Thrifters of the Lost Childhood

You sift through the rubble, carefully... meticulously... perspiration beading on your brow.

You know that it’s out there... somewhere. And you will not… cannot... rest until your quest has come to a close.

So you scan. And sort. And leave every site unearthed, but empty-handed.

You may go through this same process for days... months... years… before that unforgettable moment when your heart gives its jolt of recognition...

There, amidst the remnants of forgotten trends and broken promises, your eyes fall upon the treasure you’d presumed lost to decades and despair. You have recaptured it...

That missing bit of your childhood.

Oh, maybe it was the beloved stuffed bear your mother decided you’d outgrown when you were seven. Perhaps the Easy Bake Oven you’d asked Santa Claus for decades ago-- but never found under your tree. Or the comics that symbolized action and imagination-- but you’d sold in an unthinking moment to gain some extra cash.

If thrift stores are a source of new joys, they’re also a source for rediscovering what we’ve missed, or longed for. And a way to share those memories with a whole new generation.

Two good friends have found themselves thrifting hardcover Nancy Drews in this sort of recovery mission. For one, it’s rebuilding a collection lost after a stressful divorce. For another, it’s finally owning the books she rabidly read from the library, but couldn’t afford herself.

One fellow thrifter told a tale where Weebles-- those egg-shaped folks who “wobble but they don’t fall down,” remember them? ---were thrifted and passed down from father to daughter, beginning a whole new cycle of happy memories.

And my own recent thrift score of a book of 60s paper dolls made me wonder how many adult women still think fondly about their hours spent cutting out and dressing these fashionable little ladies-- but were parted from them by years, new homes, or a simple need for space? They’re only THINGS, after all. Just THINGS...

But things with memories attached do seem to weigh more.

For me, I admit blushingly my quest involves a younger Harrison Ford. Once my pre-teen mind came to grasp that Han Solo and Indiana Jones were, indeed, one and the same fellow (I was a little slow on the uptake), my minor obsession began.

I recall standing in Two-Guys Department Store coveting, in particular, a 12-inch Indiana Jones figure.

Who needed Ken when Barbie could have a swashbuckling Dr. Jones? (Anyway, my only Ken’s leg had been amputated by my younger cousin in a misguided surgery attempt. I think Ken’s relationship with Barbie suffered after that.)

But at fifty-cents a week allowance, saving up for such a purchase took some serious time. And in spite of will-power and waiting, Dr. Jones was sold out before I ever had the cash in hand.

Barbie and I both felt the pain of that one.

This saga was all brought to mind recently, when recently my thrifting buddy-- knowing my long-time Ford-fondness-- approached me in the Goodwill with a small, slightly beaten box. “Do you want this?” she asked.

It was a 1984 “Adventures of Indiana Jones” role-playing game. Inside the box were stories, maps, character information and even the worksheets of the kid who’d owned it...

The kid who’d be about my age now.

My friend and I wondered if that kid even recalled the game, or knew it was gone. If he’d long moved out of his parents’ home into one filled with his own family, and left the game behind in the haste of his journey toward shining adulthood. We wondered if “gramma” hadn’t simply decided to do a bit of down-sizing, and one day the game’s exact whereabouts would be a mystery to them all.

I took the game up to the register surrounded by a fog of reminiscence, wondering if someday that elusive Indiana Jones figure would find himself in the thrifts, as well. Maybe a little worn. A little tired. Missing his hat or bullwhip. But still strong, dashing and ready for anything.

And that’s the real adventure; you never know when it comes to thrifting. It’s all out there somewhere. All you have to do is look.

Celebrating the Truly Good Eggs: My Recipients of the Nice Matters Award

The Internet: it can be an anonymous world where folks have left their manners at home...

So when online debate can all too easily deteriorate into insult and injury, it becomes even more important for us to really THINK about what we say to each other and the way it comes off to others-- especially when people can’t see the good-humored twinkle in our eyes.

