Saturday, March 30, 2013

Job Jar - Month #3

Hello! Since I'll be doing Easter-ish stuff tomorrow, my job jar report for the month is being written up today. 

Out-of-town trips and other changes in scheduling limited the number of days and/or time spent on job jar tasks. Nevertheless, I did as much as I could, and actually some of the job jar tasks resulted in some serious cleaning. 

Take, for instance, the task entitled "clean and declutter basement shelves". When we moved into our house ten years ago, there were several metal shelves already in the basement. Of course, these were quickly filled up by us with extra pantry items, gardening supplies, kitchen equipment that doesn't get daily use, nuts, bolts, nails, etc etc. 

Although there's been additions and subtractions to what's on these shelving units over the years, they hadn't had a good cleaning/decluttering - until this month. Yes, it was a dirty job, and I'm not through with it yet, but it's nice to have a little more order down there. 

Another cleaning project involved the front staircase - doesn't sound like much work, but that staircase is so narrow that wielding a mop on it doesn't work. So yes, I got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed away. 

I also did a very thorough cleaning of the upstairs - well, except for the messiest room of all, our daughter's bedroom. Do you think I can get her to help me clean it over her spring break? Stay tuned!

It wasn't all just a clean-a-thon around here, though. I did less intensive chores like decluttering, filing, repairing jewelry and mending clothing. 

I researched new volunteer opportunities, worked on the Comfort Doll project, wrote a letter to a relative and was mindful of giving out compliments. 

For fun and relaxation, I read a shelter book, worked on craft projects, wrote in my nature journal and listened to a relaxation CD. 

I also got out that paraffin wax kit again - as I'd mentioned the first time I used it, it had been a gift to my mom one year after she'd had similar treatments during physical therapy at her local hospital. She had raved about how nice those wax treatments had been, so I got her the Revlon Spa Luxury Paraffin Bath set. She never used it, so I claimed it after her death. 

You have to plan ahead when you want to use the kit, for it takes the wax up to 90 minutes to melt. But the results are worth it - baby-soft hands and feet! I don't know why my mom never used it - I think she was so used to doing for others, she didn't always get around to doing things for herself. 

But this is one advantage of the job jar system: as you can see, although I did plenty of good hard cleaning, I also did things for myself. A good balance, I'd say!


Friday, March 29, 2013

Get Carded - Variations On A Theme

Hello! On Sunday my family is having a combined Easter/family birthday party for those who have had birthdays from January-March. 

I had a total of eight birthday cards to create, plus the shopping for those birthday gifts and the making of foods for the holiday dinner. To make things easier, the cards I made are all variations on the same theme:

The cards all have a white card stock base, and all share a simple gift-wrapped box shape (courtesy of a scrapbooking template set I'd found at a thrift store). The use of various art papers, scrapbooking papers, vintage children's books, stamped words and words cut from vintage school worksheets gives each card its own personality. Also added a bit of ribbon to one card and some thin white string to another. 

To show you the versatility of that gift-shape template, the ages of the birthday celebrants range from one year old to 24 years old! 

However, I still had one more card to make, as I became a great-aunt for the second time this past Sunday:

For this card, I used a teddy bear shape from the same scrapbooking template set. (the colors on the card are a little brighter than what the photo shows; what looks like beige is actually a pale green. The art paper background piece was a perfect match!)

Maybe not a traditional-looking "new baby" card, but I liked how it turned out. 

The next family birthday party is likely to be in the summer, so I get a break between these family card-making sessions. I suppose I could make a card as each birthday comes and that way I wouldn't have so many to make at once! However, it's also convenient to craft a bunch at a time while my supplies are out. 

Either way, it's a fun way to prepare for all those birthdays!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Eats - A Crockpot Tip And A Recipe To Go With It

Hello! I purchased a five-quart crockpot (aka slow cooker) several years ago, thinking that it'd come in handy for cooking large batches of spaghetti sauce, apple butter, apple sauce and dried beans (cheaper than buying canned beans). It has worked just fine for these tasks, and has also been great for serving up the occasional meals for crowds. 

