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Mixing It Up

Last month, I posted a couple blogs about culling one’s collections & finding new homes for those once-loved items. I’m not as far along in that journey as I’d hoped by now. Could the following experience have tripped me up?

Amid all the antiques that needed to move on to new pastures, I managed to sabotage myself by adding a huge something to my stash. A NEW something I’d wanted for years. A mixer.

Mixer Front

Not just any mixer either. A cobalt blue, 5-quart, KitchenAid mixer with glass bowl & powerful wattage. Since I love to buy extra storage for my computer & phone, it makes sense in my world to buy an appliance that’s more than I really need. And such a deal! It looked so fine sitting on Hondaleezza’s back seat. I belted it in, lovingly.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get it out of the car when I got home. Maybe the thick, glass bowl pushed it over the weight limit. I could have asked for help, but that’s not my strong suit. I figured it could just ride with me until I got over myself.

Mixer Side

But after a couple months of driving my KitchenAid passenger around, admiring the box, & imagining all the amazing cakes I would bake, a reality check tapped me on the shoulder. My kitchen didn’t have a spot for it. Yet. It might, once I remodeled; but for now, I’d have to store it. And lift it.

It’s embarrassing how long it took me to finally decide to take it back. One day I definitely would return it. The next, no! It was exactly what I wanted. But I knew I’d bought in haste & hey…I needed that back seat space. In a last attempt to keep it, I bargained with myself, “Okay, I’ll return it IF there’s still time on the receipt.” I’d entertained it so long in my car, I was sure the time had run out. But, no. The store gave customers 120 days to bring back an item. What luck.

With help from a brawny store employee who loaded the KitchenAid mixer into a shopping cart, I took it back, still new in the box, arguing with myself through the entire procedure. Waving “goodbye” to it across the counter, I knew I’d likely be in for a time of mourning over the loss of that pretty thing.

Mixer on Desk

But I didn’t mourn at all. I think the victory of choosing wisdom over the loss of something I could buy again at a later time soothed me. And one more box of stuff unnecessary to my life – gone! Whoop-whoop!

“Choice is strength. Having choice is also freedom.”  Coulter Watt

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Bye-Bye to Grandma’s Stuff, Part II: 6 Tips to Recycle Your Old Stuff

Donna and I first became close friends at work and later grew closer as antique buddies. We learned proficiency on the computer by eBaying on breaks and lunch. Donna often sent me late night emails to share new finds and of course, I was up shopping, too. Our boss called us “The eBabes.”

We also combed antique stores in several nearby counties on the weekends. Both smitten with art pottery and more, our collections grew. And grew. Until we both have come to that point where one either culls those collections…or opens an antique store.

We considered it. But happily retired, neither of us wants to run a store of any kind. These days, we are both doing the hard thing & letting go of collectibles we once prized. The beginning of the journey, especially Donna’s part, is highlighted in yesterday’s blog, Bye-Bye to Grandma’s Stuff, Part I: 6 Tips From an Amateur Decorator.  In it, I share six ways to RE-feather your nest, with less.

This brings us to the next step. Now…what to do with all those old “antique-friends”  painstakingly released to…well…where? Donna & I came up with these ideas for recycling collectables:

  1. Check with family first. I still have memories of several things my folks put in a yard sale without checking with us kids.
    • QUESTION: How long does one carry a torch for an exquisite mantel clock from the old Hotel in Sisters, Oregon?
    • ANSWER: A long time, apparently.
  2. See if one of your collector friends is interested. I now have a cool Wheatley vase that Donna fell out-of-love with…but that’s another article.

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    Lovely 1880s Wheatley pottery vase, a gift from Donna. Pray that I don’t start a collection.

  3. Sell stuff on eBay or Etsy. Years back, I put a special antique find up for bid on eBay and the profit paid for a fourth of my daughter’s wedding. Oh, yeah.
  4. Rent a space in an antique shop & display your items for sale. You may have to work one or two days a month as part of your rent agreement. Still, it could be enjoyable, if you don’t do too much shopping. (Wink)
  5. Offer to trade some of your out-of-favor things for something you actually WANT in an antique store. No money exchanged. I know someone who does this regularly. She usually offers more than the desired item is worth, thus sweetening the deal and getting rid of more items. And dealers benefit from having new stock to lure buyers.
  6. Donate items to a local auction to benefit a good cause. This is my favorite choice because it is a heart offering. I don’t even care what I paid for a piece. Much more important – the sum it will earn to help someone in need. To make your collectible more enticing to bidders, type out its history and description on a card to accompany the item.

I’m proud of my friend’s progress, ridding her home of collectibles that overstayed their welcome. After our visit today, I carried away the aforementioned Wheatley vase, a pink-slag-serving dish, a stout Weller vase (why didn’t Donna want that?), and a cool glass-topped jar. She’s doing so great.

