Thursday, December 24, 2009

Oh, Christmas Tree!

Oh, Christmas Tree! Oh, Christmas Tree!
Thy leaves ar
e so unchanging.
Not only green when summer's here,
But also when 'tis cold and drear.
Oh, Christmas Tree! Oh, Christmas Tree!
How richly God has decked thee!

This post is a tribute to our Dad and Mom - who with great foresight, devotion and hard work - created a Johnstone family Christmas tree tradition that will be remembered by many for years to come. After 45 years, the business is winding down. But Angie is ensuring that a small plantation is maintained up north by the cabin to provide trees for family and friends for years to come.

We have asked our "guest blogger", D
ave, to write the tribute. Kathryn Johnstone Grafsgaard

By Dave:

I got in on the tradition of the Johnstone Christmas tree business about a decade ago. The only reason I’m writing this post is because the sisters handmade are still hand making for the people who decide to order Christmas gifts at the last minute, or for their own gift-giving needs.

A few times on the way back from deer camp I would stop and help cut trees on the Johnstone tree farm adjoining the house, and at the property "Up North". Glen had carefully marked the trees so a knucklehead like me didn’t cut the wrong one. At the time, these trees were shuttled over to Glen’s Tire, where they were sold in the parking lot. Several times a season a run needed to be made Up North to grab a few more trees to restock the homemade wagon wheel tree stands at the tire store. Glen is not a guy to give up on a vehicle and on one such trip the hood latch broke at 60mph on Hwy 65. We just pulled over, yanked the hood down, and wired it to the bumper. No big deal.

When the trees got to Mora and were purchased, the dead needles were shaken off in Glen’s invention, the Rube Goldberg-like ‘Shake-O-Matic’, a contraption into which the trunk was inserted into, the unit switched on, and then shook the hell out of the tree. Lots of people in Mora and the surrounding area bought their trees from Glen and probably more people, including the Catholic Church, were given trees. Glen and Jean,being very charitable folks, have often given trees to those who stop by right before Christmas after likely spending most of their limited funds on gifts for their family. This is a labor of love for them.

The tree planting began in the early ‘60s. Margie, daughter 2, remembers trips Up North with her little girlfriends to walk behind Glen during planting and stomp the seedlings in. Once they are planted they need to be sheared in the heat of the summer. With the heat, humidity, and a mosquito or two (thousand) this is not the most popular part of the Christmas tree business. Daughter Angie has stepped up over the years for this thankless task and as a result the trees always looked great. Angie continues her tireless efforts to help manage the plantation.

Thanksgiving weekend each year marks the beginning of the cutting. Kathy, the eldest, remembers being stuck under a pine tree in the snow Up North and told to keep an eye on her younger sisters, of which there were only a couple at the time, while Glen went off to cut trees. She figures she was about five years old at the time.

I was supposed to arrive for cutting one Saturday morning at 9am to help Glen and Angie’s hubby Paul. I rolled in to the tire store at around 9:45 and when they asked me what the holdup had been, I told them I had stopped by the house and was filled in on the morning plan by Angie. Knowing nods and the remark that ‘in that case I was right on time’ followed.

The idea to sell Christmas trees was initially to make a few extra bucks for Christmas presents for the rapidly expanding Johnstone clan. The first trees sold for a buck in 1964. In 2008 dollars a buck would be about $7.50 so tree costs have not outpaced the Consumer Price Index by much. Jean’s main job was as the ‘tree twirler’. The tree needed to be spun around so the discerning prospective buyer could make sure the entire tree fit the space and d├ęcor in their house. Of course most guys would just head down and buy the first tree they see without paying much attention, much less requesting a ‘twirl'. Many of them would be back shortly with a sheepish look on their face after being ripped by the missus, and instructed a bit more specifically on what they needed to look for. You can bet these guys asked for a twirl.

David, 5th kid in the clan, now owns Glen's Tire - and has contributed a great deal to the sales at the 'shop'. Living the closest to home, he has always been loyal and 'on call' for the tree business - often offering the services of his great employees in a pinch. Mark, the 9th 'kid' in the family, being a tree guy and lumber professional - is 'jack of all trades', and is always around to lend a hand. Tess, Anner and Erik offer moral support from Colorado and when back in Minnesota are sure to be Up North surveying and enjoying the land.

There are lots of great stories! One memorable incident occurred when an over the road trucker, deadheading home, cut a ‘Charlie Brown’ tree from the side of the road. When he noticed the beautiful trees at Glen’s Tire as he rolled down Hwy 23, he figured he better stop and get a decent one to avoid any marital criticism when he arrived home. Unfortunately he was tapped out, no money. Jean gave him the tree and wished him a merry Christmas. On his next run through Mora he stopped and paid her for the tree.

Over the years many folks were given trees and a number of trees were delivered right to people’s home, a mission that I’ve participated in a few times. One time a customer was looking for a specific size and type of tree and the perfect tree was growing right in the front yard of the Johnstone home. Glen cut er’ down and the customer went off with a tree and a great story as well.

A few years back a new priest arrived in Mora after doing a stint in Africa. He was so pumped about the snow and winter that he insisted in heading Up North with Glen to cut down two perfectly matched trees for the front of St Mary’s Catholic Church. The duo made this trip an annual event for a few years.

Since 1964 there have been thousands of trees planted, sheared, pruned, cut, shaken, sold, and enjoyed by families in countless homes, businesses and places of worship all over the Mora area and beyond. A tree always made it back to North Dakota on the roof of Kathy's car on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. It was tradition! She and two tired little boys would set it up quickly Sunday night - ready to decorate during the week.

