Wednesday, December 31, 2008

eBay today - antique sewing gear and notions

My mother taught me to sew a little bit when I was younger, but I think I've lost the knack. I think most of us have at some time entertained the idea of buying a sewing machine and making our own duvets and pillows. Some of us have even done it. I haven't. Honestly. But I've come close when I find "like new" machines in the classified ads (it must have been someone who tried and gave up).

Finding these sewing supplies tempts me again. I love the seashell pin cushion. And how about the handpainted antique button? Even with my weak sewing skills, I could sew that onto a sweater that I have that only has one button at the neck, replacing the hideous mass-made one that's there. I'm craziest over the hand chased brass sewing case, though. Wouldn't this be sweet in a purse for those emergency button repairs? (Is that me waxing romantic again? I've never sewn on a button on the fly, but I like to imagine.)

It all makes me understand how all those Victorian women were so nuts over their sewing paraphernalia.

Monday, December 22, 2008

French enamelware kitchen canisters

Merry Christmas! The big day isn't even here yet and I've already bought myself a present. I feel a little guilty, but here's the story. As you know, I love eBay. Truly, if you need it, it's there somewhere. As you also may know, I'm remodeling my kitchen and I'm trying to spruce up my countertop accessories. And when I found these babies, I knew I had to act.

Aren't they dreamy? And since they are in relatively good condition, I plan on using them for their intended purpose. Sucre is sugar, farine is flour, cafe is coffee, pates is pasta, chickoree is chickory and poivre is pepper. I'm not really sure what I'll use chickoree for since I don't keep chickory around (although I do love French Market Coffee). My total cost was about $250 when you factor in shipping from France, but I just couldn't let such a great set get away.

If you are searching eBay for something, remember to keep a few basics in mind. Search under alternate names for your item. In this case search "French enamelware" and "French enamel ware". The seller might not know which way is standard. Factor in misspellings also, perhaps "enamelwear." By searching for misspellings, you might find a gem that others might not be bidding on because they couldn't find it. Also beware that sellers are not necessarily experts and might not name their items correctly. For example, people commonly refer to wall brackets as sconces even though they are not lights at all. It's just a mistake that's crept into the lexicon, but use it to your advantage.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas ornaments - old crystals

I just ran across these garlands and crystal ornaments at Jamali Home. Aren't they yummy? And then the thought crossed my mind... Christmas decorations would be a great use for all those crystals you find at antique malls and flea markets. (I'm sure that's what the Jamali guys were going for). I'm absolutely certain I'm not the first person to think of this, but I still love the idea.

As many of you know, I have a real fascination with giving old (seemingly useless) things new life. I don't think we need to throw something out just because it doesn't work the way we think it should at first. So pull out that fixture you inherited from your great aunt that's missing half its crystals. Pull of what's left and hang them on your tree.

Or just buy some at a flea market or off of eBay (like this lot), and tell everyone they came from the Charleston estate of your dowager great-aunt who was on her uppers at the end of her life and couldn't afford to fix her fixtures... and these crystals are what's left.

Either way, they will have more character than the "made in Japan splendors" found at the local big box retailer. (reference: Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory... a classic and my favorite Christmas story. Read it.)

Monday, December 8, 2008

maintaining antique linens - fabric mangle

I can't recall the shelter mag that featured a fabric mangle a few years ago. (House Beautiful perhaps?) A fabric mangle is a big rotary iron that you operate from a sitting position. It lets you run your linens through a big roller that irons out the wrinkles. I instantly loved the idea of being able to maintain my linens myself. My dream is to have a laundry room with two sets of washers and dryers and to have room for one of these beauties.

The magazine article referenced specifically purchasing vintage fabric mangles off of eBay, like the one above, which has a starting bid right now of $175.

Or, you can swing on over to Williams-Sonoma and order a brand new Miele rotary iron. It's pricier at $2,200, but if money was no object I think I would have to indulge.

Friday, December 5, 2008

sterling baby cups as Christmas ornaments - mixed with modern glass

I think I've blogged before about how much I love Juliska. I discovered them in 2000, I think, and started my collection immediately. Fortunately, in recent years, they have added a line of Christmas ornaments. I've picked up two for my more formal tree.

