Yes, I have a list for you all. For Main Liners, it means going past Wayne and exploring. This is my in-person open regularly list. These are all businesses that I go to. I am a regular customer. I am not a monetized blogger, so these are just my fun spots.
Also more of a gallery space BUT it’s old and new and I love it and am a customer is located in one of the best places in Chester County, it’s The Merchant of Menace in Historic Marshallton located at 1351 W. Strasburg Road, West Chester. And one of my favorite vintage/antique sellers and jewelry designer/artist is in there, Reimagined Style. Reimagined Style also has occasional studio hours at 1440 Telegraph Road, West Chester BUT you need to contact them first, not just drop by- (484)- 319- 7806.
And last but never least, Life’s Patina in Malvern, which has select events throughout the year and is not a store, although they have a merchantile which will be opening in Yellow Springs Village soon!
At Christmas I had a Christmas calamity. I had this beautiful number 3 crock that I use as a planter. I had bought it from the Smithfield Barn a few years ago. It always lived inside the garage against the wall in the winter.
Right before Christmas, when my stepson was pulling one of the cars into the garage, he accidentally smashed it with his tire. I was pretty upset. I love my old crocks.
So I contacted my friends who are in the business of old things that I buy things from and said to let me know if you see an old number 3 crock I’ve had a calamity.
Today I got a text message from one of the folks at Sales by Helen. They were telling me my package was going to be dropped off soon. So I texted back because I hadn’t bought anything. And they said no you’re being gifted something. So then I wondered who was still spreading Christmas cheer right up to the end of Christmas season – well it is not Epiphany quite yet.
Well, it’s John Romani, who owns Sales by Helen.
A perfect old number 3 crock with a note:
I am totally in awe of the gesture of kindness. This is a small business owner in a very uncertain economy and this is why I support local small businesses. No, not for free stuff because they will tell you I am not a free stuff blogger.
This is quintessential of local small businesses. They know their customers, and they remember what their customers are looking for. They are our neighbors and friends as well.
Sales By Helen is a business I have supported since I first went to a Helen sale and met John’s mom Helen, years ago. I have all the things that I bought over the years still today. Not only do they do house sales and estate sales, but they also have online shopping available. And there is complementary delivery within a certain area and shipping.
A random act of kindness on a cloudy day. Thanks John and Company ❤️
One of my favorite magazines is Country Living. When I have time, I read it as soon as it hits my mailbox, cover to cover.
But it has been a busy few months, and the magazines ended up in a neat pile next to my reading chair in my bedroom on the footstool. Until today when I decided to dig into my overdue periodical reading pile.
Well guess what business and who are right there inside the September, 2022 issue of Country Living magazine? One of my favorite Chester County businesses and owner. Yup, Malvern’s own Life’s Patina and the creative dynamo behind everything , Meg Veno.
You know how much I love Life’s Patina because pretty much every time she has an event, you can find me there shopping and taking photos! And my husband gets me Life’s Patina gift certificates for Christmas.
Part of the reason I love Life’s Patina is it’s simply put, beautiful. Every time I visit. But it is also because of Meg and her team. They are seriously the nicest. And Meg is just positive and kind. In the chaos of today’s world, this makes a huge difference. Also? They make everything look so effortless and magical. You can’t help but get a good feeling every time she opens her barn!
Also worth mentioning is how lucky is Historic Yellow Springs Village and West Pikeland Township that Meg Veno and Life’s Patina are sprinkling their magic on the Jenny Lind house? They have stripped her back to the beginning and done an incredibly painstaking renovation that is almost there. I feel that her renovation,when finally completed, will bring new life and renewed energy to Historic Yellow Springs Village which it needs.
I mean seriously, how lucky is West Pikeland Township to have both Jeff Devlin and Meg Veno taking an interest and putting businesses that celebrate Chester County and her history right there in this small Chester County municipality? So lucky! Adaptive reuse of the best kind totally loaded with heart and talent and effort!
And the funny thing is I was one of the first people who suggested Jenny Lind to Meg when she was saying she wanted a new challenge.
