Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Made It - Crafting Past and Present

Hello! Wanted to give a small gift to someone who'd done a favor  recently, so with Easter coming up, this bunny will be hopping her way:

The bunny, which stands 8 1/2" high, was made of muslin, then stuffed and decorated with scraps of fabric and fiber. Facial features were added with a Sharpie marker and pink blusher. The pattern, which was a thrift store find, didn't call for the heart or the "neckwear", but I added both to dress up the bunny some more. 

Now all I have to do is make a thank-you card and I'll be ready to send the gift out. 

The bunny rests on a hand-embroidered tablecloth I bought over 20 years ago in Steven Point, WI. I visited a garage sale where a couple of women were selling their deceased mother's things, including the tablecloth the mother had made. I think I paid all of two dollars for it! It made me very sad that these women had not wanted to keep the tablecloth in the family, but that was their business. I use the tablecloth to cover up one of those inexpensive round tables (the kind with three legs that are screwed into the top). I think it adds a nice touch to the corner of our dining room.

Here's a close-up of the embroidery work:

It's not fancy stitching (it wasn't meant to be), but I liked the colors, and of course, I couldn't beat the price!

Eats - Springtime Cookies

 Hello! Our daughter needed to bring in cookies for her school's blood drive today and requested that I make sugar cookies. This was easily done using the recipe HERE.

Then came the decorating fun; I brought out a variety of pastel-colored sprinkles for a springtime look. Some of the sprinkles I have are shaped liked flowers and even miniature Easter eggs - a perfect look this time of year.

Here's how the cookies turned out:

Bunny with Easter egg sprinkles.

Flower sprinkles.

Our daughter did a very nice job decorating the above cookie - doesn't it look just like something you'd see at a bakery?

The tin of cookies awaits transport to the school, where I hoped they will be enjoyed by the blood drive donors. 

I only had one trouble with the making of these cookies: the ear portion was a little delicate, which led to the accidental breaking-off in spite of our careful handling. These cookies had to be set aside for us to eat at home - gee, what a shame!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Winter That Never Was

Hello! The Winter That Never Was has morphed into summer-like weather the past days. Several weather records have been set, such as the earliest in a year this region has seen a 80 degree temperature, and various record high temperatures have been reached ever since this unusually hot weather arrived last week. Some days we have been 40 degrees above the average high - crazy! Today the local paper commented that it's more like what spring usually looks like 500 miles south of here on this date. 

Yesterday, Wednesday, we reached 85. Wednesdays are also one of the two days our local farmer's market operates - when it's in season. I kept thinking that I should stop at the farmer's market - because it was farmer's market weather! But it doesn't open for the season until mid May. 

Every other year we've lived here, the vegetable garden soil is still frozen at this point, and often there is still snow on top that has to melt before the ground can begin to thaw. I'm not sure if the soil even froze this winter! Needless to say, I took advantage of this unusual situation to put sow seeds of greens, lettuces and snow peas. Usually in the early spring it will take several days for these early sowings to germinate - but last week, it only took a couple of days for some of the lettuces to begin poking up through the soil!

Another early arrival:

These tulips are blooming near the edge of downtown. There is concern that this unusually warm weather will lead to the early blooming of the thousands of tulips that are front and center during the town's annual tulip festival. It's supposed to cool down beginning tomorrow, with no more 80's in the near future. But with the festival still over a month away, it remains to be seen as to far along the tulips will be at that time.

This has definitely been the most unusual Michigan winter I have ever known! Thus far my town has officially recorded 48" snow, which is a lesser amount than what we've sometimes gotten in one winter month in years past. 48" is less than half owhat we usually see in these parts in a winter. 

Now, we still could get a snowstorm sometime next month, but it won't stick around, leaving us to remember this as The Winter That Never Was.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

First Flowers

Hello! Like many areas of the country, we have been having unseasonable weather all winter and this weather has continued into early springIt's led to an early showing of our spring perennials:

As we usually still have some snow on the ground this time of year, our earliest daffodils don't usually start blooming until late March or April.

Crocuses blooming near rose bushes.

