Sunday, December 30, 2012

Habitat For Humanity ReStore

Hello! As I'd mentioned in my previous post, a recent plumbing issue morphed into the replacing of bathroom flooring. Thus, a-shopping we will go...

In a money-saving effort, we headed over to the local Habitat For Humanity ReStore first. There was one large roll of vinyl flooring in stock, but it wasn't in a pattern we liked. The guy at the counter informed us that they don't get much vinyl flooring in. 

However, what caught my eye when we walked in the door was a white artificial Christmas tree; not sure of the height - either 5' or 6' tall. I'd seen some nicely-decorated white Christmas trees in the December shelter magazines, so had fancied one for myself. This ReStore tree was priced a low $5.00 - but alas, it was marked "SOLD" as well. 

My husband had thought that a place like ReStore sold items more along the lines of architectural salvage, but that's not exactly the case. And some of the items, like the Christmas tree, aren't strictly related to building or remodeling - for instance, we saw used books and movie videos for sale. 

Some used furniture was available as well; I noted the 1960's era kitchen chair among the selection. 

Of course, ReStore does mostly cater to restoring/remodeling projects - tiles, lumber, paint, numerous light fixtures, toilets, appliances and more were available. We only did a quick walk-through, as we still needed to purchase bathroom flooring, but I'll be back soon to look things over more thoroughly! 

In case you wish to know more about the local ReStore, you can find more information HERE. If you haven't been there before, it's worth checking out!


Friday, December 28, 2012

Holidays - Post-Christmas Greeting

Hello! Above, you see a small collection of gifted and thrifted Santas; they are displayed in close proximity to my Santa tree, seen HEREThey, and I, hope that you had a very Merry Christmas and will have a Happy New Year as well! 

Our holiday season was nice. There were the busy days and nights leading up to Christmas with decorating, the crafting and wrapping of gifts, and cookie tins and stockings to be filled. A few packages were mailed  out as well. 

Traveled to the other side of the state to my hometown for Christmas Day, but then decided to return the same evening due to an approaching snowstorm the next day. Am glad we made that decision, as there ended up being numerous accidents and subsequent backups on the route we take to get back home.

Upon our return we began addressing what we thought would be a simple plumbing repair for a leaky pipe. Not so fast - it turned out that the leaky pipe was due to the first floor toilet sitting on rotting plywood. So all of the sudden we're talking about needing someone to do carpentry work and flooring. 

Thus far it's ending up for the best. It's a slow time of year for home repairs (probably because many people have Christmas bills to pay off), so we were able to get workmen to come out, give estimates and then begin work right away! And since we had some older, nagging home repair issues that needed attention as well, I had the carpenter take care of some of these repairs. 

The flooring guy will take care of some of the other repairs. Turns out there's a good reason why our flooring looks bad no matter how much I mop it - he estimated that some of it is close to 30 years old, and in the second floor bathroom it's over 30 years old. Seeing how the floorings are beginning to wear through in spots, I believe him on the age. 

The leaky  toilet is even older - the plumber says it had been made in 1959. It looks retro, all right - pale pink. Probably makes sense to go with a new toilet and its lower water usage. 

And so it goes - never a dull moment with an old house!


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Thrifted Christmas

Hello! As we get close to Christmas 2012, it's time to show off some of the thrifted Christmas items I've purchased over the past couple of months. Vintage pickings have been slim at the local thrift stores, but fortunately a church rummage sale last month helped pick up the slack. So, let's begin the show and tell:

Fabric gingerbread person garland, $1.00 at church rummage sale. This is nearly 6' long from end to end! 

Close-up of some of the fabrics used:

I love this green print with small flowers all over. 

Fittingly, the gingerbread person garland resides for the season in my kitchen.

From the sale rummage sale, a couple of fabric angels. Not crazy about the green hair, but again, I liked the older fabrics used. 

Vintage glass bead garland in unopened package, 25c at a thrift store. I was very happy to find this, especially at that  price!

Large burlap bag; measures 17"w x 14"h, so it would hold a generous amount. 75c at a thrift store. I'm a sucker for felt and sequin crafts.

Recently the thrift stores have marked down their Christmas wares to 1/2 off, so I took advantage of the sale to buy this:

Above, 1959 Holt Howard candy dish, on sale for $2.00. I liked the soft blues and pinks; not the most common color scheme one sees at Christmas, but the colors happen to match our dining room decor nicely. 

I actually had purchased a few more Christmas items besides these,  these are just what I'm showing off today. As I'd said, there wasn't much vintage to be had in the thrift stores this holiday season, but I was happy to find what I did.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

No Chef Boy-Ar-Dee Here!

