Rockin' Girl Blogger Award

Lizzie of is a thoroughly modern girl. She blogs regularly about life on the road on her motorcycle-- and she also appreciates Victorian decorating and a good bargain.

How cool is that?

So I feel particularly honored to have been named among the five recipients of her “Rockin’ Girl Blogger” awards.

Then, to add to all the goodness of it, I was giving the very same award by Susie of, hostess of a popular eco-friendly blog. My gosh, I feel so appreciated!-- and to think I used to be one of the last folks picked for teams in gym class!

But don’t worry. I don’t have a long tedious acceptance speech written.

What I do have planned, however, is a little award distribution of my own. Here are the five creative ladies I’d like to pass the award along to:

Astrid over at Astrid’s had the guts to step forward and be the first to blog about turning trash into treasure in the Netherlands. She’s still feeling her way through it because her blog is fairly new, but has a lot of good ideas to share. If any of you t-to-t folks care to pop by her blog and offer her some comments of encouragement-- and show her she’s far from alone out there-- I’d really appreciate it. Not only is she blogging in uncharted area in her country, she’s writing it all beautifully in English-- which isn’t her native language. If that doesn’t qualify for a rockin’ girl blogger, I don’t know what does.

Now let’s zip over to Australia, to award Gauri of the That Dress is Divine! blog. Visit here for tips of smart, savvy shopping-- which is good advice in Sidney, as well as St. Louis-- in Sacks Fifth Avenue or the Salvation Army Thrift Store.

Next? Sindhu of the Flower Girl Recipe blog. I’m nominating her because this girl manages to work while maintaining several very different blogs related to Southern India. It’s a lot of content and a lot of effort. And also every time I visit her recipe blog I get hungry.

And I’d also like to give the award to two ladies slightly closer to home.

Rosemary of Rose’s Petite Maison refreshes her content often with beautiful pictures of flea market finds, and decorating ideas. Also, she NAMED her dressmaker’s dummy, and gave her a homemade tiara and taffeta skirt. How can you not appreciate someone with that sense of humor?

Last but certainly not least, Rhoda of Southern Hospitality, for interior decorating that looks breathlessly easy and yet you just know it couldn’t possibly have been.

Keep up the good work, and continued happy blogging to you all!

Click here to read today’s other blog spot, “Swinging in Thrifted Threads.

Swingin' in Thrifted Threads

The flyer arrived in my work mail. Neo-swing band, “Big Bad Voodoo Daddy,” was coming to Pittsburgh to play with the Symphony Pops. And because of a business connection, yours truly had been invited to attend the concert, as well as a special reception beforehand to meet members of the band.

Well, this was WAY too much fun to pass up! I have been known to spend my commute caterwauling in the car to my CDs of this very group. Why, fellow commuters have been traumatized by my rendition of these tunes! How could I say no?

Of course, as brave as I am about vocal stylings in the confines of my motor vehicle, I am admittedly no social butterfly when it comes to actual networking. As a writer, I’m afraid my strengths lie more on paper than in person. And social situations often leave me longing to go back and revise the words that tumble, unedited, from my lips.

But still. There was this concert. And how often do opportunities like this come along?

As the concert approached, however, I realized that there was a TEENSY problem-- and not just the fact that I might actually have to think of something half-intelligent to say to the performers:

What was I going to wear?

My work clothes tend to vary between embroidered jeans, t-shirts and matching jackets (when I have no meetings), and business suits (when I do). But this was supposed to be a bit of a dressy affair.

So the answer was clear: get thee to a thrift store!

I decided pretty quickly on black. I mean, what girl doesn’t feel more confident in the right Little Black Dress?

And I uncovered the right little black dress at the Goodwill on Carson Street. At a whopping $4.99, I couldn’t go wrong with this simple crepe number.

Then at the Salvation Army at Carson and Ninth, I encountered a nice lightweight silk jacket with delicate ruffled sleeves—never worn and tags still on, for $9.99.