Trash-to-Treasure talent, Sher-- AKA “Grinnin’ Gramma” over at the OldTimeMeArtist blog-- has always displayed her great ideas and wit online so that the only thing distressed around HER is the furniture. That’s why it’s so meaningful to have had the “Nice Matters” award passed along to me by this lady.

And now-- now I have the pleasure to pass this award along to a few Internet friends that I think are truly deserving. To be honest, my path online has been touched by an amazing number of people who merit the award, so choosing was not easy. But here we go:

First, I have an unusual abundance of “Rose Mary’s” to share this with. How it is I know two incredibly kind “Rose Mary’s” who both blog about vintage things? I haven’t calculated the probabilities on that one, but it’s still pretty entertaining...

--Now Rosemary over at Rosespetitemaison is an adventurous crafter and flea marketer out in California. Through her blog, she makes everyone feel they’re a part of her community. She’s a good soul, and she’s been working herself hard preparing for her daughter’s wedding. So keeping her upbeat disposition during this serious stress totally earns her this award.

--RoseMary at LifeinaCordwoodCabin is a consistently caring individual who always purports herself online with class. She also knows a lot about a lot of different topics-- books, vintage items, history-- and manages to share that information in a way that’s informative and never condescending.

--CheapDiva, and Gigi of UndertheWillow have both proven their niceness in remarkable, tangible ways. CheapDiva actually sent a fellow CottageLiving forum member what she needed for taking digital pictures of her beautiful home. And Gigi unexpectedly treated another member who had been ill with a package of items to help her on her road to recovery. Just watching this occur showed me how thoughtful people can be.

--And Cookie at Cookie manages to juggle a lot-- a real job, learning to sew, planning and editing the National Thrifter Magazine-- and even when she doubts her abilities, she always gets through it with real style.

--Lastly, I’d like to send this to my friend Greg over at the MidnightGarden because outside the blogosphere Greg puts up with me-- which I appreciate muchly. And he has a great knack for looking at even the worst day with humor. (And no, Greg, I don’t expect you to do a feature on this on your blog... These are guilt-free awards, so no further tagging is required. You can relax. :-) )

So, many thanks the folks above for your “overall good-eggishness” (to quote fine ol’ PG Wodehouse) and for helping make the Internet a nicer place for everyone.

Oh, do you have a second?...

You might not want to go just yet-- click here to read this week’s second blog feature, “A Big Box o’ Inspiration” sharing my favorite decorating inspiration photos.

Big Box o' Inspiration

What is that big white wicker box up there? Why, that’s what Inspiration looks like!

“Funny,” you say, “looks like a portable file container to me.”

Okay, well, so I can’t put anything past you people.

But INSIDE this humble, Shabby Chic file container lurks a collection of the ideas and images that have moved me to decorate my home.

I LOVE decorating magazines. So when I see images of a room, a craft, or a piece of furniture that particularly makes me want to get out the paint or glue, I try to remember to save it in here for easy reference.

I thought you all might enjoy seeing just a few of the pictures I’ve saved over the years.

The following two were from the May 2003 edition of Romantic Homes.

What I loved in particular about these rooms were the zingy berry colors and the emphasis on rich textiles like velvets, tapestries and silks. I also really enjoyed the dramatic and quirky juxtaposition of things like classical busts, vintage signs and carnival masks.

You can see a similar feel to things with this photo, from the November 24, 2003 Victorian Decorating magazine. This parlor, too, has lots of color and texture. Yet the eclectic sense of the room gives a fun almost gypsy-like feel.

So these were the two magazine features that really helped me figure out how I’d wanted to decorate my master bedroom. As a result, I’d included velvet, lots of bright colors, some plaster and chalkware busts and an array of feather fans, suitcases, and vintage hats to add a sense of adventure to the room. These are photos of my own rooms...

From going through the magazines, I clearly learned I liked color. But I also discovered I liked the whitewashed and pastel look. Some of my favorite inspiration photos came from Romantic Homes’ January 2004 issue here...