I also decorate it with all those antique baby cups, rattles and spoons that you never know what to do with. If you want to jumpstart your collection, check out the set of cups and the rattle on eBay. Tie them with a ribbon that works with your color scheme and hang with hooks. I think it's a sweet way to use something that is generally useless in this day and time while still referencing children and the spirit of Christmas.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

eBay today - the most beautiful and unique antique brass bed

I have seen a lot of brass beds, both original and shiny, cheap faux brass reproductions. I'm not a fan of that Little House of the Prarie style generally, but the originals can be nice.

This one on eBay, however, is a total departure from the traditonal brass bed. I think I've blogged before about how I think brass has gotten a bad rap. Too many apartments and tract houses filled with "brass" chandeliers have soured most people on the material, but real antique brass has the most beautiful patina and is of superior quality.

If you are looking for an original antique bed for a guest room or a sweet little girl's room, I would seriously consider this one. Even in this slow economy, it won't last long.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving eve dinner - gumbo and bread pudding

Every year, my mother-in-law hosts Thanksgiving lunch. She lives here in town, so it's easy for us to all dine together. I have taken to hosting dinner on the eve of Thanksgiving as a gift to her. She is usually hosting out-of-town family and years ago I decided it might be nice to take one thing off of her plate... no need to worry about feeding everyone the night before a big meal.

So I'm getting ready right now and the gumbo is smelling good. Unfortunately, I don't have a recipe for it. My husband has learned from my mother how to make authentic gumbo (I grew up in Mississippi and have Louisiana roots) and he's responsible for putting that together. I'll serve French bread with it and that's a meal. I tend to always fix gumbo. Everyone loves real homemade gumbo and it's a nice departure from all the traditional cranberry/turkey/sweet potato delights we get tomorrow.

For dessert, I'm making pralines and Martha's croissant bread pudding. The bread pudding is a favorite in our house and it's super easy. I highly recommend it.

Finally, I thought I would include a grainy photo of my turkey planter with flowers. I love vintage turkey planters. I found this one on eBay years ago. They are really sweet and remind me of something my grandmother would have had. (I also have my grandmother's collection of Christmas pins... mostly trees and not especially valuable, but it's tender insight into how much she loved holidays and entertaining).

Monday, November 10, 2008

Schoolhouse lighting

I've fallen in love with Schoolhouse Electric Co.! They make new fixtures from old molds that have been rehabbed. I love it!

I know I've blogged about the antique filament bulbs before and Schoolhouse has them also.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

cool organizing

I'm trying to get organized now that the holidays are upon me and I found these great folders and box over at They kind of have that antique engraving vibe. I think I might just have to order these.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

advent calendar

I've always wanted a great advent calendar, but I've never liked what I found. They always seemed cheap and crass with their tacky ornaments and design.

When I ran across this one in Garnet Hill's catalog, I was thrilled! I love the simplicity of it. It seems a little Swedish. I plan on ordering one for my home, but will probably skip the personalization. I'm not so crazy over the script they offer. I think I'll see what my local monogram shop can do. If not, maybe I'll get out my needle and thread and stitch my surname on myself!

I also like this one, but I'm afraid the colorful mittens will conflict with my Hable stockings on my mantle.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

create an antique and unique Christmas tree topper

I have two Christmas trees in my house. One has all the crazy colorful decorations that my children make and that my husband and I made when we were children... along with other colorful ornaments. The lights are multi colored and blink. It's in my playroom.

I also have another tree in my formal living room. The lights are white and the ornaments are all gold and silver. Each year I hang all the sterling silver baby cups and rattles I own. It's a nice way to use something that would otherwise stay in a box forever. I also decorate with cream silk ribbons from my great-aunt's wedding bouquet and lace flowers from my grandmother. I use antique tablecloths for the skirt.