Hello! Spied this a few weeks ago at the local Salvation Army thrift store:

It was $2.99,and although I loved the graphics on the box, I was pleased to see that this set was complete; ravioli tin, small wooden rolling pin and recipe sheet were inside. Yes, I thought myself up to the challenge of making ravioli, and did just that last week.

I used the ravioli dough recipe included on the recipe sheet; it was easy to work with. For filling, I used a spinach-ricotta recipe I found on the Internet (the recipe sheet had recipes for a spinach-less ricotta cheese filling and a meat filling). 

Of course, it took awhile to roll out each sheet of pasta dough, a task complicated a bit by the recipe giving no mention of how much dough to use to make each sheet. But I quickly figured it out and then was able to weigh out the same amount of dough on my kitchen scale each time I was ready to make another round of ravioli. 

Here's my batch of ravioli, ready to be cooked:

If you're thinking the recipe made a lot of ravioli, you would be right - although the dough recipe gave 72 ravioli as the yield, I got 84. 

Close up:

Don't they look nice? The darker color of the ravioli dough is due to the white wheat flour that I used. That's one reason why I bought the ravioli set; I try to avoid pastas made with white flour when I can.

These cooked up nicely, too - only needed about eight minutes, and only one or two ravioli fell apart while cooking. That's a testament to how well the ravioli tin was designed - by going over the filled pasta sheets with the rolling pin, they were cut and sealed at the same time. 

Even though the tin and rolling pin worked in tandem, this wasn't exactly a quick dinner to prepare. However, the recipe ended up making enough ravioli for two meals, plus an additional 12 ounces of noodles were made from leftover dough. Three meals from one cooking session isn't too bad! And the cooked ravioli, served with tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese, were delicious. 

Note: I don't know how old this set is. My set's recipe sheet listed the address of the Ohio importer of this Italian-made set, and the address included a five-digit zip code. This dates the set as no older than 1963, even if the box design makes it look even older. Nevertheless, a fun find that resulted in something fun to make and eat!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Get Carded - A Pacific Northwest Birthday

Hello! I have a friend who has lived in the Seattle area for many years now, but her heart is in her native state of Oregon. So what better card to craft for her birthday than the following? 

Supplies used:
- white card stock
- yellow card stock scrap
- yellow plaid card stock scrap
- "Oregon" game card piece from vintage State Capitals game
- German scrap piece (girl figure)
- "Mary" cut from vintage alphabet flashcard set
- "happy" and "birthday" cut from various sources
- hand-dyed (by me) pale yellow string

The recipient loved her card and framed it to keep out on display - I can't think of a better compliment than that! And I didn't think it was my best effort - as I told her, my brain starts to fizzle a little with all the baking and crafting that I do this time of year. 

I do enjoy creating a homemade Christmas though! (and homemade birthdays!) 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Roses In December

Hello! As seen earlier this week in downtown Holland:

Yes, we have roses blooming in December. Granted, this bush was probably helped by the fact that it's growing next to a building, but even so... December weather thus far has been very un-Decemberish for this region. Just checked our local paper, the Holland Sentinel, and its weather page shows that we've had just a trace of snow thus far - and we're already almost halfway through the month.
I have to admit, I don't miss the snow. As chief snow shoveler, grocery shopper and errand runner of the family, I am happy to not have to deal with the stuff. It's much easier - and safer - to drive on clear streets than on snow-covered ones! 

All the same, it feels strange to not have any snow to speak of yet. We are probably several inches below the average snowfall already. I grew up with snow as a reliable part of December, so when it's not here, it seems odd. But we have to take the weather as it comes - and at least for now, we can enjoy roses in December.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

God Jul

Hello! Although I don't have a Scandinavian background, I've developed a fondness for the Christmas items of that region. I showed off a number of Scandinavian Christmas figures last year, seen HERESince then, I have added three more pieces to my collection.

First up, this wooden St. Lucia figure:
Not counting the candles, she is 8 1/2" high. I purchased it for $1.50 at a thrift store. We happen to have a charming shop in town called The Tin Ceiling, which specializes in Scandinavian items; perhaps my St. Lucia figure had originally come from there. I visited the shop yesterday to see if they had my St. Lucia in stock. They did not, but I saw other wooden holiday figures of similar size and style - selling for  between $45-$55 dollars! 

Continuing with the wooden figures, I picked up a much smaller one for 50c at a thrift store:

This figurine is similar in style to the ones I had shown off in last year's post. It's 4 1/2" tall from base to the top of the hat. The label on the bottom says Holboll Denmark. I don't know what the current value is. 

