Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hello! Happy Thanksgiving to all those celebrating the holiday tomorrow! May you and yours have safe travels, wonderful food and much to be thankful for. 

I don't have a lot of Thanksgiving decorations, but above you see a vintage postcard I own, postmarked November 24th, 1908. The postmark reads "Sykesville", but I couldn't make out where that is. 

And due to the illegible nature of the sender's handwriting, I couldn't read where the postmark's destination was, nor could I decipher most of the greeting being sent. I did make out "...killed 10 big hogs" but that was about it. Sounds like a lot of ham though!

I love the close-up on one side of the postcard:

"Dec 22 1620 LANDING OF THE PURITANS" is written underneath the drawing of the Pilgrims arriving at Plymouth Rock, with their stalwart ship The Mayflower in the background. It's really very nice artistry, but is rather eclipsed by the turkey strutting its stuff! 

Oh well, it's still a nice postcard and has held up well for over 100 years.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Made It: Layered Circles Christmas Ornaments

Hello! Did you notice that Christmas is one month from today? Yikes! Fortunately for me, I recently came across a fairly easy but cute Christmas ornament project on Pinterest. I decided to adapt it for the yearly handmade ornament gifts I make for my nieces and nephews. 

The project was labeled "Layered Circles Christmas Ornaments". The examples I saw used plastic ornament balls, a glue gun, and circles punched out from a flower painting book with a 1" punch. 

I had a few plastic ornament balls, bought on clearance years ago, but not enough of all the same size for the number of ornaments I needed to make (that's what happens sometimes when you get stuff on clearance). I hunted in the thrift stores for more plastic ornament balls, but didn't come across any. I broke down and bought some new ones (gasp!) from the craft department at Meijer (I'm sure that the craft stores have them as well). 

I wasn't going to use a book on flower paintings for my ornaments. I doubted that my nieces and nephews would appreciate that look. Instead, I turned to my collection of secondhand books, both vintage and newer, to craft their gifts. I tried to find books that fit the ages of the kids - for instance, pages from a book on the history of architecture for a studious, brilliant high school sophomore nephew. 

Here's how two of the ornaments turned out:

The top ornament was crafted from pages of a 1962 baseball guide. Since this is going to a nephew who lives in southeastern Michigan, I made sure to use pages from the section on the Detroit Tigers. 

Next to it is an ornament whose circles were punched from a vintage children's textbook. This ornament is earmarked for a young niece. 

The instructions called for a glue gun, but I did fine sticking the circles on with craft glue. It was also suggested to draw guidelines around the ornaments to help in placing the circles, but I didn't bother doing this. I found I had a little time to move the circles around as needed before the glue set. 

The directions didn't call for glitter, either, but I added some to dress up the ornaments a bit. I just dabbed a little craft glue onto the circles' edges and sprinkled away with glitter. (vintage glitter no less, lol)

And the thin curved piece near the tops of my ornaments? That's actually narrow organza ribbon tied to the ornament caps. But before I tied the ribbons on, I wrote the names of the recipients plus the year 2014 on them. I like to personalize the ornaments I make with the name/date every year. 

The names change over time - once the kids graduate from high school, I no longer make them ornaments. I figure once they're on their own, they'll need room on their Christmas trees for other ornaments! But as I come from a large family, I still had several ornament gifts to make this year. 

And with Christmas fast approaching, I'm glad I have the ornaments finished! If you'd like to make these yourself, look here.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Made It: "Wallpapering" Project

Hello! The dining room remodeling is over - new drywall installed, walls and trim painted, furniture moved back in and wall hangings back up. It looks really nice! Well, all except for the built-in china cabinet. 

After we'd moved in and I was arranging my knick-knacks in that china cabinet, I saw that portions of a thin backing on its interior wall (painted-over wallpaper, perhaps) were cracking and even peeling off. We had not noticed this problem while house hunting; likely the previous owner had placed her knick-knacks in such a way as to cover up the defects.

I did the same, arranging my objects to hide the problem. But when that part of the dining room suffered substantial water damage due to a burst pipe, the eventual tearing out and rebuilding of the wall and ceiling caused even more of the backing to come off. 

