Sunday, March 24, 2013

Before and After: Vintage Mail Cubby

I've had some requests for more DIY's, which I take as a great compliment. Unfortunately, with three children at home and a life that feels out of control far too often, I don't have as much time as I'd like to devote to my stack of projects. But in my spare time, I'm chipping away at my to-do list and I'm happy to say that I completed another small project this weekend.

A few weeks ago, I picked up this vintage mail cubby. I actually wasn't sure what it was when I bought it but thought I could figure out some way to bring it back to a useful life. As you can readily see, it was dirty and missing what I have come to learn was a drawer.

After some thought, I decided that I would use it to display some old family photographs. I have a stash of vintage black and white portraits that I've always wanted to have out, I just hate that right now I keep them tucked away out of sight. Family history should not be kept on a shelf, too precious to interact with on an everyday basis. (Of course, since my children are still young, I will be making copies of all of these prints before leaving them out. No need to tempt fate!)

Transforming this box was really easy. I mixed up some homemade chalk paint using a 2 ounce sample of Benjamin Moore's Light Blue paint and some calcium carbonate (found the recipe here), and carefully applied two coats. Then a light distressing just around the corners and edges of the piece, a coating of Minwax Paste Finishing Wax in Natural and I was all done.

The great thing is I can change out the photographs anytime I want, or add other little family artifacts. I could also drop in some of my postcard collection, or use it to store my vintage greeting card collection. My daughter wants to use it for her stationery collection, and someday I may give it to her. I do love pieces that are versatile!

I'm linking up with Elizabeth & Co. and Saturday Nite Special. SO much inspiration out there!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Recent Thrifty Finds

Another snowy day here! This never-ending winter weather is really starting to intrude upon my thrifting habits. When I have only a couple of precious mornings each month to hit the aisles, bad weather or other unexpected occurrences rudely interfere with my plans. But tomorrow is the first day of spring and I do hope that means I won't be seeing any more snowflakes for a good eight months or so!

In anticipation of the upcoming change of season, I am embarking on a massive spring cleaning. Luckily, we've only lived here for a few months so there is no need for a great purge yet, but as the children keep outgrowing toys and clothing, I have found a fair amount of things to stuff in bags for the Goodwill. Gotta keep the thrift pipeline flowing! I'm also organizing the odds and ends of things that never seemed to find a home when we moved in, and trying to be ruthless in deciding if I really need it if I am having a tough time finding a spot for it. I'm also making sure that I have a spot or purpose for each new thrift store treasure that I am tempted to bring home. Here are a few recent things that have made the cut:

First, here's this oil on paper Rothenburg scene by Paul Sallmann. It is signed and numbered by the artist. It was actually one of a pair, but the other was not numbered (and I didn't like it as much), so I only purchased this one. I have attempted to research this piece but have not turned up much information yet. In the meantime, it looks lovely in my sitting room/library. I especially love the pale turquoise bordered matte.

I also recently picked up a box of four Tasha Tudor Fairy Tale puzzles, dating to 1963. The box was taped up so I couldn't see the condition before I bought the set, but someone had helpfully written "complete" on the front of it. In black Sharpie, of course. Lovely. But I couldn't resist them because I adore Tasha Tudor. We have many of her beautiful children's books, and they are among our favorites. So of course I bit.

And when I got home and opened the box, the fairy tale set was indeed complete, but tucked inside were a couple of extra treasures--two vintage Playskool puzzles.

Cute finds, right?

Another cute find was this small vintage Minnie Mouse figurine. Sometimes sentimentality gets the best of me, and this was one of those times. I do not collect Disney, and normally would not even notice this type of figurine. But this one happens to be very similar in age and design to one that my sister had as a child. I still have the matching Mickey and I just felt they should be reunited. Of course, if in my latest spring purging I decide that Mickey can do just fine without her, a quick check on ebay confirmed that she does have a modest resale value, definitely several times what I paid for her.

And while I say that I do not collect figurines, another exception to this rule is vintage Christmas figurines. A friend gave these adorable petite candle holders to me and I just love them. Of course, now I am on the hunt for "N" and "L", so if you run into them in your thrifting adventures, let them know I am looking for them.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Generosity of Thrifters

Some people might think that thrifters are a bunch of tightwads. I mean, after all, aren't we trolling the dingy aisles of junk stores desperately searching for bargains? Well, yes and most definitely no. Yes, in that I think we thrifters are all lured by the promise of finding a treasure or two, and sometimes the motivation is to make or save a buck. But a big, giant resounding "no" to being cheap and stingy! The thrifters I know and love are among some of the most generous people I know!

If you have been following along, then you know of some recent instances when I have been the recipient of a fellow thrifter's generosity. If not, you can read this and this, for starters. Nothing warms your heart more than opening up a little care package from a friend, especially a friend who just gets you and your vintage way of life. In addition to the occasional package in the mail, I frequently get texts from friends when they are out and about on their vintage hunts, asking me if I am interested in a particular item that they have seen on the shelf. If I say yes, they often snap it up and just give it to me--it's rare that money exchanges hands. This works both ways, of course. I absolutely love looking out for things that my friends collect; in fact, I think I actually get more of a high from finding them things than I do when I find goodies for myself!

