Nature’s Gum Balls: Discovering the World Around Us

All of November and December, Ms. Jeannie was waiting for this one particular tree in her yard to drop its seed pods…




They have these wonderful round pods that  Ms. Jeannie thought would look fabulous strung together in garlands for her mantel, on her Christmas tree as part of her natural ornaments and maybe on a wreath for her front door. This is what the pods look like up close…



They sort of reminded Ms. Jeannie of stars, especially when she was looking up at them hanging so high in the trees!  Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other ideas, because these little stars didn’t fall until just two days ago, long past holiday time.

Now there are hundreds upon hundreds covering the ground. Ms. Jeannie could have made a million miles worth of garland!

Curious as to what type of tree these little beauties belonged to, Ms. Jeannie did some research and as it turns out, they are from the Sweet Gum tree, which is indiginous to North America, Mexico and Central America.  The gum tree has been around since pre-historic times and is actually classified as a living fossil. It is one of the oldest recorded trees in history.  Goodness gracious.

Ms. Jeannie found this information fascinating because the shape of the pods reminded her of some other-wordly items like the spiked wrecking ball weapons from the Middle Ages…

Ironically, you can buy these on ebay for $20.00!
Ironically, you can buy these on ebay for $20.00!

Or those crazy underwater sea urchins…

Sea Urchin from the Getty Collection
Sea Urchin from the Getty Collection

The sweet gum pods (or gum balls, as they were nicknamed)  are actually known as the tree’s fruit and contain one to two seeds within each pod.  The trees can grow up to to 120′ feet tall and the leaves turn beautiful colors in the fall. Ms. Jeannie estimates her tree to be about 80′ feet and is indeed one of the tallest in her yard.

Here is an example of a sweet gum in the summer…

Sweet Gum tree photo courtesy of
Sweet Gum tree photo courtesy of

and in the Autumn…

Sweet Gum in Fall photo courtesy of
Sweet Gums in Fall photo courtesy of

This species of tree was first recorded by Spanish naturalist, Francisco Hernandez de Toledo in the 1500’s.

Spanish naturalist and physician Francisco Hernandez de Toledo (1514-1587).
Spanish naturalist and physician Francisco Hernandez de Toledo (1514-1587).

Francisco was the court physician to the King of Spain and in 1570 was sent to the New World on a botany trip  specifically to study medicinal plants. In his journals, he noted the sweet gum tree bark as having a fragrant juice resembling liquid amber.  Indeed, this liquid amber is where the tree got its name. Native Americans taught pioneers in America how to peel the resin  from the bark and chew it  in order to quench thirst, thus making it one of the first chewing gums in America.

The sweet gum tree was introduced in Europe in the 1600’s, planted in the gardens at Fulham Palace in London by way of Reverend botanist John Bannister, who had traveled to Virginia to bring back exotic tree cuttings like the magnolia, black walnut and cork oak among others – all of which are still represented in the palace gardens today.

The gardens at Fulham Palace, London. Photo courtesy of
The gardens at Fulham Palace, London. Photo courtesy of

Throughout history the resin found in the gum tree has been used homeopathically  to heal a host of ailments from skin conditions to bronchial infections.  Likewise, it’s wood has been used commercially in the manufacture of low-grade hardwood products, plywood, crates, furniture and as an ebony wood alternative.

Ms. Jeannie had no idea, her tree was so useful! Now having learned all this , she is going to go out with a plastic bin and collect all the gumballs so she will be sure to have enough for her 2013 holiday crafts…

Place Cards
Place Cards
Holiday wreath lightly spray painted white makes it look frosty!
Holiday wreath lightly spray painted white makes it look frosty!

Ms. Jeannie pinned these pictures above to her Historic Holiday board on pinterest, plus a few others. Stop by and see them here.  She can’t help but think that these would be lovely spring wedding decorations for table decor or used in bridal bouquets – especially if you were having a spring outdoor wedding.  These sweet gums are full of rustic charm and potential!

If you have any creative ideas about other ways Ms. Jeannie can use the little beauties, please send a message!





Think Outside the Frame: Creative Ways to Display Vintage Photographs

The wonderfully rich colors and simple compositions of vintage photographs make stunning visual displays, if you allow yourself to think beyond the traditional picture frame.

A Guy Named Guy from msjeannieology

Ms. Jeannie likes to tuck old pictures here and there around the house, in unexpected places, so that when she happens upon them, its almost like she’s discovering them for the first time again. It is delightfully fresh decorating!

