the festival topiaries.

As promised, today’s ‘Sunday mornings in the garden’ post is brought to you from Disney World’s Epcot.

Normally when my sister and I go to Disney, we like to go in the fall.  The weather is perfect in late October to early November, and the crowds aren’t super awful then either. But this year we decided to go for my sister’s birthday, which happened to be during Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival.

The says that “more than 500,000 plants, trees, and shrubs are planted for the festival; 250,000 of those are annual blossoms installed for the festival.”

In other words, it’s a massive amount of plants and tons of color.

I really thought I’d be able to share all of my photos in one blog post, but as I’m working on it I realize that it’s far too much for just one so I’m going to break it down into a couple of different posts.

There are around 25 themed gardens featured for the festival ranging from the Bouquet Garden in the France pavilion to the Shishi-odoshi Garden in the Japan pavilion (and I’ll share more on those in my next post).  There are also a butterfly house, food booths featuring plant based and/or themed food and drink, and a Garden Rocks concert series.  We saw Kool & the Gang and that was super fun.

In addition, there are over 100 topiaries.

But they aren’t what I think of as legit topiaries.  When I say ‘legit topiary’ I am thinking of living shrubs that have been strategically pruned to form a shape.  In my mind, these are the kinds of topiary that Disney was originally known for having in their parks, like these examples in front of It’s a Small World in Disneyland.

Large shrub topiaries can take up to 10 years to create though, so I can understand that they aren’t very practical if you need over one hundred of them.

They had a Topiary Heritage Garden in the United Kingdom Pavilion where they had placards explaining the different types of topiary being used in Epcot, with examples of each.

Standard Form topiary are created by training a woody plant to a long, single stem topped with a round head of foliage.  I think the double globes of foliage below also count as standards, but don’t quote me on that.

The spirals fall into the category of Free Form topiary.

They did have an example of a shrub topiary in the Topiary Heritage Garden, but there were a couple of gardeners trimming it up while we were there so I didn’t snap a photo of it.

Almost all of the topiary at the Food & Garden Festival are what is called Sphagnum Topiary though.  They are created using heavy steel frames that are then fitted with sphagnum moss and fast growing vining plants.  They also will use dried plant material to create details like faces or clothing items.

For example, I’m betting that Miss Piggy’s lavender gloves and shoes, as well as her face, legs and arms are made out of dried plant material.

I’m sorry, I just can’t help but feel like that’s cheating.  How much of these are even real growing plants?

However, although these topiaries feel rather ‘fake’ to me, they are pretty cute.

And this is Disney after all, their goal is to create magical illusions, right?

And I do rather love the ‘fluffy’ ears on Lady …

But tell me, what do you think?  Are you a fan of the sphagnum moss topiaries, or do you find them a little too ‘fake’ looking?  Leave a comment and let me know.

an altered recipe box.

Have you made yourself a recipe box scrapbook yet?

I shared this idea a few years back when I made one for our Adriatic cruise.

That cruise went to some of the most beautiful ports I’ve seen; Venice, Ravenna, Kotor, Split and Valletta.  If you’re considering a European cruise, I highly recommend looking for one that visits those ports of call.

But, I digress.  This isn’t supposed to be a travel post.  This is a post about a makeover for this recipe box.

I found it the last time I went thrifting with my friend Sue.  It’s a nice, big one which would make it perfect for photos.

After sanding the box down, I painted it with one coat of Dixie Belle’s Sea Glass.  Once that first coat was dry, I blended more Sea Glass with some of DB’s Juniper around the edges (FYI, I believe Juniper is no longer available, it was a seasonal color back in 2021).

I’m still practicing my blending skills, I do like the way a little blending adds some depth to a piece.

Once painted I added some I.O.D. transfers from the Brocante and Label Ephemera sets.

The floral and the butterfly are from Brocante, the wording is of course from Label Ephemera.

I didn’t paint the inside of the box, but I did line it with some scrapbook paper.

Unfortunately, the previous owner of this box had defaced most of the alphabet index cards.

I have only A thru J in their original state.

The tabs for the rest of the alphabet have been obscured with white out.

Still, someone creative could work with those cards.  Especially if they happen to have any of the October Afternoon word stickers.  They all have index tabs on them, like the “Family History” one below.

You can still find some of the word stickers on Etsy, but October Afternoon has been out of business for several years.

I decided to go ahead and paint over the white with some of Dixie Belle’s Mint Julep to make it a little less obvious.

I used my cute little Savoy camera to stage these photos.

This is one of the few items I’ve ever purchased at a legit antique shop.  It was $30, but I fell in love with the colors, which happen to work beautifully with the colors in the October Afternoon supplies I’ve used on my index cards.

You might be thinking that I plan to save this one for myself, but actually I am going to sell it (without the photos).  If I do eventually decide to make one for my old family photos, I’ll likely theme the outside to something more ‘family like’.  But it was fun to break out the scrapbook supplies and show you what you could do with this box.

So tell me, have I encouraged you to create your own recipe box scrapbook yet?

planting outside of my comfort zone.

I had planned to get out to the botanical garden at Ethel M’s while I was out at my mom’s house last week.  I thought it would make a great ‘Sunday mornings in the garden’ post.

If you aren’t familiar with Ethel M chocolates, first of all they are named after Ethel Mars.  She was Forrest Mars Sr.’s mother, and he is the founder of Mars, Inc.  So many brands are under the Mars umbrella, including Snickers and M & M’s, but Ethel M is their fresh-crafted gourmet chocolate line and they make them in Henderson, NV.

