Some of you may heard, or may already know that I’m leaving the ol’ 9-5. I’ve been a news editor at the Tri-County News for the past four years, but have been in the newspaper/journalism business my entire adult life. It’s going to be a big change.
So what am I doing? Well I decided to go into business for myself. Kind of … I’m partnering with my cousin Brick on a new business venture. But before I tell you all about it, let me assure you, I’m still doing Vintage Inspired Designs. I’ll still be making my line for both Italy Ava and Aviena, which will be separate from my partnership with Brick.
OK so what are we doing? We are opening a store that’s actually pretty hard to describe! We’re going along the philosophy of upcycled, handmade and local, but with a heavy emphasis on “better living”. We’re carrying a couple of lines of handmade, upcycled wares, but will also have some “departments” in the store including a gourmet candies department featuring all kinds of sugary confections from around the world, a gluten free department (not right away, but coming soon) that will feature gluten free mixes taste tested by my own family and gluten-intollerant grandma and manufactured by small businesses with an emphasis on quality, and of course, we have a DIY department with supplies for all the DIY’ers out there looking to improve their own items. The DIY section has been a LOT of fun working on – including the paints – we have a line coming in of paints that rival the chalk paint brands you’ve heard of but with an excellent price tag! We’re also working on getting in natural personal care products, crafted with fine quality. So far we’ve got Nessa’s Naturals (one of my personal favorites) lined up, as well as WhoosSoap – a line of natural men’s shaving products.
So far things are moving quickly and smoothly! We got the keys just last week to our building (located at 318 N. 1st Street, Suite 1 in downtown Montevideo – right next to Christa Landmark Boutique), and so of course, the first thing we did was paint those white walls with some color!
This is Brick…. the day we got the keys…
We’re working on bringing up the shelving units and displays this weekend and of course, we’re still lining up some vendors. Interested persons can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information….
There’s not a lot of time left before we open, so while I’m sad to leave journalism after 12 years in the business, all this activity and excitement has really been a LOT of fun! Hopefully the building will look more organized after this weekend and I can share with you all a bunch more pictures….
A lot of times in this blog I’m talking about my stuff, but really, I consign my wares in three stores along with many talented people and many creative and dedicated people. So I was thinking why not give a virtual tour of these three wonderful places here! I’ll start with the newest – Frogs on the Footbridge – since their open house is this Tuesday! (Er, tomorrow… I guess I’m kind of behind on things)
Frogs on the Footbridge is owned by Mary Gillespie, and is located in downtown Granite Falls, Minnesota, directly across from the historic footbridge. Mary also owns Holt House Antiques and Bed & Breakfast, along with her husband Moe in rural Granite Falls…
*See really, really neat octagon house they have the Bed & Breakfast in, and antiques in the outbuildings here*
(I stole that photo from her Facebook page… didn’t think she’d mind… facebook.com/Holt.House.Antiques)
Mary’s new store, Frogs on the Footbridge, carries not only antique and vintage items, but a variety of handmade and upcycled items as well! She also has converted the front of the store into a gallery for local artists to display and sell their wares. Those local artists already exhibiting include photographers Gene Stukel and Melanie Gatchell, along with painter Tamara Isfeld and letterpress artist Bradley Hall.
Vintage Wares and Antiques from a variety of vendors…
I worked in the store Saturday and seriously had a hard time not making a bunch of purchases. “Slow down,” I told myself. “Your house is so very full. Think carefully and logically… and make a list of what you want.” But *squeal* there were paint-by-number paintings. I kind of just love paint-by-numbers. In fact, I’m still looking for the perfect paint-by-number horse portrait for the girls room re-do. (That will come later… I’m still in the planning stage.)
And of course – Handmade and Upcycled!
Hope you enjoyed this little “virtual mini-tour”. The open house for Frogs on the Footbridge is tomorrow…
There’s something very special about the apple orchard in the fall. I feel so fortunate to live within a brief drive of the Holmberg Orchard. Over the years (not just the 12 years in the newspaper business), I’ve visited the orchard more times than I can count. Something about the crisp air, the cinnamon-apple-and-every-other-possible-fall-smell that surrounds this place makes me feel like I’m home. It’s quiet, yet regularly buzzing with happy faces. Children run through the corn in an old boat, gleefully throwing corn everywhere, with nobody to reprimand them, because hey – that’s okay here. Heck, I am sometimes tempted, myself, to climb in the boat!
The front porch of the Apple Haus gift shop has a scattering of rocking chairs around it, so guests can sit and enjoy the atmosphere a bit.
…And everything is decorated with pumpkins! And mums! And… well, obviously, everything autumn – my favorite time of year
The farm’s pets are like old friends, coming to greet you happily while you visit…
Plus, the gift shop always has a variety of bakery scented candles. Bakery scented candles is perhaps the most evil I get. I really enjoy burning a bakery scented candle so that when people stop by, they get excited, thinking I’m baking something wonderful for them to snack on. Jokes on you guys! I don’t bake well at all! But the candles do smell really good….