Here's an example of what I mean:

This is near the corner of the topmost edge of the wall. Portions behind the lower three shelves had even more damage. It seemed a shame to leave the china cabinet as is when the rest of the room had been redone. But I'd already done plenty of painting (including the exterior of the china cabinet itself) so I didn't really feel like doing any more at this time. 

Then I saw various "wallpapering" projects online, with the use of fabric or wrapping paper to line the walls behind kitchen shelves, bookshelves and china cabinets. One example I saw for using fabric called for the fabric to be wrapped around foam board cut to size. Since our china cabinet has glass panes on its sides, I didn't want something that thick to project out. So I decided to use poster board instead. 

Since poster board is, of course, thinner than foam board, it made sense to use a thin, fairly stiff material like wrapping paper instead of fabric, but I also considered the rolls of vintage wallpaper I had bought dirt cheap(10c/roll)several years ago. I scouted around town a bit for suitable wrapping paper, but nothing  grabbed my attention, so I went with the old wallpaper. 

I won't lie and say this was a quick project: I had to remove everything from the shelves, measure the inner walls, and cut the poster board to fit. As it wasn't long enough as is, I had to tape more than one sheet together and then cut the whole thing to correct size. 

I'd purchased four sheets of large poster board and ended up using most of it. By the time I was down to the wall behind the last shelf, I had to do extra piecing together to get the height and length I needed. I also had to cut away portions of each top corner of my poster board sections; this was to allow for the molding at the inner corners at the top of the wall and underneath each shelf.

I used an extra-strong craft glue to adhere the vintage wallpaper to the poster board sections. I had the option of using spray adhesive, but it's messier to use and I wasn't sure how it would react with my old wallpaper. I could have used double-sided tape as well, but it would have been very difficult to remove the wallpaper if I needed to realign it on the poster board. The craft glue seemed to hold well, but I could still move the wallpaper around a bit if I needed to before pressing it down firmly onto the poster board. 

I was afraid the vintage wallpaper would tear, but it was in better shape than I thought. The excess cut away cleanly with an Exacto knife. 

For the top and bottom shelves, the sections fit snugly enough that I didn't need any other means to keep them up against the walls. The sections for the wall behind the two middle shelves didn't fit as tightly, so I used Command poster strips to help the corners stay in place. 

Okay, enough chatter, now I'll show off some results:

Here's a view of the china cabinet - wallpaper backing instead of that crumbling stuff. I have a little bit of everything in there - gifts from my husband and friends, estate sale finds, things that had belonged to older relatives - and even a horseshoe found on Pennsylvania's Horse-Shoe Trail (picked up for good luck).

This photo shows off the same top corner of the china cabinet's interior as seen in the first photo. You'd never guess there's something that looks much worse behind the wallpaper! 

(In case you're curious about the objects shown, the two vintage-style dessert plates - part of a set of four - were a Christmas gift from my mom one year. The vintage pinecone-motif dishes are part of a set of six, meant to be for tea, I think. The set includes tea pot, sugar and creamer, cups and saucers and dessert plates. It was a gift from two of my sisters, purchased at a consignment shop in Ann Arbor, MI. I haven't been able to find out anything about the set, which is labeled Ucagco Ceramics Japan. I love it though). 

I think this project turned out very well, though it was a bit tedious to do all that measuring, cutting, taping and gluing. It didn't break the bank though - total cost was a little under $4.00. And another nice thing: the poster board sections are easily removed if I want to change the look inside the china cabinet. If I ever feel like painting over the inner wall, I can - or use another wallpaper or some wrapping paper.

Plus, the improved appearance of the china cabinet now matches the rest of the newly-renovated dining room!


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thrifty Acres: Vintage Kitchen Part Two

Hello! As promised in my previous post, I'll continue with my kitchen "tour" today. 

The 2nd half of the tour starts here:

A collection of vintage items displayed on a doorway. The doorway leads to the rear of the kitchen, but likely looked different at one time. It appears that the back section was added on after the house was built in 1895. One of the men who worked on our recent remodel speculated that the back section may have been originally been a back porch that was enclosed to enlarge the kitchen. 

Although it would have been nice to have the original architecture intact, I appreciate the larger kitchen - especially since a ton of storage was put in that newer part.

