Once upon a time my mother had these mahogany nesting tables. Then one day on a whim, years ago, she got rid of them. She’s been lamenting their loss ever since. So imagine my delight, when a set just like the ones she sold showed up at a local estate sale.
Yes, these are literally the same tables. Not hers, but the same design and same mid century North Carolina manufacturer. So I bought them. At $48 for three in really great condition, it was a steal.
The tables were probably somewhere in this home “nested”, only taken apart when needed. That’s what my mother used to do. So the top table in this set had some condition issues, mainly from plant saucers or wet things leaving rings or marks. At this point today, a lot of people see “brown wood” and think “oh we’ll just paint the tables.”
But seriously, you shouldn’t destroy beautiful tables like this with chalk paint and other kinds of wood paint. This wood is spectacular and meant to be enjoyed. So what did I do? I dragged out my father’s old home remedy: a paste made of mayonnaise and wood ash or cigar ash or cigarette ash left on the tables overnight.
It really works. We have no smokers in the house so I had to use wood ash from the bottom of the wood stove. The crucial thing is it’s just ASH you use, you don’t want any charred bits or you will scratch whatever furniture you’re trying to renew.
So I did the first coat and left it on overnight. The next morning I removed what was left and took a look at the tables. There were still some pieces of rings left. What I did next was try furniture oil to see if that would just absorb the mark. I like orange oil. It helped renew the tables in general, as I did all three with orange oil, but it did not take up what was left of the rings on the largest table. So I did another layer of the mayonnaise and wood ash overnight.
This morning when I took the mixture off that top table once again, it was like magic and pretty much everything was gone. Next I moisturized and polished them with this stuff I discovered that I love. It’s from a company called Therapy Clean. It’s wood and cabinet cleaner and polish. I found it on Amazon.
The tables look fabulous I think now. And they didn’t require refinishing. Just a little elbow grease and patience. People always used to look at my father like he was nuts when he said that mayonnaise and ash took out rings and a lot of stains. But it’s an old-fashioned remedy that really does work. And again if you’re using wood ash, make sure there are no charred bits or it will scratch.
I hope my mother loves her tables and I just wanted to share this little tip with you. Because while painted furniture can be pretty, it’s not for everyone. I really am not a painted furniture person. I am a natural beauty of real hardwoods kind of person.
Life’s Patina is a beautiful, happy place to visit. The seasonal barn sales are fun to go to. It’s a dream of creativity and just pretty things to look at.
Friday, April 29. 10 AM – 5 PM
Saturday, April 30th. 10 AM – 5 PM
Sunday, May 1st. 10 AM – 4 PM
A portion of Life’s Patina Spring Preview Party ticket sales and merchandise sold during our barn sale will be donated to CARE’s Ukraine Crisis Fund, which aims to reach 4 million in Ukraine with immediate aid and recovery, food, water, hygiene kits, psychosocial support and cash assistance, prioritizing women, girls, families and the elderly.
These events are both indoor and outdoor. The parking is field parking so if the weather looks like it’s going to be funky check their Facebook page or website.
Even if you don’t need to buy anything you may find a little something or a large something that you cannot live without. And you will enjoy every minute that you are there!
LOCATION: Willowbrook Farm, 1750 N Valley Rd, Malvern, PA 19355
I haven’t written about quilts in a while. I love vintage quilts. I think they help make a house a home. Their colors and patterns light up a room.
Sure you can buy new quilts, and I do. But I don’t live in a beige, beige world. I like color. And I like the stories that quilts often tell.
When I find vintage quilts, sometimes I hear a story and other times I don’t. This is a quilt I bought off of a Maine dealer on eBay a few years ago. It wasn’t much money and needed a fair bit of repairs. I don’t know it’s story, but it comes from the land of snowy winters so I imagine it was well used.
I am OK with repairs. I can do patches of my own design. I hand sew, I actually don’t know how to use a sewing machine anymore. It’s been too many years and I was never very good to begin with. My mother is great with a sewing machine and my friend’s mom is a real quilter and she and her friends use those long arm machines. So my repairs are neat but more basic than real quilters.
You definitely can’t classify me as a real quilter. Those folks are true artists.
However, I do try to be artistic with my patches. I get fun fabric odds and ends when I can find them. One of my favorite sources of fabric odd lots is the Smithfield Barn via their pop-up sales which are online, and places like The Harriton Fair and The St. David’s Fair. I look for calicoes, nice solids, some fun patterns. I even repurpose old flannel shirts and jeans past their prime.
