Sunday, December 30, 2012

My Thrifted Christmas, Part I

With the passage of Christmas Day, it is safe now to share with you a few of the special thrifted treasures that I gave away as gifts. But before I begin, I must make a disclaimer: I do not give thrifted presents to those whom I feel (or know!) would not appreciate a secondhand gift. As I hope is clear by now, I do not thrift out of cheapness, but thoughtfulness and with great care, and hopefully those who receive these gifts understand this.

My sister and her husband were here to share Christmas with us this year, and that was the best gift of all. They have two dachshunds who did not make the journey, but who live large in the memories of my not-at-all-dog-loving children. Of course we had to give them a gift! This frame was just perfect because it has spots for two photos, one for each dog.

This little book was also given as a gift, but the recipient will remain anonymous in order to protect their privacy. Obviously, it was a fun little family joke and much hilarity ensued as we perused the table of contents, which included the likes of "Deja Poo" and "Hanging Chad."

Not long after I picked it up, a friend shared with me that she had found the same little book at a trendy Philly boutique. See, this alone is proof that you can find real gems at thrift shops! (And yes, in case you are concerned, I cleaned this book with bleach water before gifting never knows if the original owner put it to good use but I am always careful with cleaning my finds and took particular care with this one!)

My daughter received this cursive letter board, which I found in like-new condition at a stop on my road trip last month. She has been teaching herself cursive handwriting, and was very excited to have this to guide her self-study.

I also want to share a small gift that my daughter made for two very special people in her life. It is an apple cozy, made with thrifted red fleece and green felt. We found the instructions for making this adorable and useful gift in Family Fun magazine. You can find the directions here. I thought it was a cute little gift, perfect for her skill level, inexpensive and yet unique.

I did give other thrifty gifts this Christmas, but as I had meant to deliver them in person to friends in Philly and was unable to make the trip down at the last minute, I had to mail them. I will therefore wait until I am sure that the recipients have opened them before I share them here. So, instead of showing the rest of that loot, I will give you a taste of how other, past thrifted finds played a role in my wonderful holiday traditions and celebrations.

I collect vintage children's books, and I especially love to collect vintage Christmas stories to read with my children. Here are just a few I've found over the years:

Throughout December, I try to read one or two of these special Christmas books to my children at bedtime. Then I put them away, and they come out again the following year. It makes it kind of special, having books that are only available for a limited time. I had a wonderful plan to read one religious Christmas story and one Santa story each night, but I've had trouble finding more than a handful of religious Christmas stories that aren't just a re-telling of the Nativity. So, I keep looking, and in the meantime, we just enjoy what we have.

I also continue the tradition from my childhood of decorating loads of frosted sugar cookies and giving them to friends and neighbors. My children love to help, and we always use my huge collection of vintage cookie cutters. Most of them belonged to my mother, but I've been picking them up at thrift stores whenever I see them, too. My hope is that by the time my children leave the nest, I can give them their own set of cookie cutters so that they can carry on this tradition with their own families.

And finally, do you remember these dishes that I picked up at a church thrift shop on the North Shore?

Well, here they are, all cleaned up and ready for Christmas Night dinner. Joining them are beautiful goblets that I purchased in a Philly antique shop over ten years ago.

I hope you enjoyed this peek inside my thrifted Christmas. Does thrift play a role in your Christmas festivities, too? Please share your stories! I love being inspired by other people's wonderful ideas.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas Memories

