Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Eva's Sampler

A couple of weeks ago, I stopped at an estate sale. The woman who had lived in the home enjoyed many types of needlecrafts as a hobby. Her name is Eva, and she produced perfectly stitched pieces. I bought one of her crocheted afghans and a set of stitched Christmas-themed placements that look as perfect on the reverse side as they do on the front.

My favorite find is a sampler. Eva stitched this piece onto unbleached weaver's cloth. The sampler's theme is "All the earth is full of God's glory." A tree of life sits squarely on the bottom and is surrounded by leaves stitched in autumn colors. Next comes a row houses and then four birds. Birds are near and dear to my heart. My husband and I have shared our home with birds for 28 years. Other motifs are snowflakes. They remind me of my mother because she'd always say, "God never made two snowflakes alike." True to my mom's word, Eva stitch each snowflake in a different design.

I will treasure Eva's sampler always. When it's time to sell items from my meager estate, I hope someone who loves Eva's sampler as much as I do comes along.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Homeliest Lamp

A while back, I went to yard sale. I was still recovering from thyroid surgery, and even after a month, my vocal cords had not healed. I was becoming concerned, but there was nothing I could do about it. Since I couldn't speak, I hung my head low hoping no one would speak to me. As I browsed, one of the two elderly sisters who hosted the yard sale approached. I was holding a homely lamp that I had picked up to examine. The woman began telling me the history of this lamp and how she had chosen it years ago to complement her daughter's bedroom decor.

After the woman finished telling me about the lamp, she lifted her hand, extended her index finger, and touched her neck. As she ran her finger along her own thyroid scar, she asked about my fresh scar. I whispered that I could not talk. She told me not to worry because her voice had returned exactly six weeks after her surgery. Her words gave me comfort, and by this time I had bonded with this woman's lamp.

I brought the lamp home with plans to make it over, but when I walked into my house with that lamp, my family laughed at me. "That's the ugliest lamp I have ever seen," my daughter announced. Even my husband rolled his eyes, and I know he wondered what I would ever do with that tacky lamp. I couldn't protest vocally, so I went to work on my makeover. I spray-painted the lamp's base black. I removed the outdated rattan and fabric from the shade form, and then I sewed a new shade and slip-stitched it onto the frame. I chose black-and-white toile for the new shade to complement the lamp's shiny black base. Black gimp trim added a decorator's touch to the hand-sewn shade.

After my homely lamp received its extreme makeover, my family was very impressed. More than once I heard members of my family say, "I never would have believed it is the same lamp." How they had changed their tunes! Looks like I had the "last word" even though I still couldn't speak!

At last, though, just as the woman at the yard sale had promised, my voice returned! And it happened exactly six weeks after my surgery.

The Lamp "Before"

The Lamp "After"

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Meet Will, made by Will-George

Today, I stopped by an estate sale because remaining items were half-price. I picked up a few items I knew friends would like, and then I shopped for myself. In a detached garage, I rifled through a pile of dusty items in a basket and unearthed a lovely diminutive glass pitcher, hand-blown in West Virginia. The man in charge determined that I owed him a quarter for it. Back inside, I lucked upon a choice, off-white ironstone pitcher to add to my growing collection. It was one whole dollar.

Standing in line to pay, I enjoyed visiting with other shoppers who had their arms wrapped around bundles of treasures, which had belonged to someone else just a few weeks before. While I waited, I spotted a lone flamingo figurine. A length of masking tape affixed to its body boasted that the piece was valued at $2, and now it could be had for only $1. I told the man behind me that I would return shortly as I waltzed a few steps from the checkout line and plucked the adorably kitschy flamingo off a table brimming with mismatched punch glasses.

After I came home, I examined my flamingo and discovered that it was marked “Will George” on the bottom. A little Internet research made me realize that I’d found a true treasure. I am not sure I’d be likely to sell my piece for this much, however. (click here) Anyway, I named my flamingo “Will” (sorry George). I think Will is a handsome addition to my d├ęcor, and he adores sunning himself beneath my vintage lamp. After reading the history of the Will-George Pottery Company, I think Charlie McCarthy would heartily agree with me.

The History of the Will-George Pottery Company (In My Own Words)

The Will-George Company, founded in 1934 by brothers William and George Climes, initially operated from William Climes’ garage in Los Angeles. Will and George manufactured premium porcelain and earthenware. Renowned actor Edgar Bergen became infatuated with Will-George art pieces in the late 1930s. Bergen’s financial investment in the business allowed the brothers to expand and move to a larger facility in Pasadena.

