Saturday, August 20, 2011

Dressing Up

It's been a while since I've posted, I know. What can I say -- life's been getting in the way. I've been unemployed, which you think would give me a lot more time, but somehow that never seems to happen. Between looking for a new job and the mountain of projects I set for myself, well, what can I say. And I can admit to some success -- I've gotten a bunch of my back-burner projects done and (probably more importantly), despite the incredibly crappy job market, I actually found a pretty good new job. So, in honor of that new job, I think I'd better get posting again! I think maybe I'll start back with one of those back-burner projects.

Before (shudder...)
I've needed something to store office supplies in for a while. Somehow having piles of labels, paper, etc. all over my desk makes it a bit difficult to work. However, I'm on a really tight budget these days. Then I rememberted that I had an old Victorian dresser thingee. Yeah, I know it's probably considered a Victorian commode, but I'm storing office supplies, not toilets! Anyway, I bought the thing at the flea market for $10 years ago and it's been sitting in the garage gathing dust, spiders, and mouse poop. It was the right size, had an appropriate amount of storage, and needed a job. The problem: It was seriously, profoundly, scandalously ugly. Really, who paints a piece of Victorian oak furniture pale yellow and green with hideous crystal drawer pulls? Ron thought I was nuts when I bought it, but I promised (solemnly swore) that I had a purpose in mind for it. See, honey, I really did!

Ahhhh. Much better.
Still, it had lots of potential, which is just what I needed. I had my husband drag it from the garage into the kitchen. As he reminded me several times, it's freakin' heavy (well, it is oak...). Of course when I opened two of the drawers I found that several mouse families had been using it for years as a mouse condo. My husband kindly got rid of the mouse-dropping-filled insulation for me, and I swept out the remains. Then I found an old sheet to use as a dropcloth and got to work on the exterior. I didn't want to entirely get rid of the old paint. It was hideous, but I liked the texture. So I scraped and wirebrushed the worst of it away, and hit the entire exterior with a coat of primer. I gave it a day to dry and then painted it again with the remains of one of the sample paints that was too light for the bathroom when we renovated it last year. It was the perfect amount of paint to put two coats on the dresser, and, technically, it was free. I love leftovers. The only real expense involved was the drawer pulls, which were $3 each at Lowe's. I really like the way the leaf  pattern on them mimics the carving on the drawer and door front.

I think it turned out quite lovely, right down to the rough texture underneath the creamy paint, and it really is exactly what I needed for storage. I even had just enough paint left over to repaint a little whatnot shelf I found at the flea market more recently. I had actually liked the minty green the shelf was originally painted, but unfortunately it didn't go in any room in my house. So, rather than relegating it to a back corner of the garage (using up some of the precious space that the thingee had previously occupied), I used up the last of the linen-colored paint from the dresser and, voila, something I can hang in my living room and fill with holiday-themed collectibles.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Little Pink Socks

One of my (far too many) hobbies is knitting. Actually, although I've knit a few scarves in my day, mostly I knit socks. Oh, I've also done quite a few pairs of fingerless mitts, but, really, those are just socks without feet. I started knitting right after my middle brother died. He was a wonderful, funny guy, easy-going, who died too early. It had been a standing joke between us that I always gave him socks for Christmas -- it got to a point where he'd be disappointed if he didn't get them. One year when I got him something else he grumbled that he really needed socks and put off buying them since he knew he'd be getting them from me for Christmas.

Anyway, when he passed away, I took a week off from work, and, after a few days, found myself at odds and ends. I took a trip to the local Michael's and found a little pamphlet on knitting socks. I collected the necessary yarn and needles and headed home, on a very serious mission. I would knit socks in my brother's honor. That poor first sock. I must have cast it on and ripped it out easily a dozen times. Of course the important thing to realize is that, when I started, I didn't know how to knit! Except for a brief and exasperating (mostly for my mother!) few days when I was about 10, I'd never picked up a knitting needle in my life. But I persevered. It was important, you see, to learn how to knit socks. Not only for my brother, but for me. I needed something to concentrate on, to work through my grief. And every time I cast on that poor sock, then ripped it out again, a little of the pain that I felt over losing my brother came away with it. After about three straight days of work, I finally managed to complete a perfectly acceptable sock-shaped object that even fit my foot. A day or two later it had a mate, and, although I wasn't healed, I was, at least feeling more like myself. And when I looked at the sock and thought of my brother, I was just as apt to smile as to cry -- a definite improvement.

