Monday, February 28, 2011

Flying Miss Daisy

This gerbera daisy is looking pretty good almost 2 weeks after Valentine's day. It was likely picked about four days before it was purchased in a local floral shop by a certain thoughtful someone. Between the time it was picked and its arrival in Wisconsin it took a 2,400 mile flight from Colombia followed by a chilly truck ride from Florida.

Smithsonian magazine recently ran a great article on the successes and problems of the huge cut-flower industry in Colombia called The Secrets Behind Your Flowers. The accompanying photos really help tell the story.

Some of the "secrets":

In 1991 the U.S. government suspended duties on Colombian flowers to limit coca farming and expand job opportunities around the area of the Bogota savanna.

Colombia is the second largest exporter of cut flowers shipping $1 billion in cut flowers annually. First is the Netherlands. Colombia produces about 70% of the U.S. market in flowers and provides most of the ready-made bouquets that you see in supermarkets, airport kiosks, and big-box stores.

The industry has its share of challenges. Workers, largely women, deal with repetitive stress injuries, the possibility of problems from exposure to chemicals, and living on the minimum wage amount of about $250 a month.

In the lead-up to a Mother's Day, the second biggest flower giving holiday after Valentine's Day, one farm in Colombia has 320 workers (triple the usual number) handling about 300,000 roses a day.

A major environmental issue is the use of water. Wells drilled to provide the needed amount of that natural resource (producing a single rose bloom takes up to 3 gallons of water) have greatly reduced levels of groundwater on the savanna leading to the disappearance of springs, streams, and wetlands.

Bouquet hues follow fashion and are usually two years behind. The current trend is monochromatic arrangements with a bent toward purple following the lead of several top European designers' clothing lines.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Blue Buyou

Today's color offering is kind of embarassing, but we will sacrifice our pride to warn you of, and illustrate for you, the power of blue which is obviously popping out at us at the grocery store, screaming "buy me, buy me" and possibly even jumping into the cart when our backs are turned. Really, we don't even use some of this stuff. How did it get to our pantry shelves? Is it possible that we are powerless to resist blue packaging?

It is more likely that marketers are keenly aware that blue is the favorite color of 80% of the population and are hoping its calming effect will soothe us into filling our carts full of peaceful-looking, additive-filled, azure-packaged products.

Apparently it works.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Let Your Freak Flap Fly

Soon we can shed them for good, but for now you might want to take advantage of a slight warming trend to give the old longjohns a quick wash and airing out.

And, if your old unionsuit is wearing thin, you probably should keep your eyes open for replacements from the thrift shop or rummage sales this summer as new red Duofold undies are at a significantly higher price point than they used to be. It's good to see however that the company is not only still around, but is also keeping up with the trends in unmentionables, want us to "live unconditionally", and has some interesting claims to fame since its beginning in 1906.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

More is More

The Klehm's catalog cover is nice, but a bit restrained for our taste.

Here's a little sample of what would happen if we ran the art department.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Flower Power

Just when we thought Spring was finally in sight... we have another 12" of snow.

Today's counteractive color surge - Klehm's Song Sparrow Farm and Nursery 2011 catalog.

Pretty inside and out.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Hoppy New Year

Our world became white again overnight, but this week we are putting on our snowblinders and looking straight ahead to find color wherever we can. Our first sighting is from China.

A young friend currently in Shanghai took these photos at a bazaar she visited. Fortunately for us, New Year decorations were still in place from the February 3rd celebration of the beginning of the Year of the Hare. She said it was so crowded in the bazaar that when she tried to stop to take photos the crowd just kept moving her along.

We're glad she was successful at getting a few shots to brighten up what threatens to be a rather monotone week for those of us stuck in the Midwest snowbelt.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Radio Days

It was a grand day to be a ham.

This picture doesn't go with the postcard below, but was probably from an event very much like the one described on the invitation. Another photo of the picnickers (not shown here) gives evidence that their pith helmets were freebies from a radio company called Hallicrafters.

The OM (old man) was to bring his YL (young lady) or XYL (former young lady/wife) with their homemade hats for friendly competition. These abbreviations are called Q signals or Q codes. Q signals are easier to say, or transmit in morse code than the phrase or question they abbreviate. 73 is a common radio sign-off that means "best regards".

Look how hard they tried to find the adressee. This little postcard went all around Northern Indiana for just a penny stamp. Sadly the postmarks indicate it may have arrived after the event. Let's hope the radio waves brought the details of the day to W9FSA so that he was able to attend, and that his XYL, W9PEX, brought home a big prize for her festive radio-themed hat.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Hearing Voices

Do you hear voices?

We do. Wise ones, silly ones, kind ones, life changing ones - and most of them are not the voices of famous quotable personalities - they are the voices of our keenly insightful friends, relatives, and neighbors. Here are some of the inner words that guide, comfort, and make us smile everyday:

Yeast knows when you're afraid of it.

A poor workman blames his tools.

"I can't" is a sluggard too lazy to try.

Things have a way of working out.

Roast beef is done, we are finished.

A small mind is easily amused.

It's a poor cookie that can't grease its own pan.

A bored person is a boring person.

