Monday, November 28, 2011

Firewood Box

Here is a super quick, one photo peek at a recent project.  It has been a while since I broke out the big power tools and did a wood working project.  I wanted a box for my firewood by the side of the wood stove in the living room.  Couldn't find a vintage one that was both the right size, sturdy enough and the right price.  So what to do?  I built myself one, that's what!  I had a bunch of old tongue and groove boards from an old carriage house my husband's coworker redid a while back.  I have used them for a bunch of other projects over the years and had enough still on hand for this one.  The best part?  From start to finish it only took two hours and I think it turned out great; just the way I had envisioned.

The wood inside the box at the corners is also from the same barn, but because it sports fresh saw blade cuts, it revealed its unweathered light color.  It will get beat up with a season of firewood passing through it and after leaving it outside next summer when it is not in use, it should all weather to a nice warm color.  I added the number on the side in honor of the old horse stalls in the original carriage house.  Hopefully, I'm not being too boastful, but I am quite pleased with myself.  And it was quite a refreshingly good feeling to make something for myself again without the burden of wondering if other people would like it, what to price it at and if it will sell at my spot.  Simply, a happy and productive afternoon. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Happy Packaging, Again. A Special Presentation

I have showed you some special touches for wrapping packages in past posts.  Today, have a quick peek at two more.

For my niece's birthday, I wrapped this one by 'sewing' the edges of the package shut with vintage seam binding, as well at at the closure at the top.  I had previously color copied some fun vintage images onto sticker paper to have on hand for quick decorating.  I chose the images I wanted, cut them out with decorative edged scissors and did a quick peel and stick.  I added a vintage anagram letter for her initial and tied on a vintage key.  Lastly, using a vintage postal stamp that says "special delivery" I stamped the wrapping.  Something special for a special girl.

We recently hosted a craft night for some friends from church.  Teens did one project together in the dining room while moms gathered in the studio for something different.  I wanted the guests to feel special, so special invites were in order.  I fashioned the envelopes from vintage sheet music and ephemera with typed names attached.  Inside, a large packing tag tied with seam binding listed the invitation information.  I am planning on using the same format to make gift card holders for holiday gifts.  I'll be sure to show you a few when they are done.  In the meantime, happy crafting to you.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Free Range Chickens

I love living in a small town further out in the country than most city lovers would find comfortable.  I don't mind the smell of cows (and the corresponding cow pies), or the critters that make noise in the night, or the longer drives into the neighboring towns or cities to get what you need from the store.  I love that there are no traffic lights in town, save for three small flashing caution lights.  I love that the store clerks at the grocery store and the librarian know me by name.  I love that I can take the dogs out for an hour long walk on the neighborhood streets and only see a half dozen cars pass by.  I love that when the stars are out, you can really see them, without any distortion of city lights.  I love the quiet that surrounds me when I work out in the garden (provided the neighborhood barking dog is not out).  I love that I wake to birds and fall asleep to night peepers when the season is right and the windows are open.  And I love that I can be driving down the road and have to brake for free ranging chickens trying to guessed it.  To the other side!  Had my camera with me, so I stopped to snap a couple photos.

This strutting rooster was out with his three best gals.

For kicks to see what he would do, I started making very quiet cocka-doodle-doo sounds.  He stopped dead in his tracks, puffed up his chest and let out a big "Halloo" of his own.

Then it was right back to busines of watching his girls and flicking up the dying grass in search of the almighty grub, and just looking handsome.  Thanks for stopping in.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Kitchen Nook

I realized today that I never showed you my new breakfast nook.  Remember when Heidi and I got to redecorating at the end of September?  The big cozy chair moved to where the 'nook' table used to be creating a new and different cozy nook.  That meant that where the chair used to be in the kitchen, we were ready to have a small breakfast nook take it's place.  I've always wanted an eat in kitchen that did not involve bar stools pulled up to the counter, which is what we've always had.  Well, with a little rearranging and a table purchase (old of course) we made it happen. 

Now that Kayleigh works so many nights, it is often just three of us for dinner.  This is a great, intimate space to come together at and share a cozy dinner.

