Saturday, May 6, 2017

A Gnome for the Garden


     As spring approaches, gardeners are dusting off their yard ornaments and tucking pretty pieces in among their plants.  The cheerful garden gnome has been a popular collectible for home landscapes for decades.  Made of a variety of materials including plastic, terra-cotta, porcelain, resin, concrete, plaster, or cast iron, the industrious little figures almost always wear a peaked cap and tend to have happy expressions.  They have always been considered a harbinger of good luck in the garden.

     History says that garden gnomes originated in Switzerland in the 1840s, but Germany is the country that made them popular.  Two potters named Philipp Grievel and August Heissner lived in a little town named Grafenroda in the state of Thuringia.  They competed with each other producing Gartenzwerge, or garden dwarfs, during the 1870s.  Over 300 styles of the wee creatures were created, and other countries soon caught gnome fever.  In 1847 Sir Charles Isham purchased 21 gnomes in Germany and brought them home to his home, Lamport Hall in Northamptonshire in the United Kingdom. British gardeners loved them, and soon gnome-making spread throughout the world.

     Collectors who would like to chat with other gnome-minded folks can contact the Inernational Gnome Club.  More information is available at  Gnomes can be purchased for a variety of price points depending on age and rarity.  If one merely wants to add a smiling little face to one's garden, the American company Kimmel Gnomes is a good source for outdoor-safe, glazed gnomes that stand up well to the weather.  Their website is  Garden work always seems lighter when shared by an industrious little gnome pushing a wheelbarrow, digging in the soil, or merely supervising while smoking his pipe.


Monday, April 18, 2016

Making a Repurposed Outdoor Light

            It’s almost time for favorite summer traditions—firing up the grill and entertaining friends, sitting on the porch talking into the night, whiling away an afternoon on the porch swing…going outside is something we all anticipate as winter melts away in the spring sunshine.  This year as you clean up the yard and begin updating your outdoor spaces, you might consider redoing your porch or patio lighting for a fresh look.  The project doesn’t have to cost much; you can repurpose any number of items you might already have in the house or garage, or you can visit a local thrift or antique store for ideas.  Your new light will add ambiance and charm to evenings spent outside. 

            Almost anything can be made into a light.  First, you will have to decide what type of look you are going for—an electrical hanging light, sparkly fairy lights, or candles.  For an electrical light, you will need to purchase a lighting kit from a hardware store.  They are easy to install and can be used with regular light bulbs or vintage looking Edison bulbs.  Fairy lights can be added and come with electrical or battery operated options. 

            Secondly, you will have to determine the style you want to achieve.  Do you want an industrial, metal look or a soft, romantic light?  Are you going for rustic-farmhouse, or more of a lodge look?  Your house style and patio furniture will help in making this decision.  Keeping the style in mind, look around and see what objects you can repurpose.  You can make a single hanging light, or use a base such as a wooden ladder or bed springs suspended from the ceiling to hang several lights from. 

Here are some ideas for objects you might use:

  •  Any metal basket, such as an egg basket, hung upside down
  • A minnow bucket
  • A metal funnel
  • Colanders
  • A bird cage
  • Galvanized tubs or pails

  •  Mason jars or wine bottles
  •  Barn lanterns filled with fairy lights
  • Round barn vents

  • A chicken crate with a row of lights inside
  •  Baskets, such a round apple basket
  •  Lampshades with the cloth removed
  • A bicycle rim with lights threaded down through the spokes
  • An indoor chandelier spray painted a fresh summer color
         You can hang individual lights, a row of three lights, or hang several objects such as mason jars or bottles together to create a homemade chandelier. 

If you need further instructions, both YouTube and Pinterest have a plethora of easy to follow tutorials.  For safety, be sure to check with an expert if you don’t know how to connect the electricity in the ceiling to your lighting kit.  Once your creation is installed, sit back with your lemonade and enjoy the compliments!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Thinking Inside the Box

           As spring approaches, most gardeners pour over seed catalogs, dreaming about new plants to add to their landscapes. I am no exception, but while it’s still too cold to get outside and get my hands in the dirt, I like to use the time to treasure hunt for unusual vintage pieces to use in our garden and on the porch.  One of my favorite staples is wooden crates.  Sturdy, colorful boxes serve multiple uses, and they pair well with herbs and flowers.