Back to Sweden, with the same holiday greeting:

I didn't know anything about this plate when I saw it at a thrift store, but I sensed it was vintage, and was only 75c, so I snapped it up. Looked it up on eBay, and learned that the company that produced it, Berggren, is Swedish. Some eBay sellers referred to the plate as mid-century in age.

A close-up:

Gotta love those dancing elves! Also gotta love that although I paid less than a dollar for the plate, an identical one recently sold on eBay for $14.99.

It just so happens that today is St. Lucia Day, a popular holiday in
Sweden and in other countries around the world -so Happy St. Lucia Day - and a God Jul to all!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

O Christmas Tree

Finally got around to getting our Christmas tree earlier this week. We went to a U-cut place, Janke Tree Farm in Allegan County, and cut down a 7' Canaan fir. I had lobbied hard for an eight-footer, but my husband said no, that height would mean a tree that scraped the ceiling of our family room. 

One of the employees at Janke said it had been a hard summer for the trees, it being dry and very hot. Nevertheless, we saw a sea of nice trees a short walk from the parking lot:

And here is the tree we selected, awaiting the saw:

Yes, it takes more time and effort to get a tree from a tree farm versus getting one from a Christmas tree lot in town, but I like the absolute freshness of a tree we cut ourselves, and I like the drive out in the country as well!

Above, our decorated tree. As you can see, we really did have room for an eight-footer!

Unfortunately for me, the size limitation we are faced with our current house means that I've run of room to hang ornaments! Quite a few had to stay in their storage boxes this year. But of course, when my friend Libby, who's an ultra-talented knitter, gifted me with a knitted star she'd made, I gladly placed it front and center:

To its immediate left is an angel (plaid fabric with lace trim) that I'd crafted last year out of fabric from my late mother's stash. Other ornaments visible include a vintage celluoid reindeer, an ornament depicting the Olde City section of Philadelphia, an ornament I'd made from a vintage kit, an ornament I'd made for our daughter (involved cotton yarn, glue, glitter and a blown-up balloon, a clam from a seafood restaurant in Seaside, OR (trimmed in glitter), a gift tag from my late sister's last Christmas gift to me, and more.

Now do you see why I ran out of room on our Christmas tree?

Simply didn't have enough room at the top of the tree for my glass ornaments - some of the ones visible are vintage, but the Cubs one isn't (don't worry - there's a Detroit Tigers ornament nearby too -it's two ornaments to the right of the Cubs one, but doesn't show up well in this photo). 

I'm glad we got a fresh-cut tree again; it doesn't seem like Christmas until we get it up! 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Eats - Black Fruitcake

Hello! In years past, we have visited The Jampot, located in Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula; my husband would buy their jams and jellies by the case. The charming store, run by an order of monks, also sells a number of baked goods. I always wanted to try some, but was too cheap to buy them. 

Their fruitcakes tempted me the most, particularly the one described HEREIt did, indeed, look quite dark sitting on the counter at The Jampot, and, like most of the fruitcakes sold there, has little in the way of those icky, sticky candied fruits (in fact, some of their fruitcakes have no candied fruit at all). 

I would idly think about making a Jamaican Black Cake of my own, but never did so until a month ago. Earlier this fall I had purchased Gifts From A Country Kitchen at a used book sale, and took note of the recipe for black fruitcake. Other than candied cherries, the other fruits in the recipe were dried. What's more, I had almost all the dried fruits already on hand, and decided to use dried cherries instead of the candied ones. 

I didn't have candied orange peel, but did have some fresh oranges that needed to be used up, so I made my own candied peel, an easily-accomplished feat. 

I did make an important substitution though - the recipes calls for soaking the fruits and nuts in rum. I don't care for rum, but had bourbon, so I used that instead. I suppose this makes my black fruitcake more Southern than Jamaican. (to that end, I also swapped pecans for the called-for almonds).

After baking, the fruitcake needed to age for at least a month. As of today, a month had passed, so it was time to unwrap it and taste-test:

Behold, a solid black fruitcake. It was baked in a 9x5 pan.

Sliced, you can see the chunks of dried fruit. The fruitcake is loaded with figs, prunes, raisins, dried cranberries, dried cherries and dates (plus that candied orange peel). 

As I'm planning on giving some of the cake away to various friends and family, I had to taste it first to make sure it had turned out okay, right? The verdict: rich, moist and flavorful. It's definitely not the sort of thing to gobble down in huge slices, but I'm pleased with how it turned out! 

