Friday, June 29, 2012

Devilishly Delicious!

I've been dreaming of deviled eggs ever since I read this post on Kath Eats Real Food.  So I finally made some! I didn't take pictures of my eggs  (because hers look so much better), nor did I take pictures of the process (because she did a great job with that, too). But I will add my two cents worth to the subject: my favorite deviled egg recipe.

Zesty Deviled Eggs

6 hard-cooked eggs
3 tablespoons Miracle Whip Light
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
dash salt & pepper

1. BOIL EGGS:  Put eggs in saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring water to a boil- then reduce to simmer and start timing about 15 minutes (according to Joy of Cooking). Plunge in cold water immediately after cooking to stop the cooking process and prevent discoloration of yolks.

2. Slice eggs in half lengthwise. Remove yolks.

3. Mash yolks and mix well with other ingredients.

4. Stuff egg whites. Like Kath, I just stuff them with a spoon. I never feel like getting out (and cleaning up) all the pastry decorating paraphernalia just for deviled eggs. Maybe if I were serving them to guests...

My Summer Deviled Eggs

In summer, I like fresh-tasting dishes, and I have a nice little patch of lemon thyme growing in my herb garden. So, for my summer deviled eggs, I mix the yolks with Miracle Whip Light, lemon juice, a handful of lemon thyme, salt and pepper.

I imagine many fresh herbs would be just as good. Experiment a little! Sometimes I make "summer eggs" in winter by substituting dried dill. 

If you don't have an herb garden (or room for one), try container gardening!  All you need is a sunny spot like a windowsill, patio or balcony. 

How do you use your fresh herbs?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tuesday Tips: You'll Never Hear Me Complain About the Laundry Again

I collect vintage cookbooks and such, so I brought this one home from my father-in-law's house some time ago. Although I often feel I'd have fit in better with the wives and mothers of the "good old days", most of the 1,001 tips on the crumbly, yellowed pages of this little spiral-bound book from 1951 make me grateful for today's conveniences.

Choice tips from the Laundry chapter include:

Clothes do not freeze on a wire clothesline if first wiped with kerosene cloth. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

To keep handkerchiefs, socks or other small pieces from wrapping around the washing machine wringers, fold them inside towel and run through. Wringers? Handkerchiefs? I wish I could say I was too young to remember those... 

To keep your fingers warm when hanging clothes on winter wash days, put a hot water bottle in the clothespin bag. I guess we would've had to wear dirty clothes all winter! (I'm glad my Mom didn't feel that way!)

When making starch, while it is still hot, drop into it a piece of alum about the size of a pea, and stir until it is dissolved. This will prevent the starch sticking to the irons. Ironing is bad enough, but making your own starch???

Writing about ironing reminds me of a sewing student story:
In one of my classes, there was a mother/daughter pair. When it was time to press our pattern tissue flat prior to pinning it to the fabric, I asked the little girl (around 10 years old) if she had learned how to iron yet. She said, "We don't have an iron".  Now, sometimes I wish I didn't own an iron, but how could you not own an iron?

Another ironing story:
My friend Rob, recently separated, had moved in temporarily with our mutual friend, Richard, a confirmed bachelor. Rob calls Richard at work to ask where the iron is. Richard says, "I've never used it, but Nana gave me one last Christmas. It's on the top shelf of the guestroom closet." Rob pulls down the box with the picture of the iron on the front, opens it up, and pulls out a bunch of dish towels. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sewing Room Sunday: Vintage-Look Drawer Labels

I made labels for some of my wicker drawers months ago, but didn't get them attached until my recent sewing cottage clean-up. That's so like me! Actually, I had tried to stick them on with glue dots before, which seemed to work fine. But the next day they had fallen off and were all stuck to each other on the floor. 