Whistling girls and crowing hens never come to any good ends.

Don't let school get in the way of your education.

Rain before seven, sun by eleven.

Socks are a waste of time.

Things will look better in the morning.

Try not to act like a hick.

Righty tighty, lefty loosey.

As a matter of fact I do have a ham hock.

It was the best ____ ever!

Breast your cards.

You'll find out when we get there.

Honey, don't think for a minute they're not talking about you too.

A little dirt never hurt anybody.

Jules Bastien-Lepage - Joan of Arc Listening to the Voices

What do the voices in your head say?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Deja Vroom Vroom

We hadn't seen this kind of vehicular action in our living room in a long time, but it had a very familiar feel to it.

This little guy seems to be a real chip off the old engine block.

Whether he joins the family business or drives in the Sturgeon Fest demolition derby someday (or both), it looks like "cool cars" are definitely in his future.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Let the Record Show

After a brief meeting of the planning committee...

...the sideyard social season began on Sunday, February 13 at 2:00 p.m and 44 degrees.

Appropriately, the idea snowballed and picked up stray neighbors as it rolled along.

A good time was had by all.

Monday, February 14, 2011

It's Never Too Late

To say "je t'aime".

Download one of these clever coffee jackets at Eat Drink Chic, print, and paste onto a cup of your loved one's favorite coffee order and you should be in line for a latte hugs and kisses in return.

Matching "je t'aime" mini cards here.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Best Cutout Cookie Recipe Ever

The West Hill Cutout Cookie - good for all holidays and ordinary days too.


1 cup butter or margarine
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons cream or milk

Mix together:
3 cups four
1 teaspon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400.

Cream butter and sugar.

Blend in egg, cream, and vanilla.

Add flour, soda, powder, and salt mixture.

Chill dough for several hours or overnight.

Roll out and cut out. Bake 5-7 minutes.

Frosting: (makes enough for two or more batches of cookies)

Cream 1 stick of butter.

1 egg.
1/2 cup of milk
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
Powdered sugar (almost all of a 2 pound bag) to reach desired spreading consistency.

Many thanks to West Hill homestead bakers for sharing this recipebox treasure.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

We Heart Buttons

Vintage German glass on crocheted antimacassar. Antimacassar is a great word for a piece of ornamented cloth that protects the back of a chair from hair oils. Macassar was a brand of hair oil.

Loonette the main character on The Big Comfy Couch (remember the 10-second tidy?) had an Auntie Macassar who was always sending her interesting letters. That is perhaps when we became aware of the word antimacassar and started saying it whenever possible. Antimacassar, antimacassar, antimacassar.

Friday, February 11, 2011

We've Had Enough

Did you read about the guy who shot a snowbank?

From where we sit in our rather low slung economy sedan we can see his point of view on the subject.

But we can't see if it is safe to pull out of the alley.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

We've Got a Notion

You're going to like this as much as we do.

Recently received from a fellow lover of buttons and bows and pretty trims of all kinds, French General Treasured Notions from Tinsel Trading Company ("My favorite store in all of the world." - Martha Stewart).

Look at those great shiny green beetles collected and sold as fabric embellishment.

We were inspired to create an inspiration board in the style of those made by author Kaari Meng for experimenting with color palettes. We started with the richly colored vintage advertising card found at the Graphics Fairy and added bits and pieces from our collection of things that might come in handy someday.

The pleasing assemblage would not have been possible if it were not for our tendency to never throw anything away. Yes! More positive reinforcement of yet another of our questionable policies.

Packrats (and Ratpack) unite for an artful society!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Banana Ballot

We missed it. The 2010 Chiquita Banana Sticker Contest.

And the winners

Maybe next year.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Rest of the Tower Story

We sent the tower photos to Dad asking for an explanation and here is his reply:

Those are some I took in the mid 40's. The vertical pipe is a coaxial line to the FM antenna on top of the new 465 ft tower. The radial lines are where the copper wire was plowed into the ground. 120 of them. Oh yes, the new tower replaced the 174 ft tower at WTRC, Elkhart.

A request for clarification got this response:

Q: So you were at the top? Why?

A: It was part of my job and besides I enjoyed it.

Q: What do the copper wires do?

A: Without going into a technical discussion, they are to provide a good ground for the transmitter.

Q: Were those trenches all dug by hand?

A: No, we used a tractor and plow.

Q: Were you working at the station then?

A: Yes, '43 to '49

Any other questions class?

Monday, February 7, 2011


One of our very favorite artists, Amy Rice, seems to be a kindred spirit when it comes to a certain special February day.

She has gifted her blog readers with this lovely set of downloadable Valentine cards.

Isn't she thoughtful?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

They Get to Wear Their Winter Coats 7 Months Out of the Year! Lucky!

Surely we are the envy of someone somewhere for having four distinct (some longer than other) seasons.

Let's get outdoors, enjoy the snow, and stretch our legs before the serious Super Bowl snacking begins. Word is it may even rise above freezing this weekend.

Charming scene of noncompetitive snowy winter sport from The Graphics Fairy.

