Monday, July 27, 2009

H is for.....

Today I feel so happy......

I have to confess that I am a naturally positive and enthusiastic person.  I'm probably hell to live with, but eventually I can see the bright side of just about everything!  So today, when I didn't have a lot of time to do a deep thorough search on Etsy, I decided to make it simple and just search for 'Happy'  As usual the lovely Bbest team didn't let me down, and here is what I found.

This happy little fellow is very aptly named!  Happy Holstein, by luke18,  is looking for a new home.  She is just perfect for hugging, so would be a delightful gift for any child.  The features are all handstitched with love so no small parts to worry about.
These petite, lightweight, blue and black fused glass earrings are from Chauncey.  The chinese symbol for happiness is fused onto the glass and won't rub or wash off.  With sterling silver wires they will complete many outfits. 
Looking for something bright and cheerful?  This fabric postcard certainly fits the bill.  Happy Citrus Abstract is appliqued shapes on a muslin background.  Made by BytheBy it's well worth a second look. 

This little bluebird of happiness is by sixsisters.  Six is such a talented painter, and this original watercolour is a good illustration.   All it needs now is the frame and it's ready to hang on your wall.

More bright and vibrant colours, this time from joonwalk.  If reading makes you happy Pink Swing will make you ecstatic, and so too will the deal that Joon is offering - check the listing to find out more.
Another little bird, but this time a Pendant.  Polymer Clay jewelry by Artsyclay would make a lovely present.  I'm sure you can think of someone that would be really happy to receive this.
Another pendant, but this time it's an Abstract Flower.  Chris1 admits that it was hard to achieve this effect, but she has succeeded and it's  a pleasure to look at.  Isn't that blue simply stunning!
Do you know someone with a birthday?  It's mine shortly, and I wouldn't say 'no' to receiving this card from bbesigns.  I like the wine quote!  Come to think of it - I like wine, LOL.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

My Summer Vacation

Every summer, during most of my childhood, my family made the short trek "down the Cape," to Cape Cod, in Massachusetts, for our annual vacation. This was my father's one big week off from work, and he liked to spend it by the sea, basking in the sun, eating fried seafood, and generally relaxing. We rarely went anywhere else. Sometimes we rented a cottage: one of those tiny, one-room, eat-in, playhouse-like structures that sat neatly in a row with other cottages that all looked exactly the same. Usually these were painted white and sported folksy, green shutters decorated with pine cone cut-outs, or were weathered gray with white trim, a color that was, and still is, synonymous with Cape Cod. Route 28, the main southern road through tourist towns like Dennis and Yarmouth, was famous for a plethora of cottage motels in those days. Later they were replaced with bigger, two-story motels or hotels, and fancier places to stay. But back in the 1960s and early 1970s there were many of these quaint getaway spots. The only trouble was, these groovy little lodgings weren't near the beach, although they were closer to restaurants and shopping. So, in later years, my family - my mom, dad and I, stayed in a motel right on the ocean. To me, this was a thankful improvement as I could now go to sleep with the soft wooshing of the waves rather than the city-like din of highway traffic.

For that one week of vacation bliss (or boredom, depending on my age), we would do all the touristy things that were available, like shopping all the cheesy, themed gift shops vending souvenirs made in Japan (not China back then), and playing mini-golf with its obstacles of pirates, whales and giant lobsters. Oh, there had to be lobsters - everywhere - on plastic toys, on menus, on signs, and on hats. You couldn't get off the Cape without having eaten at least one meal made with fresh, local lobster, and having worn that famous and fashionable "lobster bib" to prevent food from dribbling on your lovely summer outfit. Personally, I liked lobster as long as it was done "lazy man" style, already cut up and dowsed with buttered bread crumbs and cheese. But, given the choice, I'd always prefer the clam strips plate at Howard Johnson to lobster. Ah, those were the days of fattening food without guilt!

