cut flowers and vintage fun

I love the flowers in my garden. But what you might find surprising, is although I do plant for a “cutting garden” I don’t like cutting the flowers off of my plants!

I love looking at everything in the garden, so I don’t cut a lot of bouquets although I probably could and maybe should. Especially with some of my hydrangeas which do need a prune.

But today I decided to cut some hydrangea blossoms. We are supposed to get crazy rain later, and I thought I would cut some blooms.

Cutting flowers does give me an excuse to meld my love of garden with my love of vintage treasure hunting. Both bouquets are in vases I discovered in my travels that I did not pay a lot for.

As a matter of fact, the green ceramic vase in the photo at the bottom of this post is something I literally paid a couple of dollars for this weekend. It is signed and probably was thrown in Chester County somewhere!

I also love my vintage cut glass candlesticks which always look great around a vase of flowers. It always cracks me up when you see them in antique stores and they are way, way overpriced because they are so plentiful and you can literally find them at tag sales. Unless they are very, very old, they don’t have much value these days. Collect them! They can make a table or a mantle piece look instantly fabulous with just a few taper candles.

It’s also sort of like your grandmother’s china. If you have china, use it! Don’t let it gather dust in your cupboard. Sets of old china today unless it’s an extraordinarily unusual pattern, have more sentimental value than monetary value because no one wants them. Kind of like what they refer to as “brown wood”.

“Brown Wood” means natural wood furniture. Mahogany, pine, maple, oak, hickory. Today’s unfortunate trends mean people paint furniture that is “brown wood”. I’m sorry I think that is sacrilege. There are so many beautiful pieces of furniture and how can you wish to cover up all the natural patina and beauty of a piece with paint?

And we are not even speaking of faux painting which was a trend a couple of decades ago and you still find it here and there which can be extraordinarily artistic. Trompe l’oeil can be amazing. But not formerly mahogany dressers in chippy ivory paint. It used to be that people just painted furniture that was so beat up it needed refinishing one way or the other. Not now. People are taking real furniture, good furniture, and blotting out the character with high gloss enamel or chalk paint. Not for me.

The picture of the rocking chair with the bargello pattern fabric seat you see above is old, but not super old. I am not positive but I think the wood is hickory. It is not oak but it is definitely a hardwood. This rocking chair is a spindle back which was made in Maine.

I love rocking chairs and it was just so pretty and the dealer let me know when she had it in case I was interested. I paid peanuts for it as in well under $100 and it’s now in my guest room. And I will be happy to polish it occasionally. To me that is the smell of home: beeswax and lemon oil. And starched and freshly laundered linens.

I can’t forget my love for old and vintage linens, including quilts. You can find them everywhere. And nothing makes your table look better than the beautiful fabric of an old tablecloth.

And don’t forget to dress up your powder room or your guest bath with old linen hand and finger tip towels that someone embroidered long, long ago.

As for quilts? Especially old lap quilts that were used way back when for carriaging and even early motoring? I use them to keep pet hair off my sofas and they add a friendly, homey vibe. And it’s so much better looking than “fabric protectors” which I think are quasi hideous for the most part.

Back to my cut flowers.

I don’t make a big fuss out of flower arranging. I pretty much just cut my flowers outside bring them in and trim them to the vase and I’m done with that. I know flower arranging is literally a competitive sport at a lot of flower shows, but I just want them to look pretty. And it’s not that hard to do.

And I do not just cut flowers from the garden I also will make a little arrangement out of my herbs. Fresh mint, lavender, borage, and more smell delightful in a vase in the house. I also have a couple of small citrus trees that when I trim them I put their foliage in a vase and you get this great citrus smell that lasts.

And as for vase is a lot of the time I don’t even use a traditional vase. I will use an old milk bottle, a mason jar, even little chipped pitchers. I used to have a ceramic teapot that the lid had broken on that I used for years as a perfect vase for a kitchen table.