Besides being able to take a hayride out to the pumpkin patch to pick-your-own, they have a bunch of different pumpkins around the gift shop to choose from. All varieties and colors… and sizes.
…and of course, gourds and squash varieties as well…
…and on many weekends, you can find the local clown club providing entertainment for the kiddos with balloon animals and face painting…
Find out more about them at their website here:
There’s one recipe that everyone in my family can agree to love. Even my tomato-hatin’ 8 year old has decided to set aside her disdain for the ol’ vegetable/fruit that is a tomato for this one particular dish. I have to admit, I do have kids that actually LOVE spinach, so perhaps children with a disdain for spinach may not be so fond of this dish.
I don’t really have a name for it… it’s just called “my really good chicken” around my house, but here goes…
1 package crumbled feta cheese
8-10 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tomatoes of good size
1 package frozen spinach (thawed) or 1/2 bag fresh spinach (finely chopped)
3 cloves garlic
ground black pepper to taste
2 c. breadcrumbs.
Begin by mixing together the diced tomatoes (whoops, did I forget to tell you to dice them…. yeah, dice them), spinach, and feta cheese. Crush the three garlic cloves and mix this in with the tomato/spinach/cheese mixture in a bowl. Add pepper to taste. Set aside.
Put bread crumbs in a dish for dipping the chicken breasts into. Roll the chicken through the breadcrumbs (I do not use any egg wash or anything like that before-hand, the breadcrumbs stick pretty well to raw chicken). Fold each breast in half, and stuff the inside generously with the tomato/spinach/cheese/garlicy/peppery mixture. (I am a pro recipe-writer…I know.) Place inside a large rectangle casserole dish, bake at 400 for about an hour until the chicken is golden brown on top. Note – I add no liquids to the pan. The tomatoes have enough juice for the chicken to cook in so it retains moisture quite nicely. Another note: This is even better the second time around!
Of all the things my Grandma makes, her pickles are my favorite. I’ve always thought I’d like to learn how to make them, but then, I thought it would be really difficult. We all know I’m no good at baking, or anything that requires exact measurements, etc., so I figured canning would fall into that same category. Pickles seemed like a daunting task.
Sunday morning, Grandma invited me over to learn how to can pickles. I learned a few things 1.) There’s tricks that no canning book will tell you that are IMPORTANT (but guess what? I’ll tell you guys because I’m nice 😀 ) 2.) Canning pickles is EASY! 3.) Canning pickles is actually kind of fun! 3.) My Grandma knows I’m not graceful and therefore, she expects I will burn and cut myself…. (I ALMOST cut myself).
So, since I’m so nice ( 😀 ) I will share the instructions AND recipe as well as some nifty, blurry photos taken from my phone, so that all of you can can pickles too!
What you need:
•A large pot of boiling water
•A canning rack (sits in the bottom of the pot so that the cans don’t sit directly on the bottom and break)
•Four quart jars or Eight Pint Jars (we used pint jars since these will be Christmas gifts – I know, weird gift, right?)
•Canning lid flats and rings
•Three dozen small cucumbers (or six pounds if you’re getting them weighed at the farmer’s market)
•4 C. Vinegar
•4 C. Water
•3/4 C. Sugar
•1/2 C. Pickling Salt
•Grape Leaves (*one for each jar)
•Garlic Cloves (*one for each jar)
•Dill (*Two heads for each jar)
So first, you want to sterilize your jars, lids and rings, so boil some water in a big pan and boil all of those aforementioned items for a few moments to make sure there are no contaminants on any of the supplies.
Then, you must scrub all of the cucumbers to make absolutely sure there is no dirt anywhere on them. ***Grandma’s Trick Alert**** Cut the tips of both ends of the cucumbers, because dirt can settle in the rough edges and will spoil the jar of pickles.
Slice thin slices of onion, peel and separate the garlic cloves, wash and dry your grape leaves (cut off stems) and cut stems off heads of dill (Make nifty little piles that are easy to grab for each jar on a paper towel).
Grandma Trick – Cover a wood cutting board in newspaper to insulate so that when you’re done with the boiling of the pickles you have a place to set the jars.
OK now you’re ready….
Combine vinegar, water, sugar and salt together in a pot and simmer for 15 minutes.
Now, in each jar, place first a grape leaf, then a slice of onion to hold down the grape leaf, then a clove of garlic, then one head of dill…
Slice each cucumber in half or fourths depending on how large you want your pickles. Grandma tip – lay the jar on the side so that it’s easier to pack in the cucumber slices tightly….
