Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Ride Through Town

Last week saw a run of cool, cloudy weather completely out of character for August in Southern California. Temperatures dipped, winds whipped and my usual beach routine didn't seem nearly as appealing when Saturday rolled around without the sun. Instead, a drive south to walk on a less-familiar stretch of sand (and a chance to be passenger instead of driver) provided plenty of time to appreciate our town's varied architecture.

Two generations ago the building above was the town train station (my grandfather worked there as a railroad telegrapher when he returned from WWII). At the time it was located a mile farther south across the street from this boarding house. Today, its practically unrecognizable as town's most popular coffee shop.

An afternoon train crosses a bridge into the heart of town but won't stop there -- the station today is no more than a concrete platform with a ticket machine for the local commuter train.

Heading farther south, the Self Realization Fellowship occupies a large plot of clifftop property and catches the eye with its giant golden lotus. Come Christmastime, the entire tower will be bathed in magenta light to celebrate the season.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Brief History of the Advent Calendar

Advent calendars have been a much loved Christmas countdown for generations and have certainly taken many forms on their path to becoming the many-windowed printed versions we're accustomed to today.

In the 19th century, religious families made a chalk line each day of December leading up to Christmas. Other early styles included the Adventclock and the Adventcandle with a candle for each of the 24 days and another chalk tradition of painting one stroke per day on the door up until Christmas Eve.

There is a debate over the year of the first printed advent -- some say it was a 1903 insert in a newspaper, others credit Gerhard Lang in 1908 -- though neither had windows to open. Sadly, WWII brought the growing advent tradition to a grinding halt when cardboard was rationed and the production of calendars with pictures was forbidden.

In 1946, with paper purchased from the US Military Zone, the first post-war calendar was created and shown at an international fair in Frankfurt. Called "Little Town," (shown below) this first calendar had small windows to open and received an overwhelming response gaining popularity worldwide, particularly in the United States, and paving the way for the advents we know and love today.

Still made by the same family who began production in Germany over sixty years ago, we're proud to stock more than 50 different styles of calendars including "Little Town" and a host of others carefully made with charming graphics, subtle glitter detailing and windows that open to reveal a picture or Bible verse.

Visit us at 32 Degrees North to see our selection of vintage and Victorian style advents featuring traditional family scenes, animals and children, gnomes, Santa and angels.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Summer Color

Summer is a tricky time of year to garden in Southern California. Long runs of sunshine and high temperatures mean more beach time, as opposed to more weed pulling time. In between, breaks of cooler days bring our coastal marine layer and ideal gardening weather.

These color packs are destined for a handful of terracotta pots and troughs to add color to the patio. Included are three long-time favorites -- impatiens, begonia and coleus -- and one new find -- melapodium. This sun-lover has petite, yellow daisy-like flowers that resemble miniature zinnias, should flower well into the fall, and fit in perfectly with the other bright blossoms they'll be sharing space with.