Friday, November 30, 2012
It seems I'm taking the easy way out with today's post, throwing up a few eye-delicious scans from vintage decorating books now on sale for totally reasonable prices at the Thingummery etsy shoppe. You'll have to cut me some slack. Since returning from our Thanksgiving holidays in NJ and NYC, four out of four family members have been struck down by a virulent, take-no-prisoners stomach bug. Some people haven't been in school for days. Some people missed important work meetings. Some people—people who are also suffering from a cold—haven't been able to go running or send out birthday party invitations or think up clever posts for this blog. Some people are missing the estate sales today, and those people never miss the estate sales on Friday.
But those same people are managing to add new listings to the shoppe every day, including children's books, including books that have been celebrated on this very blog like this one and this one, back when some people were feeling more clever. Wishing you a weekend free of saltines and everything else on the B.R.A.T. diet!
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
I do love me an adorable vintage greeting card, thank you card and party invitation. I realize that, like most things I admire, they've grown increasingly obsolete. But in the case of Evite et al., I don't think technology has really improved matters. Half that shit gets filed in the junk folder, or you're bombarded by follow-ups and reminders. It's kind of annoying. Though I do get the appeal—no one RSVPs for children's parties around here—so maybe several hundred follow-up emails does improve the response rate.
Whenever I'm at an estate sale I make a beeline for the home office in hopes to find some cards, and the best thrift stores usually have a stationery section. I've amassed a fair amount of old-school invitations—too bad I hardly ever throw any parties!
In less than two weeks my younger daughter will be celebrating her sixth birthday with a roller-skating shindig. The rink provides invitations, which I haven't seen but I'm guessing they're not too exciting. I could dip into my stash of vintage invites, but it hurts me to think of 23 vintage cards sent home via backpack mail ending up, unopened, in 23 trashcans. At least I assume they'll be unopened—how else to account for the inevitable lack of RSVPs?
Monday, November 26, 2012
I did not buy anything, including these three items, at a recent estate sale for a four-star general, mostly because by the time I got there, it was way too picked over and still too rich for my blood. Military estate sales are a big deal in San Antonio, being a military town and all, and generals are obviously the biggest draw. Those fellows get around. Ahem. As we've been reminded by recent scandalous behavior. That aside, I'm always struck by the unused toiletries at estate sales; something about an Irish Spring-lathering late 4-star general seemed especially poignant. Do you think Petraeus uses Irish Spring? Personally, I always loved the Irish Spring commercials, but the product is much too drying for my sensitive skin.
I didn't buy this heavy, ornate organ because thanks to Lindsay, I have enough underplayed organs idling in my house and garage. I did snap this photo for his benefit, though.
This general—or his wife—had a serious passion for shelling. They were all over the house. Many of them were very, very expensive (dude had a gorgeous fan of black coral in a huge shadowbox for $600). There were price guides justifying the prices, and I'm sure they were all justified. I didn't buy any of these shells because, well, I've already sounded off on the controversial topic of purchasing someone else's shell collection here. Basically, it smells like cheating—not like the fine, fresh scent of Irish Spring.
Friday, November 16, 2012
I mentioned that I went to an off-the-hook estate sale a couple weeks ago—a total shrine to one woman's owl obsession. I'm disappointed that I didn't take more pictures; I was a little overwhelmed. For starters, I had the whole fam with me. They are very distracting. And when we arrived there was a crime unit truck parked out front and police tape across the door—it seems the home had been robbed the night before. That also threw me off my game. What owl treasure did the burglars make off with? The only thing I know they took was a special kind of collapsible wastebasket that the estate sale staff had brought with them. They were very broken up about it. Apparently, these collapsible wastebaskets are very handy.
So, right. This place: stuffed with owls, including stuffed owls, one of which my five-year-old made me buy for her, despite my rule against buying used stuffed animals. Most of my estate-sale rules crumble if that buys me a little more time to buy stuff.
The place was small, and sad, and stuck in time. This is what the wallpaper looked like:
I bought a bunch of craft materials and vintage books and ephemera that had nothing to do with owls. The only owl paraphernalia I purchased, apart from the aforementioned stuffed owl, was a very excellent owl planter. Somehow, I was not tempted by the walls decked with owl decoupaged plaques, nor by the owl-covered tables crammed into every room.
