Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Day Hike

The Winter Forest - Blue Ridge Mountians

It is no surprise that in the winter forest it is nature's preponderance of the small.  Modest offerings as the forest rests and waits for spring.  Mirroring nature, our small unassuming Christmas day was spent talking with loved ones and relaxing.  Having been cooped-up in the cabin for the past week, it felt good to be out walking the mountain sides again.

My hiking buddies, Buddy (our dog) and Bonnie (our cat).

My hiking buddies were happy too!  Buddy hates having his picture taken (and resisted this procedure), you can see from Bonnie's stance she's wondering just what is holding us up. With that "well are you coming" over the should look.

I present to you natures Christmas.  This snapshot of our walk in the woods.  While hiking I was thinking of small blessings, of finding pleasure in the small things in life.  The choice to be happy with less.

Buche de Noel, inspired by nature.

Mushrooms pushing up from the forest floor.

Bonnie is the queen of the forest!

Buddy "suffers" another photo.

He's thinking, "Can't we just GO!"

Bonnie is way ahead of us, she likes going ahead sometimes.

The mountains are threaded with old wood roads such as this one.  Made so the mules could pull the giant pines out to the main roads.  They lead no where and abruptly end, but they make for good hiking.

I find the weathered old stumps beautiful.  Especially when they are saturated with rain.

Wild holly trees abound in this area.  This one is wearing her Christmas berries.

The gifts of nature, gratefully accepted this Christmas day.  Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas from the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains. Deb

Friday, November 28, 2014

TheInspiredTrader Etsy Shop News: Cyber-Monday Flash Sale



Enter coupon code SHIPITFREE (in all caps) when checking out.  The coupon is good through Monday, December 8th, but hurry Tuesday will be too late!

A quick reminder gift wrapping is a complimentary service, just add to note to seller when ordering or send me a conversation on Etsy or an email to

I'll send you a photograph of your gift wrapped in the box ready to ship so you know what it looks like.

Because you deserve a little bit of wonderful this Christmas season!  Cheers!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Vintage - A Gift Giving Guide

Vintage Gift Giving Primer

 I always say, "The best new thing is often something old."  The question becomes, "When is it okay to give vintage or an antique as a Christmas or Hanukkah gift?"  If you are looking for gift giving ideas and have toyed with the idea of giving vintage but were afraid it would be viewed as giving something "used" and not appreciated, let me share some tips for when vintage makes an appropriate gift and some ideas about what makes the best vintage gifts.

In many cases nothing new can compare to a vintage gift.  Not only will it to add meaning to your gift giving, the process can be more gratifying than a trip to the big box store, is good for the environment and supports small business as well.

When it okay to give a vintage gift?

The etiquette of vintage gift giving.  I know you'd agree the best gifts are always the ones which are well thought out and personal.  In a world of "whatsits," "whosits" and the latest "mustdoits", knowing your recipient is key.  Even if the intended recipient isn't into antiques or vintage per se, knowing the piece is tailored to their taste is essential for a successful selection.  In other words, make sure it's personal and special.  If in doubt, ask for feedback about your gift idea from family member or friend who knows the intended.

Ask yourself:

Is this something you can visualize them wearing or in their home?
Are they still collecting?  Do they have this item already?
Does it match?
Do they have the space or right spot?

Another tip is to share that the item is vintage as you are giving it.  Each vintage item has a story/history.  Communicating that history is a part of what makes your gift unique.  When giving your gift, you could say something like, "it's vintage and when I saw it I just knew it was for you!"  or "I selected this for you to become an heirloom piece for you and/or your family."  Sharing your intent with love will make it all the more special.

The Vintage Advantage

Another benefit of giving vintage is vintage is value based.  Vintage and antiques market values have leveled out from when they first appeared online.  Accordingly, now antiques and vintage rarely depreciate and many values in trendy items as well as old favorites (like Fire King Jadeite) are appreciating.

Vintage Jewelry As Gifts

You will find, in giving vintage jewelry for example, a greater selection at a lower price point and higher quality than when shopping at the big box stores.  In my vintage shop I sell vintage sterling silver jewelry and offer many pieces for $20.00 and under which include gift boxes.  Screw back earrings are easily converted by your local jeweler.  Believe it or not in some cases it's so simple to change them out you could do it yourself.  I have several pairs of screw back earrings for sale that I can, and offer to change out the screw back for a pierced earring wires.  Sterling silver wires can be purchased online and cost about $2.00 each.

