Monday, December 30, 2013

I am HGTV's worst nightmare

I love watching home decorating shows.  I pour over interior design magazines, looking for ideas and inspiration.  And I delight in the thrill of a home tour.

Recently, a few of my friends and I went on a holiday home tour. 

It was a really fun day ... we laughed and joked and ate. 

We were totally inspired ......... to clean our houses!!

But that was it for me.  Four beautifully decorated homes ..... that were nothing but houses.

I searched and searched and searched for something ... ANYTHING ... that told me about the people that lived there.

Three out of the four homes (and I use that term loosely!) had no books.  Oh -- there were small shelves in the designated offices with a few books.  But a coffee table stacked with books ... no!!!  A library ... no!!! Even bookcases in the children's rooms showed trophies and awards ... but no books.

There was nothing "homemade".  I searched for quilts.  I searched for embroidered samplers.  I searched for hand knit throws tossed over the sofas.  

I thought there was a score when I saw some Christmas stockings.  But it was not to be ..... there were skillfully-made needlepoint stockings .... direct from China.  I guess it was from someone's home!!!

And few ... very very few ... antiques.  There was a dresser in one home.  Maybe a bed in another .... but it might have been a great reproduction as it was a queen-sized bed.

Yes .... I had entered the "Staged Zone". 

The "Staged Zone" where beige carpet and off-white walls live.  And any trace of the home owner's personality has quickly and quietly been swept off to a storage unit.  And you .... the tourist .... should be able to imagine yourself living there.

NOT this girl!!!

So as I single handedly evoke nightmares in the executives of HGTV by having a creative idea that does not include the color white ...... let me show you our new shelf/mantle.


 I love our woodstove.  There is nothing like it for putting out heat on a cold winter's night.

But I missed the mantle of a fireplace.  So I ordered some cast iron brackets and asked Honey to put up a shelf for me.  Well --- that project grew a little bigger as I decided I had an antique mirror that needed a home.  And as he questioned how much stuff would go on the shelf .......... it was "beefed" up!!!

Which is sooooooo appropriate because it is under a sign that Jen painted for me.


This is our family room that is filled with farm antiques, folk art and resonates with our love of agriculture and the history of our families.

So the shelf is personal.

Honey's Dad sold Purina feeds for years so we had to have the poultry chow sign.

The wood and barbed wire chickens were found at an art fair.

The milk bottle was from Norris Dairy in New Windsor .... where I grew up.  It is a war time milk bottle and has victory slogans on the back.  I loved to ride on Norris's ponies and Bess always knew where there was a new litter of kittens.

And then .... there is the pile of books.

A 1924 copy of Standard's of Perfection-- the last word in poultry production in America.

Prairie Farmer's Reliable Directory of Farmers and Breeders of Warren and Henderson Counties in Illinois from 1918.  Many family members are listed.  But I find the list of automobile owners the most interesting. 

Yes ... they listed who owned tractors and automobiles.  My family was well represented with automobiles in 1918. Uncle Arlene owned 2 Overland,  Uncle Cecil owned a Ford and my great-grandparents owned both a  Ford and a Velie.

And finally, there is a 1917 copy of Principles of Feeding by Sleeter Bull.  Sleeter Bull was my Dad's professor for Feeds and Feeding class when he was in vet school.  He went on to update the classic animal feeds textbooks ... Feeds and Feeding by Morrison and Bull.

Homemade.  Personal. Antiques.

I think Honey's shelf turned out great.

But it is no secret .... HGTV is going to hate it!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Project lists and little projects

We do it every year.

We write out the project lists.

I write my project list.  Honey writes his project list.

It is the things we want to accomplish in the upcoming year.

Many times .... it is a wish list.  Time, energy and money make the "to-do" in the list .... evaporate like the wish you make on a falling star.  


It has vanished off the list!!

This year, it is a list of little projects.  

Well, at least for me.  Honey's list seems to be much more intense.  (wink. wink.)

I want to do 52 projects for our home.  One a week.

Part of this has been prompted by new classes I will be teaching this spring.  I will be teaching both an interior design class and a home decorative sewing class.

And while thinking, preparing and planning for the classes .... I realize that I know how to do a lot of stuff. But my house sure doesn't show it.  

