Treasure Box Wednesday: Gaudy Gorgeousness, Porcelain Pretties and More

I have vintage lamp addiction. And I'm sick enough with this incurable disease that the more outrageous the vintage lamp-- the more geegaws and nubbies and curlicues and crystals that sprout from it-- the more it fills my heart with mad, unbridled joy.

Such was the case this last week at the St. Vincent de Paul as I laid eyes on this 60s table lamp and its great, green, gaudy gorgeousness. I spied it and immediately seized the 20 pounds of lamp from the top shelf, carrying it around the store like Galahad with the Holy Grail... Y'know, once Galahad got his hands on it during the Crusades version of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and took a moment for a celebratory spin around the castle.

(Somewhere I'm sure my Romantic Lit professor is weeping.)

Anyway-- my triumphant glee undoubtedly shone to my fellow shoppers, too-- whose attention was caught by the big, goofy grin on my face. Or... um... the massive green, brass and marble protuberance cradled in my arms.

I braced myself for criticism. And such is my Lamp Mania that I was prepared to defend my obvious lack of taste with a bit of wit and self-awareness... I mean, I KNOW it's a singularly unnatural example of interior lighting...

And that's really the point, isn't it?

Only my fellow shoppers smiled back kindly and confided to me, "Now THAT is a beautiful lamp."

One by one: smile and... "THAT is a beautiful lamp."

Perhaps they were just humoring an obviously very sick woman. Maybe they didn't want me to flip out and.... I don't know... start flinging Pyrex in the Housewares section while speaking in tongues...

But it didn't really sound that way. Could it be the gaudy lamp is having an underground resurgence?

Whatever the case, with this fine example of 60s schmaltz in my possession, I admit, I was riding a bit of a shopping high. Could anything else rival the discovery of my Great Green Beauty?

Well, no. But I did find some stuff I certainly wouldn't trade. Like this delicate "Made in Japan" handpainted mantle statue...

Pretty as a picture!

And some Irish linens I plan to use for a bit of a St. Paddy's display this year. Irish potato soup anyone?...

I found an Imperial Grape milk glass goblet, which I plan to put away for my family friend who collects this pattern (I'll amass a nice big box of it for her over the course of the year!)...

And I found a couple of books that I do believe will make for some funny features for the future...

So all-in-all, it was a faboo week for thrifting. Thanks for joining me for the second weekly Treasure Box Wednesday, (click here if you missed last week's installment) and I wish YOU all the little treasures that make life special. Hope to see you again soon.

Who in the art world is Chester K. Van Nortwick?

His name rests on the bottom of 30s calendar prints, and is emblazoned in the pages of nursery tales of the time. Yet, for a collector trying to learn more about the man, Chester K. Van Nortwick-- like so many artists from the Golden Age of Illustration-- seems almost as intangible as the fairy book characters he painted.

His work imitated the popular style of Maxfield Parrish in the same way calendar artists like R. Atkinson Fox did. But a close look at Van Nortwick's little scenes, with their lively characters, rich color and magical detail, reveals the illustrator's ability to successfully capture much of the humor, depth and quality of Parrish work that few of his contemporaries achieved.

A good example of this can be seen by comparing Parrish's famous Life magazine cover of Humpty Dumpty (first image below), with Van Nortwick's own delightful rendering (second image) of the animate egg in "A Tiny Book of Nursery Rhymes."

Yet it's interesting that Van Nortwick's beautiful and whimsical works, in period frames, are still possible to uncover in antique malls, flea markets and on Ebay-- and fairly economically, too. I've seen Van Norwtick prints run on average from $20-$85, where a good vintage Parrish print-- and even many an Atkinson Fox-- runs in the hundreds and upwards.

Okay, so it's nice work of the era, and can be found at a good price-- But who exactly IS this Chester K. Van Nortwick? A bit of sleuthing on our friend C.K. almost feels like research into absence. For instance, I discovered that while both Fox and fellow illustrator George Hood are acknowledged in books like "Maxfield Parrish and the American Imagists," not a peep is said about Mr. Van Nortwick.

