Black Spruce Hound

A Wisconsin Girl in the Woods, Knitting, Crafting, and Cooking. Also: Ugly Dresses.

October 31, 2011

What's in Your Bag?

The lovely Roo over at NiceGirlNotes is having a link party today, where you can link up to her post and show the whole ding-dong world what you keep in your handbag. I'm nosy and want to see everyone else's bags, so I'm totally joining in on this. Here's mine:



Not bad. Could have been so much worse, and has been worse on occasion. Like when I forget to clean out receipts for 6 months.

Here's what's in my bag, clockwise from the wallet:
1.) Wallet. Duh.
2.) Glasses case, in case I actually wear my sunglasses and need someplace to put my regular glasses.
3.) Zune. Am I the only person in the northern hemisphere that has a Zune instead of an iPod? Just curious.
4.) Flashlight. You know. In case.
5.) Change purse.
6.) Ibuprofen. 'Cause I often gets The Headache when travelling.
7.) Pen my husband stole from a Ramada. And that I stole from him.
8.) e.l.f. liquid lipstick in Cherry Tart.
9.) Fingernail clippers. I don't know why.
10.) A handy-dandy tool thingy from Cabelas. I usually use it to open packages in the car. But if I ever need to cut somebody, it would do the trick.
11.) Business cards.
12.) Feminine products.
13.) Sunglasses. From the dollar store.
14.) Kleenex. Because the sun makes me sneeze. That's not a joke.
15.) Gum. Spearmint for me, and Juicy Fruit for my husband, because he's a child.
16.) A mirror.
17.) And the lonely penny at the bottom of the bag.

Want to play? Click on the button below!

October 29, 2011

The Last Hurrah

These pics were taken about three weeks ago, as the leaves started falling from the trees. I love the fall colors, but this truly is my favorite time of year - when all the leaves have fallen, the weather is cooler, and the air smells like dead rotting leaves. Ahhh, autumn.

Onto the photos. I feel like I should insert a 'huzzah!' in here somewhere for emphasis, but I'll let it go.










I'm trying to squeeze all the enjoyment possible out of autumn before winter rolls around. I enjoy Northwoods winters about as much as I would enjoy colonic irrigation, so I've been outside quite a bit lately, rambling around and breathing in all that rotting-leaf-and-mud scented air. 



October 27, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Lattes

I kept hearing about these magical pumpkin spice lattes. And my first thought was, wow, that sounds...gross. But I kept thinking about it and thinking about it, and they started to sound rather yummy after all.

I decided to make one, because the closest Starbucks to my house is, uh, well I really have no clue where the nearest one is. I know. It's like I live on another planet. 

So I made one, without any strange syrups and liquids and who knows what else goes into the Starbucks kind. I didn't have any canned pumpkin, so I steamed a fresh one. And my steamer (read: saucepan with steamer basket) ran out of water and I didn't realize that until the house smelled like burning monkey hair. I really don't want to talk about it.

After that slight mishap, it was smooth sailing. End result? Oh boy. Scrummy. This would be perfect to serve to those weary adults (I think they're called 'parents') after trick-or-treating, or would be great at a Halloween party. And if you add a snort or two of bourbon to it, well hey. Invite me over.



Pumpkin Spice Lattes

1 cup pureed fresh pumpkin or canned plain pumpkin (not the stuff that's already spiced)
1 cup strong black coffee
2 cups whole milk (or whatever milk you drink. We are badasses in this house, and drink whole milk.)
2 tablespoons sugar (or to taste)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground nutmeg

Throw all the ingredients together in a 3 quart saucepan set over a medium flame. Whisk until smooth, and heat until almost boiling - when heat rises from it, it's ready. Strain it through a sieve* into a pitcher or carafe, and serve with extra cinnamon or nutmeg on top.

If you want foam on top set aside 1/2 cup of the milk and heat it in a small saucepan. Whisk the ever-loving crap out of it until it's almost boiling. It will become nice and frothy. After you pour yourself a cup of the latte, add a bit of the milk, holding the foam back with a spoon. Then plop a spoonful of the foam on top the drink, and sprinkle it with cinnamon or nutmeg.

