The Quick 10: 10 Faberge Egg Surprises

iStock/sekulicn
iStock/sekulicn

While those of us who do the egg-decorating thing will likely content ourselves with store-bought dyes and stickers this Sunday, there is a certain set of people whose Easter décor is more likely to contain rubies and diamonds. Faberge Eggs started out as a little Easter morning present from Tsar Alexander III to his wife, Empress Maria Feodorovna, in 1885. She was so delighted by the first one that a new tradition was born. Alexander III's son, Nicholas, carried on that tradition when he married. Although the eggs were encrusted with jewels and are now practically priceless works of art, I think the best part of them are the little surprises contained inside. It's kind of like finding the prize at the bottom of the cereal box"¦ a cereal box made of precious metal and covered with expensive gems, yes, but kind of similar nonetheless. Here's what you would find if you cracked open 10 Faberge Eggs.

1. The Hen Egg was that very first egg Empress Maria received; the one that started it all. It appeared to be a plain, white enamel egg, but looks can be deceiving. Inside the egg was, naturally, yolk made of gold, to be precise. Inside the yolk was a little golden hen. You might think it ends here, but no "“ inside the hen were two tiny but pricey gifts "“ a diamond miniature of the royal crown, and a tiny ruby egg pendant that could be hung on a necklace. The Hen Egg itself is still around, but the tiny presents within the golden hen have been missing for a number of years now.

2. The Diamond Trellis Egg is a work of art before you even open it. It's carved from a pale green jadeite and wrapped in a trellis of rose-cut diamonds. Hidden inside was a tiny little elephant made of ivory and gold, also covered in rose-cut diamonds and brilliant diamonds. The really cool thing? He was a little wind-up toy. The elephant came with a key and when the Empress was so inclined, she could wind him up and watch him walk. These little hidden treasures were apparently hard to hold on to (or small enough for thieves to pocket), because the elephant has also been lost to history.

3. Rosebud was the first egg Nicholas II presented to his wife. His dad had died in 1894 and he ascended to the throne, marrying Alexandra Fyodorovna. Alexandra was terribly homesick, especially for the rose garden Rosenhöhe, Darmstadt, so Nicholas arranged for the egg to open to reveal a yellow-enamel rosebud that looked just like the ones she missed. The rosebud opened to reveal a ruby pendant and tiny golden crown studded with diamonds and rubies to represent her new Empress of Russia title. They are "“ you guessed it "“ both lost.

4. The Lilies of the Valley Egg marks where the "surprise" started to get really creative. Instead of the egg simply opening to reveal something tiny inside, the surprise on this egg is that a twist of a pearl button on the egg makes three portraits pop up from the inside "“ Nicholas, of course, so Alexandra could gaze on the adoring face of her husband "“ and their two oldest daughters, Olga and Tatiana. Pretty crafty!
5. The Trans-Siberian Railway Egg sounds pretty complicated, don't you think? And it was. Made of onyx, silver, gold and quartz, the egg contained a miniature clockwork replica of a train made out of gold and platinum. It had five cars and a gold key to wind it up. This egg and its surprise are actually still on public display, should you ever find yourself with a little time to kill in Moscow. It's at the Kremlin Armoury museum.

6. The Bay Tree Egg stands at not quite a foot tall, but what it lacks in height it makes up for in luxury. You've got a treasure chest of gems here: diamonds, citrines, amethysts, rubies, agate and pearls. Not to mention gold, enamel and feathers. When Tsar Nicholas gave this egg to his widowed mother in 1911, she would have had to closely examine the leaves on the egg (shaped to look like a tree) to find a little gold winding mechanism tucked inside. When she turned it, the top part of the egg rose up and a tiny little feathered nightingale popped out to sing a little ditty, flap its wings and move its beak. When he was done singing, the bird and the top of the egg all descended back down. I hope my mom isn't expecting something equally amazing"¦
7. Here's one you can check out if you're in the Virginia area. Housed at the Museum of Fine Arts, the Peter the Great Egg is made of red, yellow and green gold; platinum; rose-cut diamonds; rubies; enamel and crystal. There are four miniature watercolors on it. And that's just the outside of the egg. When the egg is opened, a little mechanism makes a miniature gold model of Peter the Great's monument on the Neva rise up to rest on a base of sapphire.

8. Don't think that these little surprises were easy for Faberge to make "“ he toiled long and hard on them. The Peacock Egg took three years of trial and error before it was ready to be given to the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna. When the crystal egg was opened, a golden tree was revealed with a golden peacock perched in its branches. The coolest part? It could be removed from the tree and wound up, where it would walk around and spread its tail feathers.