And the May 2003 edition here...

What I‘d liked about these rooms was the sense of age of the painted woods, the neo-classical paintings integrated into the rooms, the use of statuary and the general whimsical nature of the look. It’s all very opulent, yet very aged, hazy and accessible.

I also liked this more traditional bedroom:

You can see the influence of these inspiration photos in just a few things in my own spare room-- like the Shabby Chic bedding, the architectural salvage mirrors, and the standing lamp...

And last, I just wanted to show you a couple of photos of a kitchen that had inspired me. This was in the August 2005 Country Living.

These were the pictures that reassured me that jadeite and green Depression glass could coexist-- and look right at home. It also was the layout that convinced me my kitchen might be in need of some retro-styled small appliances!

Well, that’s all there is for today. Do you have particular magazines or images that have inspired you in your decorating? Here’s hoping inspiration finds you this week-- no matter what you’re working on!

Oh, before you go, don’t forget to see the recipients of the “Nice Matters” awards. Click here.

Have a great week!

Craftastic or Craftacky?

Crafts, like any other creative endeavor are subject to taste-- and sure, we’ve all have had our crafting mishaps. (If you missed it, you can read about some of my bigger oopsies here.)

But have you ever turned to crafting books for new ideas only to guess that the reason these ideas had been previously left untried were because-- either aesthetically or functionally-- they didn’t quite cut the mustard?

This week, I’d like to share with you a few projects of the non-mustard-cutting variety uncovered in just one craft book, “Fabulous Ideas for Flea Market Finds.” Now I’d like to preface this with the fact that these are my opinions only, so if you’ve had one of these projects in your home and it’s become a cherished heirloom... hey, that’s great. I can totally respect that. May it continue to be passed down from generation to generation...

...In a house that isn’t mine. :-)

I’d also like to mention there are a number of projects in this book that I can actually see myself doing...

Those are not the ones I’ll show you today.

Okay. Let’s get to it!

By now, you all know about my lamp addiction. And I do like a certain amount of sentimental clutter in my decorating. But some of these projects just really make me want to break out the trusty can of Pledge.

Like this lamp.

It’s a pocketbook...

It wears pearls...

It has a hat...

And a handkerchief...

And poor enough vision to require specs (which, frankly, makes me lose confidence in the lighting power of the lamp).

It also seems to wear a corsage.

And a marcasite pin.

And gloves.

Okay, I don’t know where this lamp is going, but I REALLY hope it catches its cab soon.

It makes me feel like my Great-Aunt Alda has been reincarnated by General Electric.

And can you imagine DUSTING this lamp?

I mean, I have my share of dustcatchers around the house-- but most of them don’t involve cleaning half an outfit.

Okay-- that’s just one lamp, right? Indeed!

So how do you like this one?

The caption reads, “A tabletop plant stand is attached to a wooden lamp base for a unique way to display old mismatched teacups. Antique floral stationery and crocheted lace trim embellish the shade.”

So that’s one... two... three... four teacups on this lamp?

And gloves?

And dried flowers?

And a hankie?

So, um, how exactly do you reach under there to turn the lamp on without knocking that top teacup into oblivion?

And while I kind of like the shade, did I read that right?-- did they use “antique” stationery to decoupage directly on this lampshade?

Just take this 100 YEAR OLD stationery and slap it on a lampshade?

Okay, well, maybe we’d be safer with a nice refurbished floor lamp, then...

...Or not.

This one reads, “A hand-me-down floor lamp can be brought back to life by attaching a watering can to the base and adding an abundant arrangement of blooms that appears to be stretching toward the light. A tiny birdhouse makes a ‘tweet’ accent.”

Can you imagine the look on the face of the husband who’s come home from work to discover the reading lamp beside his favorite chair has overgrown with “tweet” accents?

And any cats in the home would have a new personal playground.

“What is Mister Fluffy doing perched way up there?”

Why, looking for wrens in the “abundant arrangement of blooms,” of course!