I don’t live in a beige beige world. I like color and texture and pattern. So I love my vintage finds because of that. Things that aren’t necessarily brand new add character.

I think my personal style can’t be pigeonholed into “cottage” or “country” or “traditional”. I just like to find things old and new for my home that fit in it. That includes my flowers on the outside, that sometimes come inside.

Thanks for stopping by!

on sunday, my garden was ignored

When you have a garden it’s a love – hate relationship sometimes.

Even though I’ve got cute little sunflowers peeking from around the beautyberry and all sorts of other things in bloom, I am frustrated.

All the rain recently washed away and rearranged a lot of my wood chips in the shade and woodland garden areas. In places the wood chips are almost like they are in waves.

In the front, the weeds are growing faster than I can pull them. And the Japanese beetles have arrived and the spotted lantern fly nymphs keep appearing. I’m frustrated. I am a one woman band for the most part with this garden. I ask for help, but sometimes my family doesn’t see the joy in gardening like I do. Especially if it means helping me with garden chores.

So today I said screw it, and I ignored my garden. I went treasure hunting and junking with one of my besties and had a swell time. Found a couple little things for the garden at Creekside Antiques Downingtown .

I have driven by Creekside Antiques in Downingtown for a few years now. But I’ve never been in until today. Every time I drive by I say to whomever I’m driving around with “We really have to check that out.”

Today we did. So much fun inside and out and really decent prices.

Creekside Antiques photo

Outside they have larger salvage items and vintage garden pieces. Really really cool outdoor vintage furniture pieces.

Inside is a series of small rooms and hallways that all have different vignettes. Again, it is a mix of vintage, antique, reproduction, and artisan items. There is some wonderful photography that is for sale right in the front.

I bought a couple of reproduction garden signs and a delightful little bell for my porch.

I got the break I needed from my garden and had fun with my friend. There is something to be said for exploring on a hot summer day with a Wawa cola slushie! I highly recommend it!

cool old cookbooks

Eastern Cookbook Waynesboro, PA – 1976. Stumbled across this today and it is like opening a culinary time capsule and totally fun!

I have written about my love of vintage cookbooks before.

Check out some of the recipes:

I also found this cool Good Housekeeping cookbook and household hints book from the 1920’s.

It’s so fun to go through these books. Cookbooks like this have all sorts of fun old recipes and tips you never see in modern cookbooks. I love these books around the holidays, especially.

Pick up a vintage cookbook next time you see one. I guarantee you will find recipes or techniques you want to try.

third time is the charm with a spot for a lamp

I have this table in the family room that I have been trying to find a lamp that was just right for it for a few years.

Above is lamp number three. And the third time is the charm!

I went out to the Smithfield Barn today. My friend Kristin had just acquired this newly rewired converted antique oil lamp. It’s green glass.

I love colored glass.

The lamp had a chimney and a plain white shade. I won’t tell you exactly what I paid because I bundled, but trust me it was next to nothing.

But when I came home I realized the pierced and hand cut and colored vintage lampshade I had been resisting getting rid of was the perfect shade for this lamp!

I am very psyched that I now finally have found the lamp that works best!

bucket list: tickets to antiques roadshow

Waiting in line to be “triaged” at Antiques Roadshow

It only took about 15 years, but I finally got tickets to Antiques Roadshow! Tickets are a lottery process – you apply and hope you get tickets. But 2019 was my year, and in February I got the magic email that said I had won tickets for filming at Winterthur, which was today.

The drive to Winterthur once you get off the highway is magical. My friend Amy went with me as my Antiques Roadshow plus one.

We arrived and wound our way through Winterthur and the Antiques Roadshow checkpoints along the way.

We parked in one of the lots and meandered down a shady path to a building where we checked in with our tickets.

When we reached the check-in building, we then had our tickets checked again and we got in a longer line to queue up for shuttle buses.

The shuttle buses took us further into Winterthur where we assembled in yet another line and waited to be “triaged”.