I have however almost regretted suggesting Jenny Lind and Yellow Springs to her at times because of the duration of the renovation, the obstacles and challenges of truly restoring the Jenny Lind. However, the renovation has survived COVID and all that this time in the world and supply chain issues that every renovation everywhere has suffered. When the Merchantile & Cafe opens it will be truly amazing!
So to say I was thrilled when I saw one of my favorite magazines featuring one of my favorite businesses and business owners was an understatement…even if I am a few months late.
So Meg & Company, I am so terribly sorry I didn’t open my magazine sooner! So well done and deserved. Lots of places are inspired by what Meg creates at Life’s Patina. Make sure you check out one of their sales when you can!
I have been going to write this post for a few days. Every time I sat down to begin it, life got in the way, so I decided I just need to start it today.
Why the title of the post? I was going through old photos and it just sort of hit me is that was the title. The photos I was going through were of parties and black-tie fundraisers from many, many years ago.
One of the things I loved best about a lot of those parties were the dresses we had back then. So we’re talking the 80s through mid 90s. And especially in the late 80s, the dresses were pretty. That was one of my favorite era for black tie dresses and gowns. I am not talking the Dynasty-esque dresses, there were just a lot of pretty, well made dresses.
How fancy you dressed back then, was dictated by the event itself. And the events themselves were kind of special. You couldn’t just buy a ticket and subscribe necessarily, you need to receive an invitation to do that. ticket prices for the event but they weren’t exorbitant. Of course back then sometimes they felt exorbitant because a lot of us were just starting out working full-time after college, etc.
Back, then black tie was predominantly floor length as far as the dresses went. Sometimes tea length, it just depended on the dress. White tie was something else again. Perhaps one of my favorite gowns was this crazy beautiful iridescent silk taffeta Victor Costa gown. My mother bought it for me at Nan Duskin in Philadelphia.
There were a lot of stores as in department stores and boutiques to choose from. And they always had a selection of ladies black tie attire. And the dresses were pretty, the fabrics had body to them.
And most importantly, at least for me as compared to the majority of the dresses you see today in photos, Hoochie Mama wasn’t hollering for her dress back. Sure there was tons of strapless, but the dresses left a little to the imagination and they weren’t sliced all the way down the chest bone or all the way up to the pelvic bone, it seemed.
Also back then? Plastic surgery was reserved for something your mother’s friends did, sometimes badly. Today it feels like no one can age gracefully (or otherwise) and plastic surgery and procedures seem to be starting rather young.
The parties, especially at Christmas, were so much fun. The Charity Ball is in the Philadelphia Charity Ball, at that point was December 23. but before that starting in November, there were all sorts of events and Christmas parties. Around Thanksgiving was Pilgrimage on the Parkway.
I remember a few parties that were even held at 30th St., Station. One Christmas party I remember in particular because I had this dress back then that I loved and this party was not formal, it was semi formal. Semi-formal meant short dresses and men wore coat and tie. I had found this dress at John Wanamaker’s when it was still, John Wanamaker’s. The dress was a wonderful red with blue undertones as opposed to orange. It had a halter neck and a regular zip up back but it was the 80s, so the halter collar part was pearls. Not big, huge, Barbara Bush sized pearls, they were regular sized, but that was the entire color. The dress was to the knee.
Back then half of what we wore as far as evening shoes were simple, black peau de soie pumps. The heels were an average height, they weren’t sky high, and the heels weren’t chunky. And if you didn’t have those you had velvet pumps of a similar style. Essentially classic and elegant.
Sometimes we had our hair done in an updo, but not all the time. I have pretty thick hair and I remember one party that I went to in Alexandria Old Town, Virginia. I ended up taking out the up do before the party because the woman had teased my hair into a southern up do and it looked like I was related to Imelda Marcos. I still remember that moment because it was really funny.
And at that time, I had a lot of friends in the Washington DC area. People who had migrated there for work after college and more. And back then when you went to Washington for one of those black ties or Christmas parties, you had to bring your A game. those women in DC knew how to dress. And the dresses were gorgeous down there. So were the parties.
This one group of girls I remember used to do this great holiday fundraiser and it was black-tie edit benefited Toys for Tots. I want to say for a while it was held I think back then at the Ritz Carlton in Washington DC. I remember it was always held on a lower level of the hotel and wherever it was held there were these antique dioramas built into the wall on that level they were kind of fascinating to look at.
