Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Before & After: Painted Cookbook Stand

Remember this past weekend when I picked up this book stand at a rummage sale? This piece was so well made, and in such good condition, I considered leaving it as is. But I wanted to use it in my kitchen as a cookbook stand, and I feared that its sandy shade would blend into the background.

You see, my kitchen suffers from peach-itis. Peachy pink tile floors. Peachy pink tile backsplash. Beautiful granite counter tops...in chima pink. Since we moved in almost one year ago, I've been on a mission to tone down the peach and update the room, which otherwise is beautiful. I've switched out the cabinet hardware, exchanging streamlined oil rubbed bronze knobs for the oversize shiny brass ones that we inherited. We've also converted three of the can ceiling lights into vintage style pendants, and changed the wall color from a yellow sponge finish to a lovely neutral grey. All of these changes have helped dramatically, but I confess I still battle the counter top on a daily basis. I can live with the floors and even the backsplash (for awhile anyway), but the counter top always looks so dirty and cluttered to me. A fairly substantial hunk of light stained wood sitting on top of it would only make matters worse.

So I knew I had to paint the stand, but what color? I considered black, and that would have been a good choice too, but I settled on my favorite heirloom white, which matches my antique white cabinets. Two coats and some paste wax later, it looked pretty good. Especially with one of my mother's vintage cookbooks on it.

But it wasn't quite right. It looked too blah. I could have distressed it up a bit, giving it a little rustic character, but that wasn't the look I was going for here. It needed something to fancy it up. I was thinking a word. To make a ridiculously long story shorter, I settled on free-handing the word "EAT" across the stand. Of course, it's not perfect, and I probably should have tried to fashion a stencil first but my impatience always gets the best of me.

Anyway, I have to admit that I love it, flaws and all. What do you think? Did I make the most of my find or should I have left well enough alone?

Linking up this cute little project at Elizabeth & Co., one of my faves!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Vintage Christmas Haul

I couldn't even guess how many collections I have. Some of my passions strike out of nowhere, some come and go, and still others wither away completely before ever amounting to much. But some of my collections, like my beloved vintage Little People and my vast stash of vintage Christmas decorations, are unquestionably here to stay.

Unlike the decorations in the stores, you can hunt for vintage Christmas anytime of the year. Some of the bigger thrift stores do seem to hold a lot of seasonal decor back for the holiday shopping season, but there's always tag sales and rummage sales that offer a wide array of holiday merchandise, no matter what the calendar says. So I'm always on the lookout for things to add to my collection.

A few weeks back, I took a couple of hours and hit two church rummage sales. One was amazing! (The other not so much, but I did score an awesome Crewcuts winter coat for my son for about 10 cents, as well as a calico skirt that I am going to wear to host my daughter's pioneer party--as a costume, mind you, not as a fashion statement!) When the gates to the sale were opened, most people rushed either the clothing racks or the huge furniture barn, but I made a beeline to the porch where all the holiday goodies were arranged. I am so glad I chose to focus on that area first, because I found lots of wonderful little Christmas things.

First up, I found these wooden creche figures, and yes, I do know I am missing the most important person! But I am sure I can find or make a baby Jesus to go with these striking characters. My kids love these already, and have been playing with them in their doll house. Personally, I love the pretty, fragile creche figures, but I think its important to have ones around that the kids can handle and interact with and not worry about breaking anything.

Then I found these wooden Scandinavian inspired angel candleholders. I have always wanted to do a traditional Swedish Christmas as my mother's family was from Sweden as well as some of my husband's long-ago relatives. I've slowly been collecting decorations here and there, as well as recipes, so someday I can make this little Christmas wish come true. By the way, my beloved Christmas in Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren is a wonderful source for Swedish holiday ideas.

Next, I found a few vintage wooden ornaments. I especially like the Italian Pinocchio. The angel obviously needs a little TLC--she's about to lose her halo!

I absolutely adore these little Scandinavian girls. My little girls stole them from me as soon as they saw them, and I later found them hidden away in their rooms. I don't blame my girls--they are irresistible.