Close-ups of the doorway decor:

Crocheted potholder, which came from the same estate sale that the doll clothes (shown yesterday) had come from. The tray with the daffodil design came from a different estate sale, and the hot dog plate came from a secondhand store. It was a gift from a relative who'd been with me when I'd admired this goofy plate at that store. I'd passed on purchasing it because I was already making another purchase there at the time. The relative went back to the store at a later date and bought the plate and its mate as a Christmas present for me. I was thrilled and appreciative!

Another potholder from the same estate sale, and above it a framed embroidery purchased at a thrift store. From the inscription on the back, I know it's now 50 years old. 

Final pic from the doorway display. Notice the mate to the hot dog plate. This one is cow-shaped and is, appropriately, meant for serving hamburgers. An eBay search suggests that my two animal-shaped plates were made in Japan, but no sellers mentioned a date of manufacture. No matter, I love them!

The yellow tray has a tulip decal on it and the name of the town where tulips are famous - Holland, MI. The crocheted potholder was purchased along with the other two I'd just shown. At the time I was sad that family members let these handcrafted gems be sold at an estate sale, but now I'm glad they did. I like the retro charm the potholders bring to my kitchen. 

Now let's step to that rear section of the room:

Someone had built a small niche of shelves. It's perfect for decorating with knick-knacks, which I rearrange when I feel like it. 

Don't recall now where I got the three vintage German spice containers, but they were inexpensive - probably because the set is missing most of its pieces and the clove container is missing its lid to boot. They're still pretty, I think. The vintage salt and pepper shaker set came from a garage sale decades ago. At one time I thought I'd collect salt and pepper shakers, but didn't get too far with that. 

Cock-a-doodle do! The smaller roosters are a salt and pepper shaker set and are Japanese-made. The large rooster figurine isn't labeled but might have come from the same country. This small flock came from a garage sale run by an antiques dealer. (the two bud vases aren't vintage; they were purchased at a local fair trade store). 

Continuing with the chicken look, vintage ephemera from the Pickin' Chicken restaurant in Miami, FL. My father-in-law went to Florida   a few times in the 1950's, as a bachelor and then as a honeymooner. So I assume this bit of advertising came back to Chicago with him after one of those jaunts. 

This concludes my little tour. As you can see, my kitchen will never look like the sleek beauties one sees in shelter magazines - but I like how it looks just the same!



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thrifty Acres: Vintage Kitchen Part One

Hello! Eight months after receiving water damage, our kitchen, dining room and upstairs bathroom have been renovated. Since the walls of the kitchen were redone (wallpaper removed and paint put on in its place), it was a good time to do a bit of redecorating in that room. Changing things around and adding vintage goodies I'd bought this year added to the new look. 

Come along for a little tour:

Window over the kitchen sink. The window had previously been framed by a blah lace curtain left behind by the previous owner. I swapped the curtain for two vintage embroidered scarves. They'd been stitched up by either a grandmother or great-aunt of my husband. 

Just for fun - at the top corners of the window I hung up handmade doll dresses; I'd purchased them earlier this fall at an estate sale. 

A Nabisco Mr. Salty doll, the namesake of a now-defunct (I think) pretzel brand. He was a gift in the early 80's from a relative.

Close-ups of my new "curtains". There are sayings stitched on either side of the designs, but since the words were worked in white, they don't show up very well. "God Bless Our Home" was stitched alongside the house design, while the cute couple with the umbrella are framed with "Whatever The Weather We'll Be Happy Together". I don't know when the scarves were embroidered, but it's safe to say it was decades ago. 

Small items on the windowsill. Peppy, Salty and the boy/girl egg cups are made of wood, and both sets came from a church rummage sale in Douglas, WY. The small pottery piece next to Salty holds marbles and bits of broken dishes - all dug up from our backyard; most of it likely vintage. The small glass bottle holds two flowers, the last of the blooms from my yard this year.

Vintage holder for letters/memos/misc., hung by the refrigerator. Purchased for a quarter at an antique store's summer clearance near Calumet, MI. I removed the various coupon offers, gardening info and other papers that I had stashed in the racks so I could show off the rooster designs. This is quite a handy piece. 

