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Archive for the ‘Antique shops’ Category

Leonardo Aguilar II:  I know I posted this hombre before, but I couldn’t resist posting more.  Little Leo will be effortlessly bi-lingual.  His Dad reads to him in Spanish, and his Mom (our granddaughter, Jamie) in English.  Maybe I can pick up a word or two of Spanish from our youngest great-grandson!

Little Senor 4

More Little Leo, in Great-Grammy’s Shawl:  I made this garment for a Teddy Bear, and then thought “Hey.  It would look even better on Leonardo II!”  He’s smiling as if he likes his colorful snuggy.

Little Senor 3

A Backyard Retreat:  My friend Karen is a Master-Gardener, and she has the greenest thumbs (and fingers) of anyone I’ve ever known.  Here are some photos she took of her beautiful sanctuary in Waukesha.  Karen laid yards of winding brick pathway for an enchanting, rustic touch.  Along with the gorgeous gardens to grace her neighborhood, Karen has a Little Library where anyone passing by can exchange books.  How great is that!

Karen 5        Karen 4

Karen 1

A Memorable Outing:  My friend Liz (pictured below) treated me to a day of antiquing, etc. just across our border—in Richmond, Illinois and the surrounding area.  The day was just right:  perfect weather, delightful browsing, good food, fun acquisitions, and best of all great company!

Liz 23    23 1 R

23 3                      23 4

A Time to Be Silly:  Our daughter Debbie took some of her grandchildren (our great-grandchildren—DUH!) on a surprise train ride and a vacation at a Wisconsin Dells water-park resort.  The Amtrak speeds by our road every day at approximately 4:20 p. m.  So on the day Deb was taking the children to the Dells Joe and I walked a few yards from our door, and waited at our road beside the Fire Station, so we could wave at the children as the train roared by.

Frequently I cannot resist being utterly silly where my children (of all ages!) are involved, so I had to do what I call a “Do Do Dee Dee Dance” with my derriere aimed at the passing train windows while Joe looked on very sedately from his 4-wheeler.  (Joe doesn’t do Do Do Dee Dee Dances.)  Meanwhile Debbie caught a blurry, impressionistic shot of the vaudeville act.

do do dee dee dance

And Our Private Heaven:  That long cold winter has morphed into luscious spring.  A month ago it looked like nothing was going to happen.  But now . . . !  The treasures in our patio garden are better than ever (I say that every year), and our patio is the perfect outdoor living room—with sun in the morning and shade for hot afternoons.

G 14 3    Garden June 1 - 2    Garden June 1 - 3    G 14 1

And SKY:  Those of you who have checked this site on occasion over the last five years know that I have a thing about sky.  As a child, I spent countless afternoons lying on the grass, watching clouds while searching for dragons, genies, and horses in the sky.

Now I recline on the berm outside our condo courtyard and watch clouds, with Baby Dylan (corgi) at my side.  That is our warmish day agenda.  On steaming summer days I flop on the patio lounge for afternoons of reading and cloud gazing, with ice tea ever handy.

Never has cloud gazing been more rewarding than it is here in the Lake Country, with the open expanse of park beyond our door.  We are surrounded by lakes, so there are nearly always clouds—ever changing, ever exciting to view.  I have years of cloud photos, enough to create a picture book.  (That’s a great idea, for next winter!)

Meanwhile, here are some recent gems, starting with a sunrise:

Sunrise 1  Sunday morning sky 2

Sunday morning sky  Sunday morning sky 3  Sunday morning sky 4

Yes, I’ll always have my head in the clouds.

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In closing, here is a confession of something that I never thought would happen.  (Daughter Laura, are you ready for this?)  My man is planning to get me a TABLET.  Yes, family, I’m finally taking the plunge.  Ever since tablets surfaced, I’ve said “No, I don’t want one”—and I meant it, at least I think I did.  But recently something snapped.  Now I look forward to having my very own tablet.

People with tablets appear to have thousands of pictures.  (Hyperbole intended, but perhaps it’s not hyperbole.)  Is this writer turning into an ex-writer, perhaps a “recovering” writer?  Maybe a picture is worth a thousand words.  🙂  Well, we’ll see about that.