After the move, Will and George produced an extensive line of art pottery, including popular bird and animal figurines, as well as a line of human figurines similar to those created by Royal Doulton. After World War II, the brothers ended their partnership with Bergen and moved to a larger plant in San Gabriel. They renamed their company “The Claysmiths” but continued to mark their pottery “Will-George.”

Like most California pottery companies, Will-George suffered after the influx of cheap imports during the 1950s. William and George liquidated their business in 1956. Will Climes designed for Hagen-Renaker until his death in 1960. George Climes worked with Redondo Tile Company of Torrance through the 1950s and was a lab technician for Gladding-McBean until his death in 1966.

Will Enjoys Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas

My sweet husband took me and our dog, Chloe, to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, for my birthday. We left on Friday, October 17, and returned home on my birthday, October 21. Chloe and her toy duck diligently watched the goings-on at the campground we stayed at through a window in our motorhome. Our son Matthew, who is a college student, drove over and spent the weekend with us. We were camped 60 miles from his college in Fayetteville.

Our favorite attraction during our visit this time was Thorncrown Chapel, and it was an inspiration! This little chapel, designed by E. Fay Jones, has garnered several prestigious design awards. It's estimated that seven million visitors have trekked up the hill to enjoy this awesome structure since its completion in 1980.

We were treated to a rare event while we visited Thorncrown Chapel after a bus loaded with tourists from Tennessee arrived while we were there. Since the chapel was full of awe-struck visitors, the chapel's music minister, Patricia Taylor, sang "Amazing Grace" after her informative presentation about Thorncrown's history.

There wasn't a dry eye in the chapel after Ms. Taylor, who has been the chapel's music minister for 25 years, sang the last note of this beloved hymn. Ms. Taylor certainly used the building's astonishing acoustics to its full advantage. We later learned from our shuttle driver that the music minister rarely sings after delivering a presentation.

We had also planned to visit War Eagle, a working grist mill situated on the War Eagle River. A huge crafts fair is held on the grounds each spring and fall. But after a bee stung me, I changed my mind. I had to take Benadryl to counteract an adverse reaction to the sting, so I was a bit groggy. Oh, well -- maybe next year.

Here are a few photos of Thorncrown Chapel, along with one of a very nosy golden retriever!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Yummiest of Birthday Cakes!

Yesterday was my birthday. My dear mother-in-law baked a cake for me and left it on my kitchen counter. When my husband and I returned from a trip, there sat a freshly baked Caramel Lovers’ Fudge cake. And it’s yummy!

My dear mother-in-law, whose small frame has been contorted and twisted by arthritis, baked this delicious cake for me as a special surprise. She completed this labor of love the night before my birthday, and then she dropped the cake off at our house early the next morning, before she made her daily trek to the nursing home to offer love and comfort to my father-in-law, who is the victim of late-stage dementia.

I know my family loves me, and I am so grateful for them. Since our kids are away from home, my husband and I took the cake back to my mother-in-law’s house, so we could all enjoy the first pieces together. We enjoyed every bite of the delicious cake, but the connections we shared as family made my day truly happy, and I feel blessed.

Thanks so much, Sammye! I love you. Here’s the recipe Sammye passed along with the decadent cake.

Caramel Lovers’ Fudge Cake

1-14 oz bag of caramels
1-14 oz can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
1-1/4 cups Crisco shortening, divided
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup water
½ cup buttermilk or sour milk
1-1/2 tsp vanilla
1-1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a heavy saucepan, combine caramels, sweetened condensed milk and ½ cup shortening. Over medium heat, cook and stir until melted and smooth.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.

In a large bowl, beat sugar and remaining ¾ cup shortening until fluffy. Beat in eggs.

In a small bowl, combine water, buttermilk and vanilla; add alternatively with flour mixture, beating well.

Spread half the batter into a greased 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Bake 15 minutes or until center is set. Remove from oven and spoon caramel mixture evenly over cake. Spread remaining batter evenly over caramel. Sprinkle with pecans. Bake about 40 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched.

Loosen cake from the sides of pan while warm. Cool completely. And don’t forget to sing “Happy Birthday to Anne!” I think a cup of hot coffee is perfect with this gooey, fudgey and crunchy dessert.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Now We're Cooking!