I think I've established that I love to thrift. But lately, maybe because I started this blog, I have been pondering just what it is about thrifting that makes me so happy. It's not because I hold out hope that I will find an original copy of the Declaration of Independence pinned inside the frame of some cast-off paint-by-number, although that would be wonderful indeed. It's not because I shirk at paying full price for things, although I was raised by a frugal Yankee and was well-trained to appreciate a good bargain. And it's more than just loving all things old, although I certainly do. It's more than all of that. Truly, I think a lot of what motivates me to thrift is the desire to recapture my childhood. Some of my most treasured thrift finds have been replacements of things that I had as a child, like toys, books, and knick-knacks. Especially since I've had children of my own, something drives me to collect these relics of my past and share them with my children. And yes, I will admit, I love that I get to read all my favorite books and play with my favorite toys all over again! I also search for things that my parents had in our home, things like dishes, holiday decorations, linens, kitchen tools, clocks...the list really could go on and on. It is actually quite amazing how things that I once scorned, I now scour thrift stores for! For example, my mother had a rather unattractive trivet in her kitchen. It was probably from the 1950s, with an iron base and white ceramic top, and it read: Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday. I can't even remember if it was hanging on the wall or if it sat on the crowded counter top. I remember disliking it, thinking it was so dated (and not in a cool way) and no one wanted it when it came time to sell the family home and clean out all the accumulated stuff that resided in it. But now? Now, I want that trivet so much I can taste it. I hunt for it every time I go out to a thrift, antique shop, or flea market. I have yet to see it, not even once. But I know that someday, when I'm least expecting it, I will find that trivet, probably in a box of junk somewhere, probably for just a quarter or two, and whomever I am with that day will shake their head at me and wonder. But to me, it will bring me right back to all the times I spent with my mother, baking and chatting together in our small kitchen, and I will be so happy.  

I received another gift of thrift in the mail the other day, this time from my dear friend Kristen. Sometime last spring, she and I had been at one of our favorite thrift emporiums and we both bought large boxes of Christmas ornaments. The management had been so sneaky, mixing in a few beautiful vintage pieces with some worthless new ball ornaments, and pricing it as a lot, but we didn't really mind. I remember that when we unpacked the boxes, we saw that she had a beautiful vintage Santa ornament in her lot. I told her that I always looked for those, because when I was little, we had two of those same ornaments on our Christmas tree every year. Years and years ago, I paid $8 for just one Santa ornament in an antique store even though it was only in fair condition, just so I could have at least one on my tree.

my $8 Santa ornament
And so when I opened up my little package from Kristen and saw her precious little Santa ornament tucked in along with a few other vintage balls, I was so touched.

My new Santa ornament from Kristen

It's in nearly perfect condition, and the colors are just beautiful. Now my tree is complete, and when I decorate it every year, I will not only be reminded of my very happy childhood Christmases, but also of the more recent happy times I've spent with my friend.

Kristen also tucked in another couple of gifts. One was a tiny little vintage New Testament to go with  my collection of vintage Anglican Prayer Books and Hymnals. It has the most delightful inscription:

"This book will keep you from sin, and sin will keep you from this book. To Dorothy from Aunt Margaret, August 1922"

Wise words, indeed!

The other thing was this Santa sleigh card holder, still in its original package. Please forgive the poor photography!

I hope you all are having a lovely Christmastime, enjoying time with friends and family and all those who are dear to you, making memories together that will last a lifetime. Enjoy, my friends!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Hard Habit to Break

Yes, I know I said I probably wouldn't venture out into thriftland again until after Christmas, but you didn't really believe that, did you? I wasn't even planning to hit the aisles today but after our cookie decorating party at the preschool wrapped up early, I figured why not? It was either that or run far less interesting errands, so it was an easy choice. As usual, I was glad to have made the trip.

I really couldn't believe that there were still Christmas decorations to be found, but indeed there were. I spied these vintage glass ornaments in a bag of miscellaneous Christmas decor and of course, I had to snatch them up. They are a little "well-loved," but I love the striped ones and the pinecone ornaments are something that I had yet to come by.

I also found a set of four tin pails that will work perfectly for my daughter's upcoming Pioneer birthday party. I've been picking up these small pails whenever I see them, because I plan to serve the party guests their lunches in them, all wrapped up in a bandana. Once the lunch is finished, they can place their other miscellaneous party favors inside and take the pail home as a souvenir. I hope its cute--as you can see, I'm far too excited about this party and all its details than I should ever admit.