However, there are many recipes written for smaller crockpots, and these make sense for my family of three. Cooked in my large crockpot, though, these recipes would get dried out along the edges, even at low heat. 

Came across this tip awhile back (don't recall the source):

"Rather than buying a small crockpot, put a smaller ovenproof casserole dish in a large crockpot and pour some water in the crockpot between the crockpot and the casserole dish".

So, of course, it was off to the thrift store to buy a suitable dish. It took a little while to find one that would be the right size, but I located this last week:

I would have preferred that it had a lid, but I liked the vintage design. It said "West Bend" on the bottom, so I knew it was a food-safe item. I guessed that its capacity was around eight cups, which should work for those smaller crockpot recipes, so I paid the two dollars and lugged it home. Once there, I discovered that the lid of a small casserole dish I already own fit this pot perfectly.

What was the original purpose of this pot? By perusing eBay, I soon learned that it's generally labeled a "bean pot/crockpot" by the sellers. In its complete form, it comes with a lid, of course, as well as a warming plate. No seller had the exact age as to when the pot had been made; one seller settled for the broader "1950's/1960's", while several others pegged it as a product of the 1950's. Always glad to find a vintage item, and it seems even more fun when it's a rather mundane purchase!

My "beanpot" was in fine shape; just washed it and then set it to work that night with this recipe:

Overnight Cherry-Almond Oatmeal

Combine 4 cups vanilla almond milk, 1 cup steel-cut oats, 1 cup dried cherries, 1/3 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon in a greased 3-qt. slow cooker. Cover and cook on low 7-8 hours. Makes 6 servings (recipe source: Geraldine Saucier, February/March 2013 Taste of Home magazine). 

Following the tip above, I set my pot into the crockpot and filled the crockpot with water to about halfway up the pot. 

I woke up the next morning to perfectly-cooked oatmeal. There's no way I could have made this recipe in my crockpot as is; it would have ended up a dried-out mess. (if it sounds like I know from experience - I do!)

This recipe alone is worth the two dollars I'd spent on my vintage pot! Steel-cut oats take awhile to soften up if cooked on the stove, so a slow cooker is perfect for this ingredient. The dried cherries plumped up nicely, and the brown sugar added just the right amount of sweetening. 

I assume that regular milk or water would work fine in this dish, and of course other dried fruits could be used in place of the cherries. 

If you already have a smaller crockpot, just use that as is. But if you are like me and have a large crockpot, you now know a tip for improvising a smaller one!




Thursday, March 21, 2013

Eats - Cookies Your Way

Hello! Our daughter's school is having a carnival fundraiser and requested contributions of cookies for the carnival's "Cookie Walk". Since I enjoy baking I always try to honor such requests; I signed up to bring six dozen cookies. 

I'd recently come across an interesting cookie recipe from a community cookbook that I'd picked up at the thrift store. It was basically a drop cookie but with a number of optional additions. I'll give you the recipe, then explain how I made them my way.

Goulash Cookies

Blend 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup white sugar, 1 cup vegetable oil, 1 cup butter, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add 3 1/2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon salt. Add all or as many as you prefer: 1 cup oatmeal, 1 cup raisins (cooked for five minutes and drained), 1 cup nuts, 1 cup crunchy cereal, 1 cup crushed potato chips. Makes large amount of cookies so use large bowl. Drop by rounded teaspoon on ungreased pan (I'm sure the recipe contributor meant a baking sheet). Bake at 350 12-15 minutes. (recipe doesn't mention it, but if you make cookies enough, you know what to do next - let cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet, then remove). 

And how did I make them my way? Well, for starters, I used 2 cups white wheat flour and 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour; I'd like to think that using at least some whole wheat flour adds nutrients and fiber to the cookies. 

I added the oatmeal and the crushed potato chips. We don't typically have potato chips around the house, so I had never added them to cookies before. I saved some potato chips from a recent restaurant meal to use in this recipe. And for "crunchy cereal", I tossed in some Rice Krispies. 