Speaking of food, our trips to Cape Cod also inevitably brought indulgences in ice cream and salt water taffy. There was a place we'd visit on each trip that made salt water taffy on site; you could stand outside the window and watch huge, metal paddles pulling and stretching the sugary goodness. The taffy came in a mind-boggling array of flavors and we had to try them all over time. We'd always come home with a box or two of taffy: one for us and one for my grandparents. I can still remember the rainbow of candy colors semi-hidden behind translucent, twisted wax wrappers that you could see behind the clear cellophane window on the front of the white taffy box. Childhood joy!

However, the main event of every Cape vacation was the daily trip to the beach, if the weather was nice. We would pack up the car with our seaside gear which included a multi-colored canvas umbrella with a dangerous, wooden, javelin-like point (no folding ones yet!); bags and bags containing towels and changes of clothes; aluminum folding chairs with woven, mod-colored, plastic seats; and the famous blue and white, hard-sided, Coleman cooler that weighed a ton, especially when filled with food and ice. After we arrived, we'd unload all these "survival items" and carry them over the scorching dunes, barefooted if you were brave, to find that special, perfect spot close to the water, but not too close that we'd have to move as the tide came in. Finding a good spot on the beach was a science!

Once the proper landing spot was selected, the establishment of "base camp" began. First, we'd stake our claim by jamming, as best possible, the umbrella into the hard sand so it would stay upright. Next, the beach towels were spread out and weighed down with shoes, the cooler, bags, and those lovely metal beach chairs, which were now starting to get to skin-burning temperature in the sun. The cooler with all its precious, life-preserving contents, was given the best spot under the umbrella to keep it from the heat of the sun, while the rest of us baked, like potatoes, out in the open. As a side note: Being that ours was a fully Italian family, that cooler was well-stocked with food. I think that we could have survived for a week on its contents. Inside were endless cold cut and tuna sandwiches, fruits of all kinds, potato salads, and sometimes even pasta, not to mention cold drinks AND ice. I am not sure how it all fit in something that was only a few cubic feet in volume, but I imagine it was like one of those tiny cars at the circus where clowns keep coming out: there was some sleight of hand involved that only my mom knew how to do.

After all that packing and unpacking, we were finally ready to sit on the hot sand with hundreds of other folks who were also trying to jam in a year's worth of fun into one glorious, work-free week. The slightly sickly-sweet smell of warm skin and tanning lotion (not sunscreen, as we were not concerned with skin cancer just yet) filled the warm, moist air. Ah, time to settle into that scalding beach chair and relax. But wait, who's ready for a dip in the water?? My mom, being very self-conscious about her appearance and who couldn't swim, never went in the water except for an occasional walk near the edge of the surf. It seemed her self-appointed duty to watch our valuables - the cooler, of course, and my father's wallet, while sitting back at "base camp." My father and I would take the plunge into the cool Atlantic waters, sharp sand and plenty of seaweed under our feet. My father didn't really swim; he dog-paddled for short distances, but he did enjoy being in the water - for a short time. I could stay in the water for hours and hours, coming out only to eat from the cooler cornucopia, and to comb the beach for shells. I was a big shell collector in my youth, and trips to the ocean resulted in pockets full of shells and rocks, and any other seaside flotsam that caught my eye.

Being an only child, I had a lot of time to myself to walk the beach, play in the sand and surf, and just think on those family vacations. Lest you believe I am complaining about those childhood trips, I am not. There were some boring moments, but I do have many fond memories of our times by the ocean. Just yesterday, as I was waiting for someone in a parking lot, car windows open to let in the steamy air, a subtle whiff of something salty combined with the hot sun on my arm as it rested at the edge of the window, brought back a flood of sensations that reminded me of visits to the beach. There was something earthy and pleasant about the feel of warm sand by the sea. Of course, there was also sand in my toes, in my swimsuit, in my hair, and in my food. Maybe you haven't lived until you have eaten a tuna sandwich made with tuna and the grit of actual sand. Running my hands through the sand, over and over again, was quite meditative as the waves created rhythmic and soothing background music for my reveries. I could almost block out the surrounding crowd noise until it was just me and the sea, at least in my mind. I am sure my love of being near water, whether ocean or lake, developed there, on the sands of the Cape.

