Tuesday, December 06, 2016


Amy treated us with a visit to Glensheen which is a historic mansion in Duluth.  Admission is $15-$26 depending on which tour you're going to take but with her military ID, she can bring up to 5 family members free of charge.  We're fond of saying, "If it's free, it's me!"  We were there at 0845 waiting in line for the gate to open and it's a good thing too because it was busy.  The mansion is currently decorated for their very popular Christmas tours.  Only Minnesotans would wait outside in cold weather with snow actively falling!  I noticed some nice hand knits this day too!  ;)
Even the stables are decorated!  And they go all out.  Beautiful fresh greenery and garlands everywhere and lights hung on practically anything that didn't move.
The house was completed in 1908 so if you like Titanic or Downton Abbey, this is the perfect time period for you.  I loved all this white tile throughout the servant areas of the house.  This tree was in the carriage house where you enter the grounds to start your tour.
The grounds are rather extensive with a man-made babbling brook and trails/tunnels.  Much of the trails are not open to the public but I watched a special on TpT and there was talk of interest in opening them.
Of course the upstairs rooms were beautiful but much of the first floor formal rooms were quite dark and flash photography was not allowed.  This is the grand staircase with stained glass windows. 
This is the view from those windows.  That water you see is Lake Superior.  Talk about your lakefront property!
This is Mrs. Congdon's bedroom upstairs and was so bright and beautifully blue. 
She had a lovely view of the lake out her bedroom window.
As we approach her writing desk, what do we have here?
Why it is a bead crocheted reticule!  I might have to try and steal this design for my fair project next summer!  All the furniture in the house is original and was custom made in Minnesota.  You see all sorts of Arts and Crafts period furniture and Art Nouveau stained glass and lamps.  Gorgeous.
Sewing room.  Mine is much messier.
I think this was a larder off the kitchen.  I love rooms like this.  Just look at all that storage!
Of course I loved the kitchen but I was a tad disappointed.  It had been the most renovated room in the house because of course the house was occupied up to the late 1970's so there was a modern electric oven and refrigerator.  My favorite part of stately homes in England is always the old kitchens and implements.
Storage room for all the dishes and china.  Who needs a hutch when you have an entire room?
This is the glorious breakfast room or Green Room off the kitchen.  Just look at the view out those beautiful windows.  What a great place to read or knit!
This was a downstairs storage room.  Again note all that "below stairs" white tile.
Laundry room with a ginormous mangle and clothes horse.
There were 25 Christmas trees throughout the house, even one in the boiler room!
We had almost as much fun outside as we did inside.  The grounds and trails had these lights set up and it had snowed all day while we were there.  It was a perfect Minnesota day though because it really wasn't too cold, the snow was heavy "snowball" snow so it didn't blow around and just coated everything so beautifully.  I really liked this picture I snapped of my niece.
Here is my brother's family halfway down the trail that leads to the shore.
Can you see the ship on the horizon?
The self guided tour was set up so cleverly.  You exited the house via the laundry room and before you did, there was an urn of hot water and packets of cocoa mix and jars of marshmallows and candy canes.  While you traipse around the paths to the bridge and the shore, you have a wonderfully hot cup of cocoa to carry with you, and then you're met by a fragrant fire pit complete with sticks and the makings for s'mores!  The snow was falling, you can see your breath, you have the world's most appropriate beverage and snack, and everyone is bundled up in winter coats and lovely hand knits...I've never felt more like I was in a Currier and Ives print!
Photo-op before we left the grounds.  They also had a Christmas village set up in the front lawn of pine huts selling crafts, coffee, breads, sausages, fresh greenery and garlands, etc.  
What a great morning activity.  And again I'm glad we got there first thing because it was hopping when we left.  Cars lined the streets for blocks as we drove away.  I'd recommend this to anyone visiting Duluth!
And speaking of road trips, my sister took her family to Canada to visit a family friend and they brought me back this Kinder advent calender!  I think the prize on the 25th is a full size Kinder Surprise Egg.  This is quite possibly the best gift I've ever been given!  It's right up there with the Red Ryder carbine bb gun as far as epic presents!  Thank you Lisa and kids!

Pine Cone Feeders

Dave and I drove up to Duluth this weekend to visit my brother's family.  My brother is deployed to Uganda for another 6 months or so and this was our first visit to their new home up north.  They're currently living in a town home while they wait to build a house on the land they've purchased.
They've been clearing their land slowly and so far have put a driveway in.  Amy and the girls drove us out there to show us and I'd brought large pine cones from our neighborhood trees, some expired peanut butter packs we had and wild birdseed.
No these were not going to be high fiber/high roughage snacks for us but rather suet treats for the birds and critters out there. 
When I was a kid, rangers from the Lime Creek Nature Center would come to our school every year and we'd make bird feeders out of 2 liter bottles and they always told us about these but we never actually made them.  I fulfilled a lifelong dream to finally make these and finally had a niece around to do it with!