Margaret L. Been, June 2014

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Beautiful New Zealand

. . . . for God’s life in and around me, sustaining every moment!

. . . . for prayers and the people who pray, and for God’s answers so evident each day!

. . . . for my loving family and friends, and my sweet dog!

. . . . for summer, cold beverages, pretty gardens, and a mosquito free patio on which to doze!

. . . . for the kind landscaping crew in our community, helping me by weeding my garden—something I can’t do again this summer!

. . . . for nearby restaurants and the frequent fun of eating out—tiny, light meals are always the best!

. . . . for the luxury of running air conditioning WITH our windows OPEN! (We can’t stand closed windows and doors in summer!)

. . . . for God’s healing through the agent of medical technology, and a titanium shoulder which looks like a trailer hitch on the x-ray!

. . . . for pain medications which enhance the quality and comfort of my days!

. . . . for the ever-changing clouds which I study in anticipation of our Lord’s return!

. . . . for Louis L’Amour who takes me back in time to the canyons, cliff dwellings, and ancient legends of New Mexico!

. . . . for paint brushes that don’t mind being used in the “wrong” hand!

. . . . for the fun of garage sales, antique malls, and the ever-satisfying and inexpressible joy of creating beauty at home!

. . . . for “upsizing” rather than “downsizing” in terms of making an interesting, colorful environment for the people I love!

. . . . for the art of living passionately and joyously—a gift from my parents and grandparents, affirmed by God’s Word!

. . . . for the treasure of people and all the beautiful (material as well as spiritual and relational) aspects of every single moment—to be enjoyed as if it were my last on earth, which it very well could be!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, 2013

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Which one doesn't belong

Remember those kindergarten worksheets where a group of objects were pictured, and you had to circle the one which didn’t belong with the rest?  Well, if you play that game with the above photo, I certainly hope you circle the broken piece of junk in the upper left corner!  That doozey not only “doesn’t belong” because it’s broken, but also because it is BRAND NEW—whereas the other items are vintage or just downright OLD.  And some of us know that OLD is often best!

The piece of junk is (allegedly) a jar opener, recently purchased at (you guessed it!) WalMart for (would you believe?) $3.98 plus our Wisconsin sales tax.  We bought one a few weeks ago.  That very night I used it and it broke in my hands—without even beginning to open the jar. 

Being nice folks, we gave the silly contraption a proverbial benefit of the doubt, returned it to WalMart (they are good about returns there), and bought another identical alleged jar opener.  That very same night Joe used it, and it broke in his hands without even beginning to open the jar.  So we wrapped #2 non-jar opener in a bag with its sales slip and for all I know the goofy thing is still sitting in our van.  Returning purchases, even to “good” WalMart, gets old.  We may save ourselves a hassle and simply forfeit the $3.98 plus Wisconsin sales tax.

Meanwhile, back to “OLD is often best”!  The other items pictured above have been with me (or someone else) for a long time, and I am still using them. To the right of the silly piece of junk is a genuine jar opener which was in my family ever since I can remember.  But some jar lids are made differently today, and my family treasure no longer works on every new jar of jam or whatever.  Yet I will never part with it.

The other vintage items have been picked up for a song.  (I do a lot of singing during garage sale season!) I dearly love them, and they warm my heart for 2 reasons:  1) they haven’t broken with decades of use and 2) they are drop dead gorgeous.  I am one of those odd individuals who cannot live without ambience and charm.  OLD normally abounds in ambience and charm, and NEW often does not—with the exception of babies, kittens, and puppies.  They have charm, plus!

Most of our kitchen and dining room items are OLD:  my Grandmother’s (1880) dishes plus our wedding china and a plethora of auction and antique mall gems, Victorian era glassware, old sterling and silverplate, practical utensils like those pictured above, charming tins (mostly made in Britain), wonderful old mixing bowls, etc. 

