Friday, May 31, 2013

Job Jar - Month #5

Hello! The job jar project kept me busy with various cleaning tasks this month. One of these was some heavy-duty cleaning in the basement; a large section was cleaned and decluttered. I'm not fond of old-house basements, which is what we happen to have: dark, dusty and musty. I have to be careful that I don't get affected by potential allergens, so this time I got smart and wore a dust/pollen mask. That mask helped some, and now at least one section of the basement isn't as dirty anymore!

I also did decluttering in the rest of the house, some extra cleaning and caught up on the filing of some paperwork. 

I was pleased to help others in several ways as well: gave something to a friend, offered assistance to neighbors, donated to a thrift store and looked for new volunteer opportunities. 

But as always, the job jar system provides a balance between doing for others and doing chores and doing some things just for fun. I tried out a new cookie recipe, did some sewing, made several holiday crafts (some of which were new projects), practiced drawing, painted, worked on a short story and read a craft book (it had only been sitting on a bookshelf, unread, for several months). 

I also treated myself to the reading of an uplifting book, some aromatherapy, and soaked in a bath with some mineral salts. I know that soaking in baths is almost a cliche for relaxation, but I had not done so in a long time. This was mostly due to the fact that for years, I suspected that our hot water heater wasn't functioning correctly. It seemed that the hot water supply was weak when we showered, so I knew that'd be true for a bath as well. Finally got the water heater repaired, and lo and behold - now there's plenty of hot water for showers and baths. 

And yes, I did enjoy my soak in the tub! Had some sore muscles from yardwork that day, so the bath really helped. 

I'm looking forward to what the June job jar will bring - and of course, will report at the end of the month as to how the project went.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Ambling In Ann Arbor

Hello! Made a brief stop in Ann Arbor today after a visit in the region to visit relatives. Ann Arbor is a really cool town and though there's lots to see and do there, we always seem to end up visiting its Kerrytown area. 

The Sunday artisans market (held in the farmers market space) was in full swing, with people offering baked goods, jewelry, soaps, hand-knit items and more. What caught my eye was the vendor selling wooden fairy doors:

Fairy doors have become popular in Ann Arbor; in fact, I saw a poster with photos of fairy doors in the area for sale in a nearby shop, Found. 

I'm not a woodworker, but I appreciated the colorful whimsy of these creations! Was sorely tempted to buy one, and seeing these doors also gave me the itch to go home and make some miniature dolls that would go along with the scale of the doors. That is a true compliment to an artisan, when their work inspires creativity in others!

I also liked that the doors' crafter, Robert W. Simmons, calls himself a "master tinker" on his business card! 

If you'd like to learn more about Mr. Simmons and his works, go HERE.

One of my favorite stores in Kerrytown is Found - lots of vintage items for crafting - photos, flashcards, children's games, that sort of thing (the shop carries new decorative items as well, plus repurposed wares such as rings shaped from old spoons). Found was having a Memorial Day weekend sale, so I took advantage of the savings to buy a small bagful of vintage buttons. The buttons were in a bucket, sold by the scoopful, so I could pick out just the buttons I wantedNever can have too many red buttons, I've learned (Christmas and Valentine's Day), so that's what I mostly picked out.

Found's website is HERE.

Kerrytown is also home to Zingerman's Deli, which is nationally-known. Their sandwiches are excellent, but today my husband suggested going to their nearby restaurant, Zingerman's Roadhouse. Like the deli, the roadhouse is not exactly inexpensive, but it's fun to go there once in awhile. 

Seen while waiting for a table at Zingerman's Roadhouse:

The Camp Bacon event is fast approaching - May 30th-June 2nd. Zingerman's May/June newsletter devoted six full pages to this extravaganza - including 27 ways that the Zingerman's folks like to use bacon. I learned quite a bit from that particular write-up, like the existence of British Bacon Buttys (a sandwich) and Hungarian bacon roasts (instead of roasting hot dogs, thick pieces of bacon are roasted over a fire). 

And Zingerman's, being the purveyors of meticulously-sourced foodstuffs, sells the particular bacons suited for those British or Hungarian bacon treats - along with several other bacons! They really take this stuff seriously!