It's enough to make you question whether he was nothing more than a pseudonym, dreamed up by an imaginative publishing company (which, in the case of Atkinson Fox, was done quite regularly during this time)!

But then I turned up some information from "Vintage illustration: Discovering America's Calendar Artists. " There, author Rick Martin comfirms the reality of the man's existence-- and has this to say about Van Nortwick:

"C.K. Van Nortwick was an early art print and calendar illustrator who was born in Rhode Island and moved to Denver, Colorado, at an early age. He studied at the Art institute of Chicago. His work first appeared from the mid-1920s to the mid-1930s.

"Van Nortwick's work was published almost exclusively by the Gerlach Barklow calendar company of Joliet, Illinois. Gerlach Barklow's publicity releases gave little personal information about Van Nortwick. They described him only as a 'well-known painter of allegorical subjects whose works suggest the quality of Maxfield Parrish.'

"Van Nortwick's earlier works seem to display many of Parrish's stock-in-trade images: urns, fountains, mountains, and languid beauties reposing in lush romantic landscapes. But between 1927 and 1930, Van Norwick painted three sets of twelve paintings intended as prints for monthly mailings. The sets were entiled 'Mother Goose,' ''Fairy Tales' and 'Boyhood Heroes.'"

And shares the following information regarding Chester Van Nortwick:

"Chester K. Van Nortwick was born in Providence, RI on December 21, 1881 and died in Brewster, MA on October 8, 1944. He was the son of George Washington van Nortwick, an accomplished and celebrated engraver.

"Chester lived in Colorado during his youth and served as staff artist on the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post. He received private instruction for several years and then entered the Chicago Art Institute."

Also, my search turned up Van Nortwick's work as a part of the permanent collection of the Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM), though no detail is listed online regarding him there, or what pieces reside in the collection.

Chester K. Van Nortwick may never gain the recognition of illustration great Maxfield Parrish, or the dedicated following of R. Atkinson Fox. But his work was a quietly present part of childhood reading and home decor in the 20s and 30s.

From the Golden Age of Illustration, so many artists-- Alice Adams, George Hacker, DC Lithgow and others-- seem to have slipped from the walls and bookshelves of American family homes and into relative obscurity. Here's hoping the age of technology will help us dust off a few, and bring them into the light again.


If anyone has any additional information they'd like to share about Chester Van Nortwick, I'd love to hear from you!

And for the rest of you good folks-- if you'd happened to miss my special Wednesday post-- "Treasure Box Wednesday: The Adventure Begins," click here.

Otherwise, I hope you see you THIS Wednesday as I share a few of my latest finds, including the seizure of one gorgeously gaudy vintage lamp!

Treasure Box Wednesday: The Adventure Begins

Thrifty treasure-hunting. There's just something exhilarating about the thrill of the hunt, the serendipity of it all. We dig deep into the past and find joy in the personal gems we uncover at our favorite flea markets, yard sales and charity thrifts. And we learn so much by vicarious thrifting, too-- discovering what's out there within reach of our fellow thrift archaeologists, gleaning a little history, recalling a few trends, and bringing to light the long-lost, forgotten and beloved.

So in addition to my regular weekly post, I've been thinking about starting a new feature, right here every Wednesday, to just share the fun of some of the most recent finds.

To start things rolling, I thought we'd talk about what was unearthed at the Red, White and Blues this last weekend.

We'll begin with the items one of my buddies uncovered, and kindly let me photograph. My amigo in thrifty-fun this day-- oh... let's call her Scoobie (due to said friend's unwaning and somewhat bewildering nostalgia for the cartoon mutt of the -Doo variety). Scoobie did very well for herself this weekend.

To give you an idea of her interests beyond cowardly crime-meddling dogs, she loves French blue and elaborately gilded things, but also is a fan of the Victorian western look. She's got a red Victorian parlor set and collects ruby glass. So you'll soon see why she was so jazzed about her finds.

