March 19, 2013

December 31, 2009 Another Year

Filed under: General,◦Country Living,◦Family,◦Friends — sharon @ 3:35 pm

New Years' Eve
Older and deeper in… Well, it’s been quite a year. We are thankful that business has not been as bad as it could be. And that we are warm inside despite this morning’s dusting of snow, not hungry, and relatively healthy. We’ve made our donation to Feeding America, and we’ll make more, I think, because the need is so great.

I can’t believe this blog is now 1 1/2 years old. I had hoped that having a blog would make me more productive, more communicative, even more creative – and it does provide a certain amount of pressure to produce something (anything) meaningful, that someone besides us will actually care about. I’m not sure we’ve been very successful, and I know we’ve been at times neglectful, but the blog has not always been the first order of business. Perhaps the year to come will see us more loquacious, more inspired, even more profound!

The folks on the farm are hunkered down in the cold snowy weather: Our garden chicken,
New Years' Eve

And one of the fluffier neighbors.
New Years' Eve

Since we are inside and warm, we plan to stay that way, celebrating marking the passage into the new year curled up here at home, probably sound asleep at midnight. I know I’ll be crossing out dates for a while, as usual, but otherwise will neither curse nor welcome the passage.
New Years' Eve

And we’ll all be looking through the chilly mist that hangs in the air, hoping for that first glimpse of a spring thaw, ready to go round the seasons once again.
New Years' Eve

Happy 2010 to all our friends, readers and customers. We’re looking forward to getting to know you all better in the coming year!

March 18, 2013

September 22, 2009 Shades of the Night

Filed under: ◦Country Living,◦Family,◦Food,◦Friends,◦Gardens — sharon @ 3:03 pm

There are a number of plants in the nightshade family, most prominent among them the potato and the tomato. Late last night, President Obama was on the Late Show with David Letterman, and accepted a gift from an audience member – a heart-shaped potato. Did you see that dinky thing? That was no potato, that was simply an aberration! At least, that’s how it appeared compared to our potato, posted on this blog back in April:
lovin' potato

Now that’s a heart-shaped potato! I knew I should have sent it off to the White House!

In other nightshade news, there are two new appearances of Tim Stark on the net. One is from NPR’s Science Friday on the subject of late blight, the same problem that caused the great Irish potato famine of the mid-19th century. This year it’s wreaked havoc upon the tomato crops in the northeastern US.  And there’s another video just up on youtube. It’s an intro for a video chefs tour of New York city being produced by the website Much of the video is filmed at Tim’s farm and at his market stand in New York, at the Union Square Greenmarket. Here’s the intro:

Can’t wait for the rest of the tour! Thank God that many of the tomatos have so far escaped the blight. I’m not tired of them yet, nor have I frozen enough to last me over the winter.

September 21, 2009 Camera woes revisited

Filed under: General,◦Friends — sharon @ 2:55 pm

About this time last month I wrote about the problems with my trusty Canon A-80 digital camera. I can’t say enough about the great service from Canon – free return shipping, free repair, and back good as new in only 8 days! Or it seemed good as new, except a little less sensitive to light, and therefore with a slower shutter speed when the light isn’t bright enough. This can be a problem when you’re trying to take detailed shots indoors, with no tripod.

But I didn’t complain, after all it was turning out the usual great pictures again. For two whole weeks, two and a half, even. Then suddenly a series of pictures that came out totally overexposed and washed out. Ok, turn it off, change batteries, back on…. it’s working fine again. For three more days. And then, blackness. Darkness. Nothing.

Canon is again fixing it at their expense. How can I complain about a 5 or 6 year old camera that I’ve used for more than 26,000 photos? I mean, it has to die eventually, right?? So, everything considered, I am still very pleased with Canon, both for quality and service. And when my camera comes back again next week, I expect it will go on working for some time.

All that said, the A80 has always had limitations, most notably the fact that I have to get pretty far away from something to get it all in the picture. A large quilt, or tablecloth, won’t all fit unless I hold the camera waaaay up over my head. And it does tend to use up batteries fairly quickly, though a new set of rechargeable ones will usually go several hundred pictures per charge. Unless I leave the camera turned on after downloading pictures…. (a bad habit!)

SO, I bought a new Canon. This time it’s still a PowerShot but a step (or 2 or 3) up. And since technology has come a long way since the A80, lots of improvements. It’s an SX20, with a much wider angle for near shots, more manual adjustment capability, 12 megapixels vs. 4 in the A80, so lots more detail and definition is possible, and it zooms to 80x for telephoto shots. And a different sort of memory card, too. I have been accustomed to downloading after every 50 shots or so, since my memory card was then nearly full, and a larger one – back when I bought the A80 – was rather expensive.

This time, a 4 gigabyte card was $15 with the camera, and holds more than 900 shots at the highest resolution. A larger, brighter display makes outdoor use easier on a bright day, and I love the lcd that swivels to various positions – one thing the A80 had too, and I didn’t want to be without. Can you tell I’m enjoying my new toy?

My buddy Chiru here is helping me check it out:

A pretty steep learning curve, but the basics aren’t bad. And so far, even with all the zooming, the large display, electronic continuous focus and image stabilization, among other features, still on the first charge of the batteries.