EBay's Top Five Reasons to Give Vintage Jewelry

  1. Unique Qualities
  2. Collectible Appeal
  3. Exceptional Materials
  4. Affordable Prices
  5. Versatility in Design
I couldn't have said it any better myself!  These five reasons resonate with just about every vintage category.

Purchasing Vintage Christmas Presents Online

The best single tip I can give you for purchasing vintage Christmas gifts online is to get to know your seller.  Spending an extra two minutes to get to know the seller is the best way to ensure you'll receive the personal service you deserve.  Have questions or need reassuring?  Communicate with the seller and see how they respond.  Check these things out:

  • Do they offer gift wrapping?  Is it free?
  • Is a gift box included?  Is it free?
  • Are their shipping charges competitive?
  • What is their return policy?
  • Who is responsible for insurance?
  • Are condition issues clearly photographed and stated in the listing?
  • Check out their Feedback, does this seller get good reviews for their packing/packaging?

The Best Vintage Christmas Gifts

Pairing a vintage find with something new also makes the statement that you're being thoughtful in your gift selection.

For example, for someone who likes tea, a gift of a vintage tea cup, tea pot or tea caddy paired with a special hand-mixed tea says you've thought this through.  Here are some more examples:

  • Pairing a vintage powder box with the recipients favorite scented powder and a lovely new puff.
  • Pairing home baked goodies in a vintage cookie jar.
  • Paring their favorite specialty coffee with vintage coffee cup(s).
  • Paring their favorite candy with a vintage candy dish.
  • Paring new candles with vintage candle holders.
You get the picture!  So put on your thinking cap and think pairs!

For a first time vintage gift giver these are the best ideas, along with a couple suggestions, for vintage Christmas presents for him, for her, for children, and couples:

  • Vintage Jewelry- Think styles Southwest, Native American, Boho, Rockabilly; and quality materials sterling silver and if your budget allows 14 KT gold.  There are some great "ugly" vintage Christmas Tree pins and earrings that make fun gag gifts.
  • Vintage Trinket Boxes- Search for vintage Porcelain trinket, Satsuma trinket, Imari trinket and Powder boxes.
  • Vintage Books- Vintage first editions, signed copies, collectible cookbooks, children's books including pop-up books.
  • Vintage Collectibles- While you may think collectibles means outdated porcelain figurines, not so.  When looking for gifts for him, think fountain pens, drafting tools, pencils boxes, collectible toys, your creative juices going?
  • Vintage Clothing and Accessories - Beyond beautiful quality garments, scarves and purses, there are some great gag gifts in the clothing category.  Think ugly sweaters, holiday ties and tie tacks.
  • Vintage Candle Holders- Vintage Dansk and mid-century candle holders are a great gift idea.
  • Vintage Barware/Glassware- Always a hot gift idea and perfect for couples.
  • Vintage Serveware- Again, perfect for couples who like to entertain.  You know the ones, the gang always ends up hanging out at their house or apartment.

Pay Attention to Condition

Depending on the item condition in vintage and antiques is relative.  A chip on one thing is disaster, but on another doesn't matter as much.  Depending on the item, condition may not even be a factor such as old rusty, dusty chippy rustic decor.  In other categories, condition may be very important such as clothing and books.  Shopping early for the best selection and examining condition issues is key.  If you love something, just know it's perfect, but it needs a repair, do your homework.  Before making the purchase get your fix all lined up so you'll know you can have the work done prior to the gift exchange.

Vintage Gift Presentation

When giving vintage don't forget to have a beautiful presentation.  It's especially important you don't throw it into an old shoe box (unless it's an original box that goes with that vintage pair of shoes! or original packaging) stuffed with last weeks newspaper.  Great packaging doesn't have to be expensive.  Just like with the little vintage cloisonne cat figurine pictured, new packaging will make your vintage gift shine in the spotlight it deserves.

We're ready to wrap up the Holidays!

Holiday Extras at TheInspiredTrader

 A little note about the services I provide in my shop,, I offer gift wrapping at no additional charge.  This includes a new and or a gift box, new packing materials.  Each item is packed with care in brand new wrappings such as craft paper shreds, tissue paper, leatherette gift boxes for vintage rings and small craft gift boxes for my other vintage jewelry.  All tied up with vintage and new wrapping paper and ribbons, raffia, or jute twine.  Yes, it costs a little bit more for me as a seller, but it's one way I add value for you in my shop.  Because I really do believe my customers, you, deserve Wonderful!