I've greatly enjoyed one of the bacon varieties, the Arkansas Peppered, in a Zingerman's Deli sandwich, but since we were at the roadhouse today, I had a nice whitefish Po'Boy with Cajun-flavored fries instead. 

Didn't think to take a pic of my sandwich, but instead took some photos of the salt and pepper shaker collection displayed in some glass cases near the roadhouse's restrooms: 

Not sure what sort of vegetable this is supposed to be. Any guesses?

Also am not sure why someone would have wanted a memento of the notorious Alcatraz prison, but there you go!

There were dozens and dozens of salt and pepper shaker sets on display - a fun look. 

Zingerman's Roadhouse info can be found HERE.

Zingerman's also runs several other businesses besides the deli and the roadhouse - they also make their own cheeses, bread, candy bars, gelatos, roast their own coffee, do catering, business training sessions, have a space for special events, and who knows what else. 

My husband and I have joked that maybe one day Ann Arbor will be renamed Zingerman's - or maybe the local university will be called the University of Zingerman's!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Thrifty Acres: A Fun Fabric Find

Hello! One local thrift store has several large shelves devoted to fabrics, but lately this section has been disappointingly void of anything I've wanted to purchase. 

But today I was plenty interested in some older fabric prints that had landed on these shelves. There were several large pieces of fabrics along with bundles of smaller fabric pieces. 

I'm not a fan of the bundle approach. It seems that there's always some clunker fabric stuck in the set along with a cute print I really want. But today I found a bundle that I could live with. 

Here's my purchase - some of the large pieces along with the smaller pieces from the bundle:

Now for some close-ups:

 A sunny yellow.

Good for a fall project.

Spring or summer look.

Same print, different colors.

Mushrooms galore. Perhaps these prints are from the 70's?

Of these two, I like the print on the right the best. 

The fabric on the left doesn't seem as old as the other fabrics in the set, but I still like the print. 

Love the sailboat print! 

Think pink. 

Each fabric piece was priced at a little more than a dollar a yard, which is a bargain compared to fabric store prices. And these secondhand fabrics are better quality than the flimsy stuff often found in fabric stores today too! So needless to say, I was pleased with my purchase. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Thrifty Acres: In The Pink With Vintage Postcards

Hello! As I've mentioned before, vintage postcards can be quite affordable at thrift stores. This was proven true again last week, when I paid 50c for a bundle of 44. 

Because of the way the postcards were packaged, I couldn't tell what scenes were included, other than the top postcard. I always secretly hope that scenes from old restaurants and motels are included, for I love to see how these establishments were decorated back in the day. 

Thus, I was happy to find this in my set:

The Village Motel of Sturbridge, MA. 

A close-up:

Love all the pink going on here with the lawn chairs and doors. And although the motel looks coral in the photo, it looks more pink in the area where sunlight is on the building. 

The first photo doesn't show all the other pink-painted decor clearly, but there are also pale pink planters with darker pink flowers in them. The walkway in front of the motel rooms has some pink in it. There's even some pink-painted wooden crates lining the driveway.

Like I said, in the pink! My postcard had never been mailed, and an identical unmailed one is currently listed on eBay for $7.99. So considering I paid a little over a penny for mine, I'd say I got a good deal!

All of the postcards in my set were from New England and upstate New York. These are regions I haven't explored at length, so I learned a few things from looking up where some of the postcards had come from. 

For instance, I'd never heard of the Ausable Chasm, which is in upstate New York, but from its website, I learned that it's "... a uniquely-carved, vertical-walled canyon made of 500 million year old rock!" And it's been open for tourism since 1870. 

Judging from what I saw on the website, it looks like a place I'd like to visit - lots of cool scenery along some trails. But unfortunately, the website didn't mention much about the official gift shop, but here's what it looked like a few decades ago:

Doesn't look like much from the outside, I know, but on the back of the postcard, we are told: "Spacious and exciting Gift Shop." So I wanted to see if the gift shop was still spacious and exciting to this day. I have been to a wide variety of gift shops connected to local attractions. Some have been very nice, others have been tacky - but I can't say that any of them were exactly exciting!

Another place I learned about via my postcard set was Lake Sunapee, NH. Sounds summer-like, but apparently winter visitors were welcomed as well:

The chapel room looks very cozy, and I bet the rest of the lodge was as well. I say "was" because, alas, I learned via the Internet that the lodge has been torn down to make room for somebody's summer home. Of course. 