You can tour the factory to see where they are made, and to try a free sample.  But I go for the botanical garden outside.

I have to admit, I’m not really a big fan of desert scenery.  I tend to prefer a much more lush look.  But the Ethel M garden shows how beautiful cacti and other desert plants can be.

All of that being said, I didn’t actually get out there this time.  All of those pics are from my visit last year.  My mom came down with bronchitis just before I arrived last week, and she wasn’t feeling up for much.  So I basically spent the week laying low with her.  Honestly, I was quite lazy and didn’t accomplish much.

However, I did do some planting for her.

She has a few pots on her patio, and I tend to plant those up with annuals each time I visit.  When I was out in February I put in some pansies.

They were still looking OK, but with hot weather just around the corner for her, I knew they weren’t going to last much longer.  I wanted to replace them with some moss roses, which did extremely well for her last summer, but they weren’t available at her local Lowe’s yet.

So I left most of the pansies in place and decided to plant a few things right in the ground for her this time around.

Here’s the thing, my mom lives in a townhome.  They have a rock landscape with irrigation spots here and there for specimen plants.  As plants have died over time, it seems that her HOA is not replacing them.  So there are lots of spots that have a functioning irrigation drip, but no plant.

I’m not usually a rule breaker, technically my mom is supposed to get approval to do any planting in the ground.  But … well … I didn’t have time to wait around for approval.  I planted anyway.

The first challenge for me was figuring out what to plant in her zone 9a, which is a long ways from my own zone 4b garden.  I started out with the yellow lantana.  There are already several of these in the ground in her complex, so I figured they were a safe bet.  I also thought maybe the HOA wouldn’t notice them since they would just blend in with existing plantings.

I grabbed that plant in the back of the photo above with the bright pink flowers because I thought it might attract hummingbirds.  My mom has a hummingbird feeder just outside her sliding glass doors and she loves to watch the birds.

It’s a Chiapas Sage which grows best in full sun and is drought tolerant so I’m hoping it will do well, and draw in lots more hummingbirds.

I also grabbed a gardenia while shopping.  When my family lived in Florida we had a gardenia and my mom loved it, so I thought I’d give it a go.

I wasn’t sure it would do well in the ground with their once a week drip irrigation, so I decided to put it in one of her pots where it would be easy for her to water.

The tag said it would do best with 3 to 4 hours of morning sun, but with protection from the intense afternoon sun.  I was able to place the pot in the perfect location on her patio for that.

I had to laugh when digging through the boxes of stuff in my mom’s garage looking for plant food because I found some vintage garden tools.

She was never much of a gardener, so I was surprised to find this.  If I came across it at a garage sale I’d probably pick it up to use as a photo prop!  Who knows when the last time was that this tool was actually used.  I may have to sneak it into my suitcase the next time I visit.

For now, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that everything I planted survives.

How about you, do you ever garden outside of your zone?  Leave a comment and let me know.


a little junkin’ and a little drinkin’.

Last week I spent some time helping my neighbor, nnK, paint her parent’s kitchen cabinets.  They live out in Amery, Wisconsin on Lake Wapogasset … or as I like to call it, Lake Pop-a-gasket.

We headed out there last Friday afternoon to add a few finishing touches, and we were done so quickly that we had a little extra time to kill before dinner so nnK and I checked out a few of the shops in town including Acme Junk Co.

I’d only been to this shop once before in their previous location, so I’d been wanting to check out this spot for a while now.

We headed down to the basement level first.  They had a very clever license plate treatment on the stairs.

How long do you suppose it takes to accumulate that many vanity license plates?

The lower level seemed to be mainly small booth spaces that I assume were rented by various different vendors.

Each little space had its own personality.  We had to laugh in one of the spaces that was devoted to paintings of naked women and vintage Playboys.  I didn’t take photos of that one to share with you guys, for obvious reasons.

There were some spaces that harkened back to my shabby chic days.

And some spaces that had a little bit more of a vintage industrial sort of style.

Overall the basement felt more like your typical antique mall, not what I would necessarily call a junk shop.

The main level of the store was much ‘junkier’, and I mean that in the most complimentary way.

They definitely had some cool stuff, including several really amazing antique dress forms.

At $475, this was way out of my price range as were the others in the shop unfortunately.

There were also lots of old typewriters, and clearly someone has gotten tired of bored children banging away on the keys while they wait for their parents to be done shopping.

This next one was particularly cool.

They certainly had some unique finds, hammerhead shark anyone?

I really liked this set of three cobalt blue apothecary bottles.

I thought $43 for all three was a decent price, but I don’t really have this color anywhere in my own décor so I couldn’t think where I would put them.

I was also extremely tempted by this large wooden toolbox.

It was a little pricey at $95, but I would have been willing to pay that for it if I’d had just the right spot for it.  Ultimately though, I realized that I’d want to add some wording to it and I wasn’t sure that I should mess with the original patina.  So I left it behind.

At this point you might be wondering, what did I buy?

First up, I purchased this little ironstone covered soap dish.

It’s rare to find ironstone at reasonable prices in our area (at least in my experience), and this one was $18.

I love the mark on the bottom.

I’m really trying to pare down my ironstone non-collection these days, but then I come across an item like this and I decide why not?