And at one of those Washington DC Christmas parties one year, we all met Walter Cronkite. He was in town for something , but retired at that point. I remember how tall he seemed. He had come into DC from Annapolis. He was so nice. He actually did stop to speak to all of us. And his voice in person was just as great as it was on TV. He had been at something at the hotel and literally just stuck his head into the party we were at to check it out. I remember he had such a nice face in person and his eyes sparkled.
This was of course before the age of social media. So there weren’t many photos. Just memories. Like memories of the parental units going to black tie Christmas parties. Or the Christmas parties we went to as a family. All dressed up, white tights, mary janes, and matching dresses until we revolted finally. Oh and don’t forget the matching Christmas nightgowns!
And all of these parties had great food and beverages served using actual china and glassware, and no plastic utensils.
I remember neighborhood parties. I remember one where every year one neighborhood man would wear his Christmas plaid pants. And sometimes a Christmas vest. The pants were what my one grandmother would have called “high water” pants, or they were a little too short. He would greet everyone at every party with a big grin and say “Howdy, neighbor!” (No it wasn’t Texas, it was the Main Line.)
Back then there were quite a few neighborhood parties. As a general society, we weren’t so transient. People moved into areas and stayed, they didn’t move into areas and then flip for the next bigger house. People actually sang Christmas carols, and knew their neighbors. Even if I didn’t want to be all dressed up and looking exactly like my sister, the parties were pretty fun and festive.
Then there were the caroling parties every year with my cousin Suzy. Suzy lived in Newtown, Bucks County. None of us could sing, but we would still gather at Suzy‘s house. There was a little Christmas party, then we would go around Christmas caroling for a while, laugh like hell, and go back to Suzy’s l house. Suzy was also one of the first people I went hunting vintage Christmas ornaments with. Often that meant getting up at o’dark early to hit the flea markets outside of New Hope.
Then there were the family Christmas parties with my mother’s German friends, Susi and Babette. Those parties were spectacular like out of a movie set, but they weren’t artificial. They were natural and gorgeous and very German. The ornaments on the trees, fresh greens, candle light. We always loved going to their houses. And the fun thing about their parties were the people were so interesting and fun. When I entertain today, I still like to channel them. No pigs in a blanket at their houses, which was always fine because that to this day is an hors d’oeuvre, I don’t understand nor like.
In the 90s I remember being invited to this spectacular Christmas party. It was on Fishers Road in Bryn Mawr. A beautiful little house on a shared driveway. I’m not even sure if the house still exists because so many places have been knocked down for bigger houses to be built.
Anyway, the guy that owned the house had something to do with IKEA and he and his partner lived in it. He did this totally glorious European/Scandinavian Christmas party. The decorations were beautiful. Unbelievable trees and greens and decorations. The house was just decked. Candlelight. There were also so many different kinds of fish. Beautiful oysters on the half shell and shrimp and crab and I don’t even know what else. A true smörgåsbord. Ham, beef, cheeses, fruit. The house was like a jewel box. I think the reason I liked that party so much it was like another version of what my mother’s friends Susi and Babette would do.
These parties I remember were all pretty. The houses festive and beautiful. The decorating done by the homeowners, not a Christmas decorating service. Everyone was a little Martha Stewart on the Christmas bus back then. And it wasn’t party trays from the grocery store, these were planned out menus that the hostess did, and for the most part prepared herself. Yes, these kinds of parties are a lot of work, but they are worth it and your guests appreciate it.
As I mentioned, there were the annual Christmas parties you attended with your family. One party we went to we attended for decades. We watched the changes from the first wife to the second wife. With the first wife, sometimes they would all be there to greet you at the door. The wife and daughters in quasi matching dresses of icy perfection. With the second wife, it was all warmer and more genuine. And every year the Christmas tree was different. The most amusing thing about this party is every year the core crowd was the same. It was a party where I knew every year like clockwork that I would see certain friends. It was never the most exciting party, but it was beautiful and nice.
