Thursday, January 11, 2018

More Holiday Travels

Hello! Meant to post more about the trips we took in the last half of December, but I guess I was too busy traveling to do so then. So, under the heading of "better late than never", here's some of what we saw and did. 

My previous post featured one highlight of a trip we took to central PA - the making of candy canes at Purity Candy near Allenwood. But there was plenty more to see as we continued south on US15 that day.

First stop: the historic town of Lewisburg.

Lewisburg is loaded with charming older buildings such as these two. As it's not a large town, the downtown area is small, but plenty of nice shops and restaurants beckoned. But I only made one purchase, a baking book at the used bookstore Mondragon Books. 

But my shopping wasn't done yet, since my husband agreed to travel a bit further down the road to Selinsgrove. I had read somewhere that supposedly the largest thrift store in the US is there, so of course I wanted to check that out. 

Indeed, the business - the Community Aid thrift store - was housed in a large building. I asked a clerk what had previously been there  and she told me a Value City store. 

Well, I can't say that bigger is always better; it wasn't in this case. Most of the items for sale were clothes. That's great if you need clothes, but if you're me, you want to zero in on kitchenware for your daughter's first apartment, vintage Christmas stuff for your holiday decor, or craft supplies to fuel your creativity. There wasn't a huge selection in these three categories, but I managed to find one vintage Christmas ornament and two sewing patterns. 

I was surprised that such a large retail space didn't have much furniture to speak of, as they certainly seemed to have the room for it. A clerk said they didn't get much furniture in, so what they put out on the floor was usually snatched up right away. 

It was interesting to see what the so-called "largest thrift store in America" looked like, but I can't say I was overwhelmed. Still, proceeds go to churches and non-profit charitable organizations, so I felt good about buying something from this business. 

After being in Pennsylvania for a few days, we began to make our way home. One stop along the way was the incomparable Jungle Jim's in Fairfield, Ohio (suburban Cincinnati). One feature I love about this grocery store is its international foods section, which is a huge section of this massive place. Each country or region of the world gets its own section of product shelving, with the more popular locales getting several shelves apiece. 

I guess German cookies are popular at Jungle Jim's, or maybe the supplier of these treats had a holiday promotion going on:

Above, a large cookie house had been constructed. The decorations are various German cookies. The signs on either side of the house say "Please Do Not Touch". I imagine it was hard for children to refrain from doing so.

A close-up:

Looks good enough to eat!

Our last stop on the trip was to pick up our daughter in West Lafayette, Indiana for her Christmas break from grad school at Purdue. With her in tow, we returned home on December 22nd - to about 8" snow in the driveway. 

The forecast for the days in between Christmas Day and New Year's Day was for yet more snow, accompanied by very cold weather. My husband proposed going out of town to get away from the snow. 

So where did we go? Chicago and Milwaukee. They were even colder - but had far less snow. I'd say there was no more than 5" snow on the ground in either city during our visit. It did snow a bit one day in Milwaukee, but the roads were in pretty good shape. There was the matter of driving through lake effect snow in southwestern Michigan and northwestern Indiana, both coming and going, but we made it through those snow bands unscathed. 

For the third year in a row, we visited the Mitchell Park Conservatory in Milwaukee, which is set up as a grouping of three domes. One dome features tropical plantings, one dome is dedicated to desert growth, and the third is reserved for various special exhibits throughout the year. 

I'll focus on that last dome, since it was sporting a holiday theme during our visit. I think the theme was "Naughty or Nice", with various scenarios of elves working on gifts and goodies to pack in Santa's sleigh. 

Close-ups of a huge, festively-decorated Christmas tree. 

The same tree, seen from a distance. 

A "bakery" building. Inside, dozens of pretend gingerbread cookies were being made in assembly-line fashion. Note the attractive rows of poinsettias and other plantings in the foreground.

The other side of the same building. 

Nary a red poinsettia in this bunch!

Alas, we didn't stay at the Domes as long as we had in previous visits. It was quite crowded; perhaps people wanted to see signs of plant life in the midst of a severe cold spell. But we still had a very nice time there. 

We had one more trip to go on, and that was to take our daughter back West Lafayette. We stayed down there for a couple of days, which included a run down to the Indianapolis area. A new Ikea had just opened in the fall in the suburbs, so I wanted to check it out. We also trooped over to the Fashion Mall, which might be the swankiest mall in the state. We all just window-shopped, as we weren't there long enough to do serious shopping. It was fund to  look though! 

