And the road goes on forever...

Thursday, June 26, 2014

All Aboard!

This past Saturday was a good day for me to enjoy some of the festivities of Waupaca’s annual Strawberry Fest. As part of this event there was a modeler’s scale railroad show, which featured many vendors selling supplies but more impressive, the huge displays built and maintained by some of the city and county clubs throughout Wisconsin. Now I am not a fan of model railroads; have never really thought about the hobby all that much but will confess to being totally impressed on a surprising scale looking at what these folks had built.
It started with a Lego land of a large city and then I moved along to one of our region, done with the local line’s landmarks, like crossings, bridges, and the main yard at Stevens Point. This display even chronicled the train wreck near Sheridan in 1988. While the police car sat askew of the highway with its lights flashing, there was smoldered train car remains scattered all over.
Here’s a video of the train leaving Stevens Point:
What is simply amazing is the amount of detail packed into these dioramas. Most feature lots of animation, best shown by videos. The smallest details show up if one looks closely enough—animals in the barnyard with its rusty old barn roof, the change of seasons evidenced by the autumn trees, townspeople playing in or mowing their backyards, work crews.
The drive-in movie patrons were able to watch “Unstoppable” (on an IPad), the runaway train movie starring Denzel Washington while next door another crowd watched race cars!
Fantastic fun and the kids thought it all kid heaven!
Waupaca was packed since there was a small carnival going on for the kids, a couple of bands playing in our century old town square gazebo; over 100 street vendors and a huge food tent serving up strawberry desserts. I heard the announcer saying they had started the morning off with over 4000 strawberry shortcake portions and were down to only ten left as I left the festival about 2:30. I was able to marvel at the many vendors who were creating really interesting handmade items at some very reasonable pricing. Just a small town summer celebration in the what is our new hometown.

Sunday, June 22, 2014


Those who know me well know I hardly ever buy anything new without first checking thrift stores to see if I can find the item there first. It’s not always about saving the money either—it’s the thrill of the hunt and the fact that more than likely, something made awhile go is of a much better quality than the items available new today. To say nothing of the “cool” factor of the aged patina and looks of something vintage and it’s not being a cookie-cutter cheap imitation of a real thing. My daughter has actually had comments on the Black & Decker steam iron I gave her (which was made in the USA) by those who never knew the company made irons let alone in the U.S. Well, of course not the newer ones—those went overseas then the company was absorbed altogether by another. Ah, but the old ones---LAST. That’s the primary reason I shop thrift first; if it was made in the U.S. even as long as forty or fifty years ago, it is still likely working. Try that with anything new. 

I guess by now I have trained Marc well—a man who had never set foot in a thrift store before meeting me but he has come to realize the treasures that abound and now will go out of his way to find a good one. On his way to N.D. he was driving different highways this trip and saw one that looked like it needed investigating. Inside he found his treasure, a probably 70 or 80 year old Toastmaster with a cloth cord, in all its made in American pride. For $2.99 it was an outright steal since last I have even seen one in person was in the antique store in Bakersfield where they were going for around $100. Marc reports it works like a champ!
I’ve been getting into several crafting things lately that will require some type of wood to be used as a plaque. Yeah, I can go to Michael’s or Hobby Lobby and pay $10-12 for a small piece of newly cut scrap wood but I chose to try and look first at Goodwill for something that could be repurposed. When I’m in Goodwill I hardly ever stop at just what I am searching for; I wander the aisles seeing what speaks to me—kind of the like the Pier 1 ad. 

Goodwill is always good for picture frames; again why pay more for the new thing at Michael’s when you can buy one, even with the artwork included (which is usually of highly questionable taste) for around $2.99 or so. That my friends is a savings of at least 80%. On this day’s trip, I came across four of an obvious set with old frames and fairly old looking art. To my untrained eye they looked like original watercolors. Not really needing art at the moment and noting that the frames weren’t what I was after either, I finally settled on purchasing just one of the four since it was of a paddle wheeler and you know how I love boats! It was marked $4.99.
I actually found what I was looking for in amongst the pictures—a nice wooden plaque with a metal piece listing the Ten Commandments; those who know me well will get a real kick out of that! Once I’ve removed the metal commandments I should be good to go and maybe my project will be blessed! 

