Saturday, October 7, 2017

Made It: A Fall Scrap Fabric Wreath

Hello! I've shown off scrap fabric wreaths on this blog before, such as the post seen here.  Since I've made a few by now, I figured I was done with this craft. 

But then I bought a large bag of fabric scraps at our town's sidewalk sales during the summer. While sorting out the pieces by color once I got home, I noticed that many of the scraps were already cut in pieces the perfect size for a scrap fabric wreath, and what's more, they happened to be mostly in fall-ish colors. So I decided to make a fall scrap fabric wreath for our front door. 

I also raided my own assortment of autumn-hued fabric scraps, which was fine with me - this project's a great way to use up pieces too small to do much else with. 

I remembered I had a bag of vintage quilt scraps that had been cut in a shape that would work well in the making of this wreath; these bits can be seen in this post. I dug out the bag to find the scraps that fit with my color scheme (mostly grays, browns, blacks, orange, yellow and dark red), zeroing in on the shapes as seen in the second photo in the linked post.  

I bought an 18" wire wreath frame at Michaels, then tied, tied, tied away. It actually goes quicker than you might think, and I liked seeing all the strips come together on the wreath frame as I filled it in. 

Here's how it turned out:

And here's a close-up of some of the fall fabrics I used:

Striped ticking, Halloween prints, vintage plaids, ginghams...this wreath's got a little bit of everything.

Well, everything that makes this a fall scrap fabric wreath!

(If you'd like to make your own scrap fabric wreath - in the colors of your choosing, of course - the directions are within the first link in this post.)


 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

A Superior Vacation: Part Two

Hello! Our Superior vacation continued with a drive up US-41 to Copper Harbor, near the very tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula. It's a very scenic drive - in fact, this stretch of US-41 was recently included in an online list I saw (compiled by Architectural Digest magazine, I think) of top fall drives around the US. It was a bit too early for peak color during our visit, but nevertheless, still a nice drive. 

I'd told my husband I wanted to stop in downtown Calumet, which we hadn't done in years since it means veering off US-41. I was curious as to what changes, if any, had come to that town since our last stop there a good decade ago. 

The copper mining boom of the region  brought wealth to Calumet, which resulted in niceties you wouldn't typically expect in such a isolated area: a few mansions, a large department store, an opera house that booked first-class entertainment, and more. However, the mining boom is long gone, and the Keweenaw Peninsula saw a decline in population and money. 

Calumet was no exception, but things seem to be looking up now, at least a little more. When we first visited the area in 1984, locals had already begun to band together to preserve the copper mining history. Ultimately, their efforts would eventually lead to the creation of the Keweenaw National Historic Park in the early 1990's.
This has resulted in a large number of "heritage sites" throughout the region, which include a broad range of museums, mining tours and other points of interest. 

I'm guessing this initiative has brought more money and visitors to the area. Downtown Calumet had more shops and places of interest to visit while we were there than I recalled from our last time through. 

Above, the Michigan House Cafe & Red Jacket Brewing Co, which is where we ate lunch. I had the Drunken Pig sandwich and my husband had the Michigan House burger. This was easily my favorite meal of our vacation - everything in my sandwich was top-notch, and my husband said his burger was excellent too. Highly recommended!

The building's ambience helped too - it had its beginnings as a hotel in 1905, built by a local brewing company to market its beers in the hotel saloon. Old-time charm still abounds inside:

.
Vintage chandelier, and more vintage behind it in the form of snowshoes hung on the ceiling. 

Tile flooring.

I would have taken even more photos, but the lighting wasn't the best, and we had other stops to make. 

The photo of the Michigan House building was taken from the 3rd floor of the building across the street, the Vertin Gallery. In its heyday, it was the Vertin department store, but is now home to art works and antiques. I figured with such a huge space, there'd be a lot of stuff to look over, but alas, large sections of the 2nd and 3rd floors were roped off, with jumbles of furniture and other things instead of booth displays. So there really wasn't as much to see as I'd hoped. But at least I did get that nice photo of the Michigan House building. 

From another side of the 3rd floor, another block was in view:



There's some empty storefronts on this block, but the space on the left houses Supernova Yoga, Gallery & Gifts. I didn't go in this business, but it looked nice. 