But I think I’m regressing.

Bags of Collectibles

A couple bags of goodies from Donna…oh-oh.

 

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Bye-Bye to Grandma’s Stuff, Part I: 6 Tips from an Amateur Decorator

Recently, my friend and I spoke about an online article that claimed nobody wants your old, inherited stuff. Amen to that. My daughter’s home is lovely and filled with what she and her husband prefer. Okay, maybe a few cherished items from yesteryear, but not myriad collections. Nor are Donna’s children interested in her old bits and pieces. Only one granddaughter shares my friend’s passion. Without the passion part.

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Donna’s 1880s Wheatley Oil Lamp relocated to the fireplace mantel. This cool lamp has four sides, each painted with a different flower. It’s pretty special. And now, everyone can enjoy it.

I’d come to see Donna’s newly acquired Wheatley Pottery oil lamp, but couldn’t get a good look because it sat on a shelf crammed with other antiques. Then I noticed her fireplace mantel seemed very crowded, as well. More Wheatley and other pottery, pictures of her children and grands in modern frames, and various treasured whatnots. Plus a plant or two. Why wasn’t the lovely oil lamp on the mantel with the other Wheatley cache?

Boldly, I suggested some minor reshuffling. Indulging me, Donna played along. Soon, the pictures were on the shelf and the Wheatley was on the mantle. After a little creative reorganization, we had achieved something of a designer look. For ten feet or so.

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The redesigned mantel featuring: the Wheatley oil lamp, a small Wheatley Vase, a curved vase (also by Wheatley), a stoneware, Roseville fruit jar, one more Wheatley, & an American Belleek vase w/winter scene. The age of the pieces. colors, & primitive nature makes them go together.

Since then, Donna has made more changes. “The living room refresh inspired me to dig into my curio cabinets and pare down my collections. But…those are hard decisions.”

Are they ever! I’m trying to do the same, but it’s not easy. Here are some of the things we agree help us to let go and make our nests the best:

  1. First, have a trusted “someone” take a look at your room with new eyes. As Donna said, “Things are just there and you don’t see them anymore.” When I noticed a less-than-lovely-basket filled with dried flowers, ready for retirement, Donna agreed. She freshened the display with different fronds in a favorite Roseville vase. Now she smiles every time she passes by that corner.

    FSR.Roseville Corner

    A Roseville Bittersweet vase from Donna’s curio replaces an old basket. The foliage has    been freshened & the arrangement shines atop this charming wicker table.

  2. Only surround yourself with items you actually like/love. One often displays an object out of respect for the former owner, but it gives no pleasure. It can go.
  3. Think “lots of white space.” As an author, I notice when big blocks of text make me want to close the page. If every space on every wall is covered, the eye has no place to rest. Look for things to delete from your décor.
  4. Lower pictures to eye level. We’ve all seen pictures floating near the ceiling. When asked why it hangs there, the answer is always, “There was a nail in that spot.” Go ahead & patch that old nail hole. Bring that picture down and it will become a member of a vignette family.
  5. Remember to group items in odd numbers: one or three or five, etc. My mother, an artist, taught me that principle long ago. It is more pleasing to the eye. Thinking odd numbers of items grouped together will help you choose only your favorites. The others? Bye, now.
  6. And of course, the old “less is more” adage. I believe in it, even if I don’t always adhere. It promotes white space and the choicest selections.
  7. A final point, things don’t have to match, but they should go together. Do you want your room to look like a hotel or furniture store? Or a home, reflecting your taste, lifestyle and memories? If decorated with what you like best, chances are good that things will “go together.”

Coming tomorrow – six more tips on how to recycle your unwanted collectibles….

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Need a NEW Excuse for Being Late? Borrow Mine….

A dedicated night-owl, I struggle to arrive at every early morning appointment on time, much less appearing rested & serene. (You know what I mean.) Yet, in my imagination…

I park my vehicle & stroll up the walkway. Flowers nod their petal bonnets as I pass. Then, with smiles for all (& my makeup perfect), I present a fresh-from-the-oven something to the hostess. Impressed, she breathes in the mouth-watering fragrance & her eyes roll back. 

Catching her by the elbow before she faints into a blissful heap, I help her into the kitchen. Then pull back the charming, hand-embroidered (by me, of course) bread cover from my basket of…what? Muffins? No…scones! And place them on the table. Tenderly. An offering.

The ladies trickle in one by one, unable to keep from commenting. “What is that delicious aroma?” “ Can this be heaven?” “I have to have the recipe!”

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Of course, that never happens. THIS is what actually happens:

One recent morning I was a little ahead of the clock for Bible study. Collecting my purse, books & highlighter, I stepped through the doorway. Then stopped. What had I forgotten? Oh, yes. Breakfast.