Contemporary brides register for exotic cookware.  I always smile inside when the gifts are opened at showers.  I truly wonder if those “out-of-the-home” career women are really going to do all that much cooking!  As the latest in French cookery is unwrapped at bridal showers, I fondly think of my circa 1953 pots and pans—the classic Revere Ware which never wears out. 

Over the years I’ve tried an occasional non-stick this, and trendy-pretty that, always to return to my beloved first choice of stainless steel with copper bottoms.  Along with the Revere Ware, I treasure my old cast iron frying pans and Dutch oven.  There is nothing in the world like cast iron for creating rich brown gravy on a brown pot roast baked for hours in a slow oven.  Crock pots can’t do that, and I challenge the exotic French stuff to even try!

Conversely, we do have a few new kitchen items of which I am inordinately fond:  my lime green digital scale (the above-pictured scale doesn’t measure to the ounce—a feature I need for making perfect soap), my flaming red Kitchen Aid hand mixer with 5 speeds, and a funky orange collander (would you believe, plastic?).  Also our coffee pot is new, but actually the concept is vintage; it’s a percolator!  Not many are made today, but there are a few out there—accessible on AMAZON. 

Percolators make real (strong!!!) coffee with a mellow flavor.  Since my mother used to say, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”, I won’t even tell you what I think of that other kind of coffee maker—currently ubiquitous. 

Where is all of this Monday morning diatribe going?  Simply here:  it’s only late January, and already I’m chafing, chomping, straining for those garage sales to start.  🙂  In lieu of garage sales, Joe and I may take a spin over to St. Vinnie’s this week.  Just like our home, St. Vinnie’s is a charming place where OLD is often best!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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Vaseline Glass--1

Glass has been a major interest and source of delight for me as long as I can remember.  When I was a child, my parents took me to antiques shops which were often located in homes back in the 1930s and 1940s.  When visiting or traveling via small towns (there were no interstate or toll highways to bypass communities in those days) we would cruise through neighborhoods looking for window signs which read:  ANTIQUES. 

Some children might have been bored to distraction by such a pastime, but I was not “some children”.  I can’t even begin to express the joy I experienced when touring these home shops.  My hands were well-trained to remain with fingers interlocked behind my back, so there would be no temptation to touch anything.  In this rather uncomfortable position, I would quietly inspect every shelf within reach of my eyes, and every table-top arrangement of gorgeous Victorian and Art Nouveau glassware.

My parents were collectors of American glassware—especially abundant due to the soils of states such as Ohio, West Virginia, and parts of Pennsylvania and Indiana, and often created by skilled immigrants from Eastern Europe where glass blowing and molding were time-honored arts.  Thus, in the manner of individuals with a happy childhood, I grew up to continue pursuing that hobby which my parents enjoyed so much.  FENTON, NORTHWOOD, AND HEISEY are practically household words for me!

Given this background, my recent weekend in Toledo was memorable.  Joe and I went with our son, Eric, and his wife, Cheri, to visit their daughter, (obviously our granddaughter) Nicole, and her husband, Travis.  Along with being together, the ultimate highlight of this weekend was attending Nicole’s Christmas concert with the Toledo Masterworks Chorale.

But a runner-up to Nicole’s concert, was the fun of being involved in MAKING GLASS!  The Toledo Glass Museum offers ongoing workshops, in which participants make different glass items around the year:  roses, pumpkins, and whatever.  Since my workshop was near Christmas, I made an icicle.

Here are some photos of stages in the exciting process of making a glass object.  I let the workshop expert do the 5000 degree oven phases—and I just did the easy stuff:  rolling the molten glob and shaping it into a rectangle on a metal table, and crimping my icicle with a pincer-type tool to form spirals while the teacher pulled the substance up at the top.

Glass 1

Glass 7

After a glass item is formed, it must cool down very slowly in an insulated container over a period of 2 or 3 days—depending on size.  Since we returned to Wisconsin the next day, Nicole picked up my icicle and brought it to me at Christmas.  And here it is!  ↓

My Beautiful Glass Icicle

Indeed, there are some instances where a picture is worth a thousand words!