Thursday, October 23, 2014


Woodland Inspiration

Handmade Mossy Mountain Pomander Kissing Ball for Rustic Woodland Christmas or Weddings

I've started working on some handmade for my shop.  I've been wanting to do a little handmade along with the vintage I sell.  Decor that will honor the mountains where I now live and the Florida coast that I love.  Things which translate to casual living that can be dressed up or down depending on the decor it's used with.

I love Christmas and each year looked forward to creating vignettes and decorations for my home.  So it isn't a surprise that I've selected the holidays to begin testing the handmade waters on Etsy with some nature inspired home decor.

The photograph above is a little collection of the woodland color pallet I see while hiking every day now that the weather is nice.  It's been raining so the pine cones are either a little closed or darkened by the moisture.  The leaves are turning and the grasses have gone to seed.  The black walnuts are dropping and snatched up by the squirrels almost as quickly as they fall.  I was lucky to be able to grab one on my hike.  This is my inspiration; natures beautiful fall color pallet.

Introducing my first handmade offering a woodland pomander kissing ball.  Made with moss, vintage wooden beads, tiny pine cones (I sell in my shop) natural jute twine, natural burlap and pink coated spun cotton balls.  I wanted to create something which would easily transition from fall to Christmas.  I imagine them hanging in a doorway, in a set of windows.  If you are looking for a particular color scheme just let me know and I work with you to create a custom order.

I'd love to send a little bit to the mountains to you! I think I've captured the woodland colors and textures of fall in the Blue Ridge mountains.  I hope you think so too.

I'm working on a macrame garland bunting made out of natural jute, vintage beads from an old wicker planter (falling apart and too fragile to sell) wooden snowflakes and pine cones.  I'll be sharing that in the next day or two.  I'd love your feedback.  You can see the pomander kissing ball in my shop with this link:

I'd love your feedback.  Would you like a Tutorial on how to make pomander kissing balls?  Any suggestions or comments are welcome.  Be kind. :-)

Thanks for stopping in!  Deb

Sunday, September 28, 2014

TheInspiredTrader Etsy Shop News - Watkins Hearthside Cook Book Illustrations

1950's Retro Illustrations - Watkins Hearthside Cookbook Retro Kitchen Decor

Appetizers and Soups Section Illustration from Watkins Hearthside Cook Book

Watkins 1952 Retro Illustration Cheesehead and Egghead
I have to share my latest shop project and offerings.  Loving old cookbooks as I do, I recently found a vintage 1952 edition of the Watkins Hearthside Cookbook and fell in love with the two tone illustrations.  What's not to love!?!  While the overall condition of the cookbook wasn't up to par (paint drips on the cover, spotted and food stained pages) to sell in my shop.  There were enough great illustrations on clean pages to cinch the sale.  I knew the illustrations would be delightful matted and framed for retro kitchen art.  So my journey began and I've had the most fun over the past couple of weeks putting together these ready to frame matted illustrations.  But first...

Watkins Hearthside Cookbook Recipe Page with Fisherman

A little history of Watkins and the Hearthside Cookbook

I'm happy to report Watkins Incorporated is still in business, since 1868, and on the web; so many old US companies I write about are not.  Headquartered in Winona, Minnesota, they still sell spices, extracts, and baking products; and sell all natural bath and body, health related items and cleaning products.  What I didn't know was they originally were a door-to-door company.  Today, you can purchase Watkins products via direct sales on the web or in big box stores such as Whole Foods and Target.  Independent representatives "brokers" remain a core part of their business plan; offering unique sizing and a slightly different product line.  If you'd like to learn more about the company Wikipedia has a concise post about them which you can read here or check out the company history on their web site (linked above).

The first Watkins cookbook (I was able to find) was published in 1938 and was not illustrated.  It has been digitized by Google and is available here Watkins 1938 Cookbook on Google Books.  However, their most beloved cookbook is the 1952 edition prized for it's illustrations as well as great recipes.  When food blogger are blogging about it, you know it's good!  Authored by Ruth Robbins a Watkins home economist, it sold for $2.50.  It is copyrighted and included in the Library of Congress LC 53016180.  The cookbook I have appears to be a first edition.

Take a look at these funky, fun, retro illustrations!