Being “triaged” means they preview the two items that each Antiques Roadshow ticket holder can bring with them. We then get our tickets that list the categories our items fall into. I bought a book and a little Chinese porcelain box I picked out of a barn. My friend Amy bought some other decorative arts category items to be appraised.

It was waiting in this line that Amy and I encountered our first few grumpy old women ticket holders.

I had taken a photo of the “triage” that we were waiting for and the Winterthur building rising beyond it that we would eventually go into and this super cranky old woman with her two cranky wing women had to point out the sign a good ways up ahead where we would be in a cell phone free zone. With filming and other things they wanted our phones off, which was understandable.

But honestly this group of three cranky old women with their fearless leader of multiple comments was a bit much. I smiled and said we hadn’t reached the point of turning off our phones yet and I was taking a picture of the line leading to the building because I was writing about my Antiques Roadshow experience afterwards. She mumbled some final huffy comment and they shuffled off to their “triage” x 3.

First stop post “triage” was having my book looked at. It was a 1950s Modern Library edition of Robert Frost poetry that Robert Frost had signed up at St. Paul’s School when he was visiting as part of I think their Conroy Distinguished Visitors Program.

I love Robert Frost poetry. I had picked up this volume out of a box of books marked 25 cents at the Christmas Bazaar at the Church of the Redeemer in Bryn Mawr at some point in the 1990s.

After I had given the book room volunteer their quarter, I flipped it open to check the table of contents so I could read The Road Not Taken. What I discovered next was Robert Frost had signed the book to a student. And then the book was stamped Waverly Heights Library (as in the senior living community in Gladwyne.)

I had always wanted to have this book looked at to see what it was worth. Not because I expected it to be priceless but out of curiosity.

So I stood in the book line until it was my turn. Ken Gloss of Brattle Book Shop in Boston appraised it. Mr. Gloss was kind of antiseptic about my book. He had to point out it was a student edition so the book wasn’t worth much. He didn’t love my book as I love my book. He valued it at $100 because of the poet’s signature.

Next stop was Asian Art. My appraiser was Robert Waterhouse. He and Lark Mason were doing appraisals in a courtyard in front of the Chinese Pavilion Folly. It’s actually part of a current garden art installation. He appraised a green and white Chinese porcelain box I have.

Mr. Waterhouse was very nice and my box which cost me the princely sum of $2 is a modern 20th century Chinese box worth about $20. So while my box might not be the next great artifact, it’s still a treasure to me! And Mr. Waterhouse took the time to explain to me what to look for if I ever found another box.

My friend Amy had her items appraised and was verbally accosted by yet another grumpy old lady. This one was concerned about her umbrella which was neatly folded up and not accosting anyone.

The Antiques Roadshow made for amazing people watching. And it was fun seeing everyone’s treasures while we were waiting in line. There was a couple ahead of me in the book appraisal line with a really unusual box who got whisked away by producers and there was a man to my left that show producers were talking to who had this crazy cool Civil War porcelain pitcher and some other Civil War memorabilia item that was a textile of some kind.

It was really interesting watching them do the show. We learned that for the folks they filmed although we will only see a couple of quick minutes when the Winterthur shows air, they actually take a lot of time with people. We certainly didn’t feel rushed. I didn’t get the warm and fuzzies from the book appraiser that was for sure, but he wasn’t as bad as all of the cranky old women.

Seriously – for all the excited happy people like us who were having a ball being at the one and only Antiques Roadshow, there were literally these legions of cranky old women. It was bizarre to watch. I am not a patient person and hate waiting in lines and I loved every minute! And the Antiques Roadshow staff? They were all so nice! It was amazing!

On our way into the gift shop and ladies room we met the current Ms. Maryland! She was my first beauty queen and couldn’t have been nicer!

We somehow missed the famous feedback booth and then were on our way back to the car. We both thought it was over too soon. It totally lived up to our expectations.

On our way home we were going to go to Buckley’s Tavern for dinner, but we ended up at Brandywine Prime.

