Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Job Jar - Month #7

Hello! Some out-of-town trips have curtailed the number of times I was able to use my job jar this month, but when I was home, I carried on as usual. 

For instance, job jar tasks pushed me to declutter books - the rejects went to the donations barrel that the local AAUW chapter puts out April-August in advance of their big used book sale each September. Now I have an excuse for buying more books at this year's sale, ha. 

I also decluttered some craft supplies, decluttered a messy cabinet and did a clothing repair. 

I made donations to two thrift stores, was mindful of giving compliments and looked over some new volunteer opportunities. 

I wrote in my nature journal and did some spiritual exercises. Also chilled out with a relaxation CD.

I baked cookies and did several small craft projects. One of these was a small collage with a Thanksgiving theme. I know, it may seem funny to do crafts out of season, but I deliberately included several job jar tasks that involved holiday crafts. I thought this would be a fun way to "think outside the box" throughout the year. 

I also carved a rubber stamp. As I had written during a previous job jar post, I had purchased a rubber stamp carving kit a few years back but had never gotten around to trying it - until I made "carve a rubber stamp" a job jar task. My efforts are still rather rudimentary, but I have found it a fun craft - and I've ended up with one-of-a-kind rubber stamps to boot!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Made It - Fabric Sample Crafts

Hello! I have picked up fabric samples from various secondhand places, such as at an interior design store's sidewalk sale, creative reuse stores, and, of course, thrift stores. No matter where they're found, they have been very inexpensive.

There are a number of crafts that can be made from these samples, though of course it depends on the size of the sample piece. Typically the samples come in two forms: large squares bound together in sample books, and pieces sold singly. The latter are usually larger than the former. 

I haven't really done a variety of crafts yet with my fabric samples, but I do want to show off what I've made thus far. 

Several years back, I gave up using paper napkins for the more eco-friendly cloth variety, and I have sewn my own cloth napkins using fabric samples:

Above, two of the several cloth napkins I've made over time. I don't know why the blue/white/yellow one is a bit larger; I thought I'd used the same pattern for both (pattern and directions from Amy Karol's Bend-the-Rules Sewing book). The blue/white/yellow napkin was made several years ago, which is why it looks a bit rumpled (must have run in the dryer a little too long). I don't remember what I paid for this fabric piece, but I paid a mere dime for the brown/white fabric sample. I recall the price because I just bought it a couple of weeks ago. I didn't have any napkins that looked fall-ish, but this print and the other brown/white samples I purchased at the same thrift store do. And these latest samples are of a very nice, soft, high-quality 100% cotton. I'm sure I'd have to pay a lot more than a dime for a ready-made cloth napkin of similar quality! Very easy sewing too.

The fabric sample books are fun to look at; there is usually a nice variety of prints (and sometimes different types of fabrics) in each. But one problem is the paper strip on the back of each sample, printed with pertinent information (pattern name, fabric care, etc). This paper is stuck on with some sort of adhesive, making it hard to remove from the fabric, so I just cut it away  when I was going through one of these sample books awhile back.

This left me with several fabric strips after trimming them away,  but I noticed that these strips were the perfect size (about 7 1/2"  x 1 1/2") to turn into bookmarks. And that's what I did; below are some of them:

I punched a hole at the top of each bookmark(an ordinary paper punch worked fine), and then added a bit of ribbon or trim. I was pleased with my idea, but later on saw that the folks at the creative reuse store Learning From Scratch had done the same thing with some fabric sample books. So much for having an original idea! They had glued felt to the back of their bookmarks, but I didn't bother with mine.
Needless to say, this was a very easy way to make some pretty yet functional bookmarks. And this is good since I always seem to misplace them! 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Thrifty Acres: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly: Part Three

Hello! Having covered the "good" and the "bad" in my 1968 McCall's Christmas Make-It Ideas, it's now time to discuss the "ugly". And believe me, there's plenty of "ugly" crafts shown in this magazine! 

So let's get started, shall we?

The text in the photo claims that "familiar candles are changed to fit into a world of enchantment". Perhaps these candles are "enchanting" to you, but to me, they're anything but!

I deemed many of the projects "ugly" due to the facial features on the crafts. Here's the first example:

As if the face on this duck hand puppet wasn't weird enough, the instructions show another angle:

Does that look like something you'd want your kids to play with? 

But in my opinion, the face on this next item looks even worse:

Now, I'm fine with this depiction of St. Nicholas, except for:

Those oversized eyes could give one nightmares! 