Here's how I made them:

1. I used Steam-A-Seam 2 to adhere vintage pattern instructions to a piece a card stock. If you follow the instructions on the package, Steam-A-Seam does a much smoother and more permanent job of sticking paper or fabric to card stock than glue or other methods I've tried. (The card stock was actually some ugly art prints that ended up in the "free bin" at my favorite thrift shop.)

2. Then, I cut the desired size tags with a rotary cutter and see-through ruler.

3. The letters were from some scrapbook paper I'd purchased on clearance for $.25/sheet. I just glue-sticked (or would it be glue-stuck?) them on since they're small and won't ripple.

4. Since the glue dots didn't stick to the wicker, Mabzie punch a hole in each one and tied it on with some narrow bias binding we had hanging around in one of the drawers. I though heavy twine would've worked well, but didn't have any. Improvise, improvise, improvise!

I love the vintage feel they give the drawers, and I love knowing what's in which drawer! And as always, I'm thrilled that they cost me very little, and utilized materials we already had.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Happy Summer Solstice! (+ Bird Pictures)

The summer solstice is our longest day and shortest night of the year. It's not just a date, but a specific point in time: specifically, in the Northern hemisphere, this year, 7:09 PM Eastern Daylight Time.

One source says the word comes from combining the Latin words sol and stice, which mean sun and to stand still. says it comes from the Latin solstitium, meaning sun-stopping. Both origins would make sense because, on this day, the point at which the sun appears to rise and set peaks and reverses direction.

I hope you enjoyed every moment of your sunniest day of the year! I know my family did.

Bird Pictures

I mentioned my new family of bird bottle Bluebird babies in a previous post and promised a picture. If you look closely you can see the one on the left with his yellow beak open on the left, the middle brother is laying low (you can see his right eye), and the on on the right is trying to hide. I'm just happy I was able to get any kind of picture at all!

I also posted previously about our sleepy front porch bird. I said it was hard to get a good image of her because she always had her nose stuck in the corner. Guess what? She wasn't so shy tonight...and she arrived a bit before dark so I could photograph her.

So tomorrow's just a teeny-weeny bit shorter than today- don't waste a minute! Get out there and enjoy yourself.

Tuesday Tips: Estimating Measurements & Portion Sizes

Measuring with things you might have in your bag

Since I sew, and always seem to be measuring something, I tend to carry a  small retractable tape measure around with me in my purse, but in case you don't:

Checkbook length = 6 inches

$1 bill = approximately 2.5 inches x 6 inches (2.61 x 6.14)

Sheet of paper = 8.5 inches  x 11 inches (if you don't have this, you can probably visualize it)Business envelope = 4-1/8 inches x 9 3/8 inches

Business card = 3.5 inches x 2 inches

A quarter = almost an inch in diameter (.955)

Measuring with things you always have with you

Approximately 1 inch =  from the top knuckle on your thumb to your thumb tip
Approximately 4 inches = the width of your hand across the bottom knuckles (not including your thumb)
Approximately 1 yard = from the tip of your nose to the bent fingers of your outstretched arm
Approximately 1 meter = from the tip of your nose to the fingertips of your outstretched arm and hand

Estimating portion sizes for cooking or healthy eating using recognizable items

1 teaspoon = 1 die (I looked it up, the singular for dice is indeed die...)
2 tablespoons = ping pong or golf ball
1/4 cup = 1 large egg
1/2 cup = full cupcake wrapper
1 cup = fist or tennis ball
1 ounce cheese = pair of dice
3 ounces meat, fish or poultry = deck of cards or cassette tape
3 ounce fish filet = checkbook
And my personal favorite and most used estimate:
4 ounces (1 serving) dry spaghetti = the diameter of a quarter (look at it from the end of the bundle of strands) But who only eats that much spaghetti???????????????
I hope these references help you as much as they help me!

Sorry about the formatting of this post- it's driving me crazy! I'll try to fix it again later...

Monday, June 18, 2012

More Bird Bottle Babies!