I also fell in love with these felt angel ornaments.They could work with the Scandinavian theme, too, I think.

In the book room of this same sale, I found this lovely vintage book:

The colors and illustrations are just stunning. This, too, could work with my Swedish theme. Perhaps 2013 will be the year of the Scandinavian Christmas, but you'll just have to stay tuned to find out!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Spring Rummage Sale Finds

Man, oh man, am I ever glad spring is here! Not only did my mood improve overnight once the first bulbs poked through the ground (I swear I have Seasonal Affective Disorder), but it is finally rummage sale season again. Actually, now that I think about it, maybe it is the lack of rummage sales that cause me to suffer from the blues and not the dreary New England weather...

This morning, although the urge to sleep in was strong, I forced myself out of bed and started out in the direction of a church rummage sale in a nearby town. I arrived a couple of minutes before the sale was scheduled to begin, and as is usually the case, I was greeted by a line of people waiting to enter. The sale was well organized, and had clearly been curated so there was no junk to paw through, only nicer things. Of course, the prices reflected that! There was a large section of furniture, and I saw right away that I had not brought nearly enough cash. I had to bypass that room entirely, which is a shame, because I saw a perfect little coffee table that would have completed my sitting room design. Lesson learned! Always take a check, just in case.

In the main room, though, I made up for it. First off, I found this well constructed book holder. I plan to turn it into a cookbook/iPad holder; the drawer will be handy for holding the miscellaneous recipe cards that are always floating around my kitchen.

The cookbook holder idea was inspired by this post over at Elizabeth & Co. that highlighted this breadboard tablet holder. I originally was hoping to find an old breadboard today, and I actually did find a brand new one, but it was too small and not quite the right shape. So when I spotted the book holder for a good price, I decided that although it wouldn't be the same look as the tablet holder, it would actually work better for my kitchen and my cooking habits (I use my iPad and cookbooks equally). I can't wait to dress it up with a couple of coats of paint and put it to work in my kitchen.

Then, I found this beautiful set of red vintage enameled trays. There are four, and the finish is chipping in a couple of corners on one, but otherwise they are lovely. I doubt I will use all four anyway, so I may re-donate the chipped one and keep the others.

I carefully scanned the housewares tables for any of my china or glass patterns, and found this Oxford stoneware pitcher.

The teapot in this photo belonged to my mother. I see this pattern fairly often at antique markets but have never bought another piece because the prices are usually too high to justify. This pitcher was marked only $3 so I snapped it up. It is in perfect condition and cleaned up beautifully.

I also found these two English transferware cups, which I picked up for my friend who collects Johnson Brothers. Although they were unmarked, I thought at first they might be Johnson Brothers. Sadly, a quick google search later, I don't think they actually are, but my friend still likes them, so into a care package they shall go.

There were some great finds in the sale's art section, but again, the prices for most of the items exceeded what I had brought along in cash so I was unable to battle it out for any of the goodies. I did find this frame, which admittedly is not vintage, but will look gorgeous with a family picture we had taken at a Gothic-inspired church a couple of years ago.

And then I found a number of items that I will be using at my daughter's upcoming Pioneer Party. Little baskets, leather pouches, and old-fashioned scoops will be put to use as props or given out as favors. I don't want to give away too many details before the party, but one of my favorite planned features is going to be a country general store, where guests can select and purchase (not for real money, of course!) their own party favors! I have had way too much fun collecting both the props to set the scene and the little trinkets for the children to buy.

And to wrap things up, I found several treasures in the toy section, too. This paper boat-making kit makes tiny boats that really float and was unopened.

And this set of vintage dominoes was only a dollar, so I figured it couldn't be complete, but when I got home and opened it up, every piece was accounted for. And they are very cool! My children can't wait to play with them.

Finally, I picked up a small shoebox filled with vintage around-the-world dolls. Some are ornaments, some are figurines, and some are just the right size for my kids to play with in their dollhouse.