Crying Chef - Watkins Hearthside Cookbook Illustration & Recipe Page

Watkins 1952 Hearthside Cookbook Baked Beans Recipe Page with Illustration

Little Devils Cooking - Watkins Hearthside Cookbook Illustration and Recipe Page

While Ruth Robbins was credited for her work, all the fabulous classic 1950's graphic illustrations go uncredited.  WHAT!?! The detective in me wanted to find the illustrator, and so my search began.  While searching 1950's illustrations and illustrators I found the 1948 James Beard's Fireside Cook Book illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen.  Hmm.  Take a look at the Provensen's Fireside Cook Book illustrations.

Dancing Retro Housewife - 1950's Watkins Hearthside Cookbook Illustration and Recipe Page

Mixer Illustration - Watkins Hearthside Cookbook

Lighthearted take on Rajasthan Art - Vintage Illustration from Watkins Hearthside Cookbook

To say the James Beard cookbook was an influence on the Watkins cookbook would be an understatement.  After my research, I truly believe Alice and Martin Provensen created all the graphic illustrations for the Hearthside cookbook also.  Uncredited possibly due to contractual agreements associated with illustrating Beard's cookbook.  There were other prominent illustrators during the 1940's and 1950's which I researched who had similar illustrations, BUT with notable differences in style.  Alice and Martin Provensen's work has a distinct style.  So, that's my theory and I'm sticking to it.

Retro Oriental Chicken Illustration - Watkins Hearthside Cookbook

Who would want to tear a perfectly good copy of a cookbook apart for the illustrations?  According to the Antique Trader Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide, published in 2014, the Watkins Hearthside Cook Book value ranges between $34.00 and $61.00.  You can find copies for sale on eBay for over $180.00 (at the time of writing) with the dust jacket; but the average price on Etsy is between $20.00 and $30.00 without the dust jacket (which folds out into a poster).  To answer the question "Who would want to tear apart a perfectly good vintage cookbook?" the answer would be, no one <er ah> me.  I've done the dirty work for you!  Ha!


Retro Kitchen Decor

With so many different illustrations to choose from, you are sure to find your perfect page or a special page for someone you know.  Know a Chef?  Got you covered!  Know a Wisconsin Cheesehead?  There's one!  Have a beach themed kitchen?  I've got that too!  Or if your like me and just love the retro 1950's illustrations, you know each one will lend that personal touch to your kitchen decor and give you that vintage vibe you seek.  With brand new matting they'll go with a modern or vintage style kitchen and make a great gift.  The color pallets are back in style and easily coordinate with modern paint colors.

There are quite a few sellers of up cycled book pages with graphics printed over the typeset.  But I've never seen these illustrations matted and ready to frame offered up for sale.  Each one an original page, not a scan or color copy and each one guaranteed to be entertaining and a conversation piece.  The spark that will make your kitchen decor special.

Democratic Kitchen Art

I knew I wanted to keep the pricing "democratic"and offer a custom piece.  So I've done all the leg work and the production.


If you have ever had custom framing done you know how expensive it can be.  I wanted to offer you original pages matted for under $20.00 dollars delivered.  And I have, the ready to frame matted illustration cost $17.00 delivered.  I worked with  Ron at the Matstofit shop on Etsy to create the custom mattes for the first 12 Watkins Hearthside Cook Book page illustrations listings offered.  Ron was great to work with, ships quickly and has an outstanding product.  If you are looking for custom mattes and frames he's your go to guy on Etsy.  These matted original illustrations are fab and ready to ship.

Here's the details of the dimensions and your framing options.

  • The original recipe page and/or illustration page is matted to fit a regular 8 x 10 frame or an 8 x 10 Format Frame.
  • Because I read the reviews on Format Frames, particular attention was paid to ensure you get a good (albeit snug) fit in a Format Frame as the interior dimensions run a little small.
  • Eight x Ten Format Frames run about $4.00 at the big box stores making this affordable kitchen art or gift.  Each one is an original page, not a reprint or scan.
  • The actual size is just under 8 x 10 and will fit in a standard 8 x 10 frame.
All the Watkins Hearthside Cook Book illustrations featured here are available in my shop on Etsy.  You'll find a link to the listings in the caption area as well as in the shop widget located in the upper right hand side blog panel.

Each one has been lovingly selected, cut and mounted in high quality black matting.  You will receive your illustration in a plastic sleeve and shipped in a rigid flat chip board mailer.  Should you choose to purchase more than one, shipping on additional selections is combined and will ship at a reduced rate.  There are several in the same color way.  Share this with your friends who love vintage too and be sure to visit my shop for more fun, funky and fabulous vintage.

Thanks for stopping in!