I’m not talking about a drool-worthy basket of scones. Just something to get me by until the coffee kicked in. Wait! Wasn’t I going to make coffee? I dropped my things & headed for the kitchen. Still time to grab some travel food. And drink.

Once there, I noted the tea-kettle rumbling on the stove top, about to whistle. (Oops. I forgot that one little detail.) Thanking Jesus, I turned off the burner, spooned some instant coffee into a mug & poured in boiling  water. And a hearty splash of Snicker’s Bar Creamer. Plus a couple packets of “I Wish I Was Sugar.” (Stirred, not shaken.)

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I chose a Lemon Meringue Pie flavored yogurt from the fridge.  Mixing it into a pudding-like state, I added some fruit & granola. And the spoon. Ta-dah! Ready to go.

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Back at the front door, I placed the coffee mug & yogurt atop the sideboard, away from the edge. (Safety first, right?) A quick glance at the wall clock showed my extra time had vanished.

I lifted my purse (NEW purse, BTW) from the floor & transferred it to my left hand, digging inside for sunglasses with my right. I found them on the sideboard, behind the coffee. A quick grab and they were on my face. Pulling the keys toward me, I skillfully captured the coffee at the same time…and…knocked over the open container of yogurt. A glob oozed across the top of the sideboard, a strawberry sliver sliding upright like a shark fin. With a hand full of keys & coffee, I tried to rescue my breakfast. It eluded my grasp & plop-plopped right into my purse. DEEP, deep inside.

I thought I heard it gurgle. Or was that giggle?

Game over. Then it was a matter of cleansing my purse – inside & out, removing yogurt from my car keys, wallet, etc., & dabbing at drips on the sideboard door, until all the goo was gone.

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I would have been only a half hour late but…flustered…I forgot my destination & drove to the wrong house. In the wrong town. (Really?) I arrived a full hour late – breathless & treatless. My friends gave me grace, as usual. And even though they know I write fiction, I’m pretty sure they believed my excuse.

Should you, dear reader, need a new & unique reason for lateness, I give mine to you. Obviously, I won’t use it again. No one would believe it twice.

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God’s Got This!

Working the weekend at the marvelous West Coast Christian Writers Conference in Pleasanton, California, topped off weeks of preparation for my role as the Critique & Coaching Director. I’d suffered a recent, personal loss & God gave me this task to keep me busy & affirm me going forward. Organizing appointments & interacting with both faculty & the attending writers were activities I enjoyed. (Loved.) So I put my heart into performing the job well & found myself rewarded at every turn. God knew this writer needed a win & it was a huge one. I left on Saturday night uplifted beyond expectation.

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WCCW Conference faculty describe their workshops.   Photo: Cathy Breslow.

I was joyful! And exhausted. So weary, in fact, I worried about falling asleep on the drive home. Adding to my concern was a little matter of massive flooding on Interstate 5 – my usual route. Several times I’d received news of two-to-five-hour waits on the freeway and single lines of cars led to safety by police. Was it foolish to risk getting stuck out on the road? Alone? Should I stay another night? Probably wise.

Lamb aloneBut I so wanted to go home. I’d made a date with my pillow & longed to keep my end of the bargain.

Trying not to fret, I determined to check for traffic conditions once in Vacaville. If reports still sounded negative, I’d grab a motel rather than venture out. An hour later, I pulled into a gas station in Cordelia Junction. Better fill my CRV’s tank. What if I became a fixture on the freeway for hours? With hungry engine idling?

I’d sent up several prayers for protection & for guidance as I drove, the evening darkening, rain threatening. More nervous with each passing minute, my hand shook as I aimed the nozzle into my vehicle’s gas tank opening. Once the fuel flowed, I gazed toward the bright blue car parked on the other side of the pump.

The gal in the front seat sure reminded me of my friend, Becky, from church. Maybe feeling my stare, she turned toward me & her big eyes opened wider. I’m sure mine did, too. It was Becky!

No, it was Christmas. Or felt like it, seeing my friend open her car door and rush over to me, laughing. We hugged, amazed to see one another. What were the chances? In fact, Becky told me they’d just decided at the last minute to top off their cars before going on. As I waved to her daughter Sarah, sitting in the passenger seat, husband Jeff appeared. He asked if I was on my way home. When I said yes, he warned me not to take Interstate 5. Instead, he recommended opting for Hwy 99, the old highway. A safe, dry route.

What a relief to have a plan. Jeff explained how to get on the right road by choosing a certain Sacramento exit. After explaining it to me a couple times, Becky intervened. “We have two cars. Why don’t you follow me? Jeff will stay behind you and we’ll just shepherd you all the way home!”

I almost cried. God’s provision was so sweet. Plus, Becky used the word shepherd. A perfect word. I pictured Jesus, the Good Shepherd, carrying one of His lambs protectively close. Near His heart.

