yes, I also brake for yard sales…and barn sales…and so on

chair

Chair $40 at Eclectic Market in Malvern, floral needlepoint pillow $8 at St. David’s Church Fair a few years ago, and chicken pillow $4 at St. Paul’s in Exton during AngelFest

Truly, you can hire that interior designer if you want to  but you don’t have to.  You don’t have to be design challenged and you can find the time.  I get inspiration from all over. People like Lara Spencer and Cari Cucksy inspire me.  Not Martha Stewart any longer. Besides her issue with bloggers she is way too comfy with pastel paints and washes and she is enough to make you dream in crème de menthe which is too close to Kmart green and similarly pastel nightmares, but I digress.

Lara Spencer used to be a host on Antiques Roadshow.  A lot of people know her from being an anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America, and from Flea Market Flip. Now she has a book I Brake For Yard Sales and a series by the same name that made what appears to be a limited debut on HGTV.  I say limited because HGTV is a little hard to figure these days.  They replay a lot of home crashing series but no real gardening shows any longer and don’t have a lot of air time (in my opinion) on some of these fun shows like I Brake For Yard Sales or Cash & Cari.

Chair one of a pair ($18 for both) from  Smithfield Barn, Downingtown. Sampler pillow embroidered by me and other pillow a gift

Chair one of a pair $18 for both Smithfield Barn. Sampler pillow embroidered by me and other pillow a gift

Why I love watching ladies like Lara Spencer and Cari Cuksey is because they show you it is not a beige, beige world and not everything has to be all matchy-matchy. They give you great re-purposing ideas too.

I have never needed to hire an interior designer or decorator. And I know a few who are amazing.  But in this economy, why not train your own eye and save some money?  At least do some of the leg work if not the whole thing?

I did our new house by myself with my sweet man (and a terrific carpenter who built us amazing bookcases and storage benches).  Fortunately our tastes are compatible.  Or should I say he is a man who will actually communicate about house stuff?

unknown watercolor - approximately $20 from Smithfield Barn in Downingtown.

unknown watercolor – approximately $20 from Smithfield Barn in Downingtown.

I guess I am kind of sort of quasi-traditional with a dash of quirky .  I like vintage and I like the lines of a lot of older furniture.  I like a more country or should I say less formal kind of look as in what some would call “farmhouse chic”, but if you are expecting mad for plaid with ruffles, gag me with gingham, so not my style. Yet I am not so casual as in Cindy Crawford icky denim love seats or lots of plastic things. Comfortable and pretty works but not a frilly gilded lily. And also a component of my home to be considered are things from my childhood home I liked and wanted to emulate.

And interestingly enough, my sweet man and I both had mothers who loved to check out estate sales, so you could say we sort of inherited this treasure-seeking meets bargain hunting fun.

I do think my style is uniquely my own and can’t be pigeonholed as one particular category because to me what I have done is a little bit of this a little bit of that.  I have put what I love into my home and it is a house where every room is used.  No, the living room is not for teenagers to play video games in, but neither is it some shrine to formal living and roped off with a velvet rope except for special occasions and sherry by the fire.

I like pops of color and am not afraid of color.  I don’t like wallpaper.  I can admire it in other people’s houses in small doses, but would rather look at a colorfully painted wall than wallpaper. I remember once being in a house in Massachusetts near where the Brimfield Antiques show is held.  You would have thought they house would have been New England fabulous, right? It was instead a  study of  contradicting and competing wallpaper.  Every room was papered and even the halls. And nothing complimented or flowed.  The house literally gave me a pattern headache. And the owner was so house proud too.  But they loved their house, so that was what mattered.

I have a glass bowl my sister gave me one year for Christmas about ten years ago.  It was inadvertently color inspiration for a lot of my current living room.  The bowl is a beautiful almost cranberry crossed with raspberry kind of color.  With it in mind I found a traditional Chippendale hump back sofa of similarly colored damask circa late 1950s or early 1960s  at Reseller’s in Frazer for $125.  Yes, really.  It was a lucky find that had sat on the sales floor until it was reduced, reduced, reduced.  It was in pristine condition and the only thing it needed was the legs dusted.