Friday, September 12, 2014

TheInspiredTrader Etsy Shop News

New Shipping Tools and Expanded Shipping Routes

Because you deserve nothing less than wonderful, we've added new shipping tools at TheInspiredTrader to ensure you have the best shopping experience with faster, more accurate shipping at a lower cost.

Meet my new best friend in the office, our brand new shipping scale!  The ULRASHIP U-2 will weigh up to 60 pounds and is a little bit of shipping heaven!

ULTRASHIP U-2 60 lb shipping scale

TheInspiredTrader Expands Shipping Routes

 to "Deliver" the Best Service

Introducing International First Class Shipping via the USPS

The really big news is TheInspiredTrader on Etsy now offers International First Class shipping through the USPS for select countries!  With our trusty scale, shipping labels are now purchased online through Etsy (an approved PC Postage vendor).  Our goal is the deliver the best service at the lowest cost!  Of course there are still limitations as to what can be shipped First Class Internationally, such as the package weight limitation of four pounds or less.  And shipments can only be made to countries with a reciprocal agreement with the USPS to provide Delivery Confirmation.  Note:  Orders weighing more than four pounds must ship International Priority.

Here's a list of the countries where we now ship in addition to the US:

  1. Australia
  2. Belgium
  3. Canada
  4. Croatia
  5. Estonia
  6. Finland
  7. Germany
  8. Great Britain
  9. Northern Ireland
  10. Hungary
  11. Israel
  12. Netherlands
  13. New Zealand
  14. Spain
  15. Sweden
  16. Switzerland
*If your country is not on the list, contact me and I'll see what we can work out.

That's not all, we're getting ready to take the next step!  Etsy is engineering and phasing in a robust site wide shipping calculator.  When the finished calculator is brought online we'll be ready to provide a seamless transition and offer you the lowest prices and the best shipping options available on the site.  We are proud to...

Actualize our Commitment to Customer Service

Shipping improvements currently online - a big improvement for your shopping experience:

  • More accurate estimated shipping quotes.
  • Exact shipping quotes available when you provide your shipping information to me pre-sale.
  • Shipping can be easily customized for combined shipping of multiple purchases.
  • Lower shipping costs.
  • Lower insurance costs.
  • Faster service.
While domestic US shipping quotes are still estimated and only apply to the lower 48 states, International shipping quotes are accurate.  When Etsy begins to bring the shipping calculator online, I believe domestic US shipping quotes will be the first to go live.  When that happens we're ready and we'll let you know with an update right here on the blog and our Facebook page.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Fall Fare or Halloween Party Plan

Ah Fall, my favorite season and perfect weather for outdoors entertaining.  Who doesn't love a good bonfire?  If you are looking for outdoor party ideas for a Autumn/Fall or Halloween bash that hasn't been hashed and rehashed <pun intended> this post is written just for you.

It's the best time of year to view fall foliage, take a road trip to the cabin, lake house or cottage for a get-a-way weekend with an old fashioned corn and oyster roast.  The no fuss menu is perfect for your vacation home, even if you are renting.

Of course you can keep it close to home in your backyard if traveling isn't in your schedule.  It can be scaled up or down depending on your budget and the simple menu keeps the party enjoyable for you as well as your guests.  Perfect for a large group or keep it intimate with just a few couples and you can stick to the menu or add your own touches.  Either way remember to keep the menu simple to keep it fun!

Halloween falls in a Friday this year.


Use a lunch size paper bag printed with a great Halloween or Autumn graphic.  Print them out on your home printer.  Easily done in any word processing program by creating a document sized to the bag.  There are a lot of free holiday graphics available online just Google "Free Halloween Clip Art" and get your creative juices flowing.  On the side of the paper bag that doesn't have the flap print the invitation poem below (or something similar) arranged with your graphic, then hand write the address on the other side.  Print out maps and insert them into the bags.  Too cute and done.

Vintage Dennison Die Cut Black Cats click to see the listing.
We're having a party and want you here.
It isn't very far by car.
(Place) is really quite near.

We hope you'll say yes and want to stay,
The map will show you the way.

Aw Shucks we hope you come.
With corn, beer, oysters and a bonfire too,
There'll be fun for everyone!

Time     Date     Hosts

Menu and Roasting Directions

Oysters - Roasted and Raw Bar Style on the Half Shell
French Bread
Roasted Corn on the Cob
Roasted Hot Dogs or Chicken Tenders (if children are invited)
Soft Drinks
Bottled Water
Dessert:  Pumpkin Cup Cakes

If your friends have children offer a more a traditional protein substitute for the kids like hot dogs or chicken tenders.

