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Friday, June 29, 2012

Shabby Chic Farm Items

My mom grew up on a dairy farm in southwestern Wisconsin near LaCrosse in a beautiful valley.  Even though I was born in a small town in Minnesota and have lived in large cities most of my life, my heart and soul belong to the countryside.  It is there that I feel at peace and can listen to the sounds of nature without the constant background noises of the cities.  Only outside of a city, that is always full of its constant bright lights, can you look up into the sky at night and see the stars and constellations and listen to the insects chirping. And in the mornings, go outside and walk in the grass damp with dew and feel the freshness of a new day.

As dairy farmers, my grandfather's farm had tons of these milk cans.  He would take them to the local creamery where the contents would be turned into delicious butter and the top cream would be skimmed off.

My grandmother, and later my mother, spent countless hours every summer raising the vegetables and picking the fruit that they would then can in the mason jars - ensuring that the family had homegrown vegetables and fruit all winter long.  I'm so happy to see a revival in canning!  Here the mason jars are put to another good use.

And finally, a barn of their own for all the birds that brighten our days.

Have a happy weekend!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Treasury Books

We are remodeling our home and one of my "must haves" is a large bookcase in the living room.  Now, my preference is to have my own library with a cozy fireplace, wing back vintage chairs, a large desk and a huge window looking out to the garden, but alas my husband is not going along with my vision.  So in the meantime I will be content with our new living room with its bookcase (that is yet to be built) and its large windows.  As Horace Mann said, "A house without books is like a room without windows."

Which brings me to treasury lists on Etsy.  Creative people tend to have many outlets and don't focus on just one art or craft form.  This holds true for many, if not most, of those who have stores on  Here are some examples of  treasury lists that focus on books and all things literary that were created by Etsians.  Enjoy!  (Having technical difficulties in posting the treasury lists so have to use the links).

(Anyone who can tell me how to copy and past a treasury list?)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Colorado Wildfires

I was shocked by the news this morning - 32,000 people near Colorado Springs have had to evacuate because of the raging fires!  I can't imagine how awful that must be for those people - having to leave almost all their possessions behind and wondering if when they return there will be anything left.

My daughter lives in Denver and while visiting her, I have enjoyed the beauty of that state.  While I understand that fires can be cleansing, but this one is too out of control and is the worst in the history of that Colorado.

I think that to show our support, we should all pick Etsy shops that are located in Colorado and favorite them and promote them!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Vintage Children's Books

When I was growing up in the 1970's I looked forward each month to my shipment of the next two books in the Happy Hollister's Mystery series.  I loved losing myself in their adventures and their family life involving five siblings - especially since I was an only child.  I've been looking through my mom's things trying to find those books as I had the whole series but so far no luck.  I did find these on if any of you are looking:

Happy Hollisters Books - Set of 8  Magi Gifts and Treasures has many other vintage books to select from, including more children's books.

I started reading to my three girls basically from the time they were born.  We went through hundreds of books from the Little Golden Books to the Berenstein Bears to the American Girls series and many many others in between.  Those are some of my fondest memories of time well spent with my daughters.  We almost never missed a night time reading session.  We would all cuddle up on one of their beds and read for nearly half an hour.  Once in awhile my husband would read to them but his "reading" consisted of reading the first couple of pages and then he would invent the rest of the story off the top of his head.  The girls loved it!

Here are some more of my finds from
A Little Golden Book - Four Puppies - By Anne Heathers - Golden Press  My girls loved this book and they will always love dogs and animals.  Owl Creations 1 has a nice selection of children's vintage books.

We always enjoyed anything that Richard Scarry wrote including this one from ismoyo:

Vintage Childrens Book Mr. Fixit and Other Stories Richard Scarry
Which children's books are your favorites?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Milk Glass

If you are looking for romantic, yet elegant, accents for your home look no further than items made from beautiful milk glass.  You can find dishes, candle holders, perfume bottles, vases, cups and a host of other pieces for any room in your home.  The above picture can be found here:

Milk glass originated in Venice in the 16th century but it wasn't called "milk glass" and it came in different "milky" colors.  Only recently, during the last century or so, has it been known as milk glass.  During the 19th century it was a luxury item and a popular collectible.  During the American Gilded Age, circa early 20th century, milk glass went hand in hand with the wealthy Americans.  Milk glass made during that era is some of the best ever made and was known for its delicacy and elegance.  By contrast, the milk glass made during the Depression years was considered less elegant and delicate and more a production of the harsh time.