At the Eclectic Market on King Street in Malvern one Saturday last fall I found a vintage wing chair in a pattern that was palatable, and compatible to my sofa.  Yet it isn’t nauseating matching like furniture garanimals. And this sturdy chair was…wait for it…forty dollars. Yes $40.00.

It is that easy.  A little time and effort and it actually comes together. Not all on one day, but it does come together.

You all know by now that I love barn picking.  And yes, the Smithfield Barn in Downingtown is that awesome.  Kristin has a fabulous eye and thanks to her I can actually identify some country antiques now that might impress an actual farmer or if not that an antiques dealer or two.

I also will check out yard sales and estate sales and church sales and country auctions and resale shops and flea markets.

I love Frazer Antiques and the dealers who work there are so incredibly nice and patient with my 10,000 questions.  They are helpful too.

Resellers Consignment in Frazer is also a favorite haunt and they get fabulous stuff all the time – even vintage table linens, crystal, lighting fixtures, garden ornaments,  artwork and china.  Not just furniture.  But the trick to them is if you like it, buy it because much like the Smithfield Barn, stock move quickly because the pricing is reasonable.

And I can’t forget Garage Sale Chic Chester County.  Now there is a woman with a terrific eye! And without her I would not have my pot rack for $60 in my kitchen and the only floor lamp I have ever liked in my life.

I bought the  furniture pieces mentioned because among other things they are sturdy, classic pieces I can reupholster  some day and still love them.  And that is part of developing your eye: imagine what something might look like stained differently, or painted, or reupholstered.

I love going to places like Clover Market  (Ardmore, Chestnut Hill, and Philadelphia in the winter at the Armory) because I might spy something fun and quirky.  The true kings and queens of repurposing are vendors there  like Nanny Goat Antiques, Chairloom, and Brandywine View Antiques (who should also be visited and often in Chadds Ford), so I also always leave with great ideas.

I go to high-end antiques and craft shows to educate my eye as much as anything else.  I don’t really buy at those shows, I am not in the demographic they shoot for – I am just average. But you need to educate your eye, because that is how you learn.  And trust me, I have seen and be able to recognize some pretty amazing things in thrift shops and picking barns as a result.

I eBay too for small stuff like vintage table linens and locating the vintage plates and even cookware I like to use. I also will swap things with friends and so on.  I am an insatiable bargain hunter with a knack for barter (I am told another word for it is “hondle”.) It’s fun.

At the end of the day, I want my home to reflect me, not someone else who doesn’t live there.  I want it to be homey and personal. And what I hang on my walls isn’t running away from the Philadelphia Museum of Art or something. I prefer things I see by more local artists and unknowns altogether. One of my most favorite things is a watercolor in a simple wood frame I bought for $20 at the Smithfield Barn.  It’s no Wyeth and never will be, but it makes me happy.  I buy what I like.  It doesn’t have to impress anyone, I just have to like it.

little table from Berwyn estate sale a few years ago - about $15. Candlestick and dish $5 from Harriton Fair at Historic Harriton House ten years ago. Print on the table of Chester County Farmhouse a gift

little table from Berwyn estate sale a few years ago – about $15. Candlestick and dish $5 from Harriton Fair at Historic Harriton House ten years ago. Print on the table of Chester County Farmhouse a gift

Another example is the little painting my sweet man found for me recently. Nothing fancy, but some unknown artist did a print of a farmhouse I love to photograph and have photographed in West Nantmeal Township. To me I would rather see things like that on someone’s walls than framed posters of art reproduction. Do you have a First Friday celebration in your community or near by? You might pick up a cool piece of art at a First Friday. Or check out local art shows.  The art show prices are generally high, but if you like the artist, take down their information and contact them after the show. (For fun and funky art and high end crafts try Past*Present*Future in Ardmore )

Home is where your heart is, so to me that makes decorating where you hang your proverbial hat easy.  Assemble your home to make yourself happy.  I like looking at Architectural Digest, but I don’t want to live in Architectural Digest. I would rather live in something most probably found in Country Living Magazine, truthfully.