My new kitchen is really just my old kitchen dressed up and changed cosmetically. We have lived in our house for 22 years. We didn’t build the house, but we have been its sole owners. Over the years, my kitchen cabinets have changed hue from light to dark and back again. I had first painted my kitchen cabinets country blue. A few years after that, I painted them black. The cabinet doors had begun to sag, and we had already replaced the original worn hinges with ones that never fit quite right. After many years of use, the appliances no longer functioned well, either.

Instead of ripping out the entire kitchen, however, we chose to purchase new cabinet doors, drawer boxes with new glides and matching drawer fronts, along with convenient slide-out shelving, in order to refurbish and update our cabinetry. Danny Sullivan took on the monumental task of measuring, ordering and installing all those drawers and fittings, and he also put up crown molding. Danny is a craftsman par excellence! I painted—again—the cabinet faces, interiors, doors and drawer fronts. This time, I chose a creamy color.

For the floors, I chose ceramic tiles in varying warm tones and sizes. New appliances feature a stainless finish. Our GE Trivection range offers speedcooking, which combines radiant heat with microwaves. This oven cooks quickly and enhances both the taste and the texture of food. Our new microwave also bakes and speedcooks in addition to standard microwaving, and when the kids are away, it’s perfect for preparing a meal for two.

We have enjoyed our new/old kitchen very much. However, after nearly suffering heat stroke from the daunting task of scraping unsightly texture compound off the ceiling, I thought I’d never see my project completed! Word to the wise: Some jobs are not meant for do-it-yourselfers!

Kitchen Before:

Kitchen After:

Monday, September 15, 2008

Homeless and Distressed

After Ike wreaked havoc on the Texas coast, the nasty storm weakened into a tropical depression once he made his way to Arkansas. However, the storm still packed a punch with heavy rain and gusty winds. Spin-off storms also spawned tornadoes.

Once the storm passed, one couple living next door to me assessed the devastating damage to their home. The couple was quite distressed and seemed not to understand what had happened. They fussed and flitted around the remains of their former tree-top abode, but no help arrived to give them direction or offer temporary accommodations.

This couple, a sprightly pair of Cardinals, broke my heart when I realized their fate. Two days have passed since the storm moved on, but the birds maintain a vigil over the downed tree that was once their safe haven. The colorful birds still dash into the toppled branches, and I assume that perhaps this couple could have or may have had young nestlings in the tree. Like many others who were displaced, this couple will have to find somewhere else to live and start over. Life goes on, after all.

I am truly sorry for those who lost their homes and businesses. I wish the very best to the brave workers and volunteers as they toil diligently to restore power and give aid to the folks affected by Ike.

A photo of the fallen tree Ike's winds pushed over

A photo of the homeless male Northern Cardinal (bottom left)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Tiny but Tidy Space for Sewing

I recently worked on and off for a week to organize and re-arrange my sewing room, which is the smallest bedroom in our home. It was originally our daughter’s bedroom, but when she outgrew the space in 2000, we added on a new master bedroom suite and gave her our old bedroom.

I have three sewing machines and two sergers. My Bernina 630E was a gift to myself and was purchased with some of my inheritance. I love my new computerized sewing machine, and it also embroiders beautifully.

My mother was a seamstress, and when I was a child, I watched her create many garments on an old black Singer 66. Last Christmas, my sweet husband drove me three hours from our home, so I could purchase a vintage Singer 15-91. The nice woman selling it said the much-loved machine had belonged to her mother-in-law. My Singer 15-91 still sews perfectly and is similar to the machine my mother had. I used all of my Christmas money to buy it. It came with a gorgeous walnut cabinet fitted with fold-out “wing” extensions.

I also own a mint-green, mid-70s model Kenmore, which is similar to the machine my mother purchased to replace her Singer. I bought it from my neighbor for $25, and that machine still operates quite well. The old machines require a bit of maintenance, but I enjoy the process of cleaning, oiling and re-filling grease pots.

My first serger came from Sam’s Club. It was my Christmas present in 1993. Although it is branded as a Singer, I later learned that it was made by Juki. I have never had a problem with it. Thinking I needed a coverstitch option, my husband gave me a Pfaff 4852 for Christmas last year. It forms perfect overlock stitches and feeds smoothly, but it sometimes takes a while for me to thread it properly.

