Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Instant Gratification

On a cold, dark day last November I bought an antique wheelbarrow at a small sale here in Salem. A case of love at first sight.

antique wheelbarrow 2 antique wheelbarrow wheelThis was no mere infatuation. Still love the thing, still enamored of its metal patch antique wheelbarrow invisible patch

that is so well done it holds water. We had to keep dumping rain water out of it all winter. I saw neighbor cats drinking from it more than once. My intent was to plant it with a festive medley of flowers for the summer.

We moved the barrow the other day, still empty, to the part of the front yard we call Middle Earth, which is very much a work in progress.


antique wheelbarrow

And on Monday the hubs and I headed off to a wonderful nursery not far out of town to get just the right mix of plants.

We looked and looked. Created little collections of plants to see how they’d look together. Moved 4 inch pots about and brought in others. And then I had a brainstorm.

This nursery has beautiful hanging baskets in full bloom. And their prices are better than I’ve seen elsewhere – less than $20 for a 10 inch pot full of a mass of blooms. I totted up the prices of the collection of baby plants we were considering, and when the total was several dollars higher than the lush blooming beauties in the 10 inch pots, our strategy changed and we went looking for some ready-made beauty. 

red geranium

It was a surprise to me when I fell hard for a red geranium. Really, really red. And big.

geraniumbig red geranium

Talk about instant gratification. Wherever you are in the front garden, there’s this major pop of color at its heart.

big geranium

We also splurged on another pot for near the front door. Three different colors of those mini petunias that bloom their little heads off.front door pot

It’s sitting on the cute fifty cent plant stand Judy and I found last July. More plant love. Every time I look outside I find myself smiling at my instant flowers. I even thought the debris in the car was artistic.     colorful confettiI hope some kind of buy-this-now monster will not take over my normally frugal ways. Nah. It won’t. But maybe we all need a refined jolt of instant gratification from time to time.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Cheap Education

One of my favorite parts of garaging comes after I get home with my new-to-me goodies: finding out more information about each thing. All those years as a librarian made research as natural as breathing. I love to learn something new, and I really love finding out that I got something special.

Case in point: last Saturday I picked up my SIL Linda and we headed out for the town-wide yard sale day in one of Portland’s suburbs. Our first stop was breakfast at a newish coffeehouse Linda had heard of. Turned out she knew the proprietor, who gave us our favorite quote for the day: "Midlife crisis... couldn't find a man, so I opened a coffee shop." Sound very Portlandish to me!

We had fun driving around, though neither of us found much. But at one of our first stops I picked up a couple of pieces of clothing to use in some future upcycling project. There’s some damage on this wool skirt I bought for fifty cents, but the fabric is unusual and I like it. since it’s a maxi skirt there’s plenty of fabric that still good.

Nellie de Grab skirt

When I got home I noticed that the interior details are above the norm (pretty rare to see hem tape these days)

de Grab finishing

so I looked up the tag and found it’s a designer piece from the Sixties. (And for the record, I don’t dry clean anything. This baby got a nice cool handwash and did just fine.) de Grab fabricI wasn’t familiar with Nelly de Grab. Found some real eye candy of her designs from the 50s & 60s over on Pinterest. This Richard Avedon photo was probably my fave.

Avadon picture of Nelly de Grab suit

Fast forward to this week. Judy and KK and I were out on Friday finding what we could find. For once I seemed to be having all the luck, and once again it was mostly of the textile variety. Since I started upcycling old clothes into new, I’ve always got my eye peeled for interesting fabrics. I picked out some rayon shirts with matching skirts or pants in a box of clothing marked 25¢ each.

Another rayon shirtApril Cornell shirtSigrid Olsen shirtRayon shirt

When you find the matching skirt or pants, it’s beyond easy to remodel a shirt. So these should be in my closet and wearable soon.

I think it was Judy though who spotted this linen blazer in that same 25¢ box. (Forgive the wrinkles, it’s been washed but not ironed.)

Dries Van Noten jacket Linen, a quarter, what’s not to love? Zoe likes it a lot.

Zoe likes linen

She barely moved when I turned it over to take a picture of the back.

Van Noten jacket

I noticed that all the seams are finished with bias tape inside. This is definitely not something you see often on ready-to-wear.

finished seams

So once more I looked up the label

Dries Van Noten label

and found I have another designer piece on my hands. I’m sure this jacket is a few years old, but it looks like it was never worn. And his current jackets seems to sell in the $500 – 1000 range.

Pretty good for a quarter, I’d say.