In my previous post, I showed off some candle holders with bases molded from plaster-filled balloons. The same technique was used for another set of projects:

The two larger figures seen on the right are readily identifiable as a snowman and Santa Claus, but if it weren't for the text, I wouldn't have known what the smaller figures on the left were supposed to be. The answers: one of Santa's elves and Mrs. Claus. I'll grant that the snowman is reasonably cute, but the others are not!

Moving on, next we have:

These figures have light-bulb bodies and trims of paper and felt. Again, some of the figures aren't too bad, like the snowman and the angel. But one of the other figures set off the "ugly" alarm bell for me - can you guess which one? It is:

"Put friendly bear on cardboard skis" the magazine extorts. Maybe the bear is supposed to be friendly, but what's with all the weird eyes in this publication? 

But the faces are even weirder on these figures:

Can you tell what these are supposed to be? No? Why, they're "tube-craft wise men", of course! Actually, this is a pretty clever use for paper towel tubes, and I like the designs of the robes, gifts, etc. (these are made from heavy paper or thin cardboard that's been painted, then glued onto the tubes). But once again, the faces are ugly! 

One more ugly face:

I like the outfit on this felt pixie doll ("woodland colors of brown, greens" the text says). But yep, you guessed it - a creepy face makes this doll more ugly than the "charming" label the magazine writers gave it! 

For my last photo, a real face is shown, and it's not ugly by any means:

Instead, I object to what she has on her head - it looks as if she's wearing an upside-down wastepaper basket, but it's a "jumbo smocked hat" and has "an exotic look". Oh, dear, forgive me for thinking this hat is ugly - I was supposed to think it was exotic instead! 

And so concludes my series on the "good, the bad and the ugly" in the 1968 McCall's Christmas Make-It Ideas. It was a lot of fun to write these posts - and who knows, I may actually get around to making some of the crafts in this magazine. Just not the "bad" or the "ugly" ones!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Thrifty Acres: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly - Part Two

In today's installment, I'll discuss what I feel is the "bad" from my 1968 McCall's Christmas Make-It IdeasIn some cases, the ideas are decent, it's just that the materials used had a certain "ick" factor to me. In other cases, I just happen to think the craft is, well, plain bad.

So, let's get started. I'll lead off with this:

The designs on these "snow-white bells" (they're labeled as such in the magazine) are nice enough, but those "snow-white bells" are foam coffee cups. No thanks; I'll stick to using these for drinking coffee! 

And here we have "charming angel candle holders". They were made by using balloons for plaster molds. I'd agree with the magazine writers that this is a "unique craft technique", but couldn't they have done better with the faces? 

I wouldn't call these faces charming! But maybe that's just me. 

These chenille dogs "are pins with walnut faces". Yes, just what I should be wearing - a pin that has a weird-looking face painted on a walnut! 

The next craft project is really bad:

Now, why should I think this is bad? For according to the magazine's write-up, "dazzling tree, trimmed with rich red and white, is elegant accent for a table. Foil-covered styrofoam base gleams with gold trims, cotton swabs, ball-fringe pompoms. Plastic finial sparkles with glitter". 

Sorry, folks, you can dress up the description with fancy prose all you want, but it's still a tree shape made - from Q-tips. Ick! 

After buying Christmas gifts, they need to be wrapped, of course. Here's one example of a gift-wrapping project:

Those designs on the gift boxes? They're made from grains of white rice - glued on one at a time, then painted over. Did anyone actually ever bother to do this? If so, why? I can only imagine how time-consuming this project must have been! And I'm sorry (actually, I'm not), but using rice to decorate a gift package rates another "ick" from me. 

If gluing rice on a gift package isn't your thing, then maybe you could try this instead:

This design was made by gluing yarn to a shoebox lid - one strand at a time, in a rather peculiar wavy pattern. The folks at McCall's  proclaimed that the finished result makes this a "boutique" package. I'd say it makes me tired just looking at it and thinking how long it would have taken to do this. 

In fairness to the designers of these projects, I realize that in 1968 there was less variety in craft supplies than there is today. I also realize that the use of common household items and discards in craft projects is huge today. Whether it be called "green crafting", "upcycling", "creative reuse" or what have you, there are books, magazines and blogs devoted to this trend. In my own blog, for example, I have shown off decorative pieces made from a softball, a vinyl tablecloth, a restaurant menu and a shoe stretcher. And I'm always on the lookout for things I can repurpose into greeting cards.

