Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Thrifty Acres - wall art and Mary Randolph Carter

Hello! I purchased this pretty oil painting at Goodwill last year for two dollars:

I liked the colors and the way the flowers were arranged. The painting was signed by a Hank Jagt. Just for fun, I googled the name and learned that there's a professional by that name who makes Ontario, Canada his home. Same artist? Judging by the paintings I saw online, his style has evolved a lot, but then again, it was mentioned that he's been painting for some 40 years. I would say that's given him plenty of time to evolve!

There was a time when I would have thought that a picture would have to be framed, but then I saw otherwise in the Mary Randolph Carter Junk book series. There are four, in order of publication: American Junk, Garden Junk, Kitchen Junk and Big City Junk. They came out between 1994 to 2001 and are very fun to read. I should say "very fun to look at", because Ms. Carter's books are loaded with photos of her "junk" finds - including many painted canvases similar in flavor to the one I showed in this post. Of course, there's a  lot of other items to be seen as well - Ms. Carter glories in the rough-hewn, the kitschy, the chipped tableware - in short, the stuff others may have passed by. And by looking through her books, I was inspired to veer away from the rather stuffy and starched Victorian style I had been following up to that point. Instead, I began to adopt a more relaxed style of decorating (sometimes a little too relaxed!).

I own these books, but they may be available at your local library - I have seen at least one of them in the stacks at mine. Or you may get lucky and find them at a used book sale or thrift store somewhere! Any thrifter is sure to enjoy these volumes.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Thrifty Acres - today's purchases

Thrift store pickings have been slim lately, so I had high hopes for a church rummage sale in a nearby town today. Turns out the the pickings were slim there as well, but I did make one fifty cent purchase:

This is a vintage apron and although it shows slight wear, is basically in good shape. It is pieced together very nicely at both the top and bottom - those white strips with the blue were sewn far more neatly than I would have done! The apron is hung up in my kitchen. 

I stopped at a thrift store on the way home. This one can be a real hit-or-miss place, but I was happy with my purchase today:

Don't know how old the two tins are, but I liked the cheery colors, the design on the decals and the blue knobs on the lids. I will use these for display and/or storage. I paid $1.75 for the pair.

The McCall's pattern is from 1968 and was never used. It features patterns for Christmas crafts to be made from felt or paper. Groovy designs from the era. I paid fifty cents for the pattern; a check on the Internet when I came home showed listings on Etsy from nine to 15 dollars.

Magazines can be a great buy at thrift stores - just know that it can be "buyer beware". By that, I mean that someone may have torn out some pages for their own use and then donated the rest of the magazine to a thrift store. (IMO,  once you've torn something out of a magazine, then throw it out or recycle it - don't donate it). 

For 25 cents each, I got a Holiday 2010 Traditional Home, a September/October 2010 Cloth Paper Scissors and a summer 2008 100 Decorating Ideas Under $100. I was especially pleased to find the CSP magazine since it rarely shows up at thrift stores - it's more the kind of magazine that is kept for reference. 

If you're a thrifter as well, I hope you've found some good stuff today too!

Made it - Easter egg crafts

Hello! Finally got around to putting out some Easter decorations earlier this week (hey, Easter's late this year!) and so I unpacked some Easter egg crafts I'd fiddled with last year. There might be similar crafts on the Internet but I came up with both ideas on my own. Both use styrofoam Easter egg shapes, pins, and fabrics or trims. 

Here's the first egg:

 I'd gotten some pretty fabrics at a rummage sale and cut strips of one of the fabrics to wrap around the egg from top to bottom. Pins hold the strips in place, then I pinned on vintage rickrack as well. Added a corsage pin on top for a nice touch. I used a stretchy fabric - a stiffer fabric won't lie as nicely when wrapped around the egg. 

Egg number two:

 I alternated two colors of vintage seam binding around the egg, then added vintage rickrack and a corsage pin. The seam binding didn't lay as flat on the egg as the stretchy fabric had, but still has a nice look. 

Both crafts were quick and easy to do, and look pretty. They can be hung up or arranged in baskets.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A North-South fly/drive

Hello! Due to schedule conflicts, we can never do a spring break trip without taking our daughter out of school for a whole week, so we try to do a short trip instead. My husband had a voucher for a free airfare due to a very delayed flight last year and as it was about to expire, we used it to fly to Atlanta last Friday. Then on Sunday we rented a car to drive back up to Michigan. Yes, a long way to go for a rather short stay, but it was still a lot of fun. And a huge bonus for us was that it was sunny and in the 80's while we were there. Flowering trees! Flowers in bloom! Green grass! It looked like how it will look around here in May (except for the things that can't grow up here due to lack of winter hardiness). It was wonderful!