            Large crates can be placed on the patio and filled with any combination of plants.  Arrange a variety of sizes of crates on a step or in a corner to make a lovely vignette.  You can also turn a crate upside down as a display base to create height for a potted plant.  Boxes with dividers such as soda crates are great for displaying individual, small pots or starting seedlings.  They also make handy carriers for multiple small vases.

            If you turn a crate on its side and attach the bottom end to a fence or wall, you will have an instant display shelf for potted plants, garden statuary, or birdhouses.  

They are also handy receptacles for garden gloves, hand tools, and seed packets.   If you take your veggies or flowers to the farmer’s market, crates make sturdy carriers and appealing staging backdrops once you arrive at the market.

            When looking for crates at antique stores or shows, make sure the crates aren’t stained with grease or other hard-to-remove substances, and test their construction for sturdiness.  Look for boxes with colorful fruit labels or graphics that pop.  Make sure the depth of the crate is appropriate if you plan to add plants.  Deeper crates are better for full season plants, while shallow depths are appropriate for short season crops like lettuce or spinach.

Once you get your crate home, protect it from soil and water by lining the inside with a black, plastic bag cut to fit.  Add about an inch of pebbles and horticultural charcoal in the bottom before pouring in soil to filter water and keep the crate from staining or retaining odor.  When the season is over, be sure to give your crates a good cleaning and store them inside for protection from the weather.

            As you get ready to plant this year, “think inside the box” for a fun and functional vintage touch in your garden. 


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Building a Bossuns Collection


     When he was young, William Henry Bossuns made lead soldiers for his friends.  As an adult, that artistic talent translated into a lifelong career sculpting character wall masks and plaques that became popular with collectors all over the world.  As Bossuns' success grew, he started manufacturing his pieces in a historic old mill in Congleton, England known as Brook Mills.  Silk was originally manufactured in the mill, but the Bossuns' family business inhabited it from 1946-1996.

     Collectors call the character masks "heads".  Prices vary widely depending on pieces' rarity, ranging from $10 to over $300.  New collectors should be cautious when buying as numerous reproductions or "fake" heads abound.  Look on the back or bottom of any Bossuns piece to identify its authenticity.  There should be a copyright stamp and the word "England"--NOT "Made in England".  The only exceptions to this are the earliest editions of some Bossuns pottery.


     There are numerous Bossuns collectors groups and price guides online for collectors looking to add a little "character" to their homes.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The American Barn Quilt Trail

    "There's another one!" my daughter exclaimed, and my husband obligingly pulled over on the soggy Oregon roadside so we could "bag" another barn quilt with our camera.  We were near Tillamook and had driven most of the day photographing and admiring barns and the colorful barn quilts that hung on them.  The quilts were decorative and artistic, and looking for them felt like a scavenger hunt through the countryside and small towns.

     While quilting itself is an ancient craft, barn quilts are an American tradition that began in Ohio in 2001.  A woman named Donna Sue Groves wished to honor her mother by creating an art project fitting of their Appalachian heritage.  She worked with the Ohio Arts Council after deciding to create an artistic quilt square to display on her barn.  The project quickly grew into a larger "sampler" of twenty quilt squares that could be dispersed on barns throughout the county and mapped into a driving trail.  Before their trail was completed, neighboring counties asked for help in establishing their own traditions, and quilt trails soon spread into Tennessee and Kentucky.  Today, there are quilt trails all over the United States, and thousands of barn quilts exist.  Montana's only established trail is in the Missoula area with fifteen squares and more in the works.  Fergus County has some documented squares but no organized trail.

     Barn quilts are painted on wood and mounted on the side of barns or buildings.  Unlike cloth quilts, barn quilts are usually a single painted square.  Barn owners choose patterns for a variety of reasons--sometimes they just like the geometric pattern or colors, but most often they choose patterns from beloved quilts that have been in their families.  Many communities have organized quilt trails with the help of service organizations such as 4-H groups, quilt guilds, or arts councils.  The Oregon trail we followed was a fun day event that included stops at a winery, some art galleries, and a few farm stands that featured barn quilts.

     We've come home inspired to create our own painted quilt.  I have an armoire that contains cloth quilts made by my great grandmother and others found on antiquing trips.  Now I just have to decide which pattern and colors will look best on our cedar-sided barn.  Who knows?  Perhaps our project will inspire others, and one day Yellowstone and Carbon Counties will have quilt trails of their own.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Collecting Cookbooks


     I own 94 cookbooks.  I don't use all of them; in fact, I tend to use only a handful of them regularly.  I just like to have them on the bookshelf in my kitchen.  They tempt me into making new dishes, they are colorful, and some of my favorites are notated with handwriting of people I've never met.  Cookbooks hint of family gatherings and comforting scents wafting from the kitchen.  They tantalize with foreign cuisines and faraway places.  They comfort with tradition passed on through the decades.  It's no wonder that people have been collecting cookbooks for hundreds of years.