Why?

Because when we pulled into the parking lot of Buckley’s walking into the front door was the first gaggle of cranky old women we encountered standing in the “triage” line! We looked at each other and burst out laughing and said with our luck we would get seated next to them and be under their disapproving stare for dinner.

We had a great dinner at Brandywine Prime and headed home. Amusingly enough, the Philadelphia Inquirer was there covering the Roadshow:

The 5 best finds from Antiques Roadshow’s Delaware taping

by Stephanie Farr, Updated: June 18, 2019 – 6:46 PM

Delaware News Journal was there too:

How many ‘Antiques Roadshow’ lovers can you cram into Winterthur? A lot

BETSY PRICE | DELAWARE NEWS JOURNAL | 5 hours ago

I highly recommend that people fill out the application for the ticket lottery if Antiques Roadshow is ever coming to your neck of the woods. It was so much fun!

still among my favorite gardening books for practical advice and tips

Yes, I have written about these books before. I wrote about them in 2014 in connection to my recipe about making a “rose smoothie.” (A rose smoothie is something I feed my roses, incidentally.)

But I was prompted this morning to mention these books again because someone in my gardening group with a local restaurant who is a friend of mine kindly offered her old egg shells to gardeners who use them to amend the soil.

Decades ago at this point, I read about these books by Margaret and Bridget Boland in the Wall Street Journal. Yes, the Wall Street Journal. Truthfully, over the years some of the best US gardening articles I have ever read have been out of the Wall Street Journal on occasion. When I originally bought these books I bought them from Trevian Book Shop in Massachusetts.

These books are fun little volumes, and well, some of it literally is lore. As in why people planted things how they planted things and even charms to protect the gardener. There is a funny little section in Gardner’s Magic and Other Old Wives Lore about weather predicting creatures, specifically frogs. And how if a frog looks pale yellow the weather is going to be fine if it’s going to be wet the same frog will turn dark brown or green.

Old Wives’ Lore for Gardeners contains more practical garden magic. It was in this little book that I learned about adding banana skins to the soil for roses. It is what intrigued me in the article about these books I read in the Wall Street Journal- it was one of the things that the writer spoke about in the books. Of course also in this book I learned again about the benefits of tossing old soapy water – as in dish soap – onto your roses and flower and vegetable beds to help control things like aphids that don’t like the soapy water. People refer to this a lot of the time as “gray water” and we aren’t speaking of dishwasher detergent or clothing detergent, but plain old dish soap. Now my older relatives always used to speak of tossing the old dish soap onto the flowerbeds.

People tend to gravitate always and first towards the shiniest and new with glossy photographs gardening books. But inside little old volumes like these there is also a lot of knowledge to be had. These books are still enchanting today and interspersed throughout the lore are invaluable bits of old-fashioned wisdom and gardening tips. If you are a gardener you would love these books.

You can still find copies of these books which were published in the mid-1970s. I checked this morning and I saw them on both eBay and Amazon. They are skinny little volumes so they won’t take up much room. Originally they were very inexpensive. Now they are collectible but they aren’t beyond anyone’s reach you just have to check the listings. I have seen them for sale in both paperback and hardcover format.

I have all of the Bolands’ books (they were a mother and daughter) including Gardeners’ Lore: Plantings Potions and Practical Wisdom.

I will note that I discovered this morning there is also an edition of the first two books which combines the first two volumes into one.

I guess that the moral to this story is don’t overlook the vintage and older gardening books. Like older and vintage cookbooks you find things in these books you don’t see any place else. You learn the practical magic of gardening that our grandparents knew.

The last word I will have in this post is if you live in the Chester County area, the best place I have found locally to consistently uncover old and vintage gardening books is Baldwin’s Book Barn in West Chester. Have a great day….spring is coming!

the sisterhood of the traveling rug

This could be considered a cautionary tale. To pay attention when you’re bidding on things in an out-of-state auction. More specifically pay attention as to how you will get the item home.

