Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving Quickly Slips into Christmas

Earlier in the week as I prepared for my Thanksgiving dinner, I was amazed that both of my favorite radio stations were offering full time Christmas music.  I went to a store in search of Thanksgiving decorations and they were already relegated to a small clearance spot. Christmas had already overtaken the entire store. I was excited about preparing for Thanksgiving and wasn't into thinking about my Christmas preparations yet. I was happy to see on Facebook that Nordstrom Inc. wasn't going to jump into the pre-Christmas rush but would decorate on Friday, November 27. As they said "Why? Well, we just like the idea of celebrating one holiday at a time." Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays but it gets rushed through and is buried between the Halloween hoopla and the Christmas frenzy. Have you noticed this too?

So, after a yummy family and friend Thanksgiving dinner party, I am happy to shift into Christmas mode. 

With the family gathered around the table we once again discussed how our Christmas present exchange was to happen this year. Last year we each drew a family name out of a Christmas hat.  Then we drew a  letter of the alphabet by which we'd purchase something that begins with that letter. For example, I got my daughter-in-law's name and the letter "L". So I went with "lavender" as my guiding theme. I found things in that color and fragrance. It made for a really awesome gift package. It was a fun time exchanging gifts as some of the family went all out in creativity. This year names were again drawn but the only thing decided was to keep the gifts around $20.00. I like the family's economic thinking. We do have young children in the family and we don't include them in the name drawing. Everyone dotes on the wee ones. It's such a delight in enjoying the excitement of the children. 

This Thanksgiving weekend I rejoice in the excitement that the Christmas season is
acceptably upon us. I went out for a short time on Black Friday to a few stores. I walked until my feet hurt on Small Business Saturday visiting our Old Town stores. I'm enjoying the Christmas music now and the fun of Christmas parties, cookie exchanges and gift shopping. I like my holidays one at a time too. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Have Thanksgiving Tablecloth, Will Travel

I have a Thanksgiving tablecloth that I have collected signatures on since 1996. It travels to any Thanksgiving meal my family is invited to.

It all started when I found a wonderful piece of autumn fabric that I fell in love with. At a quilting retreat I cut the fabric into squares and started piecing them together like a puzzle. I worked for hours putting the pieces together. Some I cut straight and others were on point. As I worked on it I still didn't know what I was going to do with this creation. Suddenly it dawned on me. I was piecing and quilting a Thanksgiving tablecloth.

The first Thanksgiving that came around since I had started on the quilt was 16 years ago. Our best friends, David and Christy, had invited our family for Thanksgiving dinner. I didn't have the quilted tablecloth finished yet but I basted the edges and brought it along for our decorative tablecloth. After sharing our thankfulness and awesome food, I had everyone sign the muslin back of the tablecloth. It was now an official traveling Thanksgiving tablecloth, so I named it "Have Tablecloth, Will Travel."

Since I have a large family, most holiday dinners are at my home so the tablecloth hasn't traveled much but it has collected a wonderful assortment of autographs.  

Over the years when I've entertained for very special occasions I have pulled out the quilt for signatures to remember the celebration. I have wonderful memories from tea parties, family gatherings, reunions and baptisms. Every Thanksgiving since 1996 is accounted for.  

As I reminisce over the names on my quilt, I remember with great love those who have signed it and are no longer with us. On the quilt below are the names of three of my beloved relatives, my Mother-in-Law Louise, Aunt Mary and Uncle Ed. May they rest in peace.

Besides the signatures on my quilt, I have it well documented. Having been a docent at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum, Golden, Colorado, I learned the value of writing down the story of a quilt. I have the details of the story written in my quilt journal but even more important is the sewn in tag in the corner. I have recorded the name of every quilt square and the name, date and purpose of the quilt. 

Thanksgiving traditions will be in full force later this week. Families gather to celebrate another year of thankfulness and togetherness.  This holiday has always been one of my favorites. I love the food of the season and I love offering an open invitation to anyone who needs a place to go for the day.  I know I always cook too much food but that way I'm assured no one goes away hungry. 