     The earliest known cookbook is attributed to a wealthy Roman named Marcus Gavius Apicius.  A Noble Book of Royal Feasts is the first cookbook written in the English language.  A publishing company called Hudson & Goodwin of Hartford published one of the first American cookbooks by Amelia Simmons in 1796.  It was titled American Cookery and contained what is thought to be the first written recipe for pumpkin pie.  Later cookbooks, like The Joy of Cooking, shaped the way our society prepares meals.

     While some people collect cookbooks because of their rarity, many collect for other reasons.  Some follow particular cooks such as Julia Child or Fannie Farmer.  Some enjoy brand name cookbooks such as Jell-O or Duncan Hines  Sometimes a particular subject is sought after, such as chocolate.  Regardless of the reason for collecting the book, rarity and condition determine value

Book dealers will grade cookbooks determined by the bends in the pages, the sturdiness of the spine, bumps on the corners, if the pages are yellowing, and damage to the cover.  Sometimes handwriting in the book will detract from the value.  An excellent resource is Collector's Guide to Cookbooks by Frank Daniels if you are interested in pricing your older cookbooks.

     The artwork, the history, the personal touches, and of course, delicious results, all make cookbook collecting a rewarding hobby for anyone who loves to spend time in the kitchen.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Bring on the Bling

     The coral necklace you bought in Hawaii is tangled with the locket your high school sweetheart gave you, and the Mardi Gras beads you kept after the party last year have broken and scattered in your dresser drawer.  You want to wear your favorite pearls, but they've disappeared underneath several stray chains in your jewelry box, and the matching earrings are nowhere to be found.  There's got to be a better way!  The question is, why do you hide the baubles you love so much away?  If displayed well, your jewelry can be just as pretty (and organized) as when you actually wear it.  Here are some ideas for bringing out your bling.
     First, it's time to tackle the tangle.  Place all of your jewelry on a table and take your time unraveling and sorting the pieces.  Discard anything that you don't wear or that doesn't hold sentimental value.  Make sure your earrings match and all have their backs, and repair any damaged pieces.  Now you're ready to get creative.
     Take a look around for potential jewelry holders.  Here are a number of of non-traditional items for display.  Choose a look that will enhance the style of your bedroom and will be easily accessible when you dress.

  • Lean a vintage ladder with small, round rungs against a wall and hang your necklaces and/or scarves over the rungs.  Make sure the wood has been sanded and varnished for a smooth finish that won't catch chain or fabric.
  • Staple chicken wire or screen onto the back of an ornate frame.  You can hang necklaces and bracelets from the wire or attach earrings and pins to the screen, then hang the piece on the wall.  An empty window frame or antique dresser mirror without the glass could work as frames as well.
  • Drape necklaces around the necks of porcelain dolls. Set the dolls on your dressers and nightstands.
  • Lean vintage mattress springs against a wall, or attach them to the wall making sure you screw into studs to hold the weight.  Hang the jewelry directly onto the springs or use S hooks for easy removal.
  • Use pretty glass bowls or cups to sort bracelets, rings, and earrings, and drape necklaces over the sides for a cascading effect.
  • Mount small curtain rods to both sides of your window and hang necklaces from the rods.  Sunshine will catch glass beads and gems and make a lovely, sparkly display.  If you have double hung windows, you could also attach small, glass knobs to the top of the window frame and hang necklaces from them.
  • Stand a vintage mannequin in a corner and hang your necklaces or scarves on her.
  • Use a coat rack for necklaces.  Racks can be hung in the closet, on a wall, or on the back of a door.  You could take this idea to the next level and attach decorative knobs to the bottom of an antique mirror.  Not only will this piece display your jewelry nicely on a wall, but you can use the mirror to check the jewelry once you put it on.
  • Rings can be displayed on vintage glove makers' molds, porcelain hands used by department stores for display in the fifties, or on vintage office memo holders.  These usually have a decorative metal base and sharp metal prong that was intended to hold bits of paper.
     The jewelry you choose subtly reveals your taste and personality and can enhance a room just as much as it does your clothing.  Once you have your displays in place, you may find you enjoy looking at your jewelry as much as you do wearing it!