Just after the New Year I was checking out an online auction down in Charleston, South Carolina. There was this old red-ish rug in an old house on an old floor that was like my dream rug of what I had been searching for to decorate with in my dining room.

I am not a giant fan of wall-to-wall carpet. I like hardwood floors and area rugs. And my favorite area rugs are old Persian and oriental rugs, most of which (like most people) I cannot afford. So like many other things when it comes to decorating you have to get creative. You check out auctions, you check out house sales, you go barn picking.

So when I saw this rug I knew if I could get it at a reasonable price, I would finally have what I wanted. I am not one of those people who was fortunate enough to inherit old rugs like this from family members as hand-me-downs. And it’s hard to find a decent sized oriental or Persian or Afghan rug that isn’t brutally expensive even if it is in rough shape.

Of course a lot of that has to do with the fact that certain kinds of rugs aren’t being made as much in their originating countries as they once were and when relationships with countries change with the US it means things aren’t being imported much either. Another factor are consignment stores and dealers jacking prices for their profit margins. Mind you, we live in a free market society and if that’s what they want to charge that is their right. However, it is my right as a thrifty soul to shop a better bargain.

There were other rugs in this auction in particular and this would’ve been considered a lesser quality rug, although for me it was what I wanted. So I set an absentee bid (and it was low) and walked away from the auction site. Much to my surprise no one really bid on it except for one other person. And they seemed to lose interest in it and in the end to my surprise I got it and got it for a song. I got it for like a true garage sale price which seriously shocked me.

I have won rugs in auctions before. If you are working with an honest to God budget or just don’t have a lot of money it is sometimes your only option. The key is to know the auctioneer, and in this case it was a Caring Transitions franchise.

After I won the rug I waited to see when they would invoice me for shipping. I contacted the auctioneer and this was a learning curve for both of us.

This is a room size rug pretty much – a smaller room but then again I have a small house. As I noted previously, I have won rugs in auctions before and I’ve had them shipped to me FedEx. They come insured, you have to sign for them – you have to be home to take receipt and it’s generally speaking pretty easy.

This time it wasn’t so easy. Some auction houses have their own personnel who pack and ship items if they agree to pack and ship. Other auction houses and auctioneers have a third party pack and ship items. In this case it was finding a third-party to pack and ship who didn’t want to gouge me for many times over what I actually paid for the rug.

One company told the auctioneer around $425 and that wasn’t necessarily including all the fees and what not that they charge. Another company told the auctioneer well over $500. Neither the auctioneer or myself expected this at all. I did not know what to do so I reached out to a friend of mine that lives in the area of the auctioneer. She agreed with me that the price was crazy.

This is where it becomes the sisterhood of the traveling rug.

My friend offered to get the rug and take it to FedEx and have them pack and ship it. Because that’s what I have done in the past and it was quite reasonable in price.

My friend went to the warehouse where it was being stored and nobody was there to greet her. So in the end, the auctioneer kindly had the rug I purchased delivered to her home and she took it to FedEx. FedEx charged me (with significant insurance for safety purposes) a little over $95. Not $400 not $500.

The rug arrived this morning and I signed for it. Now I have an appointment with my rug cleaner who will come and pick it up and take it out to be cleaned and have a mat cut for it. I am able to afford to do that because I didn’t just settle for what these packing and shipping companies said should be the charge.

So that is my cautionary tale. And I will tell you that when I spoke with the FedEx man this morning he said he had delivered something else locally a while back – a musical instrument – and the man who receive the package was charged over $500 to ship it by a third party pack and ship company.

So when it comes to these subcontractors I guess it’s caveat emptor or buyer beware… and do your homework.

And yes I know some people are going to read this post and think I am crazy hunting down an old rug. So many people will say “why not just buy a new one?” That part is easy. I love vintage. I like the character of old and vintage items. I just don’t like the price tag sometimes which is why you shop around.

Many thanks to my friend who helped me get my rug to me. She is and always has been aces.