Thursday, May 26, 2011

Carved Wooden Birds

My mother in-law has always enjoyed watching birds; whether it is at the lake or on walks in the woods.  But, she especially liked to watch the birds at her bird feeders.  In fact, she has bird feeders and a bird bath outside of her room now and watches "her" birds every day.  I think she likes most birds, although I don't think she is too crazy about Blue Jays, as they are a bit territorial!  She has a special fondness for Gold Finch, Chickadees,  and Woodpeckers.

I have always liked the carved wooden birds that she had at her home.  The above birds are very small and are carved very simply.  Their primitive lines look Scandinavian to me.

She also had this great group of four carved birds perched on natural wood pieces.  I like to think that they are hummingbirds.  My MIL was really excited when she saw a hummingbird and always had a feeder outside of her window.  This feeder was great for attracting these amazing birds.

She also had this beautiful carved bird at her home on the lake.  I am not sure what kind of bird it is, but the intricate details are amazing.  The artist is from Midland, Michigan.

My husband and I bought these carved birds at the John C. Campbell Folk School gift shop, in Brasstown, North Carolina.  We went to the Folk School for a wonderful week of art to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary.  I guess you can say it was on our "Bucket List."  The Folk School has many classes available throughout the year, classes that really give you the opportunity to embrace and learn a new art skill.  Needless to say, we absolutely loved it and can't wait to go back!  Anyway, these birds are a very fond memory of our week in the Smokey Mountains!

We keep our "wooden birds" on our window sills so we can enjoy them all year long, especially when most of our "real" birds have flown south for the winter.

Hope you have a great day and a wonderful holiday weekend!

Thursday, May 19, 2011


I love wildflowers.  In fact, I love them so much, that I have a wildflower garden in my yard.  In other words, a collection of wildflowers.  Back in elementary school, I think it was the fourth or fifth grade, I had a fantastic teacher who had a gift for passing along her enthusiasm for learning.  She had interests in many areas!  We were learning about the state where we lived, and a part of that study was learning to appreciate the plants, animals, birds, rocks and minerals, water sources, topography, etc. of our area.  She took us on field trips; and the trip to a nature preserve was the best by far.  Before we left, she had shown us pictures of trees and plants, specifically wild flowers.  She talked about what they were used for in the past and how to identify them.  We were given a list when we arrived at the park, and given the freedom to find as many as we could.  She was so enthused, that we caught on to her excitement and we had a real treasure hunt!  Looking for and finding those plants was sooo much fun!  I've never forgotten it, and have enjoyed wildflowers ever since.  Teachers that go" above and beyond" for their students are the real treasure.  I wish I could thank my past teachers, but for many of them, it's too late.  I have made it a point to thank the exceptional teachers that have blessed my children with the joy of learning.  But, I don't think we really thank our teachers enough.  In fact, my brother-in-law is a fourth grade teacher, who goes above and beyond to provide unique and varied experiences for his students.  I love listening to his plans, whether it is his classroom's vegetable garden (that he tends and organizes students and their parents to care for over the summer- "Weeding, Watering, Wednesdays!"),  their autumn feast from the vegetable garden harvest, bird feeding area, reading centers, writing projects,  Michigan rock and mineral displays, field trips to the state capitol, and on and on.  Not too long ago, he asked for a "State of Michigan" tie for Christmas, to wear at school when they were studying our state.  And yes, he has quite an interesting collection of ties, which of course, his students enjoy!   He is an amazing teacher!  So, thank you teachers for inspiring our children...and making your job, more than a "job."  In my case, my interest in wildflowers and many other things, were inspired by teachers. 

                                          A glimpse of my wildflower garden

                     My brother-in-law                               He's teaching a whole new generation, 
                                                                                              starting with his grandson!

A good reference book for wildflowers is The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers.

 Dutchman's Breeches is a member of the Poppy Family with "pantaloon" shaped 
                                           flowers.  Blooms April-May in rich woods.

My husband loves to garden, thank goodness.  His father was a landscape architect and had his business located on their property.  That meant that he and his brothers spent a lot of time planting, weeding, watering, mowing, etc.  They all learned a lot, and as a result really know how to make a yard look beautiful.  When we moved into our house, he had the monumental task of creating our yard.  I had two requests, a wildflower garden and an herb garden.  I got both, yea!  I know more about wildflowers than he did, so I set out to plan the garden. 

