Sunday, January 20, 2013

Ahhhh, Simplify

After we returned all the tubs of Christmas stuff to the attic, I left the mantel bare for short time. Every year, I am amazed at all the holiday decor we've amassed. What's even more amazing is that I actually use most of it.

After the holidays, it takes me a while to recover from the over eating, over socializing, over thinking, over worrying and over decorating.

Now that I have had time to catch my breath, I've simplified the mantel in our family room. It started with this:

This homemade box was a garage sale find from last summer. The wood is rough and splintery. Late last fall, I was working on a couple of other painting projects and decided to put some paint on it--doing something between a dry brush and full coat.

I liked the way it looked after simply slapping on the paint, so I left it that way.

It sat in the garage without a handle until this past week when I brought it in and added burlap ribbon and filled it with pine cones--some that I had salvaged from my live Christmas wreaths when they were past their prime, and some I painted myself.

I added some other wintery looking items to the mantel. The linen-covered French books are unusual and have a special story that I can share in another post. 

The little bird is a terra cotta votive holder I found at a garage sale--for 25 cents. It had potential, but I didn't like the terra cotta look, so I gave it a light brushing of white paint.

The beautiful painting over the fireplace was created by my husband's great uncle and given to my husband's parents as a wedding gift in 1947. When we brought it back this summer after moving his parents out of their house, it was in nasty condition--dull from years of dust, warped from the moisture in his parents' basement and flawed with a couple of tiny spots of chipped paint.

Here it is in its glory after we had it restored. It's a perfect backdrop for the winter mantel.

The stars I crocheted for Christmas still work with the winter scheme and add just the right amount of twinkle to the vignette.

Make it a great day!
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Friday, January 18, 2013

Cheep, Cheep, Cheap, Cheap

Finally! Thrifting life is returning to normal.

Each year, that period between mid-December and mid-January becomes so hectic that time is at a premium. In our community, estate sales are nearly non-existent during that time. And, this year, between holiday house guests and a bout with the uber nasty respiratory flu, I was out of commission for a good part of December and early January--even if the estate sales wouldn't have been.

Now, estate sales are back. They started slowly, with one last weekend. More are advertised for this weekend. Hooray!

Take a look at some of the items I found last weekend.

The sweet little ceramic chick sports a darling blue jacket for spring. How dapper. The underside of his beak has a small boo-boo that's not visible unless you turn him over. But, that might explain the 50-cent price tag.

A stamp on the bottom says "Joan Lea Creations." Not a signature I'm familiar with.

A couple of burlap tablecloths--one forest green, one a rusty shade of red--and a pile of buttons in shades of brown are another useful find. One can never have too many buttons. The tablecloths may reappear someday as something other than tablecloths. I have a couple of project ideas, but need to mentally prepare for working with burlap. It gives my hands an itchy rash.

These charming 1950s rayon placemats and napkins are so cute they make me giggle. Still in the original box with the tag attached, they're in mint condition. The tag describes it as a barbecue set.

Each placemat has a different saying on it.

Little excites me more than to stumble across vintage cameras to add to my extensive collection. What a delight to come across a small vintage suitcase containing two mint-condition vintage Kodaks, a significantly-less-than-mint Agfa folding camera and a couple of vintage flash attachments that fit the Kodaks.

Overall, the darling little wooden case is in very good condition. Looking into the repurposing crystal ball, I see a makeover with embellishments in its future.

Happy thrifting. Let the weekend begin  . . .

Make it a great day!
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Friday, January 11, 2013

What Do Burlap, An Antique Wedding Dress and Scrabble Have in Common?

They're all part of a cover-up.

It's now been about three years since our youngest son played baseball for the University of Arkansas. (Hope you don't mind, but I just have to brag for a second: As a Razorback, he pitched in the College World Series in front of a hometown crowd in 2009). He's now graduated, earned a master's degree and earning a living wage (whoo-hoo) in Texas. But, when he was with the Razorbacks, Hubby and I could rarely resist the temptation to add another wild hog to our wardrobes. Isn't he just the cutest?