This holder has three hooks on the bottom, likely for keys. I hung up this vintage tea towel from the hooks instead. It was found in my mother-in-law's things after she had died. That was the first time I'd seen it, so I don't know who had stitched it up (My MIL wasn't into embroidery; crocheting was her thing). The Dutch girl look is fitting for the town in which we live. 

One last stop on my kitchen tour for today, and it also has a Dutch theme:

I bought the above plaque at a thrift store. It has a recipe for "Saucijzenbroojes" (I have no idea how that word is pronounced), aka "Pigs in the Blanket". Various recipes of this Dutch food abound, but they all seem to involve sausage and a rich biscuit-like dough. I made them once, using a recipe given to me by an older lady I used to know. The "pigs" took some time to make, and were a bit on the heavy side, but were still pretty good. Around here, they can be purchased, frozen, at grocery stores, and I know of at least one local church that makes them to sell at fundraisers. 

And that's it for part one of my vintage kitchen tour - part two to come with the next blog post. Hope you enjoyed what you saw today!



Sunday, November 16, 2014

Eats: Apple Cake With Hot Caramel Sauce

With cold temps and several inches of snow on the ground here, it  seems more like winter than fall. Nevertheless, it really is still fall - heck, it's only mid-November. And with local apples still available at the local farmer's market, I continue to enjoy them in a variety of ways. 

Decided to try making Apple Cake With Hot Caramel Sauce, a recipe from Marcia Adams' Cooking From Quilt Country. I find her recipes delightful in a homey, old-fashioned way, but I was disappointed when I put the apple cake batter into the baking pan. It didn't look like much. 

But looks can be deceiving, as I found out when I cut a slice and poured some of the hot caramel sauce over it:

Well, maybe my photo doesn't look like much either, but take my word for it - the cake is moist, rather sweet and well-spiced. In fact, perhaps a bit too sweet and spiced (too much nutmeg, IMO), but these issues can easily be remedied by cutting down on certain ingredients. The caramel sauce is quite sweet too - a little goes a long way - but it's very good. 

Another  bonus is that this recipe is easily prepared - and Adams states: "The cake gets better as it ages, keeps for a week in the refrigerator, and also freezes well." 

Perhaps you're supposed to bring a dessert to Thanksgiving dinner - but either someone else is making the pumpkin pie, or else you said you'd bring a sweet for those who don't like pumpkin pie (perish the thought, but I know those people exist!) 

Well, this apple cake would be a good dessert to bring along! It's fast and easy to make and is relatively economical as well. It can be made in advance and frozen, so no last-minute baking is necessary. Adams says the caramel sauce can be made in advance but doesn't say how much in advance. I'd think that the day before would be fine. But since the sauce is quick and easy to prepare, you could whip it up right before serving the cake if it's not too chaotic during Thanksgiving dinner. 

If you'd like to try this recipe, here it is, along with my notes:

Apple Cake With Hot Caramel Sauce (adapted from Marcia Adams' Cooking From Quilt Country)

1/2 cup pecans, chopped finely
2 1/2 cups chopped apples (2 large cooking apples)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup white sugar (see notes)
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 scant teaspoon grated nutmeg (see notes)
1 cup all-purpose flour

Caramel Sauce
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup evaporated milk

Optional garnishes (see notes):
Whipped cream
Fresh apple slices

Preheat oven to 350. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter. Add the sugar and beat until fluffy. Add egg and beat until blended, then mix in the baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the flour and stir just until blended. Stir in the apples and pecans. Pour into a greased 9" round cake pan and bake for 30 minutes or until the tops springs back when lightly touched in the center with your finger. 

Prepare sauce: In a saucepan, melt the butter, brown sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring with a whisk, then remove from heat and whisk in vanilla and milk.

Notes: Adams specifies a 9" round cake pan, but I feel a 9x9 baking pan would be fine as well. 

I found the use of sugar and nutmeg in the cake recipe a bit much. I used a bit less sugar as it was but still found it too sweet. That cup of white sugar could probably be reduced to 3/4 or even 2/3 cup. 

I thought the nutmeg taste was too strong; Adams does say "1 scant teaspoon". Maybe my "scant" wasn't scant enough. I think I'd cut this down to 1/2 teaspoon next time. 