However, we did go here:

Once a church, now the Calumet Arts Center. The center sells works by local artists, as well as offering classes and hosting cultural events. I like to support local art centers when we travel, so I bought a couple of small pottery items. 

We also ducked inside a few art galleries and gift shops. We missed a few more shops and didn't go into local historic sites. Just didn't have enough time to see much. Nevertheless, I went to Calumet's visitor center, which is located on US-41 before you turn off to drive into town. Picked up a bagful of brochures for future visits to the region!

From Calumet, we continued up the peninsula, veering off onto M-26 to drive through the picturesque shore towns of Eagle River and Eagle Harbor. And as we've also done in years past, we drove up Brockway Mountain Drive to take advantage of the scenic overlooks:

That's Copper Harbor down below. On clear days, one can see Isle Royale from the top of Brockway Mountain, but it was too hazy to do so this day. Still enjoyed the trek up and back, even if the driving is a bit hair-raising at times.

Copper Harbor is small but has a number of gift shops and restaurants. We used to always eat lunch at the Harbor Haus - delightful food and a lovely setting overlooking Lake Superior. Unfortunately, it no longer appears to be open for lunch, which is why we'd decided to go to Michigan House in Calumet. But for old time's sake we walked to the shoreline bordering Harbor Haus:

The only shop we checked out while in Copper Harbor was our old favorite, the Laughing Loon. When our daughter was little, it was a tradition to let her pick out a stuffed animal from the shop, and occasionally we'd buy a souvenir t-shirt for ourselves. But we bought nothing today.

Once last stop before we returned to our hotel in Houghton:

A sign marking the beginning of US-41. If you were to travel its entire distance of almost 2,000 miles, you'd end up in Miami. I wonder how many people have done just that? Would be an interesting trip sometime. Besides the UP, we've taken US-41 through parts of the Chicago area and Indiana. But I think that's it!

Reluctantly, we had to leave the Keweenaw area the next day. But before we did so, we had one last meal:

Just outside of Hancock, the Four Suns eatery, run by the adjacent Peterson's Fish Market. The restaurant has walk-up windows for ordering and pick-up, with places to sit at the covered "porch" and a few outside tables. My husband and I both got the whitefish sandwich. It was good, but we agreed that we liked our fish lunches at Muninsing's Fish Shack better. 

Four Suns was still worth the visit, though, especially since we had a great view of this across the road:

The Quincy Mine & Hoist property, now a museum site run by the Keweenaw National Park. Have never toured the site, but would like to someday! 

It was time to head south toward home, this time through Wisconsin. Again, for old time's sake, we stopped in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. We lived there for three years, in the late 1980's/early 1990's, and it was where we had our first house:

This was the oldest house we'd ever lived in (although we looked at 18th C homes while house hunting in the Philadelphia area); it had been built in 1871. It still looks much the same as when we lived there, other than the siding that now surrounds the chimney. Not something you should do to an old house! 

We ate a so-so dinner at an Asian restaurant in downtown Stevens Point, which we made up for by going over to Belt's ice cream stand for dessert. We used to live only a seven-minute walk from Belt's, which meant that there were times I'd go there to cool off in the afternoon with a grape slush after a session of antique furniture refinishing - followed by an after-dinner dessert of a flurry (their name for soft-serve blended with mix-ins) while with my husband. Ah, those were the days! 

So for the sake of nostalgia I got one of my old favorites, a hot fudge brownie flurry. At this stage of my life, it was too rich and filling to finish, but it was still great. Belt's is a seasonal walk-up place, and it's a tradition to make a point of going there for the first and last days it's open for the year. As these days are in March and October, it isn't unusual for snow flurries to be falling as people stand in line, outside, waiting to order ice cream! Wisconsinites are hardy folks. 

After eating all that ice cream, it was time to walk off some of those calories:


A walk along the Wisconsin River at Pfiffner Pioneer Park. Like Belt's, this park was also a short jaunt from our house, so we walked this path often. During this visit, I recalled the time I called in a mail order (no online option back then!) and gave the woman at the other end of the line my Stevens Point mailing address. She thought that the name "Point" meant the town was on an ocean! Guess she didn't have any idea where Wisconsin was (this was no foreign-accented call center worker either). I had to explain that the town was at a "point" on the Wisconsin River. 