My photo of the same farmhouse in the print above!

My photo of the same farmhouse in the print above!

I do Pinterest.  It to me is like a giant cork-board.  I will pin rooms that inspire me, things I might want to try, recipes, and so on. I will also ask my friends how and what they did if I like what I see.  I am not dumb, I will not do work a professional should do so you won’t see me putting up dry wall and slathering mud on, but I can do basic painting if I have to and goofy things like sponge painting stair risers.

I do have a pretty good eye for color and special relationships and I can hawk a bargain. And most of all I still like looking even when there is nothing I need to buy.  Window shopping is fun and inspirational.

So while you might find some in the Exton or King of Prussia Malls, chances are you will find me in a consignment shop , yard sale, or barn hunting for treasures.

My late father always said if you can read, you can learn to cook and I think a similar vein can be applied to decorating your home. And taste evolves, so what you like today could be completely different from ten years ago and twenty years in the future might be different again.

All I am saying is start small and just try.  Then if you really don’t have a Designing Women gene, find someone to help you.  But they should understand that you are the boss and listen and have a compatible personality.

I don’t know if I am doing it right or wrong. I just know what I like (and I know my limits.)  It has been a process of trial and error over time. Kind of like when I experimented  years and years ago with purple eye shadow. Some ideas work better than others.  After all if you hate the color the walls are painted, you can always paint them a different color.

And oh by the way, this coming weekend is an OPEN barn weekend at Smithfield Barn.

the stolen berks county horse “caz” is still missing!

20131119-104854.jpg

Last week I told you about Caz the beautiful horse that was stolen for spite in Berks County.

Fox 29 Philadelphia featured a story on him the other day –

Hamburg Police Need Help Finding Stolen Horse Posted: Nov 15, 2013 11:40 AM EST Updated: Nov 15, 2013 11:47 AM EST

The photos in this post are of Caz. Please, if you are a horse person and even think you have seen him, please contact police. Caz’s owner is heartbroken.

Wouldn’t you be?

Please keep your eyes open and help Caz come home for the holidays.

20131119-104911.jpg

yes really…fruitcake

20131118-155135.jpg

Anyone who mocks fruitcake has only had the kind that comes out of the catalog and can be put in a time capsule and be consumed 50 years in the future. That is the kind of fruitcake that is just basically like a sweet, sticky block of concrete.

I make white fruitcake. I saw somewhere once and then couldn’t find it again, where it was referred to as “grooms cake”. It’s made with good brandy or whiskey and it actually tastes good.

If you’re going to make any fruitcake, pick a day where you’re not going anywhere. Why? Simple, baking fruitcake is a multi hour, multiple bowl, slightly kitchen destroying process. I remember my mother baking late into the evenings during the holiday season to get her fruitcakes made. She made dark fruitcake.

I like to make my fruitcake ahead of time because the last step before putting it away in the refrigerator for Christmas is wrapping the fruitcake first in cheesecloth soaked in brandy.

The basis for my fruitcake recipe can be found in a 1959 edition of the Better Homes & Gardens Holiday Cookbook. But I have adjusted the recipe over the years and tweaked it a little.

Before I get into it, I order my candied fruit this year from a company called nuts.com. Used to buy only from Edwards Freeman in Conshohocken, but the quality and prices even with shipping are better at nuts.com. You can buy the candied fruit mixture, or individual candied fruits in the supermarket, but they are much more expensive.

Okay ready or not here’s the recipe:

4 cups of mixed diced candied fruits and peels for fruitcake (whole red cherries, diced orange peel, diced citron, diced lemon peel, chopped pineapple)

1/2 cup of chopped dates
3/4 cup chopped dried figs
1 1/3 cup white raisins
2 cups flake coconut

1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chopped pecans
****
2 cups sifted white all purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Small dash of green cardamom, mace, powdered ginger, cinnamon
****
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons brandy
1/2 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
5 eggs

Whole red candied cherries and pecan halves for decorating before placing in oven.