Want to know a secret?  My kitchen is about to change again, but this time involving moving walls and adding a new cabinet and shelf section.  I have wanted to make changes to this room for 15 years to accommodate my love for baking.  Time has ticked by without any changes coming to fruition, but not any more.  By Christmas, I should have a new kitchen!  Yeah!!..I'll keep you posted as we move along.  Wish us success and calm under construction-during-the-holiday season pressure.  Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

I wanted to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving.  What are you thankful for?  There are so many, many blessings bestowed on us.  What I am most thankful for?  My family.  They are a loving, happy, healthy, faith filled and good natured bunch.  I thank the Lord for them every day!  Enjoy the blessings of your day and those a head.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Home Collections

Well you've seen my collections that decorate the cottage, I thought you might like to see some of the ones at home.  There is something about collecting that just kind of seems to creep up on a person.  You have one item, like it  and one day add another.  A third finds it's way into your life and Voila, a collection is born.  We have had many "births" in our house!  I guess in one way, it's a form of creative therapy.  Amassing a group of items and coming up with a creative or eye catching way to display them, keeps the creative brain cells regenerating.  And with all the things I seem to forget these days (the opening up a cupboard and wondering "why am I here?" syndrome) keeping some brain cells regenerating it a good thing!

More vintage tablecloths and vintage kitchen and pantry items add nostalgia and warmth to my dinning room.  The three tea cups above the linens are the only remaining three from my childhood collection.

As do a few vintage rolling pins displayed on a rack I built for them.

My grandmother collected blue plates for years.  I can remember looking at them and talking about them with her as I grew up.  Dozens graced her kitchen wall.  After she passed away, I was fortunate enough to receive several of the plates.  I display them in my dinning room in a fashion similar to how Grandma did in her kitchen.

I love vintage glassware.  I keep these glasses out on an open shelf in the kitchen so they are quick to grab for a drink.  I store them in these vintage caddies so I can quickly grab and tote a whole bunch of them to the table or counter when we have guests over.  It is fun for everyone to pick their own glass and easy to recall which one is theirs when they put it down and walk away from it.

I LOVE vintage aprons.  I wear one almost every day to clean, cook, garden or just feel good.  They hang in a stairwell leading to the studio.  They are right outside the kitchen for a quick grab to put one on.  And the ones left hanging make great eye candy every time I pass through to the studio.

I have just a couple of these vintage apron patterns and they hang up with the aprons.  A reminder of simpler days, when a house wife would fashion her own aprons according to taste and need.  Maybe one day, I'll make one from one of the old patterns to add a personal, but vintage touch to my collection.

And last, but not least, is my happy vintage clock collection.  My parents gave me the vintage homemade woodworker's display shelf as a birthday gift a couple years back.  I happily gathered all my vintage clocks from around the house and contained them all in a one place display.  I was actually surprised at how many I had amassed till they were all together.  Guess it's a good thing none of them work anymore or the ticking would drive me crazy.

What do you like to collect and why?  I wonder what the next collection may be.  Hmmm....

Monday, November 21, 2011

Off to the Ball

The girls' school holds a Fall Ball every November.  It is a semi-formal dance and dinner for all four grades at the highschool.  It is a great time for the girls.  A chance to dress up and do something grown up.  The school holds the dance at a very nice function facility in an old mill.  They can bring a date if they want or just come to be with friends, or both.  Heidi decided to go this year and invited a nice young man she knows from church and youth group.  They had a lot of fun and look how nice they looked.

Oh to be young again.....

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Making Applesauce

What do you do with a bunch of B grade apples from the local orchard?  Make applesauce of course!

I've been making and preserving applesauce for years now.  When I first started, I had a small bowl size food mill.  It works, but takes a LONG time and makes for a very sore shoulder, or at least it does when you make as much as I do.  A while back, I discovered a wonderful clamp-to-the-counter food mill that makes the job so much easier and faster.  I start by sectioning my just washed apples with a standard sectioning tool.  The slices go in the pot, the core in the compost.  I don't have to worry about skin or seeds.

I add about a cup of water to the pot and steam/cook the apples in a covered pot til very tender and falling apart, stirring often to keep the bottom from burning.

The soft cooked apples go in the hopper at the top, squished down with the plunger and turn the handle.  The skin and seeds come out the front and apple puree comes out the side into the bowl.  Voila!  Applesauce. 

