Philadelphia Mummery

Last year at this time, I posted  some interesting history on the Philadelphia Mummers.  This year, I scoured the Internet for old pictures and archival film footage.   I’m sure a lot of the photographs and movies came  from basements and attics that were cleaned out when their owners passed on.  Here are the most interesting pictures I found

Mummers from Old Europe

1888 Mummers on Chestnut St.

Illustration from 1888

Men have traditionally dressed as women  in the Mummers Parade, most notably in the Comic divisions.   Since women were not allowed to be Mummers until the 1970’s,  men had to take their parts.   This is not unusual.  Women were forbidden to act in Elizabethan England.  The first Juliet was probably played by a young man.    In Japanese Noh drama,  men traditionally play  female roles.

1904 Champion Women

Newspaper Clipping 1904

1925 Lovely Woman As She Isn't

Newspaper Clipping 1925

1907 Female impersonator

Newspaper Clipping 1907

1919 Some Fancy Costumes

1919 Newspaper Clipping

1933 The Drag

1933 Newspaper Clipping

Here are some more old pictures of the parade.  I have tried to pinpoint the location of each picture.  Not all of the buildings depicted (like the Arcade Building) are still standing.  Others, like City Hall, the Masonic Temple and the Arch Street Methodist Church are still here.

But wait, there’s more!!!!

Click here for a whole page of links to some fascinating old video clips.

My Grandmothers’ Christmas Legacy

My Grandmothers Emma Montgomery (nee Peterson on the right) and Mattia Aleo (nee Moceri, left picture)  had several things in common even though the worlds they came from were so different. Emma’s mother died around 1896 when Emma was ten. Mattia’s father died when she was seven-I estimate this was around 1901 or 1902. Both girls left home within a few months of their respective parents’ deaths to assume positions as servants or companions to wealthy families.  They were paid only in room and board, but their absence meant that their families had one less mouth to feed.

Emma lived in Southern Ohio and Mattia lived in Sicily. Emma met her husband-to-be a few counties over from where she was born; Mattia met her future husband in America where she had come to find work so she could send money back home.

Emma met her husband at an ice cream social; theirs was a love match. Mattia’s marriage was arranged by a match maker when her older sister and brother-in-law decided it was time for her to marry.  Both women  were married before the  United States entered the First World War and raised their children during the Great Depression and the Second World War.  Times were hard and life’s uncertainties took their toll on both families.  When my mother and father married, they brought this history to the new family they made. Our  family life could be stressful and unpredictable.

But one thing sticks in my memory: for some reason, the strife died down during the winter holiday season. I think this is because my parents felt safe at this time of the year. This tells me that their parents also felt safe during the holiday season and were able to create a temporary haven for their families. This is another tradition they handed down to my parents.

I remember that the safest I felt as a child was during the Christmas season. The craziness of the world was kept at bay and the adults seemed happier and calmer. My family was not big on extravagant gifts, but there were always decorations,  family and the smell of Christmas cooking.  This was part of my Grndmothers’ legacy-one I treasure.

Recipes are another important part of family tradition. We had Emma’s Brown Bread  and Mattia’s biscotti  every Christmas. Here are their recipes.

Mattia’s Biscotti

Three cups flour, one and one-half cups sugar, one-half teaspoon salt, four teaspoons baking powder, one teaspoon vanilla, eight eggs, anise seeds.
Beat eggs and sugar until well blended. Add vanilla. Add flour, salt and baking powder (I just dump it in) and mix until blended. Pour into eight by fourteen inch pan which you have lined with a piece of buttered wax paper. Sprinkle  liberally with anise seeds. Bake at 350 degrees until baked through, twenty to thirty mintues.
Remember this is not a cake so it will not rise very much and will seem a bit rubbery.
Remove from oven. Flip pan over on a work surface. The cake should fall right out. Peel off the wax paper and cut cake in half crosswise. Cut each half into long biscotti-sized pieces. Place back in pan cut sides up and return to oven set at 250 degrees. Leave in oven until the biscotti achieves  the desired level of hardness. If you have a gas oven with a pilot light, you can choose to leave the biscotti there overnight.

