Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Sandy, New York and Porch Party

I've talked about my friend Sandy before...she started out as my hairdresser. The turning point in our friendship was when she made me the official tour guide of our 2009 trip to New York City!!
You know how much I love THIS particular shoe shot...me, Sandy, Evelyn, Carol and our Rockefeller Docent...
This is Sandy -- during our lunch at Tavern On The GREEN...we couldn't possibly know that this fabulous world class landmark restaurant would CLOSE by the end of the year...
Me, Evelyn, Sandy and Carol. It was the first New York City trip for the three of them -- and I LOVED BEING their official tour guide...
Of course, I take EVERYBODY TO ELLEN'S STARDUST DINER...and I cannot remember ever having a better time.
Back in our regular Iowa lives -- we love to get together and catch up.  I invited them over for a summer lunch...and OF COURSE, I GOT OUT MY BEST PORCH/PLASTIC DISHES...
I made a wonderful spinach salad (with strawberries and a rotisserie chicken..).
Fresh melon and grilled cheese sandwiches rounded out the menu.  I cannot tell you how delighted I am to own a plastic serving platter shaped like a fish...
With this group -- THERE WILL BE WINE...(the wine glasses are real)
Of course, the purpose of the lunch was to unveil the sofa I sewed this summer...
For dessert, I served ice cream treats...lol... I love these women. Sandy, Carol and Evelyn grew up together. By the time I met them, they had all lost their husbands.  I call them the Merry Widows. Their lives have not been easy -- but they survived, made adjustments, accepted very difficult changes and they help each other to make the most of each day.

Spending time with them is always a joyful thing for me. They make me laugh, they make me think, and they make me grateful.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

McCausland Labor Day

I was one of six kids growing up on a farm just outside of McCausland, Iowa. In the 60's, Labor Day was THE EVENT of the year in our little town. Hundreds of horses came to town from all over the state for the big trail ride, there was a wonderful parade, and the whole day was busy with activity from morning until night..

My boys grew up ten miles down the road -- so McCausland Labor Day has always been part of their lives. The event has morphed.  They don't do the trail ride anymore...and for a couple of years, it deteriorated into a drunken street dance....

But I am happy to report that it has come back to be a family friendly all day event -- with a world class car show -- and a GREAT PARADE.  This year, I attended with my friend Bert -- who also grew up in the area...
This guy has been coming to McCausland for a very long time, eh??
The streets are full of people -- and it was a gorgeous day!!
Every Fire Truck in a 30 mile radius was in the parade...
Lots of kids groups did floats!!
And we are pretty proud of our vintage tractors
In my lifetime, this building has never been a bank....it was a bar for many years, then a gift shop, right now, it's empty -- but on THIS DAY -- it's where they lined up the trophies for the car show!!
It's such a struggle for a small town business. But, FOR THIS ONE DAY A YEAR...McCausland kicks ass...
There were so many incredible cars -- hundreds of them!!
Although the car show is the biggest part of the Labor Day Celebration nowadays -- there is something for everybody.

There is a lunch at the McCausland Methodist church...and a large charity auction of different gift baskets, all donated by area businesses or families.  A pancake breakfast at the Fire Station, a craft show in the middle of the street...

Bert and I had a wonderful time.  We saw people we haven't seen in many years -- and it was surprising how many old neighbors we bumped into, just walking the car show.  It was fun to catch up with people!!

Whatever celebration you town does -- PARTICIPATE!!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Monday Laundry: Washing Wool Blankets

I'm going to tell you how I WASH MY WOOL BLANKETS.  Keep in mind this information is strictly from my own personal experience. AND -- I HAVE RUINED THINGS. Over the years -- MANY things....But -- it is my hope that you can learn from my mistakes.

Because of Ritaluck, I have purchased many beautiful wool blankets at auctions or estate sales. Finding a vintage Hudson Bay blanket, or a beautiful Fabrico blanket (in it's original box, wrapped in tissue) is a HUGE THRILL for me.

