Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend Treasures

Memorial Day weekend is only half over, and already the roadside treasures have been practically leaping into my lap!

I was out walking Mu Shu yesterday when a sign reading "Multi-Family Garage Sale" snagged my attention. Since I'm on the prowl for inexpensive furniture to help Lovely Daughters #1 and #2 furnish their Funny Little House, I had to stop.

This is what I found:

Well, actually, it looked more like this when I walked up to it:

A beautiful little secretary, with shelves and glass cabinets above, and drawers and a drop-down desktop filled with cubbies below:

The gentleman selling it, who looked to be in his late 50s or early 60s, said it belonged to his grandfather.

Maybe so, maybe not. An all-over inspection revealed that it was made in two pieces--top and bottom--as many secretaries were, to facilitate moving. It has dovetail construction in the drawers (a good sign) and no visible manufacturer's marks anywhere that I could find (a neutral sign; not all fine pieces are signed, stamped, or marked).

Judging from its look and from what the gentleman selling it said, I'm guessing it's a modest piece of American furniture, dating from the 1930s or 1940s.

It has patriotic hardware. Colonial American stuff was big in the late 1940s and 1950s, if I have my furniture history right.

Anyway, the point is, it's a well-made but not super-special piece, so there's no crime in swapping out the hardware for something more up to date and painting it white, like the Pottery Barn secretary in the photo below. I think it would look wonderful to paint the inside of the glassed-in cabinet an accent color--sky blue? cobalt? persimmon?

photo: mine, of a Pottery Barn catalog page

I looked at the PB website to see how much the secretary in the photo above costs. They don't seem to offer it any more, but I found one for sale that is essentially the bottom half of my found secretary--no glass cabinets lined with shelves.

photo: Pottery Barn

And this puppy sells for $799! So, I am very happy that I got more secretary for far less money. I wangled a price of $60 from the gentleman (he initially asked for $75). I thought Lovely Daughters #1 and #2 might be happy about that, too. But I had to check with them first.

I called Lovely Daughter #2 on the phone and sent her some pictures, who then Skyped the photos to Lovely Daughter #1 (currently abroad). We all gave it the thumbs up.

So some day soon the little secretary will be the focus of a family painting party. Then it will travel down the freeway to Funny Little House, where it will either serve as somebody's small desk, or it will hold clothes, or it will be filled with teacups and placemats and set in the dining room.

Any way it's used, it will be a great little piece.

Then this morning I was biking with Pao Pao, and I noticed these mirrored photo frames set in the dirt next to a trash can:

Each one is a little different from the others, but they're clearly related:

Mirrored accessories are easy to blend into many types of interiors. They look equally terrific in modern, traditional, glam, or ultra-feminine rooms. And because they reflect, they can brighten up a dark corner and bounce the light around in all sorts of interesting ways:

The only mark on the frames was a small nip out of the corner of one of them. A little flaw like that is easily concealed, just by placing something to overlap that lower corner:

A quick cleanup, and they are ready to showcase some family photos, keepsake invitations or announcements, or even scraps of beautiful fabric.

They can even be used to torment family pets. Rainbow pug, anyone?

You can't tell from his expression, but Pao Pao is very pleased with my curbside finds.

Friday, May 27, 2011

An Old Marriage, a New Home, and a Fond Farewell

Wednesday, May 25, was quite a day.

It was my 31st anniversary of being married to The Hubby.

Thirty-one years!

We were teenagers when we met; we were about 20 when this photo was taken.

There's nothing else in my life I've done for that long of a time: Not living with my parents. Not being a parent. Not living at one address.

It stuns me and humbles me to think of it.

Nobody who is conscious, who is being truthful, can say that being married for 31 years is all chocolates and rainbows. There have been cancer scares and devastating earthquakes and burn wards. There have been periods of tedium, of staleness, of alone-ness.

But there also has been the birth and raising of three spectacularly wonderful children, when The Hubby and I felt like demi-gods: We created THIS! We produced this perfect being!

The Hubby and me, with one of the spectacular children we created, The Boy.

And there have been times when, together, we climbed to mountain tops, huddled in snowstorms, woke to cherry-colored sunrises, flew over canyons, swam with sea turtles, touched prehistoric stones, and shot through Class Four rapids in amazingly tiny kayaks.

I have travelled farther, walked longer, listened more deeply, cried more bitterly, and laughed more heartily with this man than with any other person on Earth.

For the sheer longevity of our relationship, if for no other reason (and there are many other reasons), I salute you, The Hubby.

And thank you for putting up with the dogs.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

As if to underscore that 31 years of marriage is both something to celebrate and something to yawn at, Fate conspired to make May 25 a "non-versary" for us. He had a board meeting, I had a class, and the most time we had together that day was the hour-plus we spent signing mortgage papers.

Yes, we bought a new home.

And no, we aren't vacating our lovely house, with the white picket fence and the 60-plus rose bushes.

We bought a funny, dumpy little house 15 minutes down the freeway. It will be home for Lovely Daughters #1 and #2, when they begin their lives together, working and studying in Los Angeles. They have talked about being housemates together since they were very little girls. Of course, I think they always imagined it would be someplace more glamorous, like San Francisco or New York City.