I've been stumped as to what to put at the top of the tree, however, until inspiration struck. I'm thinking of buying an antique doll and putting her at the top like an angel. I would love to find a long lace dress similar to the one she has on for her to wear. I would also have to figure out a way to fashion wings for her. Maybe I could use old tinsel for a halo?

Even if I don't end up using an old doll, this kind of brainstorming really gets me going. I love to find new ways to bring life to old things. If not, they just stay tucked away forever.

Maybe you have an antique doll of your grandmother's you could use. Decorate with old blocks and toys tucked into the branches. Or just tuck in anything that has meaning and usually stays hidden... baby shoes, black and white photos, your mother's white kid debutante gloves. Make it your own.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

eBay today - punch paper mottoes

I guess it's because I came of age in the 1980's that I tend to initially dislike "homespun" cross stitched framed needlework. It just brings back too many memories of navy/burgundy/tan color schemes and cross stitched geese.

These are the fore bearers to those and they are entirely different. I love the old religious homilies. The Victorians were very pious and they loved needlework, so these combined both of their loves. Despite their age, I could imagine a wall of seven of these beauties in a modern environment, perhaps a loft kitchen, as easily as in a traditional Vermont home.

EBay has several here and here (numbers two and three above) but I have also found a web site that offers patterns for reproductions.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Hooray Domino!

If you follow me at all (there are about 18 of you out there), then you know how much I love Domino Magazine. Well, today it came in the mailbox. I get excited right away. I resist the temptation to rip into it right there. My husband and oldest son are away on a camping trip, so I know if I wear the heck out of the little one on a long walk, he'll go to sleep early and it will be Domino, a big glass of Coke (my indulgence) and me.

How happy I was to turn to page 44 and find a blog shout out there for Jennifer over at the Peak of Chic. She's had a spot on Domino's web site for design bloggers but this is the first time I've noticed her in print in the mag.

I know I've suggested you check her out before, but click on over there now. She has done so much research into the design greats and has tons of pics. She's also great at responding to feedback. Post a question or interesting comment and she will usually reply down the string.

Most importantly, I also have to say that she has my lowly blog posted as a link to hers and I probably owe half of my traffic to her. She deserves credit for that alone.

The two pics above are from a recent post of hers. Beauty!

Friday, October 24, 2008

call me! - unique letterpress calling cards

I use calling cards. Not for their original intention, but as gift enclosures. And I now have some that simply have my name, phone number and e- mail (sidebar: if I see another pair of people standing, peering into their iPhones exchanging digits, I think I'll just go over the edge... put your info on a card and hand it over. It looks a lot more pulled together). I kind of think of them as the stay-at-home mom's business card.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

huge funky horse a la Nathan from Top Design

Am I the only one who watches Top Design? I love it! I'm so sorry to see Andrea go, but I totally understand where she's coming from. As a wife and mother, I don't know if I could leave my husband and children for that long. I hope she was inspired by her experience and can integrate her love of design into her life a home.

I was totally in love with Nathan's room this past week! His concept was a bratty girl's bedroom. The big horse reminded me of her once little-girly rocking horse on steroids. And when I ran across this big horse on eBay, I thought someone looking for one might want to have him for their own bratty girl's room! This one is canvas and is not as abstract as Nathan's, unfortunately, but it could fit the bill. I think I would either leave the canvas unpainted or else I would paint it hot pink or some other crazy color. A realistic paint job would seem weird (as if a 7 foot tall horse of plain canvas isn't!).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

dramatic wallpaper for small spaces

I think I've previously expressed my love of wallpaper. I especially fancy it in a closet, dressing room or powder room.

And how about the beautiful closet above featured in Domino Magazine? I clipped this image when it appeared in the magazine and I have it in my design book.

There are several different ways to interpret this look if the gorgeous Farrow and Ball wallpaper isn't for you. The first is a lovely Llewelyn-Bowen wallpaper called Chantilly. I'm also partial to Chrysanthemum by Monsoon.

Either way, I find that the patterns I'm most attracted to for a closet or powder room are the furthest from my "day-to-day" design style. I think it's a chance to throw a little whimsy into your decor without breaking the bank (my powder room and closet are both small!) and without doing anything too kooky in a common space.

eBay today - Victorian wasp or fly catcher

I heard about these nifty gadgets on a BBC program about antiques and decided to do a little eBay research.