I wrote back in April about my bird bottles and the families that live in them. Early this month, I told you I was hoping for a second batch of baby bluebirds, since the same bluebird couple (read more about Eastern Bluebirds here) had nested in another of our bottles. This weekend we discovered three baby birdies in the new nest! I'm hopeful that I can get you a picture, but they don't stay in the nest very long- just a few days.  I was able to get a shot of their former nest, though, when we cleaned out the bottle. Most small birds won't refurbish old nests. So if you want a new bird, or even the same bird, to nest in it again, you have to clean it out. Too bad they don't reuse the nests after all that hard work! The intricacy of their nest-building always takes my breath away! I can't help wondering how they get it started- with just one beak and two tiny feet to work with... I mean, look at that delicate weaving!  

Also, cardinals are nesting in a burning bush next to my sewing cottage. They lay the most beuatiful tan eggs with brown speckles! Last year a series of rainstorms destroyed their nest, so I'm crossing my fingers for baby cardinal this year!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Brownie in a Mug

I think I'm gonna wish I'd never seen this...

Brownie in a Mug at (I got there from here- thanks, Amy!)


a. I love brownies- the fudgier the better!
b. I think I'd eat 'em every day if they didn't take so long and you didn't have to make so many (uh-oh...)
c. I always have the ingredients in my pantry.
d. No equipment to dirty up- all you need is a mug and a fork or whisk.
e. All of the above; I think I'm in big trouble!

If (let's be honest, when) I try this, I'll let you know how it turns out!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Clean Sewing Room (Miracle)

My sewing cottage was an unbelievable mess (see before pictures here).

I worked on it for a few hours this week; then Mabz and I spent all day yesterday- and I really mean all day - in there, up to our ears in sewing stuff (and dirt). You see, when your sewing space is not in your actual house, it gets a different kind of dirty. You get mulch and mud tracked in, cobwebs, dust... and you don't clean it as often (not often at all). Not to mention all the thread, fabric fibers and dust that come from your sewing and crafting activities. Well, that's enough explanation (euphemism for excuses). Let's get on with the after pictures (clockwise around the room):
Bins and drawers hold scraps, notions and crafting supplies. To see how I made-over the plastic bins on the second and third shelves, click here.
My new design board started out in life as Mabzie's National History Day project (shown below). It's a wood frame with foam-core panels, which works great. Fabric won't stick to it like flannel, but it's easy to pin into. 
Look what all's hiding behind it (now you know where some of the junk went!). It can also be used as a dressing screen if I'm hemming for a friend, or a student wants to try on a garment! 
Notice my husband's picture near the top center of my bulletin board... Oh, no, wait a minute- that's some gorgeous South American soccer player named Nacho something-or-other, who moonlights as a Ralph Lauren model.
The serger threads got all sucked up in the vacuum cleaner and mangled up and tangled up, so it's time to get out the threading instructions! Honestly, I usually just change colors by tying off to the new spools, loosening the tension, and running the thread through until the color changes! Oh, well... at least my sewing area is neat now.
Below is Mabzie's sewing desk. Now that's it all clean, she's promised to come up and sew with me more! Her design board is a thick foam panel (given to us at Sew Biz Quilt Camp a couple of years ago) covered with tea-dyed muslin.
OK. Let's see how long it stays this way! (Allison, if you're reading this, I didn't find your tote bag pattern.)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tuesday Tips: Hidden Sources of MSG


We know MSG (monosodium glutamate) as a chemical additive used to add flavor to processed and packaged foods. It helps make cheap, less nutritious food taste good- really good! In fact, studies have shown that it also stimulates the appetite, causing us to eat even more unhealthy food. Many of us try to avoid it because it gives us headaches. Others experience bloating and other adverse or allergic reactions and symptoms.

MSG Should Be Easy to Avoid- Just Read the Label, Right?