To accessorize, I determined there would be no better occasion than this to use the 1940s corde handbag with the Lucite embellishments I’d gotten a few months back (ironically, at the same Goodwill the dress came from). The purse had been at steal at $6.99! Plus, there just seemed to be something so right about carrying a purse that actually SAW the swing era-- even if I didn’t catch it myself the first time around.

For shoes? Well, I admit my shoes were a non-thrifted cop-out. I chose some vintage-look dress pumps I’d bought in actual retail last year. (Though on clearance! Points for clearance!)

I added them to a black and white crystal vintage-style necklace I already had from New York & Company, and I was ready to hit the town!

So was the concert the cat’s pajamas? Why, indeed it was, kittens and cats!

And did I think of something insightful to say when I met the band? (Well, I didn’t trot out the 40s slang, at least-- so, hey, that was a blessing…)

What I believe I DID say was, “No, I won’t give you my garbage”…

Or something to that effect.

And yes, there was a reason for it.

Funny story, actually. You see, each of the attendees was given a CD to have signed. Which was lovely, because mine was at home. And we’d JUST received these items, and they’d JUST introduced the band to the folks in the room, when the acoustic bass player came out of NOWHERE to sign, of all people’s, MINE.

You know how hard it is to unwrap a CD under normal circumstances, with all the sensors and things? Well, now try to do so quickly because you know you’re holding up, oh, EVERYONE ELSE IN THE ROOM.

So I used my newly-painted fingernails to slice the darned thing open. And I’d popped the empty cellophane onto my table for later disposal, when the bassist cheerfully insisted I should give the CD wrapper to HIM-- and then also all the offers inside the CD case, because they were “old.”

Aw, I don’t know… there is just something innately WRONG about giving trash to a person who’s had national recording contracts, and is about to go on stage in five minutes. And I certainly doubt these poor guys were obligated to tidy-up as well as meet-n-greet!—But after muttering a shocked protest about the garbage, I had no real choice but to hand it over.

Zoot suits do, I guess, have a lot of pockets.

So that’s my swinging Cinderella Story of how a dame in thrifted threads had a ball on a budget-- and got a hep new autographed CD to boot!

And honestly, how often can you spend the same amount on a cocktail dress and matching jacket as you do on event parking?

Anyway-- next week? Come join me as I prepare the house for Fourth of July company! (And no, you don’t have to do any dusting. )

And this week I was kindly presented the virtual “Rockin’ Girl Blogger” award. If you haven’t gotten to read who I’ve passed this award on to, click here. Wow-- two blog features in one week! It’s crazy!

DIY Week, Part Deux

When last we left The Thrift Shop Romantic, our heroine was multi-tasking herself through a full-fledged DIY frenzy of thrills, chills and—yes!-- spills…

Experience the heart-pounding battle between human and wrought iron garden arch!

Discover how many times someone can plummet off a ladder before they learn better!

Thrill to decorative plates displayed in ways that aren’t even tacky!

Join us for this-- and more!-- in the exciting conclusion of… Whirlwind DIY Week!

(Hum theme music of your choice here.)

(Okay, you can stop humming.)



It’s been… interesting… this last week, between home projects and my Real Job. And yes, I am a little punchy. But I am also not flat-as-a-bug in the backyard.

Repeat: NOT flat-as-a-bug in the backyard.

Which I’m really excited about!

The reason I am NOT flat-as-a-bug in the backyard is because there is at least a point where even I draw the line in trying to do things myself. And that had a lot to do with a 150-pound garden arch.

You may recall last week, I was headed off to tackle a few million or so more tasks. Well, one of those was the 150-pound garden arch...

And I KNOW it weighs 150 pounds, because the box that the nice Fed Ex Man brought me says so.

Of course, I wasn’t necessarily worried about that at the time. Because the thing was in pieces, and thus, movable. So last weekend after I posted my blog and left you dear people, I ventured outside to put together this exciting piece of garden art.

I figured it would be in about three or four pieces and take me a half-hour—hour, tops-- and then I could get on to other things.

So I opened the box to inspect the pieces, and I saw this.

And this.