Anyway, my space is a bit cramped, and it certainly won’t win any design awards, but I enjoy working in my newly organized sewing room. I can pull my cutting table out and easily move it when needed. My space makes me happy. My dog Chloe also loves spending time with me while I sew. The space makes her happy, too, unless I accidentally step on her tail. Now I just need to get busy and create something!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Launch a Star Today!

Tonight the Stand Up 2 Cancer Telethon airs. Donations fund research for all types of cancer. A couple of months ago, I launched a “star” to honor the memory of my parents at the Stand Up 2 Cancer Web site.

My mother was diagnosed with colon cancer in the summer of 1994. She called me after a too-long postponed colonoscopy and said, “They found a mass. A mass—it’s over for me.” I assured my mother that everything would be okay. The day of my mother’s surgery, the surgeon delivered bad news as gently as he could. My mother’s cancer was advanced.

My mother took her chemo treatments robotically. I’d take her by the arm and usher her to doctor’s appointments. Overwhelmed and devastated, my mother’s spirit died the very moment the word “mass” slipped from the doctor’s lips. By early February of 1995, my mother’s outlook brightened a bit. It was a rare good day for her. However, the doctor phoned me and told me that the cancer had spread to my mother’s liver.

When I walked into my parents’ house to deliver more bad news, I found my mother sitting up on the sofa. My dad had placed a tray table before her, and he was busily preparing a meal. Dad worked frantically, racing against time and hoping that my mother’s appetite would not wane before he served much-needed nourishment to strengthen his sick wife’s shriveling frame.

A couple of weeks later, I arrived at my mother’s house, as I did daily, and discovered that she’d burned a half-dollar-sized lesion onto her back with a heating pad. The cancer’s pain was out of control. Hospice services were a godsend at this point. As difficult as it was to watch my mother suffer, it was still heartbreaking when I saw my sweet mother draw her very last breath. She died on April 4, 1995. I have missed my mother’s companionship every minute of every hour of every day since that moment.

Ten years after my mother died, my father also succumbed to colon cancer. He’d been diagnosed almost two years before. I was alone when the doctor told me that the obstructive mass in my father’s colon called for immediate surgery. My father was a stronger patient emotionally, but he knew what he faced. He rallied a bit during chemo, and we all raised our hopes.

However, when my father became deathly ill one quiet Sunday afternoon in late August of 2005, I rushed him to the hospital. Tests proved that the cancer had returned and had again grown into an obstructive mass. My father suffered a serious heart attack during surgery. At that point, his weakened heart became more of an issue than the cancer.

My father grew tired of fighting and begged to go home. His nurse took me aside and explained that my dad wanted to go home “to die peacefully.” Hospice was again a godsend. In late October, three days after I moved into my dad’s house to care for him, he passed away. My father, the man who could do anything, was gone. I miss him so very much.

I hope that someday soon research will lead to the creation of vaccines to prevent cancer. However, technology exists today to easily screen for colon cancer. Prep for the test might be unpleasant, but early detection is the key to a cure at this point. I urge everyone to contribute to cancer research—do it today.

Go to standup2cancer.org and launch a star!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Day in the Dark

The so-called “remnants” of Gustav whirled through central Arkansas bringing sustained high winds and sheets of rain, which together managed to flood roadways and down trees onto power lines. We lost power about 5 a.m. My husband and daughter managed to dress for work and negotiated traffic nightmares on their journeys. I miraculously scrounged six “D” batteries, so even though my house was dark, I was able to enjoy listening to NPR on a portable radio. I missed my computer, but I used a trusty flashlight to read the morning newspaper.

After about five hours with no power, I decided I should get the refrigerator/freezer going inside our motorhome. I dressed appropriately in my very unstylish rubber raincoat and oversized boots. I waded through standing water as I pondered a task I had never done before. I braced myself against the wind and realized I had no idea what I was doing. I peeked under every trap door around the lower body of the motorhome before I located the LP gas tank, but I finally “lit” the pilot that ultimately powers the fridge, and after a few trips from the house fridge to the motorhome's, I successfully relocated ice cream and other perishables into a smaller, but cold, refrigerator. Well, I relocated most of our freezer’s perishable contents. Two half-melted Skinny-Dipper ice cream treats, one after the other, went into my mouth. Hmm—I think there’s no guilt involved in dire circumstances.