Being car-less in Atlanta was doable due to the Marta commuter train system. We bought a pass good for several days, so we could hop on and off the train at will. Small town girl that I am, I get a kick out of commuter trains, and Marta was very efficient during our stay. Even the trains were sleek; I'm used to rather rickety trains in Chicago and Philadelphia. 

One such train ride took us to an old Atlanta restaurant, Mary Mac's Tea Room, for lunch on Saturday. I'd heard of this restaurant years ago and looked forward to sampling Southern cooking. I ordered the vegetable plate, which meant that I could pick four sides from a selection of a few dozen:

I selected turnip greens, sweet potato souffle, tomato pie and macaroni and cheese. I didn't think the greens and and mac and cheese were anything special - I can make just as good if not better at home - but the sweet potato souffle and tomato pie were delish! Again, I could make them at home if I found similar recipes, but probably would feel guilty about doing so - I'm sure both are high in calories. Worth it though! I also ordered sweet tea and the waitress suggested I get it half sweet tea, half unsweetened, seeing how I'm a Northerner. I did as she suggested and thought it was plenty sweet! Full-strength sweet tea would have been too sweet for me. Would have loved to have tried the strawberry shortcake - they make it with cream cheese poundcake! - but was too full to do so. Very nice, friendly staff and pleasant decor as well. 

Our next visit was to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. It's not a huge place but has some very nice outdoor plantings and the best collection of orchids I've seen. The following several photos give you an idea of what we enjoyed seeing in bloom:

 Flowering tree.

Lovely pots with pansies and other plantings.

Orchids in the Orchid House.
Flowering tree and tulips.

Another train stop took us to an upscale mall, where I drooled in the well-stocked Sur La Table store (cooking and baking supply, tableware, etc) and bath/beauty stores (Lush and Crabtree and Evelyn). Didn't buy anything at the mall, though. It was fun just to look! We also ate out at a cute plaza near our hotel in Dunwoody and another time ate out in the Buckhead neighborhood. Lots we didn't have time to see and do - hope to return some day!

We rented a car Sunday morning to make the drive back up north. We're quite used to long car trips so this wasn't a big deal for us - we've driven from Seattle and Denver other years, and often to/from the East Coast as well. Enjoyed warm temps on our way up to Louisville, KY, which is where we stayed Sunday night. We've been there before and so knew to save room after dinner for a stop at Graeter's, a ice cream parlour chain headquartered in Cincinnati. It's great stuff! 

Jeffersonville, IN, across the Ohio River from Louisville, is home to Schimpff's Confectionery, a genuine old-timey candy store. They've been around since 1891 and make many of the candies that they sell. A young woman was dipping chocolates while we were there Monday morning, and they are also known for their red-hot hard candies among other sweets. They've been featured on the History Channel's Modern Marvels  candy show. The old-fashioned charm is apparent in one of their storefront windows:

Busy time of year with Easter treats being made!  The employees behind the counter told us they were glad Easter is late this year - gave them a bit of a breather after Valentine's Day!

We'd been to Schimpff's years ago, but not since they'd put in a candy museum. Below is a display case of old candy molds and tins:

 I could have spent a long time looking at everything in the candy museum, but alas, didn't have a long time - we had to return the rental car to its destination in the Chicago area. But all told, it was a great trip! We've come back to overcast skies and colder weather here, but at least we got an early taste of spring flowers and summer temperatures!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Made it - felt flowers

Hello! Besides greeting cards, I like to try my hand at other crafts as well. Recently I picked up the December 2010 Better Homes and Gardens magazine at a thrift store and was interested in the feature on felt crafts. Felt is easy to work with and I have plenty of felt scraps left over from other projects. 

The article showed a lengthy felt flower garland wound around a staircase. I was not motivated to make that many felt flowers so instead I made a few to hang up in the bay window area of our house, using shades of blue and whites for the petals:

As the flowers are hung singly (with fishing line) instead of being strung into a garland, they don't exactly hang even. Some of the flowers have their backs facing the camera instead of their fronts. Oh well, it's still okay. I like to hang decorations from this bay window area - I've done felt butterflies, a heart garland and other seasonal decor. When I'm done hanging up my latest decorations there, I laughingly say that my installation (ie art gallery installation) is complete and show it off to my not-so-impressed husband and daughter.