It got down to -15 the last night of our stay in West Lafayette, and it was still only -2 when we left our daughter's apartment after breakfast. That's a far cry from the 56 we experienced on December 22nd there! What a difference a couple of weeks can make. 

Ran into more lake effect snow on the way back home near South Bend. Saw about 8 slide-offs, including a car that landed upside-down in the ditch. An emergency crew was just arriving on the scene as we passed that vehicle. Hopefully the driver was okay. 

Needless to say, after that we were glad to eventually arrive back at our house, safe and sound. It had been a busy period of trips, sandwiched between holiday events. Now it's life back to normal...until the next holiday or trip comes upon us!


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

See Them Being Made: Candy Canes

Hello! Now that all the cooking/baking/crafting/gifting/decorating tasks of Christmas are over, I can switch gears by blogging about a fun little trip my husband and I took shortly before the holiday. 

I've blogged several times about Purity Candy, near Allenwood, Pennsylvania. Their chocolates are delicious and there's the added bonus of seeing them being made via three windows in the back of the retail space. 

During one visit several years ago, one of the employees informed me that Purity makes candy canes by hand; production begins after Thanksgiving. 

This sounded fun to me, so I hoped that someday I'd get to see this in person. (hey, you have your "bucket list" items, I'll have mine!). That "someday" became a reality on December 16th, as our schedules worked out for a trip to Purity then. 

We drove over to Purity's operations from our hotel in Williamsport. This is what greeted us as we approached the building:

Like movie showings, the candy cane "showings" were at 10, 12 and 2. 

We were used to visiting Purity during times of relative quiet, with plenty of space to walk around the retail store and view whatever candy making was going on that day. Not so on this day: the store was packed, with young children clustered close to the one viewing window where the candy canes were going to be produced. And directly behind these kids were the adults who'd brought their kids there, leaving no room for anyone else to get a glimpse of the operation. 

I would have been disappointed if we'd come all this way and not be able to see anything happening, but fear not, Purity had set up two large monitors for watching the event unfold. An employee stood near the kids and narrated the action for the gathered crowd.

Above, as seen in the monitor, an employee has just finished coloring a portion of the batch red; the part that would remain white is in the background. A 25-pound batch of the candy mixture had been made. 

And now the green portion has been made. 

Toward the end of the "showing", the kids and the adults with them left the store, so I had a chance to go over to the viewing window and get pics of the shaping process. So I'll skip ahead to show off the better-quality photos I got then:

The red and green portions had been added to the white. So now the colors are all together, but it just looks like a fat blob at this point. 

The employee rolled that fat blob into a much skinnier length, which you can see in the lower right hand of the photo. Mounted on the wall behind him is a 35-pound candy cane!

After rolling out the mixture into that desired diameter, the employee cut off stick-like lengths and put them on another table for shaping. Note the several raised sections on the table - the "sticks" are held against these sections to keep them straight while the curved part is formed. 

The shaping continued on and on. As you can imagine, it takes awhile to use up a 25-pound batch of candy cane mixture!

It's possible that I might have missed the use of a scale for measuring, but I don't think so. So the employee merely eyeballed the amounts of the mixture to remove to create the portions that would be colored red or green. And it appeared that similar eyeballing was done when cutting the "stick" lengths that would become the actual candy canes. 

Of course, these steps were done by someone with a practiced eye, but I still enjoyed the low-tech nature of the process. I'm sure at some big candy cane plant everything is pre-measured to the nth degree - no irregularities allowed!

So why were the kids who'd been present no longer at the viewing window? They had already completed the last portion of the "showing", during which a Purity employee set up two card tables. Then the kids took turns gathering around the tables, receiving a small "stick" of their own, and shaping their very own candy cane. For packaging, Purity also supplied small plastic bags and stickers for closing the bags. 

Happily, after the kids were done with their efforts, kids at heart got their chance at making candy canes too! Several adults participated, yours truly included. The candy cane mixture was still slightly warm, making it easy to shape:

Ta-da, my very own hand-shaped candy cane! It tasted very good, by the way. I think it had a cleaner taste than the mass-produced ones do. 