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

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At a recent social occasion, a young friend shared that she simply can’t stand the word “beige”.  She said it’s so “You know, beige!”  I agreed that “beige” is indeed a boring, generic word when one could qualify with something more colorful like “pale nutmeg”, “1/2 whole wheat,” or “overcooked chicken thigh”.

Anyway, I got to musing about words that I “can’t stand” (I say that instead of “hate” which my parents taught me never to say except when referring to major issues like war, disease, race discrimination, etc).  I came up with two words, and both of them begin with a preposition:  “update” and “downsize”. 

To me “update” is an unimaginative, harshly pedestrian word smacking of anything that would threaten to ratchet me from the 19th and 20th centuries where I felt at home, to the 21st where I live—although that hasn’t yet made a dent in me and I hope it never will!  And I knee-jerk even more, over that intimidating verb—“downsize”! 

Of course some downsizing is essential when it means moving from a large home to a smaller one (we’ve done that three times in thirty-two years—paring a bit here and there without diminishing our penchant for acquiring antiques and junk).  Lack of space is a valid reason to delete some of one’s stuff, to make more space for collecting at the other end!  Also, it makes sense to give our children and grandchildren some family heirlooms and perhaps some silver, china, or crystal—so we can see them enjoying these items before we depart. 

Obviously, when “things” or “clutter” become disorganized in a home—or when they prove burdensome and inordinately time consuming—then it’s good to take drastic action.  Also, we need to run an inventory if things are overly important in our lives.  We are never to idolize stuff! 

While appreciating these disclaimers, I pray Joe and I will never need to change our modus operandi!  I’ll continue to shout from the highest rooftop and scream from the highest mountain, “Bring on the stuff”.  You can downsize me when you lower me into my grave, because by then I’ll have left this earth for the best Home of all!  🙂 

The currently popular fad of downsizing may be partly due to that horrible contemporary lack of commodious attics in which to stash the extra detritus of bygone years.  What a loss to the human race and quality of living—although heating Victorian houses might not appeal to many of us. 

But I think the contemporary downsizing syndrome implies more than the lack of an attic.  Some late 20th century sterility has crept into the American pop mentality.  And by now, nearly thirteen years after the turn of the century (which to me will always mean from 1899 to 1900) our culture has degenerated full-throttle into the crazed concept that everything has to:  1) move fast, 2) be bio-degradable, and 3) be “easy” to maintain.

Those souls who simply cannot live with dust, rust, stains, or tatter, will definitely choose advancing into the 21st century—perhaps in tandem with some who can’t sit still or walk slowly, but rather need to be metaphorically catapulting from coast to coast with a brief lay-over in Minneapolis or Chicago. 

Fortunately, however, there are others who will always resist the latest trend.  We are those intrepid and dauntless anachronisms—suspended in time, while happily preserving the artifacts of other eras.  We anachronisms don’t care two hoots when our stuff gets dusty—although, because I enjoy the process, I actually dust (most) everything twice (or maybe three times) per year whether I need to or not! 

I love rust, the stains of antiquity (barring spilled food and dog messes), and tatters.  I do draw the line at mold, but only because I have a chronic sinus infection and asthma.

So while some may say (often a bit sanctimoniously, as if there were a “spiritual” aspect to downsizing) “I don’t do antiques shops and garage sales anymore”, my husband and I still hit them frequently whatever the season—antiques shops in winter and garage sales in summer.   (Remember, we live in Wisconsin.  That should explain the seasonal element.)

When we lived up north a woman came into our home, looked around, and made a classically caustic comment (get that alliteration—it’s the poet in me).  She said, “How can you do this to your children?”

Well, at least one granddaughter is very glad we are “doing this”!  Once again on this blog I quote our brilliant granddaughter, Alicia, who maintains:  “I know I can’t take anything with me.  That’s why I’m enjoying it all now!”

Above you will see a view in our current home which is much smaller than past digs, yet equally packed with fun and funky stuff—along with whatever heirlooms, china, silver, and crystal we haven’t yet given away. 