Today it is still a popular collectible.  Though it is not as expensive as porcelain, it will add beauty and elegance to your home.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

My Old Life as a Litigator

For over 21 years I worked in a fast paced, high stress career as a litigator.  Before entering management, I tried many cases in federal court in the areas of employment discrimination, and later in police defense litigation for the City of Chicago.  I was always busy racing from one court imposed deadline to another, often working long hours and missing out on time with my growing family.  I really resented the time I was not with my daughters even though I had what could be called a successful career.  Admittedly, there were aspects that I enjoyed:  working closely with my colleagues, building a theory for each case, reviewing interesting documents and taking the depositions of countless fascinating people, including experts in many fields from economists to police shooting experts.  The last couple of years that I litigated, I handled and supervised many cases involving police related shooting deaths, tasering and other injuries so I learned a lot about bullet trajectories, tasers, deaths in custody, blood spatter patterns, etc.  It may sound gruesome but it was often fascinating and there was a thrill in the chase of taking a case to trial before a jury.

But I longed to have more time for my family and all the interests I have, particularly my dream of writing.  So the end of September 2011 I bid farewell to the City and a few months later moved with Arturo to Mexico.  Unfortunately, it was too late to spend more time in the formative years of my daughters, but I love watching how they are now living their lives.  Even if I do watch from afar.

Then yesterday I saw a movie about the attorney who helped expose the scandal involving the priests in Boston.  Some of the scenes, involving brainstorming, preparing for huge depositions, and being in court, brought me right back to what I used to do.  And I started missing it.  But then I thought deeper and started remembering everything that I disliked so much about litigating.  I can honestly say that the brief feeling of missing litigation quickly passed!

I am fortunate to have the life I now have.  I'm no longer exhausted or in a bad mood, and I feel like I'm starting to remember who I am.  I can't waste the opportunities I now have to do what I spent so many years dreaming of.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Hey Jude

It's hard to believe that Paul McCartney turned 70 today.  He still lives life as if he were 50 years younger.  I absolutely hate it when people who are perfectly healthy say "I'm old, I have to rest and I can't do that" instead of getting out there to play, travel, work, love.  I've always admired this quote from Bernard Shaw:

 "I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live.  I rejoice in life for its own sake."

Seems like that is the way to go.

I actually didn't know about McCartney's birthday until last night when we went to the concert "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" at the Theater of Mexico City.  It started with a short documentary of how they recorded that album and then a Mexican band sang all the songs from Sgt. Pepper.  The lead singer was great - he imitated each of the voices of the Beatles and you never would have known that English wasn't his first language.  It was a really enjoyable evening.  Funny how music from your childhood brings back so many memories and feelings - like the anticipation of where your life will go. As we get older we get so caught up in daily living, taking care of the kids and house, working, groceries,problems, etc. that we seem to miss out on the magic that life offers.  Music, however briefly, can bring back that magic and make you forget all of life's problems.

Thank you to all the musicians who make life brighter!  And happy birthday Paul!  Keep the music coming!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Blue Owls and other Hodge Podge

I spent most of today sewing and cutting out aprons.  Arturo is going to Chicago in mid July and I want to send as many finished aprons with him as I can.  He doesn't know it yet but he will be taking them to Chicago and then bringing back more fabric when he returns to Mexico.  Here is the Blue Owl one referred to in the title:

I adjusted the pattern for that style of apron, called "Sonia", to start making them in the plus size.  I cut one out in a black fabric with red and white glasses of wine and grapes to make the first one.  I offer plus sizes in the "Diana" style but I want to expand what to other styles.

After I wrote the post last night it just poured for almost an hour.  We ended up with over two inches of water in the living room.  We didn't sleep well for some reason and around 3 a.m. Citlali started barking - something she rarely does at night.  Arturo went downstairs to check since we have no windows down there the house is open to anyone who can scale a fence.  Anyway, he heard a sparking noise that sounded like a live wire and sure enough, in the two inches of water, was a shorted out extension cord.  Luckily for me it was Arturo who went down there because I would have stepped in the water to find the noise.  I don't always do the smartest things. When he came back upstairs I asked him if he had stepped in the water and he at me as if I were an idiot and said "I'm alive aren't I?"  Like I said, good thing he went down there.

Just to end with another Etsy item.  This is one of the stores that I follow because I love their photos and the slips.  I don't wear slips often, but if I did, I would want them to look like this:

Happy weekend everyone!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

No Windows and Lots of Wind

I usually have a lot of patience with our months long house remodeling project here in Mexico but we hit new lows yesterday and today.  Yesterday they removed the large window that took up an entire wall in the dining room, as well as the same sized window in the old living room.  And then came a wind storm that howled through the house and deposited about half the dirt from our garden into the house.  Everything is covered with dirt and dust, including the dogs.  We are now in the second day of this mess and waiting for the person who is to install the windows to show up.  He has a day job and won't be here until around 7 p.m.  That is if he decides to come.