(Purity also makes larger candy canes in a variety of flavors, but I'm a purist who prefers peppermint).

Candy canes weren't the only star of the Purity show that day though:

Large Santas and Christmas trees had been created, and pretzel rods moved along on a conveyor belt toward their chocolate coating. (a short while later, bagfuls of these pretzels whose coatings were less than perfect showed up in the "bargain basket" near the cash register). 

The making of the chocolate-covered pretzels was noteworthy since it was a Saturday, a day in which the production lines are usually idle.

We also noted that Purity was staying open until 5:00 this day, and would also be open for business the next day. Typically the store is only open until 3 on Saturdays and is closed on Sundays. 

The extended production and business hours highlighted how busy the Purity folks are on the days leading up to Christmas, so I really appreciated that they take the time to welcome people to their candy cane "showings". Even as crowded as the store was this day, I was glad we'd made the long drive from Michigan to see candy canes being made!





Thursday, December 21, 2017

Vintage Christmas From Reader's Digest #2

Hello! Are you ready for some more vintage Christmas ads? Hope so, because here they come!

A pretty cover from the December 1961 issue. 

Above, the man of the house relaxes in his new Pendleton outfit: slacks, hose (aka socks), slacks, and lounging robe. And if that wasn't enough, he also was gifted with a Topster jacket, a sports shirt, a muffler and a Highland Robe-in-Bag. Not sure why he needed two robes, but the lounging robe cost $11.00 more, so there must have been some difference between the two. But at any rate, quite the Pendleton haul!

Everybody always likes the latest in electronics from Christmas presents, right? So how about a clock radio, a "shirt pocket radio"(portable transistor radio), a larger transistor radio, or a portable stereo! What more would an audiophile need?

Do you always think of V-8 juice around Christmas time? Well, you should, since it offers "Bright holiday sparkle by the glassful! V-8 outflavors any single juice...its flavor sparkles so that people sparkle when they drink it!" Wow, didn't realize V-8 juice has that effect on people! Guess that's because I don't care for the stuff.

I like the paste-toned family above, all agog because the daughter  has received a Remington Quiet-Riter Eleven Portable manual typewriter. But, after all, the ad copy assures us that this gift is the "...greatest typewriter value of all times...this greatest, most useful gift of all Christmas times!" Well,then, no wonder they all look so happy about it!

Silly me - I'd thought that telegrams had been sent primarily in the case of emergencies, but the above ad shows that I was very wrong. Instead, Western Union had "3 happy Christmas Ideas": a "sprightly decorated telegram makes a very special holiday greeting", a "gift money order" (..."a perfect answer to gift problems") and the Santagram ("...the special Christmas telegram, datelined 'North Pole' and signed by Santa himself.")

So, I need to rid myself of those images of people receiving telegrams to notify them of a war-related death or other tragedy. Just send a Santagram instead!

Of course, some of the "order here, send there" aspects of gift giving haven't changed much:

To be honest, it's been awhile since I had flowers delivered to someone who lives out of town, but I'm guessing that people can still contact their local florists to have a bouquet sent somewhere else. And a holiday gift of flowers still says "Joy to the family".

I'll close with a couple more of the lovely cover art on these vintage Reader's Digest magazine:

December 1956

and December 1955. 

Nice stuff, so I won't crack any jokes about these covers!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Vintage Christmas From Reader's Digest #1

Hello! While cruising a local thrift store earlier this year, I spied a stack of vintage Reader's Digest magazines. The publication dates ranged from the mid-1950's-early 1960's, and were a quarter each. And to my delight, several of the magazines were December editions. That meant I could check out some vintage Christmas ads. 

And through this blog post, you can check out some of these ads too!

"Beautiful, useful, always welcome...PYREX GIFTS". Still would be a welcome gift today. 

I'm writing this blog post on a Saturday, which likely was a very busy Christmas shopping day for a lot of people. Did you stop for a sandwich-and-Coke break like the two women above did? You should have, since "The cold crisp taste and lively lift of Coca-Cola send you back shopping with zest." 

"Give Telephones this Christmas". The ad copy goes on to proclaim: "There's nothing more appreciated than comfort, convenience and security and you give all three when you give a additional telephone is a gift that rings the bell the whole year through."

And where to purchase this gift? "Just call the Business Office of your Bell Telephone Company."