In a bowl mix fruits and peels, dates, figs, raisins, and coconut. Add pecans and walnuts.

In another bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and almond flour.

Take exactly 1/2 cup of the dry flour mixture and sprinkle over the candied fruit and nuts mixture and stir well.

Get a third bowl, and cream the butter and sugar together until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, and then add the 2 tablespoons of brandy.

Add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter and sugar mixture, and then mix in the pineapple juice. Blend on low until everything is blended well into a batter.

Combine the batter and the dried fruits and nuts dusted in the flour mixture together and stir gently until well blended. Personally, I do this in yet another large mixing bowl. Actually I do this in my largest mixing bowl.

I take two 8 1/2 inch x 4 1/2 inch x 2 1/2 inch loaf pans and grease them with unsalted butter. I then line pans on all sides with parchment paper, allowing 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch to stick up above the top of the pan.

I pour the fruit cake batter with all ingredients in it equally between the two pans.

On the top of the batter in each pan arrange to your specifications enough whole candied cherries and pecans to make an attractive pattern on top. I do mine in rows so they almost look like popcorn and cranberry garland for lack of a better description.

Turn the oven onto 275°F. This is not a recipe where you preheat the oven basically the entire time you’re mixing the batter. I only turn the oven on about five minutes before the fruitcakes go into it to bake.

Take a rectangular baking pan and fill it with 2 to 3 cups of hot water. Place that on the bottom shelf of the oven. This causes the cake to have better volume, better texture, and a shiny glaze.

Place your fruitcakes in the oven on the shelf above the pan with hot water. Please note you’re not placing the baking pans in the pan with hot water. That is a different process.

Bake fruitcakes in the 275° oven for 2 1/2 hours or until done. Please note dark fruitcake takes longer to bake, more like 3 to 3 1/2 hours

When the fruitcakes come out of the oven cool them for a while in their pans on racks on your countertop. Lift them gently out of the pans with the paper – the parchment paper makes handy handles.

Wrap the slightly warm fruitcakes in cheesecloth soaked in brandy. Then tightly wrap in plastic wrap. Don’t be afraid to use a couple layers. Finally wrap each fruitcake in heavy duty aluminum foil. You can put these in the refrigerator and forget about them until Christmas. I generally do my fruitcakes about now, and some years I open them up halfway through and add more brandy on top to soak in and re-wrap, other years I just leave it alone.

When you serve this, serve it on a pretty cake plate in slices.

Try white fruitcake, you won’t be disappointed.

My fruitcakes are in the oven, and now I’m going to check on them to see how they’re doing. I use my oven light, because if I open the oven I lose heat

20131118-155159.jpg

what is the deal with this property in east whiteland?

20131118-113342.jpg

When I first moved to Chester County and first drove up or down Route 352 (known as Sproul Road here) in East Whiteland I used to wonder about some of the properties that are a bit run down between the intersection of King Road and Frazer Road.

But there was this one place was the one that looked well on it’s way to vacant for lack of a better description.

When you turn on Sproul Road/352 at Route 30 (at the light where “Linden Hall” rots), first you go over the railroad bridge and then you drive under the underpass. On the other side of the underpass just past the turn off for Frazer Road on the right is this weird mostly flat fronted structure with greenish colored siding in places sitting almost on the road. To me it looks like a multi-dwelling unit structure. Maybe it was a boarding house in a former life? (I have no idea how old the building is.)

When I first moved out here I used to see the occasional truck parked in the back in the lot on the left side. Yet when I occasionally went by at night I never saw a light. I have not seen evidence of anyone actually living there in a year. It just looks empty and as if it is falling into even more of a state of disrepair.

This is not a place where you can just stop and take photos from the street, so the one posted was snapped as a passenger in a car in early 2013. A couple of weeks ago I noticed the bottom most door was ajar. I have driven past a few more times since then, the most recently being this past Saturday afternoon. The same door was just sagging open…still. And no obvious signs of life – no cars and so on.

