Thursday, March 31, 2011

Shadow Shots: Potluck

We went to a potluck the other night.  Oh, how I love potlucks!  

Don't you?

Rushin' around the kitchen, packin' the hot stuff in the cooler, running in with the picnic basket...I love it all!

Takin' in our hot dish and a dessert, and putting it all together with everyone else's goodies, oh, my!

We got there early and set our dishes out (I took my trusty Baked Mac 'n Cheese and a good pan of brownies with homemade frosting) and went to our table and visited, and in ten minutes, magic had happened, the table was LOADED somehow!  (I just love that!)

There were some GOOD cooks at this particular gathering, there was everything!  The basketball players went first, and they were so proud and looked so happy carrying their loaded plates to their tables, the way it looked, there would be nothing left for us when we made it through the line.

But I was wrong, so wrong!

There were huge pans of fried chicken, Swedish meatballs, sloppy Joe's, taco salad, pasta salads, baked beans, mac 'n cheese, mostaccolli, lasagna, vegetable trays, desserts of every description!  Texas sheet cake, huge pans of pudding, chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting...oh my gosh.

There was enough grub to feed an army!  

I have stand-by dishes for potlucks, my go to list is:
deviled eggs
baked mac 'n cheese
brownies with cooked fudge-y frosting

A sign of success?  Nothing left in your dishes to take home.  It's embarrassing to take food home from a potluck, is it not?  

(I have NEVER taken a deviled egg back home, I can tell you that much for sure!) 

Of course, a potluck delights me because I LOVE to load my plate with all the different salads!  I take a little bit of every kind of salad and especially love Asian coleslaw!  Yum!!


What's your favorite potluck dish to take? 

To eat?



Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Vintage Finds: What Is It?

Hubby rescued these advertising pieces from an old hardware store...

I have saved them for years, and especially love the one with the 1940's model stove, shown below.

I know they have something to do with printing, either with a mimeograph perhaps kept at the store, or to give to the newspaper for using them on the presses.

I have no idea what they are called, and I would love to know, and how they were used!

They are from the 1940's and the graphics and the lettering just awesome, made of very, very thick cardboard, so thick, they are not flexible, and are similar material to what the matting in a picture frame would be.

I love anything at all to do with old hardware stores.  

If we are traveling and see an old family-owned hardware store, if we can stop, we do.  It's always a nice visit, always.  I have to say I love the ones still in the old downtowns in the deep south.

That was my first real job, and I just loved it, I can still smell that old hardware store, mostly it was the grass seed and fertilizer, but the aisle with the pipe fittings had its own smell (oily) and the aisle with the cleaning supplies had its own smell (Lysol!), the paint aisle smelled faintly of turpentine, I could go on and on.  

It's amazing how smells have so much to do with our memories of places, isn't it?  

If you can help me with a name for these pieces, I sure would love to know!  Thanks, and I hope you have a nice spring day!  (Spring has run away and not decided to return to Michigan yet, she's still freezing and we still have snow and ice everywhere!)  

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Little Bit 'O Sass: A FarmGirl Broach

My sister sent me a little envelope the other day, and inside was this cute little surprise:  a FarmGirl brooch she had made!

Don't you love getting surprises in the mail?  The kid in me still does...

It is made up of two different retro fabrics, just scraps are large enough for this project:  the flower shapes were cut with her Sizzix shape cutter, using three shapes of flowers, each with a different kind of petal.  

They are layered, five or six on top of each other so that as they "wear" they will fray and curl and look even more Farm Girl!  The pin is backed with felt and a pin back you can find at any craft store.

The icing on the cake, though, is the center of the flower, which is a vintage "bakelite" button, in bright red, which is the perfect accent for the aqua...I LOVE IT!

This is the perfect time of year to get the jean jacket out of hiding and I can't wait to wear this....thank you, Mary!  You are so creative and thoughtful!  

(Go here for another cute idea for your jean jacket!)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Small Town Charm: A Five & Dime from my iPhone

How long has it been since you were in a real five and ten cent store?  Remember the excitement of going in as a kid, that quarter in your little pocket was just burnin' a hole!

Well, since it's such a nice day, and I need some spools of thread and a couple things from town, come on, let's hop in the car and go!

Open the door, and a bell hanging on the top rings cheerily as it bangs up against the glass...