Pack each jar full of cucumber slices very tightly. Cut smaller ones to lay across the top. Fill jar to the rim putting a second head of dill in the top (do not leave anything sticking over the first rim)
Use a mug or ladle to pour the hot vinegar mixture into the jars. Pour just to top rim (it’s about 3/4 of a cup for a pint size jar). ***Grandma Tip*** Sometimes the liquid will settle into the cucumbers, so go over all the jars again after you’re done to make sure there is enough liquid in all of the jars.
***Another Grandma Tip**** Wipe all of the jar rims with a wet paper towel after they’re filled to make sure no residue is left between the lid seal and the glass rim.
Now you can put the flat lid and rings on all of the jars.
Place jars in the boiling water pan on top of the rack…
Once you’ve got all the jars in boiling water that is deep enough that it covers the top of the jars, boil for 10-12 minutes. (This is called a water bath. LOL)
Use a clamp of some sort (Grandma has a really nifty vintage one) to remove the hot jars from the water.
****Grandma tip**** Make sure the window is closed when you’re boiling the jars and while they’re “setting” before they’re all sealed so that the cool breeze doesn’t disrupt the sealing process. Also be sure to set jars to cool so that there’s at least a flat hand width between each of the jars to allow air to move between the cooling pickles.
As the jars cool, you’ll hear the lids pop, meaning they’ve sealed. Grandma tip*** – Do not “poke” the lids to see if they’ve sealed. That can create a “false seal” and will spoil your pickles. If some jars are having a hard time sealing, you can tip them upside down as that forces the air out. To see if the jars have sealed, hold them up so the top is level and look across the top. The indent in the center of the lid means the jar has sealed.
After our family reunion in July, I collected the recipes from family members to make into a family cookbook.
One of the recipes in particular caught my eye, and I decided I simply must make my great-aunt Beverly’s salted nut roll recipe.
Of course, this inspiration to get in the kitchen and make these didn’t hit until nearly 10 at night, which meant I worked with what I have….which is really my whole problem with baking. I can cook. With cooking you can improvise… don’t have something on hand? No problem, use something else. Didn’t measure exactly? No problem. With baking, however, precision, the correct ingredients, time and patience are all requirements. These are also things I have a problem with most of the time.
So I gathered up my ingredients….
OK, so the recipe called for peanut butter chips, but I had peanut butter and milk chocolate mixed chips. Should be fine, right? We’ll see… Also the recipe called for mini marshmallows, but I only had the regular size marshmallows… well, they’re still marshmallows… the Kindle is there because I have attention issues and need to be doing something all the time, so of course, while there’s lulls in the baking, I’m going to be catching up on some of my reading (three books at a time…. attention issues I’m telling you…).
OK so here’s how I made the recipe, which, mind you is not the actual correct way to make the recipe.
First – dump all the chips and a half stick of butter in a pan (don’t you love my eloquent recipe instructions… ha!)
While that’s melting on low, and you’re remembering to occasionally stir it so the chips don’t burn to the bottom of the pan, you should grease a cookie sheet. OK so the recipe calls for a 9×13 pan. I had a cookie sheet handy so I just used that. Also, I didn’t butter it, I GREASED it with coconut oil… because it tastes better.
Put half of your salted peanuts on the greased pan. (Don’t forget to keep stirring those chips-n-butter!)
***Side NOTE Alert****
Here’s proof Puddin’ will eat anything… in this photo, she’s chasing down and devouring a peanut I dropped on the floor.
Once your butter-n-chips mixture is melted, add a can of sweetened condensed milk.
Stir in thoroughly and remove from heat.
Then fold in marshmallows…. (this is when it dawned on me why mini marshmallows would have been better…. big marshmallows don’t really melt…)
Pour that mixture on top of the nuts in the pan, pour the rest of the nuts on top, press into the mixture and store in the refrigerator…mine really took all night to properly set-up…
OK, so it tasted NOTHING like a salted nut roll…. but it was pretty darn tasty.
Since Italy Ava moved into their new location in downtown Marshall, Minnesota, I’ve had my own designated space in which to display my wares each month. This has been a wonderful transition that really allows for more creativity on my part! I’m able to come up with a line of products each month that follow a theme, which really gets my mind working.
Right away when I found out about the space I purchased a journal and began recording all of my ideas for different months themes inside, as well as lists of products that would fall in line with those themes. Thinking about what kinds of things could fit into a “country” or a “cottage” theme gave me even more ideas for what to make!
This months theme is a “cottage” look….
The look this month was inspired by a lot of those “dreamy” images you see around Pinterest with the light colors and lots of nature involved in decor. The birdbath/feeder/what-have-you actually came from an old light fixture I upcycled. The throw pillows have become one of my favorite things to do and I’m having a lot of fun playing with colors and prints. Jewelry this month was inspired also by nature, with the butterflies under glass rings.
Autumn is just around the corner. It’s so close I can almost smell it. It’s my favorite time of year. I’m so excited about the projects I’m working on for next months theme which will be the first of the autumn in the country series.