Now, I would have been fine with adding the raisins and the nuts, but a lot of people don't like raisins in baked goods, and nut allergies are an issue as well. So, even though the recipe didn't list it as an option, I added 2 cups of chocolate chips. 

I use a vintage food scoop (estate sale find) for measuring out cookies; it equals about 2 tablespoons of cookie dough. I ended up with 60 2 1/2" cookies. (of course, I made more cookies from another recipe so that I'd have the full six dozen).

Want to see how they turned out?

Yes, that cookie tasted just as good as it looked! Because of all that fat, it had a nice crispness to it (traditional chocolate chip cookie recipes typically call for butter and/or shortening; they don't usually have vegetable oil in them as well). The crushed potato chips added more richness, and they, plus the Rice Krispies, also gave these cookies a nice crunch! 

Why is this recipe entitled "Goulash Cookies"? I'm not sure why; perhaps the name comes from the recipes for American-style goulash, that skillet supper dish that probably has as many variations as this cookie recipe could.

No potato chips? Try crushed pretzels. Use any kind of "crunchy cereal" you have on hand instead of Rice Krispies. If you like nuts, put 'em in, or use a different kind of dried fruit in place of raisins. Add coconut. Use any flavor of baking chip. Chop up some candy bars to sub for baking chips. Make them your way! 

As for me, since my cookies do have that nice crunchy texture, I'm going to label them "Crunchy Chip Cookies" for the carnival fundraiser - I think that sounds better than "Goulash Cookies"!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Made It - Welcome Spring With A Weathergram

Hello! According to the calendar, spring arrives tomorrow. Alas, the weather we had today felt more like winter - highs in the 20's, a brisk wind and some lake effect snow. So, I thought, why not encourage spring to come ASAP by hanging up a weathergram tomorrow? 

I'd first learned of weathergrams in Maureen Crawford's Handmade Greeting Cards, the book that got me started on what's become an enjoyable hobby. Crawford explains: "Japanese in origin, weathergrams are short poems written on biodegradable paper and hung outdoors to be mellowed by nature...They are replaced at the equinox and solstice and become a unique way of celebrating the seasons". 

Crawford's instructions for making a weathergram call for cutting a piece of brown paper 3"x11", folding down a flap measuring 2 1/2" along one end, punching a hole in the middle of the upper edge of the flap, and threading a piece of twine (she suggests 15" length) through the hole so that the weathergram can be hung outside. A seasonal poem is then written on the long section below the flap. 

Just out of curiousity, I googled "weathergram" and came up with similar directions as well as images of various weathergrams. These Internet directions generally called for using brown kraft paper (paper grocery bags are a good source, of course). A poem consisting of no more than ten words in length was suggested. 

The Internet weathergram poems seemed to have been moslty written in lovely calligraphy. I'm not a calligraphist, so I made do with a Sharpie Ultra Fine marker.

Some of the weathergrams I saw online had been stamped with an image; the ones I saw had Asian writing on them. I used a rubber stamp from the Sun, Moon, and Stars stamp set produced by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (a garage sale find). The stamp I chose is based on a 16th C. woodblock print. 

So here's what I'll be hanging up tomorrow:

Close-up of the stamped image:

(The stamps in the set came mounted on soft backings, which makes it hard to get clear stampings from the detailed images these stamps have. Perhaps this is why the set showed up at a garage sale!)

I'm not crazy about my printing compared to the calligraphy I saw online, but it'll do. I wanted to post this tonight so that if anyone reads it soon, they'll be able to make their own weathergrams in time to welcome spring! 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Meet Me In St. Louis

Hello! Due to conflicting schedules, we're not able to make a week-long spring break trip, but my husband and daughter both had last Friday off, so we went on a three-day trip to St. Louis. We have been there before, but it had been over ten years since my last visit. This time, we were hoping our visit would give us a bit of a "spring break" feel by being considerably south of where we live.