Something blue (French influenced jaquard comforter)...

More blue... (Votive holders or drinking glasses... I can't tell which, they are votive-sized...)

A bit of ruby... (Avon Cape Cod ruby glass)

And a handsome cowboy and a couple of cactii for good measure... (Coors mirrored bar sign)

(Quirky Western diorama...)

(Gotta love that thrift store art Gambler-look still-life... Somebody worked hard on that one! :) Excellent kitsch!)

Now, me, I found a hand-painted tole tray, some vintage hankies and an interesting retro Gloria Vanderbilt umbrella...

A pink glass lidded pitcher and an aqua blue mixing bowl...

A vintage apron (how cute is that?)...

Some cherub candlesticks in faux jade...

And this cool vintage lamp made of slag glass... (I'll be having fun this week trying to figure out just what sort of shade was meant for this baby! Mission style? Arts and Crafts? ) Anyway, it was $5.99!

So what do you think, folks? Is this a type of feature you'd enjoy seeing once a week? I'll still be posting the regularly scheduled thrift trips, more in-depth looks at vintage collectibles, cookbook and crafting fun, and other goodies every Sunday afternoon...

...Like this week's other new post-- "Dubious Dinners and Riotous Retro Recipes"-- a light-hearted examination of some questionable vintage cooking-- click here. Make sure you leave room for the Frozen Cream Cheese...( or, er, NOT)...

Otherwise, thanks for joining me today, and I hope to see you again on Sunday!

Dubious Dinners and Riotous Retro Recipes

See these cheerful vintage cookbooks? Who would suspect that among their well-thumbed pages lurk frightening flavors and perplexing presentations?

Join me today as we take a culinary journey filled with wonder—and whipped milk—in Pet Milk’s “Thrifty Tempting Meals for 2 or 4 or 6” circa 1937, and Good Housekeeping’s “Egg and Cheese, Spaghetti and Rice”, 1958.

Once you see these eyebrow-raising edibles, I believe you’ll agree—it’s a huge credit to our mothers and grandmothers that good old-fashioned home-cooking still has the beloved reputation it does today.

We start with Pet Milk’s first dinner suggestion … “Sausage Cobbler.”

Yes, indeed, good hostesses know, no evening meal is complete without sausages ready to entertain the dinner guests in a synchronized swimming routine.

See the fried, sliced apples in the center? They’re playing the role of Esther Williams. At the end of their extravaganza, they rise from the depths of the pool on a rotating platform, perfectly dry and spurting sparklers.

Guests love a big finish.

And what exactly are they swimming IN? Why, it’s a combination of corn meal and Pet (brand) irradiated milk.

When Spiderman was exposed to radiation, he developed superpowers. But when milk is irradiated by ultra-violet rays, it is “enriched with the sunshine vitamin D.”

Causing it to be “twice as rich as ordinary milk”…

And also to have its own radio show.

Pet Milk recommends this dish be served with Creamed Brussels Sprouts. Thus ensuring those pesky dinner guests never drop by unannounced a second time.

Next we have what’s listed as a “thrifty dinner.” I was excited about this because, as you know, I’m all about the thrift. Er…

Is it my imagination, or do those pies appear to have a bad case of acne?

No, they’re Hamburger Pies and—surprise!— the crust you see there isn’t burnt, it’s the ground beef, molded conveniently into pie shape! That allows the meaty interior to be easily filled with Pet Milk and pimples-- er, sorry-- peas. Why, it’s meat, dairy and vegetables all in one! And it’s guaranteed to be easy on the digestive system because it doesn’t have any of those pesky seasonings to get in the way. Or to, you know, add flavor.

So what does Pet Milk offer for the vegetarian dinner guest?

This face-hugger, from the movie "Aliens."

Actually, it says it’s Breaded Parsnips and Savory Limas. The disembodied head of Pet Milk star Mary Lee Taylor tells us, “All the recipes in the Pet Milk cookbooks, and all I demonstrate on air, have been created and tested in the Pet Milk Experimental Kitchen.”

