Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hello! May you and yours have a Happy Thanksgiving, and safe travels if you're going out of town for the holiday. 

Note: the above was a recent thrift store find. I was tempted to cut out these Pilgrim paper dolls and display them around the house, but for now I've left the set intact. 

Bonus: as mentioned on the back of the book, "An informative text supplies abundant details on accessories and also paints a vivid picture of a hard-working early Colonial family's lifestyle. Students and teachers of cultural history, costume buffs and paper doll enthusiasts of all ages will find this collection an accurate and colorful view of early American life." 

So, history and a fun way to commemorate Thanksgiving - not bad for a 25c thrift store purchase!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Made It: For A Baby Boy

Hello! A trio of neighbors were expecting this fall - September, October, November. I'd already showed off what a I'd made for the September baby here and now it's time to highlight what I made for the late October-born infant. 

The card:

Materials used:
  • white card stock
  • blue and white check scrapbook paper
  • teddy bear shape cut from scrapbook paper
  • "Baby BOY" stamped in blue ink on white card stock
  • heart shape cut from art paper scrap
  • "baby" cut from vintage dictionary
And now the fun little gift I made:

A soft ball, made from six fabric pieces sewn together and stuffed. A jingle bell was put inside along with the stuffing. The blue/orange color scheme matches the school colors of the parents' alma mater.

Both card and ball were fun to make! Sometimes I don't know which I like better, crafting with paper or with fabric - but with this gift, I got to do both!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Made It: Repurposed Printer's Tray

Hello! I'm in the process of redoing our family room. Have already made a big change with switching the walls from dark red to a warm white. Decided to create some new wall hangings while I was at it. 

Years ago I'd purchased a vintage printer's tray (have also seen these referred to as printer's drawers). If you go to places where antiques are sold, you may have noticed them; they're shallow wooden trays with multiple dividers. Back in the days of printing with hand-set type, these trays were used to keep the various letters, numbers, etc. organized. 

I don't recall how much I paid for my printer's tray, nor where I bought it, but I used it for a few years to display the smaller pieces in my squirrel figurine collection. I was never really satisfied with how the display looked, however, so at some point I dismantled it. 

My printer's tray sat in our basement since then, just gathering dust. I almost got rid of it, but now I'm glad I didn't, for I decided to try to repurpose it as a collage-style display of vintage postcards. 

(I should add that before I began this collage, I gave the printer's tray a nice cleaning and polishing).

This was not a quick and easy project, even with the use of a paper cutter and Exacto knife. There are 89 sections in my tray, so it took awhile to cut up that many postcard images. And among those 89 sections are several different sizes. The smallest sections measure about 1"x2", while the largest are  around 2 1/4"x6 1/4".

For the smallest sections, there was the challenge of finding images that made sense when cut down to 1"x2". And since all the sections are higher than they are wide, for the larger ones I had to find postcards with a vertical orientation. These aren't nearly as common, but I had enough images of waterfalls, trees, monuments and skyscrapers to fill in those areas. 

My postcard collection ranges in age from the early 1900's to the early 1980's. You'd think the earliest postcards would be the most interesting ones to use, but they have more muted colors due to the printing process in use at the time. Consequently, I have a mixture of decades represented in my creation. 

Okay, enough chatter, now I'll show off my repurposed vintage printer's tray:

The finished piece, which measures about 32"w x 20"h

Several close ups of postcard images to follow:

The Empire State Building, the "Billy Penn" (aka William Penn) statue on top of Philadelphia's City Hall, and a resort in New Hampshire.

The Statue of Liberty.

Motel sign. Vintage motels are among my favorite postcard images.

The Mackinac Bridge (in northern Michigan, for those not from that state) and a small town's commercial district.

A scene from Coney Island, New York.

Another small town commercial district - Dowagiac, Michigan if I recall correctly.

The Jefferson Memorial and a Dutch village scene.

The Henry Ford Museum (Dearborn, Michigan), a California redwood, and the Washington Monument. 

I'm pleased with how this turned out, although I have to admit, I think the images would have been more effective if the sections were wider. It still makes for a fun display though. 

If you'd like your own printer's tray, they're available on eBay and other online sites, plus they show up at antique stores and flea markets. I think that new, somewhat similar versions can be purchased as well.

You may not care for vintage postcards, but search "repurposed printer's tray" on Pinterest and you'll see lots of other ideas for reuse - seashell collection, earring holder, scrapbook paper decor, photos and more. 

Not sure that in my Pinterest search I saw anyone using vintage postcards in their printer's tray - but now you have!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Made It: For A Gem Of A Friend

Hello! I have a gem of a friend, someone who's very talented, fun to hang out with and very kind. So of course I wanted to celebrate her birthday with a couple of handmade items (I treated her to dinner and a loaf of homemade bread as well.)