As I sit and type this post I’m looking at and smelling a perfect white pine, my favorite tree on the planet, that came from Glen and Jean’s land. Its hard to overstate all the hard work that went into the trees but as I look at our white pine (large retro colored lights that we had when I was a kid, by the way) I have to figure it was worth it. If you think of all the folks that have experienced the same enjoyment that we are over the years, the people that bought or were given trees, it has to make Glen and Jean smile just a little bit inside. It was a great run.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Hand Dyed Wool Turned Felted Stash Bowl

In a previous post I talked about my adventures with hand dying wool with black walnuts. I managed to turn the wool into something and I wanted to share it. Imagine that...a felted bowl! The color ended up being much lighter than I wanted but it is a lovely winter white.

Containers, organizers, declutter baskets, stash bowls, jewelry holder...I just can't seem to get enough of these. I have felted bowls all over the place in my house. I am surprised that I can keep my shop stocked up because my daughter steals all the cute ones she wants to keep.

On this bowl I added a little leather lacing for embellishment which can be used to hang earrings! (a shout out to my mother in law for that idea)

I have other felted stash bowls in my Etsy shop in which I have added embellishments. It adds a little character to each bowl. I have also been making personalized bowls with names, inspirational words and so on. I recently made one for a customer with her business name on it...kind of fun!

Check out the funky earrings (see photo) that I made for my daughter.

They are felted swirls in her favorite color and the other pair is a chain of felted circles. She told me recently that people at school tell her she has the coolest earrings. She is still young enough to admit to her friends that her Mom made them. I will take the compliments from her while I can...teenage years are right around the corner.

Until next time...Anne

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Jyri Scarf by Berrocco- Norah Gaughan

This summer we were camping in Grand Junction with Anner, Jimmy and kids, and Nancy Koepsel. We were up for the weekend biking at Kokopelli bike trails, just west of Grand Junction. While we were there, we were looking at this catalog that sold very very expensive clothes but they were really beautiful. On the front page of the catalog was a lady modeling a sweater, leggings, and a very nice cashmere scarf. I said to Nancy, "What is about this picture that looks weird" She said that "there is no snow". Yes, it was one of those models you see holding a pair of skis and you know for sure by looking at the ski equipment and the model, that they have never skied in their lives. For some reason, I am attracted to the old photos taken of people with skis, even if they don't know how to ski. I love all the vintage photos from the old days. I have a whole bunch of them and will get them organized and share them someday. If anyone has any old photos to share, please do so. I love looking at them and reading about where it was taken.
This photo was taken by Jason. I was modeling a scarf that I made for my friend Marilyn. Thank God there was some snow in the photo! Tess

colourmart yak/mohair/silk/merino

Slide Show of our Hand Made Items Using Smilebox

I have been playing around with slide show programs today. I thought I would give this one by Smilebox a try. I loaded photos from our Etsy websites and here is the result. Let me know what you think.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Slide Show
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Make a Smilebox slideshow

Treasury Made it to Front Page of Etsy!

I wanted to give a shout out to all the sellers included in this treasury.
I also wanted to see if I could add this cool widget into my blog post and it looks like it works!

I posted about Possum Season Treasury created by TheVintageBearLair. I received a message today that it made it to the Front Page of Etsy!

Congratulations to all of the sellers selected and thanks to TheVintageBearLair for including us!


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Finally have a moment to take a few runs.

Magnus has been busy working up on the North sea as an Environment Engineer but decided to take a trip to the States. He Flew into Albuquerque New Mexico and traveled throughout the western half of the US and finally found some snow in southern Colorado. Magnus is a telemark skier and has been skiing ever since he was a kid. He has some relatives up near Denver Co so he will eventually end up there during the Christmas Holiday. I think that he is happy to be on vacation and skiing in the worlds best snow. Well, hopefully he will get to experience some more powder before he departs for Oslo, Norway in January.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Felted Nesting Bowls Featured in a EtsyTreasury!

Sorry, I don't mean to 'toot my own horn' but I thought it was interesting that I had just written about creating a treasury and then I was featured in one. Happy Day!

Recently I wrote about creating a treasury on Etsy which is a website where you can sell your handmade items.
Today I received a message from TheVintageBearLair informing me that she selected my felted nesting bowls for her treasury. How fun! I thought I would go ahead and mention a few of the other sellers that were selected. Some of the sellers that stood out for me were Stemellina from Athens Greece. The photo of the felted necklace is listed in her shop. Her items are gorgeous! She creates felted brooches, earrings, hair pins and much more.

Another seller lisazain has a pair of vintage suede oxford lace up pumps listed in her shop. How fun are they? She has vintage shoes, bags and other fun items.

Etsy, besides being a place to sell handmade items, is also a site that has lots of vintage shops. The items have to be older than 20 years...hey girls...maybe we should look through our closets to see what cool items are hiding in there.

One more shop that is super fun in this treasury is Blubies. This seller creates cute cuddly creatures with socks and felt. She is inspired by her surroundings in the Blue Mountains of Australia. I will definitely be researching this region to learn more about it. Check out these fun shops on Etsy and let's continue to support the handmade community. There is something for everyone!

Here is the link for the treasury...Check it out ...
Possum Season Treasury

Until next time...Anne

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Creating a Treasury on

I have been working on putting together a treasury on Etsy. Etsy is a site where you can set up shop and sell your handmade goods. It is an awesome site and there are tons of talented people selling on this site. A treasury is a list of sixteen items plus four alternate items that you choose. It is not for self promotion but to show case other wonderful sellers. The other great reason to create one or be featured in one is that they sometimes make it to the Front Page of Etsy. This is like striking gold for the handmade seller. If people can see you featured on the main page then there is a chance of success which is wonderful!