When it comes to plain old wonderful junk, and of course home grown art, the population is ever-increasing!  Our gardens and walls will vouch for that!  We are always “upsizing”!  I didn’t say “upscaling”—that would be stressful and no fun at all.  Just upsizing

Our rooms may diminish in numbers, but never in that overflowing variety of ambience loved by that unique breed of folks known as collectors!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012—yet fondly preserving slower years!

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As decades fly by, we realize how much customs and traditions change over the years.  Just perusing a Bridal Gift Registry at most any store causes me to reflect!  Today many brides (not all—I’m doing generalities today) select sumptuous and elaborate cookware, outdoor grills, and over the top kitchen gadgets.  Years ago most brides I that I knew (including myself) registered for basic cookware.  (I’m still delighted with my REVERE WARE®.)  I can’t recall getting any small appliances other than a toaster, a SUNBEAM MIXMASTER®, a WEST BEND® shiny aluminum percolator, and perhaps a pressure cooker (the 1950s’ variety that sometimes blew up and spewed roast beef and gravy all over the kitchen ceiling and walls).  It was assumed that most of us would find some little place to rent, replete with a stove—and that would be all we’d need.  On the other hand, we (generally speaking) did register for china—casual or fine, sterling silver tableware—or more economically priced silver plate, and crystal goblets.  These were the “Big 3” for entertaining.  The dishes and glassware, as well as the silverplate, were available at many cost levels.  We believed (and I still do) that setting a gracious table was a value of the first magnitude. 

And where have all the tea parties gone?  Here is a great gap in our everyday social life.  Yes, “tea parties” are popular at tea shops (“shoppes”) and magazine article type, elegant hotels.  Although the food was fancier, the tea party we attended at the Empress in Victoria, British Columbia, was no lovelier than—in fact, not as gracious as—the typical home tea party on which I was raised, and which I strive to perpetuate in our dying culture! 

A few years ago I got very tired of hearing people say they couldn’t have tea parties because they didn’t have any pretty dishes, etc.  Now please understand, these were not indigent people making up excuses.  They were people who take vacations all over the world and drive the latest models.  But they didn’t have dishes, and seemed to think they’d need to spend the proverbial arm and leg to afford sufficient paraphernalia for the quintessential tea party.

So I wrote an article telling how tea party equipment could be purchased for very little.  In the article, I cited an excursion to the GOODWILL INDUSTRIES store and quoted some prices.  Today I got” spring tea fling fever”, and decided to repeat a semblance of the article and actually SHOW rather than just tell what can be procured for a minimal output.  

So out I went, to St. Vincent’s thrift store.  The above photo displays the result of the trip.  St. Vincent’s supplied all of what you see on the above table—except for the olive oil bottle holding a fake flower, the spoons and forks, the tea pot, and the tea bread on the St. Vinnie’s plate.  The dishes (creamer and sugar bowl included), cloth napkins, and crocheted runner amounted to the staggering sum of $10.95.  ($11.51 with our famous Wisconsin sales tax.)  I love mis-matched dishes, but if one were uptight about things not matching, larger sets are also available.  I could have matched my place settings, but chose instead to be fun and funky.

The teapot is from my stash, but I bought it at a resale shop years ago for far less than it is worth.  The spoons and forks were culled from odd lots at auctions—probably from “A Mystery Bag of Unknowns for $2.00.  I cannot resist a hapless and tarnished lone spoon or fork.  The sweet serving piece on the bread plate belonged to my mother.  And the olive oil bottle came from, you guessed it—the supermarket.  There was olive oil in the bottle when I bought it.  (I often save lovely glass bottles, which are fast becoming anachronisms.  Olive oil bottles are among the most gorgeous.)

Now wasn’t that easy and painless?!  Just for fun, after the photo shoot I packed up the dishes in the napkins and runner, and placed the whole bit in a special picnic basket hand woven by our son, Karl.  I attached a party apron under the lid, and I’m ready to advertise:  “Have tea party, will travel.”  You can use a PYREX® measuring pitcher as a teapot by just heating the water in your microwave.  Not quite as picturesque as the real thing, but it will work.  And you will have to supply edibles, as I didn’t pack the tea bread in the basket.