I’ve saved find of the day status for this guy though …

You may remember that I once had a planets and stars themed ornament just like this, only it was a pretty shade of blue.

And I broke it!

One of my generous readers had sent me a replacement that is red with glittery gold stars and planets (thanks again for that Melissa!).

But still, when I saw the silver one I had to have it.  As a bonus, it was only $2.  Definitely a bargain.

I’m still keeping an eye out for one in that pretty shade of blue, maybe one day I’ll find it.

That was it for my purchases at Acme Junk Co.  We did stop at a couple of other shops in Amery including Ruby Mae’s Treasures and Bittersweet Homestead Boutique.  Ruby Mae’s had some great vintage furniture pieces and is definitely worth a visit.  Bittersweet Homestead has more of a gift shop vibe with lots of seasonal items, candles, soaps, dip mixes and that sort of thing.  So if any of you locals are looking for a fun afternoon shopping trip, I can recommend heading to Amery.

We capped off our day with the Friday night fish fry at a quintessential Wisconsin supper club.

If you aren’t familiar with the Wisconsin supper club culture, there are a few things that make a genuine supper club.  Here is how Kevin Pang from the Chicago Tribune describes them  …

“A Wisconsin supper club is an independently owned, fine-dining destination restaurant, typically in a picturesque locale on the edge of town. The menu comes from yesteryear, void of pretense and decidedly non-froufrou — prime rib, broiled white fish, shrimp cocktail — with enough complimentary sides and trimmings to satisfy a second meal. A relish tray should begin the meal, and three hours later, is bookended with house-made bread pudding or cheesecake. On Fridays they should serve an all-you-can-eat fish fry. A band might be performing. Mixed cocktails such as Manhattans and brandy old-fashioneds are preferred over wine or beer. If you leave hungry, you have not dined in a supper club.”

This one definitely had the location down.  A picturesque locale on the edge of town.

I’ve only been to a handful of supper clubs, but they have all been lakeside.  By the way, as a sidebar, there were people out ice fishing on that lake while we were there.  In April.  I definitely wouldn’t have chanced it.

Most supper clubs feel like a blast from the past when you walk in.

OK, yes, we were the first people to arrive for dinner.  It was early, but we were hungry from a day of painting and shopping.  Most of those tables were occupied by the time we left.

Naturally, I had to order the iconic supper club drink, a brandy old-fashioned.

Since we were there on a Friday, everyone else at our table had the fish fry.  I’m not a big fish eater though, so I opted for the prime rib.  However, the conversation around the table was entertaining, and that drink was mighty tasty, so I completely forgot to get a photo of my dinner.  Suffice to say, it was delicious and we definitely did not leave hungry.

Speaking of leaving, I’m heading off to spend some time with my mom later this week.  I’d been hoping to get out there 3 or 4 times this winter, but other life stuff has been making it difficult to schedule.  But I finally found a semi-open time frame, and was able to use my Delta Skymiles for a free ticket, so off I go.

I’ve scheduled just a couple of posts in advance, so I’m not abandoning you all together.  So I hope you’ll stay tuned!

the valley of fire.

As I mentioned in a recent post, my trip to visit my mom was a bit of a roller coaster.  And that included the weather.  We saw everything from cold and blustery to warm and sunny while we were there.  There were high winds one evening, and that brought down a fairly good sized tree out behind my mom’s townhouse.  One afternoon it even snowed!  Ugh!  We went to Las Vegas to get away from the snow!

Granted, it wasn’t our Minnesota style snow.  More like just flurries in the air.  But still, not what we were hoping for.

Naturally, on our last full day the weather turned perfect.  Sunny and a high of 70.  So my sister and I decided to drive out to the Valley of Fire State Park.

We hadn’t been out there since our dad was still alive, so it was probably at least 20 years ago or more.  I’d forgotten how beautiful it is.

I think most people heading to the Valley of Fire from Las Vegas will take the interstate highway, I15.  But we were leaving from my mom’s place in Henderson and thus decided to take a more scenic route through the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

It wasn’t until we got to the entrance gate for the Recreation Area that we discovered there was a separate $25 fee for driving through, then another $15 fee to enter the Valley of Fire (note:  one is a state park, one is a national park).  Yikes!  I have to admit, I’m not sure we would have chosen that route had we known, but there was no turning around at that point so we ponied up the cash and kept going.

Ultimately though, it was worth it for a few reasons.  First, the views along the way are pretty fabulous.

Second, we pretty much had the road mainly to ourselves (maybe because nobody else wanted to pay $25??).

That’s pretty unusual considering it was a holiday (President’s Day) and the perfect day for a road trip (and as I’ll mention in a minute, the Valley of Fire itself was mobbed).

I takes about an hour to drive this route from Henderson to the Valley of Fire, so it was nice taking this peaceful scenic route rather than a crowded interstate.

Lastly, there was some decent hiking along this road before we even got to our final destination.

We pulled off at the Redstone Dunes Trail, which is an easy 30 minute walk around some red sandstone rock formations.

This was a great place to stop and stretch our legs a bit.

One thing to note about the $25 entrance fee is that it’s good for a full week of entry.  Of course, we were on the last day of our vacation, so that didn’t really help us any.  But the Lake Mead National Recreation Area is huge, so next time we’re out visiting mom we’ll start earlier in the week and take advantage of that.