(For more information on The Jampot, visit their site, which can be found HERE. If you're ever in the Keweenaw Peninsula, it's worth a stop).


Friday, December 7, 2012

I Don't Always Go For The Bargains!

Even though I take great glee hunting down bargains at the secondhand markets, there are occasionally times when I will - gasp - pay full price. 

Case in point: for the past few years, in late fall I've bought an amaryllis bulb for indoor blooming at a time when the growing season for my own flowers has ended. 

I've discovered that amaryllis bulbs seem to follow the maxim "you get what you pay for". Previously I've gotten the kits at discount stores, complete with pot and growing medium. Some bulbs have been duds, not sending up so much as a measly stalk. The ones that have bloomed were very pretty indeed, but only sent up one stalk. 

Thus, I was intrigued when a local garden center, Jonker's, said that their amaryllis bulbs usually send up three stalks, each with four-six flowers. True, they cost $17.99 each, but as last year's amaryllis had been one of the duds that didn't send up a single stalk, I decided to splurge on a Jonker's bulb. 

I made my purchase about about five weeks ago, and it's been blooming for a couple of weeks now (I picked out a bulb that already had a stalk up several inches). Have I gotten my money's worth? I'll let the pictures tell the story:

This is a big plant - the stalks are nearly 20" tall but haven't needed staking. Each flower is nearly 7" across and about the same number of inches in height. In short, this is one good-sized amaryllis plant! And as you can see, the bulb has, indeed, sent up three stalks. 

Yes, I think I've gotten my money's worth! 

(In case you were wondering, the amaryllis normally hangs out in our dining room; I took its picture outside where the light was better.) 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Plastic Christmas Tree

What's that - you've never heard of a plastic Christmas tree?

Well, then, allow me to show mine off:

It's 15" high and was made by the Plastic Art Toy Corporation  of America (Plasco). It dates from the 1950's and originally belonged to my husband's grandmother. Several examples currently abound on eBay and generally start at around $9.00 but some are listed at around $30.00. Mine has a couple of broken branches and is likely missing some of the original ornaments, so its value would be lower. But I love it anyway!

Some close-ups:

I love the patina of the ornaments!

Above, the tree sits on a small table covered with a "tablecloth" of four vintage handkerchiefs, all with a poinsettia design. I got these dainty pieces at an estate sale several years ago; $2.00 for the four. 

The first photo in this post showed the box the plastic tree came in, and here's a detail of the box that held the handkerchiefs:

I love the bell graphics - makes the box just as worthy of display as the handkerchiefs!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Adventures in Homemaking

I admit it, I'm quite lazy when it comes to certain categories of homemaking - I'm a good cook, keep up on the outdoor chores, and have become skilled in saving money by purchasing secondhand as often as possible. 

However, I'm not the best at housecleaning and home maintenance. I guess it's in part because I grew up in a family of ten and so there were loads of chores to do while growing up. I suppose it didn't kill me, but it made me rather lazy about housework around my own home. Either that, or I inherited my dad's tendency toward laziness and not my mom's high-octane approach to homemaking.

Nevertheless, sometimes even I manage to get things done around the house. Case in point was this past week, during which Monday saw the visit from the heating and cooling guy for our furnace's annual maintenance. After he was done servicing our furnace, on a whim I asked if he did hot water heater repairs too. Turns out he can do repairs that don't require plumbing, so he was able to put in a part that had broken off inside the hot water heater. Now we can take showers with hot water that lasts longer than five minutes - yippee!

Then Tuesday I really got down to business: I'd just gotten a home carpet cleaner, seen here, so now it was time to do the minor assembly needed before using the carpet cleaner for the first time and then learning how to use the thing. I approached both tasks with a bit of trepidation, for some of the online reviews referred to leakage, loss of suction and other carpet cleaner calamities. But in actuality, assmeblage and usage were both accomplished easily. 

Not to say that the task was a breeze overall. The carpet in our house is light beige and hadn't been cleaned adequately in too long a time, I admit (remember, I said I was lazy). So this meant I had to move as much as I could out of each room and vacuum very thoroughly as well. And the overall level of grunginess meant that it took quite some time to get the carpet looking halfway decent again.

I paced myself by doing one downstairs room a day. The carpet cleaner worked well - in fact, it seemed to work better than the commercial machine I rented one time. One drawback, though, is that since it's a smaller unit than a commercial carpet machine, I had to stop frequently to empty out the dirty water tank and refill the cleaning solution tank (both were done at the same time).