Well, see, that explains it. This is just something that escaped from the normally-locked part of the Pet Milk Experimental labs. Pet Milk had to cover up the incident by calling it breaded parsnips and limas.

I like in particular how you bread and fry the parsnips. Then fry the limas. Then fry bacon to put IN the limas. What could be more perfect for the health-conscious vegetarian lifestyle?

Next we move on to the “Egg and Cheese, Spaghetti and Rice” cookbook. And are you ever in for a treat! How do you feel about starting your day with…

Eggs Divan?

This looks less like a breakfast dish to me and more like something Captain Picard would discover in a lizard-people society. It causes us to ask that age-old question: are they hatching, or is that sauce?

Even the glass chicken on the table looks a little wary. Like it’s waiting for the right moment to make a break for it when those babies fully erupt.

Well, how about something for the seafood lovers out there? Here we have a shot of the Jersey shore after illegal corporate dumping and--

Oops!-- Sorry, wrong caption. This is Clams Inverness. We know this is a seafood dish by the cleverly chosen shell-shaped pasta, reflecting the intense natural beauty and culture of Northern Scotland. I don’t know about you, but canned clams and shaped macaroni always make me long for rolling fields of heather and bagpipes.

Well, if seafood isn’t your thing, then let’s go South of the Border! Here, we have a historic reenactment of a Mayan sacrifice and…

Again, my apologies. This is Speedy Spanish Rice. Not Mexican at all. And it takes full advantage of all the flavors Spanish cuisine has to offer… with canned tomato sauce… yellow mustard... and that perennial Espagne flavor favorite… MSG! More fun than the Running of the Bulls!

But what dinner would be complete without dessert?

This is Ellen’s Frozen Cream Cheese.

It involves cream cheese… sweetened condensed milk… heavy cream... sour cream... hair cream... feta... (okay, kidding about those last three)... vanilla and salt. Mm-mm! But please, don’t be threatened by the fruit. That’s just garnish. We don’t want it to, in any way, unbalance the fat content of this fine dinner-topper and…

Who’s Ellen you ask? Ellen’s the one who taste-tested this and died instantly of a shocking coronary arterial clog. The makers of the cookbook felt it only right to honor her memory through this delightful recipe.

She has been sorely missed.

Oh, and in case YOU’D missed my past post on vintage recipes, “100 Ways to Be Original in All Your Cooking” (every one of them involving Worcestershire Sauce!--- subtly courtesy of Lea & Perrins) click here.

Otherwise, I will see you all later, my friends! And thanks for stopping by!

Hmm… think I could use a spot of lunch about now. Clams Inverness, anyone?

You Gotta Have Heart: Impromptu Valentine's Decor

Vanished! Gone was the garland and angels and bright bejeweled fruit... The Shiny Brites and Santas and the horns that go toot.... Away went the hozwanglers and the zangdoodles, and the tootonkas and trees--

(I'd no idea how many hozwanglers and zangdoodles I'd picked up at the thrifts this year. Took me forever to put 'em away.)

And as I looked out on my hollow halls, my empty mantle, my wistful walls, where once there had been happy shiny Christmas decor, well...I'm afraid my own heart felt two sizes too small.


Okay, for, like, FIVE SECONDS. Until I put that heart into some serious Valentine's Day decorating!

It started with a fake potted rose or two I'd put away before the holidays.

Then some little rose topiaries. And this nifty little 1950s Valentine's girl planter I got from the Good Samaritan Thrift Store back in August.

And then some, er... more...velvet roses. (Apparently, I pick up velvet roses the way some people pick up extra packs of toilet tissue.)

I added a flock of white thrifted cherub vases... (Cherubs come in flocks, you know.)

And cards, cards, cards! These vintage Valentine's cards were a set I'd bought back in July at the Pottery City Antique Mall in East Liverpool, Ohio. There was a ton of them, all for about $4. I'm glad I'd thought ahead.

What I like about them in particular is they appear to be all of the cards collected for different members of one family.