(note: although it says "Mount Sunapee" on the front of the card, on the back it's labeled "Lake Sunapee".)

Also in Hew Hampshire is this shop:

The Dorr Mill Store of Guild, NH. I certainly would have swooped in for a visit, especially to check out what appears to be remnants or bargain bins in the foreground to the left. Happily, I learned that the Dorr Mill Store operates to this day, and is run by the son of the founders. The mill itself has shut down, but the store still sells wool made to the store's specifications. The hand-dyed wool shown on the store website looked very appealing! 

The remaining two postcards I'm showing off are from Maine:

Classic vacation postcard scene. 

I don't know anything about Belfast, Maine, but I liked the fact that its post office, shown above, looks almost exactly like the old post office in my hometown - only smaller. When a new post office was constructed in my hometown, the old post office was converted to office space. I don't know if the same fate has befallen the one in Belfast, Maine. 

I love the row of older cars lining up around the post office. My husband said that the newest of the cars were from the 1950s. 

Although not really evident in my photo, it appeared to have been a pleasant fall day when the postcard photo was taken. The trees behind the post office are just beginning to turn, and a man in a plaid jacket is near one of the cars. 

That day has come and gone, of course - but I can relive it and the scenes from my other postcards. And I learned a few things about a part of our country as well.

Not bad for 50 cents!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Thrifty Acres: The Neighborhood Plant Sale

Hello! Yesterday our neighborhood association held its annual perennial sale - perennial plants, that is! 

In advance of the sale, residents were reminded to dig up and pot perennials to donate. A few hours before the sale began, the plants were dropped off and then sorted by size at the host house. So by the time the sale began, there were a variety of perennials for sale - all priced by size, but all at a reasonable cost. 

We donated four plants to the sale, and in return purchased several:

The main drawback to a donated plant sale is that information on the plants is dependent on how much the donators know about them. The aster in the above photo has its variety name listed, and the larger sign to the left warns that the plant may be invasive. But I also saw plants labeled with just a name: "raspberry", for instance. 

But no matter; it's still a win-win situation for everyone who participates in such a sale! Garderners divide up perennials that need to be thinned, and in return there's the opportunity to purchase perennials at substantial savings over buying them at local nurseries. We ended up paying ten dollars for six plants. 

If your neighborhood doesn't have its own perennial sale, why consider having one? You can even turn the event into a potluck party, as our association did yesterday. It was a good opportunity to talk to neighbors both old and new. 

Now, to find new homes for our new plants!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Things You Can Always Find At A Thrift Store #3: Coffee Mugs

Hello! Yes, we who drink coffee (or other hot beverages) probably have too many coffee mugs. But every so often the purchase of another one may be necessary. Mugs break. Or maybe you'd like some seasonal ones for ushering in certain holidays. 

But you may not feel like paying a lot for another mug. It, too, may break at some point. And why spend much on something you may use for just one month out of the year? 

Enter the thrift store - there are always plenty of mugs, in various sizes, colors and designs. You can find a Santa mug for sipping hot chocolate on Christmas Eve. Mugs that honor moms, dads and grandparents. Some mugs are old enough to be considered vintage, while others come from recent sales at department stores. 

You can pretend to be a teacher, a prescription drug sales rep, a golfer, an animal lover, or the member of a church you may have never even heard of. It all depends on the design printed on a mug! 

Or, you can get an almost-free souvenir from a trip - someone else went there, you can get the mug they brought back. 

I recently broke my favorite coffee mug. Although disappointed, I checked out the mug sections at thrift stores to find a suitable replacement. 

I did, for 69c. I went the trip souvenir route:

Why did I buy a mug that had come from the airport that serves the Quebec City area? For one, I liked the colorful design, and two, I have been lobbying for a vacation to Quebec City for a few years now. Besides being a very old, historic city, my reason for wanting to visit is personal: I am 1/2 French Canadian, and have learned that some ancestors of mine lived in the Quebec City area - beginning in 1647! So I'd like to see where the family had lived. 

(From online research, I learned that this airport was renamed in 1993, so this mug obviously predates that year).