                                                   Toad  or Toadshade Trillium- about to bloom

Blooming Toad Trillium-  interestingly, deer came by, not long after this picture was 
                          taken and ate just the flower of this Trillium.  They love Trillium!
A member of the lily family.  Blooms April-June in rich woods.  Fruit: red berry.

Periwinkle, otherwise known as Myrtle.  Myrtle is a member of the Dogbane Family.  It flowers April-May, and is often seen at the borders of woods, roadsides,  and abandoned sites.   This was an introduced plant and is now seen often as a wild plant, forming extensive patches in the woods.

As stated earlier, my father-in-law (on the right) was a landscape architect and started early in the training of his sons, his "crew."  My husband is on the left, he doesn't look too happy, he must not be pleased with his 25 cents per day pay!  haha  My brother-in-law, the teacher,  is the little guy in the center and always seems to have a smile on his face.  (Love those knee patches!)  My other brother- in-law, is in the back.  The youngest son, still a baby, was not quite ready to join the "crew."

Blood Root-  A member of the Poppy Family.  It's single flower blooms early, March-May.  It is the first flower to bloom in my garden.  It lets me know that spring has arrived.  It grows along streams and in rich woodlands.  It's leaf curls around the stem and is easily identified.  The red juice from the underground stem was used by the Native Americans as a dye for baskets, clothing and war paint, as well as for insect repellent. 

Ostrich Fern- I have a couple types of fern, this one develops from  "fiddleheads" when the fern tops are curled up.   "Fiddleheads" are said to be a delicious delicacy.  I haven't tried  to cook them yet; I just hate the idea of cutting off the tops of the ferns.  You can see the fiddleheads in the top left picture,  and you can see how they unfurl into beautiful ferns.

Marsh Blue Violet-similar to the common blue violet. A member of the Violet Family.   Flowers March- June, and is found throughout the USA.  The flowers can be made into candies and jellies.

Trout Lily or Dogtooth Violet-Dogtooth refers to the tooth shape of the underground bulb.  An easily recognizable plant because of the mottled leaves.

My father-in-law the landscape architect.  A funny story:  Whenever my FIL came to visit, he liked to work in the yard.  He usually did a lot of pruning.  One day, he decided to prune back our raspberry patch.  Near the patch were quite a few pots with dirt in them.  He tossed them in the garbage, and the garbage was picked up.  I went out to bring him some ice water and noticed that the pots were gone.  He told me he got rid of them...I think I yelled something like, "MY TRILLIUM!!"  He insisted that there was nothing but dirt in the pots, but my husband assured him that they all had trillium.   Yes, we did tease him a bit about "my poor lost trillium!"
Trillium- As you can see, we were able to find some more.  Trillium is one of my favorite wildflowers....what a beautiful flower! Trillium is a member of the lily family.  They flower April-June and thrive in rich woods or thickets.

Picking a trillium seriously injures the plant by preventing the leaf-like bracts from producing enough food for the following year.  A plant takes many years to recover.  This is why it is illegal to pick or transplant Trillium from public land in Michigan.  Trillium is one of the many plants whose seeds are spread by ants.

                                                Variegated Trillium

Wood Poppy- Member of the Poppy Family.  Flowers March - May.  Grows  in rich woods and bluffs.

Sweet Woodruff -  A member of the Rubiaceae Family.  It blooms from May-June in rich woods.  It is considered an herb.  It has had many uses in the past, the fresh leaves were used in a poultice to heal injuries, it was also used to cure jaundice or liver ailments.  It is currently used for its delightful fragrance when it is dried.  Its fragrance is a combination of freshly cut hay and vanilla.  My MIL taught me about Sweet Woodruff as she was always making potpourri and had this dried herb in small decorative bowls throughout her house.

Forsythia-  This really isn't considered a wild flower, but it is a beautiful flower that blooms in the spring.  It just had to be included!

Bleeding Heart- a member of the Poppy Family.  It blooms from May- August in rocky woods and cliffs.

As I stated earlier, my husband enjoys gardening, thank goodness.  He is supportive of my interests and has enjoyed the wildflowers.  We plan to expand the garden and add a few more plants this year. 