But the use of foam coffee cups, Q-tips  and rice to decorate one's house and gifts at Christmastime? Bad, bad, bad ideas!


Monday, July 22, 2013

Thrifty Acres: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly - Part One

Hello! Around a month ago I purchased a 1968 McCall's Christmas Make-It Ideas magazine for a dime at a garage sale. McCall's named this publication well, for there were dozens of craft ideas featured - enough, in fact, to warrant a trio of posts I'll do on "the good, the bad, and the ugly". That is, crafts ranging from "these would still look good today!" to "what where they thinking?!"

Of course, the designations of good, bad and ugly are subjective; what I find charming someone else might find hideous, and vice versa. But happily for me, today's post, on crafts I deemed "good", is the longest of the trio.

I'll begin with this:

Owls galore - the ones on the left are made of felt with sequins and beads. The lavender owl to the right has a cardboard body and bottle cap eyes; it's joined by other bottle cap ornaments. Interesting use of bottle caps!

Angels and three kings - all made from wooden furniture legs and other wooden bits. Cute!

"Ad-Lib A Greeting Card" is the title of the accompanying text to this project. A basic shape is drawn on white paper - in both examples shown, circles - then designs are added as desired. Still a good technique for a pleasing greeting card!

Quite the project, this one - a felt wall hanging depicting the Twelve Days of Christmas. 

A close-up of some of those figures:

This would take forever to do, of course - all that cutting out and gluing of felt shapes. I like it anyway!

Also in the category of "It'd take forever but I still like it":

According to the directions, this is constructed by making 270 "branches" - 90 pieces each from three colors of green felt, slashing each piece to make the "needles", and then wrapping and gluing the "needles" to pipe cleaner "branches". In turn, these are arranged around a styrofoam ring. Whew! Reminds me of something the folks at Martha Stewart Living magazine would have trotted out for a craft in one of their December issues - and who knows, maybe they did. If so, McCall's did it first!

Much quicker to do but still charming is this nativity scene:

Inside a 4"x5 3/4" wooden box is this quaint grouping of Holy Family, shepherd, lambs, the Star of Bethlehem and some birds. We collect Nativity sets, so this caught my eye. The figures are constructed of felt, paper and some trims. 

Also using felt, trims and other supplies are these decorations:

These faux gingerbread ornaments look almost good enough to eat!

See what I mean? This little house is adorable! I love the pastel colors used. Those rooftop "shingles" look just like Necco wafers. 

One last photo:

These cuties are 8" tall - made with knitted bodies, felt trimmings and rayon-covered pink styrofoam heads. When I saw these, I wished I was a knitter! 

Oh well, there's still plenty of other crafts I can do from this book - and there were even more in the "good" category that I left out since I've already shown off several projects here.

But as I said in the beginning of this post, not all the crafts are ones I'd want to do - I'll be showing off the "bad" and the "ugly" soon!


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Things You Can Always Find At A Thrift Store #4: Gobs Of Glassware

Hello! First off, I must admit that I don't actually have a lot of glassware; this is primarily because I seem to be clumsy with breakables and so try to avoid them. But I have certainly seen enough glassware at thrift stores to know that it's plentiful and usually quite cheap. Need some more wine glasses? Go to a thrift store. You'd like a punch bowl set to serve Grandma's killer eggnog recipe at Christmas? Look around long enough in thrift stores and you'll find one. Mixing bowls? Yep, they're often present. Remnants of someone's kitschy shot glass collection? Pick up a few shot glasses and pretend you'd been in that same tourist trap town. 

In spite of my clumsiness, I do have a few thrifted pieces to show off. A recent Country Living spread reminded me that I should discuss glassware in a blog post, for there was a familiar sight in a photo of a trendy kitchen - stacks of this on a shelf:

This is the Duralex 8.5 ounce Picardie tumbler; the Duralex USA website (Duralex is a French company) calls the Picardie "the original French tumbler" and that it's "functional and stylish". 

I don't have a large stack of these, but I do have several, for which I paid 25c or 50c apiece. Quite a savings when the Duralex USA website sells a set of six for $24.00. There might be better deals on Amazon or eBay, but I doubt that sellers there would be offering up these tumblers at 25 or 50 cents! 