The route through the Recreation Area takes you to the east entrance into the Valley of Fire, if you take I15 you’ll end up at the west entrance.  So our initial couple of stops inside the park were still rather empty of crowds.

That gave us some time to appreciate the C.C.C. cabins in peace and quiet.

Can you imagine being able to stay in such a location for your holiday?

You could wake up to that view every morning!

Of course, you can no longer stay in these cabins but there are two campgrounds in the Valley of Fire for those of you that are campers.

There are some petroglyphs on the sandstone wall behind the cabins.

These carvings are as much as 2,000 years old.  It always bums me out to see that people have scratched over some of them with modern graffiti, which I did see here.  Things like “M.K. loves J.B” are clearly not original.  What is wrong with people?

Unfortunately, that was our last stop before we caught up to the Vegas crowds.  After making a pit stop at the Visitor Center, we headed up towards the Fire Canyon Overlook to see if we could find an available picnic spot for our lunch.

We found a spectacular view, but the picnic tables were all taken.

So we got back in the car and drove up to the White Domes Loop.  Once there, we couldn’t even find a parking spot, let alone an unoccupied picnic table.  By this time we were getting pretty hungry, so we just pulled into a parking area a ways back down the road and ate in the car.  We did have a gorgeous view from there though.

Next up we headed to Mouse’s Tank.  According to their website, “Mouse’s Tank is named for a Southern Paiute Indian renegade (“Little Mouse”) who used Valley of Fire as a hideout in the 1890s after he was accused of killing two prospectors and other crimes in the area.”

Hmmm, no sign of renegades or prospectors while we were there, but there were lots of signs of other hikers.

This is a very sandy trail, and the sand got deeper further along.  We had to take our shoes off and dump out the sand after this one.

There are supposed to be petroglyphs visible from this trail as well, but we were so busy watching our footing that we never did spot them.  Although the trail is mostly easy going over sand (sort of like walking on the beach), there are a couple of rockier spots and one area with probably about a 4′ drop to navigate.

The scenery is spectacular along the way.

After getting all of that sand out of our shoes, we made one more quick stop to check out Elephant Rock on our way out of the park.

Then we had to head back to Henderson and get our rental car returned before the place closed for the day.

No matter which route you take to get there, I totally recommend a day trip out to the Valley of Fire if you’re in the Vegas area.  Unfortunately, it will require a car.  Although there seem to be many tour companies that offer day tours out there from the strip as well.  A quick google search reveals that most of them run around $129/person though, so at that rate you may as well rent a car if there are two of you or more.  That way you can pick your own hikes and other stops along the way.

How about you?  Have you been to the Valley of Fire?  Or the Lake Mead National Recreation Area?  Or maybe you have some other tips about places to visit near Las Vegas.  If so, be sure to leave a comment and let us know.

my las vegas thrift haul.

Well, I’m back from visiting my mom out in Las Vegas.  I always call it Las Vegas, but technically she lives in Henderson, Nevada.  Anyone familiar with the area knows that Henderson is a sprawling residential area to the south between Las Vegas and Boulder City.

Our trip was a bit of a roller coaster.  On our first day in town my mom’s car broke down as we were headed out to dinner.  It completely died while we were driving down the road.  So we spent the first evening of our vacation waiting two hours for a tow.  That was Saturday night, so we then had to wait until Monday to get a prognosis on the car.

While we waited, my sister and I decided to walk over to the Goodwill.  I’ve mentioned before that my mom conveniently lives just around the corner from a Goodwill store.  Since we were on foot, and I’d have to carry anything I purchased back to mom’s house, I didn’t actually buy much.  But I thought it might be fun to share what I would have purchased if I’d had a car.  Well … and also if I didn’t have to pack it in a suitcase to get it back home again.

First up, this metal sphere.

Those are always fun for the garden.  If you can read that tag you’ll see that it was $4.99 which I thought was a good price.  It was actually light enough to carry back to mom’s, but it would have taken up a lot of space in the luggage.

Next up, this pair of funky metal candlesticks.

I’m not sure if you can tell the size of them in that photo, but the tallest was about 3′ tall.  These never would have fit in my suitcase.  Plus, they were a bit pricey, as was that giant brass bowl in the background.  Overall, I have to say I did find most items my mom’s Goodwill store to be a bit overpriced for me.

However, it would have been fun to give those the rusty treatment using the Dixie Belle patina paint.

Speaking of candlesticks, I also thought about grabbing these …

However, they ranged in price from $5.99 up to $9.99 and I didn’t think there was enough of a profit margin for re-selling them.

I should mention here that I don’t qualify for the senior discount at my mom’s Goodwill, you have to be 65.  Here in Minnesota you only have to be 55 or older.

There were a few glass bottles that would have been perfect for adding apothecary labels to like the amber Kombucha bottles that I shared before I left.

But since I haven’t attempted to sell my apothecary bottles yet, I’m not at all sure if there is a market for them so I didn’t grab them.

I found a few copper pieces too.

These were in pretty rough shape though.  Both were missing the handles on their lids, but I’m sure I could have come up with a way to replace those.  But again, far too bulky to put in my suitcase.

There were also a handful of wooden items that would have been fun to paint including this trash can (it’s upside down on the shelf).

Wouldn’t that have been fun painted?  Maybe with a transfer or a stencil of some kind added?  Or even just a simple swiss cross (like this pair of trash cans I painted)?

Again, that item was far too large to put in a suitcase.