But the upside is that I have the convenience of doing the carpet cleaning when I feel like it, and as often as I feel like it. Who knows, now that I have my own carpet cleaning machine, I may even feel like cleaning the carpet more often!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Eats - Sour Cream Coffeecake

Hello! For various reasons, our daughter had three occasions at school in November which warranted the bringing in of a breakfast treat. Doughnuts were an option, but she insisted on supplying the same homemade baked good each time, a sour cream coffeecake. You know a recipe's good when it's requested that often! Her appreciative classmates and teachers gobbled it up each time.

This coffeecake has become popular in commercial establishments too; I have seen variations of it sold at coffeehouses, and the Ann Arbor food paradise known as Zingerman's (highly regarded nationwide) sells it by the slice or by the whole cake. It can be shipped through their mail order service, at prices starting at $40 for a small coffeecake (serves 5-7) and $55 for the large size (serves 10-12). 

I don't know if my recipe is identical to Zingerman's, but I suspect it's close, so give it a try if you want a homemade breakfast treat also! It's easy and relatively inexpensive to make:

Sour Cream Coffeecake

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped nuts (can leave out if desired)
1/4 cup brown sugar (when I'm omitting nuts, I increase this to 1/2 cup
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a Bundt pan. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, sour cream and vanilla; beat. Add flour, baking powder and salt; blend all. Set aside. 

To making filling: in a small bowl, combine nuts (if using), brown sugar and cinnamon. 

Spoon 1/3 of batter in bottom of Bundt pan. Sprinkle half of filling over batter. Add 1/3 more batter and remainder of filling. Add remaining batter. 

Bake for 50-60 minutes, until browned and tester inserted in cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes before
turning out onto cooling rack. 

Serves at least 10-12. Cake is not too sweet but is rich and moist. 

Don't happen to have a Bundt pan? The recipe actually calls for a 10" tube pan; I make it in a Bundt pan because I think it looks prettier that way (Zingerman's must agree, as their coffeecakes are also baked in Bundt pans). 

Don't happen to have either type of baking pan? No problem - just head over to a local thrift store. Both pans can often be found there; that's where my Bundt pan came from!

Oh, and to whet your appetite, here's what the coffeecake looks like:

All ready to slice, serve and eat!


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Things You Can Always Find At A Thrift Store #1: Chirstmas Cards

Hello! My friend Libby suggested I mention that Christmas cards are plentiful in thrift stores this time of year (and in our town, at least one thrift store has Christmas items for sale the year round). This suggestion ties in perfectly with a blog category I'd been meaning to start: things you can always find in a thrift store. Instead of buying common items at the usual retail stores, save money by purchasing these items secondhand! 

By way of "research", I visited a local two-store chain, Bibles for Mexico, this week to see what Christmas cards they currently have on hand.  Both stores  had a good selection, including some never-opened packs. There were some nice quality cards, too, like a set that had originally been produced by the Museum of Modern Art (though it came to the thrift store via TJ Maxx)  Unopened packs seemed to generally range from $1.00 - $2.00.

However, last week I got an unopened set of 24 Christmas cards, made by Ikea, for 25c. Am I going to send these out for Christmas - heavens no! I'm punching them out with a 1" circle craft punch, and then I'll glue the circles back to back on a cord to make a nice little garland. 

Besides the unopened packs, there are many bundles of cards that would have come from opened, partially-used boxes. The amount of cards per bundle, of course, depend on how many cards had been unused from the original set, but I saw many attractive designs among these cards as well. Prices varied, but these were less than a dollar per bundle.

There are even single cards for sale; I think these are a dime each. Might be a nice way to find a special card for someone. 

Perhaps it goes without saying, but I'll add that all the cards do come with their matching envelopes. 

So, use them to send out your holiday greetings, or use them for crafting - you'll save money either way!


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Eats - Instant Hot Chocolate Mix

Hello! Unfortunately, cool weather seems to be here to stay (no surprise, I guess, since after all it is almost December!). One way I like to keep warm is by sipping hot chocolate. I'm not crazy about those canisters or packets of instant hot chocolate mix; I don't think they taste all that great and come with lists of weird ingredients as well. 

Homemade recipes for instant hot chocolate mix abound, and I've tried several. One of the more common recipes calls for non-dairy creamer and chocolate drink mix. More weird ingredients - no thanks. Others are much the same but call for baking cocoa - better, but it doesn't dissolve as well. Same with those recipes that call for adding chocolate chips to the basic dry ingredients - adds a richer chocolate flavor, to be sure, but the chips also need more stirring to dissolve. 