After a day of clearing downed branches from my yard and sorting fabric in my darkened sewing room whenever rain prevented outdoor tasks, our power was restored twelve hours after our home lost electricity to Gustav’s wrath. After a quickly made dinner of soup and grilled sandwiches, my family decided to enjoy ice cream for dessert. I declined. I may have already gobbled more than my share, but at least I had saved the ice cream from melting into unappetizing goo.

I heard that the weather forecast calls for more rain before Gustav exits Arkansas, but I think the 25- to 35-mph winds have finally subsided. I look forward to a quiet, restful night and a normal tomorrow. Hmm—another day, another ice-cream treat—but just one.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Amy Butler's Covington Bag

Pattern Description: Inspired by trips to the English countryside, this graceful handbag incorporates a clever cinching top that changes the bag shape. From the market place to the palace, it’s the perfect bag for your weekend jaunts. Pattern makes up into handbag or shoulder bag, which are exactly the same bag except for handle length.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Not exactly because I made a few design changes to suit my needs. I omitted the drawstring, enlarged the bag by tracing it larger and added an outside pocket. I also changed to bag’s lining to add more interior space with pockets.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, very. However, the wording is too redundant, therefore, it somewhat complicates what should be an easy-to-follow guide.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? The pattern pieces seem so simple, but when sewn together, a unique purse with great styling magically takes shape. I think Amy Butler is a genius!

Fabric Used: Well—I just wonder what Amy would think if she saw that I paired the “temple garden pink” from her Tea Box collection with frumpish-y ultrasuede? It just seems to me that I have endeavored to force one of Amy’s wonderful mod designs to break out of its comfort zone and waltz into the world of little old ladies who meet to play mahjong while they much tuna-spread sandwiches. Anyway, I had intended to use another of Amy’s fabrics, but this combination just happened after I discovered that a remnant of ultrasuede I had leftover from another project complemented one color in the temple garden print.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: This bag is designed to be drawn closed with a drawstring that threads through a casing formed in the lower part of the top panel. Amy describes the cinched purse as being “foppish,” which I believe would perfectly suit character Harriet Smith from Jane Austen’s beloved novel Emma. Instead, I enlarged the top panel, reinforced the panels with Peltex, and included a set of magnetic snaps. I reinforced the magnetic snaps using plastic canvas, which is a tip from this site. I cut narrow strips of Peltex and sewed them to the top edge of the front and back pieces to added strength to the seam line.

I also reinforced the bottom panel with Peltex and used HEATnBond to fuse remnants of unbleached muslin onto the front and back pieces to add body. I sewed remnants of buff felt onto the side pieces to stiffen the bag somewhat. The side pieces were supposed to have been met together at the center crease and folded over and attached toward the front of the bag.

Instead, I pulled both sides to the middle, creating a pleat. This change made more room inside the bag, so I used the pattern for the lining (only front and back included) and drew my own pattern pieces to create lining for the sides and a bottom. I also made outside and inside pockets. Some of the fabrics used for linings were remnants purchased in a grab bag from Walmart. I mixed lime green with temple garden for the lining, so the lining wouldn’t be so busy.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Yes. I would like to make another exactly as Amy cleverly designed the bag. Sometimes, a foppish bag is exactly what I need for my inner Harriet Smith!

Conclusion My version turned out just as I envisioned it, and I love it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Asian-Themed Projects

Lately, I've enjoyed thumbing through magazines and books that feature Asian-themed craft projects. My interest was piqued by a cross stitch project my daughter, Laura, completed. This piece was Laura's very first cross stitch project and it was a whopper, but she did a fantastic job on it. I love it!

After I showed Laura a pattern for a diminutive kimono-display quilt, she wanted one. I made this one for her as a graduation gift.

Since that time, I have been collecting fabrics with Geisha designs and rich colors. Here's a photo of the quilt I made. To me, it looks like kimonos placed into a "Hollywood Squares" background. Anyway, if anyone's interested, here are the instructions for folding the kimonos.

Kimono Folding Instructions

To make these kimonos, the folds should be made using an iron set to the highest setting for your fabric. I use a Rowenta steamer iron, which I love!

Here’s a photo of my Rowenta

1) With the wrong side of a 3-3/4 inch x 12-1/2 inch print rectangle facing up, make a single ¼-inch fold down each long edge and a double ¼-inch fold along the top edge.