This is just one stack of wool blankets -- I have another trunk FULL of ém....
I am a big lover of wool blankets because they provide warmth, yet they also breathe -- even on the coldest nights. I am not a fan of down-filled comforters. After an hour, my own body heat gets trapped and I wake up sweaty and clammy.

Wool blankets will last for generations.  But , if they are stored improperly or mishandled during laundering, they can be ruined -- with no chance for a comeback.

In the good old days,blankets were hung out on the clothesline once a month or so to air out.  I love to do this, because it is a complete refresh! Just hang your blanket out, over the line, and shake-shake-shake. The dust will fly, and if you get a breezy day, your blanket will smell amazing when you put it back on the bed.

When I was a kid, we'd hang the blankets out our bedroom windows, closing the window to pinch the blanket so it would hold. Many homes did this on Monday -- as the bed sheets were being laundered and hung out on the line -- the windows were wide open, as the blankets and bedspreads were given a good shake, then left flapping in the breeze until it was time to remake the beds in the late afternoon...

But, today's blog is about how to actually WASH YOUR BLANKETS. In order to get pictures, I am washing this gorgeous Hudson Bay striped wool blanket I bought at an estate sale for $5. Chances are it's at least 40 years old. It is in excellent condition, and I'm pretty sure it has NEVER been laundered.

Because I think it's valuable, washing it does scare me.  More than a little.  After this initial welcome-to-my-home-laundering -- it might not be washed again for five years.
CAUTION: The two things that will felt the wool and shrink your blanket are HOT WATER and AGITATION. So always keep that in mind....be gentle....

PREPARATION: Watch the weather channel. Even if you start early in the morning -- the days are getting shorter -- and you need the cooperation of the Sun Godess and the Wind Prince for a blanket to get completely, totally dry in one day.

If you put a very dusty/dirty blanket into your washing machine, you could be making mud.

So -- the first step is to SHAKE IT OUT.  It's best if you have two people for this job.  Go outside -- and SHAKE, SHAKE, SHAKE.  If you don't have a helper, hang the blanket over the clothesline and SHAKE, SHAKE, SHAKE or, beat with a rug beater... Let the dust settle -- and DO IT AGAIN.

If this is not an option -- lay the blanket flat on your floor and VACUUM IT.  Flip it over and vacuum both sides.

Size of the load: My washing machine can accommodate one blanket with two bath towels. The towels help balance the machine, and they add some extra bumping during the wash cycle.

Settings:Warm wash, cold rinse, extra large load.
DON'T BE IN A HURRY. I start my washing machine, dissolve the detergent in the warm water, let the tub fill totally, then put the blanket (and two towels) into the water. THEN, I let it sit for at least 30 minutes. The nature of wool is that it's nearly water repellant -- so it's best to let the wool fibers relax into the warm soapy water...give it some time. After I run the whole cycle, I finish off with a second complete cycle of cold water wash/cold water rinse. I don't add soap or detergent for this last cycle -- but I add 1 cup of white vinegar -- to make sure I kill all the suds action and remove any lingering stale odors.

Stay in the vicinity of your laundry room when washing blankets. The machine could go out of balance -- and the spin cycles are when your blanket is in danger of getting tangled around the agitator -- so I check often to make sure that's not happening. TOO MUCH AGITATION WILL FELT YOUR WOOL. So,watch very carefully, but let the machine do it's job...
I frequently checked on the blanket, making sure the water isn't too warm, and the blanket doesn't get tangled during the agitation process...

The final step in this process is to take your blanket OUTSIDE to dry. The combination of the sun and the breeze is your blanket's best friend.

*********#######@@@@@@CAUTION: NEVER PUT A WOOL BLANKET IN THE DRYER...THAT WILL FELT THE FIBERS, DISTORT AND DESTROY THE SOFT NAP OF THE WEAVE...

If you have a sunny, fenced yard (with no pets) -- you could simply lay a sheet on the grass, then your blanket, with a second sheet on top. Weigh down the edges to keep things from blowing or folding...