Emma’s Boston Brown Bread

Combine two cups boiling water, two teaspoons baking soda, one cup raisins. Let sit until warm. Cream together two tablespoons of unsalted butter, two cups sugar, two eggs and one teaspoon vanilla. Add two cups white flour, two cups whole wheat flour and the water/raisin mixture. Beat well. Add one cup chopped walnuts and mix to incorporate.
Fill four greased and floured #2 cans two-thirds full. Bake one hour at 350 degrees. Let stand in oven one hour after baking. The batter will rise about two to three inches above the top of of the cans. The bread should slide right out of the can although you will probably need to loosen the bread from the sides of the can by running a knife around the bread.
A #2 can will hold about one and one-fourth cups batter and give the bread room to rise. If you don’t want to use a can (this is an old recipe-people didn’t worry about doing this in the old days. The original recipe calls for “seeded muskets.” I don’t know where you would get raisins with seeds these days), you can try mini loaf pans. The bread is done when a toothpick inserted i. the bread comes out clean.
This bread is good sliced thin and spread with butter. It’s even better with cream cheese.

Clay Carnival Las Vegas 2011-The Movie

There is so much to see in Las Vegas that I decided to make a video about my Clay Carnival experience rather than write about it.  I hope you enjoy watching!

What I learned at Clay Carnival Las Vegas 2011

I learned that Las Vegas is stranger than I remembered

I learned that normal people will pay a lot of money to get married standing in a fake gondola floating in a man-made canal.

I learned that grown men with beer bellies become Roman Gladiator impersonators if they stand in the chilly night air clad only in underpants (briefs-not boxers), the appropriate helmet and sandals.

I learned that I do not have to go to Hawaii to see a volcanic eruption, and that I can even drive past the volcano while it is going off.

I learned that in Las Vegas, there is an impromptu Elvis Impersonator convention every day of the week.

I learned a lot about polymer clay from a great bunch of teachers. I  met  wonderful people from all over the world.  I had a marvelous time.  OK, OK, maybe I didn’t do shots with  some Japanese guys I met in a restaurant like someone I know.   But I did have fun.

And I learned some new polymer clay techniques including how to built a sturdy hollow form (Beach Bangles); how to make a pendant that is also an elegant closure (Sorbet Pendant); and a cool way to combine baked and raw clay (Desert Brooches).       No disrespect to Elvis, but this is the real reason I went to Las Vegas. At any rate, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

The pictures below show what  I made in the classes.  Some projects turned out better than others,  but I learned a lot in Las Vegas-including that it must be hard work standing on the Strip at night in your underwear.  No, I really hadn’t known that!

Judy Belcher Spring-y Bracelets

Leslie Blackford Le Carnival Box

Kim Cavender Wood Gone Wild

Natalia Garcia de Leaniz Funky Desert Brooches

Donna Kato Squash Blossom Pendant

Daniel Torres Mancera Beach Bangle

Sylvie Peraud Colorful Pendant

Bettina Welker Sorbet Pendant

For descriptions of the Clay Carnival Las Vegas 2011 classes, go to the Clay Carnival Blog.

Tutorials for some of the classes are available on-line at

Next Week: A short video on Clay Carnival.

Ideas for Christmas Ornaments

I am currently in the middle of a quilting binge, so this years’ ornaments are sewn.

Although my birdie (which was supposed to be a dove)looks more like a crested partridge, I like him because he has a Dr. Seuss look about him and an Elvis haircut. I have some patterns I made that you can download as PDF files or you can draw your own. You can also, as I saw somewhere on the Internet, use cookie cutters to trace a pattern.

Be sure to cut your fabric 1/4″ to 5/8″ larger all around to allow for your seams or your ornament will be too small. You can scan the PDF files and change the size any way you want. You can also do this with drawings.

All the patterns are simple-you cut out two pieces of fabric, place the right sides together and sew them up leaving a little opening so you can stuff in the fiberfill.  With the tree, I cut out a circle, whip stitched it to the bottom, and then neatened up the seam with some tiny stitches.


I was going to try to make a cone pattern when I realized that because I was working with fabric and not metal, two triangles sewn together and stuffed  would make a cone (duh. . )  And so they did.    I sewed on the pom poms just in case this ornament comes into contact with pets or small children.  If you don’t have that worry, you can use fabric glue.  You also might consider beads, a ball hanging from the bottom, gluing on a mini garland- let yourself go wild.  But not too wild.  Santa is always watching.  

If you are like me and flunked scissors in kindergarten,  try cutting out one side of the pattern and instead of cutting out the other side, sew the cut side to the other piece of fabric and then trim the excess.  This gives you a lot more control over the size of your seams.

You can download my  simple patterns for a tree, ball, bird and two stars  here and here, and alter them to suit your needs.