Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Holidays - Parade of Lights

Hello! Last night our town put on its annual Parade of Lights.  Took a few pictures before my hands began freezing and I had to put my gloves back on (this morning's paper said there was a windchill of 10 during the parade - no wonder I felt so cold!)

Unlike the tourist-driven Tulip Time parades, the Parade of Lights seems much more relaxed. Basically anything and everyone is invited to take part in the parade as long as the use of some sort of lights is involved. Thus, besides floats and moving vehicles bedecked in lights, I saw groups of people marching wearing Christmas lights or carrying glow sticks, pushing strollers entwined with Christmas lights, or having their dogs wearing sweaters with lights on them as well. 

About the only thing not wearing any lights was this:

 A couple of reindeer had been brought in from a place near Kalamazoo and were penned up just beyond Kerstmarkt, which was open for business during the parade. 

What would a parade be without an old car in it?

Many local businesses got into the spirit of the parade.

Another older vehicle shown above.

Of course, the Salvation Army band has to play in the parade! There were also several other floats that featured musicians. 

Seems only right that the city-run utility company would have a well-lit truck in the parade! BPW (Board of Public Works) also puts up a nice set of lights in a city park this time of year.

As an aside, I wonder how many cities have their own utility company as opposed to a big company that runs the utilities of several communities? (I know that Lansing, MI has its Board of Water and Light.) I can still recall my amusement when we moved here and experienced our first power outage. I dutifully called the utility's customer service number to report the outage. The guy answered the phone with "Power Plant - Rocky speaking". So yeah, I got to speak with someone actually at the power plant rather than at some customer service office elsewhere!  That power plant is only about 1 1/2 miles from our house, so I don't even bother to call anymore when there's an outage - I figure they will find out right away. 

Now back to the parade:

Local fire truck.

Color guard from one of two marching bands featured in the parade. Some of the musicians had wound Christmas lights around their instruments, but unfortunately the picture I took of that didn't come out well. 

 I took this picture of a float at rest after the parade was over. 

Well, just a few of the some 75 entries that made up the parade. It was a cold yet very festive event!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Holidays - Downtown Holland

Hello! I happen to live in a place that has a very nice downtown, and it seems especially nice at Christmastime. So I took a number of photos yesterday to show off here. 

My photo tour begins here:

I sat in the lobby of Alpenrose restaurant awaiting the arrival of a friend for lunch. The rest of the interior is as cozy as the lobby looks, so I especially like to come here in the cooler weather months. And the Alpenrose remains a personal favorite because it was the very first restaurant I ever ate at in Holland - that was just a few days before Christmas 10 years ago. 

After a delicious lunch (I devoured the Michigan Melt sandwich while my friend enjoyed her Pear and Butternut Salad) and great conversation, I continued on my photo shoot. The remaining shots are all exteriors, and in most cases I had to snap my camera quickly due to shoppers and cars going by. As long as it's not blizzarding outside, downtown Holland is a popular place!

This banner is part of the downtown area's holiday decorations that debuted a couple of weeks ago. The traditional reds and greens were eschewed in favor of a trendy color scheme. It took me awhile to get used to it. 

Window at Fustini's, which sells fancy olive oils and vinegars. 

Colorful ribbons at Thistle Gallery, one of several art galleries in the downtown district.

Another one of the new decorations, set in a planter.

I think this window is at Moynihan's, which sells art and gifts. I liked the French soaps shown, as I am a sucker for fancy soaps. 

The Peanut Store, which day in and day out is probably one of the most popular downtown stores. Lots of yummy candies and nuts. 

Display at The Seasoned Home, which specializes in herbs and spices. I bought some powdered cloves after snapping the photos. 

Post's Jewelers, which I believe is closing soon due to retirement. 

Just the gift to overcome an over-indulgence of Christmas cookies and eggnog:  a pair of new fitness shoes from Gazelle Sports!

Cute Christmas trees at JB and Me - home of chic women's clothes, jewelry and the items listed on the window. 

I love the selection of magazines at Reader's World! I've purchased a few of the holiday issues on display. 

Another shot of the new downtown decorations. 

Muriel's Intimate Apparel - doesn't that bathrobe look cozy? Too bad I don't need a new one!

Colored branches in a planter in front of Thomas A. Davis Jewelers.

A view of some storefronts.

Another downtown block shown. 

 I love this old-fashioned look, as seen at Model Drugs. In spite of that name, more of the store has been given over to gifts than to the pharmacy area!

Home and Company, which is situated in the landmark Tower Clock building.

And lastly, a paper decoration in the window of Three Chairs, a furniture store. 

I hope you enjoyed my photo tour! There are many more photos I could have taken if time had permitted; these are just some displays that caught my eye. 