I realize now that I was lucky to have lived close enough to the coast to have experienced the sea first hand. Vacations are special opportunities to go someplace that transports you from the ordinary to the memorable. It doesn't matter whether you go to the sea, to a lake, to the mountains, or to a new city, as long as you see life with fresh eyes and an open heart after having been away. I hope your summer vacation is filled with fun, laughter, and the spirit of the sea, even if you don't get sand in your shoes.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Boomer for a Day!!!!

It's time to give the royal treatment to one of our own. The lovely Jaci from ByTheWay was the winner of our June activity where our members were asked to answer a few questions from past blog posts. So dun dun dun daaaaaa... Jaci is our Boomer for a day! Not only will we brag about her here but we will also promote her on Twitter and make a few treasuries with her in mind.

Jaci has three shops on Etsy and looking into her Bythewayside shop is like taking a walk down memory lane. There are always several items that take me right back to my childhood.

How many of you had these glasses when you were growing up? I did.
and these cups are a great way to enjoy some ice cream
Do you sew? Jaci has some groovy patterns.
In Jaci's ByThe Way shop she has vintage and upcycled items. check out these finds.

Whoo Hoo, I think there might have been four days back in the 80's that I would have fit into this dress... but it is SWEET!



In Jaci's third shop, BytheBy it's all about the little girl in your life. These little dresses are too cute for words.

'Laundry Day'

Hearts and Playshoe Jumper

And last but not least, can we have a collective Awwww for this one?

Peek-A-Boo Sundress or Jumper

So in honor of our Boomer for a Day, please sit back and take a peek in Jaci's shops. And have some Dove's Dark chocolate while you do.... it's her favorite.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sally Visits the Blog

"Looks good!" I exclaimed to myself, as I peeked in the fridge to check the dessert Sally and I were going to enjoy today. As if right on cue, the doorbell rang.

"Sally, so good to see you," as I welcomed her in.

"Good to see you, too," said Sally. "What have you been up to?" she asked.

"Well," I replied, "You know I get so far behind on things sometimes, and these are those times!" I sighed. "For example, I just now caught up on reading the last four posts to our Bbest team's blog."

"Have I seen the blog before?" queried Sally.

"I don't remember," I answered, "But you are about to because these last four posts are really terrific. Not only are these folks all excellent writers, their creative talents are fabulous as well," I continued.

"Well," said Sally, "Let's don't waste another minute. Show me!"

"First, let's read Judy's post about county and state fairs and all the fun, food, and excitement! Makes me want to go to our county fair this year," I said.

"Hey, that sounds like fun," agreed Sally. "Want to go together?" she asked.

"Terrific," I replied, "and now let me show you some things from Judy's shop."
Urbandale, Iowa

"Those are wonderful!" exclaimed Sally. "Who else wrote on the team blog?"

"Pat, of Precious Quilts, wrote about Bastille Day in France. That was a day of liberty for the French people, kind of like our Fourth of July. So interesting and informative!" I said. "Pat makes really lovely items, too," I continued.
West Sussex, United Kingdom

"Ooooh, I love that christening cape," sighed Sally. "Who's next?" she asked.

"Linda, from Nonnie's Treasures," I answered. "She is a stained glass artist, makes jewelry, and collectible dolls. Her post was about old sayings and how they originated. So much fun, and so interesting! I loved it! You will love it, too," I said. "And you will enjoy looking at her creations," I continued.

Danville, Pennsylvania

"Oh, my, those are gorgeous," said Sally. "Who else wrote on the blog?" she asked.

"Well, Liv, from The Filigree Garden, wrote all about the unofficial holidays, such as Chocolate Day and Peach Ice Cream Day, and even made up some of her own! Not only does she invent holidays, she makes lovely jewelry inspired by nature," I said.

Mendon, Massachusetts

"Love her designs," said Sally. "All that reading and looking, and now I'm starving. Didn't I hear something about chocolate when I came in, or was that just wishful thinking on my part?" Sally asked.

"Your wish is about to come true. Come with me, dear friend, and we will savor a mouth-watering no-bake chocolate cheesecake. And before you go, I'll even give you the website where I found it," I smiled.

"Sounds scrumptious!" exclaimed Sally. "And while we eat, can we look at some more of those talented Boomer shops?"

