The Peep Project

Is it a Busby Berkley musical starring Easter’s most popular marshmallow treats? No! they’re just celebrating The Peep Project.

It all started in the grocery store, when I noticed the Just Born company had come out with green Marshmallow Peeps-- PRECISELY the same spring green as my dining room.

My heart soared! It was just like the lyrics in that medieval song: “Green Peeps were my one desire... Green Peeps were my only joy...”

Okay, so, that was Greensleeves. But still. You get the picture.

And that picture initially involved decorative Peeps sitting as a centerpiece. But how to preserve them? I mean, we all know certain folks have a taste for stale Peeps (or as I’ve recently heard them described: “cured” or “aged”). But wouldn’t free-range Peeps on the dining room table attract other more... nefarious... creatures?...

So I decided to spray varnish the little sweeties.

Ya know, once you’ve made the decision to spray varnish marshmallow candy, you pretty much are on your way to full-fledged crafting. (Or the booby-hatch.) But crafting. We’ll go with crafting.

And that got me thinking that rather than Peeps in a Bowl, what I REALLY needed was Peep Garland for my dining room.

No, truly.

Here you see three of the green Peeps curing, hanging out for a week and wondering just what the heck is going on. They look a little nervous, don’t they?

They were spray varnished on all sides with approximately 5 coats of a clear polyurethane. Happily, we now know that spray varnish does not cause sugary substances like coated marshmallows to dissolve...

Otherwise it might have turned into the end scene of the “Wizard of Oz.”

Here you see the remaining Peep Squad preparing to be varnished, while two of the green Peep veterans stand by for moral support.

And then came the stringing! I punctured each Peep with a large hatpin (yes, crafting knows no mercy), just below the baseline of the head. This is critical. Because Peep Physics dictate that if there is the slightest inkling of top-heaviness, you will have garland with an entire flock of Peeps upside-down, and imitating Cirque de Soliel performers...

Mooning marshmallows do not say “Easter” to me.

When I strung them, I used two strands of clear plastic necklace thread, available in the craft store. I threaded it through on a large sewing needle, alternating Peeps and beads, along with three chocolate-looking egg ornaments I drilled through for threading. I finished it all off with some extra ribbon for flourish.

Here you see a close-up of the finished garland.

And here you see the doorway between my dining room and entryway, with the garland strung over it.

I had a few Peeps left over from this project. And since a pre-varnished Peep is a terrible thing to waste, I found myself using them, the remaining beads, some cut-up lace ribbon and a hanger to create this hilariously awful wreath...

I find it so aesthetically WRONG, well, naturally it’s hanging up on my kitchen door.

Oh--and before I go today, I will leave you with this: my kitchen shelf has been infiltrated with Beanie Peeps. I got them at Target. They were so cute, and so plush, they flapped their way into my heart and into my Easter decor.

Looking for even more Peep-related craft projects? Click here to take a ride on the Peeps Carousel. Otherwise, take care, dear Peeple-- er, people-- and I’ll see you next week.

Treasures under $10: The Thrifting Challenge Results

So a few weeks ago, I thought it would be fun to see what kind of outfit it would be possible to thrift for $10-- and indicated if anyone wanted to join in and share their discoveries, we’d all report back here for an unveiling.

Well, today’s the day-- and one heckuva challenge it was.

First off, I would like to take a moment to thank my fellow challenge participants and bestow upon these fine folk a little-known Victorian turn-of-phrase:

You guys rock.

I’m serious. Those I spoke with were genuinely in the spirit of the challenge, and were so conscientious about trying to follow the guidelines, you helped make this whole thing so much more fun. So thank you!!

And in recognition for your fine thrifting skillz, each of you will receive the very exclusive, and very virtual “Thrift Shop Romantic Bright Bulb Thrifter” award...

Which is actually a JPEG you can, um, print out and, well, decoupage on something. Or put on your web site and pretend it’s a Webby. Or just have a nifty story for your family and friends and tell them, “Look, some weird chick with a blog gave me a JPEG.”

So let’s hear it for all our Bright Bulb Thrifters! And proud we are of all of them.