I realized .... I have ONE tea towel that I have embroidered.  The potholders and dish clothes are mismatched items.  I might have run out of yarn so they are not as large as I would have sold.  Colors may be off. They are Summer Kitchen rejects.

Well -- that is coming to an end.

New projects ... completed projects are coming to our house.

I know!!  Who knew we could actually cross something off of a list!!!

So ... for the first reveal.  Remember these chairs???

I had absolutely nothing to do with these.  

OK ... I was a major cheerleader and I listed the old chairs on Craigslist to spur on the work.

I did a good job at that.

All four chairs are done ..... stained, varnished, sanded, repaired and caned.  

And the old chairs are tucked safely in the attic.  

Never list anything on Craigslist before discussing it with other family members!


Now .... for my project!  And again, truth in blogging ... Honey had absolutely nothing to do with this project!

We now have TWO hand-embroidered tea towels in our house.

First person to dry their hands on these is in big trouble!!!!

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Boogie Man

Today I went to the doctor for a 6 month follow up visit for depression.

The first question is always .... How are you?

So this weekend, I was searching to find how I am.

And like the seven year old that lives in my soul .......... I search the room for the boogie man.

Is he under the bed??  Is he behind the door???  Does he live in the deepest, darkest corner of the closet??  Or is tucked under my socks??

Where is the boogie man??

Am I eating too much?? (Trust me!!  It is never are you eating too little!!!)  Do I sleep too much or do I have insomnia??  Am I lonely??  Am I overwhelmed??

Because depression is like Carl Sandburg's fog .... it comes in on little cat's feet. 

Slowly, the fog rolls in.  You can see for miles.  And then, quietly and slowly, the fog envelops you and you are lost.  And lonely.  And you feel so very alone.

Most of us with depression will try to flounder our way out of the fog.  Fight and crawl and try to find our own way out.

But many of us will fall down the open well. 

We will hit hard.

And Lassie won't be there to run home and get June Lockhart ..... because she is the only one that understands Collie.

Less than 30% of all people with depression will get help.  Sometimes, we need meds.  Sometimes, we need therapy.  And sometimes, we need a vacation in December in the Bahamas!!

So ... how am I??

I am good. 

I am very good.

But I still believe in the Boogie Man.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Wind Chilly and Warm Fuzzies

Yes ... it is Iowa. 

And yes, it is winter in Iowa.

And it is cold.

Durn cold ... you might say!!

Wind chills are under zero .... and our pipes froze.

Well, some pipes.  The hot water in the bathroom and the cold water in the kitchen froze.  We used to deal with frozen pipes in the shower ... that seems to be fixed.  But now ... this old house must have sprung another cold air leak.


Our new furnace is working great ... but it looks like we need to button up this house a little more.

So ............. I am running a sale on things to keep YOU warm.

Yep ... hats, scarves, cowls, mobius cowls, bow tie scarves and fingerless mitts are 15% off thru Saturday December 14th.

And ya know ..... I have NEVER EVER done a sale before. 

All of the sale items are made by moi'.  Hand knit out of only natural fibers by an award winning knitter.  Really.  I have the ribbons to prove it.  Some where.  In a box in the attic ... where there is no heat so don't make me dig for them. 

No other vendors merchandise will be on sale.

So let me warm you up ........... and the dollars you spend will warm my heart.

And my toes ....

I tell ya.  There is nothing more exciting than buying insulation, heat tape, new windows, tar paper and caulk.


Old houses ..... ya got to love 'em!!!!

Monday, December 9, 2013

All I want for Christmas is a .....

fabric store.

I miss fabric stores.  Not craft stores.  Not quilt stores.

I miss fabric stores.

I miss rows of linen fabric.  I miss bolts of corduroy in thin to thick wale.  I miss beautifully embroidered eyelets and border prints.  I miss cotton velvets ... true ultra-suede .. and silks, not silky.

But most of all ......... I miss wool.

I live on the east coast of Iowa and I can find fantastic quilt shops with beautiful  fabrics that make the cutest aprons.  I can find every color/pattern of fleece known to man.  And if I was so inclined to make formal wear, I could find acceptable fabric.

