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!