Secondly, this challenge was rough for a number of reasons, and interestingly, few of them were related to the quality of items at the thrift stores. In retrospect, I would say my setting the bar at $10 was a little on the low side. An amazing designer-brand outfit could be thrifted easily for $20, or even $15-- but $10, while doable under the right circumstances, was difficult. Thrifting, we all know, relies a lot on the luck of the draw. So when you start adding up the total cost of multiple, coordinating items, along WITH the right match of size, style and taste, it lowers the odds considerably. So that was a real learning experience.

With that said, however, let’s get on to the goodies! Here we have case-and-point that you can purchase some well-made items-- and an amazing array of pieces at a time-- for just a hair’s breadth over $10.

Frugal femme “Ms. A” of indicated her main goal for the challenge-- and in thrifting in general-- was to get real quality for as little as possible.

She tells us: “Today was half price on all but blue at the Army. So here is my loot:
  1. 1 pair leather pumps with stacked heel, some wear, made in Spain (love those Spanish and Italian shoes, can't help it!): Regularly $5.99, at half, $2.98.
  2. 1 Aigner tote -- quite large, in very, very good condition -- full price at $3.99 (but who could resist it?)
  3. 1 3/4 sleeve NY & Co. shirt, regularly $1.99, but $.99 at half
  4. 1 Pair Guess jeans, regularly $4.99, but $2.49 at half off.”

Ms. A found shoes, jeans, a shirt AND a bag? All at a total of $10.45! Ms. A sure has earned an A+ for her budgeting brand-savvy.

Next we hear from "Amy,” a friend of mine who totally surprised me by not only covertly participating in the Thrifting Challenge, but showed up wearing her thrifted outfit! Her technique on this was a little different than a few of the rest of us, in that she decided to meet the challenge all in one shot, in one store.

She indicates, “All pieces are in excellent condition and were all from Goodwill. The jeans I found first. They cost $3.00. The shirt was more challenging. I ended up with a pink top from Express. It was $2.50. The shoes were a little difficult to find as well - only because of the size. There were quite a few really cute shoes to pick from, but I ended up with a pair that are super-comfy, but a half-size too small. In the end, the shoes were what broke the bank. They cost a total of $6.99.

“So, overall I ended up spending $12.47; $2.47 over budget. :( But that's okay! It was a fun first experience!)”

And the great thing about this submission is that this outfit is genuinely something Amy would wear; until she told me it was her Thrifting Challenge submission, I had NO idea this wasn’t just something new she’d gotten.

Now, the “Secondhand Sophisticate,” she is the only one of us-- myself included-- that fully managed to not only make the $10 budget, but ended up UNDER-BUDGET. Way to go!

Here, she tells us how she managed it:

“Well, Bellas: Here is my challenge! Two weeks ago, at the Goodwill, I found the burgundy ‘python’ clutch handbag for $2.99 and the ‘gold’ necklace for $1.99 both for, including tax, $5.28. Last Friday, at one of my favorite charity thrifts, I struck paydirt by finding the FABULOUS leather vintage square-toe lace-up boots for 2 bucks; the very French school-girl top for 2 bucks, and the vintage 70s skirt with belt on the 50 cent rack! bringing my total there to $4.50. So...$5.28 and $4.50 comes to a total of $9.78! Yowzah, yowzah, yowzah! The beret is mine, and is almost 25 years old; the watch is over 15 years old (both purchased new) and my other "gold" necklace was purchased at a charity thrift earlier in the year for 40 cents. The glasses were a gift for Christmas. The outfit could have stood on its own perfectly, but, taking a page from the classic of thrift and vintage fashion, CHEAP CHIC, I ALWAYS accessorize UP! Ciao, Bellas! --SeSo”

Thanks, “SeSo” for your fine contribution-- and for the fun little modeling job there! You get points for thrift, style AND bravery.

And my submission? Well, throughout my quest to fulfill this challenge, I must say had a GREAT time finding things, and discovered a number of items outside of the Challenge that I wouldn’t trade along the way-- like a cashmere sweater for $4.99, a couple of great vintage purses, and a pair of embroidered jeans... But as for an outfit that totted up to $10? It really was a serious task. I ran into the same footwear issue Amy did. Both of us are tall and thrifted shoes don’t often happen for a buck. So I began to think my feet either must be giant size 8.5 snowboards in an apparently dainty size 6 world, or are the same size feet as everyone else and the thrifted shoe market is just really competitive in my area. Never did decide which.

