Friday, May 31, 2019

Garden Fantasy And Reality - Plus A Gardening Tip!

Hello! We traveled to Lexington, Kentucky as part of a Memorial Day weekend getaway. During our visit, we walked around the University of Kentucky Arboretum, where I saw this:

In the vegetable garden area, multiple heads of beautiful leaf lettuces were growing. As it was a hot day (the high of 90 was just one degree shy of tying the high for that date), my mouth watered at the sight of those crisp heads of lettuce. I joked that I ought to pick a head and tuck it under my shirt. Of course I'd never do this, and just as well, for my husband pointed to the security cameras mounted on the outbuilding next to this garden. 

And there was a sign stating that the produce grown at the arboretum is distributed to those in need. I was glad of that, for I've often seen produce well past its prime at similar public gardens. Perhaps rotting tomatoes and greens gone to seed are meant to show the life cycles of the plants, but this has always seemed wasteful to me. 

That was my fantasy lettuce garden. Then I returned home to the reality of my own lettuce patch:

I don't have space for a big vegetable garden, so I grow some of my produce in pots on my deck. I got the idea of a "lettuce bowl" - a large pot of mesclun - from some of the vendors at our local farmer's market, who offer a similar item. But why pay $13 bucks or more when I can easily do the same for far less? I have two bowls of mesclun, sown a couple of weeks apart.

The only trouble with my deckside "lettuce bowl" is the gang of neighborhood squirrels. They're fond of digging up my pots of mesclun! So I learned to drape these plantings with "row covers" (sheer curtains purchased at thrift stores). This worked well, but of course I'd have to uncover the mesclun when I wanted to pick it, and I couldn't see the pretty leaves of my crop very well either. 

Then last fall I came across a tip that had potential: a woman's flower garden was beset by unwelcome visitors like squirrels and rabbits. Another avid gardener told her to place children's pinwheels from the dollar store around the perimeter of her garden. Supposedly the critters don't like the movement and shiny colors of these toys and so they'll stay away. 

Shortly before Memorial Day, our local Dollar Tree advertised pinwheels, so I picked up a baker's dozen. Some were placed in my vegetable garden and others were placed in my deck pots. You can see the red and blue of one pinwheel in the left side of the above photo. 

As a test, the pinwheels were put into place Friday morning of the holiday weekend, and we returned home the next Monday afternoon. I looked over my deck and garden plantings - not a single plant had been disturbed.

I was happy about this! In the past, besides row covers, I'd spent money on fake owls and snakes and various repellant sprays or powders. The fake critters have to be moved every so often and the repellant concoctions (some commercial, some DIY) have to reapplied after rains. But the pinwheels just sit there and spin around in the breeze, and look cute even when still. 

So there you have it - gardening fantasy and reality, plus an easy tip to try out if you have critter troubles too. Here's to a good growing season!

(If you'd like more information about the University of Kentucky Arboretum, go here. It's worth a visit if you're in the Lexington area.)

Friday, May 10, 2019

Thrifty Acres: Armchair Traveling

Hello! I've traveled a fair share of US, but my international trips have thus far been limited to Canada. That latter fact may change someday, but even if it doesn't, I'm always good for some armchair traveling. And thrift stores are good places to pick up trip accounts, such as these three books I've purchased recently:

From top to bottom: Cafe Oc, by Beebe Bahrami; Grandma's On The Camino, by Mary O'Hara Wyman, and The New York Times Explorer Mountains, Deserts & Plains.

The first two books are somewhat similar in that the authors immerse themselves in European countries for several weeks (Wyman) to a year (Bahrami) at a time, which gives both women time to make new friends, learn the history and customs of an area, enjoy local foods and drinks, and observe flora and fauna. 

Wyman doesn't have a car at her disposal, since she's "on the camino" - that is, a 500-mile route that starts in France but primarily traverses through Spain. Wyman was 70 when she set out on her 48-day walk, and was a solo traveler. I admired her for putting up with variable weather and sleeping conditions. She mentions others who made the walk easier by signing up with touring companies that arranged nice lodging and hauled excess gear. But even though Wyman was consistently beset by various foot injuries (she stops for medical services several times along the way), she rolls with the punches and keeps on walking. 

