Treasures from Throwaways- or- Marge Gets Maniacal


Reuse is great for the environment. It can be a great test of your creativity, too. In Better Homes and Gardens "Treasures from Throwaways"-- circa 1976-- this book offers some clever little projects to recycle household items into artistic decor for your home...

But we'll talk about those next week. This week, we'll talk about the projects that perplex... shock... and would make you tell the well-meaning home-owner, "Wow, that's really... interesting, Marge."

Like when you're visiting Marge and she offers you a soda-pop. She watches you with keen eyes as you drink that cola right down. She waits for the last drops of the liquid to be consumed and then-- she snatches the can from you and runs off to her project room, laughing maniacally to herself.

"Er, what're you doing, Marge?" you ask suspiciously at the doorway. But then you look around her craft room and your question is answered.

Owls.

Tin can owls. There are hundreds of them there. Hundreds. Displayed in varying positions and styles. Barn owls... Snowy owls... Screech owls...

"Gee, Marge," you say. "You've been really, um, busy since the last time I saw you."

"I've got a whole case of soda cans to recycle," she tells you. "And I've found the best way to really use the owls to their advantage!... Come with me!"

Motioning, she leads you into the guest room. And there you see it.


The tin can owl mobile.

Marge turns on her heel and beams at you. "Don't you just love it?"

"That's really... impressive. Um, were there owls in that Hitchcock movie with Tippy Hedren, by any chance?"

You make a note to yourself not to ever stay overnight in Marge's guest room.

"Oh, and did I show you these great vases I made?" she asks. She leads you into her teen daughter's room and grins. "Can you guess what they were originally?"


"Aw, just go ahead and surprise me."

"Tennis ball cans!" she exclaims in delight.

"And those flowers?"

"Tissue paper, cardboard and wire!"

"Gee, Marge, does Chuck know you've converted all of his tennis ball cans into pop art vases?"

She waves it away. "He hasn't noticed yet. He's really into golfing at the moment. It'll be months before he wonders where his balls are. Oh-- but I've completed a few more projects, too."

"I can hardly wait."

"This was for Chuck and his buddies' poker night," she says, leading you into the den.


"Gosh, a beer can table how... different! Chuck must have gained a few pounds, drinking up all that beer."

"No, that was me. I had to. I wanted it to be a surprise. The Bud and Miller were okay, but the Schlitz was a little strong for my taste."

"You drank all that beer yourself? Well, this is starting to explain quite a bit."

She blinks wide blue eyes. "Do you think your husband will want one? Because I have some extra cans."

You assure Marge that you and your husband are pretty good on coffeetables right now, but you'll let her know if you decide to redecorate.

"Well, come see my new sitting room. You remember how boring it was before? I'd wanted something with a little more energy."


And she got it, you assure her.

"Gosh, it's like a scoreboard fell on a bunch of Pittsburgh Steelers fans," you say before you can stop yourself. "Very peppy!" you add, as a clever save.

"The table is supported by steel drums. I have some extras which we use for Music Nights."

"Oh, do you?" You hope your smile doesn't look too strained. The patterns in this room are starting to make you a little nauseous. Black and white numbers are swimming before your eyes. "Um-- I'm not feeling quite well. Could I go splash some cold water on my face?" you ask.

"Sure, the powder room is this way."


You press a cold wet washcloth to your temples as hundreds of magazine models stare at you, looking like they feel all fresh and breezy, and not ready to expel a whole can of cola. Some of the models are peeling off the walls a bit due to the room's moisture, you notice.

This certainly wasn't here before. Hadn't the bathroom been a simple powder blue not long ago? You're starting to get really worried about your dear friend Marge. You step from the bathroom no more refreshed than you were before.

And Marge is waiting.

"The magazines..." you say.

"Oh yes!" Marge says, eyes alight. "Isn't it divine? And when I get tired of seeing a particular cover, I just pull it off the wall and put another one in its place! So easy!"

"You got all of these ideas from a book, or something?"

"Oh, it was such a eye-opener to an entirely recyclable way of life!" Marge tells you. "It changed how I see simply everything!"

"It does seem that way," you agree.

"If you're feeling a little better, come and see what I did to Sally's room."


Stepping into Sally's room, you feel like you've fallen through the rabbit hole. You feel Marge might have almost hit on a doable style here, but there's just something about that armoire that bugs you.

It's the eyes. The eyes on that Alice character.


Alice seems to have gotten into the same beer Marge has. Or possibly something more potent.

"You look kind of pale," Marge says with concern. We'll go sit for a while in the family room."

You thank her for her concern and try to tell yourself, how bad could the sitting room be? Then you see the giant heating pipe snake.



"We don't use this room as much as I'd like," Marge admits. "I don't know why, but the kids actually won't come in here. Which is such a shame. I mean, look how cleverly this pipe transitions into an overhead light."