One highlight of the trip began well before we had arrived in St. Louis - a stop to Beachy's Bulk Groceries near Arcola, IL. This business, in the heart of an Amish settlement, had been an hour away from our house in Indiana. It was one of the things I missed the most after moving up here. If you enjoy cooking and baking, Amish grocery stores are a lot of fun! There is an excellent selection of flours, grains, herbs, spices and baking supplies. I happily purchased herbs and spices for far less than what the grocery stores charge. 

We continued on our way, watching as the dashboard thermometer climbed the farther south we drove. By the time we got to St. Louis, it read 74. It wasn't sunny, but we were happy to be in an area that was completely snow-free. 

Approached the city's most famous landmark:

My husband had wanted to get tickets to ride to the top of the Gateway Arch, but they were already sold out for the day. I secretly wasn't too disappointed, as the closer we got to the Arch, the taller it looked! My husband said it's around 63 stories high. Yes, I am not the bravest when it comes to heights. However, I have been to the top of the former Sears Tower, which is even higher, so I would have gone up to the top of the Arch if we'd been able to. 

We still enjoyed walking around in the mild air and watching the Mississippi River flow by. If we had felt like it, we could have gone to the museum at the base of the Arch, but it was already late afternoon, so we headed out to the suburbs for dinner. 

I have a personal reason for liking St. Louis. You see, in my 1960's small town childhood, my Sicilian maiden name was difficult for people to say and to spell. But in St. Louis, my maiden name is well known enough that probably most people can at least say it without tripping over their tongues. This is due to several folks there who share my maiden name and who are obviously successful businesspeople. They run car dealerships, restaurants, business centers and who knows what else. 

So we went to eat at a pizzeria that has my maiden name on it, where I talked to the affable owner. Busy as he was with Friday night take-out, he filled me on some family history. Said he's actually more related to the Detroit branch of the clan than to the St. Louis bunch. Well, my dad's family settled in Detroit, so I could very well be a distant relative to the pizza man. But then again, I'm probably related to the car dealers as well, as I had already known that the clan generally comes from one town near Palermo - the same one my dad's family came from. 

The pizza guy said the clan had originally been in Spain but "had been kicked out of there". I was interested to hear this, since my grandmother had told me there was Spanish blood in the family. She was prone to stretch the truth, so I was never sure if I should believe her, but apparently she was not exaggerating in this case. 

The encounter piqued my interest in my family tree. My dad never knew a lot about his relatives, since some stayed in Sicily and, as I said, his mother liked to exaggerate. But maybe I can find out more sometime. 

Well, enough of the family stuff. The next day, we paid a visit to the Missouri Botanical Garden. We had been there during past stays and had always enjoyed it. True, our visits then had been during the growing season, but even in very early spring, there was plenty to see. 

For one thing, the indoor Orchid Show was going on. We've seen orchid displays in other public garden institutions, but this was the nicest grouping of these beautiful flowers that I've ever seen. I have a few photos to share from the many that I took:

As I said, this is just a small fraction of the pictures I could have shown, and I could have taken even more pictures than what I did. Each orchid seemed prettier than the one before! 

There was much more to view than just the Orchid Show, both indoors and out. Between fantasizing about a courtyard that my Sicilian ancestors might have had:

or gazing at the subtle beauty of the Japanese Garden plantings:

there was a lot to take in! But as to why I show only one outdoor shot - well, it was rather chilly there last Saturday. The mid 70's had disappeared, with an overcast upper 40's in its place. And with the brisk breeze, we began to wish we'd brought our winter coats along. 

Nevertheless, counting lunch, we spent about 4 1/2 hours at the Missouri Botanical Garden. I recommend it highly if you like this sort of thing. 

That night, the TV meteorologist chirped about an impending snowstorm for Sunday morning. That had not been in the forecast when we left for St. Louis! If it had been, we wouldn't have gone there. So we went to bed with gloomy thoughts about driving through 3"-5" snow, as if we hadn't driven through enough snow already this winter where we live! "There could even be some thunder snow, which could mean even higher accumulations" the meteorologist had warned. Oh, brother.