A rotary-dial landline phone purchased through a Bell Telephone business office sure does seem quaint now!

I already showed a Coke ad, so in the interest of fairness, here's this:

"Here's the drink that goes with all your Christmas fun! The special parties, the tree-trimming, the surprise guests, all of it...No wonder 7-Up is spending the holidays in so many happy homes. Shouldn't you order some more right now?" 

"Shouldn't you order some more right now?" - you mean they didn't have those big displays of soft drinks around the holidays like you see now, so you had to order the case shown in the ad? (glass bottles, of course) Well, after all, grocery stores in 1958 (the year of this ad) were smaller, so I suppose they might not have had room to display stacks of 7-Up cases. 

I love the font used for the words "for a star-bright Christmas" - very 1950-ish, I think. 

Watches not your thing? Then how about RCA Victor radios and "Victrolas"? Some of the features of these products include "Up to 2 hours of music with '45' EP's", "2 speeds!" (45 or 33 1/3) or, "3-speaker High Fidelity. 4 Speeds". 

Until I saw this ad, I'd forgotten that the record player my family had when I was a kid was a 4-speeder: 16, 33 1/3, 45 and 78. For kicks, we'd sometimes play our kiddie records at 16(too slow) or 78 (too fast)instead of 33 1/3, just to laugh at the sound distortions that occurred.

Another watch ad:

Love the turquoise color on this 1957 Westclox Baby Ben. Baby Bens were very popular clocks back in the day, but I'd never heard of Glendale clock on the left. "New idea - beautiful electric 'two-way' clock mounts on wall or stands in its own base! Dial in red, charcoal or turquoise." (yep, turquoise was "in" then, all right). 

The Glendale model may have been a "new idea" that year, but it may have not been a good idea at that. The only current eBay listings I saw on Glendale clocks pertained to print ads that featured them. 

And speaking of 1957, here's what the cover of this issue looks like:

I'm used to seeing Reader's Digest covers with the table of contents on them, but apparently the publication went for front cover artwork instead at one time. 

One more ad for today:

A timeless ad: a young boy, exhausted from too much Christmas excitement, sleeps on his father's lap. But wait - what gifts did that boy play receive that Christmas Day? A bat and glove, a hook-and ladder fire truck, and a cowboy outfit. Of course, not an electronic toy in sight! 

And as for the "Present...with a future": Dad is holding a savings account passbook. "You give more than money when you give a savings account in an Insured Savings and Loan Assocation. You give someone a head start on the savings habit...on getting many other worth-while things in the future." Like maybe more toy fire trucks? 

But seriously, giving someone a "head start on the savings habit" sounds like a very good gift indeed!

I hope you've enjoyed these vintage Reader's Digest ads as much as I did! I'll show off more in my next post.



Saturday, December 2, 2017

Christmas Comes To Grand Haven

Hello! Earlier this week I traveled to Grand Haven, a town about a half hour north of me, on "official business" (aka jury duty). I arrived early enough one morning of the three-day trial to walk around the downtown blocks. Thus, I got to take in the sights of retail's most festive time of year, Christmas. (I enjoy seeing how shops decorate their windows for the season). What follows are a few pics I took of the displays. 

I loved the above sign, which relates that "Grandpa's Holiday Farmwas built in the early 1940's by the famous Macy's department store in NYC." From there, the animated display went from Hudson's in Detroit to a store in Saginaw. The display made its way to Grand Haven via an antique store in Bay City. 

Grandpa's Holiday Farm covers several small storefront windows. I dutifully took pictures of all the scenes, but only one of them turned out okay:

Above, a small flock of chickens cavort, but alas, frolicking goats and Santa didn't photograph well. But do check the vignettes out if you're in downtown Grand Haven this month. 

Although the weather was mild for this time of year last week, these groupings of wintry-looking blow mold figures put me in the holiday mood!

A touch of France along the lakeshore. 

"Make more cookies" says the sign above the display of dozens of cookie cutters. Sounds like a great idea to me!

But if you'd rather buy some sweet stuff instead of making them, here's a display of imported treats:

Marzipan, torrone, chocolate Santa - can't go wrong here!

Ho ho ho! This Santa stands guard over his shop. 

And what is Christmas without children and their toys? This building set looked awesome! Don't know the brand, but perhaps the pieces are held together by magnets?