I of course included my two sisters who have shops which are kmgrafsgaard and mjstoneleather. They are super talented and make wonderful items! Kathy specializes in devotional beaded jewelry such as rosaries which are spectacular. Her inspiration comes from the Great Lakes region where she spends tons of time. This region feeds her soul and it comes across in her jewelry pieces. A popular seller for her are the Psalm 23 bracelets which are breathtaking. Margie has been in love with leather for as long as I can remember. She still gets giddy every time her shipment of leather arrives in the mail. She worked for Berman's in Minneapolis which was established originally in the late 1800's as a hide and raw fur dealer. This is a great indicator that her items are made from pure L*O*V*E. Check out their links or click through to their shops from our blog. Maybe Margie will fill us in on the history of the Berman's company which eventually became Wilson's Leather.

In my search for treasury items I have discovered shops that make items with stones, metal, fibers, beads, leather and much more. One particular shop I found while browsing around was ConnectedElements. This gal is from northern Minnesota and her shop consists of jewelry pieces that are made from stones, different metals, glass and the items are truly unique and interesting. Another shop I found called LimeGreenModern is based in Colorado. She makes very modern and simple silver jewelry pieces which are classic and stylish.

Yet another shop is LinenMe...she has purchased from me in the past and is from Lithuania. She makes linens to die for! I love her linen hand made scarves and hope to purchase one from her someday soon.

I am having a couple of problems in creating my treasury and that is waiting for a spot to open up. You have to wait until the treasury number drops to 333 which is a bit difficult to have the patience and time for. The second is deciding who to include since there are hundreds of incredible shops to choose from. I did find a helpful tool called poster sketch where you can make a "sample" of your list and arrange it like you want. This helps a lot so when you do get a spot you are ready to go.

Wish me luck and hopefully I will snag a treasury spot very soon.

Until next time....Anne

Monday, December 7, 2009

USS Arizona

Pearl Harbor

It seems like when this day comes around, I think of all the soldiers and citizens that went through this surprise attack from Japanese zeros on Dec 7, 1941. In 2005, we finally got to see the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. We went to the visitor center early in the morning and got in line to visit the Memorial out in the bay. We ended up being the last two to get on the launch for the first wave of visitors.
Once we got out there, we got off the boat and walked around the Memorial and nobody said a word. For nearly a half hour, we just looked into the water and onto the shores of where the USS Arizona was moored. The boat was resting on the bottom of the bay and you could see the hull but that is about it. We could see the docks where all the battleships were. The Arizona was not the only ship that got hit. There were a lot of fatalities on the other ships as well. If I remember right, the Park Rangers told us that a lot of the larger carriers were out to sea so it could have been a lot worse than it was.

If this isn't on your bucket list of things to do, I would highly recommend a visit. Tess

Friday, December 4, 2009

US 2 1/2-ton, 6x6 Trucks in WW II

Most people call them Duece and a 1/2 but in WWII, these trucks were the workhorse of the war. They typically hauled medical supplies, troops, and ammunition. They were made by GMC in 1941 and nearly 800,000 were made. There were other manufacturers but GMC was noted to have the best design and capabilities. The original design was powered by gasoline but in later years was converted to diesel truck.
The duece and 1/2 was also used in the Korean War, Vietnam, and some use in Afghanistan. The trucks that were used in Vietnam were under daily attacks by the Vietcong guerillas so they mounted armoured plates and armed the trucks with 2 x M60 7.62mm machine guns. This allowed the soldiers to get supplies to the fronts. In the first photo, The U.S. Ninth Army GMC CCKW truck, just after crossing the Rhine River, March 1945.

The second photo is another duece and 1/2 that is used at Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Thunderbird tour company uses these trucks to do tours in the canyon and the Canyon de Chelly maintenance uses them to run supplies into the canyon. These little stray kitties were sunning themselves on the hood of the truck last week.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Back to "Class" at the Kennedy School

We are heading to Portland, Oregon this morning to visit GGG's oldest son and his lovely significant other. This is a repeat of last December's trip to this fabulous city.

We will be making a return visit to The Kennedy School - one of the very unique McMenamin properties. This is wonderful school was built in about 1915 in a trend-setting single story design. It was saved from the wrecking ball in 1997 by McMenemins and local supporters. Check the website for more history - it is fascinating!

In my former career as North Dakota's 'chief lunch lady', I traveled to Portland and other cities frequently. But traveling for work - especially with little guys at home - left no extra time for exploring destination areas. I am enjoying travel much more now, since it is a true vacation.

I wasn't able to check out the school lunch program (I instinctively head for the lunch room when I get to a school) at the Kennedy School last year because the cafeteria has been transformed into a restaurant for hotel guests. But in addition to other art in the building, we came across this vintage National School Lunch Week poster. I just had to have my photo taken by it - for old time's sake!

We are really looking forward to another stay at this fun place - and showing it to our traveling companions, Deb and Rick. I can hardly wait to see the 18' spruce Christmas tree in the lobby, and a visit to the "Boiler Room Bar". We will be 'sleeping in class' again this year - as the classrooms are the hotel suites. They retain the original blackboards, have plenty of chalk for doodling, and are loaded with charm.

This hotel is a Portland treasure, and I highly recommend it! More later....

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dolls, Dolls and more Dolls....

