Books for Everyone!

April’s End 2021

Bloom Where You’re Planted

While the maenads and the bacchantes of my nation shriek it out in public, I’ve decided, in private, to bloom where I’m planted. The location where I am presently planted is experiencing its own set of technical difficulties: no one is talking to each other through the AT&T cell tower on the ridge near my house. There’s lots of busy signals and many busy people trying to figure out if another SIM card will be needed to fire up the electrons in those magic invisible waves — out here in the boonies. Somehow, the blooming has been enhanced by my lack of internet connectivity.

My Gabrielle, the Snowshoe cat, is silly-happy with her magic towel in her garage. The “magic towel” is an old bath towel set atop an electric heating pad for those still chilly spring nights. The Gabrielle has waited more than a decade for a wondrous spot to lolligag and sleep all day, although, in my human opinion, Gabby has already enjoyed quite a few lovely comfy locales. She likes choices, however. What sane and sensible creature does not?

I’ve been busy with choices at the retail button, especially since I’ve discovered, years too late, the private browsing mode on DuckDuckGo. I am witnessing American business websites, the likes of which I’d never heard, ever. Private mode is the a-searching-way to go!

And I’ve gone to Italy, or rather, Italy has come to me. I was able to purchase a favorite soap from a favorite brand I’d not seen in decades, Olivella, through the online market, Emporio Italiano, USA. Olive oil, skin care, bath & body, gourmet food, you name it, the Italians excel in making it.

The country of my dear husband’s ancestors certainly crafted some lasting legacies, especially in the Tuscany region. Of course, the labels of the products often speak only the native tongue, but I need to pick up that third language!

This olive oil cost me about $50, which is mucho times more than the grocery store shelf-brands, the kind that you use glops at a time to sauté or to mix up a quick salad dressing. This Laudemio extra virgin olive oil by Tenuta Cantagallo of Tuscany is clear and intensely green, fruity, full, well-rounded and spicy. A few tablespoons of it are destined for special salads and for sautéing fresh summer garlic. The harvest was accomplished in 2019, and the best-used-by date is December 2021. Judging by the size of this glass bottle, and the scent and potent flavors of the Frantoio, Moraiolo and Leccino olives, I’ll be using this Big Daddy of EVOO well beyond December of this year.

Closer to home, I convinced my spousal unit this past February, sometime around Valentine’s Day, to place an order at our local Naturwood for a His-and-Her Chest from the Amish furniture maker, Fusion Designs in Indiana. As of late March, this wooden work of practical art is entirely in the possession of my better half, since sharing a dresser is not part of my social contract, and hasn’t been since childhood.

The His-Chest makes a bold statement about a manly man with a chest!

This Jersey girl has, at long last, finally purchased a Stiffel lamp, manufactured in her home state. The Big Kahuna, as I call this model, is not an extravagance, in terms of price, but it is a luxury that every woman of the house deserves. I do not use the word “deserve” often, due to the yappingly ugly sense of entitlement that typically accompanies that word. In this case, however, “deserve” means “merit”, which is a place of honor for this uniquely American company.

The Stiffel Lamp Company was founded in 1932, in Chicago, by Ted Stiffel, a highly skilled craftsman of fine arts. This talented man was intent on making quality merchandise, and such a feat he magnificently achieved. The Stiffel products are still made in America, at the 40,000 square-foot facility in Linden, New Jersey. The Stiffel Company itself has survived almost a century of American ups-and-downs, and downs-and-ups, artistically lighting the way to today. It most brilliantly survived the corporation once known as Sears, Roebuck and Company. Eons ago, that cutthroat American business, founded in 1892 in Chicago, went the lawyer route against this privately-owned enterprise over the Stiffel design of a pole lamp that Sears copied.

The case, Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Stiffel Co., 376 U.S. 225, made it all the way to the Supreme Court in 1964. The defendant, Stiffel Company, lost the copyright battle, 9-zip, since the Supremes, back then, decided that the U.S. Constitution reserved power to the federal government exclusively over intellectual property such as a patent. Thus, the Stiffel lamp design was “insufficiently inventive”, and the product design was deemed a part of the public domain. No law of any U.S. state could be used to prevent the Corporation Sears from copying such a design. Even then, the Corporation and the Supreme Court were cozy bedfellows.

I’d say Stiffel lost that battle but won the capitalist war, outliving Sears by 2018 and 2019, the two most recent years of that American legacy company declaring bankruptcy. At this point, I can’t keep track of their bankruptcies, and they probably can’t either.

One legacy manufacturing product in America is pewter, a process and art form that hearken back to the early colonial era. The métier of hand-crafting pewter in this nation directly descended from our forebears in England. The tankards of ye olde pubbe, in the colonies and in the Mother Country, most unfortunately held toxic substances, alcoholic and otherwise. The lead content was a killer. In more modern times, the pewter is safe. Why, this Californian was able to buy pewter wares online from the Thomas Dale Company — and have them shipped directly into this pure as the wind-driven snow Golden State!

I visited and transacted my purchases as a Guest because account registration with Mr. Dale can only occur through those out-moded, mercenary and meddlesome soche media monsters that I never used and never shall use. This online pewter emporium offers a range of gifts and necessities, along with historical documentation of each creation. The historical researcher/customer can choose from American, English, or German pewter; each country proudly boasts extremely distinctive differences in design and style.

For a test purchase, I went with a vase by an American pewter-maker in a Georgian style. This simple but elegant art object definitely makes a statement anywhere it is placed; a mantel-top suited it perfectly.

During these past two years, I’ve lived by candlelight one too many nights in northern northern California. I therefore needed a lengthy break from the sight of any candle or candlestick. By early March of this year, this power-outage heroine felt brave enough to purchase from Thomas Dale a set of tall pewter candlesticks; their design dates back to 1840 in America. The master craftsman was a fellow named William Sellow of Cincinnati, Ohio. The classic proportions and style are keepers.