Check it out. A circa 1860 wasp or fly catcher. You would have put a cork in the top and a sugar water mixture in the well and the pests would have flown under and been caught for later disposal. Wouldn't this be great outdoors at a summer croquet soiree? I picture fresh squeezed lemonade and straw boaters.

I'm a born and bred Southerner and I've never heard of these. I love that it's a beautiful mouth blown piece, that it's old and (most importantly) that it has a use still today. I think that's what I love the most about my favorite antiques and vintage pieces... that the best ones can still be used today.

Monday, October 20, 2008

recipe: leek gratin

I have to give a huge shout out to Laura Neulat over at Laura's Paris Cooking Notebook. Earlier this week, she posted the most wonderful recipe for leek gratin and I decided to give it a try tonight. Hers is photographed above, but mine turned out just like it. And what a success it was! My nine-year-old even asked to take the left-overs in his lunch box tomorrow.

Follow the link and give it a try. It's a snap and is a definite keeper in my recipe box.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

knowing when to invest

Every once in a while I splurge. I mean really splurge. For my last birthday, I was at Saks and bought the Marc Jacobs bag above in navy blue calf leather. Navy is my new black and I just couldn't resist. I've bought nice bags in the past, but none that pricey. For the first day or two, I felt so guilty and even considered returning it (My husband calls that "shopping bulimia". It's not in the DSM, but it should be.) But then something interesting happened. I started getting compliments. Lots of them. From my dry cleaner. From strangers. Everyone commented on that bag. People even asked to touch it.

The sconce above is in the same stratosphere, but well worth it. Quality really does always stand out. You might be hesitant at first and certainly don't do it if you put it on a credit card. Save up. And as you save up, just resist the urge to blow your money on a cheaper fixture/bag/whatever. Cheaper always looks.... well, cheap. You'll be glad in the end.

Friday, October 17, 2008

French match keeping and customized match boxes

I played with matches a lot as a child. Maybe that's why the match box (or "allumettes" in French) and match strike on eBay appeal to me.

I also love that both are French. I guess they were obsessed with fire also... in order to fire up their clove ciggies. But with as many candles as I have around the house, either one of these would be pressed into service regularly. I hate to light candles with random matches from restaurants.

That's why I've been toying with ordering some customized matches like either of the ones above. They come in endless colors and fonts.

What do you think? Antique and French or new and monogrammed?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

kitchen updates

Well, as I might have mentioned, I'm remodeling my kitchen. (I'll post a few pics when I complete the project.) And purchasing all those fancy KitchenAid appliances and other stuff compelled me to want to polish up some of my other kitchen goods.

I know, I know. The Dualit toaster is a splurge, but I couldn't help it. I've longed for one for so long and it looks so beautiful aside my new appliances.

The French press and the stovetop cappuccino maker were gifts to my sweet husband for his birthday today.

Finally, a swing through Anthropologie led me to my final two purchases. I found big white cups for my morning coffee and juice glasses which are no longer available online.

It looks like I was going for a breakfast-y theme, now that I look at it all. Perhaps that's because I have a breakfast bar in my new kitchen. A little sprucing up has been long overdue for me, though, so I bought things I'll really love for years to come.

Monday, October 13, 2008

eBay today - vintage paper mache Christmas angels

I love these Italian angel ornaments. I think they are handpainted paper mache. My mother-in-law has given me about four of these beauties and they show up on eBay every now and again. Their wings are made of the most fragile clay-like material. Check out the lot of 8 above. The bid is currently up to $36.99. Unfortunately for me, they will go a lot higher.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

eBay today - vintage industrial gifts

I love the idea of giving a gift with meaning, age and character - and not just some random piece of junk from Target.

The typewriter above would be great for a writer or book lover. I would love the coffee grinder since I'm a coffee nut.

So search around eBay for key words for a loved one's hobbies or professions. Trust me... there is something out there for them.