When I was a kid I did not want to have anything to do with dolls, dresses or anything 'girly'. Bring up this topic to my Mom and she will tell you...I was a pill. I remember First Communion when I refused to wear the traditional white dress. My Mom, exasperated by her youngest daughter, finally relented by letting me wear a lovely corduroy green blazer and pant ensemble. I was so tres sheik in my Dorothy Hamill haircut and boyish blazer. I figured she had plenty of girls to dress up all feminine and frilly. I was the last girl and she did have six other girls to play dress up with. (just joking Mom) I was such a Tom Boy that the only dolls I would play with were the Johnny and Jane West dolls which were dolls straight out of a western movie scene. Click on the link to check out the commercial which is pretty funny. I did love these dolls, horses and all of the accessories they came with. I have seen them in antique stores with very high price tags. I suppose a person could check out Ebay for one of these retro items...*pondering if one needs a Jane West doll*

Anyway, I found this great site with information about the history of the Kewpie doll. Tess recently posted about her kewpie doll and I did some further research on the subject. Check out the "Margie" kewpie doll isn't she sweet? Did I just say a doll looked sweet? But seriously, isn't she sweet? Ok...truth be known, I don't mind dolls but only the ones handmade by my Grandmas and of course the Tom Boy dolls from the Marx Toy Company.

Our Grandmas were very artistic, crafty and talented. They gave their daughters and granddaughters many dolls over the years and I have a few in my home. The two women had totally different styles but were equally as talented. Grandma Stafford hand stitched all of the detailing on her doll clothes. Incredible!

Here are two photos showing their different doll making styles. The doll in the long gown is a president's wife (I believe) and was made by my Grandma Stafford...does she look familiar to anyone? The little girl doll with freckles and hand crocheted dress was made by my Grandma Fritche. Isn't she cute?

If there is anyone who knows about the history of the kewpie doll or loves to make dolls...send us a comment...we would love to hear from you. Of course I would love to hear about anyone else who was obsessed with Johnny and Jane West dolls...

I will close for now so I can go have "flashbacks" about playing with my Tom Boy dolls, with my Dorothy Hamill haircut and dreaming of the day I could get a real horse. ahhh those were the days...

Until next time...Anne

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Kewpie Doll by Cameo

The little doll I found in my storage shed was the Kewpie doll. After doing some checking, this doll was manufactured from the Cameo company out of Port Allegany Pa. in 1974.
I think the clothes were either made from Grandma Stafford or Fritche. It looks a bit more like Grandma Fritche's work though. Does anyone know anything more about the Kewpie dolls?


Green Cleaning

Earlier this year I decided that I'd had enough of expensive laundry detergents and decided to make my own, and have done so ever since. I scouted the internet for a recipe and proceeded to make my first batch. And it was very easy. Here's the recipe:

Homemade Laundry Soap

1/3 bar Fels Naptha Soap
1/2 cup washing soda
1/2 cup borax
2 gal. bucket

Grate soap in a saucepan. Add 6 c.water and heat until it melts.
Add washing soda and borax; stir until dissolved. Remove from heat.
Pour 4 cups hot water in a bucket, now add soap mixture and stir.
Now add 1 gal. plus 6 cups of water and stir.
Let soap sit for 24 hours and it will gel.

Use 1/2 cup per load.
Don't wait for any soap suds, you won't get them.
I feel this laundry soap has been doing fine job, has saved me lots of money and has been much gentler on the environment.

I'd also like to mention two other cleaning products that make rather than buying the expensive, sometimes caustic products. The first is an all-purpose cleaner.
In a 32 oz. spray bottle combine 1/4 c. white vinegar, 3 1/2 c. hot water, and 1/4 c. liquid dish soap. Mix thoroughly. Label the bottle. I have this handy in the kitchen and use it daily.

The other is a window and glass cleaner. Mix into a spray bottle 1 Tablespoon white vinegar, 1/2 rubbing alcohol and 1 quart of water. For best results use a small squeegee to remove excess water. Polish with a soft. clean, lintless cloth. Label the bottle.

Distilled white vinegar disinfects and helps break up dirt, Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol disinfects and borax disinfects, bleaches and deodorizes. Simple, everyday products that are safer for you, save money and are kinder to the environment.
Sources for the last two products National Geographic's Green Guide, " Rachael Ray at Associated content and Mom's Guide to Growing your Family Green," by Terra Weillington (St. Martin's Press).
There are many more ideas out there for cleansing scrubs, oven cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners and daily shower cleaners.

Vintage Dolls

I don't know how many people admit to playing with dolls but we all know now that Anner and my Mom play with their dolls. I was looking for a doll to give to Avery and I found one that I got a long time ago from Grandma Stafford. I knew I had the dolls but they were in a box in the shed so I decided to drag them out. It has to be old but I haven't really researched it yet. This doll might looked familiar to some of you. If you know the history, feel free to elaborate.
I also remember a doll that was in Grandma and Grandpa's house at Mud Lake. Her name was Clatilda. She now belongs to Margie. Tess

Leaving My Rut

Since I'm just a recreational / hobby jewelry maker, I don't stay tuned in to the trends very well. I have found products that work well for me and, out of habit, have continued to use them. For example, sterling silver French hooks. Always a winner, and very popular. And still in demand.

But there is more out there! And I am now officially going to get out of my rut.

The online environment for handmade, vintage and supplies - Etsy - (where 3 of us have shops) - is a fantastic place to locate supplies. I have found a couple of wonderful shops - Desert Fire Designs , for fabulous beads and chain - and Beads 4 All - where I can find bronze. Both of these sellers are friendly and professional. The products are exceptional.

I have just located another shop that I intend to check out today. I am interested in these handforged almond ear wires for Christmas gifts. Never heard of almond ear wires before - but look how sleek and modern they look. They would be great with a fabulous crystal or stone attached. Credit goes to the shop - Rockis Supplies for the photo, and the inspiration! I will be shopping today!

I have always tried to support main street businesses. When I was in Bismarck, this was very simple. A quick walk or drive downtown - 1 stoplight. I walk into the bead store where the owners are my friends, and they start heading toward the sterling silver case because they know that is what I am after. They share their ideas, fill me in on some special stones that will be coming in and always tell me in advance about the sales.