Yes, many of these stores feature upscale goods, so usually I window-shop rather than make actual purchases. I do have a budget to follow and I like the thrill of getting an upscale item at thrift store prices! Nevertheless, I'm proud of our downtown and  make occasional expenditures there. And I do love seeing it this time of year!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Holidays - Vintage Wreath Craft

Hello! Today I want to show off one of my favorite Christmas craft projects, a wreath decorated with vintage goodies. I'm using the term "vintage" loosely here - "kitschy" might be a better description, although I'm sure some would describe my wreath as "tacky" instead. Well, beauty's in the eye of the beholder, I guess - my tastes do run toward kitsch, and I love how this turned out.

I first came across this project in the late, great Mary Englebreit Home magazine. Basically all I did was buy an artificial wreath, spray it with fake snow, and then glue, wire or hang ornaments, sprigs of fake evergreen and holly, etc on it. I first began the wreath around 12 years ago and have added to it over time with more doodads. It's gotten pretty full by now; not sure if I can stick anything more on it!

Here's an overall picture:

 Followed by several close-ups:

Most of the items date from the 1950's and 1960's, with a few things older or newer. Some of the ornaments are handmade, such as the felt snowman in the first close-up, and some are of the Made-in-Japan category, such as the elves. But what they all have in common is that they were purchased on the cheap. 

A couple of years ago I made a similar style of wreath for a relative. I purchased everything I needed at one thrift store for about seven dollars total. It wasn't nearly as full as mine currently is, but I wanted to leave room for her to add her own elements if she chose to. It took all of about ten minutes to assemble. There's no right or wrong with this sort of craft! 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Holidays - Advent Wreath

Hello! Today was the first Sunday of Advent, so I brought out our Advent Wreath to light tonight at dinnertime. Here's what it looks like:

As you can see, we'll be needing more candles soon - we've used these for several years now and they're beginning to get rather low. 

Here's a close-up of a candeholder section:

I'm not sure what the decorative inlay is called, but it's pretty. The wreath was made in India and was purchased at the Ten Thousand Villages shop in Champaign, IL ten years ago. The wreath frame is actually a plain, solid gold so I wound the artificial greenery around it to make it seem more like the Advent Wreath at church (the latter a much larger example, of course!)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Holidays - Kerstmarkt

Hello! The annual Kerstmarkt has begun, so I strolled down to take  a few photos:

I love these wooden "huts" with their red-and-white striped awning and the twinkly white lights - very festive. These vendors above were selling a variety of crafts and homemade jams and jellies. 

These vendors were selling small conifers and some crafts.

I didn't take a picture of my favorite vendor because there was a small crowd around him, as there usually is. The attraction? A vintage hand-operated sock-knitting machine. It's cool to watch him feed the yarn into the top of the machine, turn a crank, and watch a sock slowly form at the bottom. Every time I see him at Kerstmarkt I always wish I had one of those machines too!

I would have taken more photos but I was with an impatient husband who complained about missing the Michigan-Ohio State game if we stayed too long. (as an MSU alumni, he's cheering for Ohio State). So instead you can find more info about Kerstmarkt HERE.

However, he didn't object to me taking the following two photos, which are the only false note of this local holiday tradition:

These signs have been placed on the backs of two of the "huts", facing a well-traveled street. These signs aren't new - they've been used at least one previous year. It seems rather unfortunate to have the word "markt" divided like that. Don't know why this hasn't been fixed.

Nevertheless, Kerstmarkt is a charming touch of Europe and is well worth a look if you're in the area during its run.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Holidays - Christmas music

Hello! Thanksgiving is but just a day behind us, but the calendar says that Christmas will be here in one month. Therefore, I will strive to do a daily post each day leading up to Christmas Day - a big endeavor for this once-or-twice-a-week blogger, but I'll see how it goes. 

Got my Christmas CD collection out of the storage cabinet last night; here's the stack below:

The first nine CD's on top of the pile have been thrifted over the past few years, while the remaining were bought on sale. Of the thrifted music, my favorite last year was the very top CD, A Festival of Carols - Robert Shaw Chorale & Orchestra, which I got for a dollar. A lot of older songs, great singing and music and that budget-happy price: can't go wrong with this one! This was originally recorded in 1957 and 1963. 

Even older is the music of A Merry Christmas with Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters, which I ordered at around 10 years ago. The songs on this CD were recorded between 1942 and 1955. I don't even recall now why I got this CD, but my daughter and I have enjoyed hearing it every year since. During the Christmas season, I often play it in the morning while she's up getting ready for school. Fun music. "How'd you like to spend Christmas on Christmas Island?" ("Christmas Island" was a huge seller for the Andrews Sisters when it was released!) 