We spent the night in Stevens Point, but had lunch there before leaving. I'd taken some pics of the restaurant where we ate, the Wooden Chair, but they didn't come out well. But it's a cute spot - one of those places much of the furniture is vintage and much of it doesn't match. Food was good, and it's a fun atmosphere. 

From Stevens Point, we continued on to Milwaukee. We got there too late to do much but eat dinner at Jalapeno Loco, near Mitchell Airport. We first ate here in the early 2000's, when one of my brothers lived nearby. It's solid Mexican food; has some of the usual menu items but also some less-common entrees. We've always enjoyed our meals here. 

Since we spent the night in Milwaukee and were only going as far as suburban Chicago the next day, that meant I had time to visit American Science and Surplus before heading to the Windy City. AS&S is another old favorite of mine. I'd already visited a couple of the smaller Chicago-area stores run by the business (one has since closed), but was happy to check out the larger Milwaukee store while my brother lived in town. I was in luck this time: the store was having its annual tent sale. This meant even more savings on even more wacky stuff. But I tried sticking to more practical stuff, like more bottles for my DIY kombucha and toiletries, and craft supplies. It's a fun place.

The Chicagoland visit involved dinner out at Rockwood Taproom, plus shopping at a plaza that has a See's candy store (great chocolates and other sweets), a Trader Joe's and a Goodwill. What more do you need? :)

By this time, though, we were getting a bit tired of traveling - covering 1,600 miles in one week will do that to a person, I guess. So after spending the night at our suburban hotel, we left for home, stopping only for gas and lunch. We were back home by mid-afternoon. It had been a nice time though - definitely a "superior" vacation!
 










 







Thursday, September 21, 2017

A Superior Vacation: Part One

Hello! The Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan seems pretty remote when you live many hours from it. We may have never gotten there, but then my sister moved to Houghton in 1984 to teach at Michigan Technological University (aka Michigan Tech). We visited her shortly after she was settled in and liked what we saw. She didn't last long - in 1988 she moved back to my hometown near Flint. But we continued to vacation up there.

In fact, for awhile we had a streak of going to the Keweenaw area at least once a year through 2008. (this was no small feat during the seven years that we lived on the East Coast). I told my husband it was time to start visiting other parts of the country, and we had a great time traveling west, south and northeast for our vacations.

But now the tide has turned - it was time to go back and revisit the Keweenaw area. So what follows is a bit of what we saw and did during a trip last week. There's no way this blog could recount all the scenery and history of this unique part of the state - what follows is just a brief summary!

Above, the Fish Basket food truck in Munising. My husband learned about this place on Yelp. Fresh-caught Lake Superior fish and French fries made to order - what's not to like? Fresh fish is a real treat, and we thoroughly enjoyed our lunch here. 


Our first stop to take photos of Lake Superior; taken at a roadside rest area off M-28 near Au Train. Not sure, but that might be Au Train Island off in the distance. 

Driving across the UP is a bit of a lesson in patience, as there's no freeways once you leave I-75 north of the Mackinac Bridge. Over the years, we'd pass the time by looking for various "landmarks" near the roads. As I'd said in the beginning of this post, it's been several years since we were last this way, so we were curious to see what was still around. 

Alas, the Laughing Whitefish market, down the road from a river of the same name, appeared to be closed. I hope that its sign, with its caricature of a laughing whitefish, lives on somewhere else. Love the name of the river, loved that sign!

Also gone was the giant cactus statue that stood out in the front yard of a house in the Marquette area. I suppose that the cactus went along with the Spanish-style exterior of the house, but both seemed incongruous in an area more known for woods, lakes and long, snowy winters.

Additions: a few more art galleries and studios here and there, and a number of traffic circles have been constructed in Marquette (to take the place of traffic signals, I think). Not really a fan of the latter, but it is what it is. A lot more chain stores in the Marquette area than there used to be too.

Finally we arrived at our destination, a Country Inn and Suites in Houghton. We can remember when this hotel wasn't even there. Since we'd been in the car for several hours already, my husband suggested walking to the downtown for dinner. It wasn't that far - about a mile - but since the hotel is atop a steep hill, the trip back from dinner meant going up that hill. No need for using the hotel fitness center's treadmill here! 

Spied this sign while in downtown Houghton:

A display of kayaks blocked part of the sign, which read "Houghton County Snowfall 286.6". That's a lot of snow, but not unusual for the area. My sister said that 299" had fallen during one of her winters there; folks said it might as well snow one inch more so they could say they'd gotten 300" of the stuff. But it was not to be. 