However, these two little wooden boxes would have fit nicely.

I’m really not sure why I didn’t purchase those.  I think I was hoping to find something better.

I was truly bummed to have to leave these next few items behind.  First were these metal baskets.

They had handles, and were reminiscent of a locker basket.  I totally would have grabbed all six of them had I been at home.  You never know when you might need a cool basket to contain stuff.

And I also would have loved to purchase this buffet.

It was $49.99, so a reasonable price.  Wouldn’t that have looked amazing with a paint job and some fresh hardware?

Dang, it was hard to walk away from that one.

So, what did I buy?

LOL, yep, that’s it!  I mean, really?  How could I resist that reusable bag?  It’s perfect for me.  Now I just have to remember to bring it when I go thrifting with Sue next time.

As for the wooden bowl …

Well, I really just wanted to see what it would take to bring this back to life.

I gave it a good wash with hot water and Dawn dish soap, then I sanded it lightly with 220 grit sandpaper.  After wiping away the dust, I pulled out my Salad Bowl Finish from Homestead House.

I’ve had this one little 1.75 oz jar since 2017, so a little goes a long way.  I looked it up, and you can purchase this jar for $10.99 from The Painted Heirloom (which is where I like to order my I.O.D. products online as well).

A quick q tip for you in case you’re not in the know.  Homestead House, Fusion and Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint are all made by the same people.  So The Painted Heirloom calls this product “Beeswax Salad Bowl Finish by Fusion Mineral Paint”.  Don’t be thrown off by that, it’s the same thing, as is the Miss Mustard Seed’s Beeswax Finish.

What I like about this product in particular is that it is food safe.  It was originally formulated for use on things like cutting boards and wooden salad bowls.  So it was exactly what I needed for my thrifted bowl.

Isn’t that wood grain lovely?

By the way, after our visit to the Goodwill on Monday, we learned that the engine in my mom’s car was toast, and were told it may or may not be covered under warranty.  At that point we went ahead and rented a car to drive while we waited on that news.  Fortunately, by Friday the warranty work was approved and my mom got a loaner car.  I have to say, she was a little stressed that entire time not knowing if she was going to have to cough up $6,000 for the repairs.  Thankfully, it will all be covered under warranty, even the loaner.  Clearly she has a guardian angel looking out for her!

I have a couple more posts I plan to share from my trip out west, so stay tuned for those.  I also have a few projects underway, and since I came home to something like 17″ of fresh snow outside, I’ll probably have plenty of time to work on smaller projects indoors over the next few weeks!


a pottery predicament.

About 20 years ago, Mr. Q and I took a cruise in the Baltic.  It was an amazing trip with lots of fabulous ports of call like Oslo, Copenhagen, St. Petersburg and Stockholm.  I think Mr. Q’s favorite city though was Helsinki.

We made our way to the Tourist Info office there and picked up a brochure for a self-guided walking tour from the Market Square to Kaivopuisto Park.  Eventually the tour would take us past the Mannerheim Museum where we got a personalized tour of the exhibits, likely because absolutely no one else was visiting the Mannerheim Museum that day.  Mr. Q was in heaven chatting with our unofficial guide about … well … you know, historical military stuff.

But before we headed out from the Market Square, we checked out the open air market stalls there.  Mr. Q ate some reindeer paella, and tried on some fur hats.

And I purchased a mid-century vase.

In my mind it had that quintessential Scandinavian look, and I loved the colors.  I thought it made a great souvenir from our trip.

I have no idea how much I paid for it.  I’m sure it wasn’t terribly much (because we all know I’m pretty cheap).  Plus, 20 years ago mid-mod stuff was not all that hot.

We’ve displayed it in various spots over the years, and most recently it has been on the window ledge at the bottom of our staircase.

Over Christmas I replaced it with a row of nutcrackers.  After taking down my Christmas decorations, I went to put the vase back in place and I thought (as I often do) that it really doesn’t jibe with the rest of my décor.

All this time I’d been hanging onto it because I thought it reminded Mr. Q of the awesome time we had in Helsinki.  But when I asked him about it, he said “What vase? I just remember the fur hat.”

So I thought I’d go ahead and bring it into the shop to sell it.  I was just about to make out a price tag of $25 for it when I thought, gee, maybe I should make sure it isn’t valuable.  After all, it was signed on the bottom.

Maybe Google would have some clues.

Turns out that my vase was made by Pirjo Nylander, probably in the 1960’s.  I found quite a few examples of her work online including this vase …

It has that same motif of rectangles, so I’m sure I’m on the right trail.  This one is listed for €475 at  I found another of her vases on Etsy for $475, but it’s still available so I’m not sure what that means.  There is also a Pirjo Nylander vase listed on 1stDibs for over $1,000.  But then, we all know that the prices on 1stDibs are horribly over-inflated (called ludicrously expensive by some), right?

Well, even so, now I feel like putting a price tag of $25 on my Nylander vase would be a mistake.  But I’m fairly sure a price tag of over $100 would be puzzling to most of the shoppers at Reclaiming Beautiful.  And that brings me to my pottery predicament.  What to do with this vase?

How many of you remember my blog post about the ‘death star’?

This goes back to 2014.  I had purchased some mid-mod furniture at an estate sale, and on a whim I asked about this metal sculpture that was hanging on the wall above the credenza.  The sellers threw it in for free.  After some research, I discovered that it was a signed Curtis Jere, and the exact same piece was listed at 1stDibs for $5,900!