I promise, I will still love the A80, and will probably take it with me more often to lots of places since it will now be the second camera. What a world of difference from my first Kodak digital. 1 whole megapixel, a battery hog, and all. I’m embarassed about many of my old pictures from that one, but I’ll be making up for it.

March 17, 2013

July 12, 2009 Fuzzy finds

Filed under: ◦Fabrics,◦Friends,◦Vintage — sharon @ 2:56 pm

The last weekend in June we participated in another of our three annual shows in Kutztown, PA. It was warm and muggy, and sales were sluggish, too. But what’s always the most fun of any show is the wonderful discoveries – the new finds that add to the breadth of your inventory and your knowledge.

We look for many things at the local shows and markets: fabric and feedsacks, linens, quilts and all sorts of textile items – and also just any odd thing that is intriguing. Because the summer show is smaller and less busy, we found less too, but didn’t come up empty handed. Along with a stack of thirty-some feedsacks, we found these three chenille bedspreads. Unusual ones, that we hadn’t seen the like of before.

The first one was a real surprise. I’ve seen lots of those chenilles with the gaudy peacocks, either alone or in pairs, but here, wearing a skirt of similar design to all those peacocks’ tails, was a genuine southern belle!
southern belle chenille

Alas, it’s not in perfect condition, with a number of holes in the pillow end, and a few minor ones elsewhere, but it was still irresistable. And I couldn’t list it as a cutter, either. It’s on eBay now, right here, and it appears that it may be hard for other folks to resist as well.

The next one turned up in a booth nearly adjacent to ours, and was another surprise. I’m used to the cherries motif on all sorts of kitchen items – tablecloths, towels, curtains, canister sets – but hadn’t seen it on a bedspread before.
cherries chenille

The cherries spread will probably end up listed in my eBay store, before too long. It’s a pale green, though that may not show too well in my picture.

The last one is for my Kansas friends – a sunflower spread. Yellow and brown, which seems a bit more masculine than most chenilles, but a great design, and nice dense, heavy fluffy chenille.
sunflower chenille

The sunflower spread is already listed here in my eBay store.

When I showed these to my friends at the Vintage Tablecloth Lovers’ Club (we like a whole lot more than just tablecloths), different ones seemed to have a different favorite. All in all, a neat bunch of fuzzy finds.

March 15, 2013

May 3, 2009 A weed by any other name

Filed under: ◦Country Living,◦Food,◦Friends,◦Gardens — sharon @ 2:04 pm

A weed, indeed!

Dandelion is a wildflower, providing us with some of the earliest available seasonal produce in the form of very nutritious crowns and leaves. We generally collect dandelion from beneath a layer of last season’s fallen leaves that have collected in corners of our yard. Those leaves are often blanched for lack of exposure to sunlight, and among the tastiest, tenderest and least bitter of all dandelion. Vitamin and mineral levels are at least twice those of fresh broccoli, and of course there are few calories. Never fear, though, because we live in Pennsylvania Dutch country, where the standard dressing for dandelion is hot bacon dressing, made with bacon, eggs, milk and vinegar, with some sugar added. So you’ll still get your quota of calories and cholesterol!

Foraging friends tell us that they eat dandelion all year, that the bitterness is not overly bothersome if cooked with an ameliorating salty flavor. By now, of course, we’re on to spinach, arugula and other garden greens. Meanwhile, the lowly dandelion, at this point in its season, has also become a great toy, in it’s way – who among us has not enjoyed the perennial childhood pleasure of contributing a puff or two to help spread and propagate their downy floating seeds?

May 2, 2009 Kutztown quilt show

Filed under: ◦Antique quilts,◦Friends,◦Vintage — sharon @ 2:02 pm

This morning we attended a quilt show at the Kutztown (PA) Area Historical Society, Pennsylvania’s Quilt Treasures: The Art of the Needle. Consisting of 32 19th century quilts from the collection of Arlan & Pat Christ, the show features a broad spectrum of eastern Pennsylvania quilts, both patchwork and applique. There’s something for everyone, from early chintz-bordered Rob Peter to Pay Paul quilts, elaborate Whig Rose and less vivid but beautifully quilted lily and tulip appliques. And there’s a lovely book available to accompany the show, so you can revisit the show after it ends.

Some of my favorites may be less extolled than some of the earlier quilts, but in the room devoted to post Civil War quilts there was a wonderful pinwheels quilt that had layers of pattern on pattern, the central four blocks forming a sort of medallion surrounded in trip around the world style by coordinated blocks in three more color combinations, all sashed with a striking striped shirting fabric that really set off the entire design. Also notable was an ocean waves quilt featuring stars in the blocks between sets of waves, and a glorious lone star, from the collection of the late Richard and Rosemarie Machmer.

Arlan and Pat have been seriously collecting antique quilts for a relatively short time, but have a well developed eye – Pat has been quilting for much longer than she’s been collecting. The richness, variety and overall quality of the show does much to reinforce the impression that eastern Pennsylvania still is fertile ground for the serious quilt collector, especially one who loves vivid color. The show continues tomorrow, and Sundays through May 24th, noon to 4 PM.