No sign of snow while we were there, of course - but also no sign of normal temps for the time of year. In fact, one day during our visit Houghton was just one degree shy of tying the record high for the date. It was in the low 80's during our stay, well above the norm.

Saw a number of boaters out enjoying the waters of the Portage Shipping Canal, a waterway that divides Houghton and the neighboring city of Hancock. Saw members of the Michigan Tech sailing club:





It looked like they were having a great time!

We hadn't gotten enough walking in while making our way up that steep hill back from dinner; no, the next day it was time to set out on foot again. This time, we were heading to the Porcupine Mountains Wildnerness State Park, near Ontonagon.

We've been to the "Porkies" many times before, and have hiked most of its 90+ miles of trails. But this jaunt would be just for fun. As it was going to be a hot, humid day, we planned on doing a short hike. Armed with water bottles and lunch (trail snacks from Keweenaw Co-op in Hancock), we set out toward the state park. As we'd done yesterday, we looked to see what has come and gone along the route. The biggest difference we noticed, besides a few more new businesses on the outskirts of Houghton, was the route changes in South Range and Ontonagon. Before, you drove through the commercial districts of both towns, now you drive past them if you're staying on the main road. Bummer - I always like going through small towns, just to see the houses and businesses there.

The Porcupine Mountains, at least, are the same: forests, rivers, hills, waterfalls, and the Lake Superior shoreline. The latter would be our destination for lunch.

A few pics:

We started out on the Pinkerton Creek Trail, which connected to the Lake Superior Trail. 

Lunchtime along Lake Superior. Although there were several cars parked at the Pinkerton Creek trailhead, we saw no other people on this hike. 

We returned on the same route we'd taken, which led to this photo of Pinkerton Creek:

Very typical scenery for the Porkies. I was glad Pinkerton Creek  had a footbridge for its crossing. I'd been on many a watery crossing in the park that involved stepping on wet stones or cautiously navigating on logs several feet above a river. I always feared falling off one of those logs; although I can swim, I didn't relish getting wet in my hiking clothes and boots. Thankfully, that never happened!

This day's hike was only six miles. Back when we were much younger, over 30 years ago, our hikes here were much longer distances and often included rugged terrain. We can still recall the Memorial Day weekend hike of 1988. Like this most recent hike, it was abnormally hot and humid, but that didn't stop us from hiking 16 miles. The excursion included going up to the 1,850 feet Government Peak, second highest point in the park. My husband's brother had come with us and he insisted after that climb that he would die of hydration. But he's still around. 

The Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park does have a few niceties that it didn't have in the earlier years of our visits: a bigger visitor center, a folk school, an artist-in-residence program (we saw past works from this program on display at the visitor center), and a music festival. But I don't think much else has changed over the years - it's still a great place to visit, whether you want a challenging hike or an easier one. Well worth the travel time from Houghton! (over an hour)

In my next post I'll talk about what we did on the rest of our vacation.   

 











Friday, September 15, 2017

Thrifty Acres: An Oldie But Goodie

Hello! I first did yoga in the mid-to-late 1980's, using a paperback book I'd gotten at a rummage sale. The book was already quite a few years old then. I don't recall why now, but eventually I stopped doing yoga, and so donated that book to a thrift store. 

Yoga's now become trendy, and so I come across books devoted to this practice quite often at secondhand markets. I've purchased a few of these books, and while they were nice to work with, I often found myself confused by the directions. And it wasn't always exactly clear what progress I could hope to make over time.  I missed the step-by-step instructions that were the foundation of the book I'd once had. 

Came across a copy of that years-ago yoga book at a fundraiser garage sale a few weeks ago, so I eagerly snatched it up:

Richard Hittleman's Yoga 28 Day Exercise Plan. This book was first published in 1969, but my edition came out in 1973. Some reviewers on Amazon.com say that the book is still in print! 

The cover photo shows some color, but inside, demonstrations of the poses look like this:

That's right, all the poses were photographed in black and white - no color shots of the model clad in various examples of coordinated yoga clothes. No props such as straps or blocks either: you just stretch as much as you comfortably can. 