Polishing my nails used to be a real chore. The activity consisted of conscious duty and dedicated patience toward the art of feminine beauty. The process completely stifled me. I could NOT use my hands/fingers for at least 30 minutes while the liquid stuff dried on my fingernails. While some women might find this restriction a useful excuse for slothing, I found it to be:

Pure Torture. And the polish inevitably smudged anyway, even after half an hour of restraining my fingers from typing or making a meal or picking up any object!

The beauty company named Mischo has put an end to my state of self-manicured dread. I actually enjoy applying the nail polish made by this capitalist enterprise, founded in 2013 by a daringly innovative woman who wasn’t putting up with the toxins of nail lacquer while she was pregnant.

Maternal instinct paved the way for this woman to invent her own nail polish that’s chic and saturated with color, not stinky chemicals. Kitiya Mischo King took her schooling in chemistry and beauty, and she created a new line of nail polish that applies smoothly and quickly to nails. Unbelievably, the polish “sets up”, or hardens, as the day goes by. The price is about half that of certain high-end designer brands.

After my nails are ready for action, I am ready to take to my ironing duties with real flair. Finding a Made-in-The-USA iron has been a pesky challenge for a long time, decades, in fact. My more pleasurable moments of this retail research involved reading reviews online about irons that decided to commit suicide by jumping off of the ironing board. Right alongside those self-destructive irons were the small appliance companies that outsourced their products to far away and foreign lands. The list of ruinous companies is too lengthy and, as such, it tells a harrowing tale about the business of business in the USA giving the business to the homemakers of this nation.

The only decent brand left in the entire ironing universe is Rowenta, made in Germany. The Rowenta industrial strength iron is more than decent. It is a magnificent steam-spouting machine which, sitting atop this American-made ironing board, will never leap, willingly or otherwise, to its demise on the floor. The ultimate ironing machine is too busy steaming the way to a better day, after having mastered precision down to the smallest details and to the tiniest crease.

I’d just about given up on finding an iron that really works. Visions of the cast iron flat-iron, the Sad Iron, were overtaking my rational state of mind. I started to comprehend the death wish of those irons that sprang to their death on the wooden floor. The new and improved Rowenta then entered my life, from the distant shores of that nation that just might survive the EU, simply by selling irons to the ironing maidens of the U.S.!

Jawohl, the Superior Performance Steam Iron might iron out enough wrinkles in that industrial power-house to grant homage to the Iron Chancellor of yore, uniting all Germans, for real this time.

My Zkano socks presently await the Sock Basket which is on the way from Russia to me in the USA. The artisans in that nation diligently weave, at an amazing rate, splendid baskets that feature an attractive price and extraordinary beauty. My be-socked feet are thereby much less naked (My Naked Feet), but my long-sought-after discovery of high-quality sneakers, shoes, and sandals, all made in America, is a larger reason for the delightful adornment of my Egyptian feet.

The asking price of my new pair of “sneaks” is considerably more than what I, or any American woman, became acclimated to paying — for the God-awful cheap footwear of the past 30 years. Acclimating yourself to quality, and to gauging the credible price of true value (which is not the same as charging top-gouge amounts merely for sporting a Made In America label) — that process is part of calibrating your mind and pocketbook to bloom where you’re planted.


These New Balance sneakers, Made in the USA, are serious shoes, with excellent arch support and superior craftsmanship. They are built to last, and made for racking up mileage, not pain and podiatrist bills. I’ve also purchased sandals and flats from San Antonio Shoes (SAS) that are stylishly fun, and feel like a dream to walk in. I can finally order my true size — and the shoe fits! Comfortably fits!

The foundation of the body demands better treatment than being encased in shoddy, slipshod shoes made by foreign foot-binders. You cannot bloom where you are planted if you can’t stand up straight there due to blisters, cramped toes, squished feet and too much toe cleavage. (“Toe cleavage” was an unheard-of fashion atrocity before the advent of foreign-made-footwear to maim your phalanges.)

If you cannot bloom where you are planted, there is always the possibility (which, for me, quickly becomes a necessity) of replanting yourself. My father’s people performed that daring venture by coming to America from the Netherlands. My dad was so proud of being a first-generation American that he forbade me from picking up any of the Dutch language that was spoken so freely by my friends, children who had just become transplanted — from Amsterdam to my home town in America.

It was his way of feeling fully American. I respected his prohibition, and learned the French language instead, but I always felt deprived of that part of my heritage. Decades later, a large part of that glorious ancestral gift was granted to me by my special Dutch friend, living in southern France, as she schooled me in her native Dutch. She’d bloomed grandly where she’d transplanted herself, in Languedoc-Roussillon from Breda; and we grew close in heart through our love of France, and of the French language.

I was able to share with this Dutch woman my preference for windmill cookies, and a recipe she did not know. We both agreed that the molds used to make those treats were not worth the time that generations of industrious Dutch women took — to bake and create these delicious spice cookies that are, in Dutch, called Speculaas. Traditionally served on the Eve of the Feast of St. Nicholas, December 5, these imprint-design cookies are an edible art form.

This past March, I purchased online a Snowflake Shortbread cookie pan at Emerson Creek Pottery. I will use it this summer for baking those Dutch windmill cookies, as a practice-run for the Feast of St. Nicholas. I’m sure the commercial use of the word, snowflake, has very little to do with those American brats who cannot bloom wherever they’re planted, mostly because they lack roots with which to steady, to nurture and to nourish themselves.

April showers bring May flowers — that bloom wherever they are planted. May you also bloom this May, wherever you are.