* The sieving is an optional step. I don't like to chew my beverages, so I strained it just to be on the safe side.

Enjoy!

October 24, 2011

How to Clean Vintage Metal

Cleaning vintage can be a real pain in the ass. Let's just get that right up front. And while the internet seems to hold the answer for every other question, it can be difficult sometimes to find out how to clean vintage.

Vintage/antique metal objects are usually pretty easy to clean, provided they are in good condition, and not falling apart from rust. We'll use my coffeepot as Exhibit A. 



It was looking sad. You can see the water spots and general dullness. This pot is made of aluminum. Don't be put off buying something because it's not made of stainless steel - there is nothing wrong with aluminum, and it's quite easy to clean. It took me about 20 minutes to clean this coffeepot. 

All you need is the correct type of cleaner - in this case, aluminum polish. 



Just follow the instructions on the can. I washed the top of the pot in hot soapy water, and applied the powder. Polish away! If there are brush marks (like how there's grain in wood), you must follow them. If not, go in whatever direction blows your hair back. 




Woo-hoo! Nice and shiny, and it only took about 10 minutes. 


But here was the bad part. Coffee stains. For this, I needed a steel wool pad. Any bad stains and discolorations on metal can usually be taken care of with steel wool, but be aware that steel wool can leave scratches behind. 

If there is a stain on the outside of an item, (in an area that's highly visible, in other words) always try to remove the stain with soap and/or scouring powder first. Use steel wool as a last resort.

In this case, it was the inside of a coffeepot. Not a big deal if there are scratches. 




Much better. Not perfect, but some of those stains have been in there longer than I've been alive. They're pretty much entrenched.

I also had to clean a brass item. It's the same method, but using a polish made for brass.



That's a '40s fire extinguisher, if you're wondering.


For this, I made a paste of water and polish. But first, I had to clean the extinguisher. 



Then I applied the paste, moving the toothbrush in circles. Wash the paste off with hot water. Be extremely careful around labels and any paint! If you apply too much pressure, labels and paint can wash away. 


Ta-da! Okay, fine, it doesn't look that much different in the photos, but believe me, it made a huge difference.

Just for fun, below is another brass before-and-after.




See? That's why we polish! 

If you have any questions on how to clean anything vintage, shoot me an email or leave a comment below. 

Have fun!



October 23, 2011

Finally

My hair behaved. Look at those gorgeous rolled bangs!

October 21, 2011

A Slight Problem

If you've ever read my About page, you may have noticed that I claim to dress like a bag lady 95% of the time. That was a slight exaggeration. Nevertheless, I am working on changing that. But to cement my bag lady status, I thought it was time for some photographic evidence.

You see, I have a slight problem with...flannel. With some people it's sweats. For me, I think the most comfortable outfit in the world to wear is a pair of jeans and a flannel shirt. It's a problem. I own it.

This was taken last week, as I was photographing items for the Etsy shop.


Here's the...uh...collection.






There it is.

I blame this obsession with flannel on no one but myself. I am still not sure why it's flannel I like, and not plaid. Plaid is...not my thing. Although I did have a pair of plaid pants in high school. There are no words to describe how happy I am that no photographic evidence exists of said pants. I think. 

My only defense is that I don't wear flannel shirts all the time. Just once or twice. A week. And I usually wear a cuter, more feminine shirt underneath. So there. 

This could be worse. I could be addicted to yoga pants that have the word 'Juicy' stamped across the ass. 

Anyone else have any clothing issues they'd like to share? 





October 19, 2011

Over the River(s) and Through the Woods

The Mr and I went on a mini road trip last weekend to Michigan's UP. I was on a mission to find things for the Etsy shop, and the Mr pretty much just wanted to get out of the house and poke around in antique stores.

Away we went!



A typical northern highway, where you can travel for miles and be the the only car in sight. 


Good tunes are a must. All together now: NEW YORK!!!


Amazing old building in Iron River. I took these horrendous photos from inside the car, so they don't really do the place justice.  