The program is set up in a progressive way, with each day building on what was learned on previous days. The photos of the poses, and the accompanying descriptions, are very helpful. To reinforce the lessons, every four days a review session is given.  There's also a brief essay at the end of each day's practice ranging from nutrition advice, to how to judge one's progress, and to how yoga can help arthritis sufferers. 

And how has this yoga work helped me thus far? Well, with my latest go-round of using this book - I'm on day 19 - I do feel less  "creaky" and more limber than I had before I started the routine. My back doesn't feel as tight. I've been sleeping very well too. So all in all, pretty good results in less than three weeks.

I'm glad I found this book again at that garage sale. Maybe I've learned a lesson: instead of falling for something flashier, stick to an oldie but goodie!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Eats: DIY Kombucha Tea

Hello! I'd been reading about kombucha tea lately, but didn't know much about it other than the various health claims (purported to be probiotic, anitbacterial, and more). Then a friend told me about purchasing the Sacred Springs brand at our local farmer's market, so I tried some from the vendor there. The guy was super nice and his ginger-flavored kombucha tea was awesome.

But was not awesome was the cost: I think around $4.00/bottle. The brands at grocery stores and health food stores are priced lower, but still not low enough to make buying kombucha tea a regular habit. 

So of course I investigated making my own, and came across this clearly-written tutorial.

According to the recipe, I needed to start out with a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast), which I could have ordered online. However, my recipe also included a link for making my own SCOBY as well (the link is in the last line of the ingredients list). For this SCOBY-making step, I did need to buy some unflavored kombucha for making the starter tea, to go along with tea bags, sugar and water. For the tea itself, I used ordinary Lipton's since I already had a big box of it on hand, but opted for organic cane sugar(purchased for a reasonable price at Sam's Club).

You need a large, clean glass jar for making kombucha tea, as both the SCOBY-making process and the kombucha tea-fermenting step yield 8-10 cups of liquid. Fortunately I had 2 large jars, purchased years ago at a store-closing sale. (the recipe can be made in two smaller jars, or can be halved if desired). 

I think I jumped the SCOBY-making step a bit. The instructions say to let it "grow" to a thickness of about 1/4" thick. This is supposed to take 1-4 weeks. After 8 days, I looked at my SCOBY and thought it was thick enough. But you know how shapes look distorted under water? Well, that's what happened when I took my SCOBY out of the starter tea. It was probably closer to around 1/8" thick. However, I'd already made the tea base that, along with the SCOBY, would be set aside to ferment for 7-10 days to make kombucha tea. So I decided to go ahead with the fermenting step, figuring that the lesser amount of SCOBY would be okay for this first time around.

After seven days of fermenting were up, it was time to flavor/bottle/carbonate my kombucha tea. Flavoring options are included in my recipe, so I decided to go with the easiest one, which was to add fruit juice. I used R.W. Knudsen's organic black cherry juice. 

I've read that carbonation works best with the type of bottle that has a stopper that is clamped down with a wire mechanism. I didn't come across an inexpensive source for these bottles, but will keep on looking. In the meantime, I bought some plastic bottles with screw-on lids from American Science and Surplus's website.

The carbonation step takes 1-3 days, then the kombucha tea is refrigerated and ready to drink. The tea will keep for a month in the refrigerator. I decided to refrigerate my first batch after one day was up, since I was anxious to start drinking it. I liked how it turned out! It wasn't really fizzy, but I didn't care about that.

Okay, that's enough chatter about my first foray into DIY kombucha tea. As of today, I'm ready to bottle my 4th batch, so here's how things look:

Above, the fermented tea base, with the SCOBY on top (that lighter-colored blob). The glass jar is kept covered with a cloth napkin, but I took it off so the SCOBY would be more visible in the photo. Next to the jar is one of the bottles I use, and behind these containers is the tea base for the next batch of fermenting tea. 

Making kombucha tea is like using a sourdough starter (which I've also done): you have to reserve some of the fermented tea (before you add any flavoring to it) to use in making the next batch of kombucha tea. Thus, you make the fresh batch of tea and let it cool down before you're ready to bottle the fermented batch. 

My first two batches of kombucha tea were flavored with that bottle of cherry juice. But then I wanted to try replicating the tangy ginger flavor I'd enjoyed before. Again, I went for an easy way of adding this flavor: I peeled about 3" fresh ginger and placed it and 1/4 cup raw honey into my Vitamix along with 3/4 cup water. I blended this mixture until smooth, then strained into my jar of kombucha tea. It tasted great! I think this will be my go-to flavor. 