And this.

Oh, and these.

I revised my ETA for the finished arch.

So, I laid out all the parts and spent about two hours putting it together. Which honestly wasn’t bad. I had it in sections. And each of these I moved into place without a lot of trouble, and then connected it all together on the ground.

It was a beautiful arch, and I was feeling good.

But that was only because I was too stupid to think of physics.

You see, what I had neglected to take into account was that one average female, no matter how determined, cannot lift a 150-pound, seven-foot tall wrought iron archway into a standing position. It’s simple Garden Arch Physics.

Not, of course, that I didn’t try.

Oh, I tried crouching underneath it and balancing it on my shoulders and head. I tried, yanking it from above. I tried from the center. I tried from the end.

But up it would go about three feet and then… Clunk!

It quickly became my Arch Nemesis.

And it got me thinking about what the Egyptians did in cases like this. After all, the Egyptians built huge pyramids that have stood the test of time, without the benefit of all the technology we have today. I was fairly sure it involved pulleys and counterweights.

I mentioned this possibility to my friend Greg, of The Midnight Garden. But Greg reminded me that in addition to pulleys, he believed the Egyptians also used slave labor.

“How are you fixed for that in Pittsburgh?” he asked breezily.

Great. Thanks, Greg. Always insightful.

So what DO you do when you’ve spent several hours in outdoor futility and the slave labor market in your city isn’t exactly flourishing? Plus, you’ve already got bruises roughly the pattern of... oh.... wrought-iron trellis?

Why, you go indoors and climb ladders!

In this case, it was hanging my completed plate rails in the living room, as you see here.

I’m feeling pretty good about this, because not only have I been able to display a few more plates, but the plate rails are straight, and I only did a Wile E. Coyote off the ladder once!

Whirlwind DIY Week concluded with some planting in the backyard.

Here you see the addition of some dianthus/carnations, as well as some stepping stones and some woolly thyme. (It’ll look better once I get some new wood chips in there.)

So that’s what I’ve been up to. The arch is on its way to being in place (I HAVE actually managed to get a buddy to help, I just need to level out that area of the yard a little).

And best of all-- and I can't say it enough-- I am NOT flat-as-a-bug in the backyard.

I’ll call that a success.

Next week: what do you do when you’ve got a half business-related swing concert to attend, you want to look professional yet fun...

AND you’re supposed to meet the band, who’s actually a bit of a favorite of yours?

Join me as we see what it’s possible to thrift and still not embarrass one’s self in front of business contacts AND “Big Bad Voodoo Daddy”...

Hope to see you then. Later, alligator!

Whirlwind DIY Week

The friend who rents from me has gone away on vacation. Which means that I have been fully empowered to embark on one of the most exciting and landmark times here within the walls of Waterhouse—“Whirlwind DIY Week!”

(Insert maniacal laughter here.)

Yes, every time my housemate goes out of town, I pretty much host my own version of Trading Spaces/Changing Rooms, except with 100% less Astroturf in my design space, and 75% fewer cranky designers.

All those projects that I’d wanted to do, but know would be hugely inconvenient for anyone wanting to, say, sit in the living room… or use the front door… or not trod in stray mud clumps… are attacked with ferocity this energy-filled week.

Of course, past Whirlwind DIY Weeks have not been without mishap. It was this week but one year ago that I had a small issue with some mustard-gold paint, a stepladder, and my white bathroom tile. (Click here to read about that one.)

And Whirlwind DIY Week was also the week I spent digging out unwanted and stubborn shrubbery from my backyard, the Back Four, where my eye was nearly poked out because the shrub took things personally.

The eye was spared (I don’t think I could stylishly pull off the Eyepatch Look, anyway-- no matter how hot pirates are right now.)

But what I’m saying is, Whirlwind DIY Week has not been without some… tribulations. And because I am stupid enough to share stories of these tribulations upon my housemate’s return, she now leaves for her vacations with just a WEE bit of concern.