Then, a few years ago, I found the following recipe on the Internet; the person who posted it said it had come from Sunset magazine. But  when I just completed an Internet search for more info about the recipe, different Sunset recipes for hot chocolate came up instead. But here's the recipe I use (there will be variations listed at the end):

Instant Hot Chocolate Mix

3 cups powdered milk
2 cups chocolate baking chips  
1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows (optional)

Put half of the powdered milk in a blender or food processor, add half of the chips and whirl until finely ground. If using a blender, stop motor once to scrape mixture away from blades; do not continue mixing after finely ground or the mixture may clump. 

Pour mixture into a bowl and repeat to grind remaining milk and chips. Stir in marshmallows if using. Spoon into jar (or jars) and cover tightly. Can be stored for up to six months. 

To use: place 1/3 cup of mix into a mug and add 3/4 cup boiling water; stir until well combined. 

Makes 4-5 cups mix, enough for 12-15 servings. 

- use other flavors of baking chips
- used 1 1/2 cups malted milk powder in place of same amount of the
  powdered milk
- add 1/2 cup instant coffee powder with the powdered milk
- add a teaspoon of your favorite spice, such as cinnamon, nutmeg or
- add a tablespoon of grated orange peel
- come up with your own variations


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all! May you enjoy good times and great food with the people you have gathered around you today. 

Safe travels as well, and if you're going to brave the crowds tomorrow, good luck on your Black Friday shopping! 

(Image is of a vintage postcard that reads "A Friendly Thanksgiving Greeting", postmarked Nov. 24 1925. It was mailed from Chicago to a town in Wisconsin. Can't read the town's name "Heartiest Thanksgiving Greetings" is all the sender wrote.)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Eats - Ultra-Easy Pie Crust

Hello! Since my husband doesn't like pie, I rarely make one, and so I haven't had much practice in making pie crusts. Nevertheless, when we go to Thanksgiving Day dinner at my dad's, I'll be taking three homemade pumpkin pies with me. 
Will I have made my pies with  store-bought pie crust shells or with some of those pie crust sticks? No, indeed, I'll be using this ultra-easy recipe, which from Marcia Adams' Cooking From Quilt Country:

Pat-In-Pan Pie Crust

For a 9" pie:

1 1/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons cold milk

Place the flour, sugar and salt in the pie pan and mix with your fingers until blended. In a measuring cup, combine the oil and milk and beat with a fork until creamy. Pour all at once over the flour mixture. Mix with a fork until the flour mixture is completely moistened. Pat the dough with your fingers, first up the sides of the pan, then across the bottom. Flute the edges. Shell is now ready to be filled. 

For 10" pie, use these amounts:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons cold milk

Ms. Adams describes this pie crust as "quick, crisp and tender". I've used this recipe in the past and it's been well-received. One year my nephew, who loves pumpkin pie so much that he likes it instead of cake on his birthday, asked if I would make him a pumpkin pie for his next birthday. He said my pie crust was better than his mom's!

Note: since this recipe is not meant to be rolled out, it can't be used as a top crust. But it's perfect for pumpkin pie!


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Farewell To Fall

Hello! Next Sunday will be just one month from Christmas, so I give a fond farewell to fall today by showing seasonal color both indoors and outdoors.

Part of my tabletop feather tree, which changes with the seasons. Above, a bridge tally card that dates from 1960. Unopened pack of 12 for 50c at a thrift store. 

Goofy pinecone, felt and pipe cleaner turkey, which also hangs on the feather tree. Thrift store purchase; bag of several small items for $1.00.

Squirrel-shaped basket, one dollar at a thrift store. He's holding three miniature squash.

Vintage pottery planter, purchased inexpensively at a garage sale, also holds miniature squash. 

Page from Childrens' Party Book, published in 1935 by the A. E. Staley company.

Our burning bush is nearly done "burning". 

Crabapples and crabapple leaves with maple tree in background.

Pie pumpkins on a vintage wire rack that I purchased at a thrift store last year. These pumpkins will be used to make pies for Thanksgiving. 

Statue of squirrel mother and her offspring; gift from my husband several years ago. I will bring this in for the winter, but I wanted to enjoy it outdoors through Thanksgiving. 

And speaking of Thanksgiving, this always perks me up:

Besides the colors that mimic fall leaves, I also like the fact that it cost me a mere dollar at a rummage sale a few years ago. The original price of $14.95 was still on the package. 

And now it's time for me to fall into my kitchen: I'm going to get a head start on the Thanksgiving dinner!



