May 232014

One of the weirdest, yet unique houses in America is near the small town of Spring Green, Wisconsin.  The House on the Rock has the world’s largest indoor carousel, as part of its bizarre themed collections.
View of House on the Rock
On top of a 60-foot tall column of sheer rock, Alex Jordan Jr. finished the house begun as one-upmanship by his architect father.  The house was purposely built near the famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s personal residence, Taliesin.

As the story goes, Alex Jordan Sr. was Frank Lloyd Wright’s biggest fan and hoped to get his idol’s approval for a building he had designed.  Wright told Jordan he “wouldn’t hire him to design a cheese crate or a chicken coop.”  While driving home in a huff from the fateful meeting, he planned this house that has become shrouded in myth and legend.

The Infinity Room contains thousands of windows and a glass panel in the floor, where visitors can look directly down into the valley.  It hangs out 218 feet from the house without supports underneath.
House on the Rock automated instruments
Some of these instruments actually play, but the string and woodwind sounds are produced by organ pipes.  The mechanically moving instruments create an illusion designed to fool and entertain visitors.
Angels and Carousel
Obviously his perceived masterpiece was never meant to become a museum.  Alex Jordan Jr. filled the home with oddities purchased or built, that reflected an eccentric and reclusive lifestyle.  This carousel features 269 animals, 182 chandeliers, 20,000 lights, and hundreds of mannequin angels hanging from the ceiling.
house on the rock mikado photo by Joseph Kranak
The Mikado is one of the animated, off-key musical machines with an oriental façade that Jordan designed.  I agree with a description that reads – “the House on the Rock is a manic mishmash of mechanical musty mayhem and sensory overload.”  We saw collections of ivory carvings, model sailing ships, dolls, knight’s armor, cars, British crown jewels, silverware, toy circuses, guns, cash registers, stained glass and lots more stuff.
house on the rock percussion 1
The House on the Rock left me overwhelmed and confused, after spending over five hours walking the winding pathways.  I found a book on Alex Jordan’s life, to better understand his passion for living with so many fakes that he passed off as real.

He was described as a combination of Howard Hughes and P.T. Barnum, rolled up into one masterful collector and architect.  As a child, he learned how to do magic tricks.  Growing up, he would sit in a corner and laugh about the way he fooled everyone.  His home became a masterpiece of illusion and imagination about places he never visited.

Although most people throughout the world have heard of Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home, Jordan had the last laugh.  The House on the Rock is said to draw more visitors every year than any other spot in Wisconsin, including the nearby F. L. Wright’s Taliesin.

What’s the weirdest place you remember visiting?

Dec 192013

Camp Grandma had the kitchen table covered with the grandson’s latest holiday craft projects.
Christmas craft house grandkids

Christmas craft house pretzel

Christmas craft house

Christmas crafts

Christmas craft cookie men

Christmas craft pretzel houses

Christmas craft houses

Instead of making gingerbread houses, the kids were eager to try making pretzel log cabins.

This was their chance to build houses similar to when they built cabins with Lincoln Logs.

Snacking on pretzels is another reason why making gingerbread houses, wasn’t their first choice.

This crafty blogger at Sweetopia has house templates to share and many great ideas for uniquely decorated houses.

After downloading the templates, the patterns were then cut out of cardboard.

The grandkids spread “mortar” on the cardboard house shapes made from flour and water glue.  The large and small pretzels were stuck onto the “mortared” cabin sides and roofs.

After a few hours, the cardboard shapes were dry and ready for assembly.  I wish the grandkids could have glued the sides and roof together, but we had too many collapsed disasters in the past.  So, my handy glue gun made quick work of forming the Christmas Cabins.

White frosting added snow to the roofs.  The frosting also helped fill in any areas where cardboard edges were showing.  Then the tasting and sampling began while adding candy canes, m & m’s, sprinkles, mini marshmallows, chocolate chips, etc.

The next Camp Grandma project involved making teddy bears and ornament shapes out of cinnamon, applesauce and glue.

By mixing 1 1/2 cups each of cinnamon and applesauce with 1/8 cup glue, our kitchen smelled like Christmas time.

After rolling out the mixture between two pieces of wax paper, the boys used cookie cutters to shape the ornaments.  A drinking straw was poked into some of the soft shapes, so they can be hung with a ribbon.  Drying time was reduced by placing them in the oven on the lowest heat setting for a few hours.

All my grandsons love to ski.  So, it made perfect sense to stand the little bears on pretzel skis.  Now they could move them around their pretzel log cabins.

My handy glue gun came to the rescue again, for permanently attaching the pretzel skis and poles to the bears.

Parchment paper covered large trays, so the grandkids could add their wintry scenes around the cabins.

These creations wouldn’t win prizes at some fancy contest, but are priceless to this Grandma for the fun we had making them.

What homemade decorations are displayed in your home this year?

Nov 062013

Cookie House Chimney GhostAre you getting tired of eating the candy corn left from your Halloween Trick or Treating yet?  cookie house witch

Decorating a Fall themed Snickerdoodle/Gingerbread house with the kids, is a fun way to use some of that left over candy.

Mini Trix crackers were used for the roof’s shingles.Cookie House Broom

The witch is a Pez candy dispenser.  She has a Nutter Butter cookie body with candy melt frosting and a red licorice belt.

The tutorial and templates are included on the first snickerdoodle house made with the grandkids linked here.

We had fun decorating this house on a local television show called Good Things Utah.

The broom is a pretzel with shredded wheat and frosting decoration.

Crushed Oreos decorate the path.  Some left over cookie pieces were used to create a bench.

cookie house turkey owlFor a Fall themed look, the Turkeys are oreo and nutter butter cookies.  Some M&Ms made noses and the turkey waddles.

The owl is nutter butter cookies with shredded wheat for feathers and wings.

The Snickerdoodle house has been a fun project with the grandkids during one of our Camp Grandma craft activities.

What projects have you kept the kids busy with?

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