If you have clotheslines (my preferred method), pin a sheet between two lines to create a blanket hammock. Lay the blanket on top. Pin a second sheet on top of the blanket (for bird poop protection). If the weather cooperates, the blanket will easily dry in one day. You do not want the wet blanket to carry it's own weight via the clothespins....that would create pokey stretch marks....
Sheet #1 is a hammock...
The wet blanket lays on top...
The second (top) sheet is a bird poop protector

If you get caught by the weather -- and your blanket doesn't dry -- leave it hang overnight. A full second day will surely do the trick.  AND IT WILL SMELL AMAZING.  Or -- you could help things along. Lay the damp blanket flat on your floor -- and strategically place a fan to move the air over it. Flip the blanket frequently...

***!!@@@CAUTION: NEVER, EVER fold or store a damp blanket. Mildew will form in just a matter of hours -- and you will NEVER win that battle.

When your blanket is COMPLETELY, TOTALLY, 100% DRY -- lay it on your bed, and brush the fibers in the direction they want to go. (usually, from the top down to the bottom). This final step is important, as the wool fibers may stiffen during the washing process.The brushing relaxes those fibers, removes LOTS AND LOTS OF fuzz balls, and your wool blanket will be fresh and soft...
About the brush...I never actually had a clothing brush (like Downton Abby). But I'm happy with the brush that came with our pool table. Its 12" x 2" -- and the bristles are sturdy, but not harsh. I also think this bristle hair brush is way better for blankets than it ever was for hair...
The newly laundered blanket got so soft after brushing...
You will be amazed at how much of the wool pills off onto the brush...especially if the blanket has never been washed before.
I think you will be very pleased with your freshly laundered wool blanket.  My machine-washing-method isn't fool proof. But, for me, it was easy to be brave, because the blanket only cost me $5. I didn't want to pay $20 to have it dry-cleaned, and I hate that chemical smell. I suspect there was some shrinkage with my beautiful Hudson Bay blanket -- but that was my own fault. I could have measured it before I started, then blocked it when it was still wet -- to make sure it dried to it's original size.
Although I'm pretty sure it's completely dry -- I decided it should spend the night on the porch...just to be sure...
Even though I thought sandwiching the blanket between two sheets would prevent pin marks -- you can see exactly where it was draped over the clothesline.  That was my fault -- because I didn't make sure the hammock sheet was fully carrying the full weight of the blanket...

I was very pleased with my freshly laundered, brushed blanket.  It got so soft...and it smells AMAZING!!  The one thing I know about Iowa -- FOR SURE -- is that one day (soon) -- I'll be very happy to have this wonderful, warm blanket to put on my winter bed...

GOOD LUCK!! And be sure to let me know how your blankets turn out!!

***********

P.S. You can go to L.L. Bean and buy a new wool blanket just like mine. The full/queen size is only $499.00. And you can probably use it for a couple of years before you feel the need to wash it...

P.S.S. Next week, I will have a guest-blogger for the Monday Laundry post...exciting, eh??

Saturday, September 27, 2014

NEW Living Room Art

In my real life -- ART IS EVERYWHERE.  And I think the best thing about ART is that you can change it up any time you want...And I love doing that.  I like to change my bedding with the seasons -- and I also frequently change my rugs....you know how I feel about Christmas mugs...

But many of the things in my home are more sentimental...than, say -- actual ART....
This plastic peacock was one of my mother's most prized possessions.....BUT, sorry, Mom -- I finally got tired of it.
This is the new piece I hung in this corner...I love the pop of green...
This was my old living room wall.  I have always loved the faces here -- and the original painting ($38 from the antique mall) has been hanging there for five or six years now...
I replaced it with my new painting -- a birthday gift from Bert...
This piece also went up on the wall
There were so many to choose from that day...
I bought it last summer -- IT'S TIME TO HANG IT UP...
I love it when art and words come together...
Anne and Linda both enjoyed our treasure hunt...
I can't believe one of us didn't buy this!!
Or this amazing floor lamp!!
I love Jan Byron dolls.  This one says, "Nobody can be exactly like me....sometimes even I have trouble doing it."
My hallway wall is still full of embroidered samplers...
This one was inspiration for a Ya YA embroidery CD...
A chicken made out of buttons??  I'M TELLING YOU -- THE ART IS EVERYWHERE...!!