You can see in the second picture that we tried to block some of it with the entertainment unit but it didn't make much difference.  And now it is starting to rain.  Patience.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Raspberry Shawl

I love knitting, plain and simple.  It relaxes me and even better, only positive thoughts come to mind while I knit.  I believe that handmade naturally means that the finished product is going to be full of good energy because people who like to make things are happiest when doing just that.  So yesterday I looked for a shawl pattern that would be a bit of a challenge for me.  Can't let the brain dry up they say so try something new.  Well, it turns out that for the last 20 some years I have been knitting differently than most of the knitters in the world.  This wasn't apparent until I tried out a new pattern and found that I knit from the back loop while everyone else knits from the front to the back.  Unfortunately, that was a fatal flaw for this particular pattern.  I figured that I would simply learn to knit the way most people do and for the next 3 hours I really tried.  I tried so hard that I was sweating and swearing.  Not the good thoughts I want for my shawl.  I finally gave up and looked for a different pattern that would accept me as the knitter I have always been.

This is the first round of the pattern and I love this one!  It remains to be seen whether it will look like the pattern I'm following but even if it doesn't, I'm happy knitting this one.  The yarn is to die for and I bought it in the town where my mom used to live (Viroqua, Wisconsin) from an adorable shop called Ewetopia.  I can't find the information for this yarn but it's a gorgeous cotton.

 I have this vision of wearing the shawl while I sit on our balcony at night looking into the valley and the mountains and drinking a glass of red wine.  Now, if you know me, you will understand that this vision will probably not come to be for another year or two.  I have a problem with starting projects and then leaving them to start another one. However, I'm going to try to improve that poor track record so  I'll give a shawl update in a couple of weeks to see what it looks like and to keep me going on this one.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


I have three daughters and they are the light of my life.  They amaze me, they make me laugh, cry, want to hug them and then scold them - sometimes all in the space of a few minutes!  They are all adults now and making their own way in the world which makes me so very proud of them.  Like all of us, sometimes they stumble and even fall, but they have the strength to get up and keep on going.

This picture was taken at Diana's engagement party in late April - from left to right it is Laura, Diana and Sonia.  Sonia's legal name is "Sonya" but for some goofy reason her father wanted "Sonia" so there you go.

Even though at times I have wanted to tear my hair out over their antics (and I suspect that I only am aware of maybe 10% of all their antics), and other times I thought I would never survive their teen years, I would never trade a single second of any of it for a different life.  My daughters have made me try to be a better person and ironically, they have encouraged me to stretch my wings.  So cheers for all the daughters in the world!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Acapulco and Back

Sonia, Arturo and I spent four days in Acapulco and arrived back home last night.  We went by bus (probably not my first choice of how to get there but it wasn't too bad) and stayed in the Gran Hotel where we found his uncle staying the first night we were there.  That turned out to be lucky as his uncle and aunt are regulars there so they got us an upgraded room for no extra charge.

The hotel and the beach were beautiful.  I'm not so sure about the outside world though.  We have been taking our girls to Acapulco for many years but it seemed different this time - louder, a tiny bit run down, just not the way I remember it.  That's not saying that I wouldn't go back though!

One night we took a local bus and went to the Quebrada which is the famous cliff from which they dive.  The buses are owned by the drivers and they decorate them, play music as loudly as they can, and have their friends sitting by a window shouting out the bus destinations. They have no schedules and will stop anywhere to pick up people, buy themselves some water, or chat with friends they see on the street. In all, it took us over an hour for what is a 20 minute car ride.  Did I mention these buses do not have air conditioning and are all at least 30 years old.  Acapulco charm.  Anyway, here are some pictures from the Quebrada.

The last diver was totally insane.  He dove from top of the cliff and did a back flip and a couple of somersaults.  I wonder what it is like to have no fear of death?  I tried taking pictures of the dives but my camera wasn't fast enough.  Or I wasn't.

And here are Arturo and Sonia, two of my favorite people on earth - the other two, Diana and Laura, couldn't join us.  Maybe next time because I missed them very much!  The first vacation we ever took as a young family was to Acapulco and I remember it as if it were yesterday.