I have said before that I feel like quilts are a form of folk art, but my quilts are used. I know people who have amazing quilts mounted on walls as textile art.
Quilt shows are fun to go to. The patterns and colors are amazing. Quilts as I have said before are such a happy thing.
I have been working on this one for a while – like 3 winters. I usually work on them here and there in the winter. It’s a nice heavy quilt. It actually kept me toasty warm today as I worked on it. The quilt is about 3/4 restored now.
Old quilts often have another life waiting to happen. Buy them, mend them, use them.
A few years ago I went to a Smithfield Barn on-site estate sale in Coatesville. It was out of the center of town, and it was in neighborhoods which I guess started to go up post World War II.
It was this cute little two-story house with a really big garden out back. I remember that the man who lived there must have worked for Lukens Steel, because there was memorabilia from there. This house also had these cases in a library-type room full of Dicken’s Village houses.
Anyway, in this estate sale there was some great kitchen stuff, including vintage cookbooks which I love. Vintage cookbooks are simply more helpful a lot of the time. At this sale I bought a vintage canning book. I have been experimenting more and more with canning since I moved to Chester County. And a lot of it is to use produce that I grow in my own garden.
Inside this cookbook were two recipes for tomato jam. Well one is for tomato marmalade and I’m not sure if the recipe is complete or not but I am going to transcribe both recipes for all of you today.
Mrs. Stull’s Tomato Jam
1 tablespoons pickling spices
1 teaspoons ginger root
4 cups sugar
2 thin sliced lemons
3/4 cup water
1 1/2 quarts / 2 pounds firm ripe tomatoes
Tie spices in a cheese cloth bag. Add to sugar, lemon, and water in a big pot. Simmer 15 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook gently ‘til tomatoes clear.
Stir, cover, and let stand 12/18 hours in a cool place.
Next heat up water in a canner pot.
Ladle tomatoes into jars leaving 1/4” head space. Add extra syrup from jam pot over tomatoes. Can with a 20 minute hot water bath.
6 1/2 pints.
Mrs. Stull’s Tomato Marmalade
3 pounds tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cut in pieces
1 orange seeded and sliced thin
1/2 lemon seeded and sliced thin
1 1/2 pounds white granulated sugar (or around 3 1/2 cups)
Combine all ingredients in a large pot and cook slowly – three hours – stir frequently until thick. Pour in hot sterilized jars and seal in a water bath.
Now I have transcribed the recipes for you verbatim. And I made a batch of tomato jam yesterday. I used both recipes to put it into one. I use the tomato jam recipe as the base, and then the tomato marmalade recipe was used for inspiration.
The extra ingredients I added were as follows: a small thinly sliced lime, a teaspoon or so of ground cumin, one Vidalia onion chopped fine, and one red hatch chili pepper minced.The extra ingredients I added were as follows: a small Finley sliced lime, a teaspoon or so of ground cumin, one Vidalia onion chopped fine, and one red hatch chili pepper minced. I used half a cup of water and a quarter cup of cider vinegar, instead of 3/4 cup of water.
Before I put everything into the jam pot I blanched and peeled all my tomatoes. While not difficult to do, it is labor-intensive. But I blanched the tomatoes and then I let them cool off for an hour or so. I kept some of the “tomato water“ back to use in the jam.
I will note I cooked the jam down for a few hours. Over a low heat like when I make apple butter. I really am pleased with the flavor profile of the jam and I just sort of had to fiddle with the cooking of it because it really wasn’t clear on the handwritten recipes. But handwritten recipes hidden away in vintage cookbooks are like kitchen gold.
After cooking the jam down I jarred and tidied everything up and did a hot water bath for about 20 minutes. I let everything sit out on the counter on wooden cutting boards overnight and cool, tightened the lids this morning and labeled.
That is a photo of a history book about Lower Merion Township from 1988. It was this great book that was privately printed that only had 1000 copies ever printed on the original publication, and this is the first time I’ve ever seen this book out there for sale other than on eBay. I bought it for $10 at an estate sale.
Inside the book was a treasure trove of articles mostly about things in Lower Merion Township but one about Radnor Township as well. The articles were from The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Main Line Times when it was still advertised as an independent newspaper.
I have only just started to read the book but I am sharing screenshots with all of you fellow history buffs that I hope you will find of interest. One thing I loved in particular is a screenshot about things in Gladwyne. it was obviously an old map and it was lent to the folks who put this book out by the father of a childhood friend.