One of my favorite coats is this lightweight winter jacket I picked up on the clearance rack one weekend in Fayetteville. Nice embroidered hog. Visible, but not too in your face.

And, even though I love this darling mascot, there comes a time to move on. Our son certainly has.

My coat is the perfect weight to take the chill off a winter's day when running errands. Heavy enough not to be chilled to the bone, light enough to shop indoors comfortably without removing it. I wasn't about to ditch the coat. So, what to do with the hog . . .

I hatched a plan for a cover-up.

I could have made this sweet burlap flower myself, but on a recent trip to the craft store, I found it in the clearance bin for 99 cents. At that price, I couldn't justify the time and materials to create it myself. Off to a good start, eh?

To add some pizzazz, I pulled out a couple of scraps I had left from another project. Both pieces are from a 1940s wedding dress--netting from the crinoline and organza from the underskirt of the dress. The burlap and the wedding dress scraps create an interesting contrast in texture and weight.

I have thousands of vintage buttons and a sizable stash of vintage costume jewelry that I could have selected a flower center from. But, that felt too predictable. A scrabble tile seemed to be the perfect finishing touch. I picked my own initial, of course.

Sewed on a pin back and the cover-up was complete.

If, from time to time, I want to sport my darling Razorback, it's as easy as shedding the funky disguise.

Make it a great day!
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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Crock Pot Hot Cocoa for a Crowd

When the weather outside is frightful, nothing hits the spot quite like a delicious cup of super chocolatey hot cocoa.

After a recent dinner out with three other couples, we closed out a wonderful evening at our house. Just desert and hot cocoa to top off an already special evening.

Did you know you can make your hot cocoa in a crock pot to keep it warm for serving to a crowd over a period of time? I made mine before we headed out to dinner. I transferred it to the crock pot--set on low--to let it warm over the next few hours. When we returned from dinner, VIOLA! Delicious, with no muss, no fuss.

Here's the recipe:


1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups cocoa powder
1 1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup hot water
1 gallon milk (I used skim)
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

In a large saucepan, combine sugar, cocoa and salt.
Add hot water slowly, mixing well.
Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils.
Boil, stirring for 2 minutes.
Add milk and heat to serving temperature, stirring occasionally. Do not boil.
Remove from heat and add vanilla and cinnamon, whipping with a wire whisk.
Serve hot.
If desired, transfer to a crock pot to keep warm for serving to a bigger group.

You can serve with a variety of garnishes such as grated cinnamon, chocolate curls or mini chocolate chips. 

I also offered peppermint candy cane swizzle sticks served from a vintage wire flower frog.

Quick. Easy. Yummy. Try it, you'll like it--all winter long.

Make it a great day!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

National Feathered Friends Day

A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song. 
--Chinese proverb

Today is National Bird Day. 

My mother was an avid, amateur birdwatcher. I grew up watching birds with her. We counted chickadees in the shrubs, admired cardinals in the cedars, laughed at the chatty blue jays as they chased the goldfinch from the feeder. We scolded the barn swallows when they dive-bombed our heads and chased the crows out of the vegetable garden.

One would think that as much bird watching as I have done, I would have countless photos of all those birds. Sadly, though, I have never been good at taking bird photographs. Not my strong suit, I guess. Here's one of my favorites, though--the wild turkeys in our back yard.

Our bookshelves, however, are rich with bird books, vintage and new.

And birds brighten our home's landscape inside and out.

I've done a little birding on vacation, too. On a summer jaunt down Route 66 in Tucumcari, N.M., I spotted a beauty of an old bird: the historic, kitschy Blue Swallow Motel.

Mom counted cardinals and hummingbirds among her favorites. I'm partial to our state bird, the Western Meadowlark.

Do you have a favorite bird? In observance of National Bird Day, I invite you to post your favorite bird image on my Facebook page. 

Make it a great day!
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