But for only 25c, I could have gotten another souvenir mug today; at a different thrift store, I spotted one that had what appeared to be a hand-painted design on it: a body of water surrounded by a few trees. It had a sort of quirky charm about it. The outdoorsy scene was labeled "Merton Millpond". 

That sounded like it was somewhere in Maine, I figured, but no - when I googled the name, I learned that it was a place in Waukesha County, WI (a little west of Milwaukee). As I'd lived in WI for a few years, Merton Millpond didn't seem as "exotic" anymore. But it was still a cute mug. 

So never fear, thrift store mugs are near! And I'm now a bit more prepared for that hoped-for trip to Quebec City: one less souvenir I'll have to buy! 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Farmers Market Opens For The Season!

Hello! Our extremely popular farmers market opened for the season today. Probably because our spring has seen its share of cool, rainy days, the market was quite busy late in the morning when I visited. (Just wait until it's a Saturday morning at the height of summer, when it becomes a crowd of wall-to-wall people). 

Given the popularity of the market, and the frequency that I visit it, I'm surprised that I'd ever done a blog post on it - until now. 

This is one entrance to the market. Later in the season, the number of vendors' tables will expand to cover the blank area you see in the foreground. 

Flowers for sale - take your pick of hanging baskets and pots.

Petunias potted in colorful watering cans. 

As you can see, there's primarily flowers for offer this early in the season, although some of the food vendors were there today as well - goat cheese, popcorn, honey and more. 

However, I did purchase a few tomato, lettuce and kale plants from the nice folks at Boeve's. I'd started some tomato plants from seed, and had sown lettuce seeds outdoors. For various reasons, some of the plants have not survived, so I bought replacements. Although I'd bought tomato plants before, I'd never gotten lettuce flats. These will fill in the gaps where some of my lettuce seeds went AWOL.

I will try to remember to take more photos of the farmers' market as the season progresses, as it is certainly photo-worthy!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Thrifty Acres: My Mom's Last Mother's Day

Hello! Although my mom was always very thrifty - when you're raising eight kids, you have to be - she never was one for shopping at thrift stores. Admittedly, there were none in my hometown while I was growing up, but eventually a Goodwill came in. My mom still didn't go there, for, as she told me, thrift stores were for lower-income people. She didn't say that to be a snob; rather, she felt if people of better means shopped at thrift stores, that would result in less merchandise for people of lesser means to purchase. 

This may have been true at one point, but I tried pointing out to her that in today's world, thrift stores seemed to want people of any means to shop there, as increased sales meant increased revenue for whatever the sales funded. (in my community, besides the biggies like Goodwill and Salvation Army, there are also thrift stores whose proceeds go toward a private school system, an animal shelter, a rescue mission, and more). 

But my mom didn't change her tune until an old friend came to visit, along with one of the friend's adult daughters. My mom admired the daughter's sharp outfit, probably assuming it had come from a trendy boutique (said daughter was married to a doctor). But no, the daughter said she had bought her outfit at - a Goodwill store! 

From then on, when I showed off a nice top I'd gotten at a thrift store, my mom was more appreciative. And when she'd come to visit and I'd point out the nice decorative pieces I'd gotten at thrift stores, she'd praised me for my savvy. I would even take her to some of the thrift stores in the area. I don't recall if she bought anything, but she was impressed by the nice furniture one of the stores had for sale. 

To show how my mom's attitude had made a complete turn-around, when in spring of 2010 I asked her what she'd like for Mother's Day, she insisted that I go to a thrift store to buy her some new tops! 

I headed to a local Goodwill, where, as luck would have it, there was a host of tops that fit the bill for quality, condition, and size, as well as being in colors that would look good on my mom. I selected several tops from various upscale stores and catalogs - places my mom would never shop(too expensive for her). And of course, I paid a fraction of the original prices for those tops. 

My mom was thrilled with the huge box of "new" tops and wore them throughout that spring and summer. She even told me that one of my sisters-in-law, who'd grown up in a snooty suburb, had paid her a compliment on one of the tops I'd gotten at that thrift store haul! 

What none of us knew at the time that 2010 was the last year my mom would be alive on a Mother's Day. She died on Christmas Eve that same year. 

