Happy Valentine’s Day

Today is Valentine’s Day- proclaimed by Hallmark, Hershey’s and Kay Jewelers as the holiday for lovers. While I agree it is thoughtful to give a gift to someone you love, why do we need to feel guilty if we don’t show up with a gift on cue? I am happier when my husband spontaneously shows up with a bouquet of carnations, or brings back a pair of earrings for me after a business trip. No one likes to feel compelled to do things, especially not something as personal as expressing our affection.

When my children were younger, they were “encouraged” to participate in a valentine exchange at school. They were given a list of classmates and, even though the teachers said cards could be homemade, my children had neither the time nor the interest to make 25 individual cards. Thus, I ended up buying a big pack of cards at CVS, often with candy to attach to them. Fortunately I was not on a tight budget; but what if I had been? My children would have been embarrassed to not participate or, worse, be forced to make their own valentines.

Once they reached middle school the practice became voluntary. My daughter gave cards and gifts to her close friends for another year and then stopped altogether. I think she saw the marketing strategy behind it and decided to no longer play that game (btw- I never discouraged her from continuing, regardless of what my personal thoughts were).

My husband and I have a mutual agreement to not exchange gifts on Valentine’s Day. I think that if you are happily married, there are 364 other days of the year to express your affection for each other. The most we will do on Valentine’s Day is to have a special dessert as a family. Making some chocolate-dipped strawberries while sitting around our fondue pot will give us some “sweet” family time, an excuse to enjoy each other’s company and actually converse.

For anyone reading this who is still in the dating phase of a relationship, or has a partner with high expectations on Valentine’s Day, my heart goes out to you. Good luck. I hope your efforts are appreciated.


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Family Jewels: Something New for a Change

While the jewelry I have shown previously is old by family standards, last summer I was given a brand new piece for my collection. My family had taken a Mediterranean cruise during July (you can read more about it under the category Family Cruise 2011). One of the favorite places we stopped was the Greek island of Santorini.

My husband had arranged for a private boat to take us around the island. Santorini is part of an atoll- an exploded volcano. This explained the ragged black cliffs of igneous rock we passed on our excursion.

The captain was wonderful and knew where to find some private hot springs. We loved swimming in the effervescent water, which grew hotter as we approached the mouth of the inlet.

Captain took us to a snorkelling spot where we could approach a 600 ft drop off and peer down into the crater.

Afterwards we ate a delicious lunch he had prepared onboard: falafel, tomato salad, bread with olive oil, spinach, mushrooms and a plate of olives. Everything was fabulous! He dropped us off at the opposite end of the island, near Ia, where his taxi friend took us up top. The views were spectacular- even better than we see in the Jamie Lee Curtis commercials for Greek yogurt.

While we wandered around the numerous art galleries, we spotted a souvenir shop.

My mother had the clairvoyant idea to commemorate the day by purchasing choker necklaces made of lava beads- the same igneous rock we had motored up to in the morning. She bought one for each of us, so we could always remember the special time we shared.

This is the one she gave to me. It is made very simply out of rough pieces of rock. I love the symmetric placement of the blue glass beads and silver rings. It is great to wear with a t-shirt for a little extra pizzazz. Best of all, when I touch the lava beads, I can instantly take myself back to the sulfur hot springs and the tasty luncheon we all shared in Santorini.

Family Jewels: Grandma’s Flamboyant Turquoise Pendant

As Valentine’s Day approaches, there seem to be jewelry ads everywhere: newspapers, tv , radio. They all emphasize the value of a brand new piece for your sweetheart. I’ll save my thoughts on the holiday for another time; for now I want to share my family jewels.

As most of my friends could tell you, I love jewelry. In fact, I feel naked without a pair of earrings or a ring on my finger. However, I do not have an expensive collection. The pieces range from $10 earrings up to $2,000 rings, but most fall in the $25- $200 range. Nothing is worth enough to not wear for fear of losing it. My favorite color is blue, which explains my attraction to my birthstone, sapphire;  I also have a large percentage of turquoise jewelry.

My attraction to jewelry goes back to my childhood. One of the first sets I remember receiving was a matching necklace, bracelet and ring. To my recollection the necklace was a gold chain with a red coral bead, encased in a golden heart. The matching bracelet had 3-4 of the same red beads evenly spaced around the chain and the ring was a solitary bead inside a flower-shaped setting. It seemed very fancy to a six or seven year old. I was only allowed to wear it for special occasions, such as church or parties, which is probably why it remained intact long enough to pass on to my daughter.

I remember my Tante who gave it to me fairly well. She was an endearing older woman who spoke very little English but with whom I could communicate through smiles and the few German or English words we each knew. I probably only met her half a dozen times in my life, but the post cards she sent regularly which my mother would translate, reinforced the warm feelings she had for me. Thus the jewelry set reminded me of her and made me feel very special. I tried to convey this connection to my daughter, but I think she was too young to understand its symbolic value. I am not sure to where the set has vanished.

Fortunately not all is lost, as most of the jewelry I have in my collection has a story and/or a person connected to it. Over the next few posts I hope you will bear with me as I describe the meaning of my family jewels. I will begin with:

Grandma’s Flamboyant Turquoise Pendant

Costume jewelry became very popular in the 1920’s. People saw it as an artistic expression rather than a show of wealth. After the Second World War, penny-pinching women who still wanted to dress up collected colorful brooches, necklaces and clip-on earrings. They could still look fancy without spending a fortune. Both of my grandmothers fell into this economic class. They collected their Betty Crocker points in exchange for cutlery, they would not allow food to go to waste, often canning or freezing extras and, when they could afford it, they bought or received a new piece of costume jewelry.

By the time I was born, they each had an eclectic collection of pins, pendants and chains. When I was a girl, I loved to sit at my grandmother’s vanity and look through her jewelry box. Sometimes she would let me try pieces on. I would parade in front of the mirror admiring how I looked in what I thought was the fanciest jewelry in the world.

One piece in particular caught my eye. It had a bright turquoise stone in the center, bordered by a gold collar inlaid with a ring of colorful stones. I do not know how or where she acquired the necklace, but somehow I imagine it could have been given to her by my grandfather when they celebrated their anniversary in Hawaii. The pendant cries for attention, “Take me dancing, with a lei around your neck!” It gives me a picture of my grandmother as a younger, more outgoing woman with a lot of confidence in herself.

It is totally fun to wear any day, even with a sweater and jeans. A simple outfit can make a statement with this flamboyant necklace dangling across my chest. I especially love to pair it with a turquoise bracelet and earrings. When I wear it, everyone notices. If it is the first time they have seen it, I always receive a compliment. I thank them and proudly tell them it once belonged to my grandmother.  As a piece of costume jewelry it is not worth much, but to me it is a priceless piece of my family.