A local radio station started its annual 24/7 Christmas music programming on Nov. 9th - a little early, I felt. Just out of general principle, I don't haul out my Christmas CD's until Thanksgiving Day is over. I love hearing Christmas music, but in season, please! 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thrifty Acres - Vintage Sled

Hello! Attended an estate sale last week. I'm always hopeful I'll find interesting vintage finds at such events. Not too much in the way of older stuff, although I was touched by a box of handmade ornaments in the basement - they looked as if they'd been made by someone's grandchildren. I found that sweet.

However, on the enclosed front porch, I found this:

I'm not sure how old this sled is, but the folks at classify "vintage" as anything older than 20 years old. A woman running the sale, who is the daughter of the couple whose estate was being liquidated, told me that she remembers using the sled in the 1960's. Therefore, vintage it is!

Vintage sleds have been popular for awhile now as a decorative item. I've seen them out on front porches at Christmastime, usually decked out with ribbon and evergreen branches. I have wanted the same look for our rather plain-Jane front porch, but am too cheap to pay the $10.00-$15.00 dollars our thrift stores charge for such items. 

So when the woman said she'd take $5.00 for it, I was glad to buy it. It's in decent shape; just needed some dirt and dust cleaned off. I look forward to decorating it and putting it out on our front porch - but not until after Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Made It - Pillowcases

Hello! Did you know that with one yard of fabric and just a little time, you can make your own pillowcase? I first came across this project online; it was presented as a way to celebrate seasonal holidays. 

Recently purchased one yard of a pretty flannel at the thrift store; it set me back all of 75c. Here's how it turned out:

I'll use this as an accent pillow over the Christmas season.

Here's others I have made over the years:

From top to bottom, I've stacked them in order of their appearance throughout a calendar year, starting with snowflakes for wintertime and ending with a Christmas print. The exception on the very bottom is the pillowcase I made for our daughter, using fabric left over from the duvet cover I'd sewn for her bed. 

I'm missing a few holidays, but besides winter and Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter, the 4th of July and Halloween are shown. I think that a birthday-themed print would be cute too. 

Of course, one isn't limited to holidays - any fabric can be used - for instance, a sports fan might like a pillowcase that features his or her favorite sport or team. Fabrics are always on sale at the fabric stores and the seasonal prints will go on clearance when that holiday or time of year is over. Thus, besides being easy, it's also cheap, even if the fabrics don't come from a thrift store!

I've passed this idea on to a couple of doting grandmothers, both of whom were pleased to have an easy, inexpensive and fun project for grandchildren gifts. In fact, the one grandmother reported that her granddaughter liked her homemade pillowcase so much, she asked Grandma to help her make some for her parents as a gift! 

If you'd like to make your own pillowcases, you can find the directions HERE

Have fun!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thrifty Acres - Quilt Fabric Rescue

Hello! Made a quick stop at a local thrift store to look at Christmas stuff - nothing caught my eye so I figured I'd check out the crafts section as long as I was there. Wasn't expecting much, though, since this particular thrift store doesn't usually carry much in the way of craft supplies that interest me. 

I almost missed the shoebox on the top shelf, with the words "quilt pieces - $5.00" scrawled across the top edge of the lid. More often than not, "quilt pieces" at this thrift store means polyester double knit squares, but I checked out the box anyway. 

Inside was what looked to be hundreds of fabric triangles, packed tightly into several sandwich-type bags. The triangles were made from squares folded over and stitched together. I could tell that at least some of the fabrics were older, and there certainly was a colorful assortment, so I bought the box. I felt it cried out to be rescued!

I sorted the pieces out by color, which may sound tedious, but it didn't take that long and I got to feast on the different patterns while doing so. Ended up with large bags of blues, reds, greens and browns and smaller bags of pinks, purples, oranges/yellows and blacks/grays.

Here's an example of a large bag:

 And here's a small bag:

I pulled out a few favorites to show off:

There were also some pieced sections in the shoebox, such as this:

The triangles have been sewed onto a piece of muslin to make a  21" x 7" section.

Fitted together differently, someone had come up with this:

I've folded this up on itself for picture-taking, as it measures 8' by 5". I wondered if someone had thought of using this as a muffler?

And there were a few pieced sections just waiting to be added on to:

I took apart one triangle and learned that it was made from a 4" fabric square with a piece of a light brushed cotton sandwiched inside. Each triangle is quilted around the edges and whipstitched shut on two sides. Unfortunately, while it's all handstitching, it was not done very neatly. 

Can't say I blame the would-be quilt maker, though - I estimated that over 800 triangles were packed into that shoebox. Must have taken forever to do all that handstitching!

I'm no fabric-dating expert, but I'd guess that most of the fabrics are from the 60's, with a few probably older than that and some newer. No, I don't like every fabric - there are some drab plaids and paisleys in there - but a lot of them are really cool. 

Not sure yet what I'll do with all these triangles, but will probably take them apart to use in craft projects. It was a fun purchase and I am very pleased with my rescue!