Go Pack!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Pretty Pearls

A beautiful booby prize at the button club Christmas party for the loser at Button Jeopardy.

We bet our whole wad on the final jeopardy question and lost big. Who knew there would be a great prize anyway!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Word of the Day is...


Another thoughtful gift that we have been enjoying quite a lot.

Some tidbits:

"With time and patience the mulberry leaf becomes a silk gown." - Chinese proverb

"Umbelliferous plants, whose flowers are arranged like an umbrella or the rose of a watering can, are conspicuous and attractive to many beneficial insects. (The word umbellifer derives from the Latin for parasol.) The large flower heads provide a comfortable, efficient landing pad for the insects, allowing easy access to pollen. The umbellifer family boasts around 3,000 species including angelica, anise, wild carrot, chervil, cilantro, cow parsley, cumin, dill and fennel."

"You can't see as well as those f***ing flowers and they're f***ig plastic." - John McEnroe, tennis champion, to a line judge

"In days gone by it was not uncommon in springtime to see a farmer drop his trousers and pants and sit down on the soil. If the soil was not too cold, the farmer knew it was time to sow his crop. If you want to avoid misunderstandings with your neighbors, you are better off trying this trick with your bare elbow."

"Sex is good, but not as good as fresh sweet corn." - Garrison Keillor

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Gnomes - Always a Gift in Good Taste

Recent, and not so recent, additions to the gnome collection from thoughtful, if enabling, friends.

Thank you.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Library 12

Looking back on a year of NDL.

In order to allow all students with a work-study component in their financial aid package to have a job, even the smallest need for labor at our alma mater turned into an official position. An early stimulus plan of sorts allowed coeds to mow lawns, paint houses, waitress banquets, run a/v equipment for professors, tutor, feed lab frogs or, if you were one of the lucky ones, work in Library 12.

Below the main part of the George Sverdrup library where it intersected with hallways of science classrooms and funky-smelling labs was a room of quiet mystery known as Library 12. The resources found there were mainly for education majors and not even most of them knew of its existence. Teachers-in-training were scarce. Shelves of textbooks were seldom touched. Most visitors were lost students who poked their heads in just far enough to see that they needed to continue searching for the biology class with the room number they failed to write down for the first day of the semester.

The great parts of the job included: absolutely no supervision; plenty of quiet time for uninterrupted study or napping; shelves and shelves of children’s literature to read when class syllabus suggestions were dead boring; and using the same “back in five minutes” sign that worked for bathroom runs to go for an hour or so to the local malt shop for a burger and fries with a friend.

The down side of the job, as down sides often are, was the same as the upside - solitude. There was a phone, but it only rang up to the main library. If there had been an outside line the only people we could have called were friends in the dorms who shared one phone for the whole floor. For communication with the outside world we were at the mercy of people who might stop by to see how we were doing and pass some time chatting at the checkout counter.

Blogging for the past year has been a lot like hanging around in Library 12. We committed to daily (We hung out the “back soon” sign a couple of times to see what in the world outside the neighborhood there was to blog about. Plenty!) documenting of bits of this and that not really expecting anything more than an amusing pastime, but we soon realized that without any feedback it felt like we were talking to ourselves in the cavernous empty stacks of Library 12.

First we felt like the Who down in Whoville that Horton finally heard saying “We are here, we are here!” Occasional comments kept us going, but at times of comment drought we wanted to say, “If you believe in fairies clap your hands.” Well enough of you clapped to make Tinkerbell awake from her self-induced malaise and keep up the pledge to herself to get through a full year of Next Door Laura.

It is harder than one might think to find something to share everyday. There were times when a week’s worth of blogs were in the queue ready to go and other times when we were up at dawn digging in the photo files to find something that we thought might be of any amount of interest to anyone for the new day’s entry. Thank you to the Graphics Fairy and many other bloggers for great ideas and images that they graciously share with the blogisphere.

On our recent trip to Paris we met a woman named Donna who had a story we could relate to. Many years ago she was looking for a teaching job in the Chicago area. She was offered a position at a Catholic school that she was inclined to accept until the interviewing Sister told her that one of her duties would be teaching French. “But Sister, I don’t know French.” she said. The nun, who we picture just like the one in the Sound of Music who looked the other way while the fuel pump was pulled from the Nazis’ car, replied, “The children don’t know that. All you have to do is stay one day ahead of them.” And that is how Donna got a job and learned French.

We’ve managed to stay a day ahead of you. But it’s a pace that is hard to maintain for the distance. We started on Ground Hog’s Day last year and will continue, but we don’t want to, well, do the same thing all over again. We have been quizzing everyone we know to find out if there is a name in the media world for the phenomenon of the annual cycle of seasonal topics. You know - tips for cooking the Thanksgiving turkey and using the leftovers, creative ways to die eggs, where to take the kids for spring break, will the groundhog see his shadow?, how to deal with cabin fever, etc., but no one seems to know what that is called. Perhaps we can call it the Groundhog’s Day phenomenon. It must be maddening for the TV news producer and features editor. We don’t want to find out how maddening.

We’ll be here, but not everyday.

Thank you, and remember - if you believe in fairies clap your hands every now and then.

We love the sound.