But living in Minneapolis is a completely different story. The closest bead shop with the best selection is in Uptown. If you are not familiar with Uptown - it's a young, hip and happenin' neighborhood just south of downtown. There are lofts, trendy hair salons, great restaurants, and lots of tatoos. I feel very old when I enter this neighborhood. At the bead store, the snooty young lady with the cat-eye glasses and jeans folded up on the bottom (to her knees - why do they do that? Looks like she's wearing GGG's jeans only she's about 22" around the middle) looks at me like I'm on 'leave' from the nursing home. She watches me warily to make sure that I'm not going to 'boost beads'. When she is confident that I am probably an honest customer - she goes back to her bead counting and sorting. I have to work very hard to get her attention when I have a question, or want to pay and leave. Also, it takes me 15 minutes and 15 stoplights to get here on my work noon hour. So add that to the 'waiting to get noticed' and check out - plus my return trip - pretty much burns the entire hour.

Why do this?

It will be less and less - that's for sure. I am leaving this rut too! I now have favorite sellers on etsy, where there is a relationship and loyalty forming. I give these marvelous women and men credit for creating a great personal shopping experience in an online environment. It is not as easy as one might think!


ps - by the way, I try to not look as elderly as I am by using natural products from JoyfulGirlNatural on etsy. The products are wonderful and a great value. I will never buy Estee Lauder again (sorry Estee!). When the packaging is too complicated to open and is worth more than the product inside - you know it is time to move on....but that's another story.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Vintage Sweater

I finally got Avery's sweater done. The pattern had one large button on the top and since I don't know how to knit button holes, I just knit a small I-cord for the closure. I had left over yarn so I knit a small hat, and baby skinny scarf. Hey, I wonder if they make baby skinny jeans??

This sweater is so soft and it really reminds me of Grandma Stafford's sweaters, although there is a mistake in the cable. I was going to pull it all out but the gal that owns the knitting shop told me that if i pulled it out that she was going to beat me. Ha Ha!!!! Tess

Drop Spindle

I finally got the roving back from Marilyn last week. She spun the first round on this Baltic top merino and told me that I should take a crack at it. If you remember from one of the blogs, Marilyn used her Mom's Navajo Spindle, which is a lot bigger than the one I have. It looks a lot easier watching ladies spin on a spinning wheel but it was fun. The thing about spinning is that you get totally engaged in it and you don't think about much else. I had the music going and it was probably about 68 degrees or so. This yarn is a bit chunky and slubby. The definition of slubby is where you get kind of a thick and thin or at least that is what I gathered from the gal I bought the spindle from. We'll see how it comes out after I knit that hat. I think Anner said she might have some lime colored accent yarn that I will do the fair Isle with. Stay tuned for the finished product. Tess

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sweet Breads

We were invited to our neighbors last Sunday night and they had the recipe books out on the table trying to figure out some ideas to make for Christmas gifts. Well, other than knitting and buying some cheap gifts for the kids, I was thinking of doing some baking. I know that this is nothing new but I had never really baked during the Holidays. This year I will try some sweet bread and maybe some type of dessert to make for my close friends down here. Other than fruit cake, does anyone have any other ideas for baking over the Holiday? Thanks, Tess

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sonoran Desert

I really liked Anner's blog and I wanted to add something about one invasive species that is encroaching the Tucson area. This invasive species is called Buffelgrass and it was brought in to bolster the range production for sheep. The main problem is that it cures out relatively fast and becomes a fire hazard. In the mid 90's, a lot of the west was going through a drought there were several fires in the Phoenix, Tucson, and surrounding communities. These fast moving fires typically damage the stems of the cacti and ultimately kill them. This bunch grass grows and reseeds so fast that local volunteer groups cannot keep up with it's advance. If you would like to know more about this invasive grass, click on the link. I wanted to add another image of a Saquaro that I saw at the Saquaro National Park. Tess

Saguaro Cactus and the Mysterious Sonoran Desert

The Native Americans of the Sonoran Desert are very in tune with the nature in this region. They look at the land as your relative and if you throw trash on the land you are throwing trash on your relatives. When we die we go back into the earth so let's take care of it as best we can.

The saguaro cactus and the Sonoran Desert are very sacred and mysterious to the Tohono O'odham Indian people. These cacti are thought to be people and if you look long enough especially at dusk or dawn...they truly look like people. My kids said that at night these cactus walk around and when morning comes they go back to their spot. I can just picture it...can't you?

The fruit of the saguaro cactus are very important as well. When the natives harvest the fruit of the saguaro it is so important it is considered their New Year. They use the fruit to make jam, syrup and even wine. The Sonoran desert may seem like a prickly and desolate waste land but in fact it is filled with life. So many animals, insects, rodents and reptiles live in the desert and let's not to forget the hundreds of varieties of plants. I would love to see the desert in bloom someday...I think it would be spectacular!

The size of cactus shown in the picture is approximately 100-150 years old...isn't it incredible? He also looks like he is alongside the road hitch hiking his way to California or some other exotic destination.

I just love being amongst these quirky cacti...Make sure to stop at Saguaro National Park if you are ever in the Tucson area. I don't think you will be disappointed unless you were here in the middle of the summer and hit a day of 114 degree temperatures.

Until next time...Anne

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tohono Chul Park Tucson Arizona

My family has been in Tucson Arizona a few days visiting family and it has been great to feel the heat of the the sun. My mother in law and I visited a really neat place today called Tohono Chul Park in Tucson. Tohono is a Native American tribe name of the region...Tohono O'odham Nations. It is only about five minutes from my brother in laws house which is really great because it was recently named one of the top ten botanical gardens in the world. I had never visited this park before and thought it was just awesome. It is located in the city which makes it even more special because it is a mini oasis amongst tons of homes, businesses and convenient stores. Living in the mountains we never get to see all of the cool desert plants such as agave, cholla cactus, saguaro cactus, ocotillo, palo verde trees and so much more!