I also did not consider this deeply dusty and ancient owl pinata even for a minute. I'm pretty sure this guy is the Wise potato chip owl, right?
But I did buy a sack full of these little feathered owls, the kind with wires affixed to their feet so you can place them on wreaths or odd pieces of driftwood for owl-centric centerpieces. That could happen. As of now they're still in the bag.
I'm off to the hurricane-lashed homeland tomorrow, for a week of holiday carousing and possibly thrifting capped by the kids' first time seeing the Rockettes. Should be awesome. Dispatches may be sporadic, or nonexistent, but you can always find me on instagram and now etsy.
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
After a whole lotta hemming and hawing and wheel-spinning and procrastinating, I've finally hung my shingle over at etsy.
See that widget thingie over there on the upper right? You don't even want to know how long it took me to make that happen. Just click on it and watch the magic unfold.
Right now my inventory consists primarily of vintage decorating books and crafty books from my personal collection. Somehow, I've ended up with a surfeit of both and it's time to let go.
Okay, saying "somehow" is disingenuous. I know exactly how. I've been compulsively buying these books pretty much since I relocated from NYC to San Antonio eight years ago. I've loved shelter magazines and design books since I was in elementary school but not until I moved into my 1960s rambling rancheroo have I had the blank canvas and the time and the wherewithal to make it all happen.
My aesthetic wasn't fully formed until I moved here. I mean, my taste had definitely been trending midcentury—this was the dawning of Dwell an Domino and DWR and CB2 and all the rest of it—but a few serendipitous-type coincidences pushed it over the edge.
First, that eye-candy store of a magazine Atomic Ranch launched at the exact same time I was house-hunting on realtor.com. I became a charter subscriber, and suddenly it seemed like so many San Antonio houses were potential Atomic Ranches. And then we found this house, the dreamy dream house, on realtor.com, and it just seemed so perfect, and perfectly overpriced. When we eventually saw it in person—after touring some 40-odd houses and bidding unsuccessfully on two—we abandoned caution and common sense like so many Mr. and Mrs. Blandings before us. Reader, we bought our Atomic Money Pit.
Because did I also mention that the house belonged to a sales rep for Knoll furniture? And that she used the house as a kind of showroom? Up until that point, I wasn't familiar with Knoll. I didn't know that the company had been manufacturing furniture by Mies Van Der Rohe, Marcel Breuer, Harry Bertoia, Warren Platner and all the design luminaries since the 1950s. I didn't realize that those iconic pieces of furniture I'd loved ignorantly had names and designers and ginormous price tags. The owner of the house may have fleeced us in many ways, but she did cut us a nice deal on the furniture.
The rest is history. The rest is me going to estate sales to finish furnishing my house and poring over these old-school decorating books for inspiration. Better Homes and Gardens used to be superawesome, did you know that? Ladies Home Journal, McCall's—all those staid seven sister mags were totally rad. And then there's Terence Conran, whose House Book series is unparalleled. Whenever I saw one of these books, I had to buy it, even if I already had it. Which is good for you, because now you can have it. (Okay, I actually haven't listed any of my Conran books in the shop yet but I will, I swear.)
The photos here are a random sampling from some of the books I'm selling over at the shoppe. (You didn't think that was my actual house, did you? I'm good but not that good.) For a while now, I've been trying to put my finger on the appeal of midcentury to people my age, the Gen X'rs. Nostalgia chic. We've mooned over the pictures of our youthful parents in the 1950s and 1960s when everything from the clothes to the cars looks so freaking awesome. We have hazy-happy 70s childhood memories, of orange avocado kitchens and paisley carpet tiles and boho fringe lampshades and ferns and wicker and VW vans with cute curtains. When the world was full of colors but washed-out and gold round the edges, like an Instagram-filtered photo, but you know, real. Somehow that all comes together in these books. I dunno if they'll have the same effect on you, but at least that's how they make me feel.
(DAMN. Too much of a hard sell?)
So I'm not sure if this means I'm going to start thrifting and trawling the estate sales just for product to flip. Considering I don't have a real job, that might not be such a bad thing. We'll see. In the meantime, step right up and start shopping for my very reasonably priced books. They make excellent housewarming gifts, hostess gifts, wedding gifts and of course, holiday gifts!
Monday, November 12, 2012
I didn't buy this scary clown because I'm scared of scary clowns. Isn't everyone? Also: $5? Come on.