But lest we think that Christmas is just about getting presents, I saw this on a display window tree (I think at the Tri-Cities Historical Museum):

It appeared that this tree had been decorated with ornaments made by children, including paper stars on which wishes had been written. "This Christmas I Wish for Kindness". Indeed! This was a wonderful reminder of what is truly important, this time of year and of course during the other 11 months of the year as well. 

Due to jury duty, I had no time to do anything in downtown Grand Haven but take these photos (well, we did get lunch breaks, but I don't like to eat and run if I can avoid it, so I used that time to relax and linger over my meal). So now I'm thinking that I ought to return to Grand Haven so I can actually go in the shops.



Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Adventures In Natural Homemaking: All-Natural Wood Polish

Hello! Perhaps you're like me, getting ready to host a big Thanksgiving dinner in a couple of days. And perhaps you're also like me, being motivated to do a super-good housecleaning because company's coming. 

We own a number of antique wood furniture pieces, so I was busy polishing them to a nice shine yesterday. I suppose there's people who polish their furniture on a regular basis, but I'm not one of them,so I wasn't exactly looking forward to it. 

Nevertheless, even though it's a task I don't do often, I'd rather use something that doesn't list a bunch of chemicals on a bottle. So I decided to try the following "recipe", which I found on the Internet (don't recall the source):

All-Natural Wood Polish

1/4 cup olive oil(see note below)
1/4 cup vinegar(see note below)
10 drops orange essential oil (see note below)

Add all to spray bottle and shake. Spray on cloth and wipe down furniture. 

Notes: no need for the fancier grade (ie extra virgin) of olive oil here; can use the cheaper versions. I assume that the vinegar is meant to be the plain white kind, so that's what I used. 

It seems to me that essential oils are becoming more readily available, perhaps due to an interest in natural cleaning and natural beauty routines. I got my orange essential oil in an online sale (the company has since gone under, I believe), but I've also seen essential oils sold at Meijer (a regional hypermarket chain if you're reading this from outside the Midwest). Health food stores and food coops are other options.

Since I had a lot of furniture to polish, I doubled the "recipe", then began merrily spraying and wiping away. I actually enjoyed watching the woods come back to life, so to speak, and I enjoyed the fact that I didn't need to use a bunch of laboratory-blended "ingredients" to do so. 

Of course, I had to keep shaking the spray bottle to keep the concoction blended, but that was only a minor issue. Other than that, this was a nice wood polish to use. 

Who knows, it might even get me to polish my furniture more often! 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Get Carded: A Touch Of Dutch

Hello! Earlier this week I celebrated a friend's birthday by making her a card for the occasion. I wasn't sure what theme the card should have, so I glanced around in my studio for inspiration. 

My eyes lit upon a small pile of ads, torn from a locally-produced vintage community cookbook. This particular cookbook didn't have a date, but I guessed it was from the early-to-mid 1960's. I've lived in this community since 2002, so I noted that the majority of the businesses were either no longer around, or had moved to different locations in the area. 

Unlike me, my friend is a local, and is Dutch-American on both sides of her family. So I decided to go with a bit of a Dutch theme for her card, using one of those vintage ads as a starting point.

And once the card was finished, here's how it turned out:

Materials used:
  • white card stock
  • art paper scrap
  • serendipity paper scrap
  • facsimile of vintage tulip image
  • ad from vintage community cookbook
  • velour thread bow (thread purchased at local retirement community holiday bazaar)
  • "Happy Birthday" stamped in dark red ink
I'd never  heard of "velour thread" before, but the colors and feel of the stuff was nice, and the price was right. Several pretty colors were in the bag I purchased at that holiday bazaar, and someone had written on the bag that velour thread is meant for needlepoint. Learn something new every day!

The velour thread bow obscures the name of the business in the ad somewhat. The business is Zwiep's Seed Store. My friend seemed to like her card, but didn't recall this business ever being around. 

No wonder - I did some research online and came across the 1972 obituary for the seed store owner. The obit mentioned that the deceased had sold the store "12 or 13 years ago". Thus, the cookbook that carried the store's ad dates from no later than 1960. So it's a few years older than what I had supposed.

Always fun to come across vintage community cookbooks - and it's always fun to make birthday cards too!