Thrifty Acres - Ireland and Japan

Hello and Happy St. Patrick's Day! As far as I know, I don't have a drop of Irish blood in me, but was still able to find a garage sale item that has some green on it - and I didn't have to spend much green for it either:

I don't know what this cute little guy (3 1/2" tall) is supposed to represent, but with his pointy green hat and pointy green shoes, he looked like a lepruchan to me. I brought him home for good luck.

The original label is still on the back and reads: Murray Kreiss & Co. Copyright 1950 Made in Japan 

I paid $1.00 for him at a garage sale run by some antique dealers last year and thought that was a pretty good price. A quick Internet search on Murray Kreiss figurines from the same era showed prices higher than a dollar (thought admittedly still not very high). 

Having been made in Japan, this figurine brings me to the events of the past several days in Japan. The destruction caused by the earthquake and tsunami - the ongoing nuclear threat - the loss of life - those who are still trying to learn the fate of missing loved ones - I hardly know how to begin expressing my sorrow over all that has happened thus far. Life as many in Japan knew it has disappeared and I am praying for the well-being of all people there. As with any big tragedy, I feel very helpless.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Get carded - Thank you cards

Hello! Recently two friends surprised me with delightful gifts. Although I had received the gifts in person and thus could thank my friends right away, I still thought it would be fun to send them thank you cards. So here's what I came up with:

Both cards were made the same way, using similar materials. From background to foreground:

White cardstock.

Scrap of art paper (from paper nirvana source).

Bird body cut from vintage greeting card. Template from unknown source. Body edged in StazOn ink.

Wing cut freehand from art paper scrap.

Vintage button glued on wing. Unknown source.

Vintage cotton cord piece wrapped around wing. Cotton cord from thrift store.

"Thank you" stamped with stamp from dollar bin at Michael's. 

These were easy to do, and this is a good mix-and-match project for using up all sorts of paper scraps. No vintage greeting cards? Then use a modern one - or part of an old map, ticket stub, etc. Can't really go wrong!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Thrifty Acres - Quimper pottery

While cruising the aisles at Goodwill one day last year, I came upon this pair:

I turned them over and saw that they were priced at 80 cents apiece. I also saw that they were made by Quimper, a well-known French pottery firm. There was also, for some reason, a 1983 calendar printed on the back of each tile. 

Being of French descent myself, I couldn't resist, plus I knew they'd look cute hanging up in my kitchen - and they do. 

A recent check on eBay showed a seller listing a similar pair for $19.99 for the set, so I think I got a pretty good deal. The seller also added that he had heard that these were blank tiles decorated by the Quimper pottery artists to be exchanged as Christmas presents with their co-workers - a nicer version of those generic calendars that businesses give away in December! 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Eats - Fat Tuesday baked doughnuts

Hello! Today is Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent begins. There are Mardi Gras parties galore, and doughnuts are a tradition in certain areas - the fastnacht from the Pennsylvania Dutch (really German, of course) and the paczki from the Polish (though I've noticed that paczki seem to show up in grocery stores earlier and earlier every year).

I like the idea of making doughnuts but don't like the idea of the frying mess, and can do without the calories as well. I spied a Wilton baked doughnut pan at Meijer a few weeks ago and almost got it, but was stopped by the $9.99 price. Would I use the pan enough to justify the price? And I really ought to wait until it goes on sale, which it still hasn't. 

Later on, I happened to remember that I had a little-used Nordic mini-bundt pan at home, bought on clearance years ago (I had an idea of making mini liqueur-infused cakes then, which I actually did once or twice). Could I use this pan to make a little-different-shaped baked doughnut? A search through my recipe files came up with a baked doughnut recipe that did, indeed, use a mini-bundt pan. 

Shortly after that, I came across a recipe on the King Arthur website that sounded much better, so that is what I baked last night for breakfast this morning. Here's the result:

Baked doughnut on thrift store plate; cloth napkin made from vintage fabric purchased at yard sale.

I had baked them last night to save time, so this morning I dipped the doughnut tops in melted butter, then in cinnamon sugar. The verdict - they were really good; did indeed taste like a cake doughnut. And since I used whole wheat pastry flour instead of the regular cake flour specified in the recipe, I could rationalize that these were relatively healthy as well. 

They must have met with approval from my daughter, since she asked if there would be any leftover to eat tomorrow (the recipe made only six doughnuts). I told her I wasn't sure, but since they were so quick and easy to make, I can make them again. 