At one of our last stops I found a cool pair of midcentury modern salt and pepper shakers. Couldn’t resist them.

Stelton salt & pepper

I took their picture with what I think is a hand-carved cooking utensil. Maybe a pasta fork? Whatever it is, the wood has the most satin finish I’ve ever touched, you just want to pet it. I liked the look of it with the shakers, which turned out to be Danish, from the 60s, made by Stelton of stainless steel and rosewood. Another new name for me.

At the same sale I spotted some small vases. I’ve been wanting something small to do little bouquets from the pots on my deck

Deck flowersFlower trough 1Flower trough 3

so I brought home a blue and a green.

vintage small vases

The blue is unmarked but the green one is from Norway. Isn’t that a great midcentury style?

Randsfjordglass label

The glass is lovely. Held up to the light it’s like green water solidified. And I’ve added another name to my mental database.

Randsfjordglass vase

Even better, it’s perfect for its intended use!

small vase

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Imminent Demise of Pie

“Here you go, this is just what you need!” the man said to his wife.

I looked up. That’s a statement that can go so many ways. Could be a gag, or sarcasm, but in this case was sincere. He thought she needed it: a pie divider. “For your pies,” he added.

“Mmmm, pie,” I said. “Let me know what time it’s ready!”

“She makes great pie,” he assured me. “You know, people just don’t make pie anymore.” Well, I said modestly, I myself do bake pies. Not sure he heard. “Nobody bakes or cooks. People our kids’ age have no idea how to make pie.”

This struck me as a bit of a sweeping generalization. I see enough food blogs to convince me that at least a few people still cook (besides me and his wife). “Sometimes these things skip a generation,” I offered. “Maybe your grandkids will make pie.” “No! They won’t even know what real pie is!”

So now we know: pie is going to disappear from America in the next generation. Dang. But we’ll still be having it at our house; stop by for a piece one of these days. Though you should know in advance that the pieces won’t be precisely equal, because those other people got the ten-cent pie divider at the yard sale.

This yard sale, in fact.

clutter be gone

Judy and KK and I had a great Friday morning. Our first stop was here in the ‘hood, at the house where Judy paid for her own sweater last year. Judy replenished her wardrobe again, and I found some pieces for upcycling, including Irish linen

Irish linen

and some cotton pieces to combine.


(I’ll show you a couple of completed upcycles below.) As we were about to leave, KK spotted an item laying on a table and we all paused, trying to figure out what it was for. “It’s a hat,” I said authoritatively. (Yes of course I make things up. I’m a writer, it’s what we do!)

I tell you, I have the most fabulous friends. She immediately donned it, and by gosh it sure looked like a hat.

Improvised hat

I think she looks like a high-ranking official from one of the Star Wars movies. The 9 year old girl helping with the sale piped up, “It’s for a baby’s car seat.” Some sort of head bumper thingie. They gave it to KK who has a new grandchild coming and can use it for the car seat. But I still think it made a great hat.

There was no doubt about this being a hat. Doesn’t it look lovely with the coordinating clothes brushes?


At another sale there were a bunch of boxes waiting to be unloaded. They had priced everything for their sale and then packed it all away until the sale day. I asked the young woman unpacking things onto an already-crowded table if she minded me looking through some of the boxes. “Go right ahead!” she invited, and before I knew it we had the boxes spread out and several folks were finding items. I scored some summer socks

kitty sockssock kitties

an old favorite book

Mrs. Pollifaxa couple of hand towels

toweltowel detailEngelbreit towel

a Vera Bradley bag

Vera bagVera fabrics

and (my fave) a cute license-plate purse.

license plate pursepurse fastenerpurse inside

Plus this crocheted tablecloth, intended for upcycling into some kind of garment.

crochet tablecloth

Though it’s not bad as a tablecloth


or for the cat to make himself comfy on.

Noll on tablecloth

Even the free boxes did not disappoint, yielding a wall sconce

free sconce 

and a hand-knitted flamingo. Don’t find these babies every day!

knitted flamingo

I find the legs irresistible, with the knot-knees and shaped feet.

knitted legs

Okay, the upcycling. Still having a ball with remaking things. The latest is a couple of pieces for my SIL. She wears down vests during the winter, which gave me the idea of a summer vest. So I took the sleeves off a couple of short jackets         jacket beforeused them as side panels, et voilĂ !

Upcycled jacket frontUpcycled jacket back

This looks like printed fabric, but it’s actually embroidered on a linen background.

Upcycle vest frontUpcycle vest back

Cute vests!

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