Have you ever bought something in a thrift just because you couldn't bear to leave it behind? I have no need for these vintage Strawberry Shortcake sneakers, no need whatsoever! I wasn't even into Strawberry Shortcake as a child, her popularity peaked after I was just a little too old to care. So I can't even blame nostalgia. But these sneakers are precious, in excellent condition, and just had to come home with me. Maybe I will try to resell them sometime. In the meantime, I justified it by saying that they were very inexpensive and they are very, very small and won't take up much room in my closet. Just don't tell my husband! You must agree, though, they are pretty cute, right?

I also found a bag of taper candles in blues and pinks, which are absolutely perfect for this little Advent project that I wanted to do this year but didn't because I didn't have the candles. So I will put that on my Christmas to-do list for next year, and if it turns out, will share it with you then. In addition, to appease the troops and buy myself some more time to browse, I brought home a huge tub of toys. The large pirate ship nestled in the tub is what originally caught my eye, but I also spied some Playmobil toys in it. When we brought it home and opened it up, there was the pirate ship of course, but also almost the complete Playmobil Flora shop and greenhouse and parts of the Victorian house and fence. (Not to mention several Transformers and some Lego.) My kids have been occupied all afternoon, its wonderful! After initially resisting buying any Playmobil for my crew because the thought of all those tiny little parts getting loose in the house gave me great pause, I am so glad I relented. My kids love it and so do I. It is great for imaginative play and for the most part, the pieces are kept together and cared for. Not a bad buy for $10.

All in all, a productive and fun morning excursion. Now, off to hide the baby sneakers before my husband comes home from work... 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Lovely and Unexpected Gift

Aren't the gifts you least expect the very best gifts of all? And truly, the very, very best gift of all is just knowing that someone you care about thought about you. I arrived home the other day to a small package sitting among my mail. Inside were these:

Now, perhaps you are not all that impressed. But I absolutely adore vintage stationery and paper goods, and the fact that these were Christmas seals only made them all the more delightful to me. Do you remember how excited I was to find these vintage Dennison farm animal seals at a rummage sale in November?

Well, my friend Lynn knows that I love, love, love old Christmas stuff, and not long after I posted about my Dennison find, she sent me a message saying she'd found me a little something. I was so happy but you know how busy life is, it slipped my mind and so when I found the package on my doorstep, I was surprised all over again. And the seals are perfect, in pristine condition and so, so cute. Thank you, Lynn!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

O Christmas Tree

My vintage tree is finally up and decorated and looks beautiful! I think its the prettiest tree I have ever had. I feel so happy just looking at it. I can't believe that I have thrifted all but one of the one hundred glass ornaments on it--some of them are so gorgeous I just can't fathom someone dropping them off at a thrift store because they didn't want them.

And I'm probably really asking for trouble by saying this, but so far, my children have stayed far away from this tree! Nothing broken, not a single ornament even removed from the branches yet, can you believe it?

Capturing the beauty of a lit Christmas tree is very, very difficult, so you will have to be satisfied with these two close ups, at least until I can figure out how to get a better shot.

I had so much fun making my dream of an all-vintage Christmas tree come true. And it was even nicer that I didn't have to sacrifice our traditional family tree, with its colorful mish-mash of very meaningful yet unmatched ornaments. How could I go a year without the Charlie Brown ornament that reminds me of my son's first Halloween, when his little bald baby head was just too perfect not to play good ole Chuck while his sisters were Woodstock and Snoopy? Or the shiny carrot ornament which commemorates the year that my very picky daughter first accepted the vegetable into her diet? And of course, there are all the "Baby's First" ornaments, the homemade and glittery ornaments, the hand-me-down ornaments, and most important of all, the gifted ornaments, which remind us every year of friends and family who are so dear to us.

How did you decorate your tree this year?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Before & After Candlesticks and so much more!

I took a little jaunt last weekend to visit a new-to-me thrift about 20 minutes away. Although my trip was right in the middle of the hustle-and-bustle Christmas shopping season, all was quiet inside the store and I found some lovely treasures to take home and play with.