I know this, because when I explain my renovation plans-- just to brace her for change-- the expression on her face indicates how few places in Pittsburgh are actually rent-controlled, and should I burn the place down, blow myself up, or break my neck falling off a ladder, it’s going to be really hard to find a new apartment as fiscally sound and centrally-located.

Anyway. since this was the very first Whirlwind DIY Week (WDW) I’ve embarked on since running this blog, I thought you all might enjoy experiencing it with me.

Day One: My goal was to go to Lowes after work and buy a replacement topiary for one which is standing skeletally in my backyard.

I also wanted to purchase aqua blue paint for a feature wall in the white entryway, to pick up the color in my stained glass window...

This was the entry before.

What really happened: I chose an excellent corkscrew-shaped five-foot-tall topiary. I lifted this topiary about six inches and realized that even IF I got this monster into the cart, I would:

a.) never get it out again
b.) never, ever get it INTO my car
c.) never, ever, EVER get it OUT of my car.

It would have to stay there and be my very own life-sized, pine-scented air freshener.

I abandoned the tree and got a smaller one owing to sometime maybe needing the seating space. I also bought a bonus Camelot Rose Foxglove just fer because.

I spent much time selecting the aqua paint, comparing it to the handle of an appropriately-colored vintage cheese slicer which I was, naturally, carrying in my purse. I settled on a Martha Stewart shade called Celadon Pottery.

Why is it, do you think, that choosing a simple paint color always involves the thrill of potential beauty AND a certain amount of, oh… neurosis and terror?

The color, I swear, changed shades about 157 times as I took it from Lowes, to my car, to my garage, to my kitchen, and eventually to the front room where it would live.

And even then, as I looked at it, I SWORE, it went from a very nice blue-green to… green. Just green. Kermit green. Which would not do. My rug is aqua. My stained glass windows are aqua. There is no shade of Muppet frog to be had in that area of my home.

But when I opened the tin, it looked aqua again. And aqua as I tested it on the wall. And as I painted the wall, I began to feel better…

Until the sun went down and the entry light cast a weird yellow glow on the wall making it look… Surgery Room Green.

Now I know what you’re thinking, why didn’t I get a tester pot and check this all out BEFORE?

Yes, SENSIBLE PEOPLE do that. But you don’t understand: this is Whirlwind DIY Week. There is NO TIME for tester pots, people!

So by the end of Tuesday evening, the feature wall was in wait-and-see mode. I’m surprised I didn’t have nightmares about my walls being covered in frogs. Frogs being operated on.

Day Two: Goals? Out with the old dead topiary, in with the new live one!

Also plant the foxglove.

Also see if I needed to repaint.

Also touch up the paint job in entryway.

Also attach hangers to a plate rail I’d stained and sealed prior to Whirlwind DIY Week, and hang it in entry way to showcase decorative plates

What actually happened: Wednesday morning the sun rose to reveal a beautifully aqua entryway which coordinated nicely with my stained glass window. I put back some of the furniture and lamps in the area just to get a sense of it.

I wasn’t sure I still liked the reverse-painted Peruvian mirror that I’d had there for years. It looked a little busy with the new paint job. But I DID have a Victorian mirror I’d paid $5 for at Junk for Joy in Jeannette. So I thought if I had time, I might add revamping that to my To-Do list.

Anyway, I removed the old topiary and planted the new with no repeat of the previous year’s Shrub Incident. And rather than working on the shelf for the entry way, I went with the cool dry weather and did some weeding, deadheading and fertilizing.

Day Three: My goals were to remove the painter’s tape from the walls, hang the shelf and begin adding the trim and staining the two identical shelves to display plats in the living room.

What actually happened: Looking surprisingly good! I spent a ridiculous amount of time choosing the right plates to display here, and pretty much even started to annoy myself about it. But I think the results were worth it.

The trim for the other two shelves was cut, glued, and clamped.

And yes, that IS a chip clip holding the trim steady while the glue dries. C-clamps? We don’t need no stinkin’ c-clamps!..

I also began the finishing treatment on the Victorian mirror frame. It went from this...