Several years ago there was a nice event in our neighborhood. The hosts are lovely people and have a lovely house to match. Although it was an informal gathering, the setting called for a nice vessel for the homemade cheese wafers I was planning to bring. Found this at a thrift store for a very reasonable 50 cents:

Unfortunately, there's no manufacturer's information whatsoever on this serving bowl (about 2 1/2" high and 7 1/2" in diameter). Note the narrow rectangular pattern on the sides and the illusion of "bubbles" on the bottom (those "bubbles" are underneath the surface; the bottom of the bowl is smooth). 

I don't know how old this is, but it has the look and feel of an older piece. 

I've discussed kitchen items thus far, but if you're in need of vases, go to your friendly neighborhood thrift store and you'll find enough glass vases to start your own florist business.

Such as:
This was my most recent purchase, an Ikea product for which I paid 50c. I liked its resemblance to a beaker and the bubbled exterior. (that's a State Fair zinnia in it)

As you can see, none of my glassware purchases set me back more than 50c per item - which is great given my tendency to break things!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thrifty Acres - Beat The Heat With Some Vintage Postcards

Hello! It's been quite hot and humid the past few days, but as the month of July is already more than half over, the cooler days of autumn will be here before we know it. 

But until then, I offer up a couple of vintage postcards with autumnal scenes for a bit of a cool-down. 

On the back, the postcard is dated 1962. And the description on the back is as colorful as the scene on the front: "Autumn is a favorite, nostalgic time of year in Michigan. Comes the beautiful fall colors mingling with the evergreens, the balmy haze of Indian Summer with sometimes a sharp nip from the north wind. 'Tis a time to wander the shore for gem stones, to hunt with a camera, or just to laze and refresh your soul."

I have felt the "sharp nip from the north wind" in northern Michigan - as in early morning temperatures in the low 40's. In mid-August. But of course, the trees weren't turning color yet. 

"Hunting with a camera" is nice, but naturally other hunting occurs during the fall months as well, such as bow and arrow:

I love the vintage L. L. Bean feel of this postcard, what with the high-topped boots, heavy socks and the three different plaids our hunter is wearing. Yep, dark brown brown plaid pants, cream and rust plaid flannel shirt and red plaid hat. Not a scrap of hunter's orange in sight! 

On the back, the only description is "Bowhunter". 

Well, did these postcards make you feel any cooler - or did all that plaid make you feel warmer instead? Oh well, at least I tried!
(note: these postcards were all from a recent thrift store purchase - the usual great deal for some old-fashioned scenes!)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Thrifty Acres - The MSU Surplus Store

Hello! While in East Lansing yesterday morning I checked out Michigan State University's Surplus Store.

As with most surplus stores, there was a wide variety of (mostly) secondhand goods for sale. For instance, food service items. I saw silver-plated (or at least they looked silver-plated) tea pots. The individual serving-size ones were cute, but for some reason they seemed to be missing parts of their handles. 

There was a stack of heavy bread pans, all covered with a thick layer of greasy film. I'm sure there's a good way to get those pans looking like new again, but I don't need any bread pans, so I declined.

There were older plates for sale, all with the MSU logo on them; nice quality. But the surplus store was asking nice prices for them. No thanks; I'd be likely to break them and then would be annoyed at myself.  

Instead, I got this:

This may look like a serving platter, but it's actually smaller than a dinner plate and thus is meant for individual servings. Since I'm now eating less food at each meal, I figure a smaller plate would help remind me to serve myself less food at a time. 50 cents (and unbreakable). 

In the category of office supplies, I found these at 75c apiece:

I suppose that at one time, these stamps were used on official paperwork to note students who may have been on academic probation (and if they got off probation, then they'd be in good standing).  But I joked to my husband that I could use these stamps for when he's in the doghouse with me: "PROBATION". And when he redeems himself, he'll get a paper stamped "GOOD STANDING". 

But in reality, I'll use these to add whimsy to a collage piece. 

There were a lot of books for sale - vintage ones priced accordingly, but there were also carts and carts of books at thrift store prices. Since this is a university surplus store, you might think that aging textbooks would be offered, and I did see some of those. But more books were of the non-textbook variety. 

For 50c each, I got several late 1950's-era pamphlet cookbooks:

For making sweet treats. 

And in case you wondered how to mail Tollhouse cookies (the original chocolate chip cookie recipe), here's how you do it:

I can't imagine chocolate chip cookies being around long enough to need freshening, but there you have it. (nowadays I'd just use the microwave for a few seconds). Love the illustration! Cookbooks from this era often have such cute drawings. 

Some more cookbook pamphlets, all from Good Housekeeping:

I got these because when I was growing up my parents had a whole set of these and I loved looking at them - again, those fun illustrations, plus a lot of recipes and some mouth-watering color photography in each cookbook as well. 