With Becky & Sarah in the lead car, Jeff’s vehicle guarding from the back & me in the middle, we set out. Caravanning through myriad small towns, all dressed up in nightlights, we trekked along Hwy 99. Once, our vehicles sent off sprays when we splashed through a short strip of water. But it seemed good fun, like a child playing in a puddle after the rain. None of the flood trauma I’d envisioned.

empty-night-highway

Throughout the weekend & all the way home, the Lord carried me above my sadness. Gifting me through His people & through the work itself. Later, secure in my comfy CRV, I wore an unabashed grin at the beauty of God’s kindness as dear friends guided me home. My time had been blessed from the moment I was offered the assignment to the last mile driven, shepherded between His own.

Why do I ever worry? His Word promises He will care for me. And again, my experience agrees. Maybe it’s a simple cliché, but whatever the problem…God’s got this!

He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.                                   Isaiah 40:11 (NLT)
Jesus & Lamb Far

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Picture Perfect

During a recent trip to Washington, I enjoyed a lovely visit with my brother & sister-in-law (Mike & Pam) on Whidbey Island. And, as usual, acquired a few antiques. Among them, a lovely old pastoral painting in a wobbly, gilt frame. Something about the scene spoke to me & Pam encouraged me to buy it, saying she & Mike could make the frame fit.

Once back at the house, Pam got busy, first removing the old frame – stamped with “Made in France” on the back. (Ooooo, France!) Mike took the frame apart in his man cave, then brought the pieces inside & laid them on the table.

“Back to you, sweet Sis.”

Pam lent supplies to work on the grimy-looking frame parts. With a turpentine-soaked toothbrush, I began a gentle scrub, trying not to dislodge any of the remaining gilt.

Then, Pam handed me the painting to clean. Uh…how do I…? No idea.painting-whalf-frame  Google offered some choices. But which was best? If I used the wrong method, I might ruin my precious painting. Gulp.

One wikiHow site warned, “…you can’t use water, paint thinner, alcohol, or any abrasive force.” Instead:

  1. Use saliva. (One’s own, I presumed.) Apparently, it was a technique promoted by many museum curators. “Saliva has enough enzymes to break down dirt and grime, but not so much that it will damage the paint.”
    1. Maybe so, but ew. Not a fan.
    2. That was a “no.”
  2. Use bread. Get a loaf of sourdough, break it apart & take some out of the middle. Rub gently against the painting…then brush it off. Really?
    1. On another site, the gal used the inside of a bagel. She seemed happy.
    2. Other sites cautioned, “No bread!”
    3. Okay…no bread unless it’s a sandwich.
  3. Use a soft brush. I had a clean blush-brush so I tried that, going over the painting little by little, using circular motions. I was pleased with the affect. One could see the difference between the treated & non-treated areas.

frame-in-gig

Soon, my bro & wife teamed up to trim the loose frame, Pam measuring & Mike using his table saw to trim a smidgen more. Once perfect, they glued & fit it into Mike’s homemade jig to “cure” overnight. The next day, painting & frame were reunited. Pam finished the project with new strap-hangers & wire.

And voila! A mini-masterpiece…the result of a lot of loving care. Looks great on the wall.painting-4Thanks, you two! What a beautiful & generous gift.

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The Art of Motherhood

When I was little, I thought all mothers were artists. And musicians. And seamstresses. Like my mother.

Because she had so much creative talent, my mom enriched my  childhood with constant doses of it. She whipped up numerous dresses for me on her old 1940s Singer sewing machine. I was always in style at church or school. And so were my baby dolls. Chatty Cathy & I often wore matching frocks, thanks to Mother’s genius. In fact, until I took this picture, I never realized that little Muffy’s dress wasn’t just like mine.

Muffy & Me

Muffy & Me – Twins!

The turquoise-blue, dotted-Swiss number I wore for my portrait (about four years of age), was a rare store-bought dress. But Mother found similar material for Muffy’s look, added some fancy lace, & I thought we were twins.

For my birthday, Mother sometimes drew beautiful ladies on white cardboard, the stiff backing saved from packages of nylons. She sketched enough so each invited guest could take away her own, original paper doll. Each doll wore a unique hairstyle & bathing suit. And each had a large sheet of art paper filled with tabbed clothes. During the party, we could fill in the outfits using new sets of colored pencils. Scissors were provided so each girl could cut out clothing for her doll to model. We lay on the living room tiles, industrious, creating our own masterpieces.

Probably the only time we were quiet all day.

Paper Doll

Though I no longer have the paper dolls, I have a lot of my mother’s drawings that are reminiscent.

When I think of how much time & love Mother put into such projects on my behalf, I feel rich. Now that she is in Heaven, these memories are great treasures.

I hope I remembered to thank her adequately.

 

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