To this...
The project involved about three different shades of gold and bronze paint, and some dabbing of the same Minwax Special Walnut stain I used on the entry shelf.

And the rest of Whirlwind DIY Week? Well, it’s not over yet, folks! I’ve got an arched garden trellis to put up, some garden work to do, two shelves to finish staining and hang, and a house to clean. So, I’d love to stay and chat but-- gotta boogie!

See you next week, my friends!

Talking Trash

Dumpster diving, roadside reappropriation, trash-to-treasure, or curbside shopping… No matter what you call it, scouring the roadside on bulk trash day can yield some terrific furniture finds.

The trick is to be suave about it...

Or simply shameless.

Now, MY technique? Well, I may SOUND bold here in the safety of my comfy Internet home. But when it comes down to the actual ACT of garbage-picking, I am a big ol’ scaredy-cat-- deeply afraid of embarrassing myself.

Not that that prevents me from TAKING the trash, of course. It just means I lean more toward the Stalking method.

You know the Stalking method? I see a potential find… size it up... drive by... maybe drive by again, and wait for the perfect unobtrusive moment... to pop it in my trunk, dive behind the wheel and burn rubber.

It’s kind of like a Mafia kidnapping...

So I hear.
Now if the item is on MY street, I might saunter out onto my front porch and pull at a stray weed or two, keeping the prey in my peripheral vision.

I listen for traffic... la, la, just me weeding here, nothing to see...

Wait for the guy walking the pug to go by… “Yes, hello, sir, howya doing? Nice day. Fine pug...”

Allow three minutes for the curly tail to shrink safely into the distance and...


Like a Navy Seal on a tactical mission except, you know, not in water or actually athletic, I run across the road, a red-headed blur, and seize the item.

A glance right, a glance left, and another lightning fast jaunt, and I’m home safe with my prize.

I waited out my first roadside chair for FOUR HOURS, stalking that thing until my neighbors-- who were chatting on their front porch-- finally went inside and allowed me to get down to business.

In those days, I was right out of college, had nothing to my name but three milk crates and a fold-out bed, and I really needed the furniture.

And the chair was a sweet little 1930s number with Tudor legs and a bad wood finish-- but lots of potential.

Today it’s this. I stripped it, reupholstered the seat, and now it resides in my Medieval/William Morris styled living room.

The biggest expense ended up being the tapestry for the cushion, which I purchased at the Greater Pittsburgh Renaissance Faire.

Below is another roadside discovery, and one of my absolute favorites.

The chair was originally this cream shade, but a bit stained. So I repainted it, distressed it a little, and gave it a new seat cushion of vintage pink velvet. It now lives merrily in my guest room. How cute are those spindles?

Now these two chairs below were my most recent finds.

As you can see, I’m in the process of recushioning them from the weird cream burlap on the left to the vintage hunter green velvet upholstery fabric on the right. I’ll be giving these to a friend’s mom, who could use some replacement dining chairs for her well-worn set.

The funny story behind these chairs is they weren’t put out to trash the same week. The first week was the armchair. And then the next week before trash pickup, I looked out the window and… could it be?

It was. I lifted the chair, tucked it inside the house, went off to work, and no one was ever the wiser!

Okay, so you may be thinking, “Are chairs the only thing you can get from the side of the road?”

Why, no! In fact, many good pieces of furniture are put to the curb every day, in search of new homes. The reason my pictures here are so chair-centric is more related to my physical limitations, than curbside quality. It’s much easier to do the Stealth technique with a dining chair instead of, say, a seven-foot long buffet when you’re one gal trying desperately to be subtle.

Also, I have a compact car.

Oh-- and before I go-- one more pic!

This picture is courtesy of one of my friends, the current owner of the chair. This was a roadside find I reupholstered... and which adopted my friend as new owner because it went so well with her existing decor.

So one more roadside chair has found its place in the world! And it’s easy to feel good about curbside shopping when you can uncover treasures you love and can really use. In a society that’s becoming more and more disposable, I just like to think I’m helping do my part by turning potential landfill into a little luck.