Right now it's raining and sunny at the same time in Mexico City but I'll leave you with the sunset from Acapulco.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Rainy Times

Who would have thought that summers in Mexico City involve many rainy and cool afternoons?  The days start out bright and full of sunshine but around 1 or 2 p.m. the clouds and wind roll in and the rain starts.  I lived here for four years in the early '80s and I just can't remember if it stays like this all summer long.  I'm hoping not because I need lots of sunshine to feel alive and energized.  Rainy days make me want to lie down with a book and take a nap.  That's fine once in awhile but not everyday.

We leave in the morning on a bus for Acapulco and will return Sunday evening.  For the very first time, we are leaving the dogs alone in the house.  We have always had someone else in the house with them while we are gone.  A young woman from the neighborhood will come over 3-4 times a day to take them out, feed them and play with them.  I have no idea how this is going to work out but we will find out!

See you in a few days.m

Monday, June 4, 2012


One of our favorite places to go in Mexico City is the neighborhood of Polanco.  It has a vibrant, almost European feeling to it and is full of beautiful architecture.  We decided to take the dogs with us as they had not been out except on their daily (multiple) walks in our neighborhood.  The first pictures are of the building and plaza where we have a condo that we are renting out.  The plaza has about thirty shops and boutiques, including a Starbucks where I always need to stop, and a gorgeous yarn shop.  (I don't know if I've mentioned how much I love knitting).

The next picture is of the balcony of our condo.  We are renting it out to the cutest couple - he is from China and is the chef at the nearby Presidente Hotel.  She is Mexican and they have 10 month old twins.

About a block away from the condo is a park that ironically is named "Lincoln Park".  It's ironic only because we live in the Lincoln Park neighborhood in Chicago.  There are two statues in the park - one of Martin Luther King and the other of, big surprise, Abraham Lincoln.

The Daughters of the American Revolution donated the Lincoln statue.

If you ever visit Mexico City, make sure to include Polanco on your list of where to visit.  It will be a long list though so plan on staying at least a few days.  Besides all the places to visit in the City, the pyramids are only an hour away and are a must see.

I finished the blue toile half apron today.  I added lace to the pocket and to the waistband.  The pictures when it comes out on Etsy will be much better.  

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Blue Toile Aprons and Mountains

Today has been a strange day but I'm not really sure why.  I think it is that I miss my girls and Chicago.  The good thing is that we have Skype and I can actually see them as we are talking - that is a lifesaver!

I did sell two aprons today from my Etsy shop so that made me feel terrific!  I love making aprons that I hope will make people feel good when they use them.  I put only positive thoughts into my aprons and because I have so much fun making them I feel like they will bring some happiness to the wearer.  In any event, that is my sincere wish.

I've been trying to think what to do with this material and I finally came up with an idea:

It is a quaint blue toile and I can't find it anywhere anymore.  I'm going to make it into this type of apron with the toile being the upper layer and a cream muslin being the bottom skirt, pocket, waistband and ties:

I think it is going to look really cute and I have my fingers crossed that I have enough of the toile to make two aprons.  The plan is to cut them out tomorrow and maybe I will have photos to post Monday morning.

Before I go, I want to put up these pictures of the view from our bedroom balcony.

I love mountains and I wish my photography was better so that you could really see them.  Mexico City is in a valley surrounded on almost all sides by mountains, including one rather active volcano called El Popo for short.  It's been spewing ashes and making an awful lot of rumbling the last two months.  One of these days it's going to erupt and that will be awful and awesome.  There is no stopping nature!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Nancy Drew

Like many women my age (52), I grew up reading and loving Nancy Drew mysteries.  By the time I stopped reading them, I had the complete set that had been written at that time - about 50 volumes.  There was something about Nancy Drew's adventures that took her to abandoned houses and other exotic settings, and about finding and figuring out clues that fascinated me. I have never stopped reading mysteries and I always have at least two or three of them going at the same time.  I love Louise Penny, Sue Grafton, Elizabeth George and so many others.

During the 20 plus years I worked full time as an attorney, I constantly thought about writing my own mystery.  But I did nothing to advance that dream other than come up with a few ideas for plots and characters that I would jot down.  To be fair to myself, I was also raising three daughters and helping my husband with his art gallery, but I still feel like I wasted a lot of time when I could have maybe fit in a writing class or two.

Now that I'm not working as an attorney, I have no excuse to not start writing.  And in fact, I'm working on the plot, setting and character sketches for my first book.  It will take place in Minnesota.  I was born in a small town there called Sacred Heart and I guess I'm going back to my roots. There will be parts of Mexico in it too - write what you know! Right now I'm doing a lot of research - probably too much - and writing down a lot of ideas that have to be fine tuned.  It's fun but also daunting because there is always the fear that I won't be able to actually write it, or that if I do write it, the book won't be very good.  But then again, if the first one isn't that great I can always write a second one!