I don't recall that these were ever used often by my family, though, other than a couple of cake recipes, a gumdrop cookie recipe and a recipe for a pizza-like entree made with a hamburger crust. The first time my family had that was when yours truly searched through the hamburger and hot dog cookbook in this set. As the oldest at home before dinnertime one day, (I would have been around 15 or 16) I had to make dinner for my large family, using ground beef for the main course. 

I was looking for a new way to use that ground beef, and spotted Pizza Hamburger Pie in the chapter on oven main dishes. It was easy to make and quite savory too, which pleased my demanding taste buds (according to my mom, I seemed to have been born with a taste for well-seasoned foods). But everyone else liked it as well, so I was proud of myself for giving the family a change of pace from our usual fare.

At some point, my mom didn't want these cookbooks anymore, so I took several of the ones that were around in her kitchen (probably another sibling took the others). I picked up the four above since they had been among the missing from my parents' set. But I still am lacking nine out of the 20 that were published. (They're readily available on eBay, but not at 50c per volume!)

If I had wished, I also could have bought lab equipment, office furniture, clothing racks, pieces of carpeting and more. I almost bought an old rake - it only cost a dollar, and from its design looked to be old. But I passed on all these. 

However, I did buy one new item:

Vermicompost, direct from MSU's student organic farm. According to the label, this product can be diluted in water at a 1:10 ratio for fertilization. I was happy to support the students'  farm endeavor - and hope that my garden will be happy as well!

There was a steady stream of customers during my visit yesterday, perhaps in part because Tuesday is normally one of only two days the surplus store is open (Friday is the other, with the remaining days of the workweek available for public viewing of the merchandise.) A retired art professor told me he loves coming to the surplus store to see if he can pick up anything to use in art projects, and I heard one man enthusiastically tell another man about some contraption he was building; presumably he was at the store to look for parts on the cheap. 

The next aisle over, two college students were looking over some chairs and a woman pointed at a mini refrigerator for a store employee to take up to the counter for her. 

Something for everyone there, it seemed. And if you'd like to see if the MSU Surplus Store has something for you, go to their website HERE for more information. 

It's a great way to go green! (go white!)



Saturday, July 13, 2013

Thrifty Acres - From Grandma's Attic Part 3

Hello! For now, my last batch of thrifted finds to show off; all items came from local thrift stores. 

First up, craft supplies:

The illustration on the top of the package header shows other "basic foam shapes" with decoupaged surfaces. I'm thinking these tree shapes would look nice with photocopies of vintage Christmas cards decoupaged on, then trimmed with vintage rickrack, buttons, beads, etc. 

The plain white surface of these flocked boot ornaments also cries out for decoration. 

Yes, your basic styrofoam balls, in small sizes - 1 1/2" diameter (back) and 1 1/4" diameter (front). Like the purchases in the two previous photos, I paid 35c for each package. Craft styrofoam has gone up in price due to it being petroleum-based. Consequently, I look for cheaper pricing at the thrift stores. 

I don't know if Blue-Jay brand is really the best brand of craft chenille stems I can buy, but 50c for a large box of them is a good deal, especially since they are a nice rich red. 

Non-craft purchases:

Vintage tea towel for a quarter. No label on it, but it looks like it had never been used. 

Last purchase to show off:

Local readers will recognize this, the Eet Smakelijk cookbook. For those who aren't local and who aren't of Dutch background, the first inside page has the explanation: "In his native land, a Dutch host utters these words before each meal "Eet Smakelijk" Meaning to eat well and with taste". 

This cookbook is also labeled inside as being the official cookbook of Holland, MI and as a fundraiser for the Junior Welfare League of Holland. It is still sold locally, going for considerably more than the 50c I paid for my 1976 edition. And that 50c was an especially good deal since most local thrift stores consider it to be a collectible (even for much newer editions) and price it higher than other cookbooks.

My edition is huge, at nearly 590 pages, so not surprisingly I  found a number of good recipes. And for nostalgia's sake, the last chapter features recipes from then-popular Michigan-based celebrities and restaurants. Several of the celebrities are now deceased - and some of the restaurants are long gone as well. 

In honor of the late Gerald R. Ford's 100th birthday (being celebrated tomorrow at his museum in Grand Rapids), I ought to make the recipe his wife Betty had included - if I thought we'd like it! (For the record, her recipe is for Ruby-Red Grapefruit Chicken).