Searching through more of the “wooden” area of shelves filled with the detritus of hobbies gone badly, I spied a wooden bowl. It appeared dusty and pretty worn inside but the outside had a routed lip and sweet patina. Plus, the bowl was obviously out of round which gave it a primitive feel. On the bottom was just stamped “Munising”. I had seen a similar bowl in an antique store here I had greatly admired and lusted after; this one seemed a close enough second I thought it was worth the $2.99 they were asking.
Once home with all my treasures I decided to do a little Google investigation. Imagine my surprise when I found out the bowl is quite a collectible and easily goes on EBay (for the nice ones like this) anywhere from $65-145! It was made by the Munising factory in the upper peninsula of Michigan, which produced bowls and other kitchen implements from 1911-1955. The advent of plastic ware brought about the factories demise but a great majority of their bowls were made from hard rock maple out of solid chunks of wood. It’s exquisite in its primitive feel and cleaned up a lot with a little mineral oil so will make a great addition to my new kitchen holding fruit.
Back to the art. Investigation on that led me to believe it would definitely be in my best interest to backtrack to Goodwill the minute it opened today, which I did and was much relieved to see the other three pieces still available and all marked $4.99 each. It seems it was made by a unique stenciling process off master originals by the College Waterfall Group, now better known as Davis Gray Watercolors. It was all done in pochoir, which when done by Gray’s Watercolors was a process deemed very unique in the U.S. and determined by the courts to be a “secret” process which cannot be duplicated by others even though there is technically no patent. Gray’s pchoir process is no longer employed, thus the prints outstanding are the only ones that will exist, especially since their main two artists are now deceased. And in art, death always enhances value. 

Values are hard to ascertain at this point and could vary with the collector, since they were done in sets and anyone needing some to complete their set would of course, pay more. Those I have appear to be from a set of six, all of scenes from Neenah, WI around the turn of the 20th century. They have a very vintage appeal of their own but if I don’t keep them for my own house it’s nice to know that they could bring $100-200 each at auction given they are limited edition. Label on back of each, alluding to investment value:
Thrifting: who knew it could be so much fun and so profitable!

Monday, June 16, 2014


No, we’re not harvesting hay although it may appear so! Our grass was so tall that it took Marc several visits at the lots to get them all completed and the dried grass picked up so it wouldn’t rot the lawn. To that end, we needed to purchase a new piece of equipment, a sweeper/catcher contraption that despite having no motorized parts cost $400. Sheez.
We worked hard towards getting everything in tip top shape on Marc’s few days off before his leaving for North Dakota again this morning, to hold till his return, hopefully in no more than two weeks time this trip. If Lady Luck really holds for him, this could even be his last trip there for awhile. While Marc mowed, I pulled weeds and pruned shrubs and the smaller trees and then finally was able to set out the birdbath I had made.
 Given that we purchased the land barren and snow covered, we felt proud as we gazed out, noting how pleasant it is here this time of year, and how utterly park-like. Marc noted that the space between the two mature apple trees is begging for a hammock!
The stakes you see marked here are where we intend to place the house. Blenker says he will work on drawing the plans ASAP and our loan is now approved. 

We met with the septic contractor Saturday and will be getting a bid for a new system. The current one, although of legal distance, is too close to the wellhead for us to be comfortable with it so it will be regulated to RV use only.
Directly across the subdivision street from us, the seller has a large lot for sale with a very well done pond. We are free to use it until it sells—he aerates it to keep algae and mosquitoes at bay; it has a neat little dock and electricity there. The bird life is wonderful and the fountains melodic. A great spot for a picnic!
Finally, our apples are forming!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Marc's Back!

After 32 days away Marc arrived back late Saturday night. Since he was pulling 80 hour work weeks, seven days a week, there was no time for us to do anything towards the house. He is taking a few hours off this week and we’ve been trying to get ahead on our long list of “to do” items. The lot deserved attention first, since with Wisconsin’s spring rains the grass has been growing like a house a fire and was over our knees. The mower couldn’t handle it and broke a spring which caused the hydraulics in the steering levers to malfunction. Marc towed it from the field and did a Joe McGee fix so he could finish mowing but our second lot still is in grave need of mowing. Add ordering lawnmower parts and fixing that to his “to do” list.
We are now witness to our land in its full glory; since purchasing when it was snow covered and barren didn’t afford us the true feel of how it is in full bloom. The trees are magnificent, tall and full and the lilacs made beautiful bouquets for a couple of weeks. I am still harvesting rhubarb but the asparagus is about done. The weather has been very mild lately, in the perfect range of 70’s and 80’s and the area just shines with spring chartreuse and greens. It’s quite beautiful and paints an entirely different picture than winter!
Today we meet with our lender on the construction loan and are hopeful to have a decision made by week’s end as to which builder we will be using so we can get things moving along in what will be a four month process more than likely. We may also slip away to Appleton to pick up the hutch I bought at the antique gallery. And then of course, there’s all that mowing and weed-whacking. Marc might be glad to head back to North Dakota! Actually, no he won’t. 

I engaged in a little more crafty handiwork, making a twine bowl from an idea I saw on Pinterest. It turned out quite interesting so I bought some larger jute earth colored twine to make a larger bowl next since it’s a pretty fun project. The next craft project awaiting me is to chalk paint some tall terra cotta  pots with an applied stencil design. If they turn out I’ll be showing them next.