I had a small thrifter-in-training with me, so I was a little hurried and distracted, but I still managed to do a thorough examination of all my favorite departments: housewares, Christmas, kids' clothing, toys, furniture, and books.

In the housewares department, I found these glass candlesticks. I must admit, a year ago, I would have walked right by these but then a friend picked up a set and ever since, I've seen them in a new light. I still wasn't quite ready to pick up a pair until I saw these. They were pretty filthy on the shelf, but I saw their potential.

Once home, I cleaned them up and they were really beautiful! I wish I'd taken a post-scrub shot, but I was busy. I had finally, finally ordered some of the ubiquitous looking glass paint and I was determined to use it...and right that second! So once clean, I wasted no time spraying coat after coat of the paint and vinegar/water mixture and rubbing and dabbing in between coats. This is what I ended up with:

To be honest, I'm not sure if I like them or not. Part of me wishes I had left them alone, and part of me wants to add one more layer of the paint. What do you think? I will probably be using them for winter holidays, surrounded by greenery and candlelight, so small imperfections won't matter but I do want them to add to, and not detract from, the festive atmosphere! I think I can remove the paint with fingernail polish (at least that is what blogland tells me, so it must be true), so please advise!

I also was able to feed my obsession with vintage Christmas tree ornaments. I found this unique group of felted ornaments, some in need of a little TLC but in the all-important turquoise that I love so. I can't wait to add them to my vintage theme tree, which is now standing in my sitting room, waiting for lights and ornaments. I will definitely be posting some pictures once it is completely decked out in vintage finery!

I also purchased a box of what I thought at the time were plain vintage Christmas ball ornaments; in fact, I almost put them back on the shelf. But since it was a complete box, and the box itself was still in good condition and was kind of cool looking, I brought them home and am so glad. When I took them all out, they are not balls at all but teardrops! What a find!

I also picked up this set of three vintage candlesticks. Yes, they are brass, which is definitely not my favorite metal finish, but I adore the shape and thought I could do something to freshen them up. A quick bit of research confirmed they are vintage Telaflora candlesticks. From the label on the underside, I'd guess maybe 1960s but I could be way off on that. I'll have to do some brainstorming to come up with a plan to update these--a new finish for sure but something that will highlight their striking shape.  

Before departing the housewares department to move onto the books, I selected one final item. I simply couldn't leave this little wooden bark-trimmed bowl behind. Not when I am still collecting props for a woodland fairy birthday party. Actually, this bowl would be quite versatile; I am sure that I could use it in the implementation of a number of different party themes. And if you are still shaking your head over the thought of someone actually paying money to bring this bowl into their home, be comforted by the fact that it was 65 cents. For that price, I'd be content to let my son use it to scoop up dirt in the backyard.

I also scooped up some more books for my kids, nothing terribly noteworthy except for one cute little vintage book that I might give to a friend. So to wrap this up, I am going to leave you with a thrift transformation that is still in progress. Remember my little stool?

Well, I cleaned it, popped out the top, removed the dated fabric, mixed up some homemade chalk paint and got to work giving it a makeover. I'm not quite finished, but this is what it looks like now.

Obviously, it needs its seat back, and I have purchased some fabric but I'm not quite sure I like how it looks with the frame. Not sure you can tell from this photograph, but the paint actually has grey tones, not ivory. So the fabric really needs to have a grey undertone, too, and I just didn't do a good job matching it up when I selected it. I think the piece could be very cute, and deserves a really fabulous fabric, so I think I need to make a return trip to the fabric store. I also want to finish waxing the piece. The wax made a huge difference, I was surprised. Anyway, I'll keep posting updates until it is finished--hopefully soon!

So that's it. Not sure I'll be able to make it out again before Christmas, but if I do, you can be sure I will share my finds with you. In the meantime, I will post pictures of my vintage tree once it is up. Good luck with your Christmas preparations, all!