Prepare the Fire:  If you don't have a fire pit, make one with cement blocks or bricks.  Size your square to so a metal screen will fit and be supported by the block walls.  Make sure to make it large enough to roast your corn too!  Be sure to use cooking appropriate wood.  Don't use any wood which has been treated with chemicals or is pressure treated.  Build a large fire about an hour before you plan to cook.  You'll need plenty of coals!

Roasted Oysters:  Wait until the fire gets hot about an hour and smooth the coals around the floor of the pit.  Place the screen(s) over the pit and put oysters on the screen(s) with a shovel.  Cover oysters with wet burlap until they pop open, which is about 30 minutes to an hour depending on how close they are to the coals and how hot your coals are.  You can open them and place them on a grill making sure to keep the liquid along with the oyster, they will cook much faster and are done when the edges of the oyster begin to curl.

Roasted Corn:  Place the corn in a large tub and cover with water add salt and let them soak for 4 to 5 hours.  Drain the water and wrap each ear with, husks on, with aluminium foil.  Place the foil wrapped ears on the coals and cover with more coals using a shovel.  Cook about 8 minutes, turn the ears and repeat.  Depending on the heat of your coals they'll be done in 16 to 25 minutes.

Cocktail Sauce:  For every 8 adults use one bottle of chili sauce, the ketchup kind, with horseradish and lemon juice to taste.  Place crocks filled with sauce along with baskets of saltines and french bread on the table(s).

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Another Bit of Old Florida - Chalet Suzanne Closes

Photograph by Leonard J. DeFrancisci

As of August 4, 2014 Chalet Suzanne in Lake Wales closed their doors.  After 83 years and three generations of family ownership the Chalet is for sale.  The Hinshaw family is looking for someone new to carry on the fine traditions which first impressed Duncan Hines.  I hope they will find new owners because those who truly want to experience Florida, especially those who are looking for an authentic Old Florida experience, would love Chalet Suzanne.

I moved to Florida in November of 1969 right before Walt Disney World opened.  Paradise was quickly changing, I was just in time to have the privilege of experiencing quite a bit of what we now call "Old Florida" whose heyday was from the 1920's to the 1970's.  Chalet Suzanne certainly qualifies as "Old Florida".  Much of what we now think of as Old Florida was influenced by big business movers and shakers of the times.

Image courtesy Lake Wales Chamber of Commerce web site.
Names like Henry M. Flagler founder of Standard Oil, Henry B. Plant builder of the Plant System of railroads which became the Atlantic Coastline Railroad and Edward William Bok editor of the Ladies Home Journal.  Both Flagler and Plant built incredible hotels in Florida in the 1880's (but that's another post altogether!).  In the case of Chalet Suzanne, James L. Kraft of Kraft cheese fame along with Carl and Bertha Hinshaw.

Florida was growing as a destination, Bok Tower, completed in 1929, would have attracted investors to the area.  In fact Duncan Hines was an early customer and booster through his reviews in his travel guides.  The original design was as an ambitious winter resort for those who liked tennis and golf.  According to the Chalet Suzanne web site Kraft pulled out of the project due to the stock market crash, construction stopped, then Carl Hinshaw died.

With no husband and two young children to care for, Bertha Hinshaw turned her home into an inn and restaurant, thus the beginnings of  the delightful property which stands today.  In 1943 the house was almost totally destroyed by fire and was rebuilt from other buildings on the property with the help of her son Carl.  You can read more about their history here at their web site Chalet Suzanne Restaurant and County Inn History.  Cypress Gardens was built in 1936 and between Bok Tower, Chalet Suzanne and Cypress Gardens you had the trifecta of Old Florida which was a popular honeymoon destination for many, many years.  Each suite was decorated with yummy antiques, each had a name and was special.  Very special.  More recently it was a popular location for weddings.  Known for its eclectic decor delicious antiques and award winning food.  For seclusion and for romance.