That said, here below, you see my own entry.

It includes:

  1. This excellent retro-patterned A-line skirt in turquoise and brown- $1.50 at St. Vincent de Paul
  2. Brown lightweight Merano sweater, tags still on-- $4.99
  3. Etienne Aigner brown leather shoes-- full price, $3.99 at Salvation Army, but was half off on yellow tags, so total cost was $2.00
  4. Turquoise White Stag tee shirt, $1.99 at the Salvation Army.

Total cost? $10.48!, I guess I’d be under-budget if I chose to wear just the t-shirt, or just the sweater buttoned up, but since my own dag-blasted guidelines said it had to be something I would actually wear, this would be my choice. (Honesty is the best policy here at the Thrift Shop Romantic. :-) )

The necklace you see here was not really thrifted for this Challenge-- it was a necklace from the Red White and Blue and I paid about a buck or less for it about two years ago. Amusingly, I actually use it as a curtain tie-back for my Shabby Chic styled guest room. But the outfit needed a little something, so there ya go. (If Scarlett O’Hara can wear her curtains, I can wear my curtain tie backs.)

Well, I hope everybody had fun with the $10 Thrifting Challenge. If anyone had tried the Challenge and didn’t get a chance to share their finds in time, or just had some stories they wanted to tell about it, email me, and if I have enough of them, I can always post a follow-up.

And in terms of Lessons Learned? I leave you with this:

Being forced to look-- really look-- at where I could get the best deal in thrifted items, I discovered that the Goodwill in my area is about $2-3 MORE per non-sale item than the Salvation Army and St. Vincent de Paul.

For example, Goodwill jeans are $5.99. Salvation Army jeans were about $3.99. Same with sweaters. I got some nice quality things at all stores, and enjoyed the shopping experience at each overall. But when money is truly tight, it becomes so important to realize just how much the thrift stores can vary. And I cannot stress enough that it makes you very appreciative for what you’ve got.

Next week: for you folks I’ve been chatting about regarding my plans for, um, crafting with Marshmallow Peeps... I have the outcome.

The Joy of Depression Glass

In honor of the upcoming St. Paddy’s Day, I thought we’d get into the spirit with the sharin’ o’ the green...

And it don’t get much greener than Depression glass!

Like so many other items of the time period, Depression glass was used as premiums-- giveaway items for attending the movies, shopping at certain stores, etc. It was also available at the five-and-dime. I understand it came mainly in green, pink, amber, yellow, white, clear and blue. But the green and pink are what people generally think of when they think of Depression glass.

Now, I’m certainly no expert on Depression glass-- there are tons of folks out there with volumes of knowledge on the makers, the marks, the patterns and so much more. At the end of this little article, you’ll find links to some good sites that should be able to help you, if you need more information or are looking to track down a certain pattern. It wouldn’t be fair to you if I even tried to duplicate their great efforts here.

What I WOULD like to tell you is that it’s possible to find pieces of Depression glass at thrift stores. Now a few weeks ago, I had a pretty amazing score-- I stumbled on a pink 16 piece set at the Salvation Army, for just $1.99 a piece! But admittedly, that was a rare thrift-shopping Zen moment; most often, I find rogue pieces of Depression glass. A bowl here. A cup there.

And the fun thing about that is, if you’re not interested in having a set instantly, and you’re willing to wait and build your collection, you really can get some nice pieces over time. Like vintage china, Depression Glass of different types does seem to have more impact together-- even if it’s not the same pattern. Some of it tends to be more streamlined and art deco, and some of it is more floral and cottagey, but it all really can work.

I’m finding lately how well the green matches to the “apple green” appliances and other kitchen items being produced by companies like Hamilton Beach and Kitchenaid. (And my nifty Target green spatulas at left!)

