Monday, February 2, 2015

A New Home for an Old Chair

When I was born, my grandparents were much older than most grandparents these days. That just seemed to be the norm back then. Their home had a parlor - one of those rooms that was rarely used, but was there. We always sat in the dining room where they had two big leather chairs. They sat there and we just found a place to sit.  It never seemed strange to me. That was just the way it was done. More often than not, my Grampa would take us into the kitchen and give us saltine crackers with real butter.

In their parlor were two very big wooden chairs with upholstered seats and backs. There was an beautiful carving across the back of the chair. I loved to look at the grain lines in the wood. It was very unusual to me. My Mom told me it was rose wood and I thought about what a big rose bush it had to have come from.

Once when a great aunt was visiting, we sat in the parlor. I chose one of the big wooden chairs and was so disappointed. It was scratchy to sit on. I don't remember the color or the type of fabric, but it wasn't fun to sit in. It was far more fun to look at the grain of the wood.

In the very early 60's both of my grandparents died within a month of each other and the house needed to be cleared out. Those two big chairs came to live at my parent's home. The first thing my Mother did was replace that scratchy fabric. They were always in our living room. Since family rooms were not a thing back then, it was a living room. I loved sitting in that chair. It was big, it was comfortable and the arms had a wonderful smoothness to them. 

The little boy who lived in the apartment in our house used to come ask if he could sit in the "King Chair". He would hop up there and just sit like a king on his throne. Just before my husband and I were married, my Mother had the chairs respringed (not sure if that is the correct wording) and covered in a beautiful teal velvet. One of my favorite pictures from our wedding day in that of our two 5 years old ring bearers dressed in their tuxes and sitting together in one of those chairs. They just seemed to be waiting for whatever came next.

In the early 70's my Mom and Dad decided to downsize and build a small retirement home. There would be no room for those two lovely chairs. Anyone who wanted them could have them. Unfortunately, we lived in a small house and only had room for one. My brother and his wife took the other one. And not long after, they got rid of it. But I have kept my chair. I still love the grain of the wood. When we moved to a bigger home, I redid the upholstery to go with our living room. Sadly, early in December I sat in the chair and the webbing beneath the springs gave way. Remember it has been nearly 50 years since my Mother had that spring work done.

So now it is 2015 and we are getting ready to downsize. There will be no room for the chair in our new place. And it grieved me that it had come to the end of a journey. But there is always a light at the end of a tunnel. Recently our daughter asked if she could have the chair. Said she loves the chair, finds it comfortable and wants it in her place. You have no idea how thrilled I was to hear that. My husband and I decided to have the work done on the springs and the chair reupholstered in something she would like. Last week we went fabric shopping. Now she is not a fabric person and I wasn't sure what she would choose. But it had to be her decision. It was her chair now and had to fit into her home. It was a long selection process..........and one I very much enjoyed. Some of the fabrics she liked, didn't do the chair justice. Other fabric was just not to her liking. But finally she had it narrowed down to 3. And she made her selection. And a great choice she made. She told her Dad that the fabric had to honor the chair. And so the chair will live on again in another home. It is going off to the upholster next week and then to its new home.

I am delighted to see the chair be reborn. It will have a new set of springs, new upholstery and a new home. I home that it serves her as well as it has the last three generations.

Friday, December 5, 2014

I don't live on Pinterest... but thankfully my kids don't care!

by RobinsFlight
The holidays around our house are interspersed with birthdays, which makes for some interesting compromises.  Gift lists must be rationed so that you don't run out of ideas before one occasion or another.  Christmas decorations must be put up only after a certain date so that the birthday before it doesn't get overlooked- and maybe more importantly so that the houseful of children at a birthday party don't knock over the Christmas tree.  And forget trying to burn off that Thanksgiving pumpkin pie before loading up on Christmas cookies, because there's birthday cake in there too.  And once those Christmas cookies are gone, look out... here comes another birthday cake.  The New Years resolution to lose those pounds become the Ides of March resolution, which just doesn't seem the same.

We tend to do birthday parties at home.  Not only does my bank account balk at spending hundreds of dollars on a party while I'm also trying to budget for Christmas presents, but there's something a bit more meaningful about having a handful of close friends over for some fun rather than a gaggle of classmates all running around someplace with barely enough time to scarf down some pizza and cake and tear the wrapping off a pile of presents, not knowing what's from whom.  A few years back I made the realization that it's easier to throw a party for boys than for girls.  Girls like crafts and activities and organized games.  Boys just want to play with the toys at someone else's house and dust out the back of the closets playing hide and seek.