Below are some fun and creative ways to display your favorite photos (click on each photo for additional info)…

1. In a folding ruler:

In A Folding Ruler from havenvintage

2. On a metal rake…

Metal Rake from alifewelllived

3. In a mason jar…

Vintage Canning Jars from thevintaquarian

4. On an oil can…

Vintage Oil Can Collection from ThatsVintageBaby

5. In a toast rack…

Vintage Silver Toast Rack from ACreativeLifestyle

6. On a vintage receipt holder…

Vintage Receipt Holder from jollytimeone

7. On a hanger…

Metal Skirt Hanger from thisvintagething

8. In a flower frog…

Industrial Flower Frog from bluebell

9.  In a record holder…

Vintage Record Holder from MyraMelinda

10. On a clipboard…

Vintage White Marble Clipboard from LittleSistersSecret

11. On a purse…

Upcycled Black Alligator Handbag Wall Hanging from SassyTrashAntiques

12. On an embroidery hoop-like display board…

Round Pin Photo Memory Board from ZanaProducts

13. In an open chest…

Antique Doll Chest from LuncheonetteVintage

14. In a cup holder…

Vintage Porcelain Bathroom Fixture Cupholder from anythinggoeshere

15.  On a fork… (ok – this one isn’t a photo, but you get the idea)…

Farmhouse Recipe Holder from JennasBeachRetreat

If you have your own creative way of displaying vintage photographs, please share with us. Photos are welcome:)

Discussing Rustic Home Decor, Beer & Movies with Designer Frick and Frack Scraps!

If you have read her blog bio, you will know one of the things that Ms. Jeannie loves most in life is havin’ a laugh.

She loves stumbling upon things that are unexpectedly funny, which is exactly what occurred, when she set out  to interview one of her favorite fellow Etsy shop owners, Frick and Frack Scraps.

Frick and Frack Scraps builds some of the most wonderfully whimsical yet fully functional home decor items.  They are rustic, provincial, aged, weathered, repurposed, re-salvaged and entirely original in all aspects.  Here is a sampling of items from their shop…

Sampling of Items from Frick & Frack Scraps

Naturally she was thrilled to discover the funny designer behind the fun shop…

Ms Jeannie:  I love the rustically provincial/whimsically repurposed theme of your shop! Please explain a little about your design inspirations.
Frick & Frack Scraps: Well, thank you, firstly, for the compliment and the interview. Your blog is so unique. I get inspiration for my projects from leftover scrap laying around. My father was an architect and an armchair engineer. He used things differently and saw potential in lots of things that most people would not see. I think I got a little of that from him. And also from beer.
MJ: Do you think a lot of people are inspired by beer?
FFS: Two words, Ms. Jeannie.  Benjamin Franklin. Enough said.
 MJ: You have sold a lot of one of a kind items in your shop. Currently there are 11 items for sale.  Are you concepting new ideas now?
FFS: Well, don’t you do your homework?! I have been busy, in the non-Etsy world, with other work, so right now I am on sort of a break, but I always look for things to use for when I am back in the saddle on my saw horse.
MJ:  What designers inspire your work?
FFS: Well, I think of things in very straight terms. Not a big fan of curves, so I think that makes Mission and Prairie designers my gut inspiration. O.K. I will admit it. I have posters of Stickley and Wright on my bedroom walls.
An example of Mission style furniture. Photo courtesy of
An example of Usonian style furniture. Photo courtesy of
Prairie Style Table Centerpiece from Frick & Frack Scraps
MJ:  What is your most favorite type of material to work with?
FFS: Wood and steel and beer cans.
MJ: Do you ever worry about running out of scraps to work with?
FFS: Not while I live in the United States. It is funny how some people see things as useless and others see a winerack. There is more than enough.
MJ: Explain a little about your design process. How do you get started on each piece?
FFS: Since it is all scraps to start with there is a bit of a limitation at the beginning. I can not go into something thinking “table” when I only have enough scrap for a box. Once I have stuff in front of me, it is a very simple, no holds barred process. The real upshot is if I make a “mistake” it just goes into a bin until it can be used on something else.
MJ: While you are working on each creation, do you ever think about where  they might end up?  What style of house it will go to? Or what sort of person would buy it?
FFS: Absolutley! There is a lady on Etsy, Jacksonofalltrades, that wanted some Frick & Frack for a birthday party at a dude ranch. I never thought of my pieces that way but I think it will look good. So I have that going for me,  which is nice.
MJ: At what point in life did you realize you were destined to build things?
FFS: I have always built things as far back as I can remember. “Destined” is such a big word. I think it should only be used when referring to superheros.
MJ: Speaking of superheros…who is yours?
FFS: My pal, Thom Zelenka. If he were a real superhero he would be Always OK Man. He never seems to get rattled, always has a nice or kind word and has always been the same guy – from the day I met him to decades later. Pretty damn cool.
 MJ:  What is it that lures people towards your items?
FFS: I am not sure. I made the four pack out of parts that were left over, after a six pack I had made that sold pretty quickly. I am sooo glad I am able to find similar materials for the four pack ’cause WOW have I had to make alot of them. But I digress, I think people like the price, the FUNctional part, and also I make alot of things that hold or incorporate alcoholic beverages so it could be that these buyers are all fun drunks. 
The Four Pack & The Six Pack from Frick & Frack Scraps
MJ: What is your most favorite item in your shop right now and why?
FFS: By far, the Fire Box Humidor. My pal, Tommy and I, made that and I am so proud of the re-use of that fire box. It is so outside the box. See what I did there?
1950’s Fire Box Humidor from Frick & Frack Scraps
MJ:  Is there one item that you are constantly striving towards building for your own personal collection?
FFS: I use my wife’s style as a guide to things I build for our house,  so  that there is no conflict. I once bought a table at an auction for like 200 bucks and she called it the “UGLIEST TABLE IN THE WORLD” two years later I sold the original Gustav Stickley drum top table for 1500 bucks. I still smile about that.  But I still do not get to pick out what I like. Ah love!
MJ: If you could build props for any tv or movie set, past or present, which would you choose?
FFS: Gangs of New York, There Will be Blood and A Good Year in the movie department for sure. I think there would be no challenge for me to get it right the first time.
Gangs of New York set
There Will Be Blood movie set
A Good Year film set
MJ: Two of the three movies you mentioned, star Daniel Day Lewis. Do you think he would be a fan of Frick & Frack?
FFS: I think so. He is very unique himself and he lives in a castle pretty much so he’s certainly got the money to “drink my milkshake”.
Side note: If this reference confuses you, check out the “milkshake” scene from There Will Be Blood
MJ: Also, two of the three movies you mentioned are period dramas and the third is a contemporary drama set in provincial France. It is easy to picture Frick & Frack in both these worlds. What inspires you about the look of these films?
FFS: There is a utilitarian feel to everything old to me. Not much design just use in mind when they were made in the old days. That has beauty to me. I like that.
MJ:  What one type of item is a consistent seller in your shop? What seems to be the slowest to sell?
FFS: The Four Pack is a runaway success. The Fire Box Humidor and the Coat racks are the slugs but I looked at other Etsy shops that have coat racks and mine should be sold as firewood compared to others! There is such cool stuff on Etsy.
Large Coat Rack & Small Coat Rack from Frick & Frack Scraps