But nonetheless, this door will soon witness their comings and goings as they attend medical school, go to work, bring in their groceries, welcome guests for dinner, leave for weekend trips, and come back at the end of a long, weary day.

I hope they love their new home.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
And lastly, May 25 was the final day for "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

Like millions of women, I've watched Oprah for years. I wasn't a fan in the early days; back then, her show was sensationalist and silly, like almost every other daytime talk show. But when she realized how powerful, how important, her unique platform was, when she started to use her show to encourage us all to live fuller, truer, more authentic lives, I tuned in.

Some of the episodes left me yawning. I don't share the nation's fascination with the so-called "reality" shows that feature a bunch of shallow and vain people peacocking around in front of the cameras. If those characters were her guests, I didn't tune in. I never really cared for her "Favorite Things" shows--all that shrieking and swooning over a bunch of consumer goods!

But when she interviewed an ordinary person who displayed extraordinary courage and grace, or when she introduced another of her books in Oprah's Book Club, I loved to watch.

And I shared a tiny little connection with her--Oprah and I were born only 18 days apart.

photo: Mars Hill Church Seattle

I will miss you, Capricorn-sister. It's going to be hard to find another person who can ever do what you have done for daytime talk shows.

Best of luck in your future ventures. And I hope May 25 will always be a day you look at with fondness, as May 25 is for me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bureau-Top Redo

Maybe it's because I'm three months away from being an Empty Nester. Maybe it's because I watched a couple of shows on clutter, featuring organizer Peter Walsh. Or maybe it's because it's been 15 years since I last changed.

For whatever reason, this past weekend, I streamlined the top of the built-in bureau in my closet (and the bulletin boards above the bureau).

This is the way one bulletin board above my bureau looked for years. You can hardly see the bulletin board!:

And this was a rod above my bureau, hung with favorite ribbons:

It was all beloved stuff, but such a jumble!

On the two bulletin boards above my bureau, I had plastered a thick layer of favorite quotes:

and ribbons won by The Boy:

Pretty pieces of jewelry:

Decrepit corsages from past Mother-and-Daughter events:

Macaroni necklaces made by chubby fingers years ago:

Even cards from people I don't even remember. (I'm sure I kept the card for the picture of the picket fence.):

Clearly, it was time to do some pruning.

So I took every single thing off the two bulletin boards. Then I swept the bureau free of everything. With newly clean surfaces, I selectively put things back.

On the gingham board, I used corsage pins to hang up some of my favorite, most-used jewelry:

Also on the gingham board, I hung a little mirror to make putting jewelry on that much easier:

Here was a fun idea: I threaded a favorite ribbon through a small, empty picture frame. On the frame, I hung my three favorite cuff bracelets:

Elsewhere, I corralled a selection of my favorite little boxes and dishes in a flat basket on the bureau:

Then, I put others away in a drawer, to be rotated out with the current ones on display. Museums do that; it's a great idea that anybody can adopt:

Also on the burearu, an inexpensive glass hand sculpture from American Apparel holds my favorite bangles:

And a much-loved slab of amethyst crystals sits on an inexpensive display bracket from Bed, Bath, and Beyond:

On the other bulletin board, I hung all my childrens' team-sports buttons, as well as a selection of small photos from when they were very young:

Now the bureau area has as much charm as ever, but a lot more space to breathe.

Everything is on pins, so it's easy to rotate jewelry from the jewelry box to the display board:

I (heart) it.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Chinese Garden Stool

Last year about this time, I wrote about camouflaging our geriatric hammock with a quilt. With the addition of a pillow, a side table, and a cold drink, it was a comfy spot to hang out on a hot summer afternoon.

This year, I made a few changes.

I added a bigger pillow and flipped the quilt over for an all-white look:

And I swapped out the charming-but-rickety side table from last year (below).

See that leash? Pao Pao is just about to see a squirrel,
wrap that leash around the table legs, and pull the whole thing over. Argh!

I've found this makes a much better little side table/stool in a yard with dogs:

It's a Chinese ceramic garden stool. I found mine for $99 at Pier One Imports. Endless variations on this stool are pretty easy to find, both in brick-and-mortar stores and online. If you are looking for one in a store, try garden shops, import stores, and the garden centers of big-box stores like Target and Home Depot.

If you live in the middle of Nowheresville, you can find lots of these stools online, too. Here's one from for $129:

It's a little fussy for my tastes, but so what.

A place called has them at all prices, from a very reasonable $85 for this cheerful blue/white/yellow one: almost $500 for this gorgeous version. Yowza!

This one is selling on for $119, and the website says it's the last one in stock. I wouldn't worry too much about it, though. This is a classic color and pattern, and I'm sure you could find its twin elsewhere without looking too much.

Anyhow, back to my Pier One garden stool. It's heavy enough that a racing pug can't knock it over easily. Yet it's light enough to pick up and move around the garden. It's broad enough on top to be a seat, but small enough to be a small side table.

Pao Pao approves of it.

Well, I think he does.

Sometimes, with pugs, it's hard to tell.


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