And so, in honor of my brother, and as part of How Sweet the Sound's Pink Saturday,  I present my latest finished pair of socks. No, not the first pair I made -- to be honest, I don't even know where they are right now. Probably lost on the Island of Missing Socks. No, this is a pair that I started over a year past and finally just finished a few weeks ago. They're made from a hand-dyed yarn I found on Etsy (Hippie Feet Sock Yarn by St. Seraphina Knits in the Black Light Poster colorway), in the Wildflower Socks pattern, which I found on Ravelry. The color is a little louder than I normally work with but, like the memory of my brother, these socks make me smile.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Who Was Thalia Twiss?

I love ephemera, and a few years back I bought a box full of late 19th/early 20th century stuff. I ran across it the other day and started going through it, looking for a few Valentine's Day pieces to decorate the house with. In amongst the various bits of advertising, holiday cards (including Valentine's Day!), and diecuts, I found a calling card for a woman named Thalia A. Twiss. It's a pretty thing -- pink flowers, a butterfly, an anchor (? -- must be some meaning for that, I'm sure), her name in a lovely font -- but honestly, it's nothing special. It's in color, but no embossing, or anything that would set it all that far apart from hundreds of other calling cards. But her name -- Thalia A. Twiss. That's the kind of name that invokes visions of...well, I'm not quite sure who. Would Thalia be a wispy, thin, ethereal creature, with soft, wavy blonde hair and luminous blue eyes? Or maybe Thalia is a stern schoolmistress, hair pulled tightly up on the top of her head, black dress covering her from chin to wrist to boot-toe? Truly, I'm not sure. So, I did what any curious person would do these days -- I Googled her.

Although there wasn't a lot to find, I did find a marriage record for Thalia Angeli Twiss, who married Orlin Gorman (an equally exceptional name, I think) on October 27, 1865 in Geauga County, Ohio. Although there may be more to Thalia's story that could be teased out of the labyrinth that is the web, many of the other sites that might have had additional information charge a fee. And, I have to admit that, while I'm curious to know more about her, I'm just not that curious. Still, at least now I have a reference point in which to place her life.

I've framed Thalia's calling card and set it on my desk. As I look at it, a tiny thing from nearly 150 years ago, I realize that it serves as a connection between a woman who lived long before the age of computers and me, sitting here in front of my laptop. And I realize that despite its ephemeral nature, this little scrap of paper has lasted longer than the memory of the woman it represents.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A-maize-ingly Corny!

Yes, I did just manage to stuff two really bad puns into my poor, unsuspecting, never-did-anything-to-anyone title. But it seemed an appropriate way to introduce one of my favorite collections: corn pottery. I've been picking up pieces of this kitschy pottery for years and, like nearly all of my collections, I do my best to pay very little for it. Most of the corn pottery I've bought comes from my favorite semi-local auction, where I've picked up lots of several pieces for as little as $5.00. I've also gotten a number of pieces at the Golden Nugget Antique Market and at various antique shops over the years. I admit that it's a point of pride for me when I see something that I paid $5-10 dollars for selling for $50 or more at a flea market booth or antique store. Yup, I'm cheap and proud of it!

Most of the corn pottery pieces I have were made from the 1930s through the early 1960s. Some of the pieces I have were made in Japan, but others were made by several American ceramics companies. The best-known of these is probably Shawnee Corn King and Corn Queen lines. In general, I've found that the easiest pieces to find are the ubiquitous salt-and-pepper shakers. They come in all shapes and sizes, and are both easy to display and useful. Corn holders are also fairly easy to find and come in an array of shapes. More difficult to find are plates. I have several styles, and although they're on the small side, I'll sometimes use them for lunch or salads. I've also picked up several pitchers, and one very nice casserole dish, all from the auction. I think my very favorite pieces are the miniature sugar and creamer. They're small (a lot of my favorite things are) and just adorable. Now I just need to find a matching tiny corn teapot and I'll be all set!

I don't know why I like corn pottery so much. Maybe it's the happy yellow color, that looks like summer sunshine. Or maybe it reminds me of summer picnics when I was a child, of the fresh corn on the cob that Mom used to pick up at a local farm stand near where I grew up. Whatever it is, it makes my heart happy when I look at it.

Linking to Vintage Thingies Thursday on The Coloradolady's blog.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Flea-ing the Snow

"Do you want to go to the flea market this morning?" I stared at my husband in something akin to shock, then pointed out the window to the over-a-foot of snow still on the ground. Now, don't get me wrong. There's pretty much nothing I like better than going to our local flea market (Golden Nugget Antique Market, in Lambertville, NJ) on a Sunday (or Saturday, or Wednesday) morning. It's the best antique flea market I've ever found, and it's only 20 minutes away. We've bought so much stuff there over the years that we joke our house is decorated in Early Lambertville. But...well, there's snow, LOTS of snow, on the ground. Still, hubby can be persuasive, especially about things he knows I love to do, and since the weather has made it impossible to do just about any of the things I love to do lately, I bundle myself up, clamber into the car, and off we go.