I always use several varieties of apples.  The flavor is delicious that way and I seldom have to add any sweetener.  I do not add cinnamon or other spices.  We like it straight up.  And by cooking with the skin on, it is a pretty pink color.  This session yielded enough sauce for 28 pints of applesauce.  I pack it in freezer containers and we enjoy applesauce all winter and spring long.  Yummy!!  Hope you are cooking up something yummy for the holiday this week.  Enjoy.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Vintage Collections

I am a collector.  I know you are shocked, thinking, "NO?  Really?  I would have never guessed!"  Well I guess it is no news flash.  I think I have been since I could walk.  I remember as a child making boxes of materials for "experiments."  There were containers full of flour, salt, dirt, dyes, etc.  There were spoons and funnels and mixing dishes.  It was fun to concoct and pretend to be a scientist, but the part that really got me going was assembling the kit.  Making a collection of utensils and items and organizing them in the box, really was the best part.  It was the birth of the collector.  As a teen, I collected tea cups and Christmas ornaments and dolls and goodness knows what else.  When I worked as a preschool and kindergarten teacher, my favorite part (I have to be honest) was not seeing the children every day, although I did love them.  It was the teaching stuff!!!  Gadgets, gizmos, pamphlets, art supplies, shelves of books, discovery kits, the dress up area, you name it.  I loved the collections of stuff we supplied to get the kids motivated, engaged and on track to education.  Alas, the chronicles of a collector!!

So what do I collect now?  Everything, you answer!?  Well, not quite, but I do love a good collection.  A good collection makes a good display.  And a good display makes for good decorating.  And good decorating gives a home its personality of warmth and welcoming.  Here are some peeks at some of my collections/decor that happily grace our little mountain cottage tucked away in a little nowhere town in New Hampshire.

I collect vintage ladies' hats and vintage tablecloths
(the photos left and right are of grandparents, and yes I collect those too.  Photos, not grandparents.  The original sets are just about perfect, thank you);

vintage handkerchiefs (some framed, most not);

vintage kitchen and pantry items;

the occasional chicken;

vintage dishware;

and vintage service ware;

vintage bottles;

vintage seed packets (some framed, most not);

vintage hand crocheted pot holders;

vintage games, books and pastimes;

vintage cameras, too;

and last but not least (at least for now...) vintage thermoses in the theme of red.

I got to thinking about the cottage today because I haven't been able to escape up there for far too long.  We used to get away every other weekend or so, but the past two years it has been too difficult to make our way up there on a regular basis.  The older your children get, the busier they get with school, jobs and friends and the harder it is to find time away.  We will be heading up north for Thanksgiving, though.  I'll be packing my turkey on ice and hauling him and all the fixings up yonder.  I can hardly wait.  I'll snap a bunch of photos of our happy place while we are up there and show you when we return.  Can't wait!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Books and Buttons

Two happy things to share.  The first is a new little stash of buttons, vintage of course, to add to my collection.  You may recall the button drawer in the apothecary cabinet in my studio from a previous post.  If not, here is a quick re-peek.
Don't quite know what it is about vintage buttons and fabrics that get my heart beating just a little quicker and my hands itching to touch them.  Just know that I love'm!  A couple Saturdays ago, I spent a few hours working at the Spaulding Cooperage with Laura, the owner.  It was a busy afternoon as the shop had been re featured on a local program.  Despite the business, we had about 15 minutes of quiet in which I discovered one of the dealer's button basket.  I fished through and brought home some gems (purchasing them of course).

I love the colors, the shapes and designs of each one.  Here are some closeups.

LOVE the Scottie dog imprint in this one!

Not only do I like the designs on these, but the sizes.  They range from 1.5 inches to almost 3 inches across.  I think they would be great as closures on bark cloth tote bags I hope to stitch away at this winter.

My other happy find recently was a new book and a new periodical publication.  I have already spent a bunch of time perusing the pages of both and they sit on the top of my book stack for more investigation soon.

The book is "Found, Free and Flea" by Theresa Surrat.  She is the author of another favorite publication chronicling the journey of moving, rejuvenating and decorating a little motor court cottage, called "A Very Modest Cottage", that I also recommend.   The periodical, "Mingle" is from the publishers of Sommerset Life, etc., by Stampington and Co.   It's a fabulous find if you like to entertain with a special flair.  The magazine is full of photos and ideas from gatherings spanning a variety of themes.  I also enjoyed getting decorating and gift ideas just from looking at the party photos.

As you can see from the back cover, Surratt's book chronicles the restoration of a 1920's camp in Wisconsin.  It is as delightful to read as it is to look at all of the eye candy in the photographs.

Here are two teeny peeks to whet your appetite.  (I hope the publishers don't mind me doing this.  I do not claim ownership to any of the material, but am merely showing it to advertise the book to all of you possibly-interested readers.)  If you like this type of publication, I highly encourage you to pick up a copy (I bought mine on Amazon for a good deal less than bookstore shelf price).