All righty-- last project.

Who is that under the gigantic rosebuds and ribbon? Why it’s great-grandma Mildred and her sister Maureen! And we’d know that immediately, if they weren’t using those dried flowers as some sort of awning.

This caption reads, “Each pretty as a picture, ‘orphaned’ saucers become lovely little frames for antique photographs. Just cut the photos...”

Um-- excuse me one moment while my heart palpitations subside...



Okay. I’m back...

Did it say CUT the antique photos?

We’re CUTTING ANTIQUE photos to be glued to saucers and embellished with overly-large dried flowers?

CUTTING antique photos... CUTTING antique stationery...

Are you beginning to suspect these writers don’t own, say, a SCANNER? Or can't get to a PHOTOCOPIER?

Imagine-- a whole pictorial family history, converted to saucer art....

And possibly also cropping out half the relatives, just so we can have Grandma Betty’s pompador period displayed in full coiffure on heirloom china. I mean look at the SIZE of that woman’s noggin on that saucer...

Proportionally, something is definitely off.

So, in summary, what have we learned today?

--Scanning or photocopying antique paper products is SMART and GOOD and will not leave the relatives hating you for being scissor-happy with family history...

--Tabletop vignettes are a great idea for a romantic home-- but they don’t all have to be attached to the lamp...

--And crafting and functionality really can exist together in harmony, but never when blocking one’s path to the lightswitch.

I hope you’ll join me next week, when I share with you the flip side of this-- the inspiration photos I love.

Oh, and one more thing before you go. If you have an extra moment, you might want to click here to read about the recent internet Tag that sidled up and got me-- and travel with me to one of the Wonders of the World...

Otherwise, have a lovely week! And see you soon.

What a Wonderful World

The world around us is full of little wonders-- like the pretty monarch chrysalis pictured above, being protected and observed by my housemate’s “gentle giant” brother.

But recently the bigger Wonders of the World were named, and as a result, some sort of related tag has begun to sweep the blogging sphere. I know, because this week I was tagged by frugal friend Ms. A over at LivingWithoutMoney.

In it, seven fellow bloggers are named, with their screen names superimposed over a chosen world Wonder. Ms. A. chose Niagra Falls. And while I appreciate Ms. A’s kind connection, I’m certain any similarity of the Falls to myself, would just go over in a barrel.

Another wonder, I think, would be if any of my other blogging pals will speak to me if I tag them one more time for one of these things.

So that said, I thought I would fulfill the tag solo by sharing with you which Wonder of the World I did once get to visit.

When I was about nine years old, my parents decided to take a trip to Mexico, to see the Mayan ruins. And that is where I got the remarkable opportunity to view the city of Chichen-Itza.

It was about the same time “Raiders of the Lost Ark” was in the theaters. So going to visit ancient pyramids prompted all sorts of adventures in my imagination.

With visions of dashing Harrison Fords and ingenious native booby-traps, the idea of feeling lousy due to local bacteria had not really been a part of my imagined adventures.

But I recall spending some quality time at another archeological site, Uxmal, sitting in the shade of a tree and staring at the Temple of the Sorcerers-- grateful to have the chance to recoup-- to be very still and quiet-- and thinking how Indiana Jones must have had a tougher constitution than I.

Or his film would have taken a distinctly different turn.

Most of the days of our trip were fascinating, even to my pre-teen mind. I know I must have asked my dad more than once were the Mayan carvings in stone-- some still colored in the original reds and blues-- REALLY thousands of years old? He said they were.

When you’re only nine, how can you possible comprehend millennia?

The Swaps of Summer: Outdoor Decor Swap

You could say it’s because we see our surroundings as art. Or it’s a reaction to a depressing global situation. Or even a mild version of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. But it seems that gals who like a vintage mix-and-match style tend to decorate EVERYTHING, inside and out.

I mean, if you’re visiting and you stay too long, be wary-- you might just get decorated yourself.

