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.