My family has a few favorite food traditions we look forward to every year. Besides the usual turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, one of our most popular dishes is the potato casserole.  Even with a huge bowl of mashed potatoes, the potato casserole demands its place on the holiday table. Here is the recipe I use in case you want to add it to your Thanksgiving meal. Warning, it will be a favorite.

Cheesy Potato Casserole

2 lbs frozen hash browns
1/2 cup melted butter
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cans of cream of chicken soup (sometimes I add a 3rd)
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
12 oz sour cream (or a little extra to add to the creaminess) 
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Melt 1/2 cup butter
Add 2 cups crushed corn flakes
Sprinkle on top of casserole

Bake 350 degrees 1 hour

(I don't know the origin of this recipe I have it written out on a piece of paper so I apologize for not giving credit to the original creator of this delightful dish.)

I am thankful for each of you who are reading my blog posts. I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving. May we always remember to be thankful for all the blessings we enjoy every day.  A grateful heart is a joyful heart (Luke 1:38).

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Traveling with my Shelia House Collection

Today I am taking you  on a trip across the country. We'll be visiting replicas of Historic houses. These charming houses actually line a shelf in my home but the real houses do exist. Maybe you've visited some of them.  The houses are from Shelia's Collectibles started by Shelia Thompson in 1979.  Most of my collection of 20+ houses are from the Victorian Springtime collection.  I just love these elegant and grand painted ladies.  I have houses from San Francisco, California, to Key West, Florida, and from Massachusetts to Galveston, Texas.

The houses we are visiting today are each made of solid wood. They are 3-D replicas of Historical houses from all over the country. Every piece is silk-screened with hand painted shrubbery, flowers and greenery. I think it was the beauty of the first little house I saw that caught my attention. 

The house I'm most excited about is the Dragon House. It's actually here in Denver. So our tour will start here. 

Here is the Shelia collectible you can compare with the real house above.

On the back of every Shelia house is a bit of history, information about the state, and Shelia Thompson's signature and date of release. 

Besides the extraordinary craftsmanship on each miniature house, if you look closely you will be able to find a hidden hand painted skeleton key symbol. This key can be tricky to find but it identifies that the little house is a genuine Shelia house. From Denver we're making a quick trip to the northeast so I can show you this key. I marked the key on the White Cottage, below, from Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts. This is a replica of Martha's Vineyard Camp Meeting Association. It was first opened on August 24, 1835. 

Below you can see the full view of White Cottage. In Oak Bluffs, there is a favorite tourist stop with over 300 of these gingerbread-trimmed and painted homes. I also have the Butterfly Cottage located in Oak Bluffs (not shown). This cottage colony must be a treat for the eyes.  I would  love to visit there. It's my kind of place. Next to the White Cottage below is the colorful Gibney Home in South Bend, Indiana. That is another quick jaunt for us on this tour. The Gibney Home was built in 1888 and its mauve color and green trim make it a striking piece. The gold doors and lace curtains make it a dream house worthy of a visit. 

I joined the Shelia's Collectors Society one year so I could purchase "The Three Sisters" Collection in honor of my two sisters.  A trip to Charleston, South Carolina, is our next stop to view these houses. Legend says that a father built these houses for his three daughters' dowry. The girls were said to be so ugly that he hoped these houses would help them catch a husband. The three girls, a blond, a brunette and a red-head never married but lived long happy lives in their houses. A less fanciful story is that the houses were called "The Three Sisters" because of their similar style and charm. Charleston is also the hometown of Shelia Collectibles where  skilled craftsmen carefully make each miniature . My girlfriend made a trip from Colorado to South Carolina and brought an empty suitcase so she could bring back houses. She has the most awesome collection that goes on and on. 