But when we got up Sunday morning, there was nothing, not even any rain. It appeared that the storm had stayed further to the south. All we saw were snow flurries for about the first half hour or so of the trip; after that it got sunnier the further north we traveled.

And so there you have it - the Arch, some family history, beautiful orchids, and nice meals out. Sounds like a pretty good trip to me!


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Thrifty Acres - Safety Or Else, 1957-Style

Hello! Some time ago I bought a 1957 Official Safety Manual, produced by Police Safety Service, IncI paid a quarter for it at a thrift store, but it's currently listed at $8.95 on eBay. 

On the first page, the Police Safety Service is described as "A Non-Profit Organization Dedicated To The Safety Of Children". Well, of course, we all want our kids to be safe, don't we? Therefore, the Official Safety Manual should be worthy of sharing in this post.

That is, if you prefer to receive pertinent safety tips in an over-the-top manner that borders on the macabre! The first page sets the tone for this manual, in the form of a question and answer:

Even though just a portion of the answer is shown, a grim mood is present. Many depictions of calamities follow!

Never swim alone:

Poor Dick decides to swim alone and pays the ultimate price.

Next up, Never ride after dark without proper lights:

Oh, no, kid on bike, you're making a HUGE mistake!

Gotta show you the next warning:

That didn't frighten you enough, kiddies? Okay, then, we'll show you some drawings of what happens when you dare to ride double!


Another strongly-worded warning:

Which refers to:

While playing hide-and-seek, Little Timmy foolishly climbs into
an abandoned refrigerator, which unfortunately hides him all too well. "FOUND TOO LATE"!

Another deadly outdoor playtime activity:

A boy has been electrocuted by flying his kite too close to the power lines. The respirator equipment (or whatever that is) looks about as creepy as the dead boy lying there! But just in case you thought he hadn't died, a small tombstone appears after the words "the end". 

I will show one last warning:

 And, pray tell, what will happen to a kid who dares to partake in such risky behavior? Will he break a leg? Will she run into a streetlight and smash her face? Heavens, no, something even worse will happen:


I've shown just a few perilous situations in the manual; several more tragedies are depicted. And all because of the enemy called CARELESSNESS. 

As a bit of a test, perhaps, toward the very end of the manual there is one page full of multiple disasters - well, to be specific, 14 of them:

The calamities range from the girl in the foreground who's playing nurse with bottles labeled "Clorox" and "lye" at her disposal, to the dad coming home from work who's tripped up by some rollerskates that had been left lying around on the sidewalk. Hopefully he fares better than the girl behind him in the street, who's getting hit by a car. 

Now, I know that all the safety tips I've highlighted still hold true today, though thankfully at least some dangers have been lessened by modern safety features. For instance, strollers now come with restraint systems to keep babies safely strapped in. You buckle your baby in and let's see that kid on skates just try to knock Baby out of the stroller! 

But wasn't this manual just a little over the top? Ya think? I think if I'd seen this as a kid I would have gotten nightmares after reading it! But thankfully I never read it. And I managed to make it through childhood somehow anyway. Whew!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Thrifty Acres - Supper Before The Basketball Game

Hello! The basketball phenomena known as "March Madness" is here, so let the excitement begin! Between high school and collegiate tournaments, there's a lot of action to follow, and hungry fans need something to eat before yelling their lungs out at their favorite teams. 

Lucky for us, 1962 Betty Crocker's Cooking Calendar has a menu already planned out:

No, it isn't what I would expect to be served before watching a basketball game either! Nowadays, meals related to sporting events seem to revolve around casual fare such as pizza, tacos or hot dogs. The above supper menu features much more delicate fare. It reads more like an old-fashioned ladies' luncheon menu!