This year the little boy (who consistently tells me that he's not little anymore) wanted a Lego party.  Fine, no problem- we have plenty of Legos, and it seems pretty easy to throw down a sheet, dump the Lego collection on the floor, and let them build and play to their hearts' content, or at least until their parents come to pick them up.  But it seems like there should be some way to make more of a theme to this party.  So I have the bright idea of a Lego cake.  Shouldn't be too hard, right?

I am a mom, a crafter, an Etsy seller- no stranger to the wonders of Google and Pinterest.  So Lego themed baking ideas were easy to find.  I even found some "easy" ones, which was a definite must.  I am particular when it comes to my crafting- mistakes in sewing and crochet get fixed immediately.  But when it comes to baking, not so much.  My recipes often are more like "a handful of this and a dash of that" rather than exact measurements.  When it comes to frosting a cake I go with the "decorative swirls" mostly because it kind of hides the visual imperfections that all of my cakes have- a professional cake decorator I am not.  Things taste good (well, usually... with the exception of my beet red velvet cake experiment... I'll tell you about that some other time) but they just don't generally look professionally decorated.

So I'm not quite sure what I was thinking when, in addition to a Lego cake and Lego ice cream sandwiches, I decided that Lego head marshmallow pops would be fun.  Looks easy, right?  It's just a marshmallow on a stick, coated in yellow tinted white chocolate with an M&M on top.  No problem.

The Marshmallow Blob
Thankfully, I didn't start them the morning of the party.

The problems started with the marshmallows.  I had a bag of marshmallows in the pantry left over from vacation last summer, I didn't need fresh ones, right?  Uh, wrong.  What I had in the pantry was one large hunk of marshmallow, the individual pieces having stuck together long ago, along with bits of sand from that beach bonfire where we last made s'mores.  Ok, so maybe I did need fresh ones.

At least the sticks weren't hard- they sell lollipop sticks pretty much anywhere nowadays thanks to the popularity of cake pops.  Great!  And fresh marshmallows go on the sticks without a problem.

Marshmallow on a Stick- that's the easy part

Now for the chocolate.  I put the white chocolate chips in a bowl, threw it in the microwave for a bit... and burnt my hand trying to pull it out of the microwave!  Oops- apparently I picked the cereal bowl that gets hot in the microwave!  Turns out, this was a good thing- the heat of the bowl kept my chocolate melted for longer, I think.  Didn't help me hold the bowl steady though.  I had to use a napkin to hold it while stirring 3 drops of yellow food coloring into the quarter cup of melted chocolate, and while coating the marshmallows.

 Ok, here we go... I tried dipping the marshmallow into the chocolate, but apparently the chocolate (or maybe just the bowl) was too hot.  The marshmallow just started melting into the chocolate.  *sigh*

Spreading the Chocolate
Round 2.  Marshmallow on stick, dip into cooled chocolate.  Nope.  This time the marshmallow just spun on the stick, came loose, and fell into the bowl!  Ok, so maybe this dipping thing isn't going to work.

Round 3.  Marshmallow on stick, spread chocolate on with a knife.  Well, this is a bit trickier to get smooth, but do-able.  At least the marshmallow stayed on the stick, and the chocolate stayed on the marshmallow.  With a little work I got the chocolate fairly smooth, and stuck a yellow M&M on the top.  Forget covering the M&M with chocolate- it's already yellow.  Looking good now though, I've got it figured out, it'll be smooth sailing from here on.

Oops- now what do I do to keep the thing upright while it's drying?  I wandered around the kitchen for a bit, looking for a crevice to wedge it into.  I finally decided on an empty egg carton (thankfully, I had had eggs for breakfast), turned upside down, with small slits cut in the bumps where the eggs had sat.  Not the most stable thing, and I had to be careful that the pops didn't fall into each other, but it was better than wandering around the kitchen with a yellow marshmallow on a stick in my hands waiting for it to cool.

Hairball Marshmallow

 Alright, one down, and I know what I'm doing, right?  Another marshmallow on a stick, spread the chocolate... except in my search for a stand the chocolate had cooled down too much.  This pop looked more like something the cat coughed up (never mind that we don't have a cat).  Hmmm, not attractive.

Round 4.  Heat up chocolate again- but not too much, so the marshmallow doesn't melt.  Spread, smooth.  Oh, good.  Maybe I am getting the hang of this.  After a few tries, I figured out that it was easiest to cover the top and bottom, then spread and smooth the sides.  And to reheat the chocolate for only about 10 seconds after coating 2 pops.