As with many DIY projects, there are various cautions involved in the making of kombucha tea. Contamination can be an issue if a bad SCOBY is used. The recipe I use has a page on troubleshooting typical SCOBY problems, the worst of which is mold. And of course, all kitchen utensils, bottles, jars, etc. need to be clean when going through all the steps in the process. But that is just common sense. 

To keep things straight, I keep a running list of when each step is completed (fermenting, bottling, carbonating). It seemed a little confusing at first, but I'm getting the hang of it. 

So far my SCOBY has been behaving just fine, so I will keep making kombucha tea with it. I don't know if I feel any different after drinking it for a few weeks now, but I like how it tastes, and I like the money I'm saving by going the DIY route.




 
 


 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Get Carded: A Simple Card For A Not-So-Simple Event

Hello! Our daughter recently started a PhD program in chemistry. Along with picking a research group to work with and taking classes this semester, she is also a teaching assistant for two freshman-level labs and two corresponding recitation sections. (A professor supplied the course materials, but our daughter will be the instructor). She and her fellow first-year classmates did have TA training, but still, the thought of being in such a position would have kept me awake at night with anxiety. 

If our daughter had such anxiety, she didn't tell us, and texted after the first recitation that she thought it went well. It probably helped some that she had two years of STEM mentoring as an undergrad, a position had involved keeping office hours and running help sessions. So she already has some awareness on how to manage the academic needs of underclassmen. 

Nevertheless, we're very proud of the good start she's off to, and my husband suggested sending her a gift card to one of her favorite online stores. Naturally, I made a greeting card to send along with the gift card:

Materials used:
  • white card stock
  • portion of page taken from vintage chemistry textbook
  • patterned scrap from World Market shopping bag
  • "Congrats" stamped in brown ink on white card stock scrap
  • gold glitter washi tape
I could have made a fancier card, but didn't really feel the need to. Sometimes a simple card just seems right, and this was one such time. 

Our daughter appreciated the card and gift card. We were glad to "reward" her in this small way, even if it was with just a simple greeting card and small gift card.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Made It: Ye Olde Brick Path

Hello! There's a narrow strip of land - about five feet wide - on the western edge of our property that was a bit of a no man's land. When we first moved in, an assortment of weeds and tree saplings reigned in that space. I got rid of the saplings first, then pulled out the weeds. One particular weed, though, grows via runners, so it was very hard to eradicate. And the thinning out of the other weeds and mini trees caused the spread of lily of the valley. I like the scent and appearance of its flowers, but there was just too much of it growing in this small bit of ground. 

Over the course of our years here, I've gradually added some perennials in this area, but placed them close to the house so I would still have space to walk through. During the growing season, I'd gradually wear down enough of the weeds and lily of the valley to make a path of sorts, though walking on these plants stopped them from growing back.

Then it dawned on me: since I was beating down a path by walking on this strip of land, why not just make a real path? So earlier this summer I dug out a ton of weeds and lily of the valley. It was a bit laborious, but with the excess growth cleared away, that section of the yard looked better already!

Now, what to put down on my path to make it look more official? This would involve figuring out what type of paving stone to buy and how much of it to buy. But before I made a trip to an outdoor landscaping place, it was time to cut the lawn. This task included mowing around a semi-buried, two-brick-wide path someone had added to the park side. And since this path was right next to a large maple tree, it was difficult to mow around. So, time to kill two birds with one stone: remove that old brick path so it'd no longer be a nuisance - and use those bricks to make my new path!

And here's how it turned out:

To show you how narrow this strip of land is, the light green plants to the left are lavender I planted about a foot away from our house, while the feathery-looking greenery to the right is on our neighbors' property. But as you can see, a single file of bricks fit in well here. 

A couple of close-ups on the old bricks I dug up from the parkside and put in place to make the path:

There were a few of this brand, Bessemer Block, Youngstown, Ohio.

But mostly I had this:

Metropolitan Block, Canton, Ohio.

I looked online for some information on these companies. Bessemer Brick Company began in 1901 and was bought by Metropolitan Brick in 1917.  Metropolitan Brick was formed in 1902. 