All in all, a great sale on a beautiful spring day! In and out in under two hours, with plenty of time left to enjoy the rest of this gorgeous weekend with family and friends.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Favorite Children's Books to Thrift

After a brief hiatus to prepare for and celebrate Easter, I'm back! Today, I'm delighted to share with you a very special recent find. As I've stated many times before, I absolutely adore vintage children's literature. While my appreciation of newer titles is growing thanks to my young children, I rarely read new books that grab me as much as those that I read and loved as a child. Luckily, vintage children's books are easy to score at thrift stores, tag sales, and library book sales. In fact, in my opinion, they remain one of the biggest bargains you can find on the secondhand circuit.

Of course, in this day and age, you need not scour thrift store shelves for vintage books; you can always hit the online booksellers to find just about any out of print book you desire. The downside of this is that it can cost a pretty penny. And although I admit that on occasion I have purchased a special vintage book online, I prefer to add to my collection by hunting through shelves and boxes of books at thrift shops and library sales. I also like to poke around in used book stores and that is just how I found my latest treasure, when last week on a whim I stepped into a used bookshop with a friend.

The book is Twig, by Elizabeth Orton Jones and it is one of the most enchanting books I have ever read! I am sure that I checked it out from my local library over a dozen times when I was a young girl. I won't give away too much, but it is the tale of a lonely little girl who meets a tiny fairy in her backyard. The illustrations are just as magical as the text--just look at that face on the cover! The book was out of print for years, but I am happy to say that it has recently been reprinted as a paperback, so if you are not able to find it on the secondhand market, you can always order it here.

Now, I would never claim to be an expert on children's literature but I do think I have a few worthwhile suggestions for you if you want to start thrifting children's books for your own kids, or add to a collection that you already own. Following are some of my favorite children's books that, unlike the beloved Twig, I run across on a frequent basis at thrifts. Some of these titles are out of print and ridiculously expensive online, some you can often find in beautiful hard-cover editions that are truly worth collecting, and some are dime-a-dozen paperbacks, but all are wonderful additions to a family's home library.

All of a Kind Family series. I cannot begin to tell you how much this book and its sequels meant to me as a child! This series of five books I read and re-read constantly, and my almost 8-year old daughter is now doing the same. I am relishing the chance to enjoy them yet again and giggling with my little girl over the adventures of Ella, Henny, Sarah, Charlotte, and Gertie.

Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
I found this unusual large print, library edition at a thrift store, but the softcover edition is very common at thrifts and book sales. This is a wonderful classic historic tale that both boys and girls will enjoy.

Eight Cousins (and really anything by Louisa May Alcott)
As my daughter was named after the main character in this book, I collect this title, and have found some truly lovely editions at book sales and thrift stores. As much as I enjoyed Little Women, I loved this book and its sequel Rose in Bloom even more.

Stuart Little, The Trumpet of the Swan, and Charlotte's Web by E.B. White (search for hardback editions, they are not that rare and it's so much nicer to have these classics in hardcovers!)

The Katie John series by Mary Calhoun. I loved these books as a child, and while they were kind of dated when I read them in the late 1970s, they are still delightful stories with timeless themes that young girls will appreciate.

The Children of Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren, the same author of the Pippi Longstocking series. These are simply delightful stories of children growing up in the Swedish countryside, and I can almost guarantee that both young and old will love them! There are a few other books about Noisy Village that are equally delightful, but not as common. Another absolute favorite of mine by the same author is Lotta on Troublemaker Street.

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink. I think every thrift store in America has at least one copy of this book on its shelves! It always makes me sad, wondering if the person who donated it appreciated what a wonderful book it is. It is similar to the Little House books in that it is based on the life and memories of a real pioneer girl (the author's grandmother). Also similar to the Little House books, the main character is a spunky young girl who will win your heart.

As I sift through the huge pile of my favorites sitting on my desk, I can see I will need to do a follow-up post on this topic. Let me know if you find these suggestions helpful, or if there is a particular genre that you are most interested in.

Happy Reading!