And while giving and receiving thrifted loot is truly wonderful, it is even more fun to hit the thrift scene together with a buddy. It becomes a joint mission--we each know what the other is looking for and we keep our eyes open for those things as well as the things on our own thrift wish list. It makes thrifting so much more interesting and fun--you have the joy of finding things for yourself and also the great delight of helping your friend find something that makes them smile, too. But what happens when you and your thrifting buddy have your eye on the same thing?! Things could get interesting...but in my experience, it goes something like this:

"You take it."
"No, you take it."
"No, really, I don't need it. I want you to have it."
"Naw, I couldn't. You saw it first, you take it."

And this continues, all Chip and Dale-like, until someone finally caves and puts the darn thing in their basket.

Since starting this blog, I have learned that the same generosity of spirit exists in cyberspace. For example, one of my favorite thrifting bloggers, Dime Store Thrift, is offering a giveaway this month in honor of her birthday. She is offering anything in her lovely etsy shop OR, and this is the best part, she will thrift for you! That is right, she will find you what your vintage-loving little heart desires at one of her local thrift haunts and send it to your doorstep. Of course, I entered the giveaway, and you should, too! While you are there, be sure to peruse her past posts, as she is entertaining and finds some great things.

On the same subject of blogger generosity, I also wanted to mention that I am honored to be one of the featured links at Elizabeth & Co's link party this week! Wow, my first mention on one of my favorite blogs! I was wondering why my blog was getting more traffic today, even without a new post! Turns out, I have the generosity of Elizabeth & Co. to thank for that! Please check it out, even if you have already seen my footstool re-do; there's lots of cool things featured along with it.

Finally, while I'm rambling on about generosity, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that I also appreciate--really, more than I can possibly say!-- the generous comments, support, and encouragement that so many of my friends and readers have given me as I started this blog. In particular, I must thank my friend Mom Hearts Pinot, who has given me lots of blogging encouragement on top of being an awesome friend and writer! Please check her out too, at the blog of the same name.

Now go out into the world and be generous with your time, talents, and thrifting!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Another Way to Wear Vintage Brooches

Perhaps you are fortunate and have more vintage jewelry than you could ever wear...or maybe you have pieces that are sentimental but just not what you want to wear pinned to your sweater. Why not try pinning them to your handbag instead?

My friend Beth is an accomplished crafter and she whipped up this felted wool bag not long ago. To add a little something extra to it, she fastened two pins to the outside of the bag. Don't you love this?

I have a number of vintage pins that I wouldn't necessarily wear, but hate to just leave in my jewelry box. This is a great solution! And of course, since you just pin them on, you can unpin them just as easily and exchange them out to create different looks. I love how the silver tones of the jewelry complements the grey tones of Beth's bag, but you could also add pins with colored gemstones or painted enamels for a more colorful take. You certainly don't need to have a felted bag to try this trick--I think anything from a cotton tote bag to a crocheted writstlet would be fair game.

I'm definitely going to go through my jewelry box and look at my brooches in a whole new light. I imagine you could easily use large clip-on earrings or dress clips in much the same way, although you would probably want to sew those on with a few quick stitches. I think this is just what my tired winter wardrobe needed!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Before and After: Footstool

One of my goals for 2013 is to tackle my inventory of little DIY projects that has been building up over the last, oh, eight years or so. We're only a little over nine weeks into the new year and I'm proud to report that I've managed to make some meaningful progress towards this goal, especially in the last few weeks.

Last fall, I found this cute but tired little footstool in a church thrift shop.

I loved the lines but not so much the seat cover, so I quickly stripped off the old fabric and painted the frame with homemade light grey chalk paint. A very light sanding helped to highlight the lines of the carving.

I purchased a turquoise blue trellis print to recover the seat, but sadly it was all wrong together. So the piece sat for a few months, while I waited for further inspiration and the time to hunt down the right fabric.

Serendipitously, a friend showed me her latest project (which I will show you at a later date, it is very pretty and has a vintage flair!), and I fell in love with the fabric that she had used. I boldly inquired if she had any leftover yardage, but alas, she thought she had given it away. A couple of days later, though, I received a message from my friend; she had uncovered the remnant after all and asked if I still wanted it. Of course I did, and a couple of days after that, it arrived in the mail.

This morning, I took advantage of a few quiet moments while the kids were all in school and I completed my footstool.

I absolutely love it! I can't wait to create a cozy reading nook in my bedroom, accented by this perfect little piece. In fact, this little stool may set the tone for the whole room (which has yet to be decorated at all since we only moved in a few months ago). I think I have enough fabric leftover to cover a very small pillow--or does anyone have any better ideas on what to do with the remaining print? I'd love to hear alternative suggestions!

Oh, and I'm trying something new and linking this up to the Be Inspired Features and Link party at:
Elizabeth & Co. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Vintage Cookbooks

I love to bake, and since I love vintage, well, it is just a given that I love vintage cookbooks. I know that a lot of other people do, too. Years ago, I remember coming across a few blogs where the authors featured recipes that they had whipped up from vintage cookbooks and they were hilarious! Frankfurters galore! I tend to stick to the more classic recipes myself.