Adams advises serving the cake warm or at least at room temperature. The cake can be reheated in the microwave. She says to serve the caramel sauce hot; if made ahead, she says to reheat it over hot water. I warmed it up in the microwave and that was fine. 

Adams' serving instructions are as follows: To serve, ladle 2 to 3 tablespoons hot caramel sauce onto 8 serving plates. Cut cake into 8 wedges and place on top of sauce. Garnish with a dollop of whipped cream and 2 thinly sliced apple wedges, peel left on. 

I didn't bother with the whipped cream/sliced apple presentation, but it might be nice to consider if serving this on Thanksgiving Day - or any other time you want a nice taste of fall.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Thrifty Acres: Vintage Finds From The Church Rummage Sale

Hello! Could not spend much time at a church rummage sale yesterday, but still managed to come home with a few odds and ends - and more importantly, a couple of vintage Christmas items!

First up:

A Santa figure that stands about 15" high. At the rummage sale, it was labeled as being from the 1950's. The price was a bit higher than I would have preferred, but was still reasonable, and the Santa was in very good shape - just a slight weathered look to his face and a faint yellowing of his beard. But his boots, belt and suit looked brand new. 

I liked his face:

I think he'll fit in well with the vintage and non-vintage Santas I already have!

Looked on eBay for more info and learned he's likely from the Harold Gale company, a firm that made Santas for store display, retail purchase and giveaways with various products. This article  gives a good summary of the company. I'd never heard of Harold Gale before, so like the old saying goes, "you learn something new every day". 

On a much smaller scale is my second purchase of vintage Christmas decor:

The Holy Family in miniature - Joseph is 1 5/8" high and Mary stands 1 3/8" tall. Baby Jesus, who is 3/4" long, lays in a manger that's 1" high and 5/8" long. They're wooden and appear to be hand-painted. I love the small scale.

Saw one example of this set on eBay, which showed halos that looked to be made of wire on the figures. There are a couple of small holes on the backs of my figures, undoubtedly where their halos had once been. I could easily add new ones, but I think my set is fine as is.

This tiny family will be displayed along with my collection of Nativity sets from all over the world. Alas, I don't know what country my latest find hails from, but it's likely from outside the US as well. 

The rummage sale also had a number of handmade vintage ornaments, all priced very inexpensively. However, since I now have more ornaments than what I have room for on our tree, I passed them up. 

But vintage Santas and Nativity sets - I can still make room for those!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Get Carded: The Perfect Card

Hello! While I don't always start out with a predetermined theme when crafting my greeting cardssometimes I'll find an image that so obviously fits a particular person, I just have to use it when their birthday rolls around. 

Such was the case earlier this year when I came across an ad for a knitting product in a vintage craft magazine. Part of the ad perfectly described a friend, so I waited several months until her birthday finally arrived and made her a card that included a scaled-down copy of the ad. 

Here's how the card turned out:

Materials used:
  • white card stock
  • scrapbook paper scrap
  • scrap from vintage cookbook cover
  • scrap of 1880's ledger paper, altered with red and white acrylic paints
  • photocopy of ad from vintage crafting magazine ad
  • vintage buttons
  • "happy birthday" stamped in black StazOn ink
And why was the ad so perfect for my friend? Not only is she extremely creative and talented, she's a knitting whiz as well. In fact, when I took her out to dinner last night to celebrate her birthday, she was wearing one of her knitted creations. 

Not visible above are the definitions for "creative": "pertaining to creation; inventive; productive" - and for "talented": "a special, superior ability in art, learning, etc." These definitions fit my friend too.

(In case you were wondering, for "knitter", the definition is given as "one who knits".) 

Like I said, I felt it was the perfect card to make for her! Of course, she has many fine qualities besides her artsy/crafty talents, but I couldn't resist using that ad to highlight that side of her.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Thrifty Acres: A Price Tag Pet Peeve

Hello! While cruising the Christmas aisle of a local thrift store last week, I spied this:

A package of Noma Easy-Trim Tree Clips: "No More Trouble Trimming Trees" we are informed. The clips were meant to hold strings of lights to Christmas tree branches. Sounds like a good idea, but I was interested in the vintage graphics of the packaging - another goodie to display next month!

