~ A French Country Kitchen in Tucson ~

If you come into the Midtown Mercantile Mall right now you might not smell French cooking but you will certainly visualize it. Upstairs in the gazebo you’ll find everything you’ll need to make your own kitchen start speaking with a French accent! Oui oui!  

Upstairs in the gazebo ~ Our French Country Kitchen

You’ll find antique cutting boards, copper molds, bundt pans, heavy copper pots, French decorative plates, serving pieces, rolling pins, madeleine molds, wooden spoons, ironstone bowls, bread molds, beautiful antique olive buckets, vintage cookbooks, etc., etc.  

Madeleine anyone?

Vintage cutting boards

Don’t forget to look up! Check out those copper pots.

Antique copper fish mold

Vintage rolling pins


Once you’ve decorated your kitchen here’s a somewhat simplified recipe for “coq au vin” that you can make in your crockpot. Then, you you can experience the aroma of your own “French country kitchen.”

“Coq au Vin”

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs 
Salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour 

4 slices bacon, roughly chopped 

3 tablespoons unsalted butter or extra-virgin olive oil, divided 

1 (12-ounce) package white or baby bella mushrooms, quartered 

2 carrots, chopped 

1 medium yellow onion, chopped 

2 cloves garlic, chopped 

1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth 

1 1/2 cup red wine 

2 large sprigs fresh thyme

Method: 

Arrange chicken on a large sheet of waxed paper. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Lightly coat chicken all over with flour and set aside.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until golden and just crisp, 3 minutes. Drain bacon on paper towels and set aside. Discard drippings and wipe out skillet. Melt 2 tablespoons butter (or heat oil, if using) in same skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook until lightly browned all over, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a large plate as done and set aside.
Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter or oil in same skillet. Add mushrooms and cook until edges begin to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add carrots, onions, garlic and salt and cook until vegetables just begin to soften. Transfer vegetables and broth to crock pot. Arrange chicken on top. Sprinkle bacon over chicken. Add wine and thyme sprigs. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 7 hours. Season with salt and pepper, then serve.  Enjoy!

Carol Fenn 2-2017

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The Civil War Era Woman’s Relief Corps

Did you know that after the civil war there was a northern women’s organization, the W.R.C, who put cast iron markers on the graves of some veterans. The markers, like this one in the Midtown Mercantile Mall in Tucson, Arizona, are highly desired by collectors of Civil War memorabilia. This lovely example can be found in space #229 for only $75.

Civil War Grave Marker in Space #229


The Woman’s Relief Corps (W.R.C.) is the official women’s auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic. (The G.A.R. was a fraternal organization composed of veterans of the union army.)  

Woman’s relief corps 1907

The W.R.C. is one of the many women’s organizations that were founded after the American Civil War. It began in 1879 when a group of Massachusetts women started this “secret” organization. The members were to be women who were loyal to the North during the Civil War. They were officially recognized in 1883.


While it might be easy to assume that this organization was only for white women, there were many posts across the country that had African-American women as members as well.

Collecting items like this brings history right into your home. Just imagine the story behind it! Come on in and check it out. 

W.R.C. Antique Postcard


Carol Fenn 2-2017

Hurricane Lamps ~ A Little History

Don’t you just love hurricane lamps like this one in space #333 (priced at only $39) … It’s at the Midtown Mercantile Merchants antique mall here in Tucson.

In space #333


There is something about these lamps that is just, frankly, romantic. For example, just the thought of a hurricane lamp could give me the first lines of a novel I might write one day … “Reading his letters by the shimmering light of a hurricane lamp she felt alone and desperate. Would he ever come back to her?” 🙂

Bradley & Hubbard circa 1905

A hurricane lamp is a special lamp designed to work in high winds because it has a tall glass chimney that protects the flame from being blown out. It was invented in 1780 by Francois-Pierre Aime Argand, the son of a Swiss watchmaker. This style of lamp can be a candle lamp, an oil lamp, or today, electric in the decorative style of a hurricane lamp. (Like the one in space #333.) Often used on ships they are also known as a storm lantern. The oil based model usually has an adjustable knob to raise and lower the wick in order to adjust the light. 

Note the adjustable knob on the side

One style of hurricane lamp is the “Gone With The Wind Lamp”, named after the Academy Award winning movie. This lamp will usually have a fancy top and bottom, which is often hand painted.  

Scene from Gone With The Wind

Some people collect hurricane lamps which can be quite interesting as they have varied in style over the years. If this interests you come on in the mall as we usually have a few that our merchants have gleaned from estate sales, etc.

A collection


Carol Fenn 2-2017
  

Cowboy Boots ~ Keepin’ You Safe

It’s rodeo season in Tucson! Here in the Midtown Mercantile Mall you’ll usually find a couple pairs of cowboy boots but recently our merchant in space #777 filled his space with them! It got me to thinking about why cowboy boots look the way they do. Most of the anatomy of the boot is about safety.