Sometimes using old cookbooks can be a little confusing, as terminology changes over time and ingredient availability varies as things fall out of favor.  But there are plenty of recipes out there that work just fine. For my oldest daughter's last birthday, I made a vintage cake recipe from one of my old cookbooks. The cake was so uniquely rich and delicious that my younger daughter requested it for her birthday. Equally delightful. Unfortunately, now I can't remember which cookbook it came from so I cannot repeat the success anytime soon!

I love this 1930 cookbook from my collection that originally belonged to my grandmother and then my mother.

I have never attempted anything out of it, but it is chock full of delicious sounding things like Tea Cakes, Soft Molasses Gingerbread, French Ice-Cream and Sweet-Milk Doughnuts. It also has tucked into its yellowed pages two little treasures, an untitled recipe for what appears to be a cherry pie filling written in a very young version of my mother's perfect handwriting and this romantic note from my father to my mother:

It reads: Welcome Home, We all miss you esp. me the coffee pot. This is exactly what my coffee pot says whenever my husband is out of town. For someone who loves to cook and is fairly decent at it, I can't make a good pot of coffee to save the world!

For Christmas, my in-laws gave me the book Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson. I want to make every recipe in it, but so far I've only tried the "Pink Cake." It was absolutely amazing, even though I couldn't bring myself to use the full-fat sour cream that the recipe called for, not when I'd already added six eggs and a half cup of oil. Still, it was indescribably light and delightfully chocolatey, a perfect chocolate cake. Thankfully, we are now into my family's birthday season, so I have plenty of reasons to be baking decadent layer cakes for the next six months. And even more thankfully, our birthday season corresponds with nicer weather, so we can burn off all those celebratory calories with family walks around the neighborhood.

As for decorating cakes, that is a skill I have yet to master. I finally have embraced the "crumb coat" method and I must admit that while it does take longer to do an additional layer of icing, the results speak for themselves. No longer do I have to cover up all my mistakes and break-through crumbs with lots and lots of sprinkles while publicly blaming the kids for the overzealous decoration. Now, my cakes have nice, smooth icing and noticeably fewer sprinkles. I'm still working on decorative ribbons, flowers and bows, though. Luckily for me, I've picked up a number of vintage cake decorating tool kits over the years so I have just the right equipment with which to practice!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

More Vintage Children's Book Finds

I can never resist picking up cute old children's books when I am out looking for vintage treasures. Here are some of my recent finds:

I am learning a lot about kids' books these days because I am taking a class about the process of writing, illustrating, and publishing children's literature. I am even working on a book of my own in partnership with a small historical society where I used to work. Not sure if that project will ever come to a fruitful end, but regardless, I am finding it fascinating to learn about the current trends in children's literature and all the detailed work and thought that goes into each page. In my class, we mostly study current children's books, because naturally most of us are interested in writing for today's market, but I can't help but apply my newly critical eye to my vintage book collection. I see so many differences! For starters, books of the past had far more text on each page and didn't seem to be as formulaic as today's volumes. If you have both vintage and modern kids' books lying around, open them up and compare them just for fun. I guarantee you will be surprised to see the differences. Personally, I favor the vintage books but have a growing appreciation for many of the new titles. Which do you prefer--old or new, or a mix?

Friday, March 1, 2013

Vintage Jewelry and a LBD

Like most ladies I know, I love a good LBD. They are always appropriate, flattering and classic. Of course, they can also be a little too expected and a tad unexciting. This weekend, I am attending a semi-formal gala with an Art Deco theme. As a member of the hosting committee, I will be "on duty" so I don't want to wear anything too precious or cumbersome, but I do want to look nice. A Little Black Dress fits the bill perfectly.

I absolutely adore the Art Deco period--the music, the fashions, the architecture, and of course the jewelry! Unfortunately, I don't have any Art Deco pieces in my collection. Yet. But I did want to try to dress up my simple Theory cap-sleeved dress with something vintage. Now, I am not sure about you, but I tend to lean towards silver tones in the great silver vs. gold debate. So my first thought was to go with some of my silver pieces. I have a long silvery chain entwined with pearls that is a bit reminiscent of the flapper era. But I wear that piece a lot and it would be nice to take this opportunity to wear something a little different. So instead, I plan on wearing a different long pearl strand--this one has an aged golden chain and vintage faux pearls. I found it in one of my favorite thrift shops a couple of years ago. I am going to pair it with a beautiful vintage flower brooch encrusted with faux diamonds. But instead of wearing the brooch on my dress, I am fashioning a ribbon sash from my stash of vintage ribbons and will afix the brooch to the ribbon.

Here is a close-up of the brooch:

Completing the outfit will be my classic diamond studs and thoroughly modern open toe gold sandals with lots of bling. I'm hoping the overall look will be pretty yet comfortable, nothing too flashy, but hopefully not boring, either. How have you used vintage jewelry in your modern-day wardrobe?