercepted), mountains of homemade cream puffs, and trays and trays of Italian cookies, mounded in pyramids, wrapped in cellophane. There was beer and soda and Grandpa’s homemade anisette. “We didn’t want a fancy reception,” Mom said, “but we wanted good music.” And so the Roy Rogers Orchestra played all evening and people danced and danced and certainly at least one or two of those dances were traditional Italian tarantella dances, and they played the Grand March, too, as everyone got up off their seats and marched around the hall. Mom and Dad’s wedding song was an old tango called Jealousy. I asked if they learned to dance the tango before the wedding; they did not. They just heard the song in a movie, and despite the name, knew it was theirs. There was a big fight between them the night before the wedding––it was something about mustard––but all was smoothed out by morning and the rest, as they say, is history. No wedding planners, no destinations, not even a cake; just mountains of waxed paper-wrapped sandwiches and homemade cream puffs and Italian cookies. Now that’s a wedding.

This year their anniversary fell on Saturday, the day Seth and I often head over to help out with chores. And though my dad is gone these four years now, still, when my phone conversation on Friday with my mom and my sister turned to What should we eat tomorrow? a decision came quickly: Let’s have sandwiches, and let’s have Italian cookies, and my sister said, “I’ll make the cream puffs.” It was a just right day. My nephew and his family happened to drop in just as we were finishing our sandwiches. We put two big pots of espresso on. We laughed, Mom told stories about the wedding, we listened to the Harry James version of their song, Jealousy, and we pictured Mom and Dad dancing to the song at the Livingston Manor while imagining Morticia and Gomez Addams dancing to it, as well, Morticia clutching a red rose in her teeth, because it starts with that tango sound before moving into fox trot territory. We had such a nice time. And when I kissed Mom goodnight and gave her a hug, she said, “Thank you for my anniversary party.” 72 years ago and still these things warm our hearts.

Memorial Day is special to my family, but it is special to many. As a nation, it is the day we remember our fallen heroes, those who gave their lives in service to their country. But it is one more day where we just remember, plain and simple, all who have come and gone. Memorial Day (or some version of it) is celebrated not just here in the United States, but in other countries, as well, and usually at this particular time of year. It is a tradition that harkens back to Ancient Rome. The day here in the States was known earlier on as Decoration Day, and the Memorial/Decoration Day traditions in this country go back to the Civil War era. The original date, May 30, was chosen for it was believed that flowers for decorating graves would be in bloom in every state of the Union on that date. It’s since been moved to the last Monday of May. This year it falls on the 31st, the very last day of the month. It is our unofficial start of summer here in the US, but a somber one if we honor the day in its proper tradition. And so we decorate, and we remember. And we tell stories. And for some of us, we eat sandwiches and cream puffs. Flowers and stories and all these things for remembrance, beckoning summer and the gentle time of year.

Image: Johnny & Millie. It’s their engagement photograph, 1948… a year before their Memorial Day Weekend wedding.