I made her this card:

Materials used:
  • white card stock
  • page from vintage book
  • scrap from altered 1880's ledger page
  • red card stock scrap
  • label from vintage sewing thread spool
  • vintage button
  • "happy birthday" stamped in black ink
I wasn't sure what theme the card would have when I headed to my studio to make it, but once there I spied that vintage sewing thread spool label with the word "Gem" on it. That became my theme, and then all I had to do is find color-coordinating elements. 

I also did a little sewing as part of my friend's gift:

In honor of my friend's autumn birthday - and my love of squirrels - I made her a little stuffed squirrel. The body and tail are made from brown fabrics, and I added a vintage button eye and a ribbon tie. 

It's about 4 1/2" high and about 4" wide. The pattern was from a vintage needlework book; it was actually an applique shape for a children's quilt. I couldn't resist turning it into a stuffed shape. 

The squirrel and card were both fun to make and I was only too happy to make them for a gem of a friend.  

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Fall Harvest

Hello! I grumbled earlier in the growing season that the cool, cloudy July weather hurt my warm weather crops. Oh, I eventually got tomatoes and peppers, but not as many as usual. 

Fall crops have been another matter. We've had a number of mild, sunny days, coupled with enough rain to help things along. The offerings at the local farmer's market seem to be especially lush this year, and I've been happily loading up on kale, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli. I do miss the absence of local tomatoes, but I might as well take advantage of what's still out there. 

I did a little fall harvesting of my own earlier in the week:

A nice basketful of greens: kale, collards, mustard greens and broccoli raab. The last green listed was sauteed with garlic in olive oil and served over pasta. The other greens were sauteed with onion and a bit of chopped ham, then steamed with cornmeal dumplings. Good eating both meals! 

Yes, I mentioned buying kale at the farmer's market even though I grow it at home as well. Greens cook down quite a bit in the cooking process, so you need to start out with a lot in your pot. I don't have a big enough garden to grow all that I use in my cooking (in fact, I did add some farmer's market kale to that ham/cornmeal dumpling dinner).  I feel it's still worthwhile to grow what I can, though - I can pick my greens at a younger, more tender stage, and my homegrown organic greens are certainly cheaper than buying organic greens. 

And if you noticed the two bowls lurking behind the basket, they contain the tomatoes I picked as well. I'd been concerned about a possible killing frost coming up, so I picked what could be saved and brought them indoors to continue ripening. 

We were spared that killing frost, at least where I live, but it was still chilly enough at night to make the tomato plants miserable. The greens are still fine, so I might be able to do another picking before winter settles in for good and the snow buries the garden. 

Nothing like fresh, locally-grown produce, no matter what the season!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Thrifty Acres: Santa Patrol

Hello! I collect Santa figures, so I'm on the lookout for them year-round. I generally buy only those that are vintage and/or handmade. 

Within the past couple of weeks I have added four Santas, paying a grand total of $3.75 for all.

First up:

This wooden St. Nick is 7 1/2" tall and was a quarter at a church rummage sale. It appears to be hand-carved and hand-painted, though  I don't know that for sure. Still, for a quarter it was worth the price. 

From the same rummage sale and also a quarter:

This is one of those toys that you push up from the bottom to make it move. Doing so with this Santa makes his jingle bell jangle. Super cute!

As you can see, the original label is on the base, and identifies the toy as having been made in Hong Kong for the Kohner Brothers company of East Paterson, NJ. With that info, I looked on eBay and thus estimated that this Santa was likely made in the 1960's. 

From that toy, which is 4 3/4" high, to this tiny Scandi Santa:

Even counting the yarn plume, it's only 2 1/4" tall. I picked it up for a quarter at a garage sale in Galena, IL. It's labeled on the bottom as being made in Sweden, so he'll go on display with my collection of Scandinavian Christmas decor. Someone had also written the year "1970" on the bottom, presumably the year it had purchased. So it's vintage to boot! Not bad for a quarter. 

Since I'd said I paid a total of $3.75 for my four Santas, obviously I forked over more than a quarter for the last purchase:

Yes, I paid three whole dollars for this: 

The above figure stands at about 16" tall and was spied at a local thrift store. Surrounded by Christmas decorations of much lesser quality, I was amazed that he hadn't been snatched up already. This is definitely handmade, and of very high quality as well. 

Close-up of the face:

And Santa's sack:

The clerk at the counter was befuddled; she said she didn't know what sort of figure it was supposed to be. I told her that Santas are portrayed in many different ways now and suggested it was a Woodland Santa. She wasn't convinced, but that's what I'm calling it. 