Cowboy boots, etc. in space #777. Come in and check them out!

When mounting and dismounting, the slick, treadless leather sole of the boot allows easy insertion and removal of the foot into the stirrup of the Western saddle. 

The WRONG way to wear your boots. Only a “dude” tucks ’em in!

While in the saddle, the tall heel minimizes the risk of the foot sliding forward through the stirrup, which could be life-threatening if it happened and the rider were to be unseated. If a rider falls from a horse but has a boot caught in the stirrup, there is a risk that the horse could panic and run off, dragging the cowboy, causing severe injury and possibly death.

He’s wearin’ them right.

The tall leather shaft of the boot helps to hold the boot in place in the absence of lacing. The tall loose fitting shaft and lack of lacing all are additional features that help prevent a cowboy from being dragged since his body weight would pull his foot out of the boot if he fell off while the boot remained stuck in the stirrup. While mounted, the shaft also protects the lower leg and ankle from rubbing on the stirrup leathers. While dismounted, the shaft helps protect the leg and foot from rocks, brush, thorns, and rattlesnakes. 

A vintage boot collection

So if you need cowboy boots come in and get ’em! And now you know that they’ll keep you safe as well! Safe on a horse that is … probably not in Tucson traffic LOL

A beautiful old, well worn, working pair.


Carol Fenn 2-2017

Tucson’s Own Howard Terpning 

Lawrence of Arabia, Cleopatra, The Sound of Music. Do you know what these three movies have in common? …… Times up! … the art for all three of their movie posters, along with over seventy others, was done by Tucson’s own Howard Terpning.   

Original artwork for Cleopatra poster

Terpning was born in 1927 in Oak Park, Illinois. As a boy he liked to draw and knew by the age of seven that he wanted to be an artist. At fifteen, he became fascinated with the Western US and Native American history when he spent the summer camping with a cousin in Colorado. At the age of 17 he enlisted in the Marine Corps and served from 1945 through 1946. 

Terpning’s Lawrence of Arabia poster

After leaving the Marines he enrolled at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts in their 2 year commercial art program using the G.I. Bill to pay his tuition. 

The Sound of Music poster by Howard Terpning

After art school he started work at a Chicago illustration studio as an apprentice. Eventually he began to work on his own commissions. By 1962, he was working as a freelance artist. During his 25 years as an illustrator he created magazine covers, story illustrations, advertising art and 80 movie posters starting with The Guns of Navarone in 1961. Other examples include Cleopatra, Doctor Zhivago, The Sound of Music, The Sand Pebbles and Lawrence of Arabia.

In the early 1970’s Terpning grew tired of commercial work and decided to pursue his interest in the American West and Plains Indians. Still living in the eastern US, he began to create fine art paintings, selling them in Western galleries. After a few years, he moved to Arizona to devote himself to painting the American West. 

Terpning’s art is revered for his attention to even the tiniest detail. But in capturing the details he also invokes … the mood. The history. The life force. The surrealistic beauty of that particular moment in time.  

Terpning’s paintings have sold very well at auction. At least two of them have sold for over 1 million.  But you don’t have to be a millionaire to own his work.  Fine art prints of some of his works can be found.


Some of the museums Terpning’s work can be found in are the Phoenix Art Museum, The National Portrait Gallery, The Smithsonian Institution, The Gene Autry National Center of the American West and The Gilcrease Museum.

Howard Terpning. Tucson is proud that you call her your home.

Carol Fenn 2-2017

The History of Valentine’s Day – Who Knew?

When I was in elementary school in the mid twentieth century the Valentine’s Day tradition was to give virtually every kid in your class ( and your teacher) one of those cute little flat cards of the era. For our mothers and other special relatives we usually made hand made cards. It was lots of fun and I’m so thankful that so many people saved their cards so we can still enjoy them and collect them today.

1950s Valentine

But how did this all start? What is the origin of Valentine’s Day?

A Roman Valentine?

It started with the Romans. From Feb. 13 to 15, the Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia. The men sacrificed a goat then “whipped” women with the hides of the animals they had just slain.

Those wild and crazy Romans!

 
Young women would actually line up for the (usually drunk) men to hit them. They believed this would make them fertile.

A fancy Victorian Valentine

The ancient Romans may also be responsible for the name of this modern day of love. Emperor Claudius II executed two men — both named Valentine — on Feb. 14 of different years in the 3rd century A.D. Their martyrdom was honored by the Catholic Church with the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day.

What could be sweeter than the seven dwarves!

As the years went on, the holiday grew sweeter. Filled with stories of love. No more whippings with animal hides. Chaucer and Shakespeare romanticized the day in their work, and it gained popularity throughout Europe. Handmade paper cards became popular in the Middle Ages.