The history of this place is quite interesting. We talked to a volunteer at the park and she told us that a family named Wilson owned 39 acres of land here for many years. They were offered a truckload of money to sell to a development company that wanted to build a strip mall. They turned down the offer and decided to turn the property into a non profit park. Teaching people how to preserve the fragile Sonoran Desert was much more important than the lure of money. This was an incredible decision because it has turned into a wonderful park that people from all walks of life can visit and learn from. Plus at the same time this family has a legacy they can leave for their children and generations to come. Such a gift to give....

I would say it is worth a stop if you are ever in Tucson. They have a tea room where they serve "high tea" and they also have an excellent lunch menu using local organic produce. There is a wonderful children's garden area, performance garden, art exhibit area, gift shop and much more. They also have "Holiday Nights" coming up here for a couple of weekends at the end of November and first of December showcasing music, lights, hot cider and holiday fun!

It was a lot of fun to check out a new spot in Tucson. I have been here many times before and I have to admit it is growing on me. I know I wouldn't survive in the summer but in the spring, fall and winter it is just lovely.

Here is a photo of the typical desert scene in Tucson....saguaro cactus, prickly pear and many more poky plants! By the way...we had a prickly pear lemonaid at lunch and it was super refreshing and interesting to try. Next time I will try the Prickly Pear Margarita! Are you up for it girls?

Until next time....Anne

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Vannas of Vintage

The women in our family and many of my friends have a shared interest in vintage. We love to re-use, re-purpose and find great bargains. I found this fantastic green glass serving dish for $1.00 at a very secret junk store. I used it today to tote cranberry - walnut bars to a gathering with girlfriends. This is so 1950's !! I can just see the original owner - a woman wearing heels and a little apron serving her cocktail party guests.

We "Vannas of Vintage" are continually spinning the Wheel of Fortune to find another perfect treasure.

One of my friends shared her practice of buying inexpensive bowls or plates and delivering food to a pot-luck or party - and telling the host to 'keep the dish' ! She has done this with small covered casseroles found for little or nothing. Bringing warm apple crisp and leaving the casserole dish it was prepared in is a great way for your host family to remember your special time together, and the special friend who left her treasure!

Just look at that handle!

Vintage is interesting, unique, generally high quality. It has history, and can be a conversation piece. I love the retro look of glassware and cookware. Old linens are very fun as well. Clothing generally runs smaller than today's sizes, but the place I often look for vintage ( is very good about giving detailed measurements. Several high quality photos are generally provided, and a disclosure about things that the seller wishes shoppers to know before purchase. I have never been disappointed.

This morning I purchased a pair of grey suede Salvatore Ferragamo flats (1970's) for $20 on I know that they will be smashing, and I didn't need to go near a mall - which is perfect. And I'm supporting an 'at-home' business - which make me feel good.

The Blue Cottage in Mora, MN is a great place to find re-purposed household goods and some clothes. It is a wonderful place to shop for gifts, as well. It is lots of fun to find a little item that is perfect for that special friend. Last weekend I grabbed a comfortable, crisp white shirt for myself for $4.00. If you need to down-size at home, places such as the Blue Cottage are a great place to consign. Plus - it's just downright fun.

The "Vannas of Vintage" are in full swing this holiday season - being thrifty, earth-friendly and supporting small businesses. Most importantly - having a great time! Kathy

Friday, November 20, 2009

pecan/pumpkin pie

Does anyone have a good pecan pie recipe? We have been invited to Carolyn's for Thanksgiving and she wanted us to make a pecan and pumpkin pie. I have tried baking these before. Help!! I rarely bake desserts. Tess

Thursday, November 19, 2009

New designs

Why is it that everything comes back into style? I have been trying to design some new hats and sweaters but what I dream up is something that was once popular. But wait, it should come back into style soon. I talked to Anner about some boot toppers, which are knitted boot socks that fold over your " Frye' boots. What else right! Well, it seems as though some people are saying to me that they are " Way 80's and out of style" I say to them that they are just coming back into style. The styles in the early 80's were weird but they are all coming back into style now. This makes it easy to knit up new trendy stuff for gifts, especially for young people. The other styles that I am attracted to are styles from the 20's and 30's. The idea is to knit items for women with curves. All I see in magazines now are models that haven't eaten in 2 years or so and they just look angry. I would be upset to if I had to eat a carrot and a glass of water every day. I think that healthy women are much more attractive, especially if they have a few curves. I am looking for some new ideas for knitting items for women that have curves. I think that I would like to focus on ski clothing. Tess

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

...Speaking of Playing with Dolls!

What I want to know "Skippy" the Scarecrow ready for Thanksgiving?? He must be, as he was recently spotted sliding down the banister in Mora. Grandma just can't control this guy, and Grandpa is the instigator.

Stay tuned for a full report. There were plenty of antics last year!

"Heirloom Design"

An article was recommended to me by GGG. It was written by a fellow kayaker Sharon Bloyd-Peshkin, and references a phrase "heirloom design" - coined by 2007 MacArthur Fellow Saul Griffith. He states that making products durable, repairable and upgradable lowers the quantity of energy required in making and distributing products.

The author of the article makes great points about consumerism, quality, trends, the global economy, history, keeping jobs local, the environment, food, and much more.