Woodland Santa's body is a log, and his arms are wooden as well. Wool, osnaburg, burlap, fake fur, doll's hair and twine were used for his clothing and sack. The sack holds twigs and a sprig of artificial pine. The Santa holds the sack in one hand and a long stick in the other hand. 

These may sound like mundane materials, but this is a very well-made piece. So well made, in fact, that I wouldn't be surprised if it had originally been purchased at a craft show or artisan's gallery. 

These suspicions were heightened when I examined the figure more closely once I got home. On one side of the log body someone had hand written a name (likely the artist), the date '89' and a copyright symbol. Unfortunately the name was written as only the initial of the first name, followed by a common surname. So I couldn't find out anything about the artist. 

Regardless, this is such a nice Santa it almost seemed like a crime to pay only $3.00 for it. Of course I was glad it was so reasonably priced. It's an ongoing mystery to me why thrift stores will charge 99c for a dollar store doodad, but will put low prices on handcrafted items that took hours to create. 

Christmas is still more than a month away, but with these recent purchases, I may be able to suspend my Santa patrol - that is to say, I probably have enough in my collection by now. But if another vintage St. Nick or craft show refugee appears in a thrift store or rummage sale, the allure may be too great to resist! 


Monday, October 26, 2015

Galena Again

Hello! My family visited Galena for the first time in August, and this past weekend my husband and I made a return trip. Then, the weather had been very hot and humid. Saturday, it was overcast and in the upper 50's. It was supposed to be sunny all day but the sun apparently didn't know the forecast and stayed hidden the whole time. The pretty vistas on the way to Galena were shrouded in fog.

We hoped the iffy weather would keep people away but it did not. We'd thought Galena was crowded enough in August but it seemed there were even more people in town this visit. Later on, we were told that fall is Galena's busiest season. Nevertheless, we had a pleasant afternoon there. 

One advantage of the cooler weather was going here for lunch:

Otto's Place is highly rated on the online restaurant review sites, but its daytime weekend offerings are more along the lines of breakfast or brunch. The food seemed a little heavy for the blazing hot weather during our August jaunt, but the menu looked perfect for cooler weather. 

Like so many buildings in Galena, the structure that houses Otto's Place oozes charm - dark red exterior with nice trim details, and inside there was a tin ceiling. The building dates from 1899 and is named for the man who had it built to house his own eatery. (Sadly, he died before it could open, but the Otto's Place owners named their business after him.)

It is a bit off the beaten track, on the edge of a neighborhood located a few blocks away from the busy downtown. The quieter setting made the restaurant all the more pleasant, we thought. 

Waits to be seated aren't uncommon, but we lucked out and were shown a table almost right away. I was a bit dismayed when the waitress informed me that both of the two entrees I was trying to pick from to order were both sold out. I "made do" with a spinach, Swiss and bacon omelet. It was perfectly made, as were the home fries that came with my order. My husband had a veggie omelet, also very good according to him. 

Thus, I can recommend Otto's Place if you visit Galena. 

As I'd said, Otto's Place is in a neighborhood, and as I hadn't been to this part of town during the previous visit, I decided to walk around and take a few pictures:

The above plaque, which reads "Miner's Cottage Circa 1840" hangs by the side porch of the house in the first photo. 

A bit of gingerbread trim.

Besides Christmastime, older homes seem to look their best in the fall.

This looks like the sort of house that could be haunted. There is a ghost tour business in downtown Galena, but I don't think this is on the tour. 

The neighborhood is also home to Grant Park, named after one-time resident U.S. Grant. The park sits atop a hill, giving visitors a view of the downtown area and beyond:

Note the houses up on the hill. Part of downtown Galena is in the foreground. 

A statue of Grant presides near one end of the park that bears his name.

It's a short walk of maybe all of five minutes to take a pedestrian bridge across the Galena River from the neighborhood to downtown. The crowds were in full force there, strolling up and down the blocks and popping in and out of shops. I did the same, but didn't buy anything. It was too crowded in some of the stores to even get a good look at the wares. That's okay, I wasn't really in a buying mood anyway. I was perfectly content with windowshopping. 

Actually, I did make a couple purchases - at a sale being run by an antiques dealer getting rid of some of his stuff; it was going on a couple of blocks from Otto's Place. Prices were reasonable. I spent a whopping two dollars for a large piece of fabric and a vintage wooden Santa figurine from Sweden. I collect wooden Scandinavian Christmas objects, so this little Santa will be grouped with the collection come Christmastime. 

It may sound like a rather tame day away: eating breakfast food for lunch, followed by time spent looking at looking at old houses, buying a couple of things at a garage sale and ignoring all the brand-new, pricey goodies in downtown Galena. But I had a very nice time anyway!