Step back in time just for a little while, as the smell of the popcorn that's always ready in a little bag for a quarter is hot in the popper that's all lit up on the counter...and behind the overwhelming smell of that buttery popcorn is the chocolate covered peanuts in the glass candy case....

It won't take a few minutes and you'll be bopping down the aisles to some big band music from the forties...playin' on the radio speakers.

This store has a little of everything you need, stacked from the floor almost to the ceiling, and there's even plenty hanging from the ceiling!  I'll take it over a mega-center any ol' day.

Smell that?

Your choices will be put in those tiny white paper bags and weighed on the scale that sits on top of the counter...yum...!

Let's stroll around!  There's where granny gets her rugs!

Walk the time-worn checkerboard floors with me...notice the hand-painted window signs...once in place in windows of quaint mom 'n pop stores all over the country!  Love those!

Spring would always mean a new ball for the excitement of fresh air and green grass, and those ball cages were tricky, usually you had to have help reaching the one you wanted, so it could be taken out just right so there would be no avalanche...

Perhaps you were planning on a game of cowboys and Indians later?  Well, here's all the supplies for that.  Cap guns!  Yahoo!

Perhaps you were considering joining the neighborhood orchestra...

Play on!

Or maybe we could get a marble tournament together out on the driveway?

You in? 

We could spend hours here, looking through the toy soldiers, cowboys and Indians, the farm or zoo animals...!

Hula hoops, jump ropes, jacks 'n balls....anything you need, they've got it!

Hankies, anyone?

I picked out a chick, what cookie cutter would you like?

I can picture those door decorations being carefully unpacked each year and taped to the front windows with Scotch tape by the buxom clerk with her glasses dangling on her neck from a chain...can you?

A cowboy hat for Levi...will be back to pick up cap guns in the next couple years, I'm sure!

Oh, man, look here!  Army trucks and airplanes!

How long since you've seen a Brach's candy display where you fill your own bag?

I had to pick up a few Little Golden Books for Levi!

Mr. Neighborhood Retailer is a smart guy, he has the cash register line right in front of this candy just how am I supposed to resist those fresh Turtles?

The Bumpy, Muddy Back Roads of Life

We came the long way home from church yesterday.  It got me to thinking about exactly why I like the back roads so much.  I think I owe this trait to my dad.  

Daddy was a complicated man, very stern, strict, ruled the roost with a fist made of iron--the only feelings he was open about were the negative ones.  Only a few things made him happy and one was taking the long way or the back way, or back roads or dirt roads...

I can remember the carefree way he looked as he had his arm crooked at the elbow resting on the open window of the car door--the other laying across the top of the steering wheel--the breeze blowing his closely cropped black hair.  He was handsome man, and, I thought, looked his best when he was happy.

And relaxed he was when he was scanning all the fields and meadows with his sharp eyes for wildlife..and he trained us to do that, too. 

It would depend on the time of year as to what he'd tell us to watch for.  "Oh, this is the time to watch for the wild turkeys!"  I still scan the sides of the roads for wild life at dusk or daybreak--although I wasn't much help to him before I got my first pair of long-overdue glasses in the fourth grade.  

"Oh, looka that, willya!"  He'd exclaim as he would top a hill and see a pastoral meadow in the little valley below.  "Ain't that pretty, Helen?" he would say to my mom.  

I know my mom--who had already had a long day to that point, was probably thinking "Would you get there, already instead of taking forever with your wandering!?"  

But it didn't deter him, he had to follow those roads and relive those memories--it didn't really bother him that the baby on Mama's lap was crying, hungry, wet, or stinky or all three!  

Whenever we went "up north" as Michiganders often do, (we went  mostly to visit family, as my parents were both from "up north") we took the back roads daddy knew as a kid and he would take to pointing out landmarks along the way.  

"My dad and I painted that house."  Or, he would say, "Over there is where I got my first deer."  Lots of stories would follow if we could hear them over the back seats of the rumbly old station wagon and the bumpiness of the washboard of a dirt road.

Sometimes, he would pull into the driveway of a childhood friend,or  
a distant relative and stop in "real quick" to say hello.  Those visits were rarely quick, delaying our arrival at our destination even more!

I try not to cause much consternation with my wanderings...just ten or fifteen minutes difference on the way home from school or church if there's nothing pressing we have to get home for.  

When we are on a trip, I like to allow at least a little time to turn off the major highway to see a little of the "back country"...where the real beauty lies.