Her book is presented as a three-part journal. Part One is the daily postcard she wrote and mailed to her five-year-old granddaughter. Part Two is her daily journal entry, and Part Three includes reflections she added for each journal entry after she had returned home. (Thus, each day's walk includes three entries.) Considering how challenging the walk was, I was impressed that Wyman kept to her writing schedule every day! I think I would have been nodding off the minute I stopped walking.

Bahrami doesn't have a car, either, when she settles into the town of Sarlat in southwestern France for a year. So she does a great deal of walking as well, both around town and in the countryside. She revels in local foods and wines, explores prehistoric caves in the region, makes new friends, brushes up on her French and meets with a group who gather to speak the local dialect, Occitan. This gathering takes place in Cafe Oc, the basis of Bahrami's book title. (By the way, "oc" means "yes" in Occitan.)

I'm a regular visitor to our local farmer's market, so I really enjoyed Bahrami's frequent trips to Sarlat's version of this enterprise. Such wonderful descriptions of such wonderful food! I swooned at the delectibles she brought back to her rental apartment.

The last book, the one produced by The New York Times, is very different from the first two books. Instead of one author who describes her adventures in (mostly)a single country, Explorer is a compilation of travel articles about locales the world over. Sure, there's write-ups of visits to US spots in Idaho (Sawtooth Valley), Georgia (Okefenokee Swamp), Alaska (Inside Passage region), and more. But there's also descriptions of trips to Peru (Machu Picchu), Chili (star-gazing hot spots), Germany (the Alps in the winter) and so on. 

The articles are short and I found myself wishing they'd been a bit longer. I would have liked to have learned even more about each writer's experiences during their visits. But again, these articles had originally appeared in the travel section of a newspaper, where space was limited. 

Explorer doesn't skimp on page quality or photographs though. Both are along the lines of what I'd consider a "coffee table book". I wasn't surprised to learn that brand new, this book was $40.00. I was happy with the $2.99 I paid at a thrift store. 

So until my next big trip (a summer vacation out west is in the works), I'll continue with my armchair traveling.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Thrifty Acres: Color Me Thrifty

Hello! Well, it's been awhile since I last posted - a home renovation project and several out-of-town trips have kept me absent from my blog. But here I am again, and I have a colorful post today. 

I'll start off with this:

Ed-u-Cards' Color Bingo game, produced in 1952. The box is a little beat-up, but hey, the game's 67 years old after all. 

From the front cover: "Color Bingo with Special Peg Spinner and Wooden Covering Counters. A New, Improved Bingo Game...Faster, Easier and More Fun For Children And Adults"

Sounds fantastic, right? So let's take a look inside:

The bingo cards and the "Special Peg Spinner" certainly are colorful, what with those sections of blue, yellow, red, green and orange. Those colors remind me of the Colorforms sets I used to play with when I was a kid. 

I don't know if the game is complete; I suspect that a few cards are missing; maybe some pegs and counters are too. No matter, it's still an interesting look for a bingo game and one I hadn't encountered before. 

Another close-up:

You can see the dark pink wooden pegs on the "Special Peg Spinner" on the right - so now you know why the spinner has that name!

As to why this bingo game is "faster, easier and more fun for children and adults"? Well, for one thing, there's two sections on the spinner for each color, so I suppose that would, indeed, make the game go faster. It did not take me long to get the bingo show above. Perhaps the ease of winning bingos makes this version "more fun". But I'm not sure about the "easier" part - it's played the same as any other bingo game!

Moving on to another colorful thrift store purchase:

Two vintage beverage mugs, labeled with "Japan" on the bottoms. I don't know what year these are from, but I'm guessing from the 1960's or 1970's. Two very different floral designs but I love them both. Bonus points for the tulips on the bottom mug, since I live in a town famed for that flower. 