There is so much about the history of the Main Line and Chester County the disappears year-by-year. This is why I love when I can get my hands on one of these really good local history books. I don’t know who owned this particular copy of this book but it’s a wonderful book, and the articles are fabulous.
Today was errand day. I was the mostly stay in the car wingwoman. After a couple of stops in West Chester we were coming down 352 and when we were at the intersection of Ellis Lane and I noticed that Old Mill Antiques and Interiors/ Shutters and Sand were open!
I love antiquing even if I don’t need anything. I love looking and learning. Today was window shopping and they have some amazing pieces! They require masks, and have hand sanitizer right as you walk in.
One of the things I totally love they had is an antique punched tin chandelier. They are easy to wire and rewire and if you have a covered porch, they are the perfect touch. They also are great as a kitchen chandelier or even dining room. I love them but they have to be big enough to hold a space. This one was. See this photo:
Another thing I absolutely love about this store? Country chairs, and a lot are antique country painted chairs. I have some. Some of mine came via my Pennsylvania German grandmother and others I have found right here in Chester County.
This is two floors of exploring and fine country antiques reasonably and fairly priced. Also vintage and other things mixed in. Lots of things will catch your eye. Their hours are slightly reduced due to COVID19. But I highly recommend exploring what they have to offer. Enjoy the photos!
This cookbook. I know my readers must be so tired of me going on about my love of vintage cookbooks but this is one right out of my childhood. The edition you see above is the first edition which was from the 1960s put out by the Campbell Soup Company.
I got this at an estate sale this past weekend￼. As a matter fact I haunted the person holding the estate sale to make sure I would get this cookbook!
This is another one of those great shortcut bearing mid century cookbooks that had two recipes I remember from my childhood. ￼
One of the things I love about this cookbook other than it’s as it was when it first came out in the 1960s, are the notes found in the cookbook. The lady who owned this cookbook left notes and recipe recommendations throughout the cookbook. As a matter fact I have been peeling off now rusted paper clips of where she had marked recipes she found especially good!￼￼￼￼
One of the recipes I wanted was the original tuna n’ noodles casserole recipe￼. Growing up, that was the our parents are going out and leaving us with a babysitter meal. I swear my mother practically made this every single time we had a babysitter.
The other recipe was their short cut version of turkey tetrazzini. And I actually did want that recipe because we had a frozen turkey that we cooked at the end of last week and I have to figure out what to do with the leftovers.
This cookbook is like a little time capsule. It goes back to a time when everyone and everything was probably a little more innocent. Is it necessarily the healthiest cookbook in the world? No, but sometimes I wonder how hard it would be to update these recipes for a more modern kitchen.
I still think this is a cookbook that every kitchen should have a copy of. And the 1960s edition that I have is found easily on Amazon and eBay and with used book dealers just as the 1970s version.
Add a little vintage to your kitchen! You’ll be glad you did!￼
Me and my cane got a look see this evening (NOT open to the public.)
I love Christmas and I love vintage Christmas and Kristin has outdone herself with the spectacular ornaments￼ and lovely Christmas things.
There is some new mixed in with the old because for example there is this amazing wood carver who has some things in the barn￼.
There are also some fabulous vintage Christmas ornaments from the Ukraine. They’re very different and beautiful.￼
Yes, I literally have a torn meniscus and I had to brace my knee up and bring a cane just so I could take a look because I don’t know when (given the state of my leg) I will be out again. One of my best friends was nice enough to drive me.￼
This was just what the doctor ordered and it makes me so happy to see a little Christmas in a big old Chester County barn. This is literally a big old barn and this is not a store so you can’t just show up whenever.
￼Smithfield Barn 425 Little Conestoga Road Downingtown, Pennsylvania 19335.
Some weeks I write a lot, other weeks not so much. As I sat at this traffic light this afternoon headed towards home I realized again how much I do NOT miss the Main Line. And I smiled again at the presumptuousness of those who refer to Malvern and places like Chester Springs as the “Main Line”. They don’t get it, it’s not the Main Line, and thank goodness.
When I was growing up the Main Line was a far more civilized place until the changes started to seem to appear in the late 1970s . It was then that I remember my mother remarking about people who had bought a neighbor’s house on Brentford Road in Haverford always lined up their expensive cars right out front like a car lot or showroom, instead of parking them down behind the stone wall near the garages.
But it was true, it was the little changes. At first you didn’t notice much. But as the old families moved out, and new people moved in and old homes started to get torn down or bumped up to what we would come to call McMansions, change was coming. Long time businesses closed, new businesses came in, some good some bad.