"Oh, is that what it is?" you ask, waiting a moment or two to see if the lighting bears its fangs and strikes. "...I hate to be such a nuisance today, but do you think I could, um, have a glass of water?"

"Sure. Of course there's soda or beer, as well. I could use a few more empty cans..."

"No, no. Just water would be perfect."

Marge bustles off to get you a glass of water. You can see a bit of the kitchen from here, and it appears on one wall she has made a mural of a tree using harvest-colored shag carpet remnants.


Your head pounds. You turn away from the berber foliage. And now you notice what's happened to the antique typewriter her dad had left her.


It looks like it was a casualty in a Fruit Stripe Gum factory explosion. You are a bit dizzy from the swirling colors as Marge returns with your water.

"I see you're admiring the typewriter," she says.

You take the water from her hand and chug it, then wipe your mouth on the back of your hand. You don't care about ladylike propriety anymore.

"Can the kids still do their homework on it?"

"Oh nooo," coos Marge, like the very thought of that is silly. "It's transformed beyond just a mere typewriter now."

"It has?"

"Why, yes! It's a note holder."

"A note holder..."

"Sure! Say I have something I need to tell Chuck. Well, I just write it on a slip of paper, tuck it into the typewriter, and he's sure to see it."

"So you don't, er, type the messages."

"As I said, it's found its higher purpose now. It doesn't need to do that silly typing anymore." Marge sounds a bit irritated at having to explain this, and a chill runs up and down your spine.

You hand Marge your empty water glass. "Thanks, Marge, for everything today. But I think I'm just going to go home and lie down."

"You mean you don't want to stay and join us for Family Music Night?" she asks. "We've made all of our own instruments. And we sure could use a steel drummer!"


"I'll have to pass. Maybe some other time."

You grab your purse, coat and hat and run for the station wagon as fast as you can without looking too suspicious. You break a heel on your way, but you just decide to leave it. Marge will put it to use, anyway...

Yes, indeed, Marge will put it to use.
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  • For folks who missed out on last week's Treasure Box Wednesday, where we take a look at collector's books, click here.
  • And last Sunday's post, Finding Vintage Romance in Today's Independent art discusses a few artists and photographers out there capturing the romance, beauty and whimsy with their creative eyes. Click here to read that.
And next week, we'll take a look at some really workable and clever trash-to-treasure ideas from the very same Better Homes and Gardens book we examined with Marge today.

Marge won't be joining us, incidentally. She's currently at "Happy Acres Convalescent Home for the Stressed and Strained."

Hope to see you next week!

28 comments:

Da Old Man said...

I was lol'ing (is that even a word?) at your post today. Inspired and brilliant. "It's found its higher purpose" just was over the top funny.

ThriftShopRomantic said...

Da Old Man- I'm a firm believer in exercising one's creativity, and also finding ways to reuse things for new purposes. But the line really needs to be drawn somewhere...

And it's probably not in paint over the typewriter. :)

Anonymous said...

Aw, I love that typewriter! This is just freaking awesome!

Carrie said...

You've really put together a clever narrative to go along with these vintage photos. Wonderful....

Virginia said...

Love your Blog,I am always hunting for used trasures, lots of fun. I started my own Blog and added yours in my (Beautiful Places to Visit.)

Linda B said...

Gosh, that typewriter is a hoot! And the owls are so snazzy. Or is it the other way around?? I'm so bedazzled, I may have to lie down myself! You find the best stuff....

Linda B.

chyna said...

I umm, I think that is a crazy house. bet it is next door to the house with the red room that gives me the shivers.

NJTomboy said...

Oh fun!!! I am screaming about that typewriter... NOOOOOOOOOOO! Didn't they know about typewriter bracelets at the time... LOL :D

chyna said...

I am noticing a pattern there at Marg's house. Is this where all the Steeler fans come back to celebrate? Or is Marg a frat house mother?

ThriftShopRomantic said...

Anonymous- So I know what your next crafting project will be, eh? :)

Carrie- Thanks-- it just crossed my mind that if this were all in one house, we'd be really worried about the woman.

Virginia- Thanks, fellow thrifter!

Linda- Your choice of "hoot" is inspired, I think! :)

Chyna- Marge, I think, has spent too many years trying to keep herself occupied. And yes, it is probably next door to the Red Roomed house. Although Marge wouldn't visit that woman because she would insist that lady was "eccentric."

NJ- When I saw that typewriter I absolutely thought about you and your lovely bracelets. It became this "something lovely and clever to wear" project versus a "large metal lump now less useful than it was, plus multicolored" project duel in my head. :) A total waste of decorative typewriter keys, indeed.

Anonymous said...