What I also wanted to make sure to tell you involves a wee story. I was at an antique mall recently and I happened to spy a bit of’ green glass that looked VERY FAMILIAR. It was my Martha Stewart Living cold beverage glasses, circa- oh, say, 1999, which I bought for about $8.00 for four and I use every day. (Second shelf from bottom in center-- also first photo, upper left). Well, I picked up one of those antique store glasses and saw the MSL stamp on the bottom-- sure enough, it was Martha. But the tag on them called them green Depression glass and the price suggested the vendor either genuinely thought they were antique, or sure as heck wanted people to think they were. They’re nice glasses and I do like them (cheers, Martha!), but antiques? Um, not so much.

So for someone looking to start a Depression glass collection, like any other collection, I’d suggest doing a little research first. Also, it helps to really know what you like best, and if you don’t have a good handle on current values, then make sure you don’t pay much for your purchase. My rule of thumb is that if I can buy an equivalent item new at a particular store, then I probably won’t make the purchase in resale, unless I’m really sure of its value.

There are a ton of reference books out there on Depression glass. The book I have is “The Collector’s Encyclopedia of Depression Glass,” by Gene Florence. It’s pretty comprehensive and shows the wide range of glass styles you might not even realize are a part of the Depression glass category.

And the following sites offer some credible information on collecting Depression glass. I tried to make sure these weren’t sites affiliated specifically with a sales group/vendor. There are a lot of sites out there like that, and while they might have some decent information, I didn’t really want you folks to have to weed through their sales pitches. (I haven’t bought from any online, so I don’t feel comfortable recommending any one specific to you.) Anyway, here ya go:
  1. National Depression Glass Association article on Patterns Important to the History of Depression Glass
  2. National Depression Glass Society main articles section
  3.'s A Closer Look at Depression Glass
  4. Wikipedia: Depression Glass

And next week? We’ll have the results of the $10 Thrifting Challenge! (Remember, anyone who’s decided to take the challenge, too, please submit whatever info, pics, stories, etc., you’d like to share to me by Saturday, March 17, so I have time to include it here. Thanks much!)

I hope you’ll stop by!

Pulp Fiction: Victorian Style

John Travolta wouldn’t star, and Quentin Tarantino would be snoring in his five-dollar milkshake by page two. But Victorian popular fiction WAS hip, stylish and even daring in its own time. And what’s more, these novels tend to look like just a little bit of art in a VERY novel form.

The covers were designed to catch the eye more than to illustrate anything in the actual story. Who, for instance, is this girl on the cover of “Oliver Twist”? Because I SO don’t think Rose Maylie was supposed to be a Gibson Girl.

But, see, that wasn’t the point. The point was to sell books. And in the Victorian-Edwardian times, the art nouveau lady was a big seller on everything from advertising to decorative plates. Publishers would have been missing out on a serious marketing device if they didn’t include illustrations of the moderne ladies there, too. I guess nowadays the books would feature Britney Spears or Angelina Jolie.

Interestingly, later books of this style began integrating actual photos on the covers, and not just artworks. I often wonder who some of these models were-- screen or stage stars? Knowns or unknowns? I haven’t stumbled on any information on it. If anyone out there has some they’re willing to share, that would be great.

Once you tune into looking for this general style of book, you’ll probably find everything from classics to adventures to Victorian romance novels. Something for everyone, really.

One author in particular I’ve grown fond of was Mrs. E.D.E.N Southworth. Mrs. Southworth was an American writer, and very prolific considering we rarely hear her mentioned today. She wrote a large number of books in her day. In terms of capturing the tone of America during the 1800s, she’s been compared to Louisa May Alcott. And her heroines were known for spunk and independence often not seen in female characters during that time period.

As a read, admittedly, Victorian novels can be an acquired enjoyment. The pacing is not what we’re used to by today’s minimalist standards so it can take the right mood, some patience (and maybe a hot cup of java) to fall back into the cadence of the times; scenery is described at length, characters have much to say and with formal flourish, and what was once salacious plot points may seem quaint or overly-subtle to a modern reader.

But as a piece of history with insights into the past-- and as a decorative item that can enhance a bookshelf or vignette-- these Victorian novels are a small, fun investment. I pick them up when I spy them at thrift stores, flea markets and on dusty antique mall shelves. They usually run anywhere from $1-$4, though antique dealers may price them higher...

Let’s see Tarantino work on that sort of budget. :-)