Movie theaters started to close. First I remember was the Suburban in Suburban Square. That was a grand old theater once upon a time. I can’t even find photos of it anymore. The next movie theater I remember closing was the Wynnewood theater. Then in more revent times the Ardmore Theater on Lancaster Avenue which has yet another horrible fate planned for it.
Then the department stores. I am not sure of the order but Bonwit Teller, B. Altman, Wanamaker’s, then ultimately Strawbridge & Clothier. For me Bonwit Teller and B. Altman were particular favorites. Followed by Wanamaker’s. Strawbridge’s in Ardmore was always hit or miss I thought.
Then old time restaurants and diners. Now I am not saying a lot of these places were culinary masterpieces, but they were the everyday “joints”. The Viking Inn and Smorgasbord in Ardmore, for example. It opened in 1930s and was the only Scandinavian restaurant around. I forget when it closed exactly, but it died a slow and horrible death. And all of the diners that used to be around. I remember some were even those silver metal diner buildings. Like the one which was in Rosemont once upon a time. Now there is a McDonald’s where it once was.
I remember as even a teenager, out here, where I live now in Chester County, seemed so very far away. Today, I can’t imagine being anyplace else.
I had medical appointments today and had to venture to the Main Line to go to Penn Medicine in Radnor. It’s amazing that we live in and around affluent areas because the roads are in such terrible shape. And the drivers. Cutting people off, angry honking, lights and stop signs are all apparently optional.
Every time I go to the Main Line now I feel like I can’t breathe. There is so much more density and traffic and I feel about a million years old when I pass by what was someone’s house I once knew. You drive by and you remember who used to live there and the house wasn’t a McMansion or a townhouse or apartment building. It was just a nice house.
When I was growing up after we moved to the Main Line I remember summers coming back from the beach. My parents’ early cars had no air-conditioning so I remember the searing end of summer city heat as we came over either the Ben Franklin or Walt Whitman. When we reached the Gladwyne exit of the Schuylkill the temperature just dropped. All that verdant green. Not so much anymore because well development, development, development.
Even the august Merion Cricket Club is not safe from development and supersizing. Truly lovely when growing up, today, it’s a shell of what it was. Changes to the original dining rooms, elimination of the casual and teenager friendly Cricket Room and a series of chefs who aren’t remarkable except for how the food has declined in spite of the tarting up of dining rooms. Plans exist to turn Merion into a suburban country club. These plans would include some of my favorite houses around the club. I especially loved the pink stucco house at 134 Cheswold Lane. That was the house my parents house sat in the summer of 1973. The summer the Haverford Hotel was torn down .
I have written about this house and the Haverford hotel before. It was at this pink house on Cheswold Lane that my younger sister learned how to swim in the pool behind the house in the secret garden you could not see from the street. The garden had the first blueberry bushes I had ever seen.
I also remember spending Saturdays in Bryn Mawr with my friends. Going to Katydid and the bookstore next to it. The Greek diner down from the movie theater. Maybe buy candy at Parvins Pharmacy.
Katydid was originally in Bryn Mawr before moving to Wayne . They had these little mice in little dresses that were real fur. We used to collect them. I think some of them are still in my dollhouse from growing up that my sister has in storage somewhere.
It was nice being a kid then. Summer nights were for kick the can and other games we actually were able to play in the road without anyone hitting us. Certainly can’t do that on Main Line streets now.
When my friends and I were growing up, we always thought we’d grow up and live where our parents lived. HA! It was a nice thought, but between the home prices and ridiculous real estate taxes most of us either can’t or choose not to.
There are so many businesses that are gone. Restaurants. Bakeries. Book stores and who remembers The Owl at Bryn Mawr College? I loved, loved, loved that store. Second hand and antique and out of print books. The Owl bookstore was I think founded to support the college’s scholarship fund. And the older ladies who ran The Owl were amazing. That place was floor to ceiling books, and several floors of books. It was dusty and sometimes dim in the lighting department but you could get lost for hours looking at books. It was heavenly! (Especially on a rainy day.)
Driving around today I wondered if half of these people in their giant SUVs on their phones ever paused to breathe? Did they enjoy where they lived? Or was it all back and forth and maybe push someone out of line at the Starbucks drive thru?
Thanks for the memories old Main Line, but nouveau Main Line? I just don’t miss you. You don’t get yourself anymore. History and tradition and genteel living, all memories.
Thank you Chester County for the new memories. And being able to find spindle back rocking chairs from Maine in old barns.