A Kingfisher in the Kitchen…

Vintage 1950’s Kingfisher bird illustration by Athos Menaboni

Some time ago, in a dusty section of an old antique shop, I found a broken down book full of beautiful portrait prints. The book was getting ready to be heaved into a rolling bin headed for the recycling center, along with many other books that had been damaged by a recent leak in the shop. Still on the shelf, but tagged for recycling, the fate of the bird book didn’t look good.  On the outside, it didn’t have much going for it. The spine was shredded, the cover splotchy with water stains, the dust jacket missing. But on closer inspection, with a flip through its interior pages, a little miracle had occurred. The bird bookplates inside had somehow escaped the water leaks. The images were bright and colorful and perfectly preserved. The birds fluttering among the pages, each depicted in their own natural setting with their mates and their foliage, were too beautiful to be tossed away.

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Illustrated by Southern botanical artist Athos Menaboni in the 1950’s, these bookplate prints featured a whole aviary of birds. Many were familiar… geese, hawks, doves…but some were new like this handsome duo…

I liked their spiky head feathers immediately and thought they might be part of the woodpecker family. But I was wrong. Do you know what kind of birds they are? Here are a few hints…

  1. They LOVE to fish.
  2. They come from one of the few bird species where females are more colorful than males
  3.  A grouping of them is called is called a crown.
  4. They have big heads and even bigger hairdos, not for vanity, but to accentuate their superior skills when diving for dinner.

Could you guess? Do You know it?! If you said the Eastern Belted Kingfisher then you are correct (and a wonderful birder).  The kingfishers capabilities at mealtime know no equal. They are one of the best fishermen on the planet and can gather up enough aquatic life to get a fish fry started in a jiffy. Industrious, talented and always ready to get to work on planning the possibilities of their next meal, kingfishers are wonderful kitchen role models, happiest when engaged in the food options around them. See their expressive personality in this fun two-minute video…

Ever since  I learned about these remarkable little birds I have been on the lookout for more of their images and information. Serendipity came calling the other day when I found a vintage 1970’s paper bird model of a kingfisher that had never been assembled.

How exciting! A new craft project – our very own paper kingfisher for the kitchen. Last Sunday, Bradley, the Vintage Kitchen’s resident builder of all things fun and functional, got to work assembling the new paper bird. The whole thing took 4 hours to come to life, but we shortened all that time down to just a 27-second video so that you could see how it all came together too…

Now the Vintage Kitchen has its own little symbol of industry, talent and enthusiasm flying around the kitchen and watching over all our cooking endeavors.

Usually, the birds most symbolic of the kitchen are chickens, roosters, turkeys and pheasants but I recommend the kingfisher any day. Aesop once said it is not only fine feathers that make fine birds. The effervescent kingfisher proves just that. Even though they are beautiful their abilities are even more so.

Look for more kingfisher magic coming to the shop this fall and winter. In the meantime, find their botanical print here along with others from the rescued bird book here. 

May your next cooking endeavor be as joyful and as enthusiastic as any kingfisher’s catch. Cheers to the birds who make our culinary spirits fly!

Everything’s Coming Up Dahlias!

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Summer is in full swing here in the garden, dear readers! Since this is the first year living in the schoolhouse it has been exciting to see what new things pop up in the garden and, so far this summer has been no disappointment. Apart from the seedlings that Ms. Jeannie has planted she has been pleasantly surprised to see beds full of iris, roses, tulips and lilies, all in an array of different colors and varieties. The latest to present her pretty face…

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the dahlia – of a most elegant height (almost 5’feet!) and a most robust disposition.  Dahlias have been around since the 1600’s thanks to their “official” discovery in Mexico by these guys…

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the Spanish Conquistadors, but it was the Aztec Indians who actually first utilized the flowers as a water source integrated within their hunting communities. Back then, the Aztecs knew the Tree Dahlia – a massive 20′ foot tall tree full of flowers (how pretty!)…

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but as the flower slowly became introduced into Europe and then England over the next century, smaller more-plant like types were cultivated and world-wide familiarity bloomed alongside a diverse amount of varieties.

Lady Elizabeth Webster Holland is credited with introducing the dahlia to England in the  early 1800's thus securing its survival in eastern Europe
Lady Elizabeth Webster Holland is credited with introducing the dahlia to England in the early 1800’s thus securing its survival in eastern Europe

In the 1950’s, the dahlia became a popular home garden flower and made its way center-stage to flower shows where it gained new found attention and supporters in the form of dahlia clubs all across the United States.  Marian Walker, a novelist and avid gardener herself devoted an entire book to them in 1953, which Ms. Jeannie just listed in her shop

Dahlias For Every Garden by Marian C. Walker - $8.00
Dahlias For Every Garden by Marian C. Walker – $8.00

Full of mid-century gardening advice on how to care, cultivate and enjoy these flashy flowers as well as the story of their natural history and evolution, it also contains information on how to professionally show them, dissecting what makes a prize-winner vs. what just makes a pretty garden. A special photograph section in both color and black and white emphasis the dramatic differences between the 20 individual types within the species …

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Thanks to avid enthusiasts there are now over 50,000 registered individual dahlia varieties throughout the world today. Imagine that, dear readers! It’s no wonder though really, with their cone shaped petals, flashy colors, and multi-stemmed flowers they produce some of the more dramatic statements in the garden landscape. And with their ability to reflect light in all sorts of dramatic ways, they make for especially stunning bouquets. Even after they are passed their prime, and have technically expired, some varieties like this all-white version from Ms. Jeannie’s garden, still looks pretty as it dries to a crinkly brown…

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In a nod to bringing the outdoors in and to incorporating these pretty flowers into living spaces year-round, Ms. Jeannie is now offering dahlia flower wreaths made out of vintage book papers in her shop

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Handmade Vintage Paper Wreath – $38.00

Just like the real flowers, these paper versions take on different personalities depending on the changing light within a room from morning to night…

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Above are photographs of the same wreath taken at different times throughout the day! Because this wreath itself is made out of three different shades of aged paper from three different books – all romance themed fiction novels that date to the 1930’s and 1940’s – it takes on an ombre style color pattern graduating from light to dark. And at 23″ inches in diameter, it makes for an eye-catching wall display that’s ever-changing throughout the day.

Carrying themes of love, adventure, mystery and drama within each book page, these nature-inspired beauties not only make for dramatic wall decor, but also for fun gifts or decorations for weddings, showers and parties. Since no two are alike they appeal to Ms. Jeannie’s sense of decorating outside of the ordinary!

photo via pinterest
photo via pinterest

Whether you are planting them in your garden, collecting them in your bookshelf or hanging them on your wall, dahlias (in all shapes, sizes and forms!) can add a bit of pretty personality to your life.

Cheers to their strength, adaptability and individuality!

Stayed tuned to Ms. Jeannie’s shop for new dahlia wreath additions each week!