Again, that’s a 1stDibs price, so you have to take it with a grain of salt.  But I did do some further research.  I sent inquiries to two auction houses that specialize in mid-century modern.  Palm Beach Modern Auctions said they would love to take it.  They estimated it would sell for $800 to $1,000.  But, I would have to ship it to them in Florida (and it was extremely heavy and large), and then they take a 20% commission.  So that was a no go.  I also contacted Wright in Chicago.  They estimated its value at $2,000, but they felt it wouldn’t be worth it to ship it to them and pay their auction fees (they did not elaborate on what those are) so they suggested I try to find a local buyer.  I did eventually find a local mid-century dealer who offered me $300 for it, and I took it.

You know what?  I actually kind of hate finding out that something I have is ‘worth something’.  I really regard most home décor as discardable.  I enjoy it for a while, and then I sell it onward or take it to the Goodwill when I’m tired of it.  I don’t have any collectibles that I consider valuable in any way (one of the many reasons I call them non-collections).  Or at least, not that I know of.

One of these days I’m probably going to buy a Rothko for $20 at a garage sale and then sell it on to someone else who will make millions on it (if you’re as fascinated by art that sells for millions as I am you might want to watch Made You Look, it’s a documentary on Netflix about the largest art fraud in American history, to the tune of $80 million).

In the meantime, what am I going to do with my Nylander vase?  Keep it?  Try to find a mid-century lover who will pay what it might or might not be worth?  Or just go ahead and bring it to the shop, maybe with a price tag just a tad higher than $25?

What would you do?


drinks in space.

Hello everyone!  Just wanted to pop up a quick post to say that I’ve returned from Disney World exhausted, yet somehow also feeling renewed.  I gave myself a day of rest yesterday to recover from all of the crazy chaos that is a Disney park (if you can count a day of unpacking and doing laundry as a day of rest).  So rather than having a full on post about some sort of painting project today, I’m just going to share a couple of quick highlights from Disney.

My sister and I stayed at Port Orleans – French Quarter on Disney property.  I’m sorry to say that I didn’t really take any photos of French Quarter.  I wish I had taken a few more because it was really quite picturesque.

Full disclosure, the photo above actually shows Port Orleans – Riverside.  It is the next door neighbor to French Quarter.  There is a lovely walkway along the ‘river’ between the two areas, and we walked this pathway a couple of times during our stay.    I snapped that quick photo at dusk.

We had requested a room with a view of the river, and at night we often heard the horse drawn carriages clip clopping past on the path.

We absolutely loved this resort.  We’ve stayed at a few different Disney properties, and so far this is definitely my favorite.  It’s one of the smaller resorts on property and thus felt very quiet and uncrowded.  Considered how wildly crowded the parks themselves feel, it is nice to come home each night to peace and quiet at your hotel.

If you’ve been following me for long, you know that my sister and I (and sometimes my niece) go to Disney regularly, so I’m not going to bore you with all of the details of this trip.  However, I thought I’d share one of my favorite highlights which was a visit to Space 220.

 Space 220 is the newest restaurant in Epcot that opened in 2021.  When dining at Space 220, you first board the space elevator that ascends 220 miles upwards to the Centauri Space Station.

The illusion is amazingly realistic.  You’re given a ticket to board the ‘space elevator’ and from there you can watch through upper and lower porthole windows as you speed away from earth and towards the space station.

You can watch as Florida, and then the entire planet grows smaller and smaller beneath you.

Once you arrive on the space station, you are met by a host who leads you into the restaurant where you have the most amazing view of planet earth from high above it.

Throughout your stay, different objects appear in view such as space shuttles and astronauts moving equipment around and such.  I didn’t manage to catch any of that in a photo, but it was surprisingly realistic.

As you can imagine, dining at a space station isn’t cheap.  They offer a prix-fixe, 2-course meal at lunch for $55 p.p. or a prix-fixe, 3-course meal at dinner for $79 p.p.

However, if you’re more budget conscious, you also have the option of visiting the lounge for drinks and appetizers.  If you really just want to experience the adventure of traveling to space, you could easily get away with spending less than $20 if you just get a drink.

My sister and I opted for drinks and a couple of shared appetizers.  The drink we both ordered was called the Atmospritz and was made with New Amsterdam vodka, Aperol, Blood Orange, Orange Juice, Prosecco, and a Cotton Candy Cloud.  It also came with a bit of a flourish as our waiter poured them after he brought them to our table.

You guys, for a drink made with cotton candy, these were crazy strong.  My sister is a bit of a light weight, so it wasn’t surprising that she was feeling loopy after just a few sips, but even I couldn’t finish the entire drink.  Not without needing to take a nap under the table anyway.  But they were certainly fun to try.

For appetizers we went with a classic shrimp cocktail and chicken on a waffle.

Both were really delicious.  I’m super picky about my shrimp cocktail.  The shrimp has to be perfectly fresh, not fishy smelling or rubbery.  These were fabulous.  Totally my favorite thing on the table.  My only complaint is that we paid a whopping $24 for just 4 shrimp.  However, they were U 10 shrimp, in other words, quite large.  My sister preferred the chicken on a waffle, and that was quite delicious as well.  It was fried chicken with some smoked bacon on a roasted corn waffle with a spiced coleslaw and a bourbon maple glaze, and it was $18.