Thursday, November 15, 2012

Made It - Small Gifts

Hello! Made a couple of small gifts recently for a friend's birthday. The first one is of my own design, although I'm sure others out there have made similar projects:

Behold, a handmade "flower". The center is a small styrofoam ball studded with gold sequins that are held in place with beads and sequin pins. The petals are made from a vintage restaurant menu that I'd altered. For a little extra finish, I glued a piece of art paper to the back of the flower. (the flower shape itself was traced from a clothing tag I'd saved years ago). The stem is a vintage pipe cleaner that I glued to the flower base, and then I shaped the leaves. 

This was pretty quick and fun to do. Made with red flower petals, I think these would look nice for Christmas. 

I made this flower for my friend because she'd given me the styrofoam balls and the gold sequins. I thought she might like to see what I did with them!

I was sewing her another gift when my sewing machine began acting up. Took it to the repairman, which meant that I had to come up with another, sew-free project. Fortunately, I had gotten this book earlier in the year at an estate sale.

The projects in Felt Wee Folk  are seriously cute! But I was feeling a bit lazy about the wrapping-the pipe-cleaner-body-with-embroidery-floss part, so instead, my doll looks like this:

This little doll is about 4" tall. Her body is made from a gold pipecleaner and her head is a wooden bead that I painted. Her hair is made from doll hair and her hat is an acorn cap. Her dress is made from vintage felt and the belt is hand-dyed cotton string. Hand embroidery was used to decorate the dress and to sew it together. 

She turned out well enough that I was reluctant to give her away, but of course I can always make one for myself! 

The author is quite particular about the craft supplies she specifies for the projects in her book, but I used what I already had on hand. I think she turned out just fine anyway!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Get Carded - Another Simple Birthday Card

Hello! Another birthday, another simple but fun-to-make birthday card. This card is identical to the one I talk about herejust the colors are different:

The card was made using the following:

-window card
-mat board square painted with blue acrylic paint
-hand-dyed cotton string (dyed with Easter egg dye)
-flower shape cut from a vintage matchbook
-vintage button
-"over the whole harbor" cut from 1930's grammar book
-"happy birthday" stamped with blue StazOn ink

Here's a close-up of the flower design:

Since the matchbook was from a seafood restaurant, and since the card recipient and her family own a sailboat, I felt that the words I added fit.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald

Read  in the local paper this morning that today marks the 37th anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. I can still well recall when this disaster happened. I was a teenager at the time, growing up in southeastern Michigan, so my family got news from the Detroit and Flint media markets. The news coverage of the ill-fated ore boat's last voyage was huge, and rightly so. It was a real tragedy and a very sorrowful time.

Living in the Great Lakes region, my family was well-used to seeing the ore boats and freighters out on the open waters of Lake Huron. Even from a distance their massive size was apparent. It never crossed my mind before the wreck that one of these behemoths would ever sink. Shipwrecks? In the late 20th C? Wouldn't weather forecasting prevent such a disaster from occurring? 

Thus, I remember feeling very shocked at the time when I heard the news. I'd like to think that today's vastly-improved weather radars will prevent a shipwreck of this magnitude from occurring on the Great Lakes again, but I don't know if this is so. The forecasting of Great Lakes weather seems to still remain challenging at times. 

Then, slightly over a year after the sinking came the Gordon Lightfoot masterpiece, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald". I was blown away by this song, for it told of a true event, and one that had happened fairly recently. It told the story very well, with near-perfect lyrics and melody. It became a huge hit in this country (and in Lightfoot's native Canada), proving that the song had appeal beyond the Great Lakes region. One of my sisters was a foreign exchange student in Sweden at that time and she even heard the song played over there.

In tribute to the crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald, a touching video can be found here.

And for more information on the song itself, read this.

Now I live even closer to a Great Lake than I did as a child, so I see freighters even more often (and from our house, I can hear their horns blow when they enter or depart the nearby commercial docks). I still enjoy seeing them on their water-borne journeys, and always hope we will never hear of another shipwreck on the lakes. 

But today, I remember the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Get Carded - Operation Christmas Cards

Hello! I have so much stuff for making greeting cards that I occasionally make and send them in bulk for distribution to others. In the past I've done Valentines For Vets, and recently I learned of another opportunity called Operation Christmas Cards. Cards sent to this organization are then given to military personnel who are deployed during the holidays. 

Cards need to be sent to the Shrewsbury, MA office by Nov. 25th, so I need to get moving on this! But I'm throwing out there now for any other card crafters  who like to help out others. I think it'll be fun to do and may cheer up people who might be very lonely around Christmas.

For more information on Operation Christmas Cards, go here. Once at the website, click on "Participation Info" to get the details.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Cross Country!