So does anyone live in this place or is it empty and abandoned ? Drive by yourselves and look (carefully). It is a VERY busy road. A highway in PennDOT land as a matter of fact.

It is a fair question to ask if this is empty and/or abandoned because there are a lot of structures like this dotting Chester County, and even in East Whiteland. And they aren’t just farmhouses or barns. They are commercial and residential structures.

Another thing that made me ask was the article that appeared in mid-October on Malvern Patch about that former Malvern Meeting House Restaurant and Bar on Lancaster Avenue. That place is one of the truly abandoned places in East Whiteland and the article reported homeless people living in the building.

So anyway, if anyone knows anything about this property on Sproul Road or 352 in Malvern / Frazer East Whiteland, please post.

exploring and antiquing

20131116-192514.jpg

Today my friend Karen came over and we went exploring. I had wanted to take her to the Smithfield Barn but they weren’t open. So we headed to Spring City and Kimberton instead.

First stop was Samuel G. Hultz Antiques at 820 Pughtown Road in Spring City. They are the big old place on the corner of Route 100 and Pughtown Road. Their phone number is 610-469-9491 and they are open most Saturdays and Sundays noon to 4 p.m.

Like most of the old school country dealers I have come across since moving here, they were friendly and hospitable people. And their pricing was reasonable and fair.

Like my friend Dave told me it would be, their barn was loaded with kind of things I love to go through. They have some beautiful vintage and antique quilts, different odd lots of depression glass and china and furniture and all sorts of things. Old tools, linens, vintage kitchen items, candles, and Christmas ornaments too. Blue glass, milk glass, clear, ruby red, you name it.

Flow through blue plates and teapots and fabulous antique wash stands and an amazing black walnut farm table I wish I had the room for.

They had some neat old advertising pieces, and sort of a bargain basement downstairs where I found the most awesome hand quilted pillows to use on my bed as throw pillows as well as vintage heavy duty aluminum loaf pans to bake with. I also found the cutest handcarved folk art Santa to decorate with for Christmas.

And I also noted that this was a place where I could get antique lamp parts! As in oil lamp parts. Shades, globes, all sorts of things and complete lamps. I have a lot of converted oil lamps which are now electric as well as others which can burn lamp oil that I love the look of, and I never know where I can get parts. I am so happy to have discovered that I can get them here! You see, the only other place I knew to get so many parts before this was in Adamstown, PA.

Where the Hultz Barn is located is so beautiful and picturesque. We took a right out of their driveway, drove past the Agway and headed down Pughtown Road into Kimberton village. This weekend is also the Kimberton Antiques Show at the firehouse/fairgrounds. (The show runs tomorrow, Sunday, November 17 as well from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and admission is $5.00. Don’t eat lunch at the antique show, go right up the road to the Station Bistro. It’s a fabulous little BYOB with a roaring fire in the fireplace and amazing food.)

The Kimberton Antiques Show is still one of my most favorite things to go to in the fall. I have been going for years. It is a show where I find a lot of my favorite antiques and collectible dealers who only do shows.

I bought some more vintage Christmas ornaments from a pair of cute little old ladies who were tough as nails and sharks in cardigans in the bargaining department! Sadly that was pretty much all I purchased, because the show prices this year were higher than ever.

Don’t misunderstand me, I love that show and have been going for years. But the problem is the prices of gotten high enough now that I just don’t really buy there anymore. I mainly look. This used to be a show you could actually buy at . But my late father always said that antique shows existed to educate your eye more than buy.

There was a dealer who had very reasonably priced vintage garden ornaments that I forgot to go back to, and that’s a real shame. His stuff was cool.

The Kimberton show is a great place to wander around for a few hours. It is two buildings on the firehouse/fairgrounds property loaded with dealers of antiques, vintage items, and collectibles. Some of the dealers had some truly amazing vintage and antique Christmas ornaments. I also love tole trays, and there were a lot of dealers with some gorgeous trays.