The Ham-Onion-Broccoli Casserole may sound hearty, but here's the list of ingredients; note the quantities shown:

The recipe instructions didn't photograph well, but basically it's a ham/onion/broccoli/cheese sauce casserole with a biscuit topping. As I said, it sounds hearty - but the recipe is supposed to serve six people. In today's world of supersized portions, this dish yields servings that would look pretty skimpy! 

I don't know what the dessert featured in the menu - Lemon-filled Lemon Velvet Cake - is, but perhaps it provided enough calories to make up for those small main course portions. After all, one needs to fuel up before yelling during those tournament games!

But at any rate, no matter what's on your menu during March Madness, enjoy the hoops and the hoopla - and, as for this household: Go Green! Go White!  


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Made It - Days Of The Week Towel

Although I prefer vintage items, there are times when they can get pricey. For instance, I've been charmed when I've come across vintage  days-of-the-week tea towel sets. These would add a nice touch to my old-house kitchen, but I've not been charmed by the prices such sets in good condition can fetch at antique stores. Price/condition varies quite a bit on eBay, but for something like this, I'd rather inspect the towels in person for condition, color, and quality of stitching. 

Over time I've gathered up a few days-of-the-week tea towel stamped embroidery patterns from thrift stores, so why not use them to make my own set?  Most of these are the Aunt Martha's brand, but some were purchased in a manila envelope sans official packaging. From this group, I decided to use a pattern depicting a cat doing various tasks. It might very well be an Aunt Martha's pattern too. 

I also turned to Aunt Martha's for new, blank tea towels to embroider. Although plain towels are available, I chose the package labeled "Vintage 1930's Towels", as the red, green, yellow and blue stripes on the sides of the towels match the colors in the kitchen wallpaper. These towels come in packs of three for $9.99. Not exactly dirt cheap, but the price is what it is. The towels are 100% cotton and measure 18"x28".

As today is Sunday, I thought it appropriate to show off my first completed tea towel:

I've yet to see my own cat hold a church hymnal and sing, but it sure makes for a cute design! In the first photo, you can see the colored stripes on the edge tea towel. (Ignore the raised edge you see around the design - that's just where the embroidery hoop had been). 

I was showing off this work in progress earlier in the week to some women. The oldest woman approved; she had done similar embroidery when she was younger. Thinking that the younger women present might think my towel hopelessly quaint, I explained that I liked a vintage look for my old-house kitchen. But these younger women liked my embroidery just as much as the older woman had!

It is easy embroidery, primarily backstitching, so it didn't take very long to complete. And since tomorrow is Monday, I'll iron on that day's pattern then. It depicts our busy little cat hanging up the laundry to dry. Too bad my cat can't help me with that chore!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Made It - Abracadabra Collage

Hello! Recently I checked Mixed-Media Paint Box - Weekly Projects for a Year of Creative Exploration out of the library. This volume is a compilation of projects taken from previously-published books by various artists. Although I wouldn't be likely to do all of the projects if I actually owned the book, there were many interesting ideas in it. 

One such idea was the Abracadabra Collage, from Sally Jean Alexander's book Pretty Little Things. Similar in method to my job jar, an abracadraba collage is made by drawing various task tags randomly, such as paint, draw, stamp, text, photograph, and so on - you get the idea. It was also suggested that people could come up with their own tasks, so I chose fabric - as in adding a piece of fabric to my collage. 

In some cases, Alexander is vague in how a task should be performed, such as for "write": "Write anything...any..writing utensil...". She does go on to suggest misspellings, foreign language and poor penmanship. 

(For the record, I wrote a couple of sentences around the edge of my collage in pencil; the sentences were from an article in a vintage Farm Journal magazine.)

But when it comes to "text", Alexander has detailed instructions about how this task should be performed - tearing one page from an old book (I chose a vintage book of overly-dramatic safety tips for children) and cutting from it in three different but very specific ways. 

Followed to the letter, the project does require a wide variety of arts and craft supplies - all of which are common enough but would be expensive if purchased at one time to make the collage. Due to my crafty nature and also because our daughter and I have taken some art classes, I had the supplies already on hand. But I think the project would still turn out fine if a smaller number of supplies were used. (and using a lesser variety would probably make this a quicker project for kids!)