Come and get it!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Ornament Installation

I've slowly been putting up my Christmas decorations and taking down my fall/Halloween decorations.  I haven't had the time to do it all in one afternoon and when I do have the time, I haven't felt like doing it all at once so basically I'm doing it on the Installment Plan.
One of my favorite items I've picked up on every trip to London are these couched goldwork ornaments.  I'll be honest, they are expensive ranging from 8.95-18.95 pounds each but I figure I'm going to have them the rest of my life and they are stored carefully 11 months of the year and displayed and treasured on my Christmas tree every year so I think it's a great souvenir.  Very many of my ornaments were purchased on trips.  This butterfly came from Hever Castle.
This beautiful poppy ornament commemorates WWI and was purchased at St. Georges Chapel in Windsor. 
Of course I had to get a Corgi ornament!  This one also came from St. George's Chapel.  If it weren't for the fact that he has 4 legs, he'd kind of look like Zak!
This one was purchased at Westminster Abbey and is a 90th Birthday medallion for Queen Elizabeth II.
This one is a domestic ornament purchased on sale at Joann fabrics but it warms to my theme!
I was pleased as punch to find this nisse the last time we went to IKEA.  We'd never had a nisse in this house for Christmas so it was about time.  We should have plenty of good fortune because we have a gnome in the garden and now a julenisse in the house!  He stands in the front landing next to my potted palm and umbrella tree.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

It's Heeeeeeere!

Winter that is!  We got our first taste of wintry mix weather on Friday and I actually had to scrape my car a bit before I left the ramp.  We'd managed to get all the way through November 18th before having to deal with that.  The snow melted off the roads but dusted the ground a little.
We woke up Saturday to this gossamer coating the backyard and deck.  Temperatures were in the mid 30's and noticeably chilly.  I put away my jacket and resigned myself to the winter coat for the next few months.
This morning was greeted by a frozen pond with geese sitting atop it.  I was quite surprised by this.  Right now temps in the low 30's seem so cold and that makes me feel like a wimp.  Temps in the 30's are nothing but I also realize it is all relative.  In March and April, temps in the 30's will feel like a heat wave and we'll be happy to go out in short sleeves but for the moment it chills you to the bone.
These are my Socktober socks from this year.  I used some hand spun yarn I bought a while back at the now defunct angora goat farm near my brother's old home.  It was a wool plied yarn that was plied along with another 2 strands of plied mohair yarn.  I separated the mohair yarn from the wool and knit the socks from just the wool using the Saxony sock pattern from the book A Fine Fleece.  I don't know what I'll do with the mohair yarn.  I'm sure something will come to me.  I owned this yarn for a while before the perfect project occurred to me and I had just enough yarn for it.  Eventually the right project will come along for the mohair.  Stash karma is real!
With this cold weather, I've finally turned the furnace on and we have two dogs sleeping with us at night.  Here is three legged Zak in a trapper hat.  He is so darned cute!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Home Improvement

Another big strike project was painting.  I painted the entryway and stairway single-handedly using an edging tool on a telescoping pole.  I was sure I'd break my neck on a ladder or scaffolding getting that area done but I hardly had to step higher than a chair using that pole. 
We chose satin paint in a lovely taupe, kind of a cappuccino-with-cream kind of color.  It looks so much nicer than the flat pale cream color that was throughout the house when we moved in.  It showed absolutely every mark.  You'd walk by it and it would leave a mark.
Between the entryway, the foyer, the living room, the dining room, the hallway and the kitchen, it took about 3 and 2/3 gallons so I've got plenty left for touch ups. 
I love this picture of all my rosaries.  I took them all down when I moved my shelf and it reminds me of Pope John Paul's childhood church, the Basilica in Wadowice, because visitors hung thousands of rosaries on the gate inside one of the chapels.  They look so pretty all draped together.
On the subject of religious items, I was excited to finish painting so I could finally hang up my mezuzahs.  Mother brought me this one from her last trip to Budapest.  It hangs between my bedroom and sewing room doors.
This one I bought in Krakow and was particularly excited about.  It is hanging inside our front door which I'm aware is technically incorrect.  I know it should go on the outside of the house but there is vinyl siding out there and nothing to nail it to.  Also, I wanted to see it every day and protect it and the prayer scroll from the elements.  I'm so happy to finally have them hanging up.
Mom came to stay with us for a week and helped me paint my bedroom and put up this "headboard" made of mock tin tile back splash panels.  She bought them for us as an early Christmas present.  The color of the walls was inspired by Clementine Churchill's bedroom at Chartwell which was painted "duck's egg blue".  This was the closest we could muster and I love that it goes with all my textiles and a print I'm going to have framed when I have some petty cash.
Mother remarked that the space above the headboard needed "something".  I then remembered I had a real Marimekko panel I picked up in Finland years ago that had been sitting in a box in my sewing room ever since the trip.  Mom and I visited Stockmann's which is Helsinki's answer to Harrod's and patronized the fabric/wool/haberdashery department.  Marimekko is THE fabric souvenir to bring back from Finland but it is very expensive, as in $30/yard so we quickly found the remnant bin.  I spotted this piece, only 32" long, but I loved the colors and knew that some day I would do something with it.
Mom had the very good idea to make a casing at both the top and bottom of the panel so I could hang it both ways and quickly give the room a new look by turning the panel the other way up.  I love that I'm slowly bringing things out of my stash to decorate my home.  I've been traveling for 15 years collecting objects along the way and now that I have a house, I finally have a  place and means to display and use them and that makes me very happy.