9. The Czarevich Egg could have been a sad tale, but there's actually a happy ending to it. Sort of. At the time, the royal family thought little Alexei was going to die of hemophilia at any given moment. They even had his death certificate all drawn up and ready to go. The Czarevich Egg could have been a tribute to Alexei's short life, but it ended up being a tribute to his survival "“ he held on and his health improved greatly. The blue lapis lazuli egg opened to reveal a miniature watercolor portrait of young Alexei in his sailor suit, one of his mother's favorites. You can see it in Richmond, Virginia, at the Virginia Collection of Fine Arts. So why do I say there's "sort of" a happy ending? The egg was an Easter present in 1912; Alexei and his whole family were murdered in 1918. He was just 13.

10. The Rock Crystal Egg is seriously intricate. First of all, a 27-carat Siberian emerald sits on top of the egg. That would be enough for me, you know? But inside the egg was a golden support that held not one painting, not two paintings, not even three paintings "“ there were 12 teeny, tiny little paintings of palaces and buildings that had special meaning for Empress Alexandra. These included the palace where she was born, the Winter Palace where she and Nicholas were married, and favorite vacation homes. It was very sentimental to the Empress and she kept it in her study at the Winter Palace. The egg is now at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

If your Easter basket is more likely to contain dyed chicken eggs from the grocery store and a carton of pastel, speckled Whopper eggs, don't worry "“ you're in good company. There will be no rubies or hidden miniature portraits at the Conradt household. Hope you all enjoy your weekend, whether it includes pearls or Peeps!

q10

This Innovative Cutting Board Takes the Mess Out of Meal Prep

There's no way any of these ingredients will end up on the floor.
There's no way any of these ingredients will end up on the floor.
TidyBoard, Kickstarter

Transferring food from the cutting board to the bowl—or scraps to the compost bin—can get a little messy, especially if you’re dealing with something that has a tendency to roll off the board, spill juice everywhere, or both (looking at you, cherry tomatoes).

The TidyBoard, available on Kickstarter, is a cutting board with attached containers that you can sweep your ingredients right into, taking the mess out of meal prep and saving you some counter space in the process. The board itself is 15 inches by 20 inches, and the container that fits in its empty slot is 14 inches long, 5.75 inches wide, and more than 4 inches deep. Two smaller containers fit inside the large one, making it easy to separate your ingredients.

Though the 4-pound board hangs off the edge of your counter, good old-fashioned physics will keep it from tipping off—as long as whatever you’re piling into the containers doesn’t exceed 9 pounds. It also comes with a second set of containers that work as strainers, so you can position the TidyBoard over the edge of your sink and drain excess water or juice from your ingredients as you go.

You can store food in the smaller containers, which have matching lids; and since they’re all made of BPA-free silicone, feel free to pop them in the microwave. (Remove the small stopper on top of the lid first for a built-in steaming hole.)

tidyboard storage containers
They also come in gray, if teal isn't your thing.
TidyBoard

Not only does the bamboo-made TidyBoard repel bacteria, it also won’t dull your knives or let strong odors seep into it. In short, it’s an opportunity to make cutting, cleaning, storing, and eating all easier, neater, and more efficient. Prices start at $79, and it’s expected to ship by October 2020—you can find out more details and order yours on Kickstarter.

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8 Things You Might Not Know About Bruce Willis

Bruce Willis.
Bruce Willis.
Daiki Tomidokoro, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

From his turns as unlikely action hero John McClane in the Die Hard series to smaller supporting roles in 1994’s Pulp Fiction and 1995’s Nobody’s Fool, Bruce Willis has consistently surprised audiences with his eclectic career choices. For more on Willis, including his recording career and how he made movie history with 1988’s original Die Hard, keep reading.

1. Bruce Willis was born in West Germany.

Walter Bruce Willis, the son of a military man, was born on March 19, 1955, while his father was stationed in Idar-Oberstein, West Germany. Just two years later, parents David and Marlene Willis moved to Carneys Point, New Jersey, where he spent part of his time in both high school and at Montclair State University trying his hand at acting. After his sophomore year, Willis decided to leave college and head to New York City to pursue a performing career.