We usually get to Lambertville around 7:30 in the morning, earlier if we can manage it. Like most flea markets, you get the best bargains early. But, given the weather conditions, and the fact that it's pretty cold, 9 or even 10 seems a reasonable time to get there. We pull in at 9:50 and stare at the vendors who have braved the weather. Normally there are as many as 200 hundred dealers at the height of the season. This morning there are perhaps 25 or so. They're mostly huddled under the covered section of the market, and are surprisingly cheerful. It's almost like everyone came to a picnic, which got moved inside because of the snow.

I wander the tables, looking for something that catches my eye, weaving in and out of the other stalwart shoppers. A surprising number of the other buyers are Russian, although, given the weather, maybe that isn't so surprising. There's some interesting stuff, and the prices aren't bad -- they rarely are at this time of year. Hubby finds a box of aeronautical magazines for $20 ("I just thought they were interesting"), but, sadly, I strike out. It happens. As I climb back into the car and we pull out of the parking lot, I realize that I'm smiling and feel better than I have in days. I guess taking a walk through the cold, crisp air on a Sunday morning is a whole lot better than staying in bed.

Friday, January 28, 2011

My Winter Garden

New Jersey just got whacked with another major winter storm -- eighteen inches of heavy, wet snow. If I liked snow this much (or at all...), I'd take up skiing and move to Minnesota, where I suspect it might be a bit cheaper to live, and where I wouldn't be surprised to hear that they've gotten less snow than us this year! At this point I think my snow-blindness is getting permanent. Anyway, this is the time of year, and most especially this year, when a middle-aged lass's fancy turns to thoughts of gardening. The catalogs have started trickling in, and I'm beginning to feel a bit faint from lack of greenery. Fortunately I have house plants. One of my orchids has buds on it, my three-foot-tall Crown of Thorns is still blooming, and one of my miniature violets has a blossom and several buds. It's this last that I'm most enamored of right now. I've set it in an antique children's tea cup and placed it in a small tabletop greenhouse on my desk. When I look at it, I can almost feel the summer sun on my back.

Tootsie Time!

Thursday, January 27, 2011


My office area, with a few of my favorite things.
(Deep breath...) My name is Laurie and I'm a collector. There, I've said it. I collect a lot of things: antique and vintage toys, rusty bits of stuff for the garden, animal pull toys, hand-tinted prints, silhouettes, antique German toy barns, antique teddy bears, Skookum Indian dolls, Christmas, Easter...dear God, make it stop! (More deep breaths...) Really, it's okay. I collect a lot of things, but I don't collect a lot of *each* thing. Well, not by some standards, anyway. I have, perhaps, a half-dozen or so horse pull toys, and maybe 6 or 8 (some of them are packed up) toy barns. I do have boxes and boxes of Christmas stuff, but who doesn't?

My husband doesn't quite understand, though he tries valiantly. Don't get me wrong, he's a collector too, and fully supports my collecting hobbies. But he collects Golden Age comic books, early cartoon and serial posters, and other similar, quantifiable things. And it's the quantifiable factor that separates our collecting. He can look at a list of all the Donald Duck Comics and Stories ever printed and tick off the ones he has. He *knows* who wrote and illustrated every issue, and there's a standard by which the books are graded. And his goal is to get all the books (or at least the Disney 4-colors) in the best possible condition.

Who made me? Who knows, but I'm still pretty...
My stuff, on the other hand, is not quantifiable. Who knows how many different horse pull toys were made in the 1900s, and as for who made them? I doubt if anyone really knows. Oh, you can probably take a guess at where some of them were made -- some toy company somewhere in Germany, but I suspect many of them (and many of the other things I collect) were cottage industry made. And they're all a little bit unique because of that, even the "mass produced" ones. And while he collects to get all of a certain item, I collect based on my response to the item. I don't necessarily care what condition something is in, or even how much it's worth. My criteria is strictly based on how I react to the object: Does the bear's face make me smile? Can I imagine a small boy or girl pushing the horse across the living-room floor?

And that's what confuses my dear husband most of all. He says he's constantly pointing something out to me, thinking I'll love it, and is surprised when I walk right past it and pick up something he didn't even notice. He's getting better at predicting what I will and won't like -- we've been together for over 25 years at this point -- by I think I'm still a bit of a mystery to him. And I guess that's a good thing.