Alexander suggests using a piece of cardstock, watercolor paper or canvas for the collage base (she does not specify what size). Well, I had a number of 9x12 chalkboards (they'd probably come from a classroom) I'd purchased from a thrift store for 79c apiece. I had bought them for this very purpose, to use in collage work. 

So I sanded one of these chalkboards, then added a coating of gesso:

Many steps later, this is how my collage turned out:

And here's a close-up:

The close-up shows some of the text I'd used, plus the tasks of adding paint, writing, magazine, drawing, stamping, and pastels. 

Overall, it's not bad for a first effort. I ended up being the least happy with the way I'd added paper. That was the second task I drew, for which I tore pieces of a decorative paper and randomly glued them to the painted chalkboard ("paint" was the first task I did). I think the collage would have turned out better had I glued the paper pieces on in a more specific way - for example, one long piece to cover a lengthwise section of the chalkboard. Since it was so early on in the design process, I assumed that the paper would end up blending in better than it ended up doing. 

I tried to make those paper pieces look more interesting by writing on them, but they still just look like pieces of paper glued on. 

Oh well, it was my first time doing this. I have more chalkboards waiting in the wings, so if at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

If you'd like to make your own abracadabra collage, I found simplified directions HERE . (in the book, Alexander gives suggestions and/or specific instructions on how to do each task). 

If you do this project, have fun! In spite of not liking everything about how my collage turned out, I enjoyed the process.


Monday, March 4, 2013

Made It - The Cat's Meow

Hello! Interior decorating trends come and go, and when they go, the "must-have" accessories that have fallen out of fashion often end up in thrift stores.

Of course, if one waits long enough, the rejected trends become fashionable again. It seems that 1980's country-style decor hasn't come back yet, though, so I often see patterns for various decorative stuffed animals of that era at the thrift stores. The animals are usually shown sewn up in rather muted colors that seem dull to me. For example, this:

This pattern set is called Felicia and her Friends and was produced by the Putnam Pattern Company in 1985. Despite the embroidered faces and the stenciled hearts, they just don't look very interesting. But at only 25c for the pattern, I figured I could make a more colorful version. 

And that's what I did over the weekend:

With thrift store fabric, mismatched vintage buttons and coordinating trims tied around their necks, I think that these cute kitties have an updated look. The fabric print is similar in color to the shower curtain/bath mat set I'd gotten at Target awhile back, so these cats were made to hang around in our upstairs bathroom. In fact, the smaller of the two fits perfectly inside the groovy beaded plant hanger seen HERE.  (there was a hook for a hanging plant already in the bathroom ceiling, so that's where the plant hanger went. But until now it never had anything in it!)

Lesson learned: don't hesitate to buy a pattern for an outdated look at the thrift store - just update it!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Made It - Even More Dolled Up

Hello! As seen HEREI had found an unclothed doll at a thrift store recently. Last night I sewed her a dress:

I used The Patchwork Place's Country Doll pattern (thrift store purchase). Directions were somewhat vague; the patternmaker obviously assumed that the sewer knew how to sew doll clothes. Fortunately I've done enough sewing that I could figure things out okay. 

Since my doll is a little taller than the doll height that the dress pattern was designed for, I made sure that the dress length would still be long enough. It is, but what I had neglected to check for was sleeve length. I'm not used to dolls who have arms of two different colors (in this case, painted hands and forearms, unpainted upper arms). 

Consequently, the doll looks like she has tan lines showing. Not the end of the world, of course, but still annoying. If I was a perfectionist sort, I would make another dress and lengthen the sleeves while doing so. Instead, I'll probably just add some lace trim to hang down over those tan lines. 

I love the cute print that I'd used to make the dress, especially since it was a 50c thrift store find. Add the 25c pattern along with the three bucks I paid for the doll, and you have a project that cost under $4.00. Not bad!