2. Bruce Willis may have been one of the best bartenders in New York City.

While auditioning for acting roles and scoring the occasional break—he appeared in an off-Broadway play, Heaven and Earth, in 1977—Willis tended bar at Chelsea Central on New York City's Upper West Side. According to actor John Goodman, who knew Willis before either of them became famous, Willis was notable even then. “Bruce was the best bartender in New York,” Goodman told The New York Post in 2017. “He kept an entire joint entertained all night. He just kept the show going. He was amazing.”

3. Bruce Willis was cast in Moonlighting even though ABC thought the role was “uncastable.”

Bruce Springsteen and Cybill Shepherd in Moonlighting (1985)
Bruce Springsteen and Cybill Shepherd in Moonlighting.
ABC

Willis had done only some stage work and bit parts in movies like 1980’s The First Deadly Sin with Frank Sinatra and 1982’s The Verdict with Paul Newman before he went in to audition for ABC’s Moonlighting, a send-up of detective dramas. At the time, the role of David Addison was proving so difficult to cast that the network was looking to pay creator Glenn Gordon Caron, director Bob Butler, and co-star Cybill Shepherd to abandon the project. Then Willis auditioned, beating out 3000 other hopefuls and securing the part. The series ran from 1985 to 1989.

4. Thanks to Die Hard, Bruce Willis changed Hollywood salaries forever.

While doing Moonlighting, Willis spent his hiatus shooting feature films like 1987’s Blind Date with Kim Basinger. But it was 1988’s Die Hard that cemented him as a big-screen attraction. The action film about a New York City cop trapped in a Los Angeles skyscraper with his estranged wife and a group of terrorists was a hot commodity, and 20th Century Fox agreed to pay Willis the then-astronomical sum of $5 million for the role. (Richard Gere and Clint Eastwood were also considered.) At the time, major stars like Tom Cruise and Michael J. Fox were getting roughly $3 million a picture. The payday for Willis had other performers taking notice, and salaries reportedly went up as a result.

“It was an enormous amount of money at the time,” Willis told Entertainment Weekly in 2007. “And I was a TV actor! The day after I signed the deal, every actor in Hollywood’s salary went up to $5 million.”

5. The Bruce Willis movie Hudson Hawk was based on a song.


Getty Images

Following Die Hard, Willis was a proven box office commodity that could help projects get made. In 1991, he starred in Hudson Hawk, a critical and commercial disappointment about a jewel thief with a love of music who is hired to steal from the Vatican. The film was based in part on a song written by musician Robert Kraft in 1981. Kraft knew Willis, then a bartender and actor, and shared it with him. Over the years, the two continued to shape the song, adding characters and stories. Eventually, it wound up in the hands of screenwriters Stephen De Souza and Daniel Waters.

6. Bruce Willis all but disappeared in Nobody’s Fool.

In contrast to conventional wisdom of the era, Willis parlayed his success as an action hero into opportunities to work with actors and directors he found interesting—even if it meant taking a small supporting role. (Willis spent just 22 minutes onscreen in 1994’s Pulp Fiction as boxer Butch Coolidge.) For 1995’s Nobody’s Fool, he passed on his normal $15 million fee to take $1400 a week since it meant working with Paul Newman. (Newman had forgotten the then-unknown Willis was a bit player in Newman’s 1982 film, The Verdict.) Because Willis felt so strongly Nobody’s Fool was Newman’s film, he opted out of having his photo included in the press kit and his name wasn’t in the production notes.

7. Bruce Willis had his own cartoon series.

In 1996, Willis lent his voice to Bruno the Kid, a syndicated animated series about an 11-year-old spy named Bruno who convinces his handlers he’s really an adult. “Bruno” was Willis’s nickname growing up as well as the name of his musical alter ego. In 1987, Willis released an album, The Return of Bruno, along with a cable special. The cartoon lasted one season.

8. Bruce Willis never finished shooting one of his movies.

In 1997, Willis started shooting Broadway Brawler, a romantic comedy about a washed-up hockey player falling in love. Just 20 days into shooting, Willis used his powers as producer to fire director Lee Grant, Grant’s husband and producer Joe Feury, cinematographer William Fraker, and wardrobe designer Carol Oditz—all reportedly over creative differences. The problems continued even after replacement director Dennis Dugan was brought on board. Rather than continue to waste money on the $28 million movie, studio Cinergi opted to shut it down. Cinergi’s parent company, Disney, absorbed the production costs in exchange for Willis agreeing to star in three Disney movies: Armageddon (1998); The Sixth Sense (1999), Willis’s biggest hit to date; and The Kid (2000).