Ooh, this one looks pretty good!
Practice does make perfect, or at least better.  I ended up with 12 pops, none of which are perfect but only 2 of which look pretty horrible.  And somehow I doubt the kids will mind the imperfections- after all, what kid ever argued about eating chocolate covered marshmallows?  But remind me next time to stop with the cake and ice cream.  Sometimes that "little extra" is more work than it's worth.  But then, maybe my little boy is worth the extra work.  Regardless, it's obvious I don't live on Pinterest.  But I'm ok with that- there are more important things in life than an impeccable marshmallow pop.

This holiday season, may you enjoy the important things in life!


Finished Pops

Thursday, October 23, 2014

It's Official

It is official. I am now the steward of Little Free Library #19705. The library is located beside our driveway and has been a work in progress for a long time.

I first read about the Little Free Libraries in 2010. This is an organization started by Todd Bol of Hudson, WI, in 2009 to honor his mother. She had been a school teacher who loved to read. His concept was simple. He built a covered box, filled it with books and left it at the end of his driveway. People were encouraged to take a book and leave a book. 

Eventually he was joined by others who helped with getting the word out and building the libraries. One of the missions of the organization was to get 2510 libraries registered...the same number that Andrew Carneige founded. That goal was reached ahead of schedule.

The first official Little Free Library - using the new name of the organization was situated in Madison, WI. along a bike path in 2010.

All the information and maybe the incentive for you to have one can be found on their web site   or the facebook page

For years I have been mentioning how neat an idea I thought it was and wouldn't it be fun to have one. Since we had never seen one, I think my husband was not so thrilled with the idea. Vandals would destroy it, people would steal books, there were a lot of excuses.

In June our daughter spotted one in Damariscotta Mills, Maine, while we were on vacation. "Look! There's a little library". Sure enough, at the end of the drive was a little red building filled with books. So the conversation took off from there. Again the reasons why it was not practical. Being a somewhat persistent person, I said, "You ask me all the time what I want for my birthday, our anniversary or Christmas and when I say nothing, you get upset. So I am telling you I want a Little Free Library."  Death defying silence took over the car. Finally I was asked what kind of a library I wanted.

Now here comes the tricky part.  I am a seamstress. I work with a sewing machine and thread on a daily basis. So I wanted my LFL to look like a spool of thread. Hey, I had waited this long for it, why not really stir up the pot.

And so the process began. And it required a 
number of trips to the hardware store. My 
husband finally decided that the round 
tubes you use to pour footings was the 
best thing to use for the shape. Then 
there was the problem of waterproofing 
the thing. By now we have a 16" diameter 
x 22" high base for the library. 

What would we use for the thread? Originally, I had thought of that big cotton rope that was used for boat anchors. Unfortunately, after a trip to the marine supply, cotton rope is a thing of the past. Now it is nylon or plastic. Neither of which would take the bright purple paint I wanted used. It had to match our shutters, doors and Adirondak chairs. Finally a light bulb went off and we used those foam pool noodles. When they were sliced in half, they did the trick.

After a couple of coats of paint, I had the deep royal purple I wanted. Now it was time for the spool ends. Hubby got busy at the table saw and router to get those whipped into shape.

Finally, my library was ready for its door and another challenge. The door had to swing up or swing down because of the shape. We finally decided on it opening down - hoping visitors remember to close it. The door has a window and a knob - also challenges in their own small way.

The last hurdle was where to put the library. We live on a narrow country lane, so beside the road was not an option. In front of the house meant people had to drive down the driveway and then worry about backing out. (Everyone complains about our driveway) So the LFL is situated on the side of the drive, off the road so one only has to pull into the top of the drive and get out of the car.

My sign has arrived. I am registered. The books will be loaded in as soon as it stops raining and I can get out there to do it. Am I excited? Yes I am. In fact I am thinking of having a grand opening. LFL encourages you to do that so your neighbors can become aware of it. 

So I do have to say thank you to my wonderful husband of 48 years for a present I am really excited about. 

And here is the finished LFL. The sign is in place. The stand has been painted. Don't you just love the thread hanging out of the top of the spool! It was worth the wait.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Because you can never have enough sunsets

Those of you who've followed our blog for a while are probably familiar with my vacations, and my sunset photos.  Our family trips to the Sleeping Bear Dunes aren't quite annual, but every couple years we feel the need to get back to this familiar place that is full of beauty and fun.  And such was the case this year, so I thought I'd share some of my favorite photos from this year with you.

I hope you too had a wonderful summer!