Photograph by

My experience there was special too.  In 2004 I was treated with a romantic get-a-way-stay at the Inn and I have tender memories of a sweet time in my life.  The experience made my Top 10 list of dinning adventures.  How could it not, the restaurant earned 3 stars from Mobil (which has now been taken over by Forbes Magazine) and only one Florida restaurant has earned more Golden Spoon Awards.  The dinning room overlooks the lake and it's eclectic decor and china makes the experience a warm, wonderful and romantic one.   The owners are gracious, in true southern tradition the service is genuine, welcoming and professional.  We enjoyed the 5 course meal; it was the first time I had Broiled Grapefruit which was served as an appetizer.  Widely known over all of Florida as a true southern treat I was anticipating it as much as the meal; it didn't disappoint.  My visit was special.  The Chalet is a very special place.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Mountain Roadsides in September

The mountains are calling and I must go.  John Muir

To celebrate Labor Day and the first day of September I've taken a couple of snap shots of the roadside flowers our Blue Ridge Mountain visitors are enjoying this weekend.  The wild flower colors have deepened from the pale white (with the exception of Queen Anne's Lace), pink and lavenders to deep autumn golden yellows.  Jewelweed (Impatiens biflora), Tall Tickseed (Coreopsis tripteris) and Elm Leaf Goldenrod (Solidago ulmifolia) are dominating the roadsides here in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Tall tickseed lines much of Aska area of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

On the low side wet side of my drive where my little creek flows the tall tickseed flowers dominate the roadside providing much needed food for pollinators in the area.

Just across the drive, north of the creek feed, is a different drier habitat hosting jewelweed also known as wild impatiens.  The little slipper shaped flowers attract humming birds, butterflies as well as bees.  It's so fun to see a "bumbly" (might be a new word) wood bee butt sticking out as they crawl inside to drink the nectar.

Pretty little slipper shaped flowers remind me of orchids.

The mountain side is previewing the colors of fall.

The pine trees are laden with fresh pine cones this year and the leaves on the dogwood are beginning to turn a muted crimson.  I think it's going to be a stunning fall!  What's blooming in your area?  Take a moment to reflect on the beautiful changes in nature and feed your soul.  Peace.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Cookie Season Means Vintage Cookie Cutters

Cookies or Biscuits? Whatever you call them I say YUM!

From 1952 Watkins company promotional cook book.

Cookie Season

Yes, cookie season is almost upon us and it is a joyful thing!  The days are cooler up here in the Blue Ridge Mountains of north Georgia and we are beginning to see the first signs that summer is over and nature is turning to fall.  So I've been getting my shop ready for cookie season.  There's something special about making baking sugar and gingerbread cookies a seasonal celebration and tradition.

I have some of the most fun cookie cutters which I've been saving for just the right time to list and all are now for sale in my Etsy shop.  I'm sharing them here along with some great new and vintage cookie recipes because, I confess, cookies are a weakness.

Buttery, tender, crispy, light melt in your mouth cookies can be your trademark gift at Christmastime and many people will looked forward to your "gift" package every year.  A tradition I adopted with my own special touches.

Vintage cookie cutters with red painted wooden handles. Click this link to view the listing on Etsy.

If you are looking to begin a cookie tradition at your house consider vintage when shopping for your cookie making supplies.  Vintage cookie cutters and presses are a great value and offer that special vintage vibe to help get you in the mood.  Vintage tin cookie cutter also make a grand display for your kitchen when you add a bit of greenery.  Or consider tying on red and white baker's twine, finished in a bow, and hang them on a small kitchen Christmas tree instead of ornaments.

Vintage Cookie Cutters Price Guide

While antique cookie cutters can be very expensive and cost over $100.00 dollars the cost of collecting vintage cookie cutters is in the very affordable category.  Online at Etsy sets for cutters in good condition average about $20.00 with individual cutters as little as $1.00 each not including shipping.  In my shop the most expensive set is $19.00 not including shipping.  Boxed sets in their original boxes will run more.

All the vintage cookie cutters in this post are for sale in my Etsy shop.  I mark them sold as they sell.  You can find a link to each listing under the photograph, which will take you directly to each listing.

Vintage Tin and Aluminium Cookie Cutters

An American Tradition

While the history of shaped cookies is rooted in Europe, they were mostly created with cookie molds.  Tin cookie cutters are a very American contribution to the cookie scene.  Taking traditional shapes from our European roots.

Vintage Tin Cookie Cutters Click this link to view the listing on Etsy.

I love the old shapes vintage tin cookie cutters offer.  How cute is the "gingerbread" cat cookie cutter?!

Vintage Christmas cookie cutters. Click this link to view the listing on Etsy.

In the 1940's shaped sugar cookies became an American specialty.  The aluminium cookie cutters below are from that time and were popular because they were easy to clean and care for.  I especially love the Scottie dog cutter.