I guess I just can't help it sometimes, I do think a little about my daddy now and then, and today it came to my mind that my daddy has been dead for 15 years now, just last week was the anniversary of the day he died.

I could travel the back roads with my daddy, if it was just him and me, I would ask him a lot more questions and try to get to know this stern man a little better than I did.  

I was always so scared of him that conversations with him never came easy.  I always waited for him to talk and I don't recall a "visit" with him as a child or a young adult.    

You could say our family lived in the bumpiness of a back road, not a smooth highway, with nice stripes painted on the edges and down the middle.  Daddy made life bumpy in lots of ways.

When I grew up and had my own kids, if my dad and I ever found ourselves in a room together, it was kind of an uneasy feeling, like neither of us knew what to say--so not much ever got said.  

I think now that I know him a little more now...simply by having lived more of my own life, I think I would use some humor as a little hammer to knock away some of that concrete wall he carried around himself--that one of sternness-- and do a little bit more digging...learning, knowing.

I guess now I would tell him, if I could, that back roads aren't really that great when you just look straight ahead, you really have to look from side to side and sometimes strain your eyes to see what's there that's really, truly beautiful.  

And I would say that in spite of all the hard times, that he really did teach me how to enjoy some of the simpler and really important things in life.  

All the while I know you can never go down the bumpy back roads of life without some dust, gravel dings, or ugly mud getting all over -- all left to clean up later.

I told him before he died that I would do my best to remember the good things, and I have, I can name many of them.  Like a rough and craggy, ordinary rock, you can turn it and see something different on each side...examining it with time, you can see the beauty there--it has many sides to see.

My dad had a good side to him, but he wasn't an approachable person.  Sometimes, life--like those old roads--was just a mess...muddy, bumpy, dusty and some days were just outright ugly.

Looking back, I can see he gave me some valuable things whether I realized it or not: a sense of adventure, fearlessness, a fierce belief in God and country, good hard work, looking a person in the eye, having a firm handshake, keeping your word, not living life in debt, not being afraid to speak up and say the truth, to know when to break some of the rules...

It just took me a while to see the beauty through the dust we were kicking up.  

I find that it's him I think of the most while I wander those back roads.  

And I wonder, is there someone he was missing when he drove down those winding hills of home, too?

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Sun of My Soul
Peter Ritter

Sun of my soul, Thou Savior dear, 
It is not night if thou be near;
Oh may no earthborn cloud arise 
To hide Thee from Thy servant's eyes!

When the soft dews of kindly sleep 
My weary eyelids gently steep,
Be my last tho't how sweet to rest 
Forever on my Savior's breast!

Abide with me from morn till eve, 
For without Thee I cannot live,
Abide with me when night is nigh, 
For without Thee I dare not die.

Be near to bless me when I wake, 
Ere thro' the world my way I take;
Abide with me till in Thy love 
I lose myself in heaven above.


Listen to the melody that goes with this hymn here.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Back Roads Beauty: The Drive Home...

We got an early-spring snowstorm mid-week.

It turned everything into ice and snow sculptures.  Everything.
And, against that spring-blue sky, it all looks better somehow, and we can forgive it for snowing so heavily in the spring when the sun comes out!

We took the long way home one day after school and did some drive-by shooting --with our littlest camera, the point and shoot I carry at all times--on the slushy back roads.

I love back roads!  
How else do you stop in the middle of the road to take pictures of little scenes such as this?

And it allows us to stop to ogle beauties like this gal!

With triple tips, and icicles dripping from every branch, she leans to one side because the south side is less laden than the north side...

And here's her little twin sisters...beauties, too!

We head to the orchard to get some cider and then head home...

The scenes we saw made us think about "The Chronicles of Narnia" we went home and pulled out the DVD to watch, and I made "biscuit donuts" for a snack...

Biscuit Donuts

1.)  First, heat your oil
2.)  Use one can of small buttermilk biscuits
3.)  With your thumb, carefully poke a hole in the middle of each biscuit
4.)  Fry each; turning when the first side is golden brown
5.)  Drain on paper towel 
6.)  Place sugar or a cinnamon/sugar combination in a Ziploc or a          brown lunch bag
7.)  Shake three donuts at a time to coat with sugar
          (I do this over the kitchen sink so I can wash any stray sugar down the drain.)

Enjoy a COUNTRY COZY Weekend!
A back roads believer...