I thought I was doing the right thing for my family by trying not to buy foods with MSG, since my husband gets headaches and I think it sometimes makes me feel a bit lethargic. And, of course, we should all be looking at reducing the amount of chemicals we ingest. I'm not fanatical about things like this, but I've done my best to choose foods without MSG on the ingredients list. Well, guess what? I learned that even foods with "No MSG" printed on the label can contain MSG derivatives or related chemicals.

MSG by Any Other Name...

Two of the most natural- and innocent-sounding relatives of MSG are yeast extract and plant protein extract. We're all taught to look for ingredients we can pronounce and identify. While I don't know exactly what these compounds are, I do know what the individual words mean: yeast, extract, plant and protein, so I thought those ingredients were OK.  I was always, however, a bit suspicious of some bouillon cubes and powders which proudly denounced MSG, but contained autolyzed yeast or hydrolyzed vegetable protein. Neither autolyzed nor hydrolyzed is in my vocabulary, so I was curious. I looked them up, and found long lists of MSG aliases:

If this post about hidden MSG surprises you, or makes you wonder what's in your packaged and processed foods, try googling mechanically separated chicken!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sewing Room Sunday: One Small, Fast Finish & One Humongous Mess!

There was an orphan quilt block in a bag of free stuff at our Fiber Arts Picnic Tuesday evening. I thought it was cute and felt sorry for it so I brought it home. Usually, I throw "junque" I drag home from different places in a drawer or pin it up on a design board, where it hangs out for years while I "consider" what to do with it! In an effort to mend my ways (and decrease clutter in my cottage), I forced myself to act immediately and make a potholder out of this cute block. A finish within the week has to be some kind of record for me!

I cut up an old ironing board cover to use for the batting (also a clutter-busting move), so it has a heat-reflective layer built in, but it also made it more difficult to quilt. As you can see, I'm a little out of practice on my free motion quilting. I think the whole piece looks cheerfully like a child's art project. The binding is a little crude, but it's a potholder, for heaven's sake! At least it's finished.

Speaking of clutter-busting, my cottage is a huge mess and a major cleaning is underway. These will henceforth be known as the "before" shots (clockwise around the room):

Someone blessed with such a fabulous sewing space should be ashamed to have it look this way. Plus, I can't find anything! I decided to tackle this area first (starting with the seersucker yardage from a previous post). Today, I sorted through what was left in the bins (mostly apparel and backing fabrics) under this sideboard

and spread it out in the backyard to air out in the sun. I thought it bring to mind the pictures you see of the batiks laid out on the ground for processing in Bali, but it turned out looking more like the beginning (or end) of a redneck yard sale (if you live below the Mason-Dixon line you know what I'm talking about):

Tomorrow, what's left gets folded and reorganized in the storage bins. I think two of the four will now be empty. I discarded a lot of what Mabzie calls my "what was Mommy thinking" fabrics. I hope some thrift shop patrons will put them to good use.

A few weeks ago, Sandra blogged about the "Just One Challenge", So thanks to her, "Just One" tiny spot (my pattern drawer) has already been cleaned and organized:

Looks like I've got my work cut out for me, doesn't it? I'll keep you posted (no pun intended).

Have a great week!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Road Trip Essentials

Even if you're just running downtown for errands, there are certain things you seem to always need on the road:

  • first aid kit (especially band-aids)
  • pen and notepad
  • change for parking meters
  • pain relievers and other medications you may need
  • feminine sanitary products
  • water
  • eyeglass cleaning cloth (if you wear glasses or sunglasses) 
  • baby wipes for cleaning up messes or sticky hands
  • hand sanitizer
  • sunglasses
  • sewing kit
  • umbrellas 
  • lint roller

Keeping these items in your car at all times will save you many expensive stops at convenience stores, where a handful of Advil or a box of tampons could cost as much as the full-size package you normally buy. And how many times have you had to buy an overpriced bottle of water just to take an aspirin (or used it as an excuse to buy a soft drink, which is even worse)?