2) Turn piece over so the right side is facing up and fold the two top corners over to the right side so that they meet in the center to form the collar as shown in photo 1.
Photo 1

3) Using photo 2 as a guide, fold the piece into three so that there is a ¼-inch space between the top fold and the point—the first fold and the lower edge should be aligned.
Photo 2

4) Fold in all the layers on both long edges so that they lie parallel with the edge of the collar, as shown in photo 3.
Photo 3

5) Fold back the top layers of the fabric on both edges and press them to form triangles as shown in photo 4, and then turn the piece over.
Photo 4

6) Fold the top section down along the base line of the triangles, so that the collar section protrudes above the fold line.

7) On the back, open up the previous fold, then double-fold the top layer of fabric upwards so that the raw edge is tucked inside and lies along the lower fold—the top fold should be in line with the previous fold line. Refold the previous fold back down over itself to hold them in place. See photo 5.
Photo 5

8) Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse two 1-inch x 2-1/2-inch pieces of interfacing to the back of the kimono, with one piece across the top sleeve section and the other down the length of the body. These fused pieces should hold the folds in place.
Fused on back

After I made two more kimonos, I placed them into a shadowbox frame I purchased for $3 at a yard sale. The frame had enclosed a fake braided string of garlic. I hung the unframed garlic string in my kitchen. I lined the background of the frame in deep blue fabric that created a rich background for the printed kimono fabrics.
My finished project

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Monet's Flowers

In early July, my daughter and I spent a few days in France. Laura had been studying in Besancon, and we met up in Paris after her studies ended. This morning, while I was walking my dog, I noticed a beautiful flowering vine in my neighbor's yard. The flowers reminded me of those we saw in Monet's garden. Here are some photos my daughter snapped while we toured Monet's estate in Giverney. I have to admit that I was a bit of a whiner because to my body, it was 2 a.m. when we were there.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Thursday, August 21, 2008

My Beloved Plate Collections

I have loved plates since I was a young teenager. I worked at Goldsmith's department store in Memphis during summers and Christmas breaks when I was a young woman, and I purchased my first set of dishes, which was Johnson Brothers "Regency White," from the this store with some of my meager wages. I kept the set in my closet until I married. However, my everyday dishes are Johnson Brothers Blue Willow. My love of this design began when I was in fourth grade after I ordered the book Blue Willow from a Weekly Reader offer. The book's cover depicts a blond-headed girl and a Blue Willow platter. I thought I resembled the cover photo of the fair-skinned girl, who's slightly smiling. I still have that book.

I also knew Blue Willow dishes well because Aunt Bea on "The Andy Griffith Show" served many a Sunday chicken dinner on plates with this famous design. Over the years, I have picked up older and newer plates with various designs and colors, and my finds hang everywhere throughout my home. My kids always knew when I'd tapped a mother lode at an early Friday yard sale because they'd hear my hammer banging a nail into a ever-disappearing blank space on a wall.

Here are just a few of my many collectible plates:

This is an old blue-and-white platter I picked up at local antique mall. It was in pieces in a box when I happened upon it. I asked the vendor if the platter was for sale, and she told me that she'd dropped it and had placed it out in case a regular customer who specialized in mosaics happened by. I bought the platter for $2.50, and then I glued the pieces back together. It had been repaired before, and there are large metal staples in the back of the plate from repairs made long, long ago. I love this platter, and it hangs in my living room. I am glad the mosaic lady didn't find this platter before I snapped it up! What a shame it would be for this treasure to be plastered together haphazardly as a tabletop! I shudder at the very thought!

These plates depict Paris fashions through the years, and they hang above my sewing machine in my sewing room. My sister gave me one as a Christmas gift, and I purchased the rest of the collection on eBay. My daughter, who's into fashion design as a department-store buyer, also has a set of these plates, but they're in boxes under her bed. She'll soon be moving to a place of her own, so her collection might soon see the light of day.

These are some of my Spode blue plates. A Blue Willow platter is surrounded by plates I picked up at a discount store at a Missouri outlet store.

These are my red Spode plates. The center red willow platter came from the same antique mall as my old pieced-together platter, but I bought it about 20 years ago for $25. I used my birthday money to buy the platter, and I loved it then, and I greatly treasure it now. The other plates were purchased at en estate sale for $10 each.

I bought the brown Spode plates at a store called Fifth Season in Little Rock. It was my birthday, and my sweet husband took me shopping and bought these plates for me on a whim. The other plates came from estate sales.

That's a few of my treasured collections. I told my kids that if there were an earthquake, I'd have to create mosaic tabletops! I shudder at the very thought!