Below is a quick one page peek at "Mingle" (again showing you for the same reason as mentioned above).

Looks like fun, don't you think.  Pick up a copy.  I found mine at Barnes and Noble. It is considered a magazine, but the thing I love about the publications from Stampington is that they are high quality, almost book like.  I've held onto all the publications I've ever picked up from them and they grace a book shelf for quick reference or a refresher on some good ideas.

Enjoy!  And also, welcome to my new followers.  I love sharing my thoughts and experiences with you.  Glad you found me and thanks for the comments.  They mean a lot.  Take care all.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Not lost or forgotten, just in the dark and too darn busy!

Hello there.  I can't believe it's been two plus weeks since I have posted.  I have been doing "mind posts" but they haven't made it to the computer till now.  In my last post, I complained about an early snow storm, very atypical for us in October.  Well, I guess I should not have complained about that lil bitty 5 inches, cause Mother Nature saw fit to "bless" (I say that with EXTREME sarcasm) us with even more a couple days later.  We had 16 inches of heavy wet snow here in my little Massachusetts town.  Most of the trees still had a heavy mass of leaves still clinging to soft, not yet frozen, branches.  The ground had not yet frozen so tree and shrub roots were not firmly locked into the ground for the rigors of wild winter weather.  As a result, we (I say that collectively for all the snowfall recipients in the area) sustained a lot of damage of destroyed trees and foliage.  Personally, here, we lost a mature winter berry bush and had lots of limbs down, but nothing earth shattering.  Fritz and I had spent the half day prior to the storm preparing by tying up trees, staking and wrapping bushes, etc.  The preparations paid off.

These were taken about one hour into the storm.  The snow was falling fast and furious and piled up quickly.  It does look pretty though.  But the next morning, mostly what we saw was sad broken trees.  Some of our local roads are still partly blocked by downed limbs that haven't been taken care of yet.  The inevitable happen a few hours into the storm on Saturday night and the power went out.  We did not get reconnected to the world until Thursday.  It was a long tiring week.  Thankfully, we have a generator that we can run part time to run the well, furnace and keep the fridge and freezer cold, but a good part of our evening and nights were spent by candle or head lamp.

Good thing the batteries were charged and ready to go!

In the week following the power outage, I had to get caught up on all the things I couldn't do without power for 5 days and simultaneously prepare for the 2nd annual holiday open house at the Spaulding Cooperage.  I was a busy bee!  Especially given that I just sold my cupboard from my spot where I usually display my wares.  I had just decided that it could be offered for sale as I had a replacement piece.  I did not, however, expect it to sell so quickly and not only did I have to change and add to my stock for the open house, I had to completely redo my spot with a new shelf unit.  Crazy!!  But, in the end, it all turned out well and the sale was very successful.  Here are a couple of photographs of the spot the night before the open house.

I packed my booth to the gills with vintage Christmas spirit! 

It is amazing what a little creativity can do.  I had this grain sack available in my booth for a month and it sat there unsold.  Then voila, inspiration hit!  I wrapped some empty boxes with brown paper and red ribbon and stuffed the bag with them, made and attached a tag that says "SANTA" and presto - a Santa toy sack decoration.  Happily, it found a new home very quickly.

In closing, I'll share with you that I made my new year's resolution early for the upcoming new year.  I have decided that as of January 1, 2012, I am going to downsize my spot at the Cooperage to my original 1/2 size spot and deal primarily in small items and my own hand crafted items.  I did enjoy the success of the last year's adventure in ramping things up a bit by selling from a larger spot and from all the markets.  I loved having a little extra jungle in my pocketbook from the improved proceeds (especially when it came to having more to donate to worthy causes), but let me tell you, towards the end of September, I took a good hard look and realized how stressed so many aspects of it made me and how much of my time it was taking away from being the wife and mother I want to be.  My family is my first priority and the old adage, "If mama ain't happy...ain't nobody happy," was looking like it could become the norm in our house.  So...I worked it all around in my brain a bit and got myself a good sized helping of perspective and made my resolution.  I feel better already! 

Don't fret.  I'm not giving it all up.  There will still be plenty of happy finds and pictures and small projects to share with you.  It is after all, a past time that brings me a lot of joy.  Just gotta find my balance.  I think I'm on the right track.

Well, here is to a happy start to the pre-holiday season and hopefully no more long power outages!  Take care.