I remember growing up there was a shop in town where you could get your tv and radio fixed. Fixed! How novel. Also, Mr. Mauer would come to the house if he was needed to repair the washer. My mom and I frequently joke about coffee-makers - which brand to buy, which will last? How do you find that balance point where the cash you dish out for the new appliance will get you an adequate amount of satisfaction - as measured by time. As a society, we are forced into situations similar to buying the $20 coffee maker and fully expecting to trash it in 6-8 months. And we usually do.

I say enough!! I know lots of people including most in our family, plus several friends - who gets tons of satisfaction at the junk and thrift stores, repurposing things, making something out of nothing. Making "hand made"!

I'll be looking at Louie's (junk place) for a percolator coffee pot when our drip model gives out. I don't need my coffee maker to start itself, tell me the time, anticipate the kind of grounds I use, give me a weather forecast, or channel MPR.

I just need coffee.

Read the article - it's well worth your time.

By the way, I read an inspiring article about a local businesswoman who has started a Twin Cities affiliate of Dress for Success - nonprofit organization dedicated to helping disadvantaged women "in work and life". A great place to donate work clothes no longer needed.

Ole and Lena Ski Colorado

Quite a few years ago my Dad gave me these hand carved gnome skiers which are named Ole and Lena. As you can see from the photo Lena is 'lena down the hill' if you get what I mean? He actually carved these fun characters and I still don't understand how the whole process of wood carving works. I do not have the visualization to see the final carved piece in a block of wood. Wood carving is among one of my Dad's many, many talents. Yes Dad, you are "uber talented"! And yes, I just used the word "uber" in a sentence.

Back to Ole and Lena. Normally these gnomes would be cross country skiing which is kind of like running on skis. You use your skis and poles to move your body across the snow which takes some serious strength and endurance! In Scandinavian countries cross country skiing was used as a way to get from point A to point B. It was also used during hunting as it was an easy way to get around in these snow covered areas. Cross country skiing has evolved into a recreational sport and gets your body into excellent shape. Trust really does.

But Ole and Lena were getting tired of working so hard while skiing. They decided to take a trip to Colorado for some downhill skiing. Now of course they were interested in the big time ski areas like Aspen, Telluride and Vail but their budget was tight (they are after all wood carvings). They drove all the way to Colorado from Minnesota to check out some smaller more intimate ski areas. They were pleasantly surprised when they found areas such as Loveland Ski Area, Wolf Creek Ski Area and Monarch Mountain Ski Area. These are just a few of the smaller more "wallet friendly" ski areas in Colorado.

As you can see Ole and Lena had a gorgeous day of skiing in the mountains. Ole was trying to impress Lena by dropping off some cliffs into the fresh powder but not to be outdone Lena was right on his tails. That is some "sick air" you guys! I hope you stuck the landing. Eventually the couple had to get back to reality (you and kids back home) but their time in Colorado was so incredible they are planning a return trip for next season. Until then...keep on skiing. If a carved gnome can do can you!

Ski ya later....Anne
(see what happens when you spend too much time start playing with and talking to dolls that don't talk back) Scary! See "Crazy" Gnarls Barkley....

The happy couple...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Beautiful and Functional

This is intended to showcase my sister Margie's great leather goods. I agree with her, there is something very special about fine leather. And when it is crafted with exceptional care into items that bring beauty to everyday tasks and events, it is even more special. This photo was taken by GGG up at the hunting camp. Pictured are the new camp 'log', and the larger one is a photo album that is used to hold pictures from a game camera. Another great accessory is the planner that can be filled with any brand of planner pages. GGG is never far from his.

These items are perfect for the outdoor and hunting aficionado. They fit in perfectly 'up at camp', and will travel easily to work. At that big meeting, others will look with envy on the fine leather planner with the antler closure. (This has really happened!). Kathy

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Another thought!!

How about a cool shot of all the Sister's for Mom and Dad but with a theme of some sort. I was thinking if we could have someone (Dave) to take a photo of all of us girls in our togs from our ancestry. Really!!!!! Irish and Vikings. I get to wear the helmet. Ha. Ha. Just a thought.

I think you would be impressed that I have nearly all my Christmas shopping done and on the table in the living room. Jason is scratching his head????????????????? Tess


I have an idea. Thanks Anner (Lorenna McKennitt) for putting the thought in my head.

How about a video of the Sister's for Mom and Dad. Like a video of all the girls and their passions and dreams and expectations. We could start it at Anner's house and then she could e-mail it and then the next sister could add something really cool. I think that would be a real cool timeless piece for Mom and Dad along with their B&B somewhere. This could be your special 10 minutes of time to express your thoughts and dreams to Mom and Dad. I know I am more comfortable doing this.

Or, you could tape your own and then mail to Anner or Kathy so they could photo shop it and edit changes of any kind. I think it would be cool. Some IT specialist (Jimmy) may be able to tell us how to do it.

Let me know if this is to weird. tess

Be "Sparkling" at the Holidays

Lately I have been intrigued with using oxidized metals - especially bronze. Oxidized sterling is great too, but I don't have a source. I think that the professional jewelry makers oxidize their own silver. If anyone knows about this process, please let me know.

The picture shows three earring options for incorporating a Swarovski (c) crystal with bronze. I think the reason that I like bronze is that 1) it is less expensive than sterling, and 2) it goes great with darker or olive skin tones (like my sisters and I!) It seems more natural looking to me.

Simple, elegant and sparkly.

What was that line in 'Rainman' where Dustin Hoffman told the woman of his desire (his brother's girlfriend) - that she looked "very sparkly"? Love that movie.

Here is a way for you to shine at the holidays for just pennies. The Swarovski crystal is the finest in the world and comes in a huge variety of colors and shapes. I have used round faceted beads in two of these examples, and a helix shaped on the kidney wire. My favorite source is They have a free shipping option! If you order your color in AB (aurora borealis), it will have extra sparkle and really toss the light around. The three samples are in clear AB.