What a neat idea to keep you busy. Wish there was a way to do the beer can table but with soda cans and without the glass top. Hubby would run into it with his wheelchair and there would go the glass top.

ThriftShopRomantic said...

Anonymous- Well, you might be able to do the table with a thick plastic top instead of a glass one.

At least you won't go thirsty while you'd construct it. :)

Evie said...

Hah I must be daggy because I like a lot of these ideas. The bathroom would for sure help you to loose weight! The Owl mobile is so different and could see hanging in the pergola.
Very clever and funny post :)

ThriftShopRomantic said...

Evie- Re: the bathroom-- isn't that the truth? Possibly not the best for the ol' self esteem, eh? I like that you've already got a place slated for your tin can owl mobile-- just remember, waterproof paints if it's going outside. :) See if you can confuse some real owls!

Rosemary said...

Hi Jenn,
Just catching up on the blogs.
You are always funny, and entertaining.
Love the owls!!
Rosemary

Sujatha said...

Jenn, did you know that the retro-chic brigade is seriously catching up with Marge and will be there in no time at all. Get an eyeful of what the geek-chic chicks are upto at Craftzine Blog

(The owl kit on the latest post is just a coincidence, I swear, as is the fact that I wore a wooden owl pendant two days ago.)

ThriftShopRomantic said...

Rosemary- I will have to make you a couple of tin-can owls. :) You can make some glitter crowns for them to wear! :)

Sujatha- Oh, I've seen some very interesting crafting indeed from some of the creative folks at Craftzine and Craftster. I have no doubt that our friends the owl will return in their many forms-- including the infamous macrame. :)

Alice said...

Awesome finds! I need the rasta typewriter, because I know Babycakes will appreciate the ease with which he can find my notes and then ignore them.

Carpet on the wall - Blech. Double blech.

And I actually like the black and white wardrobe aside from the creepy face on the girl. My mom had made me an Alice doll once, but the painted face was too creepy for me so she repainted it. A face can just be sooo wrong sometimes.

Greg said...

You know, much as I hate to justify any of it, the owl mobile might actually deter smaller birds and rodents that might be tasting from the vegetable garden.

That Alice really is kinda tapped out, isn't she? Those eyes...totally creepy.

ThriftShopRomantic said...

Alice- It does have a bit of a rasta thing going on, doesn't it? And yep- I liked the wardrobe too except for those creeeeeepy eyes. I hear "White Rabbit" playing in my head every time I look at them.

The carpet on the walls... it reminds me of something the designers would either be removing-- or ADDING-- on Trading Spaces/Changing Rooms.

Greg- I like how you've found a nice practical use for the owl mobile. I think it scares me mostly because I could see my own mother making one. Endless owls everywhere... Like when she made the tin-can roses... Oh MY.

And yes-- Alice in Wonderland there has had too many bottles of "Drink Me."

momjeansblogger said...

LMAO!! I love all the ideas, especially the beer can "coffee" table. I forgot the way the old cans used to open. Thanks for the laugh!

Anonymous said...

Wow! I passed up that EXACT beer can table at a garage sale a few weeks ago. Right down to the Schlitz cans. And to think it could have been mine for only $1.

Who knew?!

Sweet Somethings by Lois said...

How long did it take her to paint that typewritter? WOW! It is really funky looking.
I really liked the owls. How does someone think to do something like that? Hmmmmm....maybe the beer cans are the answer to that question.
I love coming to read your blog. It's always an interesting, eye opening and funny place to visit. Thanks so much for sharing with us.

ThriftShopRomantic said...

MomJeansBlogger- It's it funny how we forget how packaging on things was? That table seems to be a very popular item! :)

Anonymous- Wow, $1-- talk about a deal! All of the beer canny goodness and NONE of the having to consume two cases of beer yourself! Talk about savings.

Lois- I imagine it took her AGES to paint that typewriter, as the instructions say to let each paint dry completely before adding another color. The owls, like the beer can table, seem to be a very popular item...

I just can't understand, though, why everyone isn't excited to put shag carpeting remnants on their wall to make that tree mural! :) HEHEHE

Ms. A said...

Looks like Joan Steffan got sucked into a time machine...

ThriftShopRomantic said...

Ms. A- Heh... Terrifying, isn't it? :)

Lux said...

I nearly had a heart attack when I saw those owls! My grandmother owned a copy of this book, and I remember looking through it, along with a wide array of other 1970's craft books. I could never remember the name, so when I found your write up on it I immediately ordered the book from half.com, not necessarily to make any of the tacky things out of it, but to feel a little bit closer to my beloved grandma again. Thanks, you've made my day

Jenn Thorson said...

Lux- Oh, that's wonderful! Funny how these things become such a part of our young lives and then stick with us.

I'm glad you were able to find a copy of the book.