"You betcha," I replied. "We'll just take a peek, and you can check out their entire shop listings when you get home. And, before I forget, here is where to find the recipe for this delicious cheesecake we are eating."

New Brunswick, Canada

Denver, Colorado

Friday, July 17, 2009

Summer's Best of Class

“The Midwest,” proclaims Garrison Keillor, storyteller and host of Minnesota Public Radio’s A Prairie Home Companion, “is State Fair Central, and it thrives here because we are the breadbasket of America, Hog Butcher, Machinemaker, Stacker of Particleboard, Player With Chain Saws, Land of the Big Haunches.” Keillor, who visited six state fairs in 2008—mostly in the Midwest, probably speaks with some authority. The attractions he cites include eating highly caloric food with your hands, enjoying the barkers and hustlers who try to sell you anything you never dreamed you might need, experiencing centrifugal forces (on the Ferris wheel and other rotating devices), mingling with jostling and swarming crowds, gawking at dare devil, foolhardy stunts, and admiring the heaviest, largest farm animals.

As one of those Midwesterners whose state fair (established in 1854) is one of the oldest and largest in the U.S., I’ll admit here and now that I’ve never missed the Iowa State Fair since we moved here in 1991, despite the fact that it takes place in August, the most tropical month of the year. In short, no matter what you wear, clothing will stick to you because the thermometer seldom dips below 90 degrees and can easily edge past 100. Despite the daunting heat, more than a million visitors pass through the gates at the Iowa State Fair each year. Our family can be counted among them. You see, I have the Iowa State Fair to thank (at least indirectly) for giving me the confidence to sell my goods on Etsy, or anywhere at all.

While my husband will tell you he comes for the food—especially anything you can imagine eating on a stick—I am completely swept away by all of the arts and crafts, the needle work, and the fine arts. During the early years, when an air-conditioned building was just a dream, I spent hours beneath the Grandstand in the Fabric & Threads Department, admiring the quilts and knitted afghans, tatted doilies, crocheted sweaters, cross stitched table cloths, tailored garments and more. Meanwhile, my husband herded my son through the livestock barns, the horse arena, and the reptile exhibits. While waiting for me, they bought taffy and Sno Cones, leather goods, knives and other sharp treasures. They even chomped corn dogs while watching time trials for the drag races. I knew their patience had grown thin, however, when my then grade school age son asked, “Is Mom done yet? All they’re doing is driving in circles.”

After repeating this annual ritual for more than 15 years, my husband finally suggested I become part of the action in the Fabric & Threads Department by entering my own items. Several years and ribbons later, I grew enough confidence to open a shop on Etsy. I suspect my story, however, is not unique. Each summer fair goers throughout the U.S. (and likely elsewhere) put the finishing touches on their one-of-a-kind handmade items that will be entered in state fair competitions. This month, in fact, I am aiming for an August 1st deadline. Although the Iowa State Fair only allows state residents to participate in its contests, it occurs to me that BBEST members produce Blue Ribbon items that I would be proud to see at my state fair—or any of the fairs around the country. Here, then, are a few.

Best of Class, Sewing for the Home - Pillowcase
Handpainted Silk Pillowcase, by AltheaP

Best of Class, Clothing for Adults - Special Occasion Dress
Fire Elemental Gown, by cindyjoy

Best of Class, Quilting - Art Quilt
Connections Art Quilt, by artmixter

Best of Class, Hand Knitting - Felted Purse
Yellow Gecko Felted Purse, by maddyandme

Best of Class, Machine Knitting - Baby Afghan
Personalized Greek Name Baby Blanket, by blazingneedles

Best of Class, Hooked Rugs - Originals or Adaptations
Basket of Flowers on Gray, by bethanderson

Best of Class, Crochet - Child’s Garment
Victorian Style Crochet Christening Cape, by preciousquilts

Best of Class, Hand Embroidery - Embroidered Holiday Item
Blues and Purple Temari, by luckygirltrading

Best of Class, Toys and Dolls - Doll Garment
Blue Sundress/Jumper for American Girl Size Doll, by ByTheBy

© 2009 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved. Please note that the images in this post are owned by the artists and may not be used without permission. Simultaneously published at