In closing, here is what I might wear to your tea party: ↓

I confess to paying rather a few bucks for the new vintage style hat.  But the blouse and skirt cost less than my tea party accoutrements at guess where:  St. Vinnie’s!  If the weather turns cold (which it undoubtedly will before actual spring sets in) I’ll just add my pink cardigan sweater and one of the potato chip scarves—and my scuffed suede fashion boots in place of sandals for my feet.  See you soon!  🙂

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Nestled with plates of my soap are some of our Vaseline Glass items:  a creamer and spooner on the left, a Candlewick covered candy dish toward the center, and a small tumbler with an opalescent rim to the right.  Over years of antiquing and rummaging we have collected a nice assortment of this gorgeous glassware.  Some pieces, particularly toothpick holders, were given to us by my parents.

Beautiful as it is in the natural sunlight, Vaseline Glass takes on a delightful (although eerie) fluorescence under a black light.  Below, you will see the transformation.  The photo does not do justice to this glassware.  When we turn the black light on in a totally dark room, the effect is amazing.  All the Vaseline Glass within range of the light glows—not only those dishes beneath the black light, but the pieces on the table and in the cabinet across the room.  Everything white in the room lights up, as well.

Joe just installed our black light a few days ago.  We had two of them over shelves of Vaseline Glass in our Northern home, one in the bedroom and one in the kitchen.  We moved one shelf and light tube down here where it sat in our storage area for over two years.  Suddenly I got a “bee in my bonnet”:  the black light had to go up once more, so we could enjoy it.  Although we are not into Halloween at our home, the glowing glassware does make kind of a year-round spooky show!

Although this yellow-green glass has been produced since the mid 1800s, the name “Vaseline” was attached to it after 1950.  The origin of the name is obvious.  Sometimes called “Canary Glass”, it was tremendously popular between 1890 and 1940—with designs spanning Victorian, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco eras.  At one time entire sets of dishes, serving pieces, oil lamps, and many extras were manufactured by America’s great glass foundries.  

The fluorescent, yellowish glow is achieved by adding a small amount of uranium oxide to the basic ingredients of glass:  silica, soda, potash, and lime.  Most yellow glassware, such as the lemon yellow Depression Glass, does not contain uranium—and will not fluoresce under a black light.  Some of the green Depression Glass will glow, as will Custard Glass (an opaque glass that looks like lemon curd) but these do not contain uranium and (although very pretty) they are not Vaseline Glass. 

Nearly all the well-known leaders in America’s glory years of art glass made Vaseline Glass—including Imperial, Northwood, George Duncan & Sons, Heisey, Fenton, and Westmoreland.  As most of these companies declined when the demand for art glass diminished, new companies procured some of the old molds.  A few (mainly decorative) pieces are still being made.*

Our great-grandchildren have not been to our home since last Sunday when Joe installed the black light.  I hope they’ll soon visit after dark, so we can display “Grandma’s Spooky Show” in its “best light”! 

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

*Only one of the former great glass producers is still manufacturing today.  Fenton has been a family operated company since its inception, and continues the tradition of fine art glass.  Below, you will find a clip from the Fenton website.

About Fenton Art Glass

“Founded in 1905 by brothers Frank L. and John W. Fenton, the Fenton Art Glass Company ranks among the world’s foremost producers of handmade art glass. Fenton is the largest manufacturer of handmade colored glass in the United States, and the company is renowned for innovative glass colors as well as handpainted decorations on pressed and blown glassware.  For more than a century, Fenton has developed new colors and patterns, including items enhanced with hand-painted floral decorations and 22k gold accents. Fenton glass appeals to all types of customers, and, over the years, this appeal has led to the company’s success.

In 2005, the Fenton Art Glass Company celebrated its 100th anniversary. The firm is now led by third and fourth generation Fenton family members, who work side by side with over 100 employees, including skilled glassworkers and decorators, to create beautiful, handmade art glass in Williamstown, West Virginia.”

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