Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Great Iowa Stores

I have been shopping like crazy this week, mostly for the store and a little for my own selfish pleasure (and I must say, the old bank account now has tumbleweeds rolling through it). I go south to Kalona all the time (see Sisters and Rug Cottage on the blog list), this week I headed a bit north to Anamosa, where Gatherings (new to my blog list) might win for best primitives shop in the land. If you adore primitive antiques, take your smelling salts, you might just keel over when you walk in the door from being overwhelmed by the best of the best. This store has it all, and although she has great photos on her blog, it doesn't come close to showing how wonderful this store is. My obsession with dough bowls and bread boards always gets a helping hand, there are hundreds of them, all in great shape. There are so many odds and ends, little dolls and whisk brooms (yes, I bought some of those too) and crocks, old flags, great prim pillows, and I could make this list go on forever, trust me, just go there, you will love it, and want to spend hours just to see everything.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Good Day

I started my birthday with a lovely email all the way from England, what fun! I also got wishes from my sister. I very briefly considered throwing myself a pity party that no one else remembered, but thought better of it and set out for a wonderful day with my girls. We went to Amana and bought fabric, fabric, fabric! They have the best Civil War reproductions, and I am glorying in my pile of blue and red beauties as some women might look at their priceless jewels. We then headed out to Cedar Rapids, which will forever be Cedar Rabbits to my youngest. I slowly pronounce Raaapppppiddds, and she smiles and says, " I know, Rabbits!" She is in good company, there is an old story that back in the train days, when approaching the city, the conductor would announce "Ce--dar Ra--pids!" It is said that travellers went to peer out the windows, since they just heard "See da rabbits!"

Well, the first treat is caesar salad and creme brulee at Biaggis. Next, we head to Marion, which is attached to Cedar Rapids, and has all the antique stores. Big score, I found a late 1800s quilt top in dark blues and reds at Park Place Antiques. Next, we just love Antiques of Marion, the owner gives me the best deals and he always has a great selection. I got a dough bowl with an old repair, very nice. I also got an old cast iron mail box bank that is painted red and a very cool prim cast iron horse bookend with the chippiest best paint, not sure I'll be able to send that off for sale....

Monday, April 26, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me

Tomorrow is my birthday, and I am so looking forward to a day of shopping for fabric that I don't need, it is the gift I give myself every year. I love having a spring birthday, it is always such a beautiful happy time of the year. My mother always made birthdays the best day of the year, despite having a very large family and very little money. My sisters and brother, we all got to be queen (and king) for a day, choosing the dinner for that night, picking out our favorite cake and helping to make it. I don't remember a single present from childhood, but those precious moments of discussing menus with my mom are very dear to me.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dubious Ancestry

Some people have distinguished lineage, famous ancestors, proud heritage and so forth. I discovered my own "famous" ancestor when I picked up a little book called Tell a Tale of Iowa. One of the stories was about a murder trial that had the countryside buzzing with gossip in the early 1900s. The accused murderer? My great grandfather. I will start by saying he was acquitted, and I am mostly sure he really was innocent, but it was quite a scandalous story. My grandfather Bates' brother, known as Doc Huntsman is supposed to have been associated of the James Gang, as in Jesse and Frank. (side note-- the James boys' mom's name was Zerelda and my great grandfather named his daughter Suerelda. Aunt Susie, as I always knew her, would never allow this story to be spoken of, by the way). Fast forward many years later. A neighbor of greatgrandpa came to the authorities with a story that the Huntsman men had hired him to help them search for gold buried on their farm, a search lasting over 25 years. He claims they found a box full of gold, but refused to give him his share. He claimed they and a gang of men had murdered a cattleman and stolen his gold years ago, burying the gold on the farm, then lost the map to find the gold when their cabin burned down. Another neighbor came forward and said she had seen the Huntsmans carrying a body in a bloody quilt at the time of the supposed murder. It was the story of the day, but no gold and no body were ever found. The family story is that the bloody quilt was from hog butchering, nobody murdered anyone and they certainly would have used the gold if it existed. It is interesting to see the old newspaper reports describing my great grandfather, at 77 years old having the eyes of a mystic and the long beard of a patriarch. He lived with my grandparents later, and my grandmother had 2 stories to tell about the man with the eyes of a mystic. One is that my uncle killed one of her baby chickens and she spanked him. Bates said nothing until grandpa came in from the fields, and he immediately told him "That woman beat that child unmerciful, just for killing one of her damn chickens." Her other was to tell that my uncle always wanted everything he couldn't have. Bates came into the house one evening to tell her to come out in the yard, she wouldn't believe "what that boy is asking for now", and came out to find that Bates had posed my uncle pointing up to the moon.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Redecorating the Barn

Nancy at Barntiques (go see her blog on my blog list, the Rug Cottage) is redecorating and the girls and I helped a little. She painted everything such cheery pretty colors and put her 1940s cottage corner front and center, it looks great. I had a good time getting to arrange Primitives Corner, always love doing that. Mango the cat was not in sight, I think the babies might be there when we visit next.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Adoption, a Good Thing I start with a website of the adoption agency that brought my family together. I think having a good adoption agency is one of the most important things for building a happy adoptive family, and Holt International Children's Services is one of the best. This agency is a true advocate for children, the people are wonderful, they just about held my hand through the process, long and frustrating at many times, with happy endings all around. They work to keep birth families together whenever possible, fund orphanages and find foster families and eventually adoptive families when it is not possible. I remain humbled by the sacrifices I have witnessed and the good people who have made saving the children their life work. One of the stories that always sends me to the hanky box is when I asked my guide about the foster parents, and how hard is it for them to parent these babies for such a short time. He told me the best answer he ever got was from a foster mother who told him she knew it was her job to have her heart broken. I am so grateful for all the people that worked together to keep my babies safe until I could bring them home. The orphanage worker who had raised my child for the first year of her life placed her in my arms for the first time. My daughter immediately pushed me away and reached for the woman who had cared for her. A mere 12 hours later, we met the woman again, she held her hands out to my child, who wrapped her arms tightly around her daddy's neck and looked away. The woman smiled, touched my arm and said in halting English, "As it should be." Now that is a wise and selfless person that I wish I were more like.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Pizza Margherita Season