This was in Crystal Falls. This street was crazy steep, but of course I forgot to take a good picture of that. A fully loaded log truck came down this hill while we were outside, and the engine was just screaming from trying to hold the truck back. That's how steep it was.

We also went into an old, old hotel that was converted into an antique store. The rooms upstairs were tiny, and the hallways narrow. The whole place was in a rather alarming state of disrepair, but had the most amazing old wood floors. And did I remember to bring my camera inside to take pics? Of course not. Apparently I carry around a purse large enough to hold an infant just to give myself shoulder pain; it's too much to ask to slip a tiny camera inside. 

I also don't remember the name of the place. I'm pretty much useless at this. 


On the way home the most exciting thing we saw was a train.

All in all, it was a successful trip. I found some things for the shop, and we got to get out of the house for the majority of the day. And it was also an excuse to drink super-sweet-sugar-coma-inducing gas station hot chocolate. Not bad.

October 17, 2011

How to Wash a Wool Coat

Alternate post titles:
  • How to Wash a Wool...Whatever
  • How to Wash Wool in General
  • How to Wash Wool Without Paying a Small Fortune or the Soul of Your Firstborn Child to a Dry Cleaner
  • How to Wash Wool Winningly Without a Weary Wallet
Ahem. Moving on.

A disclaimer: If you have a wool item that needs to be cleaned and it is irreplaceable, a family heirloom, something you cannot afford to replace should you ruin it, something that is worth a lot of money, something that can beam you up to the mothership, or is just in general an item you would be supremely pissed and/or distraught if it were ruined; TAKE IT TO A DRY CLEANER!!!!

This post was written because I am a major cheap-o. When a garment's care tag says 'Dry Clean Only,' my first reaction is, 'Wanna bet?' I live in a very small town and the nearest dry cleaner is rather expensive, and I would have to go out of my way to get there. I also have this funny notion that people were cleaning wool for hundreds of years before the advent of dry cleaners, so I don't see why I can't clean wool myself at home.

In conclusion, I cannot be held responsible if you try this and ruin something. Mmmkay? Not my fault. This method works for me, and I cannot promise it will work for you. Attempt this at your own risk.

Alrighty. Now that that's out of the way.

First, grab your coat or whatever item needs cleaning. This is my nice winter coat. It's a wool/nylon/cashmere blend that I bought last fall in Wyoming. It hasn't been cleaned since I bought it. At all.



 You can see it's a bit, ah, gross.

So, first things first. Wool has a major, major tendency to shrink. I did a bit of digging around online and read that wool shrinks because of too much agitation. (I have no idea if that's true. But I grabbed that ball and ran with it.) When cleaning wool, remember three very important things - use cold water, agitate the item as little as humanly possible, and use a small amount of a very mild detergent. For a light cleaning you could use just water and forget the detergent altogether.

Because this is a large coat, I cleaned it in my bathtub. I filled the tub with a few inches of cold water, and added a teeny tiny amount of mild detergent.


I put the coat in, wool-side down. I made sure to lay it as flat as possible. Instead of swishing it around in the water, I just gently moved the entire coat back and forth in the water for a few minutes.

Then I removed the coat, which was a feat in itself because it weighed about 430 pounds. At this point you can give it a rinse in fresh water if you like.

I let most of the excess water drip from the coat, then quickly ran it into the laundry room. I put it in the wash machine and spun it on the gentle cycle. Spinning is not agitating, so this step should not harm the coat.

If you would rather not spin your item, here's what you can do: Lay down towels flat on the floor. Put your coat on the towels and make sure it's nice and flat. Then roll it up in the towels to squeeze out the excess water.


That's what the water in the tub looked like after I took the coat out. All together on three: 1, 2, 3: ewwww.


Once the water is removed, either by machine or by hand, lay the coat flat on towels. Shape it into its natural form, and let it dry. It may take several days to dry, so turn it over every once in awhile so it can dry evenly. By the way, it may smell like a musty, wet, stinky dog. Just so ya know. This smell should completely dissipate once the coat is dry. 

When the coat is dry, try it on to make sure everything is copacetic. My coat fit fabulously after its cleaning, without any shrinking whatsoever. 



Clean on, people!




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