Finding Metropolitan bricks is quite common; read here
to see where they were found by others (a brief history of the company is first, followed by the comment section where the finds are discussed).

I don't know if or where the bricks I dug up from the parkside had originally been elsewhere. I was glad to have had found just enough to make a nice little path. A couple of neighbors have complimented me on my efforts, which was very kind of them. My path is rather rustic in appearance, but at least that side of our yard no longer looks like a no-man's land!






 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Eats: My Favorite Salad Dressing

Hello! I eat salads throughout the year, either as a main course lunch or as a side to other meal components. But of course they taste the best during our local growing season. The produce looks as pretty as a picture then:

Above, my side salad includes leaf lettuce, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, red onion, radish and clover sprouts. I grew the tomatoes, cucumbers and the sprouts, while the other veggies came from the Farmer's Market. I'd started the tomatoes from seed; it's the Sweet 100 variety, very prolific. The cucumber came from a plant I bought at the Farmer's Market earlier this spring. The clover sprout seeds are from High Mowing, an organic seed company.

(Those nice slices of radish, cucumber and red onion are courtesy of this purchase, which I still love using as much as I did when I first got it). 

And lastly, my favorite salad dressing, visible as the pale yellow, thick topping. The recipe came from an Internet source, but I don't recall where now. 

Tahini-Ginger Salad Dressing (adapted from an Internet source)

2 tablespoons tahini 
Juice of one lemon (see note below)
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger (see note below)
2 teaspoons honey (see note below)
1/2 cup olive oil
salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste

The directions are merely one line: "mix all together in small bowl". However, I find the dressing mixes best when I blend the tahini, lemon juice and honey together first, then stir in the olive oil and seasonings. Store in refrigerator until needed (I use a glass jar). If using after being stored, stir a little first.

Notes: I don't always have fresh lemons on hand, even though I know they make a better-tasting juice than the bottled stuff. But it's the bottled stuff I typically use. My bottle of Real Lemon says that three tablespoons of their product equals the juice of one medium lemon, so that's what I put in the dressing. 

Could you use dried ginger powder instead of fresh ginger? I'm guessing you could, but here's a case where I've always used the fresh product when called for instead of subbing in its more processed version. I use a couple of tips to make handling fresh ginger easier: 

1. I cut it into chunks that'll work in my recipes
(smaller chunks for this dressing recipe, larger pieces for stir fry dishes). I cut it as is, no peeling done. I put the pieces in a quart freezer bag, then stash it in the freezer. 

2. When I need fresh ginger in a recipe, I just take out a chunk I  from that freezer bag. The peel cuts off very easily while frozen. For this recipe and ones that call for minced ginger, I use a grater (my Microplane grater does a great job), while the peeled chunk is still frozen. If the frozen ginger needs to cut into pieces instead, I set it aside for a few minutes to thaw a bit (or if in a hurry, I'll put it in the microwave for a few seconds). It's easier to cut if still a bit hard, rather than if thawed out completely. 

I suppose that fresh ginger loses a bit of its flavor if frozen first, then thawed out for use, but it beats the alternative: I'd buy a knob of fresh ginger and keep it in the produce crisper, only to have it go bad before I could use it up. 

Honey is messy to measure out, so I always just eyeball the 2 teaspoons needed for this recipe while squeezing or pouring it out of the bottle.

The recipe doesn't give the yield, but I think it makes around a cup. It can be scaled down, but I like this dressing so much I've occasionally doubled it. And why do I like it so much? It's a nice consistency: some dressings are so thin, they fall to the bottom of the salad bowl, while others can be thick and gloppy. This dressing seems to be just right. (note: it's a bit thick just out of the refrigerator, so I take it out to warm up a bit while I'm making my salad). And I don't know if this dressing is particularly healthy, but it tastes like it is. And besides tasting healthy, it tastes good!

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Friday, August 11, 2017

Vivid Vacation #2

Hello! My husband and I had visited Pittsburgh's Phipps Conservatory (as discussed in this post) earlier this year, so I wasn't sure if I wanted to visit again so soon. However, our daughter was along for our recent summer vacation, so my husband thought she should see the conservatory for herself. Somewhat reluctantly, I agree, and as it turned out I was very happy we had gone. The special exhibit my husband and I had seen in March was very nice, but now in its place is "Super.Natural" by Seattle-based glass artist Jason Gamrath.