I was also interested in the low price of 50c - an especially good bargain when one considers that this particular thrift store has a glass display case plus a shelving unit devoted to vintage goods. Not sure why this Noma package wasn't put in that section of the store, but I'm not complaining - if the staff had done so, it would have been marked higher. 

I did complain, however (and politely, I hasten to add) to the counter clerk about that masking tape price tag on the front of the package. This is a pet peeve of mine, as such tags can be difficult to remove without marring the original packaging. I explained to the clerk that I was buying the item for display, so it would have been better if the price tag had been affixed to the back. 

She immediately agreed and said the folks doing the pricing had been told this in the past, but they didn't always seem to remember such admonishments. I joked that I ought to make a big sign reminding them to please put the price tags in inconspicuous spots. 

Although I hadn't asked her to do so, the clerk began trying to peel the price tag off with her fingernail - bad move, as the cardboard underneath began to peel off with the masking tape. So she stopped that action, I paid for the Noma Easy-Trim Tree Clips and went home. 

Decided to look online to see if there was a recommended tip for removing masking tape from cardboard. On, I learned that a bit of WD-40 or rubbing alcohol could be dabbed on a cotton swab (ie Q-tip)and then applied to the underside of the masking tape - after a small section of the tape had been carefully lifted up. Since that clerk had already peeled up some of the tape, I started at that end of the price tag. I used rubbing alcohol since I figured it'd be less messy to deal with. 

Worked like a charm, as seen below:

No more masking tape price tag, although of course I was left with the bare section of cardboard, courtesy of that clerk trying to be helpful. At least the rest of the cardboard stayed intact, and it'll still be a fun display piece.

Looked on eBay to see if I could learn how old my purchase is- no firm date, but in general sellers seemed to think these had been manufactured in the 1940's or 1950's. That seemed right to me. 

By reading a little further on how to best remove masking tape from cardboard, I learned that some people recommend using a blow dryer to loosen the adhesive. Could try this the next time I come across a poorly-placed price tag on a thrift store purchase - though I hope the message about this practice gets through to those folks doing the pricing!


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Eats: Crockpot Apple Butter

 Hello! I enjoy the taste of apple butter, but I don't enjoy the stirring that traditional recipes for this condiment call for. Therefore, I was pleased to discover a recipe for Crockpot Apple Butter in Marcia Adams' Cooking From Quilt CountryNot only does the recipe require less stirring than what Great-Grandma had to do, but it's ultra easy if you start out with commercial applesauce - yes, rather than cut-up apples, applesauce is the base. 

Here's the recipe, followed by my notes:

Crockpot Apple Butter (adapted from Cooking Fromm Quilt Country)

7 cups applesauce, preferably homemade, but a good-quality commercial kind (unsweetened) can be substituted
2 cups apple cider (see my notes below)
1 1/2 cups honey (I used a bit less)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoons ground allspice

In a crockpot, mix all the ingredients. Cover and cook on low heat for 14-15 hours, or until the mixture is a deep brown. Pack while hot into 4 pint jars. Process in a hot-water bath for 10 minutes, counting the time after the jars have been immersed and the water comes again to a rolling boil. 

My notes: I had some homemade applesauce in my basement freezer from last year - was going to use it in baking but had never gotten around to that. Upon thawing, the applesauce tasted fine, so I used it in this recipe. Obviously I'd had the work of making applesauce last year, but having it on hand made this fall made the recipe fast to put together. 

I had apple juice on hand instead of cider, so that's what I used. 

I don't can, so I'll freeze my apple butter instead. Therefore, I can't vouch for the canning directions. 

About the cooking: one thing about crockpots, there's very little evaporation with the recipes made in them. Apple butter is meant to be thick enough to spread, so to hasten the thickening I placed the lid slightly ajar on top of the crockpot. But I didn't do this right away  - I started the recipe last night, lid on, let it cook overnight, then adjusted the lid to allow for evaporation when I got up this morning. I suppose I could have left the lid open a bit all night, but I wanted to be able to monitor the evaporation rate.

The beginning of the process:

Homemade applesauce with added honey, spices and juice in the crockpot. 

The finished result:

I would say this is the "deep brown" that Adams' recipe mentions! The yield is 4 cups of yummy apple butter. 