A continuation of the Amish theme begun on Friday.... these Pennsylvania-Dutch trivets caught my eye, I can't deny it. Nice poppy colors, charming design. But trivets are something I don't ever have occasion to use so I restrained myself. Now I kinda wish I bought them.
Insert your everything-but-the-kitchen-sink joke here. No, I didn't buy it.
Friday, November 9, 2012
I'm temporarily suspending Finnish Fridays until my iPhoto adjusts its attitude and starts making my life a little easier by uploading photos in a quick and efficient manner. A girl can dream, right?
This is not to say that Amish Fridays will be a regular thing. This will likely be the first and last Amish Friday, despite the seeming popularity of all things Pennsylvania-Dutch and Amish among the generation of folks dying out or relocating to nursing homes here in San Antonio. I see a lot of coasters, platters, placemats and trivets celebrating the modernity-shunning, horse-and-buggy-embracing culture. Personally, I don't get it. I mean, barn-raising is a very nice concept. And Witness was a good movie, mostly because Harrison Ford was in his absolute prime back then. But other than that? I find it odd, and somewhat icky, to fetishize my fellow human beings, no matter how endearing their quirky cultures. No, Amish stationery and coasters aren't on the same level as displaying indigenous peoples in cages at the World's Fair... but still.
On that note, may your weekend be fruitful and full of interesting discoveries, and all your, uh, sausages be long...
Thursday, November 8, 2012
Betty White's Teenage Dance Book (Permabook, 1959) is in the spotlight this week for no other reason than that I feel like throwing a teen-age dance party to celebrate the pleasing outcome of the election this week. Betty White and all the Golden Girls would totally be welcome, though note that the Betty White who penned this "gay and streamlined guide to modern dancing" is not the rascally octogenarian actress we all know and love but a "trained dancer and teacher of dancing" circa 1952. Kick out the jams, all you Betties!
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
In honor of this day that I've been anticipating with a mix of dread/longing/horror/anxiety/excitement/fear/loathing/nausea/etc, I bring you the craggy visage of America's greatest President, Abraham Lincoln, to ponder.
I was drawn to this sale because of its piquant description in the estate-sale company's email newsletter. They said it was at the home of a clergyman who was relocating to another country because he'd been given a new job. This brought to mind so many of my favorite novels—by Barbara Pym, Jane Austen, Trollope—where some curate or vicar moves to a parsonage because he's been given a "new living." When I find things that usually happen in novels are happening in life, right down the road in the next subdivision, I have to see the evidence.
I don't think Abe Lincoln was mentioned in the estate-sale ad at all. Which seems like a bit of an oversight, considering this otherwise unexceptional suburban home was crowded with Lincolns. Identical Lincolns, hand-carved and signed, all $645 apiece. It was surprising to see Lincolns presiding over the living room, and then in the master bedroom, but to turn a corner from the kitchen into the laundry room and find the washer and dryer covered with $645 Lincolns? That's when things go from the merely surprising to the marvelous.
We'll never know why the globetrotting clergyman had to shed his Lincolns for a new life. Maybe he just needed to travel light. Barbara Pym would probably come up with a better angle on that plot. Anyway, it's something to consider in lieu of obsessing over the exit polls today.
Another pleasant diversion: the trailer for the new Spielberg biopic about Lincoln starring Daniel Day-Lewis. So. Awesome.
Monday, November 5, 2012
Lately we've been finding ourselves on the road from San Antonio to Dallas. This is not an exciting four-hour trip by anyone's definition. The best way to describe it would be...flat. If there are scenic routes and cultural detours along the way, we aren't familiar with them, nor have we wanted to take the extra time to seek them out. We're in a hurry to get from Point A to Point B and back again, which has thus far meant a stop at the Flying J or some other mega-truck stop (the kind with showers and laundromats) and then another stop at one of those bare-bones truck stops (the kind that's just a cluster of picnic tables, vending machines and bathrooms alongside the freeway). I'm a big fan of roadside attractions, weird museums, funny stores, flea markets, old-school diners so it pains me to be making this road trip—with our kids—and not trying to get something out of it. So this past weekend we resolved to do better than stopping at an HEB in Waco and calling it a day.