We have the husband...

The wife...


And Mother...

For the table setting, I broke out my pink glass dishes, and made a minor investment from Target for the beaded heart-shaped placemats. The candlesticks, candles and the previously mentioned cherub vases all were things I'd already had, purchased over time through thrift stores.

And just to get truly carried away with the spirit of things, I changed the shade on my vintage cherub lamp to a red rose embossed one I'd gotten for $1 from the U.F.O. in Greensburg.

Now I enter the dining room, and there's really no chance for the post-Christmas blahs to take hold. And it's another sunny day in Whoville!

Anyone else do any decorating for Valentine's Day? I'd love to hear about it.

The Done's and Don't-Ask's of DIY

Last year at this time, I'd shared with you all a list of DIY and craft projects I planned to accomplish during 2007... You know the ones: the Projects that Guilt.

But as any homeowner knows, intentions are NOT accomplishments when it comes to home improvement projects. If we could fix homes based on intentions, why, my garage roof wouldn't leak... Everyone's toilet would match their tub... And Ty Pennington would be out of a job.

But because I try to be an honest gal-- and because I must also secretly believe that salt + open wound = comfy-- well, I thought we'd just take a look back and see what actually got accomplished on that list from last year.

The first project cited was "The Plate Rail." You'll see here that I'd had plans to exchange this jumble of shelves in the kitchen for one long plate rail to display my Victorian transferware plates and other kitchenalia.

And phew! Plate rails, I have covered! Because what started as a new plate rail grouping in the kitchen...

Seems to have spread into the livingroom....

And then, the entryway...

It's like some piney organizational plague, isn't it? Some Martha-Stewart-Bob-Villa-bred communicable disease which swept the place.

So yes, it's safe to say, my plates have been thoroughly... er... railed in 2007. Check! Now let's move on...

To the Floor Border in my kitchen. This area had originally borne a black rubber bumper which, in spite of glue strong enough to attach tiles to the Space Shuttle, tended to peel itself away at random and stick lecherously to my leg as I did dishes. It was the Dirty Old Man of interior details.

It had to go.

I had already removed the offending border and planned to sand away the remaining glue and stain the wood underneath as one of my 2007 projects. So here is the Before picture....

And here is now:

Um, yeah.


In January of 2007, I'd also planned to address The Fall of the House of Usher style cracks in my dining room. These cracks were a result of my 100 year old front porch on the outer wall thinking that, after a century of being in one spot, it might be really nice to relocate a few feet to the right. Just for the change, you know, mix it up a little.

The porch got fixed and I spent weeks doing it up in full Victorian painted lady style. It's just beautiful! And the cracks?

Um, not so much. But being a fan of Edgar Allen Poe, I'm starting to think the cracks give it a certain air of mystery, don't you think? A sort of atmospheric, lived-in period feel and...

You're not buying it, are you?

(Sigh.) Just my luck to have bright readers.

FINE. So craft projects-- I'd had a couple of craft projects I'd planned to do in 2007. Like fix the painted flowers on this globe shade and...


So WHAT was I DOING in 2007, anyway?!

Ah! THIS MIRROR! I did this mirror!

Originally, it was an inexpensive purchase from Junk for Joy in Jeannette, PA. And NOW...

Here it is-- a nice piece in my entryway. My entryway which is now aqua blue, I should mention, because that room got a bright new lick of paint. In actuality, 2007 was filled with a lot of wonderful projects and rewarding times-- like three cottage decorating swaps, some trash-t0-treasure chair reupholstery, two thrift giveaway gift baskets, and a mongo-big wrought iron garden trellis that took some serious Girl Power to get into place.

But even a public and apparently misguided blog post about future DIY plans sometimes isn't enough for us to get everything done on our lists. And you know what?

The house will still be there tomorrow. So for the new year, maybe a little prioritization, some determination and a lot of forgiveness are all we really need.

How about you all? What's on your list of things to do? Has anything hung on that list for WAY longer than you'd like?

Here's wishing you the best of each in 2008.