So in retrospect, it seems fitting that we ended up giving each other a gift on Mother's Day that year - I gave her some nice clothes she never would have bought for herself, and she gave me the gift of acceptance for my thrift store habits.

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there!

Friday, May 10, 2013

More Dutch Stuff: Two-lip Festival Parades

Hello! Time to show off more scenes from the Tulip Festival - this time, from the two parades that recently occurred. (Hence the use of "two-lip", get it?)

The Volksparade (People's Parade) was first. For this one, the streets are declared in need of cleaning (in spite of the fact that the city streetsweeper machine has been going up and down the streets in preparation of the festival for days in advance). Locals dressed in Dutch costume led off this parade:

These two look a little glum, perhaps because it was hot and sunny that day. Our vantage point is near the end of the parade route, so they might have been feeling tired. 

Yokes for carrying buckets of water - a taste of the Old Country ways, no doubt!

This group looks more chipper. 

Now on to the parade proper:

A vintage wooden boat, sponsored by the town museum. For the past few years now, the museum has held a vintage boat show, where many of these beauties are displayed.

The coolest band in the parade, the Black River High School jazz band. 

I will halt my usual blog post here to insert the fact that our daughter was recently named salutatorian of this same high school. Way to go!

 But of course I must also recognize the marching band of the main school in town, Holland High. I don't know how the band members feel about it, but I always get a kick out of them marching in wooden shoes!

Yesterday was the ever-popular Kinderparade, during which K-5 students from local schools march while in Dutch costumes. Each school has a theme which is carried out in the form of various props. 

I think these sunflowers correlate to Vincent Van Gogh and his famous painting. 

What a cutie! She and her classmates are holding "plates" of Delft design. 

A "picket fence" with flowers. 

Our favorite theme by one of the schools, representing the 11 Towns Race - a speed skating race in the "real Holland". The signs name the towns along the race route. 

Again, here I pay homage to the local high school. I can only imagine how much work it must be for local bands to prepare for the three festival parades - on top of the usual stuff like attending school and doing homework! 

As you can see, the Kinderparade is great fun to watch, but for us, there was one negative incident associated with it:

That school bus is blocking our driveway. In advance of the Kinderparade, the kids are dropped off at the staging area, then the buses park on streets near the end of the parade route; ours is one of these streets. Okay, we know that we can't park on our street before the parade begins - the city puts up temporary no-parking signs stating this. But to willfully block our driveways? I don't think that's too cool. Sure, it's only about 1 1/2 hours or so of our lives that we're potentially inconvenienced, but God forbid anyone should happen to have an emergency of some sort during that time on our block or the on other nearby blocks where the buses can park. 

By the way, there was still space at the end of our block where buses could have parked had the drivers not felt the need to park in front of driveways as they did (ours was not the only driveway thus blocked). 

As I told the bus driver whose vehicle had blocked our driveway, it was the principle of the thing. Another bus driver rather pompously told me that they basically had permission to "park anywhere they wanted". I don't know if that's true.

Way to be classy, West Ottawa Public Schools!(not!)

Oh well, other than that, we had great weather and tulips blooming right on schedule - so all in all, these two parades were enjoyable. There's still one more parade to go - the biggest one - tomorrow.




Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Dutch Dancing

Another year, another Tulip Festival has begun. According to the local newspaper, the Holland Sentinel, there are fewer high school kids doing Dutch dance this year. Nevertheless, the dancers still put on a good show last night! 

It can't be easy, kicking your feet as you go around in a circle - while wearing wooden shoes. 

Here, the "boys" are dancing in circles around their girl partners. I put the word "boys" in quotation marks because the vast majority of the "boy" dancers are girls wearing boy costumes. 

Take a bow, ladies. And you've got some cute Dutch folk costumes there!

More energetic kicking! I don't know the rules at the other area high schools, but I know that our daughter's high school considers Dutch dancing a spring sport. Thus, it counts toward the gym requirement the school has. With all the practicing the Dutch dance teams do, plus the performances during the Tulip Festival, it's just as big a time commitment as the sports teams - and just as much athleticism is involved! 

The Tulip Festival continues for the remainder of the week, with visitors cruising the tulip lanes via car or tour bus, musical performances at different venues around town, three parades - and, of course, more Dutch dancing!