The lunch didn’t look outstanding one way or the other, so we opted to get lunch after we left the Kimberton Antiques Show. Boy am I glad we did!

We wandered into the center of the village of Kimberton and decided to try the Station Bistro. It is a cute little BYOB that is much larger inside than it looks on the outside.

You walk into Station Bistro and you’re greeted by a large country fireplace with two comfortable when chairs on either side. The dining room is not huge, but the tables are spaced nicely apart and the place is clean and bright and cheerful. As opposed to some places there is a feeling of space. Artwork of local artists adorn the walls. I saw a watercolor landscape of Chester County that I thought was one of the most beautiful I had ever seen.

The prices were moderate, the service exceptional, and the food delicious. Their address is 1300 Hares Hill Rd. Their phone number is 610.933.1147 and they do breakfast Saturday and Sunday too. The rest of the time I think they’re open Monday through Saturday for BYOB bistro dining between 11 AM and 9 PM.

Station Bistro was a completely serendipitous find and I look forward to going back.

Was such a beautiful day to go antiquing through Chester County. We had a great time. Of course it is one of those days I could’ve kicked myself for leaving my camera at home, because the scenery was spectacular.

We also did learn of a business closing today. Friends near Pottstown told us that the place that was the old tea room, and had been known in recent months are about a year or so as Tacie’s Café and Bakery had closed. It was located up on Ridge Road in Pottstown. The business was owned by soon to be former West Vincent Supervisor Clare Quinn.

We had a great time at the Kimberton Antique Show and found out that a lot of the same dealers will be at the Leesport Holiday Antiques Show in Berks County Saturday, December 7th.

We ran out of time and day so we couldn’t check out some of the other antiques stores in the area. Also on my list to check out are the Olde Knitting Mill in Spring City, and Inslee Antiques in Guthriesville.

I also want to get over to Conebella Farm on Chestnut Tree Road in Elverson. They are a fifth generation dairy farm that have over 15 varieties of cheddar and Colby-based cheeses and also sell milk yogurt and free range eggs.

I had so much fun today and part of it is because this is another one of my friends who also shares my passion for similar things as far as antiques and collectibles go.

My final note is I did feel like I was cheating on the Smithfield Barn today. And thanks to the Smiths who run the barn I actually recognize what a lot of country antiques actually are now!

Thanks for listening to my recounting of my rambling through Chester County today! If you have free time tomorrow, go check out the Kimberton Antiques Show. And definitely stop at Station Bistro in Kimberton!

20131116-192532.jpg

stolen horse alert! have you seen caz?

IMG_20131113_182052This comes to me from a friend in neighboring Berks County.  A horse was stolen out of a barn where people she knows keep horses and has asked people to spread the word.  The two photos were accompanied by this information:

Hanoverian Stallion Black  16.3 hands taken from 19 Featherhill Road in Lenhartsville on 11/13/2013 between 10 and 3p.m 

Caz has a full white blaze one white right sock and one  left white sock.

Any information regarding this contact Trooper Beck at the Hamburg State Police Barracks located on Industrial Blvd  Hamburg Pa   610-562-6885

We do believe that the owner of the property one Mervin Z Martin  alias Martin Mervin  whom owns Martins Harness in Ephrata  whom currently is in  Berks County Prison regarding this issue knows where the horse is as do those whom worked with him to participate in the theft of Caz .

Any and all information is greatly appreciated.  

There is a court docket. (MDJReport MZM) .

This is just weird. And awful.  Anyway, if you have seen this horse which apparently the owner has raised from a foal and is heartbroken, please call police as per information provided. Apparently this gent is no stranger to court system given what the court summary says?

and they say bloggers have headline issues?

20131114-114021.jpg

My friend Christine snapped a photo of this. I can take no credit for it. It was a Philadelphia Inquirer headline apparently.

Mind you, the subject is no laughing matter. I would say it is a pretty bad day to be a Republican in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania today.