Then you grow up and everything is different again. And what is so funny is how things change now that we are the age of our parents taking all of us to Christmas parties or fussing about our gowns for The Charity Ball.
Me personally? On one hand, I loved all the fun black tie holiday parties and the annual Christmas parties we went to. But then on the other hand, I love our own Christmas traditions in a completely different time.
Now it’s us. Pre-COVID, we did a few Christmas parties, including one at Loch Aerie before she opened as a wedding and event venue. She was restored but the kitchen was just a shell and the ballroom addition was not built. Duffy’s did the catering with a kitchen in a big truck.
But mostly, even before COVID hit, it is us, at home. Those are our traditions. Not as formal, never as dressy. These days it’s more about how will I display my vintage Christmas ornaments and where on my tree will my wool felted Christmas mice will go. But the Christmas dishes and real glasses and silverware still come out.
I remember years ago, before I was married, and I was with someone else, we would go to their relatives for Christmas sometimes. The brother and sister-in-law took the time to do a beautiful meal with real plates and silverware and glasses, and then there was the other sister, and it was a lot of plastic cups and cooking things in disposable tinfoil pans. Obviously, you know which house I liked better.
A friend of my mine and I were talking about all of this yesterday. She texted me a photo, all bundled up underneath an umbrella in the rain waiting for Santa to come by on a fire truck where she lived. She says to me “this is me, no more Charity balls.” And then we both laughed, because I knew where she was coming from exactly. My friend’s parents also threw these amazing holiday parties and her mother’s house was one of my favorites. And like my own parents, everything was decorated and beautiful at Christmas.
And then there are other things that you remember about the season as a little kid. The Sears Wishbook. That catalog was huge and I remember a year after year turning down the corners of pages where there were dolls and toys I wanted. No kid ever got their entire wish list but thumbing through that catalog was kind of a Christmas tradition in and of itself.
So now we are all decorating our own homes. Sometimes my friends and I wonder how our mothers did it all. But as we all decorate, we all remember our ghosts of Christmas past. There aren’t nearly enough photos but we remember the feelings, the sound, the smells. Every year some of the images in our memory fade a little bit, yet many still remain. The echoes of people talking in rooms that no longer exist, with festive music playing in the background. Even some memories of Christmas sleigh and carriage rides. I still hear the jingles of sleigh bells, which is probably why I have some hanging in my house all year round.
Continue to create your Christmas memories. They are so important. And for goodness sake, no paper plates and plastic glasses. The season comes but once a year. Make it special.
So this turned out to be an un-Thanksgiving for me and I actually sent my people to my mother’s without me. I have had a 3 day mystery headache…NO I DO NOT HAVE COVID! (Already neurotically tested as we all still do these days.) But today, after 2 Advil, 2 Tylenol, and French Press coffee I am up for a little while with the headache doing a dull roar in the back of my head. I really love Thanksgiving, so I was bummed to pretty much sleep through it.
But headache or not, I am thinking about the Christmas decorations. I watched a Christmas movie last night that had way too much fake garland. It was everywhere. Enough to make you dizzy, and I love Christmas decorating.
But I have only one chunk of imitation Christmas garland. It goes outside on a bench. I do not use real garland any longer, inside or out. It gets dried out too fast. I also just don’t like imitation lit garland inside. Maybe in other people’s homes it works, but definitely not my own. It is just not my aesthetic. What I do use for garland, is a little more old-fashioned. Some say home spun. Wool felted garland. I happened on this quite by accident a few years ago. I just love the old fashioned look of it.
I also love giving wool felted and quilted ornaments as gifts. They are durable, festive, and kid friendly.
In addition to felt garland, I also like rag garland for Christmas. Bits of fabric and burlap. It’s fun! It’s also simple and evokes a happy Christmas simplicity.
Where have I sourced this garland, both wool felted and rag? Everywhere. Locally at different places over the years. And on Etsy, Ebay, Wayfair, and more. It’s gotten popular again and this year I have seen it on Food52’s website, Pottery Barn Kids, some on Amazon, but unless they say what country it’s made in, I don’t buy it. I try to stick to US made. I also like the UK made wool felted garlands, but they can be more expensive.