As you'll see from my photos, Gamrath's glass is stupendous, both in scale and in design.

Real orchids are beautiful, but Gamrath's orchids are just as breathtaking in their own right. 

A cluster of pitcher plants, one of many such groupings in the exhibit.

More out-sized flowers.

Giant water lily!

Another rendering of a carnivorous plant, this time the Venus Fly Trap. Thankfully, Gamrath didn't include giant bugs!

Daffodils aren't in season anymore outside, but in Gamrath's world they always will be.

A close-up of those gigantic daffs. 


Boisterous blue flowers. 

A darker shade of blue here.


More orchids. 

And more daffodils.

As you can tell, I thought "Super.Natural" was a great exhibit, and if you're going to be in the Pittsburgh area before November 6th, I suggest checking it out. If you like flowers, glass art, and oversized objects, you'll surely like Gamrath's masterpieces!

If you'd like to know more about this exhibit, go here.








 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Vivid Vacation #1

Hello! We were on vacation last week, a trip that took us to central Kentucky, western Pennsylvania, southern Ohio and Indiana. The photos I took are heavy on vivid art works and gardens, so that's what I'll be showing off here. 

First up, an art quilt show at the Berea (KY) Arts Council. The show was sponsored in part by the Lexington-based Kentucky Heritage Quilt Society. The theme of the show was food. 


One of the quilt show exhibitors was on hand, I suppose to answer questions people may have had about the quilts, so she graciously posed with her masterpiece. It's made from silks she had hand-dyed, and she had added a plethora of beads and quilted detailing. The face in her quilt is a self-portrait. Alas, she didn't win a ribbon (the one shown in the photo is for the quilt displayed next to hers), but I thought she deserved one. She said she typically spends a few hours per night working on her quilts. That's patience, though she referred to it as a passion. 

Being a squirrel lover, I was taken with the lower right-hand corner of her quilt:

There's delicate shading on the squirrel's body, and each acorn cap is adorned with several hand-sewn beads. Beautiful work! Unfortunately, I didn't get the artist's name, but I certainly respected her talent, and the talents behind the other quilts in the show as well.  

Berea seems to be quite into sustainability, so I saw a number of raised bed gardens affiliated with area businesses, like in front of a dentist's office:


and the public library:


A few of the several raised beds sponsored by the library are shown.

The next day we visited the Arboretum/State Botanical Garden of Kentucky, on the campus of the University of Kentucky in Lexington. Free admission, other than the children's garden, so that was a bonus. We enjoyed our visit, and wouldn't have minded paying to view the plantings. 

I should have taken more photos, but I was so busy taking in the plantings that I didn't do so. There were a number of display gardens, plus the arboretum. I was also impressed by the Walk Across Kentucky: 
 
The Walk Across Kentucky
The Walk Across Kentucky was first planted in 1991 after extensive plant collection efforts in the 1980’s, which sought to secure the botanical diversity from across the commonwealth, and cultivate it in a common location for research and conservation efforts.  The collection currently exists as a two-mile paved pathway that meanders through over 80 acres of native plantings representing the 7 physiographic regions of the state.  The collection is constantly expanding, and as of 2015 includes over 520 native species from 99 plant families.   There are 2500 trees and shrubs on the Walk Across Kentucky, showing the great diversity of woody plants found in the state.  More recently, efforts have been made to further develop the interesting ecosystems found across Kentucky, including tallgrass prairies, wetlands, savannahs, and glades. 

(the above info is from the Arboretum/State Botanical Garden of Kentucky website, which can be found here.)

For dinner that evening in Lexington, we visited Smithtown Seafood and West Sixth Brewing. The two businesses are in the same building: if you want something to eat along with your brews, you head over to the Smithtown side of things to order up your meal. When it's ready, it'll be brought over to your table at the brewery side. 

And you sidle up to the bar to order beer:

Wall of souvenir t-shirts:

My husband liked his beers, and we all liked our seafood dinners. I had the Cape Codder (a fish sandwich). But despite our orders and the name of the restaurant, vegetarian, burger and salad options are also available. 

We thought West Sixth Brewery had a fun, funky vibe, and we appreciated the brewery's mission as a home to several community events, like running and cycling clubs, science talks and game nights. 

All in all it was a fun and busy two days in Kentucky. Next post: I'll show off a combination of art works and gardens together.