Romancing the Old

Living in an old house is not everyone’s “cup of tea”. However, I cannot ever remember wanting to live any where else but. I suppose  that is why one of my favourite things to do through the years has been to “go antiquing” with MH. Antique shops, flea markets, lawn sales and even auction sales have been the source of so many things that fill this old house and make it our home.

Quite often we meander through the country side, no destination in mind, dogs firmly safety-harnessed in the back seat, lunch packed in the cooler, with hopes of discovering a new source for our indulgence in all things “old”. There is something about the smell of old wood and paper and fabric and pottery and metal that gets my heart thumping with anticipation. We have both been around long enough that much of the wares offered cause us to exclaim “Oh, I remember this!” or “My grandma had one of these!” Sometimes we have no idea what we are looking at, but the shop keeper usually is very obliging and so we learn something new, as well. Once in awhile we find “just the thing” to cram into another nook and cranny of this old house.

A few summers ago I was thrilled to find an old treadle sewing machine very much like the one I remember seeing in my grandma’s house when I was young. It was in rough shape, but the price was right and I had fantasies of restoring it to its former glory and actually use it to sew with. That hasn’t happened yet, but it certainly fills an unused  space in our dining room acting as a lamp table. The truth is that when I first set it up, the belt broke and I haven’t replaced it. ( I think belt breaking might happen often as I saw 100m rolls of it for sale on Amazon!) I have no idea how to thread the machine either, but found a manual on the internet, which I have bookmarked for the day I do get the machine working. Women who actually used a treadle machine must have had great legs, too, because even without the belt, I pretend-sewed to see what it was like, and it took a lot of muscle!

White Family Rotary Machine – Canadian edition early 1900’s

The White brand treadle machines were made from the 1880’s up to the second World War. They were known for their beautiful cabinets and the odd fact that the hand wheel had a backwards rotation.

Have you, dear reader, experienced the thrill of sewing with a treadle sewing machine?































Valentine’s Day and Your Heart

In another life I think I must have been a bear, because I certainly do like to hibernate! Here we are at Valentine’s Day 2018 and I have been neglecting this blog. Hopefully I haven’t been neglecting my heart health though, getting daily exercise and watching my diet.

February is Heart and Stroke Month and because so many  in my circle of friends and family have suffered from heart disease, and/ or stroke, I campaign for donations to the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Two facts: every seven minutes, heart disease or stroke take a Canadian life, and family history can double your risk of heart disease or stroke.* Even more sobering is the fact that heart disease and stroke are the number one killer of women globally. *

On a lighter note, today is Valentine’s Day, which we associate with love. I was curious how the heart became the symbol for love and found out that ancient Greeks believed that the heart was the organ that controlled feelings and emotions.

Way back when, as a school child, I learned the tradition of exchanging Valentine cards with my friends and it always seemed that the teacher used making a  card for “Mum and Dad” as an “art lesson”. In keeping with that tradition,  here is a simple card with tips for tools that make the process easier:

A paper trimmer

Since I was using a 13.9 X 13.9 card blank, I wanted to trim the sheet of red card stock to fit inside.

A die cutting machine and dies

Next, I die cut a heart shape from the front of the white card blank.


Using the die cutting machine and word dies, I cut out the words “love” and “you” above the cut- out heart, and embossed the bottom of the card front.

Scoring board and bone folder

The red card stock needed to be folded to fit inside the card. A score board and bone folder make it easy to get a good, crisp fold


I applied double sided tape to the perimeter of the card front using a “tape runner”. Then I applied liquid glue in spots around the cut out words and heart shape. The folded red card stock was placed inside the white card and adhered to it. To my horror, I discovered a sticky smudge on the front of my card, so I cut some more red hearts using the leftover scrap of card stock. I glued them randomly over the front, thereby disguising the ugly smudge.

Inside the card, I glued a white paper doily and wrote the words “lots”. Valentine-11

Simple, and fun to make.

As always, I hope you have a happy day and take your health to heart.

*According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

My Bags Are Packed…

and ready for my trip to Ireland tomorrow!


But these aren’t the ones I’m taking with me! My travel bags are modern, relatively light  weight, expandable and roll along on four wheels. The suitcases in the photo represent travel luggage from various decades of the previous century. They were picked up at various antique shops, thrift stores and yard sales. I love their grunginess and that I can stack them. More than just dust collectors, they are handy  for storing art supplies and unfinished projects.

One case, however, is just for “decorative purposes”. It is a vanity case  that accompanied a young woman as she emigrated from Italy to New York, more than one hundred years ago. I bought it from her elderly great grandson.

The interior:

Some of the containers, the hairbrush, and comb are made with “French Ivory”:

Some of the containers are glass with sterling silver lids! I think the little box on the right is for jewellery.

There is a little mirror inserted in a pocket on the lid. It is encased in leather and has a tab for hanging, as seen on the back.


In addition to the hairbrush and comb, included are a pocket knife and these two implements:vanity-case-8

Any idea what these were used for?


Afternoon Tea, Part 2


Lemons are such a versatile fruit. They can be used for cleaning, personal care,  and savoury food. (Think lemon pie, and lemon chicken.) Because lemons are so useful, I stock up whenever they are advertised as a special. The secret to keeping them fresh for weeks is to refrigerate them in a zip-lock bag.

I wanted to make lemon curd to spread on the Irish soda bread that I had baked for “Afternoon Tea”, so was glad to have had some lemons on hand.


To prepare lemon curd, I pulled a few tools out of the gadget drawer:

a rasp






a citrus juicer


an egg separator


and a wire whisk



Lemon Curd:

With the rasp, grate the yellow part of the rind from 2 lemons into a small saucepan. The white part of the rind is bitter so avoid grating into it.

Next, cut the lemons in half. Using the citrus juicer squeeze out enough juice to measure 1/4 cup. Remove any pits before adding the juice to the saucepan.

Stir in 5 tablespoons sugar and a pinch of salt.

Next separate 3 egg yolks from their whites. The egg separator gadget makes this very easy. I prefer to do this one egg at time into a small bowl, because I want to remove those squiggly white things that are attached to the yolks. Add the yolks  to the juice mixture.

Finally, add 4 tablespoons of butter to the saucepan. Place the saucepan over a low heat and use the whisk to stir constantly until the mixture thickens, about 12 minutes. Pour the mixture into a glass container. Allow to cool to room temperature before storing in the fridge.

This recipe makes about one cup of tangy lemon curd and will keep nicely for two weeks in the fridge. That is, if there is any left!