I think this yellow Queen Anne house is one of the prettiest in my collection. It's the Gilson Residence in Saratoga Springs, New York. Colonel Joseph Gilson built this  in 1885 as a summer home. This miniature was crafted for the 20th Anniversary commemoration of Shelia's Collectibles. This lovely house in New York is now a funeral parlor. How do you like zipping around the country so quickly?

From New York we'll travel down to Charlotte, North Carolina, to visit this house named Victoria. It's a surviving home from the 1890's fashionable residential district of Tryan Street. This home still stands today because it was moved and mule-hauled several miles to its present location. This house was built by a local businessman for his younger son with a complementing house built for his older son.  The older son's house was destroyed to make way for progress. This house claims to be one of the last survivors of Charlotte's nineteenth century past. You can easily see the key on the right glass pane of the front door. 

Last time I was in Mobile, Alabama, I didn't know to look up the Shepard House. Next trip, I will for sure. This 1897 house boasts 18 rooms and 11 fireplaces and four stained glass windows. It was a great house for lavish entertaining. The daughters of the owner used this house as a private boarding and day school in 1910. Prominent Mobile citizens were the students. It is believed that this house was brought in from Tennessee in thirteen railroad cars. Today the Shepard House is a Bed and Breakfast .    If you have a sharp eye you might spot the key. It's small but something that appears out of place. 

From Mobile, Alabama, it's a little under 200 miles to Reserve, Louisiana for a "wow" moment at the antebellum San Francisco Plantation. It is considered the most opulent Plantation in North America.  It is a National Historic Landmark. The home is famous for its fine painted ceilings and faux marbling and wood grains. It also has one of the finest antique collections in the country. It is visited annually by over 100,000 people. When I lived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, we drove by the plantation but didn't stop for a daily tour as bringing five children through such an exquisite place probably wasn't a good idea.  However, the centuries old live oaks surrounding the plantation made for a most pleasant drive-by. 

Moving along the coast line we arrive in Galveston, Texas, to view a beautiful, large red house that was originally called Heffron House. The round porches and unusual columns suggests the look of a steamboat. It is now called Victorian Inn and it operates as a Bed and Breakfast. The reviews on Trip Advisor are raving and after reading them a stay at Victorian Inn/Heffron House is now on my Bucket List.

Before we head back to the Midwest, a trip to the west coast is in order. San Francisco was the first location where the description "Painted Ladies" referring to the Victorian and Edwardian architecture was used. We've already visited Queen Anne styles of homes so now we will see a sample of an Edwardian Green home which was a popular style between 1905 and 1920. 

After the Victorian era when King Edward VII was on the throne, a new and cheerful, simple style came into vogue. Edwardian style was a freshness that people wanted. The heavy clutter and ornate decor of Queen Anne gave way to a more modern style. San Francisco row houses are typically two floors with the first floor raised to allow for a basement that doesn't require deep digging into the sandy layers of ground. The porches  are narrow, not the wrap around style we saw earlier. The beautiful Painted Ladies seen in San Francisco are not shy in posing for photographers. I took this picture on one of my San Francisco trips. I love these houses.

Heading east to Nebraska, it's a 1,393.9 mile trip taking 21 hours and 46 minutes to arrive in my husband's birthplace of North Platte, Nebraska. This is where Buffalo Bill Cody made his home in 1869

This three story Victorian House, Scout's Rest Ranch, was built for $3,900 to house William "Buffalo Bill" Frederick Cody during his Wild West Show days.The architecture is called Second Empire which was popular between 1865 and 1880. It was named for the French elements in vogue at that time.  Today it is part of The Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Buffalo Bill had many ventures but he earned this nickname by hunting and killing over 4,000 buffalo which were used to feed construction crews working on building railroads. Tours are available for the house, park and barn on the property.