March 14, 2013

February 14, 2009 Happy Valentine’s Day!

Filed under: ◦Family,◦Friends,◦Vintage — sharon @ 2:37 pm

This little vintage pitcher from Czecheslovakia just sits in our bathroom most of the time, sometimes with an added rose or two from the garden. It’s damaged, and wouldn’t sell for much if anything, but it’s fine for me and the whimsical decoration always brightens my day when I look at it, and it’s perfect for Valentine’s day!
Czech pitcher

February 10, 2009 The future arrives….

Filed under: General,◦Country Living,◦Family,◦Friends — sharon @ 2:12 pm

We’ve been living in the past for so long, little changes seem to take on huge significance in our lives. For years we didn’t watch television at all, then for 4 years or so we watched only a 15 inch black and white. Now that we’ve been using a 17 inch Sony color set for the last 5 years or so, I’m afraid we’ve passed the point of no return.

Living, as we do, pretty far out in the country, and using only the rabbit ears antenna attached to the set, we’ve had to settle for a total of four broadcast channels to get our television fix. With the coming of all-digital TV later this year, and the impossibility of rabbit ears pulling in any channel at all out here in the sticks, we’ve finally entered the 20th century (I know the calendar says we’re in the 21st, but give us time.) and gotten a satellite receiver.

This may explain why we’ve posted fewer blog entries lately, as we play with the myriad choices never before available. After years of running our website with only a dial-up connection, and last year’s switch (finally) to DSL, now this satellite thingy, soon our Luddite friends won’t know us at all. And who knows what will become of us if this awful progress should continue?

March 13, 2013

January 27, 2009 John Updike, Author, Dies at 76

Filed under: ◦Books,◦Friends — sharon @ 10:52 pm

John Updike

What a shock to see this in today’s New York Times online. I sent this in response:

I have known John Updike for nearly thirty years. He was more than generous to me, a fellow Berks County Pa writer. Before her death nearly two decades ago, his mother was a close friend of mine. Linda Hoyer Updike was a writer in her own right, but ferociously proud and protective of her famous son. She adored that boy. I can think of no better way to honor a great story teller than by telling a telling story:

One afternoon many years ago I phoned Linda (at the Sandstone farmhouse) to tell her I’d just received word that a story of mine had been selected for inclusion in Best American Short Stories, my first. Of course I was ecstatic. My news fell into a pit of deep silence. Finally Linda responded. “Well, dear,” she said, “I’ve never heard of that book but I’m sure it’s very nice.”

Shortly thereafter Linda ended the conversation and I went about my business. Maybe ten minutes had passed when the phone rang. To my surprise it was Linda.

“You know that book you’re going to be in?” she said. “I just called John.” (i.e., John Updike, of the towering literary stature, of countless awards and prize story inclusions!) “Well guess what,” she said triumphantly. “He’s going to be in it, too.”


That famous Updike edge. John came by it naturally.

He will be sorely missed. His like will not be seen again.

January 25, 2009 An art deco quilt design

One of our quilts has probably the most art deco styled geometric pattern of any I’ve seen. Thanks to some help from a fellow member of MAQSG (Mid-Atlantic Quilt Study Group), we were able to determine that the quilt was professionally designed. Hubert Ver Mehren’s designs were published in the DesMoines, IA Register, and were often available in kit form, sometimes pre-cut, sometimes outlined on uncut fabric, and sometimes only the pattern. We had some help from Sue Miller, who’s done the most extensive research on Ver Mehren and published an article on his work in Uncoverings 2000. vol. 21 of the journal of the American Quilt Study Group.

ver Mehren Chrysanthemum quilt

We bought this quilt here in eastern PA about 8 years ago, mostly because it was so different from anything we’d seen before. Using all solid colored fabric in a geometric design reminiscent of the broken star pattern, it was intensely captivating. When we realized that the central star had eleven points, we thought it even more remarkable. According to Sue, this is Ver Mehren’s Chrysanthemum pattern, a copy of which was printed in the Register as below:
Chrisanthemum pattern

You may notice that the original pattern has a 12 point central star and a narrower border section. In addition, our quilter has apparently changed the border layout somewhat, as the sections in red have three protruding points each, rather than just two, and there’s no transitional area between the red points and the green. There’s also a bit more white space between star and border than called for in the pattern.

Apparently Ver Mehren’s intricate geometric patterns were often difficult to piece, and it was therefore not unusual that in endeavoring to assemble a 12 point star, the quilter found her star complete with only eleven. Additionally, apparently the central junction of all those points was rather sloppy, so she added a disk in the middle to cover the disarray.

Sue said that she believed this pattern was available only as a paper pattern, so the color and fabric choices were most likely those of the quilter – we found the use of an orange-red in the star and a deep red in the border was a not unfortunate choice but added an additional level of interest. The quilt is quilted as shown in the pattern, and hand bound around all those little points. Sue also mentioned that even with the modifications, this was the first and only example of this pattern that she’d actually seen “in the cloth.”

More pictures of this quilt can be seen on our website here.