Although we weren’t stuffed or anything, the dessert menu didn’t really offer anything that tempted us.  So after finishing our drinks and apps, we took the space elevator back down to earth and headed off to Norway to go on the Frozen boat ride.

As usual, we had a great time at Disney World despite some pretty massive crowds and a bit of heat and humidity.  But it’s great to be back home again.  We came back to sunny skies and temps in the 60’s, so I’m going to have to work a little to get back into the holiday spirit, but I’ll definitely have some Christmas painting projects to share with you later in the week so be sure to stay tuned for that.

In the meantime, have any of you dined at Space 220?  Or maybe you have another favorite Disney restaurant that you want to recommend.  If so, be sure to leave a comment!

pins and patches.

As I mentioned earlier this summer, both my sister and my niece purchased annual state park passes this year.  I’m not sure how these work in other states, but here in Minnesota an annual state park pass costs $35 and allows you unlimited free entrance into any of the 75 Minnesota state parks for one full year.

So this summer we’ve been trying to visit as many as we can, and my sister and niece are on a quest to collect a pin and a patch from each one.  We’ve pretty much made it to all of the parks that are within an hour or so from the Twin Cities, so last weekend we took a road trip to get to some that are a little further out with our main destination being Itasca State Park.

On the way up north we stopped off at the Charles A. Lindbergh State Park.

There isn’t a whole lot to this one, but you can see the boyhood home of the famous aviator who was the first to fly solo, non-stop across the Atlantic.  The park itself, however, is actually named for his father who was a congressman for Minnesota from 1907 to 1917.

Unfortunately, none of the buildings were open while we were there so Debbie and Kris were super bummed that they couldn’t get their pins and patches.

We made it up to our lovely airbnb cabin on Potato Lake in Park Rapids by dinner time.

  It was a bit rainy, so we grilled some steaks and played some board games inside for the evening.  The next morning we woke up to a beautiful misty sunrise over the lake.

We decided to head to Lake Bemidji State Park on our first full day.

We admired the lake …

And then took a hike on the Bog Trail.

The trail brought us to Big Bog Lake.

We were hoping to spot some wildlife on the opposite shore, like maybe a black bear or a moose, but no such luck.  Debbie & Kris did get their pins and patches at the park office though, so they were happy about that.

After lunch, we headed in to the town of Bemidji.  Stopping off to say hello to Paul Bunyan and his big blue ox, Babe, is pretty much a requirement when visiting this area.

We then dropped Mr. Q off at the nearby disc golf course so he could play a round, and while he was doing that we hit the shops.  I’m not gonna lie, the town of Bemidji was a huge disappointment to me.   The shops were mainly full of tacky, cheap souvenirs and the entire area felt a bit sketchy to me.  We quickly decided to get out of there and head back to our cabin for the evening.

On day 2 we headed to Itasca State Park.

For those of you who may not be familiar, Itasca is famous for being the location of the headwaters of the Mississippi River.

It’s pretty much a rite of passage for Minnesota kids to walk across the Mississippi.

These days it feels rather like an Instagram set up.  Those stepping stones are just a little too perfectly spaced to be authentic.  But maybe it was always that way and I just didn’t notice that when I was a kid.

For those who may not quite have the balance required for the stepping stones, there is also a log bridge you can take across.

Although this is the quintessential photo op in Itasca State Park, the park has lots more to offer including the very nicely appointed Jacob V. Brower Visitor Center.

I especially enjoyed the historical exhibits including this one with all of its vintage camping gear.

And this exhibit of the original Lady Slipper restaurant ware from the Douglas Lodge.

I got a kick out of the original menu showing such tasty treats as peach and cottage cheese salad, and chicken giblets on toast for only 70 cents.

A dinner that included several courses and half a chicken cost a mere $1.25.  I’m not at all sure I would enjoy cantaloupe a la mode for dessert though, and Maple Pecan ice cream served with Ritz crackers?  Was that a thing?

The lodge was built in 1905, but I’m not sure what year that menu was from.

We didn’t do a ton of hiking in Itasca State Park, but we did hike up to the fire tower.

Once we got there, Mr. Q and I totally chickened out of taking the stairs to the top for the view.  My sister made it up to one platform, but my niece went all the way up.

We also checked out a short trail to see the largest white pine in Minnesota.

Just look at the size of that thing!

I think we timed our visit just right for avoiding the crowds in Itasca State Park.  Kids are back in school, but we aren’t quite at peak fall color just yet.  I bet there is a line up of people to climb up that tower to get a birds eye view of the fall colors when they are at their peak.

There was so much more to see in the park, but by mid-afternoon we decided to head back to spend a little time enjoying the amenities at our cabin such as the canoe and the fire pit.  We went for a lovely paddle on the lake, then made bbq chicken fry pies over the fire for dinner.

All in all we had a lovely time up north.  I totally recommend visiting Itasca State Park, so far it is my favorite of the Minnesota state parks we’ve visited.  How about you?  Do you have a favorite state park where you are?  Leave a comment and let us know.

the arb.

This week my Sunday mornings in the garden post isn’t coming to you from my own garden, instead I’m sharing the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in all of its glory.

The Arboretum, or the Arb for short, was founded in 1958 by some local community sponsors in partnership with the University of Minnesota.  Their mission is to ‘welcome, inform and inspire all through outstanding displays, protected natural areas, horticultural research and education’.