Morel Mushroom- This is also not a wildflower, but a wonderful surprise in our wildflower garden.  Last year, thanks to my brother, we started a mushroom garden.   My husband and son "planted" Wine Cap mushrooms, which did pretty well for the first year.  We also took a risk and "planted" Morels.  It is very difficult to grow Morels, so imagine our surprise when we had 3 Morel mushrooms in our garden this spring.  However, they didn't grow where we planted them...they are a mystery!
Wild Oats or Bellwort-   is a member of the Lily Family.  The flowers bloom from
April - June in woods and thickets.  At one time these plants were thought to be good for treating throat diseases because the drooping flowers resembled the uvula, the soft lobe hanging in the back of the throat.

Three Lobed Hepatica-   A member of the Buttercup Family.  Flowers from March- June in rocky woods.  This is actually a very beautiful flower, but sadly our larger plant did not live this year.  We had to have a tree removed last fall and the Hepatica was destroyed in the process.  But, we did find the "tell-tale" leaves in a few other areas, so we should be able to enjoy these beautiful flowers next spring.  The Three-Lobed leaves in the middle of the picture are the Hepatica leaves.  The name refers to the 3-lobed leaf that supposedly bears a resemblance to the liver.  Because of this, early herbalists assumed the plant to be effective in the treating of liver ailments.

Forget-Me-Not -  A member of the Forget-Me-Not Family.  It blooms from May- October and grows along stream borders and wet places throughout the United states.

Mayapple-  A member of the Barberry Family.  It blooms from April - June and grows in rich woods and damp, shady clearings.  Each plant has two umbrella like leaves.  The small white apple-blossom-like flower grows from the junction of the two leaves, under the "umbrella" like covering.  This flower develops into a golden fruit.  The leaves, roots, and seeds are poisonous in large quantities.  However, the Native Americans used the roots as a cathartic.  The edible ripe golden-yellow fruit  can be used in jellies.  This is my favorite wild flower, I love looking under the "umbrella" leaves for the flower and the "apple."  Maybe I will have enough Mayapples to make jelly this year!

Wild Geranium- A member of the Geranium Family.  It blooms from April- June and grows in woods, thickets, and meadows.

True Solomon's Seal- Smooth Solomon's Seal-  A member of the Lily Family.  The bell-like flowers bloom from May- June.  It grows in dry to moist woods and thickets.  The rootstalk, or rhizome, of the Solomon's Seal is jointed; the leaf stalk breaks away from it, leaving a distinctive scar said to resemble the official seal of King Solomon.  Native Americans and colonists used the starchy rhizomes as food.

Virginia Bluebells-   A member of the Forget-Me not Family.  Blooms in March- June and grows in moist woods.  I did not get a picture of the Virginia Bluebells blooming because the deer ate all of the Virginia Bluebell plants- flowers, leaves,  and stems.  They disappeared overnight. Definitely "deer candy!"

False Solomon Seal- A member of the Lily Family.  Blooms in May- July and grows in 
woods and clearings.  The feathery, creamy -white masses of flowers at the end of the stem distinguish this species from the True Solomon Seal.  Also the rhizome lacks the "seal-like" pattern of the true Solomon Seal.  In this picture, the flowers have not yet bloomed.

 Common Dandelion-  A member of the Sunflower Family.  Blooms March- September, grows in fields, roadsides, lawns...very rare in the extreme Southeast US.   Named due to the likeness of its leaf teeth to those of a lion.  Wildflower or weed???

Jack-in-the-Pulpit- Distinctive "Jack-in-the-Pulpit" formation grows beneath the large leaves.  A member of the Arum Family.  Flowers April-June and grows in damp woods and swamps.  The underground tuber is peppery to taste and causes a strong burning reaction if eaten raw.  This unpleasant property can be eliminated by cooking, and Native Americans gathered the fleshy taproots (corms) as a vegetable.

Lily of the Valley -A member of the Lily Family.  Flowers in late spring.  It has also been called "Mary's Tears" because Mary's tears turned into the flowers of the Lily of the Valley when she wept at Jesus' Crucifixion.  The fragrance of the Lily of the Valley is sweet and wonderful.

I have always enjoyed learning about wildflowers and looking for them on nature walks.  It became a game in my family to name the wildflowers; my kids became pretty good at it.
As I stated earlier, I am hoping to add a few more plants to the garden and am looking for Skunk Cabbage, Marsh Marigold, and Cardinal Flower.  My husband picked up a Pink Lady's Slipper..yippee...hope it lives!