Adams also remarks " tastes just like the old-fashioned kind, baked down in a copper kettle over an open fire." And it actually does! I once attended an apple butter festival in Waterville, PA - it's an annual fundraiser for the local volunteer fire department. I watched as huge kettles of apples were cooked down and stirred over open fires. My crockpot-cooked version is a dead ringer for theirs - but without all that stirring!


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Thrifty Acres: Back To The Late 1960's

Hello! Well, it's the fall of the year, and Christmas will be here before we know it! So I thought it was a good time to dig through a recent thrift store find, the fall-winter 1967-68 issue of McCall's Needlework & Crafts. 

There are pages and pages of knitted garments to make, but I turned my attention to the one featured on the magazine cover:

The copy says: "ski or after-ski dress of true Scandinavian flavor...For a breathtaking finish, add borders of rich radiant embroidery."

Actually, they weren't really exaggerating when they hyped that embroidery, as the close-up shows:

I love the lively colors, and the embroidery looks like it'd be fun to do, but here's the thing: first you have to knit the sweater dress - then embroider sections for the cuffs, bottom border, front neck opening and collar on black wool -  then those strips are sewn onto green felt - then the felt pieces are sewn onto the sweater dress - then there are finishing instructions for each sewn-on section. Whew, sounds like lot of work! Wonder if anyone actually made the darn thing? 

Turning to Christmastime decor, let's see if you recognize what the following wall hanging is supposed to represent:

If you said "the Three Wise Men", then you are correct. I could barely tell what the figures were supposed to be! For some reason, Christmas craft books and magazines of the 1960's seemed to be quite fond of abstract representations of the Three Wise Men. Not sure why. Still, the execution of this project isn't bad - pieces of brightly-colored felt are appliqued onto a felt backing with various embroidery stitches. 

Speaking of decor, McCall's Needlework & Crafts covers interior decorating as well. Other vintage issues of this magazines have shown some real humdingers - or, at least that's how they look to me over 40 years later. 

See if you agree with me:

The caption for the above bedroom says: "An applique picture of a modern bloomer girl in a polk-dot snowstorm sets Mod mood for teen-age girl's room. Cat rug and footstool in fabric, felt, fur cloth carry out polka-dot theme. Antique quilt in soft pink and green gentles effect. "Pop" flower lampshade and fur-cloth mouse pillow complete our lively decor." 

Well, they can toss around "Mod mood", "lively decor" and "pop" all they want. What do I say about this decor? "nothing matches", "pink and green along with blue and white polka dots?", "why did they use a side table with an elephant shape for its base when the other animlas shown are a cat and a mouse?" And more, none of it flattering. There's just too much going on here! 

But hold on a sec, for I have another room to show off:

"For an elegant bathroom, be sophisticated in your color, be inspired in your furnishing! Enliven a wall with the unexpected accent of a needlepoint sampler; add coziness with a knotted rung and seat cover; create dazzle with a beaded shower curtain!"

Beaded shower curtain? That's a new one on me! But yes indeed: "...ultimate in luxury! Glowing plastic beads are strung on lengths of sturdy fishing line. Beads are mostly black, alternating with vividly colored accents for a dramatic effect against the white plastic liner and black tub." 

Never would have thought that plastic beads and fishing line were the "ultimate in luxury", but I never would have thought of beaded shower curtains either. God only knows how long it would have taken to thread all those beads on all those lengths of fishing line!

As for that "unexpected accent of a needlepoint sampler", it has the motto "virtue is its own reward" stitched on it. Well, maybe it's better than those cutesy, fake old-timey "Baths 5c" signs, but seeing this motto in a bathroom would be pretty unexpected to me!

Okay, I think it's time to get away from those less-than-stellar decors and show off something less complex:

Yippee, it's "styrofoam meat-tray samplers...ideal for a little girl to make." There must have been something wrong with me when this magazine came out - I was a little girl then myself, and never once made a styrofoam meat-tray sampler. In my own defense, I never saw this magazine back then, so I didn't know such a craft existed. Probably just as well! The meat trays may have made for inexpensive stitching surfaces, but the thought of hanging minimally-disguised styrofoam on the walls just seems cheap to me.