We compulsive vintage decorators might also extend this philsophy to scrapbooking. Or making our own notecards. And even the dishes in our kitchens probably have character. Because, hey, you have to eat, but doesn’t food TASTE better when it’s on pretty china? It’s all in the details.

So after the success of the first swap organized by the members of the Cottage Living decorating forum (you can read about that one here), it’s not much of a surprise that we decided to tackle our outdoors next.

Yup, Cottage Girls can’t be stopped.

The rules were as follows: each person would have a swap partner for whom a goody package would be chosen. We were to spend no more than $10 total, not counting shipping. One item had to be something organic-- seeds. bulbs, etc. And the other item needed to be for outdoor decorating or entertaining in some way. The rest was up for grabs.

Each person listed preferences that might help their swap partner-- such as favorite colors, flowers, and style of current outdoor decor. Then we were off and running.

And it absolutely felt like Christmas when my package arrived from my swap partner, Gigi! It was remarkable how she picked up on my taste-- cottage with a Victorian twist.

Just take a look at the lovely pink cloth napkins, tole-painted planter, candles, and sweet vintage candlestick-- all perfect for an evening of sitting out on the porch admiring “The Back Four.”

Gigi additionally added a few bars of her amazing creamy homemade soap and a jar of her bath salts-- a soothing way to end a day of working in the garden. (You can visit her web site, Under the Willow Gifts to learn more about her soap kitchen. Click here.)

And she also made me a cute pink tote-bag which I think will be really handy for flea-marketing.

Now Gigi, I knew, liked reds, blues, greens and pinks. Also, having seen some photos of her vacation cottage, I got the sense her decor had a bit of a country-Victorian feel. She’d mentioned she had yet to get herself a set of windchimes. And that she had a little frog pond, with frog statuary around it-- and had room for a few more frogs.

So this is what I pulled together for Gigi:

  • Some cottagey wrought iron candle sconces which could be hung outdoors.
  • A metal frog prince to keep the other froggies in line.
  • Some froggy napkin holders because they made me laugh (wasn’t trying to over-frog her, but sometimes you’ve got to go for the humor value.)
  • A cheerful “gardening angel” window valence (she said she might use this on the door to her soap kitchen-- how cool!)
  • And then the challenging craft project-- a painted birdhouse with silverware windchimes.

The painting of the house itself was easy enough. I selected the color scheme based on the happy red door that leads to her soap kitchen, and a blue-gray with a cottage feel to it. Getting the silverware chimes affixed to the birdhouse, though-- that ended up being the tricky bit. They’re attached via five eye-hooks in the base of the birdhouse. From there heavy-duty nylon jewelry thread was attached and beaded.

Then the issues happened. For the silverware with holes already in the handles, threading was simple. But for the hole-free handles... oh dear....

I had HEARD that drilling through stainless steel was not easy.

I had NOT heard, though, that a metal drill bit to stainless steel is like bullets to Superman.

I swear, that spoon just sat there giggling while I applied the drill bit to it, indicating it “tickled a bit.”

So, after a few minutes of this and some very choice words, I decided glue would be the way to go. I had what I thought was heavy duty marine glue, which I applied to the handles and the thread. And after I let it dry for a day, I hung up the windchimes, hearing for the first time a very happy, satisfying chime...

And then a clunk and a clatter as one of the spoons hit my hard wood floor.

So back to the drawing board! For, a gift is not a gift if it falls apart.

I tackled it with some serious outdoors epoxy I’d used on my mosaic stepping stones. This baby should be together and chiming for a good long time! (I pity any baby birds who decide to move into the birdhouse, though... Nice neighborhood, but the noise would have to seriously devalue the property.)

So that’s the story of the Cottage Living outdoor decorating swap. You can see here how nicely the wonderful items I received work for a happy dinner on the porch. Care to take a seat? I set the table just for you!

Oh, you can’t stay long? Well, I am sorry to hear it, but that’s quite all right-- I’ll see you next week, then!