For any trip longer than a couple of hours, we also pack:

  • cell phone charger with cigarette lighter adapter
  • dry snacks like granola bars, animal crackers and apples
  • water bottles on a small cooler with an ice pack
  • jackets (in case of nippy evenings); rain gear would probably be a good idea, too
  • extra shoes (if lots of walking is involved in the day's activities and tired feet are expected)
  • sunscreen (if planning to be outdoors)
  • camera
  • extra set of keys

Of course, we are all at least 13- the younger your children are, and the more you have of them, the longer your list will be.  Family Fun offers a helpful kid-oriented list.

Happy travels!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Fiber Arts Picnic

Last night, our local guild, "The Quilting Party" (view a nineteenth century painting of the same name here), hosted a big party for fiber artists!

Thirty-five ladies and one young gentleman gathered to represent, promote and support quilting, embroidery, smocking, needlepoint and knitting. And of course, to socialize and eat, eat, eat! Apparently, fiber artists are excellent cooks, too. The two different rhubarb desserts were a highlight of the food tables, and I especially enjoyed the delicious array of beautiful, colorful, delicious summer salads. Quilts hung around the perimeter of the shelter were so much fun to see. The other guilds in attendance displayed some of their amazing work as well. There was much "ooohing and aahing".

There were even quilt tops covering the silent auction tables in the center. And since the evening turned a bit chilly, Judy (far right) wrapped up in one!

Shown at the far left is a quilt Jane made from quilt guild raffle blocks. If you're not familiar with the concept of raffle blocks: a block pattern and color scheme is chosen (this one was a sugar gum leaf in fall colors with cream background). Each participant has one chance to win for each block she turns in. Then one lucky member wins all the blocks. I've seen some amazing sets of blocks won since I joined the guild in 2005, but this is the first finished quilt a member has brought to show us! Look closely at the random setting Jane used, which I think adds great interest to the quilt, and I wish you could see the exquisite machine quilting!

If you belong to a guild, consider hosting an event like this. And if you are a fiber artist and don't belong to a guild (or a few), you are really missing fabulous opportunity to learn from and enjoy the work of others.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tuesday Tips: How to Cut Brownies

Tonight Mabzie and I - OK, mostly Mabzie- baked brownies (I posted my favorite brownie recipe here) and gingerbread bars for our quilt guild picnic tomorrow evening.

I used to cut my brownies with a metal knife, rushing things, as I tend to do, by cutting them as soon as possible after removing them from the oven. Then someone told me to try cutting them with a plastic knife while still warm, but not hot. So I tried letting them cool a bit (a test of my patience) and using one of the little serrated plastic knives like you use at a picnic, or at McDonald's. Guess what? Not only did the brownies look better, but this method eliminated the problem of scratches on my brownie pan. Since then, I have discovered that the hard plastic spatula that came with my mini food chopper works even better! Another common suggestion for easier and neater brownie cutting is using a pizza cutter. I tried that and found it difficult to get the round blade into the edges of the pan.

You'll also notice that I like to cut the edges off because I think they look better on a platter that way. Plus, Mabz loves the edges and eats them right out of the pan!

Other great tips are available around the web:

Here are our treats all wrapped up and ready to go:

The pink you see showing through is polka dot tissue paper. Instead of having seasonal platters, I use this cookie plate, which has a Christmas design etched on the back, all year long! I just change it up with tissue paper, doilies, fabric, or whatever makes it work for the occasion, and nobody knows the difference. Well, I guess they will now... Come to think of it, fabric would've been more appropriate for this picnic, wouldn't it? 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sewing Room Sunday: Using Up My Seersucker Stash

Before I became a quilter, I sewed a lot of clothes- mostly dresses for my daughter when she was small. I stocked up on more cute seersucker fabric than one little girl could possibly wear. Now, as a teenager, she's not going to wear any seersucker dress that I make, and I'm not really that hot on sewing clothes anymore anyway. So, what to do with the seersucker stash?