Early on Sunday morning, despite suffering the effects of drinking way too goddang much Champagne and letting the kids stay up till midnight just cuz it was daylight savings so how bad could it be, we resolved to hit a few points of interest that we'd noted along I-35. First stop was going to be a shimmering silver monolithic dome called the Starship Pegasus in Italy, TX, but it was closed (it's for sale, though, if you're interested). Next stop was The World's Largest Dog Museum. Hey, we like dogs. And this one was affiliated with an antiques mall, the excellently named Antiquibles. Turned out the museum occupied the back corner of this massive warehouse.
I get pretty excited when confronted with something that reminds me of the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark, but I knew my kids weren't going to give me more than ten minutes of browse time before they started clamoring to leave. And that would be after they cashed in on their bribes (you can get anything you want for $2 or less! Now leave Mommy alone!).
I was pleased to see the Green Party had made in-roads in these parts; this is definitely not the sort of sentiment you expect to encounter out in the open just north of Waco...
I was also pleased to encounter a new (to me) genre of literature...
But, really, I should know by now not to get excited about antique malls in Texas, even if they are massive and have a great name and a dog museum housed in the back. I hardly ever find anything I want. The inventory tends to be all overpriced Western collectibles and Texana (stuff I used to purchase ironically when I lived in NYC) and oak furniture and prints and dolls. Blah. I bought two vintage children's books and a totally gratuitous stuffed bear for the 5-year-old ($1.95—she cashed in on the bribe while the older one didn't want to look, she just wanted to LEAVE).
I hit the Dog Museum on my way out; the rest of the family had thoroughly explored the exhibit during those fleeting moments I was shopping. I think the term museum is used loosely here; it is most definitely a massive collection (over 7,000 they say, and I believe them) of dog tchotchkes of every stripe. Some showcases were loosely organized by breed (poodles and greyhounds were very well represented); others were devoted to canine pop cultural icons (Nipper, Pluto, Lassie et al.). I don't think anyone is spending a lot of time with a feather duster in there. Apparently the owners started the collection back in the late ’60s and it just blossomed, the way collections do, into something much bigger than that. As their sign proudly proclaims, the museum was the subject of a segment on An American Moment, a short-lived late-90s TV series hosted by Charles Karault and James Earl Jones. Would that all of our collections could achieve that kind of recognition! I'm thinking particularly of an estate sale I went to a couple of weeks ago, at the home of a woman who obsessively collected and crafted owls. Her grim little tract house was certainly The World's Largest Owl Museum, or at least the largest one I've ever seen. Will post the pics soon.
Thursday, November 1, 2012
I bought this portrait of a big-eyed waif at one of those estate sales where I felt like I just had to get something or I'd be mired in regret. It was the estate of a former mayor of my number-one favorite thrifting neighborhood so it stood to reason that it would be jammed with treasure.
Well, it was good, but it wasn't that good. I succumbed to my twin weaknesses—paperbacks and board games—and then caved to yet another: amateur art. This portrait was one of a pair. The folks running the sale speculated that they were portraits of the mayor's children, painted by a street artist while they vacationed in Paris in the late ’60s. I don't know how accurate that tale is, but it's a good story so I'm sticking with it.
Some evidence supports it. You can't see very well from this cropped photo, but the artist incorporated strips of newspaper, Picasso/Braque-style, in the background, and the newspaper is a May 15, 1968 edition of Le Monde. The artist scrawled his illegible signature in black marker on the upper left corner and the word Paris on the right. The other portrait—the one I didn't buy after much hemming and hawing—was of a blonde boy depicted as a harlequin. As I type that sentence, I'm wondering why I didn't buy it. Doesn't that sound cool(ish)? Sigh. I hate to break up a set, but it just seemed like too much. I mean, the family didn't even want their own portraits, possibly the subjects themselves didn't want them and you'd think they had some pretty sweet memories of that trip (Paris in the ’60s? Le pant!). Why should I devote so much wall space to somebody else's kids?
But you gotta admit this one is pretty cute, in that Keane 1960s sad-eye way. Both my daughters claimed it for their respective rooms, and since they couldn't reach a compromise it ended up in the "formal" living room. By formal, I mean the living room without the TV so no one uses it (somehow the broken Telefunken isn't a big enough draw). Its days are definitely numbered, though—the spot is just too prominent. Maybe tomorrow will be the day that I score a more deserving piece of estate-sale art...