But wool ............... oh, how I miss wool.

The other day, I found a pattern that I didn't want to live without.  I went on a search for fabric.

At one craft store, I asked if they had wool challis.  They told me the wool was over there.  I asked if they had rayon challis.  And the middle aged clerk ... had no clue what I was talking about.

At the other so-called fabric store, I did find a selection of wool/ wool-blend fabrics.  I found ONE 100% wool.  The rest were wool blends.

Personally, I think it stretching it a bit to call it wool.  The fabric I chose had 10% wool blended with the acrylic and polyester.

Yes, I am certain that flock of sheep was grazing in a pasture 2 miles from the Dupont plant and the air intake system took up 10% wool that had been scattered in the wind!  :(

I wish that was unusual.  It wasn't.

I miss wool.

I miss coordinates,  I miss Pendleton.  I miss tartans. I miss wool crepe, true wool suitings and wool knits.  I miss hounds-tooth and checks and plaids and boucle's.

I searched .... and I searched.  I would like to make a plaid skirt and a solid jacket .... out of 100% wool!!!  Two coordinating fabrics.  I asked for the impossible.

I miss fabric stores that have clerks that know fabric!!!

I miss wool.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Stitches ....

I come from a long line of fiber/fabric obsessed women.

This is a photo of my great-grandmother's and my great-great aunt's dress shop in Roseville, Illinois.

I'm guessing from the dresses in the window and their attire .... late 1880's or early 1890's.  My aunt is one the right .... little and sassy.

The nut doesn't fall far from the tree.  ;)

According to my grandmother ... this was my great grandmother's thimble.  But I think (judging from the very pale engraved initials) it must have been my great-great grandmother's.

So I am certain when I escaped the womb --- I was attached with Belding Corticelli mercerized cotton thread or maybe some Germantown worsted weight yarn. My earliest memories are being surrounded by fabric, sitting under the pattern counters at Wolfies' or sewing on buttons on a pillow.

Yea ... that fiber-y stuff is in the DNA.

And as much as I love my garden and the flowers and soil and smells ........ I feel empty without a pair of knitting needles, an embroidery hoop or a sewing machine.

The last few weeks have been a flurry of needling ..... all sorts of needling.

Whether its knitting a new cowl .....

or a super soft bow-tie scarf ........

or embroidering a tea towel .....

 Or maybe three tea towels .... ;)

Or working on an apron,  all that fabric, fiber, thread and yarn is part of my heritage.  

I've been teaching sewing classes and knitting classes.

So I don't feel at all guilty about this purchase ........

Not one little bit. 

I think Aunt Kate would understand!

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Struggle ........

The holiday shopping season has begun.

Personally, I celebrate Christmas .... as in the birth of Christ.  You know .... shepherds in their fields, bright star in the sky, three wise men.

Not the retail Christmas that celebrates the birth of Master Card.  Not the consumers wedged as tight as sardines .... trying to be the first one in the door on now, Thursday night.  Not the bright glow of a 60" flat screen television..... on sale for the first 100 customers for $299.  Not the products that Gates and Jobs created.  (Hey!! Those are the only two wise men I could come up with!!! Lord knows, none are living in Washington, DC!)

I hate retail Christmas.

I hate the fact that stabbings happen in mall parking lots.

I hate the fact that fights break out over PS4's in crowded big-box store aisles.

I hate the fact that the AVERAGE American will spend $700 on Christmas this year...... and 25% of our children receive some sort of food assistance from the government.

I hate that all of this happens in the name of Christmas ............. and little happens in the name of Christ.

Wendell Berry was on Moyers and Company on PBS.  Hopefully, I will come close to quoting him.  He was talking about making a living off a small family farm.

And he said .... It's about making a living, not a killing.  Making a living is about having enough.

Having enough.

And in the season of Must-Have-Gifts, the hot new trends, the latest and greatest things ever made (until next year!)  ......... we forget what having enough is.

Having enough .... is a roof over my head, a place to warm my hands and feet and a full stomach.

It is a cozy blanket to sleep under .... a bright star to light up the dark winter sky ..... and a warm egg for my breakfast.

For me, having enough  at Christmas means that my soul will be filled ....... not the shopping bags.