It all started when Allison showed up for our usual Thursday night sewing date with some cute fabric and a free pattern she'd picked up at Jo-Ann Fabric for a Market Tote. I'm not sure that pattern is still available, but here are some links to loads of other free ones:

So last night, I got to thinking about making my own market totes. I paired four of my seersucker prints with a large piece of  yellow and white cotton floral, which turned into pieces and parts for not one, but seven, lined market bags! I didn't have quite enough yellow for the linings, so I dug up another piece of pink seersucker for the lining and handles to go with the orange/pink print. I think this'll use up about 10 yards of stash fabric! 

Since my serger is grossly under-used, I can't wait to whip up these little bags. I'm not sure I'll be entirely thrilled with trying to get my "friendly Walmart associate" (NOT!) to load my groceries into these, or even if I would remember to take them with me, or if I even care that much about the plastic bags piling up in the landfill. Actually, I do... we donate ours to Micah's Backpack, an organization that sends easy-to-prepare food home with school kids each weekend. Anyway, if I decide not to use them, I'm sure someone else will love them, and the girly seersucker prints will be OUT of my sewing cottage! WIN-WIN either way!

By the way, I've noticed that blogging has made me comfortable with incomplete sentences (since it's supposed to be conversational), but to be honest, it's scaring me a little!

This has been a fabulous sewing week for me. In addition helping Allison with her market tote, I worked with another friend, Glenda, all day Thursday on a quilt for her expected grand-daughter. We had so much fun we forgot to have lunch! She has quilted a little before, but it's been a long time. So long ago, in fact, that she had never used a rotary cutter! I had so much fun acquainting her with our "new" techniques. She was so thrilled that she didn't have to trace templates and cut them out with scissors. We've come a long way, baby! I'll share Glenda's quilt with you when it's finished.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

How We Know It's Summer! (And Potato Packet Ideas)

The Old Farmer's Almanac might say that summer officially arrives at 7:09 PM Eastern Daylight Time on June 20, but as far as I'm concerned, it's here! These are the signs that summer began this week:

  • School's out

(Sorry, I couldn't resist... )

  • Mabzie picked the first of many roadside daisies for our Fostoria American vase (a summer tradition since she was old enough to pick them):
  • We fired up our grill today for the first burgers of the season.

The foil pouches on the left are our favorite grilled potato packets. They're my summer version of Potatoes Anna. It started out with a recipe from Southern Living, which I can't seem to find anymore, and has evolved now into more of a technique:

  1. Spray a sheet of aluminum foil with non-stick cooking spray for each serving. 
  2. Place a couple of thin pats of butter on each sheet.
  3. Layer very thinly sliced potatoes (either peeled or not, your choice) in a circular pattern. Place a little more butter on top. Salt and pepper to taste. Add other seasoning or onions if you like. The one above is plain 'cause that's how my husband and daughter like it.
  4. Fold foil into packets as you see on the grill above and cook 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how hot your grill gets! Make sure to check that they aren't getting burned on the bottom, and flip over at least once during cooking.
  5. Open packets and chow down!
If you're more comfortable with an actual recipe, I'd urge you to try one of these links. They all sound great!

  • Our little birdie's back! She (or I guess it could be he...) has slept above the column on our front porch for several summers now. I'm not sure of the species because she keeps her head buried in the corner, like you see here. So it's hard to take her picture, but I'm always happy to see her! 

In other bird news, the bird bottle above our back entrance (the one I said no bird family had ever nested in) is now home to another bluebird. I hope that means more babies, since I didn't get to see the others leave the nest!

What signifies summer around your house? I'd love to hear what's happening this week. 

New Favorite Pancake Recipe

Our family's favorite pancake recipe was Bisquick Melt-In-Your-Mouth Pancakes from the back of the box. Years ago, we graduated from straight pancake-mix-pancakes to these upgraded puffy ones. The baking powder and lemon juice makes them much fluffier than a regular mix. And definitely yummy. They had earned a spot in my personal, handwritten, pass down through the generations if anyone cares, guard with your life, save in case of fire, cookbook.