I just found my first pot of fresh basil at the garden store, it is pizza margherita season at last! Here is the recipe, another best ever, and no, it is not an error that there is no tomato sauce.

1. make fresh pizza crust, using own recipe or what I do is a package of Betty Crocker pizza dough, rubbing lots of olive oil in as I spread it over the pan.

2. cover crust with fresh shredded Mozzarella.

3. slice a tomato paper thin, lay slices on cheese layer.

4. cover pizza with fresh leaves of basil.

5. sprinkle salt and pepper over pizza, then drizzle olive oil over all (not too much, not too little, it takes a bit of practice, not enough is too dry, too much it turns out like deep fried pizza!)

6. bake at 425 for 10 to 15 minutes, just enough for crust and cheese to be golden brown.

My kids and I hardly like any other pizza now, this is soooo good.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cleaning House

We put the house on the market, why I don't know, chances of a sale are slim to none. Anyway, this necessitated big time cleaning today, lots of grumbling from the little ones about hoping this was going to involve big increases in allowance. I decided to capture this moment of Zen--we clean up good, don't we? I have an eclectic decorating scheme, as you see, I love all the eras of antiques, and put them all together without thought of authenticity, I just like pretty. I also love clean, wish it looked like this more often!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Grandma Hawhee's Pantry

My love of kitchen antiques and primitive pantry wares all started with visiting Grandma Hawhee's farm. It was a trip in the way back machine even then, she still had the hand pump at the kitchen sink (and the most horrible rust colored water, we were always thirsty at grandmas--that water was awful!) and the old wringer washer on the back porch, clothes dried only on the line, no fancy clothes dryers. Her front garden was filled with hollyhocks, the lace curtains in the parlor where the upright piano stood were so pretty. My favorite place was the pantry, though, a walk in off the kitchen with shelves of preserves and kitchen staples. My dream kitchen of someday will have just such a pantry. Now grandma was a no nonsense woman who was not always appreciative of the dozens of noisy grandchildren that descended upon her (my family alone is 7 girls and 1 boy), so it wasn't all cookies and milk, but I learned to admire her hard working ways. She was a sharp contrast to Grandma Huntsman, all squishy and flowery, and taking to her bed in need of her "nerve" medicine. I often think I'd like to get a quart of that nerve medicine. God love her, she was the worst cook on the planet, and when I visited my sister and saw grandma's china in the cupboard, a vivid memory of boiled roast beef, boiled potatoes and boiled green beans that looked more gray than green flooded back. It was the standard Sunday dinner that I will never forget. Those two women had the cleanest houses on the planet, though. Well, their granddaughter may not have inherited their tidy genes, but I think I do a little better at setting the dinner table!

Crazy Busy

Since we got back from the vacation that was not to be, I've been still working on taxes, trying to catch up on school (I homeschool my children), paint breadboards and bowls, take one million photos and list for ebay. Now my husband wants me to MOVE THE CRAFT MESS so he can put up walls in the basement. Moving the craft mess is a nightmare I can hardly consider. I have crafters ADD, in the middle of one project, another will catch my eye and I toss the one I'm working on over my shoulder to start the new one, and it goes on indefinitely until craft corner looks like an episode from "Hoarders". I guess maybe I'll find lost antiques as I clean, will try to look on the bright side.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Nebraska Syndrome

Last week, we set out across Iowa and Nebraska in hopes of landing in Colorado to surprise my nephew who got married on Saturday. We got all the way to Colorado when the blizzard hit the mountains, closing roads and wreaking havoc. We sadly made the decision to turn back home and missed the wedding, drat it all. My nephew is attending chef school, his new bride a student readying herself for law school. My sister got through in time to see her baby wed, and told us how the staff of the resort went all out for the happy couple, fancy hors d'oeuvres, expensive champagne and a Cake Boss type cake. She told them she comes from the Clampett family and had never had such a spread. (nope, not a pig in a blanket in sight!) Well, it was really sad to miss it, but we tortured our children on the trip back with antique malls galore, bribing them with a day at the Omaha Zoo and all the stuffed animals they could carry from the gift shop.

Grand Island Nebraska wins with best antique store of the trip, this is how good a travelogue I write, I can't remember the exact name. It was something like Railroad Antiques, but it is not as if Grand Island is an enormous town that you'd never find it. Just go downtown and there it is. It is a girls' antique mall, clean and everything so pretty and beautifully displayed. Quite a contrast to the dark and dingy mall across the street from it. And wouldn't you know, pretty clean mall has better prices than dark dingy mall! We stopped at many places, the good the bad and the ugly, and filled up the car with more antiques than I will ever get prettied up.

I am off now to paint some of the bowls and breadboards I found, still suffering car lag, that Nebraska is one LONG state!