Why do I like these wool felted garlands? And the rag garlands? They are warm. They aren’t standoffish, untouchable Christmas decorations. They kind of draw you in. I also like the “flag” garlands. My friend’s mom and aunt used to make those. I like a pretty Christmas, not an untouchable ice queen Christmas. I like the nostalgia of Christmas, and love vintage ornaments, so these garlands accomplish that quite nicely.
As I said, I want to decorate each Christmas so that it is warm. I want you to remember a happy echo, not something just randomly and decorator inspired. I think you achieve that each Christmas by collecting what you love. My friend does this in part with all her Christmas putz houses and her very vintage Annalee Christmas decorations. She also shares a love of German kugels with me.
Now something else I love? Wool felted Christmas mice. I seem to have accumulated a bunch of them. Life’s Patina always has amazing ones for their Holiday Open House (which has sadly passed already) and the Smithfield Barn. As a matter of fact, the Smithfield Barn has them at Gas Works in Frazer, PA right now.
Wool felted mice are also all over eBay and Etsy. They are fun and have whimsey. I tuck them into my trees. I have also found them this year on Amazon. And a website called Craftspring which I have never tried, has some wonderful felted ornaments. Even Target has some squishy felted ornaments, although I am only finding a few worth buying. The German Christmas Shop USA has some terrific felted ornaments.
Christmas. Yes I love Christmas. And now that all my bulbs are in my garden, I’m starting to think about Christmas decorating. Right now I am thinking about what to do with Kugels.
I love old German Kugels.
In 1848, the first glass ornament, a kugel, appeared in Germany. The kugel was a large hollow ball ranging in size from 1 inch to 18 inches. Smaller ones were used for tree decorations. The blown, molded, figural glass ornaments that we are familiar with today evolved from the tradition of blowing kugels. These ornaments were not sold in America until 1880….Kugel is a German word that means “ball” and can be used to describe any type of ball-like object. Collectors used this term to describe any early thick glass ornament with a decorative cap. Early Kugels were too heavy to hang on tree branches; instead they were suspended from the ceiling. Soon after their invention, the Germans decided small Kugels should adorn tree boughs in shapes such as grapes, berry clusters, apples and pears. F. W. Woolworth is given credit for bringing Kugels to America in the 1880s.
My first Kugel belonged to my maternal grandmother’s father, my great grandfather Peter Mathias Scheidhoff of Lancaster, PA. His Kugel came from Germany via other family, not F.W. Woolworth. My Mumma gave it to my mother, who then gave it to me. It kind of started an ornament obsession for me. So now I have a few. And I hang them from the dining room chandelier for Christmas. I use felt garland and suspend the Kugels underneath on heavy fishing line. I acquired a few more at a Christmas sale over the weekend. I was really lucky and they were reasonable in price because they can be really, ridiculously expensive.
I also really like the Lenox porcelain snowflakes. Not the new ones, the ones that were made when Lenox was still a standalone company. I have been collecting them for years and if I don’t hang them on the tree I hang them on a chandelier in the hall. I hang them with thin red or green Christmas ribbon.
I received my first Lenox snowflakes as a gift years ago. My neighbor Lea was moving west to get married and gave me hers. She had a friend at that time who worked at the Lenox outlet somewhere in Bucks County, PA. Since then, I have found a few more here and there and also this weekend I found three more.
I am not a big Lenox holiday ornament person I know some people really are but I do love these snowflakes because they’re just pretty.
My last find for the vintage ornaments of it all were three more Mercury glass birds. My main Christmas tree are birds and pinecones and woodland creatures. And icicles. Glass icicles. Some people like metal icicles, I do not.
Now my husband is adamant about no Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving. I will admit that I have a couple little Annalee guys out. I found them in my vintage ornament travels too, recently.
So I guess the Christmas Chronicles have begun at least in ideas. Do you collect vintage Christmas? Tell me!
Yesterday was the celebration of Humphry Marshall’s 300th birthday and Marshallton was alive with happiness and history. It was so much fun!
These are the events I love. A pretty day spent with friends and family walking around a wonderfully pretty and historic village. I went around lunchtime and we started with lunch at the Four Dogs Tavern (fabulous), and then we explored. This way, I escaped the politicians who like to appear at fall events during election season.