And speaking of tulips, they're just beginning to bloom around town, and the annual festival honoring them begins the first weekend of May. And these colors from nature are even better than those found on thrift store finds!

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Vintage Book Fun For Old And Young

Hello! I'm well past the target age for young adult books, but I couldn't resist picking up this vintage volume at a thrift store:

Run Sheep Run, published in 1959 by husband/wife duo Bob and Jan Young. The cover may look rather generic, but the back of the book jacket mentions a lofty goal:"Best Loved Girls' Books is a new program of top quality reading entertainment for girls in their early and mid-teens. Each month a staff of experienced editors in this field chooses an outstanding teen romance, career story, or girl's adventure book for our membership. Every selection is pre-tested for its wholesome, enjoyable appeal to today's young moderns..."

So of course I bought the book to see what the "young moderns" of 1959 would read. I discovered an appealing story of a girl who learns to be her own person, and that part of the story is still relevant. But of course there were still plenty of outdated passages that seem amusing or bizarre today! 

As the book begins, our heroine, Judy Cannon, is relaxing on a state park beach with her friends, somewhere in California. Her junior year of high school is about to begin, so the discussion of a science class requirement comes up. None of Judy's friends are fond of science, it seems, and they all agree that "girls hate science". She's urged to take biology, as it's supposed to be the easiest science class at their school. Perhaps that's because an aging teacher has led that course at their school for decades. Judy agrees, reluctantly, to sign up for that class.

We also learn that going steady during junior year is the thing to do. After all, think of all the parties and dances one would miss otherwise! 

So right away here's two outdated notions. I began high school 14 years after this book came out. I'm glad I'd never heard that "girls hate science", since I took science all four years of high school, well above the then-meager state requirement for that subject. And although there was plenty of "steady dating" in my high school (something I actually did for half my junior year), it wasn't as big a thing as it was for Judy and her friends. 

Judy's group walks up the coastline, until they reach the boundary of the state park and the beginning of private property. We learn that the land was a recent purchase by Judy's widowed mother. It's "100 acres of shoreline and meadow" and has an abandoned Victorian house near the beach to boot. 

In the next chapter, we read that Mrs. Cannon has a rather modest-sounding job working in the underground safety deposit vaults of a local bank. Yet by cashing in her late husband's life insurance policy, she was able to buy all that land on the California coastline. Since subdivisions had just arrived in their area, she figured she could resell the land at profit to the next developer. Can you imagine the average single mom buying land like that in California now? How much would an unspoiled tract like that would be worth today? 

The school year begins and much to Judy's dismay, the old biology teacher has retired, and now there is a younger, presumably tougher male teacher. But in spite of herself, Judy finds herself liking the marine biology lessons. And since she'd already shown aptitude in art class, she's pleased when her art teacher announces an marine watercolor assignment. 

So all is going well, until disaster strikes: Mrs. Cannon is suddenly hospitalized with some sort of severe lung condition. The doctor's orders for her recovery involve a year off work and plenty of fresh air and sunshine. I couldn't help but wonder what sort of lung condition would have warranted such a drastic change in lifestyle. TB? But the authors never say. 

This turn of events is real trouble for Judy and her only sibling, a ditzy, 19-year-old married sister whose husband barely makes enough money to support their newlywed household. No dad, no other relatives in town to help them. But wait - there's their Uncle Mort, their mother's stepbrother, recently retired from the Navy and settled in Oregon. Would he be able to help them?

Would he! It'd been decades since he'd last seen the family - Judy was too young to remember his last visit - yet he settles his affairs in Oregon and within days comes to assist the Cannons. He vows to stay as long as he's needed. What luck!

Uncle Mort brings many changes to the family, the biggest being moving the family to a residence that'll meet the requirements for Mrs. Cannon's recovery: that old Victorian house on her beachfront property. In no time, he is able to make the house habitable again, and Judy, Mrs. Cannon and Uncle Mort move there shortly after the new year.