This photo is a pair of earrings that my friend Lila
(Dog Day Studio) made in a very unique Swarovski bead shape, cosmic, using sterling. This is a larger bead - nearly an inch from top to bottom. Perfect for a special performance at Orchestra Hall, or a night on the town.

The sparkle on your ears will match the sparkle in your eyes with these! Kathy

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Canyon de Chelly

This photo was taken by E.S. Curtis in 1904. This was De Chelly canyon before any of the Tamarisk, Russian olive, and Cottonwoods were in the canyon. The residents of the canyon typically had two homes, one in the canyon and one of the mesa top. There are really old trails that go to the top of the mesa. Some of the trails still have the original hand and toe holds from the Anasazi (Ancient Puebloans) people. The Hopi and Navajo came in after the Ancient Puebloans and inhabited some of their dwellings. I am not an Archeologist but I have heard from my co-workers that most of the Navajos will not enter cliff dwellings or burial sites. It's kind of weird working with our crew and Archeoligists. In most cases, myself and crew will discover artifacts that have been covered for years. Most in the form of rock art, ancient hand and toe holds, and surface sites. My co-worker Anderson just discovered an ancient rock art panel just after we had cleared the trees away from the walls. The panel had horses, antelope, and other figures that were in perfect condition. An etching on a wall for nearly 1000 years still blows me away. The Archeologists had not ever seen it, which didn't surprise me. Most of the sites on the Colorado Plateau are covered with vegetation now. They believe that the Indians used a lot of wood for building and heating, making the mesa tops very spare. Tess

Friday, November 13, 2009

Just another day on the job!

When I am not knitting and gardening, I have another job where they pay me. Ha! We spent the entire week burning the slash piles that we created all summer long. The weather was beautiful. It was probably high 60's low 70's all week long and the guys and myself burned nearly 56 acres worth of piles. We even worked on Veterans Day. The slash that we are burning is made up of Tamarisk (salt cedar) and Russian olive species. These species were planted in the canyon in the 30's to prevent erosion. Little did they know back then, that the canyon would be filled with these species. The main problem is that they suck up an incredible amount of water. The channel incision is so deep because of the canyon being chocked out by these species. The Park officials decided that they wanted to "restore" the canyon back so that the native grasses, forbes, and tree species could thrive providing habitat for wildlife and open range.

The Park is still considered tribal land but the Park Service takes care of tourism and protection in the canyon. The locals call the canyon the "The living community".
I am glad that I am able to help them restore their lands back to it's original state.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gettin Gifty in the 'Hood

The owner of my hair salon "Foiled Again" in NE (Nordeast) Minneapolis, invited myself and 6 other 'artists' (I'll use that term loosely for myself) to show our stuff at an event tomorrow night. The event is "Gettin' Gifty in the 'Hood". I haven't participated in anything like this since I left Bismarck 2 1/2 years ago. But I'm sure it will be fun.

NE Minneapolis is a ethnic melting pot, made up of descendents of Polish, German, Slovak, Finnish, Russian and Ukranian immigrants that came for the employment opportunities offered by the grain mills and sawmills along the Mississippi River. The demographic now is younger and even more diverse with a relatively recent influx of African American and Somalis.

This is not your suburban strip mall environment, or pre-fab 'town' with the fake Main Street (think Maple Grove). It is quite trendy with fabulous 'one of a kind' restaurants, galleries and shops. The city's only authentic Irish fish n' chips place, The Anchor, recently opened in the neighborhood, and joins the classics such as Nyes Polonaise Room, Jax, and many others that have been around for decades. I'm sure that our parents went to these places on their 'hot date' nights back in the late 40's early 50's.

A favorite haunt of ours is "Grumpy's" bar - famous for hotdish night (a buck a bowl) every Tuesday, and vinyl night (bring vinyl albums to spin, and your first drink is free) on Thursdays. Annie makes the city's best cosmopolitan - and I am certain to be there when she is tending bar. It's really fun to watch Dave (Gitche Gumee Guy) belly up to the bar in this blue collar neighborhood and then totter back to our table balancing a pretty pink martini. Priceless.

Well, Nordeast has a Catholic church of one ethnicity or another, and at least one bar on nearly every block. Interesting dynamic. So, maybe there will be some hip urban folks who need a rosary bracelet for 'grandma' tomorrow night.

Dyeing Wool with Black Walnuts

My sister sent me some black walnuts that she had picked up down in Arizona with the thought that I could use them to dye some wool. It took me a while to get around to it but I finally did it. I soaked the black walnuts in a large stock pot for a couple of days. I was going to soak overnight but it turned into a couple of nights. I strained out the walnuts and other gunk and was left with a dark brown dye bath. I then heated up the dye bath to a simmer and placed the wool yarn in the pot. I then turned the heat way down so it the wool would not turn into felt in the pot. After a bit, I turned the heat off completely and let it soak all afternoon. I noticed that the color wasn't soaking into the yarn that well so I added some alum into the bath. Alum is used as a mordant which helps set the dyes into the wool. There are many other mordants such as tannic acid, sodium chloride, salts of aluminum, chromium, copper and iron. These aren't that readily available so I used what I could pick up at the local grocery store which was alum. I believe that the color ended up a bit lighter because I may have needed more walnuts. I will get some more from my sister hopefully and try it again. Black Walnuts are supposed to be the best for natural dyeing. It was fun to try it and I will do some more natural dyeing as soon as I get my hands on other plants. Plus I need some lessons from our expert Misslynn. Now I just need to figure out what I want to knit up with my new color.

I found this great website...check it out! Pioneer Thinking.