Hello! The high school cross country season ended yesterday with the state finals at the MIS track near Brooklyn, MI. Needless to say, this event drew a huge number of people from all over the Lower Peninsula (the UP has its own meet, which this year took place on Oct. 20th in Munising). 

We made the trip to support our daughter's high school, which had one boy and one girl competing (they were individual qualifiers from last week's regional in Allendale). With so many spectators in attendance, it's hard to cheer on the runners, but we tried our best. We watched the start of their races (Division 3) at about 1/2 mile out from the starting line, then headed over to the finish line to yell our fool heads off for them. Our runner in the boys' race had a very strong performance, and hats off to our girl runner, who finished 5th in her race - good enough for all-state honors! There's a great photo of her nearing the finish line here.

We also cheered another local school, Saugatuck, which competed in the Division 4 races. There were other high schools from our area in attendance as well, and a recap of how local runners performed can be found here.

The end of this cross country season meant the end of our daughter's involvement in the sport, as she graduates from high school in the spring. Through her, we have seen her school's team evolve from a club sport with a limited schedule to a varsity team whose runners have received all-state honors. This progression, which has happened in a rather short time span, is a result of the hard work and dedication by coaches, student athletes and yes, the parents as well (I'd say at least some dedication is involved with us parents helping to run home meets and cooking up team dinners - glad to have done it though!)

Neither my husband nor I were involved in team sports while in high school (I might have considered cross country myself, but my high school didn't have a girls' team then), so being involved in one now was new to us! Although there were times when I would have preferred to sleep in on Saturday mornings (one meet in previous years had us getting up at 4:30am to get our daughter to school for a 5:30am departure to Carson City), it got to be a routine with us. 

This year we ended up as unofficial timekeepers at the one and two mile marks. I got pretty good at identifying our runners from long distances away so that we could be aware of when they were approaching those mile markers. 

Try writing down those mile times in pencil on the coach's list while standing out in a chilly, pouring rain! That's what I did during a meet at Calvin College a few weeks ago. (getting those times at our school's races that day meant that we stood out in the rain for nearly 1 1/2 hours). But as I watched all the runners in such poor weather I was full of admiration - you have to be tough to run under such conditions! (However, our daughter says that they don't really even notice the rain during such races). 

Of course, other sports demand mental and physical toughness as well. But what makes cross country unique, I feel, is that each course is different. Some are relatively flat but others have challenging hills. Try running up a steep hill in 80+ degree weather - then imagine having to do it twice in a race (as the team did at the Saranac course early in the season). Even hillier is the course at Hesperia! See what I mean by tough? 

Cross country is also unique in that it seems to allow for a wider range of abilities than other high school sports do. In cross country, everyone on the team races from start to finish - there's no riding of the bench as one tends to see in other sports. Injury or illness are the only factors than prevent a runner from competing on a weekly basis. We have seen kids who are developmentally disabled running in meets, as well as a vision-impaired student-athlete. Good for them! These kids are likely to be more at risk for injuries in the sports that involve more contact, so I'm glad that they could participate in a school sport via cross country. 

In short, it was a great run (no pun intended) for our daughter while it lasted, and cross country is something we will always promote, especially to those parents who'd like to see their kids involved in sports but aren't sure if they're cut out for other team sports. It's a great sport!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Get Carded - Simple Birthday Card

Hello! My handmade greeting cards vary in their complexity - for a special occasion like a wedding, I'm likely to fuss quite a bit. But when time is short or if I have several greeting cards to create, I will take a simpler route. 

I had several items to mail out today, so the writing of short greetings and the packaging of various items meant that I would make a fairly simple birthday card. I still think it turned out nicely though:

It's overcast here today, so the card didn't photograph the best. Take my word for it - the color of the card base was a creamy pale yellow, not the dull beige that you see above. 

Every component of the card came from a thrift store or garage sale except for the rubber stamp and the stamp pad. Here is what I used:

- blank window card in pale yellow
- mat board square from the creative reuse store Learning From
  Scratch, painted over with red acrylic paint
- vintage pale yellow crochet cotton thread
- flower shape cut from a vintage matchbook
- vintage button
- "happy birthday" stamped in blac StazOn ink

Here's a close-up of that floral element:
As you can see, the mat board piece fits perfectly in the card "window" - and this with no trimming. I love it when things fall into place like that!

Like I said, this card was simple, but it needed to be if I wanted to get my mailing taken care of this morning. I'll have to make more of these mat board pieces to have on hand - then I can use them to embellish future cards!