I'm glad I remembered that mini-bundt pan! Moral of the story: try to improvise with what one has instead of buying a brand-new specialty item. Having said that, if I ever come across a baked doughnut pan in a thrift store for a good price, I may be tempted to buy it!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Get carded - Valentine's Day greeting card

 Hello! Greeting cards are probably one of my favorite crafts to make. My first efforts were pretty lame, but now, after several years of practice, I'm much more pleased with my efforts. I never buy greeting cards anymore (although I will still occasionally buy notecard sets from artists whose works I like). 

Besides practice, several other factors were involved in my evolution as a crafter of cards: the discovery of Somerset Studio magazine, being inspired by what others are showing off on their blogs, stumbling upon an "art paper nirvana" a couple of times, and learning to use what I've found in antique stores, thrift stores, and rummage, garage and estate sales. (Note: I do go to chains such as Jo Ann's, Hobby Lobby and Michael's, but less and less all the time). 

Each "get carded" post will highlight a card I've made, along with the materials used. So, here's a card I made for an out-of-state friend last month:

From background to foreground:

White cardstock (I buy it in reams at Sam's Club)

Vintage ledger paper from 1890's ledger book that appears to have been used by a teacher in the Milwaukee, WI area. Ledger book was bought for $4.00 last summer at a garage sale run by a couple of antique dealers. The paper is quite yellowed so I softened it a bit with a ivory acrylic paint wash.

Scrapbook paper - white and red polka dots; single sheet bought on sale last month at Michael's.

Off-white paper edged with red acrylic paint (paper source unknown; may have been "paper nirvnana" source).

Heart cut from 1930's Monopoly game card; partially-complete game purchased from thrift store last year for fifty cents. Heart edged with red ink from StazOn stamp pad.

Off-white vintage button; source unknown.

"from heart" and "to heart" saying cut from facsimile of vintage Valentine postcard; don't recall how I got the book from which this postcard came. 

"happy valentine's day" rubber stamp - from dollar bin at Michael's several years ago.

That's it! I hope you enjoyed seeing my card.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thrifty Acres - Craft supplies

You may be wondering, "why 'Thrifty Acres'?" I'm labeling my thrifting adventures as such in honor of the supercenter which originated in my region (this chain is considered a pioneer of the supercenter concept). For many years, the words "thrifty acres" were part of the store's name, and when they celebrated the milestone of fifty years in business, their ads naturally trumpeted that it had been "fifty thrifty years."

So, with that out of the way, now about my thrifty years! You know you've got the thrifting bug when you visit a friend clear across the country while on summer vacation and while doing so, talk her into stopping at a local thrift store. She was a good sport about it - we did as I'd requested and here's what I bought:

 One look at this item and I could tell that it was a  European- style scrapbook or journal. The label on the inside cover proved that I was correct about its origin - it read Rossi, Florence, Italy. I paid $2.99 for it. When I got home, I goggled the Rossi name and learned that I actually have what the company calls a photo album - and current versions of this product sell for $95.00! 

Today I visited a thrift store in my town - it's a large store, housed in a former Big Lots. Needless to say with that large a  store there can be quite a variety of possibilities! Here's what I settled on:

Christmas stencil booklet from 1962 (still intact), 50 cents, a vial of vintage gold glitter, 25 cents and a bagful of the gold-painted wooden shapes as shown in the picture, $3.00 for the bag of 61. I love to use vintage items in my crafting so I hope to put these latest finds to good use at Christmastime - if not sooner!

(PS I got my first-ever camera only about a month ago, so it's still a learning curve for me. I hope to take better pictures as I go along!)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Hello and welcome!

Hello and welcome to my very first post! I'm looking forward to having you come along for the ride. Stick around while I share craft projects, thrifty finds, recipes and who knows what else will pop up!

Now, you may be wondering - what's with "Cats From Mars"? Well, for starters, I just couldn't think of any other name to use, and secondly, I liked the story behind the title. 

My husband and his siblings, city kids that they are (Chicago), used to enjoy their weekend visits with their Uncle Bernie and Auntie Ann, who lived out in the country beyond the suburbs. During one such visit, they were driving around when Auntie Ann pointed to a small building by the side of the road and commented that the windows of the old schoolhouse were being repainted. My husband and his siblings looked around, expecting to see a structure the same size as their city school. What they saw instead, of course, was an old one-room schoolhouse that had been converted into a residence. In confusion, they asked who on earth would have gone to such a school. "Cats!" Uncle Bernie replied. "What kind of cats?" they asked, even more confused. "Cats from Mars!" he shot back. 

Thus, the name you now see on my blog! I always found this story hilarious, for I grew up in a small town in southeastern Michigan, where I commonly saw a couple of former one-room schoolhouses out in the countryside, and had read several stories in which children had attended such schools.