I have sowed tomato seeds indoors and will start other seeds soon. I've sown spinach seeds outside and will endeavor to sow some snowpeas tomorrow. 

I know that we're likely to get colder weather before spring stays for good, but for now I'm enjoying temperatures of 60's and 70's, which are supposed to be with for the next several days. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Weekend Trip - Milwaukee

Hello! We spent the past weekend in Milwaukee, with the main attraction this time being the art museum there. However, lunch called before we got our dose of culture:

My shredded beef tacos kept me filled all day! From Jalapeno Loco, located near Milwaukee's Mitchell Airport.

We went to the Milwaukee Art Museum to view Accidental Genius - Art From The Anthony Petullo Collection. This exhibit features the works of American and European self-taught artists. The works were often of a very quirky nature: paintings done on cardboard, massive amounts of illustrations and collages left undiscovered until after the artists had died, and artistic talents uncovered in an Austrian psychiatric clinic.

Couldn't take photos in the exhibit gallery, but could in the rest of the museum, so what follows are a few works that caught my fancy:

Modern sculpture, using clear buttons and glue. The tallest "spire" was probably close to four feet tall. The amount of buttons used to create this piece must have been staggering!

Detail of an Impressionist painting.

One of the masters of French Impressionism, Renoir.

Pastoral scene from the 19th C.

Going centuries back, the Devil and his ilk are getting their due from a band of fighting angels. From the 1400's - I love medieval art, especially that from the later period such as the piece above.

Besides art, there were other "masterpieces" to be had on our trip - both south of Milwaukee, which made them convenient to our route.

We always try to stop at the Jelly Belly factory outlet store, located near Pleasant Prairie, WI (just over the border from IL):

As the sign behind the Jelly Belly decoration indicated, there were bargains galore to be had. If one didn't mind out of season candies from Christmas and Valentine's Day, there were numerous case sales going on. But our daughter and I limited ourselves to the always-available Belly Flops (irregular Jelly Bellies in a variety of flavors) and the Hodgepodge Mix (a variety of candies in each bag).

The outlet store is a lot of fun to visit. One of the most popular places in the store is probably the Sample Bar, where employees patiently dole out free samples to eager visitors.

Not sure about the popularity of one Jelly Belly display which held  several kinds of that candy, all in very unusual flavors like "pencil shavings", "vomit" and "toothpaste". No, I didn't look over at the Sample Bar to see if these and the other weird flavors were available for the tasting!

On our way back home, we visited the See's candy store in Downer's Grove, IL. See's is based in CA and is slowly making its way east. We first encountered them while visiting the San Francisco area several years ago. Immediately upon entering that store, we were greeted by an employee offering us a free sample, and it was love at first bite! We now order See's online for special occasions, but it's nice to visit one of their stores to avoid shipping costs.

I don't know if the See's sampling policy has changed, but the employee yesterday kept offering us samples while we were deliberating on our purchases. I finally tried one piece, while my husband and our daughter each had three or four.

A display case:

Some of the milk chocolates.

Getting ready for Easter!

My husband happily purchased two pounds of assorted dark chocolates, while our daughter and I got lesser amounts. I couldn't resist a 2 oz chocolate-walnut egg. 

Long live See's! If you love chocolates and come across one of their stores during your travels, you won't regret buying some!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Thrifty Acres - St. Patrick's Day

Hello! I'm not Irish, but when I spied a bag of vintage St. Patrick's Day decorations for only $2.00 at an antique mall near Marshall, IL several years ago, I snapped it up  - and thus had another holiday to decorate for!

And here are some of the vintage goodies that were in that bag:

A hair clip.

A bridge tally card. One of a handful in the bag.

Shamrocks - cardboard and flocked paper. They have long wired stems, so these two, among the several mates in the bag, make nice decorations on my tabletop feather tree.

Carnation made out of delicate plastic petals - Made In Japan paper label still attached to the stem. Too bad there was only one of these.

Vintage greeting cards are charming no matter what the holiday!

This shamrock is made from several layers of a thin, napkin-like paper. I'm guessing it was a coaster. One of several in the bag.

More of the cardboard shamrocks, gracefully hanging from our dining room chandelier.

All in all, a nice purchase at a very nice price!