I was a little disappointed the blacksmith shop was closed but thrilled that the Merchant of Menace was open!
I am a tea drinker as well as a coffee drinker. And I like looseleaf tea. Which means when you brew it you have to strain it unless you want to drink all the little tea leaves. You need some kind of a tea ball if you’re doing just one mug or big cup of tea for yourself. I also think brewing looseleaf tea just taste better than tea out of a tea bag.
My favorite tea strainers and tea balls are the ones that come from Germany. They are vintage or antique, and they are woven like a little baskets, hence the basket weave description.
These tea strainers come in brass and silver. But over time they can get quite dark because no one has cleaned them and also the tannin from the tea stains them.
I use and collect these whimsical tea strainers. Sometimes I even sell some because you can’t keep everything. But cleaning them up sometimes can be a bit of a bother. But the whole idea of using something that is going to sit in my tea cup as it strains, makes me think more holistically and chemical free as far as cleaning the actual strainers. So I use the old baking soda and tinfoil method.
I literally put the strainers in a mixing bowl of hot water lined with tinfoil and loaded up with baking soda. And then I just let everything soak. Sometimes I do it overnight and it’s fine, other times I have to do it over the course of a couple of days and change the water and baking soda out for fresh. And then I wash everything and polish it up with a soft cotton cloth.
It might not get shiny bright as if I used silver polish or brass cleaner, but I think that’s better for my cup of tea and me as far as ingesting chemicals.
Anyway that’s your hot tip, and if you’re wondering what tea company I like to buy a lot of my tea from that is looseleaf, it’s a company called Golden Moon. I discovered them completely by accident a few years ago and their teas are very good. I also like Scottish blended teas but they’re hard to get here.
Now see, that title. Mice. Bet you think I am talking about real mice? Nope. Felted mice and a nice memory.
I have a bunch of wool felted mice. Mostly for Christmas. But I have a few other cute ones that I tuck here and there because they just make me smile.
The mice at the top my friend Kristin found for me. They are obviously for Christmas, they are Santa and Mrs. Claus mouse.
Yesterday at the preview for Life’s Patina fall event I bought two more felted mice. Halloween mice. One with a giant piece of candy corn, another in a cute little witch’s hat.
When I was taking the picture of the fault of mice this morning to send to a friend to show them, I have a little flash of a memory. And it would’ve been the mid 1970s to the late 1970s. I was inside a little store in Bryn Mawr.
The store was called Katydid and key was next to Parvin’s Pharmacy. Katydid was a cute gift store. And up around the counter area towards the front of the store and behind them on little shelves were these little collectible mice that so many of us had back then.
These were literally little fur mice they were made in West Germany I think the company was called The Mouse Factory. These little mice had all sorts of different outfits and costumes, and they would even come in your school uniform.
My friends and I all had these little mice. My sister and I had a bunch of them and we put them in our dollhouse. We had this really cool doll house that my father found in an attic of a house being demolished in Society Hill when we were really little and he restored it.
Anyway, I love those mice. And the flashback to the memory this morning made me realize this is why I like the felted mice.
Dishfunctional isn’t in West Chester anymore. I open with that, because they were there for so many wonderful years. BUT Dishfunctional does have a terrific new location in the Lincoln Court Shopping Center in East Whiteland.
The store is long and wide inside and well lit. And full of so much fun stuff! Not just the china and crystal they are known for but so much else! They have some wonderful art right now too! My personal favorite? This amaze balls piece of Mick Jagger by Denny Dent. It’s huge, but very cool.
I found four extra dishes of the Johnson Brothers’ “Friendly Village” vintage ydishes I like to use in the fall and winter sometimes. They are hard to find, and were only $5 each which is an amazing deal!
I spent a lot of time looking through the store. It’s all very clean. Other things they have right in the front of the store I love is some fabulous antique cast iron lawn furniture. Also very reasonable in price and good shape.
Dishfunctional is located in the Lincoln Court Shopping Center. 225 Lancaster Avenue, Frazer, PA.
Tuesday through Saturday 10:00 am until 6:00 pm Sunday 11:00 am until 3:00 pm