In addition to the few homes we've visited, more sit on my shelf. One is from the Christmas collection which sports a Christmas tree in the window and painted wreaths on the veranda. On my own Christmas tree, I hang a couple of  miniature painted metal Shelia Houses. After a long winter I add a springtime tree to my row of houses. Other accessories are available as well as a long list of available themed collections. If you have a favorite part of the country you'd like to visit from home, check out the list of collection series and enjoy. Happy travels to you.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Signs and Unusual Sights while Traveling

In my travels near and far I always try to carry my camera with me so I can get a picture of things that make me smile. This week I'm picking a few of my favorites to show you. 

One day I stopped to visit at a nearby retirement community in Arvada, CO. I noticed a sign with the  words "Here I Am" on the car door next to me. The first thing I thought of was that I had just come across the winning plaque on some radio station's search contest. (I'm such an optimist). I then stretched a little more and saw "You Found It". Now I was really getting curious as to what I had found. A final stretch had me laughing. There on the bottom of the sign was "This is Your Car".  I wondered if the owner of the car had a problem of trying to get into the wrong car and some creative person, who can't spell, made up this magnetic sign.  A week later I happened to see a lady getting into the car with the sign. I couldn't resist asking her about the sign. She explained that for years she had a Cadillac that was easy to spot and recognize. More recently she had purchased a Toyota Corolla and to her dismay she found they were very popular cars and she was constantly having trouble finding which car was hers. After many frustrating searches a family member had made this sign for her. Now she knows for sure which car is hers.

When on a road trip I suspect that most people watch for the golden arches, known as McDonald's, for a rest stop. It's the perfect place for a clean bathroom, hot coffee or a quick meal to take with you on the road. On a trip between Amarillo and Wichita Falls on Highway 287, I had a double treat when I made a rest stop at Mickey D's  in Vernon, Texas. Having been a Roy Orbison fan for many decades I was thrilled to find I had landed in the birthplace of my favorite singer. A painting of Roy as well as this plaque graced the walls. I was giddy with joy, or maybe just road weary, but all the same it was an instant lift to my day. 

My second surprise at this Vernon, Texas, McDonald's was this Texas shaped sink in the ladies room. I thought this was such a hoot, I was glad I had my camera with me. I had never seen such a fancy sink in a fast food restaurant. I think it must be a combination of Texas pride and a celebration worthy of Roy Orbison's years of music. 
After all, Pretty Woman is an Orbison hit and this sink is honoring all the pretty women who use it in Vernon, Texas. 

This sign was found in Lyons, Colorado. It seems to be asking "do you need to use the restroom"? It's probably a question shared among a car load of travelers but this puts it out there for discussion. I do know the question mark probably is showing the way for finding travel information but I think it's funny putting the signs all together.

Along the same lines is the photo below. This was in Los Angeles, California. It give a whole new meaning to "port a potty". Who says you can't take it with you?

Downtown Denver, Colorado, had this sign attached high on a building.  I don't think anyone needs to go to class to learn how to get a DUI. At least it's obvious enough for those folks who know the true meaning of this class. 

Women love jewelry and men love hardware stores. Purvis Jewelers plays on both men and women's humor to get  their attention. The sign on the door reads "Gentlemen,  start her engine." I wouldn't mind if my husband wanted to go to this hardware store in Lakewood, Colorado. 

This next place was noteworthy because it declares that it's "A Thinking Place". It's actually a dive bar named Sancho's Broken Arrow and I really have no plans to go there. The reviews say it like it is but for some, it's a great place. How much thinking goes on? I wouldn't think too much.

In the back room of Duke's Restaurant in Malibu, California, is this poster that I dearly love. My ukulele friend, Christy, saw it first and told me about it. Since we are budding ukulele players, it's our motto. Living in Colorado, it took a special trip to Malibu to seek out a picture of the poster.  I was ecstatic to finally see it in person. Next time I'm in California, it might be another good reason to have another yummy dinner at Duke's. 

These are just a few of my favorite smile-inducing photos that I've collected. I am always looking for fun signs and unusual sights as I travel near and far. I'll share my next crop with you as well. Thanks for following Roaming Rita.