Vintage 1940's Cookie Cutters Click this link to view the listing on Etsy. SOLD

Ina Garten taught me how to make a fantastic shortbread cookie, she could teach Hillary Clinton (a self professed non cookie baker) to bake the perfect shortbread cookie.  Here's a link Ina's video (with recipe) so you can learn too.  The trick is to not over work the dough.  Make sure to use a tin cookie cutter, the aluminium cutter are not deep enough and won't give you a clean edge.

I prefer to make gingerbread and shortbread cookies over sugar cookies at Christmas time.  I treat Ina's shortbread recipe as I would a sugar cookie rolling them just a little shy of a half and inch thick.  To keep the edges sharp and clean make after they've been cut, refrigerate the cookies on the sheet pan for 10 minutes.  Make sure you use parchment paper when baking so you don't chip or break your cookies when removing them from the pan.

Then decorate with using a variety of methods: colored sugar crystals, drizzled or dipped in chocolate ganach (sometimes adding chopped nuts), or hand pipped royal icing.  If you want to spice it up consider adding a teaspoon of cardamom or cinnamon and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg.  Cardamom was the "secret" to my Grandmother's popular spice cookies.  It is more expensive than cinnamon, but the unique flavor makes it worth the price.

Vintage Gingerbread Men Cookie Cutters. Click this link to view the listing on Etsy.

Large gingerbread men cookie cutters are braced to ensure they keep their shape.  Below a 1970's gingerbread family is a fun vintage set.  Made in the USA by Fox Run Craftsmen.

Vintage Gingerbread Men Cookie Cutters

Vintage Gingerbread Family Cookie Cutter Set. Click this link to view the listing on Etsy.

I've found the Better Homes and Gardens, New Cook Book, recipe for gingerbread produces a great finished product.
Vintage Gingerbread Man Woman and Children. Click this link to view the listing on Etsy.

They "age" nicely and actually get better with a little time exposed to air, which makes them perfect for wrapping in cellophane (tie the tops with raffia) and given in stacks or as single special treats.  They are adorable peeking out of the top of a Christmas stocking.

I keep decorating simple by pipping white royal icing when it is dry, spoon regular granulated sugar over the cookie and tip it over to remove the excess.  The finish cookie decoration is minimalist, understated and surprisingly sophisticated (as sophisticated as a gingerbread cookie can be).  For a special gift, arrange them in inexpensive baskets (which you can find at the Dollar Store) lined with crinkle cut shredded paper in a natural color as a cushion and wrap them in cellophane gift basket wrap tied off with raffia.  Make a gift tag from clean cardboard and you have an inexpensive, surprisingly stunning gift.

Spritzbaaken Cookie Recipe - For a Cookie Press  

Vintage Cookie Press by BlueBarnCollectibles on Etsy - Click this link to view the listing.

This is a very old family Spritzbaaken recipe.  It dates back well over 70 years and I've made an adjustment to update it to modern flour standards.

1 pound butter (use the real thing not margarine)
1 cup regular granulated sugar
1 egg plus 2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 1/2 cups plus one or two heaping tablespoons all purpose flour*

*Note:  The two heaping tablespoons of flour is an addition to make this recipe work.  Flour is lighter today than it was back then.  I sift after measuring to keep this cookie light, but sifting isn't required.  I hold back on one tablespoon of the extra flour and do a test cookie. If it comes out of the press nicely your good to go.  If it's too soft, add the second tablespoon of flour and mix again.

Cream butter until soft.  Gradually add sugar, creaming well after each addition, until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs, egg yolks and vanilla.  Gradually blend in flour to make a soft dough.  Fill a metal cookie press with dough; press out into fancy shapes onto an ungreased cookie sheet; repeat.  Bake in a 350 degree over 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.

Vintage Tin Cookie Cutters are also used for Tea Sandwiches and Canapes

Vintage cookie cutters are also used to make tea sandwiches and cut bread for canapes.

Traditional shapes such as you see above do double duty in the kitchen and were used to make tea sandwiches and cut bread for canapes.  Make it fun, try some dark pumpernickel bread with cream cheese, smoked salmon with a touch of dill, or ham salad sandwich cut outs in the shape of spades, clubs, hearts and diamonds for your next poker night. You can usually get two cut outs per regular sized slices of bread.  For ease of preparation and to keep your edges sharp, make the sandwiches first then cut into shapes.

Whether it's for a special Mother Daughter tea, an after school treat, a cookie swap, or poker night vintage cookie cutters are a perfectly yummy collectible!  Have fun with them and your family and friends!