But that's half the fun of looking through old magazines such as this one - I enjoy seeing what still looks good today versus something that's better left behind!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Made It: Memory Collage

Hello! At age 92, my dad's hanging in there, but some health issues over the summer warranted the eventual move from the assisted living unit of his nursing facility to the memory unit with its higher level of care. 

As is often true in such units, there's a small shadow box outside my dad's room, meant to display a meaningful representation of his life. I was told by one of my siblings recently that the design of this display had fallen to me. Since I don't have a lot of objects that had belonged to my dad, I chose to make a collage of family photos and other images. 

I was a little nervous about approaching this task. I happen to come of a family of several siblings, and we're all opinionated in our own ways. I could just see them scrutinize the finished collage and then tell me how I should have made it. The other problem is that I had never really paid attention to see how other families had made these displays, so I wasn't exactly sure how my dad's should look. 

Still, I figured something was better than the bare shadow box he currently has, so I worked on this project recently and got it mailed out over the weekend. To fit the shadow box, the collage had to be no larger than a standard sheet of paper. 

As I soon learned, it's not easy to shrink the facets of a 92-year-old's life down to a 8 1/2"x11" piece of paper. But here's what I managed to come up with:

I know that the images shown above aren't really big, so I'll dsecribe each one, starting with the upper left-hand corner and going clockwise:

  • photo of my dad and late mother; taken for their church directory
  • University of Michigan emblem; my dad got a graduate degree from U-M, thereby starting what I now consider an unfortunate allegiance to U-M sports by the majority of my siblings. Only one sister and I dared to be different and became Spartans! 
  • below the U-M emblem is a Detroit Tigers cap; my dad emigrated to Detroit from Italy when he was a young boy. Even though I was just eight in 1968, I can still remember his excitement over the Tigers' march toward a World Series championship that year. 
  • map of Italy from a vintage world atlas. Dad was born in Milan, but his family roots are 100% Sicilian.
  • image of spaghetti with sauce. We had a lot of this when we were kids; it was an inexpensive way to feed a family of 10. My dad would make a huge pot of spaghetti sauce at a time. If we were lucky, occasionally he'd use some of his sauce to make a casserole he called baked spaghetti. It was really good! Even after we kids had grown up and moved out of the house, he'd still make those big pots of sauce. It would be ladled into large containers and stashed in my folks' basement freezer. Guess what we usually had for dinner when we came home for visits? Yep, spaghetti with my dad's sauce. 
  • photo of my dad from WWII; he was in the Army Air Corps (the forerunner of the US Air Force). I don't know where the photo was taken; possibly the small island in the South Pacific his unit was sent to. He also spent time stationed in Hawaii, Japan (after the bombs had been dropped), and stateside posts.  
  • family photo taken in July 1996. If it looks like a lot of people are present, well, several more grandchildren and a couple of great-grandchildren have been added to the family since then. (a spouse has been added too)
  • a small paragraph, taken from a vintage encyclopedia, discusses the profession of social work, the career my dad had for several decades. Because of the confidential nature of his job, he could rarely say much about it. But in high school I'd occasionally have kids come up to me upon recognizing my last name. They'd tell me they'd had to see my dad after having trouble with their parents or whatever and he had helped them a lot. I was very proud of him when I'd hear these stories. 
  • the reference to "jokes, jokes, jokes" (photocopied from a vintage joke book I'd found at an estate sale several years ago): anyone who knows my dad knows that he's always making a quip or retelling a joke he'd read somewhere.  As he'd gotten older and suffering more from dementia, the jokes have often become repetitive. However, my husband and I still recall some of the truly funny quips my dad had made in years past. 
Not shown in the collage are the captions I eventually wrote under each image, explaining how the images pertained to my dad. Alas, I can already think of an "oops" in one of the captions: I was so focused on remembering the children who'd come along since the family photo was taken (eight in all!), I'd forgotten to mention that a spouse had married into the family! If any of my siblings sees this, they are free to add that fact to the collage. (or maybe I'll have to make another copy of it and rewrite the one caption. 

Oh, well, as I'd said, it's not easy to condense such a long life to one piece of paper. But I tried! I hope that my dad - and the rest of my siblings - like it.