Take time to take a slow walk and look around.  Beautiful flowers are everywhere!

Hope you have a great day!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Cookie Jars

My grandmother, who we called Mere, loved cookies.  She liked butter cookies, shortbreads, spice cookies, thumbprints, etc.  She liked cookies almost as much as my husband, who is truly a "cookie monster!"  My grandmother was born and spent a lot of her childhood in England.  I can imagine her at tea time with tea and a dainty plate of cookies.  After I was married, I wanted to have a cookie jar in my kitchen, one that I could keep filled for my husband.  I wanted a cookie jar like Mere's.  I don't remember much about the jar, except it always had cookies in it and it had a cookie design around the bottom. 

Mere, as a young woman and sooo pretty!

At my wedding with my two grandmothers.  Mere is on the right.  You can definitely see where I get my lack of height!

I was so happy to find this cookie jar at Hudson's (then Marshall Field's, then Macy's).  The design was like Mere's.  And even better, the opening was large enough to hold really BIG cookies, and it had a secure top to keep the cookies fresh....SOLD!

My Mom also always had a cookie jar, and yes, it was usually full of cookies!  In fact, she still has a cookie jar that she keeps filled for my husband.  Whenever we visit her, he heads straight for the jar to see what kind of cookies she made for him!  She gave me this Little Red Riding Hood cookies jar quite a while ago and hence, my little collection was started!

A number of companies were making these Little Red Riding Hood cookie jars in the 1940's.  They have become very collectible.  There are a number of websites about how to determine if you own a "real" collectible or a fake.  As it turns out, mine is real.  (Thanks, Mom) This Little Red Riding Hood cookie jar was made by Regal China.  A few of the companies made blanks, and then they were painted, decorated, and fired by many companies.  This is why they are so similar.  The makers mark on the bottom along with the decorating details of the cookie jar and its condition determine its value. My cookie jar is considered a "closed basket, three poppy" jar.  Since it is in great condition (no scratches, no chips, etc) it is valued at about $500.  Pretty good, huh?  However, if it was a "Hull" it would be worth about $1000.  Pretty interesting.  Anyway, I really love this jar, it is my only "vintage" cookie jar!

Since I had two cookie jars, I started noticing others.  I began collecting cookie jars to remind me of great vacations, good memories, or just jars that I really liked.

This cookie jar is Mrs. Potts, from Disney's "Beauty and the Beast."  I bought it during our first and only visit to Walt Disney World.  We had a great time there; it truly is a Magical Kingdom!

This hand painted cookie jar is a Delft Cookie jar made in Holland, Michigan.  We bought it during the annual Tulip Festival.

I just love this jar because I loved the Roy Rogers-Dale Evans TV show.  Happy childhood memories!  Happy Trails to you....until we meet again....

The Muppets were a big part of our life when our kids were little.  Both kids had their favorite Muppet, but we all loved Miss Piggy!

This reminds me of the seasons of Michigan; the baby goslings in the spring and the geese flying south in the fall.

Minnie Mouse was a gift.   She just makes me smile.  I loved the Mickey Mouse show and all the mouseketeers.  It was an after school routine when I was little.

Yes, I love Oreos, especially frozen double stuffed Oreos!  They don't last very long in our house.

I keep our cookies jars lined up on a shelf near our kitchen.  When my son's friends came over they would go down the line opening the jars to see which, if any, had cookies inside.  Sometimes they were very happy, at other times, not so much!

I made this cookie jar when I was going to pottery classes.  I am hoping to get back to it one of these days and would love to have my own pottery wheel and kiln.  Ahhhhh, Dreams!

"Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" was the first animated Disney movie that I saw.  We saw it at a small movie theater near our grandparents cottage during summer vacation.  Another wonderful memory!

                                   These are my winter/ Christmas cookie jars.

                                                                   Snowman #1

                                                               Snowman #2

                                                                 Good Old Santa

This is one of my favorite cookie jars, because my daughter played the part of Cinderella in the musical production of Cinderella during high school and my son was one of the mice during a community production of a "spoof" of Cinderella.  You can see the mice near the Fairy God mother.  More great memories!

Collecting cookie jars is not unique, there are many beautiful and amazing cookie jars available.  I have seen collections that are all Disney, or all vintage, or are all in the same color tones.  Each collection is valuable to the owner for many different reasons. My husband likes them for the cookies inside!!

Hope you have a great day!