But then, along came Fluffy Pancakes from Even better! Mabzie and her thirteen and fourteen year old sleepover friends whipped up a batch on their own. Mabz had been saving the recipe on her ipod, and although our cupboards were nearly bare, we had all the ingredients. This image doesn't do them justice, but you can see how much they rose on the griddle. When you mix the milk and vinegar in the first step, you can actually see the bubbly chemical reaction taking place. The recipe says it makes four pancakes, but they made nine about this size.

Any pancake recipe that uses an acid, like vinegar or lemon juice, along with baking powder, should be extra light and fluffy like these.

Another tip I shared with the girls was how to tell when your griddle is hot enough. Dip your fingertips in water and flick it out onto the warm griddle by quickly opening your hand. If it sizzles, it's ready to make perfect pancakes. If not, it's not hot enough, and your batter will spread out too far, making them too thin.

Finally, I would like to leave you with a link to a page of pancake poems! Enjoy!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Decorating With Books (Economically)

"Who Read All Those Books?" 

That's what people say when they enter our library. There's a fireplace and lots of other great furniture and features in that room, but they always comment on the books. The answer is: no one in this family! Yes, we are avid readers, but most of these books were obtained from other sources, and they've been great fun to collect. And, although we haven't read them all, we have enjoyed many of them over the years! And a few are books we have purchased, but we primarily use the public library for our reading.

How to Furnish Your Bookshelves 

  • Local thrift shops: My favorite source for hardback books. I usually try to pay less than one dollar each unless they're especially attractive (or I really want to read them...)
  • Junk shops: A junk-dealer friend once sold me every book (paperbacks included) in his shop for one lump sum. When his wife found out, she said, "Honey, there's a lotta good readin' on those shelves." I felt bad for her and let her keep quite a few for herself.
  • Book sales: Check one out sometime. The YMCA Thrift Shop has a huge one every October. We buy books there that we actually use, too- especially reference books.
  • Dumpsters and giveaway bins: This is where I've found some of our very most impressive looking books. No kidding! Take a look at this bookshelf. Nice arrangement of books, right?
I brought home the green 1950s encyclopedia set from the "free" shelf at my favorite thrift shop a few years ago. The beautiful burgundy leather book just to the right and a few of the others were fished out of a dumpster out back!
Here's a picture of that book set up with a couple of its friends (leather as well) from the same dumpster so you can get a good look at the beautiful spine and front cover.  Inside, the pages are printed in German with letterpress printing. 

If someone takes it off the shelf, they'll notice the extremely damaged corner, but it was FREE! And check this one out (a Dutch dictionary)- it's practically perfect, By the way, did I mention these books are over one hundred years old?

What to Look For When Buying Used Books for Decorating

When I buy (or scrounge up) books for our collection, I always look under the dust covers for colorful bindings in good shape. Then I look inside to make sure the pages aren't deteriorated, terribly damaged or sticky. I also check for silverfish, because you don't want to introduce them into your home to eat all your paper! All these rules, of course, go right out the window if the book is incredibly beautiful in some way, or leather! My friend Randy who, like me, often brings home paper items of questionable origin, puts them in the freezer for a few days to kill any silverfish that might be hiding in the pages. Isn't that clever? I don't do that, but I do inspect very carefully and have never had a problem. If they smell musty, leave them out in the fresh air and sunshine for a while until they smell fresher (but watch for fading).

Books by the Foot

If you have extra money, and you don't feel like rummaging for inexpensive books, there are services which will do it  for you. You can even choose the subject matter. My husband furnished some larger bookshelves in our former home with law books purchased this way.

Or, I guess you could pay in the neighborhood of $25 per book at the bookstore, but at least you'd be able to say you read them all.   

Thanks for reading such a long post!