Eventually, the tradition made its way to America. With the industrial revolution of the 1800’s came factory made, but usually intricate time-intensive cards. 

Intricate 1800’s Victorian card

 And then, in 1913, Hallmark Cards of Kansas City, Mo., began mass producing Valentine’s Day cards. So this February 14th you can enjoy your chocolates, your flowers, your cards, but also a little Valentine’s Day history. Ah … love (and knowledge) is in the air …

An early Hallmark card


Carol Fenn 2-2017

The Mysterious “Lover’s Eye”

I’ve been in the antique business for over 35 years but it wasn’t until a couple years ago that I learned about the elusive and mysterious “lover’s eye.” With Valentine’s Day around the corner it seems like this is a good time to look into them. Pun intended LOL

The lovers eye is a miniature painting of your significant others eye usually encased in a small piece of jewelry. A hat pin, a brooch, a pendant, a ring, a tie pin, etc. Sometimes a small lover’s eye bracelet would be braided out of your loved one’s hair. They have also been discovered in tiny boxes that could be carried in one’s pocket.  

Lover’s Eye bracelet braided out of human hair


Memory box

The jury is still out as to their origin. Was it in the 1700’s in France or, as most historians seem to believe, did they originate with a scandalous affair of the soon to be crowned King George IV of England?

Miniature eye collection


That’s right, the then Prince of Wales, later crowned King George IV, and a widowed Catholic commoner named Maria Fitzherbert were in love. But, she was Catholic, older, and had been married before so she would not be acceptable at that time in history. My stars! Despite disapproval from the court, it is said that they wed in secret, and in 1785 commissioned tiny portraits of their eyes as discreet and intimate tokens of affection. 

The Prince of Wales – who wouldn’t fall for this handsome fella?


Once their story leaked to the public, lover’s eyes became popular among the privileged classes. These expensive little gems were commissioned by lovers as well as family members … mother to daughter, father to son, etc.   

Queen Victoria?

The fad mostly died out in the 1830’s. However, it is known that, for example, Queen Victoria commissioned several of them during her reign. Experts in the field believe that fewer than 1,000 of these original “miniature eyes” are still in existence today. There are contemporary artists making them so if you are lucky enough to find one be sure to check for signs of age.  

Carol Fenn 2-2017

   

The Surprising History of Trail Dust Town

I’m always surprised when I meet people who live in Tucson and they don’t know about Trail Dust Town, that charming little western town near the corner of Grant and East Tanque Verde Road. You know, the one with the covered wagon out front? It’s a fun place to take your kids, have a steak dinner, visit a museum or watch a Wild West stunt show!

I’m not surprised though when I learn that most people don’t know about it’s history.

I’ve lived here for over 25 years but I didn’t know until recently that this charming little oasis was built from the abandoned western movie set of an unfinished 1951 Glenn Ford movie.

Glenn Ford – “Not sure why we never finished that little movie in Tucson.”

 

In 1960, with the backing of a small group of businessmen, W. Howard Hamm developed the three acres. He turned it into a late 1800’s style western town with dining establishments, little stores and site appropriate entertainment … including staged shootouts between “feuding” cowboys.

Original photo from 1960 AZ Daily Star


 

Soon after opening though, the battles turned all too real! In 1963 and 1964 Trail Dust Town was at the center of a mini war over vending machine concessions. (!) The town was the fifth establishment within eight months to be targeted by bombers in what local police called an escalating “power struggle” between local mob families. Thank goodness the bombings were just mostly threatening. The fuse would be lit and the dynamite was tossed onto the roof of a business.  

Stunt show

 

After surviving the bombings of the 1960’s this little Tucson treasure has amassed a number of historical artifacts, including an Allan Herschell merry-go-round which was manufactured in 1954. It still has its original horses and benches.

Historic carousel

Trail Dust Town is also home to a non-profit history museum; Museum of the Horse Soldier. The museum chronicles the history of U.S. mounted military service. It is notable for having one of the nation’s largest public displays of artifacts from the era of the military horse, including original period saddles, uniforms, weapons, firearms, and ephemera. Some of the museum’s highlights include the only Civil War collection available to the public in the state of AZ and rare U.S. military saddles from the 1830s to present day. 

Going thru the mine can be scary! … but fun!


 

Opening in 1962, the Trail Dust Town steakhouse, Pinnacle Peak, became famous for good food and good fun. In 1971 it burned to the ground but it came back better than ever. 

 Their “No Ties Allowed” policy has always been a part of the Pinnacle Peak fun. If you wear a tie, they will cut it off and display it on their wall for all to see! If you aren’t wearing a tie and want to go through the fun of having it sliced off you can pop into the General Store and they’ll sell you one that’s ripe for cutting! 


If you decide to visit Trail Dust Town it’s best to go in the evening. The lights are twinkling and this is when the Wild West shows occur. Have fun when you go!

Trail Dust town train


Carol Fenn 2-2017