Judy's against the move at first - she's now 4 miles out of town, away from her friends. Even worse, there's no school bus route that leads to her property, so her uncle informs her she'll have to ride her bike to and from school. Judy's mortified by this - nobody, but nobody but a few loser boys, rides bikes to school. I was amused by this, and wondered if this would still be true in energy-conscious, fitness-conscious California.

(Conveniently, shortly thereafter she makes friends with a girl who happens to live by the last bus stop in Judy's direction. The girl suggests that Judy bike to her house, leave her bike there, and then board the bus with her. The reverse steps would occur after school. This shortens Judy's commute by a huge distance, and best of all, she'll no longer be seen biking to and from school!)

She's also appalled when Uncle Mort announces a start of a money-making venture for the family: he's going to fix up an old structure between their house and their beach to turn it into a  bait shack. The fishing's good along their stretch of the coast, and he figures they can do well by selling bait and other fishing supplies. And before you know it, they're up and running. Judy helps him on the weekends. Initially, she figures the money she earns will go toward a car. No more being stuck out there; she'll be able to go into town to hang out with her friends! 

But she begins to like the bait shack work. Instead of saving for a car, or even buying new spring clothes, she purchases a fish smoker at the hardware store. This delicacy sells so well at the bait shack that she convinces a local butcher to stock it too. 

The bait shack start-up and addition of smoked fish seemed to happen really fast. I wondered what sort of licensing, zoning and health department requirements were around back then. Granted, the authors may not have wanted to bother with such details, but I bet things were more lax in 1959. After all, a lot of things have changed since then.  Why, Judy was shocked that the smoked fish the butcher had purchased from another supplier was "...marked at more than a dollar and a half per pound." I'd take that price for smoked fish any day of the week!

Judy grows ever more immersed in her biology class. She risks the scorn of her friends by joining the Science Society. It's a sometimes painful process, making new friends there while trying to keep the old. But after a few false moves she gains more confidence in herself, and even gains the respect of her old crowd. Some of them bemoan their lack of funds and have to look for summer jobs. They admire her smoked fish and bait shack earnings.

Along with her new Science Society friends, she participates in a regional high school Science Fair. Her exhibit of marine tide pool drawings combined her interests in art and marine biology. Much to her disappointment, she wins no awards at the science fair, but her exhibit catches the eye of the director of the local Marine Biological Station, who wants it displayed in his facility's museum all summer. 

And prize ribbon or not, Judy now has a future career goal in mind:  marine biology illustrator. The financing of the college education necessary to meet this goal will be no problem - she'll just make more money working at the bait shack and selling more smoked fish! 

So yes, our heroine Judy Cannon grows up a good deal in Run Sheep Run. I don't know if this book appealed to the "young moderns" it targeted, but it appealed to this "old" reader. A slightly contrived but believable story, along with tidbits that are amusing in today's world, made this vintage book fun to read!

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Vintage Valentine's Day Ad

Hello! The end of February is close, so I thought I'd show off a vintage Valentine's Day ad in honor of the month's signature event. 

This FTD ad appeared in a Reader's Digest sometime between the mid-50's/early 60's. That was the range of years in the bundle of Reader's Digest magazines that I found at a thrift store a couple of years ago. That bundle remains a favorite find of mine, because I love vintage magazines. 

Here's a close-up of the three men in the ad:

They clearly are from very different backgrounds, but they have something in common: they're all holding what appears to be a small FTD catalogue, and they're all on the phone (rotary dial, of course) to order floral arrangements from FTD. According to the ad, a total of 26 arrangements were available in that catalogue, so our men had plenty to choose from.

Now let's "meet" our three gentlemen up close. 

Mr. Suave here says "...the H-17 bouquet for Valentine's Day. Does the $7.50 include the vase? Swell! I'll take twelve..."

And to underscore this large order, Mr. Suave is shown with twelve small picture frame - undoubtedly with photos of those twelve lady friends in them. Ugh. I don't think this sort of behavior would go over too well in a magazine ad today. 