If you’ve ever enjoyed a Honeycrisp apple you can thank the Arb for that.  It was developed here by the U of M, and was later named the Minnesota State Fruit.  I have to admit that their newer Zestar and SweeTango apples have taken over as my favorite varieties though.

My niece, Kris, had a day off mid-week last week and wanted to do something fun so she suggested a visit to the Arboretum.  I usually get out there about once a year, and every time I go I think “I should get out here more often!”  It really is worth the 50 minute drive.

There are two things I love about the Arb.

No. 1 – it’s simply a beautiful place to walk around and admire the lovely gardens.

One of my favorites is the Japanese Garden.

It’s so serene, and you know me, I like a garden that is mainly just green.

I was recently telling my bff that I’d like to visit Japan one day, but my problem is that I’d expect the entire country to look just like that photo.  I strongly suspect that it doesn’t though.

If you love color, the Annual Garden stands out in stark contrast to the Japanese Garden.

Every year the Arb does a different design for the annual garden and this year landscape designer Duane Otto decided to go with bright yellows, reds and oranges.

They’ve carried these colors to the area around the front of the visitor center building as well.

While I fully admit these beds of annuals are pretty darn spectacular, they aren’t my style at all.  I have very few bright colors like this in my own gardens, and when I do have color I tend to prefer the cooler versions rather that these hot colors.

Another favorite of mine though is the Knot Garden.

I’ve always loved the symmetrical and somewhat formal look of a knot garden.

The Rose Garden is really lovely as well.

I’d kind of like to know what they are doing to keep the Japanese beetles at bay though.  I saw very little damage from beetles on their roses, although there was some.

I don’t know that this next area has a specific name (at least not on the map I have), although it seems to be mainly conifers.

It has a ‘north woods’ feel to me for sure.

It also reminds me a lot of the Japanese Garden, but with a more natural feel.

The thing that all of these gardens have in common is that I won’t likely ever have a space like them in my own garden, but I still enjoy admiring them.

And that brings me to the 2nd thing I love about the Arboretum.

No. 2 – In addition to providing beautiful eye candy, the Arb also aims to educate.  It is part of the University of Minnesota after all.  I get lots of ideas for plant varieties, or plant combinations to add to my own garden when I visit.

Kris and I spent a bit of time checking out the Herb Garden.

I was trying to pick out some different herbs to add to my herb planter next year.

Although my herbs grew really well this year, the reality is that I don’t cook much so they felt really rather wasted.  So as we were going through the herb garden, especially the section with the scented herbs, it occurred to me that I might enjoy growing some herbs for their scent rather than for cooking.

My herb planter is situated right next to our outdoor dining table on the deck and I’ve noticed how the scent of the basil and the mint drift over while I’m seated there.

So next year I’d like to try growing some lemon balm, lemon verbena, and definitely one of the scented geraniums, like the chocolate mint.

I also thought this Society Garlic plant looked really nice in a clay pot.

That would be a fun addition to my deck as well.

I’ve never really grown hostas for their flowers, but while in the Japanese garden I noticed a hosta that had a deep purple flower that was really pretty en masse.

I was able to locate that hosta in the hosta glade where it was labeled as hosta clausa.

So now I can add that one to my wish list of plants for my garden.

I’d recently been wondering if I could grow a Japanese Forest Grass, or Hakonechloa.

I’d done some cursory research online and mostly found varieties that grow in zones 5 to 9.  I wasn’t sure if I could put one in my zone 4 garden.  But hey, if the Arb can grow it, so can I (theoretically).  Further research online tells me that this particular species, H. macra, is the most cold hearty of the bunch.  This is also one of the few ornamental grasses that perform well in the shade.  This plant is also definitely being added to my plant wish list.

In addition to the garden layouts in the central part of the arboretum, they also have educational and demonstration areas further out including a hedge display that showcases different varieties of plants suitable for use as hedging, the shrub walk to show different varieties of shrubs that will grow in our area, a weeping tree collection, an azalea and rhododendron collection, a crab apple tree collection, an iris garden, a peony garden, a section showing varieties of ornamental grasses, and one of my favorites, a hydrangea collection.

I had to laugh when I saw this in the hydrangea area …

What you’re looking at in the foreground is the Endless Summer hydrangea which is supposed to be a macrophylla hydrangea that blooms on new wood, and thus will bloom in our northern climate.  Behind it are all of the paniculatas that actually do bloom well in our climate.  I feel like this one picture says it all and I can get off my Endless Summer soap box.  Apparently even the Arb can’t get it to bloom!

They also have a dahlia trial garden at the Arb, and although I don’t grow dahlias myself (they are way too high maintenance for me), I couldn’t resist stopping to take a look.

I can definitely see why dahlias have seen a resurgence in popularity lately though.

They certainly can be magnificent.

Some of the flowers on these are the size of dinner plates.

How about you?  Do you grow dahlias?

There is so much more to see at the Arb than what I’ve touched on here, but I figure this post has gotten long enough.  I hope to make another visit there when the fall colors arrive, so stay tuned for a potential post on that.

The MN Landscape Arboretum was named the Best Botanical Garden by USA Today in 2017 and 2019.  It really is pretty dang fabulous.  The next time I am whining about the fact that we don’t have any amazing gardens here in Minnesota like the one I visited at Dunrobin Castle in Scotland

would you please remind me that although we may not have any castles here, we do still have some pretty amazing gardens!