MJ:  What type of environment (besides the fireplace!) would your coat racks look best?

 FFS: I dont know. The ones with the wooden “sleigh” shaped hooks would be great in a rustic cabin in Montana. Like a River Runs Through It house that Ikea just re-decorated.
MJ: What are some of the challenges of being a handmade seller?
FFS: I think people’s expectations. I make things rustic. I am not a finish carpenter. I send items out that might give you splinters. Really. I have not had any problems but that is the part that makes it hard.You just never know how someone will react when they get an item in hand having based their purchase on three or four pictures and a description.
MJ: Do you think if you heard more feedback from buyers that you would build different items?
FFS: I am not sure. I listen to my head when I build. There is not much more room in there for other people.
MJ:  What’s your shop’s greatest success story?
FFS: Well, all of the coverage I have gotten for sure! I think when Urban Outfitters emailed me to be a vendor for their outdoor center in PA, that was pretty cool. Nothing ever came of it, in the end, but just think about how that one email could have really changed things. And the ONLY reason is due to Etsy and all of their hard work.
MJ: If you could spend one day, building Frick & Frack alongside anybody famous, living or dead, who would you choose?
FFS: Frankie Wright. (that’s what his friends call him)
Architect and designer, Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959), father of organic architecture and leader of the Prairie School Movement.

MJ:  What does your studio space look like? What would your ideal space look like?

FFS: I build most everything thus far at my pal, Tommy’s, old mill building. It is old, dusty, and full of great equipment. My ideal space would be a 1/2 indoor 1/2 outdoor space, maybe an old barn.
MJ:  What’s next on the Frick & Frack horizon?
FFS: I have no clue. Some days I think if I could just do this full time, life would be alot more simple and rewarding. I think I will try to get some wholesale clients that want lots of four packs. Maybe a cool brewery like Dog Fish Head or Victory Brewing Company could find my work and fall madly in love with it.  And then I will be the hero that made their beer sales skyrocket and there would be a movie made about my life and how I changed the corporate culture of beer packaging.  I would become a household name and then retire in Ireland to golf until I die. Who knows? It is amazing what a minute can do.
MJ: What would the title be to that movie be?
FFS: I think it would be: Luck. I have had alot of it in my life.
POST UPDATE (10/10/2012):  Frick and Frack Scraps has just entered the blogging world! If you are in need of a laugh (or 20!) stop by and visit their aptly named blog, Out of Hand.