The gentleman in the middle:

And he says "...yeah, C-1...with all them little roses in it. How quick can you get it to Hackensack?"

This man is dressed in rugged work clothes, and he's calling from a pay phone, so he's away from home. Truck driver, maybe, or perhaps a delivery man? No matter, as those long as C-1 gets sent to Hackensack in time!

Our first two seem quite assertive about their orders, but not so with the last gentleman:

He says "H-13, please. Sign it, 'Love, Norm.' Wait...better make that 'Regards, Norman Q. Frisby.' It's been awhile since I've seen her and..."

Norman Q. Frisby may have a good white collar job somewhere - he's dressed in a nice suit - but he sure is a wimpy sort. Still, I couldn't help but wonder why it'd been awhile since he'd seen the woman he was sending the floral arrangment to. Had he been neglecting her because of working too much at the office? In the meantime, had another man begun to move in on her? 

Or maybe it was his mother that he had been neglecting, though it seems odd that he'd want to sign his message that formally. But I guess I'll never know. 

Like I said, three very different men are depicted in this ad. To further highlight their differences, each "quote" was printed in a different font. Nevertheless, they all had one thing in common: a reliance on FTD to help them out on Valentine's Day.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Get Carded: Valentines for Vets 2019

Hello! As I've done for the past several years, I made two dozen valentines and mailed them off to a regional VA medical center. I enjoy making greeting cards, so why not do it for a good cause?

Here's a brief sample of how this year's batch of cards turned out:

And a few close-ups:

A vintage dictionary page is the basis for this heart.

This heart looks vintage, but it's actually an art paper imposter.

But the vintage look is authentic here; the heart was created on a piece of 1880's ledger paper.

The rest of the materials are:
  • White card stock
  • Two heart stencils: one that made stripes and one that made a scalloped edge. The stencils were colored in with marker or colored pencil.
  • The scalloped-edge hearts were made on white art papers scraps, then the striped-heart papers were added.
  • Pink masking tape embellishment
  • As seen in the photo showing all three cards is the word "LOVE", created with a Dymo Organizer Xpress label maker. 
 Yes, it's a bit of work making this many cards, but I'm glad to do it for our veterans. I hope my efforts gladdened their hearts on Valentine's Day!


Friday, February 8, 2019

Get Carded: A Month Of Many Cards

Hello! February is a month of many cards for me, primarily because I send out a few dozen valentines to family, friends and to the Valentines for Vets program.

But the first two cards I mailed out this month had nothing to do with February 14th - I made one birthday card and one sympathy card. 

The sympathy card, and its close-up:

I find sympathy cards hard to write, so I'm grateful that the rubber stamped sentiment helped express my feelings.

Materials used:
  • white card stock
  • off-white art paper scrap
  • image taken from Flavia's Cake and Candles, a small gift book I found for free at a local thrift store
  • Martha Stewart fine white glitter applied to the white flowers in the image. It doesn't show up in the photo but added a gentle, soft touch to the card. 
  • pink organza ribbon bow
  • "May all your precious memories help bring you peace and comfort through the days ahead" stamped in black ink onto vintage paper scrap
The birthday card:

And a close-up:

Materials used:
  • white card stock
  • image taken from Flavia's Cake and Candles (with a title like that, you know that the book is actually meant for birthdays, but I thought the floral image was appropriate for the sympathy card since flowers are common at funerals)
  • Martha Stewart fine white glitter applied to the stars on the plate, the cake icing and the candle flame. As with the sympathy card, the glitter added a nice touch.
  • pink organza ribbon bow
  • "happy birthday" stamped in black ink onto art paper scrap
I think that both cards turned out well and I hope the recipients liked them.

You'll notice that I used a few of the same elements for both cards: images from the same book, white glitter and pink organza ribbon bows. It's easier to design cards when you can use some of the same supplies, and easy is what I need during this month of many cards!

I'll show off more of the cards I've designed in my next post.